Friday, June 29, 2012

In space, no one can have the sanctity of marriage

I had the recent pleasure of being linked a blog discussing a newspaper article: Go here to read it.

Wow...just wow. Not only is that easily (one of) the worst science fiction stories I've ever heard, but it's also a terrible argument against the legalization of gay marriage. I mean, it falls apart on the logical level before we even get to the astoundingly offensive ideas espoused within.

But it's pertinent to me because it involves the future, marriage, and the rights of men and women and women and women and men and men and cows to get married. Now, I've always been amused by the argument, "Oh, if we let gay people marry, then why can't I marry my dog?"

Well, the obvious logical answer is: Your dog can't consent to be married, in the same way your children can't consent to be married. There is an uneven power dynamic AND a disparity in intelligence and social maturity that makes the entire enterprise problematic. Now, if your dog happened to be as intelligent (and provably so) as a human, I'd say go nuts, marry your dog.

But I'm an odd person.

Frankly, at the end of the day, so long as nothing someone does negatively impacts your life or the lives of others, then we have no moral ground with which to oppose their activity. Two (or three or four or more) consenting sentient life-forms are all we need.

And, as a sci-fi writer, I can more easily imagine a dog who is intelligent than a time where it would be moral to tell these people

That no, they can't get married, they can't have the same rights, the same hopes, the same dreams as you.

There is a reason why I wrote my novel. I had a story to tell. There is a reason why I had my main character be gay. I had a vision for a future: Where we have put these stupid divisions behind us and found reasonable things to be prejudiced about, like political beliefs or whether someone is a cyborg.

Cause there's no way in hell I'm letting those frankenfreak whackjobs live in my neighborhood!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Polyspectral Quantum Gentrification: Or, how I learned to hate Star Trek and love science

This might shock all ten of my readers, but I hate Star Trek.Why I hate Star Trek might seem strange, but I hope that I can explain this in a way that makes sense. You see...I hate Star Trek because it is too good.

Lets take some examples from TNG, which I've been watching a lot of. The Inner Light is one of the most beautifully touching 45 minutes of television ever produced. The Face of the Enemy is a tense thriller that actually gives Councilor Troi something interesting to do. And, of course, who can forget The Best of Both Worlds: A chilling showdown with the second best villain of any Star Trek, The Borg.

The best villains, of course, being the Kazon!

 Awww yeaaahhhh.

These are great episodes, with great storytelling and great acting and great music and some of the worst science ever depicted. For a show that prides itself on "predicting" things like the cellphone or non-invasive medical procedures, Star Trek has about as good a track record with science as it does with feminism. And this was the show that kept one of it's two female leads in a skintight bodysuit for six out of seven years...then went on to do the same thing. Again

So, the best example I can think of to illustrate this are two episodes. 

The first is great: Starship Mine. It's an awesome premise. The Captain (the heroically bald Jean-Luc Picard) is stuck on the ship while terrorists have broke onto it to steal something valuable to sell on the black market. However, the whole ship is being bathed with a baryon sweep, which will kill anything it touches. Don't ask me what a baryon is. Instead, ask wikipedia!

So, ignoring for the moment that I don't think baryons work this way or would be useful in maintenance, here is what gets me about this episode: The terrorists are here to steal stuff from the engine of the Enterprise to sell on the black market as a bomb. This is actually a really sound idea, as the Enterprise uses an anti-matter reactor to produce energy. Anti-matter is actually quite possibly the most destructive ANYTHING in the universe, so it makes perfect sense to be stolen by terrorists in a high risk mission like this. 

Except for one thing.

They're NOT here to steal the anti-matter. They're here to steal "Trilithium Resin." 

Say that out loud.




I would say something very loud right here, but my grandparents read this blog. Seriously, what the flying donglewangle were these writers thinking?! Resin? Resin is hydrocarbons produced by trees! There are synthetic resins, but those are created from manipulating polymers, or fiddling with biological processes. They're not made as the byproduct of a anti-matter reactor, which should only produce energy and some subatomic particles. 

And lithium? Lithium is a metal, most commonly used to treat bipolar disorders! 

Put it together, and you get something that makes LESS sense the MORE you think about it. And the real kicker is the entire episode acts as though it is anti-matter: The storage unit has to be "stabilized" to keep it from exploding (to contain anti-matter, one would need a magnetic bottle to keep the anti-matter from touching any actual matter and thus creating a huge explosion), and the climax of the episode comes when Picard tricks the bad guy into beaming away with the container, unaware that he has disabled the stabilizing device and...


All of this wouldn't have been changed if they had just stolen some damn anti-matter from the reactor. Which leads to the question of why do I care so freaking much? Well, lets save that for a moment to discuss the next episode: Homeward. In this, we find a planet that is having it's atmosphere stripped away by deadly "plasmonic" reactions. This episode pisses me off because it's another one of those forced, "Oh, we can't intervene in the destruction of this sentient species because PRIME DIRECTIVE!" discussions, but lets leave that aside and instead look at the main crux of the matter.

Atmospheres can be stripped off of planets. It's happened: Look at Mars. It has lost it's magnetosphere (the protective magnetic "bubble" created by the rotation of it's iron core) and this has in turn let the blistering radiation of our sun strip away the atmosphere bit by bit over eons. This can happen. It will happen to our planet, if our iron core ever stops rotating (and it won't for a long time, don't worry) and it could happen even if we didn't lose our magnetosphere if we got hit by a particularly huge burst of radiation. 

Now, in the episode, technological failures are a plot point. In the show, they claim it is because of "plasmonic" energies being released by the dissipation of the planets atmosphere. But, in real life, if a planet was losing it's atmosphere due to radiation exposure, this would create lots of ionizing radiation, which would and could cause technological (not to mention biological) failures, thereby giving the exact same story-based effects as this made up hooey. 

And this leads to why this pisses me off so much.

It is anti-science. Good science fiction uses SCIENCE to create interesting FICTION. And the SCIENCE in Star Trek is so thin, so laughably bad, that it actively gets in the WAY of the FICTION. So many episodes of Star Trek are nothing more than a series of scenes where Geordi or 7 of 9 or Trip or whoever is playing the Royal Smart Person for that episode shout jibberish at the screen until they find the right sequence of jibberish that causes the problem to be not there anymore. 

This isn't showing your characters thinking their way out of tricky solutions. 

This is just being lazy.

And in both of these cases, actual science wouldn't have just made the stories more accurate: They would have made any interested person able to actually learn something. See, this is what real science has over "technobabble" can pick apart Tri-Lithium Resin and only get a headache trying to understand what drugs the authors were smoking. 

But you can study anti-matter. You can learn about it and realize that the universe is just that much more complex and interesting and REAL than any fakery thrown your way. And, moreover, it would mean that the actors and writers would have to portray characters struggling through actual stories with actual drama, not "I can't believe it's not drama" provided by "I can't believe it's not science." 

If only there was a show about a bunch of real characters, handling real issues that make sense, with science that's at the very least plausible, and when it's not plausible, they don't make it the centerpiece of their show...a show where the rules of their made up technology is consistent and logical, where you actually learn something when you watch it.

If only...


Monday, June 25, 2012

Why I hate how I hate food

You know what I hate? Food! Not all kinds of food, but most likely, I hate the kind of food you like. But what I hate even more than food is people's reactions to how I hate food.

See, I am a picky eater. Through some joke of genetics or acculturation, I ended up with a pallet that recoils at things like...flavor. Or spices. Or anything that falls out of an incredibly narrow spectrum of tastes and textures. I try, I really TRY to like these things that my relatives, friends, well-wishing strangers and so forth shove at me, but I just...can't.

It tastes bad. I find it really strange how people react to this. There's usually disbelief ("How can they NOT like this?"), followed by a kind of blame or insult - especially if the person in question actually cooked the food in question. Like it's somehow MY fault that I don't like what they cooked. Well, if I had a choice, I'd love food. I'd eat all kinds of food and think that they were delicious and perfect. It'd mean I'd be a lot less hungry during family reunions, it'd mean that when I go out with my friends for food, they wouldn't get increasingly exasperated as I turn down their various choices.

In the grand pantheon of horrible things that you can be afflicted with, being picky is that bad. I could be missing all my skin, for example. But it is annoying, and I don't really see a way of fixing it.

This is just what has been bugging me the past few days.

So, next time you meet someone who is picky, try and imagine what it is like to be surrounded by people who love tasting things that you never will.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Candy within!

Now that you've clicked on the link to my blog's latest post, let me have you click on ANOTHER link!

There's candy inside:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

This needs to end. Now.

So, I was recently handed an article. Reading it made me want to face palm, and then kind of slowly hide myself underneath my desk to get away from the rest of my gender.

You see, I am both male and a gamer. I play video games, roleplaying games, tabletop games...all kinds of games. And frankly, games are gender neutral. The enjoyment you get out of clearing a dungeon in Dungeons and Dragons, conquering the galaxy in Twilight Imperium, or shooting your friends in the face (recreationally) in Call of Duty Grenade: Grenade of Grenade is not predicated on gender. The idea that it is somehow is sexist bullshit.

Yes. Bullshit. Cow-hoody. Graboid droppings. Refuse.

Games appeal to personalities, not genders.

This is why I'm overjoyed that more and more women are becoming gamers! It means that games are moving beyond the shallow appeals of just a single demographic and into the comforting embrace of true depth.

...then I read things like THIS.

With stuff like this.

“Do you play PC games?” he asked, frowning.

One of the publications on my media badge was listed as PC PowerPlay. It shouldn’t have been necessary for him to ask such a question, but I answered. “Yes.”

“Well, OK.” I sensed a disbelief in the guy’s voice. “But do you play shooters?”
I remember the silence that filled this space beyond this question. I was horrified that anyone could even ask such a thing. Here I was, sitting with my fingers spread across

WASD, admiring a game world — and somehow, for some obtuse reason, being assumed to be someone who didn’t know anything about the world or how to interact with it.

“I think I better play it for you,” he said finally, prying my hands away and turning the keyboard towards himself.

And so there I was, hands twisted awkwardly and uselessly in my lap as a guy walked me through his game. In laboured detail, he explained to me simple mechanics that any shooter player would be well-acquainted with. He avoided the gameplay due to some apparent strange belief that I was not there to learn about shooting things in a shooter game, that perhaps my delicate girl senses might be offended by killing with guns and missiles. He pointed out rabbits in the grass with all the condescension of an adult trying to distract a noisy toddler, as if my interest in this simulation-grade shooter lay in some wildly misguided assumption that it would be full of adorable, fluffy animals.

And, frankly, it's time to stop. Gaming isn't an all boys club. It never should have been, and it shouldn't be now, and that's a good goddamn things. The more people are involved in something, the more outlooks, the healthier that "something" is. Cultures that stagnate, die. They die quickly, or they die slowly, but they die. The only way to stave off that kind of thing is by continual infusions of new ideas, new insights, new thought-patterns.

Imagine, if you will, that games only had boys again. Imagine how stale, how...bland things would become, if marketers, programmers, publishers, everyone JUST made games for "boys" (specifically the kind of "boys" who would threaten to rape female gamers, who would mock female gamers, who would demand that female gamers "show their tits, or GTFO.)

We'd have an endless parade of samey military shoo-



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

sdrawkcaB gnitirW

I have a grueling, terrifying task before me.

I have to get a job in this modern economy, to support me while I also write and publishing books.

Fortunately, to distract myself from this endless, upwards struggle to a dubious reward, I have my writing tasks! Currently, I am attempting to finish off the short stories that I mentioned a few months ago. And guess what!

Short stories are hard. They're very hard. Unlike a novel, where you have lots of leg-room, short stories are all about economics. It doesn't have questions like, "Is this character important?" No, instead, writing short stories has questions like, "Is this character important enough?"

To illustrate this point, lets think about dozens of background characters of our favorite novels. They're people who don't exactly push the plot forward, nor make any major changes for the main characters...but they usually exist for a reason. They throw the universe into greater relief, reveal details about plot and setting, and show how the main character's character reacts to certain kinds of stimuli.

A novel can take this. A novel has wiggle room. A novel has big pants!

A short story? Nope!

You might like X, Y or Z character, but if they don't advance the plot in a meaningful way, you should cut them to leave room for important things. Economy of character, words and sentence structure are all dominant.

It can be frustrating as heck...and, worse of all, it can be a discouraging wall in the way of writing flow. And that wall has finally been brought down, and like all writing, the method of this destruction makes absolutely no sense.

I wrote backwards. See, the most important scene of the short story, the scene that I wanted the whole story to build towards, is the ending. But the beginning...I couldn't find a good place to start it. Too early from the inciting incident (a militia fighter/bomber taking out the San Fransisco BART stations) and you have 2 pages of boring waiting in line. But too close to the inciting incident and you are left groundless and confused, without really a hook to go on.

So, I wrote the last scene first. And, struck by the kind of thought that makes sense at 1 in the morning when it's too gosh-darned hot outside and inside, I wrote the last scene backwards. Not literally backwards, but rather, the action going back from the ending to the beginning.



The important thing is that it got me to write.