A Little Fallout: Bias and the “Humanities”

fallout

Graphic depicting nuclear fallout – image credit unknown

Several days ago, I posted a link to my essay Concealment: Should I Have Used a Pen Name? in a private writers group on Facebook. The admin always holds links in mediation prior to approval. Usually the process takes a few minutes to an hour, but after a day went by, I figured I’d gone too far and he wasn’t going to approve it.

However, 24 hours later it appeared. Either he was too busy to approve of it prior to that time (doubtful, since he’d been active in the group all along), or he was pondering whether or not to approve it, maybe even consulting others.

Well, it was approved, and discussion in the group was pretty interesting and generally positive. That is, until this one, offered by an admin of another writers group to which I do not belong (and I don’t plan on asking to join):

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Cult: A Brief Commentary on Actress Allison Mack’s Descent into Darkness

mack

Allison Mack – Photo Credit: R. Umar Abbasi

Guilty pleasures confession time. I used to be a huge fan of the television series Smallville (2001-2011). I’ve watched every episode at least once, and I love the theme song (YouTube).

In case you don’t know, “Smallville” followed the adventures of young High School student Clark Kent for the ten years before he put on Superman’s tights and cape. Actor Tom Welling starred as Clark, and supporting actors included Kristin Kreuk as love interest Lana Lang and Allison Mack as Chloe Sullivan, a sort of High School newspaper version of Lois Lane.

I heard of Mack’s arrest last April on sex trafficking charges and was stunned. In her role as Sullivan, her character started out with a girl-next-door charm and a nose for bizarre news stories, plus she was as cute as a button. Of course, that has nothing to do with who the actress was as a human being.

Mack’s in the news again, this time professing her innocence in documents filed in Brooklyn’s Federal Court, basically saying that if Scientology can get away with it, she should be able to as well. Notice, at no time does she actually say she never committed the acts of sex trafficking of which she’s accused.

More’s the pity.

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Contemplating the “Eve of Destruction”

nuke

The mushroom cloud of the first test of a hydrogen bomb, “Ivy Mike”, as photographed on Enewetak, an atoll in the Pacific Ocean, in 1952, by a member of the United States Air Force’s Lookout Mountain 1352nd Photographic Squadron.

Disclaimer/Trigger Warning: If you’re already nervous about what Donald Trump is capable of as President of the United States, you probably don’t want to read the following.

Don’t you understand, what I’m trying to say?
And can’t you feel the fears I’m feeling today?
If the button is pushed, there’s no running away,
There’ll be no one to save with the world in a grave,
Take a look around you, boy, it’s bound to scare you, boy,
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

-from “Eve of Destruction,” written by P.F. Sloan in 1964
recorded by Barry McGuire July 1965

On twitter, I came across a comment made by award-winning, San Francisco based journalist Chip Franklin:

Trump can launch nukes whenever he wants. I’m not shitting you. NO ONE can legally stop him from a first strike. Mattis couldn’t stop him, and now he’s gone. Imagine Trump’s state of mind when his removal is imminent. So, once again, F*ck you GOP.

You can find that twitter commentary HERE.

Mr. Franklin included a link to the December 23rd Washington Post story Trump can launch nuclear weapons whenever he wants, with or without Mattis written by Bruce Blair, who decades ago was an Air Force nuclear missile crewman and now an Anti-Nuke activist, and Jon Wolfsthal.

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Resisting the Echo Chamber

inherit

Original cover for James P. Hogan’s 1977 novel “Inherit the Stars”

Somewhere on Facebook, I saw an image of a familiar book cover, the cover to James P. Hogan’s 1977 science fiction novel Inherit the Stars. I remember reading it while my wife and I were on vacation in Europe in 1985, traveling with a Catholic choir group (long story).

As with a lot of books I read decades ago, I remember liking it, but I can recall almost nothing of the plot. Yes, it all starts with the mystery of a dead human being found on the Moon, a person 50,000 years old. Intriguing.

I thought about adding it to my list of books to re-read, even though a day ago, I dedicated myself to reading science fiction and fantasy of a more recent vintage.

I was surprised to discover that “Inherit” was the first book in a five-part series. I was also surprised to discover that it was the first book Hogan ever wrote, and that he did so on a dare.

I decided to look up Hogan on the internet. He died in 2010 at the age of 69, just a few years older than I am now.

I also found out he wasn’t a nice man.

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Dabbling in Science Fiction Fandom

sf convention

Photo credit – Knoxville News – Science Fiction convention – place and date unknown

In recent comments on the File 770 SF/F news blog criticizing veteran SF writer Robert Silverberg over comments he made about author NK Jemisin’s Hugo Award acceptance speech last summer, one of the things mentioned is that Silverberg hasn’t read any SF stories written in the past ten years, like that’s a bad thing.

In comments I made on twitter last summer criticizing the objectivity of the Hugo Awards, one person accused me of not being “a fan,” as if being a fan were some sort of exalted and coveted position.

But as I continued to gather information about the Hugos and how one is nominated for an award, I realized that although the pool of voters each year is relatively small (I’d estimate anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand), probably all of them are avid SF/F readers and viewers who consume tons and tons of the latest available works. I guess that’s what my critic meant when she said I wasn’t a fan.

But wait a minute. How much SF/F do I read?

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Is SciFi Author/Editor Robert Silverberg Really Racist and Sexist (or has the internet once again lost its mind)?

robert silverberg

SF author/editor Robert Silverberg – 2005

If I hadn’t read a blog post at Superversive SF called The Cardinal Mistake With SJWs and Robert Silverberg, I probably wouldn’t be writing this.

First off, I’ll state for the record, that because I’m even mentioning Jon Del Arroz‘s (yes, he deliberately makes himself a lightning rod for controversy) name and daring to write something with a social and political perspective not shared (necessarily) by Democrats, leftists, and progressives (those words are not synonyms), that at least one person will be vocally upset with me here on my blog.

I suspect that a lot of other people who regularly read my fiction will simply not respond because A: they like me and what I write, and B: they think that I’m a nice enough guy not to be flamed for expressing unpopular opinions.

Thank you.

Anyway, I did read Del Arroz’s article which starts out:

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Do You Have To Destroy Men To Take Down The “Patriarchy?”

smash patriarchy

Found at thecompanion.in – No image credit listed

Based on my blog post called More on Social Media and University Radio Show “Echo Chambers” and my conversation in the comments section of that post, I felt it necessary to write this one. Let me explain.

I had a twitter “conversation” with someone from the radio show Scene on Radio (possibly producer and co-host John Biewen, but since the twitter “handle” was @SceneOnRadio, it’s impossible to know for sure).

Marleen, one of the readers of this blog, wanted me to listen to Episode 53: Himpathy (MEN, Part 7), originally broadcast in October of this year, because in her words:

I’ve gone and listened to four episodes. I’d recommend the 53rd one. I would hope that if something like that happened to your granddaughter or daughter your response would be that it ma mattered rather than that the thing people should be doing is telling “good” stories (defined as not bothersome).

Since I’ve expressed somewhat of an oppositional viewpoint relative to how the show’s content is presented, and specifically their misuse of Biblical interpretation, Marleen suggested (at least as I understand it) that listening to this episode might help me realize that I don’t necessarily have to “lock horns” with the show or its co-hosts (the other co-host being Celeste Headlee).

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Do Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie Absolutely Have to be Gay? No, and Here’s Why

bert and ernie

Sesame Street’s characters Bert and Ernie

Recently, as reported at Newshub, screenwriter Mark Saltzman, himself a gay man, told LGBT news site Queerty that the beloved Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie were created based on his own loving relationship with a man. Of course, in the Newshub article, Saltzman back peddled a bit, but too late to quell the internet buzz, including on twitter.

Among other rumors was the idea that the two muppets were going to publicly come out as gay on the Sesame Street show and even get married.

Wait! What? On a television show made for pre-school age children?

Even the (in my opinion) left-leaning Snopes.com declared that rumor as false.

And yet, an opinion piece at Chron.com declares It matters that Bert and Ernie are a happy gay couple, and here’s why. Here’s the core of the article by Nora Reed:

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More on Masculinity and Femininity

I follow the blog of African-American author Steven Barnes, largely because his commentaries on writing were recommended by another author. Mr. Barnes has an an impressive set of credentials and has written novels with such Science Fiction luminaries as Larry Niven (look right) and the late Jerry Pournelle. But while I find some of what Barnes presents on his blog interesting and useful, I can’t say I agree with him about everything (although to be fair, I’m sure he wouldn’t agree with me on a lot of things as well).

However, in a recent blog post of his called What Are You Offering the World?, he made two seemingly unrelated points that I found highly useful. I’ll present them over two blog posts here because each topic deserves individual attention.

The first is about masculinity. Now, given many of the topics upon which Barnes writes, I can reasonably assume he leans more left on the social and political scale than I do, probably quite a bit more, but here’s the important part. The important part is that we shouldn’t stereotype (and I’ve been as guilty of this as anyone) and here’s why.

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Pressing the Mute Button

Internet meme of character Ron Swanson

I wasn’t going to write anything “political” today (unless you count my tribute to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which I guess could be political, or nationalistic, or some other horrible thing), but this one just popped into my head.

You may or may not recognize the above posted figure of Ron Swanson (played brilliantly by Nick Offerman) from the television series Parks and Recreation (2009-2015). I’ve only watched certain portions of the series, but Offerman’s performance is always one of the highlights.

Swanson is a “dyed-in-the-wool” libertarian, almost (but not quite) to the point of caricature, which allows him to say and do the most outrageous things, get away with it, and be hysterically funny. It also allows him to say certain “truths” that people might otherwise balk at. One excellent example is when Ron explains what government is (and isn’t) good for to a little girl using her lunch (Vimeo video). He’s actually very sweet with her and it’s an endearing transaction (not so much with her mother later on).

However, the point he makes above is the point I’m trying to make. Even leaving Nike and Colin Kaepernick out of it completely, the internet and particularly social media is constantly trying to grab your attention and convince you of this or that (and failing that, accuse you of being evil such that there’s no way to “win” short of surrendering your free speech rights if not your free will).

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