09 June 2022

Illegal (or at Least Illogical) Fictions

I'm hoping to tell some truth with these fictions, simultaneously recognizing that hope is not a strategy.

  • Del Boy is a Lit'rary Figure (with DCI Slater in figurative lukewarm pursuit), but certain pirate havens are probably out of luck in Germany. What's most interesting about these seemingly unrelated cases is that they're both cross-border, and in particular as to the purportedly "Swiss" operation (which, when I last tunneled into it pre-COVID, was majority-English-language media and vast-majority-English-language text).

    More disturbingly, the subtext of both cases is that the natural-person authors have no power. But we all knew that.

  • We especially know that the individual authors have no power once amateur Firemen get involved. (Aspiring Guy Montags, that is.) And these amateur firemen are even more amateurish than most: Authenticity comes from actual knowledge making its way into a work — fictional or otherwise — and not from birthright, especially when that birthright considers only one dimension (Chip Delaney being an excellent example). Some lived experiences can give insight largely unavailable through research, and certainly provide perspective on both source reliability and subjective impression that gives substantial before-research-is-completed advantages to, well, Members. But not exclusively, and not by providing any actual insight into implications in a work of fiction… unless, that is, said work of fiction never interacts with any aspect other than Membership and its lived experiences. Including, among others, potential readers who are not Members.
  • The "authenticity of creators" argument is disturbingly parallel to self-defeating corporate diversity policies; so parallel that, from some points of view, the lines merge — or, at least, their purposes do. Neither "authenticity determinants" nor "corporate diversity statements" are actually intended to promote or acknowledge diversity and difference at all; they are both about demonstrating tribal allegiance instead of, as the crowd outside Brian Cohen's window proclaims, actually valuing — actually being — individuals.

    The irony that the meme of "conformist authenticity" relates most commonly and most closely to works of fiction — works that at their core rely upon empathy to convey anything at all, even purportedly "pure entertainment" — seems to have escaped this narcissistic black hole. For example, there aren't a lot of currently active mystery writers who can "authentically" write about the mindset of a murderer… and the most prominent example of whom I can think writes from the perspective of the crime-solver, the other side of the jailhouse bars (except perhaps in Chicago). Similarly, most military fiction is written by those who've never had the joys or burdens or headaches of command; most "spy fiction" by those who've never been inside an intelligence/counterintelligence system or deep cover; to put not too fine a point on it, most Regency romances by those who've never been members of a hereditary aristocracy (let alone 200 years ago!) … and it shows, most of the time, only to have just enough startlingly authentic-seeming exceptions to give hope to others. Which is, in the end, the point.

  • Then there's Death to Lightning, which is loooooooong overdue. Apple's approach has long been the equivalent of mounting the gear shift on the ceiling — it's even worse than English as the sole official language or the French dictionary police. One wonders if the entry for "Palo Alto" (associated with HP) has been cut out of all gazetteers found in Cupertino… which would be rather ironic given how much Apple's function and design imperatives still descend from a 1970s Xerox lab in Palo Alto. But then, recognizing irony has never been a strength of leaders in the tech industry…
  • …any more than recognizing nonscientific inquiries has been common among pollsters proclaiming their allegiance to scientific polling. A recent example is one asserting that "Three in five of Americans disapprove of Biden's handling of economic recovery" — a nonsensical statement that requires having asked counterfactual questions to get any results at all. To begin with, no President has that power; if there's any one place to blame, it's the Fed, and even the Fed can at best nudge (not "handle") the economy. (Indeed, Congressional gridlock is by Constitutional design far more responsible; the President can't impose a budget!) And that's before getting into the polling universe's fundamental assumption, which is that it's some pollster's business about a subject's personal opinion in the first place; they clearly do not understand the concept of either a "secret ballot" or "in the context of the alternatives, this is least bad." Delving into the way this particular polling agency operates and imagines itself in public (the "About Us" page is highly revealing!) is even more disturbing to anyone who knows diddly-squat about experimental design, data validation, linguistic friction, or at the deepest level false dilemmas (because providing a range of "how strong" one feels merely hides the implicit duality). What that polling company ensures its clients "are sure" about is the bloody invoice.