Monthly Archives: June 2015

Jeffro “GURPS-disadvantaged people ruin SFF” Johnson

Category: Fan Writer
Blogs on: Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog & Vox Day’s Castalia House
Slates: Rabid Puppies & Sad Puppies

Reading Jeffro Johnson was an interesting and even SFFnal experience. I mean, one of the most enjoyable aspects of science fiction and fantasy is that it has the capacity to offer alien experiences and viewpoints.

Most likely I disagree with Jeffro Johnson on a wide range of topics, but unlike the three Mad Genius Club bloggers who are competing with him for the Best Fan Writer Hugo, Johnson makes a better job at explaining his views. He is also mainly interested in science fiction and fantasy instead of waging a culture war against “social justice warriors” which is more than a welcome change after wading through the polemics of Dave Freer, Cedar Sanderson and Amanda S. Green.

The most striking thing that put me into pondering mode was actually only an offhand remark about George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. Johnson opined that only “a freak show can result” if you have as story’s protagonists “a bastard, a dwarf, a cripple” et cetera, and it is this feature that makes Martin’s epic message fiction.

For me, that’s very alien (and thus fascinating) logic. I always thought that having characters “with the equivalent of a hundred points or more in GURPS disadvantages” makes the Song of Ice and Fire world more realistic and enjoyable. Every living person I know is a constellation of unique disadvantage points if you want to use those terms. Martin manages to bring that real-life complexity to fantasy and renders much of the epic fantasy that came before him unbearably obsolete as far as the characters are concerned.

There are other aspects in his work that one can certainly object to, but I consider characters one of the strengths of Song of Ice and Fire. Johnson disagrees and is disappointed when, for example, “a rather touching origin story” is given to a repugnant character (The Hound, in this case). Conversely, I have always had trouble with suspending disbelief when people seem to already be chaotic evil when they emerge from their mothers’ wombs, so to speak.

So, in general, Johnson and I like different kinds of stories (he likes, God forbid, Rzasa’s “Turncoat”). However, he manages to enthuse about the exact same part of Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber that I found most compelling: the protagonist blinded and being thrown into jail for years (and the emotional significance of cigarettes). It was nice to notice some details such as that.

Too bad Johnson’s main focus is on role playing games — which is a field I’m not terribly interested in and have no clue as to whether his insights are revolutionary or not — and being nostalgic in a way that dismisses most modern SFF. Still, it’s a nice read and he may be able to beat No Award if I’m in a good mood when I send my votes in.

Score: 6/10

Kitten/Puppy Dialogues (on America)

I got another angry response from another Puppy supporter — or I believe he is a Puppy supporter, because he writes about “your side” which is “losing”. Couple of points made me smile wryly, so I share the whole thing here.

Originally, this is a response to my rather unenthusiastic review of the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier by somebody called Lord Darque.

Feel free not to allow this to actually show on your blog. I would hate to disrupt your safe space as this is just intended for you.

Oh, I don’t really mind people attacking me and my arguments when they have something interesting to say and/or when they do it nicely.

But holy fuck are you annoying. Its funny when you first appeared on Brad’s blog I thought that maybe you had a couple of IQ points. I thought even though you were firmly on the other side of the fence you were maybe someone who could be reasoned with.

You try very hard to miss the part about being nice here, but let’s go on. Maybe you should reconsider your stance that people who disagree with you politically or aesthetically do so because they are less intelligent, though.

But I get it now. You are just filled with hate. Did some man treat you badly? Some scum convince you that all men must be put down for the good of all? I am sorry about that. But he was one guy not all men.

Well, here we have some hasty conclusions, I have to say. In my opinion, Captain America is a boring, one-dimensional (well, I did claim he is zero-dimensional, but I’m not sure if that’s possible) character. Therefore, you seem to think, I also want all men put down. There’s a logical leap I don’t quite follow. I also don’t think you should do too hasty conclusions about what my gender is, because you know nothing about it.

But let’s dissect your statement a bit further.

What I’m actually disliking here is a Hugo finalist that was not on either of the two Puppy slates you’re probably promoting. In fact, I believe Captain America: The Winter Soldier was plugged by some actual, outspoken feminists, such as the smart and wonderful Book Smugglers Ana and Thea. For the record, I don’t think they are in league with the imperialist patriarchy there. Rather, they and I have a somewhat different taste as far as superhero movies are concerned.

I have every reason to believe that the Puppy-supported Hugo finalists Lego Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy and Interstellar will all be better, even though I haven’t seen the first two of them yet. What I know of them so far seems promising. A Puppy supporter criticizing me for this seems odd.

Are you sure you aren’t an undercover Kitten on some shady false flag operation? I mean, putting all men down? What is that I don’t even.

The simple fact that you cannot understand Captain America says it all. He stands for everything the USA was founded on. All those quaint ideals that people have lost sight of. The things people like you claim to stand for but really don’t.

He stands for the idea that everyone deserves to be respected. He sacrificed his chance at the life everyone takes for granted in order to make sure the way of life the USA represents would continue.

In my history books, the idea USA was founded on was not having to pay taxes for the British. Captain America, on the other hand, was a patriotic superhero developed during World War II in order to tap into the wartime zeitgeist. It was Timely’s (Marvel’s predecessor) most popular character during the war, so I guess they did a pretty good job with it.

But it’s always interesting to think what superheroes do stand for. At the end of the day, they are people who take the law into their own hands, operating outside all political and democratic control. I have a hard time seeing them as embodiments of any high ideals, really. I mean, haven’t you read Watchmen? One can certainly make the argument that there are some fascistic undertones inherent in the superhero genre if you really want to draw the Nazi card out of your sleeve.

Let me tell you about the future. Your side has lost and will continue to do so. You should root for the Nazis because you have a lot in common with them.

I’ve made my own predictions about how this culture war is going to end — as a matter of fact, I believe it has ended already. I suggest we just go ahead and vote on the Hugos according to our own personal judgement so that we can get finished with it. Afterwards, we can hopefully drop the talk about different sides and the culture war rhetoric and go back to being enthusiastic fans who are fanatic about the things we like.

The Shittiest Unrelated Drivel in the History of Hugo Awards — Michael Z. Williamson: Wisdom from My Internet

Category: Best Related Work
Slates: Rabid Puppies & Sad Puppies

This. Was. Shit.

Moreover, Wisdom from My Internet is hard evidence of the fact that there were at least 200 sheer, hundred-percent, honest-go-god trolls sending in nominating ballots. It’s a collection of supposedly humorous, bad to reprehensible tweets with no SFF content whatsoever and — let’s face it — it’s on the ballot to piss off anybody who voted for Kameron Hurley last year.

The time I had to use to write these three sentences is all I’m going to devote to discussing this drivel.

Score: 0/10.

Groundhogs in Battle Armor: Edge of Tomorrow

Category: Dramatic Presentation: Long Form
Slates: None

You can’t flop very hard with big guns, space monsters and a repetitive time travel storyline à la Groundhog Day. You can even put up with Tom Cruise’s acting.

Edge of Tomorrow, adapted from Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel All You Need Is Kill, may not stand a change in the Hugo race, because Interstellar was made the same year — and that’s arguably one of the best (if not the best) SFF movies of all time. Still, it’s an enjoyable science fiction film with good storytelling and interesting characters.

There are some silly things in the plot if you really want to push it. The dead aliens’ ability to reset the day and the fact that it can be temporarily transferred to a human who is in touch with the fluids of a dead alien (until one has a blood transfusion) is quite far-fetched. The romance plotline was as heavy-handed and clichéd as you would expect from a Hollywood movie. But so what? There’s time travel, big guns and space monsters.

I watched this back to back with the boring-as-hell Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and it’s quite obvious that director Doug Liman found considerably better use for the 170 million dollars that both films cost.

Score: 8/10

The Bondesque Superhero Action of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Category: Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form
Slates: None

Here’s a list of Captain America’s superpowers:

  1. Being strong.
  2. Being good.
  3. Being irritating as fuck.

Was he out taking a piss when they handed out personalities in the Marvel universe? Was he helping elderly women cross the street? Was he in a boy scout meeting? Whatever happened, that zero-dimensional bore is the reason I didn’t enjoy these two hours of senseless superhero violence, which is a shame.

Iron Man has a problem with booze, at least. Hulk has rage issues. Cap’s got nothing.

Come to think of it, Captain America: The Winter Soldier wasn’t science fiction or fantasy at all. It was a generic action thriller with some futuristic props. They could have thrown Captain America out and put James Bond in and nobody would have noticed. At the very least, Bond would have done a better job at flirting with Black Widow.

All Captain America is good for seems to be posturing and telling everybody what’s the moral thing to do (in addition to throwing his shield around which looks sillier in movies than in comic books). I almost rooted for the comically sinister Nazis.

Score: 4/10.

Faux Famous Writer’s Memoir: Letters from Gardner by Lou Antonelli

Category: Related Work
Slates: Rabid Puppies & Sad Puppies

Lou Antonelli’s Hugo-nominated memoir and short story collection hybrid Letters from Gardner: A Writer’s Odyssey documents his writing career. Antonelli’s short stories are published alongside feedback by editors, the most important of them being Gardner Dozois who is the Gardner mentioned in the title.

The most — and, sadly, only — interesting aspect of the book is its format. Reading a book such as this by some very famous writer would be fascinating in its own right. I am thinking of people in the league of Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Ursula K. Le Guin or William Gibson. I would love to know how their careers began and how they became the superstars they are today. With lesser-known authors, you’d need something remarkable in their personal behind-the-scenes accounts or the editing cycles that the stories have gone through to make a book like this work. And this Antonelli fails to deliver.

After reading the nonfiction parts of the extract that’s available in the Hugo voter packet, I can’t say that I know Antonelli any better than before I opened the pdf. He doesn’t tell a single detail about himself, his life or his thoughts that would arouse my curiosity. It’s a detached account of what he has written and then sent to which editor, peppered with self-congratulation over how good he is with dialogue, because he has worked in a newspaper.

The book is filled with typos and other proof-reading mistakes which is actually a bit ironic, given that this is one of his valuable tips for new writers:

When you submit, make sure you’ve not overlooked the practical aspects of writing, such as proper formatting of your manuscript (or at least formatting it to meet the standards of your market). Proofread carefully. No editor shoves aside a story for one mistake, but they will when typos proliferate. It shows that you’re careless—so why should the editor care?’

All in all, it’s not a Hugo-worthy book in my opinion.

Score: 2/10

Kitten/Puppy Dialogues (on Pizza)

In the comments to the last Wednesday’s post titled Answering Peter Grant, a Puppy supporter called Xephon has been vocally criticizing me for several things I’ve said. The arguments in his/her first few short comments made little sense to me, so I thought the discussion was going nowhere, but then this lengthy account landed on the comment section.

I’m still unconvinced, but Xephon brings up some points I want to respond to, and because this is going to take up some space, I’ll rather do it in a new post.

puppybite

What I’m complaining about is that I made it clear in my first comment that I neither support Beale nor would consider any criticism directed against him to be excessive, and yet you mention him in every comment, insistent on drawing connections between him and everyone who is on the SP slate or supports what they are doing. He is nothing more than a bandwagon-jumper who has seized the reins for his own gain.

I can’t argue with your assessment of Beale, there. However, the reason he is mentioned when discussing Gallogate and Tor boycott is very simple: he orchestrated it (for his own gain, of course). He released the screen capture of Gallo’s comment a month after it was posted, manufactured the outrage and managed to get Peter Grant and others on board. That was his scheme and — if his goal was to get more visibility in the Puppy movement — it worked.

The sickening truth is that the anti-Puppies need Beale more than the Puppies do. He’s done nothing for my side except stir an increasingly rancid pot. Those of us who have distanced ourselves have learned that we are wasting our time, because all we hear from the other side is, “because Vox Day”. You need him to be your bogeyman, the focal point for your opposition. If he didn’t exist, someone would have invented him.

One of the funnies recent developments in the discussion around Hugos is that the second you mention Theodore Beale/Vox Day, somebody charges in and accuses you of “because Vox Day” fallacy. It sure is an interesting variant of “playing the ‘Playing the Hitler Card’ card”. Let me state once again that Beale’s Rabid Puppies slate swept the Hugo ballot. Your demand that everything related to him should be removed from the Hugo discussions does feel a bit odd — especially when we’re talking about his boycotts and other schemes.

Another thing I’d like to state again is that all Sad Puppies don’t buy into Day’s bigoted lunacy and I’ve never suggested that they do. Many other people have said exactly the same thing, but all I’m seeing is the sea of “Playing the Hitler Vox Day Card” cards.

A week before the Hugo nominations were announced, a pizza parlor in Indiana came under attack when the 62-year-old wife of the owner told a reporter her husband’s business wouldn’t cater a gay wedding.

Glossing over the absurdity of having a pizza parlor cater a wedding, the wave of hatred directed against this business was horrific. Its website was hacked and filled with porn. The owner and employees were harassed by phone, mail and in person to the point where they had to close the business. A HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER tried to mobilize a mob to burn the place down – fortunately the school board she worked for found out about before she got too far. The owners and several employees had to move out of their homes. A family lost its livelihood and twelve people lost their jobs.

All that over one comment.

One. Comment.

That’s a disheartening story. Too bad you missed the happy ending: they raised nearly a million dollars and re-opened. Nobody lost their livelihood over one comment.

What’s this story’s relevance to the Hugos, then? Irene Gallo made one single comment on Facebook (as the pizza parlor people did) and Beale gets his minions as well as many onlookers calling for a Tor Books boycott (as the anti-pizza people did). In the end, luckily, that amounts to nothing. Tor Books gets overwhelming support and can keep on serving their tasty pizzas.

(To be fair, I can’t say that I support a law that allows discrimination based of religious beliefs, but I don’t live in Indiana, so my support doesn’t matter one way or the other.)

When the Hugo nominees were announced and the first wave of hatred against the Sad Puppies started, it all seemed like deja vu to me. I’d bet money Beale noted it too, realized how easily enraged people of a certain political persuasion could be, and exploited it. He wanted to strike back as WSFS for kicking him out and the people who hated him happily played along and continue to do so. They actually managed to make a vile, toxic egomaniac look like a victim.

I can’t say that I agree with you. Calling vile, toxic egomaniacs on their vile toxicity is a reasonable thing to do, and everybody who really mistakes this particular egomaniac for a victim has some serious issues with reading comprehension.

Look, if you’re opposed to slate voting, Sasquan’s website had documented a proposal to change the nomination process. A nominating voter can only nominate four choices per category and the shortlist will have six nominees per category. This sounds to me like a sensible method to prevent a sweep in any category. Forget Beale and put your support behind that. But I guarantee, human nature being what it is, if the SP/RP nominees have any success in this year’s Hugos, then next year, EVERYBODY will be using slates – including a lot of people who have spent the last two months working themselves into a froth about how they “ruined” the Hugos. I’m working on getting more people involved in nominating and voting. The larger the voting pool, the more difficult it will be to “game”. That is the part of the Sad Puppies’ goal that I support.

I am opposed to slate voting and there is indeed a rule change proposal I’m supporting — E Pluribus Hugo. That makes sure everybody’s nominations are taken into account and small minorities (whether they’re Puppies or somebody else) can’t make sweeps by voting tactically anymore. The thing I’d really like to see is some more reasonable Puppies supporting that, too, so how about helping us out a little here? It’s a fair system, after all, and I thought fairness was what you wanted.

The “4 and 6” proposal would simply mean that a small but organized bloc of tactical voters could take two thirds of the slate instead of 100%, and I’m afraid that’s not enough for me. Furthermore, in that system, two competing slates of, say, 20% of voters each would easily take the whole ballot, leaving 60% with nothing, because the votes are distributed among such a vast number of works. E Pluribus Hugo is clearly the best way to go.

puppybite2Given the outrage that gaming the system caused this year, I think it’s very unlikely that there will be any Happy Kittens slates in 2016. If there were, very few authors would allow their works to be on a slate, in case they’re given the chance to refuse. Hopefully, Sad Puppies 4 will run into the same sort of problems and the slatemakers are forced to abandon it or feature only the most militant right-wingers.

Reaching out to more voters, decreasing the supporting membership fee and making the system less byzantine with confusing categories are things I think WSFS and Worldcons should be doing, so we’re in agreement there.