October 2016 Archives

So every so often a random news article bites me on the world-building toe. Yesterday's came via Ars Technica in the shape of a very interesting research study on cultural attitudes to traditionalism and national parasite stress (Original source).

To quote the abstract of the paper in full:

People who are more avoidant of pathogens are more politically conservative, as are nations with greater parasite stress. In the current research, we test two prominent hypotheses that have been proposed as explanations for these relationships. The first, which is an intragroup account, holds that these relationships between pathogens and politics are based on motivations to adhere to local norms, which are sometimes shaped by cultural evolution to have pathogen-neutralizing properties. The second, which is an intergroup account, holds that these same relationships are based on motivations to avoid contact with outgroups, who might pose greater infectious disease threats than ingroup members. Results from a study surveying 11,501 participants across 30 nations are more consistent with the intragroup account than with the intergroup account. National parasite stress relates to traditionalism (an aspect of conservatism especially related to adherence to group norms) but not to social dominance orientation (SDO; an aspect of conservatism especially related to endorsements of intergroup barriers and negativity toward ethnic and racial outgroups). Further, individual differences in pathogen-avoidance motives (i.e., disgust sensitivity) relate more strongly to traditionalism than to SDO within the 30 nations.

This got me thinking: what are the implications for world-building in mid-to-far future SF and space opera?

I turn 52 next week, and I have a confession to make: I feel like a complete failure at "adulting". Adulting, loosely defined, is that set of activities and behaviours which we judge to be characteristics of grown-ups. You can stop now and make your own list: what I'm going to suggest, speculatively, is that you probably feel like a failure at adulting too. (If you don't, you can stop reading here.)

I'm not alone in this self-defined failure. Lots of people I know, my own age and younger, also admit to feeling like failed adults: "I haven't grown up" is merely the tense-shifted version of "I don't want to grow up". But what does this really mean?

I'm not blogging a huge amount this month because, well, it's autumn, I always have fun adapting to the shorter days at this time of year (as I grow older I tend to hibernate for 10-12 hours a day for about a month as the Scottish autumn and winter comes calling), and in those hours I'm awake I'm busy with other stuff.

~~Tomorrow~~ Sunday I'm flying out to Tel Aviv where I will be spending much of the week as guest of honour at the ICon Festival 2016, Israel's largest SF convention. A couple of weeks later (from the 4th to 6th of November) I will also be attending Bcon, the 2016 Eurocon in Barcelona.

And when I'm not at my last two SF conventions of 2016, I'm keeping myself busy working on "Ghost Engine", the space opera for 2018. (The first draft of which is just past the halfway mark—it's shaping up to be a big-ass 400+ page beast, longer than any other stand-alone novel I've written since "Iron Sunrise".)

I'd like to apologize for not giving you more chewy essays to gnaw on; it's just that time spent blogging is time spent not writing the next novel, and time spent traveling is time spent not writing anything at all.

(This blog entry is about British politics. If you aren't interested, don't bother commenting. I have to live here, so it's a matter of considerable importance to me. NB: While I appreciate that other countries have their own problems—one could point to Donald Trump's presidential campaign as reflecting the same disturbing populist reactionary xenophobia—this isn't about you, it's about me, and comments referring to the US presidential campaign will be deleted (until we pass the #300 mark, as is customary here).)

Brexit is going to kill people. And soon.

This week saw the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, and in among the rather scary exclusionist rhetoric it became apparent that the Nasty Party has decisively swung away from representing the interests of the business community and is staking its future on the xenophobic anti-foreigner vote which came out of the woodwork to swing the Brexit referendum in June. In particular, the Prime Minister has a plan for Brexit and it appears to be trending towards the hard option; that her priority will be to clamp down on immigration, and to do so she will abandon the free movement of people that is a keystone of the European Union.

Note that the EU has made it glaringly clear that retaining free movement is a non-negotiable prerequisite for retaining access to the European single market—they made this clear to Switzerland earlier this year—and there is clearly an appetite among other EU heads to state to drive a hard deal with the UK.

Now here is a graph (sorce: xe.com):

Sterling/USD, one week exchange rate

What does it mean?



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