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Posts tagged ‘sad puppies 3’

Stir the Pot

I don’t like to stir the pot. Primarily because I’ve discovered that the best slow cooker involves a pressure cooker and only 20 minutes!

But today I’m definitely stirring the pot with a big ol’ wooden spoon (we ran out of wooden assterisks, sorry) because Worldcon just went and jumped the shark.

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Curiouser and Curiouser: thoughts on Sad Puppydom and the State of the Hugos

I freely admit I was looking for an easy topic to rant *coff* talk about this week because this has not been my best week (taking the much-loved 21 year old cat on her final trip to the vet will do that – as well as consume ridiculous quantities of Kleenex). My usual sources for good topics were all suspiciously quiet (yeah, I harass them most weeks), so I googled Sad Puppies Three.

I expected to get unending pages of hits of SJW types waxing poetic about the evil that is the Campaign to End Puppy-Related Sadness. Instead I got the official Sad Puppies posts, and a whole lot of “Read books and nominate them for awards if you think they deserve it? Good idea.”

Now, I’ll concede that Google might be customizing my search results just for me and automatically filtering off SJW hits, but I also got (after about page 3) a whole lot of “cute photo” hits. And – seriously – buggerall from the usual suspects.

There were two links to anti-ish posts, both of which showed a remarkable lack of understanding of the whole notion. You know, the idea that it’s good to actually read the books and bring in a bigger diversity of topic and theme for consideration. Because an award that calls itself the “most prestigious” is kind of by definition something meaningful to Joe Average SFF Fan looking for a good read to spend his hard earned money on.

And… well… the Hugo isn’t.

Look at Amazon rankings (which are as close to honest sales figures as we mere mortals are likely to get). Now look at recent Hugo winners. For fairness, keep it to the novel winners and paid sales in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Now stop screaming, go back and change the search parameters a bit and… oh, never mind. There’s no way to get a list of SF and Fantasy that doesn’t also include several metric shit-tons of paranormal romance, much of it venerable indeed (Seriously? Gabaldon’s Outlander series? That was new when I was in high school and I’m entirely too many years away from that to be comfortable with the number. Let’s just say the cat I farewelled this week post-dated high school by quite a few years and leave it there).

The thing is, most of the time, the darlings of the awards in the last ten years or so tend not to be long-term sellers. The long-term classics stay in the Amazon top lists (when I looked, there were multiple editions and versions of 1984 in the top 100 SF & F, rubbing literary shoulders with Tolkien, Vonnegut, and assorted other classic SF/F authors). Of the not-classics, there were a lot of series, enough paranormal romances to sink a modern cargo ship, and a smattering of newer works.

Add in the latest news from the Official Source of Truth (aka Bookscan) is that sales are dropping. Of course, they don’t include Indie sales, which means that sales of traditionally published SF & F are dropping – as they have been for years… a time frame that to a large extent correlates remarkably closely with the publishing establishment’s near-total lock on distribution (and therefore sales – it being a trifle difficult to sell something that didn’t get to the stores in the first place).

Now of course correlation is not causation and something else could have caused sales to drop to the extent that modern SF & F does not proudly state on covers “Over a million copies sold!” (And yes, I own SF & F paperbacks from the 80s that say this). Insiders will whisper about how standard print runs have dropped from 50, 000 to 20, 000 to a few thousand, and how books never seem to sell out the advance. And then the SF & F sections of bookstores is gradually becoming more the realm of endless tie-in novels and a whole bunch of paranormal romance (at least until it gets booted out into its own section because the readers wanting a bit of a different romance aren’t too happy about slumming it with the geeks and nerds).

What all of this means is that the books printed by the traditional publishers are not, for the most part, the books the SF & F loving portion of the population want to read. The genre itself isn’t any less popular – but the traditional publishers, the ones who dominate the Hugo and are beloved by the whoever the Hugo SMOFs are – are not.

Which means that winning SF & F’s “most prestigious” award has become a little like wetting your pants in public: you get a nice warm feeling for a while, but very few other people care.

Tuesday links and a few thoughts

When I first started posting here at MGC, it was my job to be the link-master of sorts. publishing was in the early throes of the upheavals we still see rocking its foundations. Around that time, Amazon started the pre-cursor to the KDP program. Oh the howls of outrage, howls that still sound from time to time. But times change as did my role with MGC. Today, however, I’m going back to that early role (mainly because I’m still getting over a nasty bout of a stomach virus and the brain isn’t quite back to functioning beyond “sleep” and “sick” modes. So, for those of you who might have missed some of the latest on the Sad Puppies 3 and the fall out around it, here are a few links:

From Breitbart, we have “The Hugo Awards: How Sci-Fi’s Most Prestigious Awards Became a Political Battleground“.

It may not, therefore, surprise you to learn that similar occurrences are taking place in the science-fiction and fantasy (SFF) community, too. Previously a world renowned for the breadth of its perspectives, SFF increasingly bears the familiar hallmarks of an ideological battleground.

The story begins, as ever, with a small group of social justice-minded community elites who sought to establish themselves as the arbiters of social mores. This group would decide who deserved a presence in SFF and who deserved to be ostracised.

The Breitbart article hits the proverbial nail on the head with the above observation. In a field that ought to welcome everyone and welcome what they write, there is a group that is doing its best to shout down and, according to some, ruin the careers of those who do not toe the line when it comes to who they are and how diverse they make their stories. They sneer at white males of a certain age and attack women who do not fall into step with the rest of the sisterhood. These folks have forgotten that “wrong think” has long been the foundation of science fiction and fantasy and the field has been populated with writers from every political spectrum. That, apparently, is no longer something these folks want. Well, if SP3 does anything, it shows that there is a large group of authors and readers who don’t give a flying rat’s ass about being preached to in their stories. What they want is a story that engages them, entertains them and makes them think. Story has to win out over message because what good is the message if no one reads the story?

Sad Puppies: Some responses to the fallout is from Brad Torgensen.

Others (on the leftward side of the fence) make a great big fat noise about “Speaking truth to power.” Now, the shoe is on the right foot. For a change. Again, you don’t have to like it. SAD PUPPIES peels back the foil on the stale TV dinner. SAD PUPPIES says stuff that many people mutter in confidence, but few have dared speak openly; because they know it’s going to cause an uproar. SAD PUPPIES is specific in its intention: to alter the Hugo awards process such that artists and works which would otherwise be ignored, are not ignored. It’s not a “right wing” thing. It’s a make-the-field-live-up-to-its-reputation thing, by way of the field’s self-proclaimed, “Most prestigious award.”

And here’s the mind-blower: SP3 is not a same-minded collective. We’ve actually had a tremendous amount of internal debate about how to proceed.

There is the key where SP3 is concerned. It isn’t a slate — and I hate that word because this isn’t a slate. It is Brad’s recommendations for the first round of Hugo voting. He has repeatedly stated that. They are his recommendations, just as others for years have made recommendations, yet he gets pilloried for daring to put a “slate” together. But more importantly, those included in SP3 come from more than just the conservative political spectrum. There are libertarians on it and — gasp — liberals. Their political beliefs aren’t important. What is, is the quality of their work, something those attacking SP3 completely overlook.

Then we have the Sad Puppies 3 Update by Larry Correia. You know Larry. He’s the most evil of men except for Vox. He likes guns. He’s big and scary and the delicate little flowers of SJW must have safe zones whenever he’s around because they are afraid he might turn into a berzerker around them. What they fail to understand is that they are really nothing but comedic fodder for him. Or maybe that is his real crime — he laughs at them and does so in a way that the rest of us do as well. He peels away the lies and shows that the emperor really is marching down the street naked and it’s not a pretty sight. Among the holes he punches in the SJW argument against Sad Puppies is this:

Privilege!  

Says a SJW who grew up in the suburbs, and attended some of the most expensive schools in America, to the guy who grew up milking cows, and worked his way through Utah State, unironically.

Puppies are color blind. (No… really, come to think of it they are!)

We don’t care who you are or where you came from, as long as your writing is awesome.

 Brad also responded to the detractors with Sad Puppies: the march of the straw men.

Ever since this Breitbart article appeared, a small legion of straw man arguments have been deployed against the current season of SAD PUPPIES. I was going to type up a very looooooooong rebuttal to the straw men, but Larry Correia and Sarah Hoyt already did the heavy lifting for me. Much of what I might have said, they say with superior gusto and humor. It’s a blessed thing having friends such as these. Not just under the Baen banner per se, but under the general banner of colleagues who’d like to see the field return itself to a more balanced state of being.

And that, dear readers, is the real crux of the issue. Those of us supporting Sad Puppies, even if we don’t agree with every recommendation Brad has put forth, want to see the field return to “a more balanced state of being.” I want to see books and movies that entertain. Not everything has to push an agenda. (Hollywood and NYC Publishing needs to pay attention to that.) You can still have a message in your work but you don’t have to beat your readers over the head with it. Nor do you need to act like a spoiled child on the playground pitching a fit because the other kids won’t follow your rules and that is exactly what is happening when you have authors taking to social media saying editors should stop publishing certain white male authors because they are evil white male authors or offering to help ruin careers if someone doesn’t start following the right think agenda.

Finally, we have our own Sarah’s take on the issue with When Duck Noises Fail Me. I’ll leave it to you go follow the link because it is one of her gif-tastic posts and cuts right to the chase. I’ll warn you not to have anything in your mouths when you read the post. I am not responsible for any damage done to keyboards.  😉

In case you haven’t seen the SP3 line-up, you can find it here. Full disclosure, I am on the list as are other members of MGC. However, that did not influence the writing of this post. I said basically the same thing last year and the year before. It is time for those of us who like reading entertaining stories and seeing entertaining movies to let our voices be heard. I think you will find that you are not a lone voice in the darkened woods but one of many, one of the majority who have grown more and more frustrated by what has been happening in the field over the last twenty years or so. It is, in other words, time to vote, not only for the Hugos but with our money. Indie and small press authors are out there and they are writing the sorts of books so many of us are looking for.

Friday Promotions

You would think a blog by a bunch of writers would do better at self-promotion than it does but, well, we are like so many others in the field. We would rather be writing than promoting. We don’t necessarily stepping away from the desk and out of the shadows into the spotlight. So, this is me pushing all of us out there for a change. Enjoy!

joyJoy Cometh With the Mourning: A Reverend Joy Mystery
Dave Freer

Reverend Joy Norton is a timid city girl, and she’s never been the primary priest in any parish. When her bishop sends her out to a remote back-country church, she doubts both her ability and her suitability. Those doubts grow when she hears of the mysterious death of her predecessor. But from the first encounter with her congregation — having her little car rescued from a muddy ditch, she finds herself deeply involved with her parishioners and touched by their qualities and eccentricities. Which makes it worse for her to think that one of the people she’s coming to care for murdered the previous priest…

***

stardogsStardogs
Dave Freer

Revolution rises!

The Interstellar Empire of Man was built on the enslavement of the gentle Stardogs, companions and Theta-space transporters of the vanished Denaari Dominion. But the Stardogs that humans found can’t go home to breed, and are slowly dying out.

As the ruthless Empire collapses from its rotten core outward, an Imperial barge is trapped on top of a dying Stardog when an attempted hijacking and assassination go horribly wrong. Trying to save its human cargo, the Stardog flees to the last place anyone expected – the long-lost Denaari motherworld.

Crawling from the crash are the Leaguesmen who control the Stardogs’ pilots by fear and force, and plan to assassinate Princess Shari, the criminal Yak gang, who want to kill everyone and take control of a rare Stardog for their own, and an entourage riddled with plots, poisons, and treason. But Shari and her assassin-bodyguard have plans of their own…

Stranded on the Denaari Motherworld, the castaway survivors will have to cooperate to survive. Some will have to die.

And some, if they make it to the Stardogs breeding ground, will have to learn what it means to love.

***

coverforvfaVengeance from Ashes
Sam Schall (Amanda S. Green)

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

***

Duty from Ashes
Sam Schall (Amanda S. Green)

Duty calls. Honor demands action.

Major Ashlyn Shaw has survived false accusations and a brutal military prison. Now free, she finds her homeworld once again at war with an enemy that will stop at nothing to destroy everything she holds dear. Duty has Ashlyn once again answering the call to serve. She has seen what the enemy is capable of and will do everything she can to prevent it from happening to the home she loves and the people she took an oath to protect.

But something has changed. It goes beyond the fact that the enemy has changed tactics they never wavered from during the previous war. It even goes beyond the fact that there is still a nagging doubt in the back of Ashlyn’s mind that those who betrayed her once before might do so again. No, there is more to the resumption of hostilities, something that seems to point at a new player in the game. But who and what are they playing at?

Will Ashlyn be able to unmask the real enemy before it is too late?

***

witchfindercoverfinalWitchfinder
Sarah A. Hoyt

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.

***

AFGMA Few Good Men
Sarah A. Hoyt

The Son Also Rises . . .

On a near future Earth, Good Man does not mean good at all. Instead, the term signifies a member of the ruling class, and what it takes to become a Good Man and to hold onto power is downright evil. Now a conspiracy hundreds of years in the making is about to be brought to light when the imprisoned son of the Good Man of Olympic Seacity escapes from his solitary confinement cell and returns to find his father assassinated.

But when Luce Keeva attempts to take hold of the reins of power, he finds that not all is as it seems, that a plot for his own imminent murder is afoot—and that a worldwide conflagration looms. It is a war of revolution, and a shadowy group known as the Sons of Liberty may prove to be Luce’s only ally in a fight to throw off an evil from the past that has enslaved humanity for generations.

Sequel to Sarah A. Hoyt’s award-winning Darkship Thieves, and Darkship Renegades, this is Book One in the Earth’s Revolution saga.

***

ConVentConVent
Kate Paulk

A vampire, a werewolf, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. Whoever picked this team to save the world wasn’t thinking of sending the very best. But then, since this particular threat to the universe and everything good is being staged in science fiction conventions, amid people in costume, misfits and creative geniuses, any convetional hero would have stood out. Now Jim, the vampire, and his unlikely sidekicks have to beat the clock to find out who’s sacrificing con goers before all hell breaks loose — literally.

ConVent is proof that Kate Paulk’s brain works in wonderfully mysterious ways. A sarcastic vampire, his werewolf best buddy, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. The “Save the world” department really messed it up this time.

***

impalerImpaler
Kate Paulk

Impaler revisits the tale of Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad Tepes and Vlad the Impaler. This is the tale of historical fact mixed with fiction and a touch of fantasy. But this is most definitely not the tired tale of vampires skulking in the night, lying in wait for innocent victims. Impaler tells the tale of a man devoted to family and country, cursed and looking for redemption.

December, 1476. The only man feared by the all-conquering Ottoman Sultan battles to reclaim his throne. If he falls all of Europe lies open to the Ottoman armies. If he succeeds…

His army is outnumbered and outclassed, his country is tiny, and he is haunted by a terrible curse. But Vlad Draculea will risk everything on one almost impossible chance to free his people from the hated Ottoman Empire.

***

51KdtMnD0EL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_One-Eyed Dragon
Cedar Sanderson

One-Eyed Dragon is a story of medieval Japan, a man retired from war, and the quiet village he set up shop in. When a strange woman comes to him for a tattoo, he reluctantly takes her money, and tries to unravel her mystery. Meanwhile, savage men threaten his newfound peace. Can there be friendship in exile, for a man who is so scarred and cast out?

Short Story

***

wolflingThe God’s Wolfling
Cedar Sanderson

When The God’s Wolfling opens Linnea Vulkane has grown up since the summer of Vulcan’s Kittens. Sanctuary, the refuge of immortals on an Hawaiian island, is boring. When the opportunity for an adventure arises, she jumps right into it, only realizing too late the water may be over her head. Literally, as she is embroiled in the affairs of the sea god Manannan Mac’Lir.

Merrick Swift has a secret he’s ashamed of. Then when he meets Linnea and her best friend, he doesn’t like her. She’s bossy, stuck up… and oddly accepting of his wolf heritage. Like her or not, he must do his duty and keep her alive. The children of the myths are being plunged into the whirlpool of immortal politics, intrigue, goblin wars, and they might be the only ones who can save a world.

***

take the star roadTake the Star Road
Peter Grant

Nineteen-year-old Steve Maxwell just wants to escape Earth’s gravity. By facing down Lotus Tong thugs, he earns an opportunity to become a spacer apprentice on a merchant spaceship. Unfortunately, he never counted on the interstellar trade routes having wars and pirates – and the jade in his luggage is hotter than a neutron star. Steve’s left a world of troubles behind, only to find a galaxy of them ahead!

Enjoy the book that started the adventure now! The fourth in the series, Stand Against The Storm, is coming in mid-February, so if you start now, you’ll have time to find out why Steve’s ended up on a prison planet in the middle of an uprising, with trouble at his back and dubious allies in orbit overhead…

***

Stand Against The Storm - ebook cover - blog size - 350x518 pixelsStand Against the Storm (The Maxwell Saga book 4, coming February 2015)
Peter Grant

For ten years, Steve Maxwell has played cat and mouse with the Dragon Tong, pretending to look for a missing jade artifact. They’ve given him favors and prestige, keeping close contact despite his rise in the military. All this time, it’s been in his luggage, and he’s been trying to find a way to give it back without getting killed if the truth got out.

Unfortunately, all good luck ends. Steve is stranded in a half-destroyed supply depot with a crew of Tong prisoners and a handful of local allies. He’s the last obstacle in the path of local rebels and escaped prisoners trying to get off-planet.

Any sane man would cut and run, but Steve never learned to back down. No matter what the odds, he’ll stand against the storm.

***

growingupmagicGrowing Up Magic (Wine of the Gods, book 9)
Pam Uphoff

The cross dimensional world of Comet Fall was settled by genetically engineered exiles from Earth.
Their deliberately designed paranormal abilities gave rise to an odd society, but some things never change.
One of the first challenges a person has to meet is growing up. “Magic” doesn’t make it any easier. It just makes it stranger.
Whether they are the precocious son of a god, a farm boy who is much smarter than he looks, an orphan, or a prince—every child has to learn to make their own decisions.
Even if they aren’t very wise decisions . . .
Four stories about Growing Up Magic.

***

deadbabylonThe Dead of Babylon
Jason Cordova

What is the cost of maintaining a kingdom? King Samsu-ilana, also called Shamshu, chosen heir to the god-like Hammurabi, is forced to ask himself this as an insurrection threatens to tear apart the kingdom his father had built.

Using a powerful weapon gifted to him from his father, Shamshu finds that when you are a king, a king has responsibilities that normal men do not. Terrible decisions must be made, and for the King of Babylon, the price may be too high for even him to pay.

***

murder world kaijuMurder World: Kaiju Dawn
Jason Cordova

Captain Vincente Huerta and the crew of the Fancy have been hired to retrieve a valuable item from a downed research vessel at the edge of the enemy’s space.
It was going to be an easy payday.
But what Captain Huerta and the men, women and alien under his command didn’t know was that they were being sent to the most dangerous planet in the galaxy.
Something large, ancient and most assuredly evil resides on the planet of Gorgon IV. Something so terrifying that man could barely fathom it with his puny mind. Captain Huerta must use every trick in the book, and possibly write an entirely new one, if he wants to escape Murder World.

 

***

baptism by fireBaptism by Fire (Edge of Faith, book 1)
David E. Pascoe

When a madman and a giant flaming thing attack James Lawrie’s Marine outpost, the medic and an explosively talented sergeant aren’t supposed to save the day. Life becomes no simpler when Petty Officer Lawrie returns home on leave to find federal agents investigating the disappearance of a young woman from his past. A young woman whose body turns up marked with eerily familiar symbols.

***

Finally, don’t forget Sad Puppies 3. As I said in Tuesday’s post, “So, if you are like me and you enjoy a good story and not being beaten about the head and shoulders with the cause du jour, I urge you to buy your membership to WorldCon so you can vote for the Hugos. We have sat back too long and let the “in crowd” decide what is the so-called best in the genre. I can remember when reading a Hugo winner meant you would read a well-written and entertaining book. Now, well, not so much. Message has become more important than story and that, in my mind, is a shame. Consider this my endorsement for every reader here to watch Brad Torgesren’s blog for more on Sad Puppies 3. Brad has valiantly taken up the banner to fight for good, entertaining science fiction and fantasy to read and recognized. As for me, I’m off to buy my membership and then figure out who I am going to vote for.”

On that same note, if you haven’t bought your membership yet, run to do so. I think today is the last day. Also, several of the books listed above are eligible and all fall not only into Human Wave but would also set the SJW crowd on their ears. Hehehehehe.

 

 

Oh noes, the sky is falling

On  one of the mailing lists I belong to, someone commented about how Publishers Weekly was basically declaring the imminent death of science fiction. According to PW, sales of SF were down 21% in 2013 and another 7% in 2014. In other words, SF sales were down approximately 4.14 million units and now is smaller than the graphic novel market. Needless to say, yours truly (as well as everyone else on the list including the person who posted it) met those numbers with skepticism. My concern about the accuracy of the report came not only because it was from PW but also because there was no breakdown as to whether this was talking print only, print and e-book sales and how those numbers were gathered.

So, yours truly went searching for more information this morning and surprise, surprise. It turns out we were right to be skeptical. It seems that those numbers come from Bookscan. You know, our friendly neighborhood sales reporter that doesn’t count every sale from every outlet but uses handwavium to figure out what title has sold how many units. Bookscan that doesn’t track every title, as in most indie titles aren’t included. Bookscan that is iffy at best when it comes to reporting e-book sales. But, if we are to take PW seriously, we are to worry about the decline in demand for science fiction.

Sorry, but no. If PW and those looking at the figures and wringing their hands would know if they simply took a little time to think about it, all these figures show is that people are tired of what is coming out of most traditional publishing houses when it comes to SF. I say most because it is my belief that Baen has not been hit like others, say TOR, because Baen is different. Baen worries about putting out a good story. Baen is run by folks — hi, Toni! — who like to read and know that readers want to be entertained and not preached to. Sure, there are messages in many of Baen’s titles but you aren’t being hit over the head with it. Besides, I don’t know about you but I would rather read books where we see the strength of the human spirit, where freedom and exploration and exploding spaceships are more important than pushing some social agenda.

So, PW only looked at Bookscan numbers and that means they limited their sampling to basically only traditionally published books. Sure, some small press and indie books made it but not the vast majority because Bookscan and e-book sales just don’t play well together.

That figured out, I started thinking about my own earnings from the Honor and Duty books as well as the earnings my friends who also write SF have been making with their e-books. Hmm, our figures and earnings don’t seem to match what PW said. So, curious, I went to Amazon and checked the top 10 best sellers. It didn’t surprise me at all to see that, out of the top 10 in SF best selling e-books, only three were from from traditional publishers and one of those is a reprint. If you continue looking at the rest of the titles in the Top 100, you find that the vast majority of them are either small press or indie published books. That should say something. The lesson there is that science fiction is not dead. Far from it in fact.

That isn’t to say that the numbers PW posted are completely wrong or that those reading them see a decline in SF sales. Where they are wrong is in how they interpret the numbers. Like the Emperor with his new clothes, they are refusing to admit that the masses — in this case, the readers who are willing to put their hard earned money down to buy books — see through their illusions of grandeur and realize that they are marching down the street wearing nothing. Their need to push their agenda, political and social, have stripped away good story telling and now the Emperor is naked and, well, he doesn’t look nearly as good as he thinks he does. So the readers have turned to other sources, sources where story telling is still important.

So, if you are like me and you enjoy a good story and not being beaten about the head and shoulders with the cause du jour, I urge you to buy your membership to WorldCon so you can vote for the Hugos. We have sat back too long and let the “in crowd” decide what is the so-called best in the genre. I can remember when reading a Hugo winner meant you would read a well-written and entertaining book. Now, well, not so much. Message has become more important than story and that, in my mind, is a shame. Consider this my endorsement for every reader here to watch Brad Torgesren’s blog for more on Sad Puppies 3. Brad has valiantly taken up the banner to fight for good, entertaining science fiction and fantasy to read and recognized. As for me, I’m off to buy my membership and then figure out who I am going to vote for.

Now, go read a good SF book or, better yet, write one for me to read!

Give the Puppies a Happy

The membership window for this year’s Worldcon with Hugo voting rights is closing soon, but membership for next year – and a planned Barfly/Evil Legion of Evil invasion (of the fun kind) is in the works, what with next year being in Kansas City and quite a few Baen authors being reasonably close.

The ELOE’s Cuddly Token Liberal (aka the light blue Care Bear with a bleeding heart on his tummy… and a flamethrower) Brad Torgerson is coordinating Sad Puppies Three, complete with awesome logo from a Barfly, and explains the whole membership thing way better than my broken brain can do right now (fighting a virus, the day job is in uber-intense mode, and then I got home this afternoon and had to shovel the – steep – driveway so my husband had a decent chance of being able to drive up it. Seriously. An inch makes getting up the drive an adventure. Ze brain, she has given up ze ghost).

Predictably, this is giving the usual suspects a sad face, and possibly severe heartburn as well. One “gentleman” on Facebook took Brad and his friends to task for “politicizing” the Worldcon by planning a major Barfly gathering and indulging in a little anticipatory schadenfreude (I need to upgrade my spellcheck. It wants to replace that word with Scheherazade) over the prospect of Social Justice Whiner angst because every con with a Barfly Suite discovers that the Barfly Suite is way more popular than many other events. Including, not infrequently, the official con suite (the Barfly Suite is better run, has better food, and damn good alcohol as well as good company and interesting conversations where you don’t have to worry about keeping your mouth shut lest you say something politically incorrect), panels and signings attended by guests of honor (when said guest of honor is not a Baen author), and of course, the authors themselves often drop by.

Said “gentleman” included this gem in his allegedly unbiased commentary: “The only agendas I see “from the left”, is a desire for equal opportunity” – which plants him firmly in Social Justice Whiner territory, right alongside his argument that it’s doubleplus ungood for non-left-ish authors and fans to plan to gather at a convention, open their space to anyone who wishes to attend and gloat a bit because they know from experience their gatherings are popular, but it’s perfectly okay for the likes of Wiscon to slice and dice their attendees so fine it’s a wonder the special-snowflake-only designations aren’t down to single people – and to refuse entry to anyone who doesn’t fit that particular special-snowflake-only designation (which leads me to wonder – what if you fit two of three? Three of four? I mean, if the “safe space” is for Asian lesbian transgender born-males, would a straight Asian male be able to enter? He does meet three of the four criteria, right?).

Honestly, I like the Barfly Suite method. Anyone is welcome, please be courteous and if you don’t bring food, drop a contribution in the tip jar because all those goodies are coming from someone’s personal funds. Just because some folks have been known to turn pale and leave in a hurry when Mad Mike starts showing off his toys doesn’t mean it’s a bad place (Mad Mike has some awesome toys).

So, to end this ramble, go check out Brad’s Sad Puppies posts. Sign up, and nominate works that would normally never see the light of a Hugo nomination day (I think the Mad Genius Club is eligible for one of the categories), suggest nominations so there are lots of choices for those who don’t lean pure Social Justice Whiner, and make those poor puppies smile.

Walking the Plank

Today, I am a pirate, Arrr! where’s my cutlass?

You may be laughing (which was my intent), but I actually feel pretty badly about it. I accidentally bought two pirated books. I wasn’t on a pirate site, I was on Amazon. I saw two Heinlein titles on sale, and I pounced on them as I’m trying to gather all of them in ebook as well as paper. I’ve bought quite a few from Baen, including the Expanded Universe (which, sadly, I’ve learned is no longer available through Baen) but these two I didn’t have yet.

Fast forward a few days, I was writing up my weekly review, and griping about all the horrible typos in the Heinleins, and how I ought to have waited and seen if they were available from Baen. I went over to Amazon to grab links so people could avoid them (the covers are distinctive) and I discovered they weren’t there any longer. Digging around in my order history, I found them, and that’s when I realized I had bought counterfeit Heinleins.

heinlein counterfeits

There are a couple of clues, here. I didn’t gig to the covers at first, because often re-issues of old books get absolutely dreadful covers. These are at least paying homage to the science fiction content. When a book is re-issued, the publisher relies simply on the author’s reputation to make sales. And I am sure these two made sales. They made $5 just off me. The other clue is the sold by: Amazon Digital Services. This is the way Amazon sorts out self-published work, and had I looked for this before hitting buy, I would have known. But Alas, this buyer didn’t beware, and one-clicked her way to reading happiness, and now she feels guilty.

As my First Reader and I were talking about it in the wake of my discovery, he pointed out that they had been taken down. But what, he asked, would happen to the monies the books made? I have no idea. Best I can figure, Amazon keeps it. I’m morally certain the pirate has their account shut down, frozen, and until/unless they prove they own the properties (books) they were selling, they don’t get access. I know this because it happened to an author I know (who did own the books, and was able to prove it, but it took a while). Now, the pirate isn’t going to be able to prove anything, they were stealing. So what then? I somehow don’t think I’ll be getting a refund. Nor do I think Amazon will track the rightful owners down (Baen owns Farnham’s Freehold right now, I believe) and disburse the money to them.

Most of the pirate sites I have encountered, in the course of keeping track of my titles and sending DCMA takedown notices, seem to be located in Russia, or at least that’s where their IPs are. I’m sure there are other countries where it would be impractical for IP rights to be enforced. With this seller on Amazon, who knows? I don’t think it was a terribly intelligent way to make money, as this is Amazon, and they do actually pay attention to copyright, unlike the more notorious pirate sites. I sometimes wonder if the rise of subscription book services, like Kindle Unlimited and Oyster, will reduce piracy sites. I know that my return rate on Amazon dropped to almost nothing when I put my short works (and currently, two novels) in the KU. On the other hand, by not having the second in a series in KU, I recently saw a return on that title, which would be someone liking the first, and then reading the second for free… sigh. Some people.

As for me, I’ve been burnt and will be a more cautious book shopper in the future. Next time I see a good deal on a popular author’s book, I’m going to scroll down a bit and see the listed publisher. I’m not going to lose any sleep over this one, but it does make me wonder if a more clever counterfeiter is out there, and what they might be up to. I know an author named Rachel Ann Nunes fell victim to a clever one, and had a very difficult time prosecuting the case against her plagiarist. Another scandal blew up way back in 2013 (feels weird to say that) around so-called authors who were taking advantage of fanfiction sites.

Sad Puppies 3

I’m including this here, but I strongly encourage you to consider not only going over to Brad Torgerson’s blog and reading the whole thing, but also to vote for the Hugos. We’ll be talking about this more here at Mad Genius Club in the upcoming months, as if you don’t remember from last year… However, last year the Sad Puppies campaign was responsible for the highest voter participation in the Hugos, ever. For an analysis of what happened last year, look at Larry Correia’s blog, here.

Keep in mind something, because no matter how much you hear it, this isn’t about politics. This is about making the Hugo more relevant to the greater fandom, as Brad discusses below, and it’s about keeping the Hugo great. It would be truly sad to lose the award of once-greatness into the morass of thinly-disguised revenge porn and poorly written (but socially relevant! To… someone, I’m assuming at least the author, although then again, marketing being what it is…) books that have turned the Hugo award on the cover from must-buy to ew, putting this down now. So let’s work on finding some really great books to nominate, and gathering interested voters who care. I’m an example of someone who didn’t vote for years, and last year, I finally did it. I’ll do it again this year. They say if you don’t vote, you can’t complain. So I pay my money, and I talk about the awards, because a shocking number of people just don’t know about them.

To that end, SAD PUPPIES has basic objectives:

1) Get works and authors onto the Hugo ballot who might not otherwise be there; regardless of political persuasion. Think we’re just a crazy minority of right-wingers out to destroy science fiction? You’d be wrong. For instance, we’d love to see Eric Flint on the Hugo Best Novel short list. Eric is not only a popular author who does the genre credit with his work, he’s a card-carrying Trotskyite. A man who (unlike most slacktivist internet liberals these days) was willing to put his ass on the line for what he believed — back when identifying as a “red” was physically dangerous business in this country.

2) Encourage people who are SF/F consumers (but not “fandom” according to Worldcon) to participate in the nomination and selection of works. To include gamer fans, tie-in fans, movie and comic fans, and everyone else who might want to have a say in deciding who gets selected for “science fiction’s most prestigious award.” But maybe they’ve not gotten the word? Maybe they’ve just been having fun, and the Hugos have simply sailed beneath their notice year after year? “Fandom” seems to think this is a feature of the Hugos: the fewer who vote, the “better” they are. I say it’s a flaw. Bring on the BIG fans. The ones who keep the SF/F pump primed with dollars and enthusiasm every year! SF/F survives and thrives because they put their money where their excitement is. So SAD PUPPIES tries to encourage them to also put their money (and their votes) where the Hugos are.