Telling stories on the Big Guys

So I’m at the dinner table with Jerry Pournelle and L.E. Modesitt, and Jerry turns to Leland and says “Who are you?”
“Lee Modesitt.”
“Oh. Haven’t heard of you. What do you do?”
Lee smiled. “I’ve written almost as many books as you have, Jerry.”
Jerry, only a little flustered, said “Well, I don’t read as much as I used to,” and then shoved a bite of salad into his mouth.

The two of them seemed to get along just fine after that. Jerry told us all a very amusing story about how Louis L’Amour became a famous author (it involves buying lots of beer for truckers).

Earlier in the afternoon we did a Star Trek LARP at the McAuliffe Space Education Center. It’s an amazingly cool facility, even if you do have to use a mouse to interact with the ship’s (Macintosh) computers. It was hilarious — Jerry was running sensors, but long before we actually boarded the ship he started shooting holes in the scenario. “Do you people know how big a light year actually IS?” Oh, and one of the “enemies” we had to placate on this mission was a team of 24th-century Greenpeacers, out to save Space from warp ruptures. Jerry and I agreed that as soon as shooting began with the Orion Nebula Pirates, the Greenpeacers were going to be declared “collateral damage.” Jerry’s first suggestion involved a black hole (“I guarantee, we will NOT have to worry about them complaining to the Federation President… even in the Star Trek universe”) but plausible deniablity is trickier there.

Kiki (my 9-year-old) was running the internal comms, and during a collision alarm she jumped under a nearby table. It turns out the smoke effects (yes, they blew the room full of smoke when we had our little collision with the Greenpeace runabout) pumped into the room through several vents, one of which was under the table with her. Almost as soon as the smoke began pouring out I found myself with the 9-year-old Internal Communications Officer in my lap, quite terrified, but laughing about it. Shortly afterwards we ran out of time. It’s a good thing too. The shields, they cannae take much more o’ this.

38 thoughts on “Telling stories on the Big Guys”

  1. So, did you have to throw yourself from side to side during the collision routines?

    Did they actually have SEATBELTS? 🙂

    (Real Chief Engineer – “Och, I’m tired of being tossed around like a bad haggis. Put some handholds on the walls, and a seatbelt on my chair!” )


  2. Ai! They stuck Jerry Pournelle in a scenario with Greenpeace? Bab, BAD idea, given he’s in the “Global Warming is Not Proven, and Those Environmental Scientists Just Want Their Funding” increased camp.

    1. sheesh…

      He’s an ok writer, but when are some people going to learn that being successful in one field don’t make them experts in everything!

      I mean, I don’t tell him how to write books, so he doesn’t get to critique my ecology!

      1. I don’t tell him how to write books, so he doesn’t get to critique my ecology!

        Well, that’s astonishingly invalid logic.

        …But hey, whatever. Not really looking for a fight.

        1. Pournelle, as well as a large number of other SF authors, are experts in SEVERAL fields. This is not what makes them good writers. This is what gives them valid (or at least interesting) perspectives when they write.

          Pournelle’s position, as far as I can tell from his blog, is that mainstream science MOSTLY gets it right. MOSTLY they don’t chase red herrings because of politics or money. MOSTLY they follow up on bad research with good research that disproves it. MOSTLY. With regards to Global Warming, he thinks the jury is still out, and has been disappointed at the community’s failure to follow up on the studies that appear to invalidate the “common knowledge” regarding Global Warming.


          1. Mm. I think you may’ve gotten the wrong comment to reply to. Your message appears to be addressed much more to the comment I myself was replying to.

          2. Woo! I love it when that happens.

            But yeah, that’s why I generally like to handle comments through my email. No chance of mix-ups that way.

          3. Also, as long as I’ve got you here, so to speak: I know you’re pretty conservative in your politics, and I was wondering – what do you think of my icon? While I stand by its point, I’ve been considering trading the icon in for something that makes it in a less… polarizing manner.

          4. Heh. I take it from that that your answer to my question would be “very little”.

            And just by-the-by – the point I intended the icon to make was that whenever some institution of the supposed “liberal media” uncovers some unpleasant fact – such as the disappearance of several hundred tons of high explosives from Al Qaqaa – at least one of the immediate responses of the Republican Party and its various affiliates is to decry the “liberal bias” that would deem such an event worthy of reporting. In effect, accusing the media of having a “liberal bias” whenever it chooses to report on some demonstrable fact if said fact has the potential of harming the Republican Party in some way. It’s not that the media has a “liberal bias”, it’s simply that the facts themselves are detrimental to the Republican cause.

          5. Fact of the matter is that it’s not the facts themselves that indicate bias, it’s the choice of which facts to report that make up the bias.

            You’ll find that with each of the following sentences, the bias can change, as can the perception of responsibility.

            Bob died.
            Bob was shot.
            Bob was shot by Dan.
            Bob was shot by Dan with a stolen gun.
            Bob was shot by Dan with a gun stolen from his roommate.
            Bob was shot by Dan with a gun stolen from his roommate, who is a policeman.
            Bob was shot by Dan with the gun Bob stole from Dan’s roommate, who is a policeman.
            Bob was shot by Dan with the gun Bob stole from Dan’s roommate, who was a policeman.

            Notice that the sense of bias shifts somewhat with each clarification… especially when it becomes known who actually did the stealing… and especially when “is” changed to “was.”

            Howard’s right about facts, they are not biased. However, as long as you choose the facts that support your arguments, and ignore those that do not, you are biasing the presentation.

          6. That’s what I was going to say. It’s a very nice illustration of the point.

            Everything is biased, because unless one is omniscient you never know all the facts of an event. I grant that you can know most of them, but often the media (either liberal or conservative) don’t bother to provide all the details. It would be impossible, and no one would read/listen. As you say, saying “so-and-so, unarmed at the time, was shot with an unregistered stolen gun” provokes outrage, while “so-and-so was shot by a police man who, arfter escaping from where so-and-so had tied him up stole so-and-so’s stolen gun and shot him as he attempted to flee” is something completly different.

  3. Sounds like it was great fun, I’ve been wanting to go down when the LtUE committee has their missions but I always seem to be working.

    I’m hoping to make it down to LtUE some time on Friday, hope to see you there.


  4. I’ve always thought it’d be neat to meet Mr. Modesitt, since I’ve read his Spellsong Wars series, even though a friend of mine who formerly worked for my bookstore’s competition did meet him at a signing and said he was kind of a jerk…. I think he’d be a fun guy.

    1. Everybody is a jerk sometime.
      I hear that about writers alot, actually. My question to people is usually, “How would you feel after signing autographs for three hours, for people who often want them only to increase their book’s value, and repeatedly ask the same inane questions?”

        1. Exactly.
          Harlan Ellison is another example. I’ve heard repeatedly what a jerk he is, but the time I talked to him, he was a pretty nice guy.
          He is, of course, sort of the rabid stoat of the writing world, but he can still be a nice guy. Just a low tolerance for ignorance.

        2. I must say that his strength is mostly in his fantasy work, but his early and later SF entries have been quite noteworthy in how they mix the science (some of which is a little out there, especially the nanotech) with the social ramifications, in a way that is more reminiscent of the older authors. I’d suggest reading “The Parafaith War”, maybe “The Ethos Effect” and some of his Ecolitan books.

    2. He was by my store on a quickie promo tour — about two hours before my shift started. One of my coworkers told me about it: he came in, asked who was in charge of the SF/F section, then, when told I wouldn’t be there until later, wrote me a quick note expressing regrets — he even got my name spelled correctly (an unusual occurrence with those who don’t know me). He signed all of the copies of his work we had on the shelves (more than Dr. Pournelle’s, to be honest), and left me some publisher goodies.

      My coworkers thought it was funny when I got all excited; they had no idea who he was.

  5. Eh. I wouldn’t say it’s all that close, but I’ll grant it’s not exactly a once-in-a-blue-moon kinda thing, either – and it does seem to be getting more frequent.

    That said, there is a large portion of the media which is pretty explicitly conservative – Weekly Standard, American Spectator, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc., etc. What’s more, said media has often been able to exert a substantial chilling efffect on the more mainstream media – you may have noticed that the Al Qaqaa story pretty much died on the pages of the Times.

    1. I should be glad of the day when people get it through their heads that Rush Limbaugh is *not* a journalist (any more, at any rate, if ever he was, in fact); he’s an entertainer. His schtick is liberal-bashing. His agenda is selling airtime by making people laugh at liberals. I’m sure there are at least one or two polar opposites out there who do the same thing from the “other side”.

      1. Wow. For each reply, I’ve gotten handed off to someone else. Weird.

        That said, yeah, I’d say you’re pretty much on the money there. One thing: I believe that Limbaugh’s agenda extends beyond the merely financial into the political. I mean, I’m sure he likes the money (drug habits and divorces aren’t exactly cheap), but the man’s pretty much on a first-name basis with most of the Republican leadership.

      1. Yeah, yeah. If I ever stop being lazy/busy, I’ll get around to it. Or in other words, just keep an eye out for Hell freezing over. Ah, the college life…

  6. Wow, its a good day when LARPers can actually admit it in public. If I ever admit to LARPing people look at me like Im spreading ebola. Geez, engineers cant engage in any improv theatre?

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