How to poison a franchise

3-6-banthaThis isn’t about squicking anybody’s squee. Well, it is, but not in the way you might expect. With that being said, fuck Star Wars Legends.

I hate, HATE Legends. I have read a grand total of 0.5 Legends books, and that some decades ago. Usually I don’t hold passionate opinions about sprawling franchises that I’ve no investment in. So why the hate for Legends?

Because of the fans who won’t let that shit go.

These are the fans who are so convinced that their manic pixie dream villain Thrawn would be better than Hux, Snoke and Kyllo Ren for Reasons.

These are the fans who heap insults upon Chuck Wendig books that haven’t been released yet, up to and including one who said he hoped Wendig had an accident that permanently ended his writing career.

These are the fans who whined that there were two Star Wars movies, (In A Row!) with a woman as the main protagonist.

I am generalizing a group a bit here. I don’t think every one of the misogynistic SW fans is also a Legends EU fan, but the venn diagram kind of looks like this:


Mostly overlap.

And here’s the thing: When, every time I hear, “but it should have been THRAAAAAAAAAAAAWN!” it’s accompanied by, “eeew, girls and gays all over my Star Wars!” I am less likely to want to read about Thrawn ever again.

I bounced off the EU books because they were crap.

Sorry fans.

They started off as bland corporate tie-in fiction, and they turned into a dog’s breakfast of bad plot decisions and shocking twists that failed to shock or twist much.

So, no, the Heir to Empire books should NOT be movies 7, 8 and 9. But what’s more, I’ve been re-examining a lot of Star Wars media because of how wildly successful the film was. I might have considered revisiting the Legends books. Except that fans who aren’t happy because the story they like isn’t the annointed official narrative for some reason that I’ve never been fully clear on have poisoned that well.

So congratulations Sad Banthas. You’re so worried about Disney taking Star Wars Legends off life support that you’ve killed the franchise yourself.

Meanwhile I still don’t understand why the fuck canon status matters.

Oh wait, it doesn’t.

Trolls Never Sleep

a-close-friend-1499922I’ve had it up to here with the culture wars.

This was going to be a post about what happened to Chuck Wendig. Jim C. Hines has a decent write-up on that up, and while I disagree with him ever so slightly on one point it’s a good general writeup.

Wendig himself also has some stuff to say on the topic.

And this would have been enough for a full blog post right here. The issue with Wendig’s books, and the response both of the culture warriors who I’ve taken to calling antisocial injustice warriors (after all, if they oppose what SJWs stand for…) and of the EU fans who will lash out at any change to the Star Wars canon dovetails so perfectly with Gamergate and the Sad Puppies on so many levels that it’d certainly be in keeping with some of my usual topics.

But then New Zealand went and banned a YA novel on the grounds that it upset vocal Christians. When I say they banned it I’m being literal. Give the book to a friend and you’re facing a $3,000 NZD fine. Sell it in a store and your store gets a $10,000 NZD fine.

So here’s a link to for anybody who wants to buy it. Because with state censorship that’s basically the only response I can make.

I just can’t with all this today. I want to talk more about how parts of fandom have become toxic with what Wendig poetically calls, “weaponized nostalgia.” This vile habit of longing for an imagined better time, and attacking creatives in the present for not adhering to the standard of this fantasy land has actually soured me on the very idea of nostalgia at all. If Michael Bay’s TMNT ruined your childhood, YOU HAD AN AWFUL FUCKING CHILDHOOD ALREADY.

But it’s not just the weaponized nostalgia. It’s the regressive taint-stains who can’t tolerate the idea that the world has moved on without them: that the average person under the age of 25 is so comfortable with the idea of the Kinsey Scale that only a quarter of respondents age 14 to 24 in a recent British survey self-identified as exclusively heterosexual; that books for teens should address the anxieties, conflicts and dangers faced by modern teenagers, rather than trying to sugar-coat the world; that marginalized people have gotten enough of a platform to point out institutional biases and try to do something about them.

But these trolls, these nihilistic dinosaurs so wedded to a past that never was, are just so relentless. I go away for a weekend and they’re attacking Scalzi, I get back they’re already on to the next raid, attacking Wendig. And then another group go after this Ted Dawe author. And that’s even ignoring perennial targets like K. Tempest Bradford, who puts up with more bullshit from these trolls in a week than most people should have to in a lifetime.

And I’m like: don’t these assholes have lives to live?

So I’m tired.

I’m tired of shouting into the void that life is changing and you can either learn to live with it or get out of the way.

I’m tired of bigots being given platforms because they’re good old boys who remember when men were men and rayguns were chrome.

I’m tired of backward religious fanatics trying to cram their holy books down the world’s throat.

I’m sick of all this shit.

Hi, I’m Simon. And here’s what I pledge: if you say don’t read women or people of colour I’m going to. I will because there are some amazing people in those groups writing amazing books.

If you one-star Wendig for putting gay characters in Star Wars, or even if you do it just because you’re angry his books aren’t about Admiral Thrawn, I’m going to buy his book, read it and then give it the fucking rating it deserves on Amazon (which, considering how much I liked every other Wendig book will probably be 4-5 stars).

If you ban a book because it hurts conservative feels I’m going to bloody well put a link directly to its sales page on my blog.

These fucking trolls may never sleep. But at the very least we can make sure all they’re doing is ramming their thick skulls into the wall of historical inevitability.

There Was Never A Conspiracy

Sad dogThe Hugo awards are over and it was, as many anticipated, a banner year for that amazing content creator: No Award.

So, of course, this has led to the usual round of recriminations and accusations, with many of the central puppy figures proclaiming that their failure to receive awards in the categories they so thoroughly gamed is proof of a conspiracy. Some accuse specific individuals in the publishing industry of being the insidious masterminds of this terrible anti-christian (apparently) plot. Others claim that they were actually the masterminds of a cunning plot wherein they couldn’t possibly lose, because all they really wanted was to smash as much as possible.

Brad Torgersen, who sadly represents the most reasonable reaches of official puppydom simply cherry-picked his examples to make the big take-away that “organized” fandom “threw women under the bus.” But, of course, this implies by its formulation that there was an organized response to the puppy slate.

This is simply and fundamentally untrue. There was no conspiracy to overthrow the puppies, hell the vast swath of people who were blogging regarding the whole puppy mess couldn’t even agree on the best way to respond.

What really happened, at its most simple, is that fandom, as a whole came together and pushed the sad puppies collective noses in the wet spot they’d left on our kitchen floor. We saw a broad, thorough and entirely grassroots repudiation of the slate stacking that the puppies got up to.

And yes, that meant a few deserving people didn’t get awards. I voted “no award” for most of the puppy categories, but I voted for Sheila Gilbert in #1 for editor, the only editor I put above “no award.” I also ranked Abyss and Apex highly on my ballot – it was a very tight category and while I ultimately ranked Lightspeed first I kind of questioned them being listed as semi-pro rather than professional.

Had they not withdrawn I would have voted for Black Gate highly and the same of Marko Kloos, Kevin Anderson (edit: I know he didn’t withdraw, I put him above No Award) and Annie Bellet (I haven’t read Kloos’ book yet though I intend to but from what I understand of it I’d likely have placed it just below Ancillary Sword on my ballot which, prior to the Three Body Problem entering the ballot with Kloos’ departure was my first pick).

As you can see, despite voting “no award” for almost all the short fiction categories, I was not one of the, “if they’re on a puppy slate vote ’em below no award unread” types. I’m not saying nobody was, obviously many people took that position. But I think they did so for a variety of reasons, and not out of some sort of unified political objective.

Frankly there were probably quite a few people who voted “no award” because the quality of the selected work was poor. I mean, I have been a long-time Jim Butcher fan, but Skin Game was possibly his worst novel, and was definitely his worst offering in the Dresden Files series. As much as I have enjoyed his past work, that was the book that almost made me stop buying his books, and that’s not something that’s really Hugo worthy. (I still ranked it above no award.)

And frankly, the novel category is where the Puppy slate was at their most reasonable. The cranks and would-be Ayn Rands who comprised the majority of the short fiction articles deserved to be ranked below No Award. I can’t even get through one of John C. Wright’s unhinged blog posts without fighting the urge to wretch, let alone his fiction.

I’m an openly marxist, politically active, bisexual author who frequently calls himself an anarcho-communist. I am effectively a living, breathing avatar for the SJWs that the puppies seem to believe rule fandom in secret. And yet I seem to have missed a memo. Because my influence extends, at most, to a small group of small press affiliated genre writers in Toronto. That’s if I’m being generous. I met the Nielsen-Haydens once. They seemed like nice people. I met John Scalzi a few times. He gave me some writing advice which later benefited me. If these people are masters of some fell conspiracy you’d think they’d give me a shout-out to act as a foot soldier for them. But… nothing. Not even a dog whistle.

There is no conspiracy. There is just a diverse collection of fans who rejected the Puppy’s vision of the genre. So let’s lay this tired beast to bed and get back to building the future.

Hugo roundup

There’s been a pretty big book worth of ink spilled over the Hugo ballots. Here’s what some people are saying:

This is what I’ve read so far, and could remember how to find. A note, I don’t agree with all of what’s been said on this list, and unless my comments include a specific endorsement (such as calling something “on of the most detailed and thoughtful analyses of the Sad Puppies) inclusion on the roundup should not be construed as overt endorsement of the comments therein. Furthermore, unless I include specifically incendiary language (ex: “rants about SMOFs and SJWs”) inclusion should not be considered criticism of the comments. My criteria is literally, “I read it and thought it mentioned something unique regarding the debate.” Please share links of interest in the comments and I’ll update the roundup periodically with additional links.

Why these things matter

I want to tell you a story. It’s about a life, and it’s true.

There was a boy. Teenager, in high school: bookish; liked magic cards and role playing games; he was into comparative theology and classical philosophy; he was good with computers. He didn’t like sports, other than martial arts. He knew he liked girls, liked them a lot. But he also liked boys, maybe not as strongly but enough to feel different. It’s hard enough being a weird kid in high school though without being a bisexual weird kid. And at this point he probably wouldn’t have even thought of calling himself that. So he didn’t mention it. He buried it deep. One person, somebody pretty close to him, guessed he was gay (he wasn’t) and used this as an emotional cudgel; this made him less inclined to tell anybody anything about it.

A few years later, the young man, now in university. He got into LARP and from there he found his way to the goth scene. Loved it. Dated a few girls. One was just wrong timing. Others didn’t work out for a variety of reasons. In this scene though he also kissed a guy for the first time. He liked it. But he was drunk, so was the guy, and he really didn’t know exactly how to process the feelings in the kiss so he said nothing and put it out of his mind. Mostly he still dated women, except for the occasional dalliance.

The young man graduated and moved overseas. His boss was openly bisexual and had taken some flack for it in the past. Things began to change in North America. Gays and lesbians were on TV enough that they weren’t oddities anymore. Canada was talking about legalizing gay marriage. Bisexuals were still kind of not talked about that much. Being not one nor the other seemed awkward. Like some people would hear bi and think, “It’s just a phase,” or alternately, “oh, you’re gay but not quite ready to come out.” And the truth is he wasn’t ready to come out. Not by a LONG shot. But it wasn’t the same thing. Around this time he met a woman, fell in love, got married. Being bisexual was, at that point a distraction, unimportant. It wasn’t that he’d changed. But having celebrity crushes of two genders instead of one wasn’t the sort of thing it was necessary to share, and since he was happily monogamous and very deeply in love he didn’t bother.

The man moved to Canada, got a dead end job and lost it. He moved to Toronto, his career started in earnest and his social circle exploded. He met all kinds of amazing people. Some were gay, or bi, or genderqueer or a variety of other orientations. He was married, to a woman and had been closeted for his whole life. It was easy to just play the good hetero ally. So he did that. He came close to telling a few close friends a few times, but always chickened out at last minute. He felt rather guilty for that, but he just didn’t see it as being anymore important to his self-identity than the fact he liked Jackson Pollack and Picasso, shirts with cufflinks or really spicy curry.

Time went by. His daughter was born. Around this time a young adult cartoon called Legend of Korra ended. He liked the cartoon a lot, he was a fan of wuxia stories, and the Avatar world captured many of the tropes of wuxia much better than any other western tv show or film ever had. The finale of the series closed with the titular character entering into a same sex relationship. She’d previously been in a heterosexual relationship, and unlike the Buffy dodge this wasn’t presented as a change in her orientation. She was a bisexual protagonist. She was the first one he’d seen on television. Now he was introspecting a lot about how he wanted to raise his daughter. The world was changing, and for the better, but it wasn’t there yet. He’d looked back over his past and regretted not having been more open about that one little quirk of his. After all, plenty of his friends knew that he liked Jackson Pollack and Picasso, shirts with cufflinks and really spicy curry. So why shouldn’t they know this too? It wasn’t that he didn’t trust them, there was just so much inertia behind the decision to keep silent.

So he started slowly. He told his wife, then his mother. Then a few friends, slowly, carefully. Mostly friends he knew to be bi or otherwise queer themselves, not even very many of them, because it was a little easier. It wasn’t that he was unsatisfied with his wife (she was still entirely the love of his life) nor was he likely to be signing up for Grindr or going out to bear nights; he was happily monogamous. When female co-workers at work joked about how cute Thor was and then apologized to him, he wanted to say, no, honestly, go ahead. I agree. He still hadn’t quite gotten that far.

But his wife accepted him, knowing he loved her.

And the friends he told didn’t make it a big deal, didn’t change how they interacted with him, which was good.

The one co-worker to whom it slipped out almost by accident felt him out for a week, possibly treating him more like one of her gay friends, and then they settled back into patterns of work and she seemed to forget all about it, which was just fine.

And the funny thing is that all of this really wasn’t any more important than Jackson Pollack, Picasso, shirts with cufflinks and spicy curries. But even though he’d been able to hide this little detail, this unimportant detail, from everybody he’d loved for nearly two decades, he couldn’t countenance living in a world where something like being not gay, but also not straight was a problem, a world where having two celebrity crushes was something you hid out of fear that somebody might use it as an emotional cudgel against you. He wanted her to live in a better world. One where a cartoon character could be allowed to love indiscriminately without “changing teams.”

It seems like such a little thing.

And then some jerk comes along and calls people like me “a sexual aberration.” He calls two creators whose only wrongdoing, even in his eyes, was to admit that bisexuality was something that existed, “disgusting, limp, soulless sacks of filth.” He calls them, “termites,” and expresses a desire to, “exterminate them.” That jerk is now up for five Hugo awards because a few conservatives with sour grapes didn’t like all the women on the ballot two years ago.

I spent twenty years of my life being a little dishonest with the people I cared about because I didn’t want everything in my life to center around ducking attacks from shit-sacks like him. When I became an author I CERTAINLY didn’t want my career to be defined by that anymore than it is by my fondness for Pollack, Picasso, cuff links and curry. Well congratulations to the Sad Puppies. Because what they accomplished was to make a man who was effectively silent on this part of himself finally build up the courage to say, “fuck you,” and to speak out, publicly, to whoever happened by.

I can tolerate that bigots still exist. The tide of history is against them and they’ll fade eventually. I’m patient.

But while they’re fading away, I can’t tolerate the community that I’m a part of honoring them. I want my daughter to grow up in a world where these things aren’t shameful, where people understand the only thing confusing bisexuals is a lack of role models reflecting our experience. And where even that is history. So, yes, I know that ultimately the Hugo awards aren’t much more than a popularity contest. I know they don’t confer much beyond bragging rights.

But it still matters to me. Because I’m through tying myself in knots just to duck the bigots. I owe more than that to my daughter.

The problem with Hugo – Assessing the work on their merits, a moderate approach

So this was a thing that happened. Short form, after three years of concerted, non-stop campaigning, the sad puppies managed to game the system of the Hugo Awards sufficiently to stack the ballot to the point where there are some categories where, quite literally, there is no choice but Sad Puppy options.

Furthermore, in some of these cases (though not all) the options presented by the Sad Puppies are so obviously included just to stick one to the “pink shirts” that, even disregarding the inside baseball of the various cliques involved, “no award” is the best available option.

I don’t say that lightly. Now I’m going to break down the categories one-by-one and discuss what I know of the entries on them. And in the process, I’m going to act like I don’t know the Sad Puppies exist as a thing because I want it to become apparent how blatant ridiculous this ballot is. But before I do that, I want to talk about options.

The Way Forward

We have a few options going forward:

  1. Fully politicize the Hugo awards by forming an organized slate of candidates to counter the Sad Puppy clique.
  2. Abandon the Hugo awards to the Sad Puppies.
  3. Push for a complete redesign of the Hugo Awards

Now, of these options, I think 2 is by far the worst. I’m tired of ceding ground in public space to conservative interests, of seeing Overton windows constantly sliding right.

So let’s examine the other two options.

A fully politized ballot

Despite my previous (very public) comments regarding the inseparability of art and politics, I actually think this is not a good option. I’m no more interested in turning the Hugo Awards into a permanent battleground of the Culture Wars than I am in abandoning them to become the paleoconservative awards for genre fiction.

Unfortunately, I think that this is what probably will happen short term. Certainly, for the 2015 Hugos it’s going to happen, because, as I’ll show later, it’s effectively impossible to vote in the majority of categories in the Hugo awards without it being politicized.

Since I refuse to throw my hands up and abandon the awards to the Sad Puppies, any voting that happens kind of will end up being political.

And any changes to the structure of the Hugo Awards will require successful votes at two successive Worldcons, so we’re probably looking at the same sad fight next year. However, notwithstanding this stop-gap measure to prevent the Hugo Awards from honoring grossly inappropriate throwbacks, I think that the real fight should be to change the Hugo Awards structure so that it’s harder to game the system.

Changing the Hugo Awards

Ideally, the Hugo Awards should be honoring the best SFF has to offer, rather than the thing any one camp was able to push forward as the best avatar of their political vision. But with the current structure that’s hard to do. So what are some options?

Raise the price to nominate and vote

No. Unlikely to work, kind of jerky to boot. I only mention it because it’ll invariably come up as a suggestion.

Eliminate multiple nominations

When a single author has been spammed across every nomination in a category it’s clear that some rigging is going on. So I’d suggest this as a first measure: a single individual or organization will not be allowed to be nominated more than once for any given award, and not more than three times for all award categories. In the event that a nominee receives more than one qualifying nomination in a category, whichever work receives the most nominations is the one that goes on the ballot. The others are discarded. The same applies if a person is nominated into more than three categories. The strongest nominations stay. The weaker nominations are tossed.

I think this might be one of the easiest fixes for the problem we’re facing right now. It’d, at the very least, mean that a greater diversity of nominees would be on every ballot, and would slightly weaken the power of voting blocs aligning behind specific high-profile incendiary candidates.

Of course, nothing stops voting blocs from just finding five different names for each slate and pushing that slate forward just as strongly. But at least they’d have to work harder, and as my later analysis will show, when the voting bloc can’t lean on a single author to push their agenda, the situation becomes more difficult.

Make the Hugo Awards a juried award

Of course this’ll make the selection of the jury a matter of political contention. But if we switched the selection of the nominations list from an open pay-for-vote situation to a juried one, it would at least introduce some accountability. That’s something we don’t really have right now.

Something else?

Honestly, I’m looking for suggestions here, comments welcome.

A breakdown of the award categories

Of course, everything I’ve been saying is predicated on the brokenness of the current list. So let’s look at that in greater detail.

Best novel

  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
  • Lines of Departure by Marco Kloos (47North)
  • Skin Game by Jim Butcher (Roc Books)

This is one of the two best categories on this year’s ballot. Frankly Ancillary Sword has been my pick for the 2015 Hugo award ever since I read it. Leckie is a genius and her book is a tour-de-force. And I say that as somebody who’s often bored by space opera.

I’ve heard good things about The Goblin Emperor though I haven’t read it. It’s on my TBR list, but, being honest, it’d have to be AMAZING to dislodge Leckie’s book from my top pick.

Jim Butcher has long been one of my guilty pleasure reads. I enjoyed Skin Game, with a big caveat that I thought Butcher leaned FAR too hard on the femme fatale tropes of noir in this outing, and there were small parts of the book that veered into straight-up sexism which I found jarring and which I SERIOUSLY hope he dials back in his next outing. Still I’ll be buying his next Dresden book because it’s an enjoyable read. Would I call Skin Game the best SFF book of 2014? No. Nope. Nooooooope. I would not. But, I wouldn’t really blame somebody who did – Butcher is a very competent and entertaining author.

I haven’t read, or heard anything about The Dark Between the Stars so this one’s a bit of a shoulder-shrug on my part. I have no problem with Kevin J. Anderson, and some of his Dune novels were entertaining reads. But I’m still going to stump for Leckie over him. Because Leckie is a freaking genius.

Lines of Departure puts the military in military SF. I don’t read much straight up military SF (Scalzi notwithstanding) so I can’t really comment. Scalsi seems to like Kloos. But it’s kind of the same situation as with Anderson, I’m more saying “not enough information to comment” than “don’t vote for this guy”

Conclusion: If I knew absolutely nothing about Sad Puppies I’d probably have absolutely no problem with the ballot for best novel. Vote for who you like. I’ll be voting for Leckie first because I REALLY like Leckie and I think she really did write the best science fiction novel of the year.

Best Novella

  • Big Boys Don’t Cry by Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
  • “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Analog, Nov 2014)
  • One Bright Star to Guide Them by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Pale Realms of Shade” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “The Plural of Helen of Troy by John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)

Ok so here’s where I do this:  (ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻

I’m going to start with John C. Wright. The man who, according to the Hugo ballot wrote three of the five best novellas of 2014. Wright called the creators of Legend of Korra termites for confirming that Korra was bisexual. He said they should be, and this is a quote, exterminated.

I’m sorry, but this falls back to my, “you can’t ever entirely separate the artist from the art,” statement and I could no more vote for anything this man wrote than I could one of Orson Scott Card’s paeans to the wonders of child soldiers. By using his author platform to spread hate, he has excluded himself from consideration.

Tom Kratman is also on the list of people who have excluded themselves from serious contention on the basis of the things they’ve said online. Look here and here to see what I mean.

And then there’s Arlan Andrews Sr. He’s on the advisory board for the Lifeboat Foundation. And they’re a rather… frightening… group of people.

So in the novella category we have three nominees: one who wants to exterminate the creators of a YA cartoon for daring to admit bisexuals exist, one who seems to believe affirmative action is more racist than the promotion of Rushton-style memes regarding “race” and genetic inheritance, and one who is involved with a trojan horse NGO whose advisory board also includes one of the most infamous anti-islamic radicals in the USA.

This grouping doesn’t include the best SFF has to offer. It doesn’t include the best any random grouping of people have to offer. There’s no way I could endorse any of these people.

So “No Award” carries in novella.

And the rest

This is going to take all day so I’m going to hustle things along. Novelette includes more John C Wright, somebody published in an Orson Scott Card branded publication, and a bunch of things I haven’t read. I’ll probably try to get around to those and report back on a future post.

Short story has more John C. Wright, more Castalia House (on why that’s a no-go zone read Stross here) and more I-haven’t-read-report-back-laters. (Of note, Lou Antonelli, on his blog, claims that “typical literary s-f is dystopian slipsteam pornography,” and not in the tee-hee, I love dystopian slipstream pornography sort of way, so I don’t have high hopes for him. But at least he isn’t as publicly awful as the novella contenders.

Related work: Oh hey, look, Castalia House again. What’s that? Patriarchy Press? That’s just straight up trolling now. In fact, considering Patriarchy Press seems to have no visible web presence, at all, I’m inclined to think it is a troll. Perhaps a self-pubber’s imprint name which he thought was droll or something. Regardless, not filing me with confidence here related work.

Graphic novel: An unremittingly awesome field. Possibly even better  than novel. Ms. Marvel? I love Ms. Marvel – anything related to the Inhumans really, but it’s a wonderful book regardless. Rat Queens, yes, yes, yes. Saga is the comic I haven’t read that is most frequently recommended to me by comic fans and non-comic fans alike. It probably deserves to be on this list. The other two? No clue. But with a minimum of three STRONG contenders out of five this is fine.

Dramatic Presentation – Long and Short: An uncontroversial list in both cases. When I first read the Sad Puppy slate when Torgersen released it, I shrugged and said, “they’re not doing any damage there.”  Haven’t seen Edge of Tomorrow yet, I don’t watch Grimm and I haven’t seen Orphan Black… YET… but everything on those two lists looks highly appropriate and all will be above “no award” on my ballots.

Best Editor: Hey look – Vox Day is on both lists. Well he’s going BELOW “no award.” Beyond that, I don’t know, need to do some research into what the others edited.

The only weirdness in Semiprozine is the presence of Lightspeed, Strange Horizons and Beneath Ceasless Skies on it. I’d have counted them as prozines. Loved Women Destroy Horror though. And I know someone over at Apex & Abyss who I wish nice things for. So, yeah, lots of reasonable choices here once you get past the oddness of how they seem to be defining semipro.

Fanzine: I don’t care, as long as it doesn’t go to Revenge of the Hump Day. As far as I’m concerned this “equal opportunity offender” repository for racist, sexist, anti-islamic, anti-atheist and anti-liberal jokes and editorials has no place being lauded by the Hugo Awards.

Other fan categories. I don’t know any of them. Research will be needed before voting. Or I might just leave those sections blank since time is at a premium and I already have a fair bit of research to do in the pro categories.

John W. Campbell Award: Oh, I LOVE Wesley Chu (which reminds me, I have to get around to getting to reading The Rebirths of Tao – it’s been sitting in TBR basically since I finished The Deaths of Tao, despite not being out yet at that time.) So I know who my #1 will probably be. I don’t know the rest of the authors on this list, so if anybody wants to shout out a favourite book of any of them in the comments I’ll happily give it a peek.

Wrapping up this mess

Between Novel and Graphic Novel on one end – which look like proper and appropriate spreads for the Hugo awards, and the unrelenting shit-show that is the Novella category, most of the professional categories of the Hugo awards show tampering from the Sad Puppies, and Vox Day’s more militant Rabid Puppies. (I’m not making that name up.) And this tampering is to the detriment of SFF.

Specifically, the frequent insertion of one small press with an overtly Christian Dominionist mission over and over and over again is a problem. It’s not just “problematic” in the culture wars sense of the term, no, it’s a fucking major problem, one that needs to be solved.

Ultimately, literary awards should be about good literature. But what we have here isn’t a list of good literature. It’s a manifesto of a world where SFF answers to Christianity, fears other religions, hates gays, sidelines women. (Oh yeah, out of 80 nominees, only 21 were created, in whole or in part, by women.)

So we can’t treat this year’s Hugos like a normal year. Because they’re not. And so some collective action might be necessary. I think, ultimately, some people who were stuck on Sad Puppy lists don’t deserve to be excluded just because the Sad Puppies liked them (looking at you Lego Movie) but what I’d say is this: make sure anybody you put above the “no award” line is somebody you know to be worthy of winning an award. Best case: read them first. At least make sure they’re not a bigot before you give them your vote. And don’t put anything from Castalia House above that line.

Because seriously, Vox Day needs to go away.

Puppies in Stasis

Brad Torgersen writes most honest article about the Sad Puppies movement to come out of their camp

Sad puppyWhen I delivered my presentation at the Toronto SpecFic colloquium at the beginning of march, I put forward the hypothesis that when you got beyond the arguments about politics, the disputes over SFWA membership, and the arguments about literary merit at the awards, what the Sad Puppies really wanted was for SF/F/H to never change from what they believed it to once be.

And now Brad Torgersen, one of the key organizing influences behind the Sad Puppies has written this.

I have to say, as much as I might violently disagree with pretty much everything he said, and his entire premise, it’s at least more honest than I have come to expect from the Puppies. Gone are the claims of trying to de-politicize SF/F/H. Gone are the rallying cries of: “censorship!” “pink shirts!” “reds under the bed!” Gone is the defense of Vox Day’s purulent behaviour or complaints that SFWA is being unfair to the Real Men of SF/F/H.

And that’s good because what Torgersen has provided is a basis for discourse, a reason to actually engage with him and his fellow Puppies, rather than just to dismiss them out of hand as sour grapes.

And that is, in turn, good because I do think he’s misguided – and through that process of engagement perhaps some of those Puppies can be peeled away from what is largely a toxic movement.

The cereal metaphor

Torgersen describes SF/F/H as being a box of “Nutty Nuggets.” He describes himself as a fan of the taste of these hypothetical nuggets, who has, seemingly overnight, found the flavour to have transformed entirely. It’s the same package, the same brand, but it’s not the same nuggets.

He describes trying box after box: some are more like his beloved memory of cereal and some are less. But none of them are his dearly departed nuggets of nuttiness.

Now this is a flawed premise.

First off, SF/F/H was never a homogeneous brand. Even if you go aaaaallllllllll the way baaaaack to the pulps, the gulf between say, Lovecraft and Howard was vast.

But, ok, perhaps Torgersen was raised on a steady diet of Robert Howard, Doc Smith and Robert Heinlein. Does that mean that SF/F/H should never grow beyond a barbarian swinging an axe and a space ship flying past a mysterious planet?

Think for a moment on Moorcock, his Elric stories built upon the traditions of Howard (and of Tolkien) but challenged them. He interrogated the work of the people who came before him and made something new and different in the process. And Elric was a product of the 1970s!

I was born in 1979. To me, there has never been a world where SF/F/H didn’t include both Conan the Cimmerian and Elirc of Melniboné. These two diametrically opposed ideas of what sword and sorcery stories could look like were available to me, from birth and I’d be shocked if literature hadn’t evolved in the meantime.

To me, SF/F/H literature isn’t a box of cereal. It’s the Grand Magic House Buffet. Yes, there are some fried foods there that you KNOW aren’t any good for you but taste SO good. And there’s the old standards: the roast beef and bean salad of the book world. But this buffet is huge, and the chef who runs it can become easily bored. So in addition to the standards there’s an ever-changing, ever-growing abundance of dishes to try.

And so, when we get past the identity politics, when we get past the inside baseball bickering over use of SFWA accounts and how people self-select to vote for awards, when we push that all aside, what do we find?

People at the buffet of genre, who really only want to eat roast beef and bean salad, upset because they put a bit of a new confection on their plate once, didn’t like the taste, and erroneously believe that because they’ve been coming to the restaurant for umpteen billion years, that dish should be expunged and replaced with more roast beef, more bean salad. In fact, anything but roast beef and bean salad must go! The buffet must serve nothing but roast beef, bean salad.

And that’s just kind of sad.