Tempest in the Hugo Teapot

I’m finding the saga of the Hugo award nominations quite amusing – here’s some background: A Blow has been Struck Against Puppy-Related Sadness

And here are Vox’s thoughts on it. I have The Last Witchking on Kindle already, so I didn’t have to go download his nominated short story in order to re-read it. It amuses me that Vox is apparently far, far, far more hated than Larry The International Lord of Hate (lol). I’m also vindicated that Vox thinks Wheel of Time is terrible, since I had to stop reading the first volume before it ended up thrown at high velocity at the nearest wall. I’m a SF/F fan, but that thing made me so mad, and I suspect that the writing isn’t nearly good enough to support the excessively long book(s). (It’s the Mega-Bestseller Author Problem: no editor has the balls to tell them “Cut this, this, this, and this, and make this over here more succinct; you’re boring the readers.” The later Harry Potter novels definitely suffered from it. Also the Deathly Hallows movie Pt. 1. Somebody needs to edit that monster down to about 20 minutes’ runtime.) Maybe if I’d stumbled across it while I was still in high school and obsessively reading anything I could get my hands on, no matter how flawed (Sword of Shannara and sequels… I need say no more.) I would have been able to tolerate it. As it is, I have less than zero desire to read it, and I’d probably make a bonfire with the paperbacks if I could get away with it. Cultural disapproval of book-burning notwithstanding. (Somehow being able to download basically any book you want off the internet makes mass market paperbacks much less sacred.)

But seriously, the people running the Hugos don’t just have no idea how small the SF fandom is, they have no idea how small their own clique is within fandom. I’ve been a SF/F fan basically since I learned to read, and if somebody had walked up to me and asked me “Read any Hugo Award stories lately?” my response would have been something like “Huh? What’s a Hugo Award?” And if the hypothetical questioner had explained, I probably would have said, “Oh. That’s nice. No, no plans to read those.” Because as a voracious reader at the local library, I learned early that a book with a shiny “award” seal on the cover was no more likely to be a pleasing read than any other book chosen at random off the stacks. So I learned not to pay any attention to them.

I didn’t pay the $40 to become a “member” of WorldCon this year and thus be able to vote. I’m the kind of person who’d feel morally obligated to read each of the proposed entries, and I just don’t have the time or the tolerance for that. But if a book like Awake in the Night Land is eligible next year, I think I’m going to have to set aside the time for extra “assigned” reading – because that book is truly excellent. I’ll be doing a separate post on it soon!

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Shunning at work

Normally I would schedule this for tomorrow, but it was so apropos of my previous post, that I must link to it:

Behold, the “consequences” of free speech: a woman, offered an honor for which she is eminently worthy, suddenly snubbed, and given no opportunity to defend herself to her detractors, who acted behind the scenes, not daring to confront the woman they dared to dishonor.

“Shut up,” they explained, after stabbing her in the back.

I hope that there are enough alumni of Brandeis University who are yet honorable, that they will be able to treat B.U. as B.U. has treated a noble, courageous woman. Let their endowments be stripped from them, and none more granted; let every alumni who planned to donate to their alma mater refuse them so much as a penny from now on.

And if the entire staff of, and students majoring in, Women’s Studies at that university do not rise up in protest and stage sit-ins in the president’s office, well. What better way could they have devised to show themselves hypocrites? An oppressive patriarchy has LITERALLY silenced a women’s rights advocate. Where are the protests? The media circus as every feminist vows to quit Brandeis, unless they grovel in apology?

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Illegal speech?

XKCD has an interesting comic strip, about how it’s technically not a “1st Amendment” issue for people to shun you because you hold a different opinion. I presume this is a passive reference to the Eich debacle, in which a few loudmouths aggressively shunned some dude for something he did in the 90s and pressured him to quit his job. (And then a lot of people switched browsers, shunning Mozilla in return, but that didn’t get a lot of press time.)

As a matter of theoretical principle, I agree with this statement: also protected under the 1st Amendment is the freedom of association, which implies the freedom to shun someone, to hound them from your community, to do your level best to cast them out of your society so that they die, or not, far away from you and you don’t have to care one way or another.

That’s not very tolerant, though, now is it?

Here’s the thing: yes, speech has consequences. But there are certain people who have been using the power of government, and the abrogation of the freedom of association, to FORCE one side of a disagreement into the (metaphorical, in the First World) howling wilderness outside of the bounds of civilized human society. When one side holds the power of shunning, and then uses “tolerance” and “non-discrimination” and “freedom” to tell their ideological opponents that they don’t have the power of shunning… and then back that up with the power of government…

Yeah, we have a “free speech” problem. And a 1st Amendment problem, although that particular problem isn’t so much “free speech” as “free association.” If it were perfectly okay, in XKCD’s opinion, for small rural towns to shun and marginalize gays, deny them employment if they come out of the closet, refuse to associate with them, etc., then I would say, sure. Running people out of their jobs based on their private and/or political opinions is fine. Either tolerance is a virtue expected of everyone, or tribalism is a human trait acceptable for BOTH sides to use.

A fair and equal application of the principle of shunning would also lead to Balkinization and conflict as people become ever more polarized, segregated, and tribal; but hey, my side has lots of guns and ammo, so you know, I’m not really all that concerned. There are a lot of us, and we really did want to show tolerance to other opinions, but when the other opinion starts using shunning and ruination as social modes of pressure – after condemning shunning and social pressure as EVIL! - I think there’s a damn good chance that minority opinions are gonna be hogtied and tossed back into a closet. We’ll be lucky, in fact, if patches of totalitarian thought-control only toss people into closets.

Here’s the thing, though: closets really are “bad” places to be. I absolutely do believe that having to hide and pretend to be something you’re not in order to put food on your table, because otherwise (at best) everyone will ignore your existence and refuse to hire you – that’s terrible. Sarah Hoyt has written about how soul-destroying it was for her to have to be closeted while she was trying to make it in the publishing world, where one wrong opinion could have seen her blacklisted, unable to pursue her passions. (Thank goodness for indie – no writer who burns with the passion to write will ever have to face that decision again. The closet’s not so much “unlocked” as “blown to smithereens”!)

So I do believe in toleration for tiny minorities of Different People. But not, necessarily, affirmation. Hounding a person out of employment, if they live quietly and donate time or money to legitimate political processes, is repugnant to me. But the flip side has to be upheld: if hounding someone out for being a gay marriage supporter would be wrong, then so is hounding someone out for being a traditional marriage supporter. You can’t have your cake and eat it too – either toleration goes both ways, or we throw it out and admit that intolerance is an acceptable value for civil society.

Toleration would mean that Mozilla stood up for Eich the same way it would stand up for a gay employee, since his politics (from years ago, mind!) didn’t interfere with his work any more than a homosexual’s sexual orientation matters to how well his code compiles. The activists who whined about how they felt uncomfortable once Eich’s politics were hunted down and sniffed out (paparazzi/stalking, much?) certainly wouldn’t uphold the right of a company to allow a gay employee to “willingly resign under pressure” if his straight coworkers stalked his Facebook page, found out he was gay by digging for dirt (instead of from him being a disruptive element at the office), and then complained that working with a gay dude was a “hostile environment.” The very idea is laughable. Now if Eich had been known for actually discriminating against employees (or a gay employee were to sexually harass his coworkers), then a case could be easily made for pressuring that person to resign.

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Either uphold toleration for all, or accept that others can shun YOU, and no “special victim” card should apply.

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On Cover Art

Via John C. Wright’s blog, here’s a nice writeup of what to look for in good cover art. I don’t know why I personally find stuff like this so interesting, because (a) I’m not a writer (no, this blog really doesn’t count); (b) I don’t really intend to become a writer or a cover artist; and (c) the real kicker: I’m one of the Reader X types. I’m shallow, and you bet I judge a book by its cover. Even the Kindle books.

There is one exception, however, that proves that not all books with hideous cover art are bad. I really enjoy Kate Paulk’s Con series, which is basically humorous urban fantasy set at conventions, mysteries solved by a (good guy) vampire so that The Sci-Fi Convention Will Go On. As anime conventions were the closest I got to partying in college, I have fond memories of conventions filled with socially-awkward costumed nerds. (I haven’t been to any in a while, though.) But the first book? Its cover art is… well… I’m sorry, but you have to go look at it to understand. And if you like conventions, fantasy creatures, and/or mysteries, buy it while you’re there. ;)

You looked, right? It’s a good thing Kindle books don’t display the cover while you’re reading, because otherwise I’d’ve had to hide in shame while reading it. And it’s a great story! I bet my college anime-fan friends would like it! But there’s one little problem: they’re all artists. I can barely admit to having read and liked this thing sort-of-anonymously online. If I went around recommending it to people in person, they’d probably take one look at that cover and never pay attention to anything I recommend again. I mean, as fanart, that cover is great artwork. Captures the main character, his werewolf sidekick/friend, and two major supporting characters. As cover art? Augh, my eyes! Couldn’t you have picked something vaguely Dresden-Files-ish, Kate? Just swap backgrounds from “gritty and dark Chicago alley” to “hotel lobby with convention banner.” (I’m not an artist, unfortunately, or I’d take a stab at it myself. This makes everything I say armchair criticism, so anyone offended by my shallowness is certainly allowed to disregard everything I’ve complained about. But the genre convention for urban fantasy, as seen on the Amazon bestseller lists, is to have one person on the cover. You can have no people; at most, two people. I vote for vampire + werewolf sidekick.)

I should be wary of criticizing the art, actually, as Hoyt’s Huns might come over here and smack me with fish for disrespecting my elders and betters – I don’t recall if I ever read who painted the Amazon version of the cover, but it seems to be based on a similar cover that Sarah Hoyt herself did back in 2011. But since Sarah herself has been re-doing older covers, I think she’ll forgive the criticism (if she ever finds out about it; I’m only a lowly peon reader, after all). I hope.

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How to be a whiny sissy

Found on Facebook: a link to an article entitled, “Black lawmakers appeal to US Army over hairstyle ban,” claiming that the rules are “discriminatory” and ‘target women of color’.

If you suspected that these sixteen women legislators of the Congressional Black Caucus (and just how is the existence of the CBC not racist?) are whining bitches looking for special privileges based on race, you’d be right.

Also found on Facebook: a link to another article, on the same topic – only THIS one doesn’t cherry-pick the “banned hairstyle” images to make you think that the rules are targeting only black women. Oh hey, those are some really popular hairstyles for white women that are banned too! Looks like the rules aren’t specifically targeting black women, now are they? Headline fix: “Racist black Congresswomen demand special privileges for black soldiers!”

Look, if the complaint had been something like “The only approved hairstyle that would work in a black woman’s puffy hair would be to CHOP IT ALL OFF” then they would have a leg to stand on, since straight-haired women (unlike, for instance, all men in the military) are allowed to have long hair, as long as they put it up in an approved fashion. But what they’re really hoping for is special privileges for black women, now, after the fact, when the military didn’t just up and decide to change the rules without consulting any black women. If you read the second article, a black woman was IN CHARGE of the group that came up with the rules… in 2005. Why start making a fuss now? Obviously some pansy special-snowflake decided to complain. Maybe she was bored and was worried that no actual racist incidents had occurred recently, so she decided to make one up.

I just hope that she was some non-military person poking her nose in where it doesn’t belong (like, say, an academic) and not an actual military woman. Because complaining about fashion restrictions on the part of a soldier – especially this particular whine – is about as sensible as complaining that the military forbids you from wearing three-inch crimson acrylic nails studded with rhinestones while you’re in uniform. While you are a soldier, the military dictates what fashions are and are not permitted. That includes hairstyle. It doesn’t matter if that hairstyle has been passed down from mother to daughter for three thousand years in your ancestral homeland, if it doesn’t meet the military’s requirements, it’s banned. End of statement. Wear your hair like that when you’re out of uniform. If it’s difficult to switch, I’ll vaguely sympathize with your being stuck for a while, but seriously? Try being Caucasian and having an oily scalp that needs washing every few days and having to re-do your hairstyle EVERY. FREAKING. DAY. Unless you’re willing to shellac it with gooey hair products and then try to sleep on the dried shell. Cry me a river, black women. You’re not the only ones with hair problems. When I was in ROTC, I got so tired of it that I just cut my hair short! Which is the race-neutral option for any woman who doesn’t want an “approved” long-hair-updo option: cut your hair short. Just like the guys do. If you’re blessed by genetics, you might even turn out really cute with short hair.

Seriously. Women in the military, and especially black women in the military, need to call up these whiny women in office and tell them “STFU, you’re making us look bad!” You wanna know where prejudice against women in the military comes from? Congratulations, these non-military women just generated a ton more of it. If a woman can’t handle being told she has limited options for her hairstyle, she ain’t tough enough for the military!

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Shameless In-Group Promotion

Ok folks, now it’s time for conservatives to take a leaf out of the progressives’ playbook, and promote somebody because he’s Our Guy. Also, it helps that he’s a truly excellent writer, so we don’t even have to compromise on our principles of supporting quality over groupthink! /irony/

Larry Correia is Book Bombing John C. Wright’s new *coughfanficcompilationcough* Awake in the Night Land, which is basically a plot to have everyone buy the book on the same day so that it gets more exposure. I’m not personally familiar with the source material, which is a 1912 novel The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson. (This is undoubtedly because I’m badly educated. Mea culpa, and it’s on my list!) Of course, not being familiar with the source work has never stopped me from reading well-written fanfiction before, so I went out (to Amazon) and bought it! Even if I don’t really “get” the full effect of the stories before I read Hodgson’s book, I know I’m likely to enjoy these stories simply for Wright’s felicity with prose. I’m not really going to have time to read it today, alas – but if it rains tomorrow my plans will be washed out and I’ll suddenly have a bit of extra time!

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The Appetites

One of the repeated criticisms of Game that people (generally, trolls) will bring up is the idea that men changing their attitudes and habitual actions in order to become more attractive to women is somehow “immoral” or “deceptive.”

As if “molding one’s attitudes and habitual actions towards a desired goal” isn’t, you know, a pretty good basic definition of “growing up.” Who among those now called “adults” didn’t have temper tantrums as a child? Is the fact that adults don’t throw temper tantrums due to some strange miracle wherein adults suffer no frustrations in life? Duh, no. We learn to adjust our attitude in the face of frustration and to express ourselves in a socially acceptable manner. Do we all still wear diapers and require others to bathe us and choose our clothes for us as adults? No, we have taken on the habits of personal grooming as part of our development as people, and a failure in this area is going to swiftly result in social opprobrium.

Character, it is said by parents to frustrated children, is built. Out of inconvenience and pain, mostly, it seems.

Then, of course, is the accusation that changing one’s character in the pursuit of sex is somehow inherently degrading. Let’s be clear: that’s stupid Gnostic thought, based out of the false idea that physicality is inherently evil and only pure spirituality is good. Properly educated Christians don’t believe anything like that. (God said His creation was GOOD. He was talking about matter, not spirit!) But the trolls who trot this bit of foolishness out rarely go after any other appetite – when’s the last time that you saw someone decrying diets, on the grounds that attempting to change one’s eating habits for the goal of (pleasurable!) health is disreputable, downright bad? The very idea is ludicrous!

Sex is a human good. Can it be pursued in bad ways? Of course. Food is a good, too, but it also must be pursued in a good way (and boy, do I wish it were easier!).

But, of course, there’s a problem when a society arranges itself so as to promote poor behavior. Notice, in the comments, that livingtree2013 blames men, essentially for having sexual desire. That’s like casting blame on people for… getting hungry. Just, what? I mean seriously, what? That’s “all PIV sex is rape” levels of biological insanity. Look, just because women can get along fine without orgasms, that’s still biologically impossible for men. Literally. Biologically. Impossible. Ever heard of “nocturnal emissions”? That cropped up in the previous comment thread over at Dalrock’s, too, so LT has obviously not been paying attention either to human biology or to previous comment threads. Or she expects men to be happy with nothing more than wet dreams and masturbation, rather than human relationships. Or, you know, we could be really uncharitable and just assume both!

There’s nothing morally wrong about arranging one’s life to serve basic appetites, either for food or for sex. “If you don’t work, you don’t eat” is a very old canard; the same goes for sex, too – if a man doesn’t work for sex, he doesn’t get laid. And Dalrock’s point is that what men DO to “work” for sex is, in Western culture where consent of your partner is enshrined as sacred, entirely determined by women. So if men build their character in such a way as to become jerks in order to earn sex… ladies, it’s not their “fault.” It’s the sluts’ doing. And that’s why slut shaming has always been primarily done by women. The Sisterhood has stopped policing slutty behavior in large swathes of the population – and the proliferation of players and cads is the natural and inevitable result. Complaining about the degradation of men’s character as a result of this is a little ironic!

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