There is a bit in the second season of the Good Place in which Chidi (a dead professor of moral philosophy) realises that the only way he can make progress teaching an eternal being about human ethics is if said being can gain some insight into the possibility of their own mortality.
Watching the SF right grapple with their own theories of aesthetics and popular media can be a bit like that. You get hints at the underlying vulnerabilities of thought that you don’t when you look at national politics. The political discussion is now so many layers deep in bad faith that no claim, principle or supposed viewpoint can be trusted to reflect underlying beliefs. So sometimes you can see the wheels in action and genuine trains of thought.
So here is Anthony M at Superversive struggling with an insight:
“My experience leads me to believe there are three types of media: Media where my opinion stays fairly firm, media that I like more on a rewatch/re-read, and media I like less on a rewatch/re-read. The first category makes up the majority of my media. The second category is relatively small; off the top of my head it includes one or two books, “Guardians of the Galaxy”, a couple of Miyazaki films, and the original Star Wars (retroactively titled “A New Hope”). All of these I thought were merely okay originally but liked more on a rewatch.
The last category was originally a small one, but over time I’ve noticed it grow larger and larger, to the point where I’ve started checking my first responses to things. It includes “The Force Awakens”. It includes all three Peter Jackson “Lord of the Rings” films. It includes the show “Gravity Falls”. It includes the show “Jessica Jones”. All of these are things I liked, even loved, at one point in time but as I’ve looked back at them have noticed more and more flaws, occasionally to the point that I can’t even re-watch them – particularly in the cases of “The Force Awakens” and “Jessica Jones”. And they’re only a few examples!” http://www.superversivesf.com/2017/12/15/the-wall-of-cards/
…but he goes on to conclude that it must be something wrong with the modern world.
I’ve noticed some similar things to Anthony M but also I’ve noticed:
- Things in my visual area don’t always focus as easily as they used to.
- Stairs take longer for me to run up.
- There must be something wacky going on with gravity because my whole body is more attracted to the ground than it used to be and also my skin is sagging…
What’s going on in the world!
It isn’t that it is irrational to think modern popular culture might be inferior in some way but rather that he doesn’t even consider the other possibility.
You age. The impact that new cultural objects have on you becomes less. The worrying, disturbing change in the world is many things, but that particularly hard to grasp, hard to pinpoint feel of impending something is our own mortality.
McEdifice Returns – A Novel
By Timothy ‘America’s Greatest Living Cat of Letters’ the Talking Cat and Straw ‘My Friends Totally Told Me they Nominated Me for Pulizer’ Puppy.
Good evening dear readers, it is I, Timothy the Talking Cat. For each journey there is a destination and for each destination there is a journey and in each journey before one reaches that destination there comes a point where that destination, though not reached, becomes manifest in the course of the journey – when one apprehends that the drawing near of the destination and hence the end of the journey is approaching. Dear readers, you have followed our tale thus far and the chapter before you is NOT the end of our journey but merely a harbinger of the end. I shall let Straw Puppy explain…
Good evening dear readers, it is I, Straw Pups, currently wondering what a hair-binger is? Somebody who binges on hair? Reader, close your eyes and listen to my voice! Imagine a blood red sky, a wind blowing across a lake of blood that sounds half like a howl of pain and half like a moan of ecstasy. Around you are gothic spires, semi-ruined cathedrals, haunted castles perched precariously on cliff edges, frightened unkempt villages, ghastly space ports occupied by coffin shaped shuttle rockets, administrative buildings shaped like, um, um, spooky office buildings, bodies impaled on spikes, spikes impaled on bodies. Oh the whole place is blood and scary but also kind of sexy but not in away that is too kinky because we’d like the movie version to be rated PG-13(US)/12(UK)/M(Aus) – we can probably fine tune it by adding some swear words if it gets too close to PG (which would be just lame). Anyhoo, it is your imagination so you can make it as freaky as you like just don’t tell Timothy as he can get a bit squeamish.
DRACULON 6! The Vampire Planet! Yes, you heard me right! It is a planet FULL of vampires! Permanent cloud cover from its blood red clouds means that the vampires had no need to fear the caustic beams of the local sun. Surrounded by vampire friendly architecture and like, just LOADS of crypts and spooky places! The only non-vampires? Frightened villages, kept alive purely for sport! You think you would last FIVE MINUTES in this place? No way, José!
- ScanScan – the dancing photocopier man. His powers: interdimensional travel, Bolshoi level classical ballet dancing, can print, scan, photocopy and fax in a wide range of standard paper sizes including international A series A5 to A2, B series and US standards. Combat role: Transport and evac.
- Qzrrzxxzq – alien anthropologist, glamorous Director of Post-planning Process at Spindle, Spindle and Gatefold and reservist in her home planet’s special forces. Her powers: qualitative research and academic writing in the humanities, business administration, some kind of freaky alien Krav-Maga like fighting style. Combat role: intelligence and field support.
- Chiseled McEdifice – Veteran Space Marine, detective and vampire hunt, former leader of Darkshadow Detective Agency/Psychic SWAT Mercenaries. Powers: awesome at everything. Combat role: KICKING VAMPIRE ASS.
That was the team and here they were on Draculon 6 with no weapons and no backup and ONE mission: to find out what the flipping heck was going on!
“Here is the plan,” said McEdifice commandingly, “ScanScan you stay bunkered down here in this empty crypt where we are currently hiding and which we already secured and which is vampire free and which we have already ascertained isn’t currently being used by vampires.”
“Ready to accept next job!” said ScanScan obligingly, he eyes lingering softly and McEdifices firm muscles.
“Good man! Qzrrzxxzq, I need you to stay with ScanScan. He is our only route out of here and I need somebody I can trust to watch his six.”
“Damn it, McEdifice, you can’t do this alone!” said Qzrrzxxzq, “but I can’t abandon ScanScan!”
“Trust me Qzrrzxxzq, it is better this way. I can move quickly and silently and ScanScan needs his toner cartridge replacing. He can’t walk the distance needed!” explained McEdifice.
With that, McEdifice stepped out of the crypt.
“Please replace toner cartridge.” said ScanScan mournfully.
“I feel the same way,” said Qzrrzxxzq with a sigh.
Despite the fractured tombstones, impaling stakes, and writhing dead bodies, the going was smooth and McEdifice made quick time. His target was a massive central command cathedral that set amid a inch-deep lake of mirror like blood. McEdifice’s finely tuned vampire hunting sense told him that this was the epicenter of all Space Vampire activity. Vampire HQ if you will.
His mission was simple. Infiltrate the HQ. Gather intel. Kill any vampires that got in his way.
The great gates to the entrance of the cathedral stood open. Here on Draculon 6, the space vampires had no need for guards!
cat puppy like reflexes, he snuck into the cathedral, his sense tingling with the scent of vampire spoors. With his bare hands he pulled the legs of a near by stool and quickly fashioned them into razor sharp anti-vampire stakes – one for each hand and one spare (it was a three-legged stool rather than a four-legged stool which I think I’d call a chair rather than a stool I guess. I think a stool has three legs by definition).
Suddenly the massive cathedral doors closed with a clang! Around him the cathedral cloisters echoed with the laughter of hundreds of SPACE VAMPIRES.
Oh my gosh! It was a trap!
One very dapper vampire stepped out from behind a profaned altar.
“Welcome, Chiseled McEdifice, we’ve been expecting you!” said the vampire.
McEdifice said nothing but tightened his grip on the stakes.
“And by ‘we’ I mean your old friends – The TREERAT GANG!” laughed the vampire.
From out of the nave stepped the members of the Treerat Gang, still in the space army uniforms but now in a sort of more punk-sexy sort of way because they were obviously all now vampires.
“So it was the Treerat Gang who was behind all this all along.” said McEdifice still pretty damn cross at them for the following reasons:
- Shooting at his head
- Killing Chuck the Pony (don’t worry he isn’t really dead)
- Sabotaging Simon the Bicycle (sadly Simon is definitely dead)
- Putting hallucinogenic drugs on the handlebars of the Simon
- Being all round bad people
“Oh no,” said a different voice. Out from the shadows stepped Commander Clench of Intergalactic Space Navy Marine Corp.
“Commander Clench, my old nemesis!” said McEdifice, “So you turned traitor and vampire. Despite everything I thought you had more integrity than that! It was you behind this all along.”
“Hmm,” said Commander Clench, holding something behind his back, “No to all of those point, I don’t have more integrity, I’m not a traitor, I haven’t turned vampire and I wasn’t behind this all along. No, you see, delivering you to the Space Vampires was part of my officially sanctioned mission by the Galactic Government to broker a peace treaty. The supreme leader of the Space Vampires wanted just one thing – you and they knew exactly how to get you here and what your weakness was. Hmm, I should have guessed it was hippies.”
“But who? Who is this monster manipulating events!” shouted McEdifice looking around for some super-duper chief vampire.
“Who? Oh, McEdifice, she is right here!” and with that Commander Clench revealed what he was holding – a funeral urn!
“No! It can’t be!” sobbed McEdifice, “She went missing in McEdifice & Darkshadow Detective Agency/Psychic SWAT Mercenaries (MDDAPSWATM) Book 7: Crisis on the Space Orient Express!”
“Oh but it is!” said a spooky voice echoing from the urn, “It is I, Betsy, the demonically possessed funeral urn of your ex-wife! I have done all this to reclaim you to be my king! Chiseled McEdifice – King of the Space Vampires!”
I’m increasingly glad I coined some sort of term for the post-Sad Puppy self-promotion via internet feuding culture. Recently I saw some weird aspects of it (see here) but yesterday it took on an even nastier tone with SuperversiveSF’s twitter account (and one other) harassing writer K. Tempest Bradford.
There is a stark contrast here. The recent bizarre attacks thrown at Mike Glyer and then at me where overheated and made little sense and then descended into conspiracy theories but were largely laughable. However, note that when the target was a black woman writer the attacks quickly focused on sex, sexuality and her ethnicity and were more personal and much nastier. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised in 2017 that the misogyny and racism quickly becomes overt but I’m still saddened by it.
I don’t want to tell people how to react if you become embroiled in a Scrappy-Doo campaign. Mute/Block is one approach, ignoring it is another, responding is another – but people know this already. I guess I’m just trying to point this out as a general warning that there is a current uptick in such activity.
Sometimes there are simple solutions to complex problems.
Recently I received some initially puzzling tweets from an author I’ve had little interaction with. Richard Paolinelli has been mentioned on this blog on a few occasions but literally only in the context of who was being nominated and/or a finalist for the Dragon Awards – if I’ve mentioned him on any other occasion I can’t find it.
For those who follow File 770, you’ll know the reason is because of a separate feud the guy is having with Mike Glyer (item 10 here http://file770.com/?p=38849 ) but I didn’t get that initially, so it was a bit out of the blue…
Anyway, at least that three act drama was over, I thought but no.
Today, waiting for me in my notifications was this:
Here is somebody who has preemptively muted me on Twitter but who clearly wants to interact. But what is it that I can do for him? The clue is in the message.
The book genuinely was a finalist for the Dragon Awards, so kudos to Richard. The claim for a Nebula nomination seems a bit thin but that’s what all the grumpy stuff was about. However, it doesn’t seem to be actually “award winning” as in the usual sense of “award winning” meaning “winning an award”. Now, plenty of really good books never win awards and what matters deep down is whether readers like your book but sometimes…well sometimes the world of SF can be tough and a bit validation can help a soul along.
So lets make the claim TRUE. Tim and I got together and thought long and hard about this and we came up with a solution that:
- validates Richard’s claim for his book
- inflates Timothy’s ego even further
Yes, ladles and gentleben it is…
First Annual Timothy The Talking Cat Award for Excellence in the field of Excellence!
And the winner is…oh gosh this is so exciting that I can barely open the enevlope!
The winner is….
LA LA LAND!!!!!!
Yay, for Baby Gooseman and Clara Oswald!!! no, wait…hold on… Huge apologies everybody. It seems in my haste I read out the RUNNER UP and not the actual winner.
Let me try that again.
The winner for the First Annual Timothy the Talking Cat Award for Excellence in the field of Excellence goes to:
Escaping Infinity by Richard Paolinelli!!!!
Yay! Well done Richard! A handcrafted Joint Photographic Experts Group Formatted grid of colourful pixels is heading you way for you to keep on your mantelpiece.
David Gerrold’s September guest editorial at Amazing Stories took a long time to hit the nerve of what remains of Sad Puppies. When it finally did prick the nervous system of the kerfuffle-formerly-known-as-SP it promoted two angry reactions.
The first from the sometimes insightful Dr. Mauser here: https://drmauser.wordpress.com/2017/11/05/the-science-fiction-is-settled/ Mauser’s essay is sort of sad as he tries to rewrite and re-prosecute the Sad Puppy case. Mauser strongly objected to this statement by Gerrold:
“Instead of discussing the content and the quality of the stories, some people made derogatory comments the race, gender, sexual orientation, and behaviors of other authors. These were comments that were rooted in bigotry. I should point out here that bigotry is not an expression of hatred as much as it is a demonstration of fear, insecurity, and cowardice. It’s natural to fear the unknown — real courage is embracing it.”
Gerrold here referring indirectly to the Sad Puppies, if not by name then by description.
Mauser responded with:
“God help me, but I’m gonna invoke Vox Day. “SJW’s Always Project.” And here’s the perfect illustration of DARVO and Gaslighting. Since the Puppies were always about the quality of the stories, and Gerrold’s side has always been about denigrating writers on the basis of their race (if white), Gender (if male), sexual orientation (if straight), etc. He’s managed to swap the sides in this statement, trying to claim the moral high ground, and in the process ceding that the other side had it. As an old white male himself, Gerrold had best tread carefully among his fellows, since he’s terribly short on intersectionality points.”
In comments that have since wandered off into the ether, I did raise a verbal eyebrow at the “Puppies were always about the quality of the stories” as I’m sure many other who had to trudge through many of the turgid stuff nominated in Sad Puppies 3 would also do. Dr Mauser did replay with an interesting defence of the Sad Puppies that they DID discuss the quality of stories (and hence that Gerrold was lying) but in private Facebook groups – he has since deleted that comment of his.
The rest of the piece is hard to sum up. A broad complaint about the left and a repeated conceptual error that the existence of women SF writers and black SF writers and gay SF writers in the past somehow demonstrates that those writers were never marginalized or forced to overcome obstacles that others did not.
Meanwhile J C Carlton has a more rambling yet more heartfelt piece here https://theartsmechanical.wordpress.com/2017/11/08/what-the-sad-puppies-were-all-about/
I don’t think by the end you’ll know what Sad Puppies was all about except as an example of a cry of angst against a world that refuses to behave.
“The fact was that the Sad Puppies were an attempt by some fans and writers to save Science fiction from itself. An attempt to understand why the decline was happening and correct issues that shoed up in the graying hairs of con attendees for the last twenty years.
The simple truth is that when a club stops seeing new faces, it’s not a good thing. I’ve seen what happens when nobody wants to attract new faces in just about everything I’ve been involved with over the years.”
Of course the Sad Pups remedy (head back to the past) was never going to be a way to bring in ‘new faces’ and the new faces that did appear (hi!) were left-leaning and voted the Sad Puppies below No Award.
Speaking of which:
“The left has been asserting douchebag privilege for as long as I can remember. As well as never hesitating to throw the crap at very opportunity. Years of attending science fiction cons has made that clear to me. I’ve never seen a conservative or religious person proudly strutting down the hall wearing what they believe all over themselves, yet leftists have never hesitated. As well as throwing crap on such people as Tim Bolgeo who certainly did nothing to deserve it. I remember all too clearly an Archon and a certain douchebag in Space Ghost costume who made a point of searching through the archives of Bolgeo’s newsletter for LibertyCon looking for racism and finding it in a piece on inner city schools. If Space Ghost believes that racism is the problem in inner city schools, then he must live on another planet.”
The reference to Tim Bolego relates to this incident in 2014, covered at File770 http://file770.com/?p=17147 I’m not getting into the rights and wrongs of that situation primarily because I’m not in possession of the facts but it is interesting in terms of a smaller kerfuffle whose outcome remains a point of anger for some. The comments are interesting in the File770 piece also – Puppy adjacent people such as Jason Cordova, Toni Weisskopf, and Jerry Pournelle all had points to make.
Underneath a lot of the broader movement associated with the Sad Puppies is this same angst and anger and list of grudges and perceived slights of an ‘us’ by a ‘them’. Despite many of the people who rallied against the Sad Puppies having no particular involvement (or even opinion) of Archon 38 or its dis-inviting a guest speaker, the actions taken against Bolego is seen in Carlton’s mind as being the actions of a whole group.
There is a similar theme in Dr Mauser’s piece that I’ve picked up before. In a comment that Dr Mauser would later delete he said:
“Bit of a goalpost shift there. Quality can be a matter of taste. But Gerrold accused the puppies of “Instead of discussing the content and the quality of the stories, some people made derogatory comments [about] the race, gender, sexual orientation, and behaviors of other authors. These were comments that were rooted in bigotry” Which is a flat out lie. Whereas the Kickers went to such vile lengths as calling Brad Torgerson’s 20+ year long mixed marriage a sham and a shield so that he could say bigoted things without repercussion.”
The point being “kickers” – as in a poorly defined group with no particular cohesion or common view beyond being critical of Sad Puppies. Yet the words or actions of anyone that can be included in the group are taking as statements of the whole – or even misrepresentations of what one person said taken as statements of the (poorly defined) whole.
There isn’t much to say beyond this. The anger remains among the Puppies, perhaps fueled by a turn inwards. The post-Puppy perspective becomes a mythology of them trying to save Science Fiction and bringing new people in, rather than a reaction to the new people entering both the field and fandom.
As I already have one whateverhappenedtoo post up about those unhappy hounds of Hugo hostility, I’ll leave one more snippet: the domain name ownership of “sadpuppies4.org” has expired. The website that hosted the fourth iteration of distempered doggedness that used to look like this:
Now looks like this:
While it was kind of tempting to buy the domain name, I have, in a stunning expression of will power, NOT DONE so. ‘Tis said to be haunted and whosoever claims the domain becomes consumed with hubris and claims of embiggingment that fall sadly flat and leave one having petty arguments with Declan Finn.
[FIRST WITCH] When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
[SECOND WITCH] When the hurly-burly’s done, When the podcast’s lost and won.
[THIRD WITCH] That will be ere the set of sun.
[FIRST WITCH] Where the place?
[SECOND WITCH] Upon this blog.
[THIRD WITCH] There to meet with Camestros.
[FIRST WITCH] I come, Graymalkin.
[ALL] Fair is foul, and foul is fair, Hover through the fog and filthy air.
[Camestros] OK people! Today we FINISH this. Susan – ready?
[Camestros] Timothy – ready?
[Timothy] Locked and loaded.
[Camestros] OK viewers,
[Straw Puppy] Woof
[Mr Atomic] …cleaning…
[Camestros] welcome to the final episode of this season of the Book Club Roundtable Review Club Non-Audio Podcast Club!