Author Archives: suburbanbanshee

The 2016 Worldcon and Hugo Awards

Not much to say about it, other than that the Worldcon committee has dug themselves deeper. New depths of intolerance. New depths of bad conrunning. Obviously they don’t want anybody to attend.

1. The bright spot of the convention was the Preliminary Business Meeting, where oldschool fans and Worldcon administrators indignantly voted down the proposal that Worldcon committees should be able to add any and all of their own Hugo nominations to the ballot. Such an eventuality would not just be a corrupt use of power; it would also mean that every committee member would be continually pestered by crazy people wanting to be nominated. So it wasn’t just a matter of ethics; it was about concom survival instinct!

2. Mary Robinette Kowal, a longtime conventiongoer and allegedly professional editor/author, openly served Scotch at her book signing, in a hotel public area. This was against the convention rules, as well as being a violation of the hotel’s contract with the convention and the local liquor licensing laws. Despite endangering the convention and breaking both the contract and the law, Mary Robinette Kowal was only given a gentle explanation of her wrongdoing and suspended from the convention until midnight.

This is the sort of behavior that usually gets one tossed out on one’s ear, and uninvited from all other conventions who hear about it. No con committee wants to pay penalties to the hotel or get fined by the state/city/county. But she says she was punished the same as anybody else, even though they didn’t even take her badge away temporarily and have her pick it up at Ops the next day or after midnight. Yeah. So very punished.

It is always true that fans should check local laws before assuming that their customs from home will be okay. Usually one reminds first-time congoers of this fact.

3. Dave Truesdale, a longtime conventiongoer and panelist, as well as a professional editor, moderated a panel on short fiction. He was thrown out of the convention on his ear without explanation. Later he was told that it had been because his words during the panel “made people uncomfortable.” You can listen to the audio of the panel here. Not exactly controversial fare or a particularly exciting panel. Opening statements are pretty darned common from both moderators and panelists, and I’ve heard a lot longer ones. So I’m not exactly sure where these horribly shocked people attend cons.

4. The Hugo Awards continued their new tradition of hideous behavior by No-Awarding any category where it looked like a non-SJW might win. Previously to the last couple years, No Award was only given in categories where there was really no candidate that was worth any support, or where nobody bothered to vote. The awards ceremony also included more ritual shaming of unpersons, including the new tradition of harassment “skits.”

5. Fortunately, Dragoncon and Comicon are now the real world science fiction conventions, and Dragoncon’s new Dragon Awards look like they will really reflect the tastes of all of fandom. So it doesn’t really matter, except as a sort of morbid observation of the death throes of a dying con. But it is a shame.

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Vox Day’s No Good Very Bad Proposal

I hate to mention this, because of course there are great problems afoot in the world, and the alt-right people like Vox Day are in many cases fighting all sorts of bad stuff. I may disagree deeply with the way they go about it (and I do), but at least they recognize the problems that need fixing.

Unfortunately, Vox Day’s blog recently advocated that immigrants to the United States and their descendants should not be allowed to vote or hold office, unto the fourth generation. (The fifth generation would be okay.)

This is a stupid thing to say. Indeed, it is even a dumb thing to say, because it eliminates the ability to say that most people in America are Americans. For example, any guy who fought in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, or was stationed outside the US, and who brought home a local bride, would have disenfranchised his descendants for the next 120 years or so (if you take the traditional 30 years = 1 generation). Or maybe only 70-80 years, if you believe in child brides.

(Wow, what a great way to give American men an incentive to refuse to serve overseas or join any military force! Disenfranchising soldiers and their kids managed to kill ancient Rome, so let’s copy them! Maybe we should automatically draft all soldiers’ sons for twenty years of service, too!)

More seriously, none of the Founding Fathers (as far as memory and some quick research go) could have held office or voted by these rules. And indeed, I don’t think many then-living Americans in the Thirteen Colonies could have managed it, except for full-blooded members of the various Indian tribes. Possibly it could have been done in Quebec or Spanish Florida; but the original settlers in Jamestown, Virginia, didn’t have many descendants that didn’t marry outside the community, and I don’t know that people would have wanted to be ruled by those natives of Plymouth, Massachusetts who only married their own.

(I guess we could still have Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, who were descended from John Alden, except that John Adams was only a fourth-generation descendant of the immigrant Thomas Boylston, on his mom’s side. And John Adams’ wife Abigail was only a second-generation American, which makes John Quincy Adams only a third-generation American. Bad, bad immigrant presidents!)

But let’s say there would have been an oligarchic core of maybe 1000-2000 white Colonists, and maybe 10,000-20,000 Native Americans living inside the Colonies. Of course non-landowners like most Indians would have been unable to vote, and in most colonies women and children would have been straight out. So your oligarchic core of fourth-generation natives becomes awfully small.

But fine. Let’s take it the way Vox Day was taking it, with his fine quote from Alexander Hamilton (the St. Kitts and Nevis-born child of a mother who was half-English, half-French and a father who was an immigrant Scotsman; after they died, he then took the further step of immigrating to New York City). Let’s pretend that the only real Americans were those Colonial men who had been calling themselves Englishmen until after the Stamp Act. Then you still have to get rid of all those American colonists and patriots who on the side called themselves Irish, Scots, Germans, French (bye-bye, Paul Revere), Dutch (bye-bye, Schuylers of New York), Portuguese, Poles, and so forth. Because early America was a country of ports, and a country of immigrants.

(And Alexander Hamilton married a Schuyler! Horrors! Good thing their son didn’t live long enough to be unfit on both sides to vote or hold office!)

As for those presidents having Irish or Scots-Irish ancestry… well, that’s pretty much everyone after the War of 1812 was settled.

But yup, it would be an interesting project to see how few American politicians would be left in our history, if only fifth-generation Americans were permitted to hold office. I don’t think even the Cabots and the Lodges would make it, though I could be wrong.

As it happens, if you read the whole article quoted by Vox Day (The Examination, Number VIII: January 12, 1802), Hamilton was only warning against having huge numbers of immigrants instantly dropped into the US without any thought. He was totally okay with himself coming to America, and he didn’t feel that his French Huguenot ancestry was too weird to be incorporated into the US. I’m sure he felt the same way about his wife being descended from Dutch patroons. His point was against “the too unqualified admission of foreigners,” not against all immigration or all foreign blood.

In point of fact, Alexander Hamilton argues for a relaxation of the residency requirements for naturalization, to reduce them from a period of “fourteen years,” which is “the very long residence which is now a prerequisite to naturalization, and which of itself, goes far towards a denial of that privilege” to only “five years.” He remarks that

“there is a wide difference between closing the door altogether and throwing it entirely open; between a postponement of fourteen years and an immediate admission to all the rights of citizenship. Some reasonable term ought to be allowed to enable aliens to get rid of foreign and acquire American attachments; to learn the principles and imbibe the spirit of our government; and to admit of at least a probability of their feeling a real interest in our affairs.”

He then proposes that even during the reduced five-year residency period, some of the privileges of citizenship should be extended to those who are working toward naturalization:

“those [rights] peculiar to the conducting of business and the acquisition of property, might with propriety be at once conferred, upon receiving proof, by certain prescribed solemnities, of their intention to become citizens; postponing all political privileges to the ultimate term.”

In fact, the whole article was written only against an instant naturalization and citizenship that was being proposed by the ultra-liberal Mr. Jefferson:

“To admit foreigners indiscriminately to the rights of citizens, the moment they put foot in our country, as recommended in the “Message,”* would be nothing less, than to admit the Grecian Horse into the Citadel of our Liberty and Sovereignty.”

* President Jefferson’s first annual message to Congress, December 8, 1801. A sort of early State of the Union speech.

So presumably this is a humorous proposal on Vox Day’s part, because I’m sure he would never misrepresent Mr. Hamilton’s views on a subject so nearly touching his own political rights and those of his Schuyler relations, or propose to disenfranchise pretty much everybody.

(Including me, as I am only fourth generation from immigration, although my last immigrant ancestors immigrated from their various countries at the end of the 1800’s. We’re a long-lived family who marry late. But apparently service by the family in all the American wars since the Revolutionary War, and coming over on the Mayflower, doesn’t make most of us worthy to be American citizens! What a joke!)

As for his comments about the Irish and the Jews ruining America, that really goes too far to be a joke. The last time anybody said something like that to somebody in my family was when the Klan had their biggest rally ever, in Greenville, Ohio. That was when my O’Brien relation who was a florist put on the Civil War O’Brien’s brass knuckles, and kept them off his property with his own two fists. (And of course I have Jewish family too, although they mostly seem to have become Huguenots before they came here. I have a little bit of everything in me, including Native Americans and Pilgrims, Protestants and Catholics, and I have relatives who have even more exotic heritages. I’m proud of all of them, and they’ve all been good citizens who have done their civic duty. And since the Civil War O’Brien, we’ve mostly been Republicans. Perhaps stereotypes don’t cover everyone, huh?)

It would make a great deal more sense to argue that big city political machines have ruined America. The specific ethnic origin of the people feeding the machines doesn’t really matter, which is one of the reasons they tend to persist. Anybody native to the country will fit, and anybody new to the country will do.

But since the proposal is so absurd in so many different ways, I have to conclude that the whole thing is some peculiar absurdism. It’s not a joke in good taste, but maybe I’m missing the bits that make it funny.

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Peter J. Floriani: “Laboratory of the Gospels: The Rosary”

Peter J. Floriani, computer science and Catholic adventure/sf novelist extraordinaire, has written several interesting nonfiction books too. His newest one is about the Rosary as… something really geeky….

Laboratory of the Gospels: The Rosary.

The Rosary is a thoroughly Christ-centered prayer, a most intellectual tool for deep exploration of the Gospels, a thoroughly rational action which demands your intellectual power as well as your creative skills. This is what one expects from such a simple tool, designed with the genius of both engineering and art, yet endowed with all the power of theology, history, and philosophy.

If you want to know more about Christ, you need to study His life constantly, and the Rosary is a most suitable way of accomplishing that purpose. Even if you had the mental power to carry all four Gospels verbatim in your memory, you should still use the Rosary, for the Gospels are just the written description we have available, and the Life of Christ is far larger than they are. One of the most critical parts of every lab report and every journal article is titled “Discussion of Results” – and that is part of what the Rosary entails.

Floriani’s novels and books are only available in dead tree format. (Alas!) But they are worth any added trouble or expense. His writing is eccentric in a pleasant way, but he is an eminently sane and sensible thinker and believer. So I bought the book just based on the description, and am waiting for it to arrive so that I can chew on it.

But there is a free sample in the Look Inside feature on Amazon. His opening quotes link The Amateur Astronomer’s Handbook (“An unrecorded observation is an observation wasted”) with the Gospel of St. Luke (“Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart”). To record, to remember, and to ponder are intimately bound together.

The book also apparently provides a scheme for internalizing the new twenty Mysteries format, as opposed to the older fifteen Mysteries. (There had historically been zillions of different schemes of Mysteries before the fifteen Mysteries common today were developed, so there’s no single original one.) I’m the kind of person who likes having a scheme, so I’ll be interested to see his idea worked out. The free sample is quite extensive, though, and lets you see all sorts of interesting discussion. So check it out. (Did you know that “Gethsemane” means “olive-oil press”? Poor Jesus, that’s exactly what His agony was like….)

Seriously, though, this is impressive. It is hard to say anything new or surprising about the Rosary without straying into BS, but Floriani has managed it.

UPDATE: Got it. It’s another gorgeous and geeky Floriani book, and I’m learning a lot.


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Re: the Martyrdom of Fr. Jacques Hamel

The name of the church where the attacks took place is Saint Etienne (St. Stephen). It’s an eponymous church, ie, the church after which the town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray was named. “Rouvray” refers to the forest of Rouvray, a vast oak forest which once ran all the way from Paris to the outskirts of Rouen. The remaining part that’s near Paris is called the Bois de Boulogne. The part near Rouen is called “Londe-Rouvray.” It’s right next to Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.

Saint Etienne is not called “the Church of the Gambetta,” as English newspapers translated it. “Eglise de Gambetta” means something more like “the church on Gambetta Street” or “the Gambetta Street church.” It’s informally called that, because the street that runs in front of the church is called “Rue de la Republique” or “Rue Gambetta,” depending on where you are standing. Leon Gambetta was a French politician who founded the Third Republic.

Saint Etienne is part of a parish cluster. The main church in it by number of parishioners is Sainte Therese du Madrillet, but apparently the seniority of Saint Etienne as a church makes the parish cluster be named after it, instead. The pastor is Fr. Auguste Moanda Phuati. He’s a Redemptorist priest. His original nationality was Congolese. Fr. Jacques Hamel was his associate pastor; he was a diocesan priest of Rouen.

The archbishop of Rouen has not come right out and said that Hamel is a martyr. OTOH, in a public secular memorial held in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray on July 29, he ended his elegy by saying, “Dear friends… dear brothers and sisters… seek the heavenly Father with the aid of Father Jacques Hamel, who is with God, his Father and our Father!” In the old medieval days, that would have been enough to serve as a straight-up acknowledgement of sainthood by the local bishop. So if he doesn’t follow up with a petition to the Vatican, it would be pretty weak sauce.

(Btw, the Google Translate version of his speech stinks. In French, he really does say that the Eucharist is “more than a symbol,” but at this hour Google Translate just has “is a symbol.” I corrected it, but who knows if that will show up.)

Father Hamel’s funeral will be held in the Cathedral of Rouen on August 2nd; it is open to the public, although the interment will have restricted attendance. This is another indication that the archbishop thinks he’s got a saint on his hands.

A prayer vigil is being held today at St. Therese du Madrillet, at 8:30 PM French time.

St. Etienne’s is still closed as a crime scene, but the diocesan website explains that when it is released “in a few weeks,” the church will reopen. Since any serious act of sacrilege or violence deconsecrates a church, they will first perform “a penitential rite of reparation” to make the church a place of worship again. (If not for the crime scene thing, the church would be reconsecrated as soon as possible, as they did in the case of my parish church in Beavercreek. But since a crime scene can’t be disturbed, and since a crime scene investigator has to crawl around doing and saying stuff not suitable for a church, it makes sense to wait on the police to finish.)

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Was Fr. Hamel a Martyr?

Jimmy Akin raises a serious question here. There’s odium fidei (“hatred of the Faith” by those killing you), and then there’s “turn the other cheek.” (Although this doesn’t preclude defending yourself first, as the list of kingly Welsh and Saxon martyrs tends to testify.)

OTOH, as a non-canon lawyer and a member of the faithful, it is my job to be part of the sensus fidei, including the early veneration and acclaim of martyrs. And my sense is that the man is a martyr.

Also, I have petitioned Fr. Hamel privately on several small matters, as is the right of any of the Catholic faithful when anybody passes, and thus I have received several small (but important!) favors from the Lord through his intercession. So yup, my personal opinion is that God also says he’s a martyr.

Now, whether or not this is recognized soon is another matter. Rouen was the site of the death of one of the Church’s greatest saints, remember, and she wasn’t canonized until World War I. So I can wait.

But I’m pretty sure I know the answer.

And if I were someone in France with a bad disease or disability, I would hie me to his funeral and try to get near his coffin. Because martyrs are really good at taking care of that sort of thing.

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First World War POW’s at Mass

Life was a little more civilized before the Nazis and the Soviets came along.

Here’s a photo of a WWI POW camp in Italy, showing Catholic Austro-Hungarian POWs going to Mass. As you can see, the camp is pretty cruddy but the religious accommodation is pretty generous.

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The Imprisoned Queen of England

Sophia Dorothea of Celle (or Zell) was the only acknowledged wife of King George I of England, while he was still just ruling Hannover.

It was a marriage born in money and power. She was the only heir of her father (his uncle), the Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg (Braunschweig-Lueneburg), and his Huguenot mistress/morganatic wife/eventual full wife, Eleonore d’Esmier d’Ombreuse, Countess of Wilhelmsburg. As heiress, she came with an income of 100,000 thalers a year, but she couldn’t inherit the duchy because that went with the male line. She was also George’s first cousin, but we all know that European aristocrats of that era weren’t bothered by that sort of genetic stupidity. George was going to inherit Celle eventually, but the marriage would lead up more gracefully to unification. (In theory.)

However, there was a lot of soap opera involved. Even though it was a sensible marriage idea (from the point of view of eliminating dynastic contention), the Hannover side jibbed at marrying George to the daughter of a morganatic marriage.

But why was the marriage initially morganatic? Because in 1658, as part of a deal to get out of marrying Princess Sophia of the Palatinate, when he gave Hannover and the obligation to his younger brother, Ernest Augustus of Brunswick-Luneburg (who was happy to marry Sophia and vice versa, and who thus became the father of George I), he had promised to remain unmarried and produce no legitimate heir. He initially kept his promise. Then he met Eleonore in 1665 and fell in love with her. They married morganatically, and Sophia Dorothea was born in 1666. Ten years later, it was becoming clear that the future George I was the only male heir born to the whole extended family, so Sophia Dorothea’s dad proposed the marriage idea and got turned down. This torqued him off, so he broke his promise, married Eleonore, and legitimized Sophia Dorothea in 1676.

This made the relatives angry, but it also got the job done. Sophia Dorothea became Duchess of Hannover, but there wasn’t much fun in it.

She bore two children: the eventual King George II of England and the eventual Queen Sophia Dorothea of Prussia.

In 1692, after ten years of marriage and much abuse by her husband, there was a scandal about her friendship with a Swedish count, Philip Christoph von Koenigsmarck. The Duchess protested her innocence. In 1694, Koenigmarck disappeared mysteriously; rumor said he had been murdered. The duke divorced and imprisoned Sophia, but he didn’t divorce his claim to inherit his uncle her father’s duchy, which he collected in 1705 when that duke died.

[It was rumored that the whole thing had been engineered by George’s long-time mistress, Ehrengard Melusine von Schulenburg. She was also rumored to have been made his morganatic wife, but George never acknowledged this in public and never acknowledged his illegitimate kids as legitimate heirs. (This did protect the claim of his “heir and spare” kids and prevent potential dynastic warfare, which is probably why he did it.) However, he did give Melusine tons of properties and noble titles, including making her “Duchess of Kendal” (her usual title in English history books) and “Duchess of Munster” (which was a real insult to the Irish). In Scottish history, she is best remembered by the reference in the Jacobite song “Cam’ Ye O’er frae France” to George “riding on a goosie.”]

So anyway, the upshot was that this lady was deprived of her freedom, her property, visits from her kids (even after they grew up), and the ability to marry again. She lived that way for thirty years. Contemporary accounts say that she never ceased to declare her innocence of all adultery or immoral behavior.

Her son planned to free her and clear her name as soon as he acceded to the throne, but unfortunately she predeceased his father. It’s a sad story.

(To add to the creepiness of George I’s court, he had so many mistresses that most of the English nobles mistook his semi-acknowledged illegitimate half-sister, Sophia von Kielsmansegg, for one of his mistresses – just because she was influential with him! Apparently people didn’t get the word about the real relationship until he made her Countess of Leinster, gave her arms featuring a bar sinister, and talked about their “common blood” in the letters patent for the title. And yeah, I’m sure that the Irish were just super-pleased by the insult to Leinster, too.)

* Morganatic marriage, aka “left hand marriage,” was part of ancient Frankish law but went against Church and international law. It was a form of marriage between two people of unequal status, signified by the giving of a “morning gift” after the consummation of the “marriage.” No dowry or brideprice was given, and the families of the people involved did not get into negotiating a marriage contract. A morganatic marriage could be ended unilaterally at any time. (And they often were, if a lord got a full marriage prospect that paid off better.) But it was still one step above being a mistress, and there was only supposed to be one morganatic marriage at a time. But since they were enacted in private and not in church, morganatic marriages could potentially make morganatic bigamy pretty easy.

Under Frankish law, the children of an unequal marriage were still automatically heirs of their fathers, but this was not true under German or international law. (Although a lot of the resulting kids were legitimized by their fathers, a lot of them weren’t.) In the eyes of Catholic and Protestant churches, this form of “marriage” was keeping a concubine. The closest English equivalent would be “common law marriage,” not that such a thing exists anymore.

As time went on, German and Austrian law did begin to recognize morganatic marriages as merely a specialized form of pre-nuptial agreement that controlled the succession of heirs to titles, without de-legitimizing children or making divorce easy. This allowed them to be recognized as true marriages by churches, and some of these later morganatic marriages did take place in churches, before consummation, instead of in bedrooms.

One notable latter-day morganatic marriage was the marriage of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to Countess Sophie Chotek, a Hungarian noblewoman of high birth. Because of their unequal (though high) rank, their marriage was severely opposed by Emperor Franz Josef. After most of the crowned heads of Europe and the Pope interceded for the couple, the Emperor finally acceded, but only under the condition that it be a morganatic marriage where Sophie would never become empress and the children could not succeed to any titles.

The Emperor refused to attend or let most of the relations attend, so the Nuptial Mass was celebrated in the tiny Reichstadt Castle chapel. But the celebrants were the parish priest with two friars as deacon and subdeacon; so the Mass itself was in full splendor, and showed that the Church regarded it as a true marriage of equals.

Here’s a picture from an illustrated journal of the day, The Sphere. (Also note that the Catholic archduchesses all wore hats to Mass.)


“The Archduke Franz Ferdinand duly wedded the Countess Sophie Chotek, the choice of his heart, at the Imperial castle of Reichstadt in Bohemia last Sunday week. The service was conducted by the parish priest, assisted by two Capuchin friars The little wedding procession, consisting of thirty-one persons, proceeded from the Archduchess Maria Theresa’s drawing room through the billiard room, where the Emperor Franz Josef and the Czar Alexander II met in conference in 1876, to the little chapel, to which no one else was admitted. First in the procession walked the bridegroom with his stepmother the Archduchess Maria Theresa, and his two half-sisters, the Archduchesses Maria Immaculata and Elizabeth, and his two sisters; and after then the bride, accompanied by her uncle, Prince Löwenstein, and Count Charles Chotek, head of the family. The Countess wore a white silk dress trimmed with myrtle blossoms, and on her forehead a diamond coronet, a wedding gift from the Archduke. Behind her came her brother, her sisters, and their husbands, and two or three court dignitaries. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s brothers were not present. From Reichstadt the bride and bridegroom proceeded to Konopischt Castle in Bohemia, a favourite estate of the Archduke’s, where they are passing their honeymoon. Our picture is by the one artist present (a Viennese).”

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