Anthologies Answer Questions

Okay, so I said to myself: “I haven’t read contemporary English-language short fiction SF for a while. Wonder what I should look at…”

Then it occurred to me that the TOCs of two year’s best anthologies — The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year: Volume Twelve by Jonathan Strahan and The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Fifth Annual Collection by Gardner Dozois — have been released.

“Maybe Jonathan and Gardner can throw a decent suggestion or two for me,” I reasoned.

Indeed, they were able to do that. Not that my tastes would necessarily converge with those of middle-aged humanoid editors, but a suggestion is a suggestion.

After looking at the tables of contents one can answer a number of question, namely:

Q: Which stories both editors like enough to include them in their anthologies?

There are seven of them:

  • An Evening with Severyn Grimes by Rich Larson
    from Asimov’s Science Fiction
    (July/August 2017, you can e-purchase the issue here)
  • The Martian Obelisk by Linda Nagata
    (you can read it here)
  • The Moon Is Not a Battlefield by Indrapramit Das
    from the anthology Infinity Wars
    (you can e-purchase it wherever you buy your books)
  • My English Name by R. S. Benedict
    from Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
    (May/June 2017, you can e-purchase the issue here)
  • A Series of Steaks by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
    from Clarkesworld
    (you can read it here)
  • Sidewalks by Maureen McHugh
    from Omni
    (you can read it here)
  • Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance by Tobias Buckell
    from the anthology Cosmic Powers
    (you can e-purchase it wherever you buy your books)

Three of them are freely available online and the rest will cost you something between five and ten bucks, which is not much and you get other stuff to read as well.

Q: Are all these stories universally loved?

Nope. Of the stories mentioned above, Rocket Stack Rank seems to have given the ones by Larson and Buckell five stars and the story by Das only two. Other are somewhere in between or have not been reviewed yet. Many of the other stories Dozois and Strahan have selected are fall into their “not recommended” or “average” categories.

In his Infinity Wars review, Joe Sherry of Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together, for example, thought that The Moon Is Not a Battlefield is far from being the best story in the anthology, but Strahan and Dozois seem to disagree. The prolific short fiction critic Charles Payseur, on the other hand, has 78 stories in his 2017 recommended reading list, out of which only three (A Series of Steaks by Vina Jie-Min Prasad; Pan-Humanism: Hope and Pragmatics by Jess Barber and Sara Saab; Carnival Nine by Caroline M. Yoachim) are included in either of the anthologies in case I counted correctly.

Nothing is everybody’s cup of space coffee, I guess.

Q: Based on these two anthologies, which seem to be be the most successful short fiction markets of 2017?

Asimov’s and Clarkesworld have seven stories in the anthologies, with one story in both (eight data points). Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and have five stories, with one story in both (6 points). The third place is tied as well: anthologies Infinity Wars and Cosmic Powers have three stories in the anthologies, one of which appears in both (4 points). Close behind is Lightspeed with three stories (3 points).

Q: How about the most successful editors?

Sheila Williams and Neil Clarke naturally have most edited stories on the list, due to the prevalence of Asimov’s and Clarkesworld. On the third place we have John Joseph Adams who edited Cosmic Powers (three stories in anthos, one of which in both) and who also runs the magazine Lightspeed (three stories in the anthos). Next up is Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s C.C. Finlay, and then Jonathan Strahan himself — he edited Infinity Wars anthology plus a Greg Egan story for

Q: Who are the most best-of-anthologized short fiction authors?

Indrapramit Das, Greg Egan, Nancy Kress, Rich Larson, Suzanne Palmer and Alastair Reynolds all have two stories in the anthologies. Das and Larson presumably win this because the other of their stories is included in both. Strahan does not reprint several stories by the same author, but Dozois doesn’t seem to care and has two stories by several authors.

Q: How about gender parity?

There are 67 stories in the anthologies, and because 7 of them are in both, that leaves 60 individual stories. These 60 stories have been written by 57 individual authors (some authors have more than one stories and couple of stories are written by a pair of authors). Of these 57 authors, 25 (by my count) identify as female and 32 as male, so that’s about 44%-56% split.

You can count it multiple ways, of course, but the numbers don’t change much. If you want to calculate how many of the stories were written by females and how many by males (and if you count twice the stories that are in both anthologies), the ratio is 30-to-37, about 45%-55%.

The numbers are different for the separate anthologies, though. In Strahan’s book, the ratio above is very even (14 stories by females, 15 by males) whereas with Dozois’s picks the ratio is 16-to-22.

Q: Shouldn’t you have been reading a couple of stories instead of these silly calculations?

Probably! But now that I did make them, I don’t get the time back, so here they are and now you don’t have to do the same thing in case you want to know the answers to the questions above.

Q: There are other best of anthologies as well, aren’t there?

Sure. I may come back to this listing in case there will also be anthologies edited by Rich Horton (The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy xxxx), Neil Clarke (The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume X) and John Joseph Adams (The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy xxxx) collecting 2017 stories as there have been in the past.

Speaking of that, I did a similar thing strictly for my own twisted pleasure of the five anthologies which repackaged stories published in 2015. Based on that data, it seems like there’s nothing too far out of the ordinary here. Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction seems to be doing a bit better reprint-anthology-wise than two years back at this point, whereas Lightspeed is doing somewhat worse — even though that is perhaps to be expected because Adams and Horton are more likely to reprint Lightspeed material. Asimov’s, Clarkesworld and Lightspeed were the markets whose stories from 2015 got reprinted the most.

Q: Anthologists’ and award voters’ tastes tend to differ a bit, am I right?


Speaking of 2015, there were in total six stories that were reprinted in four of the five best of anthologies, so that’s a pretty impressive consensus on them being very good. They were:

  • Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countess Rathangan by Ian McDonald, published in anthology Old Venus (edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois), available online as a reprint on Clarkesworld.
  • Calved by Sam J. Miller, published in Asimov’s, available online on Miller’s site.
  • Capitalism in the 22nd Century by Geoff Ryman, published in anthology Stories for Chip (edited by Nisi Shawl & Bill Campbell).
  • The Game of Smash and Recovery by Kelly Link, published in Strange Horizons, available online.
  • Hello Hello by Seanan McGuire, published in anthology Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft which is priced $0.00 in Amazon and various other places.
  • Today I Am Paul by Martin L. Shoemaker, published in Clarkesworld, available online.

Only the stories by McDonald and Shoemaker were able to make it to the Hugo longlist (none were finalists but that was a messy year in that respect) and Shoemaker was the only one to appear on the Nebula shortlist. None of these were on the Locus award shortlist. The conclusion one can draw is that the editors’ and the award voters’ tastes do differ, with the caveat that fewer casual short fiction readers probably read new original anthologies (such as Stories for Chip, Old Venus, or Future Visions) and it is therefore less likely for stories published in them to get on people’s nominating ballots.

However, it will be interesting to see what will be the best-of-anthologists’ common favorites this time around and whether they will be seen on award shortlists.

Q: Can you list the other stories that will be included in the two anthologies?


2084 (edited by George Sandison)

  • Babylon, Dave Hutchison

Analog: Science Fiction and Fact

  • The Proving Ground, Alec Nevala-Lee
  • Whending My Way Back Home, Bill Johnson
  • Nexus, Michael F. Flynn

Asimov’s Science Fiction

  • Zigeuner, Harry Turtledove
  • Triceratops, Ian McHugh
  • Winter Timeshare, Ray Nayler
  • An Evening with Severyn Grimes, Rich Larson
  • Number 39 Skink, Suzanne Palmer
  • The Discrete Charm of the Turing Machine, Greg Egan
  • Confessions of a Con Girl, Nick Wolven

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

The Book of Swords (edited by Gardner Dozois)

  • The Mocking Tower, Daniel Abraham
  • The Smoke of Gold is Glory, Scott Lynch

Boston Review

Chasing Shadows: Visions of Our Coming Transparent World (edited by by David Brin & Stephen W. Potts)

  • Elephant on Table, Bruce Sterling
  • Eminence, Karl Schroeder


Cosmic Powers: The Saga Anthology of Far-Away Galaxies (edited by John Joseph Adams)

  • The Dragon that Flew Out of the Sun, Aliette de Bodard
  • Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance, Tobias Buckell
  • The Chameleon’s Gloves, Yoon Ha Lee

The Djinn Falls in Love (edited by Mahvesh Muraad & Jared Shurin)

  • Bring Your Own Spoon, Saad Z. Hossain

Extrasolar (edited by Nick Gevers)

  • Canoe, Nancy Kress
  • The Residue of Fire, Robert Reed

Infinite Stars (edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt)

  • Night Passage, Alastair Reynolds

Infinity Wars (edited by Jonathan Strahan)

  • Mines, Eleanor Arnason
  • The Moon Is Not a Battlefield, Indrapramit Das
  • Dear Sarah, Nancy Kress


  • The Influence Machine, Sean McMullen


Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

  • The History of the Invasion Told in Five Dogs, Kelly Jennings
  • Starlight Express, Michael Swanwick
  • My English Name, R.S. Benedict
  • There Used to Be Olive Trees, Rich Larson
  • The Hermit of Houston, Samuel R. Delany


Sirenia Digest

  • Fairy Tale of Wood Street, Caitlín R. Kiernan

Strange Horizons

Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation (edited by Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Christopher Wieland)

  • The Road to the Sea, Lavie Tidhar

Weight of Words: New Fiction Inspired by Images by Dave McKean (edited by Dave McKean and William Schafer)

  • Belladonna Nights, Alastair Reynolds


Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities (edited by Ed Finn, Joey Eschrich, and Juliet Ulman), download the anthology for free

  • Vanguard 2.0, Carter Scholz
  • Death on Mars, Madeline Ashby


Not published in a magazine or anthology

  • Prime Meridian, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • The Martian Job, Jaine Fenn

So there’s some Jonathan Strahan and Gardner Dozois approved reading. Stories in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and other webzines (plus the free Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities anthology) you can go read right now for free. Others you can purchase one way or another, or wait for the anthologies to come out.

Hugos 2017, part 2

Best Graphic Story

Best Editor: Short Form

Best Editor: Long Form

Best Professional Artist

Best Semiprozine

Best Fanzine

Best Fancast

Best Fan Writer

Best Fan Artist

Best Series

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Hugos 2017, part 1

Best Novelette

Best Short Story

Best Related Work

Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form

How Mad Genius Club Banned Me

Mad Genius Club, the joint blog of notable Sad Puppy activists such as Kate Paulk, Dave Freer, Amanda S. Green and others, banned me. There’s nothing special about that, of course. Blogs can ban commenters they don’t like for any reason, and that’s fine. Nobody has freedom of speech on other people’s websites.

If that was the whole thing, I’d be just slightly amused, but there’s more (and I must admit that I’m giggling a bit). They went through the trouble of writing a blog post about the incident. Naturally, I’m humbled by the attention of this bunch of professional writers, but I cannot resist commenting on their statements briefly.

I also have the screencaps of my offending comments, and reading them alongside the mad geniuses’ explanations is rather funny.

In case you didn’t go through the link to read the whole thing on Mad Genius Club, here are some of the highlights:

Unlike other sites, we don’t take glee in banning people and we bend over backwards to avoid doing so. We give warnings and then we warn again. In all the years of MGC, I can count on one hand — and still have fingers left — the number of people we have banned.

However, we have learned over the last few years that whenever we come to Hugo time, we get a few folks who come over with the sole purpose of condemning anything that doesn’t have to do with Fandom. We anticipated it would happen when the Dragon Awards were announced and then when the winners were named. What we didn’t anticipate was that one of the prime suspects would continue to ignore the warnings and then accuse us of doxxing them because we told that person that the only way they would be allowed to continue posting here is if they posted under their real name.

Yes, this person came back and accused us of trying to dox them.

Yes, that person’s comments have been deleted because they were told that was what would happen if they posted again under an alias.

I don’t have access to all (or most) or my deleted comments, but I guess these last few comments are enough to demonstrate how I “condemn anything that doesn’t have to do with Fandom”.

In the MGC post post All Hail the Dragon! Jason Cordova wrote (after complimenting the trophy’s design): “I can’t wait to see the final tally numbers of just how many people actually participated in the selection and voting process.”

The comment thread looked (and still looks) like this:


When the Dragon Awards were given out and voter figures were not released, there were a couple of comments that have since been deleted:

September 5, 2016 at 2:36 pm
Aaaaaaaand did we see the numbers? Nope.

September 5, 2016 at 4:32 pm
[…] either use your real name and quit the concern trolling behavior pattern (you show up on all the Hugo/award threads and hardly anywhere else, you derail with either irrelevant or marginally relevant comments, and you’re way the hell light on facts, even when what you say is technically correct) or quit commenting here. Your call. […]

September 5, 2016 at 10:45 pm
Whoa, trying to doxx people who disagree with you is not cool.

It’s your blog, of course, and it’s your right to prevent people from voicing opinions differing from yours if that is what you want to do. I don’t want to disturb people’s safe spaces and can stop commenting.

However, I have tried to state my opinions respectfully and politely here, even when other commenters have called me names and hurled abuse around.

“Derailing” the discussion with “irrelevant” comments is a bit confusing accusation. Releasing the voting numbers was explicitly discussed in the post I was commenting on. I said that I wasn’t sure they would be released and was told I was trying to smear the awards or something. Well, now they haven’t been released and to the best of my knowledge will never be. If you have different information about the matter, I’ll happily admit I was mistaken.

Well, now, I’m the first to admit that “trying to doxx” is probably too harsh a term to use in this context. After all, MSG people were not about to release my personal information without my consent, only demanding that I provide it.

Disagreeing with Sad Puppies can fill your social media with all kinds of garbage, though, and that is not something I’m interested in seeing in my personal accounts. For example, just today a dude called Thomas Monaghan tweeted me this out of the blue:

That doesn’t bother Spacefaring Kitten, but I can live without my real-life friends and family seeing this sort of nonsense. That’s why I’ll have to respectfully decline MGC’s offer and refrain from commenting there in the future.

So, that’s what went down, basically. But there’s more in today’s Mad Genius Club post. I’ll quote it below and add comments there.


Here’s the thing. When this person showed up, casting aspersions and making thinly veiled accusations against the Dragons, I did some checking. With only a very few exceptions, they had only commented on Hugo-related posts. This person — because it isn’t hard to find out who they are — is someone who does not tolerate what they see as dissenting opinions on their own social media pages. This is a person who has attempted, and on occasion, succeeded in having people kicked out of cons for being wrong-thinkers. I could go on and some of the others here may.

I have commented on Hugos and Dragon Awards, true. That’s about it as far as facts go in this paragraph, I guess. Kicking wrong-thinkers out of cons, huh? I’m sure I’d remember that. My social media is not in a language they understand, so I have my doubts about their knowing what opinions I tolerate there or not.

However, here’s the thing. It takes a lot to get a bunch of writers to get together to discuss what should happen on a blog, even a joint blog. The fact that this person took the majority of us out of writing and work to do just that says a lot. So, before you see it on Vile 770, yes, we did delete comments here. This was done after warnings — which you can find still in the comment sections on at least three recent posts. Did we like doing it? No.

We want free discourse here. As writers, we hate silencing discussion. But that isn’t what happened here. There was no discussion. There were thinly veiled attacks on a new award and why? Because it didn’t go the way certain parts of Fandom apparently thought or wanted it to. It’s not enough that they have turned the Hugos from a fan award, something it was founded as, to a Fan award. Now these folks are trying to tear down a new award because it let everyone vote — without paying for the privilege to do so.

Riiiiiight. I did guess right whether the Dragon Award voter numbers would be published or not, but this is a bit much, isn’t it. I have to say I didn’t realize I was tearing down a new award with the comments that were quoted previously in this post. 😀

So there it is. A very infrequent commenter was warned and chose to ignore the warning. That person then chose to use inflammatory comments to accuse us of something we were not doing, specifically of doxxing them. That person is no longer welcome at MGC unless and until they follow the rules as set out first by Dave and then reiterated by several others of us. But to accuse us of doxxing, when we are asking nothing more than to post under a real name, a name many of us already know, is disingenuous. We are not the ones with malicious intent.

Well, no matter how hard the MGC people try to trick me to doxxing myself, it is not something I plan to do, so I guess I’ll just have to turn down that offer.

Spacefaring Hugo Ballot 2016

There are 28 hours left before this year’s Hugo winners are announced. Due to timezones, I’ll have to wake up in an inhumane time to follow the stream. In the state I’ll be in, I am probably not going to remember what I voted for first in every category, so I’ll write it down here as a reminder for my tired self on tomorrow night.

Best Novel

  • Nothing.

Yeah, that’s what I did: left the novel blank. I didn’t manage to read all of them, so this seemed like the reasonable thing to do.

Best Novella

  • Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson

Okorafor’s Binti was very good as well, but in the end the concept of Perfect State won me over.

Best Novelette

  • And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead by Brooke Bolander

Best read of the bunch, even though the prose could have been less purple in places. Stephen King’s Obits and Hao Jinfang’s Folding Beijing were also good, but they either had all the weaknesses of a Stephen King story or relied too much on coincidences to make the narrative work for me.

Best Short Story

  • Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer

How can you beat cat pictures? There’s just no way. Asymmetrical Warfare by S.R. Algernon and Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuch Tingle were also above No Award on my ballot.

Best Related Work

  • Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 by Marc Aramini

It’s a decent book, probably. I find it hard to read Wolfe the way Aramini does, but in an overall terribly weak category this is the best thing.

Best Graphic Story

  • Invisible Republic vol 1 by  Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman

Not enough science fiction comics are based on Irish anti-war folk music.

Best Dramatic Presentation / Long Form

  • Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Dramatic Presentation / Short Form

  • Doctor Who: Heaven Sent

Best Professional Editor / Short Form

  • Ellen Datlow

Best Professional Editor / Long Form

  • No Award

A protest vote.

Best Professional Artist

  • Larry Elmore

Best Semiprozine

  • Strange Horizons

A coin toss between SH and Uncanny Magazine.

Best Fanzine

  • File 770

Best source of what went down in 2015.

Best Fancast

  • Tales to Terrify

Best Fan Writer

  • Mike Glyer

Best Fan Artist

  • Matthew Callahan

Absolutely breathtaking.

The John W. Campbell Award

  • Andy Weir

Sheer aspiration porn.

That’s it. Let’s see if any of my picks wins this year.



No-awarding Editors and Avengers

I’m filling out my Hugo voting ballot and deciding what is going to float and which finalists will sink under the No Award option. Contenders who end up underwater will include, among others, all book editors and all the avengers.

My final votes in the Best Professional Editor (Long Form) and Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) categories — that is, book editors and movies — look like this:

Best Professional Editor (Long Form)

  1. No Award
  2. Sheila E. Gilbert
  3. Liz Gorinsky
  4. Jim Minz
  5. Toni Weisskopf
  6. Vox Day

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Martian
  3. Ex Machina
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  5. No Award
  6. Avengers: Age of Ultron

I don’t think that any of the novel editors does a bad job (ok, maybe one of them). This is strictly a protest vote against the insane category. How can anybody who is not an industry insider come to any conclusion about who is better than someone else in turning mediocre books into great ones? I have no clue.

Thinking about my own tastes, Gilbert’s list of edited works looked a little better than Gorinsky’s or Minz’s, but readers don’t have access to the editing process that we are really supposed to judge here.

The best alternative for this silly category I can think of would be Best Publisher, so I thought about that for a minute. With these editors, that would be DAW (Gilbert), Tor Books (Gorinsky), Baen (Minz & Weisskopf) and Castalia House (Vox Day).

So, what were the publishers of the year’s best novels?

If the Hugo finalists in the novel category are supposed to indicate which publishers really scored last year, that would be Orbit, Roc, Del Rey and William Morrow. Orbit has in fact two titles in there. No editors working for these publishers are on the Hugo ballot, even though the Hugo nominators consider their end products to be the best in the field.

On the Nebula ballot, the novel finalists’ publishing houses are: Orbit (twice, again), Tor (twice), Baen, Del Rey and Saga. At last some familiar names! However: Gorinsky didn’t edit the Nebula-nominated Tor books (Barsk and Updraft) and Minz didn’t edit the Nebula-nominated Baen book (Raising Caine) — nobody knows what Weisskopf edited because she keeps that a secret.

Yeah. Is this a strange list of best editors in the business or what?

Ok, how about the movies, then? The picks from 1 to 4 require no explanation. Mad Max is a masterpiece whereas The Martian, Ex Machina and the new Star Wars were all solid and enjoyable films. I am a bit saddened by the fact that the end of Ex Machina was so predictable. It was the only movie that wasn’t a sequel or an adaptation with a blockbuster budget and I liked the acting and the atmosphere quite a bit.

For Avengers, there was very little hope, considering my visceral hate of Captain America. He is the most boring and stupid creation in the history of human entertainment and he ruins every film that features him (becoming an agent of Hydra cannot be a bad career move for him). I also found out that I dislike Thor very much. Hulk and Iron Man should dump their loser friends and do it fast if they wish to end up higher on my ballot that sixth in a field of five in the future!

thumb down.gif

Aspiration Porn — Campbell Nominee Andy Weir

Category: John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
Rabid Puppies

I think there’s still time to tackle a few Hugo nominees — or maybe not, because, as you know, Bob, John W. Campbell Award is not a Hugo. Still, I finally read The Martian, so let’s discuss Andy Weir for a minute.

As I have written earlier, Weir has ended up as a weird political football in the Hugo culture wars. Last year, various Sad/Rabid Puppy activists (such as this one) considered the fact that Weir hasn’t won a Hugo as proof of the literary feminist-communist social justice bias among the Worldcon fans. However, when the final numbers were released, it became clear that without the Puppy campaigns to mess things up, Andy Weir would have been a Campbell Award finalist (and The Martian would have almost made it into the ballot as well — even though it’s possible that it would have been judged ineligible). Instead, four Puppy authors of relatively unknown works were nominated alongside the eventual Campbell winner Wesley Chu and Weir was left on the sixth place (and out of the ballot).

This year, Weir is up there and he got the kennel votes as well.

Original The Martian is better than the Ridley Scott adaptation everybody’s probably seen. In it, the astronaut protagonist gets into more different kinds of trouble and sciences his way out of it, explaining what he does in his log entries. For me, reading the text that supposedly makes up those entries is a more engaging experience than watching Matt Damon do it.

The usual complaint against hard science fiction writing is that it’s technically bad, especially with characters, but Weir manages to write an entertaining superhuman. Come to think of it, that’s what astro/cosmo/taikonauts practically are.

While watching The Martian, I remember enjoying the cosmic visuals, but the reader of the book doesn’t have that and she has to be kept in awe of the science. It was quite impressive, considering that the natural sciences interest me very little. Still, Weir was able to force me into the aspiration porn mindset — ISN’T IT GREAT THAT THE HUMAN RACE HAS DONE SUCH A WONDERFUL THING AS GOING TO SPACE (AND MOSTLY ALSO MAKING IT BACK ALIVE??!!). Yeah, it is. Little less bable about making water and oxygen wouldn’t have hurt, but I guess that really paying attention to these technical details was what Weir’s project was about.

Andy Weir’s own story as a writer is another tale of aspirational pornography: he took some years off to write novels that nobody would buy, started to post his fiction online for free when that didn’t work out and slowly accumulated a readership of likeminded people. The Martian becoming a professionally published novel, a huge bestseller hit and later on a blockbuster movie was just a coincidence. Isn’t it great that a space nerd, who just does what he loves, manages to do such an awesome thing? Yeah!

So, nevermind Donald Trump and Vox Day and all the other party poopers, the human race can pull off pretty great stuff. Like in this video.

The Martian isn’t the best novel I’ve read lately, but I enjoyed it.

Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Score: 8.5/10 (and as a Hugo finalist in the Best Dramatic Presentation: Long category, I’ll give The Martian 7/10).


Other posts of interest:

Wrapping Up the Related Work Category, And a Personal Note

I’ve read and reviewed — or, in one case, at least interrogated a bit — all the five Hugo awards finalists in the Related Work category. Here are the links in case you want to take a look:

I especially recommend the Vox Day piece. Despite the odious subject, I had sort of fun writing it, and exploring bizarre and alien ways to think about things is always a somewhat SFF-nal experience.

But yeah, there was a lot of toxic stuff there (60%, to be exact), and this category was hit especially bad by Vox Day’s/Theodore Beale’s slate-nominating campaign that was meant to destroy the Hugo awards. Well, the award is still here, and plans are underway to make sure it’s going to survive and become more resistant to gaming, so I’m not worried.

In fact, my optimistic prediction is that the Rabid Puppy contingent will stop trolling the Hugos now that they have done everything they could with the memberships purchased last year — they could nominate this year but cannot vote now and cannot nominate next year. If they want to keep going, they have to give more money to the social justice acronym smurfs who run Worldcons, and, even if they do it, the rule changes mean that they can’t do as much damage in the future.

However, let’s give them slow clap for managing to really mess up the ballot this year.


There are related works that deserve a bigger applause, of course. Many interesting things were left off the ballot, for example:

Any other good suggestions?

No matter what the trolls come up with, we can celebrate the good related work stuff by taking a look at it and having a good time.

And finally, the personal note I promised in the post title:

Anybody who is paying attention has probably noticed that I’m not going to review all (or even most) of the 85 Hugo (or Campbell) nominees this year. There’s two weeks left before the voting deadline and I’ve written about 5 of them — so, even though I have numerous superpowers, being able to produce 5.7 blog posts a day is regrettably not one of them.

I have a good reason for this sorry state of affairs, though. We had a new baby added to the family last month and the lovely little rodent has been stealing significant chunks of my spare time since then. So, blame him.

I’m not that late with my reading, though, so maybe I’ll be able cover one or two categories more, or at least a couple of interesting finalists. I was thinking of the Campbells, or possibly the Graphic Story, but we’ll see.

“Appendix N” by Jeffro Johnson

The last finalist in the Best Related Work category is Jeffro Johnson’s “The First Draft of My Appendix N Book”. It’s a post published in Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog last November, and I don’t know why the Hugo administrators have decided to include it like this. I guess the point was to nominate the whole of Johnson’s Appendix N project — that is, the batch of 50+ articles that the blog post links to.

The Rabid Puppies slate (which is probably the driving force behind Johnson’s getting on the finalist list) included the item “Appendix N by Jeffro Johnson” and linked to a post titled “Appendix N Matters”. That is the final chapter which delivers some jabs against the “politically correct” “thought police” that has “taken over# “our culture” — so I can see why Theodore Beale likes to send readers that way, but the bulk of Johnson’s Appendix N project is, luckily, about something else.

Category: Related Work
Slate: Rabid Puppies

But let’s start at the beginning. What the hell is Appendix N, anyway? The title probably leaves most people scratching their heads.

Appendix N is a list of fantasy works that Gary “The Father of Role Playing Games” Gygax mentioned in the Dungeons and Dragons rulebook Dungeon Master’s Guide back in 1979 with “the following authors were of particular inspiration to me”.


In Castalia House Blog, Jeffro Johnson has been reading through Gygax’s list and blogging about it since 2014. The first 15 chapters were published in 2014, and some of them I already read last year when Johnson was finalist for the Best Fan Writer Hugo. The last 29 “official” chapters as well as some appendices and extra stuff that Johnson plans to cut were published last year (and are eligible now).

Johnson’s idea is not completely original. In 2013, writers Tim Callahan and Mordicai Knode did the exact same thing with their Advanced Readings in Dungeons & Dragons series. Reading some of their thoughts on the Appendix N books alongside Johnson’s series offers an interesting comparison.

I have to say that I enjoyed Callahan and Knode’s take on it significantly more (even though they are dead wrong about Zelazny’s Amber series), but the reason might be that it’s written for a general (or, at least, more general) audience. Johnson is quicker to dive into the intricacies of Dungeons and Dragons which I have never played and do not really care about. He gives lengthy quotes from books and points out D&D stuff that they relate to, and that’s not a very good way to keep me interested.

I did take a look at some of the chapters that deal with books and authors I’m familiar with (a minority, I’m sad to say): Dunsany, Moorcock, Leiber, Farmer, Lovecraft and so on. On top of that, I read few about writers I know next to nothing about, like Gardner F. Fox.

And it’s a mixed bag: some of Johnson’s points were profoundly interesting, some were not and some were deep in wait-what-that’s-not-right territory. Here are examples of all the three:

  1. The setup of Leiber’s Lankhmar stories captures quintessential features of D&D. (Or, as Knode phrased the same point, they are the most Dungeons and Dragons of anything on the Appendix N list.
  2. Elric has so much contempt for honor that real tabletop gamers would whack him.
  3. Lovecraft’s great attention to detail in his writing makes his tales feel very real.

Even though I don’t care about D&D, I respect Johnson’s mission to educate people about the early alternatives to Tolkienesque fantasy which has later taken over and plagues the genre like a fucking leprosy. The science fantasy tradition is fascinating and it’s truly regrettable that it got pushed out of the market back in the day. Or, to be more exact, the worst thing is that it got forgotten and very few casual contemporary fantasy readers know about this stuff.

On the other hand, Johnson takes it all so very seriously. In his concluding and judgemental rant he seems to treat the Appendix as an authoritative, sacred canon that defines which books of the period are worth taking a look at instead of just a list of titles that Gygax happened to read and enjoy.

A tad pompously, Johnson informs us that

[Appendix N] preserves a sense of who we were… and what we could yet become again if we chose to.

Johnson has his headpalm moments when he suggests that, for example, the Earthsea books shouldn’t be on the list because

the defeating of Lovecraftian terrors with the power of friendship really isn’t how anyone handles adventures in a mythical underworld.

Too unrealistic ways to handle adventures in a mythical underworld? Come on. It might be an un-AD&D-ish book, but Zelazny’s Amber books have next to nothing to do with AD&D either. Gygax’s take on why there’s no LeGuin on his list would be interesting to hear but Johnson’s second guessing is not that convincing. On the other hand, I’m ready to forgive him because he plugs Tarzan of the Apes.

But despite Tarzan, my ultimate response is that I feel my time would have been better used if I had read a couple of these books instead of wading through Johnson’s assorted commentary.

Is his Appendix N project a nice thing to have around? Yeah, why not. Is it good enough to be recognized as the absolute best work related to the field of science fiction, fantasy or fandom that was published last year? That’s a tougher one.

Many interesting things were again left off-ballot because of the slate-voting organized by Johnson’s employer — consider the essay collections Speculative Fiction 2014 (edited by Renee Williams and Shaun Duke) and Letters to Tiptree (edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Alexandra Pierce), or David Langford’s interview collection Crosstalk, or the non-fiction books on Iain M. Banks (by Simone Caroti), Ray Bradbury (by David Seed), Lois McMaster Bujold (by Edward James) and Frederik Pohl (by Michael R. Page). Like last year, it’s a shame.

Johnson certainly isn’t the worst finalist here, but is he good enough? I’m not sure yet.


Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Score: 5/10

My Case Against Theodore Beale — Vox Day: SJWs Always Lie

Vox Day, oh man. Where do I start?

In case you’re reading this, you probably have an opinion on the former disco musician and current book publisher, editor and anti-feminist/anti-anti-racist/contrarian political demagogue and culture warrior Theodore Beale aka Vox Day. I don’t think I’m going to influence anybody here, but here’s my case against the writer of SJWs Always Lie in case somebody wants to read an affectionate character assassination of the king of anti-progressive internet trolls.

Category: Related Work
Slates: Rabid Puppies

So, who is Vox Day?

His father is the failed businessman, tax protester and felon Robert Beale who tried to get Pat “Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians” Robertson the president of the United States in the late 80s. Fortunately, that didn’t go so well, but the senior Beale made a serious shitload of money running his business, and I guess that family wealth has served Vox Day pretty well. At least one hopes that his livelyhood isn’t dependent on the success of works like his Hugo-nominated short story “Opera Vita Aeterna” (2014) — which, in my opinion, is not very good (go ahead and google it if you want to read what sort of fiction he writes).

Vox Day first became known as a member of the 90s techno band Psykosonik. If you’ve ever wondered about what his music sounds like, here’s a song called “Shock on the Wire” from their debut album Psykosonik (1993).

Considering some of Beale’s later political stances, the lyrics about leaving “the world of boolean gender” bring a smile upon my face.

Synthesized posthuman face
No limits here in cyberspace
That hypersexual excitation
Neural-digital stimulation
Cyberbaby gotta keep it going
Gotta come together flowing
Voltage hits your pleasure center
Leave the world of boolean gender

According to all Beale’s author bios, he is also a professional game designer who has designed games such as the first-person Christian sword-em-up War in Heaven (1999). It was based on his fantasy novels, the first of which Natalie Luhrs read and live-tweeted last year in order to raise money for RAINN (an organization helping victims of sexual assault).

Here’s a clip of the game:

I’m not really sure if designing games is something that Beale/Day is doing at the moment. There isn’t much information around on what game projects he has been working on lately, and his blogging and book-writing looks like a full-time job, judging by his publishing frequency.

He writes the general “Alt Right”, Trump-praise and Hugo destruction blog Vox Popoli (bad Latin for voice of the people) as well as the white and straight men’s right activism blog Alpha Game (which informs us that there are, in fact, not only alpha males and beta males but also deltas, gammas, omegas, sigmas and lambdas, and it’s all hopelessly complicated). In his nonfiction books, Beale has opined that atheists are irrational, “cuckservatives” (=moderate conservatives) are destroying the American civilization and “SJWs” (=social justice warriors) always lie.

As I said in the beginning, pretty much everybody who has read something about or by Beale/Day already has an opinion of him, so I’m fairly sure that this blog post is not going to convince anybody to change their views. Besides, in the title of the book that is on the Hugo shortlist this year, Beale has already formulated a statement that refutes everything I’m about to say here. I believe that social justice is desirable and discrimination should be done away with. Thus, I lie and Beale-believers shouldn’t believe anything I say.

If you don’t have an opinion on Beale yet and you want to see for yourself what he is up to, I suggest you take a look at Vox Popoli. A couple of posts will probably be enough to get a good picture.

I just tried this approach myself few weeks ago and first came up with a screed for why war is better than peace because during peacetime, I guess, people can live their lives the way they want:

Seventy years of relative peace and prosperity has made our young men hedonists and homosexuals, cravens and cowards who are more inclined to literally emasculate themselves than demonstrate even a modicum of courage. Seventy years of relative tranquility and safety has made our young women into shameless sluts and whores, barren harridans and harpies devoid of self-respect and self-control. (“A Terrible Peace”, 13/5/2016)

I also learned that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote in representative democracies (a direct democracy is another thing, though), because they are not as intelligent as men and cannot understand difficult issues:

I don’t have a problem with women voting in a direct democracy of the sort we have in national referenda. I think that women are perfectly capable of understanding the consequences of their actions — when it’s a direct matter. However, in the quasi-democratic systems that we have, the limited representative democracies, the problem is that it is historically far too easy for demagogues to manipulate women. (“Should Women Vote”, 14/5/2016)

What an angry, unhappy dude, right?

His views are so far removed from the real reality where I (and maybe you too) live, that it’s impossible to even start debunking those statements. For me (and, hopefully, for you) the freedom to live my life how I want without fear of dying in an armed conflict is quite nice. On the other hand, stripping people of their equal rights because of their sex or gender is not.

These are axioms, and they’re not up for debate.

His opinion seems to be that people’s lives should be miserable. How do you make a case for that shit? Well, after reading the Kindle sample of SJWs Always Lie (which is enough to get the gist of it, in my opinion), it turns out that Beale doesn’t make a case for that shit at all. In the first chapter, he throws himself into a tantrum about the bad things that bad people working for social justice are pushing for.

A broad-based, reality-based resistance to the mirage is now taking shape, a resistance that will eventually undermine and replace all the old institutions that have been invaded and captured by the SJWs. And all it takes to be a part of it is a refusal to accept the religion of social justice, a refusal to bow down before the false gods of Equality, Diversity, Tolerance, Inclusiveness and Progress.

The thing I’m wondering is: Why would anyone choose the “true gods” of Inequality, Uniformity, Intolerance, Exclusiveness and, err, Unprogress instead? Beale, like any contrarian troll, is never going to give a sensible answer.

Alright. Everything above this line was written a few weeks back, but now that the Hugo Voter’s Packet is finally out and SJWs Always Lie is included (I believe that ignoring that would have been a better option but Midamericon II decided otherwise) I took a look.

It’s a funny collection of eccentric viewpoints and all-around handwaving when the social opinions get too difficult to defend otherwise.

Here’s a chapter by chapter summary of the first six chapters after the intro:

Chapter 2: The Three Laws of SJW

Beale’s thesis: John Scalzi said in an interview he has more blog readers than Beale thinks he does. Thus, SJWs always lie.

After coining this and a couple of other rules, Beale drives himself into an ecstatic snicker when he describes how he has pestered Scalzi by cunningly claiming that the best-selling author has admitted to being a rapist, even though he hasn’t. So, what’s Beale’s point? SJWs always lie, but their opponents make up lies that are more stupid?

Chapter 3: When SJWs Attack

Beale’s thesis: A number of people in high positions have ended up in trouble or lost their jobs after insulting women or minorities publicly. That’s why, by some magical logic, everyone who complains about powerful men behaving badly is suspect.

Beale makes a big thing out of the controversy over biochmemist and molecular physiologist Tim Hunt’s impromptu toast speech during the 2015 World Conference of Science Journalists. He has cherry-picked a good example, considering that Hunt was treated rather badly for his remarks which, by all accounts, were meant to be humorous instead of sexist — he concluded his toast by saying “science needs women, and you should do science despite all obstacles, and despite monsters like me”. (It’s probably a stretch to call Hunt an actual feminist, but for a privileged academic dude who was born in the 40s he doesn’t seem too bad.)

What Beale doesn’t tell his readers is that Hunt has explicitly denounced his sort of defenders. In an interview with the Guardian, the scientist said: “I was turned into a straw man that one lot loves to love and the other lot loves to hate and then they just take up sides and hurled utterly vile abuse at everyone.”

I see why Beale focuses on Hunt and not on the other names he drops, like the scientist James “We Should Genetically Engineer All Girls Beautiful” Watson, Pax “A Talented Female Tech Developer Is As Mythical As A Unicorn” Dickinson or Mozilla’s ex-CEO and California Proposition 8 supporter Brendan Eich. (I don’t get why Beale can’t afford a proofreader if he is so damn successful — in addition to all the Latin stuff, he misspells Dickinson’s name.)

Chapter 4: Counterattack

Beale’s thesis: Zoë Quinn is fat and unattractive and she made a depressing game about depression (and cheated on her boyfriend). That’s why #Gamergate is such a good thing — and, by the way, the only thing the movement is interested in is Ethics In Gaming Journalism. Like, totally. All accounts of harassment by gamergaters are untrue because I say so.

These days, you can’t make a gaming-related Youtube video and mention feminism or tweet about an academic game studies conference with the #DiGRA hashtag without getting a ton of abuse directed at you, in the best case scenario. If things go worse, some Dude Only Concerned About Ethics In Gaming Journalism is going to make a game where the point is to beat your face to pulp, doxx you, drive you out of your home and probably kill your dog.

But I’m not doing the #GamerGate movement justice here. Speaking of DiGRA (Digital Games Research Association), they have brightened up many people’s days with their more unwitting operations, such as this one. Appreciating all the ironies may require some background knowledge on the critical theory.

After Hunt, though, it’s nice to see Beale trying to piggyback on some people I don’t feel bad for.

Chapter 5: Release the Hounds

Beale’s thesis: John Scalzi has won way too many Hugo awards. That’s why Worldcon, Hugos and WSFS are rotten.

In this chapter, Beale goes through the Sad Puppies history, putting a wild anti-SJW spin on everything. For the people who are aware of what went down with the Hugos during the last couple of years (and if you’re reading this blog, chances are that you indeed are), it’s mostly rehashing the official Puppy narrative put together by Correia and Torgersen.

The only interesting parts deal with Beale’s involvement with the Sad Puppies 3 campaign. Last year, Torgersen and Correia were adamant that their thing really doesn’t have anything to do with Beale’s, but what do you know. Here we have Beale reminiscing about the first meeting of the slate-makers in January 16, 2015. Present are Beale, Correia, Torgersen, Tom Kratman, Sarah Hoyt and John C. Wright.

Beale says that they soon found out they disagreed on the goals:

To put these goals in practical terms, Brad wanted to actually try to win awards for what he deemed to be meritorious work, whereas I thought we ought to nominate whatever would most upset the SJWs and then turn around and join them in voting No Award for everything in order to leave a smoking hole where the 2015 Hugos had been. […]

After discussing our differences, I stepped back from Sad Puppies and created Rabid Puppies, an allied campaign designed around the #GamerGate model. […] However, the SJWs so hated everything Brad put forward, and reacted so negatively towards those works, that instead of needing a completely separate list of recommendations, the Rabid Puppy list turned out to be a little more than the Sad Puppy list with a few tactical additions intended to further enrage the SJWs.

The quote above is recommended reading for everybody who is still pondering whether the Rabid Puppies contingent has some reasonable grievances. Here we have Theodore Beale/Vox Day telling us earnestly that he isn’t interested in making science fiction great again, or plugging worthy but overlooked works — what he wants is to troll and upset people.

What an angry, unhappy dude.

In the end of the chapter, Beale goes through his, Peter Grant’s and other puppie’s unsuccessful campaign to get the Tor Books creative director Irene Gallo fired by bombing Macmillan with email complaints. Just two chapters ago threatening people’s livelihood because of their opinions was reprehensible but with Beale you have to get used to goalposts moving in supersonic speed.

Chapter 6: The SJW Next Door

Beale’s thesis: Codes of conduct and other documents outlining the proper practices in organizations and corporations are pushed forward by SJWs. Thus, they are evil.

And so on and so forth

I quickly lost interest after chapter six. Beale tells us what one should do when SJWs attack and how to fight back but, frankly, it seems like incredibly hard and unrewarding work. Sure, you can try to be as unapologetic asshole as you can and make things as hard as possible for the other side if you want — but what’s the point?

Instead of Beale’s sixteen rules and strategies about what to do when you’re under attack and how to fight back et cetera, I can offer you the following two-rule all-purpose guide for free:

  1. Respect other people and don’t insult them.
  2. If you happen to break rule #1, be a grownup and own up to your mistakes.

There you go. This has served great many people quite well. World may be full of unreasonable assholes but I don’t see how becoming one would make my life, or yours, any easier.

On the other hand, you’re free to believe Beale but the tin foil conspiracist mindset he says we all should adopt sounds like something that is not going to do any good for anybody’s well-being. Consider quotes like this:

It may seem a little ironic to have to police your organization yourself in order to prevent it from being thought-policed, but the sad historical fact is that you have to choose between one and the other.

Little ironic? You don’t say.

It’s a bad book by a bad actor and it shouldn’t get a Hugo award, if you ask me. No reason to trust me, though — you can read it for free if you’re a Hugo voter and make up your mind.

Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Score: 0/10

Some final thoughts

I recognize that there probably is a meaningful discussion to be had or a book written about the excesses of the uses of “social justice”. SJWs Always Lie isn’t that book, though, but cases like the one involving Tim Hunt are incredibly bad for the social justice movement. As a supporter of that movement, I feel that the goal should be to become mainstream rather than to take all the possible scalps. Twitter shame mobs easily go too far and things turn ugly, as anyone who has been paying attention should know by now.

Or, if you haven’t been convinced yet, this TED Talk by Jon Ronson is for you.

Earlier this year I read Will Shetterly’s book How to make a Social Justice Warrior. To be fair, it probably wasn’t the good book that ought to be written about these issues either, but Shetterly at least tries. For me, his ranty style and short temper made him sound even crazier than Beale in places, unfortunately.

However, Shetterly makes some relevant points about how single-minded focus on identity politics erases class distinctions — which still remain extremely important when analyzing power structures and inequality. A person of color, or a woman, or a homosexual can become president, but a poor person will probably never be able to do that. At the very least, Shetterly’s left-wing criticism of SJW-ism is more convincing than Beale’s right-wing variant.

Some of the more theoretical flavors of academic feminism are probably quite far removed from the social reality of anybody who doesn’t belong to the middle class and has to struggle every day to make ends meet. That may be an oversimplification, but it’s something that feminists with higher education (and the worldview of an extremely privileged individual that comes with it), such as myself, should perhaps consider more often.