Archive Monthly Archives: April 2016

Donald Trump is Unstoppable

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Donald Trump’s quest for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination is essentially over.

trump_winningThere is no longer any path for the #NeverTrump movement to prevent him from gaining 1237 delegates. He now needs only 236 more. By FiveThirtyEight.com‘s targets, he’s at 101% of where he needs to be right now (they have not yet updated to reflect this, or even to reflect the 996 delegates that Google shows him with). He only needs 41% of the remaining delegates to win.

Assuming the win in New Jersey – and he’s all but certain to do nearly as well there as he did in New York – that means he only needs 186 delegates from other sources. There are 96 delegates remaining in proportional states (Oregon, Washington and New Mexico). Assuming that Trump doesn’t have a total collapse, we can expect him to take at least 20-30 of those delegates. At that point, a strong showing in California – or a moderate showing plus a victory in any other remaining state – carries him to victory even without Indiana.

If when Trump wins Indiana next week, he’ll coast through the rest of the primary with ease.

Reader Praise for MAKE DEATH PROUD TO TAKE US

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Make Death Proud to Take Us

Make Death Proud to Take Us

Reader praise for my last anthology of superversive science fiction and fantasy stories, Make Death Proud to Take Us, has been strong. Here’s a sample of what readers have said about it:

  • “Each and every one of these stories is well written and the editing is also accomplished with perfection.”
  • “From the first story till the last I was hooked. If you love adventure, courage, space, dragons, giants, elves, witches and knights….. ect, you will love this book!!!!”
  • “Take a chance on this collection of short stories; I’m inclined to believe that this book will have something to interest nearly any person interested in Science Fiction and Fantasy.”
  • From the first story, I knew this was going to be good. The stories creates worlds of adventures for the mind to deliver magical dreams for feeding the souls of man.

And if you loved this one, stay tuned. We’ll be announcing our next one very soon!

The Perversion of Science Fiction and Fantasy Fandom

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hugoMuch ink has been spilled over this year’s Hugo awards. Rabid this, sad that, puppies abound, George R.R. Martin is crying. Take your pick and read the latest media outrage. And then forget all of it.

The 2016 Hugo Awards are important, and not for any of that. There is a critical message this year that far exceeds anything else to do with the Hugos. It boils down to two specific works, both of which have been nominated in the “Best Related Work” category:

The first is “Safe Space as Rape Room: Science Fiction Culture and Childhood’s End.” Written by Daniel Eness for the Castalia House blog. The second is “The Story of Moira Greyland” by Moira Greyland.

These two works are not just the most important published works of the science fiction community of 2015. They are the most important works of this millennium. Both essays are painful. If you are a normal human being, they will make you cringe and possibly cry. If you love science fiction and fantasy as much as I do, they will burn even deeper. But they must be read. And we must get the word out, even more. These essays must get every bit of attention that they can.

Because sci-fi and fantasy fandom has a problem.

I love sci-fi and fantasy, and I love its fans just as much – maybe more. But the pedophilia scandals exposed by these two essays are very real and very tragic. They must not be allowed to continue. Fandom must open its eyes and face these problems head on. It is not an easy problem to face, but we must no longer let these deviants, these degenerates, these criminals use us for cover for their perversion.

These two essays are not easy reads. They will not make you happy. But they must be read, reread, and shared. There is no place for this in the world of sci-fi and fantasy fandom.

“Safe Space as Rape Room” recounts the way pedophilia has been swept under the rug for many big names in the science fiction community, including Arthur C. Clarke and more. It is available on the Castalia House blog in five parts with three additional supplements. Read them all.

“The Story of Moira Greyland” is almost more disturbing. Moira Greyland is the daughter of famous fantasy author Marion Zimmer Bradley. The tale recounts her years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, her mother, and their friends – and the way in which it was covered up by the science fiction community and fandom around them.

I love fandom. I’m proud to be a part of it. But in order for us to continue loving it, we must bring these issues to the light of day, we must flush them out, and we must put an end to it. That is why I am proud to have voted to nominate both of these works. And that is why I will be voting for these two essays to win the 2016 Hugo Award for “Best Related Work.” I encourage everyone else to do the same.

Shine the light of day on it – the burning, cleansing, disinfecting, glorious light of day.

Ted Cruz is an Aspie

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Vox Day has come around to my theory that Ted Cruz is an Aspie:

I didn’t take seriously the claims that Ted Cruz might be autistic until now. Seriously, on what planet is anyone going to support HP-killer Fiorina, particularly in California?

When I first started telling my wife that he was an aspie last fall, she thought I was crazy. Then she started coming around. When I first started posting it publicly a few weeks ago, nobody took it seriously. But the last few weeks have made it almost blindingly obvious. Only an Aspie would make the mistakes that Cruz is making lately. His campaign is falling faster than a lead balloon. I call zero chance of a contested convention at this point.

Cruz Eliminated

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sadtedAs I predicted nearly a month ago, Ted Cruz is now mathematically eliminated form the first round ballot for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. According to Google this morning, Cruz has 562 delegates with 616 still available. That means Cruz has to win 110% of the remaining delegates in order to secure a victory.

The situation is even bleaker than that for Cruz, however. Google shows Trump with 954 delegates. In reality, his total is almost certainly closer to 1000, perhaps over it. His stomp through Pennsylvania last night means that he won a significant number of delegates who were actually “soft pledged” to him. What’s more, a majority of the remaining Pennsylvania delegates pledged to vote for the statewide winner or the winner of their congressional district (Trump won all districts in all five states last night).

Still to come: New Jersey’s 51 winner-take-all delegates are basically a lock for Trump, West Virginia’s 34 direct elected delegates look good for Trump, and there are 96 proportionally allocated delegates still to come. We can expect Trump to get at least a third of the proportionally allocated delegates, so that gives us around 115 more delegates for Trump, which puts him at 1115. California alone can pretty much push him over the edge at that point.

This race is pretty much over. If Trump wins Indiana’s 57 delegates next week, it’s done. There will basically be no path left for the NeverTrump crowd to stop him.

The Stupidest Thing Nate Silver Has Ever Said

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Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com is a smart man who usually says smart things. That’s why it shocked me so much when he said the following last night on Twitter.

natesilverMr. Silver… have you even been paying attention to this campaign?

Rubio’s downfall wasn’t a “break” for Trump. Trump played out a very deliberate campaign strategy over the course of the winter: first he went after Jeb Bush, hard. Then, once Bush was out, he went after Rubio just as hard.

In this instance, I give Trump no special credit for brilliance. The need to do this should have been obvious. Bush’s war chest and hefty endorsement list made him the obvious front runner early in the game. He painted a giant target on his back. Trump – and the rest of the GOP pack – took aim at that target. Repeatedly, and with heavy artillery. Bush went down.

But Rubio was always the obvious second target. Everybody knew that all of Bush’s funding and endorsements would flock to Rubio after Bush. You don’t need to be a regular reader of alt-right blogs to know that Rubio was the establishment’s second choice. The mainstream media was happy to blast it all over the place for us. And don’t forget all of the polling that showed that Rubio was everybody’s second choice.

So Trump went after him. The only “lucky” thing about it was that all of the other candidates piled on, too. But even that isn’t as lucky as it seems. Rubio was an obvious target to them as well, for all the same reasons that Trump was. And Trump aided their decision to follow him in the Rubio dogpile by making himself seem strong enough to be not yet worth it. Remember, when a rabid bear is chasing you, you don’t have to be faster than the bear. You only have to be faster than the guy next to you. Trump was stronger than Rubio, and his opponents joined him in the dogpile.

For the record, this was a huge strategic mistake on their part. First, Trump was the clear front runner even then. Nobody wanted to believe it, but it was true by every standard that had ever applied to any other GOP presidential primary – save two: the endorsement primary and the fundraising primary. But by then it was already clear that Trump was doing well without those two factors. Second, and far worse, by joining the Rubio dogpile instead of going after the front runner, Trump’s opponents demonstrated their cowardliness. They simply didn’t have the courage to take on the front runner and everyone saw it. No matter what else these candidates offer this late in the race, their timidity earlier has dogged them to the end.

Trump didn’t “get a break.” Trump made his lucky break. It was his strategy from the beginning. The difference between him and the other candidates is that his strategy worked where theirs failed.

ARCHITECT OF AEONS book review

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architect_of_aeonsIt has been more than two months now since Mr. John C. Wright surprised me with the delivery of a review copy of one of his latest novels, The Architect of Aeons. Yes, I have had the extreme good fortune to receive not one but two unsolicited works from Mr. Wright now. That is why I must begin this review with a sincere apology to the book’s author. It has taken me far too long to finish reading this book and get this review online.

In my defense, they have been two insanely busy months. We have a new baby in the house (my youngest turns three months old today). In that time, I’ve also planned and hosted a major martial arts seminar, attended a Judo tournament, put editing work into Silver Empire‘s first full length novel (look for announcements on that very soon!), had to find a new cover artist, plugged away at two short stories for our next anthology (more on that project soon as well), had to plow through some submissions for the same anthology (some not so great, some… very, very excellent), had a major software delivery do at work, made a trip to visit my ailing grandmother in Washington, D.C., and, of course, have had all of the normal duties of adult life on top of all that.

A week or so ago, however, I finally hit a nice point. My editing notes had been sent off to Susan, I’d passed the halfway point on my own first novel, seminars and tournaments were done, and I finally had a moment to relax. If it assuages Mr. Wright’s ego in any way, this book was my reward for finishing all of the important things in my life – and I used this book as motivation, telling myself I could not read it until I finished those things. Then, of course, it still took me far longer to actually read it than it should have.

Now that I have finally finished it, I must say that this book is an intriguing read. I have to admit that I struggled a bit with the first half of the book. It’s a difficulty of the format that I’ve had with much of this series. Mr. Wright has adopted the most difficult task of telling the story mostly in “catch up” sessions. Large periods of time elapse with the main character, Menelaus Montrose, either in time dilation from space travel or, more commonly, in suspended animation. Each time he re-enters “normal time” there are large bits of dialogue catching him up on the history (sometimes millennia worth) that happened while he was away.

I can think of no better way to tell a story such as this. And it’s a testament to Mr. Wright’s amazing skill as an author that he makes it work at all. Nevertheless, it can at times be a difficult way to read a story.

The second half of the book, however, really shines. Indeed, I zipped through that part of the book easily. And it is here that Mr. Wright once more touches on the issues that have really defined the series. How does a normal(ish) human survive in a world that is dominated by posthuman intelligences far superior to his? Not just superior, but orders of magnitude superior?

There are moments in the second half that are pure gold:  the duel between Montrose and an entire planet, the Foxes, Montrose forcing a galactic level superintelligence into a deal on his terms.

The work also continues to explore other issues that have been hallmarks of Mr. Wright’s work dating back to The Golden Age trilogy. What is the true nature of identity? If my mind is uploaded in full into another host, which one is truly me? What about when those minds diverge? What if one of them sees its intelligence amplified – or reduced? These questions of identity and intelligence are what continue to make this series fascinating. And despite the somewhat sluggish nature of the book’s beginning, this is why Architect of Aeons still merits four out of five stars. A strong showing from Mr. Wright, and I continue to look forward to the rest of this series.

THERE WILL BE WAR at the 2016 Hugo Awards

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There Will Be War: Volume X

There Will Be War: Volume X cleaned up at the 2016 Hugo Awards.

My editor for There Will Be War: Volume X, Dr. Jerry Pournelle, and three of our co-contributors, Cheah Kai Wai, Charles Shao, and David VanDyke have received nominations for the 2016 Hugo Awards!

Dr. Pournelle finally received a nomination for “Best Editor: Short Form.” Meanwhile, Charles Shao earned the nomination for “Best Short Story” and Cheah Kai Wai and David VanDyke will be battling it out for “Best Novella.”

I’d like to offer a deep and heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS to my co-contributors! The honors are very well earned. If you have not already picked up your copy of this amazing anthology, I highly recommend it. I am once again blown away that my humble story was included in a collection of such giants.

 

The Tractor Drives Itself

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More and more people are starting to worry about something that’s trouble me for some time: Zero Marginal Product workers. The short definition: workers whose maximum output simply isn’t worth the minimum cost of employing them. They literally will lose you money if you employ them.

Every industry has these people, and always has. The beauty of the free market has been that these people eventually get pushed out and reshuffled until they find their way into a position where they have value to the employer and produce more than they consume.

But what if that is breaking down? What if we have a growing number of workers who aren’t just unemployable in good industries… they’re simply unemployable? What if we’re growing a new subpopulation that literally isn’t productive enough to be worth hiring in any industry?

Dan Holm warns against this exact thing. Forgive the lengthy excerpts below… but then, you really should read the whole thing anyway.

Few of the very bright have have ever had to make the unhappy calculation: Forty times a low minimum wage minus bus fare to work, rent, food, medical care, and cable. They have never had to choose between a winter coat and cable, their only entertainment. They don’t really know that many people do. Out of sight, out of mind.

Cognitive stratification has political consequences. It leads liberals to think that their client groups can go to college. It leads conservatives to think that with hard work and determination…..

It ain’t so. An economic system that works reasonably well when there are lots of simple jobs doesn’t when there aren’t. In particular, the large number of people at IQ 90 and below will increasingly be simply unnecessary. If you are, say, a decent, honest young woman of IQ 85, you probably read poorly, learn slowly and only simple things,. Being promoted, or even hired, requires abilities that you do not have.

By the definition of IQ and the normal distribution that it follows, half of the population will have an IQ below 100 and a full third of the population will have an IQ below 85. In other words, Mr. Holm is arguing that one third of our population is already becoming unemployable.

He ends his piece by getting to the real heart of the matter:

The question arises: What does the country do with the large and growing number of people whose labor is worth nothing? Or, perhaps more accurately, whose labor isn’t needed? We see this in the cities today. An illiterate kid in Detroit has no value at all in the market for labor. Assuming that he wants to work, a questionable assumption, what then? Endlessly expanding welfare? What about the literate, averagely intelligent kid for whom there are no jobs? If people working in McDonald’s can barely live on their wages, and strike, or the state institutes a higher minimum wage, McDonald’s will automate their jobs, is automating their jobs, and conservatives will exult—the commie bastards got what they asked for.

I don’t have an answer – only more bad news. The problem is far worse than even Mr. Holm’s dire picture, because we’re looking at a future of more and more automation. We’re far further from true AI than most people think – perhaps no closer than we were 30 years ago. But we’re far closer to automating your job than you probably think. Even most “knowledge worker” and “creative sector” jobs are approaching automation.

My fellow software engineers seem to believe that computers will never be able to do what we do. But they’re almost certainly wrong – even programming other computers will probably be automated 50 years from now. Our industry has already hit the point where 80% of “software engineers” are doing nothing more than putting a glorified GUI on top of a database that was already written years ago by Oracle, Microsoft, or a team of open source engineers.

OverallOn the far end of the scale, my oldest son flew out to Kansas last summer to visit some distant relatives. One of them still owns and operates a major farm. I remember traveling out there to visit them when I was the same age he was last spring. My fondest memory was of getting to drive the tractor. When my son came home, I asked him if he had fun driving the tractor. His response?

“The tractor drives itself, Dad.”

(H/T to Vox Day for the link)

Orbital Insertion and Space Combat Tactics – Part 4

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One issue that is almost universally ignored in science fiction these days is the role of orbital mechanics in space combat tactics. Science fiction space combat tends to be written or visualized as if the spacecraft involved have nearly infinite energy and thrust available. Occasionally this is due to the writers or visual effects technicians consciously simplifying things for viewers. Unfortunately, however, most of the time it’s simply due to the writers being woefully ignorant of the subject.

In Part 1 we showed that any reasonable account of space combat in near-to-medium-future hard sci-fi must account for orbital mechanics. In Part 2 we discussed that pros and cons of higher orbits and lower orbits. In Part 3 we examined cases where our two spacecraft occupied dissimilar orbits. In our final part, we’ll discuss various considerations related to actual maneuvering between orbits.

As we noted back in part 1, the fundamental reason that we must consider orbital mechanics is the massive energy requirements necessary for raw point-to-point travel in space. Current technology and technology that can be extrapolated from known and proven physics are not capable of breaking past these limits. This same factor imposes limits on orbital maneuvering.

There are three fundamental factors that will drive maneuvering of combat spacecraft: mass, thrust, and fuel. All three of these factors are intrinsically related. More fuel means more mass. More mass requires more thrust to move it. More thrust requires more fuel.

At the same time, there are unavoidable trade-offs in modern propulsion technology. To put it bluntly, the more efficient a propulsion method is, the less thrust it produces. Solar sails and ion drives are highly efficient, but they produce low thrust. This makes them possibly great for long distance travel but very poor choices for the quick maneuvering desired by military vessels.

It seems likely that military craft will mostly rely on such non-chemical propulsion for major drive components (ie, for interplanetary travel). Nuclear power seems a particularly likely choice, just as it is on today’s major naval vessels – and for the same reasons. Nuclear power is very efficient, providing quite a bit of energy for a given fuel mass. Unlike many other propulsion sources, however, it can also provide high thrust. This allows for relatively short transit times, such as military vessels will require.

However, even nuclear propulsion is likely to be poorly suited for fast maneuvers. It is highly likely that chemical rockets will be used for maneuvering thrusters. Based on known technology and physics, quick maneuvering is likely to stay the domain of chemical rockets for some time – and chemical rockets require lots of fuel. Lots of fuel means lots of mass. It also means that the spacecraft must be very careful in how that fuel is used, because once it’s gone it’s gone.

A further consideration is that large drive engines also have great potential to be used as weapons – especially nuclear propulsion engines. This was the second reason that the battleships described in “The Fourth Fleet” had main drive engines both fore and aft. This allowed the ships to use them not just for propulsion but also as the main weapon system. An important consideration, however, is that use of this weapon system will also impact the navigation of the vessel itself.

It is also worthy of note that the design choices described herein will be hugely expensive, thus likely limiting this kind of vessel only to major spacefaring powers. As with modern navies, lesser powers will be forced by economics to limit themselves to less expensive military spacecraft. And also much like the world of today, these vessels are extremely unlikely to be common among private owners.

In Part 1 we showed that we must account for orbital mechanics. In Part 2 we discussed orbits of differing altitude and velocity. In Part 3 we’ve discussed retrograde orbits and non-aligned orbits. Here in Part 4 we discussed maneuvering itself in more detail and also discussed some ways in which this will impact spacecraft design.

This series is the beginning of the discussion, not the end. Any discussion that takes place before such warfare is necessarily speculative. Yet we already know many factors that must effect the discussion. Though this discussion will continue for decades and centuries after space warfare becomes common, we are well served by beginning it now.

Orbital Insertion and Space Combat Tactics