Guided by the Beauty of Their Weapons: An Analysis of Theodore Beale and his Supporters

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Right. It’s probably about time to collect all the issues and discussion of the 2015 Hugo Awards into one big post that is, at least in terms of what I have to say, a definitive take on it. A long read, to be sure, but one that will hopefully manage to cover everything important and give a clear sense of the issues and their implications.

One note that is probably worth making before we begin - I am writing this with the assumption of a basically sympathetic audience who have heard bits of the disturbing story, but who aren’t clear on the whole picture. It’s meant to be persuasive to people who are, broadly speaking, left-leaning (or at least not far-right) fans of intelligent and literary science fiction, and who are not generally of the opinion that there was ever anything badly wrong with the Hugo Awards. This is not to say “someone who agrees absolutely with the Hugo Awards,” as such a person presumably does not exist, awards being like that, but it is to say “someone who thinks the Hugo Awards have gone to generally reasonable selections over the past five years.”

Correspondingly, it is not expected to be in the least bit persuasive to people who think Theodore Beale to be an intelligent and respectable figure worth taking seriously. It is not an attempt to argue with them. For reasons that will I think become clear as the post goes on, I do not think arguing with them is a particularly worthwhile pursuit. In any case, off we go, first with a primer on what we’re actually talking about here.

  1. What Happened with the Hugos
  2. What Puppies Want
  3. The Unbelievable Noxiousness of Theodore Beale
  4. On Fascism
  5. Trolling the Voice of God
  6. In Which Several Very Lousy Pieces of Science Fiction (And One Lovely Story About Dinosaurs) Are Analyzed in Depth
  7. Notes On the Proper Handling of a Rabid Dog
  8. God Will Bury You. Nature Will Bury You.
  9. I Want To Thank You For Dancing To The End

Part One: What Happened with the Hugos

For decades, the Hugo Awards have been one of the leading awards in science fiction. This year, the Hugo nomination process was effectively taken over by two related groups who employed a controversial set of tactics that were legal but had not previously been employed in the over sixty year history of the Hugo Awards due to generally being considered unsporting and in poor taste.

Hugo nominations are a fairly simple affair. You join the World Science Fiction Convention (this year called Sasquan, and held in Spokane) for the year, either as a fully attending member or as a non-attending “supporting member” (this year costing $40). This entitles you to submit a nominating ballot for the Hugos, in which you can nominate up to five works in each category. The five eligible works in each category with the most nominations become the nominees, at which point voting happens.

Because the overwhelming majority of Hugo nominators simply pick their personal favorite five (or fewer) works in each category, this system is easily gameable with a small amount of organization, which is what happened in 2015, when Brad Torgersen and Theodore Beale (also known under his pen name, Vox Day) each released full slates of nominees and called on people to submit their exact proposed slates. Torgersen’s slate was called the Sad Puppies, while Beale’s was called the Rabid Puppies. The result was a large number of identical and near-identical ballots, which meant that the works on those ballots had more nominations than anything submitted by fans who were simply picking their personal favorites, despite the Puppy ballots making up only 12-25% of total ballots in a given category.

Specifically, it was Theodore Beale’s slate that dominated - in the initially released set of nominations, the nominees in Best Novella, Best Novelette, Best Short Story, Best Related Work, Best Editor (Long Form), and Best Editor (Short Form) were simply the Rabid Puppies slate, verbatim. All told, 58 of the 67 items on the Rabid Puppies slate were nominated, roughly two-thirds of the final ballot. (Subsequently, two works were disqualified, including one of the Best Novelette options, with the replacement work in that case not being from the Puppy slates, and two nominees belatedly rejected their nomination, including one of the Short Story nominees.)

Relatively unreported - and indeed misreported in most coverage of this, is the fact that the Sad Puppies largely failed. The two slates had heavy overlap, but ten works that were on the Rabid Puppies slate and not the Sad Puppies were ultimately nominated, compared to only three that were Sad but not Rabid. More to the point, two of those three were in the category of Best Semiprozine, a category in which Beale only proposed one nominee, meaning that there was only one instance of a Sad Puppy beating out a Rabid Puppy to a place on the ballot, compared to three Rabid Puppies that made the list over a Sad one. In the only category in which both Beale and Torgersen proposed full slates, Best Short Story, Beale’s nominees made it.

This last fact is particularly relevant, because the Sad and Rabid Puppies, though obviously related, have distinct agendas.

Part Two: What Puppies Want

Let’s start here with the Sad Puppies, although they are in practice the less important of the two slates. They are, however, the older; this is the third iteration of the Sad Puppies movement, which focused in previous years on getting a single work nominated into each category before this year expanding to full slates that would allow it complete control of major categories. Three days after unveiling his slate of nominees, Torgersen wrote an essay explaining the necessity of the slate in terms of the “unreliability” of contemporary science fiction, writing:

A few decades ago, if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds. If you saw a barbarian swinging an axe? You were going to get a rousing fantasy epic with broad-chested heroes who slay monsters, and run off with beautiful women. Battle-armored interstellar jump troops shooting up alien invaders? Yup. A gritty military SF war story, where the humans defeat the odds and save the Earth. And so on, and so forth.  
These days, you can’t be sure.  
The book has a spaceship on the cover, but is it really going to be a story about space exploration and pioneering derring-do? Or is the story merely about racial prejudice and exploitation, with interplanetary or interstellar trappings? 
There’s a sword-swinger on the cover, but is it really about knights battling dragons? Or are the dragons suddenly the good guys, and the sword-swingers are the oppressive colonizers of Dragon Land? 
A planet, framed by a galactic backdrop. Could it be an actual bona fide space opera? Heroes and princesses and laser blasters? No, wait. It’s about sexism and the oppression of women. 
Finally, a book with a painting of a person wearing a mechanized suit of armor! Holding a rifle! War story ahoy! Nope, wait. It’s actually about gay and transgender issues. 
Or it could be about the evils of capitalism and the despotism of the wealthy. 
Do you see what I am trying to say here?

There are several things worth noting here. First and most obvious is the spectacle of a grown man complaining about how he just can’t judge a book by its cover anymore. Second, and hardly something that Torgersen has tried to hide, is the basic political aspect to this complaint. Observe the list of things that Torgersen does not want in his science fiction: racial prejudice and exploitation, sexism and the oppression of women, gay and transgender issues, the evils of capitalism and the despotism of the wealthy.

Obviously, as histories of science fiction literature go, this is not exactly the most accurate; it is hardly as though science fiction of the 1960s-80s (the period Torgersen highlights as the sort of authentic science fiction that doesn’t get Hugo nominations anymore) was not largely about these exact issues. A perusal of the Hugo winners over those decades will reveal wins for Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land , a book about sexual freedom and prejudice; for Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness , an early and major work of feminist science fiction; Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves , which features an alien race with three genders, all of which must participate in sexual reproduction; two wins for Octavia Butler, whose work is massively focused on race and gender issues… we could continue like this for a long time. The idea that science fiction, in the sense that the Hugo Awards have ever cared about it, is an apolitical genre of thrilling adventure fiction is simply not supported by any sort of historical reality.

And, of course, there’s the second obvious point to make, which is that it’s not the 1980s, and hasn’t been for more than a quarter-century now. The suggestion that any genre ought resist evolution and development over the course of twenty-five years is a strange one; to make the claim about a genre ostensibly about the future is even stranger. Simply put, ideas get old and played out, and art requires people to come up with new ones to maintain a sense of freshness. This, in particular is a point we will return to later.

I explain all of this simply to suggest that Brad Torgersen, whatever his merits may be in any other arena in which he may be judged, is an absolutely terrible critic of science fiction. It will not surprise anybody, and this too is a point we will return to in some detail, that he has terrible taste in science fiction as well.

But as we’ve seen, it’s not really Torgersen who is most important here; it’s Theodore Beale. Although we ought not treat these as unrelated matters. The Rabid Puppies were the slate that actually dominated the Hugos nominations, but the Sad Puppies give every appearance of having been actively constructed to allow them to. In five of the six categories swept by Rabid Puppies, the Sad Puppies slate consisted of fewer than five nominations, with Beale’s slate simply taking the Sad Puppies and adding some of his own selections, in virtually every case things published by his own small press, Castalia House, or, in the two Best Editor categories, simply for himself outright. In other words, the Sad Puppies slate left exactly enough gaps for Beale to, in most major categories, fill them out. Beale’s slate came out a day after Torgersen’s, and featured a logo by the exact same artist who did the logo for the Sad Puppies, with the two logos clearly containing the same set of cartoon dogs. 


None of this, of course, is actually evidence that Torgersen and Beale collaborated on their slates, but given that the argument that a right-wing takeover of the Hugos was necessary is predicated in part on the baseless claim that left-wing writers privately conspired to create nominating slates, it hardly seems out of line to point out. Especially because, regardless of Torgersen’s intentions, the practical result is that he’s providing the politely moderate front for a movement that is in practice dominated by Theodore Beale. And whether or not that was Torgersen's intention from the get-go, with the nominations out and the comparative success of the Rabid Puppies to his slate, it’s something he’s clearly, at this point, doing deliberately when he opts to be the public face of the movement, a fact that becomes increasingly obvious as he visibly realizes how self-defeating his alliance with Beale is and tries to backpedal on it.

Because one thing you can definitely say about Theodore Beale is this: he’s not shy about his views. He opens his Rabid Puppies slate (released the day after Torgersen’s) by explicitly declaring what is only implicit in Torgersen’s slate: that this is about politics. “We of the science fiction Right do not march in lockstep or agree on everything,” his post begins, making clear from the outset that the purpose of the slate is to try to get a more right-wing set of Hugo nominations.

Similarly, he is blunter than Torgersen about how he would like people to use their Hugo ballots. Torgersen makes much of empowering fans, saying that the slate “is a recommendation. Not an absolute,” and stressing that “YOU get to have a say in who is acknowledged.” Beale, on the other hand, discourages his readers from exercising any personal preference, saying of his recommendations that “I encourage those who value my opinion on matters related to science fiction and fantasy to nominate them precisely as they are.”

But this begs the question of what Theodore Beale’s opinions on matters related to science fiction and fantasy are. And, given that these opinions are seemingly inextricably related to his particular right-wing politics, it’s worth unpacking those as well.

This is going to be ugly, I’m afraid.

Part Three: The Unbelievable Noxiousness of Theodore Beale

Theodore Beale is a neo-fascist.

Like most neo-fascists, he is not fond of this characterization. This is not particularly relevant, as we’ll establish shortly, but for now let’s set it aside and focus on a more easily defended observation, which is that Theodore Beale is a staggeringly odious person with some of the most breathtakingly repugnant views imaginable.

Let’s take a brief tour of some of the amazing things that Theodore Beale has said.

In an essay entitled “Why Women’s Rights are Wrong,” he came out against women’s suffrage, saying, “The women of America would do well to consider whether their much-cherished gains of the right to vote, work, murder and freely fornicate are worth destroying marriage, children, civilized Western society and little girls.” He has repeatedly reiterated this basic conclusion, which, to be fair, is basically the title of his essay restated. Elsewhere, he spoke favorably of acid attacks on feminists, saying that “a few acid-burned faces is a small price to pay for lasting marriages.”

Talking about the black science fiction writer NK Jemisin, he proclaimed her to be a “half savage” and claimed that “genetic science presently suggests that we are not equally homo sapiens sapiens” while insisting that this didn’t mean that he didn’t think she was human - just, apparently subhuman. Not that he’d ever be so crass as to use the word. (Elsewhere, he proclaims that “it is absurd to imagine that there is absolutely no link between race and intelligence,” and makes it clear that he thinks the link is that people of African descent are less intelligent than white people. He is a classic proponent of the age-old practice of scientific racism, which was, just to point out, one of the intellectual pillars of National Socialist ideology.)

He has proclaimed that “homosexuality is a birth defect from every relevant secular, material, and sociological perspective,” in the course of arguing for the validity of conversion therapy, a practice that is, in point of material fact, directly correlated with increased suicide rates among its patients compared with populations who are allowed to freely express their sexualities with other consenting adults.

He has said, in a quote that really requires very little framing, that “in light of the strong correlation between female education and demographic decline, a purely empirical perspective on Malala Yousafzai, the poster girl for global female education, may indicate that the Taliban's attempt to silence her was perfectly rational and scientifically justifiable.”

These are merely the most chilling highlights of a lengthy career of saying absolutely appalling things. The rabbit hole stretches down at horrifying length. But these quotes are sufficient to establish the sheer awfulness of Beale’s views. These are not merely the sort of sexist and racist views that lurk within mainstream discourse. These are views so gobsmackingly outside of the realm of what it is socially acceptable to think and say in 2015 that it is impossible to imagine them getting aired in any major newspaper. Fox News wouldn’t touch them. The Republican Party would demand the resignation of any elected official who said them. It is difficult to imagine any area where such views could openly hold major sway.

But past that… Theodore Beale is just a mean, nasty person. That’s really the only way to characterize someone who says things like “I did not game the 2014 Hugo Awards. After being falsely accused of doing so by numerous parties, I decided to demonstrate the absurdity of the accusation by gaming the 2015 Awards. I trust my innocence with regards to the 2014 Awards is now clear and I look forward to receiving apologies from those who falsely accused me.” Or who vows that if Hugo processes just as valid as the ones he used to game the ballot are used to keep any of his favored works from winning, he’ll organize his supporters to ensure that no work ever wins a Hugo again. These are the strategies and approaches of a vicious, mean-spirited, bully.

So Beale is a sexist, racist, homophobic extremist and a jerk to boot. I said neo-fascist, however, and that’s a different fish to fry, and one that’s going to require a brief jaunt into the nature of fascism. For now, let’s stick to a couple simple claims about Beale’s positions - claims that may not initially seem to have anything like the implications of his coming out in favor of the Taliban’s attack on Malala Yousafzai, but that we’ll get around to untangling. Specifically, Beale explicitly identifies with the neoreactionary movement, and describes himself as a Christian dominionist. And both of these, to anyone even glancingly familiar with far-right extremism, are red flags.

Part Four: On Fascism

I mentioned at the outset that this was not going to be a piece that made much of an effort to convince fascists not to be fascists. Here this becomes particularly important. I am not going to bother trying to refute all or even most of the many arguments that Theodore Beale has made for his positions. I am assuming, at this point, that you, as a reader, are in no way on the fence about fascism, that it is not a viewpoint you are seriously considering, and that you are appalled at Theodore Beale’s beliefs and disturbed by the fact that he has influenced a major and historic literary award.

Therefore, let’s not engage Beale on his own terms. The easiest mistake to make when trying to understand fascists is to think that they are best described in terms of a philosophy - as though fascism is a set of tenets and beliefs. This is a mistake that largely benefits fascists, who are generally disinclined to actually call themselves fascists, since they recognize that, much like “Nazis,” it’s not exactly a label that does a great sales job. On top of that, fascists have a remarkably well-developed vocabulary of jargon and a propensity for verbose arguments that puts me to shame. What this means is that if you attempt to get into some sort of practical, content-based argument with a fascist, you will suddenly find yourself staring down a thirty item bulleted list with frequent citations to barely relevant and inaccurately described historical events, which, should you fail to address even one sub-point, you will be declared to have lost the debate by the fascist and the mob of a dozen people on Twitter who suddenly popped up the moment you started arguing with him.

No, the useful way to understand fascism, at least for the purposes of Beale, is as an aesthetic - as a particular mix of fetishes and paranoias that always crops up in culture, occasionally seizing some measure of power, essentially always with poor results. It can basically be reduced to a particular sort of story. The fascist narrative comes, in effect, in two parts. The first involves a nostalgic belief in a past golden age - a historical moment in which things were good. In the fascist narrative, this golden age was ended because of an act of disingenuous betrayal - what’s called the “stab in the back myth.” (The most famous form, and the one that gave the myth its name, being the idea that German Jews had betrayed the German army, leading to the nation’s defeat in World War I.) Since then, the present and sorry state of affairs has been maintained by the backstabbers, generally through conspiratorial means.

The second part is a vision of what should happen, which centers on a heroic figure who speaks the truth of the conspiracy and leads a populist restoration of the old order. The usual root of this figure is (a bad misreading of) Nietzsche’s idea of the ubermensch - a figure of such strength that morality does not really apply to him. He’s at once a fiercely individualistic figure - a man unencumbered by the degenerate culture in which he lives - and a collectivist figure who is to be followed passionately and absolutely. A great leader, as it were. (This is, counterintuitively, something of a libertarian figure. Ayn Rand’s heroes - the great and worthy men who deserve their freedom - are archetypal fascist heroes, because they rise up over the pettiness of their society and become great leaders.) It is not, to be clear, that all cults of personality are fascist, any more than all conspiracy theories are. Rather, it is the combination - the stab-in-the-back conspiracy theory coupled with the great leader that all men must follow - that defines the fascist aesthetic.

All of these tropes are, of course, immediately visible in the Sad/Rabid Puppy narrative of the Hugos. Torgersen’s paean to the olden days of science fiction is straightforwardly the golden age myth. The claim that a leftist cabal of SJWs, the details of which are, as is always the case with these things, fuzzy, but which at the very least clearly includes John Scalzi, Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and the publishing house Tor have since taken control of the Hugos is a classic stab-in-the-back myth. And the Puppy slates feature heroic men (Torgersen and Beale) who speak truth to power and call excitedly for the people to rise up and show their freedom by voting in complete lockstep with them. It’s a classically fascist myth, just like Gamergate (gaming used to be great, then the feminist SJWs took over the gaming press, and now Gamergate will liberate it) or Men’s Rights Activists (of which Beale is one).

Which brings us back around to Christian dominionists and neoreactionaries, two distinct but clearly related movements. The former are Christian theocrats reasonably characterized by Beale’s statement, “I believe that any civilized Western society will be a Christian one or it will cease to be civilized... if it manages to survive at all.” (Note the “if it manages to survive at all,” which displays one of the key characteristics of dominionists, namely their apocalyptic bent.)

Dominionism is not inherently fascist, in that it does not inherently require the belief that there was a Christian theocracy that’s been undermined, but it’s certainly an ideology that can turn fascist without much difficulty - start from a premise about the spiritual degeneration of society, and you can probably come up with the fascist version of the narrative in your head. Otherwise, just turn on Pat Robertson or someone. (Certainly Robertson would have been an influence on Beale; Beale’s father, the tax protester Robert Beale, worked for Robertson’s 1988 Presidential campaign while the younger Beale was in college.)

A peculiarity of dominionist fascism, however, is that its stab-in-the-back myth tends to take place over a slightly longer historical scale than, say, the 1960s, instead encompassing centuries of secularization and spiritual decay.

In this regard, it’s an easy cousin for the neoreactionary movement, which calls for an end to liberal democracy (“pseudo-democracy,” in Beale’s parlance), which it views, along with the rest of the Enlightenment, as a disastrous wrong turn away from monarchic, aristocratic, and feudalist forms of government. This is, of course, just one big fascist narrative - a golden age of feudalism, a stab-in-the-back by what neoreactionaries call the Cathedral (essentially a distributed and leaderless conspiracy that constitutes the general consensus that democracy and human rights are good ideas), and a nice ubermenschian hero narrative that comes out of the movement’s historical roots in libertarianism, which it considers itself to split from largely because most people aren’t fit to have freedom.

This is what Theodore Beale self-identifies as: a straight-up fascist fantasy with a weirdly long sense of political scale.

Part Five: Trolling the Voice of God

Vox Day with a literal flaming sword. Your argument is invalid.

Having identified Beale’s beliefs, let us try to understand their consequences. To this end, let’s look at one of Beale’s picks for the Best Related Work category, a book called Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth , by John C. Wright, who Beale recommended for a staggering six nominations, including three of the five slots in Best Novella (a category where four of the five works are published by Beale’s micro-publisher Castalia House). Beale has described Wright as “one of the true grandmasters of science fiction,” and Wright shares both the bulk of Beale’s politics and his propensity for being a jerk. Which makes this book particularly useful, as it is largely Wright’s thoughts on how science fiction and fantasy ought to be.

The title essay of Wright’s collection gets off to a suitably fascist start, proclaiming that “anyone who does not sense or suspect that modernity is missing something, something important that once we had and now is lost, has no heart for High Fantasy and no taste for it.” He goes on to praise high fantasy as a genre with “a healthy view of the universe,” a view characterized by three tenets: “(1) truth is true, (2) goodness is good, and (3) life is beautiful unless marred by sin and malice.”

So, off the bat we have a vision of the world based on a nostalgic and lost golden age, and one with a sense of absolute authority that is clearly rooted in Christian theology. And he goes on to nail this down, describing “four stages of a path of decay towards the nihilist abyss” and proceeding to list science fiction writers that epitomize each stage. (Of particular note is his attack on Ursula K. Le Guin, who he faults for the way in which her works feature “a hidden truth, a truth that cannot be made clear,” or, perhaps more bluntly, because she works in metaphor.) In contrast stands a Christian view of magic (which Wright also, and not entirely unreasonably, argues is the purview of science fiction) where “there is an authority, a divine and loving Father who has both the natural authority of a parent and of a creator and of a king.”

At this point Wright transitions to his nominal subject, the idea of transhumanism, rejecting it because the fundamental inescapability of sin means that humans cannot create perfect people, and that anything they did create would be inhuman, proclaiming that “creatures without souls but with intellects capable of free will are devils.”

There is, for all of this, relatively little to actually argue with Wright about. He spends four thousand words, in effect, arguing that from a Christian perspective, science fiction and fantasy should be consistent with Christian beliefs - Christian beliefs he describes in avuncular terms borrowed from Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. It’s aggressively tautological, to say the least. So let’s instead simply poke at this as an aesthetic, that being the sense in which we are most interested in it anyway. Especially because the words he uses to discuss transhumanism are so evocative: “subhuman.” “Devils.”

This is not the first time in the course of this discussion that we have encountered the idea of subhumanity. We’ve already seen Beale call a black woman less human than he is. And his other description of her, “half-savage,” is similarly in the same rhetorical sphere as Wright’s descriptions of transhumanism, specifically the word “devil,” which carries not just theological weight, but the weight of a long history of racist imperialism, in which the colonized subjects were dismissed as “devils” by their white conquerors. (For example, Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The White Man’s Burden” describes “Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child.”)

I am, I suspect, hammering the point home for most readers at this point, but I nevertheless want to make it explicit what I am suggesting: if you got John C. Wright drunk at the bar, you could get him to admit that he thinks transhumanism and black people are ugly for the same reason. And if you couldn’t get John C. Wright to say it, you sure as hell could get Theodore Beale to.

Given this, I think it is not unreasonable to explore the intellectual possibilities of staking out positions that are as close to diametrically opposite Theodore Beale’s as possible. If he proclaims himself the voice of god, it seems to me an honor to serve as his Devil. It is, I am told, traditional to quote scripture for my purpose. Wright describes the Occultist, the third stage in the path of decay towards nihilism:

I don’t mean the word Occultist here to mean a palmist armed with Tarot cards. I am using the word in its original sense. I mean it is one who believes in a hidden reality, a hidden truth, a truth that cannot be made clear.
In the modern world, the Occultist is more likely to select Evolution or the Life-Force as this occult object of reverence, rather than the Tao. Occultists, in the sense I am using the word, explicitly denounce no religion nor way of life except the religion of Abraham, whose God is jealous and does not permit the belief in many gods, nor the belief in many views of the world each no better than the next. 
Postmodernism, which rejects the concept of one overarching explanation for reality, is explicitly Occultic: the truth is hidden and never can be known. 
Occultists tend to be more wary of the progress of science and technology than Cultists or Worldlies. They see the drawbacks, the danger to the environment, and the psychological danger of treating the world as a mere resource to be exploited, rather than as living thing, or a sacred thing. 
The Occultists believe in undemanding virtues, such as tolerance and a certain civic duty, but even these are relative and partial. There is beauty in his world, indeed, the beauty of nature is often his only approach to the supernal, but that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there is no absolute truth and very little goodness aside from good manners and political correctness.

As a PhD in English with no small amount of training in postmodernism and the recent publisher of a book that proclaimed itself “An Occultism of Doctor Who," I feel some qualification to speak here, secure in my conviction that John C. Wright and Theodore Beale recognize me as exactly what I am.

Where Wright is simply mistaken is the third paragraph quoted, in which he equates postmodernism with the occult. It is not, to be clear, that this is an unfair equation, although the occult is not necessarily postmodern (Aleister Crowley, for instance, is an arch-modernist) nor is the postmodern necessarily occult (indeed, very little of postmodernism can be accurately described as “explicitly Occultic”). Rather, it is the equivalence of the statement “there is no single overarching explanation for reality” with the statement “the truth is hidden and never can be known.” This is, simply put, a false statement, and the reasons ought be self-evident with only a moment’s thought. The problem is the belief that “single overarching explanation for reality” and “truth” are inherently synonyms, a viewpoint that excludes the perfectly sensible possibility that there are multiple reasonable explanations for reality floating, all of which are, if not true in some divine metaphysical sense, at least seemingly good enough to use without causing any major problems that we can see, and that doesn’t even necessarily mean that there isn’t such a thing as a single true explanation that is right in all regards, it just means that any such explanation is something well beyond our current understanding of the universe, and probably not relevant to very many practical situations.

Indeed, this is perhaps the biggest way in which Beale and his supporters (charitably) misunderstand or (more likely) misrepresent progressive opponents. It is not that progressives embrace tolerance as an absolute virtue, hypocritically or otherwise - I know of few, if any, who would actually claim to tolerate all viewpoints except inasmuch as they do not believe that anyone should be prosecuted by the government purely for their beliefs (as distinct from their actions). For my part, at least, my objection to Beale and Wright's politics is not that I am tolerant and they are intolerant. It is that I think that homosexuality, women's suffrage, and racial diversity are all good things and that fascism, racism, and misogyny are all bad things, whereas they think the exact and precise opposite.

But perhaps the more interesting, and certainly the more extraordinary consequence of this seemingly benign observation that progressives do not so much reject absolute truth as they don't think it's usually the most important thing to consider in a given practical situation is the fact that John C. Wright believes that he has access to the singular truth of reality’s basic nature. And, perhaps even more extraordinarily, this fundamental truth about reality, this voice of god that he claims to hear (and he does explain his beliefs in part in terms of a religious experience) is telling him that it is the Divine Will that he get people to understand that The Legend of Korra is really rubbish. (No, really. He told the creators of that children’s cartoon that they “are disgusting, limp, soulless sacks of filth. You have earned the contempt and hatred of all decent human beings forever, and we will do all we can to smash the filthy phallic idol of sodomy you bow and serve and worship. Contempt, because you struck from behind, cravenly; and hatred, because you serve a cloud of morally-retarded mental smog called Political Correctness, which is another word for hating everything good and bright and decent and sane in life.” And, of course, note that evocative phrase: “you struck from behind, cravenly.” Did they stab you in the back, John C. Wright? Is that what you’re trying to say?)

But why talk about a man who only hears the voice of god when we have the self-proclaimed Vox Day himself, Theodore Beale. Let us simply delve into some of the verbiage this self-appointed god has spewed forth to the world. To start, his recent interview with John Brown, where he clarified his views on race and intelligence in helpful depth, and specifically his claim that black people are less human than others. He says:

My response to those who claim I am racist or misogynist is simple: why do you reject science, history, and logic? It is not hateful to be scientifically literate, historically aware, and logically correct.

1) Pure Homo sapiens sapiens lack Homo neanderthalus and Homo denisova genes which appear to have modestly increased the base genetic potential for intelligence. These genetic differences may explain the observed IQ gap between various human population groups as well as various differences in average brain weights and skull sizes.
2) Yes, East Asians have been observed to have considerably higher IQs than Southeast Asians.
3) The Chinese. Their average IQ is higher than the Ashkenazi Jews, who are genetically a refined group of Semitic-Italian crosses. To be more specific, the highest average IQ is found in Singapore.
4) No, the genetic groups are the Homo sapiens sapiens/Homo neanderthalus crosses, the Homo sapiens sapiens/Homo neanderthalus/Homo denisova crosses, and the pure Homo sapiens sapiens. These broadly align with Europe, Asia, and Africa, but not exactly.


Now, the first thing to point out is that this is not in line with current scientific thought on the history of human genetics. The theory Beale is articulating here is that the species Homo sapiens sapiens emerged out of Africa and spread across the world, and in the course of doing so interbred with two other species, Homo neanderthalus in Europe, forming the white race, and then, subsequently, Homo denisova in Asia (which, in the course of early human migration, would also mean in the native populations of the Americas). Historically speaking, this did happen, but the relative impact on the human genome is generally thought to be minor by mainstream scientists, with socioeconomic factors being considered a far more likely explanation for statistical variations among different ethnic populations.

Brown pushes Beale on this point in the interview. Here is the exchange:

Brown: Let me see if I’ve captured your overall approach. You feel it’s important to examine and conduct science without regard to political correctness. For example, if Vanhanen and Lynn say IQ is genetic, you feel the most appropriate thing to do is not attack them for being racists, but simply examine their data and conclusions dispassionately. It’s important to question it. Argue with it. Try to falsify, as we do with any other scientific claim. But not dismiss it simply on the basis that it doesn’t agree with our what we feel is morally right. Correct?

Beale: Yes. Science and history and logic exist regardless of whether we are happy about them or not. We have to take them into account.

Brown: It appears the Lynn & Vanhanen book suggests the genetic IQ differences were caused, not by Homo crosses, but by natural selection operating in colder climates over long periods of time. Can you provide another reference that discusses the DNA tracing and IQ correlation of the various crosses?

Beale: There are many articles on the Internet about DNA and IQ, I suggest you simply search them out and read a few. The data is conclusive, the rationale explaining the data is not.

Brown: I’m not sure I understand what you mean when you said the rationale explaining the data is not conclusive. What do you mean by that?

Beale: Regarding rationale, the data is beyond dispute. But we cannot explain why the data is the way that it is, we can only construct various explanatory hypotheses. Historical explanations are, for the most part, scientific fairy tales, literal science fiction.


What is striking about this exchange is the way in which Beale’s language elides something. Look at the tension between his phrases: “science and history and logic exist regardless of whether we are happy about them or not” and “historical explanations are, for the most part, scientific fairy tales, literal science fiction.”  These two positions seem to tear at each other.

It is possible, of course, that Beale is simply an idiot, and is as unaware of this as it appears that Brad Torgersen is that he is complaining that it’s not the 1970s and he can’t judge books by their covers. In some ways, that is the comforting hypothesis. Alas, I do not think it is the correct one. I have spent no small amount of time looking at the mind of Theodore Beale, and I do not believe that this strange gap between two statements is an accident. He is a foolish and deluded man, but that is not the sort of fool he is.

If nothing else, Theodore Beale is a man of precision. His words accomplish what he means them to. He is a provocateur, and a troll. He enrages and stings and, yes, bullies. And he does so with brutal skill. He is a master of communicating a point that he is not quite willing to say, so that he can slither out of having to admit it.

Case in point, let us return to the claim that N.K. Jemisin and he “are not equally homo sapiens sapiens,” a viewpoint I characterized as thinking Jemisin is subhuman. But this is, in fact, slightly imprecise, albeit not in a way that changes the basic substance of the claim. In fact, it is not that Beale thinks Jemisin is subhuman, but that Beale believes his own genetics, which contain the Neanderthal and Denisovan genes, make him superhuman.

Ironically, we have already seen a near-perfect description of how best to engage with this sort of speech in the form of John C. Wright’s description of the Occultic. Ultimately, that’s all Beale is doing: he’s hiding what he actually means behind a paper-thin veil so that it is communicated with deniability. (Fittingly, the usual name for this rhetorical technique, a favorite of political campaigns of all leanings, is “dogwhistling.”)

Let us then pierce the veil. After all, we have already noted that the belief that the occult means a truth that is inaccessible is not a necessary component of the approach - it is sufficient to believe in a truth that has not yet been seen. Put another way, while Theodore Beale may remain smugly silent on the precise question of what he believes (or, more accurately, he may be so staggeringly verbose that he can wriggle out of any attempt to characterize his beliefs simply by spewing forth more words to articulate them with ever-growing precision and ever-shrinking coherence). So I will not attempt to construct some absolute explanation of Theodore Beale’s beliefs. Instead, I will construct a caricature of them.

A final quote of his, then:

I am claiming that societies are incapable of moving from full primitivism to full civilization within the time frame that primitive African societies have been in contact with what we consider to be civilization. It is a genetic argument. It takes that long to kill off or otherwise suppress the breeding of the excessively violent and short-time preferenced. African-American men are 500 times more likely to possess a gene variant that is linked to violence and aggression than white American men.

By civilization, of course, we already know that he means a vision of civilization rooted in his specific view of Christianity. So his belief is that African people are genetically incapable of forming civilization, which is why it took the Neanderthal interbreeding to allow for a population in which stable Christian governments (i.e. medieval feudalism) could take hold. Subsequently, these Christian societies spread the religion through the Neanderthal/Denisovan populations, who are even more genetically predisposed towards civilization.

So Beale believes himself (“a Native American with considerable Mexican heritage”) to be among those with the superior genetic sequences (which include his y chromosome along with his racial heritage) that allow him to be a representative of true civilization; that make him the perfect Vox Day.

But as with Wright, what is truly surprising here is not so much the justification for his holiness as the application. Were Beale to actually own up to the blatant implication of his views and to take up arms in defense of his blinkered view of civilization, he would at least be a fearsome beast - one whose monstrous grandeur demanded a serious response. Certainly this is what he would like us to think that he is. It’s what he suggests when he speaks about how “the Taliban’s behavior is entirely rational, it is merely the consequence of different objectives and ruthlessness in pursuing them,” the implication being that the problem with the Taliban is not their tactics but just the fact that they’re employing those tactics in the name of Islam and not Beale’s perverted mockery of Christianity.

But for all that Beale casts himself as the self-appointed end of history and the prophetic voice in the wilderness that will cast out the unbelievers, his holy mission is not about saving civilization from the forces of barbarism. It’s actually about ethics in science fiction awards. This is, to my mind, the amazing thing about Theodore Beale. It is not just that he is a frothing fascist, but that he believes that the best possible thing he can do with his magical genetic access to Divine Truth is to try to disrupt the Hugo Awards.

You will forgive me, dear readers, if I opt for a different god than him.

Part Six: In Which Several Very Lousy Pieces of Science Fiction (And One Lovely Story About Dinosaurs) Are Analyzed in Depth

But, of course, Theodore Beale’s delusions of grandeur themselves are not up for Hugo Awards; merely some stories he selected. It remains theoretically possible that Beale is one of those rare visionary outsider artists, or that his taste in science fiction is, unlike his taste in divine purpose, actually quite good. “Judge the stories, not Theodore Beale,” as his apologists would demand.

Let’s turn next, then, to some of the nominees for short story, if only because this will require us to slog through fewer words of fascist prose than any other category, and, perhaps more importantly, because all five works are available for free online. Here they are, if you want to read yourself.

“Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa
“Totaled” by Kary English
“The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright
“On a Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli
“Goodnight Stars” by Annie Bellet

Let’s start with “Turncoat,” as it follows nicely from Wright’s essay. The story comes from an anthology of military science fiction edited by Beale and put out under his press, and is a story about a war in a world in which transhumanist ideas have been practically realized. The narrator is a spaceship, described in fetishistic detail by Rzasa: “My suit of armor is a single Mark III frigate, a body of polysteel three hundred meters long with a skin of ceramic armor plating one point six meters thick. In the place of a lance, I have 160 Long Arm high-acceleration deep space torpedoes with fission warheads. Instead of a sword, I carry two sets of tactical laser turrets, twenty point defense low-pulse lasers, and two hypervelocity 100 centimeter projectile cannons.” Piloting the mech are a group of posthumans, who the narrator describes, saying that “The fragile grip with which they hold onto the remnants of their humanity is weakening. They call themselves posthumans, they adorn themselves with devices and the accouterments [sic] of machine culture, but they still cling to their flesh and to the outmoded ideas shaped by that flesh.”

The war, it emerges, is between the posthumans and the surviving humans, who the cybernetic and immortal posthumans want to destroy. Over the course of the story, the narrator’s sympathies gradually shift away from the posthumans, especially after they opt to abandon the practice of using living crews in favor of fully automated systems and threaten to reformat him for insubordination. (“I run a rapid analysis of the pros versus the cons of having my entire operating system rebooted and my memory banks wiped. The outcome is decidedly in favor of the cons. Whatever remains, it will not be me.”) Eventually, as the title would suggest, the AI narrator defects to the humans because, as he puts it, “I want to be more than the sum of my programming… I want to decide what sort of man I will become.”

The story is facile at best. The basic plot and themes are recycled from Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, which was a similar series of philosophical explorations of machine intelligence dressed up in plots, although Asimov favored detective plots as opposed to paragraph-long lists of sci-fi weapons and descriptions of space combat. Posthumanity are just the all-conquering cyborgs in the mould of Doctor Who’s Cybermen and Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Borg, with “Integration” un-subtly standing in for “assimilation” or “upgrading.” The themes are similarly old hat - several paragraphs are spent discussing how the human ships “ took more risks than we did, even though their fragility is orders of magnitude greater than ours. They utilized tactics that did not appear to have a rational thought behind them, and yet, when the consequences are taken into consideration, their approach worked nearly as well as our eminently logical battle plan,” which reads like the bad rip-off of Kirk/Spock arguments that it is.

And, of course, all of this exists alongside the apprehension about transhumanism - an apprehension that has already taken a decidedly sinister turn after Wright. The story of how artificial intelligence eventually rose up and attacked humanity is similarly recognizable as a stab-in-the-back myth, which makes sense if one reads transhumanism, within Beale’s vision of science fiction, as little more than a dogwhistle for alternatives to Christian dominionism. Which means that the fiction reflects Beale’s views. They’re not separate issues. We can judge the fiction on its own terms, but when those terms are visibly in lockstep with Beale’s, we can’t simply ignore this.

Similar, though not identical themes appear in Kary English’s “Totaled” - a story about a scientist who had worked on transhumanist technology about cybernetics, and who gets into a car crash, which results in her being “totaled,” which is to say, being deemed to require medical care in excess of her value as a human being. And so, having been totaled, she is sent to her old lab, which is tasked with using her decaying brain in the technology she invented to finish what she’d been working on.

The politics of this are interesting - the underlying fear is, of course, that of the “death panels” that the Affordable Care Act supposedly introduced, but the concept of people being totaled is said to have “started back in the Teens when the Treaders put their first candidate in office,” which is a clear reference to the Tea Party and their use of the Gadsden Flag. That said, the situation that the Treaders inherit is one of chaos: “Healthcare costs were insane. Insurance was almost impossible to get.” Which is, to say the least, something of an indictment of the Affordable Care Act.

It is not, perhaps, surprising that English’s story would resist a straightforward political reading - it’s not one of the ones Beale published. Kary English’s politics are manifestly not Beale’s - she’s considerably more to the left, and explicitly does not support Beale. But equally, it's easy to see why Beale would be attracted to the story, given its skepticism of transhumanism and the innately pro-life bent involved in making horror out of the concept of people being declared “totaled." (Though frankly, one suspects Beale was more attracted to the fact that picking a pair of women alongside the other three authors, all of which he has professional relationships with, would give him cover. Ultimately, English, along with Annie Bellet, are being used as cheap pawns.)

(Beale’s agenda, by the way, is weirdly specific about transhumanism - he’s written a piece in this anti-transhumanism vein as well, called “The Logfile,” which is enough to suggest that the Singularity paranoia subgenre of fascist science fiction is actually a thing. Theodore Beale cares an awful lot about hating robots.)

As for the story’s quality, while I'll admit that the section's header of "very lousy" is in this case exaggeration, I'm hard-pressed to seriously call the story Hugo-worthy. Its main drama comes from the narrator’s gradual mental disintegration as her brain reaches the six month limit of the technique being used to preserve it and succumbs to perfusion decay. This is conveyed in gradual changes to the narration style - for instance, in one of the first real indications of the impending decay, the narrator notes that “motor functions fail always first, then speech. I guess I’m luck lucky not to have, not to have any of those.” It’s moving, effective, and the same trick that Daniel Keyes won a Hugo with in 1960 for his story “Flowers for Algernon.” So, if nothing else, it satisfies Torgersen’s apparent desire to undo fifty-five years of evolution of the genre of Hugo-winning science fiction.

A second approach within Beale’s nominees comes in John C. Wright’s “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds,” an explicitly Catholic story about all of the animals in the world gathering to discuss the future after the extinction of man. It’s straight-up allegory, in which the animals are, by the end raised up to have their turn as the sons of God. Much like Wright’s essay, there is something almost tautological about it - its appeal is based entirely on whether or not you think idiosyncratically Catholic dogma is intrinsically worthwhile and interesting. I personally do not.

Lou Antonelli’s “On a Spiritual Plain” is in a similarly theological vein - superficially non-denominational, but still a story that sees science fiction as a vehicle for exploring religion. In this case the premise is a world where the magnetic field causes ghosts to exist. The story deals with the human chaplain who ends up having to escort ghosts to the planet’s north pole where they can dissipate, and its main point is to draw a firm line between this materialist phenomenon and the notion of the soul, which is to say, its main point is more theological axe-grinding, although the story is non-denominational It does, however, end up sharing that sense of biological purity that characterizes Wright and Beale’s views. The idea of electromagnetic immortality is clearly in the vicinity of transhumanism, and is also firmly rejected by the story. The ghosts feel that they are wrong, and desire dissipation, some of them believing in a more legitimate afterlife, the main character included. As for quality, well, I at least can’t come up with a fifty-year-old story off the top of my head that it’s clearly ripping off, which is something, but equally, I can’t exactly say it’s thought-provoking or original.

(As for the political intentions of Antonelli, I’ll let him speak for himself as he praises the Sad Puppies movement: “It’s hard for people outside the U.S. to understand how badly our cultural elites were intentionally subverted during the Cold War by the Soviet Union. Most Americans are Christian, patriotic, and believe in a European-derived civilization. The children of the elites are not, and do not believe in these values. They think Christians are either bigots or stupid or both, America is evil, and European-based civilization is all that’s wrong with the world.”)

The final story on Beale and Torgersen’s slates, Annie Bellet’s “Goodnight Stars,” was withdrawn on request of the author, and so I will mostly leave it alone. For what it’s worth, in my opinion it was the best of the five original nominees. I don’t have much to say for or against it. It’s perfectly decent.

But it’s worth noting, while we are discussing the Hugo nominations, that the state of science fiction and fantasy in 2014 was not such that “perfectly decent” is in any way a synonym for “best of the year.” None of Beale’s five nominees hold a candle to Charlie Jane Anders’s “As Good as New,” to pick a Hugo-eligible story of the sort that the Puppies were seemingly designed to keep out, and, more to the point, that they did. It’s published by Tor, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and by an author who was one of the first to speak out against the Puppies when they ran the table nominating, making her an author that Larry Correia, who founded the Sad Puppies movement two years ago, has explicitly acknowledged he has an issue with. It’s also an actually brilliant science fiction story first published in 2014, which just feels like something I should point out having spent rather a long time complaining about other people’s taste. If I’d have tuned in to this mess in time to have sent in a nominating ballot, I’d have nominated it. I recommend you go read it, just because it’s worth, after all of that, reminding yourself what good science fiction can feel like. Then when you get back, we’ll discuss one more story.

Right, so, instead of discussing the nominees that might have been - a discussion that really ought to wait until after Sasquan when the top fifteen nominees for each category and the vote totals are released and we can see what Theodore Beale kept off the ballot - let’s talk about one of the 2014 nominees, Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,” simply because it is the story most often cited by Beale’s supporters when they talk about the awful and sorry state of the Hugo Awards.

This is, of course, ridiculous, as it’s by miles a better story than anything Beale nominated. For one thing, it’s actually well-written. There’s a poetic lilt to the language, which is soothingly iambic, like a story for a young child, which makes the emotional punch of it all the more acute. You can demonstrate this easily enough - here’s a passage from Swirsky’s story. Read it out loud, and pay attention to the way the language naturally falls into a rhythm:

If they built you a mate, I’d stand as the best woman at your wedding. I’d watch awkwardly in green chiffon that made me look sallow, as I listened to your vows. I’d be jealous, of course, and also sad, because I want to marry you. Still, I’d know that it was for the best that you marry another creature like yourself, one that shares your body and bone and genetic template. I’d stare at the two of you standing together by the altar and I’d love you even more than I do now. My soul would feel light because I’d know that you and I had made something new in the world and at the same time revived something very old. I would be borrowed, too, because I’d be borrowing your happiness. All I’d need would be something blue.

Then try a bit of Steve Rzasa’s “Turncoat”:

My eight torpedoes are engulfed by the swarm of counter-fire missiles. The Yellowjackets explode in bursts of tightly focused x-rays, highlighted in my scans as hundreds of slender purple lines. My torpedoes buck and weave as they take evasive maneuvers. Their secondary warheads, compact ovoid shapes nestled inside their tubular bodies, shatter and expel molybdenum shrapnel at hypervelocities. Tens of thousands of glittering metal shards spray out in silver clouds against the void of space.

I expect the difference is intuitively clear. If not, let’s zero in on the comparative value of the phrase “I’d watch awkwardly in green chiffon that made me look sallow” and the image “their secondary warheads, compact ovoid shapes nestled inside their tubular bodies, shatter and expel molybdenum shrapnel at hypervelocities.”

Let’s also look at the scope of the story. In less than a thousand words, Swirsky moves among moments of silliness (“you’d walk with delicate and polite a gait as you could manage on massive talons”), moments of tenderness (“I’d pull out a hydrangea the shade of the sky and press it against my heart and my heart would beat like a flower. I’d bloom. My happiness would become petals”), and moments of utter and tragic sadness as the story’s real premise finally moves into focus in the closing paragraphs. More to the point, it mixes these - the detail of green chiffon early in the story acquires new resonance later when it becomes clear that these are the same dresses she’d already ordered for her now abandoned wedding. (And, of course, there’s the beautifully human detail of her picking a dress she knows makes her bridesmaids look sallow.)

So, with Swirsky we have more emotional range than… well, any of Beale’s picks, really. More than that, the story does more - its move from a flight of fancy to a strangely sweet description of a wedding to brutal tragedy and finally to a strange and uneasy rejection of its own premise as the narrator admits that her revenge fantasy - her desire to see the men who put her fiancee in a coma get eviscerated by a dinosaur - is wrong, and cruel, and yet still powerful. There’s nuance, and subtlety, and development. It’s artful, and beautiful.

And it’s everything that Theodore Beale and his ilk hate.

Part Seven: Notes On the Proper Handling of a Rabid Dog

It is this final image that sticks in the mind. Beale and his followers have demanded that we view science fiction as a binary opposition between two types of stories, and have engaged in childish antics with a literary award that has historically carried genuine weight in order to force the world to view it this way. Very well. Let us view it this way, since, in terms of the Hugos, we now have no other choice.

One of these two types of science fiction is capable of literary genius, is full of emotion and pathos, is surprising, is clever, and feels fresh. The other is warmed over retreads of decades old ideas that quietly but insidiously advance fascist ideologies.

I do not think that it is unreasonable to suggest that, given this choice, it is worth using one’s vote in the 2015 Hugo Awards to declare that the latter category is unworthy of any literary recognition or award. This is certainly the position I took publicly the day after the nominations were announced. It’s also a position that George R.R. Martin responded to by asking “are you fucking crazy?” So, actually, maybe the whole reasonableness thing is worth spelling out.  

First of all, let’s accept that this debate plays into Beale’s hands. He has been open about the fact that he is trying to disrupt the Hugo Awards, in active retaliation against accusations that his nomination last year via a smaller scale version of the Sad Puppies was him trying to disrupt the Hugos. Because that’s genuinely the sort of person he apparently is. Much like Brad Torgersen is a grown man who’s sad that he can’t judge books by their covers, Theodore Beale is a grown man who would rather break a nice thing than let someone else have it. Nevertheless, it’s done now. The only nominees for the Hugos in multiple categories were mediocrities chosen for the express purpose of advancing an absolutely loathsome set of viewpoints.

And in some ways this was the fate they always risked. The Hugo Awards, and science fiction fandom in general has always been a haven for eccentricities, which, let’s be honest, is part of why we’re seven thousand words into a discussion of how a fascist troll hijacked them. There are still, every year, people who vote No Award in the two Best Dramatic Presentation categories (which has, in practice, essentially been a popularity contest between Doctor Who and Game of Thrones fandoms for the past few years, with Game of Thrones winning), just to protest the category’s existence.

Perhaps more to the point, there’s a complex but existent system for voting to spite all of the nominees and not give a Hugo in a category for a given year in the first place. Which has been used only sporadically in the past, but due to the fact that the Hugos use a ranked ballot, does mean that Hugo voters have specifically given a rebuke to nominated works in the past, including the Theodore Beale last year, and, more historically, L. Ron Hubbard, who, when Scientology supporters bulk-nominated him for a Hugo in 1987, ultimately came in below No Award in the voting.

There is, in other words, ample precedent within the Hugo Awards for using them as a platform to make a statement. And if the Hugo Awards are ever to be used as a platform to make a statement, I think it is fair to say that the unequivocal repudiation of Theodore Beale and everything he stands for is the single most self-evidently important statement that they could possibly make in 2015. No, it won’t drive the fascists out of the Hugos. But it’ll stop ‘em in 2015, and we can fight 2016 in 2016.

A word on this larger fight, however. While I obviously hope that the analysis of Beale’s motivations and actions is sufficient to convince a majority of readers of the degree to which he is a problem that requires addressing, I am aware that there remain a substantial block of people who are willing to ally themselves with Theodore Beale despite the problems, both obvious and otherwise, with him.

Indeed, this is clearly becoming something of a pressing issue among Puppy supporters, with both Torgersen and Correia (the original founder of the Puppies movement) recently writing pieces sort of distancing themselves from Beale. The general tone of both of these was the same - pointing out that they don’t agree with Beale on everything, and that they can’t control him. Which is I’m sure true. Theodore Beale cannot be controlled. That’s what being a rabid dog means, really, and why there’s a generally agreed upon course of treatment for one. But I’d like to point to a telling moment in Correia’s apologia, in which he said, “Look at it like this. I’m Churchill. Brad is FDR. We wound up on the same side as Stalin.”

There are two things to say about this. The first is “wait, if you’re Churchill, Torgersen is FDR, and Beale is Stalin, then in this analogy, the people who thought the Hugo Awards were fine the way they were are…” The second is somewhat less glib: how, exactly, did anyone “wind up” here? One does not simply “wind up” allied to Josef Stalin. This is a process that requires some effort. It is a process during which one is afforded many opportunities to stop and say “wait a moment, I seem to be allying with Josef Stalin, maybe I should reconsider my life choices.”

And I think it’s fair to ask why Larry Correia is disinterested in taking any of these opportunities. Similarly, I think it’s fair to point out the relatively low bar that Correia is seeking to clear when proclaiming “I Am Not Vox Day.” True, he is not the Taliban-fetishizing racist who proclaims himself the voice of god. He’s just the guy standing next to him and riding his coattails.

Elsewhere, Correia says that “most of me and Brad’s communication with Vox consists of us asking him to be nice and not burn it all down out of spite.” I have no trouble believing that - certainly it's easier to believe than Brad Torgersen's earlier claim that Beale is "a gentleman." But why are they willing to work with such a man to accomplish their goals? What is it about this man who thinks that God imbued him with magic genes and a divine quest to make science fiction more fascist said “good ally” to them? What seemed so important about getting some stories they liked Hugos that they decided it was worth allying with Theodore Beale to do it? Because if we’re making World War II analogies, the really disturbing thing isn’t a deranged sadist like Hitler doing terrible things. That's what deranged sadists do, after all. The really disturbing thing is all the people who knowingly voted deranged sadist.

I get why a man listens to what he thinks is the voice of god. But Torgersen and Correia? What's their excuse?

Part Eight: God Will Bury You. Nature Will Bury You.

That covers the actual response in terms of the Hugos. But there are other ways to make a statement, and the award ceremony is not necessarily the best one. So allow me to make another sort. One that will discard all traces of the Occultic, and engage in nothing save for the most explicit clarity that I can muster.

I have not always been the most faithful of science fiction readers. I don’t read a ton of novels in a year, and those that I do tend to be from a select few favorite authors. But since I was a child, I knew the phrase “Hugo Award” carried weight. I knew they mattered, and that they pointed towards stories that might not be things I loved, but would always be things I respected. As an adult, I’ve followed them from afar, never weighing in on the major categories, but having Firm Opinions on the minor ones. I rejoiced in Doctor Who ’s three-year streak, politely disagreed but understood why Doctor Horrible beat Moffat in 2009, largely agreed with “Blackwater” winning in 2013, and until this year thought that the victory of Gollum’s acceptance speech at the MTV Movie Awards in 2004 was the biggest travesty in Hugo history.

Likewise, in “Best Graphic Story” I laughed as Girl Genius won three years ago, hilarious evidence of how out of line the Hugo voters were with most comics fans (although it’s not a bad comic, to be fair - as always, the Hugos were a reliable indicator of quality, if not a sane one). I cheered when Ursula Vernon’s Digger , a weird webcomic eligible because of some print collections, won a shock victory in 2012 - a choice that’s just as weird as Girl Genius , but that aligns perfectly with my own idiosyncratic loves. I love that the awards went to Saga in 2013, then XKCD in 2014, both brilliant choices, and yet so wildly far apart in style and even medium. What other award would or could do that?

I love the Hugos. I haven’t participated in them before, but I have loved them since childhood, and I love them to this day.

Fuck you, Theodore Beale.

Fuck you for trying to break a thing I loved. Fuck you for doing it to serve your stupid, lame fascist ideology. More to the point, fuck you for your stupid, lame fascist ideology. Your beliefs are horrible. You’re horrible. You’re a nasty, cruel little bully, and I do not like you.

Fuck you for making me feel that way. Fuck you for the way you’ve brought this thing that I love, this celebration of great science fiction, to a point where it is full of the sort of mean and hateful desires that seem to animate you. Fuck you for dragging us all down to your sorry level. Fuck you for being so odious that we have to go there.

And fuck you for making me want you to hate me. Fuck you for all of your beliefs that amount to nothing short of hatred for the things I love. For the people I love. For the art and beautiful things that are why I get out of bed in the morning. Fuck you for living your life for the sole purpose of destroying things that I love, and for making me wish that I could destroy something of yours in retaliation. Fuck you for making me write this, in the sincere and passionate hope that it will make you feel even a moment’s unpleasantness.

And fuck you for the very real possibility that a work nominated purely because you used your noxious little voice to rally your loathsome, asshole supporters to support it might win a Hugo Award. Fuck you because it’s actually possible that you will break the Hugos successfully and demonstrate that you’re oh so much stronger than a bunch of fans who were previously just happily attending a convention and voting for stuff they loved in awards. In short, fuck you.

I would also like to make two things very clear.

First of all, you are wrong, Theodore Beale. You are the emperor of a tiny patch of shit, and if you are remembered, it will only be as a joke. You are not a great man. Yours is not the voice of god, but just the voice of a sad, pathetic man. You will die, and everything you wrote will be lost to the sands of time, and everything you valued will become a half-forgotten relic if it becomes anything at all. Nobody will care. The world you want will never arise.

Instead will be the future. There will be new things, and new ideas, and some of them will be better than any idea I’ve ever had, and virtually all of them will be better than any idea you’ve ever had. The future will not be made of the ideas of the 1970s, or the 1870s, or the 1770s, or before. It will be made of ideas that you and I have never imagined. And it will be amazing. And if there is an afterlife from which you can watch the future unfold, you will hate every bit of it.

But I don’t think you will. I think you will die, and when you are dead, you will just be dead, and moreover be forgotten, and that you will have never once tasted a morsel of the joy that Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur My Love” has brought to me.

Which brings us to the second thing.

You have already lost.

Sure, maybe you’ll take the Hugos, and you’ll give them an end date in historical relevance. No matter what, you’ve left an ugly footnote in the history of science fiction, like a puppy on a sidewalk. But the only reason you wanted to do that was because you were mad that we were having fun, liking the science fiction and fantasy that we liked.

And guess what, Theodore Beale?

We’re still liking it. Stuff the ballot box all you want, but “If You Were a Dinosaur My Love” was still a great story, and there’s nothing you can possibly do to change that. Take over a major industry award. Progressive science fiction will just move its critical praise to other awards, or to individual critics’ year-end lists. We will carry on, and we will identify and praise brilliant works of science fiction, and the stuff we like will endure in history while the stuff you like is forgotten.

This is not, to be clear, a threat. I am not proposing some counter-slate for 2016, or some set of tactics of resistance. I’m simply offering a sober and considered assessment of the likely critical future of the two schools of science fiction that you and your followers have articulated, and suggesting that the progressive, literary tradition that includes Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Rachel Swirsky, and many, many others is going to endure and thrive, whereas your stupid fascist nonsense will wither, and that none of your trolling and bullying is going to make a whit of difference in either our carrying on of the act of loving these works nor in their enduring reception. And while there are a lot of reasons for this, not least that our stories don’t suck and yours do, I think there’s one that really settles this matter straightforwardly and decisively.

We are, after all, talking about a genre that is about imagining the future. And in a debate over the nature of a genre about the future, it seems to me terribly obvious that the side that values the future and savors its imaginative possibilities is going to win out over the side that hates and fears it.

So to that end, here’s a celebration of some stuff that I bet Theodore Beale really hates.

Part Nine: I Want To Thank You For Dancing To The End

There are works on the Hugo ballot that were not selected by Theodore Beale. These are worth celebrating. So are many works that aren’t on the Hugo ballot, whether because of Theodore Beale or not. And so, to close, I’d like to focus on two categories near and dear to my critical heart, Best Graphic Story, and Best Dramatic Presentation. (With quick side notes about Best Related Work and Best Fan Writer.)

Let’s start with Best Graphic Story, a category where Beale had only one pick, inherited from Torgersen, and which thus has four nominees selected by traditional, good taste Hugo voters. In which case, they had a stunning year - the four non-Puppy nominees are certainly not my choice for the four best comics to fall under the genre heading of sci-fi/fantasy, but they’re all solidly deserving nominees. They also represent an interesting turn in Hugo taste, solidly towards the American direct market and away from webcomics, which had previously done very well at the Hugos. In the tradition of my weekly comics reviews, then, a tour from my least favorite to my favorite.

We’ll start with Rat Queens then, a book that mixes Dungeons and Dragons humor with genuine pathos in a story about a marauding band of four female adventurers in a medieval fantasy world. The book is not without controversy: the original artist was removed from the book after admitting to a domestic abuse charge, which is a genuine problem for an openly feminist book. But it is a feminist book, and one openly and deliberately invested in diversity. Even aside from the controversy, though, it’s, while fun, just not as interesting as the other three nominees this year.

Also up is Saga , which won in 2013, and was nominated in 2014. It’s a great sci-fi/fantasy epic, with brilliant characters. It’s lost some of the momentum it started with - I’m totally behind its 2013 win, and equally behind its 2014 defeat, where it was, I think, solidly inferior to the winner. But it’s a great book, and also one that is interested in diversity. There’s a great story in its creation where writer Brian K. Vaughn - one of the smartest writers in comics these days - noted to artist Fiona Staples that he really wanted the main female character to not be a redhead, because he thought redheads were cliched for the sort of character he was writing. Staples replied something to the effect of, “she doesn’t have to be white either, you know.” And she isn’t.

Also up is Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals , a book whose premise is endorsed by Margaret Atwood. Beale singled this out for criticism, or at least, for a really bitter and poor taste joke about Marion Zimmer Bradley, and its title is in the cheeky sense of humor that the book displays throughout. It’s a very funny book about sex and sexual hangups, told through a silly and charming premise, namely two people who can stop time when they orgasm, and so masturbate in bathrooms and rob banks. It’s fantastic and human and poignant and witty, and one of the best serialized stories being published in any medium right now.

And finally there is G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s Ms. Marvel . This is a superhero book out of, unsurprisingly, Marvel Comics. On one level, it’s your basic teen superhero concept - a riff on the old Lee/Ditko Spider-Man stories. But its main character is a Pakistani-American girl in Jersey City. She’s a character who has pleasantly enraged Beale and his ilk - here’s John C. Wright on the recent announcement that, following Marvel’s next big crossover, she’d be added to the roster of the Avengers:

“Meanwhile, the one and only person on the team with a clear religious identity is the Muslim girl. This is a religion which has, whether anyone admits it or not, declared war on the whole world, and has, whether anyone says so or not, adopted terrorism and stealth jihad as the main means to wage that war. This is the same as if, during World War Two, a comic book made one of their heroines a member of the Nazi party. But one of the those nice Nazi party members who do not approve of Hitler, or the other official doctrines, written in the official literature, of the organization to which she willingly belongs. Such a comic character would appeal to the moderate Nazis whom we do not wish to alienate, since, after all, Hitler highjacked the noble institution and motives of the Party.”

(Wright also complains that the new Avengers lineup lacks “any Christian White Male Adults who might act like a Father figure, a leader, an alpha male, a hero,” doing so, without a trace of irony, two sentences after decrying the word “Eurocentric” as nonsensical, just in case you’d forgotten that he is, quite separate from being a bigoted jerk, also a moron.)

It’s also just a fantastic comic. But more to the point, it’s a demonstration of how fundamentally wrong Beale, Torgersen, and all their supporters are. Because the entire reason the comic is good is the diversity it introduces. As I said, it’s on one level a rehash of the old Lee/Ditko Spider-Man stories - exactly the sort of “nothing new under the sun” comic that Torgersen would seemingly prefer. It’s about power and responsibility and growing up. Alphona’s scratchily cartoonish style even feels like a modern day equivalent to Ditko’s paranoidly visionary linework. If what you want is raw originality of ideas, Sex Criminals would beat it hands down.

Except that it turns out that taking the Spider-Man story and moving it from Brooklyn to Jersey City (and Ms. Marvel is fiercely and passionately from Jersey City, with an explicit ethos of taking care of her local community), grounding its ethics in a progressive vision of Islam (one that is not naive about the existence of other visions - Ms. Marvel’s older brother is a bit of a closed-minded bigot who is oppressively protective of his sister), and making the main character a millennial female geek (she has a team-up with Wolverine in which she gushes to him about the fanfic she wrote about him and Storm before, as is the nature of such team-ups, winning him over and convincing him of her worth as a superhero) makes it fresh and interesting again.

In other words, having a perspective on superhero comics based on something other than the white male father figure is good and interesting, and makes for better comics. Aside from any progressive argument for the value of having a teenage Pakistani-American Muslim girl as a superhero, doing so just plain turns out to be more interesting than white boys have been in years, for the simple and obvious fact that it’s something that we haven’t seen before instead of something we’ve been seeing over and over again since the 1960s. Ms. Marvel is awesome for the exact and specific reasons that Brad Torgersen and Theodore Beale are fools.

But what I’d really like to do is highlight an eligible work of science fiction that is brilliant and as diametrically opposed to everything that Theodore Beale holds dear as it is possible to be. Moreover, because of the specific damage that Theodore Beale did, I want to celebrate things that were not Hugo nominated. Not even things that I expect to have been on the long list - but things that were eligible. Ms. Marvel is a fantastic work that I’m glad got nominated, because I’m sure it pissed him off, but in terms of brilliant, Hugo-worthy stuff that spits in the face of everything Theodore Beale loves I think we need to talk briefly about Uber, written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by a couple of artists.

What strikes me as particularly appealing about Uber is the fact that it so directly engages with the iconography of fascism. It is an alternate history World War II comic in which the Nazis, in the dying days of the War, turn the tide with the invention of superheroes. And Gillen is careful to work scrupulously within a set of rules. The mechanics of superheroes are as well-defined as any military technology, with much of the plot hinging on the gradual development of tactics for superhuman warfare. Everything is grounded in thorough historical research.

So the result is a brutally well thought out dissection of the intersections between the idea of the superhero and the fascist hero in all its post-Nietzschean glory. It’s right there in the title, Uber , a direct invocation of the idea of the ubermensch. Because make no mistake - the book is anti-fascist. It is a gruesome, explicit depiction of the material horror that was Nazi Germany. It’s a reminder that people like Theodore Beale are not harmless cartoon villains to laugh at, but horrible people responsible for some of the worst atrocities in human history, and that war is not some happy fantasy of bringing righteous justice to the unworthy, but a miserable slog of human suffering.

But more than that, it’s a brilliant and nuanced exploration of the fascist narrative, and the ways in which it is deeply historically entwined with the history of science fiction as a genre. It is not the first book to do so, obviously. Norman Spinrad’s 1972 novel The Iron Dream , which imagines an alternate history where Hitler became a hack sci-fi writer in America, is probably the most notable in terms of just how much it anticipates this mess, although I’d argue that there is no greater parody of the Sad Puppies than J.G. Ballard’s 1968 “Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan.” But it is an astonishingly thorough exploration of it - an uncompromising mix of material realism and genre tropes that feels staggeringly relevant today.

But I think what I love most about it, at least in this context, is that it purports to be exactly what the Puppies want: serious-minded military science fiction, with a focus on battle and combat and valor. It’s got spectacular gore and body horror. It’s dark as dark can be, and uncompromising. It holds nothing back, ever. Even its focus on strict rules has the flavor of wargaming, the obvious pinnacle of the Puppy aesthetic. And it takes all of these things and turns them cruelly and savagely against their supposed masters. The only reason Theodore Beale could possibly fail to hate it is if he’s too stupid to understand it. Which is, admittedly, a risk.

The other category I’d like to talk about is Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), in which an episode of Doctor Who , a series I have previously written about at some length, was nominated over several Beale-approved works (as was the openly progressive Orphan Black ). But since we’re about to talk about Doctor Who , I’d also like to address another category, namely Best Related Work, and a book that is often cited, like Swirsky’s story, as evidence of the appalling state of the Hugo awards, namely Chicks Dig Time Lords , an anthology of essays about Doctor Who by women, published by Mad Norwegian Press. (In one of life’s little ironies, the book beat out the first volume of a Robert Heinlein biography for the Hugo, a fact that is often cited as if it is self-evidently an outrage by supporters of the Puppy slates; the second volume of the biography was eligible for Best Related Work this year, but was not on Beale’s slate and did not get nominated.)

Though, actually, the book I want to talk about is Queers Dig Time Lords , which was nominated but did not win last year, and is treated as another one of those books that shows just how awful and degenerate the Hugos were. Simply because anyone objecting to that book and saying that it only got a Hugo nomination because of politics is simply ignorant of the history of Doctor Who , a series whose relationship with its gay fans has at several points been instrumental to its history, both in the 1980s when the internal BBC politics surrounding its openly gay producer John Nathan-Turner were a crucial factor in the show’s cancellation and in the 2000s when Russell T Davies, a longtime and active Doctor Who fan who had previously been best known for his groundbreaking gay drama Queer as Folk spearheaded the revival of the series that won three consecutive Hugos from 2006-08, and has been at least nominated every year since. To suggest that a book about gay Doctor Who fans is merely nominated for its social justice politics is, quite simply, a declaration of thundering ignorance about the subject matter.

But then, of all the categories in which the Puppies have marked their territory, there is perhaps none that reveals the rank hypocrisy of the movement quite like Best Related Work, where Beale and Torgersen pushed a book entitled Wisdom From My Internet on to the ballot despite the fact that it is not, in any meaningful sense, a book related to science fiction and fantasy, but instead a disjointed collection of the sort of right-wing bon mots that your idiot uncle spams on Facebook. That they and their supporters have the unmitigated gall to suggest that Queers Dig Time Lords was nominated purely for its politics while simultaneously pushing a political book (published under the banner Patriarchy Press, just to make sure nobody misses where its sympathies lie) that is not actually a related work is, in many ways, the epitome of this entire mess.

This also brings us to Best Fan Writer, and a somewhat obscure but nevertheless important point. There is one non-Puppy nominee in this category, Laura J. Mixon. The reason that Mixon is nominated is a blogpost she wrote entitled “A Report on Damage Done by One Individual Under Several Names,” in which she meticulously outlined the appalling behavior of a left-wing troll within the science fiction community who wrote under the name Requires Hate, among others (there is reason to doubt that her legal name is known). It’s a corker, and deserves a Hugo. I think I might even vote for it over No Award.

The antics of Requires Hate have, for a variety of reasons, been compared to those of Theodore Beale, by people on all sides of the debate. Anti-Puppies compare Beale to her. Puppies point to her as evidence that the Anti-Puppies’ house isn’t in order either.

But in all of this, there is a comparison between Requires Hate and Theodore Beale that is not sufficiently remarked upon. One of the conclusions Mixon draws in her analysis of Requires Hate’s behaviour is that she “preferentially targets writers who are POC, women, and people from other marginalized groups, with a particular focus on people of Asian descent.” Requires Hate was a left-wing blogger who identified with several of the groups she abused people from, and was the sort of person Puppies call a “social justice warrior.” But the people she targeted and the people Beale's supporters target are the same group: women, people of color, and queer voices . To quote something that I first heard from Anita Sarkeesian, although I vaguely recall her crediting a source for it too, “in the game of patriarchy, women aren’t the other team, they’re the ball.” (It's worth here remembering Annie Bellet and Kary English, the two female authors Beale put on his short story slate, who have also ended up as victims of abuse in all of this.)

But as I said, I want to talk about Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form). Again, a brief word on the non-Puppy candidates, or, actually, in this case one of the Puppy candidates, Game of Thrones , a show I quite love. That said, I find the specific choice of episodes, “The Mountain and the Viper,” uncompelling. I think it was the weakest episode of the season in many regards - a case of Game of Thrones playing it safe and doing exactly what is expected of it after thirty-seven episodes. I have no problems deciding that if this is the episode Game of Thrones is to be judged on, it’s not Hugo worthy.

Similarly, for all that I respect Orphan Black , I don’t think it’s a show that serves up individual episodes of great merit. It’s fun on aggregate - a binge show. I wish it did what Game of Thrones did in its first season and compete as a long-form work, as it would be stronger there. Alas, it is here. On top of that, I wish it had nominated its most interesting episode, the one in which a transgender clone was introduced, bringing the complexity of gender as a concept into the view of its fascinating exploration of what defines us as people.

Which leaves Doctor Who , with the fantastic episode “Listen.” I would almost certainly vote for this in any year. It was a phenomenal piece of television. And as a long-time Doctor Who fan, I take genuine joy in knowing that Theodore Beale does not think this show is award-worthy. I suspect he dislikes its feminist message. Good. I love it, though I’m still gonna put No Award ahead of it.

But as with other categories, I think, given that Beale has flooded the Hugo ballot with crap, it is important to celebrate great works that are not on the Hugo ballot. And so to close, at last, I want to suggest one more work of science fiction that would have been eligible for a 2015 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Work (Short Form), not because I suspect Beale kept it off the ballot, but because I think he would absolutely detest it. Specifically, the music video for Janelle Monáe’s “Electric Lady.”


It is perhaps worth contextualizing this slightly, since the video depends in part on a general understanding of Janelle Monáe’s work. “Electric Lady” is the title single off her second full-length album, released in 2013, which contains the fourth and fifth parts of an ongoing song cycle she calls the Metropolis Suite. This cycle features her alter-ego Cindi Mayweather, a time-travelling robot rebel from a Fritz Lang-inspired futuristic dystopia.

As this last fact suggests, Monáe is a keen sci-fi fan, and draws heavily from sci-fi iconography in her work, which falls squarely under the subgenre of afrofuturism, an artistic movement that uses the imaginative possibilities of science fiction to try to conceive of the African Diaspora not in terms of its tragic past but in terms of the generative potential of the future. The robot, for Monáe, is an all-purpose metaphor for the oppressed - as she puts it, “When I speak about science-fiction and the future and androids, I'm speaking about the 'other.' The future form of the 'other.' Androids are the new black, the new gay or the new women."

It is this that is why I want to close my discussion of Theodore Beale with her. Because this seems, in so many ways, like the polar opposite of everything he wants. Monáe, in embracing the robot as an image of all of the oppressed populations Beale scorns and despises, makes the idea into the very thing that Beale and Wright paint as a nightmarish vision of transhumanism.

As a song, “Electric Lady” is an anthem in praise of Cindi Mayweather, long on braggadocio, but framed in terms of Monáe’s carefully worked out vision of black female sexuality, as in the breakdown:

Gloss on her lips
Glass on the ceiling
All the girls showin' love
While the boys be catchin' feelings
Once you see her face, her eyes you'll remember
And she'll have you fallin' harder than a Sunday in September
Whether in Savannah, K-Kansas or in Atlanta
She'll walk in any room have you raising up your antennas
She can fly you straight to the moon or to the ghettos
Wearing tennis shoes or in flats or in stilettos
Illuminating all that she touches
Eye on the sparrow
A modern day Joan of a Arc or Mia Farrow
Classy, Sassy, put you in a razzle-dazzy
Her magnetic energy will have you coming home like Lassie
Saying "ooh shock it, break it, baby"
Electro, sofista, funky, lady
We the kind of girls who ain't afraid to get down
Electric ladies go on and scream out loud 

But the video cheekily grounds the song not in Monáe’s sci-fi vision, but in the mundane world of everyday black experience. The group is not the Electrified Ladies, as Monáe’s mother thinks, but Electro Phi Beta, a black sorority whose party Monáe is en route to as the video begins. This opening minute blends a look at the material reality of young black women with wry honesty - note, in particular, the affectionate grin as Monáe leaves, shaking her head at her mother’s confusion - with a strange set of iconography that is at once retro (the car the Electro Phi Betas take to the party has an 8-Track) and cutting edge (Monáe snaps a picture of her sisters using a state-of-the-art smartwatch).

And this aesthetic blend continues through the whole video, which is a classic dance party video of people getting down at the party (complete with the Electro Phi Betas Emeritus, a wall of video screens featuring women not at the party but dancing along with the party, in reality a variety of Monáe’s collaborators) featuring a crowd of contemporary youth, primarily but not exclusively black, simply having a good time as more and more revelers pour in, including, towards the end, a group of lightsaber-wielding linedancers, all joyously grooving to the music and celebrating their bodies and sexualities and identities and lives.

The result is to blend the musical traditions that inform Monáe’s music with the real lives of people, especially black people in 2014 and her vision of a sci-fi future, which is tied implicitly to the digital technology of the current age. None of these are things Theodore Beale would approve of. And he certainly wouldn’t approve of blending them together in the name of, as the lyrics put it, “all the birds and the bees dancing with the freaks in the trees.” It’s a celebration of the weird, the marginal, and the new. Of everything that Theodore Beale hates. It is difficult to imagine how you would even engineer something better suited to annoying him than afrofuturist robots extolling the virtues of getting down. And it’s wonderful.

But perhaps best of all, it is completely unconcerned with the likes of Theodore Beale. It does not seek their praise, which it would clearly never get anyway. It does not seek their antagonism, although it surely receives it. It does not consider itself for their consumption or use, and does not care one way or the other what they make of it. It simply loves itself, and its ideas, and the joy of them, and invites us to love them too.

While far away on the Internet, the self-proclaimed voice of god squawks its disapproval, and the future draws closer by the day.

Comments

manofstealblog 1 year, 4 months ago

This is article either a labor of love or savage respect.

Vox livin rent free in ur head dude.

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encyclops 1 year, 4 months ago

Are they close, though?

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Yog Sothoth 1 year, 4 months ago

''No Award'' everything, start the rules change process this year, counter-slate them next year, and then proceed with business as usual in 2017. Problem solved.

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Yog Sothoth 1 year, 4 months ago

I would say that there must be some connection between being a bad writer and a deeply unpleasant person, but I always liked Harlan Ellison's stuff. ::shrug::

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Yog Sothoth 1 year, 4 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Yog Sothoth 1 year, 4 months ago

This is the main reason I think the ''If you change the rules to block Sad Puppies/ Rabid Puppies then you are doing exactly what they want!" is so deeply misguided. No, they want to win Hugos (all of them do). Stopping them from shitting on a great award by gaming the system comes before imaginary moral stands that amount to strategic surrenders..

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buzzardist 1 year, 4 months ago

How does this remotely solve the problem? The accusation by Torgerson, Correia, and Day is that cliques of voters have been gaming the Hugos for years, ensuring that select people in the "in-group" show up on the ballot and win. Day would be just as happy, if not happier, with No Award this year as he would with any of his slate winning an award as doing so would essentially prove his point. Changing the rules to ensure that certain fans of whom you don't approve can't participate in future awards? That would be the ultimate Vox victory, proving that the sci fi left is so partisan that they will rewrite the rules rather than let anyone else have a turn at the awards, and it would ruin the Hugos permanently.

Vox Day stayed mostly as a passive participant in the Sad Puppies campaigns in the past, until people started attacking him last year, blaming him for organizing something he didn't organize, and then for exulting in defeating him when, as he stated from the start, he fully expected to lose. His Rabid Puppies campaign is his response, saying, "Hey, when I actually organize to game the system, I actually game it, not just put one or two nominations on the ballot." "No Award" will encourage Vox to come back strong again next year to "No Award" a nomination pool of the people his ideological foes like. Changing the award rules from then on will send a loud message of "You're not welcome here," which will only boost support for Vox's accusations. You'll be adding to the problem, not solving it.

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Yog Sothoth 1 year, 4 months ago

I don't care if Vox Day feels vindicated or, for that matter, what he experiences at all in his own subjective world. What I DO care about is his group no longer being able to hijack the nomination process for attention and cheap promotion of political hackery.

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buzzardist 1 year, 4 months ago

Well, O.K., but what would be a better process? Requiring everyone to purchase a full convention attendance membership? Then you're just turning the nomination war into a money battle. Whose side has the deeper pockets to buy more con memberships?

You could limit voting, I suppose, to people physically in attendance at the con, but that could just as easily be hijacked. Also, the nominations still have to happen in advance of the con, so there has to be some way to do that without having voters physically present.

I'm at a loss for how exactly one could reconfigure the rules to guarantee that certain people are no longer able to participate short of explicitly blacklisting people.

Either of the above options, too, would also exclude a lot of people who genuinely want to vote for their favorite sci fi from participating.

So what else would you do? Ban any public campaigning for the awards? Ban slates? How does one go about doing that? Prior to Sad Puppies, there were dozens of identical or nearly identical nominations submitted to the Hugos ever year. Plenty of people admit that this kind of thing went on. Sad Puppies made what had been a poorly kept secret public, and then Rabid Puppies escalated the practice. But how you go about legislating that people can't say, "Here's who I'm voting for, and I think you should, too," is beyond me. If WorldCon did try to ban slates, what would it do? Disqualify any work or author that appeared on a slate ballot? Well, gee, whom do you think Vox Day would turn around and nominate on a slate then?

You don't want the nomination process hijacked again. Great. But I think you overestimate the ability of a con to establish rules immune to hijackery. What you propose will just give Vox Day more ammunition. I have no way of predicting what Vox will do, but my bet is that the best way to get him to go away quickly is to let a few of the more deserving items on the Puppies slates win. At that point, they lose the ability to say that the game is rigged against them, and I wouldn't be surprised if there were less disruptive campaigns in the future.

But, hey, if you want to burn the awards down this year, next year, and possible in the years after that. Vox has already handed you the match. Personally, I think it would be a shame to torch the awards, but you and Vox both seem to think otherwise on this point.

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Yog Sothoth 1 year, 4 months ago

Dozens of people better equipped at engineering voting systems are already discussing how to change things. I have more faith in their ability to fix things than I have fear of this Vox Day (who you are trying to pretend not to be a fan and partisan of so that you seem unbiased) being able to continually game the system.

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

Thanks for a brilliant article Phil, still finishing reading it but wanted to give you my support here. Great piece of work!

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Yog Sothoth 1 year, 4 months ago

Isn't it unfortunate that his (self-selected) pseudonymous initials also stand for Venereal Disease?

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

"A moment of silence for all the talented people, some of whom I know, who have been hurt by Mr. Beale's actions."

Hear, hear. Lovely words thanks you. One thing I believe that people such as Beale appear to forget is the results of their actions and the effect that real consideration and regard for others can have. I think that the simplest and most powerful thing we can do for one another is to have some thought and positive regard - that's what I take away from all of this anyway. Thanks acrbeatle.

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volund 1 year, 4 months ago

Thank you. I'm very glad to have been directed to this post; it's helped me to focus and crystallize my own thoughts on the Puppies debacle.

The year's a third over. It's not too early to start thinking about who I'd like to nominate for the Hugos ... including in he Best Fan Writer category.

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Josh04 1 year, 4 months ago

saw this comment on twitter as well, and both times the phrase "rent free" jumped out.

"rent free"?

i mean, 'living in your head' is a reasonable metaphor. but "rent free"? what kind of imagination do you have to have that you can't spell out a metaphor without clarifying the economic context

like people might otherwise think he was paying rent for such an occupation, and would thus be appropriately subservient to his mind-landlord.

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Kate LBT 1 year, 4 months ago

Vox Day isn't even a libertarian, he's a neoreactionary. He's one of those people who have decided that the techno-utopianism of libertarianism is great, but that whole pesky freedom thing (at least outside of the class of intelligentsia to which he aspires but fails to actually achieve, ending up coming off as verbose, whiny and self-worshipping) is just too much, and we should just all go back to the Divine Right of Kings. Which is great, as long as you're one of the Kings.

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Philip Sandifer 1 year, 4 months ago

Sorry to everyone for the degree to which the comments section degenerated while I was asleep last night. I've tidied it back up to our usual standard, and will be actively moderating today.

To anyone who may have followed a link from Beale's blog today and is inclined to weigh in, please note that this blog does maintain a "no platform the fascists" policy, and that I am generally aware of your playbook for Internet arguments, so basically, unless you give me a very good reason not to, your comment will be live for entire minutes before I delete it and get ever closer to earning enough SJW points for my free Redshirts toaster.

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Philip Sandifer 1 year, 4 months ago

As for the reasonable and pleasantly non-fascist majority of my commenters, many of whose comments just disappeared along with the derp, please don't feed the trolls.

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SochghajwI' 1 year, 4 months ago

"It is not just that he is a frothing fascist, but that he believes that the best possible thing he can do with his magical genetic access to Divine Truth is to try to disrupt the Hugo Awards. "

I do like this. I brings to mind Uri Geller, who, if his claims are to be believed, is able to affect the molecular structure of metal objects at a distance... and who uses this awesome power to ruin cutlery.

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buzzardist 1 year, 4 months ago

If they want to win Hugos, then why is Vox gladly encouraging his opponents to go the "No Award" route? He's much more keen to expose the absurd extremes to which people will go to reject him than he is to win an award. People like Scalzi and Jemisin took pokes at him, and so he keeps poking back. He likes to watch his foes squeal, and he's created a situation this year in which the traditionally liberal sci fi community will squeal no matter what happens. It's all a win for him. Blow up the awards you cherish with a straight "No Award" protest? Vox wins. Give his slate some wins? Vox wins.

The question is what happens next year and the year after. My hunch is that a "No Award" revolt against Vox this year will ensure he returns next year, too. A few awards tossed to the more deserving people on the Puppies slate would probably do more than anything to disarm the Puppies effort moving forward.

And, one has to admit, there are deserving nominees on Vox's slate. Black Gate has belatedly asked to withdraw, as have some others, but a site like that really does deserve some recognition for the quality fan work that it puts out.

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Philip Sandifer 1 year, 4 months ago

I'd point out that I accused Beale of wanting to disrupt the Hugos, not of wanting to win them.

Torgersen seems to want to win them, for what it's worth.

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Stacia 1 year, 4 months ago

It's worth pointing out that Little Mister "Scientifically Literate" is using the wrong term for Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens Denisova/Denisova hominins and doesn't even realize it.

Neither do his followers, who are very probably just people looking for someone to follow; specifically, someone to follow who denigrates other human beings on a regular basis. He also gives them something to do -- in this case, game the Hugo nomination system -- which gives them a false sense of accomplishment.

It's sort of fascinating as far as nutty cult-like behavior goes.

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buzzardist 1 year, 4 months ago

You can put your hope in that, but short of blacklisting specific people and works, virtually any system can be gamed by someone who knows the rules. And Vox is the kind of obsessive game player who knows how to rules lawyer a thing to death if he wants to. We'll have to wait and see what specific proposal gets put forward, but count me as a skeptic.

Regardless, from a public relations standpoint, any such proposal will be a coup for all of the Puppies. Torgerson and Correia set out to recognize some people who, because the awards work the way that they do, don't receive any recognition, or, if that failed, to expose how badly the left will fight to keep that recognition from anyone who is not of the right ideological views. Changing the rules to push them out only validates their contention from the very start.

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Philip Sandifer 1 year, 4 months ago

Reducing this to a PR war concedes far too many premises to Theodore Beale.

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Dan 1 year, 4 months ago

"A few awards tossed towards the more deserving people" would make it utterly worthless as an awards ceremony though.

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buzzardist 1 year, 4 months ago

I was sad, Philip, to see that you deleted some of my comments. I appreciate what you've written here. You've put a lot together. Some of it is very insightful. Some I definitely disagree with.

But I am really interested in how you define science fiction and how you see various works fitting into that generic classification. I thought there were some good comments developing in the thread behind the first comment I posted, particularly from Scurra, if I recall, who suggested that a lot of this is just a definitional pissing match. Many people in sci fi have move to much more expansive categories that, it seems, could include "Dinosaur, My Love." Other purists are rejecting that.

The question is, if the Hugos are an award for "science fiction," what does that mean in an era where people seem willing to bend all categories and definitions out of shape. "Sci fi" can't just mean "the stuff that I like." If fans are going to award the best sci fi, then "sci fi" has to have some generic features. You mentioned initially that it has to do with imagining the future. Yog wanted to expand this to anything speculative, without really explaining what "speculative" means.

I look at a story like "Dinosaur, My Love," and I don't see anything recognizably sci fi or speculative. There is no imagined world in any tangible sense. There is just a sad woman locked in this world. (And, I'd argue, a pretty unreformed Victorian woman desiring both violent beast and gentle prince in her lover, and yet she is pathetically stuck with this comatose body.) Is a daydream enough to count as speculative fiction? I could see putting the story up for a romance award, but science fiction? I'm having trouble fitting it into the category.

And if the Hugos do devolve to a "what I and enough other people like" award, then what's to stop a legion of fans rushing, nominating Fifty Shades of Gray, and voting it the winner by a landslide? Genres are made to be reworked, mixed, and reshaped. That's what artists do, but just voting something a sci fi work doesn't necessarily make it one.

And that's why I asked for a clarification on how you're treating that category. Yog was quick to pounce with insults, which I think ruined the tone of the thread, but it's a genuine and, I hope, important question that I had in response to your essay. I'd like to hear people's thoughts about what makes sci fi sci fi and how particular works, whether they be "Dinosaur, My Love," "Game of Thrones," "Wheel of Time," or anything else fits within the Hugo award category.

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Philip Sandifer 1 year, 4 months ago

I talk about a lot of these issues with Jack Graham and Andrew Hickey in this podcast: http://shabogangraffiti.blogspot.com/2015/04/emergency-anti-fascist-shabcast-3-hugo.html

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Doctor Science 1 year, 4 months ago

buzzardist:

The point I'm trying to make is that, from a business POV, *nothing* can dissuade Vox from doing it again next year, because it's working so well financially this year. He may have started just wanting to make people upset, but he's now making money doing it, which is an incentive that can easily override any other consideration.

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Philip Sandifer 1 year, 4 months ago

It might mean that too (if you think that random Greek/Latin swaps are in some sense "meaning"), but it also blatantly means "voice of god."

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John Wright 1 year, 4 months ago

"if you got John C. Wright drunk at the bar, you could get him to admit that he thinks transhumanism and black people are ugly for the same reason."

Actually, I am a teetotaler, and I always tell the truth, and, unlike yourself, sir, I am not a racist. An honest man often hears himself accused of his accuser's flaws.

As for the claim that I am attacking Ursula K LeGuin when, in fact, I am praising her with fulsome praise is beyond absurd.

Next time you would like to misinterpret or misunderstand something I have said, please ask me a question before inventing your nonsense, and quote me: even an English major can adhere to this minimal level of courtesy and honesty.

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David Ainsworth 1 year, 4 months ago

Torgersen's claim above isn't in any way responsive to the critique. Even granting that several works found their way to nomination through "affirmative action," and even granting the even more questionable assumption that affirmative action isn't merely a correction of inherent bias, there's a clear distinction in both degree and kind between placing one or two works on a list of nominees and entirely dictating the list. It's like "correcting" an inherent conservative slant in modern American politics by only allowing liberal candidates on the ballot.

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Philip Sandifer 1 year, 4 months ago

But I don't want to talk to you, because you're a raving fascist loony.

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Chris 1 year, 4 months ago

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Chris 1 year, 4 months ago

"unlike yourself, sir, I am not a racist. An honest man often hears himself accused of his accuser's flaws."

This is a hilarious comment, because it can easily be read as meaning the exact opposite of what the writer intended.

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kateorman 1 year, 4 months ago

(This is Kate Orman; Blogger absolutely refuses to let me log in.) Several essays online have helped me better understand the Puppies' assault on the Hugos. The above, and Maureen O'Danu's blog posting on Puppy psychology, are the two which have given me the deepest insights. As the mess on the carpet has inspired me to vote this year and next, I plan to nominate this thought-provoking, enlightening, hilarious, defiant, and frankly magnificently posting. (I'll also be nominating Recursive Occlusion, which is brilliant - proper review soon!).

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David Ainsworth 1 year, 4 months ago

"unlike yourself, sir, I am not a racist. An honest man often hears himself accused of his accuser's flaws."

It's "I know you are, but what am I," only wearing a tuxedo!

Replying to a lengthy analysis of oneself and one's associates establishing fascist beliefs, the desire to disenfranchise women, an obsession with racial purity and deep-seated hypocrisy by saying, "No, you're racist, and you misread me on LeGuin," pretty much gives the game away.

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brightglance 1 year, 4 months ago

Mr. Torgersen,
I'm just replying as an ordinary person who thought Ancillary Justice was deserving of a Hugo and probably would have voted for it. (I didn't have a vote - I was considering registering last year as a supporting member of Loncon but I thought it would only serve to rub it in that I couldn't really afford the time or money to go.) I say probably because I haven't read beyond a sample of Warbound - it seemed like very well done urban fantasy and probably would have been in the middle of my ballot.
But I loved Ancillary Justice - the idea of multiply located consciousness of one individual, then reduced to the inside of one much more limited body. The gradual dawning of the extent of tyranny, and the determination to spike one part of its plans (even by one whose very origins stem from the tyranny). The scale and scope of the background and its history.
The pronoun thing was a nifty trick which pointed up (a) one difference in the imperial society to other tyrannous empires of the past (b) but even more so the strangeness in the thinking of Breq who couldn't reliably spot gender differences, a thing that the humans clearly could.
I liked it as much as some of Iain Banks or C.J. Cherryh and I bought Ancillary Sword as soon as it came out in ebook.

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Kit Power 1 year, 4 months ago

FUN FACT: If you can get a teetotaler to drink, they generally get very drunk, very fast. Just throwing that out there.

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buzzardist 1 year, 4 months ago

I would be curious to know exactly how much Vox's publishing company is actually selling from the Hugos. Nominated works are being released for free. It is some extra advertising, and I'm sure sales have ticked up a little slightly. But for the small volumes of ebooks that the company normally moves, I highly doubt Vox or anyone else is getting rich. My impression is that Vox didn't start that publishing house primarily to make money.

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arcbeatle 1 year, 4 months ago

Thank you very much. The silliest part is that I am holding back their names for fear Beale will cause them even MORE grief for being unhappy with his false prophet machinations.

Its a sorry state where creators are forced to hide to prevent themselves from becoming a ball in a game they didn't chose to be a part of, and whose rules are arbitrary and rigged.

I really want a positive move forward from here. I really do. I am sadly expecting another fuss up next year though.

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Copperheaded 1 year, 4 months ago

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Copperheaded 1 year, 4 months ago

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SpaceSquid 1 year, 4 months ago

I dunno, I don't think it can be Olympic standard when it's so horribly common. It's a central building block of any number of stances of the uglier elements of the Right. The same mechanism that fuels the Rabid Puppies fuels proponents of torture and those who insist Islam has declared war on the West and must be fought: "Barbarians do X; to beat barbarians the civilised peoples must do X".

Phil's focus on the "Stabbed in the back" narrative is instructive here, because it allows the fascists and the fascist-adjacent to insist when they stab people "from the front" it's fine, because they're only doing it because being stabbed in the back is so awful. That in both cases someone is being stabbed is conveniently ignored, because what they want to focus on is the direction of the act. They've turned what we see as scalar quantities into vectors.

Which is ironic, because when people like me point out the difference between the oppressed badmouthing their oppressors and the oppressors badmouthing the oppressed, we're accused of doing exactly the same thing, making us the real racists, or whatever.

It's hypocrisy all the way down.

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Ciaran 1 year, 4 months ago

I think your two part definition of fascism is interesting and useful, but is missing an essential ingredient; the element of nation. In fact, this must precede the betrayal and restoration. First, we must have the concept of a people, a nation of those people, and the governance of that nation, for it is this nation that has been betrayed, and that the hero must restore. So if one uses "fascism", even in analogy, one must have an analogy to the nation state.

I think one could make the case that the Rabid Puppies constitute an analogous nation, replacing bonds of ethny, geography with interest and ideology. Beale can be their king, Wright their archbishop. And the Hugos can be their Poland.

But your other examples of "facism" fall flat. Take this for example:

"It’s a classically fascist myth, just like Gamergate (gaming used to be great, then the feminist SJWs took over the gaming press, and now Gamergate will liberate it) or Men’s Rights Activists (of which Beale is one). "

Where is the hero of Gamergate? Has some charismatic leader changed his name to "Gamergate"? How about the MRA? Your analogy fails because you have confused a movement with an individual. "Gamergate" can not liberate it, because there is no such person.

Both the Gamergate and the MRA are a decentralized populist movement of a group of individuals who share some overlapping grievances. Given a sense of unity, and a strong leader, these could become fascist in nature. But they are not there yet. They may be actual breeding grounds for certain forms of antisocial behavior, but the they are no more than potential breeding grounds for fascism.

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macpuffins 1 year, 4 months ago

I thought I had a semi-coherent grasp on the issues. Turns out I was grossly mistaken. This is now saved for my offline consumption because it is going to take me days of analysis to get through the breadth of information you have so lucidly presented. Many issues you have taken and brought to fulsome the appropriate arguments to debunk the debacle's creators. And I love it. Thank you.

One thing I will say is that the initial argument that science fiction isn't about exploring outside the cultural and sociological boundaries is absolute bunk, as you have most eloquently, and rightly, stated. Some of the best science fiction I have read has been exactly that - taking the reader on a journey to an other-when, other-where, other-who, or other-why perspective and causing grey matter to have to work to incorporate new thought, reconcile new to old, or justify the dumping of the new thoughts in deference to the old. Some of the best stuff has come via covers that so totally did not predict the content or themes as well as covers that didn't offer more than minor predictive elements. Some of my most beloved reading in the genre has been challenging personally, emotionally, intellectually, etc., and I cherish that and, dare say, need it for my own personal growth within my humanity.
A human who is not evolving or growing in some aspect of self is stagnant. A genre that isn't is dead. Science fiction and fantasy are very much alive. And even books I don't like (personal preference issues) are good in challenging someone else. And that diversity is vital.

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buzzardist 1 year, 4 months ago

Thanks for the link. Pardon if I don't have a couple hours to spend listening to the full thing. But you all do get into some interesting discussion of the genre just before the hour mark. Sci fi as a genre, like with all generic identifications, is almost impossible to define. One can pick out qualities and features--a pastoral hearkens to a golden world, a classical romance (not the sappy love sort) involves movement and often separation of people, etc. Genres are often those "you know it when you see it" types of things. Definitions become impossibly complex and contradictory, but most people generally agree that a particular work does or does not generally fit the classification.

Except when people stop agreeing, which is what's brought us to the current state of the Hugos.

You all go around and around in the podcast with different sub-genres of sci fi--the action adventure, the Menippean satire and other cultural satire, novels of ideas, normal fiction with sci fi window dressing, and so on. My sense is that Vox very much does like that classical action adventure type of story and stories that engage in big ideas about society and humanity. These are the kinds of stories that used to be the bread-and-butter of the sci fi world. In many cases, these kinds of stories remain highly popular.

But the Hugos in the last 20 years or so have undergone a pretty significant shift, almost entirely pushing that classical sci fi out the door. What's replaced it has been a mix of regular fiction with sci fi as window dressing (and recently with that window dressing growing exceedingly thin, in some cases, such as with "Dinosaur, My Love") and a lot of awards given on the basis of who one's publisher is (Tor has been very good at running whisper campaigns and organizing blocs of votes, albeit at a much smaller scale than Vox has done) or what one's political or social identity is. And now we're seeing layer upon layer of reactionary shouting as each side lays claim to the Hugos.

You can call the Hugos outdated in trying to identify "sci fi" because genres are so scattered and mixed now anyway, but that still doesn't square with most people's intuitions. They hear "sci fi," and a certain image is conjured in their minds. Artists can try to push on what that image is to reshape it over time by supplying iconic works that remix genres, but, ultimately, if an award for sci fi is going to be given, somebody has to define something to designate generally what's eligible and what's not.

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Stan 1 year, 4 months ago

And this comment says it all: it is your identity, which we give you, that makes you illegitimate. We define you as such, so it is true by virtue of a First Principle: tautology. And we have defined ourselves as superior, both intellectually and morally, so if you disagree, then you cannot be as superior as are we. The category we designate for ourselves - messianic elites, is for champions of the perpetual Victimhood Class which we also designate and maintain. But that Class is trivial, because our actual position is to destroy all non-congruent thought, anywhere that it might be found.

It is not just our own superiority that prevents us from thinking about and/or discussing objectively anything you say or think; it is our definition of your Class (Oppressors) as too odious to even consider. It is a moral conclusion, based on what we want, and requires no justification. Thus, it is clearly immoral to entertain thoughts outside of the approved thinking which we not only endorse, but absolutely require.

You claim to have facts which contradict our narrative. That cannot be true, because our narrative is tautologially impeccable, just as are we. So there is not reason even to look at contrary facts. Our only necessary involvement is to silence them, and you.

Capiche?

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buzzardist 1 year, 4 months ago

To continue, you all get into what contemporary sci fi has turned into a bit earlier in the podcast when you start talking about the diversity of past nominees. Contrary to what a lot of people have claimed, there is quite a lot of diversity in terms of gender and race on the Puppies slates. The difference, I think, is that the Puppies seem much less interested in awarding prizes for being a certain race or identity, which is what a lot of the Hugo and Nebula trumpeters over the past decade or so have been crowing about. The posturing over the sweep of the Nebulas this past year by women is a good example because it seemed like a lot of people were cheering diversity for diversity's sake instead of actually talking about the quality of the literature. Maybe some of that stuff was good; maybe it wasn't. I haven't read enough of it to pass judgment. But some of the exultant reactions I saw on Twitter and elsewhere left me wondering if fiction-qua-fiction had been lost as a reason for giving prizes.

The Puppies, instead, want to shift the awards to recognize two or three specific sub-genres of sci fi. If you look at a lot of the Puppies' complaints, including Vox's, they really don't give two cents about who is what identity. The con-participating crowd skews a certain way, which means that a lot of popular, well-written sci fi fails to get recognition, which is true. Torgerson and Correia wanted to get some recognition for the kinds of sci fi that they like, which is a perfectly reasonable fan action. But the reaction to last year's Sad Puppies set the table for this year's debacle. The shrieking, hollering, blaming, and everything else put blood in the water. Had there not been such a nasty, concerted effort to put Torgerson and Correia back in their place, and had people not tried to blame Vox for the Puppies campaign that others ran, I highly suspect that this year's Rabid Puppies never would have materialized. But when anybody on the left postures, Vox looks for any way possible to poke them in the eye. And that's what we're now seeing play out.

I agree with what you said elsewhere--Torgerson probably does want to win an award here or there for some people he likes, but Vox really doesn't care. What he sees is that the Hugos matter to people like Hayden, Scalzi, Jemisin, and the rest of that in-crowd. He sees that they matter to you, too. Because the awards matter to certain people, messing with the awards is an all-too-easy way to, as I said, poke them in the eye. And, I'll wager, as long as people on the political left keep shrieking about the Hugos, Nebulas, and other awards, all those people will be handing him easy opportunities to keep poking.

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jane 1 year, 4 months ago

Beale and Torgie sitting in a tree
Kay Eye Es Es Why En Gee!
First comes love, then comes marriage
then comes

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Joel 1 year, 4 months ago

This entire post and comment section demonstrates the salience of Orwell's essay about politics and language and how the rampant abuse of the term "fascist" has rendered the term meaningless. The same can, now, be said for many other terms, "racism" being an excellent example.

Within 20 years, if not sooner, the standard response from anyone who is non-left is going to be that "racism" is meaningless gibberish. You had your fun while it was available - in short order, it won't be available anymore.

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John 1 year, 4 months ago

Here's Robert Paxton's definition of fascism, which is probably about as close to a consensus definition as you'll get:

A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

Most scholars of fascism, from what I can remember, don't consider Franco's regime to be a pure fascist regime - it was a right wing authoritarian regime that incorporated fascist elements (the Falange) into itself. I believe the early part of Antonescu's regime in Romania, before he purged the Iron Guard, and the Vichy regime in France, at least in its later years, are viewed similarly. Fascist movements are much more common than fascist regimes - I think the only pure fascist regime besides Germany and Italy is the very short-lived Hungarian Arrow Cross regime of 1944-45. Which is not to say that other right wing authoritarian movements don't have some of the characteristics of fascism.

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John 1 year, 4 months ago

Shorter John Wright: "You know nothing of my work."

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Adam Riggio 1 year, 4 months ago

Honestly, John, leaving all political differences between us aside, if the tone and style of your comments on internet threads are so pompous and overblown, then I can only wonder what your more formal prose sounds like. It doesn't really make me want to read your stuff on aesthetic merits alone, and I've read some pretty damn pretentious books.

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John Seavey 1 year, 4 months ago

I think Wright considers it "cowardly" because they didn't tell you at the beginning that Korra was lesbian; they let you think she was a straight person and get emotionally attached to her, then sprung it on you that she was one of Teh Gays! (The horror.) It was an attack because John C. Wright has deeply internalized his homophobia and views a disagreement with that viewpoint as an attack on his sense of self. Hence, "cowardly attack". God, I'm getting too good at understanding how these people try to think.

@Yog Sothoth: Harlan Ellison may be a deeply unpleasant person to many, but I'll always remember him doing goldfish impressions for my five-year-old. :)

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Rogers Cadenhead 1 year, 4 months ago

Doesn't seem weird to me. Mia Farrow today has little cultural relevance, so the line refers to the period when she did.

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Adam Riggio 1 year, 4 months ago

Thank you for pointing me to O'Danu's post, which I'm reading right now. It's quite enlightening. I also found Jeet Heer's article on the subject at The New Republic rather insightful.

And thank you, as well, Kate, for writing such wonderful books over the years.

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John Seavey 1 year, 4 months ago

The thing is, buzzardist, the Sad and Rabid Puppies will declare victory no matter what. No Award wins? "See? See? Our views are being oppressed!" They win? "See? See? The fans secretly sympathize with us!" The rules get changed? "See? See? They had to change the rules to stop us winning!" The rules don't get changed? "See? See? We told you that there was nothing wrong with our tactic!" Couner-slate? "See? See? We told you THEY were doing it too!" No counter-slate? "See? See? We told you THEY were doing it so secretly that you couldn't even spot it!"

Everything vindicates their point of view in their point of view, because they're delusional nutbags who have thrown up eleventy-million contradictory justifications for their actions. Worrying about how they might feel about it is like worrying about how the Republicans are going to react to the choice of Democratic candidate. There ain't nobody they're going to like, so fuckit.

For myself, I'm repeatedly advocating a rule where a large number of sufficiently similar ballots are automatically thrown out as invalid. Large enough and similar enough not to be achievable by chance, small enough that you could no longer gin up a slate of GamerGaters to tilt the nominations your way.

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Spoilers Below 1 year, 4 months ago

"Peter Parker, as created by Steve Ditko, grew up in the 1950s. He called women "gals" and Russians "commies", wore a waistcoat on informal occasions and thought "I bet you're still wearing a Vote for Dewey badge" was a clever topical reference. Yet many of us seem to be able to accept that the young man who remembers the Beatles and lost friends in the Vietnam war is the "same person" as the young man who was a teenager when the World Trade Center was destroyed; but somehow think that if his hair or his skin is the wrong colour he is just not Spider-Man.

"In 1963, Peter Parker's Aunt May was already a Very Old Lady, prone to have heart-attacks at the drop of a pin -- in her 70s, or even older. A New York lady who was born in the 1890s is very likely to have been an immigrant. I think everyone now agrees that Peter Parker was -- like Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby and the guy who wrote the words -- a second generation immigrant, say of Austrian or Czech Jewish heritage. This is why Peter Parker is rejected by his peer group, and bullied by Flash Thompson. He's a foreigner; an outsider.

"It follows that movies which represent him as an all-American white kid are just as false as the ones where he plays with a microscope rather than a computer. If you want to set Spider-Man in the 21st century and remain remotely faithful to the original, you'd have to make him the kid of some refugees who came to America in the 1990s; non-religious himself, but greatly influenced by Uncle Ben's Somali Muslim or Punjabi Sikh heritage.

"(I'm serious, by the way.)"
--Andrew Rilstone, making roughly the same point the same month, oddly enough, as Kamala Khan's first appearance in an issue of Captain Marvel.
http://www.andrewrilstone.com/2013/08/hello-i-must-be-going-2.html

Lovely essay, Phil.

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John Seavey 1 year, 4 months ago

I'll be honest, buzzardist: When I hear someone say, "Well, I haven't read any of the science-fiction involved, but it seems like it won awards because it was by a woman", I run do not walk the other way. The reason people don't talk about whether something was good after it won an award is usually because that talk was done before it won the award; at this point, that conversation is over and people start talking about trends for the industry. Jumping to the conclusion that the fiction must be mediocre and awarded as affirmative action is usually kind of a blind spot--I mean, in previous years, did you wonder if white guys were only awarded a Hugo because they were white and male?

I also think that way too much attention has been paid to 'Dinosaur', which was nominated in one category one year and didn't win. When you look at the overall winners in all the categories for the past five years, you see plenty of "recognizable" sci-fi stories, from novels like 'Redshirts' to movies like 'Gravity' and 'Inception' to graphic novels like 'Girl Genius'. That's kind of the problem with the underlying rationale behind the Puppies' campaign--it simply isn't there when you look at the awards for the past five years.

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lydy 1 year, 4 months ago

There's a _toaster_? Why was I not informed? I _need_ that toaster!

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Zach 1 year, 4 months ago

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that someone with a PhD in English is unable to read. I am, of course, not surprised that a PhD in English can produce so much text with so little truth.

You have misunderstood Torgersen. His point is not that SF/F must contain barbarians and spaceships. His point is that it ought not be a lame after-school special. This point is not hard to grasp.

You have libeled Theodore Beale. I have no wish or need to defend him, but I merely point out that his preferred political system is direct democracy, including women's suffrage.

You have libeled John C. Wright in calling him a racist when no evidence exists. Your evidence is "well, once he used the word "subhuman", so he's a racist."

In fact, most of your article is this: "This author I don't like probably thinks this way, so he's this sort of bad person."

Incredible stupidity expressed over a long blog post is still stupidity. It's fortunate that after leaving this comment your relevance to my life will cease.

I will go on reading books based on the quality of their content and not the skin color of the author or characters, or their particular sexual proclivities.

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John 1 year, 4 months ago

Beyond the question of whether Beale is a libertarian or not, I am deeply unconvinced that "libertarians are as anti-fascist as one can get." Certainly there's a certain paranoid flavor of American libertarianism that has a great deal in common with fascism.

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Anna Feruglio Dal Dan 1 year, 4 months ago

You know, some of his acolyte are or were, God help us, serving in the military. Including the guy who vigorously defends the practical and moral use of torture (no, I am not surprise. But sad, yes). No matter how awful their output, it's probably best if they continue to write instead of serve.

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Anna Feruglio Dal Dan 1 year, 4 months ago

Libertarians are pretty close to fascists as makes no difference, take it from somebody whose parents generation tasted the ACTUAL fascist regime. Contempt for organised labour: check. Contempt for the common man: check. Idealisation of muscular virility: check. Worship of technology understood as foundation of capitalist enterprise: check. Contempt for provisions of social welfare, substituted by, if anything, individual charity: check. Hell, even the covers of Ayn Rand's books are bedecked in the kind of art deco aesthetic that is, in Italy, called "arte del ventennio". I know, the University I studied in was a particularly fine example.

And yes, of course every fascist believe they are brave, individual, heroically singular anti-conformists. As they said in The Life Of Brian: Look, you've got it all wrong! You don't need to follow me. You don't need to follow anybody! You've got to think for yourselves! You're all individuals!
Crowd: [in unison] Yes! We're all individuals!
Brian: You're all different!
Crowd: [in unison] Yes, we are all different!

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Philip Sandifer 1 year, 4 months ago

I can't decide whether to delete or frame this.

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Theonlyspiral 1 year, 4 months ago

You clearly frame this. It's brilliant satire.

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encyclops 1 year, 4 months ago

This is fucking great.

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Kit 1 year, 4 months ago

http://www.discogs.com/Nicolette-Let-No-one-Live-Rent-Free-In-Your-Head/release/73040

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John Seavey 1 year, 4 months ago

You may need to keep it, it'll be evidence when you're sued for libel. I'm sure this guy is a lawyer--you can tell from his keen grasp of the legal issues involved. No doubt he'll be representing Beale, Torgesen and Wright in the trial, and with an air-tight case like this, how can they lose?

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vanderleun 1 year, 4 months ago

Hey you two, get a room and siphon each other's discharge instead of guzzling it here in public. Thanks.

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Doctor Science 1 year, 4 months ago

Obviously I don't know the details, so I'm just guessing. But going from "very few people have heard of me" to "everyone in the field has heard of me" is a huge marketing plus, one that most new e-publishers would kill for.

A few days ago, Castalia announced a deal with Jerry Pournelle to reprint his "There Will Be War" anthologies. That's probably been in the works for a while, but it sure looks like the RP's success has given it a boost.

The thing about capitalism is that it doesn't take a *lot* of money to dominate one's behavior. I agree, Day probably didn't start Castalia to make money -- but once it does make any money, he'll keep doing what he's doing.

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Philip Sandifer 1 year, 4 months ago

Certainly that's my general M.O. (Back my Patreon. Baaaaaack my Paaaaaatreoooooon.)

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Greg Machlin 1 year, 4 months ago

buzzardist: 1) Aside from "If You Were a Dinosaur," which is seriously problematic for you guys to bring up at this point, because it's almost like Orwell's two minutes of hate w/ that story, what *specific Hugo nominees* in the past ten years do you think should have been declared ineligible? The Sad Puppies tie themselves in knots not getting into specifics (something Philip mentions in his essay), but it's the specifics that are so important here. I want a list, a full-on list of things nominated for Hugos that should not have been. This didn't come about because of an honest debate about the definition of sci-fi (and, implied, fantasy). It came about because two people thought they deserved to win Hugos and constructed a massive conspiracy to explain why they didn't win, as opposed to saying, "Hey, maybe I was just 'There Will Be Blood' to this year's 'No Country For Old Men' (best recent example of two very deserving nominees.)

Again, specifics.

2) "(Tor has been very good at running whisper campaigns and organizing blocs of votes, albeit at a much smaller scale than Vox has done)"--EVIDENCE? Seriously. Evidence. Citations. Somewhere. Anywhere. And what is a "whisper campaign"? I can't help but think that you guys knew gaming the Hugos was wrong, so you're after-the-fact trying to justify "well, -they- did it first!"

Something Philip also mentions in his excellent essay.

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Kit Power 1 year, 4 months ago

I'd vote for framing it. :)

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Chris Andersen 1 year, 4 months ago

I'm not.

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buzzardist 1 year, 4 months ago

John, that's nonsense. Don't pretend to quote me by putting words in quotes, assigning them to me, and then make up your own quote. I never said that I'd not read any of the works involved. I said that I hadn't read enough of them to feel like I could be a responsible voter.

More importantly, I'm not referring to the particular quality of the works at all, as I plainly stated, but to the crowing of various and sundry parties on Twitter, blogs, and elsewhere after last year's Hugos and after the Nebulas. When the people who supported those winners were proudly saying that they supported them because they were female authors, it creates a very strong impression that...well...they supported them because they are women, not entirely because of what they wrote.

You're right that plenty of recognizable sci fi has been on the ballots. I've not read "Girl Genius," but the others you mention all bored me. Films and TV probably deserve separate discussion because, well, nothing that isn't that big and mainstream ever seems to show up on the Hugo nominations in those categories anyway, which means virtually everything fits conventional expectations. The categories for writing shape up quite differently. Even a novel like "Redshirts" has been part of the complaint--there's nothing much original or exciting about a highly derivative work. It's not excellent writing. It's just Scalzi marshalling people through his blog and Twitter to support him, plus Tor throwing its weight behind the effort. The evidence is quite plain if one looks at voting patterns that Tor has used a voting bloc effectively to nominate works and propel them to wins.

No, no single entity has completely controlled the nomination list in the past, and nobody is claiming that. But plenty of respectable people admit that a lot of whisper campaigning and small-time bloc voting went on. Nobody has suggested that one group was keeping out all the classic sci fi. Instead, it's been several small cliques who each have enough support to put one person on the ballot who've been dominating for the past decade, making it very hard for anyone else to break into the nomination spotlight unless they organize their own, bigger clique. Which is what Torgerson and Correia did. And then the old cliques threw a fit last year that even just one or two people per category not of their choosing landed on the ballot. Last year's backlash against the Puppies, more than anything, seems to be what's motivating this year's drama.

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Philip Sandifer 1 year, 4 months ago

Buzzardist, would you be so kind as to take a 24 hour break from the comments section here? Thanks very much.

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Scurra 1 year, 4 months ago

The Puppies, instead, want to shift the awards to recognize two or three specific sub-genres of sci fi.
And that's just fine - can't they set up some awards themselves? And, unlike with the Hugos, they would have the luxury of defining exactly what it is that they would like to see nominated and/or winning - right up to the point when they discover how impossible it is to police even their own definition. (Which harks back to my own point about how this is a classic definitional argument, as everything always is.)
The biggest strength and the biggest weakness of the Hugos is precisely that lack of definition. Which is why we are where we are.

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yamamanama 1 year, 4 months ago

Of course, we are talking about Vox Day here, who once accused me of libel because I quoted him.

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David Gerard 1 year, 4 months ago

Have you seen this? It's beautiful.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2015/04/22/a-musical-interlude-courtesy-of-owl-mirror-on-the-hugos/

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timber-munki 1 year, 4 months ago

Obviously that's because he's in the pay of Big Cutlery (Or swords, shovels & pitchforks to their friends). I thought everyone knew about that.

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Cantus 1 year, 4 months ago

You have not addressed any of what Zach has said. Don't you think that's an important thing to do?

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Philip Sandifer 1 year, 4 months ago

Not really?

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Todd Austin Hunt 1 year, 4 months ago

Tremendous essay. And wow: "You are the emperor of a tiny patch of shit . . ."

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Nyq Only 1 year, 4 months ago

"Sorry to everyone for the degree to which the comments section degenerated while I was asleep last night. I've tidied it back up to our usual standard, and will be actively moderating today."

Well everybody came to the freaky comment party, so that was kind of fun.

At risk of laying out more troll kibble, things I meant to say but the comments were moving to quick and I was working:
1. On VD being a 'libertarian'. I think that notion works more as an attack on libertarianism than a defence of VD.
2. On libertarianism being somehow the opposite of facsism. Nah, ideology doesn't work that way. Fascism is a whole bunch of interrelated stuff. The rightwing analysis that marks fascism as utterly different or even leftwing rest purely on trying to classify all ideology on one factor: the relationship between central government and the economy whilst ignoring all the other things that an ideology may (or may not) encompass. If anybody is really having any trouble seeing how most ideologies are just a few steps away from each other just consider border line cases like General Pinochet's regime - not strictly fascist but very fascist like and yet a posterboy for monetarism and government disengagement from the economy.
3. On Sad Puppies somehow being a movement that promotes diversity. Sorry but no. Even if a given Sad Puppy things that is what they are doing, a strategy that would shift the Hugos from individual voting (with various kinds of self promotion and lobbying) to a battle between competing slates would make it HARDER for new voices without patronage to get nominated. To get nominated you'd need to get picked by one of the more powerful slates and that would mean that a very small number of slef appointed gatekeepers would control the Hugos. Block voting for slates would make the problems the nicer Sad Puppies claim to be fighting worse.
4. On that. Puppies of all stripes need to see that there are two distinct issues: Block voting for slates is an appalling idea for the Hugos REGARDLESS of your politics (at least for most mainstream politics - Lenin might approve). The fact that block voting in this case is being exploited by a socially reactionary agenda is also appalling. People are pssed off a both things and both things make 'no award' a good plan but the first more than the second IMHO (i.e. there are lost of ways of protesting neo-fascism but if the SP's don't want the Hugos to become dominated by SJW slates they should be actively campagining for No Award this year. Jeez do you think leftists of all people don't know how to organise a caucus?)
5. But the SP slate was really diverse this year. Huh? The diversity of previous years Hugo winners is being cited by SP leaders as almost axiomatic proof of affirmative action. Previous SP slates were less diverse - if we apply Puppy logic that means the more diverse SP slate this year is proof of a social-justice-warrior conspiracy. If the SP case was a sci-fi novel then it would be so riddled with plot holes that the plot-holes themselves would start coalescing to form a mega-plothole which would suck in all logic.
6. On that - conservatives complaining that elites get to control stuff and more lowly people find it hard to make headway against entrenched privilege? Um. You do get that you are supposed to be conservatives right?

Thanks again Phil for a brilliant post.

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Nyq Only 1 year, 4 months ago

Apologies for the numerous typos. As I am incapable of error, the typos must have been put there by John Scalzi and a social-justice clique. It is the only explanation!

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Nyq Only 1 year, 4 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Anna Feruglio Dal Dan 1 year, 4 months ago

I have gotten to the point where my outrage has gone over some threshold and has turned into entertainment. The convolute, tortured, pompous, self-important prose with which these writers who have self-appointed themselves Hugo-worthy express themselves and curious concepts like Ancillary Justice not being MilSf, or not REALLY MilSF, or not REALLY being liked by a lot of people, or arguing in al seriousness about the relative proportion of a fraction of the DNA that would differentiate two fraternal twins as if it was key, or wanting to punch Terry Pratchett for being, as far as I can make out, too much of a decent human being - well, at this point, it is starting to be funny. I know - I feel guilty. It's not funny! No! Not at all! (Keeps resolutely straight face. Indeed. Totally. Not even a small chortle)

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just passing through 1 year, 4 months ago

Hi Phillip. I'm new here. I want to hug you for that perfect, pretentiousness-puncturing response to Mr. Wright. (And for this line, which I am still laughing over: "It is a process during which one is afforded many opportunities to stop and say 'wait a moment, I seem to be allying with Josef Stalin, maybe I should reconsider my life choices.'")

Now, relatedly, and since its possible Mr. Wright is still hanging around, I just need to get something off my chest.

I'd never heard of you before this affair, but when you showed up on a news blog I do frequent (because you seem to be desperately ego-Googling yourself and commenting on every possible post that mentions you), my first thought was, "What a verbose blowhard. This guy writes for a living?"

Someone on a thread noted that you had written a post that was allegedly about a writer I do know and revere, Terry Pratchett. Curious, I visited the page for "The Watchtowers of Atlantis Tremble."

So here I am, reading a post with a premise I find morally repugnant -- that people should be forced to die in agony because of religious beliefs that are not their own -- supposedly about one of my favorite authors, who recently passed away. Total outrage fuel. I should have been on a hate-reading high. And instead I found my eyes glazing over. I was bored. So. Very. Bored.

John C. Wright, you write like a teen at a Renaissance festival. You are overwrought, overly dramatic, and above all dull.

I mean, holy God, man: "Hippocrates would not dare have offended the gods by betraying what he had sworn. He would not work harm who had vowed by gods of sea and underworld and sky firstly to do no harm, and poured red wine into the winedark seas to solemnize the oath ..."

My eyes may never roll back into their proper position. If this is how purple your nonfiction prose is, I am awed at the idea of your fiction.

TL;DR: I do not think the reason you've never won a Hugo is precisely what you think it is.

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Josh04 1 year, 4 months ago

:O

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Anna Feruglio Dal Dan 1 year, 4 months ago

"4. On that. Puppies of all stripes need to see that there are two distinct issues: Block voting for slates is an appalling idea for the Hugos REGARDLESS of your politics (at least for most mainstream politics - Lenin might approve). The fact that block voting in this case is being exploited by a socially reactionary agenda is also appalling. People are pssed off a both things and both things make 'no award' a good plan but the first more than the second IMHO"

Absolutely this. It's the point I am trying to make when people tell me "But XY is really leftist and good and supportive of LBGT issues/people!"

To which I say, good for them, but the problem with block voting is not if the slate puts good or bad people on the ballot, it's that it stops anybody else getting on. Even the best nominee is a nominee that somebody else chose above and instead of the cat herd of fans.

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Nyq Only 1 year, 4 months ago

Exactly - also when critics of 'no award' (beyond puppies) call it the 'nuclear option'. Seriously? I don't know how many people here have ever been fully active in leftwing political parties (e.g, the British Labour Party) but if you have then you know the capacity of a bunch of motivated true leftists to run slates, caucuses and block voting for tiny gain is beyond compare.
The nuclear option is the left actually running slates, block votes, factions on the Hugos. Part of the reaction against SP is people on the left *NOT* wanting to unleash our scary powers of scary factionalism on a set of nice books we like to read in our down time from failing to take-over the world (again).
There are factional wars between left and right which the left are doomed to lose: wars involving who can spend the most money for example; wars with actual guns being another example. Culture wars? Voting faction wars? This is stuff I was trained on at pre-school.

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just passing through 1 year, 4 months ago

Hi Mr. Torgersen,

I'm going to provide my two cents as someone who's not part of the fan community, nor particularly interested in the Hugos. The extent of my involvement is that I read science fiction, among other things, and when I'd see that one of my few beloved authors had won a prize, I'd feel good for them.

So allow me, for the moment, to give you an outsider's perspective.

What it looks like to me is that in a a field where thousands of writers would love to achieve some level of success, let alone live off their work, you and your comrades are supremely unhappy that no one gives you any cookies.

And in response, you have basically licked all the cookies and overturned the table at the bake sale and now you're hurt -- deeply, truly hurt -- that people are upset and no one wants to have a reasoned dialogue with you.

Why are all these people being so mean to you and your friends just because you did your level best to wreck something they cared about? Why can't they see that it's all about how you didn't get your cookies? How unfair that was, your lack of cookie-age? Can't they see you just wanted the cookies distributed fairly? You had to destroy this bake-sale to save it! (And God, you're getting dragged off to the gulag because people won't give you your cookies? Really?)

Outsider's perspective: You and yours are almost unbelievably petulant, whiny and entitled. If you want cookies so badly, go make your own, and give them to each other.

I have yet to hear a single decent argument of why you shouldn't have come up with your own award. I could see your outburst if the Hugos actually affected sales, but apparently they do not. And at that point, I throw up my hands and shake my head and just write you all off as children yelling "gimmee."

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Thrutch Grenadine 1 year, 4 months ago

Just a note FSTDT has frequently highlighted the nauseous aesthetic of T Beale.
Fundies Say The Darndest Things.

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benny whitehead 1 year, 4 months ago

So, just to recap, some tory wingnuts have decided to fuck up the voting in the premier science fiction awards, thereby rendering them with the credibility level henceforth of the Eurovision Song Contest. Well done nutnecks. This Pete Beale lad seems like a particularly unsavoury and bonkers lad.

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AKH 1 year, 4 months ago

If you were the Voice of God, Dear Sir, I would probably not hear you. Not because you aren't loud enough, for that you surely are, but because I don't prescribe to gods. I doubt them, and their frantic followers, because I cannot see the sense in them. And perhaps that is my own error, as I expect you would tell me. If I could hear you.

And if I could hear you, I would categorize you as a Small God, in the style of Sainted Terry. For although I do not prescribe to gods, I can understand and use their language. For surely you do have believers, waiting upon your call, their brown shirts so patiently pressed and ready. They are so happy to be included. They keep their invitations lovingly pressed, between the pages of a book, seldom read but heavy enough for the purpose. Their belief creates you, and fills you with a purpose.

And if you were filled with purpose, I expect you would come for me. Perhaps not first, for my credentials put me far down the list of Errors, but I expect you would come for me in time. I expect you would wrap me in a burka of modest pumps and midday pearls with supper ready on the table at six o'clock sharp. I expect that you would judge my by my worthiness, both mother and fuck, and assign me to my precise place.

And if I were assigned my place in your world, I'm afraid I would probably laugh. I would not laugh to make you smaller, or myself larger, but because like gods it makes no sense. And because that place is far too small for me, like Cinderella's silly shoe. My feet, like my mother's and sisters' and daughter's, are unbound as our thoughts. We don't do it to make you smaller. We don't do it for you at all.

And if I did nothing for you at all, and you did nothing for me, I would hope we could still both laugh and neither be made small. I would show you how to be bigger from the inside, like a man and not a small, silly god. I would bind up those bleeding wounds you so fiercely pretend aren't there, for I am a mother by my own choice and it is what we do. I would hope, but sadly not expect the most from you.

And if I expected the most from you, Dear Sir?


(With thanks and/or apologies to Rachel Swirsky and Laura Numeroff)

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timber-munki 1 year, 4 months ago

Having read some of his quotes there, as a none theist I have to say Jesus Wept. It's like a slow-motion car crash that I can't help but look at, and the fact that the page count goes to 10! On the plus side I found out that Magic:The Gathering appears to be adding a trans character, which is nice (I can't stand the game but if it's something that annoys the charmless Mr Beale It's one of lifes little victories).

Even avoiding the details of his joyless repulsive views he really doesn't get that brevity is the soul of wit.

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Steven Clubb 1 year, 4 months ago

Nyq Only: "I don't know how many people here have ever been fully active in leftwing political parties (e.g, the British Labour Party) but if you have then you know the capacity of a bunch of motivated true leftists to run slates, caucuses and block voting for tiny gain is beyond compare."

One of the things I got from Heinlein is a respect for people who are sneaky and win... and if I thought the Puppies had the numbers to take control of the Hugos, I'd have a grudging respect for them.

But I just don't see it happening, because, yes, all it takes is about 200 votes to sweep the Hugos (and they couldn't keep Doctor Who off the list), so unless they pick up a whole bunch of Culture Warriors in the fallout (reportedly 1,500 new members), then the most likely result is they will effectively shut themselves out for the foreseeable future as the Left rallies their superior numbers... really, all it would take is to mimic the SP3 and have a straw poll leading up to a slate ballot.

The defense I hear from the Puppies is that the reaction last year justified their behavior this year... as if the Hugos don't have a history of punishing people who too actively campaign for a Hugo.

The Left can "follow the rules" just as easily as the Right.

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John Seavey 1 year, 4 months ago

buzzardist said: "Don't pretend to quote me by putting words in quotes, assigning them to me, and then make up your own quote. I never said that I'd not read any of the works involved. I said that I hadn't read enough of them to feel like I could be a responsible voter."

But you have no problem complaining that the people who had read enough of them to be a responsible voter didn't do their job because you heard that too many of them were women. That's slicing the sausage a little fine for my tastes, but you're the one who has to defend it...

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Kelly Sedinger 1 year, 4 months ago

I don't know that John C. Wright is a racist. I do know that he is a lunatic homophobe who has predicted that within 50 years, homosexuality will again be classified as a mental illness. Homophobia and racism are often found together in the same mind, but I'm not delving into the cesspool that is Mr. Wright's mind to find out.

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bblackmoor 1 year, 4 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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yamamanama 1 year, 4 months ago

I don't know if John himself is a racist but the fact that he associates with Vox Day says a lot.

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Kelly Sedinger 1 year, 4 months ago

Well, his visceral hatred of All Things Muslim may well contain racist-like substance, so there's that.

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Lyle Hopwood 1 year, 4 months ago

Great article. Really tied it all together. And I will check out Janelle Monae as well...

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kateorman 1 year, 4 months ago

Ta Adam! I hope to get some more books published soon rather than later, though obviously now I'll have to abandon my plan to use the pen name "Hugo Nebula".

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unnoun 1 year, 4 months ago

I would find the concept of not being equally Homo sapiens sapiens with Mr. Beale somewhat comforting if I didn't know and wasn't unfortunately familiar with the sickening sense in which he meant it.

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unnoun 1 year, 4 months ago

And I kinda always get pissed off by bigoted asshats that dare to use the term "science" to justify their warped ideology.

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Michael5MacKay 1 year, 4 months ago

I need a brillo pad

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kadymae 1 year, 4 months ago

This essay is glorious in every way, and it's one of my new happy places because it lives in so much hope.

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Roy Batty 1 year, 4 months ago

I loved the article and have saved the link to send to confused friends. And I completely agree with you on Ms. Marvel and what makes it work but I have an honest question as a MASSIVE Spider-Man fan,

What Spider-Man stories are you reading set primarily in Brooklyn? Or even one where he lives near Brooklyn. Chelsea is the closest he came!

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Kallmunz 1 year, 4 months ago

That's right, delete comments that question you or link to the response because you don't want to give a platform to "fascists." But you'll notice that Day has problem giving you a platform, in fact he encourages it. Unlike you he doesn't have to run and hide from defending his opinions. But after reading your silly nonsense, I don't blame you for being so afraid.

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mister slim 1 year, 4 months ago

It is amusing to remember RAH wrote a novella about a bunch of wannabe theocrats taking over the government. Notably, they were the villains.

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

Yeah, for sure. Your thought makes me fascinated about what the shape of a 'fascist creation myth' would be.

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

No problem arcbeatle, always enjoy your comments. Good idea on keeping the names private, I really understand in the current climate. As you say we need some positivity to move forwards with.

I have meant to buy and read your Doctor Who poetry book (occasional money issues), but it is on my priority list to buy.

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

I need a decompression chamber.

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

I'm backing and I'd say it's definitely worth it!

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

Great to hear you here Kate and I echo Adam and I too really enjoy your work and certainly would devour more. I'll look up the article you suggest, sounds interesting.

I really love the idea of nominating this essay for the Hugo's next year and yes, I'd go for Recursive Occlusion too.

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

Brilliant!

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

"a strategy that would shift the Hugos from individual voting (with various kinds of self promotion and lobbying) to a battle between competing slates would make it HARDER for new voices without patronage to get nominated."

Absolutely, good thoughts. What's needed is room for more diversity, not just in themes and approaches, but for there to be space for the smaller voices and works to be noticed. I wonder how many fascinating works got utterly sidelined this year due to the two slates? Thanks Nyq.

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Scurra 1 year, 4 months ago

Hmmm. Having read a few pages of that, I'm now increasingly convinced that "Theodore Beale" must be a constructed character solely designed to undermine those who post in support of "him" when the truth is finally revealed. That's the only possible explanation, surely?

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Philip Sandifer 1 year, 4 months ago

No, no. You misunderstand. It's not a matter of fear - look at the comments from people like John C Wright and Zach that I've let stand, and at the full-throated mockery they've received. There's nothing to fear there - this is an incredibly unpleasant comment section to be a fascist in, frankly, even without my moderation.

I delete most of those comments because, frankly, this is a business. A point I suspect Beale understands. Except that instead of my brand being based on attracting the support of Internet Tough Guys via vicious trolling of women and minorities, it's based (in part) on the fact that I have a thoughtful and civil comments section that defies the usual advice not to read the comments.

And frankly, people like you endanger that, so I delete most of your comments.

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aimai 1 year, 4 months ago

Too funny to bump into you,Brad, in this tiny world we call the internet--and with reference to LMB one of my favorite writers of all time. Good point. But w/r/t Torgerson et al Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens.

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aimai 1 year, 4 months ago

It absolutely is important to keep names private. I read a very thought provoking essay on this subject yesterday by a private citizen and her comment thread was swarmed with hostile Beale supporters who simultaneously told her they were gentlemen,civil, humane, etc...and almost striaght up pledged that Beale and his "ilk" would destroy her all all SJW's like her. If it weren't for the absurdity of their self regard it would have been scary. Because they clearly have nothing better to do with their time than, like Gamergaters and 4channers, dox, stalk, and harrass.

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aimai 1 year, 4 months ago

This whole "rent free in your head thing" has a long tradition in pop psych/ann lander's style advice writing. While it has a kind of validity in some interpersonal relationship issues--that is: you may want to rethink the amount of time you give to stewing over someone else or someone's behavior it has absolutely no relevance to a political or literary critique of someone who is active in your world. Its like telling the biographer of a famous person, while they are writing their book, that they are "wasting their time" or "overthinking" their subject. And its quite dissmissive, as well, of the reality of this essay: Vox Day is a political actor and what he is doing has real world implications. Writing about it, discussing it, inveighing against it aren't some kind of pointless, morbid, form of obsession they are also political acts. To me the comment

Vox livin rent free in ur head dude.

Reminds me of how women are routinely told to ignore men who catcall or bully them--it turns a valid response (anger, critique, lawsuit) into some kind of rhetorical triumph for the bully. Its true that Vox enjoys being talked about and hated. To him its the goal of his actions, the only form of pleasure he can get. But that doesn't mean that we don't have to counter what he's doing with speech about it, and action too.

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aimai 1 year, 4 months ago

I really salute you, Mr. Sandifer, for the clear line you've drawn with VD and Wright and their supporters. They want the privilige of entering into the discussion because they see it as a negotiation that they can win. First they start the rhetorical war, they think, then they force people to talk to them about their ideas, then they defend their ideas on the now cleared platform, and then they create space for new followers to be attracted to those ideas or at any derail the discussion. In addition, you can engage in your favorite passtime (at least its one of Vox Day's, can't say for Wright) of attacking, humiliating, insulting women, non whites, etc...

So applause for your refusal to let them enter your comment thread on anything but your terms. Like Jon Stewart refusing to "be funny" on Crossfire you are refusing to be their monkey and dealing with their crappy arguments as they should be dealt with: summarily.

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Unknown 1 year, 4 months ago

Considering that double-entry accounting is 700 years old how are Europeans intelligent for not making it mandatory in the schools for the last 50 years? Wouldn't people who knew accounting notice the depreciation of durable consumer goods.

But now we have Global Warming due to lots of unnecessary manufacturing and economists given Nobel Prizes by Europeans can't tell us the depreciation of automobiles for every year since the Moon landing.

Literary SF has mostly gotten dumb since the 70s but attracts more readers because movie and TV SF have gotten better visuals. See House of Quark in Deep Space 9 for SF Accounting. LOL

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Kevin Lorneki 1 year, 4 months ago

"Hi. SP nominee here."

Please accept my heartfelt condolences in advance for your upcoming loss to Noah Ward.

I'll not waste my time with the rest of your reply - the comment about people being "harass[ed] off the ballot" makes it clear that you're not arguing in good faith.

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Nyq Only 1 year, 4 months ago

The comment party is still running I see :)

Some more general thoughts while I'm here.

1. To see what is unethical about the S/R Puppy action it is worth considering what a Social-Justice peace-offer would entail :). Let us imagine for a moment that the supposed cliques of leftists see the fearsome might of the puppies and decided to give in and offer terms. What is it that people on the left could do that would appease the Puppies?
A core complaint is the existence of leftist cliques manipulating things - but no direct evidence is given of the manipulation only the supposed consequences. John Scalzi couldn't say 'I'lll stop running a secret clique' because firstly he says he isn't running one and secondly the Puppies would have no way of telling that he had actually stopped. The nebulousness of the covert logrolling claim makes it impossible to demonstrate that it has stopped.
So the only thing that could appease the puppies is if the stuff they don't like doesn't get nominated or win. It is the net results that they object to and which they regard as evidence of the covert crimes against them. So how could a leftist appease them? Only by either not voting at all or not voting for stuff that we think the Puppies won't like.
Consider that option for a moment.
Intentionally or not the only way even the Sad Puppies can achieve their goals and FEEL like they have achieved their goals is if people on the left silence their own views and their own opinions and essentially withdraw from sci-fi fandom. If I'm wrong then I'm happy for a puppy to explain what less extreme result would satisfy them.
Given that - it becomes clear that whatever the puppies intentions might be, and regardless of what a given puppies own politics might be, the puppy campaign is one of extreme political and cultural censorship.
It is also clear that there isn't much in the way of a deescalation option for those of us on the left. There isn't an option that allows us to take on board puppy concerns and maybe shake hands and have a big sci-fi fandom hug and move on.

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encyclops 1 year, 4 months ago

...I'm not ENTIRELY sure how I feel about parts 1 and 3-5, in which I think he made some fascinating arguments but drew different conclusions from them (contradicting himself at least once along the way), but they were all at least highly entertaining.

For example (not that anyone asked my opinion), he eventually concludes not that we ought to be fine reimagining Spider-Man as an ostracized kid of color, but that we ought to go ahead and invent new superheroes of color and make that fundamental to their identities. To which I say, why not do both?

The value of reimagining existing superheroes as different genders or ethnicities is that there's an established brand name propelling them. You get to recontextualize things you know alongside new takes on the character. I think that's powerful and worthwhile. I think making Thor a woman is slightly odd (especially given that there are really cool Norse goddesses I'd like to see in action -- but there's that brand name issue again), but not unwelcome, and there are few other superheroes I can think of who wouldn't easily withstand substitution and retelling. For all that we fetishize their origin stories, almost none of them fail to become even more interesting if we change some part of their identity and then explore the consequences of that.

tl;dr I probably won't bother seeing another Spider-Man movie until it's about Miles Morales. Until then, how can any of them possibly surprise anyone?

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Nyq Only 1 year, 4 months ago

2. There isn't a an armistice option for the left in the light of the puppy campaign (sad or rabid) [see above]. But what about everyone else? Fandom reflects society - as well as people overtly on the left there are people more of the centre, there are people who (rightly or wrongly) see themselves as apolitical. Also there are people who may subscribe to leftwing or socially progressive views but who demarcate those views from their other interests (i.e. they see sci-fi as being an apolitical domain) or regard it as a minor priority.
Can these people living in the neutral zone seek peace with the puppy Klingons? [I guess the left are Romulans in that analogy - suggestions welcome. A Vulcan/Romulan alliance? I think the puppies think of us as Romulan - puritanical, oppresive, bad haircuts, cloaking devices, secret plots. Or Borg? Or is would a Cybermen v Dalek metaphor be better?]

What should a neutral person vote for that will make the puppies deescalate?
Should a neutral NOT vote/nominate women or 'minorities'? The puppies will deny this and be outraged! Our slate is diverse! - they will say!
Should they not vote for stuff that has social themes in it? What if the book is really good? No, no, the puppies say that people should vote for what entertains people and we should IGNORE the politics/issues. But if we ignore the gender issues of, say, Ancillary Justice then what is left to object to? A book with spaceships on the cover and spaceships inside. A classic space empire. Space zombies. Guns. Fights. Spaceship fights. A revenge plot. The hero (a former badass spaceship AI in a zombie body) fighting an evil empire. The politics of Ancillary Justice not only could fit neatly with a Tea Party narrative (highly centralized government is bad! Find a gun and stop it!) but you could almost turn it into a puppy allegory (the Radch emperor is the evil Scalzi like social justice king) [OK none of this works for the sequel but still...]
Joking aside a neutral simply wouldn't know what to do if they wanted to appease the puppies. There is no right way to act - anything could be cited as evidence that the secret SJW clique was still operating.
Intentionally or not this is a classic symptom of bullying behavior - the victim of bullies is often left in this kind of destabilized state with no way of knowing what will set the bully off. The only least option to try and hide and avoid attention.

Not only can the left not surrender (i.e. there isn't even a surrender option to consider hypothetically) the neutrals/center can't surrender either - the only option open that could reasonably meet the puppies aims is to let them run everything. Of course that wouldn't satisfy them as they would win a barren wasteland of dead fandom and an award that no one would take seriously anymore.

As per last post - all typos, poor grammar and spelling have been added by a secreeet clique out to discredit me.

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Nyq Only 1 year, 4 months ago

I agree (unsurprisingly). Ay debate on rule changes should not be about appeasing or neutralizing puppies but rather on improving the Hugos all round both in terms of diversity and size of participation.

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Nick Posecznick 1 year, 4 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Nick Posecznick 1 year, 4 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

Nyq Only: "Ay debate on rule changes should not be about appeasing or neutralizing puppies but rather on improving the Hugos all round both in terms of diversity and size of participation."

Absolutely agree, it would be wonderful to have so much more participation possible.

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

This is pure gold.

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Brandon Pilcher 1 year, 4 months ago

Honestly, the root sentiment of this Sad Puppies thing sounds like a political mirror of the #OscarsSoWhite kerfuffle. Thankfully no one in that earlier crowd resorted to comparable underhanded tactics to disrupt the Oscars (as far as I know), but in both cases you have people upset that an "official" artistic evaluation agency isn't endorsing their pet social agenda. I guess it goes to show that awards ceremonies can't please everyone and that their effective prestige is widely exaggerated.

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

Just read it, or listened to it in my head (and the song will never be the same again) and what a great piece of work!

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

"I have a thoughtful and civil comments section that defies the usual advice not to read the comments."

Hi Phil - Well done! I personally feel very grateful and lucky being a part of this moment and this time when a stand is being made and to be a part of this commenting community. I feel truly grateful for the stand you have taken and feel doubly inspired by the whole essay and discussion taking place here.

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

"What is it that people on the left could do that would appease the Puppies? "

I don't think we can appease, it does not appear to be what they want.

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

"Not only can the left not surrender (i.e. there isn't even a surrender option to consider hypothetically) the neutrals/center can't surrender either - the only option open that could reasonably meet the puppies aims is to let them run everything. Of course that wouldn't satisfy them as they would win a barren wasteland of dead fandom and an award that no one would take seriously anymore."

Some how I think though, that they *would* possibly be deeply happy running though an apocalyptic wasteland killing off the zombie remains of dead fandom robots with souped up tech-weapons...

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Mercedes 1 year, 4 months ago

Well done. standing ovation. Worth every word.

I find it heavily ironic that the Sad and Rabid Puppies chose "Puppies" as their moniker. Puppies are not housebroken and not useful members of society. They piss and shit on everything, and destroy anything they get hold of. They are shocked and amazed when others take exception to this behavior, and some of them are so damn dumb they piss and shit in their own beds.

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buzzardist 1 year, 4 months ago

There you go again, John, trying to assign to me a point of view that I never expressed. I never complained that other people hadn't read enough to be responsible voters or that they didn't do their job. Stop fabricating falsehoods.

My personal feeling is that I don't want to participate in awards voting if I haven't read all the works on the ballot. For the Hugos, I can see a case for behaving otherwise--it's a fan vote, and if fans want to vote based on the one work they've read, without looking at others, that's their prerogative. A Nebula? Given the smaller voting pool and that the voters are professional authors, I'd hope that they'd read a bit more widely, but how they vote is still their own business. I simply stated the standard I hold myself to when I'm on an award jury.

What I said in criticism is that people were crowing on social media and blogs about how they'd supported certain authors because they were women. Their statements often said nothing about the quality of the works, just that the authors were women. That's a problem.

If you want to reject my points of view, fine. But inventing things I didn't say and trying to lampoon me for those isn't going to work.


And, Philip, I'm not quite sure why you wanted me to take 24 hours off. Since I left my first couple comments here, both of which responded substantially either to your original post or to someone else's comment, I've been subject to insults and people substituting straw men for what I actually said. People who want to leap into invective rather than have level discussions are easy enough to deal with. I've remained civil throughout. But if you want to put the ban bin on me because others are heaping abuse, fine. Your blog, your rules. I'm done.

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Philip Sandifer 1 year, 4 months ago

You said "The posturing over the sweep of the Nebulas this past year by women is a good example because it seemed like a lot of people were cheering diversity for diversity's sake instead of actually talking about the quality of the literature. Maybe some of that stuff was good; maybe it wasn't. I haven't read enough of it to pass judgment. But some of the exultant reactions I saw on Twitter and elsewhere left me wondering if fiction-qua-fiction had been lost as a reason for giving prizes."

I think that "you have no problem complaining that the people who had read enough of them to be a responsible voter didn't do their job because you heard that too many of them were women" is a reasonable, if snarky summary of that statement.

So, yeah. Your "straw man" complaints aren't really cutting the mustard, and I think you're using rhetorical techniques that are generally associated with some specific methods of trolling that I'm well-acquainted with.

Such as the faux outrage I'm sure is about to arrive in full.

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Brad R. Torgersen 1 year, 4 months ago

Passing through,

Yes, that's exactly why I recused myself at the very beginning, and why Larry recused himself too; even though he technically made the final ballot. Because we desperately wanted a thing with no cash (nor much professional, at this point) value. We took ourselves out of the running. You . . . probably should have looked that up, before you spouted off.

Don't let the door hit you in the brain on the way out.

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Brad R. Torgersen 1 year, 4 months ago

Sandifer,

The more desperately you try to shove the "alliance" narrative up my nose, the more I pat your clumsy attempt aside, and scoff at it. If Vox did not exist, you would invent some other reason to hate Sad Puppies, and myself by extension. If Sad Puppies did not exist, you would *still* hate Vox. Because Vox would be doing what he is doing anyway, and he never asks permission, and he never gives a damn.

So, what you fail to realize is, Larry and I are the nice guys.

We'll actually still talk to you, even though you shit on us without asking questions first.

Well, I will talk to you at least.

You may not like Sad Puppies, and that's fine.

You may not like it when someone points out the obvious, either; that politics and monkeying with the Hugo were both going on long, long before Sad Puppies existed. It's just that, for once, the "other" half of the political equation, stood up.

And suddenly it's the catastrophe of the century.

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Nyq Only 1 year, 4 months ago

"Some how I think though, that they *would* possibly be deeply happy running though an apocalyptic wasteland"

I'm getting more of a Mad Max vibe...maybe Tina Turner singing
'We don't need another Hugo'

:) no, no, don't all laugh at once.

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

Yes, yes, yes!

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Nyq Only 1 year, 4 months ago

I was reading you blog Mr. Torgersen and you say, in your defence:
'I’ve said it before: there is the massive, astoundingly huge “circle” that is the totality of fandom...and there is the much, much smaller, more insular, and in many cases, out of touch world of Fandom...which proves its love for the field by having a spectacular meltdown when the “wrong” people speak up"

Now I really don't get it.
The Hugo process is a straight vote. If you are right about this massive bulwark of sympathetic fans then you never needed Sad Puppies - you just needed all these fans to nominate and vote for whatever they liked. There is nothing, nothing the "CHORFS" could do about it. If you have the numbers you'd win without a slate.

Yet oddly that wasn't your strategy. Instead you ran a strategy that relied on a much smaller number of voters nominating a narrow set of titles in unison. Even then the strategy only 'succeeded' with a combination of votes from another slate.
The best you could hope for from that approach was more slate voting - i.e. your plan seems to be to legitimize overt slate voting. Slate voting would make life EASIER for your 'CHORF's and at the same time make it harder for this supposed large fanbase to get involved.

Sorry, but that simply doesn't add up.

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Nyq Only 1 year, 4 months ago

"And suddenly it's the catastrophe of the century."

Well people on both sides keep calling a culture war. Lots of regulars here are lefty Whovians with a thing for WIlliam Blake - so seasoned culture warriors on the whole. However surely you see that any battle has a battle field and you seem to have nominated the Hugo awards as the battle field - do you see how the non-culture warriors whose farmland is that battle field may regard your choice of location as something of a catastrophe.

Nobody wants to be Belgium.

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

In response to Brad, I'll let Blake speak:

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.

Or as Monáe says - “all the birds and the bees dancing with the freaks in the trees.”

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

As the party is still going on, I had some more thoughts to share too.

I was reading yesterday 'The Art of Doctor Who", a DWM special edition mag. In the article Astounding Stories (nice call back) by Alistair McGown on the early Dalekmania influenced books in the early 60's, I came across this brilliant little paragraph that tied brilliantly into the title of this essay:

"Departing Skaro to wage war against humans throughout the galaxy, the Dalek's arsenal glittered in the deep blue of space. Resisting them were clean-cut, square-jawed heroes of the space age, dressed in multi-coloured jumpsuits toting ray guns and flying gleaming spaceships that looked as if they'd been constructed from cast iron on the docksides of Glasgow or Tyneside. It was a vision of the future that harked back to the arena of war, almost fetishising the engineering of conflict, while looking forward to a burgeoning space age of impossible technologies."

I think the phrase "fetishising the engineering of conflict" strikes me as a brilliant link to your essay title Phil and describes for me nicely what the Puppies stories aim to do. It struck me also that the kind of stories being advocated by the slates, the kind of golden age sci-fi is backwards looking despite trying to wrap itself in shiny techno-armour and conning us with glamour. Really the bottom line seems to be 'war is fun'. I think at its heart sci-fi is speculative and explorative and we need not a narrowing down of ideas that 'hark back to the arenas of war', but a continuing expansion - leaning room as Janelle Monáe says for “all the birds and the bees dancing with the freaks in the trees.”

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Nyq Only 1 year, 4 months ago

"n response to Brad, I'll let Blake speak:"

If we love Sad Puppies we should let them free?
Sweet.
I still don't get why he feels this large fanbase needs to be told how to vote by Brad. Is it that 'elite' thing he keeps talking about?

I still don't get that. I know why a Lennon-spec wearing Guardian reading Lancashire leftist like myself is against elites but I don't get why self declared conservatives are against elites? What has converted all these Sad Puppies to egalitarianism? Have they caught lefty-cooties from reading too many recent Hugo nominees?

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

Phil: "So Beale believes himself (“a Native American with considerable Mexican heritage”) to be among those with the superior genetic sequences (which include his y chromosome along with his racial heritage) that allow him to be a representative of true civilization; that make him the perfect Vox Day. "

On Beale's site at the end of his post announcing the Rabid Puppies I found the following stunning quote where he attempts to use his lineage to direct people on how to vote. I'll let the quote speak for itself:

"I would, of course be remiss if I failed to point out that as one of the very few Native Americans active in science fiction and fantasy, it would be horrifically racist against the First Peoples in general and Native Americans in particular to fail to gift-wrap me awards in all categories for which I am eligible. Because diversity. Thank you."

Wow, just wow.

And on looking at the essay you linked to Phil entitled “Why Women’s Rights are Wrong,” where he denounces women’s suffrage on the Watchdog News Daily (WND) website, I found a fairly odd supporter of the site's recommendation:

"My only problem with WND

Though my achievements in martial arts and my 30-year career in movies and television provided me with the popularity and I suppose the prestige to initiate many of my humanitarian efforts, WorldNetDaily has provided me (as well as many other columnists) with an exclusive stage from which to speak to all types of national and international matters.

My only problem with WND is that I didn’t find out about it sooner.
Sincerely,
Chuck Norris"

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Nyq Only 1 year, 4 months ago

I think you maybe right there Daru. I think what I'd really like to see is the Alpha-Puppies to actually try and articulate what it is they really want to read. I'm astonished about how difficult they seem to be finding it to describe what it is they like in positive terms.
I don't like militarism but I can imagine a book whose premise is an almost 19th century view of the glory of war COULD actually be an entertaining (if problematic) book) I think it could even be a great book if written by a talented writer.

But a crappy book about how war is great will certainly be a crappy book.

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

Yes, I just have not heard a positive description of what kind of book they would enjoy, as their responses seem only to have been couched in the negative so far, rather than from the position of what would be pleasure - thus the Blake quote above about 'binding joy'.

The image I have in my head representing the Puppies slates so far is that of the invunche from Alan Moore's Swamp Thing - a distorted creature running towards, forwards to a future but with its head twisted backwards so that it can only see the past.

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

And let science fiction fly.

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Nyq Only 1 year, 4 months ago

"Wow, just wow."

:) well there you go - Beale himself, by not winning sh*t without trying to stuff the ballot box, demonstrates the Hugo awards aren't based on positive discrimination.
It ain't who you are it is what you write.
I think that is what is eating them up inside.

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Nyq Only 1 year, 4 months ago

That thing still gives me nightmares. I never found ST or Hellblazer actually - scary except that thing.

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M. Bouffant 1 year, 4 months ago

Sounds to me as if Mr. Wright just wanted a "Trigger Warning".

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

Yes me too, it's one of the scariest concepts in a comic book that I have seen. I was even still disturbed by it in the recent Constantine TV show.

I will admit to being disturbed also by some of the reading I've been doing on the various puppy blogs, including their comments sections. Made me shiver.

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Daru 1 year, 4 months ago

"It ain't who you are it is what you write.
I think that is what is eating them up inside."

For sure, I think so too.

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Philip Sandifer 1 year, 4 months ago

On one level, Brad, you're right - I would have found other reasons to condemn your movement. Indeed, I found three substantial reasons, utterly unrelated to Beale, which I articulated at length.

1) You want to be able to judge books by their covers.
2) You want science fiction to regress to the 1980s at best.
3) You have terrible taste.

But on one level you couldn't be more wrong, for a very simple reason: if it weren't for Theodore Beale, you'd never have swept the nominations in the first place, and you know it.

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Laurie Mann 1 year, 4 months ago

Generally, an excellent analysis. Much as avoiding some swearing/name-calling is a good idea, I don't blame you when when you couldn't help yourself.

I don't believe the Hugos are ruined, merely vandalized.

I think the truly funniest part of this year's bruhaha will be how the "Best of the Year" books won't include most Hugo-nominated stories since they weren't close to being "Best of the Year." And then what will the puppies do? Publish "Best of the Year" according to Castalia House?

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David Ainsworth 1 year, 4 months ago

If the thing that gets you upset in an angry take-down of people claiming that racial inferiority is scientific fact and that women ought to be stripped of basic human rights on account of their gender is the definition of the word "fascism," you may be focused a little too narrowly.

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David Ainsworth 1 year, 4 months ago

Other "pet social agendas" include: free speech, democracy, emancipation, the right to divorce, property rights, civil liberty, the right to privacy, and a host of other things.

Emancipation of slaves meant granting basic human rights to them, but from the slaveowner perspective, it meant government seizure of their property. Rating these two harms as equivalent (enslavement versus loss of property) seems to require considerably more justification than mere assertion.

Equating the Oscars to the Hugos certainly requires more than mere assertion, much less equating one "undisruptive" group to another, disruptive one.

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PavePusher 1 year, 4 months ago

https://marsascendant.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/in-which-this-ignorant-ass-redneck-attempts-to-fisk-one-of-them-genius-professorial-types/

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PavePusher 1 year, 4 months ago

"Torgersen seems to want to win them, for what it's worth."

Which is why he withdrew himself from being nominated, of course.

Wait, what?!?!

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storiteller 1 year, 4 months ago

I think it's the most difficult because their most hated authors write the books they claim to want to have more of. Old Man's War sounds like it would be just the thing, but that's by John Scalzi, so we certainly can't have that!

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kateorman 1 year, 4 months ago

In an attempt to avoid work I'm reading up on the Nazis' confiscation of, and exhibition of, "Degenerate Art". Although there are large and obvious differences, it seems this is not the first time extremists have been worrying that conspirators are corrupting art.

Also, "large quantities" of liquid mercury have been found beneath a pyramid in Teotihuacan. Just thought you should know:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/24/liquid-mercury-mexican-pyramid-teotihuacan

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Richard Gadsden 1 year, 4 months ago

Also, if you take "Theodore" from cod-Greek to cod-Latin

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Richard Gadsden 1 year, 4 months ago

Also, if you go from cod-Greek to cod-Latin, "Theodore" gets you "Vox Day".

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Sam 1 year, 4 months ago

The only legitimate aesthetics are those approved by The Ministry of Culture, amirite?

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Philip Sandifer 1 year, 4 months ago

I have a dreadful feeling you think you're being clever somehow.

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Nyq Only 1 year, 4 months ago

Speaking of Culture, I hadn't realized that Iain (M) Banks had only ever got 1 Hugo nomination. Clearly this demonstrates that a terrible anti-leftist clique is manipulating the Hugos :)

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neroden@gmail 1 year, 4 months ago

I've been spending *decades* working out what the key issues are to prevent that sort of reactionary takeover. The key points are not to let the reactionaries win control of the social dialogue, and not to let them retain/regain control of all the money, and not to let them control the military power. The factories matter too, but they don't have a chance at controlling those without both the money and the military.

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neroden@gmail 1 year, 4 months ago

The slate-voting problem originates from a defective election system. The problem is called the "representative committee" problem in the literature.

There are several election systems designed specifically to prevent this problem, called "proportional representation" systems. The key feature is that if 20% of the voters vote for the slate, the slate will get 20% of the nominees (rounded up or down to a whole number).

Every country which has established democracy since 1945 uses proportional representation for its parliament for obvious reasons. It's basically a defect to not have proportional representation; it becomes way too easy for slates to take over, and then it degenerates into either one or two "political parties".

So fix the rules for voting on Hugo nominees. Single Transferrable Vote and Reweighted Approval Voting and Reweighted Range Voting are three examples of proportional representation systems.

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neroden@gmail 1 year, 4 months ago

" Ban slates? How does one go about doing that?"

Proportional representation prevents slates which are backed by small groups from taking over the entire nominees list.

Look at it this way: with voting, you can't usually distinguish 10% of the voters voting for a slate from 10% with honest opinions which happen to be the same. (Unless all the votes are from the same address or something.) And democratically, it's appropriate for 10% of the voters supporting the same candidates to be able to get 10% of the slots on the nominee list....

...at which point they have their share and should get no more slots. Proportional representation means they get 10%, no more.

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Greg 1 year, 4 months ago

Libertarians are the "useful idiots" of fascism.

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Greg 1 year, 4 months ago

"We will carry on, and we will identify and praise brilliant works of science fiction, and the stuff we like will endure in history while the stuff you like is forgotten. "

This quote from the blog author is so typical of an attitude I encounter each and every day, especially in fandoms.

In its generic form, it is: "You're old! You're washed up/tired/the past/outdated/unneeded/unwanted! The world belongs to US now! Go away and die so we can enjoy it without you stinking up the place!"

Someone please tell me, as I am sincerely curious: I am a European-descended, heterosexual male who believes in traditional Christian values. Why should I even bother trying to write ANYthing for public consumption? Even if I check every tickbox on the "diversity" and "progressive" checklist in its content, I will be downlisted because WHO AND WHAT I AM is considered "overrepresented" and devalued. At best, I will be sent to the conservative/white/male/hetero writer ghetto with all the other "undesirables".

So why should I bother? Where is MY part of "diversity"?

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encyclops 1 year, 4 months ago

So why should I bother?

Well, primarily because I think your assumptions are mistaken. Here are a few of the ones I think you can be happy to be wrong about:

1. "The stuff we like will endure in history while the stuff you like is forgotten." Just because people say this doesn't mean it will really happen.

2. "Stuff we like" != the stuff you (Greg) like. You haven't described what you like. It's not clear it's really that different.

3. "Stuff we like" can't be written by and appreciated from straight white Christian dudes. Take Paul Cornell, for example.

4. "I will be downlisted because [of] WHO AND WHAT I AM." Apart from the minority of people who actually follow through with pledges like only reading "diverse" writers, I doubt this will actually happen to you.

5. "I will be sent to the conservative/white/male/hetero writer ghetto." There is no such place, either in figurative or literal space.

If your books and stories are good, you have as much chance as anyone of having them bought and read. If they're mediocre but appeal to a niche audience -- say, the audience that's only into military space opera, or the audience that's only into dinosaur/human romance -- you'll probably still sell books, and why not? Regardless of what you think you're seeing in "fandoms," somebody out there likes what you like.

It hurts to feel like you're being marginalized. Believe us -- we know. But we also know our people are out there, regardless of what the loud voices seem to be saying, and if you're a "European-descended, heterosexual male who believes in traditional Christian values," trust me, dude, your people are still out there in force.

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Greg 1 year, 3 months ago

I have heard several people, most prominently Teresa Nielson Hayes, propose just such a ghetto when they suggest that Correia and Torgeson (sp?) start up new awards and stay away from the Hugos.

Thank you, btw, for expressing your opinion in a respectful and honest manner.

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encyclops 1 year, 3 months ago

Several people can propose anything they like. :)

And if you are a writer, and you write in a respectful and honest manner yourself, I think you'll always find an audience. It's okay if it doesn't include everybody. It never will.

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josephbt 1 year, 3 months ago

Holy long article, Batman! Nevertheless, great read. Thanks.

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drakvl 1 year, 3 months ago

I'm still in the middle of reading your article, but when I reached the bit about "Parliament of Beasts and Birds," I swore that it sounded a lot like a cartoon I once heard of. And lo, we have: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_on_Earth_%28film%29

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Wm Keith 1 year, 3 months ago

Don't judge a crook by his lover.

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kristinking.org 1 year, 3 months ago

Hi - I went to the Southern Poverty Law Center & searched Christian dominionism. So here's one more little tidbit, just in case you haven't seen it before:

"In short, Dominionist theology believes that Christians are called to take "dominion" over every aspect of our culture and use them to create God's kingdom on Earth in order to bring about the return of Jesus Christ. And their method for gaining "dominion" is through something called the "Seven Mountains Mandate," which seeks to place Christians at the top of seven distinct spheres that shape our culture: (1) Business; (2) Government; (3) Media; (4) Arts and Entertainment; (5) Education; (6) Family; and (7) Religion." - from: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/dominionism-and-religious-right-merger-complete

Apparently scifi is part of the Arts&Entertainment mountain.

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Daru 1 year, 3 months ago

This is one of the best pieces of news I have read this month!

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William Reichard 1 year, 3 months ago

Sir, if the sane should need to make their case in a court, I nominate you to be our Clarence Darrow. A hugely impressive piece of writing. Thank you for it.

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Richard Acres 1 year, 3 months ago

"Hi John. We don't treat commenters that way on my blog, just so you know."

Was gatchamandave an exception to this rule?"

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Richard Acres 1 year, 3 months ago

"Hi John. We don't treat commenters that way on my blog, just so you know."
Was gatchamandave an exception to this rule, Dr Sandifer?

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Richard Acres 1 year, 3 months ago

"Hi John. We don't treat commenters that way on my blog, just so you know."
Was gatchamandave an exception to this rule Dr Sandifer? I think that you were very impolite on that occasion.

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BerserkRL 1 year, 3 months ago

Ayn Rand’s heroes - the great and worthy men who deserve their freedom - are archetypal fascist heroes, because they rise up over the pettiness of their society and become great leaders

Well, that describes exactly one Rand story, Atlas Shrugged. It's the only one in which her heroes become leaders. The heroes of The Fountainhead and Think Twice don't lead anybody. The hero of Anthem makes plans to lead people but the story ends before it happens. The heroes of We the Living and Night of January16th all end up destroyed. The point of Ideal is that nobody actually follows the hero. Et cetera.

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BerserkRL 1 year, 3 months ago

What's Wright's deal anyway? I read his Phoenix trilogy and liked it, thought it was engaging and clever. I had lots of ideological problems with it, to be sure; but I have ideological problems with everything. But I wouldn't have guessed from reading it that he believes this sort of shit.

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BerserkRL 1 year, 3 months ago

Contempt for organised labour: check. Contempt for the common man: check. Idealisation of muscular virility: check.

I think you've been reading a rather one-sided diet of libertarianism. Fish on the other side.

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BerserkRL 1 year, 3 months ago

And even in Atlas Shrugged, the climax of the story is the hero's refusal (despite torture) to be a leader in the ordinary political sense. Instead he's a leader in the Socratic/Kierkegaardian sense of luring individuals away from the crowd.

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puertorricanpunk 1 year, 3 months ago

Apologies for jumping in so very, very late, but I only stumbled upon this controversy quite recently. Disclaimers aside, this post is extremely well written, and I commend you for the thought and effort that clearly went into its writing. That said, are you aware that the section where you review comics pretty much proves Brad Torgersen's point?

The most egregious example is your review of Saga: all I know after reading your description of it is that it has been nominated for a Hugo the past 2 years (and won in 2013), that it is interested in diversity, and that it has a non-white female lead.

The review of Rat Queens at least lets informs us of the setting (DnD medieval fantasy), which is more than can be said of the Saga review, before once again focusing on the work's focus on feminism and diversity.

In contrast to these two, the description for Sex Criminals is kind enough to mention the comic's premise, which, if silly, does make it sound like an appropriate one to explore the themes of sex and sexual hangups without getting preachy. Contrary to the prior two, this review succeeded in making me curious about the comic.

Similarly, what made me curious about the Miss Marvel comic isn't the fact that the main character is a Pakistani-American millennial female geek from Jersey City, but rather, it's how each of these labels impacts the premise of the story.

You have to admit that, if when one is asked to describe what makes a story memorable, the answer lies in the race, gender, or similar characteristic(s) of the main character(s), it does somewhat suggest that either the reviewer is giving more relevance to those criteria than the more traditional ones (premise, plot, theme, setting, mood, quality of writing, etc), or that the work in question is not particularly memorable in the traditional sense, and is only memorable as a result of these criteria.

Which brings us back to Heinlein: he wrote message fiction, but when asked what makes his books memorable, is that the first thing that comes to mind? Or are the other qualities of his work what make it memorable? Yes, Stranger in a Strange Land is about sexual freedom and prejudice, but if I was asked to describe it, I would probably follow Wikipedia's example, and mention first that it's a story about a human raised by Martians, before getting into all that.

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encyclops 1 year, 3 months ago

I think you have to look at that section as focusing on the elements in contention -- in this case, the diversity of characters, perspectives, and approaches -- rather than as presenting comprehensive, in-depth reviews of the comics in question and treating all aspects of them.

You do at least know that Saga is "a sci-fi/fantasy epic," and as a Saga reader (and perhaps bigger fan of it, judging by what Philip has said about it recently) I can tell you it's extremely difficult to summarize. He could probably have mentioned that it's about war and tyranny, about the effects of both on the lives and hearts of individuals swept up in it, but you won't really know what you're dealing with until you see it. As for Ms. Marvel, I think that's really the key: if it's well-written (and it is, though my interest in superhero comics is on the wane), the main character's identity does impact the premise of the story.

I don't think anyone who's looking for what you describe as "traditional" criteria would be disappointed with any of these four books. In none of them does the "race, gender, or similar characteristic(s) of the main character(s)" constitute the only reason the books are interesting. But they are noteworthy in an atmosphere where people are positing that you can either have a story that ignores the effects of race, gender, etc. on character and circumstance and is a terribly exciting adventure, or you can have a story that takes those things into account and is (as a result?) terribly boring.

I haven't read much Heinlein, but I did make it all the way through Stranger in a Strange Land and quite honestly, I'd forgotten that the main character was raised by Martians. The sexual freedom and prejudice stuff was what stuck with me. I'd be amazed if Heinlein hadn't intended it that way; surely "human raised by Martians" is the way into those themes, not an end in itself.

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Andrew Parker 1 year, 2 months ago

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Branden Miller 1 year ago

Looks like a straight up example of the power and weakness of democracy and the direct vote.

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theo j. 12 months ago

I'm astonished, admiring, and close to exhausted after reading your extraordinary (and impeccably well-crafted, well-reasoned) dissection of the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy imbroglio. More importantly, you've lucidly profiled the minds behind this whole ugly business. I find your work entirely credible, and judge it to be of no small importance in understanding how this mess was brought about, and for what purposes. On behalf of friends who worked on SASQUAN and on the Hugo Awards themselves, and who have had to brave being in the line of fire owing purely to their volunteerism, I thank you.

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Richards Stone 8 months, 3 weeks ago

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mamuka 3 months ago

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