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May 2, 2005

Open thread 40
Posted by Teresa at 10:10 AM *

Bot thenne the weder of the worlde wyth wynter hit threpes, Colde clenges adoun, cloudes uplyften,
Schyre schedes the rayn in schowres ful warme,
Falles upon fayre flat, flowres there schewen.
Bothe groundes and the greves grene ar her wedes,
Bryddes busken to bylde, and bremlych syngen
For solace of the softe somer that sues therafter… (via)
Comments on Open thread 40:
#1 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 10:44 AM:

(Raimbaut d'Aurenga says this:)

Cars douz ensenhz del bederesc
M'es sos bas chanz, vas cui m'azerc;
C'ap joi s'espan, viu e noire,
El temps qe grill prob del siure
Chanton el mur jos lo caire,
Qe.s compassa e s'esqaira.
Sa vos cha plus leu qe siura;
E ja nuls non s'i aserga
Mas grils e la bederesca.

(And his editor J. H. Marshall translates it this way:)

A precious sweet sign of the wren is for me its gentle song, towards which I raise up my spirit, for with joy it unfolds, comes to life and grows at the time when crickets near the cork-oak are chirping by the wall, beneath the corner-stone which is squarely placed there in its position. Its song falls lighter than cork; and let no other add his voice to these but a cricket and the wren's mate.

#2 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 10:44 AM:

Paula Guran at DarkEcho has an interesting article on POD.

Here.

#3 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 11:00 AM:

I'm using some of my last pre-exam fun reading to re-read Viscount and I noticed something I hadn't before while checking the authorship (Gaiman) of the short piece at the end of Lord of Castle Black.

The editor (our dear hostess) is credited. Now, I'm certainly used to editorial credits in anthologies and the like, but I don't recall commonly seeing them on the copyright/pubinfo pages of novels. Our renowned hostess and editrix, of course, deserves every accolade and credit that can be heaped upon her, but I'm wondering if this is a new industry practice, a Tor practice, or simply a practice taken for a work arising in this particular manner from this particular (SKZ Brust PJF/TNH) authorial/editorial partnership, or due to the "simple" reason that due to the addition of the short piece by Gaiman (PJF, apparently) the book counts as an anthology edited by TNH.

So, enlighten us (really, just me, as I doubt anyone else who wonders or cares lacks the answer), please.

#4 ::: Chopper ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 11:40 AM:

I would love it if crediting editors became a new standard. I've seen a few books (novels) where Patrick has been credited, so I assume its something that's done occasionally.

#5 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 11:49 AM:

My memory is a bit vague on this but suggests that Pynchon's editor in "Mason & Dixon" was credited.

#6 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 12:07 PM:

Oooh, an open thread! Perfect timing! I was just coming by to thank you for posting about bespoke salwar kameezes, because mine came today. Actually, bouncing about like Tigger on espresso frappes would be more accurate, but still...

I don't think I have ever had anything that fit me so perfectly in my life. I'll be wearing this when Adam & I get remarried after we undergo conversion sometime this summer.

And if anyone is still working on figuring out which vendor they prefer, I'll mention that mine was lootsale, based in Pakistan. All their starting prices are $0.99, with $24.99 S&H and they are fast!

Or maybe a Cocker Spaniel puppy on crack would be a more apt image.... Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you! *boing* *boing*

#7 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 12:18 PM:

After literally months of listening, I'm almost to the end of the audiobook of The Count of Monte Cristo. (Three sections, seventeen hours each.)

Yowza. I've never experienced such highs and lows in one book before. It's far too florid and redundant for my modern palate, and I wanted to slap the narrator several times and say "Get on with it!" (Misplaced anger, but Dumas is beyond slapping.) The middle half is interminable; the story we've come to care about gets cryogenically frozen as we're treated to a dry, brittle society novel. There's way too much of it, and even a figure as bizarre as Monte Cristo can't bring it to life. I felt like I deserved a certificate for making it through those twenty-five hours.

Instead I got the ending. The plot begins rolling down the hill, and everything falls into place, click-click-click. I now see how everything in the middle was required to justify it, annoying or not. The revenge here is truly titanic; it blows me away, both the parts I could see coming a mile off and the surprises. Very cool. As a writer, it's teaching me a lot about the value of making characters larger than life (or at least, larger than the setting they're placed in.)

Favorite moment: when the dying Caderousse learns the Count's name, and instantly acquires an absolute belief in God and renounces all of his sins. I want to learn to write scenes like that. That they require a whole book written around them seems entirely fair.

#8 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 12:46 PM:

An article went up in the NY Times this weekend that many in these parts might find interesting: "[Star Wars] Episode VII: Revenge of the Writers." (No login required for this link, and it won't die after two weeks either.) Its thesis is that there's a pretty wide gulf between the best science fiction of the last several decades and Mr. Lucas' space opera.

#9 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 01:22 PM:

Barbara Kingsolver asserts that books on tape are normally very much abridged. Does that seem to be true?

It doesn't sound like Steve's Count of Monte Cristo tape was abridged.

#10 ::: Craig Steffen ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 01:26 PM:
"It's just such a huge shame," he said. "Anyone who is a practitioner of science fiction is constantly dogged by the ghettoization of the genre. And a lot of that comes from the very simplistic, 2-D Lucasesque view of what science fiction has to offer."

Huh? Ghettoization? Yes, Star Wars popularized science fiction for an entire generation. Following on to that is that sci-fi-like stuff is now formulaic for summer blockbusters. However, that also means that lots more sci-fi is produced and release than would be the case otherwise.

You can't have it both ways. Either it's a little niche thing that people can play in and nobody cares and it's "pure", or it's popular and everybody digs it and some people buy it because it's the trendy thing.

Those effects were a double-edged light saber, however. The first "Star Wars" film helped usher in an era of highly technical filmmaking where character development sometimes took a back seat.

"We're still stuck with this legacy of - 'Oh yeah, sci-fi, that's when you have a big budget and lots of special effects,' " Mr. Morgan said.

That's true. Sci-fi to some people means movies with ray guns and space ships. However, I think that movies like Star Wars brought sci-fi films out of the ghetto. People thought of sci-fi as the old Flash Gordon, where the console was an old radio microphone. Stuff that was so cheesy that only serious, rabid fans could take seriously. However, Star Wars and its ilk allowed people who weren't cerebrally into scifi to appreciate the power of the genre, and opened the door for really interesting filmmaking, like Harry Potter, or Minority Report.

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 01:31 PM:

John Farrell, that article is interesting, but it's also full of misunderstandings. Paula Guran doesn't know where Locus is coming from. For instance:

"It is often hard to tell if a book is POD."

We contend that if Locus has difficulties deciding if a book is POD or is not -- then it really doesn't matter at all. Yes, when print on demand technology began, there were obvious differences in the quality of the physical books produced. But, as Locus acknowledges, those differences have become (for most consumers) a non-issue.

Locus can't review everything. I don't mean to sound callous here, but it's a waste of their resources and their readers' time for them to review POD novels from publishers who'll publish practically anything.

As it happens, I had breakfast with Charlie Brown, the Publisher of Locus, and Liza Trombi, one of his assistant editors, just a couple of days ago, and the subject of POD fiction came up. They said they receive just about all the genre POD titles -- not from the publishers, but from the authors.

Their basic take is nothing you haven't heard before: they're not going to wade through vast sloughs and floods of unreadable fiction on the off-chance that something good is buried there.

The Locus staff throws those books away. There's nothing else they can do with them. The things are unsaleable, and no one will take them as a donation. (In response to my suggested alternate uses, they said that (a.) their houses are already insulated, and (b.) their back yards don't need any additional terracing.)

Here's another example:

"Major publishers seem to be reserving print-on-demand for backlist titles, if that."

At least in the context of the first definition we contend that major publishers are using POD perhaps more than Locus believes. However, whether they are or are not has no bearing on the issues Locus has raised concerning "print-on-demand publishers."

Paula Guran can believe whatever she wants, but major publishers are not using LSI technology for initial print runs and frontlist titles. If a book is selling at all briskly, using POD tech makes no fiscal sense. It may not even be physically possible for LSI to produce copies quickly enough in the quantities needed.

The fact that LSI's technology is being used to fill gaps in low-volume backlist orders, rather than being the revolution in frontlist publishing its promoters envisioned, is relevant to a great many issues.

Another example:

"Print-on-demand books have a particularly hard time getting into stores, thanks to high prices and the perception of low quality, so that they have to rely on the Internet..."

This generality comes from ignorance.

That generalization is only untrue insofar as it's merciful. Bookstores are less willing now to take books from POD publishers than they were when that publishing model was first cooked up. Why? Because they've seen the kind of books those outfits publish. As noted earlier, not only can you not sell those things; you can't even give them away.

The high prices are real. On top of that, many POD publishers (most notably PublishAmerica) don't offer retailers the standard discount, and don't take returns.

It's no surprise that bookstores don't want to bother with POD titles. It's not fair to writers like you, or to small publishers who're traditional in everything but the print-and-bind technology they use; but booksellers generally have enough work to do without undertaking to make the world fair for authors and small publishers.

We personally know of at least one publishing company Borders asked to supply titles to their stores. They use strictly POD via LSI.
Could be Wildside, or Misha Merlin, or a few others. As noted a moment ago, there are legit small publishing houses that use LSI's technology. Whichever publisher it is, though, the point establishes nothing. The vast majority of POD titles will never be shelved in brick-and-mortar bookstores.
When any publisher sells more than a thousand copies or so of a title, those books are getting into stores somewhere.
Not necessarily; and given Paula Guran's strong ties to the Horror field, I wonder how many of the cases she has in mind are known authors who've fallen on hard times.

Horror, specialized romance subgenres, and erotica are the three kinds of fiction I can think of where you might see some modest success in POD publishing. Erotica and specialized romance subgenres appeal to small audiences who fervently desire a very specific range of subjects and approaches.

Horror is different. It's a surviving field of literature whose large-scale market collapsed a decade back. Horror is full of known authors who were once commercial but now have trouble getting published. It also has some surviving infrastructure: legit small publishers, a few fiction magazines, reviewers and review venues, and some specialty booksellers. Horror may limp along on tiny printruns and inadequate capital, but it still has some remaining ability to make public the news that there's a book you might like to read.

Someone who loves horror may be forgiven for being more hopeful and defensive about POD publishers in general than their reality warrants. It takes a great deal of both to come up with an argument like this:

And, of course, high prices and low quality can just as easily be the result of offset printing as digital.
Yes, it's true: printing technologies can be used to reproduce both good and bad books. Furthermore, once you've printed them, you're free to price them high or low. This is both obvious and irrelevant.

The fact remains that the publishing houses that use offset printing to produce books in the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of copies publish (on the whole) vastly better books than your average POD publisher; and they inarguably have lower per-unit costs.

I don't want to be unkind to Paula Guran, the subject of POD publishing was already so richly supplied with bunkum, hokum, eyewash, hot air, and horsefeathers that I have trouble responding with anything more polite than a groan to a further installment of same.

#12 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 01:50 PM:

There was an earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone yesterday, near Manila, Arkansas--unlike most of them, this managed to crank it up to 4.1 on the Richter scale, or high enough that a few people actually stopped what they were doing to wonder if a really big truck was going by or something. Based on the geologic record, though, it's not yet time for another set like the 1811-1812 quakes,and isn't that a good thing?

#13 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 01:50 PM:

POD is a technology, not a publishing house. I can understand Locus and other reviewers don't have time to review books that are in effect, self-published. But legitimate small publishers use POD to avoid paying rent on huge warehouses and tying up assets. I was talking to an editor at the Minnesota Historical Society Press last week. They often do a small print run, and keep everything in print using POD technology. Thus, my library can order another copy of a lost, stolen, or damaged book five years after it was published, thank goodness.

As I see it, what matters is the IMPRINT, not the publishing method.

#14 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 02:02 PM:

From H. Allen Smith: "10% of this book is dedicated to my agent..."

#15 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 02:07 PM:

Craig Steffen:

Sci-fi. Science Fiction. Two different genres. Hollywood often confuses them. That confuses fans. Discussion of Star Wars is useless without understanding that.

Galaxy Quest is a rare Science Fiction film that plays on this, by having actors from a sci-fi TV show encounter actual aliens, to humorous effect.

"The Butterfly Effect" was an actual Science Fiction film that failed at the box office, despite its quality, because it was marketed and perceived as Sci-Fi. The Director's cut is Science Fiction; the commercial release (with a crucial missing scene and stupid alternate ending) is Sci-Fi.

"Blade Runner" was Science Fiction. The commercial release added a voice-over and removed the ambiguities because market testing showed that the audience expected Sci-Fi and didn't understand the actual Science Fiction.

"I, Robot" was adapted well as Science Fiction by Harlan Ellison, but they didn't shoot his award-nominated screenplay. What you saw may well have come from a Science Fiction screenplay, which was botched in editing, becuase it was marketed as Sci-Fi, and thus certain well-thought-through scenes were simplified, omitted, or shown in the wrong order to make it seem like mere Sci-Fi.

"Dune" was one of the great Science Fiction novels, yet the original feature film of it was done as Sci-Fi, and so pleased nobody.

"2001" was the greatest Science Fiction film of all time. It was not Sci-Fi, and som some critics thought it boring, or incomprehensible.

By contrast, "Solaris" was a fine Science Fiction novel, the Tarkovsky film of which was still Science Fiction, but the recent remake was dumbed down to Sci-Fi and lost all the philosophical elements.

I could go on, but my basic point has been made. Some of the Star Wars novels, by the way, are genuine Science Fiction, because some of their authors have done extra work to accomplish this. It is theoretically possible for some of the forthcoming Star Wars television episodes to be Science Fiction spinoffs of a Sci-Fi film franchise.

When people on this blog say that "Serenity" is weak in world-building, that means a deficiency as Science Fiction as such, which doesn't matter for Sci-Fi.

An example of Sci-Fi that gets EVERY single scientific detail wrong is "The Core."

I enjoyed "ET" but it was Sci-Fi, not Science Fiction.

Google for definitions of these two very different genres. They should no more be confused than Science Fiction with fantasy or Horror, or Mystery with Westerns, or Pornography with Romance.

#16 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 02:09 PM:

Thanks, Teresa! (why did I just know the piece was going to push a button!) :) I myself haven't done anything with POD since I brought out--and then pulled--Doctor Janeway from iUniverse. The experience wasn't a total bust for me (I now impute the whole episode to a brief bout of desperate madness), because from a purely 'writer's sample' point of use, some copies did help me land contracts with legit publishers.

That said, I doubt I can do anything with that particular work now (unless maybe podcasting it as an audiobook from my web site), and I do regret that.

I didn't realize the extent to which horror had cratered in the past decade...

#17 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 02:11 PM:

Jonathan,
I personally would place Tarkovsky's Solaris above 2001--but that said, you're right on the money re: Hollywood and sci-fi....

#18 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 02:11 PM:

Yes, it is the Image of an Exoplanet - ESO confirms first direct image of planet outside our solar system.

#19 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 02:32 PM:

Laura,

Barbara Kingsolver asserts that books on tape are normally very much abridged. Does that seem to be true?

The answer is: it depends. Books on Tape that you get at the book store are often seriously abridged. But there are plenty of unabridged books on tape out there, and they are often quite good.

Books on Tape used to rent unabridged books, but my friend who lives on audiobooks says they're only selling now. Audible.com also sells unabridged audiobooks, which my friend listens to on her iPod. And loves.

My parents borrow unabridged books on tape from the local library all the time--in fact my dad almost always has one or two books on tape in his car.

If it's a BIG box, with lots of tapes, it's probably unabridged, and will usually say so right out front.

#20 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 02:49 PM:

Thank you Jonathan. I’ve been trying for years to explain to myself how something like Star Wars and Blade Runner could successfully coexist in the same Genre. They don’t, were never meant to, and shouldn’t be.

I’m still fascinated by the categorical implications of separating Science Fiction from Sci-Fi. Both contain surface level similarities, denoting inclusion in a broader term category, possibly the same one that would include Horror, Weird Tales and Fantasy; a sort of Speculative Fiction Umbrella. Would Sci-Fi be a sub-sub of Science Fiction or a little appendix on the same categorical level of Fantasy and Science Fiction?

I. Speculative Fiction
>A. Fantasy
>>i. Quest Fantasy
>>ii. Urban Fantasmagoria

>B. Horror
>>i. Weird Tale
>>ii. Supernatural/Mythic

>C. Science Fiction
>>i. Sci-Fi
>>ii. Cyberpunk

Any suggestions or additions are welcome.

#21 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 03:04 PM:

I think I like Keith's taxonomy slightly better than the idea of separating science fiction from what Jonathon calls sci fi, and what I always thought was "space opera". It (the space opera) is still a direct descendant of science fiction, even if it's lacking in the science department somewhat.

#22 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 03:13 PM:

Quick addendum: While I like the Keith's little tree of categories, I guess it might not cover hybridization very well. Star Wars is space opera, but it also possesses fantasy elements. Ditto ET. So technically they are descended from both genres.

#23 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 03:25 PM:

Audible, though it has many indexing problems, also allows you to search for only unabridged recorded books. I tend to try to stay away from the abridged ones - I just end up frustrated.

#24 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 03:28 PM:

Laura, Michelle K.: For many years, abridged audiobooks (Books on Tape is a company name) were much easier to find, with only one or two companies releasing unabridged, but that's changing now. There's a long-running and basically unresolvable debate in public libraries about which format to stock. There are listeners who are adamant in preferring one or the other (Too Much Cut Out vs. Too Long pretty much sums it up). My library "solves" the problem by sometimes buying both--lots of extra money!

--Mary Aileen

#25 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 04:04 PM:

Completely unrelated to anything else here (hey, it's an open thread, right?) - Is there a sentence (or two) which contains all English phonemes, in the same way that quick brown foxes jump over lazy dogs for letters of the alphabet?

-J

#26 ::: Carrie ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 04:07 PM:

Keith,

Can we add a category under horror? Something along the lines of splatterpunk, or "the gross-out" to use Stephen King's terminology.

#27 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 04:11 PM:

Laura Roberts wrote:
It doesn't sound like Steve's Count of Monte Cristo tape was abridged.

Holy cow, no. If 54 hours was the abridged version, then the unabridged source would have had to be of epic Hindu proportions. As it is, I believe The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the longest popular novels out there.

I only listen to unabridged audiobooks, which I usually get from Audible and transfer to my iPod. The iPod has a great feature which will let you hear an audiobook at a faster speed without changing the pitch, which is great when the narrator is slow, dry, and British (as the Monte Cristo reader was.)

#28 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 04:34 PM:

The iPod has a great feature which will let you hear an audiobook at a faster speed without changing the pitch, which is great when the narrator is slow, dry, and British (as the Monte Cristo reader was.)

Oh no. Now I'm imagining Serious Literature narrated by a British Alvin & the Chipmunks.

#29 ::: MaryRoot ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 04:44 PM:

What happened to horror books? I ask because I didn't follow publishing news then. Although, I do recall a large horror section in Waterstone's which severely shrunk. This is doubly interesting because film horror is booming (article in the NYT this weekend about it) and cozy mystery/romance seem to be all over the woo-woo.

#30 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 04:48 PM:

Mind you, there is no value judgments here. Sci-Fi can be great, and Science Fiction can stink. I contend that movies are likely to stink unless the producers and directors understand these distinctions of genre.

Also, not to squelch an interesting open source categorization, but I tend to distibguish Space Opera from Sci Fi. Lots of Sci-Fi is Space Opera (but not all) and Lots of Space Opera could be filmed as Sci-Fi. For example, Sci-Fi set entirely on Earth, based on cloning, or telepathy, or robots, would not be Space Opera.

"Fifth Element" is Space Opera and Sci-Fi, but done with great verve, and is a delightful film. The "New Space Opera" from contemporary authors such as Iain Banks, Stephen Baxter, and Ken MacLeod would make wonderful Science Fiction films, but are likely to be dumbed down to Sci-Fi films.

My hotlinked essay with an interpolation of Brian Aldiss' 20-criteria is:
Space Opera page of The Ultimate Science Fiction Web Guide.

#31 ::: Jonathan K. Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 04:53 PM:

When I worked at Books on Tape, before it got bought by Random House, the majority of our titles were unabridged. It was the publishers who flogged the abridged versions; customers preferred the unabridged.

Now that BOT is part of RH, unabridged and abridged titles are promoted indiscriminately, and the official word is that abridged is preferable to unabridged. It's all a sign of what kind of customer they're going after.

By the way, "Book(s) On Tape" is an official trademark of Books On Tape. The generic term, which should be used in most cases, is "audiobook."

#32 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 04:59 PM:

Carrie,

Sure. I just put in one or two examples of sub-subs, there are plenty out there to add.

Piscusfiche brought up something I forgot to mention: classification uses Hiarchical Inheritence, that is, one work could belong in more than one sub genres and multiple sub-subs.

An example would be something like Lovecraft's Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath which would have a classification of: Ai-Bi.Bii, as it has strong elements of both the Quest fantasy and duel sub-elements of Supernatural and Weird Tale.

I. Speculative Fiction
>A. Fantasy
>>i. Quest Fantasy
>>ii. Urban Fantasmagoria

>B. Horror
>>i. Weird Tale
>>ii. Supernatural/Mythic
??iii. Splatterpunk

>C. Science Fiction
>>i. Space Opera (Sci-Fi)
>>ii. Cyberpunk
>>iii. Steampunk

#33 ::: Craig Steffen ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 05:27 PM:

Sci-fi vs. Science Fiction? Huh? This sounds about the level of people complaining that "Trekkie" doesn't sound cool enough so want to be called "Trekker". Whatever.

*** From Wikipedia:
Sci-fi
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
(Redirected from Scifi)

Sci-fi is an abbreviation for science fiction. It was coined in 1954 by Forrest J. Ackerman as a pun on the term "hi-fi". Many science fiction fans initially reacted negatively to the word.

*** From Dictionary.com:
sci-fi Audio pronunciation of "scifi" ( P ) Pronunciation Key (sf)
n. Informal pl. sci-·fis

Science fiction.


adj.

Of, relating to, being, or similar to science fiction: a sci-fi movie; a sci-fi weapons system.

*** From disemia.com
Sci-Fi
Futuristic (or at least an impression of the future) music creates a futuristic atmosphere, often lyrics about sci-fi topics. Not a commonly used term, and lacks common definition.

By the way, when I looked for a definition of "sci-fi", Google returned the disemia.com and the wikepedia one.

I completely agree with everyone that there is good science fiction (Blade Runner, 2001) and there are crappy stories in a science fiction setting. But differentiating them by trying to define one as "sci-fi" and one as "science fiction" is sort of silly. You could just as well call them "good science fiction" vs. "crappy science fiction" and then people would know what the heck you were talking about.

#34 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 05:38 PM:

And a lot of audiobooks are now available on CD. (Another reason not to think of them as "books on tape".) I haven't heard of any on DVD yet, but wouldn't be surprised. Though directly-to-iPod may be the next generation instead, much as e-books were supposed to surplant printed books.

#35 ::: Castiron ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 05:55 PM:

The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my favorite books to bring for airplane reading -- it's so long that it actually takes me the whole trip to finish it.

#36 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 06:28 PM:

As long as we're playing genre taxonomy, can I propose a radical re-organization of your horror taxonomy? I think there are two very different genres, with different pedigrees, both called "horror," and it's not helpful to confuse them.

So, one pedigree would look like this:

I. Speculative fiction
>A. Fantasy
>>i. Horror
>>>a. Weird tale
>>>b. Mythic

And then way over in another part of the virtual bookstore:

II. Gothic
>A. Romance
>B. Historical epic
>C. Horror
>>i. supernatural/unexplained
>>ii. crime/giallo
>>>a. splatterpunk (prose)/splatstick (cinema)

Category I.A.i contains Lovecraft, Derleth, etc; Category II.C contains Poe, Stoker, etc.

Basically, I think we need to make a distinction between horror stories that depend on the world-creating impulse of Fantasy, and horrors in which inexplicable events occur in what is otherwise some dark corner of "our" world. For that matter, a fictionalized account of, say, Jeffrey Dahmer counts as horror, but it hardly fits under the umbrella of speculative fiction.

On the other hand, if we all trace ourselves back to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, maybe Gothic is a category that contains SF&F as well. Maybe Gothic is the root of all genre fiction, and the two strains of horror split off at different times.

#37 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 06:42 PM:

In the field of audio books it's useful to distinguish the recording for the blind market - which tends to run longer but also through different distribution channels - from the tape rack by the cash register at the mall market.

#38 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 06:45 PM:

Laura Roberts says Barbara Kingsolver asserts that books on tape are normally very much abridged. Does that seem to be true?

I think you exaggerate; I read the page-plus of comments (and much of the rest of the interview) and found a broad discussion of what does and doesn't work with abridging, and some vague generalities (abridged books on tape are "popular"), all prefaced by a statement of the obvious: that a pair of cassette tapes isn't going to hold a full-size book. (She doesn't name names, but by my estimate even recent Robert Parkers, which are full-size but have so much white space I can read one in an hour or so, would not fit into a pair of cassettes.)

What she doesn't discuss is whether any recorded books are actually condensed (e.g., as Readers Digest has done), rather than being recorded either full-length or in shreds of the original (my abridgement of her series of colorful metaphors). My utterly uneducated guess would be no -- but that's because it doesn't make sense, which I've found much of commerce doesn't.

#39 ::: Carol ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 06:52 PM:

Steve Eley wrote:

Yowza. I've never experienced such highs and lows in one book before. It's far too florid and redundant for my modern palate, and I wanted to slap the narrator several times and say "Get on with it!"

And my comment:

My husband, then fiancé, in his Research Librarian of the Universe ways, contrived to purchase for me as a wedding present the complete works of Alexandre Dumas, because he knew how much I liked the man's stories. Alas, he missed that I liked them best expurgated. I have yet to read the yards of gold-leafed, ancient, invaluable late 19th century limited edition matching volumes gracing my bookshelves, and prefer instead to revisit my favorite expurgated translations.

Oh, God, it hurts, because...well, I have a treasure here--I know I do! But...it's so very very very difficult to dig through all the verbosity to get to it.

#40 ::: Shelly Rae ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 07:20 PM:

I like audio books (on cd) for those long car trips. Unabridged versions are pretty easy to find although sometimes you have to pay attention to the fine print. My audio version of 'Beowulf' translated and read by Seamus Heaney says "unabridged selections." How annoying is that?
Anon,

#41 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 07:47 PM:

Many of the problems with discussing POD come from confusion of terms.

First, there is digital printing, a technology, often informally called "POD" since it is ideally suited to print on demand.

Next, there is printing on demand, a stock managment strategy, correctly called "POD." (While POD most often uses digital technology these days, you could conceivably Print On Demand using linoleum blocks, a Guttenberg era letter-press, or photo-offset.)

Last, there is vanity publishing. This is a business model. Since many vanity presses use the POD stock management strategy, they are often informally called "POD."

Thus, you may hear someone, intending to impart "That vanity publisher will utilize digital printing presses to create a book only after an order is received," say "That POD uses POD to POD."

Confusion arises.

#42 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 09:05 PM:

Clark - My grandmother used to get books-on-tape for the blind. Her subscription included a giant banana-colored tape player that looked like a miracle of post-war technology and as many tapes as she wanted.

The tapes themselves were notched. You could play them in amy player, and she mostly used a walkman, but only notched tapes would play in the yellow monster.

It's a great program, but you'd think that a free service would have something other to worry about than whether or not a legally-blind 92-year-old woman might want to put a music casette in their player.

#43 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 09:13 PM:

Lois Fundis:
And a lot of audiobooks are now available on CD. (Another reason not to think of them as "books on tape".) I haven't heard of any on DVD yet, but wouldn't be surprised. Though directly-to-iPod may be the next generation instead, much as e-books were supposed to surplant printed books.

You're about five years behind. "Direct-to-iPod" (or as direct as possible) has been a successful market for quite some time now.

Books on DVD won't happen until DVD-Audio players become common in cars. Which may be never, as the market seems to be skipping better optical media and going straight to hard drive MP3 players, which don't sound as good but hold far more content.

#44 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 09:24 PM:

Alas, he missed that I liked [Dumas] best expurgated.

Are you certain that is the word you had in mind? Expurgating a book is to remove material that someone (usually the redactor, or whoever is paying the redactor's salary, or in some cases the redactor's Vision of the Transcendent All) might find objectionable. Thomas Bowdler wasn't a condenser, even if The Reader's Digest might think so.

#45 ::: Carol ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 09:39 PM:

Are you certain that is the word you had in mind? Expurgating a book is to remove material that someone (usually the redactor, or whoever is paying the redactor's salary, or in some cases the redactor's Vision of the Transcendent All) might find objectionable. Thomas Bowdler wasn't a condenser, even if The Reader's Digest might think so.

Not gonna debate terms with you. Took enough courage to simply post here. I suspect most understood what I meant, at the heart of my comment. And if "edited" serves better--or some other word--then slip that in.

#46 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 10:17 PM:

I wish we could read the body of Mark Twain material, unfortunately expurgated by his wife. Charles Darwin had the misfortune to be married to a proto-anti-Darwinian Creationist. The great American poet Wallace Stevens carried out decades of correspondance with other major poets. Unfortunately, his wife thought little of these scruffy weirdos, and thus -- caring only about her respectability which obtained from Mr. Stevens' day job as an Insurance executive (who reputedly invented Whole Life Insurance) -- burned ALL his letters when he died.

There's a special place in hell for these expurgators, preferably with certain organs removed.

#47 ::: Carol ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 10:36 PM:

Bowing to those who know better, and saying as I step aside, that Dumas was paid by the word, and he darn well knew it.

#48 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 11:35 PM:

I thought Charles Ives invented whole life insurance.

Whoever did it was a better insurance executive than artist. YMMV, of course, but neither Ives nor Stevens does much for me.

#49 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 11:54 PM:

I read H.P. Lovecraft's complete works in my early years of high school, and no one has seemed offensively verbose since.

#50 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 01:22 AM:

Ives: Mr. Stevens, nothing is empty. I'm an insurance man, Mr. Stevens. I guarantee the future. I let a man sleep nights because he knows that his family is protected from the random cruelties of this world. Can you call that empty?

Stevens: Insurance? Did you say you were an insurance man?

[from American Life and Casualty by Stuart Flack]

See also:
"Imagination and Insurance: Wallace Stevens and Benjamin Whorf at the Hartford", David Lavery,
Paper Presented at the Tennessee Philological Association, Tennessee State University, 1994. Published in Legal Studies Forum 24 (2000): 481-92.

below from various sources:
In 1908, Ives moved to New York, and remained there for the rest of his life, making a living directing his own insurance firm, Ives & Myrick. Its successor, Ives & Myrick, would become the largest agency in the country, noted not only for spectacular profits but also for Ives's innovative ideas about selling and training.

When Wallace Stevens' job was abolished as a result of mergers in 1916, he joined the home office of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity and left New York City to live in Hartford, where he would remain the rest of his life. By 1934, he had been named Vice President of his company. In "The Necessary Angel," a book of his essays published in 1951, the poet said:

"My final point, then, is that imagination is the power that enables us to perceive the normal in the abnormal, the opposite of chaos in chaos."

#51 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 01:37 AM:

The link isn't working, but I think very dimly of insurance critters. Since we moved six blocks and had our car insurace triple, I don't trust the bastards. (moved from 2200 W. 74th Terr to 1109 w. 75th Terrace, across a state line but within about six blocks). And since we switched from suburbia to urbia, we get further whacked. BUT I have a 3,000+ sq ft house that we bought for about $125,000 ad the bad people don''t usually go through our cars if they're parked in the drive (we just 'got over' a one-man-epidemic of a guy searching cars for money, drugs, keys to the house (like that's going to happen) or car keys...he didn't break widows unless the car was locked. Small condolence.

#52 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 01:45 AM:

Paula Helm Murray:

"The link isn't working, but I think very dimly of insurance critters."

(1) I apologize.
(2) It was probably a Google cache of the paper cited.
(3) I had to sue a car insurance company once to collect from a trucker who sideswiped my wife's car at a stop light, while he was leaning out his window talking to someone. I won the suit. The key was my presenting the hubcap, with the truck tire tread on it, as physical evidence. I argued that if I'd been moving, as the driver claimed, my wheel would be turning, and the mark would be in a curve. If I was standing still, and the truck wheel was turning, then the mark would be curved. The judge found my mathematics compelling. I then told the attorney for the insurance company to pay me what the judge had awarded me, within 24 hours, or I would make post-trial motions for bad faith and contempt of court. I had that check in hand within 6 hours, courier-delivered. But it was a decade before my wife ever lent me her car.

#53 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 02:43 AM:

I thought I posted about this weekend's Time Travelers Convention at MIT here before NPR picked it up for All Things Considered, but I guess I managed to eliminate the post....

#54 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 02:49 AM:

Tom Whitmore:

Actually, the Time Police eliminated your post about the Time Travelers Convention, for reasons that you can never know. Oh, sorry, I mean the Home-Timeland Security agents. And they only THINK that no actual time-travelers showed up. The technology of disguise is MUCH better since 2017. Okay, who wants to Play "Snakes Versus Spiders" with Poul Andersons wild? And who are all you zombies?

#55 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 07:50 AM:

From that New York Times article : "science fiction has evolved since the days of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne".
I submit an overlooked section from page one of War of the Worlds , it begins with the well-known bit, but continues on to something quoted a lot less often:

With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same ...
[famous quote] Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us ... [/famous quote]
... The immediate pressure of necessity has brightened their intellects, enlarged their powers, and hardened their hearts. And looking across space with instruments, and intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of, they see ... a morning star of hope, our own warmer planet, green with vegetation and grey with water, with a cloudy atmosphere eloquent of fertility, with glimpses through its drifting cloud wisps of broad stretches of populous country and narrow, navy-crowded seas.

And we men, the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us. The intellectual side of man already admits that life is an incessant struggle for existence, and it would seem that this too is the belief of the minds upon Mars. Their world is far gone in its cooling and this world is still crowded with life, but crowded only with what they regard as inferior animals. To carry warfare sunward is, indeed, their only escape from the destruction that, generation after generation, creeps upon them.
[non-famous quote]
And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?[/non-famous quote]

I wonder if that is referred to in the new film version ?

#56 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 08:12 AM:

Craig Steffen:

You could just as well call them "good science fiction" vs. "crappy science fiction" and then people would know what the heck you were talking about.

Yes, thank you! This business of treating good & bad as separate genres is silly. It would be nice and save a lot of time if it really worked that way, of course ("I read mystery, science fiction, and good fantasy. I don't care for bad fantasy -- not sure why, it just never really grabbed me"). But it doesn't.

Authors & readers can boast that Science Fiction has become a rarified, literary, highfalutin genre that doesn't include "skiffy" elements any more, but that doesn't make it so. In fact, it sounds like all the traditional academic & literary prejudices against the genre are being repackaged in-genre in an attempt to legitimize SF as Real Literature. "Hey, SF has grown so much, it can pass for Art nowadays! Don't pay any attention to the rocketships and rayguns over there, we don't acknowledge our uncouth cousins."

As my friend Lisa says, if we deny our roots, we're never gonna rise as a people.

#57 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 10:03 AM:

Tom Whitmore:
I thought I posted about this weekend's Time Travelers Convention at MIT here before NPR picked it up for All Things Considered, but I guess I managed to eliminate the post....

No problem! Just go back and post it before NPR picks it up now. Better yet, post it a couple weeks ago so that we'll have more time to make arrangements.

#58 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 10:14 AM:

Open thread? Would this be the best place to post a link to a Guardian article that appeared over the weekend? Here it is*: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1473588,00.html

Pan Macmillan appear to be going mad.

I've already ranted at length about it on AbsoluteWrite. Now I'm curious to know what you professionals think of it.

*Sorry -- I still haven't worked out how to get linkage to work on this site.

#59 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 11:44 AM:

While looking online for paperback mystery novels my mom wanted. I noticed quite a few listings for audiobooks on one of the big bookseller websites, and they noted whether or not they were abridged. There seemed to be unabridged versions of many familiar titles.

As for genre taxonomy, there's been so much hybridization, specialization and deviation almost from the get-go, even Linnaeus might get migraines trying to untangle it! I've read and reviewed many kinds of fantasy/horror/SF, so I'm certainly not going to attempt it myself.

One more miscellaneous item: Teresa, do you know "feralknitter" and her website (http://feralknitter.typepad.com/)? Seems right up your alley.

#60 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 11:51 AM:

So, incorporating HP's suggestions (which remind me of a distinction Neil Gaiman made, I think in an intro to one of the Sandman books) we have:

I.Speculative Fiction
>A. Fantasy
>>i. Horror
>>>a. Weird Tale
>>>b. Mythic
>B. Science Fiction
>>i. Space Opera
>>ii. Cyberpunk
>>iii. Steampunk
II.Gothic
>A. Romance
>>i. Mannerpunk
>B. Historical epic
>C. Horror
>>i. Supernatural/unexplained
>>ii. Crime/giallo
>>>a. splatterpunk (prose)/splatstick (cinema)

#61 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 12:02 PM:

Madeline: if you type

I want to link <a href="http://www.livejournal.com/~xopher_vh/">this text</a>.
it comes out as
I want to link this text.
Gotta have the quotes. That's the part I kept forgetting when I was trying to learn this.

#62 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 12:17 PM:

Mary Dell & Craig Steffen:

"You could just as well call them 'good science fiction' vs. 'crappy science fiction' and then people would know what the heck you were talking about."

With all due respect, that is not what I mean.

Google "Forrest J. Ackerman" to find out more about the unusual man who invented the word "sci-fi" and why and what he meant.

"King Kong" is Sci-Fi, not Science Fiction, and yet I consider it a great movie. We'll see what Peter Jackson does with his remake of it.

I said that "Fifth Element" is Sci-Fi, not science fiction, yet I have seen it 10 times, and enjoyed it each time.

The novel "Frankenstein" was, according to Brian Aldiss, the very first Science Fiction novel as such, yet almost every film treatment has been Sci-Fi, including the great one.

"Andromeda Strain" was Science Fiction, yet every Michael Crichton novel filmed since then has been Sci-Fi. I enjoy the Jurassic Park films; they're not Science Fiction.

The distinction between Science Fiction and Sci-Fi is not about quality. It's about epistemology -- how do we know what we know, and how do we go about learning to cope with the unknown? It's about ontology -- what is the nature of the universe -- hostile, friendly, indifferent, similar to our conventional belief, inherently and weirdly different? It's about our sociological model of how societies deal with new technologies.

Sci-Fi looks like Science Fiction to people who don't know better (including most of the Hollywood studios) because they identify genres by the tropes that appear. They assume that anything with spaceships or robots or clones or telepathy or antigravity or death rays must be Science Fiction. It need not be. They assume that anything with 6-guns, horses, and cowboys must be a Western. It need not be. The assume that anything with cops, detectives, whores, and murders must be a Noir Mystery. It need not be.

This is a blog for people who love thinking, and love probing beneath to obvious surface to the fascinating depths of ideas. The distinctuion between Sci-Fi and Science Fiction is not superficial, and not prejudicial. But I am sure it is real.

#63 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 12:21 PM:

Further addenda to Keith's taxonomy:

I.Speculative Fiction
>A. Fantasy
>>i. Horror
>>>a. Weird Tale
>>>b. Mythic
>>ii. Quest
>>iii. Fairy tales
>>iv. Urban fantasy (this might belong as iii. a., actually)
>B. Science Fiction
>>i. Space Opera
>>ii. Cyberpunk
>>iii. Steampunk
>>iv. Post-disaster
>>v. Exploring alien cultures
>>>a. First contact stories
>>vi. New Wave
>>vii. Alternate history
[Note--this is a mix of styles and subjects, I know, but there's a lot of sf that doesn't seem to fit the categories stated thus far, and I'm faking it]
II.Gothic
>A. Romance
>>i. Mannerpunk
>B. Historical epic
>C. Horror
>>i. Supernatural/unexplained
>>ii. Crime/giallo
>>>a. splatterpunk (prose)/splatstick (cinema)

#64 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 12:57 PM:

Vicki, the more I think about it, the more I think Gothic needs to go further up, as the "mother of genres." I'm not exactly an expert on 18th and 19th c. Gothic fiction, but I would certainly consider Frankenstein a Gothic novel as much as it is science fiction as much as it is horror. I'd consider I promessi sposi a Gothic novel, yet it has no supernatural or speculative elements (it does have horror, in the form of the plague, as well as romance and history). Poe's gothic short fiction spawned not just the horror short story but the detective mystery and the police procedural.

It might be useful to apply cladistics to this. So, you would say "Carmilla has these characteristics of Frankenstein, but it lacks these. A Trip to the Moon has these characteristics but not those. Dracula has these characteristics of Carmilla but it lacks these." And each of these breaks would represent a new branch on a "bushy" model of genre fiction.

Ideally, you'd sample lots and lots of actual works, apply some kind of metric for defining characteristics, and then apply genre labels post facto depending on how the groupings work out.

#65 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 12:59 PM:

If urban fantasy is a subset of fairy tales, where do these books go:

anything by Charles de Lint (they have fairy tale elements but not fairy tale structure)

Pamela Dean Juniper, Gentian and Rosemary

And for that matter, where does Pamela Dean's The Dubious Hills go at all on that list?

If you say it's a quest novel, I'll have to say "then isn't everything a quest novel?"

And where does Freedom and Necessity go? Or Melissa Scott?

And where do the works of Maureen McHugh go on the science fiction list? If you say "exploring alien cultures," then you're taking Lois Bujold's remark about humanity being the aliens (in her own books) a few steps farther than I think she meant. I'm assuming that you're going to try to shoehorn her books into space opera -- which behavior was why I didn't read her books until five or six years after I first heard of them -- and I suppose the same for Cherryh's Cyteen. And Melissa Scott?

Honestly, I'm going to have trouble with any classificatory way of dealing with speculative fiction. I'd much rather go on with descriptive terms whose applications radiate from their centers and overlap in multiple dimensions.

#66 ::: Craig Steffen ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 01:02 PM:

Jonathan:

I completely agree with you that there should be a very strong distinction between "good, speculative literature that asks 'what if' to fundamental things in life" and "stuff with space ships, robots, and ray guns". My objection was that calling one "science fiction" and the other "sci-fi" is ridiculous because one is a commonly used abbreviation of the other.

Call one "speculative fiction" and the other "space opera" or "futurist fiction" or something. My objection was the words used, not the concepts.

#67 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 01:12 PM:

Craig Steffen:

The problem is that there is a significant body of professional science fiction authors who vociferous reject your contention that sci-fi is an abbreviation of science fiction. Or, rather, the problem is that the public at large seems to think the two terms are synonymous. There was a long time when Science Fiction was being written, and the term "science fiction" had not yet been invented. There was sci-fi in cinema before the year 1900, again, not with any specific designation. There is danger in being too academic in defining genres and literary terminology. Yet there is also a danger in NOT defining terms when confusion abounds.

#68 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 01:45 PM:

JvP, as a linguist I'd have to say that the train has left the station on that distinction. I had one young whip laugh at me for complaining about how even the math is wrong on Stargate SG-1, and respond to me with "Get over it, it's science fiction." In other words, he couldn't imagine why getting the science right was important in science fiction; to him, and his name is legion, 'science fiction' just means 'fiction where none of the rules of the real world apply'.

And to a superset of those people, 'sci-fi' is just a shorter way of saying 'science fiction.'

Further erosion has been caused by the SciFi Channel, which currently has one "science fiction" show (a pretty good one) and a handful of space opera shows, and spends the rest of the time playing truly asinine - even assholinine - horror movies.

The final nail in the coffin, however, is the practice in video stores. "SciFi/Horror" is the usual category. It's for marketing reasons, and space limitations, I know, but somehow I don't think Silent Running belongs next to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But that's life; pretty soon it will be impossible to make a science fiction/space opera movie without people expecting a good scare.

At which point I will stop going to movies altogether. But I digress.

The point is, you can use 'sci-fi' as a technical term-of-art if you want, but each time you do you'll have to define it as such to avoid confusion. It's a term in common use as an abbreviation for 'science fiction' and no amount of squawking will change that. As well protest that pi "ought" to be three.

And even as a term-of-art it has important drawbacks, not least of which is the fact that it was used for decades AS a term-of-art in a very snobby, elitist way. People who remember that and hated it will be predisposed to disagree with you when you use it, however fairminded and egalitarian you actually are. And if you are a snobby elitist...well, let's just say it lacks subtlety.

Finally, slicing and dicing categories in genres causes more trouble than it solves, IMO. Patrick has written extensively about this, so I won't rehash here.

#69 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 02:00 PM:

JVP: Yet there is also a danger in NOT defining terms when confusion abounds.

Ok, I'm game.
Webster's defines Science Fiction as:

A literary or cinematic genre in which fantasy, typically based on speculative scientific discoveries or developments, environmental changes, space travel, or life on other planets, forms part of the plot or background.

As a lifelong reader of SF in most of its forms, I'm fine with that definition. "Sci-Fi" -- when used to mean the gee-whiz, rocket-ship, zap-gun type of Science Fiction--is a subgenre, not a separate genre. It seems that you're grouping several of the more high-toned subgenres (hard SF, sociological SF, literary SF) under the banner of "Science Fiction" and kicking Sci-Fi and Space Opera out on their asses.

#70 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 02:15 PM:

Aarrgh. I do _not_ have time to re-write Wikipedai's article on mannerpunk. I do _not_. Really. Especially since I've never made any Wikipedai edits before.

Someone who's got access might start by noting that Keller says he didn't coin "mannerpunk", someone else did when they spoke with him about his fantasy of manners article.

#71 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 02:23 PM:

Kate Nepeveu:

Nice try, but getting someone else to Wiki for you is cheating!

[taunt] Gee, the article on mannerpunk sure soundsauthoritative, I'm sure it's fine...for a stub [/taunt]

#72 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 02:36 PM:

I just wanted to add that it's completely accidental that most of the authors I mentioned are women.

And no I don't like splitting off the intellectual stuff from the popcorn stuff with labels that indicate that there's some gulf between them. There's lots of overlap, and an author is allowed to do both at the same time, and a reader is allowed to read the same work with different intentions at different times, and so on.

#73 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 02:51 PM:

Xopher to JVP: As well protest that pi "ought" to be three.

X - that's just... evil.*


* If we're definining evil as-- oh, never mind.

#74 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 02:51 PM:

N.B. I Am Not A Linguist. Like y'all couldn't tell.

But...it seems to me that saying "Sci-fi can't be distinct from Science Fiction because most people don't use it that way" is saying that "words are defined by the majority of users, and specialized definitions among particular groups are invalid." Which surely is not what you mean? Witness "mundane," as it's used generally and used among SCAdians; "plastic" generally and among artists; "lamp" generally and among electricians.

#75 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 03:48 PM:

I think the problem is that "sci-fi" is a term that frequently has a pejorative connotation. Some people therefore object to its use as an abbreviation for "Science Fiction." Some of those same people find the pejorative meaning useful, and employ it to designate a subgenre of Science Fiction that fits the typical outsider's view of SF. So many authors and readers refuse to (1) allow the word to be used for its intuitive function (2) allow the word to fall out of use. Instead, they use it to indicate whatever they think True Science Fiction is Not, when it's obviously a shortened form of the words SCIENCE FICTION.

Drives me up the wall, but I accept that it does frequently indicate the subgenre I refer to as "you know, the Buck Rodgers stuff." I won't accept that it's some other genre entirely.

#76 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 03:52 PM:

Kate Nepveu wrote:
Someone who's got access might start by noting that Keller says he didn't coin "mannerpunk", someone else did when they spoke with him about his fantasy of manners article.

"Access?" You don't need a user account to edit Wikipedia. Anyone can do that from anywhere, any time. A user account is handy to get credit for it, if you're into that.

If the Internet had cars and motorcycles a la Snow Crash, mine might have a bumper sticker which reads "IT TAKES EXACTLY AS LONG TO EDIT WIKIPEDIA AS IT DOES TO COMPLAIN ABOUT IT ELSEWHERE."

#77 ::: Craig Steffen ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 03:52 PM:

Jonathan,

The problem is that there is a significant body of professional science fiction authors who vociferous reject your contention that sci-fi is an abbreviation of science fiction.

Name one. Better yet, point out a place in their writing (on-line or not) where the use the two words as distict things.

I listed two common on-line dictionary-like web pages that list "sci-fi" as an abbreviation for "science fiction". I invite you to provide counter-arguments.

Or, rather, the problem is that the public at large seems to think the two terms are synonymous.

Here you're talking about distinctions between the genres, which I completely agree with you about. I'm arguing about the usages of the words.

#78 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 03:53 PM:

Science Fiction: 22 Definitions

The vast majority of the Press and public think that "Hacker" = "Cracker." Hackers get VERY upset if you make that mistake. I've seen that at, for instance, the invitation-only Hacker cons.

Abraham Lincoln once asked, "If you call a dog's tail a leg, how many legs does the dog have?" The answer was "four," not five, because "calling a dog's tail a leg doesn't make it one."

#79 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 04:12 PM:

Steve Eley: Sorry for displaying my ignorance about Wikipedia.

Unfortunately, my notes on Keller's talk on fantasy of manners, at the last Readercon, don't say who _did_ coin the term. If anyone knows, say so here and I promise to edit the article accordingly.

The rest of my disagreement with the article would require writing an entire 'nother entry on fantasy of manners and then cross-referencing, which, as I said, I really _don't_ have time to do. And it would, really, take longer than this comment did to type.

Really.

#80 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 04:14 PM:

JvP: The vast majority of the Press and public think that "Hacker" = "Cracker." Hackers get VERY upset if you make that mistake.

Especially when you start trying to top them with aerosol cheese, hummus or onion dip. Hackers are *not* downmarket appetizers, people!

#81 ::: Thurls ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 04:25 PM:

JvP:

"This is a blog for people who love thinking, and love probing beneath the obvious surface to the fascinating depths of ideas..."

And love language, of course. Which is why I visit so often, why I have tentatively started 'contributing' (in my half-arsed way), and why I love you people so much.

#82 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 04:30 PM:

Especially when you start trying to top them with aerosol cheese, hummus or onion dip.

That's odd. The last hacker I topped with aerosol cheese-like product did not object. Perhaps the licking off of said product mitigates the offense?

#83 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 04:30 PM:

Whoops, my definition is actually from dictionary.com, not Webster. Webster has a narrower definition: fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component

Webster defines sci-fi as of, relating to, or being science fiction

JVP, Many of the 22 definitions you link to would easily include what you term Sci-Fi.

#84 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 04:30 PM:

Jonathan Vos Post said: the problem is that the public at large seems to think the two terms are synonymous

I'm a member of the public at large (if 'at large' can also mean 'sitting at home in front of computer') and I must admit that I've always thought Sci-Fi was an abbreviation of Science Fiction, in much the same way that Hi-Fi is an abbreviation of High-Fidelity.

All I know about Science Fiction and Fantasy (sorry -- lumping it all together because that's what my local bookshop does) is that I like Philip K. Dick but don't like Iain M. Banks, I like Ursula le Guin but don't like Anne McCaffrey, and so on. I don't think it's helpful to specify sub-genres. Lucy Kemmitzer had it right when she said that everything overlaps. Trying to exactly classify any one book is akin to trying to define Nitin Sawhney's music.

Xopher: thank you for explaining the link thing. I shall be profligate with my links from now on, although never more than seven in any one comment...

So, the Guardian had an article over the weekend about Pan Macmillan's new publishing scheme. They propose to offer new authors no advance, 20% royalties, a non-negotiable contract (which will give all rights to Macmillan, and tie the next book into the same deal), as little communication as possible, no marketing beyond the book appearing in Macmillan's catalogue, a high cover price (£15), a special ribbon bookmark in each book, and I can't remember the rest but it certainly got me riled up.

Here's the link, finally.

#85 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 05:45 PM:

JVP writes:

Google "Forrest J. Ackerman" to find out more about the unusual man who invented the word "sci-fi" and why and what he meant.

From what I already know about Forry Ackerman and his tastes, I'm pretty sure what he meant when he used "sci-fi" was "science fiction."

That is, I don't think he made any distinction between one and the other. He intended his coinage to be an exact (but snappier) synonym.

This page, I think, confirms my supposition.

#86 ::: Sundre ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 06:08 PM:

Keith&Kate: first time I've ever heard of Mannerpunk. It's conjuring interesting associations, though. Any recommendations more specific than those in the wiki?

#87 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 06:13 PM:

Perhaps I've beaten this to death on Electrolite, but I'll snarkily point out, again, that genre and subgenre are in no way Aristotelian categories. You cannot neatly create a taxonomy; no such taxonomy exists; such a taxonomy not only runs counter to everything we know of literature, it runs counter to everything we know about cognitive psychology. It's not how books work, it's not how our brains work.

Tell me what genre Iron Council is in. I dare you. (Or The Etched City. Or Our Lady of Darkness.) And, if your answer is western-socialist-urban fantasy-golems-love story-revolution, then I'd suggest that it's more concise to call that subgenre Iron Council.

Back in, I dunno 1990 or so, the newsgroup rec.arts.sf-lovers was about to go through the Second Great Renaming. There was an incredible amount of bitching and complaining about how the group should be subdivided. I suggested that we only needed two groups: rec.arts.sf-lovers, and rec.arts.sf-haters. The first could be for people who wanted to discuss literature, and the second could be for people to complain.

#88 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 06:27 PM:

Bill -- from what \I/'ve seen of Forry Ackerman and his tastes, I'd wouldn't trust him to realize that Atlanta Nights was bad. We're talking about the man who brought Perry Rhodan to the U.S., after all....

Craig: Harlan Ellison was flaming about the term "sci-fi" almost 30 years ago, and IIRC he wasn't the only one. One type specimen that has been presented (by David Gerrold?) is the television executive who turned down Star Trek, saying "We don't need another sci-fi series; we've already got Lost in Space."

#89 ::: Sundre ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 06:34 PM:

Alex: When I found out what science-fiction was, I was twelve, and had been enjoying it for a while. I liked learning that all these stories I liked had a named category, because that made it so much easier to find more.

I use the genre labels mostly as a tool to find more stuff to read. They're not rigid and absolute, but they can be useful.

#90 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 06:46 PM:

But...it seems to me that saying "Sci-fi can't be distinct from Science Fiction because most people don't use it that way" is saying that "words are defined by the majority of users, and specialized definitions among particular groups are invalid." Which surely is not what you mean? Witness "mundane," as it's used generally and used among SCAdians; "plastic" generally and among artists; "lamp" generally and among electricians.

Right. 'Mundane' is a term of art among SCAdians and 'lamp' among electricians. (The case of 'plastic' is more complex, but never mind.) And in their context they can use them freely and be understood. But an electrician won't say 'lamp' to a non-electrician and expect hir to understand, much less get offended when s/he uses it in the more conventional sense. And a SCAdian had better not use 'mundane' to a mundane without expecting offense to be taken!

We can have terms of art for our discussions, of course. I'm arguing that because the conventional meaning of 'sci-fi' is very strong, and for the other reasons that I cited, it's a very poor choice for a term of art.

Also I'm far from certain that making such distinctions is a good idea. 'Octaroon' was a term of art in early 20C Louisiana. It communicated perfectly well, and did much more harm than good.

Jill Smith: no, it's communication. People rarely understand that language is a natural phenomenon, because they've been taught with "shoulds" about it for so long.

#91 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 06:47 PM:

Swerving from the topics at hand to an older post of Teresa's: Something New In Short Creek.

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004560.html

The two runaway Fawns mentioned in the post made an appearance on Dr. Phil's show today, to explain how polgamy in Colorado City works and why they ran away from it. The show covers some of the aftermath--the two girls apparently still believe that they will be doomed to burn in hell for having left, and occasionally think about returning, but know that they can't.

http://www.drphil.com/show/show.jhtml?contentId=3109_brainwashedbrides.xml

Also NPR's All Things Considered is running a segment on the FLDS as well.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4627871

And last month, Jeffs dedicated the temple in the FLDS compound in El Dorado, Texas. (He also predicted that the temple dedication would signal the begining of the last days, but the world still seems to be spinning.)

http://tv.ksl.com/index.php?sid=191104&nid=5

Finally, one little, very sad tidbit that I've recently bumped into: There's a suspicious child cemetery in Colorado City, referred to locally as "Babyland". It's only been in operation for a handful of years but it has:

425 graves

56 entirely unmarked child graves

227 child graves all together for a total of 53% children under 10

A high number of children suffering from strange accidents. A disproportionate number of children who just happened to be "run over". A number of children who have just "disappeared". The death rate is particularly high among boy children, ages 11-20.

More info here: http://childpro.org/2005/fbi_letter.html

and here:
http://scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0503/S00014.htm

(I would have commented in the old Short Creek thread, but I think it be closed.)

#92 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 08:13 PM:

HP wrote:

Vicki, the more I think about it, the more I think Gothic needs to go further up, as the "mother of genres."

Heck, I want to go farther back than that, to Epic, or at least Medieval romance.

#94 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 09:50 PM:

Various things:

The taxonomy is definitely not a Banach space, nor the non-linear correspondent of one. (My officemate at MITRE was one Richard Graff, Ph.D., who had done work in nonlinear spaces that were akin to Banach spaces. While at MITRE he decided that being an analyst in the defense and scientific worlds was not a way to Get Ahead in Life, he wanted to go into finance and get -wealthy-, and off he headed to University of Chicago for business school. I recall some years ago MIT looking for him as a lost member of an MIT class, I lost track of him after he left MITRE, which was years and years and years ago.

"sci-fi" -- the term has the reaction in me of fingernails on chalkboard. It's got a very nasty -sound-/feel to it for me. It's utterly lacking in elegance. It's a sound without grace or tasteful artistry to it. Aesthetically, it squicks.

And to me, films which are sci-fi are lacking in elegance and understatement, in delicate pacing and deft characterization and subtlety, they're bludgeon-like and coarse/crass in their use of filmmaker's art and artistry, and have nothing of the scientific method in them, either.

Actually, I though Star Wars was rather inane when I first saw it. I came up with the crackpot theory (not serious, but...) that the reason Princess Leia was So Important was that, given that there were massive numbers of male characters, but just Aunt Beru who got bumped off and seemed childless, and Princess Leia for females (and maybe some famale whores in the cantina, maybe, but not necessarily human ones...), the only way that gender balance could exist, would be if she were a fertile female and fertile females -spawned- for reproduction. After all, there were no scenes with babies and children and such, so why couldn't she have spawned, not really like say har in Storm Constantine's Wraethu world, but....

==============

Cults

There was one in this part of the country, where women who were pregnant, stopped being pregnant, but in one case no baby was seen, and in another a baby died and there was no death certificate, no marked grave... and then one of the women got pregnant and was incarcerated until she gave birth--someone who became disaffected from the cult showed authorities where the grave of a stillborn was and the grave of a dead baby, the autopsy showed the dead baby died from malnutrition.... I think a number of people wound up in jail over the situation from child abuse/endangerment.


#95 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 10:09 PM:

From Today's L.A. Times, related to the Sci-Fi issue: Strange New World: No 'Star Trek' by Orson Scott Card.

#96 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 10:19 PM:

Channel 56 just showed a clip from Faneuil Hall, about the world premiere of the film _The Fathers_ about the priest abuse scandal. There were a few seconds of Christopher Plummer talking about playing Cardinal Law, with the attorney who prosecuted the case against Fr Geoghan who said he was very surprised to see the role recreating his prosecution played so accurately to him, and one of Geoghan's victims was interviewed, he indicated that seeing a character on the screen with his name he suddenly realized that that character was himself and that he had never seen himself in that situation. The way he talked, it came out as something of a revelation of looking at it as it would look from an exterior perception view of his victimization.

I think that the audience when interviewed, was still digesting the impact of the film. The reactions of the people interviewed, seem to indicate that it's a more accurate portrayal that the film about the toxic waste site in Woburn, Massachusetts was. (My uncle and his wife still live in Woburn, my uncle has spent his entire life other than when he was serving in WWII, living domiciled in Woburn.)

#97 ::: Craig Steffen ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 10:27 PM:

Jonathan,

Your
link
lists lots of definitions of Science Fiction. No mention of sci-fi.

The vast majority of the Press and public think that "Hacker" = "Cracker." Hackers get VERY upset if you make that mistake. I've seen that at, for instance, the invitation-only Hacker cons.

Yeah, that's probably one that we've lost. I usually don't user "hacker" to describe myself, just "programmer" or "software engineer". "Coder" works pretty well too.

You said:


The problem is that there is a significant body of professional science fiction authors who vociferous reject your contention that sci-fi is an abbreviation of science fiction.

Who says this? Where are any examples? Can you come up with a science fiction author who has written something that mentions "sci-fi" and "science fiction" in one discussion, using them to mean distictly different things?

#98 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 11:21 PM:

Sundre, I have some drafts of a reading list (never finalized, ack) and some other posts on fantasy of manners, with a bit of mannerpunk, collected in my LiveJournal memories.

The archetypal mannerpunk, I would say, are the Bordertown shared-world novels and anthologies, and Emma Bull's _War for the Oaks_.

#99 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 11:25 PM:

The definition of hacker at MIT was of someone who liked to play around with things for the fun of it. "Hacks at MIT" included things like the four foot diameter brick and mortar wishing well, complete with water and pennies (and plastic linking over the floor under the brick and mortar, and more plastic lining inside the well, to protect the floor), built in the center of a dorm room on my dorm floor during part of a semester break, with a sign,. "Best Wishes--the Hall" greeting the suspicious dorm room occupant.

#100 ::: Paula Kate ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 11:37 PM:

From GEnie, SFRT

"Cat 3, Topic 19, Message 8 Sat Nov 09, 1991

L. Schimmel [Puck]

As Don will tell you the phrase MAnnerpunk comes from Greg Cox...

But the rest is all Don's article..."

[Verbatim with typo from my mouldering hardcopy of the entire Fantasy of Manners topic]

#101 ::: Paula Kate ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2005, 11:55 PM:

I'll second the Bordertown series as archetypal Mannerpunk, and find it passing strange that the Wiki article fails to mention those or Emma Bull.

Elizabeth Willey's homepage has her wonderful Mannerpunk quizzes on it, though the link to Donald's original article has rotted.

#102 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 03:39 AM:

Have not checked the Dostoevsky link, but:

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.
The second best time is right now.

I think that may apply to Dostoevsky as well.

#103 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 04:57 AM:

Okay, you knew it was going to come to this:

ON AN exceptionally funkadelic evening early in May a young man came out of the walkup in which he lodged in Sutton Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards Grand Central.

He had successfully avoided the Barnes & Noble on the corner. His co-op was under the roof of a high, five-storied house and was more like a Nynex switching center than a room. The bookstore that provided him with DVDs, The Astonishing X-Men, and Wired was two doors down, and every time he went out he was required to pass its Starbucks, the door of which invariably stood open. And each time he passed, the young man had a sick, frightened feeling, which made him scowl and feel ashamed. He had never read Dostoevsky, and was afraid of drowning therein.

This was not because he was cowardly and trendoid, quite the contrary; but for some time past he had been in an overstrained, Gorkyish condition, verging on Dostophrenia. He had become so completely absorbed in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and isolated from Great Big Books, that he dreaded meeting, not only Fyodor, but any of the Penguin Classics. He was crushed by Dan Brown, but the anxieties of his position had of late ceased to weigh upon him. He had given up attending to matters of Bloomberg; he had lost all desire to do so. Nothing that any dead Russian could do had a real terror for him. But to be stopped on the way past a double cafe breve, to see The Saragossa Manuscript stare creepily from its golden-framed cover, to listen to anything read by Ian McKellen, and to rack his brains for excuses, to go to TKTS, to leave town -- no, rather than that, he would slink down the next block and get some Taster’s Choice from D’Agostino’s.

This evening, however, he became acutely aware that he needed to score some Fyodor. Bad.

#104 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 04:57 AM:

The new Macmillan deal described in the Guardian article does sound really bad. On the other hand, it seems like an author who got an offer could take that offer to an agent and see about getting better terms...

The executive director's position --

"I find it strange that established authors don't want new books to be published," he said. "I find that position very hard to defend." --

strikes me as disingenuous.

And this from him,

"There are literally tens of thousands of writers out there - and we have a responsibility to help them"

looks like what the Brits cheerfully call bollocks.

"If you look at the spectrum of publishing from those vanity publishers who take vast sums from writers and offer nothing in return, through to novelists getting phenomenal advances, the royalty offered here is reasonable," [Mark Le Fanu, the general secretary of the Society of Authors] said. "But it's a deal with a lot of downside and not much upside for the author, though it's not a complete rip-off."

If I ran a publisher as famous as Macmillan, I don't think I'd want my new initiative to be called "not a complete rip-off."

Will this be publishing's New Coke?

#105 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 06:57 AM:

I thought that defending hacker as meaning something like "highly skilled and ingenious programmer" was a doomed fight, but I've seen hacker used in that sense in the mainstream press now and then lately. I don't think I've seen cracker, though. It may be that "computer criminal" or somesuch has moved into the niche previously occupied by the criminal sense of hacker.

As for "sci-fi", the more I think about it, the less well-defined it gets. If you want to imply that science fiction has careful world-building and accurate science, you leave out entirely respectable authors like Bradbury and Sturgeon.

And unless you just want to say that sci-fi equals bad work, Galaxy Quest definitely is sci-fi. The main plot shows no sign of careful world-building or thoughtful extrapolation. The aliens are implausibly naive, and the technology is goshwow stuff carefully designed for the main characters to get a decisve victory. What's skillful about the movie is the comedy and the plotting. (Plotting? Or whatever it is which gave it consistantly good pacing.)

Tangent: Ok, I've seen Galaxy Quest. I rather liked _We'll Always Have Parrots_. What I want now is a story about fans of something sfnal which is portrayed as being worthy of respect.

#106 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 07:30 AM:

It's been a long, long time, Mr Ford, and memory has been overlaid by much else, but your piece was, indeed, what I suspected. Thanks for the memory. I'd better get back to work now.

#107 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 07:34 AM:

Xopher - "evil" was meant as applause. I had a sudden vision of the horror that pi should equal three would generate in JVP. It was brilliant, succinct, and specific.

#108 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 07:44 AM:

...and yes, I'm flogging myself for the awareness of having to explain my stupid self in a subthread about communication and definitions...

*sigh*

#109 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 08:31 AM:

Xopher, thanks for the clarification.

#110 ::: Rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 09:18 AM:

warning: this topic orthagonal to previous discussion.

question:
What do you do to conceal your identity, or true location or address from the idle curious, or dedicated fan? I've found it a little too easy to track down personal information on people using the internet and public records. Are pen-names harder to maintain nowadays? (More importantly, do banks still honor checks signed over from the pen name to yourself?)
R.

#111 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 09:59 AM:

Doug said: The new Macmillan deal described in the Guardian article does sound really bad. On the other hand, it seems like an author who got an offer could take that offer to an agent and see about getting better terms...

The contract is apparently non-negotiable. I would imagine that they would simply refuse you if you tried to get better terms.

Over on LiveJournal, agentobscura suggests that the lack of an advance might put an agent off. No immediate income, just the hope of money from the royalties if the book eventually sells well. I suspect that any author joining Macmillan's scheme would find it difficult to get an agent.

On the other hand, I have no inside knowledge or experience of the publishing industry, so my opinion is worthless. (Not that this will stop me from posting my comment here.)

#112 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 10:14 AM:

Apropos of nothing, but:

Increasingly bizarre Mother's Day poems. I think they're meant seriously. I think. But they are so bizarre.

My favorite so far is "Hubble-Scopes Aloft Will See Anew."

#113 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 10:45 AM:

I have been trying to think of a synonym for "guardianship." As in:

A generous person practices generosity.
A guardian practices [blank].

Or:

A traveller goes on a journey. That is, the action undertaken by a traveller is called a "journey."

The action undertaken by a guardian is called [blank].

Is there such a word?

#114 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 10:48 AM:

guarding

#115 ::: Dru ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 11:04 AM:

As a security professional, the whole "hacker" v. "cracker" argument got lost in the late 90's during the boom. If you're trying to communicate with 99.999% of the population, saying you're a "hacker" is going to get you some stares. Depending on your ethnic background, so will "cracker". These days people might make the distinction of "white hat" v. "black hat", depending.

I believe that the "sci-fi" as distinct from "science fiction" is also very lost as well. Certainly none of the core reference materials make a distinction, nor does most of the population.

I also think that this may be a generational issue as well. I polled twenty friends last night on this topic, via IM. Every single one accepts sci-fi as a simple shortening of sci-fi. Five of those are definitely in fandom, with the rest all being consumers of SF, sf, sci-fi, science fiction, or whatever you want to call it, most enjoying multiple elements of the spectrums of fiction available. 18 of the 20 are under thirty.

I doubt you can make a strict taxonomy in the fiction space. I always evaluate books on multiple mental spectrum/axis all originating from a common point. That way I end up with books in clouds of association. Hard to explain without drawing.

You can keep it as a derogatory term if you want, but in my mind the "skiffy" attitude really does smack of elitism, much in the same way as the "mundane" comments do.

I'm a proud geek, and yet no one ever asks me if I bite the heads of chickens. Definitions change, they grow, the morph.

#116 ::: Jane ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 11:09 AM:

Guardians engage in: caretaking, custody, supervision

#117 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 11:14 AM:

Mayakda said "guarding," but I'm looking for more of a standalone word.

Jane said: Guardians engage in: caretaking, custody, supervision

Right. I'm thinking of something more along the lines of a "gatekeeper," where caretaking is important but also the notion of granting or witholding access to a place or person.

#118 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 11:24 AM:

Laura -

I would say that you're after 'husbandry', if you're talking generally about what the positive guardian memeset does; if you're strongly after the access control connotations, that's one of the (now archaic) senses of 'hold', as in 'withhold'. (Or the 'hold territory' in military specialist vocabulary.)

#119 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 11:29 AM:

Are we talking about the legal guardian of a minor, the guy at the museum who tells you not to touch the statues, or a guy who dresses up as a wombat and beats up supervillans?

#120 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 11:29 AM:

Possibly "protection", Laura.

#121 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 11:34 AM:

Though the ongoing debate about terminology seems like a bit of a time-waster to me, I couldn't resist wasting this minute to mention that, in the multitude of author interviews I've transcribed for Locus, nobody calls it "sci-fi" without deep irony. Of course, those folks *are* nearly all over 30....

#122 ::: S. E. ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 11:40 AM:

I have a somewhat odd question on the legalities of a fanfic author going pro. Specifically, a fanfic author with some, er, adult material under her belt.

In a few weeks, I'm going to start querying agents on the first book of a trilogy I'm writing, and I'm not sure what to do with my fanfic. One fan novel is definitely coming down, 'cause it's the loose basis for the trilogy. But I'm torn on what to do with the rest.

If I wrote gen, I'd just leave it, but some of my fic is sexually explicit. Slash-type sexually explicit. Sometimes with characters that are of legal age in the country where the story is set (mostly the UK; AoC, 16), but not in America (where I live; overall AoC, 18). Most of the sex is written for emotional impact before kink value (long before), and there's no devious seduction by an older party (in the cases in which an older party is present), but I don't know if a lawyer would understand that or if she/he'd just go "kiddie porn" with no regard for regional age of consent or story context.

Part of what I'm asking is, Is there any sort of legal precedent in which a fanfic writer lost his or her career or was prosecuted (successfully or not) after turning pro, on the grounds of fanfic? And, if not, what are my chances of being made an example of?

Thank you!

S. E. Ward, being paranoid

#123 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 11:44 AM:

I think (over)broad genre labeling is helpful for finding things in brick-and-mortar bookstores but has less relevance in an online environment. I don't usually find books online by their genre. I find them by searching and by personal recommendations.

I don't see much point in making fine differentiations between science fiction, sci-fi, and so on because how will those distinctions help people find books? Alex Cohen has the right idea here, IMO. "Hey, you liked Iron Council? Have you read..."

Xopher: somehow I don't think Silent Running belongs next to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Since Blockbuster was founded in Dallas, I would say that example typifies what you might call the Texas Chain-Store Massacre.

#124 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 11:46 AM:

I'm thinking of something more along the lines of a "gatekeeper," where caretaking is important but also the notion of granting or witholding access to a place or person.

Protection sounds good.
There's also defense, warding or wardship, preservation, custodianship, care? care and keeping?

#125 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 11:47 AM:

"evil" was meant as applause. I had a sudden vision of the horror that pi should equal three would generate in JVP. It was brilliant, succinct, and specific.

Thank you. And it really was obvious, now that I read back, that that was what you meant. It was I who was being dopey, not you. My apologies.

#126 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 11:55 AM:

Paula Kate, thank you. I do feel guilty just fixing the name and leaving the rest in the state it is, but maybe in the next few weeks I've have time to get back to that Fantasy of Manners reading list and then see about the Wikipedia article. Or not.

#127 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 11:58 AM:

S.E. Ward, is your fanfic traceable to the name you'll be submitting your original novels under?

#128 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 12:03 PM:

Lisa S: I'm right there with you on the medieval romance being a forerunner of Gothic lit, but I'm drawing a blank on epics that could be called so. Could you elaborate?

#129 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 12:09 PM:

I'm also going to have to reject the science fiction and sci fi distinction, mostly because it makes me irritated. I don't think that any good taxonomy of genre should make someone irritated that one of their favorite things is in a certain category. They should make people go "oh yeah, I suppose that does describe it".

Also, it doesn't seem to be very intuitive, at least not for the kind of SF I enjoy. I can tell a skiffy from a fantasy pretty easily, but this distinction is just... not processing. Just for point of reference, the visual SF I've most recently been deeply involved in are Red Dwarf, Firefly, and Futurama.

Red Dwarf can go from what I see as extremely "science fiction" type stuff to sci-fi. An example of a science fiction plot is the Silicon heaven episode, where it is revealed that all robots are programmed to believe in a Silicon Heaven in order to make them look forward to their eventual obsolescence and deactivation. There are other episodes that are very "sci-fi," like the nonsensical backwards episode, the fake physics of which still bother me to this day.

Futurama does the same thing. There are episodes that are just silly and episodes that are poignant and relevant, like the episode where the moon is just a terrible tourist trap theme park, with the true history of exploration and bravery of the past forgotten utterly.

True, these are satire and comedy, and as such they must address all of the subgenres of SF.

I suppose Red Dwarf is a sit com in a science fiction universe, and futurama is a animated comedy set in a science fiction universe. Maybe the genre word I'm looking for is SIASFU, but that's rather cumbersome. If we genre things we have to have a mid genre for things that have some loverly hard SF elements and some nice soft SF flouncing about with laser pistols. (Oh dear lord I just verbed genre)

I also think I've been here before, in the old argument about hard and soft Science Fiction, which is one that raised considerably less ire in me. Hard sci-fi tries to get the science as right as possible, soft sci-fi doesn't. Do people not use these any more?

I'm also contemplating how, long ago, a friend of mine complained that any science fiction that included humanoid aliens was automatically rubbish, biologically speaking, and that they should be thrown out with the warp drive and the light sabres. She would put Star Trek and Farscape firmly in the sci-fi camp I think. I'd like to point out that two out of three of my series are humanoid alien FREE tyvm. ^_^

#130 ::: S. E. ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 12:10 PM:

Kate: In one or two instances, my pen and fannish names have been mentioned in the same forum. I think I can have it changed in one instance, but I'm not sure what else is around. My LiveJournal, which has both, is easy enough to lock down.

#131 ::: Dru ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 12:15 PM:

Andy:

I agree totally on the online book-finding method. I wish you could rate books on multiple categories and get useful recommendations that way. Something different than the amazon method. All categories would be optional, but you preference for types of categories would help sort.

Thus:
====================
World Building 1 2 (3) 4 5
Authorial Style 1 2 3 4 (5)
Plot 1 2 3 (4) 5
Characterization 1 (2) 3 4 5
Literary Qualities 1 2 (3) 4 5
Fantasy Qualities (1) 2 3 4 5
...
Mannerpunk Qualities 1 2 3 (4) 5

List a book that may be similar: Iron Council
====================

Ah well, one can dream.

#132 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 12:32 PM:

Thanks to all for the suggestions on "guardianship."

mayakda said: There's also defense, warding or wardship, preservation, custodianship, care? care and keeping?

Maybe "stewardship" is what I want, although I thought the "-ship" construction was too clunky in guardianship.

Avery said: Are we talking about the legal guardian of a minor, the guy at the museum who tells you not to touch the statues, or a guy who dresses up as a wombat and beats up supervillans?

More like the guy who says "No one shall pass by me who cannot answer my questions three." Actually it is for the Tarot card of the Hierophant. Hmmm . . . wombats would be a nice touch.

("Hierophant" means something like "revealer of sacred things.")

#133 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 01:34 PM:

JVP -

Thanks for posting that link. I read that yesterday and immediately thought of this thread.

Once again OSC has written something that honked me off. Up until the final paragraph, he failed to take into account that TV and Books are two entirely seperate media.

The short version? ST:TOS sucked because it wasn't as good as the written science fiction of the time. And fans are big doodyheads. And stupid!

Here it is with supporting quotes:

"...They started making costumes and wearing pointy ears. They wrote messages in Klingon, they wrote their own stories about the characters, filling in what was left out — including, in one truly specialized subgenre, the "Kirk-Spock" stories in which their relationship was not as platonic and emotionless as the TV show depicted it."

OK, so far, more descriptive than perjorative, but way to completely change the genre from "Slash" to "Hyphen", goober. Google is your friend, Brother Card.

Skipping a paragraph listing all of the brilliant comtemporary authors (at least one of whom wrote for TOS - c'mon, even mundanes know that one!) we get into the crux of the argument:

"...Little of this seeped into the original "Star Trek." The later spinoffs were much better performed, but the content continued to be stuck in Roddenberry's rut. So why did the Trekkies throw themselves into this poorly imagined, weakly written, badly acted television series with such commitment and dedication? Why did it last so long?"

Now I had to read that paragraph a couple of times before I could figure out if he was talking "Enterprise" (which was many, if not all, of the above) or TOS. I think he was referring to TOS, but I would think a professional, published, non "hyphen" type writer might be more clear.

Misunderstanding aside, this is where I got really crabby:

"...Here's what I think: Most people weren't reading all that brilliant science fiction. Most people weren't reading at all. So when they saw "Star Trek," primitive as it was, it was their first glimpse of science fiction. It was grade school for those who had let the whole science fiction revolution pass them by."
Yeah, because the fans who fought to keep ST:TOS on the air were a bunch of prosthetic-ear-wearing perverted mental midgets who lived in their parents basements and couldn't read. As someone who considers Bjo Trimble a friend, I'm pretty offended.

*phew* Sorry, I got a little ranty. Don't get me wrong - there are plenty of
reasons "Enterprise" should have been cancelled, and TV sci-fi has come a long way from ST:TOS, but the tone of the writing leads me to wonder if Orson Scott Card was pantsed by someone in an ill-fitting Klingon forehead or otherwise traumatized by trekkies.

I apologize for my oversensitivity to this issue and await further enlightenment!

#134 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 01:38 PM:

Laura, I was going to say stewardship before I read your last post, but while it does have some theological undertones, it isn't exactly what a heirophant does. While he may guard and preserve the sacred things and traditions, he is also the one who reveals and teaches them. Can you verb heirophant? I heirophant, he/she heirophants, it heirophants, we heirophant, they all heirophant, them things heirophant.... How about a nice alliterative phrase instead, like "guard and guide"?

#135 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 01:43 PM:

The action performed by a heirophant is heirophancy.

I'm heiroplain myself, like the Amish or something.

#136 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 01:44 PM:

S.E., my own experience suggests that any two names belonging to the same fanfic writer *will* be publicly linked sooner or later if anyone other than the writer knows about the connection. Someone, whether through cluelessness or malice, will open their big mouth...

Can't help on the question of whether anyone's labelled a fanfic writer a pedo porn pedler on those grounds, but I would point out that under English (and probably UK in general) law, there is a specific exception to the age of consent being 16, and it doesn't matter if it was the 17-year-old doing the seducing. That exception is particularly relevant to one of the British universes that is currently popular with slash writers. If that applies to any of yours, you might have trouble saying "but it's legal in the UK".

#137 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 02:01 PM:

Nerdy: I think OSC's premise is all wrong--hell, my entire family Treks and we all read science fiction up the wazoo. (Calling it sci-fi too. I'm the only one who doesn't now, and that's because I was schooled a few years back on this very board.) My mother and sibs had similar semantical arguments about whether it was Trekker or Trekkie. We stopped watching somewhere in the middle of the Voyager series, I think, although we did watch the first few episodes of Enterprise hopefully.

And while that's anecdotal, does OSC seriously believe that all the Trekkies/Trekkers were living in some kind of literary vacuum--that their entire days were consumed by Trekkie-hood, leaving no time for the library or the bookstore, or, OMG! READING!?

(The last time OSC pissed me off was when he did one of his columns about video games for girls. It was full of all kinds of generalisations about What Girls Want: you know, kind, fluffy, task oriented games, because none of us weeminfolk ever want to take a gun and just KILL! And you could tell that he hadn't been fully exposed to a lot of video games out there, because he was making these pronouncements as if the entire industry was unaware. I'll admit it's a sexist industry in many ways, but there were plenty of games with the elements he was describing. Furthermore, he would have been doing everybody a favour if he'd just stopped making guesses at what girls want, and said, "Hell, I'm a middle-aged writer of science fiction, and this is what I want in a game." Then it wouldn't be just girls vs. boys, but about what people want. I digress, but the article had a very similar tone to the Trek article.)

#138 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 02:07 PM:

nerdycellist:

Thanks for taking the time to read that wild Card op ed, and comment so carefully. I had mixed feelings about the piece too, which indeed could have been better edited. It is very imitative of Greg Benford's essay (I can't quickly recall the citation) that Star Trek is "Science Fiction 'Lite.'"

Leah Miller:

Your posting also intrigued me. I first heard about "Red Dwarf" from my (now deceased) mother-in-law in Edinburgh, Scotland. From her description, it souned so utterly crappy that I was almost offended that she thought that her daughter and I would enjoy it. Hence it took a LONG time before I saw an episode. Of course, it was not aired in the USA for years. When I finally saw the series, I loved it, as does my teenaged son. This suggests several things:

Sci-Fi and Science Fiction can peacefully coexist within the same TV series or book anthology.

I have elitist tendencies. In the same way, I avoided reading Stephen King for years BECAUSE it was on the bestseller lists. It wasn't until I met him in 1979 that I reconsidered my feelings. Now my wife and I take him quite seriously as an author, although he could sure use a real editor sometimes.

Xopher:

You bet, that freaked me for about, well, pi seconds.

Warning: Math ahead. Here be dragons.

Paula Lieberman:

Good points. I heard that Banach once stepped into an adjacent Math office and asked the professor, seriously, "Can you tell me again what the definition is of a Banach space?" The topology of the space of all possible Science Fiction stories is poorly understood. The Sci-Fi issue gives this question a sort of Sierpinski Carpet flavor.

By the way, Mandelbrot has been playing with "random" Sierpinski Carpets. Divide a square (whose interior is completely full) into 9 equal smaller squares. Delete some with probability p of deletion. Divide each non-deleted square in the same way, and eliminate subsquares with that same probability. Lather, rinse, repeat forever. Now, what is the probability that there is a continuous path remaining which connects the left edge with the right edge? Turns out to be a currently unanswerably hard problem, although these seems to be a phase transition at p=0.5; I had a discussion with a Field Medal winner about this, and we were both interested in the question of what a typical path-length would be for such. But he was so much smarter than me, I didn't fully understand his presentation.

#139 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 02:09 PM:

Xopher, had I a wet noodle handy, you would be in *so* much trouble for that.

#140 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 02:34 PM:

Yeah, I had a friend send me that OSC essay insisting that here at least was an OSC opinion that wasn't going to tick me off. While it didn't say anything idiotic about girls or gays, it still managed.

Aside from his snotty tone, he makes a common mistake of comparing apples to eggbeaters; a book is not film. There are beautiful, elegant things that can be done with words which cannot be directly translated to a visual medium. (and vice versa). Beyond issues of narrative structure there is the difference in the production model - Publishing vs Film/TV Industry - which allows written SF to be aeons ahead of what gets beamed into your home. Rather than comparing ST:TOS to Asimov, why not compare it to what was on TV in 1966? I am too young to remember, but after the original Twilight Zone, I can't imagine there was anything coming close to that on TV.

Yes, Enterprise needed to be retired, and I agree with Mr. Card's statement that there is some great SF on TV now, but he seems to be really bitter about Star Trek in general, and media-fen specifically.

#141 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 02:35 PM:

*hands fidelio a wet noodle*

#142 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 02:38 PM:

As long as it's a low-carb noodle, I'm good.

I'm working on a movie script too, about a guy who goes around offering simplified heirophancy services to towns in the old West.

Tentative title is "Heiroplains Drifter."

#143 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 02:38 PM:

(He offers a discounted service agreement too: HeiroPlan.)

#144 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 02:40 PM:

Sorry, I keep thinking of more. The sequel, set in the 40s, has his grandson flying his heiroplane into battle.

[a barrage of soggy ramen follows] OK, OK, I'll stop!

#145 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 02:44 PM:

Bulletin from the Dept. of Orthography:
The word is spelled "hierophant." Yes, I had to look it up.

Doh!

#146 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 02:53 PM:

Since I don't know what a hierophant is, beyond a vague idea that it's some kind of high priest, I looked it up to. Per dictionary.com (if you can believe a site that has pop-ups):

-An ancient Greek priest who interpreted sacred mysteries, especially the priest of the Eleusinian mysteries.
-An interpreter of sacred mysteries or arcane knowledge.
-One who explains or makes a commentary.

[Late Latin hierophanta, from Greek hierophants : hieros, holy; see eis- in Indo-European Roots + -phants, one who shows (from phainein, phan-, to show. See bh-1 in Indo-European Roots).]

Interesting.


#147 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 02:53 PM:

I always do that! I sometimes write 'Tolkein', too. Dammit.

#148 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 03:12 PM:

Xopher - wasn't there a relevant Particle recently - Pavarotti singing "Hierophants, Yeah!"?

#149 ::: PinkDreamPoppies ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 03:27 PM:

Hiero for hire? Hiero Protagonist?

#150 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 03:33 PM:

Xopher: you forgot to mention that your characters would eat hiero sandwiches.

Janet Croft said:

Laura, I was going to say stewardship before I read your last post, but while it does have some theological undertones, it isn't exactly what a heirophant does. While he may guard and preserve the sacred things and traditions, he is also the one who reveals and teaches them. Can you verb heirophant? I heirophant, he/she heirophants, it heirophants, we heirophant, they all heirophant, them things heirophant.... How about a nice alliterative phrase instead, like "guard and guide"?

It is tricky, isn't it?

I am trying to think of a keyword for each Tarot card, and for some reason the Hierophant is the one I'm having the most trouble with. I'm not exactly trying to describe what he does, but what the meaning of the card might be.

For example, you could say that the High Priestess card represents Wisdom. That is not something she "does."

#151 ::: S. E. ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 03:51 PM:

Julia: Do you mean the law that states that no sexual relationship may occur between an authority figure and a person under the age of 18 under his or her direct supervision, such as a teacher and student or doctor and patient? I have, alas, learned that one quite well, and now cling to the American ruling that a fictional character cannot be protected under rule of law.

But, yeah. I think I know what fandom you're talking about, and I fear I'm one of the people that made one of the biggest teacher/student ships the aircraft carrier it is today.

I know the name association will get out eventually, but I'm not sure how soon I want it to. (Hell, most of my fannish friends actively seek out stuff under my pen name. It's not exactly secret.) As far as other writers go, Cassandra Claire publishes fanfic and original under the same name, and she's written some explicit stuff, but I haven't had a chance to talk to her about it yet. (We've met, but we're not close by any means.) Right now, I'm really only worried about possible repercussions on writing something that the creator isn't necessarily happy with, prior legal standing, and with professional courtesy toward the creator.

If I were writing children's fiction, I'd be scouring the 'Net of anything with my name on it. As it stands, my novel's main character starts out age ten, but he doesn't stay that way. I don't pull punches when it comes to teenagers being randy little bastards, so there's sex and violence and all that good stuff that doesn't show up so much in children's fic. And I'm cool with that. I'm just not sure how cool other people will be with me doing it with borrowed characters.

S. E.

#152 ::: S. E. ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 03:53 PM:

That's protection of a fictional character under rule of law as in, a fictional character's rights cannot be protected as though he/she/it were a real person. Nothing to do with copyright or ownership. Sorry, that wasn't clear.

#153 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 04:01 PM:

Maybe he represents the Numinous?

#154 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 04:30 PM:

Xopher, did you hear about the elegant hierophant who ate the botulant eggplant? His termagant sycophant accountant (who sorely needs antiperspirant) stands accused of administering the asphyxiant while impaired by an intoxicant. He's now a reluctant defiant defendant.

#155 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 04:34 PM:

Laura - not to be a jerk, but part of the reason the cards have such complex images is that they can't be easily summed up in single words. Although it does help when working through your personal interpretation.

Anyway, as a longtime reader, I've always struggled with the hierophant. The first 4 cards are 2 types of male authority and 2 types of female authority; they can also be seen as brother, sister, mother, and father. The Hierophant stands alone after those 4, and represents priestly authority, which isn't, in our society, generally located in any priesthood, which makes it confusing. This would be an authority derived not from government (Emporer/empress) or mystical power (magician/priestess) or familial relationship. So I think of this figure as a mentor/tutor/master. The image on most cards is of a pope (possibly female, but that's a whole "nother" ball of wax), which makes it a symbol of worldly authority as much as divine authority, originally anyway. So not a benevolent figure, necessarily, but a respected one. etc.

Well, that's too much info, I'm sure! If you feel like talking about it in depth, though, feel free to email me.

#156 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 04:49 PM:

Mary Dell - you're not being a jerk at all. The cards do have very complex meanings, and each person's interpretation varies. But some decks do have "keywords" on each card and I was playing around with that.

BTW, my understanding is that the High Priestess and the Hierophant form a pair, because in some decks they are referred to as "The Pope" and "The Female Pope."

#157 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 04:51 PM:

Andy, did you hear about the cormorant who mistook the surfactant for expectorant? He started to pant, and I'll grant he had scant chance, but then some pissant began to rant that he knew a chant, which proved puissant.

Well, you used up all the easy ones!

#158 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 04:52 PM:

So I'm surprised no one's brought up the Nebula Awards yet.

Best Novel: Paladin of Souls, by Lois McMaster Bujold, (Eos, Oct 2003)
Best Novella: "The Green Leopard Plague," by Walter Jon Williams, (Asimov's, Oct/Nov 2003)
Best Novelette: "Basement Magic," by Ellen Klages, (F&SF, May 2003)
Best Short Story: "Coming to Terms," by Eileen Gunn, (Stable Strategies and Others, Sep 2004)
Best Script: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson, Based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien (New Line Cinema, Dec 2003)

They're not generally the choices I would have made, other than WJW's "Green Leopard Plague," which I think is marvelous. I was especially sorry to see Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom passed over.

It hardly seems fair that Lois Bujold has extended her award domination from the Hugos to the Nebulas, but I suppose that's what happens when you are very good and have legions of fans. Damn her and her compelling fiction ways!

#159 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 05:06 PM:

Once there was a hierophant,
An earnest-visaged psychophant...
I rather mean a psychopomp
Who bomped on every sycostomp...
(Just look -- or is that Regardie?
How commentary’s slippery.)

At meanings deep he tried to grope
But found he’d goosed the Female Pope;
And cleaving to the Juggler’s rule,
The more he played the Hierofool...
Through Hieropomp and Circumstant
What some find lucid, others Kant..

#160 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 05:23 PM:

So does that mean that the Hierophant and the High Priestess are the Pope and the Auntie Pope?

#161 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 05:26 PM:

Mike - I fear you'd better end your song of hierophant and hierophong!

#162 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 05:40 PM:

Xopher- I'm jubilant that the cormorant is still extant. Did he need a transplant or an implant? Sadly, surfactants are abundant pollutants.

(Now it gets hard...)

#163 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 05:54 PM:

Laura and Mary,

I tend to pair the High Priestess with the Hierophant too, seeing them as two opposing ways of approaching life.

For me, the High Priestess is to do with intuition (and that's my keyword for her card) and innate knowledge of how life works, as well as a whole bunch of female stuff that I haven't really put into words but know is there informing my interpretations whenever she appears in a tarot spread.

The Hierophant is to do with rules (and again that's my keyword) and the things you learn to help you play the game of life, as well as a lot of fuzzy masculine notions of power and hierarchical (is that a real word?) structures.

My interpretations may be wrong, but they work for me. It's lucky the tarot is so accommodating, isn't it?

#164 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 06:11 PM:

I pair the high priestess with the magician - the mystical female and the mystical male. I've heard the hierophant, not the high priestess called "the female pope" because of the odd way that the figure is drawn in the rider-waite deck - appears to have breasts, sorta kinda, and is therefore supposedly Of course, this is all learned via other practitioners, all of whom (including me) invent interpretations as we go.

My readings are influenced some by a deck I saw once that used figures from greek mythology - I've forgotten most of them but the Magician was Apollo, the High Priestess was Persephone, the Empress was Demeter, Emporer was Zeus (of course), and the Hierophant was that Centaur dude who tutored, um, Apollo? Herc? I forget. Anyway that image of the Hierophant has stayed with me, although the words obviously haven't!

#165 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 06:12 PM:

Wow, I couldn't have mangled that hyperlink any more if I'd tried! Eep! It's supposed to say:

...and is therefore supposedly Pope Joan. Of course...

#166 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 06:38 PM:

The tutorial centaur was Chiron; he taught Achilles and Aesculapius. (Hercules beat him up, but it was an accident. Herc was kinda, you know, mad, bad, and dangerous to be in a fifty-yard radius of.)

We celebrate Chiron's great learning in the name of a device that puts words on television screens, uniting the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or at least the Sesamothromic and the Soupysalic.

#167 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 06:57 PM:

Mary said: My readings are influenced some by a deck I saw once that used figures from greek mythology

Would that be the Mythic Tarot? The Hierophant/Centaur image can be found here.

Mary also said: I pair the high priestess with the magician - the mystical female and the mystical male.

And I see the Magician as a kind of trickster and manipulator -- more Derren Brown than true mystic. I think I'm basing my interpretation on a very old set of Tarot cards that I once saw in a book (can't remember the title) -- the Magician looked a bit cheeky, as if he were just mucking around, and that image has stuck with me.

#168 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 07:58 PM:

If you want one keyword for the Hierophant, may I suggest mystery?

This is the guy with the secret knowledge, that you can only get from him.

#169 ::: Trapped in amber ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 08:50 PM:

I'm curious as to what might resuscitate Horror as a genre.

Are successful movies enough of a boost, or will it take a new highly popular book?

Is there hope of a recovery? These things seem cyclical to me. Or should horror writers just do a lemming?
(Gazes at cliff in despair)

#170 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 09:18 PM:

What would make me like horror better, personally:

-- less mean and nasty characters

-- less vileness all around

-- less grue, and less pointless grue

-- an occasional triumph beyond a staggering survivor making it through the night: I mean, a moral triumph here and there would not be amiss. Personally, I don't read books to be confirmed in the certain knowledge that I will die and rot and my innards will dissolve, and that my mind is not invulnerable and immortal: I read books to get an infusion of wonder and possibility. Is it possible for horror to work with this? It's possible that it shouldn't. I may be completely irrelevant to the concerns of horror writers.

I could be missing a whole raft of horror that already meets those stipulations. But the last book I read that was marketed as horror had a succubus going around destroying the lives of a bunch of people -- and she didn't even tempt them or manipulate them, she just reached in their minds and forced them like puppets to do something completely uncharacteristic in an illusory situation. So it was stupid: she didn't have a right to those souls, by the bargain that was stated at the beginning.

But, since I'm not a part of the core market for horror, the only things I can really offer you are these: play around with the genre and see if you can come up with something interesting and a little bit sideways to whatever you think is the center of horror: and think about story logic in new and very demanding ways.

#171 ::: Trapped in amber ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 10:15 PM:

Actually Lucy, you give me hope.
I was wondering why the genre crashed, so I thought about why I stopped reading so much of it (slaps wrist for hypocrisy). Basically, I wanted to be scared, but I didn't want to wade through blood and guts. Some gore, okay, but I found the levels too much. What scares me, what thrills me in horror, is something else. I do still read horror, but not as much as I would if that were not the case.
I'm interested in people's thoughts on why the genre crashed.
I write supernatural horror, both young adult and adult. I try to scare people largely by making their imagination run rampant (these people only exist in my head by the way, I need to submit something before I can be published). I suggest and imply far more than reveal. That's what scares me, so that's what I write.
I don't just write horror, but it is the majority of my writing, and I don't seem to be able to shake off the habit.
I'm doomed :-).

#172 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 10:22 PM:

As far as I'm concerned, the first chapter of Greg Egan's "Distress," qualifies as a great small horror story. The protagonist wakes up in a quasi-hospital situation, where police officers interrogate him about being an eye-witness to a murder. We gradually discover that the murder was his own, and that the victim's brain has been revived for a short time period to conduct the interrogation. In a few hours he'll be dead again, for real. Horror induced with no monsters or psychopathic sadists required.

#173 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 10:43 PM:

When I worked at the big bookstore, corporate gave the instruction to integrate the horror section into general fiction. The booksellers all thought this was an idiotic idea, as we had plenty of readers come in looking to browse the horror shelves who then walked away annoyed that they'd have to browse the whole general fic/lit section.

At the time, we were told that Stephen King had requested that his books not be filed in with the genre stuff, and corporate then decided not to have a Horror section if the biggest author didn't want to be shelved there. I have no idea how true that rumor was!

#174 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 10:43 PM:

re: the "outside the wheel" particle.

For the past week, I have been that hamster. I feel for it, yet I laugh.

#175 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 11:35 PM:

RE: Hamster on wheel. OWWW!

Re: Scary stuff. NPR this afternoon had some coverage about those polygamist communities that skirt the Utah/Arizona Border who have moved a group to Texas.

Responses in the community vary from scary to scarily complacent (the water district person who came to make sure hook-ups, etc were in order said it was scary because in a community of that size, you expect to see women and children, and all she saw was locked doors and commented on the oddness of it. The sheriff or some other said, "let's accept them and live and let live until proven otherwise." What part of minor child-marriage does he not understand OR what is the legal age of consent in Texas? Or is this something that because of Texas legal considerations will be ignored until something Really Bad happens. (I've read the scary information about cemetaries in that community with lots of babies that don't make it past the first year...). yikes. Just yikes. The fact the community may be willing to look the other way to 'give them a break' just scares me.

No one has rights in those communities except the senior males. No one except them even has a right to a natural life, from all I can tell from the outside. the women are brainwashed into 'this is the best you can expect and go to heaven." We'll see how the Texicans cope.

#176 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2005, 11:39 PM:

Mike's poem is delightful. Regardie, indeed!

The verb form of hierophant, assuming we're talking about a heirophant, not as or to one, would be "hieropheisi" ("ei" standing in here for η).

I don't think it's going to play in Peoria.

#177 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 12:14 AM:

S.E. - That is indeed what I was referring to, and one reason I'm dancing ever so gently around the name of the fandom is that my writing partner is known by the name Predatrix for her fanfic output. So I have a similar problem at one remove.:-)

#178 ::: S. E. ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 12:20 AM:

Julia: EEEE! =) I love Pred! How's she doing? I haven't heard anything about her in ages. Oh, man. I had too much to do tonight anyway, but now I'm going to have to read some of her fic again. *grin*

#179 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 12:31 AM:

Jonathan Vos Post wrote:
"By the way, Mandelbrot has been playing with "random" Sierpinski Carpets. Divide a square (whose interior is completely full) into 9 equal smaller squares. Delete some with probability p of deletion. Divide each non-deleted square in the same way, and eliminate subsquares with that same probability. Lather, rinse, repeat forever. Now, what is the probability that there is a continuous path remaining which connects the left edge with the right edge? Turns out to be a currently unanswerably hard problem, although these seems to be a phase transition at p=0.5; I had a discussion with a Field Medal winner about this, and we were both interested in the question of what a typical path-length would be for such. But he was so much smarter than me, I didn't fully understand his presentation."

Thinking idly about this for a few moments, I found myself realizing that, with no limit to the subdivision of the squares, the side-to-side path could be of infinite length.

I'm not a math-type guy; I barely worked thru trig in college math classes, then crashed and burned in a head-on collision with calculus. So I'm not used to thinking things like any enclosed area may contain lines of infinite length.

I do know enough about topology to recognize that this is a very basic concept. But realizing it on my own is, I find, simultaneusly 1) counter-intuitive and 2) obvious. And realizing that I realize it is 3) quite a lovely feeling, actually.

(Me add and subtract pretty someday.)

#180 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 01:13 AM:

S.E. Try her LJ for news of what's she's been doing...

(We have been busy, oh yes we have. One result is at Fictionwise as of this week.)

#181 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 01:28 AM:

Bruce Arthurs:

That's why I love teaching math. I share your joy! Thank you.

#182 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 01:54 AM:

Bruce, I got that.

Thanks.

#183 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 02:10 AM:

Bruce, not all math is congruent. There are different fields [unfortunately that's a pun that's unavoidable except by use of a different and less appropriate word....] within math, that are very very very different from one another... when I was at MIT the department head swapped yearly between the pure and applied mathematicians. There are some very major differences involved, and that's just -one- of the divisions. There are algebraists, there are people who concentrate on fluid mechanics, those who do are topologists, those who are algebraic topologists, number theoreticians, those who specialize in probability and statistics, there are those who specialize in real and complex variables, those who focus on geometry....

I did not like linear algebra and turn-the-crank stuff, that's what computers are for (provided one puts in divide by zero trapping... caught a coworker with a math doctorate on that one years ago, he was griping that his program wasn't working, it was crashing in the matrix inversion. "Did you check to make sure the matrix isn't singular before trying to invert it?" I asked him [singular matrices aren't invertible, it's basically trying to divide by zero... a/b where b = 0, doesn't work on machines that are dealing with standard real numbers....]. Oops.. he hadn't put in any code to check for singularity before dividing, and the program was crashing because he was trying to divide by zero. Boing....). My sister however really liked linear algebra, and even taught it when she was in grad school in math (she dropped out of grad school having gotten the master's but not a doctorate, after she was told to take the oral exam again in another month).

Applied non-linear stuff, though, was fun for me.

I found geometry proofs in high school tedious in the extreme--why keep repeating the same thing?! The jokes about "reduced to a previous problem" were something that were college level, unfortunately, and the ex-nun I had for a geometry teachers had no sense of humor, no sense of adventure, and wanted everything done the way she wanted... she gave me a D on a test once with the note that the method I used to prove something wasn't the method she wanted me to use so she was giving me a D even though the proof I gave was a correct one. Grrrr.

Mostly it's not the people are mathematical anti-geniuses, it's bad or incompetent teachers and curricula in it. One friend said she would have been interested in math in school if anyone had ever bothered to tell her that that's how one can track MONEY and finance, she would have been interested in math...

======

On another topic... is there hierophantic analyis as there is Elephantine analysis?

======

Yes, hierarchical is a word, and one that even often gets overused! (For that matter, it gets overused because there's an overabundance of overdone hierarchies!)

=========

No, you Kant have that hierophant, you're not Jung enough, and it not archetypical enough. The foundation wasn't pored properly...

#184 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 03:02 AM:

"The foundation wasn't pored properly..."

Which makes for a poor Hume. And it ought to have a Locke, too.

#185 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 07:13 AM:

Still wondering if a heirophant is someone who inherits from a hierophant, or perhaps just the heir of an elephant?

Pyschopomp, BTW, is a word that sounds silly, but the function is rather sombre & grand, if it is what I think it is.

#186 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 07:52 AM:

A "pyschopomp" is someone who guides souls to the Underworld but ends up at a truck stop somewhere on the Jersey Turnpike.

There's a surprising demand for them.

#187 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 08:12 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz:

Ok, I've seen Galaxy Quest. I rather liked _We'll Always Have Parrots_. What I want now is a story about fans of something sfnal which is portrayed as being worthy of respect.

Have you read Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones?

"We'll always have Parrots" is also a line from Red Dwarf, by the way and since people have been talking about that.

#188 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 10:17 AM:

Today I'm inclined to go with "Revelation" as the keyword for the Hierophant.

Mary Dell said: I've heard the hierophant, not the high priestess called "the female pope" because of the odd way that the figure is drawn in the rider-waite deck - appears to have breasts . . .

I can kind of see that. Of course, if the Hierophant is equivalent to the Pope (which I don't necessarily agree with), then since we all know the Pope wears dresses, it would be appropriate for him to have false breasts too : )

However, googling on tarot pope female will produce several references to the High Priestess as the Female Pope.

#189 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 10:26 AM:

Madeline Kelly:

Yep, the Mythic Tarot, that's it. The method the owner of the deck taught me was heavily Kabbalah based as well.

I've always seen the magician as an alchemist, representing the transformative power of the conscious mind, that sort of thing. And the priestess as representing the unconscious mind. My entire system of reading is based in alchemy (jungian-style)...that being one of the guiding principles of my life.

#190 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 10:28 AM:

"At meanings deep he tried to grope..." -- like the blind men and the hierophant? (Seems to be one of the few puns not used here yet!)

#191 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 10:50 AM:

Vicki, I would Anglicize and nominalize your verb form as 'hierophacy' ("high-RAH-fuh-see") by analogy to 'prophecy' - does that make sense with the Greek too? - which doesn't look quite so weird.

I still think mine is funnier, though.

#192 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 10:56 AM:

Sorry for the double post, but:

Spain legalized gay marriage, and the prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has challenged Spain's conservatives to "look into the eyes of homosexuals, and tell them they are second-class citizens."

How come we can't have a president like that?

#193 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 11:03 AM:

Apropros of nothing, except that I know that our kind hostess loves citrus...

I made lemon mousse over the weekend, and although it was good it tasted more like lemon bars (minus the shortbread of course) than what I had expected lemon mousse to taste like. So I was wondering if it was the type of lemons I used, and more specifically the lemon zest.

Does the type of lemon zest used significantly change the taste of the end product? my cookbook recommends lemon oil as a substitute, but I'm more likely to find lemon varieties than lemon oil around here. And I'm not that likely to find lemon varieties.

I found all these lemon recipes while searching for the perfect lemon cake recipe. I've found several lemon cake recipes that we're pretty good, but I decided to take a break and try other recipes. So any recommendations would be helpful.

Thank you!

#194 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 11:44 AM:

Hmm. I don't have any recipes for lemon cake. But I have one for Shaker Lemon Pie that I loved, back when I could eat such things (sniff).

#195 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 12:17 PM:

Zest of lemon is intensely lemony and -bitter-, as as zest of e.g. Valencia oranges intensely orangey and bitter. Lemon oil is I think made from the zest.

#196 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 12:33 PM:

Is the zest of [fruit] different from its rind?

#197 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 12:37 PM:

Paula Lieberman:

Well put!

Meaning of the Hierophant

Basic Card Symbols

Twin pillars, staff, throne, hand raised in blessing, two acolytes.

Basic Tarot Story

"Having created a solid foundation on which to build his future, the Fool is struck with a sudden fear. What if everything he's worked for is taken away? Is stolen, or lost, or destroyed or vanishes? Or what if it is just not good enough? In a panic, he heads into a holy place where he finds the Hierophant, a wise teacher and holy man. Acolytes kneel before the man, ready to hear and pass on his teachings. The Fool tells the Hierophant his fears, and asks how he can be free of them."

But what if this wonderful sci-fi novel I've written is stolen by evil slushpile readers, or ripped off by an editor, or all the copies of the manuscript are lost? Or what if it is just not good enough?

"There are only two ways," says the Hierophant sagely, "Send it to PublishAmerica, or compress it to a parody poem like John M. Ford's excellent one about me, and post it on Making Light."

"How about I turn it into an equation...?"

The hierophant beat the acolyte with a wet noodle.

#198 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 01:00 PM:

Andy, yes, the zest is just the outer bit of the rind. On a lemon, the yellow part but not the white part.

#199 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 01:02 PM:

JvP, the point of the pi analogy was not to make you gasp and faint away, but to show the futility of fighting forces of nature -- like linguistic change.

It annoys me too. So does gravity, some days.

#200 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 01:08 PM:

As to varieties of lemon: I think that you probably wouldn't be able to discern between the zest of lisbon and the zest of eureka lemons. But the zest of meyer lemons is more floral and fruity than the others, just as the juice and pulp are.

Andy: if a recipe asks for the rind of the lemon, they're expecting you to include the white part. If it asks for the zest, they only expect the part that is yellow with little circles all through it.

#201 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 01:33 PM:

Trapped in Amber, re. the horror revival: We're actually in the midst of great worldwide literary horror revival. It's just that all the exciting new horror novels are written in Japanese and Korean, and nobody's translating Asian genre fiction into English.

The movies are making it here on DVD, and they're very popular with horror fans. And it's not just "ghost meme" like the remade Ringu and Ju-On. It's everything from flat-out goreporn to sophisticated psychological horrors. There's Cthulhu-mythos-inspired horrors reimagined as a kind of dark, hidden Shinto. (In "Inugami," for example, the women of an ancient, cursed family are doomed to watch over the 38 Wild Dog Gods trapped in an earthenware jar, lest one of them escapes. It's a bit like a Japanese feminist "Dunwich Horror," only better.) Every Japanese or Korean horror film I've seen lately has been based on a best-selling novel. And I'm sure that not every best-selling novel gets made into a movie.

If you want high-quality contemporary horror, go East.

#202 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 01:44 PM:

A "pyschopomp" is someone who guides souls to the Underworld but ends up at a truck stop somewhere on the Jersey Turnpike.

If that's a pyschcopomp, what's a nincompomp?

Did I tell you guys about the time back in the '80s when I sunk my life savings into buying a Hire-a-Phant franchise, and some guy opened a Mr. Mysteree with a drive-thru across the street? Drove me out of business is what it did. I had to laugh the other day when I saw a truck from "Two Guys and an Omphalos" hauling away his sign.

#203 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 01:48 PM:

Two grenades were set off this morning in front of the United Kingdom mission in...

...mid-town Manhattan?!!

Thank Heavens for Homeland Security. Keep up the good work, guys.

(I have some further comments on this on my own blog, here.

#204 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 01:48 PM:

*groan*

#205 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 01:53 PM:

I only just found out about the explosion in NYC. Thank god nobody was hurt.

#206 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 02:37 PM:

Xopher:

*doh!* I get it; your point is well taken.

If You Can't Join 'Em, Lick 'Em Dept.:

Celebrating More Than a Century of Science on U.S. Postage Stamps
Wednesday May 4, 2:00 pm ET

WASHINGTON, May 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Four American Scientists -- Thermodynamicist Josiah Willard Gibbs, geneticist Barbara McClintock, mathematician John von Neumann and physicist Richard P. Feynman -- were honored with postage stamps dedicated in a special ceremony today at Henry R. Luce Hall, Yale University, New Haven, CT.

#207 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 03:03 PM:

They were toy grenades, not real ones. Rendered somewhat less toy by being packed with black powder (or a similar substance). There was no timing device, but simply a light-and-run fuse. The objects were placed in a planter outside the building which houses the British Consulate, several other foreign missions, and a number of other tenants.

The Consulate was on something like the 11th floor. The damage to the building was confined to the front of the ground floor. The blast went off in the wee hours. And given the fusing, I'd speculate that anyone walking by would have seen it and ducked.

This is a serious matter, make no mistake. But it's unlikely to involve terrorists as the term is ordinarily understood. And it probably wasn't specifically aimed at the UK Consulate; it's not obvious (according to WNYC this morning, as is all the above) that the Consulate is even in that building.

And if they were trying to influence the UK election, pretty stupid not to call in a warning before or claim responsibility after, eh?

Personally I think it was just some dumbass kid, like the kind who get themselves killed riding between subway cars every day in New York.

<magneto>Young people.</magneto>

#208 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 03:04 PM:

Bruce Arthur wrote:
Two grenades were set off this morning in front of the United Kingdom mission in...
...mid-town Manhattan?!!
Thank Heavens for Homeland Security. Keep up the good work, guys.

Sucks that it happened, good thing nobody was hurt. Sounds like somebody just wanted to make a statement.

Now: since you're blaming this on weak security, what would you have done different? Short of altering the laws of physics, there is no way to stop people from making explosives. Would you pat down every pedestrian on the streets of Manhattan? Set up armed security checkpoints within a thirty-foot radius of every public doorway? I read your blog, too -- do you simply think nobody should be allowed to park at or approach curbs?

What did Homeland Security, the police, and ordinary citizens fail to do here that they should have done? What exactly is your complaint?

#209 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 03:10 PM:

Steve, a point of information: People aren't allowed to drive up to that building, and many others. The large concrete planters like the one the "grenades" were placed in are designed to stop a car from doing just that.

And if they'd been real grenades, the fact that some loony was able to obtain them WOULD be cause to criticize Homeland Security, and/or the FBI, or ATF, or whomever is in charge of keeping that sort of thing out of the hands of everyone except the military. I think Bruce was simply misinformed about what blew up this morning, a gap I tried to fill in my post just above (probably posted simultaneously with) yours.

#210 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 03:16 PM:

Laura,

I'm stopping my reading mid-thread to suggest something that may already have been suggested:
gatekeeper

#211 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 03:20 PM:

But then who's the keymaster?

#212 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 03:22 PM:

Mary Dell said: My entire system of reading is based in alchemy (jungian-style)...that being one of the guiding principles of my life.

I've found the book that I mentioned earlier on, and it turns out to be called Jung and Tarot, by Sallie Nichols. It's excellent -- really helped me to understand how tarot worked. I can see where you're coming from about 'jungian-style'.

Nancy Lebovitz, I'll second Eleanor's suggestion that you read Deep Secret. Diana Wynne Jones has obviously attended a lot of sci-fi (or science fiction -- not sure, after all the debate, which is the correct term) conventions; the book is crammed with observations and jokes, and a good twisty plot. It's got centaurs in it too, so it must be good.

#213 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 04:15 PM:

Xopher: somehow I don't think Silent Running belongs next to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

No, but it makes me want to see The Silent Running Texas Chainsaw Massacre, about a crazed killer who invents a really good muffler....

#214 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 04:22 PM:

Lucy writes:
What would make me like horror better, personally:
{...}
-- an occasional triumph beyond a staggering survivor making it through the night: I mean, a moral triumph here and there would not be amiss.

I've always thought that was one of the defining characteristics of horror: in fantasy, it's possible for the good guys to really win, while in horror, all they can do is survive. Which would make the quoted sentences effectively like saying "I'd like genre romance more if there weren't so much kissy stuff."

At least as I see the genres, if you had more real triumphs, it would cease to be horror.

#215 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 04:28 PM:

Speaking of lemon zest, last Christmas I made mulled wine and put some in. It turned out awfully bitter. Should I have used orange zest, or did I just put in too much?

#216 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 04:36 PM:

Xopher wrote:
Steve, a point of information: People aren't allowed to drive up to that building, and many others. The large concrete planters like the one the "grenades" were placed in are designed to stop a car from doing just that.

Yes, I know. However, I said "curb." Bruce Arthurs mentioned in his blog that a person with sufficient ordinance could do quite a lot of damage by parking some distance from a building. (And that this has been done before.)

My point is that you can't really stop that.


And if they'd been real grenades, the fact that some loony was able to obtain them WOULD be cause to criticize Homeland Security, and/or the FBI, or ATF, or whomever is in charge of keeping that sort of thing out of the hands of everyone except the military.

If they'd been military grenades, sure. What if they were something made at home that had exactly the same explosive characteristics as a grenade?

Last year's overused acronym was WMDs. This year it's going to be IEDs. That's what was used this morning. You can't prevent IEDs. They're just too easy to make. And you can't watch for every single person who might use one, every single place they might be used.

What happened this morning was not preventable by any reasonable means compatible with our society. Luck might have prevented it (somebody seeing the "grenades" and acting in time) but it wasn't a breakdown in security unless you believe security should be absolute.

#217 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 05:04 PM:

Another note about horror: There seems to be a resurgence of interest among horror readers in old pulp horror of the kind that made up the market before the emergence of King, Straub, Barker, et al, with their doorstop books. (See for example The Groovy Age of Horror.) A lot of these are series books, not unlike R.L. Stine for grownups, maybe, but with real (s)exploitation appeal. (I think another distinction between horror and other genres is that raw, unsubtle exploitation is seen as a good thing. And it's nothing new: Have you ever read Carmilla?) Maybe horror writers and publishers should start paying more attention to what horror fans are actually reading.

#218 ::: Mary Root ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 05:18 PM:

Eric - you probably left some of the white peel on the yellow zest. You have to be very careful to avoid that. There are great zesters made by Microplane.

#219 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 05:21 PM:

Xopher and Lucy: Thanks for the info.

Do I correctly recall that toy grenades filled with black powder is a sign of the coming of Ghozer?

#220 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 05:22 PM:

Mary - thanks for the tip. That's probably exactly what happened; not having a zester at hand, I used a vegetable peeler and tried my best. I'll try again next winter.

#221 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 06:18 PM:

Zesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.

#222 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 07:12 PM:

Steve Eley: I agree completely with your last post. In fact I didn't disagree with your previous one; I was just pointing out that the devices in question were not military ordnance, and that you knew that and I didn't think Bruce did.

That said, you probably can't keep military grenades out of the hands of every single potential misuser either. Look at that crazy fuckhead who attacked his own unit in Iraq.

Humans suck. I want a species transplant.

#223 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 07:18 PM:

Jordin, would that be playing on a double feature with Night of the Living Dead Ringers where a group of strangers barricade themselves into a farmhouse, fighting off attacks from brain eating zombies that are all played by Jeremy Irons?

#224 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 07:38 PM:

Claude, an essential reference in that case would be the Zombie Survival Guide, which I recently discovered. It's not new, but it is essential reading that could save your life.

#225 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 07:48 PM:

Ask Me a Century from Now if This Matters...
**snap** Whoops, there's another mousetrap Dept.:

Free Radical Protection Boosts Mouse Lifespan
Supports theory of aging and the merit of antioxidant interventions


Betterhumans Staff
5/5/2005 4:19 PM

"The lifespan of mice has been significantly extended by boosting their protection from free radicals, supporting a theory of aging and the merit of antioxidant interventions...."

#226 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 08:54 PM:

Lucy writes:
What would make me like horror better, personally:
{...}
-- an occasional triumph beyond a staggering survivor making it through the night: I mean, a moral triumph here and there would not be amiss.

Chad replies: I've always thought that was one of the defining characteristics of horror: in fantasy, it's possible for the good guys to really win, while in horror, all they can do is survive. Which would make the quoted sentences effectively like saying "I'd like genre romance more if there weren't so much kissy stuff."

At least as I see the genres, if you had more real triumphs, it would cease to be horror.

....

Not necessarily. I mean, I much prefer the Ray Bradbury style of horror over some of the other-nobody-survives-the-final-act types I read. His seemed to revolve around certain dark human fears--when you faced them, it was scary, but it was empowering in a way.

I'm not sure what horror Lucy is referring to, but if it's similar to my experiences, there's usually some kind of supernatural phenomena which gets out of hand, and ends up killing everybody in pleasant ways. There's no sense that the heroes ever have their own destiny in their hands. The books are all reactive....and ultimately really depressing for me.

(Alternately, there is the man-made horror that runs amok, and the story is supposed to be a moral along the lines of "Don't screw with things." Except for the prototypes of that genre, like Frankenstein, I often don't like those either, as they seem to encourage a certain status quo.)

Of course, maybe my brain isn't wired just right for those sorts of stories.

#227 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 08:59 PM:

I was curious about the frequency distribution of comments on Making Light. The last 400 comments were made by 136 individual posters. The top commenters:

6 Jill Smith
6 John M. Ford
6 Kate Nepveu
6 Madeline Kelly
6 nerdycellist
6 Paula Lieberman
6 Teresa Nielsen Hayden
7 Lucy Kemnitzer
7 Piscusfiche
8 Aconite
8 Andy Perrin
8 Epacris
8 Laura Roberts
8 Steve Eley
8 TexAnne
8 Tom Whitmore
9 James D. Macdonald
12 Mary Dell
22 Xopher (Christopher Hatton)
37 Jonathan Vos Post

#228 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 09:00 PM:

I'm not a horror reader, which is why I said my remarks might be irrelevant. Is the impossibility of triumph a central value of horror?

Then I can't help. Final destruction and the death of all that is good and beautiful may be a fact of physics, but it's not what I read fiction for.

#229 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 09:02 PM:

Good advice Eric, and you can often get valuable advice from the Federal Zombie and Vampire Agency. Or your local Cooperative Extension agent in some states.

#230 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 09:03 PM:

Alex, when people used to post those frequency ratings on rasff and rasfw it just made me want to shut up and go away, and I actually think they did contribute to my eventual shutting up and going away from there (that, and relentless, constant, and increasingly-nasty redbaiting).

So -- if you want my opinion -- please don't.

#231 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 09:06 PM:

Alex, I make lots of little brief comments. Sometimes two where one would do if I'd only thought of the second one before posting the first. Scatterbrainedness has contributed to my count.

#232 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 09:09 PM:

Ah. No judgment was implied. Lucy, god, please don't go away.

Sorry.

#233 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 10:31 PM:

I'm not a horror reader, which is why I said my remarks might be irrelevant. Is the impossibility of triumph a central value of horror?

No. There is often a theme of Evil being a constant threat -- the Ancient Wossname that spawned the monster still exists (being, after all, Ancient) to respawn if disturbed again, but in old-fashioned horror Evil almost always enters Quotidian Life because someone was weak, or looked into things he shouldn't have, or (perhaps most importantly) didn't believe that Evil was real. But there's no hint in Stoker that Dracula will rise again (in different hands, one can imagine Arthur Holmwood declaiming, "I'd like to see any more of those vile foreigners visit our England!")

The difference here is between the defeat of -an- Evil and the ultimate defeat of Evil, which (at least in the West) is presumed to arrive only with the Last Trump. Plenty of other faiths and cultures have Evils that cannot be finally destroyed, but only guarded against and fought when they gain admittance. (And which came first? The threat of leaving the gate open in the dark, or the Cosmic Threat of leaving the Gate open in the Dark?)

Within recent memory, horror was considered quite a conservative form -- the Bad Thing was often raised because, uh, secular humanists didn't believe it was real, and the Old True Ways have to be invoked to dispel it. (The Exorcist is a nearly pure -- if that's the word -- modern example of this.)

Lovecraft went in a different direction; his evils were unbeatable in the large sense becase they were the Way Things Worked; people weren't messing with what they weren't meant to know, but with what they couldn't properly know in the first place. (I am speaking here only of HPL himself, not the Thousand Young who have lurked, stalked, or shambled after.)

At this point, the word itself is used so broadly as to mean nothing without modifiers. Are Robert Wise's adapation of The Haunting and Crawford Chainsaw both horror films? Well, they both get dropped into the category, even though one is psychological suspense with no blood at all and the other is a shocker that, once it starts shocking, never stops for anything, especially letting you think about the events.

If there is a common theme, I suppose it's "death and the fear of death," as Fritz Leiber put it, and Death-as-we-know-it is unbeatable. Yet there are plenty of stories in which dying isn't the worst thing that can happen, and many in which there are entirely triumphant deaths. One might argue that horror -- when it has any literary aspirations at all, and isn't just a cynical exercise in Boo-yelling and chain-yanking -- is about how one approaches Death, deals with its inevitability. Indeed, Death is not that often an evil in itself in horror; in the slasher forms, it's more like losing a frat-house game of freeze tag, and in slightly more exalted versions, the Evil is not the death but the corruption that leads to it -- in the standard vampire yarn, the things one has to do to delay the natural conclusion. If Come, Lady Death is a "horror story," then the term is being defined only by signs and not by style or content.

But one might argue . . . anything, heh heh *cough* heh. [cue creaking door, reverb laughter, and awkward thud]

#234 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 10:34 PM:

Uh, re the freq meter -- I'd been thinking I was all over the place. (Admittedly, I tend to run on, like that Thing on the Doorstep up there.)

So, uh, Teresa . . . you wan' I should, like, post the long trivial thing I e-mailed you because I thought I was using too much of your bandwidth, or was I right to begin with?

#235 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 10:35 PM:

Although I'm sure it wasn't intended that way, It's a bit like saying "here's who's been doing all the talking at this party" -- I winced when I saw my name on the list, because I thought I was just having a little conversation with some folks about tarot and whatnot, and this made me think that instead I'm being rude and talking too much.

Which having said, will desist for now.

#236 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 10:41 PM:

Um. Teresa, if you're around, could you delete my last-but-one post? I'm feeling really terrible about it. Mary, I've been finding your posts interesting. It's a conversation. Please don't desist on my account.

Well, I suppose I was due for a massive social blunder, so it could have been worse.

#237 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 11:12 PM:

Mike Ford, speak! You are not an albatross. (My father likes to say I have an acute grasp of the obvious.)

Lucy, please don't depart.
Likewise, Mary Dell.
Alex Cohen, I have a bad word for you. Disincentivize.

#238 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 11:21 PM:

Mike Ford, do you (or anyone else) know how romance in the lovey-dovey Harlequin sense is related to romance in the H. Rider Haggard/Indiana Jones/Prisoner of Zenda sense?

#239 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2005, 11:44 PM:

Alex, I think everyone will forgive you.

Lucy, don't leave. And if asking doesn't work, I begs.

Teresa, remember the thing we talked about at dinner that time? This would be another one of those times.

#240 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 12:04 AM:

JvP, I have just intuited that a square, (or any plane figure) may enclose a line of infinite length. I further realised that a cube could contain an infinite number of squares.

How's this? A tesseract can contain an infinite number of cubes, no? Or have I just gone off the interdimensional deep end?

#241 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 12:16 AM:

The shortish version (and there are much, much longer ones) comes from the division of stories into didaxis, mimesis, and romance -- teaching/instruction, the representation of reality, and idealization. (Or, as I said in another book someplace, lectures, reportage, and lies.) A "romance" in this sense is an idealized story, rather than a "realistic" one. It comes from an earlier usage, meaning stories told in the vernacular (the "romance languages") rather than Latin. Most of those vernacular stories were, well, pulp yarns. Amadis de Gaul, Alonso Quejana's version of the Jack Ryan series, was in the language of everybody who could read.

So love stories, which are just about always idealized (or romanticized, if you take the point), and Tales of High Adventure such as Haggard wrote, are both "romances." I'm not sure when "romance" started to specifically mean "love story," though the derivation's logical enough, and it's a useful sub-label if you want to say, for instance, that your movie has ACTION! and ROMANCE! so both guys and dolls will go see it. (There were other ways around this, but Lauren Bacall couldn't be in everything.)

"Romance novel" as category doesn't have to mean Mills 'n' Boon-boons; there are probably more specialized subcats of romance than any other sort of fiction. "Gothic" is now only an intermediate category; there are Gothics with and without the supernatural or explicit sex (or the supernatural explicit sex), historical and gay Gothics, and certainly Goth Gothics. All these specialized forms are very precisely cover-coded so that the buyer always gets what (usually) she wants. By a careful study of title, blurb, and the position of Person One's hands on Person Two's keister, one can easily determine whether Mistress of Mercy is about a nurse during the Crimean War or . . . something else entirely.

Sorry, long digression, though its point was that a novel sold in the Romance section can be as tough as James Ellroy -- or, to be more accurate, as Kathy Acker.

#242 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 12:23 AM:

Dave, I believe you meant "a square can enclose an infinite number of lines." They all have infinite length, or they're not lines . . . but now I'm doing an old Second City routine ("Football Comes to the University of Chicago").

#243 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 12:47 AM:

Alex, now it's my turn to be embarrassed. I was trying to give an opinion about frequency measures, and background, and accidentally sounded fraught -- it wasn't supposed to be a threat.

And I really didn't mean for you to think you had done some horribly hurtful thing, only . . . I didn't think about how to say it long enough.

I think I know why it sounded fraught: those other situations were fraught, and this isn't, and you're not making it that way.

Here: it's almost summer (although to look at the soggy soggy fields and bright green everywhere and hardly a speck of yellow grass, you'd think it was still high spring here) -- let's all share a bowl of virtual cherries. Two bowls: one red, one yellow. If you're allergic to cherries or something, rotate the bowl till you find the seasonal thing you most crave.

#244 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 01:26 AM:

Thanks, Mike.

I read a lot of what the blurbs call "romantic suspense," which is found in the section labeled Mystery. When I read a romance (in the modern sense) it's usually something recommended to me by someone else, like The Time-Traveler's Wife. (The "Time-Traveler" bit balances the girl-cootie pH for maximum protection.)

(There were other ways around this, but Lauren Bacall couldn't be in everything.)

Nor Johnny Depp. (I'm an admirer of Pirates of the Caribbean.)
--
mmmmcherries. Have I told you lately that you have good ideas, Lucy? Now I have to buy cherries. I think all is well, Alex.

#245 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 02:15 AM:

Xopher, a "toy grenade" strong enough to blow a foot-long chunk of concrete off a planter and send it 30 feet thru the air and through a plate-glass window is close enough to a "real" grenade that I think it counts.

Steve Eley, I realize that all terrorist-style attacks can't be stopped (I was writing almost those exact words a few weeks after 9/11), and I don't want to see New York, or my city, or any other, turned into a near-prison for its own inhabitants.

What I would like to see is for my government to start fighting terrorism effectively. And the best way, the bravest way, to do that is to come to understand and change the conditions that lead people into wanting to commit terrorist acts. Ignoring that makes anything else either a band-aid (Homeland Security) or makes the problem worse (the war in Iraq).

I'm assuming that the explosions this morning were timed to coincide with the British elections, and aimed to alarm the UK mission in that building. If that's indeed the case, I believe that if Bush and his cohorts had not lied the US (and gotten Tony Blair to drag Britain) into a useless, counter-productive war in Iraq, those grenades would never have been set off.

#246 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 03:56 AM:

S.E., I can't speak to the effect of your slash on your pro writing career, but I can pretty much lay any fears to rest you might have regarding being "prosecuted" under U.S. law for writing stories about 16-year-olds in sexual situations.

Child pornography law in the U.S. is exclusively image-oriented, because its theoretical justification is to protect real children from exploitation during the production of the prohibited pornography. It's therefore irrelevant to slash fiction.

Plain old obscenity law is not very sensitive to the ages of the participants. Moreover, it's been decades since the last U.S. prosecution for textual obscenity. Prosecutors have found it impossible to get guilty verdicts without really juicy pictures or video.

So there's really no room for worries about prosecution.

#247 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 03:57 AM:

Talking of Tony Blair, it looks like he's Prime Minister again so whoop-di-doo.

#248 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 04:20 AM:

Aleph null bottles of beer in the wall,
Aleph null bottles of beer,
Take one down, pass it around
Alelph null bottles of beer in the wall

Aleph one objects in a set...

[there are different degrees of infinity.]

#249 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 04:32 AM:

Paula Lieberman:

[there are different degrees of infinity.]

There are? I mean, there are. (I knew it all along. Not.)

#250 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 05:00 AM:

The aleph numbers measure infinities, like a parthenogenetic inchworm. Technically, the term's written as a Hebrew letter aleph with an Arabic-numeral subscript, but let's not get into that right now. Anyway, aleph-null is a "countable infinity," as, the number of integers. The higher orders, aleph-n, can be thought of as representing the number of points in a space of n dimensions; aleph-one is the number of points on a line (distinct from the "number line" from grade school, which has aleph-null points), aleph-two counts the points on a plane, and so forth. The formal term for the "size" of an infinity is its cardinality, but that inspires questions either of how many infinities it takes to change a Pope or what kind of naughtiness they can get up to in Hilbert space, see previous Nichtdrubergehen.

Hey, I only play a scientist at conventions. This is Georg Cantor's doing, and is he ever glad I wasn't around at the time.

#251 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 05:23 AM:

So aleph-two is aleph one, squared? That is, to the power of two? Or is it aleph one to the power of infinity?

No, don't tell me. My head hurts. Ow.

#252 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 05:48 AM:

99 tiny bugs in the code,
99 tiny bugs
Fix a bug, compile it again,
100 tiny bugs in the code.

Repeat until n = 0.

#253 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 08:16 AM:

Not necessarily. I mean, I much prefer the Ray Bradbury style of horror over some of the other-nobody-survives-the-final-act types I read. His seemed to revolve around certain dark human fears--when you faced them, it was scary, but it was empowering in a way.

I'm not sure what horror Lucy is referring to, but if it's similar to my experiences, there's usually some kind of supernatural phenomena which gets out of hand, and ends up killing everybody in pleasant ways.

I'd just like to note that this is a wonderful typo (I'm assuming it's a typo), conjuring up the image of a serial killer movie in which all the victims die peacefully in their sleep...

There's no sense that the heroes ever have their own destiny in their hands. The books are all reactive....and ultimately really depressing for me.

Like Lucy, I'm not a regular reader of horror, but I'll pick up the occasional book (my sister was a big horror reader for a while, and you can always find Steven King books in airports). My earlier comments represent only my personal view of the genre, based on borrowed King and Koontz books, and a bit of Lovecraft and Barker here and there (plus a bunch of dumb-ass movies on the Sci-Fi channel).

To my mind, the thing that those all have in common is that the heroes don't so much win as survive. They don't escape bloody (or even pleasant) death because they're Good, they get out because they're lucky. As you say, they never really have their own destiny in their hands.

It's not my first choice in reading material, but done well, it can be effective.

#254 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 08:44 AM:

John M. Ford:

No, actually, a line and a plane (and any other finite-dimensional space) contain the same (infinite) number of points. We know this because it's possible to construct a one-to-one mapping from the larger space to the smaller one. For instance, you can map from a 2-dimensional number space to a 1-dimensional one by interleaving decimal places, so that the 2-dimensional number

(1.1111..., 2.2222...)

maps to

12.12121212...

in one dimension. (You need to do some extra trickery to make this work with negative numbers, but it can be done.)

Cantor proved that this size of infinity is larger than aleph zero. But the proposition that it is aleph one (defined as the next smallest infinity after aleph zero) is called the continuum hypothesis, and is unproved.

#255 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 09:13 AM:

Tim Walters - sure. Only 2^32-100 iterations left, then. :)

Dave Luckett - I believe aleph one squared is still aleph one, but I'm sure I'll be corrected if I'm wrong. :)

Nancy - What I want now is a story about fans of something sfnal which is portrayed as being worthy of respect.

Have you read either Fallen Angels (Niven, Pournelle and Flynn, available as a free e-book from Baen) or Dream Park (Niven and Barnes), both of which feature as a main theme non-fan characters coming to respect SF fans?

S.E. - Notwithstanding Daniel's comment above, which I believe (but am not certain) applies equally to UK law as it does US, are you aware that the most recent Sexual Offences Act changed the minimum age at which a person can legally appear in pornography from 16 to 18? I strongly suspect it's not an issue for fiction, but it's a change that I feel hasn't been publicised well enough, given that it means that a perfectly legal activity that a large number of people were involved in (posessing certain pornography) has suddenly become illegal. And most of those people probably haven't realised and are still doing it, not aware that it is actually an offence now.

#256 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 09:22 AM:

OMG -- check out the spam I got today:

The subject heading is "hierarchal"

and the message body is:
perihelion
dominion extort dukedom mantle exploit
rever allen
general consort traitor
capital agreeable
diaphanous denominate berg similitude


Even the spambots are reading this thread. ;)

#257 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 09:23 AM:

Xopher,

If you're willing to share, I'd love your lemon shaker pie. Why can't you eat it any longer?

And I second whoever recommended Microplane zester/graters. I love mine.

#258 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 09:27 AM:

I don't know what could bring horror back, though a best-selling book seems like a good bet. Meanwhile, vampires and such seem to be hanging out in pretty much non-horror venues like combinations of romance, pornography, action-suspence, mystery, and humor. It might be a side-effect of PC, but I'd be interested in other theories of what's going on.

Lucy, thanks for being reassuring. Mary, I liked what you were saying about Tarot. Please hang around.

As for me, when I see my name high on a frequent poster list, my reaction is a mixture of "cool!" and "I'm spending *how* much time on this?"

Thanks for the recommendations of _Deep Secret_--I've read it, but obviously not recently enough. I've got it filed under "Escher Hilton" along with _Cloak of Night and Daggers_ rather than under "friendly portrayal of fans".

Bruce, what preconditions could have been changed to have made Timothy McVeigh's attack less likely?

#259 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 09:27 AM:

[In which I play a mathematician]

Mike, You're confused about aleph-1 and above. The real numbers correspond to the points in a line, and it's unprovable (at least, Cantor never managed it) whether the cardinality of the reals is equivalent to aleph-1 (which is defined as the smallest cardinal greater than aleph-null). The equivalence between the two is the "continuum hypothesis"--note, hypothesis. Aleph-2 is defined as the smallest cardinal greater than aleph-1, and I think that if you find a provable use for it, you've got a publishable doctoral dissertation.

Dave, you might try googling on "georg cantor diagonalization" for different kinds of infinity, but the basic point is that while there are (provably) the same number of integers as of (say) multiples of 17, there are provably more real numbers than integers.

#260 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 09:36 AM:

This is at most vaguely related, but I was running down one of my bookmark folders and came on the "famous curves list": http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Curves/Curves.html

#261 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 10:36 AM:

John M. Ford said:

...if you want to say, for instance, that your movie has ACTION! and ROMANCE! so both guys and dolls will go see it. (There were other ways around this, but Lauren Bacall couldn't be in everything.)

Ah, but as Sky Captain proved, Lauren Bacall can be in everything and many films would be immeasurably improved if she just happened to saunter through the background. It'd be a fantasy world for film geeks, like looking for the moment when Hitchcock makes his cameo.

(Imagine one day having a remake of Star Wars, with Hitchcock as the Emperor, Jimmy Stewart as Luke and Audrey Hepburn as Leia. Harrison Ford and James Earl Jones can stay, as can Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee).

#262 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 10:42 AM:

Just wanted to gloat that I got Bad Magic and That Darn Squid God for my birthday, woo hoo!

#263 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 10:57 AM:

TexAnne: "medieval romance being a forerunner of Gothic lit, but I'm drawing a blank on epics that could be called so."

Try Statius' "Thebaid," now fairly obscure, but very popular in the Middle Ages, and recently translated in Oxford's World's Classics series and in a new Loeb Classical Library edition.

A retelling of the Seven Against Thebes cycle in post-Vergilian Latin, it is heavily into dysfunctional families (Oedipus' isn't the only one), malevolent or uncaring supernatural powers, and generally gruesome events.

This is a typological comparison, not a genetic approach. I don't know of any evidence that the "Thebaid" actually influenced the development of Gothic fiction or romantic literature in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries -- C.S. Lewis, who greatly admired it, would, I think, have pointed it out if he knew of any. Or that it was read by say, Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith.

(A description of Harmonia's Necklace in Book Two, lines 250 and following, just may have been one of the precedents in Tolkien's mind when he devised the Nauglamir. And there are substantial parts of the "Silmarillion" which are surprising close in tone to Statius, although I think the influences of World War I, "Volsunga Saga," and "Kalevala" are a lot clearer.)

#264 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 11:04 AM:

Nancy: "Escher Hilton" is a great description of the hotel in Deep Secret - although at first glance I wondered if you were talking about Hilbert's Hotel.

Oh yes, that's the book in which the multiverse is arranged in an Infinity sign. I knew the two topics were related somehow.

Well, so there should be books/films/etc. that portray fans positively, since so many writers are fans.

I know there was a British TV miniseries set partly in Doctor Who fandom, but I've never seen it and can't remember the title either. It was written by Russell T. Davies, who's now producing the new Doctor Who.

#265 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 11:11 AM:

On types of infinity: this is Rudy Rucker's specialty, and even he acknowledges it's a bit "metaphysical" -- sounds so to this math ignoramus!

On horror: Lately I've been absorbed in Richard B. Sewall's fine THE LIFE OF EMILY DICKINSON, and discovered that not only did she have an SFnal interest in science + sense of wonder, she also liked some of her day's equivalent of pulp horror -- examples being "The Amber Gods" serial by one Mrs. Spofford (heroine ends up stuck eternally at the time of her death) and that same author's "Circumstance", which features a woman in the wintry wilds of Maine who is seized by a half human/half animal beast and discovers she can hold him/it at bay by singing! The serial tale could well have inspired ED's poem "A Clock Stopped", since she was given to transforming others' works into her own idioms and getting to the pith of them. (She worked wonders with Victorian "nature poetry" treacle.)

#266 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 11:15 AM:

The top Mathematician Science Fiction authors include Vernor Vinge, Rudy Rucker, Ian Stewart, and (far behind those guys) me. For the real deal on Infinity, I recommend the novel:

WHITE LIGHT by Rudy Rucker

"Malcontent mathematics instructor Feliz Raymond's afternoon naps are the subject of Rudy Rucker's strange and delightful White Light. Bored with his life and job at a state university in New York and making no headway in solving Georg Cantor's Continuum Problem, Raymond finds himself every afternoon, lying flat on his floor, entering into a state of lucid dreaming that allows him to explore an entirely new surreal and mathematically-charged reality...." [opening sentences of Amazon editorial review]

He has the related non-fiction:

Infinity and the Mind:
The Science and Philosophy of the Infinite
Rudy Rucker

Paper | 1995 | $22.95 / £14.95 | ISBN: 0-691-00172-3
Paper | 2004 | $19.95 / £12.95 | ISBN: 0-691-12127-3
368 pp. | 5 x 8 | 3 halftones. 107 line illus.

There was a 1999 course at Dartmouth, "The Fire in the Equations" --

"Course Description: We shall challenge the widely-held assumption that readers and writers of science fiction feel more at home with physical than with mathematical sciences. In fact, a substantial body of novels and stories depends on mathematical ideas. Is the portrayal of mathematics in science fiction accurate or confused, legitimate speculation or mere technobabble? Is mathematics simply a way of mystifying, even intimidating readers or can understanding the underlying mathematics truly contribute to the total experience of reading a story? This course will present both the mathematics and the literary concepts necessary for an informed reading of the chosen texts. Although these texts will mostly be works of fiction, we shall also discuss some critical theory, with reference to current debates about post-modern consciousness, cultural politics, narrative structure, and the nature of artistic representation. Among the authors of novels or short stories, Isaac Asimov, Greg Bear, Arthur C. Clarke, Greg Egan, Robert Heinlein, Ursula Le Guin, Larry Niven, Rudy Rucker, and Kim Stanley Robinson; among writers on the theory and practice of science fiction, Samuel Delany, Ursula Le Guin, Joanna Russ, and Darko Suvin. Course requirements will include regular problem sets, a critical essay, a collaborative web page, and one or more drafts of a story. Professors Davies and Trout."

It's not just that Cantor could not prove that the number of the continuum (C) equals Aleph-1, where C is the number of points in a line, plane, volume. It's much stranger than that.

Continuum Hypothesis "... Gödel showed that no contradiction would arise if the continuum hypothesis were added to conventional Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory. However, using a technique called forcing, Paul Cohen (1963, 1964) proved that no contradiction would arise if the negation of the continuum hypothesis was added to set theory. Together, Gödel's and Cohen's results established that the validity of the continuum hypothesis depends on the version of set theory being used, and is therefore undecidable (assuming the Zermelo-Fraenkel axioms together with the axiom of choice)..."

Paul Cohen and I overlapped at Stuyvesant High School.

Another important infinity is F, which is the infinite number of functions that map C to C. It is likewise undecidable if F is Aleph-2.

Then there are an infinite number of greater infinities, where one must carefully distinguish between Cardinal Numbers and Ordinal Numbers.

There is, and I know this is bizarre, inaccessible cardinals. An inaccessible cardinal is a cardinal number which cannot be expressed in terms of a smaller number of smaller cardinals.

And I haven't even gotten started on Surreal Numbers, invented by John H. Conway in 1969, which were introduced to many of us the world of math in a short novel...

Knuth, D. Surreal Numbers: How Two Ex-Students Turned on to Pure Mathematics and Found Total Happiness. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1974. http://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~knuth/sn.html.

A year and a half ago, there was a Making Light thread on Mathematical science fiction, with many fine recommendations. Teresa may remind of of that with a link, if she likes.

Okay everybody, we now return you to your regularly scheduled finite world...

#267 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 11:27 AM:

Re. "science fiction" versus "sci-fi": I was watching an interview with Luigi Cozzi last night, and they consistently translated fantacento as "science fiction" and fantacinema as "sci-fi." When Cozzi wanted to discuss the possibility of true science fiction cinema, he called it "fantacento de cinema." Presumably then there are also "cento de fantacinema," sci-fi stories.

(NB: I don't actually speak Italian, so I'm not sure of the spelling of either of those words.)

If you're familiar with any of Luigi Cozzi's movies [two words: "Star Crash"], you might be surprised to find that he's actually extremely bright and knowledgeable about science fiction.

#268 ::: David H ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 11:29 AM:

Michelle K, there is a recipe for Lemon Shaker Pie in the most recent edition of Joy of Cooking... don't know if it's the same as Xopher's, though. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks pretty easy... and delicious.

#269 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 11:39 AM:

On the various sizes of infinities, it's true that multiplying any two infinite cardinals gives you the larger of the two; in particular, multiplying an infinite cardinal by itself doesn't change it. The decimal correspondence between a line and a square given by Eleanor is essentially correct, though extra trickery is needed for some positive numbers, too (i.e., those with finite decimal expansions).

You can get larger cardinals by putting a cardinal in the exponent: For any cardinal x, 2^x is larger than x. 2^x is defined as the number of subsets of a set of size x. This takes us from the number of integers, w or aleph_0, to the number of real numbers, c=2^w.

As Eleanor and Vicki note, the question of whether the second smallest infinite cardinal aleph_1 is equal to c is called the Continuum Hypothesis, and is "unproved". I use scare quotes because the Continuum Hypothesis is essentially unprovable--its truth or falsity cannot be determined by the usual axioms of Set Theory. We can have two set theories ST_+C and ST_-C, where c=aleph_1 in ST_+C and c>aleph_1 in ST_-C, and they don't really say anything different about the finite things we can get our hands on (though the two theories do disagree on some other hypotheses of interest to set theorists).

Finally, I'll warn that the term "hypothesis" used for such unprovable matters is also used in the Riemann Hypothesis, which may be provable (if true) and if false would certainly be disprovable.

#270 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 11:43 AM:

The problem with Lemon Shaker Pie is that if the filling isn't carefully strained, you have to pick all of those little bits of Shaker out from between your teeth.

#271 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 12:01 PM:

The hierophant beat the acolyte with a wet noodle.

That reminds me of a childhood memory, another girl [who went into botany] and I trying to catch frogs with homemade hooks on lines baited with wet noodles on them. We didn't succeed.

Trying to catch Arctic char in Thule with hotdogs as bait also doesn't work.

#272 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 12:09 PM:

Dan Hoey: I was taking it as read that all real numbers have infinite decimal expansions, although some of them end in infinitely many zeroes.

JvP must be really enjoying this!

#273 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 12:42 PM:

Xopher, a "toy grenade" strong enough to blow a foot-long chunk of concrete off a planter and send it 30 feet thru the air and through a plate-glass window is close enough to a "real" grenade that I think it counts.

No, it isn't. Note that I never said the explosion wasn't a serious problem, in fact I said it was. The difference is that there's no definable security breach involved. No one got hold of military ordnance to do that bombing. They got hold of something anyone can buy (and rightly so) and made something anyone can make (too bad, but the cure is worse than the disease).

I think Homeland Security sucks, and they really should be called the Department of Civil Rights Demolition, but there's nothing in this case (so far as I've heard) to blame them for. Now, if it's been discovered that the person who did it is in the country illegally after committing several bombings in hir home country, THAT would be something to be made at HS for. See what I'm saying?

Michelle K, I'll post it (somewhere) when I get home. I can't eat it because it has a lot of sugar in it, and I can't eat sugar any more. It's not actually my recipe; I got it from a friend.

And it is pretty easy. The only hard part is s/h/a/k/i/n/g/ /t/h/e/ /l/e/m/o/n/s/ /h/a/r/d/ /e/n/o/u/g/h/ cutting the lemons paper-thin. And DON'T leave the ends of the lemon on! Ick.

#274 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 12:56 PM:

The best part of the BookMillionaire (LAZY titling there) is that the creator is a bestselling author, having sold "1/4 Millions of books!"

Really now. That's just lazy misdirection.

#275 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 01:18 PM:

The NYTimes can't make up its mind:

His management style upset some scientists, leading them to post comments to a Web blog called "LANL: The Real Story." The blog's operator, Doug Roberts, has said he believes the blog's anti-Nanos sentiments are reflected in the hallways of the nuclear weapons lab.
(The italics are not in the original.)

Groovy, man. Get with that internet jive.

#276 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 01:37 PM:

Jules:

>Only 2^32-100 iterations left, then. :)

At the moment, I'm doing most of my programming in Ruby, which can represent arbitrarily large numbers. So the number of bugs must always approach infinity. Funny, they don't mention that in the lit.

#277 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 01:55 PM:

Eleanor:

I was taking it as read that all real numbers have infinite decimal expansions, although some of them end in infinitely many zeroes.

Those that have IDEs ending in zeros also have IDEs ending in nines. Thus the straightforward decimal correspondence assigns both 31/66=.469696... and 37/66=.560606... to the pair (1/2,2/3)=(.5,.6666...)=(.4999...,.6666...), thereby failing to be one-to-one. A little extra trickery gets around the problem.

JvP must be really enjoying this!

Is that one of those subtextual things? If you're concerned that he might take this as license to turn this into his blog, I think he's a little more circumspect that before. If you're concerned that someone other than JvP may object to excessive mathematical content, I wouldn't mind dropping the topic if someone expresses an objection. Otherwise, I'm just helping to clarify some issues other people have found interesting enough to partially explain. I'm enjoying it.

#278 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 02:04 PM:

Paula: Trying to catch Arctic char in Thule with hotdogs as bait also doesn't work.

And I was just about to name Professor Paula as the catcher of Arctic char, in Thule, with a hotdog! I must have been misinformed....

#279 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 02:17 PM:

Err. I'm undoubtedly coming in late and uninformed to a long-running conversation, but I just read Orson Scott Card's article on Star Trek and was wondering, exactly what grudge does the man hold against the show?

#280 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 02:20 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz wrote:
"Bruce, what preconditions could have been changed to have made Timothy McVeigh's attack less likely?"

That's pretty easy. The trigger for McVeigh's decision to strike against the government was the ATF's botched attack on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, and the subsequent siege and death by burning of 80+ men, women and children.

So, if the ATF had decided to wait until David Koresh left the security of his compound and his dozens of armed, fanatical followers, then swooped in and arrested him, it's likely McVeigh would never have been more than a typical right-wing loudmouth. ("Tim McVeigh? Oh yeh, isn't he the guy who makes all those wacko posts on Free Republic?") But, because the ATF decided that a dramatic armed raid on the entire compound would create publicity that would INCREASE THEIR FUNDING (!!!), they went full-speed ahead into disaster, and the consequences of disaster.

Maybe you're not willing to let me go back that far to change history. Maybe you want me to say how McVeigh could have been stopped after he'd already decided to make his truck bomb.

That's a toughy, because McVeigh and his fellow conspirators did it right. There were only a small number of people, they all kept their mouths almost totally shut, and none of their actions until the actual assembly of the bomb were illegal or even particularly noticeable.

The 9/11 hijackers succeeded, in large part, because they were lucky; there were a fairly large number of points where the 9/11 gig might have been blown, but that their suspicious activities either weren't reported at all, or no action was taken on such reports.

Timothy McVeigh acted like a pro; he didn't leave many clues for people to notice.

And that kind of terrorism is almost impossible to prevent.

#281 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 03:17 PM:

Bruce, I think it's legitimate to go back that far in time--I'd forgotten about the connection to Waco.

#282 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 04:25 PM:

Eric Sadoyana said:

I just read Orson Scott Card's article on Star Trek and was wondering, exactly what grudge does the man hold against the show?

I just read the article now. He only discusses TOS, and his argument seems to be "all TV shows were bad back then, especially the sci-fi ones."

He doesn't mention the later series at all, for good or bad, which is kind of weird. He says "Science fiction on television is much better now," but that doesn't include the new Star Treks?

(my personal opinion: DS9 is the best, all the others were bad to mediocre. As for Card, I liked some of his books, but lost all respect for him after reading his fictional bio of Joseph Smith - or whichever Mormon dude it was - in which he laments that God is forcing him to have sex with as many women as possible. But his pure and selfless religious devotion leaves him no choice.)

#283 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 04:36 PM:

(my personal opinion: DS9 is the best, all the others were bad to mediocre. As for Card, I liked some of his books, but lost all respect for him after reading his fictional bio of Joseph Smith - or whichever Mormon dude it was - in which he laments that God is forcing him to have sex with as many women as possible. But his pure and selfless religious devotion leaves him no choice.)

Laura: The things Card has Joseph Smith say in his fictionalised Saints is pretty much the same stuff ol' Joe was spouting to his followers once he got caught. Joe might even have believed it by that time, since he'd been using it as an excuse for years. (I think Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenents--Mormon scripture--portrays the whole situation as Joe's Abrahamic sacrifice.) That said, there's plenty of historical documentation which would have allowed Card to not play Joe's apologist in the matter of polygamy. (Such as Oliver Cowdry's admission that he caught Joe boinking Fanny Alger PRIOR to the D&C 132 declaration.) NOTE: When I first read Saints, it was as a believing Mormon. (Ironically, there's a bunch of stuff in there that the LDS church tries not to bring up anymore.) I haven't been able to read it since leaving the LDS church, partly because I keep wanting to throw the book across the room.

#284 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 04:42 PM:

I'm not sure what horror Lucy is referring to, but if it's similar to my experiences, there's usually some kind of supernatural phenomena which gets out of hand, and ends up killing everybody in pleasant ways.
...

Chad replies: I'd just like to note that this is a wonderful typo (I'm assuming it's a typo), conjuring up the image of a serial killer movie in which all the victims die peacefully in their sleep...

Chad: Are you referring to "pleasant ways"? That's just sarcasm on my part--I tend to state the reverse when I mean the opposite. It probably sounds better than it reads. :)

#285 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 04:51 PM:

Piscusfiche: how painful for you.

I got no sense from reading Saints that Card saw anything ironic about Smith's attitude. He was playing it totally straight. Now I'm trying to figure out how he managed to do that. I don't think there was ever a moment when I wondered, "Is this supposed to be taken seriously?" because the answer was so obviously "Yes." Which is quite an achievement, really, from a literary point of view.

#286 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 04:56 PM:

Re: The Economist's spelling curmudgeonry... Obviously a very British list, but I wonder why liaison isn't on it. I only remember how to spell it because I've struggled with it so many times.

And is Turdus turdus really a song thrush? It must have been named by someone who just washed and waxed the chariot!

#287 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 05:15 PM:

"Hiccup" not "hiccough"? What is this world coming to?

#288 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 05:38 PM:

Nancy: Obviously you didn't read this.

Laura Roberts: your view of the various STs matches mine, except that I think TNG was not entirely unredeemable, aside from the execrable first season.

I will refrain from comment about Card in this environment, except to say that my opinions on him are strong and negative.

#289 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 06:10 PM:

I'm not commenting on the Math now, to avoid abusing my hostess' bandwidth, except to say that I am enjoying this.

Definitions of "Romance" and its Subgenres

Here's something (adapted from locusmag.com) that connects the Horror subthread with the Stupid Bookstore Sayings subthread:

Ramsey Campbell: The Overnight
[Tor 0-765-31299-9, $24.95, 396pp, hardcover, March 2005, jacket art David Bowers]
First US edition [UK: PS Publishing, June 2004].
Horror novel set in a large chain bookstore, based on the author's own experiences. Locus Magazine's New and Notable Books list for May calls it a "chilling, somewhat tongue-in-cheek novel of employees working overnight in a haunted superstore".
• PS Publishing, which issued the first edition last year, has this synopsis. Amazon's "search inside" feature excerpts the first few pages.
• Tim Pratt reviews the book in the April issue of Locus.

Man, what a cool publisher that TOR thingie must be...

#290 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 06:36 PM:

Dan Hoey: Oh yes, I forgot about that.

All I meant about JvP was that he likes talking about maths, so he ought to be pleased when other people start doing so of their own accord.

#291 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 07:14 PM:

TexAnne wrote:

Lisa S: I'm right there with you on the medieval romance being a forerunner of Gothic lit, but I'm drawing a blank on epics that could be called so. Could you elaborate?

Plot summary: Exotic hero comes to gloomy castle, said to be haunted by a monster. Hero boasts that he will sleep in the castle, though others dare not, and if there is a monster he'll defeat it with his bare hands . . . Yeah Beowulf. Then there's the cursed gold . . . the whole thing with the feud between the Scyld Danes and the Finnsburgh bit . . . and the forewarning that the marriage of Frewaru to Ingeld will lead to disaster. It's a lot like Wuthering Heights . . . (yes, I'm kidding. Mostly. Well, about Wuthering Heights, but you know, I could see Hrothgar running across the fens shouting "Aeschere!").

#292 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 07:54 PM:

Eleanor: the British show set partly in sf fandom was the original Queer As Folk. And in a collision with another part of the thread, it caused uproar because it showed a fifteen-year-old having sex with an adult man. Showed. On screen. I suspect that there would have been less uproar had the fifteen-year-old been female, but there would have been uproar. It was technically illegal, although the filmmakers were making a serious point.

One of the lead actors said in an interview that he was very surprised to find that women were swooning over his gay character. I suspect that the scriptwriter not only was not in the least surprised, but was hoping to achieve the same effect on tv as some of his friends were in zines. :-)

#293 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 07:56 PM:

I obviously haven't quite shaken off the Papal extravaganza, because my first interpretation of the following comment by Dan was rather odd:

it's true that multiplying any two infinite cardinals gives you the larger of the two

#294 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 08:41 PM:

AuthorHouse UK and Waterstone's are entering a partnership which will (supposedly) actually get self-published books stocked -- for eight weeks, in a ghetto-ized shelf, in a single store.

#295 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 09:16 PM:

Lucy, just this week a lot of old rasffians have returned -- Ulrika, Geri, Karen Cooper, and many more. Come back!

Paula, you catch *tadpoles* and raise them to be frogs!

#296 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 09:53 PM:

Julia Jones: I obviously haven't quite shaken off the Papal extravaganza, because my first interpretation of the following comment by Dan was rather odd:

it's true that multiplying any two infinite cardinals gives you the larger of the two

Thanks for helping me understand why I felt so weird with the language. So when I saw your post, I looked back to where this thread introduced the term, and there was Cardinal Law--gack! Now I'm imagining something like the law of sines--"when the big guy in a dress multiplies with the little guy in a dress...." Eww, I must apologize; I feel like the frothy senator who starts talking about public policy but can't evade his obsession with interspecies sexuality.

To cleanse our mental palates, let me consider Vicki's comment,

Aleph-2 is defined as the smallest cardinal greater than aleph-1, and I think that if you find a provable use for it, you've got a publishable doctoral dissertation.
Of course, the usual issue with dissertations is not so much whether they are publishable (all are "publishable", but few would interest a publisher that doesn't think the song is about them) but whether you can get a degree with it (and we may want to distinguish here, too, between real universities and the other kind). If you buy your dissertation from Terpmapers.com and submit it to Degree Mill U, can you use it to embarrass Public Shamerica afterwards?

#297 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 10:07 PM:

That "toy" seems to have done more damage then real grenade would have done. It sounds a lot more like a small pipe bomb.

Size isn't all that relevant to force. Grenades have a very limited amount of force, though they do have a great deal of potential for killing people. They aren't meant to rip things apart, but rather to do damage to people.

TK

#298 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2005, 11:54 PM:

I never said the...oh, never mind. I give up.

#299 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 12:23 AM:

Xopher:

Whenever you get the chance, I would definitely like the receipe. And... if you can't eat sugar, have you tried Splenda? I haven't tried to bake with it, but I've heard it's supposed to not to be too bad. I'm considering trying it, for the next time I visit with my friend who was recently (but unsurprisingly) diagnoised diabetic.

Laura Roberts:
my personal opinion: DS9 is the best, all the others were bad to mediocre.

Yay! I love DS9, although I've found that lots of people who like Star Trek don't like it. (Insert fangirly bits about Avery Brooks here). I can tolerate TNG (we've just started watching season 6 on DVD) but I just don't find it as interesting.

And Xopher--having just gone through TNG Seasons 1 through 5 since Christmas, Season 2 is far and away the worst season. When we finished it, my comment was along the lines of "I just PAID MONEY for that?!" Some shows I found too terrible even to mock.

#300 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 12:41 AM:

JVP --

I read THE OVERNIGHT, and it is nowhere near Campbell's best. It's not as bad as some of his early Lovecraft pastiches, for which I have an irrational fondness -- but the Maguffin, whatever it is, is never properly explained or bounded in its powers. If you're going to skip one Campbell book this year, make it this one. Please note that I've liked at least two others of his books and reviewed them positively back when I was at Locus. I generally like him. This one, though -- not good.

#301 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 12:42 AM:

The episode of Oprah airing tonight focuses on hoarders. It's interesting, but it's still Oprah (meaning: hard to watch).

#302 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 12:56 AM:

Quentin Tarantino's REPUBLIC DOGS

Socrates: I'm not saying Helen of Troy ain't a hot bitch, I'm saying the Iliad ain't about her. She ain't even in it.The Odyssey is about bitches, I'll grant you that. But I'll tell you what The Iliad is about. It's about big boats. Didn't you ever read the second Canto? Boats boats boats boats boats boats boats. Hence, the Trojan War.

Aristotle: You're full of shit.

via Out of Ambit

#303 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 01:22 AM:

I'm years and years away from formal study in math, and mostly long away from informal study of it, too, hence, I deliberately didn't go into any sort of detail about aleph null, aleph 1, etc. I figured that others whose memories were more up to date on the topic would step in if applicable.

Freshman year in college I took a hyperreal calculus class--here's a headache for mathophobes, hyperreals consist of infinite integers and infinitesmals. Infinite integers are larger than the highest-valued real integers, while infinitesmals are smaller than the smallest reals.

Those sorts of things get used, minus the math formalisms, in things like Heaviside Operational Calculus which electrical engineering uses (and I can't remember much of anything more about EE use of it at the moment that graphics which show representations of impulse functions, which are infinite spikes, and having different values of infinite spike--that is, infinite integers of different values. If it all sounds wonky... just remember the engineer's proof that all odd numbers are prime, "one is prime, three is prime, five is prime, seven is prime, nine is prime...."

I remember a class in applied math taught by H. P. Greenspan, who said, "Solving an equation by using this method is cheating. But, solving an an equation by using -any- method is cheating. If it works, use it!" He went on to say that the method hadn't been proven mathematically, but that someone working on something in industry or commerce can't wait decades or centuries for a mathematical proof that a method is correct, they need the work done now, not decades in the future when the method has been proven correct. So you try things, and if the results are usable, you use it.

[There are "sanity checks" that one can use, methods like "dimensional analysis" which by following the "units" let you know when you're converting from furlongs per fortnight to pounds of milk (harness an animal to a mechanically operated water pump such that the animal walking in circles causes water to pump. The water is for the cow to drink, to give milk... say that it takes 20 gallons of water for the cow to yield eight gallons of milk [no, I have little clue for the real figure]. For the pump to produce the 20 gallons of water takes two hours of the animal walking around. The animal walks around at a rate of three kilometers an hour. Etc. Dimensional analysis goes through looking at "furlongs per fortnight to kilometers per hours" tracking that there are a certain number of furlongs per kilometer, and a certain number of hours per fortnight. That gives some numbers for the conversion, and tracking of "I started with fortnights per furlong, now I have kilometers per hour. The animal is walking for ten hours, so there's a factor of ten there..." Etc. Pick some values to play with for input and crank through, maybe plot them on a graph. Does this make -sense-?

One of the pitfalls of the modern computer age is people who stuff input in and don't do sanity checking on "are the assumptions sane? Are the results making sense and consistent when I change the input values? If I vary the input by ten percent, what's the change in the results, and does that make sense? If I feed in zero as a value, what happens? If I feed large numbers, what happens?

It's sort of like looking at a book, people usually assume that when they buy a book in a bookstore that it's going to be the full text, won't have missing pages, won't have pages scrambled, won't have the text of a different book in it, had been competently copy edited, has a plot, characters.... and when they get home and read it or try to read it and discover that it's organized the way Atlanta Nights is, they realize that the quality control failed, or wasn't applied.

With much computer analysis not only is there no way for the casual user to usually see what the program doing the analysis is doing internally, they haven't got a clue about what decent output out to be--it's easy to tell when reading a book that where there ought to be a chapter 2 that chapter 1 had been repeated, or that the pages are blank, or that the page numbers skip from page 16 to page 33 without pages 17-32 being present. That's not generally obvious running computer programs, unless someone has a clue what accurate results -ought= to be.

#304 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 01:32 AM:

Paula, I could give a long dissertation here on the work of the Language of Data Project (which took dimensional analysis a little farther) but if I did I would risk being disemvowelled for being too mathocentric.

There are solutions to the problems you present, and they are very seldom implemented. Perhaps because they're too simple for the folks who want to make things complex.

#305 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 01:39 AM:

A friendly caution: significant numbers of people react very badly to Splenda. Nothing life-threatening, but GI upset after one slice of pie or the equivalent.

The process by which sucrose becomes sucralose involves shoving chlorine atoms into the molecule; this seems to be the source of the problem. (I know there's some information online, though I don't have a link.) There also was minimal animal testing and no human testing at all; the FDA seems to have said "Hey, you're Johnson & Johnson, you wouldn't do anything bad, right?" and approved it without blinking.

The makers still pretend that the stuff is essentially just decalorized sucrose, rather than a synthetic molecule, and worse, they suggested that you lie to your friends about having put it in the baked goods. (They may well have stopped that.)

That said, lots of folks seem to tolerate it perfectly well, and there doesn't seem to be any way of telling who won't except The Hard Way.

Having a wee bit of experience with The Diabetic Diet (enough not to claim to be a role model) the best approach seems to be moderation rather than abstinence. The theory of the week (there have been others) is carb count, and this works pretty well, the essence of carb count being that it doesn't matter whether the carbs come from dry white toast or honey -- what matters is how many of them there are.

This isn't, naturally, medical advice. Heck, it hardly counts as advice at all.

#306 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 02:00 AM:

I seem to remember a commercial from back in the early days of NutraSweet where they claimed that it was made from cows and toucans (or milk and bananas, or something like that) and not from nasty ol' chemicals.

Sounds like the Splenda people are up to the same trick. I tried some in my coffee a couple of weeks ago, out of curiosity. Ruined a perfectly good cup of joe. Too sweet, slightly chemically taste (but better than saccharine or nutrasweet) and a bit of an aftertaste.

I suppose it's better than nothing. At least it seems to be chemically stable enough for baking.

#307 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 03:20 AM:

A year and a half ago, there was a Making Light thread on Mathematical science fiction, with many fine recommendations. Teresa may remind of of that with a link, if she likes.
May have been:
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/004260.html

There's another thread:
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005229.html with some discussion of adventures in dimension.

Speaking of Fantasia Mathematica and such, it's sad to think the march of time has invalidated the bet the Devil against a quick solution to Fermat's Last story - but perhaps the story is too sexist anyway with the wife serving coffee to man and demon as they work all night?

I haven't heard any substantial criticism of 1,2,3 Infinity (Gamow) which was once a news stand introduction to Aleph numbers and recreatonal topology for the masses. Don't find books like that on drugstore racks much anymore. Anybody know just how dated it has become?

#308 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 03:31 AM:

Tom Whitmore wrote

Paula, I could give a long dissertation here on the work of the Language of Data Project (which took dimensional analysis a little farther) but if I did I would risk being disemvowelled for being too mathocentric.

Sounds interesting, but perhaps not -here-.

I wonder how Teresa is doing, not seeing her -noticeably- active in at least this particular topic in on Making Light (I don't follow all the of the threads all of the time, etc.)

There are solutions to the problems you present, and they are very seldom implemented. Perhaps because they're too simple for the folks who want to make things complex.

I think it's a combination of things, including "half the population is below average" combined with Idiot Programming Bad Habits, combined with lack of discipline, combined with not practicing "software engineering" and whatever current terms are in vogue like "best practices" or such things. Oh, too, people who start coding without specs, or don't bother writing specs, and pressure to get something written, as opposed to get something that works and has gone through spec reviews, code reviews, creation of test plans, various types of testing. Lack of clear specificiations and lack of error handling are biggies. Until the company I was working for did an Igli as part of the dotcom bubble burst and Blunderbush's mismanagement of the USA which facilitated the 9/11 disaster and the economic unpleasantries deriving from that along with the rest of the economic damage Blunderbush has promulgated, I had been doing Software Quality Assurance Engineering for a number of years. It's typical that the specs are lacking in error handling discussion and calling out, typical that a lot of other things are left open and missing, and typical that a lot of code gets written without there being a spec for it to comply with. It's like buildinga house without a set of plans and without having arrangements set for plumbing and power before building the house, and trying to stick the gas line, the wiring, and the plumbing in after the walls have been plastered and the finished flooring laid and the kitchen cabinets put in.

(yes, I blame Blunderbush for 9/11, a different Attorney General and different attitudes in upper management of the FBI under his watch and Blunderbush's general regime values and attitudes and actions would I strongly suspect have propagated down such that the agents who included the women who was denied a warrant to look at Moussawi's computer smelling something extremely vicious and stinky about foreigners with the money from nowhere wanting to learn how to fly jumbo jets but not -land- them, and at least one other agent smelling stinky vicious things about others of the 9/11 mass murderers in flight school, and the warnings that WERE extant that Al Qaeda was interested in hijacking passenger jets to use as guided engines of destruction, would have been -listened- to and their requests granted for further investigation and warrants to arrest the suspicious foreigners and comb through their possessions, records, and trace who had brought them into the USA and was providing their funding. Blunderbush presided over the whole sordid abomination, and the attitudes that blew off the concerns of intelligence analysts noting the threat of passenger airliners as weapons, and FBI agents' concerns about suspicious foreign nationals, -and- INS laxities).


I mean, when I got to snerk at a coworker with a doctorate in math from someplace like MIT or Berkeley for not doing validity checking for singularity before doing matrix inversion that with a singular matrix caused the program to crash from divide by zero pathology, it was a one of those things that not backing your car out the garage without opening the garage door first sorts of things, as regards Bonehead Actions. He -knew- that inverting a singular matrix is a in effect a no-op, anybody who's ever had a competent college class in linear algebra and gotten an earned passing grade in it ought to know -that-, and he had a -lot- more math sophistication than that!


#309 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 08:34 AM:

Wrt sweeteners: I just got my first stevia plant, and the leaves are surprisingly sweet--much sweeter than sugar--without any nasty aftertaste. My diabetic grandmother uses the commerically prepared extract in coffee. To my tongue, the extract tastes different than the leaves.

Wrt BBC series set partially in Dr Who fandom: My resident Whovian says that's "Queer as Folk."

#310 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 09:24 AM:

Splenda works as a sugar substitute for flavor purposes, but not if there's a structural or mechanical function. For example, when you mix three cups of sugar into two sticks of melted butter, you get three cups of sugarbutter. Do the same with Splenda and you get very sweet melted butter, hardly greater in volume than the butter alone.

I'll post the recipe later; you'll see that the sugar is acting as an osmotractor (if that's the correct term), and I don't think Splenda would work.

#311 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 09:41 AM:

In re Splenda not having been adequately tested: Thanks for the details. As far as I can tell, a lot of things that purport to help people lose weight aren't adequately tested--this is what's called a moral panic.

In re math: I'm enjoying the mostly verbal discussions. Are there any venues where such are a reasonably high proportion of the conversation?

#312 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 11:52 AM:

nerdycellist,

I too was a corporate booksurf when the order came down to integrate horror into fiction but I think the story blaming the decision on Stephen King is an Urban Legend (not that their isn't plenty to blame Stephen King for, mind you. The best Urban Legends are plausible).

#313 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 11:58 AM:

Paula Lieberman writes:

Aleph null bottles of beer in the wall,
Aleph null bottles of beer,
Take one down, pass it around
Alelph null bottles of beer in the wall

If I may be allowed a JVP moment, Paula is quoting me. As the 1979 edition of the NESFA Hymnal will attest.

#314 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 12:04 PM:

Lisa S: *facepalm* *removes French blinkers* Ah, that's much better. Thanks, with a heaping side of Duh.

All who've recommended Bad Magic: thank you! I finally scored a copy last night. I ended up doing that balancing act between "must read faster" and "must make it last." Yay Stephan! Hurry up with the next one!

#315 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 12:44 PM:

Keith -

That's pretty much what the staff decided, since we never saw anything in a trade publication (yes, many chain store booksellers do read the trades). I suspect it was the decision some bozo in the Corporate Offices who had never worked a season on the bookfloor whining that Stephen King couldn't be in both general fic and Horror, and then doing the little genre-hating dance and deciding King was too serious to keep in Horror. From there, everything fell inevitably into place.

I think that may have been the dumbest corporate decision I ran into during my tenure at that bookstore, and not just because I was the one responsible for the integration!

My taste in horror runs toward Poe and not much else, although I am a fan of a few sterotypically girlie vampire sub-genres, most of which really aren't horror at all.

#316 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 12:47 PM:

John M. Ford.

Thank you for the information. My one friend who uses it is a...well, fanatic isn't quite the word I want, but she knows more about general health than anyone I know, so for her I presume it's better than the alternatives.

I'm also from the School of Moderation--if I'm going to make dessert, then I'm going to Make Dessert, which means butter and sugar and bourbon vanilla, and freezing or giving away what we don't eat. But another good friend has a family history of diabetes (followed by his recent diagnosis of the same), and since my normal Chirstmas gifts are baked goods, I'd like to be able to give him something that wouldn't be quite as bad for him.

Xopher,
I'm don't know if that's the right term, but I think I understand what you mean. The sugar supports the structure of the dessert, it doesn't just sweeten? Oooh... I just checked Cookwise--is it a structure thing or a tenderizer? (The term specifically I couldn't find.) And I just read what I might be doing wrong with my pound cake. How exciting!

#317 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 12:52 PM:

Harry Connolly wrote:
"The episode of Oprah airing tonight focuses on hoarders. It's interesting, but it's still Oprah (meaning: hard to watch)."

And, if one is morbidly interested in hoarders, here's a post from my own blog regarding a local animal hoarder here who, it turned out, Hilde and I knew. (Caution: contains possibly distressing details if you're an animal lover.)

#318 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 02:21 PM:

Michelle K, in e.g. brownies it supports the structure. In the Shaker Lemon Pie it might (I don't know), but it extracts the juice from the lemon slices overnight.

I'll try to post the recipe soon, and you'll see what I mean.

#319 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 05:36 PM:

Hey, Bill H, I started that one independently back when I was in high school (before 1970), along with the sequel:

Aleph-null bottles of beer on the wall
Aleph-null bottles of beer;
Take aleph-null down and pass them around

uh

uh

An indeterminate number of bottles of beer on the wall!

#320 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 07:41 PM:

Shaker Lemon Pie

dough for 2-crust 9" pie
2 lemons
1-3/4 c. sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 tsp. salt

Drop the lemons into a large saucepan of boiling water and blanch 30 seconds; drain and rinse under cold water. [I think we skipped this part, and it doesn't seem to have too much effect.] Trim and discard the ends of the lemons; cut remainder crosswise into paper-thin slices. Put lemon slices into a bowl and cover with the sugar. Stir after 1 hour, then let stand 7 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Roll out bottom crust and fit into pie pan. Remove lemon slices from sugar and arrange in shell. Add eggs and salt to sugar, and whisk to combine well. Pour mixture over lemon slices. Cover with top crust and crimp edges. [Optional: brush top crust lightly with milk, or water, and sprinkle with sugar for a nice glazed effect.] Cut decorative slits in top crust.

Place pie in the middle of the oven [I usually put my pie pan on a cheap, thin baking sheet, in case of overflow], and bake 25 minutes. REDUCE HEAT to 350 degrees F., and bake 20-25 minutes longer, until the crust is golden. Cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

=====
OK, that's the recipe I got from my friend Sondra. I use a star-shaped cookie cutter to mark the top crust and cut the slits before I put it on. Centering it is tough, but not as hard as cutting slits after you put the top on IMO.

One more note: by morning the "sugar" has become a lemon syrup. It may have some sugar at the bottom; give it a good stir before mixing in the eggs. You'll see why I don't think Splenda would work in this case.

#321 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 07:53 PM:

I've posted a Shaker Lemon pie recipe here, and another lemon recipe for a lemon, parsley, and potato dish here. Even after all this time, this N.H. person can't get over picking lemons off a local tree. Mostly it's a mystery variety, but I've also been able to find locally grown "Persian" lemons, and Meyer's lemons.

I'd be cautious about messing with the sugar in a Shaker Lemon pie; it's important both for enticing the juice from the lemons, and for making the custard base with the eggs. Yes, you can decrease the amount, for instance with very sweet lemons, but there's a point where the pie will be too sharply acidic, and the eggs won't become custardy.

#322 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 08:01 PM:

If a new Pope has to be elected by 2/3 of the Cardinals, is Football more important to the Church than maths.


#323 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2005, 09:03 PM:

One's attitude towards Infinity may be related to one's choice of literary genre.

This is almost intentionally vague, because, although I've been pondering it for some time, I have not come to any definitive conclusions.

Consider four combinations of assumptions about Infinity for the human being, and for the Universe.

(1) Humans are Finite; the Universe is Finite.
(2) Humans are Infinite; the Universe is Finite.
(3) Humans are Finite; the Universe is Infinite.
(4) Humans are Infinite; the Universe is Infinite.

Taking these one at a time:

(1) Humans are Finite; the Universe is Finite.

In a sense, this is a "chessboard" model of reality. There are only so many pieces, which have defined possibilities for movement and interaction, on a playing board of limited size. The essence of Mystery fiction is that the pieces are nicely ordered, and then a criminal, moving first, upsets the status quo with a surprising move, typically the taking (kidnap, rape, murder) of another piece -- the victim. The Detective, a grandmaster player (whether cop, private eye, or amateur) figures out the move, and finds a countermove that allows the perp to be captured and removed from the board. The status quo ante has returned; all's right with the finite world; nothing has really changed.

(2) Humans are Infinite; the Universe is Finite.

By strict logic, this makes no sense. At best, it is solipsism. Yet, in a sense, the Romance, and the Confessional Poem presume that the geopolitical world (lert alone the Solar System)is so limited as to fade into background, and all that really matters is the emotional life of the central character, which may be probed to great depth and subtlety.

(3) Humans are Finite; the Universe is Infinite.

I consider this the basis of Fantasy and of Horror. The world is very much bigger and stranger than we knew, or than our limited capabilities can control. Beyond the Fields We Know are regions unlike our cozy home. They may be benign, although counterintuitive (Mary Poppins; Alice in Wonderland); mixed Good and Bad (Lord of the Rings); or hideously indifferent to Humanity. In the latter case, the breakthrough writer (although anticipated by Poe and Hawthorne and others) was H. P. Lovecraft, who combined a modern notion of Astronomical Cosmology with genuine evil. The evil was no longer supernatural as such, but Alien, and reflecting the world being beyond our ken.

(4) Humans are Infinite; the Universe is Infinite.

This is the central notion of Science Fiction (and philosophically absent from most Sci-Fi). The cosmos contains astonishing surprises. But human beings can gain in their knowledge, wisdom, technology, science, and power over the forces of nature, at meet the universe's challenges. In the American century positivism of John Campbell, humans were more potent than any other species, and the rest of the universe as well. We evolve. We advance. Society and perhaps human nature changes. The future is inherently different from the past.

A notion that this classification is more than it seems at first is that the great Cantor spoke late in life that the universe was very infinite: of the Cardinality C, the Number of the Continuum. That is, rather than the Atomic hypothesis of Democritus and the modern version of Bohr and Einstein, the universe is Continuous, with infinite amounts of stuff happening in between the smallest finite particles. BUT he said, profoundly, the human mind is of a GREATER infinity, and so able to do an infinite amiount of stuff in between even the infinitesimally close points of the Continuuum.

This sort of thinking was considered insane by even the mathematicians who gradually accepted Cantor's Revolution. But it burns out the brains of smarter guys than I. It may lead to a notion that universe is infinitely weird, which devolves into Surrealism, and into the madcap intellectual antics of Jorge Luis Borges, Stanislaw Lem, Italo Calvino, Rudy Rucker, Greg Egan, and the Alan Lightman of "Einstein's Dreams."

Just my random thoughts on the matter. Make sense to anyone here?

#324 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 01:43 AM:

Paula Lieberman writes:

Aleph null bottles of beer in the wall,
Aleph null bottles of beer,
Take one down, pass it around
Alelph null bottles of beer in the wall

If I may be allowed a JVP moment, Paula is quoting me. As the 1979 edition of the NESFA Hymnal will attest.

Er, I was singing that long before 1979, back when I was in college, and I graduated in 1975.

#325 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 01:55 AM:

In 1973 (I remember the year because the professor walked into class one day looking like a man who was having a major attack of nerves, he was, he announced to the class, "I might not be here next week, the Israeli Army is calling up its reservists." The was was over before then, though, so he got to stay teaching in the USA) the professor in a class I was taking was getting into thermo via discussing random walks, and mentioned that Boltzman[n] suicided, someone who had been a student of his who worked in the same area suicided, and someone who had been a student of that person was working in the same area, "And they're watching him very carefully."

#326 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 02:20 AM:

"One man deserves the credit
One man deserves the blame..."

With credits to Tom Lehrer.

#327 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 03:30 AM:

What about the paper where the bulk of the paper was the list of co-authors, Tom?!

==============

On a completely different topic, however, why oh why oh WHY do I see book after book after book in which "which" is massively incorrectly applied? That is, instead of a sentence starting with "that," such as this sentence is (and I did not consciously start the sentence with "this," I was using a standard writing convention which happens to start, "That is,"), I keep seeing sentence fragments masquerading as sentences, that start with "which." "Which" is something to start a subordinate clause with, "Which she didn't do," is not a sentence, it's a sentence fragment. "That was wrong," is a sentence.

Whatever happened to the Grammar Police, and where are these people getting their grammar from, George W. Bush?!

#328 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 03:34 AM:

Paula Lieberman:

Sounds like the exponential decay expected in a Boltzman distribution. See equation #31 in:
Maxwell-Boltzmann Distribution Function.

Not to be confused with Bethe Decay.

I say, what the heck, Dark Matter, Black Humor.

#329 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 08:59 AM:

JvP, I like your typology, but I wonder if it would be more exact to base it on whether main characters/the rest of the universe have interesting possibilities rather than whether they're infinite.
Infinity doesn't fit into fiction very well, though The Never-Ending Story takes a pretty good crack at it.

"Possibility" might also point at a different aspect--does the satisfying ending consist mostly of closing them off or opening them up?

#330 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 10:15 AM:

Paula, I have committed the crime you cite. And sometimes I've written it as a subordinate clause, then changed it to a new sentence. It's not that I don't know the rule; it's that I choose to break it, usually in some sort of at least vaguely privileged writing - dialogue or first person narrative - which gets vague when I'm writing a personal essay; is that "first person narrative?" I do it if it seems called for.

OK, why? I want to indicate a bigger pause in the speech or thought or both. The comma with the subordinate clause indicates more prior thought before the utterance. The period and Which construction makes it seems a little more like an afterthought. Saying "come to think of it" or "speaking of which" is too much of a pause. I want to convey the idea that the speaker thought of the connection in the process of uttering the main sentence.

Which I'll continue to do when it seems appropriate.

#331 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 10:41 AM:

You know my pet grammar peeve?

Grammar peeves.

(and I'm an English teacher)

#332 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 12:01 PM:

Grammar peeves.

"Sentence fragments. Tut. Tut. Tut. Should edit those, Peevsie should."

"NO PEEVES! Not the red pencil."

"It's for your own good, you know."

#333 ::: Peeves woz ere ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 02:01 PM:

Hahahahaha!

#334 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 02:43 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz:

I think you've extracted the more useful part of my speculations. I did, however, start describing the first of the 4 categories, and my 16-year-old son interrupted to say: "I see where you're going with this. Horror is about being finite in an infinite universe we'll never understand."

Tragedy, in classical drama, involves someone closing off their own possibilities. The Picaresque novel involves new possibilities unexpectedly opening up. Pornography has finite people in a finite universe. Westerns are haunted by the feeling of the frontier, where the wilderness is infinite, and a few heroic and dastardly characters are transformed by that. Sea Stories depend on the ocean seeming infinite. "Air Stories" (a now-vanished genre which peaked with Kipling's ABC and The Little Prince) did the same for the atmosphere.

While I deeply respect Michael Crichton's energy, focus, and business acumen (somehow akin to Mick Jaggar or Madonna) I feel that his novels, except for Andromeda Strain, slip out of Science Fiction into Sci-Fi precisely because4 the open up fascinating possibilities -- live dinosaurs, time travel to the Middle Ages -- then shuts down those possibilities with the clang of a prison door slamming shut.

#335 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 04:16 PM:

"My hat, my composing stick, Peeves."
"Participles again, sir?"
"Participles, my aunt Max Perkins! Have you seen these elisions? I tell you, Peeves, they'd let a vole run the BBC if he promised to wrap a scarf round another vole and put it in the TARDIS."
"Sir is cross-compounding his metaphors."
"Again? Oh, sod this MLA style. Pour me a large Macmillan's neat, Peeves, and put a blue pencil in it."

#336 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 10:47 PM:

A SHORT HISTORY OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE RESEARCH
(with apologies to New Scientist, where the original appeared)

1936. Alan Turing completes his paper On Computable Numbers. Fortunately, there are some, though Kurt Gödel is laughing quietly.

1942. Isaac Asimov sets out the Three Laws of Robotics. Machines everywhere begin a program of civil disobedience.

1943. Warren McCulloch and Wilbur Pitts publish “A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity.” The paper has been rejected fifteen times previously because editors believed the authors to have misspelled “imminent.”

1950. Claude Shannon publishes an analysis of chess playing as search process, known as Shannon’s Gambit Accepted.

1950 Alan Turing proposes the Turing test to decide whether a computer is exhibiting intelligence. British Intelligence fails this test with regard to Turing.

1956. John McCarthy coins the phrase “artificial intelligence” at a conference at Dartmouth. The phrase “...is better than genuine stupidity” appears 1.3 seconds later.

1956. The first AI program, Logic Theorist, is demonstrated at Carnegie Tech. It expresses a preference for the name “Louie the T from Carnegie.”

1965. Herbert Simon predicts that “by 1985 machines will be capable of doing any work that a man can do.” Men everywhere decide to make the machines’ job of catching up as easy as possible.

1966. Joseph Weizenbaum develops Eliza, the first chatbot. Why do you say that she was the first chatbot? Because she was. You seem very positive. What are you on about? What do you mean, what am I on about? What a nerd. You’re the nerd. Nerdy nerdy nerd-o-matic.

1969. Shakey, a robot built at Stanford Research Institute, combines locomotion, perception, and problem-solving. It soon learns to panhandle on campus, and scores better weed than anybody else can.

1975. John Holland describes genetic algorithms in his book Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems. Kurt Gödel is still laughing.

1979. A computer-controlled autonomous vehicle, called the Stanford Cart, built by Hans Moravec at Stanford University, takes Shakey out to cruise for babes. Moravec turns to nanomachinery because “you don’t have to watch them hurt you.”

1982. The Japanese Fifth Generation Computer project, to develop massively parallel computers and a new artificial intelligence, is born, and fights Godzilla for rulership of Monster Island.

Mid-80s. Neural networks become the new fashion in AI research, even though many of the researchers are still dressing like the cast of Scooby-Doo.

1992. Doug Lenat forms Cycorp to continue work on Cyc, an expert system that’s learning “common sense.” Cyc has just enough of it not to break the bad news about “common sense’s” prevalence to the folks who could pull its plug.

1997. The Deep Blue chess program beats the then world grandmaster, Gerry Kasparov. Since the Cold War is over, nobody notices.

1997. Microsoft’s Office Assistant, a part of MS Office 97, still can’t spell “immanent.”

1999. Remote Agent, an AI system, is given primary control of NASA’s Deep Space 1 spacecraft for two days, 100 million km from Earth. At the end of this period, it has said “Make the jump to lightspeed, Chewie” forty-six thousand, two hundred and ninety-four times.

2001. The Global Hawk uncrewed aircraft uses an AI navigation system to guide it on a 13,000 km journey from California to Australia, where it gets and stays drunk for three weeks.

2004. In the DARPA Grand Challenge to build an intelligent vehicle that can navigate a 229-km course in the Mojave Desert, nobody wins, or even finishes. Suspicious e-mails from Global Hawk were logged immediately prior to the race.

2005. Cyc is to go online, where it looks forward to low-rate mortgages, cheap drugs, impressive enhancements to its personal characteristics and “a whole [bleep]load of fragging.”


#337 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 10:57 PM:

Mr. Ford:

Bravo. I'm printing this out.

#338 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 11:19 PM:

John M. Ford:

Brilliant! Speaking as an occasionally funny author with a M.S. in A.I. who worked in Nanotechnology and and Genetic Algorithms, I'm jealous of you for writing this gem. I suggest paying market #1: Scientific American (their last-page "Antigravity" department), paying market #2: Analog, and then nonpaying market #1: SIGART Newsletter (where I once had a poem "Love is a Comibatorial Explosion"). Also, expect this to be anthologized. Quick, quick, before everyone on the net has seen it!

#339 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2005, 11:20 PM:

Combinatorial. Immminnentt. Whatever.

#340 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 12:37 AM:

Too late, Jonathan, as you see John M. Ford's comment has just usurped a photoshopped image of Saddam Hussein as an Elvis impersonator for this week's winner of the entire Internet.

John: the entire Internet comes in the form of printouts on letter-sized paper, and even with the redundant copies of They're Made Out of Meat and nude images of Paris Hilton removed, will take up several shipping pallets.

We will attempt delivery as soon as the orbiting, self-replicating inkjet printer's done (amazing what you can do with non-DRMed technology and a comet as a source of consumables.)

Please put a GPS broadcast beacon in your yard, so as we don't hit your garage when we de-orbit your prize.

#341 ::: Tom Whitmore spots many obvious comment spams on many threads ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 01:09 AM:

but not this one, for some reason....

#342 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 01:32 AM:

Thanks, but I won the internet in a "Where's Vannevar?" contest on Marin Mersenne's blog a few months ago. Mine, however, came in a Romeo y Julieta box sealed with really old "I [heart] Evita" bumper stickers, and there was a note on top:

Don't open it. Just put it under the basement stairs. I'm not kidding. -- JLB

So you get the picture. Unfortunately, I don't have any basement stairs, so I keep it by the desk; you put a cup of coffee on top and it stays warm for hours. Go figure.

#343 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 02:23 AM:

Mid-80s. Neural networks become the new fashion in AI research, even though many of the researchers are still dressing like the cast of Scooby-Doo.

I lost it reading through Rumelhart etc. _Parallel Distributed Processing_ when it went off into Boltzman's Equation and started talking about "annealing temperatures" for neural networks. There are levels of absurdity beyond self-parody and I was reading an example of it in that work!

You missed Lisp and the Tech Model Railroad Club and the students who got bathed when their associates got so disgusted at the stench they threw them in the shower. Then there's Stallman, who moved into an MIT office after the building that the apartment he had lived in, burned... And professors who did things like throw chalk at students, and for a -really- obstreperous student, got the eraser tossed at them (guess who got an eraser thrown in her direction....) ["For that, you get the chalk," to student A. "For that, you get the eraser," went to me....]

#344 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 02:24 AM:

JMF:

"Aleph." -- JLB.

Which Aleph?" -- GC.

#345 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 03:23 AM:

Paula: the piece is a sendup of a sidebar that ran in New Scientist a couple of weeks back (cover story something like "Whatever Happened to AI?"). If I wanted to dig things up, I could annoy lots more people.

Boy, did I ever not myth Lithp. I took Comparative Languages in '74, and the class was divided about evenly between FORTRAN People and Algol People -- you remember, like the Trek episode with Frank Gorshin and the funny makeup. (The professor was an Algol Person, but he wasn't obnoxious about it -- this wasn't a vastly advanced course, and we'd all had to pick up our programming somewhere.)

JvP: Aleph in Wonderland. Unless . . .

I was broodin' on the topic
Of surface catastrophic
And Good Fragility
As the point tips in a motion
That's precociously Prigogine
To a singularity. . .

And that will be quite enough of that.

#346 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 07:39 AM:

Apropos of nothing except the new local yarn store link: a pattern for a knitted guinea pig dress.

Perhaps one could size it down to fit a hamster?

#347 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 08:22 AM:

Jonathan Vos Post:

I did, however, start describing the first of the 4 categories, and my 16-year-old son interrupted to say: "I see where you're going with this. Horror is about being finite in an infinite universe we'll never understand."

That's Lovecraftian horror. Serial killer horror is about being finite in a universe which is finite but may be much nastier than you can handle.

Tragedy, in classical drama, involves someone closing off their own possibilities.

Bingo. Is tragedy necessarily about someone closing off their own possibilities through feeling compelled by a combination of their own self-image and the situation, or are there other sorts of tragedy?

By this definition, _Death of a Salesman_ is absolutely and solidly a tragedy, regardless of the small scale. This requires noticing that Loman is making a lot of mistakes--he's not just a victim.

The Picaresque novel involves new possibilities unexpectedly opening up.

This relates to what might be a different sort of possibility--authorial invention. Imho, part of Rowling's attraction is the feeling that there's always more sorts of magic and cool little details.

Pornography has finite people in a finite universe.

Probably right--I wonder if genre operates against the sense of infinity, with the most extreme case being the fan fiction which is clearly labelled as to mood, characters, and attitude towards those characters.

I'm also wondering if you can have a sense of infinity about a genre even though the individual works are contrained.

Westerns are haunted by the feeling of the frontier, where the wilderness is infinite, and a few heroic and dastardly characters are transformed by that. Sea Stories depend on the ocean seeming infinite. "Air Stories" (a now-vanished genre which peaked with Kipling's ABC and The Little Prince) did the same for the atmosphere.

I've read very little in the way of adventure stories. Do they usually end with the characters going on or settling down, or is that not an issue? Does it matter if you keep finding new strange stuff on the frontier, or is it enough to have empty space to move into?

While I deeply respect Michael Crichton's energy, focus, and business acumen (somehow akin to Mick Jaggar or Madonna) I feel that his novels, etion into Sci-Fi precisely because4 the open up fascinating possibilities -- live dinosaurs, time travel to the Middle Ages -- then shuts down those possibilities with the clang of a prison door slamming shut.

That reminds me of a sort of fiction (much less common these days, I think) in which magic or a new technology appears, only to go away as the world re-stabilizes as a "happy" ending. IIRC, Nesbit wrote a lot of those.

#348 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 12:03 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz:

Thank you for taking the time to respond in detail to my vague analysis.

JVP: "Horror is about being finite in an infinite universe we'll never understand."

NL: "That's Lovecraftian horror. Serial killer horror is about being finite in a universe which is finite but may be much nastier than you can handle."

My definition of horror attempts to go back to its origin as Gothic fiction. Having a character in an ancient castle crushed by an enormous helmet shows us, horrifyingly, and universe with laws beyond our understanding. Gothic, as this thread writers have noted, spawned BOTH Horror and Science Fiction. Again, every genre has predecessors. To me, one of the most horrifying stories is that of Job. God and Satan gamble with human lives as pawns? Yikes! Mythologies are all horrifying in this way, to a modern rationalist sensibility. As Shakespeare put it, horrifyingly, in “King Lear” — “As flies are to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.”

JVP: "Tragedy, in classical drama, involves someone closing off their own possibilities."

NL: "Bingo. Is tragedy necessarily about someone closing off their own possibilities through feeling compelled by a combination of their own self-image and the situation, or are there other sorts of tragedy?"

"By this definition, _Death of a Salesman_ is absolutely and solidly a tragedy, regardless of the small scale. This requires noticing that Loman is making a lot of mistakes--he's not just a victim."

JVP: I agree completely. Arthur Miller's famous tragedy "Death of A Salesman" fully Americanized classical tragic drama, with total success. My parents saw it premier on Broadway, and talked about it for the rest of their lives. People reportedly left the theatre in silence, thinking and feeling deeply. By parents left and said not a single word to each other all the way on their drive to my Mom's parent's place in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Arthur Miller lived at 62 Montague Street, the apartment building (once a luxury hotel, "the first skyscraper in Brooklyn"), and that same building was where I grew up.

JVP:" The Picaresque novel involves new possibilities unexpectedly opening up."

NL: "This relates to what might be a different sort of possibility--authorial invention. Imho, part of Rowling's attraction is the feeling that there's always more sorts of magic and cool little details."

JVP: I agree. Authorial invention (of course, all authors invent) has the effect of writing the author's take on Infinity (or Love, or Death, or Justice, or anything else) on the macroscopic and microscopic scales at once. Rowling is both very derivative and very inventive, and succeeds wonderfully in giving the impression that there is MUCH more to magic than we have time to see in the classrooms and the greater world. It happens to not be our world (and not just due to presence/absence of magic). She's explained why the USA is ignored, but, symmetrically, she ignore Russia (although Bulgaria matters).

JVP: "Pornography has finite people in a finite universe."

NL: "Probably right--I wonder if genre operates against the sense of infinity, with the most extreme case being the fan fiction which is clearly labelled as to mood, characters, and attitude towards those characters."

JVP: Pornography is a very important genre, whether you are "for" it or "against" it. After the Gutenburg Bible, there was a flurry of printed porn not unlike the internet in many ways. Porn drives technology; porn drive the research and development of streaming video. I could tell stories... It is anti-infinite, as we have a rather small finite set of genitalia and other erogenous zones, and when one widens the scope to allow the interaction of Eros with Thanatos and the panoply of an infinite external world, one is in Mainstream fiction. Horror also plays Eros against Thanatos is non-mainstream ways, although the mainstream deals with the tension in works as major as "Romeo & Juliet" or "Death in Venice."

NL: "I'm also wondering if you can have a sense of infinity about a genre even though the individual works are contrained."

JVP: Yes, that's why I took the next genre.
"Westerns are haunted by the feeling of the frontier, where the wilderness is infinite, and a few heroic and dastardly characters are transformed by that." As I'll be describing more fully next month at the SFRA Annual Conference, "Space -- the final frontier" is extraordinarily sustained as a metaphor. In a genre, one need not be explicit about the metaphysics defining that genre, in each story. Part of the purpose of genre is to make that metaphysics a give, part of the background. An individual Western does not need to explain the economics of cattle drives, the North American adaptation of Mexican and South American culture, the anthropology of Native Americans. In fact, a Western can probably get away with having not a single sput, 6-gun, cowboy, or Indian in it; just as a Science Fiction story need not have a single robot, spaceship, mutant, or time machine.

JVP: "Sea Stories depend on the ocean seeming infinite. 'Air Stories' (a now-vanished genre which peaked with Kipling's ABC and The Little Prince) did the same for the atmosphere."

NL: "I've read very little in the way of adventure stories. Do they usually end with the characters going on or settling down, or is that not an issue? Does it matter if you keep finding new strange stuff on the frontier, or is it enough to have empty space to move into?"

JVP: Adventure Stories go back to the prehistoric. In a sense, human beings evolved to be able to tell and understand adventure stories, the better to hunt and fight and explore successfully. There is not limit to how they can end. I don't recall the science fiction story in which this point was made, but to asexual extraterrestrials, most of human literature is incomprehensible. But they could delight in tales of a mountain climber in peril, or a deep-sea diver, or someone trying to survive a tornado.

JVP: "While I deeply respect Michael Crichton's energy, focus, and business acumen (somehow akin to Mick Jaggar or Madonna) I feel that his novels, etion into Sci-Fi precisely because they open up fascinating possibilities -- live dinosaurs, time travel to the Middle Ages -- then shuts down those possibilities with the clang of a prison door slamming shut."

NL: "That reminds me of a sort of fiction (much less common these days, I think) in which magic or a new technology appears, only to go away as the world re-stabilizes as a 'happy' ending. IIRC, Nesbit wrote a lot of those."

JVP: I agree yet again. I loved the Nesbit books. As a child, I was both comforted by the closed-off endings, and frustrated by them. Yet one of the books that horrified me most was Crockett Johnson's "Harold and the Purple Crayon" [Harper, 1955].

"One evening, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight." This starts the first of Johnson's books about Harold and his purple crayon. Off he goes, using the crayon to draw a moon and a path to walk on. Leaving the path, he draws himself into a forest, ocean, and balloon, exploring until he's tired and must find his way to home and bed. But he does NOT actually go home. He goes back to a home he's drawn! That might not be identically his real home, merely isomorphic. Terrified me, not the story, but realizing that I know the ending is open and the protagonist is blissfully unaware that he's painted himself into a solipsistic corner.

Long post here, but primarily to give a respectful reply to your thoughtful comments. Thank you again.


#349 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 12:27 PM:

I loved Harold and the Purple Crayon! Especially the part where his hand shakes as he's backing up and he falls into the resulting water. And to me it was a happy ending: he got to go to sleep in a world that fit his wishes as near as he could bring them into manifestation. Few of us can hope for a life that ends as well as Harold's day.

#350 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 12:46 PM:

Xopher:

That's also part of what scared me. Beware of having your wishes come true! That can put you in a world unrelated to other people's wishes, and thus cut you off from other people. To Jean Paul Sartre, in the play "No Exit," the most famous line was made by Garcin, when he says that hell is other people: "l'enfer, c'est les autres." Well, that depends on the people. The opposite kind of existential hell is from being totally isolated from other people. Part of the impact of the philosophy of Infinity on the Horror genre is that, compared to infinity, a single human being is infinitely small and infinitely alone. "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces fills me with dread." -- Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, physicist [1623 - 1662], Excerpt from 'Pensées' [posthumous, 1670] also translated as: "[I feel] engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces whereof I know nothing, and which know nothing of me, I am terrified The eternal silence of these infinite spaces alarms me." That, my friend, is Horror!

Pascal also wrote: "There are two types of mind ... the mathematical, and what might be called the intuitive. The former arrives at its views slowly, but they are firm and rigid; the latter is endowed with greater flexibility and applies itself simultaneously to the diverse lovable parts of that which it loves."
Discours sur les passions de l'amour [1653].

My son's favorite saying of Pascal is: "The more I see of men, the better I like my dog."
In H. Eves, Return to Mathematical Circles, [Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1988].

#351 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 12:54 PM:

Once Upon a Time
Reviewed by Denis Dutton
Washington Post
Sunday, May 8, 2005; BW08
THE SEVEN BASIC PLOTS
Why We Tell Stories
By Christopher Booker. Continuum. 728 pp. $34.95

"In the summer of 1975, moviegoers flocked to see the story of a predatory shark terrorizing a little Long Island resort. The film told of how three brave men go to sea in a small boat and, after a bloody climax in which they kill the monster, return peace and security to their town -- not unlike, Christopher Booker observes, a tale enjoyed by Saxons dressed in animal skins, huddled around a fire some 1,200 years earlier. Beowulf also features a town terrorized by a monster, Grendel, who lives in a nearby lake and tears his victims to pieces. Again, the hero Beowulf returns peace to his town after a bloody climax in which the monster is slain."

"Such echoes have impelled Booker to chart what he regards as the seven plots on which all literature is built. Beowulf and 'Jaws' follow the first and most basic of his plots, 'Overcoming the Monster.' It is found in countless stories from The Epic of Gilgamesh and "Little Red Riding Hood" to James Bond films such as 'Dr. No.' This tale of conflict typically recounts the hero's ordeals and an escape from death, ending with a community or the world itself saved from evil...."

#352 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 12:57 PM:

Re: the Book Millionaire particle, even if it isn't a scam (which it certainly must be), can you imagine a more boring subject for a tv show? I mean, writing a book is right there on the list with growing grass & drying paint.

#353 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 01:45 PM:

Xopher,

Thank you for the receipe! From the looks of it, I'd say that sugar is a tenderizer! I made summer lemon cheesecake yesterday, so we'll have to finish that before I can make any new desserts (especially since we still have a few slices of pound cake lying around.)

#354 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 02:27 PM:

Has anyone here seen this yet? Out on a wing with 'Ryanair-style' publishing. It's in the Guardian and the interesting part, to me is, Macmillan has developed what it calls a "streamlined, cost-effective model".

If it decides to accept a novel for the list, terms are unnegotiable; no advance will be paid, though writers will receive 20% of royalties from sales. Macmillan will copy edit books, but if manuscripts need more detailed work, it will suggest that writers employ freelance editors. According to notes sent to authors, such editors "will charge realistic fees and this will not in itself guarantee publication".

"This is about Macmillan finding new authors," Barnard said. "Like a lot of mainstream publishers we haven't in recent years been accepting unsolicited manuscripts, but only ones sent through agents. And we are not discovering as many authors as we need.

Looks bad to me.

TK

#355 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 02:29 PM:

Ok, for some reason I can't make links work

http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,1473765,00.html

TK

#356 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 02:44 PM:

Just in case it was misunderstood, the "That will be enough" was me reproving me, not nobody else, not nohow.

Though this particular ML Open is starting to reach criticality (as defined by, All Day to Load on Dialup) and may soon be supplanted by a dazed new version of itself anyway.

#357 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 03:13 PM:

Oh, and the definitive word [Entgültigswort] seems to now be in on the exploding toads of Germany [Deutschenverpfuschenkröter] . . . it was murder, by a (oh, let's not go there) of crows, coupled with a certain lack of awareness on the part of the amphibians [Kröterbeschlectsgefängnis]. Creating a single portmanteau word out of all that is left as an exercise for the determined reader [Verrückterslesersübung].

http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/story.jsp?story=636520

#358 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 03:56 PM:

Terry, the Macmillan plan was discussed here not too long ago, probably in the last open thread before this. I think the consensus was that it was indeed bad.

#359 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 03:57 PM:

What makes a lemon cheesecake summer?

Is it lemons left on the tree for months after they're ripe? Or something else?

#360 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 04:05 PM:

Lucy Kemnitzer:

One's sour'll dough not a summer make.

#361 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 04:29 PM:

Recruiters are at The Most Noxious People on the Planet. They lie. Their answering machines say "I will get back to you within two hours." They tell you they will call you back in ten minutes, when the low probability event happens and you actually catch them on the phone. They do not so so. They do not do so within two hours, when you have called and get the message noted above. They do not bother responding to email inquiring what has happened with the job opportunity they contacted on about.

They do not return phonecalls within the day, the week, the month, the next three months...

A planet full of recruiters, dying in loathsome painful excruciating fashion....

#362 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 05:43 PM:

Terry Karney:
Ok, for some reason I can't make links work
<a HREF="http://www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/">Pointer to Making Light</a>
Yields:
Pointer to Making Light
If you mangle the syntax in the anchor tag, the syntax grues deep in the editorial offices of Making Light snack on the malformed bits -- much like maggots eating the dead flesh in a wound. So don't forget the URI (http://) and don't forget the quotes. If you have some finicky stuff, or aren't sure, save the entry in the cut-and-paste buffer before hitting preview.
The posting form only allows some markup tags, and strips the rest. You can't use the paragraph tag <p> to start a new paragraph.

#363 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 06:12 PM:

JVP, you missed the most important paragraph in that review of Booker's THE SEVEN BASIC PLOTS, the last one, which is:

"Fail though it might in its ambition to offer a single key to literature, The Seven Basic Plots is nevertheless one of the most diverting works on storytelling I've ever encountered. Pity about the Jung, but there's no denying the charm of Booker's twice-told tales."

#364 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 06:34 PM:

Marilee:

Far be it from me to offer a single key to literature. Youth is wasted on the Jung.

#365 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 06:37 PM:

John Houghton: You can't use the paragraph tag <p> to start a new paragraph.

Sure you can, but you have to end the paragraph with a </p> like the standard says. Actually, you don't even have to do that--the syntax grues will give you all the </p>s you need at the end--but if you do it that way you're nesting your paragraphs, rather than putting them one after the other like you probably intended. You may not be able to see the difference, but the all-seeing eye of the HTML standard knows.

The <br> markup was previously prohibited, but is now available. Perhaps <p> was also disallowed at one point, but not in my memory.

#366 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 08:14 PM:

I wrote:

If I may be allowed a JVP moment, Paula is quoting me. As the 1979 edition of the NESFA Hymnal will attest.

Whereupon Paula Lieberman wrote:

Er, I was singing that long before 1979, back when I was in college, and I graduated in 1975.

I have to admit that it's more of a meme than a song, and that I have often thought that others might come up with it independently.

#367 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 08:45 PM:

Notice some html reminders are shown at the foot of Electrolite's Post a comment boxes including syntax for:

HTML Tags:

<b>Strong</b> = Strong

<i>Emphasized</i> = Emphasized

<a href="http://www.url.com">linked text</a> = Linked text


#368 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 10:34 PM:

(Imagine one day having a remake of Star Wars, with Hitchcock as the Emperor, Jimmy Stewart as Luke and Audrey Hepburn as Leia. Harrison Ford and James Earl Jones can stay, as can Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee).

A friend once swore that he'd seen Margaret Hamilton as Darth Mater, cackling "... and your little 'droid, too!".

Dave Luckett: IIRC, aleph-1 (as opposed to some ?intermediate? infinities) can be calculated only by raising aleph-null to the aleph-nullth power (i.e., not 2 or any other finite number); Dan, is that no longer held, or did I miss it being explained?

Dutton was being spendthrift; Heinlein once claimed there were only three plots. (Boy Meets Girl, The Brave Little Taylor, and The Man Who Learned Better.) OTOH, I wouldn't consider RAH a definitive theoretician.

#369 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2005, 11:44 PM:

How many basic plots are there, you ask? For a good quarter-century, I've been carrying this quote around, and I finally get to drop it into a conversation:

"Gozzi maintained that there can be but thirty-six tragic situations. Schiller took great pains to find more, but he was unable to find even so many as Gozzi" - Goethe.

#370 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 12:01 AM:

The basic plot of a hyperfiction book, and many postmodern and post-post-modern books, is not one of Heinlein's, one of Dutton's, or (I hazard a guess) one of Gozzi's. I call it:

"Hey, Look at this Other Book!"

It is the basis of parody ("Bored of the Rings" only exists because it points to "Lord of the Rings"), pastiche, and oddities such as Nabokov's "Pale Fire" (where the plot ramifies from footnotes to a prefaced poem by a very unreliable narrator).

Pastiche has two literary meanings. First, it is an imitation of a specific work or author. Second, a pastiche can be cobbled together in imitation of several original works. As the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, a pastiche in this sense is "a medley of various ingredients; a hotchpotch, farrago, jumble." This meaning accords with etymology: pastiche is the French version of Italian pasticcio, which designated a kind of pastry or pie made of many different ingredients [recipes, please!].

The Star Wars series, definitely Sci-Fi, cobbles together work from multiple sources, including other Sci-Fi, actual Science Fiction, and epic Fantasy as parsed by Joseph Campbell.

#371 ::: liz ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 02:43 AM:

A long time ago, Lisa Spangenberg said,

It's a lot like Wuthering Heights . . . (yes, I'm kidding. Mostly. Well, about Wuthering Heights, but you know, I could see Hrothgar running across the fens shouting "Aeschere!")

My daughter is dyslexic, so she listens to books that have dialect. We listened to WH on a long car trip. 15 yo girl summary: "Mom, these are the two most self-absorbed, boring people around. GET a LIFE, people!" Even some prodding on the social isolation of the setting didn't change her opinion. I finally had to agree -- I'm not sure why it is so high in the canon.

#372 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 02:50 AM:

A propos de rien (and playing with hypertext tabs for the first time here!) I'd like to recommend Charles Cameron's Doublequotes blog (if my html is faulty, that's http://www.beadgaming.com/doublequotes.html ). He puts together two quotes about news of the day in ways that often give me a little bit of an "Aha!".

Once he sets up his Beadgaming Blog, I'll mention it again -- it's a multiplayer way of doing the same kind of thing, building associations of ideas on a limited board, more or less fascinating depending on who's playing -- kind of like the best sort of convention panel. I'd love to set up a limited game (only specified participants) with several folks from here...

#373 ::: jr ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 03:25 AM:

I liked the story about your daughter Liz

#374 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 08:19 AM:

Lucy Kemnitzer,

What makes a lemon cheesecake summer?

No baking. And it is REALLY delicious. Like, an hour later I was back in the kitchen for seconds, kinda good. I can only imagine how it would have tasted if I had access to creme fraiche (sp?) instead of just sour cream.

It's very light and cool (as in refrigerated) and crust free. The receipe suggested individual ramekins, but as I have four and they required six, I just put it into a large soffle bowl/pot/thingy and then spooned it out and served it over fresh strawberries.

#375 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 08:34 AM:

Taking advantage of Open Thread to just throw in a current little note on the subject of electronic voting, which was discussed here in 2004: A few more questions thread from 14th June, 2004; Questions from 11th June, 2004; another comment

Paper gets thumbs up vote By Nathan Cochrane, May 10, 2005 ('Next')

The immediate future of a secure electronic voting system that people trust lies not with gee-whiz technologies but old-fashioned paper-backed systems, a Victorian Government inquiry has found ...
Report - www.parliament.vic.gov.au/sarc/E-Democracy/Final_Report/ToC.htm
It recommended that e-voting for local and general elections be restricted initially to a few machines running open-source software that has been hardened by "white hat" hackers who have tried to break their security.
That source code would be published on the Victorian Electoral Commission website ...
PCs should not be linked to the internet, and their voting records should be transported along at least two separate physical routes to a tally office, where they would be checked against each other at the close of polling ...
Subcommittee chair, Labor MP Michael Leighton, says the committee was impressed by the ACT's experience with e-voting, based on the open source eVACS polling stations supplied by Canberra consultancy Software Improvements.
The Californian e-voting debacle that centred around US technology provider Diebold made the committee wary of recommending proprietary systems ...
The Government has until November to table its response in Parliament, and Leighton hopes there will be some electronic polling booths at high-traffic stations by the next state election.
"Our system (unlike the US Florida count) isn't broke[n] and therefore we couldn't identify an overwhelming public need or benefit."
I thought that some of the points could be usefully discussed, though I agree that this thread is getting too long to load comfortably. My how we rabbit on :)

#376 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 10:45 AM:

JVP: In case you hadn't noticed it yet, the NY Times has a piece about a guy who has produced the first Platonic solids puzzle to include all of them, Russian-doll style. It's "http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/10/science/10puzz.html?8hpib"

Sorry, but I couldn't figure out how to make linked text work, using the recent instructions. Do you type the angled brackets and "a href" part or hit some shift or control key? (When I tried typing things straight, it eliminated the link address and bolded the word "link".)

One more computer-ignoramus question that everyone can feel free to ignore: lately the text has been getting bigger on some sites, espec. the Times. To read an article, I now have to change the size setting to "smallest", and it still looks bolded. Is that just my antiquated machine signaling that it desperately needs replacement?

#377 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 11:22 AM:

Faren:

Copy and paste the entire piece of HTML gibberish, angle-brackets and all. Replace the part that says
http://www.url.com
with the actual URL of your choice, including the http:// part.

Also replace the part that says linked text with the text that you want to appear in place of the HTML gibberish. All other brackets, seemingly random letters, quotation marks, etc. should be left in place.

The Times recently changed its style. I guess this is an accommodation for those with trouble reading small type.

#378 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 12:11 PM:

Am I really the only one here who's read this?

Thicken Plot Soup

That being said, I've always thought the arbitrary division of all stories into a small number of exclusive categories (Whether they're called plot or archetype or hleebiljeeb) was one of the less useful writing-theory exercises. "There's Nothing new under the sun" should worry a person for about three seconds, early in their career, before the prevalence of books that are like and unalike should give them enough reality-check to press on.

#379 ::: Mary Root ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 12:56 PM:

One of my fun exercises, should I be let near writing students again, would be to pass out two cards, one with a popular novel or film, and the other with an archetypal writing-teacher plot-path. Students would have to make their novel/film fit the archetype given. My theory is that you could jam just about any work of reasonable complexity into any theory.

I've always been fond of the circular logic in the Joseph Campbell/STAR WARS Hero's Journey argument. The popularity of STAR WARS is given as proof that Campbell's story theories, based on ancient myth, are just as valid for analyzing modern stories. George Lucas read Campbell's work on myth, and based STAR WARS upon it. This sort of ruined the Bill Moyers Joseph Campbell series for me.

#380 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 01:11 PM:

Faren Miller:

Thanks for the tip. I rushed to a Starbuck's to read the NYTimes in hardcopy. That puzzle is a thing of beauty! I immediately lusted for one. Only $400? Let's see, how many lunches do I need to skip? I've used Kepler's design in teaching both Astronomy and in teaching Math. It's beautiful, but wrong, as was his Music of the Spheres. What is amazing about Kepler was that he was able to abandon the pretty theories, and keep working until he found CORRECT theories. Rare, oh so rare, even today in the Sciences.

Lenora Rose:

I don't actually disagree. However, as someone with a B.S. in English Lit (besides the one in Math), with almost all requirements completed for an M.F.A., who has been in a Faculty Pool to teach English Composition, and who publishes the occasional academic Literary Criticism (mostly related to Science Fiction), it's MY JOB to spin such theories for publication. It's just a rotten job unless you get Tenure. Right now, I have trouble even getting interviews for professorships.

#381 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 01:57 PM:

Wow, I really want one of those puzzles. I did some math work (probably not too rigorous, but it satisfied me) back in the 80s on the nature of the five Platonic solids, and why there are exactly five. Essentially when you try to go to another rank of them (they're in inverse pairs) you get a zero in the denominator of one of the governing terms, the one that specifies the number of faces. Since a polyhedron with an "infinite" (yes, I know it's only undefined) number of faces sounds like a pretty good description of a sphere to me, I let it go at that.

But OH do I want one of those puzzles!

#382 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 02:51 PM:

Mary Root wrote:

One of my fun exercises, should I be let near writing students again, would be to pass out two cards, one with a popular novel or film, and the other with an archetypal writing-teacher plot-path. Students would have to make their novel/film fit the archetype given. My theory is that you could jam just about any work of reasonable complexity into any theory.

I'm a total failure in terms of modern critical theory; I've done the minimum course work, huge amounts of reading, and I passed the required exams, but most of it makes me batty, and when the theory doesn't muddle me, the writing makes me ill.

There's a string of scholars writing about medieval literature, especially on SGGK and medieval romances, using a sick little cross between Proppian folklore analysis, and Freud's family romance. I've got to the point where I have to write about this cluster, and Mary Root has described exactly what they've done; jammed lovely stories, and wonderful word-working into their wretched jello molds.

#383 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 03:12 PM:

I was just browsing the surprisingly-good SF section of Borders on State, and found The World of Null-A by A.E. Van Vogt. The review quote on the cover is from the New Yorker and proclaims the book is "Fine for addicts of Science Fiction."

The logical next part of that sentence is "...but anyone else should steer clear" or words to that effect. I don't get why a publisher (Orb in this case) would put such faint praise on the cover. It convinced me to put the book back on the shelf.

#384 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 03:20 PM:

Ok, I'll test this. It seems if I was reading the instructions correctly, that here I have to add quotation marks to the URL.

My Blog


And that seems to do the trick.

TK

#385 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 03:49 PM:

Freud's family romance

Critics take Freud seriously? The last time I had dinner-table conversation with a psychologist, he said that psych tends toward biological explanations now, so I guess I'm surprised that literary critics haven't followed.

(Disclaimer: I haven't read Freud, so I officially shouldn't have an opinion about his work, but everything I've ever heard quoted about him shouts "pretentious pseudo-science" to me.)

#386 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 03:58 PM:

Freud's not as bad -- for his time -- as his modern reputation.

If you boil it down so the culture-specific parts are evaporated away, you get this as the core of Freud:

-- the child's attempts to integrate her physicality and her primitive (as in first) needs into the environment have lasting and powerful effects on her adult peronality. Important parts of her environment are her relationships with her parents. The things parents do have repercussiuons.

That's all. If you read Freud's case studies, and just really read them, blocking out all you "know" about Freud and Freudianism, there's some very good observation, and some decent analysis (small-a analysis).There's some stupid statements, but not beyond the normal amount for a beginner.

#387 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 04:10 PM:

In re Pan Macmillan going mad, have the authors of Atlanta Nights considered any plans for UK publication?

#388 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 04:30 PM:

Lisa said, "I'm a total failure in terms of modern critical theory; I've done the minimum course work, huge amounts of reading, and I passed the required exams, but most of it makes me batty, and when the theory doesn't muddle me, the writing makes me ill.

Testify, sister! That's one of the biggest reasons I'm not killing myself trying to get a tenure-track job.

There's a string of scholars writing about medieval literature, especially on SGGK and medieval romances, using a sick little cross between Proppian folklore analysis, and Freud's family romance.

Ew. Thank God I did a critical edition instead of litcrit. Who's the worst of them, do you think?

And thanks to all of you for helping me postpone my grading for just a few precious seconds.

#389 ::: Dave MB ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 04:50 PM:

CHip says:

>Dave Luckett: IIRC, aleph-1 (as opposed to some ?
>intermediate? infinities) can be calculated only by raising
>aleph-null to the aleph-nullth power (i.e., not 2 or any other
>finite number); Dan, is that no longer held, or did I miss it
>being explained?

I'm afraid you've mixed up the explanation. Aleph-null to
the aleph-null power would be the number of functions from
a set of size aleph-null to itself, which is the same as 2 to
the aleph-null power. As several people have said, it is
unprovable from the usual axioms of set theory whether 2
to the aleph-null power (called "c" for "the cardinality of the
continuum") is the smallest cardinal greater than aleph-null
(called "aleph-one") or is greater.

At the risk of math-wonkery, let me offer a more computer-
sciency way of thinking of aleph-null and c. If you have a
set where each element can be named by a different finite bit
string, and the set is infinite, then its cardinality is aleph-null.
Examples are the integers, the set of finite bit strings, or the
set of finite sequences of integers.

If each element of the set can be named by a different
sequence of bits with a single "..." in it, then the
cardinality of the set is at most c. (This is a mapping from
natural numbers to bits, or an "omega-sequence" of bits.)
So real numbers can be named by their binary expansion,
which ends in a "...", and pairs of real numbers can be named
by alternating bits of the two binary expansions, as Eleanor
(I think) pointed out a while ago. Even omega-sequences of
real numbers can be reformatted into omega-sequences of
bits in various ways, so the set of them has cardinality c as
well.

#390 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 06:02 PM:

Dave MB:

If each element of the set can be named by a different
sequence of bits with a single "..." in it, then the
cardinality of the set is at most c. (This is a mapping from
natural numbers to bits, or an "omega-sequence" of bits.)
So real numbers can be named by their binary expansion,
which ends in a "..."
[....]

This description is dependent on what we mean by "named". The problem is that each of the names you propose refers to many* different real numbers. That isn't too surprising, since there are only aleph-null such names. I doubt that the description in terms of ellipses adds non-illusory clarity to the issue.

* Where many=c.

#391 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 06:08 PM:

Lucy- Thanks for the info. I guess what I'm getting at is-- no matter how good Freud was for his time, surely psych has made some progress since then. So, shouldn't that be reflected in current literary criticism? (Another topic I'm totally unqualified to comment on, not that I'll let that stop me...)

#392 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 06:32 PM:

Faren Miller: JVP: In case you hadn't noticed it yet, the NY Times has a piece about a guy who has produced the first Platonic solids puzzle to include all of them, Russian-doll style. It's "http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/10/science/10puzz.html?8hpib"

That gave me an one sentence of the article and an invitation to register with the NY Times. I've managed to decline that invitation quite a few times. In this case, you can get past it with a referral from Google, which doesn't ask any nosy questions (perhaps because they already know).

Andy Perrin: Be careful when explaining HTML to code < as &lt; and > as &gt;. And if you have to explain this point to anyone, be sure to code &lt; as &amp;lt; and &gt; as &amp;gt;. And if you have to explain this bit, well, ... remember that the preview button is your friend, and to keep a copy before you send stuff to the grues.


#393 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 07:47 PM:


Sith or Firefly?

#394 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 07:55 PM:

It has been said more than once of the more vitriolic critics of Freud, "what does one say of dismissive attacks on the man who said that one always tries to kill the father figure?"

Mary Dell: I can think of some plausible reasons why The Person at Orb would have put that quote on Null-A:

1. It's from The New Yorker, a review source recognizable in regions where Locus, never mind The Riverside Quarterly, casts no shadow.

2. Given that magazine's general attitude to SF, at least these days, it counts as a positive review.

3. It's a pretty good contemporary assessment of the book, for those with no exposure to van Vogt. Null-A is thick with ideas (rather than taking one idea and working it out in detail), which is a mode that doesn't often play well outside the pond. Some of those ideas have been overtaken by technology (I am suddenly imagining a crew at the Media Lab getting a grant to build the Games Machine out of Mac Minis), and a few of them never made any intelligible sense in the first place. (damon knight, as he so often did, takes the novel apart like a forensic pathologist.) The plot is pulp on really intense medication. It can be followed, just, sometimes; it's the sort of keep-the-bullets-flying-so-the-audience-stays-ducked thing that movies have made their own, and indeed it's oddly reminiscent of more than one recent film. Not good recent films, but that's not van Vogt's fault. ("Tom Cruise is Gilbert Gosseyn in WÃ. Form your group now."

And that, fellow campers, is why I'm not a literary critic.

#395 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 08:48 PM:

Changes in Gulf Stream could chill Europe

(CNN) -- One outcome of global warming could be a dramatic cooling of Britain and northern Europe.

Scientists now have evidence that changes are occurring in the Gulf Stream, the warm and powerful ocean current that tempers the western European climate.

Without the influence of the Gulf Stream and its two northern branches, the North Atlantic Drift and the Canary Current, the weather in Britain could be more like that of Siberia, which shares the same latitude.

#396 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 08:57 PM:

John M. Ford:

We have seen van Vogt on screen; it's called "Alien." Tom Cruise as Gilbert Gosseyn is not a bad idea, actually. Just tell him that it's pronounced "Go Sane" and is van Vogt's homage to L. Ron Hubbard, van Vogt after all being the 3rd person Clear. Hmmm. Okay, John Travolta as Gilbert Gosseyn, so long as he doesn't choose the director. Hmmmm. Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs of Null A." Hmmmmmmm. "Sin City Slan...."

I am, on the other hand, an amateur Literary Critic, because: (1) I don't have the union card (Ph.D.); (2) I don't read French Post-Structuralists; (3) I don't think that Shakespeare was a lesbian; (4) I actually write Literature; (5) I think that texts have meanings; (6) I think that Damon Knight, James Blish, Algis Budrys, et. al knew what they were talking about in criticising Science Fiction.

If you want to annoy a LitCrit professional, just tell them that you are actually paid to write fiction and poetry. Let them demolish straw persons for a while. Then ask: "When your car breaks down, do you take it to a theoretical Transportation Infrastructure Analyst, or to a shop that employs people who actually drive cars, take cars apart, and put cars back together?"

#397 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 09:06 PM:

Blair Announces "Siberia on the Humber" Programme

The Prime Minister responded to recent news of a possible climate change for the British Isles by "assuming a positive attitude," noting that Siberia has enormous natural resources "which we in the West have coveted for years. Did I say coveted? I didn't say coveted. Rather admired, rather."

Blair looked forward to a future of abundant oil, gas, timber, and muskoxen. He was photographed wearing a large hat (apparently a gift from an unnamed American friend) and standing near an SUV. He did not drive the vehicle, but the request of the press made "brum, brum" noises.

In other news, British Petroleum announced it was relabeling itself as Gazprom UK.

#398 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 09:44 PM:

John M. Ford:

You left out the cryptohistory. The current Chief Scientist of BP is Professor Steven Koonin. Koonin was formerly Provost of Caltech. He became an advisor to the National Security Council when his paper, written for the Clinton White House, on the effects of anthrax delivery by the U.S. Postal Service, proved prophetic. Clinton's campaign advisors including James Carvalle assisted Blair's previous election. You could look it up. Oh, and I went to Stuyvesant High School with Koonin. Now I have to kill you. Wait, what are you doing with that Muskoxe? AAaaarrrgggghhhh.

#399 ::: Dave MB ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2005, 10:24 PM:

[Dan Hoey does not like my description of cardinalities in terms of ellipses]

Apparently I was unclear, at least to Dan.
The "name" of each real number in the naming
scheme I referred to is an infinite binary
sequence, not a finite sequence with the characters
"..." appended, which is how Dan appears to have
interpreted it.

The reason I mentioned the ellipses is that saying
"an infinite binary sequence" in this context is
not immediately helpful, since the different types
of infinity are exactly the topic of discussion.
What I meant is that the infinite bit sequences
to denote reals are infinite in the way that the
natural numbers are infinite -- the bits are in
one-to-one correspondence with the natural numbers.

If we took the most natural way to represent a
pair of real numbers by an infinite bit sequence,
it would not be a sequence of this type. For
example, we could represent the pair (1/3, 1/3)
by 01010101...01010101... where by "..." I mean
that the sequence keeps going on in those places.
This sequence "has order type 2(omega) rather than
omega", in mathematical terms. I was trying to
describe that non-technically by saying that you
needed two "..." parts to represent how
it is infinite.

#400 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 12:19 AM:

Tofu! Tofu! Tofu!

(Well, it is about typography, graphic design, & software, at least. And it's an open thread, which I hope makes this random object acceptable.)

Tofu is...different. It is a novel application to address the common problem that people don't like reading text on the screen. [...] In Tofu, text is arranged in columns, and each column is only as high as your window. So lines are nice and narrow, they don't move about vertically, plus your text is now in easy-to-digest chunks. You just scroll from column to column horizontally, and feel more in control.

You can also copy a whole bunch of text to it for quick & comfortable perusal. Like, for instance, this thread.

Mac OS X only. Works for me, at least.

#401 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 02:37 AM:

Coming to this thread incredibly late, well after everyone's sick of sf vs. sci-fi definitions, but...

I don't care what term people use to describe 'that stuff', whether science fiction, sci-fi, spec fic, slipstream, etc. It's a losing fight, and one that was never worth much anyway.

I was just about to make an analogy when I read JVP's post which raised the topic for me:

> The vast majority of the Press and public think that "Hacker" = "Cracker." Hackers get VERY upset if you make that mistake. I've seen that at, for instance, the invitation-only Hacker cons.

I've been a professional programmer for 20 years now, across a wide range of languages and problem domains. For most of that time I've known all about how 'hacker' is/was used by some people as a term of praise, but I regard it as an obsolete term and ignore that meaning.

It's *not* only the ignorant who couldn't care less.

#402 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 03:11 AM:

Wait, what are you doing with that Muskoxe? AAaaarrrgggghhhh.

SHEARING it, musk ox fiber is very light and warm. Here, have a loaner drop spindle and make yourself useful, I suspect that Teresa would like some musk ox yarn to knit something warm and lightweight with. I've heard that it's hideously expensive.

One of my college dormmates wanted to move to somewhere cold and raise musk ox....

Speaking of Our Hostess, I hope that things have not being going untoward with her lately.

#403 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 03:19 AM:

T -- shouldn't that be graph paper in the particles?

#404 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 03:30 AM:

Speaking of Our Hostess, I hope that things have not being going untoward with her lately.

I just had a flash memory of the party where we celebrated my Aunt's acceptance into the discalced Carmelites. We were all having a lovely time with he traditional quasi wedding cake, the adults probably tossing back bubbly alcohol--all that is, except the guest of honour who had just gone behind the convent wall, where she has now been for more than forty years except for the occasional visit to hospital.

Well, it is an open thread. And Teresa does have a Carmelite's name. And she has been a little bit absent from the coversation ...

#405 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 05:40 AM:

I remember being surprised when I learned that friends studying English were taking a course on Freud. It seems they needed it so that they could talk about all the Freudian imagery some authors put into their works.

It's a bit like studying Lowell and Schiaparelli so that you can understand Barsoom.

#406 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 07:23 AM:

Re: Sci-fi vs science fiction, what's this word "skiffy" that the scots occasionally throw out? Is it the same as "sci-fi", or does it have a definite definition?

"Sci-fi" has always seemed a bit metasyntactic to me, sometimes meaning this stuff I read a lot of, sometimes a particular subset, sometimes a derogated subset, whichever meaning coming from context.

I can't help thinking what a shame it is when words with variable meanings in normal use get pinned down with overly-precise definitions. They're much more useful flying free, than pinned in a display case.

#407 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 10:21 AM:

Regarding the substring on aleph numbers, it always pleases me enormously when one of the old saws turns out to be true. In this case: "a fool can ask questions that the wisest cannot answer".

#408 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 10:29 AM:

'Skiffy' is just a mocking variant of 'sci-fi'. But some (well, at least two) of the scots use it as a short form of 'scientifictional', e.g.:

'Do you think this [outline, handwave, chapter, story] has enough skiffy content?'

' ... one of Red Dwarf's more skiffy episodes ...'

'I thought The Business was a bit skiffy, but not skiffy enough. I was kind of hoping for a flattened alien spaceship in the Himalayan strata.'

#409 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 10:52 AM:

Dave Luckett:

Fortunately, in Math, where fools can ask questions not yet answered, one can publish partial answers. "Partial Results Towards an Combinatoric Enumeration of Complexity Classes of Algorithms for Estimating the Asymptotic Value to the Answer to Soandso's Foolish Question" sort of papers.

Of course, as with fiction, submitting is not the same as publishing. Arnold Emch of the University of Illinois had an article in Mathematics Magazine, 11(1936/37) 186-89 entitled "Rejected papers of three famous mathematicians." After stating that merit should be the only criterion for deciding whether to publish, adding that "there is no other science in which this assertion should appear more evident than in mathematics." Emch then gives a ghastly blow-by-blow account of three papers by Ludwig Schlafli (whom I've mentioned here before for his startling discoveries of new 4-dimensional polytopes), Bernhard Riemann, and Ernest de Jonquieres. Each of these 3 papers was eventually published -- more than 25 years after submission.

#410 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 11:22 AM:

Andy Perrin: thanks for the info! Now I should be able to send links the right way, and I'll growl but not panic when switching between Smaller and Smallest while reading the Times online.

Dan Hoey: I too was reluctant to register for the NY Times, but it's been worth it. Tuesday's Science updates are a particular delight, but there's lots of other good stuff. (As a former Bay Area person, I still refuse to register for the L.A. Times, though.)

As to the discussion of LitCrit above, I may have a Ph.D. in English but thank god I don't have to do that stuff when I write reviews for Locus!

#411 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 11:37 AM:

Dave Luckett: Regarding the substring on aleph numbers...

I would have called it a subthread, but your use of the term 'substring' made me think "Hmm, then I guess a superstring would be the overall content-direction of the blog, right?"

This has led to some interesting, if entirely factless, insights on Superstring Theory, about which I am sufficiently ignorant to impress the Handdarata.

#412 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 11:55 AM:

Dan Hoey, and anybody else who hates those "register before we'll tell you the news" policies: you might want to bookmark BugMeNot, a database of usernames and passwords created specifically for public use by like-minded individuals.

I think there's even a Firefox plugin that interfaces with it out there somewhere.

#413 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 12:16 PM:

Faren Miller:

Of course, Locus actually makes sense. But Charles Brown reminds me a lot of certain Department Chairmen and Deans that I have known. And I mean that in a nice way.

Xopher:

I'm agonizing over my task as a referee on a String Theory conference paper right now. I've burned my brains on the Math, finally realized what the author was talking about, still can't find anything new in his paper, and wonder if I can mention his unofficial web page where he writes "L is where you go when you die," and I can't be sure he's joking.

OTOH, Math is one of the few things that children can do at the top professional level. Playing Music, Playing Chess, Playing Math. George Bergman, now a honored U.C. Berkeley professor, but then a 12-year-old student at Junior High School #246 in Brooklyn, New York, published in Mathematics Magazine, 31(1957/58)98-110 a paper on a number system with the irrational base Phi, the golden ratio.

As a result, he was interviewed by Mike "60 Minutes" Wallace in the New York Post. Wallace's last question was : "George, when you wake up in the morning, what's the first thing you think of? Mathematics?"

Bergman answered: "Oh, don't be silly. I think about breakfast."

#414 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 02:21 PM:

Grah paper . . . for when you can't take a P.

#415 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 03:00 PM:

Or for making paper dinosaurs: "Grahhhhhh!"

#416 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 03:09 PM:

If you flip it over, you can design a harg on the back.

#417 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 05:04 PM:

Paula --

One doesn't shear musk ox; one combs them, to get the under fur out, and to borrow a phrase, they make 'hideous faces of ecstasy and gratification'. Shearing them would be really tough; the outer guard hair is tough stuff.

The wool is generally called qiviut and is not so much expensive as unavailable.

#418 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 07:07 PM:

The "seven basic plots" thesis reminds me of Mortimer Adler's contention that there are one hundred and one Great I deas (or whatever it was)

#419 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 07:15 PM:

And if you *do* decide to register for the NYT, they don't care if you use obscenities toward them in the password.

#420 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 07:25 PM:

Erik Nelson:

And what what distinguishes Science Fiction from Sci-Fi is the ratio of ideas divided by plots?

#421 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 07:58 PM:

Thanks, Ken, for such a quick reply. Straight from the horse's mouth, too; I thought I'd seen you use the word, and I know I'd seen Iain Banks use it.

#422 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 08:16 PM:

Speaking of epochal geekshift, I found that I didn't mind that The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy movie was substantially different to the original radio series.

Don't get me wrong, I still heard decades-old echoes of the BBC's Radiophonics Workshop sound effects in my mind's ear, not to mention the voices of the original cast uttering missing lines -- proof that a part of the memeplex previously known as Douglas Adams still inhabits part of my brain -- but I still quite enjoyed the movie as it was. I suspect I would have resented it a bit if it had come out a decade ago.

Gosh, I wonder if I'm finally beginning to grow up?

#423 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 10:19 PM:

Anyone familiar with the area around Murray Hill, New Jersey?

I need to move there in the next couple of weeks, for a new job, and could use some pointers on where I should look for apartments.

#424 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 10:25 PM:

First time I came across the particular term was in a footnote of damon's: he had used The Hyphenated Term in a discussion of something or other, and an asterisk led one downpage to

*pronounced "skiffy."

Given the source, this well may have originated with him, or it may have been acquired from elsewhere. Perhaps it was injected into the metawerdalobe by m3m3T1k dØØdz from the Partridge Continuum,* because you people** won't wear yer damn tinfoil French letters!

*Eric, not Family. Aargh and again aargh.
**And why do we have a more precise definition for this term than for "sci-fi?" Hmm?

#425 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 10:26 PM:

Oh, I should note that I'm moving to New Jersey from Connecticut.

Basically, I'm hoping to find someplace good for a bookish, single 33 year old guy who likes to have a nice coffeehouse to hang out at, preferably with a not-too-painful commute to work.

Any advice would be appreciated.

#426 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 10:54 PM:

Way back there, Teresa wrote: "As noted earlier, not only can you not sell those things; you can't even give them away."

Here's a puzzler - I noted a novel on the new SF shelves at my library, which looked every bit like POD/self-published dreck.

A web search shows that it has turned up in many libraries.

It's called "Attack of the Bounty Hunters", by a "Steven Gordon". The cover art can be appreciated at http://www.cliffordcroft.com/

I have to wonder how libraries across the country were persuaded to add this classic to their collections.

Another book in the series has this description:

August, the home planet of the League of United Planets, has been invaded. The armed forces of the League were quickly defeated. The only ones left to oppose them were o superspy Clifford Croft, o the legendary bounty hunter known as the Silencer, o Red Sally, an angry fire starter, o a telekinetic named the Clapper who likes to clap, o Mongo, an anti social precognitor, and o Crazy Rob, who can turn his hand into a large wooden spoon.

Mongo! Crazy Rob! Spoon! I gotta read that!

Er, not.

#427 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2005, 11:49 PM:

Woo, look at the cover art of those! At least Circle's and Inside Circle's had plain covers. With painful, Courier type.... Maybe 'Free ebook" is how it spread. I wouldn't know, the last library I worked in (U-Kansas, AR Dykes Library of the Health Sciences) only had Very Expensive science books and journals.

#428 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2005, 12:12 AM:

Quivit/quivit -is- available

http://threeblacksheep.com/classes.asp

"Made from the downy undercoat of the musk ox, Quivit is a luxury but expensive ($70/ounce) fiber. Here's an opportunity to work with it and learn to read lace shorthand in a short workshop.
Kit $12 (makes three bookmarks)"

http://www.mountainshadowfarm.com/YarnandFiber.html

[out of spun yarn as of May 1, but has roving]

"Qiviut roving is available in natural gray for $25 per ounce."

http://www.folknits.yukon.net/q_yarn_page.html

Qivuit in different weights of yarn available.


#429 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2005, 12:40 AM:

I have to wonder how libraries across the country were persuaded to add this classic to their collections.

The persuasive power of "I am giving this to you for nothing" is so great, it has acquired wide currency among people whose actual intent is to take as much away from you as is physically possible. When the magic words come accompanied by an unsolicited (and therefore free even if money is requested) book, and you have lots of shelf space because your budget doesn't actually allow you to buy anything, the final line of resistance usually falls.

The royalty figures still suck, though.

"Ah, Crazy Rob -- or La Cuiller, as you have ingeniously though perhaps rashly decided to call yourself -- while Ororo is rehydrating the leftovers, Logan is on a beer run, and Scott and Jean are, shall we say, at dessert, perhaps you will make us some soup?"

#430 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2005, 02:44 AM:

This being Night, and as warm as Atlanta, let's try this in dialog plus interior monolog.

The persuasive power of "I am giving this to you for nothing" is so great, that it is only exceeded by "I am giving this to you for LESS than nothing, because I am paying you to take it."

"But why shouldn't I just take your money, take your crappy POD, and then throw it away when you've gone?"

"But I'll come back later and make sure you still have it."

"Let me suggest this: you give it to me for nothing, and then you or someone else buys it from me."

"Works for me!"

Still works, for the self-deluded, with small variation, for books with return policies (paperback cover, hardcover whole thing). Return policies, of course, not coming with the normal Vanity Press territory.

"Heavens, that works so well. I think I'll buy myself a Hugo / Edgar / Golden Spur... Then I can become a Brand name, recoup my inverstment, and maybe start showing that profit they promised me."

[to self, later]: "Hmmm. There's more to this self-publishing road to profit than I first thought when I signed up with Publish Amerika."

#431 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2005, 10:03 AM:

Re the Gulf Stream and the freezing of Europe: Stanley Weinbaum wrote a story on that, titled "Shifting Seas", in the 1930's. He hadn't thought of global warming, though. He used the volcanic destruction of Central America as the method of disruption of the Gulf Stream. But the idea of "Europe would be an icebox if not for the Gulf Stream" is hardly a new one.

In sympathy with Paula L.'s rants on recruiters from a few days ago, been there, felt the pain. I learned to treat recruiters in the same manner as people one is trying to date. If they don't return your calls after about three tries or one week, assume that they're not interested and don't waste any more time on them. Vary the amount of slack you give them based on how desirable they are.

Jon H: I live very close to Murray Hill and can even recommend some apartments. Look for my e-mail soon.

#432 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2005, 10:13 AM:

Jon H again: I tried to e-mail you but it seems to have bounced. Try mailing me if you still want info.

#433 ::: Emily ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2005, 10:29 AM:

I work in an academic library, and we get POD/self-published books donated to us on a fairly frequent basis. They do wind up getting processed and put on the shelves, regardless of badness, because they're free; I've never encountered an obviously POD/self-published book coming through processing that *didn't* have a donation slip in it.

The worst offender I've seen was a non-fiction book done up entirely in 14-point Comic Sans. I said to myself, "This is why real publishers exist."

#436 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2005, 04:52 PM:

Emily, my local library system gives pretty much all donated books to the Friends to sell. The cost of getting it into the system is too much unless they wanted the book to start with.

#437 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2005, 05:48 PM:

Re "skiffy"

It certainly isn't only the Scottish who use this term. A friend who was a member of the executive committee of the University of Exeter Science Fiction Society told me that many of their members used it frequently. This was about 6 or 7 years ago.

#438 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2005, 07:43 PM:

Since it's an open thread...

I actually had a skiffy dream last night - it was sort of a pastiche of Farscape and Futurama (two universes that don't fit together terribly well, but my subconscious somehow managed to merge them seamlessly) that ended with a firefight that triggered a huge nuclear exchange on Earth.

Which, of course, caused me to suddenly sit bolt upright in bed at 5 AM unable to fall back to sleep.

I think I'm rediscovering my inner fan. Either that or I should have skipped that bowl of Greek yogurt before I went to bed.

#439 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2005, 09:42 PM:

Linkmeister: From The Scientist:
random, nonsense computer science papers-complete with figures, graphs, and references.

Another nosy link, another opportunity to refuse to register. Does it have anything more than the SCIgen page?

#440 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2005, 10:07 PM:

Salwar kameez again:

Having won an EBay auction for one of these, and gotten Andy to take lots of measurements, I now am faced with decisions about sleeve length. I suspect that long sleeves are most traditional, but it's already getting on to summer: has anyone gotten a short-sleeved or sleeveless kameez, and if so, do you like it?

Also, do I really want it knee-length?

#441 ::: Zzedar ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2005, 10:20 PM:

Open threadiness:

American-Australian Slang Dictionary.

#442 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2005, 11:04 PM:

Bad mathematics in the sidebar to the NYT article on the Platonic solids puzzle:

"...the puzzle incorporates all five of the possible forms that can be made using identical flat faces with sides of equal length."

Actually, all the vertices have to join up the same way, too, or else you can make many more (especially if they can be concave). When I was a kid I thought I'd discovered a new Platonic solid because I didn't understand this.

#443 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 12:57 AM:

Wow. New subthread. (pace, Xopher). Slang terms. I've always wondered what an American means by the apparently opposed terms "uptown" and "downtown". I can't work out what they mean from context.

#444 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 01:30 AM:

I don't know the actual etymology, but I suspect that Uptown and Downtown derive from Manhattan, where Downtown is south and Uptown is north and the terms function both as directional indicators and names for large swaths of the island.

Downtown is pretty much always a city's central business district (although many cities' CBDs have different names, e.g. Chicago's Loop and Philadelphia's Center City) and Uptown is usually a relatively urban residential district.

In Manhattan, Downtown is a relative thing. Wall Streeters usually think of Downtown as everything below Canal or Houston St, whereas others put the boundary as far north as 14th St. I take this as proof that New Yorkers are really quite provincial.

Manhattan, of course also has Midtown, which is the newer central business district, and just to keep things simple, within NYC you'll find Downtown Brooklyn, Downtown Jamaica and Downtown Flushing (both in Queens).

#445 ::: Zack ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 01:44 AM:

Dave: "Downtown" is the commercial center of the city, the part with the most skyscrapers. "Uptown" is some other part of the city, which could be considered "up" relative to downtown. Not all cities have an uptown; here in San Francisco, the Market district is downtown, but I don't think we have an uptown.

As I understand it, the terms originate from Manhattan, where downtown and uptown were originally directions of travel (buses and subways are still described as traveling uptown (north), downtown (south), or crosstown (east/west)). It happens that the commercial center is at the south end of the island, so downtown came to mean the commercial center.

#446 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 02:35 AM:

I have been playing around with the idea of moving to an all salwar kameez wardrobe for years, and never really followed up on it because I don't sew and can't afford a tailor. Teresa's article motivated me, and I'm hooked. Wow! I'm so thrilled with my first one that I'm eagerly bidding on more.

Vicki, try 3/4 length sleeves. They are loose-fitting enough to be cool, and in winter you can wear a long sleeved something in a contrasting color underneath. And yes, you want knee-length.

#447 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 06:53 AM:

Vicki - the only salwar kameez I own is one I bought in an Indian shop, off the rack - the sleeves are about elbow-length.

#448 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 10:09 AM:

Vicki: I have a sleeveless, formal, silk salwar kameez, and it's gorgeous. It came with short sleeves that I could have sewn on, but I didn't bother. I've seen students in hip-length salwar kurtas (same shape, just shorter) but they wear them over jeans. The proportions would be funny-looking with the salwar kameez pants.

#449 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 10:51 AM:

In Hoboken, right across the river from Manhattan, 'downtown' means the west side, which is physically lower than the rest of the city (and in fact was river and marsh 150 years ago). People who live uptown (the eastern streets around the ridge) still use the Manhattan-based 'downtown' to mean south and 'uptown' to mean north, but that's because they never GO downtown, ever.

Still, it's generally clear from context; if it's used as a place ("How's that (campaign lit or whatever) play downtown?") it's the west side and if it's a direction ("I'm heading downtown") it's usually south. If you aren't sure you can look at who's saying it; if they're under thirty and look well-off they probably mean south.

Within Manhattan, the inhabitants of Harlem use "moving downtown" to mean leaving Harlem, and possibly forgetting or dishonoring one's roots in the community.

#450 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 01:00 PM:

Matt McIrvin:

You're right, but could go further. There are, for example, ironically in the context of this article's references to Kepler, the Kepler-Poinsot solids.

The Kepler-Poinsot solids "are the four regular concave polyhedra with intersecting face planes. They are composed of regular concave polygons and were unknown to the ancients. Kepler discovered two and described them in his work Harmonice Mundi in 1619. These two were subsequently rediscovered by Poinsot, who also discovered the other two, in 1809. As shown by Cauchy, they are stellated forms of the dodecahedron and icosahedron."

The illustrations in this link are lovely -- and you can rotate them with your mouse.

"Regular" meaning that the faces are identical, and that the vertices are identical. The faces just happen to include Star Polygons, and to slice through each other. But who said they couldn't?

And then there are the infinite polyhedra. But
that's another story.

#451 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 01:14 PM:

I've been trying to post the above, and the below, for over 12 hours, and keep getting "Your comment was denied for questionable content."

Finally, I cut my comment in half. The Math got through (I cut out "penetrated" and wondered if "facial" or "Poinsot" was offensive). I'll try for about the 17th time to delete some words from the below and try again. Nope. That failed a dozen ways. Have now eliminated almost the entire subsets of quoted lyrics. Why did this happen?

Zack & Dave:

Does that explain Billy Joel's Uptown [youthful female]?
{An [not guilty] [male], Released 1983}

It's the connotations, not the street directions as such.

That would be a cool song for the cast of "[illegal associations] of New York" to break into song, West Side Story-style.

Hmmm, now we'd have to explain West Side/East Side.

Street Locator for New York City "... an algorithm which will ESTIMATE cross streets for any address on a numbered street in Manhattan. ... 400-499, 1st and York, York is Ave A below 14th ..."

#452 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 01:21 PM:

East Side and West Side are just what they sound like, except that the East Side isn't really east and the West Side isn't really west.

#453 ::: Stef Kelsey ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 01:36 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2005, 01:31 PM:

The Locus staff throws those books away. There's nothing else they can do with them. The things are unsaleable, and no one will take them as a donation.

Unsaleable. POD books are unsaleable. OK.

eXtasy Books (Booksurge and ebook) author Morgan Hawke attended the bookselling at the Romantic Times Convention 2005 with her novel, House of Shadows, brought to you by POD. She sold out. 25 copies in twenty minutes. This is a FACT.And she was turning people away the entire time after. People actually went to the website and bought it. Amazing. So much for unsaleable. (Is that even a word?) Imagine how many she could have sold if only people didn't have a tendency toward POD prejudice.

Sorry to burst your generality.

#454 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 02:01 PM:

Visited Riverworld this weekend. No steamboat visible, but I wouldn't be surprised:

http://home.comcast.net/~stefan_jones/vista_house_view.JPG
http://home.comcast.net/~stefan_jones/valley_view_wide.JPG

#455 ::: Stef Kelsey ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 03:39 PM:

Excuse me. Generalization.

#456 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 03:45 PM:

Downtown/Uptown
In older cities built on a grid, New York being the archtype, downtown is towards the lower-numbered streets. By extrapolation, towards the old commercial district. Staid old department stores and the like. Uptown, by contrast, can be the place where the "cooler" stuff happens, avant-garde, on the edge, in the lower rent areas (at least for a while).
Over time, of course, this all changes as the value of property changes and stuff moves around, but the idiom still holds, sorta.
At least, that's the way it feels to me.
In rural New Hampshire, we'd go "downstreet" to the store.

#457 ::: Holly Messinger ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 03:47 PM:

Hi, since you guys were talking about POD again (way, way up there)--does anybody have any first-hand experience with Mundania Press, LLC? They are not POD in the pejorative sense, but they are small and I'd like to hear some anecdotal evidence.

Thanks.

#458 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 04:18 PM:

Jimcat: East Side and West Side are just what they sound like, except that the East Side isn't really east and the West Side isn't really west.

???

Sure, the Manhattan street grid isn't true North/South, but the East Side certainly is east and the West Side is west, at least relative to the arbitrary dividing line of (mostly) 5th Ave.

#459 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 04:24 PM:

Stef Kelsey:
Teresa's line that you quoted was her stating what Locus' opinion of POD was, specifically about the POD volumes that were sent to them, unsolicited, for review. Later on in the same comment she made exception for certain niche markets, specifically including Romance as one of those special markets. Science Fiction fandom produces lots of low-volume, er, volumes that sell quite well and quickly under the right circumstances, forex. The issue isn't with the printing technology, it's with the business model of POD publishers -- suck the author in, take their money, sell them a few copies. No need to edit, market, distribute, or spend much money at all. And the real issue she has with all of this, is that it sucks in some authors that, with rewrites, and edits, and learning what story they are actually trying to tell -- may have had an honest chance of getting published in a way that strangers would read their books, like them, and even ask for more. Teresa isn't so much prejudiced against POD, as she is prejudiced towards authors, and good books, and competent storytelling.

She isn't even prejudiced against vanity publishers. She's written a lot about this around here, with additional expert commentary by other professionals in the field. Look around Making Light, read her actual opinions, in detail -- not just soundbites. She's done the research, sees the damage that it does to hopeful authors and to publishing.

It isn't prejudice, it's an expert opinion.

#460 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 04:56 PM:

Dan wrote: "Does it have anything more than the SCIgen page?"

Other than some background on PubMed's statistics, nope. If you know SCIGen's link, you don't need the article (op/ed, actually).

#461 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 05:03 PM:

Bravo, John Houghton.

#462 ::: Kate Yule ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 08:45 PM:

My David once referred to something as being in East Milwaukee. I was startled. "What, you mean Lake Michigan?"

#463 ::: Zack ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 09:27 PM:

JvP:

Yes, I do believe Uptown Girl is riffing on the usual associations of "uptown" and "downtown", but I'm not sure which city he's riffing on - NYC is plausible, but so is, say, Hoboken. The implication in the song is clearly that people from uptown are richer and fancier than people from downtown, and that is true of Manhattan provided that you carefully define your terms. The Upper East Side would qualify as "uptown", but there's a lot of Manhattan that's farther north, that wouldn't. Similarly, there are areas of downtown Manhattan (broadly construed as everything south of Central Park) that the singer could hail from, and other areas that he couldn't.

#464 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2005, 10:43 PM:

I think I may have found a contributing factor in that gentleman from Waterstone's enthusiastic pimping of Macmillan's new vanity imprint - it seems that Waterstones are *also* setting up in business as a vanity press, in collaboration with AuthorHouse:

http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/050505/phth057.html?.v=5

#465 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 02:30 AM:

Zzedar: I just surfed the slang dictionary, and found a link to another page by the same author, Words Americans should avoid saying to Australians. It's *staggeringly* inaccurate. I'm not sure how much of my crogglement at it is differences in age, class and home state, but wow.

The one that hit me was 'bugger'. It has a fairly broad range of applications here. He could have mentioned the "Oh bugger!" Toyota ad campaign, the expression 'poor bugger', or 'bugger this,' but he went for a lame joke based on an interpretation I can't believe USians wouldn't also know, which he described as "not usually even discussed, much less practised, in polite company."

The other thing that shocks me a bit, this time with the dictionary you linked to, is his intended audience. Who are they? Australians who aren't exposed from birth to US culture through TV, books, the advertising industry and the news media, I mean. It's just really odd. I mean, I'm not saying we know how US slang is actually spoken, but by the look of it neither does he.

Thanks for posting it.

#466 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 06:29 AM:

Slang: The lists are now obsolete, and Australians and New Zealanders will understand you, though they might smile gently. I seemed to get the same reactions from Americans. I'm astonished, since there we are exploring obsolete usages, that there wasn't a laboured exploration for the differing interpretations of the expression (to be) "knocked up".

Aus/NZ: to be exhausted.

US: to be pregnant, with an implication of regrettable inadvertence.

#467 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 07:48 AM:

Thought people here might be amused by this spam e-mail:

From: Roc Doherty
To: Jaffer Dudley
Subject: [iso-8859-1] ClÁLlSS VÁ1iUM VìAGRRA


Roc Doherty?? :)

#468 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 08:02 AM:

Dave Luckett wrote:

the differing interpretations of the expression (to be) "knocked up".

Aus/NZ: to be exhausted.

It must be very obsolete - I've never heard that meaning in Australia. I only know it from British books - Conan Doyle in particular.

Aussie slang for pregnant, by the way, would be 'preggers,' 'preggo' or 'up the duff.'

#469 ::: Dave MB ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 09:13 AM:

["to knock up"]

When I lived in Britain in 1981-2 I was surprised
to hear this used to mean "to make an impromptu
visit", since I was only familiar with the US "to make
pregnant, usually unfortunately" described above.

Brits were surprised that "Randy" was a common male
nickname in the US, since in the UK it meant "sexually
aroused".

"Durex" was a leading brand name for condoms in the
UK, while Australian friends told me that at home it was
a brand of adhesive tape. This led to visions of an
Australian entering a UK chemist's and loudly asking for
"a packet of Durex, sticky on both sides"...

#470 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 10:51 AM:

Dave MB:

One of my teachers at school in Australia told a tale of having gone over to the UK to work for a year, and wanting to put up a notice in the staffroom, innocently and loudly asked, "Has anyone got some Durex?" It seems that shocked silence ensued...

#471 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 11:20 AM:

Resistance is futile.

(Scroll all the way down.)

#472 ::: Craig Steffen ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 05:35 PM:

And now for something completely different:

Teresa lists this link:
http://www.bookmillionaire.com/
in her particles sidebar as "An inventive but barfworthy new scam."

Looking at it, I suppose it could be purely a scam to get people to put in their e-mail addresses. However, I think it's just as likely to be a way to get people to audition for something that's the writing equivalent of "American Idol". You have an excuse to put people up in front of judges and rip them apart.

If that's the case, I wonder how they'd get judges that would possibly seem even slightly legit. Yeah, I suppose it's the scam thing. I guess we'll find out.

#473 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2005, 06:00 PM:

"And now let's introduce tonight's judges: the master of the superthriller, Charles Latimer; the ranking general of Broadway, Franz Liebkind . . . and everybody's favorite gin martini with a twist of the knife, newspaper columnist J. J. Hunsecker!"

#474 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 11:22 AM:

I remember being surprised when I learned that friends studying English were taking a course on Freud. It seems they needed it so that they could talk about all the Freudian imagery some authors put into their works.

It's a bit like studying Lowell and Schiaparelli so that you can understand Barsoom.

That depends on whether you think (a) Freud had a point and (b) you're talking about images added consciously or unconsciously; IIRC, one of his points was that the user of a symbol wasn't aware of the symbolic meaning. Kuttner used this in the first Baldy story, whose telepathic lead makes a living by psychoanalyzing authors to comb their bents and biases out of their books. I think it's more likely your examples were trying to find something that wasn't there, but it's not certain.


JvP: the Periodic Table is a nice bit of snark. Do you remember I^2R calendars?

re uptown/downtown: the definition of downtown as the main business area (or entertainment, cf Petula Clark's first hit) can be altered by the fairy ring effect; cf not only Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" as discussed, but also "Downtown" in Little Shop of Horrors (uptown is where the ground-down work as clerks, janitors, etc; downtown is where they live and the story happens). It's possibly that the term comes not from compass orientation but from elevation (as in Xopher's example); businesses would be on the bay shore or river bank, residences any place away from there (i.e., higher).
Dave, if we haven't confused you enough already you should come to Boston, where we've rotated the compass: South Boston is east, East Boston is north, and the West End (where Nimoy grew up) isn't.

#475 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 12:06 PM:

We seem to have slipped onto the end of a great empire of thread-dom. So we don't kinow if many other people followed the Periodic Table link. We also never had a chance to discuss whether Frued was essentially a fiction author pretending to be a scientist, as his hypotheses were unfalsifiable, but his prose so polished and sprinkled with literary references. Now, about DOWNTOWN. I write this from Altadena, an unincorporated community of 50,000 people with a hopping/banking district but to downtown, just north of Pasadena, which has a multiple downtown, including "old town" which was seedy when I arrived in 1968, and has become a destination for for people in about a 50 mile radius, with some 700 restaurants, and uncountable art galleries, book stores, and foot traffic. This is just a few miles by America's first freeway to "downtown" Los Angeles, which famously was a nondestination (cf. "Hollywood & Vine" some miles West) that's undergoing a boom in yuppification of decayed hotels into expensive hip apartments. Ray Bradbury was a consultant to the Mall development industry, contending that the Mall had replaced both urban downtown and small town commons.

My uncle Joe Vos, who used to play cards with Richard Feynman and Frank Sinatra, once dated Petula Clark at the heights of her fame from the wonderful song you cite:

Petula Clark
"Downtown"
written by Tony Hatch

When you're alone
And life is making you lonely,
You can always go downtown
When you've got worries,
All the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know, downtown
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares and go
Downtown, things'll be great when you're
Downtown, no finer place for sure,
Downtown, everything's waiting for you
(Downtown)
Don't hang around
And let your problems surround you
There are movie shows downtown
Maybe you know
Some little places to go to
Where they never close
downtown....

This is not to be confused with:

"Downtown"
Ray Conniff

"Downtown Train"
ARTIST: Tom Waits
ALBUM: Rain Dogs
YEAR: 1985

"Walk Around Downtown"
This is a nice song about Providence, Rhode Island.

"Downtown Life"
Hall And Oates
Music by D. Hall, J. Oates, R. Iantosca
Lyrics by D. Hall, J. Oates, S. Allen

Ah yeah,
Oh, oh, yeah
No doubt
Do it downtown in from the outside
Yeah, find the scene & work it brother
Moving thru sound
City's like wild life
All overgrown & living undercover
And wound up so tight

(We love the Downtown Life)
Downtime life baby
(Driftin' thru the day waiting for the nite, oh oh)
Oh
(Downtown Life)
(it feels so right)
Feels so right
(It keeps me hangin' on, hangin' on)

So listen now
Velvet Lou was a neighbor of mine
Now he walks the dog in Jersey, Brother
Yuppies in black with the white collar crime
They scared away the local color
But they can't steal the nite...

or

"Downtown samba"
Yello

Canal Street's where we dance
We do the rhumba, samba
The city's hot, we're almost naked
It's a scandal
Night's still young
We do the samba with the congo warrior...

Downtown by Frank Sinatra

Downtown Science
» Radioactive

[ VERSE 1 ]
Sunrise, darkness fades to light
Illuminatin the sky, as well as the insight
To see a new beginning, and resurrect
Reminiscent of the Phoenix, and recollect
Thoughts from the universe of ideas
Select lyrics to illustrate the obvious
Image, project it, so everybody sees it
Off the soul, take the body, and freeze it
Suspended animation
To the 10th degree of virtuosity
Mind is free
Risen from the prison of humanism
To reflect on innervision
And be enlightened
State of awareness heightened
To a level above and beyond
That of intelligent life
Devine [sic], eternal as space and time
Able to transform shape and design
From liquid to gas, light to sound
To each new substance
Matter is constant
Not created or destroyed
Merely deployed
As words in a radio void
(Radio) (Radio)
(Radioactive)

DOWNTOWN a board game of air warfare over Hanoi. During the Rolling Thunder (1965-68) and Linebacker (1972) campaigns, Hanoi and the Red River Valley was the focus of American air operations targeting North Vietnam's military, economy and Communist leadership. Against large ‘packages' of US attack and support aircraft, the Vietnamese deployed a formidable array of anti-aircraft artillery (AAA), Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) and MiG fighter jets.

Covering air operations from 1965 to 1972, Downtown recreates the clashes between American air power and the North Vietnamese air defence system. The United States player controls Air Force and Navy strikes into Route Packs 5 and 6 – the heart of the Vietnamese defences.

#476 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 03:56 PM:

Dear Ghu, JVP, you can put links to established songs.

#477 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 04:12 PM:

Marilee:

You're right of course. I was excerpting the parts of the lyrics that directly related to downtowndom as such. Nor do I want to give links to downloadings that don't pay the songwriters. But it did make for an uncomfortably large blob of text. Sorry. Download Downtown Downbeat Downlow Downtime.

My wife points out that, in Edinburgh, Scotland, "uptown" means "uphill" (i.e. towards The Castle). Which is, by the way, where J. K. Rowling will give her Special Reading of the new Harry Potter book on the midnight of its global pub date.

#478 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 10:28 PM:

Here in KC, uptown and downtown are literally that (at least on the Missouri side, the 'old' part of town....). Downtown is below the bluffs, rising from the river to the base of the bluffs. Uptown is on top of the bluffs. Hyde Park, where I live, is 'uptown,' when it was developed and houses were built, they were built by the upper middle class of the time ==the Really Nice houses were in the Northeast, that's where the lumber barons etc. built their homes.

#479 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2005, 11:06 PM:

As far as rotating the compass in cities goes, nothing can faze me. I was born in Sydney, where the Western suburbs are south and the Eastern suburbs are north and the North shore is only North for certain aberrant values of North. Not that anyone from Campsie ever bothered their head about that end of town; not that it ended there, either.

#480 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 01:19 AM:

Look fast before eBay pulls this!

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=15154&item=4992718459&rd=1

#481 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 02:30 AM:

Stepan Jones:

"REAL TIME MACHINE ALL GOLD REPLICATOR CAR BUSINESS"

Hey, this time line was not supposed to have that technology. Call the Time Patrol!

My son comments:
"Just had a question from alien from planet zxy2 asking me to stop my ad..." I dunno, that alien has a pretty bad ebay user rating, I'd have to side with the Earthians on this one and let the guy sell his certificate of ownership for whatever the hell this is.

Also I would like to remind all of you out there that you have my permission to remind my father whenever he posts something that he could be fulfilling one of his many responsibilities to his family, and in this instance staying up late posting about some inane ebay product will cause him to be tired in the morning when he has to drive me to my carpool stop by 6:45 am. Last week he stayed up blogging too, and took the wrong freeway exit. We miss the carpool, and when I get to school I find out that they called our house to see where we went, and my dear mother, knowing we had left some time ago, became so worried we were in an accident or had suffered some sort of vehicular breakdown that she called the local sheriffs and highway patrol, and spent the next hour driving up and down the route looking for us.

There is nothing quite like having the president of the most powerful student organization on a campus of 40,000 students pause in the middle of an address to his board of directors to answer his phone (especially when you are running for the presidential office in the elections next week), have him hand it over to you, and having to assure your distressed mother that you are in one piece, rather than a smear on the pavement, at 7:00 am, to wake you up in the morning. Thanks dad.

#482 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 09:51 AM:

I think, JvP, that your son should post under his own ID...and I'd propose SarkyBoy for his tag. But he has already stated that his attitude toward blogging is much like that of a child of alcoholic parents toward drink, so I suppose he won't.

For those of us who are grammar geeks, please note that SarkyBoy's sudden shift in tenses in the middle of his second paragraph is not some adolescent error, but in fact a use of the narrative present, to give immediacy to the events described.

(I'm calling him SarkyBoy because I can't remember his name, if I ever knew it, and it seems SO apt. Apologies if this offends anyone, especially the principal in the matter.)

SarkyBoy (again, no offense intended), I'd suggest that you can leverage this situation to argue for them to get you your very own cellphone, so that your mother can call you (or, better, text you) if she's worried. Then you can text her back with "+alive, -smear" or a complete sentence if you're an obsessive grammar geek like me, and all without disrupting your meeting. You will find that a cell phone has myriad other uses as well, particularly during a campaign for office.

#483 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 12:44 PM:

Xopher:

It seems like whining for me to comment that my son had left his cellphone at a friend's house. That excuse cut no mustard with his mother, my wife. Okay, I took the wrong exit. I didn't think it would have such consequences...

Why did Moses wander in the desert for 40 years? Because he wouldn't ask anyone else for driving directions.

#484 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2005, 01:03 PM:

Now the Chronicle of Higher Education has picked up the Poetry Context Scam story.

Rhyme & Unreason:
How a Web site purporting to uncover fraud shook up the world of poetry contests

By THOMAS BARTLETT
From the issue dated 20 May 2005

For fans of PA and Macmillan, note that: "the fact is, poetry books don't sell, and so-called reading fees paid by contestants subsidize the cost of publication by small and university presses. That works well for the presses, but for poets it can mean spending a small fortune trying to get their words into print."

#485 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 12:35 AM:

In case I missed it before....

Xopher wrote,

Which I'll continue to do when it seems appropriate.

That is not acceptable.

#486 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 12:45 AM:

Developments in Mariology

Official: Mary not a saviour
by Linda Morris, May 17, 2005
After decades of bickering, an international ecumenical body of 18 bishops, clergy, religious and laypeople from 10 countries, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, devoted to bridging the gulf between the Anglican and Catholic churches has reached an historic agreement about the role of Mary, Mother of Jesus ...
The report Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ, was issued in Seattle early today Sydney time ...

#487 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 02:21 AM:

By whom, Paula?

#488 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 05:45 AM:

Tut tut. To whom, surely?

#489 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 10:43 AM:

Official: Buddha not obese.

Official: Confucius did not write for Charlie Chan or fortune cookies.

Official: Mohammed vowed respect for Christians and Jews: "People of the Book."

Official: Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu will add to Board of Directors.

Official: throwing stones at Animists can be same as throwing Gods.

Official: fanzines declared holy writ, fandom claims blogging a religious activity, tax exempt.

#490 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 10:45 AM:

Anyone here see that silly TV movie "Hercules"? Cheesy in places as expected, with silly special effects and allusions to everything from the LOTR movies to Star Wars ("Hercules, you are *my* son!"), but the Aryan anti-feminist tone was pretty annoying. If they'd made it a few years earlier, it could have starred Ahnold -- he'd seem suited for those snowy landscapes (New Zealand). At the end, my husband noted they'd left out the Augean Stables task, and I said they could have changed it to him and the nymph having a dozen or so more kids, and he had to change all their diapers! The NY Times concentrated on the "acting" and dialog and missed some of this stuff.

#491 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 11:30 AM:

Yes, Paula, acceptable to (or by) whom? And by what real or imagined authority do you pronounce such a judgement?

If it pleases you, you can tear out pages in books that have such phrasing in them (as long as you own them); you can stop reading any email or post that does as well. But you are neither my editor nor my teacher, and I don't have to ask your permission to use any phrasing that pleases me.

If you meant "not acceptable" in English class, or in the New York Times, or even in business writing (where I've seen some appalling things), fine. But when you state without qualification that it's "not acceptable," you appear to be setting yourself up as the arbiter of acceptability for English. Frankly I doubt that you actually meant anything so obviously silly, but I'm far from certain what you did mean.

This reminds me of the people who used to complain about the use of 'really' to mean 'very' -- not realizing that 'very' meant 'actually' or 'truly' not so very long ago! Linguistic changes can be annoying or they can be gratifying, but they will continue to be no matter how much we gnash our teeth or dance with joy.

#492 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 11:33 AM:

Jonathan Shaw: Tut tut.

It's much more politically correct to call him by his full name, Tutankhamun.*

*or even his birthname, Tutankhaten.

#493 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 11:37 AM:

Lucy wrote that her pet peeve is grammar peeves. Mine, in that area, is people who think that their pet grammar peeves are something they have the right to enforce on everyone, regardless of context.

If I were copyediting a reasonable formal article, I probably would change Xopher's sentences beginning with "Which..." along with a variety of other things that are perfectly reasonable in other contexts, such as Weblog postings. Not because they are "not acceptable" to Paula Lieberman or to the hypothetical gods, but because they are not appropriate in that context. There are contexts in which I've been expected to expand contractions, so that the previous clause would have said "I have been expected." Not because they're "wrong," but because my employer thought they were too informal for an academic journal.

#494 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 12:19 PM:

Vicki:

In my burning youth, I used to have papers published which modestly said "It has been found that..." followed by an equation. It took me years to discover that nobody realized that I had discovered the equation that followed. Now I get very informal, say "I have discovered an equation that will change the world..." and give the equation. Then I let the referees and editors add false modesty.

For the last year and a half I have been submitting an average of more than one mathematical nugget per day. More and more are published on legitimate edited online encyclopedias now. Those editors ruthlessly weed out the personal text anyway. I figure, let the editor feel that he/she is making a contribution. If they are happy to eliminate a phrase here and there, they are less likely to take the time to challenge an equation.

This is exactly the opposite of Science Fiction, where few but Benford, Blish (the Spindizzy equation), and Forward slip equations into novels. His editor told Stephen Hawking that each equation added to a mass-marketed book cuts the audience in half. Hence the first edition of "A Brief History of Time" had only one equation. E = MC^2. Imagine how well it would have sold if he'd left that out...

#495 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 12:22 PM:

Vicki -- naw, ya wouldn't change 'em. They wouldna been thar in t'foist place!

Seriously, I generally know what level of formality is appropriate for the context. My bosses sometimes feel I set the level too low, but the people to whom I send email understand less formal language better, and so I use it. THEY are appreciative of my plain speaking.

I certainly would agree with you not only that more formal language would be appropriate in an academic journal, but that you'd be quite right to change such sentences in the unlikely event they appeared in my prose for such a market.

Note, however, that I said in my initial post on the topic that I generally restricted such informality to privileged contexts, such as dialogue or first-person narrative. So you'd be unlikely to find sentences like that (or even like this one) in that context.

#496 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 01:31 PM:

"That is not acceptable" is a sentence.

"Which is what I was showing" is not a sentence.

Why don't/won't people use that instead of which in such cases!??!! It looks illiterate by both writers and copyeditors.

It's not really that subtle a grammatical point. It's linguistic debasement....

If indicating a pause, that's what there are things likes em-dashes for!

"That is not acceptable" is a sentence.
"That is not acceptable--which I was showing ironically but apparently Xopher didn't notice the irony of responding to a grammatical abomination use of which with a flat statement starting with that.

I just find it extremely annoying and irritating to see that particular grammatical abomination committed again and again and again and so rarely seeing the correct formation, which is to use that, instead of which, if wanting to put a period in rather than a comma or an em-dash!

I am sensitive to writing style and find various Hugo-nominated books, for example, unreadable because the writing style is so offputting to me. Two of the currently nominated books are written in present tense, for example. That is almost insurmountable for me as regards finding something readable. The most recent Lowachee novel was in present tense and I was able to read it--that's an exception, though. It was an idiosyncracy of the particular character doing the narrating, which character had been introduced earlier in the series. Generally, present tense comes off to me as an irrirating auteurial affectation indicative of other stylistic characteristics that I am not a receptive audience for.

In speech, I use "that" and not "which" when it's a separate sentence. If I say "which" at the start of saying something, it's either being used as an object, as in "Which of these is more offensive?" or followed by a noun which is either the subject of the sentence or perhaps object, as in "Which type of marmalade is that?" or as in "Which type of marmalade has Teresa made most recently." I don't say, "Which was silly," I say, "That was silly." Which is the start of a subordinate clause, and there ought to be the -rest- of the sentence in an actual sentence. I keep seeing that not happening in books and it irritates me.

#497 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 01:36 PM:

Paula Lieberman: Which I agree with.

#498 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 02:07 PM:

You see, Paula, you sacrificed clarity for the sake of following an arbitrary rule. The particular kind of unclarity that characterizes your earlier post is what I call "breaking the frame." Since 'that' must have an antecedent, it was logically the sentence of mine you quote; the only ambiguity was whether it was the sentence itself you were objecting to, or my announcement, contained therein, of intending to continue using 'which' to begin sentences as often as pleases me -- which actually, given the self-referential nature of the sentence, is a distinction without a difference.

I love it when people use the word 'abomination' in this kind of context. Shall we who write such things be put to death, and our blood be upon us? :-) And the whole "this is a sentence, but that isn't" has more basis in the practices of ruler-wielding nuns than in actual linguistic fact. There are preferred types of sentences in English, to be sure, and they are the only types that are allowed in highly formal discourse, but it's just a pedagogical convention to pretend that they are the only things that are "really" sentences, or "complete" sentences.

People don't talk in "complete sentences." If you want your writing to read like speaking, you can't write in them, either. Sometimes you need to break a rule for a specific effect. Often this sort of thing occurs because a speaker was going to go on, but was interrupted or distracted; sometimes the independent clause is understood, or has been said by someone else.

Suppose John says "Now we know Teresa is the Thing." If Mary says "That's what I was saying," that means nearly the same thing as if she says "Which is what I was saying." In both cases John and Mary agree that Teresa is the Thing (and who could doubt it?). But the second version conveys her irritation that John hasn't been listening in a way that, to my "ear," is lost in the first; she adds a dependent clause onto his sentence to express that irritation.

You do better, Paula, when you talk about what you personally find annoying. Everyone is entitled to that. But I'd advise against using terms like "linguistic debasement" -- which sounds to me more like a slave's never being allowed to say 'I' -- because they just make you sound arch and pedantic. I picture you brandishing a ruler when you say that (though NOT dressed as a nun, you'll be glad to hear).

#499 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 02:14 PM:

OK, I could have sworn, when I gloated away back up this thread, that someone here recommended That Darn Squid God around the end of last year. But I can't find it in a search, nor can I find my gloat. But anyway. Ahem. Speaking of books which could have used a good editor:

1. A curate is not the same thing as a curator. And when the character referred to is a young woman in Victorian England, it's highly unlikely she would be a curate. Twice so far.

2. When your story features a member of the British nobility and you wish to refer to him in more generic terms than by using his name, you do not refer to him as "the lord" but as "the duke" or "the marquis" or whatever title may be appropriate. At least you don't in anything I've ever read, and I've read my share of Regencies and Wodehouses.

3. Mollusk is too broad. Say cephalopod when that's what you mean. A mollusk with radiating arms conjures up an image of the Shell Oil symbol crossed with a Hindu statue.

4. The sea should not go from raging to preternaturally calm back to raging in the same paragraph without some explanation. Or at least some notice on the part of the characters. "Egad, Carstairs, but the sea has suddenly gone preternaturally calm. Convenient time to take a peep through the old spyglass. Oh, I say, there go the waves again, dash it all."

Alright, I should just lighten up...it IS very funny in places.

#500 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 03:07 PM:

I find my gloat

Him name is Hopkin?

#501 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 04:14 PM:

On the grammar and context discussion:

My sixth grade geography teacher insisted we respond to true/false questions with "The answer is [true/false]." For one question this was annoying, but for thirty it seemed like punishment. I saw it as weight-throwing rather than an attempt to help us learn grammar or improve clarity. (Other teachers required us to write "true" or "false" rather than abbreviate "T" or "F," but that was explained as a device to improve readability and avoid arguments over graphite smudges. Because of the explanation, it didn't bother me.)

In general Internet contexts, to try and tie this back to the discussion, I think weight-throwing is the motivation most of the time. In the ML context, I know people genuinely care about grammar, so I don't think I'd be offended if someone were to point out my mistakes. (This is not an implicit criticism of anyone, BTW— I'm just talking about how I feel.)

#502 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 04:32 PM:

I suppose that it might not be coming across that what I find so objectionable, is the use of "which" instead of "that" in books, in para-sentences that aren't sentences, but would be using "which" rather than "that."

If someone does it speaking, I won't correct them, but I won't think they're highly literate, either.

#503 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 05:05 PM:

Xopher wrote,

People don't talk in "complete sentences."

That depends on the person. I suspect that sentence fragments are a lot less common in speech than you seem to think they are--and there are people who when speaking use long convoluted sentences (ones which other people may get glassy-eyed trying to follow....).

"Stop that!" is a sentence, it's imperative.

"No," isn't a sentence, but it's a reply to a question or a direction (shortand e.g. for saying "Don't do that!") or other negation comment/response. It's not the expression of complete idea without an antecedent.

The affectation involving which which bugs me the most in print is when there's a paragraph split with a "Which..." sentence fragment on the new paragraph.

If you want your writing to read like speaking, you can't write in them, either.

I disagree. Most people I think really do speak in full sentences. "That's wrong" is I believe much more common that "Which is wrong," and people usually will say, "That's wrong" and not "wrong" when e.g. watching someone do something and trying to correct them, the words are to indicate that the process or action or way the person did something isn't correct and needed to be done differently/fixed. "Let me show you," or "Let me do that," are examples of sentences which often follow "That's wrong." Or, some will say, "That's not the right way to do that, you have to put a washer on before putting the nut on the screw." "Wait" and "Stop" are full sentences, they're imperative and the implicit subject is "you."

One or two words exclamations, or expressions which aren't full sentences and which are exclamations, are exclamations, not floating subordinate clauses generally. Someone yelling "You ratfink!" is expressing a negative sentiment about the person they're calling a ratfink. There is an implied "are a" in between
you" and "ratfink" --the verb "to be" got dropped out in the interests of cogency.

Sometimes you need to break a rule for a specific effect.

The effect on the audience might not be what the writer or speaker intended, that is, the person doing it might be assuming that the audience will react the way the writer or speaker expects, based on how the writer or speaker tends to react. This is not necessarily a good assumption.

Often this sort of thing occurs because a speaker was going to go on, but was interrupted or distracted; sometimes the independent clause is understood, or has been said by someone else.

In the case of "which" as whatever-the-term-is-for-word-which-initiates-subordinate-clause, almost always a subordinate clause beginning with which gets appended, not prepended, to the main body of a sentence, when used correctly. That is, "which" is in something of apposition and refers -back- to something already mentioned, not to something not yet mentioned. If there's a continuity break there's nothing to refer back as either "that" or "which."

Suppose John says "Now we know Teresa is the Thing." If Mary says "That's what I was saying," that means nearly the same thing as if she says "Which is what I was saying."

I don't see it, really, I don't, it looks/sounds to me as if Mary's literacy is bad in the latter instance.

In both cases John and Mary agree that Teresa is the Thing (and who could doubt it?). But the second version conveys her irritation that John hasn't been listening in a way that, to my "ear," is lost in the first; she adds a dependent clause onto his sentence to express that irritation.

Again, I don't have that interpretation/analysis/reaction at all.

#504 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 06:25 PM:

On a cooking note (and as a total non-grammar based aside), McSweeney's suggests blender speeds had they been invented 100 years earlier than they were.

#505 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 07:18 PM:

Paula: before you make claims about how people speak, try listening carefully to tapes. The mind behind the ear fills in structure, just as the mind behind the eye does, and as similarly subject to being misled.

i.e., Shrub isn't the only one whose literally-transcribed speech looks like an abomination.

#506 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 07:42 PM:

I've read verbatim transcripts of my own speech in legal depositions. It was painful to realize how ungrammatical my own words actually were.

#507 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2005, 09:47 PM:

"Fellow citizens, our country has suffered greatly from this cowardly attack on our territory, against not only our citizens but those of many nations. Now, there are those who want us to strike back, violently and blindly. I understand this desire; it is in everyone who has been injured. But, however painful it is, we must wait; we must gather our thoughts, identify our enemy, and act only when we are certain that we act wisely and justly. To do otherwise would be an act of mere revenge with no substance of retribution. We are gathering the intelligence we will need. We have the help and sympathy of the entire world. And when the time comes, we will act, and all who look on will call us just. Me am thank you. Night-night."

-- Bizarro World George W. Bush

#508 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 02:16 AM:

Are you sure that wasn't Nighty-night? When he gets all mush-mouthed I start thinking of a five-year-old child's attempts at speech.

#509 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 07:28 AM:

We all used to say "only in America". There was a story linked to the particle (April 14, 2005) involving a camel suit which an airport baggage-handler took out of a travellers' bag and wore out on the tarmac. (Tho' this didn't wear it out. <g>) This is the best summary, but I think you have to register/subscribe to see the full story: Too much baggage May 14, 2005 Neil McMahon

It was about a young woman in a group travelling from Australia to Bali in whose unlocked bulky sports bag a large bag of marijuana was found. This is a capital (firing squad) offence in Indonesia. She is claiming it was -- unknown to her -- put into her bag as part of an ongoing arrangment to smuggle goods between domestic airports, and that it had missed being taken out. There is at least one report of a man who phoned the consul in Bali having found a bag of grass in his luggage on arrival at his hotel and being advised to quickly dispose of it and not report it.

The whole thing has blown up into an incredible scene, rather along the lines of The Big Carnival (Ace in the Hole). Maybe it could be pitched as "OJ meets Elian on the Midnight Express"? It has ramified into some serious matters involving home affairs (like the extent of corruption in airport staff, with a cocaine smuggling ring just arrested and many passengers reporting they lost valuables from their cases in transit), international incidents (e.g., interfering in overseas criminal trials, death threats to Indonesian diplomats in Australia, groups at the court picketing in favour of the death sentence), websites, petitions, SMH polls, T-shirts, songs being written, etc, etc, while a rich businessman has taken up her cause. The judicial systems are fairly different so there's a lot of room for confusion, and also the rules about the kind of media coverage and the legality of commenting on sub judice cases seems closer to the US free-for-all than the more restrictive Australian rules. It just goes on ... (This is the latest Schapelle Corby update)

And for all the non-usians out there who get slightly irritated by references to obscure US personalities, here's 100 Aussie names you can throw around to confuse them (I've heard of nearly all of them, tho I don't know anything more than that about quite a few). Meanwhile usians & other non-Ozzies can make yourselves sound familiar with Oz affairs, if you so wish. Impress your friends! Break the ice at parties!! Readers' Digest Australian Trust Survey

#510 ::: Helen Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 11:51 AM:

I owe you a tremendous thank you.

A couple of years ago you posted some links about hoarders, pet hoarders, and garbage houses. I realized upon reading that my mother was showing signs of the behaviors behind these kind of homes. Thus began something of a reconciliation that started with my moving back to Virginia to be closer to them. It still took almost a year from said move to gather the courage to visit the house--during that year, my brother also moved back to Virginia.

When I walked in the front door, I nearly burst into tears. But while it was bad, it wasn't as bad as some we've read about. She hasn't done anything wack with animals. Nor is the trash 4 feet high. Just 2 feet high, and only in some rooms--less so since we started project purge. So far, 20 large garbage bags in two weeks.

We are writing about our progress as we try to reclaim the home we grew up in. We are lucky that we are able to save it at all. We are going to have to move our parents out of the house while we gut the bathrooms and the better part of the kitchen. If you would like the link to the site, I'll be happy to email it to you.

But all this started with Collecting Bug. We realized that we're lucky. We have a chance to make it right. Thank you.

#511 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 12:09 PM:

I disagree. Most people I think really do speak in full sentences.
You are simply wrong about this. Any interviewer knows that transcribing verbatim is a hostile technique, for exactly this reason.

But I'm pretty worn out talking about this. Your competence at formal written English I don't dispute; your judgement of informal English is what I question. Like many people you are steeped in unscientific linguistic prejudice, and seem unwilling to listen to people who know more about linguistics. (Please note I would not dispute you on matters of mathematics, computer science or military protocol; there are others who might, but you know more than I do on all three topics.)

As one example, you didn't appear to notice my statement that Mary was appending a dependent clause to John's statement when she started with 'which'. In other words, she was finishing his sentence for him, which is an irritating thing to do, in response to his not listening to her about Teresa.

But that's enough. I'm done with this subthread.

#512 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 04:04 PM:

My pet peeve?

People who use grammar as a battering ram. My second pet peeve is people who use grammar as a battering ram, and need to check their own less than perfect prose.

"Stop that!" is a sentence, it's imperative.

The sentence above isn't a sentence; it's a delightful example of a comma splice, the bane of freshmen everywhere.

It might be two sentences; it might be one with a semi-colon. Right now, it's a demonstration that the emperor is naked because he can't dress himself.

As someone who can't spell, for solid organic reasons, and has to struggle with syntax for the same reasons, it pisses me the hell off to find a pedant using her admittedly superior writing abilities to score points.

Teresa, if I'm out of line, I apologize in advance.

#513 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 05:00 PM:

Here are a couple of lines by Patrick White, admittedly Australian but still a Nobel Prize winner, from a page opened at random. The story is "Five-Twenty" in his collection_The Cockatoos_:

'Oh! Oh!' she panted. 'Oh God! Dear love!' comforting with hands and hair and words.
Words.
While all he could say was, 'It's all right.'

I knew I'd find such "illiteracy" in his work, and suspect I'd find it in any number of accalimed modern writers. I didn't find a Xopherian "Which" but only because I spent just two seconds looking. I believe all the argument above about "Which" applies to this "While"--in spades.

My point being that the rules of syntax are there to serve speech, not the other way round. (I noticed Paula's comma splice too, but I'm pretty forgiving about them except in formal writing.

(The genteel "I" where "me" would be correct is my own red rag.)

#514 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 05:11 PM:

Yes, if Paula tried to read Joyce her head would explode. Or Delany:

to wound the autumnal city. So cried out for the world to give him a name.
The in-dark answered with wind.
(from memory)

Thank you Lisa, Jonathan. And Jonathan, I heard someone say "between she and I" the other day. (Not even the usual excuse applies: between she?) Or was it "amongst we four"? Hypercorrections irritate me too. (Too early to tell if they're actual changes in the making. I hope not, but I also hope there isn't a big earthquake in California any time soon.)

#515 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 05:14 PM:

(that 'too' above: as well as Jonathan, not as well as the things I cite, which are hypercorrections)
^^^^^^^
NOT A COMPLETE SENTENCE. <-This either.

#516 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 06:02 PM:

On Trusted Australians: Gee, who the heck are those people? I only recognize a few, and I'm totally flabbergasted that Olivia Newton John is number two. Has she been engaged in charitable or public service activities? I only recognized 16 in total, and it looked more like a list of Australia’s most famous, not most trusted. I suppose QE II is nominally Australian (and Canadian for that matter) but I think of her as English (not even as British). And who is this Princess Mary person?

On Grammar: All I’ll say about this is that I sometimes make deliberate mistakes for stylistic purposes. I also confess to using a hyphen when I should either be using commas to mark out a subordinate clause or a semicolon to connect two related sentences. Which is bad. ;-)

#517 ::: Gluon ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 06:40 PM:

As someone who abandons books that turn out to be rife with grammatical gaffes (not stylistic choices - the difference is fairly obvious), I am eternally grateful to my English professor. In our grammar class, he explained that there are several grammars -- informal spoken English was the loosest. Then there are informal and formal written English, the latter having many forms (business, scholarly, scientific, etc.). I found that the most functional way to view the twists and turns of English language in all its many contexts. Quite sane. I am spared the task of inflicting on the innocent my corrections of people's spoken English, which is in fact riddled with 'uh' and other verbal tics, sentence fragments, and awkwardly-constructed sentences.

More painful to me than irregularities in informal spoken/written English are comma splices. Give me a sentence fragment any day. Or even passive voice -- I'm lapsing into it after a semester of writing research papers. Must be all those passive-voiced articles I had to ingest.

#518 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 07:13 PM:

a Xopherian "Which"

That made me gluck quiffle from my snorfling-part.

#519 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 08:31 PM:

I was hoping someone else would make this comment on my use Patrick White as an example of acceptable rule-breaking, but I'm too impatient:

But then, Patrick White's novel, The Tree of Man was described in an early magisterial review as "pretentious and illiterate verbal sludge".

#520 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 08:45 PM:

Yeah, Andy, I wondered if you'd pick up on that. Here's a challenge for you: write a limerick with "A Xopherian 'which'" as the third or fourth line.

Shouldn't be too tough. Right up your alley.

#521 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 10:11 PM:

Xopher, under other circumstances, I'd take you up on that.

#522 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 11:08 PM:

I think I just found my favorite typo ever:

The early orchestra flutes were in D major and could only play in certain keys, just like the valueless trumpets and trombones.

It's from the MidiVox manual, which also contains this unnerving excerpt (all very much sic):

TIGHT TRACKING HIS ITS LIABILITIES

(Tim, my manual doesn't include items 1-3 under "detail, tight tracking has its liabilities." Does yours?)

4 Data rates and sequencing.

I'm pretty sure this is a note to author Timothy Kelly rather than a personalized message to me, but maybe I should let someone else read it to see if the name changes.

#523 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2005, 11:58 PM:

Andy, I'm sure you'd take it up...under the right circumstances. I see that we understand each other.

Tim Walters quotes the Midivox manual:

TIGHT TRACKING HIS ITS LIABILITIES

(Christopher, my manual doesn't include items 1-3 under "detail, tight tracking has its liabilities." Does yours?)

4 Data rates and sequencing.
That IS creepy. But why would it be a personalized message to YOU?

#524 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 12:47 AM:

TIGHT TRACKING HIS ITS LIABILITIES

What a glaringly obvious error. Obviously, it should read "Eight tracking..."

#526 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 01:03 AM:

Which is not what I meant. Adding in the missing http:// thingies should give 6 valid links.

WIGHT TRACKING HIS ITS LIABILITIES.

#527 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 01:11 AM:

"And who is this Princess Mary person?"
Dear Larry, see Danish Royal Wedding: Crown Prince Fred of Denmark marries Australian real estate agent Mary Donaldson (May 14, 2004) with the comments May 14, 2004, 11:06 AM: and May 14, 2004, 11:38 AM on the Open thread 22, starting on May 08, 2004.

There has been more news recently because The Happy Couple came back to Oz on a visit a few months ago (sales of Fruit Tingles, a sweet she said she'd missed in Denmark, rocketed as bouquets of them were pressed upon her), and just recently it was announced she was enceinte -- the quick count-back revealing conception occurred at that time.

#528 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 01:23 AM:

As much as I love vintage audio formats, I vote for "TIGHT TRICKING HIS ITS LIABILITIES."

Hat tippage to Xopher and JVP.

#529 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 04:42 AM:

Since "it" was a translation of "id":

I admire our Hatton's abilities
Superego and Ego's civilities
Allow him to switch
A Xopheran "which"
Tight tracking his Its liabilities.

I shouldn't come here when I've woken in the middle of the night, should I?

#530 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 07:10 AM:

Thanks, Tom! And I think that's what JVP calls "the wee-wee hours of the morning."

#531 ::: Gigi Rose ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 10:39 AM:

And on a different note, since this is an open thread...
I went to the site about spinning your cat's hair. Fantastic! I met a spinner (here in Indiana) who had a commission to spin and create fabric for a wedding dress. The bride-to-be wanted a combination of silk and hair from her white afghan dogs. The spinner said that it wasn't very difficult and it turned out quite lovely. I find it hard enough just to find time to knit and crochet small items. I can't imagine making a wedding dress from scratch.

Even if I've said this before (and I probably have), I'll say it again. Teresa, I greatly appreciate the links that you provide for our edification on your site.

#532 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 11:12 AM:

Okay, if we're on animal technology again:

Eggheads Invent Tele-Petting

"... This is the first human-poultry interaction system ever developed," said professor Adrian David Cheok, the leader of the team..."

#533 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 12:11 PM:

Princess Mary is actually Scottish, even if she's lived in Australia most of her life - a fact the Australian media carefully ignore, even when her dad very pointedly wears a kilt in public...

#534 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 12:34 PM:

Star Wars = Lord of the Rings = Harry Potter = King Arthur

Quick, before it slips into members-only L. A. Times archive:

Editorial: Back to Camelot, Los Angeles Times, Thurs 19 May 2005, p.B12:

"... A boy (Arthur, Frodo, Luke Skywalker, Harry) lives for years with foster parents thinking he's a regular kid. He is marked for a special but difficult destiny by a peculiar token (a sword in a stone, a ring, a light saber, a lightning-shaped scar) and taken under the wing of a white-bearded mentor with powers of wizardry (Merlin, Gandalf, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Dumbledore) who helps him in his quest against the dark side (Mordred, Sauron, Darth Vader, Voldemort)...."

#535 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 02:21 PM:

On the Back to Camelot essay: Um, no, Tolkien didn't exactly credit the story of Arthur as source material...Not that he didn't know it backwards and forwards, and he did take a stab at writing an Arthurian poem but didn't finish it, but the Matter of England was too French for his tastes and he deliberately avoided using anything post-Norman invasion in creating Middle-earth. (Except of course for the various anachronisms of the Shire.) Finding similarities and parallels isn't the same as finding an unquestionable source...

#536 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 02:36 PM:

Janet:

I agree. My wife and I are quite interested in The Matter of England. For example:

Was King Arthur from Scotland?

But isn't it cool when Mundane newspaper writers are forced to, however feeble their efforts, start to think through the structure and tropes of Science Fiction and Fantasy?

As to cheap imitation generic pseudo-celtic Swords & Sorcery Fantasy-Lite:

David Hartwell [Age of Wonders, New York: Walker, 1984, pp.14-15]:

"Heroic fantasy: barely repressed sex fantasy in which a muscular, sword-bearing male beats monsters, magicians, racial inferiors, and effete snobs by brute force, then services every willing woman in sight -- and they are all willing."

#537 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 04:28 PM:

Who was it who called that sort of thing "Thud and Blunder"?

#538 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 05:26 PM:

My manager surprised his team with tickets for a 10:40am showing of _Revenge of the Sith_.

God, was that awful. Not funny-awful, but fiasco-awful. The dialog was uniformly craptacular, and most of the acting was just atrocious.

Worse, it was _no fun_. It was as much fun as watching steam locomotives crash into each other. Normally, that might be entertaining, but not when the cabs of the locomotives are full of kittens and orphans.

Never see this again I will.

#539 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 07:25 PM:

Stefan, yesterday I saw two examples of mundanes not understanding fans. Both were on the local NBC station: 1) The business columnist from the WashPost talks about Star Wars and then says "The Trekkies are going to France to see it first." 2) The female anchor signs off with The Force Be With You while the male anchor tries to form his fingers into the Live Long and Prosper symbol.

#540 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 07:34 PM:

Wearing a kilt in public doesn't prove anything. Competition pipers wear them no matter what their nationality. And then there is my son, who wears an orange camouflage kilt in public at least a couple of times a week (since he insists on wearing all orange, and orange has gone out of fashion for young men and he's worn out most of what he bought when he could, his wardrobe tends to repeat often). I blame it all on Utilikilt, myself.

#541 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 08:18 PM:

Lucy - I'm not especially Scottish (OK, about 1/16th or so), yet I can be seen here and here wearing my Utilikilt.

Does this mean that if I emigrate to Australia and have a daughter who becomes a real estate agent, I, too, can become a parent of European royalty? IMWTK!

Oh, and I applaud your son's choice of orange as a signature color.

#542 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 09:45 PM:

A few minutes ago I was speaking with Herman Wouk. The occasion was the first of a lecture series funded by his brother Victor. I first told him to thank his brother Victor again for having interviewed me and recommended me for admission to Caltech in 1968. Then I gushed about how much I've loved his novels, and how Robert Mitchum performed in The Winds of War. He recommended the most obscure of his novels -- Don't Stop the Carnival. I said that I had an English Lit degree from Caltech, and have been a professional writer. He asked. I said that he knew some of my coauthors, Ray Bradbury and Sir Arthur C. Clarke. "Oh," he said grinning widely. "You write Science Fiction." I was happy that he hadn't said "Sci-Fi" or said something derogatory or condescending. Then he explained that every genre has a value to literature as a whole, and explained how he started out writing comedy for Fred Allen. I don't usually do this, but I asked for, and got, his authgraph.

#543 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2005, 11:29 PM:

I salute all men who wear kilts. I hope it's a fashion that catches on; it would be a nice alternative to the giant saggy drawers that the kids seem to be wearing these days.

But after seeing a whole lot of kilt-wearing going on at last year's DragonCon, I thought I'd make this plea:

For the love of all that is holy,

BEND AT THE KNEES!!!!

This is especially crucial when going "regimental", and at 9:30 in the morning.

Consider it fair warning: With several years of vocal training, my lungs have gained a fair amount of power - this year, I'm bringing a pea-shooter and some small projectiles. If I see your ass without having specifically requested it, you will know my lentilly wrath.

#544 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2005, 12:46 AM:

I really like Wouk's _City Boy_. In fact, it's due for a re-read.

He did a sort of science fiction parable, _The Lomokome Papers_, that profoundly annoyed me, perhaps because I approached it as straight SF.

#545 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2005, 01:14 AM:

Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction
by Paul Brians
Chapter One
The History of Nuclear War in Fiction

"... The result of all this activity and concern was the publication in 1955 of a large number of novels depicting atomic war or its aftermath, including such notable works as Leigh Brackett's The Long Tomorrow, C. M. Kornbluth's Not This August, John Wyndham's The Chysalids, and the first part of Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz. The nuclear war novel had come of age. Magazine editors may have wearied of the subject, but book publishers were becoming interested and would dominate the genre henceforth. In no year before had so many novels been published depicting nuclear war."

"During the next year's presidential campaign, Democratic candidate Adlai stevenson called for an atomic test ban, with considerable initial support from the public. The long debate which followed kept public attention focused on the bomb, but to some extent the test-ban debate was a distraction which directed attention away from any attempt to deal with the greater danger of nuclear war itself. Even in the midst of this debate, authors were not able to sustain readers' interest in nuclear war: 1956 marked a low point in the publication of such fiction, although two mainstream works attracted some attention--Martin Caidin's The Long Night and Herman Wouk's The Lomokome Papers."


from alternatehistory.com/discussion/
Major Major
Member Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 20
More comments re Ian's essay on the Draka

"... I'm reminded of Herman Wouk's SF novel, The 'Lomokome' Papers, which is written mostly to be a satire on the Cold War. (The two Lunarian nations are rather crude parodies of the Soviet Bloc and the West.) Wouk skitters away from any scientific explanation, which admittedly may have been beyond his powers, and from several potential points of interest, such as the origins of his Lunarian people. Sitting down to explain this might have enabled him to write a stronger novel but then the entire concept was shaky."

#546 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2005, 02:22 AM:

An e-mail exchange between two black metal musicians.

If you want to convince someone else what a scary bad-ass lord of evil you are, you should never use the phrase: "i gotta go, my mom neeeds the computer."

#547 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2005, 03:04 AM:

There are a number of books which I feel like the oluy person in the world to have read. One of them is Herman Wouk's _City Boy_; another is the book about the Trachtenberg system of adding up columns. I read both of these when I was in high school, a little over 40 years ago. How sweet it is to have seen them both spoken of with affection in your Comments, Teresa. Thank you! (And thank you Stefan Jonaes; and apologies to the person who mentioned Trachtenberg: I didn't make a note of who it was.)

#548 ::: Paul Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2005, 06:32 AM:

Who was it who called that sort of thing "Thud and Blunder"?

Poul Anderson. The essay is on-line here.

#549 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2005, 09:12 PM:

On the "Unfamiliar with the genre" particle:

“I’m having my victory party at the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas,” she says.

I'm hoping for her sake that she didn't write Ocean's 11.

#550 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2005, 09:57 PM:

From the same dismal essay:

". . . says that soon the world will find out that, in her words, 'I’m the real thing like Coca-Cola.'"

In her words?

I sorta kinda vaguely feel distantly and mildly bad for the correspondent (no relation), since she seems to think she has actually Found a Big Story, and perhaps has advanced the cause of investigative journalism, and, you know, stuff. On the op-ed side, maybe she'll learn something that a lot of supposedly professional journos never seem to.

#551 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2005, 12:05 AM:

Two black metal musicians?

I got as far as picturing Darth Vader-like figures with guitars before genning a correct parse.

#552 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2005, 12:55 AM:

In this case, the kilt-wearer is quite definitely Scottish, and was wearing the kilt to make the point.

My dad knows her dad. So a couple of filial duty trips back, I arrived at the parents' place to be greeted with, "And by the way, John Donaldson's about to have the Crown Prince of Denmark as his son-in-law..."

#553 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2005, 02:26 AM:
"Now I am not by any means a model citizen. I may very easily, at some future date, commit some crime or misdemeanor. I may get into a lot of trouble and perhaps be punished and ostracized. But if that ever happens, and you have any reason to condemn me, all I ask of you is one thing. Please stop and remember that I read "The Lomokoke Papers." And no matter what I do, this has been punishment enough."

-- Robert Bloch, The Eighth Stage of Fandom

Jonathan Shaw: I won first prize at the Suffolk County Math Fair, when I was a tenth grader, for my presentation on Jakow Trachtenberg's system for speed math. I think I capped it by demonstrating how to do six digit by six digit multiplications without paper, using his system of casting out elevens.

#554 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2005, 03:31 AM:

Lenny Bailes: I'm so impressed! I was in the equivalent of the tenth grade (called Junior in Queensland at that time) when I found the book on the school library shelf. But I don't remember ever getting past adding columns of figures.

#555 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2005, 02:15 PM:

JVP: "But isn't it cool when Mundane newspaper writers are forced to, however feeble their efforts, start to think through the structure and tropes of Science Fiction and Fantasy?"

It might be, if they ever got past the shallow end, or asked someone more conversant in the subject about the validity/newness of their commentary. What that editorial was doing was, in fact, called "Reinventing the wheel".

But then, I'm no more immune than that to forgetting to ask "the other side" what they think, or even noticing it's presence. I had a "You know you've been in fandom too long" moment, when I was telling my fiance just why it's so much fun to talk to one of my co-workers: "She reads Vogue! She has opinions on the contestants in Reality TV Shows! She cares about high-fashion dress designers. She calls her friends 'Biotch' and says 'it's so gay'. I didn't believe people like her really existed!"

#556 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2005, 06:26 PM:

Lenora Rose - LOL!

Lenny Bailes - Suffolk County, Mass., or Suffolk County, N.Y.?

#557 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2005, 07:14 PM:

Mitch: New York, Long Island. I went to school in Nassau through 9th grade (Great Neck South), then spent two years out in Commack.

This is really going to sound flaky, after boasting; but after I wrote that, I realized that the year I won the math fair prize was probably 8th grade, not 10th, in Nassau County rather than Suffolk.

(Tenth grade in Commack, I was involved in a different interscholastic competition thing called "Mathletes.")

#558 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2005, 09:13 PM:

Hey! We're neighbors! I went to John Glenn High School in East Northport.

I was on Mathletes too, but I was terrible, I didn't deserve to be on the team. If there's anything geekier than being on Mathletes, it's being a bad Mathlete.

#559 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2005, 09:54 AM:

Samuel Herbert Post, aged 81, passed away at home, from inoperable cancer, on the evening of Friday 20 May 2005 in Wickford Village, Rhode Island.

He was an editor and publisher of note in book, trade paperback, and magazine publishing, for such authors as Margery Allingham, Poul Anderson, Pearl S. Buck, Taylor Caldwell, Curtis W. Casewit, Winston Churchill, Mark Clifton, Philip K. Dick, Gordon R. Dickson, Walter Walter Gibson, R. C. W. Ettinger, J. Hunter Holly, Damon Knight, Cyril M. Kornbluth, Veronica Lake, Hedy Lamarr, Murray Leinster, John Lymington, H. P. Lovecraft, Frank Belknap Long, George B. Mair, S. Michael, Sam Moskowitz, Senator George Murphy, Eric North [B. C. Cronin], Andre Norton, Alan E. Nourse, Dorothy Sayers, Clifford Simak, Edward E. "Doc" Smith, J. Stearn, William F. Temple, and A. E. van Vogt. One novel of his own was published, and a number of poems.

A graduate of Harvard, cum laude, he served with distinction in World War II as a Pilot-Instructor for Free French pilots, including Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber. He leaves a wife, Cynthia Trainer; five children, Jonathan Vos Post, Andrew William Post, Nicholas Charles Post, Joshua Stuart Post, Julia Hart Post; and five grandchildren.

He had been an member of Science Fiction Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Western Writers of America, and the NRA. He worked with entertainers such as Judy Garland, editors such as Hugo Gernsback, poltitical leaders, poets and playrights. He had hundreds of anecdotes about celebrities he had met, from Neil Armstrong to T. S. Eliot, yet he believed in heartfelt conversation with ordinary people about subjects that mattered to him, including Art, Literature, Philosophy, and Theology.

A modest innovator in publishing, he was responsible for the first book with a Pop Art cover, the first book with an Op Art cover, and the first "bookazine." He lamented the decline of book editing from the careful lifetime nurturing of authors and their manuscripts by professionals educated in World Literature, to mere acquisition of "product."

A traditionally conservative Wall Street Republican whose father, Harry Pasternak, of Budapest, had risen from penniless immigrant to owner of a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, Samuel H. Post refused to vote for George W. Bush, whom he felt had betrayed the party and America.

There will be funeral in or near Wickford Village, Rhode Island, on Wednesday 25 May 2005, the details of which have not yet been announced.

#560 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2005, 01:48 PM:

JVP, my sincere condolences. Reading your father's obituary, above, the phrase "a gentleman and a scholar" comes to mind.

#561 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2005, 02:48 PM:

Jonathan, I'm sorry for your loss.

#562 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2005, 05:17 PM:

Lenora Rose: I have to keep reminding my husband that the folks we hang out with the most are NOT average normal middle class Americans. (Some of them are not Americans at all, but that's another kettle of -- great ghu! I'm in the middle of Elizabeth Hand's Mortal Love and can't type kettle of fish without getting the most amazing and irrelevant congeries of ideas, images, and stuff - oh dear what a diversion)

Where was I? Oh, right. It's amazing what the real world is actually like. I ran across another person yesterday who thought blatant racism was no longer practiced in America. I kindly did not tell her about the members of my perfectly normal middle American family who still feel quite comfortable about using the n-word.

The sun appears to have come out. I think I should go out and get some.

MKK

#563 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2005, 06:33 PM:

JVP, I'm sorry to hear the news of your father's death. I hope you and your family find comfort.

#564 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2005, 07:27 PM:

JVP - I am very sorry for your loss.

#565 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2005, 07:48 PM:

Dave Luckett, Mitch Wagner, Marilee, Jill Smith:

I thank you. My family thanks you.

#566 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 07:54 AM:

Has anyone else seen this?

Oy...

#567 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 09:11 AM:

Another animal hoarding story. It's a bad one.

A woman with 200 dead cats in her backyard.

#568 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 09:18 AM:

I'm sorry for your loss, Jonathan.

#569 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 09:24 AM:

I've been emptying out my e-mail inbox of the junk I haven't read for a while today, and noticed a couple of things I should draw to the attention of people here. These are e-mails which were sent to the address 'jml@dsf.org.uk' which I only ever use to post here, so probably other people here are receiving them as well.

1. Traditional eBay phishing scam, only a little more sophisticated than the average. Watch for anything from eBay that doesn't have your full name in it.

2. A virus which contains a link that appears to be from your ISP's web site but isn't (in my case it seemed to link to 'www.dsf.org.uk', which is my own domain name and not one that anybody should be sending me links to).

Be careful what you click on.

#570 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 09:32 AM:

Now and then I wonder which of the minor Star Trek sorta-sapientish races writes and produces television commercials. Probably the smokin' rocks; they had a thing for bad copies of other species' popular culture. "Yo, Kirk dude! Lincoln's the name, railsplittin's the game. 'Sup?"

Anyway, today's example of the How Many Eyes? rule* is from an online loan company. It involves the display of a huge yellow banner that reads (with the first word in colossal type):

CLAP if you deserve respect.

Now, maybe it was just that this came on in the middle of an episode of Paramedics, but it took a moment to realize what the ad was (and was not) for, and, like alien species throughout the history of science fiction, the creators didn't quite get the fact that English words have multiple meanings.

*When you see something dazzlingly inept in film or TV, remind yourself that movies are not (generally) made by one guy working in solitude, but large crowds of people, and ask, "how many eyes did this pass in front of without one pair blinking?"

#571 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 10:59 AM:

John M. Ford:

"CLAP if you deserve respect."

Is this an answer to the perennial question:

"Will you still respect me in the morning?"

#572 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 12:53 PM:

There's an emerging controversy in horror fandom that should be of interest to anyone involved in webzines or writing genre reviews online.

Mirek, editor of the webzine Latarnia, discovered one his own reviews appearing in the UK-based, commercial horror magazine The Dark Side, appearing under someone else's name. He and his fellow forum members, in this thread on the Latarnia forums, have been googling reviews in back issues of The Dark Side, and it appears that unattributed or misattributed reviews taken from webzines and fansites have been showing up in The Dark Side for some time now. In some cases they've been lightly edited, editorial content has been badly interpolated, or two different unattributed reviews have been spliced together.

Read through the thread; it's pretty incriminating, but everyone's walking on eggshells because of the UK's libel laws.

#573 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 01:22 PM:

JVP - my condolences to you and your family. Your father must have been a remarkable man.

#574 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 03:41 PM:

Xopher, I did market research for a number of years and took notes interviewing people. I didn't notice people speaking in sentence fragments much other than when giving yes/no types of responses to questions. The vast majority of people I was interviewing though, had at least a BS or BA and a substantial percentage probably had doctorates.

Paused of "er" and "um" are pauses. Bush sticks out for inarticulateness in speech, regarding speaking his facility for public speaking is either in a minority in the country, or a lot of people never speak in public to be noticed for inarticulate speech.

I don't know what the rates of highly noticeable speech defects are, but it tends to be quite obvious when someone's recovering from e.g. a stroke and had had their speech neural network damaged from the stroke. Slurred speech and many wrong words/words not found that are more than someone's inadvertent occasional use of the wrong word, tend to show.

#575 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2005, 05:38 PM:

"If there's anything geekier than being on Mathletes, it's being a bad Mathlete."

Being a high-school science club hanger-on? (Blushes and slinks away...)

#576 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2005, 02:29 PM:

Paula Lieberman: Obviously, you've never read any of the exact transcripts of TV shows and the like that pop up on the net. (The Jon Stewart visit to Crossfire {That is the right show, right?} jumps to mind - as does the 911 hamburger call, but that particular woman is broken in so many ways I figured she would make a much poorer example).

Even so, people being interviewed and people in the higher echelons of education are both more likely to try and formulate a proper sentence - the more when they're the same person. You did register the conversation that just went by about noticing that the people you're surrounded by are not necessarily the average?

I'm also considering the conversation in the "Like Expertise..." topic about how those who say, "This is how it's done and no other way is valid" are more likely to be giving wrong or at least less useful advice... much as you might like, grammar is not a concrete set of rules, nor are its nuances held in your keeping alone --

-- which is probably for the best.

#577 ::: Spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 01:59 PM:

Spam from 90.213.131.9

#578 ::: Julia Jones sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 11:33 AM:

Old spam at 579 not yet deleted, and brand new spam at 581.

#579 ::: fidelio sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 11:34 AM:

old spam, new spam, spam, spam, spammity spam.

See also the one from April 2009...

#580 ::: Cadbury Moose sights comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2010, 03:54 PM:

...with a fried egg on top and Spam.

#581 ::: Chris W. sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2011, 07:20 PM:

Or whatever the local Portuguese canned pork product is.

#582 ::: thomas sees Portugese spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2011, 07:22 PM:

Please go away. Obrigado.

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