Sad Puppies 4 is now slot machine spam…but in Italian?

I was checking some broken links and found myself back at the Sad Puppies 4 website. People may recall that the domain name hosting had briefly expired but then the site reappeared but with the promise of a Sad Puppies 5 removed. https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/12/23/sad-puppy-watch-update/

I’m not going to link to the website (you’ll see why) but it hasn’t changed much since my last visit. The main difference is that the last blog post (an update from March 2016) now has an initial sentence in Italian. That sentence contains a link to a new page which is an advert (in Italian) for online slot machines.

I assume spammers have bought the domain and copied the content – thus ensuring the numerous links to the site still exist, creating a site that looks less like spamverts? (Speculation welcome.)

I think it was Puppy Bysshe Shelley who said it best:

“I met a book reader in an antique shop,

Who said—“A vast and senseless blog of books

Sits on my browser. . . . Near it, in a post,

A half sunk shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its writer well those passions held

Which yet survive, stamped on some other “gate”,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the editorial, these words appear:

My name is Puppymandis, Fourth of Four;

Look on my Works, ye fandom, and despair!

Nothing beside remains round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

Except slot machine adverts in Italian.”

The Legend of Korra: Book 1 – Air

Where next? A successful fantasy series has built up a substantial following. Both writers and viewers (in this case but the same is true in abstract for readers) have invested time in world building and understanding the lore of the setting. Characters were engaging and the plot reached its necessary conclusion. It’s all done but fans would like more…

The pitfalls of trying to reproduce success are legion and there are dangers in simply producing more of the same and dangers in trying something different that builds on the past success. Personally I prefer bold failures to timid repeats and I think The Legend of Korra managed to surpass ‘bold failure’.

I didn’t watch any episodes properly when the series first aired but after recently watching the whole of Avatar:The Last Airbender, it was the right time to watch the follow up series. As with its predecessor, the show is scattered across streaming services in Australia and Book 2 is only available via iTunes. With some perseverance I managed to see all of the seasons without piracy.

[Spoilers for The Legend of Korra Book 1 follow]

Book 1 was a plethora of interesting decisions. The first being the obvious intent to pitch the show at an older audience – not that the original Avatar was purely for kids. The original Avatar had some episodes concentrated on older teenagers/young adults but these were focused on Prince Zuko and his sister. The new dynamic borrowed from aspects of popular Young Adult genre works, and the growing popularity of genre works that had featured young women in action roles.

The second decision was to move the world on. The world building in Avatar had been cleverly economical – a lot of the necessary info-dump could be done in the opening credits. The Legend of Korra was never going to match that elegance. Sensibly the writers followed through on the logic of the previous world show – a world that was both magical but also industrialising. The downside was that Book 1 enters a more familiar setting. Republic City is an parallel New York with a bit of 1920’s Shanghai thrown in. Where Avatar’s setting largely felt like their own places with inspiration from China and Japan, Republic City is a more overt borrowing.

An older audience also means a more morally complex plot. Instead of an epic fight against a tyrannical nation, Book 1 pitches Korra into a conflict with Amon, the leader of a quasi-left revolutionary organisation called the “Equalists”.

I finished Book 1 feeling not wholly satisfied. Amon is exposed as being not what he seems, the reveal of his backstory (and the backstory of the secondary villain) arrives by somebody simply explaining who Amon actually is (the child of a former gangster with blood bending powers). The love triangle, the threat to Republic City and late-in-the-story loss of Korra’s powers are then quickly wrapped up in the last part of the final episode. These plot choices were clearly made with questions about how many episodes the show would get. So interesting loose ends aren’t left to dangle. Understandable but a shame – Korra starting Book 2 with only her airbending intact would have given her a more pressing need to engage with the spirit world.

Eventually, the Spirit World will become the arc across the seasons but in Book 1 that was not apparent. We’ll get to that but for the moment, Korra’s world is not only more modern in a simple sense but it is also one more focused on modernity. It’s a show set in a city with inventors and industrialists and Korra’s powers, while psychic, are mainly physical.

By the end of Book 1, Korra is a defender of a status quo of technological change and capitalist progress. If the show had stopped there then it would be a nicely produced sequel but not terribly remarkable. The only clue that this was misdirection by the writers was that the shows theme of Korra being somebody who was trying to work out who and what they should be was already established. The end of Book 1 has an answer to that question but it’s not an answer that will stick.

How Coal Runs Australian Politics

The latest news in Australian politics is that ex-PM Malcolm Turnbull will resign his seat sooner than expected triggering a by election. I suspect this won’t bring down the government but it’s a more assertive act by Turnbull than I expected.

The Guardian has a report here: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/aug/27/malcolm-turnbull-to-trigger-byelection-by-quitting-parliament-on-friday?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Further down in that article is a comment from Turnbull’s son Alex, that confirms an observation I’ve made about this chaos:

“After Turnbull’s leadership loss last week, his son Alex Turnbull has started speaking publicly about his frustrations with the federal Coalition.
On Monday, Alex said he suspected a powerful group of coal mining companies on Australia’s east coast was having an “undue level of influence” on federal Liberal party policy.
He said the Coalition’s “singular fixation” on the Galilee Basin – a gigantic coal deposit in central Queensland – and on keeping ageing coal-fired power stations alive, had led him to believe “there are other forces at work” to explain the Coalition’s unproductive policymaking.”

“That there is an undue level of influence on Liberal Party policy by a very small group of miners who have some assets they probably now regret having purchased which did not make a lot of sense anymore and are trying to engineer an outcome which makes those projects economic,” he told the ABC on Monday.
When asked who the miners were, he laughed. Then he said: “People who own a lot of coal in the Galilee Basin.”

The observation certainly fits known facts. And here is a weird twist or perhaps an example of saying the quiet part loud: Denialist website Wattsupwiththat has an article loudly complaining that the press aren’t giving ENOUGH coverage to the fact that Turnbull was ousted because of climate policy: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/08/25/l-a-times-conceals-facts-regarding-climate-policy-repudiation-which-triggered-australian-pm-turnbulls-ouster/

Looking at Subscription Data

The discussion in the comments about Amazon ranks sent me off on a tangent. I gathered some Amazon rankings for SFF magazines that offer subscriptions via Amazon and having got that data I thought I should do something with it.

As I also had the 2017 Fireside Report data I thought I’d compare the two. Now, this data is not great. Firstly, while the Fireside Report is methodical it is necessarily less strong on a per-magazine basis than it is in aggregate — one author incorrectly identified (or not identified) would have a big impact on the proportion listed. Secondly, the Amazon rankings I’ve got don’t necessarily represent the size of the readership consistently between the magazines — there is some major variation in business model between the magazines listed.

Still, I was curious. Story outlets that maintain an ongoing Kindle subscription model would be (I speculated) the more established and hence ‘traditional’ and hence reflect the least amount of social/cultural change.

Given all that, it is not surprising that the data is really just a big bunch of all-over-the-place when comparing rankings. I did tabulate sub-rankings in particular categories but those rankings on their own terms appeared to make no sense and/or not quite commensurate classifications within Amazon.

No strong conclusions to draw other than:

  • there’s no obvious commercial downside for outlets that have better representation
  • overall (as noted in the Fireside report) the level of representation isn’t good
  • Uncanny’s model doesn’t suit the ranking very well.

The last two columns are from the Fireside Report 2017 Google spreadsheet https://firesidefiction.com/blackspecfic-2017

Magazine Amazon Kindle Subs Rank
total stories, black authors % stories by black authors
Fantasy & Science Fiction

214,172

4

6.7%

Asimov’s

220,953

1

1.4%

Analog

263,553

0

0.0%

Clarkesworld

343,321

0

0.0%

Lightspeed

428,963

3

6.5%

Apex

564,541

6

18.8%

Nightmare Magazine

989,486

2

8.3%

Uncanny

2,464,628

4

12.5%

“Comicsgate” is the crappiest “gate”

Really, as an observer of weird pop-culture rightwing backlash campaigns, I have to say the so-called “Comicsgate” is incredibly dull. I don’t want to minimise the extent of the toxic harassment and bullying [which is severe] of either Comicsgate or its predecessors such as the Puppy campaigns or Gamergate but taking a look at its other dimensions…well, it doesn’t have any.

Perhaps this is brilliantly tactical — have so little of even the remotest substance to say that there’s nothing a critic can say about the campaign other than “Wow, that’s extraordinarily toxic”. To re-cap, various rightwing people (several of whom we’ve met before) have been campaigning for more overtly rightwing comics or less “politics” in comics or just generally being obnoxious about comics.

The main focus of the campaign has actually been crowd-funding for comics by a rightwing creator, not all of whom use the term “Comicsgate” (Vox Day, for example, has been a bit more equivocal about the term because he thinks all these people should be joining his petty empire). So we have a ‘campaign’ that is just a collaboration of outrage marketing techniques following the standard Scrappy-Doo model: be as loud and as obnoxious as possible and then when people react, claim to be being persecuted.

It’s the same grift we’ve seen over and over: targetting people (particularly women) for harassment in the hope of generating clicks and sales.

This article has background from Feburary:

https://www.inverse.com/article/41132-comicsgate-explained-bigots-milkshake-marvel-dc-gamergate

 

How Women Don’t Get the Top Job

More inside machinations of Australia party politics for you all. This time though a brief look at the Prime Minister Australia didn’t get. Julie Bishop has decided to step down as Foreign Minister and to serve on the backbenches under Australia’s new PM, Scott Morrison.

Worth saying up front that a reactionary government led by a reactionary woman is still a reactionary government. Julie Bishop has been deputy leader of the Liberal Party for multiple leaders and has been active in pursuing the same terrible policies of that party. However, those policies clearly do evolve in a highly gendered climate where values coded as being masculine distort choices and attitudes. We live in a world of least-worst choices but even then the calculus becomes confusing.

In the recent leadership spill, rightwinger Peter Dutton sought to oust the more centrist Malcolm Turnbull. Turnbull, realising that he wouldn’t survive as PM, used delaying tactics so that alternate candidates had a chance to challenge Dutton as PM. In the end, the Liberal Party MPs had a choice of three candidates:

  • Scott Morrison (who eventually won and is now PM)
  • Julie Bishop (at the time deputy leader and Foreign Minister)
  • Peter Dutton

Ostensibly the reason for the change in the leader was the poor showing of the party in opinion polls. However, of those three candidates the one who would have been most popular (according to polls) as PM was Julie Bishop. Simply put, the Liberals had a much better chance of winning the next general election (which could happen anytime but next May is likely) if they picked Bishop. So why didn’t the Liberal MPs pick Bishop?

The Guardian has acquired leaked WhatsApp messages from Liberal MPs showing the machinations that occurred: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/aug/26/julie-bishops-leadership-bid-scuppered-by-colleagues-messages-show

Essentially high profile MPs likely to support her coordinated their votes to NOT vote for her so that Peter Dutton didn’t win. The fear was that if Morrison was eliminated in the first round of voting, some of his votes would go to Dutton. Given that the margin was small (in the end Morrison only beat Dutton by 5 votes), this assessment was probably right. Put another way, if it had come down to a contest between an unelectable (and possibly ineligible) rightwing man who appears to have had his charisma sucked out by a doomsday machine and a competent popular woman who just wasn’t quite evil enough, then the Liberals would have picked Dutton.

Whether to be happy or sad about that in these times is no simple matter. If Bishop had won the chance of three more years of the Liberal Party (including its extremist faction) would have been higher. However, if you have to have the Liberals in charge I’d rather it was the least worst option. For a benchmark of ‘least worst’ note that Bishop acted a lawyer defending mining giant CSR from compensation claims from people dying mesothelioma because of exposure to asbestos at CSR’s mines.