The Rest of the Night in New Hampshire

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2016/02/10/the-rest-of-the-night-in-new-hampshire/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=27926

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

More thoughts on what went down in New Hampshire:

* First, that vaguely squelchy sound you hear in the background is the GOP pooping itself because, in fact, Donald Trump is real, and he is spectacular — or at the very least, he thumped the hell out of the rest of the GOP squad in New Hampshire. He outpolled his nearest competitor John Kasich better than two to one, and beat Iowa winner Ted Cruz three to one. Trump’s gonna come out of New Hampshire like the crowing cock he is, and he’s the favorite to win the next GOP primary in South Carolina (FiveThirtyEight says he’s got a 55% chance of winning there; Marco Rubio, his nearest competitor, is at just 19%) and he’s ahead in the polls in Nevada, too, which comes after South Carolina.

This scares the shit out of the GOP establishment — as well it should — but, as I’ve noted before, the rise of a populist demagogue was exactly what the GOP has been aiming at for years. Yet again, for the people in the back: If your party spends decades undermining the legitimacy of government, and of governance, and if you sublet your messaging to radio talk show hosts and news networks whose bread and butter is making old white people scared and younger white people angry at minorities, and if you’ve pandered to that scared and angry core to continue to undermine government and governance in a distinctly non-virtuous cycle, then a populist demagogue as your party’s presidential candidate is probably inevitable.

The GOP’s misfortune is that it comes in the form of Trump, who doesn’t need its money and doesn’t care about the Republican Party in any real sense, except as a rented mule he can whip when it suits him. Billionaires are supposed to fund, not run.  Trump is vulgar and racist and generally horrible but he’s not stupid, and he understands the moment, and the movement, the GOP has provided him. The GOP establishment gave him a car that runs on vitriol. He’s going to drive it hard until it falls apart under him, and he’s not going to stick around to clean up the exploded mess. Why should he?

In short, the GOP only have themselves to blame. They asked for Trump. They’ve been asking for him for years. And here he is.

* Trump is the GOP’s fault, but the rest of the field is the GOP’s problem. Kasich put nearly all his chips into New Hampshire and got a distant second place finish as a payout, but South Carolina as I understand it is likely to be less friendly territory for a Republican who actually thinks occasionally working with the other side is a thing that might be done, and anyway he doesn’t have many chips left. Bush left New Hampshire in fourth place with a plan to have his ads target Kasich and Rubio. Rubio has a fifth place finish and a reputation as a broken machine. Cruz has a third place finish and appeals to religious conservatives, of whom there are many in South Carolina, but if the GOP establishment fears Trump, it loathes Cruz. Everyone else in the race doesn’t matter at this point.

None of the above seem to be targeting Trump very much; they’re more content to snipe at each other for the silver, which works out great for Trump. But more to the point, Trump is vulgar and racist and generally horrible, but the people who like him really like him. Who really likes Jeb Bush? Or Marco Rubio? Or John Kasich? Nobody likes Cruz, but inasmuch as no one really likes any of the remaining undercard perfomers, this hasn’t hurt him as much as it should. So Cruz keeps at it. They’re like drowning men desperately trying to push themselves up out of the water on each other’s shoulders, while Trump is in a speedboat with a model and champagne, encouraging them to kill each other and float on top of the bodies.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in South Carolina. But it’s going to be a long ten days until then.

* On the Democratic side, you know, I’m not gonna lie, I was convinced that Sanders was going to have a larger blowout than he did. Not that 60% to 38% is anything to complain about, mind you. He did great. I just thought it would be more. I think it’s because my Twitter feed is full of Bernie supporters.

In any event, it was long known that New Hampshire was Sanders territory. I think Clinton’s people didn’t do a particularly good job of framing expectations there. For example, here’s a fun fact: Clinton’s 38.3% loss in New Hampshire this year is less than one percent off from her 39.1% win of the state in 2008. So her support in the state is pretty much the same as it ever was. The differences this year: One fewer candidate to slice up the rest of the voting pie, Sanders’ “hometown” advantage, and the simple fact that people in New Hampshire, at least, were more energized by Sanders than by her.

Sanders should capitalize on his momentum because it gets harder for him from here — the Nevada caucus is a question mark (Clinton’s got a big lead there but the state hasn’t been polled since December) and FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton a 95% chance of winning South Carolina.

There’s also this:

Clinton and Sanders have roughly the same number of pledges delegates at this point, but Clinton has substantially more “superdelegates” (i.e., party bigwigs) supporting her, so she’s far ahead in the delegate count. In fact, thanks to superdelegates, Clinton comes out of New Hampshire with more delegates than Sanders currently has, even though he beat her 60%-38% in the polls.

So, yeah. Sanders absolutely should enjoy the moment. It goes uphill now, and he’s already way behind, and his big victory ironically ended up being a loss, as far as delegates go — which, for the purposes of the Democratic nomination, are the votes that matter.

* Given her structural advantages, do I think Clinton could eventually lose the nomination to Sanders? Well, I think it will be difficult for her to lose it, but then, she’s been a front-runner before and blown it, so I wouldn’t say it’s impossible. 2016 is not 2008, Sanders is not Obama (for a number of reasons), and Clinton, in my opinion, is a savvier politician than she was eight years ago. So I suspect in the end it’s Clinton. But you never know.

One of Clinton’s bigger problems is that people don’t like her, and there are all sorts of reasons for that, many of which are external to her — two decades of conservative revilement, for a start, down to the recent phenomenon of “Bernie Bros,” i.e., ostensibly liberal dudes who still think it’s fine to crap on Clinton for the unforgivable crime of being a politician whilst female. Sexism is still a thing. Sexism isn’t the only reason for people disliking Clinton — she has her faults — but it’s flat out a lie to say it’s not an overlay, just like it’s flat out a lie to argue that racism isn’t part of why Obama has been loathed by many for the last eight years. It does complicate matters.

For all that, if I were a betting sort, I’d still bet on Clinton. But again, from my point of view, whether Clinton or Sanders wins the nomination is immaterial, since both are so vastly superior to anything the GOP has on offer that I’m pulling the lever for whichever of them make it that far.

(But what about Bloomberg? He might enter the race! Sure, and if he does I’ll think about him then. Until then, I won’t).

And that’s a wrap for New Hampshire.


The Existential Angst of Jeb Bush Failing to Best Ted Cruz in the New Hampshire Primary, in Twitter

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2016/02/10/the-existential-angst-of-jeb-bush-failing-to-best-ted-cruz-in-the-new-hampshire-primary-in-twitter-form-featuring-jim-gilmore/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=27923

How I spent my New Hampshire primary night.

Postscript: Gilmore eventually cracked triple digits. Good for him.


Team Scalzi

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2016/02/09/team-scalzi/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=27916

Not long ago I was having a conversation about some recent business stuff going on in my life, and the person I was having the conversation with noted that I was using “we” instead of “I” a lot when I was talking about decisions. They were curious whether there was more than one person actually involved in my decision-making process, or if I just had a massively inflated ego and was using the royal “we.” Well:

1. Yes, I have a massively inflated ego, I mean, duh;

2. In this case, however, I regularly rely on other people to help me make business decisions concerning my work, and that’s who the “we” refers to. At this point in my life there is, in fact, a “Team Scalzi.”

It’s not an official team, mind you. We don’t have softball jerseys or anything (although, now that I think of it, this could be done…), and none of them work for me as an employee. Rather, there are people I work with on the business side of my life to get things done and/or to help me plan for the future and for future projects.

Nor is this especially unusual; many professional writers (and most pro authors) have a group of people who they listen to, or at least get advice from, in terms of their careers and business and futures. The people in these roles, and the types of role, vary from writer to writer, of course.

So who is my “team”? They are:

Spouse: This would be Kristine Scalzi, who, aside from being my partner in life, has a super-sharp business mind both naturally and by education (she has a business degree). She also handles much of the business end of things here, in terms of tracking and organizing various projects and contracts and such. Also, she handles nearly all the homefront issues, which is important when one travels as much as I do.

Smart authors will often compliment their spouses/spousal equivalents and assure you that they would be nothing without them; in my case this is actually also true. Krissy’s organizational and business skills, and willingness to hold down the fort, are nearly entirely responsible for the fact that we are solvent and that I am able to take advantage of as many opportunities as I can. Nothing gets done without her, and everything that does gets done, is made better by her.

Literary Agent: This is Ethan Ellenberg of the Ethan Ellenberg Agency. Aside from a spouse or spousal equivalent, this is probably the most common “team member” for any author. I figure most of you know what an agent does, but for those of you who don’t, this is the person responsible for helping me sell my books to publishers, not just here in the US but worldwide. To do this Ethan has his own team, starting with Bibi Lewis, who handles my foreign sales, and also including a large number of subagents from around the world, who help find buyers in foreign territories. Ethan is a very large part of the reason this happened, and why my work is now in two dozen languages worldwide.

Editor: This is Patrick Nielsen Hayden, my editor at Tor (there are others as well, notably Bill Schafer at Subterranean Press and Steve Feldberg at Audible). Aside from editing my novels, a job that’s he’s done pretty well for a decade now, he and I also strategize about which projects to write and when to put them out, and how to market them to booksellers and readers. In this, Patrick quite obviously has his own team to work with: It’s called Tor Books (likewise Bill and Steve at their respective companies). All these teams are pretty good at what they do.

Film/Television Agent: This is Joel Gotler, of Intellectual Property Management. He’s the one who shops my work to/fields offers from producers and studios in Los Angeles for possible film/TV projects, and given the number of projects we’ve had optioned, he’s clearly good at it. He also advises me on which projects are mostly likely to get interest at any particular moment, and helps me field non-literary-derived projects as well (not everything I pitch for the screen was originally a book).

Entertainment Lawyer: Hey, did you know contracts are tricky and you might want to have a lawyer look at them and give you advice about them? My entertainment lawyer is Matt Sugarman of Weintraub Tobin. In addition to vetting contracts, I also bend his ear about the entertainment industry landscape as he sees it, and where he thinks it might go from here. I also and independently use a local lawyer, John Marchal, to handle estate planning and other such issues not directly related to entertainment, but which have bearing on my business.

Accountant: This is Julie Boring, of Boring & Associates, who has handled our taxes since we moved to Ohio in 2001 and who has kept up with my (sometimes rather drastically) changing income and tax profile over the last fifteen years. She keeps me up to date on tax issues and concerns and helps me regarding how best to maximize charitable giving.

Financial Planning and Services: Dave Selsor of Fifth Third Securities is helping us here. I’m not a flashy investor and generally I follow the advice I give nearly everyone about investing, i.e., “shove it into an index fund and don’t think about it for thirty years.” But we have a few other (generally financially conservative) irons in the fire, and a few less-than-usual financial concerns that take a bit of planning.

Note that members of this “team” interact with each other to varying degrees: My agent interacts with my editor and my film/TV agent, for example, but not generally with my accountant or investment planner. The only consistent point of contact here for all of these folks is me. Nevertheless, information is shared one way or another (usually through me).

I will also note that all the members of my “team,” save my wife, are part of other peoples’ teams as well — my agent (and his agency) has many other clients, as does my lawyer and accountant and so on. It’s a little presumptuous to talk about them as my team, and I know it. Nevertheless these are people in a privileged position in regards to both knowledge of my career and their ability to assist me with it, and when they’re doing that, we’re working toward the same goal. Like a team! So there you are.

Additionally — this is my particular team, which has been built over the years based on my own career needs. Other folks have have some of these people and not others, or others that I don’t have. For example, I don’t have an assistant, which several authors of my acquaintance have (at least one I know has more than one). I also don’t have a manager, which some authors, particularly those who want to work in movies/TV, choose to have. In my case, neither of these make sense. I know other authors who choose not to have agents, a choice I would not be comfortable with personally, but which they seem to be content with. And of course, many writers are single, or might, for varying reasons, prefer not to have their spouses actively involved with the minutiae of their careers.

For what I do and how I do it, this is the team loadout that works for me (literally). In return, most of them get a bit of my income out of it — commissions and fees and such. Which is another thing to think about, incidentally: Whether what you get out of these services will be what you pay for it. In my case it’s a yes — I can’t even imagine trying to wrangle my taxes at this point, or attempting to sell books in Thailand or Estonia, or wherever. Each of these “team” members either helps me save or make money (in some cases both!) and give me good advice, in their areas of expertise, to make decisions. They are well worth what they charge. Again, your mileage may vary.

Do one, as a writer, need people in these particular roles? Well, I always think it’s nice to have a spouse, if you can manage it. Other than that a lot will depend on what your career goals are and how much work you want to take on. For example, if you self-publish primarily and don’t want or plan to approach publishers, either here or overseas, your need for an agent is lower than mine; likewise if you don’t publish books and/or freelance primarily for magazines and Web sites where you can query directly. Also, in many cases, it’s not just about you choosing who to work with. They also have to choose you.

In any event, when I say “we” when I talk about my business, one or more of the folks above are the people that are included in the word. They’re all good at what they do, and I’m glad that in what they do, they do it with and for me.


The Big Idea: Tanita S. Davis

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2016/02/09/the-big-idea-tanita-s-davis/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=27914

Sometimes people are uprooted and put in new circumstances. How do we adjust, and can we put down new roots that work well enough for us? In her Big Idea, Tanita S. Davis considers this question and how it relates to her YA novel, Peas and Carrots.

TANITA S. DAVIS:

There is no super power greater than knowing how to gather friendly, open, likeminded people around us, to use our intention to make our own safe place in the world. But when our relatives are rotten, and intentional choosing isn’t a skill available to us, what do we do then? Eventually, we stop thinking in terms of family, and seek other bonds.

My first teaching job out of college was working one-on-one with students housed courtesy of the State. They were a mixed lot: entitled incorrigibles who had smarted off to a truancy officer one time too many; runaways from intolerable home lives who’d ended up in the sex trade as a means of survival; gang-affiliated kids who looked like hard-faced adults, serving time for being accessories to grand theft and drive-by shootings. They all shared the simple human desire to belong somewhere – for their families to take them back, for the tight group they’d left behind to arrive one day and rescue them from my classroom… Every day that I worked with them, I watched their counselors and therapists and parole officers try to impress upon them the importance of making new connections, of finding different stomping grounds and other things to hold dear.

It was not a message which found a receptive audience. Almost every one of my students had some piece of the past they held onto against all comers, some piece of the world which represented to them all that they’d lost, and all that they would need to make the world right again. And, for almost all of those students, that thing was a representation of family. A location which they defended with fierce neighborhood pride. A faded Polaroid taped to the headboard at every new placement. A ratty old cardigan or piece of baby blanket held onto since childhood.  A tattoo, stick pin applied with charcoal and baby oil; the name of a best-beloved boldly claiming the tender skin of a wrist or forearm. A piece of a past, real or imagined, and long vanished.

Could they realistically be asked to let go of that? Obviously, no. And yet, how could they move into the future if they weren’t willing to let the past go?

What I saw work, during my brief years with these kids, was encouraging them to change perspective. Maybe they couldn’t have the crew they used to run with, but they could find literal running mates elsewhere. Some left the group home and get involved with long-distance running, basketball, tournament teams traveling and learning the feel of that inclusivity in teams. One girl embraced her love of arguing and took a semester to first observe, then begin to participate in her new high school’s debate team. We didn’t always get to see the next chapter in the lives of those with whom we worked, but sometimes we’d get a card or a call, or a social worker would bring back word. The kids who survived the destruction of their networks and didn’t return to the scene of the disaster were those who found and formed new connections, and new ways into what they ultimately wanted the most.

The world can be puzzled by these deliberate connections, these bonds we seek to supplement biology. Your new home may not be where any of you live, and your new family may be made up of what other people would consider strangers on the internet. I remember wheeling my through a crowded Costco shopping center when my sister was less than a year old, and encountering the crooned, “Oh, she’s precious! She looks just like you two!” It was, in this case, both ludicrous and …ludicrously wrong, as my youngest sister is an American of Cambodian ancestry, I’m an American of African ancestry, and my husband’s ancestral leanings are English, Scottish, and Irish. Sooo…maybe not just like us? But, I’m pretty sure that between her eye rolls – she’s nineteen now – and her general mien of disaffected snarkiness, there’s at least a family resemblance.

Peas and Carrots is a book marketed to middle grade/young adult readers and explores intentionally choosing people to love, and accepting each other in spite of our differences. At the end of the day, peas and carrots don’t go together because they grow together –  legumes and umbeliers are vastly different plant families – nor do they look alike or taste alike… They go together because we put them together. And so can we put together a family, too. Maybe blood shapes our earliest parts, but the choices of who we invite into our circles define us further down the road. It’s an absolutely huge idea that we can have some power over our own happiness in finding good, true, family-tested-friends. Love – and family, however we assemble it –  can be a lot simpler than we make it.

—-

Peas and Carrots: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the author’s blog. Follow her on Twitter.


The 2016 Audie Award Finalists for Fantasy

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2016/02/09/the-2016-audie-award-finalists-for-fantasy/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=27912

The Audie Awards are the big award in audio books, celebrating both the words of the author and the performances of the readers. Having won this award myself with Wil Wheaton, I can assure you it’s a thrill to be a finalist with your audiobook reader and even more fun to win.

This year I’m delighted to announce the Audie Award Finalists for 2016 in the category of Fantasy. That’s right! You’re reading it here first!

If for some reason you can’t read the graphic above, the finalists are:

  • Ascension: The Trymoon Saga, by Brain K. Fuller, read by Simon Vance
  • The Cycle of Arawn, by Edward W. Robertson, read by Tim Gerard Reynolds
  • The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin, read by Robin Miles
  • Nice Dragons Finish Last, by Rachel Aaron, read by Vikas Adam
  • Son of the Black Sword, by Larry Correia, read by Tim Gerard Reynolds

Winners will be recognized at the Audies Gala in Chicago on May 11, 2016.

Congratulations and good luck to all of the finalists!


Pizza and Particles: An Observation on Writing

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2016/02/07/pizza-and-particles-an-observation-on-writing/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=27905

Note: This entry includes spoilers for my book Redshirts, so if you haven’t read it and want some elements to be a surprise, go ahead and stop reading now.

As you can see from the above embedded tweet and picture, a reader (who also appears to be a NASA scientist) asked me a question about the atoms in the pizza eaten in Redshirts, consumed by the heroes of the story, who had also traveled back in time.

Why would this matter? Because as a plot point in the book, time travelers had about six days to get back to their own time before they began to disintegrate — the atoms of their bodies from the future also existed in the past they’re visiting, and the atoms (eventually) can’t be two places at the same time and would choose to “exist” in the positions where they were in the current frame of reference.

Which is fine as long as you don’t mix atom eras. But when the characters ate pizza, they were commingling atoms from the book’s 2012 with their own atoms several centuries later — and what happens to those atoms from the pizza when the characters return to their own time? Because the atoms gained from the pizza would simultaneously be present elsewhere, and, as already noted, the atoms default to where they were supposed to be in their then-current frame of reference. Right?

As you can see from the tweet above I avoided the answer by giving a completely bullshit response (and then bragging about it). I’m delighted to say I was immediately called on it by another NASA scientist, and I responded appropriately, i.e., by running away. I’m the Brave Sir Robin of science, I am.

But it is actually an interesting question, both for itself and for what it says about my writing process. So now let me try to answer it more fully, because why not.

First, here are the some of the options for what happened to the pizza atoms:

1. After six days they were pooed out and that was the end of it (so to speak). This is a glib answer, and immediately brings up other questions like: So, people from the future don’t absorb atoms from the past at all? Wouldn’t they get hungry? Or thirsty, because presumably it would work the same for liquids? How would they respire? Wouldn’t it be the case in this scenario that everyone from the future would be dead in five minutes from lack of oxygen? These are all reasonable questions, and if correct would have made for a shorter and rather more tragic book, so let’s assume this scenario is not in fact the correct one.

2. After six days the atoms do what they do and revert to their then current locations. What does this mean for each individual? I suspect in the long term not too much. One, a fair number of the atoms will no longer be in the body anyway; they’ll have left through excretion, both through the alimentary canal and respiration. As for the rest, some of them would still be in the body as waste product (i.e., in the process of being expelled but not yet), while the ones that were in the body would be roughly evenly distributed so their sudden disappearance would… probably… not be substantially noticed or cause great disruption to body systems. But it’s certainly possible (depending on how much you eat and/or the positions of these atoms in one’s body) there might be side effects. In this scenario, time travel carries risk analogous to exposure to high radiation levels: Probably fine in small doses, but the more you do it, the more problems potentially crop up. This scenario is logical, given the rules of the particular universe in the book.

3. But wait! At the very end it was revealed there was yet another layer of reality, maybe, and also, maybe, a prime mover of the story independent of the story itself, an author, if you will, who probably could, at their whim, decide that the pizza atoms would just stay where they were, or at least not cause any damage as they left because the author had promised the readers that everyone in the book lived happily ever, so he wouldn’t, like, have them die stupidly from vaporizing atoms, what kind of bullshit is that. This scenario is not outside the realm of possibility, given the rules of the particular universe in the book, but it is kind of slapdash and lazy. Or is it? (Yes.) (Maybe.)

So what’s the actual answer? The actual answer is as the writer I didn’t give the pizza atom scenario any thought whatsoever — it just didn’t come up at all while I was writing — so when this fellow asked the question, I had no idea what the actual answer was, aside from “I don’t know, I didn’t think about it at the time, or really ever, until just now.”

Why didn’t I think of it? For one thing it wasn’t directly material to story at hand, either immediately or long term, so as a plotting consideration it wouldn’t have been anything I would have spent time on. For another thing I was writing quickly and even if I had thought about it at the time, my answer would have likely been “it doesn’t matter to the story, keep going.”

For a third thing, and this is the most relevant thing, I think, writing fiction isn’t about necessarily about so thoroughly developing your world that you as an author have an immediate answer for every possible consequence of the development of your universe. What you are often going for is sufficiency — that the world is logical enough to play in for the purposes of your story — and direction — moving people along in the story quickly enough that they don’t have time or the interest to question your worldbuilding or story-telling choices, at least until the story is done and you’ve bundled them back out into the real world, waving and smiling.

This doesn’t mean you settle for bad or sloppy worldbuilding, on the idea that you’ll just move readers along quickly enough that they don’t see the seams. No, you still attempt to make the universe you’re creating sound. If you set up rules for the universe, you have to follow them as a writer. What it means, however, is that once you’ve made up the rules for the universe, you don’t necessarily have to have an answer for every single question that might come up later. If you’ve built the universe soundly, when previously unanswered questions come up, you can create plausible answers based on the rules of the world you’ve built. Or, more likely, others can, in fan forums and blog posts and Twitter streams, while you sit back and every once in a while say “This is a very interesting theory you have! It might even be true!”

The point is that authors are often an interesting combination of god and tour guide: We create worlds, but then only let readers see the parts of the worlds that suit our own needs — that tell the story we want to tell. What that means is sometimes there are parts to our world that we haven’t seen either, that we only see when or if a reader gets away from us and asks a question we didn’t think to ask ourselves. Sometimes, that question is about pizza.


Various and Sundry 2/5/16

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2016/02/05/various-and-sundry-2516/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=27897

Thoughts on a few things, thoughtfully contained in a single post:

* First, look, a kitten picture!

So dramatic. As noted elsewhere, I suspect that at this point my obit will be headlined, “John Scalzi, Cat Photographer and Occasional Author, Dead of Dander” or something of the sort. But, eh. I’m having fun. And the kittens don’t seem to mind.

* Some folks have asked me if I have any thoughts on the most recent Democratic debate, and the answer is no, not really, for reasons that I mentioned earlier: Basically, Sanders and Clinton represent two flavors of “perfectly acceptable” to me, both in terms of their general positions and relative to whomever the Republicans eventually cough up on their side, so, really, the debates are at this point generally superfluous for one such as myself.

It’s not to say that the debates shouldn’t happen — I think it’s useful for both the candidates and others to see them go head to head on each other, and I suppose there’s a vanishingly small chance that either one of them might do something genuinely foolish or appalling, and then everyone will fall in line with the other candidate after that. But unless and until Clinton or Sanders start gargling puppy blood on stage, whatever.

* On the Republican side of things, it was amusing to watch Trump freak out about not winning Iowa, sad to see Jeb Bush beg people to clap, schadenfreudelicious to see Cruz get apparently absolutely no political or social bump from his win, and interesting to watch the entire chattering class decide that Rubio’s third place finish means he’s going to be the eventual GOP nominee.

Does it? Possibly, although don’t expect either Cruz or Trump to play along, the latter of whom is wounded but is still far ahead in New Hampshire, and the former of whom would happily push a schoolyard of children in front of a bus, one at a time, if that meant he was assured of the presidency. Neither will go down without a fight. Trump I think is already planning his ragequit and independent run should New Hampshire and the next round of primaries not go his way. Also, at this point in Republican history, it’s maybe not the best thing to be seen as a malleable empty suit for the billionaires, which is the thing that recommends Rubio at this point over his main competitors, despite on of them being funded by billionaires, and the other actually being one.

But, honestly, I think Kasich is the best of the GOP field, so what do I know.

* The Internet Outrage of the Week™ was about pathetic MRA/PUA troll Roosh V planning public meetups with his equally pathetic troll pals, only to cancel the meetups when the world announced its general intention to show up and mock the shit out of them. A writer at the Washington Post suggests that everyone got played and now this Roosh character has tons of attention, which is what he was really after. But, you know, when the major story coming out of this little escapade is that the fellow who is the grand alpha mastermind of a men’s movement, who frequently takes selfies of himself with nice cars and mad stacks of cash to signal his manly manliness to the boys he wishes to impress, lives, apparently on sufferance, in his mom’s basement, it does take the air of the fellow a bit, not to mention his “movement.” He’s got attention, but what the attention is saying is “you’re sad and ridiculous.”

The whole “Roosh lives in his mom’s basement” factoid inspired a bit of hand-wringing, in the form of “is it okay to mock someone for living in their mom’s basement when times are tough and sometimes you need the help of your family?” Well, one, in general? Totally fine to live in your parent’s basement as an adult if that’s the hand life is dealing you at the moment. Two, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to note that and also indulge in the rich, creamy irony of a dude trying to posit himself as a testosterone-spiked lord of all he surveys, surveying only as far as his mom’s washer/dryer unit in front of a foundation wall. Or to it another way, with regard to this Roosh character, I was immediately reminded of this meme:

(This isn’t to suggest the ethos this character promotes is to be laughably dismissed, since that shit is noxious and dangerous to women. He is sad and ridiculous; his ethos needs to be stomped on, hard.)

* This Roosh V nonsense washed up on my particular shore because more than a year ago the dude wrote a piece suggesting that maybe rape should be allowed on private property, and then apparently a couple of days ago appended a “THIS IS SATIRE DUH” notation on it when the media started referring to him as pro-rape, and he realized that his publicity master plan doesn’t do him any good when he’s referred to as “Pro-rape jackass Roosh V,” or some variation thereof, in headlines. As justification for his “satire” some of his useful idiots unearthed this piece of mine from 2012, which is indeed satire and on the subject of rape, and whined about why it was that I got to get away with my piece, and not this Roosh fellow.

Well, since the question has been asked:

1. It helps to note for those who might not be clear that the piece is satire, that it is satire, which I did, in the very first comment to the piece, before anyone had actually read it, rather than to, oh, wait a year to append the notation on the piece, long after it had found an audience, and after the media has latched on to it as representative of your views.

2. It also helps when your “satire” does not closely correlate to virtual reams of text you’ve produced as a “pick up artist” guru, suggesting in no uncertain terms that you think “no” means something other than “no” and encouraging others to model that sort of thinking, which would suggest to people that the “satirical” piece is actually representative of your views. Jonathan Swift did not espouse the efficacy of cannibalism generally; likewise I do not promote the ethos of “no means keep going” when it comes to sex.

3. With the two points noted above, announcing suddenly that something that has become inconvenient to you is now satire, duh, is a poor argument for it being so, especially if it’s been pulling freight to one’s audience as something else for the better part of a year. If you think it works this way, this is evidence that you may subscribe to the idea that life is like a card game, and that if, for example, you can lay down the “satire” card, it will totally negate the “accusation of pro-rape” card your opponent has played and give you a +3 Aggrieved Self-Righteousness bonus against further attacks. When you’re a grown-up, you learn that’s not how life actually works. This may be why this particular master of PUA (which tries to gamify human interactions) lives in a parental basement.

Now, despite the early notation of my piece being satire and complete textual lack of me as a person supporting the ethos in the satirical piece, some MRA/PUA types like to assert that the piece is evidence I have confessed to being a rapist. So the irony of the same sort of people simultaneously suggesting that it’s evidence that this Roosh character piece should be treated as satire, is, well. Substantial. Make up your mind, children.

* To end on a better note, Amanda Palmer and Jherek Bischoff have a new EP of Bowie covers, and it’s pretty good. I’m particularly fond of their “Ashes to Ashes” cover. Here you go. Enjoy (and buy if you like it; a portion of it will go to cancer research).

 


The Big Idea: Marshall Ryan Maresca

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2016/02/04/the-big-idea-marshall-ryan-maresca/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=27895

Super heroes are a trope, and fantasy novels are a trope too. So what happens when these tropes collide? Ask Marshall Ryan Maresca — he knows, and The Alchemy of Chaos is the latest installment of just such a mashup.

MARSHALL RYAN MARESCA:

I’m a total super-hero junkie. I have a steamer trunk in my garage filled with the comics of my teenage years. My favorite shows on television right now are Flash and Arrow. Superheroes are in my blood. That my first novel took the shape of a superhero origin story shouldn’t have been a surprise to me.

But when I first started The Thorn of Dentonhill, I wasn’t planning on writing a superhero book. I was writing a fantasy novel about a magic-student who had a secret life tied to the city’s street gangs and drug trade, fighting his own private war against a drug lord.  It took a while before it was clear to me exactly what The Thorn of Dentonhill was. Boiled down to the High Concept Elevator Pitch: Veranix Calbert is a magic student by day, street vigilante by night. Harry Potter as Spider-man.

The Thorn of Dentonhill was the origin story. Veranix started out harassing a drug lord– Fenmere– for entirely personal reasons.  Trying to disrupt a drug shipment, he ends up stealing two magic items. He decides to use in his fight and becomes “The Thorn”– folk hero for the neighborhood, a symbol to everyone who wants to stand up to Fenmere. He gets Great Power.

When I sat down to write The Alchemy of Chaos, I had fully embraced the kind of story I was telling. It’s a pulpy, action-packed fantasy novel, but it is still a superhero story. More importantly, it’s a superhero sequel.  The Alchemy of Chaos is about what it now means for him to be The Thorn. What he needs to do, what he wants to do, and what doing that could cost him. He deals with the Great Responsibility part of the equation.

So I threw everything I had at him.

Veranix is already overburdened from the start. He’s got several exams, as well as assisting on a special project that he is supposed to be devoting all his free time to. He shouldn’t even be going out as The Thorn, but the drug trade is creeping into the neighborhood he swore to protect.

Then come the pranks. Disturbing magical pranks that start as obnoxious and escalate to dangerous. The first prank affects hits Vernix’s dorm, so he’s immediately engaged. But given everything he already has on his plate, he has to ask himself: Is this his problem? Should it be his problem? Shouldn’t he just trust that someone else, someone official, will take care of it?

Of course he’s not going to trust that. No one puts on a cape (or in this case, a magical cloak) because they think that someone else ought to take care of the problem. They do it because they think they have to, that they’re the only one that can.

So Veranix is juggling as much as he possibly can: exams, special project, stop the drug trade from crossing over and figure out who this prankster is and stop them before the tricks turn deadly— and the small matter of the assassins that Fenmere hired.

This would be a terrible time for someone to figure out his secret identity, wouldn’t it? Especially the strident science student who is at the top of Veranix’s list of suspects.

Fortunately, Veranix does not have to face it alone. Harry has Ron and Hermione, Barry has Caitlin and Cisco, and Veranix has Kaiana and Delmin. They’re the ones who keep his head on straight, distract people so he can slip away, patch him up when he gets beat up, and remind him what he’s supposed to be doing. Of course, Kaiana and Delmin have a very different idea what Veranix is supposed to be doing. Veranix’s real problem is that they’re both right. He’s got to deal with all of it: magic, science, action, exams, assassins, street gangs, and fancy dinners. He’s got to take all that havoc and try to craft it into something that will not only keep him alive, but still in school.

That’s the Alchemy of Chaos.

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The Alchemy of Chaos: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.