Nulla dies umquam memori vos eximet aevo

Nulla dies umquam memori vos eximet aevo
Share Button

Fourteen years ago today, something happened that most of us would have considered only possible in the minds of paranoid conspiracy theorists, Hollywood blockbuster films (usually directed by Michael Bay), or just outside the realm of The Real World. A dedicated group of fanatics pulled off a coordinated suicide attack using three civilian jetliners as weapons and caused two skyscrapers to catastrophically fail after a few hours and several more buildings to collapse later. Close to 3000 civilian and civilian officers died that day.

Three days later in Florida, Jeannie Ammermann came up with the idea of a quilt to preserve the memories of those who died in the September 11th attack as well as the attack itself. She was joined by several hundred volunteers who put together a massive quilt, The Victims Quilt, which hung in the National September 11 Memorial Museum until this past May when it was retired for preservation.

The Victims Quilt
The Victims Quilt (Concept by Jeannie Ammermann. Photo by Jin Lee)
Yes, I know, the context on the Aeneid quote is off. Don’t blame me, blame the guys who decided to use it in the September 11 Memorial Museum.

— G.K.

Share Button

Oy Vey…

Oy Vey...
Share Button

This is just a quick update to apologize for the lack of posting this week. It’s a combination of new job and a few big projects wrapping all at once. Hopefully the madness, she will slow down a little soon. But, September is looking to be kind of a bad month so I may not be able to blog every single day. I’ll try to commit to at least four out of seven, though.

Thanks!

Share Button

Sad Puppies and the Hugos: Category Error

Sad Puppies and the Hugos: Category Error
Share Button

I keep thinking about this and, honestly, the more I think about it, the more I honestly believe that the real problem is that the problem with modern science fiction awards is that of Category Error. I spoke with a long-time WorldCon attendee Sunday (not sure if he wants to be named here — he can message me on Facebook if he is cool with it) and after talking with him and then reading Eric Flint’s entry today (read it — it’s long but worth it), I think that it may be time to really sit down and ask a few hard questions.

1) Is WorldCon really the best avenue for trying to create the kind of award we’re trying to create? — After reading the by-laws for the convention and for SFWA, I don’t think it is. Both organizations are too unwieldy, too clunky, and have too ossified a structure to respond well to the kind of change that is needed. That’s not a slight against them — it’s just reality. Plenty of conventions and industries (hell — plenty of countries and cultures) are having a hard time keeping pace with the rapid changes that have happened over the past fifty years. Expecting a group of volunteers to master it when they’re used to playing for an audience of less than 10k is asking a bit much.

2) Just what kind of award do we want to create? — Are we really after a fan award? Another jury award? An industry award? I think the germ of the whole compliant has been that the current Hugos have ignored giants in the field in favor of fad-fiction while also shunning certain authors and their works based on the author’s politics — not on merit (which this year has proven is the case with a sizable portion of Hugo voters). The general gist has been that if the Hugos want to call themselves “THE” award of science fiction and fantasy, then they need to pay more attention to the market behavior, to the influential players in the field, and they need to increase the size of the voting pool so that it can’t be swayed by a few dozen people. Otherwise, they need to stop advertising themselves as being “THE” award and instead relabel themselves more accurately as “an award given out by a few thousand people.”

3) How can the convention structure be made less privileged? — Look, I know most of you don’t get it. I’ve never been to a single convention that my former employer didn’t pay me to go to because I can’t afford the plane ticket and hotel room to go to one. The mere fact that you can a) take the time off work to go, b) have the money to get a hotel room, c) can afford to eat out while there, d) can afford the plane ticket or gas to fly/drive there and back e) can afford the cost of admission + panels + whatever else puts you so far out of my league it’s not even funny. Even when I’ve been able to get over my mild agoraphobia and really wanted to go to a con, the cost of taking off work and going put beyond me. And it does for most everyone in my area. I doubt seriously that WorldCon (or any other current literary con) could do livestream attendance the way that BlizzCon or does. Part of it is the money/tech/knowledge issue and part of it is that I doubt very seriously there’s much love lost either way between the fans in places like Delta and Appalachia and the officers/board members of the conventions.

4) How can the voting pool be increased beyond the ability for any one group to game it? — We’re talking big numbers here. At least 20k. Better would be a voting pool of at least 50 – 100k. Again, just given the behavior shown at the Hugo awards ceremony and the kind of negative connotation WorldCon has given itself with the general population. There’s a reason why WorldCon attendance has been trending down even as science fiction and fantasy became more accepted and it’s because enough of the “TrueFans” gave it a bad reputation so that people avoided it instead of attending it or considering it. Would WorldCon ever consider even trying to get someone like writer Robert Kirkman to run a panel? Or be a GoH? Could they even get someone like Chuck Lorre to return a phone call these days? I mean, sure, GRRM comes but could they get Peter Jackson? Or forget Peter Jackson, could they get Jeri Taylor or even Kip Thorne?

No one outside of Tor (and most of the people inside probably don’t either) gives a rat’s ass about either of the Neilsen-Haydens but they’re the GoH’s for next year and they hate people like me so yeah, I’m feelin’ the love and welcome. But if a convention could get, say…Norman Reedus, Jeri Ryan, Orlando Bloom, Stephanie Meyer, Peter Dinklage, and J.K. Rowling together while hosting a Red Pill/Blue Pill contest and playing Spot the Fed during the Zombie Apocalypse, well…

That would be a con that would have Fort Knox asking to loan it some money.

4a) How can that be done without homogenizing everything? — And now we’re into the Category Error part of the problem. Science fiction isn’t a simple little niche anymore. It’s become its own genre, much like romance or horror. Could you imagine a single convention or award that tried to compare the works of R.L. Stine to that of Mary Shelley? Science fiction and fantasy are huge. You can’t compare some aspects of them to others because it’s like comparing apples to zebras — and that’s exactly what the Hugos wind up doing. You can’t just add one more category (series) and fix the problem, either. No, the issue runs much deeper than that in that the foundation upon which WorldCon and the Hugos were built is no longer large enough to support the modern sci-fi/fantasy reality.

So, what to do? Raze it (Vox Day’s option?) Slink off and exile ourselves, never writing again and let people who support pedophiles and child rape (Tor — hey, sauce for the goose. I’ll see your Vox Day and raise you Marion Zimmer Bradely) give themselves accolades while everyone else praises them?

Instead of razing it, leave it be and build something better. Build a modern convention that starts out with a massive tent. Have elements from Comic Con, Walker Stalker, BlizzCon, DefCon (that’s a techie con for you non-hackers out there. It’s awesomesauce), and all the other fun cons out there. Mix and match. Don’t make it a pure literary con. Have it be a real celebration of all that is great about being a geek or a nerd. Let the Twilighters in with their Team Edwards and Team Jacobs. Hell, we had Team Sturm and Team Tanis back in the day (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then go get every book that has “Dragonlance(TM)” on it and start reading). Some of us even had Team Hugh and Team Haplo (if you want really obscure).

Twilight might be drek but at least it has people reading. We all started somewhere. I started with Star Trek: The Next Generation, Dragonlance, the Death Gate Cycle, and writing the Legend of Zelda fanfic set around the game and the cartoon series when I was in elementary school.

And the awards? Well, how about this? (Just to get the convo rolling — don’t consider it a finalized thing. More a “outline I’ve worked out that probably needs some tweaking”)

I know the constellations are probably taken (and the Constellations themselves are an actual award) but imagine something like this:

The Aries — best military work (red for sci-fi, blue for fantasy)
The Aquarius — best literary work (red for sci-fi, blue for fantasy)
The Capricorn — best hard science fiction (red) or epic fantasy (blue)
The Gemini — best young adult work (red for sci-fi, blue for fantasy)
The Leo — best space opera (red) or swords-and-sorcery (blue) work
The Libra — best dystopian (red) urban fantasy (blue) work
The Sagittarius — best speculative work (red for sci-fi, blue for fantasy)
The Scorpio — best pure-superhero work (for superhero works that cannot be classed anywhere else)
The Taurus — best post-apocalyptic (red) or dark fantasy (blue) work
The Virgo — life-time achievement award
The Ophiuchus — historic recognition award

Each award has seven categories: written series, novel, novella, short story, editor-in-field, artist, and licensed work, with there being three possible additional categories: television show, film, video game. So, there would be an Aries for the best military sci-fi series, stand-alone novel, novella, short-story, editor-in-field, artist, and then licensed work in that field (such as something from Star Wars or Star Trek).

Nominations would run from, say, October 1 to January 30. Then the top fifteen for each award and category (the nominations receiving the most votes) would be put on the ballot. A jury would be selected for each award/category consisting of at least 10k people from the membership chosen randomly. They would be sent the entire packet to read and would be given a test to prove that they had read and understood the books or films or shows. Then they would be sent the ballot and allowed to vote. The top five (the five receiving the highest number of votes in each 10k voting pool) go on the final ballot for selection at the convention itself. At the convention, it’s straight up the most votes wins with “no award” requiring unanimity or the voting pool to dip below 5k.

Not a perfect system, I know. According to my man Ken Arrow, a perfect ranking system is impossible. However, with two steps of popular votes and a randomly selected jury pool with an enforced reading test (or no ballot issued and another juror chosen instead), it’s much harder to game this kind of system. There’s also less incentive for SJWs to want to do so since they’ll have the Aquarius all to themselves. And, if they do try to overrun the rest of the categories, we send them back to their little sandbox where everything is rubberfoamed and inoffensive and they can have their skin-deep diversity without any diversity of ideas and the little dears can’t hurt themselves or encounter a difficult thought/word/feeling or be triggered while the grown-ups can talk about grown-up things in all of the other categories.

Except for the Gemini, of course. Because “young adults” aren’t SJWs but aren’t grown-up, yo.

— G.K.

Share Button

Saturday Review: CyberStorm

Saturday Review: CyberStorm
Share Button

This one came up on my Kindle Unlimited list so I decided to give it a try. Matthew Mather’s CyberStorm is an interesting look at how a few friends struggle to cope with the miscommunication, the misdirection, and the problems that come when the fragile nature of our current system are exploited, causing the entire thing to crash. It also deals with the individual perspective of living through the CyberStorm and what it means for people and how it would impact day-to-day life in New York City.

Overall, it’s a good book. The pacing is okay. However, the characters are a bit flat. Chuck is the uni-dimensional envisioning of a doomsday prepper from the point of view of an urbanite who has never really sat down and actually spoken with one for more than a few hours. The philosophies and the way Mather tries to resolve them are believable conversations (shouting matches between the characters, really) but do little to advance the characters’ development and frequently seem to be just another way of putting down Chuck (and non-North Easterners in general). I did like the interplay with the main character (Mike) and Richard via Mike’s wife (who is the least likable character in the book). However, the vegan couple and the scenes involving them were just…pointless. Vegans would die very quickly if they clung to their veganism during a cyberstorm and the “side step” used the final time they’re encountered is pure sophistry.

I liked how the second half of the book ran with the establishing of a mesh-net, the real-life individual consequences of the “fog of war” phenomenon and the whole “misleading vividness” played out regarding what Mike thinks he sees during his first trip for help. I also like how the person who wound up being the Big Hero wasn’t one of the central characters of the story or a big player in the universe to begin with.

   

Three and a half rainbow farting zebricorns. CyberStorm is a good cyberthriller but it’s not A Canticle for Leibowitz

— G.K.

Share Button

Fanfic Friday — Star Trek Voyager: Inosculation Updated!

Fanfic Friday — Star Trek Voyager: Inosculation Updated!
Share Button

Okay, so, I may have been just the teensiest bit busy last week and kind of forgot to hit the “publish” button on the last chapter of this story. Not to worry — that just means you all get a double dose this week. So, be not sad and don’t waste any replicator rations — there’s plenty of booze and beverages to go around while you settle in to read the latest two chapters of Star Trek Voyager: Inosculation!

Yeah, I revisited the transwarp flight thing. I didn’t redo the whole episode — just some bits of it (and it’s a multi-chapter work) that are interesting. So, you don’t have to worry about a bunch of rehashed dialogue. I learned a lot from Adrift and Alayne’s Story. But, things are progressing and it’s going to be interesting so go get your read on.

I’m going to be moving my Friday Review entry to Saturday from here on out so check back tomorrow for that.

— G.K.

Share Button

Throwback Thursday: A Cold War Vocabulary Lesson

Share Button

I was scanning around for a topic to write about this Thursday and wondering if I was going to do something historical like “how to make daggers” or “the first fanfic G ever wrote” when the most Evil of Space Princesses posted this on her blog.


Really? Seriously? This level of ignorance is the product of an advanced educational system?

Suddenly, I knew what today’s entry had to be about. So, let’s all hop in our time machines — be they TARDISes, telephone booths, funky-looking steampunk chairs, or DeLoreans — and set the dial for August 27, 1980. We’ll avoid my neck of the woods since this trip puts me in my own time-line (I’ll be 24 hours old) and instead go hang out someplace cool. I’ll supply the chameleon circuits so we can waltz into the HQ of USPACOM without being noticed. Just remember — don’t muck about.

Things seem kinda tense, don’t they? Hear that chatter from EUCOM over in Stuttgart, Germany? And the calls from RDJTF — which will soon become CENTCOM — about the problems in Iran?

Oh, man, if only the poor bastards knew…

Notice how all the focus is on Europe and the Pacific, though? Now, guys, I know it’s been a while. Keep listening. Yep. There it is. I notice some of you look a little confused. West Germany? East Germany? What the hell?


Back during the 1980s, I often wondered where North and South Germany were. My excuse was that I was under the age of ten. I’m uncertain what someone who was born in 1969 would have to offer as a similar excuse for such breath-taking ignorance.

It’s 1980. The Cold War is still on, guys. There’s still a USSR in this time with missiles pointed at the US. There are tanks all over the Eastern Bloc nations. We have our own bases and our own forces in Europe to keep the Warsaw Pact from invading. NATO is a big deal instead of the joke we all know it will become. Article V of the NATO Charter is the life-line that Western Europe has clung to and the reason our boys are still there even though the Nazis were defeated well-nigh on forty years ago. It’s also the reason we have bases in Japan and the Japanese are praying we’ll keep the Chicoms from invading them and the Taiwanese (the Republic of China) is counting on us to help them keep the Chicoms from crossing the Strait and subjecting them to the good Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Forward that left millions dead.

Chicom? I see some of you looking confused again. Chinese Communist. It means “a person who is loyal to the People’s Republic of China — a communist government that uses repressive means including (but not limited to) censorship, state control of the media, re-education camps, imprisonment, torture, secret police, internal and interior-focused spy organizations, centralized control of the food supply, and centralized control of the economy in order to completely dominate the people it governs.” The PRC at this time does not allow people to practice religion, the press to report anything unfavorable to the government or to the Communist ideology, or the people to communicate freely with citizens of other countries. Chicoms are, by and large, ethnically Chinese but may also be Caucasian, Russian, Serbian, Arabian, Persian, Iberian, Hispanic, Chicano, Latino, African, Korean, Japanese, Amerindian, Indian, Vietnamese, or any other ethnic group or sub-group. Their primary identity is their loyalty to a political body — the PRC.


And, like these guys, they’ll kneel to whoever orders them. Unfortunately, there are no real-world Captain Americas, Thors, and Tony Starks to save them and those who wind up as collateral damage from their own raging stupidity.

They were not good guys. They were not sweet, cuddly kittens. They were brutal, murderous, power-hungry asshats who enriched themselves at the expense of their people. They gorged themselves on power and wealth while the average Chinese citizen went hungry. Their so-called noble ideology (which doesn’t scale at all beyond devoted communities such as monasteries where there are methods of population control and a larger community that isn’t bound by that ideology to support them — just look at places like Mount Atheos) led to the deaths of tens of millions of people.

Calling them “Chicoms” isn’t an insult. It isn’t a racial or ethnic slur. Anyone who thinks that is either 1) too young to have lived through the Cold War at all, 2) too stupid to use Google and therefore too stupid to be referenced as an expert on anything, 3) looking for a reason to be offended, or 4) some combo of the above.


Brought to you by…someone educated by hard-working teachers in the Poorest State in the Union™.

So, there go you. A new vocabulary word for you! Now, let’s go back to 2015. I need to see a man about a flying car…

— G.K.

Share Button

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse: Starting the Rebuild

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse: Starting the Rebuild
Share Button

Okay, so far we’ve covered a lot of ground in just surviving and eking out a safe space to keep on surviving. By this point, you’re well into the Zombie Apocalypse and it’s time to change the game a bit. Instead of just surviving, you want to begin focusing on living, growing, and thriving with an eye towards rebuilding a viable civilization and reversing the Zombie Apocalypse.

So, how do you do that? Well, it’s not that easy. It took humans well over one hundred thousand years to develop civilization. It took us close to three thousand years to build a society that was capable of technological, legal, social, economic, and political change and adaptation without constant bloodshed (hat tip to Greece and Rome for pointing us in the right direction). Luckily, we don’t have to re-invent everything (we already know a lot and have the whole “writing” thing down) but we will have to regain a good bit of lost ground. Things are going to go backwards for a while — they’ll have to. Our current system relies heavily on electricity and the wonder that is the internal combustion engine. Those things go “bye-bye” during the Zombie Apocalypse.


Oh hell no…you mean to tell me there aren’t any showers up in here?

Some of you probably laughed when I suggested raiding a library or making certain you stole or “gathered in” as many books as you could. Well, get ready to eat those giggles. Those books are going to teach you things like “how to find metals,” “how to smelt and forge metals into tools,” “how to generate electricity,” “what electricity is and how it works,” “why you really want to try to set up base not too far from a nuclear power plant because that sucker will *still* be generating electricity and all you need to do is figure out how the controls work to harness it,” as well as “how to build a sewage system (and you will need one),” and “how to deal with tainted water.”

This is the point in the Zombie Apocalypse when, if you’re recruiting people, you’ll want to risk reaching out to lone wolves to see if any of them are just gun-shy individuals who possess a lot of knowledge or useful skills but might not be able to small-talk their way out of a paper bag (like me). Case in point: if you need a system (damned near any kind of system) worked out or you need to understand how one worked before, I’m really good at that. I have a talent that borders on “freaky super-power” for seeing how different parts/units/things/subsystems are composed and how they interact with each other in the larger system. Computers, computer programs and languages, computer networks, legal systems (the framework, not the actual practice), medical devices, surgical procedures, organ systems, communication and transport networks, molecules, galaxies — to me, they’re all just different kinds of systems organized of various components and sub-components with certain behaviors and rule-sets that interact in predictable and logical manners (with the occasional emergent property or three) and they can be deciphered, understood, and explained. That means they can also be harnessed and manipulated (with stipulations).


…Dammit, tell Daryl not to bring back any more systems nerds unless they have their manuals or a translation guide with them.

But if you ask me which shoes go with a certain purse or to comment on the latest celebrity sex scandal…well, I’m less than clueless there. I have finally learned who the Kardashians are. I’m still not certain who Taylor Swift or Kayne West is, though, other than that Kayne interrupted some awards ceremony because he really likes Beyonce (who is a singer…I think). I don’t know what clothes look good on me; I care very little about that. I know a handful of actors’ names and it’s because they’ve played characters I really liked. Trying to engage me in small talk is…just don’t do it. It’s not a good idea for you or for me. Conversations heard in my house (I had to move back in with my parents) often go like this:

Me: *staring into space* What’s the oldest civilization? When was it started? The Egyptians were, what, 4000 BC?
My mom: I think they were around 2000 BC so civilization would be 4000 years old (she’s used to my random questions)
Me: Actually, wait…didn’t the Chinese have a dynasty that was a few centuries, maybe a thousand years before that?
Mom: I don’t know. But I don’t go into all that lost civilization from 10,000 years…
Me: No! Neither do I. I’ve got this idea for a sci-fi story set 10,000 years in the future so I’m trying to find a data point to extrapolate from on how garbled events from the current era would be to people living in 12,000 AD. Because even with video…
Mom: Well, even with video, that’s no guarantee. I have 8-track tapes that I can’t find a player for. There are VHS tapes but no one has a VCR these days…
Me: Yeah, true, but going digital did eliminate *some* of that. Still, there would be a lot of telephonic garble.
Mom: Okay…
Me: Because history is often like that telephone game. You know, where a kid whispers something to one kid who whispers it to another and another…
Mom: Yeah, I know.
Me: I guess I’ll go with the Chinese, then. Better chance for a closer data point to extrapolate from. Also, the language is more unified — modern Chinese is closer to ancient Chinese than modern English is to ancient Egyptian. Less drift. Makes them a better example to work from. Thanks!
Mom: …did you finish cleaning the kitchen?

I’m great with systems and I know a lot of things from books. But I am so not the person you invite to a social occasion that doesn’t involve sitting around a table rolling polyhedral dice and arguing over saving throws. That’s why, in a Zombie Apocalypse, I’ll probably stake out a place as a lone wolf or with a group of people I know very well.


I am so going to have this printed on a t-shirt one day. Anyone else want one?

Funny thing is, weird, quirky people like me generally wind up being damned useful at rebuilding. So, you have to go out and find us because we are not going to be looking for you. We’ll build our own slice of heaven and fucking. stay. there. Forever.

And speaking of finding and recruiting people…now that you’ve established a base camp worth defending, maybe it’s time to come up with some hard-and-fast rules on how people can join your merry little band of survivors?

— G.K.

Share Button

MRSA and Marx — the Hugo Aftermath

MRSA and Marx -- the Hugo Aftermath
Share Button

Sorry for the silence last week. My friend and business partner Vic, the founder and majority owner of Rooster and Pig, had a stroke back at the end of July which means that I’ve been stuck with the fun of formatting all the books slated to go out now as well as handling all of the Q2 reports, trying to get the royalties and the staff paid, and trying to port the company to a new website since we’ve long since outgrown the system we’re on. Vic is handling all of this with his usual inability to chill the hell out and let someone else worry about everything so those of us who are his not-real-but-kind-of-really-real family get the fun of dealing with him both IRL and via the Internet.

Vic’s one of my buddies. He’s been there for me when no one else was. He knows that I’m quirky and weird and that, on some political issues, he and I are complete opposites (I want a government too powerless to do much of anything; he doesn’t). End of the day, we’re friends and I’d do anything for him. Race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, veteran status, the kind of books we read and write — none of that matters because he’s my friend.

And, by the way — he’s a gay, black, Messianic Jewish Iraqi era veteran who reads and writes a lot of gay erotica. Hell, I’ve edited some of it and spent hours wondering “can you actually do that though? I mean, wouldn’t it hurt if it got bent and twisted around like that?” Which is why he and I always have a little chuckle when folks like John Scalzi, PNH, TNH, and more say that I must be racist and homophobic. It’d be kind of difficult for me to be in business with someone like Vic if that were true.

But then, truth matters little to these people. They’re impervious to it the same way that MRSA is impervious to penicillin. All of the women writers in the Sad Puppies group (and there are a lot of us) could stand up naked to prove our womanhood and we’d still be told we were men. I can go hang out with my lesbian sister or my gay business partner and I’m still a homophobe (and a racist). We can gather all of the black, Asian, Indian (subcontinental), Native American, Middle Eastern, Latin, Hispanic, and Chicano authors we can find (not to mention a few of us who are from areas that are actually so poverty-stricken that they’re routinely cited as “one of the most poverty-stricken places in the United States”) and none of that will matter. We can writer stories involving women (have done), gay characters (have done), minorities (check), overcoming great odds (CHECK), and very long-lasting and their actions here in the immediate aftermath are doing a lot more to discredit their side than the Sad Puppies ever could.


So, the question becomes: can WorldCon and the Hugos be salvaged? At this point, it’s debatable. Sarah Hoyt, Kate Paulk, and others intend to try next year with SP4 and I’m volunteering to help out. Maybe if we show them an effort led completely by women that will be savaged by men, it might just cause enough cognitive dissonance to wake a few people up. That said, I’m not going to put all my eggs in that basket because, like the Eloi, I don’t think the Hugos are going to last that long. I think that at this, the first real show of resistance on the part of the over-arching geek culture, WorldCon is just going to whither away and die. Sarah, Kate, et al are trying to save it but me, after seeing the way the Puppy Kickers acted this year and behaved at the awards ceremony?

Fuck that shit. Let the fucker burn and sow the earth it was on with salt. I’m going to help out with SP4 in hopes of convincing them to consider launching a parallel convention system that would actually bring in the rest of the fandom that WorldCon shuts out. You know — the comic geeks, the gamers, the Trekkies, the dabblers, the people who got into sci-fi from something that the CHORFs think is “lame,” (like The Walking Dead or Twilight) — the folks who are keeping the geek culture going with new ideas, new stories, new mediums, and more. Those who could care less about politics and who want a convention that is fun and welcomes them instead of telling them they’re WrongFans having WrongFun.

Martin told us to set up our own award. Well, why the hell not? And why not make the voting pool so massive it can’t be gamed, make the thing so open it’s financially solvent, and make it an actual stamp worth having on your book cover. The Hugo used to be that way — back when WorldCon wanted to have a larger audience. Obviously, they don’t want that anymore so screw ’em. Let the Hugos become exactly what the WorldConners want it to be — an award given to old, white Marxists by other old, white Marxists for books written for the enjoyment of other aging, white Marxists. Meanwhile, we work on making something where anyone can win it — not just the Toads at Tor who think anyone who lives outside of the Coastal Enclaves should be subject to summary execution for “lack of diversity.”

Imagine a con that embraces the audiences of Comic Con, BlizzCon, GamesCon, DefCon, and LibertyCon instead of a con like WorldCon that says hangs a sign on the door and says “Non-Marxists Need Not Apply.” Which one would you go to? And more importantly — which one would you take your children to (because the future belongs to those who bother to reproduce, yo).

— G.K.

Share Button

The State of Fandom and the Hugos: Category Error

The State of Fandom and the Hugos: Category Error
Share Button

I mentioned this monster post in a comment at Sarah Hoyt’s this weekend. Here it is. Grab something to drink because this one’s a doozy, mes amis.

So, the Hugo voting period ended and the winners will be announced soon. There’s been the predictable resurgence in Puppy-related topics recently with the mainstream press parroting the press releases from Tor et alia to the effect that the Puppies and those of us who think they have a point are evil, racist, sexist, homophobic, hateful people who want to build new Dachaus and gulags in order to ensure that only white heterosexual men can own property while the rest of the world is enslaved to them. Those of us who know better, of course, just roll our eyes and wonder why we’re always the ones being accused of planning to build the concentration camps and gulags while the ideologues the Puppy-kickers uphold as being morally superior seem to be the ones who manage to actually have such things turn up in their back yards.

…but I digress.

For decades, there have been award ceremonies that attempt to showcase “the best” works in a genre. The Hugos, once upon a time, (arguably) were the premiere award for science fiction works. However, back in the days when the Hugo was a worthwhile award, the voting pool for the award was much larger, making it much less susceptible to industry or pool capture. WorldCon attendance would have been much higher as well and overall membership (even non-attending) would have been higher. But, over time, the publishing industry captured WorldCon and the Hugos which turned them from a fan award into a marketing stunt.

Don’t get me wrong — the bylaws and the rules are clear. No, what happened is very subtle. It probably started back in the late 1970s to mid 1980s at the earliest, early 1990s at the latest. The houses themselves were being taken over by liberal art majors who, having grown up steeped in the mythos of “the men who took down Nixon,” came into the publishing world with the same zeal to change the world instead of to help find great stories that people wanted to buy. Factor in the rage many of them had felt throughout the 1980s over Reagan’s cowboy diplomacy, his Brandenburg Gate speech where he had the audacity to demand that the morally superior USSR tear down the Berlin Wall, the cognitive dissonance that they felt when the Eastern Bloc collapsed and the USSR voted itself out of existence…and these were hammers desperately in search of a nail. The publishing world was just that nail.

They honed in on science fiction and fantasy specifically because it was future-oriented. Also, because it didn’t require a lot of experience in scholarship or other fields already (try getting into biographies or academic publishing with just a degree in English). Ideologically, they’d already begun taking over a lot of other places — schools, colleges, the art world, film, television, music — so publishing was just the next step.

Now, this wasn’t some organized take over with a great conspiracy where a secret cabal issued diktats — I’m not a tin-foil hatter. It was a long-term underlying trend that was baked into socialism and progressive philosophy.

So, once they’d gotten into the top spots of the big houses like Tor and the fantasy/sci-fi imprints of the other big six, they started making it difficult for anyone outside of their social circles to work there which slowly ensured that agents pushing authors whose politics differed would go nowhere. The stories became homogenized as well, following a set formula with characters that were uniform, uni-dimensional, predictable, and uninteresting. Readers revolted and stopped attending the conventions. But the publishers kept going to the conventions and kept sending their star authors (which dragged out some fans) which led to…the conventions being captured.

Which is what happened to WorldCon and the Hugos. The Hugos aren’t a fan award these days. They haven’t been for the better part of nearly thirty years now. They’re a publisher award because it’s been the publishers who were controlling the voter pool because the voter pool was less than 1000 people. Of course they were in political lockstep and of course they were pissed off when Correia and the rest of us Puppies came in and proved it.

But now on to the real problem. That’s right everyone — 700 words to get to the point of the post. We’ve been accused of destroying the Hugos and we’ve accused the others of destroying them. However, the real problem is CATEGORY ERROR — we’ve never really defined what the problem is. Oh, we think we have. We’ve intuitively got a grasp of what it is. We agree that there is a problem. But have we defined it? No. Not so much.


Category Error — having stated or defined a problem so poorly that it becomes impossible to solve that problem, through dialectic or any other means. Also, not quite as cool as Loki’s Wager but still a good excuse to run a graphic with Tom Hiddleston, yo

So, what is the actual problem? The actual problem is that what the Hugos were created to recognize no longer exists. Back when the Hugos and WorldCon first started, an avid reader could go through every sci-fi book published in a year. But these days, “science fiction” is a massive genre that has spawned dozens of child/sub genres. It’s the same story in the fantasy world. And the publishers and the folks who captured the Hugos over the past few decades represent a tiny sliver of the fanbase and readership — the sliver that aspire more towards the once academic, avant-garde literary-chic style of writing. This group is also incredibly active and activist which is why they have a tendency to take over many other conventions and force out groups they dislike (which is why the Honey Badger Brigade got shut out and nearly arrested for showing up at Calgary Comic Con).

The WorldCon/Hugo by-laws make it very difficult to change and recognize the new reality and…well…doing so would cost the publishers and the lit-chic folks their powerbase. Therefore, if those of us on the Puppy-side want to really fix this and have an award that is meaningful, durable, not subject to capture by one group or another, and represents the best works without showing the divide between works that sell well and works that win awards that the Hugos have shown in recent years, then we have our work cut out for us. The first thing we have to do is actually start defining stuff. I’ll expand on this further in later entries but for now, here are some of the child-genres I’ve noticed in science fiction and fantasy that we should consider:

Science Fiction:
Space Opera
Dystopian
Cyber
Military
Zombie Apocalypse
Superhero
Hard sci-fi
-Physics
-Chemistry
-Biology
-Astronomy
-Space Exploration
Post-Apocalyptic
Medical
Literary
Expanded Canon
-Star Trek novels
-Star Wars novels
-Halo book
-StarCraft books
-Halflife books
-Dune novels
-Doctor Who novles
-The X-Files books
-Batman comics
-Marvel: The Avengers comics

Fantasy:
High Fantasy
Epic Fantasy
Swords-and-Sorcery
Nordic
Shamanistic
Native American
Medieval
Urban
Dark
Surreal
Dystopian
Superhero
Romance
Literary
Expanded Canon
-Warcraft novels
-World of Warcraft novels
-Diablo novels
-Legend of Zelda comics
-Thor: The Dark World comics
-Doctor Who novels

Look, the simple fact of the matter is that our genres are growing and this is a good thing. We need to define the child/sub genres and start expanding awards to include them. And, we may need to give up on the idea of there ever being a single “best science fiction for the year” award ever again. It’s become a bit like trying to decide which vehicle is the best for a given year these days. Yes, some are objectively better than others but when you’ve got so many doing so many different things… it’s difficult to say “this is the best OVERALL” without actually defining what in the name of Issac Asimov you’re talking about.

Category error, guys. Let’s start fixing it, shall we?

— G.K.

Share Button

Friday Review: After The Blast

Friday Review: After The Blast
Share Button

This week’s review is a short work from my friend and fellow author T.L. Knighton. I grabbed it with my Kindle Unlimited and am planning to get the second book in the series already to add to my “to read” pile. After the Blast is a nice, quick bit of light reading that sets up a series quite well. I’m looking forward to learning more in the second book.

The premise of the novelette is this: there’s a nuclear attack on the US. How extensive it is, who launched it, and what the international response is are never covered in the story. Instead, the action focuses on the main character, Jason, as he makes his way to join his family in north Georgia. He encounters some good folks and bad folks on his journey and transitions from being a menial office worker to being something of a badass by the end of the story.

The pacing is a bit rough at the start but once Knighton finds his stride, it’s all good. And, with it only being 0.99 (or free with Kindle Unlimited), it’s well worth it. A nice impulse buy that will get you hooked on what looks to be a great series.

    

Four and a half rainbow farting zebricorns — no major complaints but there were some editing problems (nothing major — nothing that renders it unreadable like what happened with the eBook version of The Road).

— G.K.

Share Button
Skip to toolbar