But that's not what I wanted to say. On Thursday the British public are voting on whether or not to leave the European Union. I have some thoughts.
Thought the first: This is why referedums are a bad bad bad bad idea. It's a complicated question, the results so complex and far reaching that even the best informed can struggle to understand them, and after 40+ years of integration the divorce can't be anything but terrible. The British people should not be settling a fight that's been going on inside the Tory Party for a generation, not for stakes like this.
Thought the second: There have been many things said about staying in or leaving, I'll come to some of them, but it's clear that the one that is hitting home is the idea of immigration and that it is too high. As the child of an immigrant, and as a current immigrant, I have found the turn of the discussion terrifying. Anybody who, without even thinking can say words to the effect of "I'm not a racist but..." needs to take a LONG hard look in a mirror. And while not all the members of the Leave Campaign are racists, all the racists are members of the Leave campaign, and what this has laid bare is that the facade of British reasonableness and open mindedness is just that, a facade slapped over some nasty petty thoughts.
Thought the third: most of the things people are complaining about re: Thought the second are actually related to decisions the British have made all on our own in Westminster without any help from the EU.
So, I stand firmly in the In camp. If you'd ask my 18 year old self the same question back in 1986, I'd probably have said, NO we're British! But then 18 year old me was a pain, I didn't like him either. I also did a lot of growing up and a lot of that growing up meant spending a lot of time travelling.
So here's the basics of my decision.
- There is no doubt the EU has flaws - no organization is without them. The British government in Westminster, with it's unelected upper house and weird electoral system which centralizes all the real power has flaws too
- Much is said of the democratic 'deficit' at the heart of the EU, but a dispassionate review of the way the EU works suggests that's nonsense - not understanding how the EU works isn't a reason to leave (see point 1 above)
- Immigration is uncontrolled... well as 2/3s of it is from outside the EU, I'm going to assume that we don't actually want to control it
- Leaving a 500m person single market is insanely stupid - we joined for a reason. We don't make that much that people want anymore and haven't done since before I was born. We live and die mostly on services trading and niche products. The City will lose the option for Euro trading (honestly, it will, the Germans already tried to take it away from them and failed because of, well, the EU) and with it a huge amount of money. I sold services in Europe before the bulk of the Maastricht Treaty came into force and trying to get people work in Europe was almost impossible, nobody wants to go back to that even if they think they do - my boss ended up pre-Lisbon dealing with the immigration service over 4 Polish software engineers coming to do a couple of weeks at a client site because the immigration officers said they were coming to work and wouldn't let them in... that's barely a decade ago
- Millions of Brits live and work in Europe and millions of them live in Britain - throwing all of those into limbo is going to be bad
- There are lots of things that have made life easier and better for everybody - roaming charges on phones, inter-bank transfer rules and restrictions on fees, rights to take holiday and so much more have come about because of the EU - if you think Michael Gove cares about such things I have a bridge for you...
- Where will borders be? In Northern Ireland? In France? We simply don't know - the ironic thing, especially with the border with France is that by leaving the EU we might actually make things worse for East Kent as the French might stop policing our border for us and just let migrants through
- Finally, the economic shock will be unlike nothing we have ever experienced and I include 2008 in that
Don't do it. Vote Remain. I did and I stand by it. Be proud to be British, but also be proud to be European.
Now it's last minute shopping and packing and general fiddling around with stuff ahead of Worldcon. That said, I've still got a few conference calls next week and probably a meeting with somebody who coincidentally will also be in Spokane, which is handy as I really need to close with them next week.
In other news, I just got upgraded for the flight to Spokane, all 45 minutes off it.
As I remarked on Facebook, the problem with negiating agressively with somebody who has nothing to lose, is that they might, in fact, decide that they have nothing to lose. It feels like we're at that point.
We could discuss that the Euro project was potentially doomed from the outset for various factors:
- currency union without political union is unstable - how do you impose rules on people who are doing stupid stuff with your largess
- Germany joined at the wrong part of it's business cycle when the value of the Mark was much lower than it had been, giving Germany a HUGE price advantage in the early stages
- expecting members of your currency to depress their economies and GDPs to avoid other members experiencing any relative inflation isn't the right way to do things
At the crux of this is the idea that as long as you live 'within your means' and pay down your debt, confidence and growth will return to your economy. The problem here is when your economy is running with 25-30% of the workforce unemployed, where does all the demand come from for there to be confidence? I got nothing - there isn't a way to do it.
It has been suggested to me that all this posturing is purely because the Germans, ECB and the Commission are ok with losing Greece, as long as it shows the Spanish, Italians and Irish that they better not think about breaking ranks. That feels potentially true especially after the tirade from the Commission Chair today where he basically demanded to know who the fuck these voters thought they were and what gave them any say in running their country?
Tables don't seem to be easy here, so I'll do what I can:
Total Ballots cast Best Novel | Novelette | Novella | Short Story
2009 - 629 | 373 | 337 | 448
2013 - 1113 |616 | 587 | 662
2014 - 1595 | 728 | 847 | 865
Unique Works Nominated Best Novel | Novelette | Novella | Short Story
2009 - 335 | 233 | 122 | 470
2013 - 475 | 252 | 135 | 569
2014 - 648 | 290 | 206 | 578
I've already covered the works garnering about 3% of the total votes and what happened to them.
Most interesting for me: the ratio of unique works nominated to the number of ballots cast for Best Novel has stayed REALLY very consistent over this whole time.
The actual ratio of people who vote for Best Novel and then vote for a short category is also relatively consistent. What is not consistent is effect on the works being nominated - relatively speaking fewer and fewer short stories are being nominated over time.
What is unclear to me is how many unique works are actually published in each category and how much of this is simply diminishing returns in a field that already was fairly widely read.
Either way, given these results and how often in recent years some of the short categories have struggled to get enough stories which hit 5% it's indicative of just how effective a strong 'slate' is and how little evidence there really is of much of one historically.
So 2011 is a clearer pre-puppy year, back in the bad old days when either middle-aged priviliged white men, or a sekrit cabal of Social Justice Warriors ruled the Hugos - it was also a smaller con, being in Australia.
As our pre-puppy, cSWM/SJW dominated reference we had 833 Ballots Cast for Best Novel, with 23 works up for consideration.
Each year, since then, the number of ballots cast has increased - interestingly, the number of books nominated has not, in fact, in each of the following years just 16 works have been nominated... meaning that the ratio of ballots to works has gone from 36:1 in 2011, to 100:1 last year... strike 1 for the puppies.
I next looked at the ratio of Best Novel nominations to nominations for the Short Story categories - interestingly, by and large they're relatively static - more or less half the people who nominate a book for Best Novel nominate a short.
But here's another thing, in the last Post Puppy year we had the following numbers:
Short Story: 17
Let's look at the state of play post puppy?
Short Story: 18-17-15
Apart from Short Story which hasn't changed, the number of individual works has actually fallen too.
One of the original puppy claims was that works were not getting onto the Hugo Ballot, this is certainly true, but the implication of the claim was they were not being nominated - the data doesn't support that. They were being nominated, they just didn't have enough people doing so.
The drive to get more people to nominate Puppy books has actually reduced the diversity and range of options being nominated, NOT, increased it. Which rather dismisses the idea that the puppies do not and have no voted the slate as a bloc and read their own things and made their own decisions - if they have been doing that, then actually they've been therefore reading pretty much the same stuff as the cSWM/SJW 'cabal'.
I'd be interested to look at the data going back, but on the face of it, the drive to get more people to nominate and increase numbers has actually had the reverse effect and that strong slates actually make things even worse.
EDIT 1: A puppy supporter has pointed out to me that 2012 was also pre-puppies too - I'd need somebody to check if that was around the time a lot of Book Bloggers were getting upset about cSWM domination of the event. Either way, it's interesting that despite an increase in the numbers of nominations, the numbers of works being nominated hasn't changed a lot with or without the Puppies. I would like pre-2011 data so we can see what the normalized ratios were pre Aussiecon.
EDIT 2: The data I'm seeing seems to cut off at about 3% of votes cast - so I don't actually have full nominations here, but the numbers making that cut off seem very very consistent year in and year out. Having more works spread out doesn't indicate much of a conspiracy. Just people tend to like the same things.
EDIT 3: It's really hard to pull out the numbers of unique works because they're not always given or not given in a format I can be arsed to pull out. However, interestingly a couple of things emerge:
- The ratio of ballots to unique works in Best Novel is constant at about 2 - you can increase the voters, they all seem to behave the same way - the number of works that make the 3% of the votes cast list that is conventionally shown dropped in 2011 and has stayed the same
- The Short Story categories have changed - if the ratios of votes to unqiue works had stayed constant then they'd have been 300+ unique works in one of the categories last year, instead there were only 200
There is also precious little evidence that there has really been any real concerted activity in the past to game the awards - but we knew that.
“I’m not a sociopath. As it happens, I’m actually unusually empathetic. I understand your pain. That’s why I gave you the opportunity to back down.”
That's Theodore Beale that is. I am minded of an old school TV serial killer, or TV style domestic abuse or something. "Why are you making me hurt you? Why don't you just do as I say?"
I have been reading all the Hugo entries, even the Puppies, both Sad and Rabid, and actually, until that and some choice stuff he's repeated today about Poll Taxes and how he gave 'us' a chance to back down, I've had to conclude I have to vote no to any fiction category that has his fingerprints on it, and I have to say sorry to Kary English if I meet her about that. OTOH she is up the for Campbell.
My father wasn't a very nice man and this is the sort of power game crap he'd pull at home after a bad day and after he was forced to retire on health grounds, when he didn't have a department at his beck and call at the Yard. He mellowed as he aged and our relationship was much better by the time he died, but that took many many years of him learnng to live with himself and without the power that he used to have. Mr Beale seems to crave that power and enjoys wielding it. Sad really.
Anyway, novel category is easy - Three Body #1, Goblin Emperor #2, Anciliary Sword #3, No Award #4. I am sad to say, I do not have any choice but to vote No Award #1 in the 3 other fiction categories. Only 2 of the stories felt like they should be there, and as one of them was the kind of 'message' fiction the Puppies claim to hate, I'm a bit lost over what they stand for.
Fan Writer is equally easy, anybody prepared to put their head over the parapet to take on that other blight on the face of SF&F, Requres Hate, is good with me.
Best Fanzine? No contest really :)
I'll be voting the Movie and 'TV' categories as if there wasn't a slate as I strongly suspect the slate effect is minimal in those because they do largely represent what people liked. I'm annoyed Predestination wasn't in the Movies - Heinlein people, your BFF? No? Too much icky cross-gender stuff? Sad.
Other observations from a few days of trying to avoid writing support docs (yes, the stuff they don't tell you in CEO school)...
- The Puppy supporters/sock puppets/sealions and so forth work from the same kind of talking points memos as does the American right. Today's word to use is 'Poll Tax'
- If I were Beale, and I get a lot of No Awards this year, I'll make damn sure my slate looks like a normal reading list full of the stuff he claims to hate, just to see if people will spit stuff they would otherwise like, because that way it can be about him!
- 'Slate' is not a complicated word in this context nor is 'breaking the spirit of the law' - watching the 'wahhh, we didn't break the rules why are you being mean to us?' stuff is stomach churning
- Having read, or tried to read, most of the short fiction - we have a SERIOUS mismatch in taste and expectation going on. Flow? Read like a bad Dragonlance rip off of somebodies clever D&D scenario. A couple started out well and then went down hill really fast - what happened to Hook and Back fill anyway? Turncoat? Less said the better. Neal Asher and Iain Banks could teach him a thing or two about writing AI battleships.
There's a complete gem in there from "Doug Wardell": http://monsterhunternation.
Are you suggesting that you thought everyone who voted the Sad Puppies slate read every work they nominated? If so, I think you’re naive.
There's more in there too - including somebody who nominated Kloos so they could get the second book free....
Because one of the charges I have seen hurled around is 'at least we [puppies] read the books we nominated unlike you', I thought I'd see what all the fuss is about. I'm not a huge Butcher fan, I've read a couple of Dresden books but it's not really my thing. I have read an Andersen, and been on a panel with his wife, and I can't imagine he's not a decent writer - he's been a jobbing author for a while now but I'm not sure I want to dive into the first book of a new series following on from a previous series... so I bought a copy of Marko Kloos Lines of Departure.
I wanted to keep an open mind, I wanted to be fair, simply put I didn't want to dislike this as much as I did. Actually, strike that, dislike is too strong there. It's just not terribly good - not completely bad, but still.
One of the claims of the Puppies is that they want 'good' stories that hark back to some mythical Golden Age - well, this certainly felt like it could have been writen in the 1960s, that's for sure. The protagonist, a weapons specialist, has worked as a Neural Systems operator - except that the neural systems in this future don't appear to do anything that computers do now, in fact, I'd argue they seem dumber, as do the people, more on that in a moment.
It felt like Aliens fanfic - the tech level is roughly late 20th century, except for the giant spaceships and the Albucurie 'shute' which functions as some kind of 'tram line' FTL system, but there's no background to that, nor any description how they get the 'chutes' in place. The aliens are inscrutable, although 80 foot tall aliens weighing 1000 'metric tons' that move around in 1 gee environments did give me a pause for thought - how does their nervous system work? How do they manage to move around without spending all day eating and so on...
The Earth is a ruin, the population of the US is 3 billion, the world is over 30 billion - nothing is said on how that happened, just that it has. All the money has been spent on extra-solar colonization for getting people off planet and getting resources in... yes, I typed that correctly. They're importing ores and other materials from outside of the solar system.
Some years before the story, the 'lankies' turn up and start terraforming planets we've colonized and they can't be stopped - until one of the people on a planet they capture/liberate (bit vague and I was skimming by now) from the Sino-Russians (yeah, there's still time for a turf war between us and the damn commies) remembers some school physics or a Larry Niven short and suggests they use spacecraft as kinetic weapons. Seriously, they've been losing a war for this long but the scientists chides the solider for thinking like military people and not like a scientist. Honestly, the dialog is in there...
The story isn't good. It isn't original. It's part of a series. The characters are barely two dimensional - but hey, there's a woman as a staff sergeant, so, ummm, equality! The science is bad (...the debris cloud accelerated at a quarter gee...) - frankly, this book has no right being on a Hugo list.
In Amazon it was compared to Old Man's War. I didn't much like Old Man's War but I read it. This is nothing like Old Mans War - in comparison, OMW is literature :(
I challenge ANYBODY who read this to come here and explain what they saw there that made them think that this was worthy of being on the Hugo list other than Marko is a good guy?
That would be from a novel nominated for Best Novel that I just read.
That was just before a scientist works out that kinetic energy weapons are all that they need to stop the aliens... Weirdly this is several years into the war and nobody thought of it.
Nothing, I got nothing. :(
So Wright is in, and who is out? James S.A. Corey. Emily St. John Mandel. John Scalzi (of course). THREE BODY PROBLEM. Joe Abercrombie. Larry Niven. Greg Bear. Daniel Abraham. John Varley. William Gibson. Joe Haldeman. Greg Benford. Lev Grossman. Stephen King. No damned good stories there. I guess. No real science fiction, no exciting fantasy, nothing entertaining or commercial, just pretentious left-wing literary crap, right?
Read the whole thing here.
I do vary from time to time and will read work outside of those.
A commenter said 'so you discount 90% of the works out of the gate?' - actually, no, no I don't. In a typical year it would discount 2/5's of the works....
2005 – 5/5 – and I’m still ‘butthurt’ about that result
2006 – 4/5
2007 – 3/5 but I did read all 5 and I just realized I’m wrong, I’ve had 2 winners… Rainbows End
2008 – 5/5
2009 – 3/5
2010 – 5/6
2011 – 3/5 – NB: I did break my rules because I voted for and ranked the Zombie book because I found I liked it… I have discounted all the subsequent ones….
2012 – 3/5
2013 – 3/5 – did read the Fantasy, as I probably will do this year, didn’t like, actually didn’t like any of them
2014 – 2/5
It has been pointed out to me that for 2014 I actually broke those rules as you can argue the Leckie and Stross are 'series' novels - although given that in my defense I didn't know that about Ancilliary Justice at the time and given that while the Stross was in a universe he had used before, it was a stand alone novel with none of the same characters nor setting. But still, yes, actually by my personal rules 2014 should have been a 0/5 year. The first ever until now.
As I just said to the Puppies. I wonder what changed.
Seriously, he forgot to mention all the abuse, the fights, the people walking out on him, the fights with drunks at room parties... He apparently only remembers them now.
So, when I read the charge 'the Awards are all for the wrong stuff' or 'recently the awards have been for touchy feely stuff' or variations on that theme, and I look at the actual shortlists and winners and no obvious patterns emerge, and, in fact, they appear to be largely representative of the stuff I read or was aware of, or was well known of then that charge fails.
Good Writers are Being Overlooked!!!!
So I looked at the slate again and looked at some of the people. We have an Urban Fantasy from a best seller author who sells buckets of books. Good for him, but is the Hugo really an award for selling buckets? I mean, yes, it has been, but not always. Ask George RR Martin or Terry Pratchett, a man so overlooked by Worldcon Fandom he was only a Guest of Honour….
So the Puppies claim, in some respects to speak for me, but one of their slate novels is described as 'Akin to Old Man's War!' - now, for me that isn't much of an accolade - I mean I read it, it was alright, it wasn't anything new or special, probably didn't deserve the nomination, but we'll come onto that later. But it's not a bit of praise on Amazon that is going to make me click 'Buy Now'.
They Did It First!!!!
The thing is, there is a world of difference between 'hey, I wrote this vote for me! And here is a list of other things you might like' and 'Here is a list of works in each category that you should nominate.' - if you can’t process that difference then stop reading, you're a fucking idiot and I don't have to be nice to you.
Scalzi was recommended by noted extreme liberal Glenn Reynolds for Old Man's War, a fairly run of the mill MilSF novel which was no great shakes, in my opinion, filled an afternoon but not much more. It seems to have come as a shock to some 'fellow travelers' in that space that by their standards Scalzi is a flaming liberal. Then again, these are people who have basically accused me of being left wing too, which amuses me all the way to the depths of my capitalist little heart.
Where are the greats?!?!?
This has ZERO to do with a culture war, this has everything to do with butt hurt from not getting the respect you think you're due from your peers. Well sorry mate, that gets earned.
So what to do?
Meanwhile, giants in the field, men such as Terry Pratchett, may he rest in peace, of Jim Butcher, long may his pen unleash the wild magic, go unnoticed and scorned
Ignoring for a moment that Jim Bitcher isn't really a giant in the field and that Terry Pratchett wasn't scorned,when he was the same person who wrote this steaming crap?
"So I felt, listening to the sweet applause my fellow men gave to a vile crime, adoring it: and they saluted suicide and called it a civil right, and called brave the procurer pimping for the cause of suicide.
On the day I heard the genial writer speak, and urge the earth toward euthanasia, and heard the room applaud, on that day I felt the world slide downward an inch toward the eager fires below. One more inch."
What a turd.