In Space, No One Can Hear You Scar the Patterns.

I was going start this off by claiming that I don’t often pimp those in my own social circle — to try and convey the sense that I’m Mr. Objective and totally averse to conflicts of interest, I guess — but when I thought about that for about two seconds I realized it was bullshit. I pimp my buddy Dave Nickle‘s works all over the place because it’s damn good reading, and the fact that I know the man doesn’t change that.  I’ve just blurbed Madeline Ashby‘s upcoming novel (although I did hold the blurb hostage until she changed a couple of things); I’ve praised Dave Williams and Ursabelle and Karl Schroeder too, and I know them all. I even pimped Annex Cat Rescue during Banana’s eulogy. So I guess I actually pimp quite a bit.

What I haven’t done, until now, is pimp two separate and unrelated causes in the same post.  And I’ve certainly never tried to get anyone shot into space before.

Prepare to be double-barrelled.

 

In Space, No One Can Hear

There’s this local free paper called Metro that you can pick up at subway stations hereabouts. It takes its content from The Toronto Star, but it’s actually part of an international Swedish commuter-paper empire.  Anyway, they’re running a contest: they want to send someone into space.

More precisely, they’re looking to sponsor a seat on the Lynx spaceplane during an upcoming suborbital jaunt, including training. All you have to do is go online and plead your case as to why you’re best suited for the ticket.  A single finalist from each of a number of countries gets chosen by simple surfer-vote; one of those gets picked for the flight by the Metro jury. It’s a cool idea; I might have taken a shot at it myself under other circumstances.  Hell, you might still want to.

The reason I’m bringing this up, though, is on behalf of a guy name of Eric Shear.  He’s an SF fan, an aspiring SF writer, and a student of space science up at York University. I had dinner with him a while back, and was impressed to learn that he’d already chalked up a ride on NASA’s Vomit Comet (if you go to his facebook page, you can see him floating around in his profile pic).  Not much of a talker, though; in fact, during our whole dinner date we both just sat there tapping away at our respective laptops.

The reason we did this is because Eric is stone deaf.  Thanks to Skype, we had a good conversation anyway.

Eric wants to be the first deaf person in space.

I thought this was cool. I also had reservations. I mean, yes, Metro’s astronaut is basically spam in a can: a passenger, not a pilot.  It’s not as though he’s going to have to communicate reentry procedures with Ground Control. Still, what if something goes wrong? Wouldn’t rapid unambiguous communication be vital in case of an emergency? Might that not rule out a deaf person on safety grounds alone?

I asked him about that. He gave me a number of answers: inflight windows of vulnerability to various stresses (dude’s got an engineering background), his own experience piloting a Cessna, the fact that similar concerns could be raised over his flight on the Comet but NASA didn’t blink.  The answer that sold me, though, was: “Any failure will likely happen very quickly, leaving little time for verbal communications anyway.”  Which has a wonderfully cheery fatalism to it.

When Eric first talked to me about this, he was in 10th place on the American list (he’s a student at York, but his home is in Seattle).  By the time I got around to checking out the Metro site, he’d moved up to 6th — and to give you some idea of the quality of the other applicants, the #1-rated application  at that time started off like this:

Space! Send me to Space! Like, Outer Space! On a ROCKET SHIP! Send me to Space, Please? Like, Please, Please? Pretty-Please. Send me to Space! Say it with me now, softly at first. “Send me to space” Now louder? Send. Me. To. Space! John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin, Buzz Lightyear, Charlie N! Spacemen! Astronauts! Please,

The whole pitch goes on like that. As of this writing, Eric has unseated Charlie N. Spaceman, and is now the #1 ranked US applicant. Ol’ Charlie’s still ranked #2, though, and not by much.  What would it say about the commercial space effort if an actual student of space science lost out to the reincarnation of a hypercaffeinated Chihuahua?

So that’s my first pitch.  Go check out the Metro’s “Race for Space” website.  Check out Eric’s elevator pitch. If you think you can beat him, by all means sign up yourself.

Otherwise, consider giving the man your vote.

 

Clash of the Caitlins

This next one is somewhat more personal, and may cost me extra cred because I’m pimping on behalf of a loved one.  In all honesty, though, I might well have ended up posting about it regardless, because the situation in which Caitlin’s latest novel finds itself really beggars belief.

The CBC, Canada’s once-great national broadcaster, is hosting something called the Bookie Awards, described on-site as “The People’s Choice of Canadian literary awards”. Some CBC star chamber selected five nominees in each of ten categories: visitors to the site can vote in each category, not just once but once per day, right up to the end of the month. (One can only assume that statistical rigor took a back seat to anything that might drive up the CBC’s hit counts, but whatever.)

One of those categories is “Science Fiction, Fantasy or Speculative Fiction”.  One of the nominees in that category is The Pattern Scars.

That’s not the unbelievable part, mind you. There’s also the other nominees in that category: two of whom are a collection of essays by Margaret Atwood (ah, so that’s why they felt compelled to add “speculative fiction” to the heading), and Rob Sawyer’s Wonder (which just happens to feature a protagonist named Caitlin). But that’s not the unbelievable part either.

The unbelievable part is that The Pattern Scars is leading.

Forget literary quality. (I happen to have a very high opinion of Caitlin as a writer and of TPS as a novel, but I’m obviously biased.)  Let’s look instead at the crude logistics of an online popularity contest. Atwood is a literary superstar, so beloved by purveyors of “real” literature that even when she writes science fiction, critics and reviewers everywhere promise not to call it that. Sawyer has a massive international fan base, a high-profile if short-lived TV series with his name on it (a pretty good series, too, IMO), and a relentless and unswerving focus on self-promotion. Who the hell is Caitlin Sweet? Some small-press novelist hardly anyone’s heard of. No best-sellers. No television presence. No movie deals.  Not even a call to arms beyond an embarrassed throat-clearing ahem on her facebook wall. Just a quiet, dark ripple of a novel about people and monsters and how very little room there is between them. Doesn’t matter that HuffPo called it  a “Beautiful Nightmare“. Doesn’t matter if Atwood’s book doesn’t even belong in the same category because it’s nonfiction. Something like the Bookies is probably beneath Atwood’s notice anyway.

But let’s face it: up against Canada’s premiere novelist and the Sawyer Promotional Juggernaut, Caitlin should be a grease stain on the highway. She should be dead already. Instead, as of this writing, she’s leading the pack: nine points ahead of Sawyer, twenty-three ahead of Atwood. And she’s maintained this lead all week, so far.

This is not an artifact of small sample size. At this point, as far as I can tell, the casting of a single vote bumps the votee’s standing by around 0.02-0.03% (which would imply somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 votes cast so far). And it’s not as though Sawyer hasn’t been mentioning the Bookies to his own fan base. The only explanation I can think of is that a lot of voters think The Pattern Scars deserves to win. But there are still two weeks of voting to go. And fairy tales notwithstanding, what are the odds that David really can beat Goliath over the long haul?

Not so high, maybe. Sawyer’s tweeting to the troops even as I type.  So’s Penguin Canada, his publisher.  I see the balance beginning to shift.  So I’m gonna try and boost Caitlin’s odds with a bit of especially brazen pimpage.  This is epic, guys. This is David v. Goliath, and it’s only the first round but David’s doing better than all the odds and auguries could have foretold. So here’s my second pitch: if you’re not averse to the thought, go vote for The Pattern Scars. And if you find the thought actually appealing in some small way, repeat daily for the next two weeks.

It doesn’t even cost anything.  And wouldn’t it be great if the little guy actually won for a change?

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Wednesday March 14 2012at 03:03 pm , filed under ink on art, misc . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

52 Responses to “In Space, No One Can Hear You Scar the Patterns.”

  1. The Pattern Scars was absolutely bloody brilliant, and I’m not just saying that because I adore your wife. I stayed up all night to finish it, wept my way through the ending, and promptly passed it on to a dear friend of mine.

    So there.

  2. One rookie mistake when pushing things is forgetting the secondary links (-:

    I mean to say, you should include a link to a place where I can buy The Pattern Scars! (Googling now, but hey, drive Caitlin’s sales while you’re at it (-:)

  3. Booko’s “The Pattern Scars” list with shipping to .au.

  4. “[…] a relentless and unswerving focus on self-promotion.” How concise and accurate.

  5. What is your favorite thing about space? Mine is space. Lady! Ooh, lady! Ooh ooh ooh, lady! Lady! Lets go to space! Going to space! Can’t wait! Space! Trial! Put the system on trial! Space system! Guilty! Of not being in space! GO TO SPACEJAIL! Yea, I’m in space. -I’m proud of you, son.- Dad, are you space?-Yes, now we are a family again.- Space! Space! Wanna go to space! space space. Oh boy! Ba bah bu bah bah buh space! Bah bah bah buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh. Ooh! Play it cool! Play it cool! Here come the space cops! Here come the space cops. How many space cops? Space cops, help! Going to space. Going there bymyself. Wanna see me? Going there. To space. Space. Oh boy! Yea yea yea yea! Okay! Space space space space! Wanna go to space! Goint to space! Bah bah boo boo bah buh bah buh boo bah bah space boh bah bah buh bah bah space! Wanna be in space. Going go. Bah. Wanna go to space! Going there, can’t wait. Gotta go. Space. Go to space! Yes, go to space! Wanna go to space? Space Ooh yea! Space! Gotta go to space! Hm mm hm, that’s good! Le-le-let’s go to space! I love space! Love spaaaace. Atmosphere. Black holes! A-astronauts. Nebulas! Ju-ju-jupiter! The Big Dipper! Orbit. Space orbit. My space suit. Space. And the sun! I’m gonna meet the sun! Oh no! What do I say?! H-hi, Sun? Oh, no way!

    LOOK, AN ECLIPSE!! NO NO LOOK Come here space, I have a secret for you. come closer. SPACE. Space. Wanna go. Wanna go to space. Wanna go to space. Space. Space. Wanna go. Wanna go to space. Wanna go to space. Space! Space. Hey hey hey hey hey! Lady lady lady lady lady lady lady! I know! I know! I know! I know! I know! I know! I know! Let’s go to space! Ooooh! Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi. Hi. Where we going? Where we going? Hi! Lady! Where we going? Where we going? Lets go to space! Lady. I love space. I know! I know I know! Smell it! Space! S-P-A-aace! Space! Space! I love space! Hey Lady! Hey Lady! I’m the best! I’m the best at space. Oh oh oh oh oh oh I know I know I know wait wait wait I know. Wait, I know. I know, wait. Space. Wait. Wait, I know! Wait wait wait wait wait, I know. I know I know I know I know I know I know. Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait I know. I know. Wait wait, lady, wait, LADY WAIT WAIT LADY wait wait wait lady wait. Space. Wanna go to space. Gonna be in space. Oh! Oh! OHOHOHOHOH! Oh oh oh. Gotta go to space. SPACE! Space space. Comets, stars, galaxies, orion ah ah ah ah! Are we in space yet? What’s the hold up? GOTTA GO TO SPACE! GOTTA GO TO SPACE! Gotta go to space. Yea yea yea yea, I’m going. Gooooing to space! Love space! Need to go to space! Spacespacespace! Going there! I love you, space. SPACE! So much space. Need to see it all.

    You are the farthest ever in space.- Why me, Space?- Because you are the best.- I’m the best at space?!- Yes.- Space court for people in space! Sun presiding. Bam. Guilty! While being in space. I’m in space. Please go to space. Space. Space. Wanna go to space. HUH HUH Gotta go to space. HA Gotta go to space! Space.

    Hey lady. Hey. Lady. Hey lady. HELAHEHLYLHELHYLALADAHALY I’M IN SPAAAAAAACE!!!!! Space? SPACE!! I’m in space. I’m in space. Where am I? Guess. Guess guess.Guess guess guess. I’m in space. There’s a star. There’s another one. Star. Star. Star. Star. Star. Star. Getting bored of space. BAMBAM BAM BAM Take that, space! I win, space, wherever you are! Oh! Oh, oh! I’m in space! I made it! We made it! We made it! We made it! Space!

    …. Earth. Wanna go to Earth. Wanna go to Earth. Wanna go to Earth. Wanna go to Earth. Wanna go to Earth. Wanna go home. Wanna go home. Wanna go home. Wanna go home. Wanna go home. Frightened! Frightened! Frightened! Don’t like space. Too big. Too big. Wanna go home. Wanna go to Earth.

    SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACC CCCCCCCEEEEE SPAAAAAAAAACEEEEEE YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHAAAAAAAAAA YA

  6. I’m with Winter. The Pattern Scars is wonderful stuff. Consider Caitlin’s lead extended!

  7. Ditto. To the polls ye bastards of the internet!

  8. Will be downloading “The Pattern Scars” later today, and will start voting post haste. I can’t imagine Peter Watts having married a bad writer, so I can probably take it on faith that she deserves the award 😛

  9. http://www2.chizinepub.com/books/scars.php

    Link to paper and ebook site for the book.

    Also bonus link to Eric Shear’s profile:

    http://metroinspace.com/us/users/profile/166158

  10. Personally, I never understood why Atwood is considered to be so uber.

    Handmaid’s Tale was basically a more boring, less smart, more proselytizing, better written 1984 with addition of 2000% more feminism and characterization that manages to be better in all the wrong ways, which culminated in a banal holywoody happy-end…and I am not even going to touch certain almost SOD-breaking things there. Orwell, at least, had bothered to cook up serious sociological (and implied technological) unobtanium to aid suspension of disbelief in “rough spots”.
    I was strongly advised against spending time on Oryx and Crake by a friend who knows a thing or two about biosciences (and mocked OaC mercilessly) and whose taste I generally trust, and frankly, couldn’t be bothered with reading more Atwood (perhaps, some other works of her are more impressive).

    Will definitely vote for PS assuming the vote is not limited to Canadian IPs (my Canadian IP address stockpiles are currently exhausted)

  11. [Details redacted, but I want to have your babies. — PW]

  12. I kinda liked Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, although I’m pretty sure they were stories about mankind, not science.

  13. @ 01, who wrote in-part: Handmaid’s Tale was basically a more boring, less smart, more proselytizing, better written 1984 with addition of 2000% more feminism and characterization that manages to be better in all the wrong ways […]

    My favorite do-over of 1984 or Brave New World is the film “Equilibrium“, pretty much a cult classic though moreso for the action sequences than for anything else. It’s almost stunningly unoriginal, harvesting a lot of really over-recycled tropes straight out of everything from Orwell to Ayn Rand. Yet it does have its moments, such as the total bewilderment of emotion-suppressor-addicted cops when they are rounding up outlaws/”sense offenders” in the forbidden zone, and they just can’t figure out why those wacky criminals have lots of dogs. Featuring possibly the cutest puppy evar.

    @ the Thread: The Pattern Scars is now on my reading list which is getting quite quickly longer from reading her at rifters.com. Working my way through the first third of Bakker’s Neuropath. Exceptionally icky beginning, I have to say, but the philosophical questions are starting to fly fast and furious which is what I really like.

  14. Caitlin totally deserves to be winning. I have read Sawyer and I have read Sweet and Sweet wins hands down!

  15. Done, Dude!

  16. @ Hljóðlegur

    I gotta ask, are all the characters there essentially one-trick ponies existing to showcase a particular trait or political talking point? Is the plot a Merkle tree of rehashes ? Do things keep happening due to sheer plot convenience (like how profoundly depopulated, medically decrepit and technologically degraded Gilead maintains political and ideological integrity by sheer power of suspension of disbelief) ? Can I guess the ending from first several pages (okay, I didn’t quite completely guess handmaid tale’s ending, since I did not expect something as unimpressive as that hollywoody epilogue to be tacked on for no probable reason beyond preventing the more puerile readers from having to up their Zoloft dose) ?

    Having said that, I kinda like Handmaid’s Tale because it pisses off social conservatives so much. For all I care, the it could have been a collection of colorful blocks and barcodes, as long as reading it would still cause the “ARGGHHHKKKHHHHRRRR MUST REMOVE FROM CURRICULUM! CONSERVATIVE SMASH! response in those fucktards.

  17. I want comment editing so bad 😉

  18. Patience. I’m working on it, thanks to 03.

  19. @ Peter Watts: re: IT issues of post editing…

    Take a look at any comments page on Greater Greater Washington, a fine site in general and one which has had to deal with its share of technical issues from spam barrages to people wanting to be able to edit their own posts. They’ve peeled the branding but they started out with WordPress and it’s still the basic engine.

    So far as I can tell, there’s no easy way (and possibly no way at all) for WordPress to allow users to redact and/or re-submit their posts. The security issues of cookie-based pseudo-login are all but impossible to overcome, and getting the certificates needed for an SSL-secured “real” name/password login system, that’s both expensive and time-consuming for site owner and the techs, and some hosting sites either can’t handle it or don’t want to add the computational overhead to their servers.

    A good middle-ground is probably doing what greatergreaterwashington.org does, which is to force a preview screen which can be edited multiple times before actual submission. I’m pretty sure that your current WordPress version can support that.

    @ 01: You know, it’s funny, Bakker presents a society based on misogyny in his work, and attracts condemnation in the form of flame-wars and troll attacks. Atwood depicts a society based on misogyny and practically gets Knighted and is elevated to the level of literary icon.

    Not much of a two-faced thing there, now is it.

  20. @Ross, re: Space

    0_0

    You sir owe me a new, surprise spit take proof, monitor.

  21. {smug} Muhahahaha! I am an agent of change. Chaaaaange! 😀

    Re: Atwood impromptu reviews, @01 & @ Hljóðlegur

    My problem with Handmaid’s Tale was the fact that Gilead’s sociology is extremely poorly thought through (approximately on par with geology in The Core movie, which is pretty much a comedy), which constantly rubbed me the wrong way (come on, with no advanced tech and massive depopulation, secessionist movements would flourish like crazy, so a more realistic state of affairs would be a story of “haphazardly walled state-city of Gilead”, not “republic of Gilead”) .
    The banal stupidity of Evil Misogynistic Fundies didn’t help at all, too – I mean, if handmaids are, from Gileadean perspective, wombs on legs, how come they don’t just lobotomize the poor women, or at least the most “uppity” ones? XX-century USA did exactly that to people who were too much of a nuisance to powerful families (see Rosemary Kennedy. Yeah, those Kennedies), so that would be entirely logical resurrection of a proud American tradition. Are icepicks too sophisticated a tool for religious crackpots?
    I could probably go on and on and on (like, about how given imminence of rampant secessionism over most petty issues, the impossibility of maintaining a decent traditional army with Gilead’s ongoing population crisis, and the rarity of fertile women in post-apocalyptic USA, the most logical way for different separatist factions to compete would be to send strike teams to kidnap or kill other side’s fertile women 😉 ), but it basically boils down to Atwood not following her premises to apparent and simple conclusions.

    It was still a decent character study book (at least as long as one agrees to ascribe the fact that fundies do come out as a parody to so-called Poe’s Law), but I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief properly due to the disconnect between the silliness of Gilleadean elite and the fact that they are supposed to be a ruthless movement running a resource-strained country which they took over in a brilliant coup.
    There seems to be a kind of trend here BTW, Atwood makes almost zero attempts at investigating the motivations of characters that are intended to be antagonists, which reflects poorly on her capacity to construct a realistic course of actions for those characters (I don’t know if same thing happens in all of her works, but it is definitely present in every single one I’ve read, including “Oryx and Crake” and the only nonfiction of hers that I’ve read, “Alias Grace”)

    Oryx and Crake was way below HT as far as my humble opinion goes. It’s not very good at getting its points across (poorly shaped biotech fears of the “we shouldn’t play god because we should not” Luddite variety, extremely generic stapple anticorporatism along the line of “corporations are evil for evil’s sake”, ultra-cliched poorVSrich polarization scenario, and generic condemnation of the evil illegal porn industry. It’s like Atwood ran through a pile of overused cyberpunk cliches and picked the largest and dustiest ones, which doesn’t exactly contribute to making a good social critique) and a total failure as character study.
    Protagonist is a boring manchild who undergoes pretty much zero development throughout the story despite living though mothercaressing apocalypse, second core character, who happens to be titular, is a cipher with motivations that, by a generous account, amount to “child pronz ated his soul coz that’s what child pronz do” (by a less generous account, his motivations amount to “plot needs a mad scientist to do shit, because otherwise there would be no drama. Hence, he becomes a mad scientist and does shit”), meanwhile third core character (also titular one) is the most cliched, banal prostitute character imaginable, and is pretty much abandoned by the author without any further development or exposition attempts. Oryx is a token “sweet abused girl we’re supposed to cheer for because she’s saccharine-sweet and horribly abused”, and her idiotic sweetness borders on revolting.
    Not exactly awesome characterization, there. Not exactly plausible and convincing society there, too. Margaret’s good command of English and decent “flow” kind of carried me to the end of O&C, but it wasn’t a particularly impressive ride. It was a like a run-of-the-mill “house of horrors” at a generic vagabond carnival.

    I must confess I dropped The Year of the Flood upon reaching the second goddamned hymn. Enduring such unfunny and self-absorbed bathos is beyond me. Maybe there are huge motherlodes of meaning in this book, buried beneath blowhard tree-hugging poetry, but the text has not succeeded in making me care for those philosophical deposits, for its characters, or anything else it could hypothetically offer. I can handle banal plot and poor characters with good prose, but adding bad poetry breaks the proverbial camel’s back.
    BTW, later, google has informed me that there was a super-creepy promotional tour which involved singing that nonsense, and Margaret honestly expects people to use the hymns for “devotional” purpose.
    Seriously.

    Wat.

    Summing up, in my opinion Atwood isn’t that much better than your average cyberpunk shlock, at least as far as “speculative” fiction is concerned (I’m not quite well versed with her nonfiction, maybe it’s made of pure win). The “speculation” part is quite careless and poorly thought through, her characterization quality is profoundly exaggerated (seemingly only in later works, probably due to an “editor overriding power” problem), and social message in her latest spe…screw that, in her latest sci-fi work seems both banal and blurry. For me, she rides on language and witticisms, but those can only get one so far, especially if one decides to break up good prose with pathetic poetry.

  22. Woo HOOO, edit button has arrived! Let’s test it!

    EDIT: TEST SUCCESS!

    Looks like poking and bugging 01 is a perfectly viable method to attain social advancement (at least on this blog :D)

  23. @01. Well, since it’s science fiction, there was more emphasis on ideas than on full-fledged characterizations. She seemed to be painting a vista of “People Behaving Badly.” Or maybe, that once certain political abstractions catch someone, their behavior begins to distort until they engage in activities startling to contemplate. For instance, that people are capable of horrendous acts if convinced it will right a larger wrong, i.e., there is alot of “ends justifying means” done by mankind. I can’t say she isn’t right on that.

    The pair of books are interesting in that one takes the men’s perspective, and the second is from several women’s point of view. Not sure what that was about, but it was entertaining to try to tie back events you remember from the first book into the second as you read it.

    If “The Dispossessed” by LeGuin was sci fi, then this pair of books is definitely sci fi, no matter how you classify it for marketing reasons. Also, the writing wasn’t poorly done, either, once you get past the sci conventions that heavy character development will be too taxing to the reader. My one literary bone to pick was that it was too easy after things fell apart to find people you knew before the “flood,” as if Destiny had a hand. That might be your “plot convenience” annoyance rearing its head. In any case, it’s a dead lazy Star Wars writing trick that one prolly wants to avoid if attempting serious literature.

    Did you read “The Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell? I was fascinated that it was strictly classified as literature, and the only reason I could see is that it was well written, quite literary.

    OMgosh, this is an edit! Cool.

    And it is allowing another edit! AWEsome.

  24. Looks like Sawyer’s started rallying the troops in earnest; he’s cut Caitlin’s lead by more than half in just the past couple of hours.

    If you guys haven’t voted yet today, now would be a good time. And tomorrow. And tomorrow.

  25. @03 – I must confess I dropped The Year of the Flood upon reaching the second goddamned hymn. Enduring such unfunny and self-absorbed bathos is beyond me

    Oh, wow, I got a completely different read on the hymns. I took it that the enviro cult was really a group of people under the sway of a Distorting Ideology, so they repurposed the Christian dogma and trappings to fit their new vision under this ideology. I thought it was supposed to be amusing, sad, and a little creepy, these hymns. Propoganda that was only really effective if you didn’t see what they were about as a political group?

    Good grief, was I the only one who had that reaction? The enviros were not what they seemed, and that was revealed as the narrators grew up and got a clearer vision of their activities. As we/they go further down the rabbit hole, we see they have computers even tho’ they publically eschew technology, and as a real exemplar of how far down we are, one character commits suicide by eating poisoned mushrooms. Jumpin Jesus on a pogo-stick, why would you choose that horrid way to die in front of your family and friends? Isn’t that like suicide by rabies!?! There had to have been quick and painless ways to do it, but to be in line with their ideology, she picked the mushrooms and the group approved. Oh. the. horror.

    If the hymns were dead serious, then Ms. Atwood has created a structure and subtext in her work even she didn’t realize.

  26. Hahaha! I felt like a complete douche yesterday after my second post in over a year got edited out, but I feel much better now. Voting commenced!

  27. @ 03

    “if handmaids are, from Gileadean perspective, wombs on legs, how come they don’t just lobotomize the poor women, or at least the most “uppity” ones “

    “the impossibility of maintaining a decent traditional army with Gilead’s ongoing population crisis, and the rarity of fertile women in post-apocalyptic USA, the most logical way for different separatist factions to compete would be to send strike teams to kidnap or kill other side’s fertile women”

    Wow. I mean, wow, girl.

    You have seriously proposed grimdarkening the handmaid’s tale and done so in a manner that does not turn subject into a parody and makes perfect in-universe sense.

    I think there should be a medal for that, or something.

    @ Peter Watts

    Yay comment editing! I love the smell of progress in the evening 😀

    @ Hljóðlegur

    With the character question, I was kinda riffing at the way Handmaid’s characters are all plausible, yet in a way obvious political demos (and the entire book is like that, an all-too-obvious political vessel, maybe more obvious in its political message than 1984 which would be an achievement unto itself). O and C seem to have it worse, and the idea that people can be jackasses, esp. for greater good seems like bread and butter of “darker” scifi, so it doesn’t seem to tread any impressive ground there, but, hey, I can’t really pass any judgment on O&C.
    Maybe I’ll try it just to see if dear Third is right 😉

    Cloud Atlas I found to be a pleasant read, perhaps a little bit “pushy” in its messages (but nothing compared to Atwood trying to almost palpably hit the reader with her talking points :)), kinda clever in its composition in an entertaining way, but that’s pretty much all I can say about it. It didn’t leave a mark beyond a smile. Which is good enough :)

    As to the hymn thing… my two cents are that I haven’t touched the book at all, and thus don’t have any grasp of the text itself, but nonetheless, google has kindly drawn me to the full book and the Acknowledgments section (the one that nobody reads 😉 ) contains the following passage:

    “The Year of the Flood is fiction, but the general tendencies and many of the details in it are alarmingly close to fact. The God’s Gardeners cult appeared in the novel Oryx and Crake, as did Amanda Payne, Brenda (Ren), Bernice, Jimmy the Snowman, Glenn (alias Crake), and the MaddAddam group. The Gardeners themselves are not modelled on any extant religion, though some of their theology and practices are not without precedent. Their saints have been chosen for their contributions to those areas of life dear to the hearts of the Gardeners; they have many more saints, as well, but they are not in this book. The clearest influence on Gardener hymn lyrics is William Blake, with an assist from John Bunyan and also from The Hymn Book of the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada. Like all hymn collections, those of the Gardeners have moments that may not be fully comprehensible to non-believers.

    The music for the hymns came about by fortunate coincidence. Singer and musician Orville Stoeber of Venice, California, began composing the music to several of these hymns to see what might happen, and then got swept away. The extraordinary results can be heard on the CD, Hymns of the God’s Gardeners. Anyone who wishes to use any of these hymns for amateur devotional or environmental purposes is more than welcome to do so. Visit them at http://www.yearoftheflood.com, http://www.yearoftheflood.co.uk, or http://www.yearoftheflood.ca. “

    Seems as serious as a heart attack

    (of course, Atwood could be IRL trolling for the lulz, but she doesn’t come off as the kind of person who would enjoy such activity)

  28. We have a saying in Chicago…

    Vote early. Vote often.

  29. Done by faith. The Fecund melancholy daughter was good, too.

    “Which has a wonderfully cheery fatalism to it.”
    And
    “But let’s face it: up against Canada’s premiere novelist and the Sawyer Promotional Juggernaut, Caitlin should be a grease stain on the highway. ”

    made me laugh my head off. Love reading your pimpy prose.

  30. Yeah for Caitlin! This is cool, even if the gap between CBC’s intent/results gets wider and weirder every year…sigh…

    The Pattern Scars is still leading, narrowly…vote people, vote…

    Also, thanks for the link…I got a chance to vote for Kate Beaton’s Hark, A Vagrant collection!. How can you not love somebody who does a comic strip called “Dude-watchin’ with the Brontes”?

    Happy St. Paddy’s Day all!

  31. came for the vote link stayed for the edits? really?

    shiny! I can edit. sweet.

    thanks blog keepers.

  32. suggestion for markup. now that the blog has an edit feature, add an edited flag to comments that get edited.

  33. For Charlie N. Spaceman to win the ride over Eric would be absolutely appalling, but not in the least surprising.

  34. Just discovered: this Bookies poll seems to look at browser, not just IP. Which means that not only can you vote every day, you can vote ONCE EVERY DAY FROM EACH DIFFERENT BROWSER ON YOUR MACHINE.

    If you want be unethical, of course. In a good cause. In the interests of full disclosure.

  35. Fun fact, they actually log voting based off cookies. PollDaddy, you make me sad. So very very sad.

  36. @ David S Re: Space Core’s little brother (father?)

    Charlie Spaceman seems to be leading…

    On a completely unrelated note, local educational channel says that the poll looks at cookies and IP. Educational channel ‘s info is provided strictly for educational purposes.

  37. @ Allister01:

    I foresee MARBLECAKE ALSO THE GAME winning.

  38. @03:

    It does look at IP, and will lock an IP out if too many votes come in over a certain time frame, but it takes some pretty significant vote-spamming to hit that point. If they locked out voting on an IP after a vote had been cast that would start causing significant problems for large NAT-ed establishments. Or even small NAT-ed establishments. Or home users 😛

    @Steve:
    What the hell… How did Moot manage to win every single category when he’s never written a book? 0.0

    Note: I in no way advocate any untoward approaches to voting in this poll. I wouldn’t be overly thrilled about Mr. Sawyer winning since his books generally bore me (I’m looking at you “Calculating God”), but Caitlin Sweet deserves a legit win.

  39. Hahaha! Sorry Dr. Watts. I am going to assume my last comment got moderated out.

    Apologies, and I will start the whole thinking before I post process.

    @Steve: Moot should be added onto all polls. He deserves every award ever.

  40. Hayward’s *Fecund’s Melancholy Daughter* appears to be surging. Gained about 1.5 percent in six hours today.

  41. Holy shit, The Pattern Scars is at 46.9% as of this exact second (Spaceman Spaz is winning right now, unfortunately). I may have finally picked a winner.

    Whoever, I thought Chicago’s motto was “Even the dead get a vote”?

  42. Weird… I go on moderation, come off moderation, then disappear, then reappear…

    Either way, woot for ridiculous amounts of votes! Go Caitlin!

  43. I find it utterly despicable that Charlie Spaceman is still leading by several hundred votes. Come on apes, do you want your IPs to live forever ?

  44. Awwww, just you look at it, it thinks it is people 😀

    My bots at least try to say something vaguely relevant.

  45. @Cookie: That too, I guess. Detroit’s might have been better: “Where the weak are killed and eaten.”

    @01: So Charlie Spaceman is actually a robot? Robots are trying to infiltrate NASA?!? Someone should contact Homeland Secur—

    Oh, nevermind. I’m sure Glenn Beck will have that covered along with “Stonehenge worshipping atheists infiltrating the Army” (Supposedly a recent thing on his website. I think he’s just trying really hard to get back on the air).

  46. In Halifax, they say the dead will rise…on election day!

    Voting early and often seems to be what CBC wants/expects for this competition. Sounds good to me…

    Go Caitlin!

  47. @Whoever

    No, I was referring to spam comment (linking to an attack site) which seems to have been killed by Peter.

    The bot was very dim (I find it somewhat sad that people don’t strive for excellence in spambot design :( )

    BTW, Charlie could rather plausibly be a well-designed chatbot/spambot.

    Convincing single-topic conversation bots emulating an “odd’ personality can be done and have been done (I think I already mentioned a straightforward Eliza clone that emulated a rude and abusive user, and convinced some people that it was a profane human with anger management issues rather than a dumb machine…)

  48. Seem to be having problems accessing Chizine in general. Anyone else, or is this just south of the border?

  49. I can’t get in from Vancouver either.

  50. This is not a joke url. for future notice:

    http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com

    anyway, I was able to get to http://chizinepub.com/ okay. Is it still inaccessible for you guys?

    next topic, 01, maybe it would be fun to try and make one. and then have it post hypothetical comments somewhere else (so as not to really spam). goofydomainname/botname/<url to post being commented on>

    perhaps

  51. Thanks for the URL, Sheila. That will come in handy.

    It appears to be back/available now, yes.

  52. If a blitz by readers of this crawl winds up ripping this contest to shreds (and at present she’s at more than double the vote total of Mr. Sawyer), we expect payment in terms of novel or short story blurbs.

    Yours or hers, doesn’t matter.