Monthly Archives: September 2015

Listening to Radicals

I’ve spent the last few weekends gathering blueberries, raspberries and blackcurrants which means that I’ve had some nice hours of podcast listening time.

There were some interesting author interviews here and there from Samuel R. Delany to Ernest Cline that I hadn’t had the time for until now, and I also tried listening to some audio versions of Clarkesworld short stories. Others were enjoyable, but all of them didn’t work so well for me in that form. Especially the ones that did something interesting with language and/or storytelling were harder to make sense of if you have to occasionally pay some attention to the berries as well.

When I ran out of other interesting stuff, I listened to Hugo radicals from different ends of the Puppy-Kitten spectrum.

Turns out that being outside, breathing the fresh air and doing something useful was the perfect setting for it. In another context, the more toxic radicals would have had a potential for making me sad or angry or both, but the calm environment and having something delicous to eat all the time kept my blood pressure where it should be.

In general, I do think radicals are fascinating despite (or because of) the fact that they are unreasonable and simplistic by design. There’s some tragic, undeniable charm in being uncompromising and unhappy (ever met a happy radical?), speaking one’s mind and not giving a shit about what other people consider sensible opinions.

Who are the radicals in SFF, then?

On the Puppy side, it’s not difficult at all to find some outrageous opinions. The whole movement is founded on views I consider outrageous: their dogmatic (pun!) principle #1 seems to be that past Hugo winners who happen to be female or belong to minorities won only because of affirmative action mindset — and all the rest write boring message fiction as well, because frankly quite un-messagey action fiction writers John Scalzi and Charles Stross got almost the same number of nominating votes in 2010 or whatever (not to mention anything about the sinister WRONGFUN-HATING WRONGFAN-HATING CHRIST-HATING TOR-LOVING CRUSADERS OF SODOM, SCUM AND VILLAINY DISEMVOWELER GULAG NAZI CHORF MARXIST SJWs).

They’re certainly unhappy and definitely radical, but they mostly stick to writing and haven’t managed to put out podcasts apart from the few Superversive SF live streams. Those do deliver a sort of all-star Puppy crew, though, including Puppy authors John C. Wright and Lou Antonelli, Wright’s wife and the ultra-conservative superversive ideologist L. Jagi Lamplighter, SP4 organizer Kate Paulk, Reactionary Christian Sci Phi Guy Jason Rennie, notable Gamergater Daddy “I Know More About Gamergate Than Any Living Person” Warpig and others.

In one of the Superversive SF streams, Antonelli made the infamous revelation that he had told the Spokane cops to keep an eye on Worldcon Guest of Honor David Gerrold, and I’m not sure that even actually made it to the top five of most blatantly irrational stuff that was said on air during the show. In other words, the atmosphere tends to get quite epic. In addition to that stream, I recommend the three-hour Hugo Aftermath episode in which they discuss the results, get many things wrong (“thousands of votes were discarded because of the 25% rule”), glorify Gamergate and rustle their tin foil hats.

Finding an unreasonably militant anti-Puppy podcast to mirror the Subversive SF discussions is not easy, but I settled for Shabcast 3. In the episode, Phil Sandifer, Andrew Hickey and the host (whose name I didn’t get) discuss the Puppies’ efforts, call them fascists and end their 100-minute podcast with “Fuck the Fascists!”, “¡No pasarán!” and the Woody Guthrie song “All You Fascists”. During the course of it, two of the three guys (if I remember correctly) recommends voting for No Award in all Hugo categories to protest the Puppy sweep — something that didn’t really materialize. The shabcasters go through a load of offensive Theodore Beale and John C. Wright quotes and bash nerd culture as a whole from politicized left-wing perspective.

They paint with the infamous broad brush, just as the Puppies do, but I think their stance makes somewhat more sense to me and I found myself nodding in agreement with their reasoning on several occasions. They’re quite radical and over-the-top in some places, and definitely fail to distinguish between “reactionary fascist followers” of Theodore Beale and honest fans of classic Analog-style SFF (which is a subgenre I have very little interest in myself but I’m still sure it has its own enthusiastic readers). As unreasonable as they are, the shabcasters’ outbursts do give some food for thought which makes the episode worth listening to in case you’re not allergic to radicals.

The one thing I agree with them most about is that nerd culture has, despite nerds’ delusions of being apolitical, some obvious politically conservative underpinnings. You only have to listen to Ernest Cline enthuse about getting on an X-Wing Starfighter and shooting aliens to get some useful context for the claims of Sandifer and his pals. Not that I think that Cline’s evil or anything — I’m happy he honestly discusses the way he sees things and I’m sure he’s a great guy and a good writer (judging only by Ready Player One which was a good novel with a bland ending, in my opinion).

Getting back to Sandifer’s radicalism for a moment, I have to say that his views about not having to read the stuff that he is going to nominate for the Hugos are as bewildering to me as the Puppies’ perspectives. Actually, now that Sad Puppies 4 spells out quite explicitly that you should read the stuff you recommend and also asks that people provide a sentence or two about why they think the work is great, Paulk, Hoyt and Green appear a tad more sensible (even though I still feel that their nomination campaign will hardly lead to anything constructive).

So, it’s been a busy month. My berry-gathering energies have been used up in the bushes and my political energies in volunteer work for refugees arriving in EU and in some protest stuff against cuts on welfare, education and workers’ rights that the government has been suggesting hereabouts. That means I haven’t had the time for obsessing about either flavor of SFF radicals too much, which is probably for the best. They’re still great stuff and highly recommended for quirky entertainment purposes.

For something more serious reading, here’s a couple of links to important things that SFF authors are have said:

Edit 12/9: Added the last para and the two links that I first forgot to put there.

My first (seven) reactions to the surprise announcement of Sad Puppies 4

4 reasons to pet the Puppies:

1. Tone

The Puppy organizers Kate Paulk, Sarah A. Hoyt and Amanda S. Green have written things that I consider stupid, hateful and obnoxious, but the Sad Puppies 4 announcement was phrased very un-obnoxiously. Civility is a nice thing.

2. It’s not a slate, really

Listing more works than one can nominate for the Hugos and stating up front that one should read the stuff before suggesting it are good and play down the slate aspect.

3. No more shady correct taste comissars

With Sad Puppies 3, Brad Torgersen had a somewhat similar nominee suggestion phase (that had humorously few participants). After that, though, he ditched most of the stuff people had suggested and went on with the things that were written by his chums. There will be no more of that, it seems.

4. Focus on MOAR

The Puppy trio has promised to focus on participation instead of ideological screeds. It remains to be seen if that is a promise they are able to keep.

3 reasons to prefer kittens:

1. Hijacking Sad Puppies 4 is child’s play

Hugogeddon2015 made it very clear that there are a lot of people who just love to troll and cause damage in SFF fandon. About 500 Rabid Puppies were ready to pay the membership fee in order to get to vote the way their leader told them. Messing up Sad Puppies 4 is a lot easier, plus it’s free.

2. Why does this have to be about the Hugos at all?

Compiling this (possibly huge) recommended reading list would be an interesting experiment in and of itself. I don’t see any reason why it has to be connected with the Hugos. I mean, the Locus Recommended Reading list is a little bit similar mega list, but that is not constructed as a catalogue of great stuff you can nominate for the Hugos — it’s a catalogue of great stuff you can read and enjoy. Why not do something similar here?

3. Why would Hugos need primaries?

Sad Puppies 4 is — if it works the way that the organizers say it should — a sort of preliminary election about what works are popular enough to be on anybody’s Hugo nomination ballot. I’m not convinced that something like that would increase the voter participation in any way.