Archive for May, 2016

Un-Simple Politics

We Americans live in the most technological and complex world society that the world has yet known, and yet, if we’re to be judged by our political rhetoric and campaign slogans, we’d come off as simplistic idiots.

Illegal immigration is a problem? Build an expensive wall thousands of miles long that is largely irrelevant to the problem? Or just deport eleven million illegal immigrants, many of whom have children who are legal U.S citizens, not to mention those who were brought involuntarily as children and who know no other culture? And without those immigrant children, and the U.S. Caucasian birth rate below the replacement rate, who will pay the Social Security taxes and benefits of older Americans in another generation? The current INS bureaucracy can’t even cope with the status quo, let alone attempting to round up eleven million people. Nor do those who propose this seem to consider that doing so would essentially require the establishment of a police state. Let’s see… walls, ethnic purity, forceful removal of undesirables… didn’t that already happen somewhere?

How to deal with the loss of middle class jobs? Increase taxes on the wealthy and give everyone a free college education? Except that ignores the problem that we already produce twice as many college graduates every year as there are jobs that require a college education. Or perhaps impose punitive tariffs on foreign-produced goods that will double the price of imports, which means further impoverishing those millions of Americans who are underpaid? That also ignores the fact that the greatest percentage of formerly middle class manufacturing jobs that were lost were not outsourced, but automated so that, even if foreign outsourcing were prohibited, all that would happen would be greater automation.

Income inequality? Just pile huge taxes on the “rich”? How long would the super-rich remain in the U.S.? Even the egalitarian Swedes had to scale back on their confiscatory taxes to stop the flight of wealthy individuals. Then what happens when the confiscatory taxes hit the merely affluent, who tend to be generally productive individuals?

Provide affordable health care? Exactly how is that possible without totally restructuring the entire health care, medical technology and pharmaceutical industries? And, oh, yes, the financial sector as well.

Make America militarily strong again? With the strongest and most powerful military force in the world and a huge annual deficit, exactly how do you propose to finance greater military expansion… and for what purposes?

Global warming? What problem? Is it just a hoax or an over-reaction, despite the fact that 99% of all glaciers have diminished or vanished over the past 50 years, that Arctic sea ice is smaller than at any time recorded, that CO2 levels are higher than in tens of millions of years?

These are just the top headliners in the current political campaign, and there’s precious little consensus on the total nature of the problem, aside from the fact that in some cases, there’s not even agreement on whether there is a problem. Solutions to any single one of them will require complex multi-faceted approaches over years.

And given the tens of millions of Americans believing in simplistic answers and/or denials, as well as simplistic political slogans, I must confess to considerable doubt as to whether we, as a people, are really interested in solutions, or even recognizing the problems.

Greed, Fears, and Dreams

Over the last six months or longer, we’ve had the assorted candidates for president make various promises stating that, if they were elected, they would expel all illegal immigrants, provide a free college education for young people, create Medicare for everyone, build a wall the entire length of the U.S. southern border to keep out any more illegal immigrants, end “birthright” citizenship, abolish the IRS, lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in ten years, “wage a real war on terror,” and… about a hundred other promises, the majority of which have been tossed off and out by Donald Trump.

Speaking as someone who spent twenty years in national politics at the federal level, I can say, without much fear of contradiction by subsequent events, that none of the promises I listed will happen and most likely only a handful of the less “comprehensive” promises have any chance of being considered, let alone enacted or successfully promulgated through executive orders.

So why do politicians knowingly make such empty promises?

Because they’re appealing to people’s fears, greed, or dreams… or some combination thereof.

In a way, such promises are little more than a way of saying, “I understand what concerns you, what you want out of life, and what you want for your family and children.” The fact that such promises have gotten more and more outrageous over the years, at least here in the United States, is, I believe, a reflection of people’s distrust and disbelief in politicians. They no longer believe a simple statement like, “I understand the problems you face.” So the politicians make even bigger promises, with the underlying hope, one that has some reality behind it, that a grandiose promise might just translate into some smaller action in the same area. Or that the politician will at least attempt something.

It’s clear from the results of the presidential primaries so far that very few of each candidate’s supporters care very much about the actual impracticality of such promises. Only those opposing a candidate consider such impracticalities or impossibilities, even while they tacitly accept the impractical promises voiced by their own chosen candidate.

The only problem with all this is… what happens if a candidate does get elected with enough support to try to build a wall, throw out all illegal immigrants, or fund college educations for everyone? Or… what happens if the candidate tries… and is stopped?

After a year of political unrest and anger, those may not be rhetorical questions. And then what?

Healthcare Politics

The other day several friends and I were having a discussion about a number of things, and the issue of health insurance came up. One friend said that one of the problems with the Affordable Care Act was that it made people pay for coverages they didn’t need. And he’s absolutely right… and totally wrong.

The entire point of insurance is to spread the risk among a large number of people and over time. If people were allowed to buy insurance only after they needed it, then there wouldn’t be any insurance, because the insurers would be broke. For better or worse, that was the reason why insurers refused to cover “pre-existing conditions,” or would only do so with a far higher premium, unless the insured had already been covered by the same insurer prior to the discovery of that condition [and some insurers wouldn’t even do that], which often tied people to a given job or resulted in huge problems when they were laid off or had to switch jobs because an employer went out of business. No matter what one thinks about the Affordable Care Act, it is a plan based, if less than optimally, on commercial insurance, and that means that the costs of health care have to be covered by premiums. Those premiums also cover the high salaries and profits of the insurance companies, and the trade-off between the ACA and a single-payer, government-backed system is whether the “efficiencies” [about which I have certain doubts] of the private sector outweigh the costs of a profit-making enterprise enough to make the cost to the insured lower than would be the case in a government-backed single-payer system.

The second problem of understanding is simply that the principal problem underlying the insurance costs is and will continue to be the rising cost of health care in the United States. So long as those costs rise, so will the costs to anyone who is insured, and if there are large numbers of uninsured people who need health care, those costs will be added to the costs of the insured, either through higher premiums and/or greater co-pays because, at present, the vast majority of hospitals are required to treat people who need care, whether or not those individuals can afford it or not.

The third problem is that no country in the world, even the United States, has the resources to provide the ultimate in high-tech health care to every single individual in the country. There isn’t enough funding, enough medical personnel, and enough equipment to do that. So, like it or not, health care is effectively rationed. The “traditional” way of doing that in the United States has been through the market system. If you have enough insurance and money, and enough intelligence to deploy the insurance and money effectively, you can generally get the best health care. If you don’t, you get less, and in some cases, you effectively get nothing. In countries with government-mandated systems, most people get coverage for what the system determines is “equitable” for everyone, although, in some of those countries, if you have great resources, again, you can get better care.

All the political rhetoric about health insurance boils down to how society will pay for the rising health care costs of those who either cannot afford it or choose not to afford it, and how this impacts each person. In our extended family, my wife and I have ended up paying more and more out of pocket every year as the insurance costs, deductibles, and co-pays go up, but we have relatives who work long hours who now have better coverage for less.

But there isn’t a “magic” answer. Health care costs. It’s that simple, and all the political rhetoric in the world won’t change that. That political rhetoric is merely “code” for saying who should pay more.

The Unacknowledged Costs of Lawyers

In Shakespeare’s King Henry VI (part 2) Dick the Butcher declares, “Let’s kill all the lawyers,” a statement which, in the context of the play, is actually one in support of lawyers, but if Shakespeare were living today, I’m not so certain that Dick and Jack Cade wouldn’t be supporting the lawyers [since Cade’s purpose was to undermine the rule of law], given not only the damage they’ve wreaked on U.S. society with the excesses of tort claims, but also the unseen and unacknowledged damages that have been incurred at almost all levels of society as a result of the efforts of businesses, governmental entities, and other organizations to avoid litigation.

Trial lawyers continue to insist that medical tort claims lawsuits are necessary to remove bad doctors, while ignoring the facts that very few such claims ever lead to a doctor being removed from practice and that the abundance of medical malpractice lawsuits has increased the cost of malpractice insurance astronomically in some specialties, even for those doctors who’ve never had a claim against them. An associated problem is the fact that doctors often ask for more diagnostic tests than medically necessary, just so that they can claim that they haven’t overlooked any possibility and to bolster themselves against malpractice claims. As a result, healthcare costs increase. Everyone focuses on the issue of costs to the victims of bad medicine, but there’s been no real consideration of the costs to the rest of the profession or the increase in costs for healthcare insurance, and for those purchasing it.

While this is the most public example of the costs of attorneys, it’s far from the only one.

Post-tenure review is now becoming more and more widespread at universities, despite the fact that a very small percentage of tenured faculty actually abuse their position or fail to meet their obligations, yet the post-tenure review documentation required at regular intervals takes goodly amount of time to prepare. It also takes a fair amount of time for the committees to review it, and yet very few faculty members are found wanting and dismissed. So why can’t universities employ a process asking suspect faculty to submit such paperwork, rather than spending all the time and effort to review all tenured faculty? Because the lawyers fear lawsuits alleging discrimination, and the post-tenure review process insulates the university from the claim of discrimination. But a faculty member dismissed by either process can still protest and file a lawsuit. In effect, post-tenure review does little to weed out tenured faculty who aren’t cutting it. What it does do is increase the paperwork burden on the rest of the tenured faculty, because the documentation required is extensive, while making the job of a few university lawyers and administrators easier.

Another area where lawyers engage in costly litigation is in “patent trolling,” where lawyers essentially practice a form of legal shakedown by making “patent infringement” claims on productive companies, often on the flimsiest of cases. All too often, the companies being sued simple settle, because the time and effort to fight such claims would be even greater than the settlement costs. A recent study pegged the unnecessary costs of patent trolling at nearly $30 billion annually in direct costs and more than $80 billion in indirect costs.

The same sort of process occurs in business, in everything from warranties, privacy policies, personnel policies, you name it. Legal documentation is expanding everywhere. Why? Because organizations are trying to minimize the chances of costly litigation. Why do they need to go to such extremes? Because other lawyers are looking to fatten their finances through litigation or the threat of litigation. This is incredibly obvious, yet, with the exception of malpractice claims, I’ve never seen even an estimate of the national cost added to business, education, and life in general by litigation and the threat of litigation. And, of course, Congress refused even to consider limiting malpractice tort claims under the Affordable Care Act, possibly because trial lawyers contribute considerable sums to congressional campaigns.

I’m not against lawyers, and there are more than a few in my family, but I’m certainly against litigation and legal processes that don’t improve matters and whose costs continue to spiral.

Indirect Warfare, Direct Consequences?

For some time, I’ve wondered why on earth the Russians were committing so much in the way of military force in Syria, ostensibly in support of the government of Bashar al Assad. What do they gain by that? Especially given the ethnic fragmentation and conflicts that aren’t going to be resolved by more bombs and deaths, and which may in fact be increased by such measures? Then, there’s another question. Why is Vladimir Putin so intent on building up the Russian military at a time when Russia seems to face uncertain economic times, if not economic chaos?

In Syria the Russians have provided all manner of “aid,”including close air support; attack helicopters on the battlefield; high-precision strikes with missiles like the short-range Iskander; artillery support; special forces backup; intelligence; targeting; electronic warfare and even mine clearance. Although some of the top attack aircraft were recently flown back to Russia, attack helicopters that are less susceptible to the sandstorms that blow this time of year replaced them. A recent CNN report revealed that, in addition to first-line jet aircraft and helicopters, the Russians have also deployed modern main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers and surface-to-air missile systems, not to mention a satellite-based missile guidance system.

On May 10th, Putin himself stated, “Since the start of the operation, Aerospace Forces planes have flown more than 10,000 combat missions against international terrorist facilities on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic, have conducted a large number of strikes on the territory and have engaged over 30,000 targets, including more than 200 facilities for extracting oil and refining oil and crude oil feedstock.”

Putin also noted that the conflict in Syria brought out certain problems with new Russian weapons and systems, problems which he indicated will be soon addressed. It’s almost as if the Russian Syrian initiative was as much to field test new weapons and systems as to tell the world that Russia is back on the world stage with a totally revamped military structure and posture.

At the same time, Russian attacks continue to destroy civilian targets, ostensibly in pursuit of ISIS, but in practical terms, every attack creates more refugees, and the war in Syria has created roughly five million refugees to date. In addition to the more than a million Syrian refugees already in Europe, three million have fled to Turkey, a country with already contentious social and ethnic confrontations that the flood of refugees can only exacerbate. Lebanon, a country of 4.5 million people, also with a divided cultural and ethnic society, hosts over a million.

Barriers against the flood of refugees are going up all over Europe, either mental or physical ones, at a time when much of Europe faces economic difficulties, as well as where a significant number of nations have shown an overall unwillingness to markedly expand military capabilities. Add to that the fact that the United States military is already over-extended, and a majority of Americans are tired of overseas military operations that seem to offer little hope of resolution and only more American casualties.

What, indeed, could Vladimir Putin be thinking?


The local university has implemented a new course/faculty evaluation plan. A significant number of faculty members hate it because it requires far more time and demands all too often quantification of the qualitative and the unquantifiable, and it also requires using the same parameters for describing learning outcomes for all the various disciplines. The result is that either professors must oversimplify or only evaluate those aspects of their courses that can be described and measured by the accepted parameters. The reason for the adoption of the new evaluation system was to provide “hard data” for use by university administrators to prove to accrediting bodies and to the state legislature that the university is successful in educating students, in short, to make the administrators’ jobs easier and to present “data” that the legislators can understand at a glance. Or in other words, the lower-paid faculty must spend even more time on administrivia in order to better enable higher-paid administrators to justify their jobs. Put another way, to shift work to others while essentially requiring a process that will present oversimplified and often misleading results.

Furthermore, professors can be downgraded for having “too many learning objectives,” even if the nature of the course requires a number of disparate learning objectives. Of course, the easy way is simply to come up with generic learning objectives, but that results in poor data… and good data doesn’t fit the “mold” in all too many cases.

Add to that student evaluations, in which 18-22 year olds attempt to evaluate what they “need” from professors who have spent at least a decade learning and applying their expertise. Such evaluations often require even more time and effort on the part of the professors to rebut the often erroneous judgments of inexperienced students. More to the point, study after study has shown that the most consistent result of student evaluations is not improvement in education, but grade inflation, and that means that not only do ever more intrusive student evaluations put more burden on faculty and fail to improve education, but they do so in an effort by administrators primarily to make universities more “student friendly” and marketable.

This sort of work-shifting permeates society today.

Take another cost-shifting measure – the decision by major U.S. airlines, except Southwest, to charge fees for checked luggage. While this has increased revenue for those airlines, it’s also increased costs for TSA, which has to hire more employees to screen the vastly increased number of carry-on bags, as well as increasing security screening delays at U.S. airports. This cost-shifting creates costs for the taxpayers who fund TSA and delays for passengers.

Then, too, as I’ve mentioned before, the proliferation of email requests for status reports in organizations and businesses results in employees spending a greater and greater share of their workday answering such requests rather than doing actual work. It may make their supervisors’ tasks easier, but it’s a drag on productivity, which isn’t all that high these days anyway, and it’s resulted in longer workdays for employees.

Every time that I take an airline flight, buy an electronic book, stay in a hotel, purchase an appliance or piece of furniture, no matter how small, or even buy groceries, I’m asked or prompted to fill out a survey – and if there’s something wrong, I’m supposed to suggest how the seller or vendor could do their job better. Isn’t that their job? Yet we’ve been sold a bill of goods that the seller is just asking for our opinion because our opinion counts, when it’s both as marketing tool and a way to obtain data on a lower-cost basis.

Walmart and other retailers get in on the cost-shifting movement by setting up self-check-out lanes, resulting in fewer cashiers. More than once at stores, I’ve ended up doing self-check-out, even when a cashier could so it faster, because the lines at the cashiers were so long.

Yet another form of cost-shifting is practiced by governments, either state, local, of federal, when they offer “tax breaks” to businesses for various purposes. Those tax breaks may indeed create jobs and the like, but seldom do they cover the foregone tax revenues, which means that the “new jobs” are at least partly subsidized by the old taxpayers.

Yes, indeed, cost-shifting, another example of the capitalistic great American economy… and yet I see almost no one who’s willing to call it for what it is, an additional cost on taxpayers and consumers.

Piracy on Another Front?

As most of my readers know, I’m not exactly fond of electronic piracy of my books, or of anyone’s books, and I’m certainly not the only author or editor who feels that way. While much of the publicly expressed concern over piracy has focused on fiction and music, there’s an even more problematical aspect of piracy – that of scientific journals and papers.

The battle over electronic piracy of scientific papers and journal articles has become a huge issue since the founding of Sci-Hub by Alexandra Elbakyan in 2011. According to Science magazine, in the six months from October 2015 through the end of March 2016, 28 million documents were downloaded from Sci-Hub, with the greatest number of downloads going to China (4.4 million), India (2.6 million), and India (3.4 million).

The problem is simple. Legal access to the majority of scientific journals and papers costs money, and especially for scholars in the developing worlds, or scholars at educational institutions without the funds to obtain wide access, the cost of keeping up with developments in their fields becomes prohibitively expensive and enormously time consuming. Obtaining just the permissions for the papers a U.S. university linguistics researcher needed took over a year. An Indian scholar discovered that to legally obtain copies of papers to stay current in his field every year would cost five times his annual living expenses.

At present, as calculated by Science, Sci-Hub’s downloads represent only about five percent of the total number of science documents downloaded in the world every year… but those numbers are growing, fueled by the increasing need of scientists and other professions to follow current scientific developments and by the fact that a huge number of those professionals who need access for their professions have either limited legal access, no legal access except by paying out of their own pockets, or the time required to use other legal ways of obtaining access.

No matter what anyone says, useful information doesn’t come cheaply. I’m not a scientist, but as a science fiction writer I need to stay current. I did a quick checklist of the science periodicals that I take and read – and my annual “information” costs come close to $2,000, and I’m talking only about periodicals and science books that represent a small fraction of the documentation a full-time scientist or researcher needs to know.

That’s one side of the problem. The other side is one that very few consumers/users of fiction, music, or scientific documents seem able to grasp – the cost of assembling, editing, copywriting, and overall production of these documents is far, far, greater than the final cost of physical production. Another difficulty is that recent studies have shown that too many science papers haven’t been properly peer-reviewed and vetted and their results can’t be replicated. That also takes not only money, but a structure that’s not supported by piracy or by an information disseminator such as Sci-Hub.

Add to that the fact that most researchers and scientists aren’t paid much, if anything, for having their work published, and those who profit most from scientific publishing are companies like Elsevier, not either the researchers or the users/readers of those documents

According to Marcia McNutt, the editor-in-chief of Science, “Today, digital publishing is just as expensive as print for a state-of-the-art Web design that incorporates multimedia, is responsive to desktops, tablets, and smartphones, and maintains access to back content.”

All of which means we have a problem that’s going to get worse. If piracy of scientific documents follows the path of fiction, what happens to all the checks on falsified or sloppy research…or who is rightfully credited with what…or who gets paid for coming up with an innovation. These areas are already problems, and I don’t see the world of increasing intellectual piracy solving them.

Now…the world isn’t going to stop if fiction writers don’t get paid and all “creative” writing becomes essentially a hobby because not enough readers want to pay the real cost of production, or if classical music dwindles to nothing, or if art reproductions return all artists to a semi-starving situation. But the piracy and distribution of scientific documents is, to me, a different situation.

It could be that I’m totally wrong… but… if I’m not…?


We’ve been through the Emmys, Grammies, Oscars, and the Hugo finalists have just been announced, and now we’re entering university graduation season, with all the awards bestowed at each university’s ceremony or ceremonies.

Once, back in the dark ages when I was actually in school, pretty much the only award given to students was that of valedictorian. When my wife the professor began teaching at the local university, there were just two faculty awards – one for excellence as an educator and one for excellence as a scholar, creator, or researcher. This past graduation there were thirteen awards for faculty and something like eight major student awards, and likely more than a hundred lesser student awards (although that’s a guess on my part based on the awards given in one of the six university colleges) because I don’t intent to spend days tracking them all down.

Everywhere I look, it seems like there’s been award proliferation. In the realm of speculative fiction alone, there are not only the Hugos and the World Fantasy Awards, but a whole list of regional and national awards, not to mention the Nebula Awards, the Sideways Awards for alternative world SF, the Prometheus Award for Libertarian speculative fiction, the Carl Brandon awards for speculative fiction by or about people of color, the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, the James Tiptree Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and a host of others as well. What I’ve found interesting about all these awards isn’t so much who has won them as who has not.

I’ve also noticed the same “phenomenon” in regard to the faculty awards at my wife’s university. Most of them go to “politically astute” professors or those I’d classify as either one-time flashes or “flavour du jour,” rather than to professors who have created flourishing programs from nothing, received national recognition for achievement or scholarship, or those whose students, while students, have received multiple and continuing awards for their accomplishments. Oh, yes, I forgot “popular” professors, usually easy-grading, cheerleading types who always factor in the awards.

A similar sort of result occurs, from what I’ve seen, in the F&SF field and elsewhere. The bottom line is simple. No matter what anyone says, the vast majority of awards in any field tend to be popularity contests of some sort or reflect favoritism on the part of the judges, if not both. Even juried awards can be prejudiced in one way or another, and having served as a judge on a juried award, I’ve seen that happen as well.

Probably one of the most reliable indications of excellence is when something remains known, respected, and moderately popular well after the time of its creation. That’s certainly not an infallible guide, but it’s a start. As for “current” excellence – for books, anyway – sales figures are about as reliable as awards, and sales figures that endure for decades are definitely more reliable than one-year sales or a burst of awards in a single year. In the end, neither awards nor sales are necessarily an indication of excellence.

Awards are nice to have, but, alas, they never meant as much as most people thought, and with the flurry of awards proliferation, most of them mean even less now… but I certainly wouldn’t turn down a Nobel Prize, not that one is ever going to a U.S. F&SF writer.

What Kind of Reader?

Reviewers of all sorts – from those in Kirkus and The New York Times to those offering their opinions on their blogs or on Goodreads or Amazon – generally attempt to assess authors according to their standards. And that’s really what reviews are all about.

What tends to get overlooked, if not positively ignored, is that there ought to be reviews about readers as well. Because, just as authors differ, so do readers, and what pleases one reader can often infuriate another. And, just because I’m feeling contrary, I’ll offer some reviews of the types of readers I’ve observed over the last forty years or so, although you shouldn’t attribute too much meaning to the order in which I’m presenting these reader semi-stereotypes, even if they’re only my stereotypes.

I’ll begin with every author’s favorite type of reader – the enthusiasts. They like reading and books, and many especially like a particular genre or subgenre of fiction, and some are only wildly enthusiastic about a given author. Authors who have large numbers of enthusiasts are fortunate indeed, although often enthusiasts can be very reticent to admit their enthusiasms, which can leave some authors bewildered – as I was for years – because such authors sell books but can find very few people who admit to buying them.

Other types of readers are a more mixed bag, such as the literalist purists, for whom three typos in book provide discomfort, and more than that occasion physical pain, who also often have difficulty with authors who employ words in ways that require knowledge of more than the first dictionary definition, and who are outraged if the author portraying a low-tech culture uses a different weight for a stone’s worth of merchandise [despite the fact that there were different “stone-weights” for different commodities until the nineteenth century].

Following the literalist purists come the one-gender readers. They’re usually but not exclusively male and have virtually no interest in or possibly no ability to identify with a protagonist of the opposite gender, let alone protagonists with complex genders.

I’ve also noted in the past that there are readers who seem to believe that literary romance cannot be complete without copious and explicit sexual encounters. Call them the over-sexed romantics, as opposed to the prudish romantics for whom the merest direct implication of sexual encounters sends them for the literary equivalent of smelling salts.

For the stylistics, the words themselves offer the greatest satisfaction, so much so that often the plot or what passes for one is merely a bothersome necessity, some of whom prone to gush over or luxuriate in the work of Mervyn Peake or Gene Wolfe.

The secret violence lovers are those readers who find all manner of means to praise books of dubious quality so that they can deceive themselves into believing the books they enjoy are better than they are, rather than accepting the fact that they personally have a touch of the voyeuristic sadist in themselves and really like all that violence and rough, if not vicious, sex. Those who have a touch of the stylist get double pleasure out of Game of Thrones.

The gourmet bibliophiles comprise one of the smallest groups of readers, those who want excellence in every aspect of what they read, and who are actually intelligent enough to know what excellence is and well-read enough to discriminate between the merely popular, the flavor-de-jour books of the pseudo-literati, and the books of depth. Unfortunately, they’re usually disappointed, given how rare excellence is, and how often literary flash is taken for depth.

Then there are the fictional gourmets, for whom plot is a device to carry them from fictional meal to fictional meal, and I suspect a number of them read my novels, particularly the “Ghost” books.

In stark contrast to the gourmet bibliophile and the stylist is the minimalist – otherwise known as the slam-bam-thank-you-sir-or-ma’am type. They go straight to the story, like a famished wolf to bloody meat. This kind of reader demands only the bare-bones story, and forget about metaphor, allusion, or anything requiring diversion from the pursuit to the bloody, sexual, or explosive end, and if a book doesn’t have one of those, for them, it’s not worth reading.

Then we’ve also seen the recent rise of the genderists, for whom no book is satisfying except those that explore in depth beyond that of the Challenger Deep the role, identify, function, malfunction, dysfunction, optimal theoretical function, including all other ancillary functions, of all possible genders and permutations thereof, preferably in overstated understatement.

More and more in the realm of speculative fiction, we’re seeing the immersers, or the compleatists, those who not so much read a given series, but would prefer to live and spend their entire existence in just the world of that series. And yes, I’ve given them a series just like that in the Saga of Recluce.

Related to the gourmet bibliophiles are the cogitators, the thinkers who get great pleasure in books so deep that they can find additional twists and meanings on re-read after re-read and who find what the minimalists insist upon is akin to reading primers or simplistic graphic novels.

Now… I’ve probably missed type or two of reader, and most likely many readers have characteristics of several types, but since readers are always rating writers, I thought it was only fair for a writer to review readers, turn about being fair play, so to speak.