Douglas Ernst has issues with my rating

Hugo-nominated writer, Douglas Ernst finished off a piece on the appalling terror attack in Orlando with a comment on my recent blog post on Best Fanwriter.

Regular readers know that this blog has been nominated for a Hugo Award. This morning I saw a trackback in my WordPress stats to one voter’s critique of my writing. I fell into a “No Award” category based on my “weaker” political fare. An example of my “weaker” efforts was a Dec. 12, 2015, post that warned of “Shariah Police” legally patrolling the streets of Germany — and how Christianity differs from Islam. (I’m not sure how my thoughts on Shariah law have anything to do with The Amazing Spider-Man, but I digress.)

“Ernst’s more political/social commentary posts are much weaker but the guy is saddled with having to defend poorly thought out positions,’ the writer said. “Overall, a bit middling with high variability. There are many better writers out there but as there is a danger of political bias on my part leading me to undervalue the rest of his writing I strongly considered putting him above No Award. However, even the best of his writing just isn’t up to award-worthy.”

Here is my “poorly thought out position” from that post: Shariah Law is dangerous (e.g., it allows for the execution of gay people, domestic terrorism, etc.), and 2 million refugees from the Middle East and North Africa will pose significant security problems for German authorities in the years to come.

Let me ask my Magic 8 Ball if “political bias” was at play with that “No Award” vote.

Answer: “As I see it, yes.”

I’ve replied at his blog as follows:

Thanks for the link. Yes, I think that piece was weak writing because it lacked cohesion. You took it as read that it was outrageous that a German court would find that some religious extremists (specifically Islamic extremists) could dress up in hi-vis vests, call themselves “police” and hassle people. You asked rhetorically how people would have reacted if they had called themselves “Jesus police” – the odds are that would also be legal in Germany.

Dressing up and being an arsehole is largely not illegal – perhaps it should be but that isn’t an idea you examined.

What is notably different between your comics-review writing and your political writing is in the former you critically examine ideas and attempt to persuade, whereas in the political writing you take everything as axiomatic. Are their communities/groups of Christians who organise themselves and actively harass people? Sure. Do you think such groups are different from the “Shariah Police” group in your article? – obviously, you do, but rather than say why you just assert such groups don’t exist. Good writing anticipates counter-arguments and counter positions and it connects ideas logically and thematically. That piece didn’t.

Of course, that standard that I’m saying is award worthy isn’t easy. I certainly don’t write to that standard and lots of political things that I write just blithely assume that the people reading already agree with me. However, when considering the quality of a writer for an award it isn’t on the basis of “best polemic”.

A wider issue, that follows on from last year, is Puppy/Rabid nominees suddenly finding that people are discussing and critiquing their work and the nominee finding that variously either confronting, uncomfortable, aggressive, judged against seemingly unreasonable standards or just unwanted attention.

Yet it is part of the territory – picking what to vote for isn’t just picking out a treat from a box of chocolates but rather a process of considering the quality of the work. Ernst asks what his thoughts on Shariah Law have to do with The Amazing Spiderman, but that is a question he has to answer not the reader. If (as I do) you mix different strands of opinion together on a single blog then you are presenting a common voice. If you want different strands of writing to be seen as more distinct then you need to separate them – which has its own disadvantages.

There are further replies but I’ll just partly quote this one:

On top of that, I’m not writing a grad school dissertation. I don’t have to present all sides of every issue — precisely because guys like you are open to challenge me any day of the week. In fact, I encourage it.

And that is fair enough as far as it goes. Should every blog post that anybody writes be brilliantly argued? Of course not – people would end up just not writing. That is not a standard I’d ever follow for myself but then I’M NOT ASKING PEOPLE TO JUDGE WHETHER THIS WAS THE BEST FAN WRITING OF THE YEAR*. Writing to a Hugo Award-winning standard should be HARD and either done to a consistent standard or the exceptional bits need to be truly stand-out, exceptionally good/important/innovative etc.

*[It isn’t IMHO 🙂 ]

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22 comments

  1. Douglas Ernst

    You dedicated an entire post just to me? I’m flattered.

    Question: How is it “aggressive” for me to agree with you?

    You said: “As there is a danger of political bias on my part leading me to undervalue the rest of his writing I strongly considered putting him above No Award.”

    I concurred, given that you have a section of your blog post dedicated to the “Conservative Crisis,” etc., and when you asked me about it I was tactful. That isn’t “aggressive” at all. Regardless, thanks again for the link.

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    • camestrosfelapton

      Hmm, I don’t think I said that you were aggressive anywhere, did I? If I did, I didn’t intend to and will happily correct it. I did say that as a wider issue some nominees have found the kind of attention they get a whole bunch of things (which included ‘aggressive’) i.e. the nominee found the attention aggressive rather than the nominee acted aggressively. Either way that wasn’t meant to describe specifically you and was part of a whole list of various kinds of reactions from different people from last year and this.
      I found your replies to be fine and not aggressive 🙂

      Like

      • Douglas Ernst

        “I found your replies to be fine and not aggressive”

        Thanks. I just didn’t want to get lumped into a group of people who are irrationally angry, resort to ad hominem attacks, etc. I’ve said for awhile now that I should start doing videos so people can see that I’m incredibly laid back. I might disagree with you, but I assure you that I wish you no ill will.

        Like

  2. JJ

    Wow, you’re not kidding — those political posts are seriously lacking in logic and rationality.
    Between that, and the fact that the non-political posts seem to be all superheroes, all the time, there’s not much of interest for me there. :-/

    Like

  3. Truthwillwin1

    Wow, there is clear bias in this article. I love how a person can provide their view with detail and and just because it is different than yours it has to be “lacking in logic”. How can an article lack logic when it provides the view and how it was formed?
    Just for the record I also do not agree with your rating, it seems bias and it compares things to the subject that does not really belong.

    For the record that is just my opinion.

    Like

  4. thephantom182

    Camestros said: “Dressing up and being an arsehole is largely not illegal – perhaps it should be but that isn’t an idea you examined.”

    Dressing up and calling yourself a cop -is- illegal, particularly when you then go and start enforcing a set of laws in your fake cop outfit. Therefore “taking it as read” that this behavior is outrageous and illegal is only… wait for it… common sense.

    You’re putting a Conservative below No Award for stating obvious facts which are commonly known and agreed upon. Sharia Police get a free pass in Germany, Jesus Police would get busted within seconds of showing up on the street in Germany, everybody knows it, and you’re doing -exactly- what us Puppies said you’d do. Again. As usual.

    JJ said: “…those political posts are seriously lacking in logic and rationality.”

    Actually they just disagree with your politics JJ, and they do so rationally, using logic. As I just did with Camestros above. There are views other than yours in the world, you know. Most more logical and rational than yours, IMO.

    Liked by 1 person

    • camestrosfelapton

      //Sharia Police get a free pass in Germany, Jesus Police would get busted within seconds of showing up on the street in Germany, everybody knows it//

      Magically intuiting facts out of the blue is where you seem to be going wrong. No, everybody does not ‘know’ that. It is as silly as suggesting that people might mistake The Salvation Army for members of the armed forces because they have “army” in their name and they wear a snazzy uniform.

      Liked by 2 people

    • KR

      In point of fact, though, the self-styled Shariah police did not get a “free pass” in Germany. A higher court upheld the state’s right to try them last month and they are being brought up on criminal charges.

      By choosing to frame every single political event in manichaean, us vs them, clash-of-civilization terms, YOU are the ones furthering terrorist ends. They want us to overreact. They want us to overestimate their numbers and appeal. They want us to react harshly to their moderate co-religionists to exterminate the “grey zone.” They have said this explicitly — after Bataclan and many other times. It’s not a secret. Honestly, the best way to deal with this actual issue on the ground would be to think of them as gangs, not religious zealots with tentacles and sleeper agents at their command around every corner. Religion is sort of beside the point. It’s about money, power, fear and control (and a certain type of toxic masculinity). They are not so different from drug gangs in their recruitment, reach, demographic appeal, andin the difficulty of extracting someone once initiated in to a mindset and sense of belonging. They are to the 2010s what the Colombians kingpins were to the 1990s and Soviets were in the 1960s. James Bond films helpfully guides us through this timeline of international bogeymen threats.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thephantom182

        KR said: “A higher court upheld the state’s right to try them last month…”

        Yeah, like I said. They got a free pass. So now, finally, an adult has remembered that civilians posing as police is ILLEGAL, and you’re trying to pretend there’s nothing to see here. Fail.

        “Religion is sort of beside the point.”

        Sure, unless you listen to what they actually say, and why would we listen to them when we should be listening to -you-, right KR? The guy attacked a gay bar because religion, and your argument is… what is your argument anyway?

        Camestros said: “Magically intuiting facts out of the blue is where you seem to be going wrong. No, everybody does not ‘know’ that.”

        Allow me a correction, everyone who isn’t pretending ignorance as some kind of rhetorical device knows it. The PLO protesters are allowed to break windows in Toronto all the time, while the JDL get busted and transported for unfurling an Israeli flag. Muslims in Canada commonly say all manner of astoundingly evil things about gays, women, Jews etc, out loud, in print, what have you, nobody does shit. Some old Christian preacher hands out leaflets on a street corner in Calgary with bible verses that condemn homosexuality, -that- guy they run through the hammer mill.

        So yes, Camestros, everybody does know it. Including you, even though you pretend otherwise.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Chris Gerrib

      Except they didn’t actually dress up like cops – German police don’t wear red vests. When on traffic duty they wear yellow vests with the word “Polizei” (which is GERMAN for “police”) on them. The rest of the time they wear blue or green uniforms.

      Nor, apparently with what I’ve seen, did they try to enforce any laws. They handed out cards and told people not to drink, which in America would be called free speech.

      Like

  5. magpiemoth

    I think Ernst’s fan writing is ok too. As CF points out though, it’s the difference between ok and “BEST FAN WRITING OF THE YEAR” that’s in play here.

    I’m some way into reading or considering the categories in reverse order from the Campbell upwards. So far, I’ve only found one egregiously terrible entry, which I won’t mention here to spare their blushes. What I am encountering (with some honourable exceptions) is a range from meh to middling, but not ‘BEST [INSERT CATEGORY] OF THE YEAR’ material.

    Now, I don’t need to touch the overt politics of the writer at all to reach that conclusion, if they don’t introduce it into their SFnal work.

    Having said that – as someone reading and reviewing the shortlist I feel at liberty to:

    a) Talk about political elements in someone’s work – overt, intended or otherwise. For one or two of the entries that’s the main interest for me because the quality is just not there.
    b) Consider if a nominee’s overt politics can account for their inclusion on the Rabid Puppy slate – in Ernst’s case, I dare say it does.

    This is because reading and reviewing is to some extent a project of understanding – or at least it is for me anyway

    So, review the content, consider the context? I think that’s what I’m saying here.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Douglas Ernst

    “Consider if a nominee’s overt politics can account for their inclusion on the Rabid Puppy slate – in Ernst’s case, I dare say it does.”

    I honestly don’t follow the whole “Rabid Puppy” thing the Hugo’s have going on. I will say this, based on the data provided by WordPress: No one gives a rip, more or less, about my political posts compared to comic book and movie reviews. Traffic skyrockets for Marvel-related fare. People want to read about Spider-Man. They generally don’t want to read about U.S. foreign policy. Shocker.

    Like

    • JJ

      thephantom182: You’re putting a Conservative below No Award for stating obvious facts which are commonly known and agreed upon. Sharia Police get a free pass in Germany

      I can personally recognize when someone who has very different political views from me makes their case rationally, logically, and articulately — and I can respect that. But that’s not what I’m seeing in the blog posts I read.

      No, what’s clearly been said here by several people is that they are putting a Fan Writer nominee below No Award because the fan writing in question does not rise to the level of excellence expected for a Hugo nominee.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thephantom182

        “But that’s not what I’m seeing in the blog posts I read.”

        Having read the post in question, I find your standard for “rationally, logically, and articulately” reeks of moving goalposts, something else Puppies have been commenting about lo these many years. Chorf goalposts are not just on wheels, they are motorized. Yours has a V8, JJ.

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      • JJ

        thephantom182: Having read the post in question, I find your standard for “rationally, logically, and articulately” reeks of moving goalposts

        My “goalposts” have not moved. My standards for the quality of Hugo nominees are pretty much the same as they’ve been for the last 10 years. It’s just that the quality of the nominees in general has gone down in the last couple of years.

        That’s not moving goalposts — it’s putting smaller players on the same size field, and then wondering why they don’t score as well or as often.

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      • KR

        WTH, phantom? In this very thread you made an erroneous claim, I pointed out a factual correction, and in your response you yourself moved the goalposts by claiming that that the opposite of what you said just confirmed you were right all along. In your world, is it really such a mortal threat to have to admit that you made a mistake, even a small an inconsequential one in an friendly online discussion? That must be an exhausting way to live.

        Like

      • thephantom182

        “In this very thread you made an erroneous claim, I pointed out a factual correction, ”

        No sir, you did not. The lower courts gave the Sharia Police dicks a free pass, a get-out-of-jail-free card, entirely in keeping with what passes for German jurisprudence these days. As in, the cops arrested them, the court told the cops they A) did not have the power to arrest them and B) had to let them go. That is what happened, and that is what I said. Free. Pass.

        Upon appeal, months later, some judge with an actual brain decided that following the law as written in the law book was a better idea, and overturned the free pass. Yay, nice to have the extra info, but entirely beside the point.

        You sir are trying to pretend that the law is applied equally on Mooselimbs and Christians in Germany, and one need only do a two second Google search to see that it is not so. It is not equal in Germany, or Canada, or the USA. Mooselimbs are massively getting preferential treatment, it’s not just obvious it is -blatant-, and everybody knows it.

        Meanwhile, the writings of a guy who says “Hey, WTF?! Preferential treatment!!!” are deemed not Hugo-worthy because not Leftist.

        Again, this is not shocking or outrageous, it’s what you always do. We’re used to it.

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      • camestrosfelapton

        You know people can actually read Phantom. You are shifting the goalpost *again* and resorting to your beloved “everybody knows” in lieu of actual facts.

        You are also lying about what I said about Ernst.

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    • magpiemoth

      Thanks for the reply. I just wanted to clarify I wasn’t suggesting you were Rabid Puppy-affiliated or shared their views. My original post should have been clearer, apologies.

      Like

      • Douglas Ernst

        “Thanks for the reply. I just wanted to clarify I wasn’t suggesting you were Rabid Puppy-affiliated or shared their views. My original post should have been clearer, apologies.”

        No problem.

        Side note: Based on my interactions with regular readers, the reason why they come to my blog is because they are tired of dealing with moderators on comic websites who delete legitimate criticism. The mods let it be known that pushing back against authors (need to keep access flowing) automatically puts them on thin ice.

        Over time it has become clear that people across the political spectrum like the reviews because bad comics have a funny way of prompting fans to transcend their petty gripes. The Amazing Spider-Man, for example, is so bad these days that it unites the left and right. Heh.

        Like

  7. Pingback: A Longer Reply to Phantom | Camestros Felapton