Debarkle Chapter 32: Justice, Dinosaurs and the Water that Falls on You from Nowhere

Larry Correia and Vox Day’s Sad Puppies 2 campaigns gained them some finalists spots but were trounced in the final voting. Correia’s writing friend and ally, Brad Torgersen blamed the results on “affirmative action”. Eight of the thirteen categories that had gone to a sole person had been won by women[1] but Torgersen had a very broad sense of what he meant by “affirmative action” (see chapter 31). The claim that deserving authors were not being sufficiently recognised by the Hugo Awards had a related claim that UNdeserving authors were being disproportionately recognised by the Hugo Awards because of “politics”.

The 2014 Hugo Award winners would provide the supporters of the Sad Puppy campaigns with some examples.

Continue reading “Debarkle Chapter 32: Justice, Dinosaurs and the Water that Falls on You from Nowhere”

Why I haven’t written about Israel

I’ll confess to cowardice and the frustrating paralysis I sometimes put myself in.

The cowardice comes from approx 20+ years online prior to this blog in which I engaged with the issue more deeply. When I say ‘more deeply’ regular readers may be familiar with the extent to which I will research a topic. So, I have opinions on the current situation that are deeply informed and I assume regular readers know where my sympathies lie and they aren’t with the only government in the region.

Anyway, a bit of personal history. I completely disengaged from politics and online political discussion in 2010. A series of arguments in multiple spaces had begun to take an emotional/psychological toll on me and I identified it as a genuine problem that was leaking out into meat space. So I stopped.

When I decided to weigh back into internet street-brawling in 2015 I set a limit on topics for my own personal mental health and I think people might be able to guess from the shape of the absence of specific topics that ‘Israel’ is one of them. The problem was two-fold:

  1. Finding myself in a situation where a Nazi endorsed something I said.
  2. A coordinated harassment campaign that leaked into physical existence (i.e. being contacted by physical mail by a person who was an avowed supporter of a particular country in the middle-east as well as quasi-doxxing threats)

So, I’ll put my hands up to cowardice. Both those points are minor compared to what large numbers of people experience both as everyday oppression and repeated acts of state violence. It’s cowardice in that I really have let bullies silence my opinions. Those bullies come into flavours but the nature of the bullies is fundamentally the same and rest upon the capacity to identify classes of people who the bullies believe can be treated as subhuman.

I wish I could be stronger.

A case study featuring Larry C and mad auditing skillz

At the Monster Hunter Nation blog, Larry Correia has a post on how authors should deal with being spammed with one star reviews or similar kinds of attacks:

As is not uncommon with what Larry writes, some of it is good advice, some of it is advice that obviously works for Larry but is very much tuned to his public personality and some of it is is confabulated nonsense. I wont pick out which bit is which because you are smart people and can read it for yourself if you feel like.

What caught my attention though, was a specific example he cites. This example interested me because of something I’ve been discussing within the Debarkle. The paradigmatic example of the issue is the oft-repeated claim by Larry that his Campbell nomination was greeted by lots of critics attack his work and specifically that a reviewer said “if Larry Correia wins the Campbell it will end literature forever”. Now, I’m more than satisfied that this quote was wholly made up and that this whole mythology was based on a bad-but-fair review of his book by Nicholas Whyte who said nothing like the quote above (or variations on it). However, that is nigh on impossible to prove because maybe somebody did write something like what Larry quotes but somehow 1. deleted it 2. Larry didn’t comment on it at the time 3. nobody archived it 4. nobody else commented on it, quoted it, repeated etc at the time either.

Continue reading “A case study featuring Larry C and mad auditing skillz”

Debarkle Chapter 31: The Hugos Go to London

[Content warning for discussion of sexual assault, misogyny and transphobic language]

2014 was a busy year in the history of the Debarkle, with Larry Correia’s Sad Puppy 2 campaign, Vox Day’s involvement in Gamergate and the rest of fandom having its own controversies. Day had already started the year with a different problem: the Christian publisher who was selling his epic fantasy Throne of Bones had been sold and the new owners were not interested in Day’s book which didn’t fit the mould of the Christian Booksellers Association[1]. Day explained:

Continue reading “Debarkle Chapter 31: The Hugos Go to London”

Susan’s Salon: 2021 May 9/10

Please use the comment section to just chat about whatever you want. Susan’s Salon is posted early Monday (Sydney time which is still Sunday in most countries). It’s fine to be sad, worried, vaccinated, unvaccinated-yet, angry or maybe even happy (or all of those things at once).

Please feel free to post what you like (either troubling news or pleasant distractions) in the comments for this open thread. [However, no cranky conflicts between each other in the comments.] Links, videos, cat pictures 🐈 etc are fine! Whatever you like and be nice to one another 😇

May has the sweetest name of all the months

I’ve given up on the RH essay for the time being

The next essay on the rank for the Debarkle was intended to be an account of the 2014 reveal that writer Benjanun Sriduangkaew was the rage-blogger known other various names but referred to in general as Requires Hate.

Firstly, why would I have the essay in the first place in a series about the Sad Puppies? I think the answer is fairly clear. The events were a big deal, the led to Laura Mixon writing a report on Requires Hate, for which she became a 2015 Hugo finalist for Best Fan Writer and the only non-Puppy in that category. She subsequently won. There would be a very weird space in the account of the 2015 Hugos as to why this one category operated differently for this one finalist. The non-puppy discussion around it also takes in George R.R. Martin as well as Deidre Saoirse Moen’s voting advice when the news of the Puppy sweep took place (which has already had some discussion in the comments). More broadly, the themes of how fandom engaged with race and gender but also how fandom has tried to manage individuals, are recurring ones in the Debarkle. In addition, events around Requires Hate were used by Puppies as a kind of paradigmatic case for their narrative of the left being out of control and attacking authors (what they would now call ‘cancel culture’).

So why NOT write it? The core reason is that I’m not getting it written. I’ve a ton of notes but not a good way into the topic. So productive work on the series is close to a standstill because I can’t get past this point.

The problems are manifold. Firstly there is both a lot of material and a dearth of material. The main extant stuff is from 2014 and 2015 and includes the Mixon Report itself, as well as discussions and rebuttals of the Mixon report. There’s enough to draw out a consensus on a set of events by picking the elements that aren’t disputed (or aspects of elements that are disputed but not wholly rejected). Original material pertaining to the disputes analysed in the Mixon Report and in the rebuttals is often gone for the most contentious topics or lacks context (e.g. archive versions) or is from dubious sources.

The Mixon Report itself is, I think un-salvageable as a document. There’s a sound idea there of trying to demonstrate the scope of an individual’s behaviour by showing that events weren’t just separate toxic arguments between individuals but rather patterns of behaviour. However, to do that in a way that is both accurate and just would be much harder work than I imagine Laura Mixon anticipated. My impression previously was that it was a report with localised flaws but overall it is not fixable. It is now only available on archive sites, I think. I note also that when the issue of Requires Hate has come up more recently, people have pointed to some very specific individual accounts of their experience with Requires Hate rather than the report, primarily because they carry more weight and are less vulnerable to counter-arguments.

The rebuttals to the Mixon report are flawed in different ways. They correctly identify many issues in Mixon’s work and they also highlight that underlying racism and misogyny within fandom play a role in the targetting of Benjanun Sriduangkaew and that she had become a target of troll communities herself (eg Kiwi Farms). However, in doing so, whether the authors of the rebuttals intended to or not, a side effect was to minimise, diminish or cast doubt on the genuine feelings of many people impacted by Requires Hate.

Was racism, homophobia and misogyny involved in the reaction against Requires Hate/Benjanun Sriduangkaew? I could put my hands up and say ‘this is too messy to tell’. However, it is not unlike bad weather and global warming. You can’t pin climate change on weather and doing so often leads to foolish claims or counterclaims (a hot day is not an omen, a snowstorm is not a counter-example) but CLIMATE is the context in which weather happens and racism, homophobia, misogyny (and trans-misogyny and misogynoir) pervades fandom in ways that shape our beliefs and expectations (often despite our intentions) in a way that is analogous to the climate. So the shorter answer is “yes, of course, it did” but you also can’t dismiss the genuine hurt people experienced (including people I have come to know online and whose account of events I would trust).

A few years back I went to what was likely to be an interminable HR training day on workplace bullying but which turned out to be less superficial than I was expecting it to be. The facilitator was keen to delve into messy cases to exemplify Australian employment law on workplace harassment and bullying. They had led with a case where an employee had been systematically ostracised and bullied by co-workers culminating in serious ill-health for the employee. The managers had, in turn, then wholly messed up their investigation of events by trampling all over the employment rights of the co-workers who had done the bullying. Is that what happened with Benjanun Sriduangkaew? The analogy is too imperfect to hold up. Fandom isn’t a workplace. There isn’t, nor can there be a due process for ‘being in fandom’. Conventions can have codes of conduct, online spaces can have moderation policies, organisations (such as the SFWA) can have codes and ways of dealing with grievances but the issue at hand was none of these but rather networks that were quasi-professional in the way that the hobby/job of engaging with popular culture can be.

The hypothesis for the essay I’ve already alluded to in the comments on earlier chapters. I think that if Sad Puppies hadn’t taken over events in 2015, then the Mixon Report would have been a major subject of debate, all be it with a smaller number of people. I don’t know if it would have been a healthy debate, I imagine it would have caused many people further pain as they would have experienced their genuine feelings put under question or dismissed as being motivated by racism (or they would have felt that they were being dismissed). Likewise, attempts to put aside the issues around the relative power of influential people within SF/F publishing focusing their efforts on one specific woman of colour would have also been damaging. And yet, that all sort of happened anyway and the issue has just lingered on for years.

Well…that’s already quite a few paragraphs. It’s a lot easier to write without lots of references and vague hand waving at events. I’m back to the same issues where I started. Is there a fair way of engaging with the issue? Argument-and-counterargument like it is some sort of trial proceeding is a shitty way to go. Attempting to get the history and shape of the online identities and online feuds she was involved in, falls into the same trap as the Mixon report. Not unpacking anything leaves the headline narrative (essentially established by the Mixon report) untouched – the story that goes along the lines of there was a bad troll with lots of pseudonyms who was eventually unmasked and leaves a lot unsaid, specifically the question of whether they would have had this level of attention if they hadn’t made enemies of so many famous writers. I think it is obvious that they wouldn’t but then it isn’t unreasonable for a notable person to object to people saying objectionable things about them etc etc.

As I said, already too many paragraphs and already too many caveats and too much wanting to avoid the twin errors of minimising the experiences of people who experienced harassment versus endorsing (or appearing to endorse) the use of institutional power without proper respect for natural justice even for people who behave.

So, might still write this chapter but if I do it will be out of sequence and either way, I’ll need at least a paragraph more than once to say what the Mixon Report was and what it was about.

We haven’t had any bad logic for awhile

I have been remiss in my duties.

So, for traditions sake if for nothing else:

“Let us start with the self-evident proposition that nothing comes from nothing.No effect arises except from a cause sufficient to give rise to that effect. For if “nothing comes from nothing” were not true, anything could come from anything, and there were be no such thing as cause and effect, and we could not be having this conversation.”

John C Wright

I’d start with whether the proposition is self-evident in the context of an argument about the existence and unity of a god but that’s a different rabbit hole. Likewise, Wright introduces without examination, a big pile of assumptions about time, causality and where the heck logic comes from but I believe I’ve covered those issues before with some of these styles of argument. [Short version: if “nothing comes from nothing” (or causality, or time or logic) is a fundamental truth of the universe, what brought that governing rule into being? If the answer is ‘god’ then you can’t apply that rule to claim god is necessary, as god would transcend (or proceed) that rule.] But put that aside, it’s the next bit that is sillier.

Wright’s proposition [N1] is “nothing comes from nothing”. Wright claims that the negation of [N1] implies [A1] “anything comes from anything”.

Now I think there’s some ambiguity about what ‘nothing comes from nothing’ could mean as it reads literally like that the source of an absence can only be an absence. However, that’s a nitpick*. In context, what Wright means by [N] is “it is not the case that nothing can generate something”. We’ll call this [N2]. That’s not as pithy as Wright’s but in context, it is the point he is trying to make and fits with our understanding of physics in the sense of conservation of mass-energy. It’s still not tight and you could quibble about with examples like a vacuum being the ’cause’ of some event but in those examples, there still has to be a something, somewhere involved. So let’s go with that for the moment so we can get to the gist of the logical error.

I’ve made it a lot easier to see what the negation of [N2] is. We’ll call this [not-N2] “it is the case that nothing can generate something”. Does this imply [A1]? No, and it’s not even close. I suspect he’s tried to negate “nothing” and done it twice (ie an argument not-nothing must be anything and so both “nothings” in [N1] become “anything”) but that’s just incoherent. That’s not how truth, logic or language work. If “absence makes the heart grows fonder” is false we can’t conclude that “presence makes the heart grow less fond”, heck that is almost an implication of the saying being true! Negating a proposition isn’t just swapping keywords to their opposites – that might give you gibberish or even the same idea rephrased.

He could improve his argument by ditching [A1] as a reason for saying [N1] can’t be false. Instead, he could have gone with [A2] “it is the case that nothing must generate something”. That’s better! After all if nothings can go around making somethings then there wouldn’t be any room for nothings! Yeah but no. I’m messing with modalities and there’s a hidden assumption in [A2] which crops up a lot in these kinds of arguments for the existence of god which can be summed up as things must happen for a reason. [not N2] (“it is the case that nothing can generate something”) just says that things can (sometimes) pop into existence for no reason at all not that they must. Maybe just the once, maybe a thousand times, for no rhyme or reason.

But that is illogical! No, we can reason about it and apply logic to it. We just did. It implies there are things that might occur that will have no underlying explanation but then again, with Wright’s version of god, we end up with a being that is beyond explanation. Either way, you end up with a point where we can’t explain something.

Note: this isn’t any sort of proof of atheism or the non-existence of god, just that Wright (as you all already know) tends to pack in a pile of hidden assumptions and then employs petitio principii to arrive at the predetermined conclusion.

*nitpicking is surely permitted in the rules of pedantic arguments about the logic of god but I don’t want to get distracted.

About three months to the Dragon Award 2021 finalists

I’m behind on all sorts of regular topics but I want to keep an eye on the Dragon Awards because I always have. It’s a thing. Last year, the awards did a mainstream pivot and also improved some aspects of the website including more articles. The awards themselves collaborated with the Fulton County Library System to encourage readers. Will that direction continue?

One reason it might not is the January 2021 kerfuffle over the boogaloo-like content at Baen’s Bar and the subsequent disinvintation of Baen chief editor and publisher Toni Weiskopff as Guest of Honour at this years Worldcon. Baen (and specifically Eric Flint) have had an undefined relationship with the Dragons and also many Baen fans saw the Dragons when they started in 2016 as an antidote to the supposedly Baen unfriendly Hugo Awards.

What has happened since? There was an uptick in Dragon Award chatter in January and February. Superversive SF produced a crowd-sourced list of books which notes those books that are Dragon Award eligible. Declan Finn, as always, has been promoting his suggestions for the Dragon Awards but in a few more places (eg on some sites on MeWe). What there isn’t is much of a focused campaign from others I can see since. This may all pick up again in June or early July. (or it might not matter if the organisers mainly pick the finalists, which may or may not be the case)

The Dragon Award website is more up to date than it is usually. Some of the existing inconsistencies are still there (e.g. qualifying books as ‘at least 70,000 words’ versus ‘about 70,000 words’ but as nobody is checking and there’s no appeal it sort of doesn’t matter) and once again the link to the ‘rules’ (that you have to agree to when you nominate) doesn’t take you to the rules (an older version is here )

In short, we will see.