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.

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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.

Love one another, it’s the only way: Part 2

As noted last time, I am mostly out of the loop while overseas. Honestly, it’s a remarkable thing to be witnessing the American news cycle from a distance. Kinda surreal, to tell the truth. I don’t feel quite so immersed in the never-ending shouting, like I do when I am at home. And that’s been a relief.

Still, some things penetrate. And because the news of the past week is germane to a prior discussion, I wanted to put a few thoughts out there.

(NOTE: These are my opinions, just for me; take ’em or leave ’em. Others will have their own. I am not sure mine matter all that much, in the grand scheme of things. But here goes . . .)

If the base fear of religious conservatives is that gays and lesbians are “destroying” marriage, how can gays and lesbians destroy a thing which America’s straight couples have been actively destroying for a century?

Think about it. And let’s be brutally honest.

Rampant divorce.
Rampant infidelity.
Rampant abuse of spouses and children.

I don’t think those are the legacy of a people who collectively believe marriage to be sacred.

If I feel anything on the issue of marriage, I feel that marriage (by Americans) has been thrown into the mud and trampled upon. We did that. All of us. And now that gays and lesbians have picked it up out of the mud and said, “We would like to have this wonderful thing,” religious conservatives want to snatch it away and yell, “You can’t have that, it’s our most favorite thing ever!”

Oh really? Then why have we been treating marriage like garbage for so many decades? Because we have. As a society. With our collective actions, we decided marriage wasn’t important anymore. Long, long before the issue of gay marriage got to the Supreme Court.

And now that marriage is important to somebody — gays and lesbians — we try to keep it away from them?

I can’t wrap my brain around that. Too much cognitive dissonance.

The Supreme Court has swept away an inequality. Well, and good. I’ve thought this outcome inevitable for probably ten years now. Just because of the trajectory of the legal wrangling.

Does that mean I, as a person of conservative religious belief, have to cheer and applaud a thing which my religious doctrine says is wrong? Nope. But then, not every wrong thing in the world has to be barred legally. Like I’ve said before, freedom of choice is a bedrock principle of my LDS faith. And while I am not an authority — nor do I claim any ability to speak for any Mormon other than me — I do think choice is a huge part of these very divisive and contested political fights over the rights of other people.

Because the choices other people make, sometimes offend us terribly.

This past week, it seems to me that the Supreme Court decided in favor of more rights. More freedom. More choice.

I think that’s the way it should be. Even if my church doctrine believes also that the exercising of these freedoms (gay marriage) is against the plan of God.

Again, not every wrong thing must be legally barred. There are some pretty nasty guys over in Syria and Iraq right now who think every wrong thing (by their lights) should not only be legally barred, but people found violating the law should be burned, drowned, beheaded, and worse. In their desire to do a right thing (again, by their lights) they have fostered and fomented evil the likes of which we — as Americans — can barely imagine. Barbarity and bloodshed and the iron fist of true tyranny. That’s not what God wants. That’s not why Christ said what He said in His ministry on this Earth, and it’s not what the Atonement is about either.

The men of the so-called Caliphate have arrogated to themselves the seat of holy judgment. And they inflict heinousness in God’s name.

The men and women of the United States Supreme Court might also be accused of arrogating to themselves the seat of judgment, but in this particular instance, they have come down on the side of liberty.

I want to think that liberty — our ability to choose — is still the most important thing that sets America and Americans apart, from other nations and peoples in the world. Even if that liberty makes us highly uncomfortable, or we believe this liberty permits wrong-doing in the eyes of the Lord. We crossed the bridge of pluralism when the Declaration of Independence and, later, the Constitution of the United States, were forged. It’s not been an error-free path. Nor was the creation of the nation error-free. We almost destroyed ourselves in a Civil War that ultimately corrected the most egregious error. And the echoes of that error haunt our society up to the very minute.

Now, I believe another error has been corrected.

And again, neither you nor I nor any other religious conservative has to be thrilled about it. Compulsory celebration of sin — or the perceived expectation of same — is grating on many, and causing some very unhappy commentary. I get it. I really do. Nobody should be forced to violate his or her conscience by putting on a party hat for what we believe to be wrong.

But let’s not get wrapped up in negativity. Seriously. Not about this. Not about what the government says. The government’s job has been and always should be, to expand and defend liberty. The government just did its job. Believe it, or not.

Our job — all of us, and I am including progressive intellectuals too — is to find ways to be sowers of good seed among ourselves. To not be tempted into vindictiveness or hatred. To not inflict ourselves on each other, as a way to try to exorcise whatever negative feelings we have inside of us.

The most difficult part about being a religious conservative in a society which makes liberty paramount, is learning to get along with people who not only violate what religious conservatives see as God’s law, but getting along with people who think the law (and sometimes God with it) don’t even exist.

Likewise, the most difficult part about being a progressive intellectual in a society which makes liberty paramount, is learning to get along with people who not only don’t share the same standards and values, but who often think progressive standards and values are morally wrong, or lacking any moral fiber whatsoever.

That’s a mind-bending and difficult path. But that’s the spiral up. Blood, sweat, and tears. Not everyone is going to walk it. Many people will actively fight walking it — on both sides. But I think that’s the only choice that leads to net positive dividends for all concerned. One step at a time. The spiral up. And it starts at home. With our wives and our husbands, our children, our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and it moves outward from there. Neighbors. Coworkers. Friends. People we meet in our daily business. The lives we can touch in small ways, with quiet acts of charity, kindness, and mercy.

Not the blaring “Look at me! Look at me!” self-referential, vain pablum of social media.

I’m talking about the concrete, real-world stuff that nobody will see or notice: except those who experience the connectedness of a kind act, done out of kindness, with no expectation of recompense.

As I have loved you, love one another. That’s the Christ-like ideal. I think we express it best by tending to the gardens in our own back yards. And I don’t mean literal gardens. I mean spiritual and emotional gardens. Many of which are neglected and overgrown with the weeds of bitterness, rancor, resentment, and worse. I’ve got a garden like that. And I suspect, so do many of the people reading this. We all have to be responsible for our own gardens. And I don’t say that because I think my garden is perfect. Nope. I go to church every Sunday — yes, even when I am thousands of miles away from home — to be reminded of the fact that my garden is choked with weeds. And that weeding is a never-ending chore that I can’t escape. At least not if I want to be serious about my beliefs as a Christian.

I think mindful gardening and diligent weeding are chores secular progressives can embrace too. Dare I even say that some of the most mindful and diligent gardeners I know, are secular? Or at least not of my particular faith tradition?

It’s tempting to look at people — the world around us — and throw up our hands, declaring, “It’s all gone to crap!” So much wrong. So many people who seem dead-set on doing wrong.

What we do next, is a matter of deliberate choice. For our own personal lives. How we respond to the wrong. Not only the wrong we see outside of ourselves, but the wrong inside of us too. Focusing forever on the wrong outside, and ignoring the wrong inside — or acting like it doesn’t exist — won’t combat the weeds. It will allow the weeds to completely take over. Weeding is about tending to ourselves, and our own sphere. The people we touch every day. The ones around us who actually matter. That’s where the energy can bring forth good fruit. That’s where the “win” is. Not what goes on somewhere else, or what’s said in the news cycle. You can’t fix or control that stuff. You, in your office or living room, have no power to “fix” at the macro scale. And you will exhaust yourself fretting over the macro.

But you do have the power to “fix” at the personal level. I think that’s what gets lost in the never-ending carnival of arguments. We ignore the personal level, obsess about the macro level, and nothing worthwhile gets done. The weeds win.

Go back to gardening in your own back yard — daily — and you get the good stuff. It might not seem like it has a macro impact. But if everybody is a back-yard gardener, and everybody works at it, there will be a macro effect. That’s something I’ve always taken away from my scripture reading and other spiritual pondering. The idea that each of us individually doing small works of kindness, love, and forgiveness, can add up to a huge net dividend for the society as a whole.

This includes marriage. Do we want to put our money where our mouths are? How much time and energy are we devoting to our families and our homes? Shouting about marriage in the macro sense, while neglecting or abusing marriage on a personal level, is pointless. We prove we care about marriage when we put our wives and our husbands and our children first. Not last. First. And again, it doesn’t matter what the government does (or doesn’t do) about it. This is between us, and the Lord. He will judge us. Not the government. Not society. Not activists. God. How willing would any of us be to go before God right this minute, and give an account of our stewardship of our relationships with our spouses and our families? How much gardening have we done in that respect? Are we prepared to get called on the carpet? Do our choices and our actions live up to our rhetoric, as “defenders” of the “sacred institution” of marriage? Have we made it sacred every day? Do we show our wives and our husbands and our families forgiveness, compassion, love, and support?

Because that’s where my mind goes. And I think I am way too occupied trying to tend to my own garden — Weeds! Damned weeds, everywhere! — to get overly concerned with peering over the fence at somebody else’s.

Love one another, it’s the only way

I’ve been out of the media loop, so I am just now seeing the news report about the Charleston church shooting. As always, the internet is alive with people talking 110 miles a minute, about the event. I don’t have any spectacular insights to add, except to say I think the “answer” really does come down to working on your home, and spreading the love outward from there. People want to “fix” this, and I think they sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees. You want to “fix” it by getting angry? Transmute the anger into actions of love and kindness for your neighbors, your coworkers, your church friends, even people you only meet in passing. Forgive those who may have slighted you; especially the ones who did it without intention to harm.

That’s what Christ commanded, and I keep coming back to the notion that Christ called it over two thousand years ago: as I have loved you, love one another. Far easier said than done. Especially when the flames of hate and acrimony flare up. Blame becomes the theme of the day. When you hate and blame someone enough that they literally become “unreal” that’s when stuff like the church shooting can take place. Hate and blame cannot be “fixed” with more hate and blame. That may sound poofey New Age, but I think it’s true. Acts of hate and blame generate still more hate and blame, until the whole world is burning.

That’s how ISIS operates — the guys who are the reason I am away from home right now. They want to literally burn the world, because they think they’re so righteous and pure that everyone else deserves to be mowed down.

ISIS is not a problem you, in your office or living room, can fix. Church shootings are also not something you in your living room can stop or fix. You stop the hate and the blame when you make a personal choice, every day, to be a lover of the souls who inhabit your space. The ones you can touch with kindness, with cheer, with delight for life, with encouragement, and above all else, with an acknowledgment that we really are brothers and sisters.

Again, far easier said, than done. Which is why we have to be reminded over and over and over. Because all of us keep screwing up time, and time again. And it’s easy to get so wrapped up in how we are angry over what other people say and do that we completely forget about what we say and do. Again, there is the spiral down — world burning! — and there is the spiral up.

Notice, it takes no effort to be carried on the spiral down. That’s the path of least resistance.

It takes blood, sweat, and tears, to march along the spiral up. Effort. Always, effort. Movement and energy expended toward a higher goal. A selfless goal. A Christ-like goal. Even if you don’t believe in Christ as a religious figure, the wisdom of Christ’s words is entirely sound.

Foster the connections. Grow the connections. Love the connections.

Connections are what can save us. If not from the evil of the world, at least from the poison of rage and despair that can consume us inside.

Narratives versus facts

The unfortunate case of Rachel Dolezal is another reminder that narratives cannot survive without facts. It doesn’t matter how fervently you believe the narrative, nor how effectively you proselytize the narrative to others, if your narrative doesn’t have facts at the base of it, your narrative will crumble. Sooner, or later.

Because what happens is that disinterested third parties — not for your narrative, and not against your narrative — ask the question, “What’s it all about?”

They will begin to curiously parse through your story and your rhetoric, seeking the bedrock of your statements. And if there’s no “there” there, the third party is going to conclude that you’re mistaken, deluded, dishonest, or some combination thereof.

In Dolezal’s case, she wanted to redefine herself. So she came up with a narrative she wanted the world to believe — about herself, and who she is. Also, what she’s been through and what she’s experienced. At some point, the facts stopped mattering to Dolezal more than her own narrative mattered to her. And now she’s in a lot of hot water for passing herself off as someone she’s not, and she’s getting raked over the coals for it.

Because Dolezal’s narrative — about who and what she was — didn’t have any facts to support it.

Unfortunately, the internet and social media lend themselves more to narrative-building and spreading, than they do to fact-finding and evidence collecting. This is reinforced by the modern notion — which has been especially popular in social academics — that truth is merely a matter of perspective. Which is in direct contradiction with the Enlightenment principle that the world is accessible to humans through the testing and verification of ideas. Testing which can be replicated by anyone, anywhere, and yield the same results. That thing we call science.

Twenty years ago, physics professor Alan Sokal set out to prove that some of his compatriots in the social sciences were a little too enamored with narrative. So he typed up a brilliantly nonsensical paper he called “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” In Sokal’s own words, “Could [I] publish [in a leading social sciences journal] an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions?”

The answer was, yes. Which kicked off what has sometimes been called The Sokal Affair, or the Sokal Hoax.

Click here for Dr. Sokal’s own, rather exhaustively documented history of the whole thing. Pay special attention to Sokal’s explanation on why he felt it necessary to spoof his colleagues. His chief concern? That evidence and facts were taking a back seat to trendy theory, and an increasingly disturbing reliance on narrative, over empirical truth.

Two decades later, and we’re wrestling with the rhetorical python like never before. Because social media has allowed narratives of all kinds to spread like wildfire, gain support, even influence business and public policy, impact local and national elections, and shape how we look at the world as a whole.

Now, this has usually been true to a certain extent. Narrative has always been with us. But never in history have narratives been able to sprout and grow with such rapidity. Because now all it takes for a narrative to be planted, is for somebody on Twitter — especially a celebrity, or other public figure — to say something outlandish or controversial or provocative, and within twenty four hours that statement will have garnered tens of thousands of re-Tweets, “likes” on Facebook, blog articles discussing the statement, “followers” backing up the statement, and so on and so forth.

But eventually, when enough time has elapsed, and people have calmed down, the inevitable question will be asked: what’s it all about? And the digging will begin. And for those outside of the narrative — not pro, not con — a picture will emerge. And if there are few to no facts at the bottom of the narrative, that picture isn’t going to be a kind one. Adherents of the narrative will come off looking foolish, or worse. Especially if critical inquiry causes adherents to adopt a fortress mentality — circling the wagons — in order to defend what is, to them, a truth.

Which takes me back to juxtaposing the Enlightenment premise — that the universe is knowable and objective, through testing and experimentation — against the Post-Modern premise that facts and truth are relative, malleable, or can change from person to person, and culture to culture.

I am old enough to remember when the United States was locked in a grim ideological conflict with the Soviet Union. Beyond politics and economics, the Cold War was very much a battle of narratives. And for several decades in the 20th century it looked like the communist narrative might win out. Perhaps two thirds of the globe was either directly or indirectly controlled by one or more Soviet socialist regimes. And there were many who gleefully predicted that the Soviet way was the inevitable destiny of history. In Nikita Khrushchev’s own words, “We will bury you.”

Now, it’s entirely possible that Khrushchev believed what he said. Millions of people did. Even many people inside the United States — people who thought Soviet socialism was a great idea, and would inevitably come to America. Once capitalism broke down, and the workers rose up and overthrew the capitalist system.

What really happened?

Well, the Soviet narrative did not have enough facts to support it. Despite decades of entrenchment, and an iron-clad political enforcement of doctrine, Soviet socialism was not economically viable. Nor were the populations in those nations willing to endlessly endure the privation and control over speech and thought that was necessary to enforce what was, in the end, a flawed political and economic model. The Soviet Union collapsed. And much of the rest of the Soviet world went with it. Even China has, over time, seen itself “perverted” by capitalism, which is an economic system rooted in the world the way it really is, not the world the way we wish it might be.

Those few Marxist nations — Cuba, North Korea — still hanging on in quiet desperation, clearly do so on borrowed time. The “inevitability” of the Marxist system . . . turned out to be a fantasy concocted by those who so fervently believed in the fantasy, that even to this day, those in love with the fantasy will insist that it’s not a fantasy. For them, the narrative is simply too alluring, and too powerful. They are caught up in the narrative to such an extent that the facts — everything that’s happened since the Berlin Wall fell — don’t matter.

But that doesn’t mean strong emotion can overcome reality.

Right now, social media (and the social sciences, which play an ever-larger role in social media) tend to run on a lot of strong emotion. “If we feel it, it must be true!” That seems to be the motto. Your (collective) passion about a thing, is more important than the objective facts. Or so you (collectively) are told.

I disagree. I think all narratives which rely more on emotion, than on facts, unravel eventually. No matter how much they flatter our preconceptions. No matter how much they tell us what we want to hear. No matter if they frame the world for us in a way that we find most comfortable, or at least, most correct. All the correct framing in the universe can’t defeat evidence, if your framing is simply stories constructed on stories, which have been constructed on still other stories. Sooner or later, your stories have to be supportable. There has to be independently verifiable proof. The kind of thing someone not for you, and not against you, can pick up and look at and say, “Yes, okay, I think this verifies what you’re talking about.”

Earlier this year, a certain entertainment tabloid ran a rather outlandish story that was heavily laden with narrative, and which fell promptly apart once the narrative was exposed to scrutiny. The head of a major publisher recently noted that this narrative was in direct contradiction to the facts, which he outlined — as the tabloid was also forced to outline — so that he could avoid having his company linked to the perpetuation of that very same false narrative. What did he get for his trouble? The head of the publisher was attacked by people who are so thoroughly married to the narrative, almost nothing will dissuade them from it. Not facts. Not evidence. Not a trusted authority. Not even when the narrative actively crumbles beneath their feet.

It’s the narrative, or nothing!

Perhaps these individuals need a reminder that the graveyard of history is populated by the headstones of empires, nations, businesses, and movements, which all preferred narratives, to facts? Evidence matters, people. The courts (thankfully) require it. Journalism should too, though journalism has too often been guilty of spreading narrative over facts, of late. Which has resulted in some rather shameful moments.

This is a tricksy period for Western civilization. There’s a lot of well-intended talk about how we need to re-examine our flawed past, so that we can build a better future. I fear that future will be ill-served by narratives — or by children raised to believe that narratives are more important than truth. “I deny your reality, and substitute my own!” may be a funny oft-quoted phrase, but for a lot of people — especially those locked into narratives — it’s become gospel. And an unhealthy, even dangerous gospel at that. Our world literally depends on us being able to agree that 1 + 1 = 2. We rely on the common notion that many aspects of our world really are objective, and that this objectivity isn’t changed simply because of ethnic, gender, cultural, or sexual reference points.

Narratives which flout objectivity — and the narrative-minded who espouse them — are not just foolish, they’re destructive. It cost enormous blood and treasure for the Soviet “experiment” to rise, rule, and collapse. Ironically, most of that blood and treasure came from within the Soviet nations themselves. The unmarked graves of the many gulags, sing with the ghosts of men, women, and children, who were all deemed to be in contradiction of the narrative. And so they were sent away. Usually, to die.

We in the West think it can’t happen here. But it can.

All we have to do is tell ourselves that the narrative matters more than reality, more than the individual integrity of our fellow human beings, and more than our consciences.

In the end, the baseless narratives always fold. How much damage they do (prior to, and during the folding) depends on whether we nip them in the bud now, or allow them to flower and bear fruit later.

Sheepdog staring at the horizon

At this point, there will never be anything like a final comment on Sad Puppies 3. I myself have been talking less and less about it, as my block of overseas time nears. Once I am in the Middle East, I may not address the Sad Puppies issue again, until the Hugo voting is closed, and the actual results have been made known in August. With the voter packets now being reviewed, people are reading, and making up their minds. Which is ultimately the only thing that matters for this season anyway. But this hasn’t stopped the rest of the internet from chattering about the Hugos — whether it’s pro-Puppy chatter, anti-Puppy chatter, or that special kind of vindictive ad hominem commentary I like to call Puppy-kicker chatter.

Some of the anti-Puppy discussion has been reasoned, and makes its points without resorting to ad hominem language.

Most of the Puppy-kicker discussion focuses on how Larry Correia, Brad R. Torgersen, John C. Wright, et al., are horrible writers, horrible human beings, and deserve to die in a fire for their endless crimes against all that is good and decent in the universe.

A few Puppy-kickers remain convinced that Sad Puppies 3 was nothing but racist, sexist, homophobic cis-straight old white men fighting the future. Despite all actual evidence to the contrary. Which (to my mind) simply speaks to the fact that many armchair activists are far too invested in narratives to actually take the time to discover that Sad Puppies 3 had lots of women, it also had minorities, and didn’t give a hoot what the authors looked like, what was between their legs, or who the authors preferred going to bed with.

But then, armchair activists are forever inventing bogeymen to battle. They are forever winning, the future is forever theirs, but the present is forever besieged with (insert bad people here) so we have to FIGHT and PROTEST and NEVER GIVE UP, because having actual measurable objectives and quantifiable goals — the vast bulk of which have been reached or surpassed already — might mean you have to find a new line of work. And for armchair activists, that’s unthinkable.

So, today, Sad Puppies are the ultimate evil. Tomorrow, Joss Whedon is the ultimate evil. Or George R. R. Martin is the ultimate evil. Or Martin’s producers, at least, for the HBO rendition of Game of Thrones. I forget, who are the armchair activists attacking this week? There should be some kind of memo circulated, or something:

AT DAWN, WE TWITTER-BOMB J.J. ABRAMS FOR THE RACIST, SEXIST, CISNORMATIVE HELL-HOLE THAT WILL BE STAR WARS VII.

It might be funny, except for the fact that the whole reason I am going overseas in the first place, is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Most folks know them as ISIS, though the Arabic and Islamic nations partnering with NATO and other countries to fight ISIS, call those guys DAESH, which is derogatory towards ISIS/ISIL. DAESH are the charming folks who throw gay men to their deaths, from rooftops. And chop the heads off of innocent women and children.

That stuff is happening right now, in the real world.

But apparently, going after a writer or a director — for movies and TV shows — is the best way armchair activists can spend their time?

No, I don’t get it either. I don’t think I ever will.

For God’s sake, if you’re going to have a cause, shut your flapping (digital) mouths and put your bodies where your talk is. Get involved. Do something measurable. Concrete. Pursuing a quantifiable objective. Maybe even stick your necks out, and take a real personal risk? And I don’t mean tweeting fake threats to yourself, to gin up publicity and sympathy. I mean actually putting your body on the line for what you claim to think and feel. That’s why I joined the military in the first place, after 9/11/2001. I wasn’t satisfied being just some guy who gets pissed off on the internet. I took Roosevelt’s adage — about the man in the arena — seriously.

As my friend and author (and Sad Puppy critic) Eric Flint recently noted, he’s put his body on the line for what he believes. Other people spew a lot of hot air about being “warriors” for social justice. Eric’s a man who can actually claim that title, and be taken seriously; by allies and opponents alike.

So you will pardon me if I can’t spare much serious thought for those who think being some guy who gets pissed off on the internet, is somehow going to make a difference — a real, lasting, actual difference.

Which takes me back to a point Larry Correia and I have both made, about the Hugo awards: loads of people loved to complain about how the Hugos suck, and almost nobody was doing anything to make an impact. I say “almost” because there were interested parties working hard to effect the kind of change they wanted — Seannan McGuire didn’t get five Hugo nominations in a single year on accident — they just didn’t conduct their operations in broad daylight, nor on a scale to compare with Sad Puppies.

Which takes me back to a comment Michael Z. Williamson once made: we’re bad because we’re competent?

Well, whatever people have against Sad Puppies 3 — legit, or imaginary — it’s clear that the various narratives will continue without my input. I can only restate the obvious, in the hope that it sticks with people who have not decided to be dead-set against us. We (Sad Puppies Inc.) threatened nothing, demanded nothing, and closed no doors in any faces. We threw the tent flaps wide and beckoned to anyone and everyone: come on in, join the fun!

The Puppy-kickers have threatened and demanded a great deal. They most certainly do not want the “wrong” fans being allowed to participate in “their” (the Puppy-kickers’) award.

Sad Puppies 3 was a thoroughly transparent operation. We hid nothing. Concealed no ulterior motives. We said what we wanted to do, we invited people to help, and with that help, we did it. We transformed the Hugo landscape — at least for one season — and we got the spec fiction world talking about the Hugos like never before. In both good, and bad ways. How this all shakes out in coming years, remains to be seen. There are individuals — again, Puppy-kickers — who will mobilize to install new Worldcon rules that prevent the “wrong” kinds of people, from voting on the award. Either by eliminating the nomination and voting rights of supporting members, or by driving up the cost of attending membership, or both. Or perhaps they will simply alter the assembly and selection process of the final ballot proper? No more crazy democracy. A juried system. Who knows?

I do know that if Worldcon actually boasted even a third of the attendance of an average Comic Con — say, 25,000 people — almost no slate or push or bloc of any sort, could have the same effect such efforts have had in the past. Which is, again, a goal of Sad Puppies: to bring in more voices, more votes, more fans. We never turned our cold, wet noses up at anybody. We happily wagged our tails for any living soul who cared to participate. Because we (Puppies Inc.) believe participation was the overriding, validating factor in the extant process.

Others will doubtless disagree — and some of them are long-time beneficiaries of “small” participation which kept the voting pool puny, thereby making it easier for the quiet blocs to exert influence.

To wit: “I don’t know why people think the Hugos are broken, I get nominated and I win all the time!”

You could probably write a doctoral thesis about the privilege contained in that sentiment, eh?

So, I stare to the horizon. Aware of the fact that there won’t be any last words. Just maundering. My first month of active duty is ended. I’ve got a lot of work still ahead of me — both military work, and writing more books for Baen; which have been contracted. I won’t have the luxury of being able to keep my finger on the pulse of this whole ongoing argument. Nor will I try. Others — pro, con, neutral — will say most of what needs to be said, and they will say it far better than I could.

For this year, I hope every category sees a human being called to the podium, to receive a Hugo award. Because I still think Science Fiction is the best, most imaginative game in town. It’s a remarkable and marvelous field. That’s why it’s been worth getting involved — and not just talking.

Because — love us or hate us — the Sad Puppies give a damn.

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?