World Building 101

World Building 101

In light of a semi-serious comment I made on Facebook earlier about my latest stories tending to build worlds where humans don’t exist, I thought that this would be a great time to start posting about world building in general. I’ve been told that my world building and alt-history worlds tends to be my strongest suit as a writer. I also read a lot of fiction that attempts various world building schemes and are not as successful as they could be if they used methods akin to what I do without much thought.

So, what is world building? Well, I’m sure that there’s some fancy-ass dictionary term defining it but I tend to ignore that crap. World building, to me, means building a world to work the way you need it to in order to tell an interesting story. In order to do this, though, you have to sit down and ask yourself a few questions before you start writing. Below are some of the first questions you should consider.

Yes, you'll do a lot of work the reader never sees. This is why writers are masochists. Deal with it.

  1. Sci-fi, hard sci-fi, fantasy, or a mix of them?
  2. Is your story about a far-future civilization? Is it about an advanced race of mortals (notice I don’t say “humanoids”) who have technology most of us haven’t even imagined in our wildest dreams? If so, then your world building will be a lot different than someone who is planning a story set in a world with only a pre-Industrial technological level.

  3. What is my opening salvo?
  4. Are you writing about a group of plucky young mortals who are going to overthrow an oppressive system? Are you writing about a planet about to be destroyed? Is your world about to undergo a major war between Good and Evil? All of these will have very different backstories to give rise to the current history in your setting. You’ll have to think about where the oppressive system came from or what is going to cause planetary destruction (and it’s harder to destroy a planet than you think). What defines “Good” and “Evil” in your world and why?

  5. Will I be relying on or avoiding deus ex machina?
  6. Some stories simply will not work without a deus ex solution. That doesn’t make them bad stories — hell, look at Doctor Who! — but it does mean that if you take away the deus ex, the story fails. Most writers tend to avoid relying on such things and get irritated when their worlds’ internal logic won’t let them get to the particular point Q they need to be at without a deus ex machina. Writers who find themselves painted into that particular corner need to go back and examine the foundations of their world. Usually, if you hit that point, you’ve done something silly such as assume that your world and your mortals must follow Earth and human logic.

    COME AT ME, BRO

    That’s crap. I’m working on a story about quasi-sixth dimensional mortals. Sure, they have humanoid bodies but they also have senses humanity couldn’t dream itself up ever because humanity can’t visualize a tesseract without getting a collective nosebleed. Their technology and the ways in which they interact and interface with it resemble ours almost not at all. They also don’t follow our human logic. Why should they? They are not bloody human! Instead, I’m making their society internally consistent with itself. Sure, they have emotions, goals, and ambitions that us poor quasi-fourth humans can sympathize and empathize with. Still, they ain’t human.

  7. What is magic like in my world?
  8. Yes, you do ask yourself this even if you’re writing the hardest of the hard science fiction. Technology is magic that works within our laws of physics. If you doubt that, consider for a moment what would happen to the poor sod who fell into a wormhole that spit him out in 1387 AD London and who happened to have a flashlight with him. Yep — he’d be considered a witch because, even though a flashlight is technology (and rather simple tech at that), it’s magic to someone from seven centuries ago.

Once you’ve asked and answered these questions, you’re ready for some of the more advanced stuff such as considering your world’s mythos, its history, societies, economics (and yes, even a world that would give Marx a hard-on has economics), climate, weather patterns, and the rest. We’ll get into those things next week, though, because otherwise I’ll be here until March writing this post.

Don't build another Earth. Earth v1.0 sucked balls.

Do you have any questions or see anything I missed? If so, hit me up here or on Facebook and I’ll see what I can do!

— G.K.

Saturday Review: CyberStorm

Saturday Review: CyberStorm

This one came up on my Kindle Unlimited list so I decided to give it a try. Matthew Mather’s CyberStorm is an interesting look at how a few friends struggle to cope with the miscommunication, the misdirection, and the problems that come when the fragile nature of our current system are exploited, causing the entire thing to crash. It also deals with the individual perspective of living through the CyberStorm and what it means for people and how it would impact day-to-day life in New York City.

Overall, it’s a good book. The pacing is okay. However, the characters are a bit flat. Chuck is the uni-dimensional envisioning of a doomsday prepper from the point of view of an urbanite who has never really sat down and actually spoken with one for more than a few hours. The philosophies and the way Mather tries to resolve them are believable conversations (shouting matches between the characters, really) but do little to advance the characters’ development and frequently seem to be just another way of putting down Chuck (and non-North Easterners in general). I did like the interplay with the main character (Mike) and Richard via Mike’s wife (who is the least likable character in the book). However, the vegan couple and the scenes involving them were just…pointless. Vegans would die very quickly if they clung to their veganism during a cyberstorm and the “side step” used the final time they’re encountered is pure sophistry.

I liked how the second half of the book ran with the establishing of a mesh-net, the real-life individual consequences of the “fog of war” phenomenon and the whole “misleading vividness” played out regarding what Mike thinks he sees during his first trip for help. I also like how the person who wound up being the Big Hero wasn’t one of the central characters of the story or a big player in the universe to begin with.

   

Three and a half rainbow farting zebricorns. CyberStorm is a good cyberthriller but it’s not A Canticle for Leibowitz

— G.K.

The State of Fandom and the Hugos: Category Error

The State of Fandom and the Hugos: Category Error

I mentioned this monster post in a comment at Sarah Hoyt’s this weekend. Here it is. Grab something to drink because this one’s a doozy, mes amis.

So, the Hugo voting period ended and the winners will be announced soon. There’s been the predictable resurgence in Puppy-related topics recently with the mainstream press parroting the press releases from Tor et alia to the effect that the Puppies and those of us who think they have a point are evil, racist, sexist, homophobic, hateful people who want to build new Dachaus and gulags in order to ensure that only white heterosexual men can own property while the rest of the world is enslaved to them. Those of us who know better, of course, just roll our eyes and wonder why we’re always the ones being accused of planning to build the concentration camps and gulags while the ideologues the Puppy-kickers uphold as being morally superior seem to be the ones who manage to actually have such things turn up in their back yards.

…but I digress.

For decades, there have been award ceremonies that attempt to showcase “the best” works in a genre. The Hugos, once upon a time, (arguably) were the premiere award for science fiction works. However, back in the days when the Hugo was a worthwhile award, the voting pool for the award was much larger, making it much less susceptible to industry or pool capture. WorldCon attendance would have been much higher as well and overall membership (even non-attending) would have been higher. But, over time, the publishing industry captured WorldCon and the Hugos which turned them from a fan award into a marketing stunt.

Don’t get me wrong — the bylaws and the rules are clear. No, what happened is very subtle. It probably started back in the late 1970s to mid 1980s at the earliest, early 1990s at the latest. The houses themselves were being taken over by liberal art majors who, having grown up steeped in the mythos of “the men who took down Nixon,” came into the publishing world with the same zeal to change the world instead of to help find great stories that people wanted to buy. Factor in the rage many of them had felt throughout the 1980s over Reagan’s cowboy diplomacy, his Brandenburg Gate speech where he had the audacity to demand that the morally superior USSR tear down the Berlin Wall, the cognitive dissonance that they felt when the Eastern Bloc collapsed and the USSR voted itself out of existence…and these were hammers desperately in search of a nail. The publishing world was just that nail.

They honed in on science fiction and fantasy specifically because it was future-oriented. Also, because it didn’t require a lot of experience in scholarship or other fields already (try getting into biographies or academic publishing with just a degree in English). Ideologically, they’d already begun taking over a lot of other places — schools, colleges, the art world, film, television, music — so publishing was just the next step.

Now, this wasn’t some organized take over with a great conspiracy where a secret cabal issued diktats — I’m not a tin-foil hatter. It was a long-term underlying trend that was baked into socialism and progressive philosophy.

So, once they’d gotten into the top spots of the big houses like Tor and the fantasy/sci-fi imprints of the other big six, they started making it difficult for anyone outside of their social circles to work there which slowly ensured that agents pushing authors whose politics differed would go nowhere. The stories became homogenized as well, following a set formula with characters that were uniform, uni-dimensional, predictable, and uninteresting. Readers revolted and stopped attending the conventions. But the publishers kept going to the conventions and kept sending their star authors (which dragged out some fans) which led to…the conventions being captured.

Which is what happened to WorldCon and the Hugos. The Hugos aren’t a fan award these days. They haven’t been for the better part of nearly thirty years now. They’re a publisher award because it’s been the publishers who were controlling the voter pool because the voter pool was less than 1000 people. Of course they were in political lockstep and of course they were pissed off when Correia and the rest of us Puppies came in and proved it.

But now on to the real problem. That’s right everyone — 700 words to get to the point of the post. We’ve been accused of destroying the Hugos and we’ve accused the others of destroying them. However, the real problem is CATEGORY ERROR — we’ve never really defined what the problem is. Oh, we think we have. We’ve intuitively got a grasp of what it is. We agree that there is a problem. But have we defined it? No. Not so much.


Category Error — having stated or defined a problem so poorly that it becomes impossible to solve that problem, through dialectic or any other means. Also, not quite as cool as Loki’s Wager but still a good excuse to run a graphic with Tom Hiddleston, yo

So, what is the actual problem? The actual problem is that what the Hugos were created to recognize no longer exists. Back when the Hugos and WorldCon first started, an avid reader could go through every sci-fi book published in a year. But these days, “science fiction” is a massive genre that has spawned dozens of child/sub genres. It’s the same story in the fantasy world. And the publishers and the folks who captured the Hugos over the past few decades represent a tiny sliver of the fanbase and readership — the sliver that aspire more towards the once academic, avant-garde literary-chic style of writing. This group is also incredibly active and activist which is why they have a tendency to take over many other conventions and force out groups they dislike (which is why the Honey Badger Brigade got shut out and nearly arrested for showing up at Calgary Comic Con).

The WorldCon/Hugo by-laws make it very difficult to change and recognize the new reality and…well…doing so would cost the publishers and the lit-chic folks their powerbase. Therefore, if those of us on the Puppy-side want to really fix this and have an award that is meaningful, durable, not subject to capture by one group or another, and represents the best works without showing the divide between works that sell well and works that win awards that the Hugos have shown in recent years, then we have our work cut out for us. The first thing we have to do is actually start defining stuff. I’ll expand on this further in later entries but for now, here are some of the child-genres I’ve noticed in science fiction and fantasy that we should consider:

Science Fiction:
Space Opera
Dystopian
Cyber
Military
Zombie Apocalypse
Superhero
Hard sci-fi
-Physics
-Chemistry
-Biology
-Astronomy
-Space Exploration
Post-Apocalyptic
Medical
Literary
Expanded Canon
-Star Trek novels
-Star Wars novels
-Halo book
-StarCraft books
-Halflife books
-Dune novels
-Doctor Who novles
-The X-Files books
-Batman comics
-Marvel: The Avengers comics

Fantasy:
High Fantasy
Epic Fantasy
Swords-and-Sorcery
Nordic
Shamanistic
Native American
Medieval
Urban
Dark
Surreal
Dystopian
Superhero
Romance
Literary
Expanded Canon
-Warcraft novels
-World of Warcraft novels
-Diablo novels
-Legend of Zelda comics
-Thor: The Dark World comics
-Doctor Who novels

Look, the simple fact of the matter is that our genres are growing and this is a good thing. We need to define the child/sub genres and start expanding awards to include them. And, we may need to give up on the idea of there ever being a single “best science fiction for the year” award ever again. It’s become a bit like trying to decide which vehicle is the best for a given year these days. Yes, some are objectively better than others but when you’ve got so many doing so many different things… it’s difficult to say “this is the best OVERALL” without actually defining what in the name of Issac Asimov you’re talking about.

Category error, guys. Let’s start fixing it, shall we?

— G.K.

Friday Review: After The Blast

Friday Review: After The Blast

This week’s review is a short work from my friend and fellow author T.L. Knighton. I grabbed it with my Kindle Unlimited and am planning to get the second book in the series already to add to my “to read” pile. After the Blast is a nice, quick bit of light reading that sets up a series quite well. I’m looking forward to learning more in the second book.

The premise of the novelette is this: there’s a nuclear attack on the US. How extensive it is, who launched it, and what the international response is are never covered in the story. Instead, the action focuses on the main character, Jason, as he makes his way to join his family in north Georgia. He encounters some good folks and bad folks on his journey and transitions from being a menial office worker to being something of a badass by the end of the story.

The pacing is a bit rough at the start but once Knighton finds his stride, it’s all good. And, with it only being 0.99 (or free with Kindle Unlimited), it’s well worth it. A nice impulse buy that will get you hooked on what looks to be a great series.

    

Four and a half rainbow farting zebricorns — no major complaints but there were some editing problems (nothing major — nothing that renders it unreadable like what happened with the eBook version of The Road).

— G.K.

Sad Puppies: Why I Don’t Do Cons

Sad Puppies: Why I Don't Do Cons

First, allow me to fangirl a little bit. Cedar just added me on G+ so I’m kind of doing this right now:

But then I started reading Sarah’s entry from today which led me to reading Vonda McIntyre’s entry which has led to a round of head-scratching, several cigarette breaks, a few consultations of Wikipedia’s entry on Arrow’s impossibility theorem, a lengthy session back on Khan Academy which involved a lot of swearing at parabolas (which seems to be the only aspect of algebra II I’m doomed to fail), and the realization that I’ve got a 2:30 appointment so I need to wrap this up already.

People: shit like this is why I don’t do cons. Okay, I went to BlizzCon (twice). I went to the WWI when it was in Paris. But for all of those — I worked for Blizzard and I was at the convention working. I’ve never been to E3, Gamescom, DreamHack, GenCon, IndyCon, any of the ComicCons, WorldCon, or WalkerStalker Con. I had wanted to go to LibertyCon this year but did not have the money. I may go next year if I can scrape together the funds and if work permits but that will probably be the only convention I’ll go to.

Why? Several reasons.

1) I hate traveling. Flying anywhere is a hassle. It’s expensive. Hotels are insanely overpriced and the food is crap (the Internet is generally shitty, too). Driving is a little better but the price of gas is insane.

2) So. Many. People. And you have to talk to them and you can’t hide from them.

3) Where there are a lot of people, there’s going to be a lot of noise. If I want a migraine, there are cheaper and more efficient methods to give myself one.

4) It’s become pretty clear that the people running these conventions don’t like people like me. If you think that the Sad Puppies had a point (that the Hugos were being given out based on the author’s politics and were going to sermon-fics that delivered a particular sermon instead of to stories/books that were well-written or told interesting stories with interesting characters regardless of the author’s politics), then you’re clearly not welcome at these conventions. At best, you’ll be just asked not to show up (and maybe made to feel like an unperson the way Johnathon Ross was). At worst — you get forced out for no reason with baseless and false (and malignant) allegations lodged against you (as happened against the Honey Badger Brigade). Being a minority, a woman, a lesbian, a non-American, or even all of the above does not protect you from this. You could be an African-born male-to-female transgendered post-operative black lesbian Rwandan socialist Muslim and if you happen to think “hey, Larry Correia had a point,” you might as well be a WASP man for all the good it will do you if you try to turn up at a con.

5) It’s actually getting borderline dangerous for those of us who don’t toe the SJW “Brianna Wu is our Goddessa and we shall sucketh Scalzi’s cocketh, Massa” line to live, let alone show up at cons. I really don’t want to get arrested, SWATTed, or have my car run off the road and die on the side of the highway.

So, I avoid them. I mean, why bother? The panels are just going to be about how people like me are evil, how stories I like are stupid, how I and my whole family should be killed, etc, etc, etc. It’s nothing I didn’t hear in the grievance-mongering circles at college. I’m not going to piss thousands of dollars away just to hear it while surrounded by cosplayers.

Still, it gets on my nerves. That one side or the other needs protection from the other. How about we all do the sensible thing and talk about the giant elephant in the room? The SJWs are crazy, they’ve got no problem with violence as a means to an end, they’ve got no problem with wishing death/torture/pain/rape/whatever on their political or philosophical opposition. It’s illogical to put yourself anywhere near them or in any place where they control ingress and egress or security. Not because they’ll kill you outright (they’re crazy, not stupid) but because they can make your life a living hell. Once you’re where they control the security systems, they can chose what the police see (and don’t see). They don’t need to win their cases in a court of law, people — for some things, the mere accusation is enough.

And you really want to go to where they’re going to be? Shit, I avoid being in the same ZIP code as them if I can. So long as I’m out in the middle of Bumfuck Nowhere, Landmassia — and can prove I’m there — they can’t accuse me of doing jack to them.

So again — do you really want to go to WorldCon and give them the chance to accuse you of theft, harassment, rape, murder, human trafficking, drug trafficking, or whatever else they come up with? Or do you want to do the sensible thing and stay at least three ZIP Codes and a time zone away from any SJW/CHORF whenever possible?

— G.K.

PS — If you must go, here’s a list of criminal defense attorneys in Spokane, WA. And, if you are going, add me on Facebook or Twitter and let me know. We can exchange contact info and I’ll volunteer to be your “one phone call” if you do get arrested on trumped-up BS charges.

We Didn’t Start The Flamewar — Part Five

We Didn't Start The Flamewar -- Part Five

*twirls drumsticks and adjusts shades before singing*

George R. R. Martin, Guardian, Stats ‘n’ lies, Twittermobbing, Puppycide
Torgersen, NoTruFenThenDom, Noah Warding Bloc

*chorus repeats*

I told you, the lyrics are the most difficult part of the post! If you don’t like ’em, find me a songwriter who can come up with better ones and I will be happy to turn that part of this series over to them because I fail at songing almost as hard as I fail at adulting.

So, on to part the fifth of this series wherein we will delve into the first part of Sad Puppies 3 (which is going to be a multi-part year since it is A Very Big Deal). As mentioned in my earlier entries, Sad Puppies 1 and 2 were “organized” (and I use that term loosely) by Larry Correia. Once again, to recap, the goal of Sad Puppies was to prove the following points:

1. The Hugo awards were politically biased, and dominated by a few insider cliques.
2. Authors who didn’t belong to these groups or failed to appease them politically were shunned. If authors with “unapproved” politics were to get nominations, the quality of the work would be irrelevant, and the insider cliques would do everything in their power to sabotage that person.

It would seem that, in light of this year’s events, Correia’s hypotheses have been proven, would it not?

At any rate, Sad Puppies 3 saw the mantle of organizing being passed from Correia to Brad Torgersen. Larry Correia considered the controversy that SP2 had raised sufficient to prove his point and was ready to call it quits. However, Torgersen believed that the Hugos could be salvaged and that by increasing awareness and continuing the work Correia had started, only this time by expanding the list to include more authors and to move away from ideology as the selection criteria and instead to go solely on the basis of “is it good or not?” with the discard qualification being message-fic/preach-fic (meaning that SP3 didn’t care a whit what an author’s politics were or what the story was about so long as it was good and wasn’t an anti-human sermon-fic in the SJW tradition). SP3 saw a huge increase in participation both among authors and among the public. However, as it turns out, much of the success was due to Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies campaign which will be covered in depth in a future entry.

The success of the puppy slate took everyone by surprise. However, when the Nielsen-Haydens knew days ahead of the official announcements that “their” people hadn’t made the ballots and the butthurt from Scalzi and the insider crowds started, complete with a libel-laden article that made its rounds through the mainstream media (with its layers and layers of fact-checkers, yo). The SJWs weren’t content to chalk it up to simple mathematics, no. After all, the WorldCon memberbase had been dwindling for years with the Hugo voting pool growing smaller and smaller, making it much easier for smaller numbers of people to skew the results. There’s probably some mathematical name for this phenomenon but I don’t know it so I’m going to call this the “Kiddie Pool Phenomenon.”

Now, most of us, when we were growing up, learned that, in popularity contests, victory often goes to those who show up. SP2 and the resultant fall-out established a strong case for the Hugos being little more than a popularity contest among the WorldCon membership and not “the” definitive award of great science fiction and fantasy literature as they purported themselves to be. Nathaniel Givens’s data analysis shows that there is a reason to believe that there has been a divergence between what the reading public considers “good literature” and what Hugo voters consider “good.” What happened with SP3 is that the two puppy groups managed to have a lot more people “turn up” than they (or anyone else) was expecting.

One would think that the WorldCon crowd, though a bit surprised and maybe a little upset that their favorites didn’t make it that year, would be thrilled to see their convention growing and perhaps on the cusp of flourishing again, right? After all, the SP3 slate consisted of a lot of truly diverse authors including several Latino and Latina writers, many women, people of high melanin content, people of LBGTedness, and probably a few demi-elven-dwarven-dragon-half-vampire-werewolf-Sith-Jedi-wizards of non-indeterminate gender born under a new full moon in comparison to the lily-white slate offered by the SJWs themselves in previous years.

The success of SP3 kicked everything into high gear but isn’t due solely to SP and Torgersen’s efforts. So, we’ll talk about Vox Day and Rabid Puppies and their role in this in the next entry in this series so stay tune!

— G.K.

We Didn’t Start the Flamewar — Part Four

We Didn't Start the Flamewar -- Part Four

*drumming on a table that looks like it belongs in a kitchen from the 1950s*

New McCarthy, Loads of bitchin’, Monster Huntin’, Internetin’
Trad Publishing, Indie Pubbing, and Jeff Bezos

Blacklisting, Barflies, Evil League and Rabbit Guys
eBooks, ePub, mobi rise — nook flames out in Kindle’s fires

*chorus repeats*

I am so not a songwriter so the lyrics are actually the part of the post that takes me the longest to come up with, guys. 🙂 I hope you’re enjoying them.

So, this post is going to look at the Sad Puppies 2 era. SP2 was a lot more organized and successful than SP1 and it caught much more attention. It was headed up by Larry Correia and announced in this post over at his site. As with SP1, SP2 did not initially advocate for any specific works and, from that post, the central theme was this:

The ugly truth is that the most prestigious award in sci-fi/fantasy is basically just a popularity contest, where the people who are popular with a tiny little group of WorldCon voters get nominated and thousands of other works are ignored. Books that tickle them are declared good and anybody who publically deviates from groupthink is bad. Over time this lame ass award process has become increasingly snooty and pretentious, and you can usually guess who all of the finalists are going to be that year before any of the books have actually come out or been read by anyone, entirely by how popular the author is with this tiny group.

This is a leading cause of puppy related sadness.


The only thing missing is “Think of the children…”

However, while nomination and discussion about who should be nominated was going on, a very fun thing happened in the sci-fi/fantasy world. Tor.com started a rather big dust-up over ending binary gender usage in sci-fi and fantasy works. From that post:

Conversations about gender in SF have been taking place for a long time. I want to join in. I want more readers to be aware of texts old and new, and seek them out, and talk about them. I want more writers to stop defaulting to binary gender in their SF—I want to never again read entire anthologies of SF stories or large-cast novels where every character is binary-gendered. I want this conversation to be louder.

Note that she’s not saying “I want people to come up with races where gender/sex traits are different” or “I’d like an exploration of what it means to be a man or a woman in a given culture” or that she wants an end to gendered roles or anything like that. What she wants is to continue the current clusterfuck of chaotic confusion that is crossing between the kink and LGBT community with the genderqueer. However, she’s actually being a few billion magnitudes of order less understanding and tolerant than they are — the genderqueer and those who don’t identify with their apparent physical sex know that they’re going against biological norms (the word norm is being used in a statistical sense just like my being blonde is abnormal) and they do *not* expect everyone to know how to address them on sight. They also know that most people do identify with their birth sex. Further, they’re not demanding that the whole of society change itself and its language to accommodate them without them making any concessions.

I’m pretty damned tolerant and “whatever, so long as I don’t have to pay for it ’cause I’m skint.” I’ve got gay friends, trans friends, genderqueer friends… I even have one friend who is a gay, trans black man. However, none of them have an issue with gendered characters. All of them *write* characters that are binary gendered. If they have a character that is genderqueer or goes against the binary system, that character is the exception (if the cast is human. In cases where we’re dealing with an alien race, all bets are off). Still, when Tor.com posted this little thing, it set the entire sci-fi/fantasy world alight and kicked SP2 into high gear. Larry Correia had a lot to say about this particular bit of social justice insanity.

There’s a reason I mention it here and you’ll see in a bit. At any rate, SP2 continued until the nominations were chosen and then submitted with reminders of how to nominate and reminders about when nominations were getting close to ending as well as when the nominees were announced and the resulting aftermath that followed the awards ceremony. Sad Puppies 2 was the beginning of the deeper reflection on how the Hugos, SJWs, and the trends in sci-fi and fantasy publishing were not just an anomaly but were part of a greater culture war.

Remember the “end of binary gendering” thing I mentioned earlier? Well, 2014 was the year that Larry Correia really started riling up the SJWs (at least that I can see) and the Sad Puppies effort in many ways became a bit of a rallying cry for many sci-fi and fantasy authors across the Internet to discuss the SJW incursion into their realm.

Keep in mind that this happened eight months before GamerGate.

People were getting sick and tired of being preached at. They were sick of token diverity-ism that was being held up as more important than the story and the way that identity politics and the author’s personal life and beliefs were used in place of actually judging whether or not their work was well-written, entertaining, and told a good story where the message played a role.

If you read the discussions, you’ll see that much of it is well-thought-out arguments about the problems of writing non-binary characters as well as the truth about historical depictions of women in sci-fi that flew in the face of the alternate reality the SJWs were advancing.

Not that that stopped them. They went after Larry Correia very hard in 2014 with File 770 and the Guardian attacking him and misrepresenting what he was hoping to achieve with Sad Puppies. The Guardian journalist, Damien Walter continued his attack on Larry’s Facebook page.

In August 2014, GamerGate happened and in November came ShirtStorm which had some overlap with the SP community due to shared interest (just like there is overlap between people who like French cooking and people who like French wine). However, SP2 really just served to underscore Correia’s initial points about the Hugos and caused the movement to gain more attention than SP1 had.

It was the next year’s effort, Sad Puppies 3, that really blew the lid off the entire mess. That will be the subject of the next entry.

— G.K.

On dinosaurs, colossi, golems, governments, and adaptation

On dinosaurs, colossi, golems, governments, and adaptation

…and why they all tend to die out in the end.

It’s an interesting fact in the history of biological life that the oldest form of life on Earth is the bacteria (and arguably the virus). Not just because they’re simple entities — amoeba are also fairly simple as are many members of the protist branch. It’s also interesting to note that bacteria, protists, and viruses from the Proterozoic Eon (roughly 2500 million years ago) of the are still around. They’re still happily doing their thing, sometimes killing vast swathes of plants and animals, without a care in the world. They’ll be here long after humanity has either turned to dust or departed for worlds unknown.

It’s amazing, when you think about it. These tiny, simple, mindless, invisible things have outlasted the dinosaurs. The KT impact was barely a blip on their radar. The Ice Age? Again, barely registered to them. They kept on keeping on. The dinosaurs had them beat on size, strength, teeth, defensive features (immune systems and thick hides and spikes!), could move around more, reproduce sexually, were more genetically diverse… and then along came a single hunk of rock and it was bye-bye dinosaurs while the little microscopic dudes kept on truckin’. The dinosaurs were the masters of their environment, true, but bacteria and viruses are the masters of adaptation. And, when it comes to long-term, long-scale, universal and planetary survival, adaptation is the key trait if you’re going to be more than just a bit player in the grand game of life.

Humanity has been fighting an on-going war with some members of these groups forever. We have an immune system that fights them and we also use plants to try to counteract them and have done since we figured out we could do that way back during the prehistoric era. It’s been a long-running fight and in all that time, we’ve managed to eradicate one of them. Small pox. The rest are still merrily going about their way. Some of them we need. Some of them kill us. Some of them we are trying to eradicate and can’t even with all our technology, all our grand colossi and skyscrapers, all our golems and governments. And, compared to the dinosaurs, we’re easy prey. I mean, we don’t have big sharp teeth, scaly hides, powerful muscles, we’re not the size of the brontosaurus or the T-Rex. We don’t have the armor plating of the Triceratops or the stegosaurus. We couldn’t outrun a velociraptor if we wanted to.

However, like the viruses and bacteria, we’re great at adaptation and we’re capable of breaking off into small groups. We can mix traits on multiple levels — not just genetic but memetic — and see what works. It’s when we try to be like the dinosaurs that things get bad for us. Yes, we can gather into large groups and become like a tsunami sometimes and sometimes that’s good — think things like food drives, building houses for the homeless, SETI@home, KickStarter — but notice that all of those things are voluntary. They’re also all temporary efforts. No one joins in every KickStarter campaign or builds every house. And, tribes banding together in a common effort isn’t always a bad thing — look at the success the United States and the entire Anglosphere has enjoyed over the past few centuries. But, if we’re not left with room to adapt inside those structures, it’ll all go wonky.

The problem in recent history has been that some parts of human society want us to be more colossal and monolithic because they believe that’s the only way to progress. I’m specifically thinking of the left-wing “progressives” who want to grant the government the power to regulate just about every aspect of life — economic, social, education, cultural, philosophical — to mandate certain outcomes they deem “fair.” However, doing that has always bred the ability to adapt to sudden change right out of the people and the society. Just look at what happened to the Soviet Union and to Eastern Europe. Look at what’s happening in all of the South American and Latin American countries that embraced socialism and communism and their five-year plans. Just look at Cuba and North Korea. Look at the Middle East and most of the African nations. Look at most of Europe that’s embraced socialism. When changes happen, they can’t cope. Birth rates fall — they cannot adapt to the new reality. In Europe, they imported new generations to replenish their falling population rates but could not adapt to the changes that brought and still can’t handle it — look at the riots, the carbeques that are just a fact of life there, the zones sensibles around Paris, the re-emergence of a new underclass and caste system that may be socially and culturally permanent since there’s no way for the French, the Germans, the Britons, or the Swedes to change how “French,” “German,” “British,” or “Swedish,” is defined or how someone can become a member of those tribes other than by birth. The Industrial Revolution ended and was replaced by the paradigm-shifting Digital revolution and these nations cannot adapt.

Industries are having problems as well. The publishing world got hit by the KT impact of Amazon and the Internet just like the movie and music industries and since they’re all populated by rather monolithic corporations who have a lot vested in the status quo ante, they not only don’t want to adapt, but they may not be able to. The Big Five may die entirely just like the dinosaurs did because, while Amazon is a large beast, it’s more like a large colony of bacteria and less like a brontosaurus. If one part of Amazon fails, it won’t bring down the whole thing. Amazon is acing the adaptation thing while the Big Five not only are failing at it but, given some of Tor’s senior management’s recent behavior, they’re doing everything they can to destroy their own food supplies and water sources.

Hell, the United States is having trouble dealing with the chaos that the Digital Revolution has wrought and we’re probably the most flexible and adaptable nation and society on the planet. The genius of the Founders guaranteed that. Which is why I have a really hard time wrapping my head around the idea that we should be like the rest of the world and become more rigid and inflexible. Do we have our problems? Yes. Do we have our imperfections — of course! Are there inequalities? Without a doubt. Is it better to have those problems than to be unable to deal with changes in reality? Is it better to be a bacteria or a dinosaur?

I say it’s better to be a bacteria. I say it’s better to be something that can adapt quickly and rapidly even if that means that there’s going to be a lot of inequality and imperfection and problems because it means at least you’re alive to deal with them instead of being extinct the first time a big rock comes your way. After all, if you’re alive, you can work to try to minimize those inequalities — for instance, make it illegal to discriminate against people based on things like race, religion, orientation, gender, political philosophy; make it so that society and economics is more of a meritocracy. If you’re dead… well, there’s really not much you can do (other than vote Democrat, of course).

— G.K.

Dear Tor: I’m an evil unicorn, not a robot!

Dear Tor: I'm an evil unicorn, not a robot!

Dear Tor,

I am an evil unicorn, not a bot. Love and kisses! G.K. Masterson

I mean, I am an INTJ which, I’ve been told, means I have a sometimes robotic personality but I promise you, I’m a real person.

My mother swears I was actually born in the usual way and not hatched, dropped off by wandering aliens, beamed down as part of a reconnaissance mission, or delivered by a very confused parcel servicebeing operating out of the Corona Borealis supercluster who just took a wrong turn at the Sloan Great Wall. And, given that my niece looks exactly like me, I’m inclined to believe that my mother is telling the truth so I’m definitely human.

I know, I’m a bit disappointed, too, Tor, but we have to deal with reality as it is, not as we which it could be.

Now, I’ve been a pretty avid reader since I was about two and a half years old. And, I’m definitely a geek as these photos will attest.

[wppg_photo_gallery id=”1″]

As you can see, I have quite a few Tor books in my library. Over the years, I’ve massed a sizable collection of Tor books that is worth around about $3000. On average, I purchased about $50 worth of Tor books a month on my Kindle. So, while I’m not going to put much of a dent in Tor’s bottom line by myself, I’ll bet the authors whose books I bought will feel it and they might decide to move to a publisher who doesn’t call their customers neonazis and bots. And, ultimately, if Tor doesn’t have books to publish, they have a problem, don’t they?

— G.K.

We Didn’t Start the Flamewar — Part Three

We Didn't Start the Flamewar -- Part Three

*dons shades and sits at a table in a kitchen from the 1940s*

Larry Correia, Sarah H., Puppy Sadness, Vox Day
Social Justice, WrongFen Haters, Scalzi’s Twitter Mob

We didn’t start the flamewar
It was always burning
Since the ‘Net’s been churning
We didn’t start the flamewar
No we didn’t light it
But we’ll damned well fight it

Lyrics to be continued

So, this is the first part of the in depth history of the Sad Puppies part of this series (wow, that’s a mouthful). I spent a lot of time yesterday reading up on this. Sad Puppies has been running for three years now and was started by Larry Correia back in January 2013. That means it predates GamerGate by a fair margin (since there have been some accusations that Sad Puppies and GamerGate are the same thing or that GamerGate started the Sad Puppies. The only way that could have happened would have been for the GamerGate movement to have access to 1) a time machine, 2) a DeLorean with a Flux Capacitor and either a Mr. Fusion or Plutonium, or 3) a TARDIS. Since I’m fairly certain none of those three things are true, it’s a safe bet that GamerGate and Sad Puppies are two distinct phenomena which simply have some members in common since people who like video games also tend to enjoy reading and occasionally writing fantasy or sci-fi books).

Like many of us, Larry noticed that there had been a divergence between what was selling well and what was winning the Hugos and had been for some time. He informed his fans that all they had to do in order to nominate a work for the Hugo or the Campbell awards was to purchase a membership to WorldCon. Since the membership for WorldCon is rather small, it doesn’t take many votes to get on the ballot or to win an award. He called his effort to get his own work on the ballot “Sad Puppy” as a tongue-in-cheek commentary against the current tendency to award works that were literary-fic or message-fic instead of works that were selling or well-liked by the entire sci-fi/fantasy audience. It’s not the first time such a gag was used — after all, on various tech forums I hang around, “Think Of The Children” is used in the same sarcastic fashion.

sad-puppy
Won’t someone think of the sad puppies and the children?

In Sad Puppies 1, Larry did suggest his own works because there wasn’t any real organization back then. It was just him on his own. He was soliciting his own fans to nominate him (but he did not buy votes or memberships for anyone) and probably felt it would be a bit strange to ask them to nominate someone else. Additionally, he had a theory about the Hugos that he wanted to test — namely that they were biased, represented the preferences of only one tiny section of the sci-fi/fantasy fandom community, and that authors with the “wrong” political beliefs (meaning politically to the right of Mao and Stalin) who got on the ballot would be attacked, slandered, libeled, made the subject of whisper campaigns, harassed, have Twitter mobs set upon them, have their books given negative reviews, etc etc etc.

Sad Puppies is not about getting Larry himself the Hugo or getting any particular author the award (Sad Puppies 1 actually failed to get Larry nominated at all though it did get some of his preferences listed in other areas). It’s always been about proving that WorldCon is full of crap when they hold themselves out to represent all of fandom, about proving that there is a definite bias that has nothing to do with whether a work is good or not and everything to do with whether or not the author has the right skin color, the right genitalia, and adheres to the proper groupthink. It also has been a test as to whether or not WorldCon is really open to welcoming new members and new writers regardless of their skin’s melanin content, whether their genitals dangle or not, and what their political philosophies are. Based on the current reactions I’d have to say that Correia’s premises have been proven. WorldCon is not open to newbies of any kind who aren’t clones of their current members and the awards are biased to message-fic and it’s pretty clear that the author’s identity is far more important than whether or not their story is well-written and interesting.

So, back in 2013, Larry campaigned on his own behalf throughout January to try to get his own work on the ballot. He was almost successful (missing it by only 17 votes). Overall, there wasn’t much outcry over it and the first effort didn’t have a massive impact. Still, the idea caught on and began to generate buzz which culminated in Sad Puppies 2 which was a Much Bigger Deal and which will be the subject of the next entry in this series so stay tuned!

— G.K.

Sad Puppy image taken from Larry Correia’s site, Monster Hunter Nation

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