You Haven’t Written About Sad Puppies For A Long Time

True, true. So a summary of various goings on or not going on as the case may be.

Mad Genius covered a few cause célèbres a few days ago including the fuss around Amélie Wen Zhao’s book Blood Heir, and the Mystery Writers of America pulling an award for Linda Fairstein because of her involvement in the prosecution of the Central Park Five. Amid this there was a section on the Nebula Award fuss around 20booksto50K’s reading list:

If you aren’t up-to-date on what this refers to, a so-called slate was put together by a member of a FB group of indie and small press authors. It was, in fact, meant to be a reading list, not a slate for voting. The person responsible has since apologized. But, oh no, the “damage” had been done and it was done by those evil Indies. How dare they try to manipulate the Nebs?
Sound familiar? Remind you of some of the arguments against the SPs?
Note also, how there is no condemnation for the person or persons who took information from a private social media group and made it public. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean folks aren’t out to get you.

https://madgeniusclub.com/2019/04/30/tuesday-morning-roundup/

It’s the standard and factually incorrect “trad v indie” version of events that ignores that the nominees included people with both trad and indie publications, some of whom were very much SFWA ‘insiders’ and that they were nominated in categories against other works that were independently published or that the most vehement criticism came from indie published authors.

Meanwhile at Mad Genius Club, Dave Freer is taking a break from his regular posts: https://madgeniusclub.com/2019/05/06/a-leave-of-absence/

Speaking of Dave Freer, Louis Antonelli has started his own short fiction magazine. Currently it is a generic Blogger page but from small things big things can grow: https://siriussciencefiction.blogspot.com/ I’d say ‘good luck’ to it and leave it at that but it comes with this rant which includes some weird personal attacks http://louantonelli.blogspot.com/2019/04/the-death-of-live-and-let-live.html The greatest ire from the Sad Puppies has always been towards people who attempted to bridge divides.

“The Soviet Union subverted and infiltrated college campuses during the Vietnam War era in an attempt to topple the U.S. without a fight. It didn’t work, but it did result in the unusual societal outcome that the most spoiled and privileged segments of society are also the most leftist. Today’s liberal leaders combine the snobbery of the Met Club with the ideology of the Khmer Rouge.”

Okedokee. Couldn’t get any more paranoidly conspiratorial than that? Why yes! Yes, it can!

“Once the sci-fi establishment stuffed the ballot box by buying thousands of WorldCon memberships to euthanize the Sad Puppies in the 2015 Hugo vote, it assured the irrelevance of the award. The old institutions remain, but they are like dusty trophies on the mantle of a cob-webbed private club. New ones are rising up because that 98 percent of sci fi authors need some place to call home. The Dragon Awards have already clobbered both the Hugos and Nebulas in both quality and prestige.”

Glad to see Lou is sticking to his usual journalistic standards of evidence based claims.

Speaking of grandiose plans to create alternative venues free from SJW influence, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Creators Guild remains unchanged from February 2018 https://sffcguild.com/blog/

And speaking of the SFFC Guild, Richard Paolinelli and Declan Finn have fallen out with Jon Del Arroz. Timothy’s erstwhile client posted an unfunny meme about the Twin Towers and Infinity War (a skyline pic of the towers sort of evaporating Thanos-snap style, with George W Bush’s face superimposed poorly onto Thanos’s head). Insensitive and offensive? Certainly. The most offensive thing JDA has ever posted? Hardly. Even so, this was a line crossed for some. JDA characterises it thusly:

“On the personal front, I’ve been under heavy attack from — not the left — but centrist right wing authors over the last week. They’ve pushed hard against me, both in public and in private. I’ve shared some of the ridiculous things said about me.”

http://delarroz.com/2019/05/03/theres-a-war-on-for-your-mind-fighting-the-real-battles/

The list of people Jon has now permanently alienated in the course of his short career grows ever longer.

Speaking of meme sharing harassers, I hadn’t visited Vox Day’s site for a long time but these days his main concern is Royal Babies. Apparently (according to Vox) Prince Harry and Meghan Markle haven’t really had a baby, which is his follow up conspiracy theory to Meghan Markle not really being pregnant. http://voxday.blogspot.com/2019/05/fake-baby-finally-arrives.html Now, sure, I get that racism is a powerful drug that sends its victims into a world of self-parody but didn’t Vox at least once try to project a veneer of being a serious commentator on world affairs?

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Medieval Bathing Link Round Up – watch out there’s nudity!

I knew almost nothing about how people in pre-modern Europe took baths at the start of yesterday and then fell down a rabbit hole and learned all sorts of things.

So to start:

  • Obviously, I knew the Romans had communal baths and England even has a town named after the fact (Manchester*)
  • Jewish and Islamic cultures had there own things going on with baths and bathing.
  • Russia, Finland and Scandinavia had a whole bunch of other things going on with saunas.
  • Yes, there are blogs about medieval baths.

This article seems to be a very good overview of baths and bathing http://www.gallowglass.org/jadwiga/herbs/baths.html

“The use of couple bathing as a romantic prelude to coition is demonstrated in 14th through 16th century illustrations. Legal history suggests that ordinary public bath-houses were often segregated by gender, or different times or days were restricted for each gender. Private bath-rooms in castles, such as the one at Leeds, could often accommodate multiple bathers as well.”

Running through this is history are several contrasting themes:

  • Baths as a source of cleanliness and the association of cleanliness with virtue and health.
  • Baths as a recreational activity, a luxury and a source of luxury.
  • Baths as sexy.
  • Baths as not-at-all sexy as you had to have your bath by yourself in clothes and with cold water.
  • Baths as social activities.
  • Baths as a dangerous source of disease (not without cause because people mingling but often based on spurious theories).

Fair to say that the messages around baths and bathing were a bit mixed for much of European history.

I don’t know how well sourced some of these claims are so please do your own due diligence. However, I liked this snippet: http://www.medievalists.net/2013/04/did-people-in-the-middle-ages-take-baths/

“Meanwhile, the Anglo-Saxons believed that the Vikings were overly concerned with cleanliness since they took a bath once a week.”

And this snippet with accompanying picture:

“In her book Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity Virginia Smith explains,”By the fifteenth-century, bath feasting in many town bathhouses seems to have been as common as going out to a restaurant was to become four centuries later. German bath etchings from the fifteenth century often feature the town bathhouse, with a long row of bathing couples eating a meal naked in bathtubs, often several to a tub, with other couples seen smiling in beds in the mid-distance.””

mimi_mmw_10a11_069v_min_1

The Wikipedia article has a broad survey of public bathing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_bathing

This post is another broad overview: http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/medieval-bathing-for-cleanliness-health.html

“King Henry III even had a special room for the purpose of washing his hair.”

And here we get an overview that includes brushing your teeth: http://www.historyundressed.com/2008/07/history-of-hygiene-bathing-teeth.html

*[OK not Manchester but it is funnier if it is Manchester]

Some Fantasy Map Links Round Up Thing

This article by Alex Acks at Tor.com is nearly a month old now but I did mean to post a link to it because it is is very good: https://www.tor.com/2017/08/01/tolkiens-map-and-the-messed-up-mountains-of-middle-earth/ The article looks specifically at the iconic map of Middle Earth by J.R.R.Tolkien. (Also read this previous column which is less specifically about maps but more about geography https://www.tor.com/2017/06/19/what-the-world-of-the-hunger-games-teaches-us-about-global-warming/ )

More recently Alex Acks has written a more general set of geomorphological issues with fantasy maps in the provocatively titled I Don’t Like Fantasy Maps http://katsudon.net/?p=5700

A broader discussion of maps in fantasy literature appeared mid-August at Longreads here https://longreads.com/2017/08/24/fantasy-maps-game-of-thrones/ by Adrian Duab (and also links to Alex Acks’s Tor.com article)

And chasing links in that article will take you to the website home of a fun Twitter account that generates plausible looking fictional maps http://mewo2.com/notes/terrain/ Worth checking out other things there including the original Deserts of the West and the Emoji Map generator. Also, a write up on Martin O’Leary’s map bots at National Geographic http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/bot-fantasy-map-generator/ 

Going back to 2015 a more manual way of making less dodgy fantasy maps: https://mythcreants.com/blog/crafting-plausible-maps/ 

While I’m here and heading back further in time:

Wired article on Jonathan Roberts 2013 https://www.wired.com/2013/12/fantasy-maps-cartography-tips-jonatha-roberts-game-of-thrones/

And his blog on how to draw fantasy maps http://www.fantasticmaps.com/

A different Jonathan – Jonathan Crowe – with a 2013 article on another problem with fantasy maps: they are anachronistic and follow modern sensibility of maps rather than according to the pseudo-medieval settings of the books http://www.maproomblog.com/publications/here-be-blank-spaces-vaguely-medieval-fantasy-maps/

A collection of notable fantasy maps from io9 in 2013 http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-most-incredible-fantasy-maps-youve-ever-seen-474420566?IR=T

And last but not least a how-to from i09 in 2015 http://io9.gizmodo.com/10-rules-for-making-better-fantasy-maps-1680429159?IR=T

[ETA This article by Sarah Gailey about her map of alt-history Louisianna for River of Teeth https://www.tor.com/2017/04/14/mean-hippos-fjords-and-fiddly-bits-making-the-map-for-river-of-teeth/  ]

[ETA Paul Weimer has a new post partly in response to Alex Acks’s post http://skyseastone.net/jvstin/?p=4700 ]

[ETA Fantasy city generator https://watabou.itch.io/medieval-fantasy-city-generator ]

 

 

Some Reactions to the Dragon Con U-Turn

The indignation industry took a bit of time to warm up but eventually the news that the Dragons had allowed some authors to withdraw was reprocessed into the “SJWs are out to get us” narrative.

To recap, we have had in the space of a few days these various claims:

  • That John Scalzi was nominated was evidence of an SJW plot.
  • That John Scalzi wanted to withdraw his nomination was evidence of an SJW plot.
  • That John Sclazi decided not to withdraw his nomination was…evidence of an SJW plot.

Here are some reactions from Scrappy-Doo arenas:

http://injusticegamer.blogspot.com.au/2017/08/what-dragon-awards-just-got-very-wrong.html The “injustice gamer” was a booster of Dragon Award campaigns. Naturally he is so committed to individual freedom that he says:

“Now, as to how I would allow for withdrawal if I were them. Make it permanent. Yes, if you’re going to allow for withdrawal from a fan award with a reputation for favoring fans over celebrities, deny them forever. Why? Right now, they’re also playing a game of the Dragons not being real, legitimate awards. The next step, to take it the rest of the way, is to deny them a professional presence at DragonCon in perpetuity, for denying the fans.”

Got to punish those authors for wanting to do their own thing it seems!

On that same post, there is this Facebook post that has an interesting comment thread:

Meanwhile here is a similar take from an author I’m not familiar with who cites Brian Niemeier as a friend: https://yakovmerkin.com/2017/08/10/on-dragon-awards-drama-and-author-reader-relations/ The writer gets some basic facts wrong

Less hysterical is this short post from Jeffro Johnson (who edits the Castalia House blog) on his own site: https://jeffro.wordpress.com/2017/08/10/the-dragon-awards-are-teh-stupid/ It has one of those nearly insightful comments where the writer just stops short of a revelation:

“But you do see the kicker there, don’t you? If you give this request your blessing, then you have basically agreed that Allison Littlewood was put on the ballot unfairly.

Gosh, if that’s the case… then maybe there are other people on the ballot that ought not to be there. Hell, you maybe even gave out awards last year to people that didn’t come by them honestly!

Seriously, did anyone running this thing give any thought to the implications of what they were doing here?”

Hmmm.

[ETA: http://www.brianniemeier.com/2017/08/conservative-play.html Brian twists his pretzel further]

 

 

Link round up

Too Like The Lightning – Other People’s Takes

I’m still typing up notes but I thought it was time to look at other people’s reviews and takes on Ada Palmer’s book.

Intellectus Speculativus has strong issues with how gender is portrayed in the book. They make a strong case that it is problematic in a number of ways. Obviously, there is a distinction between the book’s representation versus how Mycroft deals with gender (likewise with religion) but they look at it deeper than that: https://intellectusspeculativus.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/the-problematic-presentation-of-gender-in-ada-palmers-too-like-the-lightning/ I’m back to the dilemma of whether this is a *good* book or a cynical one which partly hinges on whether the society here is intended to be (somewhat) utopian, or a disguised dystopia or a future history in which we are forced to draw our own conclusions (although then why has the author chosen this world to build?).

Meanwhile, Crooked Timber has gone full-in Ada Palmer with multiple articles on the book and some broader background by Palmer http://crookedtimber.org/2017/04/20/ada-palmer-seminar-begins/  This article by Lee Konstantinou offers a positive perspective by focusing on the Utopian faction in Palmer’s world http://crookedtimber.org/2017/03/20/ada-palmers-great-conversation/

The Book Smugglers doesn’t have a review but it does have an article by Ada Palmer about why as a historian she writes SF http://thebooksmugglers.com/2016/05/like-lightning-ada-palmer.html

The book has TV Tropes page http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/TooLikeTheLightning

Strange Horizons has a review by Paul Kincaid with a strong opening “Had Too Like the Lightning lived up to its aspirations, it would have been one of the most significant works of contemporary science fiction. That, perhaps inevitably, it fails in this ambition leaves a book that is engaging, entertaining, and interesting, but that contains too many confusions and contradictions to be fully satisfying.” http://strangehorizons.com/non-fiction/reviews/too-like-the-lightning-by-ada-palmer/  I wonder if that captures the mix of feelings here – an ambitious work that for some (many?) doesn’t fulfil its ambitions?

The New York Review of Science Fiction takes a different tack and directly compares Mycroft to Alex from A Clockwork Orange http://www.nyrsf.com/2016/12/two-views-too-like-the-lightningby-ada-palmerreviewed-by-stephen-gerken.html

WIRED asks ‘Should this book have an index?’ https://www.wired.com/2016/08/wired-book-club-too-lightning-2/ well it should have a set of footnotes by the time I’m done 🙂

How much of this doubt about the book a reflection of the doubts we have about Mycroft.

Well, it certainly rates 10/10 for ‘capacity to generate conversations’. I can’t doubt ‘ambitious’ as a description and I think ‘significant’ as well. ‘Good’? Aye, there’s the rub.

{ETA, thanks to Mark, Standback and Paul W}

A different take on the gender issues from Yoon Ha Lee http://yhlee.dreamwidth.org/2298302.html This isn’t a reply to Intellectus Speculativus’s piece and doesn’t cover all of their arguments but does address some.

{eta again}
And another: A discussion at Tor.com on the book as a commentary on utopias without being a utopia http://www.tor.com/2017/04/27/flawed-futures-make-for-better-stories-ada-palmer-and-utopian-sf/
{personal note}
I’m also rewatching Father Ted at the moment. I feel it balances things out nicely. It’s like the exact opposite of Too Like the Lightning – everybody is overtly religious but not remotely interested in religion and never leave one tiny island.

Links round-up

A bunch of stuff that has passed my way: