An interesting Dragon Award reaction

On Facebook (sorry don’t have a link, this is sort of second hand) Brad Torgersen is quite rightly pleased with his Dragon Award nomination. It’s a good year to be a finalist precisely because the finalist are more substantial than previous years. He also thanked a group of fellow finalists and posted a picture of the books from the ballot.

I assume we can add Brad’s name to that list. Not a Puppy slate but interesting to see how the ballot looks from that in-group perspective.

Today’s right wing author meltdown…

Michael Z Williamson is very upset that Wikipedia is discussing deleting his page:http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/blog/index.php?itemid=502 .

I’ve some sympathy, mainly because I often write about obscure right wing authors and being able to point to a Wikipedia page is handy. However, the Articles for Deletion page [wiki, archive] makes some strong arguments: specifically the article doesn’t establish his notability with third party sources.

Rather than address those issues, the deletion argument is getting swamped by really bad arguments, presumably from Williamson fans egged on by Williamson via his multiple Facebook accounts. A moments thought would have indicated that trying to brigade Wikipedia into keeping an article by throwing the standard paranoid line of ‘politics, bias!’ would be counterproductive. There are few people sensibly trying to offer suggestions of sources for notability who are getting swamped by really poor arguments by obvious partisans.

Meanwhile, Jon Del Arroz has waded in with his usual journalistic standards:

“Now, years later, big tech is taking its revenge on Michael as they’ve deleted his wikipedia page. The excuse is his relation to “sad puppies” — which goes back to a group that was trying to bring the Hugo Awards back to sanity several years ago.”

http://delarroz.com/2019/07/22/bestselling-author-michael-z-williamson-erased-from-history-over-politics/#comments

At this point his page hasn’t been deleted [it was briefly and restored] and ‘Sad Puppies’ hasn’t been offered as an excuse (it has been mentioned as a place his entry could be redirected to).

‘But wait!’ I hear myself say rhetorically ‘Don’t all the right read Voxopedia these days instead?’ Apparently not.

Libertarian Embraces the Authoritarianism (again…)

Which in principle should be shocking news but we are up to who knows how many entries now in documented cases of supposed libertarians embracing the ideas and principles of the authoritarian right.

This time we have Donald Trump using the rhetoric of the overt racist https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/15/donald-trump-congresswomen-republicans-ocasio-cortez-tlaib-pressley-omar demanding that “If you’re not happy here, then you can leave” and “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime[-]infested places from which they came”.

This shouldn’t be a tricky one and it should be a simple matter to see that whatever your political views are (short of overt racism and ethnic nationalism) that a president that demands ideological tests of who gets to live in America is very, very bad news. In this case, attacking undisputedly American citizens as somehow being un-genuine, demonstrates exactly how the rhetoric against “illegals” is the thin of a wedge of political oppression. First strip “foreigners” of their rights and then decide by fiat who is and isn’t a “foreigner”. You shouldn’t even have to like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, or Ilhan Omar or agree with their views to see that this is a very, very dangerous turn for US politics.

If you are a regular reader then you will probably already have guessed which science-fiction writer has jumped in feet first to support Trump’s statement: Sarah Hoyt. Hoyt is an American and an immigrant to America, however she feels her bona-fides are stronger than the above four women because she thinks the right thoughts. She finishes her opening thoughts with “Fit in or Fck off. I’ll help you pack your bags. – SAH

Yup, the message of supposed libertarians and free-speech absolutists in the era of Trump is think-the-right-thoughts-or-leave. Short of literally using the term “thought crime” is couldn’t be a clearer endorsement of authoritarianism.

To be clear, this streak within libertarianism has always been there. The idea that effectively left wing politics should be forbidden from government has always been implied but in the past, they danced around the implications of how they would stop people electing left wing governments. What has been less obvious from the rhetoric but manifest in their practice, is how the sanctity of free speech was something that is used very selectively for the far right. Yes, it is turkeys voting for Christmas but it always has been.

SF Authors and Violence Against Nazis

Assorted ex-Puppies and Scrappy Doos remain in a self-sustaining tizz about anybody hinting at violence towards the far-right. Here’s our old chum Chris Chupik at Mad Genius Club:

https://madgeniusclub.com/2019/07/06/constant-scrutiny/#comment-130126

And in a more rambling and confused melange of semi-untruths, Jon Del Arroz has a piece here [archive link].

I have to concede that science fiction/fantasy authors proposing extreme violence towards Nazis is not uncommon. Indeed, Del Arroz and Chupik are considering only a relatively minor example. It’s my duty to point them towards even more extreme examples of this trend. Consider this statement where a SFF author reveals that they considered literally cutting a section of skin off a Nazi sympathisers face:

“I’m all about shooting Nazis in the face. I had an incident earlier this year where I had to physically leave a place because there was a guy there with a swastika tattooed on his face and it was taking too much of my self-control not to draw my Benchmade and cut it off. ”

Gosh! I guess they’ll have to add that author to their list of “evil” people. Who was it again? Some guy called “Larry Correia” [archive link]

Also, I think my internet service has had an update or maybe its a new browser extension or something because I seem to be able to actually smell hypocrisy across the internet now.

I Guess I’m Talking About John Scalzi Today

I woke up to find Twitter aflame with people discussing a column in the fanzine Beam that opens with: “So fuck John Scalzi anyway.”

There is a link in this tweet from the man himself where he replies.

There are also some interesting responses on Twitter from Kameron Hurley and Alexandra Erin.

The gist of the piece is simple. The character of the Best Fan Writer category has changed and the writer (Ulrika O’Brien) blames John Scalzi. It’s not a great piece but it is better than it sounds but not by much. The worst aspects are the histrionic claims (“The Hugos are broken, probably permanently and irretrievably.”) and placing all the blame on one person (the aforementioned Mr Scalzi) and the dismissive tone of the choices of voters and often the voters themselves.

It has some merit as a piece that attempts to look at the changing character of a set of awards. That’s interesting and it is probably interesting to a number of people who read this blog who, prior to Puppy shenanigans, were less invested in the Hugo Awards qua Hugo Awards — including myself. Actually, particularly myself on reflection. As the piece says:

“Going from not knowing what a Best Fan Writer is to having a Hugo for it in 18 months is no mean feat. Going from not being a part of fandom in any way (Scalzi marks his entry into fandom to a Detroit convention in
2005), to having a Hugo for fanac in three years, is incredible. Literally.”

I somewhat resemble that remark, having gone from NOT EXISTING as any kind of presence at the start of 2015 to being a Hugo Finalist for Fan Writer in 2018. I’m part of what the writer sees as the problem described as:

“When I do see it, I increasingly find a bunch of total strangers who’ve not visibly participated in fandom, and I see red all over again. I will inevitably be told that the failing is in me, that were I to educate myself, I would discover their merit. As often as not, whatever merit is involved, what I actually discover are more neo-pros doing nothing remotely to do with fandom as we know it, or if they do, only in pursuit of making money off us.”

As I’ve discussed in previous posts on fan writing, there’s certainly many people being nominated for work that is in various ways paid for. Having said that, there’s plenty that isn’t nor was John Scalzi’s blog itself a money making venture (except in the more general marketing sense.)

Taking two steps back and looking at the bigger picture and the actual societal changes occuring in the relevant time period, what do we see? Nothing mysterious and nothing secretly controlled by John Scalzi but rather the increasing and inevitable online nature of fandom, along with generational change. The period of 2000 to 2020, was always going to be one in which fandom would have the kind of generational change that fandom is always having because people get older and people from a younger generation become more influential. To use tired generational-terms, a shift from Baby Boomers to Gen-X with (now) more Millennials (and younger).

The accompanying shift was technological with blogs, blogging networks (particularly Live Journal at one point), social media platforms and commerical pop-culture media sites changing where fan-related discourse was happening. This was a cross-generational change (e.g. GRRM’s Live Journal or how influential Mike Glyer’s File770 fanzine-turned-blog became during the Puppy Debarkle).

The more interesting claim is that John Scalzi is to blame for the Puppy Debarkle itself:

“But perhaps most memorably for many, 2015 was the first Year of the Puppies. The combined efforts of the Sad and Rabid Puppies managed to get their slates solidly wedged onto the short list of many categories, including literary and media ones, leading to much public outrage in the months leading up to the convention, and to a rhythmic tattoo of Hugos going to “No Award,” during the awards presentation. And the audience applauded. Our highest honors were so badly broken that category after category went unawarded, and the fans applauded. Thanks Scalzi. Fuck you.

Yeah, Scalzi. Because beyond distorting the fan categories beyond all recognition, John Scalzi opened the door for anyone who was paying attention and willing to do the leg work to rewrite any Hugo to their own preference. Looking at an award category, deciding that the people currently winning it don’t deserve to, examining the rules to see if they explicitly forbid what you want to do, and then mounting a blog-based campaign to circumvent the spirit of the award by recruiting a bunch of fan-cultural outsiders who never previously nominated or voted in that category to do so – does that sound at all like a familiar pattern? And make no mistake, Scalzi’s blog had plenty of Puppy-leaning types paying attention to it. The incomprehensible, but much repeated favorable comparison of John Scalzi’s debut novel, Old Man’s War, to the work of Robert Heinlein pretty well assured that the Randroids and the pseudo-libertarian ammosexuals would be there in droves.”

Like most of the column, the charge is histrionic and ignores so many other dynamics. Also, Scalzi didn’t open any door. The door was already open, he just walked through it. The only way that never would have occurred would have been if Worldcon and the Hugo Awards had simply dwindled into irrelevance, ignored by new generations of people and a fannish discourse that had expanded into new arenas*.

Having said all that, as a self-appointed student of the Hugo Debarkle, the role of John Scalzi and his Whatever blog can’t be ignored. Go back to the years prior to the Puppy revolt we don’t need to speculate about any nexus between future Puppies and the influence of the blog because we can watch Brad Torgersen (Sad Puppy 2ic) being Brad in the comment section, along with various other notable characters in the performance that would follow. I can’t see anything in those years for which John Scalzi deserves moral blame for though. He was (is) a succesful author who was also keen to engage with fandom when he discovered its delights. That’s hardly a new path. The fan-writer to pro-writer path anything new for the Hugos, something Robert Silverberg reminded people of last year.

There is a broader point to the column. Are the fan categories rewarding fan-works or are they acting a second-tier aspiring pro categories? Firstly, accept there’s never going to be a clear distinction. Secondly, changing the rules is NOT mysterious nor unachievable! Rather than a futile exercise in lambasting John Scalzi (and let’s face it, he’s weathered plenty of lambasting over the years) consider what kinds of things the fan categories SHOULD reward and think about how FUNCTIONALLY they can be defined in our new more inter-connected world.

The question is what fan-writing should be and how it should be celebrated. Which is an interesting one and it is one in which it is worth noting John Scalzi not as John Scalzi the author but John Scalzi the guy who is and was heavily engaged in fandom as it is now.

*[NOTE: I’m not saying existing or former arenas of fannish discourse are irrelevant or inferior, just that other arenas now exist]

Just a little bit of Puppy history

Well this looks like a well deserved announcement:

“Tom Doherty Associates is pleased to announce (and, you know, Tor.com is not unbiased here!) that effective immediately, Irene Gallo is promoted to Vice President, Publisher of Tor.com! In this newly created role, Irene will be fully dedicated to the Tor.com website and imprint.”

https://www.tor.com/2019/06/20/irene-gallo-promoted-to-vice-president-publisher-of-tor-com/

Good for her and well deserved given the range and quality of Tor.com output over the past few years.

Of course, the announcement can’t help but echo here because of one of the uglier parts of the 2015 Sad Puppy campaign which included an attempt by several people connected with that campaign to attack Irene Gallo by launching a boycott of Tor books. (see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/what-about-that-tor-boycott-thing/ and more recently https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2019/02/17/back-to-the-revised-history-of-a-debarkle/)

As I said more than once, the whole thing had a dramatic entrance but lacked any kind of distinct end. I guess Puppy-related people still aren’t buying Tor books and I guess nobody cares. Here’s a graph from Google Trends that shows the rapid rise and fall in interest in the topic:

https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=2014-01-01%202019-06-21&q=%22Tor%20boycott%22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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