July 27, 2015
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:46 PM * 107 comments

He said, “Kid, whadja get?”
I said, “I didn’t get nothing, I had to pay $50 and pick up the garbage.”
He said, “What were you arrested for, kid?”
And I said, “Littering.”
And they all moved away from me on the bench there, with the hairy eyeball and all kinds of mean nasty things, till I said, “And creating a nuisance.”
Then they all came back, shook my hand, and we had a great time…
—Arlo Guthrie, “Alice’s Restaurant”

Every work morning, I cycle onto the Buiksloterwegveer, the ferry that runs straight across the IJ from Amsterdam Noord to Centraal Station. Getting to it is a story in itself, an epic in miniature: the long straight ride toward the boat, usually into the teeth of the wind; the suspense in the way the signs block the countdown so that one can’t see how long it is till departure. The pilots often wait a minute or so past zero, picking a break in the incoming cycle traffic, delaying for a hurrying foot passenger or two. I always feel lucky when I’m one of the last to reach the deck before the red lights flash and the siren signals that boarding is over.

Then it comes, as the heavy clunk of the ramp coming up echoes through the vessel. All around me the people glance at one another, quickly, furtively, one flick of the eyes and away. And I taste the koinopoiēsis in the air, like the first rain after a hot week.

“Koinopoiēsis” is part of my idiolect. It’s a combination of two Greek words, κοινόν (koinon, community) and ποίησις (poiēsis, making). It refers to both the moment when a crowd becomes a community and the processes which create that transformation.

The ferry crossing takes about two minutes. We’re a mayfly of a community, and we know it. Our koinopoiēsis is so faint as to be unnoticeable unless you’re sensitive. Unless you’re addicted. It’s like the ghost of sweetness one gets from the nectar of a violet: enough to whet the appetite, but not enough to satisfy it.

We dock at Centraal. The alarm whoops, the front gate goes down, and I leave our ephemeral community for the murmuration of Amsterdam cyclists.

But that’s fine, because at the other end of my ride is the office, where I am swimming in community: the two teams I work with, the team I line manage, my department, my former teams, the loose communities of expats from the various countries I have allegiances to, the foreigners who speak Dutch, emergency responders, the complex network of long-term employees who move about the company… The Venn diagram of my workplace communities looks like a puddle in a heavy rainstorm.

And these groups are forever recreating themselves. There’s something called the Tuckman model, which lists a number of stages a new team goes through: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. (The naming is terribly twee, but I find the model useful as a way to reassure teams that the initial conflict they experience is normal and not permanent.) But the model goes on to point out that whenever a team gains or loses a member, there’s a Mourning stage, and then the whole cycle repeats, because it’s effectively a new team. This is true and necessary on every level of community: nal komerex, khesterex.

So even when I don’t find myself in a new team (as I did a month ago), I am surrounded by the low murmur of social and organizational change, and with that change, little increments of community formation. If the ferry was a single droplet of koinopoiēsis, the office is a slow, wide river of it.

One of my roles is to tend that river the way our waterschappen tend our physical waterways. Sometimes it’s easy: a word here, an email there, a private chat over coffee or on a bike ride home. Sometimes it’s a bigger job, which usually means cookies. (I’ve talked about food and community before.) I have the good fortune to work with some gifted koinopoiēsis engineers: kind of a meta-community. We hold baking contests.

Although it wasn’t until I started moderating a long-lived and articulate community that I named this thing and made it a separate concept in my world, I was raised in an environment that values it, celebrates it, tells stories with it. We all were. My defining high-school movie was The Breakfast Club, which is basically an hour and a half of slow-motion koinopoiēsis with a Simple Minds soundtrack. But even if you weren’t a Brat Pack eighties kid, the thing is pervasive: it’s what turned Han into someone who would come back and help Luke destroy the Death star; Mal was looking for its traces before he let Jayne out of the airlock; Maia learns it in The Goblin Emperor; it’s the Scoobies and Leverage, Lethal Weapon and The Matrix, the larger arc of the Avengers movies, The Fellowship of the Ring, Fury Road.


July 06, 2015
The SPOILER Kings, a discussion thread
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:18 PM * 50 comments

I know there’s not really that much to spoil in The Philosopher Kings, but in the unlikely event that revealing some of the minor details that are not well-foreshadowed in the previous book might be upsetting to the broader community, here’s a thread for such discussions.

July 01, 2015
On sale yesterday: Jo Walton’s The Philosopher Kings, Book Two of Thessaly
Posted by Patrick at 08:37 AM * 26 comments

the-philosopher-kings.jpg On sale yesterday in hardcover and ebook in North America, on August 6 in ebook in the UK and associated markets, and sometime later in the UK as a trade paperback.

Excerpt here.

Author’s remarks about it on her own website:

The Philosopher Kings is the sequel to The Just City. Read that first! […]

It is my twelfth published novel. I wrote it betwen 20th June and 28th November 2013, in 28 writing days, and then revised it in early 2014. It’s set twenty years after the end of The Just City.

The Philosopher Kings is about…love and excellence. And responsibility. And art. And it’s about Apollo and his daughter Arete and Ficino and some other people going on a boat trip that leads them to end up somewhere you’d never have expected. The Just City uses the myth of Apollo and Daphne. The Philosopher Kings uses the myth of Apollo and Marsyas.

First line is “Not many people know that Pico della Mirandola stole the head of the Winged Victory of Samothrace.”

Read The Just City first, did I say that already? It seems to work for people reading it without, but it’s full of spoilers for the first book.

Some reviews

“[T]he gathered characters, their philosophical and practical discussions, and their character-driven decisions, along with Walton’s plain, declarative, and crystal-clear style, and the straightforward and probing dialogue (in both the Socratic and the fiction-writing senses), familiarize the high concept and make it seem plausible. […] Another of the reading pleasures here, and in all of Walton’s writing, is the intimate scale. Much as I love the more-is-more rush of [Neal] Stephenson’s work, Walton’s economical method is just as effective. The characters are just as complex, and perhaps more distinctive because they are not lost in the overwhelming detail about their environment. The environment in the Atlantean novels is detailed enough for us to supply the rest, and if we don’t know exactly how the robots work or how the ships are constructed, we still get the idea. This economy, along with the harmony among characters, events, and ideas, keeps her novels of ideas from seeming wooden or boring. Walton knows what to leave out as well as what to include. “
Joan Gordon, Los Angeles Review of Books

“[T]he science it deals with is moral science: it’s a science fiction of philosophy, as much argument as adventure, and its nature is such as to invite the reader to participate. That’s half the fun. More than half, over and above Walton’s agreeable prose and solidly believable characters—even Apollo is believable, and I have high standards for fictional gods, though that might be hubris. What does it mean to strive for excellence, as a person, and as a person among other people? What does it mean to be a hero, or a philosopher? What’s just? […] The Philosopher Kings is a very entertaining novel. It’s even more entertaining as an argument.”
Liz Bourke, Tor.com

“Audacious … The end result is a satisfying conclusion, with room for more if desired.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“One of my favorite parts of this book is the characters running into the rest of the world and having it be something of a shock, after all these years, that there are people who are not in any way attempting to recreate Plato’s Republic. It has come to seem utterly, indisputably normal to them. And…I think we can all come up with aspects of our unique lives that feel totally normal until we compare them with the outside world and remember. It’s done really well, the shock of the new coming from an unexpected direction and yet feeling entirely in-character.”
Marissa Lingen, Novel Gazing Redux

“The ending is a knock-out, tongue-in-cheek deus ex machina twist explicitly stating that no matter how much The Philosopher Kings departed from The Just City, the third and final book, Necessity, will move exponentially farther away — both literally and figuratively. If there’s one thing Walton is brilliant at — and there are roughly 1 million of those — it’s not letting you know quite what kind of story you’re in, and leading you to relish the discovery.”
Amal El-Mohtar, NPR.org

The Philosopher Kings, sequel to The Just City, will be followed by Book Three of Thessaly, Necessity, slated for summer 2016. Follow Jo Walton’s blog for updates.

June 26, 2015
It is so ordered
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 01:54 PM * 117 comments

Held: The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.

In 27 days, Martin and I will celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary. He’s been married longer than he was alive and unmarried; I reach that balance of my days in December of next year. We formed one another as adults and as people within the context of marriage.

And the legal advantages of marriage have formed our lives as well. Being married to a British citizen meant that I could live in Europe and obtain my own UK passport. The entirety of society is set up to make it easy for us, from inheritance rights to taxation, from law courts to social conventions.

And all these things were a great big door slammed in the faces of our friends and family, if the paths of their lives and the ways of their hearts led them to try to form this tremendous bond with someone of the same gender as themselves.

I have watched these restrictions ebb away over time. I remember when the UK passed civil partnerships, and I wanted to dance in the streets. I delighted in moving to a country where gay marriage is unremarkable. I rejoiced with my home state when it got rid of Proposition 8. I grinned when I tried to explain the laws against same-sex marriage to my kids and was met with fascinated horror.

But now I’m just crying with happiness, borrowed from all of my loved ones who have wanted this for so long, fought for it, marched in the streets for it. I thought I was elated when Obamacare was not overthrown (another cause I care deeply about). I was wrong.

This is elated.

June 24, 2015
“You’re asking me to agree that my great-grandparent and great-great-grandparents were monsters.”
Posted by Patrick at 05:42 AM * 155 comments

From the New York Times, 24 June 2015:

COLUMBIA, S.C. — It has been quite a few years since the lost cause has appeared quite as lost as it did Tuesday. As the afternoon drew on and their retreat turned into a rout, the lingering upholders of the Confederacy watched as license plates, statues and prominently placed Confederate battle flags slipped from their reach. […]

“You’re asking me to agree that my great-grandparent and great-great-grandparents were monsters,” said Greg Stewart, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the executive director of Beauvoir, the last home of Jefferson Davis.

From the Owensboro, Kentucky Messenger, 5 Nov 1908:


James S. Hayden Dies at His Home at West Louisville—Born in Nelson County.

James S. Hayden, one of the best known and most highly respected citizens of Daviess county, died suddenly of heart trouble Wednesday afternoon at his home in the West Louisville neighborhood. His death was entirely unexpected, as he was apparently in good health.

Mr. Hayden, for many years, was a resident of Daviess county and a valuable citizen. He was [born] in Nelson county, Ky., August 23, 1836, and was a son of Joseph Hayden, deceased, a native of Washington county. He came to this county in 1852. He enlisted in Company K, Fourth Kentucky Infantry, Confederate army. He was in many battles and never lost a day’s service while in the army. He was married to Miss Mary D. Hayden, on January 28, 1868, his first wife, and eight children were born to them. He is survived by his second wife and five children, four sons and one daughter. Mr. Hayden was a member of the Catholic church and was a Christian gentleman.

The funeral will take place at 2 o’clock this afternoon from St. Alphonsus chuch, and the interment will take place at the church cemetery.

I don’t think my great-great-grandfather was a monster. I think he was probably no more monstrous than most people, though the cause he fought for turned out to be a bad one. Who knows what our own descendants will judge us for? We should all hope that they remember, as we should, that history is a bitch.

From the New York Times, 24 June 2015:

In Austin, Tex., a tall bearded man went into the tattoo parlor where Kelly Barr works with a request: the removal a 10-year-old tattoo of the Confederate flag.

He told Mr. Barr that he had decided to get the flag removed when he saw the pained look on a middle-age black woman at his gym on Monday.

“‘If South Carolina can take theirs down,’” Mr. Barr recalled him saying, “‘I can take mine down.’” I told him, ‘Right on.’”

In 1862, Henry Isaac Newton, of Owensboro, Kentucky, father of two, joined in the Union Army of the Cumberland, 12th Kentucky Cavalry. He was captured in Sweetwater, Tennessee during Burnside’s abortive campaign to push south, and spent nearly a year in a Confederate prison. After his return, he and his wife had eight more children.

On 31 Jan 1899, the second-to-last of those, Sarah Frances “Fannie” Newton, married Clarence Eugene Hayden, the second son of Confederate veteran James S. Hayden. Fannie lived to 1970. I met her more than once.

We’re not monsters because we say or do the wrong thing. We’re monsters when, later, we refuse to learn.

June 19, 2015
E Pluribus Hugo: Community Q&A
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:45 PM * 387 comments

After over 3000 messages and nearly two and half months of discussions, we have put together a simple Hugo Award nomination system that meets our primary goal:

No group — whoever that group may be — should be able to absolutely prevent nominees from having the chance to be considered for the Hugo Award.

This works both ways. Not only should a slate not be able to force all other nominees off the final ballot, but just because a nominee appears on a slate, it should not be disqualified from appearing on the final ballot. No “shadowy cabal” should be able to prevent a nominee from being considered, either. All nominees deserve a fair chance. E Pluribus Hugo accomplishes this goal.

The system was developed by fans with a wide range of interests in science fiction and fantasy, including those who prefer the genres supported by the Sad Puppies 3 slate. We hope that it will truly meet the needs of all varieties of SFF fans.

The purpose of this proposal is explicitly not to change the rules so as to prevent the “new voices” of 2015 from being heard. There is no shadowy cabal here. All discussions, including our missteps and paths not taken, have been conducted in a completely open forum. You can find all of those discussions in the following threads:

On voting systems: a guest post from Bruce Schneier
Discussing Specific Changes to the Hugo Nomination Election: Another Guest Post By Bruce Schneier
Discussing Specific Changes to the Hugo Nomination Election: A Post Not By Bruce Schneier
E Pluribus Hugo: Out of Many, A Hugo

This thread is for questions and answers (and hopefully voices of support!) from the community about the system. We hope that the FAQ attached to the proposal will answer many of your questions, but we want to be available for any other questions that may arise. We sincerely hope that you will give this proposal a thoughtful and fair hearing. In this effort we are not Social Justice Warriors, we are not Puppies, and we don’t hate anyone. We are simply fans who want to save the Hugo from sinking into irrelevance as a result of the flaw in the nomination system that has been pointed out this year.

The official proposal can be found here once it has been posted by the Sasquan business meeting chair. We look forward to hearing from you.

E Pluribus Hugo: Post-Proposal Planning and To-Dos
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:41 PM * 152 comments

Now that the proposal has been submitted, we can turn our attention to the other matters that we need to complete. In particular, we need to look at the following items:

  • Prepare a “6th place” amendment for handling declined nominations, in the event it is needed
  • Discuss swag/ribbons/T-shirts for handing out at Sasquan
  • Strategize ideas for the actual proposal presentation at the business meeting itself
  • Plan a meet-up for those who will be attending Sasquan
  • Discuss places/parties at Sasquan where we can campaign for the proposal
There may be other issues that need to be discussed as well — this is the place for them!

I’ve listed these iems roughly in order of importance, but as long as we are using [TAGS], I think we can multi-task without too many problems.

Let’s get to it!


June 16, 2015
Open thread 206
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:15 PM * 893 comments

It’s been almost a fortnight since my front brake cable snapped as I cycled behind Centraal Station in the busiest part of the morning. My back brake, which has a history, wasn’t really at its best either. This made for a briefly exciting time. (Because I’m pretty damn good with the bike, no one else was excited. But I found it plenty entertaining.)

Martin pointed out that Emily the Bike has done pretty well. I work about 10km from the office, and I cycle every non-icy day. If she’s done 100km a week for most of the last five years, that’s a pretty low cost per kilometer for a €150 bike, even with another €150-odd of repairs. But there’s no denying the amount of friction she adds to my journeys these days, nor the quantity of other squeaks and rattles she’s picked up over time.

And that’s a problem, because I’m planning a bit of an adventure in the late summer or early fall. I’ve decided to cycle around the IJsselmeer over four days, stopping in hotels as I go. And unlike the warriors of Clan Spandex, who rush by me on the roads like quarrels from crossbows, I shall be doing it on a normal Dutch stadsfiets, comfortably upright and ordinarily dressed.

But not, alas, on Emily.

So allow me to present Grace.

She’s a Dracat, assembled in Zaandam about five years ago on an aluminum frame. I bought her from my local bike shop for €250. She’s got front shocks and 8 gears rather than 3, but she shares Emily’s step-through frame and upright posture.

When I bought her, she had a weak back rack (25kg weight limit) and no front cargo provision at all. In what must comprise a nearly Levitical transgression, I bought steel components to amend these lacks, and she is now fully fitted out.

I tried her out a week and a bit ago on an all-day ride, and even after 8 hours and 114 km (70 miles) in the saddle, I love her with a painless love.

June 14, 2015
The gone, growing in number
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:09 PM * 40 comments

In the current Open Thread, Tom Whitmore announced:

I’m very sad to report that Bruce Durocher, sometime member of this parish, died this morning from (basically) colon cancer. His liver had not responded to recent therapy. Karen and I had visited him on Thursday: he was in good spirits then, and we had an animated discussion about films and other topics. The final turnaround was very sudden.

His wife, Margaret Organ-Kean, wrote on the Book of Face:

My husband, Bruce, died today at 7:00 am from metastatic colon cancer.

I appreciate every one’s sympathies and offers of support greatly. People will hear from me individually, but right now I have been up since 3:00 am yesterday and I am going to sleep.

My family is with me and I am being taken care of.

There will be a funeral in two or three weeks, when I’ve had the chance to make plans.

In the meantime, nothing could make me happier than if you are of an age to have an endoscopy and have not had one, please get your butt into your doctor’s office.

Bruce’s more recent (view all by) history is visible here; his older one is here (he had an email address change). It’s a long record of solid, smart, worthwhile interaction that improved the conversation around him. Even knowing him only through this medium, I’m feeling the loss.

Condolences to Margaret, to Tom and Karen, and to the entire community he gathered around himself in his life. If anyone has memories of him they’d like to share, I’d be interested to read them.

June 09, 2015
Posted by Teresa at 05:18 PM * 311 comments

A while back, an Italian cooking blog, Il dolci di Caia, ran a contest for fellow Italian food bloggers: come up with recipes for dolce della tradizione americana — that is, “desserts in the American tradition.” Scroll down the page there for a list of links to the results.

It’s interesting to see them wrestle with the American food thing: cake pops, Naples biscuit S’mores, torta di fango del Mississippi, Whoopies Pie al lemon curd, and a momentarily puzzling panettone americano that turned out to be lemon chiffon cake.

Notable absences: pineapple upside-down cake, dump cake*, icebox cake, Key Lime pie, pecan pie, prune whip, Nilla Wafer pudding. Understandable absences: Grape-Nuts Pudding, Jello Poke Cake, Ritz Cracker Mock Apple Pie.

Biggest divergence from the results an American food blog would have gotten if it ran the same contest: only one of the entries is red-white-&-blue, and none of them are ironic. I have to assume that Italian cooks have less trouble than we would believing in an identifiable tradizione americana.

Copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.