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!”


Keyboard rage

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

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

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

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

Who knew that half the world is made of monsters?

Only, it isn’t.

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

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

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

Hopefully we learn.

Until then, things are bumpy.

Tolerance in the 21st century

Wait, wait, I think I get it now.

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

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

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.

Nuking the Hugos from orbit

Because it’s the only way to be sure!

After a bit of a lull in this kind of talk, it seems certain individuals — I won’t call them “high profile” because we’re dealing with an absurd level of relativity when we discuss the Peoples Republic of Science Fiction — have renewed calls to NO AWARD the voting ballot. Basically, they want to get as many people as possible to rank NO AWARD in the top slot in each category, so as to burn the categories — that way none of the “wrong” works, artists, editors, or writers, get to have a Hugo award this year. There will literally be no awards given. Scorched Earth!

I confess — as someone who is vocally critical of World Science Fiction Convention’s notoriously insular attitude — to being disappointed by the rattling of the nuclear saber. Mostly because even I don’t think there are enough Fans (caps f) in Fandom (also caps F) who are this selfish, cheap, and petulant. After decades of seeing the Hugos be quietly gamed, people are now going to blow the thing up, because a democracy was used democratically?

It’s not a matter of whether or not you think a slate is gauche, or you think the “wrong” people got to participate in the selection process.

What’s at stake right now is: do the Fans (caps f) of Fandom (caps f) love Science Fiction and Fantasy, or do the Fans merely love their insider club with its insider biases?

Are the people crying the loudest about how Sad Puppies 3 “gamed” the system, really concerned with the integrity of the award, or are they mad merely because they didn’t get to have their way?

Notice that some of the crankiest souls, are also among those who have benefited the most from the “old” way, with it’s numerous and sundry soft manipulations; multiple upon multiple Hugo nominations, and Hugo wins.

I mean, it’s not like this is some kind of shocking revelation. Harlan Ellison was talking about this 20 years ago. In a sea of annual production, the likelyhood that the Hugo is now (or could ever be again) given for purely meritorious reasons — without boosterism, without folks getting together to push for things — was nill. And since Harlan didn’t seem particularly bothered by it, I am not sure why anyone else is bothered by it. Folks have been lobbying (for themselves, or on behalf of others) behind the scenes for decades.

The internet merely made this lobbying public.

The chief sin of Sad Puppies 3 seems to be that we were transparent and we were successful beyond all expectation.

Many a red herring has been lobbed at us over the past three weeks. All of these are colossal distractions from the central question I’ve been asking my entire (short, so far) career: do the Hugos even matter anymore, and if they don’t, how to we get them to matter again?

My logic has been: get more people to vote, and bring those people in from diverse sectors of the consumer market, and the cachet of the award increases because more and more people from a broader spectrum of the totality of fandom (small f) will have a stake in the award, pay attention to what’s selected for the final ballot, and will view the award as a valid marker of enjoyability; or at least notoriety.

Especially since the Hugos have already been subjected to numerous manipulations (again, all behind the scenes) by authors, voters, and publishers, who all seem to want the Hugo to better reflect their tastes, their interests, their politics, and their pet points they want to make with the award.

So, Sad Puppies rolled up its sleeves and said, “Let’s see what happens if we really go to work,” and the answer was: Holy damn, look at that!

And now the response from some has been to say, “Fuck it all, the award is no good when the wrong people get to vote, so let’s just nuke the whole thing from orbit this year, and set about rejiggering the rules so that the wrong people don’t get to meddle with things next time.” (For all definitions of wrong which include, “Whoever David Gerrold doesn’t seem to like this week.”)

That grownups are deploying this argument — we will take our ball and go home! — merely reinforces every unfortunate stereotype anyone has ever had; about Fandom, about Worldcon, about nerds and geeks in general. That we pitch fits when things don’t go our way. That we love playing fair, until we don’t get what we want, and then it’s time to kick our feet and bang our plastic knives and forks on our high-chair tables, and throw our food at the wall.

Again, I like to think that Fandom is made of sterner stuff than this. Sure, there are a few spoilsports who seem to have taken it very personally — that the Hugo ballot doesn’t look the way they think it should look this year. As one notable editor remarked to me in confidence, “Now they know how we always feel!” To which I can only say, indeed.

And the cranks are certainly trying to rally as many people as they can to their cause. Which is fine. Again, this is Fandom and Worldcon on trial here. Not anyone involved with Sad Puppies 3. This is a mettle moment: when Fandom has to ask itself, “Are we really people who love Science Fiction and Fantasy? Or are we simply in love with ourselves instead?”

If the answer is the former, then NO AWARD will not carry the day. The grownups will have prevailed.

If the answer is the latter, then NO AWARD will nuke the categories, and the bigger SF/F world will have conclusive proof that both Worldcon and the Hugo awards are one-hundred-percent irrelevant in the 21st century.

If I were a committed Fan in Fandom, I’d stare long and hard at my ballot, before going with the second option.

Seriously, blowing up the Hugos with NO AWARD is not just terrible public relations, not just terrible sportsmanship, not just terrible (far moreso than any slate or list!) etiquette, it will totally and permanently turf whatever limited credibility the Hugo had left — in the wider world of SF/F fans, and fan regard. The Hugo will literally become the “little” award for “little” people, who like giving themselves shiny stuff, and making sure that the “bad” people don’t even get to have a seat at the table, nor have any of the shiny stuff.

I say, GO GROWNUPS! You know who you are. Read your packets. Don’t follow the cranks. You don’t owe the cranks anything anyway.

And if you are genuinely upset with Sad Puppies, by golly, get out your vote next year. Go around and rattle a few of your own cages. Wake up the electorate! If it’s the voted award, then the award relies on the health of its democracy. Don’t change the rules or call for the award to be spiked. Get people motivated to have a say. That’s all we at Sad Puppies 3 did: we motivated people to have their say.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Not for anybody.

Ringing the bell

Picking up where I left off with my post on tribalism. Because I wanted to talk specifically about a recurrent kind of “broken” I am seeing in arguments all over the place — beyond the tiny halls of the Peoples Republic of Science Fiction. This “broken” is most commonly manifested among well-meaning straight Caucasian folk, but is often fostered and preached about by non-straight and/or non-Caucasians of a particularly aggressive “progressive” persuasion.

The “broken” goes like this:

● Any member of the majority group is always guilty of ism no matter what.
● The ism is a fatal character and moral flaw, from which the afflicted cannot fully recover.
● Members of the minority group can never be guilty of ism; because the minority group lacks power.
● Members of the majority group must be “shown” their ism and/or be made to confess their inherent flaw; en route to being reformed.
● Reformed members of the majority group will actively assist in pointing out the ism of unreformed people.
● Proof (of ism) is not required; guilt will always be assumed.
● The more a target denies or resists charges of ism, the greater the obvious culpability.
● The unreformed are “fair game” for all manner of actions designed to be personally destructive to the target(s).
● Lying (and other unethical behavior) on the part of the plaintiff(s) — against the target(s) — is forgivable, because the ends justify the means.

Folks, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is Witch Trials 101. There’s nothing new about any of it. All we’ve done is wrap the witch trials up in trendy 21st century politics. When people are automatically guilty of a crime, for which no evidence is required, and the accusers are permitted a kind of political immunity while the protestations of the innocent are merely used as “proof” that the innocent were guilty all along . . . that’s witch trials. Burning at the stake. Except, these days the stake and the village square are located on the internet, and the villagers — with digital pitch forks and torches — are anyone with access to Twitter, a blog, Facebook, or some other form of social media.

Some people who actively engage in the witch trials and witch hunts, are cynics using the process for pure spite, vindictiveness, or to take down enemies.

But many people are not cynics; they really do believe they’re doing a good thing. Or at least, they want to be seen doing the “good thing” so that they can (hopefully) avoid becoming a target themselves.

I call this behavior RINGING THE BELL.

Think of it like the classic carnival game. At the bottom of the pole you have the weight. The bottom of the pole represents the default state of existence, which (according to the “broken” narrative) is ism. Could be racism, could be sexism, could be homophobia, or transphobia, etc. Whatever terrible ism is hiding under our beds, that’s where the bottom of the pole is. And that’s where you are, simply as a matter of breathing air. The only way to “prove” you are reformed, is to take your mallet and thwack the lever, hurling the weight up the pole with the intent to ring the bell. The harder and more often you slam your mallet down — over and over — the more you will feel like (and be seen by others being) reformed. AKA: you are an “ally” in the fight against ism.

“See? *DING* See how I ring the bell? *DING* I am one of the good ones! *DING* I am making a difference!”

Again, ethics aren’t really part of it. What counts is how much force you put into slamming that mallet. Ergo, how many times others hear or see you ringing the bell.

Things that count as “slamming the mallet, ringing the bell” on the internet:

● Accuse others of ism.
● Self-denigrate and self-flagellate, for the sake of expunging your own ism.
● Public confessions of ist thoughts and ist feelings.
● Twitter-mobbing “fair game” targets.
● Social media gossiping and lying about “fair game” targets.
● Doxxing “fair game” targets.
● Threatening the family and friends of “fair game” targets.
● Threatening the livelyhood of “fair game” targets.

And so on, and so forth.

Really, it’s an alluringly toxic wedding of no-heavy-lifting slacktivism, with guilt-free self-righteousness — that doesn’t require a participant to get his or her hands dirty, can be done from behind the safety of a keyboard and screen, affords anonymity (if you want it), or allows you to self-valorize in front of spectators.

Is it any wonder this game has become so popular?

I tend to reject the “broken” wherever and whenever I encounter it. Mostly because I don’t believe in the model of the carnival game, where everybody’s default resting state is ism. This is just another kind of original sin, secularized and modernized. I’ve never trucked with people who espouse the “broken” doctrine. And it is a doctrine. Very trendy, and very popular — especially in the hothouse halls of university humanities theory. If you believe the theory, you can never escape your original sin, because you were born with it. And your only recourse is to adopt the hair shirt, set about decrying original sin in others, and trying very hard to make sure you’re one step ahead of the inquisition.

Which is — to my mind — not only morally and ethically wrong, it’s also futile; and exhausting. Nobody who is actually enduring a societal injustice is much helped by participants staging the kabuki “broken” theater. The kabuki is purely about dancing the dance according to the forms, so that participants can align themselves correctly — in order to not be seen on the wrong side of the political and social tracks.

Again, this is no-heavy-lifting slacktivism.

But who wants to have to keep ringing the bell? Sooner or later you’re going to run out of steam — not to mention friends. You can’t run around pointing your finger at the motes in the eyes of others, while ignoring the beam in your own. Eventually you will slip up and your “friends” on the correct side of the kabuki will throw you to the wolves — you will be declared “fair game” and all the tactics you formerly used against others, will come home to roost against you personally.

Better — I believe fervently — to abolish original sin. Stop the kabuki. No human being is born into a state of ism and no person should ever fear being counted guilty of a crime that has not actually been provably committed.

Yes, there is the question of tribalism, and it’s not a bad idea to keep on your toes in this regard. Because I believe tribal instincts run deep in human beings, and we manifest our tribalism every day. Often in very benign and harmless ways. Sometimes in less-than-harmless ways, too. But merely keeping your wits about you, and working against tribalist instinct that can turn destructive, is the hallmark of the thinking mind. It proves that you give benefit of the doubt to your fellow human beings.

The witch hunt is not the hallmark of the thinking mind. There is no benefit of the doubt. The kabuki is the activity of the unthinking — people who seek an easy path to the cheapest sort of binary absolutism, and an unearned self-elevation above others.

Presently, the “broken” is running rampant in our popular culture. Nobody is quite sure what to do about it, except more and more people are growing alarmed at the consequences. Lives and reputations are being ruined. Careers destroyed. Families attacked without warrant. And much worse still.

Every time any of us engage in ringing the bell — despite our best intentions — we cause the candle flame of the Western Enlightenment to flicker. We’re enshrining emotion, at the expense of reason. Placing inductive logic and argument above deductive logic and argument. We’re inviting back into our hearts (and our heads) the many centuries of Dark Ages philosophy, which shackled culture after culture throughout history.

And no, it doesn’t matter if you think you’ve got good intentions.

The road to Hell has been paved with those for countless thousands of years.

Hopefully a breaking point is reached — that we’re either near it, or at it.

Because the society we create today, is the society we gift to our children tomorrow. And right now, society is imperiled from within, by the witch hunters.

Innocent, until proven guilty. Beyond any shadow of doubt. With facts. With evidence. That is the precept upon which liberal Western law is based. It is the foundation of the polite society. It is the root of what makes us a great people. We’re presently edging away from what makes us great. We’re letting our good intentions take us down a path to perdition. Hopefully enough courageous individuals straighten up and realize what’s happening — with time to slam on the brakes, and reverse course.

We don’t have to do this — we don’t have to dance the kabuki and ring the bell — in order to make the world a just place.

Sad Puppies: We are not Rabid Puppies

Larry Correia pretty much nailed it with his comments. I can only broaden mine to include “we” because nobody who is on the Sad Puppies 3 slate enlisted for the sake of being a Rabid Puppy.

I’ll state it again for emphasis: we are not Rabid. None of us wants to burn the Hugos down. We want the Hugos to live up their reputation as the preeminent award in the combined field of Science Fiction & Fantasy. We want Worldcon to be an actually diverse thing with authors and fans participating from across the spectrum, without having to worry about litmus tests or being in the correct groups. We don’t want people to have to be chameleons who hide who they are — or what they like or what they create — because it’s not what the “cool kids” agree with.

The objectives of Sad Puppies 3 have been simple and consistent:

● Use the democratic selection system of the Hugo awards.
● No “quiet” logrolling. Make it transparent.
● Boost authors, editors, and works — regardless of political persuasion.
● Bring recognition to people who’ve been long overlooked.
● Get some good promotion for new folks coming up in the field.
● Have fun!

In the past two weeks, the opponents of fun have been deploying a lot of Alinsky-style tactics from Alinsky’s Rules For Radicals. I am generally opposed to these tactics because they ignore ethics and morals and focus almost entirely on power for its own sake. But there’s no question that Alinsky was a smart guy who understands how people — and groups especially — tend to think and work. I said it two days ago: humans are tribal. Right now the Hugo awards have become a war of the tribes, and while most of the time Larry Correia and I and the Sad Puppies (laughing!) can be happy warriors, the one thing Larry and I don’t enjoy doing is messing with 3rd grade playground games like “Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!”

Nobody on Sad Puppies 3 signed up to be Rabid Puppies.

Nobody on Sad Puppies 3 signed up to be Rabid Puppies.

We are not Rabid Puppies. Larry and I are not Vox Day. As Larry said, that’s like saying Roosevelt and Churchill are Stalin.

We’re driving on the same freeway, but our destinations appear to be drastically different. Different cars. Different driving styles. We don’t want to be pulled over because the guy in the other car is doing 110 MPH. We can’t control the other driver(s) on the freeway.

Anyone who can’t see this, is either a) not examining the details closely enough, or b) using the fallacious guilt-by-association argument to try to “win” this thing. I get it. Vox is kryptonite. Everybody hates him. Many of the people on the SP3 slate hate him, and are profoundly annoyed that Rabid Puppies has turned out to be something of a spoiler in a larger, more principled argument.

Because I am the front man for SP3 I am tired of the participants and selections on the Sad Puppies 3 slate having to defend themselves from a fallacious attack.

So, let me flip it back at the crowd:

● Anyone attacking or bullying or cajoling any person on the Sad Puppies 3 slate, should be ashamed of this activity.
● Anyone who persists in making the fallacious guilt-by-association argument, is not being honest in his intentions.
● Sad Puppies 3 won’t dignify keyboard bullying or fallacious argument.
● This means I will not dignify keyboard bullying or fallacious argument.
● Two wrongs don’t make a right; if you hate Vox for being a dickhead, don’t be a dickhead yourself.
● The people and works on SP3 deserve better than for you to be a dickhead, just because you hate somebody else.

I won’t spend much more time on this, because I have spent too much time on it already. I fully grasp and understand that Sad Puppies 3 was going to be controversial no matter what, because Sad Puppies 3 challenges the status quo in an artistic field overloaded with people who think out loud through their blogs and social media. Some people seem to understand what’s going on, and are seeking principled positions — both pro, and con. I have engaged where I am able, and respect the principled disagreement that doesn’t turn ad hominem.

If you want to play “Stop hitting yourself!” you can go play it with somebody else your own age. I’m a grownup. And so is everyone else on the SP3 slate. Grownups should not have to defend themselves from, nor argue with, bratty kids.

Bratty kids are all about discrediting, intimidation, fear, keyboard bullying, group-think, and the hasty entrenching of false narratives.

Sad Puppies 3 is about better things.

If you want to be a jerk — if you want to be Vox Day’s mirror image — that’s no longer my concern, nor is it the concern of Sad Puppies 3.

We love this field. We’re sorry to be causing a ruckus that got bigger than expected. We’re sorry people are angry.

Read your voter packets. Vote for what you like best. That’s the mission. All else is posturing.

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.

Two Hugo final ballot changes, and a question

I would like to take this opportunity (as the coordinator of the Sad Puppies 3 effort in 2015) to note that John C. Wright’s piece, “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” was not on the Sad Puppies 3 list. It appears this story was on the copycat Rabid Puppies alter-ego slate, being put forth by Vox Day.

Many people have been conflating the two slates (Sad Puppies, Rabid Puppies) for the past ten days, and I think it’s important to make clear the fact that the two slates are different, while still being similar. I congratulate Thomas Olde Heuvelt, whose story “The Day The World Turned Upside Down” (from Lightspeed magazine) now takes a place on the 2015 Hugo final ballot. Good work, Thomas! And good luck!

One person who was on the Sad Puppies 3 ballot — Jon Eno — has been disqualified. I am sorry about that, Jon! I tried as best as I could to do my due diligence in researching the Hugo qualification rules, when I put you forward in that category. I think you’ve been doing a lot of very beautiful spec fic art, and I hope you continue to share your illustrations with all of us who follow you on Facebook.

Taking Jon’s place on the ballot is Kirk DouPonce, from the Rabid Puppies slate. Kirk’s been doing a bang-up excellent job with cover design, many examples of which can be seen at his site. Congratulations, Kirk! Terrific stuff, sir.

My question for the masses is: the year-to-year interpretations of the rules seem to occasionally be inconsistent. For example, John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War was indie published (to Scalzi’s web site) long before it was licensed by TOR for traditional publication, yet Old Man’s War was on the short list for Best Novel in 2006. Did anyone (at that time) ask for clarification? Seems to me if John C. Wright’s story can be bumped for prior web publication, this would have applied in Scalzi’s case too; unless the specific rules have changed since 2006.

Personal unpersoning

Ever since the furor over the Sad Puppies 3 slate kicked up last week, I’ve been getting tagged with comments about the infamous shock jock Vox Day. “When are you going to do something about him?” some ask. Others demand, “You must disavow him, otherwise it looks like you approve of his hate and racism.” Still others claim, “The longer you go without disavowing Vox, the more it makes me think you might actually agree with him.” And so on, and so forth.

Ah, gentle folk, such talk makes me tired. Are we really at that point? Have we really sunk to the place in the dialogue where failure to revile a man, automatically means approval or assent? If I do not hate him, I obviously love him?

It’s clear this isn’t about Vox Day as much as it’s about me signaling to the tribe that I can be bent to the tribe’s will.

Vox Day has been convicted of heinousness and expelled from the tribe. He is banished. While the rest of the Science Fiction village has turned its back, I’ve stood off to the side and observed the whole thing with a sour face, shaking my head. Neither with the tribe, nor against the tribe. Neither with Vox, nor against Vox.

Because I see two wrongs happening here. And like all of us were told by our grandparents, two wrongs don’t make a right.

Vox Day is a shock jock.

People let Vox push all the right buttons.

You keep mentioning his name over and over and over . . . Just like he wants you to.

It reminds me of the scene from the third ALIEN movie:

DILLON: You don’t wanna know me, lady. I’m a murderer and rapist of women.
RIPLEY: Really? . . . Well, I guess I must make you nervous.

See, that’s precisely the reaction you give the shock jock. He says something guaranteed to make you go full retard on him, you cooly reply that his worst invective doesn’t scare you, and you move on. That’s how you beat the shock jock.

You don’t devote years to a never-ending hissy fit of finger-pointing and jumping up and down, crying for his blood. That just makes the shock jock smile, because then he knows he’s won. He knows he is living rent-free in your head. He has outwitted and outgunned you on the psych ops battlefield. He is laughing at your rage.

Did nobody else learn this stuff in school? Did nobody else learn how to deflect and deflate the jerk? The guy who needled you and knew how to push all your buttons, until you were red with fury?

Come on, folks, this is basic stuff.

Yet, my critics persist. They are convinced of the righteousness that they do.


Still, I resist the temptation. And it is a temptation. All I have to do is admit that there are five lights, and the grilling and insinuation and character assassination will stop. I see four lights, but the commissars tell me there are five. Just say that there are five lights, Brad, like we want you to. Come on. You can do it. Five lights. Is that so hard? Better men than you have admitted it. Five. Lights.

So, how many lights do you see??

Vox yanks chains, kicks shins, and enjoys being a villain.

Vox has been (and will be again) a shit head.

But like I said, this isn’t about Vox anymore. It’s about the tribe. The tribe is trying to decide if I can be pressured to conform. If I can be pricked, poked, prodded, and cajoled into saying the words.

Say them, Brad. We need to hear you say them!

Five lights.

Hey tribe, guess what?

THERE . . . ARE . . . FOUR . . . LIGHTS!

Maybe Vox is terrible.

But the Marxist politics of unpersoning is much moreso.

It doesn’t matter if you think it’s justified.

Unperson enough people for enough “crimes” and you will eventually find yourself excommunicated from humanity.

I reject this. I reject the whole thing. As much as Vox is a serial dickhead, I reject his unpersoning. Being a dickhead is not a crime. It’s uncool. But it’s not a crime.

And I reject all who demand I partake in the unpersoning of anyone in this field. Even the polar opposites of Vox, who pour churlish and poisonous invective down onto the heads of innocent people; hatred from the so-called progressive side. These are broken souls – Vox, and his arch-enemies — but they are still human beings. They’re still part of the human equation. Criticize what they say. Criticize what they do.

Unpersoning? No.

You don’t know the fire you play with. You haven’t studied history enough to understand the pattern you are repeating. You think you mean well. You think you do this for some kind of justice. You think you are on the right side of history.

When it’s your turn to be unpersoned — for mere words; not even actions, words — remember that you were warned.