Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Evaluation: Golden Sky 5

Yes, it is Tuesday, and not Monday. Sorry about that, no real excuse other than "by the time I remembered it was way too late to get started and I needed to sleep". (One day I'll figure out why I apologise to imaginary readers, but today is not that day).

In somewhat better news, progress! I'm pretty sure where everything fits now, all that's left to figure out is whether to fill one particular blank spot or leave it blank. I'm tending towards the latter option, will be what happens if I don't get any good ideas to fill it with this week. Not long till the end, now, I think, but I have a habit of being wrong about that.

I'm thinking of eliminating one aspect of the story that gets almost no mention, but it just might survive to the end and the big "action scene". I'm terrified of writing that, I suck at action, but I need to learn some time, right? (I want to, at any rate).

Other than that, I'm kinda annoyed about Anna's dialogue, it sounds too adult. She's supposed to be 10 (in this particular part) and I have no idea how to write her to be more childlike but still herself, mostly because her character is built around her being unusually smart. So she talks about deep stuff (sort of), and it sounds older than it should. Very tempting to just say "fuck it" and leave it at that. Shitty, but very tempting.

Not much else to say. This week better be productive.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Evaluation: Golden Sky 4

Blergh. Two straight weeks without an update, and I only really have an excuse for the first one. The second one was mostly "Yay, no more studying, let's do something fun!" which got me to basically gaming at all my free times. Even this past weeks I've been doing mostly that, though I managed to pull off a few things.

So, developments, wrote very little, but solved the biggest problem with the plot so far. In two stories, no less, one of 'em being Golden Sky and the other my work-in-progress novel, provisionally titled Project Tapir (not really, but I'll refer to it as such until I find a better title than the one it has right now). Technically evaluations are supposed to be about Psychflares that arebeing written, but hey, it's writing, so I'll babble about that for a minute. 

So, Project Tapir is a fantasy novel I began plotting, um, two years ago or so. It has undergone several bajillion changes, to the point it has basically nothing to do with the original except the genre. To give an example: One of my characters, Sophia, began as the protagonist of the first major incarnation (meaning when I began writing it as opposed to just thinking about it). By the time I said "Well, this sucks" and restarted, she was one of many viewpoint characters. Third start, the one I'm currently at, she no longer appears in the story. The plot is also ridiculously different, it began as epic struggle to save the world, now it's political intrigue and separatism. The only reason it qualifies as a single book as opposed to two or three different ones is that the changes are gradual, so I began by adding a few characters, changing a few aspects of the world, diminishing some roles, phasing out annoying details, and before you know it your protagonist is demoted to extra and might not even exist.

Though I believe it has greatly improved. Take Mielen, for example, a relatively early arrival that has had a few ups and downs in relevance. When she first appeared, she was basically a physical goddess, in terms of power at least. Over time, I de-Mary Sue'd her (it was difficult, I'd grown quite attached to her overpoweredness), and now she's still powerful and probably needs further nerfing, but no longer has the whole "THE GODS THEMSELVES COWER BEFORE MY MIGHT!" thing going on. She's also no longer part dragon (seriously, my shittiness as a writer never ceases to amaze me). The backstory for the universe no longer requires mysteriously ancient people with lost magicks, elven and dragon societies make a lot more sense and have a few original twists, the plot is actually tolerable and somewhat original, etc. And, today, I even solved one of the bigger holes left in the plot by the latest rewrite. I'm not sure how long it'll take me to finish it, and how long after that to deshittify it. But hey, progress.

So, as for that other thing I'm writing and that is in the title of this post... well, not much to say, really. Just, figured out something that was annoying me, if I get more focused this next week I'll be able to make some serious progress. If not, then, fuck me.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Evaluation: Golden Sky 3

Hurray for updates. Busy this week, don't expect an evaluation on Monday (standard "unless I get really productive on Monday itself" disclaimer applies)

So, Jack is now officially Jack, by which I mean I have decided that yes, that'll be his name, or at least what people call him (not sure what his birth name is, which you'll notice is often something I tend to omit). Though he has another weird nickname in the community. I couldn't resist. Anna has been mentioned by name as well, by now her place in what's to come is clear, even if "what's to come" is not. From the writing, at least, I actually do have a pretty decent idea of what the big event is in my head, but it takes a bit more background to show it. Probably in the next scene

Wrote and rewrote a part, which was sounding quite awful. It's somewhat better now, but I'm still not happy with it (I never am, with dialogue). Eventually I'll get the hang of it. Eventually. Maybe.

What's coming up is a pretty big part I'm not sure how to write, it's kind of something the plot hinges on so I don't want to simply handwave it away, but it's tricky to find a decent explanation. Still, I know I'll be much happier with myself and with the story if I can make it work, and it shouldn't be that hard. I'm feeling confident.

So... um, characterization, I suppose is coming along, maybe somewhat not really. Jack, possibly. Anna, she's just appeared, and her character has undergone much rewriting I'm still not sure what will show up in Golden Sky and what died with Under the Surface. So I have to work on that. This next part, again, pretty much key for that.

As for the rest of the plot, well, it's not entirely clear right now, but I know the rough aspects of it. Like I keep observing, writing is so much easier when I have an ending to work towards, instead of a beginning to work from. And Golden Sky's final scene just so happens to be its introduction, so I know the ending quite concretely. All a matter of getting there, now, and I can pull that off. My life is gonna get rescheduled quite a bit staring next Monday, so writing time is unpredictable, but if it all goes well I might be close to finishing this. But I'm not getting my hopes up, just yet. As always, we'll see.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Death is problematic

Do you want to live forever?

What? what d'you mean, no? Surely you can't want to die, right?

And I'm sure at this point you're thinking of all the typical objections like seeing loved ones die and bogged down memory and boredom and whatnot. But what If I said this immortality extended to your family and friends, hell, the entire human species and any other sentient beings we might find in the process. And we'll improve everyone's bodies and brains, so memory won't be a problem, either.

And what about overpopulation? Well, that would take billions of years or longer, but I suppose eventually the universe might fill up. And what about the heat death of the universe? No physical system would be able to work, and you probably know I'm a naturalist, so any immortality would have to be physical. But let's say we find a way around those with new discoveries allowing us to create new universes or whatnot.

But maybe there are other problems left. Or maybe just that doesn't work. So now what?

Well, it's a simple principle that I've been thinking about lately. Certainly there are many problems that we avoid due to our limited lifespans. You've heard people say, often enough, that they don't care about global climate change since they'll be dead, that the sun becoming a red giant in a few billion years doesn't concern us because we won't live long enough, hell, people saying they'd rather die young than get old and sick. This simple principle says: When you avoid a problem because you won't live long enough to face it, you don't have a solution, you have another problem.

I know not everyone is as passionate as me about living as long as possible. I was recently surprised at how many people told me they wouldn't want to be brought back to life were such a thing possible (the science of internet polls). But this idea goes beyond that. I admit eternal life has issues, but those are the issues of life itself, we just don't have enough time to face them now. Like a baby hoping she'll die at age five and never have to face school.

When someone wants to kill themselves, we usually think something must be wrong, and we would want to fix that if possible. Those of us who believe in the right to euthanasia still think it'd be a better outcome if we could cure the disease that's causing the suffering. So why don't we extend that thinking pattern indefinitely? Why do people talk about some "natural extent" of human life, after which it'd be silly to still want to live? Why not focus on the problem of life not being worth living at a certain point?

My argument is: If you don't exist, you can't achieve goals, you can't be happy, you can't experience pleasure, you can't rack up utility points. Of every way humans use to evaluate outcomes that I know of, in none does death ever become the most desirable outcome conceivable. I accept the existence of fates worse than death, but not their theoretical inevitability. That is, there's always a conceivable something better than death. If life is looking worse than death, then either your perceptions are wrong or life is not living to its theoretical potential. In both cases, we have a problem.

The problem might not be solvable. Maybe immortality does bore you eventually, regardless of what you do. But it's still there. It's still preferable that it wasn't there than to die. Therefore, you have a problem to solve, if you want to achieve the best possible outcome, whatever that is for you  If you're going to die, you have two problems to solve, one is your death, the other whatever sucks in life. If there's something else down the line, then you have three problems. Or four, or five, or six. And every new possible way to die adds another problem. In a way, you have infinite problems, sorry to break it to you. But I'm telling you because I think it's better if you know.

If you truly, really, honestly think that the best possible thing that could happen to you is for you to day after a certain point, then there's nothing I can say. But I don't believe any human has an utility function that prefers death to all possible states of not-death. Or however it is you think preferred outcomes are determined if you don't like utilitarianism. So, next time you think of the future, think if you want to be there. If not, find out why. Knowing what the problems are is a good way to start solving them.

As an aside:  I don't believe eternal life is possible. Like I said above, I' think naturalism is correct, life cannot exist other than as a physical system. And even if the heat death of the universe can be bypassed, somehow, you'd have an eternity of time for that life to end. If there's any possible way for death to happen, it will happen, probability 1, given an infinite amount of time. I might be wrong. I want to be wrong about this, provided we can solve the other problems. But it doesn't seem likely. That doesn't negate any of the points I raised before, a problem you cannot solve is still a problem.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Evaluation: Golden Sky 2

Welp, this is coming along.. Somewhat. It might go faster once I get more free time, which should be somewhere about two weeks from now. Regardless.

Right now I'm working on our nameless narrator's backstory, to whom I'll provisionally refer to as Jack. I'm not sure that'll be his name, I'm not even sure if he'll be a he, but Jack works for now. Anyway, it's one I've worked with in many variations over the years, so I'm happy to at last write it down for someone. Though it means I won't be able to use it anymore. Or at least not as much.

I'm still unsure about one key aspect of the plot, but I can't find any alternatives. I don't think they are possible. Sure, a few variations here and there, but the core is still the same. So I'll just have to give it my best shot at that and hope it doesn't suck. Other than that, I'm working on how Jack meets Anna, which is in a sense the beginning of the story proper, instead of the Jack's backstory (Anna's backstory being mostly Graduality and possibly referred to in passing in the meeting).

I have to flesh out the Illuminated interactions a bit more, since  it's at the core of the plot (Illuminated are people like Jack and Anna, you'll find out about them eventually). Specifically why it's so chaotic, which is a new development but does help explain the conflict between Jack and Anna, on two different levels. Right now It's kind of handwaved away, I'll have to work on a real reason at some point, will make the story more satisfactory. Probably.

So that's all I have for now, see you in a week if I wasn't swallowed by studying.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Evaluation: Golden Sky 1

You might be looking at the title and wondering what the hell is up. Then again maybe not, because I doubt I have "regular" readers. In any case, before last week's hiatus, I was working on "Under the Surface", sequel to Graduality. Well, I got an Idea, so that changed. Two Ideas, actually, the first being the basic premise of Golden Sky and the second that it could easily be adapted into a sequel to Graduality, scrapping the much worse thing I was working on. It might eventually be revived, but as of now it's dead. Anna is no longer the protagonist of this work, or at least not the sole protagonist. You'll see when it's done.

Right now the intro is written and soon I have to start the big flashback to how it all starts. The intro is set right before the aforementioned Golden Sky, the plot deals with how it that happened. It might be split into two works before reaching the Golden Sky point, depending, and then it might continue

I'm a bit iffy about writing an older Anna, mostly because I had timed Graduality so she'd be a teenager by the time of the sequel set in 2010. I don't like writing a plot set in the near future, that's the kind of thing that ages badly 10 years down the line when it turns out the Internet was replaced with chewin' on skunks and cars are considered a crime against humanity for their pollutants. But I really wrote myself into this corner, and I'm not in the mood to do historical revisionism on Graduality, or try to adapt the plot to work with a 15-year-old, so I hope you skunk chewers can forgive my eventual anachronisms.

I'm happy about this new development, hopefully I won't be needing to restart this time. It hits far closer to where I aimed originally with Anna as a character, plus also getting the "fun to write" points from the replotting, which adds up to me being far more excited about this than either of the last two versions. I'm still not sure what to do with that plot, maybe let it die, but it could be saved by another character if I figure out what I want to do with it. Maybe. In any case, we'll see.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Good and evil agents

Did you know that the word Sigmalephian has no Google hits as of this writing? You might wonder why I would bring that up (or just assume I'm crazy and/or and idiot, hypotheses I cannot discard). Well, one of my usual Internet aliases is Sigmaleph, which I'm quite fond of. And "Sigmalephian" seems to be a good word to describe something relating to my person, much better than say "Currentian" or "Mirrassian". Or, gods forbid, my true name, which I must keep hidden lest I grant you mystical powers over my person. In an act of convenient labelling and tautology, I have decided to declare I belong to the Sigmalephian school of philosophy. That is, that whichever my thoughts on any subject, it just so happens that they match the thoughts of this Sigmaleph character, which, as luck would have it, is myself. Does that make sense? It shouldn't.

All of the above is just actually irrelevant to the matters originally prompting me to write this post, I just felt I needed to get that out there (here) at some time and this felt like a good opportunity. The following is indeed Sigmalephian philosophy, but then that's true quite a lot on this blog, and remarking upon that fact has never been necessary or useful for the reading of my mental excretions.

You're still here? Huh. 20 SigPoints for persistence. Since SigPoints cannot be exchanged for anything as of now and for the foreseeable future, your true reward is my rambling. Aren't you excited? Well, so it goes.

One thought that has repeatedly happened upon me is that the basic benefit of good is cooperation and the basic benefit of evil is resourcefulness. Which is to say. On the purely pragmatic aspects and ignoring for now self-image and warm fuzzy feelings, "good" agents have as an advantage the fact we live in a world with other good agents and they are more willing to cooperate with others like themselves. The basic weakness of the murderer is that zie doesn't go against the detective, zie goes against the detective backed by the police department supported by a large part of society. And, the advantage "evil" agents have is that they are have more methods available to them. If there are two different ways to solve a problem and one involves kicking puppies, the evil agent will be able to choose based on their relative usefulness, whereas the good agent has the disadvantage of having to also factor in the ethics of puppy-kicking. This doesn't cut both ways, since the evil agent has no particular reason to prefer evil methods to non-evil ones that work better. A decision algorithm that only maximises strategic merits will on average outperform the one that has to balance strategy and ethics.

Where am I going with this? Well, you might notice that the "evil" advantage is intrinsic to evil agents, whereas the good advantage is beneficial only when there's a perception of goodness. That is, any agent who cares less about ethics than the adversary has the advantage of more options, but good agents that don't reap the benefits of the goodness advantage can exist. What you need is other good agents to think you're good and help you, which can happen independently of goodness. Which brings us to the problem. An evil agent can reap both benefits if it is evil but perceived as good. The reverse does not happen, indeed it kinda sucks to be good and perceived as evil, because you get none of the benefits.

As a brief parenthesis. Yes, this is a simplified model, and I'm not addressing what "good" and "evil" are, which is a pretty deep problem. For the purposes of this model, "good" and "evil" are what the society in context thinks they are. This is not synonymous with actual good and evil (as I understand them), but it's usually close enough in most cases. The whole "murder is usually considered bad among humans" thing. Other simplifications are that it ignores the self-image, conscience and intimidation factors, and possibly others, which are not minor, but don't tip the scale far enough, usually. Bottom line, I think the model works for most cases. I welcome any improvements that keep it simple. But first, read the rest, because there's one major flaw I correct later on.

Onwards. So, imagine an evil agent who thinks zirself very smart. So smart, zie considers zirself able to trick most good agents into cooperation, while still using evil tactics. And thus, the incentive for goodness is gone. Problematic if you want people to not be evil, which you do being a good agent (and if you weren't, you wouldn't tell me, now would you?). Note that even if the evil agent considers zirself to be good, zie can  believe most people are mistaken, and thus still want to trick people, because the advantage is in being perceived to match society's idea of good. It's close enough to true that nobody sees themselves as evil, but people can certainly see themselves not matching the general idea of good, or think that everyone is making such a fuss about that minor thing of killing [insert group here] who aren't really people. Or whatever. Addendum noted (no, this is not the major flaw I hinted at), moving on.

Well, at this point I started to consider solutions to the problem. One noticeable thing is that it shows the appeal of an impossible to trick good agent handing out significant punishments and rewards . Impossible to trick so there cannot be a false perception of good, good to make sure it only cooperates with good agents, and the rewards and punishments have to be huge to outweigh any possible advantage of evil. The idea of the omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent god, in other words. Not a stunning discovery, of course, but it put the ball in a more familiar court. Since I'm fairly used to considering why gods are not good answers to questions, that part of my brain engaged quickly, and I noticed my big oversight.

A general principle to consider: In most cases, if believing X is beneficial and X is false, there should exist a true belief Y that delivers the same benefits. Y also should explain why X is beneficial, but that's tangential to the point. In the universe we live in, the power of knowledge is in the ability to make better decisions. When you're deciding based on incomplete knowledge (i.e. the situation every human being is whenever making a choice), the decision based on knowledge closer to the truth should, on average, outperform the others. There are beliefs that have effects not related to knowledge, like say placebo effect and such, but they are not the predominant case. Which adds up to, you should want to be right. When you find yourself in a situation when you want people to be consistently wrong to make better decisions, there's probably something wrong with your "right".

What I was wrong about, rather obvious in retrospect, is that good agents cooperating better is not purely a matter of being more willing to do so given the perception of goodness. Good agents cooperate better, in part, because of the characteristics of "goodness". That's how goodness came to be in the first place, if there was no advantage to it then it wouldn't have been selected for, the primitive good agents would've lost the evolutionary game to those without goodness. And, separate but more important, it's the deeper why behind  good agents wanting good agents. The more good agents a society has, the better it will do, outweighing the advantages of increased resourcefulness due to evilness. Otherwise, it'd be irrational to want a good society, and I'm trying to show the opposite.

In the end, it all adds up to that, while it might seem that a pragmatist might simply try to fake goodness and reap the benefits of both evil and good, in the long term that's a poor group strategy. People should want to cooperate, not because of fear of a false punishment, not just because that's who they are (though that plays a significant part in what good is) but because it works at group-level.

Which brings us to the second part of the problem, the individual perspective. You might notice that while it's better for the society for all its agents to be good, for each individual agent it still seems preferable to be evil and perceived as good, getting the benefits without the drawbacks. Of course, this individual perspective results in society collapsing. It's the Prisoner's Dilemma, all watch out only for themselves so it adds up to the worst global situation. Which, once again, rings that little bell in my head that says that if your "smart" strategy has consistently worse results than the "stupid" strategy, then it can't be that terribly smart.

One answer is that a truly smart society should be hard to trick. Not omniscience, that's beyond human means, but it seems a necessary application of intelligence is detecting concealed evil and thus acting as deterrent. That's, like I said, one answer, but I don't think the best. Creating agents that want to be good is more efficient if it works, but also more difficult. I'd be wary of genetically modifying humans, for example, while theoretically it could be very useful there's many ways it could go wrong.  But, while it still seems that better answers should exist, the thing I'm happy about is that at least I managed to get to a answer that shows a smarter society works better, not worse.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Evaluation: Under the Surface 4

Bah, I hate this part of the writing process. When I'm struggling to find what goes next so I'm not inspired enough to write what I do know, so it takes weeks to finish scenes. Some day I might find a solution for that.

So right now I'm just trying to mesh the old plot with the new plot, which is not that difficult (there wasn't much "old plot" to begin with) but does require a bit of reconsidering what I already wrote. I think I solved the specific problem I had in mind, but, as mentioned above, I'm not terribly motivated right now, so it keeps getting delayed. Wrote one paragraph since last Monday, and another might have to be deleted, so it's a  net gain of zero (or thereabouts) in terms of words written, and one detail in terms of plot-in-my-head. Bad. I should be working harder, and I will... but not this week

Something else is taking priority until next Monday, but from then on I should have more time to get stuff done. Or not. But probably yes. So, anyway, don't expect an evaluation next Monday unless I get really creative on Monday itself, which might happen but I'm not counting on. As always, we shall see, won't we?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Evaluation: Under the Surface 3

Wrote quite a bit this week, relatively speaking (as much as the last two together, but still only one page). It deals just with how Anna made her fortune, and next up is her follower base. I've been plotting a few things for later, though the general plot is still hazy. I'm not sure how much I want to happen now and how much later, but it seems likely this one will turn into a series.

I still need to solve the specific antagonists, but I have a decent idea for that. It involves factions! Of beings! Who, um, fight the other factions. Which I suppose is what factions in general do. Anyway, yeah. There's gonna be a group to which our not quite heroine doesn't belong messing things up. Probably.

On the subject of not-quite-heroism, I find it a bit annoying that Anna's ethics are a tad too reminiscent of my Vurok Pathers. The basic "hurt those that hurt people, cause they deserve them" thing. Not that she would ever be as kill-happy as Void or La Sangrienta, they don't have the same targets, but it's the general method that bugs me. I should be able to come up with different ways to be morally ambiguous, right? I mean, I can pull off psychotically indifferent to humans with Mielen (you don't know her), ethically-muddled death-obsessed with the Pathers, Anna should have a new angle. The original idea for her was "lax about ends justifying means", but that is too generic. I should work on personalising that, maybe a few likes and dislikes, and how she justifies it to herself. That one's supposed to be big for her, really, not the same way the rest simply stop giving a shit. So, that's probably a good approach, I'll see how I can write it.

And that's it for tonight, see you when I do, which is never, most likely. I'm still not sure you exist, for one.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Evaluation: Under the Surface 2

Oops, almost forgot to write this one. Not that it would make much of a difference, didn't really make much progress. I would like to blame something other than my lack of motivation, possibly the Welsh, but no such luck.

Though the week only saw a few sentences of writing and then me getting stuck at the end of a scene, I had a couple ideas earlier today. I'm still iffy about them, because they move the series into more of a typical urban fantasy setting and less into, um, whatever it was before. I was in distinct lack of any specific details, but what I wanted to do with it was more philosophical and original. 

As it turns out, though, I can't expect my every work to be deep, original, and well-written. So far I have more or less failed at all of those, particularly the last one. And the whole point of this exercise is to become a better writer, not assume I already am one. Best predictor for success is practice. It is an unavoidable fact that I am not at the level I want to be, or near it, and that I won't get there without writing more. And I can't write more if avoid the things that will be fun to write, even if not as original as I want, in favour of vague promises of deepness that I have no idea how to make concrete.

It is not without some regret that I decide to take Under The Surface in a new direction, it feels like killing off potential. But, as I keep reminding me, I can write deepness later, when I, y'know, can write at all and have an actual idea to work with. Satan's chosen tool sounded like a great way to start that, but I'll find others. If something I don't lack, it's vague general ideas. It's the specifics of the plot that I need, and I can work that much better in the admittedly more familiar context I'm going with. Sad but true. Hopefully it will get better.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Methods of Rationality

I've mentioned this one in passing before, but it deserves more comment. "This one" being Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, a Harry Potter fanfic. Yes, I know. Bear with me for a minute.

While I've been a Harry Potter fan for, erm, quite some time now (roughly half my lifetime) I was never into fanfiction. I think I've read two entire HP fanfics, one of them specifically because it was horribly bad (you probably know this one). So, saying that HP&MoR was the best fanfic I ever read would be very faint praise. Instead, I'll say that it's easily one of the best works of fantasy literature I've ever come across, and that I do not say lightly. Though calling MoR fantasy sounds like an odd fit.

The idea is as follows: Petunia married a biochemistry professor, instead of an abusive plot device, and Harry grew up as a child prodigy with a particular interest in science and rationality. Who then finds out that magic is real and the way he thought the universe worked is not. Bit of a nasty shock, but he got better..

Harry goes to Hogwarts and starts looking at magic with a sceptical eye, bringing some disappointments but also pretty significant discoveries. I'm not going into which ones, but apparent rules of magic are broken and, at age eleven, Harry seems to have potential to be the most powerful wizard/scientist ever. But, you can't just power-up the protagonist and leave the antagonists as they were. That way lies the Pitfall of Sue.

Which leads me to one of my favourite things about MoR, Professor Quirrell. The original Quirrell was a weak pawn of the Dark Side, whose main thing was pretending to be a stuttering nobody while secretly being Voldemort's host (if that was a spoiler, I don't know why you're reading about HP fanfic) . MoR Quirrel is badass. And also, the only wizard that seems to get, on the same level as Harry, the power of Muggle science and rationality.

Many are the literary merits of MoR, and I'm not the best person for enumerating them. I'll just say, f you ever read PS/SS (that being the first Harry Potter book), you'll find MoR hilarious, exciting, and possibly fascinating. But that's only half the reason I'm blogging. MoR is rationalist fiction. The fiction part is excellent, but the rationalist part is really what I loved.

I considered myself relatively good at being rational. I'm an atheist, I don't fall for new age bullshit, I could probably refute most arguments for paranormal phenomena from memory, etc. But, it's easy to be "rational" when the rational conclusion is handed to you on a silver platter. I really didn't know nearly as much as I thought about how I was tricking myself.

I went into MoR expecting mostly familiar arguments, science I already knew about, biases and fallacies I could easily name and give examples of. I was wrong. I found so much more. Just to give the biggest example, I barely knew anything about Bayes' rule and how to apply it before reading MoR. I only had the vague notion that there were a few common probability problems I didn't know how to solve yet. That turned out into quite a significant discovery

Eliezer Yudkowsky, the author of MoR, introduced the concepts covered in the fanfic in LessWrong, a  collaborative blog dedicated to rationality. I've been spending quite a lot of the last few weeks there, and it's been a learning experience of the kind I haven't had in, um, ever. Only my discovery of FSTDT comes close, and that was much more spread out in time, and not quite as powerful. Though it did set up my interest in rationality in the first place, so it can't be totally separated or discounted.

But I digress. If you have even the slightest interest in cognitive bias, science, reasoning, and other related topics, I strongly recommend reading MoR. Odds are, you'll learn something new. Or several somethings.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Evaluation: Under the Surface 1

So begins work in a new Psychflare. As mentioned in the comments for Ananke, it's the sequel for Graduality. It's narrated by Anna (the baby born at the end), which marks the first psychflare whose narrator's first name is known (Denise might count, but her original first name is never stated).  I keep track of stuff like that for some reason or another.

As of now, I'm not entirely sure as to what should happen. The plot is a very vague cloud of uncertainty, which you might deduce gets in the way of actually writing the story. Right now, Anna's mostly rambling and developing her character while I figure out which events should take place. Much like what was the beginning of Void and then got transplanted into Reflections.

Two particular events I have already figured out, both serve to establish Anna's resources, so to speak. Money and followers, particularly. I'm considering what the source of conflict might be, options being human, demonic or angelical. That in turn will develop the specific conflict and from then on it all becomes much easier. Hopefully.

Some point, preferably soon, I should create an actual index page for Psychflares, should happen when I become less of a lazy bastard. Don't hold your breath. And that's all I have for now.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Psychflare: Ananke

[See comments for notes. Previously in series: Void, A Vurokian's Reflections]


New Headquarters

“You can't keep going through life just reacting, you know”


Void sounded confused. I tend to do that. Confuse him, I mean. And everybody else, but he's the one that bothers to pay attention to what I say,

“Reacting. Taking action only because of outside prompting. Not thinking things through. Getting into a 2-on-1 fight against trained paranormals without figuring out how to get some sort of advantage. Any of that ring a bell?”

“So what exactly do you think I should've done? Sat on my ass for three hours contemplating a plan that properly took into account every variable while 'Edge and Machi were being sold out to the pissers?”

“Yeah, OK, be like that. The choice isn't “jump into the action or do nothing”. You can spend a few seconds of your time to consider that hey, maybe you should take a weapon, or ambush them in a darker place, or not announce your presence immediately.”

“Look, I...” he started to yell, but then stopped. “No, you're right. I didn't think it through.”

I wasn't sure if he was honest or just quit arguing because he knew it wouldn't get anywhere. I'm supposed to be good at knowing people, knowing how they'll act, but Void prides himself on being unpredictable. I've known him almost since the moment I became a paranormal, and he's still unreadable.

“You two done?” Lightedge asked. “Because we have business to take care off. We have been left leaderless once again, need a job, and the pissers are pissed at us, unfunnily enough. Anybody know of some way to deal with any of that?”

“The pissers were never exactly our best buds, 'Edge,” Machi replied. “They might not like the fact a double recruitment and quadruple capture were ruined, but that doesn't make them any more of a problem than they were before.”

“As for the other two problems,” she continued, “I suggest we take care of choosing a leader first. It will make it easier to deal with any jobs that we get.”

“Not to mention give us someone to blame when we don't have money...” Lightedge added.

“OK then, this should be fairly simple,” Void said. This time, I could see very, very clearly what he was going to say next.

“'Edge doesn't have the balls to lead anyone, so he's out. No offence meant. Neither Machi nor myself are any good at making quick decisions, she takes too long and I make stupid mistakes, so we're both out. And since most other members of the team are dead, that leaves us with Ana as the only choice.”

And there it was. And of course, Lightedge and Machi agreed. I was the only one with some sort of long-term planning skill, and honestly I was considering suggesting myself before if nobody else did. Not that I wanted the job, per se, but someone had to do it, and arrogant as it sounds, I was the only one who had a shot out of the four of us.

Established as leader, though, I had to deal with the rest of our problems. First and foremost, money. We still had the contract we had suspended for our last “job”, and minor deal though it was, it was something. Plus, it never pays to have a reputation for not living up to your side of the agreement. So we resumed planning for that soon after I was “formalised” as the new boss.

* * *
The residence of Dean Bosot-Doe

“Target seems to be in. Can you confirm?”

“Everything says we have the right one. Let's do this. Void, cover. Basic, not thorough.”

Darkness covered Void and me. Since it wasn't his ESP-proof bubble, my other senses worked while inside it. Allowing me to locate the lock in the door in front of us and give it a couple TK twists. I then floated us a few centimetres above ground (no sound of footsteps if you're not actually stepping) and moved us through the house, which, thankfully, wasn't too big. When we located the study, I signalled Void to shift the bubble to complete, while I opened the door right before losing all sense of its location.

Dean Bosot-Doe was hard at work when the door of his study opened untouched by human hand, but he was completely oblivious to that, partially because his current occupation absorbed his attention and partially because of the effects of the Spirit of Darkness. He also failed to notice the man holding a spike of pure darkness which pierced his heart moments later, and then it was too late for him to notice anything at all.


“Good. Lightedge,” I said over the coms, “have getaway ready. Void, grab the computer, I figure it's the only thing worth stealing in this place”

* * *


Machi was reading some arcane treatise or another, while Lightedge tried to look through Bosot-Doe's data on several projects. Eventually, he gave up, and asked her the question that had been distracting him.

“Does it ever bother you, killing people for money?”

Machi didn't look away from her book. “I don't kill for money, I hang around people who do. And occasionally help them.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Yes, I do. The answer's no, it doesn't bother me, for a variety of reasons. But, I was trying to point out that you'd be better off asking Void or Ananke. I can hide behind “indirect consequences” and other technicalities. They are the ones who deal with it in person.”
“I would ask them, but there's something... it's hard to define. Like they don't hold themselves accountable to what anybody might say about killing.”

“Hasn't Void ever given you the Pather speech?”

The puzzled look on his face was the only reply needed. “Seriously? I suppose you haven't been around that long, but... anyway. Void and Ana are pretty hardcore about the Blood-Stained Path. The whole “Better society through killing the worst motherfuckers” thing. Far as I know, they'd been working together for years before meeting Slasher, based on that philosophy.”

“So... they don't care about killing, because they're killing people they don't like?”

“People they think the world is better off without, more like. Yeah, I know, how do you judge something like that, etc. etc. They're not saints, but hell, we aren't either. And they do try to keep each other in check”

“Look, I'm not saying I'm better than them, 'cause I'm not. Just, people don't find a comfortable philosophy and then suddenly stop caring about killing.”

“Most don't. There's always the weirdos.”

“Comforting thought, that.”

“Arguing about our relative insanity?” I said as Void and I entered the room.

Lightedge seemed like he was trying to develop invisibility powers really, really fast, but Machi's calm was not perturbed.

“Heya, boss. Heard much of that?”

“Enough to make a decent guess as to the rest.” Actually, I'd heard all of it, as my ESP at the moment had decided to be superhuman hearing. And had shared the tasty bits with Void, of course.

“So, 'Edge, I haven't regaled you with the fascinating description of my personal morality system yet? What an unforgivable slight on my part. Come, we have much to discuss...”

“Cut the crap, dear,” I said. “I'd rather 'Edge did his job right now, rather than spend the rest of the week fearing an intimate conversation with you”

“Uh, actually, on that front...” Lightedge said, slowly recovering. “I've found a few things that might be interesting. And I don't mean the 5 gigs of girl-on-girl”

“What could possibly... I mean, go on.”

“Well, I can't be sure, but some of this stuff...” He opened a file, rows upon rows of obscurely labelled numbers and references to “procedures” and “subjects” and whatnot. Something was familiar about those numbers. Nothing direct, but the general pattern reminded me of something I couldn't quite place.

“I've seen some of it before,” Lightedge was saying. “It's looks like an induction project”

Induction. Click. The phrase activated memories of weeks of digging after pointless leads, and mostly of rumours. The data made sense all of a sudden and I started following a tiny strand of possibility. If this was the genuine article and the numbers meant what I thought then someone had... but the odds were not in our favour plus how could the dead guy have this but then it would explain why the hit but it didn't match...

“And what does that mean, exactly?” As Machi spoke I was pulled out of the vortex of speculation. “Besides being some sort of number-heavy subject”

“Sorry, induction projects are one of those fringe theories running around the net. Basically, a PRC experiment to turn normals into paranormals.”

“Oh. I thought you had something useful.”

“Well, I'm not saying that's what it is, or that it's even real. But the data... well, in conspiracy circles, there's always someone who says they have a leak from some classified source or another. Most of it is bullshit, obviously, but sometimes they have the real thing. A few sources that are more reliable than others, like this one guy who spread the word on the Gottersen act months before they went public with it. Other stuff too. Point is, this guy once published something like this file. A lot like it, actually, but different numbers, and a few different procedures. And that was most definitely an induction project, and likely a real one.”

“Likely? Because he got some stuff about Gottersen right?”

“Because, if you checked the numbers, what he had was a failed project. Nobody bothers to fake that.”

“Oh gimme a break...”

“No, he has a point,” Void interjected. “The pissers are involved in research on the cause of paranormals. That much is public knowledge, hell, it's supposed to be their major objective. If they found anything that might look like a way of creating us out of norms, they would almost definitely try it out, if only to see if it works. That is simple deduction. It's likely they haven't succeeded yet, for plenty of reasons. So a report of a failed experiment would, by itself, be nothing of note. So who would fake it?”

“And who would publish it if it was legit, then? Would you crack a secure government facility, find something trivial, and then risk getting caught by making the crime known, despite the information being useless?”

“They already have an established reputation for that,” Lightedge argued, “one more count would make no difference. Plus, I don't think they knew the data was a failure before leaking it. It's not exactly meant for everyone to read it, it took days for most people to work out what they meant.”

“We're getting sidetracked, “ I said. “'Edge, here's what I need to know. Can you find the old data again?”

“Sure, I'll just...”

“Good. In your opinion, do both sets of data refer to the same thing?”

“Sort of. The one we have seems to be a later experiment, of the same kind, but testing different methods.”

“Good enough. We can check that later. What are the odds we have a legit thing?”

“Eh... 25%, with what we know right now. Gimme some time to check and I can give you a better approximation.”

“Do that, after you send me a copy of everything you have from here and the leaked data. And, finally. If this thing is real, does it work?”

“I'll get back to you on that. Like I said, it took days to figure out the first time. Should be quicker now, but still nothing is immediately obvious.”

“OK. Look, guys, this might just be a bust. But if it's not, then we just found ourselves a major job”

“You know something you're not telling.” Void. Of course.

“I have a hunch. There's something that doesn't fit, or rather, would fit better... Sorry, can't get into details. Lightedge, you have work to do. Machi, go talk to our client. She still has to pay the rest of our fee, and if we're lucky you might find out something useful. Void, get in touch with 7dash or Masker, see what they know about this.”

“If we have something, shouldn't we keep it, erm, private?”

“Mostly, yes, but if this is what I think then we are gonna need help from at least one of them. Of course, I expect you to exercise discretion.”

“Aye, captain”

* * *

Lightedge had sent me a lot of stuff, and I suppose I could've been focusing on it, but I don't work that way. My powers sort out all the information available on their own. It's like having two minds, only one of those is disturbingly alien and separate from my conscious perspective. I can see what it does, and how it does it, but I don't see it as something I do, and the way it thinks is not quite human. So, while one mind was busy plotting out the possible interpretations of all the data, real or fake, we had collected, the other one, i.e. me, was left to ponder other subjects. More specifically, the argument I'd had with Void earlier.

Everyone has flaws, that much was inescapable. Void didn't plan ahead when fighting Solomon, but at least it worked out for him. Me, I had been too scared to suggest betrayal the moment I realised something odd was going on. I could've taken us all out of that situation if I had dared mention to Void that Solomon could be setting us up.

But it wasn't about specific instances, rather long term patterns. Machi and Lightedge weren't worth much without time to prepare. I couldn't fight against an opponent if I couldn't predict them. Void couldn't integrate his raw power with his stealth and versatility in a single combat style. All of us needed to drastically reconsider our skills and strategies, especially if I was right about this whole induction business.

What we needed was a few extensive sessions of... what? Training? Focusing on our weaknesses? It was hard to be specific, but there was the seed of an idea there. That had to wait at the moment, though, since Machi had just returned from her assignment

“So, how did things go with Icarus?”

“Good news is, we got paid. Less satisfactory news, I did a bit of subtle mystically-aided probing. Icarus has a mage working for her, so emphasis on the “subtle” part.”

“I'm not expecting a detailed essay. What do you have?”

“Personal interest. Not political. Elements of revenge are mixed in, but they are more of an afterthought than a driving force. I'm guessing she wants something that dead boy prevented her from having, and her primary motivation was removing that obstacle, though she's also happy he's dead.”

“There's also anticipation and fear, strongly linked with each other,” she added. “She's doing something soon which might backfire terribly.”

“Anything else?”

“Those are the reliable parts, and even then they are sketchy. The rest is a lot of noise. Could mean anything.”

“Hmm. While interesting, I can't say it helps us directly. But it is useful for future reference... should we ever deal with her again.”

Though, come to think of it, that seemed more and more likely with each passing moment.

“Yeah, I suppose... sorry I couldn't get more. Changing the subject, is your boytoy back yet?”

“No, and I don't think he'll be any time soon. He's been wanting a chat with 7dash for ages, you know.”

“Oh. Well, it's just this idea I've had. I need him to test it, but...”

* * *
7dash's Workshop

Like most of its kind, the building was in a part of the city it's generally considered unsafe to walk through during the night. Or during the day, for that matter. That might have discouraged many of 7dash's clients, but it was his policy that if you weren't willing to risk a little, you had no use for his services. Void reflected on this as he walked unnoticed amongst groups of probably violent youths and considered stabbing a few. Usual temptations, ones he had practice in resisting, but it was hard not to slip, sometimes Especially when they came so close you could smell them (ugh), and only some artful dodging avoided painful and bloody collisions.

Ignoring his instinct to gut the idiot, he entered what seemed an empty shell of concrete, shaped into a few rooms with connecting holes. He walked seemingly without aim to one room which couldn't be seen from outside, and touched one specific place in the wall. A trapdoor opened to his left, revealing a staircase he ignored. Instead, he twisted part of the door itself and opened another one, two metres left from the other one. This one he walked down, deliberate skipping a number of steps in a given sequence. He kept walking in unusual manners and touching random parts of the floor, walls and ceiling for a few more minutes, past a hallway and three doors, until he reached a door which was already open.

Void was greeted by a man whose face was almost certainly once human, but now was obscured by the fact three quarters of it were completely cybernetic. As well as all of his limbs and part of his torso, made quite noticeable as he was naked from the waist up.

“V! What a lovely surprise.”

“Hi, Dash. And what do you mean, surprise? I thought I had triggered at least one alarm back then”

“Well, three. I meant the moment I saw you on the cameras, not right now.”

“Of course. Business doing good? Paranoia still functional? Dreaming of electric sheep?”

“Yes, I resent the term, and no. Come in, will you?” He added with a smile “It's dangerous, out here in the open.”

Void chose a chair and made himself comfortable, wondering how to best start the conversation. Dash wasn't going to babble... but then you can never be sure of anyone, even family and friends. Or maybe that was just the paranoid ambiance talking.

“So,” 7dash started, taking the problem away from his hands “I hear Slasher got killed?”

“Oh yeah. Got found, pissers raided us. Slasher wanted to go out with a bang, he got nine or so of them too.”

“Daaaamn. So who's boss now? Solomon?”

“Solomon's dead.” Void's expression darkened instantly. “I killed him.”

“Oh, fuck. Sorry”

“S'OK. Fucker tried to sell us out first chance he got. Pissers threw Sidestep at us.”

“Jesus. I was going to tell you how I lost my other kidney, but I don't think I can top that.”

“Wait, you lost both? I thought you said you couldn't get the artificial ones to work right.”

“Bah, solved that weeks ago. Though I was strapped to dialysis for an hour or two...”

Half an hour of story-swapping later...

“Look, Dash, truth is we've come across something and we need to find out a bit more. So, to put it bluntly, how much do you know about induction programs?”

“... you've come across an induction program?”

“Maybe. Skip the “it's obviously a scam” part, we know that. Assuming it isn't, though, what can you tell me?”

“No, I mean, actually... well, I've been hearing news. The, um, underground medical community, if you will...”

“Oh. If you can't say anything, it's not a problem.”

“No, no, I have quit a bit to share. It's just that it was unexpected coming from you. Independent verification is nice.”

“Anyway,” he continued “the latest rumour is that there was a breakthrough on that particular front. The basic theory is that there's something, nobody quite knows what, around Vurok. And high concentrations of that are what results in paranormals.”

“Please, that's not a breakthrough. They've been kicking that one around for years, nobody ever specifying what that something could be or how to do anything with it.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, that's not the news. Anyway, some genius thought, hey, if these guys have a high concentration of this V substance, that's what they call it, then maybe we can give it to other people and see what happens, by taking stuff out of paranormals and putting it into norms.”

“The mad surgeon approach. Nothing new, still.”

Please let me finish. Seriously.” After a short pause, he started again. “They tried that for a while, organs and blood and whatnot. But usually nothing happened. So, they said they needed more to force a reaction, but you can't really buy paranormal body parts in bulk. The project was dead for a while, until a month or so ago. Apparently, someone figured out a way to get a big source of V and pump it into people. And, what do you know, something happened.”


“A bunch of test subjects died. Actually, all of 'em.”

“Ouch. So, they have a very expensive way to kill people? That doesn't seem too useful, we've always had a surplus of contract killers around.”

“That's not the end of it, and really, do you have to interrupt every five seconds?”


“Hmph. So, they have a lot of corpses, but they know this thing does something. Just not quite what they expected. So someone says that maybe not everyone can deal with this thing all at once, that you need to give people some time to adapt. And then they start the latest version of this program, which is a bit long-term, but the basic idea is to start low-level exposure until someone dies or starts flying, whichever happens first.”

“So, the big thing is the source.”

“Precisely. There's five dozen theories, each crazier than the last, so don't expect to figure out what it is soon, but that's the one thing that might change the game. Everything else is old ideas being rehashed”

Void hugged the cyborg. “Thanks, Dash. I'm hoping Ana can make sense of this, I know she's got something that might give us very definite advantage.”

“No problem, kid. Just remember, if you pull this hit and need a biotech expert...”

“You're first on the line. I wouldn't have talked if there was no plan to get you in on this”

* * *


Void had spent the last few minutes filling us in on 7dash's ideas. A source of V, and a lot of dead people. Fitted perfectly.

“So, oh chessmaster,” Machi asked, “what now?”

“The next move is talking to Icarus again. But I think that should be tomorrow. Right now, we should test your idea.”

“Right. If the subject consents...”

“Mad science, eh? I thought that was 'Edge's area,” Void remarked.

“Usually, but tonight, we deal with the mad science of magic. And that's my area.” She continued, “Before your fight with Solomon, I had just figured your Dark-buddy was what we call a Symbol-entity. A magical manifestation of a mental category. And further figured that your trick, like the rest of the spirit-catchers, is to harness that specific magical manifestation. Essentially, the theory is that you guys become the equivalent of mages highly specialised in your Symbols. That might still be true, but apparently there's more to it.”

“The news being, that I can catch spirits that aren't symbols?”

“Exactly. Solomon's spirits were specific aether patterns with limited functionality...”

“Spare me the technicalities”

Fine. Point is, whole different kind of thing. Because we call both “spirits” you might think they are related, but they exist and work in completely different ways. Try a symbol spell on them and it won't work at all. But whatever it is you do, it works both on Symbol-entities and created aethers. So, it is possible it might work on other things.”

“Such as?”


The full implications seemed to have hit Void right at that point.

“If... if you can call any kind of spirit, and I can catch them and get new powers....”

“We need to test it first.”

“OK, what do you need?”

Machi showed him an elaborate diagram she had traced on the floor. Typical “runes inscribed in a circle” deal. Most of it was glowing, except for a part in the middle that looked somehow incomplete.

“See that crescent-in-circle next to the eight-point star? You need to trace a curve in your own blood from there to the nearest ankh. Like, see that pat over there?” She pointed at a similar drawing elsewhere in the diagram “Like that.”

She handed him a knife. Void didn't seem disturbed by the idea, but then a bit of blood was something he usually liked seeing. Plus, working with witches, you get used to it.

“OK, good, now stand right on top of the curve and, I don't know, prepare your powers in whatever way you usually do.”

“That sounds so reassuring.”

“You've been using them for a decade or so now. So excuse me for expecting you to know better than me how to handle them. Now shut it, I need to focus.”

Machi started with the weird chanting and hand gestures, while parts of her rune circle alternatively flared and dimmed. Moments later, the entire diagram went glowy, then dark. Then, a huge blast of light illuminated the room, and a mist started to coalesce around Void. He sort of sucked it in, and the light went off.

And then, he burst into flame.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Today is one of my favourite days of all time, (despite being a tradition that started last year). Today, September 30, is Blasphemy Day.

It would be fair to say that I fucking love being blasphemous. But, contrary to what you might think, this is not simply about the fact I like making fun of other people's gods. This is about freedom to express your opinions.

A few weeks ago, there was this huge thing about some idiot who wanted to burn Korans during the anniversary of the WTC attacks. Now, I hate book burning. I hate it with a passion I rarely experience. The symbol of book burning is the symbol saying "your ideas don't deserve to exist". Saying "We must destroy them". In a day where we have printing presses and e-books and etceteras, destroying one book (one you already own) has little to no effect on whether someone else will ever read it. It is, like I said, a symbol. A message. An opinion. One I happen to find repulsive and idiotic.

But you know what was worse than Pastor Fucktard saying he was going to burn a book? The reactions from people who think that book has magical powers. People who sent ungoddamned death threats to someone over burning books. It is at this point that people need to get a fucking sense of scale. Guy sending stupid message: Bad. Rabid fundies calling for his death: Orders of magnitude worse. The two don't even compare. They are not on the same scale.

Another idiot also decided to burn a Koran that same day. What happened? Someone stole it from him. My first reaction was "Good for the kid!". My second reaction was "Wait, did he steal a book from someone because he disagreed with him?". I got into an argument with several people over that one, whether it was the right thing to do or not. And my reply is no, it's not. Even though the idiot was arguing against free speech, freedom of opinion applies. Freedom to speak your mind even when people will find your opinion disgusting.

The reason I hate book burners is the same reason I defend their right to do it. Because I think that there's no such thing as an opinion that shouldn't be expressed. Book burners state their disagreement with that, and while I think they are hateful morons, I believe they have that right. People who violate a book burner's rights because they disagree with those views cross a line. The line that says "bad argument gets counter-argument, ideas are fought with ideas, and never do you challenge someone's views with force". I like that line. It's one of the few things that can come close to an absolute moral principle , in my philosophy. So, when people cross that line without a really fucking good reason, I get upset. And when people cross that line, and others defend them, in the name of free speech, something breaks in my brain.

You don't defend free speech by banning speech against it. It's a contradiction of epic proportions. It makes the whole point of free speech meaningless. While "defending free speech" sounds nice, people seldom realise what the term implies. It doesn't just mean you get the right to state your controversial ideas when they challenge the mainstream. It also means that everyone else does too. It means that, let's just throw a purely hypothetical situation here, when Phred Felps wants to protest a soldier's funeral say that fags burn in hell, you defend him against those trying to ban that. When William Richardson wants to say that Jews are trying to take over the world, you defend him against those trying to ban that. No mater how repulsive, or wrong, or offensive, or hateful, or bigoted, or retarded you find someone's opinion, if someone else tries to silence them by force, you defend them. That's exactly what you are agreeing to do when you say we should defend free speech.

In multiple countries around the world, there are laws against blasphemy. The UN has passed resolutions to "combat the defamation of religion", and I say, to hell with that. Blasphemy is a victimless crime. I have a right to tell you exactly how little I think of your religion, and so does everybody else. Even Koran burners, no matter how idiotic their motives. And that is what this day aims to remind us, that we should never let anyone stop anyone's right to express their opinions under the cause of "respecting other's beliefs". I will not respect beliefs that have not earned it. I will not demand that anyone respect my own, if they think I'm wrong. And I will continue to call your gods lies, imaginary, tyrants, evil, toddlers, excuses, fabrications and delusions. I will continue to call your religion superstition, bullshit, myth, fairy tale, moral abomination, philosophical absurdity, and anything else I think applies. And I will defend anyone else's right to do so.

So, remember, when you fight for free speech, you fight for yours and everyone else's. Remember that, every time you give your consent to violations of rights based on opinion, it is your own freedom you are condemning. Whenever you see someone saying something colossally stupid, and others move one single nanometre across the line, be very careful about whose side you take.

Happy Blasphemy Day, imaginary readers. May your prophets and gods be fucked sideways.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Evaluation: Ananke 9

Well, I did say I'd take the last two weeks off from writing. Though now I must deal with the unexpected.

As it turns out, I noticed a pretty big hole in my plot, which I've had to rework. Good news is, I found a way around it, bad news is, it completely screws all my estimates. So now I need to trace a new path, and I've changed the ending. More accurately, the event that was going to be the ending has been moved later in time, towards the next chapter.

A bit of world-building regarding spirits takes place, which is important for both Machi and Void's powers. I really need to develop Machi's powers more, because something as vague as "magic" can work in 2.3 bajillion different ways depending on the fictional universe. Furthermore, plenty of powers within my universe work based on magic to an extent (Void and La Sangrienta being prime examples), without being the kind of powers Machi has which I call "witch" or "mage". So at least some of groundwork has been lain for that.

Two new characters appeared in my head, Kimairas and Horizon. Their codenames are derived from two old characters which have some similarities with them (actually Horizon is more like Sidereal, but I like the other codename better). Shapeshifter and psychic team. Lots of fun with them, but they won't appear yet in the story. I mean, I have to be fair to Vortex and Samarkand and Assembler and Masker (though the last two got passing mentions so far). And poor Pheromone got part of her powers stolen from her, but I really want to limit the number of shapeshifters in the story, so she'll have to make do with the powers she has left. She'll manage.

Speaking of shapeshifters, and leaving my own writing for a moment, I really do love Mimeo, the latest superthreat in the Whateleyverse. Has some of that attitude to life I wish I could instil into my characters (not the not-killing part, of course). Curse them for continuously reminding me how much I suck!

Anyway, that's what I have for now. Might interrupt evaluations next week to post a fragment of the latest incarnation (third so far) of my work-in-progress fantasy novel. Might not. We'll see.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Una de las personas citadas antes en referencia a una de sus cartas de lectores, resulta que tiene un blog, parece que dedicado a una filosofía que llama personalismo. Me llamó la atención, fui a ver que onda, y...

Mi impresión es que es una de esas filosofías superficialmente interesantes, cuando las mirás más de cerca te das cuenta que muchas de sus ideas no son lo que yo diría de las mejores. Hay una lista al respecto de ciertas ideas comunes entre los personalistas, copiada la Asociación Española de Personalismo. Ya saben lo que me gusta hacer con las listas...
1. Insalvable distinción entre cosas y personas que implica que las personas deben ser analizadas con categorías filosóficas específicas y no con categorías elaboradas para las cosas.
Una simplificación generalmente útil pero equivocada. Mi respuesta automática sería decir que las personas son cosas con ciertas propiedades particulares. En principio, ambas formulaciones son equivalentes, con la diferencia en definir "cosa" como una categoría que junta cosas-personas y cosas-no-personas. Pero la distinción va más allá. Aceptar que las personas y las cosas-no-personas son en principio cosas permite entender que no hay una separación marcada sino un espectro gradual de personalidad. Creo que ese es mi primer gran problema con el personalismo, que no acepten la existencia de cosas que no son personas pero se acercan. Considerando qué desacuerdo empezó todo esto (el aborto), parece bastante significativo. Pero sigamos.
2. La afectividad se considera una dimensión central, autónoma y originaria que incluye un centro espiritual que se identifica con el corazón.
Esto me confunde, más que nada. Asumo que "corazón" está siendo usado de modo simbólico y no refiriéndose al órgano que bombea sangre. Y quizás "espiritual" puede interpretarse de manera funcional y no fundamental. Pero sigo sin entender qué significa.
3. Importancia decisiva de la relación interpersonal y familiar en la configuración de la identidad personal.
OK, parece válido.
4. La cualidad más excelsa de la persona no es la inteligencia sino la voluntad y el corazón, lo que implica una primacía de la acción y permite dar una relevancia filosófica al amor.
No veo cómo podemos separar "la voluntad y el corazón" de la inteligencia. Es como decir que el álgebra es más importante que la matemática.
5. Recuperación de la corporeidad como dimensión esencial de la persona que, más allá del aspecto somático, posee también rasgos subjetivos y personales.
...¿Qué? O sea... No sé, no veo cual es la idea. Veo algo, pero no parece una declaración filosófica sino una observación obvia.

6. Existen dos modos de ser persona: hombre y mujer. La persona es una realidad dual y el carácter sexuado afecta al nivel corporal, afectivo y espiritual.
Y ya se fueron al carajo, por decirlo con delicadeza. Creo que ya dejé muy clara mi posición sobre la heteronormatividad implícita en este punto.
7. La persona es un sujeto social y comunitario, y su primacía ontológica está contrapesada por su deber de solidaridad.
Volviendo a lo relativamente inocuo. No dice mucho.
8. Los filósofos personalistas no conciben su filosofía como un mero ejercicio académico sino que buscan la transformación de la sociedad.
Ésa es la parte que me preocupa... pero no es particularmente original como idea. Supongo que la mayoría de las filosofías consideran que su utilidad es más que simplemente masturbación mental. (Sí, hay términos más agradables, pero no encuentro uno más acertado)
9. El personalismo postula una visión trascendente de la vida que se inspira culturalmente en la tradición judeocristiana pero siempre dentro del marco filosófico
Ugh. No hace falta que aclare lo que opino de la tradición judeocristiana. A este punto ya no creo que haya alguna idea rescatable que no sea trivial, aunque admito que por ahí eso es un prejuicio mío.
10. El personalismo entiende que la filosofía moderna ha conducido a errores relevantes como el idealismo pero también ha aportado novedades antropológicas irrenunciables como la subjetividad, la conciencia el yo o la reivindicación de la libertad.
No me dice mucho. O sea, sin saber las ideas detrás de la aceptación o rechazo de cada ejemplo no puedo formar una opinión sustancial al respecto.

Y eso es todo por ahora. Mi idea es hacer un par de comentarios en el sitio y ver qué pasa, visto y considerando que no termino de entender algunas ideas. Por ahí aprendo algo. O consigo material para bloggear. O al menos tengo una discusión interesante. Quién sabe.