Sad Puppies and the Hugos: Category Error

Sad Puppies and the Hugos: Category Error

I keep thinking about this and, honestly, the more I think about it, the more I honestly believe that the real problem is that the problem with modern science fiction awards is that of Category Error. I spoke with a long-time WorldCon attendee Sunday (not sure if he wants to be named here — he can message me on Facebook if he is cool with it) and after talking with him and then reading Eric Flint’s entry today (read it — it’s long but worth it), I think that it may be time to really sit down and ask a few hard questions.

1) Is WorldCon really the best avenue for trying to create the kind of award we’re trying to create? — After reading the by-laws for the convention and for SFWA, I don’t think it is. Both organizations are too unwieldy, too clunky, and have too ossified a structure to respond well to the kind of change that is needed. That’s not a slight against them — it’s just reality. Plenty of conventions and industries (hell — plenty of countries and cultures) are having a hard time keeping pace with the rapid changes that have happened over the past fifty years. Expecting a group of volunteers to master it when they’re used to playing for an audience of less than 10k is asking a bit much.

2) Just what kind of award do we want to create? — Are we really after a fan award? Another jury award? An industry award? I think the germ of the whole compliant has been that the current Hugos have ignored giants in the field in favor of fad-fiction while also shunning certain authors and their works based on the author’s politics — not on merit (which this year has proven is the case with a sizable portion of Hugo voters). The general gist has been that if the Hugos want to call themselves “THE” award of science fiction and fantasy, then they need to pay more attention to the market behavior, to the influential players in the field, and they need to increase the size of the voting pool so that it can’t be swayed by a few dozen people. Otherwise, they need to stop advertising themselves as being “THE” award and instead relabel themselves more accurately as “an award given out by a few thousand people.”

3) How can the convention structure be made less privileged? — Look, I know most of you don’t get it. I’ve never been to a single convention that my former employer didn’t pay me to go to because I can’t afford the plane ticket and hotel room to go to one. The mere fact that you can a) take the time off work to go, b) have the money to get a hotel room, c) can afford to eat out while there, d) can afford the plane ticket or gas to fly/drive there and back e) can afford the cost of admission + panels + whatever else puts you so far out of my league it’s not even funny. Even when I’ve been able to get over my mild agoraphobia and really wanted to go to a con, the cost of taking off work and going put beyond me. And it does for most everyone in my area. I doubt seriously that WorldCon (or any other current literary con) could do livestream attendance the way that BlizzCon or does. Part of it is the money/tech/knowledge issue and part of it is that I doubt very seriously there’s much love lost either way between the fans in places like Delta and Appalachia and the officers/board members of the conventions.

4) How can the voting pool be increased beyond the ability for any one group to game it? — We’re talking big numbers here. At least 20k. Better would be a voting pool of at least 50 – 100k. Again, just given the behavior shown at the Hugo awards ceremony and the kind of negative connotation WorldCon has given itself with the general population. There’s a reason why WorldCon attendance has been trending down even as science fiction and fantasy became more accepted and it’s because enough of the “TrueFans” gave it a bad reputation so that people avoided it instead of attending it or considering it. Would WorldCon ever consider even trying to get someone like writer Robert Kirkman to run a panel? Or be a GoH? Could they even get someone like Chuck Lorre to return a phone call these days? I mean, sure, GRRM comes but could they get Peter Jackson? Or forget Peter Jackson, could they get Jeri Taylor or even Kip Thorne?

No one outside of Tor (and most of the people inside probably don’t either) gives a rat’s ass about either of the Neilsen-Haydens but they’re the GoH’s for next year and they hate people like me so yeah, I’m feelin’ the love and welcome. But if a convention could get, say…Norman Reedus, Jeri Ryan, Orlando Bloom, Stephanie Meyer, Peter Dinklage, and J.K. Rowling together while hosting a Red Pill/Blue Pill contest and playing Spot the Fed during the Zombie Apocalypse, well…

That would be a con that would have Fort Knox asking to loan it some money.

4a) How can that be done without homogenizing everything? — And now we’re into the Category Error part of the problem. Science fiction isn’t a simple little niche anymore. It’s become its own genre, much like romance or horror. Could you imagine a single convention or award that tried to compare the works of R.L. Stine to that of Mary Shelley? Science fiction and fantasy are huge. You can’t compare some aspects of them to others because it’s like comparing apples to zebras — and that’s exactly what the Hugos wind up doing. You can’t just add one more category (series) and fix the problem, either. No, the issue runs much deeper than that in that the foundation upon which WorldCon and the Hugos were built is no longer large enough to support the modern sci-fi/fantasy reality.

So, what to do? Raze it (Vox Day’s option?) Slink off and exile ourselves, never writing again and let people who support pedophiles and child rape (Tor — hey, sauce for the goose. I’ll see your Vox Day and raise you Marion Zimmer Bradely) give themselves accolades while everyone else praises them?

Instead of razing it, leave it be and build something better. Build a modern convention that starts out with a massive tent. Have elements from Comic Con, Walker Stalker, BlizzCon, DefCon (that’s a techie con for you non-hackers out there. It’s awesomesauce), and all the other fun cons out there. Mix and match. Don’t make it a pure literary con. Have it be a real celebration of all that is great about being a geek or a nerd. Let the Twilighters in with their Team Edwards and Team Jacobs. Hell, we had Team Sturm and Team Tanis back in the day (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then go get every book that has “Dragonlance(TM)” on it and start reading). Some of us even had Team Hugh and Team Haplo (if you want really obscure).

Twilight might be drek but at least it has people reading. We all started somewhere. I started with Star Trek: The Next Generation, Dragonlance, the Death Gate Cycle, and writing the Legend of Zelda fanfic set around the game and the cartoon series when I was in elementary school.

And the awards? Well, how about this? (Just to get the convo rolling — don’t consider it a finalized thing. More a “outline I’ve worked out that probably needs some tweaking”)

I know the constellations are probably taken (and the Constellations themselves are an actual award) but imagine something like this:

The Aries — best military work (red for sci-fi, blue for fantasy)
The Aquarius — best literary work (red for sci-fi, blue for fantasy)
The Capricorn — best hard science fiction (red) or epic fantasy (blue)
The Gemini — best young adult work (red for sci-fi, blue for fantasy)
The Leo — best space opera (red) or swords-and-sorcery (blue) work
The Libra — best dystopian (red) urban fantasy (blue) work
The Sagittarius — best speculative work (red for sci-fi, blue for fantasy)
The Scorpio — best pure-superhero work (for superhero works that cannot be classed anywhere else)
The Taurus — best post-apocalyptic (red) or dark fantasy (blue) work
The Virgo — life-time achievement award
The Ophiuchus — historic recognition award

Each award has seven categories: written series, novel, novella, short story, editor-in-field, artist, and licensed work, with there being three possible additional categories: television show, film, video game. So, there would be an Aries for the best military sci-fi series, stand-alone novel, novella, short-story, editor-in-field, artist, and then licensed work in that field (such as something from Star Wars or Star Trek).

Nominations would run from, say, October 1 to January 30. Then the top fifteen for each award and category (the nominations receiving the most votes) would be put on the ballot. A jury would be selected for each award/category consisting of at least 10k people from the membership chosen randomly. They would be sent the entire packet to read and would be given a test to prove that they had read and understood the books or films or shows. Then they would be sent the ballot and allowed to vote. The top five (the five receiving the highest number of votes in each 10k voting pool) go on the final ballot for selection at the convention itself. At the convention, it’s straight up the most votes wins with “no award” requiring unanimity or the voting pool to dip below 5k.

Not a perfect system, I know. According to my man Ken Arrow, a perfect ranking system is impossible. However, with two steps of popular votes and a randomly selected jury pool with an enforced reading test (or no ballot issued and another juror chosen instead), it’s much harder to game this kind of system. There’s also less incentive for SJWs to want to do so since they’ll have the Aquarius all to themselves. And, if they do try to overrun the rest of the categories, we send them back to their little sandbox where everything is rubberfoamed and inoffensive and they can have their skin-deep diversity without any diversity of ideas and the little dears can’t hurt themselves or encounter a difficult thought/word/feeling or be triggered while the grown-ups can talk about grown-up things in all of the other categories.

Except for the Gemini, of course. Because “young adults” aren’t SJWs but aren’t grown-up, yo.

— G.K.

Throwback Thursday: A Cold War Vocabulary Lesson

I was scanning around for a topic to write about this Thursday and wondering if I was going to do something historical like “how to make daggers” or “the first fanfic G ever wrote” when the most Evil of Space Princesses posted this on her blog.


Really? Seriously? This level of ignorance is the product of an advanced educational system?

Suddenly, I knew what today’s entry had to be about. So, let’s all hop in our time machines — be they TARDISes, telephone booths, funky-looking steampunk chairs, or DeLoreans — and set the dial for August 27, 1980. We’ll avoid my neck of the woods since this trip puts me in my own time-line (I’ll be 24 hours old) and instead go hang out someplace cool. I’ll supply the chameleon circuits so we can waltz into the HQ of USPACOM without being noticed. Just remember — don’t muck about.

Things seem kinda tense, don’t they? Hear that chatter from EUCOM over in Stuttgart, Germany? And the calls from RDJTF — which will soon become CENTCOM — about the problems in Iran?

Oh, man, if only the poor bastards knew…

Notice how all the focus is on Europe and the Pacific, though? Now, guys, I know it’s been a while. Keep listening. Yep. There it is. I notice some of you look a little confused. West Germany? East Germany? What the hell?


Back during the 1980s, I often wondered where North and South Germany were. My excuse was that I was under the age of ten. I’m uncertain what someone who was born in 1969 would have to offer as a similar excuse for such breath-taking ignorance.

It’s 1980. The Cold War is still on, guys. There’s still a USSR in this time with missiles pointed at the US. There are tanks all over the Eastern Bloc nations. We have our own bases and our own forces in Europe to keep the Warsaw Pact from invading. NATO is a big deal instead of the joke we all know it will become. Article V of the NATO Charter is the life-line that Western Europe has clung to and the reason our boys are still there even though the Nazis were defeated well-nigh on forty years ago. It’s also the reason we have bases in Japan and the Japanese are praying we’ll keep the Chicoms from invading them and the Taiwanese (the Republic of China) is counting on us to help them keep the Chicoms from crossing the Strait and subjecting them to the good Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Forward that left millions dead.

Chicom? I see some of you looking confused again. Chinese Communist. It means “a person who is loyal to the People’s Republic of China — a communist government that uses repressive means including (but not limited to) censorship, state control of the media, re-education camps, imprisonment, torture, secret police, internal and interior-focused spy organizations, centralized control of the food supply, and centralized control of the economy in order to completely dominate the people it governs.” The PRC at this time does not allow people to practice religion, the press to report anything unfavorable to the government or to the Communist ideology, or the people to communicate freely with citizens of other countries. Chicoms are, by and large, ethnically Chinese but may also be Caucasian, Russian, Serbian, Arabian, Persian, Iberian, Hispanic, Chicano, Latino, African, Korean, Japanese, Amerindian, Indian, Vietnamese, or any other ethnic group or sub-group. Their primary identity is their loyalty to a political body — the PRC.


And, like these guys, they’ll kneel to whoever orders them. Unfortunately, there are no real-world Captain Americas, Thors, and Tony Starks to save them and those who wind up as collateral damage from their own raging stupidity.

They were not good guys. They were not sweet, cuddly kittens. They were brutal, murderous, power-hungry asshats who enriched themselves at the expense of their people. They gorged themselves on power and wealth while the average Chinese citizen went hungry. Their so-called noble ideology (which doesn’t scale at all beyond devoted communities such as monasteries where there are methods of population control and a larger community that isn’t bound by that ideology to support them — just look at places like Mount Atheos) led to the deaths of tens of millions of people.

Calling them “Chicoms” isn’t an insult. It isn’t a racial or ethnic slur. Anyone who thinks that is either 1) too young to have lived through the Cold War at all, 2) too stupid to use Google and therefore too stupid to be referenced as an expert on anything, 3) looking for a reason to be offended, or 4) some combo of the above.


Brought to you by…someone educated by hard-working teachers in the Poorest State in the Union™.

So, there go you. A new vocabulary word for you! Now, let’s go back to 2015. I need to see a man about a flying car…

— G.K.

MRSA and Marx — the Hugo Aftermath

MRSA and Marx -- the Hugo Aftermath

Sorry for the silence last week. My friend and business partner Vic, the founder and majority owner of Rooster and Pig, had a stroke back at the end of July which means that I’ve been stuck with the fun of formatting all the books slated to go out now as well as handling all of the Q2 reports, trying to get the royalties and the staff paid, and trying to port the company to a new website since we’ve long since outgrown the system we’re on. Vic is handling all of this with his usual inability to chill the hell out and let someone else worry about everything so those of us who are his not-real-but-kind-of-really-real family get the fun of dealing with him both IRL and via the Internet.

Vic’s one of my buddies. He’s been there for me when no one else was. He knows that I’m quirky and weird and that, on some political issues, he and I are complete opposites (I want a government too powerless to do much of anything; he doesn’t). End of the day, we’re friends and I’d do anything for him. Race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, veteran status, the kind of books we read and write — none of that matters because he’s my friend.

And, by the way — he’s a gay, black, Messianic Jewish Iraqi era veteran who reads and writes a lot of gay erotica. Hell, I’ve edited some of it and spent hours wondering “can you actually do that though? I mean, wouldn’t it hurt if it got bent and twisted around like that?” Which is why he and I always have a little chuckle when folks like John Scalzi, PNH, TNH, and more say that I must be racist and homophobic. It’d be kind of difficult for me to be in business with someone like Vic if that were true.

But then, truth matters little to these people. They’re impervious to it the same way that MRSA is impervious to penicillin. All of the women writers in the Sad Puppies group (and there are a lot of us) could stand up naked to prove our womanhood and we’d still be told we were men. I can go hang out with my lesbian sister or my gay business partner and I’m still a homophobe (and a racist). We can gather all of the black, Asian, Indian (subcontinental), Native American, Middle Eastern, Latin, Hispanic, and Chicano authors we can find (not to mention a few of us who are from areas that are actually so poverty-stricken that they’re routinely cited as “one of the most poverty-stricken places in the United States”) and none of that will matter. We can writer stories involving women (have done), gay characters (have done), minorities (check), overcoming great odds (CHECK), and very long-lasting and their actions here in the immediate aftermath are doing a lot more to discredit their side than the Sad Puppies ever could.

So, the question becomes: can WorldCon and the Hugos be salvaged? At this point, it’s debatable. Sarah Hoyt, Kate Paulk, and others intend to try next year with SP4 and I’m volunteering to help out. Maybe if we show them an effort led completely by women that will be savaged by men, it might just cause enough cognitive dissonance to wake a few people up. That said, I’m not going to put all my eggs in that basket because, like the Eloi, I don’t think the Hugos are going to last that long. I think that at this, the first real show of resistance on the part of the over-arching geek culture, WorldCon is just going to whither away and die. Sarah, Kate, et al are trying to save it but me, after seeing the way the Puppy Kickers acted this year and behaved at the awards ceremony?

Fuck that shit. Let the fucker burn and sow the earth it was on with salt. I’m going to help out with SP4 in hopes of convincing them to consider launching a parallel convention system that would actually bring in the rest of the fandom that WorldCon shuts out. You know — the comic geeks, the gamers, the Trekkies, the dabblers, the people who got into sci-fi from something that the CHORFs think is “lame,” (like The Walking Dead or Twilight) — the folks who are keeping the geek culture going with new ideas, new stories, new mediums, and more. Those who could care less about politics and who want a convention that is fun and welcomes them instead of telling them they’re WrongFans having WrongFun.

Martin told us to set up our own award. Well, why the hell not? And why not make the voting pool so massive it can’t be gamed, make the thing so open it’s financially solvent, and make it an actual stamp worth having on your book cover. The Hugo used to be that way — back when WorldCon wanted to have a larger audience. Obviously, they don’t want that anymore so screw ’em. Let the Hugos become exactly what the WorldConners want it to be — an award given to old, white Marxists by other old, white Marxists for books written for the enjoyment of other aging, white Marxists. Meanwhile, we work on making something where anyone can win it — not just the Toads at Tor who think anyone who lives outside of the Coastal Enclaves should be subject to summary execution for “lack of diversity.”

Imagine a con that embraces the audiences of Comic Con, BlizzCon, GamesCon, DefCon, and LibertyCon instead of a con like WorldCon that says hangs a sign on the door and says “Non-Marxists Need Not Apply.” Which one would you go to? And more importantly — which one would you take your children to (because the future belongs to those who bother to reproduce, yo).

— 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.

The Vicious Hamster Wheel of Credentialing

The Vicious Hamster Wheel of Credentialing

…and how it impacts the publishing industry, the economy, and the rest of the world in general.

Okay, I swear, I am so not cyberstalking Cedar even though whenever I see that she’s posted something I drop whatever I’m doing and go read it because I’m beginning to wonder if she and I get messages from the same s00per s3kr3t radio station or something. We’re both evil unicorns (which is cool) and we’re both writers (though I think she’s more experienced than I am since I’ve only been in the game a few years) and we’re both nerds so there’s going to be some overlap. But when I read her post on the topic of credentialing, I had the strangest physical reaction (think full-body shiver and skin crawling) because I was thinking about this exact topic last night.

Eerie.

So, without further ado…

We live in interesting times. Really interesting times. In the past two hundred years, the world has flipped around in a lot of ways and some groups haven’t quite had a chance to catch up. The rate of change isn’t going to slow down anytime soon (if anything, the rate of acceleration is increasing) and it’s created rather a lot of chaos that makes it difficult for everyone. This started back with the Industrial Revolution but has really kicked into high gear with the Digital Revolution. However, for now, I want to focus in on one particular trend that’s been a particular nuisance in recent years and that’s the vicious hamster wheel of the credential chase.

Long ago, a young man would purchase an apprenticeship, serve a set number of years under a master craftsman, become a journeyman, then prove his skill as a master and be free to set up his own shop and take on apprentices himself. Credentials were reserved for things like the clergy (and thus controlled by the Church) or the universities (which meant they were for the aristocrats’ second or third sons). Very few people had them or needed them and thus, they were quite valuable. Then along came the Industrial Revolution and the modern education system with its assembly-line cookie-cutter approach and, for a short time, a high school diploma was sufficient for entry into the modern work force and could get a person a job at a factory or as a teacher, secretary, bank teller, or other office worker. College was for those who were going into more advanced fields.

But when everyone could get a high school diploma easily, the value of having one was lower and the credential was less valuable. Factor in that unions with their work rules, refusal to consider the impact of their demands on the business’s bottom line, and refusal to police their members and maintain high standards in work ethic to justify wage and benefit increases helped drive manufacturing jobs overseas; that globalization came in and cut out a lot of the protectionism the Industrial Era institutions relied on; and that things like the G.I. Bill started a very perverse incentive for colleges, lenders, and the government to feed off each other (and the taxpayer) and the credentialing hamster wheel started spinning. Suddenly jobs that once barely needed a high school diploma to be done now require a Bachelor’s degree. There are hundreds of professions that people used to freelance out of their homes that now require expensive (and extensive) licenses to perform (hairstylist, barber, masseuse, babysitting, tutoring, music lessons…) I’ve worked in the tech world for over a decade now and credentialing there is getting insane. Techies like to pride themselves on valuing knowledge over shiny badges but it is very hard to break into different fields without certain credentials these days and it’s very hard to obtain those credentials without already being in those fields because the certification tests are expensive.

I’m waiting for the day when the Bachelor’s degree I worked my butt off to get (I did a four-year in three) is as worthless as a high school diploma because everyone is required to have one. I’ve looked into getting a Masters degree but can’t afford one. And, to be honest, none of the jobs I’ve ever held have required me to use any of the crap I learned in college. I’m not saying that college was useless for me; I enjoyed it and learned a lot of valuable research information. I’ve just never really used any of it professionally. No, all of the skills I’ve used professionally are things I’ve either taught myself, learned on the job, or learned in high school and built upon in college.

Frankly, in the constant chase after credentials, the only ones coming out ahead are those who grant the credentials. Employers can’t be happy with it because the greater a credential they require for a job, the more they’re going to have to pay that person (and that’s another vicious cycle all its own). Regular folks aren’t happy with it because it gets tiring having to chase credential after credential just so we can check off boxes from an HR flunky who doesn’t know what she’s doing (really — I filled out an application a week ago that had listed as a requirement for the job “10+ years experience in PHP5 and HTML5” when PHP5 just celebrated a decade this year and HTML5 isn’t even a year old. Topping that, I’ve seen requirements for “At least 10+ years development in Ruby on Rails” when the framework is only nine years old!)

So, what is to be done about it? Well, first of all, fire all the HR departments. Then fire all of the politicians. Maybe consider setting them on fire while firing them? Or fire them into an orbital trajectory or something. Regardless — fire them a lot. Then shut down the entire education system, redesign it so that it actually creates a literate society instead of turning out factory workers, re-instate vo-tech-like schools for skilled trades and quit looking down on people who do that work because they’re cool people and smart as hell. They’re just smart in a different way like we’re smart in a different way, okay? To them, I’m as dumb as a box of rocks because I can’t unstop a toilet and I’m weird because I remember a particular cardio-arrhythmia that I read about and was able to deduce someone’s wife had based on a conversation they were having with the check-out clerk when they were at the grocery store the line ahead of me.

Not everyone needs to go to college. Not everyone is smart the way I’m smart and that’s okay. But we’ve really got to end the constant credential chase because, if we don’t, eventually Ph.D.s are going to be required to work the drive-thru at McDonalds. Unless, of course, we’ve replaced the entirety of the McDonalds staff with a robotic restaurant and the drive-thru is a voice-activated kiosk with a debit/credit card reader which is a distinct possibility.

— G.K.

Politics and Television

Politics and Television

Or “Why G.K. Didn’t Watch The Debate.”

Oh dear Lord, we’re going into another active phase of the perpetual election cycle, aren’t we? Last week we got to see the spectacle that was the GOP debate and, while I didn’t watch it live because I knew that, even with it being on Fox with supposedly “friendly” moderators, the talking-heads weren’t going to be able to resist their chance to ham it up for the cameras and that the entire thing was going to be more about ginning up the ratings for the sponsors than it was going to be about the candidates actually, you know, talking about the issues and debating different approaches following set logical rules and avoiding logical fallacies such as strawman, reductio ad absurdum, tu quoque, ad hominem, appeals to (false) authority, special pleading, No True Scotsman, post hoc, and more while presenting actual evidence and solid reasoning for their beliefs or policy.

Can you tell I’m a bit of a throwback and a cynic? Television has ruined a lot of things and debate, argumentation, and critical thinking are among those things. It’s a great medium for entertainment and it can be used for education, yes, and story-telling. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not one of those who thinks that television is completely evil and has no redeeming qualities. I enjoy it — I have an active Netflix account and I’ve got Criminal Minds playing in the background. But, when it comes to journalism, television is the worst medium that could be used. It doesn’t allow for truly in-depth coverage, cross-referencing, citation of sources, or deep thought. Newspapers are the best medium for daily coverage and bi-weekly or monthly magazines are great for bigger events or more thorough coverage of events or technical issues. Radio can be a passable medium so long as the moderators and the debate format are agreed to in advance and the topics are adhered to. Television, however, will never make a good medium for political debates or journalism.

Why? Because it’s commercial. And, that’s good for entertainment. Hell, it’s great. It means that businesses and consumers are free to reward shows and sponsors and channels that entertain them or tell stories they like or support or whatever without having to directly own the studios or airwaves or whatever. There’s no real need for government intervention, censorship, or anything like that other than “truth in advertising” laws (you can’t advertise that your wooden spoon is actually made out of marble) and possibly some kind of daytime/child-safety advertising laws (you can’t run alcohol ads or other adult ads during certain hours or on channels aimed at children — not that most marketers would sell or buy there anyway because it’d be stupid). However, it’s an undeniable fact that you don’t piss off your sponsors and you don’t piss off your core audience. Just look at GamerGate. Intel pulled their ads from Gawker when Gawker’s articles pissed off a sizable portion of the GamerGate audience and they threatened to boycott Intel. And that kind of pressure is fine for entertainment shows and even educational shows. But it is not fine for journalism. It leads to worries about offending the corporate sponsors or the consumers which leads to spin, blacking-out of stories, and a focus on feel-good stories or the promotion of news items in a way that is guaranteed to keep the money-spigot opened.

Another reason television is a terrible medium for journalism is because it’s a visual format which leads to people judging based on appearances instead of based on the actual argument. Have you ever noticed that all of the news anchors are good-looking? And that none of them are terribly intelligent or creative? If they were trapped in the middle of a desert, they’d be screwed. Hell, if they were knee-deep in a river, they’d die of thirst. They went to fancy universities, yes, but that means nothing. Unless they graduated from CalTech, Standford (with a degree in hard sciences), or MIT, it’s worthless. These people were hired for their ability to look good on camera and read from a teleprompter or from cuecards. They were not hired for their ability to think critically, reason, ask difficult questions, or for their finely-tuned bullshit detectors.

A final reason television is the worst medium for journalism is because of its shallowness. Television is a very shallow, very short-form medium. Since it’s so visual and auditory, it’s easy to get overstimulated which makes it difficult for long-term memory to be engaged (which is why visual tricks and cut-aways can be used to deceive so easily — see below). The set-time format makes it impossible for any topic to be covered in real depth and the inability for there to be hard, permanent reference points for citations or notes makes cross-referencing difficult, if not impossible. Add in the general passivity it requires of the audience and it’s just a terrible medium for something as serious as news journalism and political debates.

There are other reasons television is a terrible medium for serious topics — it’s untrustworthy because it can be deceptively edited without the viewer being aware of it at all and, unless there are other recordings made, there’s no way to prove it (and there are never other recordings because of technical and legal reasons — no sound studio is going to let an interview subject bring in his own film crew and sound crew because not only will that cause phase cancellation issues, energy, and temperature issues but it sets them up for liability and insurance nightmares. The studio and journalists also won’t go for it because then they won’t have the sole copyright, there will be a plethora of distribution issues, and it would force them to be too damned honest).

Television — great for entertainment but a terrible way to receive information and select our leaders. Just FYI.

— G.K.

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.

What Is Power? What Is Real?

What Is Power? What Is Real?

As I alluded to in my previous post, recently, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on the nature of honor, power, and reality. The past two weeks I’ve had a lot of time to ponder over it as I spent time moving, looking for work, writing with either Star Trek: TNG or VOY in the background (or Criminal Minds), or screwing around at Khan Academy in their programming, physics, or algebra courses.

The fact that our entire society seems to have begun a psychotic break has given me even more food for thought as it were. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a flare up over the Confederate flag that has gotten so unhinged that several state governments as well as the federal government no longer fly the Mississippi state flag. On the heels of that came the Obergefell v. Hodges decision from the US Supreme Court which mandated legal recognition and issuance of licenses of same-sex couples in all fifty states which was okay but then, suddenly, it became a race to see who could be the sorest winner. Before people had time to process that, there were (provably false) accusations against Sir Tim Hunt that he was a sexist, then the shooting in Chattanooga that killed five Marines, the US giving Iran carte-blanche to develop nuclear weapons, and yet another salvo in the on-going war between the movie industry and the tech industry.

Truly, we live in interesting times.

But there are two thoughts that keep running through my mind right now. The first can be summed up in this quote:

Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

What this means is that governments — any and all governments — derive their powers from the people. Monarchies, republics, democracies, dictatorships, whatever; they all exist only so long as the populace agrees they exist and they only have the powers that the populace agrees that they have. Governments are a kind of mass consensual shared hallucination that a nation participates in because anarchy (or the brutal rule of the strong over the weak) sucks donkey balls. So, if tomorrow a sizable portion of the US populace woke up and decided they no longer believed in the current government (effectively withdrew their consent), the whole thing collapses. Oh, sure, they can try to use force (the military, the police, the alphabet bureaus) to batter people into consenting but that really only works short term (see also the USSR and the Eastern Bloc). It also only works if the military and police go along with it (which is not a sure thing) and if the populace is unable to fight back (also uncertain).

The disbelievers don’t even have to break the law, really. Just stop believing in the government. Note that I don’t say “consider it illegitimate” or “rebel” or “secede.” I say “stop believing.” If someone claiming to represent the government approaches a disbeliever, the disbeliever will be politely confused — much like the average person will be when a conspiracy theorist starts raving about how the Illuminati is behind Everything Bad In The World.

Does this mean that disbelievers don’t pay taxes? Well, that’s the tricky part. That’s the part I’m not sure about. Why? Because:

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

The simple fact is that, whether one believes it or not, the US government exists. And, even though not all of the police and military would use force to make disbelievers fall in line, enough of them would and enough people have a vested interest in keeping the government in existence (and the current crop in power) that merely disbelieving by itself probably wouldn’t be enough. Either a truly massive number of people would have to withdraw consent (at least 45%) and actively stop supporting the government by ceasing to pay all taxes as well as recognize and respect all symbols and claims of authority, an active rebellion would have to be launched (including setting up a parallel government), a governors’ convention of states would have to be called, or an enterprising intern could introduce a “technical amendment” in a bill that would effectively repeal the entirety of the federal legal code, all treaties, all judicial decisions, and all executive edicts issued since 1800. I would suggest sneaking it into one of those really big bills that no one reads anyway.

So, what can be done then, really? Well, sit back and really think about what “consent of the governed” means. It’s pretty revolutionary, actually, and it’s the seed we’ll be building from in the future as we keep exploring the nature of power and reality.

— G.K.

Matters of Honor, Power, and Illusions

Matters of Honor, Power, and Illusions

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about honor and rules when it comes to combat, debate, arguing, and society. I’ve half-written about a dozen entries on this so I decided to come back and do an intro since it’s going to be a pretty lengthy subject. Others have written about it before and a lot of what they’ve said is worth reading. However, recent events — the fight over the Hugos, the issue with white-washing the entire Civil War out of American history, the Balkanization of society, and so on, has made me do a lot of thinking which starts out around honor.

Basically, one side believes in honor and the other side believes in “the end justifies the means.” We’re not even really fighting over the same thing here and it’s taken me quite a while to realize it. It didn’t strike me until I was re-reading We and got to thinking about dystopian literature (which, of course, always leads back to Orwell’s 1984). This isn’t about freedom vs slavery, capitalism vs socialism, statism vs dynamism, red vs blue, Democrats vs Republicans — that’s all just a front. It’s all smoke and mirrors.

It’s about power. Who has it? Who’s going to keep it? What is power, really? And does it even truly exist or is it just another illusion? Is it just another shadow on Plato’s cavern wall? I honestly don’t know but it’s got all my little INT lights just a-flickering so I’m hoping some of you will stick around with me while I knock these ideas around. They’re not going to be perfect and I welcome honest discussion on the matter because I get the sense that this is something the Founding Fathers “got” intuitively. That power (outside of actual physical power — as in “laws of physics” kind of power) is just an illusion. It’s a kind of mass mutually-shared hallucination we participate in by agreement and if enough of us decide to stop playing the game — like in the Matrix — we might be able to bring the entire system into a state of crash or some kind of kernel panic.

It’d be interesting, at least. That is if I’m even anywhere near correct on this (which isn’t a given).

So, anyone up for it?

— G.K.

And then what?

And then what?

Right. In the wake of recent events, I’ve seen a lot of back-and-forth from both sides over What Must Be Done to Stop Bad Things From Ever Happening Again. So far everything from removing Lee’s banner from everywhere (including monuments about the Civil War) to removing the monuments themselves (because we can’t have anything that might seem to honor, commemorate, or hell, games or maps that might teach about the Civil War — a historical event) to actually getting rid of Gone With The Wind. Big chain stores like Wal-Mart and Amazon are pulling merchandise off their shelves that has the Stars and Bars on it (and that’s their right to decide what they carry) and smaller stores like Etsy are doing the same. They’re all still carrying crap with the Sickle and Hammer and Che and Mao on it but then, genocide, collectivization, and killing over 100,000,000 people isn’t such a terrible thing as slavery for $reasons.

Oh, and of course if we all turn in our guns, everything will be rainbows and puppies and unicorns forever. With sparkles.

So, I just have to ask, if we actually did all this — let’s say that tomorrow we wake up and every single Confederate flag is gone, every Mississippi State flag has been changed to the one below, every Confederate monument has been obliterated, every American history book has been altered to remove any reference to any cause for the Civil War that wasn’t slavery (and don’t get me wrong — slavery was the primary motive and it was an extremely lucrative business). Every single gun in the United States outside of the ones owned by the police and military forces and stored in their common armories has been magically changed into Play-Doh and somehow, a magical force field has been created that makes it impossible for any gun to ever be carried by anyone who isn’t a police officer or member of the military. Not only that, but every single copy of every single book written by Mark Twain, Margaret Mitchell, or any other “racist” writer or writer who glamorized the Confederacy in any way has been vaporized. None of it exists.


The new state flag combines the power of zebras, unicorns, ponies, and pure fucking awesome

So, then what? What happens the next time Some Asshole goes on a murder spree? Some guy with a knife managed to stab twenty-nine people in China. Do we ban knives next? (Some would say yes and in the UK, there are laws on just how long a bladed weapon you can carry and yes, screw-drivers and multi-tools do count). If he’s a racist asshole, do we mandate racial sensitivity re-training for everyone? How do we monitor to make certain that everyone has the “right” attitudes? If he used a bat or club instead, do we start banning baseball bats? Regulate sporting equipment? Make it illegal to pick up heavy sticks or break branches off trees? Would you have to get a license to become a carver or whittler just in case you might make a baseball bat or club? What if he used a shovel? Or what if he rigs up a homemade flamethrower using aerosol deodorant and cigarette lighters? Do we ban those?

What if he’s not racist but instead hates Jews? Or women? Or Mormons? Or Catholics? Or Baptists? Or southpaws? Or Trekkies? Which groups are protected and why? Which groups aren’t and why not? Who gets to decide? How do we monitor the thoughts the Asshole was having? Why do they matter more than the crime itself?

It’s already illegal to commit murder. Part of the definition of murder is “killing unlawfully.” The punishment for murder is one of the harshest we have on the books and yet Assholes still go out and commit it — just like other assholes go out and rape and steal. I’m not sure how many more laws we can put on the books, how many more kinds of things we can make illegal, how many more kinds of thoughts we can say are bad before we’ve finally thrown out everything we once stood for.

There were mass murders before there were guns. There were mass murders before there was a United States, let alone a Confederacy or racism or sexism or anything like that. If we get rid of of all those things, we’re still going to have mass murders. The question is this: and then what? What do we get rid of next? What do we blame after that?

And why are we blaming anything other than the person who made the decision to commit the act of murder?


All credit due to Randall Munroe, yo

— G.K.

Tom Knighton, a fellow Southerner, has some very interesting thoughts on this as well
When the descendant of an unreconstructed Unionist descended (on the maternal side) from a sternly Abolitionist Pennsylvania Quaker decides that maybe he wants to get the Rebel flag and start flying it, maybe you’ve overplayed your hand…

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