Sunday, August 2, 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Links of Interest: The Puppies Soldier On

For the next few days, I have to step away from the computer to attend to a family obligation. In the meantime, allow me to direct you to a few interesting blog posts from the last week:

The Judgment of Solomon, Brad Torgersen

"The way you prove to the world that you love a thing, is to see the thing preserved. Maybe it winds up in the hands of somebody you don’t think deserves it, or because you don’t like how the thing got there in the first place. But declaring, “Cut it in half,” reveals a jealous possessiveness that belies any love that may be felt."

A Response to George R. R. Martin from the Author Who Started Sad Puppies, Larry Correia

"When one of the most successful authors on the planet takes the time to talk about something you did, I figure that deserves an in depth response." And an in-depth response is exactly what Larry provides. Why? Because Martin isn't a rage nozzle; he has cred, and he's level-headed.

Were They Contacted? Brad Torgersen

In which Brad responds to an irrelevant question about a non-issue. "If people have to conform to your expectations or your litmus tests before you will accept them, no, you are not inclusive and loving and embracing in the way you think you are. You are loving and inclusive and embracing as long as the newcomers speak and talk and think and have fun just like you."

The Architecture of Fear, Sarah Hoyt

"I must beseech you, consider, please that you are not alone.  Consider that the sound and fury, the threats, the people pushing you to do things against your will and conscience because you’re so scared of them might be less than the full crowd.  It might be just a small mouse, full of him/herself, roaring up a storm.  Consider that the decent people who disagree with all this bs might actually be in the vast majority but not know it because none of you dares speak."

Flaming Rage Nozzles of Tolerance, Brad Torgersen

"I consider it the duty of Science Fiction and Fantasy fans, authors, and editors, to be anti-authoritarian. Even to include (or especially to include?) benevolent authoritarianism. The cuddly pink fluffy cudgel of political correctness must be opposed by men and women with courage, and the conviction of their free-minded principles. Now is the time for this field — more than any other genre in the literary arts — to demonstrate that it is dangerous. To the commissars. To the flaming rage nozzles of tolerance. To the people who believe the ends justify the means."

Nostradumbass and Madame Bugblatterfatski, Dave Freer

Dave has some questions -- and I have to admit, I share the suspicions expressed in this post. Somebody on the other side almost certainly has a direct line to the mainstream media; that's why I argued on Monday that the anti-Puppies are the privileged power-brokers in this whole affair.

Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice

"The fact of the matter is, this particular brand of millennial social justice advocacy is destructive to academia, intellectual honesty, and true critical thinking and open mindedness. We see it already having a profound impact on the way universities act and how they approach curriculum." This article doesn't discuss SFF specifically, but it is still highly relevant.

Fan Writers, Cedar Sanderson

If you are a Hugo voter, you'll find this post remarkably helpful, as Cedar has taken it upon herself to collect representative writing samples for each fan writer on the 2015 short list. Go, read, and judge for yourself.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Commentary: Challenging Comfortable Fictions, Part I

As you may have noticed, I've been following the recent Hugo kerfluffle very closely -- and to be quite frank, I'm getting mighty tired of the anti-Puppy leftists and their boring, repetitive "arguments." Consequently, I'll be running a series over the next few weeks that tackles their nonsense point by point. First up:

The Sad Puppies are just privileged white men pitching a tantrum over the imminent loss of their privilege.

Oh, really? Tell that to the Puppies who grew up in less-than-advantaged circumstances. Jason Cordova spent much of his childhood in a series of group homes. Larry Correia grew up on a dairy farm with an alcoholic mother and an illiterate father. Sarah Hoyt remembers her winter shoes being cut into sandals for the summer. For many, frugality and resourcefulness were (and are) necessary virtues, not matters of choice. And personally, I don't know any people on our side who were fortunate enough to, I don't know, attend one of the most expensive universities in the country. We had to settle for more affordable options.

What's more, many of us are quite shocked to discover that our vaginas are mere illusions. You think we're suffering from gender dysphoria?

There is such a thing as privilege, and it often flows just as the SJW's claim it does. But do these folks actually understand its mechanics -- or its complexities? I submit that they do not -- not entirely. For one thing, they oversimplify its origins. For an excellent primer, I recommend reading the following:

Yes, Privilege Exists, But Government Can't Fix It
Joy Pullmann, The Federalist

It may be true that the "system" has made it more difficult for certain groups to build the sort of cultural and financial inheritance that members of the U.S. majority enjoy -- but that hasn't made the hard work and sacrifices of individual members of said majority any less deserving of reward. Further - and this is something Pullmann does not address - the hurdles the "system" presents to members of certain classes are not always the fault of the right. Our troubled inner cities have been almost exclusively run by the left for decades, and the decline of marriage and social capital in certain communities has been accelerated by the logic of the sexual revolution boosted by the same. If we don't address these root causes honestly and with intellectual rigor - if instead we follow the SJW's preferred course and forcibly redistribute the riches of the so-called "privileged" - we will fail to cure the disease and foment a lot of chaos and resentment in the process.

And how does the above apply to the field of science fiction and fantasy? Well, just as injustices in the real world can often be laid at the feet of leftists, injustices in the fandom can often be similarly attributed. For example: If there's one privilege that white, "cis-het" male SFF authors enjoy, it's the privilege of writing whatever the hell they want without feeling the pressure to "represent." Authors of color like Sarah Hoyt, meanwhile, are chided by New York publishers if they don't write about their "heritage" and toe the party line. Is this the fault of the Sad Puppies campaign? Hardly. The belief that culture is inherited and not a choice is a tenet of SJW radicals, not their opponents.

But let's now take a larger view: As I recently observed:
Inequities in the fandom, I suspect, stem from inequities in the way we rear and educate our children. Writers are not born; they are bred. My parents tell me that I've always had an imagination and a natural talent for writing, but that talent would've wholly languished were it not for my "word-rich" childhood. In order to write, I had to read first to see how it could be done effectively -- and my parents were educated enough to encourage the habit. What's more, I had to attend strong schools at which I could learn the conventions of my native language and be exposed to literature that was not available in my father's personal library -- and here too, my parents' eternal vigilance ensured that I largely got exactly what I needed. Unfortunately, not all children are offered these same opportunities -- and that is where the true problem lies. If you want more minority authors in the fandom, take the long view: Catch good prospects when they're children and make damned sure they are not shortchanged by the lousy curricula and disciplinary chaos that disproportionately impact their communities via the dysfunctional urban public schools. Band together and create after-school tutoring clubs to build proficiency in reading and writing. Start writing groups for inner city kids. Drive around in a truck and pass out books to kids in culturally impoverished neighborhoods. Build literacy and cultural capital wherever they are absent or tragically insufficient.
In sum: Go from the ground up, and the impact will be lasting.
This path, of course, is much harder - and consequently less attractive to the internet activist - than simply demanding equity in our annual awards. It is, however, the only path that will lead to genuine and organic diversity in the fandom -- and the only path whose results will be permanent and universally lauded.

Of course, the other thing the typical SJW fails to understand is that privilege doesn't always cut in one direction. Privilege and power are multidimensional and dependent on the context -- a fact dramatically highlighted by the events of the past week. I've lost count of how many influential media outlets have parroted the SJW viewpoint - without making any attempt to contact Larry Correia or Brad Torgersen, mind - that the Sad Puppies are a racist, misogynistic outsider group intent on destroying the Hugo Awards. Some conservative media have attempted to respond, yes, but I ask again: Whose narrative is getting more mainstream exposure in the end? And what does that suggest in re: which faction really holds a position of power in the fandom as a whole?

Or, to put it another way: If Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen are the privileged participants in this controversy, why don't they have a direct line to Entertainment Weekly?

No: If you have the media in your corner, you don't get to claim that you are the downtrodden. You also don't get to claim that status if the folks on your side feel perfectly free to make politicized pronouncements in inappropriate contexts while the folks on our side bite their tongues. As Sarah Hoyt recently related, prominent left wing SFF authors see nothing wrong in using a con-provided platform to sing the praises of Howard Dean -- and fans of that bent see nothing wrong in insulting John Ringo to his face by insinuating that he is pro-slavery. You may think I'm kidding about that last part, but this happened at Dragon Con just a few years ago, and it caused one of my acquaintances to gafiate -- at least when it comes to volunteering for cons. Now think real hard: Why are these SJW's so confident and so brazen? Because they're in charge. They're not "speaking truth to power"; they are the power. They have control of the field's professional organization and the backing of big-name editors. We have -- the indies and a few Baen authors. Whoo.

Bottom line, when the left chides my friends for their supposed "privilege," I'm inclined to scoff. They may - may - benefit from certain advantages in other arenas, but in this particular fight? Nope. The radicals' Manichean categories simply do not reflect reality.

(Coming up next time: The question of "quality.")

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Links of Interest: Anticommunist Ponies and the Hugos

As many of you readers may have noticed, this has been quite an explosive week. The Hugo nominations were finally released last Saturday to a storm - no, a hurricane - of controversy. I'll link to some remarks on that tempest in a tea cup in a bit. First, however, I'd like to draw attention to Saturday's season-opener for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, which, in these quarters, might arouse considerable interest:

Brandon Morse, The Federalist
I feel it’s necessary to preface this article by stating that I am not a brony. I’ve met a couple, and I don’t exactly…get it.
Don't worry, Brandon. I don't think you lose your man card by appreciating a good allegory -- even if the show is targeted to little girls.
After the leader has been exposed, the town revolts, reclaiming their cutie marks and thus their individuality. Using their reclaimed unique skills, they rescue the main characters’ marks and thus their powers, while chasing the villain into a mountain cave system, where they lose her. The show ends with the now-unique and fun-looking village having a party. 
To children, this message is clear. It’s better to be yourself than to be the same as everyone else. What they won’t realize is that the show uses many references to the real world to do it.
I was actually thinking of Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" while watching these episodes the other night -- and I agree that the choice of theme was quite remarkable. I know many in my audience (of gun-totin' dudes and the Odd girls who love them) may balk at this suggestion, but -- go and watch it. Don't let the ponies and all the pink distract you from the pure awesome.

But anyway, now to the Hugos. Dear. Lord. 

To peruse the final shortlist, click here. Personally, I was quite shocked at how well certain despondent infant canines performed-- and I was doubly shocked to see the dominance of Vox Day's alternative selections. I consider Day a professional shit-stirrer who is much too extreme for my taste and consequently read him only on occasion, so I had no idea he had that kind of a following.

As you might expect, once this result was confirmed, fandom proceeded to lose its collective mind -- and the noise drew the attention of certain mainstream media outlets, who dispensed with all the dull fact-checking stuff and uncritically ran one side's preferred narrative. I'll give you one guess which side that happened to be.

(In the interest of fairness, I should note that Breitbart and The Federalist have both published articles favoring the Puppies. Still, in a contest between these alternative conservative publications and Entertainment Weekly, who's going to win on the influence front?)

I've been a Sad Puppy booster from the beginning (though I am also an independent-minded cuss who posted her own personal slate here and here). I know these folks' intentions, and they are not to scuttle the Hugos or drive out "diverse" voices. Granted, there is a political tinge in the movement; a good chunk of us are libertarians or conservatives of various flavors, which is why Breitbart and The Federalist took notice. But that is an accident of the Sad Puppy philosophy, which stresses ideological diversity and solid story-telling over navel gazing and genre-destructive literary pretensions. Said philosophy operates on strongly individualist assumptions, so it will naturally attract those who hold political views built on the same base.

And yes -- I can admit there's probably also a bit of spite involved (directed not at the Hugo Awards specifically but at the fandom elite). Please excuse my French here, but people are really fucking angry. Why? Well, Larry Correia explains our thoughts pretty well in the following posts:

A Letter to the SMOFs, Moderates, and Fence-Sitters from the Author Who Started Sad Puppies

Addendum to Yesterday's Letter

And I suggest you read the following post by Brad Torgersen as well:

A Dispatch from Fort Living Room

For years now, a vociferous and powerful minority of radical left-wing science fiction fans has worked hard to beat down every nail that dares stick out. Indeed, I wrote about this very phenomenon as early as 2010. Any deviation from approved groupthink, no matter how mild, has resulted in relentless bullying and, in some cases, successful Stalinist purges. Quite frankly, we nails are sick of it. We're sick of being forced to self-censor, we're sick of being dishonestly vilified for having contrary opinions, and we're sick of the double standard that forces us to disavow characters like Vox Day while virulently racist SJW's like K. Tempest Bradford get a pass. Do you get it? Do you understand the origin of this uprising? Do you now understand why some folks on our side have been less than polite? Why do we have to play by the Marquess of Queensbury rules while the other side gets to wear metal cleats?

I have more to say on this whole brouhaha, but I need to head to work, so it'll have to wait until tomorrow. In the meantime... enjoy the posts I've linked above! 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Commentary: Who Really Loves Science Fiction?

Imagine the following scenario: A married man insists loudly and often that he absolutely adores his wife. However, every time he's out at the bar with his buddies, the only thing he does is put her down: his wife doesn't know how to properly load the dish washer, she's getting fat and losing her youthful good looks, she doesn't seem to know when to shut the hell up -- on and on and on. Would his companions be wrong in questioning the sincerity of his supposed affection?

Bringing this up is no doubt tantamount to questioning someone's patriotism, but I have to wonder: Do these SJW "TrueFen" actually love science fiction and fantasy? Or do they love "science fiction" and "fantasy" the way feminists love "women" -- as easy-to-manipulate instruments to advance other goals?

It's one thing to offer constructive critique. Matt and I have been doing that for years. It's also laudable to seek fresh blood and new perspectives; a genre that does not evolve is a genre that will eventually grow outdated and fade from view. Still, a genuine aficionado pursues such change while also paying decent respect to said genre's antecedents and "deep norms" (to use Eric S. Raymond's formulation). A genuine aficionado recognizes that he or she stands on the shoulders of giants and consequently does not automatically attribute perceived defects in early works to malice aforethought. And this, quite frankly, does not describe the typical SJW's mode of discourse.

Instead, the SJW eschews nuance and engages in rank presentism. Consider: The bulk of Robert Heinlein's work was written half a century ago and thus reflects the attitudes and mores of a very different time. And yet -- Heinlein did try to include minority and mixed-race characters and alternative sexual lifestyles in the stories he wrote. Indeed, by all accounts, Heinlein's views on race and sex were progressive for his period. Does this matter to the SJW? Of course not. The SJW brands Heinlein a racist, sexist pig for failing to adhere to the stringent standards of today's port side and RAGEQUITS his novels in disgust.

I could be wrong, but when I read the commentary emanating from the fandom's hard left, I frequently think of the husband in the above hypothetical.  In the SJW's litany of complaints, there's a lot of bile -- and very little simple enjoyment or gratitude.  

Monday, March 30, 2015

Links of Interest: Battlespace Prep

I think there might've been a leak.

The final slate for the 2015 Hugo Awards will not be officially announced until Saturday, April 4, but people are already raising a hue and cry about us Sad Puppies and Irritated Kittens and how dishonest, dirty, bad, and wrong we all are. Fortunately, we are all quite capable of defending ourselves and our campaign.

Brad Torgersen, the standard-bearer for Sad Puppies 3, was the first out of the gate:
See, Worldcon is like the proverbial nail house. In the 1950s it was nestled in among the fresh post-war suburbs, bright and pretty. The people who lived there were young, or at least younger than they are now, and quite proud of their house and its vibrant, if eccentric, collective personality. For much of the 1960s and into the 1970s, the little house retained most of its original flavor. New folks were brought in, some of the originals left, or died. The culture and basic mindset of the house was kept the same. And everything seemed more or less fine . . . until a guy named George Lucas showed up with his gargantuan set of plans for a huge, gleaming city called Star Wars. Suddenly, skyscrapers and apartment complexes and freeways and all manner of businesses began to shoot up around the house. Until, in the year 2015, the house has become an anachronism. Cheered by a few. Ignored by most. Intensely proud of the fact it defies the world around it. Crumbling at the foundation. And also intensely interested in making sure nobody from the sports bar or the yoga studio or the Gold’s Gym down the street, comes into the little dilapidated house, and puts his or her feet up on the use-worn coffee table. 
Because anyone who is not a blooded member of the nail house, doesn’t get to be a “real fan.” 
But the award for “real fans” gets to be “the most prestigious award” in SF/F.
See how that works, folks? It’s Taste-Maker 101 strategy. A few, deciding for all.
You’re the outsiders. You are not the real fans. You don’t get to have a say in the Hugos, because you’re not welcome at the table. You haven’t been to two dozen Worldcons and volunteered a thousand hours in various chore-laden positions on the concom or the gofer staff. You didn’t earn your cred, man! Get off their lawn, man! Screw you guys and your video games and your 21st century pop culture sci-fi! So you like The Avengers and the Marvel Cinematic Universe? You’ve got a Storm Trooper costume? Maybe you play Skyrim or Borderlands? Puh-leaze! That doesn’t count. Only real fans get to decide what SF/F is important and worthy of recognition! The other 399,997,500 “fans” out there? You didn’t pay your dues. You don’t belong. (Read more here and here.)

Brad's remarks were soon followed up by others:

  • Piers Plowman and the Hugo Awards (Novel Ninja): This writer correctly points out that anyone can plunk down the money for a supporting membership, that we Sad Puppies and Irritated Kittens followed the rules in that regard, and that the increased participation that has resulted from our campaign can only be a good thing for WorldCon and the Hugo Awards.
  • Sad Puppies Update: Honesty from the Other Side (Monster Hunter Nation): Larry Correia's post here contains a link to the other side's freak-out and his own response. "But it is too late now, Teresa. The Sad Puppies voters got involved with WorldCon, paid their dues, and bought memberships so they could participate. The problem is that they’re the *wrong* kind of fans. You guys should have just been honest to begin with and none of this would have ever happened."
  • All the Scarlet Letters (Sarah Hoyt): "One of the most interesting things – and by interesting I mean scary – about the reaction to Sad Puppies 3 is that many people who are anti-puppy (always wanted to write that) were mad at Brad for 'not telling people you were putting them on the slate.' [...] What are the Hugos? They’re awards, right? They’re awards given, supposedly, for the best science fiction and fantasy of the year, right? In theory, theoretically as it were, who is supposed to nominate: why, Lord love a duck, right? Any reader of science fiction who pays at least the supporting WorldCon membership. And who gets to make recommendations for nominations? Well, from what I’ve seen over the years, anyone with an interest in sf/f. I could, tomorrow, (well, not tomorrow, but at the beginning of the next set) put my list of recommends on the blog, whether I meant to vote for them or not. (I.e. whether I paid the membership or not.) Readers, reviewers and various other side-spurs of science fiction do that pretty much every year. So, if I did that, would I have any obligation, no matter how remote, to tell people I was putting them on my slate? Why? I mean, I might, as a friendly gesture, send a note saying 'I love your books and I’m putting such and such on the slate.' BUT WHY would I HAVE to? I mean, when I won the Prometheus and the two other times I’ve been nominated, all I got was an email saying 'you’ve been nominated.' No one warned me. And trust me, ten years ago that announcement would have frozen me solid, instead of causing me to dance in my office. That is because ten years ago, I lived in a state of fear. And the fact that my fear was real and serious is justified by that accusation to Brad, 'You bad bad man, when you decided these people deserved awards, you didn’t TELL THEM you were putting them on a recommend list.' I lived in fear because of the implied end of that sentence 'And you knew that because you associated them with you, a known conservative, we would make their lives miserable and do our best to end their careers.'"

My personal comment regarding this controversy is this: Most on the anti-Puppy side are out-and-proud progressives who, more than likely, oppose real-world attempts to police the franchise and ensure the eligibility of every participating voter. I would also bet solid money that many of these folks also sympathize with "mandatory voting" proposals and a whole host of other reforms to "increase participation" and "promote democracy." But now that a grass-roots rebellion is threatening their "safe space", they've completely changed their tune. How interesting.

I don't think anyone should vote in an American election unless he or she is a confirmed citizen of the US and has made an effort to stay informed on the issues; likewise, I don't think anyone should vote in the Hugo Awards unless he or she is truly a fan of literary science fiction and fantasy. The trouble is, my definition of a "true fan" is very much at odds with, say, Hayden's. I think anyone who has read SFF for a solid chunk of his or her conscious life and can cite works from the past year that he or she has enjoyed counts as a "true fan;" the anti-Puppies - who constantly tout their commitment to inclusivity - wish to apply other litmus tests that, low-and-behold, favor the fandom's elite 1%. The hypocrisy here is striking to say the least.

Update on Tuesday, 6PM - I also urge you to check out Larry Correia's latest: The Melt Down Continues. Lots of good stuff there.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Wet & Irritated Kittens Slate, Part II - Short Works

A few weeks ago, I shared my personal nominations in the Novel category for the upcoming Hugo Awards. As the deadline looms, 'tis now time for me to share my picks for the short fiction categories.

You may notice as we proceed that I haven't filled the entire slate. The explanation for this is actually quite simple: It's difficult to impress me in fewer words. As I was paging through my old zines trying to decide what to add to my list, I didn't find much that I thought was truly striking. What this says about the state of the short fiction market is, to say the least, concerning.

But, without further ado, here are my picks:

  • “Flow," Arlan Andrews Sr., Analog, November 2014 - This fantasy adventure expertly captures man's desire to explore and learn more.
  • Big Boys Don’t Cry, Tom Kratman, Castalia House - I knew I was going to nominate this one as soon as I'd read it, as its subversion of a popular military science fiction trope is both troubling and necessary. See my review here.
  • "Life Flight," Brad Torgersen, Analog, March 2014 - From my original review: "...the main character's emotional arc is profoundly interesting -- and, thankfully, morally grounded. When his childhood dreams are tragically ripped away, he initially loses himself in suicidal ideation and a selfish sense of entitlement. But as he grows older and wiser, he realizes he can still find meaning in his life by focusing his attentions on the other people on board -- and ultimately, while he is robbed of the chance to set foot in the promised land, he's strangely okay with that result because he knows being the guardian and shepherd of the mission still mattered."
  • “Championship B’tok," Edward M. Lerner, Analog, September 2014 - I'm a little confused on this one. The Puppies have it listed under Novelette, but my digital copy of Analog puts this in the Novella category. At any rate, this is a tantalizing introduction to a space opera universe whose mysteries definitely hit several of my squee buttons.
Short Stories:
  • "The Golden Knight," K.D. Julicher, Baen Website - From my original review: "I love, love, love platonic elder-younger pairings in which the younger's boundless loyalty and innocence in some way redeem the elder. Such stories, I feel, speak to the more profound spiritual reason why most of us become parents (and why I, in the absence of a spouse, have elected to work as a teacher). Biological imperatives to reproduce aside, there is also an instinctual recognition that caring for our children is a salvific enterprise -- and the fact that many succumb to the pop culture's distorted and idolatrous visions of parenting does not in any way negate the nobility of the animating impulse."
  • “Totaled," Kary English, Galaxy’s Edge, July 2014 - An excellent sci-fi concept conveyed with genuine human emotion. I hope to see more from this author.
  • "Abandoned River, Dry Water," Jane Lebak, Sci Phi Journal #1 - From an earlier review: "The tale it implies - of a misplaced Catholic missionary attempting to minister to an alien race he was not prepared to encounter - is both haunting and poignant -- reason enough to look for some of Jane Lebak's other work."
Now I must hurry and log these choices with WorldCon! After all, the kittens are waiting.

Get on with it already!