Debarkle Chapter 8: Electrolite 2005/03/01

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

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

“As everyone who’s ever attended an elite university knows, a shocking number of women there are academically cauterized into intellectual brain death. While men are listening to professors lecture on history, economics and engineering, far too many women are yammering on and on about their feelings in Women’s Study classes. The less academically rigorous a subject, the more women you’ll find in it – there were 20 times as many women in my political geography class (40) as my computer science engineering class (2).”

https://www.wnd.com/2005/02/29022/

I don’t know enough about US universities to say whether Day’s alma-mater Bucknell University (a private liberal arts college in Pennsylvania[4]) counts as an elite university in an academic sense. Day also appears to be trying to lever in a STEM versus Arts/Humanities prejudice into the misogyny and yet Day’s own academic background and abilities have not been in the maths and sciences.

Day’s essay later wanders into the field of science fiction:

“The mental pollution of feminism extends well beyond the question of great thinkers. Women do not write hard science fiction today because so few can hack the physics, so they either write romance novels in space about strong, beautiful, independent and intelligent but lonely women who finally fall in love with rugged men who love them just as they are, or stick to fantasy where they can make things up without getting hammered by critics holding triple Ph.D.s in molecular engineering, astrophysics and Chaucer.”

ibid

Day is still framing things initially as if modern feminism is the cause of a kind of cognitive obstacle rather than him suggesting an innate difference between men and women cognitively. However, his next statement veers closer to a claim of innate differences. In the WND article he doesn’t cite any examples but he did have a particular book in mind, which we know from the Nebula post on his own blog.

The winner in 2001, The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro, is a mediocre romance novel in space. I tossed it aside after being introduced to the third consecutive strong, beautiful, intelligent, independent, but lonely woman in the book. It was as if Maureen Dowd was writing science fiction, and the results were about as good as you’d imagine. Meanwhile, neither Neal Stephenson nor JK Rowlings has ever won the award.

see note [1]

Asaro’s novel had won the Nebula in the same year that she won the election to become SFWA President. In a series of ironies, she was also President when Day was writing this and technically had appointed him to the jury. She is also a very clear counter-example to Day’s thesis. While she certainly has been very successful at melding science-fiction with romance (to the extent of being a finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s own awards) she also has a Phd from Harvard in chemical physics[6] and has written ‘hard’ science fiction[7]. Day (as Theodore Beale) on the other hand was writing Christian fantasy and studied undergraduate history, economics and Japanese at what is probably a fine university but which was not Harvard[8].

So we have two Vox Day’s. Firstly the WND columnist and blogger Vox promoting quasi-libertarianism on a paleo-conservative news site. Secondly, Theodore Beale the writer of Christian fantasy and SFWA member. Vox’s motives for joining the SFWA and volunteering for the jury do not appear to have a hidden motive or sinister intent.

Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden (both editors at Tor books) were also people with a strong online presence in 2005. At Patrick’s blog Electrolite, he[9] posted a short post linking other blogs commenting on Vox Day’s WND essay on Why Women Can’t Think, as well as posts by Day on anti-Semitism, some background on Day and then finally pointed out that he had served on the Nebula award jury for 2005[10]. A discussion ensued.

At the heart of the discussion was the on-going discussion about who gets to be part of science-fiction as a community and in what role. Day’s WND essay implied a lesser role for women. That essay in itself raised the question of whether somebody with Day’s views could reasonably serve on a jury for a science-fiction literary award. The broader question being part of that on-going question of whether science-ficition communities can exclude people from particular spaces — a question at least as old as the first Worldcon’s expulsion of the Futurians or the later expulsion (for the safety of fans’ families) of Walter Breen.

The comment thread is a long and interesting one, however what would develop eventually as a consensus appears very quickly. Patrick Nielsen Hayden comments about twelve comments down:

“Mind you, SF has always been full of people with nutty opinions. Ray Palmer, for years the editor of Amazing, believed whack-job author Richard Shaver’s contention that malign “disintegrant energy robots” hidden in caverns beneath the Earth were using ancient pre-human technology to control the planet’s surface dwellers and make war on one another. Not only did Palmer publish multiple Shaver stories expanding on this theme, he and Shaver also promoted it as actual non-fictional true-type truth and recruited other writers to expand on it. By comparison, garden-variety misogyny and Jew-baiting seem almost prosaic.
This being the case, arguably SFWA is wise to make sure the crackpot demographic is represented in its deliberative bodies. (And Cloud Atlas is certainly an unexceptionable jury choice.) As with so many aspects of SF’s subculture, one is left saying, on the one hand, hurray for our fine and broadminded tolerance; and on the other hand, eeuw.”

http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/006122.html#75538 [11]

Other commenters struggled to make sense of how Vox Day projected himself. Anna Feruglio Dal Dan noted that

“But what kills me is that he has kind words to say both about Pat Wrede and Lois MacMaster Bujold on his site. Not to mention praising Charlie Stross and Umberto Eco. I don’t know. Just doesn’t compute.”

http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/006122.html#75555

Charles Stross himself also noted

“Oh dear. I’ve had email correspondence with Mr Beale; all I can say for sure is he didn’t sound like a loon — a Christian conservative, certainly, but that’s not a hanging offense in my world. Patrick’s diagnosis of his public pronouncements as being “an exercise in “look at me, I’m outraging your sensibilities” very plausible. On the other hand, he’s been asking for an interview, and this fracas isn’t exactly encouraging me to say “yes”. And on the gripping hand, I’ve been known to give credit where none is due. (I wonder if he already knows that my father avoided Auschwitz by coming down with a summer flu, and that I’m married to a feminist?)”

http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/006122.html#75764

John Scalzi also entered the discussion to argue that Day’s politics should not be a reason to exclude him, particularly when the evidence pointed to him doing a reasonable job as a juror.

“Not to be blandly practical-minded about this, but inasmuch as Mr. Beale and the rest of the Nebula novel jury members seem to have discharged their duty by selecting a novel that most would agree is of overall Nebula finalist caliber, and have done so with an apparent minimum of fuss, does it matter what his politics or personal opinions are, particularly in relation to being a Nebula jury member? The jury did make a reasonable selection, in my opinion.”

http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/006122.html#75573

But others pointed out the inherent problem of Day’s views in his role as a juror.

“Depends, how do we know his mysogyny didn’t tip the scales one way or the other? Sure the jury made a reasonable selection, but can we be sure he didn’t vote against someone because they were a woman, liberal, a feminist, or Jewish?”

http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/006122.html#75575

Several broader themes also arose in the comments. Firstly, what kind of message the SFWA was giving to women members (or potential members) putting Day in a significant position. Secondly, did Day’s role contribute to “ongoing degradation of the prestige of the once-coveted Nebula Award”. Thirdly, that it was impractical and unethical for the SFWA to have political criteria for membership or political background checks for jury membership.

More than eighty comment deep into the thread, Vox Day himself turned up.

“As usual, one finds oneself swooning in awed wonder at the famously open minds of the liberal literati!
Christian? Yes. Conservative? No. I note with amusement that no one has bothered disputing my actual statements, as the two examples given would amount to a “few”, wouldn’t they? There’s no shame in not wishing to wrestle with arcane mathematics when one can simply wave a wizard’s wand instead; four extensive pages of critical notes from Pat Wrede was all it took to convince me to switch from writing mediocre science fiction to marginally less mediocre fantasy.
The reason I volunteered for the Nebula juries was to try to do my small part to rectify a situation where unreadable dreck is winning awards while far more noteworthy authors such as Neal Stephenson and others go unnominated. As for my having kind words to say about Bujold, Eco, Stross and Wrede, that should hardly come as a surprise as they are all very good writers and I am acquainted with everyone except Mr. Stross. “

http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/006122.html#75895

Along with Vox’s own comments came others supporting Vox’s claims. The comments shifted from discussing Vox’s role as juror to directly engaging with Vox over his views on women with continuing comments from people like Elizabeth Bear and Laura J Mixon. Interestingly, John Scalzi still attempted to chart a more moderate course. When Charles Stross described Day’s views as a “a career-limiting move”, John Scalzi pushed back on the comment, leading to a further exchange between himself and Laura J Mixon and Charles Stross.

The comments extend long after that with multiple back-and-forths but with little progress in the discussion. Some posts by Day’s supporters cross the lines and are subject to moderation using a technique known as “disemvoweling” – removing the vowels so as to retain the message but making it difficult to read[12].

On March 8 the thread is still going although many people had left it. On March 9, Catharine Asaro added this comment:

“The following is from myself and the Board:
The views expressed by Theodore Beale are his and only his and do not in any way represent the views of SFWA, its Board of Directors, or the Nebula coordinator who selected the jury. None of us were aware of Mr. Beale’s views at the time he volunteered for the jury over a year ago, nor did we become aware of them until these past few days, after the 2004 jury had finished its deliberations.Mr. Beale is not a member of the 2005 Novel jury.
Sincerely
Catherine Asaro
President, SFWA”

http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/006122.html#76515 [13]

She followed that up with a longer personal comment which included a link to her paper “Complex speeds and special relativity” from the American Journal of Physics[14].

Day would later declare that he had emerged unscathed from the encounter and in October 2005 suggested that he would run for President of the SFWA.

“As for the Electrolyte uproar, do you seriously think it bothers me? Do you think that’s why I happily provide links to it. It bothers me so much that I’m planning to run for SFWA president and as part of my campaign I will cite issues raised in it. Do you truly believe that I am the least bit concerned about what that group of would-be TOR authors think? They didn’t do any stomping, indeed, many of them embarrassed themselves with their illogic and hypocrisy.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20140618180409/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2005/10/mailvox-determined-to-see-what-is-not.html

In 2012 Day was still replaying aspects of the same argument. In his role as ‘Theo’ on the fanzine BlackGate he was still citing Catherina Asaro’s Quantum Rose as the “the most egregious example” of an undeserving Nebula winner[15].

There’s a common assumption (which I’ve held myself) that the comment thread marks the start of what would become a long running feud between John Scalzi and Vox Day. It certainly is the first substantial argument but in the immediate aftermath there was a degree of peace. True, Scalzi did coin the term ‘A Sphincto-Cranial Event’[16] to describes Day’s performance. However, Day did post a recommendation on his blog for people to read Old Man’s War and compared John Scalzi to Robert Heinlein[17]. In 2008, Scalzi included a promotion for Vox Day’s book ‘The Irrational Atheist as part of his Big Idea series [18][19].

The big feud was yet to come.

Next time: Coincidentally (I swear) a look at Baen books, Tor and the growing power of Amazon


Footnotes

119 thoughts on “Debarkle Chapter 8: Electrolite 2005/03/01

  1. Footnote 13: “The 2005 Nebula Awards here refers to the awards that would be given out in 2006 for works from 2004.”

    Should that final number be 2005, or do I understand the Nebulas less than I thought I did?

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  2. For those who DO want to engage in intellectual/school-comparison snobbery, Bucknell is a perfectly good private school somewhere between first and second tier status. Not an Ivy or Stanford or U Chicago, not quite an Amherst, Williams, Duke, Wesleyan or Carleton. Think Kenyon, Wheaton, Colgate or Georgetown. Plus lots more.

    And to be clear, this isn’t to say that one can’t a get a very good education there, but it doesn’t carry with it the name recognition and alleged advantages that the first tier schools have. And I’m saying this as an Ivy grad from 40 years ago, whose son went to a different schoo, much like Bucknell, and probably was better educated when he emerged than I was back in the day. But to this day, everyone still says to me, if it comes up, “Oh, you went to XXXX?” with an impressed face.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, basically Bucknell is interchangeable with several dozen other small private institutions in the United States. There’s no reason to expect students are getting a subpar education (as there is with students who attend, for example Patrick Henry College), but it isn’t exceptional or particularly noteworthy as a school.

      That said, there is an argument to be made that small institutions like Bucknell are less conducive to a strong education than larger schools. Bucknell only has enrollment of about 3,600, which means they don’t have either the student body or the overall resources to provide for as broad an educational arena as larger universities do, since those larger universities have comparatively larger amounts of overall resources and a deeper pool of students and faculty to draw upon. STEM education, in particular, is probably better at larger institutions for this reason.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Thanks for the info. I’d never heard of it and while I’m not American, I’ve heard of lots of US universities. From what I read it’s mainly teaching and no research, so again it would be weird to call it ‘elite’ in an academic sense.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Back in the 1980s I had a really bad boss who graduated from Bucknell around 1980. She was a non-technical person put in charge of a software project where I was the lead programmer. As a result of her, I’ve always had a bad impression of Bucknell. It’s even possible she and Vox Day were there at the same time. Now I’m really down on the place!

        Her problem wasn’t her lack of technical knowledge, though; she was aware of that and listened to technical advice. Her problem was that the job required telling upper management things they didn’t want to hear, but she thought the path to success was to promise whatever upper management wanted and then somehow find a way to deliver it. “Well, I already promised it, so we have to deliver it” isn’t a message that wins respect. I’ve never seen any evidence that women are more likely than men to do that, though.

        Beale seems to be suffering from confirmation bias. He assumes women have certain limitations, and whenever he sees a woman who confirms that assumption, it convinces him he’s right. When he sees one who does not, he dismisses that as an exception. He’s certainly right about women being underrepresented in STEM fields; the AAAS frequently writes about efforts to fix that, but they blame it on high school science teachers who deliberately steer girls away from math and science.

        A factor that might be worth mentioning is that modern radical feminism has made a lot of enemies in the past few years with very aggressive strategies that many see as simply trying to attack men in general. (As though they had decided sexism was a great idea as long as the target is men, not women.) They regularly target gay men and trans women, something that’s pretty hard to defend, given the long history of mutual support. Radical feminists are unquestionably the source of a lot of the outrage that powers the modern far-right, so that’s a good way to connect the Puppies to the Trumpists.

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      2. A female friend of mine has to constantly deal with project managers who think any “I need it NOW” remark requires putting something in the top priority slot, no matter how many top priorities that gives the staff. Much less trouble for the PMs than asking “what are you willing to put on the back burner to get this done?” or the like.
        But no, what powers the far-right isn’t radical feminism, it’s any degree of women’s equality or any suggestion that women should be equal, that rape is a serious problem, that consent matters, that women are as competent as men, etc., etc. Their worldview is built around male dominance, both in the sense of outranking women in society and being in charge of their daughters, wives, girlfriends etc.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. As an anonymous Bucknell graduate, I have to say that that’s fair (my time there overlapped with Beale, but I didn’t know him (I was an engineering student, a few years older than him, and the opportunities to run into a liberal arts student a few years behind me were slight). Back in the 1980s around the time Vox was looking at colleges, Bucknell got some very good press, finishing near the top of US News & World Reports “Best Colleges” list (in 1984, I think), which may have affected how Beale sees his school even now (Bucknell is also located very close to a federal prison, by the way).

      Liked by 2 people

  3. For some reason, I have the idea that Scalzi calling Beale a “fairly ignorant jackass” on that Electrolite thread rankled VD a lot more than it seemed at the time. Did VD repeat that somewhere as a reason he was still angry at Scalzi? Maybe. I find myself unwilling to try and sift through VD’s blather to find it.

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    1. I think he was rankled. Hard to demonstrate though because it is easy to read onto text the emotions you imagine the writer has.

      I genuinely think he was upset by not impressing his peers. The one genuine thing I think we can conclude about Beale is he genuinely wants to be respected as a writer of fiction.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. True. Two main flaws in his plan.
        1. He keeps being a dick to people (even ignoring his ideology) but in theory a great writer can get away with that (or used to)
        2. He really sucks at writing fiction and hasn’t got better at it.

        He can write. His non-ficition is politically appalling and is full of bad arguments but it reads well. His fiction is a chore to read – it goes clunk, clunk, clunk.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. One of the main problems in his writtings is a personality one.
        Of of the thinks I am most sure about that you need as a writer is empathy. VD has none, I think.
        Another problem is that his ideology shows in his works exspecially his adidute towards women (I know a lot of men suck at writting women but VD is imho a special case) It would take a lot of talent to overcome those flaws and VD hasn’t got that.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. True. Also, he’s very concerned about a kind of pedantic consistency in his fiction which he can’t sustain and which is wholly at odds with his disregard for facts and logic in his non-fiction. It’s like he’s got the settings reversed.

        Liked by 3 people

      4. As a rule, when Beale’s fiction writing style is not clunky and dull it is because it is stunningly awful. Every now and then, almost by chance, a good bit happens, but it is invariably ruined by the bits that follow. The pedanticism of his world-building is generally quite odd–he can be ludicrously detailed on subjects that interest him, to the point that the descriptions start collapsing into nonsense, while almost completely ignoring what does not, so that his worlds wind up strangely overbuilt and underbuilt at the same time. Which makes sense for the man who as Steve Wright put so well, manages to be both turgid and flaccid in his prose simultaneously.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. Beale’s blog is a mass of lies and fictions, but it isn’t really fiction-writing. More exceptionally bad affirmations.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. “His fiction is a chore to read – it goes clunk, clunk, clunk.”

        This would be an improvement. His writing really goes clun,k cl,unk clu,nk.

        Liked by 4 people

      7. @space oddity

        As long as we agree that of it is made up I won’t quibble about the boundaries between fiction / non-fiction.

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    2. “This would be an improvement. His writing really goes clun,k cl,unk clu,nk.”

      Oh, God yes.

      Actual sentences written by Beale;

      “His eyes burned like flaming emeralds, seeming to see right through to the depths of a man’s soul.”

      “The winter snows had just begun to melt when, one evening, over a dinner that consisted of a fishy seafowl killed by one of the guards, day-old bread, and a hard cheese made from goat’s milk that made him long for the softer, more flavorful cheese to which he had been accustomed in Pretigny, Cajarc informed him that he was to begin lessons with his second teacher that very evening.”

      “There was a tremendous metallic crash, accompanied by a sharp crack like a tree falling, and then the warrior who had been riding from the left reeled and fell heavily to the ground like a knight pierced through the skull by a crossbow bolt.”

      I’m sorry for inflicting that on all of you, but it’s easy to forget how bad at this he is. Which, as the above shows, is very bad.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It isn’t. The marathon run-on sentence is one of Beale’s… stylistic quirks. I could pull out dozens of these easily.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. It’s like Bulwer-Lytton Contest entries, except he’s not *trying* to be bad and funny, he thinks it’s good.

        Dunning-Kruger strikes again.

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  4. “Patrick’s diagnosis of his public pronouncements as being “an exercise in “look at me, I’m outraging your sensibilities” very plausible. ” Also irrelevant. Spewing insincere sexism because it gets you clicks isn’t actually better than believing it.
    “strong, beautiful, independent and intelligent but lonely women who finally fall in love with rugged men who love them just as they are” Yes, that’s sooooo much worse than the male-written stories in which stunningly beautiful women fall in love with strong, independent intelligent men or see the hidden Superman inside a seeming Clark Kent protagonist.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Beale’s awfulness can be tough to gauge because there is definitely a performative element to it–he is definitely playing things up to rile up the rubes. On the other hand, there clearly is some deeply believed misogyny and racism at the bottom of it. In the end, it isn’t worth the effort trying to pull it apart, especially as to quote Vonnegut, ‘We are what we pretend to be, so we must be very careful what we pretend to be.”

      Liked by 4 people

  5. as well as posts by day on anti-Semitism should probably be “as well as posts by Day on anti-Semitism”.

    (for the safety of fan’s families) should probably be “(for the safety of fans’ families)”

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  6. I remember reading that years ago and describing part of it as ‘and then Vox Day showed up and was his usual self all over the thread and things went downhill from there’. His massive ego and assurance that he is always right really is his own worst enemy.

    I’ve known someone who had the combination of ‘doesn’t want to waste his time talking to fools’ and ‘decides whether or not people are fools based on first impressions’, and while he was a much better person otherwise than Day, I can see echoes of a similar sort of ‘assuredly cutting himself off from any form of self-correction’ there.

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      1. Yup.

        I think it could be possible that Day is smarter than Scalzi but if that is true than Day doesn’t know how to apply his smarts as adeptly as Scalzi.

        I’m certain that John Scalzi works very hard at what he does but part of his writing persona is to make careful writing look casual-and-everyday. The net effect is that very good writing is presented as if it is effortless. That would be particularly galling for somebody who had picked Scalzi as a rival.

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  7. Hey, Cam, re: Footnote #9, it was well known at the time (yes, I was reading blogs then) that Electrolite was Patrick’s blog and Making Light was Teresa’s. In fact, if you got to the front page, you’ll see that Patrick’s picture and name is in the upper left corner. Thus, I think you can go ahead and attribute the post to Patrick.

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  8. I do think you all are undervaluing VD’s anticipation of current ugly mores. What are Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, for example, if not latter-day versions of VD in politics? Mouthy, wrongly intellectually snobbish, annoying as fuck. So he’s really avante-garde, in at least one way. Of course, as some thinker I’ve long since forgotten put it, the advance-guard’s job is to go out in front of the army and get the shit beaten out of it in order to screen the rest of the army.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. True, Vox has been ‘saying the quiet part out loud’ for years now, and is more skillful at deniability than some of the folks who have been following in his footsteps since.

      One of his greatest skills is in sophistry. He loves figuring out a way to say something horrible, in such a way that he can vaguely plausibly deny that any given interpretation is what he meant (and so make others look even more like fools in his mind), while at the same time being able to feel smug about himself for being clever enough to craft prose like that.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. No, I don’t think he is very good at sophistry. He may think he is. I forget now who is was who was obsessed with Aristotle, him or JCW? Whoever it was, they had an incredibly shallow idea of Aristotle in particular and philosophy in general.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. “ we have reach‘ should be “we have reached”.
    The Debarkle gets more interesting with each piece.

    In the sense that some so-called politicians are just trolls with titles and offices, one could call VD their predecessor, but, particularly with Republicans in America, Limbaugh and Gingrich seem to be more important models. Vd does show a mix of sanctimony, superciliousness and neediness that seems characteristic of (usually) male Puppies, however.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Is this the discussion in which the pinata thing came up? Because that was a key thing in Beale obsessive invented feud with Scalzi. Apparently one of the N-H’s said in some long discussion of people dunking on Beale’s whining and bigoted assertions that it was time to close up the discussion because it was just beating Beale like a pinata. And Scalzi joked, “But there’s still candy in him!” or something along those lines. And that really did not please Beale supposedly, on either Scalzi or the Nielsen-Haydens.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think the pinata came from the Strosstread, posible from Charles Stross, when VD tried to join him.

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  11. I remember that Electrolite thread and looking back at it, it’s a bit weird to see Scalzi dancing back and forth between [paraphrases] “you’re all judging Vox unreasonably” and (after VD showed up and insulted everyone) “well Vox is clearly an idiot BUT I was still right in some way and everyone else is unreasonable”. If I’d only ever seen that discussion, I wouldn’t have thought of Scalzi as a voice of reason but rather the sort of person who would continue trying to enable Puppery with arguments about liberal intolerance while disavowing specific figures who were beyond the pale.

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      1. Something else to admire about Vox. His stick-to-itiveness. He walked that long hard road, no matter how bad it was, or how bad it made him look.

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  12. I really don’t get VD’s obsession with “The Quantum Rose”. It’s not one of the more famous Nebula winners, but it’s a good one. There have been several worse and/or more puzzling winners before and since. The year before, for example, the dull as dishwater “Darwin’s Radio” won. And the 1996 winner was an unremarkable Robert J. Sawyer novel. The 2006 winner was a lesser Joe Haldeman novel and the 2007 winner an unremarkable Jack McDevitt novel.

    As for the competition, GRRM’s “A Storm of Swords” was the strongest competition, but probably suffered from the lingering bias against fantasy. Besides, “A Song of Ice and Fire” wasn’t yet the cultural phenomenon it would eventually become.

    Patricia McKillip’s “The Tower at Stony Wood” probably also suffered from the anti.fantasy bias. And if VD hates “The Quantum Rose”, which is proper science fiction written by a real scientist(TM), what would he have made of that one? ”

    Declare” by Tim Powers might have been a contender, but since I hate that book with a passion (so much that it turned Powers from an autobuy author to “Well, maybe, if he’s back to writing the good stuff”) , I’m glad it never won anything. There is also a lesser Connie Willis novel and three novels which left no mark whatsoever.

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    1. There are a LOT of Nebula winners I’ve never heard of.

      Obviously Teddy is threatened by Asaro, who has an actual hardest of hard science doctorate from an actual no-fooling big time elite university everyone in the world respects (and a bachelor’s from another), published peer-review articles AND sells pretty well and gets honest Nebula and Hugo award nominations/wins. While also being a person in possession of working ovaries. And she can also sing and dance.

      Plus *her* father discovered the iridium anomaly that led to us figuring out dinosaur extinction, and figured out stuff about actual ancient Egyptian/Roman statues. Kinda different than scamming people like Teddy’s daddy.

      She’s everything he’s terrified of and wishes he could achieve.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I’ve heard of many/most of the early Nebula winners and of the most recent ones, but there is a period in the 1990s and early 2000s with a lot of “huh?” Nebula winners. There also are a lot of Nebula finalists I’ve never heard of, but it’s the same for the Hugos. Even if you only go ten years back or so, there’s usually at least one finalist every year that doesn’t ring a bell at all.

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      2. I knew most of the Nebula winners in the early 1970s because the library had the Nebula Winners anthologies. In the 21st century most of the names are “who?” There’s so much good stuff (and stuff I like that isn’t necessarily award quality) that I don’t feel much interest in who won/got nominated for the big awards.

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      3. Plus, she is super nice in person, which doesn’t touch on her qualifications, but someone with as broad and impressive a set of credentials as Asaro has could easily have an inflated ego, and from the numerous times i encountered her she simply does not (she was, until quite recently, a regular at the local convention I have attended the most).

        If Beale had a tenth of the accomplishments Asaro has, he’d never stop talking about them.

        Liked by 3 people

      4. I used to think that the Hugos and Nebulas were just really out of touch with my personal tastes in the 1990s and early 2000s, but others have said the same, so maybe it really was an odd period.

        Like

      5. Wikipedia says:

        “Catherine Asaro is the daughter of Frank Asaro, the nuclear chemist who discovered the iridium anomaly that led the team of Luis Alvarez, Walter Alvarez, Frank Asaro, and Helen Michel to postulate that an asteroid collided with the Earth 66 million years ago and caused mass extinctions, including the demise of the dinosaurs.”

        Liked by 2 people

    2. I suspect he had the witticism of ‘a sci-fi book written by Maureen Dowd’ at hand and deployed it as soon as possible, regardless of whether it fit. Quantum Rose just happened to win the Nebula win the Dark Lord Gossage-Vardebedian Spode had something he was looking to prove.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I haven’t read The Quantum Rose but it was a quite successful book that uses the characters as symbols for different physics theories apparently. And that’s one of the main reasons it won the Nebula — the other authors thought that was neat.

      It’s a similar whine about Scalzi’s Red Shirts from the Puppies and Beale. On one level, that novel is a comic, farcical Douglas Adams-Galaxy Quest style-ish work making fun of Star Trek and sci-fi t.v. shows and it’s enjoyable as that. But like Adams’ work, there are further, more philosophical musing levels about how humans form their views of reality, about how we’re interconnected, etc. And some of it was very prescient. I think if I went back and read it after this year, I’d find the work more frightening now and the humor more grim. And the Puppies went after the Dinosaur story too, which was a symbolic and metaphoric story that also references quantum physics. There’s a definite pattern there.

      Beale’s hypocrisy on women writers is pretty typical for sexism doctrine. Women are painted as inferior, weak, overly emotional, etc. and so should be excluded but there are a few women who “transcend” the limitations of their group and can be respected as exceptions. The “good woman” or the “good black person” etc. is used to then argue that A) the speaker isn’t bigoted or causing harm to the marginalized group and that B) inferiority or superiority is a natural occurrence fully justifying exclusion and discrimination because so few of the marginalized group are worthy of respect, opportunity, voice, etc. Plus they simply say whatever seems useful at the moment and if people then remember what they said before and that it contradicts, they just shrug it off. That’s standard practice too. A publication like WND is for chest thumping of how they are so awful and we are so great group identity. Nobody cares if it actually makes consistent sense.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. The whole batch of Debarkles don’t seem to be able to figure out symbolism, metaphor, and quantum physics. It’s all surface with them. And they turn that off when the author’s a woman (or enby, or LGBT, or BIPOC).

        On a completely unrelated note, I read in the past week a study which showed that authoritarian personality types *literally cannot* figure out more complex problems, but I lost the link. I think it was on the Grauniad?

        I got a lot of chuckles out of the early part of “Redshirts”, and then some sinking feelings, and I straight-up *cried* at the last coda. That’s a book worthy of a Hugo.

        Liked by 2 people

  13. “As anyone who’s ever attended an elite university…” which, of course, isn’t him.

    OTOH, I DID attend an elite university, an engineering/science school, which made you take like 2 humanities courses and a couple semesters of gym only because it was required by the state or something. Everyone thought it was time wasted where you could have been working on your calculus or geophysics, but at least it helped keep your GPA up.

    And I am a girl. As was my friend who got a scholarship to an even more elite science school, and my friend who got a scholarship to Yale in geology. And everyone else in my dorm, including the cheerleaders.

    Every humanities thing, like music and drama, and even all the sports, was strictly extracurricular. If you had time after your 17-19 semester hours of nothing but science and math, and partying, and wacky practical jokes that involved lots of physical engineering.

    Teddy, of course, wouldn’t have even been accepted to my school, whereas I got free tuition on merit. Computer science was considered to be an EASY course which you took just because you’d need computers to do *real* science. And I don’t recall any fiction impinging during class hours, even in the humanities courses.

    Basically, my entire college from tenured professors down to the newest freshmen would have pointed and laughed at his intellectual pretensions.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have a Humanities degree (English Studies) from a non-elite UK university and also laugh at Teddy’s intellectual pretensions. Humanities degrees are *fantastic* at teaching how to research a subject. I may only have had ~12 hours per week of directed study (less in my final year because dissertation) but I did also spend dozens, if not hundreds, of hours reading extra fiction, literary theory, criticism of said fiction and theory, and criticism of that criticism. And then I’d condense all of that reading down into a few thousand words of essay.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. This. It’s not about the school or the course of study, it’s about the person. You can get a great education at a run-of-the-mill school, or fail to learn anything at a top-notch institution.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. It’s worth noting that Beale himself isn’t a STEM guy, just the son of a STEM guy gone crankish (an engineer in fact, because of course he is) who has taken up his father’s diseased worldview. That he is closer to the sort of people he bitches about escapes his notice.

      Liked by 3 people

  14. I don’t know enough about US universities to say whether Day’s alma-mater Bucknell University (a private liberal arts college in Pennsylvania[4]) counts as an elite university in an academic sense.

    It does not. I, not unlike Vox, also attended an unremarkable private liberal arts university, and have no doubt that one could, if they were open minded, obtain a wonderful education there. But the university does not, by any stretch of the imagination, qualify as “elite.”

    i saw another commenter point at that the publication US News and World Report ranked it really high just before Vox started there. It might be petty, but I will point out that absolutely everyone involved in the collegiate level Cross-Examination Debate Association in the 1980s, no matter what their political affiliation, revered to the publication as “US Views and World Distort,” so deduce from that what you will…

    Liked by 4 people

  15. @Aaron:

    “Plus, she is super nice in person, which doesn’t touch on her qualifications, but someone with as broad and impressive a set of credentials as Asaro has could easily have an inflated ego, and from the numerous times i encountered her she simply does not (she was, until quite recently, a regular at the local convention I have attended the most).”

    We may have the same local con – I’ve encountered Catherine many times at my local con (in the Before Times), too. She is both incredibly qualified and incredibly nice.

    Like

    1. Alas, since she has moved out of the area, she is unlikely to return very often. Lawrence Watt-Evans also recently moved away and probably won’t be a regular attendee either.

      Like

  16. Was there ever a part 2 to the Black Gate article? The one where Vox was going to present all the evidence to back up the claims he made in part 1?

    As with the Electrolite post he had his arse handed to him in the comments and had to retract what he had said about Jo Walton’s book. For the rest, he had to fall back to his default position, that he was just better and more intelligent than everyone else and that all the plebs should agree that his taste in books was irrefutable evidence that awards were going to the wrong authors. John O’Neill also slapped him down in the comments for being rude after which Vox flounced, before coming back SEVENTEEN days later to leave a snarky little question at the end of the comment thread.

    So, was this like the post US election mess where there was always evidence tomorrow but never today? Did John O’Neill decide he didn’t want Vox on the site anymore? Did Vox decide that the audience had too many opinions and retreat back to his own space where he could control the argument?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My memory is that VD tried very hard to keep Black Gate Contributor Theodore Beale separate from Vox Day: Super Genius and that the specific thing that broke that was the Nebula rant, which began on BG and ended on his own blog. I recall that he and BG parted ways around that time.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Unfortunately the link heads to my defunct livejournal and I cannot find it on my DW mirror but at one point John O’Neill revealed when he added Beale to Black Gate, he did not know Beale was Vox Day.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Clicking through, it’s not really a part II. More a restating of his dislike of Jo Walton’s Nebula winning work, which he has not read, on a friendly venue.

        Like

      2. What exactly did VD have against Walton? Is it just that she’s a woman and writes really well?

        Like

      3. @delagar:
        That may be part of it. I don’t know if there were any specific comments, but she was also a regular at Making Light and on tor.com, so some ‘guilt by association’ may be involved. She’s also the author of ‘An Informal History of the Hugos’, and while that doesn’t get into the Debarkle (it only runs up to 2000, in part because Walton wanted to stop before any of her books became involved, and while the collected book wasn’t published until 2018 the columns were written 2010-2012), it certainly shot down a lot of the Puppies’ historical arguments.

        And speaking as someone who has met and chatted with Jo at conventions up here, she definitely has an ‘I don’t have to take any sh*t from you’ attitude and isn’t one to back down from an argument, which would be enough in itself to piss Vox off, particularly coming from a woman. She mentions in the foreword to the History above that the genesis of it started in part because of a disagreement with Mike Glyer:

        In 2010, for the third time in history, there was a tie for the Best Novel Hugo Award. China Miéville’s The City & the City and Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl had both won. Naturally, this caused discussion of the two other times there had been a tie. Mike Glyer posted on the File 770 website, saying that everyone agreed that Frank Herbert’s Dune was a better book than Roger Zelazny’s This Immortal, and Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book was better than Vernor Vinge’s A Fire upon the Deep. He said this with casual assurance, as if nobody could disagree—but I disagreed strongly, in both cases. After I was done defending Zelazny and Vinge, I started thinking about the Hugos.

        https://www.tor.com/2018/07/11/excerpts-an-informal-history-of-the-hugos-jo-walton/

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Considering that Among Others is at least in part about the protagonist’s love for classic science fiction, the sort of hard nutty nuggetty SF that VD and the other puppies love, you’d figure it would be right up his alley. But both author and protagonist are female and Jo Walton is another woman who’s smarter than Vox, so of course he hates it.

        His love for the avowed socialist and gay man China Mieville, on the other hand, is something that has never made sense about Vox.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I was surprised how little I connected with the protagonist’s reading in Among Others, as I’m roughly the same age. Partly the character’s taste was too far from mine, partly that “recent historical coming of age story” is a turnoff for me.

        Like

      6. I was hugely disappointed with Among Others. I thought it started out really promisingly, but it ended up being a bunch of name-dropping of favorite SFF authors and works — in other words, fanservice — and then the plot just kind of meandered and sputtered off into nothing. Now, bear in mind that I’m absolutely one of the fans this work was servicing — same age range, same SFFnal reading background — but honestly, it was sort of the non-dudebro equivalent of Ready Player One, where just repeating enough of the reader’s touchstone authors and seminal works was left to do the heavy lifting that the plot should have done.

        At the time, I thought it was a case of the author getting stuck and not knowing where to take it, that they’d just finally turned it in to the publisher because they didn’t know what else to do. But then I read My Real Children and it did exactly the same thing: promising start, then petering off into something that was neither cohesive nor satisfying.

        I ranked it last on my Hugo ballot.

        Liked by 3 people

      7. Jo Walton does not suffer fools lightly, and can erudite and reason at a level most of us could never achieve. And that book was a complete love letter to classic science fiction besides.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Hanging this here: For anyone who hasn’t heard this, it’s Janis Ian’s valentine to the same genre and milieu, and would be the book’s soundtrack if it sang.

        Welcome Home (The Nebulas Song)
        Janis Ian

        I learned the truth at seventeen
        That Asimov and Bradbury
        and Clarke were alphabetically
        my very perfect ABC’s
        While Algernon ran every maze
        and slow glass hurt my heart for days
        I sat and played a sweet guitar
        and Martians grokked me from afar

        Odd John was my only friend
        among the clocks and Ticktockmen,
        while Anne Mccaffrey’s dragons roared
        above the skies of Majipoor
        Bukharan winds blew cold and sharp
        and whispered to my secret heart
        “You are no more alone
        “Welcome home”

        Tribbles came, and triffids went
        Time got wrinkled, then got spent
        Kirinyaga’s spirits soared
        and Turtledove re-write a war
        While Scanners searched, and loved in vain
        Hal Nine Thousand went insane
        and Brother Francis had an ass
        whose wit and wile were unsurpassed

        Every story I would read
        became my private history
        as Zenna’s People learned to fly
        and Rachel loved until we cried
        I spent a night at Whileaway
        then Houston called me just to say
        “You are no more alone
        “so welcome home”

        Who dreams a positronic man?
        Who speaks of mist, and grass, and sand?
        Of stranger station’s silent tombs?
        Of speech that sounds in silent rooms?
        Who waters deserts with their tears?
        Who sees the stars each thousand years?
        Who dreams the dreams for kids like me
        Whose only home is fantasy?

        Let’s drink a toast to ugly chickens
        Marley’s ghost, and Ender Wiggins
        Every mother’s son of you,
        and all your darling daughters, too
        And when the aliens finally come,
        we’ll say to each and every one
        “You are no more alone
        “so welcome home
        “Welcome home”

        Music © Mine Music Ltd./EMI Japan Publishing/lyric © Rude Girl Publishing. All rights reserved; int’l copyright secured. https://www.janisian.com/lyrics/welcomehome.php

        Liked by 2 people

      9. Thanks, Kip.

        Janis has written a bit of SF herself, and inspired even more.

        I met her at a Worldcon, BTW. She is also super nice in person. Even when my inner teenager dorked out at her.

        Like

      10. @frasersherman and JJ

        But then you forgot to declare the awards BROKEN, CORRUPTED and IRRELEVANT!

        What were you thinking?

        The only China Mieville book I’ve ever managed to finish was The City and the City, which I really enjoyed. I’ve bounced of everything else of his that I’ve tried.

        Liked by 2 people

      11. Braxis: But then you forgot to declare the awards BROKEN, CORRUPTED and IRRELEVANT!

        That’s the thing, in a good year I might agree with 35-40% of the Hugo ballot. In a less good year, I might agree with 20-25% of the Hugo ballot. This bizarre expectation by Puppies that the Hugo finalists should closely align with with their tastes is really the height of unjustified entitlement.

        And if it ever eventuates that the Hugo ballot is 0% of my taste for several years in a row, I won’t assume that it’s been taken over by a shadowy cabal, I’ll just assume that my personal taste and that of the wider Worldcon membership has diverged. And at that point, you know, I might yell at the kids to get off my lawn, but I’m not going to be upset that what they want to read and what I want to read are different things. 😀

        Liked by 3 people

      12. “But then you forgot to declare the awards BROKEN, CORRUPTED and IRRELEVANT!”\
        After years of reading abo t the Oscars, I’m under no illusion that awards are a pure meritocracy. Ad that they can be flawed without being corrupt and irrelevant.

        Liked by 1 person

      13. Of the 2012 Best Novel Hugo finalists, Among Others and Leviathan Wakes, the first Expanse book, were the only ones I really liked. I didn’t particularly care for A Game of Thrones (the book), so I didn’t bother with the sequels. Seanan McGuire in her Mira Grant identity has never done it for me and I didn’t much care for Embassytown either.

        That was the year before I started voting, so I didn’t rank them.

        Like

    1. Thanks for that also.
      I wonder what he meant by “he warmly reviewed our first few issues many years ago”? If he didn’t know about the Vox Day persona it must have been a review as Theodore Beale?

      Like

    1. I used to know a guy who was in a brand-spanking new Broadway show once, but realized no one in the cast or crew or the show as a whole stood a chance of getting a Tony…

      … because they opened the same season as The PhAAAAAAnntom of the OP-ER-A. (chandelier falls)

      But at least they weren’t surprised?

      That book sounds great, will try to find it.

      Like

      1. One chapter discusses your friend’s problem: shows that would have been shoo-ins for the Tony most years but not when they’re up against Phantom, West Side Story, Oklahoma, etc.

        Like

      2. The year it was Hamilton, I felt rather sad for the rest of the musicals, many of which were quite good looking. But they all knew who was going to win everything, so everybody just tried to party that year, since at least Hamilton had brought them all a bigger audience and media coverage.

        Like

  17. China is not gay. He might be bisexual but he’s certainly not gay. He just looks bloody good, is all. Hey, there are straight man that are actually handsome, you know!

    Like

    1. I thought Charlie Stross was straight and then found out that he is bisexual so I just don’t assume anything unless I hear the author has actually said X, at this point.

      Like

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