Archive for the ‘sad puppies’ Category

The Rabid Puppies have announced their 2017 agenda, and the Sads probably will soon if they haven’t already (I’m not paying that much attention), both dissing any modern, progressive SF, and the “Blue” side is pontificating about how the “Red” side is stuck in the 50s, and it’s pretty much the usual for what passes as society these days. And while, as I say, I haven’t been paying a lot of attention, it’s kind of hard to ignore completely if you spend any time at all on the net. So despite myself, I’ve come to a conclusion.

It’s not just the Puppies who need to be swatted on the nose with a newspaper, it’s all of you.

I am not taking sides here; this playground needs a teacher. If you kids can’t learn to sit together quietly and leave each other alone, the entire class is staying after school, soccer practice be damned.

Right-wing writers and fans–science fiction is growing up. Get over it. There’s plenty of room left for what you want to read; I know for a fact that you’ve gone out and started your own magazines and a publishing house (not to mention Baen). Good for you. Now stop complaining that the liberals are a bunch of lily-livered weaklings on the one hand, and that they’re bullying you on the other.*

Left-wing writers and fans–nobody ever said growing up meant you had to forget what it was like to be a kid. If you did, you wouldn’t read science fiction. Yeah, I know it’s not the juvenile lit all your friends think it is, but they do think that, and you have to live with the stigma. So stop acting so smug. And for heaven’s sake, when you take on the fans on the other side of the aisle, quit talking like you have a Master’s in literary criticism! (Even if you do–especially if you do.) Nobody understands you except other Ph.D. candidates,** and you’ll never get your point across if you’re condescending.

Which brings me to my point: Nobody is communicating. A writer friend told me long ago that “talking to somebody isn’t communication. Communication requires two people to talk to each other.” That doesn’t mean shouting back and forth, that isn’t communication. It requires speaking and listening.

If this is too hard for you, then be quiet. That’s all, just be quiet. Go about your lives and don’t bother anyone else. We all have our own problems, honest. Nobody needs to go out and find more.

And with all that time you’re not arguing, you could do something constructive, like lobby for the space program. There are a lot of other fans doing that, and you know what? Not all of them like the same books you do. But now you’ll have something you can communicate about.


*And leave the Hugos alone! You spend almost as much time decrying their relevance as you do trying to run them.

**I have a degree in English and I don’t understand what you’re saying half the time.


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I haven’t wanted to discuss the recent electoral developments in this space, because I want to keep my blog as much as possible about writing and genre-related subjects. Besides, everybody and his brother is blogging about the election, so what could I add? But now you’re going to get some of my opinions anyway, because there are connections between what I want to write about and the outside world. In other words, what might this election mean for the state of science fiction?

It is well-accepted that in times of societal stress, people turn more to escapism. (Whether this is true on a personal level would be a much longer and more involved discussion.) It is also becoming apparent that a lot of people are currently suffering from collective stress, so perhaps some will seek escapist entertainment, which would be good for the genre.

But there are other factors at play. For example, extreme right-wing viewpoints are becoming more emboldened. There are right-wing elements of SFF, who have famously felt marginalized, coming to the fore in the past few years. Their views are reflected in the fiction they (who are authors) write. Will this kind of fiction surge, and if it does, what will be the market’s response? How will this affect the wave of magazine issues devoted to fiction by women, or people of color, or LGBT writers? Will it, like the Sad Puppies controversy, spill over into a wider audience’s attention? Will it color non-fans’ perceptions of the community and the genre?

On the other hand, SFF has always been a bastion of left-wing thought, of revolutionary ideas, if the term “revolutionary” is given its wider definition. How will the liberal wing of SFF respond? Will we see more politicized fiction, more dystopias? Or will writers be pressured to tamp down their viewpoints in the new marketplace? And if they are, how will they react?

This election has brought us a president-elect of a kind that even most speculative fiction writers could not have imagined taking office. No one knows what he intends to do–or will be able to do. No one knows if this is the beginning of a trend or an aberration. No one, in short, knows anything, and science fiction authors, long considered our weathervanes, are as confused as anyone.

One thing is for sure, it won’t be boring.



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It’s often noted that “there is nothing new under the sun,” which does not stop anyone from trying. Example: Noted SF gadfly Vox Day has announced an new rival to Wikipedia, called Infogalactic, “ an Internet-based, free-content encyclopedia project that is a dynamic fork of Wikipedia and improves upon the online encyclopedia’s model of openly editable content. Infogalactic’s pages … and are categorized in a variety of ways, including Relativity, Notability, and Reliability to allow the user to prioritize his personalized perspective.” In other words, if crowdsourcing your facts wasn’t good enough, now you can crowdsource your facts to suit you. It’s like watching Fox News or MSNBC if they gave up trying to look objective.

There are, of course, a few issues with this: The most obvious is that you’re going from living in a bubble to living inside an Internet force field. (If you weren’t living in a bubble already, this wouldn’t interest you.) I’m not sure what good it is to have the most extensive information tool ever invented if you’re going to limit it to stuff you already think you know.

But my problem with this is different; it’s really a matter of semantics. This is not a “free-content encyclopedia.” Nor is it some new kind of information provider–it is no kind of information provider at all. No, this is something very different, and (far from being groundbreaking) it is very old. The name of this well-used trope is…


Mr. Day is crowd-sourcing what may be the world’s largest novel. Or, I guess, an anthology. Perhaps it is a “three-volume novel of more than usually revolting sentimentality.” Regardless, when you create a world to your own taste, and you invite other people to come in to see if they like the milieu you have created, that’s called “fiction.” And given that it will probably include alternate history, it is not out of line to call it “science fiction.”

I wonder, will it be eligible for a Hugo next year?




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Well, that was interesting. First let me say that my first time in Kansas City will likely be my last, but not through any fault of KC’s. The beer is good and the barbecue is delicious–what else do you need to host a Worldcon? “A convention center”? Well, if you insist. But the first two are more important.

So what was the con like, you ask? Very nice. I don’t normally attend a con for the panels any more; I’ve been to too many of both that were much the same as their predecessors, but this time there were a surprising number that I thought sounded interesting, even if some did not turn out the way I had hoped…

And yes, I’m talking about that panel. The now-infamous “State of Short Fiction” panel that precipitated Dave Trousdale’s ejection from the con. Reportedly, there were other infractions other than hijacking the panel (which he did), grossly insulting fans and writers (which he did indirectly), and robbing the audience of the chance to hear the thoughts of some of the premier short-fiction editors in the business. I don’t know about anything that happened outside of the panel, but I do know that he made the statements about “special snowflakes” that are attributed to him, and he did dump a load of “pearl” necklaces on the table so that anyone offended by his remarks could wear them for clutching purposes. (What is it about pearls and SF and controversy?) He also began to read from a prepared statement about the decline of SF because of political correctness, but the other panel members cut him off. Although there was some shouting, it came from the audience. All in all, regardless of the full extent of his transgressions, from what I personally witnessed, Mr. Trousdale’s ejection was his own doing,

All in all, although exciting, it was pretty much a waste of time. Which was not the case in the other controversial panel.

I was also in attendance at the “Jane Austen and Mary Shelley” panel which eventuated Mary Robinette Kowal’s loss of membership. Yes, she did offer audience members alcohol, and they did take it, but she hardly hijacked the panel (quite the opposite). And she was scarcely acting as a bartender; it was friendly gesture to encourage questions (which it did), not a cheap gimmick to make a point. Nevertheless, she was censured, and she took it like an adult.

So two panels, one a circus, the other a Dorothy Parker roundtable. And I was present for both of them. Both resulted in the moderator being removed from the con, which only shows that the rules (regardless of the complaints of some who were not there) were administered evenly.

It also illustrates today’s lesson: Don’t let me into your panels if you want to stick around for the rest of the con.

Next: The Hugo Awards

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To those who believe with the fiery passion of a thousand suns that “Stairway to Heaven” is the greatest rock-n-roll song ever written, the current lawsuit over its opening notes is akin of blasphemy of the highest order, an attack of the Temple of Music itself, a barbaric assault on the foundations of late-Baby Boomer culture.

To those of us who simply believe that “Stairway to Heaven” was the greatest song of the rock-n-roll era because, well, we just do, we’re not happy either.

But is our wrath/tepid disapproval misplaced? Was the song lifted (consciously or unconsciously) from Spirit’s “Taurus”?

I haven’t the faintest idea. And fortunately, I’m not on that committee, er, jury.

But the question does arise (and too frequently now): What constitutes plagiarism? The standards, as I understand them, differ from music to fiction, but the question is the same. Recently, Sherrilyn Kenyon sued Cassandra Clare over the “Mortal Instruments” franchise. How that will end remains to be seen. Still, we are all operating from a common folkloric heritage which hardly varies even among disparate cultures. In other words, there’s nothing new under the sun. So what qualifies as “original”?

Spider Robinson won a Hugo for his short story, “Melancholy Elephants,” in which the government is contemplating extending copyrights in perpetuity. The story questions the consequences thereof. Hardly SF, really, but it won anyway.* I voted for it.

It seems, however, that we have enough unintended consequences already, with copyright “only” extending 75 years past the author’s death. (Which is silly enough. I mean, to 99% of authors, it’s beyond meaningless.) And the “Stairway” lawsuit is only about the opening chords of the song. Not the whole song, not the lyrics. Just the opening. The defense argues that both songs are based on old folk music, which may well be true. But even if it’s not, how much do you have to copy to violate copyright? I mean, notes are notes, right? Even if it’s all in how you put them together, there are still only a finite number of ways to do that, and if you break songs into their parts, pretty soon nobody will be able to write anything unless he can prove he never listened to music (or read a book) before putting pen to paper.

To put it in fiction terms, can you sue someone for using the sentence, “The man walked to the store,” just because you used it first? If Godzilla stomped Tokyo, does that mean no other kaiju can ever “stomp” a city? And what about all the resurgence in interest in “Golden Age Science Fiction”? Are we even allowed to write that stuff, or will we violate a copyright for a story written before we were born and never reprinted?

Most of us won’t have to worry, of course, because no one sues over a work that doesn’t make a truckload of money. But it’s the principle of the thing. We–

–wait, what? “Truckload of money” is copyright-protected? Then I guess I’m done. Just let me write “The End,” and… no, don’t tell me…


*Oddly enough, there was no “Social justice warriors are ruining SF!” outcry in 1982. Let’s hope the Sad Puppies don’t have access to a time machine.


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In case you weren’t aware of it, DragonCon is a hugely popular annual SFF/book/movie/comics/gaming convention held every year in Atlanta. It’s become big enough to push the World Science Fiction Convention (“Worldcon“) away from its traditional home on Labor Day weekend. And now it’s starting its own line of awards, called, appropriately if rather unimaginatively, the Dragons.

“Another trophy,” you say, possibly enthusiastically, perhaps dismissively, maybe with a touch of boredom. Or maybe you say it with an appraising tone, as do we authors who think, “Hey, there’s another award I can aspire to (and probably never win)…” Regardless of your personal reaction, the awards are here and presumably they’re going to stick around a while. (America’s thirst for awards ceremonies is almost as impossible to slake as its thirst for reality shows, or sleazy political drama. If it ain’t a competition, we’re not interested.)

All of these reactions are quite understandable. What I don’t understand is those who believe that this development somehow spells trouble for the Hugo Awards given out every year by the aforementioned Worldcon. One would assume that those who espouse this view are associated with the Sad Puppies, but I have no evidence thereof. (Like Donald Trump, I could say the Sad Puppies are involved, but I don’t have any proof, so I won’t say “the Sad Puppies are involved.”)

Anyway, the idea that the SFF field isn’t big enough for two awards seems, well, as rampant as support for a candidate with no experience, no platform, and a slight tendency toward passive-aggressive campaigning against his competition, the press, and anyone who is not demonstrably American. I mean, have the Hugos been supplanted by the Locus Awards, the World Fantasy Award, the Tiptree, the Arthur C. Clarke, the Philip K. Dick, the Sturgeon, the Heinlein, the Saturn, the Skylark, the Parsec…? Heck, no.

These folks seem to think that the Hugos are dead because only Worldcon members can vote for them; a more widely-sourced award would render them meaningless. The problem with this concept is obvious: The awards are not mutually exclusive. You could win a Hugo and a Dragon. And even if you only win one or the other, both can have value to the reader, which is all that counts.

It is true that Dragoncon could supplant Worldcon, because it’s so much bigger. People who prefer Worldcon often do for that very reason: an 80,000-person convention is a nightmare. Comic-con is a nightmare, and that’s only 50,000 people per day. On the other hand, Dragoncon pays its guests, which Worldcons simply cannot do. It might be that if the Dragon becomes a widely-recognized arbiter of quality, nominated authors will find it incumbent upon themselves to make the journey to Atlanta to be seen.

There are, of course, problems with that, and only time will tell if they can be resolved. But Worldcons would still continue; they are world-wide, after all, and not everyone can or will go to Atlanta in September. It’s very possible, though, that this would result in more international Worldcons (i.e., outside of the United States). That in turn could make attending authors more visible in other  countries, which have burgeoning SFF communities hungry to meet their idols, making its own marketing opportunities.

So maybe this is all a good and necessary thing. One thing that it is not, is a competition. And please don’t let it become one. Being a writer is hard enough as it is.



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Warning: This concerns the recurring fiasco of who/what/how/why we vote for the Hugo Awards. (At this point I’m not even sure exactly why people are fighting over it.) If you don’t care about the Hugos, then (a) good for you, and (b) see you next time. But if you do care, or if you are honestly confused, then perhaps the following will prove of some benefit.

Five Reasons Why the Hugo Kerfuffle is Like the Presidential Election.

1) It’s come down to people calling each other names. (Okay, the Hugo fight started that way.) Hugo partisans have called each other neo-Nazis, Social Justice Warriors, homophobes, liberals, and other terms I won’t repeat here. Even spouses have come in for insult (on both sides). In the election debates, people call each other neo-Nazis, closet liberals, RINOs, and small-handed. Even spouses have come in for insult (on both sides).

2) The Hugos are haunted by the specter of an outsider who has expressed his desire to burn the entire program to the ground. The election is haunted by the specter of at least one candidate who threatens by his very presence to burn his party’s entire program to the ground.

3) The Sad Puppies brag that they brought thousands of new voters to the Hugos last year. Donald Trump brags that he has brought millions of new voters to his party. Whether either of their successes proves long-term remains to be seen.

4) Last year, the “No Award” avalanche lead to threats that many will boycott the awards this year. This year, the idea that certain candidates may not receive their parties’ respective nominations have lead to threats that voters will boycott the general election.

5) The Hugo controversy has pitted fandom against itself, creating fissures and scars that may require decades to heal, if ever. The election controversy is splitting the American public against itself, revealing fissures and scars that have not healed in centuries, and may never do so.

6) Bonus! Both the Hugo controversy and the election are being conducted in the most childish, self-destructive, and futile manner possible. People screaming epithets at each other has never solved an issue. It only leads to violence, which leads to more violence, which leads to five years of bloodshed from Fort Sumter to Appomattox.

I have a solution. It’s very simple: Calm down. Use your indoor voices. Behave like adults. Set an example for your children that your parents would be proud of.

Because if you don’t, I’m going to have to start sending people to bed without supper. And nobody wants that.

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