March 6th, 2016


Interesting Links for 06-03-2016


Mother of Eden, by Chris Beckett

I was already sitting there when my cousin Dixon came over to me. About half the Kneefolk had already arrived, and the others were coming in.
I'm reviving my previous practice of posting the second paragraph from the third chapter of each book I read this month - odd snapshots of the text which give a suitably random flavour. I'm also going to try and add cover pictures to these reviews, not so much for Livejournal readers but so as to enliven my Twitter and Facebook feeds rather than just illustrate these posts with the rather dull standard Livejournal picture.

Beckett's setting is the lost tribes of humans on a far distant planet, descendants of a long ago crashed spaceship (whose own bitter story becomes fairly obvious to the reader, though not to the characters). They are in conflict over natural resources, the indigenous aliens, their own history, and the roles of women and men. The details of the plot, on reflection, are actually standard pulp themes; but the way Beckett chooses to tell the story through the voices of the young generation (mostly women) and his undercurrent of revolution (both class and gender) are very subversive of those tropes. The ending is bitter yet hopeful. I really liked this, as I enjoyed its predecessor, and will be agonising over my BSFA vote over the next three weeks. And needless to say, it's in contention for my Hugo nominations as well.

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How much of a DUP/SF swing *would* it take for Martin McGuinness to be First Minister?

In her speech to the DUP party conference today, First Minister Arlene Foster called attention to the narrowness of the margin between her party and Sinn Féin:

A swing of only two votes in every hundred from the DUP to Féin would see Martin McGuinness become the next First Minister.

In the last Assembly election in 2011, the DUP won 38 seats with 30.0% of first preferences, and Sinn Féin won 29 seats with 26.9%. At a first glance, that 3.1% margin between the two parties’ vote shares is even closer than the First Minister claimed; a uniform swing of a mere 1.6% would be enough to make SF the largest party by votes, and as we all know the largest party by seats gets to choose the First Minister.

But there’s an important difference between seats and votes.

Looking at the 2011 results for each constituency, and applying a (highly improbable) uniform shift of votes from the DUP to Sinn Fein while keeping the votes for other parties at the 2011 levels, it seems that the real figure required to give SF more seats than the DUP is more like 5% than 2%; the DUP could actually trail SF by more than 6% in first preferences overall, and still win more seats. This is partly because the DUP’s stronger constituencies have smaller electorates, and partly because in the last election the DUP tended to get elected with votes to spare while a number of successful SF candidates had tighter squeaks to get in.

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