Sad Puppies, Happy Reading

I wrote the very long post below and then, while looking up one last link stumbled upon this post by Edward Willet which kind of sums up things better than I do (I am not a summing up sort of gal).  Although he didn’t know yet about the fact that those on the left are now openly buying votes.

I blogged about this before, but I’ve been reading more about it, and there’s some new information.  And when no fewer than eight media outlets on the same day post essentially the same story with the same false accusations- demonstrably false– that the Sad Puppies voting list was a straight ticket of white males designed because Brad and Larry are misogynists who hate people of colour, well, that’s a little suspicious.  The SP list included a dozen women. It would have taken about sixty seconds to find that out, so why didn’t any of those news outlets take sixty seconds to check it out?  Who told them it was a straight ticket of white males, and why did they believe it?

Smells like a journolist sort of scandal to me.

Torgersen and Correia have done more than expose the cliquish nature of the Hugo Awards. They have also exposed the crisis of the mainstream media and its approach to identity politics. Reporters across multiple publications are credulously repeating narratives spun by activists, with scant attempts to interrogate their arguments or reach out to their critics. Whether it’s the sycophantic reporting of Pao vs Kleiner , the disastrousUVA gang rape story, or internal disputes in sci-fi and gaming, the signs of journalistic failure are everywhere.

 

The news outlets, in lockstep and on the same day, also said last year’s slate was different, a win for diversity.  Last year’s slate was all white with perhaps one exception, and all to the left. The Sad Puppies slate is more diverse, gender-wise, ethnically, and in ideology, as it as people from the left and right, and unknown. The only point that mattered is did they do good story-telling (or art, in the case of the award for cover art, etc).

The Hugo Awards for Science Fiction- in my youth, this meant something.   For fiction, it meant  reliably good story telling, plotting, world-building, writing. It didn’t necessarily mean a story that would be my cup of tea, Sci-fi is a big, big world and not everybody drinks tea. In the wonderland for the mind that was my tiny city library growing up, you might find dragons and the girls who love them, or spaceships propelled and essentially inhabited by human minds set free of disabled, defective bodies (Anne McCaffrey), Witchworlds and telepathy (Andre Norton), rugged individualist he-men (Heinlein), robots (Asimov), time travel (Wells), strange water worlds peopled by mysterious workers of magic (LeGuin), space travel and exploration (Bradbury), a future world destroyed by nuclear war, or occupied by fascist and/or anti-human alien forces (John Christopher, more space travel (Lester del Ray)- and so much more- other worlds, other times, other cognizant species, the future.

And I just lied, or rather told a series of half truths because while the world of sci-fi was huge and broad and had something for nearly every taste, that was partially because the above authors, and others of their glorious ilk, were also not limited to the one or two word descriptions I’ve just given.

So when you picked up a book with that Hugo sticker on it, you knew you might not like it, but that would only be because it was beer and you prefered sweet tea, champaigne, a robust red wine, whiskey straight up, wine cooler, kool-ade because you’re 10, or you just weren’t thirsty at the moment. It wasn’t because the stories were drivel, message-driven fiction where the message was first and foremost and almost only, and the stories were merely a delivery system, and could be swapped around for almost any other delivery system, er, story.  And you knew it would be, well, science fiction, not If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, My Love.

I, like most sci-fi fans, had no idea how the Hugos were awarded. I wasn’t that kind of fan. I liked the sausage, I didn’t give a thought to sausage making, to the authors behind the books, the publishers, editors, prize-makers. I just assumed there was some sort of committee who chose these things, possibly based on a combination of sales and a sort of scoring based on the quality of the writing. (I think that’s the Nebulas, sort of)

However it was, over time, those award makers apparently fell asleep on the job, because the Hugo sticker meant less and less to me because they came to signal – not always, but far too often- not good story telling, but the modern version of the scoldings and most drivel-ridden kind of Victorian morality tale. It’s not that there can’t be a message, but it has to be part of the story, and the story cannot suffer to deliver the message.  It shouldn’t need to be explained to people in the book business, but apparently it does.

Like most sci-fi fans, I did not know that I could participate in awarding the Hugos if I liked. I didn’t know they were chosen by the readers voting. I didn’t realize it was associated wtih one particular sci-fi convention.

Until this year.

Other fans, and writers, and publishers, noticed the deterioration of the Hugos, and being better fans and more in touch, they had a better clue why.  Behind all that, behind the books, which were all I had looked at, was a climate of fear, and they set out to address this.

They did this because they believed what World-Con had been saying about the Hugos for decades- this is YOUR award, this award is for the fans, this is the people’s choice, your chance to be heard.
They did this because they believed that the awards were already being somewhat gamed in secret, back room discussions and whisper campaigns (and some open campaigns). They believed that some good people were being kept out because they weren’t ‘in’, they didn’t suck up enough, they had wrongfriends, wrongthoughts, were tainted by wrongness, lacked ideological purity, or just didn’t denounce the badthink de jour vehemently enough. They were told, by the way, that they were wrong, the awards were for all and there was no ideolgical litmust test or desire to keep people out.

So this year, there were approximately 3 ‘slates’ at least.  Slate isn’t a very accurate word, though, since it’s not like anybody was required to vote any particular way.

The first one is the same as always- whisper campaigns, the in clique, or just the very active insiders from WorldCon and similar connections liking the same thing, nominating the same thing.  Or you don’t call it a slate, you call it a reading list (wink, wink), and it’s just a coincidence that Tor is all over it and Baen isn’t on it once.   For those who don’t know, these are two sci-fi publishers, of the two, Baen publishes anybody with a story they like and think will sell, without regard for ideological purity of the author (the Baen publisher doesn’t care about the writer’s politics), and Tor is Tor.

The other one- well, last year Vox Day was accused of ‘gaming the Hugoes’ and that made him mad because it was a lie, so this year he admittedly set out to game the Hugoes to show what it would look like if he had done that last year.  I know.  Vox Day called his group rabid puppies, and he put out a list of titles he wanted people to nominate, and he told them to do just that. His slate is here. He said:
“They are my recommendations for the 2015 nominations, and I encourage those who value my opinion on matters related to science fiction and fantasy to nominate them precisely as they are. I think it is abundantly evident that these various and meritorious works put not only last year’s nominations, but last year’s winners, to shame.”

Now Vox Day is extremly polarizing and makes the left froth at the mouth and stamp their feet in outrage and make many accusations about misogyny, bigotry, and white supremecy, and he’s not extremely popular in most circles on the right either.    He definitely fits my definition of sexist.  However, one of the accusations against him (and it’s one I’ve seen here in my comments section) is that he says a few acid burned faces of women are a small price to pay for domestic tranquility.   Vox says these accusations are libelious.

Somebody else who isn’t even a fan of Vox has fact-checked that one, and he provides the context:

The truth was that Mr Beale gotten into an online contretemps with demogogue-asshole atheist blogger PJ Myers, posting a list of answers to Myers’s rhetorical question ‘How does letting women die rather than giving them an abortion benefit women?’ Answer #3 was ‘Because female independence is strongly correlated with a whole host of social ills. Using the utilitarian metric favored by most atheists, a few acid-burned faces is a small price to pay for lasting marriages, stable families, legitimate children, low levels of debt, strong currencies, affordable housing, homogenous populations, low levels of crime, and demographic stability. If PZ has turned against utilitarianism or the concept of the collective welfare trumping the interests of the individual, I should be fascinated to hear it.’

In other words, Beale nowhere advocated throwing acid on anyone. He claimed that someone adhering to a strictly Benthamite utilitarian ethics — such as he ascribed to Myers and to which Beale is firmly opposed — would find such a violent deed easy to justify. This wasn’t an argument for acid-throwing. It was a stab at Myers’s (alleged) personal morals.”

Since this is obviously not true, I will also have to wonder about every other bizarre accusation of Vox Day (Theodore Beale)- his enemies are clearly hate-filled enough and sloppy enough that they don’t to be accurate in what they say about him.  I took too much time trying to research a couple other of the worst accusations, and what I noticed is that they all come void of context- that is, nobody I could find links back to where Vox said these egregiously vile things so you can read it for yourself in its original context.  I get not wanting to give the beast link-love, but they don’t even give screen shots, or a link to the post on archive.org, which is a little suspicious.  He posted his own defense against most of those charges here, for what it’s worth (where he also admits gaming the Hugos this year).  I think a couple points are not easily answered in that style (the whole issue of how and why the SFA board voted against him is convoluted, and mostly for insiders), but I’m satisfied that calling one woman you are arguing with a half savage does not make you a racist just because she’s black.

What I know is just this- I like his writing style, but yes, he is caustic (which is part of what I like), does not suffer fools, has a pretty big net for fool catching (so big, I’d likely be in it), and he says stuff that is provacative on purpose, but people who aren’t parsing him carefully totally take him out of context and get it wrong quite often- personally, I think he gets the giggles from that.  Still, I disagree with him on a lot, but it’s a free country.  Also, some of the most egreigious sorts of things he’s posted have been posts originally written by people from the SJW side, and Vox just reposted them word for word- with one or two editorial changes, changing the gender or race of the screed to demonstrate that it is a screed and they have a double-standard.  Which is not to say I consider him innocent.  I don’t. Amusing, brusque, caustic, and sometimes blunt and rude (much of which could be said about most of his opponents, except for the amusing part, unless we modify it to unintentional), but not innocent.  But that’s already too much time spent on him when I want to talk about the Hugos and the Puppies.
So seee the wicked thing he did there? He made a list of books he liked, matched them up in the appropriate Hugo categories and said, I’d like my readers to vote for these books, you hear? He has no way of knowing if they did, no way of insuring that they did, He just said that’s what he wanted.

Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen, but mostly Brad, had their own slate- it actually came long before Vox’s. Larry began it three years ago- called it Sad Puppies (note, three years ago also predates GamerGate considerably, but that didn’t stop some of the left from saying this was a GG plot). He basically listed his favorites, said if people read them and liked them, they should vote. This year Brad took it over and made it more inclusive and/or diverse (ironically, more diverse than last year’s Hugo winners). He started by asking his readers for their suggestions, and then he put together a list incorporating some of their suggestions and adding his own.

This is the Sad Puppies 3 slate.  If you’re a bean-counter, count the women.

Neither Larry nor Brad told their readers how to vote. They said these were the books they liked and that if their readers read the books and liked them, too, maybe they would be willing to vote. I’ve read the comments, and so far I haven’t seen anybody who said they voted the straight Sad Puppies ticket (if you can call that a ticket)- they all made substitutions, additions, alterations of their own. We can believe these claims because, while they lists clearly did have an influence (as previous years other sci0fi writers have blogged out lists that had an influence), both the Sad and Rabid Puppies lists have about 9 items that didn’t make it.

Furthermore- and this is kinda hilarious- the total numbers of voters for the nominees indicates a net increase of exactly 199 more voters this year than last– understand that this is voting for for who would be the nominees for a Hugo- voting for the actual Hugo hasn’t happened yet.

In the days leading up to the release of the actual nominations, there was quite a bit of outrage and fury in the sci-fi areas of the bloggy world, and when the final list of nominees came out, it was obvious why.  Here’s the result, the final list of nominees for the Hugo.

In reponse, in order to prove that of course both sets of puppies were wrong, there was no political ideology , no secret cadre, no intent to keep their ilk out, numerous groups, movers and shakers in the sci-fi world are variously:
Getting together to rewrite the Hugo process so the nasty little creatures can get in again next year or ever again (yeah, that proves you’re inclusive all right)
Putting together their own puppy-free slate all the while insisting that it’s not the politics, it’s the *slate* that is a problem, a slate is bad, except when I do it, and then it’s just damage control.

Um, what? So… getting those writers on the nominations list was damaging. So the puppies had a point.

Also, now several people are saying that no, they may have once said that the Hugo and the voting belonged to everybody, to all the fans, but they didn’t mean it.  That was wrong. It’s not for everybody. It’s only for people have always gone to Worldcon.  Technically, it is true.  You could only vote if you paid to attend, or if you paid just $40 dollars so you could vote even though you couldn’t attend.  And now there’s this concern that the wrong sort of people are paying that 40 dollars to vote.

Now what?  Well, here are two posts about how the voting works- it’s something called Australian Rules.

Post One

Post Two

So.  If you have forty dollars, spend it and vote. If you don’t (and actually, even if you do), get out the popcorn.

 

More importantly, start looking up some of the names on the ‘slates,’ and reading.

Antonelli is one of the names on the SP recommended list.   Here’s a sample:

7.99 for Kindle: The Clock Struck None

I read the introduction and one of the stories (you may be able to find others here), and seriously, I felt that little frisson of half delight, half Twilight Zone music you get from the better Twilight Zone stories. A zephyr blew past my ears, chilled the back of my neck and lifted the hair on my right arm (why not the left? I don’t know). It was good story telling, very good.

Omigosh, did you know you can get TWELVE of Andre Nortons stories for just .99 on the kindle: The Works of Andre Norton (12 books)

No, she’s not on the list, the thing is, that’s how looking up books works- you look for one, you find a dozen others.

 

And it’s the stories that matter.

This one is free: Child of the Ghosts

In this world, sorcerors are mostly the bad guys- while a few are tolerated by the government, they aren’t highly trusted. One in particular is evil to his core and the main antagonist. The Ghosts referred to are are not supernatural- they are more like elite ninja groups.

I liked this. It’s well written. It was an interesting story, and the characters were real. A few parts were somewhat repetitive (I should have counted every time one of the characters referred to turning another character into a weapon). HOWEVER- some caveats for many of my readers- there is premarital sex (not graphic- you don’t feel like a voyeur), and the violence was really hard for me to stomach in a few places. There’s a torture scene or three and a child is involved. I found myself averting my eyes, which isn’t very useful when you’re reading rather than watching.

Have fun.

 

(yeah, affiliate links in the post)

Have fun.

 

(yeah, affiliate links in the post)

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2 Comments

  1. Posted April 13, 2015 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Well, I appreciate the kind words about my debunking of the ‘throwing acid’ sound byte continually posted to undermine Theodore Beale (by people who either know it’s incorrect or ought to but can’t be bothered to do basic fact-checking) . Some of us have heard of the Internet before and are lastingly wary of the Internet outrage machine and of careless-at-best inaccuracies. ;->

    I’d like to think I’m fairly typical of Worldcon-going (and -voting) fandom: I just want to read and award the best the field has to offer.

    Which is why the Swirsky story that Sarah Hoyt and John C. Wright so noisily and exaggeratedly viewed with alarm got voted down, by the way, exactly at the time we were claimed to be stage-managed by the ‘SJW’ secret cabal: It was striking, but not even clearly SF at all, and it was nowhere near the year’s best SF short story.

    Norwegian proverb: Alt er ikkje så låkt som det let. (Everything is not as bad as it sounds.)

    And, it’s really rather annoying to be spoken of as pawns of a basically non-existent power structure, and then to add injury to insult, see our awards nominations knackered by a 15% bloc-voting effort in shameless violation of a 62-year-old gentleman’s agreement. It’s likely to make frequent Hugo voters do annoyed things like No Awarding to swat down the incentive for any repetition. If you-plural insist on interpreting that reaction as further evidence of shadowy conspiracies, you have failed to comprehend reality and the delusional belief system entailed is your problem to solve.

    My view, yours for a small fee. ;->

    Rick Moen
    [email protected]

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted April 13, 2015 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      Y’all is a very useful word for you-plural.=)

      I’m inclined to think it would be better to believe Brad’s professions of good faith rather than call him shameless. I just don’t think he thought it was going to be much more successful than last year’s effort and was taken by surprise. I think the No Award is a very, very bad idea and it’s just going to make things worse. If there were more civility, and less name-calling (which you and your good spouse are better at- civilty, not namecalling), then I expect next year’s sad puppies would like more like a suggested reading list and less like ‘vote this’ slate.

      And really, don’t you think it’s just a tiny bit weird that 8 media outlets on the same day published the same set of lies about the puppies slate, when it was so easy to just look at their slate and see that it wasn’t all males?

      Anyway, thanks for the visit, and the comment.

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