Where No Puppy Has Gone Before 5/2

aka The Puppies Who Fell Up

Another burst of substantive, idea-filled posts highlight today’s roundup. The roll call includes Jeb Kinnison, Jaye Em Edgecliff, Brandon Kempner, Jeff Duntemann, Steve Davidson, Anthony Vicino, William Shaw and Kate Paulk. (Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Laura Resnick and Jack Lint.)

Jeb Kinnison on The Subtstrate Wars

“SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best”  – May 2

“Curating” means selecting for quality and audience. WorldCon has been tending to curate for a small and eccentric audience, and favor-trading, log-rolling, and political prejudice has been apparent since.. forever. WorldCon has already recognized the outreach possibility of the Internet. There is no longer a reason for what purports to be *the* award of SFF fans, not Worldcon attendees, to be closed to the fans who can’t be there, or as GRRM remarked, aren’t fannish enough to regularly read fanzines. If the award is to be chosen by small groups with a certain Fannish mindset, then it’s not *the* award of SFF readers and not a useful guide to quality for those who don’t share the mindset. And it will tend to slight publishers and authors who haven’t sucked up to the attendees and “curated” their online presence to groom their own fans. Some decry the possibility that the Hugos might become a mere popularity contest, with “Twilight”-ish popular works swamping the less-accessible quality fiction; but that ignores that the status quo prior to Puppies was a popularity contest among a small and not necessarily representative group shot through with personal conflicts of interest and logrolling.

We can honor all the work of the elders who curated and nurtured the Hugos when there was no other way for fans to get together. We can also open up the nominating and voting to committed readers who haven’t been Fannish, and the effort involved is more software and thinking about systems than sitting at tables and handing out papers while chatting with passersby. There are problems with nominating voters being unaware of what qualifies, and problems with qualifications — suggestions about more classes for long works and allowing small pub and self pub books more time to be discovered are good.

As a new author, I’d like to preserve a large market for fiction because it is inevitable that larger media productions will be unable to pioneer new ideas or truly eccentric new virtual worlds — there are just too many people involved in these larger productions to take as many risks on unique visions, and until the tools for game storytelling, for example, are easily accessible and usable by singleton game authors, games won’t be the medium to create the experience of the great novel or story. Opening up the Hugos and doing more outreach to fans of other media would help a lot in renovating fandom and bringing in more new readers. And if the field doesn’t start gaining more readers, it will die, since it is already harder to make a living writing for SFF than it used to be. If the only writers left working are supported by academia or other jobs, the field will lose its finest future works.


Brandon Kempner on Chaos Horizon

“Hugo Best Novel Nominees: Amazon and Goodreads Numbers, May 2015” – May 1

Let me emphasize again that these scores have never been predictive for the Hugo or Nebula: getting ranked higher on Amazon or Goodreads has not equated to winning the Hugo. It’s interesting that the Puppy picks are the outliers: higher and lower when it comes to Goodreads, with Leckie/Addision/Liu all within .05 points of each other. Amazon tends to be more generous with scoring, although Butcher’s 4.8 is very high.

The 2015 Hugo year is going to be largely useless when it comes to data: the unusual circumstances that led to this ballot (the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns, then various authors declining Best Novel nominations, and now the massive surge in voting number) mean that this data is going to be inconsistent with previous years. I think it’s still interesting to look at, but take all of this with four or five teaspoons of salt. Still, I’ll be checking in on these numbers every month until the awards are given, and it’ll be interesting to see what changes happen.


Jeff Duntemann on Jeff Duntemann’s Contrapositive Diary

“Rant: Sad Puppies vs. Anti-Puppies, as the Kilostreisands Pile Up” – May 2

How in hell could a couple of mostly unknown authors turn the venerable Hugo Awards inside-out?

My answer: adverse attention. For a definition, let me quote from a textbook that I made up just now: Zoftnoggin & Wiggout’s Fundamentals of Sociometry.

Adverse attention is a rise in the attention profile of a previously obscure phenomenon caused by the actions of an entity that opposes that phenomenon. In the vast majority of cases, the triggering force is outrage, though it sometimes appears through the action of envy, pride, lust, asshattedness, butthurt, or other largely emotional psychopathologies.

This being sociometry, adverse attention may be quantified, and there is a standard unit for expressing it:

The fundamental unit of adverse attention is the streisand, defined as one previously uninterested person achieving a degree of interest in a phenomenon sufficient to compel them to email, share, or retweet information about that phenomenon to one other person in a social network. As the information propagates across a social network, the connectedness of the network influences the total amount of adverse attention that arises. For example, if each of ten previously uninterested persons receiving the information passes it on to only one previously uninterested person, eleven streisands of adverse attention have been created. If one of those previously uninterested persons has 200 followers on Twitter or 1000 Facebook friends, the number of streisands increases rapidly. In a sufficiently dense network, the rate of increase can become close to exponential until the number of previously uninterested persons asymptotically approaches zero.

I’ve seen evidence for this in the comment sections of many blogs that have criticized or condemned the Sad Puppies. A common comment goes something like this: “Wow! I never knew that you could vote for the Hugos without going to Worldcon! And I just downloaded the free preview of Monster Hunter International. This is way cool!” Zing! The world gets another Puppy.

The emotional tenor of the criticism matters too. I’ve seen a few comments that go something like this: “I’d never heard of the Sad Puppies before. I’ve been trying to figure out which side is right, but the sheer nastiness of the Sad Puppies’ critics makes me think they’re just sore losers. I’m more or less with the Puppies now.” ….

And those streisands just keep piling up.

It’s something like a sociological law: Commotion attracts attention. Attention is unpredictable, because it reaches friend and foe alike. It can go your way, or it can go the other way. There’s no way to control the polarity of adverse attention. The only way to limit adverse attention is to stop the commotion.

In other words, just shut up.

I know, this is difficult. For some psychologies, hate is delicious to the point of being psychological crack, so it’s hard to just lecture them on the fact that hate has consequences, including but hardly limited to adverse attention.

My conclusion is this: The opponents of Sad Puppies 3 put them on the map, and probably took them from a fluke to a viable long-term institution. I don’t think this is what the APs intended. In the wake of the April 4 announcement of the final Hugo ballot, I’d guess the opposition has generated several hundred kilostreisands of adverse attention, and the numbers will continue to increase. Sad Puppies 4 has been announced. Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen have lots of new fans who’d never heard of them before. (I just bought the whole Monster Hunter International series and will review it in a future entry.)

To adapt a quote from…well, you know damned well whose quote I’m adapting: “Attack me, and I will become more popular than you could possibly imagine.”


Steve Davidson on Amazing Stories

“No Award is Not the Nuclear Option” – May 1

One final note.  Some are arguing that rejecting all slated items punishes those who were not willing participants/had no knowledge they were being included.  The solution there is simple.  If you have an eligible work in any given year, clearly state somewhere that you do not participate in campaigning for the awards, reject any involuntary inclusion in such and do not give permission for your name and works to be included.  Most everyone who would be in such a position in years to come have already pretty much taken a position:  they’re either happy to take advantage of whatever benefit may be derived from being included on a slate, or they do not want to have anything to do with it.  I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of voters will take you at your word – whether you are ultimately included on a slate or not.


Steve Davidson on Amazing Stories

“Thoughts on the Hugo Voters Packet” – May 2

Participation by authors and publishers was always presented as being voluntary on their part.  Largely unspoken was the implied strong-arming:  if you didn’t provide copies of a nominated work, you were likely insuring that the work in question would not win.

Last year, commentary regarding the publishers that chose not to participate in the packet pretty much follow those lines – not to mention edging over into public castigation of the publishing house itself.  (Bad, bad publisher for not giving us free stuff.)

What follows on those coattails is pretty obvious:  a growing sense of entitlement on the part of voters – a trap I myself fell into this year.  I’d fully intended to read Cixin Lius’ The Three Body Problem (having been assured by no one less than its translator that it was worth the read) but the buzz made it so obvious that the novel would be on the final ballot that I chose to wait to get my free copy.  And then of course the puppies shit the bed, and the first uncensored thought that popped into my head was “dammit, now I’m going to have to buy that novel!”.

Of course things have shifted again and Three Body is back on the ballot, so I will be getting a free copy (presumably), but in order to punish myself for those uncensored thoughts, I’m going to be buying a copy today.  (I sure hope I like it….spending good money on a flyer like that….when I coulda gotten it for free….)

I find it odd that I do not have the same sense of entitlement regarding review copies that are or are not supplied to me for free by publishers looking to get a marketing push.  Sometimes stuff just arrives in the mail (hey!  yay!  Free Book!) and sometimes I write to the author or editor or publicist or publisher and request a copy.  Sometimes I get one (hey!  yay!  Free Book!) and sometimes I don’t even get a courtesy brush off, but I don’t even think about booing.

Maybe I feel entitled to the Hugo Packet because I spent forty or fifty bucks on a Supporting Membership (or more for an attending membership)?  But there ought to be a disconnect there because a Supporting Membership is not a discount book program.  It’s supporting the convention, of which the Hugo Awards are but one part.  It’s for supporting the people who have been working on the convention for probably the past three or four YEARS.  It’s supposed to be my way of saying:  I can’t be there in person this year, but I believe in what you folks are doing and want to see it continue, so here’s some money.

I am positive beyond any shred of doubt that I am not the only Hugo Voter who has had this creeping sense of entitlement grow upon them over the past several years.


Jaye Em Edgecliff

“Puppies…” – May 2

Do not, instead, decide that it’s about bringing back the good ol’ adventure yarn in places of “message fic” (also do not knock “message fic” while it is possible to witness your orgasmic pleasure you derive by merely typing the name Robert A Heinlen, it REALLY spoils your point), but then start bitching that things don’t qualify when numerous items are pointed out, but those items just happen to have females who play a role other than damsel in distress (Uh, one word for you, buddies, little thing you probably never heard of from the early 20th century Triplanetary … she wasn’t a damsel in distress), characters who incidentally are gay or trans or black or fuchsia or vegetarian or ¼ amphibian … If you’re trying to claim you aren’t over-privileged, white-supremacist, homophobic, transphobic, etc it’d help if you didn’t call things that are exactly the old-fashioned classic adventure yarn you claim to want “message fic about gay issues [for example]” just because a character is gay.  Trust me, there’s a difference between a character being gay and a story dealing with gay issues.  My stories touch on gay issues, they aren’t strictly about them, and in SF/F there frequently is the conceit that the society has no gay issues in the first place….


Anthony Vicino on One Lazy Robot

“Why Ratings and Reviews Don’t Matter Anymore (sort of)” – May 2

[A lot of interesting statistical analysis in here. Can’t even begin to scratch the surface with an excerpt.]

In particular, the books with the most lopsided ratings tend to be from self-published authors. What do I mean by this? Well, self-published authors, whether they be fairly popular, or not, tend to have significantly higher ratings than their traditionally published brethren.

Before we get into the why and the how, I want to substantiate this claim with some examples. I spent a little bit of time this morning compiling some datas that I now want to throw in your face. Incoming!

First, I googled top 100 science fiction books of all time. What pops up reads as a who’s who of sci-fi literary mastery. So I just went down the list, took the top 12 titles and searched their Amazon rating to get a baseline. Here we go:


William Shaw in Oxford Student

“Censorship and the Hugo awards” – May 2

You see, Beale and his supporters mounted this campaign because they believed that the awards were being dominated by broadly left-wing fiction because of the censorship of a shadowy group of left-wing authors, rather than because the books they wanted to see nominated just weren’t any good. And so they decided to stuff the ballot. They reacted to an unfounded conspiracy of censorship by actively engaging in censorship themselves. What happens to the Hugos as a result of this still ongoing controversy remains to be seen, but we can learn a crucial lesson from it. Which is that the would-be censor can all too easily turn anti-censorship rhetoric to their advantage. We must be mindful of that, and remain vigilant if we want to see truly free and open artistic expression.



Kate Paulk on Mad Genius Club

“A Mad Genius Goes to RavenCon (Part the Second)” – May 2

Much joyous conversation was had upon the nature of weaponry, the importance of ending the Sadness of the Canines of Youth, and the prospect of selling buttons with the arcane cantrip “Barfly Central is my Safe Space”. And lo! The Convention of Raven has not descended to the madness of the Safe Space, for among the Secret Masters of Fandom in the shining city of Richmond there are those who know the never-to-be-spoken truth: that the Safe Space so celebrated by the Glittery Warriors of Social Justice is merely the demon of Apartheid masquerading under a pretty name and suit of demonic glitter….

Upon completion of the panel, the warrior maiden did retreat to her “safe space” (Barfly Central) wherein she did converse with many of the Flies of Bar and did meet in person the redoubtable warriors John C Wright and L Jagi Lamplighter (for as with many in these modern times the warrior maiden had conversed with both through the Internet of Tubes). ‘Twas here that Kate the Impaler did learn of the attempt of the GOH of Wrongness to have a person ejected from the Convention of Raven and that the GOH of Wrongness did have no copanelists. Speculation there was that the GOH of Wrongness was of such wrongness that no other wished to join for any panel.