Howl’s Moving Castalia 5/24

aka In a hole in a ground there lived a Hugo. It was a puppy Hugo, and that means discomfort.

Today’s roundup features Amanda S. Green, Deirdre Saoirse Moen, P. J. Pruhon, Andrew Hickey, Lisa J. Goldstein, The Staff of The New Republic, Steve Davidson, N.K. Jemisin, Larry Correia, Tom Knighton, Jim C. Hines, Rebekah Golden and Lis Carey. (Title credit belongs to File 770’s contributing editors of the day SocialInjusticeWorrier and Going To Maine.)

Amanda S. Green on Mad Genius Club

“Inspiration and remembrance” – May 24

I look at the Hugo controversy and wonder if those clinging to the award, willing to destroy careers if necessary in order to do so, and I wonder if they have given even a passing thought to how what they are advocating is the non-political version of censorship (and yes, I understand that technically only a government can censure something).  They want to silence points of view they don’t agree with. They want to silence what they see as the opposition. Which, when you consider that science fiction should be the one place where all viewpoints should be welcome is not only ironic but sad.

So today, here is my challenge to each of us. Remember those who have sacrificed so much so we can read and write what we want (within limits. Remember, the Supreme Court will know pornography when it sees it). Now ask yourselves if what you are doing honors their sacrifice. For myself, I am going to be doing all I can to honor it.


Deirdre Saoirse Moen on Sounds Like Weird

“BayCon Panels and Notes” – May 24

The Hugo tug-of-war: Diversity of opinion among Worldcon voters

This panel [at BayCon] went really well, and I’m glad that Kate Secor had some details that I hadn’t researched. Also thanks to James Stanley Daugherty for moderating and Amy Sterling Casil for her contributions.

My general feelings:…

  1. The more that is done at this year’s meeting to “fix” things, it will become an outrage escalator, and I believe that would be counterproductive long term. While I think the 4 of 6 proposal (and a couple of others) have merit, what I’d actually like to see is more people nominating. Specifically, more people who realize you can’t read the entire field, so nominate what you have read and what you think is worthy.

Nothing that “fixes” nominations will change the fact that there are far fewer nominators than members, and far fewer nominators than voters.


P. J. Pruhon on Newsvine

“Sad Puppies and Paranoid Barflies” – May 24

The few words in my article mentioning Baen Publisher Toni Weisskopf were a commiseration for the reputation that the Sad Puppies have laid on her and Baen Books: “the vandals who wrecked the Hugos”. In my two days on Baen’s Bar, I was repeatedly attacked for having insulted Ms Weisskopf. I (politely) explained several times that there was no insult. Apparently Mr Cochrane finally understood… but he could not leave it alone: “This was interpreted by the conference owner as a slur on the owner of the site.” ….

Sometime during my second day on Baen’s Bar, I began getting criticism for “moving the goalposts”. I found this odd, since I was in fact just repeating what I had said earlier. Then I had my Eureka!! moment.

These folks had not misunderstood me.

They had not heard me at all.

What they heard was a voice in their heads: an “Anti-Sad Puppies” archetype telling them the things that “everyone knows that ASPs say”.

Me? I was not saying those things, but the Barflies did not notice, because they were not listening to me.

When I insisted loudly that I did not say that, they very honestly felt that I had moved the goalposts. The goalposts had started where those voices in their heads had stipulated, and here I was, daring to say differently! How dare I deviate from what they knew I must be saying!

Once we understand that Barflies and Sad Puppies are not listening to anything other than their own preconceptions, everything becomes limpidly clear. It becomes obvious that their outrage in not being recognized as the only true carriers of the “real SF” flame is genuine.


The Staff of The New Republic

“Science Fiction’s White Male Problem” – May 24

The conservative backlash isn’t entirely about attempts to diversify science fiction; it’s also motivated by nostalgia for an imaginary past. The Puppies factions argue that science fiction used to be a fun, apolitical genre but has now become too socially conscious and pretentious, due to a sinister leftist conspiracy…..

If leftism shouldn’t be conflated with literary ambition, neither should it be confused with demographic diversity. Torgersen assumes that stories exploring gender and race will automatically be boring left-wing propaganda. This flies in the face of history. For decades, science-fiction writers of both the left and the right, both popular entertainers and those writing more ambitious works, have made a point of trying to be inclusive. Heinlein started featuring nonwhite characters in his books from the very beginning of his career. His “Starship Troopers” (1959) can be read as a right-wing paean to military virtue; the main character is a Filipino.

Samuel R. Delany describes himself as a “boring old Marxist” but loves the right-wing fiction of Heinlein. “Well, Marx’s favorite novelist was Balzac — an avowed Royalist,” Delany once explained. “And Heinlein is one of mine.” The largeness of soul and curiosity about differing ideas that Delany brought to his appreciation of Heinlein is sadly missing from all the resentment and angst of the Sad and Rabid Puppies.


Steve Davidson on Amazing Stories

“My Final Hugo Ballot” – May 24

Best Novel.

Only three works were eligible for consideration based on my determination not to reward the pupfans who thought it would be funny to poke the SJW’s in the eye by way of screwing with a 75 year old tradition.* They were:

Ancillary Sword, Goblin Emperor, The Three Body Problem

I gave the top slot to Ancillary Sword after having made it about a third of the way through Three Body Problem. I’d originally expected to be giving the top slot to TBP; I’d heard great things about it from the translator and I’ve been championing the community’s engagement with Chinese works for about a year now. Unfortunately, I found TBP to be slow to develop, and, at least for me, a bit off in its metaphor and simile. I found some of that to be jarring rather than descriptive.

Ancillary Sword, on the other hand, was an even quicker read for me than Justice (probably so at least partially due to being familiar and comfortable with the gender play), and I found it to be perhaps an even stronger story than Justice, and certainly a middle third that transcends the usual problems of middle thirds of trilogies.

I don’t do fantasy (my fault: I just can’t get past the initial premise that nothing in the story is potentially real) and have given it the third slot out of courtesy at this point in time. Now that I’ve gotten the Hugo Packet, I’ve had a chance to skim GE.  I’m leaving it in the number three slot, despite its apparent love of faux ye olde englysh in the dialogue.

The fourth slot is, and will remain, for No Award, as the remaining two entries were slatened entries.  I was hoping that Anderson and Butcher would at least state something regarding their inclusion publicly, though I understand their reluctance to screw with their successful careers by getting mired in the politics.  At this point in time they’ll pretty much piss off a segment of their audience no matter what they say.  Sorry guys, for whatever “guilt by association” may be present here, but you are on the slate, you’ve not written anything to disabuse me of the presumption that you are there willingly and I promised myself and everyone reading the website that I would vote ANYTHING on ANY slate below No Award – despite whatever personal feelings I may have about their individual worthiness….





Tom Knighton

“If you’re going to fling it, you better back it up” – May 24

Jemisin has, as of my writing of this post, revealed no evidence to support her assertion.  Nothing.  This is my surprised face:


Tom Knighton

Tom Knighton

Yeah, I look flabbergasted, don’t I?

This is just the latest — and lamest — attempt to try and paint Larry as a racist, all of which have failed miserably.  You know why they have?  Probably because Larry’s not a racist.  Shocking, I know.

Of course, one of my own initial reactions was to say screw cons as a writer and just avoid them as much as possible.  Personally, I suspect that Jemisin and company would see that as a feature, not a bug.  After all, pushing people like me out of fandom could hardly be a bad thing, right?  They don’t want “my kind” around.


Jim C. Hines

“Hugo Thoughts: Graphic Story” – May 24

Of the five nominees, the collection from The Zombie Nation was recommended by both the Sad and Rabid (SR) puppies. The rest of the category is puppy-free.

  • Ms. Marvel: The first page includes Kamala Khan smelling bacon and saying, “Delicious, delicious infidel meat” and someone responding, “Chow or chow not. There is no smell.” I was officially intrigued. A few pages later, we discover Kamala writes Avengers fanfic. She’s also struggling with her own identity, torn between cultures and dealing with ignorance and prejudice. She dreams about being powerful and blonde and beautiful like Ms. Marvel…and then she gets her wish. Sort of. And discovers it’s not what she imagined. This is a superhero origin story that plays off of our expectations, because Kamala has grown up in a world of superheroes. She’s an Avengers fangirl. She has to unlearn what she has learned, in order to become, in her words, “a shape-changing mask-wearing sixteen-year-old super ‘moozlim’ from Jersey City.” There’s a lot of humor, and some good depth and complexity to Kamala and her family and friends. There’s also a supervillain, of course, but that’s secondary to the story of Kamala coming of age and learning to navigate and incorporate the different parts of her identity….


Lisa J. Goldstein on theinferior4

“The Hugo Ballot, Part 14: A Brief Trip Back to Short Stories” – May 24

And with the first of them, “A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond, comes a problem I haven’t had in this read so far.  Namely, that I didn’t like the story, but I can imagine people who would. If your idea of fun is seeing really big creatures — I mean really big — stomp past leaving a trail of destruction in their wake, if you’ve held onto that child-like joy that only a rampaging monster can bring, then this story might be for you.


Andrew Hickey on Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

“Hugo Blogging: ‘Best’ Novelette” – May 24

However, I shall actually be placing all five below No Award. One of the more depressing aspects of the Sad and Rabid Puppy slates is that the people who put them together are pushing both a political and an aesthetic viewpoint, and the aesthetic viewpoint is just as toxic as the political one. Even were all the stories to have made it on their own merits without block voting, and even had the politics of the authors matched my own, the stories on the Puppy slates are just *bad*.

Some of that badness is a lack of craft — badly-written sentences, with no sense of the potential of language for beauty, of the rhythms of speech, or of the subtle nuances involved in the choice of one word over another. I would actually have some sympathy for this if the ideas in the stories were worth reading — after all, I hardly have the most mellifluous prose style myself, and there are reasons other than beauty of language to read.

But the ideas are, uniformly (bearing in mind I’m only two categories through, so they might yet surprise me) awful.

In the “Best” Novelette category, I’m ranking No Award first, and second I will be ranking The Day the World Turned Upside Down by Thomas Olde Heuvel (translated by Lia Belt). This is the one non-Puppy nomination, and is the kind of poor literary fiction that makes one almost wonder if the Puppies have a point. The protagonist, a tedious narcissist with no redeeming characteristics whatsoever, is moping because his girlfriend left him. Then, for no adequately-explained reason, gravity goes into reverse, with people being flung up to ceilings or into space. The world has turned upside down, just as his girlfriend turned his emotional world upside down. Do you see? It’s perfectly competently written, for its type (although don’t use it as a guide for the care and feeding of goldfish — but in a world where gravity can go into reverse, goldfish managing to survive in 7-Up is probably not the most unrealistic thing about the story), but it’s a story in which horrible things happen to a horrible person, and I find it very hard to care about those….


Lis Carey on  Lis Carey’s Library

“Laura J. Mixon Hugo Nominee Fanwriter Sample” – May 24

This is a clear, well-supported explanation of Requires Hate’s multiple online identities, cyberstalking, and harassment, as well as her habitual deletion of hateful posts after the fact, making it hard for her victims to prove what happened to them. Mixon has included only episodes that she can document, and includes screen caps. Names are included only with the agreement of the individual. This was a major service to the sf community, and it’s well-written.


Rebekah Golden

“2015 Hugo Awards Best Professional Artist: Reviewing C Reid” – May 24

I am reviewing Carter Reid as a professional web comic artist based on what I could find since he didn’t submit anything for the [Hugo Voter] packet. That said I’m not going to read the whole year’s worth of comic. What I was able to make it through was tedious and uninspired. The plots seem to echo gleeful conversations between teenage boys. It’s really just not that interesting.


Rebekah Golden

“2015 Hugo Awards Best Movie: Reviewing Guardians of the Galaxy” – May 24

Overall every rewatch gives me more reason to favor this movie. It just improves under scrutiny.

557 thoughts on “Howl’s Moving Castalia 5/24

  1. Brian Z – I’ve stated why I’m interested in these questions. Out of curiosity, why are you interested?

    Not really. You’ve stated a bunch of leading questions, mostly rhetorically to yourself and answered them vaguely and used that as a springboard to make various assumptions as to why someone was nominated/won for any other reason than others didn’t share the same opinion as you.

    You’ve never really stated why instead of going for Occam’s Razor you’ve chosen to play with Rube Goldberg’s Paintbrush and Gordian’s Answering Machine.

    I’m interested because I think it’s fascinating to see someone create reasons why something they dislike is liked by others. I mean I’m jealous of those who enjoyed AJ more than I did, I’d rather enjoy something I read than not do so, but I’ve never conjured up excuses for why others enjoyed it more or voted for it. You stated unsourced speculation as pattern, the process involved is interesting, if a little tiring.

  2. Matt Y,

    This topic fascinates me because I’m interested in the relationship between technology and culture. I believe the reason people vote for stuff for a fan award is because they love it. I believe that statement is just as true for Seanan McGuire fans who knew her as a conrunner or a filker as it is for Seanan McGuire fans who met her through her work, or for fans who are too Old School to use their Loud Twitter Feed for self-pimpage, or for those who love books about attempting to marry phenomenology and Marxism.

    I appreciate your statement that I’m not a puppy, since I also don’t think urging people to bloc vote as a statement against “literary affirmative action” (an appallingly ugly phrase) or to “exterminate the SJWs” (to say that phrase is even uglier is beyond understatement) is in the spirit of any kind of award at all, much less the venerable Hugo Awards that I care deeply for.

    I don’t expect to find all my answers, but comments by several here have been very helpful to me so far. Your own comments were helpful insofar as you pushed me to articulate specific patterns I think I see. Thank you for that.

  3. @ NIck: alas, no, it doesn’t help, because I have no knowledge of either of those. It is also possible that I hit my own “teacups in spaaaace!” reaction. Thinking beings who can’t abstract? It was a wall I never got over, under, or through.

    If you wanted to explicate a bit on “Tran Duc Thao’s attempt to marry phenomenology and Marxism” to someone with no knowledge of Tran Duc Thao, and only the glancing amount of Marxism that one might pick up arguing socially with Steven Brust, I’d been interested in Cliff Notes version.

  4. Nick, since this conversation has taken an unexpected turn to reflection on the life and works of Tran Duc Thao, can I plug the Shawn McHale article there about a very different literary world:

    The Nhan Van – Giai Pham affair takes its name from two periodicals, Nhan Van (Humanity) and Giai Pham (Beautiful works)… critical of the Party leadership in 1956. These criticisms ranged from condemnation of the way a literary prize was awarded to attacks on the lack of democratic freedoms… Writers depict the affair as a literary event centering on the demand that the Workers Party allow writers freedom to think and publish without heavy-handed censorship.

    …this affair…can be seen as a clash of high modernisms… a forward-looking vision in which scientific thinking and technology was invoked to shape and transform society. The Workers Party represents one variant of this vision in which an authoritarian state employed its full coercive powers to such ends…

    …the plethora of self-criticism texts that come out of this affair present one version of history: the regime forces most participants to confess to their “misdeeds.” How can we use such texts, as well as later historical representations of these events based on them? Second, memories of the affair have made their way into print in recent years. What is the status of such memories, and are they more reliable than self-criticisms?

  5. Brian Z – Your own comments were helpful insofar as you pushed me to articulate specific patterns I think I see. Thank you for that

    You’re welcome I guess? If there’s anything I’d have you take out of our back and forth questions is to ask yourself why with authors whose work you don’t feel are worthy nomination are inclined to think that they were only voted on for any other reason than the merit of the work itself and that others saw more where you did not. What’s provable is voters enjoyed the work and nominated/voted for it, assuming it was for any other reason without evidence as such feels like a negative portrayal of the work and award. It’s doing that thing while also asked constant obviously leading questions is what makes people throw Puppy accusations at you.

    When you’re not doing that you’re an excellent filker who has contributed great stuff and even when I disagree it’s interesting to see your opinions about books we’ve similarly read.

  6. Well “‘As You Know’ Bob” obviously your subtle grasp of the nuances of language doesn’t include implication. Sure there’s plausible deniability, she didn’t explicitly call him racist, and didn’t necessarily intend to. But the implication is there, after all she couldn’t have been calling him sexist because otherwise she’d have had to say “a female panelist of colour” and I’m sure you wouldn’t accept that if Larry’s fans had replied “Yeah, well I saw her being an arsehole to a White panelist” or “to a Latino panelist” you wouldn’t accept it if they said “Moi? I didn’t mean to imply she was racist…”

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