What is the US election campaign about for the alt-right?

The alt-right isn’t campaigning against Hillary Campaign so much as campaigning against conservative rivals. Nor are they particularly campaigning for Trump. This election campaign on the right is oddly warped by the alt-rights faith in masculine dominance games.

In another adventure of reading Vox Day so you all don’t have to, I spent some time trawling through his posts from 1 August until now. I saw something quite remarkable. Almost zero (exactly zero if I didn’t miss one) posts were direct attacks on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Instead, posts critical of Clinton split into two types:

  • Clinton is supposedly a murderer conspiracy claims. Essentially a warmed over version of 1990s hunting around for anybody in some way linked to Clinton who has died.
  • Clinton is supposedly unwell in some way. This is the odd ‘health truther‘ thing that is doing the rounds of the alt-right.

The split is 2 spooky murders versus 4 health-truther posts. 6 posts in total.

Now a lot of Vox’s posts are political in some way and obviously many of them are various kinds of bemoanings about ‘SJWs’ or rants about immigration. However, by comparison, I decided to count up posts that are specific attacks on conservatives.

In that same period Vox has posted at least 10 posts that are substantial attacks on conservatives and conservatism.

Now Vox is a bit of a nobody outside of his followers and assorted folks like myself who encountered his antics via the Hugo Award kerfuffles. However, he is a reasonable example of what the alt-right are saying and doing. While Vox doesn’t need to convince his audience one way or another on the election, normally his kind of site is where people would rehearse their arguments and talking points.

With the Trump campaign now directly aligned with the alt-right outlet Brietbart, it is interesting to see how the campaign will continue. I think we can expect to see even more overt attempts to squeeze conservativism.

The alt-right sees politics as a manichean struggle between their white-nationalism and some sort of globalist-elitist-not-elists-egalitarian-socialist-feminist-anythingtheydontlikeist conspiracy. Hence their efforts are primarily concerned with trying to radicalise conservatives rather than winning.

When it comes to Clinton not winning the elections, at this point their main focus is a kind of wishful thinking.

The EPH Analysis

An analysis of proposed new Hugo voting rules is out. It’s disappointing to some but I think it validates the change to EPH.

The story so far:

In response to the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy slate of the 2015 Hugo Awards, a voting system called E Pluribus Hugo was proposed and passed at the 2015 Worldcon Business meeting. The system used a process of weightings and elimination rounds to make the nomination process have more proportionality without changing the basic mechanics of how people nominate things.

Much thought and tinkering was put into EPH but what it lacked was real data. EPH should make the list of finalists more proportional to the underlying groupings of voters. However, that meant that the impact of EPH couldn’t really be known without knowing to what extent Hugo voters clustered around choices anyway. Without slates, do Hugo voters form natural groupings (perhaps along sub-genres or sub-fandoms) or are they just a noisy mess of stuff? Without real data there is no way of knowing.

While EPH was passed at the 2015 Worldcon Business meeting, it requires ratification this year to come into effect. As part of that process an analysis of the 2015 and 2014 nomination ballots has been done and the results are just out…

What it all means…

I don’t know. No, that isn’t a useful reaction. OK, I’ll try again.

Below is a list of possible talking points, reactions, counter-argument things. I made them up. They don’t necessarily reflect actual people’s views (I’ll say when it does). Bold represent a possible reaction (not mine) and not bold is my response.

I’m also a hostage to fortune because more results are coming – post the Hugo ceremony, data on the 2016 nominations will come out and who knows what that will show.

For a different take try Nicholas Whyte http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2707679.html?utm_source=twsharing&utm_medium=social

2015 results show that EPH doesn’t fix the slate problem!

No one thing can fix that problem. However, in most categories, at least one additional non-slated works made it onto the ballot with EPH. That means, probably, instead of No Award winning several categories in 2015, a worthy finalist would have won instead.

EPH+No Award together produce a strong disincentive to puppy-style slates. Slate voting will produce legitimate votes and so is bound to have some impact. The combination of EPH and No Award means that a slate will find it hard to sweep a category and win a Hugo.

EPH doesn’t stop those slate-inclined who just want to get to be a finalist and don’t care about winning!

True, but that was a given. Get enough votes and you get to be a finalist. EPH does demonstrably reduce the chance of that succeeding for a slate of nominees but it doesn’t do anything about a single nominee. Again, get enough votes and you get to be a finalist. The only guaranteed way of stopping that is to create a wholly different kind of award.

There is a non-puppy related change in 2015 Best Graphic Story!

That is interesting. With EPH instead of Sex Criminal 1 getting nominated Schlock Mercenary gets to be a finalist.

Sex Criminals got 60 noms in total and Schlock Mercenary got 51. However, Sex Criminals must have been more clustered with other nominees (such as Saga?) and hence lost out a bit to Schlock Mercenary.

With only one slate nominee, this was an interesting category. I liked Sex Criminals, but I think this is a positive demonstration of EPH. It should result in more variety of nominees without slates.

They didn’t include Best Dramatic Presentation!

The reason the report gives is this:

In testing, it was identified that the results in two categories (Dramatic Presentation, Long and Short Form) were usually producing results with many nominators submitting matching entries to other nominators. This was more due to the smaller pool to nominate from compared to other categories than any external coordination of nominating ballots. As such, we decided to produce results with these categories excluded, as changes in the dramatic presentation categories aren’t as useful for gauging if EPH is acting as appropriate where desired as the other categories would be.

That seems silly to me. There are lots of reasons to expect more organic coordination of ballots in these categories, and seeing how EPH works in that circumstance is useful as a way of comparison.

I hope they change their minds at some point.

A single coordinated minority of less than 20% would still average controlling over 80% of the ballot!

Aside from the exclamation mark, that is a direct quote from the report. This appears to be true but controlling only 80% of the ballot is enough to kill Puppy-style slates without having No Award win multiple categories.

Killing the incentive to use the 2015 Puppy slate tactic is what EPH needs to do. It will do that.

EPH+ would be better!

Probably yes, but I don’t know if other side effects (see below) would be worse.

2015 Puppy-style slates are last year’s problem. EPH doesn’t deal with THIS year’s problem!

True. However, the structural weakness of the Hugo voting system exists regardless and the cat is out of the bag. Others can try to game the Hugo Awards in the same way and perhaps more covertly.

As for the griefing style tactics of Vox Day, I think that needs a qualitatively different approach but that is an argument for another day.

EPH knocks out a potential winner in 2014!

There are few changes to finalists with the 2014 data. I think that confirms that without slates EPH will tend to deliver similar results as the current system. However, what isn’t guaranteed is that the results must be exactly the same.

In 2014 three results are notable.

  • Firstly Best Editor Short has a swap of finalists in the last spot – Sheila Wiliams (86) swaps with Bryan Thomas Schmidt (80).
  • Pro artists also has some swaps, partly because in 2014 a tie for fifth place meant 6 nominees. Essentially four artists with 50, 49, 49 and 48 nominations end up with a different ordering with EPH. The EPH ranking ends up as 49, 48, 49, 50 and that looks fine to me because I have that special kind of innumeracy that results from being overly numerate.
  • Fancast has the most understandable change but also the most problematic. In 2014 this was a three-way tie for last finalist at 35 nominations each. EPH breaks the tie and resolves the issue with a single nominee. Unfortunately, one of those three (SF Signal Podcast) won and would have been eliminated by EPH.

The thing is these are all pretty much very close votes with smaller numbers of voters. Anything different about 2014 would probably have resulted in different outcomes. For the Fancast result, an internet outage or a sick cat could have ended up with a different result. The least error in collating the data could have ended up with different results.

Put another way: Hugo voters did not have a clear consensus of which of these people/works should have been nominated. These cases are not good arguments against EPH.

Yes, but, but EPH+ might make that problem worse!

I’ve really no idea. I guess it might broaden what we might think of as a marginal tie and lead to more notable discrepancies between the number of nominating ballots and grabbing that last spot in the finalists. I don’t know.

The current system doesn’t avoid this issue, it really just hides it. For some categories, there are finalists who we really can’t say are substantially more nominated than others. The differences are small enough to be down to happenstance. And yes, some of those may actually end up being winners.

I think the answer is the number of nominees needs to be more flexible than just 5. However, deciding the rules on when to expand the number of nominees beyond an exact tie is unclear.

Where nominator coordination is not present, there are still significant numbers of changes not only to the long list, but to ballots where it’s not generally considered for anything untoward to have happened. Items removed from the 2014 ballot included a
winner of the Hugo. Had EPH been in place, they would not have been on the ballot.

That is a direct quote from Dave McCarty’s conclusion on the report. Sorry, but that is a flawed counterfactual. If we could somehow rewind the tape back to early 2014 and re-run the 2014 nomination ballot again, how likely is it that we’d have ended up with that exact tie that occurred? EPH changed the result because it broke a tie and the other places where there were changes were also spots with very close votes.

Almost ANY change would have meant that something slightly different would have happened! For SF Signal not have been a finalist required ONE nominator’s vote to be different

The changes to the Ballot and Long list are not easily verified and for people reviewing the detailed results at the end the only way to check that the process is working correctly would require access to secret nomination data and significant time.

That’s Dave McCarty again. Well, ANY verification of results needs access to ballots. Given Dave McC is worried about the 2014 Fancast result shifting by possibly one vote, to verify the CURRENT process would require checking that ballots had been classified correctly and counted correctly.

Assuming the underlying ballot data is correct (i.e. everybody’s nominations have been correctly collated) and in a machine readable form (e.g. a text file or spreadsheet), the EPH check takes seconds. Don’t trust the EPH program you are using? Use a different one and see if you get the same results. EPH is not hard to code, I made an Excel version that only uses standard Excel formulas and NO extra code at all.

So, yes, cleaning the nomination data and getting it all tickety-boo takes time – without a doubt BUT if we wanted to verify that the results DON’T CHANGE under the CURRENT process YOU WOULD STILL NEED TO DO THAT.

 

Review: The Nightmare Stacks by @cstross

The latest Laundry Files novel delivers the Stross cocktail of commentary on modern work environment and a pastiche of SFF tropes wrapped up in what can sometimes feel like a Terrance Dicks 1970s Target Doctor Who novelisation (and I mean that in a good way) of John Le Carre trying his hand at urban fantasy.

The earlier Laundry novels focussed on Bob Howard in a series of spy-genre pastiches with a Lovecraftian back-story and wry comments. The more recent novels have dropped the spy pastiche but instead looked at tropes of other genres (urban fantasy vampires, superheroes). The last two novels have pushed Bob to one side for a sound reason – his inevitable career path has led him into senior management and the tone of the series has better suited the voice of the person lower down the org-chart trying to make sense of the absurdities of their orders.

Instead of Bob, we have Alex Schwartz – a former banking quant, who accidently became a vampire through one overly clever financial manoeuvre (in the earlier Rhesus Chart). Nerdier than even Bob, Alex is an introverted mathematician struggling with his new problematic condition and beset with worry about how to explain to his parents that he is not only a vampire but has left his lucrative banking job to become a low-paid civil servant.

Really a book of two halves – the first a mix of Laundry style machinations disguised as busy work that is now its own genre, with a light touch of paranormal romance (he’s an introverted vampire, she is literally a manic* dream** pixie*** girl). The second part is more action thriller as events get more out of control then they ever have before – paving the way for the Laundry files big story arc CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.

As with the last novel (The Annihilation Score) the story suffers a bit from trying to project a distinctly different voice than Bob Howard’s but Stross barrels over those issues by keeping up the pace.

The book ends suddenly but brilliantly. Not the best Laundry novel but will satisfy your Laundry cravings for the time being 😉

*[or rather, psychopathic]

**[or rather, interdimensional]

***[or rather, scary elf-being]

The Puppy Axis Returns: Cut to the Chase Already

Larry-cardIn which I commence the obligatory counter fisk of Larry Correia’s woeful take of the Fireside report.

For the story so far read the links below:

Part 1Part 2, Part 3, …

So in response to Fireside report, Larry Correia wrote one of his fisks, cheered on by Vox Day and JCW. I say ‘in response to’ but actually his Larrysplainin’ is to this second account from The Verge:  http://www.theverge.com/2016/8/4/12374306/science-fiction-diversity-numbers-fireside-report

So, do remember as we wander through Larry’s piece that he may not have a clue what he is talking about. Quotes from Larry will be bold and preceded by “LARRY” so you know that it is Larry. Other quotes won’t say “LARRY”.

LARRY: After reading this defeatist garbage I figured I needed to say something.

It isn’t clear what he thinks is garbage here, the Verge story or the Fireside report itself. I doubt Larry is sure either. What he means by ‘defeatist’ is unclear either – he thinks this is something analogous to a war but against whom we can only guess.

Either way, the Fireside Report clearly isn’t garbage – it is thoughtful and they’ve done some solid work in attempting to collate relevant data. Is it perfect? Good grief, no. How could it be? But some knowledge is always better than none.

As for defeatist, no, it isn’t that either. It is disappointing that collectively we haven’t gone further but Fireside haven’t reacted to this report as a defeat but rather as a call to action. They have responded by looking at positive action they can take.

Helpful life hint for Larry #1: Identifying and talking about problems isn’t defeatist. It is common sense. It’s how you iteratively make things better.

Back to Larry:

LARRY: I originally saw this article on author Chris Nuttal’s page, and in the resulting discussion a bunch of authors went through the many possible flaws in this survey (including some black authors who pointed out they never put their race on a query letter). Chris goes into it in detail here https://chrishanger.wordpress.com/2016/08/06/race-fail-again/

Yeah, it really does look like you didn’t read the report and have launched off on a half-baked Larrysplainin’ without doing the basic reading. Yes, not knowing who is and who isn’t black is one of the issues with the data and it is an issue that they point out in the study.

This data was not entirely self-reported, as the task of contacting the authors in the magazines measured was too daunting. Self-reported data was used whenever possible, but such data was not always findable or clear — for example, no biographical information could be found for two authors in Strange Horizons, and Daily Science Fiction had a larger handful of authors for whom that was the case. We  assume that there is probably at least one false positive and/or false negative. We doubt that these existed in such numbers as to unduly dilute the study.

And this makes a lot of sense. For the basic thrust of the report’s conclusion to be wrong, we have to assume there are a lot more false negatives than false positives. That is possible but if we take out Daily Science Fiction (which is definitely an unusual outlet and adds disproportionately to the total) you get a similar percentage.

Having said that, I would have liked it if the data had been clearer about numbers in terms of Black, Not-Black and Unknown.

Helpful life hint for Larry #2: If you are going to write about a study READ the methodology. OK, that sounds wonky but seriously, if you don’t know what the people did then you only end up looking daft when you comment on what they should have done.

LARRY: Basically, there were supposedly 38 stories published by black authors in sci-fi magazines (a plodding dinosaur medium, but I’ll get to that) but how many stories were submitted by black authors?

If only I’d pointed out that life hint to Larry earlier! You are right, we don’t know how many were submitted. This is why the writers of the report say:

…we don’t have access to submission-rate data concerning race and ethnicity either overall or by individual magazine…

What that means is we don’t know where the bias arises or in which proportions. Of course, what you can do is ask somebody. Which is what Fireside did. Here is N. K. Jemisin:

When you’re saying that there is an under-representation, understand that it comes from both ends. It’s coming from people who are fed up with and don’t expect to see themselves in traditional publishing, which is an issue. That is definitely an issue, because the under-representation has led to a thriving parallel market among other things. Just understand that there are some folks who aren’t trying.

The weird thing is why Larry thinks this is such a clever rebuttal. After all the under-representation is large whether it comes from rejections or whether it comes from black authors not submitting.

The point is that Larry prefers to think of racism only in terms of cartoon racism and simple discrimination that is overt and conscious. Furthermore, Larry prefers to believe that this kind of cartoon racism is minimal or perhaps non-existent. So for Larry, the only thing that matters is dismissing the possibility that black authors are being actively rejected by cartoon racists.

I say ‘cartoon racists’ because of the disconnect with reality in the model of racism we see discussed by Larry and Brad et al. Of course, actual overt racists are no cartoon. Nor are they some rare species – Vox Day is the obvious example, whose racism extends even to people of Southern European ancestry like Larry.

Larry, of course, is one of the many anti-Trump supporting conservatives who were blindsided by Trump’s popularity among GOP voters. Having spent decades willfully pretending overt racism wasn’t real, the rise of an overt racist who commanded large supporter among fellow conservatives was a surprise.

Yet this minimalisation of racism is endemic in the more libertarian-leaning right and it enables the more overt racism of Trumpism. In the individualist mindset, people have lower incomes or a lack of economic success because either they haven’t tried hard enough or the government is taxing them too much. In that model, systemic inequality has to be denied and overt racism is supposed to be a problem that vanishes by the blessing of capitalism.

LARRY: but hey, let’s hurry, assume the system is rigged, impossible, and have a giant freak out about racism, because getting published isn’t hard enough already.

Despite appearances, Larry is not being ironic. Yes, he is being sarcastic but the irony is going wooosshhhh right over his head. On the basis of barely anything at all (retroactively not liking how he felt at Worldcon after getting nominated for a Campbell) Larry felt a freak out about firstly the ‘literati’ being biased against him, unknown European reviewers being biased against him and then SJWs being biased against and goodness knows who else, was not only warranted but required a three-year campaign of shouty mudslinging and slating. OK, irony and emotional consistency are not why you would go and read Larry’s blog but…

…what was that last bit? “because getting published isn’t hard enough already” huh? How is being concerned about some people NOT getting published going to make it harder to get published? Maybe he’ll tell us later but I can’t help thinking that Larry is thinking of somebody other than black authors…

LARRY: If fifty million black authors submitted stories, he’d have a point. Without comparative rejection rates those numbers are meaningless.

Ugh, no Larry and you’ve done that bit already. It isn’t meaningless it just means we can’t know at which point the bias is. Seriously, this isn’t that hard.

LARRY: I know there is bias in publishing. Some unconscious, as in you deviate too far from their groupthink monoculture, and they wouldn’t read that trash, and only they know what sells. And some conscious, as in you didn’t kiss sufficient ass, or they just plain hate your guts.

You see Larry is capable of conceptualising more subtle forms of bias. It isn’t that he can’t imagine it, it’s just that he tends to see it as a bias against him rather than other people. I guess as well he hasn’t connected the dots between this attitude in the quote and the obey-the-market attitude explained by Brad. I suspect he sees them as diametric opposites.

LARRY: Ironically, if there is a bias against black authors, just keep in mind that the vast majority of the publishing industry works out of ultra-liberal Manhattan, and is overwhelmingly run by Caring Liberals Who Are Never Racist EVAR, and by golly, they’ll tell you so.

A whole series of straw men stacked like rhetorical dominoes!

  • The vast majority…except the report is on short fiction and many of the magazines aren’t part of traditional publishing but things like semiprozines. Of course, it wouldn’t be Larry without a rant about trad-publishing but he hasn’t actually read the report and so is off flailing at the wrong target. But we will follow him.
  • Ultra-liberal…whatever that means. This is the distant horizon problem that people on ideological fringes often have. The centre is so far away that they can’t distinguish it from anything on the other side of it. So Manhattan can’t be just to the left of Larry it has to be ‘ultra-liberal’. Ah yes, Manhattan the home of Wall Street is some communard utopia manned by boiler-suited comrades. We’ve left reality people and wandered into the fever-dream map of America.
  • Who are Never Racist EVAR…and the last straw Manhattan Communard topples over. The whole point of pointing out the issues with systemic racism is exactly that NOBODY is never racist. The crew of Fireside aren’t racist in Larry’s sense but what they have done is used data to identify that unwittingly their approach has racist outcomes (possibly). They are actually pointing that out.

Helpful life hint for Larry #3: Do your homework. Seriously, it’s good advice even after you’ve left school.

We aren’t out of the woods yet, though. Larry still has to prove how lefty publishing is:

LARRY: How politically slanted is this business? Check this out. Go down and click on Publishing. http://verdantlabs.com/politics_of_professions/  Book Publishing is so overwhelmingly left wing and my side so statistically insignificant, that we don’t show up on the diagram.

Hmm Verdant labs data hey! Why that looks familiar! Oh, I looked at over a year ago here https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2015/06/03/more-petunias-some-extra-data/

Notice how Larry’s data standards have declined suddenly. Is the data one guy or twenty companies? No way of telling. Of course what we do know is that one of the big players in publishing is NewsCorp owned by Mr Rupert Murdoch – not know for his “ultra liberal” views.

But it really is even more nonsensical than that, aside from NOT THE ACTUAL GROUP WE ARE DISCUSSING (remember) the idea that contributing to the Democrats is particularly leftwing is also laughable. The current REPUBLICAN candidate for President (a man so right wing that Larry can’t support him but Vox Day can) has contributed money to Democrats before, as has his son.

Dave Freer went down a similar rabbit hole previously. Party identification data in the US is of limited use and contribution data is even worse and more often related to time and place than the ideology of the contributor.

Anyway, let’s try and get back on track. Larry makes a few points where he doesn’t disagree with the Verge article. When it gets to them saying this:

Barriers for specific groups of people hurts the field as a whole by blocking new voices and styles from reaching a wider audience.

Larry says this:

LARRY: Funny, when I said that same thing years ago I was the bad guy. 🙂

No, when you tried to get yourself awarded a prize people said you were the bad guy. The above was just your rationalisation for trying to force the issue. The Puppy slates helped force new voices and new styles off the Hugo Ballot. Worse, your pal Brad Torgersen and other puppies specifically complained about too many new style things being nominated. You headed up a campaign AGAINST new styles in preference to more traditional SF. Really, Larry it wasn’t THAT long ago, you can’t have forgotten already.

Helpful life hint for Larry #4: Don’t confuse  your actions with your motives.

Larry then gets himself further confused:

LARRY: First, if you’re a “person of color” (which always blows me away how that is cool now but Colored Person is a slur) most of your readers don’t care. No. Really. The vast majority of people who read do so to be entertained. Adventure, comedy, tragedy, whatever. Make them happy or make them cry, you’re doing your job.  Only a tiny percentage of whiny white guilt liberals buy books based upon the author’s race.

This is based on Larry’s much more robust survey of the field that consists of him telling his fans what to think. Oddly, it isn’t even the worst or most patronising bit of advice Larry has to give. I’m just including it because for Fireside Larry demands greater rigour in survey technique because presumably, they don’t have Larry’s psychic power to read everybody’s mind in one giant go.

Also, Larry is puzzled by how words work. Can’t explain now Larry, It would take way too long and it might involve you having to listen to other people.

Anyway, Larry offers some advice to a guy he knows who is just starting out and who is black. Well, if he is your friend that I guess he is OK with taking advice from you. Everybody else? Zoiks. You might want to first establish that Larry has grasped what the issue at hand is because based on this blog post he is likely to give you a whole heap of bad advice about something else that he didn’t understand in the first place.

LARRY: So don’t be “an author of color”. Be an author. Period. Technically, I’m an author of color (warm beige according to these Home Depot paint chips) but that’s fucking stupid. I’m telling stories for the mass market, not for some little narrow band of humanity that happens to fit my socioeconomic-cultural-ethnic-religious-sexual oriented background.

Actually be whatever you want to be and if you do want to be “an author of color” then know that shouldn’t force you into a narrow band of humanity. Also look at what Larry DOES not what he SAYS. There is usually a substantial mismatch between the two. Does Larry try to meekly keep aspects of his background secondary to his writing? Not remotely and why should he? Larry makes a big deal of his Portuguese descent and his Mormon religion and his gun enthusiasm because they are part of his identity and he certainly doesn’t keep that identity somehow separate from his writing. Heck, Owen Pitt, the hero of his breakout novel is practically a Larry-clone.

Luckily Larry lives in this America and not the dystopian one imagined by the man he promoted, Vox Day. In Vox Day’s America, one Donald Trump is trying to make reality, it is only people of English descent that matter. Vox regards the 19th/early 20th-century immigration policies that allowed in more immigrants from Southern Catholic European countries like Italy, Spain or Portugal as a corrupting influence on America.

So actually, three cheers for Larry. I very much support the fact that you celebrate your heritage and build it into your work and let everybody know that it is part of who you are as an author.

He then quotes the article:

“The advice to write “what the market wants” is code for white characters and white stories.

And replies:

LARRY: Owen Z. Pitt, not white. Ashok Vadal, not white. Yet somehow I’m a successful author and my core fan base is as red state, meat and potatoes, flag waving, clinging to our god and guns, regular America as it gets.

“What the market wants” is not code for White Stories (whatever the fuck that gibberish is supposed to mean). The market wants to be entertained. They want to have fun. They want emotion. They want to get sucked in because they can’t put the book down and stay up way too late reading. They want rousing stories. They want heroes and villains. They want characters they can cheer for. If you think all that only belongs to white people, fuck off, racist.

Larry, you have a serious reading comprehension problem right there. You are confusing an actual state of affairs (what will actually sell) with institutional biases. You can’t claim not to believe they exist because you were complaining about them a few paragraphs ago. Sorry, I forgot you only believe in them if you think they are biases against conservative men. But you are an SFF author, right? You have an imagination. Just close your eyes and imagine that all those conspiracies and CHORFs and SJW gatekeepers you moan about aren’t biased against you but a biased in favour of some sappy middle-of-the-road white male America.

Yes, the ‘market’ wants to be entertained but it actually takes effort to push things away from what is perceived as safe. Yes, your novels have some diversity to them and people buy them. But you know what? That didn’t happen over night. People did that. People who were writing before you did that and most of them had to struggle to do it.

You now live in a world where people will read stories with more diverse characters but not so long ago, the diversity in your books would have been seen as radical or even provocative. And yes, some Larry-like person would have been lecturing you on being too preachy or too politically correct – and that person would have been a bit of an arse now wouldn’t they?

But way to go, intentionally misunderstanding it that so you could knock over a different strawman.

LARRY:That white guilt claptrap is silly. Do you really think that writing is the only career where not having free time, resources, and the ability to network holds you back? How about, uh, let’s say EVERY OTHER CAREER too.

I am quite certain the black population of America is very, very well aware that such things can hold people back in any career. It is why racism impacts across all aspects of the economy. It is why we say racism is SYSTEMIC. It is why the impact of racism is GENERATIONAL. It is why there are huge disparities in wealth and health and prospects across America.

That doesn’t mean that only middle-class people have any hope of becoming authors but it does mean that it is much easier. Nor does ‘easier’ mean ‘easy’. There are multiple barriers no matter what route you take and education, social networks, economic security all help. Talent obviously helps a lot too as does drive.

Racism cuts into each of those. Because the impact of racism is systemic and generational and in America also geographic, it cuts into educational prospects, social networks beyond your ethnic group and cuts deeply into economic security. On top of that are the more immediate impacts of racism which add extra barriers to whatever you might be doing.

It isn’t ‘defeatist’ to point that out. We shouldn’t be fatalistic about it but we certainly shouldn’t accept it or pretend, as Larry seems to be doing, that it is just a matter of working hard.

Back to Larry:

LARRY: This article is focused on sci-fi magazines, but they are a relic of an earlier time. I think most of them have gone out of business. This article says they looked at 63 sci-fi magazines. I was shocked there were that many. I’ve sold around 30 pieces of short fiction, and I could only think of like half a dozen sci-fi magazines off the top of my head

Imagine a face-palm gif at this point. I’m too busy face-palming to find one. Yes, after goodness knows how many off-topic ramblings, Larry catches on to the fact that this is about magazines.

Larry can only think of half-a-dozen. This is rather like me being able to only think of half a dozen types of gun. In both cases, it is a measure of our mutual ignorance and f-all to do with the size of the field.

Yes, Larry, there are LOTS of magazines. Some professional, some fanzines some semi-pro. Remember when you and Brad tried to set yourselves up as the gatekeepers of fandom and everybody pointed out you were utterly clueless? Yes? You are demonstrating why.

Anybody who has followed the Puppies would only ready know by now that their grasp of short fiction and short fiction outlets is very limited. Maybe at this point, Larry might spot that he actually has very little understanding of any aspect of the topic he has been talking about?

LARRY: This is a fantastic time to be an author. In the olden days, if a handful of gatekeepers didn’t like you, you were boned. For a long time, unless you were a superstar, there was basically one mainstream publishing house that didn’t give a damn about their author’s personal politics. Luckily, Indy and self-pub have changed the market dramatically.

Except Larry, the Fireside report was including independent magazines and the issue isn’t ‘personal politics’ but ethnicity. I don’t know, maybe Larry struggles to see the difference and sees being black as being the same as choosing to be a conservative.

Perhaps it is too late to hope that Larry might realise that his long rant about mainstream publishing of books has little to do with independent publishing of short fiction or that ‘go Indy’ is not much of a solution to a problem with independent magazines.

LARRY: I got rejected a hundred times. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because my last name has double Rs and too many vowels, but if I wanted to be a big pussy about it I could have added racism to the giant list of challenges all aspiring authors face, just to make the process seem extra daunting and insurmountable.

Instead of adding a known problem to the list, taking it seriously and helping do something about it, you belittled people trying to make things better, called them politically-correct or SJWs and went on a three-year long tantrum claiming that the biggest things on that list were being conservative or liking guns. In fact, you KEEP claiming that is a big thing on the list – except when you claim Twitter is out to get you.

Weird you didn’t take your own advice when it comes to people you most identify with but for black people, you think it might just be a bit too all off-putting for them if people take racism seriously? Are you saying your rants about political bias were actually an attempt to make writing look ‘extra daunting and insurmountable’ to conservatives? If so…um, good job, maybe? That is one freaky giant SJW-double-bluff, agent-comrade Correia!

But you know what IS off-putting to people trying to make it in the business? When they have to put up with racist shit from the people you promote. Whether it is Brad Torgersen dismissing people as ‘affirmative action’ picks, pretending that they didn’t struggle just as hard if not harder to get where they are. Or whether it is your friend Vox Day saying of one of the most stunning writers I’ve read this decade “She’s the token African-American. She’s a diversity totem.” Or whether it is you repeatedly dismissing anybody trying to do stuff that IN NO WAY HARMS YOU OR YOUR CAREER but will boost the chances of people who have been repeatedly discriminated against.

I don’t know what bugs Larry so much about this but bug him it does. What I do know is Republicans and conservatives who were not overt racists have been saying similar things for years and [wow, who would have believed it!] they now find that their party has been hijacked by the outright  bigots they’ve spent years making excuses for.

The Puppy Axis Returns: Part 3 Apparently

In what is rapidly turning into a meandering multi-part discussion of the Fireside report and the reaction of assorted Puppies to it.

Part 1, and Part 2, …

In between my last post on the topic and working on the response to Larry Correia’s Puppysplaining, I popped over to Mad Genius Club to see if anybody there had anything to say.

As it happens Cedar Sanderson has an interesting post on sexism in publishing which touches on some similar issues and then overtly links to Larry Correia’s post. I’m not saying Cedar’s post doesn’t make some of the same errors as Larry’s or Brad’s but it is infinitely less annoying because she doesn’t adopt that I’m-going-to-tell-you-all-what-to-think style of Larry and Brad.

There are two elements I want to pick out because I think they are interesting:

  • Firstly, she suggests (and I’ll assume for the sake of argument that she is correct) that many agents and editors in publishing are women. Cedar asks “Can women be biased against women? Why not?”
  • Secondly, she echoes a sentiment that we will see from Larry – that indie and self-publishing cuts out the gatekeepers and hence problem solved.

Cedar wonders if the first issue is explained by reverse sexism but let’s apply Ockham’s razor again: sexism is probably best explained by sexism and racism is probably best explained by racism. The conceptual problem that we keep seeing from Puppy quarters is that those two terms tend to be interpreted in only one way i.e. sexism is seen as something a sexist does and a sexist has to be some sort of overt misogynist, while racism is seen as something a racist does and a racist has to be some sort of cartoonish KKK supporter.

In reality, neither is the case. Both sexism and racism are perpetuated by nice people, who try to be good and may even hold quite progressive views. And for exhibit A we have good old Brad Torgersen – a man who I am sure doesn’t regard himself as a racist.

See, here’s the thing. The market always wins. Always. Doesn’t matter how brave or bold your posturing may be. If your book, or your movie, or your album, doesn’t have enough “there” there, you can hang a million virtue-signals on the thing — dress it up like a damned social justice christmas tree — and the audience is going to give you a big, whopping, “Meh.” And it’s not because the audience is secretly homophobic or misogynistic or racist. It’s because the audience is tired of being sermonized, and cannot be commanded to vote (with its collective wallet) for something it doesn’t want to vote for.

Now there is nothing semantically racist or sexist in anything he said there. Yet it pretty much explains Cedar’s question of how there can be so much apparent sexism when women are at least at one stage of the gatekeeping. Brad hits the thumb squarely on the head while aiming for the nail. Most industries are risk averse and publishing and entertainment are no different – one reason why there are so many sequels at your movie theatre. The pressure on employees in an industry is also to be risk averse. As nobody knows what the magic ingredients to popularity are (or they keep changing or both) that means superficial or cosmetic qualities are often (and unconsciously) used as proxies. That makes this ‘market wins’ attitude both dulling (i.e. we keep getting crappy tired movies following the same nutty-nugget formula) but also RESISTANT TO SOCIAL CHANGE. Note, when I say resistant to social change, I don’t mean resistant to changes that will happen in the future but resistant to changes that have already happened or are happening.

The market simply doesn’t know best because of a classic failing condition for markets: poor information. Gatekeepers relying on sticking with worked in the past and also factoring in the prejudices they believe their audience have. The latter is particularly pernicious and includes examples as the pinkification and gender segmentation of toys.

So yes, publishing can be institutionally sexist even if the industry employs a lot of women and it can be institutionally racist even if it employs lots of people who would be horrified to be thought of as racist. There is a word for it: bias. Bias doesn’t need to be conscious or deliberate but it is something that requires a conscious effort to fix.

Cedar’s second point is fine as far as it goes. Self-publishing/indie publishing can remove one set of gatekeepers. However, the idea that the problem is therefore solved is laughable. Sure self-publishing means even my imaginary self-deluded cat can publish a book but nobody at Mad Genius would suggest for a second that simply getting it published is the only obstacle.

Writing in the first place is an obstacle. Imagining that a writer is something you can be is an obstacle (again look at the many good articles at Mad Genius on this). However, getting read by people is also an obstacle. Promotion is an obstacle and getting noticed is an obstacle. The gatekeepers in these areas don’t have the kind of quasi-monopolistic power that editors at a big publisher do but they exist nonetheless. Don’t believe me? Then just think about how much the people at Mad Genius have wailed and railed and complained about Worldcon voters over the past couple of years – and Worldcon voters are just a tiny section of fandom with limited power and no single set of opinions.

Yes, the monopolies of big publishing are not what they were but that is only a fraction of the story. Indie and self-publishing solve some problems but it amounts to swapping some hard barriers to many more softer (and more porous) barriers with the same issues.