Retro-Blog: The Parliament of Cheese and Curds

Reposting this June 2015 fable about cheese (and the first appearance of a talking cat). With apologies to John C Wright’s Parliament of Beasts and Birds.

The dairy products gathered, one by one, outside the final city of People, furtive, curious, and slightly odd smelling.

All was dark. In the west was a blood-red sunset and in the east was a blood-red moonrise of a waning moon. Which, incidentally, confused a particularly pedantic ball of Edam which had taken the sentence “all was dark” a bit too literally. No lamps shined in the towers and minarets, and all the windows of the palaces, mansions, townhouses, semidetached project homes, terraces and those really big ranch-style bungalows that have a name but which I’ve forgotten, were empty as the eyes of skulls. Well, the eye-sockets of skulls. The skulls didn’t have eyes – although a mischievous small ball of mozzarella had taken to sitting in the eye holes of a skull and frightening passersby. That, as other cheeses noted, was no surprise given its upbringing.

All about the walls of the city (it had walls this city) were the fields and houses and the fanes which I had forgotten to mention earlier. Rather like the skull’s eye sockets, these were all empty.

Continue reading “Retro-Blog: The Parliament of Cheese and Curds”

A Voyage Round The Kerfuffle Sea While Watching Star Wars 7

mapofthepuppykerfuffleV0.4I linked to a positive review of the new Star Wars by Brad Torgersen in my last round-up and over at File770 I was discussing John C Wright’s negative review.

There seems to be a real difference of opinion on the film that divides between Sad and Rabid and I’m wondering to what extent a major SF event such as Star Wars says about SF as a whole. To that end I hopped into my memetic boat, put the cat into a life-vest and set sail again.

Continue reading “A Voyage Round The Kerfuffle Sea While Watching Star Wars 7”

The Unified Puppy Theory

Mr Atomic endorses this post

Last Sad Puppy post for awhile. More when the Hugo votes come in or when some issue becomes a big deal over nothing.

On the final Puppy Round Up at File770 Snowcrash asked:

Here at the End of All Things, are some answers/ things we’re still missing:

– A honest explanation as to how the SP3 slate was created,

– How the tactics of slate-nominations furthers *any* of the constantly changing rationales provided by the Puppies

– Anyone taking on the Mamatas Challenge

– Evidence of a previous slate/ bloc-voting effort. The Puppies keep saying that’s the only way Stuff They Don’t Like Could have won, but are strangely reticent at providing any evidence or proof of their allegations.

– Why Wisdom of the Internet???? Seriously why? (And yelling about Scalzi is not a good answer)

I only had stupid answers at the time but I think I can give a better answer now.

Firstly, by way of background, The Mamatas Challenge was a comment by author Nick Mamatas on John Scalzi’s blog:

If the Hugos have really been dominated by leftist material that prized message over story since the mid-1990s (Brad’s timeline), it should be very simple for members of the Puppy Party to name

a. one work of fiction

b. that won a Hugo Award

c. while foregrounding a left message to the extent that the story was ruined or misshaped

d. per set of winners since 1995.

That’s all. Just a list of twenty books or stories—a single winner per year. Even though a single winner per year wouldn’t prove domination, I’m happy to make it easy for the Puppies.

Naturally the Mamatas challenge has not been met by anybody – although the odd work of fiction has been suggested (e.g. John Chu’s The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere has been suggested as a single example)

Continue reading “The Unified Puppy Theory”

Hugo Ballot

My votes for the works categories (i.e. not editors, fanzines etc). My strategy for voting was outlined here.

For several categories I have also mentioned a comparison work as part of my voting strategy. The named work was a non-nominated work (or works) used to judge the relative quality of works on a slate or non-slated works in a category dominated by slate nominees. The comparison work may not have been technically eligible and is not intended to be an example of what should have been nominated – just an extra point of comparison unaffected by the influence of slates. Several were drawn from the comparable Nebula category for 2015.

Works voted below ‘No Award’ were not as competitive for my vote as the comparison work(s).

Best Novel: a tough category for the top three and I’d be happy with any of them winning. However, The Three Body Problem was unique. It had flaws but it is the one that people are most likely to still be talking about in 10 years time.

1. Three Body Problem
2. Ancillary Sword
3. The Goblin Emperor
4. No Award

Comparison works: Annihilation, Station Eleven.

Best Novella: Easy to vote for No Award. Here is the first sentence of the comparison work “As dawn approached, the snow outside Mara’s window slowed, spiky white stars melting into streaks on the pane.” – isn’t that great?
No Award

Comparison works: Grand Jeté (The Great Leap) by Rachel Swirsky

Best Novelette: Another easy vote.
No Award

Comparison works: A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i by Alaya Dawn Johnson, The Husband Stitch by Carmen Maria Machado

Best Short Story: An interesting addendum to the comparison works was Soft Casualty by Michael Z Williamson – which I found surprisingly enjoyable and which, while not Hugo Worthy was about as good as Totaled.
No Award

Comparison works: Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon, Soft Casualty by Michael Z Williamson

Best Related Work: Ha, ha, ha, ha, yeah but no, seriously? Puppies – you embarrassed yourselves so badly in this category. Hot Equations was the only thing that caused me to Pause. Antonelli was OK. The rest? Let’s all pretend that never happened.
No Award

Comparison works: The Last War in Albion (various chapters) El Sandifer

Best Graphic Work: Tough choices. Ms Marvel and Saga are personal favourites.
1. Ms Marvel Volume 1
2. Saga Volume 3
3. Sex Criminals Volume 1
4. Rat Queens Volume 1
No Award

Comparison works: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson.

Best Dramatic – Long: Actually any of these will do. All good.
1. Edge of Tomorrow
2. Captain America: Winter Soldier
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
4. The Lego Movie
5. Interstellar

Comparison works: none. Still haven’t seen Predestination

Best Dramatic – Short. Too predictable that I’d vote for Listen?
1. Doctor Who: Listen
2. Orphan Black: By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried
3. No Award

Comparison works: Adventure Time (various episodes)

I won’t be posting my votes in other categories because they tend to be about people rather than works.

The Puppy Kerfuffle: Winners and Losers

No, not a Hugo Awards reviewer but a reviewer of the extended art installation/interactive game/aesthetic stoush/book rebellion/fandom vandalisation known as the Puppy Kerfuffle.

My summation of the winners and losers in the whole thing – ignoring, of course, the actual winners and losers of the Hugo Awards.


Alexandra Erin: her playful and insightful parody puppy reviews of classic children’s books was one of the most entertaining part of what was an often bitter and unpleasant conflict. I am sure she has gained fans and it certainly lead me to read her published stories.

File 770: The daily Puppy Roundups were not only a must read for anybody following the kerfuffle but the comment section was both lively and creative – spawning its own subculture.

Philip Sandifer: Sandifer’s blog spawned the oddly friendly Sandifer-Vox Day debate but also carried one of the strongest and most insightful accounts of the controversy:

Multiple bloggers: Spacefaring Kitten, Lis Carey, Rebekah Golden , Tegan Gjovagg … and many others (apologies to people I’ve left off) who bravely read then reviewed multiple works of dubious quality.

Vox Day: sad to say. Day’s strategy (probably) was to help promote his vanity publishing house whilst trying to estbalish the niche market it was intended to serve. Day had already burnt all his bridges to wider fandom so all the negative publicity was simply net publicity. Whether his publishing enterprise will be a commercial success is another question but the Puppy Kerfuffle won’t have done it any harm.

Eric Flint: A series of insightful posts on the conflict enabled him to position himself both as an outsider to the supposed ‘establishment’ and a powerful critic of the Puppy campaign.

John Scalzi: as the key Puppy-Hate figure, Scalzi stayed classy (on the whole)

Worldcon: While it is unclear what the financial impact of all the additional supporting memberships is, and it is unclear who these new members are and how they may vote/nominate in 2016, the net gain in numbers is likely to be overall positive.

Marko Kloos, Annie Bellet: Gained kudos by withdrawing their work but gained publicity as well.


Tor Publishing: The Gallo-Affair was a distraction and helped mobilize (briefly) the Puppy’s to Vox Day’s agenda. Tor’s reaction was initially very poor and looked very much like letting Gallo take the blame. The Puppy/not-Puppy-honestly boycott was ridiculous and probably helped Tor by making many people who felt let down by their initial response act more favorably towards the publisher.

Baen Publishing: All publicity is good publicity but much of what was Puppy nominated that was also Baen published was of poor quality. Putting your weaker publications out to a wide, influential and critical audience is unwise.

Larry Correia: Correia had started the whole Sad Puppy process but stayed away from the fray (on the whole) in this most controversial cycle.

Kary English: Perhaps the strongest Puppy nominated author, English had a difficult time trying to steer a course between the multiple viewpoints. I think, on the whole, that she came up on top.


Mad Genius bloggers: some of the oddest, least well thought through and overwrought posts appeared here. Perhaps the assorted group of writers solidified their fanbase but it is hard to see that they would have found a new audience.

John C Wright: A talented writer but who used the Puppy process as a platform for some very odd views and whose slated works were notably weak and inconsistent.

Michael Z. Williamson: Williamson had written at least one decent short story in 2014 but any positive qualities he may have as a writer were overshadowed by the nomination of what is widely regard as the worst thing ever to be nominated for a Hugo Award. Wisdom from my Internet was so awful as to be the ultimate evidence of how appalling Sad Puppies 3 was as an exercise. Additionally the attention from this nomination just drew people’s attention to some of the nasty things he was posting on Facebook under the excuse of ‘humor’.

Peter Grant: A man so keen on joining the Puppy campaign that he started his own side campaign – a quixotic boycott of Tor books. It is hard to see what, if anything, Grant has gained. As a principled stand it seemed to be deeply confused – it required him to assert that he was a puppy (so Gallo’s comments applied to him) but then assert that he wasn’t a puppy so that he could claim that the boycott was not a puppy campaign.

Brad Torgersen: The tragic protagonist of the whole tale. Torgersen repeatedly defended the Puppy campaign even when the criticism was aimed at Rabid Puppies. He then tried to make clear the distinction between the two campaigns but continued to conflate criticism of the Rabid Puppies (and Vox Day) with criticism of him and his campaign. Despite some later more insightful posts, he failed to acknowledge that there was any issue worth discussing with his actions. Unfortunately he will ever be associated with this strange period in the Hugo history – as a vandal of something people loved rather than as a writer.

Just a bit more on the Antonelli thing

This is just a bit of an addendum fro this post.

In a post here Lou Antonelli said this:

In 2012, when Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee for president, most of the leading lights in the s-f literary world combined their hatred for people of faith with their hatred for Republicans by attacking Romney in the most vile language. Quite frankly, I personally believe there are some things you should never say to or about people, regardless of the subject. In light of the attacks on Romney, is it any wonder all the Mormon s-f writers went off the reservation? It’s almost a human rights issue – “you can’t say that about one of my coreligionists.

The exact people and the exact words that were said are unclear and he gives no examples. So I went looking. Of course that isa fools game because a huge pile of Romney hate may be exactly where I didn’t look. However as Antonelli said “most of the leading lights” and not “some” there should be come trace of this Romney hate somewhere obvious.

Helpfully John Scalzi (a leading light in this context surely?) had this extensive post on his thoughts about Romney from the correct time (2012):

I have rather less of a bead on Romney as a human being away from the political arena. What does come across to me is this: A man who was born to privilege, and who understands intellectually and agrees with the idea that with privilege comes a responsibility to others, but who does not necessarily understand the problems of those with less privilege on a visceral or personal level, and who is not comfortable with the idea of either having or feigning such an interest. This does not in the least make him a bad person; it makes him an insulated one, who appears to have a very sharp event horizon when it comes to personal relationships. I do not doubt one bit that he is a kind and good person to family and friends; I also believe that out beyond the personal frontier, the problems and concerns of others grow abstract very quickly. This last bit doesn’t make him substantially different from most people.

ARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!! The reasonableness is unbearable!!!!!! Seriously as character assassins go, Scalzi should quit and take up a profession he is better suited to like ‘author’ or something. No terrible attack on his Mormonism and evil-leftist Scalzi says he might have voted for him few years ago. This is taking reasonableness to the point of a vice.

The only other writer Antonelli names in his piece is George R. R. Martin. Martin is a more fiery fellow than Scalzi so lets have a look back to 2012.

We have some strong comments on the election: <- but doesn’t direct his ire at Romney <- which calls Romney’s Jeep ads a “big lie campaign” but makes no mention of his religion or makes any kind of personal attack.

I don’t think there is anything to find.

Logic and Antonelli

So the kerfuffle de jour is a rhetorical counter strike from Puppy nominee Lou Antonelli that can be read here .

There are many issues with what he wrote the most substantial of which are sweeping claims without supporting evidence. Most notable among them being:

In 2012, when Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee for president, most of the leading lights in the s-f  literary world combined their hatred for people of faith with their hatred for Republicans by attacking Romney in the most vile language. Quite frankly, I personally believe there are some things you should never say to or about people, regardless of the subject. In light of the attacks on Romney, is it any wonder all the Mormon s-f writers went off the reservation?

Which is a powerful statement that you would expect to be followed by equally powerful examples of key leading lights saying terrible things. I can well imagine that somebody somewhere in American SF must have said something unpleasant about Mitt Romney but oddly Antonelli quotes nobody.

There are other examples but this blog is not for puppy kicking per-se but rather talking cats, graphs, stats and logic. Luckily Mr. Antonelli has kindly provided some rich examples to discuss – with the exception of talking cats. Even better, most of the rich ore is contained in one paragraph:

In the places I have been this summer, the fans – if not people of faith and Republicans themselves – know people who are and have friends who are, and they don’t have that visceral hatred towards the average American that the Puppy Kickers have. If the U.S. had a parliament instead of a Congress, we’d have a Republican Prime Minister. As someone who’s followed politics both personally and professionally for as long as I have. I know the only reason the Democratic Party gets as many votes as it does is the relentless ballot box stuffing in the big cities. Most Americans vote Republican.

There are three delightful things for the hobbyist logician there:

  • A counterfactual
  • A case of ‘begging the question’ or circular reasoning
  • A lack of explanatory parsimony

Continue reading “Logic and Antonelli”

The Seven Cardinal Sins – a puppy summary

I haven’t reviewed everything that was nominated but I have read everything and read multiple reviews. I thought this was a good time to look retrospectively of what was wrong with the nominated works (not including best dramatic categories, editorial categories, fan categories or artists).

The Catholic catechism traditionally identifies seven capital sins: pride, avarice (greed), envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth (or acedia i.e. neglect).

In terms of the Puppy campaigns these traditional sins aren’t a great match in their entirety. Lust in particular doesn’t make much of an appearance – if anything the overall attitude to sex has been almost puritanical. The one I would pick out is sloth. I think there is some obvious evidence of laziness in the compilation of the slates. They appear rushed and contain obvious omissions – Soft Causality by Michael Z Williamson, Heinlein’s biography, The Three Body Problem (which became a top pick of Vox Day leader of the Rabid Puppies). Traditionally this sin also includes acedia a sin that covers many modern issues including things we would not regard as a vice (such as depression) but also things we still do such a neglect or mindless compliance.

Lazy curating of the slate, mindless compliance with lock step voting and email campaigns, neglectful edits, and a general unwillingness to explain, review or persuade. Sloth and avarice seems to be the cardinal sin of the Puppy campaigns (no, that doesn’t mean I’m saying everybody who has ever read a Puppy nominated author is greedy and lazy).

With that in mind what are the major ‘sins’ of the nominated works?

  • Poor editing
  • Lack of cohesion
  • …parts of incomplete works…
  • Appearance by virtue of knowing Brad Torgersen
  • Shown up by substantially superior works in the same category
  • Stories of over-blown self importance
  • Irrelevance

Poor editing: all of the John C Wright nominations but in particular One Bright Star. The Science is Never Settled needed substantial re-working for it to be a decent (i.e. 18 year old at school) essay.

Lack of cohesion: Again John C Wright’s Transhuman and Subhuman, Roberts’s The Science is Never Settled, Championship B’Tok and Big Boys Don’t Cry all tended to wander off topic and lacked clarity.

…parts of incomplete works…: With a current lack of a ‘saga’ category perhaps Skin Game can be forgiven but Flow and Journey Man in the Stone House and Championship B’Tok all had a fragmentary feel of a an extracted chapter from a novel. None stood alone well.

Appearance by virtue of knowing Brad Torgersen: Numerous works but most obviously Wisdom from My Internet. I don’t know if Brad T is friends with the person who makes Zombie Nation but there is no obvious reason why it was nominated.

Shown up by substantially superior works in the same category: Zombie Nation was the only puppy nominee for Best Graphic Story among a set of commercial and critically successful other nominees that showed depth and talent.

Stories of over-blown self importance: Turncoat, Parliament of Beast and Birds, One Bright Star. Pompous pomposity.

Irrelevance: Best related work included a collection of unfunny Facebook offensiveness and a half baked essay on the nature of science – neither had any more than a tenuous relation to SF/F. Parliament of Beast and Birds was a religious fable – but that arguably scrapes into fantasy

Let’s talk about puppy poo: [Updated]

[Update 16/07/2015 Michael Z Williamson, author of Wisdom from My Internet reviewed below, has announced on his blog that he will be voting No Award across the board. His argument being that the Hugo’s and award like the Nebula’s are no longer any good because of the quality of the nominees. Oddly he seems to be talking about the past rather than his own nominated work and also his feelings have been hurt by name calling (this from a guy who was recently making jokes about a recent mass shooting). The good news is that even the author of Wisdom from My Internet will put No Award above it.]

So you have brought a new puppy home. The puppy will run about your house and may cause some disruption. Your new puppy may also do a big poo on your carpet. These are important  facts to understand  if you wish to own a dog. Prior to 2015, these were not important  facts for anybody interested in literary rewards. Yet thanks to Brad Torgersen’s Sad Puppy campaign, readers of the Hugo Award packet sooner or later have to face the enormous  turd that the boisterous ball of fur has deposited in the center of the room. In this case the fecal matter is a puppy nominee for best related work called  Wisdom from My Internet by Michael Z Williamson.  Early on I ranked this as the worst overall of the Puppy Nominees but aside from that I haven’t  reviewed it here for two reasons. Continue reading “Let’s talk about puppy poo: [Updated]”

What are the Hugo Awards for?

This is a follow up to this post.

Wrong Nebula 🙂

So prior to this I discussed what the Hugo Awards are for and how they differ from other Awards such as the Nebulas. A key characteristic are that they are voted on by a group of people that I characterize as being activists and who are somewhat analogous to voting members of a political party.

A consequence of this is that the Hugo Awards are voted on by people who:

  • Have an active interest in fostering the SF/F genre(s)
  • Are usually fairly well informed about a range of writers and other people in fandom
  • Are interested in a broad range of SF/F rather than just one specific fandom or subgenre (although they may have specific interests as well)

How can we know this? Because they bother to vote. The barriers to voting aren’t huge but they exist and any such barriers to a vote will tend to bias the voting towards people who are more interested in being active. Continue reading “What are the Hugo Awards for?”