8:17pm: A fallback message arrangement
Since I'm intentionally not publishing an email address here at the moment and my current email setup doesn't seem to be 100% reliable for incoming mail, I'm creating this entry for people who don't have an email address for me or do have one but suspect that emails aren't getting through.
Comments to this entry will all be screened so that any private messages hopefully won't get released to the rest of the universe.
While most of the LJs listed are already on my friends list, I have added a few others who look likely to be posting from or about LoneStarCon 3 - though I may be dropping at least some of them again in a few weeks once it has receded into the distance. However, if you are one of the new additions, friending me back or having met me in real life or writing interestingly enough in your LJ that I have to keep reading it are good tactics for keeping you on my friends list.
If you spot any interesting LJs, LJ feeds - or indeed other web resources - about LoneStarCon 3, please feel free to comment here to tell me about them.
Stefan Cernohuby (Austria) Ioana Visan (Romania) Aleksandra Davydova (Russia) Leonid Kaganov (Russia) Livia Hlavackova (Slovakia) Boris Georgiev (Georgia) Julia Novakova (Czech Republic) Oleg Silin (Ukraine) Martin Vavpotic (Slovenia) Anton Lik (Belarus)
Harry Harrison (in memoriam) Boris Strugatsky (in memoriam)
While most of the LJs listed are already on my friends list, I have added others who look likely to be posting from or about Chicon 7 - though probably dropping at least some of them again in a few weeks once it has receded into the distance. However, if you are one of the new additions, friending me back or having met me in real life or writing interestingly enough in your LJ that I have to keep reading it are good tactics for keeping you on my friends list.
If you spot any interesting LJs, LJ feeds - or indeed other web resources - about Chicon 7, please feel free to comment here to tell me about them.
11:55pm: British rowing's forgotten silver medallist
Sometime fifty years ago this summer (quite likely fifty years ago sometime last week), a young British woman of 19 or 20 with some rather odd luggage stood arguing with American border guards at Checkpoint Charlie. Yes, she knew what she was doing, she was expected in East Berlin, she had a formal invitation. After several hours of arguing, they let her (and her luggage) through. The people waiting for her on the other side of the border had given up on her coming and gone. She had to take a taxi to where she was going, and got there with only an hour to spare before her first race.
The young woman's name was Penny Chuter and, by all available accounts, she was the best British woman rower of her generation. On 19 August 1962, she won the silver medal in single sculls at the Women's European Rowing Championships, which were being held that year at Grünau, in the suburbs of East Berlin. The "odd luggage" was her sculls, though she borrowed an East German boat. ( Read more...Collapse ) And by now, very few seem aware that she was perhaps the most talented British rower in an admittedly weak period for British rowing.
12:04am: Warning! Severe spatio-temporal anomalies in north London
Earlier today, I wondered whether a mysterious pattern of delays in the election count for London Mayor might indicate the existence of a black hole somewhere near Alexandra Palace. despotliz kindly pointed me, via the Guardian liveblog, to a rather more mundane explanation involvoing a power cut. However...
Two ballot boxes full of votes from Brent and Harrow constituency seem to have slipped into a wormhole yesterday evening and have only recently rematerialised in normal space-time, apparently somewhere in the region of Alexandra Palace. Moreover, this has apparently meant that, while the ballot papers were designed for scanning into an electronic counting system, they are now having to be counted by hand.
Actually, this brings back memories. Thirty years ago, plus or minus a couple of days, I went to my first "proper" (i.e. not student union) election count - I was standing as a Labour candidate for the local council. It wasn't exactly a good time to be a Labour candidate - for several months, the Social Democratic/Liberal Alliance had been attracting both Labour and Tory voters, except that the Falklands War was now at its height and the Tory voters had mostly moved back to Thatcher. In every local ward except one, the Tories took all the council seats, the Alliance candidates came next, leaving the Labour candidates trailing in last place. The one exception was that, in the one local ward where we already had a councillor (two over from where I was standing), we held onto that seat and gained another.
Except that in fact we hadn't. The next morning, someone realised that the voting figures for that ward did not properly add up, a search was done of the room where the count had taken place, and there were two still sealed ballot boxes under a table. The count was hurriedly restarted - this time resulting in three Tory councillors and exactly the same order of candidates as in all the other wards, except that I think that the top Labour candidate got a few more votes than the bottom Alliance one.
And this all took place just a few miles west of Alexandra Palace, and just a few miles east of Brent and Harrow. Could it have been the same wormhole?
1:37pm: Is there a black hole near Alexandra Palace?
Having (as always) voted a straight Labour ticket yesterday in the London elections yesterday, I'm keeping more than half an eye on the counts for Mayor and Assembly - and I've noticed something.
For the Assembly election that takes place alongside the Mayoral one, London is divided into fourteen constituencies, and the counting of ballot papers for both Mayor and Assembly for each constituency is taking place at one of three different sites - Excel for five constituencies covering east and south-east London, Olympia for five constituencies covering west and south-west London, and Alexandra Palace for the remaining four, covering north London. The official LondonElects website is providing a more-or-less live feed of the count. However, four out of the fourteen constituencies seem to be counting distinctly more slowly than the rest (the figures for this are below the bar chart showing the current interim result) - and the four constituencies concerned are the ones being counted at Alexandra Palace.
Something near Alexandra Palace is clearly causing a temporal distortion - and, if one discounts sheer human inefficiency as a possible explanation, a nearby black hole looks like one of the more plausible alternatives. Memory tells me that this isn't the first time that election counts for London-wide elections at Alexandra Palace have been suspiciously slow compared with those elsewhere, so the black hole may have been there a while - though, if so, I can't explain why it doesn't seem to manifest between elections.
Though, to be honest, I'm not sure that I would discount human inefficiency - the organisation of at least one previous Alexandra Palace count, at which I was present, was undertaken by Barnet council staff (despite Alexandra Palace being in Haringey - I think it was because Barnet is the largest borough within the four constituencies), and over thirty years, I don't think I have ever known the level of organisation of a Barnet election count ever get above "satisfactory" (and it's often been below).
On the election itself, Boris Johnson is currently ahead of Ken Livingstone and looks almost certain to win (boo), but in my local constituency, Barnet and Camden, the Labour candidate looks like winning the seat from its long-standing incumbent and somewhat notorious Tory, Brian Coleman - even though within Barnet and Camden, Johnson is leading Livingstone by some distance. It looks as if I have been rather atypical in voting a straight party ticket.
To start on a tangent - I have nominated four novels for the Hugos this year. Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (last year's Clarke winner, but eligible for the Hugos this year because of delayed American publication). The Islanders by a certain Christopher Priest. Embassytown by China Miéville. And Rule 34 by Charles Stross. That's right - leaving aside Zoo City, I've nominated Priest's latest novel, a novel he has labelled as an inferior one by a potentially great writer, and one whose inclusion on the Clarke shortlist he has called "indefensible". And nothing he has said has caused me to doubt my choices. ( Some more detailed reaction...Collapse ) So, the nominees may be able to look after themselves, but the judges? Under these conditions, any panel confronted with any attack - even one consisting of M. John Harrison, John Clute, Christopher Priest, Ursula K. LeGuin and David Langford, attacked by a teenager with a couple of showy but nonsensical arguments - could find difficulty in responding. The judges may be an easy target, but then - any target working under rules that don't allow it to respond to attack is easy.
8:44pm: The first volume of a new Paula Volsky trilogy now out???
Just under a year ago, I posted an entry here headed A new Paula Volsky trilogy out next year? It started "I think that I have firm evidence that the first volume of a new trilogy by Paula Volsky, probably set in a different world from that of her previous novels, will be published next autumn" and finished "But one thing puzzles me - why no formal announcement yet?" (in between, I said a bit about Volsky's previous novels and the evidence for a forthcoming trilogy).
Nearly a year later, still apparently no announcement - but two comments to that entry, one (a few months back) remarking on the continuing lack of an announcement. And the second one, yesterday, telling me that the first volume is out but under a pseudonym - The Traitor's Daughter by Paula Brandon (ISBN: 0553583808).
No more evidence so far than an LJ comment from someone I had never come across before, but I am rather inclined to believe it. The fact is, I'd already guessed but was unable to come up with any real evidence. Roughly the same publication date as I'd been expecting, the same publisher, a similar title to what previous rumours had been suggesting ("The Traitor's House", if I remember correctly), even the same author's first name - very coincidental but... And, while Volsky was never forthcoming about biographical details, the couple I have picked up about Brandon match Volsky's. What leads me to believe it, though, are details in the advance reviews - the character names feel similar (though not the same), ditto the vaguely Miévillesque non-humans, ditto mechanical intelligences, ditto a story starting in a situation ripe for revolution.
The oddity if so, though, is that the only direct evidence in favour I have had so far is the one LJ comment. I would have expected someone else to have made the connection and mentioned it. And, indeed, quite a few of the reviews obviously regard this as a first novel. But even so, there's enough to make me feel that the commenter was probably telling me the truth. So I had better get hold of a copy and see whether reading it makes me feel this even more strongly.
While most of the LJs listed are already on my friends list, I have added others who look likely to be posting from or about Renovation - though probably dropping at least some of them again in a few weeks once it has receded into the distance. However, if you are one of the new additions, friending me back or having met me in real life or writing interestingly enough in your LJ that I have to keep reading it are good tactics for keeping you on my friends list.
If you spot any interesting LJs, LJ feeds - or indeed other web resources - about Renovation, please feel free to comment here to tell me about them.
1:07am: Did YOU pass the English Baccalaureate?
I have a confession to make - forty years ago this year, I failed the English Baccalaureate. Of course, the English Baccalaureate didn't exist forty years ago - but it still didn't exist last summer when, the government tells us, tens of thousands of teenagers failed it. So this petty objection can not negate my failure. ( Now for the detailsCollapse ) So that was me. What about you? Did YOU pass the English Baccalaureate?
1:21am: A new Paula Volsky trilogy out next year?
I think that I have firm evidence that the first volume of a new trilogy by Paula Volsky, probably set in a different world from that of her previous novels, will be published next autumn, with the remaining two volumes to follow soon after. Assuming I am right, this is news!
2:17am: When liberals turn Islamophobe
I have twice got myself into unpleasant arguments about medieval history - and both times (to caricature a bit) my opponents telling me that Islam was so e-e-evil that "Islamic civilisation", in any period, was a contradiction in terms and that I must be some kind of apologist for Islam to suggest otherwise. The second time was in a Wikipedia edit spat - the first, a few weeks after 9/11 was with someone who, up to then, I'd respected as a genuine liberal and, with severe reservations, still do. Unfortunately, Elizabeth Moon has just demonstrated, nearly eight years later, that her views on Islam have not changed.
Well, more than enough people have piled into her this time and I'm not going to add to them, as she obviously isn't going to change her views on the topic (except perhaps to harden them further). But I would note that in this she is just an extreme case of a phenomenon I've come across repeatedly during the past few years - the person whose liberal views attenuate or vanish when Islam is the topic of discussion.
So, if that's you (and it probably is most of us to some extent, including me), don't assume that just because some Muslims believe that Islam mandates terrorism against non-Muslims or apostates, or female circumcision, or wearing burqas, or telling non-Muslims how to lead their lives, that most or all do - or that it's the real Islamic view. Islam contains as great a spectrum of views as Christianity (or atheism), and different parts of the Quran are just as open to different readings as the Bible. And while terrorism or female circumcision must not be condoned, accept that those who believe these to be enjoined by their religion usually do so genuinely - and that you, as a Christian, Jew or atheist, are unlikely to be able to persuade them otherwise. If you can, find another Muslim whose views they will respect to do so instead.
Yes, many Muslims living in America or Europe have found it difficult to come to an accommodation with their host societies - and even more of those living in Islamic countries have seen no point in accommodating to the non-Muslim world. But that's something to be worked on, not used as a reason to condemn or criticise their religious beliefs.
Second, while I've not done any canvassing so far at this election, I've done it many times before - and one of the main rules of canvassing is "don't get into an argument on the doorstep - particularly with someone who might vote for your party". Unfortunately, that very occasionally means standing on a doorstep for five minutes listening to an extremely toxic rant and maintaining a very fixed smile - and I'm sure that, a couple of times, I've muttered far more offensive things than "bigot" once off the doorstep.
Third (of course), while we don't (yet) live in anything close to a panopticon society, we are closer to it than ever before - and public figures closer still. Gordon Brown was, metaphorically, still on the doorstep until out of reach of every microphone and camera, and he should have remembered it.
Fourthly, is Mrs Duffy a bigot? Unfortunately, though I'm not happy to say so, yes. A bigot can probably be best characterised as a person who believes that most (right-thinking) people agree with them (the "lurkers support me in email" syndrome?) - and that seems to be true of Mrs Duffy.
Fifthly, I'm not happy to say that Mrs Duffy is a bigot, because she almost certainly did not deserve to be outed as one. An elderly woman in a Lancashire former mill town has every reason to believe that her social environment is no longer what it was - and in fact significantly worse than what it was. And to believe that something must have made it that way. And, if she couldn't find sufficient good reasons for that, should we be surprised that she found bad ones?
And finally, even if (as I suspect) millions of English people agree with Mrs Duffy's comment about eastern Europeans "flocking" to this country, it's something of a disaster that that seems to be the case.
To start with, the eastern Europeans concerned are by and large leading very productive lives here, and have every reason to feel demeaned and offended by such attacks - and I find elmyra's comments about it on LJ (followed up here) and the Guardian website fully justifiable.
And, even leaving the feelings of eastern European immigrants aside, the attitude makes no sense for us previous inhabitants. Consider that, while all major parties are treating immigration as a problem, none of the major parties are proposing to stop, or even hamper, immigration from eastern Europe - and ask why.
The first reason is that it would be in clear contradiction of EU rules on internal freedom of movement. Though that is not much of a reason (after all, the Conservatives at least are against plenty of other EU rules) until one considers the next one.
Which is that, collectively, we British gain distinctly more than we lose from those EU rules. If we want to retire to Bulgaria - or, more likely, Spain or France - it is those rules that allow us to do so. If we want a weekend break in Prague, Paris, Rome or Berlin without first queuing for three hours at the relevant embassy and completing a ten-page form, again it is those rules that allow us to do so.
And the rules have to work both ways. If we want the right to flock to the rest of the EU - and we do - the other inhabitants of the EU are perfectly entitled to flock here in return.
Though, finally, note that this dumps the worst effects of all parties' placatory gestures against immigration on non-EU immigrants. And just how fair is that?
EDIT: Do note that, if you "help" me, your vote will not be entirely secret - I'm fairly sure that the badges are automatically updated and that any sufficiently persistent and unscrupulous LJ user could use this fact to find out how you had voted.
7:36pm: Why you need to be very careful with election statistics
I think I had already come across at least one reference to Voter Power, a website designed to show you (if you are a British voter) how much your vote is "worth" in the forthcoming general election. However, it was a post by the_magician that got me interested enough to look. My verdict? Nice graphics, they have calculated an impressive set of statistics - but unfortunately the content is very much an example of what can go wrong if you concentrate on figures to the exclusion of everything else.
By the way, declaration of interest: I'm a Labour Party member and will occasionally be out campaigning over the next few weeks - but I don't think that influences what I say below (much). ( And just why...Collapse )
The first was the New Scientist sci-fi special issue, with an already much-discussed article on this topic by Kim Stanley Robinson together with some reviews and several short-short stories by leading British SF writers - a good collection of items relating to contemporary (particularly British) SF.
The second was an issue of the New Statesman guest-edited by the British Labour politician Ken Livingstone. Also advertised as (in part) a "sci-fi special", the SF-related items were relatively disappointing - an adequately competent article by Toby Litt which, however, mentioned no contemporary written SF apart from Toby Litt's forthcoming novel, a list of science fiction classics stopping with Neuromancer and an interview of Iain Banks by Ken Livingstone, whose introductory question understandably stars in this month's issue of Ansible (but I would add - read the interview. Ken Livingstone is an SF fan, if not a well-read or active one).
The third was the most recent issue of Prospect, which didn't mention SF on either its cover or contents page - but nevertheless has three clearly SF-related items in its Arts & Books section. I will leave identifying them as an exercise for the reader - but will give these clues: - One is an interesting reminiscence of a well-known SF writer by a personal friend. - Another is a review of two recent Canadian SF novels which treats them as SF (despite the known opinions of one of the writers concerned about SF). - The third is a review of a novel by an Irish mainstream novelist which is clearly speculative fiction (and, depending on definitions, may be science fiction). Unlike the other two items, the review does not mention SF (in any form) at all.
An interesting and instructive assortment, I think.