A Voyage Round The Kerfuffle Sea While Watching Star Wars 7

mapofthepuppykerfuffleV0.4I linked to a positive review of the new Star Wars by Brad Torgersen in my last round-up and over at File770 I was discussing John C Wright’s negative review.

There seems to be a real difference of opinion on the film that divides between Sad and Rabid and I’m wondering to what extent a major SF event such as Star Wars says about SF as a whole. To that end I hopped into my memetic boat, put the cat into a life-vest and set sail again.

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The Appaling Views of John C Wright on Islam – a study in error

John C Wright has written a piece here on Islam and history. It really is very bad but it is also quite nasty – I sometimes see Wright as just harmless but it is worth remembering how nasty his rhetoric can be. Being wrong is one thing, being wrong for the purpose of trying to invoke religious war is deeply immoral. Wright uses a crazy mix of facts and half truths. Several parts deal with the early history of Islam, which certainly is bloody and violent but no less so than the establishment of Wright’s religion – The Roman Catholic Church. That doesn’t make either religion good and it should cause a skeptical mind to consider the validity of a morality based on divine revelation but it also doesn’t make a religion inherently bad. Worse, it does not imply any kind of religious determinism – i.e. that somehow if a person is of religion X they must have a particular character or behavior, even when considered en-mass. The characteristics of a religious movement tend to be specific to time and place and as fickle as other social phenomenon.

I’ll pick out some specific levels of plain old wrong:

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JCW’s Joe Doakes Challenge

Our occasional blog-muse, John C Wright has offered a challenge.

After listing Hugo Award winners for Best Novel in two time periods he says this:

Here is the Joe Doakes Challenge, for those bold enough to take it. Get out a pencil and make a not, for both lists, these three things:

(1) Which works possess the basic craftsmanship of our guild, i.e. a solid but imaginative story well told. Note also which have dull or hateful characters, little or no plot, or rely on gimmicks or nostalgia for their appeal.

(2) How many are among the softest of SF subgenres, such as alternate history or magical realism.

(3) How many are larded with a pretentious but sophomoric profundity or attempted relevance by presenting heavy-handed message fiction rather than science fiction. Is the number rising or falling?

How many of these stories do you love? Count and note the number.

Compare the two numbers. Based on this count, how often is the Hugo Award a sign of approval, or a leper’s bell warning a reader of sound sense and a craving for imagination to stay away?

Lets Go! I’m going to look just at the books I know well.
1996 Neal Stephenson: THE DIAMOND AGE – 1: Craft – Excellent, 2 – soft SF/F? Nope 3 message fiction? Nope.
1997 Kim Stanley Robinson: BLUE MARS – 1: Craft – Excellent, 2 – soft SF/F? Nope 3 message fiction? Nope.
2000 Vernor Vinge: A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY 1: Craft – Excellent, 2 – soft SF/F? Nope 3 message fiction? Nope.
2001 J. K. Rowling: HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE 1: Craft – Plot, Excellent, writing a bit mixed, 2 – soft SF/F? YA fantasy but overtly fantasy 3 message fiction? Nope.
2002 Neil Gaiman: AMERICAN GODS 1: Craft – Excellent, 2 – soft SF/F? Fantasy but borders on magical realism 3 message fiction? Nope.
2005 Susanna Clarke: JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL 1: Craft – Excellent, 2 – soft SF/F? Nope – strong fantasy 3 message fiction? Nope.
2008 Michael Chabon: THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN’S UNION 1: Craft – Masterful, a demonstration of how to write 2 – soft SF/F? Alternate reality 3 message fiction? Nope.
2009 Neil Gaiman: THE GRAVEYARD BOOK 1: Craft – Excellent, 2 – soft SF/F? Nope – strong fantasy 3 message fiction? Nope.
2010 Paolo Bacigalupi: THE WINDUP GIRL1: Craft – Good, 2 – soft SF/F? Nope – strong near future tech 3 message fiction? Nope.
2010 tied with China Miéville: THE CITY & THE CITY 1: Craft – Excellent, author’s best writing 2 – soft SF/F? sort of passed through magical ralism and out the other side 3 message fiction? Who knows? There could be a secret message in it…
2014 Ann Leckie: ANCILLARY JUSTICE 1: Craft – Excellent, 2 – soft SF/F? Nope, Space Opera 3 message fiction? Nope.
2015 Cixin Liu: THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM 1: Craft – Excellent, 2 – soft SF/F? Nope, alien invasion story 3 message fiction? Nope.

Hey! That was fun.

Oops! Forgot the other half:

1953 Alfred Bester: THE DEMOLISHED MAN 1: Craft – Good, 2 – soft SF/F? Nope – future society with ESP 3 message fiction? Nope.
1960 Robert A. Heinlein: STARSHIP TROOPERS 1: Craft – Good, 2 – soft SF/F? Nope – future space war 3 message fiction? In places
1961 Walter M. Miller, Jr.: A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ 1: Craft – Excellent, 2 – soft SF/F? Nope – future history 3 message fiction? Maybe in places
1962 Robert A. Heinlein: STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND 1: Craft – Good, 2 – soft SF/F? A bit soft, aliens are in the context but primarily a social satire 3 message fiction? Social satire – so yes
1963 Philip K. Dick: THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE 1: Craft – Excellent, 2 – soft SF/F? Softish – alternate history 3 message fiction? Nope
1966 Frank Herbert: DUNE 1: Craft – Excellent, 2 – soft SF/F? Space Epic 3 message fiction? Nope
1967 Robert A. Heinlein: THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS 1: Craft – Excellent, 2 – soft SF/F? Space Epic 3 message fiction? Libertarians seem to like it.
1969 John Brunner: STAND ON ZANZIBAR 1: Craft – Excellent, 2 – soft SF/F? Space Epic 3 message fiction? Nope
1970 Ursula K. Le Guin: THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS 1: Craft – Excellent, 2 – soft SF/F? Alien society 3 message fiction? Not really – radical themes but no specific message.
1971 Larry Niven: RINGWORLD 1: Craft – Excellent, 2 – soft SF/F? Alen exploration 3 message fiction? Not really
1972 Philip José Farmer: TO YOUR SCATTERED BODIES GO  1: Craft – Excellent, 2 – soft SF/F? Alen exploration 3 message fiction? Not really

No, seriously, stop Camestros…

Well, part of what I wanted to do with this blog is look at evidence, logic and cognitive errors. I ended up talking a lot about the Hugo Awards and that meant reading an awful lot of John C Wright. It turns out that John writes posts that are like mini-case studies for the non-SF/F wing of the blog. A newish summation to his post on global warming is here http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/07/a-question-about-the-global-warming-hoax/#comment-118249

I’m going to go through step by step because it is a gem. Here is the fist paragraph and the rest is after the fold.

JCW's shadow avatar

JCW’s shadow avatar

The Left uses ‘Climate Science’ as the latest excuse for attacking Western civilization. It has been remarkably successful so far, since the Rightist desire for conservation and maintaining health and safety is the aim of the appeal. There is consensus of climate scientists who believe this malarkey: there are a group of loud Leftists, men like Al Gore, who repeat the claim that certain unidentified scientists support this claim, and there are shenanigans like attaching the names of scientists from other fields to UN resolutions or studies, or editing the report after legit climate scientists have signed off on it. The evidence is ambiguous.

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The love affair is over…[UPDATED]

JCW's shadow avatar

JCW’s shadow avatar

[JCW has since replied very graciously noting that he was in error – I’ve appended his message at the end]

So I sort of got embroiled in a couple of threads over at John C Wright’s blog:

http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/07/conspiracy-or-code-of-conduct/ and

A Question about the Global Warming Hoax

And things went all a bit global warmingy over there for awhile. I have to say it was overall fairly well mannered (so long as I ignored the sweeping statements about leftists – but I’m used to that). I don’t think Wright had actually met my particular species of leftist before and he did say some nice things at a point when I think I may have passed over the line from potential-lefty-pinata to annoyingly-persietnt-pedant.

I admire that you are one of the few, perhaps the only, Leftist I have ever engaged with who speaks to facts, and attempts something other than ad hominem, but your use of irreverence and gratuitous assertions and misidentifiying errors in arguments takes some luster off that shine. http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/07/conspiracy-or-code-of-conduct/#comment-118243

But like all star-crossed romances, we were not fated to stay together and the inevitable rift occurred. I’ll post edited highlights of an exchange that brought things to an end below the fold 😦

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Reason Hell special: Scares and authority

As anybody reading this blog may have noticed, I’m having a nice old chat with John C Wright about global warming. I’m sticking the global warming replies here but there is another issue in Wright’s post that I’m pulling out separately and which is best exemplified by this paragraph.

The hoax was clear from the beginning for those with eyes to see because of the hysteria surrounding it. It was a scare, a panic, and there was no more evidence for it than for the DDT scare, the ALAR scare, the radon scare, the mercury in the fish scare, the acid rain scare, the hole in the ozone layer scare, the power cables causing cancer scare, mobile phone towers causing cancer scare, the chloroflourocarbons scare, the overpopulation scare, the salmonella scare, the Mad Cow disease scare, and so on. Have you ever heard even one retraction or apology for any of these false alarms, even long after the fraud was exposed? Is DDT available even thought Rachel Carson’s mass-murdering fraud is well known to have been scientifically absurd?

In a more recent reply Wright has offered me a challenge:

I offer you the following challenge: name for me the environmentalist
scare that turned out to be wrong or exaggerated. It can be one I have
listed here, or another famous one.

Either put up or shut up. Either name the false alarm or admit that you cannot.

If you cannot admit that there are any false alarms in the system, not
even one, then you attribute unrealistic if not supernatural accuracy
and perspicacity to the system.

Which is really kind of fun – particularly as it ties in so neatly with the recent theme of authority and credibility. So, I’ve put Timothy the Talking Cat outside to chase small animals (he is no use at a time like this) and sharpened my debunkotron, fired up Google and off we go!

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