NaNoWriMo: The Plot Thickens (Hopefully)

So, my idea with adding martians to the Lives of Perfect Creatures has gone and taken on a life of its own. This is a good thing. The Martians want their own novel and really, who can blame them? I have a good idea and there’s no reason to cling to the already finished novel as a framework for it. Now I just need to disentangle the Martians from that story and find one of their own to tell. This can be done, but takes time. National Novel Writing month starts tomorrow.

So, while I have a concept and a handful of ideas for characters, I have no plot. This is not necesarily a bad thing. NaNoWriMo encourages just diving in and working it out as you go. Which is what I’ll be doing most of the next month.

I’ll be posting updates and throwing out questions as the plot snarls and character motivations wander off. For those interrested in the sausage making secrets of writing a novel, stay tuned.

You Got Martians in My Novel!

So, what happens when you spend an incredibly lazy Sunday laying around watching TV and alternately reading Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and The Martian Chronicles? You wake up with totally hair-brained schemes, that’s what.

This one involves NaNoWriMo and my previously already written and published novel, The Lives of Perfect Creatures. Yeah, you see where this is going, right?

I’m going to spend the month of November adding Martians to The Lives of Perfect Creatures. this totally breaks the rules of NaNoWrMo, but I don’t care because I really like the idea. I will of course keep you posted.

Jets to the Sci-Fi Ghetto Leave Hourly

I just finished reading The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester. I am disappointed.

Bester’s The Stars My Destination, I love. I read it last year for the first time and it’s now on my top 10 sci-fi list, right next to Dune and Illuminatus!. The Demolished Man however, not so much. As Moff pointed out on io9 the other day, some sci-fi books form the mid century “Golden Age” deserves to be left in the genre ghetto and The Demolished Man is one of them. It won not just a Hugo, but the very first Hugo, meaning that at some point, this was seen as an example of the best that science fiction literature had to offer. If that’s not a damning case for keeping the sci-fi ghetto open, I don’t know what is. Even put in the perspective of its time period, there’s some awful clichés running rampant in The Demolished Man: pointless sci-finess, absurdly shortsighted technological innovations that run headlong into random leaps in logic and blatant misogyny, the likes of which I haven’t seen since the last Michael Bay movie.

Aside from stark 50’s gender roles persisting well into the 22nd century, there’s the random gadget porn: every bit of information not gleaned from someone’s head by a psychic is encoded on gemstones. Unless it’s output by a monster supercomputer, then it’s spit out on a length of paper like a ticker tape machine. And input on frickin’ punch cards.

And then there’s the awkward futuristic slang. Apparently, in the 22nd century, no one walks or runs anywhere. They Jet. Every time someone said to another character to Jet on over somewhere or that they were about to jet off someplace, I expect them to leap across the road flashing jazz hands. Because once a Jet, always a Jet. And in the future, everyone’s a Jet. Unless you’re the protagonist, then you’re a Shark. Or a psychopath. Whichever. Psychopaths who have easy access to antique guns that are described as nothing more than a knife-pistol that resembles a flower. Is this a magnum with a bayonet and orchid scope? A six-shooter/Ginsu/daisy? A long lost Salvador Dali sculpture? Whatever it is, it shoots weaponized jello.

And the psychics. Oh Lord, the fucking psychics! They’re called peepers here because psychics didn’t sound silly enough. I’ve never fully grasped the mid 20th century fascination with pseudo-scientific justifications for psychic powers, but man is it tired. It was tired before The Demolished Man and really, this should have ended it. But somehow, we still ended up with Jean Gray and random psychic powers in the Twilight Zone. Here in the Demolished Man, we have the Esper Guild, which is a cross between a trade union that covers all trades and a political party. Apparently, everyone from Doctors to HR personal are required to be Peepers, which begs the question of what everyone who isn’t a psychotic CEO does for a living. Drive flying taxi cabs, I guess. In a mere 200 years, we’ve not only discovered that a large percentage of the population is active or latent psychics, but they’ve completely reworked human society to the point where they’re pretty much in charge of everything. Which I guess might be considered subtext or something verging on a political or philosophical statement, if it amounted to anything more than an excuse to play with concrete poetry and fancy typography.

Now, I’m not opposed to soft sci-fi. I like a little whimsy and poetry in my speculative fiction and mostly eschew the hard SF. But a psychic who-done-it story shoehorned into a solar-system spanning romp with rocket ships and one of the more squicky romance subplots is just too soft. It’s nice however, to see that Bester did grow as an author and by the time he got to The Stars My Destination, had lost the fascination with Freudian psychoanalysis and reeled in the gadget porn a bit.

I give it 2.5 gleaming silver rocket ships out of 4. Some of the modernist prose is effective and Bester can tell a gripping story, even if it doesn’t add up to much in the end.

NFL to Rush: Do Not Want

It amuses me to no end that the NFL, a bunch of rich white men who buy and trade strapping black athletes for fun and profit, do not want to let Rush Limbaugh into their little club because he’s too much of a racist.

Also amusing: the call by some conservative bloggers to boycott the NFL. Yeah. Let me know how that goes for you. As Elvira put it, Football is the one true American religion. You can take away their Jesus, but don’t mess with the Superbowl.

This Can Only End Well

PZ Myers alerts us to a new mission of sorts for those wacky kids over at Conservapedia*:

The Bible is suffused with liberal bias. A lot of the Old Testament isn’t bad, but the New Testament, when Jesus makes the scene, suddenly takes a turn into commie-land, with it’s talk of helping the poor and camels and needles and so forth. Jesus was obviously misquoted all over the place.

So what to do? When your claim of godly authority rests on your interpretation of God’s holy word, but God’s holy words contradict your desired ends, you’re in a bit of a pickle. There is a solution, though: rewrite the Bible and change the liberal bits! For this reason some of the deranged editors at Conservapædia** have launched The Conservative Bible Project, which will purge the wimpy stuff and return it to it’s authentic roots, as a book that could have been written by a dumb-as-a-stick American Republican NRA member who wants to kill communists and A-rabs.

Meanwhile, the sadlynaughts provide us a detailed lists of changes the Conservative Bible Project will make.

1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, “gender inclusive” language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level[3]
4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop;[4] defective translations use the word “comrade” three times as often as “volunteer”; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as “word”, “peace”, and “miracle”.
5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as “gamble” rather than “cast lots”;[5] using modern political terms, such as “register” rather than “enroll” for the census
6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word “Lord” rather than “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” or “Lord God.”

As Brad at Sadly No! points out, there’s absolutely no contradiction whatsoever in wanting to simultaneously simplify the language of the Bible (no. 10) while preserving it’s robust philosophical and poetical content (no. 3). None at all. The whole thing is gorgeous, but that little bit is just breath taking. I also love the idea of re-wording Jesus’ parables to remove the wuss factor and flaming socialism. “suffer the little children” becomes a hymn to the glories of sweatshop labor while “the meek shall inherit the Earth” becomes a polemic against the Death Tax. They’ll have to add something in there about the masculine joy of shooting guns in the woods with your buddies and a lengthy explanation of how loving Jesus is totally not gay.

I’ve noticed an interesting trend of late among Right Wingers: attempting to imitate the surface detail of intellectualism while undermining it completely. It’s like they want to destroy the very notion of an ivory tower by building an even bigger one out of total bullshit and then hiring some passing dimwit to paint it white. This is the only explanation I can think of for Bob Jones University or the promotion of Ayn Rand as the bulwark of Conservative Philosophy.

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* Conservapedia: it’s like Wikipedia, but without all that stringent fact checking.

**PZ uses the alternate spelling Conservapædia to avoid troll spam from Conservapedia, who in the past have wrecked his forums with racist and insulting language directed both at commentors and at Myers himself. They’re a fun gang of primates.

Brain Spill

Here’s a bunch of links to stuff. I’m dumping them here, so I know where to find it all later. It doesn’t all fit together in any sort of meaningful way, unless it does.

Buddha Machine – a little box that loops an MP3 of monks chanting or ambient music. Not only is the idea cool, I love the name. Buddha Machine. It could be a band or the title for a future book.

Ghost States – What happens when your tiny island nation is drowned completely by global warming-swelled seas but all the members of that nation want to keep their cultural identity and political power? You’re now a Ghost State, that’s what.

Ghost Fleet of the Recession:

Here, on a sleepy stretch of shoreline at the far end of , is surely the biggest and most secretive gathering of ships in maritime history. Their numbers are equivalent to the entire British and American navies combined; their tonnage is far greater. Container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers – all should be steaming fully laden between , Britain, and the US, stocking camera shops, PC Worlds and Argos depots ahead of the retail pandemonium of 2009. But their water has been stolen.

They are a powerful and tangible representation of the hurricanes that have been wrought by the global economic crisis; an iron curtain drawn along the coastline of the southern edge of Malaysia’s rural Johor state, 50 miles east of Singapore harbour.

From BoingBoing, a story (possibly apocryphal) about a neo-Amazonian movement of Ukranian women trying to escape that country’s hideous human trafficking problem. If it isn’t true, it should be.

Double barrels of io9, who recently ran a whole series on sci-fi urban planning: Megalopolisomancy (how cities are haunted by history) and cities as battlesuit against the future.

The up side of smartphones in rural places with no place on the map.

Whitopia– where subconscious racism and the banal horror of exurbia meet.

And a flicker set of photos form a recent red sand storm in Australia, that looks like something out of Mad Max.