Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Not Dead, Just Resting

Training for my new job is burning up a ridiculous amount of my time. Here's something to keep you all entertained until my next round of incoherent mutterings essay about the history of science fiction.

Monday, 6 April 2015

This looks interesting

"Singularity&Co. saves vintage books from the paper on which they're printed by making sure they're preserved digitally for future generations."

I haven't bought anything from them yet, but all the editions in their store look professionally done. I'm extremely happy to see people working to preserve the history of science fiction and make it available to new audiences.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

More on this year's Hugo awards

Over at File 770, Mike Glyer breaks down the Sad/Rabid Puppies slates and compares which one was more effective at forcing names onto the awards list.

On a related note, Abigail Nussbaum of Asking the Wrong Questions has this to say about the Hugo nominees:

To begin with, I'd like to discourage people from referring to the bloc-voting campaign with the moniker Sad Puppies.  Larry Correia chose that name when he started encouraging his fans to "take back" the Hugos three years ago, and Brad Torgesen adopted it for his suggested slate of nominees when he took over the project this year.  In the latter case, there seems to have been a deliberate attempt to distance the Sad Puppies from the toxicity of bigots like Vox Day (who was not on Torgesen's ballot) and to present a kinder, gentler face of right-wing bloc-voting.  Day's response to this was to post his own suggested slate, the Rabid Puppies ballot, including himself in several categories.  As this analysis by Mike Glyer shows, it was Day's choices that prevailed, with almost all Puppy nominees appearing on both ballots or on Day's alone.  Our current slate of Hugo nominees are not a Sad Puppy ballot; they're a Vox Day ballot.  They represent the views of a racist, misogynistic, homophobic troll, whose supporters solicited the help of GamerGate to achieve their goals.  Using Sad Puppies as a blanket term allows the people who helped make this happen pretend that it comes down to nothing more than a political disagreement between equally valid stances (as Torgesen has been doing in the Making Light thread) instead of what it actually is, a hate campaign.

io9 has a good collection of links explaining this year's Hugo awards mess

Last August, the Hugo Awards were swept by a younger group of women and people of color. At the time, we said "This was really a year that underscored that a younger generation of diverse writers are becoming central to the genre." So maybe it's not surprising that there was an organized backlash.

Any slate that includes Th*odor* B*al* as best editor is not acting in good faith.

(Replace the * with 'e' if you really want to. He ego-searches his own name and starts arguments with people he feels aren't nice enough to him, so I'm taking precautions.)

Friday, 3 April 2015

The parameters of ‘‘The Cold Equations’’ are not the inescapable laws of physics. Zoom out beyond the page’s edges and you’ll find the author’s hands carefully arranging the scenery so that the plague, the world, the fuel, the girl and the pilot are all poised to inevitably lead to her execution. The author, not the girl, decided that there was no autopilot that could land the ship without the pilot. The author decided that the plague was fatal to all concerned, and that the vaccine needed to be delivered within a timeframe that could only be attained through the execution of the stowaway.

It is, then, a contrivance. A circumstance engineered for a justifiable murder. An elaborate shell game that makes the poor pilot – and the company he serves – into victims every bit as much as the dead girl is a victim, forced by circumstance and girlish naïveté to stain their souls with murder.

Moral hazard is the economist’s term for a rule that encourages people to behave badly. For example, a rule that says that you’re not liable for your factory’s pollution if you don’t know about it encourages factory owners to totally ignore their effluent pipes – it turns willful ignorance into a profitable strategy.

‘‘The Cold Equations’’ is moral hazard in action. It is a story designed to excuse the ship’s operators – from the executives to ground control to the pilot – for standardizing on a spaceship with no margin of safety. A spaceship with no autopilot, no fuel reserves, and no contingency margin in its fuel calculations.

‘‘The Cold Equations’’ never asks why the explorers were sent off-planet without a supply of vaccines. It never asks what failure of health-protocol led to the spread of the disease on the distant, unexplored world.

‘‘The Cold Equations’’ shoves every one of those questions out the airlock along with the young girl. It barks at us that now is not the time for pointing fingers, because there is an emergency. It says that now is the time to pull together, the time for all foolish girls to die to save brave explorers from certain death, and not the time for assigning blame.

But if a crisis of your own making isn’t the time to lay blame, then the optimal strategy is to ensure that the crisis never ends.
Cory Doctorow: Cold Equations and Moral Hazard

We Didn't Get Here By Accident (Part the Second)

So what's the point to these posts about the history of science fiction? Why bring up the crankery, anger, and general bigotry of John Campbell? The man has been dead for decades, so surely it can't do any good to talk about his very public failings as a decent human being?

Well, right now the SF community is going through a bit of an explosion. Google "Sad Puppies" and the Hugo awards if you really want the details, but what it boils down to is that the field is changing, and some people aren't comfortable with that change. They say the science fiction field has become politicized, and that the Hugo Awards are dominated by secret groups that only allow politically correct work to win. The problem with their claims is that they assume a past that was apolitical, where science fiction was purely about merit without regard for politics or social issues. And this view of the past is utter bullshit.

The editor of what was for decades the largest market for SF had a strict Non-Whites Need Not Apply policy for his magazine. He promoted pseudoscientific racial theories, publicized anti-scientific medical theories, and espoused political opinions that could politely be called Fascist. And many of his readers ate that material up. Some because they were young an impressionable and didn't know better, and some because they agreed with what he was saying and were happy to see it in print. And many of those readers went on to become writers, who continued to write stories that would fit quite nicely under Campbell's editorial policies.

The so-called apolitical stories of the past had a very specific political viewpoint baked into them. Claiming that the field has been recently overrun by people with a political agenda is dishonest. Science fiction was always deeply political. Pretending otherwise is either just ignorance, or malice.

So sometimes I'll write posts about the history of this genre, and how we got to where we are today. This needs to be looked at. Other days I'll post music videos, or reviews of books I love, because everyone needs to have fun sometimes. And other days I'll post pictures of cats, because internet.

But for now, it's meanderings on the history of the genre.