Saturday, June 06, 2015

Where Are My Nutty Nuggets? I Want My Nuggy Nuggets!

"They told me there would be Nutty Nuggets!
The stated purpose of the slate administrators in Sad Puppy HQ (well, all except for Vox Day and Tom Kratman, who have stated they want to see the Hugo Awards destroyed), is for the Hugo Awards to  supposedly reflect the "will of the people" or something.  That the Hugo Awards should reflect the popularity of works, as based on sales figures.  Or on Amazon rankings, or something.

Sad Puppy Central seem to have given up on their first justification, that there was some Super Double-Sekret Social Justice Progressive Cabal that was blocking the Manly Man Rocket Adventure Stories that they Like So Well from making either the nomination lists or the winning slots.  Except for Freer, who, I guess, didn't get the memo.

This is because they actually swamped the nomination choices.  Now, this has got to be embarrassing, if you're all fired up to crow about having Proof, I tell you! Proof! That it's all a fraud and that we couldn't get on the ballot 'cause there is no way that we could succeed in gaming the system.  There's no way that simple a cheat can get us on the ballot....

Uhh, why does the ballot look like this?

The latest reason put forth for poor prior puppy performance in the ballot is that there has been this long-running con, where each year the convention committee for the WorldCon is purposely making it hard for people to find out how to nominate and vote!  Yeah, that's it!

Well, lets look at the websites for the past 4 world cons:
  • 2011 - Renovation - 08/17/11 to 8/21/11 - Reno, Nevada
    From the front page on the convention website
    we find a link to the Memberships page.
    From the Memberships page we find a link to the "How to sign up" page
    On the "How to sign up" page we have descriptions of the membership types.  Lets look at Attending and Supporting:
    Attending:  "... This membership includes all voting rights in the World Science Fiction Society. This means that you get the right to nominate for the 2011 and 2012 Hugo Awards, and to vote on the 2011 Hugo Awards. You also may attend and participate in the WSFS Business Meeting, which is held at a Worldcon and makes the rules for the Hugo Awards and the selection of future Worldcons. ..."Supporting: " ... A Supporting Membership includes all of the rights and privileges of an attending membership except the right to attend Renovation. You get the Hugo Award and Site Selection voting rights, and will receive all generally distributed publications. This membership allows you to support the Worldcon and participate in it without actually attending the convention.   ..."  
  • 2012 - Chicon 7 - 08/30/12 - 09/03/12 - Chicago, IL
    On  the "membership" tab at the top of  convention web site's main page is a link to the "Membership FAQ"   There, under "What does my membership include" we see:" ...  You can nominate and vote on the Hugo awards and attend the Hugo Awards ceremony, plus you can nominate for next year's Hugo awards as well. You can also vote for the site for the 2014 Worldcon. ..."
    Under the "How Do I Join" heading we have a link to the membership page, When we follow that link, under membership types we find:
    Attending: "... An Attending membership includes all publications, as well as voting and attending rights. ..."
    Supporting: "... A Supporting Membership includes all of the rights and privileges of an attending membership except the right to attend Chicon 7. ..."
  • 2013 - LoneStarCon 3 - 08/29/13 - 09/02/13 - San Antonio,  TX
    On the main web page, about 2/3 down is a "quick link" to "Membership"
    There we find:
    Attending: An Attending Membership includes all publications, as well as voting and attending rights.
    Supporting: A Supporting Membership includes all of the rights and privileges of an attending membership except the right to attend LoneStarCon 3.Now this is not very informative, 'cause I want to know about the Hugo's.  But on the left sidebar we find an entry for Hugo Awards, where we find:
    "... Voting for the Hugo Awards takes place in two stages. The first stage, nomination, is open to anyone who had a Supporting or Attending membership in the previous, current, or following year's Worldcon as of January 31. For LoneStarCon 3, this meant members of Chicon 7 (the 2012 Worldcon), LoneStarCon 3 itself, and Loncon 3 (the 2014 Worldcon). During this stage, members can nominate any eligible work or person.

    The second stage of voting is the final ballot. This stage, which closed on July 31, 2013, is only open to members of the current Worldcon (i.e. LoneStarCon 3). In the final ballot, members choose among the five finalists in each category. ..."
  • 2014 -  Loncon 3 - London, UK - 08/14/14 - 08/18/14
    Main web page  .  Now this website is more problematic.  There is no quick link that tells you what the rights are of memberships.  The info is there, but you need to use a convoluted route to find "All about membership and attendance at Loncon 3"  where we find that there is no description of what the voting rights are.  In fact the only mention of voting rights for either attending or supporting memberships on that page is this bit on supporting memberships "... but is for anybody else who wishes to receive all the publications and vote in the site selection ..." which is incorrect, unless Loncon 3 included the site selection fee in the supporting membership cost.
 Of these four years, only one, Loncon 3, never makes it easy to find out what is the membership classes that can vote for the Hugo.  To me, it looks like there's no conspiracy to make this information hard to find.  Looking over these websites, The only thing I see in common is that everybody makes their own websites, the USA ones seemed to copy a lot of administrivia text, and the site design for London, at least, was considered a real low priority item.  And that leads me to believe that the lack of coherent info about what comes with the membership is an oversight to the site design team:
   "Did you put in membership and voting stuff on the site?"
   "Giles is doing that part of the site."
   "Well, where is he?"
   "Oh, he's fishing in Scotland this week."
   "Well, have him check it when he gets back."

(I was actually going to look at the last six years worth of sites, but the site for Aussicon is now home to some sort of publishing clearinghouse(?) and the Canadian one is just a stub, showing the convention name and logo and the list of corporate sponsors.)


But this also brings up another thing I keep seeing from the puppies about the WorldCon and the Hugos:  they keep claiming that they (the Hugo Awards) have been "broken" for years and they don't "mean anything" anymore, in either terms of a signifier of quality for the winners, or a survey of quality (for the nominated work)

And this brings in something that does get me ticked off:  if these non-followers of the Hugo awards don't like, and have *not* liked the Hugo award nominees/winners for the last 10 years, why the hell are they complaining about it *now?*

Let them make their own d*mn award, call it "Nutty Nuggets" or something.  They can curate, limit it to USAian writers and publishers, have the one foreign language exception Castilia put into the Charter or something and leave the rest of us the hell alone!

It's not like there's not enough prior art around to show them how it's done:  The Prometheus; the Tiptree; the Bram Stoker; The Sidewise; The Shirley Jackson Awards; The Lambda Literary Awards; The Locus Awards.

 Locus maintains a whole database of them - anybody can write to those awards administrators for advice on how to do selection and nominations. 

Hell, the Locus awards themselves are exactly what the Puppies claim they want - recognition by fandom and readers as a whole, an out-and-out popularity contest, not nominations and voting limited by membership in the WSFS rolls.  Why aren't the puppies having this to-do with *Locus?*

No, this is because the SP clique got its ego hurt.  Because they can't win an award they say they "don't care about" and because their own little Dr Evil didn't get the appreciation he wanted from the Making Light commetariat (or maybe because they didn't appreciate his sharks with laser beams?) and has been holding a grudge for a frikken decade.  Hell, even Fred Pohl and Sam Moskowitz stopped taking pot shots at each other in less time than that after the Great Exclusion Act.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

"Just this one teensy, tiny little change..."

A 2013 SF novel by Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice, introduces us to a space-faring society that, unlike modern English, has the default generative pronoun  as feminine, rather than masculine.  In fact, the culture of the main viewpoint society, the Radch Empire does not seem to recognize essential differences in roles based on the gender of the person performing any role.

There has been a *lot* of ink/electrons expended on comments about this, with opinions ranging from "I just don't like it" to "Hell, yeah, 'bout time!"  A lot of those comments, and a lot of the more in-depth analysis of this point in the  direction that this background choice must have been done to make some kind of political point.  If you were going to say this was a signifier of authorial political intent you could go two ways - either (from the fringe Right) that it's just a case of what could be called "feminist imperialism and co-option" or (from the Left) the views that this is an inevitable consequence and easier to use than he/she/it or heshe constructions and (from the far Marianas-Trench deep end of the Left pool) "Hell, yeah, 'bout time the Goddess set things straight!"))

One of the great divides in SF/F right now is between groups of readers that want to claim SF and Fantasy as purely descriptive entertainment, the epitome of escape literature, just living in shared authorial moments of the storyteller entertaining us at the fair, or in the tavern, with no other motive express, implied or accepted. You pays your pennies on the drumhead for the entertainment and that's all you want to see and hear.

 On the other side of the table or those who say that all stories have some ulterior external dimension, some subtext,  some "message."  There is no choice, there is always subtext, whether the author means for inclusion or not.  It is inevitable.

In the Interests Of Full Disclosure, I will tell you that I belong in the second camp: not from any skill at analysis, nor any training in critical literature theory, just cause it seems like the way things are.

From my viewpoint, the very act of reaching for the ability to entertain, or the ability to make any kind of contact with the intended audience requires an assumption of commonality of fundamental background points.

It's the same shared societal assumptions that leads a 17 year-old groundling boy at the Globe watching a boy player dressed in wig, gown or kirtle sees Juliet or Prospero's daughter Miranda.

The analogous Junior in high school watching the young male actor in wig and kirtle, in the same roles, lacking the innate bias about women being on the stage, sees the male actor and needs to consciously transform the perception to the male actor to the role of Miranda.   Of course, the Elizabethan groundling  would indeed find Robbie, in the role as Caliban, truly monstrous

If this background tic in Ancillary Justice (use of female as the default gendered pronoun) is not essential to the storyline, e.g.: could just as usefully use the masculine, as we do in English, as the default, does that authorial choice *have* to be political?

I don't think it has to be.

Why not view it as "this is an alternative, lets explore what this change from the norm implies for the characters and their society, and what does it provoke in the reader?"  Now, isn't that a completely fundamental trope for SF?

And, yes, what *does* the reaction, by the readers, to that single change in the society depicted, and their language choices, tell us about *ourselves?*

And, yes, what does the reaction, by the readers, to that single change in the society depicted, and their language choices, tell us about *ourselves?*

Which is another basic trope in SF.

I mean, if all you are going to do is have shoot-em-ups in starship corridors, spaceships commanded by Fine Upright Admirals and Hard-Bitten Detectives  taking appointments by televisor, why not just read Zane Grey, C.S. Forester, Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler?  The originals are usually done better, anyway, if all you are doing is copying.

But even there, in the originals, the subtext always carries a message: for Grey it was the larger-than-life legend of the American West he wanted to idealize; for Forester it was the superiority of the British class system; for Chandler and Hammett it was the endemic corruption of the political environment of the time.

Those writers may have been trying to be descriptive, not necessarily pushing a "message," 'though I suspect Hammett was being very deliberate in what his subtext expressed, but the very act of writing to those shared assumptions denies that, if the writers are going to be able to connect with the audience.

The same as those bards and storytellers in the square, tavern or campfire.  Their stories are entertaining, but they are also passing along and reenforcing the mores and other shared fundamental understandings of their society.

So, where shall we look for the future in SF?  Will we look back to the imitators of Zane Grey and say "this was their peak," or will we look forward, and view Dr. Morbius cast in the role as Propspero?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Right here in River City. Trouble with a capital "T" And that rhymes with "P" and that stands for pool!

This post is in response to a comment on my last post in re the (un)housebroken puppies.

The question was what are my thoughts on voting this year, and nominating for next year's lineup.

To start, I don't think I'm alone in that I'm really ticked on several fronts.

  •  First, that these ideologues have decided to piss in my community pool. (Swim in it fine, don't piss in it.);
  •  Second, The base premise of both the sad and rabid slates are that some secret cabal has been keeping "their real SF" off the nominations lists.  Anybody trying, in secret, to successfully get enough fans somehow control the nominations, especially over an extended number of years, simply would not happen.  It would be simply impossible to keep *secret.* Period.  And actually getting enough fans to "stay on message?"  Really?  An analogy I used on Facebook about this is still apt -- you would have a much higher probability of successfully herding 10,000 feral cats in an open field.
  •  Third, from what I have read from the nomination packet and what I've been able to find in the library, the quality of most of the slate nominees is pedestrian at best, and bad in charity (George R.R. Martin described one (without naming names) as being used as the illustration for a dictionary entry of "mediocre")
  •  Fourth, this has really upset me because works that likely were of better quality were pushed from the nomination slate and, given the sheer amount of SF/F published each year, will never even be exposed for consideration by readers for who the nomination list would have been their impetus, not because those fans aren't reading a lot, but because there is so much to read.
  •  Fifth, for me, the Hugo nominations list is something I use as a fined-down "to-be read" list, where I will consider just where I will spend my beer monies (see :"Fourth," above)
  •  Sixth, this gaming of the nominations process, and the intended result of of pushing a foregone conclusion to the final voting, while perfectly within the rules (unless there is incontrovertible proof that some individual was paying for and directing all the nomination votes, or was casting multiple nominations using electronic/IRL assumed identities), Is Something That Is Not Done In Polite Fannish Society.

For voting, this year I don't have a dog in the race - we have bought one supporting membership and She Who Must Be Obeyed will be casting the vote for the preferred winner.  But she, it appears, will be using the same criteria I would use -- read the entries, consider their merits, rank them as to quality, and decide if any of them are really of the caliber to be awarded a rocket.  If none of them are, vote "none of the above."   My preference would be, if I feel the puppy-nominated entry is not of Hugo award caliber, to not rank behind "No Award" but simply to leave it off the ballot entry.

Changes I would like to see in the nomination process?  I really don't know.  You can try to make the rules so complex that it would be much harder to force a successful slate.  But the issue with arcane rules is there will always be some rules parser who can determine where the unintended loophole lies.   The reason we haven't seen this as a successful tactic before is that the process has depended upon the good will of fandom and the presumption of voluntary compliance, much as the IRS depends upon voluntary compliance in reporting.

 Yes, there are people who are willfully trying to break the law in regard to taxation, but for the most part, the absolute majority of the US taxpayers are willing to pay the tax they owe.  We may (no we *will*) grumble, grasp at each and every legal deduction or tax credit and finagle as hard as we can to reduce our tax load.  But, overall, we are willing to pay our taxes, because we know what the stakes are and (except for a certain few who will partake of the benefits of a communal, collectivist and cooperative society but call the payment for those services "government theft"), know that society needs the funding.

The only changes I've seen that make sense to me is to expand the number of works a member can nominate, but keep the resulting ballot as small as it currently is, so that there is a greater pool of preferential ballots to parse down.  To ensure transparency, as soon as the ballot is finalized and sent to the printer release to the public all the aggregate totals showing what works received how many nominations, perhaps also showing some calendar way-marks to illustrate how the  tallies changed over the nomination processing period.

Needless to say (but I will anyway), this whole thing is leaving a real bad taste in my craw.

I feel that the Puppies, both Sad and Rabid, are playing from stances that are demonstrably and transparently false.

They are claiming that Good Olde Tyme SF Isn't Getting The Respect It Deserves in the Hugo awards process.  Their "evidence" for this is that the works getting nominated are not Telling A Ripping Good Yarn with spaceships exploding other spaceships and the Steely-Blue-Eyed White-Skinned, Blond-Haired Astronaut Skilled With Both Laser and Rapier, and able to both fix the framistat with only a paper clip but able to build a whosi-whatis from three wires, a single diode and an (already discharged) 9-volt battery they found in the nearby archeological dig.

They say that the SF "mainstream" publishers won't publish work by authors who profess conservative politics in their mundane lives.  To do that they have to ignore writers like David Weber, or Elizabeth Moon. 

They say that writers with strong Christian mundane lives are ignored. 'Course that would mean that writers like Connie Willis (who has been singing in the choir at her Episcopal church for ages) and Gene Wolfe (a devout Roman Catholic) are not being published.

And yet, and this seems to be loudest battle cry, Straight White Men Can't Get No Recognition!  Well.  Ahh.  Jeeze, just gimme a f***ing break.

And it's all the fault of some Sekret Cabal Of Social Justice Warriors (SJW)?  See my note about herding cats, above.  There is no cabal of SMOFs preventing these works to be nominated or to win rockets.  And it's not really contrarian to point out that, if the SJW Cabal was real, the puppies slate never would have gone anywhere.

'Course the anti-Puppies don't have all Sweetness And Light on their side either: with calls to permanently bar the publishing house that was most represented by the Puppies' slate; or abolish voting rights for Supporting Members of the Worldcon; or somehow disqualify any ballots that are used to form a "slate" (when does a "recommended reading list" turn into a "slate?"); or permanently ban the organizer of the Rabid Puppies slate.  One prominent online reviewer has said that he will stop doing reviews of Baen projects, and stop buying anything from Baen because the publisher won't proactively and publicly disassociate herself from the puppies.  And he's urging everyone else to boycott the publisher as well, in effect creating a blacklist for those writers who are only published by Baen.

When I was trying to figure out what I needed for a title, or theme picture, for this post, I was struck by just how well the song "(Ya Got) Trouble" fits the Puppies campaign, starting with the opening dialog between Professor Hill and his newly rediscovered crony Marcellus Washburn:

Hill:           "Now Marsh, I need some ideas, If I'm going to get your town out of the serious trouble it's in"
Washburn: "River City aint' in any trouble"
Hill:           "Then I'm going to have to create some.  Must create a desperate need in your town for a boy's band"

I propose a new party game for convention goers -- lets rewrite the lyrics for the "Trouble in River City" song to reflect Puppy-Gate"

We should also be able to come up with applicable lyrics for the "Pick a little, Talk a little" song 

"Dirty books!


Oh, hell, lets just do the whole show.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Little More on the (Not) Housebroken Puppies

There has been a lot of electrons let loose over the "Sad Puppies" / "Rabid Puppies" bloc voting for this year's (2015) Hugo awards for the works published in 2014.

I just found a new wrinkle that is both enlightening and saddening.

Author Connie Willis has just put up a post titled "Why I Won't Be A Presenter At The Hugo Awards This Year."  It certainly is a must-read.

She was asked to be the presenter for the John W. Campbell award, but has declined.  She has declined because she wants nothing to do with adding any semblance of legitimacy to the slate of stories and persons nominated by bloc voting.    This is not  from a fit of pique, but a reasoned and thoughtful response to an expressed threat to the Hugo awards selection itself, far into the future.  Theodore Beale, also known as "Vox Day," and, by a more descriptive set of initials, "VD," has declared that if "No Award" (the Hugo equivalent of "none of the above") is the choice for any of the fiction categories that he will ensure (presumably by more bloc voting) that the Hugo's will be toast.

If No Award takes a fiction category, you will likely never see another award given in that category again. The sword cuts both ways, Lois. We are prepared for all eventualities.

    To me, Willis' stance seems perfectly reasonable.

VD's proclamation reminds me of the Serbian barge captains who declared that if they were not allowed to run the UN forces blockade they would dump their entire cargoes of oil and chemicals into vulnerable waterways and then say that they were forced to do so by the UN forces.  In other words, they were terrorists.

Comments are welcome, but will be moderated.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Illustrations For Inspiration

Officially, no matter that some claim we are a "christian nation," the United States is a secular nation.  However, given the demographics of  the USA a majority of those elected to office, both local, state and national, profess to being some variety of Christian.

Given that, I'd like to propose that there are four prints that need to be on the office walls of every legislator who processes to Christianity.

These are all from the artist Fritz Eichenberg, who was a Quaker from his forties until his death at the age of 89, contributed hundreds of illustrations and articles to the Catholic Worker publications.

These four woodcuts remind us that Christ valued, and called for us to value, all people, no matter their creed or nationality or economic station, that to be Christians we need to remember his exhortations on treating all people, and that there are none so far gone as to be exempt from redemption. (The title for "The Lord's Supper" is a reminder that this feast is still ongoing)

"The Prodigal Son" dates from 1978, "The Lord's Supper" from 1951, "Christ of the Breadlines" was produced in 1950 and "Christ of the Homeless" in 1980.

"Christ of the Breadlines"

"Christ of the Homeless"

"The Lord's Supper"

"The Prodigal Son"

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Magdeburg, Now A Real Place

In the year 2000 Baen Books published an "alternate history" novel, first of a long-running series, by Eric Flint, titled "1632."  It involves the life of small U.S. town that has been transported through time back to 15th century Germany.

Much of the series' action takes place in the "downtime" city of Magdeburg, located in present-day North-Central Germany.  The writing about the city is evocative, but it was still just a fantasy setting, without any real, concrete connection for me.

Until today.

Indulging in the serendipity that is the World Wide Web, I came across a website, and a series of photographs, about an incident, near Magdeburg, in the waning days of WW II, when a scouting section of  two light tanks from the U.S. 743rd Tank Battalion came across a train, on a siding, that was filled with 2,500 people from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.  People who were being shuttled across Germany, slated for elimination.

Those running the train, both civilians and guard troops, had abandoned the train, and its cargo, for in truth, these were, in those eyes, not people, but cargo to be delivered for destruction.  I truly cannot imagine what those 2,500 people felt, or what thoughts they had, when they saw those American tanks, and recognized the uniforms of the American soldiers. 

For most of us, "history" is observed from a safe remove, and we never have the connection to make any of the incidents, or even the places seem real to us.  This website, and the accounts from two of the tank crewmen, have made the city of Magdeburg real.

Please, please, read those brief accounts, and look at those photographs.

"A Train Near Magdeburg."

We must never forget.