What does the Bible have in common with William Shatner?

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

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

But not paying bills? Not buying food?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My answer to the angry folk?

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

Both of them tell us to get a life.


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.

Audible.com Hidden Gems feature: The Chaplain’s War

My BAEN BOOKS novel The Chaplain’s War is now on sale through Audible.com’s Hidden Gem’s weekly feature. Ordinarily $24.95, the book is on sale through August 6 for one astoundingly low price. Click below to get your audiobook copy while this special lasts. It’s a steal!

Just $3.95 US!
for over 11 hours
of storytelling!

Here’s an excerpt, from the beginning of the book:

• • •

I was putting fresh oil into clay lamps at the altar when the mantis glided into my foyer. The creature stopped for a moment, his antennae dancing in the air, sensing the few parishioners who sat on my roughly-hewn stone pews. I hadn’t seen a mantis in a long time—the aliens didn’t bother with humans much, now that we were shut safely behind their Wall. Like all the rest of his kind, this mantis’s lower thorax was submerged into the biomechanical “saddle” of his floating mobility disc. Only, this one’s disc didn’t appear to have any apertures for weapons—a true rarity on Purgatory.

Every human head in the building turned towards the visitor, each set of human eyes smoldering with a familiar, tired hate.

“I would speak to the Holy Man,” said the mantis through the speaker box on its disc. Its fearsome, segmented beak had not moved. The disc and all the machines within it were controlled directly by the alien’s brain.

When nobody got up to leave, the mantis began floating up my chapel’s central aisle, the mantis’s disc making a gentle humming sound. “Alone,” said the visitor, his vocoded voice approximating a commanding human tone.

Heads and eyes turned to me. I looked at the mantis, considered my options, then bowed to my flock, who reluctantly began to leave—each worshipper collecting handfuls of beads, crosses, stars, serviceman’s bibles, and various other religious items. They exited without saying a word. What else could they do? The mantes ruled Purgatory as surely as Lucifer ruled Hell.

I waited at the altar.

“You are the religious officer?” said the mantis.

“The Chaplain is dead. I am—was—his assistant.”

“We must speak, you and I.”

Again, I noted the mantis’s lack of armament.

“What can I do for you?” I said.

“I wish to understand this entity you call God.”

I stared at the alien, not quite sure if I should take him seriously.

“To understand God,” I said slowly, “is a skill that requires ongoing mastery.”

“Which is why the other humans come here, to this structure. To learn from you.”

I blushed slightly. In the year since I’d built the chapel—some two years after our failed invasion and subsequent capture—I’d not given so much as a single sermon. Preaching wasn’t my thing. I built the chapel because the Chaplain told me to before he died, and because it seemed obvious that many humans on Purgatory—men and women who had landed here, fought, been stranded and eventually imprisoned—needed it. With the fleets from Sol departed, and our homes many thousands of light-years away, there wasn’t much left for some of us to turn to—except Him.

“I don’t teach,” I said, measuring my words against the quiet fear in my heart, “but I do provide a space for those who come to listen.”
“You are being deliberately cryptic,” the mantis accused.

“I mean no offense,” I continued, hating the servile tinge in my own voice as I spoke to the beast, “it’s just that I was never trained as an instructor of worship. Like I said when you asked, I am only the assistant.”

“Then what do the humans here listen to, precisely?”

“The spirit,” I said.

The mantis’s beak yawned wide, its serrated tractor teeth vibrating with visible annoyance. I stared into that mouth of death—remembering how many troops had been slaughtered in jaws like those—and felt myself go cold. The Chaplain had often called the mantes soulless. At the time—before the landing—I’d thought he was speaking metaphorically. But looking at the monster in front of me I remembered the Chaplain’s declaration, and found it apt.

“Spirit,” said the mantis. “Twice before has my kind encountered this perplexing concept.”

“Oh?” I said.

“Two other sapients, one of them avian and the other amphibian.”

Other aliens . . . besides the mantes? “And what could they tell you about God?”

“Gods,” my visitor corrected me. “We destroyed both species before we could collect much data on their beliefs.”

“Destroyed,” I said, hoping the alien’s ears couldn’t detect the shaking dread in my voice.

“Yes. Hundreds of your years ago, during the Great Nest’s Third Expansion into the galaxy. We thought ourselves alone, then. We had no experience with alternative intelligence. The homeworld of the avians and the homeworld of the amphibians were pleasing to the Patriarchal Quorum, so those worlds were annexed, cleansed of competitive life forms, and have since become major population centers for my people.”

I took in this information as best as I could, unsure if any human ears had ever heard anything like it. I thought of the Military Intelligence guys—all dead—who would have given their years’ pay to gain the kind of information I had just gained, standing here in the drafty, ramshackle confines of my makeshift church.

I experienced a sudden leap of intuition.

“You’re not a soldier,” I said.

The mantis’s beak snapped shut.

“Certainly not.”

“What are you then, a scientist?”

The mantis seemed to contemplate this word—however it had translated for the alien’s mind—and he waved a spiked forelimb in my direction.

“The best human term is professor. I research and I teach.”

“I see,” I said, suddenly fascinated to be meeting the first mantis I’d ever seen who was not, explicitly, trained to kill. “So you’re here to research human religion.”

“Not just human religion,” said the mantis, hovering closer. “I want to know about this . . . this spirit that you speak of. Is it God?”

“I guess so, but also kind of not. The spirit is . . . what you feel inside you when you know God is paying attention.”

It was a clumsy explanation, one the Chaplain would have—no doubt—chastised me for. I’d never been much good at putting these kinds of concepts into words that helped me understand, much less helped other people understand too. And trying to explain God and the spirit to this insect felt a lot like explaining the beauty of orchestral music to a lawnmower.

The professor’s two serrated forelimbs stroked the front of his disc thoughtfully.

“What do the mantes believe?” I asked.

The professor’s forelimbs froze. “Nothing,” he said.


“We detect neither a spirit nor a God,” said the professor, who made a second jaw-gaped show of annoyance. “The avians and the amphibians, they each built palaces to their Gods. Whole continents and oceans mobilized in warfare, to determine which God was superior. Before we came and wiped them all out, down to the last chick and tadpole. Now, their flying Gods and their swimming Gods are recorded in the Quorum Archive, and I am left to wander here—to this desert of a planet—to quiz you, who are not even trained to give me the answers I seek.”

The professor’s body language showed that his annoyance verged on anger, and I felt myself pressing my calves and the backs of my thighs into the altar, ready for the lightning blow that would sever a carotid or split my stomach open. I’d seen so many die that way, their attackers reveling in the carnage. However technologically advanced the mantes were, they still retained a degree of predatory-hindbrain joy while engaged in combat.
Noticing my alarm, the professor floated backwards half a meter.

“Forgive me,” said the alien. “I came here today seeking answers from what I had hoped would be a somewhat reliable source. It is not your fault that the eldest of the Quorum destroy things before they can learn from them. My time with you is finite, and I am impatient to learn as much as possible before the end.”
“You have to leave . . . ?” I said, half-questioning.

The professor didn’t say anything for several seconds, letting the silence speak for him. My shoulders and back caved, if only a little.
“How many of the rest of us will die?” I asked, swallowing hard.

“All,” said the professor.

“All?” I said, at once sure of the answer, but still needing to ask again anyway.

“Yes, all,” said the professor. “When I got word that the Quorum had ordered this colony cleansed of competitive life forms—prior to the dispatching of the Fourth Expansion towards your other worlds—I knew that I had a very narrow window. I must study this faith that inhabits you humans. Before it is too late.”

“We’re no threat to you now,” I heard myself say with hollow shock, “all of us on Purgatory, we’ve all been disarmed and you’ve made it plain that we can’t hurt you. The Wall sees to that.”

“I will return tomorrow, to study your other visitors in their worship,” said the alien as his disc spun on its vertical axis, and he began to hover towards the exit.

“We’re not a threat—!”

But my shouting was for naught. The professor was gone.

• • •

Kindle Paperwhite

It’s Friday, very early morning. My wife mailed me a Kindle Paperwhite (Voyage) for my time on deployment. It’s my first ever e-reader. Since I barely got to Qatar, I haven’t been able to do much more with the Kindle than sync it to my laptop, and load a few e-books that I downloaded from Amazon. I already have a mess of Monster Hunter International books (on paper) so I decided to pick up some L.E. Modesitt, Jr. and some Michael Z. Williamson. I’ve never read the Imager series, but Lee is a mentor as well as a friend, and I’ve always liked his Hard SF very much. So I am going to give his fantasy a try too. As for Mike? Hey, it’s Mad Mike, y’all! And the cover has a rhino taking on an MRAP! How is that not awesome? Also, note the previously-purchased stuff from my friend and author Amanda McCarter, and mentor Dave Wolverton. I can already tell it’s going to be difficult not to get “click happy” with this thing. I also want to say again how much I adore my paperbacks! But this far from home, when every pound I have to put on my back is a pain in the butt, a Kindle just makes sense.

“Life Flight” wins AnLab readers’ choice award

With the results of the latest Analog magazine Analytical Laboratory (AnLab) readers’ choice award now public, I can happily make it official: I’ve picked up my third AnLab! For my novelette, “Life Flight,” which first appeared in the March 2014 issue of the magazine, and which is now in print in my short fiction collection Racers of the Night from WordFire Press.

I won my first AnLab for my novelette “Outbound,” for the publishing year 2010. That was my first-ever story in the pages of Analog and I went on to win a second AnLab for my novella “The Chaplain’s Legacy,” which became the foundation for my Baen novel, The Chaplain’s War.

The AnLab has a special place in my heart, because it represents the aggregate approval of the readers of Analog — who are an astute bunch! — and because Analog is such a venerable publication. Most of the greats of Science Fiction have published in Analog’s pages at one time or another. To include Robert A. Heinlein, Larry Niven, George R. R. Martin, Lois Bujold, and Orson Scott Card.

Being able to collect a third AnLab tells me that I am continuing to give Analog’s readers the kinds of stories that they enjoy. Indeed, I think I got more enthusiastic (and in many instances, heartfelt) reader mail, for “Life Flight,” than all the mail I’ve gotten for all my previous Analog stories combined.

Here’s a story sample:

Audio Journal Transcript: Day 17,500

I’ve been accused of playing favorites.

I can live with that accusation.

So what if I rigged the wake-up schedule to my liking?

There are some people who were never going to spend any significant time awake anyway.

To prove my point I showed the plaintiff a roster of all names currently in stasis: 48 men, 49 women, 112 girls, and 83 boys. All of the adults drew lots when they volunteered to come on the trip, and all of them swore to uphold their part of the bargain, if they happened to be one of the ones assigned to an “awake” shift in support of the Osprey. Did it really matter if I scrubbed my parents from the next stint? Or Li, who was actually supposed to be awake now—for the first time, not the second.

I once read that a military general on Earth said: no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. The trip to Delta Pavonis is a war of attrition. Fuel dwindles, supplies get used up, reserves are recycled, re-used, recycled, and re-re-used, to the point that waste must inevitably be jettisoned. Frankly I am amazed we haven’t had worse problems than we’ve already experienced.

And if a couple of untimely deaths gave me an excuse to swap a few names around on the list, who are the newbies to argue with me about it?

I’m old enough to be their father for Christ’s sake.

Of course, my list of names did not include the 10,000 embryos also being carried in stasis: an entire, healthy human gene pool, with plenty of room to spare.

Not that all 10,000 are expected to be implanted in wombs the instant we arrive. If the medical science is right, those embryos will be good for at least a hundred years or more, on top of the total trip time. So that as new generations of Delta Pavonians—my Lord, that is clumsy, we simply must come up with a better word for ourselves—come of age, the women can have some original offspring, and at least one or two “stasis babies” originally carried from Earth.

Inside of two centuries, if everything progresses according to the plan, there’ll be no fear of inbreeding. For anyone. And there will be so many people living on the new world that even a significantly major disaster won’t be able to wipe us all out.

Much depends on those first 25 years. When we’ll be digging in. Putting down roots. Staking our claim.

To that end I’ve been slowly and methodically constructing my arsenal of weaponry. Using the rifle designs Ben and I first finalized way back when I was in my 20s. I’ve taken them outside and test-fired the lot of them, and am satisfied that they will suffice. Unless the new planet is literally infested with bloodthirsty monsters bigger than the biggest elephant, we ought to be able to fend off whatever nasties may be lurking in those jungles and forests.

Which we still can’t see—as anything more than a green blur.

It takes hours for the telescopes to find the planet circling Delta Pavonis, and then it’s impossible to get a clear shot because of relative drift. Even when we’re getting closer and closer all the time.

I want to say a hearty THANK YOU to everyone who gave “Life Flight” their vote, during the AnLab selection process. Again, this is the readers’ choice award, so not only does it come with a nice check from Penny Publications & Dell Magazines, it represents the overall satisfaction of Analog’s subscribers and readers as a whole. Given the magazine’s lengthy history in the field — and all the many amazing authors who’ve gotten their start in Analog’s hallowed pages — I am enormously pleased to have (again) delivered the kind of story that Analog’s readers find satisfying and enjoyable.

Have not read it yet? You can get the story *NOW* in my collection below.

Amazon.com: trade paperback, or electronic.

Barnes & Noble: trade paperback, or electronic.

Kobo: e-book

Smashwords: multiple formats

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?

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!”

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.

Tribalism is as tribalism does

I told George R. R. Martin I’d be writing this post — as a result of some of the polite dialogue we had at his LiveJournal page. His basic question to me was, “How can you, as a guy in an interracial marriage, put up with some of the racist and sexist stuff (a certain person) writes on his blog?” I thought this a valid question. How indeed? I didn’t have the space on LiveJournal to unpack all of my thoughts and feelings on the dread ism topic, so I thought I would do it here.

When I was a teenager, concepts like racism and sexism seemed easy to understand. People who are sexist, think the opposite gender are inferior human beings. People who are racist, think people of opposite ethnicities are inferior human beings. Both concepts are morally wrong. What seemed obvious, was obvious. I’d had this idea spoon-fed to me since I was old enough to go to school, so I went about my life generally trying to be the kind of guy who avoided ist stuff so as to not be guilty of the ominous ism label.

After I got married, though, the actual complexity of racism, sexism, and other, similar things, started to become clearer. Especially since nobody can quite arrive at a consensus as to what constitutes ism. There is no agreement. Simply a spectrum, from hot to cold. At the cold end you have people who give tremendous benefit of the doubt to almost any word or action. No harm, no foul. It takes a lot for such people to begin using the ist and ism labels. Conversely, at the hot end are the people who see ist and ism at the drop of a hat. Everyone and everything is freighted with ist and ism. There are none who are “clean” and all are guilty.

Perhaps ironically — for an interracially married guy — while the social drama of our era has ratcheted toward the hot, I’ve slowly found myself drifting toward the cool. Not because I think ist and ism do not exist — they do. But because I think a lot of what we label as racist and sexist is actually culturalist tribalism. Even America’s dyed-in-the-wool progressives are prone to this one. Ask a Seattle coffee house progressive what she thinks of Alabama “cracker” folk. Or ask a New York socialist atheist for his opinion on conservative Utah Mormons. You will find, often, that even the minds who proclaim themselves to be the most open and the most tolerant, have sharp limits. Because even though multiculturalism is practically an iron-clad gospel at this point, everyone can identify tribes they are distrustful of, if not openly hostile toward.

So, as I enter my fifth decade of life, I strongly suspect ethnicity is — very often — the lesser part of it. Gender too. Ethnicity and gender are flags. Markers. Identifiers. If ever some other flag or marker offsets the original, the equation changes.

One example that leaps to my mind: back when I was an NCO, I had a Small Group Leader (SGL) at one of the Army’s NCO schools who had emigrated out of central Africa, come to the U.S., and joined the U.S. military. He said that he found it very interesting, as a born African, trying to navigate among American blacks and whites alike. Based purely on how he looked, he would be treated one way — right up until he opened his mouth. At which point his accent identified him as something remarkably other than black American. Whites who had been cool to him (in the literal sense) would sometimes warm up. Blacks who had been warm, would cool down. Sometimes, even turn hostile?

Another example: depending on how my wife styles her hair, she can (and does) pass for hispanic, black, or pacific islander. Yet, growing up in Hawaii among a family of all-adopted brothers and sisters, she found herself constantly at war with the children outside her home: white kids, Japanese Hawaiian kids, and full-blooded Hawaiian kids. She experienced constant fist-fights. Brutal stuff. Up through high school. Why couldn’t she pass through all of this unscathed? What made her so different that no ethnic group — save the Chinese Hawaiians — were reliably safe for her?

Getting back to my SGL at the NCO school, something else he said struck me strongly: nobody in America really knows ethnic strife the way he saw it, because he literally witnessed portions of his family wiped out by what essentially amounted to tribal warfare. To white American eyes, there’d have been no discernible difference between the people killing each other. But the Africans themselves knew the difference, and considered it a difference worth murdering each other over.

The SGL in question therefore found 21st century American racial tension to be both familiar, and also utterly foreign. Small potatoes, compared to his experience.

So how do you overcome small-potatoes tribalism? Sometimes, by simply creating a new over-arching tribe from whole cloth.

In the U.S. military, we endure a breaking-in period known as Initial Entry Training — boot camp. It’s specifically designed to make everyone look the same, talk the same, and to a certain extent, think the same. We are thus inculcated (as opposed to acculturated) into the new “tribe” to the extent that prior ethnic, religious, lingual, and other barriers, become offset. Not erased entirely, but offset. We adopt a new tribal identity. One that can become so powerful, men and women from different parts of the country, even different parts of the world, identify so strongly with the single tribe that we find these bonds stronger than almost anything else. Sometimes, even stronger than blood or birth. We wear the uniforms, we share the experiences. We talk a certain way. Look at life through a certain lens.

We can also speak to shared hardship. In fact, there is practically no greater social glue, than to make a group of individuals all go through the same shitty thing — together.

This is usually why U.S. military veterans — any branch, any era — can almost instantly find common ground. Despite all the many things in their lives which might differentiate them.

Folks, I believe strongly that all of this is wired into us. As author and philosopher Steven Barnes consistently says: every person is built to be tribal. We can’t escape it. It’s part of who we are. If you ask Steve, he’ll say that someone is “awake” when (s)he makes a conscious effort to be aware of inherent tribal tendencies, and shape them (or even eschew them) for the sake of nobler sentiments, nobler goals, and a greater self-awareness that goes above and beyond identity.

And make no mistake: identity is at the heart of the social discussion in the 21st century. To include identity politics.

So, when the news makes noise about some racist police officer shooting an umarmed black teenager, or rapper Azealia Banks talks about how she hates white midwestern Americans, I think in the back of my mind: There it is — there is the tribalism. In Azealia’s case, she is merely using words. The cop is killing a person. But in both instances, the root of the problem goes back to tribalism. For the cop, young black teenage males represent a “tribe” of troublemakers, gangbangers, hoodlums, petty thieves, and drug dealers. All dangerous, and all untrustworthy. On the flip side, for many black Americans, white cops also represent a kind of “tribe” which is also dangerous, hair-trigger, not to be trusted, prone to never giving the benefit of the doubt, predictably suspicious, and so forth. Both “tribes” have valid historical evidence for how they feel about the other tribe.

And both tribes key on external markers, when identifying the other tribe. Flags which can be offset by contra-flags.

Consider: black teen male walking down a neighborhood street, when a white off-duty cop steps to the door. The teen is wearing low-hung blue jeans, work boots with the laces missing or untied, the top of his boxer shorts is visible, he has on a hoodie, and a baseball cap with the visor cocked at forty-five degrees. What are the off-duty white cop’s assumptions — regarding the young black male and his potential tribe?

Consider again: black teen male walking down a neighborhood street, this time dressed in a baby blue oxford shirt, pressed cotton slacks, matte-shine black business loafers, wearing glasses, and carrying a book bag. Will the same off-duty cop’s assumptions change? Yes, or no.

Now, flip it.

Black college student walking home from campus at night, sees an old white guy sitting near a lamp post, wearing a tattered U.S. Army surplus jacket, soiled pants, with a long greasy beard on his face, and long greasy hair shrouding his head, while he’s holding a paper sack with a bottle neck sticking out of it. What’s the tribal assumption, on the part of the black college student?

Try again: black college student walks home from campus, sees the same old white guy, but this time the old man’s been washed up, his beard is gone, and his hair is neatly combed and trimmed, plus he’s in a new suit with an expensive tie, and his eyes are alert and sober. Different tribal assumption, right?

See, all of us do this every day without even thinking about it. Who’s in my tribe? Are you in my tribe? And if you don’t look like you’re in my tribe, are you in a tribe that’s cool with my tribe, or un-cool with my tribe? Maybe you don’t seem to be in my tribe, until we talk about a shared interest or a shared experience — something not obvious on the surface — and we instantly discover the tribal bond? What if we think we share a tribal bond, but conversation reveals we’re on opposite ends of something? Like religion, or politics? Does the division strain or sever the tribal identification?

My SGL from NCO school became out-tribe (for some black Americans) when he talked, because his African accent contradicted his physical flag: his ethnicity. He was not “of the tribe” many black Americans thought him to be.

My wife was also not “of the tribe” when young. She didn’t fit. The way she talked, marked her as out-tribe. The way she looked, also marked her as out-tribe. There was no tribe for her. Kids being kids, they made the question it into a physical confrontation. My wife being my wife, she finished every fight they started. Dozens of times. Her childhood doesn’t have many happy memories in this regard. And to this day, there are still ways she (and we, as a couple) are deemed out-tribe.

For instance: No matter which state we’ve lived in, grocery stores are a common place to find we’re out-tribe. If there is a white family at the check-out line ahead of us, and the white clerk is chatty and cheerful with that family, as soon as my wife and I show up, the clerk goes cold. Minimal interactivity. No overt words or actions of hostility. Just . . . a palpable withdrawing. For whatever reasons, my wife and I are suddenly out-tribe. Either because the clerk is making assumptions about my wife, or making assumptions about both of us because we’re together, but we look different.

That doesn’t happen every day. But I’ve seen it happen enough to know it’s a thing. And no, I don’t think these clerks are doing it consciously. It’s tribal.

And tribalism is everywhere. It’s who we are. On every continent.

When I went to Italy with the Army, I discovered that the northern Italians often had certain feelings toward the southern Italians, and vice versa.

Soccer (football) fans in Europe and the UK are notorious for being tribal to the point of death and violence.

Hell, ask Boston Red Sox fans and New York Yankees fans about their “tribes” in the sports world.

And we are all actively working to create tribes amongst ourselves all the time. Sports, music, clothing, enthusiasms like video games and comic books and fiction. Do you love a thing? Do others love the same thing? Are you now a kind of tribe? If you love the thing enough, do you begin to speak a similar language, reference the same touchstones — a touchstone being an object or a concept or an idea that is familiar to everyone? Do you begin to create in-jokes and humor specific to the group? Do you have closeness that cuts across other differences that might separate you?

Yup. Tribalism.

Most of us in the developed West seem to pretend that we’re beyond tribalism, or that tribalism is somehow primitive.

I think it’s part of being human, and helps us to define who and what we are.

In both good ways, and bad.

Consider tribalism in Science Fiction & Fantasy: SF/F.

Moskowitz versus the Futurians? The Campbellians versus the New Wave? Worldcon versus Sad Puppies?

The Fandom (capital f) that created the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) were a tribe so dedicated to their shared enthusiasm, they formalized it. Gave it rules and expectations. An institution was born. New people coming into the institution had to be inculcated much as anyone joining a religion or the military might also be inculcated. Totems (like the Hugo awards) were erected and celebrated.

And Sad Puppies 3 came to the “tribe” in 2015, wearing baggy pants below the waist, visible boxer shorts, untied work boots, and a hat cocked at forty five degrees. Or, if you prefer, Sad Puppies 3 pulled Worldcon over on the highway: maglite aimed through Worldcon’s driver’s-side window, while Sad Puppies 3 asked for license and registration.

The reaction — especially among certain vocal members of Fandom — was less than enthused.

“The tribe! The tribe is at stake! Invaders have come! Protect the totem! Save the totem!

Now, I’ve tried to explain this before: a huge part of the deal with this whole nerd fight, is that the Hugo awards don’t just brand as “The award of the Worldcon tribe.” The Hugos (and the Worldcon tribe alike) brand the Hugo as the award for the entirety of SF/F: books, stories, movies, television, music, art, you name it. This is not just the totem of the single SF/F tribe. This is the totem of all the SF/F tribes.

But the single tribe (Worldcon) wants the exclusive right to decide how the totem gets distributed — to which tribe members, and for what kinds of work.

It’s the totem of all, but to be decided by only some.

That — right there — is the root of the conflict. Totem of of all, decided by some. Sad Puppies 3 (and to a certain extent, Sad Puppies 2 and Sad Puppies 1) made the audacious claim that the totem for all, should be decided by all. Anyone willing to pay the poll tax (Worldcon membership) should have a say. We invited everyone to the democratic process. We didn’t care who was or was not in the “tribe” of World Science Fiction Society. This is the totem of all! And the rules pretty much make it so that all can participate!

But the Worldcon tribe — or at least certain vocal members within the tribe — have gone full-retard-tribal about the affront to “their” award, and “their” convention. So it’s tribe-vs-tribe. Are you in-tribe or out-tribe? How can anyone tell? Are you “of the body” of the tribe? Were you inculcated? No? Then what the hell are you doing coming to our tribal ground and fucking with our totem? It’s ours, dammit! Not yours! Ours!!

Protestations about propriety are merely bureaucratic dressing for tribal reactionary mud-slinging.

Mud-slinging which was taken to the broader media by a few tribe-members determined to “nuke” us invaders: Sad Puppies.

But not just us alone. We were almost incidental. The partisans of the Worldcon tribe had a more serious foe in mind.

Because of all the things most frightening to the Worldcon tribe, the worst are the Visigoths of Vox Day. Not just an out-tribe, Vox and his fans represent an explicitly war-like and hostile tribe, come to seize the totem by brute means. So, some of the Worldcon tribe said, “No, we will destroy the totem first, before we let the Visigoths have it!” To which the Visigoths and their heathen king Vox replied, “If you destroy it this year, we will most certainly destroy it next year — and there is nothing you can do to stop us!”

Now, the heathen king is terrifying to the Worldcon tribe. He is a literal barbarian. He talks and walks and threatens like a barbarian. He’s not precisely the guy anyone planned on walking through the democratic door. But because the Hugo voting process is democratic, nobody can be barred for purely tribal reasons. You pay your poll tax, you get a vote. The Worldcon tribe stares at both Sad Puppies 3 and the Rabid Puppies with equal dismay.

Me? I’m not in it to destroy anything.

I just want the totem to reflect the wider influence of the big world of various tribes who all have claim to it. Because that’s where I came from. Out there. Not the “inside” Worldcon tribe. I’m from the wilderness tribes who knew nothing of conventions or Fandom (big F) in our youth. We simply liked what we liked, and we were fans — because nobody could tell us not to be fans. And I maintain — still — that there is nobody to tell us we’re not fans. So the totem is ours too. We have claim on it. It is “the most prestigious award” for everybody. And everybody agrees on this.

Either that, or change the branding, and call the Hugos, “The little award, for the little crowd at Worldcon.”

Heck, while we’re at it, stop calling it Worldcon. Any given Comic Con can boast a bigger world-wide attendance than even the Worldcons done outside North America.

And stop pretending you care about “diversity” when the Worldcon tribe reacts with extreme revulsion any time truly different people want to come have a seat at the table.

Maybe call it Legacycon, to reflect that it’s the legacy gathering of legacy fans who trace their roots back to the old days? Before SF/F went big and took over the entertainment world.

Or maybe call it Stuffycon: to reflect the hoity toity attitudes of the taste-makers who want to be sure the “wrong” kinds of fans aren’t voting in the “wrong” kinds of books, art, and stories.

Or maybe just be wholly transparent and call it White American Liberals Con — An inclusive, diverse place where everyone talks about the same things, has the same tastes, votes the same way, and looks at the world through the same pair of eyes. Whitelibbycon. With the trophy: whitelibbyrocket.

But wait, I am showing my tribal ass with these comments. See? See how that happens so fast? It’s tricksy, I tell you! Tricksy.

Because the ultimate question in a polyglot society — or a polyglot field of the arts — is whether or not you (and your tribe) can make room in your hearts and minds for the people from the other tribes. Are the other tribes really dangerous? Or are you simply worried that by letting the outside tribes mingle with the inside tribe, you will lose the authenticity and flavor that you believe makes your tribe special? How much are you willing to sacrifice to preserve your culture, versus allowing your culture to mix with others, and blend? We know these fears. They perk up every time a new wave of immigrants comes. Doesn’t matter if its Irish, German, Japanese, Italian, Chinese, or Mexican. People become very upset with the idea that the new tribe is going to wash away everything about the old tribe. Can the new tribe be assimilated? What if they won’t assimilate, what then? Is there any chance for harmony?

Think on that, oh ye purists of Worldcon.

Steve Davidson and Teresa Nielsen-Hayden talk like anti-Amnesty Republicans!

Now, I won’t speak for the heathen king or the riders of his war elephants. I will only speak for Sad Puppies 3.

Many of us were already “of the tribe”, or are at least capable of passing as tribe members when we want to. We know the lingo, we know the touchstones, we are familiar with the history. Maybe we don’t religiously attend Worldcon — maybe we don’t even do cons very much, because of travel and expenses — but this field is our field. These arts are our arts. We just want a seat at the table. And we want the totem to reflect the existence of all the many venerable pros and fans who have done every bit as much to keep this field alive — over the last three decades — as anyone in the Worldcon tribe proper.

Uncle Timmy? Kevin J. Anderson? Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show? They are entirely part of the fabric of the giant and expanding quilt of Science Fiction & Fantasy. But too many — the people who probably ought to go form Stuffycon — won’t acknowledge this.

You can’t claim your tribe is “inclusive” when you seek a laundry list of excuses to kick people (and their stuff) out of the tribe.

I’m hoping that — once the heat dies down this summer — people can be a little more “awake” in Steve Barnes’s words. A little less apt to let the tribal instinct get the better of their good intentions. And sure, maybe Larry Correia and I are guilty of it too. Certainly the out-tribe experience has created a tribalness and hostility all its own. Larry and both feel like we tried to parlay, and discovered parlay wasn’t possible. A more direct approach had to be taken. So we went to the streets and said, “Come to the democracy, one and all!”

I am sorry if the Worldcon tribe — Fandom — is unhappy. Yeah, I get it about the Visigoths. But even most of those guys aren’t bad either. They’re fans too. And the GamerGaters? Fans. Out-tribe, maybe. But fans. Don’t buy all the scary bad press. In fact, don’t buy any of the scary bad press. The other tribes love this field too. Perhaps not in precisely the same way that you do, oh tender-souled Worldcon long-timers. But then, being “awake” also means realizing that change is inevitable. If Worldcon (and the Hugos) are going to thrive, and retain relevance, the out-tribe folk are going to have to be let in the door, allowed to come to all the parties, and given a full share of the say.

Please don’t CHORF it

Amanda Green already schooled this editorial from the Amazing Stories webzine. In fact, Amanda didn’t just steal the ball, she went with the crossover fake, took her man all the way to the hoop, ran him into the standard, then dribbled back out to the top of the key and dropped a supremely graceful 3-pointer through the net. So, before you read me, go read her. It was magnificent. It was art.

Hugo award voters, don’t CHORF your final vote card.

You may not agree with or even like Sad Puppies 3 or the “open” slate process we’ve employed, but before you get sniffy and go chalking NO AWARD at the top of your lists for the categories — and the damned final ballot is not even out yet, so how in the hell did we jump directly to people calling for you all to vote NO AWARD?! — consider this.

There are men and women on the SP3 list who deserve to be recognized regardless of association with the SP3 slate. Some of them have invested decades in the field, and have published many, many different quality works, for the enjoyment of many, many different fans. You can hate on the slate. You can even hate on me, as the front man for SP3. But the moment you start hating on the participants, you’re crossing a line. You’re proving what Larry Correia said you’d prove, all the way back with SP1 in 2013: that the award is not now nor has it ever been about quality or merit, it’s just a “cool kids” award for people deemed worthy of being in the “cool kids” club.

So, you can go ahead and CHORF the ballot if you feel like it. We (SP3) obviously can’t stop you. In fact, when the final numbers are released at the end of August, we’ll have a precise look at just how many CHORFs there are voting in the Hugos this year. Because we’ll see (first-run) exactly how many times NO AWARD is brandished in any given category, by a certain number of people.

I’m optimistic. I like to think the actual number of CHORFs at Sasquan is going to be low. Not every SMOF is a CHORF, and not every fan is a TruFan, and not every voter is inclined to get his fruit-of-the-looms wedged up his exhaust port simply because the Hugo ballot looks rather different than it has in years past. Don’t quote me on this, but I am pretty sure somebody smart once said that change is a good thing. And when I say change, I don’t mean exchanging green apples for red apples, nor Granny Smiths for Golden Delicious. I mean, apples for pears, and apples for grapes, and bananas, and star fruit, and watermelons, and kiwi, and all sorts of stuff that wouldn’t necessary make the ballot without some organized effort.

And, really, let’s not kid ourselves. Organized effort has been part of the Hugo awards from the inception. It’s just normally done on the down-low. SP has decided that the down-low is not sufficient. And no, we don’t care if you think it’s gauche. Commanding people to stay silent and sit on their hands is a great way to guarantee that whatever sneaky little trickery you yourself are pulling, will work largely unopposed. Perhaps it’s not occurred to some readers that the best way to be sure your own skulduggery succeeds, is in making the other guys abide a higher standard? That’s one of Alinksy’s rules, after all: make the other people abide a rule you yourself will happily break.

So, having observed the not-so-hidden dirty laundry which has accompanied this award in years past, SP merely dared to ask, “What if we were honest, and what if we gave a voice to every man and woman who has told us privately that (s)he is sick of the way the Hugos typically turn out? Tired of the blind spots, biases, and predictable outcomes?”

Regardless of how they get there, the people who make it (on April 4th) deserve your respect. Do them the dignity of acknowledging there presence. Again, you don’t have to like SP3, nor me as the front man. But those participants? They’ll have earned those slots the way any other nominees earned those slots in years past. Maybe the final ballot as a whole won’t be to your taste? But then, when is the final ballot ever? Kvetching about who got missed and who should have been on it, has also been with this award since the inception.

SP merely decided to go to work. Not bitch and moan impotently. We did our research, and we took a past Hugo winner’s advice:

“It’s actually true, so let’s say it again: change the Hugos by nominating, voting and participating, or (much more slowly and far less reliably) actively making your case to the people who are nominating, voting and participating. As a pro tip, explicitly or implicitly disparaging their intelligence, taste or standing to make choices when you try to do that is unlikely to persuade them to decide anything other than that you’re probably an asshole.”
– John Scalzi, April 5, 2013

I especially like the last part: explicitly or implicitly disparaging their intelligence, taste or standing to make choices when you try to do that is unlikely to persuade them to decide anything other than that you’re probably an asshole.

In other words, don’t CHORF it, dudes. A book is a book is a book, and a story is a story is a story.

Read your final ballot packet. You paid for it, after all. Go with the stories that speak to your heart.

That is all. Carry on.