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April 20, 2007

Off to Penguicon

I'm heading north to Penguicon (less a physical location than a state of mind), so you want to stalk me this weekend, you'll have to go to Michigan to do it. And here's what I'm doing on the programming schedule, to make your stalking of me that more efficient:


8:30 – 11 PM: "Starship Troopers" Heckled MST3K Style Nick Sagan, John Scalzi In the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000, our two expert class clowns will provide a hilarious sendup of a film, which (by all reports) the director sincerely thought he was basing on a Heinlein novel of the same name. Whether the director ever read the book is an open question. ;)


1 to 2 PM: Works and Influence of SF Grandmaster Godfrey L. Winton John Scalzi, Nick Sagan, Sarah Monette Winton. A dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. Some say he was an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru. Our panelists may disagree on the details. Did he really tour New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration, or is that just legend? Prove how familiar you are with the works and influence of 11 time Nebula winning, 26 time Hugo winning Grandmaster Godfrey L. Winton.

3:30 to 4PM: Signing Nick Sagan, John Scalzi

6-7PM Limited Female Roles In Fantasy, Comics, and SF TheFerrett, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, Sarah Monette, M. Keaton Why is it that a female character will either be raped or lose her child? Do TV writers have difficulty coming up with a motivation for women that isn't vagina-related? We rarely see every man's worst fear: castration. For equal rights, what if every time a woman gets raped on a show, they also neuter a male on the cast? The panelists will evaluate the causes and discuss this and other solutions.


10-11AM Creative Commons and Internet Marketing Charlie Stross, John Scalzi, Tobias Buckell, Sylvia Hubbard Building a fanbase online. First hit's free!

When I'm not at these places you're likely to find me loitering in the lobby, talking up people, or at one of the Penguicon dances, because you know I'm a dancing fool. Come up and say hi if you're there. If you're not there, well, I pity you, since this is going to be a damn cool convention.

Posted by john at April 20, 2007 05:32 AM

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Jennie | April 20, 2007 06:02 AM

How AWSOME it would be if you really were "3:30 to 4PM: Singing Nick Sagan, John Scalzi" as I originally read?

Adam Ziegler | April 20, 2007 06:39 AM

8:30 – 11 PM: "Starship Troopers" Heckled MST3K

I would pay cash money to see that, or at least hear it. Maybe it will be taped?

Jeremiah | April 20, 2007 08:51 AM

OMG seriously! I would seriously consider catching a last minute plane to Michigan just to watch the MST3K thing. Man. If only.

I agree with Adam. That should be taped and then posted as an mp3 (or video!) on here. :)

Adam Lipkin | April 20, 2007 08:55 AM

*sigh* I like Starship Troopers. It's a shitty adaptation, but a fun movie.

And I'd love to see a special guest appearance by Howard Hendrix at that last panel.

stevem | April 20, 2007 09:12 AM

"Limited Female Roles In Fantasy, Comics, and SF". Is this true? When I look at the new releases on the shelves in the sci-fi fantasy section, it looks like about 50% have female main characters.

torgeaux | April 20, 2007 09:31 AM

Actually, fortunately, the director didn't think he was basing "Starship Troopers" on the book. He originally had a screenplay (much like the final movie), and when reviewed, he was told it resembled much of the combat scenes from Heinlein's book. It was only then that he purchased the rights, and he claims to have never read the book. Explains a lot, doesn't it?


Adam Lipkin | April 20, 2007 09:49 AM

Stevem: The existence of a female character (even a protagonist)doesn't mean the role's not limited.

That said, see this post over in Elizabeth Bear's LJ for the genesis of that panel.

PJ Punla | April 20, 2007 09:51 AM

8:30 – 11 PM: "Starship Troopers" Heckled MST3K Style

...the director sincerely thought he was basing on a Heinlein novel of the same name...

He clearly didn't read it.

That guy in the lead role didn't even look remotely Filipino.

[is from the Philippines herself]

John H | April 20, 2007 10:16 AM

We rarely see every man's worst fear: castration.

For some reason the first thing I thought of was The Ice Pirates. Specifically the scene where Robert Urich and Michael D. Roberts are on the conveyor belt about to be turned into eunuchs, only to be saved at the last moment by Mary Crosby.

It was funny, in a butt-clenching kind of way...

kurt | April 20, 2007 10:35 AM


Ice Pirates.....I hadnt thought about that in years.

Different concept but Don JHohnson hooked up to the milking machine in " A boy and his Dog" is also a but clenching moment!!!

htom | April 20, 2007 10:43 AM

In one of those books about the movie (large format with lots of stills) the director claimed to have started reading the novel, and then put it down after the first thirty pages or so. Paraphrasing, "it was obviously a coming-of-age story, and that had nothing to do with killing bugs."

I thought it was a horrible movie, until halfway through I started cheering for the bugs and had a great time.

PeterP | April 20, 2007 10:57 AM

I don't know about every man, but my worst fear isn't really castration. Sure, it would suck, but I could always get hormone injections and be fine. Hell, I could come out of it more manly.

My worst fear is dieing painfully, which writers seem to dish out to male characters in abundance. The real question of this panel appears to be "Why do male writers use cliches when dealing with female characters?" but I suspect that would be a far more boring panel discussion.

Lugo | April 20, 2007 11:06 AM

We rarely see every man's worst fear: castration.

"The Rites of the Ice Mother" in Michael Moorcock's The Ice Schooner.

Doc Savage and Tarzan tear each other's equipment off in Philip Jose Farmer's A Feast Unknown... but the equipment grows back.

Max | April 20, 2007 11:07 AM

I don't think so, Peter. In comics especially, the trend is reaaaallly pronounced. I submit, for your consideration, women in refrigerators:


PeterP | April 20, 2007 11:33 AM

I'm fairly certain you could make a similar list for male characters in comic books, though. I mean, most comics seem to go out of their way to find new and interesting ways to screw with their characters, and I don't think thats entirely bad. Old Man and the Sea would have sucked if he just went out in a boat, caught a fish, came home and got paid, right?

Demosthenes | April 20, 2007 11:42 AM

Ok, wait a sec. Now, ST was goofy, that's a given. That said, I thought that the Starship Troopers movie itself was a sendup, though. Verhoeven thought that ST-the-book was more a little fascist, and decided to do the most horrible thing you can to fascists: make 'em goofy.

(Hence the reason for the changed protagonist casting. Nothing fits fascist propaganda better than white prettyboys running around screaming.)

I mean, the MST3K sounds fun, but it's kind of like making fun of Airplane for implausibility.

Dr. Phil | April 20, 2007 11:46 AM

Ah... Starship Troopers (the movie). Truly a guilty pleasure because it is so... enthusiastic. And Michael Ironside being a hardass with a mech arm? Priceless.

But if it wasn't heading into Finals, I would so be there at Penguincon for an MST3K style roast-a-movie.

Besides, Starship Troopers isn't the worst military SF movie ever made. No, my candidate for THAT horrorshow is Wing Commander (1999?) -- which cannot figure out what terrestrial naval analogue it's supposed to be. Ships o' the line broadsides? Check. Silent running? Check. WW II carrier battle? Check. And it totally wastes casting Jurgen Prochnow, David Suchet and David Warner -- we will NOT talk about the leads -- all while providing data that it is nearly impossible to make a movie out of a video game. Without a script. (grin)

Dr. Phil

Dr. Phil | April 20, 2007 11:52 AM

Oh, and for the record, in Physics there is no such thing as a centrifugal force. Nope, sorry, nada, no way. The way a centrifugal force is described, it would point radially outward and that can't happen.

Instead, right-thinking people know that there is a centripetal force (centripetal being a word that only those who have suffered through a Physics class on Mechanics have ever heard) and that (a) it points radially inward and (b) it is the answer, i.e. it is the resultant net force, something else must be causing the centripetal force, such as a tension in the cable, the normal force in a 2001-style space station, gravity for orbits or the electrostatic Coulomb force for electrons in orbit about a nucleus.

You're welcome.

Dr. Phil

PeterP | April 20, 2007 12:01 PM


Centrifugal Force (xkcd.com)


Chang, for rizzle. | April 20, 2007 12:21 PM

Man, I'd pay big bucks to see a video of that. My wife was even impressed. She almost let me go until she found out it was in Tory, MI and I'd be leaving today. Damn you, Michigan? Why must you distance yourself from Maine so much?

Dr. Phil | April 20, 2007 12:22 PM

As an overzealous teacher of Physics, Mr. Peter, I expect you to die. (grin)

Lovely comic. Gotta love the HTML TITLE tag: "You spin me right round, baby, right round, in a manner depriving me of an inertial reference frame. Baby." Which I can't quite get to work in the meter of the original song, but that's okay.

Besides, after you do the coordinate transformation to a rotating coordindate system, it still doesn't point the way you think it does. (double-entry-accounting-grin)

Dr. Phil

That Neil Guy | April 20, 2007 12:47 PM

Women in SF. One of the reasons I stopped watching the new Battlestar Galactica (apart from the fact that I don't get that channel anymore) was when rape became a plot point. What's even more curious, I think, is that there are a lot of female writers on Galactica. I hope this comes up at the panel discussion.

Matthias | April 20, 2007 12:49 PM

Starship Troopers?

Somebody please tape that and put a Podcast on iTunes!

Jim Wright | April 20, 2007 01:07 PM

As an overzealous teacher of Physics, Mr. Peter, I expect you to die.

Dammit, Doc, you might have warned us. Somebody hand me a paper towel. I knew I should have sprung for that waterproof keyboard protector.

Jim Wright | April 20, 2007 01:12 PM

And PeterP, XKCD is one of my favorite comics, nice to find another fan. I've had the "electric skateboard" one taped up in my wood shop for quite a while now, and I still laugh every time I look at it. Just something about "chicks" swooning over the scientist on an electric skateboard. Hahahaha!

Kafkaesquí | April 20, 2007 01:19 PM

Some more on centrifugal force. I'd suggest letting it go, Doc. Unless you're, um, in a centrifuge...

Adam Rakunas | April 20, 2007 02:22 PM

"Starship Troopers" Heckled MST3K Style Nick Sagan, John Scalzi

Oh, man, I do want to know more.

JonathanMoeller | April 20, 2007 02:23 PM

Alas for the golden age of comics, when men were men, and women were in refrigerators. Possibly multiple refrigerators, depending on how pissed off the villain was, and whether or not the hero had an extra fridge in the garage or basement for beer.

"Alex? Alex! Oh, God, Alex! I...I need a beer."

(goes downstairs, opens fridge)

"Oh, God! The rest of Alex!"

Alex R. | April 20, 2007 02:29 PM

Ack, please don't stick me in a refrigerator...I hate the cold :(
As for why there is so much rape and not so much castration - I've read there's a woman raped every 2.5 minutes in this country. I haven't heard the numbers on castration, but I would assume them to be somewhat lower.
That said, rape seems to be a cheap, cliche way to bring emotion into your story.

Dr. Phil | April 20, 2007 02:47 PM

The Bad Astronomy rant is amusing, but dig down through the comments and you discover that there's quite a messy morass of conflicting coordinate systems and crossdressing definitions which are not compatible. Most people get lost along the way -- those who can do the physics and math correctly will be rewarded with some interesting discussions, which mostly won't change my original statement applying to more standard inertial reference frames.

The centripetal force is a net force, and as such it must be caused by something else. Most of the "workable" definitions of centrifugal force either depend on a transformation to a non-inertial reference frame, which plays havoc on all sorts of the standard Physics terminology, or is a straw man sort of force which isn't really there.

It's akin to the old-timers who insist that they don't want to wear seatbelts because they "know" that it's better to be "thrown clear of the wreck". Fine thinking for when cars were deathtraps and before seatbelts, shoulder belts, airbags, beams in doors, collapsible steering columns, padded dashboards, safety glass, crumple zones, etc. But why were you thrown from the wreck in the first place? Often it was because in a wreck the old car rotated and since you weren't attached to the car by very much (just the friction between the seat and the seat of your pants), it was easy to break the static friction barrier and continue on in a (mostly) straight line motion until you slid up against a door in the turning car and the inadequate door latch popped open. Still no force "throwing you from the wreck" -- just inertia. Ask the governor of New Jersey about that. Wait, maybe not -- after all, he had the brains to be riding in a vehicle going something like 90 mph without a seatbelt on...

However, you can believe what you want. On Tuesday at 10:14am EDT, the students in my PHYS-1070 class will hit their Final Exam -- and anyone caught using an unlicensed centrifugal force will lose 10,000 points. ** (grin)

Dr. Phil

** -- this isn't quite as cruel as it sounds. The Final is worth 200,000 points out one million for the whole course.

Madeline F | April 20, 2007 03:01 PM

Starship Troopers: I'm with Demosthenes. The movie clearly limned the ridiculous aspects of the book. Great adaption of the book I read...

Centripetal Force: my favorite xkcd ever. I giggle every single time I read that one.

Rape: the panel has it right, it's a cheap, overdone, poorly done, cliched, boring way of blowing off a huge number of female characters in SF. I'm all for a 1:1 rape:castration ratio. Best part of Kim Stanley Robinson's Years of Rice and Salt was his grasp of this disparity.

An Eric | April 20, 2007 03:09 PM

I thought it was a horrible movie, until halfway through I started cheering for the bugs and had a great time.

Well, see, you did get it. As someone else has already pointed out, (director) Verhoeven was using the movie as a sendup of fascism, and no, he didn't take the book very seriously.

(In interviews at the time, Verhoeven was quite explicit about his attempts to reference his childhood memories of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. While he never, as far as I know, came right out and said he didn't think very highly of the book--not something a director promoting a movie is likely to say--it was never hard to read between the lines in his interviews and to see the result on the screen. The best analogy, really, is Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Red Alert, except that Kubrick actually attempted to do Red Alert straight before deciding it was ludicrous and turning the somber novel into Dr. Strangelove.)

Most people who hate the movie Starship Troopers don't realize it's a satire. That's actually kind of typical for Verhoeven: Robocop and Basic Instinct are also underappreciated satires.

PeterP | April 20, 2007 03:21 PM

Hehe. XKCD is consistently one of the funniest webcomics out there. I've got the ninja turtles/renaissance artists and the regular expression one taped up over my desk at work.

It's beginning to sound like we need a corollary to Godwin's law for sci-fi: A science fiction work can be considered to have jumped the shark whenever a female character is raped.

I do find it interesting that male rape scenes (Pulp Fiction, Deliverance) are generally regarded comedically, though. I wonder what that says about us as a culture?

michael | April 20, 2007 03:46 PM

PeterP; I don't think that either scene in "Pulp Fiction" and "Deliverance" were done as comedy. Implied in that is a snarky-schoolmarmish, "I think it says a lot about you that you think they were funny."

That is, I think most people would say the scenes are grim. Bobby Trippe's humiliation (sueee) at the hands his attackers can only be considered funny if you identify with the rapists. Similarly, the scene in "Pulp Fiction" has the victim humiliated.

About the only thing that is funny is that the revenge killing of the perpetrators requires that they are stabbed to death with arrows, and swords. Funny in a, "gee, could you make your symbolism any sharper," kind of way.

Next, will you tell us that the rape scene in "A Clockwork Orange" is funny because of Alex's choice in song ("Singing in the Rain"), and the funny language ("Viddy well") that he uses?

not laughing at all,

Max | April 20, 2007 04:18 PM

Peter, since you asked for it, Dead Men Defrosting:


John H | April 20, 2007 04:57 PM

Sometimes there is a fine line between humor and horror. I suspect many people laugh at those scenes simply out of relief that it isn't happening to them...

michael | April 20, 2007 05:39 PM

I must learn to think before hitting the Post button. My earlier post was a bit hot headed. That, or I am just humourless prig that can't take a joke.


It could be that the scenes are dark comedy. Then we do laugh, hopefully self-consciously, at the horrors before us that aren't happening to us.


Lyle Hopwood | April 20, 2007 08:19 PM

An Eric: "In interviews at the time, Verhoeven was quite explicit about his attempts to reference his childhood memories of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands."

I initially read that as "the Nazi occupation of the Neanderthals" and thought, that's my first best-seller, right there.

You're right. I remember several interviews with him when Starship Troopers came out and he was quite vocal that he took what he believed was the attitude of the book and riffed on it with a view to making the book's politics look stupid. If I watch the movie with the Heinlein-liking compartment of my brain closed off it's very funny. If I watch it while remembering the book, it annoys me.

Lugo | April 20, 2007 08:32 PM

It's akin to the old-timers who insist that they don't want to wear seatbelts because they "know" that it's better to be "thrown clear of the wreck".

It's not the "being thrown clear" part that's the problem, it's the sudden stop...

Iain Coleman | April 20, 2007 08:41 PM

"Starship Troopers", the movie, is obviously better than the book of the same name. But neither is as good as "Bill the Galactic Hero".

PeterP | April 20, 2007 08:57 PM


I didn't mean to imply that the scenes were intentionally funny, or that they were received as such by viewers of the film. However, I find in my conversations that those scenes are referenced mockingly (Although, how one could say "squeal like a pig!" under any circumstances with a straight face is beyond me). It may simply be a means of dealing with a situation through humor, as you suggest.

Put another way, I don't think male rape carries the same shock value as female rape, even to the person who suggested the panel. Otherwise the suggestion would have been a one to one rape ratio, instead of the rape/castration thing. I'm not in any way qualified to get into a discussion into the relative impacts of rape on men vs. women, but suggesting physical mutilation vs. quid pro quo seems to imply that they are not equivalent.

Or I could just be rambling.

Patti Honea | April 21, 2007 10:30 AM

Hello, I have found a word in the dictionary that has two meanings published. I have discovered a third meaning that is used everyday in the African American Race. I wasn't sure what to do when I made this find, so I was told by a lawyer online to send it to a company called Davison Inventegration. They contacted me immediatly with a contract. Do you remember the movie Tom Hanks played in, running across county and made the phrase "Shit Happens"! very famous? This is sorta on the lines of what this company wants me to do. They want to make bumper stickers and use the word to get the new meaning across to the public. They have ask me to come up or help them with the slogan. They are the professinals in this feild, so I don't understand they are pushing me for my imput. If anyone has any advice on this situation, please let me know. I am at a lose with this company.
Peace to all of you and thank you.

Patti Honea | April 21, 2007 11:50 AM

Greeting, Do you people not care that we have repressed the African americans to the point that a word that is used in there vocabulary every day, isn't even recgonized for their culture in the damn dictionary? Of course, it seems that all of mankind main motive is for the almighty dollar, could care less about anyone, when you get to real meaning of most mortals real desires, I guess we could call it as saying" " MONEY has become most of the US citizens almight God"! Think about, what is really most inportant to you? Be honest, because you can only fool yourself!

James Nicoll | April 21, 2007 01:03 PM

"6-7PM Limited Female Roles In Fantasy, Comics, and SF TheFerrett, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, Sarah Monette, M. Keaton Why is it that a female character will either be raped or lose her child?"

Shouldn't "get pregnant, with or without the need to go through the usual mechanisms beforehand," be on there somewhere? Heck, the Cordelia character on ANGEL had _two_ instapregnancies.

Adam Lipkin | April 21, 2007 09:29 PM

James - I believe that Cordelia handled it okay by going into a "creepy instapregnancy with incestuous overtones" support group with Carol Danvers and Deanna Troi.

TCO | April 24, 2007 09:12 PM

ST was soooo obviously a slam of the book. You should love that, you lib'rul. If you are too moronic to see that, you're not only liberal. Yer dumb.

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