Left, right. Right, left?
Last week Guillaume Jay posted this. I said I’d like to discuss it this week
R,b and V is One of the funniest sf book i ever read, maybe the funniest. I read it as a baen Free ebook iirc 10+ years ago, and it put you and eric flint on my list of watched authors.
I have no memories that it was unpc.
On the other hand, i’m french, and a leftist, so quite a sjw by nature.
(To speak frankly, SP has shown me a
side of you which i’m not very comfortable with…)
(Sorry for spelling, cell typing in a second language is hard)
Hmm. Interesting. And it is all about perceptions, which is what I want to write about. There has been a constant effort by Puppy-Kickers to paint this as being some kind of right wing excuse to play their favorite trump cards ‘misogynist’, ‘racist’ and ‘homophobe’. Because if they can play those cards anything else is irrelevant.
Certainly – as far as I am concerned anyway – it has nothing to do with any of those.
Let’s just clarify why I support the Sad Puppies. I have said all this before. Many times.
Firstly: SF and Fantasy sales are down. This is just one of many years. Year after year sales in our genre are falling (at least with Traditional Publisher sales). Remember I started looking at this some years back, before Indy really took off.
Secondly: This has hugely affected the workers, the producers in this field – the writers – ability to make a living (and here). These are the reasons I got involved at a writers site – because I take a long view, and I care about my peers and my genre. We may do a crap job, but at least we’re doing something. Many of the Puppy-Kickers, with thousands of times our resources – GRRM springs to mind… are not. Their sole contribution is to complain about what we do.
Thirdly: I understand fully that a growing healthy industry – even if much of that growth is in books I would never read — keeps writers writing, and readers reading sf and fantasy. If you like sf or fantasy it is in your personal interest to see as many readers as possible get to read and enjoy what they want to read, even if you personally hate the books they read. If the industry is well served and healthy it will have books available in roughly demographically representative proportions (obviously one corrects for language, and ability to read). To put it in vehicle terms: You may love a big Dually truck… or a Toyota Prius (both small segments of the market). The market, supply and price of your chosen vehicle does not rest on its own. It depends on the whole motor industry. If all that is available is either of the above vehicles – pretty soon that will cost far more than anyone but a millionaire can afford. Only the most shortsighted, idiotic and self-centered fool could pretend that confining the market to the Prius would be clever –even if you personally adore Priuses. The only person keen on this is the guy sitting with a lot of Priuses to sell. It is pure self-interest, short term thinking (remember that).
Fourthly: some years back John Ringo said ‘The Hugos are biased against the right wing’ or words to that effect. I rolled my eyes at his idiocy and ran the stats to show how wrong he was. The idiot was me, I was wrong. This situation has only got worse. As the Hugos are SUPPOSED TO BE a fan award for the most popular novel — and the stats show that nomination is heavily skewed to the tastes of around 6% of the audience – a fringe group excluding the tastes and interests of the vast majority of the demographic, there is a problem. That problem feeds directly into points 1,2,3.
Fifthly: A closer look at the nominated works and the numbers of nominations required showed that it was a very small group, repeating the same names over and over – Mike Glyer as the most extreme example, and that they had required as little as 30-40 nomination votes – less than the staff-vote at a large publisher (which, insanely, is permitted – in a ‘FAN’ award.) The same names that, oddly, dominated the Nebula. Yes. This is very odd indeed, as firstly, the Nebula is an award voted on by writers in theory for quality (not popularity), and secondly, one in which a well recorded and documented corrupt process call ‘log-rolling’ was occurring.
Which led me to what I hoped to see from the Sad Puppies process.
a) More demographic spread (even if I don’t like or agree with the views of that spread it must also occur. See point 3.). I have no interest in seeing specific individuals win. I’d rather not be nominated or win myself. That would not help the situation in any way.
b) More new entrants.
c) More popular entrants (because an award’s ability to promote new authors rests on its recognition, which rests on its popularity). They should be popular OUTSIDE the narrow demographic section that has dominated for years to draw those readers in. That in turn should improve things for writers, and the field in general.
d) And more participation, to dilute the plainly dishonest effect of large publishers and in-cliques (who mostly are grace-and-favor clients of large publishers, with financial ties.).
Let me start with a little parable. You can substitute in colors and insults of your choice.
Once upon a time, in an alternate universe, there were two black employers. They both had some white employees. The first was reputed to call them ‘Honkeys’ and was not worried about insulting them. The second would never do that. She was always careful to call them People of No Color, and was terribly sensitive about PoNC rights and safe spaces. The first paid quite well, promoted and fired on merit, and the working conditions were way above the industry standard. The second screwed her workers – financially at least, paying way less than a living wage, and provided appalling and exploitative work conditions. And no, it wasn’t merit that got you promoted or fired. It was kissing the boss’s butt or failing to do that. You might, not inaccurately, claim she used her PoNC lip-service to recruit people she treated abominably, who would work for her rival otherwise.
Now: which of the two was better for the worker to work for? Which of the two was the better human being? If you’re going to take this on a SJW basis: Which of the two companies should you be buying from on an ethical basis – assuming the products actually cost the same? (In practice the products from the first employer are better. She keeps and promotes better people.) Which of the two was actually delivering more so-called ‘social justice’?
If you were gullible and took a superficial look you might actually say the second employer – who has a lot in common with most of the Traditional Publishing establishment, or indeed, the Puppy-Kickers. If you actually look at deeds, and not lip-service, you would, despite disliking the attitude of the first employer, be forced to admit that for the workers they were an infinitely better choice. The first employer had nothing much to gain by calling its white employees ‘Honkeys’. The second employer had everything to gain by pointing it out (even if wasn’t true) and perpetuating the belief that employer was a discriminatory racist. In fact – short of actually improving employee conditions to match or better the first employer (which would cost her money) – badmouthing the competition was essential to the second employer’s business. Follow the money. If someone has something to gain, financially, by their behavior… be suspicious.
Now let’s look at ‘left’ and ‘right’. It does get very confusing.
Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, it was quite simple, especially as far as workers were concerned. The left supposedly sought for a better deal for the workers, the weak and the poor. The right supposedly sought for a better deal for business, and if they thought about the poor, the workers and the weak at all, it was that trickle-down would lift them. There were more aspects to both sides, both of which have merits in different ways, of course. To name a couple that pertain directly to this debate: The right for example was conservative and wished to maintain the status quo, to keep things as they were. The left wanted to change the status quo. The right wanted censorship to stop new ideas. The left, free speech.
That does seem to have changed quite a lot, to where the left seems more interested in welfare recipients than workers, and the right championing smaller (down to sole operator) business. Of course both side love large corporates, and seem more interested in power, than actually doing anything, but that’s politics. ‘Liberal’ and ‘conservative’ are always contextual. At one time the universal right to bear arms was liberal, for example. It shifts – but let’s work with the old definition and this context.
So: let’s look at the Sad Puppies, and MGC in particular. According to Irene Gallo (who, may we point out is an employee of Tor Books, and I believe the editor of Tor.com. Not exactly a disinterested party, with no financial skin in the game) we’re all extreme right wingers.
Therefore… Sad Puppies is on the side of business then. A business like the publishing house Tor.
Er. No. That’s Irene. Let’s just take a moment to point out that the companies at the center of this Puppy-Kicking pay at best 17.5% of gross to the workers for e-books, and possibly less as their contracts are 25% of net – and from the Movie industry we know net can mysteriously be such that the workers get screwed. Baen pay 20% of gross Correction that’s 25% of gross (not net dirty tricks and cheating the workers), Castilia pays 50%, Amazon pays 70% (less your costs – but you control those).
MGC – which has been solidly behind the Sad Puppies – has provided hundreds of articles on ways for writers to get the best deal, earn most and succeed best. All of us have verifiable records of helping other writers – and not on the basis of ideology or where they publish. It’s a pretty well an uncontestable fact that we have worked for the workers (the writers), the weak (new writers with no support, money or contacts), who are certainly poor as often as not. We don’t care, or discriminate. All of us have been poor. On the other hand the puppy kicker sites – File 770, Making Light etc. have they ever done anything for the weak, the workers, and the poor of our industry? They’ve come out in support of the business of publishing, supported Irene Gallo, actively discriminated against authors… but when it comes to getting better working conditions, better contracts, better pay for authors… no, they’re silent.
So: who is ‘right wing’ by its actual deeds? Not by loud and empty talk, but by doing things that they can personally do?
Confusing, isn’t it?
Let’s look at the status quo. After all, that’s what the right wing do. They’re conservative. That must be the Sad Puppies. Trying to conserve the status quo. Keep the same people getting Hugos!
Er. No. That’s the Puppy Kickers. The same names, the same narrow, incestuous ‘in’ group. The status quo is very much the business supported –and financially intertwined – Puppy Kickers and certain Traditional Publishers. The ones that pay worst and treat their workers – the writers — worst.
The Sad Puppies wanted to get different people. And the process they used was not particularly different to union organizing – allying the weak to stand up against the business owners who de facto controlled it.
So: Who is ‘right wing’ and conservative in this context?
What about censorship and free speech?
Surely the Sad Puppies are trying to silence the voices of women, PoC, Homosexuals etc.? They want to de-platform them, silence them, isolate them. They want sf to go back to manly men doing manly things (according to the ignorant-of-what-we-write Kevin Standlee, whose job it is to be neutral – except there are no rules for Puppy-Kickers. Rules are for little people, like the Sad Puppies).
Er. No. There have been many attempts by the Puppy-Kickers at silencing, and de-platforming, isolating, as well as a concerted effort at smearing the Sad Puppies in major media with a farrago of lies about being Neo-Nazis racists, etc – which took contacts and influence – which can only really come from the wealthy, powerful traditional publishers. You know, the people who have a financial interest in the status quo. Follow the money.
The Sad Puppies on the other hand have pointedly and repeatedly said they do not want anyone silenced. They want more popular fiction, to draw a wider range and larger numbers of people into SF/Fantasy and they want it not ideologically limited to any ONE sector of politics (that limits the number of readers for a start). Their deeds matched their talk – not all their suggested nominees came from any one faction of politics. The opposite is true of the puppy kickers. Try to step back and take my point: I don’t want any one faction being currently able to shut the other voices out, even if it is ‘my’ faction. It’s making it roughly demographically representative that is my goal. Tomorrow might be the other side in control, and I would rather not be silenced and rather the genre was healthy selling to as many people as possible.
Over and over the leadership of the Puppy-Kickers have tried to make this about anything but the real issues – which are the four I listed as my reasons for participation.
It’s not about left and right or Social Justice (although actually MCG is demonstrably able to show it actually does far more in real terms than all the puppy-kickers put together. Most of them are very like those ‘charities’ collecting for the poor in Africa. Of every Dollar, 99 cents goes to them for ‘administration’, one cent to the politician in Africa (the problem, really), and nothing for the poor). It’s about dealing with a real long-term problem which takes long term thinking and thinking beyond narrow little turfs. Yes, many of the puppy supporters are – outside of this issue — conservative or moderate. Their viewpoints color the way they see and speak of things. Their reasons for supporting it may well be different from mine. But they are supporting the workers — writers, and the long term future of sf – which you cannot say about the Puppy-Kickers.
Inevitably, when you get a Puppy-Kicker this far in the debate, they say “Yes but…” and then quibble endlessly about irrelevant trivia and do nothing. Camestros is the typical example of this, or say “Yes but…” and then enumerate the ways in which the Sad Puppies are doing it wrong.
Trivia are trivia. They change nothing, and I’m not interested.
And if you think we’re doing it wrong… Don’t tell me how we must do it better. YOU do it better. Change that demographic to a broadly representative one, grow sf so authors can make a living. By all means work on getting under-represented people in – be they women or Native Americans… just find ones who aren’t ALSO part of the vastly over-represented (and repetitively nominated). Show me measurable results that I can put numbers to, and I’m happy for you to do it. Delighted in fact. I can spend the time writing books.
Or ‘Get out of the new road if you can’t lend a hand.’
The picture is a link.
This is the next book I have coming out. The hero of the book is a Straitsman – an Aboriginal of the Bass Strait Islands. We’re farmers and fishermen here, hardworking folk without whom there’d be no food on your table. The core of the story is about that, about what he is and where he belongs, and his choice to do what some humans have always chosen to do, to put their future, everything they have, on the line to do what they believe needs doing. I’ve spent my life going on mountain rescue or to sea with people like that. It makes no exception for creed or color or anything else. It is the finest side of humanity.
It’s also a fast moving adventure story, because that is what I write.