Seasonal listening: Autumn and Winter

I’ve always been a very seasonal listener. I am not sure why. Certain music just “fits” with certain times of the year, and not at others. Probably because I happened to hear and enjoy a particular piece (or group) during a particular season, thus the experience and the season become intertwined. This is undoubtedly strange, as I am not sure I’ve ever known anyone who is seasonal about his music choices, like I am. Certainly my wife is an anytime, anywhere listener. A fact which has made me grit my teeth on occasion. “No, no, no! Tears For Fears is summertime! You can’t play Songs From The Big Chair in January. That’s madness!” Naturally, she just smiles and turns it up louder. So I go on about my business, nevermind the fact that what’s rocking on the living room stereo is against all seasonal music logic.

Out here in Deployment Land, seasonal music is more important than ever before. Because where I am at, there are no seasons. There is merely insufferable heat and humidity, followed by not-so-insufferable heat and humidity, with occasional days of, “This isn’t so bad . . . at midnight, when the breeze is blowing from inland.” There are no mountains. Nor anything that grows, really. It’s beige, and it’s flat. Once every three months, it might rain. A little bit. And I doubt there’s been any snow in this part of the world since before the end of the last Ice Age; if even then.

So, I retreat to my headphones, and thank the Lord for MP3. Troops of past eras were stuck with Armed Forces Radio, or whatever vinyl was spinning at the (then, equivalent) MWR. Or, if you go back far enough, no music at all.

Ours is a time of technological wonder and luxury.

My tastes tend to be somewhat eclectic — these are my dozen-plus “stuck on an island” choices, for this time of the year.

The Year Without Politics?

Everybody seems to hate it when Christmas decorations show up in the stores before Thanksgiving. Me? I hate it when we’re talking about the next U.S. Presidential election a full eighteen to twenty-four months away from the actual poll date. I mean, come on, seriously? Methinks this particular election (and this particular office) is literally blown out of proportion. The President is not — or at least shouldn’t be — an all-powerful individual who can make sweeping changes in a mere four years. What Congress and the Senate do actually has more impact on our day to day lives. So how come we’ve been rolling with the Election ’16 media frenzy since January of ’15?

Honest to goodness, I am sick of it. I am sick of the whole thing. Especially since nobody being pushed by either the media or the two big parties really gets me out of my seat right now. The only guy who got me out of my seat lately, was Romney, and before that . . . Perot. So obviously if I feel myself getting excited by any particular candidate, there’s a good chance (s)he’s gonna lose anyway.

My Facebook friends have also noticed that I am dialed up extra-cranky about the cultural Chekist infestation that’s plaguing social media right now. I was prepared to launch into a lengthy tirade about the whole schizophrenic mess, but (irony of ironies) Bill Maher did it for me!

Now, nobody can accuse me of fondness for Maher; he’s far too much of a raging anti-theist. But I think he nailed it right between the eyes with his Halloween 2015 commentary. It really says something when a chap like Maher is going off on the Politically Correct. His point at the end is especially apt. It’s something I’ve been saying for awhile now: the cheap “virtue” of internet slacktivism, is no virtue at all. It’s just self-righteous no-effort self-huggies for people who don’t want to break a sweat, nor get their hands dirty. You want to make the world better? Get off the damned internet and go do something that takes work. Otherwise, you’re not helping anyone, or anything.

Which takes me to Sad Puppies — or, rather, the people who fought against Sad Puppies with every fiber of their being. Because when the Hugo awards went off-script, it was literally a catastrophe so terrible and great that the Puppy-kickers pulled out all the stops to challenge Lord Vox in the Ritual of Desecration.

Me? Sad Puppies burned up my political fuel on a personal level. It’s one thing to pay attention to and argue about politics on the national scene, but Sad Puppies was both heated and contentious, and it took place right on my doorstep.

Certain people thrive on that kind of stuff — they eat political fights for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It gives them energy. Not me. I find politics draining. I felt (and still feel) it was worth it. But the baton has passed to others — and I am fully confident that Kate, Sarah, and Amanda will carry the banner high, and acquit themselves handsomely. If the vitriol they face is anything like what I faced last time — and there are plenty of indications that it will be — I am glad they are tag-teaming between them! In the words of Emmett (from Silverado): “You’re in it now, and it’s gonna get mean.

Which reminds me of an anecdote I once heard, about the glory years of the Soviet Union — before the world found out about all the horror that was committed by the Soviet state. It was said that Lenin (perhaps also Stalin) were so fully steeped in politics, that they even dreamed politics. For them, the Soviet Revolution was not just a waking thing, it was front and center in their unconscious lives as well.

Frankly, I find that notion more than a little creepy — and it may explain part of the reason why the Soviet Union (as happens with all Marxist states) turned out to be such a grotesque train wreck. Those men literally lost themselves to their political obsession — and innocent people suffered and died as a result.

I look at the social media agit-prop spilling across my screen every week — plenty of stuff that would make Lenin and Stalin smile — and I want to just . . . switch it all off.

The CHORF war against all things canine will continue whether or not I drop dead next week. The Republicans and the Democrats will keep playing flag football for the White House, with the media acting as one-sided referees. My social media feed will continue to be populated with high-volume, low-density blather about how Bernie, Hillary, Ted, and Ben, will all ruin the world — unless good people rush to stop them! It’s a state of perpetual crisis, fostered by the pols and the lobbyists and the activists and the fanatics, who want us forever teetering on the edge of a fearful abyss — lest we go back to thinking life is actually okay. People who aren’t in fear, can’t be maneuvered to do things the activists and the pols want us to do.

So, consider this my one-man vote against the politicization of everything over the next fifteen months.

Do I care about the election? Sure. Do I care about Sad Puppies? More than ever! And I will be cheering for Kate, Sarah, and Amanda! They’re going to have their hands full.

But this coming year . . . I am going to devote my full attention to things much closer to home. Being on the other side of the planet (from loved ones) has reminded me in a big way how lucky I am to be able to wake up every morning and have my wonderful little family. By the time I get back to the States next year, my heart is going to be very, very far away from the hollering and shouting. And I may just keep things that way. Again, politics are draining for me. I talk about them because I feel I have to, not because I want to. And right now, the “have to” is being displaced by a very strong desire to just let the typhoon pass over me.

In other words, this motherf***er needs a dandelion break!

Feeling their way to The Force?

Have you seen the latest trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII? (Of course you have!) Beyond the delirious joy of seeing Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Leia Organa return to the big screen, I was left with a question that’s lurked in the back of my mind ever since I saw the original three Star Wars films over 30 years ago: in the absence of a Master, how does a Sith or a Jedi discover his or her aptitude for the power?

Now, I know the Expanded Universe books have tackled aspects of this question, but from a pure film standpoint, we’ve never seen the question addressed directly . . . until now?

Kylo Ren (red warbly crossguard lightsaber = immediately bad!) and Finn (pleasant blue lightsaber = immediately good!) would seem to be the first new Dark and Light Force users to arise since Luke Skywalker himself — who is conspicuously absent from both the latest trailer, and the official movie poster. Barring some kind of reveal (entirely possible) the operating assumption is that both Kylo and Finn are “feeling” their way into their roles, as users of the Dark and the Light sides of The Force. (Leia Organa appears to have remained a muggle by choice; again, barring a reveal.)

Presumably this is similar to how it all happened in the first place, for the very first Force users, way back in the history of history. Somebody had to be first.

But if it’s possible for Kylo and Finn, why not lots of other people? The small percentage of Force-sensitive sapients in the Star Wars Galaxy would not have diminished dramatically due to the events of either the original movies, or the events of the prequels. Only known Jedi were slaughtered, not potential Jedi. And while the Emperor seemed to be seriously stingy with his delegation — Sith are fantastically few and far between — the Jedi order had no such restriction. Hell, they formalized their education and set up a damned school, and a council, and everything.

So, what triggers a Force-sensitive person into exploring his or her (its?) abilities? And how does this exploration differ from what we saw Luke go through? And why aren’t the Force-sensitive popping up all over the place, playing little parlour tricks on the muggles of the galaxy? Just because they can? The movie subtitle is, The Force Awakens. Did the death of Palpatine and then, Vader, cause some kind of cosmic Force shockwave that dimmed or diminished The Force for a period of years?

Again, there is what the EU says happened, and there is what the new film is going to establish.

I know, I know overthinking it; and without much evidence to go on, either. But when has this ever stopped Star Wars fans from speculating? (grin)

What does the Bible have in common with William Shatner?

Two pieces crossed my desk this week, each of them tangentially connected to the other. Both of them discuss what I’d call the more unfortunate side-effects of adult fannishness. In the case of the one, the article-writer is essentially complaining that adults who were born in the 1970s and 1980s have so thoroughly coopted kid culture, that today’s kids are kinda getting squeezed out of the picture. Everything that used to be made explicitly for kids, has been all-growed-up and is now pitched to an explicitly adult market: video games, comic books, TV cartoons, etc. It’s a billion-dollar consumer party, and kids — anyone below the age of 16 — aren’t necessarily invited. The other article-writer engages in no small amount of self-praise because of the fact that he’s skipped paying bills and even skipped buying food, so that he has enough money to attend his favorite science fiction convention(s) — because you’re not a real fan until you’ve suffered and sacrificed for your street cred. It takes the maniacal dedication of an aesthete to make a fan (mundane) into a Fan (caps-f).

Now, I am the last guy in the world to jump up on the “You’re doing it wrong!” soap box. I generally say, hey, whatever floats your boat, it’s your life — you go ahead and live it.

But not paying bills? Not buying food?

I think 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 has something to say about all of this:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

I’ve had enthusiasms all my life. Just about everybody does. Such as rooting for a favorite sports team. Or loving a favorite movie. I’ve also let some of those enthusiasms go, simply because I haven’t had the time — all-growed-up! — to keep pursuing them. Like scale model airplanes. From age 9 through age 16, my bedroom was festooned with replica fighters and bombers. In my late teens and early twenties, I switched over to scratchbuilding starships from the Star Trek universe. But even that hobby took a back seat, as the demands of being a responsible adult increased. Taking on two careers (civilian and military) followed by, eventually, three careers (batcave job: author) meant making choices about where to devote my time. And this was on top of having a marriage and a family to look after, including church responsibilities.

But at no time did I ever fool myself into thinking that a mere enthusiasm should take priority over real world commitments and necessities.

Look, everybody scripts her own existence. No one person’s life is ever going to be lived exactly like any other person’s life. This is the beauty of free agency. But being a free agent doesn’t mean having a free pass from adulthood. Paying the bills and putting meat’n’taters on the table are so basic, so completely fundamental, they shouldn’t even be part of the discussion. This is rudimentary maintenance stuff, like brushing and flossing. If you actually have to decide whether or not you’re going to buy groceries and pay your power bill, versus spending that money on a convention . . . I’m going to gently suggest that not only is this not noble, nor does it elevate you above others, you in fact may have a serious prioritization problem that goes way beyond the silly hubris of declaring yourself more-fannish-than-thou.

Meanwhile, I do think my generation (we’re crossing into middle-agedness now, oh noes!) and the generation after mine, have a legit problem with extended adolescence. All over social media lately, I see people joking, “I had to go out and adult today!” or “I can’t adult today, I just don’t have it in me,” Where adult is a verb meaning, “Doing the unpleasant chores of the real world, which all grown-ups have been forced to do since the beginning of time.” Which is really kind of sad, considering the fact that most first-worlders live lives of astounding convenience and luxury, compared to their great-grandparents. We live much longer, we generally don’t have to worry about diseases like polio, and many of us sit in comfortable chairs behind comfortable desks, only having to log eight hours a day, a mere five days a week. Yet we talk as if this is a nigh-unbearable burden — a psychically crushing and existentially soul-destroying purgatory. Because reality won’t let us follow our bliss every waking minute of every day, all week, every month, each year.

I suspect our generational clinging to the loves of our childhood — comics, video games, cartoons — is a coping mechanism. And coping mechanisms can be good, so long as “coping” does not become synonymous with avoidance in actual practice. Real life doesn’t go away. In fact, the more a man avoids real life — escaping into his enthusiasms — the larger the problems of real life loom. In past eras, men who couldn’t deal, typically descended into pointless violence, or crawled to the bottom of a bottle, or simply ran away; abandoning wives and children. In our era? Adults who can’t deal may find themselves utterly lost in an enthusiasm, such that real life is just an annoying distraction. The enthusiasm itself becomes a replacement for reality — a secondary, preferable world. Could be a MMORPG. Could be the convention circuit. It doesn’t matter what the thing is. When the thing becomes more important than fundamentals — paying bills, taking care of yourself, and also taking care of family — you might have a problem. Dare I even say, a serious problem?

Now, lest I be accused of being a fun-hater, I want to emphasize that I am not saying we should all dump our enthusiasms and live a completely hairshirt existence. But I believe there’s got to be balance. And I do think there are times when we — all-growed-up, in body if not in spirit — have to put away childish things. At least until we’ve successfully reckoned with real life to the extent that we can plop down in that mythic beanbag chair, pull out the video game controller, and enjoy some well-earned R-and-R; knowing that the bases have all been covered.

I also think we can afford to let some things remain kid-friendly. We don’t have to drag every single damned thing we loved when we were kids, forward into our disillusioned middle age, where the sunshine of youth gets clouded over by the grimdark of maturity. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed Cartoon Network productions such as Regular Show, Adventure Time and Chowder so much, is because they work for my daughter as well as they do for myself and my spouse. The jokes, the situations, the references, all of it operates at two levels. Which, if you think about it, is also true for much of the classic animation of yore. Example: the Looney Tunes shorts were originally written and produced for adult theater-going audiences. Not Saturday morning cereal viewers.

Regardless of whatever sort of balance each of us strives to achieve, it’s important to remember that the total universe of enthusiasms is an egalitarian universe. You like football. I like basketball. Somebody else likes baseball. You like Skyrim. Your friend prefers World of Warcraft. I prefer my throwback video game from twenty years ago. You attend a lot of conventions. I attend a few conventions. Our mutual acquaintance attends none. And it’s all good. As long as people are taking care of the fundamentals — doing what needs to be done for house and home — I think it’s no-harm, no foul.

The problem is when things get out of balance. When an enthusiasm becomes an obsession. When we get so caught up in our formerly childhood passions, we take over the landscape and crowd out the real kids. When we begin to depend on others to take care of our fundamentals for us, so that we can remain distracted by the alternate world of our formerly healthy diversions. And — last, but not least — when we mistake our out-of-balance obsession for proof that we’re better than the merely “normal” people who’ve managed to successfully keep one foot planted in the real world, while also being actively engaged in the fun of their choice.

And yes, I know, you can’t say stuff like this without making somebody angry — that’s expected. This is the internet. You can’t talk like this, and not make somebody on the internet flamingly mad at you.

My answer to the angry folk?

Let’s go back to the question I first posed: what does the Bible have in common with William Shatner?

Both of them tell us to get a life.

The will to work the struggle of America

If ever anyone asks me what it means to salute the Stars and Stripes, this piece (starring actor Geoffrey Lewis) is how I respond.

Because It’s not about Republican or Democrat; these things are not America. It’s also not about a specific physical location; the American Experiment raises its banner in every part of the globe. Nor is it about conservatives or liberals, libertarians or progressives; these are merely labels for ideologies that morph over time, until they are almost unrecognizeable from one era to the next.

It’s about a single idea: that people are created free. And that this freedom is worth both blood and treasure; the necessary investments to ensure that liberty is not extinguished from the face of the earth.

“The will to work the struggle of America,” indeed.

Sweating. Pushing. Bleeding. Dust on our brows. Two steps forward, one step back. Warts and all.

Do you need your friends and relatives to be perfect, in order to love them?

No. You love them because they’re worth it.

That’s exactly how I feel about the United States.

Tyranny of the Safe

We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men. — George Orwell

Here is a quick but very good piece. Read it, then come back here.

We must not allow ourselves to become a Tyranny of the Safe. You can have intellectual latitude, or you can have intellectual comfort. But you cannot have both. Larry Niven was 110% correct: there are minds which think as well as yours, just differently. Silence the other minds, and you will ultimately find you have silenced yourself. Because any rules you install today, are guaranteed to be abused by your opponents tomorrow. The mob you join in — to metaphorically encircle and burn the homes of the “wrong” people — will encircle and burn your home eventually. Commanded reverence — for an institution, an idea, or a demographic — begets simmering contempt. And the harder you push and punish, the more you use threats and pressure, the more obvious it is that your concepts cannot endure objective criticism.

This is no laughing matter. If we snuff out the Enlightenment, for the sake of protecting ourselves from hard truths, it might be a very costly fight — to right the foundering ship.

In the United States specifically, generations of men and women have sacrificed greatly so that our core liberties are protected. Vast sums of blood and treasure have been expended so that freedom remains the singular telos of the American enterprise. It’s not been a perfectly-steered course. Plenty of mistakes and unfortunate blunders along the way. I suspect we’re witnessing another series of such blunders in our present era — when too many children of comfort and ease, manufacture for themselves the “right” to never be exposed to anything which might upset them emotionally. Tolerance is therefore made to mock itself. Manners and decorum are twisted into one-way cudgels of conformity. A secular church of restricted words and concepts — replete with saints, sinners, a doctrine, an identitarian moral heirarchy, and an Inquisition — is attempting to establish itself in our hearts.

You know my answer to all of that.

Stay irreverent, my friends.

Emmanuel Goldstein is leaving the building

Approximately 20 years ago, my wife decided to run for school office at the little 2-year college where we were enrolled as students. Despite pulling a full class load and working full time — we both were — she was motivated to try to get involved in student politics, because she was sick and tired of how the bookstore was being run. Long story short: my wife won the office, and she did get the bookstore fixed. Some people still remember her for that, many years later. But the most remarkable thing to me was that my wife had haters. People who detested her. And these weren’t just a few people. These were a committed, organized set of really nasty haters from a satellite campus. Totally vindictive. They worked very hard to be complete dicks to her. She only wanted to help make a difference — which she did — but it didn’t stop people from reviling her.

Near as I can tell — even all these years later — these individuals felt like she had cut in on their turf. These were people who had previously regarded student politics as their arena, and when she sort of swept into things — an outsider on a mission — this really, really hacked some guys off. She hadn’t asked for the right permission. Or maybe she hadn’t kissed the right rings? Anyway, she left office when it was done, and while she was rightly proud of having made a difference, both of us remarked on how crazy it was that a student office job could garner so much political bile and rancor. This wasn’t even municipal stuff. Nor state government. It was a 2-year college. Maybe a few thousand people in the whole place, tops. But you’d think her name was Obama or Bush for how she got some people riled up!

I find myself remembering that episode of our lives together, as I slowly take off my Sad Puppies 3 sportcoat and hang it up in the closet.

Now, I can never retire from Sad Puppies in the public eye because the dedicated opponents of Sad Puppies won’t let me. But my period of active pugilism in what has been an eye-opening Hugo award season, is concluded. They might still kick at the dog, but can you really kick a mutt whose collar has been left empty on the chain?

I wanted to make some notes on this, just because I’ve got some observations about the whole thing. From the inside looking out. These are not pro or con Sad Puppies arguments. These aren’t about the Hugos. These are notes on the experience I’ve been through. One I volunteered for gladly.

1) It was surprising just how much like the movie Mr. Smith Goes To Washington the whole affair turned out to be. If you’re not familiar with the movie, watch it this week. It’s one of Jimmy Stewart’s more remarkable performances. I won’t spoil the outcome of the film for you, but I experienced some identifiable parallels to events that take place in the story.

2) No matter how much of a Nice Guy you actually are, or think you are — your friends swear by it, your family swears by it — once you step into the political arena, your opponents are going to tar and feather you. The stakes could be so low, they don’t exist. Small ball. The Hugos certainly qualify as small ball. Much smaller than a student body office. But if the people who’re opposing you believe you’re threatening their turf or their control or their egos or maybe they simply think your taste in ties sucks, they’re going to pull out all the stops to make sure the world knows what a cretin you are. My wife experienced the same thing. Now we have another experience shared in common.

3) Nothing occurs in a vacuum, and everything is a potential source for controversy, either real or invented. Which demonstrated to me exactly why real politicians never, ever apologize for anything. They don’t dare. You apologize for something — even a minor slip — and you’re toast. The opposition will swoop in and use your apology as an admission of guilt! You are every bit as terrible as they’ve been saying you are! This demoralizes your supporters, and gives the opposition free ammunition. You wind up finding yourself caught between trying to navigate as an ordinary person who enjoys the benefit of the doubt, and a political player who will never, ever be given the benefit of the doubt. I always wondered why no politician is eager to “be the bigger man” in our national U.S. elections. Like we always want them to be. And this is why. I found it both enlightening, and incredibly disheartening. No wonder national politics is a joke. The forces compelling our real politicians, are a thousand times more powerful than anything I dealt with. And they have party people pushing them hard.

4) The media — and the counter-media — see you as fodder for advancing their narratives. I’ve been talking to reporters and media people of various types for seven months. I was only ever interesting to anybody because I could help them tell the story they wanted to tell. Not the story I wanted to tell. The story I wanted to tell usually wound up on the cutting room floor. Now, in some cases — especially with the conservative counter-media — I didn’t mind too much. I agreed with what they were saying in most instances, and I was thankful for the coverage that helped me more than it hurt me. Because the negative coverage was plentiful, and too often I found myself offering the opposition-friendly press a pint of myself, for them to merely use a few drops; and then only if they felt it spun the way they wanted it too. Which was always against me and what I was fighting for.

5) To that end, the opposition-friendly media will lie about you. Now, I’ve seen this done to professional politicians and political people hundreds of times, on all sides, but you never quite get the full monty until you become the object of the lies. It’s a dizzying thing to discover yourself having become the object of provably false claims, but the era of the internet has allowed untruths to spread like kudzu. And you all know how hard it is to get rid of kudzu. Plant a cutting in May, and the shit has taken over your whole street by September. I am thankful for those few media voices who tried to set the record straight. But my faith in the media overall, is gone. And I don’t see it ever coming back. All I can think now is, “Good gravy, how much more terrible would it have gotten if I’d actually been campaigning for something of real importance?”

6) Not everyone who claims to be a friend, is a friend, and not everyone who seems like they might be an opponent, is an opponent. All the “fluff” friendships will dissolve on you, the instant the water gets hot. People hate being connected to people who are being made the object of anything controversial, because the controversy will spill over onto them; or they will disagree with your stances and use the controversy as an escape hatch to depart the relationship. Meanwhile, some “friends” use you for what they believe to be gains in their own arena of interest, which you may or may not have the same feeling for. As with the press, some people truly do have ulterior motives. I’ve said it several times — people are hard. Relationships are hard. People you thought were solid, turn. People you never intended to be drawn in, get drawn in anyway. People who seemed fine with being drawn in, decide its too uncomfortable, and bail out. Then turn. Of all the experiences I’ve had during Sad Puppies, this is the one that taught me the most about who I am, and who other people are. I consider myself wiser for the fact. Definitely there were some fuckups in here — both ways. And I am sad to have watched some relationships die. But I am also happy for some unexpected relationships which have also blossomed in seemingly the most uncompromising soil.

7) The point for some people, is to merely make you so frustrated or angry, that you say or do something rash, and then they’ve got you. I consider this to be an Alinsky Rule, from the “Rules for Radicals” playbook. But it’s a bipartisan practice. Push the other guy until he’s steamed, watch him do or say something dumb, and then ride out the event for all its worth. Milk it for damage! Of course, this is doubly true for anyone you’re in league with — even if you have little or nothing to do with the individual. If people believe you’re the same, then in their minds, you are the same. Protesting merely convinces them you’re trying to cover up. Again, more shades of Alinsky tactics. Of all the things I experienced, this is the one that really got me angry on numerous occasions. Because it was like drowning in quicksand. The more you thrash, the more you sink. And as noted above, apologies just make it worse, because apologies are instantly exploited for maximum damage. Which means “being the better man” is like drowning for the sake of decency.

8) Everybody is an armchair quarterback and everybody knows how you should be doing it better. Yup. Plenty of that to go around, especially since I — as the novice pol — was learning by doing. Frankly, I am surprised things didn’t go completely off the rails at any number of junctures. I am fortunate that the solid friends I do have, were there for me. I am also fortunate to have enjoyed some benefit of the doubt from the Honest Opposition, who were not committed to total personal destruction. Maybe those who paid attention can learn from my blunders? They will have to divine what they believe those blunders were. I know the mistakes I think I made, and the mistakes I think I made, aren’t always the mistakes other people think I made. And of course, the committed trolls think everything I do and say is always a mistake. See again: never being able to say you’re sorry.

9) Speaking of the trolls, there is no tactic too low that people who believe you must be finished at all costs, won’t stoop to it. Yup, saw plenty of this too. It didn’t matter that we’re only talking about a cashless prize with dwindling value in the marketplace. This was the Hugos! This was bloodsport! For those who regarded it as bloodsport, it became a take-no-prisoners affair. Which merely exacerbated many of the prior facets of the experience, especially the straining and breaking of friendships, trying to figure out how to navigate a world where there is no benefit of the doubt, and also trying to stay focused on your actual principled goals, while the trolls hurl red herring after red herring.

10) Doing this “part time” is not recommended. I have three careers. I did not realize in January I would be embarking upon a fourth career that would actually endanger the others; both literally and figuratively. But once I stuck my hand in the air and volunteered, I was in for a penny, in for a pound, and I am not the kind of guy who quits just because things get hard. In fact, you might say I am the kind of guy who thinks, if it’s not hard, it’s not worth doing. And running Sad Puppies 3 was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life! It’s also one of the things that’s taught me the most about myself — Brad, the guy inside — and what I really believe, what I really stand for, and what I am able to stand up under, when things get uncomfortable. To include all my own mistakes.

11) Nothing worth doing, is ever done without a toll. I’ve paid out a lot in this thing. My friends — the real friends, who have been my shoulders of support in this — know the gritty details. My only recommendation for anyone looking at this and moving forward on their own potentially political road, is to be sure you understand clearly what your principles are when you start out. Because there will come many instances when you are bleeding and people are turning on you all over the place, and you are wondering why, and you will need to remind yourself of the “what” — the reason for the whole damned thing in the first place — and you will need to be sure. If you can’t be sure, you’re going to be paying out for nothing. I would not recommend paying this kind of toll for nothing.

12) You can’t control the fact that you have enemies, you can only try to make sure that they are the right enemies for the right reasons. I remember when my wife came home, bewildered, that afternoon when she first realized just how bad the opponents on campus had gotten. She couldn’t understand it. She wasn’t a threat to them at all. Or so she thought. But it didn’t matter how much she tried to mend fences or make offerings of olive branches, the enemy hated her guts. All she could do was push forward and focus on why she’d gotten into student office to begin with, and she succeeded handsomely. I do hope that of the committed enemies I’ve made — the men and women who now make it their business to spite me personally — that the dividing line between them and me, is values. It’s pretty evident that a wide gulf seperates me from the opposition; on perceived objectives. There was an Honest Opposition, because not everyone on the opposition side became an actual enemy. Only some did. And of those who did, I think it’s because my values so utterly clashed with the values of my enemies (and vice versa) that the matter was irreconcilable.

Nothing more need be said

From first-time Worldcon attendee Michael A. Rothman, who brought his boys along to see what Worldcon and “Fandom” was all about.

See his original Facebook comment here.

I took my kids to WorldCon to expose them to Fandom and I’ve consciously shielded them from any of the politics of the kerfuffle associated with the literary “sides” that were in play.

When we attended, we had good seats and they were excited to see if some of their choices would make it.

Let’s just say that my boys ended up being exposed to some of their categories being utterly eradicated from eligibility due to this thing that I’d shielded them from.

They couldn’t understand why their short story choice evaporated into something called “NO AWARD.”

As I briefly explained, the audience was cheering because of that decision and the MC made a point of saying that cheering was appropriate and boos were not.

My kids were shocked.

Shocked not by not winning but by having an entire category’s rug being pulled out from under it and then having all the adults (many of which were old enough to be their grandparents) cheering for something my kids looked at as an unfair tragedy.

I’ll admit to having feared this outcome – yet this was my children’s introduction to Fandom.

We are driving home and they are of the opinion that they aren’t particularly interested in this “Fandom” thing.

I find that a great shame – and I blame not the people who established the ballots to vote for (for my kids enjoyed a great deal of what they read on the ballots), but as my kids noted – they blame the ones who made them feel “like the rug was pulled out from under me.”

I’d offered Fandom my boys – my boys now reject them.

And yes, the picture below is just before us walking to the Hugo ceremonies. They’re excited about it all. I just find it a pity that they didn’t feel anything other than bewilderment and bitterness toward the people in the auditorium after the ceremonies.

Science fiction’s so-called True Fandom throws women under the bus

Toni Weisskopf got 1,216 first-line #1 votes. Arguably the most of any editor in the history of the Hugo awards.

Sheila Gilbert got 754 first-line #1 votes. Again, second only to Toni, arguably the most of any editor in the history of the Hugo awards.

By contrast, Patrick-Nielsen Hayden won a Best Editor Hugo in 2010, with just 140 first-line #1 votes.

2011 saw Lou Anders take a trophy with 207 first-line #1 votes.

2013 gave yet another trophy to Patrick Nieslen-Hayden with 209 first-line #1 votes.

Now, because of the way the Australian ballot works, the person with the most first-line #1 votes is not always the winner. But that’s usually the way to bet. Whoever gets the most first-line #1 votes is almost always the winner.

Except for this year.

I would like this noted somewhere that a biased media hack or a vengeful troll can’t blot it out: 2,500 people from science fiction’s so-called True Fandom throws women under the bus.

Toni and Sheila are the two most-voted editors in the history of their category. Nobody has ever gotten 1,200+ and 700+ Best Editor votes, respectively. Not for short form. Not for long form. That’s historic. A win for women! Right? Wait, no. Its not. True Fandom ruined it with NO AWARD. Yup. The tolerant and inclusive True Fandom. The people who want science fiction to be a safe place for women. Until True Fandom throws those women under the bus.

Mark it in your minds, friends. Remember it. Know the truth of it. The people who parade their inclusiveness and their tolerance, threw THE MOST-TANGIBLY-SUPPORTED EDITORS IN THE HISTORY OF THE HUGO AWARDS, under the bus. By 2,500 people. To make a point. Women who have given decades to the business, got thrown beneath the wheels because people wanted to be right more than they love this field.

Deserving women. Under the bus. By True Fandom. The defenders of Hugo awards purity. Paragons of tolerance. Brave defenders of diversity. They threw women. Under the bus. Wheels. Under. By Trufen.

They cheered when it happened. They CHEERED when Toni and Sheila went beneath the bus.

Not that this is new. Remember what they did to Jean Rabe? I do.

Women. Under. Bus.

A democracy is only as good as its numbers

Michael Rapoport — from the Wall Street Journal — contacted me to ask me if I would be willing to offer any immediate thoughts on the results of the 2015 Hugo awards, which are being given out in Spokane tomorrow. Because I don’t know how much of anything I say to the media will ever actually make it to print, I wanted to put here what I essentially told Michael:

I am 10 hours ahead of the U.S. West Coast. I am also working 12-hour afternoon-through-evening duty shifts. the Hugos will be announced when I am off-duty, and asleep in my trailer. I won’t know the results until long after the fact.

Because people will be gloating and/or gnashing their teeth (alternately) I’ve not been much inclined to make any after-the-fact statements. My “job” with this thing, finished the minute the door shut on the voting.

But I want to re-emphasize something I told WIRED magazine’s Amy Wallace: it doesn’t necessarily matter who wins or loses a Hugo award this year, as much as it matters that participation keeps increasing.

This year there were a record number of memberships, and a record number of ballots cast. This is very, very good. A democracy (any democracy) is only as worthwhile as those who keep their end up by actively participating. Past Hugo voting has tended to be remarkably anemic. Sad Puppies has changed this significantly — for two years running. If the participation (beyond 2015) declines, the Hugos are diminished. If participation grows, the Hugos mean more. That’s the real bottom line (in my book) and it goes way beyond which “side” can construct victory narratives.

So, that’s my statement.

Speaking personally, I am definitely rooting for people to take home trophies. Especially some of my professional associates who have labored long and hard in this industry for many, many years, and who finally got their shot at the award because more fans decided to put their money where their mouths were. I can’t guarantee any of those pros will win. But then, that’s been part of what makes this year so interesting: all bets are off. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. It’s a huge point of speculation.

Not knowing what will happen, is also very healthy in a democracy. It encourages people to keep having their say, because they believe their voices will count.

I’d like to think this will become a feature of the Hugos — the unknown! — for years to come.