Why safe spaces for social awkwardness are worrying

On Facebook, a friend just shared a link about the idea that Geekdom being a place where socially shunned males are free to be themselves is a radical rewriting of history. that erases women. The link is true as far as it goes; there are many many influential female Geeks that Tauriq Moosa missed out including Verity Lambert, Grace Hopper, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. But there are two other extremely important points I want to make.

Geekdom is thought of by some as the only place where socially shunned males can be safe and be themselves. I am a socially awkward male geek who sometimes has all the tact of a rhino in a china shop (a bull in a china shop turning out not to be that bad). But I don’t want a pure safe space simply because I’m awkward and mess up. When I mess up I want to know about it so I can try to do better next time. I do want somewhere I can share interests and a sense of fun, and that it has its own rules is a good thing. But that’s a different issue.

It’s hugely different because the single easiest way for someone to hide being deliberately harmful is behind a veneer of awkwardness.

Don’t think it could happen in geek circles? We’re going to talk about two alpha-geeks from the 60s. A married couple, in fact. Walter Breen and Marion Zimmer Bradley. (OK, who spotted the hook in the first paragraph?) In geek circles, Marion Zimmer Bradley was a famous and prolific SF and fantasy author, ran several fanzines, gave numerous authors their start in her various anthology collections, and much much more. Together they were founders of the Eastern chapter of the SCA – and Walter went on post-divorce to become an extremely influential coin collector. They were both highly influential members of various deep subcultures and put a lot of work in.

Walter Breen died in prison for child abuse. Marion admitted helping him commit and cover up his crimes in court.

***TRIGGER WARNING – child abuse, child rape – the links in the following paragraph are detailed about some aspects of the abuse. I’m going to talk about how and why.***

Continue reading

Advertisements

Advanced Tactical Voting

There are a lot of people at this (and every other) election talking of voting tactically. Whether you should is an interesting ethical question – and one outside the scope of this blog post. The only thing I’ll say on the ethics is that many people voted Lib Dem at the last election to keep the Tories out. This is a guide coming from a keen amateur game designer for the would be tactical voters to making the best use of your vote under the First Past the Post system. A system designed for game playing rather than getting representative results. Continue reading

A guide to tactical voting for pragmatists

“I want to vote Green, but it might let the Tories/Lib Dems in.” – a common refrain for anyone who spends long round the Green Party. I used to hear simmilar round the Liberal Democrats, and I’m sure some UKIP supporters hear the same thing.This is very seldom the case as our First Past the Post system has many issues.

In March 2015, the Electoral Reform Society declared the results of 364 of the 650 (56%) seats being contested. Their equivalent prediction in 2010 was 99.5% accurate (they  can’t predict personal scandals in the run up to the election). It’s unusually low this year due to the unprecidented rise of the SNP.

So where does tactical voting make sense? And in specific where will voting Green give the Tories a chance of getting in? To find out, we’re going to look at the Labour Party’s own numbers, as leaked to Buzzfeed last month. Continue reading

The value of a well-fitted suit

No knowledge is useless, and the world is fascinating.  Even knowledge about the most seemingly inconsequential information can be incredibly revealing as I found out recently, and am going to share.  A working knowledge of fashion shows a lot of what was wrong with what looked initially like an incredibly successful, powerful, and effective empire: The Third Reich, and its snappy uniforms.

Urban legend says they had great dress sense and it’s a pity they had Hugo Boss working for them, and his sense of style.  (For the record he worked for the Nazi Party, not the Wehrmacht).  Urban legend also says the Germans were great engineers and equipped their troops well early in the War.  Looking at the standard Wehrmacht uniform (the M36 Feldbluse) we’re going to see whether this is true or whether it demonstrates a lot of what was wrong with the Nazi mindset.

Continue reading

Forward Thinking: Pragmatic Utopian Ideals

I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.

– Martin Luther King

This  is the first Forward Thinking project I consider genuinely easy.  What would I do for a safety net if I ruled the world?  Simple.  Single Payer Healthcare Free at Point of Delivery plus Guaranteed Income.  And then look for anyone who slipped between the cracks or didn’t get the help they needed and fix that.

Sounds utopian?  Possibly it is.  The NHS is quite simply much more cost efficient than almost any other healthcare model out there with the possible exception of Japan.  Its main problems stem from having two thirds the per capita funding of France or Germany and less per capita government funding than the US healthcare model; I’ve been into this in more detail on my blog previously.  And trials of Citizen’s Income/Negative Income Tax such as Mincome (Canada) and BigNam (Namibia) have generally been spectacularly successful in terms of outcome to the recipients.

Continue reading

Weaving worlds: Yes but games should produce stories

In my penultimate post in this series I mentioned Ron Edwards and the Forge.  The Forge closed down in 2005, having done its job (and Ron Edwards ensuring that he was controversial  by talking about bad games giving people brain damage) – and most of the community there moved to Story-Games.  And they’ve been producing interesting enough games that they are worth the final post in this series.  Story Games tend to have seven aspects; three which are common in the Forge-ist narrative RPGs of my previous article and almost ubiquitous in the Story-Games wave, and four that are almost distinguishing features of what are often referred to as Story Games.

The three that are common in the Forge-ist RPGs are:

  • Challenge Based Resolution
  • Fail Forward
  • Everyone designing the universe

And the four that are almost distinguishing marks of this wave are:

  • “Yes-but” resolution
  • Intentional, rules-mediated inter-PC drama
  • Less, or even no role for the GM
  • Actions matter more than potential

I’m also going to mention four games in this category (or three and one hybrid toolkit game) and why they are awesome to illustrate this wave of games:

  • Leverage
  • Monsterhearts
  • Fiasco
  • WFRP 3e

Continue reading

But we’re gonna smash that bastard, make him want to change his name…

Like a number of my blog essays, this is a response to a Forward Thinking prompt – this one on the subject of cruelty.  I also might entirely be heading off in the wrong direction here.  (The blog title comes from the opening to the musical Chess).

I started out thinking of the topic of cruelty by doing the obvious – a websearch to see what people had said.  Although the Psychology Today column was interesting nothing I turned up whether vanilla or kinky had much to say on why people are cruel.  And searching for cruelty’s very close cousin, teasing, produced even less useful results (and a lot more kink).  But I don’t think you can get to grips with cruelty without understanding teasing.  I think I have an answer – but this is only what I can come up with.

Cruelty and teasing are both about security. Continue reading