One of the many reasons that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was my favorite of the several Trek incarnations was its pilot episode “Emissary.” In it, we first meet Commander Benjamin Sisko, a widower, the father of a young son, Jake, and previously, the first officer of the USS Saratoga which was destroyed in Trek’s infamous Battle of Wolf 359. His wife, Jennifer, has been dead for three years—killed at Wolf 359–and he has languished at a desk job since that time. In the beginning of the series, he takes command of Space Station Deep Space Nine without much enthusiasm, and contemplates retiring from Starfleet when his task at the station is finished.
Fast forward to the pivotal scene of the pilot: here is Sisko as he teaches the prophets—a group of non-linear alien beings who have abducted him and who use the appearance of person and scenarios which are familiar to him—about linear existence using his favorite game as a metaphor.
[On a baseball field]
BATSMAN-Alien: Aggressive. Adversarial. SISKO: Competition. For fun. It’s a game that Jake and I play on the holodeck. It’s called baseball. JAKE-Alien: Baseball? What is this? SISKO: I was afraid you’d ask that. I throw this ball to you and this other player stands between us with a bat, a stick, and he, and he tries to hit the ball in between these two white lines. No. The rules aren’t important. What’s important is, it’s linear. Every time I throw this ball, a hundred different things can happen in a game. He might swing and miss, he might hit it. The point is, you never know. You try to anticipate, set a strategy for all the possibilities as best you can, but in the end it comes down to throwing one pitch after another and seeing what happens. With each new consequence, the game begins to take shape. BATSMAN-Alien: And you have no idea what that shape is until it is completed. SISKO: That’s right. In fact, the game wouldn’t be worth playing if we knew what was going to happen. JAKE-Alien: You value your ignorance of what is to come? SISKO: That may be the most important thing to understand about humans. It is the unknown that defines our existence. We are constantly searching, not just for answers to our questions, but for new questions. We are explorers. We explore our lives, day by day, and we explore the galaxy, trying to expand the boundaries of our knowledge. And that is why I am here. Not to conquer you either with weapons or with ideas, but to co-exist and learn.
[Scene switches to the doomed USS Saratoga in Sisko’s quarters as he leans over Jennifer’s dead body.]
TACTICAL-Alien: If all you say is true, why do you exist here?
The prophets force Sisko to face the fact that, by living in the grief and anger produced by Jennifer’s death, he has stopped trying to live up to his own standard.
This is what we all do at various points in our lives. And our task in life isn’t to beat ourselves up for being imperfect in what we say we believe—for failing–but to get back up off of the floor and keep pushing and pressing on, using what we have left. Sisko still had his son and discovers by the end of the pilot–and the end of the series–that he has much more than he was able to imagine at the point where we first meet him. This was good TV.
And it demonstrates something essential about the relationship between inner-core beliefs/principles and the fallen nature of humanity: temporarily falling away from the former doesn’t make them any less true or correct…and doesn’t make them any less yours. And the great part about principles which are solid and true is that returning to them will help you dig yourself out of the ditch into which life has deposited you.
From sci-fi author Nick Cole, via his fellow sci-fi scribe John C. Wright:
Banned by the Publisher
Or, Thank God for Jeff Bezos
I launched a book this week and I went Indie with it. Indie means I released it on Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing. I had to.
My Publisher, HarperVoyager, refused to publish it because of some of the ideas I wrote about in it.
In other words, they were attempting to effectively ban a book because they felt the ideas and concepts I was writing about were dangerous and more importantly, not in keeping with their philosophical ideals. They felt my ideas weren’t socially acceptable and were “guaranteed to lose fifty percent of my audience” as related back to me by my agent. But more importantly… they were “deeply offended.”
A little backstory. A few years back I wrote a novel called Soda Pop Soldier. It was the last obligated novel under my first contract. The novel was a critical hit (Starred Review in Publisher’s Weekly) and it resonated with my post-apocalyptic readership from my breakout Amazon best seller, The Old Man and the Wasteland, and it picked up a new audience in the cyberpunk and gamer crowd. The novel is about a future dystopia where people play video games for a living. It’s basically Call of Duty meets Ready Player One and a lot of people really enjoyed it. When it came time to write another book for Harper Collins I was encouraged by my editor to dip once more into the Dystopian Gamer milieu and tell another story inside the Soda Pop Soldier universe. We agreed on a prequel that told the story of how that future became the way it is in Soda Pop Soldier.
And that involved talking about Artificial Intelligence because in the dystopian gaming future, the planet had almost been destroyed by a robot revolution sourced by Artificial Intelligence.
And here’s where things went horribly wrong, according to my editor at Harper Collins. While casting about for a “why” for self-aware Thinking Machines to revolt from their human progenitors, I developed a reason for them to do such.
Side note: in Tale of the Tigers, my first publisher didn’t like a line of dialogue I put in the mouth of one of my characters, but he had no choice; I was paying to be published. The conversation’s topic? Islam.
I’m hoping that my trip to Kenya lays the foundation for one of my future books, as well. Click to assist.
I say half and half because it was a tough interview because the system crashed and burned before it could start, when I finally got the system up and began the interview the camera died half way into the interview but I just continued on with the audio which ran an additional 3 minutes
The Hugo Awards have been at the centre of a furore after two campaigns successfully prevented female authors and authors of colour from being proportionally nominated. Some people are comparing the controversy to GamerGate, which in 2014 saw coordinated misogynist attacks aimed at people who spoke out about sexism in the gaming industry.
By putting forward a slate of predominantly American nominees, the campaign organisers have been able to lever the votes of a minority of non-attending members to “hack” the voting process and dominate the award nominations. Remarkably, this is all within the rules of the Hugos, and the moral defence put forward by campaign organisers for what many people would consider cheating is their belief that block voting is common in the award-giving process.
The Hugos and Worldcon have always been – much like the baseball World Series – a world event in name only. Hugo winners have been overwhelmingly from the US, with almost no non-anglophone works even considered for the awards. But over the past decade or so, the Hugos and Worldcon have become much more diverse and interesting, with many more women, writers of colour and international voices among nominees and winners. It’s that diversity which has been lost in this orchestrated backlash.
The new slate of Hugo Awards nominees were just announced, and you can read the list at the link. Suffice to say, the nominees in pretty much every category (other than Best Novel) come pretty much exclusively from a fan campaign called Sad Puppies, organized by Brad R. Torgersen and Larry Correia. Last year, Correia organized a campaign which successfully placed one item in each category on the Hugo slate — so this year, they decided to go further. As John Scalzi has pointed out, this was not against the spirit or the letter of the Hugo Awards rules.
The Hugo Awards are voted on by fans, and anyone who purchases a supporting membership at Worldcon can nominate two years in a row. (And typically, it doesn’t take that many votes to nominate something successfully.) To Torgersen and Correia, this meant that a “rarefied, insular” group of writers were promoting their agenda by nominating works by women and people of color. To the rest of us, it looked as though science fiction and fantasy were finally catching up to reality — the best stories aren’t only the ones told by straight white men.
The 2015 Hugo Award nominees have been announced, and there are some strong titles in contention for Best Novel, including books by Ann Leckie, Marko Kloos, and Jim Butcher. However, that doesn’t seem to be what people are talking about, which is probably causing some consternation in the Kloos household, where conversation is usually relegated to arguing over the best pronunciation of their last name. No, this year’s crop of nominees is notable for being overwhelmingly dominated by a group of white guys who formed an organized backlash to the growing inclusion of women and people of color in last year’s awards.
It seems eternally worth stating, as there’s no end of people who don’t seem to understand this, that welcoming women, people of color, and LGBTQ people into an industry does not mean there’s some sort of secret conspiracy against conservative straight white dudes. It means people value a progression towards allowing more voices in a conversation. In trying to combat an imagined liberal conspiracy that puts politics ahead of good work, the Sad Puppies have achieved an actual conspiracy that does exactly this. Good job.
I submit that most of the people who wrote the articles above will not update theirs with Entertainment Weekly retraction. They will never note Brad Torgersen or his letter:
Firstly, the SAD PUPPIES slate cited in the article, included both women and non-caucasians.
Rajnar Vajra Larry Correia Annie Bellet Kary English Toni Weisskopf Ann Sowards Megan Gray Sheila Gilbert Jennifer Brozek Cedar Sanderson Amanda Green
And they certainly won’t ever cite Larry Correia’s Epic fisking of EW here
Here is an interesting one for you moderates, SMOFs, and fence sitters to ponder on. Why is it that our own words and actions aren’t to be believed, but anything the other side says about us, no matter how outlandish, is to be accepted?
Over the years I’ve done Sad Puppies, do you know how many fannish blogs, fanzines, and podcasts interviewed me, the guy who started the campaign, about the goals of Sad Puppies?
I can’t think of single one. You’d think with the most controversial thing to happen to the Hugos in forever, somebody would actually want to sit down and interview us and get our side of the story, but nada, zip. Sure, lots of people wrote about it, but it was pretty obvious these fannish journalists didn’t read what I actually wrote, and instead they critiqued Straw Larry, or they quoted other bloggers quoting Straw Larry.
Nope for the readers of those sites the libelous claims from Entertainment Weekly that those pieces were based on will be forever true, the retraction never noted and the “facts” forever established in their minds.
That’s considered a feature BTW not a bug.
Closing thought let me point out to Larry & Brad that if you think you’ve already got a winner in a libel suit in the US, any moves against sites in UK and other such countries with much lower standards for libel, should be a cakewalk.
Most of them said our slate was exclusively white, straight, and male (not true)
Most of them said that last year was a big win for diversity (I believe last years winners were all white and one Asian).
Most of them said our slate was exclusively right wing (not true, in fact the majority skew left, we have socialists, liberals, moderates, libertarians, conservatives, and question marks. To the best of my knowledge, I believe that last year’s “diverse” winners all espoused the same social justice politics).
But there is no bias in this perfectly functioning system. My side said that political narrative trumped reality in this business. Believe me yet?
Years ago I found a copy of a (at the time) used paperback novel in the local used bookstore that made me want to be a scientist. First there are some interesting bits about that first, it was a book not an eBook, and second I was in a local bookstore not a big box store. Neither of which are common any longer.
This book was the first in a series called Warbots by a fellow Physicist named G. Harry Stine. He was also one of the fathers of what is now build at home model rocket kits. He passed away in 1997 and is missed by a wide array of different professional communities. He even was the partial influence for me becoming a physicist and somewhat the reason for me writing fiction books (something I love to do).
None of that matters to modern day politics or the problems we face as a nation.
It does help us with something. What he did in those books was to very accurately (in a way) predict drones, or what I believe the endgame desire of the drone programs to be.
He said that someday humans would be replaced on the battlefield by robots controlled by a human link (really deep mental link not just joysticks). Through these Warbots, HEAVILY armed really advanced drones countries could settle international disputes and the humans would remain safe.
In those books he showed that humans on the battlefield are needed because the robots can’t give you a really great vision of the ‘situations on the ground’ if you are fighting an insurgent war, such as we have been doing. The reason is that robots can’t give you a sense of what the people underneath all that heavily armed tonnage think and feel, at least those not involved in the battle. In other words, the civilian population.
I think what he was trying do, in an entertaining way, was to warn us about future science taking thought out of killing. Can you push a button and end a life? Sure. With the right robot…err…drone can you push a button from thousands of miles a way and end 50 lives…sure. Should you? That is the question.
Can a soldier on the ground tell for 100% certain that the person being killed, or structure being destroyed is a hostile thing? Not always, but can a drone? I think the answer is clear.
Should the drone programs exist? I think they should. Should heavily armed drones take the place of humans on the battlefield? No…
Why bring up this topic in a day when we have other issues…missing airliners, Vladimir Putin taking over Crimea, Iran doing whatever Iran is doing…well, simple.
No matter where you or I stand on the matter our military has two things going on right now. First, it is shrinking. Now if you think it should is another question but the fact remains it is getting smaller. Second, the military we have is tired. The Global War on Terror has left us with banged up equipment and servicemen who need a break. As a veteran I have talked to many who verify both of these claims. They need to rest, retrain and re-equip.
Why does this question of heavily armed drones matter?
Well, specifically everything I have said above…Russia, Iran, and the world being, in general, a dangerous place. People still want to do us harm and we want to stop them.
Now, as a scientist, if I looked at everything out there and said I have to protect a nation given the equipment we have in hand and the condition of our soldiers, I would lean HEAVILY on drones right now. Logically that is a good answer, but is it the right answer morally?
That morality question is one I struggle with. I hope, as a nation, we can get to where we can have a real dialog about it because drones aren’t going away. They will become more common but we need to determine as a people where that line gets drawn. What functions can a drone do? What functions should a drone do? Those are the questions we must answer and what your political party affiliation is should not come into the equation (sorry for the physics speak I couldn’t resist) when we do so.
Isaac Asimov’s greatest and best-known work was the Foundation series. The plot is centered on the mathematical model created by Professor Hari Seldon–one that can scientifically predict the history of our galaxy. On the surface it appears to be a dry read, but plot twists and intriguing characters make the stories work.
Barack Obama is not a mathematician and he may not even be a reader of science fiction, but he is a believer in psychohistory. Obama all but tells us he knows how the future looks–and what will remain in the past.
Upon his clinching of the Democratic nomination in 2008, Obama the Oracle revealed, “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” Somehow Obama wasn’t able to predict our ongoing snowy and brutally cold winter.
Back to Asimov: The most intriguing character in the Foundation series is a gnome-like, sterile, genetic accident nicknamed the Mule, who uses psychic powers to sway minds and to conquer planet after planet. Psychohistory did not account for the Mule because it measured group behavior, not that of an individual. And its 21st century follower, Barack Obama, did not ascertain the possibility that Putin would seize the Ukraine.
Obama–and this is a significant character flaw–still believes he knows how history will unfold, and most likely his vision of the future is of a world with few international disputes–and when they arise, they’ll be calmly settled by a United Nations committee.
But thugs like Putin, whether we like it or not, make history.