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’.

More on Patreon v Unpleasantness

I’ve been following the travails of Vox “I have never been a neo-Nazi” Day & Owen “flat Earth” Benjamin against funding website Patreon. This is post four, so if you missed the earlier episodes they are here (and, as some drive-by supporters of Vox say, “ageing badly”):

When last we checked in, a Californian court had refused to make an injunction stopping Owen Benjamin’s supporters brining multiple arbitration claims against Patreon for closing Benjamin’s Patreon last year. Now, according to Vox Day, the first arbitration claim (from Benjamin directly) has been decided by the arbitrator JAMS.

“Somewhat to our surprise, the arbitrator in Owen’s case ruled that Patreon does have the contractual right it claims to kick anyone off its platform at any time without any reason, regardless of whether the user being kicked off has violated any rules or community guidelines or not. That right to terminate any user at any time at will was the reason he gave for granting Patreon’s request for summary disposition.”

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2020/08/arbitrator-rules-against-big-bear.html [archive link]

As far as I am aware, arbitration rulings aren’t public and I don’t believe Patreon have (or are likely to) make a comment on it. So we only have Day’s less-than-reliable account of things but given the negative result I think it is safe to assume this is accurate.

Day is claiming this is just a “tactical loss” because one arbitration ruling doesn’t determine the result of the next one and there are 72 further arbitrations to go. However, given that the root issue is whether Patreon could terminate Benjamin’s Patreon account this ruling suggests that the others will go in a similar way. Arguably, the ‘re-platforming’ strategy has already failed. The original idea (as substantiated by the court documents) was that the threat of multiple brigaded arbitration claims would be such a financial disincentive to Patreon, that they would settle with Benjamin and either re-instate him or compensate him. Matters have already moved beyond that and other tech companies with arbitration clauses are now aware of this potential strategy (a strategy used for the forces of good in this example https://www.theverge.com/2020/2/12/21135474/doordash-workers-forced-arbitration-william-alsup ). That doesn’t mean Patreon may still suffer further set backs, we’ll have to wait and see.

Day remains bullish, claiming in the comments that:

“Only one claim out of five have anything to do with Owen. One out of seven for the 72 Bears. The dispute hasn’t really been about Owen’s deplatforming since they changed the terms.”

His point here being that the “bears” (the name for Owen Benjamin’s fans) arbitration claims are more to do with the changes in terms of service that Patreon introduce to side-step the zerg-rush tactic.

I’ll keep watching. Suffice to say that the triumphalism of Day’s supporters at the last update has aged badly 🙂.

Law & Virulent Nationalism: The Saga Continues

Some of Vox Day’s supporters (OK two of them) have appointed the blog as the newspaper of record on science-fiction’s most No Awarded author/editor/publisher. In particular I’ve been asked to ‘retract’ this post: https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2020/06/16/vox-days-replatforming-backfires/ but neither of them appear to have read this subsequent post: https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2020/07/14/meanwhile-in-law-virulent-nationalism/

The excitement in Day’s camp is that the tentative ruling made by the judge earlier in July (see my second post) has now been confirmed. The order denying the preliminary injunction against Owen Benjamin’s supporters attempting multiple arbitration cases against Patreon has been confirmed[1]. This isn’t much of a change since my July 14 post aside from it being less tentative and the judge has given their reasoning

The judge gives three reasons for denying the preliminary injunction:

  1. “Patreon fails to show that it will suffer any irreparable injury or interim harm if an injunction does not issue”
  2. “Patreon fails to show a reasonable likelihood of prevailing on its claims.” [the claims here being the court case rather than the arbitration]
  3. “California courts rarely grant the extraordinary relief Patreon seeks here: an injunction interfering with an ongoing contractual proceeding.”

The three reasons given have their own reasoning but they each rest on the same principle: Patreon hasn’t let the arbitration body JAMS make their own decisions on some of these questions yet.

As I said back on July 14:

“Suffice to say, that’s at least a minor win for the bad-guy’s team (not that Patreon are exactly good but they aren’t actively wishing we were all dead). Leading their case is Marc Randazza a controversial lawyer who is associated with far-right disinformation outlet InfoWars. Whatever Randazza’s ideological stance might be, he is not without some legal talent.”

https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2020/07/14/meanwhile-in-law-virulent-nationalism/

I’ll keep watching!


[1] https://webapps.sftc.org/ci/CaseInfo.dll?CaseNum=CGC20584586

Fascinating

There’s a side-topic I’m trying to avoid (badly) covering mainly because it is 80% changing the subject from the actually topic du-jour i.e. shitty behaviour by authors in SFF and comics towards other people — mainly (but not limited to) sexual harassment and sexually exploitative behaviour. I more than alluded to it in this post because of the 20% of it that isn’t changing the subject (shitty behaviour in a community and how a community should respond without itself being shitty).

This post isn’t the post that I’m not writing but just a note to myself. The note is simply* pointing at a recent Mad Genius Club post by Dave Freer: https://madgeniusclub.com/2020/06/29/a-bonfire-of-vanities/ Which is fascinating in that it clearly is inspired by the current events in the science fiction community but is very firmly centred on the 80% changing the subject aspect of it.

That is fascinating. Put another way, people who we know have been demonstrably and outspokenly hostile to well being, peace and prosperity of the science fiction community would really like to change the subject from powerful male authors (none of whom they like, indeed Myke Cole is actively hated by the Puppies) being held to account.

*[OK not “simply” because I couldn’t help editorialising.]

Back to Flint

A follow up to yesterday’s post. One rabbit-hole I had to stop myself running down was Eric Flint’s 2015 post THE DIVERGENCE BETWEEN POPULARITY AND AWARDS IN FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION. Eric Flint, often cast as the token left-winger of Baen’s stable, tread a difficult line during the Debarkle with many of his colleagues or professional collaborators (e.g. Dave Freer) very much advocating the Sad Puppy line. Flint’s overall position could be described as conceding that there was some sort of issue with the Hugo Awards but disagreeing with the tactic and rhetoric of the Sad Puppies and the underlying causes of the problem.

Flint’s diagnosis of the issue is explained in the post I linked to and can be summarised by this proposition:

“the Hugos (and other major F&SF awards) have drifted away over the past thirty years from the tastes and opinions of the mass audience”

This was not a post-hoc reaction to the Debarkle but a view he had held for several years:

Here’s the history: Back in 2007, I wound up (I can’t remember how it got started) engaging in a long email exchange with Greg Benford over the subject of SF awards. Both of us had gotten a little exasperated over the situation, which is closely tied to the issue of how often different authors get reviewed in major F&SF magazines.

[some punctuation characters have been cleaned up -CF]

Flint goes on to describes the issues he had trying to substantiate the feeling. He acknowledges that the basic issue with any simple analysis to corroborate his impression is that sales data is not readily available or tractable. He goes on to attempt to address that deficit of data in other ways. However, regardless of of his method (how much space book stores dedicate to given writers) his approach only address one part of what is actually a two part claim:

  • There is a current disparity between popularity of authors and recognition of authors in the Hugo Award.
  • Thirty years ago this was not the case (or was substantially less).

Now I have even less access to sales data than Flint and publishing has changed even further since even 2015. Nor do I have any way of travelling back to 1985 (or 1977) to compare book stores then with the Hugo Awards. Flint’s claim is far to subject to impressions and confirmation bias to really get a handle on. I could counter Flint’s more anecdotal evidence of current (at the time) big genre sellers unrecognised by the Hugo Awards with examples form 1985. An obvious one would Jean M. Auel’s whose Clan of the Cave Bear series was selling bucket load in the early 80’s and beyond (The Mammoth Hunters would have been cluttering up book stores in 1985). A more high-brow megaseller from 1985 would be Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan’s Contact, which, again, did not make into the Hugo list of finalists. Yet, these counter-examples lack bite because the Hugo’s missing a couple of books don’t demonstrate that Flint’s impression is wrong even if they help demonstrate that his evidence for the current (as of 2015 or 2007*) is weak.

However, Flint does go on to make a different kind of argument by using the example of Orson Scott Card:

“With the last figure in the group, of course,Orson Scott Card,we find ourselves in the presence of a major award-winner. Card has been nominated for sixteen Hugo awards and won four times, and he was nominated for a Nebula on nine occasions and won twice. And he was nominated for a World Fantasy Award three times and won it once.
But…
He hasn’t been nominated for a WFC in twenty years, he hasn’t been nominated for a Nebula in eighteen years, and hasn’t been nominated for a Hugo in sixteen years. And he hasn’t won any major award (for a piece of fiction) in twenty years.
This is not because his career ended twenty years ago. To the contrary, Card continues to be one of our field’s active and popular authors. What’s really happened is that the ground shifted out from under him – not as far as the public is concerned, but as far as the in-crowds are concerned. So, what you’re really seeing with Orson Scott Card’s very impressive looking track record is mostly part of the archaeology of our field, not its current situation. As we’ll see in a moment, the situation is even more extreme with Anne McCaffrey and almost as bad with George R.R. Martin.

[some punctuation characters have been cleaned up -CF]

Well this is more tractable. We can track authors over time through the Hugo Awards and we can look at what we might call ‘windows’ in which they receive awards. So that’s what I did. I grabbed list of Hugo finalists for the story categories (novel, novella, novelette, short story), put them in a big spreadsheet, cleaned up all sorts of things as per usual and went to have a look.

I’ll save a lot of the data for another post. There are two big issues with looking at the data over time. The first is that there are built in patterns to the data that show changes overtime that arise just out of the data being collected. Back in 1953 a Hugo finalist could only possibly have been nominated that once. Likewise a first time Hugo finalist in 2020 has a hard limit on the span of years between their first and last Hugo nomination.

A different issue is exemplified by this grouping of data where span of years if the difference between the first year an author was a Hugo finalist to the last year.

Span of YearsTotal
0201
1 to 576
6 to 1035
11 to 1527
16 to 2021
21 to 2517
26 to 309
31 to 357
36 to 402
fee-fi-fo-fum I smell the blood of a power-law distributi-um

More than half of the data set are one-hit wonders because everybody’s first go as a finalist is a one-hit wonder until they get their next one. That’s quite a healthy sign IMHO but I digress. 70% of the authors are in 0 to 5 year span but there a small number of authors who have large time spans of nominations. The top two being George RR Martin and Isaac Asimov (38 years and 36 years). This kind of data is not summarised well by arithmetic means.

I’ll save some of the geekier aspects for another time. Is there a shift in some of these spans recently? Maybe but both the structural issues with the data and (ironically) the Debarkle itself make it hard to spot.

What we can do though is look at specific cases and Orson Scott Card is a great example. He’s great because he undeniably fell out of favour with people by being an enormous arse and we can corroborate that externally from this data set. However! EVEN GIVEN THAT the table of groupings I posted shows us something that severely undermines Flint’s point.

Card’s Hugo span (last year as finalist minus first year as a finalist) is 14 years. That puts him in the top 14% of writers by Hugo span. Card has been very far from being short changed compared to other authors. These are his 14 year-span companions:

FinalistMin of YearMax of Year
C. M. Kornbluth19591973
Dan Simmons19902004
James Blish19561970
Joan D. Vinge19781992
Orson Scott Card19781992
Robert J. Sawyer19962010

Note that the group is from multiple decades. The broader 11-15 group includes writers like Frank Herbert, China Miéville, C. M. Kornbluth, Philip K. Dick, and John Scalzi. Now Miéville and Scalzi might still extend their span (as might Card but probably not).

Flint goes on to suggest that awards get more literary over time and maybe they do but looking at the data I think Flint is sort of seeing a phenomenon but misreading what it is.

I would suggest instead that Awards favour a sweet-spot of novelty. A work that is too out-there won’t garner enough support quickly enough to win awards. A work that is too like stuff people have seen before isn’t going to win awards either — almost by definition, if we are saying ‘this book is notable’ it has to stand out from other books. For the Sad Puppies or even the LMBPN Nebula slate, this was apparent in works that struggled to differentiate themselves from other stories in an anthology or another book in a series. Jim Butcher’s Skin Game (to pick a Debarkle example) was just another book in his long running series and not even a particularly good episode.

The same applies to some degree for authors. I am not saying John Scalzi will never win another Hugo Award but I don’t expect him to even though I think he’ll be writing good, entertaining sci-fi for many years. This is not because he’s not sufficiently left-wing for current Hugo voters but because we’ve read lots of John Scalzi now and sort of know what to expect.

A future equivalent of Eric Flint in 2036 may look back to 2006 and say “Back in the day the Hugos used to reward popular authors like John Scalzi. Look at the virtual-cyber shelf on Googlazon and you’ll see rows of Scalzi books up to his latest ‘Collapsing Old Red Shirt 23: Yogurt’s Revenge’ – why don’t the Hugo’s give him rockets any more!”**

The Hugo’s move on, it is true but they have repeatedly picked out not exactly brand new talent but authors when they are at a sweet spot of their careers. Yes some have much longer Hugo spans but they are unusual and many are the sci-fi giants of yore and others are people with long gaps between nominations.

Card actually had a good run but even without his more giant-arsehole like antics, it is very unlikely that he would have got a Hugo nomination any time soon. Note, for example, that Card has not yet been a Dragon Award finalist despite having eligible novels and despite the Dragons (championed by Flint) as supposedly addressing the popularity issue.

*[Or 2020, as I don’t think Flint has said everything is fine now.]

**[I suspect future John Scalzi will be more inventive than just rehashing his former hits but also I think he’d actually be quite brilliant at writing a parody pastiche of his own work.]