Joining the dots

I’m quite stupid sometimes, so maybe there is a big something here I am just not seeing, something that is as obvious as can be to everyone who doesn’t have to take their shoes and trousers off to count to twenty one. (It’s my tail I’m talking about. You just connected the wrong dots.) You know what I mean: there is a pattern of dots… and as dots they don’t make much of a picture, except perhaps of a Dalmatian. But what humans (and surely particularly science fiction writers) do, is to join the dots of known things and say: “look, I see a fresh paw-print (dot a). It is large and cat-like (dot b). I see no other paw prints. (dot c) I do see some scratches in the bark of the tree. (dot d)… The picture I am getting is that there is leopard in the tree above me, and they like to eat monkeys and humans are a kind of monkey. The rest of the picture I get in my head is me taking rapid evasive action, and keeping my spear point straight up.” Or alternatively to say: “oh look at the cute paw-print. Let me kneel down and take some photographs… and the rest of the picture involves some bloody splatters.

Extrapolation is what stopped something digestive having taken humankind to extinction long ago and far away. Writing a story – unless you are doing it very badly, involves setting up circumstances which could logically be extrapolated to what happens next. If you’re really really good, the reader scratches their head and says ‘It’s so obvious, why didn’t I see it coming?” If you’re merely good the reader takes that as a natural possible progression of events and thinks no more of it (which, trust me, is an achievement of no small order). If you’re rotten useless, the reader thinks… oh drivel, loses their suspension of disbelief and does not continue to read, often with a book flung at the wall, and that author off the buy list. To take this a bit further: If you’re a good pantser you are literally putting your characters in a scenario, and working out what they would be most likely to do, based on their characters and the circumstance. Literally joining the existing dots to make the picture, generating more dots as you go. If like me, you’re a plotter… (And especially if you’re a good plotter, possibly not like me) you know what you want the picture to be, and manipulate the positions of the dots (the circumstances and the nature of the character) so the outcome is believable and plausible… and achieves your picture. Well, mostly. Sometimes the dots cannot be shifted enough to get to your planned outcome, and you have to settle for where they take you.

It ought to make you quite observant of dots, even ones which seem to have nothing to do with each other and very good at interpreting how they can fit together to give likely, or at least plausible outcomes. Of course some authors just get very good at providing dots for drawing leaves, and don’t even see the forest, but people like the leaves and buy those. Fantasy, to my mind has a lot of good leaf artists. Hard sf… should be more forest… (But that’s just how I extrapolate the dots of data).

So let me talk about some of the dots I see in the writing and wider world… and I’d ask you to tell me if you get the same possible pictures as I do, and if not – what have I missed?

Recently we’ve had a huge fuss about sexual harassment at sf/fantasy conferences. (Translated, complaints about men, white, heterosexual, doing/saying (or even looking or just being present) an unwelcome something (defined as anything unwelcome to the complainant) to women at Science Fiction/ fantasy conferences. (dot A)

Dot B Many well-meaning (as well as some opportunistic camp followers) have demanded something be done. They are female, have female friends, daughters and the future to think of. Typical among these is the white male heterosexual (you know, people from the group who are being complained about and labeled as a group of identical perps.) who say in tones of horror they have young daughters they want to be able to safely go to sf/fantasy cons without having to complain of being harassed. Part of this assuredly genuine care for their children, and part of it is wanting to state, very clearly, that they do not support the harrassers.

Dot C Involves a great deal of reaction, mostly aimed at looking after complainants, and making the making of complaints easier with less possibility of the accuser ever having to specify what was done, or take any consequence for doing so. The group of identical perps is guilty unless they can prove otherwise, and there are considerable barriers put up to their possibly being exonerated. Trial by internet is fashionable and acceptable.

And that seems to be where most folk stop joining dots. They like the picture they’ve drawn.

But there are a lot more dots… some of which are part of the picture. It’s a very big picture. The end one I am seeing is not good for daughters (or grand-daughters) the society we’ll leave them, or even sf.

Dot D – there is a clear correlation between reading and education, especially tertiary education. It’s hard to tell which is causative, but they go hand-in-hand. Tertiary education proportions have become substantively skewed to females (7:3 in some colleges), particularly in the arts, where the ratio is even worse. It must make things very… interesting, in terms of dot G.

Dot E – there is a negative correlation between educational achievement and sexual violence.

Dot F – thanks to testosterone men are bigger, stronger, and more prone to physical violence, and have a higher sex-drive. (Ergo, if you have to choose who in a society gets to reading, being educated, that’s worth thinking about.)

Dot G – Evolution has seen to the fact that most humans are heterosexual. Girls are interested, by-in-large, in boys, and vice versa. Only a small percentage aren’t. Take the opposite sex out of a meeting/conference/whatever, and the opportunity for courtship and possibly sex away, and it will lose much of its attraction for those not already in a relationship.

Dot H – despite the silly-stunts played with census/survey/stats abused for their own ends, if you’re looking for Hetero English speaking males there is about an 85% chance they’ll be white. Even if you take the ‘English speaking’ requirement out, they will be at 70% +. If you want sf/fantasy reading, tertiary educated (or able to be) first language English ones with a similar cultural background to the average white girl… guess what they’re most likely to be? Yep, your standard-model villain. (And given dot D and G, you’ll be lucky if there is one for every 2.5 women at the same or better social/financial/educational level.). Of course if you allow for generations of breeding, those numbers might be different, but it is hard to see how they could be better in terms of dot J

Dot i — Humans push the limits, and are bad at judging precisely where those limits are, without some clues – whether we’re talking about attempts at courtship behavior, or just how many apples/candies you can eat before the boss thinks you’re taking advantage of the system… most of us need those pointers. Remove any policing or obvious border, and people will increasingly push at it, whether you’re talking about taking undersize fish or reporting harassment. Inevitably this has very predictable results, both as to where it goes to (too far), and what happens then (all of the perk/limit/trust is removed). No obvious borders or penalties on harassment and it will go too far. No obvious borders or penalties on claiming harassment and that too will go too far.

Dot J – Evolution has put strong pressure on women to ‘trade up’ – or at least get the best in their mate choice. Think of it in practical terms – big/strong/powerful/wealthy/clever offered the best survival potential for women (because of dot F) and their offspring.

Dot K (which links very neatly to dot D) Male writers (an indicator of readers- the proportion of writers will always be representative of readers, unless for some reason writers of that group are excluded.) and readers are a rapidly declining species.

Hmm. The picture I’m starting to form is one in which horror of the daughters and certainly the granddaughters complaining of sexual harassment at sf cons… is a worry of which my picture relieves their minds. Given C, D,I,G &K, there won’t be any sf-fantasy cons, or if there are they’ll be smaller than cow-poo modelling societies are today, and having gone through a phase of being only visited by men with a partner and permanent camcorder attached. The predatory lesbians (yes, they exist too) will find them disappointing hunting grounds, because dot G will remain. So will the daughters of sf writers looking for a potential mate of similar interest and background. If there are any boys there, who fit dot J, the complaints about sexual harassment, in a ratio of 1 male: many females, will be rare, and suicide for her chances (not a good situation, surely not one any feminist and/or doting parent wants their daughter to be in). Most of these beloved daughters and grand-daughters can, as a result of D &K, be expected as a result of Dot G, to lose out on Dot J, and have to settle for men of lesser education and a higher propensity for sexual violence who don’t read (dot D, E and F). How this is a win for feminism is something of a puzzle for me. Perhaps they join the dots to have man-less households That’s worked really well with the statistical outcomes for children from them, as well as being almost effortless, juggling children and a job. The daydream that the father will pay (if he has a job, if, as less-educated than his child’s mother he can earn as much as she could) hasn’t come out too well so far. Still, maybe there is a dot I haven’t seen. A rich state going to provide welfare payments… oh, wait. Anyone still falling for that daydream needs to do some serious economics dot-joining.

That’s the rather grim picture I see. What have I missed?

I love my genre. I like writing it. I have some hopes that dot sequence I can see coming out of Indie will lead to the Dot D (education and reading) and Dot K being positively affected. I do want to see my grand-daughters (none yet, but I hope, and will love them) able to find partners of the same or better reading status at least. That’s the picture I want. Now as a plotter… how do I best move those variables around do get a different outcome? It’s not social engineering (that is what is being done), it’s playing strategy with a long term view. I can see some places we can add dots and shift them around a little bit.

Can you?

And yes, I do the same thing with the future of publishing, the future of the human race… and with my book plots. Maybe you think they’re just as crazy.
The stats for this month for A MANKIND WITCH

are AMW 62 (105 last month) and Forlorn 12 (5 last month)


    1. Heh. Call me Cassandra. And bigot that’s the mildest of insults I’ve had for trying common sense arguments. The bizarre part is I don’t want anyone harassed, but I think their route is going to make the situation much worse in the medium term. But an ability to look dispassionately at the situation and extrapolate seems unfashionable…

      1. It is the whole heartless “thinking instead of feeling” thing. You’re making people who aren’t used to separating goals (which are emotionally set) and means towards them (where you use cold logic) feel bad. This wouldn’t be so bad, except they lack the mental habits to realize that “feeling bad” can be a prelude to “learning to do better”, which often leads to “feeling good”.

  1. Lots of dots. In the end, there are too many for the likes of me who can’t see a picture because I wasn’t there, and haven’t a clue what’s claimed to have happened.
    Pushing limits…yeah, you can do that. Limits shift as people change their minds. Or see a better quarry, at least for the night. Misunderstandings happen.
    Based on photos alone, limits become even more loosely defined than normal at conventions. By definition, the situation ISN’T normal. People in costume. Authors peddlin’ books. Attendees partying. Often dressed to show skin. Comic book characters increasingly are buff or boob-y and tights-wearing and skin-flashing. Attendees often like the look. Maybe that’s one reason they buy comics. SFF readers? Ditto. For everyone dressed as Darth Vader, there’s a Princess Leia.
    I don’t know that this affects behavior, but I suspect it does.
    Limits for someone dressed like a nun are presumed to be different from limits advertised by a Princess Leia costume, at least by men who cluelessly don’t catch those fine nuances. “Those tights are gray; don’t you know that means stop?” Well. No.
    Note the disclaimer. I’m a non-attendee who’s trying to make sense of a Jackson Pollock splatter of dots, some from one side, some from the other. I may be wildly off in my small analysis.
    But I have been to places, events, where costumes were common.
    Barriers loosen; boundaries shift.
    I wonder if the complainants took that into account?

  2. Some people might thing you are dotty, but I think it’s more like you are taking the high level view instead of getting down to the examination of every dot. There’s a basic rule in economics that “incentives matter” and a related one that you get more of stuff that you subsidize. So if you subsidize single mothers by giving them generous benefits you’ll get more of them. Subsidies don’t have to be in cash, they can be anything that tilts the table in the direction desired. hence if you subsidize claims of harrassment by making it much easier to do, you’lll get more of them. And so on. Sometimes ti is worth subsidizing whatever it is – and ti can certainly help counter a culture/society that is penalizing the same thing – but the person doing the subsidizing needs to be aware of the likely result and to be aware that if there isn’t a countervailing culture to push against you’ll end up breaking something that wasn’t previously broken.

    It seems to me that early feminism – indeed most feminism up to the 1970s – along with the related gay/race civil rights, were good things. But the culture that they were fighting against has mostly gone away – at least in the developed world (individually there are creepy guys yes but for the most part they aren’t influential or even a mass force) so continuing to fight and to seek asymmetric advantage is likely, as you point out, to have some unpleasant longer term consequences.

    1. I was very much a supporter of early feminism, and still believe in concepts like equal work for equal pay. Sometimes tilting the table is worth it… but it does seem to always gravitate into ‘we need more’ – which in the long run will probably amount to you’re going to get less, which ends up hurting those who really deserve and need help. :-(. It’s kind of like inflating insurance claims, because they always weasel… which ends up hurting the honest. Yes without some form clear boundary, and check and balance _anything_ – goes too far. I think the problem lies in the assumption that they are different. Which is true… they’re unique, just like everyone else.

      1. When a problem looks bad, people set up an organization to solve it. This creates a class of people who depend on the problem for their livelihoods. Invariably, those people discover the problem is much bigger than previously thought. And even if it gets better, it will never get small enough you won’t need them.

        1. Ah yes another restatement of Pournelle’s Iron Rule of Bureaucracy.

          Another excellent example is drunk driving and organizations like MADD. To a large extent drunk driving is no longer a problem. Yes people do still drive hoe drunk and do occasionally have accidents, but the regular Friday/saturday night dicign with death on the roads culture has died and few will mourn it. However the campaigners haven’t gone away. They are still campaigning to lower the permitted alcohol level, have mandatory sentencing blah blah blah and none of what they propose is likely to have any effect on the hard core who still drive home at 2am sloshed. We know that because there are still drunk drivers in Japan (where the effective legal BAC is about half a beer) and because it is common to see news reports of drunks who are arrested (often after an accident) who turn out to be on their Nth DUI, have served time, had their drivers license taken away etc. and still they do it.

  3. I used to go to cons fairly regularly though that’s gone by the board in recent years. It’s not likely to change given the current witch hunt atmosphere.

    Sexual harassment and assault are serious matters, criminal or actionable depending on the situation. They should be referred to the police or an attorney, not to some “fan committee” made up of the kind of petty tyrant typically found on the board of condo associations (at best — at worst the committee would be composed of the whack jobs who throw a clot over the word “lady”).

    I’m adopting the same policy I have with respect to SFWA authors. They can enjoy their Stalinist sewing circle. They just won’t be doing it with any of my money.

    1. I agree. It’s a serious matter that can seriously have damaged the complainant, and can seriously damage the accused. Which means I see a need for a proportionate response (‘he called me a lady. I am scarred forever.’ “Ha. Vile sexist harasser. That’s it. We will see you are never able to work again” or ‘He’s my editor told me if I didn’t give him a blow-job he’d see my book tanked.’ “Well, he is the editor of the New Socialist . You need to make allowances…”) and clear proceedure, with unbiased professionals (not as you say, a fan committee), and mutual anonymity until the matter is ruled on, and very clear ‘this is, this isn’t, this you can try to explain’ rules. You simply cannot expect the ‘perpetrator’ to be telepathic or even empathic about what a complainant percieves as harassment. If someone is persistant in the face of ‘don’t’ or ‘no’ that’s clear enough. They deserve what they get. But for example, calling someone a lady, an innocent compliment, or simply being thought to look at them, stand too close, or following them can get you publically accused and they do NOT have to say what you did wrong, or provide proof – that’s just a ‘don’t go to cons if you’re male’, message.

      Proper proceedure, clear limits, proportionate response – for guilt, and for false accusation.

  4. What can we do about it? As writers? I sort of had a go at it.

    I envisioned a society, grown from the current mess. Well, I threw in genetic engineering enabling various things that are most easily described as magic. The witches didn’t “need” men for anything but the basic biological functions. The mages treated their women as if they were interchangeable robots.

    But I made the most extreme of both sides unpleasant. And the youngsters kept falling in love and . . . acting like normal people.

    My main characters tend to :: Gasp! Horror! :: not just fall in love, but actually live with the person of the opposite gender. Have children.

    I have single guys who enjoy the situation, but I have others who refuse to be taken advantage of.

    I think I was way too subtle.

    So . . . how should I do it, as I write more? Lonely, bitter, man haters, getting old and frail? Their sole niece is too busy to visit, being a State Representative With Ambitions of National Politics? “Sorry Aunt Viv, can’t talk long. I meeting with a committee studying the weird voting habits of young women. I just don’t understand why they’re voting for married men with lots of children who think they ought to marry before having any at all! Did you hear Senator Christian’s speech last week! ‘Young women should be brought up to have enough self-respect to say no to casual sex!’ The nerve of the man! Whew! Some days I don’t know if it’s anger or hot flashes. Oh well, I didn’t want a child anyway.”

    1. The trouble with not being subtle is the line of being too preachy is easily crossed. But yes, this what I think needs doing

  5. I believe that your basic assumption that the feminists want to stop sexual harassment is in error. What they seem to want is to reduce men to non-people with no rights and to gather as much power to themselves (not even to all women) as they can. Another dot is that they seem to think that even then, men will still produce the same amount for them to take (thus the horror over the “Men on Strike” situation). Following these dots, they are racing down a highway that ends at the Grand Canyon with no bridge. Watching them go over the edge will be amusing, the problem will be stopping them from dragging us along with them.

    1. For me, their lack of respect for certain limits would put them in the ‘objectively pro rape’ camp even without the degree to which their ideologies conflict with counter predation strategies.

  6. And Evolution . . . Wow. We’ve been, most of my adult life, predicting the _eventual_ results of limiting births. Now I’m seeing so many different factors, all depressing the birth rate, that I feel like I’m staring down into a pit. These women who hate, fear and attack men, these women who have trained themselves and their daughters to be victims instead of strong . . . Evolutionary dead ends. Oh, they do have children, but the trend is downward until they change their religion away from this Cult of Victimology.

    But they are only one factor. There are a _lot_ of economic issues as well. Nutrition. Politics. The Church of AGW. The grasshoppers out voting the ants about how to share the results of the ant’s hard work and parsimony.

    Eh. Makes me nostalgic for the Cold War nuclear threat . . . Oh wait, we’re adding that back in now, aren’t we?

    Reality, in the form of evolution is going to smack us, hard. I can’t even begin to rank the likelihood of all the possible outcomes.

    Funny, to think that it all comes down to being confident, strong, honest, honorable, responsible, polite and loving.

    1. I’d like to expand on ‘trained themselves and their daughters to be victims’.

      Following the current dogma of victimhood neccessarily has an oppurtunity cost in terms of best practices for counter predation strategies.

      Humans who sexually prey on other humans often do so for similar reasons and in similar ways. Understanding this at a deep level, being able to find the possible signs without regard to gender or orientation, and using the understanding to prepare mental countermeasures are all some best practices.

      The SFWA and con scandals are, for me, bad examples because I do not have direct knowledge or a deep understanding. The persons I most trust on those issues, to some degree, have provided information that the complaints have enough bias towards false positives that they are useless or harmful as far as any rational systemic counter predation strategy is concerned. However, I do not consider myself informed enough to use such data as I have on the specifics for making decisions where my own safety is concerned.

      A better example, from my own testimony, would be some comments I saw on the Harry Dresden forum about a book, complaining that it offered too close a view of what a sexual predator’s mind might be like. To paraphrase them, the author was a bad person for writing such, because rapists were somehow different from everyone else, a special class of person, and everyvictim would be harmed by such contact. One, this fundementally conflicts with understanding as a foundation for countermeasures.

      Two, the dividing line between those who prey sexually and those who don’t, as far as adults* are concerned, is that those who don’t enforce limits on themselves. Those who do, don’t bother enforcing some of the limits, are too weak to enforce the limits, or are too crazy for the limits to be understood.

      An educational focus on victimhood directly conflicts with counter predation education, assuming there is a reliable way of teaching the latter.

      An educational focus on avoiding pregnancy is in error, because avoiding predation is relavant earlier in life.

      An educational focus on sexual fulfillment is in error, both because avoiding predation is relavant earlier in life, and because jumping into fulfillment without a solid grounding in countering predation can lead one to slide into direct predation oneself without realizing it. Not to mention that the desire for sexual enjoyment is one of many handles that a sexual predator will use against one, if one allows it.

      *Here I use adults to mean those motivated by libido.

    2. Yes, I find myself thinking we made a severe error of judgement when we stopped ‘stupid’ from being a poor survival strategy. I actually do draw some comfort from the ‘good’ examples I know, because in the mess I see coming, they and their kids are best equipped to survive. But we really need to stop rewarding teh stupid and penalizing the ants.

  7. I think I hadn’t the time or sense to write this July 8. The other bits can’t be made to fit, but this can.

    Maybe it really was that scary for them. I know a bit about being extremely terrified for reasons that aren’t sound.

    Even so, it is a poor counter predation strategy to fear strongly, carelessly, and to act on it. That is a handle people can use against you.

    Maybe a phobia can’t be turned off, but how one handles it can change.

    Withdrawing from the company of only a trusted few has risks. The mechanism for bestowing trust is never perfect, and the fewer, the more power they have over one.

    Study what you fear. Understand it, and plan for it. Master yourself. Maybe the dogs still drag you down, but it is better you go down on your feet, facing them, then running away*. No sense in shouting at other people’s dogs, or abusing them, when they aren’t dragging you down.

    *Dogs, like many others, are more likely to pull down something they chase, then one that faces them. Sometimes a dog that always tries to get behind you is not your friend. Sometimes a dog, from friendly breed, coming to play with you fresh from some young children, is not your enemy.

  8. I tend to go directly from A yo Z and skip dots B through Y. I look at who profits from the final state, and it’s not women. It’s the men who adopt the “feminist” cause.

    Men who think of women as a commodity and fear competition from other men will do two things–try to convince women that they are helpless and need protection from the “bad” men, and try to convince women that they are one of the “good” men.

    It’s no coincidence that societies that insist on the “purity” of women are also societies that embrace child brides and polygamy. Inside every white knight is a man who dreams of a harem.

  9. Being a constant victim is very confining. I think I came of age at the tail end of the reasonable version of feminism and at the beginning of some of the nutty stuff. Early feminism produced real value. I like being able to vote. I like getting paid.

    But, what I didn’t realize–until I got rid of it–was that the pervasive woman-as-victim thing hurt me. It was very liberating to marry someone who told me stories of his work, where other men treated this white male, my husband, in completely jerky ways. Really rude. No one had ever said to me anything like a couple of the worst ones he heard. The scales fell from my eyes, and I woke up to the lovely realization that people could be real [insert unladylike word here]s. This was great: it wasn’t my gender. Any rudeness wasn’t caused by something I couldn’t change, namely, my gender. It was just rudeness that came from someone else’s unlovely personality.

    When you think you are being looked down on account of some immutable characteristic, you go around thinking you *are* being looked down on ’cause, damn, that characteristic is still with you every morning, and everyone knows you’ll be looked down on for it, and it all gets very circular. In retrospect, I feel fortunate to have escaped that little trap while there was still time in life to be cheerful.

  10. In Merovingian and Carolingian Frankish society, a lot of women were more highly educated than the men. Which was why women were regarded as permanently tied to their own clan, not to their husband and children’s. Men paid brideprice to the clan and gave gifts to the woman.

    A lot of women doing multiple marriages, unless they could go off to a convent. A lot of going back and forth in convents between being canonesses (which gave you more freedom of life, but allowed your family to haul you back out of the convent to marry somebody if convenient) and being nuns (which meant less freedom of life but no interruptions of your vocation by your family).

Comments are closed.