Shooting the messenger
This is somewhat of an extension of a post I made at Brad Torgerson’s summons to a Facebook post by David Gerrold as to how evil and generally crass and nasty the Sad Puppies were… And completely misunderstanding the issues:
Unfortunately, when my name was mentioned in this thread I was upside down, in the dark, 10 meters underwater, in a narrow cave, where I had about 50% chance of not getting out if I had anything go wrong. (Too narrow to move a hand back, had the eight pound spiny lobster I was wrestling with pulled my regulator pipe, or had I bumped it out. I’m claustrophobic and my mask was half full of water. I’d rather be back there (where I don’t get Facebook messages), but anyway: Gentlefolk, you’re shooting the messenger. While that is more short-term comfortable, reality has to be dealt with eventually. The reality is this – According to PW the print sales for Sf/fantasy in the last three years have declined catastrophically (and according to the same source, e-books have plateaued). While there is an element of GIGO in the PW figures (they rely on Bookscan, which captures ~30% of my sales, and Bowker, which not everyone uses) the trend in Traditionally published sf/fantasy is clear, and the most conservative estimate would have sales about 30% down in the last 5 years. The actual figure is possibly a lot higher. Given economic conditions – fiction sales are normally counter-cyclical, like camping gear and seeds, and beer, we should be asking hard questions about what is happening in our genre. It’s probable that Brad Torgersson has a point: Traditional SF/Fantasy Publishing has lost much of its core audience, and failed to gain new readers. Some of that slack has been taken up by Indies doing e-books sans ISBN’s. Some of those are doing extremely well, and it would make good sense to see what they’re doing right. The answer seems to be – judging by books by people like Chris Nuttal and Marko Kloos, to write what their audiences wanted to read, not to assume they wanted a social justice lecture.
Talking of probabilities: that was what Brad mentioned me in connection with – As roughly 10-15% of any population fit on the ‘ends’ of the political spectrum, and the population (AKA readers) tend to be more or less a normal distribution on that curve. (It is rare, without extensive doctrinaire policing to find public support for all the items of one extreme’s tenets. This man will agree about abortion, but disagree on the death penalty, and so on. Usually doctrinaire policing is a sign of weakness and imminent collapse, IMO. It also seems to happen when the ‘victors’ are “fullest of wine and flagrant of error”. ) The Hugo awards – pre 1990 anyway — historically have been socio-politically representative, and (in context with their times) considerably more welcoming than other fields to writers of different skin color, sexual orientation and both sexes. Outspoken liberals, and outspoken conservatives and libertarians won or were nominees. Of course the bulk of authors were demographically representative of the possible readership, in that they were not outspoken supporters of any extreme of the political spectrum. To put this in a simple way think of the chances Hugo nomination going to Left or right ends as represented by a six sided dice throw. There is ~ 17% chance of any number – so if we call left 6 and right 1, we should get an equal chance every time we throw (nominate) of either left or right. About 2/3 of the time it will be neither. If that’s true, the competition is fair. If you somehow get five nominations in one category that are all 6 something is wrong. Any casino would regard the dice with suspicion. Try it yourself. Count the number of tries it takes to throw five 6’s in a row. Try doing to simulate multiple years for multiple categories. It is billions to 1 improbable with fair dice. If you did a fraction of that in a casino – they’d ban you for life. So: There is a real problem in the Hugos, and it probably isn’t the authors (unless they are lobbying) or the voters, but the various activist lobbies. That is the message from the Sad Puppies. And yes, if a 6 is thrown more than 17% of the time… the Sad Puppies prove their point and win. If their being there makes a 1 come up, they also win. And if a 6 wins yet again, it’s a Pyrrhic victory for the Left. Every time a 6 wins in future it will be regarded with, at best, suspicion. If you’re upset by this, perhaps you should consider how those represented by 1,2,3,4,5 have felt in the past.
Basically, for the foreseeable future, the SWJ lobby need to accept they’ll be treated as suspected cheats at any casino. If they have any brains at all, they will realize the next twenty years need to be devoted to scrupulous behavior (an end to the ‘Requires Hate’/Shanly Kane model they have embraced) and rebuilding credibility. But I see no signs of a sudden flowering of intelligence or even shame there.
I seriously doubt that common sense or mathematics will reach many. I am probably going to be misogynist/racist/homophobe/ etc. etc. Yet again (haven’t they worked out ‘Wolf’ too often gets ignored, and when it is real you’re going to be wolf-dinner because you were so dumb?). And we’ll probably have yet another eye-rolling drive-by of ‘Cat’… but as Brad has stuck his neck out, I felt honor-bound to stand up next to him. He’s a brave man, and a lot more tolerant of fools than I am. And as a target for 101st Chairbourne sneer possibly Gerrold could have missed the target by a wider margin, but he’d have to try damned hard.
And now onto something more personal: I see that I’m on the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies slate as one of the ‘Best Fan Writers’. Thank you Brad and Vox. I am amused and flattered, and the thought of KStandlee (the sacred defender of the honor of Hugo, DUSC* and bar, who has the rare distinction of being one two people banned from MGC for trolling behavior) having apoplexy at seeing the post that got him banned awarded a Hugo, is not without humor, but no. I feel it would be unfair, and not in keeping with the spirit in which this category was created. I’m a long-term traditionally published author with I estimate at least 400 000 sales, not a fan. Yes, I know Kameron Hurley won the Fan writer Award while being a well-established traditionally published novelist, but that is not me. It’s not what I consider right. Some good and honorable people wanted that category to encourage fans to write about the genre, not as a ‘side door’ for unworthy pros, like myself. I commend Cedar or Amanda.
*Disdainful of the Unwashed Simian Critic