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And Then The Hugos Happened. Again.

The Hugo nominations were announced this week, at which point everyone got confirmation for what we pretty much all knew — that the Rabid Puppies were going to double-down on being assholes, and that the slate voting and ballot stuffing is pretty much here to stay until there can be an official rules change. Good news — the rule change was approved last year at Worldcon, and just needs to pass at this year’s Worldcon for the adjustments to go into effect. So let’s all hope that this is the last year that pretty much all of SFF has to look at the steaming pile of defecation left on our collective front stoop by the neighborhood doucheweasel (there’s always one, people).

For a good summary of the current mishegas, or if you haven’t been following the Hugo controversy (but if that’s you, maybe you should just preserve that state of blissful ignorance), John Scalzi wrote a piece for the LA Times that covers things. The Rabid Puppy agenda seemed to have a two-prong approach (hold on, I’m avoiding a dildo joke here) this year:

  • We will nominate the things you love, thereby tainting them by our association and forcing you to vote against them! Mwa ha ha ha!

Which….. is probably not going to work? I mean, The Things We Love are pretty worthy of Hugos, and probably were going to get a lot of nominations anyway, so I don’t think that’s really going to stall up many people. Stephen King and Neil Gaiman aren’t on the ballot just because the Rabid Puppies had them on the slate. Neither is a tiny little indie flick known as Star Wars. And if Andy Weir is up for a Campbell again, then that probably has more to do with how good of a book The Martian was, and given a nice assist from a certain Matt Damon-centric film.

So, let’s just call that first approach, in the immortal words of Antonin Scalia, “pure applesauce” and move on the the second approach, which was a bit more problematic.

  • We will find the most offensive, asinine, or ridiculous things possible and, through slate voting, force them onto the ballot.

That worked pretty well in the categories that are always going to get fewer nominations from the community in general, and therefore are the most vulnerable to slate voting. (File 770 included a very useful list that’s color-coded for convenience.) It also resulted in some fairly weird reading when you scan down the list of nominees. The Best Related Work category in particular includes Vox Day’s “SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down The Thought Police” and Daniel Eness’s “Safe Space As Rape Room.” A large part of me wonders if one of the goals this year was just to physically punish those particularly diligent souls who make a point of reading all the nominated works before voting.

But the Best Short Story category is getting some particular attention. Here’s how it was when it appeared:

  • “Asymmetrical Warfare” by S. R. Algernon (Nature, Mar 2015)
  • The Commuter by Thomas A. Mays (Stealth)
  • “If You Were an Award, My Love” by Juan Tabo and S. Harris (voxday.blogspot.com, Jun 2015)
  • “Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
  • Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle (Amazon Digital Services)

This was another category that was completely dominated by the Rabid Puppy slate. Which one sticks out to the eye?

Here’s a hint:

Space Raptor

No, I’m not adding a link. Befoul your own Amazon recommendations, like I had to.

Okay, is this absolutely hilarious on some level?

Yes. Without a doubt. That this exists at all kind of makes me delighted about our species in general. I’ve seen these dino-porn covers before, and had many a merry exchange on Twitter about them. The writer (Chuck Tingle is a pseudonym) has carved out a very solid niche for themselves, and the photoshopping is fairly awesome.

But…. yeah.

As is fairly usual, N. K. Jemisin hit this one out of the park, so I’m just going to pop in her tweets (read from the bottom):

NK Jemisin

This ended up on Facebook, and someone basically responded by asking why we were all making such a fuss over a set of awards.

Listen, if the Hugos were something that a group of boozy authors organized in a con-suite, with names thrown into a hat passed around the room, then the winners announced with much fanfare and rewarded with an extra cookie and a large whiskey, then the whole thing basically forgotten, I’d be in agreement.

But that’s not what the Hugos are. A large chunk of being nominated and being a winner is the no-doubt wonderfully affirming knowledge that your work is recognized for its quality by both readers and your peers, but that’s not the end of it. Getting nominated can give an author incredible exposure and result in increased sales. There’s a reason that publishers reissue books after Hugo noms and wins so that the cover reflects the attention — it can result in many more people picking it up in a bookstore or buying it online.

Awards are not just recognition. They are also a potential means to an increased ability to earn a livelihood and have the opportunity to publish more books.

By using slate voting to give nominations to ridiculous and unqualified choices, the Rabid Puppies are keeping authors who otherwise would’ve received a nomination off of the lists. This hurts the potential exposure of these authors and also has a negative impact on their careers. This behavior is HURTING authors.

As Jemisin pointed out, the writer working under the Chuck Tingle pseudonym is well aware that they were nominated as a result of purely trolling behavior. It’s pretty safe to say that Chuck Tingle did not start writing dino-porn out of a desire to win awards and the adulation of the SFF community for the value of their plots and prose. Chuck Tingle has had enough time to absorb this news, conduct several interviews on the topic, and also release a moderately topical work on the subject.

slammed in the butt

As seen here.

What Chuck Tingle has not done is withdraw from the nomination list. Which is what’s getting a number of authors, including Jemisin, fairly annoyed. Because if Tingle withdrew, someone else would get to go on the list and be considered for an award — someone who had written a serious story and had received nominations for it — and

rainbow

Admit it. It makes a lot of sense.

would’ve been on that list had a group of inveterate crybabies not decided that deliberately screwing up the Hugo nominations was even more fun than their usual plans of masturbating furiously to old Rainbow Brite episodes.

Thomas A. Mays, who wrote “The Commuter,” has already withdrawn because of the circumstances of his nomination. And I give him an endless amount of credit and admiration for that decision, which must have been extraordinarily painful, given that he had not been involved in the Rabid Puppy slate or organization in any way, and in his own words:

I did not ask to be part of any list, but I hoped at the very least that it might bring other eyes to “The Commuter”, readers that might appreciate it for what it was and perhaps honor me with an uncontroversial nomination (or at least a few Kindle purchases).  But, now that all hopes for a clean nomination are dashed, it is my turn to speak:

Rather than eat a shit sandwich, I choose to get up from the table.  

Thank you to all the people who actually read my story, enjoyed it, and nominated it for the Hugo.  I will forever be in your debt.

Mays made a very hard decision, and one that we should all give him a lot of credit for.

Tingle’s story remains nominated.

And here’s the thing —

I get where Tingle is coming from.

The Hugo nomination, for any struggling or mid-list writer, is an unbelievable gift of visibility and exposure. How many clicks has Tingle gotten as a result of this nomination? How many sales? For Tingle to refuse the nomination would be like handing him or her a golden-egg-laying goose, then demanding that he or she break the goose’s neck because ownership of the goose only came to them because of the actions of a particularly incestuous and nasty clan of kobolds three kingdoms over, who Tingle never even knew existed until this moment.

That’s a hard ask.

During last year’s Hugo shitstorm, I was in the position of explaining to my spouse exactly what was going on, and why a number of perfectly nice authors were being put in the utterly unfair position of having to refuse the Hugo nominations on their work because those nominations had come about through slate voting. At which point my spouse noted that, if I’d been put in that situation, he’d tell me that I should probably keep the nomination.

And that’s what is really at the bottom of this post for me — because if I’d been put in Mays’s position, I can’t say that I would’ve had the guts to do the right thing.

Now, firstly, that never happened. And given the rule change that is almost certainly going to be put into effect, it never would. Plus, my only eligible work would’ve been Dark Ascension, and let’s all be honest here — for a group that really hates Social Justice Warriors, Fortitude Scott might actually be the apogee of all of their hatred. Sure, Fort is white, male, and straight, so he’s got that going for him, but I deliberately constructed a vampire who I could say with a straight face was a bleeding-heart liberal (and then giggle, because that’s how I roll). Fort could actually be the Rabid Puppies poster-child for the emasculated man. (side note — I’m visualizing for just a second what it would’ve been like if I’d constructed a character that fit the apparent male ideal of the Rabid Puppies. I think my book would’ve ended in Chapter Three, when he was stabbed in the throat by Suzume. Anyway.)

But if that HAD happened?

Boundless publicity for a series that was struggling. Attention lavished on me by my publisher. New covers commissioned to advertise to all that this series had gotten a Hugo nom (maybe even a chance for a full cover redesign!). A complete rethinking by my publisher on whether to commission more books in the series, which means possibly more money for me. Perked sales, because more people would see the title and consider checking out the series, which means not just more money but, again, possibly more books. And if the rigged voting carried me through to a win? Well, anyone who followed the Hugos closely would know that my win carried an asterisk. But everyone else…. well, they’d just see “Hugo-Winning” on my bio and books.

And at the end of the day, with the publicity and sales? There would also have been an ego element. Because I DID put a lot of work into those books, and I AM proud of them. Recognition is a wonderful thing, and I would’ve undoubtedly spent a lot of time trying to argue that, no matter how it ended up on the ballet, that the book WAS of value.

I don’t think I’ll ever be put in the position of Thomas A. Mays or Chuck Tingle, but here’s what I know for sure: I can’t just say that I’d refuse the nomination, because that’s not true. I know that in that situation, I should. But I just don’t know if I could bring myself to do it.

Do I think that Chuck Tingle should refuse the nomination? Yes. Without a doubt.

Do I understand why Chuck Tingle might very well keep the nomination? Oh, yes. Without a doubt.

UPDATE: Chuck Tingle has apparently responded to the situation by publishing Space Raptor Butt Redemption. Here’s a link to a review that provides quotes and boils down the argument that Tingle makes. Personally, I think that Tingle is throwing up quite a lot of sand to obscure what is basically at the heart of why he or she is keeping this nomination and riding it all the way to the end — this is a publicity unicorn, wearing a garland of money flowers, that has just been placed on the doorstep, and it doesn’t matter that it was stolen from deserving owners by shit-gnawing kobolds three kingdoms over. That unicorn ain’t goin’ nowhere.

ALSO UPDATE: Comments are also going to have to be moderated for a while. This post has apparently garnered a bit of puppy attention, and I do not spend nearly enough time on this blog to deal with all of that.

FURTHER UPDATE: And, now the comments are turned off entirely for this post. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I see no reason why my inbox should essentially be showered in raw sewage.

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What I Read (and loved) So Far In 2015, Second Quarter

In the first three months of the year (January – March), I read 26 books and had 14 that I loved. From April to June I read 22 more books, bringing my total for the first half of the year to 48. It was a big mix – I read some books that absolutely blew my mind, some that were just so-so, and a few others that I really couldn’t stand. I also read a number of books for research, but I’ll save those for a special section at the end of the year. (“Wow, M. L. Brennan’s list of research texts! I can’t wait!” said no one ever)

Anyway, here are the amazing ones, in the order that I read them:

1. The Broken Crown by Michelle West

EPIC. This book is EPIC. In every sense of the word. Even the character names are epic. In fact, there are a few names that I just gave up completely even being able to remember which was which.

EPIC. This book is EPIC. In every sense of the word. Even the character names are epic. In fact, there are a few names that I just gave up completely even being able to remember which was which.

The Dominion, once divided by savage clan wars, has kept an uneasy peace within its border since that long-ago time when the clan Leonne was gifted with the magic of the Sun Sword and was raised up to reign over the five noble clans. But now treachery strikes at the very heart of the Dominion as two never meant to rule–one a highly skilled General, the other a master of the magical arts–seek to seize the crown by slaughtering all of clan Leonne blood.

2. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

I sat down to read a few chapters, and ended up reading the whole thing. That's how good this thing was.

I sat down to read a few chapters, and ended up reading the whole thing. That’s how good this thing was.

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.

3. The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip G. Zimbardo

A few years ago, I taught at a small liberal arts college, and I was lucky enough to be able to design my own literature course. I taught dystopian fiction, and in the three times I ran the course, I invariably had a blast. There were always a lot of fantastic conversations about morality, human nature, and situational ethics. One thing that I used to do in the first week of class was show a video about the Milgram experiments that I’d first seen in a social psychology class – it set the tone for discussion, and gave everyone a good set of framework. (I also would pass out a photocopy from a great book called Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat on the subject of puppy hams – that one was also useful because it introduced the subject of how we could arbitrarily create life and death differences – in this case, puppies that were sold as pets and puppies that were sold for dinner were in the same marketplace, but in different colored cages – I think that particular handout served as pretty fair warning for the directions the class took) Anyway, long story. One of my favorite students (yes, I might bitch a lot about my job, but 90% of the students are fine, and about 40% are downright delightful) had read this in a psychology class and suggested it to me. I got a copy through paperbackswap after about two years on a waitlist, and then it sat on my to-read shelf for about another year – but I have now finally read it! Very thoughtful, and very very disturbing. The idea of situational evil, and that we are all capable of atrocities, is one that I think is really disturbing, yet important.

A few years ago, I taught at a small liberal arts college, and I was lucky enough to be able to design my own literature course. I taught dystopian fiction, and in the three times I ran the course, I invariably had a blast. There were always a lot of fantastic conversations about morality, human nature, and situational ethics. One thing that I used to do in the first week of class was show a video about the Milgram experiments that I’d first seen in a social psychology class – it set the tone for discussion, and gave everyone a good set of framework. (I also would pass out a photocopy from a great book called Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat on the subject of puppy hams – that one was also useful because it introduced the subject of how we could arbitrarily create life and death differences – in this case, puppies that were sold as pets and puppies that were sold for dinner were in the same marketplace, but in different colored cages – I think that particular handout served as pretty fair warning for the directions the class took) Anyway, long story. One of my favorite students (yes, I might bitch a lot about my job, but 90% of the students are fine, and about 40% are downright delightful) had read this in a psychology class and suggested it to me. I got a copy through paperbackswap after about two years on a waitlist, and then it sat on my to-read shelf for about another year – but I have now finally read it! Very thoughtful, and very very disturbing. The idea of situational evil, and that we are all capable of atrocities, is one that I think is really disturbing, yet important.

What makes good people do bad things? Renowned social psychologist Philip Zimbardo has an answer, and in the Lucifer Effect he explains how-and why- we are all susceptible to the lure of the “the dark side.” Drawing on examples from history as well as his own trailblazing research, Zimbardo, the creator of the Standford Prison Experiment, details how situational forces and group dynamics can work in concert to make monsters out of decent men and women. By illuminating the causes behind this disturbing metamorphosis, and by highlighting the ways in which individuals can resist the temptation to give in to evil, Zimbardo enables us to better understand a variety of phenomena, from corporate malfeasance to the prisoner abuse and torture in Abu Ghraib to organized genocide. This is a book that forces us to reexamine what we are capable of doing, individually, and collectively.

4. All Joy And No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting by Jennifer Senior

The instant New York Times bestseller that the Christian Science Monitor declared “an important book, much the way The Feminine Mystique was, because it offers parents a common language, an understanding that they’re not alone”

Thousands of books have examined the effects of parents on their children. But almost none have thought to ask: What are the effects of children on their parents?

I heard an interview with the author on NPR (yes, I’m THAT person who I make fun of constantly in my books), and it was interesting enough that I picked up the book. It’s very interesting – it’s not a parenting guide, but instead is an examination on the evolution of our ideas of modern parenting, and the effects that children have on their parents. One very fun tidbit – as children have become ever more economically useless (after all, we don’t have them work the fields anymore), they have been ever more emotionally precious. Very, very interesting.

I heard an interview with the author on NPR (yes, I’m THAT person who I make fun of constantly in my books), and it was interesting enough that I picked up the book. It’s very interesting – it’s not a parenting guide, but instead is an examination on the evolution of our ideas of modern parenting, and the effects that children have on their parents. One very fun tidbit – as children have become ever more economically useless (after all, we don’t have them work the fields anymore), they have been ever more emotionally precious. Very, very interesting.

In All Joy and No Fun, award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior analyzes the many ways children reshape their parents’ lives, whether it’s their marriages, their jobs, their habits, their hobbies, their friendships, or their internal senses of self. She argues that changes in the last half century have radically altered the roles of today’s mothers and fathers, making their mandates at once more complex and far less clear. Recruiting from a wide variety of sources—in history, sociology, economics, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology—she dissects both the timeless strains of parenting and the ones that are brand new, and then brings her research to life in the homes of ordinary parents around the country. The result is an unforgettable series of family portraits, starting with parents of young children and progressing in later chapters to parents of teens. Through lively and accessible storytelling, Senior follows these mothers and fathers as they wrestle with some of parenthood’s deepest vexations—and luxuriate in some of its finest rewards.

Meticulously researched yet imbued with emotional intelligence, All Joy and No Fun makes us reconsider some of our culture’s most basic beliefs about parenthood, all while illuminating the profound ways children deepen and add purpose to our lives. By focusing on parenthood, rather than parenting, the book is original and essential reading for mothers and fathers of today—and tomorrow.

5. The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes

Ocean’s Eleven meets the classic D&D party adventure. A great mix of humor and action. Very, very fun.

Ocean’s Eleven meets the classic D&D party adventure. A great mix of humor and action. Very, very fun.

The most powerful man in the republic framed her, threw her in prison, and stole a priceless elven manuscript from her family.

With the help of a crack team that includes an illusionist, a unicorn, a death priestess, a talking warhammer, and a lad with a prophetic birthmark, Loch must find a way into the floating fortress of Heaven’s Spire–and get past the magic-hunting golems and infernal sorcerers standing between her and the vault that holds her family’s treasure.

It’d be tricky enough without the military coup and unfolding of an ancient evil prophecy–but now the determined and honourable Justicar Pyvic has been assigned to take her in.

But hey, every plan has a few hitches.

6. The Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan

Devoted readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed—until now. Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella’s in ways both professional and personal.

Marie needs to stop being such a damn good writer. Tropic of Serpents was on my first quarter list in 2015. I WON’T LET YOU CONTINUE TO DOMINATE THESE LISTS, MARIE! Side note: Whoever thought it would be a great idea to print The Voyage of the Basilisk entirely in blue ink deserves a stern scolding. My reaction upon realizing that it was the WHOLE book in colored ink was a very heart-felt UH OH.

Marie needs to stop being such a damn good writer. Tropic of Serpents was on my first quarter list in 2015. I WON’T LET YOU CONTINUE TO DOMINATE THESE LISTS, MARIE!
Side note: Whoever thought it would be a great idea to print The Voyage of the Basilisk entirely in blue ink deserves a stern scolding. My reaction upon realizing that it was the WHOLE book in colored ink was a very heart-felt UH OH.

Science is, of course, the primary objective of the voyage, but Isabella’s life is rarely so simple. She must cope with storms, shipwrecks, intrigue, and warfare, even as she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons.

7. Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

In his highly acclaimed debut, Scott Lynch took us on an adrenaline-fueled adventure with a band of daring thieves led by con artist extraordinaire Locke Lamora. Now Lynch brings back his outrageous hero for a caper so death-defying, nothing short of a miracle will pull it off.

After a brutal battle with the underworld, Locke and his sidekick, Jean, fled to the exotic shores of Tal Verrar to nurse their wounds. But they are soon back to what they do best–stealing from the rich and pocketing the proceeds. Now, however, they have targeted the grandest prize of all: the Sinspire, the world’s most exclusive, most heavily guarded gambling house. But there is one cardinal rule: it is death to cheat at any game.

Brazenly undeterred, Locke and Jean have orchestrated an elaborate plan to lie, trick, and swindle their way straight to the Sunspire’s teeming vault. But someone knows the duo’s secret–and has every intention of making them pay for their sins.

The first book in the series was included in my first quarter list, so clearly whatever Lynch is cooking, I’m a fan of it. A lot of intricate crafting, glorious worldbuilding, and a lovely sly wit. I’m enjoying where he’s taking the two main characters, though I have to say, being friends with these guys is basically taking your life into your own hands. That lost love of Locke’s might’ve had the right idea when she beat feet out of town. Something I’m really impressed by is the delicate balance Lynch strikes between how much of the Deception A plotline he shows, and how much he keeps back for the final reveal. It’s tricky, and I’m enjoying it.  Bonus points were awarded for the presence of female pirates and naval officers, plus all the nautical cats and kittens.

The first book in the series was included in my first quarter list, so clearly whatever Lynch is cooking, I’m a fan of it. A lot of intricate crafting, glorious worldbuilding, and a lovely sly wit. I’m enjoying where he’s taking the two main characters, though I have to say, being friends with these guys is basically taking your life into your own hands. That lost love of Locke’s might’ve had the right idea when she beat feet out of town. Something I’m really impressed by is the delicate balance Lynch strikes between how much of the Deception A plotline he shows, and how much he keeps back for the final reveal. It’s tricky, and I’m enjoying it.
Bonus points were awarded for the presence of female pirates and naval officers, plus all the nautical cats and kittens.