But what if I want to tame a spider and ride it around?

This review of Grounded by Jim Sterling caught my interest. It’s one of those survival games where the hook is that you’ve shrunk to the size of an ant and you have to kill stuff and collect stuff and build stuff, and it’s full of spiders. I could get into that.

Then, the catch: it’s for XBox. Nope, sorry, never gonna get a console — I don’t play games enough — and I’m definitely not getting anything Microsoft.

Also, it looks like the spiders are just your implacable enemies, which is appropriate, but not as much fun as playing as the spider. Years and years ago, I played SimAnt, and would only play as an ant long enough to see the colony grow to a large size, and then I’d type in a cheat code that let me be the spider, with laser eyes. Now that was a game!

We are so screwed

There’s a rumor going around that we’re in the midst of a pandemic, and that it’s unwise to gather in large groups. The disease is getting worse, not better, and the half-hearted lockdown of previous months has clearly failed, and we’re past the time when the whole nation has to this thing damned seriously.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey:

In the most recent incident, three residents were charged for violating the governor’s order limiting the size of gatherings after at least 700 people were found partying in an Airbnb rental on Sunday, police officials said.

700 people. Partying. I was shocked at the stupidity of the idea of a massive gathering of people exhaling on each other, but then, in the next sentence…

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s order limits outdoor gatherings to 500 people and indoor gatherings to 100 or 25% of a room’s capacity.

Wait, the official limit is 500? What kind of feeble Mickey Mouse restriction is this?

Also, I thought Airbnb was known to be a criminal scam.

Anyone up for a group minecraft session?

Hey! Sitosis, the free minecraft server, just generated a new map, with spawn right on top of a village. It looks like an interesting map!

I’ve jumped in, built a boat, and sailed northeast to stake out a little shack at 230, -605. If you want join me in the neighborhood, great! Let me know when anyone would like to do a group session, maybe we can coordinate something.

Sheesh, I missed the worst bit of the Hugo awards

Since I didn’t watch the awards presentation at all, I missed George R. R. Martin making a colossal flaming ass of himself. Here’s a summary:

The host for this year’s festivities was George R.R. Martin and he spent an awful lot of time talking about John W. Campbell, noted fascist and racist. Pretty sure that between Martin and Bob Silverberg, Campbell (noted fascist and racist!) was mentioned more than the aggregate of the folks being honored. I aged approximately 67 years during Silverberg’s segment.

We were treated to tales of how Martin is Just Like Us while he was broadcasting from the movie theater he owns for funsies. I lost count of how many times he mentioned that fandom used to be so much smaller that Worldcon was in a hotel and that there was a banquet with rubbery chicken (no one cares).

Because it’s such a goddamn fucking shame that fandom is so much larger and diverse than it was 50 fucking years ago. Because the people nominated for and winning awards aren’t exclusively white and male. The first woman to win a Hugo Award–in any category–was Anne McCaffrey, who tied with Philip José Farmer in 1968 for her novella, “Weyr Search.” The first Hugo Award was given out in 1953. It was fifteen years before a woman won. Four-time nominee James Davis Nicoll has done more work in this area than I have, and I recommend that y’all look very closely at that giant table of doom.

I’ve done a bit of searching–not much–and I can’t find a comparable analysis around race and the Hugos. But I can say that N.K. Jemisin was the first Black person to win the Hugo for Best Novel. In 2016. In 2016.

Speaking of Jemisin, Martin made the decision to first mention her unprecedented accomplishment of winning the Best Novel three years in a row–no one else of any race or gender has ever accomplished a Best Novel hat trick–and then attempt to undermine it by talking at great length the time Heinlein won three Hugos in nine years, culminating in some sort of shaggy dog story involving a white dinner jacket and Stranger in a Strange Land. I’ve forgotten the details because Heinlein is irrelevant to the discussion.

What I haven’t forgotten is this: George R.R. Martin repeatedly mispronounced the names of nominees and, in one case, a publication which was nominated. All the nominees were asked to provide pronunciations for their names in advance. The fact that Martin chose not to use that information is disgusting and racist as fuck, as nearly without exception the names he mispronounced were Black and brown. He mispronounced FIYAH, a publication owned, edited, and written by Black people.

This is thoroughly beyond the pale, especially since those segments were pre-recorded and CoNZealand could have asked him to re-do those segments and pronounce peoples’ names correctly. Names are important. They have power.

Read The Whole Thing. There’s more, much more. I’m rather appalled at his behavior, and the fact that he chose to go on and on praising Campbell, after the award that used to be called the Campbell award was explicitly renamed because of his terrible behavior (cancelled!), and when one of the awards he was handing out was to Jeanette Ng, who had called out Campbell.

Jeanette Ng took the best related work award, for her acceptance speech last year at the Hugos upon receiving the John W Campbell award for best new writer, in which she called Campbell a fascist who set a tone “of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day. Sterile. Male. White. Exalting in the ambitions of imperialists and colonisers, settlers and industrialists.” The prize was later renamed the Astounding award.

Imagine a dumpster fire in a train wreck. That’s what this awards ceremony sounds like. The organizers who made a whole chain of stupid decisions have apologized; Martin has not.

In conclusion, let us shoot George R.R. Martin and Bob Silverberg into the sun where they shall bother us no longer.

That’s too much work, and far too expensive. How about never allowing those two to speak at a con ever again? Simply never inviting them, either? I expect it’s inevitable that Game of Thrones will get another nomination, if he ever finishes it — how about not?

By the way, I have good memories of reading Silverberg, and a couple of years ago I re-read Hawksbill Station, one that I’d last read as a teenager. It’s a time-travel story, and Hawksbill Station is set in the Cambrian! On re-reading it, though, I discovered that it is the most sexist, awful piece of crap, a real shit-show of a story, and I was so ashamed of Teenaged Me, and I don’t think I could ever read another Silverberg story.

Everyone needs a pet spider!

If there’s just one thing I miss from my zebrafish days, it’s being surrounded by fish tanks. Lovely burbling fish tanks, filled with little dancing fish, so soothing. So nice. So restful.

Well, they’re gone now, so I wanted something to replace them, so I threw together a couple of terraria with spiders. It was easy. First I thought of repurposing all these fish tanks I’ve got, but they’re too large — my spiders are small, these aren’t tarantulas — and the lids were perforated and wouldn’t be any kind of obstacle. Then I found these acrylic display boxes, which are intended for 1/32 scale model cars, or dolls, or action figures. I can do better than that — spiders! So I made a few.

The one on the left holds a bronze jumping spider and a chunk of stick, while the one on the right is Parasteatoda with a simple frame I slapped together with coffee stirring sticks and hot glue. The jumper has its own charm, but is a little on the small side right now (I’ll fatten him up). The house spider is fascinating and is a real distraction in my office. She immediately started assembling a web on the frame, scurrying about, jumping from stick to stick. I really recommend them for everyone’s office. You should get one or two or four.

I also needed some distraction. Oh no! Another egg sac erupted with babies!

I’m not sure what I’m going to do. My incubators are full to capacity. I might have to try feeding them en masse, until they’re big enough to thrive, and then turn them all loose somewhere. Like my house. Mary won’t mind.

Alternatively, you could all buy some of those acrylic display boxes, stop by the university, and I could stock them up for you. Seriously! They’re fascinating! Like aquarium fish, only dryer!

In case you have no idea what you’re looking at in that last picture, here’s a key.

Hope that helps!

Hugos announced!

I’d noticed the nominees earlier, and I was dismayed to see that I’d read relatively few of them. You’d think with being a virtual prisoner at home since March, I’d have had plenty of time to get a lot of light reading done, but no…increased teaching responsibilities ate up the spring, and this summer has been a slough of despond consumed by worries about teaching in the fall. I was able to muster some cheers for Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade, but mostly I didn’t know the competition. Now I learn the winner was Arkady Martine for A Memory Called Empire, which now has to go on my list. Will I have time to read it? Unlikely. It’s August. Classes start early this year.

Most of the news sites that mention the Hugos seem to be focused on George R.R. Martin, because he had promised the latest Game of Thrones book by this date. He has since said it will be next year. Do you care? I have long been discouraged by the sluggish pace within the books in addition to the ridiculously long delays (and accompanying excuses) between the books that I gave up on them a few volumes back, have mostly forgotten what happened in them, and am not interested in re-reading them to catch up enough to want to touch the next one, which might be out in 2025 at this rate. Besides, the last season of the HBO adaptation was so godawful bad that it has fouled the whole series.

Bye bye, George. Your novels have procrastinated themselves into oblivion, and I’ve got some Arkady Martine to read. Also, Nnedi Okorafor has a graphic novel? And I still haven’t read Amal El-Mohtar’s and Max Gladstone’s This Is How You Lose the Time War, despite meaning to get around to it for ages? At least I did read Jemisin’s Emergency Skin, so I’m not a total loser.

Spider feeding day!

It’s been a long day of preparing my mighty army of baby spiders. All have now had flies sacrificed to them, so while I was flicking flies into vials, I recorded and uploaded this short clip of one Parasteatoda happily finishing off her prey.

They are so young, and yet they’re already murderous hellbeasts. At least from the perspective of Drosophila.