What You Can Get Away With » charles stross

Richard Hofstadter and America’s New Wave of Anti-Intellectualism – Not just limited to America, of course.
Robert Reich: “Paid-what-you’re-worth” is a toxic myth – “Fifty years ago, when General Motors was the largest employer in America, the typical GM worker got paid $35 an hour in today’s dollars. Today, America’s largest employer is Walmart, and the typical Walmart workers earns $8.80 an hour.”
Why American Eggs Would Be Illegal In A British Supermarket, And Vice Versa – It might not sound that interesting, but here’s a look behind the scenes at how regulation has affected food production differently on both sides of the Atlantic.
Good Riddance, Fred Phelps – And that’s how you write an obituary for a repulsive individual.
A nation of slaves – “Today, in the political discourse of the west, it is almost unthinkably hard to ask a very simple question: why should we work?”

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About Teather’s “explanation” of voting against equality – Lee Griffin points out the problems with Sarah Teather’s reasons for voting against the same-sex marriage bill.
The Other 11 Doctors – What if the Doctor had always been played by a woman?
Damsel, Arise: A Westboro Scion Leaves Her Church – Megan Phelps-Roper, one of the more prominent members of the Westboro Baptist Church (‘God Hates Fags’) has left it.
Open letter to Andrew Turner MP – “I will not vote for you, because you think I am worth less as a person than you. No-one who believes I am as entitled to civil rights as anyone else will vote for you. Yesterday was not an attack on religious freedom, but a doorway to it for so many people who’ve been denied a full spiritual and civil engagement in society. If your vote yesterday were a matter of conscience, I suggest you consider the lives you have wished on young LGBT people under your care, because they are so much better off today than when I was growing up and you’ve done everything in your power, which is the power entrusted to you by the people of the island, to oppose that.”
Political failure modes and the beige dictatorship – If you think I’m cynical about modern politics, read this post by Charles Stross.

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The ‘scrounger’ myth is causing real suffering to many in society – New research reported by the LSE’s British Politics and Policy blog.
Let’s call it failure – If you haven’t yet seen John Lanchester’s LRB piece on austerity, here’s your chance.
Happy Christmas! Here is a flame war in a can – Charles Stross points out certain similarities between two historical figures.
A Bum’s Christmas – Traditionally borrowed from Blood and Treasure, HL Mencken’s short story.
The 5 Worst Ghosts of 2012 – A sceptical perspective on some of the ‘ghost’ stories that the media have pushed this year.

And as it’s the season, tips on how to avoid drunk drivers:

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Fear and loathing in Athens: the rise of Golden Dawn and the far right – I don’t know how much it’s emphasised for the story, or if it seems worse than it is because of the focus on one angle, but Greece sounds like a country with some major problems right now.
Stephen becomes first councillor in the UK with Down’s Syndrome – Great story, and even better, the comments below are almost completely positive.
Light Entertainment – Andrew O’Hagan in the London Review of Books on the Savile scandal and the rather disturbinglight world of British light entertainment.
Conference accreditation: what do candidates think? – One for my Lib Dem readers here. Following on from Jennie’s questions to candidates, Andy Hinton polls candidates for the Federal Executive for their views on Conference accreditation.
Context is everything – Charles Stross looks at the reasons for and against protecting the environment. JUst how important are humans anyway?

And if you’re still here, why not watch this?

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Or, how liquid democracy gets you the sack in the end.

How The German Pirate Party’s Liquid Democracy Works – Sounds like an interesting way for members of an organisation to discuss things. And no need to get pre-approved for discussions by the police.
SF, big ideas, ideology: What is to be done? – Charles Stross on whether SF is a genre of ‘big ideas’.
The Fandom Issue: Marvelous – “At what point is the triumph of comic-book culture sufficient?” Some interesting parallels between geek culture and the Tea Party.
How a stranger carrying a rucksack got within 10 feet of Nick Clegg – Why, it’s almost like security theatre isn’t necessary!
Sacking people is easy to do – Not that I recommend you should, but John Band points out that people complaining about red tape preventing them doing it don’t have much of a leg to stand on.

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Yes, yes, I’m doing these again. It’s almost like I’ve decided to try being a blogger again for a while, isn’t it?

Stephen King: Tax Me, for F@%&’s Sake! – A wonderfully angry rant about what rich people get away with in American.
The rise of gernotocracy? – (pdf file) A report from the Intergenerational Foundation on the democratic deficit between different age groups, with suggestions for how to combat it. Whether you agree with the recommendations or not, there’s a lot of food for thought within it.
Bill Hicks on Freedom of Speech – Wonderful letter from the late, great comedian to a priest who’d complained about Channel 4 showing Revelations
Spoilers – Charles Stross responds to some of the reviews and comments on his excellent novel Rule 34
. He’s not complaining about them (‘we have a technical term for an author who argues with reviewers: “idiot”‘) but pointing out some interesting additional information on the book and its background that’s interesting if you’ve read it. And if you haven’t, then you should give it a try.
The Economist fails the Turing Test again – Crooked Timber’s Henry Farrell explains how to automate the writing of Economist articles.

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2011 books: Catch up

Oops, haven’t written here for a while, and have also slipped behind on the regular reading too. Only three books finished in the few weeks since my last post, and they were:

30) A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin

The longest part yet of A Song Of Ice And Fire, and would perhaps have counted as two books if I wasn’t reading the single Kindle edition. Still very good, and an interesting depiction of a world descending into hell, with each chink of light ruthlessly extinguished as another plot comes to light.

31) Rule 34 by Charles Stross

The sequel to Halting State, Stross returns to near-future Scotland for a crime story that’s equal parts Brookmyre and Orwell. A very interesting extrapolation of current trends in society and policing, laden down with the usual rapid-fire of ideas that you expect from Stross.

32) I, Patridge: We Need To Talk About Alan by Alan Partridge (Armando Ianucci, Steve Coogan et al

The autobiography of a broadcasting legend, whose career I’ve followed since he burst to national prominence on Radio 4’s On The Hour and Knowing Me, Knowing You. It reveals just how this major talent’s career has been blighted by the jealousy of lesser talents and the short-sightedness of broadcasting management (usually at the BBC). Includes a harrowing account of his descent into Toblerone addiction – I, for one, will never look on their chocolate-honey-nougat prisms with quite the same innocence from now on – though needless to say, he has the last laugh.

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But who will be eaten first?

The House of Lords by numbers – interesting data on how many Lords of different parties have been appointed in the last few years.
The Poisonous Drivel of Dr Denis MacShane MP – A Labour MP and the Daily Mail conspire in quoting something out of context to disparage the work of a feminist academic? Hands up anyone not surprised by this latest attempt to drag everyone down to the lowest common denominator. (via)
The People’s Pledge campaign: More lies, irrelevancies and distortions from the British EU referendum campaign – Luckily, Nosemonkey doesn’t get tired of pointing out all the times when people get things wrong about the EU. Contains more refutations of spurious factoids than you’ll find in most newspapers.
China used prisoners in lucrative internet gaming work – Welcome to the future. It’s written by Charles Stross, but just be glad they didn’t use that part of his work that features the Elder Gods.
Humor from historians – A fully peer-reviewed joke.

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Only time for a quick review of this one, the final book in Stross’ Merchant Princes series, which I found a bit disappointing. The series as a whole has been pretty interesting, but has suffered from a certain amount of narrative sprawl, as sub-plots spawn sub-plots, which makes it somewhat to pick up the threads again at the start of each book. This is the last book in the series, but it feels more like it ends at a convenient point rather than reaches a climax – maybe he’s leaving it open for a series of sequels – and I was left with a feeling of ‘oh, is that it?’ at the end.

That’s not to say there aren’t some fun and interesting bits on the way – and, if nothing else, he’s created a fascinating universe in this series – but the whole seems somewhat less than the sum of the parts and I found myself wishing he’d wrenched more out of the scenario and the questions left unanswered at the end. Some of which was exacerbated even more by reading some of his initial notes and ideas for the series, of course.

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Technically, it’s only half a new book as some of the stories in this collection are ones I’ve read before. Of course, they’re Stross short stories, which means they’re always worth reading again to find something new buried deep within them.

The standard’s generally very high – though I’d agree with the author’s own assessment that ‘Trunk and Disorderly’ doesn’t quite work – and many of these stories contain more original and interesting ideas than most novels get into a much longer length. It’s also a good illustration of Stross’ versatility as a writer and his willingness to experiment with style and subject matter. Be it combining entomology and eschatology on a flat Earth in ‘Missile Gap‘, producing a humorous perspective on just what sort of contact SETI might generate in ‘MAXOs’ or producing a head-spinning interpretation of time travel in ‘Palimpsest’, Stross isn’t afraid to take risks and do something new, and it’s the efforts of writers like him that keep sf fresh and away from ploughing the same old furrows again and again. Recommended, even if you’ve read some of them already.