January 5th, 2009


Is Cyberpunk ineluctably male? and other generalizations.

I'm behind on lj, and this from james_nicoll seemed like enough fun to pull out of the deep past of several days ago.

I don't like most cyberpunk because I don't like noir, and I'm pretty sure that the reason I don't like noir is the implied total lack of safety. In an effort to rationalize my prejudice, I suggest that people don't actually build societies in which it is impossible to raise children. Maybe there are babies in cyberpunk (if there are, please tell me-- I mean babies that need a lot of care from adults, not some techno weirdness so that raising babies is shuffled off onto machines (though I don't think you get that in cyberpunk, either)), but I'm not only not seeing them, the societies seem to have no room for them, and to get the bleakness, you have no hint of something more civilized elsewhere. It's at least conceivable that women get less fun out of imagining such places, though I'm interested in counterexamples.

I've read both Trouble and Her Friends (and disliked it) and The Fortunate Fall (and liked it very much), but I remember very little from either.

Delany's Nova did strike me as something very close to cyberpunk-- there was a lot of cyberpunk tech, but it was also set in a stable, prosperous society, so it didn't feel like prototypical cyberpunk.

And this reminds me of something I think I've noticed. Male writers make a bigger deal of weapons-- they're the ones who write stories with named weapons, doomed weapons, lovingly detailed weapons. There's a notable dagger in Bujold's Miles stories, but iirc it's a ceremonial suicide dagger-- you don't fight with it. There's some drooling over armor Mary Gentle's Burgundy tetralogy [1], but it's armor, not a weapon. As always, counterexamples are welcome, and I'm aware that if people notice this post, there will be some some women writers putting more about weapons in their stories.

And now to magical realism, which I believe is distinguished by a total lack of world-building. Unfortunately for my handy generalization, the world-building in most fantasy is pretty weak. The muggle world and the wizarding world should have had more effect each other. Ratatouille would have been a very different story if people had to take it seriously that rats are sentient. I think the difference between magical realism and genre fantasy is that the fantastic event is right out in public for the whole story, and no one notices that there's anything odd about it.

Addendum: It looks like my theory about women and weapons in sf is wrong-- see comments about some sf by women with named weapons. Also, it wasn't a suicide dagger, it was a seal dagger which was supposed get a little blood when used.

On having something that looks vaguely like regulation

The SEC was getting warnings for 16 years about Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

This isn't a matter of one administration.

Was anyone saying that the SEC wasn't doing enough 15 years ago? This is a real question-- my impression is that the two major points of view were that we needed to keep up the regulation we had or that we had too much.

I see the financial crisis as a government failure as well as a market failure [1]. I haven't been seeing anything in the way of institutional recommendations to keep this from happening again-- it's all just "let's have honest, competent regulators with sufficient political clout, and then things will be all right". They might be better, but they won't be stably better. If you don't have checks and balances, you're way too dependent on the quality of the people in charge.

Afaik, there hasn't been progress in checks and balances (nor in thinking about them) since the Freedom of Information Act. (As always, if I've missed something, I'm pleased to find out.)

My two notions at this point is that a parlimentery system would help. If you can routinely dump your President when enough people start thinking he or she is a bad idea, rather than having the huge drama of impeachment, then you don't get excess years of goddawful leadership.

The other one is for it to become standard for much more information about investments to be publicly online. Apparently, there was quite a bit fishy about Madoff's fund, though you had to be somewhat sophisticated and not blinded by his social skills to see it. While I realize it's a lot of work for people to go over that kind of thing, some people get geeky fun out of it. And if you're right a few times, you can leverage that into an expensive investment newsletter.

[1] It was rather painful when I realized it, but I didn't think the discipline of the market was needed to keep the financial meltdown from happening. I had a background assumption that people just wouldn't neglect their businesses so badly.

I still suspect that excessively long working hours in the financial industry was part of the problem-- they make it harder to think about whether what you're doing makes sense. When I first proposed that theory, I kept getting told that everyone was just doing what local pressures required them to do. I've since found out that not everyone drank the Koolaid. And it occurs to me that the people applying the pressure also weren't getting enough time for thought and rest.