Sorry that you cannot go to Wellington, so here is my impression of it

CoNZealand has announced that the 2020 Worldcon will be virtual:

A very understandable decision. I think this could be an exciting and maybe even a positive step forward. The big challenge will be keeping the essence of the event while making it virtual. I don’t know if that is possible but that’s one of the challenges that 2020 is bringing.

CoNZealand haven’t announced any details of what this virtual version will be. There will be a host of challenges from choices of software to bandwidth to pushing beyond just talking heads and chat rooms. Getting participants to feel that they part of a single entertaining group event is the essence of the challenge.

What people will definitely be missing though, is a chance to visit Wellington. There’s no way of avoiding that with New Zealand essentially closed to travel until the pandemic has peaked. That is sad because Wellington is one of my favourite cities. I don’t say that lightly. I have visited many cities in my life and while not a connoisseur of metropolitan areas, I think I’ve visited a sufficient variety around the world (except for Africa and North America) to have an informed but not exhaustive opinion.

So here is my impression of Wellington as best as I can manage as a substitute for visiting there. I’ve never lived in the city and I’m sure actual Kiwis can give a more inside picture. In particular, the city has a rich Maori heritage that dates back beyond Britain’s invasion of the area that I can’t do justice to. However, I can talk about what it is like to be a stranger visiting and wandering through it.

Photos after the fold

It’s time…

It’s time to play the music
It’s time to fight the fights
It’s time to begin to panic with Panic Bob tonight
It’s time to fill your ballot
It’s time to Hugo vote
It’s time to nominate like a panic blob tonight

Why do I always vote late?
I guess I’ll never know
It’s like a kind of torture
To nominate so slow

But now let’s get things voted
I’d better get things voted
On the most blobsperational, panic-stational, intestinational,
This what we call the Panic Bob Show!

Growing anxiety blob

Oh, it was an age ago when Hugo 2020 nominations were opened and I had oh so much time to consider things and…FEBRUARY IS HALF DONE ALREADY! Not quite time for panic bob the panic blob yet but definitely time for growing anxiety blob! So many choices! So little time! March 13 approaches!

Five years…

I meant to note this the other day but I couldn’t decide whether the 1st of February or 2nd of February was the best date (particularly given time zone differences). So I’ve ended up with 3rd of February instead…

Either way…it was five years ago (Feb 1 2015 and Feb 2 2015) that the Sad Puppy 3 and Rabid Puppy 1 slates were announced. Archive links here and here and Larry Correia’s post here. The File 770 post summarising the news is here http://file770.com/sad-puppies-wag-their-tales/

An inquiry

I had an email the other day asking if I could summarise the role of Vox Day in the SFWA and the Hugo Awards for somebody not familiar with the background. So here is what I wrote. Corrections and adjustments welcome, of course.

Vox wants to be a writer and wants legitimate respect as a writer. In the 2000s he’d published enough to qualify to join the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America aka SFWA. This wasn’t a stunt or an alt-right entryism tactic, I think he genuinely wants to be seen as a legit SF-writer. He even ends up on Nebula Awards jury. The Nebula Awards are the SFWA’s major writing awards – not as notable as the Hugo Awards but still big. At the time I think Vox is still writing his column for World Net Daily, the paleo-conservative ‘news’ site that I think his dad invested in. Of course, people notice that the Nebula jury has this guy on it who has pretty extreme views – particularly about women and Jewish people.

[2005] This all ends up as a big argument on the blog of Patrick Nielsen Hayden http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/006122.html Among the many people who wade into the discussion is John Scalzi – who at the time was making a name for themselves as a sci-fi author and as a blogger. Scalzi is actually sort of defending Vox’s role on the jury. Other notable writers such as Charlie Stross join and eventually Vox Day joins in as well and things get worse from there. Yes, it’s just a big forum argument but from that point on Vox Day deeply hates Patrick Nielsen Hayden and the sci-fi publisher he works for Tor Books. It also starts the deep enmity Vox has for John Scalzi.

By 2010 John Scalzi is President of the SFWA and it’s also a time of social change. Lots of new guard versus old guard sort of fights as well as conflicts about diversity and inclusion. Vox is in the midst of all this and he is friends with conservative old-guard writers such as Jerry Pournelle. 2013, Vox runs for President of the SFWA (again, as a serious campaign i.e. not just trolling) and loses badly. It’s a peak time for internal controversies in the SFWA [can’t summarise all of it but see https://www.dailydot.com/irl/sfwa-bulletin-jean-rabe-resigned-sexism/ ] Author NK Jemisin in a speech at a sci-fi con refers to Vox as ‘a self-described misogynist, racist, anti-Semite, and a few other flavours of asshole’ which kicks off attacks on Jemisin by Vox. Vox uses an official SFWA twitter account to attack Jemisin, which becomes grounds by the SFWA to expel Vox from the organisation. Vox claims the expulsion is illegitimate and that the rules weren’t followed properly and that therefore he wasn’t actually expelled and that anyway he will sue the SFWA etc. He never does actually sue the SFWA and yes, he was very much expelled.

Many conservative and libertarian people in sci-fi are dismayed by this. They know Vox has more extreme views (but they downplay how extreme) but regard Vox’s expulsion as left-wing persecution of conservatives. That’s 2013 and at that point we need to put the SFWA aside and got to a totally different organisation.

The SFWA is a *writers* organisation. The World Science Fiction Society is a *fan* organisation. It is most famous for its annual Worldcon, a relatively small but very influential science fiction convention, and for the Hugo Awards which are the biggest science fiction awards. Anybody can join the WSFS (because its for fans) but there is an overlap with the SFWA because writers are fans too. The biggest name connected with the WSFS is George RR Martin, who has been active in Worldcons for decades, long before he was famous for Game of Thrones.

Moderately conservative-leaning publisher Baen has several writers who were unhappy at the time that Baen was getting no love at the Hugo Awards and that rival publisher Tor was getting lots of awards – in particular for Best Editor. New guy Larry Correia (a libertarian-lite, Mormon 2nd amendment advocate) does manage to get nominated for a best newcomer award but dislikes the experience. He’s published by Baen and decides to help boost the votes of his own books and the books he likes by trying to mobilise a voting campaign. This ends up being called “Sad Puppies” and initially its sort of a joke. It’s not political per-se but sort of anti-PC. Anyway, this is also in 2013 and many of the same people pissed off at the SFWA stuff are also supporting Larry Correia. Naturally, many of the same people pissed off at Vox Day aren’t very happy with the Sad Puppies idea.

2014 Larry decides to cross the streams. Sad Puppies 2 nominates Vox Day for a Hugo Award in a short fiction category. The arguments about the SFWA are spilling over into Worldcon and the Hugo Awards even though the two organisations are separate. The level of bad feeling just gets higher. Vox is feeding all this with his usual stuff about SJWs supposedly infiltrating stuff and shadowy conspiracies etc. He’s just rehashing his usual antisemitism but swapping out terms but he’s playing the more moderate conservatives like a fiddle. Because people like John Scalzi, Patrick Nielsen Hayden (see above) and NK Jemisin are also part of the Worldcon scene, he can get at them by attacking the Hugo Awards. Sadly for Vox, he gets utterly humiliated in the final voting for the 2014 Hugo Awards.

2015. Round three for the Sad Puppies, this time run by Larry Correia’s friend and fellow Mormon Brad Torgersen (also published by Baen). Brad’s not the sharpest tool in the shed but he also hate John Scalzi because Brad used to comment at Scalzi’s blog but kept making a fool of himself. Brad puts together a slate of nominees. Vox decides to run his own campaign for the Hugo’s called “Rabid Puppies”. He takes Brad’s slates, adds a few extra works from his own Castalia House and tell’s his followers to buy memberships for Worldcon so they can nominate for the Hugo Awards.
April comes along and the Sad/Rabid Puppies have swept the board i.e. there are whole categories were the only nominees are works from the Sad/Rabid Puppies slates. What that means is that no matter how people vote, the only choices in some categories have been picked by Vox. Checkmate, says Vox.

…except…

People can vote for ‘No Award’ if they don’t like any of the nominees. Huge numbers of people join up for Worldcon 2015 to vote in the final stage of voting. Nobody knows who has the most new votes. Final votes come in and the Rabid Puppies get smashed. Vox still declares victory, saying that was his plan all along.

2016 Vox tries again. Doesn’t do as well in the nominations and gets smashed in the final votes. To add salt into his wounds Best Novel (the big premiere award) goes to N.K. Jemisin (see above).

2017 Vox tries again. Does very badly in the nominations and gets very smashed in the final votes. N.K. Jemisin wins her SECOND Hugo Award for best novel.

By 2018 he’s given up but declares victory claiming it was his plan anyway to destroy the Hugo Awards by making people vote for left wing works.

[ETA It is always worth noting for people who haven’t read it, N.K.Jemisin’s novel The Fifth Season is absolutely genuinely brilliant and IMHO one of the best novels to win a Hugo Award ever. That it winning would also have pissed off Vox is secondary to the actual nature of the win.]

Nominating season: resources

The Hugo 2020 nominations opened early this year but I’m only now trying to get my head into gear about nominating stuff. I think it’s going to be a strong year for novels but we’ll see. Meanwhile, mainly for my own reference, are links to a bunch of resources that make the process that bit easier!

And as everything is under control and we’ve got loads of time, here is the No Worries At All blob calmly considering their nominating options.

It has been awhile since somebody tried to rewrite Sad Puppy history

I believe it is usually January that we get an up-tick of attempts to vindicate Sad Puppy history and I imagine that we’ll get a few more attempts next year when SP3 marks its half-decade anniversary of accomplishing nothing but frustration, upset and column inches. However, I missed one earlier this month from science fiction’s top self-appointed witch-hunter and winner of the Dragon Award for Best Horror Novel That Isn’t Actual Horror, Brian Niemeier. https://www.brianniemeier.com/2019/12/no-american-man.html

Sadly nothing new. Some Scalzi bashing and some Tor bashing but let’s go through.

“To recap, author Larry Correia started the Campaign to End Puppy-Related Sadness when he smelled something rotten among the oldpub clique that hands out the Hugo Awards. He set out to prove that winning a Hugo has less to do with literary merit and almost everything to do with scratching the right backs while having the right politics.”

Nope. Larry’s initial campaign was overtly against the idea of nominating on the basis of literary merit. His imagined enemy where the ‘literati’ and ‘snob reviewers’. The campaign was an attempt to win himself a Hugo Award (which we know because he said so).

It is true that at every stage of the various Sad Puppy campaigns they have been presented as some sort of Manichean struggle of good-guys versus bad-guys but the nature of the split was repeatedly revised in a “we’ve always been at war with Eastasia” way. The conflict has variously been characterised by Sad Puppy supporters as:

  • Pulp authors versus the literati and snob reviewers
  • Marginalised conservative authors versus SJW entryists
  • Newcomers to Worldcon versus SMOFs
  • Outsiders versus the SFWA
  • ‘blue’ sci-fi versus ‘pink’ sci-fi
  • Traditional science fiction versus modern science fiction
  • Tor books versus Baen books
  • Indie publishing versus trad publishing

Of course, the reality is also multi-faceted, with multiple kinds of people becoming involved in a conflict with no single cause. However, the purpose of the reductionist group A versus group B framing is to create a clear just cause for group A.

“After three years, Larry decided he’d proved his point and retired from the Sad Puppies. “

Technically after two years. Sad Puppies 2 was the last Correia led campaign.

“When you have one publisher winning more than twice as many Hugos as the next most award-winning house, and when SFWA officers constitute an oversized chunk of Best Novel winners since 1986, you’d have to be terminally naive not to see a cool kids’ clique trading participation trophies.”

The ‘twice as many Hugos’ line is a reference to the number of Hugo Awards for Best Novel won by Tor. Niemeier adopts the anti-Tor line fairly consistently from here on in his history re-write. Of course, the full-on Tor hatred did become a feature of the 2015 campaign but even I find it hard to remember that the anti-Tor aspect of Sad Puppies was a minor aspect until quite late in the history. It is true that Tor versus Baen was always an undercurrent, specifically around the Best Editor Long From award and (from a Rabid Puppies perspective) due to Vox day’s specific animosity toward Nielsen Hayden’s.

However, the idea of the conflict being defined as a war against Tor did not fully crystallise until Vox Day manipulated a boycott of Tor books in June 2015. Prior to that Sad Puppies 3 had nominated one Tor published book for Best Novel (Kevin J Anderson’s The Dark Between the Stars), prominent puppy John C Wright (and multiple Sad & Rabid puppy nominee) still promoted himself as a Tor published author and the eventual winner of Best Novel in 2015, The Three Body Problem was voted for by many Puppy supporters.

“Imagine if one movie studio won more than twice as many Best Picture Oscars than its closest competitor in a similar span of time. What if a preponderance of Best Picture winners had also been directed by current and former high-ranking officers of the Directors Guild? Anyone who’s not a total NPC would at least entertain suspicions of some shady backroom  deals.”

Honestly I’m surprised Best Picture is evenly distributed and I find an even distribution more implausible than what we see in the Hugo’s. For added “this framing doesn’t add up” Tor winning a minority of Best Novel Hugo’s in that time period is also due to five wins (half of Tor’s total wins up to 2019) from Orson Scott Card and Vernor Vinge. Card, in particular, was used as the paradigm by many Sad Puppies of the kind of author who used to win Hugo Awards but no longer did. Vinge is an author less championed by Sad Puppies but was overtly cited as an example of a ‘good’ Hugo winner from the past by Sad Puppies 3 leader Brad Torgersen: “We’ve fallen a long way since Vernor Vinge won for A Fire Upon The Deep.

Nor does the Tor-narrative fit the other narratives. If the Hugos had recently become more leftwing and Tor was somehow to blame, then Tor would be winning more Best Novel awards in recent years. Of course, the other name that connects Tor, the SFWA and Puppy angst is John Scalzi and the particular and very personal animosity both Puppy campaigns have for him. That man himself is a very agreeable person who repeatedly tried to find compromise and understanding only seems to have added fuel to the fire.

“For its first three yeas, Sad Puppies performed the vital public service of wising normies up to the convergence of legacy sci fi publishing. In a way, it prefigured what #GamerGate did in the video game scene. But like pretty much every dissident online movement since, SP quickly devolved into petty territorial bickering. When its original founder was replaced by people who still want a pat on the head from oldpub, SP became just another bogeyman in the Left’s morality play.”

GamerGate is a kind of Schrödinger’s cat in Puppy rhetoric. The essential rule is this: Puppy supporter can imply that the two campaigns are connected but if critics of the Puppy campaigns do so then it is a terrible slander. Brian Niemeier is very much in favour of the misogynist Gamergate campaign, which given his overt support for male-only cultural spaces is not a surprise.

The digs in the paragraph above look like they are aimed at both Brad Torgersen and Sarah Hoyt but I assume the thrust of it is aimed at Hoyt. Quite how we can sort Correia, Torgersen and Hoyt into more or less connected to “oldpub” is unclear. Hoyt has been published traditionally and independently. Of the three she is closer to the post-traditional publishing model.

The indie versus ‘oldpup’ narrative is hard to maintain for the Sad Puppy conflict as a whole. Attempting to apply to the internal shifts of Puppy leadership is absurd to the point of incoherence. Nor did Sad Puppies descend into territorial bickering except in the sense that the bickering was always there. The argument Niemeier references was not until the non-appearance of Sad Puppies 5, when Declan Finn attempt to make some book recommendations using the ‘Sad Puppy’ name, generating an angry reaction from Sarah Hoyt (see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/06/26/sad-popcorn/ ). This was in 2017 by which point Sad Puppies had long since become irrelevant to the Hugo Awards.

“As mentioned above, Dragon Con now hosts the Dragon Awards. The Dragons boast far larger and much more open participation than the Hugos, and after rebuffing an SJW takeover attempt, they’ve largely settled into an antipodal role as readers’ choice awards for fans of a certain SFF publisher.”

The Dragon’s create a bit of a conundrum for Brian. Their headline categories are more dominated by Baen than the Hugo Best Novel is by Tor — which if Brian was remotely consistent would according to his prior arguments demonstrate that the Dragon’s are rigged. However, Brian won a Dragon Award in its first year and so more or less has to be pro-Dragon award.

The “SJW takeover attempt” is an even more egregious re-writing of history. He is referring to his own imagined culture war against John Scalzi in 2017 (see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/niemeier-wants-the-dragon-awards-to-be-a-culture-war-but-the-culture-doesnt-want-to-play/ ). The “takeover” was authors trying to withdraw from the Dragons precisely because of the nominees like Niemeier. At the time, Brian was very much in favour of the Dragons not letting authors withdraw. When the admins saw sense and allowed authors not to participate, Brian was outraged and saw it as a potentially fatal defeat for the Dragon Awards. There was only one remedy that would save the Dragons!

The Secret Kings, my highly praised space opera novel, is the only viable competitor against Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire.”

https://www.brianniemeier.com/2017/08/conservative-play.html

Suffice to say, Brian didn’t win another Dragon and instead Babylon’s Ashes, by James S.A. Corey won instead. By his own weird standards then I guess that means the SJWs won or something? Who knows. With narratives that shift as easily as goal posts made of clouds, who can say.