Friday, May 26th, 2017 05:04 pm

Last night I went to a play.

 

It is the second play I have been to lately. The first, The Elephant Girls, I saw on the recommendation of Amal El-Mohtar while it was showing in Dublin, and that was excellent. This was a showing of Much Ado About Nothing at the Lir Theatre: a friend had got tickets through work and couldn't go, so she passed the tickets along. So my girlfriend and I stroll along last night up by Grand Canal Dock at the hottest day (so far) of the year, to see the young people of the Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art DO SHAKESPEARE.

 

Wow. What a show.

 

It was a modern staging and a very high-energy one, at that: Much Ado About Nothing reimagined as the eighties/disco house party from hell, complete with high heels, shirtless men in hot print shorts and fur coats, Claudio lathering Don Pedro in sunscreen, and Beatrice reading Caitlin Moran. It was a small cast: Beatrice, Hero, Leonato (cross-cast as Leonata), Don Pedro, Claudio, Don John, Margaret, and Barachio, whose actor also played the Friar. There was some compression of characters and scenes but it did not detract from the play.

 

There were musical numbers. Scene changes were signalled by the lights going down and a couple of bars of thematically-appropriate pop music. Leonato cross-cast as Leonata is a change that works really well, and allowed the play to play with the idea of Leonata and Don Pedro having an understanding.

 

Beatrice delivered her lines amazingly well. She and Margaret, I think, were the best performers in the cast, though I suspect when they have a little more age and experience, the actors who were playing Leonata and Benedick and Don Pedro will be able to bring more presence to their performances. (Leonata leapt in presence once she had some pathos, rather than comedy, to play with.) Don John had little enough to do, but did it really well. And the stage business, the physical comedy, was exceptionally well done.

 

This staging of the play understood the misogyny that is at the heart of Much Ado About Nothing, and did not seek to minimise it: there is drinking and drug-use shown during the play, and this, juxtaposed against Claudio and Don Pedro's vile over-reaction to aspersions cast on Hero's sexual virtue, plays with the hypocrisy that is at the heart of the play. And at the scene break immediately after Claudio and Hero are agreed to be married the first time, members of the cast handed out invitations to the wedding.

Wedding invitation of Hero and Claudio

 

The text inside the cover?

 

"Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them."

Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them
 

 

There is also a particularly telling bit of business at the very end of the play. All the cast are celebrating - with the exception of a hooded and bound Margaret. The cast exits, all bar Margaret, who is left in the middle of the stage, saying plaintively into the silence, "Hello?"

 

And then the lights go down.

 

They understood their Shakespeare enough to stage it well and faithfully and hilariously -- and also critique its attitudes at the same time. An excellent play.

Friday, May 26th, 2017 12:52 pm

Hello!

I'm thinking of writing something set in the mid-21st century and asked Charlie if he had any good resources for futurism on a ~30 year time scale. And lo and behold, a guest post appeared.

Now, I'm not much of a futurist, or really any kind of futurist in the formal sense. But I like to think I can see where things might be going, so here's a brief rundown of what I'm anticipating we'll see by mid-century.

TECHNOLOGY - A fractured Internet and radically decentralized social media are the name of the game. This is the cyberpunk dystopia you were promised, but without all the messy brain surgery and skulljacks. Getting data across certain national borders will be difficult. Getting news out during a blackout might, in some countries, be worth your life. Most countries that style themselves as free may resist government control of the Internet, but it’s unlikely that they will be able to do much more than maintain zones where the old rules apply. The Great Firewall of China is going to be a popular model. Alternative national networks that are inherently biased in favor of the state might prove to be another.

Even in countries that prefer to be mostly hands-off about their networks, legislation and policy changes will be put in place to harden their population against psy-op attacks like the one that has crippled America. The dream is already dead: in 30 or 40 years we’ll see what has grown from the corpse. Drones will be ubiquitous of course, as will anti-drone technologies to clear the airspace in an emergency.

POLITICS - Expect socialism, anarchism, and other direct challenges to capitalism to make a roaring comeback in the developed world.

The Washington Consensus relied upon Washington to be a reliable broker, and the loss of faith in American leadership due to the Trump Administration will be seismic in scale. By 2050, America has vastly degraded herself from her position of supremacy in January of 2001, but she is likely to retain a cultural influence that is far out-sized compared to her paltry 460 million citizens (already in fourth place after China, India, and the EU).

The global cultural impact of a resurgent Left in the famously right-wing United States may end up being one of the signature features of the new era, if for no other reason than our cultural productions might be one of our few remaining viable exports. It might not be cinema and TV shows by then. It might be hepatic enabled VR that let’s YOU fight the strike breakers in front of the Ford Motor Company gates! Feel that Pinkerton’s skull crack under your Louisville Slugger! Oh yes, the resurgent American socialism is going to be drenched in Americana, tip to tail. (At least it will be if I have anything to say about it!)

But, of course, America will as usual be a trailing indicator.

This shift is well underway in Europe already, and with a few more decades to develop it may become a big deal, historically speaking. I haven’t seen much discussion of how this dynamic will play out in Asia. It may be in places where the economy is still developing to a Euro/American level, these appeals will be less persuasive, but I kind of doubt it. It’s going to be a major controversy everywhere. International boundaries will continue to blur but will not disappear.

WAR - Modern war is horrifying in its expense and violence. This will be ever more true, and the extreme costs of the highest end weapon systems might paradoxically make them less vital in a strategic sense. Sun Tzu identifies the highest form of strategy as learning how to win without fighting, and when a single squadron of fighters costs a sizable fraction of a country’s GDP, their incentive to get creative with how they achieve their contested objectives has never been higher. We see that with Russia’s campaign of election meddling already. This will formalize as new type of international conflict. Perhaps there will be a new word for it, or perhaps we will simply change the definition of war to “a political conflict in which one side has decided the other’s interests are immaterial and not to be considered.”

When it does come to violence, I think we will see a pattern where much of the fighting will be conducted with low to medium cost weapons systems, and a few high end bits of kit meant to act as a force multiplier. How might this look in practice? Consider an urban guerrilla outfit which manufactures its own ammunition out of smuggled raw ingredients and feeds this into their 3D printed infantry weapons. They have as many riflemen as they want, but for antitank defense they rely on foreign missiles dropped off in the night by friendly special forces helicopters.

One caveat to this: many of the world’s most powerful economies have been sheltering under the enormous US defense budget for generations. With Washington no longer reliable, that may not be the case for much longer. But 2050, we may see large standing armies with fully modern equipment in places where they haven’t been seen in generations. If that’s the case, expect the first three weeks of any major conventional war to be an absolute bloodbath…and then the guerrilla phase starts.

For a historical example, look at the Battle of the Frontiers in World War 1. A lot of illusions were shattered at enormous cost of human life, and both sides then scrambled to improvise new tactics and technologies to counter the revealed status quo. Think of that, but without the trench warfare. Imagine instead if France had been conquered, and then immediately gone into a kind of medium-high insurrection against the occupation forces instead of surrendering. Now add in the Internet, foreign meddling, long-standing internal conflicts coming to a boil, and that will be the pattern for major conventional conflict.

And if fourth generation nuclear weapons ever get off the drawing board…it’s not gonna be pretty.

ENVIRONMENT - The shift to renewables will be all but complete, and pollution cleanup technologies might be a big growth industry, pushed heavily by China, who have a real strong incentive to figure out how to pull heavy metals out of the water and soil.

Antarctica is past the point of no return. Many coastal cities have flooded. To openly be a global warming denialist in some places on Earth is to take your life in your hands. By 2050, I expect at least high profile one climate related assassination to have occurred. Carbon capture technology is one of the highest priority areas of research, and scientists are also scrambling with a way to capture the other greenhouse gasses as well. Geo-engineering initiatives have significant political clout by now. People see the problem and they want it FIXED. Animals are being sampled so they can be cloned back into being after they go extinct. In some places, eco-preservation is almost a mania. The last few stubborn hold-outs in denial are likely to be radicalized and violent by now. See above for how that’s gonna work out for them.

I don’t expect the panic reactions to the Earth visibly starting to fall apart to work. We’re gonna get several nasty surprises. Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 had a plausible future history for how this argument might play out. Green cities of vertical farms, a smaller human population living in automated comfort, and a re-wilded countryside is an ideal that’s already attractive to some. It will only get more attractive as time goes on.

HEALTH - The permafrost has already begun to melt. Surprise, it’s smallpox! Or if not smallpox, some other damn thing nobody’s had to have antibodies for at any time in the past half million years. The death toll might be high, but one hopes a crash program of inoculation keeps this from being the civilization killer that some fear and others hope for. See the movie Contagion for what I’m thinking will happen. We get pandemic scares all the time (We’ve had like three just since I graduated college nine years ago) and sooner or later the bugs will get lucky. Stem cell therapy, 3-D printed organs, CRISPR, etc, are really coming into their own and helping people live longer and at a higher quality than ever before, if they have the money.

I do not expect much in the way of sci-fi flavored biotech, if only because the real problems that these technologies will be bent toward will be more subtle, but more important. Developing a new way to culture bacteria, for example, would be an obvious application of biotech that doesn’t exactly move the average heart to excitement, and yet would be as consequential as the discovery of penicillin.

Look for several medical breakthroughs of this sort in the next few decades, but be warned you may not live to see their full benefit because immortality isn’t fucking happening for people who are already alive. Who is the most enthusiastic about cheating death? Silicon Valley types who have never met a real limit in their life, that’s who. Don’t let their privileged delusions pollute your thinking. What is much more likely to happen is that upper class people will begin living much longer than has historically been the norm, but lower class people will find their life expectancy cut. Hey, remember when I said socialism was gonna make a comeback?


And that’s it. That’s my list of thoughts about where we will be by mid-century. I think there’s going to be at least one really big black swan event, and probably at least one major conventional war like the one I suggested above. What did I leave out? What did I get wrong?

Friday, May 26th, 2017 02:28 am
Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "The trick" - originally published 5/24/2017

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

Friday, May 26th, 2017 10:23 am
Here we are again, and here's the first chapter of The Warrior's Bond, the fourth Tale of Einarinn. Enjoy.

This was a fun book to write. One of the things I was determined to do in this first series, was to never rewrite the book I'd just written, if that makes sense. I can't remember if it was one of the editorial team at Orbit who offered that as advice to me as a new writer, or a fellow author, given that was twenty years or so ago. Either way, it made perfect sense, as I recall, then and now, my own disappointment when a much-loved book is followed by far too much of the same.

So when I was looking at the plot ideas stemming from the previous Tales, I searched for the ones which offered me a chance to do something different and challenging. Here this meant writing a novel where all the action happens essentially over five days, in an epic fantasy kingdom's capital city. There's no endless trekking over wilderness here. Instead, you'll learn all about the mean streets of Toremal.

Something else I love about this particular book is the way two different artists illustrated the very same scene from the story in the UK and the US. Comparing them is fascinating, with intriguing hints to the different traditions each artist chose to draw on. That was Geoff Taylor in the UK, but the US artist isn't credited anywhere that I can find. If anyone recognises the work and style, do get in touch.



Friday, May 26th, 2017 12:29 am
posted by Neil Gaiman
I met Sara Benincasa eight years ago, when she interviewed me in a bathtub. (I was in the bathtub. Sara wasn't even wet.)

She's an author and comedian and the sort of person who has strange ideas and acts upon them. So when she tweeted me the other night and asked me if I would read the Cheesecake Factory Menu live, if she raised half a million dollars for the charity, I did not ask any of the obvious questions (like, why would I read the Cheesecake Factory Menu aloud? or Who would want to hear this? or even How would you ever make that much money for something so unlikely?). Instead I said I'd like the money to go to Refugees, please, and sure. ( And I added, "If you get to a million dollars, I'll also read the entirety of Fox in Socks after the Cheesecake Factory menu.")

And then Sara did something even more unlikely. She set up a page to allow people to donate at Crowdrise.com... and people started to donate. Lots of them.

It's been up a couple of days since then, and we are (as I type this) 8% of the way to the target at over $42,000. It's started to be picked up by newspapers -- here's the LA Times,  and the Boston Globe, and even the Guardian.


And I will do my own bit for it. I will put up something unique to this blog.

Probably you are thinking, will he write about his time on the Red Carpet at Cannes for HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES?



It is not that. (But here are costume designer Sandy Powell, channeling Ziggy Stardust, and star Elle Fanning eating colour-coordinated macaroons.)



Perhaps you are thinking, Will he perhaps post photographs of Gillian Anderson as Media in the next episode of American Gods incarnated as Ziggy Stardust also eating colour-coordinated macaroons?


I will not. I do not believe such photos exist. 

Instead I will put up photos of my elf-child, Ash. I will see him on Saturday, and the Cannes red carpet would have been much more fun if he had been on it.







...

Whether or not I get to read the Cheesecake Factory Menu in public (or Dr Seuss's tonguetwisting Fox in Socks) I will be doing a few more readings and talks this year. Tickets are going fast:

07 Jul 2017
Dallas, TX
09 Jul 2017
Washington, D.C.
10 Jul 2017
Hartford, CT       


Each of these should be links to the event -- all of them are solo me just reading and talking and answering your questions, except for the Hartford one, where I'll be interviewed by the NYPL's very own Paul Holdengraber.





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Thursday, May 25th, 2017 04:01 pm
Weigh-in: 108kg approx.

Squats: 5x5 at 90kg
Seated row: 1x8 at 10 machine weights; 4x5 at 12 machine weights
Bicep curl: 3x10 at 8kg/arm
Incline sit-ups: 1x10

Cardio: Rowing: 1km in 5:15
Cardio: Exercise bike: 4.3km in 10:00
Wednesday, May 24th, 2017 04:15 pm
Weigh-in: 108kg approx.

Benchpress: 1x5 at 60kg, 5x5 at 65kg.
Prone leg lifts: 5x10
Lat raise: 3x10 at 8kg/arm
Bicep curl 3x10 at 7kg/arm
Military press: 3x10 at 4kg/arm

Cardio: cycling 5.3km in 15:00.




After two weeks tapping around and climbing a bit instead of gym sessions, and following a late night with a morning blood draw, I don't think that's too bad. (I skipped my squats in case I had dizziness: dizziness with 100kg more on your shoulders is not good.)
Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017 01:40 pm
Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Limits" - originally published 5/22/2017

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017 04:42 am

What's causing the unusual ray of white light extending upward from the central horizon? What's causing the unusual ray of white light extending upward from the central horizon?


Monday, May 22nd, 2017 08:46 pm
This is a system I don't know, and probably won't be playing - I'm not really into "Dark Fantasy" or any of the things they mention in the "if you love xxx you'll love this..." bit, and suspect it isn't really my sort of setting:

https://bundleofholding.com/presents/DemonLord

"Shadow of the Demon Lord is designer Robert J. Schwalb's dark fantasy RPG of grim heroism against a cosmic destroyer. In this fast-playing, low-prep March 2015 Kickstarter triumph, desperate heroes battle strange magic, unhinged cultists, and roaming mobs of undead while humanity's last great empire slides toward oblivion. Gamers who love Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, the Ravenloft and Midnight settings, Joe Abercrombie's The First Law novels, or heavy metal music will want this bargain-priced collection of DRM-free .PDF ebooks all about the Void That Hungers.

We provide each ebook complete in .PDF (Portable Document Format). Like all Bundle of Holding titles, these books have NO DRM (Digital Restrictions Management), and our customers are entitled to move them freely among all their ereaders.

Ten percent of each purchase (after gateway fees) goes to this offer's designated charity, the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The total retail value of the titles in this offer at launch is US$98. Customers who pay just US$13.95 get all four titles in our Starter Collection (retail value $44) as DRM-free .PDF ebooks, including the complete 278-page Shadow of the Demon Lord corebook (retail price $20), the Demon Lord's Companion (retail $10), the Uncertain Faith sourcebook of divine magic (retail $12), and the fine introductory adventure Dark Deeds in Last Hope (retail $2).

Those who pay more than the threshold (average) price, which is set at $23.95 to start, also get our entire Bonus Collection with five more titles worth an additional $54. What's in these supplements? The titles speak for themselves: Hunger in the Void (retail $12), Tombs of the Desolation (retail $10), A Glorious Death (retail $10), Terrible Beauty (retail $12), and Exquisite Agony (retail $10). Happy gaming!

At least one more title will be added after launch; "When a title is added after launch, ALL customers who previously purchased the bundle automatically receive the newly added title, REGARDLESS of whether or not they paid more than average. This is their reward for buying early.

Shadow of the Demon Lord resources

I think it looks like a reasonable deal, but I'm not going to be delving into it to see if I'm right or wrong. For this one you're on your own...

Tags:
Sunday, May 21st, 2017 07:02 pm

Hi! Charlie here. I'm about to hit the road for ten days (I'm one of the guests at Italcon next week). And while I'm away, I'm handing over the blogging podium to a new guest blogger: April Daniels, author of Dreadnought (and, forthcoming, Sovereign).

April Daniels graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in literature, and then promptly lost her job during the 2008 stock crash and recession. After she recovered from homelessness, she completed her first manuscript by scribbling a few sentences at a time between calls while working in the customer support department for a well-known video game console.

She has a number of hobbies, most of which are boring and predictable. As nostalgia for the 1990s comes into its full bloom, she has become ever more convinced that she was born two or three years too late and missed all the good stuff the first time around.

Early in her writing practice, April set her narrative defaults to “lots of lesbians” and never looked back.

Sunday, May 21st, 2017 11:11 am
Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Upgrade" - originally published 5/19/2017

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

Saturday, May 20th, 2017 04:18 am

Named for the three astronomers instrumental in its discovery and Named for the three astronomers instrumental in its discovery and