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Posts Tagged ‘sad puppies’

Codes of conduct are all the rage at conventions now–in more than one sense of the word. Not only are more conventions adopting them–and not by choice, but by the necessity of not being seen to be insensitive to various pressing issues–but they are also the cause of rage from various corners.

We’ve always had rules for conventions. Even back in the Stone Age, when I chaired a con, we had rules (such as no guns). But we didn’t have a code as such; our rules were simple: Aside from the “no guns” rule, you had to buy a membership to participate. That was pretty much it. I don’t mean to romanticize “the good old days,” but things are sure different now.

And they are evolving. Worldcon banned one person because he wrote about his plans upon attending, which were ostensibly considered threatening or potentially bothersome to others.* Now, another convention has announced that it is modifying its own code of conduct to include actions taken by potential members outside of the convention itself; in other words, you may be pre-banned for your behavior utterly unconnected to the convention you wish to attend.

How to feel about this? On the one hand, we all want to think that our cons are going to be fun; we don’t want to have to worry that some jerk is going to hijack the weekend for his own asocial purposes. On the other hand, should going to a con involve a virtual job interview? I don’t know of any con that has the volunteer mojo to check every attendees’ (applicants’) social media presence, but with technology improving, how long will it be? And while each concom certainly has the right to determine who it wants to have at its event (usually a real-time decision), what standards will each use? (See an analysis of the application of codes of conduct at Australian conventions here.)

For fans, conventions can be a highlight of their social life. For pros, conventions can be a marketing/networking/sales opportunity, particularly for newer authors who need the exposure. No question that to anyone, being denied entrance is damaging on some level.

The phrase “slippery slope” is overused, but it is applicable to many situations. Add to that the fact that SF fandom loves a controversy like ants love ice cream. Regardless of the fairness of the policy or its application, this is going to create a hurricane of disputation, and if it continues, it’s only going to grow over time. Look for more pros to be banned, and then fans. It starts with political viewpoints, but it will get uglier. The “race card” will be played (fairly or not), sooner rather than later. Today’s fissures today will be tomorrow’s chasms.

I hope that as I grow in stature as a writer, I will not have to maintain two lists: the cons which I would like to attend, and the cons at which I will be welcome. But we don’t always get what we hope for.

ETA: Origins gaming convention has announced the rescission of author Larry Correia’s invitation to be a guest of honor, for having “personal views that are specifically unaligned with the philosophy of our show and the organization.” Although this does not appear to be a code of conduct issue, I fear it is the shape of things to come.

 

*As this matter is in the process of being litigated, I specifically disavow any knowledge as to what any of the parties was thinking/thinking of doing. I’m just speculating here.

#SFWApro

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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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It is a comment upon current circumstances when I say that my limited participation in Hugo voting this year honestly does not proscribe my ability to air my feelings on the proceedings. In full disclosure, I only voted in one category because I lacked the time to survey the field in more depth, and in fact, I gave that one No Award. Oddly enough, it was not one of the categories pre-empted by Puppies of any stripe.

Nevertheless, the entire process is worthy of discussion. As was the case last year, the various Puppies tried to game the system, but this year voters were onto them and they had markedly less presence on the final ballot. Needless to say, that they had any effect at all disproportionate to their numbers was unfortunate. Not only does the presence of any kind of slate demean the voting, but it actively bars others’ choices from appearing. You can proclaim your candidates’ merits all you like, but if you have to resort to underhanded methods to gain their nomination (even if it isn’t technically cheating), then you forfeit the opportunity to persuade anyone to agree with you because you have eliminated free choice. In the end, you are limiting these works’ acceptance (and sales) because no one wants anything that’s being forced down their throats. Ask any child with a cold.

Now Mr. Beale, who’s behind all of this, would have you believe that “everything is going according to plan”–just like every supervillain cackles two seconds before Captain Justice bursts through the skylight and brings his little foray into world domination to a halt. As will happen here. Voting slates will never be completely erased, but their influence will wane to the point where no one will want to pay for a Worldcon membership simply in order to exercise what little destructive power they have left.

The question, of course, is why do this at all? What do they get from wantonly disrupting someone else’s fun? I have no answer, unless it’s because they lack the imagination to make up their own.

In the end, it doesn’t matter. This, too, will pass. Whether the Hugos themselves matter, that’s another discussion–one that perhaps we will have when the current crisis abates. I look forward to it.

 

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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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It’s been a while since I last posted, and while no one out there is setting his watch by my contributions to Internet immortality, I’ve gotten kind of used to making them, so in lieu of anything really important, I thought I’d just put a few things down on “paper.” Blame it on my need to say something. I’m a writer; it’s what we do.

Hugo controversy. Again? Even I’m tired of this by now. I do not plan to weigh in unless something really gets my goat, other than to say that I hope people vote for the works they think deserve an award, no matter who wrote it or nominated it. That’s the point. As to the controversy itself, every bad thing comes to an end. I promise. (That goes for the Hugos and the current election cycle.)

I’m working. This is shaping up to be a good year. I’ve sold three stories, and I just passed the 20,000 word mark on The Cosmic City. Honestly, it’s going places I had no idea existed when I started. Writing it’s a wild ride, and I hope reading it will be as well. When it’s finished I’m going back to short stories for a while. It’s like varying your exercise routine to stress different muscles.

A new name? I’ve been reading that if you’re going to publish in different genres, you need to adopt different names. Readers supposedly will become confused if they see an SF novel, then a mystery, then an urban fantasy, all by the same author. Isaac Asimov wrote over 100 books on all kinds of subjects (fiction and non-fiction), and it doesn’t seem to have hurt him that they were under his name. Now, I’m not claiming to be Asimov, but I wonder if that bit of conventional wisdom is true. Have things changed that much since he was writing?

 

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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.

#SFWApro

 

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