Apr 262016

alfieWell. The Puppies managed to choke out the Hugos for a second year. (aside from Best Novel, which has few enough items published each year that the popular vote isn’t diluted too much).

2016 Hugo Finalists

Rabid Puppies List

Sad Puppies List

I would like to renew my call to void all Rabid Puppy ballots, but I guess it’s too late for that. :/ I can’t help wondering if Vox & crew have a point. For real though – it doesn’t necessarily damage the legitimacy of an institution if it is vandalized by crazies once. It certainly starts to damage that legitimacy if it keeps allowing the vandalism to occur. Does a community that refuses to defend itself deserve to continue?

At the VERY LEAST they could concurrently release an Alfie list, which isn’t the official Hugo finalists, but merely shows what the Hugo finalists list would have looked like with the Rabid Puppy ballots removed? (A Rabid Puppy ballot being defined as any ballot in which at least two categories perfectly match the Rabid Puppies slate). That way those so inclined could perhaps hold separate voting of their own.

Apr 222016

Sad puppies 4I was recently disappointed by the Sad Puppies. This year I am (for the second year) a coordinator for Denver Comic Con’s literary programming. A certain author who lives in the Colorado area is a strong Puppy-supporter, and last year I asked her to participate in a panel discussing the Puppies phenomenon. She declined, which made me a little sad because I refuse to hold such a panel unless supporters of both sides are there to present their view of the matter.

But you know, last year was very contentious, with the Rabid Puppies getting mixed in and crapping on everything. And Sad Puppy 3 leadership was certainly less than friendly. And this author was only a supporter, not actually a spokesperson or anything. We had the two Puppy-nominated Best Novel authors at last year’s con, and both of them refused to be on the panel as well, so I could totally understand and respect her desire to not get involved in all that mess.

However this year that author is one of the leaders of Sad Puppies 4! And earlier in the year one of the other leaders of SP4 stated she would like to participate in a panel discussing the Puppies at WorldCon! And Sad Puppies 4 has also been handled far better than Sad Puppies 3 – no slate, no Rabid Puppy overlap, far better relations, etc. I’ve seen a number of people who were very turned off by SP3 come around to SP4 and accept them as another voice in the process. I myself am cautiously optimistic. This, together with the decent relationship we forged with the author last year, caused me to have high hopes for a civilized, possibly even fun Puppy-panel this year.

Aaaaaaaaand the SP4 co-leader turned me down. Which means no panel this year, again, because I still won’t have a panel without representation from both sides. So much frustration! Why even be a leader of a movement if you are unwilling to speak about it in public? I am disappointed. :( No wonder the puppies are sad.

Apr 042016
Posted by Rabid Puppy leader "Vox Day" in 2015. At least he's direct.

Posted by Rabid Puppy leader “Vox Day” in 2015. At least he’s direct.

There’s absolutely no reason Vox Day’s Rabid Puppy vandals should have any effect on the Hugo awards this year.

The Rabid Puppies have done us a huge favor by publically posting their entire slate, and vowing to vote in lockstep. This makes it extremely easy to identify their ballots – simply compare them to the Rabid slate. I propose that any ballot where at least two categories perfectly match the corresponding Rabid Puppy slate be removed from the Hugo nominating pool (alternatively, loosen it to any two categories that match 4 out of 5 Rabid nominees, or tighten it to any three categories matching all five). This will give us a mostly rabies-free Hugo ballot.

There is no reason to honor any Rabid vote. They have publically and repeatedly proclaimed their hatred of WorldCon and the Hugo awards. They have loudly stated that their intention is NOT to participate in good faith, but rather that they intend to vandalize and destroy the Hugo awards to the best of their ability. They paid for a supporting membership last year? So what? When a hooligan attends a concert in order to rush the stage, destroy the band’s instruments, and ruin the concert, he is kicked out of the venue. His ticket is not refunded, and no one apologizes to him. He deserves only scorn.

It is a travesty that anyone is even considering honoring these votes. The only way the Rabid Puppies can vandalize the 2016 Hugo awards is if they are allowed to do so by their victims. It is said “Good communities die primarily by refusing to defend themselves.” The Rabid Puppies seek only to vandalize. They are driven by spite. They’re proud of these facts. In what world is it OK for us to pretend they are participants in the system? This only legitimizes them. It gives them power they could never muster on their own… all because we’re too polite to tell them ‘no’? What madness is this?

We were caught unaware in 2015. In 2016, we know exactly what is happening and how to counter it. There is no excuse not to do so.


Post-Script I

As a concession to the truly over-concerned, when the Hugo nominations are announced there can be two lists announced – the true Hugo nominees, which have had the Rabid ballots removed; and the hijacked Hugo nominees, which shows the results with the Rabid ballots included. This acknowledges the problem, and demonstrates its effects, without legitimizing them and giving them power.

Post-Script II

I do not include Sad Puppies 4, because I’m willing to believe they may be acting in good faith this year. They seem to want to change the Hugos by getting more people involved and recommending works those people might like, which is a legitimate form of change for a popular-vote award. They still have some serious messaging problems, due to their anger issues. But at least they want to participate, rather than destroy.

Mar 152016

300x300xhugo-awards.jpg.pagespeed.ic.AsqaLzncTzThere’s just over two weeks until the deadline to get in your Hugo nominations! By long tradition, here are the things I’m nominating for Hugos this year. Kinda like a “short story recommendations” thing. Due to the Puppies fiasco of last year, it has become fashionable to give a recommendations list of 10-or-so works, rather than just 5, to avoid allegations of pushing a slate. This is an admirable thing for people who have opinion-setting influence. My readership is miniscule compared to those sites who have to worry about this sort of thing, and my readers aren’t the type to vote a slate anyway. I would be shocked if I had any measurable impact on the Hugo process, so I’ll just stick to what I’ve been doing.

Caveat that I am not widely read in the short-fic department. The people who really do have influence in this sort of thing read 500+ works a year(!!). My reading is in the mid-double-digits. Most of what I’ve read is either recommended to me by friends, or authors I follow, or collected from one of the recommended-reading lists of those other people, or just stumbled upon by pure dumb luck. As such, I’m sure there will be amazing things I just haven’t found. But this is what I got.


Short Story:

Three Bodies At Mitanni, by Seth Dickinson (text not available online). Easily my favorite pick. So good I podcasted it (w permission of course). Rationalist Fiction, contains a Molochian society, and by one of my favorite short-form authors in the world. I’m somewhat worried it won’t get recognition due inferential distance.

…And I Show You How Deep The Rabbit Hole Goes, by Scott Alexander. Again, Rationalist Fiction, but this time of the comedic variety. Displays Alexander’s trademark wit and humor with a fantastic twist. Despite being self-published, this story has gotten lots of attention from the traditional SF-sphere, so I have hopes it can break in!

To Fall, and Pause, and Fall, by Lisa Nohealani Morton. Art in the near future when humanity is juuuuuuust at the edge of becoming Transhumanity. It’s not Rationalist, but I feel it’s adjacent. The tension is amazing, my pulse kept rising throughout. I’m going to look up other works by this author and possible start following her.

Tea Time, by Rachel Swirsky. Rachel again puts out a masterpiece. This is surrealist story, appropriate for the Alice In Wonderland setting. It’s about relationships, and change, and moving on, and hurt. It is poetry.

Tomorrow, When We See the Sun, by A. Merc Rustad. A science-fantasy story, WarHammer 40K-esque, and again a bit surrealist. I like this sort of thing when it’s done well, and to my taste this was well. I felt like I was high while reading it, and any story that can have that sort of mind-altering effect on me just via words is worth my vote.



I didn’t read many, partly because they’re a bit longer than stories, and partly because it’s hard to find very many online. Most novelettes are published in the print magazines, which makes them hard to come across, hard to recommend, and hard to link to. Of the handful I read, only two stuck out enough for me to nominate:

And Never Mind the Watching Ones, by Keffy R. M. Kehrli.  This is a song of teenage isolation and modern day existential angst. This is the story of my teen years. This is the sort of thing I wish I could write. It was kinda hard to get into at first, but the mystery kept pulling me from section to section like a snared fish, and by the time I got to the end I realized it wasn’t the point anymore, and I was happy to be in the story. It was fulfilling.

The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild, by Catherynne M. Valente. It’s almost impossible to be an SF writer and not have a writer-crush on Catherynne Valente. Her work is always gorgeous, deeply emotional, and often transcends the medium. She doesn’t write stories. She bleeds out poetry that tells a life, with a plot and characters, that slyly hides behind a mask of prose. Often surrealistic (I’m seeing a trend in my taste this year), and this story is no exception.

Of course I’ll be nominating my own novelette as well, Red Legacy (by Eneasz Brodski, first published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine). Because that’s the kind of person I am. It did get a few good reviews, including Tomaino of SFrevu.com saying “A very good debut. I will think about Eneasz Brodski for a future Campbell Award nomination.” and Watson of BestSF.net saying “To be honest if I’d read this, and Michael Bishop’s “Rattlesnakes and Men” without knowing which was written by which writer, I’d have guessed this was the Bishop story, and the other was the novice writer’s story”

Novella – didn’t read any this year.


Crystal Society, by Max Harms. Rationalist Fiction. The book applies Society of Mind theory to AI development. The story uses social manipulation/interaction as the primary plot drivers and conflict-resolution mechanisms! I love the protagonist, Face, who is everything I could ever hope to aspire to, and more. The main character is part of a hive-mind that lives in an android Body, and must somehow convince the humans around it that it is a person or risk being mutilated or killed. The ending is a little disappointing, but the strength of everything up to that point makes it more than worth it!

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky.  (also available in audio) Also Rationalist Fiction. If you haven’t heard of it yet (unlikely if you read my blog) it’s an alternate universe story, where Petunia married a scientist. Harry enters the wizarding world armed with Enlightenment ideals and the experimental spirit. It’s delightful and fantastic and heart-wrenching. It’s also not to everyone’s taste, but many people who do like it, REALLY like it. Like, a lot. I’m among them. Here’s a FAQ to explain that yes, it’s eligible for the Best Novel category.

I didn’t read enough traditionally-published books in 2015 to find more than one that I really liked. I expect I’ll enjoy Ancillary Mercy, Fifth Season, and Radiance, when I get to them. I will likely nominate The Traitor Baru Cormorant, even though I didn’t enjoy it as much as the story,  because I feel it deserves the recognition that the short story should have received, but didn’t since it wasn’t well known enough. The novel got much more publicity, and it’s possible Dickinson will finally get the kudos he deserves.


Best Fan Writer – Normally I don’t nominate or vote in this category. Some people have said they aren’t convinced Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality fits in Best Novel (for a variety of reasons), and are nominating Eliezer Yudkowsky as Best Fan Writer instead. I am definitely nominated HPMoR for Best Novel. But I’ll also nominated Yudkowsky for Best Fan Writer as well, to cover my bases. It’d be tragic if he got neither because the vote was split. L And fortunately there’s no reason you can’t nominate in both.



Welcome to Night Vale: Surrealist audio fiction twice a month. Lovecraft-meets-A-Prairie-Home-Companion. X-files-meets-community-radio. Seriously, this is a HUGE phenomenon, how has it NOT gotten Hugo recognition yet? It’s downright embarrassing at this point.

Writing Excuses. Because I listen to it constantly, and always find it inspiring.

The Skiffy and Fanty Show: I’ll be honest – because a friend of mine works there (not for pay, of course. The whole thing is a work of passion), and I have empty slots in my Best FanCast nominations. It’s also a pretty good show, but I don’t have the time to listen to it regularly. If I have a spare slot to support a friend in a good production, I’m going to use it.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, The Podcast – This is the audiobook of the HPMoR novel, which was released as a podcast across nearly 5 years. I hope everyone enjoyed it!


Best Dramatic Presentation, Short-Form:

Jessica Jones, “AKA WWJD”  (cuz Jessica Jones is amazing)

Rick and Morty, “Total Rickall” (cuz “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind” was in 2014 :( )

Welcome to Night Vale, “Review” (Like I said above – let’s get on this already! This is the one with the attack on Dana in the Opera House, were the owner of Lot 37 is revealed. So good!)

Steven Universe, “We Need To Talk” (the one were Greg meets Rose, and Pearl is spurned. The narrative trick of giving me a Heart-strings-pluck feeling + Heart-broken feeling from the exact same event at the same time. Wonderfully done.)

Game of Thrones, “Mother’s Mercy” (In large part to round out the list so I give maximum anti-Dr-Who noms)


Best Semiprozine:


Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Strange Horizons

Uncanny Magazine

Fireside Fiction

These are the semipro’s that I get most of my non-Clarkesworld online fiction from, so there we go. (Honestly I hadn’t heard of Fireside until very recently, but since it was the venue that published To Fall, and Pause, and Fall, I figure it deserves the shout-out)


I have no strong opinions in the remaining categories

Jan 292016

trump2016sad puppies 3 logo

One of the more fascinating aspects of Donald Trump’s run for the presidency is that the Republican establishment doesn’t like him or want him. Dan Carlin comments on this in his latest episode of Common Sense . To summarize his relevant points:

The Republican Party is not officially a government body. It is essentially a semi-private club. Its members can choose to exclude anyone they want.

Currently the rules of the club allows (to simplify a little) that anyone who calls themselves a Republican can cast a nominating vote for anyone else who calls themselves a Republican, and the person who gets the most votes will have the machinery of the Republican Party backing them in the general election.

This works as long as everyone operates in good faith. But the system doesn’t have much in the way of formal defenses against exploitation, the understandings that prevent gaming the system are informal rules.

Eventually the informal rules will weaken enough that they’ll be ignorable (or even considered gauche). Then someone will attempt to game the system. Enter Trump.

The thing about exploiting a system is that systems don’t exist ex nihlo – they are composed of people. There are a lot of people who don’t simply call themselves “Republicans”, they actually work for the Republican Party. They’ve put in years of labor, sometimes decades. Often for very little financial reward. Their identities are wrapped up in the party. Obviously they aren’t doing this just for themselves – they’re doing this for the Ideal of the Grand Old Party. For all the people who think and feel like them, that depend on them to keep the government leaning right. However, they are not without opinions, and they are heavily invested in the Party itself.

I think it’s fair to say that these people have put in the work to have more of a say in what the party does. If a hostile outside group comes in and attempts to subvert the infrastructure that these people have spent decades (centuries?) building, they are fully within their rights to defend themselves.

If a crazy man shouting hatred for ideological/ethnic opponents manages to flood the nominations with bigots that he has roused to angry action via lies and bluster, I can understand the establishment participants deciding to exclude him in spite of how many nominations he receives. Because in the end, the establishment is a private party working for the interests of people they want in their party. And just because there isn’t any formal way to evict party crashers right now doesn’t mean they can’t do so.

If this sounds familiar to people immersed in the SF world, it’s because we already saw all this happen last year, during the Sad Puppies Fiasco. Regardless of how you feel about either side, the parallels are striking.

WorldCon is a semi-private club. Their rules allowed anyone with a few extra Hamiltons to nominate whoever they wanted, and the machinery of the WorldCon establishment would then throw an award party for them. The rules against exploitation where purely informal, it was expected that anyone who cared to attend a WorldCon would care about their reputation among Con-goers and not ignore the general understanding.

A hostile group with active disdain for an ideological/ethnic group (that they believe runs WorldCon) gamed the system, at the behest of a few loud men. They were motivated by anger, and the most odious of them is a proud bigot with no regard for honesty.

The establishment, who have worked for years or decades creating the infrastructure this outside group is hijacking, is more than a bit peeved at the situation.


I hear that the Democratic Party has “super-delegates” to help combat this sort of problem. I don’t know if the Republican Party has such preventative weapons in place. I’m interested to see how they deal with this invasion of their party. I’m particularly interested to see if they manage to resolve it in a better way than WorldCon did/is trying to. I don’t think WorldCon did a bad job, all things considered. But I assume choosing No Candidate would be much more harmful for the Republican Party than choosing No Award was for WorldCon.

Jan 072016

In response to yesterday’s post, this comment was made on the reddit HPMoR subforum:
I sort of see “encouraging a fanbase to all buy supporting memberships to Worldcon to get specific items added to the ballot” as more of a questionable action

I’d much prefer to get more people involved in WorldCon in general. I would be disappointed if people bought the membership just to get HPMoR on the ballot, and I also think that’d be a waste of money. $50 is far better spent on donating to a charitable cause if that’s your only motivation. But I love WorldCon, and I’m excited about it, and I’m trying to encourage others to share in that fun. If it’s something that seems like it could be up your alley but you’ve never done it before, this is a great year to jump in! But please don’t take it as a call-to-action for HPMoR’s sake or anything. Do it because you’re enthusiastic about SF! (if you are)

Jan 062016

HPMoR-Podcast-Small (1)I think it’d be great if HPMoR was nominated for a Hugo, and I feel it deserves at least a nomination. To that effect, I wrote this post. Mirror below.

What are the Hugo Awards?

The Hugo Awards are one of the most prestigious Science Fiction and Fantasy awards. They are also the only ones awarded based on popular vote. Every year the World Science Fiction Con attendees vote for the works they liked best in the previous year. And since the convention travels around the world, and not everyone who wishes to attend can be physically present every year, anyone is allowed to purchase a Supporting Membership rather than attending in person, and can still cast a vote that way. That means that for a nominal fee, any Science Fiction or Fantasy fan in the world can vote for the works they liked best that were published in the previous year.

Is Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality eligible?

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is a serially published work, whose final instalment was published in 2015. Under the WorldCon rules, this means it is eligible for a Hugo at the 2016 WorldCon. Per Section 3.2.4 – “a work appearing in a number of parts shall be eligible for the year of the final part.” There was a minor kerfuffle  in 2014 when The Wheel of Time was nominated for Best Novel, as it consists of 14 books published over 13 years. The nomination was allowed, but not without objection. However HPMoR should receive no such objections, as it is very clearly a serial work of the type that this rule was originally written to explicitly allow.

And yes, fanfiction is eligible. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. First, there is no rule against it. Perhaps more importantly: well-regarded fanfiction has been nominated before. Peter Watts’s “The Things” is an explicit fanfic of “The Thing” and was nominated in 2011. (Incidentally, you should go read it. It is rationalist, short, available free online, and ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC) John Scalzi’s “Redshirts” is a barely-disguised fanfic of Star Trek (the original series), and won the 2014 Hugo Award for Best Novel. Obviously fanfic is eligible.

But is HPMoR the best work of 2015?

I’ve been participating in the Hugos for a number of years. Every participant gets five nominations they can use to nominate works they want to be considered for the Hugo Award. I can’t definitively say that Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is the best work published in 2015. I have not read every work published in 2015. And my opinion is just one of many. However, I can say that HPMoR had a profound impact on my life, much more than most fiction I read. And it was certainly within the Top Five Most Important Fictional Works To Me That’s Eligible For a 2016 Hugo Award. Among the five nominations I get for Best Novel of 2015, there’s no way HPMoR wouldn’t deserve one of them.

If HPMoR made an impact in your life, and you truly enjoyed it, I encourage you to participate. As long as it was meaningful to you, you can nominate it. Once it has been drawn to the attention of the wider SF-reading world, we can let the world’s fans weigh it along with the other nominees to decide if they think it’s deserving of the award. And, of course, we’ll be reading the other four nominees and giving our input as well. Personally, I think HPMoR has a good shot.

Why do this?

First, because you get to be a part of SF History! That in itself is pretty fun!

Second, voters get a packet that contains many of the nominated works in e-format. (Usually not all of them though). This makes it easy to read all the nominees, and exposes you to a lot of very good stories that you often wouldn’t have picked up on your own. If nothing else, it lets you be part of the conversation. If this is your first time supporting the Hugos, you get to experience the process. If you choose to attend as well, you get to be in a hugely geeky major con that’s a lot of fun and meet fellow HPMoR fans IRL!

Third, a number of people who may have passed over HPMoR because it was “just fanfiction” may be willing to take a closer look. Especially if a lot of the wider WorldCon-going public gives HPMoR a look and says “Hey, this is pretty intriguing!”

Fourth, as I said in the previous section, I honestly believe it deserves at least a nomination. It has been impactful on my life. I would like to do what little I can to celebrate that. Even if it doesn’t win, a nomination is a great honor.

Alright, how do I do this thing?

But before anything else, HPMoR must be nominated to the list of finalists. The nomination period is opening soon. If you want to participate, you must purchase a membership before the end of January. If this is something you want to do–don’t put it off. You’ll forget. At the very least, write yourself a note or send yourself a text. The days slip by way too fast on these sorts of things!

Register at the MidAmericaCon2.org registration page. Choose either Attending (if you can go to the con, also allows nominating & voting) or Supporting (to just nominate & vote). There are two discount categories (Military, Young Adult) which convey all the same rights as Attending but are cheaper. I would strongly encourage everyone to go in person, if they can afford to do so. It’s in Kansas City this year. I’ve gone to two previous cons, and they are a wonderful experience! I cannot recommend it enough. I’ll be going to the 2016 WorldCon in person too, so we can all meet up together! If you’d rather not, but still wish to nominate and vote, choose Supporting. Remember, register before the end of January!

What about the podcast?

You know, I’m not sure. I think the closest match is Best Fancast, “Any generally available non-professional audio or video periodical devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects”. Traditionally these go to talk-show type podcasts, where interested people talk about a subject, such as SF Signal or The SF Squeecast. Generally the fiction podcasts don’t fall into this category, because they are counted a semiprozines. But HPMoR simply is not a Semiprozine, it doesn’t fit any of the criteria. And Dramatic Presentation is really a stretch.

HPMoR is both a Podcast and a purely Fan work, so Fancast fits well. Also, in 2015 Welcome to Night Vale had 28 nominating votes for Best Fancast last year (not enough to make it an official Nominee, but enough to show up on the Long List in the Full Breakdown PDF). It is also a continuing story that is podcasted regularly, so I feel there’s a wee bit of precedent, even if it’s not fully official.

In short: Best Fancast, if you are so inclined.

I have more questions!

First, please check out the official Hugo FAQ. If you’ve done so, or have a specific HPMoR-related question, comment here. Or write me at hpmorpodcast at gmail.com.

Dec 312015

Sad-Puppies-4-RoboButch-final-845x1024One of the organizers of Sad Puppies 4 recently requested one or more panel slots at the 2016 WorldCon (where the Hugos are awarded). I am all for this!!!

Last year’s WorldCon was marred by the Sad/Rabid Puppies fiasco, but you’d barely know it if you were just a general attendee. Basically nothing was said about it publicly, aside from a veiled mention here and there, and half of a single panel that obliquely discussed it without mentioning it directly. The only time it was directly talked about was during the Awards Ceremony itself. It was like the family matriarch had just been diagnosed with cancer and no one was willing to talk about it yet.

I am a strong advocate for getting things out in the open. Last year there was virtually no cross-talk between the factions, because everything was so hushed up. Everyone stayed in their own little cliques. If we won’t talk with each other, then we cannot resolve our grievances. This year I think having a panel in the largest room available, with luminaries from both sides, would be fantastic. For every Kate Paulk or Larry Correia on the panel, we need a John Scalzi or George RR Martin as well. Smart, charismatic, well-spoken people who are willing to engage the other side respectfully. With a neutral moderator, of course.

And they should not be allowed to sit at opposite sides of the table. Too much like having opposing sides with borders. Mix them up, keep the human aspect real.

I admit, I’m a bit disappointed that this is only now happening. In 2015 I was a coordinator of literary programming for Denver Comic Con. We had two Sad Puppy nominated authors at our con (Kevin Anderson and Jim Butcher, both nominated for Best Novel)! I attempted to set up a panel discussing the Sad Puppy controversy, and both declined. I can kinda understand it from their side–as authors without direct involvement in the movement, they didn’t want to get too mixed up in the controversy (although in my opinion their silence and acceptance of the nomination was a tacit endorsement anyway). However I also put a lot of effort into getting Sarah Hoyt to come to Denver Comic Con. She was a very vocal Sad Puppy supporter. This year she’s one of the Sad Puppy 4 leadership! She also turned me down, and ultimately I had to cancel the panel because no Pro-Puppy people would agree to talk about the issue. I was unwilling to have a one-sided panel of people bashing the Puppies. I am glad to see that she’s changed her mind, and is now willing to talk about the Sad Puppies. But I wish she’d have been willing to do so at DCC2015, I would have loved to have a panel on the topic then. Maybe I’ll try again this year. :)

The vile Vox Day, of course, shouldn’t even be let in the building.

Nov 202015

997DVA_Al_Pacino_025…and it is our fault.

Remember Starbucks Red Cup Controversy? Where the media spent days telling us how christians are outraged that the Starbuck holiday cup is plain red instead of having christmas trees and snowflakes on it? And it turns out that it was just one christian shock-jock type, and every single real christian in America was like “What the fuck guys? We don’t actually care. Who is making shit up about us?”

Which is exactly what we liberals think every time we see a “War on Christmas” story.

But the interesting part is that there aren’t less War on Christmas stories as time goes on. Rather, they’ve expanded, so now the leftwing media has their own version, re the crazy Red Cup guy. Years ago the rightwing media found that War on Christmas stories don’t have to be true. They still generate TONS of revenue, because they emotionally charge their viewers. Now the leftwing media has found out the same thing.

As a result both sides of America become more and more polarized, viewing the “other” side as evil and/or idiotic. Over what is essentially lies given to them by their own media. It’s getting worse.

Perhaps you saw today that Donald Trump wants to put all Muslims on a national registry and issue them special identification, and he’s crossed the Nazi Line.

If you’re like me, you shared with the quote from a friend that: “if Trump got elected President, and somehow persuaded both houses of Congress to pass a “Muslims must register” bill, it would be struck down by the federal courts. But the problem here isn’t that there’s a danger of this policy being implemented in the near future. The problem is that it is currently not only acceptable but popular to openly advocate fascist ideas … his popularity says a lot of frightening things about the current American mindset”

But if you’re like me, you also have friends on the other side, who then point out that this is a massive distortion (I apologize for linking to that particularly vile news site). “It is clear from the exchange that Trump thinks Hillyard is talking about new entrants to the United States, presumably Syrian refugees. But Hillyard reports Trump’s answer as if he is talking unambiguously about Muslims already in the United States.”

Which isn’t to say that Trump isn’t both wrong and racist. But he’s plenty wrong and racist on his own, and painting fangs on him just makes our side look like fucking idiots.

But more importantly, it makes us think of him as an irredeemably evil person, and all his supporters as similarly evil, or too stupid/blind to see past their own fear. It further polarizes us into camps that think the worst possible things about each other, and don’t talk to each other. Because it makes for GREAT ratings/clicks.

America seems to be drifting ever closer to civil war, and these sorts of intentional misportrayals by the both sides is spurring it on. Seriously, how long are we going to let the media ask vague questions that could be interpreted to mirror Nazi policies, and then if someone doesn’t immediately and strongly side with the questioner, report that “they didn’t rule it out“???

The thing about devils is that they give you what you want, per your revealed preference. That’s always how the story works. That is what makes those stories compelling. You get what you deserve because the devil always is simply giving you what you want. And then the angels – who care about our stated preferences rather than our revealed ones – come and save us. The Ego triumphs over the Id.

But the Ego doesn’t generate clicks, or share things on social media. The Id does. We have created institutions that mimic the devils of myth – they are rewarded for giving us what we want, in terms of revealed preference. But we haven’t created equally strong institutions that mimic the angels of old – rewarded for giving us what we want in terms of stated preference.

Until (if?) that happens, we really need to develop an immune response to hatemongering.  Never share anything that pisses you off. Especially if it’s about someone from the other side. DOUBLE ESPECIALLY if it’s because they are doing something evil or idiotic that must be stopped before all of society is destroyed. And if we could coordinate some sort of institutional response that would punish these media companies/devils whenever they do this (seriously, government oversight to head off a civil war is a legitimate use of government power IMHO), that would be great. Maybe necessary.

Aug 282015


Wow, where to begin?

The thing that sticks out more than anything else is the award for Best Related Work. Because everything up until that award wasn’t too badly vandalized by the Puppies. Best Related Work was the first big pile of crap that was nothing but awful Puppy trash. This was the big turning point – if this didn’t get No Award, it was likely nothing would. So I was tense and actually on the edge of my seat. The cheer that went up when No Award was announced was viseral. I was part of it. Things would be OK.

Neil Clarke

I sat in the Literary Beer with Neil Clarke, which was really fun. The man had great stories about his heart attack, the Clarkesworld Stalker, and the amount of sweat that went into deciding whether to publish Spar, among other things. He also talked about how when he helped write the criteria for Semi-Pro Magazine category he deliberately helped set it up so that Clarkesworld would soon be “Weighted Out” of the catagory (boxing term, meaning they were too big to qualify anymore). I found that rather noble of him. It’s hard to disqualify yourself for a catagory while you still try to hold down a full-time day job as well!

My first WorldCon I didn’t go to any Koffee Klatches or Literary Beers, as I was scared as hell about what I’d say around someone famous like that. I’m super glad I went to two this year, and I plan to go to them again next year.


Me and Dano

Speaking of things learned from my first con – find a con spouse! My first time I hung around with Anaea Lay a lot, and took her as my date to the award ceremony. This year my con spouse was Danielle, we checked in a few times, shared several meals, and went to the ceremony together. (As a note – for those who aren’t familiar with the term “work spouse”, a “con spouse” is just someone you share a lot of time with, absolutely nothing sexual or romantic about it). It made everything easier and more enjoyable, and she managed to “track down” (ie: coincidentally bump into) one of the Hugo Awards, so we got to TOUCH THE HUGO! And take pictures with it!! Aaaaaaah!


My hotel was baller as hell, with AMAZING service!! I will try to always stay at Holiday Inn’s, I recommend them highly. When I tried to book my hotel I was dissapointed that the con hotel was already booked up, but now I feel I dodged a bullet. That thing was built at the nadir of American Architecture. The hallways are cramped, the roof is no more than six inches above my head, and the whole place looks like it came out of the 60s. Ugh. My Holiday Inn, OTOH, looked like a freakin’ castle, and was perfect and accomidating in every way.

Seth and Anaea and Me

One of the HIGHLIGHTS was getting to meet Seth Dickinson in person! Yes, the guy whose writing I ADORE and can’t stop talking about. We had dinner together, and drinks too, I got to talk with him for like FOUR HOURS across two days!! We talked fiction, his stories, rationality, the Rationalist movement (Anaea was there for most of this too, she’s not as enthusiastic about the rationality scene, so that was an interesting conversation. That’s her on my right), pets, and so forth. OMG it was so cool! If you can buy your idol dinner and drinks, do it, it’s so worth it! Insights from Seth #1: If a sentence doesn’t work, the problem is generally a few paragraphs up. Good fiction progresses naturally, and if you can’t get it to flow right, you probably messed up something upstream. Insight from Seth #2: Blindsight is proof that the SF genre of fiction is necessary. Most stories can be told in any genre, even most SF/F could be recast as Earthfic with some work. But Blindsight could only be done in SF, and it is an essential work.



I got to walk through a cool park whenever I went to/from my hotel. The entire con area was a nature wonderland, very asthetically pleasing! :) The nearby forest fires were a nuisance though. On the third day the smoke was so thick that not only was there a permanent haze, but the entire city smelled like the inside of a smokering room. It got to be nauseating, I had trouble eating dinner that day. A few times there was ash in the air, and yes, it even got into the convention center. It was really striking on the flights in/out, when you looked from your airplane window and saw smoke covering the landscape for hundreds of miles in all directions. Damn.

Spokane Smoke

Con Center

Oh, another thing I learned from previous cons that I put into practice in Spokane – before you do anything else, walk the entire con from front to back. Get a lay of the land, so you know where things are, especially in relation to each other. Schedule 30 minutes for this (more if you need it). I swear it’s one of the most important steps to enjoying any con, and well worth your time.

Brandon Sanderson

I went to both the Brandon Sanderson and John Scalzi readings, where they read from upcoming works. You guys are in for a treat in the near future. :) In addition to reading, John joked with the audience a bit and was all around charming and hilarious. Brandon talked about how he writes and some history, which was fascinating. Insights from Brandon #1: When you write, the novel/story is not the product you are creating. The product you are creating is a better author. You are upgrading you. The story/novel is a side-effect of this process. If it sells, great. If not – no worries. There will be more such side-effects as you keep working on yourself.

Acks Bingo

Pic stolen shamelessly from Rachael Acks
I went to the Business Meeting on Saturday. It’s a three-hour commitment right in the middle of peak con hours! I thought it would be a chore, but considered it an important duty. Boy was I wrong! This was among the highlights of the con for me! It is fascinating to watch the process happen. It feels like you are in a small Puritan village during the early colonial period. All the adults have gathered and are doing the best they can to keep society running because this is all the government there is. We are the only adults around, and who the hell thought that was a good idea? :) The strict adherence to Parlimentary Rules was charming, and I felt like I was turely part of a small community family. People were jovial. Apparently there are “regulars” who are well known for coming to these year after year after year. There was an informal Bingo game that listed the names of the 14 most common speakers, Whenever one stood up to make an amendment or challenge or speak for/against a motion their name would be marked off (and 5-in-a-row gets Bingo, of course). One person who spoke multiple times about the “YA Hugo” proposal was put onto the YA Hugo Committee by executive order. :) It felt like what governments SHOULD be. If only humanity could live in groups of a few thousand, rather than the hundreds-of-millions that nations consist of. /wistful

Most votes were done by raising of hands and estimation by the chair (most votes weren’t close and a count wasn’t needed). When a count was requested, everyone For stood up and counted off one by one as they sat down. Then repeat for Against. It was terribly exciting! Especially when I was sitting right next to the proposer of one of the motions (who was also the committee chair! Recused himself for that particular motion and sat down next to me) and voted against him! Later there was a presentation of EPH (E Plubris, Hugo) which cleared it up greatly for me and moved me from the “Voting against it, too complicated” to “This is brilliant!! I’m all for it!” camp. I hope they make that presentation available online at some point.

Anyway, the Business Meeting was great, and I encourage everyone to go! The sense of community was palpable. I only went for one (there were four, one each day Thurs-Sun), but I’m glad I did, and wish I had time to go to others as well. My friend Rachael Acks live-blogged all four days at her blog, here.

Feb Immortan Joe

I think it’s awesome that gender-bent Immortan Joe cosplay has become a thing. :)

[No pic here of Panel or Scott Andrews, sadly. I am a dumb.]
The Future-Of-Short-Story-Publishing panel was fantastic. Especially because they had an old-timer (Mike Resnic) moderating the panel. He brought in stark contrast, when he spoke several times of “these things are run by Profit-and-Loss” and so forth. I asked about this, because I knew for a fact that at least half the panel still had dayjobs(!) and one of them is set up as a non-profit because it’s the only way it can afford to run. These are works of passion, not capitalist endevours. IMHO. The panel itself was good, but as I sat in the front row I was now able to recognize John Joseph Adams and Scott Andrews on sight. This came in SUPER HANDY when I went to the airport to fly back home on Sunday. I saw Scott Andrews sitting at my gate, waiting for the same flight! Not talking to anyone or reading anything either. So, after about a minute of working up my nerve, I went over to talk to him. And OMG we talked for 20 minutes!! It was fantastic! He explained Science Fantasy to me, we talked SF and podcasts and several other things. And it turns out he is ALSO a huge fan of Seth Dickinson! Hell yeah!!

Anyway, I had one of the best vacations of my life. I can’t wait for next year!