Vox ain’t just a purveyor of racism but also a purveyor of classic racism [update]

[Not actually an update – the bit after the link went missing and I didn’t notice]

I’ve discussed before Vox day’s ideological nationalism/racism is very much in line with the 19th century Know Nothings. Unfortunately, I don’t have many clear examples of him going after the Irish.  While US anti-Irish racism is sometimes exaggerated as a kind of way of minimising the deeper and more violent anti-black racism, it shouldn’t be minimised either.

As it happens, the ruination of the United States is the result of the “contributions” of two groups of immigrants, Irish and Jewish.


Of course, Americans of Irish descent are not now the subject of particular racism, unlike the lingering anti-Semitism which Vox also stokes up. What is notable is how once racism is adopted ideologically, it tends to end up picking the same targets as it scrabbles around trying to make reality fit an absurd hypothesis.


Don’t Forget Climate Change: Chapter 12 Climate Science venus Market Researchers

I’m still trapped in this hell-hole of a right-wing think-tank’s attempt to wish climate change away. It almost makes me miss Vox Day.

Intro, Ch 1, Ch2, Ch3, An Aside, Ch4, Ch5, Ch6, Section 1, Ch7, Another Aside, Ch8, Ch9, Ch10, Ch11, …

Kesten C. Green & J. Scott Armstrong are both affiliated with the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute at the University of South Australia. Now that sounds quite impressive but it is an institute of Market Research. No, no, that’s OK – no snide comments – market research is a numerate discipline and is in an interesting place developing underlying theories and models. Still as a discipline it has neither the depth, success or theoretical clout of climatology and meteorology.

Now you may, if you’ve been paying attention, wonder why a discussion of the efficacy of forecasting techniques of climate science is stuck as the last chapter of the ‘economics and politics’  section rather than in the ‘science’ section. Given that this chapter is going to claim to demonstrate that forecasts of global warming are somehow invalid, then you might doubly wonder that. Indeed, given how confident Green and Armstrong are of their finding, I’d be a little disappointed that I wasn’t Chapter 1 and that Plimer, Michaels, Linden, Soon, Carter et al weren’t making a big hullabaloo about this chapter – particularly Soon who apparently has collaborated with Green and Armstrong. It is almost as if even fellow doubters are unconvinced.

Kesten C Green is, or presents himself as, an expert in forecasting as a general discipline. Looking through his publicly available work that isn’t global warming related, his work has grown out of forecasting techniques for businesses. In particular describing the principles that should be applied when faced with complex data (for examples sales data or perhaps political polling data) and attempting to make guesses about what will happen next.

Green describes his view of forecasting like this:

For nearly a century, researchers have been studying how best to make accurate and useful forecasts. Knowledge on forecasting has accumulated by testing multiple reasonable hypotheses about which method will provide the best forecasts in given conditions. This scientific approach contrasts with the folklore that experts in a domain will be able to make good forecasts about complex uncertain situations using their unaided judgement, or using unvalidated forecasting methods.

And that all makes sense. Empirical, data-driven approaches make sense. Intuitive approaches don’t, even when those intuitions are based on people with experience. Such approaches should involve substantive models when possible but collecting reliable data and basing claims (whether they are forecasts or projections or something else) on the combination of sound models, good data and knowledge of changing conditions is wise. It’s also something climatologist already know.

Green goes on to talk about various principles of forecasting and says:
The principles are readily available in the Principles of Forecasting handbook.

Which is, specifically Armstrong’s  Principles of Forecasting handbook.

And this is where the chapter gets progressively more odd. Firstly the authors can’t find in the IPCC any reference to (Green & Armstrong’s) validation of forecasting processes (ignoring the actual processes followed within climatology as a discipline). They then sent emails to authors of sections in the IPCC asking them about validation. I’m guessing they go the equivalent of either blank looks or responses akin to ‘do your own homework’.

Green and Armstrong then ‘audited’ the IPCC’s “forecasting procedures” using “Forecasting Audit Software available on ForPrin.com”. Specifically that is the Green & Armstrong Forecasting Audit Software that is available on Green & Armstrong’s ForPrin.com website.

It’s around this point that the weird tone and approach of the chapter suddenly makes sense. This is an advertorial. It is literally marketing. The customer base for “ForPrin.com” is a business audience, and some proportion of the readership of this right-leaning book of disturbed wonkery are a good fit for Green & Armstrong’s market. And good for them! I’ve no objection to self-promotion! It’s a clever use of what is otherwise a giant waste of effort.

“We analysed the IPCC’s forecasting procedures to assess whether they followed the Golden Rule of Forecasting. The Golden Rule of Forecasting requires that forecasters be conservative.”

That’s Kesten C Green’s Golden Rule of Forecasting of course.

“We found that the IPCC procedures violated all nineteen of the Golden Rule guidelines that are relevant to long-term climate forecasting.”

So they set off to do a better job. If you are thinking ‘this is going to be a trainwreck’ then you’ve been reading this blog to long. Go and do something useful with your life 😉

Thye produce this graph:


What is this? You may ask. It is the train wreck you anticipated earlier.

What they’ve done is take the HADCRUT3 global mean anomaly data set from 1850 to 1975 and then tested three “forecasts” that somebody in 1850 could make about future temperature changes.

  1. Persistence: basically change nothing. 1850 average temperature stays the same.
  2. Cooling: a steady 0.01 degree C cooling per year.
  3. Warming: a steady  0.03 degree C warming per year.

These are on the basis of predictions somebody may have made in 1975. Now they then find the absolute difference between each scenario and then plot it.

This is an odd way of finding trends in data and there are better ways of treating time series data, and they are assuming a linear relationship etc. More weird is why 0.03 degrees C per year warming (a projection based on increasing global warming) starting in 1850 when they know in advance that the warming is less than that for the period in question.

They also stop in 1975 before a major increase in warming – for vague reasons.

This what the HADCRUT3 global mean data looks like http://woodfortrees.org/plot/hadcrut3gl/from:1850/to:1975/plot/hadcrut3gl/from:1975/to:2016

to 2016

Green & Armstrong’s graph covers the red bit and ignores the steeper green bit and tests a projection of warming for increased levels of CO2 that come after the green bit. Quite what golden rule of forecasting this is meant to be is anybody’s guess but it looks a lo like “just make up shit”.

I thought, what the heck, I’ll try and draw their graph and see what they are trying to do. I think this is it:


Yellow is their 0.03 warming, orange is there 0.01 warming and blue is persistence. As they are insistent that good forecasting involves testing multiple scenarios I added in the grey line: 0.01 warming – much closer to what we know occurred. And blow me down! The obvious warming scenario they left off (in violation of their own principles of forecasting) does quite well. Actually I could tinker around and get a warming scenario that does even better.

Conclusion: somebody who predicted mild warming in 1850 would have made a BETTER forecast than Green & Armstrong’s no change rule.

They also say that good forecasts use recent data. So let’s throw in 1975 onwards:


The grey line is actually 0.013 degrees warming because I was tinkering. Notably, persistence now is diverging more and the 0.013 degrees warming is looking better. This isn’t a surprise because we know what actually happened in the 20th century.

But let’s skip forward. After all, nobody in 1850 was making these predictions. What about 1950? That is a more interesting time because global warming from anthropogenic greenhouse gases was being taken more seriously as a hypothesis. There wasn’t a consensus of opinion on it at that point though.

This is less data of course but it is also more recent data.


This time, the grey warming scenario is 0.015 degrees -and doesn’t it do well! Persistence is only a tad better than 0.03 warming as a forecast and cooling is the worst.

The Persistence scenario by Armstrong & Green’s tests would have been a not good prediction in 1950 – particularly compared to warming.

They conclude:

We found that there are no scientific forecasts that support the hypothesis that manmade global warming will occur.

Which is odd, because using their methods I found plenty.

Instead, the best forecasts of temperatures on Earth for the twenty-first century and beyond are derived from the hypothesis of persistence.

Which isn’t even true if you intentionally cut out the period of greatest warming from the twentieth century.

And that’s chapter 12 and the end of the politics section!


Estimating Rabid Puppy Numbers

How many Rabid Puppies voted in the Hugo Awards: here are my guesstamations.

Best Novel: Rabids should have voted Uprooted 1 and then Seveneves. Uprooted came second, so if we look at the round for third place we can see how many preferences went from Uprooted to Seveneves.

Position 2 count: Seveneves 520, Position 3 count: Seveneves 856. Votes gained from Uprooted = 336. However, not all of these will be Rabids as these were not distinctively Rabid works.

Best Novella: Rabids should have voted Penric’s Demon 1 and then Perfect State. Penric came second so we can look again at the change from position 2 to position 3.

Position 2 count: Perfect State 301, Position 3 count: Perfect State 716. Votes gained from Penric = 415. Again not all of these will be Rabids as these were not distinctively Rabid works.

Best Novelette: Rabids should have voted Obits 1 and then “What Price Humanity?”. Obits made it to position 3, so this time we look at the change from 3 to 4.

Position 3 count: “What Price Humanity?” 141, Position 4 count: “What Price Humanity?” 431. Votes gained from Obits = 290. Possibly a better Rabid estiate as we are further down the ballot and “What Price Humanity?” was a Castalia entry.

Best Short Story: Rabids should have voted to make love real and slammed their 1st preferences into Space Raptor Butt Invasion and then 2nd prefs to Seven Kill Tiger. The Tingle Opus was in Position 3.

Position 3 count: Seven Kill Tiger 180, Position 4 count: Seven Kill Tiger 368. Votes gained from Tingle = 180. Much more confident of this figure. Tingle had broad popularity but Seven Kill Tiger was distinctly Rabid.

Best Related Work: The most Rabid dominated category and possibly Rabids felt less need for disciplined voting in this category. No Award won but the most award-worthy contender came in second. People following the Rabid ballot should have voted Between Light and Shadow 1 and Moira Greyland 2. We can check by looking at position 2 and 3 races.

Position 2 count: Greyland 128, Position 3 count: Greyland 322. Votes gained from Light and Shadow = 194.

Best Graphic Novel: Rabids should have voted Sandman and then No Award – which is pretty much how the category went. So how many votes did No Award pick up from Sandman?

Position 1 count: No Award 444, Position 2 count: 1011. Votes gained from Sandman 567 but unlikely these were all Rabids.

Not bothering with Best Dramatic Presentation awards

Best Editor Short Form: Rabids should have voted 1 for Jerry Pournelle and then No Award. This should be a very characteristic vote for Rabids – although as a SF veteran Pournelle should have drawn some non-rabid votes. Unfortunately, No Award beat Pournelle, so we can’t spot the Rabid signal in the preferences in the same way.

In the race for position 1, Pournelle was eliminated in Pass 3. At Pass 4 63 of his votes went to no preference. That seems too low based on the other figures, so maybe some Rabids put others after No Award.

Best Editor Long Form: The man himself, Vox Day, was on the ballot. Rabids should have put him 1 and very few other people would have. Vox got 165 1st preferences.

Rabids should have put Toni Weisskopf second. Looking at the preferences shift after Vox day is eliminated in Pass 2, 135 of his preferences go to Toni Weisskopf. Perhaps more of a measure of Rabid ballot discipline than numbers.

Skipping through the rest:

  • Best pro-artist: estimate based on prefs = 225 but not distinctly rabid pattern
  • Semiprozine: 67 but hard to tell as Rabids officially went for No Award. Puppyish Sci-Phi got 197 votes to come last after all rounds.
  • Fanzine: Hard to tell. Castalia House blog came last (298) all out. Rabids should have put 770 first but hard to see the preference trail there.
  • Fancast: 152 as a reasonable estimate
  • Fan writer: 160 a strong Rabid signal between Castalia Blog authors
  • Fan artist: 159

I think, looking at all these figures, the ones with stronger Rabid connections come out around 160 to 180 votes. I think that is probably the right estimate for people voting along strict Rabid lines – with maybe 50 to 60 more voting along semi-Rabid lines, plus some residual Sad Puppies and others.




How badly did the Rabid Puppies lose?

Hugo Award results are up here http://www.thehugoawards.org/content/pdf/2016HugoStatistics.pdf

How do does Vox Day’s rabid ballot compare with the actual winners?

Actual Best Novel: The Fifth Season.

Rabid ballot:

  1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
  2. Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow)
  3. The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher (Roc)
  4. No Award

Fifth Season easily beats the Rabid attempt to No Award it. However, Uprooted did come second but this was a popular choice anyway.

Score: -1 fail as kingmakers, -1 fail at No Awarding

Actual BEST NOVELLA: Binti

Rabid Ballot:

  1. Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum)
  2. Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson (Dragonsteel Entertainment)
  3. Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Tachyon)
  4. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)
  5. The Builders by Daniel Polansky (Tor.com)

Score: -1 fail as kingmakers

Actual BEST NOVELETTE: Folding Beijing, second place And You And You Shall Know Her By the Trial of Dead

Rabid ballot:

  1. “Obits” by Stephen King (The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Scribner)
  2. “What Price Humanity?” by David VanDyke (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
  3. “Flashpoint: Titan” by Cheah Kai Wai (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
  4. “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan-Feb 2015)
  5.  No Award

Attempt to No Award And You Shall Know Her.. fails

Score: -1 fail as kingmakers, -1 fail at No Awarding

Actual BEST SHORT STORY: Cat Pictures Please, No Award second

  1. “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” by Chuck Tingle (Amazon Digital Services)
  2. “Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
  3. “If You Were an Award, My Love” by Juan Tabo and S. Harris (voxday.blogspot.com, Jun 2015)
  4. “Asymmetrical Warfare” by S. R. Algernon (Nature, Mar 2015)
  5. “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2015)

A Castalia/Rabid heavy category.

Score: -1 fail as kingmakers, -1 fail at Rabid nominees beating No Award


Rabid ballot:

  1. Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 by Marc Aramini (Castalia House)
  2. “The Story of Moira Greyland” by Moira Greyland (askthebigot.com)
  3. “Safe Space as Rape Room” by Daniel Eness (castaliahouse.com)
  4. “The First Draft of My Appendix N Book” by Jeffro Johnson (jeffro.wordpress.com)
  5. SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police by Vox Day (Castalia House)

The most Rabid infected category.

Score: -1 fail at Rabid nominees beating No Award, +1 ‘burning the category down’

Actual BEST GRAPHIC STORY: The Sandman: Overture, No Award second

  1. The Sandman: Overture written by Neil Gaiman, art by J.H. Williams III (Vertigo)
  2. No Award

Score: +1 Kingmaker (very arguably – Gaiman being a Worldcon favourite), 0 No Awarding  non-Rabids (points downgraded as the rest of the list had been put on the Rabid slate), -1 point for the Rabid slate/ballot making no sense.

Actual BEST EDITOR – SHORT FORM: Ellen Datlow

Rabid ballot:

  1. Jerry Pournelle
  2. No Award

Score: -1 fail as kingmakers, -4 fail at Rabid nominees beating No Award (extra points because JP loses to No Award)

Actual BEST EDITOR – LONG FORM: Sheila E. Gilbert

Rabid Ballot:

  1. Vox Day
  2. Toni Weisskopf
  3. Jim Minz
  4. No Award

Score: -1 fail as kingmakers, -1 fail No Awarding non-Rabids, -1 fail Rabids beating No Award


Rabid ballot:

  1. Larry Elmore
  2. Lars Braad Andersen
  3. Michal Karcz
  4. Larry Rostant
  5. Abigail Larson

Score: -1 fail as kingmakers


  1. No Award

Score: -1 fail to burn the category down, -1 fail No Awarding non-Rabids

Actual BEST FANZINE: File 770, Lady Business second

Rabid ballot:

  1. File 770 edited by Mike Glyer
  2. Castalia House Blog edited by Jeffro Johnson
  3. Tangent Online edited by Dave Truesdale
  4. Superversive SF edited by Jason Rennie

Score: +1 kingmaker (yeah but not really), -1 fail to No Award Lady Business

Actual BEST FANCAST: No Award

Rabid Ballot:

  1. The Rageaholic, RazörFist
  2. 8-4 Play, Mark MacDonald, John Ricciardi, Hiroko Minamoto, and Justin Epperson
  3. Cane and Rinse, Cane and Rinse
  4. HelloGreedo, HelloGreedo
  5. Tales to Terrify, Stephen Kilpatrick

Score: -1 fail at kingmaker, maybe +1 for burning a category down? Who knows. I’ll assume that’s how Vox will spin it

Actual BEST FAN WRITER: Mike Glyer, No Award second place

Rabid Ballot:

  1. Jeffro Johnson
  2. Morgan Holmes
  3. Mike Glyer
  4. Shamus Young
  5. Douglas Ernst

Score: +1 kingmaker (yeah but probably not), -1 Rabid nominees fail to beat No Award

Actual BEST FAN ARTIST: Steve Stiles, No Award second place

  1. Christian Quinot
  2. Kukuruyo
  3. disse86
  4. Matthew Callahan
  5. Steve Stiles

Score: -1 fail as kingmakers, -1 Rabid nominees fail to beat No Award


Review: The Obelisk Gate by N.K.Jemisin

obeliskgatepic3The sequel to The Fifth Season is as brutal and beguiling as its predecessor. A disturbing book with the pace of a classic adventure but the depth of a classic.

The review below contains spoilers for The Fifth Season, as well as a discussion of disturbing topics including parental violence, psychological abuse and murder of children.


Fantasy or science fiction? N.K. Jemisin has not been kind to the arbitrary boundary between the two. In the Fifth Season, she introduced us all to the tectonic unstable, socially dysfunctional world of the ironically named Stillness.

Marketed as fantasy, the book ignored standard fantasy tropes. The society she drew is an inherently modern one – not just in terms of technology such as electricity and hydroelectric power, but in terms of a setting concerned with complex social structures, politics, economics, gender and race.

Survival and existential threats in this world arose from an apparently mundane source: the planet’s excessive tectonic activity which would periodically plunge the world in ecological disaster – the eponymous fifth seasons.

The two fantasy elements were the super-powered orogenes (people with psychic power of tectonic activity) and the mysterious ‘stone eaters’, humanoid living statues. Yes, yes, fantasy-like but all within the bounds of mainstream science-fiction set on an alien world.

N.K.Jemisin though is a magician. I don’t mean she has magical powers. I mean she has the talents of a stage magician. If you have read the Fifth Season then you know of one of the major twists in the book [if you haven’t read it, then stop reading this review because spoilers abound aplenty].

The three women we have followed throughout the story are in fact the same woman. The Fifth Season was actually taking us through three stages of Essun’s life, as a child, as an Imperial Orogene and lastly as a woman facing the murder of her son and the apparent end of the world. An attentive reader will have suspected as much, earlier in the book. The attentive reader is therefore watching the magician’s right hand in a classic piece of misdirection.

It is only until the final few sentences of the book when N.K.Jemisin reveals her magic trick with one word: MOON. With that we know – this is probably not an alien world but our own world or one much more like our own than we imagined.


In the Obelisk Gate, Jemisin uses another word: magic. This story is not just blurring the distinction between the genres but treating them like continental plate boundaries, pushing them against each other and then letting the forces throw the reader around.

So the Obelisk Gate is a fantasy story but one in which geology is a reliable science and one in which orbital mechanics matters. It is a fantasy story in which regular astronomy has been suppressed but also one in which magical beings are battling over the fate of the Earth.


Western literature is not lacking in child murder. Euripides portrait of Medea remains disturbing, the Old Testament has god playing appalling mind games with Abraham – pushing him to attempt to sacrifice his son as a test of loyalty. Shakespeare uses the murder of the princes in the Tower to mark Richard III’s full transition into the epitome of evil.

The Fifth Season starts with the end of the world and the murder of Essun’s son by her husband. The Obelisk Gate returns to that moment, as we discover what has happened to Nessun, Essun’s daughter. Nessun will be one of the major points of view in this story. It is through Nessun’s eyes that we meet Jija – Essun’s husband and killer.

We knew (or rightly surmised) from the first book that Jija had killed his son on discovering his son’s orogenic powers. The Fifth Season showed, brutally , how the society that Essun lives in is one in which this deep abiding fear and hatred of ‘roggas’ could lead to a parent willfully killing their own child. We could see, at least in abstract, how such violence mirrors violence in our society: social pressures and stigmas that result in parents killing their own.

Nessun flees with her father, a choice that we come to understand only gradually but it is a choice that also allows us to see Jija as not just a monster but also as a human being. Jemisin finds a way for us to understand Jija but without making excuses for him or rationalising his behaviour.

Of course, what we had learned from the Fifth Season is that Essun had also killed an earlier son. In Essun’s case, she suffocates her child out of a desperate and immediate fear that her child would be taken away by Imperial forces and misused as unthinking part of networked machine keeping earthquakes at bay.

Jemisin makes no excuses for Essun either. Indeed we already have seen how capable of mass murder Essun is. Jemisin does not ask of us to like her characters but she forces us to understand them and the anger that drives through the book.

Lastly, the third point-of-view character is Schaffa, the enigmatic Imperial Guardian who recruited/rescued Essun when she was still a child. He too is a parental figure and a murderer.

This repeated theme of parents-violence-children echoes through the book and it is as confronting as it must be. Few writers could write this topic without drifting into both sentimentality or shock value. The violence is shocking but it is done without sensationalisation.

Underneath we return to Father Earth – in The Fifth Season a mere metaphor for the physical ‘evil’ of natural disaster but in the Obelisk Gate metaphors blend into reality – marking again the fault line of science fiction and fantasy. The Earth is a violent parent and as we have come to understand Jija’s, Schaffa’s and Essun’s choices without excusing or forgiving them, we begin to see a deeper picture of other choices and other kinds of violence.


Lastly Hoa and the stone-eaters. Attentive readers of the Fifth Season (and if you haven’t read it twice then I strongly recommend reading it twice) may have guessed that Essun’s second person perspective chapter’s were not just an exercise in the writer building empathy for a complex character but also represented a not-quite omnisicient narrator.

It is no major spoiler to reveal that this is the boy-like stone-eater that Essun befriends early in The Fifth Season. However, we learn more about his identity (in a classic ‘but of course’ reveal that Jemisin does so well).

The stone-eaters remain a mystery but we still learn more about them and their role becomes increasingly important. In many ways the stone-eaters are closest to a standard fantasy trope: beings that are essentially magic, humanoid but with their own deep motives and prone to either be dismissive of humanity or manipulative.

Earth, Moon, magic, stone-eaters, obelisks, humans, parents, children, Essun and Nessun: a trap of violence, abuse and misuse. Yet there is desperate hope here as the story rushes towards its third installment.


I asked previously if The Fifth Season is destined to be a classic – a book that will be talked about decades hence. I am more certain now.

The Obelisk Gate maintains the depth and quality of the first. Read it.