WandaVision Episode 8: Previously on…

This was an inevitable episode that was never going to have either the charm, humour or intrigue of earlier episodes. It does have some powerful emotional moments but I found those undercut by a couple of big issues. Lots of answers but few surprises.

Before we dive into spoiler territory, just a fresh reminder that Disney still haven’t paid Alan Dean Foster the money they owe him.

Continue reading “WandaVision Episode 8: Previously on…”

Debarkle Update

Not another chapter today. There will be a short pause, which I’ll explain shortly. First though, I’ll give you all a sense of what’s coming up.

We are about mid-way through Part 1: Beginnings. There are six chapters go and the finally chapter brings things to 2010 and catches up with all the players we’ve met at the end of the first decade (or start of the second depending). The chapter after next one, will be the Larry Correia origin story, followed by the first book review chapter looking at Monster Hunter International. I’ll then swerve off course into our first Meanwhile chapter which will look at the Iraq War, Marriage Equality fights and the election of Barack Obama with comments and perspectives from the characters we’ve met so far (also the flippin’ Global Financial Crisis which, oddly, was less talked about). From there, an even more huge diversion into RaceFail2009 in the second Meanwhile chapter. Diversions all done, we close with 2010 with the boards all set up and all the pieces in place [for Wagner fans, Part 1 is like Das Rheingold, all the best tunes are in the next opera].

If you read the outline I posted on February 2, you will notice that a chapter got skipped between the Vox Day chapter and the SFWA chapter. So a couple of things about that chapter:

  1. Everything
  2. Everything else

The plan was to have a chapter looking at Tor and Baen up to mid-2000s along with ebooks and Amazon etc. As soon as I started pulling notes together for that chapter it was obvious that the right story to write was a biography of Jim Baen. It covers Tor, Baen Books, Tom Doherty, Hugo Awards and innovations like ebooks, fan engagement and (sadly) has a distinct conclusion in 2006 with Jim Baen’s untimely death. Of course Jim Baen himself had zero to do with the Puppy Kerfuffle but the nature of influential figures is that they cast a long shadow.

Now, as it stands, it is definitely not a hit piece or an attack on Jim Baen but…yeah, I’m going to give it a week. I will add a disclaimer and I don’t think somebody reading it in good faith will see it as an attempt to malign him. However, in the circumstance and given how certain former Puppies regard me, I’ll wait until next week before posting it.

Some number crunching on publishers

This is just some background for the next Debarkle chapter looking mainly at Baen (that was always the plan, prior to recent events – I’d already started the chapter).

Looking at story categories, Tor Books has had 106 works as Hugo finalists. ISFDB lists “10038 publications not in a publication series” for Tor. Baen Books has had 12 works as finalists (including stories from Jim Baen’s Universe) and according to ISFDB “3758 publications not in a publication series“. The ISFDB entry numbers is a very rough way to get a sense of the relative volume of the two publishers, particularly as the ISFDB listing will include works republished that were originally published by different publishers. Even so, the hit rate for Tor is proportionally higher but not vastly so. If I cut off the Hugo numbers at 2013 to remove the Sad Puppy influence and backlash, as well as the Tor.com novella explosion, Tor has had 55 finalists and Baen has had 10. So about 5 times the number of finalists but about 2.7 times the amount published — again, a better hit rate than Baen but not so much bigger as to think Baen had a particular disadvantage.

The numbers are a bit too fuzzy to be sure I’m not comparing apples and chromebooks. More of a sanity checks. Any ideas of tightening that up as a comparison?

Debarkle Chapter 8: Electrolite 2005/03/01

The rules for the Nebula Award have changed over time but at the point of time we have reach (the middle of the first decade of the 21st century), the process to select the finalists included both a nomination phase by members of the SFWA and also a jury. Each category had a jury which had the power to add an additional work to the list of finalist, so that works of note that might otherwise have been missed could be part of the final vote. The juries were drawn made up of SFWA members appointed by the President.

In 2005 Vox Day (as Theodore Beale) was included in a Nebula Award jury for the second time[1] having previously served on the jury for Best Novelette[2]. Coincidentally, over at his World Net Daily column in February 2005 he also touched on his thoughts about science fiction in a column provocatively entitled, Why Women Can’t Think[3]. Day’s target in the column was feminist academics but also suggests women are weaker academically:

Continue reading “Debarkle Chapter 8: Electrolite 2005/03/01”

Debarkle Chapter 7: The SFWA

[I’m less than happy with this chapter as it stands – it lacks some other dimensions and has a perspective issue (which I discuss. I’ll plead ‘first draft’]

In our whistle-stop tour of the history of science fiction we have met publishers, editors, writers, fans, fanclubs and conventions. However, the organised aspects of science fiction include other kinds of groups. Science fiction is many things but one thing it can be is a commercial endeavour, and the nature of capitalism means that the economic interests of fans, publishers, editors and writers are not always the same (even when a fan is also a writer, editor and publisher!).

In 1934, Donald Wollheim (who would later help lead the Futurians) sued Hugo Gernsback after Gernsback failed to pay Wollheim and other writers for stories they had written and Gernsback had published[1]. I doubt that was the first pay dispute between science fiction writer and their publisher but it certainly wasn’t the last.

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Susan’s Salon: 2021 February 21/22

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, very worried, 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 😇

More Larry Nonsense

Baen author Larry Correia is currently banned from Facebook for bullying[1] but has back-up account for his fan page on the lesser-known social media service MeWe. I thought readers would be interested to know about a new project he is working on. Not sure what you’d call it? Muck raking? Quixotic quest for revenge? Doing his utmost to make a bad situation worse for fun and profit? Not sure.

“I have a favor to ask (and if one of the mods could put this in the Facebook group too, that would be great). This is directly related to Toni getting kicked out of WorldCon.
This is for a project someone is working on. I don’t know how it will proceed yet.
I need examples of writers/editors/fans who WorldCon is perfectly comfortable with, and their shitty posts, tweets, memes, of things that aren’t “inclusive”. (advocating violence, shooting cops, killing Trump, celebrating Rush’s death, putting us in reeducation camps, whatever. If it makes you feel not included, I’d like to know)
If you don’t have a screen cap but are going from memory, that’s fine. (that standard of evidence is perfectly acceptable for the “exposes” they utilize)
I know this is “political”. I know this may make some of you here uncomfortable, which is why I don’t want debate or infighting, just gathering evidence. This isn’t about right or left, this is about cancel culture being fucking evil, and people needing to stand up to it. If you don’t like it, keep on scrolling. Not up for debate.
Post them in the comments if you’ve got them.”

Monster Hunter Nation MeWe group, Saturday, February 20, 2021 12:54 pm GMT+11 [2]

What is interesting from the comments is…well there’s nothing interesting in the comments. I think he imagined there would be all of these great examples of famous authors saying terrible things but people didn’t have much. I’m surprised they haven’t found more.

You will all note the rhetorical sleight of hand at the start. Toni Weiskopff has not been kicked out of Worldcon. She’s no longer Guest of Honour, not banned from attending. Of course, that would make Larry’s project even harder if he had to find a Guest of Honour with dubious comments that had been brought to Worldcon’s attention and then they didn’t disinvite them?


WandaVision Episode 7: Breaking the Fourth Wall

Well that was very entertaining. As always an episode that is night on impossible to review without spoilers, even though the biggest twist was one I think most people had guessed. Aside from that, this was one of the most integrated of the episodes since the external-world plot was introduced. As our sitcom history has reached the 2010s, the inspiration is the mockumentary style of Modern Family. That’s a surprisingly effective medium as it allows several characters to talk directly to camera about the plot. Meanwhile Darcy finds herself part of the show and Monica gets a new toy.

The rest is spoilers.

Continue reading “WandaVision Episode 7: Breaking the Fourth Wall”

I’m trying to write sub-text here and Brad just keeps spelling it out

“Oh,” I said “I’ll write a long series exploring parallels between the Sad Puppies and the 2020 election” That’ll be clever. What does flippin’ Brad Torgersen do? Just flippin’ spells out the thesis of the whole thing directly:

“In 2015 Toni Weisskopf got more first-run votes for Best Editor Hugo than any prior winner, ever. Hell, she got more votes than many of the prior winners combined. And the Woke Children used 2,500 scab “votes” to trash Toni’s win — cough, not too different from how a hundred thousand Biden “votes” magically appeared overnight in key counties, back in November, cough — because they’ve always hated Baen as a business, and Toni by association, and also because the “wrong people” both nominated and voted for her. (see my essay, “The Mote in Gernsback’s Eye.”)”

https://monsterhunternation.com/2021/02/19/an-open-letter-to-the-old-time-fans-at-worldcon/#comment-103067

Yeah, thanks Brad.

Dis-con disinvites Toni

What had clearly been inevitable this week and was probably fated from the start has happened:

I’m going to mount a very limited defence of the original decision to invite Toni Weisskopf as a guest of honour but mainly to highlight a broader point that has come up before. In particular I’m reminded of an utterly different controversy just over a year ago when Clarksworld published a story by Isabel Fall that generated a lot of controversy and ended up causing a lot of pain for the author https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2020/01/18/well-i-guess-im-writing-about-clarkesworld-again/

So firstly, the original invite. I know I and lot of people looked at the original announcement that Toni Weisskopf would be Guest of Honour mainly because of her connection with notable Sad Puppies and while not part of the campaign, at least in the general vicinity of it including this essay published at Sarah Hoyt’s blog https://accordingtohoyt.com/2014/03/10/the-problem-of-engagement-a-guest-post-by-toni-weisskopf/ BUT! 2014 was a long time ago and people said a lot of things. Toni Weisskopf genuinely is a very notable figure in science fiction and in fandom and has fostered a lot of talent and is an interesting and entertaining speaker (based on what I have heard from her as a guest on podcasts). If we imagine a space of potential Guests of Honour for a Worldcon, she’s part of that space. Yes, associated with right-wing politics but not herself in that space of people you really shouldn’t platform because they put your attendees at risk. So as a decision looked at within a very narrow lens, not inherently absurd.

Extend that lens a bit wider, and it was a very bold decision by DisCon. Firstly, 2015 may be a long time ago but there are a lot of emotions around the Hugo Awards that year on ‘both sides’ as they say. A Worldcon making a kind of rapprochement is an interesting step and maybe, a good thing. As people keep pointing out, there are a lot authors in Baen’s stable and there a lot of fans who like them. However, even a moments thought reveal a whole pile of ways the invitation could go horribly wrong. People who followed the Puppy Kerfuffle closely would be aware of the complexity of Toni’s/Baen’s role in it but many fans with better things to do with their lives are aware of the general nature of things (an attempted far-right take over of the Hugo awards) without making fine distinctions between Vox Day’s overt racism and the messier world of the Sad Puppies. Sooner or later somebody was going to frame this as “DisCon has invited the racist Puppies back”. So what then?

Inviting Toni Weisskopf could be a bold move but a bold move requires strategy. If there was pushback (and sooner or later there would be public pushback and I know there was private pushback) WHAT WAS THE PLAN? I love the quirky anarcho-democracy of Worldcon but it isn’t a governance method that can easily pivot and control messaging and this would have been a difficult bit of messaging towards a membership used proverbially by cats in the phrase “It’s like herding Worldcon members”. I can imagine a different style of con pulling off the controversial guest plan but we know Worldcon can’t.

Worse! That was the BEST CASE scenario. The above ignores the key point about Baen and fandom. Despite the “oh but there’s Eric Flint and X, Y, Z” authors, Baen’s brand is intimately connected with a set of right-wing, loud mouth contrarians. It’s connected to them because 1. they are loud bullying voices who take up all the oxygen in the room and 2. Baen’s played along with their schtick for years. In particular, Larry Correia, Tom Kratman and Michael Williamson but to a lesser extent John Ringo as well. I won’t document the multiple brouhahas we’ve seen from them over the years but just wave in the general direction of my blog archives.

Now Toni Weiskopf isn’t the keeper of that quartet. She’s not their mum or their employer. However, when they go off on one they tend to drag Baen into things as a brand. Baen has played into that and even played along with that https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2019/10/19/a-chronicle-of-outrage-marketing/ The particular trio of Larry/Tom/Mike also tend to drag in other Baen authors or former Baen authors like John Ringo, David Weber, Sarah Hoyt and Dave Freer into the brouhaha of the day. It’s all part and parcel of the we-are-under-constant-attack-by-SJWs ideology they promote.

So that leads to two other things a Worldcon needs to plan for if they invite Toni Weisskopf as a guest:

  1. There was a near certainty that one of the set of controversialist/outrage marketing authors listed above were going to be doing SOMETHING controversial within the next few months and would drag “Baen” as a brand into it and by extension drag Toni Weisskopf into it. You’d need a plan for that.
  2. Any criticism, concern or issues raised by Worldcon adjacent fans about Toni Weisskopf had a high chance of being perceived as an attack by Larry Correia (in particular) who would respond with his trade mark tactic of setting a mob on people on the fan (but in a deniable way). You’d need a plan for that as well and you’d need a plan that included Toni Weisskopf outlining how she’d get Larry to back down (and if the answer was that she has no control over Larry [fair enough, understandable] then…well, you have to ask how this was EVER going to work).

We got option 2 and DisCon didn’t have a plan and I doubt they had a plan for any of the three scenarios not because they are incompetent but because Worldcon’s really can’t manage these kinds of PR risks easily. Now, that’s not great for Toni Weisskopf and I’ve got some sympathy for a woman whose professional profile is being impacted by shouty right-wing men. It is the situation though. Baen’s always leaned right but as we’ve seen it’s not conservative ideology in an abstract sense that is the issue per-se but a bunch of pseudo-libertarians who regard online misbehaviour and brigading as an expression of their personal freedom. Baen’s played into that, first with John Ringo and then with Larry C etc and other authors have (with less success because their core personalities don’t match) tried to play along with that approach (Hoyt, Freer, Torgersen) and other Baen authors have fallen in to back them up (Weber). That’s been a business decision by Baen and hence by Toni Weisskopf and I don’t know how they can extricate themselves as a business from it.

Baen’s not my main point here though. As people like to say Science Fiction should take risks. However, “risk” implies that there are potentially bad outcomes. To go off on a tangent, consider Taika Waititi’s film JoJo Rabbit which had an imaginary Hitler as a comical role in a story about a family hiding a Jewish girl from the Nazis during WWII — that was a risky idea that could have gone horribly, horribly wrong. It didn’t but 1. I get why many people I know wouldn’t watch it and 2. it took a lot of skill to make it work and it still could have been a disaster.

Risk implies possible bad consequences. A risky decision that entails no chance of bad stuff happening is a contradiction. To skip back to the earlier example of the Clarksworld story, reclaiming/subverting a right-wing transphobic meme is a bold (even laudable) idea but the obvious risk with the idea is that a story attempting to do that might end up looking like it’s endorsing a right-wing transphobic meme. That doesn’t mean Clarksworld shouldn’t take risks but what it does mean is they NEED TO PLAN FOR THE MOST OBVIOUS RISK. They didn’t, and an author got hurt.

I really, really, don’t think Toni Weisskopf should be persona non-grata for science fiction cons. I think she’d be an interesting guest but there are risks and those risks need to be managed. One of those risks is that if somebody is critical of a guest of honour then they shouldn’t find that Larry Correia is siccing his comment section on them and ringing up their employer. That’s a shitty situation for a prominent woman in professional science fiction having to shoulder the behaviour of poorly behaved man but I literally can’t see how a Worldcon committee can deal with that as an issue.