The Muttrix 7/1

aka Mongrel in a Mange Land

Today’s roundup includes Abigail Nussbaum, Vox Day, David Dubrow, Peter Grant, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., Doctor Science, Jennifer Brozek, Noah Ward, Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag, Aaron Pound and cryptic others. (Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editors of the day Will Reichard and Kyra.)

Abigail Nussbaum on Asking The Wrong Questions

“The 2015 Hugo Awards: One Month Out” – July 1

It should be clear that I don’t for a moment believe in the Puppies’ indignation–this was clearly an attempt to hurt Tor, a company they identify with the left wing despite the fact that it publishes people like Orson Scott Card and John C. Wright (in the end, this will all turn out to be about Vox Day’s hard-on for Scalzi, as so much of this clusterfuck probably is).  But this does not, in any way, excuse Tor’s actions.  For Doherty to buy the Puppy party line–which has been thoroughly debunked so many times–indicates either that the publisher of a major genre imprint is unaware of the year’s biggest news event within the genre, or that he’s a political fellow traveler.  And the fact that Tor, which was so quick to respond to the outrage of a single bigot, has said nothing in response to the outrage of a huge swathe of fandom including many of their own authors (not even to the extent of closing the comments on Doherty’s letter, which quickly became a toxic swamp of vileness and bigotry), speaks volumes about their priorities and how they see their audience.

To be honest, this experience has left me more disgusted and enraged than even the original Puppy ballots.  I expect vile behavior from vile people.  I do not expect it from one of the genre’s biggest publishers.  The fact that my opinion–and the opinion of so many other fans and readers–clearly does not matter as much to Tor as the opinion of Vox Day is not something that I feel inclined to forget or gloss over, and it has been dispiriting to see so many otherwise sensible people rally to Tor’s defense, for example in response to Day’s proposed boycott.  I’m not saying that I want to boycott Tor myself, but I don’t feel that they should be rewarded either.  If Doherty’s behavior teaches us anything, it’s that Tor is, first and foremost, a business, and businesses only respond to one thing.  Treating them like family–as too much of fandom has been doing–is a mistake, because they will take advantage of your loyalty and then stab you in the back, as we’ve just seen.


Vox Day on Vox Popoli

“The hysteria crescendos” – July 1

Why are they still babbling incoherently about us while simultaneously insisting on our totally irrelevant wrongness?

I don’t know. Perhaps they fear that the record influx of Supporting Members are not all reliable SJWs and Truefen flooding in to defend the Hugo Awards by voting to not give out any awards. Perhaps they notice that my site traffic has continue to rise, and that support for both Sad and Rabid Puppies continues to grow as more sane people observe the behavior of the SJWs and realize we were not exaggerating. Perhaps it is simply a reflection of the wider cultural war that has heated up of late. Perhaps it is a reflection of the economic instability that now haunts even those who don’t pay much attention to the economy. Perhaps it is because we use their tactics against them more effectively than they do.

But whatever the reason, it is clear that they are afraid of me, of you, and of the growing number of people who realize that they are incoherent lunatics who possess an insane and immoral vision for society. Let them hurl spurious labels and tell ridiculous lies. It’s what they do. We are immune to all their pointing and shrieking and posturing and preening attempts to DISQUALIFY.


David Dubrow

“Hugos, Puppies, and Politics” – July 1

Let’s Set the Table

There is not one element of modern life that has not been politicized in some way or other.  Politics have infected everything from education to science to the environment to professional sports to individual entertainment choices.  That’s inarguable.  Who’s responsible for it can be debated elsewhere, but I defy you to find me one human endeavor that hasn’t been touched by politics.

What the American Left has done is deny that their politics are politics at all; that is, they’ve attempted to normalize their point of view as a non-political viewpoint.  Leftism is, therefore, the natural state of things.  This explains why so many Leftists self-identify as independents, moderates or even apolitical despite espousing left-wing ideas, supporting left-wing causes, and voting for left-wing political candidates.  They’re not being political, they’re just doing the right thing.  Leftists have redefined politics as what other people do, not them.

This, of course, excludes those individuals and organizations that specifically identify as progressive, liberal, or left-wing.

The American Right, vastly outnumbered in the entertainment, education, and journalistic industries, tends to conceal itself among the general public a little more than Leftists.  Outside of political environments, conservatives aren’t as explicit about their beliefs, in part because the right-wing point of view hasn’t been as successfully normalized in popular culture.  Right-wingers aren’t cool.  They’re sticks-in-the-mud who resist change, especially social change.   Who wants to be known as a fuddy-duddy?  A conservative might identify himself as an independent, but he’ll rarely call himself a moderate.  He is sensitive to the politicization of modern culture because he resists social change.   He has his political viewpoints and feels about them as strongly as the Leftist, but outside of places where conservatives gather, he tends to keep his cards closer to the vest.

Until now….

By elevating these surface aspects of diversity, the Hugos have been politicized to deliberately exclude authors based on their skin color, gender, and political viewpoint.  White men need not apply, especially conservative white men.  Or conservatives of any color and gender.  Scalzi and his allies have altered the Hugo Awards to focus on message fiction written by people who fit their definition of diversity, not quality science fiction.  As Leftists, they don’t (or can’t) acknowledge that they’re politicizing the Hugos; to them, they’re simply doing what’s right and good and proper (and keeping the riff-raff out).

What’s amazing is that merely pointing out that the Hugos have been politicized leaves one open to attacks of politicization, as though the accusation is enough to condemn the accuser rather than the accused.  So if I point out that Book A was nominated for a Hugo because it espouses a particular viewpoint, not because it’s a good story, I’m the one politicizing the process.  Combine this with how progressives cannot or will not acknowledge that their point of view is political, and you have a very comprehensive, if utterly transparent defense: it’s the Puppies’ fault that the Hugos are a political football because they accused the Leftists of politicizing the Hugos, which is impossible because Leftists don’t practice politics.  Also known as, “I know you are, but what am I?”  Hence, the Puppies’ efforts to nominate stories based on their criteria are, de facto, illegitimate.  It’s perfectly fine to nominate only Leftist message fiction written by Leftists, but it’s gaming the system to nominate science fiction stories written by conservatives.

It may be that you like message fiction and think that science fiction needs a broader diversity of authors to maintain the genre’s relevance in the 21st century.  In which case it’s only natural that you would decry the Puppies’ efforts.  Just know that you’re also engaging in politics.  You’ve decided to redefine the Hugo Awards to celebrate a political viewpoint rather than promote quality fiction.


Peter Grant on Bayou Renaissance Man

“The state of the Tor boycott (and SJW’s)” – July 1

The SJW’s also appear to be trying to conflate the Tor boycott with the Hugo Awards controversy.  Please recall that I didn’t call for a boycott of Tor because of anything to do with the Hugo Awards.  I did so because of the lies and unconscionable actions of a number of senior Tor staff.  It looks to me as if the loony left is grasping at straws here.  Vox Day, who as organizer of the Rabid Puppies is the SJW’s favorite demon, has done a great job cataloging their manic efforts to further polarize and inflame the situation.  I know that some people regard him as all sorts of nasty things because of various incidents in the past, but I don’t know anything about those.  I’ve only had dealings with him since this situation blew up.  In that context, I have nothing but praise for his openness, honesty and willingness to co-operate.


L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

“Readers, Conventions and Sad/Rabid Puppies” – June 30

…. The problem in both politics and the current Sad/Rabid Puppies kerfuffle is that each side’s assumptions behind the words differ. Conservatives view “liberty” and “justice” in terms of property, while liberals focus on human rights. I’d like to think that moderates realize that both property and human rights are essential to a functioning society.

Likewise in the F&SF kerfuffle, it seems to me that the Sad/Rabid Puppies tend to focus more extensively, at times almost exclusively, on the importance of action, storyline, and individual worth and action, while the more “liberal” side insists that the context of the society/world in which storylines exist should play a far greater role, and that no functional future society should be racially/culturally unidimensional. The Sad/Rabid Puppies appear to believe that the other side wants to continue using the Hugo awards to reward works and individuals that further their goals, while the “liberal” side believes that the Sad/Rabid Puppies want to wrench the awards back to representing the male, patriarchal U.S. culture of the 1950s. That’s an oversimplification, since each group has individuals who don’t fit those definitions, but I think it captures the gist of the conflict.

The sad problem is that the unspoken simplistic assumptions on each side ignore their commonalities, and the fact that, for F&SF to continue as a vital form, elements of both sides need to be represented and that neither should “dominate” the awards. Of course, since the politicians and all too many voters haven’t been able to comprehend this concept, why should mere readers and authors?



“Should Christians Engage in the Culture War?” – July 1

Gird Up for the Battle

This group of individuals have decided that they will go down fighting.  It seemed to begin in a movement now called GamerGate.  A journalist was found to have insider ties with the gaming industry that was biasing her reporting.  The flare-up occurred where game designers started to stand up for the rights to make the games they wanted to make, which is only a problem to those that expect that games should meet some arbitrary societal norms—whether it’s the number of females, what clothing they wear, how the racial balance is, and other social issues.

The battle opened up another front on the side of Science Fiction in a clash over the Hugos and the banning of a lifetime member of the Science Fiction Writers of America over a tweet on the SFWAAuthors twitter account promoting a blog post which some took offense to.  This lead to higher participation in the Hugo Awards presented by the SFWA, in which those that had previously not been allowed to participate managed to dominate the categories.

While this is not Christian in nature (some Christians are participating, but the movement in and of itself is not Christian), these people believe that it’s best to fight back against the social justice tyranny they see being forced upon them.


Doctor Science on Obsidian Wings

“Dear Transformative Works Fandom: Please think about voting for the Hugo Awards” – July 1

…I’m particularly encouraging my friends in transformative works and Tumblr fandom to consider voting because you-all are younger than the average Hugo voter (Worldcon members tend to be aging baby boomers, like me), which is good for the future of the award and the fandom, and because many of you have a lot of insights and opinions about visual and audio media: comics, fancasts, TV shows, art….

Should you go to Worldcon?

Last year’s Worldcon was in London, the one before that was in San Antonio, Texas, next year’s is in Kansas City. Because Worldcon moves around, because it’s put together by volunteers, and because it has few or no actors attending, it never gets terribly large compared to Dragoncon, much less ComicCon. Currently, Sasquan has about 4000 attending members and 5000 supporting members, from five continents … plus one in Earth orbit.

Compared to other cons you might have attended, Worldcon runs light on high-gloss movie, TV, and game presentations, but heavy on cosplay and music. Cosplay isn’t just in the halls, there’s also the Masquerade, a judged costume and stage show that always includes some staggeringly beautiful and complex presentations — last year’s Best in Show Winner, “Aratalindale”, for instance, depicted the Valar from Tolkien’s Simarillion. Worldcon music includes performances, filking, and many types of dancing. There’s an Art show and Artist’s Alley, of course. Alas, the deadline for the Writer’s Workshop has passed, but there are lots of other opportunities to talk about writing and fanworks.

I’ll make another post about this year’s Hugo nominees, some historical background, and some possible guidelines about what to look for, but I want to keep it separate from this one. Reblog, tell your friends, think about getting more of us into the structures of SFF fandom. I believe we’re the future of the future, and I encourage you to take up that shiny shiny mantle.


Jennifer Brozek

“Travel and Awards” – June 30

I ended with LepreCon in Phoenix, AZ. Yes, it was hot. Really hot. Like 110+ degrees hot. However, it was a great convention. Highly recommended. Small, enthusiastic, and great guests of honor.

In particular, I was pleased to meet Dayton Ward, whom I know from IAMTW, and David Gerrold (most famous for “Trouble with Tribbles.”), who soothed all my fears about the Sasquan Hugo Awards ceremony. After talking with him about my concerns (David is the host), I feel like I can relax and just enjoy the ride. That’s a huge deal for me.


Noah Ward

“Who Decides The Best SF/F Novels?” – July 1

A recent Sad Puppies related discussion lead to the topic of how well the Goodreads Choice Awards match up with the Hugo nominations. Thus I decided to actually find out, and therefore compiled a list of the works that had appeared on both awards….

Hence the results produced by the last four years of Goodreads Choice Awards imply that the Hugo awards might not the best indication for what the fans consider as the best Fantasy or Science Fiction. Which in turn would suggest that the ‘Puppy narrative’ would posses a kernel of truth when it comes to Hugos being out of touch with the fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Yet another kernel to be placed into the sack.

Nevertheless, I cannot say that the Puppies have had a noticeable effect on the actual nomination results themselves. Just like the three years prior; the Hugo ballot is still filled by the same number of appearances from the Goodreads list, and we have that one highly ranked work while the rest come from somewhere nearer to the bottom end of the list….

Goodreads (2013) & Hugo (2014):

  • – A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time) (2nd in Fantasy)
  • – Ancillary Justice (20th in Science Fiction) (Won Hugo)

Goodreads had 119,222 votes cast in Fantasy, 108,739 votes cast in Paranormal Fantasy, and 75,642 votes cast in Science Fiction.

Goodreads (2014) & Hugo (2015):

2/5 of Hugo nominees were found on Goodreads.

  • – Skin Game (3rd in Fantasy)
  • – The Goblin Emperor (16th in Fantasy)
  • – Ancillary Sword (12th in Science fiction)
  • – Lines of Departure (20th in Science Fiction) (Withdrawn)

Goodreads had 233,644 votes cast in Fantasy, and 146,367 votes cast in Science Fiction.

4/5 of Hugo nominees were found on Goodreads.

[Survey also covers four earlier periods.]


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

“Hugo Reading – Novella” – July 1

[Comments on all five nominees.]

I only was able to complete one of the stories in this category from start to finish, the rest just don’t deserve to be on the ballot at all. I guess I’ll give “Flow” a ranking, probably below “No Award”, and leave the rest off. It’s sad, though. There must be some better works out there, but having three pieces by the same writer in one category? That’s just pathetic. Perhaps that’s what they mean by “sad” puppies?

Seriously, though, I really want to hear from the people who nominated these works. I want to hear why they thought these stories deserved the Hugo. I want to know what it is about these particular works that makes them literally the BEST things they read in 2014. I need to know what criteria those readers were using to pick these works, because for most of them I cannot fathom what would possess anyone who actually read the stories to say, “Yes, this is the best of the year.” And I particularly cannot believe all three of those Wright stories were seriously considered that good by anyone, much less by enough people to get them nominated.


Aaron Pound on Dreaming About Other Worlds

“Review – Analog Science Fiction and Fact: Vol. CXXXIV, No. 11 (November 2014) by Trevor Quachri (editor)” – June 30

Following in a pattern established by Analog over the last few years, Flow by Arlan Andrews, Sr. is another story fragment masquerading as a novella. Unlike many of the other stories chopped up into shorter lengths as a result of this odd editorial practice, Flow doesn’t feel like the filler in between other, more interesting parts of the story. Instead, Flow feels like filler between other filler.


Roger BW’s Blog

“Hugo 2015: Graphic Story” – June 30

[Reviews all five nominees.]

Well, none of these makes me want to dash out and read the next chapter. Maybe I shouldn’t vote in this category at all: these comics are evidently not aimed at me. If I do, it’ll be purely by my enjoyment, in which case Sex Criminals comes top, Saga bottom, and the other two in between, Rat Queens probably above Ms. Marvel. I really have no feel for what’s “Hugo-deserving quality” here.

522 thoughts on “The Muttrix 7/1

  1. @Morris Keesan,

    Local knowledge (or expertise in the topic being written about) can be a terrible obstacle to suspension of disbelief.

  2. is there another spy writer with the depth and style and power to give Le Carre a run for his money?

    Not that I’ve found…James Grady maybe, although I remember the movie of Three Days of the Condor much more than the book. You could give Ian Fleming a try, the James Bond books are entirely different creatures than the movies.

    The Stress of Her Regard is right up there with Last Call; Earthquake Weather is really good, but I think I like it for more for tying Last Call and Expiration Date together than in and of itself. Really though the only thing of Powers’, other than Three Days to Never, that I don’t really like is Dinner at Deviant’s Palace.

  3. Soon Lee, I can usually get past the local knowledge issues by assuming that it’s an alternate universe (as, apparently, Jim Butcher’s “Chicago” is). Where it really bothered me was when I spent a few months reading all of Robert B. Parker’s “Spenser” novels, and a few others in parallel series. Parker had a very good feel for Boston and surrounding areas, which made it particularly jarring when one of his detectives drove 16 miles round trip to get a sandwich during a stake-out (for those with Boston local knowledge, they were watching someone in Chestnut Hill, and went to Fresh Pond Shopping Center for lunch).

  4. I did like the three Bourne books that Robert Ludlum wrote (and which had almost nothing in common with the movies aside from the lost-his-memory bit).

  5. @LunarG

    There’s no set curriculum, although some home educating families choose to use the National Curriculum, usually the ones who pulled their children out of school for bullying reasons. The law is that all children must be educated fully, in school or otherwise (hence the main home education charity’s name – Education Otherwise), and for children who were once in the school system (or whose families sign up for it) there are regular checks to make sure they’re broadly in line with average development if not in specifics. None of my sisters and I went to school so we didn’t have those checks (they’re very perfunctory, to be honest, so I’m not sure how much they actually guarantee – and home education families and organisations are pretty resistant to more interference).

    We knew one family that practiced extreme unschooling, which is a rare form of home education that is completely child-led. We didn’t like that method much – one of the boys didn’t learn to read until he needed to for his driving test at 16. Most unschoolers are less extreme than that and they cover basic literacy etc. before letting the child’s interest dictate the education.

    Our education was hybrid, which I think ends up being the most common unless full-on curriculum following has gained ground in recent years. We followed the curriculum up to a point, but otherwise it was what we found interesting. Lots of literature, lots of history, lots of science, lots of art, in varying measures depending on the sister in question, and a ton of time in museums and galleries. I think it worked pretty well, overall, and in my case I think it let my education flourish in a way it might not have in formal schooling (my disability didn’t really turn into a problem – it wasn’t even noticed as anything other than quirks – until I tried to attend a sixth form for A-level at 16, and part of that is because its degenerative and a lot of that was because they were really not prepared to deal with it). Home education activists are resistant to forced curriculum following because the freedom to tailor the education to the child is a major part of home education.

    I didn’t know any families who explicitly avoided maths or science. Our family ended up with a bit of a problem with maths by accident – my mother is much more mathy than my father, but because he handled most of the day to day none of us ended up with strong maths skills (mine are the best, if only because of natural inclination, but anything beyond the GCSE level is beyond me).

    Religion isn’t anywhere near as common a factor here. We were pretty heavily involved in Education Otherwise and the community when I was a child and there was only one family that home educated for religious reasons (Jehovah’s Witnesses – and the children weren’t allowed to talk to us, although what devil-ideas they expected three girls under ten to introduce I have no idea). My family background is half-Church of England, half-Atheist, and some indirect cultural Irish Catholic (which is what my Dad was baptised as), and each parent was always clear and honest with us about their beliefs (or lack thereof). The motivation was that my father hated school when he attended, and my mother (who is a school librarian) was unhappy with the sausage factory approach of some of the schools she’d worked in, and between those two factors they decided to give us the choice of whether or not to go.

    Welp just as well I didn’t try and do that overview post. That got long..!

  6. Huh. I wonder why I thought homeschooling was harder to do in Britain than the US? Sounds like it’s totally up to the parents.

  7. Soon Lee: A lot of TV episodes use LA locations as stand-ins for other cities. The absolute worst example I ever saw was an 1970s episode of The FBI that featured a chase on foot in downtown Detroit. Which was shot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame not far from the Holiday Inn with the rotating restaurant on top…


    Maybe you heard about some of the new laws they tried to put into place a couple of times? They failed, but there was a lot of noise about it in the community. This has more info, if you’re curious.

    I should mention that the extreme unschooling family would have got into trouble if the government had got wind of it. Education is compulsory and that particular case goes way beyond normal home education flexibility. Its not at all representative of most home education families and just as well, too. We (as children, and still as adults) felt that it was inhibiting free education to fail to teach basic literacy and therefore against the spirit of unschooling.

  9. Kyra on July 2, 2015 at 6:01 am said:

    As I’ve said, I haven’t read the book in question so can’t comment on it directly, but there are certainly books where the characters being yanked around by the plot was a problem for me. In fact, I’m (as far as I can tell) pretty rare in the world of SFF readers for not much liking Susan Cooper’s “The Dark is Rising” books — in part because they had a big “all of this is predestined” theme running through them and my reaction was, “If all of this is predestined, then nothing anyone’s doing matters and I don’t really care.”

    I dislike the “Dark is Rising” sequence for complicated reasons, although I rather liked “Over Sea, Under Stone” at first.

    I have never liked stories where the real world interacts with a fantasy one and then the real world people are made to forget anything happened.

    And I despise stories that xvyy gur qbt, rfcrpvnyyl va fhpu n qrrcyl hawhfg jnl.

    There are other reasons to dislike the stories, but those are my top two.

  10. I think I found the end – wow has this ongoing conversation gotten difficult to keep up with. I would comment more but have fallen completely behind.

    We have been outside raiding the black raspberry bushes – YUM! I am all scratched up but we have a lovely basket of berries (not to mention another couple of baskets worth that ended up inside everyone.)

    I remember loving The Addams Family pinball machine. I saw one for sale once a few years ago and if I had had the money – ooooh that would have been nice.

    Cooperative games – yes! I have been trying to find more games like this for family play. The kids have really enjoyed Castle Panic and Mice and Mystics – we were really liking that one but need a dedicated table for it somewhere. Haven’t tried Pathfinder yet but I picked up a copy for summer break to give it a try. (My daughter also loves Monopoly Empire – the one with billboards, which at least has the grace of being a quick game – so we are working towards more competitive games). The Bean Game (Bohnanza) has been lots of fun. My son loves Machi Koro and has been playing it with everyone but me (I have been at work) which is rather odd since he picked it out for me as a Christmas present. I hope to play it soon.

    I haven’t been able to play anything significant on an electronic device in ages. The kids have taken them over to play Minecraft. I don’t even know what else exists anymore. I adored Myst and the sequels. Is there anything new like that around ?

  11. Doctor Science: For people interested in the prose side of TW, I’d probably emphasize the opportunity to hang out with others who really care about the art and craft of it – both in somewhat structured panels and in conversations around them. Authors both professional and fannish, editors, anthologists, and fellow readers, many of whom have things for you, J. Random Participant, to learn, and some of whom also want to learn what you, J.R.P., have to share with them from your experience and observations.

  12. @Elisa

    Are black raspberries the same as blackberries? The wild growing ones are so much better than anything you can get in a shop. There used to be some bushes at the end of my parents back garden but sadly they got too difficult to control and they had to dig them up. Still… Until then, blackberries in the fruit bowl when they were in season and homemade bramble jelly all year round. It was great!

    I’m sort of expectantly waiting for tablets to revive Myst-style games, since I think the format would suit them, but as yet there don’t seem to be many around these days. I hope someone can recommend one though because I wouldn’t mind playing.

  13. Exarch –

    The Stress of Her Regard is right up there with Last Call; Earthquake Weather is really good, but I think I like it for more for tying Last Call and Expiration Date together than in and of itself. Really though the only thing of Powers’, other than Three Days to Never, that I don’t really like is Dinner at Deviant’s Palace.

    I love Dinner at Deviant’s Palace. But I also haven’t met a Power’s book I didn’t like. One of the most unique voices I’ve ever read.

    I hated Black Company though. Just ugh.

  14. Jamoche,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the story.

    Those were perspectives?

    No, these were perspectives.

    “What do you mean by “lacking in action” and “not well written”?”

    Weapons tech-spec infodumps. And more tech-spec infodumps. And … you get the picture. If I have to skim over stuff like that to get to the action, it’s lacking in action. Sure, weapons get fired – they got fired in my physics textbook in the section on trajectories and gravity. Didn’t make that exciting, either.

    And have you heard of the Eight Deadly Words? The AI didn’t have any personality, so why should I care what happened to it?

    In first person, we did learn how much the AI enjoys geeking out about weapons, and there was a shift from sadistic amusement to morbid curiosity to troubled uncertainty to righteous confidence.

  15. @Exarch Cathedra

    Are any of the Civ V players playing Beyond Earth?

    Tried it for a couple of campaigns. It didn’t engage me. There’s no personality to any of the factions, and very little flavour in terms of world-building (ie the Technology narratives, or the semi-scripted events in the course of any campaign. Really a shame, because some of the mechanics, while not the most intuitive, were really quite impressive. I’m thinking particularly of the Spy/Sabotage methods, where in the later levels you could do anything from detonating a dirty bomb to planthing a thumper to unleash siege worms on an enemy city.

    I’m not particularly optimistic of an expansion – Sid Meier’s StarShips was a related release, and it was even worse.

    Mind you, I’m also one of those horrible people who’s been comparing everthing turn-based to Alpha Centauri, which is still on my system and get’s replayed every couple of years or so. It’s also on my shortlist of Games with Incredible Storytelling Built into the Gameplay.


    Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.” — Commissioner Pravin Lal, “U.N. Declaration of Rights” (Alpha Centauri)

    Pravin Lal gets some of the best quotes, doesn’t he?

  16. @Gully Foyle:

    is there another spy writer with the depth and style and power to give Le Carre a run for his money? I’ve not found them if so, and would savor any recommendations anyone might offer.

    There are options, yes!

    W.T. Tyler, The Man Who Lost the War, The Ants of God and Rogues’ March. He has other books that can be decent, but those are the standouts. War is the most LeCarré-like, being set in 1960s Berlin just after the Wall has gone up. Ants and March are their own thing, and substantially reflect the difference between a background in CIA vs. one in SIS: third-world setting and covert ops officer vs. Euro setting and counter-intelligence.

    Alan Furst, Night Soldiers and Dark Star. Night Soldiers is an astonishing book, about NKVD recruits in the 1930s trying to survive the long hell from the Purges through Spain and on to WWII. It’s the spy novel as grand historical saga. Dark Star is nearly as good, though on a much more intimate scale. Furst has many other books of historical 1930s-40s espionage, all in the same “universe”, and many people like them all. To my taste, the later ones become merely atmospheric, without the moral stakes of the two highlighted works. But if you read nothing else among my recommendations, read Night Soldiers.

    Charles McCarry, The Tears of Autumn, The Secret Lovers and The Last Supper. Again, he has later books. I wouldn’t say they’re deprecated exactly, but these three are the essentials. They tell the story of the poet/spy Paul Christopher, a CIA officer serving from the dawn of the Cold War into the 70s. Supper was genuinely innovative, recasting the spy novel as family saga years before LeCarré wrote A Perfect Spy (which I love).

    Gerald Seymour, Harry’s Game. Very bleak novel of a British spy going undercover in Nothern Ireland at the height of The Troubles.

    John Banfield, The Untouchable. A genuine lit’ry novel by a genuine lit’ry novelist that’s basically a retelling of the Anthony Blount story.

    Robert Littell, The Defection of A.J. Lewinter. This is the essential Littell book; I find all the others lesser works. It’s something of an experimental novel, being told (almost?) exclusively through official documents. The CIA tries to convince the Soviets that a genuine American defector is a plant.

    And of course, everything Len Deighton wrote prior to XPD but nothing afterward.

    And of course, the entire Sandbaggers TV show, which never gets enough love.

    FWIW, I tried to read James Grady once – met him when I was in the book business and liked him, so I was motivated – but found his prose to be godawful. Some other things I’ve seen recommended as good, for lack of a better word, “serious” espionage fiction has proven disappointing, e.g. Ted Allbeury.

    I do love the late American novelist Ross Thomas, but his books don’t mostly count as spy fiction by strict definition. His characters tend to play around the edges of the Intelligence Community rather than work within it. The standout novels are The Fools in Town Are on Our Side, Chinaman’s Chance, The Mordida Man and Briarpatch.

  17. @Anna FDD

    You mentioned having a Wii. Have you played Metroid Prime Trilogy? It’s a series of brilliant first-person games, with a bit of shooting and a lot of exploration. You crash land on an alien world and have to make your way through it as best you can. The story is entirely told through your actions and little encyclopedia entries you unlock by scanning whatever you find. So a little bit Halo but very atmospheric at the same time, if you want a bit of Myst. There’s a version for the Wii, which is out-of-print and fairly pricey, but it’s also available as a download on the Wii U.

  18. @Meredith

    We originally thought they were blackberry bushes but I have since learned to tell the difference – with blackberries the core stays in the fruit when you pick it, with black raspberries, the core of the fruit (called a rasp I think) stays on the plant and the berry is hollow. The taste, as far as I can explain, is something in-between red raspberry and blackberry. The canes are just as difficult to control though. We still let them go pretty wild though, much preferring the wild bushes to a bunch of stupid grass.

    And yes, they are wonderful and much better than anything you can find in a store. We will be spending the next few days outside trying to get all the berries we can before the birds get them.

  19. @ Snowcrash

    They were all good, and together they really set an immersive SF tone. So much so, that I I remember that quote 15 years later. Oh, and this one:

    “It is every citizen’s final duty to go into the tanks and become one with all the people.” — Chairman Sheng-ji Yang

  20. @Elisa

    Oh, I see! They sound lovely. My parents would’ve left theirs only the plants are very enthusiastic when in the presence of very unenthusiastic gardeners, and they were trying to take over the whole garden on the sly.

  21. is there another spy writer with the depth and style and power to give Le Carre a run for his money?

    Helen MacInnes, though good and bad are pretty clear-cut.

    (then I see Jim Henley’s comment – out of my league here!)

  22. @Steve Moss: Welcome back! Delightful to see you reappear.

    @Bruce: On top of A Key, An Egg…, Connolly’s second-world fantasy trilogy that came out this year, The Great Way, has an older – and nearsighted! – hero as one of the two POV characters.

    Games: I’m in a Monster of the Week campaign and quite enjoy it. It’s uses the Apocalypse Engine system, with many fewer changes than Dungeon World (of which I am also a fan). I also played 13th Age recently and quite liked it. Last year I started a retirement-community superheroes campaign using Fate Accelerated Edition but it got interrupted by illness and Ferguson.

    Also, “hippie” is spelled h-i-p-p-i-e, dammit.

    For non-RPGs, 1. I love the iPad version of Sentinels of the Multiverse. The interface is super-slick. And just to state an obvious, inarguable fact: Tachyon is best. 2. Sudoku! I prefer the 🙂 Sudoku iOS app for the arranging of digit arrays.

  23. Mike Glyer: Friends of mine who lived in Providence, Rhode Island, many years ago told of seeing a French film titled “Providence”, in which there’s an automobile chase scene, somewhere in France. At one point, the two cars turn a corner and are driving down what is recognizably Hope St. in Providence, RI, and after turning the next corner they’re back in France.

  24. Then there’s the shot of the parking-garage rooftop with the mountains across the bay in the background at one point in Rumble in Vancouverthe Bronx.

  25. Thanks, Jim! (Also, loved the spy fic roundup. I’ve made a Notes category for reading recommendations. 🙂

  26. @Jim Henley

    Not to mention all those Hollywood movies with Pizza Pizza or Sam the Record Man in the background (or other clearly Toronto locations). The lobby from Brookfield Place (former BCE Place) gets a pretty regular workout, especially in SF films.

    (Btw, thanks for the spy book recommendations)


    Love Sandbaggers!


    It’s so great. There was literally nothing like it beforehand and for a very long time afterward. I still remember the complete shock when that thing happened. But the whole series is great.

  28. @idon’tknow: if you want something that subverts or averts a lot of “chosen one” tropes, I recommend China Miéville’s Un Lun Dun.

    Games: on my iPad, Doctor Who: Legacy — I’ve finally managed to collect all the characters and max them out. Also Infection: Humanity’s Last Gasp, though it has a bit more luck than I really like and not enough ways to manage it.

    Tabletop games include Splendor and the Pandemic dice game, plus Alchemists, a worker placement game that has been a bit controversial for its use of a smartphone app as a player aid. (You’re trying to deduce the underlying properties of the in-game components, and the app manages the hidden information.)

  29. @Gully Foyle: Seconding Jim Henley’s recommendation for Alan Furst’s Night Soldiers and Dark Star. I would also add The Polish Officer to the must-read list.

  30. The Book of Heroes also subverts the “chosen one” trope. When heroine Yuriko starts trying to throw her weight around, the other heroes just shrug and tell her that if she doesn’t like it, they’ll just get another chosen one.

  31. Things to try if you like Le Carre–

    I very much liked a British writer named Anthony Price who did Cold War thrillers in the 70s and 80s. I especially appreciated the fact that he took the trouble to get American idioms right.

    Also highly recommended: The Scholars of Night by the late and much-missed John M. Ford, an outstanding SFF writer who did just this one thriller.

    And an enthusiastic second (or is it third, or more?) to the recommendation of The Sandbaggers.

  32. Back before Lou Antonelli became a Real American(TM) in the Real America, he was first a Columbia student and then a GOP congressional candidate in New York City. (“New York City! Imagine that!” in the words of the song.)

    The linked story of the night of his defeat is pretty good, and I don’t think Antonelli comes off badly. He lost big in a race he was expected to lose big. He had to deal with the fact that no one even cared about the race he lost, and seems to have done that okay. Apparently he later won a school board election in Texas, according to Wikipedia. Texas school boards have obviously done worse.

  33. @Gully Foyle
    I’m a huge fan of Greg Rucka’s Queen and Country series (spanning a comic series and a trilogy of novels) follow a group of British spies as they deal with their own bureaucracies as well as their missions.

    @Jim Henley
    Why beat up on the enemies yourself when you can just build golems with Unity or deploy Omnitron X’s drones and let them do all the work for you.

  34. And just to close the loop. Queen and Country is an explicit, declared Sandbaggers homage.

    @Chris V.

    @Jim Henley
    Why beat up on the enemies yourself when you can just build golems with Unity or deploy Omnitron X’s drones and let them do all the work for you.

    I confess I have no idea what this relates to. 🙂

    ETA: I get it now! You’re talking Sentinels of the Multiverse! So the answer is, beating up on the enemies yourself is fun!

  35. I second the Anthony Price novels, and John M. Ford. Let me also suggest Adam Hall’s “Quiller” stories (ignore the execrable film version of “The Quiller Memorandum”). I loved John Gardner’s Secret Generations series but can’t find them anymore, those (like Declare) wove fictional spies into real-world actions over generations.. Also the rest of John Gardner’s non-Bond novels are excellent.
    A nice 80s one-off is Casey Prescott’s “Asset in Black.”
    For a change of pace see Janice Weber’s “Hot Ticket” about a concert violinist who’s also a spy, the sequels are good but I like hot Ticket the best.

  36. Dr. Science,

    Noreascon 4’s site is still active. I just went there to check on if there was a kids programming track (there was) just to make sure I wasn’t getting it confused with other conventions. Also, I don’t know if Dragoncon attendees love to get things signed, but I spent a huge chunk of my time at Noreascon getting my books signed at the designated author tables (no extra charge), plus I got into a couple of the Kaffeeklatsches. And there was a panel report from NASA by Geoffrey A. Landis about then recent Mars results.

    Hope that helps!

  37. Oops, I should have taken notes as I went, because I won’t be able to remember who said what.

    With the caveat that I don’t actually read much in the espionage field, I second the rec for The Untouchable, which I’d call a complex character study of an era and the narrator’s increasingly warped moral sensibility. Banville’s not entirely unsympathetic to Blunt’s alienation and his conflicted response to pre-war England’s cultural loutishness – a response that naturally includes resentment and internalization – but that sympathy just makes Blunt (or Victor Maskell, as he’s called) creepier. It’s a fantastically well-written first-person POV, and the novel has the added virtue of being a departure from Banville’s usual preoccupations.

    I also enjoy perspicacious line readings (or in this case, dissections) of stories, so McJulie’s dismembering of “Turncoat” was a treat – although I’d probably change my tune if that sharp an eye were aimed at something I’d written. Sorry, Steve Moss, but I agree with McJulie that the story was weak, IMO derivative, and logically incoherent (all those thoughtless figures of speech that contradict the narrator’s alleged machine intelligence – feh).

    As for transformative works fandom, I suspect a fair percentage of it already overlaps with sf/f fandom, as the people I know tend to skew toward genre fiction, at least in online discussion and certainly in their choice of fannish source material. The trick, as you pointed out, will be in luring them to the dark active side.

    I’m not sure I’d be comfortable seeing individual fanfics nominated as Hugo contenders. For one thing, yes, staying under the radar is important to me. And I can imagine authors of original works switching from long-term tolerance to sudden affront if stories based on their personal creation started attracting award-level attention. Also, I’ve seen what happens when enthusiastic fans with aesthetic blind spots rush to nominate their favorites, and the cringeworthiest of specimens get thrust onto the ballot. I have a sinking feeling someone would inevitably want to give Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality even more recognition than it already has, and I loathe that fic with the power of a thousand fiery et ceteras.

  38. Jim Henley

    Thanks amigo, that’s added some serious heft to my list. And, thought this is the first I have ever heard of it, I just pulled the trigger on the complete set of The Sandbaggers. It was so obviously up my alley that I feel a fool for not knowing of it earlier.

    RE McCarry, I have The Miermik Dossier in my pile to be read somewhere…

  39. All this science-fictioning convinced me to register for Capclave this fall, our venerable local sercon. I’ve only attended one, previously, but have meant to go back sometime. Alastair Reynolds is the GoH this year.

  40. On fanfic getting nominated in the Hugo’s: IIRC, Kevin Standlee said that something like that has not occurred yet, and when it does a decision will be made. It could prove problematic if the original work owner decides that it no longer qualifies under fair use in that event.

    Reminds me of a recent update that was posted: Mass Effect Removed as ENnie Nominee (though this clearly had a whole bunch of other issues tied in as well, looks like)

  41. @Gully Foyle: You’re very welcome! I enjoyed The Miernik Dossier, though IIRC it has a bit of first-novel roughness about it.

    I hope we haven’t oversold you on Sandbaggers, but I do think you will like it,

  42. @Gully Foyle

    Jumping on the Alan Furst bandwagon. Spy novels set in pre to early ww 2 Europe. His works are probably more about atmosphere and characterization than anything. They can consistently draw me into their world. I’d go for “Kingdom of Shadows” or “The Spies of Warsaw” as good introductions.

    For other Furst fans, Eric Ambler is well worth a look. British noir mystery and espionage from around the same time as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet. “A Coffin for Dimitrios” is a favorite.

  43. Jim Henley says:

    Rumble in Vancouverthe Bronx

    I’m informed by my live-in movie expert, who has seen Rumble in the Bronx (I haven’t), that Rumble in Vancouver would be a much more interesting movie.

  44. *facepalm* I just managed to backbutton my way out of my own comment box and lose everything I typed.

    @ snowcrash

    It could prove problematic if the original work owner decides that it no longer qualifies under fair use in that event.

    Yes, exactly. While I see no reason why creators of original canons shouldn’t simply ignore fanworks, or even appreciate them from afar as a form of tribute, I think these same fanworks receiving professional attention and mantelpiece trophies from big-league juries probably crosses a line.

    Of course, once blockbuster sales and staggering amounts of money are involved, all bets are off. In certain respects, 50 Shades of Dreck has won the biggest award of all.

  45. There was a small (and I think, mostly satirical) drive to nominate the fail-fandomanon dreamwidth community, a place for discussion of everything from Marvel to apples, for related work.

    I don’t think transformative works should be shut out. Many of them transcend the source material. The ridiculous copyright length rules throw a wrench in that though.

    It would be interesting to see that play out, with the various author stances such works. Would it be OK to nominate a fanfic when the author approves of it but not if they find it an insult?

  46. Meredith –

    My impression was that the question was about what you’d tell fans to get them excited about Worldcon rather than how you’d change Worldcon.

    But the question was what would you add to make those faans happy. They’re already getting what they like out of those cons, I don’t consider WorldCon to be competing as much as co-existing, and any additions would require either a larger pool of volunteers or a complete change in how it’s done. All of those would change WorldCon.

    Petréa Mitchell –

    I’m informed by my live-in movie expert, who has seen Rumble in the Bronx (I haven’t), that Rumble in Vancouver would be a much more interesting movie.

    Not unless you could rewind time and get the younger Jackie Chan in it. It wasn’t his best movie but the fight choreography of Rumble in the Bronx was excellent and if you haven’t seen it I’d recommend it (along with most other early/mid career Jackie Chan movies, what he lacks in strong dialog he makes up for in great physical performances and facial expressions).

    For those defending Turncoat, the writing of that was weak as hell. You might think day old McDonald’s cheeseburgers are great but don’t tell me that they’re great and only a matter of taste is the difference. I love bad horror movies and I’ll freely admit they’re not good instead of trying to convince any one else they’re really award worthy.

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