mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Nice)
Inspired by comments in This Post About Brave in Scans Daily.

Think of the cultural changes in the United States of America over the last 50 years. What would people back then think of our President? Of gay marriage in six states and the District of Columbia and with three more likely in the next year? A Jew on the Democratic Party ticket exciting virtually no comment in 2000? I do not say this in a spirit of self-congratulation, there are many social problems in America. My reason to point this out is to set up my projecting into the future to the year 2062.

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mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Default)
I sometimes think about why I am typically uninterested in big media properties like Star Trek, Batman, Spider-Man, Star Wars, Doctor Who, etc, etc, etc. This is not to say that they are bad, I just do not get terribly excited about going to see the big summer/Christmas movie as I did when I was young. Even when it comes with big huge updates to it where everything, you know, is wrong! In contrast I was interested in and excited by the re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica a few years back. I did not like where it ended up, but that could have happened with any series.

What I think is different is the degree of change and the feel of what they were doing. When I read the phrase, "endless second act" in a post about the new Spider-Man I said to myself, "That is it. That is what I do not like." For all that they try to get readers and viewers excited about the big changes that they have in store for us nothing changes very much. Instead the "daring material" are things that would have been controversial ten years ago (and to be fair still are controversial among a set of white males with no social skills, hi Sheldon). The big changes always come with some some sort of reset button to take things back to the status quo. My metaphor for this is comparing them to a forest that has reached an old growth/climax equilibrium. There is change, but it is cyclical, slow, and usually limited to adding additional growth rings rather than anything actually radical.

Over time the changes will accumulate, but there is not room in the forest for more than the occasional new tree. Also the changes that do happen tend to be of the tragic fan-fic turn of events variety. Oh, poor Spock who is now without a home world. Tragedy off screen, millions dead, and no actual changes to the characters except to make them more Mary/Marty Sue like, but if people do not like it there is a built in reset button. More time travel for everyone!

On the other hand the re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica was authentically radical. Rather than just a new iteration with enough updating to bring it to a new audience with more explosions and battles it actually told a different sort of story from the original series. The new series seemed, to me, to be more about cold war paranoia and technological fears instead of swashbucking in space. It kept names and some of the props, but came up with new reasons for them and new themes. I think if Battlestar were revisited again it would probably be a climax property, it would be once again about paranoia and technology because the new series is beloved in a way that that the old was not and the owners would restrict what the writers could do because doing something too radical could turn off the fans. And, unlike a most established property, they could do things that raised authentic moral questions instead of giving pat answers to settled areas of social morality. Old Trek, likewise, could have an interracial kiss when that was hugely controversial and only deal in platitudes when it was Next Generation.

I am not interested in just another "untold until now" story about characters I loved when I was 13. I want something new and preferably without an excessive number of battle sequences. Burn the forest and let something come up from the ashes! Well okay, you do not have to burn the forests (to save them), but I will be off busy looking at newer series rather than revisiting the old with a new foil variant cover. Alas, it seems for me this summer there is nothing like a Pan's Labyrinth set to be released. It is all remakes and reunions as far out as October.
mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Default)
One of the classic responses to growing old is to express opinions that can be summed up as, "After me, the deluge." The person facing his or her own mortality cannot conceive of a world without the central person in their own life in it and so expresses an opinion that the world as a whole must be doomed in one or more ways.

A fine example of this is Robert Silverberg's essay entitled, "Reflections: The Death of Gallium". He has not produced any citations, but by using google I think I found his main source of information, a Wall Street Journal Article from May 2007 cites a New Scientist article from the same year about scarce metals and recycling. What it looks like to me is that he took the doom-saying portion of the WSJ article, added some color with a bit about the great auk (incorrect, btw the great auk was not killed off by Greenlanders in 1760, but by Icelanders sending specimens to European museums with the last ones killed 3 July 1844 and only one sighting subsequent to that date Ref) and science fiction while ignoring the parts that did not fit his gloomy outlook.

Silverberg is wrong, of course, about running out of gallium. Just as a person would have been wrong to get hysterical about a lack of old growth timber for really good masts during the age of sail. Estimates of how much of a mineral resource we have left are based upon current consumption and proven reserves at price levels that we have now. If the element starts getting rare or more in demand this will spur innovation, search for new resources, and conservation. And if things get really bad we might start comprimising on some of our enviromental laws.

In a case that he does not cite, but is in my memory, is how China ended up being the main supplier of so called rare earth metals and is threatening to reduce the supply. The mining has often produced large amounts of toxic effluent and thus while the United States has exploitable deposits (as does Greenland, see June Issue National Geographic) our production has fallen in recent years while China's has grown to meet the larger world demand. Higher environmental standards are a large portion of this and if we got really desperate I'm sure they might slip a bit, to our long term detriment, but it would be a solution.

To sum up I think there are multiple solutions to such problems, probably many we have not even yet considered. Such gloom and doom is mostly interesting for what it reveals about the writer than what it shows about the world. I'm halfway tempted to say something longer about the general gloominess of a genre that has a large proportion of while male writers that are well past middle age.
mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Default)
I am not particularly torqued off about religion. To misquote Mr. Brigstocke I think that the religious are for the most part moderate and reasonable people who wear tidy jumpers and eat cheese just like non-religious people.

As I see it the real problem with religion is not the extremists, who would just switch to an infallible atheist like Ayn Rand, Mao Zedong, or Gene Roddenberry as an excuse to torture people. The problem with religion, for me, is that it would tend to displace my real hope of a small measure of immortality with a false one.

The only immortality is remembrance of those who have died and keep alive what was worthwhile in their lives, however small. My hope after my life is that I will have contributed more to making the world a better place than if I'd never been born and someone else had the opportunities and wealth I have been offered. If I spend my time in a church listening to false doctrines and assertions it takes away from the time I should be out doing something to make the world a better place by working, volunteering, or even socializing.

The underlying reason for this is that there is no real evidence of a god, gods, or spirits as commonly defined. Much like string theory it is an interesting assertion that some being created the universe in such a way as to hide the act of creation, but it does not give us anything useful course of action that logically follows. It is all well and good to say whatever book was inspired by the creator or that all of them were, but given how they all contradict how people actually behave or morality as informed by science they are just as useless or useful as the writings of Marx and Rand. Religious text are interesting and they are among the oldest of preserved human writings, but that is all they are. They are not a useful guide to how to behave other than through the same sort of coincidence that I would stumble upon a useful way of behaving.

Furthermore it is clear from the direction of science there is no creator. Science itself cannot assert this and should not, but gods have always been filler explanations rather than real ones. People have trouble with things that we do not yet understand so we make up an explanation to fill in the gaps. Until electricity is better understood god is in the lightning strike and so it is with creation itself. Don't like that we don't know they why of the big bang? God did it. And logically it does not even solve the problem. It just removes it up one more layer like saying that the earth rides on top of a turtle. What does the turtle rest on then? Saying that the gods always existed is just as illogical as saying, "Its turtles all they way down," or "random fluctuations of the void". The real answer is, "We don't know yet, but we're working toward it."

While I am tempted to join a congregation like the Unitarian Universalists (and I may give them a try in the course of time) I am fairly sure that it would only be a useful social outlet rather than a way to positively change the world. For that there is politics and supporting research and certain charitable causes. They probably are not doing useful research into how people actually behave and what is the best way to live. Though for now that's the best we have since there is no organized research into how people live successfully that isn't formed on the basis of proving some received moral wisdom.

To sum up: No god and I better do something about it to make life better for those that follow me so that I am not a dry branch that has taken from what all my antecedents gave me and returned nothing. Much as with a parliament the best course of action seems to be one that does not close off future action.
mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Default)
I read Penny Arcade or I'd never have heard about Roger Ebert's stirring up trouble by declaring, "Video games can never be art."

I disagree. I think they are art. It is just the ephemeral sort of art. Art in a medium that evolves so quickly that something someone slaved over a decade ago looks like something a child could slap together in five minutes on a personal computer. There are two ways I was personally struck by this today. I created a cover for an album I own in iTunes using a free image editor because I did not like the art on the physical CD. It took me next to no time and I bet someone would have had to slave over the same amount of work when the music first came out way back in 1984.

Secondly I found a copy of Sim Earth recently in my stuff. I'm about to throw it out because I assume no one in their right mind would want a game that uses 5ΒΌ inch diskettes. I bet this game took a lot of work when it came out in 1990. There is an art there not unlike the art of putting a book together. An invisible craftsman sort of art.

Movies too can be vulnerable to this. King Kong, the original classic, is now an esoteric film buff sort of taste. I doubt most people would be willing to sit through it given its dated special effects. But there are enthusiasts who will tell us how great it is. And so I think it is with video games to an even greater degree. There are enthusiasts who collect and play these old games and old computers, admiring the work that went into making them work with so little memory and processing power.

I don't like video games. I think they're a monumental waste of time and I'd sooner dive into a time sink like TV Tropes.com or Wikipedia than allow myself to get back into wasting my time that way. But they are art, if only an ephemeral one that is forgotten almost as soon as it is made.
mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Default)
From Mishalak on Blogspot

I think and expect that the right wing in America will calm down and stop spouting rhetoric like, "How much more will Americans take? When will enough be enough? And, when that time comes, will our leaders finally listen or will history need to record a second American Revolution?" A year or so and it will become apparent that it is just talk like the mutterings about escaping to Canada did for most liberals after Bush was elected.

Different people deal with disappointment in different ways, that's a key to understanding this. Some people think or talk about hurting the people they perceive as hurting them as a way to vent. I think what will actually happen is that most of the crazy people will go as far as buying a gun or two and making intemperate postings to the National Review Online about doing 'something' about gays, feminists, scary furrieners, blacks, and other liberal 'traitors'. A few people will take the rhetoric seriously and there will be some shootings and bombings with finally one getting so much attention that the movement will die due to backlash and the government doing something about it.

In other words I think sometime in the next three years there is going to be an event of the same impact as the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing. It is more or less inevitable given how much the conservatives are made nuts by the thought of a person with as much melanin as Obama in the White House. What will it be? No idea, but it is coming as sure as Rush Limbaugh saying something provocative.

It will fail because unlike in a Latin American country there are not a huge number of people with nothing to lose here combined with (and this is critical) an army that has a tradition of taking over/overruling the government. Because no matter what they might dream in their fevered
imaginations militias cannot overthrow governments. Private citizens are just never as well armed or disciplined as units funded by the government. It is worrying how many right wing types there are in the army, of course, but the question is how many of them are led by
officers willing to cross the Rubicon? Not many I suspect.

Could I be wrong? I suppose so, but unless things get much, much worse than they are right now the seeds of civil war will fall upon parched ground.
mishalak: Mishalak outside in the snow with scarf. (Snow)
As I see it there are two issues at this point remaining with Strikethrough.

Has Six Apart/Livejournal fixed the problem by un-suspending the accounts that were suspended in error? Will Livejournal do something similar to this again?

We still do not know the full extent of the Strikethrough. Lists have been compiled, but none is exhaustive. That is part of the really frustrating part of this. We do not know who was suspended and we do not know who has been restored. In a vacuum of information it is hard to determine what actually has happened and I do not trust Livejournal's assurances. I want to be able to find out for myself

In Livejournal News it has been reported that all accounts that will be restored have been restored. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that everyone and every community listed in my previous post as still suspended are, in the view of Livejournal, clearly in violation of the terms of service (hereafter ToS).

One of the communities still suspended is [livejournal.com profile] violentboylove. I do not know about the actual content of the community, but the still cached user information page (as of June 6th) indicates that this community was only about fiction. They emphasized that several times. But something about the community must be against the ToS. It is not their interests alone, there are hundreds or thousands of people who share the same interests as the group. And I thought from a previous new posting that story/roleplaying communities were a-okay.

So what is up? This is just one example, but I suspect that Livejournal is still not being honest or are still screwing up. One or the other because I cannot see any way around this example. There are perhaps other marginal cases as has been reported in an evaluation of the suspended communities. I do think that a fair number of the remaining suspended communities are deservedly so. Though I will note that it is better that the communities exist than not because if we really want to catch child predators/pornographers the way to go about it is not to delete them from LJ, but to follow them home. The right thing to do is to let the cockroaches emerge into the light so authorities can figure out where they are coming from.

So I think Livejournal is still not flying right even by their own announced rules. If I'm wrong about this I would love to be shown it.

Since they are not flying by their own rules, much less the ones I might prefer, what is the likelyhood that they're going to do this exact sort of thing again? High, I think. I have seen compelling speculation that LJ is trying to clean up for a public offering or other unknown financial object. Even if they are not they're not they certainly do not seem to be doing very well in the enforce a clear set of rules department.

I am seriously considering decamping for GreatestJournal or even abandoning online journaling.
mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Pensive)
During Strikethrough 2007 it was reported in the community [livejournal.com profile] innocence_jihad that Warriors for Innocence (a singularly misnamed group, if this were less serious I would call them Warriors for Idiocy) had posted a list of names that they had targeted at http://pedoblogtracker.blogspot.com/. Subsequently they took the list down, but not before a copy of the list was posted in Innocence Jihad.

During Strikethrough it was reported that most of these accounts were suspended at one point.

As of 18:00 PDT C.E. 2007 June 6th of the 77 communities on their list 57 had been restored and 20 had not and of the 354 individual users on their list 170 had been restored and 184 had not. That is 74% and 48% respectively of those communities and individuals defamed by WoI as pedophiles. Clearly they did not do their homework.

Six Apart's CEO reported that around 500 accounts had been suspended in Strikethrough. Clearly there were additional accounts suspended besides those targeted by WoI since together since the listing is 69 short of 500 and comments on the post in [livejournal.com profile] innocence_jihad indicate that not off these accounts were suspended.

Behind the cut I have a cleaned up list separated out by which accounts were suspended and which were restored as an hour before this post. There will be more analysis with a later post.

Listing )

The Ends

May. 31st, 2007 05:20 am
mishalak: Mishalak outside in the snow with scarf. (Snow)
How else are means justified if not by the ends? The thing that does not justify the means are the intended ends. Results, and to be clear this means all results intended or not, are not justified by good intentions. If someone intends to do good and ends up doing more evil than good in his ignorance it is still evil.

Today the CEO of the service we use here finally posted on the subject of the recent deletions of journals and communities unrelated to their intended target, pedophiles. In our culture calling a person a pedophile is about the worst thing that can be done. Murderers get off easier than pedophiles in the court of public opinion. And that is part of what makes this so fear inducing and rage inspiring. Innocents were caught up in this and tarred with that brush. And because of the way it came off and the two day information vacuum it allowed people like me with terrible imaginations to think, "Who's next? Me?" I don't follow anything like shota or incest fic (in fact I find it rather squicky), but by a strict reading of the law I am sure that some of my activities could be deemed illegal. Such as having written parody fanfic, after all the law of copyright is whatever the lawyers can convince a jury of. Or perhaps some of my posts on homosexuality are too frank for prudes and violate 'community standards' in Ignorant Fuck, Alabama.

Everyone makes mistakes and they are saying all the right PR things now. But for quite some time I've been unhappy with the behavior of Six Apart/Livejournal. The breastfeeding brouhaha, various technical faults, and the negative reputation of Livejournal have all annoyed me, this was just the last straw making me move from not loving the site like I did to actively wishing it ill. And despite the right moves being made I don't think that is going away. Livejournal has, for me, moved from being plucky new kid making something cool and in need of support to being a company like eBay. A fact of life that often cannot be avoided, a less than good service I'll use, but only until I figure out something better. Perhaps I might be motivated enough to learn something about how Wordpress works and set up a site that I would run to my own liking on my own domain. Perhaps not, since I like not having to think about the backside of things. I want the water to come out of the tap without having to struggle with making it work on a regular basis.

So I'm not happy. If I were more... something, I'd be trying for a movement rather than thinking of running away. Like paid users buying the company from Six Apart to make it a non-profit along the lines of the Mozilla Foundation. But I'm not the man to run such a movement and even if I was it would probably be hard to get them to sell. Though my mind keeps coming back to that as a solution. Buy the code and never let us be beholden to any easily stampeded MBA types again.
mishalak: Mishalak with long hair and modified so as to look faded. (Faded Photo)
I've heard of a brilliantly flawed movie called Sunshine (1999). It is about one family of Hungarian Jews from 1900 to about 1946. In its beginning it has a family of Jews celebrating the coming new century with hope that all the old persecutions of the past are over and follows them through all the coming persecutions and wars with ultimately the grandson becoming a communist in post war Hungry sending enemies of the state to the gulag.

It is a nice dramatic set up, but it does not seem terribly realistic to me. A Jew celebrating the end of persecution in 1900 would be like a homosexual doing the same in 2000, whistling in the dark at best. I doubt many homosexuals even in the first would think that the persecutions are over or that we're safe. It is not just the example of the past, Bavaria actually had a law of toleration of homosexuality before its union with greater Germany and what came afterwards. But also the rhetoric and power of people who do want to send us to the 'reeducation camps'. And I frankly doubt Jews around 1900 would think it was over and things would only get better from then on, even though it was better than at the start of the previous century.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. We have less to fear from militant islam than we do from our own militant christians by reason of proximity. (If the fundamentalist muslims were nearer to us we'd be in trouble, they're worse on the whole.) If I were to engage in the dicey game of predicting the future I see two possibilities. One a future where the whole world goes like the Spanish Civil War. Different sides fighting desperately for power and many people who have no good choice about which side to fight on caught up in it. Apocalyptic christians vs. apocalyptic muslims with both sides trying to convert by sword all the reasonable people of the world and sucking us into their conflict.

The second possibility is that this is a passing problem like the IRA. We'll have to endure a generation or two of reduced civil liberties because the masses 'demand it' according to the politicians. But eventually a combination of actual success and everyone finally getting tired of it will result in a halting peace process and political settlement.

I think the second possibility is more likely. I hope I'm right.
mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Thoughtful)
It was just a throwaway line at the end of chapter 14 in Circus of the Damned.
     "Please tell me I'm not the only one in this car with silver bullets."
     Zerbrowski grinned. Dolph said, "Silver's more expensive than gold. City doesn't have that kind of money."

It got me to thinking about what it would do to history if silver were much more valuable. It should cause all sorts of changes, but then if vampires, magic, and all the rest were real that should have changed history a lot too. But the world of Laurell K. Hamilton is almost exactly like ours other than the supernatural. I, of course, can't just leave it alone so I spent a bit of time recently trying to come up with rationalizations for the apparent contradictions.

My first rationalization is that though the supernatural boogies are real that doesn't change history much as long as they are for the most part hidden from public view (which they are). Second when something happens in history the reason the other side didn't win was because the winning side usually had more magic as well as more arms. I think I might be able to get the enlightenment to work since magic isn't exactly an everyday thing by saying that most scholars ignore it and the few who don't follow Newton in throwing aside many of the old assumptions and studying rationally. That sort of works. But still I think it would produce a somewhat different world than our own.

But none of that is as bad as silver being more valuable than gold. I mean that would throw all sorts of default assumptions into a cocked hat. What about silver dollars? Were they minted? Did Colorado have a longer silver boom? Was there a silver purchase act? Without the cause of free silver what was the rallying cry of William Jennings Bryan and the populists? How far back was silver more costly? The reason is obvious enough; it has more cachet with actually working against the supernatural. And the majority of Gold and Silver's price is their popular image. There are more than enough of both for jewelry, but having this aura about them makes people hoard them. In our world gold has much more of a reputation so it has the high price and silver is regarded as second best and so has a more natural price. If the hording of gold in bullion form and the purchase of it as an investment stopped the price would likely drop to about $50 an ounce or less based upon the amount out there and the demand for jewelry alone.

So how in the world could silver rise to that price level? Well assume some hording by government and it isn't too hard. Though probably very annoying to would be vampire hunters. Still at the higher price there is a lot more silver available. Unless there was some serious hording and more gold available I don't think it would be possible for it to go down in price. And what in the world would that do to the film industry alone? Would it have even started without cheap silver? And what do Navajos sell beside the road in the southwest if silver is that expensive?

Bad world building is probably the ultimate answer. But still it nags at me.
mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Thoughtful)
The gay rights movement really is necessary. I suspect that with most of the people who read my journal this is preaching to the choir, but I hope that someone will read this and understand that though the news focuses on just things like marriage there is still a lot of basic human rights work to be done. I write this because I read in Lawrence Schimel's journal that a friend of his, Paul Willis, was attacked and severely beaten on Saturday. He is in hospital and the doctors say that he'll never be able to see from his right eye again. And this isn't news, this isn't something that will be widely condemned, things like this probably happen every single day in America. Matthew Shepard was not the last guy killed in America for being gay, he's just one of the most dramatic stories.

If you are a conservative I want you to understand that the news isn't an accurate portrayal of what gays are after. Though we want things like marriage rights we are more basically looking to change the nation so that five youths won't jump out of a van and beat another human being for looking too gay. That I am not being hysterical when I point out that gays are still being persecuted in this way and I want you to look hard at candidates who say things like they don't want "special rights" for gays. Because they might not be saying what their words literally mean, it could be a code word phrase meaning "I will wink at crimes against homosexuals".
mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Thoughtful)
Well sorta. For years I avoided Nestle products. That was just a choice, not a religion as it was with some people. I avoided them because they seemed to be in a grey area in their behavior and there are plenty of other producers of food out there.

So it's going to be for me in regard to Orson Scott Card because of this commentary. There are plenty of good SF writers out there who are not against giving me the right to marry if I so choose. I won't skip cons just because he'll be there, but it would be a strike against going to one. I won't be all religious about it, but I'm going to encourage my friends not to buy his books, or if they do to buy them used so he doesn't get any money.
mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (The Alchemist)
When I first started going to media conventions back in my high school days I didn't like people who dressed up in costume. I didn't for the same reason that many of our old guard give. I thought by having the people dressed up made science fiction fandom look like a freak show and if we didn't have these strange people in costume for the cameras to be pointed at we would be better accepted and respected. Now over a decade later I am one of the people who dress up strangely for conventions.

What happened between then and now is a story that doesn't have a moral, but I can explain how my views came to change. As with probably the majority of American fans I was somewhat mocked and ostracized in school. Though I would not have admitted it then this gave me a burning desire for acceptance even though I did not precisely want to conform in all ways. I knew I was different, but wanted to be outwardly the same with the idea (if I gave it any thought) that Trek and other media fans could become accepted as a group if we seemed normal in other ways.

This continued right through my years as a roleplaying gamer when I would roundly criticize my peers who lived up to any of the stereotypes of our group. I would not be caught dead wearing anything less formal than business casual outfits when doing anything but yard work. Then in 1999 I finally found SF fandom and it was much different than what I had experienced previously. While with a higher proportion of fans over 30 at a convention it meant that there were fewer eye catching costumes in the halls of a con, there was also a more social, even family like vibe. So those people in costume were more respected by their elders than seemed to be frequently the case at the media cons.

That isn't all there was to it, but being in a more friendly environment helped me to become a more accepting person and to try things I had not previously. Though it didn't happen right away I eventually started wearing and clothes other than my standard business casual uniform. At this point I am almost infamous for wearing fairly unusual outfits to conventions and changing them frequently. I also wear some hall costumes and have even taken part in some short masquerades.

Today I view costuming as a fun and interesting part of convention going, though it does give an easy shorthand by which the mundanes can mock us. However I think even if we could control or convince everyone at every convention to dress as if going to a business conference we would still be the subject of ridicule. Those outside who don't understand, fear, or just want to pick on people will continue to mock groups that are different. Just look at how the normal looking groups like coin collectors get talked about. If it were not the costumes it would be the very fact that we have our "noses stuck in books" all the time or something else. Instead the cameras would be pointed at the overweight people wearing glasses or someone too earnestly telling how the new version of Dune is better than the old one. I have heard of cases where a TV show not finding enough weirdoes at a convention brought in some people dressed up strangely to get the story they wanted.

Even more importantly with few exceptions I think that it would be more harmful to fandom to go about excluding people for no better reason than "they make us look bad." This isn't to say that we can't be so open minded at times that our brains fall out, nor is there really any danger that we are going to start excluding people. I just wanted to tell a bit of a story about how I think fandom made me a better person and to celebrate that we do care more about each other than we do about what other people think.
mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Default)
More Snarking On Off the Shelf Fantasy Kingdoms

(Previous Installment: Gays in Fantasy Kingdoms)
Life was quite hard for everyone, but it was especially hard upon women in centuries past. Women typically had a status that was lower than men, but it seems that it was most often so in agriculturally based societies. Indeed I cannot think of a single example of a culture that was primarily agricultural in food production where women having power were anything but exceptional. (This is the cue for hundreds of you to post counter examples that I don't know about.) I suspect three culprits making this so were biology, hierarchy, and poverty.

Women do not have the same potential for muscle strength that men have. This was a much greater handicap when so much labor was of the backbreaking sort, and more importantly all the weapons relied upon muscle power. So at first it is the men with swords and the physique to be warriors that dominate their neighbors. This is a simplistic explanation, but where I am going is to say that because women would have an exceptionally difficult time starting out on the bottom the tradition of male power becomes entrenched and it makes it difficult for women to jump in higher up or to get a start on the ladder.

Poverty, which is more common in agricultural societies, makes the bad situation worse. Poverty means there is more need for work than there are workers. No end of work on a farm, so someone is going to get stuck doing more. This isn't always true, but it is quite common because of the difficulty leaving. Living with another person or a lot of people makes life easier. So as hard as it is life outside the family or group might very well be impossible, so someone who can be physically dominated may feel or in fact be trapped. Plus human nature being what it is there would be a huge temptation for the physically stronger man to force the women to do work he doesn't want to do. Again this becomes entrenched in the society before technology has a chance to make life easier, and so the tradition continues beyond where economics is making it more likely.

None of this excuses bad behavior. This is me being like a criminologist. I hate that women have been oppressed and I would like to know why it happened and why it became so widespread. I think it is unlikely to have become the majority way of doing things without there being some reason. I think better of people than that. So it is totally possible that a fantasy kingdom could have women with a better status than they got in most real world kingdoms.

For one this could be the one exception. Though I would like an explanation as to why it is. Maybe there was a great respected religious reformer and also women are just as strong in the force/magic or whatever as men so that tips the balance in this one place, even if women with magic are hunted to preserve the order of things in others. If magic is just replacing technology giving a more modern society it isn't going to be medieval, as the standard off the shelf fantasy kingdom is, but it will be more equal. Or perhaps in this world women are just as strong as men physically. Why? Magic, the gods, whatever, this is fantasy after all. And it would make for a very interesting society in my opinion.

So there are lots of options, but not many (any?) if the writer wants to make it just like England 1300 (as a random example) with magic and without the lower social status for women. Because in my opinion such a setting will have the women in lower status except for the few with magic and those will probably have a similar status to noble women with power. They get to be exceptions if they don't challenge the order of things.
mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Default)
Mishalak snarks about off the shelf fantasy kingdoms.

Yes I know about the Rough Guide to Fairyland. I keep on meaning to read it and perhaps I'm duplicating some effort here. But I've had a number of conversations about fantasy and what is realistic for fantasy. First of all anything is realistic for fantasy because anything is possible. Except sometimes I sit here saying to myself, "Wait a second, unless there is stuff going on that I don't see this doesn't make any sense."

One of the first things is the standard SCA medieval setting. Now I like this SCA, and I do like learning about the Middle Ages and recreating aspects of it without the nastiness of the setting. But the fact is that it wasn't just because men sucked (though they were literally forbidden to suck) that women, gays, and so on were oppressed. And so I often roll my eyes a bit when I see openly gay men and women living equal lives when otherwise the setting is obviously trying to evoke Europe sometime from A.D. 700 to 1500.

I know that there have been historical times and places where homosexuals were not persecuted, or at least not very much. It is certainly conceivable that the religion that the equivalent of Christianity in the pseudo medieval setting, there's nothing particularly required that homosexuality would be a sin. However the homosexuals would not be gay in the same sense that they are in the modern western world. The subculture that we have with its various stereotypes, in jokes, gay neighborhoods, and so on are a product of these times. It happened because openly homosexual individuals were very strongly persecuted. That produced an underground culture that eventually came out into the public as the influence of religion over the culture started to wane a bit and because the gays were inspired by the actions of blacks.

Because the modern sense of being gay, rather than just sometimes having sex with the same sex, is so linked to modern history I have a hard time figuring out a way to have a gay historical character. It is like having a science fiction fandom in medieval times. Unless there is a gate open to the past for the SCA members I really doubt it would happen.

The historical reason of the persecution of homosexuality was a tribe trying to expand and increase. The Israelites needed lots of children, because otherwise they could not hold their land and have enough people to fight in wars. Many, many children used to die before a better understanding of hygiene and slightly better medical technology. So the religion of the tribe had rules intended to cause the birth of as many babies as possible. Obviously if a guy is having sex with a guy there won't be children of that relationship. Since Christianity came from Judaism the old rule got carried over with the help of a healthy dose of bias in the culture it went into.

Next Time, Why Being A Woman Used to Suck
mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (thoughtful)
Since I don't like content free memes1, I have decided to fight back. No I'm not going to go around and rant at all my friends, if you want to do them I don't mind. I just am bored with all the quizes and I am going to encourage them to do freeform memes, i.e. the ones where someone says something interesting about himself, by posting comments to as many of those as possible. Also I may try to start a few myself. But mostly I am going to encourage people to do what they do best. Find that one thing that you really like to write and write something about it. Maybe not today, in fact if you don't have something today don't feel pressure to post today! Quality over quantity.

In that spirit I getting to work on some really high quality writing tonight. Right after I finish off writing a thing for the DASFA newsletter. I'm late on that.

1 Maybe content free is a bit inaccurate. They do contain pictures or whatnot, but they don't provide a good hook for interaction with people reading your livejournal. And at this point most of them aren't even terribly interesting anymore. The total number I've done in the six months I've been online is surely under six.
mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (thoughtful)
By M. Mishalak, Fan with no particular credentials.

Denver has a long history with Worldcon, though we've only had it twice once in 1941 and again in 1981. This has, of course, lead to suggestions that we have one again in 2021. But with mutterings that Colorado ought to do it again I have decided to dust off some thoughts on Worldcon in Denver, though I wish to emphasize that this is not an announcement that I plan to bid or participate in a bid for Worldcon.

Denver has the dubious distinction of having held the smallest Worldcon in '41, at just 90 members. Denvention II was also the last of the US Worldcons under 4,000 people, 3,792 according to http://worldcon.org/wclist.html. I bring this up to explain why a Denver Bid probably could not hold the con at just the Denver Hilton as was done in '81. Chicago in '82 was 4,275, so figuring Denver would be 500 or so people smaller than the last Chicago convention would give us a (5,829-500)=5,000+ member convention. Even if we only had a thousand more than last time with 4,792, it would still somewhat cramped for the Adam's Mark, the chain that took over and changed the facility that was the Denver Hilton.

So either the convention would need to find a group of hotels relatively near together or rent the convention center. I did check into the Denver Merchandise Mart. It does have the space does not have a hotel to speak of, otherwise it would be quite adequate and much more economical than the convention center.

The situation in regards to Worldcon with the convention center is that currently it is separate from the hotels needed. From what I understand even with the new hotel being built next door people will either have to commute from Tech Center hotels on the tramline or walk up to five blocks to the hotels in the surrounding area. The new hotel will only have 1100 rooms and I doubt that any hotel could block out more than 900 of them at a guess.

There are not currently any hotels close enough together that Denver could host a convention of 4500 (my estimate) outside the convention center. The largest of the spaces with hotels outside this is 50,000 at the Denver International Airport Holiday Inn or 40,000 square feet at the Denver Marriott Tech Center. I favor the later as a possible Westercon venue, I've been told it will be large enough and have enough rooms at 625.

If the Adam's Mark were next door to another hotel it would be able to host a Worldcon as it still has 133,000 square feet of space. http://www.adamsmark.com/denver/meeting.asp If it were next door the convention center I think we could just rent the 5,000 seat auditorium and have enough space in the hotel that we could skip renting the rest of the place. But as I count it from door to door it is a five-block walk and so it might be a harder sell, at least to costumers. It does have a saving grace of being on the mall shuttle, which would take guests practically door to door with 4 other hotels with 921 rooms. It has 1225 rooms itself and so might be a good choice for a party hotel depending upon the management.

The new convention Hyatt hotel will only have 60,000 square feet of space. I am cautious about planning on dividing up functions between the hotels. It could easily turn into one of those horrible situations where people are constantly walking five blocks between panels or whatever.

To me it seems the best option is to rent all the smaller rooms at the convention center, leaving the larger space for a trade show or something, and use the ballrooms at the new hotel to hold the art show and possibly the dealers' room as well. With the auditorium which seats 5000 for main events, the Hugos, and the Masquerade it would be a pretty good facility for the con and if the bid were ambitious they could try to expand the convention significantly. More on that later with a cost analysis.
mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Default)
Once upon a time I wanted nothing more than to find the man who would make my life better. He would be handsome, with a good job, and I would love him enough that when he kicked my ass to get me fixing my life I would do it. About two years ago I realized what a ludicrous dream that was. Waiting for the prince who would make everything better.

If I sit around moping for someone else to make my life better it never will get better because no one is going to get involved with a whiny guy who desperately needs fixing. If I want to be involved with a great guy I've got to become the man I want to be, first.

So I decided that I would decide which things I really wanted to change and which were idle wishes. Also I'd have to be realistic and not try to bite off too much at once. So I've been working on being more positive, at least outwardly. And I try to be neater, honest. That's not going so well so far. And I am exercising more, though I've scaled back my expectations. I'm not going to try for the perfect defined body.

So positive thoughts sort of things to all my friends, and don't wait around for Mr. Right. Find him in yourself.

(I'm not even sure I'm convincing to myself, but I know this is the right answer.)
mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (The Prince)
A Tale of Convention Going and How I Found Fandom
"Every Slayer has a death wish, even you. The only reason you've lasted as long as you have is you've got ties to the world... your mum, your brat kid sister, the Scoobies. They all tie you here but you're just putting off the inevitable. Sooner or later, you're gonna want it. And the second, the second that happens...You know I'll be there. I'll slip in... have myself a real good day. Here endeth the lesson." -Spike, Buffy TVS: Fool For Love

I think Spike (well whoever wrote those particular lines) is right in a larger sense. We all need the things that tie us to life, our friends, things to look forward too, a place where we are needed, and so on. For me most of that can be summed up in fandom, but I didn't find this social group until I was nearly 21.

I have been fannish for the vast majority of my life; I just didn't know that is what I was. I read a heck of a lot and watched all sorts of science fiction. My first convention was a Star Trek convention that I attended my freshman year in high school. I was so geeky then that a fellow geek from my school criticized me saying I shouldn't dress so buttoned down even on the weekends (my school had a dress code). But though I had fun I didn't feel connected to my fellow geeks and though I did look I didn't find what I wanted there. More geek friends, people to socialize with on a regular basis.

For just short of five years I continued to go to Starcon, Starfest, and various gaming conventions without making permanent friends or even hearing about the local fannish convention, MileHiCon. I just continued to hang out with the few people interested in science fiction at school and college. Then February of 1999 I went to Genghis Con, a gaming convention, while feeling rather blue and lonely I decided to help out with the art show. There I was told about this group called DASFA and that they met monthly at this bank. The next month I showed up and was immediately drawn deeply into the group. I was Secretary of the club in three months (by appointment), elected to that position the next year, and Director of the club the year after that. It was like coming home.

It is my deeply felt conviction that being part of fandom anchored me to life like nothing else ever had. That it is not an exaggeration to say that fandom saved my life. It's is then very strange that despite going to conventions that though I wanted to find something like fandom I managed not to find it for nearly half a decade.

I went to some conventions, but they were not of the essentially fannish variety nor did I hear about fandom at them. From the time I was in high school I regularly went to the local Star Trek con and also various gaming conventions. But until I went to Genghis Con and volunteered with the art show I never heard of organized fandom.

This is why one of my overriding goals is to spread the word about fandom. Because I know there are people out there just like me that could use fandom, that would love fandom, that need fandom to tie them to the world and just have not heard about it. I want to give back what I have received. And that is something to take joy in, a reason to go on living through the bad times, because I know that every month there will be a new party, and every year there will be another great convention.

Here endeth my speech.


mishalak: A fantasy version of myself drawn by Sue Mason (Default)

January 2016

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