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!
 Chaucer!
  Rabelais!

  Balzac!"

Oh, hell, lets just do the whole show.

2 comments:

mcthrowaway said...

If you're "make the rules so complex" refers to the Making Light proposal, you're wrong. It's not intuitive why this is so, but it is actually fairly easy to prevent slates having undue influence. Your reference to the rules parsers sound sensible on the surface, but it's wrong here. Voting theory wasn't invented yesterday and it's especially concerned with rules parsers. The pros and cons of the various systems are known. There may be new edge cases now and then, but no revolutions (until and unless e.g. each voter were to gain complete information on all prior votes, that would challenge a lot of voting systems).
You owe it to yourself to investigate the proposals under consideration and not dodge the argument by appeal to a generality.

Also, it sucks that I have to provide an ID to comment on your blog and have no way to do so anonymously.

Craig R. said...

The rules for commenting are for a reason -- when this blog first went "live" within 5 minutes I had 2 dozen machine-generated spam comments, and less than a year later I wound up with an infestation of drive-by vandals.

It's not as much "fun" when you have to keep generating IDs to do graffiti.

I watched the threads on Making Light making light where the different proposals were hammered out, and I still feel that the added complexity is not going to really gain much.

But, it's my opinion, and I'm not going to get exercised one way or another, except that I still think that the added complexity is going to give a false sense of security.

On a side note, can I ask why you felt the need to be anonymous, or to use an ID that is not in use for you anyplace else? It's simple curiosity, nothing more.