A Throne of Chew Toys 6/3

aka The Knights Who say Ni Award

In today’s roundup: Vox Day, Lindsay Duncan, Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag, David Gerrold, Sara Amis, Dave Freer, Chris Gerrib, Lisa J. Goldstein, Lis Carey, Rebekah Golden, Russell Blackford, Camestros Felapton, Mabrick, Will McLean, Alexandra Erin and cryptic others. (Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day sveinung  and ULTRAGOTHA.)

Vox Day on Vox Popoli

“In the SF world rages a war” – June 3

Markku Koponen

[The translation of an article in Finland’s largest newspaper profiling Markku Koponen and Castalia House.]


Sci-fi literature enthusiasts in USA are in civil war. A conservative mutiny is trying to push out of bestseller lists and awards the mainstream, “tolerant” sci-fi. The battle is already being called culture wars – and one of the headquarters is located in Finland.

There is a man in Kouvola, and before the man, a computer.

Together, the man and the computer are in the front lines of a battle that is shaking the entire world of sci-fi literature.

The man and the computer were revealed to the world, spring this year.

At the time was published “the Oscars of sci-fi books” – Hugo-awards – nominees.

The entire sci-fi world roared: lists were full of works by religious extremists and ultraconservatives.

The surprise was so big that even The New York Times and Washington Post wrote about it.

And behind the entire surprise were a man and a computer in Kouvola.

The name of the man is Markku Koponen, and on the computer runs a company called Castalia House.


Lindsay Duncan on Unicorn Ramblings

“Tuesday Thoughts” – June 3

Behind all this kerfluffle is a tension between the idea that the quality of fiction, like all art, is subjective; and the action of presenting an award, which gives the veneer of some objective quality.  Let’s add one more statement to the narrative:  diversity is a good thing and necessary in a genre that builds upon possibilities, but we don’t want to set up a forced, artificial diversity.  (Already, you can see the questions bubbling up.)  What am I thinking of when I say “artificial” diversity?  It’s when a work rises to the top not because of merit, but because its author or subject matter checks a particular box.  It would be like saying that every novel awards slate has to include one urban fantasy, two epic fantasies, one hard science fiction novel and one soft science fiction novel … even if there were three amazing soft SF books that year.


SF Signal

“MIND MELD: Genre Awards: What are They Good for Anyway?” – June 3

[Bradley P. Beaulieu:] I’m saddened by the tactics that were chosen by the various Puppy campaigns to game the Hugos, but I’m confident the award will live on, and I’m hopeful that in the end the voting base for the award will be broadened. After all, as long as everyone is given a fair shake, how can giving a voice to more fans be a bad thing?


Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag on Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog

“Oh dear, not the freaking Hugos again…” – June 3

On Facebook, David Gerrold nails the problem with the slate nominations in the Hugo awards. Namely, the people who participated have developed a narrative of “evil liberals” rather than “good works worthy of nomination for the Hugo Award.” Part of the post was also quoted at File770. Of note is the fact that Gerrold has asked these questions repeatedly, and he describes the “answers” he gets from slate-voting puppy-supporters….

…The last question, #6, is a no-brainer. The excellence of the story is the only thing that truly matters. There have been some fantastic works by authors that I wouldn’t want to sit at the same dinner table with. And I’m sure there are awful works by people who completely agree with me on every major political point. Politics are utterly irrelevant to the conversation. Or, at least, they should be.


David Gerrold on Facebook – June 3

As long as we’re still talking about the sad puppies and the rabid puppies, there is one question that has not yet been asked.

Will Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen be attending the Hugo award ceremony? Will Vox Day and John C. Wright be attending the ceremony? What about the other nominees and the various puppy supporters?

I have been told that none of the major architects of the slates have attending memberships. So the answer is no, they will not be there.

(Some of the slated nominees will likely be there, but that’s not the question I’m asking.)

And that causes me to wonder —

Some of the puppy supporters have said this whole thing is about reclaiming “the real science fiction” from those who have hijacked it into the realm of literary merit. (Something like that.)

Okay — but if we take that at face value — then why aren’t the leaders of the movement coming to the award ceremony to cheer for their nominees? If this is really that important, why aren’t they coming to the party?

Not attending the celebration makes it look like this was never about winning the awards as much as it was about disrupting them.


David Gerrold in a comment on Facebook – June 3

I did not know that Brad Torgersen had been deployed. I’m sure he will serve admirably and I expect him to return home safely. I might disagree with him on some things, but I wish him no ill.


Sara Amis on Luna Station Quarterly

“Hugos, Puppies, and Joanna Russ” – June 3

I always intended from the beginning to write about Joanna Russ. How could I not? It just so happens, though, that she is particularly relevant right at this particular moment.

So, there are some shenanigans with this year’s Hugo awards. And by “shenanigans” I mean “cheating” in the finest, most self-righteous, letter-but-not-the-spirit-of-the-law, but-really-we’re-the-good-guys fashion.

“But some white women, and black women, and black men, and other people of color too, have actually acquired the nasty habit of putting the stuff on paper, and some of it gets printed, and printed material, especially books, gets into bookstores, into people’s hands, into libraries, sometimes even into university curricula.

What are we to do?” —-from How to Suppress Women’s Writing by Joanna Russ

I might add, some of it gets nominated for Hugos, and even wins. What are we to do???


Vox Day on Vox Popoli

“Hugo Recommendations: Best Fan Writer” – June 3

This is how I am voting in the Best Fan Writer category. Of course, I merely offer this information regarding my individual ballot for no particular reason at all, and the fact that I have done so should not be confused in any way, shape, or form with a slate or a bloc vote, much less a direct order by the Supreme Dark Lord of the Evil Legion of Evil to his 368 Vile Faceless Minions or anyone else.

  1. Jeffro Johnson
  2. Dave Freer
  3. Amanda S. Green
  4. Cedar Sanderson
  5. Laura J. Mixon

With regards to Mixon, I still don’t consider a professional writer with five novels published by Tor who also happens to be the current SFWA President’s wife to be what anything remotely recognizable as a proper “Fan Writer”, but that ship sailed back when John Scalzi, Jim Hines, and Kameron Hurley waged their successful campaigns for it. No sense in fighting battles already lost. The more relevant problem is that Best Related Work would be a more reasonable category for a single expose, and Deidre Saorse Moen’s expose of Marion Zimmer Bradley was a considerably more important work in that regard. That being said, I don’t regard the Hugo Awards as being the place to recognize investigative journalism, otherwise I would have nominated Saorse Moen’s stunning revelations about Marion Zimmer Bradley as a Best Related Work. But regardless, Mixon did publish a credible expose and she is a legitimate, if not necessarily compelling candidate.


Dave Freer in comment #58 on the same post at Vox Popoli – June 3

“Freer’s been an ass to me, and incoherent at length to pretty much everybody” sniff. I shall wear this with such pride, just because it comes from Crissy! I am amply rewarded for the time spent pointing out he was mathematically illiterate and logically incompetent.

To be fair to Mixon (I do not approve of her biased reporting, but still) 1)I have 20 novels published. 2) Both Amanda and Cedar are independently published – and both quite successful at it. I suspect they outsell Mixon, who IIRC has day job and a husband to share cost (he also has a day job). Strictly speaking she’s more of a ‘hobbyist’ than any of the three of us. 3) I am not, and never have been married to the pres of SFWA. Neither have Amanda or Cedar or Jeffro. Speaking strictly for myself, I hope to avoid that dreadful fate.

I raised the same objection to my being nominated Vox does on MGC when I was first put on recommended lists and, um, never found out my name was still there. I actually didn’t know I had been nominated (the Hugo Admins didn’t succeed in contacting me) until the nasty messages started popping up telling me I was going to suffer for it and should immediately abase myself. I don’t bully well, so despite the fact I didn’t want to be there, or feel I should be, I still am. Screw them and the donkey they rode into town on (the difference is hard to establish, but the donkey is the more intelligent and prettier).

Jeffro seems a good guy, and I can vouch for Amanda and Cedar.


Chris Gerrib on Private Mars Rocket

“Hugos, Fan Writer, Rant Regarding” – June 3

First, per section 3.3.15 of the WSFS Constitution, Fan Writer (like Best Editor) is an award for the person. It is not, like Best Novel, an award for a particular work. It is thus perfectly acceptable to say “fan writer X is a jerk” and use that as a critique of their nomination.

Actually, it is entirely within the rules to vote based on any criterion, if you want to be a stickler for the rules. Or, people who insist on following the letter of the law do not get to lecture me on the spirit of things.

Second, David Freer is a poor writer, at least with regards to his blog. His posts are lengthy, poorly-thought-out, (see, for example, his 1500 word post on Hugo probabilities, discussed and linked to by me here) and not to me particularly entertaining.

Third, in general the Hugo nominees are asking me and the other voters for a favor. They are asking that we take time out of our day, consider their material, and in the end give one of them an award. I don’t know how things work on Planet Puppy, but here on Earth, if one is asking somebody for a favor, normally the person requesting the favor attempts normal human politeness.


Lisa J. Goldstein on theinferior4

“The Hugo Ballot: All the Rest of the Novels” – June 3

I think the final vote on the novel will come down to what kind of sub-genre people like to read. Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword deals with galactic empires and planetary intrigue, but also plays with ideas about gender. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison is charming and elegantly told, a tale of manners in a fantasy setting. Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem dances out on the far edges of scientific speculation.  Really, any one of these could win and I’d be happy, but if I had to choose (and I guess I do), for me the best of them is Ancillary Sword.


Lis Carey on Lis Carey’s Library

“Adventures in SciFi Publishing — Best Fancast Hugo Nominee” – June 3


This is the first of the Hugo-nominated fancasts that I’ve listened to. Briefly — it’s good.


Rebekah Golden

“2015 Hugo Awards Best Movie: Reviewing Edge of Tomorrow” – June 3

Altogether a fun little movie, well handled and nicely plotted. I haven’t watched it, wasn’t planning to, but am happy I did. I will probably rewatch it before I decide how it stacks up against the other movie nominees.


Russell Blackford on Metamagician and The Hellfire Club

“Rest Related Work nominations reviewed & discussed – Hugo Awards Voting” – June 3

Antonelli’s Letters from Gardner seems, from what I’ve read, to be about the author’s development, at a relatively late stage of life, as a well-published author of (mainly) short stories. It includes a considerable amount of Antonelli’s fiction, with much commentary and reflection, and amongst it some perfectly sound advice on the craft of writing. If it were up for a lesser (perhaps regional) award, I’d have no difficulty in voting for it. From what I’ve read, however, I just don’t think the book is good, distinguished, or interesting enough to be worth a Hugo Award. It does not stand up well against past winners. Your mileage may vary. It’s not a bad book, and I’d have happily read the whole thing if it had been provided in the Hugo Voters Packet.

“Why Science is Never Settled”, by Tedd Roberts, is a well-written and thoughtful discussion of its subject matter. It popularises certain ideas in the history and philosophy of science, and does a workmanlike job of it. It was aimed at an SF-reading audience, and it was doubtless of interest to many people within that audience, but it does not seem to me to be sufficiently distinguished or relevant to deserve this award. There is some relationship to science fiction – enough that it would interest many readers who are also SF readers – but it’s a rather tenuous one.



“Hugo Art” – June 3

Fan artist category was rather disappointing; while I don’t want to say that any of these artists are bad, many artists I’ve seen on places like Deviant Art or here on WordPress have impressed me more; I really just don’t feel like many of these are ‘best of the best’ quality in terms of sci-fi art, at least by what I’ve seen. The lone exception is Elizabeth Legget, whose work, while not really blowing me away, is evocative and impressive enough that she easily rises to the top in this category….

In the Professional Artist category, I’d almost say that Julie Dillon wins by virtue of including a much larger portfolio to better display the range of her work….

Lastly, I’d like to note that it’s been interesting to see how the Fan Writer category is playing out. When I think of Fan Writing, I think of Algis Budrys and Baird Searles, who wrote on topic about notable books, movies and television that was relevant to fans of Speculative Fiction. One strange notion I’ve seen floated is that a Fan Writer should be writing ABOUT rather than TO the fandom, yet ironically those Fan Writers who have been writing more about the fandom than to them are paying the price, to an extent, for doing so. I enjoy the Mad Genius Club, but the rants about culture wars type stuff are going to come off to dedicated culture warriors about as well as Ann Coulter telling that Muslim girl to ride a camel. Meanwhile, many of those who don’t find pdfs an inaccessible format (sometimes grudgingly) acknowledge that Jeffro’s kept a laser-like focus on important works of Science-fiction and Fantasy, so we’re starting to see sort of a ‘man, we kind of want to hate this guy, but he’s actually writing about and bringing attention to some great authors!’ reaction. Given Jeffro’s decidedly apolitical approach (not ‘this is conservative/liberal’, ‘this is feminist/anti-feminist’, but ‘this is awesome’) to his subject matter combined with some of the backlash against Mixon (for myriad reasons), I think he has a pretty good shot in this category.


Adult Onset Atheist

“SNARL: Championship B’tok” – June 3

This novelette lacks several of the critical elements that any string of words needs to tie it up into a story; the most glaring of these exposes itself as a regular disregard for continuity. It is impossible to tell if this story is actually a chapter of a larger story, or it is just half-written. I get the impression that this author may be able to wrote, and write stories, but this is not one of them. I will eventually pull out a reasonably good excuse for awarding one whole star to this novelette.


Camestros Felapton

“The Puppy Works – Ranked from Bad to Okness” – June 3

So below the fold is an attempt to rank all the Puppy nominated works (not including dramatic, editorial or artistic) altogether from the worst to the least worst. I’ll spoil the suspense by revealing that “Wisdom From My Internet” not only came top but also provides a neat demonstration why rankings can be inadequate when what you need is some kind of measurement scale.


Mabrick on Mabrick’s Mumblings

“Skin Game A Novel of the Dresden Files Book 15 by Jim Butcher” – June 3

….That was a two paragraph introduction to the review of “Skin Game” by Jim Butcher, for which I am somewhat sorry to inflict upon you, but felt compelled to clarify for them that know of the Hugo Award drama. There are strong feelings on all sides of this issue and some will feel like I have somehow betrayed them by listening to and reviewing this book. Poppycock. Jim Butcher is a New York times best-selling author. He didn’t get there because of the Sad Puppies and he deserves a thoughtful and respectful review of his work just like I’ve done with all the other nominees so far (as part of my Nebula Nominee reviews.) Thinking otherwise is puerile behavior as bad as that exhibited by the Sad Puppies. I don’t believe this applies to all authors and publishing houses on the ballot, for some of them were self-serving in the extreme, but it does apply to Jim Butcher and Tor Books, his publisher.


Will McLean on Commonplace Book

“Nutty Nuggets” – June 2

“What are we looking for again?” said Liu, the technician from Mars Spacefleet.

“Ejecta from Perdita, of course.You saw the images we got from Alaunt. One of what hit Perdita shredded the cargo module and blew debris on a diverging course. The hydrogen tanks were holed too, but we’re not going to waste time looking for hydrogen in space. You have the cargo manifest.” Church, agent for Tranjovian and its insurance agency, was a stubby, thick-lipped, stocky man with heavy eyebrows. Perdita had gone silent on an unmanned low-energy trip to the Jovian moons and Alaunt had found what was left of her hull after a tedious search of her extrapolated course.

“Right.” said Liu,  as a document came up on his screen. “Spare parts and luxury goods: single-malt scotch, Napoleon brandy, macadamia nuts and cashews.”

“The liquids will have frozen that far out, so we’ll be looking for nutty nuggets. A pretty unique spectral signature beyond Ceres.” ….


Alexandra Erin on A Blue Author Is About To Write

Sad Puppies Review Books: THE POKY LITTLE PUPPY – June 3

poky-little-puppy-248x300Reviewed by Special Guest Reviewer James May

…Here’s the dividing line and the crucial issue: I don’t care what you do. I don’t care about any of your initiatives. What I care about is it is never expressed without dehumanizing men and whites as racist, women-hating, homophobes who have conspired and continue to conspire to keep everyone but the straight white male out of SFF. That is a lie we have proved with facts over and over again. The history of SFF as portrayed by SJWs is a hoax. It has never been any more exclusionary than Field & Stream.

433 thoughts on “A Throne of Chew Toys 6/3

  1. Maximillian: The really interesting thing, though, was where the Awer lieutenant came right out and said “Yes, in fact, the aptitudes are now being skewed toward these guys and away from the upper classes, obviously.”

    From Ancillary Justice, about 15.8% in:

    “These aptitudes,” said Jen Shinnan. “You took them, Lieutenants?” Both indicated affirmatively. The aptitudes were the only way into the military, or any government post — though that didn’t encompass all assignments available.
    “No doubt,” said Jen Shinnan, “the test works well for you, but I wonder if it’s suited to us Shis’urnans.”

    “Why is that?” asked Lieutenant Skaaiat, with slightly frowning amusement.
    “Has there been a problem?” asked Lieutenant Awn, still stiff, still annoyed with Jen Shinnan.

    “Well.” Jen Shinnan picked up a napkin, soft and bleached a snowy white, and wiped her mouth. “Word is, last month in Kould Ves all the candidates for civil service were ethnic Orsians.”

    Lieutenant Awn blinked in confusion. Lieutenant Skaaiat smiled. “You mean to say,” she said, looking at Jen Shinnan but also directing her words to Lieutenant Awn, “that you think the testing is biased.”

    Jen Shinnan folded her napkin and set it down on the table beside her bowl. “Come now, Lieutenant. Let us be honest. There’s a reason so few Orsians occupied such posts before you arrived. Every now and then you find an exception — the Divine is a very respectable person, I grant you. But she’s an exception. So when I see twenty Orsians destined for civil service posts, and not a single Tanmind, I can’t help but think either the test is flawed, or… well. I can’t help but remember that it was the Orsians who first surrendered, when you arrived. I can’t blame you for appreciating that, for wanting to… acknowledge that. But it’s a mistake.”

    Lieutenant Awn said nothing. Lieutenant Skaaiat asked, “Assuming you’re correct, why would that be a mistake?”

    “It’s as I said before. They just aren’t suited to positions of authority. Some exceptions, yes, but…”

    (later, as Awn and Skaaiat are walking away)

    “Besides, Lieutenant Skaaiat said, “she’s right. Oh, not that foolishness about Orsians, no, but she’s right to be suspicious about the aptitudes. You know yourself the tests are susceptible to manipulation.” Lieutenant Awn felt a sick, betrayed indignation at Lieutenant Skaaiat’s words, but said nothing, and Lieutenant Skaaiat continued. “For centuries only the wealthy and well-connected tested as suitable for certain jobs. Like, say, officers in the military. In the last, what, fifty, seventy-five years, that hasn’t been true. Have the lesser houses suddenly begun to produce officer candidates where they didn’t before?”

    “I don’t like where you’re headed with this,” snapped Lieutenant Awn, tugging slightly at their linked arms, trying to pull away. “I didn’t expect it from you.”

    “No, no,” protested Lieutenant Skaaiat, and didn’t let go, drew her closer. “The question is the right one, and the answer the same. The answer is no, of course. But does that mean the tests were rigged before, or rigged now?”

    “And your opinion?”

    “Both. Before and now.”

  2. The way I read the passage I quoted above, the aptitudes in the past were always rigged so that only the Shis’urnans were ever successful, and Jen Shinnan is upset because any Orsians being successful now is clearly evidence the system is rigged — if the test were “fair”, no Orsians would be successful.

    Lieutenant Skaaiat says, regarding the possibility of accepting a bribe from Jen Shinnan to ensure her niece’s test results, “I won’t need to. The child will test well, likely get herself sent to the territorial capital for training to take a nice civil service post.”

    To me, what this says is that, while it’s possible the Orsians are now the recipients of “Affirmative Action”, it’s much more likely that they are simply testing as well as they always did — they are just being awarded the correct scores now, and the Shis’urnans aren’t being unfairly disadvantaged, they’re just upset because they think all civil service posts should be going to Shis’urnans, as they always have in the past.

  3. And yes, I guess if you’ve spent your whole life as the recipient of white male privilege, and you think that white males by rights should continue to be the ones in the position of dominance and privilege because they are by their very nature superior, I can understand why you might find the above passage offensive.

  4. To me, what this says is that, while it’s possible the Orsians are now the recipients of “Affirmative Action”, it’s much more likely that they are simply testing as well as they always did — they are just being awarded the correct scores now

    There wasn’t any testing of them “before” — they’ve only just received Radchaai citizenship and become eligible to test. The bigoted Tanmind official was complaining that ALL of the civil service jobs were awarded to Orsians. That’s just as unlikely as NONE of the prime jobs going to Orsians.

    I didn’t see it as the Radch removing the bias in the tests; to me it clearly looked like the bias had simply been reversed, which is why Skaaiat said the tests were manipulated “both then and now.” It doesn’t look to me like the Aptitudes were ever actually meritocratic or ever will be. Therefore I don’t see this as any kind of “liberal message”. I see it as a reflection of the total control the Emperor exerts over the Radch Empire — except that during the events of the book —

    (Spoilers, though if you haven’t read the book why on Earth are you reading this discussion still??)

    There’s not one mind trying to control and manipulate things in the Empire, there’s two. They’re playing chess against each other with everyone else in the Radch as their chessmen. Neither mind has an interest in having fair Aptitudes — that would be offering the opposition a ridiculous advantage. One mind has historically been in charge of skewing the Aptitudes, and now the other mind is in there skewing things in the other direction. It’s NOT a case of “Oh, the tests are now fair so the formerly excluded are now getting in because they were competent all along, take that you bigoted classists!” — while it’s true that the lower classes were unfairly excluded, that’s not the point of this revelation in the book. It’s not in the least about fairness. It’s about how the Radch is divided against itself and pulling in two opposing directions at once. It’s a warning that something’s very wrong at the heart of the Radch, not a sign of hope.

  5. Question for the hive mind: Has anybody ever made Heinlein a character in a book?

    He made a pseudonymous appearance (along with several other SF figures) in Rocket to the Morgue by Anthony Boucher.

  6. I should be a little clearer about that last sentence before I crash for the night — it’s not a sign of hope and better times coming for the lower classes and greater fairness and equality in the Radch etc. etc. etc. While in the long term it might be hopeful to think that the Radch can change and stop being so thoroughly evil and oppressive, in the short term it just means a huge civil war is coming and a lot of people are going to die, most of them from those same lower classes. I mean, the Orsians all getting given the prime jobs was part of setting them up to be massacred by the Tanmind, right? That wasn’t to their benefit. They were being used, is all.

  7. @May Tree:

    Had you gotten to the end of AJ when you put forth that interpretation? I’m asking because while it tallies with Breq’s opinion I think the situation is a little more ambiguous…

    …given that one of the Anaanders claims to be working to fix the inequity at the heart of the Radch, eg. subtly working towards a fairer society and putting an end to the horrific harvesting of corpse soldiers.

  8. @Meredith
    Are there any Dutch authors of sf/f you’d recommend over Heuvelt?

    My favourite’s Paul Evanby, who also writes in English. In fact he’s got a new story up at Strange Horizons just now. If his novel De Scrypturist ever gets translated I’d recommend that… but don’t hold your breath on that one.

    I’ve read promising things about Corinne Duyvis‘ debut YA novel Otherbound, but that’s still on my list. Far as I know she only writes in English.

  9. I have a low tolerance for grimdark; I’m fine in shorter fiction but anything longer I get angst fatigue. I’m definitely not part of any movement and I don’t have a philosophical problem with other people enjoying it. Its a bit weird that there is one!

  10. @ Alfred

    Tell me a bit about De Scrypturist, if you don’t mind? If it sounds like my kind of thing I’ll try to get hold of a couple of copies. I’m learning Dutch. My Dad speaks it, which helps, but I didn’t learn as a kid, and the method we’re using now is translating books, basically. I translate three pages, then we skype for an hour to read it out and talk it over, and I make corrections to what I translated.

    Ik heb het boek van mijn om Piet helemaal vertaald; dat was “Gezonde Twijfel.” Nu vertaal ik “Wee Free Men” door Terry Pratchett. Toen ik dat heb afgedaan, zal ik een ander boek nodig hebben, en dat heb ik nog niet gevonden.

    You can see I’m not very good but I’ve only been at it for going a year.

  11. Mike Glyer on June 4, 2015 at 5:45 pm said:

    I’m sure that’s true. Just the same, the question remains unanswered why the Radch, who apparently have sophisticated systems for overriding the physical apparatus of sentient species in order to enslave them, find that more efficient than using the technology in a more durable machine body. Unanswered in the sense of the author’s own explanation.

    I’m confused about the question you’re asking. Is your point that Leckie hasn’t given a sufficient rationale for this choice? That Leckie *should* have given such a rationale for the story to be internally consistent? That none of the ‘head-canons’ people have offered are convincing enough or fit within the Radchaai universe? Do you think there is no rationale that would make sense, so a major premise of the story is illogical?

    My head-canon speculation is some combination of a) Radch technology has been unable to cram a human or AI level of intelligence in a small enough space to fit in something human sized; b) cultural mores/stagnation that utilizes human slavery/bondage at all levels combined with a within culture ‘logic’ that human zombies/robots made more sense than mechanicals; c) costs between one application or the other were close enough not to challenge the cultural logic.

    One clue to the answer may be why Anaander Mianaai has not uploaded herself to a robot body/bodies. That’s also another unanswered question, too! ;^]

  12. I have a general objection to the idea that AIs will eventually supplant human intelligence for everything: While an entrepreneur can get a great ROI if he or she comes up with a computer or robot that does one narrowly-defined task (e.g., reading and indexing all the text on millions of Web pages) much much better than humans can, there is very little ROI in creating a computer that imitates human intelligence in general.

    Or, to put it another way: There is a market for bulldozers and backhoes, but there is no market for androids with shovel-shaped arms, which is why human beings can still find work to do with shovels.

  13. Gabriel F. on June 4, 2015 at 4:51 pm said:

    @Rev Bob

    “I think Seivarden is grateful to Breq and thus loyal to her, but I don’t read love as part of that. Remember the scene in AS where Seivarden tells Breq that the crew think they’re sleeping together?”

    That’s exactly where I get the idea, actually. It seems Seivarden keeps bringing up sex to Breq. It seems a lot like awkward nerd-flirting. “Hey, did you know people think I’m your boyfriend? …that’s pretty crazy, right? I mean, you and I, totally never. Right?”

    I read it more the way Rev Bob does. He’s offering to “kneel” out of loyalty, if at all. The Radch attitude toward sex just isn’t ours. Most of the time they seem to view it more like inviting someone to have dinner together or to play a game cards.

    But maybe we’ll find out in the last book. Am really looking forward to it!

  14. I am reminded of something I read about ancient Athens: the Athenians saw sex as, shall we say, an asymmetrical operation. Adult male citizens f—ed; women, adolescent boys, and slaves got f—ed.

  15. @ May Tree

    I’m not saying they understood it. I’m saying that’s the obvious read if you’re looking for ways to be offended, and a book getting this much buzz and then opening up by disregarding gender AND assigning everything a female pronoun would get their hackles up right away.

    In fact, it IS classic SF world building. There’s a lot of that in the books and comics the Puppies are condemning. Sort of puts a bald-faced lie to the idea that’s what they’re looking for and not, y’know, Brad and Vox’s friends getting awards.

    @ JJ

    That’s exactly how I read it.

    Also, it feels like the Anaander who professes to be working for social justice does so in dialogue with Breq, who is obviously interested in that. Seems like she’s telling Breq what she wants to hear. Also, she discusses how letting the AIs function with feelings allows them to have favorites, which fall out over time but which are useful to keep the AIs in line at the time. Sounds like she’s trying to curry favor with the underclass and knock the people with actual power in the systems out from the top so she can start over to me.

  16. @Cat
    Tell me a bit about De Scrypturist, if you don’t mind?

    I wrote a short thing on it a while ago.

    It’d definitely be a challenge to translate – some native speakers struggle just to read it. It’s dense prose with a rich vocabulary. Plus Evanby conveys a lot about the setting through names and terms, which are often strange, archaic, technical and/or neologisms.

    Some of those are easy to translate, as Dutch is after all closely related to English and both use a bunch of Latin. Scryptofact can be kept as-is, for instance. But others, like the drug waanvrede, might need to be replaced entirely.

    So I dunno, it might be a stimulating challenge for you, or it might just be overwhelming for now.

    In elk geval succes met je Nederlands! Lekker gezellig. Ofzo.

  17. Jeffro Johnson: There’s so much like that. They keep telling me that it never went out of style, that fashions haven’t changed near as much as I’m saying. But that doesn’t explain why the old stuff is like water to a man stranded in a desert. It is different. Maybe elements of it never quite went away, but getting it straight and unvarnished is unaccountably shocking. I don’t think you can know what we’ve actually lost without slowing down, stepping back, and actually reading the older works.

    My current Eclipse Phase campaign started with a robot on a bicycle shooting a playwright and taking his cortical stack. It’s on the eve of his theater’s production of The King in Yellow and nothing can be done without him or the script he kept in his head. A friend and I have been running a series of solo campaigns and being literary nerds our references have a certain character. In an earlier campaign, one of Jane Austen’s riddles was the sole content of an abandoned bank deposit box:

    When my first is a task to a young girl of spirit,
    And my second confines her to finish the piece,
    How hard is her fate! but how great is her merit
    If by taking my whole she effects her release!

    I read the old stuff, but not necessarily the same old stuff. I’ve never read E.E. Smith, for example– Cordwainer Smith, yes, E. E. Smith, no.

    I stumbled across an interview with Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro that applies to the general discussion. In particular, I was impressed by Gaiman’s comment about visiting China:

    You know, I was in China in 2007, and it was the first ever state-sponsored, Party-approved science-fiction convention. They brought in some people from the west and I was one of them, and I was talking to a number of the older science-fiction writers in China, who told me about how science fiction was not just looked down on, but seen as suspicious and counter-revolutionary, because you could write a story set in a giant ant colony in the future, when people were becoming ants, but nobody was quite sure: was this really a commentary on the state? As such, it was very, very dodgy.

    I took aside one of the Party organisers, and said, “OK. Why are you now in 2007 endorsing a science-fiction convention?” And his reply was that the Party had been concerned that while China historically has been a culture of magical and radical invention, right now, they weren’t inventing things. They were making things incredibly well but they weren’t inventing. And they’d gone to America and interviewed the people at Google and Apple and Microsoft, and talked to the inventors, and discovered that in each case, when young, they’d read science fiction. That was why the Chinese had decided that they were going to officially now approve of science fiction and fantasy.

    What an incredible admission. What an acknowledgement of science fiction’s imaginative– speculative!– role.

  18. @makoto, quoting @jeffro johnson (I would like to have found the original Jeffro item.)

    My hypothesis is that SF is not divorced from the larger culture. “Golden Age” SF is a product of the “American Century,” or at least the first 75 years of it. My grandparents and parents lived through epic technological change: sanitation, automobiles, flight, movies, radio & TV, early spaceflight. Plus we had a full mobilization war against evil, a massively growing economy, and the move away from agriculture as the dominant employing industry. It wasn’t hard to see optimisim going all the way into the future.

    Somewhere around 1970-1975-ish the wheels start to come off for America. Vietnam. Peak domestic oil production. (The rest of the world’s industry recovers from the devastation of World War II.) Peak wages for working-class men — economic growth only continues through women entering the work force. The US space program stops pushing outward in any meaningful way and looks inwards to small gains. (In 2015, no one younger than 79 has walked on the moon.) Computers, networks, mobile phones become new and exciting; but I propose they are not as transformational to daily life as the suite of cars/movies/radio-tv/airplanes which were introduced roughly 1910-1950.

    Of course these changes in US society spill over into US science fiction. (I’d propose they have a lot to do with the rise of fantasy literature as well.)

  19. @makoto: ah, thanks. So I mistakenly thought that Jeffro’s quote was about Golden Age SF, and his essay has nothing to do with that. It’s about the supernatural, elves and etc, and modern treatments of them.

    I’ll leave my comments as a general comment on the Puppy sentiment that SF was better in some unspecified time in the past.

  20. @Ken Josenhans: More a commentary about a loss of context and the value of the “old works.” My reply was mostly about the influence the same has had on me, though from a different perspective. Re: elves, Tolkien drew his from Norse and Celtic myth, in which they were varied figures. The portrayal of elves as nigh-Lovecraftian is modern, or at least not the whole story. See: Huldufólk.

  21. Ken Josenhans on June 5, 2015 at 9:47 am said:

    Somewhere around 1970-1975-ish the wheels start to come off for America.

    I would say Watergate played a huge, huge role in that.

    To be honest, I sometimes get a vibe from some conservative commentators that Watergate still stings a lot, and it sometimes appears that desire to get some sort of closure or erasure for Watergate may still be playing a role in the culture wars.

  22. @Alfred

    It is possible it will be too much for me; The first book we tried was De Eeuw Van Mijn Vader door Gert Mak. That was a bit too much at the time, and we fell back to Uncle Piet’s book, which was easier because a fair amount of the biology vocabulary is similar, plus I studied biology so I had a fair idea what he might be saying before reading the Dutch 🙂

    But De Scrypturist does sound interesting, and like it might be my kind of thing. Thank you for mentioning it, and explaining more about it!

  23. Ken Josenhans: So I mistakenly thought that Jeffro’s quote was about Golden Age SF, and his essay has nothing to do with that. It’s about the supernatural, elves and etc, and modern treatments of them

    I think that is what Johnson’s quote is about, or at least Golden Age Fantasy. It’s preceded by a rant about leftists and an ode to Lovecraft. But that piece does not seem to have any logical flow to it, and it’s hard to tell.

  24. >> Given both of these movements I think Kurt Busiek was right, when he lamented that if the puppies not starting their own award rather than trying to reclaim the hugos.>>


    I thought Hugo history had been gone through, and Puppy-style fiction _never_ dominated. There was always SJW-type stuff in there, holding up the banner for the idea that SF was about more than just ray-guns, rocketships and the general’s lovely (but shrieky) daughter.

  25. @Kurt

    Sorry, that was an awful lazy and typo-full sentence.

    Yes, the Hugo awards have helped me find brilliant idea riven and driven fiction dating back to before I was born.

  26. >> I would say Watergate played a huge, huge role in that.>>

    Watergate has always felt to me like the capper of something that started with the assassinations of JFK, MLK and RFK. As sense that the country’s vaunted ideals had become hollow to the point that if anyone seriously threatened to use them, they’d get killed. That fomented a distrust in authority and Nixon was the proof.

    The conservatives wanted to pretend, the liberals became cynical. Reagan gave conservatives back the illusion, but liberals — despite embracing liberal fantasies like THE WEST WING — have never quite gotten back their side of the dream.

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