The referendum against Utah's recent tax reform ended on Tuesday, having collected an estimated 150-170,000 signatures out of the 116,000 that were required. It would have taken some time to verify the final count, and some would have been rejected, but we were pretty dang confident we had this in the bag. Then it became moot because the Legislature was so scared by this upswelling of resistance that they repealed the tax reform altogether. Now, instead of being put on the ballot in November, it's simply ceased to exist. Of course I hope Utah will still remember in November exactly which people voted for that train wreck in the first place, and I hope this will leave a lasting impression on anyone currently in or planning to enter politics. I have to admit the referendum would have most likely been a flop without the endorsement and enthusiastic participation of the Harmon's grocery store chain, where I would happily shop if they had a location in Logan, and the conservative think tank Sutherland Institute who encouraged people to sign by running radio ads telling them not to sign.
I finished submitting the supplementary materials for my graduate school application. The requirements use all this pompous academic language, of course, and it's intimidating and it makes me feel like I'm way out of my depth when I just want to write fun science fiction stories. Realistically, though, and I'm not trying to be cocky, but realistically, I'll be very surprised if I don't get in. I think the skill exhibited in my writing sample will speak for itself, and I also know the professors giving me recommendations will speak very highly of said skill, especially the one who urged me to consider graduate school and teaching in the first place. By my estimate I was the third best writer in his class the first time around and the second best the second, but of course that's kind of subjective and when I told Stormy she was probably the best she said "No, you definitely are." I think my biggest strength is that I fill a different niche than most. Nobody else in any of my writing classes over the years has focused on fun science fiction stories.
I recently lost a substantial chunk of one of my teeth, substantial enough for me to see the sensitive core with my naked eye and touch it with my naked finger, which I only did once. I assumed the remaining chunk would have to be pulled out and I was surprisingly quick to accept that. It's way in the back where nobody would notice, and I've already learned to chew without it, and I figured this life is mercifully short and I'll get it back when I'm resurrected so whatever happens to me in the meantime doesn't matter. I was far more concerned about the cost. I just got Medicaid but it doesn't cover anything dental because the US government has decided those things aren't super important. Imagine, then, my relief when the dentist said he can repair my tooth in half an hour and it will only cost $254.84 if I pay the same day. He might have to follow up with a root canal, but there's no sense worrying about that yet.
The situation with my neighbors... hasn't changed at all, but after the initial shock, I surprisingly don't much care. Their wrongness is their own loss. It will also make my memoir that much better.
This review of my site on Webwiki, the first one from somebody who isn't me, isn't new, but I just noticed it the other day and it made me happy.
Thank you, Jason. Now I'm all like
and I hope to continue putting out the same level of quality, but no promises.
I've had a few bits and pieces of writing on this site in the form of embedded word documents and downloads that don't really work on mobile devices and would be too tiny to read comfortably if they did. I don't think search engines can go through them either. Since these are mostly unfinished pieces of crap from my middle and high school years, moving them into the twenty-first century (which my middle and high school years were already part of, but I'm speaking metaphorically, in a self-deprecating remark about my own lack of technological prowess) hasn't been a priority, but in the last few days I've been finally doing it, transplanting the text from these documents into actual web pages.
The most horrifically painful thing about some of my early writing is the godawful attempts to straight-up copy Douglas Adams' one-of-a-kind writing style. In fairness, he left us much too soon and I would be doing a legitimate service to the world by providing more works in his vein if they were of equal quality and not just pathetic knockoffs. And I guess I don't regret the experiment because I believe that it had a lasting impact on the evolution of my actual genuine writing voice. I think I can see a bit of Douglas Adams in my writing voice, but just a bit, thank goodness.
Anyway, I was skimming through this unfinished sci-fi epic "The War" as I moved the text over - I had intended to read it all straight through, but that was too painful - and this little bit stopped me in my tracks. When I wrote it as a teenager in 2008 or 9, it was just a silly attempt at humor with virtually no real-life subtext intended, but anyone reading it today would be unable to avoid what TV Tropes calls Unfortunate Implications. It's - well, I'll just let it speak for itself.
[Beginning of excerpt. The setting is a party/dance with members of many alien races present.]
“All right,” Hok announced, leaping to the nearest hovering microphone on ridiculously long gangly legs. He was a short, skinny green man with a gargantuan head and pointy ears. “All right,” he repeated, “hang on to your kramblotches, because it’s pippiks’ choice!”
There was a slight groan from some of those assembled, elicited by the fact that there was only one pippik present, a suddenly rather confused-looking Troikot.
There is a simple pattern followed by many species throughout the universe, and that is this: male, female. The reason this is followed by many species is that it’s simple, it works, and if you believe in an all-powerful Hand guiding it somewhere along the line you can imagine Him wanting to keep it consistent. For those who like to keep it even simpler, the options of hermaphrodite and null were made available. However, the Universe being the humongous place it is, some species are bound to be dissatisfied with these perfectly reasonable choices, and choose to come up with their own fancy alternatives. Pippiks, then, are only one of thousands of relatively obscure genders to be found throughout said Universe. Kramblotches, on the other hand, are completely unrelated organs found in some species for the purpose of throwing at predators.
When it comes to interstellar travel, this also brings up the problem of gender pronouns. The language of a species with its own special genders will have developed its own special pronouns, of course, but usually any being from a normal male/female/hermaphrodite/null species will not want to bother memorizing all of the pronouns for the thousands of relatively obscure genders that exist. As a result, most choose to lump them all under the “it” category. Some find this offensive, but, others argue, they should have thought of that before their species decided to create its own genders anyway.
“Ask that cute farfel over there,” whispered a Queezik.
“I don’t swing that way,” the Troikot timidly whispered back.
Hok’s keen ears picked up their exchange and he grinned in spite of himself. He knew, of course, that there was only one pippik in the room, but he was trying as best he could to be fair and tolerant of everybody. Sexism, of course, was unseemly even by this society’s standards.
[End of excerpt]
So. Much. Cringe.
I've avoided talking about all the sex and gender controversy (except that one time, which I won't apologize for) because it's surprisingly complicated and I don't want to say ignorant things. I know that chromosomes are complicated and there are several - not percentage-wise, but numerically - demonstrable exceptions to the "XY = male, XX = female" dichotomy. Externally female bodies may have only one X chromosome, or even XY chromosomes and useless internal testes in place of ovaries, to cite a simple and surprisingly common example. I do think a lot of other people don't know as much about it as they think they do either, even when citing "science" as their authority. A couple months ago in the Mormons Building Bridges group someone posted an article about a study that had allegedly found that, marriage expert Mark Gungor's hilarious routine notwithstanding, there is no difference between men's brains and women's brains. And more recently in the same group someone posted an article about a study that had allegedly found that transgender children's brains matched the gender they identified as, not their biological sex.
I may be missing something obvious, but I can't help feeling like it's fundamentally impossible for both of those claims to be true. Of course it's not my place as a non-scientist to reject either or both of them without being able to explain why, but neither is it the place of other non-scientists to imbue either of them with more authority than it actually has. Scientific truth is not established overnight by one scientist or team of scientists. A study may be interesting but means very little unless and until its results are replicated in additional studies. This often never happens. There's also the issue of news outlets and other lay people misinterpreting studies to mean what they want them to mean - for example, this happened a few years ago:
Study from BYU: We found that religious people who use pornography are more likely than non-religious people who use pornography to describe themselves as "addicted" even if they show no signs of addiction.
Almost Everyone Else: This study from BYU found that pornography addiction is a myth created by religious guilt.
These people seemed to believe they were objectively reporting the study's results, when in reality they were doing something else: making crap up. In any case, I'm going to reserve judgment on most of these issues for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, it costs nothing to be kind.
I do still consider it plausible that the vast majority of alien races would fall into something recognizably analogous to the male/female dichotomy, just as the vast majority of advanced organisms on Earth do even with chromosomal arrangements that in many cases radically differ from ours. Sexual reproduction is weird and gross but it works because, by mixing and recombining parents' DNA, it drastically boosts the genetic diversity of the species, which in turn makes it far less vulnerable to being suddenly wiped out by disease, climate change or whatever. This obviously requires at least two parents. Three, four, or a dozen would create even more diversity, but the exponential difficulty of actually pulling it off in practice would more than nullify that benefit. Of course, there may be aliens out there who aren't even made from DNA as we understand it, but that's also too complicated for me to think about right now.
Ugh, I need to get the taste of that excerpt out of my mouth, so here's another from the same scene that I don't hate.
[Beginning of excerpt.]
“Let’s go find a seat,” said Bert. They turned around and nearly bumped into the nine-foot tall hairy mass behind them. It reacted slightly less than a tombstone, but the purple snake coiled around its neck reared up and hissed at them violently.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said Alicia, who had spilled soda all over her clothes in response. “Er, nice pet,” she said to the hairy creature, hoping to make light of it.
“How dare you speak that way of my fiancé?” demanded the snake.
[End of excerpt.]
It's a dumb joke, but I find it amusing. At least I was supportive of interracial marriage long after it was cool.
Why do I put these garbage writing samples, these "sins of my youth" as Hergé would call them, on the internet instead of burying them forever? First of all, because when I'm famous everyone will be fascinated to see how my writing has evolved. Joking but serious at the same time. Second, because despite how bad they are, they're actually not that bad. Oh sure, they're too painful for me to read, but they have their moments of brilliance and I can see in them the potential that my teachers saw and urged me to cultivate. They're better than some Legend of Zelda fan fiction I've read. Heck, they're better than some things I read from some of my undergraduate English classmates. Not singling anyone out but just being honest. And maybe some people who hold me to a lower standard than I do, who aren't personally embarrassed by the existence of this old writing, can actually enjoy it. I enjoy the Star Wars Holiday Special, which shouldn't be possible for a carbon-based life form, so it's not that far-fetched.
While I was skimming through "The War", I laughed out loud at a part where (spoiler alert) one character who's just learned English as a second language refers to puppy love as "dog lust". Maybe I'm just an idiot, but I think that's one of the funniest things I've ever written.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.