Thursday, September 10, 2015

Obvious Solution...Is Obvious

I have been a science fiction fan since my mother gave me her copy of Dune when I was eight years old.  And I am ashamed of what happened at the Wordcon.

The Hugo awards are very simple.  “The BEST science fiction of the year.”  Not “the best message science fiction.”  Not “the best fiction written by a pre-approved clique of writers.”  And most definitely not “the best fiction but only if it’s nominated by the right people.”

There are two evils of Hugo voting.  The greater evil is “voting without reading,” and the lesser evil is “voting based on stuff besides the merits of the story.”

700 people thought Toni Weisskopf deserved a Hugo nomination.  1200 people thought she deserved the award itself, and well over 2000 people voted for one of three woman to win that particular award.

And then, 2500 zombie voters declared that all of those thousands of votes were null and void.  (Yes, I call them zombies because their tactics remind me of crooked Chicago politics; if the election isn’t going your way, dig up some denizens of the local graveyard to help swing the numbers back the way you want them.)  The same 2500 people locked out five categories in total.

Those 2500 zombies perpetrated both evils in one swoop.  They didn’t bother to read the stories, and then voted--not based on the merits of the work, or even the author of the stories themselves, but on the names of the people who nominated them.

And then they celebrated this fiasco.  They actually cheered for No Award.

Those 2000 people, who voted in good faith, what must they be thinking?  The neutrals are probably leaning Sad Puppy at this point, considering how they were treated.  The Sad Puppies are very likely to morph into Rabid Puppies.

And the Rabids themselves?  They are probably trying to decide what to nominate next year.  Top of their lists so far are J. Jonah Jameson for Best Editor, Baby’s First Star Wars Picture Book for Best Novel, and SJWs Always Lie for Best Related Work.

I am a voracious reader, as is all of my family.  And from here on out, when I go to buy a book, I will be checking the author.  If they celebrated this irrational victory of politics over principle, then my money will go to other writers.

The punchline to this is Three Body Problem, the book that won Best Novel.  Vox Day didn’t get a chance to read it before the deadline, so he didn’t nominate it.  He did rank it at the top of his final ballot, however, and declared that he would have nominated it, had he read it.  It won, solely because Vox did not nominate it.  And like Larry Correia points out, that’s the problem with the Hugos right there.  Three Body Problem didn’t win because the community thought it was the best--it won to supposedly spite the people who would have nominated it but for timing.

Science fiction is a community, and the Hugo voters are drawn from that community.  Pay your $40 and you’re in; no entrance exam, no psych eval, no blood test, just forty bucks and a love of the genre.  You can’t “police” that community, because there’s no wall around it; you can’t police a self-selecting group.

So, from that regard, the furor over this year’s Hugo nominations is horrendously overblown.  Science fiction fans paid their fees and voted.  

“Maybe if the Puppies had only gotten one or two of their works nominated instead of sweeping the ballots, things would have been different!”  Eh, maybe...except, that’s what happened in Sad Puppies 2, so I doubt it.

“Slate voting is EVIL!”  Voting without reading is evil.  Voting based on the name of the nominator is evil.  You can’t stop someone from saying “I like this book, you might like to read it too.”  You can’t stop someone from saying “I like these books, and I will be voting for them come Hugo time.”  Or do you want to install some kind of Hugo campaign law that says “you can only suggest THREE books for Hugo slate, not five or ten or fifteen…?”  So then what’s the difference between suggesting a book or two to read, and suggesting an EVIL SLATE to vote on…?

“But but but...VOX DAY!”  You know, Vox was insulted by “he tried to game the Hugos, and ended up placing sixth.”  That’s what led to Rabid Puppies.  Vox Day makes for an easy and obvious target because...he’s Vox.  If he hadn’t been offended and set up Rabid Puppies--if, say, Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen had run with Sad Puppies 3--the response would have been identical, just aimed at them instead of at Vox.

It’s been said before, but I’ll point it out, yet again.  The “racist” Puppies weren’t racist at all.  Even Vox picked Three Body Problem for Best Novel, which had to be translated from Chinese to become eligible.  The “sexist” Puppies weren’t sexist at all, with multiple women on their ballots.  And “Vox just wanted a Hugo” doesn’t even hold water.  Look at Vox’s final ballot.  In Long Form Editor, with Vox nominated, he’s placed himself fourth, with not one but two women ranked above him.

Like Larry Correia said, it’s about turf.  The furor over the Hugos isn’t about who’s doing the nominating, it’s about who controls the process.

By all accounts, the Nomination Domination Puppy Brigade numbered perhaps 350 voters.  However, over 700 people voted to nominate Toni Weisskopf for Best Long Form Editor.  This is a category that, in years past, has seen people nominated on as few as forty votes.  This year, for some mysterious and unknowable reason, Vox Day’s “slated” 166 votes were just barely enough to sneak him in to the number 5 slot.  When it only takes forty votes to get a nomination, the person who can slate 166 wields an enormous amount of power.  

But, stated another way:  In a world where it takes 166 votes to get a nomination, the guy who can slate 40 is simply powerless.

Do the extrapolation.  The “answer” to the “problem” of the Hugos is right there in that sentence.

In a world where it takes 1000 votes to get a nomination, the guy who can slate 166 is powerless.

There’s your answer.  Not more totalitarian control over the process, not more convoluted and draconian restrictions over who can vote and how much power those voters can wield, and definitely no bloc slate zombie voting tactics.  

No, the real answer is MORE...more slates, more Puppies, more voters.  The only way to take away the massive power of slate voters is to expand the voting pool to all of science fiction fandom.  Bring in more voters, by the hundreds, by the thousands, if at all possible.  “Sad Puppies 4:  The Embiggening” is an excellent start.

Of course, doing that would put the power to award Hugos into the hands of fandom as a whole, rather than The High Church of Science Fiction which has controlled it for the last several years.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Perchance to Scream

Today is the 14th of October.  We are a hair over two weeks from Halloween, one of the spookiest days of the year; and one day past that is the start of Nano, which is an even scarier prospect, but we will save that for another post.

Today is also the day that a brand-new ebook appears on bookshelves, called Perchance to Scream, which contains 13 stories and one poem--which, by some strange and unusual cosmic coincidence, also add up to 14.  Yes, fourteen spooky items, presented for your enjoyment, on the 14th.

It's got a haunted house, bloodsucking feathers, ancient evil entities with unpronounceable names, cybernetically enhanced zombies, mutant human-dragonfly hybrids, and a particularly nasty breed of psychic eel.  Being scared has never been so much fun!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New Voice Work: World War I

I am happy to announce that two more of my voiceovers are now available:

World War One and the End of the Bourgeois Century by Ryan McMaken

For a complete list of all of my voice projects to date, check out the last section in my Online Resume, and please check out all of the latest additions to the Mises audio and video library.  And, as always, comments, critiques, and criticisms are definitely welcome.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Teller of Tales

I was in Boy Scouts growing up, and living in Arizona, one thing we did every year was a week at summer camp. Camp Geronimo. in Payson, Arizona; I think I lived there a grand total of seven weeks or so, spread across six years. This would have been in the age of Star Wars--late seventies, early eighties. There was a man there, a camp counselor, who had long wild hair and wore a dark cloak. I never found out his real name...I only knew him as “The Teller of Tales.” He was the camp storyteller, if his title didn’t make that obvious. At the end of every campfire, as the bonfire was burning down to coals, he would come striding through the smoke, stand between us and the fire, and regale us with a story of some kind, purely from memory. He held us captivated. That was the first time I ever heard “The Most Dangerous Game” and “The Monkey’s Paw.” I think there was another one, about a gorilla trained as a servant by tormenting it with an alligator, and over seven trips, I have no doubt I heard him tell other stories, but these are the ones that still stick to my brain. I remember being fascinated by his ability to mesmerize us with words. No papers, no script, no dramatic flair or wandering around the campfire...just standing there, leaning on a walking stick, telling the story...letting the words do the work. One time I worked up the nerve to approach him. I think he was judging the Big Splash competition, and during a break, I walked up, introduced myself, and invited him to our troop campfire. He was friendly, and gracious, and happy to show; I introduced him myself, and I think that was when he told “The Monkey’s Paw.” Like I said, I never knew his real name.

A couple of weeks ago, our church asked me if I would like to read a children’s story. The church service starts with music, greetings, a song--and then a story for the kids. After the story, they go off to their Sunday School activities while the adults move on with the regular service and sermon. I volunteered to read the occasional story to the kids months ago, but this was the first time they took me up on the offer. “What would you like me to read?” I asked. “Oh, we can give you seven or eight minutes, do you have something you would like to read?” Well...I had this children’s book I wrote a few years ago, called “Quinn in Trashland.” I did a test reading and came up with over twelve minutes, obviously way too long. I warned them that it was a bit long, but that I would cut it down as requested. “Quinn” would be my story to the kids. MsQuill and I sat up late into the night, carving pieces out, trying to bring it down to the requisite time...and failing miserably. We were starting to cut out pieces that I thought were critical to the fun of the story. Finally, I decided, I wasn’t going to savage my story just to make it fit their timeframe. I was going to just *tell* it. I threw out all the papers. I got rid of the script. I sat down in front of the podium, right down there with the kids, and I told “Quinn in Trashland” straight from memory. Oh, I have no doubt I left out some stuff. Possibly some of the good stuff, but I doubt it; I think I managed to get all of the important stuff in there. The kids laughed at all the right spots...heck, the adults laughed at all the right spots. I think I kept it down well under ten minutes, rough guess, but I didn’t time it. And they didn’t record it; about the only real complaint was that they didn’t take the time to put a microphone on me. They record all of the services for people who are at home sick and can’t make it, and my story was too quiet to be picked up, so there’s a large hole in the recording for that stretch. Not having a script in your hands *helps* with telling the story. Your eyes aren’t trapped. You can look out at your audience, make eye contact, make a connection...especially with the kids. One little boy kept inching closer and closer as the story went on, until by the end he practically had his head in my lap. After the service, several people complimented me on the story, and one person actually used the words “Teller of Tales.” At that moment, something clicked. I remembered the *original* Teller of Tales, thirty some odd years ago at Camp he held us spellbound just by telling us a story. And at that point, I realized that this is something I need to do more of. -=ad=-

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Writer's Resume

Everyone needs some kind of resume, some way of saying "hey, this is what I do."

Hopefully, it also says "this is what I'm good at," too.

I think every writer should have a "here's everything I've published so far" list handy and available, preferably online.  I started putting my own together a while back.

I was pretty surprised, actually...I mean, an article here, a guest blog post there...throw in a couple of fanfiction stories...and my Writer's Resume is actually more extensive than I would have thought.

So, besides having a place where you can tell people to go (no, not like that), you could also consider it an ego-boost--a reminder that, even when you feel like you're not making much progress, you just might be making more than you think.

This is what I've done so far.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Welcome to the Neighborhood - Revisited

My last article, "Welcome to the Neighborhood," was picked up and reprinted by Bob Livingston's Personal Liberty Digest.

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Check them out...let me know what you think.


Voice Work

I've been reading stories to my kids for, oh. at least ten years now.  We started with Dr. Seuss, proceeded to Hardy Boys and Magic Treehouse, and very quickly graduated to young adult.  We've read Artemis Fowl, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings series, back to back to back to back.

My kids like when I read to them.  I try to spice things up, add some energy to it, apply voices--when I can get away with it, anyway.  ("Daddy, why does Dumbledore sound SO much like Gandalf...?").

Sometimes I overdid it just a when the six year old ran and hid when the Balrog stepped out of the shadows...*sigh*

But, anyway, I've been told by more than one person (and by more than one person, I also mean more than one person not actually related to me or married to me) who seem to think I know how to read out loud and tell a decent story.  I did high school drama; I worked as a radio DJ for a year or two.  I understand how people don't want to listen to a steady dull boring monotone when someone is reading to them or telling a story.

The new job has a bit of a perk...there's a recording studio onsite.  So, I asked if there was any chance I could, maybe, someday, come in on weekends, and read my own stories, so I could set them up as audio books some time...

...not only did they say yes, they asked if I would be willing to record some things for them, too.  Officially, no less.  "Voiceover work" has been added to my job duties; I get to hide in the recording studio once or twice a week and record essays written for the Mises Institute.

For all of the latest recordings, drop by the Recent Uploads section of the site.  For some of my own most recent work, check out "Even the Feds Admit Minimum Wages Cause Unemployment" and "You Didn't Consent To Be The State's Victim."

Comments, critiques, analysis, suggestions, all welcome...and, of course, should you *need* someone to record your story...*wink*