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Choosing “Sides”

“I am not doing it because I was pressured by anyone either way or on any ‘side.’” -[Author]

“[Author] is everything any good leftist could ever want in a Hugo nominee, and they got hounded off the ballot by the LEFT.” -Brad Torgersen

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I’m conflicted about starting this post with those particular quotes. A handful of people have withdrawn their names from the Hugo ballot, and have asked to be left out of the anger and arguments, which I can certainly understand. I removed the name of the author in question because I don’t want them getting dragged into my rant here. But at the same time, this pair of quotes is one of the best illustrations of something I’ve been frustrated with for years.

I am so damn tired of the insistence on shoving everyone and everything into an artificial “Us vs. Them” framework. The Puppies thing is just the latest example. The only clearly defined “side” in this mess is the puppies themselves, and even that’s a slippery argument. Is Theodore Beale of the Rabid Puppies on the same side as Brad Torgersen and Larry Correia? Correia suggests they are: “Look at it like this. I’m Churchill. Brad is FDR. We wound up on the same side as Stalin.” But what about the commenters? Can people support some of what the puppies said they wanted — say, greater awareness of tie-in work in Hugo nominations — without having to swear allegiance to all things rabid?

What about the people on the respective puppy ballots? Is Sheila Gilbert of DAW on the puppies’ “side”? (Given that she has basically zero online presence, and that I’ve chatted with her about this, I can state for a fact that she was not contacted about being on any slate, nor did she know anything about it.) What about the creators of The Flash? Mike Resnick was on the slate, but has spoken out against the kind of bloc voting the puppies represented. (I’m unable to find the link where I read his comments on this, however.) Does choosing not to remove yourself from the slate or ballot mean you’re in lockstep agreement with Beale, Torgersen, and Correia?

I keep coming across commentary and arguments that assume you have to be either pro-puppy or anti-puppy. In broader discussions, you’re either us or you’re the enemy. Left or Right. Puppy or CHORF. Lately, I’m seeing more accusations of blacklists and gatekeepers and people’s careers being hurt because of their politics or beliefs or whatever, because some publishers are for Us and some are for Them, and you can’t succeed in this business without swearing allegiance to the Evil Gun Nuts of Baen or the Evil Tree-hugging Lib’ruls of Tor.

To be honest, that last bit is funny as hell. Baen publishes folks like Eric Flint and Lois McMaster Bujold. Jim Baen wanted to buy my very first book, and Baen continues to buy my shorter work for some of their anthologies. Then there’s Tor, which publishes Rabid Puppy darling John C. Wright, as well as Hugo award-winning author Orson Scott Card.

The “Us vs. Them” framework does nobody any favors. It’s simplistic, childish thinking. Pointing out that a particular author is a homophobic bigot based on things he’s said? Fair enough. Accusing anyone who likes said author’s work of being a homophobic bigot? Sorry, no. Torgersen and Correia have gotten a lot of ugliness hurled their way in all this — some of it has been truthful, and right on par with what they’ve been hurling, but some has been absolutely over-the-line and unacceptable.

I’ve talked to conservative friends who’ve described various microaggressions and flat-out attacks toward them and/or their religious beliefs. I’ve been attacked for beliefs I don’t have, simply because someone assumed I was on the other side. More recently, when I criticized the Sad Puppy slate on Twitter, I had someone accuse me of being a child molester. I spoke out against GamerGate and got a doxxing threat in my email within the hour. Then there’s the editor on the Sad Puppy ballot who publicly blacklisted and badmouthed me and a few other authors for not being on his “side”…

And I don’t get a fraction of the abuse, harassment, threats, and worse that people in more marginalized groups do, simply for daring to exist and speak out. Simply because people decided they were “Them,” and therefore fair targets for abuse and hate.

I know some of the Sad Puppies desperately want there to be some kind of Social Justice Warrior Conspiracy that’s been manipulating the Hugos and persecuting them for years, because that creates a simple narrative with them as the feisty rebels striking a blow against the Evil Empire. But there’s been zero evidence for it. Correia himself said he’d audited the Hugos a few years back and found no sign of anything suspect.

Are there systemic problems that permeate the genre, and our cultures in general? Of course. Malinda Lo has done a tremendous amount of work and analysis of diversity in fiction and the overall lack thereof. That doesn’t mean everyone has to be drafted into one of two like-minded armies of Pro-Diversity and Anti-Diversity warriors.

Some of the problems are linguistic. Hugo-nominated author Eric James Stone said recently, “In my opinion, accusing someone of racism is one of the severest charges one can make against someone’s moral character.” I disagree. I’ve absorbed the racism, sexism, and homophobia of my culture for almost as long as I’ve existed. I blogged about that a bit back in 2010. It took me years to recognize my own problematic attitudes, and to start actively working to change them. If I say I believe someone is being racist, I don’t see it as the severest charge against their character; I see it as recognizing we’re all imperfect beings who should be working to do better. (I recommend reading Stone’s entire post. I don’t agree with everything he says, but he has some good and valid points.)

MCA Hogarth talks about fear of being attacked for being one of Them, of deprecation and insults and criticism that generalize from “This individual is a nasty, bigoted human being” to “Christians and Republicans are the Enemy.” Once again, I don’t agree with everything she says — I’m particularly skeptical that anyone has the power to destroy a career with one Tweet — but I also think the fears she talks about are real and valid and worth thinking about. In many contexts in the U.S., to be Christian or Republican is to be the majority. To have power. But contexts vary, and this isn’t always the case in SF/F and fandom.

Part of my anger at Torgersen and Correia is because I feel like they deliberately encouraged this Us vs. Them mentality in order to win support and votes. They invented an evil cabal of “Them,” then rallied people to join their side against this fictitious enemy. Which only increases the abuse and the hatred. And please note: I’m angry at them as individuals, not because they’re conservative, or because of their views on gun control, or because they might have a different religious belief than I do. I’m angry because whatever problems were out there, these two individuals actively made them worse, and they hurt a great many people in the process. Themselves included.

Fandom is not two distinct sides. It’s a bunch of people who like things in a really big genre, a genre that has guns and spaceships and dinosaurs and dragons and magic and manly men and genderfluid protagonists and grittiness and erotica and humor and hard-core feminism and sexism and racism and hope and stereotypes and anger and messages and politics and fluff and were-jaguars and superheroes and so much more.

Criticism is not war. Choosing not to read or support things you don’t like isn’t censorship. Liking something problematic doesn’t make you a bad person.

We’re not perfect. And we’re going to keep arguing and fighting amongst ourselves. It’s part of being human. It’s part of being a fan. We’re really freaking passionate about the things we love. (If you diss Season Four of Legend of Korra, then hell yeah I’m gonna argue with you!)

But I swear, the next time I see someone arguing not against what someone said or did, but against their own imagined cardboard caricature of “Them,” I swear by Asimov’s Mighty Muttonchops I’m gonna feed that person to a goblin.

As always, I’ll be moderating comments if necessary — not based on what imaginary “side” you’re on, but based on whether or not you’re acting like an asshole in my space.

ETA: I’ve made several minor edits for clarity since this post went live.

Saturday Author Event in Grand Ledge

This coming Saturday, I’ll be part of Michigan Authors on the Grand from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Main Branch of the Grand Ledge Area District Library. It looks like there will be at least sixteen of us hanging out to chat and network and sign books and so on.

Michigan Authors on the Grand

I’ve never done this one before, so I don’t know exactly what to expect. There could be giant mutant badgers battling bionic warrior squirrels from the twenty-eighth dimension! And also raffles! Definitely one of those…

It’s Alive!

My web host, SFF.net, has been down for close to a week while they wait for Verizon to fix … I don’t even know anymore. SFF.net has been posting updates over on Twitter, and it sounds like things still aren’t completely fixed yet, but they’ve hotwired some servers or duct taped some fiber optics together to get most of their services working.

So, some stuff to catch up on…

Transformers: Age of Extinction: I said I’d livetweet this movie if y’all raised at least $500 for RAINN and other rape crisis centers. So far, people have contributed closer to $600, so I sat down and subjected myself to almost three hours of Michael Bay’s vision on Saturday. The results are all collected on Storify. Note to self: next time, ask for more money…

Book Stuff: I’ve signed and returned contracts for a Spanish edition of all four Magic ex Libris books, to be published in Latin America. Which is pretty darn cool!

Invisible 2: Page proofs will be going out to contributors soon. I’ve also seen a draft of the cover art, and I’m quite happy with it. So far, so good!

Hugo Awards: I started up a #HugoProposal tag on Twitter the other day, trying to create a bit of humor in the midst of this mess. Here’s one of my favorites:

Three Hugos for Mil-SF and their space marines;
Seven for the grimdark-lords in their halls of blood;
Nine for mortal fans doomed to blog;
One for Neil Gaiman on his dark throne
In the Land of Worldcon where the Shadows lie.

There’s more, including a bunch of book reviews I need to do, but I’m gonna go ahead and click “Publish” to make sure this goes up before Verizon breaks anything else.

Guest Post Roundup

My thanks to everyone who contributed to this year’s series of guest posts about representation in SF/F — both the authors of the essays and the commenters who joined the conversation. Between the seventeen posts and two bonus reprints I’ll be announcing later, it looks like Invisible 2 will have significantly more content than its predecessor, which is sweet. I’ve got contracts back from almost everyone involved, and I’m still hoping for a mid-May release.

In the meantime, here’s a roundup of all the guest posts from this year:

I received more than 60 pitches this year, which means I had to turn down a lot of good and important potential essays. Here are links to several of those essays that people went ahead and posted on their own sites.

Thanks again. These are important conversations, and speaking for myself, I continue to learn a great deal from all of you.

Back from Chicago

The kids had spring break last week, so we took a few days to drive down to Chicago and visit the Legoland Discovery Center, Shedd Aquarium, and Brookfield Zoo. It was fun to get away from work and various genre/internet wars for a little while.

Pictures are on Flickr, for those who care. Here are some of my favorites:

LEGO R2D2 Baby gorilla! Giraffes: Not so good at hide-and-seek.

Dolphin close-up Parrot kisses Bear hug!

Got home late Friday night, and spent the weekend working on page proof corrections for Fable: Blood of Heroes, doing an interview about the Sad/Rabid Puppies Hugo thing, putting together the rough ebook file for Invisible 2, drafting a new book to pitch to my editor at DAW, and getting through a few thousand more words of Revisionary.

And now I kind of want another vacation…

Rape Center Fundraising Update

Amount Raised So Far: $530

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This week is spring break for my kids, so I’ll mostly be away from the internet doing spring break stuff . Or, you know, as much spring break stuff as a 40-year-old geek is likely to do…

In the meantime, an update on the Bad Movie Fundraiser for Rape Crisis Centers. The goal is to raise at least $500 for RAINN or your local rape crisis center. So far, there have been a handful of donations, and we’re closing in on $100. (With two people who told me they donated, but didn’t provide an amount.)

If you want to get in on this, just email me at jim -at- jimchines.com letting me know how much you donated.

Once we get to $500, I shall subject myself to Transformers: Age of Extinction, and livetweet my thoughts for your amusement and entertainment. And possibly your sympathy.

Making that goal would be a lovely thing to come back to at the end of the week. I’m just saying…

Prime and Grimlock

10 Hugo Thoughts

The 2015 Hugo nominees were announced yesterday. As much of the internet has noted, the vast majority of the nominees come from the Sad and/or Rabid Puppies slates. Most reactions seem to fall into either anger/grief or gloating/triumph, with very little in between. Personally, I’m happy about a few of the nominees, intrigued by a couple, and rolling my eyes at others.

Some thoughts before I get back to writing…

1. The puppies broke the rules! Well, no. Putting forth an organized slate, recruiting GamerGaters and others who buy into the “War Against the SJWs, for FREEDOM!” nonsense is perfectly legal. Tacky and at times dishonest? Sure. But not against the rules.

2. The puppies are only doing what the Other Side did first! Some folks blame John Scalzi for starting this, but try as I might, I can’t find anything about his Bacon Kittens campaign to take the Hugos back from…I don’t even know. I’ve seen references to SJW conspiracies and secret meetings in smoke-filled rooms, again with no evidence whatsoever. Some people try to point to voting numbers as “proof” of organized campaigns, which…just no. (Kevin Standlee dismantles this one in the follow-up comment.) As far as I can tell, there’s a widespread assumption that the “other side” was somehow organizing secret campaigns and block-voting, and that assumption is being used to justify the puppies organizing a campaign and block-voting.

3. They’re destroying the genre! Whatever “they” you’re thinking of, I don’t buy it. The genre is so much bigger than the Hugos, Worldcon, GamerGate, and the rest. The majority of SF/F fans have only the vaguest awareness of what the Hugo is, let alone the in-fighting and politics and such. Don’t worry, the genre will be just fine.

4. They’re destroying the Hugos! There were claims that the Hugos could be gamed and manipulated, and I think the puppies have effectively proven that’s true, at least for the short list. Does this mean the Hugos are broken? Not necessarily. Does it mean the rules should be changed to make it more difficult to game the system? I don’t really have an opinion on that yet, though I’m sure there will be plenty of discussion in the near future…

5. People should read the works and judge based on quality/People should rank all puppy-related works below No Award. My thinking is that people should read and vote however they want to. If you prefer to read everything, go for it. But I’m not going to tell someone they should force themselves to read the work of someone who publicly denounces a prominent black author as an “ignorant half-savage,” or an author who refers to bisexuality as “sexual aberration.” And if organizing a slate is within the rules, so is choosing to put every item on that slate below No Award on the final ballot.

6. They’re just trying to expand the ballot and make it more inclusive/representative/diverse. I can see a little of that, if I squint. The puppies pushed to get a successful self-published author onto the ballot, for example. They talked about getting tie-in works nominated, but didn’t actually include any on their slate. They did give tie-in author Kevin J. Anderson his first Hugo nom for one of his original books. But if your campaign ends up putting the same author on the ballot in six different spots, then no, you weren’t looking very broadly for nominees. And far more of the comments and rhetoric seemed to be about sticking it to SJWs…

7. The people who asked to be removed from the puppy ballots did so out of fear of SJW attacks. That certainly plays well into the wag-the-dog-style “War Against the SJWs” rhetoric. If you’re interested in people’s actual reasons, Matthew David Surridge has a long and thoughtful post about why he declined to be on the slate. Dave Creek’s reasons for declining are on File770.

8. What about that one story about the dinosaur? Holy crap, some people are so fixated on the fact that Rachel Swirsky’s If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love got on the Hugo ballot last year. (It did not win.) That one story keeps getting pointed out as proof of everything that’s wrong with the Hugos/liberals/the genre/feminism/society/the universe. The amusing part is when the folks saying they want to tear down the mythical gatekeepers are simultaneously losing their shit because they don’t think a story counts as real SF/F.

9. Conservatives are evil! Liberals are evil! SJWs are narrowminded bigots! Right-wingers are narrowminded bigots! Look, all groups have their share of assholes. I do think the Sad Puppy clique has a disproportionate number of assholes, but sweeping generalizations are just…annoying. Can we not, please?

10. If you don’t vote, you can’t complain. Bullshit. Nobody should be required to cough up a minimum of $40 in order to have an opinion.

And that’s already more time than I wanted to spend on this today. I’m gonna go back to work on Revisionary now. Enjoy what’s left of your weekend, folks!

Reviewing a Bad Movie for a Good Cause

So we had a few days of movie channels last week, on of those preview things where they try to get you to increase the size of your television package. One of the movies was Transformers: Age of Extinction.

Now, I loved Transformers as a kid. I’ve watched the other Michael Bay movies, despite their badness, because they had Peter Cullen back as the voice of Optimus Prime. Also, they had Leonard Nimoy in the last one, and he made a Spock quote, which was cool.

I started watching Age of Extinction. Reader, this one was even worse.

After walking away, I got to thinking it could be fun* to livetweet a watching of this movie. And then someone suggested turning it into a fundraiser…

Did you know April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month?

I’ve reported on rape and sexual assault statistics before. The bottom line is that rape is too damn common, and our society still tends to be stuck on rape myths and victim-blaming, not to mention putting the burden on women to solve a crime committed primarily by men.

There are some good people and organizations out there working to educate the public about rape, and to support survivors.

So here’s the deal. If y’all donate at least $500 total to your local rape crisis centers, I’ll subject myself to this movie and livetweet the experience for your entertainment. I’ll post the tweets on the blog as well.

If you don’t have a local crisis center, you can also donate to RAINN or another national organization working to support survivors.

Just email me at jim -at- jimchines.com and let me know how much you donated. If you give more than $100, I’ll ask you to include a copy of the receipt or acknowledgements. Given the number of awesome people who read and hang out here, I’m pretty sure we can hit that $500 mark and then some.

If we go ridiculously over that goal, I’ll throw something else in. Maybe let the highest donor pick another horrible movie for me to review or something like that.

Any questions?


*Fun for you. Not so much for me…