aka The Trouble With Kibbles
Filling today’s roundup: Kary English, Eric Flint, Martin Wisse, Max Florschutz, Vox Day, Peter Grant, Peter Watts, Ria, L.S. Taylor, G. K. Masterson, Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag, Zander Nyrond, Lis Carey, Rebekah Golden, and mysterious others. (Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editors of the day Glenn Hauman and William Reichard, and Daniel Dern.)
Sometimes anger is productive, but I haven’t seen anything remotely productive out of this yet, so maybe it’s time to start talking about books.
“Oh, so we’re supposed to make nice and sweep it all under the rug?”
No. Talking about books doesn’t sweep anything under the rug. What it does is build common ground, and common ground is that place where productive conversations can eventually happen. Anger and more anger just makes everyone defensive. Doors slam, walls go up and people become more insular, not less.
“Why us, Kary? Why do we have to go first?” Because there’s a lot of our stuff on the ballot.
If you love it so much that you nominated it, it’s time to tell the world about it. Which is your favorite, Dark Between the Stars or Skin Game, or was it something else entirely? Write a post on why your pick is so awesome. Put it on your blog, your Tumblr, your Facebook, etc. Heck, put it here as a comment.
Then do the same for your second favorite or something in one of the other categories. If we all do that, the internet will be brimming with book recommendations instead of outrage, which, frankly, would make it a much nicer place to be than it is now.
“But they started it!” At some point, it doesn’t matter who started it.
You know what started it? Books started it. Stories we love, by authors we love. Middle Earth. Ringworld. Westeros. Gotham City. That’s what started it. Mary Shelley. H.G. Wells. Jules Verne. They started it, too.
…The Hugo voters, in their wisdom or lack thereof, decided that Christopher Anvil, Hal Clement, L. Sprague de Camp, Richard Matheson, Andre Norton, Fred Saberhagen, James H. Schmitz, A.E. Van Vogt and Jack Williamson were not very noteworthy. Of those nine authors, five of them are now in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and two out of the other four—Anvil and Schmitz—have had their complete works reissued in modern editions. (Full disclosure: Okay, fine, I’m the one who edited those reissues—but they sold pretty damn well for reissue volumes.)
Quite clearly, the Hugo voters were… ah, mistaken. (That sounds more dignified than “full of crap.”) Those are not the only times that Hugo voters have been…. ah, mistaken. They certainly won’t be the last, either. In this, the Hugos are like all awards. You win some, you lose some, so to speak.
What I’ve never been able to understand about the Sad Puppies—and still don’t, after all the wrangling—is why they care in the first place. Nothing in their stance makes any sense to me at all.
To begin with, they have nothing but contempt for Hugo voters, as they have expressed repeatedly. In Brad Torgensen’s own words, “the field of SF/F is a thoroughly progressive playhouse”—and that’s the main beef he and Larry Correia and their supporters have with what they view as the F&SF establishment. That being the case, I have no idea why they care what Hugo voters think in the first place.
The presumption I’m left with, since there seems to be no other explanation, is that somewhere in the darkest and most insecure recesses of their psyches, the Sad Puppies have this gnawing feeling that the Hugos really do confer some sort of worth or dignity upon their work, even though they insist the Hugo voters are a pack of progressive scoundrels. (And they really are scoundrels, too. “Puppy-kickers,” no less.)
I am a “progressive”—on the far left side of that label, to boot—and I do not have any animus against Hugo voters. And yet I don’t look to them to provide me with any sort of affirmation for the value or lack thereof of my work as an author. They have their opinion, to which they are absolutely entitled—and I have mine.
Guess which one of those two opinions really matters to me? Unlike the Sad Puppies, I am simply not ego-challenged. I understand full well that people who vote on literary awards will, taken as a whole if not each and every one, tend to look on the issues involved differently than I will. That is true by definition. If I did agree with them, I wouldn’t be writing the kind of stories I write in the first place. I’d be trying to write stories that line up closer with the attitudes of Hugo voters.
How would I do that? How the hell should I know? Which word in I don’t care what Hugo voters think causes people—especially the Sad Puppies, who really do seem to care—the most trouble?
In the nature of things, for instance, fans who vote on awards for science fiction and fantasy works will tend to place an emphasis on originality and innovation, whether of style, narrative structure, or content. (Not all of them, of course. But enough will to affect the voting.) But those are things I just don’t care much about…..
Martin Wisse on Wis[s]e Words
Now AW Hendry started his post by mocking the Sad Puppies, which is how I stumbled upon [the cartoon]… He used it as his example of how people waste time with online activism and throughout his piece the unspoken assumption is made that online doesn’t matter and economic considerations should be much more important than cultural fights like this. What this misses is that, even apart from the simple fact that quite a few of us now live our lives as much online as in the real world, online follows you home — ask Zoe Quinn or any other SWATting victim. What he also misses is that the struggle over the Hugos is more than just the misplaced vanity of a few rightwing culture warriors: as Kameron Hurley explained, the Hugos meant she got $13,000 more in her post-Hugo book advance.
Not the highest of stakes perhaps, but for your average struggling writer that is a large chunk of money
Max Florschutz on Unusual Things
“And Sci-Fi/Fantasy Gets Crazier” – June 16
So, getting back to Tor. Tor has seen some negative publicity out of this Gallo’s comments. A lot of negative publicity. The Ents are, one by one, waking up. And they don’t like what they’re seeing. They’re seeing an editor of the company whose products they’ve enjoyed pointing fingers and shouting “Look at all the shouting that side is doing! Look at their shouting! It’s so loud! Can’t you see it!? If you like what they like, you’re shouting at me too, and I don’t like you for it!”
But here’s where things get … interesting. See, these Ents are the forefront, the ones just waking up to things because their interconnected and somewhat aware—on Facebook and other places where they can get their news—and suddenly they’re seeing this bout of name-calling flying by. Some of them, being targets of that name-calling, contacted Tor to complain. Now for the interesting part.
Apparently, Tor has decided to ignore the backlash and has offered an explanation that those who wrote in to Tor to complain about this editors are not real fans. Tor has offered the opinion running along the lines that they feel many of these fans writing in are not real fans of their books (and buyers), but just very reduced numbers of fans using botnets to promote their reaction.
Now do you see why I say “Wow?” Tor’s customer base has begun writing in en-masse (by the thousands from most numbers being claimed) and Tor’s response is to look at all of them and say “You’re not a real customer. Nananana you’re not real!”
Vox Day on Vox Popoli
“Mailvox: the sorry state of SF” – June 16
As for the total number of emails sent, based on the CC’s Peter and I received, around 2,300 emails were sent by 765 different people that we know of. And there were others being sent as well, although we can’t possibly know how many. Regardless, I expect that enough were sent to make it clear to Macmillan that the excuses given by the senior Tor employees for the emails that they previously received was a false one.
Those senior employees have publicly attacked Tor-published authors, Tor published-works, and Tor customers. They have needlessly antagonized tens of thousands of book-buyers in pursuit of their ideological agenda. They’ve now been caught lying to their superiors about the extent of the consequences of their unprofessional behavior and violations of the Macmillan code of conduct. And that is why, at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Macmillan cleans house even more thoroughly than people have been demanding. I certainly would if I were in their shoes.
Then again, for all we know the Macmillan executives are fanatic SJWs whose instinct will be to dig in and defend the actions of Irene Gallo, Moshe Feder, and Patrick Nielsen Hayden. If that’s the case, Peter Grant has made it clear that the boycott, which for no particular reason at all may be christened TORDROP, will begin at noon on Friday, June 19th. And since no one has received any sort of response at all from Macmillan or Tom Doherty as yet, this is a good time to take a picture of your books published by Tor Books and tally up the total of the books and ebooks you have purchased from them. The truth is that we’re not asking for much, only that the senior employees at Tor Books be held to the same professional standard expected of a retail sales clerk or a fry cook at McDonalds.
Peter Grant on Bayou Renaissance Man
I can only repeat that warning, with greater emphasis. I’ve already seen a number of commenters declare that as far as they’re concerned, the boycott is already in effect. I’ve seen e-mails sent to Tor and Macmillan that say the same thing.
I’m also saddened that instead of an intelligent dialog about this mess, both sides seem to be descending into greater vituperation and mutual abusiveness. I hoped that David Gerrold’s peace overture would meet a better response, but I’m afraid it didn’t – from either side. Even some of the towering figures of SF/F are lowering themselves into the gutter when attacking those they see as their opponents. We are all poorer for such conduct. However, in a very real sense, this is war – a cultural conflict rather than the shooting variety, but war nevertheless. In war, common decency is one of the first casualties. I’ll do my best not to stoop to name-calling, with the exception of referring to the other side as ‘social justice warriors’ or SJW’s. I do so only because I have no other name in my vocabulary to adequately or accurately describe them. If anyone can suggest a better, more acceptable alternative, I’ll be grateful.
Peter Watts on No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Re-reloaded)
“Gallo’s Humor” – June 16
Things kind of went downhill from there. The internet— or at least, this little genre bubble thereof— blew up again, loud enough for the Daily Dot to notice way out in the real world. Tom Doherty stuck a boilerplate disclaimer over at Tor.com and was immediately vilified for being A) a misogynist asshole because he publicly reprimanded Irene Gallo when he should have given her a medal for speaking Truth to Power, and also for being B) a left-wing libtard pussy who gave Irene Gallo a slap on the wrist when she should have been fired outright. Gallo herself issued one of those boilerplate fauxpologies whose lineage hearkens all the way back to the ancestral phrase “mistakes were made”. None of it seemed to help much.
Blowing up is not the only thing that comes naturally to humans. Tribalism is in there too.
Before we go any further, let me just cover my ass with a disclaimer of my own: I am no great supporter of puppies, regardless of temperament. (Any regular on this blog already knows the kinds of furry quadruped who own my heart.) I understand that of the two breeds under consideration, the Rabids are far more extreme and downright toxic; Theodore Beale, judging by some of his pithier quotes, seems to be Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s bizarro twin, separated at birth. The Sads, in contrast, have enough legitimacy to warrant at least respectful disagreement and engagement from the likes of George Martin and Eric Flint; they have also distanced themselves from their more diseased cousins (although the point that the final Hugo ballot is more representative of the Rabid slate than the Sad one is well-taken). Even so, I don’t find even the Sad Puppies’ arguments especially meritorious.
So let there be no mistake here: I come not to praise Puppies.
I come to bury the rest of you…..
Over the past few days I’ve sampled a fair number of blog posts and editorials dealing with Gallogate. I’ve recognized a number of the folks who’ve posted comments there, who’ve “liked” the relevant links and rejoinders sliding down my Facebook wall. Some I know only from their handles, when they’ve posted here on the ‘Crawl; others are personal friends.
They all support Irene Gallo.
I would too, if she’d only stood up and offered an apology that didn’t read as though it had been crafted by corporate mealworms. She fucked up; we all do, sometimes. She played into enemy hands. It was a minor and a momentary slip. But the real fuck-up was in how she and her supporters dealt with the aftermath.
There are good reasons to repudiate Puppies. There are legitimate arguments to be made against both Sad and (especially) Rabid breeds— which makes it all the more frustrating that so much of what I’ve seen lately boils down to dumb, naked tribalism. Fallacies that would be instantly derided if made by the other side become gospel; any who question are presumed to be With The Tewwowists (or more precisely, the sea lions). I’m reminded of my own observation back when the Mixon report came out: we’re not a community at all. We’re a bunch of squabbling tribes fighting over the same watering hole.
G. K. Masterson on Warden’s Keep
As you can see, I have quite a few Tor books in my library. Over the years, I’ve massed a sizable collection of Tor books that is worth around about $3000. On average, I purchased about $50 worth of Tor books a month on my Kindle. So, while I’m not going to put much of a dent in Tor’s bottom line by myself, I’ll bet the authors whose books I bought will feel it and they might decide to move to a publisher who doesn’t call their customers neonazis and bots. And, ultimately, if Tor doesn’t have books to publish, they have a problem, don’t they?
Ria on The Code
Changing the subject a little, another thing that weirds me out about Puppy stuff? The way they seem to think that the Hugos have this liberal bias toward books that only talk about what liberals want talked about, and how nobody’s actually reading these books. And how the voters at Worldcon are some elite subgroup of liberals who earned their voting privileges by, I dunno, helping an elderly Asian woman across the street to get to her ACA-funded doctor’s appointment or something. That stuff straight-up ignores facts that are easily corrected. 30 seconds on Google will net you dozens of reviews for these books, showing that yes, people are reading them. Got the money to go to Worldcon? Great, here are your rights to vote on the Hugos and make your voice heard. It’s not like you have to pass a liberal test or something in order to get these things. You pay money. And you read books. So the idea that books are winning a prestigious award when nobody’s reading them because they suck so bad is just a touch ridiculous.
People have pointed this out before. I’m not the first. But this info seems to slide off people on the Puppy side of the fence because it doesn’t mesh with what they see. It’s not a flawless system. No system is. But some accusations are very easily refutable, and I’m not even sure where they came from beyond, “I’m not winning this award, so it must be a conspiracy against my politics.” At the end of all this, I want the whole damn thing to be over. I want people to stop insulting each other for daring to like a different subset of SFF than they do. There’s room for a lot of opinions here. A lot.
And that includes both conservative “men doing manly things” fiction AND fiction involving nonbinary people in stories that look like they can right out of a liberal buzzword dictionary. Doesn’t make either of them good or bad by default. That’s the trick for the author to manage. You can make a terrible idea into a good story, and a great idea into a terrible story. So yeah, I dislike the Puppies on both a personal and political level, because they’re largely insulting, ignorant, and seem like they’d be a lot happier if people like me shut our mouths and let them get on with doing what they do unopposed, but damn, am I ever eager for this bullshit to stop!
L. S. Taylor on What I Learned Today
What’s an Award Worth?
Wendy S. Delmater, Gray Rinehart, Edmund R. Schubert, John Hartness
Moderator: Misty Massey
…About the Sad and Rabid Puppies and the Hugo awards …
WD: She was there on the inside of that. 15 of the 18 nominees were Rabid Puppies.
GR: Was also a Puppies nomination. After much thought, he has arrived at the metaphor that he was offered a ticket on an airplane, said he’d take that ride, and then the plane got hijacked. And the plane landed and took off again, and there’s people on the plane who want it to crash, and people on the ground who want to shoot it down, and he just wants to get off.
JS: Is reading everything. Will rank his reading appropriately. Regardless of the dynamics, there are people on the ballot this year who could and should be on the ballot. People who got on the plane and were surpreised what happened from there. Ultimately, for the same reason he doesn’t go out of his way to criticize other writers’ writing, he’s going to give the writers the same consideration he hopes others would give to his writing.
GR: Other people voting, they’re very wound up over this, and not sure about voting. Lately, he’s told people that if the situation has poisoned it for them, then don’t read his story. Reading should be a pleasure. If there’s some outside force making it displeasurable, then go find something that will give you pleasure.
ES: Decided to get out because they didn’t nominate him for an award because of his work; they were making a political statement. Felt like there was too much going on.
JS: The one thing he thinks about regarding this whole matter is that we do get wrapped up in awards. Yes, it’s the tail that wags the dog, but regardless, it has made us as a community think, what are these awards about, and why do they matter? The one silver lining is that it’s led to a new discussion, appreciation and understanding of what awards are, can be, and should be, and he cannot argue that this was not a discussion that was not necessary for science fiction and fantasy. It wasn’t the way he’d have had it, but at least now it’s happening.
Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag on Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog
“Hugo mess… it’s still going on” – June 16
I don’t entirely agree with GRRM on everything about the Hugos, though I’m impressed with his views. It seems to me that most fans have their own opinions. While a few people group themselves into…ahem… slates, and march in lockstep, most of the time with fandom if you get four fans in a room talking about a subject, they’ll have at least five, and more usually 20, opinions. I just spent a fabulous weekend in Seattle with a number of awesome fans. I had the time of my life and feel better than ever about fandom. This Hugo mess is very sad, but fandom is really strong and will survive. We will do what it takes to make sure awards go to the best works, despite slates and hates. What will last is a lot of bad feelings on the parts of many people, especially those who were the direct victims of this nastiness and these attacks. One of them posts in the same comment thread as above. I have made no secret that I’m a big fan of Ursula Vernon and was delighted by her Hugo win for Digger. She posts as well:….
Thank you Ursula. I doubt my opinion means beans to the puppies since it sure seems like the vast majority of them are misogynistic brats, but *I* really appreciate both your work and your willingness to speak out. Thank you.
Zander Nyrond on Log of Smallship 1
“More puppy by-product” – June 16
I’m not aware that there is an obligation on me that everything I read for pleasure must confront me with social injustice and demand a political response. I have the real world for that and it’s quite enough. Similarly, I’m not aware that being right of centre, wherever the centre is these days, necessarily implies Nazism; it didn’t when my father was alive, and I’m sure some of my friends would be shocked to learn that it did.
And yes, I still have some conservative friends, despite my advancing age and consequent political ossification. I don’t agree with them, but I respect their right to their convictions. And if I were told that all I had to do, to be accepted into a particular community, was to dissociate myself from them, disavow them, put distance between myself and them, because otherwise it would be assumed that I shared their beliefs…
…well. I would be morally revolted. I would be disgusted. I would form a very low opinion of that community’s intelligence, perception, and maturity. And I would think very long and hard about whether I actually wanted to join such a community. Because that right there is blackmail.
I do not know the leader of the Rabid Puppies, nor do I want to. I can’t imagine how anyone could call him a friend. But the leaders of the Sad Puppies do, and however wrong they may be on everything else, in refusing to ostracise their friend in order to gain acceptance, they are not wrong. And it horrifies me that any of us would think otherwise.
Kary English in a comment on File 770 – June 16
I discovered WOTF in the late 80s, about the end of high school. At the time, I wanted like anything to be a writer, SFF for sure, and maybe historical romance. So I wrote a few stories, sent them off and got soundly rejected, albeit with a personal or two. So I thought I didn’t have it, and I quit.
Some 25 years later, stories started pressing their noses up against the glass again, and I started wondering if I should give the writing thing another go. The family and I happened into an electronics store (circuit boards, not televisions), and I gravitated toward the magazine rack, where I picked up my old friends, Analog and Asimov’s (they were out of F&SF).
While I waited for the family, I read Ray of Light (by Brad) in Analog, and I thought “You know, I think I can do that.” So I went home and worked on the story that would become my first WOTF entry in more than two decades. I also joined the WOTF forum where Brad was the moderator. “Brad-that-guy-who-wrote-Ray-of-Light?” Yeah, that Brad. at the time, it felt like one of those nudges from the universe.
So mostly Brad was a fellow writer on the forum. We didn’t interact all that much, but I enjoyed his work and found his progression of sales to Analog motivating. If that guy could do it, I could do it.
I eventually met Brad either at one of the WOTF events or at Superstars Writing Seminar – I can’t remember which one was first, and I’d characterize our relationship as distant but amiable work friends. You know that person who works in another department, but you know their name and face and the few interactions you’ve had were positive? About like that.
Then Mike Resnick bought Totaled, and apparently bent the ear of anyone who would listen – including Brad – about how good it was, and who knew the writer and when could he (Mike) meet me. So it was Brad who found me at another WOTF gala and walked me over to meet Mike. Mike said such nice things about the story that I was a) literally speechless, b) didn’t believe him and thought he was just blowing smoke, and c) had to excuse myself to go to the ladies’ room for a cry.
Part of what Mike said – in front of Brad, mind you – was that Totaled deserved to be on the Hugo ballot. (If your Google-fu is strong, you can find a press release to this effect dated many months before SP3).
So what you asked is how I know Brad, and the answer is that I’d characterize him as a colleague and work friend. I gave you the rest of the story because one of the complaints here is “Brad just nominated his friends.”
Maybe that’s the case, but Brad hadn’t read any of my stuff before the Mike Resnick encounter. I’d asked him to, but he declined. (A lot of aspiring WOTFers were asking him, and his response was that he couldn’t read all of us and he didn’t want to play favorites.) Brad’s got closer friends than me, including closer friends who are also writers and share more of his politics. So at least as far as my story is concerned, I think it has a lot more to do with Resnick’s endorsement than with Brad knowing me.
H.P. on Every Day Should Be Tuesday
For a comic that’s supposed to be, well, comedic, there isn’t much that’s really funny outside of the above quote, the volume subtitle, the inherently funny term “butt stuff,” and the background art in the marital aid store. And then the “magic system” doesn’t really make sense. The “villain” (banks are bad!) is boring and trite, and the bright idea of robbing banks is neither smart nor zzzzzzzzzzzz [falls asleep]. The comic is, though, technically proficient with a time hopping storytelling structure that works well, and it works on an allegorical level as a stand-in for the biting loneliness that is the shadow of so much of modern sex.
Lis Carey on Lis Carey’s Library
“The Stars Came Back, by Rolf Nelson” – June 16
Rolf Nelson is a 2015 nominee for the John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award.
It’s a movie script that “morphed into a novel.” Except no, it didn’t. So it has none of the sights, sounds, and actors that make a move or tv show work, and none of the narrative features that make novels work. Here’s the script; you the reader do all the work.
Lis Carey on Lis Carey’s Library
Jason Cordova is a nominee for the 2015 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer….
The characters are cardboard. The prose and the plot are clunky. I wasn’t overly impressed by Cordova’s other sample in the Hugo Voters packet, the short “Hill 142,” as I thought its inventions were arbitrary and not supported in the story, but it’s professional level work. This isn’t.
His goal is to lead the reader to agree with just one of his assumptions and then pretend to reveal great truths built upon those assumptions when really he’s just redefining reality to suit his own whims. It’s obvious that he thinks he is clever but it is surprising anyone else would agree.
So for a very narrow set of people who want to be very sure that they are writing according to the laws of real physics without actually having to learn physics themselves I can see Burnside’s essay potentially being helpful. Except he doesn’t really make the topic consumable. It’s possible at the end to parrot and quote and follow what he says but a deeper grasp of what it means is only possible with some prior knowledge of science. With some prior knowledge of science I would rather go read a harder science book to get a broader understanding of the topic.
Oddly enough some of the “harder science” books are easier to grasp than this essay. One of the things I adore about writers like Richard P. Feynman is how approachable, how consumable, their writing is. Here’s a small bit from Feynman’s Tips on Physics: Reflections, Advice, Insights, Practice:
ArcticSaxifrage on Hugo+Nebula Science Fiction Review Project
“Addendum: On Puppies, as a Hugo Voter” – June 16
Naturally, there has been a backlash against what has happened. Several authors have refused their nominations once they realized that they had been recommended as part of the slate. This has lead to the Hugo Awards taking the unusual action of adding new nominees until the list was frozen about a month ago. For their part, the cooler heads amongst the dissenting voices, notably Eric Flint and George R.R. Martin, have tried eloquently to address the puppies. Unfortunately, the echo chamber of the internet has simply used their rebuttals to sustain or, perhaps, even throw more gasoline on the puppy fire.
But their commentaries also got me to thinking: having now read through 50+ years of award winners and having casually enjoyed Science Fiction all my life, perhaps I could take some positive action of my own. Not as a writer of persuading posts,* or as someone pointing out the excesses on either side. Instead, why don’t I take a look at the nominees myself and see where I fall in each category?
Tor & File770 insiders claim we're the reason why extraterrestrials refuse to visit Earth, but they might be confusing us with orbital junk.
— Problematic Puppies (@sadrbtpuppies) June 16, 2015