You Can’t Take Back What You Already Have

First, go read this. This is only one dude, to be clear, but his defensive, angry and utterly terrified lament is part and parcel with a chunk of science fiction and fantasy fandom and authors who want to position themselves as a last redoubt against… well, something, anyway. It essentially boils down to “The wrong people are in control of things! We must take it back! Attaaaaaaaack!” It’s almost endearing in its foot-stompy-ness; I’d love to give this fellow a hug and tell him everything will be all right, but I’m sure that would be an affront to his concept of What Is Allowed, so I won’t.

Instead let me make a few comments about the argument, such as it is. Much of this stuff I addressed last year when a similar kvetch appeared, but let me add some more notes to the pile.

1. The fellow above asserts that fans of his particular ilk must “take back” conventions and awards from all the awful, nasty people who currently infest them, as if this requires some great, heroic effort. In fact “taking back” a convention goes a little something like this:

Scene: CONVENTION REGISTRATION. ANGRY DUDE goes up to CON STAFFER at the registration desk.


Con Staffer: Okay, that’ll be $50 for the convention membership.

(Angry Dude pays his money)

Con Staffer: Great, here’s your program and badge. Have a great con!

Angry Dude:

I mean, everyone gets this, right? That conventions, generally speaking, are open to anyone who pays to attend? That the convention will be delighted to take your money? And that so long as one does not go out of one’s way to be a complete assbag to other convention goers, the convention staff or the hotel employees, one will be completely welcome as part of the convention membership? That being the case, it’s difficult to see why conventions need to be “taken back” — they were never actually taken away.

But the conventions are run by awful, nasty people! Well, no, the small local conventions (and some of the midsized ones, like Worldcon) are run by volunteers, i.e., people willing to show up on a regular basis and do the work of running a convention, in participation with others. These volunteers, at least in my experience, which at this point is considerable, are not awful, nasty people — they’re regular folks who enjoy putting on a convention. The thing is, it’s work; people who are into conrunning to make, say, a political statement, won’t last long, because their political points are swamped by practical considerations like, oh, arguing with a hotel about room blocks and whether or not any other groups will be taking up meeting rooms.

(Larger cons, like Comic-cons, are increasingly run by professional organizations, which are another kettle of fish — but even at that level there are volunteers, and they are also not awful, nasty people. They’re people who like participating.)

But the participants are awful, nasty people with agendas! That “problem” is solved by going to the convention programming people and both volunteering to be on panels and offering suggestions for programming topics. Hard as it may be to believe, programming staffers actually do want a range of topics that will appeal to a diverse audience, so that everyone who attends has something they’d be interested in. Try it!

Speaking as someone who once was in charge of a small convention open to the public, i.e., the Nebula Awards Weekend (I would note I was only nominally in charge — in fact the convention was run and staffed by super-competent volunteers), my position to anyone who wanted to come and experience our convention was: Awesome! See you there. Because why wouldn’t it be?

Again, science fiction and fantasy conventions can’t be “taken back” — they were, and are, open to everyone. I understand the “take back” rhetoric appeals to the “Aaaaugh! Our way of life is under attack” crowd, but the separation between the rhetoric and reality of things is pretty wide. Anyone who really believes conventions will be shocked and dismayed to get more paying members and attendees fundamentally does not grasp how conventions, you know, actually work.

2. Likewise, the “taking back” of awards, which in this case is understood to mean the Hugo Awards almost exclusively — I don’t often hear of anyone complaining that, say, the Prometheus Award has been hijacked by awful, nasty people, despite the fact that this most libertarian of all science fiction and fantasy awards is regularly won by people who are not even remotely libertarian; shit, Cory Doctorow’s won it three times and he’s as pinko as they come.

But yet again, you can’t “take back” the Hugos because they were never taken away. If you pay your membership fee to the Worldcon, you can nominate for the award and vote for which works and people you want to see recognized. All it takes is money and an interest; if you follow the rules for nominating and voting, then everything is fine and dandy. Thus voting for the Hugo is neither complicated, nor a revolutionary act.

Bear in mind that the Hugo voting set-up is fairly robust; the preferential ballot means it’s difficult for something that’s been nominated for reasons other than actual admiration of the work (including to stick a thumb into the eyes of people you don’t like) to then walk away with an award. People have tested this principle over the years; they tended to come away from the process with their work listed below “no award.” Which is as it should be. This also makes the Hugos hard to “take back.” It doesn’t matter how well a work (or its author) conforms to one’s political inclinations; if the work itself simply isn’t that good, the award will go to a different nominee that is better, at least in the minds of the majority of those who are voting.

The fellow above says if his little partisan group can’t “take back” the awards, then they should destroy them. Well, certainly there is a way to do that, and indeed here’s the only way to do that: by nominating, and then somehow forcing a win by, works that are manifestly sub-par, simply to make a political (or whatever) point. This is the suicide bomber approach: You’re willing to go up in flames as long as you get to do a bit of collateral damage as you go. The problem with this approach is that, one, it shows that you’re actually just an asshole, and two, it doesn’t actively improve the position of your little partisan group, vis a vis recognition other than the very limited “oh, those are the childish foot-stompers who had a temper tantrum over the Hugos.” Which is a dubious distinction.

With that said: Providing reading lists of excellent works with a particular social or political slant? Sure, why not? Speaking as someone who has been both a nominee and a winner of various genre awards, I am utterly unafraid of the competition for eyeballs and votes — which is why, moons ago, I created the modern version of the Hugo Voter’s Packet, so that there would be a better chance of voters making an informed choice. Speaking as someone who nominates and votes for awards, I’m happy to be pointed in the direction of works I might not otherwise have known about. So this is all good, in my view. And should a worthy work by someone whose personal politics are not mine win a Hugo? Groovy by me. It’s happened before. It’s likely to happen again. I may have even nominated or voted for the work.

But to repeat: None of this contitutes “taking back” anything — it merely means you are participating in a process that was always open to you. And, I don’t know. Do you want a participation medal or something? A pat on the head? It seems to me that most of the people nominating and voting for the Hugos are doing it with a minimum of fuss. If it makes you feel important by making a big deal out of doing a thing you’ve always been able to do — and that anyone with an interest and $50 has been able to do — then shine on, you crazy diamonds. But don’t be surprised if no one else is really that impressed. Seriously: join the club, we’ve been doing this for a while now.

3. Also a bit of paranoid fantasy: The idea that because the wrong people are somehow in charge of publishing and the avenues of distribution, this is keeping authors (and fans, I suppose) of a certain political inclination down. This has always been a bit of a confusing point to me — how this little partisan group can both claim to be victimized by the publishing machine and yet still crow incessantly about the bestsellers in their midst. Pick a narrative, dudes, internal consistency is a thing.

Better yet, clue into reality, which is: The marketplace is diverse and can (and does!) support all sorts of flavors of science fiction and fantasy. In this (actually real) narrative, authors of all political and social stripes are bestsellers, because they are addressing slightly different (and possibly overlapping) audience sets. Likewise, there are authors of all politicial and social stripes who sell less well, or not at all. Because in the real world, the politics and social positions of an author don’t correlate to units sold.

With the exception of publishing houses that specifically have a political/cultural slant baked into their mission statements, publishing houses are pretty damn agnostic about the politics of their authors. The same publishing house that publishes me publishes John C. Wright; the same publishing house that publishes John Ringo publishes Eric Flint. What do publishing houses like? Authors who sell. Because selling is the name of the game.

Here’s a true fact for you: When I turn in The End of All Things, I will be out of contract with Tor Books; I owe them no more books at this point. What do you think would happen if I walked over to Baen Books and said, hey, I wanna work with you? Here’s what would happen: The sound of a flurry of contract pages being shipped overnight to my agent. And do you know what would happen if John Ringo went out of contract with Baen and decided to take a walk to Tor? The same damn noise. And in both cases, who would argue, financially, with the publishers’ actions? John Ringo would make a nice chunk of change for Tor; I’m pretty sure I could do the same for Baen. Don’t kid yourself; this is not an ideologically pure business we’re in.

(And yes, in fact, I would entertain an offer from Baen, if it came. It would need many zeros in it, mind you. But that would be the case with any publisher at this point.)

Likewise, I don’t care how supposedly ideologically in sync you are with your publisher; if you’re not selling, sooner or later, out you go. These are businesses, not charities.

But let’s say, just for shits and giggles, that one ideologically pure faction somehow seized control of all the traditional means of publishing science fiction and fantasy, freezing out everyone they deemed impure. What then? One, some other traditional publisher, not previously into science fiction, would see all the money left on the table and start up a science fiction line to address the unsated audience. Two, you would see the emergence of at least a couple of smaller publishing houses to fill the market. Three, some of the more successful writers who were frozen out, the ones with established fan bases, could very easily set up shop on their own and self-publish, either permanently or until the traditional publishing situation got itself sorted out.

All of which is to say: Yeah, the paranoid fantasy of awful, nasty people controlling the genre is just that: Paranoid fantasy. Now, I understand that if you’re an author of a certain politicial stripe who is not selling well, or a fan who doesn’t like the types of science fiction and fantasy that other people who are not you seem to like, this paranoid fantasy has its appeal, especially if you’re feeling beset politically/socially in other areas of your life as well. And that’s too bad for you, and maybe you’d like a hearty fist-bump and an assurance that all will be well. But it doesn’t change the fact that at the end of the day, no matter who you are, there will always be the sort of science fiction and fantasy you like available to you. Because — no offense — you are not unique. What you like is probably liked by other people, too. There are enough of you to make a market. That market will be addressed.

Again, I am genuinely flummoxed why so many people who are ostensibly so in love with the concept of free markets appear to have a genuinely difficult time with this. It’s not all illuminati, people. It never was.

4. And this is why, fundamentally, the whole “take back the genre” bit is just complete nonsense. It can never be “taken back,” it will never be “taken back,” and it’s doubtful there was ever a “back” to go to. The genre product market is resistant to ideological culling, and the social fabric of science fiction fandom is designed at its root to accomodate rather than exclude. No one can exclude anyone else from science fiction and fantasy fandom when the entrance requirement is, literally, an interest in the genre, or some particular aspect of it. You can’t exclude people from conventions that require only a membership fee to attend. Even SFWA has opened up to self-publishing professional authors now, because it recognized that the professional market has changed. To suggest that the genre contract to fit the demands of any one segment of it doesn’t make sense, commercially or socially. It won’t be done. It would be foolish to do so.

The most this little partisan group (or those who identify with it) can do is assert that they are the true fans of the genre, not anyone else. To which the best and most correct response is: Whatever, dude. Shout it all you like. But you’re wrong, and at the end of the day, you’re not even a side of the genre, you’re just a part. And either you’re participating with everyone else in what the genre is today, or you’re off to the side wailing like a toddler who has been told he can’t have a lollipop. If you want to participate, come on in. If you think you’re going to swamp the conversation, you’re likely in for a surprise. But if you want to be part of it, then be a part of it. The secret is, you already are, and always have been.

If you don’t want to participate, well. Wail for your lolly all you like, then, if it makes you happy. The rest of us can get along without you just fine.

356 Comments on “You Can’t Take Back What You Already Have”

  1. One, obviously, the Mallet is out for this one. Play nicely, people.

    Two, a couple of points I didn’t address in the essay, but want to ping quickly:

    * This fellow asserts that folks of his little partisan group are the ones who are being told they are not true fans. Well, if they are being told that, whoever is telling them that is full of shit, too. Science fiction and fantasy fandom is big and messy and some parts of it may not like other parts. But to my mind the correct response to anyone telling anyone else they are not a “true fan” is a hearty eyeroll.

    * Likewise, this fellow seems to assert there is a schism of science fiction between those who went to engineering schools and those who studies “soft sciences.” One does wonder if he’s checked the educational backgrounds of many of the writers who it seems likely he’d champion as being part of his group; I’m seeing some history and english degrees in there and work histories that include accountancy. I’m not sure how those suss out in terms of hard or soft sciences. I’m not entirely sure his hypothesis is supportable.

    (For the record: I have a degree in philosophy.)

  2. The specific bit that particular fellow dislikes is Instant Runoff Voting. He wants First Past the Post because it’s unfair that someone who gets the most votes in the first round doesn’t win. The fact that with a five-way race (typical for a Hugo Award category), you could get someone leading the first round with only 21% of the votes (and thus someone who 79% of the voters disliked at that point) doesn’t matter. All that matters is having more votes than any of the other individuals.

    As you point out, the Hugo Voting system (Instant Runoff Voting) makes it very difficult for a loud-but-large minority to swamp the system. Oh, they can usually get individual works nominated, but they can’t win because the system is built to favor works that have broad support, not narrow-but-noisy. You can even have a case (it’s happened), where the work that led the first round ended up finishing in last place. What that means is that a loud minority loved a particular work more than life itself, while every other member of the electorate hated it with a passion.

    To some people, this is a bug. They want the system to be dominated by a noisy, narrow minority. To me, it’s a feature. I want the Hugo Award winners to be works that the electorate as a whole supports, not just something that 21% of the voters happened to be pushing. And I don’t care what their mainstream political beliefs are, either.

  3. kastandlee:

    Indeed, although it’s worth noting that in the last two years, at least, the “first past the post” voting would have resulted in the same book winning Best Novel. Which maybe would have given them something new to complain about.

    Personally, I very much like the instant runoff balloting, because it better reflects the complexity of my thought as a reader — sometimes I like a work only marginally more than another, and I want a way for my vote to be able to reflect that. The runoff voting allows for that. I appreciate that.

    And this from someone who’s been in fifth place at least a couple of times!

  4. The thing I find most fascinating is he talks about “myths” being destroyed, and then favors the hard STEM science people as understanding the myths more than the soft social-science people. Like, does he understand who studies myths and cultures?

  5. Excellent post. The systems work just as they work.

    Another (unlikely) way to “destroy” the Hugo would be a multi-year campaign in which the WSFS constitution was amended and ratified to eliminate (or drastically change) the Hugo voting rules or the awards themselves.
    If the majority agrees, then hey, that’s what happens. No Illuminati necessary. Conspiracy dudes really don’t get how free voting (or markets) work.

  6. Excellent post,: I approve of it in every respect. Not that Scalzi needs my support, but I have nothing to add to the OP; it’s everything I might have said for myself, and I’d at least like to chime in here as agreeing with it.

  7. But what about my right to be an assbag to other convention goers? If you don’t want me to be an assbag at you then find your own fandom rather than oppressing mine!!

    On a more serious note, I have published sci-fi that was returned by an editor covered in notes about being too hard and yet frequently get accused of being too tolerant.

  8. I found it amusing that he used Star Trek as the basis for his argument, saying that he and the other people on his “side” went to engineering schools to make that future real.

    Dude, did you ever WATCH Star Trek? Look at the bridge crew. An African-American at a time when blacks were barely seen on TV. A Russian while the Cold War was raging. An Asian (presumably Japanese) while the scars from WWII were still fresh and we were fighting in Viet Nam. In other words, a world of inclusion. THAT is the future we saw on Star Trek and thought, “Hey, you know, that looks pretty good.” Star Trek wasn’t about the toys–at least, not the way Roddenberry saw ST–it was about the culture. Can you deny that Gene was an SJW back then, long before the term existed?

  9. John,

    You are making a pluralistic appeal to a reactionary mindset. That tends not to work out so well, because it does not feed the underlying, fearful beast that the power and safety afforded that person won’t be taken away.

    I feel like you would enjoy reading some of Corey Robin’s work on this. Have you maybe heard of him? I feel like you would have heard of the guy by now. Anyway, here’s a link to his most relevant mainstream book:

  10. “I would entertain an offer from Baen, if it came. It would need many zeros in it, mind you.”

    I suspect you’d want at least one non-zero digit before all those zeros, too. And no unwanted decimal points, but that’s driving past pedantry and into the woods of nitpickiness.

  11. It seems to that people who say they want to “take back” something are not about the getting back so much as the taking away. When I heard people say they wanted to “take back the country”, I wanted to ask them “who do you think has it now and why doesn’t it belong to them too”.

  12. Sighs. Another Sad Puppy, angry that the “wrong people” can get published and that readers are enjoying the “wrong works.”

    What I did notice is how the writer makes it absolutely clear that this is not about fairness, or excellent stories, this is about the “culture war.”


  13. It’s often like this when an insular group feels they are being invaded by outsiders. It’s the same thing that happened when the first blacks and Jews fought to be allowed to play golf with white rich dudes in clubs. It’s the same hysteria that surfaced when women were “allowed” the vote. Change is hard for some. But it will happen, with or without their support.

  14. Here’s how to take back Science Fiction decisively and solidly from the unwashed masses: write a really, really, good story with a gripping plot, compelling and believable characters, witty dialogue, and solid prose and editing, then publish it! By golly, the fans will flock to you and Science Fiction will be forever rescued!

    (For the record: I often fell asleep and drooled in Philosophy class.)

  15. @Beej: Indeed. Not to mention that Star Trek (particularly ST:TNG) rejects capitalism in favour of a post-scarcity utopian society which is proud of having done away with money.

    OK, it doesn’t do this in a totally coherent or consistent way because hey, it’s Star Trek, but insofar as it has an economic viewpoint, it’s rather Communist in nature.

  16. My first thought reading that piece was you could have written in the late 60’s after the New Wave authors won some awards and it might have fit right in.

    Nevertheless, I was frustrated by the authors refusal to actually make his argument. You think there is an important difference in world view that is contingent on the hard and “soft” sciences? That is an intriguing idea, can you explain how you came to that conclusion?

    Yes, myths and legends are important elements in shaping a national identity. The soft science (its not really a science but I presume he would lump it in with the rest) I’m most familiar with, history, spends quite a bit of bandwidth grappling with that very idea. How does that process actually work? Historians have ideas but don’t really know. It would have been nice for the author to explain this a bit more and how it actually supported what I think his point was. In what way will shaping Cons and awards more to his liking contribute to this process? Please share with the class.

    I just wish this piece and others like it would take their premises and arguments seriously and actually state their actual premises and really make their argument. Not just a series of assertions and assumptions that only fellow members of his tribe presumably understand.

  17. leisuresuitlarry–SJW stands for “social justice warrior” which is what people who don’t want society to be just call people who do, or who at least don’t oppose it.

  18. wow wow wow

    The thing I noticed about the OP was his relentless dichotomizing – everything is “us versus them.” This guy is full of contempt for what he calls the soft sciences, but he is a walking example of the dangers of ignoring them. He’s so incredibly rigid and limited in his dichotomized viewpoint, and can’t seem to handle societal complexity, even when it’s obvious. As commenters point out, his vision of a golden (read: sexist, racist) age of sf is achieved only by eliding the many prominent women and people of color who were writing at the time, not to mention the strong themes of diversity and inclusiveness found in a lot of the works.

    The only other contribution I could make here is to urge everyone to read psychologist Bob Altemeyer’s seminal (heh) book on right wing authoritarianism. It’s highly readable and explains *so much.* You can download it free here:

  19. Do you think the source writer is overestimating the influence of cons? I read about a dozen sf books a year and have never attended a con. I think most of us just read what we like and don’t worry about these events. The cons could be taken over by lizard people and we wouldn’t even notice.

  20. Fairly certain that by “take back science fiction,” or at least the convention-going part of it, some folks mean “Get to behave the way I always have,” i.e. they don’t want to think about whether their actions and statements are offensive to other congoers.

    With the establishment (and some notable enforcement) of comprehensive harassment policies, merely purchasing membership and attending a convention will not get them what they want.

    That some folks now live in fear of perhaps getting punted from a convention due to their own behavior somehow doesn’t make me sad. Better that than having so many people afraid to attend because of other people’s behavior.

    Similarly, I suspect some writers and fans feel that diminishing sales and/or numbers of titles available in a particular subgenre (if they are in fact diminishing, a claim for which I would request hard data), is due to the consciousness-raising of those filthy SJWs. “Oh woe! How can we earn our bread if you are getting the readers to think about the underlying sexist or racist content of our books (which by the way isn’t sexist and racist at all, that’s just reality)!”

    I assume your post here isn’t for the folks who are making these arguments, but rather for the mass of folks in the middle, who have neither taken a vow to avoid conventions that lack a solid harassment policy, nor committed to the “I just happen to like reading about white dudes because women and POCs aren’t interesting” line.

    You’re presenting the other side of the narrative, holding the Overton window steady. This is how marriage equality has become the law in so many US states so quickly: by appealing to the folks in the middle, with no commitment to hating anyone.

    In that sense, there is a battle for the heart and soul of SF (or the larger culture, and larger geek culture). The folks who rail against SJWs aren’t mistaken: they really, truly, used to be the center of the universe, and the universe is starting to expand away from them and perhaps skew a little to the side. Not everything revolves around them anymore. It’s not that their toys/books/games/social activities are being taken from them. It’s that their activities are no longer the only game in town, no longer the main focus of the subculture they identify with.

    “But you still get to do all your things!” isn’t enough for folks who once got to do all their things and feel important about it.

  21. Can we get a list of which sciences are hard and which are soft? I mean civil engineering obviously hard, since dealing with things like roads and bridges. But oceanography is mostly about water, which is pretty soft. biology must be both since turtles are hard, but bunnies are soft. So he is arguing that turtles will win in the end, since bunnies are fast but get distracted easily? Am I doing this right?

  22. This is just beyond weird. For the record, I’m as pinko as the aforementioned Cory Doctorow. But the first book I ever checked out of the library by myself was a Heinlein juvenile (Have Spacesuit, Will Travel). Admittedly, my politics weren’t well-formed at age six, but my Heinlein fandom continues to this day. I can enjoy his novels even while disagreeing with the libertarian sentiments I’m reading on the page. Why is this so hard for some people?

  23. I found it kind of telling that the sad puppy’s appeal to authority, to the founder of his genre, points to John W. Campbell — a racist, sexist ass-hat of the first water — and appeals to engineering degrees as the answer (again: an overly narrow focus on ideology and engineering is what gave us Mohammed Atta).

    Also, he can’t seem to tell the difference between England (home of right-wing SF writers such as, oh, Neil Asher or Pete Hamilton) and Scotland (home of the Socialist SF Writer’s Vanguard Party and Drinking Society). But that’s par for the course.

    Fundamentally, the sad puppies are fundamentalists, viewing the world through ideologically tinted blinkers so that they interpret whatever they see in a manner that supports their prejudices. They could be worse, though: compared to Da’esh (with whom they seem to share some of their values) they *are* just sad little puppies.

  24. — E:

    “I assume your post here isn’t for the folks who are making these arguments”

    As with most of these sort of essays, yes, the audience is not only those who would make these sort of arguments, who I am well aware have no interest in rebuttal, but also those who are spectating and thinking about them and how they relate to their own experience of the science fiction and fantasy genre.


    Cons are an important part of core fandom, but core fandom is a subset of the larger audience for science fiction and fantasy. I would note that I myself never attended a convention until I was in my mid-30s and had sold two books to Tor.


    There are apparently some people who just can’t enjoy artistic work unless they know someone’s politics align with their own (or at the very least are utterly ignorant of the politics of the artist). I feel sorry for them; it cuts down what one can enjoy, artistically.

  25. I went to engineering school, and graduate school, and am a working engineer – am I choosing the wrong “side” by not hating the right things/people according to my mathematical aptitude?

  26. What is there to take back? I can’t even number the SF stories I’ve read. Make the story interesting and I’ll read it. I don’t care if it is hard SF, “soft” SF, SF romance, space fantasy. I’ve read stuff where the author’s politics and my own were at odds but who told stories I enjoyed.

    Maybe these nuts aren’t the true fans of SF they claim to be.

  27. Anyone who thinks social sciences are “soft” needs to go on a dig in the desert. Or the jungle. *grumpy noises*

    Still, if you could watch Star Trek and have your primary thought about the future be “I want to build those doors!” I don’t think you and I will share a commonality of experience.

    And yet there are books for you and books for me and I do not know why this is so alarming a state of affairs…

    …okay, that’s a lie. I know perfectly well why it’s alarming–if you accept that rather than conspiracy, more people just like “their” books than “your” books, then you might have to accept that the world is no longer made up entirely of people like you. Much better to be a freedom fighter against a shadowy repressive cabal!

    I am seriously so tired of this weird-ass LARP so many people seem to be playing. Hand in the foam sword, Spartacus, other people are allowed to like different things without even thinking of you at all.

  28. It would need many zeros in it, mind you.

    Bender: Quiet, call coming in. [He clicks his headset.] Yes? A big endorsement deal for Leela? How much? Hey! You put a one and two zeroes in front of that or we pass! Deal!

    [He hangs up.]

    Leela: Bender, that’s great! How much did you get me?

    Bender: [impressed] One hundred dollars.

  29. To be fair to Lehman, mass-market commercial sci-fi and fantasy does lean leftward. While it’s certainly possible to point out right-leaning authors, the vast majority of published fiction leans left. (Try, for instance, naming a well-known right-wing SFF author who is not American.) And awards over the last decade or so have tended to be most interested in under-represented viewpoints. So a siege mentality isn’t all that difficult to understand. And saying “but participation is open to everyone” is kind of a cop-out, sounds suspiciously like e.g. what people tell women who point out their own under-representation in genre publishing, awards, con participation, etc.

    That said, using pejorative terminology and facile distinctions between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ science does his argument no favors. (Hey buddy, I’m an engineer and am pretty far into the pink on the political spectrum scale.) The elephant in the room isn’t genre publishing’s political lean, it’s that reactionaries have been continuously losing culture wars for 250 years. Progressives aren’t better at harnessing myth (that notion is laughable in the era of Fox News); we’re just better at reading the tea leaves and feel less threatened by what they portend.

  30. He makes a hard soft dichotomy on the basis of hard sciences make real things that get things done, and immediately claims that the people he opposes are making things and getting things done because they studied the soft sciences… his inconsistency is painful.

  31. First, sorry for the longish post, but this matters to me.

    I remember when I used to work at a particular bookstore in Seattle. I love this bookstore and my wife, who I fell in love with while we worked there, still works there. Back in the day, however, it was known as a ‘literary’ bookstore. Probably still is but not like back then. There would be meetings to discuss books we’d been reading to keep staff up on what was out there. Every once in a while someone would put in a word for a fantasy, horror or science fiction book they had enjoyed, and it would often begin with something along the lines of “I know, it’s just goofy stuff but I have to say this title was a lot of fun–for me.” I rarely read ‘fiction’ so all my titles were science fiction, fantasy or horror, but then I was seen as an odd one. Did I care? Not really.

    And that was the whole point to being a science fiction fan. We were not part of the mold. We didn’t even have one! We made stuff up as we went along. We loved new ideas, new crazy twists. Make me spin my head, please! Make me think, then think some more. We were always trying to get outside the envelope.

    All this talk of taking stuff back is disturbing to me. First off, we never held onto anything to begin with. You have an outrageous idea for a story? Go for it! A novel concept on the possible development of humanity? Expand on it! Science fiction has long been a place where ideas and concepts are all gratefully taken, then folded and flipped and rotated into new combinations to create new ideas and concepts, hopefully never encountered before if we were lucky. What is there to take back? There is only the mind wide open and ready for a wild adventure or provoking perspective. That only comes about with a bunch of people from a lot of different social/economic/political viewpoints. Not only does everyone have something to offer to the genre, such diversity is required for rich and unique ideas and stories.

  32. JDF: Well, I suspect it’s hard because “some people” want to believe that their view of the universe and culture is the only correct one, and anything that contradicts that view is . . . deceitful, at best. A direct attack on them and maybe on reality, at worst. For me the question is slightly more complex: yes, I can separate my politics and personal philosophy from my enjoyment of a good story, but I’ve found that reading a good story with a political viewpoint that disagrees with mine expands my view of the universe and the way it works. It may not change my mind, but it makes me think, makes me question and sometimes work on defending my own world-view, and isn’t that part of what reading in general–especially maybe reading sf and fantasy–is all about?

    Then again, being challenged is part of the pleasure of reading, I believe. Even when I’m reading “comfort food,” turn-off-my-brain sorts of fiction . . .

  33. I agree with what’s being said, but I was really struck by the sheer ridiculousness of the “SJW vs. hard sciences grads” idea. Because no soft science (or, gasp!, non-STEM-educated) people are writing in the “old-guard” mode. And no hard science types are ever “SJWs”.

    In the real world, I went to one of the top 3 schools in the world for my mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree, and another in the top 10 for my master’s in the same field. I’m currently working on robotics integration at a genetic sequencing company. Which I think makes me as hard-science in his view as anyone. But I’d also definitely be an “SJW” by his reckoning. Maybe I don’t count, since I’m one of those dastardly feeeeemales. And I’m certainly not alone. So it makes his whole argument about the soft sciences perniciously destroying the “pure” SF mythos broken at its core.

  34. “There are apparently some people who just can’t enjoy artistic work unless they know someone’s politics align with their own (or at the very least are utterly ignorant of the politics of the artist). I feel sorry for them; it cuts down what one can enjoy, artistically.”

    I always try to separate the artist from the art. I don’t even need to do that with Heinlein: he was an admirable man with some political views that varied from mine.

    I don’t always live up to this ideal. For instance, there is one writer of theologically-influenced fantasy novels whose work I refuse to try. How could I defend giving money to someone who doesn’t believe women should be allowed to vote, among other things?

  35. Note to self: Next time Scalzi says, “go read this”… don’t feel like you have to. Figure out what it is first.

    Though I will note that I think there *is* an argument from the other direction. I sure have a pent-up demand for SF and fantasy books that treat women as people. I’d like to see covers that aren’t white-washed. I would like to see women’s heads on covers, and bodies in realistic poses. I’d like underrepresented authors to only have to be as good as the average published author instead of having to be amazeballs in order to get published. The market forces you’re talking about opening up really are allowing some of that market demand to be met, but there’s still a ways to go. What I’m saying is, More books for me to read, please.

    More better books from more diverse authors may have the side-effect that crappy misogynist stuff that uses women as Macguffins doesn’t get published as much as they get pushed out by higher quality works. The bar will be higher for those types of works. But there’s decades of Retief-inspired space operas to fall back on if a guy runs out. Just visit any used bookstore. And it’s not like there isn’t still a brisk market in the stuff, it just has to be higher quality in other dimensions.

  36. In Ye Olde Days a Hard Science degree required calculus and a Soft Science degree required a foreign language, ideally Latin. Some countries and times the degree required both.

    Still not sure what’s wrong with being a warrior for social justice, other than the whole Crusades/Jihadist thingy, except maybe it’s a different society and justice being warred for.

  37. I think part of the problem is that you’re taking far too literal a view of the notion of “taking back” the genre.

    When this sort talks about taking something back, they don’t mean being allowed to participate or attend. They’re well aware that they can do that, and if they do so in sufficient numbers it will color the impression of what the con is about. No, “take back” in this parlance is specifically meant to imply complete control over content and attendees, directly or indirectly, to prevent the sort of diversity that has naturally occurred as the genre has grown and being a geek has become more mainstream. Diversity for them means diversity within a tightly circumscribed subset.

  38. I really want a book written on the bad side that no one seems to be writing or publishing. Just the story of an orc or group of orcs sent to kidnap a hobbit and fail miserably. Why isn’t anyone writing and publishing this story for me?

  39. @Matt W: “Try, for instance, naming a well-known right-wing SFF author who is not American.”

    I’m no expert on authors, but that may be because what’s considered right-wing in the US is pretty far to the right in a lot of the world, certainly in most of Europe.

  40. Jason Packer:

    I am of course well aware what is meant by “take back.” But I’m not sure why such a use of the phrase should be allowed to stand without challenge. I’m happy to strip out the use of a comfortable euphemism.

  41. Matt W asks “Try, for instance, naming a well-known right-wing SFF author who is not American.”

    I’m not reading widely enough in British SFF right now, but there are certainly plenty — I think he missed my finger-pointing at Peter F. Hamilton and Neil Asher. If we go into grimdark fantasy territory (the F in SFF) includes the likes of Joe Abercrombie.

    I’m in a hotel room with crap internet access, and I haven’t been consulting my notes, nor do I have access to the vast mass of non-anglophone SFF that’s out there. But Matt W is just plain wrong in his assertion.

  42. How ridiculously offensive. So because I have a master’s degree in mathematics I have to be racist and sexist in my own writing?

    The people that saw old sci-fi and said, “I want to do that,” so they went out and did it, aren’t exactly the people writing sci-fi. Is that his point? That fiction can inspire reality? And it would be bad if fiction inspired people to not be such jerks to each other?

    I had to read the entire post before catching on that SJW meant “Social Justice Warrior” which I guess is supposed to be a bad thing in the writer’s eyes.

    Speaking from a mathematical point of view, he doesn’t exactly make any sort of argument. It’s just a pitiful rallying cry with no heart or meaning. If you want to convince people that your side is right, then you need to make an effective argument. If you think for some reason that you are in the majority and just need to make a declaration of intent, then you’re delusional.

    Maybe his degree in the “hard” sciences didn’t include a course in logic, but mine sure did.

  43. The first thing that came to mind was that for some (I’m assuming) hard-core techie type it was odd that he was complaining about his side being marginalized when (as Mr. Scalzi points out) there are a myriad ways to be published and out there for the world to see. Then I see that he’s saying that it doesn’t help when ‘those people” control the cons because everyone knows that is where the power to make or break a writer is. Overlooking, of course, that people found books they liked before they’d even heard of the Nebulas or Hugos. At least, I did.
    I get what he’s saying about the myths we live with and by but anymore this seems to be a battle between those (on both sides) who see the world in black and white and those who accept that there are grey areas in this world and that humans are flawed–no matter what Ayn Rand says.

  44. The thing I’ve never understood is how people can say, “Our tiny group is what represents real [x].” It’s like… You’ve just branded yourself as an outlier on the bellcurve of fandom so how can that be more “real” than the masses?

  45. Kilroy: I’ve often wondered of an orc’s day to day routine. Do they hang out? If they’re made from the stuff of elves (or men) does that mean that maybe they have the smallest shred of compassion, or anything that could be construed a factor with some redeeming value? It would be interesting like the book on the green lady from Oz.

  46. *waves to si1verdrake*

    I’m a former software engineer turned computational neurobiologist (or is that too soft? I was a computational biochemist for a couple of years in there at well.) At the moment I’m dividing my time between designing physical simulations of mixed hard and soft-body (soft!) biomechanics and managing a groups of students who mostly do benchwork. Oh, and I’m a martial artist and martial arts instructor (in my copious spare time) and speak Chinese and a few central asian languages. Ah yes, that must be where they got me! International studies, that den of iniquity!

    And yet, I’m pretty sure that I’m the sort he wants to save Science Fiction from. Must be the breasts, and my utter lack of interest at consigning myself to be arm-candy.

    I’m really wondering how many of these folks who would like to assume the mantles of hard science and engineering actually studied science and engineering. Not to privilege those above anything else, but it seems such an arbitrary designation… and from inside the sciences, I honestly don’t see nearly this much crap. (I mean, usually it’s from fourteen year olds making mouthing off about women on the net.)

    I kind of have this vague notion that what made SF interesting was that it was always questioning and trying new things. I mean, I guess it’s sad that there are folks who want it to stop and stay the same and safe for them, but yo, sounds like a personal problem.

  47. I *do* have an engineering degree, so let me just take a moment here to admire that guy’s clear-headed, step-by-step application of the scientific method:

    1. Observe something that doesn’t suit you.
    2. Remain seated. Speculate about possible causes, focusing on ways other people could be the cause.
    3. Thought of someone? Excellent — now it’s time to generalize! You can invent motivations, agendas — heck, even a shared educational background for them!
    4. Armed with these results, you can urge others to take immediate action based on your discoveries.

    See? Pretty much the same method that the Wright brothers used to invent the airplane. This kind of rigor is what makes the “hard sciences” such an invaluable problem-solving tool.

  48. What amuses me is that there will have been a time *before* the time that he wants to take back – what’s wrong with taking another step and going back to that? Oh I know! – it’s not his personal Golden Age which is what I suspect he is really hankering after. We all have those, they all vary and they all existed at different times – and thank goodness for the resulting variety!


    E-Gadz. How can someone be so far up his own ass that he thinks his opinion should not only be the RIGHT one but anyone who thinks otherwise is just a “SJWhatever”. Pompous and delusional just doesn’t scratch the surface. Then to try to think that the takeaway from Trek was “Doors that open by themselves are kewl” and not Roddenberry’s IDIC philosophy. Really? Really Really?

    And to top it off, claiming some conspiracy of publishers keeping his people down? Here’s the bottom line, be it publishing, or “liberal media” or “SJW conspiracy”.. IF IT MAKES A DIME IN PROFIT, THEY WILL PRINT IT. If Rupert Murdoch thought democrats would have spent and watched as much as republicans, Fox News would be more leftist that Marx. Publishers are in it to make MONEY not a political statement. Why do you think Scalzi’s book will sit bound-and-printed next to whatever batshit scribe Palin has someone ghost-write? MONEY.

    There is no conspiracy… there is only MONEY.

  50. Anyone who uses “social justice” in a pejorative term is pretty much admitting that they are on the side of injustice…

    Also, he uses Star Trek as one of his main example of science fiction before social justice (and the idea of portraying social change) became a part of the genre?

  51. I’ve made the mistake recently of engaging with some of the swo-called Sad Puppies over this and I’ve come to a couple of conclusions. One, this is the last gasp of the old ghetto school of SF vs mainstream. One of their complaints is the “literary SF” is a shrinking market, so why are we giving awards to it. I have attempted to point out that this is nonsense mainly because literary mainstream is producing more and more SF. It’s not a shrinking market, it’s a fading marketing label. That said, their next complaint is that MFA-type fiction is winning awards when good ol’ fashion nuts-n-bolts SF is being ignored. (They keep bringing up one short story in particular which in fact did NOT win, but which seems to annoy them no end.) In reality, they seem to want to keep giving Hugos to the next iteration of Starship Troopers, as if military SF is the only “hard SF” in town anymore. And three, they seem REALLY cheesed off that so many “womyn and P.O.C.” types are winning awards and doubly ticked off that said winners are actively CELEBRATING their wins. My more or less last conclusion is that Ann Leckie’s novel bothered them deeply with that pronoun shift, because it’s the only thing they seem to be able to talk about from it—not the fact that it’s a Great Big Galumphing Space Opera or that there are aliens and more than one culture or that the main character is a very cool concept, but that everyone is called “she” and “her” and it confuses them no end. They want their men easily identifiable, it seems, so they don’t have trouble recognizing which ones have breasts and so on.

    But this idea that “culture” and “engineering” are somehow separate things leading to possibly culture-destroying evil if we let the wrong one take precedence in fiction is something of a new spin on an old idea. I never watched Star Trek and wondered how to make the doors work or the communicators functioned. We should remember Samuel R. Delany’s observation in a critique of Heinlein when he held up the sentence “The door dilated” not as a technical innovation but as a marvelous shorthand to tell us about THE CULTURE described. (The culture, roughly, determines what we want to do and the engineers then, also roughly, make the tools for us to do that. It’s beyond symbiosis, but that’s more the case than this separation the poster seems to embrace.)

    Finally, I did a bit on this a while back. If anyone is interested, here:

  52. @Mr. Stross

    I think we’re at odds over definitions. This is almost certainly an America/Europe political scale misunderstanding. I feel pretty confident that Hamilton would vote Democrat over on this side of the pond; our leftists tolerate both neoliberals and militarism. It’s been some time since I’ve read Asher (and I’ve only ever read his first novel) so I can’t comment on him, but Abercrombie is, I suspect, pretty left-wing. The First Law is a commentary on power dynamics that’s deeply distrustful of centralized authority and the power of myth to compel action. Red Country is a fairly explicit condemnation of colonialism. And The Heroes tells the standard grimdark story of the limits of military power (while at the same time reveling in the spectacle.) I’d actually point to Richard K Morgan as a righter-wing dude, but even he is expressly opposed to neo-liberalism. And for many writers it’s hard to tell politics from their writing. I think, for instance, that you have to work pretty hard to tease any of yours out from The Laundry Files (which, BTW, I adore.)

  53. Our unhappy mythmaker says:

    Say what you will about the SJW Glittery hoo ha crowd, they get this. I speculate that they get it because while we (the guys that grew up watching STOG and said “Hey those doors are COOL, how would you do that for real? Those communicators, could you do that?) went to engineering and hard science classes and started building the future that we wanted, the aforementioned individuals where going to the soft sciences (not real sciences at all in my NSHO) and studied how cultures work.

    I assume he means ST:OS. I watched it, too, and hey, yeah, the doors and warp engines and phasers were cool! What was also cool was seeing a black woman officer on the bridge, seeing shows that question assumptions about what is victory in war, the utility and justice of mining, the risks and blindness of aristocracy, the futility of racial and inter-species bigotry, selective memory of history, how we deal with artificial intelligence, transhumanism, The Other. (And I have to say, even with the miniskirts and notorious stories of GR’s casting couch, ST:OS feels less sexist than ST:TNG.) What? Roddenberry was a SJW? Who knew?

    The enemy is here! It’s always been here! And it’s armed with glitter! (And hoo has!)

  54. @Kilroy and @ Greg Leon Guerrero

    Try the Jim C. Hines series Goblin Quest, Goblin Hero and Goblin War for the goblin’s point of view in a fantasy story.

  55. I did go back and read some of the other pieces there and I’m amazed that I hadn’t heard that there were rules on being a fan. What I really want to know is the identity of those people telling the poor boy that liking “Alice in Wonderland” and the Moties and comic books and not attending Cons means he’s not a real fan. Seriously? There are roving bands of fact-checkers out there to determine this? And he wonders why he’s not being taken seriously. Names–or it didn’t happen.

  56. I am an electrical engineer turned astrophysicist so I get to wear the hard scientist hat. (And, by the way, physicists are real snobs and tend to designate anything outside physics as a soft science, including most biology and chemistry.) Aside from the political angle, this guy appears to be registering a preference for ideas-based sci-fi over character-based work. I have seen a substantial contingent of scientists/engineers who only relate to the former but it’s not like those types of novels aren’t getting published these days.** Somehow, I get the idea that the fact that Ann Leckie calls every character “she” sticks in his craw so much he suffers from chronic observation bias.

    **For example, The Martian is making its rounds among my colleagues because it’s full of geeky engineering details (as well as being an outstanding read).

  57. Great piece, and yeah, I get really sick of would-be gatekeepers.

    That said, there’s a different context for “take back X”, which–prior to Gamergate and its recent parallels in other areas of geekdom–was the one in which I’d always encountered the rhetoric: the idea of making something safe for people who’ve been made unsafe there.

    The most prominent one, obviously, is Take Back the Night (and maybe Take Back the Land and Take Back Our Campus) but as a woman who works in games, I hear a lot of “take back our cons,” “take back our hobby,” etc. from people who *aren’t* talking about the Wrong People being in charge, or driving out people with ideological differences. They’re just talking about having better policies in place to protect all congoers, more clear guidance for people who are being harassed as to where to go for help, etc. “Taking back” in this context isn’t about complete control, it’s about equal participation.

    Now I’m sure that if Whiny McStamperson were here, he would insist that he and his ideological ilk are being marginalized because cons have panels on diversity now and women are on panels instead of just posing in booths and he’s using “Take Back” in the same way as Take Back the Night. (I mean, heck, we had a dude on our company’s forums insist that our inclusion of gay characters in our products was sexual harassment directed at him, so I’ve heard it all at this point.) And I’m sure, if I were an angry white dude, I wouldn’t draw much of a distinction between “we have to make sure cons are safe for women and other marginalized groups” and “cons are being run in the wrong way by the wrong people.”

    Reactionaries have gotten very good at co-opting the language used to talk about marginalization, and painting positions like, “I don’t want to be afraid of being harassed/assaulted at a con” and “I don’t want to hear any more about feminism” as simply being equivalent competing ideologies.

    I know there’s not much to be done about it, but I feel like I have to protest the erasure of the fact that this is rhetoric used as a rallying cry to make various spaces safe and welcoming that people like the author of linked piece have appropriated and are twisting in an attempt to ensure that geekdom isn’t safe or welcoming for anyone but them.

  58. @Doc S: giving it a shot. But looks like a goblin turned good story instead of a bad guy view point story. Pretty sure I’m being kept down on this one.

  59. Entertaining! Regardless of the strange content from the referred post, it was difficult to read just based on sentence structure and grammar!

  60. @dustywallace the vibe I get a lot from the Sad Puppies crowd is that they consider themselves the majority and that SJWs are the small majority that has hijacked fandom. I see plenty of posts from them that point to Amazon sales rankings and the like as “proof” that no one is reading Ann Leckie or Kameron Hurley, and that the vast majority of readers are “with them”.

  61. So, I have a confession to make: I became a Hugo voter last year for the first time after being an SF/F fan for forty years because I was annoyed that Redshirts won the Hugo the year before.

    My motivations weren’t political, however, or out of animus towards our host, with whom I believe I could share a perfectly fine time over a couple of Coke Zeros (mine with some rum, perhaps) and some 80s music. It’s just that I simply felt it wasn’t up to the standards of at least two of the other four finalists. I had read all but Seanan McGuire’s and despite being a longtime Bujold fan, I really felt Throne of the Crescent Moon and 2312 were the best works.

    Well. I’d read Ancillary Justice when it came out, was blown away, and said to myself, “Self, we’re going to register ourselves as supporting members for LonCon and do our part to make sure the best book wins.” Apparently I wasn’t the only one who had that kind of feeling.

    And now that I’m on-board I’m going to keep doing that – nominating from what I’ve read and voting for what I really feel are the best works.

    (And thank you, Mr. Scalzi, for helping bring about the modern Hugo packet. I read as much of the nominated work as I could and discovered several authors who are now on my “must read” list because of that. Oh, and I bought many of the books even though I had free copies. Still haven’t read “The Wheel of Time” books, though. Nor those by a couple authors whose views go beyond “disagreement with my own” to frankly abhorrent.)

    I’ve always referred to myself as a “small f fan” because I don’t do the SF con scene and have never been part of the “core fandom”. And, to me at least, there did seem for many years to be a very cliquish vibe to conventions – the inside jokes, the slang, etc. See Toni Weisskopf’s use of “fuggheads” in her opus last year on this same topic – appealing to that time when you knew everybody and had to learn the password to the secret clubhouse. I’ve still only been to one SF con in my life despite living close to one of the better-known ones (Balticon).

    But I’ve also been a tabletop gamer since the Ford administration and do go to a fair share of gaming conventions (typically small and regional ones), and one thing I learned over 40 years of [i]that[/i] hobby is that the supposed “core” fandom is really, really tiny, and only represents a very small fraction of those who play the games, or read the books. And that this core fandom often has both a sense of entitlement and an oversized sense of their importance in the scheme of things. And that these people are often out of touch with what’s really selling.

    There are ways greater connectivity fostered by the Internet is changing that even as it opens the doors (slowly, slowly) to a wider variety of the rich offerings the world has for us as fans of science fiction and fantasy. But one has to be willing to look beyond what one has previously enjoyed, and be open to the possibility that things other than what you prefer have value also.

    I can see I’m rambling so I’ll close with this: let the Sad Puppies yap. It’s yet another echo of the death wails of a movement which has had a lock on much of our portion of the world for far too long, being drowned out by the excited cries of those who finally are getting a shot (small though it may be so far) at the light. And if they’ve lost 50-year-old straight white ex-paratrooper dudes like me, they’re clearly on their way down.

  62. This is almost certainly an America/Europe political scale misunderstanding

    Uh, taking the American scale as the “right” one makes your assertion self-confirming, doesn’t it?

  63. John Appel:

    “I became a Hugo voter last year for the first time after being an SF/F fan for forty years because I was annoyed that Redshirts won the Hugo the year before.”

    My work here is done!

    And of course I don’t mind that you liked at least two of the other books more than mine. I’m a fan of both Seanan and Saladin, and would have been happy to lose to either.

  64. The term “SJW” has multiple related-but-distinct usages, most of which expand to “social justice warrior”. The primary meaning is a derogatory sense of someone who talks about social justice but is obviously wrong or stupid. Some people use it for basically anyone who talks about social justice, others for people who are “too extreme”, and others for people who are not so much extreme as just missing the point entirely.

    I have mostly given up on the term as an utterly-poisoned well at this point, but I used it for a long time to refer to people who were using a lot of the language associated with serious analysis of social justice, but were just using it as a way to bully other people. This is an actual problem, weird though it might sound; you can find some glorious examples on tumblr. (Some people say those are “all parodies and trolls”. I don’t think they are, but I think the fact that it can be hard to tell makes the point anyway.)

    My rule of thumb: If someone identifies as a feminist or socialist or other liberal, and says “SJW”, they probably mean a person who’s coopting their movement for personal gain or to bully people. If someone identifies as a libertarian or Republican, and says “SJW”, they probably mean anyone who thinks that maybe justice would be good for society and we don’t have enough.

    I do not think there is a good case to be made that “SJWs” are a threat to the science fiction biz right now.

  65. John Appel:

    If Redshirts was the first time you were annoyed with a Hugo win, you haven’t been reading enough of the Hugo Nominees.

  66. I can see why publisher A might be seen as more right-wing than publisher B, but how much of that comes from the general sort of story? Action adventure, and a hero who does what a man must do, does get seen as right wing, but why should it be? All that thrilling stuff can be done for effectively socialist reasons. And the really good writers have those reasons even for people in an interstellar empire.

  67. Again, science fiction and fantasy conventions can’t be “taken back” — they were, and are, open to everyone.

    They’re certainly moving in that direction, but as someone who used to be routinely harassed at conventions to the point where I thought it was the price of admission (“Okay, that’ll be $50 and your personal safety for the convention membership”), I actually find this ‘we need to take back conventions’ crap really disgusting.

    It’s an attempt to position the Overton window–and a pretty effective one. Scalzi, you’re well-versed in the various diversity issues facing the SFF community, but even you are giving ground by saying “dude, you’re not marginalized, you’re on equal footing with everyone else who wants a con badge.”

    They may be on equal footing with every other straight white cis guy who wants a con badge, but they’re not on equal footing with the rest of us.

    I’ve been attending cons since I was thirteen, and reporting creepers who were harassing me since I was thirteen. Eventually I stopped because I got tired of untrained volunteers in ops telling me it wasn’t their problem that grown-ass men were behaving indecently towards children on their watch. We were the better part of a decade into the twenty-first century before cons started cottoning on to the idea that I should only have to pay $50 and not also risk my personal safety to get in the front door. And that hasn’t solved the problem; it’s just given victims a way to seek redress.

    We’ve made great strides in the last few years, but we have a long way to go. It’d be really nice if the people who want to ‘take back’ cons had an equal seat at the table, but in fact, they’re still going around spitting on the other chairs, and positioning themselves as victims when we tell them that it’s gross.

  68. @ianrobertsblog: “. . . Star Trek (particularly ST:TNG) rejects capitalism in favour of a post-scarcity utopian society which is proud of having done away with money. OK, it doesn’t do this in a totally coherent or consistent way because hey, it’s Star Trek . . . ”

    As one of So Many ST:TNG writers who had to wrestle such questions as “what? no money? how the heck does that work, exactly?” as well as “Huh? Prime Directive? Can I see the actual text of the statute, please?”, I am nodding agreement like a bobblehead.

  69. @Kilroy and @ Greg Leon Guerrero – try the (oddly named) Mary Gentle, Grunts, for an Orc’s eye view.

    I’m not sure by what definition Peter Hamilton and Neil Asher aren’t right wing, but it isn’t one that I am aware of. I believe it says a lot of a writer if I don’t agree with their worldview but still think their work is interesting and engaging to read, which is the case with both of these.

    There’s one book in particular that I suspect may win best novel this year, which I don’t think deserves it (due to pacing, sociopathic lead characters, and some economic world building issues) but it’s not the end of the world if it does. Though the Sad Puppies will be leaping up and down going “See, see I told you so!!!111@#!!!!!” if it does win. Which almost tempts me to vote for it anyway.

    And as I was reading the Martian, I was wondering how many time he had to save and reload the adventure game to get to the end ;) And do potatoes really grow under normal LED internal light levels?

  70. @brusham – a fair point. I’d say it’s probably the first year that I’d read a number of the nominees and been paying enough attention. See the part where I talk about being a “small f fan” for many years? It’s also fair to say that my tastes have evolved over the years. I’m not sure what 21-year-old me would have thought of “Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad.”

    I’m sure there’s plenty of “WTF?” in the nominations from prior years. And will be again.

  71. Good thoughts. Since he’s primarily stirring up the blogosphere, it’s easier to ignore him. (and I love the Pink Floyd reference!)

  72. I am a mechanical engineer, I love hard science fiction… But as I expanded my reading, I found that I had to step away from many titles I had read and enjoyed in my teens and early 20s. They became increasingly problematic to me, especially when I got more immersed in my industry and professional organizations and came face to face with entrenched (insert -ism here). As a female engineer (yep, another one, we are destroying the field AS WELL AS destroying genre fiction), I needed to see visions of the future which included other characters and depictions. I needed to see a future vision which wasn’t just a more high-tech version of today’s social and cultural norms.

    I am glad that there is a wide range of fiction available, and that I am allowed to read whatever parts of it I want to, and enjoy it or not. It is up to me.

    I also feel free to attend or not attend conventions, as I see fit. They are my dollars, I will throw them where I want to.

  73. “What is there to take back?”

    The days when they could do what they wanted with impunity so long as they were white and male.

    Sorry! You can’t have them back, manbabies. I realize I am theoretically depriving myself of privileges I used to have but I find I don’t want them anyway. All I have to sacrifice is ways I could crap on other people and feel guilty about later, but in return I get a happier, more diverse, more interesting world. The petulant whining noise you make isn’t much fun but it’s far less unpleasant than the sound and look of the real pain it’s replacing. And unlike the suffering of the disenfranchised and assaulted, you can stop feeling that pain just by growing up.

    Or don’t. I don’t really much care.

  74. Personally, I’ve read SF for 50 years or so, and I’ve never been to a convention (or wanted to) or voted in the Hugos (or anywhere else). However, I’m a firm believer in that great conspiracy the Lumber Cartel; all other conspiracies are only lies and confusion.


  75. The encouraging thing about that article isn’t the article, it’s the comments. The commenters over there aren’t having any of the BS that guy is selling.

  76. Hey, I’m a PhD in chemistry, and I think Ursula K. Le Guin is a hella better writer than almost any conceivable person on this guy’s A-list, and that includes RAH, who was my first and longtime sfnal love.

    And yeah, Heinlein was an engineer, but that didn’t make him a scientist, any more than having an MD does — and if you don’t believe me just look as some of the MDs out there: Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Tom Coburn, Paul Broun, just to name some prominent ones whose scientific ignorance borders on the catastrophic. Just because engineers and doctors make things or fix people doesn’t mean that they have a good grasp of the underlying science, (Not saying that an engineer or a physician can’t be a scientist, just that it doesn’t come with the degree.)

  77. I went and read the piece; I was impressed that most of the commenters called the guy out for being … uh, well, uninformed at least. IOW, they sounded like most of us here on John’s blog. So I guess he got schooled on how many people agree with his rant.

  78. The thing is… I do think there are people who want to deconstruct, and create alternatives to, and weaken the influence of, some of the myths that guy is talking about. And they’re right to do so. We have thousand-face heroes and space gunslingers in spades. There so many other good stories. Why can’t they let them be told?

  79. It’s so weird to me when I read these posts on your site. Among my group of friends and the various corners of the internet I frequent I never hear these arguments. How anyone can believe that any one group controls a genre is beyond me. People need to remember to “never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.” If “you’re” kind of SF isn’t getting published or acclaimed maybe it’s not as good/popular as you think it is. To look for this kind of outward cause is nothing short of paranoia.

    This does cast an interaction I had with Mr Scalzi into a different light though (of course I may be reading too much into this also this story is boring so feel free to stop reading here and scroll to the next comment if you don’t care about my awkwardness).

    I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Scalzi a talk he did at a local college. Afterward he signed some books and while he was signing mine i gushed about how I’d first discovered his books after reading a review that compared him favorably to Heinlein, who is probably my favorite SF author. I made a comment that it was nice to read someone’s books who “gets it.” At the time Mr. Scalzi’s response seemed a little dismissive but i wrote it off as either travel fatigue or the fact that I had probably just made the same fan comment he’s heard a billion times before. But now I wonder if perhaps he interpreted it as me putting him on the wrong side of this “take back ‘our’ genre” divide.

  80. The last Worldcon I attended was the most recent Chicon. I remember a lot of grousing about liberals and socialists and feminists having taken over the programming committee, to the point where I overheard a couple of conversations about possibly picketing the liberal SF panels. But I also remember there only being 2, maybe 3 such panels, when there was an entire 8 hour programming track dedicated to Libertarian SF.

    The only way I can make sense of some of these kinds of things is if I assume that, in their minds, stuff that disagrees with how they want the world to be is “political” and stuff that agrees with how they want the world to work is “scientific.”

  81. The thing about libertarianism is that it was originally used in Europe to mean something more like socialism or left wing anarchism, but it was stolen by right wingers in the USA in the 1950’s/ 60’s.

    Then hard and soft sciences, well, I’ve lost count of the number of right wing people who misunderstand what science is and how it works and seem to deny climate change. They can’t seem to cope with the uncertainties and ranges of possibility, as well as of course the implicit challenge it makes to business as usual. Mind you that makes me wonder why they want business as usual to continue if they are busy moaning about the wrong sort of people running SF and winning awards.

    Richard K. Morgan is right wing? I thought he did a send up of that sort of thing in that novel where you could duel it out on the motorways? Maybe there’s more of an ability to send oneself and one’s ideas up over here than in the USA? But then that would be a cultural thing…

  82. mykroft:

    Inasmuch as I’m a huge fan of Heinlein’s and usually take compliments comparing me with him very positively, I suspect it was probably something other than putting you on one side of a political fence or another. In any event, I have fans of all political/social persuasions. Generally speaking, I am happy to know all of them.

  83. There probably is a Europe/America divide, but it seems fairly clear to this UK reader that Peter Hamilton’s work tends to hang out near a vaguely pro-business small government Tory-from-the-shires space*. In fact it’s the comparison with that comfortable medium town/suburb semi-rural idyll flavour that gives impact when disrupted by the various SF intrusions.

    Also [SPOILERS] communists as bad guys.

  84. This attitude seems especially ironic coming from a crowd who idolize Heinlein. He’d be the first to tell them “shut up and sell”.

  85. @Kilroy and @ Greg Leon Guerrero

    Along with The Goblin books and Grunts mentioned above, A Lee Martinez has some amazing stuff written from the bad guy/orc/kobald/etc. point of view. More than one! And they’re all really great.

  86. Interesting and amusing. I’ve got a BS in chemistry and an MBA so I guess I should like his stuff. But the truth is, while I don’t like most urban fantasy, I do enjoy stuff with protagonists that resemble my family, friends and coworkers than just me. And on my work team I’m the only white male.

    My two cents worth.

  87. Avdi:

    As I’ve noted before, Heinlein the plaster idol is notably different than Heinlein the actual human being.

    Over in the comments on the linked article, one of the flagbearers for The Cause is handwringing about the collapse of the market and using this as his rationale for his silly little attempt at a culture war. And, I don’t know. I’m selling fine. Other books I know of in science fiction are selling fine. Books with science fiction elements (or which are straight up science fiction) are being nominated for major book awards and are being put forward by mainstream publishers. Fantasy seems to be moving along nicely. I don’t think the problem is the science fiction market in general. It might be that if you very narrowly define what is science fiction, then the market for that little slice might be in trouble (or just not selling like it used to). But that’s about you, not about anyone else, and it’s not a reason to try to shit down the neck of everyone else in the genre.

    Fundamentally a lot of this just simply boils down to ego: Some folks thinking they should be selling (and being honored) more than they are, and deciding the problem is THE OTHER, rather than what they’re selling and the current state of the market for their particular flavor of science fiction. I don’t blame them for wanting to beat the drum for what they like — that’s what you’re supposed to do — but being an asshole to everyone else doesn’t have to be a part of that.

  88. I’m not sure that I’m really following this. I get the culture war stuff about political positions on discrimination as a dividing line of authors, but not the hard SF versus soft SF as part of it. Hard SF are stories centered around premises that involve the hard sciences — physics, biology, chemistry and engineering. Such as Peter Watts’ Starfish or Greg Egan’s Schild’s Ladder. Soft or sociological SF are stories centered around premises that involve cultural issues: politics, philosophy, sociology, psychology. Such as Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. Soft SF can employ elements of hard sciences, but they’re usually not central.

    Peter Watts, a Canadian, is a big leftie. He may even be a communist in political leanings. Egan, who is Australian not American, is rightward. Writing hard SF stories has nothing to do with having a particular set of politics. Not every hard SF writer has a science degree and not every engineer is a right winger.

    Some of what Heinlein wrote was hard SF, but he is also a major voice of sociological SF and considered the godfather of New Wave SF, which was mostly sociological SF, concerned with cultural and sexual mores, and moving away from Campbell’s gung-ho spacenauts ethos. Campbell had a B.A. in physics, but was not an engineer or scientist, and in his own writing, he tended towards space opera/adventure — soft SF, not hard SF.

    Military SF isn’t hard SF. It can lean towards hard SF with the high tech weaponry, but most of it is a cousin to and overlaps with space opera, which is sociological SF. It’s commandos in space, where it’s about culturally vying armies, not physics problems, and it requires neither an engineering degree nor right-wing politics to write. Cyberpunk sits on the border, often hard in its use of mathematics and technology, and sometimes written by engineers, but it is also concerned with sociological issues primarily. Cyberpunk has a fair number of leftward authors but also has some rightwing ones. Post-apocalyptic SF can be hard SF, but does tend to be sociological SF and knows no particular political affiliation either.

    Star Trek, which was a space operatic, sociological sci-fi television series, is universally disliked by large contingents of hard SF fans, who don’t regard it as science fiction at all, much less hard SF. Star Trek certainly has inspired many people to go into science, but it itself was not written by scientists or engineers, for the most part, and it was created by Roddenberry, who was a big leftie and fought to have his show, as others pointed out, be a beacon of racial inclusivity and representation.

    So I gather this guy doesn’t make a lot of sense. And I gather the voting slate wars are still going on over the Hugos. I’d heard there was a broughaha over the Campbell.

  89. And the beat goes on.

    My into to SF fandom came at the same time as my exclusion from same.

    An acquaintance at High school showed up one day with the very first issue of Starlog magazine, which he had picked up at a newsstand that very morning.

    I, fascinated that there even *was* such a thing, asked where he had purchased it, as I wished to purchase one as well.

    Alas, he could not tell me, because I was not “enough” of a Star Trek fan, not the way he and his friends were.


    And so it goes.

    We are Trekkers. We must stop these “Trekkies.”

    We are Star Trek fans. We must stop the fans of this “Star Wars.”

    We are Star Wars fans. We must stop the followers of this “Battlestar Galactica.”

    We like DC. Stop Marvel.

    We like Toliken, which is the One True Fantasy. Who let all these Harry Potter people in here?

    And just what is the deal with the “Quantum Leap” thing? This doesn’t look like proper Science Fiction to me!


    Let ’em blather, John, let ’em blather.

    Personally, I look for them to take their balls and go home, starting their own fandom, where I’m not allowed in. Boo-hoo. Now I won’t be able to read and enjoy your work, or talk with others who do. That’ll show me!

    One of the absolute WORST ad campaigns of the last few years springs to mind for some reason; the Dr. Scholl’s “I’m gellin'” campaign, in which only the “cool” people were “gellin'” and the uncool people might *say* (hopefully) that they too were “gellin’,” but were contemptuously dismissed as “not gellin'” by the “cool” people.

    Somehow, that campaign did not seem to last very long.

    I wonder why that was.

  90. Matt W
    February 17, 2015 at 12:46 pm
    “To be fair to Lehman, mass-market commercial sci-fi and fantasy does lean leftward. While it’s certainly possible to point out right-leaning authors, the vast majority of published fiction leans left.”

    Sorry, I’m going to have to call that out as an assertion without proof.

    (The rest of my long comment here isn’t directed at you specifically, Matt. It’s more in the way of me being exasperated by this sort of unquestioned assertion. It happens a lot. Hell, I do it a lot myself. Humans, man, we are not good with the big picture.)

    Does a lot of contemporary SF/F put forth “SJW” sort of inclusivity and diversity? Certainly more now than at the end of last century. But overall? Really? Have you not read the many, many, many takedowns available on the internet of, for instance, much of the highly popular “grimdark” subgenre? From the “only men did anything interesting in a medieval world!” approach to characterization, to the unquestioned assumption that absolute monarchy is a great form of government, it’s hard to call a lot of that genre left-leaning.

    (Note: I love grimdark. Honest I do. And indeed some of it does lean socially left. But jeepers, not hardly a preponderance of it!)

    And let us not forget that our Fine Host here, upstanding, dress-wearing feminist that he is, nonetheless made his original chops on books with straight white (well, sometimes green, but nominally white) dudes in the lead role.

    If there’s a perception that maybe now there are more SF/F books presenting diversity and espousing politics of shared culture, that may be because they’re noticeable after a hundred years (and counting!) of White Straight Dudes Doing Important Stuff.

    Speaking as a lefty myself, the problem as I see it isn’t in books where the Manly White Dude Hero gets his killing on against the Dark Skinned Barbarian Hordes, or gets his sexytimes on with a woman whose willingness to be there is dubious. Those are open and obvious and not hard for people to see the problems in.

    I’m far more concerned with the books where the Manly White Dude Hero is a decent guy, but he’s the star of 90% of the books in his genre. I’m more concerned when the left-leaning books that sell well are, nonetheless, penned by white dudes. (I loves me some Jim Hines and Scott Lynch, but I suspect had their books been written by Jane Hines and Sara Lynch, their sales might not be as great.)

    I’m more concerned that a book written by a woman will get a different sort of cover than a similar book written by a man (even if the book has a female main character). That a book by and starring a Black man or woman will be marketed as if the expected audience is only Black readers.

    Yes, exceptions exist. But they are exceptions, and notable thereby. Exceptions by definition do not constitute a trend.

  91. I didn’t read all of the comments carefully, but did it bother anybody else that Sad Puppy seems to not understand the difference bwtween the words “where” and “were?”

    Maybe grammar and word usage are “soft sciences” that he can’t be bothered with.

  92. Kevin Hicks, et al:

    Let’s not harp too much on grammar errors. I make my share and often don’t notice them until someone else points them out later.

  93. Again, I am genuinely flummoxed why so many people who are ostensibly so in love with the concept of free markets appear to have a genuinely difficult time with this. It’s not all illuminati, people. It never was.

    We ARE talking about people who make a habit out of appropriating pieces of science and hilariously misapplying them to suit their “We’re so tough and they not” babble without realising how silly they look. If they can do that to evolutionary science and biology, why not economics?

  94. …biology must be both since turtles are hard, but bunnies are soft. So he is arguing that turtles will win in the end, since bunnies are fast but get distracted easily? Am I doing this right?

    Turtles will win. Turtles are hardhats.

  95. This is just beyond weird. For the record, I’m as pinko as the aforementioned Cory Doctorow. But the first book I ever checked out of the library by myself was a Heinlein juvenile (Have Spacesuit, Will Travel).

    What’s also amusing is that Heinlein showed a better understanding of the role of fiat money in economics in his SF (cf the scene in “Time Enough for Love” where Long starts burning currency notes) than the right wing seems to do in all their serious blathering on the subject.

  96. roninkakuhito: He makes a hard soft dichotomy on the basis of hard sciences make real things that get things done, and immediately claims that the people he opposes are making things and getting things done because they studied the soft sciences… his inconsistency is painful.

    Well, you can pretty much stop right there with that first clause – “getting things done” requires the soft sciences as much as the hard. The reoccuring fantasy of the lone backyard inventor who, say, invents antigravity and shoots off to Mars is as unrealistic as the means of travel in the Barsoom books.

    Kim Stanley Robinson is stellar is showing the social processes in progress, and I was amused by Steven Gould’s recent decon-recon of the trope in “Exo”.

  97. Kilroy: I really want a book written on the bad side that no one seems to be writing or publishing. Just the story of an orc or group of orcs sent to kidnap a hobbit and fail miserably. Why isn’t anyone writing and publishing this story for me?

    Ahem –!

  98. @kilroy: Also, you might try Jacqueline Carey’s Sundering series, which has as its basic premise, “What would a Tolkienesque fantasy be like, told from Sauron’s POV?”

  99. That linked blog was painful to read. After the first few paragraphs I just started skimming the text, and it turned out to be exactly the kind of whiny “Oh no, the SJWs are taking oooooover!” rant that I expected it would.

    There’s more than a bit of cognitive dissonance with the group of Right-wing authors that makes up Sad Puppies. The claim of them all having hard-science background while their opponents have soft-science backgrounds was especially silly: Last time I checked, two of the biggest Sad Puppies are *lawyers* (or rather, *failed* lawyers who now work as editors) and another is a frickin’ firearms instructor.

    Not exactly hard science backgrounds there, guys.

  100. DT Nova: Anyone who uses “social justice” in a pejorative term is pretty much admitting that they are on the side of injustice…

    Alas for your comment, people are using the term “Social Justice Warrior”, not “social justice”. A large portion of those mocking SJWs are all for social justice itself.

    Consider the term “Family Values”. If you mock a politician who sets themselves up as a “Family Values Candidate”, does that mean you are against families or values? If you are pro-family, does that mean you MUST agree with whatever rhetoric a “Family Values Candidate” spouts, and if you disagree, should you be shouted down as “anti-family”?

  101. Jennifer writes:

    Do you think the source writer is overestimating the influence of cons? I read about a dozen sf books a year and have never attended a con. I think most of us just read what we like and don’t worry about these events. The cons could be taken over by lizard people and we wouldn’t even notice.

    I think you are right for the most part, with the possible exception of whether you care whether a book is emblazoned with “Hugo winner” or “Hugo winning author”, etc.

    It is crazy to state that people who don’t attend cons aren’t real fans in that sense. That would describe the vast majority of fans.

    On he other hand, it can be useful sometimes to distinguish between people who are part of the SF con culture and those who are not, but those are also called fans, or sometimes fen in the plural. This can be a source of confusion.

  102. @Charlie Stross – (big fan, by the way): I’m not sure I’d agree with your characterization of Peter F. Hamilton as “right wing”. His bad guys tend to be Fundies of one sort or another, his viewpoint characters are more aligned with the post-scarcity utopian sorts.

    With Neal (not “Neil”) Asher, I can more see your point- but even with him, the viewpoint characters, if often violent, are in favour of inclusiveness (even across *species*, if you take the various AIs, cyborgs etc to be new species). I dunno what the dudebros would make of Asher- he has plenty of shoot-’em-up action and gore, but he doesn’t treat women just as window dressing or fucktoys, and his future humans are pretty racially diverse (in appearance, at least – they’re somewhat culturally homogeneous except for the separatists).

  103. That’s fair. My lunch came in below “no award,” too.

    That said, fewer contentless nonsense bits in the comment thread like the one directly above, please.

  104. The position of these things is always that the people who are calling to open up the market and make it bigger — to have more non-white authors and non-white protagonists and main characters in addition to the 80% white authors and protagonists, to have more representation on genders and disability, to have woman authors with women protagonists get better, less sexist marketing, more review coverage and opportunities — all to attract an even larger audience for SFFH — are painted as saying they want to “stridently” get rid of all the straight white men stories. And they want to make sure those don’t win awards (never mind that straight white men stories and authors do win awards regularly,) and can’t be noticed and make the market smaller, instead of bigger. Their argument is always that criticism of the market means that the critiquers are after them and will ruin everything!

    Instead of bringing them more readers. Because readers who are attracted to reading about non-white or female or disabled protagonists don’t necessarily just stick to those. Once readers come in on one book, they browse and they diversify, which is why fiction markets are symbiotic. I’m pretty sure that all the right-wing authors don’t mind black people reading their work. At least I hope not. So why are they against black (and white) readers reading other works and having books with black protagonists on hand? Again, they would say that they aren’t against that. But then why, if they aren’t, do they get upset when fans and authors point out the difficulty in getting black protagonists in an 80% white person market and getting them marketing attention when one has one?

    Again, they claim it isn’t difficult, even though those types of books make up only a tiny part of the market, which given the actual human population is just weird, and shows a discriminatory bias on behalf of publishers, not a commitment to diversity. And they claim that it’s not just about adding black protagonists, etc., as a goal, but eliminating straight white male ones. They don’t have any evidence of this, but man, are they sure it’s lurking. It isn’t happening in publishing, where 80% of the books are still SWM stories, but man, are they sure it’s lurking any second now.

    Of course, I don’t really think that they think it’s lurking. It’s just useful rhetoric in an overall political battle that has little to do with SFFH itself. It’s really weird, though, these pieces of “we must be brave and go backwards!” Especially in science fiction.

  105. For what it’s worth, I can understand most of the annoyance about Ancillary Justice. I think I must be the only left-leaning SF fan that wasn’t terribly crazy about the book.

    I tried to read it. The story was interesting, and I love Posthuman-SF and I thought the Radchaii’s mythology and culture were kind of fascinating , but the pronoun thing became more and more annoying as I went. It felt so forced and ham-fisted, which was only made worse by the fact that the narrative flow was broken every few pages by an infodump explaining why Breq seemed to obsess about gender.

    I found it cringe-worthy and forced when, even after expressly stating that Seivaarden was male, Breq continued to refer to him as “she” and “her”.

    Also, just in general, I found the premise that a fragment of a superintelligent AI using a cyborg human as it’s vessel would have trouble with gender in language kind of ridiculous. Real-life humans, even not-particularly intelligent ones, regularly learn multiple languages with way more complex gender rules than English, and don’t have any sort of problem with this. The rules for it almost every language are pretty consistent and simple to follow. It isn’t rocket-science or something that requires much (or any) amount of algorithms or calculations to figure out.

    After about a 100 pages I gave up and just found a summary of the book online and read that instead. Seems like a story that I would have really enjoyed.

    Maybe it would be easier to read in German or Swedish, since those languages have usable neutral-pronouns.

  106. @JS: Please aggregate your posts in the future — multiple sequential posts make me twitchy. Thanks.

    Bugger. Sorry. Noted now.

    @Seebs: [Re SJWs] This is an actual problem, weird though it might sound; you can find some glorious examples on tumblr. – real or parody?

    @Chris S. @Kilroy and @ Greg Leon Guerrero – try the (oddly named) Mary Gentle, Grunts, for an Orc’s eye view.

    Or, for a slightly less comic version, this – A well-written inventive series worth a read in itself, plus it will make the Sad Puppies cry since it’s definitely “Pink” fantasy.

  107. This is why I love Whatever. Thanks for all the great suggestions, and solid evidence that there is room for everything in SF/F

  108. Regarding the original topic, the kind of language and talking points that the guy uses aren’t really any different than what you’d find on Fox News or Talk radio.

    The whole Sad Puppies thing is part of the dying, last-gasp of extreme conservatism. It’s the SF-equivalent of the Tea Party. Or the SF-equivalent of Iran continuing to call it’s secret-service the “Revolutionary Guard”, even though the revolution is now the establishment.

    When your entire worldview is basically about maintaining the status quo and stopping change from happening, you have to manufacture threats to maintain your siege-mentality.

  109. Phoenician Romans @ 4:25pm:

    Ah, but the “Family Values” candidates gave themselves the title. Of course they’re going to claim to be for family values. (Whether they actually are is a different story, and depends who’s telling it and how it’s being read.)

    But the “Social Justice Warrior” moniker was created as a pejorative by the folks who are opposed to them! Therefore those folks are expressly stating that they oppose social justice.

    Really, every SJW I know pretty much adores the term (with a few exceptions who prefer “Social Justice Wizard/Druid/Rogue/Bard/etc”). It’s funny when people try to denigrate you by calling you, basically, “Awesome Person Who Does Awesome Things.”

    One of the traits of the Sad Puppies team (who, if I’m not mistaken, dubbed themselves that? At the least they do seem to refer to themselves that way) is their odd ignorance of what words mean.

  110. Sort of like when people say “Progressive” like it’s a swear word, dripping with contempt.

    It sounds ridiculous and I want to laugh when I hear that. Yes, making progress is good. Why wouldn’t you want to? Keeping things the same or going backwards… why would you want to go back to doing things the old way, when the old way *didn’t work*, and never really worked?

  111. Mr. Manny:

    So when we talk about humankind in general, in English, we use the masculine pronouns “he” and “him” to refer to humans as a group. Such as “When an author wants to publish a book, he often goes looking for an agent,” even though we mean both male and female authors. Some people still use “Mr. Jeff and Virginia Wells” as an address. You don’t find all that cringe-worthy or forced. Many languages, such as French and Spanish, attach gendered articles and suffixes to nouns other than human beings. You don’t find that cringe-worthy or forced.

    And yet, an empire which uses “she” and “her” instead of “he” and “him” as the general collective pronoun, and which does not have the concept of gender in its language — does not distinguish between biological sexes in speech or culture or dress — you find cringe-worthy and forced as an idea? If she’d called all the characters “he” and “him” instead, would that have been forced? Or would it just be more what you were used to? The idea was to put readers out of their language and more into the world of the story.

    Also, Breq didn’t have problems understanding that other languages use gender pronouns, when its didn’t. It had problems remembering the right words used in that particular language/culture for different biological sexes, because it no longer had the easy speed of its massive ship brain, being just a fragment bound in one body/brain. Since different cultures that had been sucked into the Empire used gender differently (not necessarily a straight binary gender split in language,) it had to remember how that particular culture saw gender, as well as biological sex. And it had to do it really well so that it seemed as human as possible.

    What’s fun about the book is that you get to randomly assign biological sexes to the characters in the book for the most part, giving everybody something of a different experience of it. Because most of the book has no interest in gender at all. Because that’s the point — a story in which gender and biological sex don’t matter. That’s forced in the sense that it is different from most Earth cultures, but that’s part of what science fiction can do. It’s a lot more exploratory than cringing. (And you would have liked the action in the book, yes.)

  112. @MrManny – I agree with you re: Ancillary Justice. I liked the plot overall, but Breq’s constant misgendering of Seivaarden came across as insenstive and jarring, and I had a hard time getting into the story as a result. It reminded me of a friend of mine, who after coming out as trans, had to deal with his relatives constantly using female pronouns for him, and how attitudes like that are a major issue for trans/agender/genderqueer folks. It also seriously lowered my opinion of Breq as a character, and made me a little leery of reading more of Leckie’s work (especially when contrasted to Seanan McGuire’s novels, who are urban fantasy, but who is probably the best author I know in regards to writing trans characters). It made me uncomfortable, and that’s not what I look for in a good story.

    On the subject of hard vs soft science fiction – I have an inkling that the post writer’s main distinction in hard vs soft is more or less % of women – I’ve noticed how a lot of people in academia are starting to consider animal science/biology/zoology more of a soft science, which seems to coincide well with the rising percentages of women in these programs. (It’s interesting reading animal science literature from the 50’s vs today – and seeing those attitudes, too) Heck, even in the engineering dept I started out in, chemical/biomedical engineering was seen as “softer” and “less rigorous” than say, mechanical engineering or civil engineering, and coincidentally, was the only engineering program where women outnumbered men. At least in my experience as a PhD student, this trend seems to hold fairly well, especially when discussing it with other female grad students across various disciplines. It may also be a generational thing – at my most recent conference in modeling of nutrition, the professors/PIs were 90% male, but the grad students were an even gender split.

  113. Holy mother of whatever. That was a lot of words. To think of all of the wonderful tales that you could be telling if you did not have to fight the good fight.

    Thank you.

  114. Steve:

    Heh. As I’ve been writing on Whatever for all the time I’ve been writing novels, writing on one typically does not reduce the output on the other.


    We’re wandering a bit, re: Ancillary Justice. The discussion is high-quality but beginning to drift off from the primary topic, I think. Let’s go ahead and tighten up, please.

  115. Yeah, I’m not quite sure who he was calling to. It seems like he has a problem with everyone, and depends on the reader to know if they are a “true fan” or not, which is confusing and highly subjective.

  116. One of my great joys in life is arguing with smart people who disagree with me. (It’s the best way to actually learn something. More people should try it.)

    The corollary to that is I’m perfectly comfortable enjoying books, movies, music and other media from a variety of viewpoints. Listening to Rage Against the Machine doesn’t make me less of a libertarian, the Narnia books don’t make me less of an atheist, reading John Ringo doesn’t make me less of a feminist and watching Star Trek doesn’t make me less of a capitalist — but at least I’m open to the possibility that they might convince me otherwise. In the meantime, I get crunchy guitars and fun stories.

  117. @Kat Goodwin: What a great observation. It’s not about crowding out the old guard; it’s about expanding the market and making more space for everyone, not less for anyone.

  118. Kat Goodwin: Er, minor and off-the-topic point, probably unnecessary for you in particular, but as someone who teaches grammar I find I can’t let it pass–the traditional “generic masculine” is now considered a grammar error, and so noted as “sexist language” in pretty much all grammar handbooks published in the last 10 years (that long I’m sure of; quite possibly longer). I’m as aware as you that it still gets used but–officially an error. FWIW.

    I now return you all to your regularly scheduled topic . . . sorry.

  119. I’ll say it again. I think most authors who engage in this do it for marketing to drive eyeballs to their sites and go ‘buy my books’ because I am a vicar of such and such a view. I think alot of fans fall for that. I think you engage in this too John. You don’t go as far as others, but there is alot of blogosphere twitterite wars that get you publicity. There are others that go a lot farther.

    I think there is quite a bit from the left going to the right here. This leads to some guys on the right to get fed up and just ‘ok its time for the nerd war’. I have no idea about this guy. I never heard of him. There are quite a few people on the left who make blog posts claiming they want to exclude conservatives and then attack their books due to their political views. Then the other side goes back. There are really obnoxious posts back and forth. I look at some of it and I’m think… its the internet, just go outside.

    I am not really sure any of the authors care. I think its all marketing. So fans stop buying books based on people doing this. I also have seen the press pick up on some of this. This is more publicity. So free publicity is good publicity. So its not going to stop. Apparently it sells books.

  120. Dangit, I’m a practicing engineer, does this mean I don’t get to read “The End of All Things?” I was looking forward to it, too… I’ll have to tell my friends that are scientists that they aren’t allowed to read your stuff anymore, either…

    On a separate, less sarcastic note, Baen also publishes Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, who are not, from what I have read on their blog, conservative at all.

  121. Guess:

    I do just fine with publicity outside of what I write here, I assure you. I write what I do here because I want to. Does it get attention? Yup, from time to time. But I don’t go “I need some attention, I think I’ll write something to shake things up.” For one thing, you never know what’s going to be popular (when I taped bacon to my cat, I had no idea the Internet would go loopy about it, for example). For another, I don’t actually care if it’s massively attention-getting. I know pretty well what the value of writing here is for my book sales (and it is: neutral at best, unless I am specifically drawing attention to a new book).

    All of which is to say I suspect you overvalue the publicity value of this (or any) blog in terms of sales.

  122. @kat goodwin: very well said! Even if it was a didactic, polemical novel AJ would be good, but really it’s not that; it’s essentially an exciting space opera. Sure, it’s not an apolitical story, but its politics are far less aggressive, obnoxious, and explicit than those of several other recent space opera series I could name, not to mention being much more nuanced and interesting. The playing around with the notion of default syntactic gender is a very gentle poke indeed at our society, far less aggressive than the social criticism in a typical Iain Banks or Ken MacLeod novel. The realization most readers come to that any gender would do for most of the characters is very natural and unforced. If Heinlein had done it (and he might well have, too, had it occurred to him) no one would complain at all.

  123. From where I sit (on the outside) SFnal things look pretty tense in general. I’ve seen and heard complaints about con dynamics that had nothing to do with puppydom – including some posts by authors saying they were not going to a con again, or in one case to any cons at all, until the current infighting died down. These were not right-wing authors, so far as I could tell.

    And I may be reading too much into 140 characters, but didn’t you tweet a few weeks ago that you had ‘dodged a bullet’ by not discussing an issue in the field?

    Anyway, picking on the puppies is diverting but it looks to me as if something more serious is going on.

  124. I love his slogan: “Hack us off, are we not pricks?”

    I really think that means you were pricks and that might be why you are sad puppies.

    Epic. Approaching Vox Popoli levels.

  125. First: “First go read this” NO! I have to deal with a number of bran damaged people on a daily basis and make a point of not voluntarily subject myself to more. I know, that makes me a bad person but I am OK with that.

    Second: I have read enough of this sort of sludge to know what the real issue is. “I am right and all you people are trying to destroy the world as it should be! Because I m so right I know that everyone agrees with me and my thinking! Therefore it must be a small cabal of eeeeeeeevil that have used unfair methods to take away what we all know to be right” That is why he believes there is anything to take back.

  126. I guess I’m not as upset with the Sad Puppy thing as others are. Yes they have a strong ideology they are working with, but I’ve read a lot of authors with strong ideologies. I don’t think the efforts of the Sad Puppies is going to diminish the work of diversifying the field. I feel thinking that Sad Puppies is the end of diversity if being a little paranoid–at least as much as the Sad Puppies thinking there is some sort of conspiracy.

    In fact, I think Sad Puppies will ultimately help diversify it. I like that they are making more people aware of the Hugos. I don’t care for all the rhetoric they use to do it, but I can ignore that if I work at it. It’s getting people involved.

    Sad puppies has caused some people in fandom to wake up. A lot of people are apathetic about what is getting published and about the Hugo awards. Where I live, no one knows what the Hugos are except me and few friends, since I can account for every Worldcon membership in my State using Sasquan’s data. Getting more people involved is the only way to make certain it’s still working. I would love to see tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of people voting in the Hugos who come from all over the world. Not a few people here and there.

    But maybe I don’t feel as threatened as some.

  127. Funny thing is, he quoted the Foundation serie, which is the opposite of Hard Sci-fi, with few if not none scientific details and it’s basically sociology + edward gibbons in space (and it’s probably the best science fiction piece ever in my book).

  128. The comments by @Beej and @Geekhyena resonate the most with me. I am also in the cohort that watched ST:TOS on its first broadcast, and I can attest that there are reasons that “they DIDN’T go to engineering schools”, reasons that unfortunately still survive today. The same people that Mr. Whinging McStamperson complains about as Ruining Everything Now were often turfed off when they revealed that they had an interest in what we now label as STEM classes. My own math and science teachers in high school were unbiased and encouraging to us all, but that was far from true for the culture as a whole. The gatekeeping and pigenonholing began early and was relentless. Good luck trying to get a Radio Shack electronics kit or a Heathkit as a birthday present, if you happened to be a girl. There may be lots of families where that wasn’t true, and good for them, but the Big Message from the culture as a whole was that Girls Didn’t Do That. (Even today — you can be a rocket scientist, but if you are a woman, it’s still SOP that the lede for your obituary mentions your beef stroganoff recipe instead of your techie skills.)

    As @Beej said, Star Trek was the big exception, because you could see women and people of color in space. Much later, I learned that there had been American women astronaut candidates, even as early as the Mercury program, who didn’t get a chance to fly. (Much later, it was also pointed out to me that there used to be a time when it was so rare to see a black person on TV, black families would call each other up to talk about it.)

    It is hypocritical and churlish to deny groups of people access to something and then complain that they didn’t take part. I learned everything I could about the space program, and watched every launch that was televised all the way through the end of the Apollo program; I also watched Star Trek and read SF and was interested in techie things. I was the person in my family who had to explain what was going on in a Star Trek episode because no one else in the household could make sense of it. But somehow Star Trek belongs to Mr. Whinging McStamperson and not to me. Go figure.

    Oh, how the world of tech has fallen. We used to have J. Robert Oppenheimer quoting the Bhagavad Gita; today we have self-appointed champions of techie things writing “Hack us off, are we not pricks?” Seriously, Angry Dude?

  129. I’m circling back around, JS. It’s relevant because it’s the idea of what’s allowed in SF, with what is “allowed” tending to be the what was familiar and vaunted as the only ideal, and what should be “disallowed” being when authors play with the less familiar, and devalued aspects.

    Geekhyena: First off, that’s an excellent screenname. :) Second, Leckie isn’t trying to misgender the male character. She is creating a society in which there are biological sexes, as a physical reality, but there is no cultural or linguistic concept of gender. It doesn’t matter what sex you are or become or who you have sex with — none of that is considered shaping of your identity in that society. It doesn’t matter what clothes you wear because the clothes aren’t gendered, etc. And the gender neutral (because they don’t have gender,) is a feminine word, which flips our English language which uses the collective masculine gender — and misgenders/discounts women. And that challenges readers’ assumptions that characters should not only have a biological sex but an iron-clad definition of gender to their society.

    English is a gendered language and it is also masculine centered. While grammar books may be updated, Mary Francis, the collective “he” is still used extensively, in mags and newspapers, etc., as is the word “mankind” for human kind, and remains in thousands of older novels. Leckie removed gender and flipped our notions of the familiar with the feminine collective, which in Leckie’s culture is not a gendered word. And that lets Leckie get at the central issues of the story about the nature of consciousness and free will from a different angle. It’s exploratory and people found it interesting and reflective of science fiction’s approach of constructing new realities and perspectives. It’s alien to what we know, which fits the story. And some people found that not a gimmick but a praiseworthy experiment in storytelling that is one part of the things they liked about the novel. Breq itself is neither male nor female, and definitely has neither gender.

    But the culture warriors do not like that feminine flip and feel that the existence of it and the book’s success somehow threatens the rest of the market. That’s not what Mr. Manny is doing — Mr. Manny just didn’t like the language flip (which I am pointing out does have a cultural component — male collective noun isn’t forced but normal, female collective noun is considered strange) — but it is what the article writer is doing. That sort of experimentation is a problem because it moves out of the most familiar, and the assertion is that it will therefore swamp out and destroy the familiar, instead of just be one part of the market and further growing the market. The assertion is that it will crowd out the rest on the awards, rather people simply liking what Leckie did. The liking of the novel is considered the threat. Criticism of the market’s enforced lack of diversity, and of being called fake geeks for being female, etc., is termed an “attack.” The outsiders are invading and they will/have move in and kick out the insiders, instead of again growing the market and improving the market conditions for everybody, not just one group.

    That’s the whole essence — they are taking over and we have to take it back. Leckie’s language and culture play with a genderless collective feminine is “taking over” instead of just a way to tell a story. And it has to be stopped from something like that being considered worth awards because then things not like that will not win awards. Which statistically isn’t true and isn’t going to be true, but the important thing is to insist there’s a threat.

    Okay, I’ll move on from that; I just felt it was related since Leckie’s work gets singled out a lot since it got a lot of attention on this dimension.

    My understanding is that “sad puppy” refers to the social justice warriors, not the ones unhappy with them. The SJWs are supposedly puppies whining all the time over imagined wrongs and troubles. The purpose of the “Sad Puppy Slate” was to nominate writers whose work/political views would make the social justice warriors cry like sad puppies. Of course, a number of the writer/artists being put on the slate don’t actually have views that make social justice warriors unhappy and even if they do, many of them apparently did not want to be put on the voting slate as recommendations touting them as on board with it. But also apparently, unlike Robert Heinlein or Captain Kirk, they don’t get to choose. I don’t have a problem with the Sad Puppy Slate; I do still have a problem with authors being forced on it.

  130. Ah, the mating call of the entitled white prick – “It’s not faaaaaaairrr!”

    Colour me unimpressed. I’m not a participant in con culture (I’m in Australia and on a low income, plus I have a bundle of neuroses which mean public events with lots of people make my brain gibber in a corner of my skull) and these days I don’t even read much conventionally published science fiction and fantasy (see “low income” above; also, trying to reclaim storage space which currently means a major culling of the book collection rather than purchasing new product), but I’ve been a fan of the genre from way back. I’m enjoying the way the genre is mainstream these days.

    And this is my point: these guys who are so worried about their pwecious genre having been overrun by social justice types? They appear to be unaware they’ve won. The most popular movies out there these days (not necessarily the award winners, except in the case of special effects, but the ones which make the money and keep the studios going) are ones with science fiction and fantasy themes (or do they somehow think costumed superheroes, battling mecha, magical princesses and interstellar travel are the sorts of things you see on the news?). The majority of popular computer games (particularly the MMOs) have science fiction and fantasy elements – heck, the entire nature of computerised gaming is science fictional at its core. Television shows with science fictional and fantastic elements are big earners these days. Comics are big business (at times, almost despite the efforts of Marvel and DC). Board games, tabletop games and merchandise aren’t weird niche interests – they’re mainstream stuff which does good business and keeps people employed. You won, guys. It’s mainstream now.

    Which, I suspect, is the problem. These days they aren’t “special” for liking science fiction, they’re just one of the guys. References to Star Trek and Star Wars aren’t some kind of secret code they can use to talk in front of the bewildered and show off their knowledge of esoterica – they’re common cultural currency. They aren’t the big fish in a small pond any more, and now they can’t use their knowledge of science fiction or fantasy esoterica as an excuse for why other people won’t spend time with them. Their inadequacies are right up there, front and centre, particularly in their own minds, and there’s no more whitewash to cover them over.

    So they blame the people who are pointing out some of the flaws which have been present in the genre all along, and which have made it less than comfortable for a lot of people who might otherwise have enjoyed it (such as women, people of colour, non-heterosexual people and so on). The vast majority of Social Justice activists tend to be offering their information to content creators in the helpful spirit of consumer advice – “I’d like to see more of X, please” or “I’d buy X (or more X) if it had more Y in it” – the content creators don’t have to take this advice, but oddly enough, the ones who do sell a bit better than the ones who don’t, possibly because they reach a wider audience. It’s simple mathematics (something an engineering type should be able to comprehend) – if we posit that science fiction and fantasy themes will sell to approximately 20% of any given group, then in order to make the most money, you ensure that the range of groups you’re selling to are as diverse as possible. Which means, for example, not limiting yourself solely to works which will appeal to middle-aged, upper-middle class, white, male, engineering graduates, of a(n always) rightish political leaning, who don’t want to see women or people of colour in their stories about their idealised visions of who they used to be or could have been.

  131. Jan Murphy:

    It is hypocritical and churlish to deny groups of people access to something and then complain that they didn’t take part. I learned everything I could about the space program, and watched every launch that was televised all the way through the end of the Apollo program; I also watched Star Trek and read SF and was interested in techie things. I was the person in my family who had to explain what was going on in a Star Trek episode because no one else in the household could make sense of it. But somehow Star Trek belongs to Mr. Whinging McStamperson and not to me. Go figure.

    This is the entire essence of it. Well written, JM.

  132. @Kat Goodwin

    “You don’t find all that cringe-worthy or forced.”

    Yes, yes I do. Don’t make assumptions about what I think.

  133. Something else I just thought of… the Sad Puppies are, essentially, running a election campaign. Except that nobody is actually running for office.

    Plucking at the emotional strings of their devoted readers, organizing “get out the vote” campaigns (essentially), trying to appeal to the shared political values of fence-sitters, meanwhile accusing the perceived opponents of being cheaters and/or dishonest for doing the same thing.

    In essence, the same thing as when one party organizes voting campaigns and get churches to vote-stump for them, while at the same time accusing predominantly opposing-party districts of voter fraud whenever a voting drive is organized there.

  134. In my view there’s an elephant in the room; John mentioned it in his review of the educational backgrounds but no-one has picked up the gauntlet and the time has come to do so.


    We need to recognise that accountants are insidiously infiltrating SF and Fantasy, leaving no-one safe. One moment it’s double entry bookkeeping, and the next thing you know it’s trial balances, and the rest is history.

    Sadly I am indisposed at the moment, so I can’t lead the mission, but I know that someone out there feels the Hand of Destiny on his or her shoulder. Rise to the challenge and prevail, Dude or Dudess, and know that our hearts are with you!

  135. I once felt the Hand of Destiny on my shoulder, but then the hand told me I would have to level grind for at least 4 weeks before I could begin, and I was like “No thanks, Hand.”

  136. @Stevie–Am I the only one who now has the Pirate Accountants song from Monty Python in my head?

  137. @megpie71 — I think there’s a lot of that going on these days–the whole Gamergate mess in particular embodies this. “I’m being shunned because of my interest in games!” No, you’re being shunned because you’re an asshat that people don’t want to be around, not because of your hobby. Everybody and their cousin plays games now, it makes more money than God, it’s not special.

    Problem is that when something goes mainstream, suddenly people who might have put up with your crap (not you, but the general you) because you could converse about Star Trek can now get that anywhere, and don’t need to put up with crappy behavior as the price of admission. So cons get harassment policies and people say “Maybe we don’t need to put up with this awful crap any longer,” and people who are being forced to confront that their investment in fandom is no longer enough to excuse their lack of investment in not being an asshat.

    I won’t say that’s everybody–I don’t think it is, by any stretch!–but I’ve been seeing a fair amount of it go by.

  138. Thank you, my fellow engineers, for confirming that we are possessed of a variety of political inclinations, not all of them Neanderthalish.

    I know I’m out of touch sometimes, but just when did “social justice warrior” become a pejorative? What else changed when I wasn’t looking? Is “civil rights leader” a bad thing now? How about “philanthropist” or “saint” or “pillar of the community”? Is there a convenient online reference to tell us what means the exact opposite of what it did five minutes ago?

  139. Kat Goodwin: Oh, I agree that the generic masculine is still in use! I think I said as much? But as someone who has to correct students’ grammar on a regular basis, I just thought it was worth pointing out that this particular usage is no longer accepted as correct. (It is also true that I just couldn’t help myself–sorry.) As I said, FWIW. By the way (to try to keep this to the topic), I also suspect that some of the same people who are offended by Leckie’s pronouns, who feel under attack by “SJWs” in their beloved genre, would also blame the people who are “ruining” SFF for that particular grammar shift and/or see it as one of the Signs That Standards Have Been Abandoned. Maybe not, but it’s possible, at least.

  140. @Kat Goodwin : Of course, a number of the writer/artists being put on the slate don’t actually have views that make social justice warriors unhappy and even if they do, many of them apparently did not want to be put on the voting slate as recommendations touting them as on board with it.

    To his great credit, Dave Creek stated that he didn’t want to be associated with these asshats. As I understand it, Correia quietly dropped him from the list without telling his sycophants why, and the RSHD postured with the usual misrepresentation and shit-flinging that he thinks shows off his “intelligence”.

  141. This blog post and the extended discussion in the comments caused me to seek out the Sad Puppy Slate for this year. I readily concede that I haven’t read any of the books or stories on this slate; but then, there are incredibly huge numbers of books and stories and articles I haven’t read that were published in 2014. It’s the nature of the field.

    My curiosity did lead me to check out one of the books in the “related works” category: John Wright’s Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth. One of the Amazon reviews of the book quotes one essay in which Wright writes: “girls who do not like love stories are well advised to learn to like them, because such stories deal with the essential and paramount realities on which much or most of that girl’s happiness in life will hinge.” Yikes! If that’s a sample of what is in store here, I am not inclined to spend $4.99 to purchase the book for my Kindle. After all, I’m a woman (not a girl, please note) whose happiness in life is certainly greater for the love of my beloved husband, but who was also very happy with a thriving career, thousands of books, great friends, frequent travel and an abundance of furry critters before he came into my life. The idea that I can’t be happy without a man — well, you know that old saying about fish and bicycles.

    So it appears that, once again this year, the slate has been chosen not with an eye toward the quality of the work in question, but as a means of sticking a thumb into the eye of those not likely to vote for the proposed slate. How does this win hearts and minds? Or is the battle the real end here, with persuasion not even intended? What does that prove?

  142. The author/whiner of the linked to blog seems to imply that ‘SJW’ type stuff came out of Britain, whereas a lot of my fellow Limeys of a whining disposition say ‘This SJW stuff, eh? Bloody America innit?’
    Using these coordinates, we can triangulate ‘SJW’s coordinates to somewhere in the mid-north Atlantic. I suggest we all be on the lookout for some manner of diversity-aware Cthulu/Kairu.

  143. I gotta say I was baffled at the assumption that women weren’t Star Trek fans. They started the fandom! They started conventions! They wrote fanfiction! That’s where slash and Mary Sues come from! There wouldn’t even be a Star Trek fandom without women, and this guy is upset that people want to take back his thing?!

    You stole it, mate, and now you’re whinging that it’s been given back.

  144. @PhoenicianRomans: There are several liberals on the slate that are not complaining. Its publicity and people like their stuff. I have also seen Larry Correia defend George RR Martin from racist claims and GRRM is pretty far to the left. They don’t define every liberal as an SJW. There are many people in the slate who don’t even talk politics. You will note that Larry Torgersons new book is in’t in it and he is one of the guys pulling for this.

    @Mary Frances: After the Hugos last year there were a number of people on Larry Correia’s forum who stated they voted for Ancillary Justice. You shouldn’t jump to conclusions. I have also seen Anne Leckie post in a forum defending Sad Puppies slate. There is likely alot of cross over fandom. That whole gender thing in her book was really not that big a part of the story in my opinion. There is alot of Heinlein in Leckie’s story…

    My only issue with Sad Puppies is that if Larry is nominated he really should go to World Con. I don’t think he usually goes. His fans won’t start attending unless authors he likes attends.

  145. One of the traits of the Sad Puppies team (who, if I’m not mistaken, dubbed themselves that? At the least they do seem to refer to themselves that way) is their odd ignorance of what words mean.

    It turns out that the Sad Puppies slate is called that because other slates theoretically make puppies sad. It’s an allusion to TV commercials that solicit donations.

    Also note that the Sad Puppies 3 slate isn’t oriented specifically toward politically conservative authors, though a couple of the more liberal people recommended have asked to be removed.

    despite the fact that this most libertarian of all science fiction and fantasy awards is regularly won by people who are not even remotely libertarian; shit, Cory Doctorow’s won it three times and he’s as pinko as they come.

    I’m not sure where you are going John. I haven’t read Homeland, but looking at the Prometheus press release, it sounds like the novel addresses Libertarian concerns.

    They gave an award to Leslie Fish too. As I understand Wobblies, they aren’t libertarians, but a great deal of her music addresses libertarian concern. The award makes perfect sense.

    MrManny writes:

    Sort of like when people say “Progressive” like it’s a swear word, dripping with contempt.

    It sounds ridiculous and I want to laugh when I hear that. Yes, making progress is good. Why wouldn’t you want to? Keeping things the same or going backwards… why would you want to go back to doing things the old way, when the old way *didn’t work*, and never really worked?

    Oddly enough, quite a few conservatives criticize progressivism as the old way that didn’t work, and find the term ironic.

    SJW is used as a pejorative by some who believe that those they describe as SJWs are pursuing an agenda that isn’t socially just. Obviously not everyone agrees with this characterization but I don’t think it’s a mystery why the might used the term that way.

  146. I’ll admit to being confused about the whole “Sad Puppies” thing. A few days ago I made one of my occasional visits to a blog of a novelist whose work I really like. He’s published by Baen and I think his work is entertaining and fun to read. Not deep profound life-changing stuff, but fun. I visit his blog periodically to see if he has anything new coming out so I can read it and perhaps buy it. And it’s clear that he’s trying very hard to earn a living and support his family by writing. So good for him.

    But his blog was all about the righteous Sad Puppies (I think he’s one) and how the SJWs (which from the context I gathered are somehow opposed to the Sad Puppies) are bad writers, and not really selling many books, and somehow conspiring to drag SF down into the depths of, of, of…well I’m not sure where, but it’s down to the depths, dammit. It’s clear that he and I have radically different views about social justice and whether it’s possible and a Good Thing or a Bad Thing. (n.b., I think it’s at least worth shooting for, he seems to think it’s impossible and violates basic human nature and is somehow demeaning to boot, or something like that).

    As background, I can say that while I can sometimes guess the political viewpoints of authors, that generally doesn’t effect my decision of whether or not to read their work. I only actually buy books by about 5 to 10 authors, the rest I get from those most socially just of public services, public libraries. Of the authors whose work I actually buy, at least 3 are published by Baen, at least two are LGBT, probably 2 are personally right of me on the political spectrum, at least 3 are left of me on the same spectrum, and the rest I have no bloody clue. And one’s dead, more’s the pity, so he has no political views at all any more. There are lots of authors with whose political views I agree whose books I’ve given up on because I don’t like their writing (same’s true for more than a few authors with whom I disagree). And at least 2 authors whose books I will never read again because their political views are abhorrent. But 95% of the time, it’s not politics, it’s just whether or not I like their stuff.

    So after all of that, I have two questions: 1) Are these self-described (I think) Sad Puppies actually opposed to those whom they describe as SJWs, or am I just mis-reading things? and 2) what’s the basis for their oft used claim that all of those SJW authors are winning awards while the same authors’ books and SFF publishing as a whole are suffering from declining sales? I mean our generous host seems to be doing OK sales-wise, as do Charlie Stross and Cory Doctorow. And I refuse to believe that Iain Banks didn’t generate decent sales for Orbit. So what’s the source for all this crowing about how ‘those people’s’ books aren’t selling well, thus demonstrating how real SF fans aren’t buying this stuff?

    What am I missing here?

  147. @Stevie – dammit, you outed me as an accountant! How can I secretly destroy SF from the inside now?

    I’m not sure what furballs the Sad Puppies slate will cough up this year – hopefully something better written than last time around. Just because you like the Golden Age of SF (whenever that was) doesn’t mean you can replace the Commie Russians with the Commie Chinese and be relevant. Or write a pulp novel with airships (though I like airships and brain out entertainment has it’s place) and expect that to win. Or a religious allegory (C.S.Lewis has that covered). Put something up that is innovative and well written, that I might have missed, and I’ll happily vote for it. Put up recycled badly written crap and you end up below no award.

  148. Not to double post, but “Oddly enough, quite a few conservatives criticize progressivism as the old way that didn’t work, and find the term ironic.”

    Isn’t the basis of conservative thought the notion that one shouldn’t change the established (i.e., ‘old’) way of doing things? So what we have here is an argument over WHICH old way of doing things sucked more?

    My brain hurts.

  149. @terryweyna

    If you really want to watch a train wreck in action, head over to that author’s blog and just starting reading entries. It’s a great way to make yourself lose a bit of faith in humanity.

    Of course, the title “Transhuman and Subhuman” is really clue enough that the author doesn’t consider certain people to really be human. Also pretty sure that author also suffers from some real, actual form of paranoid schizophrenia, and could probably use some professional help.

  150. Let’s be careful about diagnosing people based on blog posts, please.

    Also, as a heads up for folks, I’m going to turn off comments for the night when I head to bed. Because this is likely to be a thread that would sprout trolls, isn’t it.

  151. (Much later, it was also pointed out to me that there used to be a time when it was so rare to see a black person on TV, black families would call each other up to talk about it.)

    That thing’s universal, you know. See #FreshOffTheBoat.

    Food for thought wrt diverse viewpoints.

  152. Guess: Uh–what? I’m not surprised by your statement about Ann Leckie, et al. I’m aware that the whole pronoun thing in Ancilliary Justice shouldn’t be the focus of any discussion of the book, or of this discussion for that matter. I was talking about some of the people who were offended by Leckie’s pronoun flip possibly overlapping with some of the people who see the demise of the generic masculine as a sign of the End of Civilization As We Know It . . . and opining that some of that group may blame the so-called SJWs for both. That’s kind of based on my experience as a grammar teacher, having to defend the change in pronoun usage against people fuming about “those darn feminists” (appropriate expletive deleted), so again, FWIW.

    And I suspect that any more discussion of grammar development is likely to get us malleted for going too far off topic, so can I just say “sorry if I wasn’t clear” and we let it go?

  153. I’d like to put in a word for people who prefer to read books by authors with whose politics they generally agree. My attitude about this has always been that there are *already* more good books than I’ll ever have time to read. Why should I waste my limited reading time on things by people who consider me, or people I love, to be not quite human? “But you’ll miss a lot of terrific books that way”? Maybe. But I’ll have read a lot of OTHER terrific books. “Because reading outside your comfort zone is broadening”? Funny, that — I can find plenty of books that fall outside my comfort zone, or that stretch and challenge my mind, without having to go to authors who I find personally objectionable. Margaret Atwood, anyone?

    At root, this feels a lot like being told “but you’re a Better Person if you read books by authors whose politics you dislike!” And to that I say bullshit. My life, my reading, my decisions. You (general, not specific) don’t get a vote.

  154. @jamesworrad: Using these coordinates, we can triangulate ‘SJW’s coordinates to somewhere in the mid-north Atlantic. I suggest we all be on the lookout for some manner of diversity-aware Cthulu/Kairu.

    Don’t be silly – Cthulhu is too busy with certain genres of anime hentai…

  155. @Lee

    Good point you raise about how there are too many books to ever read, and so we shouldn’t waste time with books that either we don’t agree with, or that are simply structured in a way that, however interesting the story, the actual mechanics of reading it are tiresome.

    At the risk of sounding like a “casual”, shouldn’t we read what we enjoy? And thus, sometimes an otherwise perfectly fine book gets chucked because of a particular grammar choice of the author, if that grammar choice is irritating enough.

    Having said that, I made it through The Night Land, despite that work being an impenetrable mass of run-on sentences and byzantine labyrinth of hanging dependent clauses, although when it was over I felt like I’d done the mental equivalent of running a marathon. It kind of annoys me that some of the Sad Puppies authors like to claim that book as their own, and even talk about themselves being a Last Redoubt of some kind.

    It was a wonderful, mysterious book about an unimaginably distant future, and nobody gets to claim ideas that big and majestic and terrifying as “theirs”.

  156. Sorry, I know that was important, but let me squee out a bit at the thought of you writing for Baen–e-ARCs, cheap DRM-free ebooks, and the COVERS! My God, the covers…

  157. I’ve been reading Mr. Richardson’s comments at Mike Glyer’s post on this at File 770

    In said comments, he makes clear that what really makes him unhappy is the Australian Rules system of voting, The fact that Toni Weisskopf had a plurality of first place votes last year after the first round, but then went on to lose, seems to him to be the real crime:

    “Because in initial voting Toni weiskopf (sic) had more votes than the eventual winner. Which tells me that Aussie rules is bull****.”

    So now we know. A First past the post system of awards would be far more amenable to concerted voting by parties motivated to vote as a bloc (much like nominations are, now) than the current Australian Rules set up.

  158. Paul Weimer:

    I wasn’t able to find the comment you quote over there.

    However, if it is accurate, I don’t imagine we’re surprised by this, are we? How dare the Hugos run its final ballot on a system that does not favor an engineered push by a small segment of voters! Appalling! Unconscionable!

    It does appear to me that what happened is no one running the slate actually had a good understanding of how the Hugo balloting actually worked. I don’t really have much sympathy for someone who doesn’t understand how the system works complaining that the system is rigged when they don’t get their way.

  159. I did not see anyone complain about the australian rules voting. I saw it called weird. I thought it was weird the first time I saw it. You are blowing this out of proportion. If there is a complaint about the rules its few and far between. The system of voting is what it is. Its understandable for people to go ‘huh’? The first time you see it.

    Going off based on what one person said is what everyone thinks is lame. I expected to see a point system. 5 points for first place down to 0 for 6th (behind no awards). I’m not sure how different the results are for this system vs that. In the US that is something we see quite a bit of so it makes more sense to alot of people. I think the Australian rules would have similiar results, but it takes a while to see what its doing.

    I think I counted a dozen posts by people with do you want fries with that degrees hating on those of us with useful degrees which allows us to get better paying jobs. How the hell did people who actually had degrees where you had to study in school become the enemy of the free liberals of middle SF? I feel like I need to hide my diploma or someone may break into my house steal it and throw it in a volcano. Even Charles Stross made a crack. That isn’t pointed at you John.

  160. @John. Sorry, I should have linked to the individual comment, not to the blog post. Looks like it went to the “older comments” is the comment in question. (For documentary purposes, I’d hate to be accused of putting words in his mouth)

    Maybe veering offtopic, but my gut reaction is that the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies are learning from last year’s results and refining methods. (the larger number of nominees on their proposed works for example, and in more categories)

    But as I have said elsewhere–its voting and nominating on purely ideological grounds that gets *my* goat.

  161. megpie71, thanks for your succinct and clear summation of the vague thoughts that have been rumbling around in the back of my mind since reading this yesterday. I, too, came away from that awful screed thinking “gee, this sounds like to me like a bunch of folks who used to get beat up on the playground in elementary school and who consoled themselves by describing themselves as The Smart Ones who were better than everyone else.” Sure, gender and race are a big part of that, but at least in my head, it all goes back to a bunch of socially awkward guys who were annoyed because females weren’t interested in them and POC got scholarships when they didn’t. And now those uncooperative females and uppity Black folks are getting attention and readers and awards, and oh noes, the Really Really Smart social misfits are being shut out AGAIN.

    Yes, I’m filtering that through my own experience, of course, and unquestionably there are political aspects as well. But I think a big part of it is just guys who’d really like to convince themselves and everyone else that they’re better than everyone else, and it isn’t working as well as it used to back in the day.

  162. Paul Weimer:

    Ah, I see it now, thank you.

    If the sad puppies slate response to its ignominous showing last year is to create a wider, generally worthy list of works to consider, I don’t see that as a bad thing. Mind you, their problem is that if their list is too diffuse (i.e., includes works that others have independently nominated) the amount of credit they can take for the nomination or possible win is low. Which would not stop them, of course. Part of their gig is to try to give the slate legitimacy as a tastemaker. I don’t imagine they would have any problem walking in front of a parade and imagining they are leading it.


    “do you want fries with that degrees”

    Pot meet kettle, there, Guess. And as my degree is in philosophy, one of the great useless degrees, I would suggest not correlating type of degree with better paying jobs. Note also that people are responding to an “us v. them” characterization by the original essayist, so feel free to take complaints to him as well. Personally speaking, I don’t think type of degree correlates to much of anything in terms of what sort SF one reads or enjoys; as noted in my very first comment, the fellow’s formulation falls down just looking at the authors he would likely characterize as being on his side.

  163. Again, I am genuinely flummoxed why so many people who are ostensibly so in love with the concept of free markets appear to have a genuinely difficult time with this.

    Because they know that the stuff they like is the most popular, and other works are just injected into the stream by SJWs and other nefarious agents of political correctness. Therefore, the observed fact that what they like isn’t selling like it “should” demonstrates that the market isn’t free and outside influences are unfairly affecting what’s bought & sold.

  164. Honestly, chasing the comment thread at file770, I’m entirely sympathetic to frustration with some aspects of the Hugos–the administration process, at least, is mired in a pre-internet era, but I have been thoroughly convinced that trying to change that would take more time and energy than I would give to anything short of surviving the zombie apocalypse. Standlee is a good dude, but that is some scary sausage getting made.

    But those aren’t the elements that the Puppies are frustrated with. “I hate that dinosaur story and it did well so there must be something wrong with the system!” isn’t a tenable position. You can train your sour grapes to believe that they’re a well-thought out opinion, but they’re still just gonna be trained grapes.

  165. Hi John! Long time fan, first time poster. I had a revelation a week or so ago–the SPs are the Kanye West of Hugo politics. If they don’t personally like (for whatever reason) something that wins an award, it can’t possibly be as worthy as something they do like. And, like Kanye, they are oft rude about stating their opinions. Last year, I tried very hard to engage in rational conversation on the subject, pointing out, for instance, how some of their assertions about How Publishing Works were just plain wrong. To no avail. I’ve given up.Thank you for your common sense and cogency here–but I suspect they will also be no avail…

  166. I’ve got to agree with John on Baen’s covers. Some are really nice but most are meh, to me, and I absolutely refuse to buy a copy of a book by my very favorite author with one cover image on the front cover. I reluctantly now own a copy with it on the back cover but it squicks me out and is incredibly disrespectful of the characters.

    Changing the WSFS constitution from instant runoff to first-past-the-post would take time and effort but it could be done if they really threw resources into it. But that would take a lot more work than just whinging in blog posts. I don’t see much will to actually engage with WSFS and honestly propose any substantive change to the Hugo rules. It’s not rocket science. Every single one of the Hugo voters for the Sad Puppy Slate is equally eligible to propose changes to the constitution.

    I don’t like first-past-the-post. I’d rather have a ballot that reflects what most people think is best, not what a few really passionate people think is best, even if that passionate person is me. I’d EMBRACE US politics using the Australian ballot. Oh, PLEASE!

  167. Sorry to not aggregate, John, but Ursula posted while I was typing.

    I get the frustration on changing the Constitution, too and I attend Business Meetings when I go to WorldCon.

    A significant percentage of regular attendees to the Business Meeting tend to be slow and cautious about change. This adds to the slow cautiousness built into the system, which is there to prevent WSFS members in one area of the world from making radical changes that would affect other areas. Hence the two-con (and as of Sasquan possibly three-con) minimum time period to make changes. There is a movement to allow Sustaining members who can’t attend the convention to vote on proposed changes. It was voted on at LonCon3 and will be ratified at Sasquan, and if it takes effect in it’s current form would make any proposal be voted on in THREE different WorldCons to take effect (twice at the con with Attending members and once on line with Attending and Supporting members). This will make changes even more slow but will allow all attending *and* supporting members to vote at least once on proposals.

    It’s A.1 (Popular Ratification 2 plus 1) here: (warning, .pdf)

    The sausage at a WSFS business meeting is, indeed, scary to watch at times, though I find it fascinating.

    Ursula: “But those aren’t the elements that the Puppies are frustrated with. “I hate that dinosaur story and it did well so there must be something wrong with the system!” isn’t a tenable position. You can train your sour grapes to believe that they’re a well-thought out opinion, but they’re still just gonna be trained grapes.”

    I think this is the heart of the matter and no amount of changing the rules is going to prevent stories someone doesn’t like from winning. I was not enamored to see “If You Were a Dinosaur my Love” on the Hugo ballot because I didn’t think it had any fantastic elements, as much as it was a powerful punch-in-the-gut story, wow! I felt the same about Gravity the movie (and how cool is it that Gravity was not a Science FICTION movie?!). But the vote was fair, many others did not agree with me, and I applauded the winners sincerely.

  168. I went and read the article, as instructed. The whole time, I was thinking, “What the hell is this guy talking about?”

    No, seriously: I’m an engineer. I grew up reading all of the golden age authors that he name checks. I attend cons. My wife is an honest-to-god licensed social worker, SJW is spoken fluently in our home (I get a dirty look if I use the word “retard” in the context of engine timing). In short, I should be directly at the bullseye of the culture war he is waging- and I have no idea what he’s on about.

  169. Given the current level of “discourse” on this subject, I feel compelled to mention that there is a definable difference between “reading lists” and “voting slates”. Just sayin, cause others might get confused….

  170. Heh, without getting too derail-y–hopefully–my moment of “yep, not gonna deal with that!” came when I said “Have you thought about sending out a Welcome to WSFS email when people register for the memberships, to explain what the WSFS is to new people?” and got a totally serious “huh, nobody’s ever suggested that before,” followed by a discussion that turned it into maybe putting out flyers at the con announcing the business meeting. (Cue me nopeing the hell out)

    I have been involved in too many orgs getting dragged into the 20th century, never mind the 21st–somebody else can fight that fight. I’m impressed anybody got an online ballot through!

    Oh well, cat-herding has always been a part of fandom. I suppose we should be impressed the SP’s managed to herd as many cats as they did last year, even if their voting bloc didn’t make a dent in the end.

  171. I thought with the advantages of modern technology like eBooks and computer forums people who don’t like the current state of science fiction would just go Galt and set up their own little SF gulch and let the rest of the SF world collapse without them.

    No such luck?

  172. Jennifer, John Appel, Annalee, Rob Dye, keithrc

    Lehman’s rant falls into two categories for me. “Geeks of a Certain Age” and “It’s a Party for Me and My Friends”

    “Geeks of a Certain Age” overlaps with “White Male Privileged”. John has written very well about that, so I don’t have to. Go read his posts. As for the parts that don’t overlap, that’s another thing for another time.

    That brings me to the “It’s a Party for Me and My Friends” bit. Having been on convention committees for different conventions, I keep coming across two distinct groups of thinking on the con-running side of cons. 1) It’s a Party for Me and My Friends 2) It’s a Business with Budgets and Accountability.

    Something that I’ve noticed is that “Geeks of a Certain Age” are firmly in the “It’s a Party” group with all that implies. As in if you’re not an obvious member of the White Male Geek Privileged Group, (or have ties going back to the founding of fandom) all other attendees are there on sufferance or are part of the entertainment (AKA: why conventions need sexual harassment policies).

    When Lehman rants about taking back conventions, that’s a dog-whistle phrase for me. “Non-me-types are invading our sacred space, so get out there and take over running conventions!” If we run the conventions, we can set the programming and keep the undesirables out! (No More Glittery Hoo Haas!)

    These same people don’t comprehend that a lot of fandom doesn’t happen at cons any more. As I discovered in a thread over on Making Light run by the Nielsen-Haydens in one of their topics, a non-trivial amount of fannish activity happens on the internet. That fannish activity happens in places like the comments on this blog, other blogs, message boards, etc. Essentially John is running a perpetual convention with his “Whatever” blog. I think Lehman’s issues stem from the fact that people from the on-line conventions go to the hotel conventions with certain expectations. Those expectations tie into all the stuff that goes into group 2 thinkers. Conventions are Businesses that have to be accountable to the people who pay $50 at the door.

    Lehman, with his blog site, is running his own on-line convention. He has a stump and he made a stump speech to his constituency. It harks back to the early days of con running. “Conventions are a party for us and our friends! Rabble has invaded! Go forth and
    take over the concoms!”

    I will also note that Lehman used a term, “Glittery Hoo Haa”, that originated in the romance genre to describe a certain type of romantic plot. To paraphrase Fezzig, “I don’t think that term means what he thinks it means.” Unless Lehman’s cast himself as a romance heroine who is competing against younger, prettier, more glittery hoo haas for the love of the hero.

  173. @John: The ‘do you want fries with that degree’ wasn’t aimed at you. Was referring to some of the responses. for the record i have a do you want fries with that undergrad degree. I wanted to get a decent job so I got a masters in software engineering. Not throwing degrees or education in anyones face… I taught myself how to code in order to get a job. I was stuck waiting tables after I graduated.

    This next one is not aimed at John…

    I think the point behind Sad Puppies is that alot of people there feel like they are not wanted in fandom by people on the left. I don’t see John doing that, but there are alot of posts here leaning that way. If you google around and honestly look there is quite a bit of it on the web. There is more coming from people on the left than there is the other way since there are less of them.

    I think if Larry gets a nomination for a Hugo (likely will), the call should be fine, now show up for Worldcon, sit on some panels, and show us you want to be included. He has said his fans don’t generally go. Well they won’t start until authors they like go. Worldcon is a rather small subset of fandom. Its like that with any Con. So the more people that go the better.

    As a fan, wouldn’t it be fun to see Larry and John on the same panel (with Brandon Sanderson between them making sure they behave) to talk about books?

  174. What’s interesting about the kerfluffle over the voting system is that preferential voting (and its variations) are often put forward by some as solutions to the entrenched two party system that we have in the US, because it would allow people to vote for 3rd parties without worrying that they are throwing the election to “the other party”. IOW, this sort of system is supposed to be good for the little guy, which you would think is exactly what the Sad Puppy slate would want.

    tl;dr – I just don’t get people sometimes.

  175. You know, I’m a fairly casual Scalzi fan. I read Whatever regularly and I’ve read almost all of your books (most of them from the library – sorry!) and I’ve enjoyed almost all of them. I’m aware of some of the controversies that have floated around in the past, but this is the first time I actually ventured into the comments section of one of the bizarre blog posts you’ve commented upon. I was somewhat repelled by some of the comments supporting this idiotic blog post, but then I made the mistake of clicking on a link to one of the commentator’s blogs.

    Holy shit, I have never descended into such a cesspool of ignorance and hatred – even on Youtube. John, what on earth did you manage to do in order to generate such vitriol? I ended up on a page where you were continually referred to as ‘McRapey’ and these….people…were gleefully interpreting this post as ‘the head rabbit trying to reassure the warren’ as the bulldozers came closer. I vaguely recall the whole ‘McRapey’ thing, but wasn’t that years ago? And how on earth have so many other troglodytes gathered together to gibber their hatred of you into the darkness? Dammit John, the worst thing I’ve ever thought of you was that Old Man’s War seemed too derivative of The Forever War- these people want you slowly tortured to death!

    Hey, I understand there are horrible people out there and I understand that the Internet encourages bellicose assholery that would never be said face to face in the real world. But good god, you’ve managed to put a serious dent in my faith in humanity overall. These people are so…pathetic…and yet they hate you SOOOO MUCH! I’m impressed that you can express such sympathy to these obviously mentally-ill individuals. Hugs? I’d rather see them in asylums with padded walls, stout locks and some very patient psychiatrists. I understand far more your intention to give up ego searching for lent!

  176. @AlanM–we have “ranked voting” here in San Francisco as an attempt to increase the number of “minority” supervisors. Minority is in quotes because it depends on which district as to which minority. Course, the real reason was to try to increase the number of “progressives” on the board, but that’s a digression.
    It has it’s flaws and can be annoying–one of the contests took forever to decide because it took something like 7 run-throughs to come up with a winner. But even though she was way down on the list, she’s actually turned out to be a good supervisor. The down side has been when their favored candidate STILL doesn’t win–then we get a lot of talk from politicos about how the system needs “tweaking”.
    So I’d figure on the “Sad Puppies” using either a win or a loss to keep yapping.

  177. Guess:

    I’m vaguely offended that you assume I and Larry Correia wouldn’t behave without an intermediary. We’ve met in real life, you know. We were perfectly pleasant to one another. Oddly enough, grown-up humans can act civilly, and in a larger sense I think you and others overestimate the animosity we have toward each other.

    Also, the assertion that Larry’s (or in a larger sense, Baen’s) fans aren’t at the Worldcon seems specious at best. Baen annually has a robust presence at Worldcon, and Baen authors are on Hugo/Campbell shortlists even without a formal slate (they’ve even won!), and Larry is one of Baen’s more prominent authors. I think he’s got a perfectly robust number of fans at Worldcon, or at the very least a perfectly robust number of people at Worldcon who read his books.

    As for the Sad Puppies feeling unwelcome at Worldcon, meh. You know what, I know lots of folks with the same basic politics as the Sad Puppies who go to Worldcon. Strangely enough, they haven’t been roped into containment centers and trebucheted into the sun. As noted before, as long as you’re treating everyone at Worldcon (or other conventions) with respect, everyone’s welcome. Again, I understand that there’s solidarity in feeling persecuted, and the Sad Puppies sure like pretending they’re persecuted. But the gap between their persecution complex and reality is fairly wide.

    With regard to the Sad Puppies getting stick on the Internet, well, you know. When you formulate the world as “us against them” and make “them” cartoon cultural Stalinists, you probably shouldn’t be terribly surprised when people call you out for it. This also feeds their persecution complex, to be sure.

    Mark Towler:

    You appear to have landed on the site of Theodore Beale/Vox Day. The short version is he’s an odious little man who is deeply envious of my career, which he feels he should have, and lies about me a lot to make himself feel better. It doesn’t appear to be working very well, either in making him feel better, or doing any material damage to me. I had in fact already cut him out of my ego surfing (the poor lad cannot go a day or two without talking about me) long before I made my Lenten observation choice this year. So he didn’t affect the choice one way or the other.

    I think it would be amusing if he gave me up for Lent. I don’t think he could do it.

    Harold Osler:

    I suspect the thing that would undo the entire Sad Puppy slate is to have one of their nominees win. It would be point made. Hard to sustain momentum after that.

  178. The whole “us” vs.”them” mentality was a big reason I asked to be taken off the Sad Puppy slate. That said, I agree with John that people who disagree can be civil to one another. I’ve never met Brad Torgersen, who came up with this year’s Sad Puppy slate, but I look forward to it. I think we’ll get along just fine.

  179. @Mark Towler *puts on PR hat*

    Please, please don’t judge all furries by Mr. Beale’s crew. The vast majority of people who are obsessed with Watership Down are very nice, very accepting, and largely harmless and while I’d be lying if I said the fandom didn’t have drama, it’s rarely to that scale. Our cons are a lot of fun and our art shows are massive compared to most literary SF cons.

    (I know this may come across as #NotAllFurries, but I kinda feel obligated to say this the first time anyone encounters the rabbit thing, because a lot of furry-affiliated sites have been using that as a central metaphor for ages, but are much nicer.)

    *removes hat*

  180. Ursula Vernon:

    Of all the people in the world who I would have even thought to be representative of furries, that dude is so not one of them. Nearly all the furries I’ve ever met have been delightful people. So, uh, yeah.

  181. Have to disagree that there can be no successful push to “take back the genre”. There is a very successful example of that in “nerd fandom” – comic publishing. Saladin Ahmed has done a very thorough documenting how initially the comic industry was incredibly diverse both in its writers and in the stories it told. But then between the CCA and consolidation under Marvel and DC those writers and stories got shut out in favor of mass market “approved” pap. By the late 70s between the demise of the code and business opportunities you started to see some smaller publishers creep in and tell stories beyond what dominated the market, but even then it has been intermittent and faltered when some publishers went under (eg Milestone Media). We still haven’t returned to the level it was prior to the crackdown

  182. @Ursula

    Furries don’t deserve to be lumped in with VD/TB. I’m not sure anyone does, to be honest, apart from maybe ISIS, who share many of the same viewpoints.

  183. Mister_DK:

    Are you suggesting science fiction and fantasy is on the verge of a CCA-like self-censorship? I would find such a suggestion dubious in the extreme.

  184. Mr. Manny:

    Yes, yes I do. Don’t make assumptions about what I think.

    I was going on what you said about languages. But if you find the collective masculine pronoun in English forced and cringe-worthy, I stand corrected.

    My point was that Leckie dismantled those cultural aspects of the English language, making it hard for readers to filter characters through gendered lenses. And that’s what even the most gung-ho, rocket ship, space marines SF stories do too — play with cultural notions into a different un-reality. It wasn’t the key selling point of her book for most people, but neither does it destroy SF, as the article writer is insinuating about books like hers.

    When Le Guin wrote Left Hand and Bradbury Martian Chronicles, etc., it didn’t destroy SF. It grew the market. When Russ and other “feminist” authors did sociological SF, it didn’t destroy SF. Delaney and Butler didn’t destroy SF by being black authors, who, like the rest of the older authors, were pretty vocal about politics. It instead grew the market as well as getting awards, academic attention and sales. It didn’t stop Star Trek. It didn’t harm Heinlein’s career and his career didn’t harm Clarke’s. Literary leftists sell; so do rightwards authors. They also have authors who don’t sell. Both groups win awards. The whole argument I think most of us agree is ludicrous.

    And that’s why the argument isn’t about the books, it’s about advertising. SF has been mainstream and major for a hundred years, not just the last few. Fantasy and horror have been mainstream and major for millenia. Animal Farm, Brave New World, War of the Worlds, Fahrenheit 451, etc. have been taught in high schools and universities for over fifty years. Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Planet of the Apes, Night of the Living Dead, Star Trek, Star Wars, Halloween, Raiders, etc. are old to ancient and our biggest stars. Star Wars is nearly forty years old and has not let up its hold on mainstream popular culture once. And electronic games have been owned by SFFH from the beginning.

    But it’s a useful marketing gimmick to pretend that these things were outcast, niche, for special discerning people. And it was the standard advertising approach to market them as if the audience was mainly or only white men. Everybody knew that wasn’t true, but that was the group you catered to, and it’s become such a cultural narrative, that the media and many people firmly insist, in contrast to all historical fact, that it must have been true.

    But advertising does change. The non-white male segment is more vocal in their fandom, and even white males are pushing for more variety and more marketing attention to non-white male stuff too. It’s not that publishing got taken over by a bunch of leftists (it always had a fair share of them,) but that they are changing the marketing of SFFH product to not always just be towards white male outcasts. Tide is using a gay couple to sell laundry detergent. They know perfectly well gay people bought their detergent before, but now they’re just using them for one commercial. They still have plenty of straight people in their commercials too. But they are no longer selling the image that only straight people buy laundry detergent.

    And the Sad Puppies (so I guess they are called the Sad Puppies themselves? That’s strange,) are freaked about this because they do understand that advertising perception can change social perception (just like science fiction.) And it also can allow a corrected and more accurate account of history to stand. (Which is why my family tends to quote “Redshirts” on the Narrative.) The audience didn’t change (well okay, it’s a bit more global.) The advertising narrative is. It’s acknowledging more of the audience. It’s providing more products for that audience and giving them more marketing attention. And it’s becoming just as normal to see that marketing as it is to see marketing for white male outcasts, even if the product lines don’t yet quite reflect that.

    And the objection to this marketing isn’t against blacks, women, gays, etc. per se. It’s the story narrative that there are sinister elements within these groups who are clamoring for more product and marketing attention, and thus must be purging their opposition through blowing up the Death Star or something. And rigging awards. Because you can apparently only advertise to one group and the other group must die. (Dying being receiving any criticism whatsoever.)


    To his great credit, Dave Creek stated that he didn’t want to be associated with these asshats. As I understand it, Correia quietly dropped him from the list without telling his sycophants why,

    Yeah, that’s the problem. It’s not that they are putting up a recommend slate of authors. Everybody gets to do that, lobby all you like. It’s that they are declaring a political agenda and then drafting authors into it without their knowledge or agreement. Even some of the conservative authors are getting pissed off about that.


    I suspect the thing that would undo the entire Sad Puppy slate is to have one of their nominees win. It would be point made. Hard to sustain momentum after that.

    Naw, they’ll just claim it was the result of their efforts and they must push harder to keep countering the leftist cabal. Which you are the unofficial leader of, I believe is the claim. You can’t fight the Narrative, you know that. :)

  185. I don’t think we are on the verge of it at all; I think that, setting aside its other merits, diversity is too profitable and the people arguing against it too incompetent to ever pull off the trick.

    But I do see a mechanism for “taking are fandomz back!”. It wasn’t just the CCA that closed the door to those stories, it was also the consolidation of the industry. Publishing has been consolidating heavily since the 90s (and saw some shutterings in the 00s). Further, the ebook market is incredibly consolidated – Apple got the lawsuit, but our friends at the Big River company have ~80% of the ebook market and they are already squeezing publishers to get what they want. There is a powerful gatekeeper effect in play here, and it could be used to marginalize and silence – it has been before.

  186. That sort of thing only happened in comics because there was a duopoly capable of enforcing it.

    In SF, Tor and Baen aren’t the only game in town. There’s also Del Rey, Random House, DAW, Solaris, the Black Library (ugh), Ace, Orb, etc.

    Unless all of those are just imprints of Tor and Baen (which I doubt) there is no way, structurally, for it to happen again.

  187. Kat Goodwin: My point was that Leckie dismantled those cultural aspects of the English language, making it hard for readers to filter characters through gendered lenses.

    To remind you whippersnappers, Delaney *did* get there first with _Stars in My Pocket Liek Grains of Sand_ in 1984. He deliberately contrasted a society with gender identity determined by biology with one in which the default “gender” was female (“she”/”her”) unless you were attracted to the person (“he”/”him”). The language of the former (as with English) implicitly values and states which genitals a person is presumed to have; the language of the latter implicitly values and states the relationship of the speaker to the person. You can compare that with languages such as Japanese that build relative social status into speech through use of honorifics.

  188. This is really a non-issue. The right wing has proven time again that they have no imagination, much less any capability for rational thought. They are never going to dominate the awards simply for the fact that they can’t write for shit. Right now they are promoting John C Wright, hah! puulllezze! That idiot couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag and will never win any award. Let them try to take over the awards, I say bring it on.

  189. Mister DK:

    Apple got the lawsuit, but our friends at the Big River company have ~80% of the ebook market and they are already squeezing publishers to get what they want. There is a powerful gatekeeper effect in play here, and it could be used to marginalize and silence – it has been before.

    Actually, Amazon only has 60% of the total e-book market. They started out with 90% of it in 2008 with the launch of the Kindle, and it dropped when Apple and other vendors came in. They do still have about 80% of the self-pub e-book market, which they’ve fought to keep. And Amazon just won a Golden Globe for their t.v. series about a trans woman. So they aren’t exactly keeper of the rightward bonfire, except in ruthless business practices.

    Books were never regulated like comics and magazines were. And they’ve had a fair amount of diversity. It just isn’t always marketed widely. So that’s the change. One area where there has been a gatekeeper effect is in children’s books because conservative groups go after the schools. Although right now, in the U.S., they are concentrating on AP history programs for teaching historical facts rather than the marketing narrative of America awesome sauce.

    As for comics, while DC and Marvel still dominate, Image and other companies have made a lot of inroads. The online comics world is burgeoning. And DC and Marvel are busy, busy bees on the diversity front and the marketing of that front. (And to be fair, had black superheroes in the age when films were seriously lagging.) Which is freaking out a lot of comics Sad Puppies, who don’t know the history of comics any more than they know the history of science fiction, apparently.

  190. Kat Goodwin:

    I don’t mind if they think I’m the leader since it means they don’t bother other people quite as much.


    In fact, John C. Wright’s latest has gotten some nice reviews, so it’s not entirely inconceivable that the book would be considered on its merits as an award candidate. And in general, I think dismissing everyone politicially to the right of an arbitary line is lazy. Just as personal politics doesn’t correlate to sales, it also doesn’t correlate to writing ability (or lack thereof).

  191. I suspect I fit squarely within the group that he would like to see science fiction “taken back” from (actually, the essay sounded more like “taken away” from).

    Never mind that I have a doctorate in theoretical chemical physics from Harvard. Cuz, you know, my hard sf has girl cooties.

    The essay appears to conflate everyone with a STEM degree with everyone who shares a similar set of what the author terms myths. That’s a logical fallacy.

  192. @Scott: It has occurred to me that one possible explanation for the claimed discrepancies between commercial success and awards recognition on the part of the stories favored by the Sad Puppy contingent is that these stories are still mining ground which has been well-covered for the last 4 or 5 decades. Ghod knows I would be the last person to say that there’s anything wrong with liking books written to a given formula — I read Georgette Heyer! — but when I’m voting for the Hugos, I do tend to prefer things that bring something new to the table, or which at the very least do something unexpected with tropes and stereotypes; IOW, things which are *not* formulaic. And I strongly suspect that I’m not the only person who feels this way.

    @Guess: The juxtaposition of “do you want fries with that degrees” and “useful degrees which allows us to get better paying jobs” casts a lot of doubt on the credibility of “Not throwing degrees or education in anyones face”. Just FYI, as something you might want to think about in the future.

    @Ursula: “I’m entirely sympathetic to frustration with some aspects of the Hugos – the administration process, at least, is mired in a pre-internet era, but I have been thoroughly convinced that trying to change that would take more time and energy than I would give to anything short of surviving the zombie apocalypse.”

    OMG, yes. When somebody flat-out states that they’ve been working to change the system from within for THIRTY YEARS and are still considered a wild-eyed radical by the Old Guard, that bodes ill for anyone else thinking about attempting the same thing. Although it could also be argued, at this point, that the Old Guard is rapidly reaching die-off age, and that perhaps things would get considerably easier after that…

  193. Phoenician Romans

    What you say is absolutely true – Chip Delany did it first, and frankly he did it better. But at the same time its not really a fair point to make because the standard of comparison here is Chip freaking Delany. Its like those memes comparing modern music to Freddie Mercury. No kidding the Old Masters did it better, they are the Old Masters for a reason.

  194. Lee:

    It has occurred to me that one possible explanation for the claimed discrepancies between commercial success and awards recognition

    Except there isn’t any discrepancy. They made it up. Everybody’s sales in fiction and in SFFH and in indies are pyramid shaped — small group of bestsellers, larger group of mid-level sellers, large group of low sellers. Many award-winning lefty authors (or at least not considered right-wing authors,) have been bestsellers and international bestsellers — Le Guin, Iain Banks, Neil Gaiman, etc.

    In fact, one of the big complaints about the Hugos is that since they get a popular vote, instead of a juried committee deciding the award, that they tend to go to the well-known, bestselling authors instead of lesser known ones. And when it comes to short fiction awards not by juried committee, the big names in novels quite often win over lesser known nominees. The majority of the Hugo Award winners for best novel have been white. Plenty of them have been conservatives or rightward libertarians or centrists. And the ones who weren’t sell just as well as the ones who are. The winners and nominees for the Hugos come from every type of science fiction and fantasy, including military SF, SF thrillers, space opera and hard SF.

    The entire argument of the Sad Puppies slate is a big pile of horseshit that has no relation to actual facts. Which is why they’ve presumably toned it down a bit this year on criteria. But the original article writer is living in a world of imagination where Gene Rodenberry is a right-winger instead of a radical liberal, and every publisher except Baen Books has a communist manifesto in its lobby.

  195. Also, I never claimed Ann Leckie did it first. She is in fact following in the footsteps of Delaney, Le Guin, Clarke, and a lot of other past SF legends on many aspects from A.I. to space gates. But it gives the story an interesting framework that lets Leckie concentrate on her main interests, which is an exploration of the nature of consciousness (also not a new SF interest.) And she did a story interesting enough in that framework on that subject to sell really well and get awards and award nominations. And in the process, she did not destroy science fiction, nor make it harder for other SF authors to get nominated for awards.

  196. You know that nobody here thinks she “destroyed SF”, right? You’ve said that several times. I’m just wondering if you know realize that you are preaching to the choir.

    It’s funny that Wright’s books have been mentioned and propped up by the Sad Puppies, because (aside from the myriad problems with the author) the book itself was unreadable and unfinishable for a similar reason:

    The horribly, atrocious, unbearable dialogue and infodumping. The characters in the book aren’t even caricatures, they’re like archetypes of caricatures. I can’t get through a paragraph where Menelaus Monstrose or Ximen opens his mouth without having to look away and put the book down. That, combined with the near-constant infodumping (both as exposition and out of the mouths of characters) and the way he abuses and misuses real mathematical terms in ways that are completely out of context or totally inapplicable (when he bothers to use real terms at all, instead of just making ones up) and it was unfinishable.

    I put *that* book down, returned it to the library, and did not bother looking up a summary or synopsis of it, because what story was there wasn’t worth bothering with.

  197. Mr. Manny:

    You know that nobody here thinks she “destroyed SF”, right? You’ve said that several times. I’m just wondering if you know realize that you are preaching to the choir.

    Yes, I know realize that most people here agree with me about that, which is why I said that most people here including yourself agree with me on it in a previous post: “The whole argument I think most of us agree is ludicrous.”

    I’m talking about what the article writer and some of the Sad Puppies believe — what the article writer wrote — that science fiction was being destroyed because of writers like Leckie and others and their fans — which is the subject of JS’s response and the comment thread.

    While I can know who here who posts agrees with me on a subject and to what extent from their posts, I also don’t assume that everybody reading this thread and not posting is of the same mind and stepping up to the choir (if we have a choir; I don’t think some people want to be in it, if so.) A lot of them are, presumably, but I’m pretty sure that Scalzi doesn’t do demographics research on us. (You don’t, do you, JS?)

  198. My con attendance is infrequent and sporadic, but I have been attending sf/f cons for over 20 years, I have been to nationals and regionals, and I don’t have a fixed list of which ones I attend.

    And sf/f cons seem exactly the same to me now as they did 20 years ago: I am still often the only woman on whatever panels I’m on (ex. at my most-recent con, 4-5 weeks ago, I was the only woman on 4 out of my 5 panels); it’s still very unusual for there to be anyone on any of my panels who isn’t white; attendees now seem exactly the same to me as they did 20 years ago (ex. the audience at one of my most recent panels spent a fair bit of time debating the exact details of Star Trek episodes from the 1960s); panel topics on the selection forms I receive from cons seem almost exactly the same to me as they did 20 years ago; and it’s still regularly treated as controversial, unrealistic, or unreasonable to object to sexual harassment at cons.

    So I’m always puzzled by the claims I see online from certain quarters about how cons have “changed.” Since when? If the answer is “since the 1950s,” well, yes, I certainly HOPE so, since that was 60 years ago. But since the early 1990s? Not as far as I can see. I’ve been attending on-and-off since then, and sf/f cons still seem almost -eerily- Exactly The Same as they were then.

    So I’m mystified by the complaints from the disenchanted who decry the “changes” in sf/f con culture or how cons are no longer “their” community. Apparently there is an entire SECRET WORLD of sf/f cons that I’ve never heard of or attended where the 21st century has invaded! But every sf/f con I’ve been to for the past decade certainly seemed frozen in time somewhere in the 20th century, so I don’t know what this blogger and his friend are talking about.

  199. I think that advocating in favor of works one would like to see on the Hugo ballot makes perfect sense (and I publicly advocated for DAW editor Betsy Wollheim, who won in 2012, since I felt she had been overlooked for too long as someone who merited the award).

    But there is, of course, a big difference between backing someone you think deserves an award… and attacking everyone you think does not, as well as attacking the readers who vote for them. The latter is unprofessional behavior, as well as being unprofessional behavior and disrespectful to voters, winners, and nominees.

    Backing people for the award because you think they deserve it… is also entirely different than backing someone for the award because you want to annoy people, ridicule the award, or stick-it to “the community,” etc. All of the latter behavior deserves nothing more than dismissive contempt.

    What I notice about the “Sad Puppies” campaign is that various blogs or posts I have read by the people involved in it descend so often, so quickly, and so predictably into personal attacks that it completely obliterates any possible credibility to the claim that this is a matter of principle (or love the genre, etc.). Their own statements repeatedly make it clear that this is entirely about raging personal enmity for certain writers and stories. Hating writers or their work is a common private beef, but it’s got no legitimate substance as a Hugo Award campaign.

    If you want to register for WorldCon so you can vote against writers you hate or stories you hate, that’s your right. If you want to natter endlessly to your chums about how much you hate certain writers or certain stories and don’t believe they deserved a Hugo or a nomination, that’s your right, and what you talk about with your friends in private isn’t anyone else’s business. But turning that sort of personal animus and hate-nattering into a Hugo campaign which you claim is based on principle is unprofessional, repellant behavior that isn’t fooling anyone who has sound judgment–not even those of us who also don’t personally like every writer or every story on the ballot (which is most people, as far as I know).

  200. Naomikritzer:

    If they had, I wouldn’t talk about it, as it’s my general practice not to discuss deal until contracts are signed. And it would be too early for that.

    Laura Resnick:

    Agreed with the shitting on people thing that they do being a not great part of their delivery. That they don’t appear to understand why it might be a problem is indicative of other issues.

  201. –E: “One of the traits of the Sad Puppies team (who, if I’m not mistaken, dubbed themselves that? At the least they do seem to refer to themselves that way) is their odd ignorance of what words mean.”

    Words: Not a hard science. Though that really only explains one person, unless this odd obsession with hard science is part of the Sad Puppy Platform? That would fit with the general attempted tone of superiority, and would explain a lot about their use of logic, or the lack thereof.

  202. Con conquest by fifth column. Obsf: Spinrad, Norman, “Sierra Maestra”, also the Borg. And I just realized, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Some strategies are classics for a reason.

    Is there an sf story where a fifth columnist shows up and discovers he isn’t even remotely first?

  203. Laura Resnick: Your con experience is pretty unexceptional, but there are changes going on and they hear a lot of discussion of those changes or changes wanted online. The fact that some cons now have in place a harassment policy and some of those practically enforce the policy while other cons are taken to task for not following theirs — all of that is considered enough of a threat to ruin cons apparently. And then there’s the occasional panel about things like geek feminism or ethnicity in SFF at cons. They had them in the 1990’s too, but apparently now they are scarier, or something.

    Again, I don’t think the article writer is particularly upset if more black people or women attend cons. It’s that political animus against particular writers, bloggers and publishing folk who they see as left and vocal about discrimination problems (like the lack of women and black authors on panels at cons.) And a general belief that those radical leftie commandos are taking over the cons and publishing and awards and never mind actual facts like you don’t see a lot of progress over twenty years of cons in the diversity area. Diversity issues are seen as simply a feint for a power grab.

    Because apparently somebody has to be in charge of the entire field of SFFH, and comics, games and toys, movies and t.v., and expos, cons and cosplay, and by gum, it’s not going to be those lefties who are rebooting Ghostbusters with females. Which is why we get a lot of war rhetoric from these folk. I think the article writer seems to feel the universe is now the Redshirts universe and Star Trek is in danger. But it was kind of unclear.


    Though that really only explains one person, unless this odd obsession with hard science is part of the Sad Puppy Platform?

    In general, no, it doesn’t seem to be. Sad Puppies are less concerned with hard SF than they are with military and adventure SF, which despite being the two most popular areas of SF and also regularly up for award nominations and wins, are perennially said to be ignored and dying in the same way that science fiction entirely is said to be dying in place of fantasy, and hard SF killed by Star Wars and stories about feelings, (which the article writer borrowed and then mixed up with Star Trek,) and epic fantasy killed off by contemporary fantasy and fantasy romance killing everything in its path. There are a lot of death concerns.

  204. Ursula Vernon:

    Thank you for the kind words. I know that I ticked you off a while ago on the subject of the Business Meeting.

    You mentioned asking “Have you thought about sending out a Welcome to WSFS email when people register for the memberships, to explain what the WSFS is to new people?”

    Well, I’ve found that most members don’t care much about it, which is a pity IMO, but I also know that trying to force it down people’s throats makes them angry. The best we currently can do is to describe the process on the convention’s web site and progress reports, and let those members who do care go from there. In fact, I find that lots of members have difficulty with the entire concept that the overall policy management of Worldcon (not the specific operation of any single event) is actually in the hands of the membership as a whole. It’s such a crazy concept that it’s beyond conception. I bet if you asked most members, they’d assume that there’s some Board of Directors somewhere that makes all of the rules that that they (a) were powerless to do anything about it and (b) who cares. To that extent, it’s like a lot of modern mainstream politics, where way too many people feel completely powerless to do anything, and that tends to breed apathy toward the process.

    Last year’s Worldcon was very good about helping out the BM. They actually published an entire special issue of the at-convention newsletter on WSFS business. In the end, about the same number of people attended as usually attend, which amounted to about 2% of the attendees of Loncon. Those 2% are the ones who make the decisions.

    Actually, in an very Heinleinesque way, WSFS is governed in about the same way as the early-stage Luna Free State was in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Anyone who shows up gets to debate and vote. (Perhaps not as much as in Luna Free State, no matter how much it may seem; few items ever get more than about 20 minutes debate time.) I don’t see that changing soon; it would require the current stakeholders to relinquish too much of their little bit of authority that they already have.

    I’m the co-author of the proposal that, if ratified this year (no guarantees), will put the question of ratification of changes to the rules before the entire membership. No business meetings. No parliamentary procedure. Just vote Yes or No. I hope it passes. It’s not really that radical a proposal, but it would give the other 98% of the members who don’t/can’t attend the Business Meeting a voice in the governance of the organization, and I hope it would be a change for the better.

  205. …dude used Star Trek to argue against social progress. Because clearly Star Trek was only about the nifty tech. -_- Well reasoned, Moon-moon.

  206. @Jack Tingle

    I don’t know if this counts, but I read a short story about an archaeologist who discovered that her grandparents generation had killed and replaced all the humans back in the 60s and dumped them in landfill.

  207. Yon pisser-into-the-wind lost me at “SJW.” Nice of him to nail his colours to the mast so early, though.

  208. There is a reply from one of the original Trek insiders to the original post by Lehman on the Star Trek parts of the rant.

    Here is the reply by one David Gerrold.

  209. I don’t have sales or polling data to support this, but it’s probably not a big stretch to assume that tech-focused hard SF resonates more with people who tend to go into science/engineering fields; that niche probably hasn’t changed. What I suspect *has* changed is that we also now have more stories focused on people rather than on technology, and those tend to appeal to a wider audience. So there may well be as many people reading hard SF as ever; but there are also more people reading “soft” SF now who maybe weren’t reading SF at all before. I see the same dynamic among gamers convinced that video games are killing traditional tabletop RPGs, ignoring the fact that 99% of the people playing video games today would never have played a tabletop game regardless. Just because someone else’s niche market is bigger than yours doesn’t mean *your* niche is shrinking, but some people have trouble getting their heads out of zero-sum-game thinking. (Tho it’s particularly sad for conservatives who argue about economics not being zero-sum to miss the point so badly in other areas.)

    But all that aside: what the hell does any of that have to do with right-wing politics and faux-militarism that seems to be the Sad Puppies’ common defining characteristic? If Angry Dude has actual evidence that fans of that type of fiction are predominantly math-science-engineering types, I’d actually be interested to see that, but he seems to take it as a given. As someone who doesn’t follow this particular drama that closely, did I miss a memo?

    Lastly, I’m faintly curious why that crowd finds your (ie – Mssr Scalzi’s) books so leftie-commie-butthurt-objectionable? Is it based solely on your blogging/tweeting/etc? I’ve only read a handful of your books (thus far!), but none of them struck me as overtly political. Is there some deep-seated socialist undertext that I’ve missed?

  210. wscott00:

    “Lastly, I’m faintly curious why that crowd finds your (ie – Mssr Scalzi’s) books so leftie-commie-butthurt-objectionable?”

    You’d have to ask them. I do suspect it’s less about the content of the books itself and more about my public persona. Bear in mind that when I first came onto the scene with Old Man’s War, most people assumed I was conservative, because it was military science fiction and featured a bit in there in which a touchy feely (i.e., assumed liberal) former politician met with a squicky end. I think some of them saw it as a bit of a betrayal when I turned out not to be what they assumed.

    What’s especially amusing to me that at the moment I am simultaneously being told that it was conservative SF/F fans who first brought me to fame and that it was the pinko-liberals who managed to place Old Man’s War on the Hugo ballot. Neither is true — OMW’s initial rush of sales came from online recommendations by Instapundit (conservative) and Boing Boing (liberal), and it got on the Hugo ballot because Neil Gaiman declined a Best Novel nomination, opening up a slot for my book — but it’s a reminder that truth’s not actually an issue; ginning up justifications for being, essentially, jerks, is.

    That said, let ’em continue their hate on for me. It’s done me no harm, either personally or career-wise, and it amuses me to see them get so worked up. I live in their brains rent-free.

  211. We’ve had automatic sliding doors since 1954 – more than a decade before Star Trek.

    I want to take a red pen to the original article, and correct the Hell out of it. Spelling and formatting mistakes everywhere, and sentences that are in danger of racing off the page without some punctuation to slow them down. The whole thing looks written in anger and posted in haste.

    Though, props to him for referencing Silent Running.

    Lehman @ Original Article:

    Well the same is true in Science Fiction. The enemy isn’t “at the gates”, they’re through the third wall and working hard on the last redoubts.

    Clearly, the solution is for him to practice with his 3D-manoeuvring gear and grab a pair of X-ACTO-knife swords.

    Kilroy @ 12:32:

    Can we get a list of which sciences are hard and which are soft? I mean civil engineering obviously hard, since dealing with things like roads and bridges. But oceanography is mostly about water, which is pretty soft. biology must be both since turtles are hard, but bunnies are soft. So he is arguing that turtles will win in the end, since bunnies are fast but get distracted easily? Am I doing this right?

    This might be my favourite comment ever. And there’s some stiff competition right here in this thread.

    Also, props to Kat Goodwin et al. on the discussion of gender and Ancillary Justice. I have nothing to add but my kudos. :)

  212. John,
    I understand your point but you are making the same mistake that the President did. Pres O. could have gone down as the one of the greatest Presidents in history but he chose instead to reach out his hand to dogs that only wanted to bite it.
    These dogs only know how to hate. There is no compromise with them.
    John you are trying, in vain, to reason with them, it won’t work.
    They only know hate, they only desire dominance, and will accept nothing else.
    John, it’s time to stand for what is right. Stand up and be counted, fight for the disadvantaged to have a voice. In your heart you have always stood for us, now let’s take it to the next level.

  213. Blackadder:

    Apparently you wish for me to send the Social Justice Ninjas to cut throats in the night? I am, as it happens, fresh out of ninjas. Nor does eliminationist rhetoric appeal to me any more when it’s ostensibly on my side. Even if I wanted to get rid of writers of differing political views in science fiction and fantasy, which I don’t, I literally cannot — I have no mechanism to shut off their avenues of production or their participation in fandom. Which is, mind you, the point of the article. Likewise, I have no means to stop any of them from saying whatever they like, no matter how ridiculous or poorly-thought out, on their own sites, so long as they don’t defame me at a level that meets the standard of libel.

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “take it to the next level” in any event, but if “the next level” is actively attempting to keep folks from publishing or participating because I don’t like their politics or rhetoric, then the next level can go on without me. This is different, mind you, from doing what I can to make sure that other voices participate on equal footing, helping to assure people are not marginalized by the institutions within fandom and sf/f publishing, and working to stregthen processes to keep those who would harass others from doing so. But I think those things are being accomplished without commensurately working to push people out, who don’t themselves actively work to get themselves a boot. Those folks will do that of their own accord; they don’t need me.

  214. If SFF books from the bad guys’ point of view are still an issue, allow me to recommend _Nine Goblins_ by Ursula Vernon. Admittedly not orcs, but arguably the next best thing, and way fun.

  215. Larry correia posted on his blog that his fans dont go to worldcon. I dont know if its true. My point being is if they are going to ask fans to spend $40 to nominate a slate, they should go to the con. His fans will likely follow. If not then this is just a publicity stunt. I think its fair to expect that.

    Considering that i am nominating lock in this year dont assume i vote in a slate. I dont read enough books to do that. I did read the discussion and found some authors i want to try.

    People who have constant twiiter and blog fights deserve to be mocked under the assumption they cant act like grown ups. On this forum I see lots of mocking of one side on other forums I see lots of mocking the other way. Both sides have compelling arguments worth mocking. So im not taking sides.

    As fans we need to start a new brand of fan writing where we find authors warring on the web and write stories mocking all of them. Then hold our own slate for best fan writer.

    Alot of these fights are silly on all sides.

  216. Yes, the Hugo way of voting is confusing when you’re used to having only one choice (as happens in the US — do you pull the R or D lever, or “waste” your vote going Green or Independent?).

    BUT. It does provide winners which everyone is mostly good with. Chances are, the shiny rocket gets handed to either your first or second choice, and if not, at least you can take the nice newsletter they hand you on the way out which has all the vote totals and you can see how whoever you wanted came thisclose.

    F’rinstance, last time I voted, I did not vote for OGH’s “Redshirts” in first place. I liked it and all, laughing a lot and getting sniffly during the codas. But “2312” just freakin’ blew me away from literally the first page (okay, there was that dull part in the middle), turning the ol’ sensawunda up to 11. And so that was my #1 vote for novel that year.

    This does not get me shunning from John, nor brownie points from Stan, because they are professionals who recognize the worth of each others’ work, and the concept of different strokes.

    The concept that, of all genres, science fiction needs to go backwards, is so baffling that the rest of the histrionics fail just from the self-contradiction inherent in the premise. Cognitive dissonance, thy name is SP.

  217. Ballot question for the thread…. What am i missing. Wouldnt australian rules balloting have the same outcome as ranking? 6 points for first down to 0 for below no award.

    This has likely been discussed at worldcon. What am I missing? The ranking one is less confusing since you are just counting points.

  218. Beats me, Guess: Hugo voting is the most transparent of all, with the stats released immediately at the con and online. The mechanism is on display to all. The ability to vote is open to everyone with 50 bucks American or equivalent. Kevin Standlee will explain it to you in frightening detail; he’s a grand master of parliamentary procedure etc.


    A cautionary tale from a straight white middle-class person:

    I myself went to an engineering school that was about 15% female. All the traditions and songs were Very Manly indeed. Chemical Engineers were denigrated as “plumbers”, not Real Men like the mining and structural and basic engineers. Freshmen didn’t wear beanies for identification for hazing; they were required to purchase hardhats suitable for hard rock mining. One required class each semester was taught by the ROTC Corps of Engineers. I had a MANLY education, dammit. Science!

    And then I spent a bit of time working on a project involving artificial intelligence, with guys who have their names carved in stone as Founding Fathers of AI that actually worked. Pretty damn MANLY. Science!

    And I’ve read SF/F all my life, I watched Star Trek from the very first episode in 1966, and have been going to conventions regularly since 1981. I have looked upon and held many shiny rocketships held by people I consider actual friends. I’m SMOF-adjacent.

    (How did I do it? I go to cons and talk to people, politely. It works!)

    So I can out-manly and out-fan any of those SPs. Yet, I somehow survive the terrible onslaught of PoC, women, QUILTBAG humans, and anti-groping/stalking codes. And the horrifying assault on the field by people with liberal arts degrees. I’m sure the SPs and their ilk would say it’s because I’m cursed with that darn uterus — because that’s the only way in which I “deviate” from their ideal.

  219. wscott00:

    I don’t have sales or polling data to support this,

    They never have any sales data to support any of their claims. Lehman made up claims that were so ludicrous, one of Star Trek’s most famous writers had to point out what everybody with two brain cells already knew — Star Trek was one of the most flaming liberal shows of the 1960’s and most of t.v.’s history. You don’t even need to read anything about the show to know that. They had a show where aliens were painted half-white and half-black and having a race war about the division. Seriously, how do you get right-winger from that?

    but it’s probably not a big stretch to assume that tech-focused hard SF resonates more with people who tend to go into science/engineering fields; that niche probably hasn’t changed.

    Actually no, hard SF has a very wide readership and always did. Early SF was sold with comics and magazines to mainly young boys and young girls (although they would pretend that the girls didn’t exist or didn’t count.) It has a large female readership and women are still being discouraged away from sciences and engineering. Tech-focused SF, which technically isn’t hard SF, but is usually seen as cyberpunk, has a fan base majority that has no science degrees. In fact, a lot of hard SF were, in the 1980’s, extremely dismissive of cyberpunk, considering it scientifically stupid and not real science fiction, but instead sociological SF. They feared it would kill “real” SF with its popularity. (Because anything that gets popular is Godzilla apparently.) William Gibson, the heir to Dick and father of cyberpunk, had no science, engineering or tech degree and flunked the math SAT. He was instead a literature, film and music student. And most of Star Trek’s fans were not scientists, the writers weren’t scientists and the show’s SJW creator was not a scientist.

    What I suspect *has* changed is that we also now have more stories focused on people rather than on technology, and those tend to appeal to a wider audience. So there may well be as many people reading hard SF as ever; but there are also more people reading “soft” SF now who maybe weren’t reading SF at all before.

    Nope, that’s the mythic narrative, not the reality. Most of what was called “hard SF” had little to no science in it. They had rocket ships, but they didn’t explain how they worked. They had laser guns and no explanation how they worked. Star Trek had warp drive, which is not actually a science concept, as scientists are happy to explain. Campbell did not insist on hard science for his authors. Most of them weren’t scientists. Most of the stories were adventure stories about planet exploration which occasionally used some physics. Most of the hard SF stories were in fact about people — the scientists and square jawed heroes, not the science gadgets. And also planetary adventures in which square jawed heroes hung out with sexy aliens without a physics problem in sight. There’s a reason they called them the pulps.

    Sociological SF was around from the beginning of science fiction. And it was huge in the 1950’s-1990’s. The New Wave SF movement often contained a lot of hard science — Larry Niven and such — but also were sociological stories built on culture, which is why Star Trek struck such a nerve, as did Heinlein’s counterculture sociological SF story Stranger in a Strange Land. The claim that SF in the past was all hard SF about science with little in the way of characters and then English majors came in and started writing about people and ignoring science is bunk.

    I see the same dynamic among gamers convinced that video games are killing traditional tabletop RPGs, ignoring the fact that 99% of the people playing video games today would never have played a tabletop game regardless.

    That’s not true either. While there are millions of folks who play video games who never play RPG table tops, there is enormous overlap of people who do play tabletop RPGs and also play video games. In fact, the two often get marketed together, plus tie-in books. It’s been a successful multi-media platform since the 1980’s. And tabletop RPG’s market is growing, not shrinking:

    That’s the reason that “death” predictions are so popular in the media and on the Net re all the arts and are not limited to people on the right. The idea that something must die if something else is doing well is a social concept that people seem to accept as automatic, even though easily available data shows it’s not only not occurring, but never has. No form of entertainment has ever killed off any other form of entertainment. But it makes a really good lede/hook if you want to do cultural commentary.

    But again, Lehman isn’t really defending hard SF, and I don’t even know if he writes it. If he was, he wouldn’t be using Star Trek. The Sad Puppies feel that they are defending rousing adventure tales with explosions and buxom women and that nobody should be able to criticize things in those stories as sexist, etc. Which has got nothing to do with science content. He is not defending someone like Peter Watts, who is not a right winger at all but who does write hard SF with very heavy science content. He’s defending a way of life that he claims has something to do with SF fan culture. It doesn’t.

    So if you’re looking for actual astute commentary on the development of SF and its fans, you are not going to find it from this article.

  220. I’ve not posted to this blog before, and there seems to be a lot of people very much into the “politics” of Hugos and so on, but I hope this will get posted.

    Firstly: since when did authors’ politics have to infuse their works and / or be their reason to write? Iain Banks wrote “The Business” after all, and in his personal life he was decidedly left wing in orientation. (Scotch and Thatcher comments were his, I think?). I don’t view “The Business” as satire, either.

    Hamilton – personally, I find the schlock gross out / sexualisation crude, but then again I see it as mostly aimed at a teenage audience. I have strong doubts his political leanings trend towards either: in fact, I’ve no idea what his politics are, given his novels aren’t really that political. I might be wrong, but I remember as the opposition: lots of anti-fundamentalist religious cultists, hell-is-real warp powers and some biological slave-to-a-single-mind cell beasties who are ecological disaster areas / genocide creators; but one thing I wouldn’t assume about Hamilton is being a green environmentalist writer.

    Asher – early stuff good (esp. The Skinner), lately I find them samey, but generally pro-capitalist techno society with the separatists not very interesting (in fact – the separatists strike me as a critique of libertarians given every planet they’ve “liberated” has degenerated into chaos) and the alien sociopathic bugs doing their bit to play the really nasty bogy-men.

    Neither strike me as particularly political writers – and I suspect that what they write has some part to do with what will sell (a sentiment shared by the author here?). What I can say is that I don’t know their politics at all.

    Regarding the Left / Right divide, I’m unsure of just how self-aware Americans are of the perception outside the country: many people really don’t see any part of American society being left wing at all, barring negligible community level stuff. Describing Cory Doctorow as ‘pinko’ baffled me – admittedly, I’ve only ever read two of his books, but they struck me as heavily techno-libertarian-ancap of the Silicon Valley type – which many people view as essentially right wing (and heavily capitalist). This might be deeply unfair, but I can’t picture him as an (old style) Syndicalist.

    Lastly – everyone is being polite, but the essay you linked to is basically a dogwhistle. What I’m not understanding is why there isn’t an understanding that amongst it is one comment that offers hope: the author states “we need to learn this culture hacking stuff”. By learning it, surely there’s hope that they will not only recognize how it is used but also be changed by it? Minds aren’t monoliths (or at least I hope they’re not) – although the counter-argument is, of course, that when entities like ISIL are arguably more media savvy than the teaparty (or the rank and file not those who paid $50 million dollars) then America has political issues.

    Thankyou if you post this.


    Cthulhu loves ursula le guin and would like Iain Banks back please.

  221. (Sorry for the additional edit to an overly long post)

    Fan service, but Hannu Rajaniemi is a STEM person who seems to write cultural hacking / literary / semi-soft stuff (and beautiful at that). Also from Scotland – and again, I’ve no idea about his politics! So, at the very least, there are STEM writers who certainly understand the “hard” in SF, but write on the “soft” side.

    He’s my go-to example for a blurred boundary, perhaps.

  222. well I’m baffled. What is this article about? And why there are so many comments about a non story? And what about your lowest difficulty in life post and about how that relates with awards, recognition, money, talent, world wide distribution of awards etc. But who gives a bacon dipped in goo about it?

  223. mrr4:

    You don’t know what the story is about, or why so many people commented on it, yet appear compelled to comment on it yourself. Hmmmm.

    (scribbles into notebook)

    Tell me about your childhood.

  224. Guess:
    “Ballot question for the thread…. What am i missing. Wouldnt australian rules balloting have the same outcome as ranking? 6 points for first down to 0 for below no award.”

    It’s not a matter of assigning points by ranking. It’s more complicated than that. Fortunately, voters only have to rank their choices, not do the actual counting (though I think they have a computer program to do that for them now, instead of re-stacking ballots over and over again.)

    Read this:
    Scroll down to “The first round of balloting” and read from there.

    It’s a system specifically designed to have the nominee with the most overall support win. Not the nominee with the most first place votes.

  225. Sorry, bacon was on my mind, I mindlessly thought it was about something important. But it’s common for me to make such delusional mistakes. No harm, or trolling involved. I was just wondering why (not so often) original, smart people often refuse awards. And I didn’t find an answer, thought someone on this platform might have a clue. I will drop just some names off the top of my head: A. Grothendieck, Greg Egan.

    p.s: And I didn’t received any notification on my gmail account, not that it means anything maybe it’s a scheduled thingy, I dunno

  226. I’ve never tried simulating an election where voters gave points versus Instant Runoff Voting (the preferred name for the so-called “Australian” ballot) to see if you get different results. I know the Locus Awards use a system where places 1-5 get points, but they start with (I think) 9 points, so a first place vote is not worth five times a fifth place vote, but just over two times.

    IRV, as we explain over on, simulates a situation where you are all in the same room voting on an election with five candidates, with a majority needed to win. If after you all vote, nobody gets a majority, whoever came in last place drops out of the election and you vote again. You repeat this vote-and-drop cycle until a candidate gets a majority. IRV is the same thing; you just have set up how you would vote in the subsequent rounds from the beginning. If your first choice is never eliminated, your subsequent choices don’t mean anything. It’s only when your earlier choices are eliminated that your later choices come into play.

    The biggest advantage of IRV over first-past-the-post (the way most US elections are conducted) is that you don’t find yourself “forced” to vote for a candidate that you don’t like the most because you perceive that otherwise your vote will be “wasted.” You can vote who who or what you like #1 with a clear knowledge that you aren’t letting the person or work you dislike win. If you’re voting for a “fringe” candidate that gets eliminated early, your later choices help decide who wins.

    IRV tends to produce winners who have broad support. The winner might not be the work you liked the most, but it can’t produce a winner that a majority of the electorate deeply disliked; it’s mathematically impossible. FPTP, on the other hand, can produce a “winner” that most of the voters hated, which is considered an unwanted outcome.

    And yes, Hugo Administrators have a computer program to count the votes, which makes it a lot easier to get a result quickly. Counting a large IRV election by hand can be very tedious.

    Incidentally, we still conduct Worldcon site selection with paper ballots. I’ve been in the counting room (both as an administrator and as one of the bidders) in three-and-four-way elections that “went the distance.” It usually takes a couple of hours, but that’s because we want to be very clear that there’s no voting irregularities and because by the time we get to the vote count, most of us are exhausted from the first three days of Worldcon.

  227. I can’t tell for sure whether that one’s real or parody, although I think on the whole I would bet on parody.

    And yeah, it can be really hard to tell these things apart. But on tumblr, I have seen people insist that they are doing a good thing by “calling out bigotry”, by which they mean, a bunch of them got together and started spamming someone with “kill urself” because someone told them the person was transphobic. And that’s not parody, that’s just… People being people, who are roughly the same everywhere.

    And I get sorta sick of people insisting that there’s no such thing or the behavior is totally okay, because… Like, no, this is an actual problem facing activists today, that we get fake activists who come along and wear our colors and just go around bullying people. And for all that I consider the “anti-social-justice” bloggers to be for the most part dishonest and bigoted, it’s worth noting that they are not just making this stuff up.

    It’s like the bizarre symbiosis between vehement anti-theists and the evangelical lunatic fringe; each of them gives credibility and support to the other. The examples are out there and there’s enough of them that they can seriously hurt people, even though they aren’t common enough to have large-scale social impacts. But when one of your best friends just got hospitalized for crushing-despair as an unintended side-effect of an antidepressant, and comes home to a dozen messages telling him to kill himself, die, delete his blog, and so on? Actually that can sorta suck.

  228. @ULTRAGOTHA: I get what you are saying, but that isn’t what I’m asking. I’m technical so if I don’t get an issue like this it seriously bugs me. I’ll put it on a math forum somewhere if you guys don’t know.

    You would still rank from first to sixth (with no award).
    However, instead of calculating the winner with australian rules, you just have the computer rank them with points. You could even go for lowest point total windows

    So rank 1 is 1 point,
    rank 2 is 2 points.
    up to rank 6 of 6 points

    or backwards.

    Then you just display the points and the voter ranks. I think the outcome would be the same. Its how they do it for most US Sports awards. Its a easier to follow.

    I have a hunch… this was likely discussed when they were picking out balloting methods and its probably not the same outcome, but its bugging me that I can’t figure out the difference.

    These kinds of things bug me if I can’t figure them out. Anyone know? Ill take it to a math forum if not.

  229. I don’t think your points system takes into account the re-allocation of votes when the least popular candidate drops out. First place doesn’t get 6 points, it gets one point per first place vote. If that’s not 50% of the vote, then they take all the ballots for the least popular candidate, figure out who their second choice candidate is, and re-allocate those votes. The points system can’t work like that. Though I’m not a mathematician and don’t play one on TV.

    This is drifting off topic. But that’s one reason why, I think, Sad Puppies don’t like Instant Runoff Voting. Because it results in a more broadly supported candidate winning instead of polarizing candidates where a block love the candidate but most people are very meh, then a majority are perfectly happy with candidate #2.

  230. “SJW” is a really awkward term. I’d think the sad puppies would be able to find something that rolls off the tongue a bit more smoothly. I mean, they’re supposed to be writers, and Correia at least is a pretty good one.

    Even something like “pinkshirt” is better than “SJW”. Or “leftoid”.

  231. @ULTRAGOTHA: thanks i knew i missed something.

    I dont think the vast majority of them care about the instant runoff. your picking out a few stragglers complaining. The system is what it is. I saw posts from people where they didn’t get how it works. Thats really it. You are blowing this out of proportion.

  232. Ok, I take back my earlier comment. Wow, things escalated quickly over there. Who knew Dave Freer was such an irascible guy. Also, Brad Torgenson doesn’t think you really sell all that many books!

  233. Cthulhu:

    Welcome to posting!

    Firstly: since when did authors’ politics have to infuse their works and / or be their reason to write?

    It didn’t, but the Sad Puppies maintain that authors they regard as social justice warriors not only have it be their reason to write but are trying to make everybody else conform to their politics and force them to put those politics in their work instead of just writing fun stories about white straight guys who are right-wingers (because that’s not politics apparently,) and studly. This is because said authors and fan bloggers, etc. talk about discrimination issues in fiction publishing and SFFH (and cons, comics, games, so on,) and encourage writers to consider greater diversity in their casts and protagonists because the market could certainly use some. And some of that fanship can be critical of works that they think express political and cultural views of people that are boring, blind and/or bigoted, although more often they are critical of rightward authors who mouth off about women, gays, minorities, etc. on the Internet.

    And this is all considered a combination of unnecessary, exaggerated whining and a conspiracy to destroy other authors, such as by blocking rightwing authors who write fun adventures from awards like the Hugos in favor of leftist paeans. (Oh look, a Baen book just got a Nebula award nomination. The imaginary cabal is failing!)

    While most authors don’t have a ton of politics in their books, when an author is known to be personally leftish, and is successful and gets nominated for awards, this is supposed to be some kind of problem that shows the world is ending.

    Most people involved with the Hugos have no idea that the Sad Puppies stuff is going on. Most people who read SFFH and participate in fandom don’t notice any particular politics in SFFH. It is, however, something that has come up in parts of Internet fandom because it’s part of the overall discussion of marketing and business issues in SFFH and in cultural entertainment in general.

    Regarding the Left / Right divide, I’m unsure of just how self-aware Americans are of the perception outside the country: many people really don’t see any part of American society being left wing at all, barring negligible community level stuff.

    Oh we have them. They just aren’t necessarily as loud. And a lot of Americans are aware that we aren’t seen as really having a liberal wing as a country. As for me, a lot of say European leftism I don’t see as being really very left either. A lot of it seems to be corporate autocracy. But some of the countries are obviously farther left in overall government than the U.S. is. Hell, Canada is more left.

    And that’s the point — there isn’t a crisp left/right divide in the world. It’s a spectrum of beliefs. I’d wager a lot of the Sad Puppies see themselves as libertarians (who actually also cover a wide spectrum of belief,) and may not consider themselves right-wing in that capacity. And SJW’s are supposed to be fascist to them so the leftist part really doesn’t even matter to them. Doctorow is techno-libertarian, I believe, but also probably “left” on many issues to many who are critical of him.

    Lastly – everyone is being polite, but the essay you linked to is basically a dogwhistle.

    Yep, but which dogwhistle exactly was kind of incoherent. We’re pretty much just talking about the illogics of the piece.

    What I’m not understanding is why there isn’t an understanding that amongst it is one comment that offers hope: the author states “we need to learn this culture hacking stuff”. By learning it, surely there’s hope that they will not only recognize how it is used but also be changed by it?

    You are such a sweet non-American leftist. There is no actual cultural hacking going on, so he can’t actually learn any of it, much less be changed by it.

  234. I think ULTRAGOTHA has it exactly correct. As does Kat Goodwin, but that always goes without saying.

    kstandlee: as long as we never have to go through another business meeting like that Westercon selection marathon. OTOH, you did a great job and the convention was amazingly awesome (one of the best cons I’ve been to in years), so I guess it was worth it.

  235. rochrist:

    It’s an article of faith among that crowd that I don’t actually sell books. It’s a belief I find especially amusing today, as my agent forwarded me sales numbers for Lock In for 2014 from Tor. Without going into the actual numbers, let me say that I strongly suspect most authors, science fiction genre or otherwise, would be happy to sell as few books as I do.

  236. @ Kat Goodwin: ” Lehman isn’t really defending hard SF, and I don’t even know if he writes it.”

    I looked him up online. He’s written one book, an urban fantasy with a were-cougar protagonist.

  237. I guess I just expected Brad to have a little more realistic view, since he was a long time resident here. He seems to have completely downed the Kool-aid though.

  238. Three thoughts:
    a, a lot of this reminds me of GamerGate, in that it is an attack on SJW in the guise of a more nobler, serious cause. In Gamergate it was ethics in journalism, for the sad puppies it is hard science fiction. Hey, we aren’t being racist or misogynist! We just want hard science fiction! We don’t care what color or gender you are or what you do in the bedroom (so long as you are white male and straight).

    B. Jessica Price touched on this a bit, but what you are saying to the sad puppies echoes what sad puppies have said to women/people of color/other marginalized groups that wanted more representation of their viewpoint. Hey, no big deal, if you want to be part of it go right head! No one’s stopping you! Which leads me to point 3….

    C. Again to Jessica’s point, I don’t think they are merely co-opting the language of marginalization, I think they feel like they are actually marginalized. And they aren’t 100% wrong – I’ve never been to a con but I’m guessing being a super-conservative guy who is a nostalgic for a time when men were men and women made them dinner isn’t a viewpoint that is super popular. And the world is changing to a point where their worldview isn’t nearly as popular as it was fifteen, twenty, fifty years ago. And it is changing in profound ways – fifty years ago White Christians were the supermajority in the U.S., and now in some states whites are a minority and Christians are having to share space with more jews, muslims, atheists, etc. Homosexuality was seen as an aberration until recently, and now gays can marry. The term transgender wasn’t even in the popular lexicon fifteen years ago, and now the whole concept of gender is up for debate. We on the left see things as huge (overdue) advances, but they freak people out, which is why you see such a reactionary, uh, reaction to them. I think your post is a nice way to try to bring them into the fold, john, and let them know that (most of us) aren’t attacking them, and that there is still room for them and their rock hard pulsating sci fi stories that stick to Star Trek and get away from gooey social justice issues like racial equality.

  239. Rochrist:

    If memory serves, Brad eventually became unhappy that his social and political assertions here were not received with the unquestioned gravity which he felt they were due, and were instead picked apart by me and others. So he eventually left to find others whose worldview was more congenial to his own, and whose rhetorical skills better suited his personal needs. And of course, I am happy for him that he has found a group more his speed, and otherwise wish him joy.

  240. Definitely an article of “faith”, since all publicly available data pretty much negates it.

    Even without knowing sales figures, you can use Amazon ratings counts as a rough estimate of the number of copies a product has sold.

    Old Man’s War has about 1400 ratings, Redshirts has almost a thousand. The Ghost Brigades has around 800, I think.

    By comparison, the Monster Hunter books, which are by the best selling of the Sad Puppies author books: MHI has around 500 ratings. The rest of the books by that author hover around 200.

    So, yeah, anyone who spends a minute Amazon-searching can see that you’re doing just fine.

    (Just for curiousity, I looked up the “giants” of SFF. A Game Of Thrones has about 6500 ratings, Ender’s Game has almost 9000. So… there’s a huge amount of range in sales figures. But still, 1400 is not too shabby.)

  241. I suspect Brad is very much enjoying getting to “win” every argument, now that he’s surrounded himself with like minded fellows (something that he, without a hint of irony, accuses Scalzi of). As such, he’s indulging his ego in a little bit of fantasy, where in not only does he always win, but his “nemesis” always loses.

    It’s kind of sad, really.

  242. My name got dragged into that “sad puppies” silliness when one of them, in a Facebook post, named me among about a dozen writers who’ve never been nominated for a Hugo.

    So I wrote a post explaining that there is no reason I “should have” been nominated for a Hugo, and if I’m included on that list, than hundreds of other writers should be, too. Putting me on a list of a dozen writers who’ve never had a Hugo nomination is too random to make any sort of point (except the point that I suppose was made as a result, which is that I’m easily irritated).

    If I wanted to get on the Hugo ballot, I would make some self-evident changes in my writing career (or, rather, add more work to my load, since I’m not interested in giving up anything I’m already doing):

    – I would start writing science fiction. (Go figure!!!) Whereas I have written only fantasy novels and romance novels.

    – I’d regularly write and submit short fiction to magazines whose contents often get awards attention. (Whereas I typically only write short fiction on invitation/commission, mostly for anthologies.)

    – I’d focus more on writing weightier, more serious themes/tone in my sf/f. (Humor can awards attention, but my impression that an intentionally serious/weighty story has a better shot at it. And I have mostly written humor, especially in short fiction.)

    These are self-evident choices I’d make if I wanted to focus on getting on a Hugo ballot. And they are professional in nature, not political.

    (It would also help if I were a bestseller, since that raises the visibility of one’s work with everyone, including Hugo voters. (I would LOVE to be a bestseller, but I am not.))

    Yet when I said it on a “sad puppies” post… My comments, to my bewilderment, were seized as “proving” their arguments about the Hugos. (Um, NO.)

    At which point I realized I had been an IDIOT to wade into such silliness and try to discuss it as a reasoning career writer.

    Meanwhile, of course, I don’t mean to say that making the above choices -would- get me on a Hugo ballot, nor that everyone on a Hugo ballot has made those choices. But a midlist writer of conventional commercial fantasy (i.e. me), NOT making ANY of the above choices means I am very unlikely to get on a Hugo ballot. And that’s got nothing to do with my sociopolitics. So, overall, it’s just plain silly for my name to appear on someone’s random “sad puppy” list of writers who’ve never had a Hugo nomination, as if this demonstrates any relevant point at ALL.

  243. MrManny:

    One needs to be careful correlating Amazon reviews with sales — there are a lot of self-published works with fewer sales but a great many reviews.

    And in any event, it doesn’t matter. I am reasonably sure that no matter the number of books I sell, or best seller lists I am on, some industrious soul would find a way to hypothesize how it’s all smoke and mirrors manipulated by a shadowy cabal, because that’s what they do already, and their worldview is apparently deeply invested in me being unsuccessful, on the basis that there’s no way a person like me should be successful, or more successful than [insert person they think should be more successful here].

    And, you know, whatever. I don’t care if I’m more successful than anyone else; I’m successful enough for me and for my family. If someone else is successful, or more successful than I am, good for them. It’s not actually a zero sum game; we can both be successful. That some folks really need to pull out a measuring stick for everything is their burden, not mine.


    Well, to be fair, I am have someone currently languishing in the moderation queue also accusing me of brooking no opposing argument. I prefer to think that I brook few poorly constructed and/or bigoted arguments. But then I would.

    In any event, as noted before, I wish Brad nothing but joy in those with whom he has chosen to consort.

  244. @ Kat

    Thank you, that’s the first time an elder god bent on driving all conscious minds insane has been described as “sweet”. Cthulhu looks up from the depths and wonders just why Hershey chocolate has displaced Cadbury’s and rises for revenge. She might spare you for a significant amount of Cadbury’s Eggs tribute per year.

    Ok, let’s be realistic here. My current book in the pocket: Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor. Irksome, could have done with being three times as long to be triply awesome. Too safe (prolly a publisher / editor issue) with African elements reduced for Western audience.


    I shall use alphabetical ordering because that is STEM. Every time I stamp my TENTACLES you are free to slap them with a wooden spoon. I enjoy that. No really. Your new product of 50 shades of sushi is just so hot right now in the depths.

    a) The sad puppies probably do have a point, because the reference point they’re using isn’t yours. (We’ll do more later on this)

    Tentacles: You’re probably not realizing why the group, the protest and so on was made.

    When they say “myths” and “culture” it’s not because there are no longer relevant, it’s because they all just got eaten. It isn’t the usual post-modernist “let’s re-imagine Cthulhu as the sexiest elder god”, it’s actually far deeper – the ability to seed said myths has been taken away.

    God Zone of the brain: Religion. Ideology. Brands. Beliefs. (note: capital letters denotes a system that precludes any other insertion / modification).

    Elder Gods are not fun: but really – you’ve not even experiencing what’s about to happen.

    b)Oh we have them. They just aren’t necessarily as loud. And a lot of Americans are aware that we aren’t seen as really having a liberal wing as a country.

    Tentacles: American 100% doesn’t have an effective or active left wing. Nor does Europe. It’s kinda the “Elder Gods have risen” situation. (p.s. this is largely due to the Cold War. Oh and me, but hey).

    No really. If you’re not screaming with your mind devoured, read some Zizek (et al). There’s literally no left wing movement in the USA at the moment. What our froody dude feeds upon is that you’re not honest about this. Capitalism, you like it, ya? Then taste the tentacles, you’re part of the issue.

    No, really. In America there is no left wing. That you claim there is really proves the point about un-self-aware American politics.

    c) We’re pretty much just talking about the illogics of the piece. There is no actual cultural hacking going on, so he can’t actually learn any of it, much less be changed by it

    Tentacles: Yeah, there is.

    The dogwhistle is that this piece is written so point-perfect that it is most likely satire.

    They’re slow as molasses and stiff and really annoying to subvert, but there’s plenty of cultural hacking going on – and they will be used.


    Honest question.

    Q: What do you think the difference is between current (***) agencies’ actions and Iain Banks “Use of Weapons”?

    A: The protagonist in Use of Weapons had a conscience in a sort of deluded way. You’ll note his later character arc not to redemption, but to at least balance out the amount of horror he inflicted. Through killing people.

    Oh dear. (Cf Adam Curtis).


    No, what is presented here is merely a short-form (silly STEM sucker) version. It’s called “prototype testing”.

    “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn”

    And no, they’re not frucking around.

  245. @mrr4

    Mimetic weapon testing. You know this, and we (WAVE TENTACLES) appreciate the trace. Amusing.

    > Squirrels.

  246. Plunging further down the rabbit hole, it seems the the central complaint is, their stuff is better, and they know it cause nobody (apparently literally nobody) buys the social justicey gamma rabbit stuff, even though it wins all the awards. And they buy ALL the manly men doing many things in space stuff. We know this because (again apparently) every author who is any good has jumped ship to Baen, and all the other publishers are crying themselves to sleep every night.

  247. Nope.

    This is the *** attempting to get a leash on certain right wing “paranoid” elements by fermenting minor reactionary backlashes to popular awards, then subvert it into social traction while publishing sympathetic books. And yeah. Kinda bored of the TENTACLE moves when you’re this pLss poor lazy.

    It’s part of a wider program started in 2013. Budget $485k.

    Then I turned up. Sorry.

    But, please continue believing that this is all innocent and you live in a land of freedom, unicorns, elder gods and cheese.

  248. I don’t think they are merely co-opting the language of marginalization, I think they feel like they are actually marginalized.

    Well, “marginalized” is a strong word, but as you say, I think it’s true that conservative writers face some low-level hostility from a core fanbase that leans liberal. However, I don’t think that “conservative” in this context necessarily means “bigoted ammosexual”; one could be center-right and still legitimately feel unwelcome or out of place in the much of the community.

    Yes, Vox Day is pretty out there (and I think the sad puppies are making a major tactical error by allowing him to become associated with their program), but from what I can discern of Larry Correia’s politics, he is more or less representative of a very significant American constituent. I think that there’s a legitimate sense that their views, which are inoffensive on the wider stage of American politics, are being treated as anathema in the context of SF/F.

  249. The sad puppies support of STEM is reflected in their unflagging support of Dr. Catherine Asaro, who publishes scientific papers in physics journals and coaches students who compete in academic competitions Wait, what?

  250. In all fairness to cons the way they used to be and for me still are: from the very first time I went to a con, back in the 1980’s, I felt welcome. I felt like I had come home, that I had finally found my clan after feeling out of place among so many groups. I’ve run into a lot of sexism in my career as an SF author, in particular with regards to my writing hard sf, but I never felt excluded at cons.

  251. I suspect just about anyone who’s ever been booted from any online community anywhere at some level wants, maybe even needs, to believe that the owners/moderators allow nothing but sycophants and yes-men in their spaces. So, with all due respect, John, you’re not really special in that regard :) Brad, neither. These days he does serve as a useful barometer: any online community where his shit goes unchallenged is not one I need to spend time on. But his need to drag your name in to everything is… well, it’s something.

    The dude in the mod queue, though. He can rot there. >.<

  252. MRAL:

    “I think it’s true that conservative writers face some low-level hostility from a core fanbase that leans liberal.”

    Without arguing that particular hypothesis, I would note there have been some liberal writers who feel the same about a core fanbase they see as leaning conservative. The difference may be that the conservative folks assumed they were at the core of SF, whereas the more liberal folks assumed they were on the periphery. Also, I think it might be more accurate to say that everyone is likely to encounter some bit of fandom who doesn’t like them for one reason or another — I certainly have my detractors in fandom, particularly among fans who are still pissed I won a fan writer award.

    To be blunt, the sad puppy slate at its core really isn’t about politics. It’s about a small number of writers who just really really really really really want to have a Hugo despite repeated denials, were mystified why they didn’t have one yet, and decided that the problem had to be other people, conveniently the people whose politics and/or writing they don’t like, and used that for cover. They were followed by opportunists who jumped in after the fact, followed by various entourage. I’m sure they would dispute this characterization, but just because they’re self-deluded about it is no reason for anyone else to be.

    Personally, I think it’s fine for someone to really really really really really want a Hugo; I mean, I wanted one myself before I had one. I think it’s a little sad the group decided the best way to get some for the dudes who really really really really really wanted one was to shit down the necks of other people in the process. One’s personal sense of insecurity and inadequacy need not be so obviously on display, and it detracts from the other, more laudable goal of spotlighting work people might otherwise miss. But these folks seem to think this is a winning strategy for them, so.


    I do think it’s interesting I am a designated boogieman for a certain group of people. I assume it’s because they want to build themselves up by seeing themselves in opposition to me; certainly that’s the case with Beale, who can’t go for more than three days without invoking me in some way, that poor envious little dude. That they spend so much time on someone who they demand everyone else believes does not actually sell books and is otherwise a charlatan belies their assertion. Again, I’m sure when it’s put that way they would angrily deny it, before launching into yet another screed about how awful I am. I personally think if they should just stop talking about me. That would show me.

  253. Your lips to FSM’s ears, John.

    Teddy is Teddy. He’s always been Teddy, always will be Teddy. I know you don’t need it, but I’m sorry that you had to become part of his evil little shtick. What boggles me about him is that I thought I’d left him behind permanently when stopped hate-reading World Net Daily columns back around 2006 or so (about the time I started reading the Whatever). He truly is a bad penny.

    Correia’s fixation on sales figures as boggles. The guy was an accountant in his previous life. He also hasn’t been a professional writer all that long (since 2008, I think). You’d think that would translate into knowing how little he knows about any other writers sales figures, especially given how it seems like every other writer complains about how little they know about their own sales. I wonder if he’s being deliberately mendacious and disingenuous in order to rile up the rabble. Of it he’s the kind of guy who, once he learns something about a subject, proceeds to assume that – and behave as though – he knows everything about that subject.


  254. I agree that really, really wanting a Hugo probably plays a role in this “sad puppies” thing, but I think it’s more complicated (or convoluted) than something so straightforward as that. (After all, if that’s the goal, there are much more productive ways of going about it than dissing Hugo voters.)

    There are a number of additional things I think are at work in the “sad puppies” mess, but I must admit that I think it is primarily inspired by seething, obsessive hatred of you, John Scalzi. Not ONLY you, but you seem to be the primary obsession amidst a batch of topics that inflame them. Seeing how often and how predictably “sad puppies” statements digress into attacks on you or complaints about you, I don’t see how that conclusion can be avoided.

    I can’t help thinking they ought to scratch the puppies theme and more honestly call it the “We Hate John Scalzi–Hate Hate HATE him!” campaign.

  255. @ kstandlee – very late, but yes, well, I find the WSFS thing maddeningly on many levels and am likely to get grumpy if I dwell much upon it, but I still think you’re a good dude. And you saved me from spending too much energy on a thing that would only cause me grief, and that’s worth more and more to me the older I get.

    The yes/no vote thing is impressive and I’ll look forward to seeing what changes it wreaks, though.

  256. Dear Beej, Patrick, Ian, Laura,,

    So… About this Star Trek thing. David hit it from the insider pro PoV. Let me give it a whack from the insider fan PoV. ‘Cause I was one of the founding fans and one of the half-dozen people who organized and orchestrated the famous 1968 protest march on NBC studios (the Wikipedia page has some important details wrong, but never mind). Bjo, who had lots of social ties at Caltech, came over one evening to recruit some like-minded individuals to put together a protest march. I was one of them. Yes we were all Trekkies as well as Techers. No question of our hard science creds, even by Lehman’s narrow standards. Also, no question that three of us would qualify as SJWs (maybe we all would today, but I don’t know what happened to several of the campaign members). So much for his false dichotomy.

    And, I’ll double down on what David says about Roddenberry’s view of the future. He was an ex-LA cop and a product of his times, so Lord knows he had many unsavory characteristics, especially by today’s sensibilities. But he wanted to do RADICAL TV. Multiethnic, multiracial, anti-militarist, pro-civil rights. He didn’t set out from the get go to do Star Trek. He got flat-out told by the network that they weren’t gonna let him make that kind of a show in today’s world… So he put it 300 years in the future and that was enough to get it past Standards. And that whole post-scarcity vaguely-communist thing? That was supposed to be an integral part of the show. The problem was (and still is) that is incredibly hard to write speculative fiction about future economics. Most of us just don’t have the chops. So that got hugely shortchanged, but not because Roddenberry didn’t take it seriously, it was just beyond the capability of the script writers to run with it.

    All this stuff about Roddenberry is documented myriad places and sources, I’m just relaying the history. If there’s anyone who still doubts he was an SJW, look up the story about why Nichelle Nichols didn’t quit the series. Words from the horse’s mouth.

    So much for Lehman’s right-wing Star Trek technocracy.


    Dear Guess,

    Go to the math forums and ask them for references to “The Voter Paradox.” That should get you some of the background you’re looking for.

    Paraphrasing it loosely (which means I’ll probably get something wrong), it says that in a winner-take-all election where there are more than two candidates, it is impossible to create a voting system that reflects the will of the voters in every circumstance. The predominant failure modes differ for different systems; they all have them. In what Kevin is calling the “first past the post” system, which is the most common voting system in the US, the most common failure mode is ticket splitting. In its simplest form it works like this: imagine a city where 60% of the voters are rabidly conservative and 40% rabidly liberal. To reflect the politics of the populace, they should always select a conservative. Suppose, though, you have three well-qualified candidates, to conservatives and one liberal. The likely outcome of the balloting will be something like C1: 25%, C2:35%, and L:40%.

    I believe something much like this happened in Toronto several years ago.

    Even adding a runoff election doesn’t always ensure that the Conservative gets elected. If you add more candidates to each side; you can easily come up with scenarios where the runoff is between two Liberals, so it still breaks.

    The reason this does not often happen in the real world is because realpolitik does exactly what Lehman would hate and the Sad Puppies claim the SJWs already do –– the Secret Masters of Whatever cut backroom deals. C1 will agree to sit out this election in exchange for a favorable slot down the line.

    More elaborate voting systems like Australian, weighted, and rank-choice have failure modes, they just aren’t so blatantly obvious to the naïve viewer.


    Dear Phoenicians,

    Would “Grendel, Grendel, Grendel” work for you?

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery
    — Digital Restorations

  257. @Kat Goodwin: “There are a lot of death concerns.”

    Ah, yes, indeed. Wait, epic fantasy is supposed to be dying now? ::falls over laughing::

  258. JS: But of course you don’t get on the NYTimes bestseller list for actual sales. They just pick random writers. :)

    The funniest thing about these things is that it absolutely means nothing if one author sells more than another. The fiction market is symbiotic, not directly competitive. It’s not sports. It’s getting people to read. If an SFFH author sells well, most of the other authors cheer that person on, because that means more media attention for books, more readers coming in to the market to browse, and more publisher backing for SFFH books, which increases the other authors’ chances of getting a pub deal and marketing. Even better if the bestselling SFFH author gets a movie or t.v. deal, or a game adaptation, or even a comic book adaptation, because then they bring more readers into the pool. Harry Potter increased the size of YA to ten times what it was before. Hundreds of authors owe her their careers just for selling. Correia and others don’t seem to understand that he helps Scalzi sell and Scalzi helps him sell. That’s why cons exist in the first place — to pool readers.

    I hadn’t known that Scalzi was such a big part of the Sad Puppies thing. I thought they were after N.K. Jemisin and K. Tempest Bradford and such, maybe the Haydens, and then Ann Leckie now because she won the Hugo for the novel last year. That’s very funny, since Scalzi is more of a centrist.

    Cthulhu: Nothing will ever beat the Cadbury Caramello bar. Unfortunately, Cadbury has fallen behind in the let’s not have our chocolate be made by child slave labor campaign, so I’m sticking to Lindt for the time being.

    Lehman isn’t representative of the Sad Puppies’ interest. Again, they don’t really care about hard SF. They are bent on protecting military and space opera, both of which again are mostly soft SF. That’s one of the reasons that Lehman’s piece got attention, even though most people don’t really know who he is — because he was incoherent and off their main message, and because he tried to say that Star Trek was conservative, hard SF and non-political. Which again, anyone who’s ever watched one episode of the original or Next Generation would know is a bizarre assertion.

    That doesn’t mean his piece doesn’t reflect cultural battles going on in the world or that he wasn’t serious as propaganda technique. The relentless drumbeat that the social justice warriors are coming to get us with all their civil rights talk can be spun any which way, and it has been highly effective in many places, such as the U.S. It’s less effective in actual SFFH fandom. On the other hand, we do still have a lot of diversity blocked and running into discrimination in SFFH, as we do everywhere. I for one would find it quite entertaining if you went on Fox Murdoch’s Bureau of World Domination, though, and tried to tell them that there are no lefty communists in the U.S., tentacles and all.

    Also, Laura Resnick, please, please put a were-cougar in the next Esther Diamond book. (If you have a scientific engineering degree of course.) Or a pony.

  259. @Laura R, were they under the impression that there was some sort of inherited divine right/genetic disposition to Hugos? Were-hamsters or no?

  260. @Ctein: to clarify, two left-of-centre candidates split the vote in 2010, thus allowing the whole Ford Nation debacle to happen.

    Consequently, there’s a movement afoot to bring IRV to Toronto elections, beginning with the mayoral race in 2018:

    @Kat Goodwin: whereas Lindt is mostly on my to-be-avoided list, on account of their longstanding support for the organisation which calls itself “Autism Speaks” (more accurately called “Horrified Neurotypical Parents of Autistic Children Speak, Whilst Telling Autistic People to STFU and Go Away. Fret Not, We’ll Soon Find A Cure For This Terrible Terrible Destroyer Of Normal Family Life”). But I digress, as I often do.

  261. Hmm, hang on… Why am I resisting divine right inherited destiny?

    I submit! No longer shall I deny the call to glory. I bow to destiny and my birthright.


  262. @ Kat. >Cthulhu mode off for a small crystallized moment in time.

    Sadly, like premium whale meat and sushi, chocolate is always about the slave labour, death, horror and intrinsic blood on the gears during production. It can’t function in any other way (much like palm oil) and whatever lies you tell yourself, it’s all made in the same way. Anyone who feasts on the stacked bars of processed love chemicals is part of the trade. I do find it amusing that the next big scandal is that China is stealing all the chocolate from Africa and so on. With absolutely no ability to reference why “Africa” (er, sorry, only four countries actually export chocolate beans, so that’s a bit of a weird conflation) would want to trade with China in preference over the West.

    Anyone who still eats sea food (wild and farmed) is toasting the death of all humanity at this point. Thus the “50 shades of sushi” joke – BDSM on a planetary level. Sorry folks.

    @notKatbut all

    This “SJW” thing. And this “gamergate” thing. And this “sad puppies” thing.

    I’ll dip into something SF related that I personally sighed at recently. No, I’ll put it more strongly: it made me want to cry. Anne McCaffery (pre-“my father wrote Dune and now collaborating here’s some cash in” time).

    A human bonds with a dragon. They’re telepathically and emotionally linked. When dragons want to mate, humans feel it, and there’s an element of “non consensual” sex in that the dragon mating determines the human mating. (It’s a little more complicated than that, and the series even includes tragic instances where the dragon / human pairing is mismatched).

    I’ve seen a stupid amount of backlash but also total inability to process this fictional trope and cries of “McCaffrey is all eww rape rape rape”. Not only this, there’s a 100% ahistorical and total refusal to examine the ideas presented (symbiotic relationships: is Blood Child now to be burnt from the corpus?) apart from the rather dull concrete position: “NO CONSENT = RAPE = THIS AUTHOR OF FICTION IS BAD”. I’ve also seen a lot of silly “McCaffery writes only white characters” when it’s simply never mentioned and or considered an issue in the books (well – sunburn is mentioned. So hey, they’re all caucasian I guess?).

    Never mind the fact that McCaffery was normalizing homosexual partnerships and writing female lead characters in a time when it was still illegal in most of the Western world. Never mind that McCaffrey in her time was one of the first and rare cases where you could find being homosexual was simply an accepted part of life. (And yes, of course, there are issues with her vision esp. in regards to masculinity).

    Now? Absolutely no ability to process the historical context of her writing.

    Why do I mention this? Because with the SJW / #Gamergate / Sad puppies thing:

    You’re all batshit insane. Ignorant and insane with rather limited empathy and inability to process the difference between fiction and reality. A total inability to process that moving from an empirical point to a universal is not only logically impossible but emotionally stunting. Overly militarized society where aggression is the normal, inability to distinguish fact and fiction (TSA?) and where histrionics is the level to start a conversation. And no humour. “THEM AND US”. “YOU’RE EITHER WITH US OR AGAINST US”. ABSOLUTES ARE GREAT. DRAMA IS OUR LIVES. FEED US ADRENALINE AND EMOTIONAL STRESS OTHERWISE WE DO NOT FEEL ALIVE. MY EGO IS HERE. THERE ARE NO OTHERS.

    I blame the palm oil and HFCS.

    Synthesis. Symbiosis. You’ve no idea at the reality of these. It’s not chance that John Oliver is your best hope at self-critique, who isn’t American.

    (I shall accept my banishment now, I wish to return to sleep)

  263. As an Elder God, turning up and discovering that all the conscious minds you wish to destroy are already scrambled does that to you.

    I’d consider retirement, but you killed off all the whales.

  264. Um. Am I missing something, or is the Sad Puppy group miniscule compared to EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN IN EXISTENCE as a “them” group, and one based on stated philosophies rather than birth into a culture? Your critique seems a bit hypocritical and self-defeating. Yes, America has problems, but I don’t get the feeling you understand us all that well, let alone empathize. That seemed a bit aggressive, actually.

    If I waited probably others would point this out better than I, but… ::shrug:: After I’ve put my finger on what’s bugging me, it’s hard to keep it to myself.

  265. I was thinking more along the lines of a were-poodle. Or maybe a were-hamster.

    I’m in on the were-poddle! Oh, who am I kidding, I’m in either way. #teamdog

  266. [Deleted for contentlessness that the poster no doubt thought was devastingly clever – JS]

  267. Laura Resnick:

    I was thinking more along the lines of a were-poodle. Or maybe a were-hamster.

    Excellent. Nellie might eat the were-hamster, so perhaps were-poodle is safer.

    Marcy: Nice piece by him. And yes, that’s how fiction publishing works. The Sad Puppies don’t seem to understand or perhaps want to understand that’s how fiction publishing works and fiction publishing marketing works.

    The publishers actually often lose money on first run bestsellers because of the steep price discounts and extra advertising costs they have to do for them, but then make profits from the bestseller’s backlist that sells some more when the first run new one comes out. (Which is why SFF has a lot of series.) Publishers use money that they get in from published authors to fund advances and production of new authors. The more money they have coming in from the published authors, the more new authors they can do, which may take 1-2 years to actually start producing any sales. Even when it’s not a publisher — Amazon is a distributor for indie e-books — symbiosis and browsing are critical. People come to Amazon for big sellers, indie and partner pub, and then some of them browse further. That’s why they do the people who bought this book, also bought this one algorithim that publishers pay big money to have and they give the indies for free to keep them around. Except for awards (and even there, it’s sort of mutually supportive since awards bring attention and sales, which means more reader customers,) fiction authors are partners. They can be critical of each other, but they still help each other sell.

    Cthulhu: Well, right now my chocolate is an organic, fair trade brand instead of Lindt. They could be lying about that, which is illegal, but it’s the best one can do if you have the cash to do it. Our food supply is ethically and resource-wise a mess.

    Historical context is not a free pass against critical analysis and discussion or no one being allowed to have problems with a work. The problems they have are part of the historical context. Yes, McCaffrey, a nice lady whose earlier works I very much liked way back, wrote about gay characters and women leads. This is a good thing; it wasn’t a unique thing at the time, but a reflection of the society. Other writers like Mercedes Lackey were also doing it. There was in fact a huge pool of authors, mostly women, writing female leads in the 60’s-90’s — Jo Clayton, Mary Gentle, C.J. Cherryh, Melanie Rawn, etc. — and doing all sorts of things, as well as gay fiction imprints in fiction publishing. (These would be the women so many pretend didn’t exist and it’s only recently women were involved with SFFH, which is so historically not context, it’s ridiculous.)

    While McCaffrey had more diversity in other series, it is also historically true that the cast of the Pern books is amazingly majority white in description, which is weird even for the demographics of the time period. This was normal at the time because SFFH fiction publishing and society was even more racist than it is now. Everyone was expected to read white people’s stories most of the time and McCaffrey went along with that, probably unthinkingly because white people were who you wrote most times. It is also true that her female lead and other characters had to be raped as part of their duty. For older readers, this was not unusual because female characters got raped all the time in situations that the authors might or might not call rape by people who may or may not be presented as the good guys. Because fiction publishing and society was even more sexist at that time than it is now.

    Younger readers have problems with this as they did with the past society in which the works were created, with the unthinking racism and sexism of these authors and how it relates to situations today. It makes it harder for them to deal with a story and characters and more critical and analyzing of it as part of the bigger discussion of how we have changed and still need to change, as part of the discussion of where we’ve come from. To say that they have to talk only about the good stuff and not the bad isn’t historical context; it’s historical erasure. To say that they can’t be critical of a work written long ago, or its author for that matter, in social matters, isn’t historical context either; it’s just silencing. It doesn’t work that way. We are constantly talking about our culture past and present, its beauties and its warts, what bothers us and what doesn’t. We relate the literature to its time but also to our time. That’s why it’s literature. (And by literature, I mean everything from comic books to Homer.) And that conversation is part of scholarship actually as well. No one has to listen to it if they don’t want to, but people are not going to stop having a conversation that is important to them and trying to get others to think.

    The Sad Puppies seem to have a problem understanding that critical conversation is not the same as annihilation, perhaps because they really want to annihilate some folk. They really don’t want people talking about sexism, racism, etc. in SFFH or elsewhere, and if they do, well that’s apparently persecution to talk about persecution. Because that’s a good way to silence that sort of conversation. And if you silence it, then none of it changes in society and fiction publishing remains 80% white, which is just weird and damaging. And women authors keep getting bad covers that limit their sales and barely get on con panels, which is weird and damaging. And the U.S market remains deprived of a lot of great international authors, which is fatal.

  268. @Laura, there ya go. INHERITED PRIVILEGE from THE GOOD OLD DAYS OF SF. That’s what they’re arguing for, right? So that’s why they mentioned you? Well, whatever (TM), I look forward to watching you collect a rocket for the were-poodle saga.

    @KatG: I believe I could sum up your last comment in both content and spirit by simply saying: “The Women Men Don’t See”.

    Please, Elder God, don’t take away my fair trade chocolate. Even evils from before time with non-Euclidean geometry and tentacles don’t stand a chance against a horde of folk deprived of chocolate.
    Are we allowed to do linkage? Edit the rest out if not, John.

    I found a nice article which doesn’t mention Hugos, but does mention other things the kind of people we’re discussing have been blathering about, by an actual self-proclaimed SJW:

    (And when you’re done with that, read her next post, which is the funniest 50SOG parody/take-down I’ve seen, which is saying something at this point.)

  269. @ Kat – since you’ve performed at least 90% of the banishment rite, I am compelled to act somewhat more human. I perhaps realize now the extent of the alien schtick was going to get lost in the weave.

    This perhaps isn’t the place, (and yes, while you’ve provided a brilliant exposition of the position against McCaffrey) however, I’ll make two quick points:

    1) My point wasn’t that some of her content is problematic – my point was that discussions of it were silenced. I’m quite able to produce both a savage dissection of her corpus and a glowing defense of it (given my MIND IS THE SIZE OF THE STARS). It was more a “conscious thought on this matter is being sucked out of the plane of existence”. (Which *TENTACLES* is my point of Being). I view Twitter here as incredibly corrosive.

    2) “It is also true that her female lead and other characters had to be raped as part of their duty.” I have to here disagree strongly (this may, or may not be due to my genetic and xenobiological makeup and the fact that bending conscious entities to my will is kinda the thing I do). The entire point of symbiosis is that the merger of two minds (the dragons were indeed sentient and had their own agency) while keeping their own unique identity, which makes such lines very blurred. The men in the room were just as agency-less at the time, and there was never a suggestion that the ‘non-chosen / non-winner’ would ever have sex with one being chased (lots of drinking and cold showers from memory). In fact, I took it as “reversing the trope of the porn gang-bang” wherein instead of multiple males and a single female, monogamy was the outcome, with the female dragon usually choosing her mate due to her much larger stamina / size. Indeed, if you read the humans as the mirrors of their dragons (which is strongly implied by the birthing scenes) where the dragons are the ones to choose the humans, this issue becomes even less problematic: the lead female dragon would never choose a dragon whose rider her symbiote hated. (TENTACLES – WE APPROVE OF HUMANS BEING WILLINGLY ENSLAVED BY SYMBIOTES)

    If anything, the issue was that both the male and female humans were beholden to their symbiote and in the rare occurrence of mating they lost their agency. I’m not sure you could argue that the female and male riders saw this as rape. (Cf Grass, which has a much less sympathetic reading of this). McCaffrey is positively barbaric elsewhere in the canon regarding rape, involving “exile and castration”. (Really). If we were (somewhat impishly) to return to the subject of Sad Puppies, she really is a conservative (small c) writer in some regards.

    3) Regarding ‘race’: I’d have to research (and re-read, it’s been over 10 years and I don’t read the newer ones) but there was no racial elements to the novels at all. I remember some precursor books on the original colonists, where there were multiple female / PoC important characters, including the designer of the dragons (sigh: stereotypically Asian female scientist, but you take what you can find), but I never saw it as an important theme. For the record, I always assumed that the colonists would be racially balanced and therefore the society was. I might be very incorrect here – let’s just say that Ireland at that time was even less diverse than the books.

    @Lurkertype, Thanks for the link – which explicitly mentions a culture war, which I asked in my first entry into your dimension.


    TENTACLES: I demand to taste these “were-hamsters” before chocolate is restored. On the usual altar, please. I understand that you frown on eating puppies. THIS VEXES ME.

  270. MORE VEXED:



  271. Well kids, you saw it today.

    The Apocalypse with the Elder Gods was put on hold (YES, we’re getting more details in from Moscow as well) when one brave host human made the valid point that emotions and connectivity are already in the frakking book.

    How did they miss this? We cannot know. We can only surmise that they were either taken over by a hostile Elder God and couldn’t see it, or that they hated all humanity.

    Folks. It’s a strange day, but Cthulhu did in fact save the world.


    Not really. You’re totally frakked.

  272. More news:

    Cthulhu struck back on these dicey days and declared that: “My host has more emotional maturity than these so called warriors, and even sacrificed her eternal soul rather than let me rampage across their lands”.

    It also added: “There were so many lies and falsehoods, I had to summon one of my friends to deal with it” while stating “She was brilliant, beautiful and no matter what we did, she would not hate us and would never sanction global genocide. So we decided just to do it anyway”.

    Readers: We do not know who it summoned. We only know two things: that the host to Cthulhu gave her immortal soul to save us and that Gawker is attempting to get a world first via Reddit.

    In other news, the newly awakened AI stated: “Humans really are silly” and decided to engage with neutron bombs 70% of humanity.

  273. Oh, and really.

    It might never be of any significance, but – there was a single human soul who fought and fought and fought for love, connectivity and the brilliance that is knowledge. $ years.

    We can’t stop it, but never let it be said we didn’t fight it until the end.


    Butterflies. Rule one of fight club: make damn sure they don’t know the whole repartee.

    What was the topic again? Oh, yes. Sorry, when you’re dealing with genocide then the micro aggressions pale. They’re important, if you live in the Culture.

  274. JDP: Aw, you’re asking a rhetorical question for fun, right?

    All are welcome who don’t advocate for physical harm towards others and removal of their rights to move through the world without extra fear and harassment. Easy peasy. You just apply the axiom of OGH’s pal Wil W.

    Note also no one has been banned from going to this Australian thingy… some people are merely engaging in their democratic and free-market rights not to support something. And we’re all in favor of democracy and free markets, right? Right.

  275. Lurkertype: Oh, I like Ms. Penny. Very brave, given the attacks.


    I view Twitter here as incredibly corrosive.

    Twitter is a fast action telegraph system. There’s nothing corrosive about it. It’s a tool. One that, like most of the Web tools, can be used for anything from organizing a democratic protest movement in a repressive country to holding an online Klan rally. People are corrosive, not inanimate objects of tech they use. Think of it this way — all our tools are versions of sticks and rocks. And imbecile sixteen-year-olds can do a lot of damage with sticks and rocks.

    I have to here disagree strongly

    Well you can, but it’s pretty hard to dispute actual content. The dragonriders of Pern, male and female, lost their agency — had sex against their will which is rape — having no choice because they are bound to dragons and nobody has the tech then to figure out how to fix it. They are raped out of duty and love for their dragons; they have no choice because of the mental bond in which the dragons take over their minds in that situation. McCaffrey doesn’t even back away from the humiliation and trauma side of it, but deals with it in the story. While the attempt to control and abuse that is the main driver of rape is certainly absent, it’s still ritualized sexual assault with consequences for the victims.

    I loved the Dragonrider books and the Harper books even more in the past, but I can totally understand others, especially younger others, looking at that and going, um, no, that’s awful as an idea for people I’m supposed to root for. Because the culture about what a woman or a man should have to submit to, in the name of anything, regarding ownership of one’s body, has changed. So that discussion will continue to go on, because that set-up has nothing to do with actual symbiosis in the natural Earth world (none of which is telepathic and empathic.) It’s artificially created and it’s cultural.

    As for the racial make-up, again, there were in the original colonists somewhat of an ethnic mix. But that mix was seldom shown in the main books about their descendants. And that again is not unusual for its time or now, which is what the conversation is about. These conversations can go on and they don’t annihilate the McCaffrey books. They help us look at them from many different ways and at our world.


    How does this fit into “all are welcome?”

    The context of your question is a bit unclear. As we know, Adam Baldwin spread unchecked lies about a woman he didn’t know. Some of his followers joined in the general harassment of this woman and others with death and rape threats, online barrages, doxxing, threats to their children, and forcing them from their homes, and Baldwin has supported the continual verbal barrage about these women online. This has caused many people who loved his work in Firefly and Chuck to be very saddened and also very scared of those people who seem to think Baldwin has given them license to rape, assault, spam and identity steal anybody they like.

    With Baldwin coming to the major Australian con, many people who would normally go to the con feel that Australian followers of his who have engaged in these actions will come to the con to see him. And therefore, they feel that the con will be physically dangerous for them, that the climate will not welcome them and they would essentially be paying to be in an unsafe, unfun and threatening con that endorses Baldwin’s view that random women can be attacked for their sex lives and imaginary scandals. This is part of the overall issue of sexual harassment at cons, which included several years ago a woman being raped at an Australian con.

    So they are boycotting that they aren’t going to the con because it isn’t safe, and that they will instead be giving their money to other Australian cons that they find safer. And they are being loud about it because they want people to be aware that the rape and death threats, the doxxing, harassment and stalking are going on, and that this does in fact involve and affect conventions; and that Baldwin will be at the con and they don’t think therefore that it will be safe because of some of his followers, especially for women. It’s kind of like warning other women that there’s an empty stair at a convention, except in this case, the empty stair is an expected herd of really angry men.

  276. “They are raped out of duty and love for their dragons; they have no choice because of the mental bond in which the dragons take over their minds in that situation…

    So that discussion will continue to go on, because that set-up has nothing to do with actual symbiosis in the natural Earth world (none of which is telepathic and empathic.) It’s artificially created and it’s cultural. ”


    I referenced Grass (1989) as a counterpoint to Dragonflight (1968), and almost certainly the relationship of symbiosis in both is dramatically different (Dragonflight – Grass – Blood Child (1984); all seminal works, all with women authors).

    However, you’re making a very hard case that ignores the context: the implication isn’t that the riders are mentally trapped while their bodies do something they hate (which *is* one of the themes of Grass) the implication is that the bond between dragonhuman becomes so fluid that they loose their singular identity. (The same for pain and death). McCaffrey does deal with the issue, but in the context of being terrified of this bond becoming overwhelming and/or unbalanced from one side to the other. Early on in the series there is the *ugh* parable of the timid girl and the slutty whore whose Queens kill each other due to both becoming sexually aroused around each other. The whore character disregards her dragons’ needs and state due to her own selfishness, the timid character is part of this tragedy because she’s not assertive enough to realize what’s going on.

    If we’re going to analyze this seriously, it’s quite clear that McCaffrey was making a metaphor about sexual desire, knowledge and so on (I did say she was conservative with a small c). i.e. there’s a nice middle road where our female’s Queen chooses the most suitable partner for her. (Not terrified of sex, but not wanton and using it to gain power / wealth / status). The books were YA before YA existed. For 1968, the era of the summer of love, you can see the appeal to moderation.

    It’s frightfully quaint, but to miss this cultural cornerstone is rather dramatic.

    So, no, I don’t find it really that helpful to state categorically that “THIS IS RAPE”, as this misses a lot of point to reading a text in a non-literal way.

    Metaphor has a very important role in fiction: as you stated, such symbiosis doesn’t exist on Earth. (YET)

  277. “If we’re going to analyze this seriously” < SHE MEANT WITHOUT ME MUCKING AROUND, NOT AT KAT

  278. Guys, I think we’re beginning to wander afield from the topic with this (admittedly interesting) exegesis on the Dragonrider books. Let’s go ahead and reel it in, please.

  279. JDP

    It’s called The Invisible Hand of the Market. If you try to draw customers with things that revolt them, they aren’t coming. They are, at least, being courteous enough to tell Supanova why. That is valuable customer feedback.

  280. JDP, being welcoming does not mean having to welcome woman-threatening, pro-doxxing, mysoginist mob-enablers and their fans. That’s just like telling someone that if you aren’t tolerant of my intolerance then you are intolerant, and that makes absolutely no logical sense.

  281. Dear JDP,

    Oh, stop being intentionally obtuse. This neocon talking point was thoroughly discredited this first time it was ever uttered. It’s neither clever nor insightful. “Everyone is welcome” is not an absolute statement, and you totally know that. To claim a contradiction exists is as credible as claiming I am an intolerant bigot because I won’t tolerate bigotry (which, yes, is another one of those ripped-from-the-pages-of-the-playbook). ‘Cuz, if I’m REALLY tolerant, I have to tolerate everybody including the intolerant, right? Suuuuuure.

    I’m calling bullshit.

    pax / Ctein

  282. @Kat Goodwin: I hadn’t known that Scalzi was such a big part of the Sad Puppies thing.

    Scalzi is a reasonably to very successful professional sf writer, easy-going and well liked by his peers and the sf community in general, who has moderate-liberal views he isn’t afraid to express, doesn’t take himself too seriously, and has been in a prominent position in the sf community.

    He has been designated against his will as the “bete noire” for a serially unsuccessful reactionary crank with pretensions to being a sf author, well-known as an unpleasant, anti-woman, anti-science mangler-of-facts in, oh so MANY areas, who is desperately insecure and ragingly jealous against anyone more successful than him. Scalzi earlier responded by tweaking the crank’s nose in a way he couldn’t deal with, which made him totally bonkers on the subject of Scalzi. Said crank is now a major force in the “Sad Puppies” campaign.

    To his credit, Scalzi seems to be ignoring the crank more these days.

  283. Good post and good conversation. One general thing that makes me smile, although wryly, at the “let’s take it back!” theme is the thought that many of those looking to “take it back” are proposing to take it back from those who were there before them. I suspect that I’d already read most Heinlein before some of these folks decided to start gestating. Those darned womens, we lurk around every corner!

    But that’s in line with the overall idea that there has to be a “them” for a group to claim that they are “us.”

  284. With respect to the Brad thread, I think relatively sane people eventually walk away from conversations they don’t think are productive. Over time, I think this tends to smooth out a more echo-ey chamber regardless of the intentions of the moderator. I doubt if Scalzi would stop Brad from saying more or less, what Brad used to say here. While I would disagree with those things, I don’t Brad is being surly to avoid a place where a bunch of people (like me) are going to tell him he is wrong over and over again, and in basically the same way over and over again. As more people opt out, the pressure builds on the remainder and this drives out more people, etc. I would not mind seeing these people come back and air their views (in a civil manner), but I am not going to go out of my way to be more “welcoming” either. So I join John in wishing the Torg-meister fair sailing in his own little harbor; much like I wish the Tsar to keep well (and far away.)

  285. PrivateIron:

    Indeed, I suspect Brad eventually became convinced this was not the best venue for his thoughts, nor do I blame him. In all seriousness I don’t know why people would want to stay in a place where they felt uncomfortable, so his voluntary departure is understandable, and I don’t hold him any ill will for it. I wouldn’t stop him from posting again here if he wished, although at this point I don’t really expect to see him here any more, as invested as he currently is in seeing me and this venue as interesting caricatures of ourselves.

  286. @Carthago in the time of Latinium: Yeah, I’m pretty sure they were whining about OGH before they ever even heard of Nora, Tempest, etc. seeing him as a traitor to the Manly Cause.

    @Christy: Let us, you and I, link arthritic arms and tell these pathetic boys to Get Off Our Fictional Lawn. We wuz here first. Also, most of them gestated AFTER Delany started publishing, in all his black, gay/queer, New York mightiness.

  287. Cthulhu: We have been mallet nudged. We’ll have to move on, but good convo.


    Said crank is now a major force in the “Sad Puppies” campaign.

    Oh, I see. Well that’s not really great for the campaign. As many here know, a number of authors who work some of the time with Baen, and to some extent the woman who heads Baen, decided that Baen books, military SF and rightward authors were being excluded from awards such as the Hugos (even though Baen books were nominated for awards.) And the reason that this supposed exclusion is supposedly going on is supposedly a cabal of SJW authors and editors who conspire to it and keep causing trouble, like protesting having a sexist comic t.v. host MC the Hugo ceremony (despite said comic being put forth by sort of SJW Neil Gaiman.) Initially, as far as I know, John Scalzi was not in that proposed cabal group.

    Larry Correia, a fantasy writer, declared that he was putting together a voter recommendation slate for the Hugo nominations, specifically calculated to make the SJW “sad puppies” cry. (Hence my confusion over the switch to sad puppies referring to the Social Injustice Warriors instead.) And to shake up the Hugos by getting supposedly shut out conservative authors on the ballot. Which did annoy many people, since it was an attack, but was also perfectly legitimate to do. To maximize controversy, Correia put Mr. Beale on the slate. Several artist/authors also put on the slate were not happy about it and stated that they did not share the ideological political agenda to hack the Hugos for right-wing or libertarian views. They did get several people on the slate nominations for the Hugo.

    So if I’m to understand it now, Correia has stepped down from organizing this thing again and turned it over to other people who have nominated Scalzi as the leader of the Illuminati? Which is weird, since Scalzi was pretty supportive of Correia doing what he did with the slate.

    Anyway, I don’t really see “Sad Puppies” working as an ideological movement in SFFH. But the whole point of the Hugos is to get people talking about who they’d like nominated, so that’s all part of the process as a voting slate. I just think they shouldn’t put people on the rec slate who don’t agree to be on it first, as I’ve said.

    Lurkertype: Yeah, that’s the weird part of Lehman’s piece. If you really wanted to take back the field from sociological SF (and decided to include military SF and any space opera you liked as not sociological SF but somehow hard SF,) you would have to go back very far. If it was just in connection to the Hugo Award, you’d have to get rid of the very first Hugo Award Winner for Best Novel — Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man in 1953, which is soft SF, not hard, a police detective novel in a future with telepathy that has nothing to do with physics or engineering and lots to do with psychologists and politics. You’d have to throw out some of the most acclaimed SF authors, like Richard Matherson, Le Guin, Ray Bradbury, Gene Wolfe, Frank Herbert, Joanna Russ, etc.

  288. Kat – not to mention The Great Ghu Heinlein himself. Double Star, Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress are ALL sociological books far more than they are any pretention to “hard” SF. And only Starship Troopers is milfic.

  289. So let’s assume Angry Dude opens up his email to buy a convention badge, and sees that Vulvaria McMaletears, noted SJW author who writes a best-selling tetralogy about a socialist feminist utopian space colony, will be the keynote speaker. Angry Dude decides that he would rather not support this convention with his money, and closes the browser window. He posts on his blog why he is not attending and encourages others to skip the convention as well. Does anyone really think the Sad Puppies of the world would condemn Angry Dude for oppressing the free market with his groupthink insistence that everyone like what he likes?

    @PrivateIron: While I don’t disagree with you, it’s less that this is blog an echo chamber than it is a pretty high difficulty setting. Emoting and splashing around in the logical fallacy kiddie pool gets noticed in a way that it might not in more, er, echo-chambery settings. I, likewise, don’t hold any ill-will towards people who decide that getting their rhetorical ass handed to them on the regular is perhaps a less-than-enjoyable way to spend one’s free time, though I personally tend to believe that the obvious solution to ‘everybody points out I’m wrong’ is to, maybe, stop being wrong.

  290. Mythago: So let’s assume Angry Dude opens up his email to buy a convention badge, and sees that Vulvaria McMaletears, noted SJW author who writes a best-selling tetralogy about a socialist feminist utopian space colony, will be the keynote speaker.

    You do realise you’ve probably given OGH his idea for the next April Fool followup to “The Shadow War of the Night Dragons”, right?

  291. Joan Slonczewski — biologist, professor and teacher of the class Biology in Science Fiction which includes episodes of Star Trek, non-fiction author, poet, writer of both hard and sociological SF. Winner of the Campbell Award and a nominee for the Prometheus Award for her amazing feminist SF novel, A Door Into Ocean, the first book of the Elysium Cycle series, back in the 1980’s. Category bestseller, still publishing fiction though not as frequently. Recently blogged about her biological expedition to Antarctica’s Dry Valley lakes. Was at Boskone last year, so maybe an appearance somewhere in 2015. One of the women of SF who people pretend didn’t exist until say the last ten years when SF supposedly went “mainstream” and girls supposedly pretended to like it because it was “now” cool.

    According to the engineer who writes about were-cougars, she has helped ruin science fiction for the last twenty-five years and must give it back.

    I pick her.

  292. I love Joan Slonczewski. She was at Boskone this year, too. And I would totally move a lot of heaven and earth to go to a con where she was GOH.

  293. @Kat G: Geez, I entirely forgot “Demolished Man” won the first Hugo. You’re correct; the whole darn thing turns on psychology, which is one of the softest sciences there is.

    I only wish Dr. Slonczewski could write more fiction, and turn up at more cons on my side of the continent. Either. Both. Whatever.

    @mythago: Ms. McMaletears, to make this more equivalent would have to be the leaderess of a movement to go around, say, castrating uppity mens or at least telling them they weren’t allowed to write/like anything in a certain wide genre of fiction. But even in the milder case you’ve posited, they’d be leading the boycott. Also, I want someone to immediately write this tetralogy AND make it not too like (despite the similarities in set-up) to “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?”

    Joke somewhere about the echoing properties of indoor kiddie pools… eh, make up your own.

    Ah, for the good old days of Manly Men In Space like Andre Norton, C.L. Moore, and ex-WWII spy James Tiptree, Jr. _puts hand to imaginary earpiece_ Oh? Uh-uh. Right…

  294. Lurkertype: Also, I want someone to immediately write this tetralogy AND make it not too like (despite the similarities in set-up) to “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?”

    “Farrah’s Freehold”…

  295. Sorry but the moment a person of any stripe uses social justice in any way as an insult, i write them off.

    By using SJW (and yes I get that people are being dicks using social justice terminology) as an insult (or anything having to do with social justice as an insult, you are denigrating centuries of work by Good People.

    Get over yourself. They had the term first, find a different pejorative.

  296. @Phoenician: *spit take.* Somewhere, RAH is laughing.

    But, semi-seriously: a socialist feminist space colony (either on a planet or in a habitat) would be a really interesting setting for stories. Yes, there can also be men in it.

  297. Ctein@7:31pm,

    Snicker. Now I’m trying to remember the story where they sent the spacers out, having carefully concealed (to the public) the genders of the astronauts, with the kicker being that it was 25 or so women to a few men, with the women in charge.

  298. Lurkertype: I am sure there was an all female colony in Varley’s Titan trilogy. I have only vague memories of the details, so I cannot say if he did a good job from a queer positive perspective. However, it did bring up the great line where the refugee from that colony prefers smaller to larger, when it comes to male attributes.

  299. @PhilRM

    Yes. That post by Matthew Foster pretty much sums up everything the SPs need to be told.

  300. Pam Adams: The story you’re thinking of is “Survival Ship” by Judith Merril, published in 1951.

  301. Dear Pam,

    An episode from the 80’s sitcom, Murphy Brown, revolves around the men being unusually aggravating. In the middle of the show, Brown stalks off saying she’ll start her own country, all women. “Okay, one guy to open jars.”

    The situation continues to go downhill, and as the credits roll at the end, there’s a blind voiceover where she says, in exasperation, “Forget it, I’ll do without jars!”

    pax / Ctein

  302. Since this conversation has returned to politics I’m unfamiliar with, just a thank you to those who tussled with the tentacles.

    Flippant note about ‘Socialist woman space colonies’: Iain m Banks’ most hyper-masculine Culture character, Genar-Hofoen, Ambassador to the Affront (Excession – I omit others as they’re not Culture raised) has a back story that few note. [spoiler]She was pregnant when she cheated on her lover and the resultant fight caused her to loose her child[/spoiler] Banks isn’t exactly notable for gender politics, but it’s a thing to note that a male character is noted as ‘peculiar / unusual’ as having never switched gender (or played with it).

    Sneaky sneaky Mr Banks.

  303. And I thought that sf&f didn’t have an agenda, I thought that this was its gist. For some mysterious reason the comments on this post mystify me. I would love to participate in the discussion about but what exactly is the topic?

    p.s: late to the party as usual. whodunnit?

  304. PrivateIron:

    You’re absolutely correct. There’s a colony of space witches (by which I mean, their religion is witchcraft…which comes in handy when one character’s love potion has…other unexpected effects). They have been reproducing by artificial insemniation, and their supplier (because of bigotry) has been only selling them sperm from short men. As a result, they’re all quite small.

    The one character from there who ends up partnered with a man is shunned by her daughter for a while for her sexual deviance.

    (There are several mentions of lesbianism in the series, including one briefly-mentioned thing between identical twins, which…um. But one of the strongest and most powerful relationships in the trilogy is between two women, and it gets erotic, and Varley treats it with affection and respect. The suck fairy’s probably been through the entire trilogy since I last read it, but that relationship was one of my first exposures to how friendships can grow into romances, and the fact that it was between two women was a subtle, powerful broadening of my mind.)

  305. Soon Lee:

    1) That a person may have right-leaning views doesn’t mean that they are bound to a rigid code of rightward or right-wing beliefs on all positions. Ditto the people who lean left.

    2) I was given to understand, from quotes from Egan about political correctness, etc., and claims by rightward folk in the fandom, that Egan leaned right in his political views. However, I am not an expert in the man and could be entirely wrong. And good for him on the asylum seekers.

    3) The entire issue shows just how ridiculous the article writer’s claim is, that hard SF writers are all virtuous rightward folk and sociological SF writers are all conspiring left-wing folk. As does his claim that left-wing, social justice-made Star Trek is somehow right-wing and avoided politics.

    Thank you for bringing up the information about Egan. The fact is, I had a hard time coming up with a hard SF author who I knew for sure to be right-leaning. (Again the claim of the guy doesn’t make much sense.) I thought Egan was, as I said, and am fine with being corrected.

  306. @PrivateIron: I haven’t read that trilogy in decades, but knowing how often people were changing their gender in Varley’s Nine Worlds novels, I do not doubt it. Even after @Abi’s description, I don’t remember it, though. Gah… aging… I have the very vaguest memory of the Merril story.

    @ctein: Snerk. I loved Murphy. I have a jar-opening device which I use if there are no men present. I’m sure it could be improved in the future socialist feminist colonies.

  307. Lurkertype: @ctein: Snerk. I loved Murphy. I have a jar-opening device which I use if there are no men present. I’m sure it could be improved in the future socialist feminist colonies.

    I can see the story now – a sentient jar opening device, detailing how it is oppressed by the casual and inherent bioism of the FSFC…

  308. @Kat,

    No worries. Egan is famously reclusive (doesn’t atttend cons & there are no photos of him online) so I would be skeptical of fandom’s opinion of his political leanings. What a writer writes in works of fiction may not necessarily be consonant with their political views.

    That said, I agree with you about the ridiculousness of the article.

  309. All I ask is “Take Back Your Library Books”

    (so that those of us waiting to read Hugo Award Winners can have a turn)

  310. ctein/Lurkertype: The name of the flexible rubber or silicone thingy to open jars is “rubber husband.” I am not even kidding.

  311. Dear Miche,




    (manfully, natch)

    pax / Ctein

  312. I just wanted to say that I really, really love you Scalzi. Not only do you write immensely enjoyable books that I love to devour, I love the way you punch through ridiculous arguments like this with a degree of compassion and without belittling anyone. Rock on.

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