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The Heinlein Standard

Moe Lane asked,

As in: love or hate JRR Tolkien as you please, but you may not ignore him when it comes to the fantasy genre. Venerate or despise HP Lovecraft for any number of reasons, but when we talk about horror we are ultimately using concepts and conceits that he defined and developed.  But if there’s a single figure of the science fiction field that similarly towers over the landscape, I do not know his or her name.  Bob Heinlein comes close. So does John Campbell, although that would have been more true thirty years ago.


*cue arguments in the comments and on Twitter*

Moe seems to have skipped right over the obvious candidate right there. I'm a big fan of John W. Campbell, Jr., as the editor of ASF who defined the SF genre and particularly the "hard SF" occasionally sneered at as "engineer porn", but as an author, JWC belongs in the Golden Age of Pulp along with his contemporaries Doc Smith and Edmond Hamilton. Nobody today, or even in the last fifty years, compares themselves to Campbell.

Uncle Bob, though...the man has been dead for almost thirty years, but the mere mention of the author or his works can still set supposed adults to frothing with rage. I have lived long enough to see authors in two separate generations have their best-known works compared to Heinlein, and likewise to see his critics flame out and disappear into obscurity. Whether one likes it or not, anyone writing military SF stories that deal with elite infantry is going to find those stories compared to Heinlein's Starship Troopers. Conservative and libertarian SF writers hold up Heinlein as an icon, a touchstone, an inspiration; leftists, on the other hand, have reviled him for the last sixty years for leaving the Socialist Democrats of Upton Sinclair and becoming a fervent nationalist. They complain that Heinlein's portrayal of women was offensive and denigrating, when it's well known that he modeled a lot of those characters on his wife Virginia, an accomplished woman in her own right as an engineer and quite a babe besides.

There are a lot of other SF writers who had an impact on the field; there are others who were as popular as Heinlein. You seldom see people compared to Ray Bradbury, Arthur Clarke, or Harlan Ellison, though. That's because for better or for worse, the Dean of Science Fiction is also its gold standard, the towering figure against whom all others are measured. I could probably make the argument that his impact on SF has been greater than Lovecraft's on horror and Tolkien's on fantasy, but that's not my point. It is comparable, and that is enough.

Oh, hello there. Been a while.

I see that it's been five and a half years since I last logged in here at Dreamwidth, and there have been a few changes. For those of you that haven't been following my misadventures on LiveJournal, here's a short summary.

2012: Failed the CPA exam, got evicted from my apartment in Foxchase, and after a temporary stay in Crystal City for a month, I wound up renting a bedroom out in Springfield.

2013-2014: Nothing much happened. I collected disability from Social Security, worked for Block during the tax season, attended Balticon and Anime Detour and sometimes Katsucon.

2015: I got pushed into declaring bankruptcy, which I managed with some help from my friends, and eventually packed up a bunch of my stuff (after giving away several pickup truck loads to people who could use the charitable contribution deduction better than I could) before driving to Las Vegas immediately after Balticon by way of Louisiana, Houston, Albuquerque, and various points in between -like Chattanooga, Wichita Falls, Tucumcari, and Kingman- before settling into the Plaza Hotel for a couple days until I got my apartment lease done. Friends helped me fix my truck and get my stuff out of hock as well. It's very good to have friends, and I have been especially blessed.

2016: After a disappointing tax season, I started driving for Uber in May. This was fun and profitable, if occasionally annoying. Went to Anime Detour and Balticon and the Salt Lake City Ingress Anomaly, which was disappointing. Got back in touch with an old friend from Civil Air Patrol days.

This entry was originally posted at http://wombat-socho.dreamwidth.org/1095086.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

By any meme necessary

1. Was 2016 a good year for you?
It had its ups and downs, but mostly yes.

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Didn't see that coming

Woke up before noon and couldn't get back to sleep; weight was up but BG was down. Did breakfast, cycled a couple of loads through the laundry, and then headed over to Sahara Square to take my Senior Tax Specialist exam. That was going pretty well until I got to the Blockworks part, at which point I discovered Blockworks wouldn't load for 2015 or 2016, which meant I couldn't do either of the shell return exercises that made up the last third of the test. So I packed up all my stuff and went off to take advantage of Taco Tuesday.

Having finished the tacos, I spent some time on Left 4 Dead and got to the waterworks before having to quit. Slowly getting better at the game.

Refueled at Sam's on Pecos ($2.229, ugh) and got a rider from the airport as I pulled into the staging area. That took me south of Blue Diamond and west of Durango, then I got sent on a wild goose chase by UberEats, and finally picked up a rider from south of Cactus who was going to just the other side of the 95. I was having real problems staying awake, so I punched out and went home. Made $29 between the two trips, which brings me up to $102 for the week. No tips, but babe count was two (okay). I'll try it again tomorrow night after I get done stuffing my face at Fogo, assuming I can even move.

Read Creatures of Light and Darkness last night before falling asleep; might do the same with Lord of Light tonight, although I think the chances of me just passing right out when I hit the pillow are better.
Since I am once again on staff, I need to preface this post with the reminder that I am not speaking on behalf of Anime Detour, have no standing to do so, and if you think what I am about to say is in any way, shape, or form the official opinion of Anime Detour, you should set your computer on fire, because you are too dumb to be using the Internet. It's MY opinion and mine alone, okay?

Having said that, I do have some perspective on the complaints posted in the Anime Detour 20XX Facebook group lately, because I was in at the beginning of this thing. For those of you that don't know me, I was one of the founding members of Anime Twin Cities and served as its VP and Treasurer for the first few years before working as ATC's Secretary for a couple years before moving back to the Washington area in 2007. I was Vice-Chairman for the first convention in 2004, Chairman in 2005 and 2006, and Head of Registration in 2007. I've attended most of the following Detours as a regular otaku and sometimes as a volunteer, so I've seen most of the changes that have been made under my successors. Not gonna lie, I'm not happy about all those changes, because...well, I'll deal with that as we deal with the complaints.

Some of them are very familiar. People have complained about SecuritySafety since 2005: they didn't like Security's attitude, they didn't like being told what to do or being yelled at if they didn't listen and do what they were told the first time...yeah. There's nothing really new here, except for the unfortunate business with the cosplayer's weapon, and I would submit that was more a case of poor communication and bullheaded behavior on the part of one staff member than anything else. As Napoleon once said, "Never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence", and unfortunately, Safety has never (ever) had enough people to fill its shifts, and this means people operate without enough sleep, and as we all know, lack of sleep makes people stupid. Another factor here is that Safety, like Security before it, attracts the kind of people who like telling other people what to do. This is unfortunately a necessary thing; you can't staff Safety with introverts, you need people who will not hesitate to tell convention members that they need to go back to their rooms and sleep it off, they need to come up to Ops and get a ruling on whether their costume shows too much sideboob or cod, or to clear the halls because the paramedics are coming through. They don't always have the time to stop and explain these things, and naturally people get irritated. Welp. You can't please everyone, and I think you're a fool to try. Still, the change from a Security department running under our original unofficial motto of "Brutal honesty. Heavy on the brutal." to a kinder, gentler Safety department doesn't seem to have cut down on the complaints, though I think rinnytintinny and Matt have done their best to improve things in that department. I would encourage people to follow the Safety folks around sometime (especially on a Saturday night) and see what they put up with. It might damage your faith in your fellow otaku, it may damage your calm as well, but I think you'll have a better idea of the stresses involved. It's not as easy as it sometimes looks from the outside.

As for the other complaints, many of them revolve around the Size Issue, which is something that's been argued about in staff meetings since it became obvious we weren't going to implode and fail, and dejana made the most pertinent comment: if we move into the Convention Center, our expenses will increase hugely, and a lot of the stuff we currently do (a consuite, for example) is flat out not going to be possible, even if we could afford it.

The bottom line is that if you want the convention to change, you need to get involved. You don't have to be a staff member to show up at staff meetings and make the staff aware of how you feel about things. Show up and speak up. If you want to get involved in meta issues like policy (for example, the Size Issue) you do need to join staff so that you can become a board member or officer of ATC. But anyone can volunteer to do programming. Get some friends together, agree on a topic, and submit it to Programming.

I had a couple more paragraphs of stuff, but it's getting late in the morning and I have to sleep sometime. Many of the reasons things at Detour (and at ATC) are the way they are can be found in the following LJ posts, which are all public, and I hope you find them edifying.


Thoughts Of The Former Chief Wombat
Anime Detour Philosophy
THIS IS WHY WE CAN HAVE NICE THINGS.
Lepanto
-- G.K.Chesterton

White founts falling in the Courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard;
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips;
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross.
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.
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The Amchitka Variations

This has been floating around my head the last few days (along with a mutiny scene for Starfighter Girls) so I figure I better get it written down before it goes off to wherever old, bad Ideas go when you stop thinking about them.

As most of you readers know, Conelrad is an electronic music solo project who derives a lot of his inspiration from Cold War events, especially those pertaining to nuclear incidents or near-incidents (Able Archer '83, Prypiat, Tsar Bomba...) and does an excellent job of setting a mood with his use of distorted speech, drone, and ambient music. I'm not sure how receptive he is to suggestions, or I would have inflicted this list of proposed tunes on him by now.

The Amchitka Variations

  1. Kyshtym
  2. Davy Crockett
  3. The Pentomic Scale
  4. Long Shot
  5. Milrow
  6. Cannikin
  7. Honest John
  8. Genie
  9. Little John
  10. Project 437
  11. The Pluto Yard

 


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Well, we didn't get smoked as bad as they did in San Diego, but we lost Salt Lake City 699-558, mostly on portal control; it looks like we split the shards and were even in links & fields. Our team got changed from a cluster team to a flex team two days before the anomaly, which was a bad move - in addition to myself, two of my teammates were heavy and slow, plus one of our guys had been on GORUCK ops Friday night and his feet were a mass of blisters. Combine this with poor intel and (possibly) worse dispatch, and it's a wonder we did even that well. We seemed to be consistently outnumbered by the frogs, which made holding and taking portals difficult, and their intel advantage meant we were always having to react to them. Didn't help that our team had no clearly assigned roles, so everyone did what they thought best, and that ended about as well as it usually does against people who know what they're doing. Now that I know that, I'm more inclined to regard my team chief, MasterTony, kindly; he got bogged down trying to comprehend the weird pronouncements coming down from On High. For my part, I was completely shot out by 1800 - I had not one burster or ultrastrike left, just three ADAs and three Jarvises; my stock of resonators was likewise depleted, though I had a few dozen of each L4-L8 reso.

I'd hoped to make level 12 out of this anomaly, but that was foolish. Unlike Baltimore, the play area was much smaller, and what with driving in Friday and the exertions of Saturday, I didn't feel much like wandering around Salt Lake City more than I already had. I did take some time on the way home Sunday to wander off I-15 into a few small towns that looked like they might have portals, but again, by the time I got to St. George, I was tired and just wanted to eat my burger and cheese curds and go home without any further drive-by hacking. Besides, it was 110 degrees out. Anyhow, with all that hacking, I'm now only 211 short of going gold in Explorer and 244 in Pioneer, but I'll probably get Explorer first since I only have to hack, not capture. Of course, that means I'll have to actually devote a little more time to Ingress than I have been lately.

well so much for that bonus

Woke up around 1300, drank breakfast (protein shake and coffee) and performed the daily bloggage. Weight and BG were both down, and I finally got under 390 for the first time this month. The Uber pay dropped, so I put the SE tax in the shares account and avoided even looking at Amazon or anything else tempting. Chewed on some almonds in lieu of eating a real dinner; I'll probably snack on some stuff while I'm out driving.

Finally installed Telegram on my phone, updated my inventory list for this weekend, and fired off a question about meeting on Friday night/Saturday morning before the shard event goes down. Apparently it's going to be in the 90s, but I'm going to be on a cluster team so I won't be hiking all over SLC. Going to try and reduce my inventory of L4 and L5 bursters in favor of L6 and L7 models; might take the time to glyph hack the backyard farm tonight and tomorrow night so I can maximize the amount of useful stuff I'll be taking up the 15.

Uber is offering a bonus this weekend: from Thursday morning until Sunday night, if I get 50 rides I'll get a $500 bonus. Since I'll be out of town Friday and Saturday, that's not too likely, but I suppose it could happen. Not going to stress about it. For now, I'm going to clean up, go fuel up the Hyundai, and head out to see what there is to see on Wednesday night. I do need to pick up some laundry detergent, dairy product, and allergy meds, but the latter will probably have to wait until tomorrow unless I can find a 24-hour pharmacy sometime tonight.

In the harsh light of the evil Day Star

Well, that was the worst Friday night I've had since I started driving for Uber. It was fairly slow in and around the Strip, especially for a Friday night; there seemed to be just as many people around as on a normal Friday night, but for the most part, they weren't calling for Uber rides. So, after dropping off a young man in North Las Vegas about 0300, I headed for the Uber lot at the Speedway to get some of that sweet guaranteed money, but I took a wrong turn, had to go back down to Lamb and get on to the 15 there...and as a result wound up spending the next three-four hours trapped in traffic. I finally arrived at the lot around 0715, and found that while the lot was full of Uber drivers and a surge was allegedly in effect, there were no riders to be picked up. I hung around until 0815 before giving up and heading home. That took me another hour or so on Las Vegas Boulevard since of course the southbound I-15 was all jacked up with people leaving EDC. Obviously Uber's desperate call for drivers was answered in abundance, while their projections of demand fell well short of the supply of drivers. I almost certainly would have done better just hanging around the Strip doing the normal Friday night thing. I'm undecided whether I want to risk getting stuck in traffic again Saturday night/Sunday morning for the sake of a guaranteed gross of $80 if I manage to get in early enough, or just say to hell with it and go about my business. Obviously there is no way in heaven, hell, or earth I'm going to collect that $500 bonus, and I doubt if anyone else will either, since the notion of someone managing more than one rider out of that shitshow is patently ridiculous. Have to sleep on it.

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