Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #8

By Chris M. Barkley:

Stuff I’m Nominating for the 2017 Hugo Awards, Part Three

Best Series (Special Category)

The Expanse by James S.A. Corey featuring Leviathan Wakes (2011), Caliban’s War (2012), Abbadon’s Gate (2012), Cibola Burn (2014), Nemesis Games (2015), Babylon’s Ashes (2016).

Seriously, is there any series in recent sf literature that can match The Expanse? It is probably the most well-written, exciting, riveting and audacious series of novels the community has ever seen or likely to any time in the near future.

Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (who write the series as James S.A. Corey) have created a universe filled with intrigue, war, horror and a ton of surprising plot twists and revelations that have landed each subsequent volume on the New York Times Best Sellers list and in critics and fans hearts as well.

With each novel, the evolving conflict between a United Nations ruled Earth and Moon, the militaristic Mars, the asteroid dwelling Belters and the Outer Worlds grows in intensity and wonder as the ever-growing cast of characters are drawn together and cast apart with alarming frequency.

This isn’t the fairly clean and antiseptic future depicted here; it’s hard scrabble, dirty, dangerous and as fatal as anything George R.R. Martin has written in the guise of a hard science epic. The television adaptation of the novels on the SyFy network (which also happens to be the best sf show currently on television) is easily comparable to Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Doctor Who.

Needless to say, The Expanse will be my only entry in this category.

 

Best Novel

Version Control by Dexter Palmer, Pantheon Books, 495 pages.

On the surface, Dexter Palmer’s second novel, Version Control, seems at first to be an attempt at those pretentious literary novels pretending not to be a pretentious sf novel. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Philip is a physicist in a small fictional New Jersey town. He has just invented a “causality violation device” , which he prefers you NOT to call a “time machine”. Rebecca, his wife, works as a customer service rep at a digital dating service called Lovability, a hyperbolic version of Match.com.

As Philip’s experiments progress, Rebecca begins to notice that objects and people around her are not quite right. In her mind’s eye, events are ever shifting and changing causing her to believe that everything is on the verge of spinning out of control. And then she starts receiving messages from a Lovability customer that seem to confirm their reality is unraveling and they are the only two who are aware of it happening. And then, things take a truly terrifying turn for the worst.

Palmer’s layered plot takes a while to get started but once it does, it becomes a captivating and terrifying tale of science gone awry. And it’s easily the best novel about time travel in the past decade.

Best Novel

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, Crown, 352 pages.

Over the past fifteen years, Blake Crouch has built himself a growing reputation as a crackerjack writer of crime thrillers (Good Behavior, Abandon and Run) and sf-tinged novels (the Wayward Pines trilogy, which was adapted for television and ran for two seasons during the summer on Fox).

His bestselling breakthrough novel is Dark Matter, which features another scientist in peril. Jason Dessen is a failed scientist who had a theory about multiple universes. Unfortunately for him, he has been abducted and taken into an alternate universe where his family does not exist. Desperate to Return to his true home, Dessen finds himself being chased from one reality to the next by forces who will do anything and literally go anywhen to ensure he does not talk.

Although the pace is lightning fast and the plot holes pop up like potholes in the springtime, Crouch’s story just hooks you and demands you keep reading to the end.

 

 

Best Novel

All The Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, Tor Books, 313 pages.

All The Birds in the Sky is a strange and wondrous amalgam of a novel that touches on and combines the worlds and manners of fantasy and science fiction in the same novel. Usually, an author chooses either one form or another. Combining both is an audacious and dangerous act of literary larceny, which Charlie Jane Anders pulls off brilliantly.

Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead were very close friends in their childhood years. Then Patricia grew up to be a witch and Laurence grew up to be a mad scientist. Their world is coming apart at the seams and each is convinced that either science, or magic, will be Earth’s salvation.

Their story is unlikely, enthralling, scary, sexy and terrifying. A novel like this may come around only once in a generation or so and we are damned lucky to be reading it and considering it for a Hugo Award.

Best Novel

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, Harper Voyager, 441 pages.

Every now and then, a reader (like myself) will come across a novel that is SO DELIGHTFUL and fun to read, that you never want it to end. Becky Chamber’s The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is such a novel and fans and critics have been clamoring for more since its publication.

Just consider the opening paragraph:

As she awoke in her pod, she remembered three things. First, she was traveling through open space. Second, she was about to start a new job, one she could not screw up. Third, she bribed a government official into giving her a new identity file. None of this information was new, but it wasn’t pleasant to wake up to.

The “she” in question is Rosemary Harper, the newest member of the Wayfarer, an interstellar ship that opens up hyperdrive tunnels to new worlds. Along the way, we meet and get to know Rosemary’s shipmates, Ashby, the captain, Lovey the ship’s AI, Doctor Chef (who provides both functions!) and Sissix, the pilot and Jenks and Kizzy, the onboard techs.

As the year-long voyage progresses, they all engage in various adventures and get into trouble. It’s all very picturesque and a bit cozy, reminiscent of the sort of stories Murray Leinster, James H. Schmitz and Clifford D. Simak used to write for Astounding and Analog for John W. Campbell, Jr., but with a more modern sensibility.

And the best news is that her second novel in this series, A Closed and Common Orbit, was just published in paperback. So get out to your local bookstore and enjoy!

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #7

By Chris M. Barkley:

Stuff I’m Nominating for the 2017 Hugo Awards, Part Two

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

Arrival (Paramount Pictures/Sony Pictures, 116 minutes) Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Screenplay by Eric Heisserer, based on the novella “The Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, Produced by Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder and David Linde.

Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg and Tzi Ma.

I have no doubt that some of the nominees on the BDP Long Form ballot that will probably be slam dunks:  Star Wars: Rogue One, Doctor Strange, Star Trek Beyond  and (fingers crossed) Stranger Things. I will not be nominating any of the aforementioned films because I know they have their fans and they’ll get plenty of support.

However, I will be nominating one movie I want to be on the final ballot, one that towers above all the rest: Arrival.

Arrival has the top spot on my ballot this year and in my heart as well. Based on the Hugo and Nebula Award winning novella by Ted Chiang, it is expertly brought to life on the screen by screenwriter Eric Heisserer, director Denis Villeneuve and actors Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker. It was honored by the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards with multiple nominations (and winning an Oscar for Sound Editing), it also serves as a brilliant textbook example of a successful adaptation from page to cinema.

The story of linguist Louise Banks (Adams) and her encounters with the mysterious aliens whose motives she’s trying to understand is not only intriguing, it’s also moving and full of love and empathy as well. As good as the other nominees in this category are, none of them can even approach Arrival, which will be considered a classic film in EVERY sense of the word in coming decades.

Extra: Here a link to an Entertainment Weekly feature on how Denis Villeneuve and Eric Heisserer worked on the screenplay.

Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form

The Expanse – Season One (Penguin in a Parka, Approx 440 minutes, ten episodes), based on The Expanse novels by James S. A. Corey.  Written by Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby, Robin Veith, Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck, Jason Ning, Naren Shankar and Dan Nowak. Produced by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, Lynn Raynor, Ben Cook and Dan Novak.

Starring Thomas Jane, Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Paulo Costanzo, Florence Faivre, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Frankie Adams

The Expanse is based on series of novels by James S. A. Corey, the pseudonym of two authors, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who also produce the show as well.

Spanning for a crowded Earth and Moon, Mars, the asteroid belt and beyond, this sprawling and exciting space opera is the best sf show produced for television since the heydays of Firefly and Babylon 5. Two hundred years in the future, several fractions of humanity are struggling for control and political power in the solar system. Little do any of them know that a much larger game is being played and that humanity’s survival is hanging in the balance.

The Expanse (and other excellent shows of this length, like HBO’s Westworld) are practically advertising for a change in the WSFS rules to establish a Best Dramatic Series award. Just Sayin’, folks…

NPR’s Cosmos and Culture called The Expanse the “Best Science Fiction Show in a Decade”.

Best Related Work

William Schafer, Publisher – Subterranean Press, Burton, Michigan 48519

One of the things that I have been meaning to do over the past few years is to nominate William Schafer for a Hugo Award.

I should have done it while Subterranean Press Magazine was still being published on a regular basis. (It published its final issue in the summer of 2014). Since he cannot be nominated as an editor, I will do so in the Best Related Work category.

William Schafer does not merely reprint classics and contemporary books, he masterfully commissions and creates magnificent works of art which immediately become THE treasured collector’s item of anyone’s book collection.

I should know since I own several of his books, including the ultimate edition of Harlan Ellison’s Deathbird Stories, The Jack Vance Treasury edited by Terry Dowling and Jonathan Strahan and Project Moonbase and Others, a collection of Robert Heinlein’s teleplays based on his own works.

Here is a list of the books published by Subterranean Press in 2016, which can be viewed on the SubPress website: http://subterraneanpress.com/

  • Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  • Beyond the Aquila Rift: The Best of Alastair Reynolds by Alastair Reynolds
  • Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon
  • DJSTURBIA by David J Schow
  • Down and Out in Purgatory by Tim Powers
  • Downfall of the Gods by K. J. Parker
  • Early Days: More Tales from the Pulp Era by Robert Silverberg
  • Eternity’s Wheel by by Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves, and Mallory Reaves
  • Freedom of the Mask by Robert McCammon
  • Half a War by Joe Abercrombie
  • Hell’s Bounty by Joe R. Lansdale and John L. Lansdale
  • Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
  • Medusa’s Web by Tim Powers
  • Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Soulless by Gail Carriger
  • Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
  • The Authentic William James by Stephen Gallagher
  • The Case of the Bleeding Wall by Joe R. Lansdale and Kasey Lansdale
  • The Days of Tao by Wesley Chu
  • The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred by Greg Egan
  • The Further Adventures of Langdon St. Ives by James P Blaylock
  • The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne
  • The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons
  • This Census-Taker by China Mieville
  • This Year’s Class Picture by Dan Simmons
  • White Night by Jim Butcher

Convincing, yes?

Best Related Work

The Fifty Year Mission: The First Twenty Five Years (June 2016) and The Next Twenty Five Years (August 2016) by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross, Thomas Dunn Books and St. Martin’s Press.

Many histories have been written about Star Trek, one of the most phenomenal, influential and culturally significant television shows of the 20th century. What makes Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross’ oral history of Star Trek so significant is that for the first time, nearly ALL of the participants get to tell the inside story of how the series and movies were made from their point of view.

It is breathtaking to read directly from the creators, producers, actors, writers, artists and fans on what happened and how it happened. And none of the participants, deceased or otherwise, spare any detail on the triumphs, mistakes, tragedies and screw ups that made Star Trek what it is today.

It would be a marvelous to reward Mr. Altman and Gross with a Hugo nomination for collecting these anecdotes, memories and interviews over the past thirty years to bring us the inside dope on one of our favorite indulgences…

Excerpts:

Leonard Nimoy (actor, “Mr. Spock”) I went in to see Gene at Desilu Studios and he told me that he was preparing a pilot for a science fiction series to be called “Star Trek,” that he had in mind for me to play an alien character. I figured all I had to do was keep my mouth shut and I might end up with a good job here. Gene told me that he was determined to have at least one extraterrestrial prominent on his starship. He’d like to have more, but making human actors into other life-forms was too expensive for television in those days. Pointed ears, skin color, plus some changes in eyebrows and hair style were all he felt he could afford, but he was certain that his Mr. Spock idea, properly handled and properly acted, could establish that we were in the 23rd century and that interplanetary travel was an established fact.

William Shatner Captain Kirk and I melded. It may have been only out of the technical necessity; the thrust of doing a television show every week is such that you can’t hide behind too many disguises. You’re so tired that you can’t stop to try other interpretations of a line, you can only hope that this take is good, because you’ve got five more pages to shoot. You have to rely on the hope that what you’re doing as yourself will be acceptable. Captain Kirk is me. I don’t know about the other way around.

David Gerrold (writer, “The Trouble With Tribbles”) The problems with Shatner and Nimoy really began during the first season when Saturday Review did this article about “Trek” which stated that Spock was much more interesting than Kirk, and that Spock should be captain. Well, nobody was near Shatner for days. He was furious. All of a sudden, the writers are writing all this great stuff for Spock, and Spock, who’s supposed to be a subordinate character, suddenly starts becoming the equal of Kirk.

PHILIP KAUFMAN (Writer-Director: Planet of the Titans) I still remember the night when it was getting very close. I was then writing and I stayed up all night, but I knew I had a great story. I remember how shaky I was trying to stand up from my writing table and I called Rose, my wife, and I said “I’ve got it, I really know this story,” and right then the phone rang. It was Jerry Isenberg saying the project’s been cancelled. And I said, “What do you mean?” and he said, “They said there’s no future in science fiction,” which is the greatest line: there is no future in science fiction.

Excerpted from The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years © Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, 2016

Best Novella

Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling, November 2016, Tachyon Press.

I am ashamed to admit that even though I work in a bookstore, my knowledge of the yearly offerings of short fiction is woefully inadequate. Annually, I depend on recommendation sites, word of mouth and the actual nomination lists to catch up.

BUT, this year, I have at least one recommendation: Bruce Sterling’s darkly comic novella, Pirate Utopia.

Set in a small Italian town of Fiume off the Adriatic coast after the First World War, a disparate group of artists, veterans, scientists, criminals and various political fanatics have come together to form the Free State of Carnaro which has dedicated itself to explore and exploit every form of libertine and social excess in every shape and form.

Based on a true story of a similar city that actually existed between 1920 and 1924, Sterling takes a small piece of obscure history and turned it into a brilliantly funny and by turns, grotesque piece of alternative-diesel punk history.

Among the cast of characters who are part of the action are Guglielmo Marconi (the inventor of radio), Benito Mussolini (as a newspaper editor!), Harry Houdini and H.P. Lovecraft (as American spies?), and Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels (as innocent bystanders?).  The crazy quilt of a plot is just barely on the sane side of satire and is always twisting and turning in unexpected directions. Bruce Sterling deserves a lot of credit for turning many of the tropes of the genre of its head to make the story work.

Finally, a word about the artwork; all of the marvelous and madcap illustrations in Pirate Utopia are the work of John Coulthart, who also wrote an entertaining essay about how his work in the book  was influenced by Futurist artists of the period.

There a LOT packed into this little volume and it is quite a triumph for Bruce Sterling and Tachyon Press.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #6

Stuff I’m Nominating for the 2017 Hugo Awards, Part One

By Chris M. Barkley:

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

Blackstar by David Bowie,  ISO Records – Columbia, Music and Lyrics by David Bowie with Maria Schneider, Paul Bateman and Bob Bharma on “Sue (Or A Season of Crime)”.

Album Personnel

David Bowie – vocals, acoustic guitar, mixing, production, string arrangements, “Fender Guitar” (3), harmonica (7)

Length: 41 minutes 17 seconds.

It has been a year and a month since the passing of David Bowie. His final gift to us, Blackstar, is a testament to his musical sensibilities and genius.

In the fall of 2014, Bowie and his longtime producer Tony Visconti secretly gathered together a group of New York City jazz musicians and began to record this album. Although he knew his days were numbered, Bowie desperately wanted to add one last note to his majestic musical legacy.

Blackstar is not a conventional rock album by anyone’s standards. If anything, his use of the jazz ensemble more resembles a throwback to the jazz-fusion era of the 1970’s and ’80.

Besides showing Bowie was well aware of his fatal cancer diagnosis, he was also keen to show everyone that he would not let death get in the way of his artistic and creative endeavors.

Blackstar’s Hugo worthiness, in my opinion, rests on the title track, “Lazarus” and the accompanying ten-minute music video of “Lazarus.” Reading between the lines of his lyrics, Bowie’s symbolism and longing for something beyond death are there, even though he doesn’t know exactly what it might be or what form it might be in. There is no morbidity or fear in these musings, just a sense of wonderment.

You can view the full version of the “Lazarus” video here:

Two previously released songs, “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” and “‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore”, were re-recorded for this album, replacing bridges that Bowie had originally played with new saxophone parts played on the latter song by Donny McCaslin.

Blackstar was released on January 8, 2016, coinciding with Bowie’s 69th birthday. David Bowie succumbed to liver cancer two days later.

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

Stranger Things (Eight Episodes, 395 minutes, Netflix) created and directed by Matt and Ross Duffer. Produced by Shawn Levy, Dan Cohen and the Duffer Brothers. Written by The Duffer Brothers, Jessica Mecklenburg, Justin Doble, Alison Tatlock, Jessie Nickson-Lopez and Paul Dichter.

Starring:  Mille Bobby Brown, David Harbour, Winona Ryder, Matthew Modine, Finn Wolfhard , Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp and Shannon Purser as “Barb” Holland.

When I first heard about the premise of Stranger Things, my eyes rolled so hard they nearly catapulted from my skull. And I have never been more wrong and delighted in my life.

The setting:  Hawkins, Indiana, November 1983. When young Will Myers (Noah Schnapp) goes missing , a nightmarish chain of events is set into motion that include a government conspiracy conducted by a local science facility, an unhinged mother’s (Wynona Ryder) desperate search for her child, an alcoholic sheriff (David Harbor) involved in an investigation that’s way over his head, mysterious deaths and other disappearances of citizens and three pre-teen boys (Finn Wolfhard , Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin,) who happen upon an unearthly young girl with paranormal abilities (Millie Bobby Brown).

And there’s a monster.  A BIG ONE! From ANOTHER DIMENSION!

If you haven’t seen this phenomenal blend of horror, sf, fantasy, conspiracy thrillers and cultural tropes of the 1980’s, it would be criminal of me to say anything else do actually describe it. To those of us who actually grew up in that era (and I am one of them, to be sure), Stranger Things nostalgically calls out our cultural past and its tropes in practically every scene; Stephen King novels, the films of John Hughes, John Carpenter, Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas among many, many others.

The cast is uniformly spectacular and earned them all the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for 2016 against such world-class competitors like as The Crown, Downton Abby, Game of Thrones and Westworld.

So don’t count Stranger Things out if (or when, more likely than not) it goes up against heavyweights challengers like Star Wars: Rogue One, Doctor Strange, Star Trek Beyond and Deadpool on the final ballot.

Best Novel

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters, Mulholland Books, published 5 July 2016, 336 pages.

Victor, the narrator of this novel, is a clandestine US Marshal in contemporary America. His job is hunting fugitives. Victor does it and he does it well. But there are a couple of wrinkles to this situation:

Abraham Lincoln is assassinated before his inauguration and the Civil War never happens.

Slavery is kept viable through a series of political compromises by the ruling parties. By the 20th century though, only four southern states still have legalized slavery and the rest of the country is “civilly” segregated for everyone’s protection.

Victor is hunting African-American fugitive slaves under the Fugitive Persons Act.

Victor himself is black, is STILL a “Person Bound to Labor” and has the freedom to roam the country at will, but only at the brutal expense of the people he captures.

When Victor is sent to track down an outlaw abolitionist codenamed Jackdaw, he is forced to come to terms with his work, his life and the country he serves.

Even more daring than the plot of Underground Airlines is the fact that the author, Ben H. Winters, is white. A white author, even a well-meaning one, writing about such an explosive cultural topic today, with a black narrator, might seem to be professional suicide in the literary world. Winters, a skilled professional whose previous works have won the Edgar Award (The Last Policeman) and the Philip K. Dick Award (Countdown City) for Best Novel, has won over critics and readers with this brilliant alternate history thriller.

I will be very disappointed if Underground Airlines does not make the final Hugo Award ballot this year.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #5       

usbtypewriter

The Proust Questionnaire Answered

By Chris M. Barkley:

From the Vanity Fair website:

The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. Here is the basic Proust Questionnaire.

1)      What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To be listening to music, reading, writing or creating something of value.

2)      What is your greatest fear?

That my life has no meaning and nothing I have done has any value.

3)      What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Without a doubt, I procrastinate way too much. I’ll work on that tomorrow. Promise.

4)      What is the trait you most deplore in others?

When people impulsively give in to their most inner crassness and do things to please themselves without a thought to how their actions might be interpreted by others.

5)      Which living person do you most admire?

Currently, the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle. I also admire the men and women of law enforcement and public safety, who put their lives on the line EVERY day.

6)      What is your greatest extravagance?

I LOVE buying music, books and films. What I take for granted everyday is a pleasure that is denied to a great number of people in the world.

7)      What is your current state of mind?

Troubled, but feeling hopeful.

8)      What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Modesty or moderation. When I was younger, I tried to dial back my self-worth and ego to appease other people, which, I think, held me back in my development as a person. As I’ve grown older, I learned the hard way that those sorts of feelings are actually harmful. If you’re good at doing something, ANYTHING, you have to be your own cheerleader first before you can get others to believe it. Occasionally, you’ve got to cut loose and feel it, otherwise you’ll tie yourself in emotional knots.

9)      On what occasion do you lie?

It’s usually a selfish impulse to protect myself from some stupid mistake or faux pas that I should have avoided in the first place. Shameful, but true.

10)   What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I would love to have been three or four inches taller.

11)   Which living person do you most despise?

I TRY not to despise anyone because hating takes a lot of personal energy and  is distracting me from more important concerns. Having said that, Donald J. Trump has worked himself off of my Christmas card list..

12)   What is the quality you most like in a man?

Honesty and a sense of humor.

13)   What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Honesty and a sense of humor.

14)   Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Gotcha. Really? C’mon Man!!!!!!

15)   What or who is the greatest love of your life?

I have the privilege of having two exceptional people in my life; my daughter Laura and my life partner, Juli. I LOVE them both so much.

16)   When and where were you happiest?

When I am in the company of the people I love and good friends.

17)   Which talent would you most like to have?

One day, I would like to learn how to play musical instrument, such as a guitar or the piano.

18)   If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Well, I am learning to be more decisive, be less of a procrastinator and try not to be such a hoarder. Every day is a challenge.

19)   What do you consider your greatest achievement?

That I am a loving parent who has successfully raising a responsible adult.

20)   If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I honestly can’t fathom to idea of being someone or something else. One thing is certain; not as a lobster. PLEASE!

21)   Where would you most like to live?

Anywhere my partner Juli happens to be.

22)   What is your most treasured possession?

The love I feel for Juli and Laura. It is greater than any physical possession I have. (Except for those 1966 copies of Justice League of America, numbers 46 and 47.)

23)   What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Being depressed, mainly about my own state of mind or being worried about my country and our world.

24)   What is your favorite occupation?

While I love my current occupation as a bookseller, I would gladly trade it in to be a full time, professional writer.

25)   What is your most marked characteristic?

My dry and somewhat caustic wit. And my big nose.

26) What do you most value in your friends?

Honesty, loyalty and Vernor’s Ginger Ale..

27) Who are your favorite writers?

Harlan Ellison, Rita Mae Brown, Octavia Butler, William Shakespeare, William Goldman, Aaron Sorkin, Elmore Leonard, Dashiell Hammett, Gregory McDonald, Raymond Chandler, Rex Stout, Jack Vance, Jim Bouton, Theodore Sturgeon, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Robert A. Heinlein, Leonard Maltin, Kage Baker, Kij Johnson Nnedi Okorafor, Lois McMaster Bujold, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Alfred Bester and Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree, Jr.) .

28)   Who is your hero of fiction?

I tend to gravitate towards film characters than literary ones. Lately I have been drawn to Max Rockatansky and Imperator Furiosa, the haunting main characters of Mad Max – Fury Road.

29)   Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Until Lin Manuel-Miranda enlightened us all about the life of Alexander Hamilton, I wouldn’t have an answer to this question.

30)   Who are your heroes in real life?

Teachers, cops, fire fighters and all other first responders. They should be the most respected and highest paid workers in America.

31)   What are your favorite names?

Laura and Juli, of course.

32)   What is it that you most dislike?

Arrogance, avarice and dishonesty are at the top of my list, especially if that person happens to be an elected servant of the people.

33)   What is your greatest regret?

That I spent nearly forty years wondering if I could be a writer instead of BEING a writer.

34)   How would you like to die?

Quietly, of old age if at all possible, watching Casablanca or 2001, A Space Odyssey. Otherwise, it should be in a spectacular fashion, with tons of spectacle.

35)   What is your motto?

“No Surrender, No Retreat.”

With MANY THANKS to Vanity Fair magazine.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #4 

I YA

The Young Adult (Hugo) Award: A Minority Report

By Chris M. Barkley: Author’s Note: Of all the columns I have written so far, the following was the hardest and took the longest period to write. From my own, subjective viewpoint, I may be too close to the trees to actually perceive the forest. Nonetheless, I promised Mike Glyer a column about the Young Adult Award. Since I initially proposed it in 2010, I feel a certain sense of responsibility, to all those who are fervent supporters of this idea and to the committee members who have slaved over its composition and torturous course through numerous Worldcon Business Meeting over the past few years.

I spoke at the 2016 Business Meeting at MidAmeriCon II and my remarks are included in a video link provided with this article. While I do not renounce my support of the YA amendment in its current form, this column also serves as a minority report that I feel I should have presented to the Business Meeting.

While recounting the events that have led us to the current status of the YA Award, I felt compelled to point out some deficiencies of the process and some of the critical decisions that have been made over this period of time. By doing so, I do not mean to denigrate the efforts of the members of the YA committees, past or present and I apologize in advance if this report is perceived in that matter.)


On the morning of Saturday, August 20, my fellow activist Dan Berger and I were seated in Room 2104AB of the Kansas City Convention Center for the third session of the World Science Fiction Convention Business Meeting. As the morning progressed, we watched a seemingly endless parade of observations, objections and motions to various agenda items.

At one indeterminable point, Dan exclaimed, “Is this EVER going the end?”

I casually turned to Dan and said, “This is how the sausage is made.” I was not new to the process; since the year 2000, I have attended many Business Meetings. Way, way too many, I sometimes think to myself.

As the meeting marched onwards to a vote on the Young Adult Award amendment to the Constitution of the World Science Fiction society, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, this issue was finally being dealt with on the floor with an up or down vote. On the other hand, I felt that the committee’s recommendations fell far short of what I had in mind. Still, better to compromise for a half a loaf of something than no bread at all.

As we waited, I glanced down at the notes of my statement that I had hastily scribbled down on a scrap of paper that morning. I was not stranger to speaking in public, having been a radio talk show host and a retail bookseller. Still, I felt unduly nervous. I have maintained some particularly strong feelings about establishing this award over the years and here it was, probably the final opportunity to forcefully speak in its favor.

Finally, debate began on the amendment. I arose, was recognized by the chair and I slowly made my way to the podium to face my peers…

I first became aware of the Science Fiction Achievement Awards as a fifteen year old in high school with my discovery of the book club edition of The Hugo Winners Volumes One and Two, edited by Isaac Asimov.

The stories, which ranged from rousing tales of adventure (Murray Leinster’s “Exploration Team”), tragedy (“Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes), elegant fantasy (Jack Vance’s “The Dragon Masters” and “The Last Castle”) to head spinning metaphors (“’Repent Harlequin!’, said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison and Samuel R. Delany’s “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones”).

Needless to say, I was hooked for life.

In his various introductions to the stories, Asimov continually alluded to “conventions” where the awards were voted on and given out. The trouble was that he said nothing about how these things happened. I was blissfully unaware until my best friend and I stumbled upon a local convention in Cincinnati, Midwestcon, in the summer of 1976.

In those forty years, I have attended several hundred local and regional conventions and twenty-eight Worldcons.

After a near death experience in 1996, I began to be more active as a fan writer and activist. This in turn, led to a more direct involvement with the Hugo Awards.

Since 1999, I have proposed changes to the Best Dramatic Presentation Award and Best Editor categories, the establishment of the Best Graphic Story award and was one of the many co-sponsors of the Best Fancast award.

As a young reader, I cherished the authors and works that made me the reader I am today. The resurgence of YA and children’s books since the advent of the works J.K. Rowling and other breakout YA authors in the late 1990’s have made an enormous impact on the reading habits of children, teenagers and a great many adult readers of this generation, especially for those who love fantasy and sf.

Although gene oriented YA has been stereotypically been tagged as tales of young people struggling against dystopias, I think that there has been a wealth of stories being published about how young women and men struggle with their feelings about themselves, their friendships, parents, authority figures, magic and technology.

Starting in 2011, I decided to ask and poll fans privately about the possibility of a YA Award. The responses I received were numerous and enthusiastic enough that I established a Facebook page to spearhead the effort.

I pleaded with Chicon 7 convention committee to try it out as a special category award (which is legal under the World Science Fiction Constitution), but was eventually turned down because they deemed a test the Fancast Hugo, which had just passed through on its first ratification at Renovation the year before, was a more pressing concern.

In addition, I also privately petitioned the San Antonio, London and Sasquan Worldcon committees for a special award, but they all chose not to do so. While I was disappointed with their reactions, I said nothing since nothing because there was nothing to been gained by complaining publicly about the situation.

In the meantime, the amendment remained in various committees for four years.  I participated in deliberations of the first committee but not on the subsequent panels.

In retrospect, I bear much of the blame for the current state of affairs; my lack of participation in these committees amounts to a failure of leadership on my part. Even though I remained the lead administrator of the YA Hugo Facebook page, this was the extent of my participation in the process. This, in part, was due to some personal problems I was undergoing at the time and ineptitude, for which I alone take responsibility for.

The YA committee report is on the following link, on pages 48 (as C.3.2) and 130-133 (Appendix 2):

http://www.wsfs.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/2016-WSFS-Minutes-Final.pdf

The Young Adult amendment that was passed at MidAmeriCon II reads as follows:

Short Title: Young Adult Award

Moved, to amend the WSFS Constitution for the purpose of establishing an award for Young Adult literature by striking out and >adding words as follows:

  1. Insert words in existing sections 3.7.3 and 3.10.2 as follows:

3.7.3:

Nominations shall be solicited only for the Hugo Awards, And the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and the <blank> Award for Best Young Adult Book.

3.10.2:

Final Award ballots shall list only the Hugo Awards, and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and the <blank> Award for Best Young Adult Book.

  1. Insert the following section before existing Section 3.4.:

3.X: <blank> Award for Best Young Adult Book.

The <blank> Award for Best Young Adult Book is given for a book published for young adult readers in the field of science fiction or fantasy appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year, with such exceptions as are listed in Section 3.4.

Provided that filling the < blank> in this amendment to name the award shall not be considered a greater change in the scope of the amendment.

Provided that unless this amendment is re-ratified by the 2021 Business Meeting, Section 3.X shall be repealed and the modifications to 3.7.3 and 3.10.2  reversed; and Provided further that the question of re-ratification shall automatically be placed on the agenda of the 2021 Business Meeting.

The following is a summary of the committee report that was distributed at the Business Meeting:

Members of the YA Award Committee

Commentary: The YA award Committee is proposing a new WSFS award for Young Adult fiction that, like the Campbell Award, would not be a Hugo but would be administered by the WSFS. There have been many attempts going back to the 1990s to create a YA Hugo award, but none of these were successful. The previous year’s YA Hugo Committee (2014-2015) determined that a Hugo was not feasible, while this year’s Committee determined that an award in the mold of the Campbell has merits.

For details of the Committee’s findings, please see the Report submitted to the Business Meeting. In brief, no sponsor is required for an award, which would be a WSFS-sponsored award. Like the Hugo and Campbell, it would be added to the Constitution. The award would be paid for and administered by each Worldcon and presented during the Hugo Ceremony.

This proposal represents the closest we could come to a consensus in the time allotted. Although there are areas where the members of the Committee do not perfectly agree, we feel this proposal reflects our general feeling that a YA award at Worldcon is viable. We recommend its passage and the creation of a separate committee to move forward with consideration of a name for this new award and the physical template for it

In turn, I offer my counterpoints to both summaries:

The report mentions the previous committee reported that a YA Hugo category was “not feasible”.  (That report can be read here: http://dothraki.com/yareport_sasquan.pdf). I will beg to differ on this point. The main point in the report states that, “Under the existing methodology of the Hugo Awards, however, a separate category for YA fiction is not practical. That is, the Hugo fiction categories are defined by word count, not by age categories. We suggest instead the creation of a Campbell-like award, since the Campbell addresses authors and thereby functions outside the Hugo methodology.”

I find the logic of the argument baffling. After all, the Locus Award and the Edgar Awards offer a Young Adult categories and seeming have no problems either garnering viable nominations or administering the awards annually. The same could be said of the Andre Norton Award presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (even though they chose to go the “Campbell-like” route with their award).

Why is the Hugo Award perceived differently? Because of the awards are governed by a word count, specifically, that the Novel category in the WSFS Constitution states that a novel must exceed 40,000 words in length. I maintain that a great many YA novels published today easily exceed that limit and that any nominees that fall below that could fall into any of the other fiction categories. This, in other words, is a non-issue.

There was a great deal of consternation during the committee deliberations over the definition of a young adult book, to quote the report:

A Campbell-like award solves a lot of the problems that have come up in past business meetings. A Campbell-like award based on age-group solves the issue of defining what YA is and how the award would be categorized if it were a Hugo. A very strong definition of YA is not a good idea because trends change, and each year’s Worldcon should be allowed to define what they think is YA.

This is the definition of the YA category used by the Mystery Writers of America:

Best Young Adult Mystery: Hardbound or Paperback books, Grades 8 – 12. Ages 13 -18.

That’s it.

Well, it is my opinion that a “Campbell-like” award cannot be equated to an actual Hugo Award. It may be mitigated or regarded as a supplemental award, as the Andre Norton Award, but not as an equal in stature. The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer is regarded as a prestigious award due to it being named after an influential editor of modern science fiction, it’s longevity and, of course, the annual presentation of the tiara.

The perception that a YA award should be seated at a separate table from the Hugos unsettles me on a personal level. I have always loved YA novels through my youth through today as a professional bookseller. To me, the act of placing YA books in a separate category from the rest of the other categories seems to imply that it is a lesser for of literature, seated, as it were, at the kids table during a Thanksgiving feast.

While a number of authors polled stated that they would support a separate award, I am quite certain a majority of them would prefer having a Hugo Award instead.

Also, I would stipulate that each year’s Worldcon should NOT determine what YA is, the readers and nominators have that honor. The readers who are interested in nominating a YA book for a Hugo Awards already knows what a YA novel is and certainly does not need any prompting from any one in fandom.

As for “trends changing” in sf and fantasy, I should certainly hope this is the case! Imaginative literature should chronicle the changes in culture, society, styles and explorations into the inner nature of human beings (or aliens and demons, for that matter) are the bread and butter of any sort literature that grows and endures. Literature that tends to skirt or avoid these vital issues usually wind up being disregarded, ridiculed or worse, ignored and rejected by readers.

To be sure, this is not the first time I have witnessed Worldcon committees and Business Meeting regulars indulging over in over thinking proposed changes to the Constitution AND underestimating the intelligence of the nominating readers and fans. I recall similar arguments that were made during the deliberations of the Best Dramatic Presentation, Editing and Graphic Story categories; in each set of debates, there was a considerable amount of hand wringing over whether people could be bothered to look up the running times of television shows and movies, finding out who edited a novel or whether certain comics or graphic stories should even be considered sf or fantasy.

In every instance, each of these and countless small worries and dire scenarios turned out to be entirely unfounded. And, even with the exception of the Puppy slated nominations, the nominators and voters of the Hugo Awards have consistently come through with interesting and outstanding selections for the final ballot.

I submitted a request to Worldcon 75’s committee to consider a YA category and for a while, I was actually hopeful that they might grant my request. On September 30, I was rather surprised by the announcement of their decision to present a Best Series Award next year.

My frustration was further compounded by a presumptive ruling by the next Chair of the Business Meeting, Kevin Standlee, who stated on his LiveJournal page in November that any changes to the current incomplete amendment would be considered by him as a “greater change” and thereby would need yet another year of passage through the BM.

I happen to believe that Mr. Standlee is correct in his ruling BUT, this costly delay means that the soonest a YA award might be given could be another two years away. Thus, I felt the need to make my feelings known about what has gone before

So, I strode slowly to the podium. Here’s what I said at the MidAmericon II Business Meeting, at the 4:30 mark of the link:

And I meant what I said; we cannot afford to make this a contest about egos, personal interests, political agendas, but what is in the best interests of the Hugo Awards AND the readers who vote.

Although it is highly unlikely to occur, I would not be terribly upset if the members of Worldcon 75 Business Meeting reject the current amendment and substitute a lesser change, which I offer for consideration this amendment (which was originally written in 2014, when I anticipated that I would be attending the Loncon Business Meeting, but did not due to personal obligations):

Best Young Adult Hugo Award

a) A book length young adult science fiction or fantasy book published in the previous calendar year. A book nominated in this category may not be eligible for any other fiction category.

b)Provided that unless this amendment is re-ratified by the Business Meeting three years after this amendment has been ratified it shall be immediately repealed and,

Provided that the question of re-ratification shall be automatically be placed on the agenda of the Business Meeting three years afterward with any constitutional amendments awaiting ratification.

Please note that this amendment would not require naming, it would seamlessly fit into the regular Hugo Award administrative team and it would not require an original award design, all problems which the current committee has yet to come to a consensus on of this date. The designation of “book” easily dodges any dilemma of a word count for the Hugo Administrator, but as I mentioned earlier, most nominees will easily exceed the Novel category limit.

While I personally object to the establishment of a non-Hugo category for YA novels, my first preference has always been to establish it as a Hugo category. But since I was absent from the majority of the deliberations, I chose to go agree with the compromise.

Should the members of the Business meeting of Worldcon 75 decide to keep the current framework, I strongly suggest that the only way to establish this separate award with any chance of creating and maintaining a lasting and prestigious aura is to definitely name it after a undisputed champion of young adult literature: Ursula K Le Guin, Jane Yolen, Tamora Pierce, Madeline L’Engle, Anne McCaffrey or Octavia Butler easily come to mind. And I wouldn’t worry about a nickname for the new award; the fans will probably take care of that on their own and in the age of social media, it probably won’t take very long for something to stick.

Right now there are several websites and set up to take suggestions on what the awards should be named.

Among those is the Worldcon YA page:

(https://www.facebook.com/worldconya/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE)

The Worldcon YA committee page:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdPJlnD7hXaVI7Q5vntFW3OpEp2PqF6QhqGu2VmP71JR3Fn9Q/viewform

The YA Hugo Proposal Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/YA-Hugo-Proposal-187492394596256/

And yes, while I recognize that there may be some strong objections to naming (or nicknaming) an award after a living person, I would like to point out that it is not without precedent.  The Science Fiction Achievement Award was eventually nicknamed the Hugo Award WHILE the namesake, Hugo Gernsback was very much alive.

As the primary instigator of many of the category changes over the past sixteen years, I have never sought credit or favor for my fan activities.  My interest has always been, and always will be, purely altruistic.  Normally, I am not the sort of person who likes to draw attention to my fannish activities but I love the idea of establishing a YA award so much that I wanted my vociferous objections about how it has been treated to be formally recorded for the public record. I am drawing attention to this minority report now express my deep frustration at the stumbling attempts to establish a Young Adult Book Award, as a separate award category or otherwise.

My goals as a fan activist has been to assure that the Hugo Awards remain fair, engaging, diverse, thought-provoking and most importantly, relevant to the times and to the people who nominate and vote for them every year.

It is my fervent hope is that this minority report will spur the passage of a Young Adult Award forward, to Helsinki’s Worldcon 75 and beyond.

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #3

nobel_prizeAn Incredibly Modest Set of Proposals to the Royal Swedish Academy for the Nobel Prize for Literature

By Chris M. Barkley:

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan, The Times They Are a_Changin’, January 1964.

On October 13, Bob Dylan was announced as the 113th recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, the Mount Everest of literary achievement. Surprised? Dylan’s accomplishment, in the official announcement from the Royal Swedish Academy was “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

The announcement itself was an anomaly for another reason; it was made a week after all of the other Nobel laureates were announced. I’m just causally speculating here, but it could have taken that long for the members of the Royal Academy to convince Dylan that this wasn’t an elaborate prank set up by his ex-Traveling Wilbury band mate, Jeff Lynne. And I admit that while I was mildly surprised but not overly shocked by his selection. Dylan had been rumored to be a nominee in some circles for several years now.

Although there has been some harsh criticism of Dylan’s selection by literary elites in America, I think that there can be no doubt that he deserves the recognition as one of America’s greatest and most influential songwriters. And as poetry, his songs have few equals in this modern era.

This year, it is also notable because Dylan is the first American to win the honor since Toni Morrison in 1993. Like a lot of other readers and writers around the world, we feel badly for those of us who are big fans of the works American mainstream authors such as Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Roth, Thomas Pynchon, Joan Didion, Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, Louise Erdrich and Don DiLillo.

The Swedish Academy, which administers the Literature Prize honors, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, “in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. And I must congratulate the current secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, for leading the committing to make a bold, innovative choice of Bob Dylan for this year’s Literature Prize. But I am hoping for much, much, more with the Academy’s future recipients.

Consider this; some of the finest writers of mainstream fiction who have ever walked this planet, Virginia Woolf, Jorge Luis Borges, Anton Chekov, Willa Cather, Leo Tolstoy, Zora Neale Hurston, Vladimir Nabokov, Isak Dinesen, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., C.S. Lewis and Graham Greene among others, have never won the honor. It is well-known that previous Nobel Committees have not only been notoriously political and divisive over the decades, they, just as literary critics around the world, have been scornful and dismissive of anything outside of mainstream literature.

The question must be asked: would it be better for the Royal Academy, and as a consequence, for the world of literature as well, to vastly broaden the scope of nominees with the inclusion of other so-called “genre authors” as well?

The very definition of the noun literature is, “written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.” Surely writers of humor, children’s, mystery and thrillers, feminist, romance, fantasy, sf and horror, have produced such works over the past century.  But, as anyone who has done any research in this area, the selection process shows that there has been a deliberate shunning of other forms of literature.

Voting for the Nobel Prizes has been opaque since the very beginnings of the awards. All of the deliberations are done only by the members of the Nobel branches. Past nominees cannot be named until 50 years after the awards were given.

Of all of the recipients of the Literature Prize, only one, Doris Lessing in 2007, could be considered as someone who wrote works other than mainstream fiction. Her most and acclaimed works was the Canopus in Argos: Archives, an astonishing quintet of novels which used science fiction as a template to explore various interactions between aliens and humans.  In a 2011 Locus review of Lessing works, Graham Sleight wrote, “If nothing else, they display a full knowledge with the possibilities of the genre, including very visible influences from people like (Arthur C.) Clarke, (Olaf) Stapledon, and (Ursula K.) Le Guin. “

2_61_lessing320

Doris Lessing

Incidentally, Lessing was one of the professional guests of honor at Conspiracy, the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton, UK, a fact that the Nobel committee must have been aware of during the period she was under consideration.

Limiting myself just to fantasy and sf, I believe that there are a number of critically acclaimed writers who, when they were alive, deserved a Nobel nomination during their lifetimes. The late Octavia Butler, J.R.R. Tolkien, Diana Wynne Jones, Ray Bradbury, J.G. Ballard, Madeleine L’Engle, Theodore Sturgeon, Jack Vance, Stanislaw Lem and Philip K. Dick easily come to mind.

Among the contemporary world-class authors; the aforementioned Ursula K. Le Guin, Harlan Ellison, Brian Aldiss, Tamora Pierce, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Gene Wolfe, Jo Walton, Guy Gavriel Kay, Christopher Priest, Karen Joy Fowler, China Mieville, Kij Johnson, Tim Powers, Nalo Hopkinson and Michael Moorcock have all produced intensely personal works of high quality that I feel the Nobel Committee should give them all some serious of consideration.

Are the members of the Swedish Academy trying to tell us these people don’t write well? Or that their contributions to literature and world culture don’t amount to much? Because that’s exactly what the majority of mainstream book critics, academics and literary scholars still think.

I do have a few modest ideas that I freely offer to the members of Royal Academy:

First, announce long and short lists of nominees for the Nobel Prize; as it has been demonstrated in the past, when nominees for a major award is announced, the interest (and sales) of the nominee’s works rise exponentially. The Booker Prize, The Book Critics Circle, the National Book Awards, the Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America, Australia’s  Ditmar and the John W. Campbell, Nebula and the Hugo Awards, all widely publicize their nominees each year, to great effect.

Secondly, extend an invitation to a varied, rotating slate of writers, reviewers and critics from other countries to become voting members on the Literature Committee. Surely adding them can widen the net of nominees from just the usual set of suspects each year. (Of course, it would be just as helpful if some of those invited in would be our own John Clute or the New York Times’ crime and mystery reviewer Marilyn Stasio.)

Lastly, offer multiple winners each year. Such a thing is not unprecedented; in fact, it has occurred three times in the past; in 1917 (Karl Adolph Gjellerup and Henrik Pontoppidan of Denmark), 1966 (Schmuel Yosef Agnon of Israel and Nelly Sachs of Germany) and 1974 (Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson of Sweden). I personally feel that offering two or more winners each year will not dilute the honor and insure that more worthy living recipients are honored while they’re alive, as the Kennedy Center Honors or the Presidential Medal of Freedom do each year.

In a world that has seen a rise in the number of people who either have no interest in reading (“aliteracy”) or a diminished interest, it’s important to keep people engaged and energized, whether it is for pleasure or their own edification. A Nobel Prize, one of the most publicized and widely known of all awards, gives it recipients the possibility that their works will not fall into obscurity.

As for Mr. Dylan, he did not make the ceremony last Saturday due to “prior engagements”, but prepared some remarks that were read in Stockholm by the US ambassador to Sweden.  And legendary songstress Patti Smith was enlisted to sing one of Dylan’s most famous songs, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” at the ceremony that evening.

I have no doubt that Fiona Apple, the boys from U2, Pink, Jewel, Bruce Springsteen (and the E Street Band) and a lot of other musician-poets will be paying more attention to the news coming out of Stockholm in future Octobers. We can only hope that fans of all sorts of literature can look forward to a more diverse set of nominees and winners in the future as well.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #2

When the Blinders Are On, The Knives Come Out

By Chris M. Barkley:

Belief – Understanding = Ignorance

We, collectively, live on a very large, complex, noisy, crowded and messy planet.  And on this planet, at this particular time, communicating your ideas clearly and concisely is not only important, it’s essential.

If only it were that easy.

Mind you, if you wanted to communicate your feelings to a broad audience, you can do it as easily as ordering a latte from Starbucks. Which can be a big problem when you have a lot of people with conflicting ideas and ideologies competing for you money, attention and time.

But consider this; what if your fervent belief in your own values could be hindering your ability to engage your empathy for those who you disagree with, politically or socially?

On the afternoon of September 15, on Hoffman Avenue in the Olde Towne East neighborhood of Columbus Ohio, a thirteen year old black teenager, Tyre King, was shot left temple, the upper left chest and upper left side of the abdomen by Bryan Mason, a white Columbus Police officer. It was alleged by police that King, along with several other teenagers, had robbed a man of ten dollars with a gun. When police responded and confronted two of the teens, King allegedly pulled a gun from his waistband, which is when Officer Mason fired.

On September 16, knowing just these few scant details, I came across a post on Facebook page of a prominent fan from the United Kingdom, lamenting about this latest police involved shooting.

(Note: I am not naming this fan or any of those who support this point of view, because as much as I disagree with what happened next; no one should not be subject to recriminations or harassment by anyone reading this.)

I wrote that the situation was terrible but, under the circumstances, we should withhold any final judgment about what happened until the investigation had been completed. The reaction, from this person and other friends from around the UK and Europe was swift, harsh and unrelenting.

What the hell was I talking about? A cop shot a child. America’s police forces were out of control. America is full of corrupt cops. America is like the Wild West. When will the police stop killing? End of story, pal.

I found myself being quite startled and bewildered by these reactions. I have to explain that I have always been a bit of an optimist and that I have always considered myself to be a human being first, then an American and black, in that order. But being an African-American, I have always had to walk a tightrope of emotions when it comes to living here. I have experienced the worst sorts of discrimination, violence, insults and racism just based on my appearance as a black man. I feel and experience it every day, whether I like it not. But one of the safe spaces I have enjoyed over the past forty years, until very recently was being in the company of fans, writers, artists and editors in sf and fantasy fandom.

When I was in my formative years, I briefly entertained thoughts of being a police officer myself. And that period, the late 60’s through the early 70’s, the United States was rife with more violent crime and domestic terrorism than we do today. But as a teenager, I was more attracted to the gritty movies and tv shows of the day, The French Connection, Dirty Harry, The Seven Ups, Kojak, Hawaii Five-O and Adam-12.

All of this came to a grinding halt at the tender age of fifteen, thanks to Detective Sergeant Joseph Wambaugh of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Wambaugh, a former marine, served with the LAPD for fourteen years before retiring to write full-time.

I first stumbled across his first novel, The New Centurions (1971), at the public library in 1973. That, plus his other early novels, The Blue Knight, The Choirboys and his stunning non-fiction best seller, The Onion Field, pulled back the glamorous veneer of police work and showed me what it truly was, dark, dangerous and only occasionally fulfilling. He was also an executive story consultant for NBC’s Police Story (1973-1979), an anthology series whose episodes, more often than not, dared to show the dark underbelly of policing.

Reading Joseph Wambaugh’s works probably saved my life. I could not imagine that I would have survived the emotional and physical toll the job would have taken on me over any lengthy period of time.

On top of all this, my brother-in-law, who married my sister straight out of high school, went straight to the police academy and served in the Cincinnati Police department for thirty years, on patrol duty, undercover, an elite street robbery unit and internal affairs. I find it remarkable that he appears to be whole and sane after seeing, hearing and experiencing what he did over his career in police work.

So, when I graduated from high school, I opted for a slightly safer occupation; journalism courses and a degree in English.

Throughout my life of sixty years, I have stayed alive because of my knowledge of the police and how they operate, along with a good dose of common sense. I also have a great deal of empathy for the police, because I know what it is doing to them on emotional level.

Which brings me back to the Facebook discussion; I explained, several times to the posters on the thread that police work, no matter where or who is practicing it, is not only physically dangerous, it is, more importantly, emotionally dangerous, which is what Joseph Wambaugh taught me. No one wants to see a cop unless someone is shooting or robbing them. Otherwise, some people feel, your speeding, broken car parts, expired license, decrepit vehicle, driving with your headlights off, public drunkenness or impaired driving, is no one else’s business.

And of course, this is dead wrong. Public safety, which incorporates all of the activities above and countless other infractions, comes under their purview.

The police, I explained, are human beings, too. And like all human beings, they miscalculate, misunderstand and, through their own experiences, come with a set of values and judgments that come from dealing with the public on a daily basis. Most cops deal with this precarious balance of sense and sensibility. Others, unfortunately, do not.

Over the decades, the police departments in many cities, most notably in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and yes, even Cincinnati, have been placed under investigation or scrutiny by the Department of Justice for unwarranted shootings or violence, against unarmed civilians, most of them being minorities.

I tried to explain to the thread that In this day and age of cell phone cameras, dashcams, the internet and the vigilance of an informed public, police shootings, justified or not, will not go unnoticed. I told them that as flawed as it was, I believe in our system of due process and trial by evidence, not public opinion.

Will justice be served in the case of every shooting? No. But the record for posterity and the memories of those left behind will never be erased from history.

As far as I could tell, all of the correspondents condemned me.  One poster wrote, “Well, obviously you must be white”, an astonishing and surreal accusation that could have been easily avoided had she bothered to check my Facebook profile. A child was dead and a cop shot him, case closed. I, in turn, asked if you were a police officer in that situation, and a gun was present, such as a 2014 case in Cleveland, Ohio, when twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was shot in a public park while holding a realistic looking air rifle, could you tell the difference between a real gun and air gun? A police officer, who is already under duress, has to make a choice in seconds whether or not that gun is real. No one wanted to deal with the reality they face EVERY SINGLE DAY that they might end up being on the receiving end of a fatal gunshot.

But this argument came to a head the very next day. Some of my posts featured words in caps, when I tried to emphasize a point when everyone was ignoring my arguments, the owner of the wall declared that I was “shouting” and I summarily blocked.

Now mind you, I have known this person for a few years and had some pleasant conversations at Worldcons in the past. Being summarily dismissed over a difference of opinion shocked and angered me.

And as for the shooting in Columbus that started this argument? Upon examination, the weapon in fact, turned out to be an air gun fitted with a laser sight. An autopsy released by the coroner on November 10th revealed that King had no drugs or alcohol in his system and that the left side wound indicates that King was turning to run or was running when he was shot. An independent autopsy done at the behest of the King family matched the official autopsy. Sean Walton, an attorney for the family, planned to call for an independent investigation and send their report to other forensic experts for further analysis.

On November 22, Demetrius E. Braxton, 19, who was also arrested at the scene, was sentenced to three years in prison for one count of robbery as part of a plea agreement.

As of this date, Officer Mason is still on desk duty and Columbus Police are still investigating the shooting. I wonder if any of the people who denigrated me actually followed up on what happened in Columbus?

Indeed, I wonder if any of these righteous people had heard of or care about the five valiant police officers who died protecting Black Lives Matter protesters when the officers were brutally ambushed by a sniper this past July.

How about Detective Benjamin Marconi of San Antonio, Texas, who was fatally shot on November 20th while writing a traffic ticket. And Deputy Sherriff Eric James Oliver of the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, Florida, who was struck by a vehicle while pursuing a suspect on November 22nd.? And what about Officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez of Tacoma, Washington, who was killed by gunfire when he responded to a domestic disturbance call on November 30th? NOTE: The total of police killed in the line of duty in 2016 as of November 30th stood at 133, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. Of those, 60 deaths were from gunfire.

So yeah, I get it; there are some police officers who kill or maim unarmed civilians with malice. Some of them are caught and punished, others are not. But do you care, do you give a damn or a thought to the police officers who are hurt or killed performing their sworn duty to protect the public?

Why do some people vehemently turn on other people they know over some minor disagreement?  Especially people, neighbors or friends who have similar views and outlooks?

Actually, as a progressive leaning person, this is not something I had really not given much thought to until, strangely enough, Black Friday morning. I had planned on getting up at 5 a.m. to attend a sale at a local bookstore but, in deference to my rather sleepy partner, I opted to listen to National Public Radio’s Morning Edition instead.

The very first story that morning featured host Steve Inskeep interviewing Columbia University professor Mark Lilla, who had published a controversial essay in the New York Times on what he called identity liberalism and how that was one of the main causes of the startling election of Donald Trump. The interview can be heard here and the essay is here.

In brief, Professor Lilla thinks that enlightened self-interest is at times overcome by myopic concerns on a few or even one issue. As I lay in bed listening, I found myself flashing back to that incident on Facebook. And what Lilla theorized made perfect sense in retrospect; when the blinders go on, the knives come out.

Now, before we all start feeling all smug and condescending about liberals or sf fandom, these same of standards could be equally applied to the conservative forces that have been obstructing President Obama’s agenda during his two terms or any of the more strident supporters of President-Elect Trump.

We all carry some inherently bias in one way or another, either through our political or social or intimate interactions.

A few days after the NPR interview, I encountered a few Trump supporters on my open and public page. Instead of blasting them and summarily blocking them, as I had done in the past, I tried a different approach. I told them while I was not pleased at all with President-Elect Trump and his cabinet appointees; there were serious concerns about his conflicts of interests with his businesses. I also pointed out that the people peacefully protesting were not the enemy, they were citizens and had a right to do so. Furthermore, since we’re all in this boat together, we should concentrate on finding common areas to work on together instead of attacking each other on everything we disagree on.

And the responses in return were remarkable. One man explained why he voted for Trump and said that for one, he enjoyed engaging with someone who wasn’t calling him an “alt-right nazi” at the drop of a hat. The other said that he did not like fighting all the time online and wished that more people like me would just try talking instead of shouting at each other all of the time.

Buddhists have a phrase, “the middle path”, in which they describe a philosophy where extremism is avoided and wisdom is gained through understanding. Western political thought has other comparable terms, compromise and empathy.

Over the past few years, fandom has faced a problem with dissidents; the Sad and Rabid Puppies. The us and them, push and pull and political gamesmanship over the very nature of the fandom has stressed it to the point of being permanently fractured, much like the United States is presently.

The only way any of us are going to survive the Trump Administration, or each other, is to stop shouting at each other and start listening more. I say this not as an excuse to accommodate the racism, sexism, homophobia or religious persecution. We are going to be fighting these battles for some time to come and we, collectively, should spare no effort to combating it.

But we need to start somewhere. We need to understand in order to overcome the conflict, animosity and anger we all carry with us each day.

We start by listening.

Knowledge + Empathy = Enlightenment

Barkley — Since You (Didn’t) Ask — Trumplandia, Weeks One and Two          

1122161657-minBy Chris M. Barkley:

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” — Winston S. Churchill

Britain: “Brexit was the worst idea we ever came up with…”

America: “Here, hold my drink…”

A premonition: In the late afternoon of Election Day, I urgently needed to an errand. As I got into my car, a large, hulking white man hailed me from the street. He looked lost and disoriented. He approached me and asked, “Do you know where the polling station is? Some kids told me it was this way,” pointing off in the distance, “but I think I’m lost.”

I wasn’t getting a bad vibe from him and he was trying to vote, so my altruistic instincts kicked in. I tried to direct him to the rental office where the polls were being staged but he looked even more confused so I said, “Look, it would be easier if I just drove you over. Come on, get in.”

“Thanks”, he said as he squeezed into my Honda Accord and began to put on a seat belt. “My name is Michael. I’m sorry if I’m taking you out of your way.”

“That’s ok. Where do you live?”

“I live over on Lakehurst Court.”

“Well, you were going in the wrong direction. Kinda. And you’re trying to vote, so I’m glad to help no matter who you’re voting for.”

Michael gave me a toothy grin and then said, “Well, I was a supporter of Ben Carson until he dropped out.”

My heart sank a bit. I began to pull out onto the street when I stole a glance at a book Michael was carrying; the black leather spine read The Bible KJV.

As I drove around the winding road to the rental office, a great many things crossed my mind; why was he voting for Trump? Did he know what he stood for? Was he aware of his indiscretions and how he treated the women in his life? Was he aware of the various lawsuits and the horrible business deals?

But I said nothing. He’s an adult. This was his decision, not mine.

A minute later I dropped at the polling station. “Thank you,” said Michael.

“You’re welcome. Have a nice day.”

As I looked into the rearview mirror, Michael ambled inside, his Bible in hand. Democracy in action, I say to myself. But I felt a chill that I was unable the shake for the rest of the day…

In the evening, my partner Juli, her daughter, son-in-law and I watched the returns on CNN and MSNBC for the better part of three hours. The race remained tight throughout the night. All during the evening, I spent a great deal of time trying to allay the fears of my friends posting their growing hysteria on Facebook. Since I had to be at the bookstore at 8am, I reluctantly opted to go to bed at a quarter to midnight.

I awoke with a start at 3:54am.

Juli lay asleep next to me. My phone was turned off. The alarm clock, set to the local NPR station, would go off in two and a half hours. I was in a Schrodinger’s Cat situation; in the quiet and the dark, I had no idea who had won the election. I lay there, hoping for the best and fearing the worst.

Finally, a few minutes before the radio came on and removed all doubt; Juli awoke and turned on her phone. I saw its glow out of the corner of my eye. I raised my head. “The fucker won,” she said in a flat tone of voice. Her head went into the pillow.

Then the radio came on and National Public Radio confirmed the worst possible news; Donald J. Trump, racist, sexist, xenophobe, and the alleged perpetrator of numerous sexual assaults, was the President-Elect of the United States of America. Donald Trump, a man with no experience in governance, lawmaking, diplomatic or foreign policy skills and apparently no filter on his volatile emotions.

Frankly, just hearing the honorific “President-Elect Donald Trump” from that morning on has given me an eerie, disorienting, very disturbing sort of chill that I usually overcomes me when reading Stephen King stories, Philip K. Dick’s The Man In The High Castle or specific episodes of Fringe, the original Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Except this time, it was quite REAL.

Work at the bookstore that day was a rather somber affair. A good majority of my bookselling colleagues, including myself, were dressed entire in black shirts, blouses, pants or dresses, in light of the election results.

Several older white men showed up early for copies of the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and the Cincinnati Enquirer, were quite jovial and boasting about Trump’s surprise victory. Needless to say, they were rude when they paid for their newspapers. I was filled with disgust and loathing.

Late in the afternoon, I was manning the cash register alone when a middle-aged woman came up to the counter clutching the latest issue of Ms. Magazine, whose bright cover was exhorting readers to VOTE! Her eyes were red and puffy and it was quite evident she had been crying all day. When I am working, I try refrain for any sort of political or editorial comments with customers in order to remain impartial and avoid appearing partisan in any way.

But she appeared to be in quite a bit of distress. I abandoned protocol.

I took the magazine from her and scanned it. “Will that be all today?”

“Yes.”

“Hey, it’s going to be ok.”

“How can you say that? My daughters are upset. My son is upset. I don’t know if I can…”

“Listen to me. There is something we can do. Tell your kids, tell your friends that we can fight. Resist. Protest. Whatever it takes.”

She began to cry. “I don’t know if we can.”

“Of course you can. We all can. We all will. “

She wiped her face with her sleeve. “Thank you. I can’t tell you how much this means to me.” I rang the sale and handed her the magazine.

She took my hand. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Just remember, you’re not alone. It makes all the difference in the world.”

The woman nodded and left smiling. I felt better myself. Still, the phrase, “Have a nice day”, did not pass my lips on November 9th.

In the days that followed, the theories on how Clinton and the Democratic Party lost the election abounded. Disaffected, white working class voters. The arrogance of the ‘liberal elites”. Hillary Clinton was the right choice of the Democratic Party at the wrong time (or vice versa). Low minority turnout. The disenfranchised minorities and voter suppression. The under estimation of the rural vote. FBI Director James Comey’s errant letter to congress. Bad polling by the “experts”. Russian hacking. Take your pick or combine; I think they were all significant factors. This maelstrom of political and social forces has given us Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States.

What I found even more alarming is that in the wake of the election, racists, fascists, white supremacists and demagogues of all stripes have been emboldened to come out of the woodwork, openly commenting or aggressively acting out their feelings in public, to the detriment of people of color, immigrants, the LBGT community and just about any they judge is not quite American enough for them.

Swastikas haven painted on cars and doors. Men and women by the hundreds have been harassed or assaulted. Workplaces have been disrupted.

1122161658-min

The late Robert Heinlein once wrote that he had not the slightest doubt that, on the whole, the human race would survive safely for at least several millennia. But he very worried about America surviving that long, in any shape or form. Heinlein, who lived from the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt to the waning days of the Ronald Reagan era, probably sat up in his grave at the news of the election of Donald Trump.

So, what is the sf community to make of this rather surprising, real world development? Besides shock and despair from a good number of fans and other professionals who opposed Trump, there is also a sizeable number in fandom who actually either directly supported Trump or voted for him or third-party candidates, because the idea of Hillary Clinton becoming President to objectionable to contemplate.

Hillary Clinton, (as of this posting) had a lead of more than 1.7 million popular votes over Donald Trump. After you factor in the number of votes actually cast, a little over forty-three percent (43.1%) of Americans who were eligible to vote did not cast a ballot for president. The combined margin of victory for Trump in the key swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania alone, which gave him the Electoral College victory, was approximately 113,000 votes.

Here’s the rub; fans across the country may be faced with a very real life scenario where they may be compelled to actively oppose a democratically elected government in a narrowly divided country.

As a member of sf fandom for the past forty years, I felt the urge, the need, to express my fears and desires here, as these dire circumstances swirl around us furiously.

We’ve all seen this movie and/or read this book before. Many, many times.

1984. The Foundation trilogy. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. A Boy and His Dog. The Empire Strikes Back. The Handmaid’s Tale. The Matrix. The Hunger Games. Divergent. Red Rising.

There is no doubt in my mind that the next several years will be very hard on fans, writers, artists and editors. And make no mistake about it, I am very afraid; for myself, my family and friends. When I woke up on November 9th and since then, nothing seems more important in my life than opposing Donald Trump, his political agenda and the designs of his alt-fascist associates.

Everything progressive minded people have supported, abortion rights, women’s rights, marriage equality, relief for immigrants, clean air and water, fighting climate change, public school, education and children’s issues, conservation of public lands and parks and political campaign reform are all on the line.

What do we do?

What can we do?

I can offer only one word: RESIST.

Resist giving into the hateful rhetoric.

Resist turning a blind eye to prejudice and discrimination.

Resist the urge not to speak up when you see or hear anything outrageous.

And, most importantly, resist giving into hopelessness and despair.

As Americans, we should do our best to uphold the best values our country has to offer; decency, respect, fairness, equal opportunities, to help the down trodden and those who are suffering in their daily struggles.  We can do this one person and one day at a time.

And when the time comes, we must preserve our hard-fought freedoms and fight tyranny, whenever and wherever we are needed.

See you in the streets.

Puppies In Perpetual Motion

(1) We begin with some choice misinformation from Charlotte Eyre’s “Five ‘no awards’ given at Hugos” on The Bookseller.

The groups [Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies] had allegedly paid for fans to go to WorldCon to have influence over the final winners, an accusation which lead authors Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet to withdraw from the awards, despite their work being nominated.

That’s a very confused accusation, to such a degree it has to be classified as a fabrication by Eyre. The Kloos and Bellet withdrawals, of course, happened back in April. The voting for the Hugos was over two weeks before the convention, and could not even potentially be influenced by someone’s physical presence at the convention.

(2) Lou Antonelli on Facebook

Some people have said I’m mad because David Gerrold snubbed me at Sasquan. That’s not true – I’m not mad that he snubbed me, because he didn’t.

He did offer to buy me a beer, but that I guess was little more than a rhetorical flourish. I’m sure he was very busy. It think it would have made a great photo, the pair of us quaffing brews – it might have even helped show some kind of reconciliation was possible. A missed opportunity, perhaps?

Bumping into him in the hallway outside an elevator, I absent-mindedly and rather spontaneously went to shake his hand. He refused, saying “I may have accepted your apology, but I haven’t forgiven you.” Realizing my faux pas, I turned tail and took off.

That’s not a snub, that’s him exercising his personal rights. He doesn’t have to be nice to me, and he wasn’t rude, just firm. I may have other complaints about how some things were done, but a beer and handshake weren’t two of them.

(3) L. Jagi Lamplighter in a comment on “Smeagol Neilson Hayden”

Folks,

First, I think John has made it sound a bit worse than it was…but this is not his fault. I did not repeat to him all of what PNH said because I did not him to get upset during the reception. (I was afraid he would be very angry if he knew someone had sworn at his wife.)

Mr, Nielsen Hayden did shout, swear, and stomp off…but he was shouting and swearing at/about John, not at me personally and, actually, as far as swearing, he just used the phrase “tell him to shovel it up his…” You can figure out the rest.

This may not seem like swearing to many of you…many folks speak that way normally. But I do not. Nor do people normally speak that way to me.

My first thought after he stormed off was; isn’t it interesting that he yelled at the one person in the room whose only reaction is going to be to pray for him.

I was not the least upset…but I did think it ironic that, of everyone present, I was the person who got shouted at. But I suspect Mr. Nielsen Hayden knows nothing about me personally, has never read my blog, and is unaware of the irony.

(4) C. Joshua Villines – “My Thoughts On An Award I Shall Never Win”

I’m not sure how any of this helps the industry or the genre. Just because my side “won” doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate the value of thoughtfully-articulated voices presenting a loyal dissent. If, no matter what the other side says, we cannot listen to what they have to say because of all of the ways in which they are “obviously” wrong, how will we ever hear the things that they have to say that are right? How can we move forward in a way that makes speculative fiction fandom, and SF publishing, as broadly representative of the interests of readers and the politics of writers as possible?

Step one, I think, is moving away from slates and treating the Hugos as a battleground. Perhaps this is easy for me to say, since I know I will never win one, but I think it is abundantly clear that this conflict did not change anyone’s mind, did not broaden the tent of SF at all, and did not establish a framework for dialogue. The agenda of the Sad Puppies is a minority one. The more actively and forcefully they push it, the more aggressively their peers and the genre’s fans will push back. The slate-stacking strategy failed everyone.

What might help is establishing open and honest conversations – with clear rules against strawmen and ad hominem attacks – around the three Puppy concerns I placed in bullets, above. The conversation around popular pulp versus literary art has a long history in speculative fiction, and it is no more likely to be resolved in SF than it is in cinema or television or general literature. That doesn’t mean we should stop talking about it. Should we give equal weight to David Gemmell, Jack McDevitt, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Gene Wolfe? I dearly love them all, but is the writing of one inherently superior to the others because of popularity, or accessibility, or literary sophistication?

We should also look at the books we read and tell others to read.  Are there litmus tests? I know I have several. I don’t recommend books, even by authors I love, even by ones who are friends, if they contain graphic rape. Lev Grossman is a kind man with a style that makes me weep with envy, but I won’t go near The Magician King. On the other hand, despite my socialist politics, I still recommend Modesitt’s Recluce books, even though I think he’s trying to subtly convert me to capitalism. Surely most of us have litmus tests of one kind or another. Let’s be honest about them, and let our colleagues tell us what we’re missing out on as a result.

Let’s also put some thought into the value, and peril, of novelty. Speculative fiction thrives on pushing, challenging, and redrawing boundaries. It is the genre of limitless horizons, of finding new questions, of challenging old answers. Consequently, I think we should recognize that sometimes it is worth celebrating when someone does something new, and does it well. Ann Leckie’s treatment of gender drove me nuts in Ancillary Justice, but I loved the questions it raised for me when I thought about why it drove me nuts. In addition, she told a darn fine story, and told it well. There is enormous value in introducing a new idea in a way that gets people talking and asking questions. We should not lose site of that. But writing is also a discipline that is inherently conscious of history and tradition, and doubly so in a genre that explicitly builds on ancient, mythic structures. There are people reading speculative fiction who lead deeply conventional lives, and who love how those old stories reinforce their conventionality. Do they deserve a voice as well? At what point does our love of ingenuity silence them? Is it better to innovate, or to excel in craft? Are they mutually exclusive goals?

(5) Chris M. Barkley on Facebook

I was required to atternd the Hugo Ceremony Rehersal in the afternoon. Rajnar Vajra had asked me to accept for him if his novelette, The Triple Sun, was honored.Our masters of ceremonies, GoH David Gerrold, Tananarive Due and the ceremony staff put us through our paces, showing us how to carry the Hugo Award, hitting our marks on stage and what to expect as the show progressed. I found out a few hours later that someone STOLE the practice Hugo! WUT????? I hope it’s recovered, sooner or later. VERY BAD things should happen to that thief!

Chris’ post is an installment of his an extensive report about his Worldcon adventures.

(6) Lou Antonelli on This Way To Texas – “Back from Sasquan”

The usual suspects proved Larry Correia right as he claimed they were a tight inbred little social clique, by the way they reacted to the Sad Puppies. George R.R. Martin’s private invite-only “real” post-Hugo reception at an expensive rented historic mansion certainly clinched that. They proved Vox Day right when they nuked five of the most important Hugo categories rather than let “the wrong kind of people” win them. He said they’d do that all along, destroying the credibility of the award, and they did. They proved Lou J Berger wrong as he handed his “We are all fans” ribbons at Sasquan. No, we’re obviously not, and the people who cheered for No Awards at the Hugo ceremony proved that. I threw Berger’s ribbon in the trash as I left the hotel, along with all the others and my badge. No reason to bring home bad memories. Yes, you literary snobs, you got what you wanted. Happy now? Feel better? Wonderful.

(7) Darrell Schweitzer on Facebook

So now the Puppies are roadkill. I have to admit I predicted this, several times, right here on FB. The reason for their defeat is not, I think, politics at all, but the same reason that the Scientologist effort failed once they got Hubbard’s BLACK GENESIS on the ballot in 1987. This forced people to read it, after which there was no hope of winning. BLACK GENESIS finished sixth in a field of five, lower than No Award, which came in 5th. Sheer awfulness proved its undoing. I think that is what happened to the Puppy slate. It was clear from the Philadelphia SF Society Hugo Predictions panel (which was a No Award sweep) that fans who knew nothing about the controversy just found the material just outrageously bad. (The PSFS novel choice was THE GOBLIN EMPEROR, which I suspect will prove to have finished 2nd or 3rd.)

(8) NPR – “’Sad Puppies’ Fail To Stuff Ballot Box At Hugo Awards”

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

There was no love for puppies at this weekend’s Hugo Awards. The sad puppies are a group who say the fan-chosen science fiction and fantasy awards have become too liberal and inclusive, so they nominated their own slate of candidates. And as NPR’s Petra Mayer reports, Hugo voters had other ideas.

PETRA MAYER, BYLINE: Over the past few years, more Hugo awards have been going to women and writers of color. The sad puppies – mostly white, mostly male – came together as a backlash. Right now it’s relatively easy to get a work on the Hugo ballot, so the puppy slate pretty much took over this year, causing months of controversy. But when it came time to hand out the iconic silver rocket ship trophies on Saturday night, Hugo voters chose to give no award in five puppy-packed categories, including best novella and best short story.

The night’s big winner was Chinese author Liu Cixin, whose book “The Three Body Problem” was the first work in translation to win the Hugo for best novel. Award organizers have now approved a rules change aimed at making it harder to nominate slates, though, it won’t take effect for two years. Petra Mayer, NPR News.

(10) Nathaniel Givens on Difficult Run – “Lots of Hugo Losers”

And yet the Sad Puppy / Rabid Puppy tactics obviously were a mistake. First, as I said, there’s the immense problem with The Three-Body Problem not even making the ballot. Sure, taste is subjective, but this book was really, really good. More importantly, however, it’s a book that was originally published in China in 2008. You want real intellectual diversity? Well there you go: a book that is literally off the American socio-political map. Additionally, the Sad Puppies again and again defended many of their choices (like Kevin J. Anderson’s The Dark Between the Stars) by referring to the author rather than the work. Best novel is an award for best novel. It’s not some kind of lifetime achievement award. So the repeated references to Anderson’s contribution to the genre (he’s written over 100 books) were not only irrelevant, but a real give-away that the Sad Puppies 3 slate had basically no serious thought behind it. It was just a haphazard collection of books a few of the Sad Puppies folks had happened to read last year, without sufficient regard for quality of the individual works.

As a result, the anti-puppies movement was able to easily cast the Sad and Rabid Puppies as invaders who had come to ruin the Hugos. Their hysterical accusations that the Puppies were Nazi’s were silly, but their accusation that the Puppies were ruining the awards had real validity. Sad Puppy opponents insisted that the only solution was for fandom to rise up in righteous wrath and repudiate the incursion by voting “No Award” above any and all Sad / Rabid Puppy nominations.4 This surge was quite strong. Nobody knew how strong until the votes were announced this past weekend, but–according to some preliminary analysis at Chaos Horizon–the breakdown of the record-breaking 6,000 voters went as follows:

  • Core Rabid Puppies: 550-525
  • Core Sad Puppies: 500-400
  • Absolute No Awarders: 2500
  • Primarily No Awarders But Considered a Puppy Pick: 1000
  • That sums up to 4600 hundred voters. We had 5950, so I thin the remaining 1400 or so were the true “Neutrals” or the “voted some Puppies but not all.”

(11) Matthew Bowman on Novel Ninja – “The Hugos, Now With No Mask to Hide Behind”

My take away, thus far, is pretty simple. The Puppies absolutely have a legitimate grievance, and the vile slander that came out vindicates them. Furthermore, the “No Award” campaign clearly crossed a line from a legitimate attempt to punish the bad tactics of the Puppies to a witch hunt when, for example, it No Awarded the Editor categories.

Thousands of people gathered for the convention, far more than normal; tens of thousands have been paying attention, for the first time in the Award’s history. They’ve all seen this play out. It’s made mainstream media outlets. It’s been trending on Twitter and other social sites. More and more people have found out about it.

This year’s Sad Puppies campaign was about bringing more attention to the Hugo Awards. It has succeeded precisely because the other side — which I have taken to calling the Leucrottas, after a mythical animal that hunts humans and dogs, solitary because even fellow leucrottas can’t stand their own company — have crowed to the world about how nasty the Puppies are. And so the world has seen the ugliness of the Leucrottas.

In the interest of protecting women and minorities, they have hurt them. In the interest of increasing diversity, they have clung to exclusivity.  To protect against invaders, they have destroyed their prize. To proclaim their enemies are racists and hate children, they have embraced racists and support pedophiles. All in the name of fiction; but only the fiction they approve of.

(12) Tom Knighton – “My Thoughts on the Hugo Awards”

The award ceremony itself…hoooooooooo boy.

Look, I joke on religions all the time.  Yes, including my own.  In fact, I’d share a Presbyterian joke, but none have made it out of all the relevant committees just yet.

However, the people who opposed the Puppies are the ones who scream about intolerance.  We’re allegedly so intolerant, yet who made the joke about Hare Krishnas?  Now, I’m not saying I was personally offended, because I wasn’t.  What I was is better described as “baffled”.

You see, I’m baffled by the people who would eviscerate me for a Muslim joke–the same people who objected to a proposed host from last year who might have told a fat joke–and yet are silent on a Hare Krishna joke on the Hugo stage.  What I hate more than anything is hypocrisy, and that’s what I see right now from these people.

(13) Tom Knighton – “From Me to Patrick Nielsen Hayden”

It’s simple.  John C. Wright wasn’t hiding from anyone.  He was there, he was visible.  PNH could have sought him out to have his words directly with John.  PNH is one of Tor’s editors, for crying out loud.  John, as is his wife, are Tor authors.  I find it hard to believe that if he had words to say to John, he couldn’t find a way to contact him and say them.

He didn’t.

Instead, he does it when Jagi offers an olive branch?

Look, I’m not saying he had to accept it.  He didn’t.  But lashing out at the spouse of the man you have an issue with?  Pathetic.

Had he said, “I’m sorry, but your husband has said some things that i simply can’t find it in myself to forgive,” I’d understand. Oh how I’d understand.  I think all of us who fought on the side of the Puppies understands it.  We’ve been called some horrible things too.

But that’s not what he did.  He yelled and cursed at a woman who offered remarkable little of the critical dialog that John did, or Larry did, or Brad did, or even I did.

I’m not saying that he has to forgive or forget.  I’m saying that he at least needs to be a man about it.  Say it to John, or even say it publicly, but don’t take it out on a Tor author who was trying to be a professional and bury the hatchet who isn’t responsible for any of it.

(14) Laughing Wolf on Blackfive“The 2015 Hugo Awards: Some Thoughts”

As I said, the response and results were not unexpected.  I honestly thought No Award would take at least two more slots than it did.

Where I’m not sparking is with how things were handled.  First, there was the biased and childish panel that preceded the Hugos.  Second, was the awards ceremony itself.  That one or more Hugo nominees walked out early (along with other professionals) says it all.  The deliberate and willful disrespect, and bias, shown says it all for me.

So, for me, it’s on.  For those of you ignorant enough to buy into the Social Justice Bullies lie that the Puppies were all angry white men, I simply point out that the Puppies were far more diverse than those that opposed them.  For a group of “neo-nazis” as an employee of Tor books called them (us, honestly), there sure are a lot of mutts in the group, and a lot females too.  In fact, one author attacked in this manner actually fought real neo-nazis and injustice, and has the wounds to show it.  Another author also schooled the idiots with the real deal.  I further note that only one, repeat ONE, reporter writing on the subject of the Puppies had the courage and integrity to actually interview the wonderful Sarah A. Hoyt, who is not a white male.  That Larry Correia is far more a mutt than I am, and hardly a lily-white male (unlike most of those attacking him).  That strawman Larry is not just a jerk, but an asshole and I want at least ten of the ribbons saying he is a jerk.  I could go on, but it is easy to pick apart the slanders, libels, and lies heaped upon them, Brad Torgersen, and others — for those with interest in the truth that is.

The blatant disrespect and insult offered to Toni last night is the final straw.  You attacked a friend.

So, I’m in on Sad Puppies 4.  If you want to destroy WorldCon and the Hugo awards, you will have your chance and you will own the results.  My hope, faint though it is, remains to make the awards truly relevant again as a means of promoting good writing, editing, and other efforts regardless of the message.

(15) Jay Maynard on Black Gate – “Dear Conservatives: Don’t Let the Door Hit You On the Way Out”

No more. It’s clear to me that a conservative cannot be accepted as an SF fan. One must kowtow to the leftist gods of diversity for its own sake and tolerance for only the approved subjects and equality of outcome, or else one is not a true SF fan. An author must be some oppressed minority to be considered worthy, and old white men need not apply.

Diversity? Great, as long as we all think in lockstep. Bring up diversity of thought and you’re immediately accused of only wanting to read stuff written by old white men.

I’m other things besides an SF fan. I’m a pilot, and a ham radio operator, and a computer geek, and more besides. I’d long thought that Worldcon was to SF fans what EAA’s Airventure at Oskhosh is to aviation geeks, and what the Dayton Hamvention is to hams: the premiere event of its fandom, to which any devotee should endeavor to go at least once in their life.

But I see no reason, now, to expend any effort at all to go to a Worldcon where those like me are plainly unwelcome. Oh, they’d happily take my money, but I’ve already had the experience of paying to go to a con where I was quickly made unwelcome — and that one didn’t require much in the way of travel. Paying a kilobuck to be miserable for a weekend is an experience I’d just as soon pass up.

Go ahead, fans. Hate Vox Day all you want. I am as repulsed by his misogynistic writings as you are (I’m not convinced he’s not simply trolling; to me, though, that is no excuse, as I consider trolls to be the scourge of the Internet). Don’t conflate me or the other Sad Puppies with him.

I am a conservative, and proud of it, but I also agree with the Left on subjects they hold near and dear to their hearts. As one example: I’m pro-choice. We’re not all monolithic in our beliefs.

But we’re all being treated that way, and repudiated by polite fannish society. The works we like are being held up as examples of our favorite writers’ inferiority and wrongthink to boot. “Your Taste Sucks”!

(16) Solarbird on Crime and the Forces of Evil – “and there was NO AWARDing”

Those of us who have been calling for a NO AWARD vote above any slate nominee for the Hugo have, I am told, won. We have doubled the number of NO AWARDs given throughout the previous history of the awards, and blocked the meaningful slate candidates pretty much in their entirety. We are being congratulated, and for that, I thank you.

But I cannot consider this winning. I consider it… oh, let’s call it the least bad possible disaster given the position in which their machinations put us. That’s important. It shows that the large influx of supporting members who voted were not a Puppy rush. It shows that World Science Fiction Society fandom cares about the Hugo awards quite a bit, in fact, and thank you very much. It shows that gaming the system and violating decades of voting tradition will not be rewarded. Well done, fandom.

But it is not a “win.” It is not even a victory, because it does not end anything.

(17) Frank Wu on Amazing Stories – “An Olive Branch for the Puppies”

I may not agree with everything you think but I’m big enough to let you say them. I’m not afraid of words. Science fiction should be a big enough tent for everyone.

What I am opposed to, is block voting. This is considered rude and will get you no-awarded every time.

My proposal?

What if you Puppies gave up block voting in exchange for Non-Puppies seriously considering your work for recommendation lists?

I’m defining block voting as the presentation of a finished slate, with the call or command for others to vote the slate, perhaps even without reading the pieces, for lols or to advance an agenda.

A recommendation list – and I’ve done this and been on them – is an acknowledgement that there are thousands of stories published every year, but, hey, look, I found a couple I loved. Maybe you’d like them, too, and if so feel free to nominate them. If not, whatever. One year I told everyone over and over how awesome Greg Van Eekhout’s story “In the Late December” was. Not because Greg asked me to, not because of his politics (which I know nothing about), but because I really loved that story. A recommendation list is a suggestion, not a command.

So, Puppies, my offer is this. If you send me some of your best 2015 publications – email them at FWu@FrankWu.com – I promise to read them and evaluate them on their merits. Regardless of your politics or anything else you may have said in any other venue. And if I like it (which is more likely if it has robots, spaceships, or aliens), I will add it to my recommendation list.

(18) Craig Engler’s eyewitness report of the Hugo Award ceremony — “I was there to witness the Hugo Awards (not) burn and here is what I saw”

In an especially smart (and kind) move, Gerrold asked the audience to applaud not for each individual nominee but for all the nominees in the category as a whole after all the names were read. That helped ensure no single nominee was ever booed despite the animosity of the voting process. The only time someone did let out a  boo…during a No Award result…Gerrold politely asked them not to and it didn’t happen again.

Gerrold also took on the burden of announcing the categories with No Award himself instead of having a special presenter on stage to do it. The five times no award was given, Gerrold handled it expeditiously and with no fanfare so the audience (and the nervous nominees in attendance) could move past the moment quickly. This helped focus the night on the 11 winners and not on the controversy.

For its part the audience was in tearing high spirits, applauding and cheering, laughing at the jokes and fun little skits (including having an award announced by a Dalek), focusing on the positives and spending little time on anything negative. Since there were still a lot of awards that were handed out, the night didn’t seem particularly shortened or bereft. Indeed, by the end it was full of such acceptance and good cheer that it was hard not to leave with a smile and a feeling of good will.

So, far from being “nuked,” these Hugos turned into the biggest, most well attended and most fun awards in history. They not only brought new attendees into the fold but also enticed lapsed people like me back to come together in a fantastic night of celebration. While it was unfortunate that some categories had no winner, it wasn’t catastrophic. Indeed it was fandom’s way of saying, this award has merit and needs to be earned and will never simply be given out to a slate because some people got together and mustered a certain number of voters. And if at times that means an award won’t be given in a category, that’s okay. The integrity and spirit of the Hugos is more important than that. We are not burning a village to save it, we’re simply inviting more people to the village and celebrating.

(19) Amanda S. Green – “Who should we be worried about impressing?”

To me, the only ones I need to be impressing are the readers. As I said earlier, it is clear from looking at the different genre and sub-genre lists on Amazon and elsewhere that there are more readers out there who want entertaining books than there are those who want books that put message first and story comes somewhere below that. No, I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a message in fiction. Let me repeat that for those who tend to skim until insulted: It is fine to have a message in your fiction as long as you remember that your message won’t be heard if you don’t write a story that entertains and holds the readers’ interest.

So quit whinging and whining over the decline of the field. Quit whinging and whining over the decline of literary numbers. Instead, ask yourself why? Do a bit of market analysis and realize that readers — just like folks who go to the movies — want to be entertained. That is what I strive to do. That is what so many other authors strive to do. So, to all the fans, thank you for your support. To the Fans and authors who want to keep their little cliques, go ahead. Keep doing what you’re doing. I’m not going to try to convince you to do otherwise. For me, I’m going to do my best to remember that it is the fans who really count.

(20) Andrew Trembley on Facebook

Comedy gold seen elsewhere: “RequiresHoyt”

(21) Alexandra Erin on Quietly Thinking Aloud – “Unfortunately for your side George R.R. Martin was caught”

I tell you, it has been seriously amusing to watch the narrative take shape around this.

Background: George R. R. Martin has been attending WorldCon since 1971, I believe when he was up for a Campbell (new writer award). He did not win, but as no more than six people are considered finalists for this honor each year and each writer has at most two years of eligibility, he recognizes this as such a signal honor that he lists it on his website alongside his awards and other honors.

(Contrast this with Larry Correia, who seems to feel like his own Campbell nomination constituted a contract that was broken when he didn’t win it.)

A few years after that, Martin, being a frequent flyer on the Hugo ballot, instituted what he called the Losers’ Party, for all the nominees who don’t win. There are alcohol, and ribbons. It sounds like a lot of fun, and of course, it’s all in good spirit… it is an honor to be nominated, and the Losers’ Party just reinforces what rarefied air one breathes in making it to the ballot.

This year, Mr. Martin decided to hand out his own award, which he calls the Alfies, after Alfred Bester (the author, not the Babylon 5 character named after the author).

He apparently made them out of hood ornaments, which award trophies are often mockingly compared to. That right there should tell you how serious this business was.

Now, Mr. Martin is not the president of science fiction and fantasy. He does not occupy a position of leadership or authority with WorldCon. He is not affiliated with the Hugos except insofar as they are occasionally affiliated with him. This party that he instituted is a Hugo tradition, but it’s not a Hugo institution. In short, the party is no more an official ceremony than a guy who looks like Drunk Scary Santa Claus is an official presenter, which he is no more than the hood ornaments he’s passing out are official trophies.

George R. R. Martin, in his private capacity as an individual human being, thought he would have some fun and recognize some individuals he thought could use some recognition/a laugh.

And a few Puppies “caught him” doing it, and immediately started casting around for “evidence” and wringing their hands with glee over the thought that they’d found proof that the Hugo award ceremony was a scam, that the fix was in, that the real awards were being handed out by Drunk Scary Santa Claus to the people ordained by the hive mind…

It’s funny, but you know, this is the difference between the Sad Puppies and everybody else.

(22) George R.R. Martin on Not A Blog – “Hugo Aftermath”

Then I hit a bump. Two bumps, in fact. Both editing categories went to No Award.

I had picked Mike Resnick in Short Form and Toni Weisskopf in Long Form, and indeed, each of them finished above all the other nominees in the first round of voting… but well behind No Award. This was a crushing defeat for the slates, and a big victory for the Puppy-Free ballot of Deirdre Moen. Honestly? I hated this. In my judgment the voters threw the babies out with bathwater in these two categories. Long Form had three nominees who are more than worthy of a Hugo (and one, Jim Minz, who will be in a few more years), and Short Form had some good candidates too. They were on the slates, yes, but some of them were put on there without their knowledge and consent. A victory by Resnick, Sowards, Gilbert, or Weisskopf would have done credit to the rocket, regardless of how they got on the ballot. (All four of these editors would almost certainly have been nominated anyway, even if there had been no slates).

((Some are saying that voting No Award over these editors was an insult to them. Maybe so, I can’t argue with that. But it should be added that there was a far far worse insult in putting them on the ballot with Vox Day, who was the fifth nominee in both categories. Even putting aside his bigotry and racism, Beale’s credential as an editor are laughable. Yet hundreds of Puppies chose to nominate him rather than, oh, Liz Gorinsky or Anne Lesley Groell or Beth Meacham (in Long Form) or Gardner Dozois or Ellen Datlow or John Joseph Adams (in Short Form). To pass over actual working editors of considerable accomplishment in order to nominate someone purely to ‘stick it to the SJWs’ strikes me as proof positive that the Rabid Puppies at least were more interested in saying ‘fuck you’ to fandom than in rewarding good work)).

(23) Otaku-Kun on Habibane.info – “Hugo Awards 2015 – the aftermath”

Make no mistake, EPH or not, it is still perfectly possible for Vox Day and whoever else to interfere with the results next year. There’s nothing I see in EPH that can forestall another wave of Noah Wards, since ultimately the outcomes are still gameable due to the small numbers involved. The time of hiding in the Shire is over – the world beyond has taken notice, and the stakes are higher.

What are the solutions?

For one thing, the Hugos were given a gift in terms of mass media coverage this year. From Wired to WaPo, Puppygate was media catnip as a proxy in the culture wars. This means that there are several dozen journalists who are now experts on Hugo arcana and who are an audience that can and should be cultivated. More importantly, all of their readers are now marginally aware of what the Hugos are, and the involvement of luminaries like GRRM also helps raise that awareness above background noise. Press releases to these journalists and direct advertising in their publications will maintain the interest.

Also, what about more aggressive marketing to Communities of Geekdom? For example, Comic-Con (and it’s satellites around the country, like Chicago’s version last weekend). AMAs on Reddit? A pitch to the writers at Big Bang Theory? How about a big party somewhere, a mass book signing of Hugo nominees?

(24) Brad R. Torgersen – “Emmanuel Goldstein is leaving the building”

4) The media — and the counter-media — see you as fodder for advancing their narratives. I’ve been talking to reporters and media people of various types for seven months. I was only ever interesting to anybody because I could help them tell the story they wanted to tell. Not the story I wanted to tell. The story I wanted to tell usually wound up on the cutting room floor. Now, in some cases — especially with the conservative counter-media — I didn’t mind too much. I agreed with what they were saying in most instances, and I was thankful for the coverage that helped me more than it hurt me. Because the negative coverage was plentiful, and too often I found myself offering the opposition-friendly press a pint of myself, for them to merely use a few drops; and then only if they felt it spun the way they wanted it too. Which was always against me and what I was fighting for….

12) You can’t control the fact that you have enemies, you can only try to make sure that they are the right enemies for the right reasons. I remember when my wife came home, bewildered, that afternoon when she first realized just how bad the opponents on campus had gotten. She couldn’t understand it. She wasn’t a threat to them at all. Or so she thought. But it didn’t matter how much she tried to mend fences or make offerings of olive branches, the enemy hated her guts. All she could do was push forward and focus on why she’d gotten into student office to begin with, and she succeeded handsomely. I do hope that of the committed enemies I’ve made — the men and women who now make it their business to spite me personally — that the dividing line between them and me, is values. It’s pretty evident that a wide gulf seperates me from the opposition; on perceived objectives. There was an Honest Opposition, because not everyone on the opposition side became an actual enemy. Only some did. And of those who did, I think it’s because my values so utterly clashed with the values of my enemies (and vice versa) that the matter was irreconcilable.

(25) Ann Leckie – “2015 Hugos”

I’ll start here: Thanks so very much to all the people I ran into over the weekend who either told me they were rooting for Ancillary Sword, or told me they were sorry it didn’t win. I love you all.

But the fact is, it never was going to win. If it seemed even briefly as though it might this year, it was because of this year’s…unusual aspects. Had the final ballot been what it ought to have been, I think ideas about AS winning would have been pretty easily dismissable. I find this pretty ironic, actually.

I knew from the start that a lot of voters were going to be thinking that I already got mine last year. And you know what? They’re right. Last year, my book did not just win a couple of awards. It stomped all over Award City making Godzilla roars as bullets bounced off its chest. That’s enough Win to last me for quite a while, and I am entirely happy to see other books and other writers get the acclaim and attention they deserve. The nomination was my win–I knew that going in, and was perfectly happy with that.

So I went to the Hugos as a nominee, with all the validation that brings, but also without any nervousness or suspense, so I could actually enjoy all of that validation. And it was awesome.

Yeah, there were some skunks at that picnic. The voters gave their very clear opinion of those skunks. And Mithras willing, E Pluribus Hugo will pass for the second time next year and in 2017 we’ll be back to ballots that are full of works the voters love. That will doubtless include some skunk favorites, but that’s as it should be. I just don’t think anyone should be able to make the Hugo ballot nothing but their own choices.

(26) Mike Selinker on Schrödinger’s Blog – “A Game Designer Tries to Fix the Hugo Awards”

Although I found the factual premises to be pretty thoroughly wrong, reading the author’s analytical process was entertaining.

[Second of five points.]

2. Don’t pay people to do things you don’t want them to do.

The above rule was coined by legendary game designer Jonathan Tweet, and I teach it to all my collaborators. At heart it requires you to look at what your game’s economy does and whether you want it to do that.

You might say, “The Hugo Awards doesn’t pay anyone!” And, Mr. Strawman, you’d be wrong. The Hugo Award has a value. Heck, even a Hugo nomination has a value. The ability to say “My Hugo-nominated novel…” is a real thing of worth. Ask anyone who has one.

So what’s the value of a Hugo nomination? I can’t say. But let me ask it like this: If I gave you a onetime chance to pay $2000 so that you could say you were a Hugo nominee, would you do it? And what if you could crowdsource the $2000? What if a mere donation to your GoFundMe of $40 could allow a friend of yours to say she helped you achieve your dreams?

And then, after all that, what if I told you that doing this can get a whole lot more of your friends nominations for no additional cost? Would you do it then?

And even if you wouldn’t do that, do you know someone who would?

Well, this analysis on the Amazing Stories site says it would work.

If it’s accurate (and I am not inside-baseball enough to know), then the problem of inequity is simply defined: the Hugo Awards are worth more to people who don’t have them than the price of acquiring them. For the price of $1600, you can suborn enough votes—in this case, 40 of them—to get a short story nomination; for a mere $6000, you can suborn the 150 votes to get a novel nomination. And once you have enough to get a novel nomination, you can get all the nominations you want.

So to solve your inequity problem, you should do one of three things:

  1. Lower the value of a Hugo nomination so that no one wants it that much
  2. Raise the price of buying a Hugo nomination so that no one can afford to game the system
  3. Be more equitable in your nominations

(27) Alison Herman on Flavorwire – “How This Year’s Hugo Awards Turned Into a Battle Over Race, Gender and the Soul of Fandom”

Blogger Chaos Horizon matched up the votes with Beale’s recommendations to arrive at his estimate that the Rabid Puppies made up about 10% of the final Hugo vote at slightly more than 500 members, with the Sad Puppies making up another 10%. During the nomination stage, those numbers were enough to guarantee five categories’ worth of all-Puppy nominees — in Best Novella, Best Short Story, Best Related Work, Best Editor for Short Form, and Best Editor for Long Form — and, according to iO9’s detailed analysis, greatly alter the makeup of the Hugo ballot.

But the Hugos ultimately didn’t go in the Puppies’ favor. In between the nomination announcement and WorldCon itself, the convention experienced a massive spike in membership. Over 11,000 people bought memberships, an all-time high, and nearly 6,000 people voted — 65% more than ever before, according to Wallace. Until this weekend’s award ceremonies, however, it wasn’t clear whether the new voters were heeding the Puppies’ rallying cry or reacting against it.

The numbers clearly indicate that most voters fell into the latter camp. Every single one of the all-Puppy awards resulted in a No Award vote; Chaos Horizon estimates that a full 2500 voters, nearly half the total voting pool, voted “No Award” across all of these categories on principle. Another 1000 voted “No Award” in at least some categories, indicating they were sympathetic to the anti-Puppy coalition and creating a consensus that dwarfed the Puppies’ vocal minority.

(28) Lou J. Berger on Facebook

WE are all Science Fiction.

When the fans who love the more popular Science Fictional stories abandoned WorldCon for other venues, those left behind became, by default, more literary. Literary fiction talks mostly about the human condition and is skewed to internal conflicts. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve handed out awards to many a square-jawed hero blasting bug-eyed monsters, but the overall trend has been left-leaning.

There’s nothing wrong with that, say the Puppies, until somebody notices that the Hugo awards are still labeled as the “best” of Science Fiction. And that’s when hackles raised.

We are a small community, even so, and our numbers, overall, aren’t huge. Who is to say that literary, left-leaning fiction is the “best?” Just because it USED to be the venue for handing out Hugo Awards, does it still mean that WorldCons are the measuring sticks for what is the “best” in all of SFdom? Even with it being so huge nowadays?

Our community is reeling, and it began when the Puppy movement started (rightfully) questioning the claim that Hugos represented the “best” of Science Fiction. It went off the rails when they pointed accusatory fingers and called the good people who have been attending, running, volunteering for, nominating and awarding Hugos “SJWs” and made it sound dirty.

What’s wrong with allowing others to love a type of Science Fiction not exactly like the Science Fiction you happen to love?

NOT A GODDAMN THING!

And that’s where we are, today. We have two large factions of angry people who both love Science Fiction and who both are passionate, and who both want to find satisfaction.

The mistake is assuming that we have to denigrate or push down the “other” side in order to “win” our side.

(29) David Gerrold on Facebook

Oh, one more thing. About those asterisks? Those asterisks raised almost 2700 dollars for Sir Terry Pratchett’s favorite charity, The Orangutan Foundation. Money will be delivered this week. Pictures will be posted.

(30) Steve Leigh – “Without an Obelix”

One item that bothered me about the Hugo Award ceremony was the use of the “asterisk” plaques. While I’m not at all sympathetic to the tactics of the Puppies (of either variety), the asterisks symbolize a slap in the face of every person who was nominated for a Hugo this year, puppy-nominated or not. I read the pre-Hugo comments by various bloggers about how if anyone won a Hugo this year, it should be considered as “with an asterisk” — as in, not deserved because the competition this year was changed and diluted by the packing of the nominations by the puppies.

To some degree, and in some categories, works and people who might have otherwise been on the ballot were indeed missing, but there were also deserving works and people nominated. I defy anyone to argue that Sheila Gilbert (who has been on the final Hugo ballot for three years running now in the Long Form Editor Category) doesn’t have the credentials to deserve her place there. She’s just one example… and not the only one.

For the convention to commission the asterisk plaques, and then to announce during the ceremony that they were going to be distributed to all the nominees this year is a blatant insult to every single nominee, with the sub-text being “Hey, if you were nominated, you didn’t deserve your nomination, and if you managed to win, well, your Hugo doesn’t mean anything.”

In my opinion, the creation and use of the asterisk plaques were entirely abusive and absolutely not in the spirit of the fandom that I love and consider myself part of. Shame on whomever decided that was a good idea, and those who supported it.

(31) William M. Briggs – “Social Justice Warriors! Marvel Announces New Movie At #HugoAwards”

Marvel’s new Social Justice Warriors! preview took the Hugo Awards by storm. And so did the team itself, who shocked and gratified attendees by using their mutant powers on the award ceremony itself.

Rather than hand out five major awards, which might have gone to authors who produced works of readability and quality, the social justice warriors of the Social Justice Squad slithered into action and, in an exquisitely staged show, mock-battled the Forces of Intolerance and squashed the awards.

The team snatched the best novella, best short story and three others out of the hands of judges mere seconds before they were given to deserving writers instead of favored minorities. The heroic team immediately called a press conference at which they shouted in unison, “Diversity!” And then they vanished!

Hugo Award judges who helped organize the faux-battle were quoted as saying, “This is good for speculative fiction. Our awards were in danger of being known for merit. With the help of the Social Justice Squad, everybody now knows our real purpose is inclusion and equality.”

(32) Vox Day on Vox Popoli – “What will Vox do?”

But in the interest of further demoralizing the already-retreating enemy, I’m not reluctant to reveal one of the new weapons in our arsenal. That’s right. The Evil Legion of Evil is training a corps of Amphibious Assault Otters. Armed with acid-filled squirt guns and supported by a crack squad of Attack Manatees, they will emerge from the rivers and literally melt the faces of the SJWs attempting to burn bridges as they continue to retreat. Good day, sir! I said good day!

Approaching the Event Horizon: The Pre-Sasquan Report

A File 770 column by By Chris M. Barkley:

“There will be a convention. There will be function rooms at the convention. Some will be right and some will be wrong. And then, IT WILL BE OVER!”

Daily mantra at the daily meeting of the Chairman’s Staff at Chicon 2000, attributed to super-fan Bridget Joyce Boyle.

I’m not gonna lie; if you are the Chair, Division Head, staff member or gopher of World Science Fiction Convention, right about now, you’re equal parts of excitement, nervousness, dread, nausea or any combination thereof.

At this very minute, three and a half days before the Opening Ceremonies and a full week before the Hugo Awards Ceremony, those working the convention may be feeling like astronauts approaching a black hole. It is inevitable, it’s happening and once you get to the event horizon, you don’t know what happen next and there’s NO GOING BACK!

And now, I find that Juli and I will be a little bit closer to all the action than we planned to be. Our original plan for Sasquan and I just planned to attend.

Several months ago, after the nominations came out, I made the acquaintance of Rajnar Vajra, author of the Hugo nominated novelette, “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Story.” Although nominated on the Sad/Rabid Puppy slate, he has vehemently disassociated himself from them. When other nominees dropped out of the Hugo Awards race, he bravely stayed in, because he believed in his story and vacating the nomination slot may have given the ballot yet another puppy candidate.

I half jokingly told Raj that I would be happy to accept the Hugo on his behalf if it became necessary. He laughed it off at the time but a month ago, he found out that he could not attend.

I was slightly aghast when he emailed me but I accepted because I knew what he had in mind.

I believe that Rajnar’s only loyalty is to his craft and to his readers. In his absence, he chose a person of color represent him at the Hugo Ceremony as a pointed reminder of fandom’s diversity. Mr. Vajra has emailed his eloquent acceptance speech and if needed, I will proudly deliver it verbatim.

**********

Earlier last week, my partner Juli and I were asked to assist in the Sasquan Press Office when a staff member found out he could not attend. We readily accepted. Because that is what fans do in a pinch. The staff has already done a tremendous amount of groundwork and we are merely stepping in to implement it.

Being part of the Sasquan staff has certain responsibilities. One of them is a pledge to be neutral about Puppygate during the convention. So this report will the last one about the convention from me.

Juli, the staff and I (especially me) will provide the media with anything they need to help cover Sasquan, and not be part of the story.

**********

During this last week leading up to Sasquan, I have had diversity on my mind.

I work full time at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, the best retail bookstore in the metropolitan area. I was driving colleague of mine, Kim, home when she shared the following story:

A woman customer who had seen HBO’s Game of Thrones asked Kim about purchasing the first book in George R.R. Martin’s saga

When presented with a copy of A Game of Thrones, the woman asked her if that was the first book of the series. Of course, Kim replied. But the customer asked twice more about the the title of the first book and finally relented when Kim assured her that she had READ all five books.

There is nothing unusual about this exchange except for this: Kim is black and the customer is white.

Would this have happened to Claire, who is white and in charge of all of the genre fiction titles? I seriously doubt it, based on Kim’s assessment.

Alas, after the two election cycles with a African American President, any talk of this being a post racial era in America is about as real as a unicorn sighting in Yosemite National Park. Incidents like what happen to Kim continue to happen every day and will continue to happen as long as people of different races, and I do mean ALL races, continue to evaluate each other based on initial visual perceptions and an underestimation of each other’s intelligence.

Kim, I and other people of color working at Joseph Beth do our best to struggle against this disadvantage every day we step on the sales floor. With each passing day, we win doubting customers over, one at a time.

Which brings me to this item, posted on Tobias Buckell’s blog this week:

In summation, Mr. Buckell wrote:

So yes, Virginia, POC *do* read SF/F, and it’s common. To remain ignorant takes serious work.

Insisting we don’t exist is a tactic in making us invisible, and a huge part of the problem. Please stop this ignorance.

There is much more ignorance in this comment as well. “There are no African nations interested in space flight, exploring space, etc.” Seriously, 30 seconds with Google easily disproves this.

And this was posted by Jim Hines:

And Mr. Hines wrote:

This is not meant to criticize any individual convention. My frustration is with the trend as a whole. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with inviting John Scalzi or S. M. Stirling or David Weber or Jim C. Hines to be your author guest of honor. The problem is when conventions as a group stop looking beyond a narrow pool of potential guests, and when fandom focuses on honoring white authors to the exclusion of others.

To which I add a: C’MON, MAN! We collectively, as fans, are better than this. We don’t have to be part of the problem, we are part of the solution.

***********

Finally, there are a few issues I need to address before signing off for duty at Sasquan…

First, I’d like to thank all of the people who responded to the previous column in the File 770.

While I have NOT READ ANY OF THE COMMENTS, as David Gerrold advised, word has filtered back to me that there was an unusual amount of verbiage dedicated to speculation about my sexuality, relationship status and my being able to wear pants. I want to thank everyone for your concern for my well-being. It’s really touching…

Lastly, there was this, which Juli found in my inbox this morning, dated two days ago:

Brad R. Torgersen | August 14, 2015 at 11:25 am | Reply

Someone I trust to know the inside business of the thing, told me that Chris Barkley was Patrick Nielsen-Hayden’s stalking horse, for getting the pro editor category split — Patrick was tired of seeing Gardner take it every year. So, the long-form is born, and not coincidentally, TOR editors begin taking the trophy.

First of all, I REALLY need to check my email more often.

Secondly, to Brad Torgersen: look dude, has watching All The President’s Men taught you anything? I don’t know who your “source” on this fascinating tidbit of history, but s/he is totally and utterly WRONG about this.

Do you have any idea how these ridiculous conspiracy theories get started? When some person, is deluded in to believing that the historical record is inaccurate, incomplete or just plain wrong.

Then, a fevered imagination takes over and tries to fill in the gaps with “the truth” as they see it. Something literary scholars, writers and the general reading public call fantasy.

Here are the facts; I am NO ONE’S “stalking horse”; I alone was the creative force behind the creation of the Long Form-Short Form split of the Editor’s category. The reason this is not a generally known fact is that until now, I have chosen not to actively publicize any of my activities regarding the Business Meeting and the Hugo Awards. I value my privacy and frankly, I don’t need my ego pumped up because I supported something that I feel that deeply about.

It is true that my motivation for the change was due to concerns about the editor’s category; no book editor had won the award since 1987 and Gardner Dozois was dominating it. I and other like-minded fans wanted to attempt to bring some parity to the category.

Also, I sought out Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s support for the Editor’s split and brought him into the fold; I needed a prominent editor to co-sponsor the amendment or it would never have been taken seriously by the Business Meeting. He was reluctant to do so at first but eventually, he concluded that a split of the category was the best option available at the time. Until I finally shook his hand at the LACon IV Business Meeting in 2006, I think he had doubts that it would ever pass.

And, the very next year, it was he who was the recipient of the very first Long Form Editor Hugo Award. Was this a coincidence? Yes; Patrick Nielsen Hayden did not conspire to win his Hugo Award, he EARNED it from the voters for his superlative work.

Brad, what you really need to do is poll the editors nominated over the past nine years if they have they benefited from the Best Editor Split. I am willing to bet that a majority of them will answer in the affirmative.

I am also of the opinion that the Split may have outlived its usefulness at this point and that a better alternative may be in store. I welcome change because innovation is preferable to stagnation.

And no one wants that, Brad, not even you.