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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/01/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 44, Whole Number 1856
Table of Contents
Yet More Hugo Nominations Changes and Sasquan (Worldcon) Membership (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
In the "Best Editor, Short Form" category, Edmund Schubert has withdrawn himself from consideration. However, as previously noted, Sasquan has said that the ballot had already been sent to the printers, so it will appear on the ballot. Sasquan has stated that they will note this and the "Black Gate" withdrawals on the on-line Hugo form, though the list of nominees will not be changed.
Sasquan has seen a huge jump in membership, particularly Supporting Membership, since all the Hugo stories hit the newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc. They sold 1000 memberships in the last two weeks, going from 7000 to 8000 members. They have members on five continents, and even have one member in space (on the ISS)!
What all this means--AND THIS IS WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO ME--is that the Hugo used to be an award voted on by people who attended Worldcon, with the small number of Supporting Memberships being people who often went to Worldcon, but could not go in a particular year. What it has become this year is an award voted on by people who are willing to pony up $40 to be able to vote on the Hugos and to get "The Packet" (which, trust me, is a big incentive for many), but have no interest in Worldcon at all. [-ecl]
The Puppy Crisis (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Many of you are probably aware that there has been a major brouhaha over the Hugo Awards this year. Up to the present the mainstream has sort of ignored science fiction fandom and its awards. Science fiction fans were considered by many to be nuts who genuinely believe in all the things that are written about in science fiction stories: time travel, aliens in UFOs, psychic powers, humans with mutant super powers, etc. The mainstream did not know much about the purpose of science fiction and those of us in science fiction fandom were content to let the mainstream sleep.
This year is different. A small group of politically motivated supporting and attending members of the upcoming World Science Fiction Convention decided to vote as a block to nominate fiction that is favorable to their political point of view. This bothers many of the people in the science fiction community. Now major news and opinion magazines are weighing in on the argument, or at the very least covering it. These are major national magazines like THE ATLANTIC and THE NEW REPUBLIC.
THE ATLANTIC: http://tinyurl.com/mtv-atlantic
THE NEW REPUBLIC: http://tinyurl.com/mtv-republic
One rather assumes that these magazines had science fiction fans on their staffs all along, but their science fiction community politics rarely if ever was covered.
But for better or for worse, this is my opinion of the controversy.
I think a lot of people have given in to a myth. The myth is what I think is a basic misunderstanding about what the awards are. In the case of the Hugo awards, the myth is that the fans have gotten together to pick God's anointed best science fiction pieces published over the previous year in each category. Once they pick the stories democratically chosen by mutual consent to be the best they--the fans--have spoken. What they have chosen is God's Anointed choice. It works like the selection of the new Pope.
Pardon me but that is not what happens when a novel wins a Hugo. The Hugo Award is not about the book; it is about the voters. In this case it is about the attending and supporting members of the upcoming World Science Fiction Convention. We all pretend that this is a reasonable set of people to judge and decide the question. We have pretended that for years. But they cannot make a book be the best novel. They can only decide as a popularity poll what book they most want to see win. Their choice tells you about them. It tells you something about the minds of the people, but voters do not make best novels. Writers make them.
What we can tell about the so-called Sad Puppies Affair is that the demographics of the voters have changed. It may be permanent or it may be just this year. There is more science fiction available today than there was in the "old days." People who want to push their agenda can block-vote in an attempt to get a plurality. There will be a handful of fans who might vote for the best alternate history novel. Others will like some new military science fiction novel. Someone else will like a good hard-science SF story. There are not that many fans who attend and/or support the upcoming World Convention. The fans are spread thin over a large landscape of types of science fiction. It does not take a lot of people to form into a voting block and tower over that landscape.
And even if the voters form a voting block they cannot make their choice the best novel. Winning the Best Novel Hugo just means there were a bunch of fans who wanted this particular book to be recommended by the science fiction fandom community. That was all the Hugo has ever meant. It is a statement about demographics and not one about superior writing quality.
I have friends and family members whose political views are quite different from mine. When I am reminded of what their views are I may think negatively of their opinions, but I do not want to restrict their ability to express themselves. When I see ideas I do not agree with in the books that won the Hugo, I say to myself that is just an opposing point of view. In the New Republic article mentioned above Connie Willis says, "When I heard about this, I was sick at the thought of what they'd done and at all the damage they'd cause." Somehow I am not seeing all of the damage. If the voting rules are broken people will remember 2015 as one year with quirky Hugo winner choices. But it certainly would not be the first year for that. If the voting rules are broken they should be fixed. If they cannot be fixed, perhaps they were not broken to start with. Perhaps the demographic of voters has changed.
I guess my main point is that I probably would like to see the voting rules repaired so that takeovers of the Hugos could not be repeated, but I do not feel that irreparable harm has been done to the Hugo Awards itself. This would not be the first year that I did not care for all the Hugo winners. I will just remember that in 2015 the convention membership had a bunch of voters who gamed the system.
At worst there will be some novel out there that people I disagree with wanted to call attention to. They either have different taste from mine or perhaps they were just buying advertising space. In either case I do not see what hard has resulted from the incident and if there was harm, the worst thing that can be done is make a fuss and call attention to it.
Meanwhile I have heard that in this whole votes race this year's Worldcon has sold as of this writing 4183 supporting memberships at $40 a crack. That is about three times the number that the Chicago Worldcon got in 2012. That ain't hay.
But don't trust my opinion. I was the guy who didn't care about losing Pluto as a planet. [-mrl]
EX MACHINA (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: EX MACHINA is written and directed by Alex Garland. From the world's most powerful Internet company, Caleb, a software engineer, has been chosen to spend a week as a guest of Nathan, the company's reclusive founder. Nathan is a technical and entrepreneurial genius who lives and works at a highly secluded house and lab. There Caleb finds that during his visit he will be asked to talk with a robot to determine if it is truly conscious or just a machine. Bits and ideas in the story are borrowed from FRANKENSTEIN, BLADE RUNNER, HER, and even from film noir. When the story is all over there has been surprisingly little story told, but the viewer will have been privy to some very sophisticated philosophical ideas. This is a film that respects the thinking ability of the viewer, and if the intelligence is there it will be rewarded. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10
BlueBook is the most successful search engine in the world after having been created by the mega-wealthy and reclusive CEO Nathan (played by Oscar Isaac). Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is a young software developer at Bluebook who wins a company contest for programmers. He will get to spend a week with Nathan at Nathan's gorgeous and isolated home. What he does not know is that he is needed for an experiment. Nathan has a robot Ava (Alicia Vikander) with mostly human features. She may also have actual consciousness or she might be only a computer. Nathan has brought Caleb all this way to have daily interview sessions with Ava and at the end of the week, Caleb will be asked if Ava is still just an automatic computer or if she actually has consciousness. From there EX MACHINA had a plot that could have come from thirty-minute Twilight Zone, but it is peppered with philosophical dialog about the nature of computer intelligence and what it will mean to humanity.
We see a little of what makes Nathan tick. He is a vulgar alcoholic and he does little to cover this up for Caleb. No doubt a genius, he has mostly burned out knocking his head on the complex question of the nature of human consciousness. It is a puzzle for the viewer to understand just how human Ava is and what does that even mean? She is maddeningly unemotional and that keeps her true self hidden. We see both though Caleb's eyes. His personality is the least developed of the three. His passions are software coding and logic, and he seems to have no other life.
The viewer is drawn into discussions of topics such as computer awareness or whether a computer need a gender. There are interesting touches. Just as Nathan created Ava, Nathan created this complex computerized house. Having created the house, he is its master. But for a short sequence in film Nathan loses the authority to master the house and the house becomes the boss. Can the house master its own creator?
The story, written and directed by Alex Garland (who wrote 28 DAYS LATER, SUNSHINE, and NEVER LET ME GO), unfolds slowly and precisely among some cutting edge ideas. It captures the viewer visually with its cold colors of blue and gray. Garland stays away from any warmth. Occasionally there is a thrumming on the soundtrack as if there is some machine controlling even the supposedly free willed humans. It was filmed in Norway among stone mountains and cold, snowy scenery.
This is a science fiction film that is mostly a cold exercise in philosophy. It is slow and deliberate. Somehow it is appropriate that this film should be released by Universal, the company that 84 years ago began the original Frankenstein series. This is also a film about humans creating the essence of life, but this time on a chip. This is science fiction without explosions, unless they are explosions of ideas. I rate EX MACHINA a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 9/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0470752/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/ex_machina/
THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY OF THE YEAR VOLUME NINE edited by Jonathan Strahan (copyright 2015, Solaris, 624pp, paperback, ISBN-13 978-1781083093) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Joe Karpierz):
I've been reading more short fiction recently. I've often wanted to read more short fiction, but never seemed to find a way to get interested in doing it. However, now that I've been travelling for work fairly frequently, I find anthologies and short story collections are easier to read, as I don't feel as if I need to read a large chunk of a book to make any progress. I can read a story or two, and stop when it's convenient. I can stop at the end of a story as the plane is about to land (Yes, I know, I can do the same thing at the end of a chapter, but what do you do when you're reading a book that has massively long chapters?). Of course, the downside is that I can stop at the end of a story and not pick the book up for quite a while, which results in not finishing a book for several months.
Once again, in an effort to just maybe get ahead of the Hugo short-list game, I decided to read the latest in the series of Jonathan Strahan's "The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year". This one is volume 9, covering stories that were published in 2014. As with any anthology, the stories are of varying quality, but there are no bad stories here. Strahan, an editor who reads short fiction voraciously, is a veteran and accomplished compiler of anthologies, and once again he does not disappoint. The roster of authors present in this volume reads like a who's who of science fiction and fantasy short story writers, as you might expect. And the stories themselves are a reflection of those authors' abilities and reputation. I really don't know where to begin, so this may ramble a bit.
Starting with the science fiction, as that is my first love, Peter Watts gives us "Collateral", a story of a military cyborg who feels deep remorse over accidentally killing a group of innocent people she mistook as the enemy. The story becomes one of morality and ethics as, after Becker undergoes some work to deal with the remorse that is crippling her, she makes a very interesting decision regarding a freelance journalist who is doing a piece on her. Elizabeth Bear's "Covenant" follows a convicted murderer is given a new identity in part by not only undergoing a gender transformation from male to female, but having his brain functioning "corrected" to remove the bad stuff, while still remembering everything he did in the past. Bear then turns the tables on the character as she is put in the same position as many of her prior victims were. "Ten Rules for Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (The Successful Kind), by Kelly Link, is an amusing tale that gives us the story title's advice in the form of a story about a smuggling operation gone horribly wrong. "Amicae Aeternum", by Ellen Klages is a brief but heartwarming tale of a young girl who is about to embark upon a voyage in a generational starship and how she spends her last day on Earth. Rachel Swirsky's "Grande Jete (The Great Leap)" is a gut wrenching tale about a man who is building an android-like replacement for his daughter while she is still alive; it is an interesting study of the reactions of all three entities involved: the father, the daughter, and the replacement.
There is no shortage of terrific fantasy stories here. Nicola Griffith's "Cold Wind" follows a woman who has been tracking down another woman for years. It is a story that gives us a bit of a different meaning to the words predator and prey. "The Scrivener", by Eleanor Arnason, is an old fashioned fairy tale in a somewhat modern setting, involving a father, his three daughters who he wants to become writers, a critic, and a witch in a forest. It's a very nice read. Ellen Klages (yep, her second story of the anthology) gives us "Caligo Lane", about a mysterious street in San Francisco and the mystical woman who lives on it. "Tough Times All Over", by Joe Abercrombie, is a just plain fun story of the comings and goings of a mysterious object and all the folks who are interconnected because they all want it. It's light-hearted and amusing, and well worth the read even if you can see where it's going, in spots, a mile away. Michael Swanwick's "Tawny Petticoats" may be steampunk, but it feels more like a fantasy (well, it does to me, anyway) about a scam that doesn't quite work out the way it was supposed to. Garth Nix delivers "Shay Corsham Worsted", a story about a demon-like monster (I suppose that's redundant) and his watcher, and what goes horribly wrong when the government just doesn't listen (Funny, some things never change). It's terrifying to think that while these particular set of circumstances could not happen in real life, the government screwing up something important that they themselves set up could actually happen today and really throw things into a big mess.
There are some other stories that don't quite fit into either of those categories, but are terrific nonetheless. The most disturbing is Caitlin R. Keirnan's "Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8)", about a couple of travelling serial killers. Tim Maughan's "Four Days of Christmas" is both creepy and prophetic, as those darned Santa Claus toy dolls that look at you and automatically know your name just never seem to actually go away. Then there's "Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology", which presents an interesting premise: that a country and its history can be created simply by thinking about it. The deeper story, though, is the investigation and study of the ethics of getting too involved with the people of that that country.
In the interest of brevity, I've left out several stories, but I can list the authors whose stories I didn't discuss: Paolo Bacigalupi, Lauren Beukes, Ken Liu, Genevieve Valentine, Greg Egan, K J Parker, Karl schroeder, Ian McDonald, and James Patrick Kelly, all well-known names in the field. There are folks here whom I honestly never heard of, but nonetheless provided some excellent work: Amal El-Mohtar, Kai Ashante Wilson, Alice Sola Kim, and Usman T. Malik.
I'm pretty sure an anthology like this isn't easy to put together. Strahan probably had to eliminate stories from this book due to size constraints or contractual obligations. And yet, he came up with a wonderful book. There is, apparently, a wealth of good short science fiction and fantasy being published every year, and this is one place a reader can go to find some of it. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking for a sample of 2014's good short fiction. Now I guess I need to go read Gardner Dozois' anthology and see what it has in store for me. [-jak]
HANNU RAJANIEMI: COLLECTED FICTION by Hannu Rajaniemi (copyright 2015, Tachyon Publications, $25.95 Limited Hardcover, ISBN 978-1-61696-192-3) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Joe Karpierz):
I first became aware of Hannu Rajaniemi a few years ago when his novel, THE QUANTUM THIEF, was published. It was making a lot of noise and getting a lot of attention, so I bought it. And there it sits, on my to-read stack, just like dozens of other books that I want to read. There was never any impetus to get me to read it, so it continues to languish on the shelf.
It recently came to my attention that Tachyon Publications was releasing a collection of Rajaniemi's short fiction. I'd known that he made a name for himself in the short fiction arena before THE QUANTUM THIEF was published,and I figured maybe short fiction was the way to introduce myself to his work. So I picked up HANNU RAJANIEMI: COLLECTED FICTION, and began to read.
As with any other collection or anthology that I've ever read, COLLECTED FICTION contains some really good stories, some pretty good stories, some average stories, and one or two that just didn't speak to me whatsoever. Three of the first four stories completely bowled me over: "The Server and the Dragon", which I had read before in Jonathan Strahan's Engineering Infinity anthology, about a sentient server in a lonely part of space who encounters another entity known as the dragon which shows the server that there are more things in life than just serving; "Tyche and the Ants", about a lost colony on the moon, a story which for me is difficult to describe; and "The Haunting of Apollo A7LB", about a haunted spacesuit that was hand sewn that is trying to return to Hazel, its maker, and the one-time lover of the astronaut who wore it.
I think one of the things about this collection is that it displays Rajaniemi's work as that of a writer who is not afraid to take chances, maybe write things with a different style, maybe end things where the reader does not expect them to end. Not all of the stories in COLLECTED FICTION (a very precise and unassuming title, I might note) are different, but some of the better ones are. In addition to the stories I've already mentioned, "His Master's Voice", a sort of cyberpunk, post-"something" type of story, ends in a place I didn't expect, but is very satisfying. "The Jugaad Cathedral" is a terrific cyberpunk gaming story--or is it?--that I found gripping and involving. "Invisible Planets" is a sort of tour of the universe story with a lesson to teach, that was for me a return to the kind of sense of wonder I got when I was reading science fiction back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth. "Shibuya No Love" is an interesting take on the computer dating scene, with that technology updated, once again, for the cyberpunk crowd. In this story, as in today's world, not all matches will end in success and happiness.
I particularly enjoyed the super-short "Satan's Typist", which is about just what it seems it's about, and "Skywalker of Earth", a terrific adventure story that I believe is set in the same universe as THE QUANTUM THIEF and its sequels. "Skywalker" is the kind of story where you don't really need to pay attention to the detail--it's just a fun ride. "Snow White is Dead" is an interesting piece which Rajaniemi calls "neurofiction". It grew out of an interactive experience at the Edinburgh Science Festival in 2013 where the reader wears a device for measuring brain waves that sends the information to a computer that attempts to determine which way the story should go based on the reader's response to given stimulii. While the version of the story that is presented in this book is clearly not interactive, it is based on what were the most common paths chosen by readers at the demonstrations. It's actually quite and engaging and disturbing story--one I truly enjoyed.
Other stories, while among those that didn't particularly speak to me, were well done and nicely written. In that group I would include "Fisher of Men", a sort of sinister mermaid tale; and "Paris In Love", which shows us that indeed, "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"
There is enough good stuff in this volume to make me want to pick up THE QUANTUM THIEF, which is still sitting forlornly on my to-read stack. As I write this, however, the 2015 Hugo Nominations will be announced in about two weeks, and my attention will be diverted elsewhere. Still, I'm convinced that I should make a more concerted effort in that direction. I feel as if I won't be disappointed if I do so. [-jak]
And Now It's Time to Vote on Those 2015 Hugos! (a gloat by Dale Skran):
It is that time of the year again when faithful(?) fans everywhere put fingers to keyboard and write bitter words attacking this or that Hugo nominee, or this or that slate of Hugo nominations. This year seems to be especially fruitful in terms of the large number of bitter words being generated, and I have no desire to step between the "Sad Puppies," the "Rabid Puppies," and their supposed elitist enemies. In fact, I plan to hunker down and actually read what was nominated and vote for what I like, and then of course rush out and try to persuade my friends to vote the same way, just like usual.
This year for Hugo for Best Novel I nominated:
THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir from Orbit US/Gollancz
WAR DOGS by Greg Bear from Orbit US/Gollancz
ANCILLARY SWORD by Ann Leckie from Orbit US/Orbit UK
ULTIMA by Stephan Baxter from Gollancz
ON THE STEEL BREEZE by Alastair Reynolds from Ace
It seems like my nominations ran into the "Puppy" buzz-saw, and only ANCILLARY SWORD made it to the ballot. However, I note that SKIN GAME, a Harry Dresden novel by Jim Butcher, did appear on the ballot. It is my understanding that some controversy surrounds this, with SKIN GAME being on the Puppy slate, but Butcher saying he didn't agree to any such thing. Don't let this farble get in the way of reading a good book. The Harry Dresden series is one of my favorite dark-fantasy worlds, and it just keeps getting better.
My nominations for Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) were:
INTERSTELLAR directed by Christopher Nolan
LUCY directed by Luc Besson
EDGE OF TOMORROW directed by Doug Liman
ASCENSION directed by Williams
CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
Here I called it "right" 3/5 times--INTERSTELLAR, EDGE OF TOMORROW, and WINTER SOLDIER. They are all well worth seeing, but I'll be voting INTERSTELLAR #1. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY would have been on my list if I had to nominate 10 films instead of 5. It's a lot of fun, and visually stunning. I haven't seen THE LEGO MOVIE, and am a bit surprised to see it on the ballot from the trailers I've viewed, but mileage varies. I still urge you to see LUCY and ASCENSION if you can--both are good, interesting SF films. Don't be put off by the violence in LUCY--in many ways the plot makes more sense than that of TRANSCENDENCE.
My nominations for Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) were:
"Governed as it Were By Chance" from Orphan Black/Series 2
"To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings" from Orphan Black/Series 2
"Twilight's Last Gleaming" from CW/The 100/Series 1
"The Flash (pilot)" from CW/The Flash/Series 1
"What they become" from ABC/Agents of Shield
I am delighted to see that an ORPHAN BLACK episode, although not one I nominated, made the ballot. As you no doubt know, I think this system of voting for episodes of a series is absurd, and am happy to see that no more than one episode of the same series was nominated, thus allowing the Short Form Hugo to approximate the "Best SF TV Show" award rather than the "Best Dr. Who Episode" award. I am also happy to see THE FLASH (pilot), which I did nominate, on the ballot. It is hard to inveigh against GAME OF THRONES. I've just finished watching the most recent season available on DVD, which includes the nominated episode, and it is a worthy contender. However, GAME OF THRONES has won a Hugo before, and I urge you to watch ORPHAN BLACK and vote it #1. Although I don't watch GRIMM, I'm happy to see it on the ballot rather than another DR. WHO episode. GRIMM has a fandom, and it deserves recognition.
In any case, I will most likely vote for the Short Form Hugo as follows (and note that I am leaving those idiotic episode names off in this list!):
#3--GAME OF THRONES
Anyway, I am pleased to see three TV series that I regularly watch and like on the Hugo Short Form ballot! And I am immensely pleased to see only one Dr. Who episode nominated!
I said I would ignore the "politics" of these so-called "slates", but there are some aspects I would like to address. First, it has always been true that the Hugo nominations system is *very* susceptible to bloc voting, and especially to bloc nominations. Bloc voting went on all the time--but the blocs were not very large--or very organized. Partially as a result of the actions of these "small blocs" some works of low quality and narrow interest get nominated every year. And every single year many excellent works fail to appear on the Hugo ballot. This is almost inevitable in a system with many quality works from many sources with no formal means of calling attention to good works. With the Internet it is possible to organize larger and more powerful blocs. The only surprising thing is that it took this long for the "political puppies" to emerge.
Second, traditionally there were two United States Worldcons to one international Worldcon. This had the tendency, taking into account multi-year voting, of keeping a more or less "even keel" in the voting population. More recently, there have been both a greater percentage and longer runs of international Worldcons. This has had the natural tendency to skew the voting away from the tastes of American fans. With two "all-American" Worldcons coming up, it is only natural for there to be a significant change in what gets nominated even if there was no bloc voting. I don't want to make too much of this effect, but it is probably present.
Third, I've seen calls for "changing the electorate" of the Worldcon in response to the "Puppy slate" situation. I caution the advocates of this approach to beware of what you ask for. I have become increasingly aware that Worldcon SF is becoming more and more estranged from the mainstream of "nerd culture." This culture is now almost entirely media and game focused, and vastly larger than literary SF fandom. Many Worldcon SF fans hold media fans and gaming fans in contempt. If the membership of Worldcon was truly representative of the fandom of 2015, it would be much more media and gaming focused, and *much* younger. And I think that the people currently so worried about the "Puppies" would be quite unhappy with the resultant Hugo nominees.
Fourth, there has been for a long time an informal process by with an "elite group" created a "canon" of good SF *before* the Hugos each year. As you may suspect, I am referring to the SFWA Nebula awards. The nominations for the Nebula close on February 15th, and voting starts March 1st, but the deadline for Hugo nominations is March 10th. Thus, the Nebula nominations serve as a guide to what the SF writing professionals consider good SF for the previous year. It is also true that the Nebula winners are announced in June, and the Hugo voting deadline is the end of July. There can be little doubt that over the years the Nebula process influenced the outcome of the Hugos. SFWA is, of course, not a "bloc voting" organization, but one suspects that most SFWA members also vote for Hugos, and that they most probably vote for stories that were nominated for or won the Nebula. Thus, the Hugos are often called a "popular" award, but they have lived in the shadow of an "elite" award for a long time. If someone wanted the Hugos to better reflect the taste of the average SF fan, changing the deadlines so the Nebula had less influence would be one approach.
Fifth, and most importantly, there are those that are campaigning to have "No Award" win in every category that appears to have been affected by a slate. This would be a sad outcome indeed, and might lead to a permanent schism in fandom. Far better to actually read the stories, and vote for what you like best. Maybe that does turn out to be "No Award" but at least make it an honest "No Award" and not a political "No Award." Maybe, just maybe, you will encounter an author like Jim Butcher that up until now you've never read, and possibly learn something from the experience.
No doubt some will interpret the above comments as being sympathetic to the various "Puppy" slates. Nothing could be further from the truth. In particular, Vox Day seems so far to the right as to make Jerry Pournelle appear liberal. Just because Mr. Day for some reason quite unclear to me seemed to like INTERSTELLAR and THE FLASH does not mean that these excellent works should be voted below "No Award" in an act of political spite. If that occurs, it will be a disaster of vast proportions. As you probably know, I consider INTERSTELLAR the best SF film of the last twenty years, and probably in the top five SF films of all time. For the Worldcon membership to, in what amounts to a fit of pique, refuse to award the Hugo to INTERSTELLAR because Vox Day and some friends of his liked the film will create a stain on the Hugo that will never wash off. [-dls]
Regarding media- and game-focused fans, I'll just quote the first two sections of the WSFS Constitution (emphasis mine):
Section 1.1: Name. The name of this organization shall be the World
Science Fiction Society, hereinafter referred to as WSFS or the
Section 1.2: Objectives. WSFS is an unincorporated *literary* society whose functions are:
(1) To choose the recipients of the annual Hugo Awards (Science Fiction Achievement Awards)...
Fans wanting a non-literary focus have lots of other organizations and conventions to choose from: Dragoncon, San Diego ComicCon, and about a bazillion other media conventions. [-ecl]
Cable Channels, Hugo Voting System, and Terry Pratchett (letter of comment by John Purcell):
In response to Mark's comments on Turner Classic Movies in the 04/24/15 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:
I am very saddened that all our efforts to badger, cajole, and protest Suddenlink, our cable television provider, to reinstate the Viacom channels has come to naught, so we still do not receive TCM channel, in addition to Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and many others. We did, however, acquire Pivot (which is mostly stupid programming, but redeems itself by running BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and FIREFLY) and BBC America, for which we are definitely glad. BBC America has become one of our most watched channels now since they show ORPHAN BLACK, BROADCHURCH, DOCTOR WHO, loads of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, and SHERLOCK. There are some new series coming up there that we're looking forward to, such as RIPPER STREET. So that was a good acquisition, but we miss Comedy Central and TCM. Bugger!
We get TCM so I should not complain. But we don't get BBC America and that is the one big missing station for us. [-mrl]
In response to Evelyn's explanation of how to vote for "No Award" for the Hugos in the same issue, John writes:
Your brief explanation on how the Hugo voting system works is helpful to those who find the entire Hugo Award madness, well, maddening. The thing to remember the most about this berserk system is that voters need to rank each of the choices from first to last so that their primary choices earn the most votes/points to stay in the running. I have long found this to be a very silly method, and obviously those writers with large, faithful followers will have an edge with this system. This is why I consider the Hugo Awards irrelevant to my tastes, even though I have voted in recent years to essentially put in my two cents worth. Nothing I ever vote for ever wins anyway, but I will still attempt to swing it around based on my consideration of quality of work rather than who it is. My take on the Hugo Awards is that they are no longer the "science fiction field's Oscar equivalent", but more like the SF field's equivalent of the Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards. In the next issue of my paperzine, Askew, I will be espousing on that for a few paragraphs, but I thought you'd like this analogy especially since it fits in with your commentary.
Writers with large, faithful followers will have an edge in any system. However, IMHO the current system (known as "Instant Runoff") gives them less of an edge than other systems.
For example, the Oscars are what's called "First Past the Post", meaning everyone votes for one of the nominees, and whichever gets the most votes, even if it's only 20%-plus-episilon (in a five-nominee field), wins. But it could easily be that everyone who did not vote for the winner might have put the same film second on their list, and one can argue that would be a better winner (particularly if the first-place vote-getter was listed last on everyone else's ballots). This is not a completely unlikely result; one year that I was a Best Fan Writer nominee I think I was in first place after the first round, but never picked up another vote in the elimination rounds. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_system for more information. [-ecl]
And finally, John writes:
It was very sad to read about Terry Pratchett's passing. I do enjoy the Discworld series. They are a lot of fun, and I certainly wish I had met him. Everybody who has tells me Sir Terry was a great guy. RIP, kind sir.
With that, I think I'm done here. Many thanks for firing the issue my way, so next week let's see what else you folks have on tap. [-jp]
No Award (letters of comment by Steve Coltrin, Ben Yalow, and David Goldfarb):
In response to Evelyn's comments on "No Award" in the 05/01/15 issue of the MT VOID, Steve Coltrin writes:
[Evelyn said,] "Let's say you have read one story and really hated it. It might seem that you want to vote "No Award" first, that story second, and nothing else voted on. WRONG! When you do this, you are basically voting *for* the story."
Per Kevin Standlee, that turns out not to be the case, and rating a work below No Award will not result in a scenario in which it wins but would not have had you left it off your ballot:
(I once did myself believe otherwise, on the always-trustworthy basis of I Read It On Usenet Once, and the chestnut has hoared mightily for years. This problem might not plague us if we spoke Pinnacle Sherpa, but then we'd have other problems.) [-sc]
But Ben Yalow writes:
In the two-candidate (No Award and the one story) case, that's true.
However, if there are other stories you want to rate, then rating a story below No Award can give it a win when it wouldn't otherwise have done so.
Consider the following case:
50 people vote for work A, and no other
49 people vote for work B, and no other
Two people vote for No Award, then work B.
If those two ballots didn't exist, then work A wins. However, those two ballots have No Award eliminated in the first round, and their votes redistributed to work B, which now wins 51-50. [-by]
David Goldfarb responds:
Well, presumably those two people preferred the award going to B (if it *must* be given) over A, so they're happy that they put B on their ballots.
I haven't read SKIN GAME, and probably won't, but I've heard some good things about Butcher's work in general. I tried to read THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS and set it aside, uttering the Eight Deadly Words, after reading about a quarter of it. If the Hugo *must* be given to one of the Puppy nominees, I'd far rather it go to SKIN GAME. So both go below No Award, but DARK goes last and SKIN GAME goes above it. [-dg]
Mea culpa. I forgot that there is an additional test for No Award winning, namely that it beats the second-place finisher in a head-to-head race. [-ecl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I started AN INQUIRY INTO THE CAUSES AND NATURE OF THE WEALTH OF NATIONS by Adam Smith (ISBN 978-0-553-58597-1), but will admit that I got bogged down in the examples being given in pre-decimal English currency, and using various obscure legal terms to boot. (I know what an entailment is, but that is probably the extent of my specialized knowledge.) However, I did have a few observations on the first part.
Speaking of each workman, Smith says, "He supplies them abundantly with what they have occasion for, and they accommodate him as amply with what he has occasion for, and a general plenty diffuses itself through all the different ranks of the society." This reminded me of Herman Melville's thought in MOBY DICK, "Well, then, however the old sea-captains may order me about--however they may thump and punch me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else is one way or other served in much the same way--either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each other's shoulder-blades, and be content."
"Nobody ever saw one animal, by its gestures and natural cries signify to another, this is mine, that is yours; I am willing to give this for that." Even now, 240 years later[*], this remains true. While some primates have been taught to exchange one physical object for another (apparently capuchin monkeys have even been trained to "understand and use" money), they do not come up with this idea on their own, and when they are removed from the (human) environment where they learned it, they stop doing it. (I suppose there might be any number of reasons for this that would not totally preclude its possibility.)
[*] It's easy to remember when THE WEALTH OF NATIONS was written: 1776.
"In almost every other race of animal, each individual, when it is grown up to maturity, is entirely independent, and in its natural state has occasion for the assistance of no other living creature." At first glance, this is true, since he said "almost": obvious exceptions are social insects such as ants and bees. However, in general, it seems as though while many other animals naturally live in social groups, isolated individuals can survive.
But there is a catch. Isolated modern human beings can also manage to survive, though Smith would say it was at nowhere near their normal mode of living. However, this is true of most other animals as well, because in fact, avoiding predators is something that many animals rely on "safety in numbers." A lone wildebeest may be able to find food and water, but it will not be successful in avoiding predators for long. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: One of the most amazing things about mathematics is the people who do math aren't usually interested in application, because mathematics itself is truly a beautiful art form. It's structures and patterns, and that's what we love, and that's what we get off on. --Danica McKellarTweet
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