The conundrum of wider horizons and narrower systems

Due to a very heavy workload related to ongoing developments concerning Tor and some of its senior executives, I’m afraid I haven’t been able to produce a ‘fresh’ post for Mad Genius Club this week.  I wrote this article last night for my own blog, and I think it has a great deal to interest all authors trying to reach an SF/F audience;  so I’ll re-post it here, and ask for your input.  Do you see a way forward from where we are now?

____________________

The current imbroglio over Tor and the actions and words of some of its senior executives is highlighting yet again a conundrum that affects many areas of our lives.

Our potential horizons have been broadened immensely by the Internet.  We have at our fingertips a wealth of data and information for which scholars of old would cheerfully have killed.

BUT:

Our personal systems of thought and social circles have by and large narrowed and contracted.  We increasingly choose to associate, both in meatspace and online, only with those who share our interests, and use the immense resources available to us only in connection with what we learn and experience through that association.  We don’t use it to broaden our horizons by looking more widely.

I’m watching this play out on both sides of the Tor debate as we speak.  There are many on the Left and on the Right who are talking about the problem only with those of their own ilk, reinforcing each others’ perspectives, acting as a sort of echo chamber that drowns out other opinions.  I suppose most of the publishers in the USA suffer from the same problem, because they’re headquartered in the same place (New York), staffed largely by people from that locality, and intrinsically unable to conceive of an America (let alone a world) that’s different to that environment and where people have different opinions and outlooks.

Another casualty of this is objective truth.  For far too many people today truth is relative, dependent on the standards and perspectives to which they cleave in their daily lives.  The thought that something is definitively, actually, concretely either true or false is completely foreign to many people.  This is perhaps the greatest hazard of the polarization of opinion that’s taken place over the past few decades.  “What’s true for you may not be true for me” is an out-and-out lieActual truth is, and can only be, absolute.  It is measured against fact, against reality.  If it can’t be so measured, then it’s not a case of being true or false – it’s a matter of opinion.  However, far too many people can’t or won’t accept that.

This is why one side can categorize Sad or Rabid Puppies as ‘neo-Nazi’ or ‘racist’ or ‘bigoted’ or whatever.  Those words are defined on their own terms, not in relation to reality.  Anyone with a couple of brain cells to rub together and an interest in history can define what actually made a Nazi a Nazi.  However, most people don’t bother to do that research.  They merely parrot the ‘Nazi’ label as it’s spoon-fed to them, and in time come to believe it, even though it’s factually false.  On the Puppy side of the fence, I’ve seen far too many people categorize all SJW’s as liars, communists, socialists, deluded, whatever.  I’ve no doubt some of them are, but not all of them – and if we refuse to look at our opponents as individuals, lumping them instead into categories or groups or races or ethnicities, aren’t we doing the same as both Communists and Nazis did?  They demonized “the bourgeoisie” or “the kulaks” or “the Jews” or “the Communists”, and treated them as subhuman, disposable groups.  (There was precious little to choose between Hitler and Stalin, between the Nazi concentration camps and the Soviet gulags.)  Both sides disposed of those they demonized without consideration for their individual humanity.  Aren’t we at risk of doing the same to our opponents, at least in our minds?

I already know that the extremists on both sides will scoff at me for saying that.  “You can’t compromise with evil!”  “It’s no good talking to bigots!”  “If you’re not for us, you’re against us!”  “If you’re not against them, you’re for them!”  Trouble is, who defines evil?  Who defines what is or is not a bigot?  What gives anyone the right to define my beliefs or attitudes or opinions on my behalf?  The answer, of course, is “Nothing and no-one” . . . but that won’t stop them trying.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham tells the rich man:  “Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.”  Sometimes I fear that gulf is now firmly established in the middle of the SF/F community (and is, of course, a mere reflection of the gulf established in our wider society).  How to bridge it?  Can it even be bridged at all?  Or are we doomed to repeat the catastrophes and disasters of historical conflict all over again?  Your guess is as good as mine . . .

*Sigh*

Peter

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67 responses to “The conundrum of wider horizons and narrower systems

  1. As it stands, it’s tough to broaden ones horizons. Because of the polarization, the first thing one encounters is the other side’s rabid polarized views. Mind you, I think my side’s are perfectly logical and sensible . . .

    I tried this, several elections ago, to be an informed voter. I wound up with the feeling that I might have more in common with the cognitive processes of Martians than Progressives. But I’m still sort of trying . . . carefully and not expecting much grasp of economics or history.

  2. John in Philly

    Peter,

    I agree with these points.

    The narrowing of potential horizons.
    In the days of print news, I would at least glance at all the news reports, even if I did not agree with the viewpoint. And today, my daily reading and news gathering is no longer from the mainstream media.

    The echo chamber of opinions.
    Yes, like tends to go to like, but I still reserve the right to make up my own mind. And by now I am no longer surprised by the times I am wrong, and have had to say so. This self-analysis is the mark of an adult intelligent mind.

    Actual truth can, and can only be, absolute.
    Before a midlife career change, I worked at fixing large things. Opinions did not matter, the objects were broken, or not broken, and the repair specifications were either met, or not met. Not so easily transferred to the social world, but at the heart of any statement lies either truth, or falsehood.

    This point I do not totally agree with.

    The demonization of opposing viewpoints.
    I do not believe the majority of the non SJW side is guilty of demonization. If I treat you with courtesy, and I do not legislate against you, and if I do not revile you in public or in print, and if I do nothing more than leave you alone, than I am not guilty of demonizing you or your viewpoints. But if you, or your side, or the spokespeople for your side, does all the above and more, I am going to judge you by your words and actions, and I am going to hold you accountable for those words and actions in exactly the same way that I am accountable for my words and actions.

    And what does the future hold?
    A gross simplification splits people into two mindsets. One mindset believes that live and let live is an ideal goal, wants nothing more than to be left alone, and sincerely believes that you have the right to your own belief and opinions, and the other mindset believes the opposite. Which mindset tends over time to rise to positions of power?
    Looking backwards at history does not lead me to be optimistic about the future.

  3. Angus Trim

    Thanks Peter, and good luck.

    I think the whole thing could die down if the other side would quit using language like “Nazi, racist, sexist, homophobic,” etc. Most of the language from the right like, “SJW, SJB, CHORF, libprogs, vile progs, mysandrists, etc” are reactions.

    I know, two wrongs don’t make a right. But holding out your right hand and trying to talk to them doesn’t seem to work. You just get more insults, and more instructions on how to run your life.

    Yes, we’re all individuals. But an awful lot of the folks on the left are just totally delusional. Don’t believe me? Spend a little time reading reading that Tor thread Doherty started.

    You do have trolls on both sides. Yes, there are some delusional folks on the right, and yes some of the threads go off the rails. But you let any of the blogs I spend time on settle down, and things go reasonable again. I haven’t seen that on the left,

    In fact, this site is considered by the left as a hotbed of Puppy politics. My reaction to that is “Really?”

    The funny thing is, locally I’m acquainted with several “leftist” writers. In person we don’t have the problems you see online.

    I don’t have any answer for that. Color me exasperated.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      There is another alternative the terms ceasing to be used. Perhaps the terms racist, sexist, homophobe and Nazi will cease to have any negative connotations. If you look at how racist is defined in modern usage, it essentially describes someone who is not racist under the original definition.

      In parallel with the use as a general political insult, the Nazis have been heavily used as stock villains in fiction. The people who directly fought the Nazis are mostly dead. Their children are mainly past the age of childrearing. What is someone whose strongest emotional association is comic book super villainy or a relative innocent going to think the term means?

  4. Therre’s one problem with your analysis. I have supported the Sad Puppies when I first heard about them. But I am at least as far to the left as most of the S.P. are to the right. Maybe further. I don’t believe this is as left/right as you would have it. I have seen comments on the myriad web pages discussing this issue supporting your side who are as left wing as I. Why do we do this? Because you used free speech to make your position clear, discussing what you saw wrong (in your view) with the Hugo, and you did something about it that was not against the rules.

    The most telling thing about this is that this is S.P. 3. Your opponents cannot say they had no warning of your tactics. They just didn’t understand the will of the people. They were rudely shocked that you succeeded on the third try, and became more vituperative and ugly after the nominations were announced. Shame on them. If you take the long view of this, it is likely that future nominees will make a better representation of the broad scope of SFF.

    And that’s a good thing.

    • Angus Trim

      Thank you.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      It is pretty clear that the simplest left/right model does not fit the data.

      Whatever your politics, you give the impression of being, for lack of better words, culturally American. You seem to believe that topics of mutual interest can be discussed civilly by adults. Whatever our conflicts elsewhere, here we can perhaps keep our thumbs from each other’s eyes.

      What I see out of a certain younger set is markedly different. I’m not certain if it is genuine conviction or simply counting coup. It is probably varied and perhaps difficult to simplify.

      I know of one writer who both deplores the general depressing trend in modern SFF and deliberately incorporates what might be called SJW message fiction.

      I grew up exposed to this culturally different of handling disagreement. I sometimes use certain of the methods. It would be incorrect but fashionable to claim that I do so ironically.

      If you are as far to the left as leftwingers Hoyt and Correia are to the right, you must be center right, exactly like me. 🙂

      • I don’t know Hoyt and Correis’s politics. I only know that I’ve seen right wing trolls commenting on SP posts that all the lefties should be banished in slightly less temperate words. I might even be called an SJW. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in equal rights and fundamental fairness. Those who’ve taken over the Hugo have damaged it by excluding a whole chunk of SFF by systematically ignoring a group for the personal politics of their authors.

        • Umm, there have been many conservative people doing ok Hugo-wise, as George R.R. Martin has demonstrated, and still more politically hard-to-categorize writers who write the sort of stuff Torgersen writes about in his SP manifestos.

          I’m not sure that the claim of systematic political discrimination really holds water.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Say the Hugo has ten categories awarded each year for thirty years. This is a sample size of 300, which might not be too terrible.

            The naive expectation if there is no political test would be 100 one extreme third of the political spectrum, 100 the other end, and 100 in the middle. (Defined in terms of thirds of population.) Statistics does not work that way, for a given measurement there is a percent chance a certain criteria is true.

            An exact 100/100/100 breakdown is unlikely. Add that with 99/100/101 and a bunch of others and you get a range that is likely. For no political test, each third being between 80-140 is more likely, and being between 60-180 is even more so.

            My understanding is that Mr. Martin has not actually added anything to the discussion. Unless you can show me his confidence interval?

            If Dave Freer’s prior explanations of this were not clear, perhaps you wish to wait around for the one he is working on now?

            Of course, one can argue that this is invalid because the right is illiterate. The obvious counter is that the innumerate left has no legitimate interest in science fiction. (In fairness, the innumeracy might be offset by technocracy, and in the end it probably all comes out in the wash.)

            • The problem with the argument that third of the winners should be right of the political center and another third should be left is that that’s only in relation to the political center of SFF writers and fans. It’s always been a genre filled with liberals (even though there are also a fair number of conservatives), as I believe Eric Flint has said, so liberal people winning awards is no proof of systematic bias.

              If, say, 70% of SFF writers were liberal, then roughly 70% share of awards should go to liberals in case there’s no bias.

              • BobtheRegisterredFool

                There are rather more stages of sampling/sorting than you describe.

                There is fraction of the population that reads. There is fraction of readers that read sci fi. There is sci fi readers that write. There is lastly writers who get awards.

                If 70% of sci fi writers come from a third of the population, there is potentially some strong sorting happening.

                The types of sorting that could support the ‘natural and expected’ narrative are 1) probably weak and 2) are about as fair as saying that ‘the left can see four lights, and miscount often enough that five seems a legitimate answer’ or ‘the left cannot get passing grades in a calculus based thermodynamics course’. These are ‘right wingers don’t read’ or ‘right wing and moderate readers do not read sci fi’.

                The types of sorting would that counter that argument are ‘published sci fi heavily samples crap that turns off the right more heavily than it does the left’ and ‘NY publishers are not representative of the general population, hence do not understand it and end up sorting for politics’. These are stronger means of sorting that would more readily explain what you describe.

                • Sure, there’s bound to be some sorting happening along the way. The two statistical facts that people with higher level of education tend to a) be politically somewhat more liberal than people in general and b) read more than people in general probably sets us off in the right direction. I guess that it’s safe to assume that right-leaning people are also generally more interested in making money and using their time to working instead of writing SFF which is a business of hard work and little to no rewards for most people.

                  For me, that sort of explanations sound more plausible than the fringe-ish theories about all big publishers (=capitalist corporations) being run by devoted leftist.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Suffice to say that with knowledge of Correia and Hoyt’s politics, that whole last sentence of mine is nonsense.

          I thought it a good example of my contriving a bullshit argument.

  5. Interesting dichotomy, Peter. “Actual truth is, and can only be, absolute.” vs/ “who defines evil? … Nothing and no-one”
    This implies that there is no such thing as objective, true evil. (Other than that smoking lump found in a microwave in Britain some years ago, of course.)

    I have to disagree with you on this topic, but I acknowledge a difference of opinion. My preemptive rebuttal is that many things considered ‘evil’ should more properly be classed as taboo, but that there is a baseline of true evil.

    As Sir Pterry said, evil begins with treating people as things.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I think that is a misreading of that paragraph. The first question is answered by the other questions, and ‘nothing and non-one’ answers the last question.

  6. Nathan

    As much as I have been involved in SP and GG, I pray that neither are bellweathers of the upcoming American presidential elections. I have the suspicion that the next two years or so are going to be ugly on a national scale, and that scares me.

    • Ah, my good sir, sadly the next two years are far from unique in history. Some time, for fun, go read the remarks made during the election campaign of John Adams vs. Thomas Jefferson. There are some amazingly vituperative statements in there, that make our more recent history look positively bloodless in comparison!

      I have been tempted to mine the slander and dirty politics of the time for better insults to lay upon the table as potential interjections in debate than tiresomely repeated carnal and defecatory vulgarities. Would it not be more interesting to see someone accused of possessing a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman”?

      • Jim McCoy

        Would it not be more interesting to see someone accused of possessing a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman”?

        Using that as an insult in today’s environment would simply get you labeled as some kind of “ist” based on gender identity. Yeah, the other side is that crazed over gender identity.

        • Ah, but the objective isn’t to convince the extremists, it’s to sway the middle. And it’s far more entertaining than f*****ng this and sh*tlord that. (I do detest the way some people who lack logic, sense, or learning despite expensive educations have descended from using vulgarities as emphasis to merely using them as punctuation. Enlisted marines are automatically forgiven for such speech, but college-educated women who have never served are not.)

          If you’re going to get muddy, why, you might as well have fun!

          • Brother’s O’Toole… Cussin’ Contest. very mineable.

          • Uncle Lar

            Ah, but to a certain type of person vulgarity has always been considered edgy and hip. Always folks who would not recognize true innovative edgy behavior if it reared up and smacked them. You know, same people who insist on demonstrating their diversity by marching in lockstep with all of the “right people” in dress, action, and every other significant aspect of their lives. They praise diversity only when it fits precisely within their extremely narrow definition.

            • Reality Observer

              Not realizing that a rainbow-colored mohawk hairdo is only edgy and hip until everybody has a rainbow-colored mohawk hairdo.

      • Nathan

        It would be a nice change of pace if people graded on style as opposed to volume of an argument…

  7. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I think there are plausible reasons for thinking that those who exhibit SJW behaviors are leftists. In particular, many of the tools and techniques are significantly more associated with the Left. For example, the Leninist organizational weapon.

    I also think it credible that rather than being Leftists, those we call SJW are people without strong political convictions who have learned the habits and customs of the hardcore left.

  8. Sometimes, like sharks and dolphins, different paths can end in the same result. Some people no doubt like to censor all inputs that contradict their worldview or make them think uncomfortable thoughts— a la The Invisible Bug-Blatta Beast, so they don’t exist. Others, like me, are very much aware of different worldviews jammed down my throat and people who want me to respect their opinions while castigating mine, and don’t want any MORE of that–so they don’t seek it out. It finds them anyway. It probably does look the same as cocooning from the outside, but I consider it a noise baffle.

    I find myself getting more and more brusque with door-to-door salesman, telemarketers, any interaction I did not initiate, and I don’t like that. But there doesn’t seem to be any other way to get them to stop. When “leave me alone” doesn’t work any more, the rolled-up newspaper comes out. I am afraid that will stop working too, soon.

    • Uncle Lar

      I have found that threats of complaint to the FCC over violations of the do not call registry do tend to get the attention of the telemarketers, though I did have one go to some lengths to lecture me on why his organization was exempt.
      I installed a wide angle spy lens in my solid front door, and no longer automatically open up for people i don’t know. I also tend to not answer my door unarmed. Seems to ameliorate the natural aggressive tendencies of sales people for some reason.

      • Reality Observer

        Hard when you have a land line as your primary phone. I bought a phone with call blocking functionality a few years ago, which cuts down at least repeat calls.

        I did get the local newspaper (we affectionately call it the “Arizona Red Star”) to stop calling me – kept a whistle next to the phone.

      • sabrinachase

        I keep getting completely automated calls. Nobody to threaten. I want those BANNED. And yes, when I upgrade my phones I will get ones with call blocking. The knocking is just as bad as opening the door, frankly. It interrupts my train of thought and makes me cranky. I really need to get that attack goat… I asked the last batch of Mormons (I think I’m up to 4 now) if their local bishop had a “do not proselytize” list, but no luck…

  9. Jim McCoy

    I posted about something similar on my blog last night. The bottom line is that the SJW/CHORF/AP side actively avoids learning the our side’s POV and engaging our arguments.

  10. Timid1

    People have always chosen to associate with those who share their interests. What’s changes is which interests define those associations.In the French and Indian War, there was no such thing as patriot or tory, as each saw himself as an Englishman first and American second. In less than fifteen years that would shift, as colonists increasingly saw themselves as Americans/i> first, and formed new associations. Former friends now on opposite sides based on whether they saw Britain as denying colonists their rights as Englishmen, or supported the primacy of the British government over colonial affairs, or just wanted to keep their heads down. Such were these new associations that members were turned out of churches, and, before it was all done, Loyalists packing up and heading for Canada.
    There were other shifts of association, one that led to the bloodiest war in US history and a shift from regionalism to a national identity; still others as our nation becomes less rural with individuals who are less independent. We say that we are becoming more politically polarized, but in truth those differences were already there. What’s changed is those differences have come to the forefront. They are now seen as
    primary instead of secondary
    Once upon a time, a fan was defined first by whether they liked SF or F, second by what sort of SF or F, and way down on the list was politics. To most of us old timers, that’s still what matters most: the quality of the work holds primacy over the ideology of the author. Yet we live in a time of shifting interests, where to a great many ideology is now the primary issue, with all others secondary. That’s not going to change back. Nor are the new associations formed around these new interests going to evaporate in a cascade of love, flowers, and unicorn rainbow farts. These divisions will remain as long as associations are defined by ideology., and that’s likely to get much worse before it gets better, if it ever does.
    We can take solace in that this wasn’t our doing. This was forced on us by those hellbent to make SF&F into ideological platforms that, of course, support their ideological views. How they screech we we say it should not be, and slur us with ideological invectives just how important such things are to them.
    The only solution is to leave them be as they become ever more strident and ideology becomes every more important to them. Meanwhile, there’s a wonderful world of Indie out there, where people write and publish what they love and not what some New Yawk city folk think they should, with readers who only care if what they write is good, and don’t give a fig about the author’s race, or gender, or religion, or (gasp!) politics. because this is what is important to us, and is how we wish to define our associations.
    As to to the others, let them wall themselves off and lock the door behind them. Let them rant until their spittle dribbles down their chins as we watch them rant as they become even more irrelevant than they are today.

  11. Luke

    Nevertheless,

    Tor delenda est.

  12. Christopher

    The biggest problem I perceive is of time.

    None of these intellectual (har) states sprang up overnight. Any fixes one can dream up won’t happen overnight, either. Yet many assume they should and, when it doesn’t happen, state them as unreasonable and stop trying.

    How many of you have met a group of people that will, in a day, completely change a though process they’ve held for years? Decades?

    It is going to be slow. These ideals and thought processes were allowed time to grow, to spread, sink their hooks in and then harden against any outside stimuli.

    Human history has shown that it often requires a society to hold its breath and wait for a people to age before there is enough room for “new” ideas to grow.

    Well, there is always violence.

  13. TheNybbler

    Looking at people as individuals is fine, but at some point it’s reasonable and necessary to make categories and generalizations. An SJW might be a bit hard to define explicitly, but I know ’em when I see them, because they signal pretty strongly. Talk about “privilege” (especially “male ~” and “white ~”) and “mansplaining” and “rape culture” all signal “SJW”, for instance. And I know there’s no point in discussing anything with these people on the SJW hot-button topics. They do not accept that one can use reason to examine these topics; if you try, you are insulted, jeered at, called various names (sexist, racist, misogynist, suppressive, gross nerd, troglodyte, fedora-tipping neckbeard, “Nice Guy”, MRA, etc), and (if they can manage it) your career is attacked. They claim that the very expression of opposing views is “unsafe” to the less privileged women and minorities they claim to be championing. There’s no way one can work with that.

    That’s not extremism. That’s experience. I’ve tried talking to these people. Reasonably, without calling them names. All this has done is cause them to attempt to get me silenced and fired.

  14. Nice to see a somewhat conciliatory post in this mess for a change, coming from the puppy side of all places. In the context of a blog post that says people shouldn’t be dismissingly lumped into categories, some previous comments are a bit ironic but that’s what you get online, I guess.

    Jim McCoy said, for example that

    The bottom line is that the SJW/CHORF/AP side actively avoids learning the our side’s POV and engaging our arguments.

    I assure you that the people you’re disagreeing with feel exactly the same way, starting with the fact that you always choose to use derogatory abbreviations when talking about them.

    So, any suggestions about what both sides could do to respect the other one a bit more and have a more civilized discussion like adults that we all are?

    • Angus Trim

      Most of the puppy-kickers that have come to our sites have been trolls. There have been a few, like you, that have showed up to discuss things. But most of them, like you, have had really closed minds.

      So maybe if more of you come over with open minds discussion can happen. Most of us don’t need apologies. Intelligent discussion without a hint of condescension is a good place to start.

      I’d have to disagree with you on your main point. Having watched the thread develop after Doherty’s letter, I’d say most people that disagree with us make rabid puppies seem eager to please and super reasonable.

      And I’m only exaggerating a little bit.

      • Well, I admit I haven’t read that particular thread at all. Maybe there are people who are angry and unreasonable, but that doesn’t mean that all or most or even a significant minority of people who disagree with the Puppies were like that or thought that you ought to be called Nazis.

        After reading that thread, you can maybe evaluate what most of the people who are commenting there seem to be like, but I’m not sure if you can really go much further.

        • Craig

          A common failing of people is treating the worst people on their side as aberrations, but the worst people on the other side as being the norm.

          • Christopher

            I’ll kindly thank you to leave my delusions alone.

            They’re what get me up in the morning.

        • So… What term would you use to distiguish the “anti-sad puppy campaign” individuals, like Eric Flint, who limit the slanderous gossip to the absolute minimum (because some gossip turns into an assumption that”everyone knows” if it’s repeated often and passionately enough) from the people calling all sad-puppy campaign supporters, and all the rabid puppies greedy, vile, lying, hate-filled neo-nazi scum?

          Seriously, what would you use to distinguish the mildly unpleasant and moderately clueless?

          “My husband abuses me, I want out”

          Category 1
          “Oh, honey. You know how you exaggerate every bitty thing. It looks just fine to me. Why don’t you try harder to get along. Maybe dress nicer and improve your cooking”

          vs.

          Category 2:
          “you lying, ungrateful bitch. If you weren’t such a useless idiot, you’d have nothing to complain about; not that that man doesn’t treat you better than you deserve, you deluded whore. I swear to God, if I hear another word out of you, I’m calling CPS and letting them know what a dirty slut of a mother you are.”

          Honestly, CHORF seems a reasonable distinction between the two, and is astonishingly descriptive without being vulgar. Clueless. Holier-than-thou. Overbearing. Reactionary. Fanatic.

          If you don’t feel the shoe fits, your reasonable, not-condescending, couteous and open-minded posts should provide all the counterfactual you require to put the name to rest.

  15. Angus Trim

    My thought on this is that anyone that really investigates things, checks out most of the blogs, is going to be taken at least a little aback. There’s a lot of flak going both ways.

    But a little digging tells the reasonable soul that most of the points behind the Sad Puppies rebellion are correct. There has been a hard left thought policing going on for at least a decade. Affirmative action fiction has shoved science fiction to the side. Not that sf has disappeared, but its been marginalized.

    Most reasonable people will realize that the “slate” really wasn’t a slate. It was suggestion of works, and no more.

    Most reasonable people will admit that calling decent people “Nazis” as easily as it was done recently is a bit beyond the pale.

    I don’t think much is going to change. I think the toxic environment at Tor is going to continue, but I also think that is going to help indies. I think it already is.

    I suspect that the establishment will get the rules changed on Hugo voting to keep the rabble out. That’s fine too, build the walls high. We’ll take our business elsewhere.

    • Affirmative action fiction has shoved science fiction to the side. Not that sf has disappeared, but its been marginalized.

      Hmm. In the File 770, Nick Mamatas has been challenging Puppy supporters to name

      a. one work of fiction
      b. that won a Hugo Award
      c. while foregrounding a left message to the extent that the story was ruined or misshaped
      d. per set of winners since 1995.

      So far, nobody has been able to pass muster and explain their reasoning. It would be interesting to see someone really give it a try and give an account of what they thought about the Hugo winners with specific examples and not just sweeping generalisations.

      Most reasonable people will realize that the “slate” really wasn’t a slate. It was suggestion of works, and no more.

      I think that the Rabid Puppies slate was explicitly *not* just a suggestion list, don’t you agree? That is the slate which dominates the Hugo ballot now.

      I suspect that the establishment will get the rules changed on Hugo voting to keep the rabble out.

      So, you don’t think that a rule change (“E Pluribus Hugo”) that makes it more difficult for a tactically-voting bloc of 20 percent of the voters to get significantly more than 20 percent of the ballot secured is a good thing?

      • Angus Trim

        {1} I’ve been ignoring Mamatis and I intend to continue doing so.
        {2} I thought we were talking about Sad Puppies. If you have any questions about Rabid Puppies you might want to check out Vox Popoli and ask Mr. Beale himself.
        {3} I don’t think anything is broken. Why fix something that’s not broken? My feeling is that it makes sense to get more voters involved. If instead of worrying about percentages you concern yourself with raw numbers, by tripling the number of voters that 20% drops down to 6.67%.

        My feeling on this is that SF&F readers are a lot like cats, in that they don’t herd easily. You get enough people involved in the voting, a slate doesn’t have a chance.

        • It’s hard to ignore the Rabid Puppy slate when you discuss this year’s Hugos now that mr. Beale’s canines managed to outvote everybody else with coordinated tactical voting. To me, that suggests a rule change wouldn’t be that bad of an idea.

          That won’t affect any honest voters who aren’t following orders, though, so there’s no reason that Sad Puppies couldn’t support the rule change as well — because, as you said, the SP slate was a suggestion list and everybody just voted for what they really liked.

          More people bying memberships and voting is good, of course. What I’m not so excited about is that many of them say they’re voting against something they don’t like (whether that’s “SJW message fiction” or the Puppies) instead of celebrating what they love.

          • Angus Trim

            On your latter point I have to agree. I do remember a lot of people threatening to No Award.

            I’m hoping that next year things will be a little less emotional, and that there are a lot more voters. There will be a Sad Puppies 4. There probably will be Sad Puppies until the tent opens enough for everyone.

            • Craig

              A lot of people also seem to have started this year assuming the SP anger-mode was unprovoked, having somehow missed the various attacks that had independent evidence (those in public; the attacks on Dan Wells; Damien Walter’s writings, etc.).

      • The problem comes with Step C, which is arguable. Were I to suggest say, “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” fit the first two criteria, One could declare that the science fiction element (the utterly unexplained water, and the subsequent impulse to tell a truth) is just window dressing for a gay coming out story. Declare that a Lefty Message, and the discussion is ended with Mamatas calling you a Rightwing-Bigot-Homophobe etc. etc.

        Yeah, who’s going to have a reasonable discussion with someone like that? You might as well shake hands with a woodchipper.

        • It’s arguable, sure, but I think that a more interesting argument can come out of it than out of unspecified claims.

          The precise genre label for TWTFOYFN might be surreal fantasy, so the absence of science didn’t bother me, but let’s say that’s what bothered you. Gay coming out story with a surrealist twist may not be everybody’s cup of tea (even though I can’t stop wondering what’s the exact message in case this is message fiction: “there are gays and they can have a hard time” maybe?).

          I don’t know what Mamatas would do but my response would be to ask what the other 19 examples of preachy lefty message fic are, going back 20 years (part d of his challenge). If you can name one in Hugo winner in one of the fiction categories every year, you could put some meat behind the argument that a significant share of Hugo winners has systematically been of that sort.

          Whatever awful stuff can win once or twice with no trouble, but a persistent bias needs some more proof.

          • But is the message “there are gays and they can have a hard time” Science Fiction? Could that story have been told and that message put across without the SFF elements?

            It goes both ways. The original Sad Puppies, and SP2 were actually about politics, and discrimination against conservative authors. Now SP2 certainly proved that people could organize a No Award campaign to shoot them down. But the contention that they were shut out by the bias of a small, liberally-minded Hugo Electorate should be subject to the same kind of test. If Nick, or someone, could point to conservative authors on the Hugo ballot, appearing consistently each year (Say 20 of them) then he could falsify Larry’s claim.

            • Well, I think Larry Correia’s message amounts to something like “guns are fun and violence is exciting”, and that could be just as easily communicated without SF elements too, as could everything else one can possibly think of.

              Are there 20 conservatives on the ballot? I don’t know. GRRM and Flint have done some lists but I don’t remember how long they were.

              If there are not that many, that’s proof of a political bias *only* if one can first prove that the share of conservatives in SFF is larger than their share of the awards won. My hunch is that the vast majority of SFF writers, readers and editors are somewhat liberal to begin with.

              • That’s just a hunch. But if one assumes that the makeup of SFF fans is roughly proportionate to the makeup of the general population, there are likely more conservatives than liberals, but the Liberals are just louder, and more unpleasant, so the conservatives keep quiet about their conservatism because they don’t want to be hounded and hectored, as Liberals are wont to do.

                • I think it’s highly unlikely that such an assumption was correct for three reasons:

                  1) People with higher education tend to be politically more liberal.

                  2) People with higher education tend to read more.

                  3) We are not speaking only about authors living in US. Many popular English-language SFF authors are British, and the general population in Britain tends to be more liberal than the US population.

                  • Oh jeez, not the old “Conservatives are all stupid, uneducated, unimaginative, ignorant gits, and the only book they read is the Bible” bullshit.

                    Liberals like to believe they are so smart and superior, and always look for Confirmation, so there’s a bit of Bias there. Then again, Fen like to believe they are superior to Mundanes. Often they are delusional.

                    The Generalization game isn’t so much fun when both sides play it.

                    • Good doctor, I said nothing of the sort.

                      Higher or lower education tells nothing of the person’s intellect. However, it is a statistical fact that liberalism tends to be more prominent among people with higher level of education.

                      They also read more books (source).

                      I see you didn’t address my last point at all, even though I think it’s fairly important in a discussion about global SFF culture and fandom.

                    • Angus Trim

                      Well spacefairingkitty, I wouldn’t dream of speaking of the global SFF community. I don’t have that much contact with those outside the USA anymore. And when I did, as a part of the sword community in the late 90’s and early 00’s, it was with fellow sword enthusiasts and western martial arts people, which aren’t typical folks really.

                      More liberal people may on average be more educated, but isn’t playing that game similar to what Vox plays? He uses IQ, and race, but what you’re doing is sorta similar. It’s still a game to satisfy one’s biases. If you want an unbiased conversation, then leaving your biases out might be a good starting point.

                      My take on SF fans is that fandom’s tastes have grown with the changes in our respective cultures. What I would like to see is that the tent become big enough once again to include the more action heavy, simpler, {or less intellectual if you prefer} stories as well as the newer avante guard stories.

                      I get that the cultures have changed, and that some tastes have with them. But you only have to look at the success of the Marvel movie franchise, the newer Star Treks to understand that blowing stuff up still sells.

                    • More liberal people may on average be more educated, but isn’t playing that game similar to what Vox plays? He uses IQ, and race, but what you’re doing is sorta similar. It’s still a game to satisfy one’s biases.

                      Angus, I’m really not sure I’m getting your point about biases there. A number of studies suggests that people with higher education are more likely to be liberal than people on average. IQ has nothing to do with it and surely there are some quite dim-witted (though often liberal) people in academia.

                      More subgenres present in the Hugo shortlist would be a great thing and I can appreciate an explosion-heavy book myself every now and then. I’m not certain that the Puppy enterprise will lead to what you hope, though, now that everybody is upset about how the slate-voting turned out.

                      I was also a bit disappointed with the works on the slates — there were very few if any rousing adventures that the manifestos were promising. I haven’t read all of it yet, though.

                    • “I was also a bit disappointed with the works on the slates — there were very few if any rousing adventures that the manifestos were promising. I haven’t read all of it yet, though.”

                      Well, Larry Corriea had one in there, but the CHORF contingent (and this time the name is applied accurately) kept screeching about how this was all a plot to Get Larry a Hugo, so he withdrew, and said he would abstain from all future nominations.

                    • Angus Trim

                      spacefaringkitten

                      {I hope I spelled it right this time}

                      I haven’t seen any hard numbers for the folks that are upset about slates. I will grant that there does appear to be a few very vocal people that are upset, but I don’t know how big the pool is behind them.

                      My point is I don’t see any reason to be overly concerned about it until after the Hugo votes. If No Award carries the day, there was a lot of them. If there’s a winner in most slots, then obviously there weren’t that many people upset.

                      Your mistaken if you think I’m overly concerned about how the Hugo voting comes out. I really don’t care. There are those that do.

                      I personally don’t expect to see many if any SP3 winners when all is said and done. That’s why there will be an SP4. Rule changes won’t prevent an SP4 from affecting things next year.

                  • You mean they have more PhDs and Masters. They’re about the same in college degrees. And the study to which you refer suffered from severe sample bias as it excluded nearly all the left wing client populations who lack (even when corrupt school districts pass them) an upper elementary education, as well as defining “liberal” so broadly that I would have been one for the purposes of the questionnaire. I could go on, but I need to hit the rack, so the tl;dr takeaway is bollocks.

                    Especially since the split isn’t left/right in this particular subset of the culture war, it’s liberal/totalitarian.

                    Hence the CHORFs. And also the push back against the terminology since the Stalinists want to be able to continue to use the inclusive (of people with real, rather than superficial, differences) free-speech classical liberals and libertarians as cover.

      • Mike M.

        To your first set of points about Mamatas’ writing – letter C is entirely subjective. Agreement isn’t likely.

        To your second point, the singular noun ‘slate’ was used, referring to SP3, not RP. Since SP3 wasn’t coordinating with RP (the consensus according to the comments at F770 and ML is that SP3 was ring-led or manipulated by RP); conflating here is posturing or something else equally unhelpful.

        To your last point, I don’t know what to expect from a rules change. I expect a noisy plurality to unsuccessfully push for an explicit ban on ‘slates’ and restrictions on Supporting Memberships, but judging from comments like those of Standlee, I don’t expect them to be successful.

      • Squid Farms on Mars. We could have gotten them, and we didn’t. It was just brilliant, but all we got to vote on we’re dinosaur revenge-fantasy cookies and American-Chinese family emo-romance.

        And unless Ancillary Justice was an order of magnitude better written than Sword, and I mean “better written” in terms of sentence structure, punctuation, parallel clauses, and handling antecedents, not to mention elementary plotting and consistent (i.e. following your own invented rules for your own invented world) then heck yes, there’s your “message fic” right there. God knows how many squid farms bit the dust to make way for the marketing budget, in-group “push” and publisher advance of thst mildly novel gimmick book.

        If no-one has accepted the “challenge” it’s because luther probably have better things to do than play No True Scottsman with a dozen ill-informed, intellectually dishonest, radically biased true-believers who will haul out disingenuous “guilt-by-association” irrelevancies, ad nominee attacks, and Bulverisms.

        Or, I could’ve said “..with a dozen or so CHORFs.”

        • Gah! Particularly bad auto-correct that go-round. My apologies. It should read:

          Plotting and consistency
          that mildly novel
          It’s because they probably (“Luther? Really? Bizarre.)
          Ad hominem attacks. Though “ad nominee” does sound it like it could be a thing in this kerfluffle.

      • Alex

        “I think that the Rabid Puppies slate was explicitly *not* just a suggestion list, don’t you agree? That is the slate which dominates the Hugo ballot now.”

        You’re in the wrong place to debate Vox. His site is over yonder. I’m sure he and his fans will be happy to engage.

        Oh, and Glyer’s “challenge” doesn’t match what’s being asserted. Even if someone did come up with it, it would either be deleted or nitpicked away. That’s what happens when you have people asserting things like Ancillary ___ and Goblin Emperor don’t have left-wing themes that harm the narrative.*

        * Granted, A* is middling-at-best milSF to start with, so maybe you could nitpick it couldn’t get much worse…

  16. I agree with you 100%, Peter. Somehow, people need to start listening a little better, bare minimum…in all walks of life. (Especially over at Tor.)