Monthly Archives: May 2015

“The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

“The Day the World Turned Upside Down”, written by the Dutch novelist Thomas Olde Heuvelt and translated by Lia Belt, is the only no-slate story in the three Hugo short fiction categories. It got on the ballot after a story by the ever-present John C. Wright was disqualified due to previous publication.

Category: Novelette
Published in: Lightspeed magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams
Slates: Nope

I was pleased that a Lightspeed story made it. It’s a very good magazine that won the semiprozine Hugo last year, after all, and it has published some pretty awesome fiction in 2014 as well. I’m quite sure I nominated two stories from the magazine for the Hugos, plus the whole magazine in the semiprozine category, plus the editor John Joseph Adams in the editor category.

I don’t read absolutely everything LS publishes, though, and Olde Heuvelt’s story was new to me. Naturally, I had some great expectations. Too bad this story let them down.

The title summarizes what happens in the story: up and down switch places and gravity starts to pull everything away from Earth. In this surreal environment, the protagonist tries to get back to his loved one who, unfortunately, doesn’t love him back anymore. He takes great pains to return her goldfish to her, and he meets a number of characters on his way.

There are some scenes in the story that are pretty evocative, but as a whole it’s too surrealist for my taste. Most of the encounters don’t really add anything meaningful to the story. Even though Heuvelt uses some edgy and interesting literary devices (comparing the man with the goldfish, having same lines in discussion between different characters etc.), there’s no depth. It’s just play with not enough storytelling logic, and I failed to enjoy that.

However, it’s nice to have a truly unpleasant protagonist for a change, and I do like the ambiguity of the fact that he repeatedly acts immorally because he is madly in love. After reading some reviews, it seems like some anglophone readers are struggling with the character, complaining that they found him unsympathetic and not someone they could root for. Well, no shit, Sherlock. That was the point.

Without the protagonist, I would have rated this work quite low, but he manages to raises the score for a couple of points. Still, there are better stories, and stories with a better grasp of goldfish biology.

Score: 6/10

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Hugo Short Story Category Wrap-up

All the five finalists in the short story category have now been reviewed, and here they are. Frankly, the reading project has been quite disappointing so far.

  1. “Totaled” by Kary English 5/10
  2. “A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond  3/10
  3. “On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli 2.5/10
  4. “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa 2/10
  5. “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright 0/10

“Totaled” is the best short story on the ballot hands down, and I wouldn’t be too sad to see it win. However, I won’t be voting for it as my first choice. The top spot will go to No Award, because there were so much better stories out there that the slates kept off the ballot. Honestly, I can’t vote for any of these.

To mock-quote somebody: This is how I am voting in the best short story category. Of course, I merely offer this information regarding my individual ballot for no particular reason at all.

What does your ballot look like?

“The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright

I’m breaking my earlier promise not to do separate posts about works by John C. Wright, but I feel I had to get this one out of my system now and have the first Hugo category wrapped up.

Category: Short story
Published in: The Book of Feasts and Seasons, a John C. Wright collection of stories that take their inspiration from different holidays
Slates: Rabid Puppies

This review is three sentences and one image long:

It’s a religious animal fable with not much else happening than animals (and angels) discussing. Instead of a story, what we get is a piece of heavy-handed Christian message fiction, which I’m not a fan of. The Cat has few funny lines, though, and she was my favorite character.

Score: 0/10

“A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond

The Hugo voter packet was released a couple of days ago, which means that all the Hugo-nominated short stories are now available also for those readers who haven’t purchased The Baen Big Book of Monsters anthology. The book includes “A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond alongside classic and contemporary tales by writers as varied as Howards Lovecraft and Waldrop.

Diamond is also the guy behind the Elitist Book Reviews blog, so he’s actually on the Hugo ballot twice this year. “A Single Samurai” is the only short story candidate that was not backed up by Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies slate, and it only got onto the ballot because of Annie Bellet’s withdrawal.

Category: Short story
Published in: The Baen Big Book of Monsters, an anthology of monster SF edited by Hank Davis
Slates: Sad Puppies

“A Single Samurai”, unsurprisingly, tells the story of a lone samurai. He is traveling on the back of a mountain-sized kaiju monster that is demolishing everything in its way, and he intends to kill it.

I love this idea, and it’s a shame Diamond only mentions it and never gives the reader any insight into what it’s like to be on a moving mountain (if we don’t count one earthquake). The milieu feels like any standard fantasy environment, really.

On the surface level, the story is competently written, even though there’s little action and much backstory. The little action there is — a fight against monstrous cat monsters — is not relevant for the protagonist’s mission in any way, so the dramatics of the story are a bit off.

The plot moves forward slowly and ends suddenly when the samurai manages to fall into a cave and find the kaiju’s brain by accident. That was an unbelievable and contrived way of getting the samurai where the author wants him to be. The ending is also rather weird and involves the samurai committing suicide next to the kaiju brain, because, magically, that is the only way to stop the monster.

There was some promise in the story, but I would have preferred some more internal logic and making something interesting out of the whole kaiju setting.

Lastly, I’ll have to give Baen kudos for putting the whole anthology in the voter packet. There are some other stories I expect I’ll be reading later on when the Hugo project is done.

Score: 3/10

Unfisk / refisk / fisk²

The fisking of Puppy-advocate Brad R. Torgersen I did a couple of days ago has been the most read post on this blog so far. The numbers are miserably small, of course, if you compare with something a little bit more established than an obscure few month old blog with 15 posts by an anonymous kitten, but let’s just say that the miserably small reader numbers of the fisk post were bigger than the miserably small reader numbers of the other posts.

The natural conclusion is to write another one, especially now that it seems like Brad R. Torgersen hasn’t yet really learnt the things I was trying to educate him about. Instead, he published this rebuttal of a New York Review of Science Fiction editorial by Kevin J. Maroney. I don’t know the guy, but his editorial is not that bad. You can find it bolded in the quotes below.

I don’t know that I have anything particular to add to the specific discussion except perhaps to bemoan the near-total destruction of the short fiction categories this year.

Kary English “destroyed” the short fiction category? Ed Lerner too? Michael F. Flynn? John C. Wright? What and whom, pray tell, would Kevin have preferred on the final ballot? In the short fiction categories? That’s a question worth asking. Has Kevin even read any of the works? The first duty of all reviewers with integrity, is to not judge anything sight-unseen. So I am honestly curious. Did Kevin read all of the short works in the short fic categories, before employing phraseology like “destroyed” in his editorial?

I don’t know what Kevin J. Maroney has or hasn’t read, but some of the Puppy-nominated works are extremely weak, featuring bad writing, uninteresting plots, clichéd characters and the like. Some of them are not short fiction at all but novel excerpts, for God’s sake. Plenty of links to helpful reviews can be found on File 770 roundup posts for those who are interested in what people think about the stories on the ballot.

I have no idea what Kevin would have preferred on the ballot, but I nominated, for example, Matthew Kressel’s short story “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye Matthew Kressel”, Sam J. Miller’s novelette “We are the Cloud” and Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen’s novella “Where the Trains Turn”. They were all quite amazing, and, in my opinion, certainly more amazing than the Puppy offerings I have read so far. But tastes differ.

If you want to read some quality short fiction published in 2014, I recommend those three works. It would be nice to hear what Puppy readers think of those, in case a Puppy reader happens to read this. And it would also be fun to learn what other non-Puppies nominated.

Okay, there’s one point I feel I have to hammer on. The entire Puppy movement, rhetorically, is based on the idea that the science fiction enterprise has changed tremendously and not for the better, since the fabled Golden Age when all of the Puppies were young.

The sentence above alerts me to the fact that Kevin is not aware of the fact that each iteration of Sad Puppies has taken on a different flavor. Sad Puppies 3 especially, since it’s a different person carrying the guidon this year. At a basic level, Sad Puppies 3 can be accurately described as operational push-back against a small pool of taste-makers getting to decide for all of Science Fiction and Fantasy (SF/F) what’s worthy of recognition with SF/F’s self-labeled “most prestigious award.” It wasn’t about dialing the field back to the Golden Age as much as it was about using the extant democratic process to broaden the extent of the Hugo’s coverage; to include Hugo-worthy works (and authors, and editors, and artists) who’d ordinarily fall into the blind spots. And let’s be clear: the Hugo selection process in 2015 does have blind spots. Such as the consistent bias against tie-in novels and tie-in novel authors; for all definitions of “tie-in” which include, “Books based on universes originating from sources other than literary.” Ergo, games, movies, television, etc.

I think I remember reading quite a few screeds by Brad and others about dialing back to the golden age.

Here’s one example: “We’ve been burning our audience (more and more) since the late 1990s. Too many people kept getting box after box of Nutty Nuggets, and walking away disappointed. Because the Nutty Nuggets they grew to love in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, were not the same Nutty Nuggets being proffered in the 2000s, and beyond.”

Nutty Nuggets is the playful (uhh) term Brad uses for the good, un-subversive brand of SFF. The time frame of the shift in SFFnal sensibilities is a bit off, though, because I think what Brad’s actually describing in the post is the emergence of New Wave that happened in the 60s.

Now Brad is telling us that books with spaceships on the cover not being about manly space adventures wasn’t his point at all — it was about tie-in fiction not getting the trophies. He is right when he says that tie-in fiction hasn’t won many Hugos, of course. Funnily enough, the winner that most clearly can be desribed as tie-in fiction is Reshirts by John Scalzi, and if I’d have to name one work that Puppies actually hate with hateful hate, that would be it. Go figure.

I don’t necessarily think that fiction in franchise universes should be awarded with a Hugo when we can award more imaginative works of fiction, but nevermind that. Let’s assume that the thing Sad Puppies is battling is undue discrimination against tie-in fiction. There may be some excellent works of tie-in fiction going unnoticed, after all. I don’t read it so how would I know? In that case, though, one has to wonder why there isn’t a single work of tie-in fiction on the Sad Puppies slate.

The head Sad Puppy himself, Brad Torgersen, has taken to referring to his enemies as CHORFS, “Cliquish, Holier-than-thou, Obnoxious, Reactionary, Fanatics.” So, yes, the person who is bravely positioning himself as the force that will stop the people who want to change things believes that his opponents are “reactionaries.” This is, apparently, someone whose understanding of words is limited to “what sounds like an insult?”

Here again, I think Kevin has not examined the sequence of events in close detail. CHORF became a necessity once it became clear that Teresa Nielsen-Hayden (among others) was teeing up the outrage machine, in the week before the release of the Hugo final ballot in April. Why a new acronym? Because the SMOFs supporting Sad Puppies didn’t need to be lumped in with Teresa and the other SP3 detractors who were actively building their narrative of affront and apoplexy long before the Hugo final ballot went public. If Kevin dislikes insults, he should come sit in my chair for a month, and get called every name in the book. All for inviting people to the democracy — because inviting people to the democracy is apparently the worst sin any SF/F author can commit?

Later on in the post, Brad makes the case for acting like an adult in this mess. So, I guess the adult thing to do is name-calling people who disagree with you. Agreed, some of those people have also called you names, but any kindergarten teacher can give you advice on how to solve these disagreements more constructively.

Brad didn’t respond to Kevin’s point about the term “reactionary” being used for vague politically/aesthetically progressive mindset, so I’m left thinking Kevin was more or less right. What offensive acronyms the Puppies can come up with isn’t all that interesting, though.

Leading to a broader topic, I’ll point out that the Best Graphic Story category consists of four superb non-Puppy finalists. I’ve also been told the Fan Artist category is a good selection of candidates, though I’m not personally qualified to judge them. These categories mostly escaped unscathed because the slates listed only one Graphic Story nominee and no Fan Artist nominees, apparently because the Puppies didn’t deem them worthy of attention.

Ah, so Kevin’s litmus seems clear: if it was part of Sad Puppies 3, it’s bad. Everything not part of Sad Puppies 3, is superb. Again, sight-unseen? If so, that’s damned shabby of you, Kevin. And you should know better.

It remains to be seen how the SP/RP graphic story candidate Zombie Nation will do against Saga, Sex Criminals and Ms. Marvel. I wouldn’t bet on a black-and-white gag strip about zombies winning, but we’ll see what Hugo voters think about that.

That’s how this works now. There is a small community of people online who are dedicated to inflicting damage on targets of opportunity.

Yes, and some of their better-known exemplars are people such as Arthur Chu, who tried to cram Sad Puppies 3 (square peg) into GamerGate (round hole) and when it wouldn’t fit, he kept pounding anyway; to include labeling me a racist — me, the guy who’ll be interracially married 22 years this year. In this particular instance, Kevin is looking at the gun through the wrong end of the barrel.

You write an awful lot about being a victim. Actually, a good share of your recent blog posts that aren’t interviews of the various Puppy authors are accounts of being a victim, and that brought to my mind what Eric Flint was writing about modern American right’s culture of victimization.

Calling you racist may be unreasonable and Arthur Chu may be an unreasonable kind of guy. That isn’t proof of Sad Puppies being right, though. It also doesn’t prove Kevin wrong.

This group, which I think of as Panzergroup Asshole, is reactionary, virulently anti-woman, and racist whenever it suits them.

Well, again, I have to wonder: which end of the gun is Kevin looking at? I think some of the commentary of people like Chu, and others, has definitely been virulent. Or if Kevin is referring to Sad Puppies 3, I would like to see Kevin qualify the statement. With specific quotes. Kevin’s opinion is 100% fueled by the broken narrative: everything and everyone he doesn’t like (about Sad Puppies 3) is racist and sexist, because (mumble, mumble) and therefore (reasons, reasons) and because Kevin isn’t friends with anyone who disagrees with him, it’s an open-and-shut case.

Kevin is quite clearly referring to GamerGate, not Sad Puppies. As far as the Puppies are concerned, Sad Puppies are quite insignificant, because Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies is the slate that swept the ballot. With Vox Day, you don’t have to read between the lines to find the reactionary, anti-woman and racist stuff.

Their tactics include online harrassment in a variety of forms, identity theft, death threats, exposure private information, SWATting , and whatever else they can do without actually leaving their chairs.

To repeat myself in triplicate: which end of the gun is Kevin looking at? Nobody on Sad Puppies 3 has been harassing anyone; though some of the people on Sad Puppies 3 — and myself and Larry Correia in particular — have been harassed a great deal. Maybe I should uncork my little screenshot store of all the nasty, petulant, histrionic, mean-spirited, false, slanderous, and downright disgusting things which have been said against Sad Puppies 3, the contents of the slate, myself, Larry Correia, and many others? Kevin’s right, about people being jerks. I just don’t think he realizes (based on the above) who the actual jerks have been.

Kevin still isn’t speaking about you and your Sad Puppies, and being called names on the internet still doesn’t make you right, even if you have the screen captures.

GamerGate is just one instance of PA, a cadre of PA wrapped in a protective layer of the clueless and the easily duped. The ideas are dumb; the threats are real and terrifying. And if there is one lesson that Panzergroup Asshole wants to convey, it is to live in terror at the possibility of attracting the attention of Panzergroup Asshole.

Okay, my knowledge of GamerGate is limited, because I am not a gamer in the way that people (in this decade at least) identify as gamers. Most of my video games I like, are all old. And I don’t put much time into them these days, because whatever time I don’t spend doing military duty or my civilian job or family stuff or church stuff, is dedicated to writing books and stories for publishers like Baen, Analog magazine, and so forth. But even I can tell that Kevin’s image (in his mind) of what GamerGate is, is so one-dimensional, that it’s almost not worth considering. Kevin is saying “GamerGate!” the way he might say “Klu Klux Klan!” and it’s because (again) there’s nobody in his life (I infer from the nature of his editorial) to disagree with him, or give him a fuller picture. GamerGate (at this point) is so big, complex, convoluted, and replete with various “sides” that to simply spew “GamerGate!” and think that’s the end of it . . . demonstrates no depth of knowledge on the issue.

Everything that actual living people are involved in has various sides and is complex. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure that Klu Klux Klan had various sides and was complex. That’s no excuse for racism and lynchings, however, or bombarding Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu and Anita Sarkeesian with rape and death threats, or doxxing them, or driving them out of their homes, or producing games where you beat them to death et cetera et cetera. That’s what some enthusiastic GamerGaters have been doing.

They are terrorists — they want people, especially women, to be so afraid of drawing attention that they just sit silently.

Golly, you mean like one of Arthur Chu’s minions, who tweeted a fake bomb threat against an establishment where people were hanging out to talk about GamerGate and Sad Puppies 3? Like harassing the establishment’s proprietor with asinine text messages all day long? Now, I am military, so to me a “terrorist” is someone like the Tsarnaev Bros. Guys who literally kill people. I avoid dumbing down “terrorist” because there are literal killers, and then there are people who just like being dicks on the internet.

And when it comes to being dicks on the internet, I think the anti-SP3 (and anti-GamerGate) sides (fuzzy, diffuse, partially overlapping Venn circles) win it going away. Why? Because they believe that being self-righteous flaming rage nozzles (of tolerance!) somehow gets them off the hook for having to behave like rational, adult human beings. Zealotry — even well-intended — has a history of going off the rails. So let’s be totally clear about the nature of the actual problem here. Especially when Sad Puppies 3 was wholly above-board, demanded nothing, threatened nothing, and played clean. We invited people to the democracy. The end. All else is merely rhetorical masturbation.

I’m pretty sure that if Brad got to know one single prominently visible feminist and thery compared notes, he would come to the opposite conclusion about which side is winning the being dicks on the internet contest. Not that it really matters. There are dicks everywhere and dicks are just dicks.

The Puppies deliberately sought the attention of GamerGate. They gathered monsters around themselves and said, “Here is a target which you should attack, because it does not give enough honor to the right kind of people.” And they attacked.

Again, GamerGate (as a label) encompasses so many different people, parties, sides, etc., that I can only speak about the folks who’ve contacted myself, Michael Z. Williamson, Sarah A. Hoyt, etc. That would be the Honey Badger Brigade. Who were spendidly nice to us (on the podcast) and who were all very intelligent, thoughtful, flesh-and-blood human beings who simply wanted to be able to have fun and enjoy what they want to enjoy, without having their recreation politicized by zealots who seem obsessed with “wrongfans” having “wrongfun” according to (mumble mumble crackpot academic theory mumble mumble activist jargon axe-grinding mumble mumble.) The Honey Badgers weren’t monsters. They were like us: tired of being told we’re bad, simply because we won’t fall into line with the doctrine and the ideology being pushed by the zealots.

It would be nice to get one single example of a person who has ever stopped a “wrongfan” having “wrongfun”. Brad spews these terms around at regularly, but there’s never anything substantial there to back it up. “Wrongfans” are quite safe, I think.

I mean, Anita Sarkeesian has pointed out, with clear examples, that a number of videogames have some sexist aspects to them. That’s not censorship or prohibiting “wrongfun” or whatever. That’s just stating the facts — there are games that can be described as sexist. And what’s happened to her? She has been attacked extremely brutally by GamerGaters because (mumble mumbe wrongfan mumble mumble GTA mumble mumble wrongfun mumble mumble). Such nice people.

The Puppies have a number of advantages in their fight. It is easier to attack a broad target than to defend it at every point.

Hey Kevin, is that why you seem to think GamerGate and Sad Puppies 3 are not only indistinguishable, but whole-cloth terrible? Down to the last man and woman? Because you think it’s wrong to attack broad targets?’

Much of the society works on assumptions of commity and reciprocity that the Puppies simply eschew. They don’t care what damage they cause as long as their ears are filled with their own cheers.

Yes, which is why (if you go to the comments section of any of the well-attended anti-Puppy blogs) there is such an echo chamber (cough, excuse me) community of diverse (cough, monocultural) thinkers! Because the only people cheering their own, are the Sad Puppies. Or are we GamerGaters? At this point I’ve had “GamerGate!” spewed at me so often, I think I should just print up a copy of the Vivian James artwork (wherein she’s holding a sad puppy) and say, “Fine, fuck you. If I have to choose the Honey Badgers, vs. some self-righteous zealots who don’t even know what they’re talking about, I choose the Honey Badgers 20 times out of 20.”

Well, why would you have to choose between a nerdy Men’s Right group that has a history of getting kicked out of a convention for bad behavior and “self-righteous zealots who don’t even know what they’re talking about” in the first place? And who those self-righteous zealots are? Arthur Chu? All people who point out, with evidence, that some video games’ representation of women leaves something to be desired? People who don’t like that Vox Day can utilize block-voting tactics to hijack the entire Hugo ballot in many categories?

And even if it is impossible for them to “win” — whatever that might mean — they can still cause a lot of damage even while losing every battle. If the Hugo Awards are left a smoking ruin in their wake, what’s it to them?

The only real way I see the Hugos being a “smoking ruin” is if the CHORFs fulfill their stated pledge to bork the 2015 awards by placing “NO AWARD” at the top of every category; thus no awards will be given. This will be an entirely self-inflicted wound (by the so-called devotees and cherishers of the Hugo) because clearly you have to destroy the village, to save the village. I mean, that’s just good common sense. If you love a thing and think it’s awesome, you absolutely must obliterate it — to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. Because this is what open minds and open hearts do. They destroy something they claim to love, so that something they claim to love can be kept pure. Because the “wrong” people must never be allowed to have it the “wrong” way.

If there is any other way to leave the Hugos a “smoking ruin” this year, I haven’t thought of it yet.

All I know about smoking ruins is that if that’s to happen, Elric the Prince of Ruins will be pleased. Frankly, I don’t think that anything is truly lost in either case. A Puppy-sponsored work getting a Hugo is not the end of the world and there have been weak winners in the past (and maybe all Puppy-nominated works aren’t that weak). No Award winning means that the majority of the Worldcon voters didn’t enjoy the works on the Rabid Puppies slate (plus the two or three additions that Sad Puppies managed to get up there on their own) and/or they weren’t ready to give in to a campaign of tactical voting, and that’s fine too.

I wonder who are the “CHORFs” Brad’s talking about there. Kevin J. Maroney hasn’t been suggesting that you should vote No Award over everything, slate or not. Neither has Teresa Nielsen Hayden, or Steve Davidson, or Anita Sarkeesian, or John Scalzi, or Karl Marx, or Barack Obama. I’ve been following the discussion rather closely and I remember reading one single blog post in which someone said that the voters should do a blanket No Award thing, and I think nobody was very keen on the idea.

Brad, is it possible that you’re exaggerating?

This is not to counsel despair. But we need to be aware that the battle against the arrayed forces of assholery will, at times, be unpleasant to watch and wearying to fight. But the fight is genuinely important, and it won’t win itself.

—Kevin J. Maroney
speaking for himself

Thanks for the pep talk, Kevin! I agree with you wholeheartedly! The Forces of Assholery have been trick-or-treating at my virtual doorstep for 45 days and counting. They’ve smeared me, smeared my family, smeared my friends, and smeared Sad Puppies 3. Again, clearly the way the Forces of Assholery save the thing they love and cherish, is to be complete pricks to whoever they feel like, whenever they feel like, badger and threaten and cajole and shun and shame, all that good old fashioned 12th century village stuff. Torches and pitch forks! Tie them to the stake! Burn them! Infidels!

Or maybe “your” side needs to just settle down and vote on the ballot like normal?

That’s what the rest of us adults do — even when we aren’t thrilled with what’s on the ballot.

And when we decided to actively promote things we liked more, we did it 100% clean and for the public eye.

Again, did you even read the short fiction categories, before editorializing?

Or are you so in love with the broken narrative, that you can’t step beyond that particular sandbox, and look at the bigger picture?

Even leaving aside the obvious criticism of slates in an arts award vote, 100% clean is an interesting way to coin this one. There’s this wonderful Google Docs document that details how open and democratic the process of putting together the Sad Puppies slate was (short version: not very).

And let me state just one last time that whatever the Sad Puppies did, it’s not that important. Brad keeps on acting like a winner when in fact Sad Puppies didn’t win. Nominating statistics that are available at this point show that Vox Day swept the ballot and the things we have to read now are his Rabid candidates. His slate suggested nominating everything “precisely as they are”, and calling that 100% clean is 100% false.

“The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn

Category: Novelette
Published in: Analog
Slates: Rabid Puppies & Sad Puppies

“The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn is a sword and sorcery story without the sorcery part. It is situated in a post-apocalyptic world or on another planet where there are legends about arriving human spacecrafts and such, but the technology level is close to that of the Roman empire.

The main character is an adventurer who has been adventuring in some earlier Analog story as well. He isn’t terribly interesting in any way, and nothing of interest happens in the story, so I was left wondering what was the point, really. There’s some military training, sword-fighting and snappy dialogue that is meant to be smart-ass (I guess).

I didn’t enjoy it at all and have trouble seeing why it’s on the ballot.

Score: 1/10.

“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart

Category: Novelette
Published in: Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, a magazine edited by Edmund R. Schubert
Slates: Rabid Puppies & Sad Puppies

“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” tells a story about a human colony on the planet Alluvium. Humans have been conquered and occupied by a race of spacefaring kitt… er, lizards, who have strange customs when it comes to dealing with the dead. The gist of the novelette is that burying a dead human makes the lizards very upset, and thus a dying man who plans his burial manages to shake things up. It’s an intriguing proposition, but the story itself felt quite dull.

The plotting would have needed some more work, even if the story is decently written. There’s just too much talking heads to keep me intrested. Now the whole story was about the dying guy’s friend finding out what it was all about, but the really interesting part would have been what happens next and what further complications there will be. It’s frustrating when a story fails to focus on the most interesting aspects of its proposition.

Rinehart could also have explored the tensions between humans and lizards in more detail. Now the whole occupation situation seemed quite artificial. Even though humans’ bitterness for the situation is mentioned a couple of times, it felt very superficial and unrealistic. Having read a couple of books about Palestinians, it seemed to me that this story lacked the desperation of people living under occupation in the real world. It was hard for me to get immersed in a storyworld that was this artificial.

This is the first story published in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show I’ve ever read, so it’s something new to me, at the very least. Card’s personality may scare off some people, but apparently he doesn’t really control the way the magazine is run day-to-day, so discarding everything that IGMS publishes because of the publisher’s views on gay marriage (“it’s the end of democracy in America”) or something like that is perhaps not a very sensible position. (Judging by Edmund R. Schubert’s own Hugo withdrawal post, Card’s name on the title is a same kind of disadvantage for the magazine as L. Ron Hubbard’s name is for the Writers of the Future contest.)

Knowing practically nothing about the magazine (you have to subscribe in order to read it online), it’s hard to say if the novelette does a good job at representing the kind of fiction that IGMS publishes. There’s a sample issue online for those who are interested, in addition to the Hugo-nominated story itself. After reading Rinehart’s piece, I’m not strongly inclined to give the magazine a go, because the story didn’t blow me away. However, it’s well possible that the Puppies failed to pick the best story that IGMS has to offer.

Score: 4/10

Even if this story didn’t really convince me, I’d like to add here Gray Rinehart has produced some interesting stuff, like this quite reasonable Hugo mess reaction post and this Larry Correia-inspired folk ballad: