Monday, May 06, 2013

Sharia Law Comes To Kentucky

Letter to the editor submitted to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Sharia Law Comes To Kentucky

I had thought that conservatives were worried that somehow Muslim Sharia Law was going to gain a foothold in the US. I personally was not too worried about this; I could not conceive of it actually happening.

However, recently, conservative members of both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly have overridden Governor Beshear's veto of the Religious Freedom Act, which allows someone with a “sincerely held religious belief” to defy state law. Compliance with Sharia Law is a "sincerely held religious belief" for conservative Muslims. So it seems to me that such Muslims are now allowed to claim that Sharia Law overrides Kentucky law.

Surely I'm missing something here. Can one of the legislators who helped pass this horrible law please point out the flaw in my logic? Or has Sharia Law indeed come to Kentucky?

We'll see if they print it.

Update, 2013-05-09. Just got the verification call from the Herald-Leader, they are going to run it.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

AI Generated Fiction

I read "Constellation Games", by Leonard Richardson. Probably the wierdest first contact novel of all time. The aliens show up, a couple dozen races of them hanging together in an anarchistic confederation. Instead of landing on the White House lawn, they just start exchanging emails with individuals and dropping presents on peoples' lawns. The progagonist is a game developer, game reviewer and gamer. He and is pals are so over the top, you say, "no way". But then, I think about some of the gamers I know, and I see the pictures in the paper of the local steampunk cosplayers, and I'm forced to conclude, "way".

So our hero sets out to play and review 15 million year old alien games. Hilarity ensues, but the world does get saved in the end. The love interest -- the hero's (girl)friend of years -- is oddly touching, with a really different existential outlook. Overall, a very fun read. 4 stars.

I then read 2 books I spotted in the library: volumes 6 ("Metal Swarm") and 7 ("The Ashes of Worlds") of the Book of the Seven Sons series by Brian J. Anderson. Man, I blogged reading volumes 4 and 5 over 6 years ago, February 24, 2007. This is about as heavy duty a space opera as you can imagine: 5 alien races, 2 races of robots, several human groups. There are at least 30 narrative threads, maybe more than 40. Chapters are generally 2-4 pages, so it keeps moving and you keep turning the pages. Note, the books are about 450 pages each for 3150 pages total, so my 100 pages per narrative thread heuristic is probably not too far off.

But, trolling alert, the writing is just so bad. In 2007 I described it as "sophomoric". So many wrong or unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. So many extraneous sentences. And his bad guys, particularly, are all like "bwahaha, I love dismembering humans and seeing their blood splatter because I love dismembering humans and seeing their blood splatter". So, mercifully, I am done with him. He has another set of Dune followups written with Frank Herbert's son, I believe that I will never read them, yay! Which brings us to the title of this post. If I were to be told that Brian J. Anderson was actually an AI fiction generation program, I would not have a problem believing that. The writing is that formulaic and stilted.

Finally, I read 2 books by Saladin Ahmed: "Engraved on the Eye", a short story collection, and "Throne of the Crescent Moon", nominated for the Hugo Award this year. These were easy reads, and somehow, I guess that I have some fondness (I would not have thought so) for "The Arabian Nights"; the Islamic/Arabic overtones seem very familiar, although the constant religious overtones did get very slightly annoying at times. But a good story, with the old ghul-hunter, his dervish swordsman assistant, and a young woman who is a were-lion.

I've always been fond of the early (unsuccessful) attempts at science: magic, tarot (for characterizing experience), astrology (for characterizing personalities). I liked here when he off-handedly mentioned the 8 elements: sand and lightning, water and wind, wood and metal, orange fire and blue fire. So 3 forms of earth and 3 forms of fire, definitely different.

Anyway, both are easy and fun reads, 3 stars.