February 5th, 2007


And so it begins...

Flight is delayed an hour this morning because it was so late coming in last night that the crew can't legally fly the on time departure. That gives me a fifteen minute connection time in O'Hare. (Ahem.) Meanwhile, in Omaha this week there will be a warm snap on Wednesday, driving the high temperature all the way up to a dizzying 29 degrees F. Otherwise it will be low teens (or less) for the daily highs while I'm there.

Normal people go to the office...

Income Inequality and the Republican Legacy

Quoted in the Washington Post, President Bush addressed income inequality in a speech on January 31st, 2007.

"The fact is that income inequality is real -- it's been rising for more than 25 years," Bush said in an address on Wall Street.

-- http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/31/AR2007013100879.html?nav=rss_print/asection

I can't even begin to frame a coherent response to that. All I want to do is sputter and spit. The cornerstone of Republican economic theory and policy at least since the days of Ronald Reagan has been so-called "trickle down economics", the idea that upper income tax cuts will stimulate investment and create job growth. That income inequality is an inevitable first order result of this policy should have been obvious twenty-five years ago to anyone with a smidgen of intellectual honesty and an IQ higher than that of concrete. (Neither of which applies to this president, unfortunately.)

If you've voted Republican any time since 1980, this widening economic gap is precisely the outcome you were actively supporting. There's a conservative obsession with punishing the poor in the name of "helping them help themselves" that stretches back to at least the days of Cotton Mather. Hence the $10 billion in healthcare budget cuts in the President's new budget, to go along with permanent upper income tax cuts. It didn't make a lot of sense 400 years ago in Puritan Massachusetts, and it doesn't make any more sense now. I'm sure America's poor are gratified to know that the sales of executive jets are up. Always a great economic indicator for the minimum wage set.

One of the great deceptions the Republican party has wrought on American voters is that this is somehow in their interests. The whole "death tax" thing a few years back, about reducing or eliminating the estate tax, was a brilliant example. This income gap separates the top 3% or less of Americans from the rest of us. The rest of us have at best held steady, many have lost ground, while incomes at the top have more than doubled in recent years.

I don't think Bush won on that 3% of the vote.

I've also been thinking about how the current Adminstration has been a real triple witching hour for separate strains of conservatism. I've said before I find it quite possible we'll see the end of American cultural, economic and military dominance as a direct result of Bush's tenure in government -- which may or may not be a good thing from the perspective of the rest of the world, but certainly wasn't the intention of virtually any of his political supporters.

But here you have the voodoo economics of the Reaganauts, the post-Straussian Imperial wet dreams of the Neocons, and the centuries-old Calvinist social paranoia of the Churched Right all being supported and driven forward by a leader who has made a virtue out of a deliberately incurious and anti-intellectual lack of inquiry in the name of consistency and principle. (Bush is so vapid and devoid of introspection that one must wonder how he arrived at his so-called principles in the first place.) Each of those strains of thought is profoundly wrong-headed, anti-democratic and anti-American, and each cloaks itself in flag-waving patriotism and absolutist rhetoric perfectly suited to demagoguery.

In name of America first, Bush and his partisans have put America last. That we fail to care for our poor, our ill, our elderly, and the president proudly puts that in his budget as a sign of his fiscal responsibility, is only another straw of shame falling on a dead camel whose back broke long ago.

Canticle for Lebowski poll results!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a clear winner in the Canticle For Lebowski poll, as of Monday evening.

lossrockhart takes the coveted limited edition of Greetings From Lake Wu, from Traife Buffet Haute Biblio, with:

lossrockhart Spider Baby Boom- The life of super-yuppie J.C. Wiatt (Diane Keaton) is thrown into turmoil when she inherits three demented children (Sid Haig, Jill Banner, and Beverly Washburn) from a distant relative.

Runner up, including a signed copy of Mainspring Amazon ], goes to muneraven with:

muneraven Harold & Kumar Go to The Man in the High Castle- Two young men get President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Vice President John Nance Garner completely stoned and the U.S. forgets to fight WWII.

Judge's special awards will be announced later in the week. Meanwhile, drop by lossrockhart and muneraven's journals and give them a high five.

I'll keep the poll open, for the heck of it, along with the original thread, but these are the official results.

Transferability of Genre Techniques

james_nicoll recently asked:

And a follow up question for published authors

Specifically the ones who write in multiple genres and in particular mystery, SF and fantasy: how easily do you find the techniques and ways of thinking transfer from one to another?

[Clarification: for the purposes of this question, please treat SF and fantasy as different genres]

I liked the question so much I wanted to jump it to a blog post of my own, but then life got in the way. So once more I arrive tardy to the party.

This question has two answers for me. The first is to say he's asking the wrong question. Which is to say, when I'm working on a story or novel, I don't concern myself with whether it's SF or fantasy. I tell the story I want to tell, the way it seems to me best to tell it, then sort out the genre question post facto, as a marketing issue. casacorona has described Mainspring as science fantasy. It has explicit fantasy elements, but is set in a word which is highly mechanist, with a whopping great packing of steampunk tropes.

In the writing process, there is no conscious distinction for me in techniques between genres, because there is no conscious distinction between genres.

The second answer is to speak a bit more narrowly to what James asked. This is in effect from my post facto perspective. For example, the world building elements of fantasy and SF can be viewed somewhat differently.

In Mainspring, there are a number of factors which make no sense science fictionally. The earth orbits the sun on a brass track. That track is twenty miles wide, about twenty miles deep, and the size of the Earth's orbit. That much metallic tonnage in deep space would have gravitational effects, and I don't even want to think about thermal expansion. By the time I fixed all that, I'd have Ringworld. Not a bad place to end up, but Larry Niven already did it far better than I ever could.

So I have the element of world building by fiat as an example of fantasy, where the author at some point says, "well, that's just the way it is". As a practical matter that happens a lot in SF, but SF authors have to at least pay court to the notion of logical premise.

On the other hand, between SF and fantasy there is a vast amount of transferability of Second World story telling techniques. The little rhetorical and descriptive tricks that establish setting and character -- Tolkein's exemplar of "the green sun" being practically the reference case -- work well on all ends of the SF/F spectrum. Likewise the "sensawunda" techniques which an important part of the "reader cookies" for both genres.

Another congruency between SF and fantasy is the structure of the second arc. To my thinking, all genre stories have at least two arcs. There's the nominal plot arc, which pretty much any story in the Western tradition usually has in some recognizable form. Then there's the genre arc. In romance, that's the course of the relationship. In erotica, it's the course of the sexual encounter. In mystery, it's the detective work. In both SF and fantasy, the second arc is about that Second World experience. (Note in this model that a story can have more than two arcs, just as it can be seen to fit in more than one genre.)

Anyway, my first reactions to james_nicoll's question. Your thoughts?