(1) Pat Cadigan is still making cancer her bitch.
I didn’t plan to travel as much as I did this year, it just happened that way. And I’m not done yet. I have at least one trip, possibly two left before I put the suitcase away till next year.
It’s been very good for me, physically as well as mentally. In May, I visited Copenhagen for the first time. In June, I took a road-trip from Virginia to a college reunion in Massachusetts. In July, I spent most of a week at a festival in Spain. And in mid-August, I went to Spokane, WA for Sasquan, the world sf convention. The difference in my physical condition now compared to the same time last year is virtually miraculous. I could walk reasonable distances without collapsing. On Saturday night, I went to the Hugo Losers Party––the one given by original co-founder George RR Martin––and didn’t go to bed till four a.m. Then I was up at 9-ish to meet a friend for breakfast.
Last year at this time, I was pretty feeble. This year, I’m hopping around like an ingenue. I appear to be well, so much so that you’d never guess I had terminal cancer. A lot of people didn’t know––they thought I was in remission. It was no fun to correct them. I hated making them feel bad. Seriously; I remember what it was like to be in their shoes. I have a lot more experience being them than being terminal.
I’ve been saying that more often in the last few weeks: terminal cancer; I’m terminal; treatment is palliative. There’s about a year and four months left of my oncologist’s original two-year estimate. Where did the time go?
(2) Little White Lies – “Video Artifacts No. 4 – Andrew Ainsworth”
You may not know the name, but Andrew Ainsworth is the creator of one of the most iconic images of the 20th century – the original Star Wars Stormtrooper helmet. Working out of his shop situated on the quaint, leafy Twickenham Green, Ainsworth began his career in the ’70s as a prop maker for films and has since become one of the leading exponents of products made via plastic moulding techniques.
(3) Here’s a headline I missed: James Potter — Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley’s son — started Hogwarts on September 1.
(4) Tremendous examples of trompe l’oeil posted by George R.R. Martin – all the work of John Pugh, “master of the art style called ‘narrative illusionism.’”
(5) Summer’s almost over, which means it’s time for Doctor Who fans to start counting down until “The Doctor and River Song Reunite For A Spectacular Christmas”…
Alex Kingston returns to Cardiff to reclaim her role as Professor River Song for the highly anticipated 2015 Doctor Who Christmas special, part of BBC One’s essential seasonal viewing.
It’s Christmas Day in the future and the TARDIS is parked on a snowy village street, covered in icicles, awaiting its next adventure. Time traveller River Song meets her husband’s new incarnation, in the form of Peter Capaldi, for the first time this Christmas.
Day one of filming the eleventh Doctor Who Christmas special starts this week and is written by Lead Writer and Executive Producer, Steven Moffat, produced by Nikki Wilson and directed by Douglas Mackinnon (Doctor Who, Sherlock).
River Song made her first Doctor Who appearance in 2008 in ‘Silence in the Library’ and ‘Forest of the Dead’ and has appeared in 15 episodes to date.
Award winning Alex Kingston comments on her reappearance, “To be honest, I did not know whether River would ever return to the show, but here she is, back with the Doctor for the Christmas special. Steven Moffat is on glittering form, giving us an episode filled with humour and surprise guest castings. I met Peter for the first time at Monday’s read through, we had a laugh, and I am now excited and ready to start filming with him and the Doctor Who team. Christmas in September? Why not!”
Steven Moffat, Lead Writer and Executive Producer, adds, “Another Christmas, another special for Doctor Who – and what could be more special than the return of Alex Kingston as Professor River Song? The last time the Doctor saw her she was a ghost. The first time he met her, she died. So how can he be seeing her again? As ever, with the most complicated relationship in the universe, it’s a matter of time…”
(6) Ken Marable drops his name in the hat as another fan who would like to host the go-to Hugo recommendation site. Details are at 2016 Hugo Recommendation Season.
I am trying to encourage the community to take part in a “Hugo Recommendation Season” from November to February. Basically to both create as much conversation as possible about the works themselves, and to give each category its fair spotlight, I’m hoping to have a Focus Week on each category. During each week, fans would post their recommendations (on their blogs, Facebook, whatever) saying what works they love, and most importantly, why. (There are a lot of recommendation *lists*, I want more – I want to know *why* it is recommended.)
….I am hoping to get as many fans as possible to participate including Sad Puppies, non-Puppies, new members, and long-time fans like you. In fact, my ideal would be to have some of the old guard introduce each category, possibly explaining why it came into existence, things to consider, etc. (e.g. suggestions on how fans can look for a Best Editor; just what is and why do we have a semiprozine; venerable past winners; surprising past winners, etc.). Sure it’s all a Google search away, but it would be nice to have a single, short reference to accompany the recommendations. However, I would be pleased if fans just participated in each Focus Week and talked about works and people they think are award worthy in each category.
(7) David Gerrold has something going too – see Facebook
Here’s a secret cabal for the rest of us. THE SECRET CABAL OF FANNISH FANS [SCOFF]. Anyone can join. Anyone can recommend. There are no slates, just people sharing the books they enjoyed.
(8) Edouard Briere Allard has posted “A Critical Review of Laura J. Mixon’s Essay”, which is as voluminous and heavily annotated as the work it attacks:
This is only my interpretation, but Mixon appears saddened that BS was not kicked out of SFF and that BS has instead decided to become a better person and keep writing in SFF (although to be clear, BS had already made that decision in 2013, possibly even some time in 2012). Mixon later tells us: “trust can’t precede the cessation of abuse. Forgiveness can’t come at the expense of basic fairness. Reconciliation can’t precede regret.” This idea that the WoC in front of her might not be guilty of all the crimes she is accused of is impossible for Mixon to believe; just as impossible as believing that she, herself, might be guilty of comparable crimes. This, I think, explains her desire to pursue the matter until she gets her way. It’s a very American way of seeing things.
In the same follow-up post, Mixon says:
Dividing people into camps, branding those who disagree with us (or whose religious beliefs (or lack thereof), skin color, gender, sexual orientation, etc. offend us in some way, for that matter) as The Enemy—as irredeemably evil—and appointing ourselves and our friends as the sole arbiters of Truth, is a destructive practice. No matter who does it. That was why I wrote my report.
Here, if nowhere else, this single paragraph illustrates perfectly why I loathed Mixon’s essay, and her apparent inability to empathise with others and to evaluate her own actions. Mixon, in an essay that begins with decrying the difficulty of getting rid of the “evil” that is BS, says: “branding those who disagree with us […] as The Enemy—as irredeemably evil—and appointing ourselves and our friends as the sole arbiters of Truth, is a destructive practice”. This branding, you’ll recall, the only branding RH as ever done that could conceivably fit into what Mixon is saying here, is calling things or people misogynist, racist, homophobic or colonialist. While there is always ample room to discuss strategy and tactics in the fight against misogyny, racism, homophobia or colonialism, I disagree with Mixon’s sweeping condemnation, and I find her framing deeply hypocritical.
(9) Brandon Kempner on Chaos Horizon – “2015 Hugo Analysis: Category Participation”
[Post includes an assortment of graphs covering several years of history in every category.]
Now 2015: that line is totally inconsistent with the previous 4 years. Previously ignored categories like Editor grabbed an increase of 30 points—there’s your visual representation of how the Puppy kerfuffle drove votes. Thousands of voters voted in categories they would have previously ignored. I imagine this increase is due to both sides of the controversy, as various voters are tying to make their point. Still, 80% participation in a category like Editor, Short or Long Form is highly unusual for the Hugos. Even the Best Novel had a staggering 95% participation rate, up from a prior 4 year average of 87.4%.
(10) Harry Connolly, taking off from a recent Eric Flint post, speculates that Hugo voters and readers have these differences — in “oh god am i really going to write about the hugos again”
But here’s my suggestion, tentatively offered: what if the Hugo voters/nominators aren’t the one’s who’ve changed these last few decades? I mean, sure, some folks age out, new folks come in, so they aren’t the same individuals. But what if they’re the same sort of novelty-seeking reader, preferring clever, flattering books to pretty much everything else?
Because that would mean that the bulk of the readership now are the sorts of readers who don’t care about fandom or voting for Awards. Who have maybe sampled a few award-winners and found them not to their taste. They’re the people who came into the genre through Sword of Shannara, because it was the first fantasy to hit the NYTimes list, through STAR WARS and dozens of other action/adventure-with-ray-guns movies that sold millions of tickets, through D&D novels like Dragonlance, or through shoot-em-up video games.
Maybe the award hasn’t changed very much, but the readership now suddenly includes huge masses of people who are looking for Hollywood-style entertainment, with exaggerated movie characterization and a huge third act full of Big Confrontation.
(11) Robert B. Marks in Escapist Magazine – “The Night Science Fiction’s Biggest Awards Burned”
When you take a step back, it’s easy to see the Sad Puppies as the only sympathetic clique of the lot. They bought their memberships and voted for the stories they thought were worthy of recognition, as was their right as members – they’re also the only group who didn’t advocate a response of “if we can’t have it, nobody can!” Of everybody involved in the voting, the Sad Puppies did nothing wrong. In fact, they may be the only clique in this mess who actually honoured the fan-driven spirit of the Hugo Awards. It speaks volumes that when George R.R. Martin asked if he could nominate authors for consideration in next year’s Sad Puppies effort, the answer came back as an unconditional “yes.”
(12) Charles E. Gannon on Whatever in a comment on “Wrapping Up 2015: A Hugo Awards Open Thread”
This is a proven recipe for quickening passionate partisans into aggressive zealots. When advocates forsake their initial behavioral limits, they have started down a path in which their ends have begun to justify means they would not have countenanced earlier. And so they are on their way to becoming radicalized extremists.
We are familiar enough with the early warning signs of this dynamic at work, and which, cast in the taxonomies of our genre, equate to:
increasing numbers of SF & F readers becoming infected with the same virus of polarization now endemic in so many other parts of our culturescape;
name-calling, mockery, and personal invective that becomes so ubiquitous that it no longer stands out as arresting or unusual;
increasingly strident and absolutist rhetoric, often accompanied by a reflex to screen for “correct think vs. wrong think” semantics.
I don’t propose to have any sweeping answer for how to reverse this trend. (That would make me yet another strident advocate, wouldn’t it?). Rather, I perceive the answer to be ultimately personal: a conscience-informed attempt to balance what one intended to convey with how it was received. In short, to temper oneself without muzzling oneself.
My own answer is to keep talking amiably with people from all over the spectrum, regardless of however different (or not) our opinions may be. Consequently, lots of the folks I’ve spoken with over the last six months will not find the content of this post surprising and have expressed sympathy for larger or smaller parts of it. The list includes people such as Larry Correia, David Gerrold, Brad Torgerson, John Scalzi, Rachel Swirsky, and Eric Flint, just to name a few. And if anything strikes me as even more prevalent than the differences of opinion and perception among the dozens of people with whom I’ve chatted, it is the degree to which the “sides” do not understand each other. Which, given America’s contemporary culturescape, is not really surprising.
(14) Solarbird on crime and the foreces of evil – ”on the business meeting, part 2: e pluribus hugo”
E Pluribus Hugo doesn’t know about intentional slates. It doesn’t need to be told, “this is a slate.” Nobody has to make that call, because it doesn’t matter. It’s kind of like a normalisation function applied to nominations. There are no arguments over whether a pattern or voting is intentional or a plot or intent or political – a lot of identical ballots will be normalised to a first-order approximation of their actual popular support, regardless.
That’s why it’s so elegant, and that’s why it’s so genius. It doesn’t lock anybody out; it just stops campaigns from locking everyone else out, dramatically reducing their value vs. their labour and monetary cost, and eliminating the incentive for opposition parties.
For me, that is fair. For me, that is enough.
I hope that, for the honest flank of the Sad Puppies, it will also be enough. One self-identified Sad came up and voiced active support for E Pluribus Hugo during the business meeting. Those who actually believe in the mythical SJW VOTER CABAL – which was emphatically demonstrated not to exist by the events of this year, but stick with me – will know that E Pluribus Hugo would normalise this supposed SJW CABAL slate just as effectively.
Is it sad that we’ve reached a point where this sort of engineering is necessary? Eh, maybe. Probably, even. But it has driven fandom to create what even some opponents at the business meeting called a more perfect nominating system.
Yes, it’s tedious as all hell to do by hand, but it can be done. Yes, it’s more complicated – but not much. It’s only a little different than what we do for final voting and for site selection already.
(15) Allum Bokhari on Breitbart – “The online culture wars have moved out of comments sections and into Amazon’s Kindle Store”.
Online progressives were not so supportive. Alexandra Erin, a sci-fi writer who described Day’s book as “rehashing old slights”, wrote a short parody of the book for Kindle. Entitled “John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author And I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity Levels,” the book makes fun of Day’s alleged fixation with the progressive sci-fi author John Scalzi.
Scalzi himself appeared to be delighted with the parody, saying he “loved it already.” He used the book in a fundraising drive for a charity promoting diversity at sci-fi conventions, promising to release an audio recording of him reading the book if $2,500 was raised within three days. The target was successfully met, and Scalzi subsequently uploaded an audio recording.
Supporters of Vox Day responded by releasing their own parody book, entitled “John Scalzi Is A Rapist: Why SJWs Always Lie In Bed Waiting For His Gentle Touch; A Pretty, Pretty Girl Dreams of Her Beloved One While Pondering Gender Identity, Social Justice, and Body Dysmorphia.”
The counter-parody was removed by Amazon today following complaints from Scalzi. Prior to its removal, it was the top seller in the “parodies” section of the Kindle store, two places ahead of Erin’s book. Kindle top 100 rankings are calculated on an hourly basis, and surges in popularity for titles usually reflect a short, rapid increase in the number of purchases….
Both parody authors saw genuine returns for their products. The parody books were both under 30 pages long, and are unlikely to have taken much time to write. The fact that they became part of a buying war by two factions in the culture wars shows how animosity can be harnessed for profit.
(16) John Scalzi weighed in throughout the day.
(17) Ken White on Popehat – “Satire vs. Potentially Defamatory Factual Statements: An Illustration”
So. If someone wrote an article saying “Ken White’s legal analysis should be disregarded because dresses up in a rubber suit on the weekend and hunts ponies with a handmade crossbow,” and says it on their trash-talking blog, to an audience that knows them and knows about my blogging here, it’s almost certainly parody, because the relevant audiences would be familiar with our in-joke about responding to spam emails with rants about ponies and would therefore not take it seriously.
The Facts Here
Here the factors point very strongly to the book being treated as parody, and protected by the First Amendment, rather than as a defamatory statement of fact. With all respect to Scalzi, his question is wrong: you can’t analyze the book title in isolation. You have to look at it in the context of the whole. In that context, the intended audience (both fans of Beale and fans of Scalzi) would recognize it as a reference to Beale’s tiresome meme. Plus, the Amazon description explicitly labels it as “a blazingly inventive parody,” and the descriptive text is mostly nonsensical and evocative of ridicule of “SJW” concerns, and references some of the topics that anger Beale’s coterie in connection with Scalzi like the Hugo Awards.
I think this one is protected parody, and I don’t think it’s a very close call.
(18) Vox Day on Vox Popoli – “Why Johnny can’t sue”
I suppose that leaves lobbying Amazon to ban books that make fun of John Scalzi, which I tend to doubt will be a successful strategy. UPDATE: Amazon just pulled down John Scalzi Is A Rapist: Why SJWs Always Lie In Bed Waiting For His Gentle Touch; A Pretty, Pretty Girl Dreams of Her Beloved One While Pondering Gender Identity, Social Justice, and Body Dysmorphia …
Fascinating, in light of how Is George Bush a War Criminal and Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Paula Deen is a Big Fat Idiot are still available for sale there. I wonder who will be the next target of these dread parodists?
(19) Brad R. Torgersen – “Tyranny of the Safe”
We must not allow ourselves to become a Tyranny of the Safe. You can have intellectual latitude, or you can have intellectual comfort. But you cannot have both. Larry Niven was 110% correct: there are minds which think as well as yours, just differently. Silence the other minds, and you will ultimately find you have silenced yourself. Because any rules you install today, are guaranteed to be abused by your opponents tomorrow. The mob you join in — to metaphorically encircle and burn the homes of the “wrong” people — will encircle and burn your home eventually. Commanded reverence — for an institution, an idea, or a demographic — begets simmering contempt. And the harder you push and punish, the more you use threats and pressure, the more obvious it is that your concepts cannot endure objective criticism.
(20) John C. Wright – “Dantooine is Too Remote”
Look — I hate to get emotional. It is bad for my Vulcan digestion. But the Hugos used to mean something, and now they don’t. A little bit of light and glory have departed the world.
Those who snuffed that light, hating a brightness they could not ignite themselves, must pay.
(21) David Wintheiser on Contrarian Bias – “My Only Hugo Disappointment”
But the big problem with [Guardians of the Galaxy]as Hugo-winner came when I discovered what movie got left off the Hugo nominations list because of the three films from the Puppy slate that got on it: Big Hero 6.
The entire plot of Big Hero 6 revolves around the question of who decides how to make the best use of technology, and for what ends. The ‘superpowers’ exhibited in the film all make use of science presented in the film, and while not all the science is strictly ‘real-world’, it still follows the rules set up in the film itself — for example, the limitations of Hiro Hamada’s big invention become a significant plot point in the defeat of the true ‘villain’ of the piece. And, of course, it was a really good story, well-told. Had Big Hero 6 been in the nominations list, I’d have voted for it myself, and felt it was the most deserving potential winner, but because a bunch of butt-hurt white dudes felt like flooding the Hugo nominations market with their own wishlist, the movie I thought would have been the most deserving 2015 Hugo winner didn’t even get nominated.
That, to me, was the biggest and really only disappointment I had from taking part in the 2015 Hugo Award voting. It may well be something I decide to do more regularly in the future, if only to continue to represent a ‘new mainstream’ in SF where diversity in stories and subjects is celebrated, not lamented.
(22) A Stitch in Time – “The World is not Black and White: Hugo-related ramblings”
So. Knowing what I knew about the author’s campaign against the Hugo, and the Puppies slate, and the things said against him, or implied against him, or actually, mostly, the things he wrote that everyone from the Other Side (TM) thinks about him though they’re not actually true… I was really pleasantly surprised. (Now that I’m writing this, I think that I read most of the accusations allegedly done against Correia in his own writing, where he stated them and then vehemently said that he, of course, was none of that. In a way and tone that very much made me think that there was probably a bit of truth to them.)
I did enjoy the books, but knowing about all the personal and sorta-political background story, it felt a little weird to do so, as the Puppy Thing really irked me. I cannot completely part the writing from the author. That may be a good thing for a person: I’ve supported artists because I like the person for their personal qualities or their way of seeing and approaching life, though do not much care for their actual art, for example. But of course it can also mean that I won’t support someone because of their political or general stance on things, and, more importantly, because of the actions they take in this field.
Without the Hugo Kerfuffle, I would choose the Grimnoir books as an Xmas or birthday present for some friends of mine who I’m sure would enjoy them. But… the world is not black and white, and I will not buy these books on their own, because of the Hugo Kerfuffle and the actions the author has taken.
(23) L. E. Modesitt, Jr. – “The Hugos, or ‘You Just Don’t Understand’”
We have two groups with very different perspectives on what constitutes excellence. Each believes the other is wrong, misguided, or the like. Those on each side can argue quite logically their viewpoint. The problem is that, all too often, people with fixed mindsets believe absolutely and firmly that their understanding of a situation is the only way it can be accurately perceived. It has nothing to do with whether one is liberal or conservative, or any other social outlook. It has to do with a certain firmness of thought, described as “principled” by each of themselves, while describing their opponents as misguided or unprincipled.
In the case of the Hugos, as I see it, and I’ve certainly been criticized for the way I see it, there is some truth in both the cases of the “sad puppies” and the “new traditionalists.” [I have to say that I don’t see much truth or objectivity in the points of the “rabid puppies,” but perhaps my mindset just doesn’t accept what seems to be hateful provocation or use of hate to self-publicize.] And, as I’ve said before, not only do I think the field is big enough for both viewpoints, but the sales of a range of authors prove that rather demonstrably.
Yet each side is contending that the other did something hateful and discriminatory, largely because one side refused to abide by unspoken rules that they believed minimized their concerns. In the end, the other aspect of groups that this conflict illustrates, again, is why unspoken rules tend to be superseded by written procedures in larger groups.
[Thanks to Will R., Vox Day, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these links. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cubist .]