RJ Grady: Proving Grounds of the Quirky Underlord
Jun. 10th, 2016
07:43 pm - I am not primarily an RPG writer
Weird realization. I recently got a credit on an RPG book as a "developer" rather than an editor or writer. It was for some conversions, and so, really, it was just the way the publisher decided to handle credits. But on reflection, I realized it was basically true. If I wanted to write, I would just write. But I like developing RPG stuff. Concept, writing, testing, striving for near perfection, publishing -- waiting until it's time to revise. I've done a fair amount of fiction writing, and from time to time, I've wondered why I've shifted to spending some of my time on RPG stuff, and only some on fiction. But really, in each case I am interested in doing something different. Being a writer is an important part of my identity, and it affects how I approach development, but finishing my novels and putting out RPG books scratch two fairly different itches. Why is this weird? Because in my head I've always thought of myself as an RPG writer, but on reflection that doesn't actually reflect the truth about myself.
Dec. 30th, 2015
02:06 pm - The Ship of Theseus
You were young once, white and gleaming.
Someone drove you from the lot,
and then you descended into the mines.
Into darkness, and faithful labor.
Years passed, with little, incident,
but bit by bit, you grew older. In time
this hose was replaced, then those struts.
At last, they took out your heart and rebuilt it,
giving you a second life.
And the chronicle of all these miles rolled over,
and the world forgot your true age.
And years past, and you rolled over the miles. And one day
you were considered to be worth more as a pile of parts
than as a workhorse
and they sold you
to someone who thought you might roll a while yet
and you remained, for a time yet, yourself.
And there you were, so tall and noble.
And we took you home, and put our family on your back,
and you carried us.
And we replaced first this, and then that. A compressor, then a hose. New tires.
I find myself wondering,
How old are you, anyway?
Some parts of you are the original.
The parts that make you go are not the ones you were born with at all.
Are you even a unity?
or are you just the story of things traveling together?
Apr. 23rd, 2015
02:32 pm - I am a bad livejournalist
In theory, I value this outlet. In practice, I often forget to post stuff for months at a time.
So, uh, I've been enjoying focusing more on my Pathfinder-compatible work. Alison's schooling is going pretty well. I started writing a young adult oriented novel, which started with a fire of inspiration but now I'm not sure how it's going.
I made homemade pickles and saurkraut. Homemade saurkraut is fucking amazing. Also, easy.
Dec. 1st, 2014
12:27 am - my dear, howling at the moon
I hear coyotes singing deep into the night,
in the hills that are near,
"Feliz navidad, feliz navidad.
A good Christmas to you,
and to yours,
and to mine."
Cold in the moonlight,
diamonds in dark blue,
"Where are your cubs, dear?
"Where are you going?"
I know the way, friend.
And good night to you.
And good night to yours.
The night would be quiet, except that you howl.
So thank you, and good night.
I hear you, I hear you.
do not know what I do,
I know you are keeping the peace, my dear.
I know you are out there,
So good seasons to you,
and to yours.
And now I go
to stay warm with mine.
Sep. 9th, 2013
04:58 am - A Case for Left-Libertarianism
“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” - George Washington
Libertarianism is a political philosophy that upholds the supremacy of individual liberty and the right to voluntary association. Libertarianism, particularly in the United States, has a long history of association with laissez-faire capitalism and rugged individualism. However, that is not necessarily the case; in fact, I hope I will demonstrate that mature libertarianism is incompatible with capitalism. I began adulthood with a strong allegiance to libertarianism, particularly through its avatars, Thomas Jefferson and Robert A. Heinlein. In the year 2000, I made a substantial financial contribution to a Libertarian-affiliated pro-civil rights PAC, and I voted for the Libertarian candidate for President. However, through a series of conscious moral realizations, I made a serious of sharp breaks from classical libertarian thought. While becoming an ardent leftist, I nonetheless recognized a number of issues in which I would be considered libertarian or conservative. I decided to test the rationales for my new political stands and explicate something of a philosophy. Note that ultimately I do not believe a set of beliefs must be fully coherent to be useful. Perhaps before anything else, I am a pragmatist of the William James type of American philosophy, and going forward I will assume some degree of agreement with those premises. Nonetheless, I am prepared to make the argument that left-libertarianism is a valid and indeed excellent political orientation for the 21st century.
I am going to make an argument founded in classic libertarian beliefs. This is for two reasons. First, fellow libertarians are my first audience. I would like to shed some light on how a consistent, moral approach to libertarianism leads logically to embracing a leftist social agenda. Second, my second audience are leftists and progressives of various stripes. In laying out these arguments, I arming you to better empathize with and persuade others whose viewpoint is essentially libertarian. I may also give you pause in supporting a progressive but authoritarian state.
Let us set forth two important principles. The first is the idea of individual liberty, almost absolute. The saying is that “my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.” In libertarian thought, it ends no sooner, and ends no further, but is precisely there. Liberty, leavened with basic benevolence, is an intrinsic good. There are several ways to present this argument, and I won't attempt to replicate the breadth of the discussion here. I will state simply that, generally speaking, a person is the best judge of what themselves need. Provided you do not assault or steal from others, you may do largely as you please. “And it harm none, do what thou wilt.” Note that I am allowed to create externalities through my choices that affect others. For instance, I can hoard Cabbage Page dolls and sell them for exorbitant rates, using my supply to sate the powerful demand. I can not, however, coerce anyone. Coercion is clearly the opposite of liberty, which brings me to the second premise. In libertarianism, the line is drawn further out than in collectivist philosophies.
The second premise is the right to voluntary association. That means I don't have to do business with people whose habits I find objectionable. I don't have to contribute my labors to goals I consider immoral. I can live in a community of my choosing, and I can leave it should I choose. If an established community chooses to secede from a larger entity, they may rightly do so, provided the remaining loyalists are still allowed to join or leave the new body as they will. I may not be taxed for my neighbor's benefit at my expense, nor may I be annexed or indentured to any master. If my landlord does not please me, I can move elsewhere. If my tenant does not please me, I can evict them.
Let us delineate what left-libertarianism is not through some glib examples.
It is not socialism.
While it shares with socialism a strong mutuality in relationships, in libertarianism, individual liberty is especially enshrined.
It is not Chomskyism.
Well, not necessarily. Left-libertarianism is not popular or broad enough as a movement at this time to state whether Noam Chomsky, a self-described left-libertarian, is representative of the left-libertarian movement.
It is not dishwater liberalism.
It's not just voting left on social issues, and then aceeding to capitalism on economic ones.
It's not anarcho-anything.
Anarcho-capitalism, anarcho-socialism, and the like, are popular buzzwords within the big umbrella of non-coercion. However, all forms of anarchy are, by definition, anti-state. Libertarian is philosophy of the political state. It may favor a limited power of government, but it is still a theory of government, not an alternative formulation to addressing the problems of human nature in large groups. Left-libertarianism is a philosophy of minarchism, not anarchism.
Now, I will present the libertarian rationale for a number of important leftist issues.
Collective Action: The Parable of the Baker and the Chemistry Book
Imagine you are a baker and you wish to make pies. A friend, knowing this, gifts you a book. The book is a text on chemistry. Perplexed, you ask, “What does this have to do with baking?”
Your friend replies, “Everything! You can't bake without chemistry. Baking is a specialized form of chemistry. All you are doing is combining temperature differences, physical change, and chemical reactions to alter matter.”
To this you reply, “It is true you cannot bake without chemistry. But they are not the same thing. You also cannot practice chemistry without baking, as chemistry involves mixing ingredients to certain proportions in order to create a desired product, using stirring, heating, and additives to alter your mixture.”
To say that baking is chemistry is the fallacy of reduction. Even though baking requires a knowledge of chemistry, in fact a very good one, you cannot solve baking problems on a chemistry level. The secret of creating a good cherry pie flavor in chemistry terms is unsolvable. Not only is taste not an intrinsic property of physical structure, but solving the level at the chemistry level would require you to write out the whole thing as a chemistry problem starting in one human brain and ending in another, right down to the components of your neurons.
Classical libertarianism treats racism as a question of the freedom of association. Ron Paul, for instance, makes this his rationale for his criticism of the Civil Rights Act. In classic libertarianism, no one should be forced to sell their house to someone they don't like, even if that dislike is irrational. And it certainly true to someone of almost any political stripe that I cannot be literally responsible for the immoral actions against one “race” of people by those of my “race.” Race is a social construct.
But you can't solve racism at the freedom of association level. That requires the pretense that racism, when it occurs, is a random and individual tragedy. If I get turned down by one homeowner's association, I can try another. That is obviously not that case. Racism is widespread, powerful, and present even in people who are not bigots. Racism, for all practical purposes, is a massive attempt at coercion and evil, carried out against individuals who are not equipped to battle an army of racists and their hirelings. The only possible remedy to societal racism is a societal defense against racism. When it comes down to it, the libertarian ideal of personal liberty says I should be able to buy a house based on my personal ability and willingness to find one, not based acts of aggression committed against everyone of my skin tone, last name, and dialect. Libertarianism rejects genocide; why should it permit the ghetto? Racism is not a matter of luck, but of aggression by one group against an innocent individual. To say I, personally, should battle against racism against me is wrong. I am not the guilty party. To say I should call the police every time I, personally, am attacked by a racist is wrong. Each racist makes their own individual choices, but if racism is prevalent, MY choices have been taken away.
This is the libertarian rationale that supports appropriate, time-limited, goal-oriented forms of affirmative action; that rationalizes anti-discrimination laws in employment in housing; that demonstrates the justice of reparations against a group that has been disadvantaged for historical reasons that arise from an injustice. A libertarian viewpoint, taken to its logical end, opposes racism.
Environmental Regulation: The Tragedy of the Commons and Talking About Torts
The tragedy of the commons is a classic market problem. If there is an area open to all to graze, it is each farmer's advantage to raise as many sheep as possible. Of course, if everyone does that, the grass gets eaten into nothing, all the sheep perish, and everyone is terribly worse off than they would be if they all just stuck to a reasonable number of sheep. You can solve this problem either by privatizing the commons into private fields, making it a different kind of problem, or by regulating sheep production.
A classic Libertopia has few strong laws, primarily ones against murder and fraud, and then those that establish the civil courts. It's good to be a lawyer in Libertopia, because when someone harms you, your response is to sue them for damages. Now, imagine for a moment that pollution caused by factories happened to be harmful. In that case, everyone who breathes that air should sue you. In fact, travelers ought to sue you for estimated damages caused by driving through your smog. In effect, we're going to go ahead and privatize air, only by quantities rather than yardage, since it's hard to fence in air. Now, obviously, when the damages are minor, it would be pocket change, like our local visitors, so it would be best to go ahead and automate the process by setting up a local entity that pays on behalf of the factory automatically. Similarly, rather than having to collect a fee from that factory, that pig farm, that company building sidewalks on your street, and so forth, all the residents should form a voluntary association that collects and distributes your tort damages automatically. Ultimately, you end up with a system where industries automatically make payouts that are then distributed, more or less fairly, to the people who breathe the local air, based on the amount of air polluted. Since we all need air from the time we are born, membership in the local association is automatic and mandatory at birth.
Usually, that's called government, and we call those fees, “taxes” or “tariffs.” Environmental regulation is a logical necessity of the libertarian tort argument.
Gay Marriage: Fairness
Libertarianism usually considers marriage a matter of personal choice and voluntary association. However, insofar as marriage is recognized in state and common law as something of legal consequence, it is purely just that gay people have the same right to voluntarily associate, and the fees and legal assertions needed to bring about marriage should be no more or less odious than for anyone else. Gay people don't have separate paperwork for hunting permits or liquor licenses; why should they for domestic life partnerships with limited, standards forms of power of attorney?
So What Does Left-Libertarianism Look Like?
So, since I've laid out the what and whys of left-libertarian, let my describe a little how I see it relating to the issues of the day.
The Use of Military Force: Restraint
A libertarian viewpoint on war suggests it should follow some sort of Just War rationale. A libertarian would not see one country as the Policeman of the World, but would rather see a state as having a duty to be a Good Neighbor. Generally speaking, you don't go to war accept in defense of your sovereignty or another country's, or to intercede on behalf of communities attacked by states, such as ethnic minorities, political annexees, etc. Military adventurism is right out. Nation building? No. A good example of a reason to go to war is Hitler. He invaded Poland without any compelling rationale, and he led a program of destruction against Jews, Romani, and others who were innocent. Note that there are a number of 20th and 21st century examples of the USA going to war when we are, in effect, the Hitler. A “just war” (not to say that war is good, but that unjust wars are evil whereas just wars could be seem as necessary) involves a legitimate target, a legitimate grievance (at least a neutral territorial dispute, but preferably something on the order of an act of war), and a clear case that the outcome of the war will be better than doing something else, or even doing nothing. For instance, you don't pick a side in a civil war, unless you are pretty sure they will be the winning side, are capable of governing, and are in some definable way obviously better than the other side. Otherwise, you do nothing.
The Social Safety Net
Like the environment thing above, let's just all agree no one should starve of poverty in a rich country, and no employer should have the power of life, death, health insurance, food, and shelter over anyone. So, a big social safety net that doesn't require lots of personal information to qualify for. People should have unlimited opportunities to pick up their lives and try again. And if, well, some people give up and settle into a life of minimal attainment, let us consider ourselves to have dealt with their externalities inexpensively compared to other options.
Libertarianism posits that the government must always have a clear rationale for infringing on someone's choices, so this is a big no-no. Specifically, federal and state justice organizations, such as the NSA, the police, or Homeland security, should not be able to make Internet providers hand over emails on their say-so. No police organization should be the business of monitoring innocent people; I pay taxes, obviously I am not paying so I can be spied on. Spying of any sort also invites people to become curious about the personal choices of others. To a libertarian, a person's bedroom, private email, and such should be theirs to reveal or conceal, as they see fit.
Let's be clear, there is no modern, credible alternative to the market. Some proponents of capitalism would have you believe that the free market is a synonym for capitalism. In fact, though, capitalism came about in the 19th century and flourished in the 20th, and is just about done in the 21st. But the ancient Romans had market economies. They had markets in medieval China, too. They had markets, in fact, in Soviet Russia, and they have them in Communist China today. Every society, in fact, seems to have markets, and so the argument that arguing against capitalism is somehow anti-market is absurd and fallacious.
Libertarianism says you should be able to buy, sell, and own stuff, and provided you don't hurt anyone doing it, left-libertarianism follows this thinking. Left-libertarians are pro-entrepeneurship, and also support any new ways of doing business in a 21st century economy that encourages voluntary association. Left-libertariansm has room for both Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and Amanda Fucking Palmer's “pass the hat” artistic entrepeneurship.
If everyone can get the education they want and need, they will be free to pursue their own economic destinies. A lack of education does not create liberty; in entrenches a new aristocracy. Really, we should be willing to offer college or trade school to just about anyone who wants it, and while you're doing it, you should be eligible for unemployment support. This is a simple matter of economic and social opportunity, not to mention tremendous possibilities for the creation of societal wealth and productivity.
Public Research and Infrastructure
Markets are powerful, and the will of individuals to plan and create is a driving force in cultural progress. At the same time, markets are prone to inefficiencies. Since a left-liberterian is leftist and not capitalist, they are allowed to say we should publicly fund things. Some are too expensive for private venture. Some are too powerful for anyone to own. Some are simply more efficient when done collectively rather than competitively (highways, anyone?). Sometimes, the market is inefficient, and society can and should step in to guide the invisible hand. Thus, the rationale for creating computer code, corn, and other things which are then placed in the public domain, to spur further creativity. That is exactly how the Internet came to be. Once upon a time, it was the result of universities working on government contracts. Once it became a useful tool in its own right, it was given, basically, to the world. Are we stuck in a gasoline-powered world? We should fund energy and transportation alternatives.
Intellectual Property Rights
I don't know what the future holds, but 75 year copyrights, software patents, patents on naturally occurring DNA, and “associations” handing out $50,000 penalties definitely belongs to the past. The US Trademark and Patent Office, and the US copyright system, as articulated by Thomas Jefferson, was intended to incent creativity, not create walls to re-using, re-mixing, and re-inventing the “useful arts.” Incidentally, putting media rights owners and consumers into huge, automatic associations is actually how much of Europe has gone about dealing with copyrights and so-called piracy, by making it mandatory, painless, and reasonable for just about anyone to license just about anything for a standard fee. In the USA, this exists for public performances and broadcasts of copyrighted music, but not really for anything else.
Clearly not a public menace. Depending on local sentiment, could be completely legal, subject to small fines for using in public, or regulated in such a way as to be non-noxious. I can barely understand how marijuana was criminalized in the first place.
Food Labeling and Public Health
Someone who dies of food poisoning or allergies is obviously is not in a position to claim damages, so under the principle of individual liberty, it should be illegal to contaminate or mislabel food. Similarly, food safety should be the law. It doesn't make sense to “let the market decide” when there's nothing to decide; who wants to die from eating oysters?
Even though libertarians, with their economic liberties and gun rights and their radical free speech beliefs, sometimes seem strange and hostile to progressives, in fact, on most major issues the truly libertarian viewpoint and the leftist, justice-based one are in alignment. Even though left-libertarianism and democratic socialism occupy opposite sides of the freedom versus justice argument, occasionally solving problems with different answers from each other, their commonality is much greater than their difference on matters of bedrock prosperity, freedom, and security.
Aug. 21st, 2013
02:50 am - LJ
I don't really mind at all that LJ is so quiet these days. But I wish more people would comment on my posts. It seems so lonely sometimes. At this point, the only really unique and definable task I still use LJ for is archiving very nearly all of my poetry, good, bad, and indifferent.
Aug. 15th, 2013
01:18 am - haiku burbia
yes, we bought one of those, too.
(we don't like our friends.)
Jan. 12th, 2013
08:02 pm - Do Not Approach (RPG Kickstarter)
This is my dual-statted villains book for M&M and Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul. With 13 days to go, we have now met our modest fundraising goal. This will be my first successful Kickstarter.
Still plenty of time to pledge!
Feb. 9th, 2012
11:57 am - Marvel, IP, work-for-hire
Re-posting from G+. This may ruffle a few feathers, but here we go.
I get that people are unhappy with Marvel. It's a shame they have pushed so many creators out of ownership. However, I object in principle to the idea that work-for-hire is wrong or a thing of the past. Publishers have the right to develop properties which they own, and to hire people to contribute to that development who do not own the properties. Moreoever, if you really believe in creator rights, surely you believe in the right to sell them!
-- On a somewhat related note, I object entirely to the notion of "moral rights," possibly excepting defamatory uses (which are probably already slander or libel anyway). I think moral rights reify the notion that artists "create" things, which ultimately serves to bolster the corporatism of art. Art should be considered as discovered, with proper and due rights to profit going to the discoverer, but the discoveries of knowledge and nature are not owned by any person. Moreover, all works morally should, and ultimately must, pass into the public domain at some point. I can conceive of no argument for the public domain which does not weaken the argument for moral rights. If you don't wish your work to be tarnished by public use, appreciation, and commentary... don't publish it. If you don't want your the children of your mind to be appropriated to whatever corporate end, don't work-for-hire.
-- Lastly, I'll note that the realm of self-publishing is the salvation for the artist who wishes to own their creations. However, self-publishing is a business, carrying with it risks and responsibilities its own, costs ordinarily carried by a skilled publisher. I certainly hope that in your dealings with freelancers, you will be very careful, explicit, and fair about defining and acquiring ownership of others IP, which includes: art, writing, editing, layout, fonts, graphical design, configuration of elements, and branding. It is a certainty that as self-publisher, you will be enjoying the royalty-free labors of at least one person at some point. It's possible to condemn Marvel's greed, while at the same time, criticize the sense of entitlement of creators working-for-hire, which itself is a sort of greed. Marvel deserves criticism, strong criticism, but its enablers are not blameless, artists who wished to prosper in their financial shadow, but then complained when, in turn, Marvel prospered under the umbrella of their creative work. Going to work for a corporation is itself a deliberate decision. I sympathize with the janitors on the Death Star, but I do not pardon them. If you are going to work for Marvel, or whomever, you need to decide at the outset whether you are an employee or a business person, and conduct your dealings only along those lines. If your status overlaps between the two in any way, take nothing for granted that is not in writing! IANAL, but that's my two cents as an armchair philosopher, occasional freelancer, aspirational self-publisher.
Jan. 25th, 2012
01:16 am - RPG stuff, Tripod Machine, ICO
I wanted to drop a few notes about what is happening with me and Tripod Machine lately. First, as you may have noticed, the Fantastic Creatures Kickstarter did not make. The upshot is that I am instead releasing it as a PDF only. It won't be the art book I hoped for, but I hope it will provide solid content for M&M players.
Second, Conquest of the Universe is slowly lurching forward. At some point, I plan on releasing M&M and Savage Worlds versions. Later versions will relate to ICO (keep reading).
As for A Few Denarrii More, for Pathfinder, it's been on the back burner. However, there is enough material that I may still release it when I am able. I love the Pathfinder community. I'm not sure what the future holds, with another edition of D&D in the works, but if feasible, I'd still like to get a couple of Pathfinder books out that I've had in the works, including A Few Denarii More.
Lastly, ICO. That's a whole topic in itself. ICO is my concept for a role-playing game core engine. I have a three step plan:
1. ICO Core - a mini RPG release that introduces the mechanics
2. ICO Role-playing Game - a cookbook, essentially, for playing ICO and creating ICO-based campaigns.
3. ICO-powered RPGs - I have a couple of projects of my own in mind (including an ICO version off Conquest of the Universe). Coinciding with these projects, I'll be looking at licensing ICO for commercial works.
What is ICO? ICO is a pragmatically focused, narrative-friendly, immersive and improvisational approach to role-playing games. ICO is a distillation of things I love about RPGs from the mid 80s to the present, specifically designed for easy conversions to and from other popular RPGs, particularly anything of the 2 to 18 or 1 to 20 attribute valuse family. ICO is a traditional style of game, using a unified core mechanic and polyhedral dice. However, it also incorporates dramatic and stylistic elements that reflect the mature state of the art. If it were a flavor, it would be vanilla, but it would be a real, rich, breathtaking vanilla flavor permeating an ice cream of perfect consistency.
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