Warning signs of LSE – literary status envy

LSE is a wasting disease. It invades the brains of writers of SF and other genres, progressively damaging their ability to tell entertaining stories until all they can write is unpleasant gray goo fit only for consumption by lit majors. One of the principal sequelae of the disease is plunging sales.

If you are a writer or an aspiring writer, you owe it to yourself to learn the symptoms of LSE so you can seek treatment should you contract it. If you love a writer or aspiring writer, be alert for the signs; victims often fail to recognize their condition until the degeneration has passed the critical point beyond which no recovery is possible. You may have to stage an intervention.

Here are some clinical indicators of LSE:

1. Evinces desire to be considered “serious artist”.

2. Idea content is absent or limited to politicized social criticism.

3. Heroism does not occur except as anti-heroic mockery.

4. All major characters are psychologically damaged.

5. Wordage devoted to any character’s interior monologues exceeds wordage in same character’s dialog.

6. Repeated character torture, especially of the self-destructive variety.

7. Inability to write an unambiguously happy ending. In advanced cases, the ability to write any ending at all may be lost.

8. Stronger craving for a Nebula than a Hugo. (Outside SF: approval of fellow genre authors more valued than that of fans.)

9. Spelling name without capital letters.

10. Plot is smothered under an inchoate cloud of characterization.

11. Persistent commission of heavy-handed allegory.

12. All sense of humor or perspective vanishes from writing, replaced (if at all) by hip irony.

13. Characters do not experience joy, hope, or autonomy except as transient falsehoods to be mocked.

14. No moment of conceptual breakthrough in story. (Outside SF: lack of respect for genre aims and values.)

If you have three or more of these symptoms, step away from your keyboard before another innocent reader is harmed. Immerse yourself in retro space opera (or your non-SF genre’s equivalent) until you understand what it got right that you are doing wrong. And, get over yourself.

(Thread is open for more symptoms. Try to keep politics out of it; that would be a different “Warning signs of being a political tool” list.)

238 thoughts on “Warning signs of LSE – literary status envy

  1. Deliberate inversion of traditional tropes, for no other reason than to be ‘edgy’ or ‘cool’. (Though you can actually build an entire career on that one if you do it right.)

    If you seem to think linear plots are for squares.

  2. >One of the principal sequelae of the disease is plunging sales.

    Yes. If your new book from a major publisher is getting its ass kicked by a sixty year old Heinlein juvenile, you’re probably doing it wrong.

  3. Would you consider Ayn Rand as being an example of those afflicted with LSE?

  4. Song of Ice and Fire has at least four of those symptoms. The Honorverse has two and arguably a third.

    Over-under on when they’re canceled due to declining sales?

  5. I would add . . .

    Extreme reliance on ambiguity and the accompanying expectation that readers will “intuit’ some enlightenment from navel-gazing as a substitute for comprehension.

  6. It is interesting to analyze LSE in terms of cultural prophecy:

    1. Right names are powerful

    Here lies a twisty maze of verbiage, all alike, none useful.

    2. Find the Deepest Yearning

    There are elements of this, the desire to have some characterization being one of the infection vectors. But for the most part the deep yearnings are repudiated.

    3. Use Cultural Capital

    HAHAHAAHHAAHAHAAHAHAH

    If it isn’t called racist it is called sexist, if not that naive.

    4. Change behavior before theory

    Not sure how to fit this one in, part of the desired behavior is to spewage the same drivel as the literarys. But the theories are so incomprehensible………

    5. Give people permission to be idealists.

    See naive above.

    The only acceptable ideal: “Life is pain, waaaaaaAAAAAA!!!!!!”

    6. Steer by your values

    Values are oppressive you hetronormative cisnormal patriarch!

  7. Your own editor has to warn you “Okay, she’s bi-sexual. We get that.”

  8. >Song of Ice and Fire has at least four of those symptoms. The Honorverse has two and arguably a third.

    Well, for SoIaF “Repeated character torture” is obvious. Otherwise, this requires analysis and justification.

  9. >Second, the bold in my previous post shows up in chrome, but not in firefox :-\

    It shows up in my Firefox when using this style.

  10. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 12, 13

    Brian M. Stableford’s “Daedalus Mission” series of the late 1970s. The first-person protagonist is a nihilistic asshole eaten up with socialist internal dialogue… who, despite self-interest and cowardice, often winds up doing heroic things due to sheer pressure of circumstance, regretting it before, during, and after.

    Given Stableford’s later work and political comments I suspect the irony wasn’t intentional, but that makes them even better. I liked the books, and they’ve survived a dozen cullings so far…

    The protagonist of his “Hooded Swan” series wasn’t quite as bad – he was a sociopath, basically, and therefore wasn’t what he was entirely by his own free choice – but the books were similar overall.

    So you *can* write a successful SF novel with 7 of your 14 strikes, but it probably isn’t easy…

  11. Experimentation with styles – a section that is like Debussy in the middle of a Baroque program. Even if it is well done it will be jarring.

    Sequels that get increasingly bizarre in the problems and resolutions – The third book in the trilogy resolves things. I can imagine a sequel to “Return of the King” only because I can extrapolate Jackson’s vandalism of The Hobbit which is getting progressively worse.

  12. What I believe is that it can be damned hard to remember what you really like in the face of social pressure, and if you’re applying social pressure about art, you’re part of the problem.

    This isn’t a new situation– as I understand it, when Arthur Conan Doyle started writing respectable historical fiction, he stopped being interesting.

    One of the things I dislike SJWs for is that my head is more full of noise when I read. And just as with vulgarity, opposition leads to more of the same. Tracking whether men are treated well enough in fiction isn’t that much different from tracking whether women are treated well enough.

    If you hang out in the (wrong?) places online, reading is a lot more communal than it used to be.

    I can’t honestly say that the Song of Ice and Fire is a case of literary fiction envy– or at least it is so wildly popular that it seems unreasonable to say it’s divorced from basic human pleasures.

  13. Well, I’m guilty of 6 and 7, but everything I write sits alone on my hard drive so no innocents have been harmed for at least ten years….

    I’m probably also guilty of 5, but I object: 5 seems almost inevitable when using a first-person perspective.

  14. (I realize that I show up in your SF theory posts mainly to apply them to my favorite author. I am not sorry.)

    Greg Egan’s “Oracle” contains (4) a psychologically-damaged protagonist (and antagonist!), (5) a tremendous amount of space spent on the protagonist’s inner monologue (he spends at least half of that trying to work out some physics, but still), (6) plenty of torture, (7) a lack of a happy ending, and (11) the whole thing is a brutally obvious allegory. It still got a Hugo nomination, won an Asimov’s poll and came in second for that year’s Locus awards, but I wonder if that makes up for those sins in your eyes.

    Is there a particular type species that you’re thinking of, an ur-example of all of these sins put together?

  15. @Nancy Leibovitz

    Have you read Arthur Conan Doyle’s The White Company and Sir Nigel? I think they buckle the swash quite well. Are his others not as good?

    S. M. Stirling included decendents of the main characters of The White Company in his Dies the Fire series.

  16. As pointed out in examples above, most of the items on this diagnostic list are descriptive, not predictive. A great deal of great classic SF/F fails this test, as well as some of the very best contemporary stuff. #1 and #8 are probably the most predictive of the tiresomeness of the creator. (#9 is a subtype of #1). The one that probably offends you the most is #14, and on that I probably agree, but even then you can have great SF/F without it.

    Some more examples of great classic SF that would fail: “The Forever War” and “All My Sins Remembered”. So would “To All Your Scattered Bodies Go” and it’s sequels. And much of the output of Ted Chiang, Greg Egan, and Robert Sawyer.

  17. SoIaF has 2 through 7 checked off.

    2. Idea content is absent or limited to politicized social criticism.

    Just because it’s criticism we agree with doesn’t mean that the resounding message of this series (“Feudalism and aristocracy SUCK HORRIBLY without input from the people”) doesn’t mean it’s not the main idea content and the “knowable lesson” of the world.

    3. Heroism does not occur except as anti-heroic mockery.

    If not all, most of the “heroic behavior” in SoIaF is “And they were brave, they were bold, and they were killed by bastards who were more ruthless than they were.”

    4. All major characters are psychologically damaged.

    Every major protagonist grade character is psychologically damaged, or worse, in the process of being psychologically damaged (hello, Arya….)

    5. Wordage devoted to any character’s interior monologues exceeds wordage in same character’s dialog.

    Yes. Nearly every chapter violates this rule.

    So much of the series is revealed through character introspection that the TV series has resorted to “monologue in front of lesbian sex” to get much of the monologing done in a way that doesn’t cause the audience to change channels.

    6. Repeated character torture, especially of the self-destructive variety.

    Yep. Martin has made his bones out of making you cheer for characters and then have them be killed.

    7. Inability to write an unambiguously happy ending. In advanced cases, the ability to write any ending at all may be lost.

    Yep.

  18. Sequels that get increasingly bizarre in the problems and resolutions – The third book in the trilogy resolves things. I can imagine a sequel to “Return of the King” only because I can extrapolate Jackson’s vandalism of The Hobbit which is getting progressively worse.

    You mean you’re not stoked for The Lord of the Rings: Episode VII?

  19. Most of those indicators apply to desire for “serious modern literature” status. The disease can produce other indicators when other forms have high status. For instance there have been periods when “high-status” literature was mind-numbingly pious, or rigidly archaic, or effusively adjectival.

    The key is destructive norms generated and enforced by litterateurs themselves, not imposed by an external authority (a church, a government).

    I can imagine a somewhat less pernicious form in which writers in one genre imitate another genre because of the latter’s greater prestige, in ways that work in the latter genre, but not in the other.

  20. This post reminds me of how lucky I am to never have to study eng. lit. again. I marvel at how we studied Priestley’s ‘An Inspector calls’ without ever using the word ‘strawman’, or ‘thinly-veiled left-wing propaganda’. It must be pathetic writing books that are unenjoyable to read, then read other books that are equally unenjoyable and pretend to enjoy them in order to sound sophisticated in front of all the other writers of unenjoyable books.

  21. Perhaps a corollary to #10 on your list, but something about “Plot is smothered under excessive attention to language and stylistic exercises.” I’ve found that many LSE writers can string together absolutely beautiful prose, it’s just that said prose is not used in service of a story or plot. Style for style’s sake. This does often go along with excessive focus on character.

  22. >If not all, most of the “heroic behavior” in SoIaF is “And they were brave, they were bold, and they were killed by bastards who were more ruthless than they were.”

    (contains spoilers; you may want to skip this if you haven’t read the books… I have not seen the TV series)

    I have to disagree with this. Martin’s characters are highly flawed individuals, but are still, in general, capable of performing noble acts. Tyrion’s refusal to consummate the marriage with Sansa, e.g.

    The moral code of the characters is definitely not ours but with few exceptions they do *have* a moral code (even if they don’t always adhere to it). The only completely ruthless and amoral major characters I can recall are Cersei and (old) Walder Frey. Even characters like Jaime Lannister have some sense of duty and honor (see his relationship with Brienne, for example). See also John Snow sending Mance’s child off south to get it out of Melisandre’s reach. That wasn’t done for personal gain.

    Many other examples come to mind. I think you’re wrong on #3.

    I think you’re premature on #7, too. While I seriously doubt there’s going to be a “happy ending”, I’m still willing to believe that Martin does have an actual ending in mind. The series doesn’t seem to be wandering off into the weeds like (e.g.) Dune.

  23. I must object that cynicism can be charming: witness Oscar Wilde’s plays. Also, this extract from The History Files describing an event in Februrary 2001:

    “The construction site in the western suburbs of Chengdu, in Sichuan Province, looked much like any other.

    It all started when a bulldozer driver heard a scraping sound as his machine bit deep into the ground: he struck a collection of golden, jade and bronze objects.

    Workers and passers-by were snapping up the treasures and scurrying off. Those too late to get anything were disgruntled and report the find to the police.”

  24. Characterization, well-done, drives a plot. Aristotle wasn’t wrong when he said that character is destiny.

    This indeed is the central theme of the Chinese classic “Three Kingdoms”: if you haven’t read it or seen any of the TV adaptations of it, I suggest you do so now. It overflows with heroics, ideas, plot development & resolution, and is the more memorable because it is, somehow, so coherent.

  25. These posts have caused me to notice something interesting, namely that while I dislike most New Wave prose science fiction, I greatly enjoy certain science fiction comic books that I think have New Wave influences. I’m thinking of the work of authors like Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, and Warren Ellis. I’m trying to think of explanations why and have come up with a few:

    1. Certain constraints of comic books, especially superhero comics, prevent the full horrible LSE of the New Wave from taking hold. For instance superheroes are generally expected to be active characters who at least attempt to solve problems and make conceptual breakthroughs. For various reasons comic writers cannot get out of those constraints as easily as prose authors.

    2. I have a poor sample size for comic books and a good one for prose. I’ve only read the best work of Morrison et. al, but have read a lot of crappy New Wave SF. If all the New Wave prose sf I’d ever read was just the best work of Michael Moorcock and Brian Aldiss I’d think the New Wave was pretty good.

    3. New Wave sf comics were first written in the 80s, while New Wave prose sf was at it’s height a decade earlier. This means that the New Wave-influenced comic writers were only influenced by the New Wave sf that actually had some merit as good storytelling and forgot about all the crap.

    I assign a high probability to 2 because I tend to seek out comics that look interesting. By contrast I’ve come across lots of wretched New Wave stories in anthologies I got for some other story and read all the way through for completion’s sake. I’ve seen some instances of 3 in action, for instance Grant Morrison’s first Batman stories had him as a passive, reactive character, but in later ones he said he learned better and wrote him as a heroic and active character. 1 probably also contributes to some extent, since there’s only so far a comics editor will let an author go with their valuable franchise. All three explanations probably contribute to some extent.

  26. History contains many examples of how character drives events. Where would we be without the persistence of Thomas Edison, the stubborn insistence of Nicola Tesla or the dedication of Marie Curie?

    My favourite high medieval figure, Count Alan Rufus, defies neat categorisation because, like the later Renaissance men, he was so strong across so many fields (military strategy, finance, law, architecture, to name a few). His firm commitment to heroic ideals – which, in his capable hands were quite practical – and his astonishingly progressive outlook made a difference in the lives of the ordinary people of England: he made aristocratic feudalism work for the common good by transforming large chunks of it into mercantilist capitalism. The great Lincolnshire port of Boston was his creation. His commitment to the protection of private property and his family’s continuing love of learning and liberty gave rise to the Magna Carta, Cambridge University (which honours Alan in its coat-of-arms), parliamentary government, the Caxton press, and to Harvard and the American Revolution.

    Great SF could be inspired by the careers of men and women such as these.

  27. “Science Fiction and Fantasy 101: Thinking Academically About Genre.” Using the word “academically” there is a farce. That post is a pure example of pure idiocy.

  28. “Science Fiction and Fantasy 101: Thinking Academically About Genre”

    Such a self-serving list filled with all the Right People and only the Right People. Rabbit/Orthodox 101.

  29. I haven’t read Sir Nigel or The White Company– I was going by an article I read somewhere about authors whose careers eventually went downhill.

    Martin says the last (seventh) volume will be called The Hope of Spring, so I have some hope of a finish to the series, and perhaps a relatively happy one. For what it’s worth, I think the plot threads were starting to come together in fifth book, and I wasn’t expecting that to be possible when I was reading the fourth book.

  30. >“we have to make sure that we continue to be inviting, not insular, not elitist, and to make everyone feel welcome”

    I’m just fine with stupid people feeling unwelcomed by SF, if that’s what asserting the genre norms implies.

    I’m just fine with cod-Marxist dipshits feeling revolted by it, too.

  31. >Some more examples of great classic SF that would fail: “The Forever War” and “All My Sins Remembered”. So would “To All Your Scattered Bodies Go” and it’s sequels. And much of the output of Ted Chiang, Greg Egan, and Robert Sawyer.

    I disagree that most of these would fail. Alas, I’m on the road with limited net access and a crappy keyboard; this limits my ability to make the counterarguments I want to.

  32. TRX- I agree that Stableford is right on the border of PC and SF. In the Daedalus series his characters are criminals or ticket-of-leave men. In the Hooded Swan stories the hero is too much of a loner for ‘sociopath’ to mean much. In both series, Stableford has found a workaround to be PC and still write something of an action story. In his later Emortality series, he tries be using female scientist characters and saying the failure of women to be nasty enough is a great social problem, so when the heroines are forceful it’s really because they are striking back against the Patriarchy and stuff.

    But he can’t just relax and say, ‘Han Solo blew up a couple Tie Fighters that got in his way and made a quick credit smuggling’. He can’t do a Janet Morris heroine who humps a cute guy or two on her High Couch, kills a few competitors, and thinks about dinner. His ideals screw him out of writing straight action-adventure. I don’t think science fiction has to support rationality as such. Greg Benford’s A Darker Geometry is hard SF, and good. Lovecraft is good Golden Age SF; the characters just spend more time terrified than usual. (Like the real explorers, in Hakluyt and Bernardo Diaz and a thousand pioneer diaries). But action-adventure requires action and adventure, and the more time you spend whining about life’s sorrows, the less time you have for action and adventure.

  33. “Science Fiction and Fantasy 101: Thinking Academically About Genre”

    The intellectual dishonesty of that post is amazing. 7 of the 11 authors he mentions actively promote intersectional gay feminist theory, which in real terms translates into “Oh, you white men.” Leckie, Jemisin and Ahmed in particular never shut up about the manifest failures of white men and Hurley probably has bite marks in her anger management DVDs.

    Can someone say “agenda?”

    Since there is no natural “intersection” between SF and “the study of how different power structures interact in the lives of minorities, specifically (gay) black women,” [1] one has to roll one’s eyes at the continued promotion of that insane insulated cult at the website associate of the largest publisher of SFF in the world. How insulated? Even within SF only intersectionalists are aware of intersectionalism, though many are aware of its [trigger warning] retarded obsessions.

    With the exception of Delany, in the normal world, and in strictly literary terms, all seven are flash-in-the-pan nobody from nowhere, put in this piece because their social awareness trumps art and history itself.

    [1] Bim Adewunmi, New Statesmen, “Kimberlé Crenshaw on intersectionality: ‘I wanted to come up with an everyday metaphor that anyone could use’” April 2, 2014

  34. “Warning signs of LSE – literary status envy”

    I do not understand the problem. There has been bad prose as long as there has been prose. Just like there has been bad poetry and bad music.

    A lot of what is hailed as literature is unreadable in any genre.

    As Neil Stephenson said, it all depends on the audience you write for: Literary critics and Maecenases versus the reading public (and which section of the reading public).
    He who pays the piper calls the tune.

    I get a sense that the sore spot is not so much the bad stories, but the political ideas behind it.

  35. >I haven’t read Sir Nigel or The White Company

    I have. They’re pretty awful, and high on the list of exhibits for the proposition that aspiring to be a Serious Artist produces brain-rot.

  36. Fail Burton, one of the major themes of science fiction is the interaction between people and power structures. This can be well or badly handled, of course.

  37. “I get a sense that the sore spot is not so much the bad stories, but the political ideas behind it.”

    Ooh, burn! or not.

    Have you noticed how leftists commonly have such a sense? Whether you have noticed or not, we non-leftists have noticed. For example, how intellectual dishonesty necessarily underlies their opponents’ manifestly-ridiculous belief that Obamacare limits some significant subsidies to state-created exchanges. And underlies their belief that the Second Amendment to the US Constitution protects an individual right. And underlies their belief that ordinary technical standards should apply to research even when its conclusions support IPCC orthodoxy. And underlies their belief that ordinary levels of skepticism and rule of law are appropriate when accusations of racism or sexist oppression are involved. It is bitterly hilarious when video or a unanimous ruling of the Supreme Court or leaked documents conspicuously reveal how the leftist public position is purely for the rubes, and that tends to stick in our forebrains. Also, even when we don’t fully appreciate it consciously, our primate-social hindbrains find it very significant that leftists don’t display contrition when they are caught like that. That hindbrain/gutlevel effect might actually be quite useful for leftists on net — it can serve as an convincing signal of group solidarity and power and dangerousness, e.g. But some of what what it signals is less useful.

    I also note that nonleftists in forums like this do seem to take criticism of anti-left ideologically-freighted fiction — commonly _Atlas Shrugged_, but also things like _Probability Broach_ or Heinlein — seriously instead of defining it away. It may occur to you that we’re just too durned stupid to invent a highfalutin’ concept like “leftsplainin'” for that purpose. It’s a possibility! For that matter, perhaps we have a sekrit mailing list on which we privately worry about how _AS_ is the worst kind of dreck there is even as we conspire to publicly parrot talking points like how its sales suggest that it’s not quite the same phenomenon as the leftist dreck here.

    If anything ever motivates you to doubt the “too durned stupid” explanation, and you’re casting around for an alternative, I refer you to Macaulay in _History of England_ describing Nemesis closing in on James II: “That men who are in the habit of breaking faith should be distrusted when they mean to keep it is part of their just and natural punishment.”

  38. @William Newman
    “Have you noticed how leftists commonly have such a sense? ….”

    So I was right, at least concerning you. My point is that bad writing and proselytizing is not confined to one political ideology. You seem to make the exact same error that you accuse these writers of: Mixing politics with taste.

  39. I appear to be clear of LSE but I did write a scene where the primary character describes aspects of nuclear weapons design and The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the same meeting.

  40. “Fail Burton, one of the major themes of science fiction is the interaction between people and power structures. This can be well or badly handled, of course.”

    I find it hard to believe you wrote that. We’re not talking about some speculative generic what-if but a very real supremacist and racist movement whose fiction is awash in its dogma and non-fiction even more so.

    The idea there is some natural intersection between WisCon and SF is ludicrous. There is a natural intersection between politics and SF, not the actual Dem Party or GOP and SF. That’s especially true when the genre itself comes to be all but ignored. If someone can point out the fantastic elements of Hild I’d like to hear them. It’s nothing more than WisCon and a lesbian agenda set in the 7th century. Ancillary Justice isn’t about some broad classical approach to gender but specifically panders to the early 21st century American transgender and intersectional community. The Nebula-winning “The Weight of the Sunrise” isn’t an entertaining what-if alt history but one severely circumscribed so the West MUST come tumbling down in the narrative and the non-Western Third World MUST profit. There is no alternative in that alternate history. “Wakulla Springs” isn’t a classic look at human failure and triumph but a typical WisCon slap in the face to the “da man.”

    Here is a quote attributed to SFF author and editor Eileen Gunn at the last WisCon: “… white people have lost knowledge that POC can bring. The warmth.”

    To me the racist anti-racism in that statement is plain creepy aside from being completely stunning. It’s the equivalent of two white couples capering in the sun on some poster with the caption “Whites Bring the Warmth, the Knowledge.” Great at some white supremacist web site, not so great in a literary movement. What else would you expect from Gunn considering she retweets Charles Blow. With people like Gunn in SF, and all her comrades, I say good luck SF – you’re going to need it, because dumb as stumps is the new norm.

  41. @Mark Atwood, @ESR:

    “The Forever War” does fail these criteria, and it should: it’s written as a message book that happens to be SF. It’s just a good enough message book to overlook that problem. Contrast that with the sequel, “Forever Free” (or better yet, don’t; it’s terrible) and you can see the status envy leaking out all over the place.

  42. I haven’t read Sir Nigel or The White Company

    I have. They’re pretty awful, and high on the list of exhibits for the proposition that aspiring to be a Serious Artist produces brain-rot.

    I’m sorry you feel that way. I enjoyed them. I also enjoyed Errol Flynn in Robin Hood.

  43. Ayn Rand:

    1. Evinces desire to be considered “serious artist”.
    Yes. Really, desired to be taken seriously as a philosopher more than as an artist, but enough of her essays were about art that she earns this point.
    2. Idea content is absent or limited to politicized social criticism.
    Yes. It’s the whole point of her fiction.
    3. Heroism does not occur except as anti-heroic mockery.
    Exactly the opposite.
    4. All major characters are psychologically damaged.
    Depends how you define damage, but not all her characters.
    5. Wordage devoted to any character’s interior monologues exceeds wordage in same character’s dialog.
    How about exterior monologue?
    6. Repeated character torture, especially of the self-destructive variety.
    Nope.
    7. Inability to write an unambiguously happy ending. In advanced cases, the ability to write any ending at all may be lost.
    Nope.
    8. Stronger craving for a Nebula than a Hugo. (Outside SF: approval of fellow genre authors more valued than that of fans.)
    Not sure whether Rand was guilty of this.
    9. Spelling name without capital letters.
    nope.
    10. Plot is smothered under an inchoate cloud of characterization.
    Not even under a pile of cardboard.
    11. Persistent commission of heavy-handed allegory.
    Does this count if it’s not allegory?
    12. All sense of humor or perspective vanishes from writing, replaced (if at all) by hip irony.
    Somewhat. No sense of humor, really (Francisco d’Anconia is the closest she came), and not very good with perspective.
    13. Characters do not experience joy, hope, or autonomy except as transient falsehoods to be mocked.
    Nope. The opposite, in fact.
    14. No moment of conceptual breakthrough in story. (Outside SF: lack of respect for genre aims and values.)
    Definitely no conceptual breakthroughs. The characters who understand do so from the beginning, those who don’t, never get it. Not sure how Rand fares judging by other genre aims.

    So Rand definitely shows two of these, another two which I’m not really sure how to judge, and another two (monologue and allegory) where it’s a matter of definition.

  44. Anthony – But Ayn Rand really was writing, and attempting to write, literary fiction instead of genre fiction. And I think esr’s list is for writers of genre fiction (especially sci-fi) who feel tempted to imitate literary fiction, rather than authors of actual literary fiction.

  45. (not-really related but it made me laugh: In Florence King’s novel When Sisterhood Was In Flower, the protagonist takes up writing porn for “Sword and Scabbard Publishers.” The publisher’s rules don’t allow anything that would give the books literary merit, so she takes one kind of revenge: her characters always speak in flawless English. As in, “On whom did you go down?”)

  46. Joseph – “Literary” is just another genre. And at least in the time she was writing, literary fiction wasn’t entirely overrun by the mopes. There was room for heroism and happy endings.

    While I enjoyed her fiction, and read altogether too many of her non-fiction essays, I think it’s obvious that Rand wanted to, at some level, be taken seriously by the leading lights of the literary establishment of her time. It wasn’t her primary motivation – her Message was that. But she thought it important, perhaps for the spreading of her message to the elites, that she be taken seriously as a philosopher and as a writer, by the gatekeepers in those worlds. I don’t think that desire consumed her, and I’m not sure how much it affected her writing (would she have written the same way if she didn’t actually care?), but it’s clear to me that she had the desire to be Taken Seriously.

  47. Anthony – I agree completely with your second paragraph. But my point is that esr’s “LSE list” isn’t meant for (and shouldn’t be applied to) literary fiction like hers. The evil he’s combating is efforts by genre authors to imitate literary fiction…resulting in something that’s neither good literary nor good genre fiction…rather than problems within literary fiction itself.

  48. My impression is that Rand had a lot of fondness for genre fiction, and was trying to combine the entertainment of genre (science fiction and mystery, at least) with philosophical depth.

  49. Is literary fiction literary because it impresses academics, or does it impress academics because it’s literary? Near as I can tell, literary fiction is “no items, Fox only, Final Destination”[0] for writers. The goal is not to adhere to stylistic or genre norms to please crowds but to transcend them in an interesting way, so that your work stands the test of time and is remembered as a classic original piece that captures the zeitgeist of an era. This requires scholarly knowledge of history, of contemporary issues, and of past works. It’s a much different, more serious and high-stakes game than genre writing.

    That said, Eric is right in that if most genre writers attempt lit-fic so as to put their personal mark on the world, the result would be an unreadable disaster. They shouldn’t even try. Only a handful of writers have the intelligence, insight, and scholarship to pull it off; William Gibson and China Miéville come to mind.

    [0]A reference to the Super Smash Bros. series of fighting video games. In competitive tournament play, items which can turn the tide of battle are often disabled, and play on a flat featureless landscape like “Final Destination” is favored. Also favored is the exclusive use of top-ranked characters like Fox McCloud. This combination of rules makes a win or loss far more dependent on player skill than on character choice, terrain advantage, or item deployment, at the expense of making the game less “fun” particularly for the unskilled.

  50. ESR: “””I disagree that most of these would fail. Alas, I’m on the road with limited net access and a crappy keyboard; this limits my ability to make the counterarguments I want to.”””

    I haven’t read the works referenced, so I cannot provide the counterarguments that Eric might have in mind; having said that, I have some thoughts that could count as counterarguments.

    Everyone who is referencing individual works, and comparing them to these points, is missing the mark somewhat. This isn’t a measuring stick for works, but for authors: if you find yourself checking off these points, over and over again, then you are in trouble. Looking at an individual work likely won’t make sense without this in mind, because sometimes you need to tell a story with psychologically damaged characters, with character torture; such a story doesn’t necessarily end well. Heck, there are even times where a politicized social screed needs to be couched in a story of some sort.

    I would even go so far to say that your story may have a character or two that’s psychologically damaged, but still have good characters; that you might end on a sad note, but still provide a glimmer of hope–so a work that looks gloomy on its surface might look gloomy, might still disqualify itself by the standards of this list.

    The problem comes when these things are done, not for the sake of story, but because the author wants to be a “serious artist”, mocks heroism in general, craves adulation from genre authors and critics at the expense of adulation from fans, and overall, suck joy and humor from all life. Overall, SF/F is supposed to be about hope, heroism, and in the case of SF, about conceptual breakthroughs.

    Come to think about it, I think the “deep norm” of Fantasy is heroism–and if heroism in Fantasy occurs only as anti-heroic mockery, you’re disrespecting Fantasy’s aims and values. (I would go so far to say that it may even be the case that heroism may be a “secondary” norm for Science Fiction–and that conceptual breakthroughs are likely “secondary” norms for Fantasy–which is probably one of the reasons why Science Fiction and Fantasy are so difficult to disentangle from each other.)

  51. “””I’m just fine with stupid people feeling unwelcomed by SF, if that’s what asserting the genre norms implies.”””

    I’m not quite sure if I would put it that way, because I don’t see how being stupid would prevent one from enjoying the genre norm. Having said that, I’m perfectly fine with anyone feeling unwelcomed by SF–stupid or smart, male or female, white or non-white–if they can’t accept the genre norms. I’m uncomfortable with excessive sap, so I would never feel welcomed by genre romance; I would never insist that Romance writers change their style, though, just to accommodate me. Any work that tries to do so, would no longer be Romance!

    The norms of a given genre are rules by which the readers and the authors establish the “game”. It shouldn’t be shameful to express a desire to exclude someone (whether reader or author) because they don’t want to play by the rules!

    True inclusiveness would be achieved when we can convince others to accept these rules, rather than insist that we break the rules for the illusion of popularity.

  52. >It’s a much different, more serious and high-stakes game than genre writing.

    I disagree. I’ve read good literary fiction. I get it – and, with a very few exceptions, I find it cramped and parochial compared to good SF. Lit-fic authors themselves to be profoundly delving into the human condition, but with so much that they never think to question they are unable to get outside an extremely narrow, culture-bound sliver of the possibilities. The contrast between the vast aspirations of lit-fic and the generally shallow and trivial actuality often strikes me as extremely comical.

  53. >(I would go so far to say that it may even be the case that heroism may be a “secondary” norm for Science Fiction–and that conceptual breakthroughs are likely “secondary” norms for Fantasy–which is probably one of the reasons why Science Fiction and Fantasy are so difficult to disentangle from each other.)

    *blink*

    OK, you just justified this entire thread. I’m going to have to think about that carefully.

  54. >My impression is that Rand had a lot of fondness for genre fiction, and was trying to combine the entertainment of genre (science fiction and mystery, at least) with philosophical depth.

    Yes. Rand actually did what lit-fic aims to do but generally fails at – ask deep questions about the human condition. Too damn bad she was heavy-handed and nigh-unreadable about it.

  55. “Everyone who is referencing individual works, and comparing them to these points, is missing the mark somewhat. This isn’t a measuring stick for works, but for authors: if you find yourself checking off these points, over and over again, then you are in trouble.”

    This is a good observation. If one protagonist is psychologically damaged, it’s no big deal. If EVERY protagonist is psychologically damaged, it is safe to conclude that the AUTHOR is psychologically damaged.

  56. You mean you’re not stoked for The Lord of the Rings: Episode VII?

    I am…the continuing adventures of Legolas…

    Then again I’ve liked all the movies so far. They are movies and a different media. Plus, hot elf chicks sell to SF&F demographic. Kili having a crush on Bilbo might appeal to folks this fact pisses off but I prefer Jackson’s version.

  57. Attitudes like this are how we get After The Blast and Opera Vita Aeterna.

  58. @fail you keep bringing up WisCon and being pissed off about them but it is WisCon is it not? It is expected for that con, right?

  59. @esr:
    “I disagree. I’ve read good literary fiction. I get it – and, with a very few exceptions, I find it cramped and parochial compared to good SF. Lit-fic authors themselves to be profoundly delving into the human condition, but with so much that they never think to question they are unable to get outside an extremely narrow, culture-bound sliver of the possibilities. The contrast between the vast aspirations of lit-fic and the generally shallow and trivial actuality often strikes me as extremely comical.”

    Syntax error in sentence three. There seem to be at least two missing words. “Lit fic authors [consider???] themselves… but with so much [???] that they…”.

  60. “This indeed is the central theme of the Chinese classic “Three Kingdoms”: if you haven’t read it or seen any of the TV adaptations of it, I suggest you do so now. It overflows with heroics, ideas, plot development & resolution, and is the more memorable because it is, somehow, so coherent.”

    I suggest the tv adaptations or movies…The translation is kind of stilted even in the Roberts version. The unabridged version from Roberts is probably best.

  61. Diagnosing the disease as non political is an inherent category error.

    In particular, the absence of actually heroic heroes is an inherent feature of progressive morality and politics – see my complaint about Ian Banks “heroes” and the progressive complaint about Tom Kratman’s heroes.

  62. Attitudes like what, Luscinia?! PLEASE give us some way to know what you’re commenting on, 70-odd posts in! Direct your comment at someone, quote something, something! Your little…nuggets of wisdom are pretty much meaningless if we don’t know what you’re commenting on!

  63. esr

    Yes. Rand actually did what lit-fic aims to do but generally fails at – ask deep questions about the human condition. Too damn bad she was heavy-handed and nigh-unreadable about it.

    You are allowed to say that after you have sold as many copies as she has.

  64. There is a self-published fantasy author named Tom Simon whose blog I follow. I have not read any of Mr. Simon’s books and cannot speak for their quality, but his essays and commentaries on the practices of mainstream publishers generally leave me entertained.

    He has written several essays on the damage of concepts akin to literary status envy.

    http://bondwine.com/2014/07/05/death-by-bebop/
    “in a perfect performance, nobody but the band members would ever know what was actually going on. At the same time, he made his variations more and more intricate, less and less related to the tune he was ostensibly playing.”

    In SF: the idea isn’t the hero because the idea is actively obscured, if present at all; audience expectations will be reversed or subverted not in the service of an actually subversive idea, but in the service of variation for its own sake. Strange for the sake of estrangement, rather than strange for the sake of exploration.

    This is actually related to what I think separates SF from Fantasy and Weird Fiction.

    In “On Fairy Stories,” Tolkien wrote that one of the deep norms of Fantasy is “arresting strangeness.” In SF, arresting strangeness is employed as part of the exploration of an idea, such as non-binary sexuality in William Tenn’s “Venus and the Seven Sexes.” However, if the arresting strangeness is employed solely to produce emotional responses rather than provoke rational examination, then it’s likely going for what Lovecraft called “adventurous expectancy,” and you’ve probably crossed from John Campbell’s home turf into Farnsworth Wright’s realm; and if the strange and unknowable is employed in order to resolve plot problems rather than just to raise them, then you’ve hit Fantasy (SF will often use formerly-strange elements to solve problems, but these are usually things which are actually understood rationally by the protagonists by the time they are used to solve the problem). A lot of SF is actually Weird Fiction in disguise, in my opinion.

  65. @JAD
    “You are allowed to say that after you have sold as many copies as she has.”

    I can name a number of political writers you loath who sold more copies than Rand.

    It is common opinion that you do not have to be a Chef to judge the food. And Macdonalds does not server better food than Paul Baucuse just because they served more of it.

  66. VD, if a writer is writing damaged characters because they’re damaged themselves, it’s almost the opposite of wanting to write literary fiction for the status.

    Bujold and Le Guin are at least somewhat progressive politically, and write heroic characters.

    Is LSE bad because it leads to writing that no one (or almost no one) likes, or is it writing that no one should like? I’m wondering where Dhalgren fits into the typology. It got quite a large audience, and I believe there were a good many people who were honestly personally enthusiastic about it.

  67. Winter commented on Warning signs of LSE – literary status envy.

    I can name a number of political writers you loath who sold more copies than Rand.

    I suppose Karl Marx and Chairman Mao have sold considerably more copies, though I much doubt that more of those copies have actually been read. But what science fiction writer has sold more copies of political science fiction book?

    More than 6 million copies of Atlas Shrugged have been sold in the US. How many has Ian Banks sold?

  68. Nancy Lebovitz

    Bujold and Le Guin are at least somewhat progressive politically, and write heroic characters.

    No they don’t. They sometimes attempt, not very successfully, to write heroic characters. Since their heroic characters strangely do not quite work, they are inclined to give up the attempt.

    Consider Ramarren in “City of Illusions”. I suppose Ramarren was intended to be a hero. Now imagine if Tom Kratman had told us Ramarren’s story. See the difference? Also the Shing would have become a small highly radioactive grease spot.

    Consider Ged in “Wizard of Earthsea”. I suppose Ged was intended to be a hero. Compare with Gandalf. Enough said.

  69. nht, I have no idea what that means. Is a thing right because it is expected behavior? Why comment about anything then?

    You may be resigned to the sight of out and out racists in a literary movement humping each other as the noble oppressed but I’m not. That is especially so since WisCon has successfully infiltrated that madness into the SFWA and Nebulas, Readercon and WorldCon. What happens to a society when hate-speech is mainstreamed? Did you not notice Ellen Klages, co-author of “White Creature at the Black Lagoon” otherwise known as “Wakulla Springs” emceeing the Nebulas with her hair slicked back and dressed like a man?

    Any expectations for that literature? What happens when they come gunning for you? How about “The Marching Morons of Doi Saket?” and then someone Tweeting about the idiots in Asia using cell phones and other tech they didn’t and can’t create and coming here and “culturally appropriating” my internet? How does that sound as “lidderracher”? High-fives all around? Do I get an award for slapping around Asians?

    When supremacists are being given literary awards, that’s not imagining an Orwellian “what if,” that’s the real thing right there in front of you. What are you going to do about it? Say, “well, I’m not white so I don’t particularly care”? What if it was “The Jews of Wakulla Springs”? Not Jewish and so you don’t care? If these morons were truly correct, they’d have some white supremacist literature from SF’s past to match their own, but it doesn’t exist. There’s no “SF” stories about blacks robbing convenience stores or otherwise showing how decrepit black culture is. Yet that is – in principle – exactly what SF has devolved to. And they put the exclamation point on this filth by giving each other awards and literally high-fiving each other on Twitter saying the equivalent of “Yay! No blacks won an award!”

    The lax response to these morons is perhaps it’s own explanation as to why SF has fallen so far, so fast. Does it not at all concern you that 13 bigots are Hugo nominees this year? Do you have a definition of what a bigot is? Is simple hate the same as politics? What sophisticated ideas lie behind a disdain for ethnic groups? Are you truly that dazzled by swinish demonization theories like “white privilege?” Given the broadening of the genre and it’s hyper stupidity, why not just give a retro Hugo to “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”?

    What cartoon character used to always say “Dat sounds logical”? This is not some ditzy never-could-really-be cartoon character that people in the ’60s had the common sense to laugh at back then, they’re many of the rank and file SF readers, and yeah, it’s sounds logical.

    Unless you can point to an ethnic supremacist movement within any timeframe of SF’s history that created a literature advocating and demonizing people based on their ethnicity, sexual orientation and sex, I’d say there’s cause for concern.

  70. Winter on 2014-08-07 at 05:10:21 said:

    “Do we have room for Scalzi on Rand? I feel we might: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/10/01/what-i-think-about-atlas-shrugged/”

    Scalzi says that Atlas Shrugged was a great read, but has absolutely no connection to the real world. It is wish fulfillment for nerds.

    Observe that Ayn Rand accurately described today’s Detroit, while writing at a time when Detroit had the highest living standard in the world.

    Observe that Ayn Rand explained the 2005-2007 banking crisis forty eight years before it happened.

  71. Let me amend my remark about the Hugos: I have identified no less than 28 2014 Hugo or Hugo administered nominees who publicly support intersectionalism. Each one of them has made public comments either making insulting remarks about white male heterosexuals (or each individually), openly supports the theories of “white privilege,” “rape culture,” etc., routinely complained about too many white people in films, TV and books, reviled the “cis-patriarchy,” openly support straight up racists, considers Golden Age SF little more than a sexist KKK, and one of them reportedly ran Requires Only That You Hate under an alias, the most obscenely racist sexist blog in the history of SF.

    I have the quotes from all 28 to back that up, because none of them make any secret of their inclinations.

    That is not just a literary movement whose perception and intellect has fallen, it is buried somewhere at the center of the Earth. This is a genre that is on the wrong side of Orwell’s 1984 and loving it, while somehow thinking the exact opposite is the case.

    28! To me that’s just stunning.

    You can stick a fork in that one. Tolerating such a thing would be bad enough – but awards? SF in it’s higher expressions was once dedicated to shifting perspectives so that when a thing like a neo-Nazi movement put on a new suit, we wouldn’t be fooled by appearances. No longer.

    Heinlein’s “–if This Goes On” is dedicated to such a perception. Why be surprised intersectionalists revile Heinlein? In the PC version of the story, all the freedom fighters would be killed, or at least blacklisted and called “reactionaries.”

  72. For added context I’d like to once again point out that in the entire history of SF from 1912 to 1970, you can’t find 5 authors bound together by a commonly held supremacist ideology that reviles homosexuals, non-whites and women.

    28.

    In ONE year!

  73. @JAD
    “More than 6 million copies of Atlas Shrugged have been sold in the US. How many has Ian Banks sold?”

    Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea books come close, I would think.

  74. @JAD
    “Observe that Ayn Rand explained the 2005-2007 banking crisis forty eight years before it happened.”

    As did Keynes, Marx, and Nostradamus. And the I Tjing I am sure.

  75. That neo-Nazi moron at least has the brains to understand he’s a racist, that society considers him so, and when and why he’s changing appearances.

    That makes a neo-Nazi moron smarter, more honest and more perceptive than an intersectionalist, who, in principle, is the exact same thing.

    What does that tell you about the intellectual capacity of core SF fandom and its institutions? Why are we surprised Amazon’s Top 100 SFF authors stay away from fandom, are ignored by that same fandom, or why normal human beings flock to Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Twilight?

    However even neo-Nazis morons can’t see the irony in appropriating a music created by people they hate, rather like our intersectionalists. Because that’s the funny thing about intersectionalism: by their mode of thought (not mine), SF belongs to me and the core group of intersectionalists are interlopers and culture thieves. You have to read about how much intersectionalists go on about the “white savior” in media to understand how fruity and racist they are. That’s like me writing posts about too many blacks scoring the winning bucket in the NBA. But our wrong-way racists call that “social justice” under another name. I still call it racial bigotry, cuz I’m old-fashioned like that.

    Good luck Hugos! Go [redacted] yourselves.

  76. @JAD

    More opinions on Ayn Rand’s works from very suspect quarters no doubt:

    The Sinister Folly of Ayn Rand
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jesse-larner/the-sinister-folly-of-ayn_b_73562.html

    Besides some attention to the psychopathologic nature of her ideas, the scientific claims are discussed:

    Rand herself said that capitalism is the only economic system that is fully compatible with man’s nature–but on the basis of what evidence? Did anyone ever challenge her on how she came to that conclusion, beyond her own personal conviction that it was so? What, after all, did she know of “man’s nature”?

    Today there is a very small minority of economists who take her ideas seriously. There are virtually no biologists, anthropologists, sociologists, ethologists, geneticists or evolutionary theorists who do. Her ideas about the individual simply do not fit the objective research about how our species behaves and prospers.

  77. Do we have room for Scalzi on Rand? I feel we might: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/10/01/what-i-think-about-atlas-shrugged/

    That Scalzi thinks Galt collapsed civilization indicates that he fails basic reading comprehension.

    Seriously. The whole point of the story of Dagny Taggart, the central character of the whole damn book, is that as long as the looters control things, the world cannot be saved. Galt himself is explicitly clear that as long as Dagny believes the world can be saved, she is, in fact, justified to continue her efforts to save it—but that she’s wrong, that all she’s doing is giving the looters the false hope that their methods will not destroy the world. Which, of course (since she’s the heroine), she realizes before the book is over.

    And when you consider how repetitively didactic Rand is, when someone can actually miss the point of the journey of the central character of the novel, it indicates either subnormal intelligence or a case of ironclad close-mindedness.

  78. My Hugo votes are as follows:

    [A Tie] Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie and Parasite, Mira Grant

    “Wakulla Springs”, Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages

    “The Waiting Stars”, Aliette de Bodard

    “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, Rachel Swirsky

    Best Related Work: “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative”, Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)

    Best Editor, Short Form: Neil Clarke

    Best Semiprozine: [A Tie: all of them] * Apex Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore, and Michael Damian Thomas
    * Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews
    * Interzone, edited by Andy Cox
    * Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Rich Horton, and Stefan Rudnicki
    * Strange Horizons, edited by Niall Harrison, Brit Mandelo, An Owomoyela, Julia Rios, Sonya Taaffe, Abigail Nussbaum, Rebecca Cross, Anaea Lay, and Shane Gavin

    Best Fanzine: The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

    Best Fancast: The Skiffy and Fanty Show, Shaun Duke, Jen Zink, Julia Rios, Paul Weimer, David Annandale, Mike Underwood, and Stina Leicht

    Best Fan Writer: [A Tie: all of them]
    * Liz Bourke
    * Kameron Hurley
    * Foz Meadows
    * Abigail Nussbaum
    * Mark Oshiro

    The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: [ A Three-Way Tie]
    * Ramez Naam
    * Sofia Samatar
    * Benjanun Sriduangkaew

    They all do truly deserve to be awarded.

  79. Attitudes like I DON’T KNOW, a deep-seated loathing of all things literary in SF? That’s what we got, a pile of populist garbage by idiots who don’t realize that focusing on nothing but story doesn’t help when your story is as bland as your characters or prose.

  80. >Syntax error in sentence three.

    Sorry, typing under bad conditions. Let’s try again:

    I’ve read good literary fiction. I get it – and, with a very few exceptions, I find it cramped and parochial compared to good SF. Lit-fic authors believe themselves to be profoundly delving into the human condition, but with so much that they never think to question, they are unable to get outside an extremely narrow and culture-bound sliver of the possibilities. The contrast between the vast aspirations of lit-fic and the generally shallow and trivial actuality often strikes me as extremely comical.

  81. It’s amusing that Clamps mentions exactly two works in this. Mine, and Vox’s. The two writers he has managed to identify commenting here.

    No mentions of his other favorite targets of derision…because they’re not here to annoy.

    Clamps, if you were a better troll, I might have a bit more respect for you. At least then you’d be good at something. As it is, you clearly fail at every undertaking I can find that you’ve attempted. I guess you should at least be applauded for your persistence, despite sucking so badly. Too bad for you that you still are unable to improve at any of them. Especially trolling.

  82. “focusing on nothing but story doesn’t help when your story is as bland as your characters or prose.”

    Story. Bland.

    The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Ringworld. Live Free or Die. Lensman (for all its myriad faults, the story is first-rate). The Discworld. Honor Harrington. 1632. Fer${DEITY}ssake, Star freaking Wars!

    Literary fiction? Nope. Stories to stir the blood and move the soul? Betcherass!

  83. Clamps here is one of those “it’s the prose that matters” types who thinks stories are overrated. Unfortunately, as a writer, he fails at both prose and story.

  84. You showed up for one class on prose and story, fell asleep, and didn’t bother to show up.

    Prose does matter.

  85. I should be since I am not one. The difference between things like active and passive voice makes my eyes glaze over and I fall into a trance.

  86. Like all PC Luscinia thinks if one says “I am not a writer” it actually means “I am a writer.”

  87. I admit that Le Guin seemed like only a middling example on heroic characters, though I think the trek across the ice in The Left Hand of Darkness should count for something, but Bujold definitely writes heroic characters.

    Scalzi’s review of Atlas Shrugged should at least put the lie to people who claim that no one liked the book (so do I), but the important inaccuracry is “Sociopathic idealized nerds collapse society because they don’t get enough hugs.”

    He completely leaves out that they’re subject to a dictatorship which doesn’t like their kind of people.

    One thing that Rand didn’t predict was how energetic corrupt business people have turned out to be. Her initial set of bad guys barely just have enough energy to get a few government favors– there’s nothing like Enron.

  88. But you did write Britetown Races. Because there’s a character named Fail Burton in that.

  89. @Nancy Lebovitz
    “He completely leaves out that they’re subject to a dictatorship which doesn’t like their kind of people.”

    There are people (I am one) that consider killing billions of people (most of humanity) unacceptable under any pretext.

  90. Luscinia on 2014-08-07 at 10:09:55 said: “””Prose does matter.”””

    Yes, I’m willing to grant you this. Sortof.

    I cannot remember the name of the book, or where I encountered the name, but in a comment thread I encountered recently, someone mentioned a book that has rather stilted prose, but was nonetheless a good book, because the story itself was engaging enough, that it didn’t matter that the prose wasn’t the best in the world.

    On the other hand, I have encountered rather flowery prose (usually quoted from works I’m not likely to read, including James Joyce’s Ulysses) that described rather nonsensical things, or described serious things in a ridiculous way.

    Heck, many years ago, I read a fantasy book that was rather…off…and I didn’t realize what was wrong with it until I started reading a Star Wars book shortly afterward: in the first two pages of the Star Wars book, I realized that I encountered the word “said” about ten times, which caused me to count the number of times the word “said” occurred in that fantasy book: about ten times. The fantasy author took the advice that “said” is such a boring word, that it should be replaced with any word but “said”, to heart. I suppose the end result was flowery prose, but it proved to be extremely annoying, too. I came to realize that “said” is a work-horse word, like pronouns and articles; easy to ignore, but crucial, because it helps move things along.

    That isn’t to say you should always use “said” in dialogue; if you are afraid of using it regularly, however, then that may be a signal, however small, that you may be more interested in prose for prose’s sake.

    Thus, while clear prose would certainly help a story along, I’m not convinced it’s strictly necessary; on the other hand, prose for the sake of prose can lead to really awful story-telling!

  91. That Scalzi thinks Galt collapsed civilization indicates that he fails basic reading comprehension.

    Really? That’s intriguing. So the thing where he gathers all the STEM-literate folks unto himself in the Gulch is nothing to do with the collapse?

    I might have to read it myself, after I finish The Night Land.

  92. @NAncy Lebovitz
    “I think it’s fair to say that Galt hastened a collapse that was already in progress.”

    From the descriptions, he took an active part in making sure that the collapse occurred. The fact that a collapse is in progress is “immaterial”.

    The collapse of the Western Roman Empire was from a certain point on almost certain. The speed with which it happened determined the number of causalities and the depth of the population collapse.

    Furthermore, nothing is inevitable. However likely a collapse might be, someone might find a way out of it.

    In short, hastening a collapse is not morally neutral. Unless you treat people as cattle which are destroyed when ill, rather than cured.

  93. Winter on 2014-08-07 at 11:19:49 said: “””There are people (I am one) that consider killing billions of people (most of humanity) unacceptable under any pretext.”””

    I am opposed to killing billions of people as well. While I have not yet read Atlas Shrugged, however, I have always had the impression that “Going Galt” was a passive thing: withdrawing from society, and leaving society to its own devices. Furthermore, at least one comment mentioned that the characters in Atlas Shrugged were encouraged to do everything they could to try to save that society before it collapses.

    If I were tired of supporting my alcoholic brother-in-law in his self-destructive behavior, and as a result, he was evicted,

    It has been claimed that, in the process of “going Galt”, they blew up bridges and other infrastructure; I don’t know enough about the story, though, to know if this is really “attempting to murder”, or if some other moral principle is at stake here. While I would consider the idea atrocious, I recently read a short-story of sorts where a doctor was going to deny all of science to a woman who refused vaccines for her children, and who was proud of her innumeracy; to what degree was the blowing up of bridges a rhetorical point?

  94. Are you a common nightingale?

    There’s a “Luscinia” in Ya Poopi Now’s classic Islamic pop song “My Habbibi Hurts.” Are you Ya Poopi Now? There’s a “Luscinia” in the classic Urdu novel of forbidden homosexual Hindu-Mughal love set during the Delhi Uprising by Silayet Mangrove called “Don’t Grease the Bullet.” Which character are you?

  95. Luscinia is a genus of birds.
    “Fail Burton” is the name of a character in one novel penned by one of Vox Day’s readers.

  96. From Brad Hicks (the second link Winter provided): “””John Galt, outraged that anybody would even suggest that he or the company he worked for owed anything to the nation that provided his education, protected him from infectious disease outbreaks, protected him from Communist invasion, built the roads that got him to work each day, provided the police that kept him safe, and provided the court system that protected his property rights at all, sabotaged the Galt Engine, so nobody could have it.”””

    While Scalzi didn’t say this himself, this attitude shows up in the comments on his piece as well; indeed, it’s very typical for pro-government people to criticize limited-government types by trotting out “roads and education and police and courts”. Put aside the fact that it’s not impossible for these services–particularly education–to be provided privately, and universally to boot. So what if the State provided these things to Galt? Does that justify taking 30% of his income? 60%? 90%? Should Galt be content to pay for a society where more and more people are paid by the government not to work? Should he be happy that he’s forced to contribute to the largest Ponzi scheme the world has ever seen? And what would happen to Galt, if he decided to only pay enough taxes to cover roads, education, military, police and courts?

    As a parent who home-schools his children, this line of reasoning particularly gets under my skin, because I still pay for State education, even though I’m providing for the education of my children myself–and I’m doing this because I consider State education to be inadequate, so my taxes are going to a failing system, one that I opted out of! And what are we supposed to do, when the Government takes on this responsibility, and then refuses to live up to that responsibility? (Classic example: $800 million meant to boost the economy and re-build road and grid infrastructure went to University Women’s programs instead, because Government decided it was more important to increase spending on women, instead of spending on the male engineers and construction workers that would have rebuilt our infrastructure.)

    One of the commenters on Scalzi’s essay makes the point that we libertarian and conservative types are heartless, because we consider road-building to be more important than feeding the elderly. I would take this the opposite direction: libertarians and some conservatives will try to organize private institutions (ranging from extended family, to church, to mutual aid societies and other charities) to feed the elderly, while leftists are heartless bastards who will leave the feeding of the elderly to soulless, graft-seeking, wasteful bureaucrats who are more concerned about their little kingdoms than they are about the people they allegedly serve.

    And as for “going Galt” itself: how many people are there, who look at their tax bill, and say to themselves, “Enough! I could work a lot less, still meet my needs, and not have to pay all these taxes!” The number is growing. And the surprising thing is that Government itself, through harmful policies and regulations, are actually forcing this on people, to some extent, by destroying livelihoods, by making it difficult to create new livelihoods, and by encouraging people to go on welfare.

    During the last several years, we’ve seen an increase in the rate of people seeking disability for depression. These people may not be literally going Galt, but long-term unemployment is harmful for the soul.

  97. Some of the characters in Atlas Shrugged destroy their own businesses before they leave. This includes blowing up an oil refinery.

    A major bridge is destroyed as a result of a government weapon that’s falls into the hands of someone who tries to prove he has the right to use it even though he doesn’t know anything about it.

    A tunnel is destroyed because of a complex chain of irresponsibility and government demands.

    One bit that I think is genuinely sociopathic is that Francisco d’Anconia (who is supposed to be a very cool person), in the course of destroying one of his copper mines, permits the housing for workers to be built by incompetent and corrupt contractors– and thinks he’s making a point by doing so.

    The book isn’t about withdrawing the STEM people– it’s about withdrawing a handful of the most capable and conscientious people (some of whom have STEM backgrounds), mostly from a few crucial industries.

    Galt didn’t sabotage the Galt engine– he abandoned his notes when the incompetent company he’d worked for went under, and the notes would take someone very smart to understand them.

    Part of the the point is that their lives are going to be miserable if they stay in America. Is it immoral to leave a dictatorship, even if you could be doing useful work there, and go to someplace better?

    All this being said, I’d be interested in any reasonably competent effort to write a sequel to Atlas Shrugged about rebuilding society, whether it’s by an objectivist or not. In one sense, Rand just wrote the easy part.

  98. While Scalzi didn’t say this himself, this attitude shows up in the comments on his piece as well; indeed, it’s very typical for pro-government people to criticize limited-government types by trotting out “roads and education and police and courts”. Put aside the fact that it’s not impossible for these services–particularly education–to be provided privately, and universally to boot.

    FYI, Winter lives in the Netherlands. Part of the reason why he favors strong governments is because a strong state apparatus literally keeps the Atlantic Ocean from swamping the country. I have yet to hear from libertarians how to provide this service from the private sector, in a way that doesn’t make the population vulnerable to exploitation by the dike owners. And if each citizen owns an equal share of the dike trust, how is that fundamentally different from a public service provided by the government?

  99. @Jeff Read
    “FYI, Winter lives in the Netherlands. Part of the reason why he favors strong governments is because a strong state apparatus literally keeps the Atlantic Ocean from swamping the country. ”

    Riding your bike uphill to reach the water does give a certain urgency to the idea of “society”. So, I think you are right. But what humors me most of all is the complaints from the US about their high tax bill. They have not been around much if you consider that high.

    On the other hand, people in the USA seem to get very little in return for their taxes. Much less bang for the buck than we get. At least that Is what they tell me.

  100. Clamps, Clamps, Clamps. You silly, ignorant tool. Here’s what you said: “You showed up for one class on prose and story, fell asleep, and didn’t bother to show up.”

    I showed up but then didn’t show up. Your own master of prose is dizzying. No wonder the only person I know who actually read your crap suffers from PTSD as a result. Seriously, you need to come with trigger warnings.

  101. You showed up once and then you didn’t show up afterwards. How insanely difficult a concept to grasp.

  102. If you had the capability of writing clearly, it wouldn’t be. Unfortunately, you don’t.

    You need classes on trolling and writing. Unsurprisingly, since you’re so God awful at both.

  103. ” I have yet to hear from libertarians how to provide this service from the private sector, in a way that doesn’t make the population vulnerable to exploitation by the dike owners.”

    And this would be different from being exploited by government exactly how?

  104. And “After the Blast” has more fans than anything of yours, and has made me more money than anything you’ve written.

    Um…what’s your point?

  105. When I posted those details from _Atlas Shrugged_, I was shocked at how much other people were getting wrong about the book. On the other hand, it’s possible that I got some details wrong myself.

  106. Jeff Read: “””I have yet to hear from libertarians how to provide this service from the private sector, in a way that doesn’t make the population vulnerable to exploitation by the dike owners.”””

    First off, while I know that cases have been made on how the privatization of roads might be done, I have not personally read them, nor have I spent a sufficient amount of time myself trying to work out how such a system might work out. I do know that, under certain conditions, it can be problematic to expect governments to provide roads, particularly in rural areas. I would suspect, however, that if I were more familiar with such ideas, I might be in a better position to think of a way that privatized dikes might work.

    Having said that, the answer to the question is most appropriately “I don’t know”. It is difficult to predict what privatized solutions would look like. How would farmers have gotten electricity if it weren’t for the Tennessee Valley Authority? It is impossible to tell, but it’s possible that local generators might have played a role.

    Second, what makes you think that the Netherlands isn’t vunerable to exploitation by dike owners, just because the dike owners happen to be government officials? It isn’t unheard of, here in the United States, for a mayor or a governor to threaten funding cuts to police officers, firefighters, and teachers (and it’s easy to extend this to teachers and dikes) so that they could increase taxes for pet social programs of questionable effectiveness and efficiency. Indeed, if I recall correctly, German soldiers blew up some of the dikes of the Netherlands out of spite when they withdrew near the end of WWII.

    Third, as New Orleans has demonstrated, just because a government provides a dike, doesn’t mean that you can rely on it being well-taken care of. This, despite (or even perhaps) New Orleans having been run for decades by a party known for favoring government intervention in many aspects of our lives!

    Fourth, it should be observed that these first three points are being made largely from the viewpoint of an anarcho-capitalist; when we are talking about libertarians in general, anarcho-capitalism becomes a straw-man of sorts. “Why, yes,” a minimalist-government libertarian would say, “of course the government should provide dikes, just as they are needed to provide roads. But why does this mean that governments should be trusted with providing help to the poor?”

    Winter: “””Riding your bike uphill to reach the water does give a certain urgency to the idea of “society”.”””

    There is a quaint notion implied by this statement: that “society” and “government” are one and the same. Society without government is possible; indeed, it happens all the time, both planned and spontaneous. Similarly, government does not necessarily imply society, at least, not if you assume that society values innocent human life.

  107. Who cares how much money it made, it’s still barely literate garbage?

  108. If it’s your opinion, just say it. Why ask a question?

    And, since that “barely literate piece of garbage” has more fans than the crimes against humanity you call your writing, I think I’ll manage to struggle on somehow.

  109. I recommend the SFWA, WorldCon, WisCon and Readercon merge and re-name themselves The White Privilege Conference, kinda like the Big Ten. They could have East, West, South and North divisions.

    http://washingtonexaminer.com/if-there-is-no-war-on-whites-what-is-the-white-privilege-conference-about/article/2551721

    It should be noted that Orson Scott Card was boycotted up and down the line for saying 4% of the population shouldn’t have the right to appropriate a heterosexual institution like marriage.

    Meanwhile John Scalzi gets a TV show. Scalzi hosted a truly vile post by Mary Ann Mohanraj that asserted “White privilege is a way of saying that in a racist society (and whether you’re living in America or elsewhere, I’d argue that they’re all racist societies), being white gets you privilege.”

    That doesn’t include his own post about white privilege or his asking us to “bone up” on intersectionalism where he links you to a neo-Nazi-like PDF by Ahir Golpadas which lists “the multiplicatively privileged,” the “‘white, thin, male'” and his oppressions like “age, attractiveness, body type, caste, citizenship, education, ethnicity, height and weight assessments, immigration status, income, marital status, mental health status, nationality, occupation, physical ability, religion, sex, sexual orientation.” If someone told me there was anyone stupid enough to actually write such a thing I would’ve said they’re crazy. So what does promoting it get you and what does “crazy” really mean any more?

    Though Scalzi publicly advocates the idea the majority of the Syfy Channel’s viewers are dumbfounded privileged white racist supremacists, don’t expect any boycotts for scything down 100 million Americans. In other words “bigotry” has ceased to mean anything as a word. That’s quite an accomplishment for a group of writers and you can multiply that for a group of speculative fiction writers.

    If Scalzi had been writing about gay people his TV deal would be nipped in the bud. The fact nothing is happening tells you 2 things: the first is that the PC are literally too stupid to understand right from wrong. The second is the people the PC target are far more tolerant than the PC. There is a third: I’ll now take it on faith the Syfy Channel would hire David frickin’ Duke if he could make fans squee enough.

  110. An Outsider objects:

    Good science fiction is just good fiction whose narration and characters are technically astute and whose plot depends, in an important way, on the manipulation of true-testable – or at least plausible – science and technology. (Cheesy magic tricks like tele-transport, time travel, mind reading, super shrinkage, and anti-gravity aren’t allowed.) It must challenge the reader’s technical knowledge or at lease attract him with a fluent, persuasive presentation.

    Extraterrestrial or futuristic settings aren’t necessary and are certainly not sufficient – it is not just a well written tale of murder on Mars, war in 1984 or 2084, or love between two or more fanciful gene sequences. In fact, it should be set preferably on earth in a recognizable place and the characters should speak more or less modern English uncluttered with the unreadable argot of old aliens or new humans that turns a lot of SF into little more than a puerile and tiresome word game played among secret club members. (I think the latter tendency is what got a lot of SF thrown out with the old comic books.

  111. Of course that doesn’t include Scalzi’s 100% support for N.K. Jemisin, a woman who once wrote “most of science fiction fandom” is “racist as *fuck*.”

    After Jemisin’s insane anti-white speech at this year’s WisCon, Scalzi wrote “Speeches like this are part of why @nkjemisin is one of the most important people in science fiction and fantasy.”

    Conclusion: Syfy’s fans are privileged white supremacists who are racist as fuck. Good thing I’ve been convinced to no longer be a Syfy Channel fan; I wouldn’t want to be characterized as “racist as fuck” by “one of the most important people in science fiction and fantasy.”

  112. @Alpheios
    “Second, what makes you think that the Netherlands isn’t vunerable to exploitation by dike owners, just because the dike owners happen to be government officials? It isn’t unheard of, here in the United States, for a mayor or a governor to threaten funding cuts to police officers, firefighters, and teachers (and it’s easy to extend this to teachers and dikes) so that they could increase taxes for pet social programs of questionable effectiveness and efficiency. Indeed, if I recall correctly, German soldiers blew up some of the dikes of the Netherlands out of spite when they withdrew near the end of WWII.”

    History has no example of your behavior. Governments do not do such things for the same reason captains do not economise on the safety of their boats: When things go wrong we all go down together. That is what seemed to have gone wrong in New Orleans. Some people thought they could get away before the dikes would crumble.

    Anyhow, I used the word society because dikes have historically been a local afair. You pay your share of the dikes and pumps that keep you dry.

  113. #4, 6, and 7 are ticked off handily in almost everything David Drake has written without coauthors, and a fair few of his collaborative works. (RCN skips them, mainly because of Daniel Leary, and that’s arguable). Likewise the Aldenata series, much of the Honorverse, All of the darkship books hit 4 and 6, and I could probably argue the Monster-hunter series (Have I got any EloE and allies left?). . I move to strike #4, 6, and 7.

    I’ll agree with whoever it was that said it up-thread (that I’ll paraphrase thusly): Heroes matter. Sci-fi has them. Fantasy has them. If you don’t have them, it’s not Sci-fi or Fantasy. (And whoever it was that said that Bujold doesn’t have them, I need to beat over the head with her collected works – Whatever else they are, comedies of manners, coming-of-age stories, romances, the characters, particularly Miles himself, are Big Damn Heroes, in a science fiction setting, doing heroic deeds. Yes, even poor Sgt Bothari).

  114. Bujold’s novels are founded on a central requirement of SF: the primacy of cause and effect. Not only that, it’s rational SF, because processes have clearly explained mechanisms.

  115. Suggested additions:

    – Your writing seems to be concerned with “challenging literary convention,” and yet the conventions you are challenging probably got to be that way because long experience has shown that they work. You confuse “different” with “better.”

    – Your “challenges to conventional thinking” consist of repeating the well-worn, generations-old tropes of your social set (e.g. “War/Racism/Sexism are bad”), and don’t actually challenge anything your social set believes.

    Oh, and Luscinia: You continue to litter threads with little more than ill-tempered feces-flinging. If you can’t say anything interesting, go away. If this were my blog, I’d ban you.

  116. >If this were my blog, I’d tell you to shut up.

    This is not your blog, and I am within a hair’s-breadth of telling you to shut up. Your comments have been rude, unconstructive, and trollish. You have escaped being banned, so far, only because as a matter of principle I try to give extra forbearance to people with whom I disagree.

    However, my patience is running out. If you do not improve your behavior, I will either ban you or begin deleting comments from you that I judge to be content-free.

  117. @SBP
    “Death by government destruction of infrastructure has a long and brutal history, dating all the way back to well poisoning in classical times. There’s even a prohibition against well poisoning in the Koran.”

    In context, I was saying that “History has no example of your behavior. Governments do not destroy the dikes behind which they themselves live”. German invaders that are fleeing will indeed try to ruin their loot by destroying the dikes. That is just a good illustration of my argument.

    The whole point of the matter is that the dikes of the Netherlands protect everyone. It is a case of we are all in the same boat and we all swim or sink together.

    The crucial difference in the cases you all bring forth is that in these cases the people in the government were not themselves affected by the consequences of their actions. The captain of a boat might be a brutal dictator who will kill anyone on a whim, but he will be very unlikely do tings that might jeopardize the safety of his ship. The ship’s owner might economize on safety, the ship’s inhabitants won’t easily do so.

    On the whole, I think Jeff Read has a good point. I have never seen a plausible libertarian way to privately manage general water works, like dikes around reclaimed lands. If you know of one, please inform us.

    Historically, some of our “polders” were reclaimed using private investments, but they were always returned to a kind of self-governance. The main reason is that the initial investments are high but limited. However, keeping the feet dry takes a good level of maintenance costs for dikes and operating pumps for as long as the land is used. Extracting that money from the inhabitants seems to be too problematic in the long run. It is either collective self governance with taxes, or some feudal “private ownership” with forced payments.

  118. So where might Alistair Reynold’s Revelation Space fit into this curve as opposed to his The Prefect? (and by the way how does Chasm City win an award when it used terms like “bro,” “cool” and “chill out” in another star system in the 26th century?)

    How about M. John Harrison’s Light and Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep? What about Dan Simmons’ Hyperion set?

    Is Cordwainer Smith a more successful version of those, or John Varley?

    Are those in contrast to Neal Asher, Bujold, Charles Sheffield or Gregory Benford?

  119. “Governments do not destroy the dikes behind which they themselves live”

    William the Silent, Siege of Leiden, August-October, 1574.

  120. @SBF
    First, William did not live in Leiden. Second, during warfare the question becomes which is the lesser evil: Wet feet or defeat.

    An even better example is how another William flooded the surroundings of Amsterdam after which the Dutch ships of war could start pounding the French army of Louis XIV.

    Another example is the neglect of our dikes during and shortly after our occupation by the Germans in WWII. The Germams were not interested in our safety and the Dutch had no say in the matter anymore.

    All these counterexamples only strengthen the case: Over history, our (local) governments have kept up our defenses against flooding.

    The fact that the USA is unable to do so tells us something about the people living there, but nothing about the nature of politics in general.

  121. The crumbling infrastructure problem is an example of over-federalizing a local issue. The Netherlands are roughly the size of a mid-sized east coast state. The US has a big over-federalization problem, for reasons that are both banal and complex.

  122. Winter and Ian Argent:
    It’s nice to see an agreement between A&D commenters of different ideologies: apparently, we all agree on the principle of subsidiarity. :-)
    Also, I love this rhyming idiom Winter just coined: “Wet feet or defeat”. A new addition to a long tradition.

  123. “””Anyhow, I used the word society because dikes have historically been a local afair. You pay your share of the dikes and pumps that keep you dry.”””

    While this isn’t necessarily anarcho-capitalist, the system you described sounds rather libertarian to me. If the Netherlands developed a desire to become anarcho-capitalist, I’m sure that everyone would be able to come up with a good way to fund the maintenance of the dikes. People are funny that way!

    While it’s not clear how this would be handled in a purely anarcho-capitalistic way, what you describe resides well within minarchist-libertarian outlooks. Not all libertarians want to do away with government. They want the Federal government around to provide armies and navies for the defense of the nation; they want States around to provide laboratories for laws; and they want local governments to have the most power, because, being close to the people, they would be most responsive to the needs and desires of the people.

    If a minarchist libertarian has no problems with local governments providing roads; I doubt they would have any problem with handling dikes, either.

  124. On the original topic, how about “Any poetry embedded in their work will be free verse, rather than metered and rhyming”?

  125. Dikes and pumps are a local affair – in the case of the Netherlands, local=enough of the country to make it a national affair. In the case of New Orleans, state and local governments should provide, and charge their ratepayers in a fair and equitable fashion. But since the US Corps of Engineers set up large chunks of the system, it started as a federal issue. Path dependency is A Thing; in this case, the US CoE “broke it,” in the name of interstate commerce on the Mississippi, so the “bought it.” New Orleans benefitted from the levees, sure, but so did the entire river trade.

  126. Winter:

    I have never seen a plausible libertarian way to privately manage general water works, like dikes around reclaimed lands. If you know of one, please inform us.

    Government does not work either. It works tolerably well if the seat of government is below water level, but in New Orleans, even that did not work. If the government is upstream, it is a disaster.

    Most rice in Cambodia is grown on a flood plain. Ditching and diking by peasants upstream affects peasants downstream. Therefore, the Khmer Rouge argued, centrally planned ditching and diking would produce much more rice. The result was the usual vast bureaucratic ballsup strangled in its own red tape: irrigation channels running uphill, dryland and paddy rice planted on areas subject to deep flooding, etc.

    You correctly complain that the incentives for private enterprise are wrong, leading to market failure, but what are the incentives for government?

    The incentives for government are always wrong. The only right thing about government incentives is that a stationary bandit has the correct incentive to prevent mobile bandits, but being stationary is harder than it seems. It is hard for government to be one, easy for it to be many, whereupon taxes and regulation inexorably rise above the laffer limit, because tax money and regulatory power is a commons. A government is only stationary if it is unitary, and there is no easy solution to that problem.

  127. Which is why the Framers set up internal tensions between the states and the federal governments, and the various arms of the federal government. The US Constitution specifies an inefficient government by design, one that sets the various internal stakeholders against one another to dissipate their energy. Little by little the internal safeguards have been eroded, removed, or ignored. There may be a lot of ruin in a nation, but there’s a lot of ruin to be had, too

  128. Winter: >First, William did not live in Leiden.

    You keep moving the goalposts.

    Next you’ll tell us that bombing Guernica didn’t count as an atrocity against Franco’s own people because Franco didn’t actually live in Guernica.

    >The fact that the USA is unable to do so tells us something about the people living there

    Got it. When it comes to the Netherlands, only the city counts. When it comes to the USA, it’s the whole country’s responsibility. Somehow William the Silent flooding Leiden didn’t count because he didn’t live there, but flooding Louisiana through the incompetence of DC officials does count?

    Do you have any idea how far DC is from New Orleans? 968 air miles. Farther than the distance between Amsterdam and Rome.

    Ian Argent: >The Netherlands are roughly the size of a mid-sized east coast state.

    There are numerous counties in the US larger than the Netherlands.

  129. @SBP
    At that time the Netherlands weren’t even a country. It was more akin to modern day EU.

    The dikes near Leiden were Leiden’s responsability, and only theirs.

    But that was not the main point, there wss a siege in a bloody war. Bad thing happen in wars.

  130. James A. Donald on 2014-08-07 at 05:40:32 said:Consider Ged in “Wizard of Earthsea”. I suppose Ged was intended to be a hero. Compare with Gandalf.

    Ged defeats a clutch of dragons and protects the Ninety Isles against them. He ventures into Kargad, and recovers the other half of the Ring of Erreth-Akbe from the stronghold of a hostile Power of Earth.

    Waddaya want, egg in your beer?

    OK, Ged isn’t cocky. In the first book, he’s just starting out and is understandably subject to fits of self-doubt. There’s a great deal more focus in Earthsea on the limits and burdens of magecraft than in LotR; in fact, in LotR, Gandalf’s wizardry is really just stage furniture – without moral or philosophical concerns. And since the central character of Earthsea is a mage, those concerns come to the fore with him. In LotR, they appear more with other characters. Gandalf is several thousand years old, and he’s past all that.

  131. >Ian Argent- ‘the CoE broke it, in the name of interstate commerce on the Mississippi, they bought it.’

    The Sierra Club sued to keep the Army Engineers from strengthening the dikes. 4,000 dead on the Sierra Club’s hands. A long way from a club for folks who liked to hike high country.

    And it wasn’t just interstate commerce, it was not wanting to lose half the population to malaria from the giant malarial swamp (St Louis to the Caribbean) the Big Muddy and Old Man River turn into if we leave them alone. Dams were a great idea in 1830- Hey! Let’s build dams to keep major cities from washing out to sea every spring! Lets not die of malaria! Dams were still a pretty good idea in 1930. By the 1960’s we’d put dams every place they made sense. Anti-dam activism was a good idea in the 1960’s. By 2004 when the Sierra Club sued the army, we’d run low on places activism against the Corps of Engineers made sense. So the Sierra Club killed some people. Worse things have happened, and will again, and again, and again.

  132. Some counterclaims about the Sierra Club and the dikes.

    Here’s the version I’d heard:– a tale of government incompetence which goes much deeper.

    You have Colonel Sinkler admitting responsibility, which is one step beyond what the President has done. The Corps has adopted a perimeter response. It’s a good idea, assuming that all elements of the perimeter system are up to snuff, because once water gets in, they have not fixed the defective flood walls that failed so catastrophically last time.
    In my film is a whistleblower from the Army Corps of Engineers whose responsibility was to test and install the new pumps on those outfall canals, which are essential to keeping those canals at a safe water level defined by the Corps. She says unequivocally the pumps never passed their testing. They failed. They self-destructed. They were installed anyway. And they will not withstand a hurricane event.

  133. James A. Donald

    :Consider Ged in “Wizard of Earthsea”. I suppose Ged was intended to be a hero. Compare with Gandalf.

    Rich Rostrom on 2014-08-09 at 01:28:50 said:

    Ged defeats a clutch of dragons and protects the Ninety Isles against them. He ventures into Kargad, and recovers the other half of the Ring of Erreth-Akbe from the stronghold of a hostile Power of Earth.

    Does not make him a hero.

  134. Geoffrey Tobin on 2014-08-09 at 09:12:20 said:

    James, please explain what you understand a hero to be.

    I cannot give an answer to that that you would understand. Heroes are heroic.

    When Xenophon and the ten thousand were fighting their way through Asia, they passed through a land where the enemy scorched the earth, and retreated to their strong places. The ten thousand attempted to attack one such strong place. As they scaled the walls, the enemy rolled rocks down the wall, inflicting severe casualties, and forcing the ten thousand to retreat.

    So, Xenophon has a bright idea. To exhaust the enemy’s supply of rocks, they will attack the enemy fortress one man at a time

    Naturally numerous people demand the honor of being the first to attack the enemy single handed. The Spartans claim a spartan should have the right. So up goes a spartan, and attacks the enemy single handed in their fort.

    Seeing this, there is a total collapse of discipline. Ignoring orders and the plan, the ten thousand rush up the walls to join their comrade. This time they succeed. The men of the enemy die fighting. The woman of the enemy throw their children over the wall to their deaths, and then themselves jump to their deaths.

  135. >LotR, Gandalf’s wizardry is really just stage furniture – without moral or philosophical concerns

    This turns out not to be the case. Gandalf’s job is not to be the hero himself: it’s to kindle heroism in others; to oppose Sauron, without becoming Sauron in the process. His power is given him, not to win the war, but to enable others to win it. LOTR is, among other things, a profound statement on the morality and philosophy of power.

  136. >By that standard, Gandalf is not a hero, though Frodo and Sam might be heroes.

    What about his encounter with the Balrog?

  137. You’re right– I forgot the Balrog. For that matter, I forgot that he’d been imprisoned by Saruman.

    Gandalf wasn’t taking personal risks when he went up against humans, elves, etc. but he also went up against Maiar.

  138. @JAD
    We have such heros too not far from here. Many yoing men seem to volunteer as suicide bombers.

  139. “What about his encounter with the Balrog?”

    dribble…dribble…fake…dribble…swish…

  140. Winter on 2014-08-09 at 13:13:24 said:

    We have such heros too not far from here. Many yoing men seem to volunteer as suicide bombers.

    As I said, the reason leftists have trouble writing heroes, is that they do not know what heroism is, and will not understand it when they see it.

  141. How Ged sacrificing his ability to wield magic in “The Farthest Shore” to hopefully stop leaking of magic (and functional genocide of all magicals) is not a heroism?

  142. Jakub Narebski commented on Warning signs of LSE – literary status envy.

    How Ged sacrificing his ability to wield magic in “The Farthest Shore” to hopefully stop leaking of magic (and functional genocide of all magicals) is not a heroism?

    Conan would no more have done such a thing that he would have been a suicide bomber.

  143. @JAD: Because neither Ged nor Miles Naismith Vorkosigan are muscle-bound idiots, you refuse that they can be and are heros? Words fail me…

  144. If you asked the ten thousand why they rushed the walls, they would probably answer, half truthfully, that they did not want to let their comrade hog all the glory, so rushed the walls to deny him a glorious death.

  145. “Plot twists are more important than sensibility of plot”, though it is weak sign at best.

  146. @JAD
    “so rushed the walls to deny him a glorious death.”

    We are talking about Greek mercenaries raiding foreign lands. More specifically, they were looting cities in the same manner and same area as the Islamic State is doing at this moment. Although the people of IS seem to be a sliver more humane than these mercenaries.

    Just as these IS fighters, they adhered to a cult of suicide missions for glory.

  147. @LAD
    “Spartans”

    In terms of sectarial fanatism and misogyny, the Islamic State and Taliban can still learn a few lessons from the old Spartans.

    All together, a true Hero for JAD seems to be a homicidal maniac on a suicide mission. Preferably the mission should include raiding foreign people for fun and profit.

    Not that this was not a popular kind of hero in earlier times. It is just a very simple minded kind of hero.

  148. Winter:

    We are talking about Greek mercenaries raiding foreign lands. More specifically, they were looting cities in the same manner and same area as the Islamic State is doing at this moment. Although the people of IS seem to be a sliver more humane than these mercenaries.

    Just as these IS fighters, they adhered to a cult of suicide missions for glory.

    Interpreting Xenophon’s ten thousand as suicide bombers, you show the same bizarre tone deafness to morality and decency as those interpreting Galt as a war criminal, the same bizarre pathological evil as those who scripted “ten ten, no pressure”

    Which is why leftists have such difficulty writing heroes. They mistake evil for good, and good for evil.

  149. @JAD
    “They mistake evil for good, and good for evil.”

    As opposed to describing Greek mercenaries raiding foreign lands as “good”? Then, tell us about “good” heroes who did not indulge in looting and raping? Who were heroes without mass murdering unarmed civilians?

    @JAD
    “Interpreting Xenophon’s ten thousand as suicide bombers,”

    Your rendering of the attack of this city by the ten thousand makes it very likely that they would have attacked using suicide car bombs had been available. Actually, I can see no reason why they would never had used a suicide car bomb?

    Moreover, the current day suicide bombers are from the same region these Greek mercenaries were raiding. And quite a number of the people living there now have Greek colonists from classical time in their ancestry.

  150. JAD

    “Which is why leftists have such difficulty writing heroes. They mistake evil for good, and good for evil.”

    Winter:

    As opposed to describing Greek mercenaries raiding foreign lands as “good”?

    You are as incapable of seeing the difference between good and evil as the people who gave us “10:10 No Pressure”.

    Recapping the story of Xenophon’s ten thousand:

    Xenophon and the rest of the ten thousand took employment with a Persian king. They were betrayed and double crossed. Their officers were invited to a conference, and were murdered, so they found themselves in the middle of the Persian empire surrounded by enemies.

    So they proceeded to walk home.

    Where they were allowed to pass through and allowed to buy supplies, they passed through peacefully and paid for supplies at free market rates. Where they were not permitted to pass through, or were denied supplies, they killed everyone in the way and took whatever they needed.

    And, in the course of this long and dangerous journey, they displayed consistent and extraordinary heroism, for which they remain famous to this day.

  151. @JAD
    “Xenophon and the rest of the ten thousand took employment with a Persian king.”

    No, a hopeful king to be. They were employed to overthrow the people in power.

  152. I don’t think discussion of heroism is best served by examples of freedom fighters. (or are they terrorists?)

  153. Lambert: I agree. IMO, we find a much better example of heroism in, say, the firemen of 9/11.

  154. Tony Zbaraschuk on 2014-08-09 at 12:18:37 said:
    >LotR, Gandalf’s wizardry is really just stage furniture – without moral or philosophical concerns

    This turns out not to be the case. Gandalf’s job is not to be the hero himself: it’s to kindle heroism in others; to oppose Sauron, without becoming Sauron in the process. His power is given him, not to win the war, but to enable others to win it.

    I was talking about Gandalf’s spellcasting, not his mission. To the extent that Gandalf can do magic, he just does it. There is no price to be paid, no worries about “will it work?” or unforeseen consequences. And unlike Ged, he has the advantage of receiving explicit moral directions from a Greater Power.

  155. James A. Donald on 2014-08-10 at 08:27:37 said:Where they were allowed to pass through and allowed to buy supplies, they passed through peacefully and paid for supplies at free market rates.

    Armies on the march tend to be rather indiscriminate in their foraging, even when well-supplied and well-disciplined. And they always leave a trail of felled trees (firewood), trampled fields, and fouled water.

    Also, they having been suckered into Mesopotamia and then double-crossed, I doubt if they had much money.

    Personally, I’d be rather leary of several thousand heavily-armed total strangers answerable to no one passing through my neighborhood.

    Where they were not permitted to pass through, or were denied supplies, they killed everyone in the way and took whatever they needed.

    So if I and several hundred friends want to tramp through your house, and you won’t let us, or we need your car and offer what we think is a fair price, and you refuse, we’re entitled to kill you. Heroically.

  156. Armies on the march tend to be rather indiscriminate in their foraging, even when well-supplied and well-disciplined.

    Xenophon says that they did not forage except when denied a market. Given his theories of war, economics, and logistics, probably true.

    In order to forage, have to disperse. If dispersed, vulnerable to what we would now call guerrilla war. When he encountered what we would now call guerrilla war, he engaged in reprisals, dangerous business that greatly slowed them down in places that they would prefer to have swiftly passed.

    So if I and several hundred friends want to tramp through your house, and you won’t let us, or we need your car and offer what we think is a fair price, and you refuse, we’re entitled to kill you. Heroically.

    It is more like tramping through your fields, and what he wanted was not a fair price but a market price – many buyers and many sellers, rather than prices negotiated between him and the local ruler.

    So you could individually refuse to sell him your cattle, but if you and all your neighbors refuse to sell any of the ten thousand any of your cattle, and refuse to let any one of you sell any of the ten thousand any cattle, then he would kill you and all your neighbors and steal your cattle.

  157. @Winter: More opinions on Ayn Rand’s works from very suspect quarters no doubt

    This reviewer makes the basic error of equating “capitalism” (by which he appears to really mean “free markets”) with what one might call “extreme individualism”–the claim that each individual can somehow get along entirely by him/herself, with no social cooperation whatsoever, an idea which is indeed obviously daft. Rand herself, at least in the works I’ve read, did not seem entirely clear about this distinction either. A free market is a mechanism for regulating social cooperation; libertarians favor free markets not because they think they can get along without social cooperation, but because they think free markets work better at regulating it than governments do.

  158. @Rich Rostrum
    “Also, they having been suckered into Mesopotamia and then double-crossed, I doubt if they had much money.”

    And note that these were times when money was not as customary and standardized as it is today. Also, food a city is forced to sell now could start a famine later.

    The “heroic acts” of these ten thousand were of the kind performed by desperate people fighting for their life. They were hired to take part in a civil war far from home. They got stuck on the “losing” side in enemy country and had to fight their way back.

    Given the circumstances, they might or might not have behaved honorably and “good”. The point that they were mercenaries hired to dispose of the then king of a foreign land does make this expedition more like a risky raid.

    But I know that there are entertaining heroic tales about the likes of Blackbeard the pirate, drug king Pablo Escobar, Che Guevara, and the 9/11 terrorists. That does not make these characters “good people” by moral standards.

    And it does not preclude good people from being considered heroes, e.g., those who save lives instead of destroying them.

  159. And it does not preclude good people from being considered heroes, e.g., those who save lives instead of destroying them.

    Progressives will “invariably side with evil over good, wrong over right, and the behaviors that lead to failure over those that lead to success,” not just sometimes, but virtually all of the time.

    In his fiction, the progressive author arranges things so that his character doing evil things reduces suffering, rather than causes suffering, saves lives rather than kills people, but this contrivance is artificial and improbable. The character’s behavior still leaves a bad taste in our mouths despite, under the artifice of the story, causing less pain, rather than more pain.

  160. @JAD
    “In his fiction, the progressive author arranges things so that his character doing evil things reduces suffering, rather than causes suffering, saves lives rather than kills people, but this contrivance is artificial and improbable.”

    Could you give me some examples? I must have read the wrong books.

    Also, I have problems imagining examples where the reduction of suffering and the saving of lives is in some ways a bad thing to do. But I concede that that must be because of my lack of imagination.

    (Oh, and I will accept that I am considered a “Progressive” by JAD’s definition. I hardly now people who are not.)

  161. @JAD
    “In his fiction, the progressive author arranges things so that his character doing evil things reduces suffering, rather than causes suffering, saves lives rather than kills people, but this contrivance is artificial and improbable. The character’s behavior still leaves a bad taste in our mouths despite, under the artifice of the story, causing less pain, rather than more pain.”

    I was thinking. As I understand, Isaac Asimov was “progressive” under your definition (in my book he was moderate). Which implies that his heroes were doing evil things under the guise of good heroism.

    Maybe you could use his works as an example to illustrate your bold statement?

  162. Winter: To a first approximation, there is no difference between a “progressive” and a Eurosocialist. I am not the least bit surprised you don’t know anyone who’s not.

    This does not make Eurosocialism any more right; it just means that everyone you know is wrong.

  163. @Jay Maynard
    “This does not make Eurosocialism any more right; it just means that everyone you know is wrong.”

    It just means I have no problem being labeled progressive by JAD, as he would label anyone I know or care about a progressive.

    And I already know Libertarianism is almost exclusively an ideology of the USA.

    I would also not be surprised if James would label you a lefty. He is so far gone to the side of the spectrum, I have difficulty imagining who would NOT be placed to his left.

  164. I would label you a progressive, and this is not a feature.

    I suspect JAD would label me at best a RINO, as I do not agree with his stands on many things. That bothers me exactly not at all; one is known by the quality of the enemies he makes, and JAD is not an asset in the cause of freedom.

  165. @Jay Maynard
    “I would label you a progressive, and this is not a feature.”

    I assume you mean a possitive featire. I am not shocked to read this. It will not change my conviction, though.

    @Jay Maynard
    “That bothers me exactly not at all; one is known by the quality of the enemies he makes, and JAD is not an asset in the cause of freedom.”

    I could not agree more.

  166. This does not make Eurosocialism any more right; it just means that everyone you know is wrong.

    In “Eurosocialist” countries (which are still capitalist, btw), people live longer, are better educated, happier, have longer vacations and fewer worries should they lose their job, and the government is less in debt than the USA.

    Unlike JAD, who appears to have a strictly deontic view of good and evil, I believe actions that produce better results are more morally right. From the evidence, “Eurosocialism” is more morally right than the American clusterfuck of taxpayer-supported government programs to line private pockets while not providing enough for the average citizen and especially the poor.

  167. @JAD

    “In his fiction, the progressive author arranges things so that his character doing evil things reduces suffering, rather than causes suffering, saves lives rather than kills people, but this contrivance is artificial and improbable. The character’s behavior still leaves a bad taste in our mouths despite, under the artifice of the story, causing less pain, rather than more pain.”

    Winter on 2014-08-11 at 08:32:38 said:

    I was thinking. As I understand, Isaac Asimov was “progressive” under your definition (in my book he was moderate). Which implies that his heroes were doing evil things under the guise of good heroism.

    Maybe you could use his works as an example to illustrate your bold statement?

    Asimov does not do heroes, perhaps aware he does them badly.

    Ian Banks is a better example. I have only read one of his books, because his hero was so appallingly disgusting that I was completely revolted. See my discussion of Ian Banks above.

    In Isaac Asimov’s “The gods themselves” there are no heroes, but there are good guys. The good guys fail to save the day, and the guy who saves the day is not one of the good guys.

    The good guy Dua damn near foolishly kills herself, which would be extremely bad for her family, and when her family shows up to keep her alive, is not very helpful. Asimov (incorrectly) thinks this is Dua being heroic, but it is actually her being stupid and wicked. Perhaps intuiting this, he does not have her save the day at the expense of her life.

  168. @JAD
    I was thinking about “The Steel Caverns”. The early Foundation books do contain heroes. The Martian Way has them too.

    I forgot the plot of The Gods Themselves. Must reread it.

  169. Jeff Read: Those Eurosocialist countries are all much smaller than the US, much whiter, have much higher unemployment, rely on the US to defend them, and are headed for demographic death spirals due to low birth rates. They are not anything we can or should emulate.

  170. Jay Maynard

    I suspect JAD would label me at best a RINO, as I do not agree with his stands on many things.

    By your standards I am unthinkably, unimaginably, right wing. But so was the 2008 Obama.

    The Overton window is narrow and narrowing, and is moving leftwards faster and faster, with the result that it is harder and harder to stay inside it, and easier and easier to fall out of it, intentionally or by accident.

    If you accept equality, then the progressives are right about everything, and all your disagreements with them are mere quibbles and unprincipled exceptions. If equality then obviously standards with disparate impact must be racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, et cetera. If you don’t accept equality, then the eighteenth century was right about women, and the nineteenth right about blacks. Trying to hold a position between these two stools was always tricky, and is rapidly becoming trickier.

  171. >Progressives will “invariably side with evil over good, wrong over right, and the behaviors that lead to failure over those that lead to success,” not just sometimes, but virtually all of the time.

    May I inquire as to whom exactly imbued you with the ability to see what is good and what is evil, what is wrong and what is right?

    Without justification, your statement seems no more valid than ‘Conservatives will “invariably side with evil over good, wrong over right, and the behaviors that lead to failure over those that lead to success,” not just sometimes, but virtually all of the time.’

    And remember: *Politics Is The Mind Killer*

  172. Lambert commented on Warning signs of LSE – literary status envy.

    May I inquire as to whom exactly imbued you with the ability to see what is good and what is evil, what is wrong and what is right?

    This is why leftists cannot write heroes.

  173. @JAD
    “The Overton window is narrow and narrowing, and is moving leftwards faster and faster, with the result that it is harder and harder to stay inside it, and easier and easier to fall out of it, intentionally or by accident.”

    This is an empirical question. I do not know about the right in the USA (the Tea Party cs seem to be very narrow minded to us), but in Europe this is evidently not true.

    To take my little corner of the world as an illustration.

    Our centrist coalition government (by our standards) will happily strike deals with a party on the left that wants to nationalize all banks and with parties on the right that want the Bible to be the yardstick of all policies. We have had SS marriage since 2001 and have a LGBT boat parade featuring a Moroccan (Muslim) and a Jewish boat. Our second largest city has a Muslim major but we also have a large anti-immigration party that would like to clean Europe of Muslims.

    All of these will get all the time they could fill on national media and newspapers.

    So, what do you mean by the “Overtone window” gets narrower and narrower?

    Maybe in the USA right wing politics. Not here.

  174. @PapayaSF
    “Jeff Read: Those Eurosocialist countries are all much smaller than the US,”

    They are roughly the size of US states. Germany has 80 million inhabitants, the EU 400 million.

    @PapayaSF
    “much whiter, ”

    True, but then, the white are the aboriginals of Europe. We are the local natives and no one has come to exterminate us yet.

    @PapayaSF
    “have much higher unemployment, ”

    Might be true, Especially after the devastating banking crisis of 2008. Things look a little different if you include the working poor as underemployed. The point is not that people have work, but that they can live of what they earn.

    @PapayaSF
    “rely on the US to defend them, ”

    Which the USA seems to be very eager to do. Probably related to the fact that the USA see any power with the military might to defend itself against the USA as an enemy.

    If, e.g., Germany would try to build up a credible military power, the USA would most certainly sabotage that. And history indicates that it might not be a good idea to let Germany build up a strong army. The same holds for Japan.

    @PapayaSF
    “and are headed for demographic death spirals due to low birth rates. ”

    That is a universal feature of humans: They tend to get less children the more wealthy, educated, and secure they are. The low birth rate simply indicates that people feel wealthy and secure in Europe.

    The USA has a high birth rate because of a lag in this effect in immigrant generations. The children of these immigrants get (much) less children. Also, a higher average income in the US, does not mean there are less poor people in the US. And it is the poor that will drive up birth rate.

    @PapayaSF
    “They are not anything we can or should emulate.”

    That is entirely for the people in the USA to decide. However, the shrill protests I hear do suggest to me that there are quite a number of people in the US that do not share your conviction and think they would be better of under a European like system.

  175. Birthrate doesn’t link simply with income. E.g. the religious tend to have more children than the secular. And having fewer children may sound like a nice ecological future, but it destroys the welfare state. Social security systems are nearly all Ponzi schemes, dependent on larger numbers of young workers paying for the retirements of fewer old people. That can work, for a while, as long as you have multiple workers for each retiree. It stops working around the time each worker has to support not just himself, but one or more retirees. At that point (if not sooner), socialism runs out of other people’s money.

  176. @PapayaSF
    “Birthrate doesn’t link simply with income. E.g. the religious tend to have more children than the secular. ”

    Empirical findings: In all societies over all of history, the birth rate has declined with wealth. Currently, even in the Middle East and in Africa we see a decrease in birth rate. This has nothing to do with religion or ideology.

    @PapayaSF
    “And having fewer children may sound like a nice ecological future, but it destroys the welfare state.”

    It does not sound nice, but it is simply a thing that happens, like people getting obese in modern societies. The only sure-fire way that has been found to increase birth rate is abject poverty and abysmal education. Maybe the US is experimenting with that?

    @PapayaSF
    “Social security systems are nearly all Ponzi schemes, dependent on larger numbers of young workers paying for the retirements of fewer old people.”

    That is evidently not true. There are social security systems that do not give rights beyond what funds are available. I know because we have such a system in the Netherlands. When the crisis decreased the funds, benefits were lowered and the retirement age was raised. Things like that are implemented in other countries around Europe.

    @PapayaSF
    “That can work, for a while, as long as you have multiple workers for each retiree. It stops working around the time each worker has to support not just himself, but one or more retirees.”

    Show me where this did destroy socialist states? We have had this system since the 1950s, and it is still solvent. The solution to this problem is pretty easy.

    We just started to raise retirement age to address this point. Most likely, I will only be able to retire when I am 70. No problem for me, but there will have to be some changes in the labor market to accommodate the influx of people well over 60.

    @PapayaSF
    “At that point (if not sooner), socialism runs out of other people’s money.”

    Sorry, but our social security system is tiered and much of it is run like an insurance, you mostly “get” what you “pay” for. Only the basic income part (really basic) depends on income redistribution. We still seem to have copious amounts of “other people’s money” left to keep it up.

    And again, that still has not happened here, after more than half a century of social security. And our finances are better off than those of the USA.

  177. >This is why leftists cannot write heroes.

    I never made any comment as to my political position nor my taste in heroes.

  178. Lambert

    May I inquire as to whom exactly imbued you with the ability to see what is good and what is evil, what is wrong and what is right?

    James A. Donald:

    >This is why leftists cannot write heroes.

    Lambert

    I never made any comment as to my political position nor my taste in heroes.

    If a LessWronger then a leftist, for LessWrong does not tolerate non leftists. Indeed, this follows logically from LessWrong’s position on consensus. The proposition that good Bayesians cannot have different priors boils down to Trotsky’s position:

    The party in the last analysis is always right … one must not be right against the party. One can be right only with the party

    The Less Wrong position on priors and consensus seriously under estimates the likelihood that the party is evil or insane.

    As for your taste in heroes, it follows from your question.

  179. If, e.g., Germany would try to build up a credible military power, the USA would most certainly sabotage that. And history indicates that it might not be a good idea to let Germany build up a strong army. The same holds for Japan.

    You think large numbers of either of them are secretly thinking “Yessss! *This* time we’ll get it right! Fourth Reich/Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere 2.0 coming up”? The circumstances are a *little* different from last time. The Japanese mainly want to tool up a bit because the Chinese are starting to show signs of wanting to throw their weight around.

  180. @Adrian Smith
    “You think large numbers of either of them are secretly thinking “Yessss! *This* time we’ll get it right!”

    Power corrupts. Many Germans and Japanese do not trust their compatriots with a powerful army. I tend to believe them.

    But I think the way the US sees countries that can defend themselves against the US* is a more important factor.

    *Note that the British bought USA missiles they might not be able to “use” without the consent of the US. And I do not think there is anyone who will trust a US bought fighter jet will work when engaging the US air force.

    http://www.david-morrison.org.uk/nuclear-weapons/deterrent-dependent.htm

  181. @JAD
    “In Isaac Asimov’s “The gods themselves” there are no heroes, but there are good guys. The good guys fail to save the day, and the guy who saves the day is not one of the good guys.”

    I refreshed my memory a little about this story.

    @JAD
    “The good guy Dua damn near foolishly kills herself, which would be extremely bad for her family, and when her family shows up to keep her alive, is not very helpful. Asimov (incorrectly) thinks this is Dua being heroic, but it is actually her being stupid and wicked. Perhaps intuiting this, he does not have her save the day at the expense of her life.”

    Your portrayal betrays contempt for people who try to save “aliens” because they consider all sentient beings are worthy of protection. I agree that she does not butcher many “bad aliens” and sill, therefore, not be a good hero in the type of stories you seem to like.

    By the way, Asimov, quite reasonably, assumed this story would have a bigger impact if humanity was saved by a human. That would also be a good reason not to let Dua save the earth. “she” had already done a lot by warning the earthlings.

    @JAD
    “and the guy who saves the day is not one of the good guys.”

    That was not my impression of the story. The guy who saved the day did so at some risk for himself and in total, did a good job. Moreover, Asimov is well known for designing characters that are a tad more complex than the average hero from the Iliad.

  182. winter:

    That is a universal feature of humans: They tend to get less children the more wealthy, educated, and secure they are. The low birth rate simply indicates that people feel wealthy and secure in Europe.

    If that was a feature of humans, it is a very strange feature. I find Boko Haram’s explanation of low birthrates more plausible, and better supported by the evidence, for in much of the worst hell holes of the third world, we also see European type birthrates among that part of the population most exposed to Boko.

  183. Note that the British bought USA missiles they might not be able to “use” without the consent of the US.

    Yeah, the British political class have this “special relationship” idea, it’s all kind of embarrassing.

    And I do not think there is anyone who will trust a US bought fighter jet will work when engaging the US air force.

    Well, of course there are backdoors into that stuff, stands to reason, most people who buy those jets do not much envisage engaging the US air force with them, it would be dumb and futile.

  184. @JAD
    ” for in much of the worst hell holes of the third world, we also see European type birthrates among that part of the population most exposed to Boko.”

    In war, people behave extraordinary. In all times and all places, people have delayed getting children if they have fears they cannot support them.

    However, the fact that other causes can decrease female fertility does not refutes the observation that more wealth leads to less children in the modern world. See:

    http://mpyron.iweb.bsu.edu/Bio216/Project2/Human%20Population%20Dynamics%20%28Part%202%29.pdf

    I would say that the Chinese way (forced 1 child policies) and the Russian condition (widespread alcoholism in men) that depress birth rates are different from the Canadian, Australian, and European causes (wealth).

    High fertility (>3 children per female averaged over all women) is generally limited to regions you do not want to raise a family.

    Note also that the situation in Saudi Arabia (Figure 2) teaches us another route to high fertility you might like:
    Deny women any right to decide over their own body.

  185. @JAD

    ” for in much of the worst hell holes of the third world, we also see European type birthrates among that part of the population most exposed to Boko.”

    Winter

    In war, people behave extraordinary.

    You misread me. By Boko I did not mean the organization Boko Haram, but what their name protests, “Boko”, which means bogus, bullshit, bullshit education, or western education – they object to women being taught feminism and what neoreactionaries call the false life plan. (Career first, supposedly lots of time to have children later after your career is established)

    Where third worlders in poverty stricken hell holes, for example Nepal, are taught what westerners are taught, they have western birth rates.

    Falling birth rates reflect feminism, divorce, and equalism, not living standards.

  186. Empirical findings: In all societies over all of history, the birth rate has declined with wealth.

    Not what I see.

    What I see is that in all societies where women are emancipated and the mass media and the education system are dominated by anti natalists who denigrate the role of housewife and mother, and glamorize divorce, infidelity, and delayed marriage after a long period of having fun, the birthrate has declined, regardless of whether that society is rich or poor.

    Thus, for example, Nepalese women educated in the government education system have typical modern western birthrates, Nepalese women educated in the Islamic education system have around seven children.

    The data could be interpreted as indicating that education for women reduces fertility, rather than education for women in feminism reduces fertility, but the example of Muslim countries shows that when the education system starts affirmative actioning women, that is when fertility falls, which suggests that the critical educational element is feminism, rather than literature and arithmetic.

  187. @JAD
    I get it, you consider women breeding livestock. I knew you would be a fan of the Saudi solution!

    A summary of the long comment below: JAD only looks at North America and then assumes that, e.g., Bengali women aspire to “feminism, divorce, and equalism” and stop getting babies.

    @JAD
    “@Winter: Empirical findings: In all societies over all of history, the birth rate has declined with wealth.
    Not what I see.”

    Figure 2 in the link I posted. And every serious study ever done: Increased wealth correlates strongly with lower birthrates up to a threshold wealth. Historically, wealth increases precede birthrate declines.

    @JAD
    “You misread me. By Boko I did not mean the organization Boko Haram, but what their name protests, “Boko”, which means bogus, bullshit, bullshit education, or western education – they object to women being taught feminism and what neoreactionaries call the false life plan. (Career first, supposedly lots of time to have children later after your career is established)”

    Actually, the semantics of “Boko” are murky and there is no good translation. But I will take your point that it is Bad Western education.

    Your conclusion needs evidence: Evidence that education did tell women these things.

    It did not. Birthrate declines precede any of your points entering the curriculum. Actually, if there are outside influences, it is TV. Mostly soaps, which depict successful well off women who work and have few children. So, you should fight TV soaps.

    Furthermore, education of women improves health of their children and increases effective income of families. Reduced child mortality also deceases birth rates. This is one of the ways wealth works on life history. You need to show that it is not the increased family wealth that did the decrease.

    Also, you need to show that there is a link between working outside the home and lower birth rates. Historically, women have always tried to match their work to the needs of their children, if they could. If they could not because of poverty, they still got many children and these had bad health and high mortality.

    The lack of a link between work and birthrate is obvious for rich women all over the world who do not work and still get few children. The trend has also been shown for every stratum in society.

    @JAD
    “Falling birth rates reflect feminism, divorce, and equalism, not living standards.”

    Historically, these tend to follow a fall in birthrates. And the fall is also found in countries where none of these flower, e.g., North Africa and the Middle East.

  188. Winter

    I get it, you consider women breeding livestock. I knew you would be a fan of the Saudi solution!

    Saudis are affirmative actioning women into university, where they learn fellatio, sodomy, lesbianism, and feminism, and motherhood is denigrated. Over sixty percent of Saudi university students are female, less than forty percent are male

    Similarly for Iran.

    Saudi Arabia also has extremely high rates of divorce.

    Where this educational program is in effect, whether the country is rich or poor, you get plummeting birth rates.

    Within poor countries, groups that shield themselves from this educational program have very high birth rates, groups exposed to this educational program have birth rates similar to modern developed western countries.

    Figure 2 in the link I posted. And every serious study ever done: Increased wealth correlates strongly with lower birthrates up to a threshold wealth. Historically, wealth increases precede birthrate declines.

    Nepal poor as ever, but among those receiving western, which is to say feminist, education birth rates are at modern western levels. Among those in Nepal receiving traditional Islamic education, birth rates are at traditional Islamic levels.

    Birthrate declines precede any of your points entering the curriculum.

    Oh come on. The Anglosphere educational establishment has been conducting war on marriage since 1814. They were rabid left wing moonbats back then, and have been getting lefter ever since.

    Actually, if there are outside influences, it is TV. Mostly soaps, which depict successful well off women who work and have few children. So, you should fight TV soaps.

    True, but they don’t teach fellatio on television.

    Furthermore, education of women improves health of their children and increases effective income of families.

    Improves it assuming that they get married and stay married. Single motherhood and divorce has the opposite effect, as does having children late in life. By and large, what women are taught in school is not reading, writing, and arithmetic, but late marriage, which harms the health of their children.

    “Falling birth rates reflect feminism, divorce, and equalism, not living standards.”

    Historically, these tend to follow a fall in birthrates. And the fall is also found in countries where none of these flower, e.g., North Africa and the Middle East.

    I don’t have data for Africa, but Boko Haram evidently believe that these things are flowering in Africa, believe it rather passionately.

    I do have data for the middle east, and women in the middle east are being taught feminism, divorce, and equalism.

  189. @JAD
    I get your point. Women are for breeding. Educated women (or those that watch soaps) learn that you can have a life with exactly the number of kids you like. And you abhor them for it.

    I assume you would like to censor the media and schools and ban contraceptives. Just like the Iranians are doing. But even they are not going to deny women an education. Maybe you should learn more about the teachings of the Taliban. They are against educating women too.

    @JAD
    “Saudis are affirmative actioning women into university, where they learn fellatio, sodomy, lesbianism, and feminism, and motherhood is denigrated.”

    Saudi men have to learn about these in school?

    Btw, didn’t you look at figure 2? Saudis have comparatively a higher birth rate than expected. Women have effectively no rights at all in Saudi Arabia, so your comments are bogus. They have no legal right to decide on their bodies:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_rights_in_Saudi_Arabia

    @JAD
    “Improves it assuming that they get married and stay married. Single motherhood and divorce has the opposite effect, as does having children late in life. By and large, what women are taught in school is not reading, writing, and arithmetic, but late marriage, which harms the health of their children.”

    With two children, the age of marriage is a straw man. You can get them whenever you like. Dutch couples are generally together from their early twenties on, marrying only when a child is coming (because it is so much easier administratively). Half the couples do not even marry when their children come.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/roiphe/2013/10/marriage_and_the_dutch_what_americans_could_learn_from_the_conjugal_indifference.html

    And even gays like to marry to get children. I know several examples of a married lesbian and gay couples coming together to raise their mutual kids.

  190. Winter:

    Women have effectively no rights at all in Saudi Arabia, so your comments are bogus. They have no legal right to decide on their bodies:

    Complaining that Saudi Arabia represses women is like complaining that the tea party are extreme rightists because they are not sufficiently far left of the 2008 Obama.

    What you actually mean is that Saudis lag about eight to twelve years behind American progressives in privileging women over men and undermining marriage, and efforts by the Saudi state to privilege women and destroy marriage face considerably greater, and more violent, resistance than in America, and therefore fall slightly outside the American Overton window and have slightly higher fertility.

    That Saudi Universities are, like American universities, overwhelmingly female dominated, and that degrees are being dumbed down for women in Saudi Arabia as in the US, is inconsistent with the progressive vision of Saudi Arabia.

    Where the power of the state is most visible and most direct, in particular in Saudi Arabian Universities, we see female privilege and irresponsible and destructive female sexual autonomy.

  191. @JAD
    “What you actually mean is that Saudis lag about eight to twelve years behind American progressives in privileging women over men and undermining marriage,”

    You really have no idea of the legal position of women in Saudi Arabia, don’t you? Think more than a century back. But I agree, women are actually getting legal rights, even under Saudi law.

    @JAD
    “and efforts by the Saudi state to privilege women and destroy marriage face considerably greater, and more violent, resistance than in America, and therefore fall slightly outside the American Overton window and have slightly higher fertility.”

    They are fundamentalist Muslims. They still whip people. OBL had many fans there.

    @JAD
    “That Saudi Universities are, like American universities, overwhelmingly female dominated”

    Yeah, that is a worldwide trend. The problem had been hidden in the past because the boys had no competition. But it is now clear that women are the better students. It is a matter of concern and attempts are made to determine what is needed to get boys to perform better.

    @JAD
    “and that degrees are being dumbed down for women in Saudi Arabia as in the US,”

    Not only there, women are taken over universities everywhere in the world. The only conclusion can be that girls fit schools and universities better than boys. The supposed “dumbing down” is the result of a worldwide effort to increase enrollment.

    If you want to compare the quality of science in the 1950’s and now, try read the Double Helix by James Watson. It is also a good source to get an impression on how women were treated in those days.

    @JAD
    “we see female privilege and irresponsible and destructive female sexual autonomy.”

    Yeah, we are back to the fact that you consider women are breeding livestock. And livestock should not have rights.

    A question: If you dislike women this much, why not stick to men?

  192. Winter:

    They are fundamentalist Muslims.

    If the Saudi government were fundamentalist Muslims, they would not be affirmative actioning young girls into co-ed university.

    OBL had many fans there.

    In part because lots of Saudis think that feminism and the destruction of marriage is an attack on Islam.

    The only conclusion can be that girls fit schools and universities better than boys.

    If large numbers of girls are capable of doing university, why is it that any class that does the sort of material that was traditionally university material is pretty much all male, and the classes that are full of of women are full of fluffy dumbed down content?

  193. @JAD
    “If the Saudi government were fundamentalist Muslims, they would not be affirmative actioning young girls into co-ed university.”

    Actually, it is widely believed in the Muslim world that Mohammed favored giving girls a good educating. Therefore, there are quite a number of fundamentalist teachings that support women’s education. The Taliban and Boko Haram are relatively isolated in this respect. But these are not Arab people and have retained many non-Arab convictions.

    @JAD
    “In part because lots of Saudis think that feminism and the destruction of marriage is an attack on Islam.”

    It is not strange because OBL was from a very respected Saudi family. His aims were to liberate the holy places from “unworthy” reign. That is, he wanted to be the Saudi king instead of the Saudi king. This resonated with a lot of his compatriots. His ideas about women were just standard Saudi lore.

    @JAD
    “If large numbers of girls are capable of doing university, why is it that any class that does the sort of material that was traditionally university material is pretty much all male,”

    Different interests?

    Mathematics and the life sciences have always attracted quite a large number of women (c.f., The Double Helix). Things like Astrophysics are attracting growing numbers of women. But I do not find many girls that are attracted to soldering stuff.

    Although, there is a woman, Jeri Ellsworth, who literally bakes integrated circuits in her kitchen.
    http://www.theblogmocracy.com/2014/07/06/guest-post-smoking-hot-nerd-of-the-month/
    I have not seen anyone topping that.

    @JAD
    “and the classes that are full of of women are full of fluffy dumbed down content?”

    Attended a class on molecular biology lately? Or cognitive neuroscience?

  194. >Attended a class on molecular biology lately? Or cognitive neuroscience?

    I’m interested in the latter. Any good introductory book(s) you’d recommend? Thanks in advance.

  195. @JAD

    “If the Saudi government were fundamentalist Muslims, they would not be affirmative actioning young girls into co-ed university.”

    Winter:

    Actually, it is widely believed in the Muslim world that Mohammed favored giving girls a good educating.

    1. Bullshit.

    2. At coed university, girls are too busy fucking like weasels in heat to waste time on good education.

  196. “Winter:
    Actually, it is widely believed in the Muslim world that Mohammed favored giving girls a good educating.”

    @JAD
    “1. Bullshit.”

    [Citation needed]

    @JAD
    “2. At coed university, girls are too busy fucking like weasels in heat to waste time on good education.”

    [Citation needed]

  197. @Jorge Dujan
    Cognitive neuroscience is such a fast moving field that I feel unable to judge the quality of any textbooks (I am not active in that field).

    You might have a look at the work done at this institute and select a “field” you are interested in:
    http://www.ru.nl/donders/research/

    Then look at amazon what attracts you when you enter “cognitive neuroscience”. A mighty lot of books come up.

    If you want to have a look at some free general textbooks:

    A Mediawiki book on Computational Cognitive Neuroscience
    http://grey.colorado.edu/CompCogNeuro/index.php/CCNBook/Book

    Use this link if the above one is too slow:
    http://grey.colorado.edu/mediawiki/sites/CompCogNeuro/images/c/cc/ccnbook_01_21_2014.pdf

    And then there is a free eBook with ads (yes, a textbook with ads) if you leave your email address (make one up or use a good spam filter):
    Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience
    http://bookboon.com/en/introduction-to-cognitive-neuroscience-ebook

  198. Thank you, Winter. Those resources look interesting, especially the book from CU-Boulder. And through the Amazon search you suggested, I discovered (or maybe rediscovered) the existence of author Michael Gazzaniga.

  199. @JAD:
    1) Man-hours spent having sex = Woman-hours spent having sex
    2) Studies on western universities (as well as Muslim teaching, IIRC) find that men are more willing to have sex than women.

    (esr’s essay on female promiscuity may be relevant here)

  200. 1) Man-hours spent having sex = Woman-hours spent having sex

    But having sex with lots of women does not damage a man the way having sex with lots of men damages a woman.

    And, if the Saudi government were good Muslims, one would expect them prevent coeducation to stop both men and women from having sex outside marriage.

  201. @JAD
    “But having sex with lots of women does not damage a man the way having sex with lots of men damages a woman.”

    [Citation needed]

    @JAD
    “And, if the Saudi government were good Muslims, one would expect them prevent coeducation to stop both men and women from having sex outside marriage.”

    That is already a criminal offense, punishable by whipping. Is that not enough? Or do you assume Saudi men are criminals?

  202. “And, if the Saudi government were good Muslims, one would expect them prevent coeducation to stop both men and women from having sex outside marriage.”

    That is already a criminal offense, punishable by whipping. Is that not enough? Or do you assume Saudi men are criminals?

    And similarly, homosexuality was a criminal offense in the west throughout most of the twentieth century, but to get convicted, one had to do something really special to piss off the authorities.

    Fornication convictions in Saudi Arabia happen primarily to people who embarrass the authorities, as for example a low status person brings charges against a high status, well connected person, or someone who is causing a problem so they look around for something to charge them with, or when someone just goes crazy and shoves it in people’s faces. They do not normally happen to regular middle class people.

    It is not so much that fornication is illegal, as that failure to maintain some slight level of hypocrisy is illegal.

    If the Saudi government openly and officially legalized fornication, that would substantially increase recruitment for Islamic State. So they have a bit both ways. They undermine patriarchy while pretending to enforce it, while Islamic State really enforces it.

  203. You seem to be defending Shari’a law. Is this correct?

    What is wrong with Sharia law is that it is designed to harass and oppress private individuals who are not of the official religion, designed to lead to deadly violent conflict between those of the official faith and those not of the official faith.

    Its handling of ordinary crime, and its handling of family matters, is excellent and worthy of imitation. What is bad is its handling of crimes that involve conflict between those of the official religion and those not of the official religion.

    Thus, for example, that the British de facto allow honor killings, is not a problem. That Britons are de facto second class before the law relative to Muslims is a huge problem.

    (Do you doubt that the British allow honor killings? Google up examples of “honor killings” prosecuted in England. You will find that the only ones prosecuted are those that the Taliban does not permit either, such as killing a muslim male lover, killing entire family, etc. There is a curious absence of the most archetypical honor killing)

  204. @JAD
    All fundamentalists criticise other fundamentalists from being too “light”.
    What makes you different from any other fundamentalist?

    But fundamentalists have never been riight,

    You adhere to strict Wahabitism, it seems to me. You will have a tough time converting the people in the USA.

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