We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The Witcher 3, racism, misogyny

The Witcher 3, a much anticipated computer game from a Polish studio based on a series of Polish fantasy novels, is released next Tuesday. Reviews of it are already being published and I have been reading a lot about it, including one review on Polygon by Arthur Gies that spent a lot of words complaining about the lack of black people and the treatment of female characters in the game.

Another Polish developer, Adrian Chmielarz, whose studio made the acclaimed adventure game The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, has responded. On the complaint that there are only white people in the game:

the fact that a post-modernist remix of fantasy and the Polish folklore made by Slavs does not feature non-white characters, is a non-issue.

Note that I am not sure that adding “strangers from the strange lands” to the game would solve anything for the chronically offended. Based on everything I learned about them in the last year, and I learned a lot, if you put a person or a few from any non-white race, they would be called “token characters”.

The Polygon review goes on to complain about the women in the game:

the world CD Projekt has created is oppressively misogynist. In some ways, the game deals directly with this — characters acknowledge again and again that it’s hard to be a woman there, that it’s a place of violence and terror and that women must work harder to be recognized and respected.

Then it kills them, over and over.


I get that the setting of The Witcher 3 is meant to be a dark, dirty fantasy. But in a world that so explicitly goes out of its way to build a believable, distinctive take on the genre, the inclusion of so much violence explicitly directed against women feels like a clear, disconcerting choice. It’s not just present, it’s frequently a focus.

When they’re not being murdered, women in The Witcher 3 are comically sexualized. Nudity is everywhere…

Chmielarz responds:

As we can see, The Witcher 3 apparently simply mirrors the real world (as according to Feminist Frequency).

This is a group whom the reviewer admires, and who argue that “violence against women is a serious, global epidemic”.

I have to assume that Gies understands that when compared to the actual real world, the violence is exaggerated in The Witcher 3. That it’s basically an often grim, often cruel fantasy world.

But …why is such a world a problem? Is the reviewer confusing portrayal with endorsement? Should art be propaganda for a peaceful life? Should art avoid disturbing universes?

There is a lot more; this is just a flavour of the debate. It is good to see people like Chmielarz standing up to this kind of criticism, because for a while it looked as if everything was going the way of those who would be offended by everything.

Also encouraging is that, if you read the comments on a news story about this debate at Gamezone, it appears that nobody really cares. They just want to enjoy games.

Age of Adaline

Friday night is usually my movie night out here in the desert and there was nothing in particular I really wanted to see. After perusing the options, I settled for ‘Age of Adaline‘, the story of a woman of the 1920’s who through an accident and a process explained through a bunch of made up technological gobbledygook stopped ageing at twenty-nine.

Part of the movie was fairly good, a study in the fear of being different and the pain of watching those you love grow old while you remain the same and try to stay under the radar.

There were two things I found wrong with the movie, both of which are ignorable if you just want an unusual love story. Whomever came up with the narrated ‘scientific’ explanations should be taken out and shot. They were painfully idiotic. The script writers would have been better off if they’d just said she had a genetic mutation which did not kick in until her body was put under a life threatening stress she’d never before experienced.

And second of all… Hollywood cannot deal with the idea of people living long lives. They believe that healthy extended lives must by necessity lead to boredom and emotional problems. They nearly always fall back on a plot device that anyone who has it will yearn for a return to the Mayfly life or even immediate joyful death as in “Zardoz”. This movie is not as bad as some. It hints that the accidental process which gave her long life would be discovered in 2035, with the implication that perhaps it was then used.

What I find humorous is that very wealthy A list actors, producers and directors will be among the first in line to embrace the initially very costly technologies of life extension and anti-aging technologies, perhaps right behind the techies who are already inventing it for real in labs all over this planet. They will sing a wholly different tune when it is they who face age and death as fashion options.

Personally, I long for the day when we eliminate both of the presently unavoidable scourges of humanity: death and taxes!

Sad Puppies are taking back Science Fiction

Many thanks to Rand Simberg who has been covering this ongoing battle…

The Elites fight tooth and claw and with whatever lying, cheating, libel and threats they can get away with… and the more you shine the light on them while they do so, the more they self-destruct.

I suspect the Sad Puppies have been having the time of their life giving these people all the rope they need to make total idjts of themselves. So bring out a bag of popcorn, sit back and watch the battle.

Good news from the western front of the culture war

I have been watching the ‘Sad Puppies’ campaign in the world of science fiction and fantasy writers for a while now, with mounting amusement. If you are unaware what it is, think of it as a backlash against the overt cultural Marxist ‘Social Justice Warrior’ clique who have been dominating the Hugo Awards for many years now.

Well this year it looks like some folks are aiming to blow up the SJW Death Star.

Several on the left have remarked the sudden slew of anti-authoritarian nominees has been due to an influx of GamerGate supporters. Yet as the number of votes has only increased slightly, it would appear the GamerGate people were already there, they just finally decided to stand up, form two ranks and figuratively shoulder their Martini-Henry rifles, whilst facing the podium occupied by the establishment.

Anyone who thinks the Culture War is unwinnable or not even being fought by our side is not paying attention.

The force is strong in this one!

Why? Because this is just too damn good…

Volkswagen / The Bark Side from Caviar London on Vimeo.

You are welcome.

S-s-s-samsung’s listening to you . . .

Samsung’s latest model Smart TV is the real deal.

Users of Samsung’s Smart TV devices have raised concerns over the device’s privacy policy, which seems to suggest that they should not discuss any sensitive topics in their living room while the television is plugged in.

The warning relates to the product line’s voice recognition services, which lets users control their television with voice commands input through a microphone on the set’s remote control.

Samsung privacy policy warns: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of voice recognition.”

Get it now before the rush; the word is that this technology soon really will be a “must-have”. Because it isn’t just Samsung or the company that provides Samsung with voice-recognition software that you need to worry about. As the Boomtown Rats put it back in ’79:

And when the place comes ablaze with a thousand dropped names
I don’t know who to call.
But I got a friend over there in the government block
And he knows the situation and he’s taking stock,
I think I’ll call him up now

This really does worry me

Imagine audio and video bugs get better and better. Maybe in the form of tiny physical cameras, maybe as viruses that will eventually succeed in penetrating any computer, phone or similar device, maybe as some kind of broadcast or field. There is parallel progress in the science of searching through audio-visual records. Eventually every house, every room, every human body is bugged – saturated with bugs. Of course most of the time no one is interested in you. But if ever you become interesting, they can watch you, not just now, but at any time going back years. What you were doing on any given day. Every time you sang along to your ipod, had sex, mentioned the word “government”. But “they” is not just the government; it is anyone.

Let’s cheer up about technology

Optimistic science fiction does not create a belief in technological progress. It reflects it. Stephenson and Thiel are making a big mistake when they propose a vision of the good future that dismisses the everyday pleasures of ordinary people – that, in short, leaves out consumers. This perspective is particularly odd coming from a fiction writer and a businessman whose professional work demonstrates a keen sense of what people will buy. People are justifiably wary of grandiose plans that impose major costs on those who won’t directly reap their benefits. They’re even more wary if they believe that the changes of the past have brought only hardship and destruction. If Stephenson wants to make people more optimistic about the future and more likely to undertake difficult technological challenges, he shouldn’t waste his time writing short stories about two-kilometer-high towers.

Virginia Postrel.

Samizdata quote of the day after tomorrow

The real conspiracy is hiding the fact that the US government has had FTL and time travel technology since the 1950s. The first sightings were USAF space-time machines being tested on backwards jaunts of about 5 to 10 years. Navigation was a problem in the early days.

Why keep it a secret? Would you want the Soviets to get that technology or face average Americans rushing off into the void to claim their own planets? Real smooth way to crash the economy and get a bunch of people lost in space and time.

But now that NASA has gone public with their starship program and the astronomers have started naming ‘earth like’ extrasolar planets it’s only a matter of time before they announce a FTL breakthrough. How do I know all this? I pulled it out of my ass and why would my ass lie to me?

– Commenter “AlfredHerring”, trumping this Guardian article claiming that the real UFO conspiracy consisted of the US government faking their existence.

Meet the culture war – in deep space

I continue to read science fiction quite a good deal these days – it seems to be a trait of libertarian-leaning folk – and I noticed that Eric Raymond has an essay up on why some people, such as those that tilt left, are trying to make life tough for those with a different perspective. In this era of self-publishing and all the possibilities created by tech (something SF fans don’t need reminding of) it is surely particularly silly for any group to try and boss others around.

In a nutshell, Raymond says that certain types of science fiction writers suffer from “literary status envy”.

Here is a good paragraph:

Almost the worst possible situation is the one we are in now, in which over the last couple of decades the editorial and critical establishment of SF has been (through a largely accidental process) infiltrated by people whose judgment has been partly or wholly rotted out by literary status envy. The field’s writers, too, are often diminished and distorted by literary status envy. Meanwhile, the revealed preferences of SF fans have barely changed. This is why a competent hack like David Weber can outsell every Nebula winner combined by huge margins year after year after year.

To those on the outside, this all may seem fairly petty stuff, and in a way, it is. It is, I suppose, a phenomenon of what gets called “the culture war”; it is also, perhaps, a sign of how there have always been attempts – sometimes successful – to create things such as literary “establishments”, with the attendant phenomenon of people pressing their noses against the window, as it were. T’was ever thus. In the end, so long as there are low barriers to entry into writing such fiction, and a free market in the production and distribution of said, then the kind of science fiction I want to read will exist.

From the earth’s core to the uttermost star: how far up and down should property rights extend?

I see that government ministers have authorised an expansion of fracking in the UK. In general anything that riles up the Greens pleases me. But only in general.

As I understand it – OK, make that “I think I remember reading somewhere” – it has hitherto been the case in the UK that if you own a property you also own what lies below, not just immediately below such that you can prevent someone excavating their bomb shelter under your house, but all the way down in a long thin cone to the Earth’s core. So a property owner can forbid fracking beneath their land however deep the drilling. Anyone know, is this right? And whether it is or not, should it be?

I really do remember reading somewhere a science fiction story in which the entire universe had been assigned to various Earthly nations based on what cone of sky was above the territory of each country at midnight on a particular date. I cannot recall how or if that story dealt with either the effects of terrestrial boundary disputes, possible objections from as yet undiscovered alien species at their involuntary inclusion in one of these thin but infinite empires, or the curvature of spacetime. Granted that “to the edge, if such exists, of the universe” is taking property rights a tad too far, how far above your house should your property rights go?

Screw the Prime Directive!

The other day I wrote a post about the plight of the Bushmen living in the Kalahari desert in Bostwana.

Jaded Voluntaryist commented,

Survival International are a bunch of arseholes who would see brown skinned human beings being prevented from rising out of the mud because it’s just so quaint. I wouldn’t take their word for it. Of course that may not be what’s happening here, but they don’t have a great track record.

They moaned for example when the Saint family (at the cost of several lives) brought Christianity to the Huorani tribe in Ecuador, which helped reduce their murder rate down from somewhere in the 70% region. Hardly anyone lived to old age. No one would deny that not everything the Huorani got from contact with the developed world was good, but only a sociopath would want them to keep living as they were.

I replied,

I take your point about the patronising attitude of groups like Survival International, although I have also heard that they sometimes do good work on the ground protecting tribal people from state and other violence. As I am sure you agree, if any particular Bushman wants to carry on as his or her ancestors did, good luck to them, and if he or she wants to head to the relatively bright lights of Gabarone and seek their future there, good luck again.

However it looks very strongly as if the Botswanan government has taken away the option for Bushmen to live in their traditional way by the use of a mixture of force (eviction from their ancestral hunting grounds and the hunting ban) and state “help” (the infantilising effects of welfare as pointed out by Mr Kakelebone).

I may write a post someday about the superiority of the attitude of Christian missionaries towards tribal people compared to the attitude of groups like Survival International towards tribal people. My argument would not be based on the fact that I am a Christian, nor on any general assessment of how much or little I admire the hunter-gatherer lifestyle (which might vary widely between different groups). My argument would be that the missionaries wish to persuade some other human beings to believe as they themselves believe, whereas the “protectors” wish to keep them as living museum exhibits. They always remind me of those science fiction stories in which Earth is kept ignorant / keeps other planets ignorant of faster than light travel and so on. My sympathies are nearly always with those who say, “Screw the Prime Directive”.

Then I said,

Come to think of it, screw the “I might write a post someday”. I will cut and paste the above comment as a post right this minute.