Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net


Archive for the 'General' Category

Launch Pad 2017 – Apply Now

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

In the summer of 2012 I was lucky enough to attend Launch Pad, a week-long, wide-ranging crash course on current astronomy put on by Mike Brotherton, Professor of Astronomy at the University of Wyoming. Launch Pad was created for writers, editors, and people in film and other media, with the goal of improving the scientific accuracy of our stories and promoting a culture of science.

The sessions are a lot of fun! And the time is now to get your application in for this year’s session.

Find more information here at Launchpad’s website.

Check out the list of past attendees!

Silence Is Consent

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

For a long time, I didn’t discuss political issues here or on Twitter but I ended that policy last fall. Failing to object, to protest, the actions of the new administration constitutes failure as a citizen of the United States. Silence is consent — and I don’t concede to any of this.

Here is my understanding of the latest transgression undertaken by this administration:

Yesterday, the president signed an illegal executive order that effectively bans immigration from certain countries on the basis of religion. The executive order affects countries that are predominantly Muslim, but does not include those Muslim countries in which the president does business, for example, Saudi Arabia, source of most of the 9/11 terrorists. The order affected not only refugees, but also green-card holders including those presently serving in the United States military. Immigrants just arrived in our country, with legal paperwork that took years to obtain, were stopped at customs.

The ACLU, along with other organizations, immediately called on the courts to intervene, and they were successful in part, getting an order to release those being illegally held at airports. Some were released. Then reports surfaced that some Customs/Homeland Security staff refused to obey the court orders — an illegal act — saying they would only obey the president. This is how government works in a dictatorship, not here in the United States of America.

All of this seems to have been done with two purposes in mind:

(1) to further split the American public between those who want a law-abiding government loyal to the Constitution, with checks and balances to limit the power of each branch so that our freedoms are not compromised and we do not wind up living under a dictatorship, and those who, in the words of the president himself, would continue to support him even if he stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot someone.

(2) to distract from the ascension of alt-right icon and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon to the National Security Council, while removing both the the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as regular members.

Here is a statute defining who can be on the NSC. Note that the Chief Strategist is not included, and that those who are need to be vetted by the Senate. A question I would like answered: Does Bannon have a security clearance?

This is but a small part of the damage the president has done in his first week in office.

American democracy will only survive if the American people want it to. We are rapidly sliding toward dictatorship. Everyone of us who fails to object is, by their silence, consenting to this dictatorship.

An excellent essay by Eliot A. Cohen calls this “a clarifying moment in American history.”

For the community of conservative thinkers and experts, and more importantly, conservative politicians, this is a testing time. Either you stand up for your principles and for what you know is decent behavior, or you go down, if not now, then years from now, as a coward or opportunist. Your reputation will never recover, nor should it.

Make no mistake: What you are witnessing now will comprise a major chapter in history classes in the future.

What can you do? Call your Congressional representative and your senator. Talk to their staff about specific issues. Let them know you will not stand for the corruption of the American system of checks and balances. Demand that they take specific action to protect our Republic. Demand that they begin impeachment proceedings to remove this vile and dangerous man from the highest office in the land.

Be vigilant. Be persistent. Stand up for your country.

This is the symbol of the resistance:

What is an executive order?

For more information and links, see my Twitter account.

Recommended Audiobook:
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Friday, January 13th, 2017

The full title of Trevor Noah’s childhood memoir is Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. I picked this audiobook because it had been named a best book of the year by several publications, and because the sample I listened to hooked me immediately.

I can’t say I was a fan of Trevor Noah before this. Really, I knew almost nothing about him except that he was the new host of The Daily Show. But I’m a fan now.

Trevor Noah reads the audiobook himself. He has a wonderful voice and is multilingual, speaking not just the various accents of the characters in the story, but also speaking brief sentences in native languages as he narrates incidents.

The title, Born a Crime, refers to Trevor himself. He was born under apartheid, the son of a black woman and a white man — his very existence evidence of an illegal act — and for the first several years of his life his parents hid him from officials and nosy neighbors.

The quality of the storytelling in this book is amazing. Trevor relates many experiences, beginning in his childhood and progressing through the start of his career as a comedian. Throughout, he reflects with great insight, intelligence, and empathy on what he’s seen and what he’s done. He speaks truths without outrage, but rather in a “let’s talk, let’s get real” style that is easy to listen to, but still powerfully communicates the hardships and the challenges faced by those who endure bigotry, poverty, and destructive cultures. He delves into issues of misogyny and the rights of women, and the incredible strength, independence and stubbornness of his own mother. He discusses racism, skin color, apartheid, poverty, education, the police, life in an abusive home, and making a living when your options are few.

Despite all that, this book is in no sense a downer. Quite the opposite: The strength of spirit and determination that exists in every story that Trevor tells is both inspiring and uplifting.

Highly recommended.

Xena-Rose

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

I finally got a new dog. I was a dog owner for most of my life, but I’ve gone without since my last one died at least six years ago. I’ve been casually looking around for a new dog for a couple of years, and this past weekend I finally took the plunge — even though I wasn’t entirely sure it was the right decision. Wow, was I nervous! It seems that the older I get, the more problems I have with commitment. But on Sunday I brought home a Pomeranian puppy. This will be the smallest dog I’ve ever owned, by far.

Her name is Xena-Rose. She earned the name of a warrior princess after dragging her carrier across the floor.

The settling-in process has been chaotic, but I think we’re starting to figure each other out. I even got some work done today!

xena-rose_day1

Worse & Worse

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

I’ve been reading a lot of election analysis over the past week and, incredibly, much of it seeks to point fingers of blame for the Republican victory at the Democratic party, or at “social justice warriors,” or at very generalized groups. Today’s guilty party was straight middle-class white women, of which I am one. Blame me if you want to, but it’s bullshit.

The Republican candidate won either because the election was hacked (and no one is talking about it), or because enough people rejected a fully qualified candidate in favor of one who lacks good judgment according to 74% of exit poll respondents.

Granted, we now know that polls are utterly worthless. But it appears that people knew what they were buying, and they bought it anyway. This is mind boggling to me. Honesty, humility, knowledge, and a propensity for public service used to be valued traits in this country. Apparently, no longer.

The Day After

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

Just a brief post, as a coda to my pessimistic thoughts from a few days ago:

I didn’t sleep much last night and I’m sure many others didn’t either. My feelings on the result of the election are shock, and a real fear for the future. We are embarked on a great experiment and no one can say where it will go. It’s my hope that the Republican administration, when they gain control of all three branches of the federal government in January, will remember to respect the rights of individuals, our personal freedoms, and our shared environment. This is my hope, though I fear for those on the margins, and those who will soon lose their healthcare insurance. I hope my pessimism is misplaced. May it all turn out better than expected.

Pessimism

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

A couple of years ago I answered some interview questions posed by former SFWA publicist Jaym Gates. I’ve been thinking back on one of those questions lately, reflecting that I would answer it differently now. Here’s the original question and answer:

There’s an element of hope in your work, even in the military SF. What are your thoughts on the future, and what can we do to make it brighter?

My dad once told me that during the Cuban missile crisis (I was not quite two years old at the time) he was expecting nuclear Armageddon and was regretting that he’d ever brought children into the world. But what are you going to do? Every age has its terrors. I grew up in front of a TV that showed me the Vietnam War, assassinations, riots. There was Silent Spring, and the Doomsday Clock just minutes from midnight. For a time I was convinced I would die in a nuclear war before I was twenty. But it didn’t happen. We go on—and I learned to be more optimistic. There are classic novels in which everything ends very badly. They are warning novels, but that’s not what I want to write. I don’t have any formula for making the world a better place, but from the perspective of a former pessimist, it’s much better to hope, to imagine that we really do go on, and to do what we can to see that it happens.

That optimism I regained after the Cold War is mostly gone now, destroyed over the past few months as the Republican candidate continues to hold onto the support and adulation of a large percentage of the American people, regardless of how many times he says or does things that would have led to his rejection as a candidate in years past.

In an essay from last month, Ezra Klein references history by asking At long last, have we no decency?.

If we elect him, there will be no excusing our actions to future generations, no pleading ignorance in the face of threat. It was all here. It was all obvious. It will all be visible to our children, and to historians.

Read the piece in full here. It captures my feelings nicely.

What will also be visible to future generations, assuming we are still here to discuss it, is the utter lack of interest in the issue of climate change throughout this election. As if by ignoring the issue, everything will be all right. I don’t think so, and neither does astrophysicist Dr Katherine J Mack, who recently tweeted:

And while not directly related to the election, there is the travesty that took place at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge – an armed takeover for which no one is responsible. That legal result threatens the future of all federal lands in this country, as well as the federal employees who care for those lands. This is an issue personal to me, that I’ll write about more in coming days.

In the meantime, PLEASE VOTE.

For those interested, here’s an earlier post I wrote on this election.

Ordinary Citizens

Saturday, October 15th, 2016

Curious about the process behind American elections? Click this tweet and then read the whole series:

And a big thank you to the ordinary citizens who participate in this process by serving as election officials.

Strange Days

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

“Nonlinear war” is a concept I used in Going Dark. This weekend seems like the perfect time to revisit Peter Pomerantsev’s 2014 Foreign Policy article discussing the idea. In “How Putin Is Reinventing Warfare” he says:

“…look closer at the Kremlin’s actions during the crisis in Ukraine and you begin to see a very 21st century mentality, manipulating transnational financial interconnections, spinning global media, and reconfiguring geo-political alliances […] This is a world where the old geo-political paradigms no longer hold. As the Kremlin faces down the West, it is indeed gambling that old alliances like the EU and NATO mean less in the 21st century than the new commercial ties it has established with nominally ‘Western’ companies.”

Read it in full here.

Links and Recommendations

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

As if you don’t already have enough distractions…

I failed to post here at my blog for almost the entire month of February, so I’m making up for it with a flurry of posts in early March. (If posting regularly is the key to building a blog readership, well, that explains a lot.)

Recommended Audiobooks

Hyperion by Dan SimmonsHyperion and The Fall of Hyperion
by Dan Simmons:
These are science fiction classics that I loved back when they were originally published, and they are just as amazing today. Instead of re-reading, I listened to the audiobooks and was extremely impressed by the production. I’ve been listening to audiobooks for only about nine months, and early on I got into the habit of listening at a slightly faster than normal speed, usually 1.25x, unless I really wasn’t enjoying a book and then I would shift to 1.5x. But with these books I downshifted to 1.0x because every word is worth hearing. Truly amazing writing, characters, and world building. I’ll be moving on to the next book in the set, Endymion, before too long.

Annihilation by Jeff VandermeerThe Southern Reach Trilogy
by Jeff Vandermeer:
Audible had all three volumes of the Southern Reach trilogy — Annihilation, Authority, Acceptance — in an omnibus edition, available for a ridiculously low one credit, so I decided it was high time I familiarized myself with these much-acclaimed novels. I’m not entirely sure what I expected of the Southern Reach, but I was surprised at what I found. These are “literary” novels. They engage with fine language and description and, especially in the first two books, there is much time spent exploring the odd and troubled pasts of the main characters. At times I found it slow going, and early on I tweeted this:

What kept me going was the truly amazing writing, and a wonderful cast of narrators. As above, I slowed this one down to 1.0x speed, to catch every word, and as the story proceeded, I began to feel I was drawn into a spell of words and insight. I also felt that the quality of my own writing was improving as I continued to listen — a very nice side effect!

Of the three volumes, the third was my favorite. I found it the most engrossing, as some of the mysteries are being worked out. Some reader reviews complained that the ending was too abrupt, but I didn’t find it so. Highly recommended.

Links

• In midFebruary SF Signal published a piece by James Wallace Harris called Staying on the Cutting Edge of Science Fiction. I found it to be an interesting look at how the idea of what constitutes “cutting edge” technology shifts over time and how technologically based science fiction responds to that, especially since this is a subject I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. James suggests that writers wanting to “extrapolate about the impact of real scientific knowledge … can’t let older science fiction cloud their vision.” I think this is a very important point. The post was surrounded by controversy though, because none of the books cited as examples were written by women. I wish it had been different and that the post had included a more varied list of examples. Nevertheless, I thought it was an interesting perspective.

• Yesterday Charles Stross published a very entertaining and thought-provoking piece called Towards a taxonomy of cliches in Space Opera, in which are listed several hundred “already seen it” tropes from science fiction. To my mind, this list is asking a similar question to that above: what’s new? and what’s left to explore in a literary sense?

• And finally, just for fun… this was making the rounds a few weeks ago, but if you haven’t seen it yet, check it out, and know that we are doomed: