atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,
atomic_fungus
atomic_fungus

#4305: Well, the Laws of Thermodynamics still work.

There's no deep-ocean warming, either. In fact the deep oceans may be cooling.

So the deep oceans were supposed to be where all the global warming was going--somehow magically skipping the upper or middle layers of the oceans--but that's not happening. There has been no atmospheric warming since 1998. Only 4% of the rise in atmospheric CO2 since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution can be attributed to human activity. It therefore seems fairly obvious that human carbon emissions are not warming the planet.

* * *

Incidentally, July 17 of this year was a day where there were no sunspots on the sun. This happened about nine months after the peak of solar cycle 24.

* * *

Yesterday was hot; today is cool. A thunderstorm roared through in the night, and brought cool and dry northern air in its wake; I was able to open up the bunker about 5 AM and cool it significantly.

The HVAC system in the bunker was not designed to cool as well as to heat. The bunker was built at a time that central AC was prohibitively expensive, and if you wished to cool a home you used a window unit (one or more). The retrofitting of central AC in the 1970s was done because it made more of the house livable on hot days, for not a lot more electricity, but getting it to perform well was a bitch and a half. The air return system had to be augmented, for one thing, and although it helped it really didn't improve matters all that much. The bunker got storm windows as well, in an attempt to insulate better, but that didn't help much either.

So what typically happens is that I turn on the AC and the family room will cool right down. The kitchen, dining, and living rooms will be a little warmer than that, but not much. Meanwhile, the bedrooms will remain about 2-6 degrees warmer than that...and because the thermostat is in the same part of the house as the bedrooms, the AC will run and run and run. The family room will feel like a meat locker and the bedrooms will be stuffy.

I can position fans to move air from the family room into the hallway, and from there into whichever room we're using, and that will cool that room fairly well. It requires that the door remain open, of course, but then I can set the thermostat at about 75 and sleep comfortably. Still, the air retains a feeling of stuffiness, something I can't really get rid of, until a day like this one comes along where I open the house and ventilate with cool outside air.

The basic inefficiency of the bunker's HVAC system is something we're stuck with. It's not going to get better absent a complete tear-out, which would be prohibitively expensive for dubious gains. The thing is just inefficient enough that it's not worth fixing, so I wear a sweater in winter and set the thermostat at 69, and wear shorts in summer...and use fans a lot.

Could be worse, though. What if it was one of those drafty old shacks that cost $300 a month to heat in winter? *shudder*

* * *

John C. Wright writes about how political correctness ruins things. He starts by discussing two short stories which have been nominated for science fiction awards (and in one case already has won same) which are not, in fact, actually science fiction or fantasy stories.
Of the other short stories and novella on the Hugo ballot at the time of this writing the majority have few or no science fictional elements. They take place in the present day, on this world. They concern social justice issues, like the plight of homosexuals, or lesbian selkies or somesuch.
I don't read a lot of SF any more.

There are two reasons for that. The first is that all the writers whose work I really enjoyed are either not writing as much, or dead. (Well, that's just a little redundant, isn't it? Heinlein isn't writing as much as he used to, for example....) The second is that the books I see on the shelves in bookstores simply don't appeal to me, because they're...pink SF, to use Vox Day's term.

Niven and Pournelle are hard SF powerhouses, but as they've aged they have become less prolific. Instead of pumping out a book every year or so, we see a new novel from them once in every long while. Niven co-writes books with other writers, set in Known Space--and these are pretty entertaining reads, most of them--but he's not the primary writer. And they're pretty much the last of the real SF writers.

Wright's article mentions "the sense of wonder", and it occurs to me that this is the factor that makes me want to read someone's work. That's what makes me come back to the old SF books, you know? Being amazed at the images conjured by the text I'm reading. Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky is a story about a teenager who becomes a colonist on Ganymede, and it reads like any pioneer story does--full of very hard work and hardships--but it's also full of wonder because Heinlein makes certain that we never forget the story is taking place on one of the moons of freakin JUPITER. Sure, he's trying to build a farm with very few powered tools, but then he stops and looks up and sees the huge crescent of Jupiter in the sky, and smaller crescents of Io, Europa, and Callisto, their horns pointing away from the sun....

When I read something by Greg Bear or Greg Benford, I don't get that kind of feeling. I don't feel like there's any wonder or amazement involved. As well written as they are, their stories tend to be...cold, and without lending that sense of awe to the tale.

Arthur C. Clarke's The City and the Stars tells a tale set in the far future when Man has retreated from the galaxy and huddled within two tiny redoubts on Earth; it's set in the gloaming of Man's existence, when the human race has lost or abandoned nearly all its greatest achievements...yet it's full of wonder and awe.

That's why I prefer Jim Butcher to George Martin. Butcher's Dresden Files stories contain a lot of violence and horror--Harry Dresden takes a hell of a pounding in every book, and he is not fighting girl scouts--but they're stories about a freakin wizard doing his thing in modern day Chicago, and he never lets you forget that magic is loose in the world.

Compare that to Martin's work. Most of Game of Thrones is people killing, raping, torturing, and mutilating other people. There is some magic present but it's also used primarily for killing, raping, etc, and most of the magic we see in the stories is evil or of evil origin. The healing magic that brings people back to life doesn't make them hale and hearty, but instead leaves them scarred from whatever wounds killed them, and that gift is of dubious provenance. (Rh'llor, the god of fire. One of his priests goes around bringing people back to life. Melisandre, one of his priestesses, uses power granted by her god to assassinate someone. And it's all blood magic.) There's no wonder in the books; the TV series does a little better.

I am slowly coming to realize that I have stopped reading SF because SF stopped being fun. Bear, Benford--they're good writers but their stories aren't fun. Martin's work isn't fun. I can't enjoy stories where the people in them are all assholes and everyone dies at the end; where's the fun in that? Where's the wonder?

Greg Bear's Forge of God, for example--it's all about how Earth is destroyed by aliens we never see, and everyone dies at the end. It's a party! *rolleyes*

(Yes: another group of aliens rescues some humans and mankind is not extinct, but most of that is discussed in the denouement and the rest of it is in another book...which I read about a dozen pages of before giving up because no fun is no fun.)

I'd like to think that the sense of wonder is present in my own writing. I'm not an unbiased observer, and since I know my SF universe forwards and backwards it's harder for me to see it when I present it. I still get it, once in a while, when I have first written something, read it over, and think, Yeah.

...but I can usually sense when it's not there. I've dumped plenty of nascent stories into the "forget it" folder because the idea didn't come out the way I'd imagined it. When that happens I haven't given up on the idea; I've just given up on that particular implementation of it, because it won't work that way. (I keep the story to remind myself of what I was trying to do, of course.)

The thing is, there's nothing exceptional about me. I'm not smarter or better than anyone else out there who likes to read; I'm pretty f-ing average and my tastes are pedestrian. Generally speaking, if I don't like something, and a bunch of other people don't like something, it's usually for approximately the same damned reasons--and the decline of SF as a genre is not happenstance; my decreased interest in published SF is not an accident of my situation.

It's because SF is no longer fun. And it's no longer fun because of political correctness.
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