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. If you are talking about me, I don’t understand what The Shawdow has to do with this. Not a huge SF fan…

  2. Brian, as you should know if you can read and have a triple-digit IQ, I have made no objection to first-person past-tense narrators in fantasy, or in general. My objection is to a narrator telling the story of his own death in the past tense without there being some in-text reason for this to be possible.

    This is actually a pretty straightforward objection, and is frankly, one so widely understood that none of the people taking issue with my objection have actually been able to point to a well-regarded story structurally similar to “A Single Samurai.” The closest has been the experiential as opposed to memoiristic A KILLER INSIDE ME, and frankly, that ending is a cheap trick that Thompson depended on more than once in his career when he ran out of energy for his novels.

    What we’ve gotten instead is appeals to the fantastic (without any explicit fantastical reason) appeals to films, appeals to POV switching, and appeals to a convention that were it actually conventional, we’d all be able to name many stories like “Samurai.”

    So, do you have any?

  3. Bruce Baugh: Assume my ignorance.

    What people convicted of tax fraud, promoters of the birther conspiracy theory/theories, and defenders of the Confederate cause including the legitimacy of its secession are you speaking of?

    Are you referring to his father in the 1st instance? How is that Day’s fault?

  4. @Lamont Cranston:

    If you are talking about me, I don’t understand what The Shawdow has to do with this. Not a huge SF fan…

    Out of curiosity, what brings you here of all places? Also, did you cast a Hugo nomination ballot?

  5. I have been just following the dust-up from a distance. I did not. I don’t read SF.

    I am just asking questions of both sides.

    Does that make a difference?

    Am I not allowed to ask questions if I didn’t cast a ballot…I’ve asked questions about economics, not SF….

    “Of all places….” Snort…

    I have liberal Buddhist friends involved in the Tibetan Liberation Movement who house and feed the monks when the come to the US to visit and raise funds. Does that make me more acceptable?

  6. @Steve Moss

    “If the above is true, that sort of disproves that their efforts to get works on the Hugo ballots was due to politics (other than group politics), racism, homophobia or misongyny. The ELoE acted out of self-interest, based on your opinion.

    Am I wrong?”

    Embrace the power of “and”.

    Especially if the ELoE included, as I believe testimony indicates, Wright and Beale. To qualify for publication, it seems, by Castalia, requires a certain worldview, or very close to it; and that worldview is political, often homophobic, religiously bigoted, etc. So, by selecting from a pool of “friends”, they got the slant they are accused of getting.

    I honestly don’t think they went out of their way to choose bad stuff — I think they went “Hey, what stuff do we like the most in these categories” and what came to their minds was, fancy that, what they published/what people they knew published/a few other things. But that very approach incorporated a mindset — the mindset of people around them.

    And given that two of the ELoE, at least, are demonstrably homophobic and misogynist, well, the result was likely to be just that.

  7. @Lamont Cranston:

    “Of all places….” Snort…

    I have liberal Buddhist friends involved in the Tibetan Liberation Movement who house and feed the monks when the come to the US to visit and raise funds. Does that make me more acceptable?

    I was curious why you were spending time on a, well, blog about science fiction fandom, you not being a science fiction fan. Are your Buddhist friends science fiction fans? Is that why you mention them?

  8. “I don’t read SF. I am just asking questions of both sides. Does that make a difference?”

    Yes. This is a SF/F community.

  9. Hi Dr Science,

    Generally, what I see from students, clients, and rejected writers are these problems:

    1. explicit appeals to cinema. By which I mean stories that begin, literally, “A pair of children run through a field. They leap, and FREEZE FRAME!” It’s not illogical to do this, but it sure is corny. It can be done well if a writer is experimenting and critiquing the cinematic gaze, but mostly they’re just ripping it off.

    2. Breaks in the narrative where commercials should be rather than where scenes would end or when a narrator would stop detailing a story. Literally things like

    Bob pulled out his gun and pointed it at Tim’s head:

    ##

    Bang! Bang!

    The ## makes sense if you need to run an ad for Wesson Oil and want to keep the viewer in his seat, but there is no real break in space and/or time between the pointing and the firing, is there? So it is the same scene.

    3. No clue as to what is visually important in a scene or what a narrator would take note of. An example from a self-published novel:

    https://scontent-sjc2-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpf1/t31.0-8/1614034_10153763144675385_182949874_o.jpg

    We go from an extreme close-up of water evaporating to a generalized discussion of a nation’s climate and forty-year-old meteorological news, then we zoom into a bus station, then back outside the bus station to check out surrounding buildings, then an anthropomorphized bus pulls up, but who cares because it’s time to check out the jungle and some concrete bunkers a block or so away and a bunch of individuals all doing the same exact thing (mopping their brows), then we go to a medium shot of three other guys, and then hop in to one of their heads for a moment, but fuck that it’s time to describe a fountain before the guy even stops there, and then he does, and then we get we get an insert shot of the birds flying away because oh yeah the guy’s head just exploded but who cares about that what we really need are some close-ups of the eyes of the witnesses darting around—again people all doing the same thing.

    That’s not a written scene, it’s a summary of a filmic montage, and not a very good one, interspersed with special knowledge from an omniscient narrator about the weather and what a bus’s brakes are thinking.

    4. Slightly better than this sort of chaotic montage is obvious written “coverage”—establishing shot: “The castle was enormous and had battlements and flags and big stone walls etc etc.” Followed by “Inside a dark figure lurked, and a casual observer would find his face impossible to see in the shadows, frightening.” Followed by a description of the person’s face which we had just been told was impossible to see due to the shadows.

    4a. Related to this is the failure to understand how someone would tell a story, so we often see bits like:

    The room was silent. “Hey, wait a minute!” Bob said. “I have an idea.” The silent room is basically a wide shot and Bob’s speech a close-up. But written, it makes no sense because we’re told that the room was silent and the very next sentence is it not being silent at all. (It should be something like: For a moment, everyone was silent. Then Bob said, “Hey wait a minute! I have an idea!”)

    All this sort of thing. Basically, people just writing down the filmic pictures they see in their heads rather than trying to determine what a narrator—whether a character explicitly telling a story or implicitly experiencing it—would detail.

  10. Regarding the whole “death narrated by someone dead” . . .

    I seem to recall Neil Gaiman receiving two impressions from reading Peace, by Gene Wolfe. The first time Gaiman read it, he thought it was a collection of reminisces by a pleasant old man; when he re-read it when he was older, he made the inference that the story was being told by the ghost of the old man, who was actually a much darker and more unpleasant character.

    Which isn’t quite the concept being discussed, but I thought I’d throw that out there.

    (and since we live in the age of Google, here’s where Gaiman puts that out there, in a post mostly devoted to other topics. Gosh, it was 11 years ago.)

  11. > “All I’m saying is that a first-person past-tense narrator dying, without an explanation of exactly how the story was told, is not Always Terrible No Exceptions.”

    > “Yes, and my response is ‘Name some.'”

    Um, OK. Age of Iron by J. M. Coetzee. Although it’s told mostly in epistolary style, at the end this seems to change (e.g., in “J. M. Coetzee and the Power of Narrative” it is described as “Casting her rhetorical position as writer of a letter aside”) as the narrator describes the moment of her death.

  12. Nick,

    My objection is to a narrator telling the story of his own death in the past tense without there being some in-text reason for this to be possible.

    There are great stories in which a character dies and a narrative continues, of course. (Years of Rice an Salt came quickly to mind.)

    I’m not a writer as you see by the dumb things I say. I just think the magical setting already provides an in-text reason. If I were to give advice on how to improve the it without changing the structure, I might suggest thinking about the link between the samurai, the kaiju and the deaths. The narrator would expect to have a (Shinto) afterlife, Shinto animism relates to kaiju, and killing a kaiju could have spiritual reverberations, for example. So I would say (perhaps agree?) that the story could be improved by thinking more about what might go in the samurai’s head.

  13. @ rcade and Jim Henley: I see people talking about all sorts of things.

    I’ve read Stranger In A Strange Land and Dune.

    Can I please comment here now?

  14. Oh and Narnia and LofTR and His Dark Materials and a couple of other things too…

    Sorry, I mistyped, I am a fan…

  15. >> On the other hand, Kurt, did Lamont Cranston v1 ever really encounter the girasol in the original stories? >>

    Who cares? It’s a reference, not a continuity lesson.

  16. @Lamont Cranston:

    I’ve read Stranger In A Strange Land and Dune.

    Can I please comment here now?

    Do you think fans are slans?

  17. >> Can I please comment here now? >>

    No.

    This has just created a paradox that may destroy a small area of time. Please move at least five feet away from where you were when I typed this.

    If you’re not sure where you were when I typed this, you have the management’s apologies.

  18. Nick:

    Thanks, that’s very helpful. I see #2 a lot in chaptered works, pro or fan: it’s our old friend, end-the-chapter-with-a-cliffhanger. But I honestly don’t think I’ve seen it without a chapter break, just a little divider.

    #3: aha, now I have a word for that! Yes, I see that kind of thing a lot — though mostly from writers who don’t attempt things like “an encroachment of asphalt”, wtf. I’ve tended to think of this as “D&D style”, because there’s often overly-detailed descriptions of things like corridors and where the doors are placed. Mercedes Lackey does it too, so it’s hard to blame the kids.

    One thing you don’t mention that I see in fanfic is tennis-match POV shifts. For romantic scenes this can actually be very effective: it’s the literary equivalent of the standard filmed romance trope where the camera orbits a couple. But it’s definitely attempted by a *lot* of writers who have no idea how to make it succeed.

  19. I should be offline at this point, but the great Lamont Cranston Tapdance and Trainwreck Festival is far too entertaining.

    How do you “mistype” that many comments indicating you aren’t a fan and then suddenly remember/realize “I am a fan”?

  20. Moss – I’ve had a few beers so I’m comfortable responding. I am also one who typically leans towards the unwashed masses myself. My problem is the only folks I’ve seen make that division or imply that there are proles or unwashed masses are the Puppies. They’re the ones telling people what they are voting wrong. They make the unwashed masses comments as though it was said by Hugo voters when that was never said and no one was ever turned away. They make claims that they don’t respect the people they supposedly represent enough to clarify, they just say take it on faith that they’re right.

    As someone who leans towards unwashed masses they’re using an appeal to the common fan the way a rich politician says they really represent the working man, disingenuously and as pawns for selfish gain.

    There’s no lower case and upper case fans. There are just fans and some assholes trying to stir shit up.

    There was an article several wrap ups ago about how Puppies can’t wrap their heads around someone liking something they don’t like so therefore conspiracy/affirmative action. I’ll look for it as some of what you’ve said seems a case example of the fact.

    Back to drinking beer (Local brewery because I’m part of the beererati and don’t drink garbage). Hope you had a good memorial day, I got to run around with my nephew which is always a blast.

  21. @Robert Reynolds:

    How do you “mistype” that many comments indicating you aren’t a fan and then suddenly remember/realize “I am a fan”?

    Rhetoric.

    Hey, it’s been awhile since we did the “rhetoric” joke.

  22. Two stories that had first person narration by people revealed to be dead: Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg and Nobody True by James Herbert.

  23. Lamont Cranston III: I just came over here to ridicule people about what they don’t know about economics. Why do you people keep asking me about my username? Why aren’t you talking about economics? What does any of this have to do with SF?

  24. In regard to the Memoir thing, what you got from it was actually what I was trying to say — actual memoirs generally do NOT recount word-for-word dialogue, whereas “memoir style fiction” frequently does. In other words, “memoir style fiction” generally does not read like an actual memoir that was told or dictated by the narrator, and no one protests that this is unrealistic, because a convention in fiction is that a narrator can recount events exactly, even if that would not really be possible. “Memoir style fiction” already breaks with logical narrative realism to a certain degree. So my point was, you can break stylistic realism — that far or further — to whatever degree the readers will accept it.

    But frankly, we’re not really disagreeing or arguing much if at all. I *agree* with you that a character narrating their own death as the end of a past-tense story breaks narrative logic. I’m simply arguing that there are stories where deliberately and thoughtfully breaking narrative logic is entirely appropriate. I *agree* with you that this would in almost no cases be in a story with otherwise conventional narration (although I wouldn’t say Never Ever Ever because, hey, I can always be surprised.)

    I actually doubt you would say that it is never, ever appropriate for an author to break narrative logic. (If you do, well, I disagree and would point to books like “At Swim-Two-Birds” to bear me out, but I really don’t think that’s what you’re saying.) And if what you’re saying is that it’s a bad idea to do so for no good reason, or in a story with no other narrative logic breaks that set it up, then I would certainly agree.

    All I’m saying is that it is possible to write a story that deliberately breaks narrative logic in this way and does so well. If you honestly believe it is completely impossible in all circumstances … well, I guess we will simply have to agree to disagree. But I never thought that was what you were getting at, and never thought I was saying anything particularly controversial or in disagreement with you by stating that it is possible.

  25. Brian Z – I haven’t been back to the old thread, did you ever say what pattern was causing the decline in the Hugos?

  26. Kyra,

    Age of Iron

    You made me dig up Coatzlee.

    “Is it time?” I said.

    I got back into bed, into the tunnel between the cold sheets. The curtains parted; he came in beside me. For the first time I smelled nothing. He took me in his arms and held me with mighty force, so that the breath went out of me in a rush. From that embrace there was no warmth to be had.

  27. Rhetoric.

    Hey, it’s been awhile since we did the “rhetoric” joke

    That may be because the Rhetoric drinking game left people paralytic.

  28. @Jim Henley-That explains a lot.

    Aristotle left a message with the answering service, telling us he has a rhetoric headache.

  29. Lamont Cranston III : “I don’t read SF. I am just asking questions of both sides. Does that make a difference?”

    rcade on May 25, 2015 at 7:29 pm : Yes. This is a SF/F community.

    Lamont Cranston III on May 25, 2015 at 7:38 pm : I’ve read Stranger In A Strange Land and Dune. Can I please comment here now?

    Both of them in seven minutes? Well done!

    Lamont Cranston III on May 25, 2015 at 7:39 pm said: Oh and Narnia and LofTR and His Dark Materials and a couple of other things too…

    Wait – all those in the next minute?

    Goddammit, the Singularity is here, and the AIs are JAQing off on File 770!

  30. Lamont Cranston III: I was thinking of folks involved with running WorldNetDaily, which his father helped found and to which he contributed for a while, and remains in touch with. My point is that he’s grown up and worked as an adult in an environment filled with people who keep pressing their wrong ideas until they get convicted and who champion those who’ve clearly lost the “was this acceptable” battle in the past. They – and he – seem really unwilling to learn some obvious basic lessons, and in my experience, that quality of character screws up more purely academic understanding too.

  31. Jim Henley on May 25, 2015 at 5:05 pm said:

    Thank you for this very clear post about this subject. Your link and personal experiences highlight a misconception and problem with this idea.

    Does that opinion make me a racist?

    We all live, breathe and absorb the culture we’re raised in. Even those who consciously resist the stereotypes and struggle to change our culture think, say and do racist, sexist, ableist, etc. things. That’s the water we fish swim in and we can’t not swim in it.

    A tiny example: after my granddaughter was born I found comments like “you look pretty” popping out of my mouth on occasion. I never say such things to my grandson. He gets praise for what he does, not how he looks. Does that make me a sexist? Well, not exactly, but those are the kinds of sexist statements that impact a young girl’s self-image and idea of what she should pay attention to. I’m aware of the problem and repress the impulses my culture has imprinted on me. I go out of my way to praise her for what she does and when she asks for approval for her appearance (because she’s swimming in the same water), I try to de-emphasize the importance of being “pretty” (without, I hope, being the dreaded ‘preachy’).

    So, to me, -part- of the difference between being an -ist and not is whether you’re propping up negative stereotypes or not.

  32. “Stevie: I read Day’s post on Scalzi’s deal. Don’t see any freaking out or am I missing something? Day thought it was a good deal for Scalzi. He did think it conservative and he still has no respect for Scalzi as a writer, but not any freaking out that I saw. ”

    Depends on how you define freaking out, I guess, given that he also referred to the deal as “A Lesson in Con Artistry,” and referred to Scalzi as a “mediocre and derivative hack without any discernible talent beyond self-promotion and petty snark,” “repeatedly lying,” and claimed that the deal, somehow, means conventional publishing is not long for this world. Given that Scalzi is his sworn arch-nemesis, a deal of that size has gotta sting.

  33. Goddammit, the Singularity is here, and the AIs are JAQing off on File 770!

    B-b-but both sides!

  34. Matt Y,

    Brian Z – I haven’t been back to the old thread, did you ever say what pattern was causing the decline in the Hugos?

    For me, the Hugo shortlist is successful if it makes me think seriously about which of multiple works should be honored as best of the year. Last thread, I explained how for 2011-2014 (and now 2015), the Best Novel shortlist didn’t do it for me.

    I offered a couple possible explanations: 1) it is a coincidence, 2) my view of past nominees is rose-tinted, 3) there is a pattern linked to changes in the pool of Hugo nominators and their nominating practices.

    Jim Henley added another fascinating explanation: I experienced a “fan birthday” around 2010, morphing into a more sophisticated and demanding reader.

    To address (4) first, I did take a renewed interest in SFF around 2010, so it is true I started to “care” more about the awards. The bulk of my reading education was well before that, though, so I’m not sure things changed just because it was my birthday. In 2010, I found The City and The City and The Windup Girl to be highly deserving, and the only real clunker was Robert Sawyer. In 2009, Anathem pushed all kinds of envelopes, Little Brother was at least innovative and compulsively readable, it is hard to argue with people liking The Graveyard Book, and (as usual with Stross) I was ambivalent about Saturn’s Children. In 2008, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and Brasyl, plus my mixed feelings about Halting State. In 2007, Rainbow’s End, Blindsight and Effelheim, and so on.

    It feels like it is not just me.

    Is it (3)? The arguments appearing on this thread that 2014 was characterized by fans rallying around “diversity” as a theme might support the idea that there has been a shift in nominating practices related to a larger pool of members coming in and the use of the internet to communicate about preferences, and that the shift started earlier than the slate voting of 2015. But I don’t know.

  35. “One thing you don’t mention that I see in fanfic is tennis-match POV shifts”

    I think a lot of those come from RPG – not D&D-style, but collaborative multi-person storytelling, done generally over instant messaging with each author playing a different character. It takes a good editor to turn that into a single-POV narrative.

  36. All right, we’ve had enough fun. Lamont, we’re making reference to your nom de commentaire; because your lack of familiarity with even the most common parts of his mythology is surprising. If your ID was “NYYankee15” and you didn’t know how he died, we’d make the same sorts of comments.

    But it’s nice to have it confirmed by an outside source (since you didn’t know what lurked in my heart) that there’s no evil there.

    As for an economics discussion, I’m not sure how much Mr. Beale and I would have to talk about, certainly not the way our discussions have been going so far. For reference, my work was heavy in combinatorial auction theory, probability, information theory, and crypto.

    But for economic debates, I usually just bet money. Much more efficient.

  37. Kyra,

    I think the ending of AGE OF IRON is rather more ambiguous than you lay out:

    I got back into bed, into the tunnel between the cold sheets. The curtains parted; he came in beside me. For the first time I smelled nothing. He took me in his arms and held me with mighty force, so that the breath went out of me in a rush. From that embrace there was no warmth to be had.

    Vercueil is a weird figure—one can fruitfully read him as not being real. There’s some line about writing him because it enables her to write herself or something like that, if I remember correctly.

    Obviously, books and stories can successfully violate narrative logic. However:

    1. in most cases of well-written stories, seeming breaks of narrative logic are in fact not breaks (see above), and

    2. one cannot successfully break narrative logic naively.

    So summoning up the shade of David Foster Wallace, as was done this morning, in defense of “A Single Samurai”, is a non-starter. So too is summoning up the whole slate of ghosts, Bardo realms, spirits, devils, present-tense narratives, ambiguous narratives, narratives where the narrator does not actually describe his own death, etc.

    I’d also suggest that memoiristic first-person fiction has many fewer lines of perfectly remembered dialogue than either experiential first-person narratives or third-person narratives. I certainly have spent a lot of time in my editorial career circling entire pages of dialogue and writing in the margins “Where is your narrator? He has become a recording device.”

  38. @Kyra — I absolutely think you can have a first-person narrator dying. But you’d have to be damn good to do it, and I imagine most of the people who’d try it would fail.

  39. Jarnoche:

    Good point, I hadn’t thought of RPGs because it’s not something I do.

    I’ve known fanwriters who can do tennis-match or orbiting POV (tight 3rd-person) and have it *work*, but it has a really high degree of difficulty. On the other hand, many young fanwriters are so insecure that they tell readers in the author’s note that dividers signal a POV shift, or they even mark different chapters or sections with the relevant name: “Kirk’s POV”, “McCoy’s POV”, etc.

    I’m sure it bugs the daylights out of Nick and other teachers, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a flaw when a text has shifting POV. It does, indeed, make it more cinematic, but most people these days are *at least* as familiar with cinematic storytelling as they are with purely text narratives.

  40. On POV switching:

    POV switching in a scene predates film, so I didn’t add it to my list. It is more of a challenge than a violation of narrative logic—there are good reasons to switch POV in a scene, and in romance the triggering of love at first sight is definitely one. (“Who is that dark man brooding in the corner…” “Oh my, an angel just walked through the door and into my heart.”) The good reason to switch POV is when something important or profound happens to one of the characters. But there’s no need to check on everyone’s interiority in every moment of every scene, which seems to happen a lot in beginner writing.

    I agree that RPGs are also an issue and might be influencing fanfic. I saw a lot of horrifying writing that was considered “good” back in the 1990s when I participated on a variety of MUSHes. If you didn’t detail what your eyebrows were doing with every emote, you were considered a hack. Yikes! Everyone was the star of their own narrative too, so definitely, sanding it down to a decent story would be difficult.

    One author who does a great job at POV switching in a scene is Edward St. Aubyn, who picks his shots. During a funeral, when nobody is doing much, he’ll go from head to head.

  41. Note that GRRM does a lot of shifting POV, both as writer and editor– often because he’s mushing stuff written by multiple authors into a single narrative.

  42. Dr Science,

    I have no particular problem with POV switching between scenes or chapters! (“Roving POV.”) It’s really within a scene that POV switches are potentially an issue.

  43. Brian,

    The idea that because a story is a fantasy pretty much anything goes is the destruction of fantasy. If Gandalf was teleporting objects all over the place for example, why not just teleport the ring into Mount Doom and be done with it three pages in?

  44. Brian Z – Is it (3)?

    3 is a pattern linked to a change in Hugo nominators. My question was ‘What is this pattern and how did it lead to the decline in nominations’.

    None of what you said addressed that. So, is it 3? And if so, would you be able to clarify what the pattern lies behind your third door? For that matter if there was a change in nominators how so, and how that in turn lead to a decline in fiction that was considered award worthy in nearly every other venue?

    You addressed another poster’s comment, as door number 4. That’s cool but not at all what I asked.

  45. Matt Y: so far the only pattern identified is “Brian didn’t like them as much”

  46. Teleportation? When it would just be simpler (and need little to no magic) to have one of the eagles drop the Ring into the volcano?

    My least favorite part of LotR is poor Frodo and Sam slogging through the wastes of Mordor. It doesn’t work in the book, and it takes too much time in the movie.

    (And I did enjoy the movies.)

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