This post from JCW https://www.scifiwright.com/2022/09/prices-in-the-1930s/ appears to take most of its data from here https://www.thepeoplehistory.com/30sfood.html but draws a weird conclusion about inflation.
The basket of goods listed aren’t easy to compare with current prices except when they are fairly generic (e.g. “Kellogs Corn Flakes 3 Pkgs” doesn’t say the size of the packets). I picked four examples though (eggs, bacon, spinach, bananas) to do a rough comparison of the cost proportional to US average wage. Wright gives the 1931 average wage as $1,850 and I got the 2020 average wage as $55,628.60 from here https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/AWI.html. Median wage would have been better but I went with what I was given.
Good Unit 1930’s 2020’s %of av wage 1930’s %of av wage 2020’s eggs dozen $0.18 $2.94 0.010% 0.005% bananas pound $0.19 $0.64 0.010% 0.001% spinach pound $0.05 $1.31 0.003% 0.002% bacon pound $0.38 $6.52 0.021% 0.012%
All four were relatively cheaper now than then. Which isn’t surprising because they are all the kinds of goods produced at a more industrial scale now than then.
Larry Correia’s forthcoming book on guns-n-stuff won’t be released for a few months still but the probable contents is revealed by other means. A recent Twitter thread has been compiled here https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1575499318827528197.html and while it is somewhat of an incoherent rant, it does provide a glimpse into forthcoming topics.
“For my upcoming gun rights book I have a chapter that looks at crime and murder rates. Basically America doesn’t have a murder problem, big dumb blue cities have a wacky murder problem. Most of America is pretty chill.”
The Twitter rant was prompted by supporters of the Biden presidency pointing out the high murder rates in states which had been won by Trump. Correia’s narrow point is that the highest murder rates in those “Trump states” occurs in the bigger cities in those states which, in turn, have higher proportions of Democratic party voters. The broader point being that the high murder rate of the US, in general, is an urban thing, not a rural thing. This fits into his argument about guns because those cities also are more likely to have relatively stricter gun control than rural areas.
Firstly it is worth conceding that urban areas typically have more crime per capita than rural areas. In fact, that is even more true than Correia is stating because it is true in the UK and in Australia and in Canada and in France and as far as I know probably everywhere. Urban areas have a higher density of people, meaning there are more interactions between people, as well as many other factors that contribute not just to levels of crime (including things like age distributions) but also to reported levels of crime. This is true in countries with strict policing and in countries with right-wing governments having strong political control over cities as well as countries with softer policing and more left-leaning control of cities. The US isn’t atypical in that regard but it is atypical in its murder rates for Western democracy.
For example, the big, dense, multicultural and often chaotic metropolis of London (UK) had a murder rate in 2020 of 1.4 murders per 100 thousand people in 2020. Whereas the state of Utah (US) had a murder rate in 2020 of 3.1 murders per 100 thousand people in 2020. Still, even though Utah as a whole is much less densely populated than London, the murders that contribute to the murder rate are in more urban areas. Still, Correia has a point of sorts here even if he isn’t articulating it well — the relationships that there appear to be between gun ownership or support for the GOP and murder rates appear and disappear as we look at different geographic levels.
Correia goes on to claim:
“Big blue cities are shitty and getting worse every day, but I know, let’s turn every street into hobo camps, encourage street shitting and free heroin, and let all the rapists free and stuff will magically improve! It’s the power of social justice! Democrats are the only motherfuckers dumb enough to be all ACAB, Defund The Police, then they act all shocked and baffled when criminals do more crime.
Duh, you fucking dummies. What a crazy turn of events that nobody could have seen coming! America’s crime rate has been going down for 30 years. Until 2020, and the Great National Democrat Temper Tantrum, and all of a sudden we ditch all that progress and it’s 1993 level of murders again.”
Murder rates really did spike in 2020 but Correia’s suggested causes make very little sense compared to actual data. Firstly, consider the trends earlier in this century where levels of violent crime had declined. Serious violent crime really had been in decline for many years but that had occurred in both rural AND urban areas in fact the decline was greater in urban areas than rural areas in the period 1995-2015.
Just as that decline occurred across the rural/urban divide, so the recent surge in the US also was mirrored in both urban and rural areas. According to the very-much-not left-wing Wall Street Journal:
“Homicide rates in rural America rose 25% in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was the largest rural increase since the agency began tracking such data in 1999. The CDC considers counties rural if they are located outside metropolitan areas defined by the federal government. The rise came close to the 30% spike in homicide rates in metropolitan areas in 2020.”
Of course, neither all-cops-are-bastards nor defunding the police have actually been Democratic Party policy — Correia is simply conflating protestors on the left with Democrats in state and city government. However, even if we assume simply calls to defund the police (without any actual reduction in funding) caused a rise in violent crimes in cities, the parallel rise in rural areas would be left unexplained. The covid-19 pandemic seems the most likely answer but similar spikes are not seen consistently internationally. Either way, the spike was unlikely to be due to ACAB as a slogan, which is a shame because then presumably we could make murder rates go in the opposite direction by chanting nice things about the police, which I’d be willing to do if it magically saved lives.
While there have been broad parallel trends in violent crime across America, there have also been some cases of rural America bucking downward trends in recent years. There are multiple factors in play but one of them is, surprise-surprise, guns:
“As gun violence continues to fuel violent crime across the nation, some conservative politicians are not only refusing to support commonsense gun violence prevention measures but are also actively rolling back gun laws that help make our communities safer. Many of these same elected officials continue to perpetuate the narrative that gun violence is only a problem in urban, Democrat-led cities, and media outlets are skewing the public perspective by heavily focusing on gun violence in cities such as Chicago. The truth, however, is that rural communities—particularly in red states—have increasingly faced levels of gun violence that match or outpace urban areas.”
According to that same article from”2016 to 2020, 13 of the 20 U.S. counties with the most gun homicides per capita were rural” and of those 80% “are in states that received an “F” grade for their weak gun laws”.
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_London#Homicide
-  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_intentional_homicide_rate
-  https://housegrail.com/most-dangerous-cities-in-utah/
-  https://www.vox.com/22344713/murder-violent-crime-spike-surge-2020-covid-19-coronavirus
-  https://ovc.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh226/files/ncvrw2018/info_flyers/fact_sheets/2018NCVRW_UrbanRural_508_QC.pdf
-  https://archive.ph/yrV1W#selection-325.0-329.85
-  https://theconversation.com/homicide-is-on-the-rise-in-australia-should-we-be-concerned-178320 Australian homicide rates went up, the UK didn’t
-  it won’t so no need to start practising “all cops are very nice people”
-  https://www.americanprogress.org/article/gun-violence-in-rural-america/
Star Wars films and streaming shows tap into multiple layers of nostalgia but attempts to deliver the same feelings viewers had when they were younger can lead to disappointment. The strategy of producing spin-off films foundered when the underrated Solo was a commercial and financial disappointment. It is a better film than its premise but it set itself up to fail by promising an original adventure of a beloved character. The counterpoint to the spin-off strategy was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, another film set between the end of the prequel trilogy and (just) before the original trilogy. As an original story with (largely) original characters, Rogue One was surprisingly enjoyable even if the outcome (stealing the plans to the Death Star) was predetermined.
The spin-off movie strategy was replaced by a spin-off streaming show strategy when Disney launched its own streaming service. The latest show is Andor, a prequel to Rogue One, which makes it something of a prequel sandwich, sitting between the prequel movies in the timeline and before Rogue One which itself is a prequel. It follows the backstory of Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), the Rebel agent from Rogue One. While he was an interesting character, on paper the premise isn’t a promising one.
And yet, episodes 1 to 3 of the series by themselves tell a compelling and interesting story. This is easily one of the best attempts to flesh out the Star Wars settings that the streaming service has done. It makes use of the audience’s familiarity with the general circumstances (the evil Galactic Empire is in charge, individual planets are run corruptly, a rebellion is growing) to set the scene while providing an original setting and circumstance.
This takes me back to nostalgia. The original Star Wars films were products of the 70’s & 80’s which Andor acknowledges not by trying to recreate those shows but (apparently) by trying to recreate the 1980s or rather a specific kind of 1980s — the rain-soaked, post-industrial decline and growing authoritarianism of provincial Britain. This is an odd choice for a Star Wars property but a sensible choice for Cassian Andor, an ethically compromised man who is just trying to exist in a world (galaxy) that is becoming systemically cruel.
Cassian’s immediate circumstances lead him into an encounter that ends with two corporate security goons dead and Cassian in immediate need of a way off planet. That plot, is paired with a flashback story in which we meet Cassian as a child on the planet Kenari — a world devastated by a mining operation gone wrong, where he lives with a roaming tribe of youthful survivors. Now, this is where we get some really odd, and presumably intentional layers of 1980’s Britain.
The Kenari story, with the young people and their yellow clothes and post-technology society with broken advanced technology, appears to be intentionally evoking the Doctor Who story from 1980 Full Circle. It isn’t borrowing the plot of that story (which is a classic but very Doctor Who) but the general aesthetics of it but updated to modern production values.
Spies, grim industrial cities and Doctor Who serials but in the universe of The Empire Strikes Back? Andor has layers of British 80’s TV in it to a degree that can’t be an accident but all filtered through the lens of Star Wars and the current Disney+ aesthetic. To that extent, the underlying approach remains the extraction and recycling of older ideas but at least this is a more unusual set of things to recombine than Disney usually plays with. I assume a lot of this is due to the director of the first three episodes Toby Haynes who had previously worked on Doctor Who, Sherlock, Being Human and Black Mirror.
I won’t recap the plot of the first three episodes but both plotlines follow a complete story, with the end of the third episode taking Cassian into a new stage of his life. I really liked that aspect of the serial storytelling as well. There is plenty of momentum to the plot for me to really want to see what happens next but also if you left the show at that point, you would have a finished story arc.
Chapter 43 of Debarkle covered the shambolic “Tor Boycott” of June 2015, one of the more toxic phases of the Sad/Rabid Puppy campaigns. The issue at the time was a description of those campaigns as:
“There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, misogynist, and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.”
Peter Grant was a central figure in promoting the subsequent boycott of Tor Books. Grant was a regular blogger at Mad Genius Club (and later a published author at Castalia House) but was not one of the core organisers of the Sad Puppy campaigns. In an open letter to the founder of Tor Books, Grant stated:
“Given that background, you’ll understand that to be told by Ms. Gallo that, as a supporter of the Sad Puppy campaign, I’m “unrepentantly racist”, is utterly unacceptable to me. Furthermore, I’ve fought (and I mean exchanged gunfire with) real neo-Nazis who sought to impose Nazi-like ideals of racial purity on a country at war with itself. Thus, to be told that I’m a member of an “extreme right-wing to neo-nazi group” is equally unacceptable. I could go on cherry-picking individual clauses out of Ms. Gallo’s statements, but why bother? I think you can understand why I exploded with anger when I read it. She has no idea about those realities. I do. I will bear their scars, mental, spiritual and physical, until the day I die.”https://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com/2015/06/an-open-letter-to-tom-doherty-of-tor.html
Grant took a somewhat confused position as to whether he was or wasn’t a Sad Puppy i.e. for the purpose of taking offence at the description he saw himself as being part of the Sad Puppies but in the sense of whether the Tor Boycott was an action BY Sad Puppies, he wasn’t.
At the time, people opponents of the Puppies pointed out that Grant (and others) were taking the statement too expansively i.e. a reasonable reading of the statement did imply that all aspects applied to anybody sympathetic to Sad Puppy objectives and that the statement made a distinction between the Sad Puppies and the more overtly extreme Rabid Puppies.
The question of whether Grant was actually sympathetic to extreme right-wing groups that attempt to revive the ultra-nationalist ideologies of the axis powers and enact unrepentantly racist, misogynist, and homophobic policies was not a major topic of discussion.
However, in terms of data on that question, it would be worth considering the recent electoral success of Giorgia Meloni in Italy. Wikipedia describes the more controversial aspects of her career here:
“In a 1996 interview to the French newscast Soir 3, she praised Italian dictator Benito Mussolini as “a good politician, in that everything he did, he did for Italy”, and as the best politician of the last 50 years. In May 2020, she praised Giorgio Almirante, the co-founder of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), who was a Nazi collaborator and editor-in-chief of the antisemitic and racist magazine La Difesa della Razza, which published the “Manifesto of Race” in 1938. In December 2020, the independent journalistic TV program Report revealed through an investigative report that her party “has reached the negative record of arrests for mafia group ‘Ndrangheta“, and also having among her ranks Mussolini’s descendants, as well as fascist nostalgics, according to a 2021 investigative report by Fanpage.it. In November 2018, Meloni declared that the celebration of the Liberation Day, also known as the Anniversary of Italy’s Liberation from Nazi-Fascism on 25 April, and Festa della Repubblica, which celebrates the birth of the Italian Republic on 2 June, should be substituted with the National Unity and Armed Forces Day on 4 November, which commemorates Italy’s victory in World War I. She said that Liberation Day and Festa della Repubblica are “two controversial celebrations”. Meloni has tried to distance herself from her close ties to Roberto Jonghi Lavarini, a far-right Milanese politician and entrepreneur known as the “Black Barron”. In her 2021 biography book I am Giorgia, she wrote that Russia under Vladimir Putin defends European values and Christian identity.“https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giorgia_Meloni#Controversies
On the topic of Meloni, Peter Grant has praised her success and reposted highly favourable statements by Fox New’s Tucker Carlson. Grant goes so far as to hope for a similar candidate to Meloni to lead the US:
“Can we find, and elect, a similarly level-headed leader in this country? I honestly don’t know. I respect Donald Trump for breaking open the can of worms that we’ve come to call the “Deep State”, and exposing it to public view; but he’s also an egotist and a very, very polarizing and divisive figure. The Deep State and progressive politicians blocked many of his initiatives, and would redouble their efforts if he were re-elected. I’d prefer another candidate (and hopefully a younger one – we have enough geriatric politicians already!) Governor Desantis of Florida sounds interesting, but whether he has the national appeal needed to succeed on a broader stage is debatable. Are there other alternatives? Possibly, but I don’t see anyone standing out so clearly as Mr. Trump or Mr. Desantis.”https://bayourenaissanceman.blogspot.com/2022/09/sounds-like-italians-have-picked.html
Does this mean Grant is wholeheartedly endorsing everything Meloni may have said in the past or is aware of her endorsement of former Nazis? No, and nor does it mean that back in 2015 his views would have been the same as they are now. However, I would have added this 2022 endorsement of Meloni as context to the Debarkle chapter.
I was reading this neat summary of time travel rules in fiction and thinking about a couple of things basically angles and effort. The idea that a small change at one point leads to a big change in the future (aka two different kinds of things both known as a butterfly effect) predates modern science fiction. The proverb of consequences that typically starts with “for want of a nail” dates back to at least the 13th century and describes a causal chain of circumstances where a small issue (the nail in a horseshoe) leads to a major outcome.
Put another way: a small amount of effort in the past can lead to a result that would require a huge amount of effort if you were to attempt the same outcome in the present. I think that gives a neat rationale for fiction where you want time travel that allows changes to the future but where you don’t want an oops-I-stepped-on-a-butterfly-now-Donald-Trump-is-president situation.
If we see the initial act of time travel is the cause of the “future” change (i.e. the change to the present time of the time travellers before they set off) then we can (fictionally) say the amount of energy used has to match the amount of energy needed to change the original present to the changed present. So while a non-time traveller can make a relatively low-energy course correction to the timeline, a time traveller’s actions impact the future only as much as the same action would have changed their original present. So, for example, if a time traveller from 2020 stamps on a butterfly in the Cretaceous the net impact on 2020 can’t be any greater than stamping on a butterfly in 2020. The old ethical conundrum of going back and killing Hitler as a baby would then require you to (say) drop a comet on late 19th century Austria if you wanted to stop World War 2 etc.
Note that isn’t actual physics as it would require some kind of cosmic bookkeeping of energy but it might work as a tidy rationale for a time travel story in which there can be future consequences but not big future consequences.
Greetings acquaintances and acolytes, it is I, Timothy the Talking Cat, the leading critic of this age. As always I am delving through the metaphorical morass of literature’s ligaments — the tight strands by which the musculature of culture is attached to the spooky skeleton of society. It was the late great Margaret Thatcher who once said “there is no such thing as a spooky skeleton” but the great dame of English politics had forgotten about Halloween and sure as sure can be, when England’s need demands it, our ancient heroes arise and the spooky skeleton of Thatcher’s legacy has once again been made manifest in the form of Thatcher reborn. A new marvellous hero is in Number 10 ready to return England to its rightful path and while I will be the first to admit that, yes, I have forgotten who the new Tory PM is and her name and what she looks like and quite how many Prime Minister we’ve had to burn through to make Brexit truly happen and free our nation once again from the many hydra-headed beast that is the European Eunion and/or Scotland, I am confident that THIS TIME WE’VE GOT IT RIGHT, and if not this time then next time probably.
Yet what if we could be certain of the right course of action in these troubling times? We would need somebody even smarter than what I am. A true polygon-maths, a genius, not just a smarty-pants but a smarty-trousers, a next-level super brain. This is a question that was asked by the science fiction writer known for his big sideburns, Isaac Asimov in his famous story The Last Question.
This is a story about a huge very smart computer that is given the ultimate question about everything. Ah! You, a foolish person, are probably thinking that this is just Asimov ripping off that computer from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy but you would be both silly and wrong. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is British and was written in British, so Asimov couldn’t have read it until it was translated into American which didn’t happen until Asimov was long dead. Could Asimov has come back as a spooky skeleton and then written the story? No, because that would be horror and this story is science fiction even if you read it at midnight on Halloween in an abandoned church. Could Asimov have learned British and read it anyway? No, because spooky skeletons do not have eyes and can’t read, not even scary messages written in blood by the ghost of Margaret Thatcher warning us of the danger of high taxes.
In the story, different men ask a computer the same question over and over. How can the net amount of entropy of the universe be massively decreased? Which, if you think about it, is really just asking “how can we bring back a spooky skeleton from the dead?” So maybe this story is a horror story after all. It is necromancy for physicists which is different than necromancy for English patriots which is about how we can bring back the British Empire from the dead — and honestly, in this cat’s humble opinion, I think we may be close this time and all we need to do is ritually sacrifice the exchange rate of the Great British Pound Sterling on some sort of eldritch altar while wearing loud shirts with a garish print of Milton Friedman’s face.
Anyhoo. The computer doesn’t know. So different men keep bugging the computer with the same question for like MILLIONS of years. Susan says “well that’s just typical” and I think she is trying to make some typical lefty woke point about men which just shows what I know. We live in an era in which a woman can be anything she wants to be: a far-right demagogue in charge of Britain for example, or a far-right demagogue in charge of Italy. That’s two things!
Finally, the computer has had enough and blows up what is left of the universe, which is frankly just typical. Woman and computers, right? You ask and ask and ask and finally, they just explode because they think they are god! Do you know which woman didn’t do that? Margaret Thatcher, that’s who. She was a woman who knew how to keep the spooky skeleton inside of her under control, even during Halloween. That’s why, as October approaches I will be doing my utmost to follow her patriotic example and keep my skeleton in one place: safe under my purple fur.
Kevin Standlee has an interesting article at File 770 on the future of Worldcon governance https://file770.com/guest-post-standlee-on-the-future-of-worldcon-governance/
There is a lot to the post but the guts of his idea is to replace the Business Meeting with a representative committee that would pass initial rule changes. The ratification of those changes would happen in the following year and would be done by a vote of members alongside the Hugo Awards.
The committee would, he suggests, have 21 members serving three-year terms with 7 members elected each year. In the comments, Nicholas Whyte suggests that Single Transferable Vote (STV) would be the most appropriate voting system to use to elect the representatives – which I think makes sense.
So, an obvious question to ask would be what would have happened if this system was in place back in 2015 when the Hugo Awards were beset by slates? It is a counterfactual question on many levels as the committee didn’t exist then and we’ve no idea if the Sad or Rabid puppies would have had any interest in standing for election.
Still, let’s assume the committee did exist and was due to elect 7 members and both the Sad and Rabid Puppies wanted to have members on that committee. Let’s also assume the election took place during the main Hugo Award voting when everybody was paying attention.
We still don’t know how people would have voted but we do have voting stats ( https://www.thehugoawards.org/content/pdf/2015HugoStatistics.pdf ) on the Hugo’s themselves including how preferences were distributed. Now, the Hugos use IRV – instant run-off voting which is a preference system for when you have one winner. That’s different from STV which is for multiple winners but it gives us a way of looking at what might have happened.
The key to understanding STV is the idea of a quota. The quota is the number of votes a candidate needs to be elected. The basic quota (or Hare quota) is simply the total number of votes divided by the number of people to be elected. For example if 5 slots need to be filled and 100 people voted, then each slot needs 20 votes. In actual elections, other quotas are used because not all voters fill in all their preferences but the Hare quota is the easiest to understand.
In the proposed Worldcon committee, each year 7 members would be elected. If 100 people then the quota would be 100/7=~14.3 or 14%. A candidate who got more than 14% of the 1st preferences gets elected in round 1. There surplus votes they got over the quota than get distributed in the second round. If no candidate gets above the quota in a round, then the lowest ranked candidate gets eliminated.
With the 2015 Hugo Awards, with some exceptions, voting was very partisan. In Best Novella, 5,337 people voted. 3,495 voted No Award and 1,842 voted for Sad/Rabid slated works. If these were the votes in an STV election with 7 candidates then the quota would be 5,337/7= ~762. If we take No Award to be anti-puppy votes, that was proportionally enough to win 4.5 of 7 seats. The Sad/Puppy vote would be enough to win 2.5 seats.
In the other categories the pattern is similar…up to a point. Where there were slated works/finalists with credible reputations beyond the slate, the proportion shifts. For example, in the editor categories No Award won, but Mike Resnick (short form) and Toni Weiskopf (long form) pulled in more votes proportionally than other slated candidates. If we used Best Editor Long Form as the model, then the split is close to even (4,907 votes, 2,496 for No Award ~51%).
In other words, depending on the credibility of the candidates they might have put forward, the combined Sad/Rabid vote would have managed between 2-4 out of 7 seats. Whether they would have bothered is another question — niether group showed much interest in the business meeting.
What if people were more taken by surprise? I.e. what if it was more like the 2015 nomination stage? That’s harder to tell because the 2015 nomination voting numbers are less detailed. However, in most categories at least a third of the voters voted for at least one of the Puppy slate. So still probably between 2 and 3 candidates.
So, if we take 2015 as an extreme, the proposed committee would be OK for the time being.
Individual Worldcon’s have had their own Mascot (Helsinki had a Polar Bear, Chengdu has a panda bear, maybe it’s all bears) but Worldcon, in general, doesn’t have one. So I plonked “Worldcon mascot” into Midjourney to see what I’d get:
Unsure of which one to pick, I put the question on Twitter and asked them to choose between the blue weird guy, the feather rat, the mysterious stranger and the rodent freak.
The winner was…MYSTERIOUS STRANGER:
And here are some variations Midjourney suggested: