Category: File770

What Are Pixel Scrolls About?

Mike Glyer’s File 770 has a daily round-up of SFF news entitled ‘Pixel Scroll’ – this is probably not news to regular readers. In a recent comment section to a scroll, a commenter said:

airboy on March 17, 2017 at 10:27 am said:
I find many of the comments about Kloos post to be amusing.

How many 770 news items are about:
1] The demographic composition of the writer?
2] Some book/article/panel/magazine issue that has exclusively selected people of a specific sex, race, sexual orientation, etc….. for the issue for their special perspective?
3] Analyses of the nominees/award winners/people published by a magazine because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, etc……? And the conclusion is that there are “not enough” nominees/award winners/published authors by specific race, sex and sexual orientations?
4] The cover of the book does not match the color of the writer or character?People can publish what they wish and write/read what they want. But the articles and comments here are often focused on box checking.

Now here is what I like – a question that can be answered by that most fundamental of statistical skills, counting. Scholarly* paper after the fold *[for some value of ‘scholarly’]

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Hugo Choices 5: Best Fanzine

Previously on Hugo Choices:

Current Hugo State of Play

Hugo Choices 1: Best Novel

Hugo Choices 2: Best Related Work – The Story of Moira Greyland

Hugo Choices 3: Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

Hugo Choices 4: Best Short Story

Best Fanzine

This is an interesting category with examples of the old and new as places that combine the two. Overall it is a competitive category. Castalia house has one and a half self-excluding entries: The Castalia House blog and Superversive SF. The Superversive blog is independent of Castalia but the bloggers also blog under that name on the Castalia House blog as well. Interestingly Superversive didn’t contribute anything to the packet. As either of them go, they are both largely inoffensive and have some worthwhile writing – although nothing remarkable.

The other three contenders are:
Lady Business edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan
File 770 edited by Mike Glyer
Tangent Online edited by Dave Truesdale

Lady Business was a late replacement for Black Gate, which withdrew because they didn’t like being on the ballot because of Rabid shenanigans. File 770 I’ve covered regularly here. Tangent Online leans Sad Puppywards but is well meaning.

Of the three, Lady Business was the one I was least familiar with but it is a good example of modern fan-based blogging. Eclectic, analytical, their Hugo Packet entry includes and article with copious graphs and charts (10 bonus points for stacked column graph, 5 demerits for several 3D oblique pie-charts) as well as reviews and commentary. Very appealing in a why-wasn’t-I-reading-this-already way.

Tangent Online is a fanzine in a classic (if professional looking) mode. Focused on reviews and news of fiction magazines and tracking the history of SF and SF fandom. Many good articles plus a groan-worthy revisionist piece about Sad Puppies 4 are included in the Hugo Packet.

File 770 manages to do both – squaring the circle between a classic fanzine with deep historical roots in fandom and a modern blog living in the modern popular culture of wider fandom.  Cleverly the Hugo Packet contribution includes the collated regular Fanzine version of File 770 and a sample of the blog version. The trad-fanzine version demonstrates why File 770 is both important and has such staying power: good articles and retrospectives, news about fandom but also touching obituaries. The blog sample includes some of Mike Glyer’s key articles on last year’s Puppy Kerfuffle as well general articles by James H Burns and John King Tarpinian.

1. File 770. I’ll confess an obvious bias towards File 770 – compounded that I’ve got a brief cameo in the Hugo Packet. However the sheer range of stuff covered and its capacity to connect fan history with current events is unparalleled.
2. Lady Business. A great discovery. Fun and clever.
3. Tangent Online.
4. No Award.

Next up: Fan Writer!

The Griefer Matrix: Griefers Reloaded

The purpose of focusing on a set of issues is not intended to catalogue ‘victory conditions’ for the GSBA. Such a person/group may have also sorts of other things that they regard as victories or positive results. Rather the focus is on those things which impact negatively on everybody else or provide strong incentives for bad-actors in general to target the Hugo Awards.

Going through the solutions and judging them against the issues is the name of the game. I was going to present this as a literal matrix but it didn’t fit in a visible way. So here it is as a list. Part 1 is here. You probably need it open in a spare tab to cross reference the numbers.
2 Membership

a) Restrict nominations to attending members.
b) Restrict nominations to a jury.
c) Remove second year nominating rights.
d) Increase supporting membership fees.
e) Ban bad actors.
f) Restrict nominating to members with consecutive years of membership.

Each of these attempt to deal with the GSBA at a high level by disrupting their ability to join, nominate, vote or influence voting. Each one attempts to act on the issues listed as A,B,C, and D. Arguably each runs the risk of point E. The GSBA forces a change in the character of the awards.

2a. may achieve A, B, C, D by effectively increasing the cost of nominating. As voting in the final awards is still open to supporting members many of the specific issues may still apply. Specifically 3 & 6 (and hence 10, 12, 13) are still possible actions by a GSBA.
2b. Stops all the issues (assuming the jury functions) except issue E. Changing to a jury award is a major change in the character of the Hugo Awards. It is a single bad outcome but a significant one.

2c. limits the overall capacity of the GSBA to cause issues but does not any specific one.

2d. Raises the cost of the GSBA’s actions but at the expense of members and may result in E.

2e. Would in theory succeed on all issues but it is unclear how this would be done pre-emptively.

2f. This makes it harder for a GSBA to attempt entryist tactics with the award. Again this reduces the ease with which the GSBA can act but may not stop a particularly determined bad-actor.

3. Nomination
a) Implement slate detection algorithms
This may be technically feasible with few false positives. This would only stop issue 5 – i.e. forcing No Award by sweeping a category. Without No Award as an option it would limit the chance of 10 (but No Award is an option of course). It limits point 9 (publicity) by stopping sweeps. However it is easy for a GSBA to adapt to and doesn’t stop 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 or 8. It might encourage 3.5 depending on how it works (i.e. voters might avoid nominating a work on a Griefers slate for fear that their ballot will be ‘detected’ as a slate work – voters may act this way even if the algorithm is smart enough to spot the difference)

b) Allow the membership to confirm nominations through a long list (DN).
This limits/stops 1 but a harassing work would still appear on the long list and this might be sufficient incentive for the GSBA. Unclear of the impact on 2 but would probably stop it. Doesn’t stop 3. Does stop 4, 5, 7 and 8. Probably stops 4.5 and 5.5. Doesn’t stop 6. Possibly encourages 3.5 (hostage taking)

c) Allow membership to deny nominations through a long list (3SV)
This more clearly stops 1 but a harassing work would still appear on the long list and that might be sufficient incentive for the GSBA. May need a quorum or other measures to prevent this system making 2 easier for the GSBA by down voting enemies. Doesn’t stop 3. Does stop 4, 5, 7 and 8. Might not stop 4.5 (weak nominees via a slate) and possibly even 5.5 (sweeps due to a slate) if people are shy about using it on marginal cases. Doesn’t stop 6. Possibly encourages 3.5 (hostage taking)?

d) Empower the admins to remove ballots of bad actors.
Unclear how this could be done and may just result in a shift in tactics. Probably stops 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8 depending on what tactics the GSBA is using and how public they are initially. May encourage hostage taking for the same reason as given in (a).

e) Empower the admins to add a limited number of nominees in years with bad actors (A+2)
Stops 5. Limits 2 but only partly. Doesn’t stop 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 (and hence 9, 11, 12)

f) Empower a jury to add a limited number of overlooked nominees to the short list (Juried+2)
Stops 5. Limits 2 perhaps better than (e) as a jury may feel moe able to add nominees. Doesn’t stop 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 (and hence 9, 11, 12)

g) Algorithmically filter the nominations
Hard to say without knowing more. Probably stops 5 and possibly 2. Limits 7 and 8.

h) Restrict the nominations relative to the field (4/6)
Stops 5. Limits 2 a little. Limits 7 and 8. Encourages 3.5 possibly?

j) Empower the admins or a jury to remove works which tend to bring discredit on WorldCon
Assuming other works take the place of the removed ones, stops 1, 4, 5, limits 2. Combing both jury powers in (f) and (j) stops 1, 2, 4, 5, limits 7 and 8. May be perceived as a change in character of the awards.

k) Allow the membership to vote on expanding just the number of nominees on a given year’s shortlist.
A more complex way of doing (e) and (f) with a similar effect.

No solution deals with all issues. #3 and #6 are the hardest issues to deal with via a voting reform. 3b DN and 3c 3SV deal with several high impact issues. A combination jury (3f, 3j) would probably deal with the same range of issues but with less administration and with more capacity to adapt to different circumstance.

Other possibilities beyond voting reform:
A code of conduct around voting/nominating? This would help empower solution 2e (Ban bad actors) but also would act as a deterrent for various kinds of campaigning – particularly negative campaigning. However, may encourage hostage taking (i.e. the GSBA campaigning FOR a declared enemy aka ‘black knighting’)

An anti-shenagigans jury/panel with various discretionary powers might be the only sufficiently flexible solution but it may be perceived as changing the character of the awards – with a remit to ensure the validity and integrity of the voting?

3SV looks like the best bet as a voting change but it needs a quorum limitation to prevent 2 (down voting a GSBA enemy) which in turn may limit its capacity to deal with 4.5 (weak nominees) and even 5.5 (sweeps). Those issues may be solved by EPH or a combination of measures (e.g. +2).

The Griefer Matrix [Update]

[Update: started writing part 2 and discovered I’d left off three important things; hostage taking, nominating poor quality (but not actually discreditable) works, and general sweeping categories. In other words VDs 2016 tactic plus Sad Puppy issues. I’ve added those as x.5 issues in places because I’d already used the other numbers in a whole section I’d written.]

This post will get a bit involved, so be warned.

At File 770 there has been a number of discussions about further reforms to deal with briefing from VD or some future obnoxious person. Regular Filer Stoic Cynic collated a list of possible solutions:

1. Do Nothing
2. Membership
a) Restrict nominations to attending members.
b) Restrict nominations to a jury.
c) Remove second year nominating rights.
d) Increase supporting membership fees.
e) Ban bad actors.
f) Restrict nominating to members with consecutive years of membership.
3. Nomination
a) Implement slate detection algorithms (These were mentioned last year. What would they look like?).
b) Allow the membership to confirm nominations through a long list (DN).
c) Allow membership to deny nominations through a long list (3SV)
d) Empower the admins to remove ballots of bad actors.
e) Empower the admins to add a limited number of nominees in years with bad actors (A+2)
f) Empower a jury to add a limited number of overlooked nominees to the short list (Juried+2)
g) Algorithmically filter the nominations (EPH, EPH+, Diluted Nomination, Frozen Nomination, NOTE: Jameson Quinn is working on another algorithm variant, as yet unnamed, to incorporate a ‘satisfaction index’ and achieve A+2 type results in conjunction with EPH programmatically).
h) Restrict the nominations relative to the field (4/6)
j) Empower the admins or a jury to remove works which tend to bring discredit on WorldCon
k) Allow the membership to vote on expanding just the number of nominees on a given year’s shortlist.
4. Voting
a) Filter the votes by preference ranking (IRV)
b) Veto bad actors (No Award)

There is much active discussion on these – particularly 3c “3SV” which has a 2nd round of voting in which members get to throw out some works from a longlist. In my earlier post about EPH I said that I thought it works better than people were saying because it prevents a briefer forcing No Award on a category. Others (particularly Jim Henley) have pointed out that it doesn’t stop a whole range of other bad-effects. The bad-effects are what motivates a griefer to grief. While they can still gain one of these negative achievements they still have an incentive to make other people miserable.

So based on what other people have said here is a list. Again Jim Henley originated some of these but this is how I understood them – so credit to him for good things and blame to me for bad things about the list 🙂

List of possible things to be solved.

In the list GSBA stands for griefer or slater or bad actor of some kind.

Three meta-level issues

A. The GSBA undermining the reputation of the awards
B. The GSBA demoralising the participating members (and hence also achieve A)
C. The GSBA makes the awards administratively to complex
D. The GSBA uses the awards process to harass/defame either specific individuals or groups
E. The GSBA forces a change in the character of the awards

Specific issues

  1. Harassment/libel of members of the community by the GSBA via nominated works. e.g. stories in which a member of the community is defamed or violence is acted out towards them
  2. Blocking the nomination of a declared enemy of the GSBA  e.g. stopping Tropes vs Women getting a nomination for best related work by using a slate to sweep the category
  3. Blocking by ‘king making’ of a declared enemy of the GSBA e.g. throwing the weight of a block of voters against one finalist to stop somebody else winning and then boasting about it.
    3.5 Hostage taking. Nominating or otherwise associating the GSBA with a legitimate work to cause consternation and baffle voters.
  4.  Ridiculous nominations e.g. nominating obviously not good works to make the award look ridiculous.
    4.5 Nominating weak or poor quality works (e.g. some of the SP3 slate)
  5.   Forcing No Award on a category i.e. using a slate and a tactic like #4 so that members have no option other than to vote No Award. The GSBA doesn’t win but then neither does anybody else.
    5.5 Sweeping a category with works for reasons other than those covered elsewhere (again SP3 issues)
  6. General king making – I’m distinguishing this from 3 in so far as a minority faction may do this in good-faith or even without really thinking about it. The difference is the GSBA will tend to boast about it.
  7. Finalist label-bogarting i.e. getting to be a finalist with no hope of winning just so they can say ‘Hugo finalist’. In particular when this is done by a publisher.
  8. Hugo-packet ride-hitching i.e. becoming a finalist means that you get to have Worldcon distribute your work/samples to a wider audience.
  9. Publicity stunting i.e. the act itself gets you coverage and hence sales, blog hits, notoriety etc
  10.  Winning an award i.e. actually winning a Hugo award
  11.  Radicalization of sympathizers: the Rabids use a kind of Trotskyist model with the Sad – get them involved in a conflict which they will lose but gain more radical sympathizers as a result.
  12. In-group bonding. The Rabids use these kinds of actions as a way of making the group feel involved in something and actively fighting their perceived enemy

Of those #10 is a solved problem. No Award and the final voting system pretty much make it hard for the GSBA to win an award without massive effort. 11 and 12 are not directly solvable but by dealing with many of the others the process by which these work is disrupted – an attack on the Hugos that goes nowhere. The same is true of 10. Undermine success in the others and you undermine in general the publicity enjoyed by the GSBA. To get publicity they have to do something noteworthy.

That leaves 9 specific issues. How do each of the solutions do against the 9 issues? I’ll try and make a matrix of issues versus solutions and see what we see. But that is for next time…


The Iron Law of Puppies

This is a repost from a comment at File 770. The background is this piece which is analysis of how/if the puppies failed, which is OK in places but I don’t think gets it quite right. strawpuppyfull

Why the Puppies lost.

Politically they coalesced around political stances that represent somewhere around 15% of the US population and also in a particularly US sort of way (despite their multinational backgrounds) but saw themselves as representing >50% of the US population that doesn’t self identify as liberal.

While the movement morphed into various approaches the core complaint was a bias in Hugo voters against conservative fiction. However, they also believe that the bias exist in *publishing* against conservative writers – which implies that very few get published (i.e. the bias would lie at stages long before Hugo voting) and hence look to indie or self-published novels. They have been singularly unsuccessful at finding he mother-lode of exceptional, indie/self-published conservative fiction around which they can rally a successful campaign.

Without an actual literary movement to boost, the Sad Puppies have ended up as campaign that either has no purpose or, if it has a purpose, is to promote the standout writers of a non-existent literary movement.

However, having brought together some kind of coalition, the Sad Puppies still exist. They are lacking purpose and direction but their capacity to either morph into something positive or morph into something destructive remains.


Jim Henley replied to that comment:

Jim Henley on February 29, 2016 at 9:57 am said:
@Camestros: Oh man, you just sidled up to the irony of ironies. Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracies* applies to the Puppies. The Pups are a little bureaucracy, so of course they are going to keep on keeping on. They can’t help it.

*Which is kind of just a pithy restatement of Public Choice economics and for that matter the well-known principal-agent problem.

Pournelle’s Iron Law can be read here:

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

  •  First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.
  • Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

Sad Puppies 4 does look like a move in that direction. It has an emphasis on rules, structure and procedure and even Sad Puppies 3 can be seen as part of that process – it existed to continue Larry Correia’s previous campaigns but it lacked a clear goal or objective.



There was a recent discussion at File770 regarding the use of language such as ‘crazy’ etc to describe poor reasoning or bad behavior of people who do not necessarily have a psychiatric condition.

Aside from the ongoing stigmatization of people with mental illness, there is a basic problem with suggesting people are crazy, mad, insane etc. By focusing on the notion of  ‘deranged’ mind it avoids the issue of the ideas expressed and that people will find those ideas attractive regardless of psychological conditions. The problems are ones of cognition and reasoning.

lurkertype on January 3, 2016 at 4:24 pm said:
We need a word that means “crazypants whacketa rubber room spins forefinger around temple” without maligning people with diagnosed mental illnesses.

I propose “Panfallacitc” a word intend to convey that all aspects of what is being communicated is fallacious at multiple levels and also in the manner in which the parts are assembled.
* the supposed factual elements are not actually facts (or a significant number of them are not)
* the implications made about the real world are at odds with reality
* the overt or implied logical elements connecting them are fallacious
* the metaphors, analogies, similes or other forms of figurative comparison are inconsistent and at odds with themselves
* regardless of what your actual mental state is, to attempt to live ones life using the model of reality they are employing would make it very difficult for them to cope in most societies.

While the last clause does have an element of ‘crazy’, I think this is what people are trying to get at i.e. no matter how much a person might claim to be committed to their ideas or their mode of argument or their point of view, there are *some* ways of thinking about things that a person simply could not apply wholesale to their lives *AND* if they were to try to do so THEN they would struggle to cope with everyday life and many simple everyday tasks would be impossible including basic communication and cooperation with others. This should not be confused with actual psychiatric conditions.

Usage: I read John C Wright’s article on the history of Islam and it reached panfallactic heights of pseudo-erudition.


SF/F Taxonomy by Units

Kyra on File 770 did a wonderful take down of the Balkanisation of Fantasy subgenres:

I couldn’t match that but continuing a theme of how measurement and genres I offered this as a response:

  • Grimdark fantasy: it is half a day’s march across a battlefield of torn bodies
  • High fantasy: it is three leagues hence over yonder battlefield
  • Urban fantasy: it’s 9 miles that way through a rough goblin neighbourhood
  • Steampunk: it’s 8 thousand fathoms past the clockwork dirigibles!
  • Science fantasy: it’s nearly 15 kilometres through the Empire’s laser cannons
  • Mil-SF: It is over 14 klicks through the bug-controlled zone
  • Hard-SF: 14.4841km’s to our destination