Science fiction is dead…Long live Science Fiction!

I’m still trawling the intertubes for reactions to the name change of the John W Campbell Award to the Astounding Award. To add to the list of whiners here is the opinion of the failed fantasy writer, failed science fiction editor and failed science fiction publisher Vox Day:

“It is debatable when science fiction officially died. Historians may date it to John Scalzi’s ill-fated Tor contract, to NK Jemisin’s unprecedented and unbelievably absurd three Best Novel awards in a row, or to the disappearing of one of the genre’s leading figures. But whatever the date of expiry, there can be no doubt that it has now expired.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20190828100121/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2019/08/science-fiction-is-dead.html

Because of course, history would date things to events around two people who hurt his feelings.

But yes, science fiction is dead. It’s dead like Sir Gawain’s green knight – forever having it’s head chopped and promptly picking it up and walking away.

Day confirms the Castalia retreat

I suggested a few days ago that it looked like the far-right publishing house Castalia had stopped publishing new science fiction. There was not an immediate reaction from Vox Day, the white nationalist behind the publisher. However on his blog [archive link] today he more-or-less confirms what was apparent:

“In light of the changes in the ebook market and our retreat from the Kindle Unlimited space, we’ve been making some strategic changes at Arkhaven and Castalia House. Now that we’ve successfully entered the video space, we’re concentrating our efforts on our strongest fiction and non-fiction properties, primarily because we don’t have the bandwidth to devote to everything.

This is why we’ve returned the publishing rights to their books to a number of our authors, although we continue to support them and their self-publishing efforts, and why we have methodically reduced the number of books that we are publishing. Our sales remain strong, which tends to indicate that our revised approach is a viable one.”

So what does Day mean be ‘our strongest fiction and non-fiction properties’. There are some clues.

  • We know John C Wright has at least partially been dropped or moved on.
  • We know that the core of this announcement was shifting what comic would be provided to people who had pledged to a crowd funding campaign. Day is shifting from a story by Rolf Nelson to an adaptation of one of his own books.
  • In a comment Day says: “And given some of the lessons we’ve learned, we are no longer going to push IP that we do not control into other media.” What IP does Day control? What he writes himself.

The problem with being a publishing house is you have to deal with two groups of people best avoided in business: writers and readers. Castalia’s business model also includes a third: Amazon. It sounds like Day has problems with all three. As part of the same comment I quoted above he says:

“Publishers are in a trap of sorts. If a book doesn’t sell well, the author thinks he should have self-published. If the book sells really well, the author thinks he should have self-published.”

Castalia was offering very little: minimal editing, very variable cover design and a brand name that was appealing only to a very narrow and ideologically defined base. Since 2014, the technological knowledge needed to self-publish on Amazon has become more broadly understood by authors in general. It’s still weird but there is plenty of free advice available and also mini-publishing outfits willing to provide the relevant services for better return than Castalia and without the associated stigma.

Hugosauriad 4.7: Extinction event 3 – Vox Day, Alien Strippers and Voting Reform

Of all the stories I’ve covered in this series, this chapter has the most inconsequential. A story of little merit and no lasting impact, it exists simply to mark an end-point. It’s presence on the Hugo ballot was as a doomed attempt to repeat a prank that had already badly backfired on its perpetrator.

When last we met Vox Day and the Rabid Puppies in 2016 they were being mocked as losers by a performance artist/erotic novelist famed for unfeasible book titles. We will never know whether Vox had sufficiently mindless followers that they were wasting their own money on Worldcon memberships or whether many of the Rabid Puppy votes were fake accounts. Whether sock-puppets or meat-puppets, the exercise in ballot vandalism was not cheap.

Beyond the confines of fandom though, Vox Day could enjoy the electoral victory of Donald Trump. The so-called “alt-right” was in ascendence and Vox’s brand of extreme nationalism was drawing interest by news media.

Meanwhile the Hugo Awards had changed. The Sad/Rabid Puppy success at storming the ballot in 2015 had led to voting reforms designed to limit the impact of slate voting. One was a very simple change: in the first stage nomination vote, members would continue to nominate five works per category but the set of finalists would be six works. This change would ensure that a simple slate of five works would still leave one work as a finalist which would hopefully give voters at least one non-slated work to vote for.

The other reform was a new voting method called EPH. This system involved ordering nominees by number of votes but then eliminating lower scoring nominees in pairs by comparing the number of points each nominee had. The points were based on similarities between ballots in a way that would also reduce the impact of slates without having anybody ever have to decide whether something was a slate or not.

Day reduced the number of works on the Rabid Puppy slate hoping that would result in a greater impact. Indeed, in principle EPH would even give his nominees an advantage as they would unlikely to have much in common with other voter’s set of nomination. In at least one case (Fanwriter) the Rabid Puppy nominee became a finalist on points rather than raw votes, ironically beating a blogger who had been a very vocal advocate for the wonders of EPH (and who has a passing resemblance to the person writing this).

In the Best Novelette Category there were six finalists, five of which were non-Rabid nominees. The sixth was Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex, by Stix Hiscock. It doesn’t really need explaining that this was an attempt to try to make the same joke again after the previous attempt had headed off in to its own tingelverse.

Stix Hiscock was a pseudonym of course but at least one media outlet managed to interview her:

“”Alien Stripper was written as a lark,” Hiscock said. “I actually think it’s quite good, and published it not expecting anything to come of it. I just wanted to add shock and a little comedy to people’s day. Plus, making the cover was incredibly rewarding.”

https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2017/04/meet-the-hugo-nominated-author-of-alien-stripper-boned-from-behind-by-the-t-rex/

The cover of the book does not quite match the contents. The stripper in the story is a green alien woman with three breasts who crash landed on Earth. She has taken up stripping to earn money to repair her space ship. The stripper partly shown on the cover isn’t green and appears to have only two breasts. Five minutes in photoshop with the hue-saturation settings and the clone tool and both those issues could have been rectified but perhaps I’m asking too much of disposable ebooks.

There are flashes of comedy in the story but you have to pick through the bits about laser nipples.

“The man turned to Tyrone, his hand still on me, smoldering. “Well now, I don’t think this is any of your goddamn business, now is it you fucking large theropod? Is it true you people only have a brain the size of a walnut? That’s what I fucking heard…” “You’re thinking of stegosauruses, buddy, and some of my best friends back in the day happened to be stegosauruses…” This he said through gritted teeth, and I tried to back away, knowing what was coming, seeing it in his eyes, but the man’s grip continued to tighten around me like a vice.

Hiscock, Stix. Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex . Stix Hiscock. Kindle Edition.

Or this moment later in the book where the two characters are sharing photos of their former loved ones:

“What happened to her?” I asked, walking on eggshells here, knowing it was likely a sensitive subject for him, yet I nonetheless felt as though I needed desperately to know. “A, um… A meteor got her… And my family… And friends… My neighbors… My church group… My dentist… My weed dealer… Pretty much everyone I knew, actually…” “Oh… God…” I said, feeling as though I’d just touched on a very bad subject that I shouldn’t have. “Yeah… It was a pretty shitty week,” said Tyrone, shrugging, and we continued in silence for a while. Eventually, just to put an end to the oppressive quietness and get his mind off of the mass extinction of everyone he knew and loved, I reached into my purse and pulled out a photograph of my own. “This is Charlie,” I said, and Tyrone lifted the picture to his eyes, studying it closely. Charlie was a tentacle monster, and pretty much just looked like a living bowl of spaghetti

Hiscock, Stix. Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex . Stix Hiscock. Kindle Edition.

And that’s about it for the story.

Porn and science fiction aren’t so very far apart. They both have sides with literary aspirations (in the case of porn, ‘erotica’) and both have histories in disposable literature. Science fiction writers such as Robert Silverberg have written softcore pornography to maintain an income. I don’t think Ray Bradbury ever wrote any porn as such but he was the subject of comedian Rachel Bloom’s sexually explicit song “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury” – itself a Hugo Award finalist in 2011. Fans and fandom are not easily shocked or perhaps they are easily shocked but not simply by verbal descriptions of sex.

Of the 2,057 votes cast in the Novelette category only 45 went to Alien Stripper which was eliminated in the first round having been beaten by No Award by 31 votes. In the end the erotic tale of dino-romance would finish seventh out of six, which is an impressive result in some ways. Notably the story got fewer votes in the finalist ballot (45) than it did in the nomination stage (77). Members of the previous Worldcon have nomination rights in the Hugos for the next Worldcon. The drop in votes indicated that the number of Rabid Puppy members of Worldcon had declined even further in the previous months.

The Hugo Awards had met their end of an epoch extinction event and…had adapted and survived.

Next time: The rise of Uncanny and “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat”

Gamergate and Sad Puppies? Same ‘crusaders’, same song, different industry.

Good grief, for people who say they hated the Soviet Union, the Sad Puppies sure do love to re-write history and love to selectively delete former allies from the official account. I’ve known literal Stalinist with a firmer grasp of historical integrity.

https://web.archive.org/web/20190823101846/https://www.facebook.com/larry.correia/posts/3180880598589514

Yes, it’s that time of the year, post-Hugo Awards, when yet another version of Sad Puppy history is pulled out of the garage for a test drive and amid the smoke and fumes of distraction it’s time to say ‘wait…that’s not what happened’.

The proximate cause is this piece by Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing in defence of Jeannette Ng’s Campbell speech: https://boingboing.net/2019/08/20/needed-saying.html Ng’s speech has unsurprisingly upset the former Sad Puppies who see themselves very much in the Campbellian tradition. Ironically, the more overtly fascist Rabid Puppy wing couldn’t give a shit because Campbell was far too modern in his aesthetic tastes. Both Brad Torgersen and Larry Correia have leapt to Campbell’s defence…except without actually considering WHY Ng was calling him a fascist.

Here is Larry:

“Apparently we were a bunch of secret “White Nationalists” all along, who’d been keeping women and minorities out of publishing, but then we rose up, but they defeated us, but then we went on to start GamerGate, and then get Trump elected… “

Larry Correia, Facebook

Here is what Cory Doctorow wrote:

” It’s not a coincidence that one of the first organized manifestation of white nationalism as a cultural phenomenon was within fandom, and while fandom came together to firmly repudiate its white nationalist wing, these assholes weren’t (all) entryists who showed up to stir trouble in someone else’s community. The call (to hijack the Hugo award) was coming from inside the house: these guys had been around forever, and we’d let them get away with it, in the name of “tolerance” even as these guys were chasing women, queer people, and racialized people out of the field. Those same Nazis went on to join Gamergate, then take up on /r/The_Donald, and they were part of the vanguard of the movement that put a boorish, white supremacist grifter into the White House. “

Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

Larry really isn’t happy about that description and treats it as specifically applying to the him and the Sad Puppy movement. He not only ignores but completely erases from his response the existence of Vox Day and the Rabid Puppies.

Is Vox a white nationalist? He quibbles about the label but yes, he is an extreme nationalist, he includes overt white supremacist rhetoric in his manifestos and expressly believes that the United States was established to be a white (specifically white British, possibly even only ethnically English) nation.

Was Vox involved in GamerGate? Yes, very prominently. He may exaggerate his influence in the movement but yes, he was very much aligned with the rightwing harassment movement. Did Vox also jump on the /r/Donald support of Trump? Yes, he promoted the same rhetoric and yes, Vox Day was an active support of Trump’s nomination and the more extreme aspects of his agenda – specifically where Trump’s agenda accords with White Nationalism.

Ah, but, you see Larry isn’t Vox! True, true but if Larry isn’t Vox then why, given the outsized role of Vox Day in the events of 2015 does Larry assume any and all references to White Nationalism are aimed at him rather than Vox? People came together in 2015 to stop Vox Day more than anything and yet, any attack on Vox’s agenda saw leaders of the Sad Puppies stepping in and saying that they were being attacked. And here we are, years later and Larry is still doing that.

Cory Doctorow is 100% factually correct. There was a 2015 white nationalist campaign centred on the Hugo Awards. Some people stood up against it and somebody didn’t. What we can say about the Sad Puppies is that 1. they did not stand up against that white nationalist campaign and 2. they expressly allied themselves with that campaign while stating they were different.

Larry goes onto say:

“Hell, something like 75% of us didn’t really like Trump, half of those voted for him because they lived in swing states and Hillary is the lizard queen, and the rest voted for ice cream. A bunch of us weren’t white or males, and at no point in time did any of us give a crap. Not all of us were Americans so the nationalism thing is just dippy.”

It is true that many of the core leaders have expressed dislike for Trump. Several went on to vocally support him though. Larry’s own expression of dislike for Trump when he received the Republican nomination was explicitly because he believed that he was 1. unelectable (and hence would let Clinton in) and 2. unreliable & possibly enact leftist policies. At no point then and at no point since has Larry expressed opposition to the white nationalist elements of the Trump government (such Gorka or Miller to pick the easy targets) or the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Trump government or just the plain-old mismanagement and unpartisan incompetence of the Trump government. Again, Larry’s position is anti-left and whether he likes Trump or not he consistently attacks those who attack Trump.

I do not believe Larry is a white nationalist ideologically but he is happy to attack their enemies. He is not in any way meaningfully opposed to the current white nationalist movements in the USA and has explicitly aligned himself with them.

Not all the Puppies are American so the nationalism (presumably US nationalism) is dippy. This is true. The US style nationalism of the Sad Puppy movement is particularly dippy from the non-American Sad Puppy spokes-people such as Dave Freer (to pick the most prominent example). That the Sad Puppies have weird and inconsistent beliefs is not an argument that they don’t have those beliefs.

And let’s circle back to GamerGate. I pointed out that Vox Day was a supporter of GamerGate. However, Larry’s connection is much simpler. He was and remains a supporter of the online mob and harassment campaign known as GamerGate. He has been vocal in support of GamerGate and sought support from GamerGate and has supported notable figures such as Milo Yianopoulis and Adam Baldwin – the second one he regards as a friend. Heck, back in 2015 he mocked people for pointing out his Gamergate connections as if they weren’t a surprise.

True, Sad Puppies itself wasn’t GamerGate and GamerGate wasn’t an offshoot of GamerGate but the overlap was hardly trivial. Even ignoring Vox Day, Doctorow pointing out the connection is correct. Sad Puppies and GamerGate were part of the same anti-free speech, anti-left movement that aimed to silence leftist, progressive and diverse voices in different aspects of popular culture. As Larry Correia said at the time:

“We do share some common members, but enemy of my enemy is my friend, and both movements can’t stand Social Justice bullies telling people they are having wrongfun.”

http://monsterhunternation.com/2015/04/06/a-letter-to-the-smofs-moderates-and-fence-sitters-from-the-author-who-started-sad-puppies/

Oh, yes I know that calling Correia et al “anti-free speech” sounds like an attempt to wind him up but 1. he doesn’t need winding up and 2. it is literally true. The objective of both movements was to shut people up.

“Oh, quick note moderates and SMOFs, if you don’t want GamerGate to get involved in the Hugos, don’t blame me. Tell your Social Justice idiots to shut up on Twitter! “

ibid

Larry has had no issues with aligning him and the Sad Puppies as movement of the same kind and with aligned objectives as Gamergate in the past at all.

“This is one reason I’ve been enjoying the hell out of GamerGate. First, it has been awesome having a great big group of people witness the same bullshit that my industry has been dealing with for years. Second, SF/F people tend to be squishy and polite, with a handful of outspoken outliers like me and the rest of the Evil League of Evil, so SJWs have run roughshod over my industry… But gamers? Holy shit. You really think you can pick a fight with people whose brains are programmed to win? Gamers will outlast, outthink, and outfight the SJWs. Tell a Gamer that there is loot or XP in it, and he’ll grind SJWs to the grave.”

http://monsterhunternation.com/2014/11/10/sjw-cannibal-feeding-frenzy/

Or if you prefer:

“I’ve never gotten into GamerGate here on the blog, but basically Anita Sarkeesian is a professional victim, Social Justice Warrior, who thinks you are enjoying yourself wrong, and if you disagree you are a racist, homophobic, misogynist. If you are a regular blog reader who followed Sad Puppies at all, same thing, same crusaders, same song, different industry.

http://monsterhunternation.com/2014/10/21/fisking-the-deseret-news-anti-ccw-article/

Weird, back in 2014 he was delighted to see his first Sad Puppy campiagn as a precursor to the harassment campaign his friend Adam Baldwin christened “GamerGate”. In 2019 it is apparently now absurd for Cory Doctorow to see the two things as being related.

Gamergate and Sad Puppies? Same ‘crusaders’, same song, different industry. Which was the point Cory Doctorow made and which in 2014 was Larry Correia’s point also.

Castalia House has stopped publishing new science fiction

Did they ever start? <- OK we got that joke over quickly. Now I don’t have an announcement from Vox Day or the Castalia House blog to back this up but the outfit that Day was claimed would overtake Tor Books soon has pretty much dried up completely.

The last blog post at Castalia’s blog leading with “Castalia New Release” was in November 2018 and was Day’s non-fiction riposte to Jordan Peterson. ISFDB has only one entry for Castalia in 2018 (Nick Cole’s republished Soda Pop Soldier) and while I know they are missing some titles (e.g. Cole’s sequel to that book from 2018), it is a sharp contrast from 2014-2017.

John C Wright’s “Nowither: The Drowned World” was published in 2019 but the series has shifted from Castalia to Superversive Press. Newer writer Kai Weah Cheah published a sequel with Castalia early in 2018 but his more recent books have been with Russell Newquist’s Silver Empire.

I may be wrong but I think the most recent book of any kind (other than comics) Castalia has published is the latest in its series on composting & gardening (https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/45728752 )

This maybe connected to the problems it had with Amazon earlier in the year (http://voxday.blogspot.com/2019/01/amazon-takes-down-castalia-house.html ) but it looks to me that they just aren’t offering much to authors other than a name with a dubious brand. Maybe the biggest little sf publisher you’ve never heard of tripped over its own jackboots.

A not-actually-a-paper has the Right excited about global warming denial again

One of my favourite topics is the methodical destruction of our planet’s climatic status-quo by our fun habit of burning the deep past for larks aka Global Warming. As a reminder, global warming currently looks like this*:

UAH satellite temps – not because they are the best record but just because they avoid two thoughtless arguments

The 1990s argument of ‘we need more research is dead, the 2000s ‘pause’ argument is dead. It’s getting hotter and anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are definitely the cause.

One lingering hypothesis is Henrik Svensmark’s comsic-rays versus cloud cover theory (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henrik_Svensmark#Galactic_Cosmic_Rays_vs_Cloud_Cover ). It doesn’t work and the evidence is against it but the mills of denial keep coming back to it because cloud cover is hard to model. So there’s always some mileage to obstuficate the question by waving your hands at clouds.

Enter a new ‘paper’ with the clickbait title “No experimental evidence for the significant anthropogenic climate change”. The paper isn’t about experiments or experimental data and doesn’t back up that title. Instead it is an unreviewed discussion of some modelling that’s available on the open access arXiv.org: https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.00165

The paper points to a relationship between temperature and cloud cover (fewer clouds ~ warmer temperatures) asserts that it is the changes in clouds cover that is driving changes in temperature (rather than vice versa or a complex mix of both) and that if clouds change temperature following their model then they can account for all the increase in warmth.

Except, that then leaves a massive hole in why the anthropogenic gases aren’t leading to warming as well, never mind why cloud cover should be changing in this way.

It would be uninteresting, except the usual suspects have got very excited about it because it looks sciencey. Russia Today published this article: https://www.rt.com/news/464051-finnish-study-no-evidence-warming/ and from there the story was picked up by braniacs such Paul Joseph Watson, Stefan Molyneux and, of course, our old pal Vox Day.