So a lot of links were broken when I moved to WordPress, and it’s come to my attention some folks are missing my 1999 “Dependencia and Modernization” paper. Thanks to the magic of the Wayback Machine I’ve been able to retrieve the original PDF and upload it again; you can download here: dependencia.pdf.
Dear board members—
I’m sure you’re sick of hearing about Mr. Beale so I’ll be brief: I don’t know if we still (or yet) have a code of conduct but I can’t imagine that if we did have one his use of the @SFWAAuthors Twitter feed to spread his attack on Nora Jemisin would be allowable under it. (The attack itself, even without dragging in @SFWAAuthors, seems to me to clearly violate sections 3, 4, and probably 7 of the one we used to have. Of course, section 10 of that code kind of pulls most of its teeth.)
I’m writing to ask you to take the strongest steps you think are allowable under our current bylaws to discipline Mr. Beale, whether that’s censure, expulsion, or some other punishment to be named later. At this point I’m not sure anything could be better for SFWA’s public image than to have someone like Mr. Beale outside it shouting loudly about how unwelcome he is in it.
And I’d also like to ask you to please pass on to the incoming board my hope that issues of harrassment, professional misconduct, and putting SFWA into disrepute will be high on their priority list for next year.
With sincere thanks for all your hard work, and sincere regret that the bad behavior of a few individuals has overshadowed it recently in the public eye—
From the earliest Mass Effect marketing to the latest attempts to pour oil on the waters of fan-anger, Bioware has made a big deal out of the game’s supposed hard choices. And they did a good job of making those choices feel hard, in the moment; or anyway risky. But they weren’t, really. If you played the game conscientiously and made sure your options were open you could make the right choice, every time, be sure that you were doing the right thing — or if not sure you were doing the right thing, at least sure you’d rather be wrong your way than the way of the people arguing against you; that you’d happily roll the dice, take your chances, and if it turned out you’d made the wrong choice, deal with the consequences.
You never did, though. The game always let you have your Krogan birthday cake and eat it, too.
So I can see why fans haven’t been entirely happy with the three choices Bioware gives you at the end of Mass Effect 3.
- To kill an innocent friend, commit genocide against a loyal ally, save the galaxy, and live happily ever after, turn to page 63.
- To die heroically achieving the goals you’ve shot your greatest enemies for trying to achieve, on the word of another enemy that it’ll save the galaxy and not play into that enemy’s hands in any way at all, we promise, turn to page 57.
- To die heroically committing the worst crime imaginable against freedom of choice, bodily autonomy, and a good six or seven out of ten of Martha Nussbaum’s ten central capabilities, again on the word of an enemy that it’ll save the galaxy, and that achieving that enemy’s goals is what you really want — honest — despite having proven by your own actions earlier in the game that the enemy’s central thesis is bullshit — turn to page 60.
I chose page 63, as the least out of character of the three options. And since it turns out the murders you’re committing by making that choice don’t actually appear on the screen, you’re free to believe they never happened, and the enemy who told you the consequences of your choice was lying. But I suspect that, canonically, we’ll find out that they did happen. Or — more likely, since it’s harder to get — that page 60 was supposed to be the happy ending. Either way, I don’t really see playing any more Mass Effect games.
Which is a shame, because there was some good stuff in there, on a small scale. But the large scale never really made a lot of sense, and increasingly less (ME2 final boss fight, anyone?) as the series went on; and by the end it was all about the large scale.
I’m not saying none of these endings could be done, and done well, even the bleakest — see The Centauri Device, or Blood Music, or The Urth of the New Sun. But as talented as the Bioware team is, they’re not M. John Harrison nor Greg Bear nor Gene Wolfe, and what they do well isn’t cosmic consequence, it’s character. So I’m not surprised they wrote themselves into a corner they couldn’t gracefully get out of; it was clear early on (“You cannot grasp the nature of our existence!”) that the ending was never going to be all that intellectually satisfying. But I don’t think it was inevitable that the last ten minutes be a different game — and a different genre — from the previous hundred hours of the series.
“A Soldier of the City” will be reprinted in War and Space: Recent Combat, edited by Rich Horton and Sean Wallace. I’m particularly pleased to share a table of contents with Alan DeNiro, whose story, “Have You Any Wool?” Susan Groppi and I originally published in Twenty Epics. (I was disappointed not to see Yoon Ha Lee’s “Hopscotch” from that same book, but I see W&S:RC includes her “Between Two Dragons” so no harm done.)
On an unrelated note, it’s increasingly clear that, collectively, Rich Horton and John Joseph Adams are the new Martin H. Greenberg.
The bad news is I still default to writing about depressive loners. The good news is I can now write about depressive loners in multiple languages.
قد أصبح المترجم وحيد ببطء. خدع وحده. قد فضل المترجم دائما الفلسفة على الترجمة، ولكن الآن فضل حقا التلفزة أكثر من كلهما. كان عندهم زورق صغير وأزرق الذي لم يستخدمه. قد تمتعوا المترجم وزوجتهم بالتزلج على الماء. الأن دهب نادرا قريب من البحر. في الصباح تفرج على كرة اليد وبعد الضهر تفرج على تنس الطاولة. نام كثيرا. كان المترجم سعيد رسميا.
The translator had become alone slowly. He deceived himself. The translator had always preferred philosophy to translation but now, in truth, he preferred television over either. He had a small blue boat that he never used. The translator and his wife had enjoyed water-skiing. Now he rarely went near the ocean. In the morning he watched handball and in the evening he watched table-tennis. He slept a lot. Officially, the translator was happy.
(Fifty extra points if you can guess what part of speech we’re learning this chapter. Two hundred and fifty if you can guess the subject of this chapter’s text.)
Attention conservation notice: extended bitching about certain video games, which will mean nothing if you haven’t played them.
Six or seven hours in to Mass Effect 3 and pretty disappointed so far. The biggest innovation in the original Mass Effect was the dialogue, but in ME3 they’ve apparently decided that so long as a conversation doesn’t alter the course of the plot (or at least give you Paragon/Renegade points) they might as well just railroad you through it with no dialogue tree. The result is that the Commander Shepard I’m watching on the screen feels like Bioware’s Shepard, not the one I’ve been playing for two games.
And it does feel like I’m watching, not playing. I hope it’ll improve — maybe they blew the budget on acts two and three? (The cut scene where the Asari councillor tells you the Asari won’t be showing up for the summit, for instance, wedged into the end of the Turian chapter for no good reason, just screams budget cuts.) But right now it’s awfully railroad, and compressed in a way that makes it feel disjointed too. The beginning of ME2 was railroad, but it opened up quickly, and in the railroad segments, when you met your old ME1 party members it was a revelation and it meant something. Here it just feels like filler.
If I was in the mood just to shoot things and watch cut scenes, I’d be playing Halo or Gears of War, not Mass Effect. As it is, if I wasn’t a completist and hadn’t paid full price I’d probably put it down and go back to Old Republic.
For those of you keeping score at home, “CHK” is a sort of follow-on to a flash piece called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Giant Robots,” which I wrote for the 40th anniversary issue of Daruma, the student-run literary magazine of the American School in Japan. It’s flash, it’s short; you can read it here. I’m not sure just where Maddy Flores is going, but I don’t think the journey’s over yet.