Pixel Scroll 12/5/16 And They Will Know Us By The Trail Of Pixels

(1) POSTER CHILD. Early this year Cat Rambo placed herself at the forefront of the movement encouraging writers to put up awards eligibility posts, and using the authority vested in her by the Science Fiction Writers of America now calls on everyone to do it.

Practicing what she preaches, Rambo has done a year-end recap of her publications:

The stories of my own I am pushing this year are “Left Behind” (short story), “Red in Tooth & Cog” (novelette), “Haunted” (novella co-written with Bud Sparhawk), and the fantasy collection Neither Here Nor There. SFWA members should be able to find copies of those on the member boards; I am happy to mail copies to people reading for awards whether or not you are a member. Drop me a line and let me know the preferred format. I am looking for reviewers interested in Neither Here Nor There and happy to send copies as needed.

The post contains links to nearly 30 other F&SF writer awards eligibility posts.

(2) PW PRIDE. Rambo is also proud of Publishers Weekly’s starred review for her new short story collection Neither Here Nor There.

This double collection showcases Rambo’s versatility within the fantasy genre. In the “Neither Here” half, tales set in her existing worlds of Tabat (“How Dogs Came to the New Continent”) and Serendib (“The Subtler Art”) rub shoulders with new worlds of magic and mystery. “Nor There” displays her skill at seeing our world through different lenses, with locations including steampunk London (“Clockwork Fairies”) and urban fantasy Seattle (“The Wizards of West Seattle”)…

(3) SCREEN TIME. George R.R. Martin is getting busy recommending things for Hugos – including other people’s things.

For my part, I already know what two of my Hugo nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form will be. ARRIVAL, to start with. Terrific adaptation of a classic story by Ted Chiang. Brilliant performance from Amy Adams. (She is always great, I think, but this was her best role to date). A real science fiction story, not a western in space. Intelligent, thought-provoking, with some wonderfully alien aliens. And WESTWORLD, season one, from HBO. Of course, as with GAME OF THRONES, one can nominate individual episodes of this one in Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form… but for me it makes more sense to nominate the entire season in Long Form. (GAME OF THRONES season one was nominated in this fashion

(4) HITS AT THE LIBRARY. Library Journal’s “Best Books 2016” picked these as the top five titles from the year’s SF and fantasy.

Borderline, by Mishell Baker
The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers
The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman
Every Heart A Doorway, by Seanan McGuire
Behind The Throne, by K.B. Wagers

(5) SURPASSING THE MASTER. No spoilers for the movie Arrival in the following excerpt, only for the story it’s based on. But it’s only natural that the movie spoilers quickly follow in Peter Watts analysis of the adaptation: “Changing Our Minds: ‘Story of Your Life’ in Print and on Screen”.

What might come as a shock— and I hesitate to write this down, because it smacks of heresy— is that in terms of storytelling, Arrival actually surpasses its source material.

It’s not that it has a more epic scale, or more in the way of conventional dramatic conflict. Not just that, anyway. It’s true that Hollywood— inevitably— took what was almost a cozy fireside chat and ‘roided it up to fate-of-the-world epicness. In “Story of Your Life”, aliens of modest size set up a bunch of sitting rooms, play Charades with us for a while, and then leave. Their motives remain mysterious; the military, though omnipresent, remains in the background. The narrative serves mainly as a framework for Chiang to explore some nifty ideas about the way language and perception interact, about how the time-symmetric nature of fundamental physics might lead to a world-view— every bit as consistent as ours— that describes a teleological universe, with all the Billy Pilgrim time-tripping that implies. It’s fascinating and brow furrowing, but it doesn’t leave you on the edge of your seat. Going back and rereading it for this post, I had to hand it to screenwriter Eric Heisserer for seeing the cinematic potential buried there; if I was going to base a movie on a Ted Chiang story, this might be the last one I’d choose.

(6) CALL FOR PAPERS. GIFcon, Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations, is looking for papers and creative works. The deadline is December 19. The SFWA Blog gave their announcement a signal boost:

With a focus on intersections (academic and creative writing; film, art, and games) we aim for GIFCON’s inaugural event to be a crossroads at which these communities can meet and come into conversation.

Fantasy at the Crossroads: Intersections, Identities, and Liminality

29th – 30th March 2017

What is Fantasy? This is a question that the University of Glasgow’s MLitt in Fantasy has explored throughout its first year. While this may seem an unanswerable question, for many of us, fantasy is where reality and the impossible meet. Fantasy inspires a sprawling collection of worlds that stem from a myriad of identities, experiences, and influences. From traditional epics to genre-melding, fantasy branches out into every style imaginable. Cross-sections of genre and identity create cracks in traditional forms, opening in-between spaces from which bloom new ideas and stories.

Examples of intersections in fantasy can be found in:

– Julie Bertagna’s Exodus trilogy, which explores environmentalism within the context of fantasy and science fiction.

– Arianne “Tex” Thompson’s Children of the Drought series, which focuses on subversions of race and gender.

– China Miéville’s The City and the City, which fuses the detective novel with the fantastic.

– Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child, which uses fairy tale inspirations to create a magical realist setting and narrative.

– Netflix’s Stranger Things, which melds horror with Dungeons and Dragons via a coming-of-age science fiction story.

– The Elder Scrolls video game series, which intersects narrative, music, and visual arts.

– Frank Beddor’s Looking Glass Wars series, which combines science fiction and fantasy to explore unique, genre-melded world-building.

…Please submit a 300-word abstract, along with a 100-word biography (both in DOC or RTF format) to submissions.gifconference@gmail.com by Monday 19th December 2016.

(7) RIVENDELL AUDIO. Here is the schedule of December Readings from Rivendell program in the Twin Cities, MN.

readings-from-rivendell-december

(8) WETA DIGITAL END OF YEAR PARTY 2016. I’d love to be on the invitation list for this shindig —

The Weta Digital End of Year Party has always had the reputation of being the best party in town. As with previous years, no one knew where the party was being held, or what was involved, all we knew was we had to go to platform 9 at the Wellington train station. After boarding buses at the station, we were transported to the secret location. This is what went down after we arrived… The party was themed by the four elements of nature – Water, Fire, Air/Wind and Earth. As you can see in the video, the themed installations and performance art at the party location were fantastic, and an amazing time was had by all! A big thanks to Weta Digital for putting on such an incredible party!

 

(9) PUCK VS. CUPID. The Book Smugglers present Tansy Rayner Roberts’ review of the year’s favorites in “Smugglivus 2016: A Very TansyRR Smugglivus”. There’s a lot of entertaining writing in the post, not to mention revelations about the previously unsuspected (by me, anyway) subgenres of gay hockey comics and novels.

This has also been an important year for Check! Please, one of my favourite all time web comics. I a couple of scary, stressful months earlier in the year, and the Check! Please fandom pulled me through until I was ready to face the world again. Check! Please was already an adorable gay hockey comic about bros and sports and friendship and pies, but its creator Ngozi gave us so many gifts this year, starting in February with The Kiss which pretty much made the comics fandom lose their collected minds.

Their love is so canon, y’all!

We’ve also had several waves of updates throughout the year, following the ups and downs of our hero Bitty and his secret NHL boyfriend. Ngozi also launched a Kickstarter for the book publication of Year 2 which was crazy successful, showing how dramatically her work’s popularity has soared since Jack Zimmermann got a clue that he was a character in a sweet gay rom com, not a gritty hockey tragedy.

(10) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #9. The ninth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed copy of Jenna Black’s Replica, and a matching handmade pendant to go with it.

Today’s auction is for an autographed copy of REPLICA and a handmade pendant to go with it (pictured below). You can see samples of Black’s other gorgeous pendants at her Etsy store.

About the Book:

Sixteen-year-old Nadia Lake’s marriage has been arranged with the most powerful family in the Corporate States. She lives a life of privilege even if she has to put up with paparazzi tracking her every move, every detail of her private life tabloid fodder. But her future is assured, as long as she can maintain her flawless public image—no easy feat when your betrothed is a notorious playboy.

Nathaniel Hayes is the heir to the company that pioneered human replication: a technology that every state and every country in the world would kill to have. Except he’s more interested in sneaking around the seedy underbelly of the state formerly known as New York than he is in learning to run his future company or courting his bride-to-be. She’s not exactly his type…not that he can tell anyone that.

But then Nate turns up dead, and Nadia was the last person to see him alive.

When the new Nate wakes up in the replication tanks, he knows he must have died, but with a memory that only reaches to his last memory back-up, he doesn’t know what—or rather, who—killed him. Together, Nadia and Nate must discover what really happened without revealing the secrets that those who run their world would kill to protect.

(11) NOT ASKING SANTA FOR THESE. This links leads to a page from Hunter’s Planet of the Apes Archive. Consider it an online museum of print advertising for Planet of the Apes merchandise.

(12) IN DOORSTOPS TO COME. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer have sold another Big Book – “Announcing The Big Book of Classic Fantasy”.

As Ann and I announced on social media last week, we’re thrilled to have sold another behemoth of an anthology, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy, to editor Tim O’Connell at Vintage Books!! Tentatively scheduled for publication in 2018 and covering roughly the period 1850 up to World War II. Thanks to our agent, Sally Harding, and the Cooke Agency. This will be our fourth huge anthology project, following this year’s The Big Book of Science Fiction, The Time Traveler’s Almanac, and the World Fantasy Award-winning The Weird.

Will this anthology include not just your favorite classics from the English language, but also translations from all over the world? Yes. Will it include never-before-translated new stories? Yes. Will it include the best of the Decadents and the Surrealists in a fantastical vein? Oh yes, most certainly. We hope to widen our net on the translation side, focusing on areas of the world that have been underrepresented in prior anthologies.

(13) WILLIAMS OBIT. Van Williams, famed as television’s The Green Hornet, has died at the age of 82.

Variety reports he actually died on Nov. 28, but his passing only became publicly known on Sunday.

Born in 1934 in Forth Worth, Texas, Williams was working as a diving instructor in Hawaii when he was discovered in 1957 by producer Mike Todd, who persuaded him to move to Hollywood. He earned his big break two years later with a lead role on the ABC private detective drama “Bourbon Street.” He followed that with “Surfside 6,” starring opposite Troy Donahue.

However, it’s on the short-lived “Green Hornet” that Williams made a lasting mark as newspaper publisher Britt Reid, who fought crime as the masked Green Hornet alongside his partner Kato, so memorably played by Bruce Lee.

(14) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 3, 1974 – The last new episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus was broadcast on the BBC.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 5, 1901 – Walt Disney

disney-comic-lio161205

(16) A CAPRINE TRAGEDY. As discussed in comments on an earlier Scroll, the Gävle Yule Goat was burned down on its inauguration day, and replaced by a baby goat made of straw.

Only a week later, a vandal drove a car into the replica.

But in the early hours of Monday, those who were unable to sleep and instead found themselves watching the goat’s webcam feed (we’re told this is a thing) were able to see in real-time how someone raced towards the new goat in their car and brutally ran it over.

(17) SEND THE BILL TO LUCASFILMS. VentureBeat has been reliably informed coff that “The Death Star would cost $7.8 octillion a day to run”.

The British energy supplier Ovo has put some very well-spent hours into a comprehensive calculation of the operating costs of the Death Star, which will return to the spotlight in the December 16th movie Rogue One. They conclude that operating the planet-destroying starbase would cost 6.2 octillion British pounds, or $7.8 octillion, per day—that’s $7,800,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

To put that absurdly large number in perspective, $7.8 octillion is more than 100 trillion times the $70 trillion annual global economic activity of Earth, or 30 trillion times the roughly $200 trillion in wealth on our little blue planet.

(18) WHAT IF THEY’RE NOT LITTLE AND GREEN? NPR reports on NASA’s efforts to recognize life if they find it:

There’s a growing interest in so-called biosignatures — or substances that provide evidence of life — because NASA has upcoming missions that have real potential to search for them. Those include a visit to Europa in the 2020s and the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, which could scan the atmospheres of planets around other stars.

The last thing NASA officials want is a repeat of the experience with the Viking missions back in the 1970s, when analysis of Martian soil chemistry produced what was initially interpreted as evidence of life — but then later deemed a false-positive.

“I remember the aftermath of that,” says James Kasting, a professor of geosciences at Penn State University, who was tasked with planning this week’s meeting. “NASA was criticized heavily for looking for life before they had investigated the planet and for not having thought that through carefully. They’re hoping to avoid that same experience.”

Finding life means first defining life, and NASA’s Green says the key features are that it must metabolize, reproduce and evolve.

(19) ESA WILL BUILD ROVER. The European Space Agency will build a Mars rover, even if the cost keeps going up.

Europe will push ahead with its plan to put a UK-assembled robotic rover on the surface of Mars in 2021.

Research ministers meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland, have agreed to stump up the outstanding €436m euros needed to take the project through to completion.

The mission is late and is costing far more than originally envisaged, prompting fears that European Space Agency member states might abandon it.

But the ministers have emphatically reaffirmed their commitment to it

(20) AUTO INTELLIGENCE. Uber has bought an AI company to move toward self-driving car.

Ride-sharing service Uber has acquired a New York-based artificial intelligence start-up which it hopes can speed up its progress in creating self-driving cars.

The deal, for an undisclosed sum, will see Uber gain 15 specialist researchers who will form a new division at the company known as Uber AI Labs.

(21) DISAPPEARING STAR. Did you enjoy the video of Chris Pratt’s magic, linked here the other day? Cards aren’t the only medium he does tricks in — “Chris Pratt keeps cropping Jennifer Lawrence out of Instagram selfies and it’s hilarious”.

The acting megastar duo are both starring in upcoming sci-fi romance Passengers, but throughout the film’s promo tour 37-year-old Pratt has been enjoying social media hijinks by cutting out 26-year-old Lawrence whenever the pair share a snap together….

 

(22) WINTER IS COMING. At Dangerous Minds, “Stunning images of pagan costumes worn at winter celebrations around the world”.

In a recent interview, French photographer Charles Fréger revealed that he has always been fascinated by European tribal traditions. This fascination inspired the well-known artist to travel all around Europe to capture images of people dressed in ritualistic costumes honoring the arrival of winter and other seasonal celebrations.

Fréger began his journey in Austria and to date has photographed stunning costumes and rituals from 21 countries around the world. According to Fréger there are many celebrations that mark the arrival of winter that take place in the Czech Republic and, say, Italy that are quite similar when it comes to the materials that are used to create the costumes. Such as the incorporation of animal pelts, branches from trees, horns and bells into the costumes. Though they may share similar appearances, the story behind each living piece of folklore varies from country and location. Here’s more from Fréger about why so many of these celebrations often involve a human masquerading as an animal:

It is not about being possessed by a spirit but it is about jumping voluntarily in the skin of an animal. You decide to become something else. You chose to become an animal, which is more exciting than being possessed by a demon.

(23) LOL. Larry Correia goes through the comments carefully answering everyone’s questions about when the electronic and audiobook versions of his latest novels will be available, when one fan decides to yank his chain:

Ben Smith: Will the leather bound book have a kindle version?

(24) MR. GREEN HAS ARRIVED. Let’s kick off the verse segment of today’s Scroll with a link to Theodora Goss’ “The Princess and the Frog” which begins….

I threw the ball into the water.
The frog came out and followed after,
bringing me the golden ball —
which I did not want at all, at all.

(25) SEASONED GREETING. Joe H. and Heather Rose Jones produced this collaboration in comments.

Lo, how a pixel scrolling,
From tender file hath sprung…
Of Glyer’s laptop coming
As SMOFs of old hath sung

(26) THEN ONE FOGGY CHRISTMAS EVE. In a piece called “Hamildoph (An American Christmas Story)” the group Eclipse 6 performs “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” as if it was done by the cast of Hamilton.

I cannot fly if I cannot see, people!
I’m in dire need of assistance.
Brrr
Your Excellency, you wanted to see me?
Rudolph, come in—did you say “brrr”?
Yes, sir, ‘cause it’s freezing.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Rambo, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Hugo Slates Inspire Altered States

This roundup starts with a link to some Hugo data, followed by a long assortment of opinions, then a couple of smaller segments focused on ideas for changing the Hugo rules, and voting No Award.

Screenshot of Hugo nominating statistics

Peter Watts on Rifters

And they call it… Puppy Love… – April 5

The thing is, we’re encouraged to act this way. We’re expected to: by agents, by publicists, by publishers who can no longer be bothered promoting their own authors. I know of one case where an agent explicitly refused to represent an author simply because that author wasn’t pimping herself on Twitter. It’s now considered unprofessional to eschew constant tub-thumping. Nobody takes you seriously if you don’t stand out from the crowd— and the only way to do that, apparently, is by doing exactly what everybody else is doing, only louder. Which is how someone who markets herself as a Fearless Progressive Speaker of Truth to Power can beg off boycotting an event over a clear matter of principle by saying “Nah, I’ve got a book to hustle” with a completely straight face.

Pimpage comes first, ethics run a distant second, and the Sad Puppies are not the only gang to run under that flag.

In fact, if you squint a certain way you can almost see how the Sad Puppies’ campaign is actually more honorable than the relentless self-promotion that’s somehow come to be regarded as de rigeur in this business. Put their reactionary motives aside for the moment; at least the puppies were, for the most part, advocating for people other than themselves. All other things being equal, whose opinion generally comes seasoned with less conflict-of-interest: the foodie who raves about the little hole-in-the-wall she discovered last Friday, or the chef who praises his own bouillabaisse to the heavens?

Which is not to say, of course, that self-promotion doesn’t work. It obviously does. (I don’t know if anyone in the genre has won more awards than Rob Sawyer, and offhand I can’t think of a more relentless self-promoter.) Then again, no one’s really questioning the effectiveness of the strategy that’s riled up the current teapot. It’s the underlying ethics that seems to be at issue.

So, sure. If you’re an end-justifies-the-means sorta person, then by all means decry the block who stacked the deck and got-out-the-vote in pursuit of their antique right-wing agenda; praise the more progressive folks who try to get you to eschew straight cis white male writers for a year. But if the road matters to you as well as the destination, don’t lose sleep over the fact that the bad guys played a better game this time around.

Give a thought to the rules that promote such strategies in the first place.

Elizabeth Bear on throw another bear in the canoe

“i spent all day yesterday waiting at a red light” – April 5

Fandom happens because people take care of it, nurture it, and make it a fun place for people to be. Preferably, an inclusive place. If anything, we often err too far on the side of putting up with assholes, because we’re bad at excluding people. There are plenty of people in fandom who I think are jerks, idiots, pains in the ass, complete eye-rolling cramps, and/or moon men. Some of those people do valuable work for the community, even while I’m facepalming over their opinions. All of them got into it the same way I did–by being volunteered or (as is very common) voluntold. These people refer to themselves as SMoFs as a joke, you understand. Jobs often get done in haphazard ass-backward ways because they are done by anybody willing, and often on limited time, in the cracks of a busy life, and with little or no funding….

There’s a new custom circulating in my tribe, and I think it’s a good one, so I will be adopting it. I have not in the past and I will not in the future participate in any popular award voting slate, public or private. I will not vote for any story or person or institution that is nominated for a popular award after agreeing to be on such a slate. I believe that slate-voting is unethical and perverts the purpose of the awards–and disadvantages almost everyone, quite frankly–and I am personally invested in making sure my fandom does not decay into a series of cage matches. That is the ethical decision I am making for myself.

 

Dave Freer on Mad Genius Club

“Bring it on” – April 6

I was quite pissed off I’d told SP3 and RP that I didn’t want to be on the slate. EDITED FOR CLARITY: I put the fact that I felt there were better more deserving people to target (such as my co-writers Amanda and Cedar) up ON MAD GENIUS CLUB. I did not contact either SP or RP organizers. They in no way ignored my request. I was in no way at all shamed or upset by being on the list. Got it, jackasses? No you can’t use it to bully Brad Torgersen. I can’t force you to quote me, any more than I could force Brad to read that on MGC or act on it, but I sure as hell will rub your noses in this if you try.

I don’t take to bullying well. I’m usually pretty easy going, but a behemoth picking on little guys infuriates and disgusts me (which is what this is. Tor is still the biggest, most powerful traditional sf publishing house at present. They wield a great deal of power and influence. They can (and have in the past) destroy and make careers.) It rubs every hair on my very hairy head the wrong way, which gave me some bad hair days, poor me.

And then it got worse. We had some joker called Steve Davidson, whose total contribution to sf seems to have been purchasing the IP address for ‘Amazing Stories’ and then emptying his bowels onto it, issuing threats and ultimatum to authors that if they didn’t renounce SP3 they’d be vewwy vewwy sorry.

 

Damien Walter in the Guardian

“Are the Hugo nominees really the best sci-fi books of the year?” – April 6

By putting forward a slate of predominantly American nominees, the campaign organisers have been able to lever the votes of a minority of non-attending members to “hack” the voting process and dominate the award nominations. Remarkably, this is all within the rules of the Hugos, and the moral defence put forward by campaign organisers for what many people would consider cheating is their belief that block voting is common in the award-giving process.

The Hugos and Worldcon have always been – much like the baseball World Series – a world event in name only. Hugo winners have been overwhelmingly from the US, with almost no non-anglophone works even considered for the awards. But over the past decade or so, the Hugos and Worldcon have become much more diverse and interesting, with many more women, writers of colour and international voices among nominees and winners. It’s that diversity which has been lost in this orchestrated backlash.

Jim C. Hines

“10 Hugo Thoughts” – April 5

6. They’re just trying to expand the ballot and make it more inclusive/representative/diverse. I can see a little of that, if I squint. The puppies pushed to get a successful self-published author onto the ballot, for example. They talked about getting tie-in works nominated, but didn’t actually include any on their slate. They did give tie-in author Kevin J. Anderson his first Hugo nom for one of his original books. But if your campaign ends up putting the same author on the ballot in six different spots, then no, you weren’t looking very broadly for nominees. And far more of the comments and rhetoric seemed to be about sticking it to SJWs…

embrodski on Death Is Bad

“Sad Puppies Rebuttal”

Ahem. As everyone knows, there were problems with the Hugos. Many of us acknowledged this, and said it wasn’t that bad and it was being handled internally. His most relevant point is that he disagrees. [Larry Correia wrote] “there wasn’t a green room at any con in the country where you couldn’t find authors complaining about the sorry state of things. But nobody did anything. […] But still nobody did anything, and it got worse and worse. […] So I did something.”

Now, I’m in the camp of “It was a problem, but not a huge one.” But, to be honest, I can’t recall of anyone doing anything to fix it. Maybe something was happening? But not so that I noticed. It was mainly swept under the rug. Losing a slot or two per year to these forces didn’t feel like a big deal to me, certainly not something I would put a ton of personal effort into fixing, and I imagine most people felt the same way. Larry saw it as a bigger problem. And you know what? He did do something. And I respect the fuck out of that. It didn’t work out exactly how he’d like it to, but shit, when does anything? It’s not like there’s a playbook for this sort of thing, he’s flying by the seat of his pants, and that takes tons of guts. What the hell did any of us do? We all said in private “Man, Throne of the Crescent Moon was bad,” and some of us said it in public, but did a single person on our side publically raise the point that this should never have gotten a Hugo Nomination? Why *did* it take Larry and his crew to say that?

It sucks that we lose an entire year of Hugos to this Sad Puppies nonsense, but maybe it’ll help us be a bit more honest with ourselves in the future. Maybe we’ll feel freer to speak our minds without being worried about being called racist. That would be a good thing.

 

Arthur Chu on Salon

“Sci-fi’s right-wing backlash: Never doubt that a small group of deranged trolls can ruin anything (even the Hugo Awards)” – April 6

To vote on the Hugos you have to either know and care a ton about science fiction–or you have to be convinced that science fiction is part of the vast liberal conspiracy arrayed against you and make a disingenuous post calling you and your friends “Sad Puppies” over said liberal conspiracy. $40 is a lot of money to pay to express your opinions, even strongly held ones, about fiction you love–but it’s a cheap price to stick it to liberal pro-diversity elitists you hate….

We should have learned a long, long time ago that “Just let the public give their input” is a lazy, useless and above all dangerous way to make decisions. If you want democracy you have to put effort into designing a process that actually makes sure your voting population matches the relevant population and to keep the process from being captured by bad actors. If that’s too hard for you, then accept that democracy is too hard for you and find some other way to claim legitimacy for the decision you end up making.

But don’t just leave your process open to the public and unguarded, unless you want The Comments making your decisions for you. Best case scenario, you end up with egg on your face that can be easily wiped off, like a bridge named after Stephen Colbert.

Worst case scenario, your public platform becomes a mouthpiece for the worst people in the world, who won’t give it back until they’ve run it into the ground.

 

 Adam Roberts on Sibiliant Fricative

“2015 Hugos: Delenda Est Hugo” – April 6

Nick Mamatas has it right, I think: the action of the Puppies was a piece of efficiently executed political strategy, and the response needs to be political if we want it actually to bite. This means one of two things, I’d say: either to organise an anti-Puppies slate for next year, with all the labour and cat-herding that implies. I have some doubts as to the achievability of this, and many doubts as to its desirability: for it would remove the Hugos even further from the notion that works and individuals get nominated according to their merit. Personally I think the better strategy is otherwise, essentially a Delenda est Hugo approach. First, coordinate to ensure ‘No Award’ wins every category this year. Then move to relocate the community’s esteem elsewhere. The Puppies set out to destroy the Hugos. Let them. Napoleon thought he had won the battle of Borodino, but actually he lost it. Let the Puppies retreat through the winter wasteland of community hostility and indifference. The Puppies, after all, are not interested in winning Hugos per se; they are interested in the esteem associated with the Hugos. But that does not magically inhere in the rocket-shaped trophy. It’s the other way around. The trophy functions as an index of the esteem of the community as a whole. This year’s shortlist breaks the connection between the first of these things and the second. So it goes. It is the whole community that controls how it distributes its esteem, not any one pressure group; such esteem cannot be ‘gamed’ by the coordination of voting blocks. Once upon a time the Hugos were the genre’s Blue Riband award; functionally they have not been that for several years . But there are other awards which are, even as we speak, producing much better shortlists: Tiptree award and Kitschies, to name but two. Why not invest the esteem of the community as a whole in those

 

Larry Correia on Monster Hunter Nation

A letter to the SMOFs, moderates, and fence sitters from the author who started Sad Puppies – April 6

This blog post is directed at the newcomers, the fence sitters, the undecided, and the unlucky SMOFs who’ve been caught in the crossfire. There is no need to address my detractors, because they have already repeatedly demonstrated that they’ll just ignore what I actually say and do, and fabricate their own wild and crazy narrative about what I secretly meant to say.

This is going to be get long, but there are a lot of things being tossed around that I need to respond to.

For those of you just joining us, Sad Puppies 3 was a campaign to get talented, worthy, deserving authors who would normally never have a chance nominated for the supposedly prestigious Hugo awards.

I started this campaign a few years ago because I believed that the awards were politically biased, and dominated by a few insider cliques. Authors who didn’t belong to these groups or failed to appease them politically were shunned. When I said this in public, I was called a liar, and told that the Hugos represented all of fandom and that the awards were strictly about quality. I said that if authors with “unapproved” politics were to get nominations, the quality of the work would be irrelevant, and the insider cliques would do everything in their power to sabotage that person. Again, I was called a liar, so I set out to prove my point.

 

Addendum to Yesterday’s Letter – April 7

Yesterday the following media outlets ran articles about the Sad Puppies campaign, in which they either directly said or insinuated that it was run and populated by racist straight white males with the goal of keeping scifi white and male. (not true)

The Telegraph Entertainment Weekly Salon Huffington Post Slash Dot io9 The Guardian

It was almost like they were all reading off the same script.

Most of them said our slate was exclusively white, straight, and male (not true)

Most of them said that last year was a big win for diversity (I believe last years winners were all white and one Asian).

Most of them said our slate was exclusively right wing (not true, in fact the majority skew left, we have socialists, liberals, moderates, libertarians, conservatives, and question marks. To the best of my knowledge, I believe that last year’s “diverse” winners all espoused the same social justice politics).

But there is no bias in this perfectly functioning system. My side said that political narrative trumped reality in this business. Believe me yet?

Larry Correia in a comment

I went to 13 cons in 2014, from 500 to 150,000 people. I love cons. However, the only place I’d be likely to find more people who actively despise me and want me to die in a fire than WorldCon would be WisCon. Which is on my list of places to visit, right after Mordor and Hell.

So instead I usually go to GenCon, and this year I’m going to DragonCon.

 

Brad R. Torgersen

“A dispatch from Fort Living Room”

I ordinarily keep my family pictures private. I don’t share many of them on the internet. But in this instance, I think I’ll post one. That’s my wife Annie, my daughter Olivia, and me, back in 2008 — when we first moved into our (then) new house in Utah. As of the writing of these words, Annie and I have been married for over 21 years. We’re opposites in most ways. Personality opposites. Political opposites. And — apropos to this particular discussion — racial opposites. From the time we got married in the Salt Lake City LDS Temple in December of 1993, until now, it’s been an exercise in learning how to live together, cherish, and love one another, despite the differences. I’m proud of my wife. She’s not only smart, she’s got an enormous heart, I’ve never seen her judge people unfairly, and she’s never been afraid to roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty. Of all the decisions I’ve ever made in my life, deciding to marry Annie was by far the best. She is my best friend. She is my lover. She is the mother of my child. She is, quite simply, the better part of everything that I hold dear and precious in this world.

Those of you who watch this space know that I’ve taken on a bit of a burden since January. It’s explicitly related to the field of Science Fiction and Fantasy literature, so I won’t bore anyone with all the long, nerdish details. Suffice to say, the Sad Puppies 3 project has brought me into the epicenter of a heated contest inside the field. It’s a very “inside baseball” affair. But today — thanks to the magic of the internet — it took on a much wider, much more personal dimension.

Because a blog “journalist” named Isabella Biedenharn — working beneath the banner of Entertainment Weekly — penned a short, error-laden article titled, “Hugo award nominations fall victim to misogynistic, racist voting.” The mistakes in the article could have been easily avoided if Isabella had done some research into the issue she was reporting on. Near as I can tell, Isabella was spoon-fed some links and a very rushed and sloppy narrative about Sad Puppies 3 being racist and woman-hating, and she posted all of this without stopping to consider whether or not anything she was disseminating into the wider world was true, and accurate.

 

Scott Edelman

“In which the Sad Puppies prove to be more powerful than L. Ron Hubbard” – April 6

For those who weren’t around in 1983 … a history lesson. Because, as I’ve said before, science fiction’s culture wars have been with us always.

The Sad Puppies, who have successfully campaigned their slate onto the ballot, hope they can break the Hugo Awards in order to rebuild them—a sentiment which has, I’m afraid, a bit too much of a “we had to destroy the village in order to save it” ring for my comfort. But note this isn’t the first time such a concept has been put forward.

“If you too are unhappy with the Hugo system, it’s time to do your bit,” wrote Charles Platt in his editorial to the March-May issue of The Patchin Review. He didn’t put a full slate forward back then, just a single novel, written by … well … you can see the name of the author in a box at the bottom of the front cover.

That’s right—L. Ron Hubbard, whose novel Battlefield Earth had been published in 1982.

Platt posited in his editorial—

If he won, would it bring about a reformation of the Hugo system, or even its abolition? There’s only one way to find out.

As Platt shared in the editorial reproduced below, he’d written Hubbard and the organization promoting the novel to let them know one needn’t attend Worldcon in order to make this happen, and that anyone willing to cough up $15.00 for a supporting membership could vote.

 

Rhiain on According To Hoyt

“Not Your Shield – Rhiain” – April 7

Yes, it is that simple. This non-white chica will be happy to rub that in your face for as long as it takes. Your multicultural diversity schtick bores me, is completely without reason, and is annoying the hell out of me with all the overemotional and oversentimental tripe thrown in. You call this a justification for the current status quo of the Hugos as recently as last year? The more you whine about your lack of privilege in this arena, the more other non-white people who refuse to be classified as such are going to start speaking up to make you look like an utter fool.

This is a class issue, a race issue, a gender issue.

This middle-class, Samoan female says this is only in your imagination, and only because you keep hammering on this point like there’s no tomorrow. You know what’s interesting about a hammer? It’s actually two tools in one – one to put the nail in, and one to take the nail out. You’re just pissed because other people are able to take that hammer away from you and use it to remove the nails you keep trying to put in. I’m a patient woman, and I’m willing to learn how to use tools for everything they’re intended for .

And I know some of you have a hard time with that concept. I don’t care. You’ve had plenty of time to figure it out. I’m real tired of your inability to understand these things.

Oh, I understand these things perfectly, but I refuse your attempts to maintain this as the overall narrative. No. You have not yet begun to see pushback on your lazy, self-absorbed whining.

Do you hear me, Tempest?

YOUR. NARRATIVE. IS. BROKEN.

And so help me God, people like me are going to break it into irrecoverable pieces.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I want to add something: I despise the hypocrisy on full display in this post. Here’s a non-white woman who grew up with more privilege than I did complaining about the lack of diversity in the Hugo Award nominations, and trying her best to persuade fellow scifi fans that promoting a more diverse platform in the name of equality should be done by excluding certain people because of their skin color and sex

 

John O’Neill on Black Gate

Black Gate Nominated for a Hugo Award in a Terrible Ballot

However, this isn’t a major accomplishment. As I demonstrated in my comment to Matthew above, it can be done by as few as 200-300 people. There are literally dozens of individuals (and companies) inside the industry who could mobilize that many people with relative ease (and a few, like George R.R. Martin, Stephen King, and Joss Whedon, who could easily mobilize thousands.)

But it has never been done before, because it’s been completely apparent to everyone that such an effort would damage the integrity of the Hugo awards. Worse, it would negate an entire year of Hugo Awards.

But John!, you say. Sure it’s been done before! Look at what Tor and DAW have done. Or that rascal John Scalzi!

Except, John Scalzi never did anything like this. He posted the entire Hugo ballot on his blog some time ago, and invited readers to make a case for their favorites. But he never advocated for a single writer, or slate of writers, as a block vote.

But John!, you say. The Puppies haven’t negated anything. They’ve just put the candidates they believe in on the ballot. They’ll win this year, they’ll sell lots of books, the industry will benefit, and all will be well.

No, it won’t. Because it’s highly likely that all three short fiction categories will go to “No Award” this year. That’s exactly how the Sad Puppy ballot was treated last year, and it’s a virtual certainly that it will happen again this year. Already the backlash is louder and more aggrieved than it was last year.

The Sad Puppies should have known this. Maybe they did know it, and they don’t care. Maybe they just want to wreck the awards. If that’s their plan, they’re doing a pretty good job.

John O’Neill in a comment —

I think what you’ve done sets a dangerous precedent that could spell the end of the awards if it’s not quashed immediately, and I feel strongly enough about that that I would be willing to burn a Hugo Award for Black Gate to send that message.

 

Charles Stross on Antipope

“The Biggest Little SF Publisher you never heard of pulls on the jackboots”

Vox Day writes:

It’s time for the church leaders and the heads of Christian families to start learning from #GamerGate, to start learning from Sad Puppies, and start leading. Start banding together and stop accommodating the secular world in any way. Don’t hire those who hate you. Don’t buy from those who wish to destroy you. Don’t work with those who denigrate your faith, your traditions, your morals, and your God. Don’t tolerate or respect what passes for their morals and values.

Over a period of years, he’s built an international coalition, finding common cause with the European neo-nazi fringe. Now they’ve attempted to turn the Hugo Awards into a battlefield in their (American) culture wars. But this clearly isn’t the end game they have in mind: it’s only a beginning. (The Hugos, by their very nature, are an award anyone can vote in for a small fee: it is interesting to speculate on how deep Vox Day’s pockets are.) But the real burning question is, “what will he attack next?”

 

 John Scalzi on Whatever

“Human Shields, Cabals and Poster Boys” – April 7

Also, let me suggest that when Brad Torgersen (or whomever) went off notifying people of their presence on the slate, he probably did not lead with “Hi, would you like to be part of a slate of nominees whose organizers whine darkly and incessantly about the nefarious conspiracies of the evil social justice warriors to infiltrate all levels of science fiction, and which will also implictly tie you and your work to at least one completely bigoted shitmagnet of a human being?” Rather more likely he played up the “we’re trying to get stuff on the ballot we think is cool that doesn’t usually get on it” angle and downplayed, you know, that other stuff.

And you might think, well, how can you miss that other stuff? The short answer to that is that, as difficult as it might seem, not everyone actually spends a lot of time following the Hugo and the controversies therein. It was, until very recently, kind of an insider sport. So it’s possible to have missed this stuff and/or not fully grasped the implications of it until after the awards came out. Not for me, clearly, and possibly not for you. But it is possible.

It’s difficult to miss them now, of course. But this increases my sympathy for these nominees. The whole reason the Puppies are so transparently covetous of the Hugos is that they are a big deal in a (relatively) small community. So imagine being part of this community, being told that you’ve gotten a Hugo nomination, and then finding out that there’s this metric load of toxicity around it, manufactured by the people who got you the ballot — or at least claim that they did.

 

Matthew Foster on Foster on Film

“The Hugos, Minor Disappointment, and the Sad Puppies” – April 5

As for gaming the Hugo awards, it is surprisingly easy. Like all popularity contests, it doesn’t take much to mess it all up. It only keeps a feeling of legitimacy as long as everyone is very polite and careful, because there’s no rule that says you can’t muck it up. The Hugo nominations come from the attendees of this year’s, last year’s, and next year’s WorldCon convention. That’s not a huge group (and figure many people haven’t bought their memberships to this year’s or next year’s yet). Actual number of ballots comes out not greatly over 2000, and if no one is playing games, the nominations are spread out over a huge number of different stories, books, etc. So, if you can get 200 people to vote along a party line, you’ll win. This is even easier since you don’t have to go to the convention, just sign up for a voting membership, pay $40, and you’re good to go.

Individuals have been making suggestions for nominations for years—as individuals. A writer or editor might suggest the stories they thought were worthy of an award. Individuals would suggest what they liked. Sad Puppies, though, was a political movement. It wasn’t an individual saying what he liked, but a group, bound together, to stop things from winning that didn’t share their politics. And while following the rules, is a dick thing to do. It is like those films that won Oscars after their distributers went over the normally expected promoting, and basically bought the statue. Talk to film fanatics, and those awards will always be tainted.

“Part 2: The Hugos, Minor Disappointment, and the Sad Puppies” – April 5

Sad Puppies leadership had changed. Correia turned it over to Brad Torgersen. Torgersen is a different kind of bird than Correia. He doesn’t burst into bouts of swearing, avoids blatantly racists statements, and his insult tend to avoid simply name-calling (though he did suddenly find the need to call me fat in a conversation that was irrelevant to my weight and that I wasn’t supposed to see, but I’ll just take that as his writer’s need to be descriptive, and I have put on a few pounds over the years). He’s still following the “leftist cliques are out to get us” troupe and he still names the same people Day did as opponents. But he has a lighter touch.

His line is that all the meaning in writing, all these themes and messages, are bad, and that science fiction needs to be fun tales of adventure. It needs to be about manly men (he actually uses that term) performing daring exciting deeds and things ending up happy in the end. That the leftists (social justice warriors) have been putting in all these messages into fiction (which is bad) and then getting those stories given awards (again, through secret insider trading). I tried to explain this view to a friend and she just stared at me. It is hard to imagine any artist objecting to theme. Pretty much every other artist I’ve ever met: filmmakers, painters, sculptors, and other writers, wanted to say something with their art. It’s kind of the point. Otherwise, what you’re making is equivalent to a rollercoaster. It can be fun, for a moment, but that’s about it.

 

Mary Robinette Kowal

“Please stop with the deaththreats and the hate mail” – April 7

I, too, am angry about how things went down with the Hugos, but am also realistic about the fact that much of the work — not all of it — but a lot of it is on there because people are legitimately excited about it. Yes, there are some things from Rabid Puppies that seem to be there purely for shock value.  But others? Sheila Gilbert does damn good work. Jim Butcher is a serious writer.

When I sit down to vote, I am, in fact, going to open every file and start reading it. As soon as it doesn’t work for me, I’m going to shut the document. Now, in two cases, I’ll admit, that means that the author’s name is as far as I’m going to read because I’m familiar with their work and know that it makes me angry. I am not going to vote for it, so why make myself angry for no reason?

Everyone else? Sure. Let’s see if that’s fiction that I might enjoy. I have voted for works before of authors who I have disagreed with politically. Shocking, but true.

 

Doctor Science at Obsidianwings

“Hugo ballot go BOOM” – April 6

  1. My Opinions, Which Are Mine:
  2. Elizabeth Bear, abi sutherland, many commenters at Making Light, and especially Cat (in a comment she cross-posted widely) have persuaded me that slates wreck the process of voting for awards. Slates are useful and often necessary when you’re voting for people who need to work with each other (= politics), but they’re destructive to the process of choosing excellence. Slates narrow the field radically, and let (or force) voters to make their choices other than from their own personal perspective, which is naturally idiosyncratic.

Mieneke van der Salm on A Fantastical Librarian

“2015 Hugo Awards Nomination Thoughts” – April 7

On the Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast in the interview episode with Larry Correia and Brad Torgerson, Torgerson stated something to the effect that SJWs/the Hugo voting public thought his ‘side’ were having fun wrong. But to me that just smacked of hypocrisy as by his standards I’m having my fun wrong, since I enjoy works that include stuff I find important that clashes with his preferences. So I value diversity, equality, and yes, I’d call myself a feminist. That does not make me an SJW as the Puppies designate everyone who holds these values. And yes, looking at my nominating slate, my nominees reflect my preferences, but I didn’t pick them based on this. I picked them because I very much enjoyed reading them.

There’s lots of authors I love, who have never been nominated for a Hugo, who are very successful commercially, but will probably never be nominated, such as Mercedes Lackey, Robin Hobb, Trudi Canavan, or Jacqueline Carey to name but a few. But there are also a large number of authors I love that fit the “SJW-message fic” the Sad Puppies decry who haven’t made the ballot either (thus far; I still remain hopeful for the future) so I can understand it is frustrating not seeing the things you love on the ballot, but I very much think what happened with the SP/RP slates isn’t the answer.

 

PROSPECTIVE RULES CHANGES

Mike Scott on Dr. Plokta

 “Hugo Puppies”

The problem with the puppy slates is not that they’ve got stuff on the ballot. They’re members of the Worldcon, and they’re entitled to have the stuff they nominated on the ballot, regardless of their decision processes in making their choices. The problem is that they have kept off the ballot some other stuff that most voters would probably prefer to vote for. So what we should be doing is preventing a slate from forcing stuff off the ballot, not from getting stuff on the ballot. The voters can then use their alternative vote preferences to take care of the slate, as happened last year when the slate failed to completely dominate any categories. It seems to me, therefore, that the solution is to have some rule for varying the size of the final list of nominees in each category based on the nominating patterns. Nothing on a slate would be banned or disqualified, but the slate wouldn’t be allowed to dominate any category. We already do this a bit — we increase the number of nominees if there’s a tie for fifth place, and we reduce the number if not enough nominees pass the 5% threshold. I would propose that for each category we take the total number of nominations received in that category, subtract the number of nominations received by the most popular nominee in the category (thus removing the effect of a slate, if there is one, on the numbers), and then the shortlist consists of everything that got at least 10% of the remaining number, but with a minimum of five per category and scrapping the existing 5% rule (which has already been causing problems).

 

Brad Templeton on Brad Ideas

“Hugo Awards suborned, what can or should be done” – April 5

Eliminating the supporting membership, or boosting it

Two contradictory suggestions. If only people who buy the much more expensive “attending” membership can nominate or vote, it becomes very difficult to convince people to just buy memberships to promote an agenda. On the other hand, it’s a matter of debate whether a lot of the SPs were outsiders who came in just to nominate their agenda. The alternate suggestion is to make it very cheap to nominate and vote, so lots more people do it, overwhelming the affect of slates. I seriously doubt that would work.

Variations could include allowing supporting memberships only for recent holders of attending memberships, or those who have not had a worldcon on their continent for several years (and thus could not attend.) One could even count actual attendance based on who picked up badges.

Allowing fewer nominations than slots

Today you can nominate 5 works for 5 positions, allowing a slate sweep. Making it so you get fewer nominations than there are slots makes it much harder to do a slate sweep, though you can still have a slate that pushes some number of non-slate works off the ballot. A sweep is still possible, but requires a group twice the size.

Note that this, or any other change the rules requires 2 years to enact, as all changes must be voted on at one convention, ratified at the next, and come into effect at the next after that.

It’s also been proposed to develop rules to greatly increase the number of slots (particularly if a slate is present) to make sure non-slate works are not pushed off. Unfortunately, a ballot of 10 or 15 entries is not workable, nobody has time to read them all.

Elimination Nomination

Well known cryptographer Ron Rivest has proposed a nomination system where ballots may nominate several entries, but as soon as one of those entries makes the ballot, the ballot is eliminated, and none of its other nominations will go in tallies. (In one variation the nominations may be given preferences, so that we understand the voter’s desire as to which candidate should get a nomination if it is to be only one of them.) This approach resists slates, and any other clustering of nominations, producing much greater diversity in the ballot — possibly to the extreme. (For example, if a large section of nominators strongly favour one particular subgenre, like hard SF, and send in only that, then once the most popular of their group choice gets a nomination, the rest have much reduced chances of getting one.)

Another proposal involves weighted nominations, where nominators can spread a fixed number of points over their nominees. This encourages ballots with just one nominee among those who care.

These systems resist slates, but introduce strategic factors into the nomination process. Generally, the Hugo awards seek a system where “strategy” is not productive. This is why the ranked single-transferable-vote system is used in the actual voting. In the prior system, there are few effective stratagems, except collusion, which is what SP introduced.

This proposal and much discussion can be found in an article by my fellow EFF board member Bruce Schneier on the Making Light blog.

 

 VOTING NO AWARD

NoAward.com

“How to Vote ‘No Award’ in the 2015 Hugo Awards So that Good Triumphs over Evil”

It is the belief of the creators of this web site that the perpetrators of this action have damaged those who would otherwise have been nominated by actual fans of the field, that they have damaged several people on their “slate” who apparently did not realized they were being so used, and that they have shown their disdain for fans and fandom through this process.

It is our intention to help people “reward” them as they so richly deserve. We also recommend that, since they clearly do not care about fans or fandom, convention runners do whatever possible to ensure that the actual perpetrators of this bit of ugliness never have to interact with fans at conventions again.

 

Dara Korra’ti on Crime and the Forces of Evil

“on buying some hugo awards and voting NO AWARD” – April 7

Some fans are considering counter-slates for future years. I cannot state strongly enough: This would be a disaster. And not just because it would insure the Puppies more slate victories. To reply with counter-slates would be to enter what in foreign affairs is called a Red Queen’s Race – a continuing escalation of resource expenditure to less and less effect resulting eventually in structural collapse. (See also: wars of terrorism, current case study: Syria. But I digress.)

Fortunately, there is an alternative. Remember, above, how I mentioned that Mission Earth: Volume 1 finished behind NO AWARD?

If NO AWARD wins, no Hugo in that category is awarded. This has happened before – not since 1976, I think, but it has happened.

NO AWARD short-circuits the Red Queen’s Race. It makes all slate efforts null and void, as long as fans collectively decide not to award any award in slate-controlled categories. It burns most of one year, to save the rest. Compared to the alternative of competing political slates that reduce the value and meaning of the award to absolutely nothing on any axis – other than spite – it’s a dramatically better option.

 

David Gerrold on Facebook

One of my pen names, registered with the Writers Guild of America, is “Noah Ward.”

I have used that pen name on two scripts, so it is an active pseudonym.

Should “no award” win any Hugos in August, I intend to take the trophies home myself.

And no, I am not campaigning.

Fund Launched to Bring
Peter Watts to Aussiecon 4

Cat Sparks is raising money to bring Canadian SF author Peter Watts to Aussiecon. Cat gives full details on Talking Squid:

To that end, with Peter’s permission, I’m conducting a raffle to raise money for his airfare and accommodation. First prize is tuckerisation in his next novel State of Grace. Peter says, “Make sure that all entrants realize that their namesakes will most likely come to a really painful and unpleasant end. And they may not be especially cuddly as characters before then…”

[Via Australian SF Bullsheet #100.]

Peter Watts Receives Suspended Sentence

On April 26 Canadian author Peter Watts was sentenced to a 60-day jail term suspended upon payment of court assessments — $68 state minimum costs, $60 victim rights, $1000 court costs and $500 fines, according to the St. Clair County Court database.

This past March 19 a jury found Watts guilty of violating Michigan state law Section 750.81d “Assaulting, battering, resisting, obstructing, opposing person performing duty.”

Watts had gone into the morning prepared for the worst after seeing the prosecutor’s sentencing recommendation. According to the Port Huron Times Herald:   

Information [in] his online court record shows the recommended sentence is 180 days in jail with credit for one day served and 60 days suspended upon payment of $1,600 in fines and costs. A jury found Watts guilty of refusing to comply with orders during a random inspection at the bridge. An officer testified at trial that Watts tried to choke him.

Watts posted his reaction over the weekend before heading for Port Huron for this morning’s hearing:

After receiving some very positive indications from the Prosecution earlier this week — she wasn’t going to push for jail time, she doubted the judge would hand any out, the guy writing the presentencing recommendations was “very mild” — I’ve just been hit with a presentencing report that recommends jail time. Four to six months of it….

Of course, in a rational system this would have ended the moment the Feds decided not to press charges. In this system, there’s now a significant chance that I go into Port Huron on the 26th and simply don’t come out again. I’ve therefore been running around for the past couple of days making arrangements for the paying of bills and the feeding of cats should I go dark.

Fortunately, he has avoided the worst case scenario and hopefully is on his way home.

Watts Case Footnote

Late last week I wrote that the news coverage of Peter Watts trial didn’t explain clearly why the prosecutor was requesting an enhanced sentence under the habitual offender statute. So I sent an e-mail to the contact person at the St. Clair County courts and received this answer:

Habitual offender relates to previous convictions. It is not clear from the court record whether this will apply in the Peter Watts case but it will be clarified by the time of sentencing. 

Peter Watts by now has addressed this on his blog, but at the time I sent in my question I never expected anyone in his situation to be so forthcoming.

Looking Down the Road

The Port Huron Times Herald story about Peter Watts’ conviction begins with the following lead:

Toronto author Peter Watts has been found guilty of assaulting, resisting and obstructing a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer.

Watts calls this a mistake — saying he was not convicted of assault. Indeed, one of the jurors has written to tell Watts he felt obligated to vote for a conviction on grounds of resisting and obstruction, but says Watts was not guilty of assault.

I wondered if a look at the statute would reconcile both viewpoints. By that I mean — What if the newspaper reporter’s phrasing is legally correct, just less insightful than the juror’s explanation?

The St. Clair county court records and the Michigan code are all available online. Watts was charged under this section of Michigan law:

Section 750.81d: Assaulting, battering, resisting, obstructing, opposing person performing duty; felony; penalty; other violations; consecutive terms; definitions.

(1) Except as provided in subsections (2), (3), and (4), an individual who assaults, batters, wounds, resists, obstructs, opposes, or endangers a person who the individual knows or has reason to know is performing his or her duties is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both.

Section 750.81d(1) deals collectively with seven distinctly different actions, five of which are in the title of the statute. So a jury that found someone guilty of any one of these actions might be said to have convicted him of violating the law against “assaulting, battering, resisting, obstructing or opposing” a person performing his or her duties.

But the reporter (or copyeditor) has taken a cafeteria approach, selecting just a few of the listed items. So it doesn’t read like a paraphrase of the statute — it reads like an assertion about the jury’s factual findings that led to Watts’ conviction. And since the jurors were willing to talk out of court the reporter had as much opportunity as the defendant to get the most insightful possible story. I don’t score the lead’s accuracy very highly.

On another topic… For the past two days I have searched for information about how frequently people convicted under this law avoid a prison sentence. I located the Michigan Department of Correction statistical report for 2008 (PDF file): it shows 42% of the people convicted under Section 750.81d just received probation, and another 8% received delayed or suspended sentences (or were dealt with under terms of a youth offender statute).

Everything ultimately comes down to the details in individual cases, of course.

Watts Trial FAQ

All the nagging questions left over from the trial are answered in Peter Watts’ latest post DVD Extras and Director Commentary. Was the video shown? What was on it? What did the jurors say in their public statements and in conversation with the author after the trial? Is there an appeal coming? A countersuit? How many have contributed to pay the legal costs? Most important, how is he standing up under the incredible strain?

[Thanks to David Klaus for the link.]

Jury Finds Watts Guilty

The jury returned a guilty verdict in the Peter Watts case on March 19 reports the Port Huron Times Standard:

Toronto author Peter Watts has been found guilty of assaulting, resisting and obstructing a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer.

Jurors returned the verdict today in St. Clair County Circuit Judge James Adair’s courtroom. He faces up to two years in prison when sentenced April 26.

Court records show that in the meantime the judge has continued Watts’ bond and he remains free pending sentencing. His case has been referred to the probation department for a report. And the court will review the prosecution’s request for an enhanced sentence under Michigan’s habitual offender statute.

According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, “in Michigan anyone convicted of more than one felony can have his or her sentence lengthened if requested by the prosecutor and agreed to by the court. Prisoners serving under the habitual offender statute cannot be paroled prior to their calendar minimum.”

The news coverage from the case hasn’t made it clear whether this law is being invoked based on the multiple felony charges from the border-crossing case or a previous conviction.

Peter Watts has posted detailed comments about the trial and verdict on his blog. He analyzes the statute the jury had to work with and the factual questions they had to resolve, then concludes:

Whether that’s actual noncompliance or simply slow compliance is, I suspect, what the jury had to decide. That’s what they did, and while I think they made the wrong decision I’m obviously not the most impartial attendee at this party. I still maintain I did nothing wrong; but as far as I can tell the trial was fair, and I will abide by its outcome.

Update 3/19/2010: Added link to Peter Watts’ comments about the trial and verdict.

Jury Deliberating Watts Case, 3/18

Peter Watts’ case was submitted to the jury in mid-morning on March 18 following closing statements by defense and prosecution attorneys, reports the Port Huron Times Herald.

Watts himself testified on March 17 in the afternoon, as did the passenger in his car on the date of the border-crossing incident.

Watts said he was returning home to Toronto after helping a friend move. He had just paid his toll on the American side of the international bridge when he noticed a “flicker of motion” outside his car window. The motion, as other witnesses had testified, was a border officer attempting to wave his vehicle to a stop for a random inspection. Watts said the wave was “ambiguous.”

Watts said he stopped after his passenger, Marcus Kumala, told him to, and when he rolled down the window, the officer said: “‘When I go like this (Watts put up his hand), I’m not waving hello.'”

Watts said he responded “I guess we’re not in Canada, because in Canada that sometimes means hello.”

Times Herald reporter Lis Shepard’s article adds: Watts said he became irritated by the officers’ search of the car and bags in the back seat and got out of the vehicle because he wanted to know what was going on. Watts heard an officer twice order him to get back into the vehicle, but he didn’t immediately comply. An officer grabbed his arm and he pulled away in a “flinch response.” Watts said he was starting to get back in the vehicle when Officer Andrew Beaudry grabbed him and tore his shirt.

Watts said he was trying to comply with orders as things seemed to escalate.

“I was trying to get the hell back in the car,” he said. “It turns out I had company in the car.”

Watts said he remembers feeling leather in his hands, but doesn’t remember grabbing the officer and might have been trying to fend him off.

“My own recollection of this is kind of frenzied because I was under siege,” he said.

Update: 3/18/2010: Deliberations ended at 5:20 p.m. without a verdict. The jury is expected to resume work on March 19 at 9:00 a.m. According to the Have Satellite Truck, Will Travel blog, during the afternoon the jury requested to see the security camera video tape again, which was permitted. But the jury was not allowed to take the tape into the jury room to review and still-frame it, which the judge said would be conducting an investigation and the jury must make its decision based on evidence presented at trial. // Peter Watts’ first post on his blog since the trial began is brief and ends, “Nails are being bitten, ulcers are being eroded, and I am out of clean underwear.”

Watts Trial, 3/17 Update

The second day of Peter Watts’ trial began with three U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers testifying about stopping Watts’ car and allegations that he assaulted and resisted Officer Andrew Beaudry.

Watts’ attorney Douglas Mullkoff has said the defense will call two witnesses and that Watts plans to testify.

Late last night the Have Satellite Truck, Will Travel blogger, who attended the first day of Peter Watts’ trial (March 16), posted an account of the opening statements plus details of the first witness’s testimony unavailable elsewhere. He followed up with some editorial comments, the most significant being:

…There is a video tape. It was not shown today, but both sides alluded to it. Mullkoff stated that if the prosecution did not introduce it, he would. Watts himself told me the tape is not very good, that he was but a “few pixels” in the frame. And here I thought we’d spent millions putting cameras all over the border.