The Eve of Something

…but we don’t know what.

By virtue of time zones, it is already Tuesday 3 November here. In a normal year, this would be Melbourne Cup day — the big Australian horse race that everybody bets on and people wear hats and get drunk. This year, things are a bit more subdued.

Meanwhile, it is still Monday in the USA. The final vote tally for the US Presidential election won’t be known for awhile but tomorrow things will be changing rapidly towards a conclusion. The polls and the models point toward a victory for the Biden/Harris ticket. Over shadowing those polls is the fact that Trump won last time and, more darkly, that Trump may not accept defeat even if he does lose.

Nate Silver at 538 is busy reminding people that a 10% chance is not a 0% chance https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/im-here-to-remind-you-that-trump-can-still-win/ There are uncertainties of many kinds, particularly around Pennsylvania and Florida where the chance of a Trump winning the state is much closer than in national polls.

In addition, the polls and models are unlikely to have adequately compensated for a number of factors:

  • Increased early voting
  • Potentially increased turn out
  • Attempts at voter suppression
  • Attempts at vote intimidation

There are also claims of a “shy Trump voter” bias in the polls — more centre-leaning Trump voters not wanting to say they are Trump voters out of shame or fear. This last one I am doubtful of.

Back in 2016 I thought it would be interesting to see how people associated with the Sad/Rabid Puppies movement would shift (or not) during the Trump years. As reflected more broadly in the polls, people who were already solidly right wing have only consolidated more in their support of Trump. Where a number of notable Sad Puppies were dubious (or even hostile) towards Trump during the GOP Presidential nomination process all those years ago, most shifted towards some degree of support by the election (or at the very least overt hostility towards his opponent). In between times, that has only strengthened. John C Wright and Sarah Hoyt shifted from sceptical/grudging support to full on Trump-advocacy. Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen have been more circumstance and adopted an ‘anti-anti-Trump’ position. I don’t think either of them have overtly said they’d vote for him but their anti-Biden position is unambiguous and also shallow (focusing on Biden’s age and his dodgy son — qualities which don’t distinguish him from Trump). Vox Day has been an avid Trump supporter and remains so.

On the whole, most of this former leaders of the Puppy groups remain bullish about the election. There is an underlying belief that Trump is very popular and the polls are very wrong. That is compounded with a confusion about how wrong the polls were in 2016 — as if dismissing the result of the popular vote for constitutional reasons also (magically) means the polls got it wrong that Hillary Clinton was more popular than Trump.

Adjacent to the Puppy leaders we have other puppy-characters like Michael A Rothman being super bullish on Facebook:

“Mark this as my official prediction:
Trump wins electoral with at least the same margin as last time.
Trump likely wins popular vote as well.”

https://www.facebook.com/MARothman/posts/10217545584647542

That seems unlikely.

If the opposite happens and Biden’s win is more substantial then maybe some Republicans will re-evaluate their support of the Electoral College. That will be interesting to see. Because of the above, I’ve ended up watching Utah conservatives extolling the virtue of the EC, even though it remains a bad deal for Utah conservatives (the way the Senate works is a different question). Ironically, the 2016 election would have been an opportunity for Utah Republicans to leverage the EC by voting Democratic and ironically giving themselves far more influence over the GOP as a result…but that’s not how people actually vote or behave.

Speaking of which, I was gifted yesterday a cursed item: a book! Entitled “Divided we Fall: One Possible Future” it is a political-science fiction anthology edited by the pseudonymous Mack Henckel and according to the cover features:

“Stories by Sarah Hoyt, Brad Torgersen, Jon Del Arroz and More!”

The premise is all the bad things that will happen to America if Trump loses. This is the flip side of the apparent bullishness: a deep seated fear of what happens next.

You won’t be astonished to hear that it isn’t very good but let me reassure you that even by standards of Hoyt’s, Torgersen’s and Arroz’s writing, it isn’t very good. Indeed, all three are more than capable of word-smithing readable fiction — they aren’t inherently bad writers and Hoyt in particular gains a lot more clarity when she writes fiction. This book though, is rushed and poorly edited both in a broad sense and in a copy-editing sense. It falls even below my extraordinarily low standards for typos.

Torgersen’s persecution fantasy is that the Federal Government will outlaw the Mormons:

“Ephraim Roberts watched the feds from behind his own sunglasses. Until six months prior, he’d been among their number. The injunction—which had come swift on the heels of the church having its tax-exempt status revoked—had put paid to any plans Ephraim had of retiring on a federal pension. He’d watched two nephews and one niece go to jail during the early days, when idealistic church members still actively challenged the blockades that had sprung up around every single Latter-Day Saint temple in the United States.”

Secret Combinations by Brad Torgersen, in Divided we Fall: One Possible Future

Jon Del Arroz’s story is more unpleasant but is basically just trolling for outrage. Sarah Hoyt’s story is quasi-autobiographical which has the unfortunate effect of making it read like one of her not-intended-to-be-fiction columns. The protagonist lives in Colorado and in 2016 is considering voting Libertarian but is persuaded reluctantly to vote for Trump. Unlike Hoyt, the protagonist is gay and has a liberal wife but the dialogue from either of them reads like direct quotes from her columns. For example take this dialogue about Covid19:

‘“Sure. Very dangerous, if you’re like 80. Maybe. Look, I did a deep dive into the Diamond Princess numbers. It can’t be that dangerous. Those ships are plague vessels at the best of times.”
“Ah.”
“And what they’re doing is putting an entire country under house arrest. A lot of the economy won’t come back, can’t come back.’

Teach the Children by Sarah Hoyt, in Divided we Fall: One Possible Future

Anyway then tomorrow happens and society collapses:

‘Well, you know what happened. The election was called for Joe and the Ho, and Trump didn’t dispute it. And things got crazy. Really crazy. It was hard to know what was actually happening, you know, because the news was all bizarre. They’d started the fiction with their Tales of the Covid, and they just ramped that up. The Green New Deal was going to save us. The Native Americans were coming out of the reservations to teach us to love Mother Earth. Police were disbanded. The committees of reconciliation…’

Teach the Children by Sarah Hoyt, in Divided we Fall: One Possible Future

The story rapidly skips into an apocalypse society but the protagonist and friends keep the faith and at the end have started a kind of religion whose faith is the USA (a theme Hoyt has used before).

…and so on. Yes, obviously the anthology is an attempt to make a quick buck (and a quick book) but the fear mongering is both cynical and sincere. That combination is quintessentially the story of the Puppy years — a mix of grift, confabulation and paranoia.

Should John C Wright be allowed to vote?

Today’s politico-ethical question is easily answered. Yes, science fiction author John C Wright should be allowed to vote in whatever nation he chooses to live in, because people who are held accountable to laws should have a say in those laws AND also the legitimacy of government should derive from the broad consent of the governed.

Well, that was a short post because I couldn’t think of any counter arguments. Sorry, if you were expecting something longer or more argumentative.

OK, maybe I could find some straw-arguments from somewhere that offer a different position? As per Galileo, I’ll put the arguments in the name of Simplicio and show why they are inappropriate. Yet who could come up with a bunch of silly arguments for restricting the franchise? Aha! How about noted science fiction author and part-time reactionary John C Wright! Of course: http://www.scifiwright.com/2020/10/it-is-time-to-reconsider/

Simplicio: the author is prone to bouts of emotionalism and so it is less worthwhile to consult with him over the conduct and control of public business.

Camestros: lots of people are emotional and politics in general is often a matter of great emotion. I cannot see what the supposed connection is here? Is it that decisions motivated by emotion are less sound? I see no clear evidence for that. Emotion motivates decision making. People will be emotional about issues that matter to them. If there is a sound argument here against giving this author a vote, you have not yet stated it Simplicio.

Simplicio: The author does not show any particular manly or masculine virtues which would entitle them to a say in the public business, if stoicism, reason, and virtue were preconditions for the franchise.

Camestros: Again you introduce unexplained premises but at least here you clarify them a little. Are stoicism, reason and virtue masculine values? Let us put that aside as I think it is a red-herring in your argument. Is the author lacking in these virtues? Judging by his columns, yes I can see a lack of stoicism, I can see poor reasoning and I can see a lack of strong virtues such as charitable thoughts to others who differ from him. Yet even un-stotical, un-virtuous, poor thinkers are subject to the demands of government and as such they too should have some say in the laws they are subject to.

Simplicio: Your argument for voting is as a peaceful substitute for revolution, wherein the less numerous party, seeing himself outnumbered, agreed without bloodshed to abide by the vote of the more numerous. The author, being largely less ready, willing, or able to take up arms than most, has no place in these military questions.

Camestros: You badly misunderstand the nature of revolutions. To resist a government that does not have the consent of those it seeks to govern, is to take up a struggle but that struggle is not just the force of arms. It lies also with each and every person willing to withdraw cooperation from the government and those in power. It can be in the form of strikes, civil disobedience or even small (perhaps covert) acts of disruption. Look to the protest in Hong Kong or the USA in which the government throws the quasi-military force of the police at its own citizens. You will see people of kinds of physical capabilities resisting not just the old-fashioned stereotype of the able-bodied man.

Simplicio: A corollary argument is that the author, being immune from the draft because of age and physical health, should have no say over such questions as whether to enact a draft or when and how to conduct a war.

Camestros: A war that would result in a draft impacts far more people in the nation than just those drafted. A war of such magnitude would impact everybody in the nation and of every age. Further, since the Twentieth century at least (and in fact far earlier) the nature of war has been that the civilian population is also likely to face attack. War is a poor argument against limiting the suffrage as war is as profound an example of an event that affects everybody as you can find.

Simplicio: Another argument against him having the vote is that experience over the last few years shows that author’s suffrage erodes the willingness and ability of the author to engage in productive writing, instead leading him to write poorly reasoned arguments about contemporary politics.

Camestros: The author in question should be free to do with his time what he chooses within the limits of his general responsibilities to others and the law of the land (assuming they are just laws where he lives).

Simplicio: Moreover, women becoming less feminine as a whole become less happy, which makes men, as a whole both less masculine and less happy.

Camestros: I’m sorry but what did you say? I’m not sure of the relevance of your point. Are you saying that the author is unhappy because he falls far short of some masculine ideal? If so, that is his business and if he chooses to make himself unhappy that is also his business. None of this seems pertinent to the question of whether he should vote. Try and stay focused!

Simplicio: What I am trying to say is that authors like this one, when they intrude into positions of political power make self-centered and highly emotional decisions.

Camestros: “Intrude” is begging the question. You have yet to show that the presence of an author like this in politics IS an intrusion. Now I will grant that his political writings are self-centered and often highly emotional (histrionics over two characters holding hands at the end of a kid’s cartoon for example). He certainly wouldn’t be my choice for somebody to hold political office! Yet these are questions about the suitability of candidates and it is a cheap-shot to say about any politician that they are ‘self-centered’ or ‘highly emotional’ (and when a politician is so unemotional that such a charge would fall flat, their detractors will say that they are ‘cold’ or lack passion). So I won’t credit this as an argument. It is too close to the kind of absurdities people throw at women politicians for example — indeed women politicians often get accused of being both cold and over emotional at the same time! Look at some of the absurd arguments thrown at Hillary Clinton!

Simplicio: My argument is that chivalry, good sportsmanship, and grace toward an opponent are personality traits not shown by this author, but are needed in any vocation both more ruthless and requiring greater diplomacy and willingness to compromise than everyday public life.

Camestros: Yet your arguments (which you have not substantiated and simply assume) are arguments against voting for the author as a particular candidate. They are not arguments for restricting him from the franchise. If your argument was sound as a general principle then you would only allow people who show chivalry, good sportsmanship and grace towards an opponent. How would you go about evaluating people en-masse by such standards! Even if you could then why would the disenfranchise be under any moral obligation to follow the law that they are excluded from? Your position makes so little sense that I fear I must have misunderstood it.

Simplicio: So your argument in favour of universal suffrage is that since anyone, male or female, living within the nation and paying taxes both affects and is affected by the public business, therefore she should have a say in the matter, by simple justice?

Camestros: “Paying taxes” is a little assumption you sneaked in there that is not mine. However, the general point is correct and one I believe the author in question may have reached himself (or is close to) despite setting some strawmen in his own path. Indeed, the argument is so clear then I question what is served by disputing it, other than for you, Simplicio, to throw out character attacks against this author.

Simplicio: Ah, you have seen through my gambit. Yes, I was following his lead where he uses strawmen arguments to outline his dislike of women in general and then conclude that despite their unworthiness (in his view) that they should still be permitted to vote.

Camestros: Ah, I see. A demonstration of a lack of chivalry, good sportsmanship and grace? That seems cruel to say that about a given person. Surely that is a an attack on the author’s character?

Simplicio: Perhaps but then how is it worse to attack the character of one man than to attack the character of billions of women?

Camestros: It seems you have bested me in argument after all Simplicio!

A sort of Sad Puppy (& Happy Frog) round-up

I was asked in the comments recently about what the former Sad Puppies were saying about things and I realised I didn’t know. I did talk about Larry Correia the other day and the only development then is he’s posting ‘Tim Pool‘ videos. Coincidentally I listened to the excellent IDSG podcast that tracks these far-right hate mongers, who had a whole episode of the vacuousness of Pool [available via here http://www.eruditorumpress.com/blog/idsg-ep66-tim-pool/ ] Larry is also going full on with the idea that the right-wing militia who were caught plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer must actually be antifa because one of them said that he hates Trump. Note that Larry had said that he hates Trump, so by his reasoning…well, reasoning was never his strong suit.

Former Sad Puppy 4 leader Sarah Hoyt is convinced that the only votes Democrats get is via electoral fraud and can’t understand why Trump or other Republicans don’t prosecute them. The simple answer that there is an utter lack of evidence for wide scale fraud of the kind she imagines happens and that US courts still need evidence rather than just feelings has escaped her.

Brad Torgersen (Sad Puppy 3 major-domo) was apparently banned from Facebook for arguing with David Brin and is now back from his ban and is being argued at by David Brin. I’m not entirely sure why or how Brin-v-Brad began but Brin apparently has had enough of the BS. (This is from 2014 but Brin is quoting it https://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/06/so-do-outcomes-matter-more-than-rhetoric.html)

Further afield Brian Niemeier is saying the quiet part loud about his politics with an earnest discussion about Mussolini going to heaven [archive link]. I’m not sure what Jon Del Arroz is doing — mainly You Tube and in-fighting with other ‘Comicgaters’.

Overall, I don’t think any of them engage with broader SFF fandom any more (unless you count Torgersen fighting with David Brin).

[ETA: A counter-example. Brian Neimeier and JDA is cross because Baen published a story collection which features the likes of Larry Correia, Sarah Hoyt and…Nick Mamatas https://www.baen.com/weird-world-war-iii.html Jon says of Baen “They are not friends of the American people.” Tsk, tsk, it’s cancel culture run wild again! 🤣]

[ETA2: Of course Vox “I’m not a neo-Nazi” Day is another matter

Also, also, also the IDSG podcast had a follow-up on the Tim Pool story that covers the whole pretending that the Michigan militia kindap plotters aren’t right wing nuts http://www.eruditorumpress.com/blog/idsg-ep67-tim-pool-and-the-wolverine-watchmen/

If you want to watch something both depressing and funny, watch a ‘libertarian’ dance around Trump’s taxes

The New York Times has revealed details about Donald Trump’s tax returns https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-54323654

“The president paid just $750 (£580) in federal income tax both in 2016, the year he ran for the US presidency, and in his first year in the White House He paid no such taxes in 11 of 18 years of tax records examined by the newspaper The president has managed to lower his taxes through reporting hefty losses on his businesses After the success of The Apprentice TV show he did initially pay significant taxes – $95m over 18 years. But he later got most of that back via a $72.9 million federal tax refund. The refund remains under review”

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-54323654

People have speculated for several years now why Trump was hiding his tax returns and the general consensus was that they would show that he paid very little taxes due to claiming heavy losses. Those losses would damage his claims to be a successful business man and also imply that he might be cheating on his taxes. So the New York Times report is both a bombshell and also unsurprising. Trump is not the best liar in the land, he’s just the most enthusiastic. As deceptions go, this one was particularly transparent.

It is still damaging for Trump though and the reaction from his supporters has been notable. However, the world of US politics is not a simple binary one of Trump fans versus Trump non-fans. One of our many blog themes is that categories rarely have simple boundaries. Dividing the world into A and not-A reveals fractal spaces between the two: the hot dogs in the space of sandwiches, the submarines in the world of ships. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.

Witness Larry Correia. Libertarian, gun-rights advocate and, according to Larry, a valiant defender of freedom and scourge of the big city New York elites. Larry has never had an easy relationship with Donald Trump. When Trump was nominated as the GOP Presidential candidate, Larry was angry:

“You ignorant low information bastards. Motivated by fear and anger, you overlooked every gain made over the last few cycles, and traded it in to a lying huckster democrat for some magic beans. So you could stick it to the establishment, by electing the shit bird who funded them.”

http://monsterhunternation.com/2016/05/04/on-the-election/

Larry was under no illusions about Trump’s capabilities except the same one lot’s of people were under: he thought Trump would lose badly. Fate had other things in store for us all and left Larry with a dilemma. Larry’s ‘libertarianism’ is little more than anti-leftism and with much of his readership and many of his more vocal supporters endorsing Trump’s policies, the overt anti-Trumpism was not going to sell well as a position. So Larry has fallen into a political position best characterised as anti-anti-Trump — itself an interesting example of somebody trying to occupy a conceptual space that naive logic would suggest is indistinguishable from being pro-Trump.

The anti-anti-Trump position is a tricky one because it largely requires its advocates to avoid talking directly about Trump and instead focus on the opponents of Trump. However, among many things, Larry is also a former accountant and the issue of Trump’s taxes is a hard one to avoid. Yet, Trump’s position is also essentially indefensible and indeed, consistent of Larry’s former description of Trump as a ‘huckster’.

The solution is to try and dance around the issue, claim nobody else knows what they are talking about, while never actually engaging with Trump’s situation at all.

“So big picture time…First off, “morality” doesn’t have jack shit to do with taxation. You pay what you legally owe. Nobody willingly pays the government more than they legally owe.This has always been this way since America has had income taxes. There is endless court precedent. You pay what you legally owe. That’s it. If you pay less than you legally owe, then the government will fine or imprison you. If you pay more than you legal owe, the government will laugh and laugh, because you are an idiot, and you deserve to be poor.”

https://monsterhunternation.com/2020/09/28/no-you-idiots-thats-not-how-taxes-work-an-accountants-guide-to-why-you-are-a-gullible-moron/

Maybe Larry think taxation rates and tax laws are immutable or maybe he just thinks that for this part of his argument? Maybe, that’s a tendentious defence of a businessman’s taxes but…it’s not a very smart or insightful point to make when that businessman is the President of the USA. Meanwhile, back in reality, “fairness” is a common and reasonable standard against which to judge the outcomes of tax policy. Are very wealthy people paying less tax than much poorer people? That implies 1. an ethical problem 2. a social problem and 3. a really poor way of funding your government. That third point is true EVEN IF you think the overall level of taxation should be low.

“Is it unfair that rich guys can employ Gandalf level CPAs and take advantage of more complicated tax laws, while regular people use TurboTax? Yep. But in the meantime, as long as those tax laws are there, the rich guys would be utter fools not to take advantage of them.”

It is unfair but taxation has nothing to do with morality? Hmmm, and also Trump isn’t just a random rich guy but the guy with distinct power over the taxation system. True, he doesn’t have the power to write tax legislation and these tax returns pertain mainly to before he was President but the records do pertain to his overall competence, his attitude towards public service and his public image.

“Your feelings don’t mean shit. Same as the rest of us, Trump owes what he owes. And the IRS will determine if that number is accurate or not.”

The feelings of US voters towards the US President in an election year shouldn’t be dismissed so lightly. What also should not be lightly dismissed is the extent to which Trump is using his office to enrich himself and shield himself from legal accountability. Further Larry skips neatly over one of the key reasons why Trump was paying so very little tax: Trump has significant debts. Those debts aren’t news but the New York Times story confirms much that was already know (eg see this 2017 piece https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/your-day-one-guide-president-trumps-conflicts-interest/ )

“But Vladeck, an expert in national-security law, says there’s a larger problem here. “More fundamentally, there’s the concern that a president who is personally on the hook for significant loans that come due while he’s the president might take official actions, or appear to take official actions, that are meant to alleviate the personal financial pressure he faces,” Vladeck tells Rolling Stone. “Indeed, there’s a reason why the federal government generally won’t give security clearances to those who have significant debt — it’s because they’re too much of a risk. So, too, apparently, is the President of the United States.””

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/trump-tax-returns-new-york-times-debt-deutsche-bank-irs-1067422/

The most powerful person in the USA is deeply indebted to numerous people. He may be in debt to the IRS as well. He may or may not be in debt to the Bank of China. The impact of all of these all compromise the decisions Trump makes regardless of ideological stance.

But, you are all stupid because Larry knows more about taxes than you do. Actually, I don’t doubt for a second that Larry knows a LOT more about the US taxation system than I do — it really would be hard for him to know less. However, what is notable is that nowhere in his two-thousand word defence of Trump does he ever point out anything that Trump’s critics are getting factually or technically wrong about taxes or taxation.

So why is this depressing? Larry Correia’s dislike of Trump is genuine but like so much of the US right, the entrenched opposition and hyper-partisan positioning means nothing will shift. The right has abandoned not just morality but also ideology, leaving only ties of allegiance.

Which Hugo story finalists don’t have a Wikipedia page

My capacity to generate (rather than just make-up) trivia increases every week. Today I get to tell you which Hugo Finalists in Novel, Novella, Novelette and Short Story do not currently have a Wikipedia page.

FinalistFirst Year a Finalist
Anton Lee Baker1959
J. F. Bone1959
Rick Raphael1964
Hayden Howard1967
William Walling1975
Jeff Duntemann1981
Eric Vinicoff1985
W. R. Thompson1991
Nicholas A. DiChario1993
Bridget McKenna1994
Jan Jensen2000
Shane Tourtellotte2002
Pat Forde2003
Christopher Rowe2005
Gray Rinehart2015
Kary English2015
Rajnar Vajra2015
Steve Rzasa2015
Steven Diamond2015
Charles W. Shao2016
Cheah Kai Wai2016
Daniel Polansky2016
David VanDyke2016
Juan Tabo2016
S. Harris2016
S. R. Algernon2016
Stix Hiscock2017
K. M. Szpara2018
Simone Heller2019
Nibedita Sen2020
Siobhan Carroll2020
Hugo Story Finalists who do not have a Wikipedia Page

Of the 31 authors, ~42% are from the period 2015 to 2017. It’s like something happened during that time but it is to hard to infer what it was from the statistics[1].



[1] I’m joking

Who “won” the Puppy attention wars?

A good point people raised about yesterdays post on Wikipedia page view metrics is that it captures a current state but in many cases we are more interested in a historical value. This is particularly true when we are looking at the impact of awards or events.

Luckily I don’t need to advance my web scrapping tools further to answer this as Wikipedia actually has a tool for looking at and graphing this kind of data. Like most people I’ve used Wikipedia for many years now but I only learned about this yesterday while looking for extra data (or maybe I learned earlier and forgot — seems likely). The site is https://pageviews.toolforge.org and each of the page information pages has a link to it at the bottom under ‘external tools’.

It’s not really suitable for a data set of hundreds of pages but it is quite nice for comparing a small number of pages.

Just to see how it works and to play with settings until I got a visually interesting graph, I decided to see if I could see the impact of the Hugo Awards on four relevant pages. Now the data it will graph only goes back to 2015, so this takes the impact of SP3 as a starting point. I’ve chosen to look at John Scalzi, N.K. Jemisin, Chuck Tingle, Vox Day and Larry Correia.

https://pageviews.toolforge.org/?project=en.wikipedia.org&platform=all-access&agent=all-agents&redirects=0&start=2015-07&end=2020-08&pages=Vox_Day|John_Scalzi|Larry_Correia|Chuck_Tingle|N._K._Jemisin

I added a background colour and labels. The data shows monthly totals and because of the size of some spikes, it is plotted on a logarithmic scale. Be mindful that the points are vertically further apart in terms of actual magnitude than is shown visually.

I think the impact of N.K. Jemisin’s second and third Best Novel wins is undeniable. There is a smaller spike for the first win but each subsequent win leads to more interest. I don’t know why Chuck Tingle had a big spike in interest in January 2017.

I’ve added a little red arrow around July 2019. That was when there was a big flurry among some Baen authors that Wikipedia was deleting their articles https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2019/07/29/just-a-tiny-bit-more-on-wikipedia/

Anyway, to answer my own question: talent beat tantrums in the battle for attention

Authors: which ones get looked up?

A perennial question around award nominees is just how significant are the authors being honoured. It’s a tricky question, particularly as there is no good data about book sales. Amazon ranks are mysterious and Goodreads data may be a reflection of particular community.

I’m currently taking a few baby steps into web scraping data and I was playing with Wikipedia. Every Wikipedia article has a corresponding information page with some basic metadata about the article. For example here is the info page for the article on the writer Zen Cho https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Zen_Cho&action=info On that page is a field called “Page views in the past 30 days” that gives the figure stated. As a first attempt at automating some data collection, it’s a relatively easy piece of data to get.

So, I put together a list of authors from my Hugo Award and Dragon Award lists, going back a few years (I think to 2013). Not all of them have Wikipedia pages, partly because they are early in their careers but also because Wikipedia does a poor job of representing authors who aren’t traditionally published. Putting the ‘not Wiki notable’ authors aside, that left me with 163 names. With a flash of an algorithm I had a spreadsheet of authors ranked by the current popularity of their Wikipedia page.

Obviously this is very changeable data. A new story, a tragedy, a scandal or a recent success might change the number of page views significantly from month to month. However, I think it’s fairly useful data nonetheless.

So what does the top 10 look like?

1Stephen King216,776
2Margaret Atwood75,427
3Brandon Sanderson72,265
4Terry Pratchett55,591
5Rick Riordan43,484
6N. K. Jemisin34,756
7Cixin Liu32,372
8Sarah J. Maas21,852
9Ian McEwan20,468
10Neal Stephenson20,058

The rest of the top 30 look like this:

11Robert Jordan19,169
12Ted Chiang17,635
13Owen King16,041
14Jim Butcher15,493
15James S. A. Corey15,109
16Stephen Chbosky14,490
17Leigh Bardugo13,787
18China Miéville13,580
19Andy Weir13,057
20Harry Turtledove11,452
21Cory Doctorow11,362
22Jeff VanderMeer11,243
23John Scalzi10,796
24Chuck Tingle10,763
25Ben Aaronovitch10,493
26Brent Weeks10,271
27Ken Liu9,003
28Tamsyn Muir9,002
29Alastair Reynolds8,951
30Kim Stanley Robinson8,879

There’s a big Zipf-like distribution going on with those numbers that decline quickly by rank. John Scalzi has Chuck Tingle levels of fame on this metric.

OK, so I know people want to know where some of our favourite antagonists are, so here are some of the notable names from the Debarkle years.

40Vox Day5,271
45Larry Correia4,455
60John Ringo2,878
81John C. Wright1,251
111Brad R. Torgersen560
123Sarah A. Hoyt407
140L. Jagi Lamplighter229
152Dave Freer102
153Lou Antonelli101
156Brian Niemeier81

Day probably gets a lot more views due to people looking him up because of his obnoxious politics. Larry Correia is in a respectable spot in the 40’s. He is just below Martha Wells who has 4,576 page views — which is essentially the same number given how these figures might change from day to day. John Ringo is just above Chuck Wendig and Rebecca Roanhorse (2,806 and 2,786). John C Wright is sandwiched between Tade Thompson and Sarah Gailey.

You can see the full list here https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/14uQsQNxKyPQtxybu4OxsFrdRRl_v-tdW0fN0oblgFw4/edit?usp=sharing

Let me know if you find any errors.

Debarkle Conversations

One more of these network explorations. I tried a bit of data mining on the Puppy Kerfuffle Timeline. The idea was to pick out from entries people talking about other people or being talked about together. So John Scalzi talking about Vox Day or vice versa. A few stray non-people (or groups of people) got in the mix as well. Also Santa Claus?

The graph is undirected i.e. it doesn’t distinguish between talking and being talked about. Also, this is very much NOT about allegiances or other connections — a line joining a group is more likely to be a critic than an ally.

Baen, publishing and authors

There is an interesting piece at Mad Genius Club today by Sarah Hoyt. I haven’t visited there for a long time and the post is by Hoyt, so it inevitably wanders into aggrieved persecution theories. Even so, there are parts of the analysis that make sense. It also touches on an aspect of post-puppy history regarding the estrangement between some MGC authors and Baen Books, that they’ve hinted at but never really described directly. https://madgeniusclub.com/2020/08/26/docking-authors-tails/

I’ve no additional comment on it other than, ‘look, that’s interesting’.