Fisking the broken narrative

Someone forwarded me a copy of Kevin J. Maroney’s editorial from the April New York Review of Science Fiction. I don’t normally read Maroney’s column, and I don’t even normally read NYRoSF, but some of Maroney’s commentary screams BROKEN NARRATIVE at such a high decibel level, I thought it might be worth it to examine some of that commentary in close detail. The quoted blocks in italics are Maroney, while the standard text blocks are my own.

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?

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 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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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?

Posted in General Science Fiction & Fantasy, Sad Puppies 3 | 442 Comments

Musings, not necessarily sorted

I’ve noticed that some people (who were opposed to the Sad Puppies effort) are actually reading the contents of the Hugo final ballot, and are shocked to discover that a) some of the work really is Hugo-worthy, and b) none of it is the product of bigoted, evil, white, hateful male minds.

Golly, I am pretty sure the point of Sad Puppies 3 was to make the final ballot more inclusive, not less. Didn’t we say that? I’m pretty sure we said that. More, not less. Big tent, not small tent. Nobody can tell anybody they don’t belong. Isn’t that what I personally have been banging my pot about for years now, even before Sad Puppies came along?

Oh, SP3 pointedly criticized affirmative action — which makes demographics paramount over content and quality — but then we’re allowed to criticize tendencies (and political policies) which make what a person looks like, or what a person has between his legs, or who that person likes to sleep with, more important than that person’s skill, talent, drive, integrity, and work ethic. I guess I am old fashioned in that I still take Dr. Martin Luther King’s words to heart, regarding content of character. They are timeless words. Because King clearly understood that for any group to rise above the obstacles placed before it, everything boils down to the unique dignity and quality of the individual.

And that’s what the Hugo award is supposed to be about, right? Isn’t that what the purists have been so concerned with, these past six weeks?

Now, nothing SP3 actually said or did stopped the clownish bum rush (at the beginning of April) to paint everyone and everything attached to Sad Puppies 3, like we were all KKK, Westboro Baptists, and Hitler, rolled into one demonic entity. But then, that specific angle of falsehood said far more about a particular crop of critics, than it did about SP3. Those people knew they were spreading a lie, and they did it deliberately, and they didn’t care. Even when the lie was shown to be a lie, for all the world to see.

I am glad there are readers who are willing to let the works on the ballot do the talking, as opposed to a stupid narrative.

And let’s be clear: the narrative is stupid. That Sad Puppies 3 is sexist, racist, etc. It was stupid when it was concocted. It remains stupid. It was stupid the second Entertainment Weekly stepped on its own tongue, after being spoon-fed an uproariously amateurish and error-festooned hit piece, by parties who have no regard for facts, and who were eager to smear Sad Puppies 3 and everyone associated with it. Those individuals involved in the concoction and dissemination of the narrative are utterly without scruples, and also without spine, in my opinion. But then, cowardice is something I’ve noticed is in no short supply in the field of literary SF/F these days. Just look at how we (in the field) run around in a tizzy trying to be “safe” from ourselves.

Speaking of people demanding “safety,” it’s occurred to me many times lately that the so-called Greatest Generation — born in the Depression, coming of age by defeating Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, standing off with the Stalinist Soviet Union, and putting men on the Moon — wasn’t fantastically concerned with being “safe” in the way the word is used today. In fact, no great and memorable thing was ever accomplished by any civilization that put “safe” at the top of its priority list. Slavery was not ended by men who wanted to be “safe” and neither was Jim Crow. Boat people fleeing communist Vietnam or Cuba did not put “safe” ahead of their desire to be free. It seems to me that the more we think we can trade off liberty, for security, the more Ben Franklin will be proven right: we’ll get neither. So, be “safe” if you feel like it. Just don’t try to be taken seriously; as a grownup. Being a grownup is about principles. And risk. And the weighing of the two. Err too far on the side of avoiding risk, and you will discover that the principle has been forfeited.

On that note, Larry Correia and I both recently sent some signed contracts back to Baen; for our next books. A few of our critics (of SP3) made a lot of dire noise to the effect of, “You’ll never work in this town again!” I think it’s safe to say that Larry and I are thankful to be working with a publisher who correctly understands the balance — principle, vs. risk. As always, it’s a pleasure to be publishing with a company that truly does (in the words of bestseller John Ringo) understand how to find and print a rip-roaring good story. Because that’s what this whole thing is about in the first place. That’s what Science Fiction & Fantasy was always about: the rip-roaring good story. For all definitions of “good” that include, “Keep the audience coming back for more.” Notice I did not say, “Keep the critics happy,” nor did I say, “Please the aesthetes who sit on their thrones of taste-making.”

To repeat myself: bold tales, told boldly. That’s the mission.

Not that I expect this sentiment to be shared by individuals who’ve made it their job to kick out the “wrong” fans for having the “wrong” kind of fun while enjoying the “wrong” sorts of SF/F.

Right now there are two hazy movements working hard to change the Hugo award. They overlap to a certain extent, but their net effect might be the same. The first wants to vote “NO AWARD” on everything that made the 2015 Hugo final ballot the “wrong” way, and the second wants to change the voting rules (for the future) so that the “wrong” people aren’t allowed to participate in the creation of the final ballot, much less vote on the award proper. For these two groups, their final destination may be the submerging of the Hugo and Worldcon altogether — because you can’t run a big tent while actively erecting barriers to entry and participation. People will go elsewhere. Devote time and money to other things. That’s already been true for decades. If the reaction (of Worldcon, to having the actual world come into the tent) is to pitch a fit and kick people to the curb, then I think it’s a prime example of the old adage: be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

Worldcon’s relevance — indeed, the relevance of the Hugos — was already tenuous. Sad Puppies has been an attempt to change that. Not everybody thinks it’s been a change in the “right” way. A lot of people are clearly wrapped up in Worldcon being a specific kind of place for a specific sort of person who likes a specific range of things produced by a specific group of individuals. Small tent is, as small tent does.

It’s an art argument. It’s a taste argument. It’s a political argument. And it’s a culture argument.

Sad Puppies 3 looked at the argument and said, “Goose, it’s time to buzz the tower.”

And again, for a field that endlessly writes stories about mavericks who cut against the grain, break the rules, go against tradition, defy authority, push against the status quo, etc., it’s kind of amusing to see so much hand-wringing and apoplexy when someone actually comes along and shakes things up. Especially when the shake-up was conducted 100% in the open, democratically, using a democratic process. There was nothing secret being done. Nothing underhanded. No hoodwinking was engaged in. All of it was above-board. So that the chief source of outrage — when you cut down through all the miles of rhetorical bullshit — seems to be, Sad Puppies 3 is terrible because Sad Puppies 3 was effective.

I think George R. R. Martin is right: if you want to change things in a democracy, you get out the vote. Sad Puppies 3 got out the vote. So much so, we’ve got complainers crying about how it was the “wrong” voters with the “wrong” intentions, etc. Okay, whatever. In a field that produces thousands of books every year, and tens of thousands of stories, how the heck does an author or an artist get any traction with an award? Simple: put the word out, or have buddies and fans who put the word out for you. Up until now, the “right” people were putting the word out, and then Sad Puppies comes, and we’re accused of being the “wrong” people who are putting the word out? Who gets to decide when “putting the word out” is right, or wrong?

Better yet, who gets to decide who the “wrong” and “right” voters are?

Because I can tell you — based on mail — that every time a snob or a purist or an ideological opponent of Sad Puppies 3 has put his or her foot down, about the “wrong” people coming to the table, it’s merely increased interest and activity on the Sad Puppies side. There is a finite number of individuals who want to keep Worldcon and the Hugo “unsullied” by the proles. The number of proles is endless, and the proles have money, and time, and the willingness to put their hand in. Now, perhaps, more than ever before in Worldcon history.

And oh yes, for those who are permanently bent about Vox Day, here’s a bit of news for you, from someone at Abyss & Apex who interviewed the Deviantart artist who donated the Sad Puppies 3 logo:

Q. How did you come up with the concept for the Sad Puppies 3 logo?

A. It was my idea. I’m a friend of a friend of Brad (Torgersen) and I did it on a whim, and donated it. I liked what Sad Puppies stood for: good stories.

Q. So it was not made to order? Not paid for?

A. No, I did it as a volunteer. For free.

Q. Were the three puppy astronauts your idea?

A. You mean the puppies on the logo named Frank, Isaac and Ray? I was thinking of Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury. I came up with that. They all wrote good stories, so I thought they were good representatives for Sad Puppies.

Q. Is the logo trademarked?

A. I didn’t trademark it; maybe Brad Torgersen did, but not me.

Q. I notice that the Sad Puppies 3 logo is on display on your site at Deviant Art but the Rabid Puppies logo was not. Did you draw that one, too?

A. Yeah. (pause) With all the controversy, I wish I hadn’t.

Q. You mean about Vox Day?

A. Yeah.

Q. How did you come to draw it?

A. After the Sad Puppies 3 list came out, Vox Day contacted me. Wanted a rush job for a similar logo to Sad Puppies, for Rabid Puppies. Wanted it in 48 hours.

Q. Were you paid for this one?

A. Yeah, he paid.

Again, the pushing of narratives can backfire when the facts come out. I thought the artist did a smashing job on the SP3 logo, and I think the furor over logos (Sad, vs. Rabid) is one of the silliest red herrings in this entire thing. It’s an attempt to paint all Sad Puppies enthusiasts with the Vox Day brush. Something I know some of the Sad Puppies enthusiasts have not appreciated, and it’s certainly not won very many hearts and minds (from the SP side, to the anti-SP side) precisely because this is such an unfair red herring. Leave the red herring arguments at the door. They’re simply side-stepping the core issue.

Because ultimately this isn’t even about Sad Puppies, or what we said, or did not say, or what we did, or did not do.

This is about the Hugo award, and Worldcon, and decades of seeping stagnation, and the ossification of the mindset of the so-called “keepers” of the field’s self-proclaimed “most prestigious award.” An award that seems to too often deliberately avoid what’s actually happening in the marketplace, has become the personal toy of a self-selected crop of individuals who are happy to play at being large fish in small fishbowls, and does itself and its legacy a disservice by catering to taste-makers and taste-shapers. Both for reasons related to art, and for reasons related to politics. As I said above, the number of people in this group is finite. The actual fans (small f) are legion.

Sad Puppies 3 is an effort to bring fans (small f) to the table. No matter how much people have bashed it, lied about it, or tried to paint it as something it’s not, Sad Puppies 3 is “open source” and egalitarian. We asked for suggestions in the run-up to the formation of the slate, and we encouraged everyone to buy, read, and participate with an open mind. No expectations. No tests. No rules. We demanded nothing. We threatened nothing.

Certain histrionic people (among SP3’s opponents) have demanded and threatened a great deal.

I am content knowing SP3 never had to badger anybody, to get them to climb aboard. Badgering is for the small tent. SP3 is big tent. We cranked the radio-full blast, put out the ice chests with drinks and food, and said, “Come to the party! Everybody is welcome!”

Posted in Sad Puppies 3, Science Fiction related | 390 Comments

Catching up with . . . Arlan Andrews

Arlan Andrews has been a fixture at Analog magazine for over three decades. Between his short fiction and his science fact articles, he’s one of Analog’s signature voices — which speaks to his expansive experience in the hard sciences, and the technical application of same.


Arlan began his technical career working as a missile tracking telescope operator at White Sands Missile Range, where he also honed a lifelong interest in unusual phenomena by exploring the enchantment and mysteries of New Mexico while attending college. He worked for AT&T Bell Laboratories on the antiballistic missile program, spent time in China, was appointed as a Fellow in the White House Science Office, and co-founded both a Virtual Reality software company and a biotech equipment company.

Arlan has published many dozens of pieces over a rich lifetime of work. 2015 sees his name in lights as he is on the Hugo award final ballot for his story “Flow” which is a sequel to the novella “Thaw.” Arlan was nice enough to give a detailed interview. As always, I’ve included image links to the available works. Arlan is truly one of the field’s remarkable men.

Brad: Having worked for so many years in the field of Science Fiction and Fantasy, what are some of the cultural trends and shifts you think you’ve seen?

Arlan: I don’t read much fantasy at all, but in science fiction one cultural shift seems to be away from unique, visionary, outward-looking adventures in space toward more formulaic stories where the viewpoint characters are beset by doubts and concerns that earlier tales either avoided or ignored. As others have commented, such trends may account for the decrease in overall SF book sales. I still look for new ideas, new concepts, things I would never have thought of, cool technologies, new kinds of human relationships.

I have never cared for stories of the future that seem to carry present political or economic concerns into eras when either they should no longer exist or will have morphed into new problems. Examples include natural resources, “peak oil”, “climate change” (ad nauseum) and eco-collapse because of bad ol’ capitalism. But this sort of social fiction occurred in the past as well. One Analog story that was embarrassing even in the 80s dealt with aliens who did not like the way humans cared for their children (a big topic at that time was government-paid child care). And a story in which an alien’s decision to destroy Earth depended upon the gas mileage of an SUV. And an ASF editorial explaining why we should use dedicated grocery bags rather than disposable plastic or paper (back when recycling became a cause celebre). Not very inspiring even back then, not to those who want to spread the human race out among the stars.

As I have written elsewhere, I believe that at least some SF should give readers a reason for wanting either to go out and do the spectacular accomplishments, or to support them, or at least to understand them. “Navel-gazing” doesn’t get it. (Although, in fairness, this weekend I am submitting a story for a space travel anthology which does involve literal navel-gazing.)


Brad: You’ve got a lengthy history in Analog magazine. Do you think the flavor of the magazine has changed over time, from Bova, to Schmidt, and now, Quachri?

Arlan: I started reading ASF under Campbell, and I wish he could have lived to 100. (Tobacco will do that to you.) JWC, Jr., bounced (trashed!) my one satirical submission, taking it as serious. Ben Bova published all my letters to the editor, but Stan Schmidt bought my first fiction back in 1980 and several dozen after that. For the most part, Stan liked the science-y stories, but most of mine were short, usually humorous. I’ve written seven “Probability Zeros” in all. He did run my only fantasy story of that period, “Indian Summa”, which featured the immortal finishing line, “All sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.”

Trevor gave me my first dedicated cover for “Thaw”, and it won the 2013 Analog Readers’ Award for Best Cover, though the novella was not in the running. To date, the Quachri Analog seems to show more of a bent toward featuring other cultures, often to stunning effect. It is a different approach, but fresh and intriguing. As long as he continues to take my stuff, I will savor the Trevor flavor.


Brad: What do you think makes for a good Hard Science Fiction story? Do you think people undersell the diversity and value of Hard SF as merely the “nuts and bolts” subgenre?

Arlan: I don’t know what makes good Hard Science Fiction. I suppose it’s a story where the technologies are not obviously out of whack with what we know now, unless some good hand-waving background takes care of it. I have never paid much attention to the scientific aspects of a story, except that in a 1986 novelette, “The Hephaestus Mission,” I invented a new law of physics (the Isochronous Repulsion Effect) that takes care of all possible time travel paradoxes. I plan to have out an e-novel this year that tells in more detail the rest of that story: Of Time and the Yucatan (for Kindle, Nook, and Print On Demand).
Unless “nuts and bolts” have personalities, I don’t see them as major players. As Heinlein showed, the science and technology of a story should always be assumed and hardly ever explained. The effects should be apparent from the context. In modern times, William Gibson does this very well, as does Walter Jon Williams among others.


Brad: For your Hugo-nominated story “Flow” (which was preceded by the Analog story “Thaw”) are you building up to complete the series at book length? What can readers expect in future stories in this series?

Arlan: As usual, in writing SF, I visualize a scene and characters and wonder what the hell they are up to. “Thaw” began with a vision I had of a glacier melting and revealing artifacts from our time. The little bird-riding people rode into the scene and I just tried to describe what I saw after that. I often wish I could go straight from mental pictures to video. And in 1998 my story “Parameters of Dream Flight” (More Amazing Stories, ed. Kim Mohan) showed just that. “Flow” is the second part of the story, to be followed by “Fall”, which Trevor has committed to. Other parts will take place on the Moon and Mars; it’s a long story. These three parts will comprise about half. I can’t wait to see what happens, though I already know the end, which is also the beginning. Related stories in that new world keep popping up, so short fiction in that era should continue apart from the main story lines.

As a matter of possible interest to readers of the stories, I wrote most of “Thaw” in the airport at Lima, Peru, during two long layovers en route to and from Cusco and the Sacred Valley in 2012, where I visited not only the tourist spots but also other more secluded sites where rather astonishing stoneworks remain. I believe that some of these places are many thousands of years old, probably preceding the last Ice Age. My passion is ancient civilizations and technologies, and I have often wondered what future peoples will find and analyze when our own civilization is destroyed by the next Ice Age. That’s probably where my first vision originated.

Brad: Of your many non-fiction, science-related pieces, how much technical research do you devote to a given piece, and what causes you to get interested enough in a specific topic to write about it from a non-fiction standpoint?

Arlan: I really don’t do much research. Every technical article I have written for Analog and other publications represented research that I had already done, or for which I had amassed relevant data. In 1992 I was working at the White House Science Office and attended meetings and conferences on high tech subjects. From one such conference in Texas came my 1992 ASF article, “Manufacturing Magic,” which was the first popular article about what is today called ‘3D printing,” and in which I predicted that we would someday manufacture most things that way, “including our organs.”

Interested in space travel, I met Air Force officers from the Pentagon who were promoting a Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO) project. From this came my 1993 ASF article, “Single Stage To Infinity!”, the first popular report on the DC-X SSTO program, where I coined the phrase “A spaceship that takes off and lands the way God and Robert Heinlein intended.” The DC-X did that in 1993; Space X’s orbital rockets are close to doing it now. In later years, the U.K. magazine The New Scientist commissioned me to report on DC-X launches at White Sands, to interview the Director of NASA, Dan Goldin, and another time to speculate on the future of private space programs. Interviews and observations provided all of the information. With only the ARPA Net available back then, face-to-face meetings and phone calls were necessary. And sufficient.

Nowadays, my technical interests tend toward archaeoastronomy and ancient technologies. I have written speculative articles on ancient science and technology in Atlantis Rising and other venues.

Brad: For younger writers wanting to break into Hard Science Fiction, do you think science training is ever bit as important as literary training?

Arlan: To write the hard stuff, to keep stories real, one just needs a B.S. (Basic Science) filter to help weed out the impossible from the plausible. In my own case, I would recommend some kind of overview courses or just light reading in various aspects of astronomy, architecture, biology, mathematics, computers, mechanical design and construction. No need to know many of the details, unless it’s necessary for your plot or your characters, but being a little conversant in the field won’t turn off your readers who may indeed be experts. And if you keep the technology far enough in the future, nobody will know how it works anyway. That is why almost all of my own “hard stuff” is either unexplained background or else not necessary to the plot.

My own background as a young kid was reading about the lives of the great scientists, engineers, inventors and mathematicians – Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Steinmetz, Edison, Tesla, Goddard, von Braun, Einstein, and others. Biographies and history are fun for me, and you can pick up a lot of background and jargon without ever taking a formal course in the subjects. Of course, if the technical aspects are important, do the detailed research.


Brad: What other works have you got on the horizon? What’s coming up next in Analog?

Arlan: In addition to finishing the story arc of Thaw: After the Ice Age, soon I will be putting my two e-books, Valley of the Shaman (Kindle and Nook) and Other Heads & Other Tales (Kindle and Nook) into Print on Demand for those wanting hard copies. A near future dystopian novel, tentatively titled Silicon Blood, will follow.

In Analog, three items coming up. Very shortly I will have the first guest column of “Alternate View”, following Jeff Kooistra’s departure. And believe me, many of my views definitely are alternate. I expect heat from some of the readership, not all of it from global warming. A short story of the near future, “In the Mix”, will follow soon after, and then eventually, “Fall”, which provides more detail on the post-Ice Age world of “Thaw” and “Flow.”

My primary research and writing focus at the moment is to complete the 3D modeling and analysis of two ancient Peruvian sites, and to produce at last two technical books that will detail some amazing discoveries that have been overlooked by archaeologists.

One last thought: because I have never tried to make a living at writing SF, I have done it for the love of the field and to put forth my own ideas about reality and the universe. My 1987 ASF story “Epiphany” describes a lot of my thoughts on religion; “The Alien at the Alamo” (2010) is close to my actual take on possible extraterrestrial visitors; and many of the other short stories, though perhaps humorous, contain similar philosophical ideas.

Posted in Catching up with... | 21 Comments

Keyboard rage

I’m on orders for the next (more or less) year. My ability to pay attention to and track what’s going on in social media is affected accordingly. Unless someone specifically tells me what’s going on, I may not be aware. And even if I am aware, I may not have the time or energy for a proper response. So I hope people can forgive me if I am a day late and a dollar short.

Today, I am told Myke Cole is on about me. Since Myke doesn’t really know me from Adam, I have to shrug and take whatever he said with a grain of salt. But then, most people who’ve been on about me lately — because of Sad Puppies 3 — don’t know me, either. I may take it personally if a friend, a family member, or a respected senior I admire, has hard words for me. But total strangers spewing hard words?

Well, total strangers may have an opportunity to reconsider at a later point. Especially if they meet me face-to-face.

Perhaps not coincidentally, I saw today that Joss Whedon deleted his twitter account because he was being piled-upon for something. And this comes on the heels of Arthur Chu text-harassing an eating establishment over the weekend. Followed by a bomb threat (unfounded) to said eating establishment. It remains to be seen if Chu himself tweeted the threat, but I think much of this can be chalked up to keyboard rage. That, and the fact that social media lets us all run around inside each others’ heads all day long. We keep being shocked and horrified by what we find there, apparently.

Who knew that half the world is made of monsters?

Only, it isn’t.

I try not to let keyboard rage take over my perception. I’ve been on-line (more or less) since 1991, and in that time I’ve seen just about the worst that social media has to offer. Right now we seem to be rapidly plunging into a period of extreme judgmentalism and self-righteousness, and it’s fueling some pretty toxic social media mob sessions. I’m at the point with it all, now, where I am just skimming over anything that seems rage-hatey — or otherwise filled with keyboard paroxysms. It’s similar to road rage, but with words.

When I think someone else on the highway is displaying road-ragey tendencies, I let up off the gas, drop back, and keep a healthy distance. Their issues need not become my issues.

And in the end, (s)he’s probably cool face-to-face. Road rage can be like that. Being behind the wheel flips some psychological switches that we (as a society enmeshed in each others’ lives like never before) don’t know how to handle yet.

Hopefully we learn.

Until then, things are bumpy.

Posted in Personal Thoughts, Sad Puppies 3 | 147 Comments

Catching up with . . . Kary English

Hugo-nominated and Campbell award-nominated author Kary English has been making a remarkable splash in the field this year, both with appearances in Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge and also the very latest volume of Writers of the Future. I was very happy to be able to chat with Kary about her explosion onto the science fiction scene. As always, I’ve included image links in the body of the interview; so please click and support this very exciting, very talented writer!

Brad: You’re relatively “new” to traditional publishing, but you’ve put a few things on line via indie publishing. What’s your opinion, traditional vs. indie, and do you have any speculation on the future of the industry?

Kary: Both. Definitely both. I think it depends on the individual work. If I were writing romance novels or thrillers, I’d probably go all indie. For my shorts, I prefer to hit the magazine markets first, and my most successful self-published shorts are actually reprints that I released after the exclusivity period had ended. I’m currently working on a middle grade/ young adult crossover fantasy, and for that one, I’m going to try a few specialty houses first, then go indie if nobody bites. I think the YA/MG market still depends heavily on print, and on access to bookstores, so that’s what’s motivating me to go traditional for that age group.


Brad: Your work caught the attention of Mike Resnick, when he was reading as a judge for the L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers and Illustrator’s of the Future Contest. He went on to buy some of your work for Galaxy’s Edge magazine. What’s in been like to work with Mike as an editor?

Kary: Mike has been amazing to work with. He’s kind, encouraging, an incisive editor and he’s forgotten more than I’ll ever know about the business end of writing. I would work with him again in a heartbeat.

Brad: Would you describe yourself as primarily a science fiction writer, or a fantasy writer? Or both? And why?

Kary: Am I allowed to repeat myself? Both. Definitely both. My science fiction leans hard, and my fantasy leans high. I’ve been told that’s an unusual combination, but when I stir the primordial muck inside my head, that’s what bubbles to the surface. For short fiction, most of my ideas tend to be science fiction. It’s different for novels, though. I’ve never had a novel idea that wasn’t fantasy, at least not yet.


Brad: Are there favorite authors or mentors who have inspired you or helped you? How do you think they’ve influenced your work?

Kary: Oh, gosh. The list is long. I’m a firm believer that a writer cuts her teeth by reading, so C.S. Lewis, Piers Anthony, Roger Zelazny, Patricia McKillip, Anne McCaffrey, Stephen R. Donaldson, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Friedman, Melanie Rawn, Judith Tarr, Jim Butcher, Robin Hobb, and many, many more. Reading trains the ear and helps the writer develop her voice – even if she’s not writing yet.

For mentors, I’d have to cite Mike Resnick, Tracy Hickman, Kevin J. Anderson and David Farland. I am immensely grateful to all of them. Dave, in particular, has had an enormous influence on my writing. I’ve taken several of his workshops, and I’ll be taking his new Worldbuilding workshop this summer. Dave has taught me so much that I can’t even list it all. Suffice it to say that without Dave, I don’t think I’d be writing professionally.

Brad: What’s your project list look like for 2015 and 2016? Anything new and exciting planned, and which you can talk about?

Kary: There’s a lot on my plate at the moment. I’m collaborating on a multi-volume science fantasy series, and the first book should be out in late 2015, maybe early 2016. I’m under an NDA for that one, so that’s all I can say. I’m ghostwriting at least one other project, but I can’t say anything more than that. For my own work, I’m trying to finish my MG/YA fantasy crossover series, and when that’s done, I’ll be turning my Writers of the Future winner into a novel.


Brad: Do you think (as one of the latest Writers of the Future winners) that the Contest helps new authors gain exposure and increase their credibility with editors?

Kary: Absolutely. Mike Resnick invited me to submit to Galaxy’s Edge because I’d done well in Writers of the Future, and recently an editor stopped me mid-pitch and said “You had me at ‘turning my Writers of the Future winner into a novel’. Send it as soon as it’s ready.” I can’t think of any other accomplishment that would make an editor request a manuscript from a new writer before he’d even heard what it was about.


Brad: As a child or teenager, what were your science fiction or fantasy enthusiasms, either television, books, games, or movies?

Kary: Let’s see. I discovered anime in the form of Astro Boy and Speed Racer before I could read, and that led to Voltron and Battle of the Planets when I was in elementary school. Star Trek was another favorite, followed by Battlestar Galactica, the Lorne Greene version. I’d discovered fantasy by then, too, when I stumbled on The Hobbit in my elementary school library. I’d read The Chronicles of Narnia and the Prydain books, but somehow I’d lumped those in with the folk tales and fairy tales I’d been reading. I think The Hobbit was the first time I understood that fantasy was a genre of its own.

It took me longer to get into science fiction as a reader. For whatever reason, sci-fi was something I watched; not something I read. It was Anne McCaffrey who provided the bridge. I loved her dragon books so much that I read everything she wrote, including Crystal Singer, Decision at Doona and The Ship Who Sang. After that, I looked for science fiction when I went to libraries and bookstores just like I looked for fantasy.

I skipped Star Wars when it first came out. My mother wanted to go, but a neighborhood kid was having a pool party, and I chose the pool party. I saw it when it came out again later, either because it had won some Academy Awards or because they re-ran it before The Empire Strikes Back came out. Once I saw Empire, I was so hooked that I wrote my own sequel, longhand, in pencil, in a spiral notebook during class in junior high. Friends of mine who knew I was writing it begged me to share it, so we passed the pages to each other in the hallways. This was eighth grade, so I think I was around twelve or thirteen.

Brad: Tell us about your professional and educational background. How does it factor into your writing?

Kary: As an undergraduate, I double-majored in Anthropology and Philosophy, then I went to grad school for a master’s degree in Religious Studies. I focused on the sociology and psychology of religion, with a particular interest in conversion experiences. Later, I’d return to grad school for a Ph.D., but in the meantime, I took about a decade off to work as a reading specialist, curriculum developer and Special Ed. teacher. At the time, I thought the world needed a reading teacher more than it needed another college professor.

As a curriculum developer, I helped write a complete k-12 language arts curriculum and a suite of anti-bullying materials. Those products are now being used with hundreds of thousands of students all over the U.s. Deciding that my commitment to education had been sufficiently fulfilled, I returned to grad school for a doctorate in cognitive science of religion.

I loved it. Was there something hardwired in the brain that predisposed us, as a species, to believe in a divine presence and develop complex religious systems? (The answer is yes, by the way.) In addition to my studies, I coordinated grant-writing teams and helped organize an international science conference. Unfortunately, I was orphaned, which means that my advisor switched universities after I’d completed my field exams, and that meant it was too late for me to go, too. The loss of that one professor collapsed the entire program, leaving me stuck at ABD (all but dissertation).

So, what does one do with an academic background in philosophy, anthropology, sociology, psychology, cognitive science and religion? Well, it makes darned good foundation for creating believable characters, alien societies and rich, fictional cultures.

Posted in Catching up with..., Sad Puppies 3 | 20 Comments

Tolerance in the 21st century

Wait, wait, I think I get it now.

If I am insufficiently hateful of a hater who hates, I am therefore a secret hater? And in order to absolve myself of being a secret hater, I have to loudly and publicly hate the hater more than anyone else who presently hates the hater who hates, and this will prove that I am not a secret hater, because I will have hated the hater the way the haters of the hater say I need to hate the hater because he hates? Hating is now how you prove you’re not a hater. You just have to hate the people the anti-hate haters approve of hating!

Because being an anti-hater is all about hating the haters who hate, even if they’re not really hating, but you think they secretly hate anyway. Because all of us are secret haters who have to be shown our hatred, by the hating haters of hate who hate all secret haters. So that in order to become an anti-hater, you must hate yourself for being a secret hater, who then goes on to hate the hating haters the haters of hate say you have to hate in order to become an anti-hater who formerly hated in the wrong way. But once you hate in the right way, you are magically absolved of being a hater, and can go around hating on everyone you want.

Posted in Personal Thoughts | 212 Comments

Why do it?

Over the past three weeks I’ve received many hundreds of communications — from authors, readers, fans, editors, artists, and even professionals and interested parties beyond the publishing world. The vast bulk of these items have been supportive. A few have been critical. Almost all of them have been constructive in one way or another. I’ve even been engaged in an over-the-transom debate with minor Star Trek writer alumnus David Gerrold, who has been doing his best Andrew Jorgensen to my Lawrence Garfield. Because this isn’t just about some award, it’s about how the field (of Science Fiction & Fantasy literature) regards itself; and how it proceeds into the future. Years of uncertainty — papered over by shouts of surety — have bred an undercurrent that is roiled, confusing, and difficult to parse plainly. Feelings are very close to the surface. Enough so that a democratic system exercised democratically (and returning the “wrong” answer) has resulted in an internal explosion that’s blown out all the windows and doors, and which now involves the wider world.

Good. I think it’s overdue. This whole thing. Even the tabloid slander and the fashioning of false narratives — something the opponents of Sad Puppies 3 have excelled at. All of this has forced people to sit up and pay attention again. It’s made the otherwise sleepy and predictable Hugo selection process mean something. Nobody’s nodding off at the wheel anymore. People are giving a damn.

But one neutral party asked me a good question today: Why do it, and risk your professional standing?

That’s a great question. I’ve asked myself similar questions every year I’ve been publishing in the field. Why? Why speak up, or try to make a point? Especially if it means getting backlash?

I think one of the big reasons why Sad Puppies 3 has brought out the sharp knives, is because everyone is feeling their belts tightening. The SF/F reading audience is going away. It’s been going away for over two decades. Year by year, the numbers tell the story. That’s not rhetoric. That’s the business bottom-line. And whether people want to admit it or not, the field of SF/F literature is a business. Lovingly tended by devout fans (back at the tail end of the pulp era, and up through the 1970s) some of whom went on to become publishers and editors who helped grow the enterprise into a bona fide money-maker (Judy-Lynn del Rey) which peaked at roughly the same time movies, television, and video games were elevating SF/F on a world-wide scale.

Since the turn of the century, though, SF/F has slowly been splitting from the audience it attracted — people who picked SF/F up from the late 1970s through the mid-1990s. As with the Futurians — who all mostly agreed that SF/F ought to be a tool with political and social application — the 21st century mindset of two out of every three SF/F professionals has been to apply the literature to the question of real-world social and political concerns. Which in and of itself is not new. The field’s various authors and editors have always been doing this, to one degree or another. But they were doing it with respect for the readership’s expectations. Not in spite of those expectations.

In the words of Larry the Liquidator, the surest way to go broke, is to keep getting an increasing share of a shrinking market. Down the tubes. Slow, but sure.

Well, that’s the state of the SF/F literature field in 2015, whether you want to admit it or not.

And since I am an entrepreneur — all commercial writers are, when you get right down to it — I am not thrilled by what’s happening right now. Especially since so many of my colleagues are not only not concerned by what’s going on, they are happily cheering it. The further diminishing of the reader pool. The “refining out” of the “impurities” in the audience, so that we have a smallish, monocultural, properly progressive and thoroughly dead thing to work with. A closed circle. Conversing only amongst ourselves.

Dave Freer wrote a very apt piece about battlers — the little guys who are too stubborn, too obstinate, even too stupid to let their betters have the last word. When I look at my own history, I certainly identify with the battler mentality. Even my many characters in my books and stories tend to be battlers. I don’t write about the elite. I write about the Mike Rowe Dirty Jobs folks, men and women alike, of all persuasions, colors, and creeds, who manage to dredge victory from the jaws of defeat. Even if it’s merely personal victory — the kind of thing you can go to your grave with, knowing you were your own man. Because those are the heroes of actual history. At least the kinds of heroes I esteem: individuals who managed to do remarkable things, with pluck, courage, a willingness to cut against the grain of expectation, and who never asked anybody for permission — before going off half-cocked and doing something crazy, which ultimately made a positive difference to the lives of decent folk.

Again, I was never one to have much sympathy for the elite. The power brokers. The taste-makers. The ruling class. The people who think they know better than you or I do, about how we ought to live our lives. Or what we ought to think or feel. My general response to that kind of attitude has always been best expressed with a defiant middle finger, aimed proudly. Which maybe makes me a coarse chap? A ruffian? A n’er-do-well?

Certainly David Gerrold has classified me as a man of the street — uncouth, unmannerly, and unwanted.

Despite my best attempts to be the genteel ambassador of Sad Puppies 3 — the grass roots movement which gave voice to thousands of individuals who all more or less felt marginalized by the status quo. Not always for precisely the same reasons, mind you. But people generally floating down the same, wide river. Like a flotilla of scabby-kneed inner-tube riders.

Has my career been threatened? Oh yes, dozens of times. “You’ll never work in this town again!” has been brandished at me by people who seem to believe they have the power to back up the threat. Either because they claim to be able to control the awards (wait, I thought nobody gamed the system until Sad Puppies?) or they claim to be able to control some aspect of publishing, or because they are buddies with “powerful” people who will punish me sight-unseen; simply for being branded a troublemaker.

And if this were still 1995 and my whole livelihood — the matter of putting food on my family’s table — depended on me “playing nice” in the face of such threats, I’d probably be a little more hesitant to overturn the apple cart.

Until very recently, traditional SF/F publishing did hold a kind of trump card. He who controls the Spice, controls the universe! If you wanted to get into print, you played nice with the ruling class.

But this is 2015. My editors aren’t glowering at me over drinks in the con bar. They’re saying, “Go, you.” And even if those editors did not exist, the advent of reliable independent publishing has made it so that a good storyteller can achieve a five, six, or in some rare cases, seven-figure income; all without ever bending a knee to the Spacing Guild.

In a world without monopolies, threats to run a guy out on a rail don’t register like they used to.

Because even if Worldcon bans me for life and I get a drink dumped in my lap by every stalwart member of Fandom (caps f) I can still go to my local Comic Con and enjoy a packed room filled with fans (small f) and compatriots, none of whom ever gave a damn if I brought the “wrong” people to participate in a democratic process (Hugo voting) in the “wrong” way. Hell, I can go to the local professional symposium (LTUE) and get smiles and handshakes — all from people who never cared if the taste-makers or door-watchers gave any of us their blessing.

I’ve said it before: there is the massive, astoundingly huge “circle” that is the totality of fandom (small f) and there is the much, much smaller, more insular, and in many cases, out of touch world of Fandom (big f) which proves its love for the field by having a spectacular meltdown when the “wrong” people speak up and speak out. “Turf it!” the self-selected guardians of Absolutely-Real-Forever-Correct-And-Pure-Fandom yell. “Turf it all! The whole thing! We are being overrun!”

CHORFs are, as they do.

I remember back when I was the 2012 triple-nominee for the three major awards in SF/F: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Campbell. I received a few communications from people who said, this is your big chance to have a seat at the elite table, and become part of the club! Rather than be excited by the prospect, I was disheartened. Because I never wanted to be one of the “behind the curtain” betters who slowly made his way among all the inner circles and schmoozed all the right people and took his proper place; never speaking out of turn, with my pinky aimed in the precise manner. I didn’t seek entrance to Skull and Bones of Sci-Fi. I didn’t care if I was always on the Hugo ballot every year, like clockwork, because I’d played the game the way you’re supposed to play it. Said the right things. Professed the right beliefs. Made the right people think I was one of them.

I’m way too much of a flyover-country hayseed for that kind of atmosphere.

So I fell in with all the other blue-collar people who simply wanted to write and read stories without being accused of doing it wrong. When Sad Puppies was invented — on a lark — I approved of the sentiment. And happily came aboard in the second year, only to become the front man in the third year. It was a chance for the field’s betters to hear from the peasants. For the proles to shout at the bosses. For the taste-makers and the dwellers-behind-curtains to have their cages rattled.

That the field’s betters went full-force destruct-o-matic on me — because I invited the proles to the democracy — was not a surprise. They (the betters) had a media apparatus tailor-made for their bogeyman narrative, and they used this apparatus according to the playbook. Sad Puppies 3 got unceremoniously shoved into the role of Black Hat, and myself along with it.

But it’s worth all the drama, because the betters don’t “own” this field. If they ever did? When David Gerrold holds forth from his Fandom pulpit about “no forgiveness” and all that dire talk, he’s speaking to — at best — a collection of maybe one thousand people. Perhaps the pool of total Keep-Us-Pure-And-Holy-Fans is not even that large anymore? It’s difficult to say. A lot of them are passing on. They’re being replaced by new kids who seem obsessed with identitarian politics — which, not ironically, makes them a perfect fit for the Holy Church of the Peoples Republic of Science Fiction — but the replacement rate may not be enough to make up the difference.

Ultimately, the consumer market votes with its collective wallet. You can’t herd those cats, no matter how earnest and pure your motives. Nobody likes a preachy scold. And right now, that’s pretty much the only face being presented by Gerrold and the sundry opponents of SP3: preachy scolds. Dolores Umbridge!

Are you muggle-born? Is your Wizardry blood pure enough? Do you obey the 191 rules posted plainly for all to see on the walls of Hogwarts?

I was always a proud mudblood. And so are almost all of my friends in the field. Sad Puppies 3 is the defiant rebellion of the mudbloods. It’s gotten the functionaries and apparatchiks of the Peoples Republic of Science Fiction all hot and bothered. So much so that I’m being threatened with a life sentence to Azkaban. And so is Larry Correia. And the many other faces and names explicitly associated with Sad Puppies 3. We’ve been digitally spat on, our names and our families and our associates have been targeted for ritual pillory, and worse.

Again, all because we invited the proles to the democracy.

Maybe the apparatchiks lock us out? At this point, that’s the logical course of action. Make the door iron-clad, with little slots for inquiring eyes to peak through — to see if anyone coming from the outside is worthy or deserving of entrance. This would be the Umbridge Way. To keep the tribe pure.

A more reasonable solution would be to simply keep re-invigorating the democracy. Bring in still more participants. No litmus tests. No screens. No bars to entrance. But that wouldn’t make the Dolores Umbridges of the world very happy. When you invite too many of the “wrong” people — no vetting — you wind up with an unpredictable and unreliable social structure. Oh my God, they’re going off the script!

Maybe I am just a contrarian? Maybe it’s the fact I have three careers, and I’ve never seen the kind of childishness and petulance (being displayed now, in SF/F) in any other serious endeavor I’ve ever been involved with? Or maybe I simply take the words of Theodore Roosevelt to heart — when he talks about the man in the arena?

As writers, we often tend to tell stories about the maverick — the person who breaks the “rules” for a greater purpose. We have so thoroughly glorified this archetype that it’s almost impossible to find any books or stories which don’t employ a maverick, to one degree or another. I find it strangely bizarre that when this field is faced with real honest-to-goodness mavericks — Sad Puppies 3 — the reaction is apoplectic. The rending of garments, and gnashing of teeth! Do we write all these wonderful stories about mavericks, and miss the whole point? Are we simply wish-fulfilling because we don’t have the stones to actually walk our talk?

In the not too distant future, I’ll be serving my country in a foreign land. I won’t be at Sasquan to see what transpires. I hope saner, cooler heads prevail, and that people comport themselves like adults — that the drama we’re seeing on-line stays on-line.

Between now and then, I am going to conclude my use of this space; pertaining to discussion of the drama. It may or may not go on without my input. It has anyway. My moment (as Sad Puppies front man) is already passing. The Hugo selections for 2015 have been finalized. They are what they are. Love them, or hate them. Vote with your taste, your pleasure, your desire. Or don’t vote at all — though I think that’s a bit of a waste. Democracies of all kinds thrive (or fail) according to the participation of the electorate. Sad Puppies 3 was an exercise in energizing said electorate. I think we’ve succeeded. I look forward to many good artists, authors, editors, and fans, being recognized. I will be in the desert when it happens. I will probably read about it long after the fact.

And I will be content with the fact that I stood up, at a moment in the history of this field when it was worth standing up.

Posted in Personal Thoughts, Sad Puppies 3, Science Fiction related | 291 Comments