Thursday, May 21, 2015

Watching the Classic Battlestar Galactica Again

I've had the DVD's sitting on my shelf for ages, but I had not fully watching the series in quite some time. And for full measure, I watched all of it, including the 1980 series. But I finally got around to it and just finished the final episode yesterday.

In many ways, Battlestar Galactica was just another studio's answer to Star Wars. It was originally slated to be a TV movie, but ended up being show theatrically (which is how I first saw it). Then it blazed onto the small screen. But it only lasted a season before it was cancelled. It came back a year later, but with a mostly different cast and just wasn't the same. Fast forward a couple of decades and it was rebooted and came back as a series that was allowed to run its course. I just couldn't get into that one. It lacked the visual style of the original and the story went directions that were too out there for my tastes.

But it was born in 1978. Looking at it today compared to its compatriots, Star Wars, Alien, Battle Beyond the Stars, Star Trek The Motion Picture, and others, the sets and effects hold up very well. They started out with high production values and they kept that up for the first series (to some the only real series - and understandable viewpoint). The stories were well written. When you consider that it came on 10 years after Star Trek's third season, it is frankly an amazing series.

The DVD includes several special features which reveal a lot about the series and probably a bit about why it didn't make it. The series had great production values on screen, but they were rushing things. They had intended to do a TV movie and maybe later a series, but the network wanted a series and they gave them one. With the actors getting scenes minutes before they were to be shot and everything happening at the last minute, some things about the series are less than stellar. Sometimes the acting leaves a bit to be desired, sometimes there are goofs. But when you compare it to other contemporary series, it is very good. Supremely good, but maybe a bit before its time. It arrived in the wake of Star Wars, but it wasn't Star Wars. Glen A. Larson mixed a bunch of his interests together and crafted an idea that was unique and stands up to time. But like many series (dare I bring up Firefly), it didn't find its audience fast enough and it went off the air. The network had them do another series - something more familiar - and Buck Rogers was on the air for 2 years (next up in my viewing schedule). So it wasn't the production, it was the story. I got it, but not enough people did. Plus the little issues that brought the show down a bit.

But 37 years on, it is still outstanding. It can hold its own with Star Trek, Babylon 5, and Firefly. At least that is until you add in the 1980 series.

Many will automatically go "yuch" at the mere mention of Galactica 1980, but it did not turn out to be quite what they had envisioned it to be and had to change course after the pilot story. It was to be a time travel story and it ended up being a Colonial Scouts story. You really can't put it in the same category as the first series. It just isn't up to that standard. Plus it wreck's the continuity. That said, I have seen a lot of bad movies and bad TV series and Galactica 1980 isn't that bad. It is cheesy, but that was not unusual in 1980. It is just so far below the first series that few of the fans could appreciate it. Watching it now, 35 years later, I found that I did appreciate it. At least for what it is. It is flawed, deeply flawed, but the premise has merit and the execution was normal. I find it far more watchable than Knight Rider, though not nearly as good as Airwolf. But it certainly didn't find its audience. 10 episodes in it was cancelled. Probably for the best, though I think the production team was just getting the hang of the new format they had been forced into.

One of the most fun things is the final episode. While it is set in the framing story of Doctor Zee telling Adama about a dream, the episode is about Starbuck. It gives the entire series an end on a high note with one of the best stories of all of them (definitely the best of Galactica 1980). I shouldn't wait so long to watch it again.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ann Leckie - What A Hugo Award Winner Should Look Like

I've been reading F/SF for over 35 years. I have a lot of past Hugo Award winners that number among my favorites so I am well versed in what constitutes an award winning story. Last years Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice popped onto my radar when it won not only the Hugo Award, but the Nebula Award as well. It went on to win several other awards as well.

It features an interesting set of premises - that the point of view character is the last remaining component of a ship AI and the culture that it comes from makes no gender distinction. Consequently all the pronouns, except when using a different language (noted in the text as such), are feminine.

I have a feeling the pronoun usage might get in some people's way in enjoying this work, but I found it very alien and that it added to the world building immensely.

When you get down to the story, it is a truly epic space opera set far in the future - in terms of unspecified thousands of years. Everything is fleshed out, painting a brilliant picture of the world in the author's mind. You feel what it might be like to have different pieces of yourself. You can feel the Ancillary's pain and confusion when that is cut. And brilliantly, the author not only portrayed the former AI that way, but also the leader of the people. How else do you control a multi-system empire except to divide yourself and be everywhere at once.

And past the events of the story itself are the character interactions and development. The characters come alive and are more than the words on the page. I felt like I had lived the story with them. A brilliant feat of writing.

I have to say that this was as good, if not better, than some of the great stuff I read many years ago. Hugo Award winning (and Nebula Award winning) are markers of quality and this novel fit right in.

I quickly followed reading Ancillary Justice with the sequel, Ancillary Sword. It was as good and as engrossing, bringing with it new aspects of the universe and the characters. If a sequel ever deserved as many awards as the original, this one certainly does. It is a magnificent world given to us by a magnificent writer. I can't wait for the third book. I definitely have a new author to add to my list of favorites. I can't wait to see what she does next. Her nomination for this year's Hugo Awards is justly deserved.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Hugo Nomination Breakdown

There is nothing like a little confusion to make life interesting. This year's Hugo Nominations certainly fit that description. I've been trying to see what sort of voting patterns there might be and I give up. I see plenty of evidence that many of these nominees, at least in some categories like Best Novel, got there because of more nominations than the Puppy Slates can account for. Originally the nominations in that category included three from the Puppy Slates, but one withdrew and the next on in line was not on those Slates. So, because I cannot see a clear pattern in every category, I put together this list with the sources of the nominations in different colors. Since I keep calling them Organic, I went with Green. For nominee appearing on both Puppy Slates, I picked orange. Red for Rabid and then Blue for Sad. Two nominees asked to be withdrawn from consideration too late to be removed. They are in italics.

If, like me, you see a nominee that you consider worthy, perhaps the source of the nomination doesn't matter. To others it matters very much. For instance, an episode of Game of Thrones was nominated. It was on the Rabid Puppy Slate. The show is excellent and I would say Hugo worthy, but I will have to refresh my mind on that episode before I vote. But voting is a personal matter. I will vote my conscience and everyone else can vote theirs. Perhaps our slate of nominees is not ideal, but I think most of the categories have the potential for an honest and timeless winner, regardless of how they were nominated.

Without further ado, here is the list:

Organic Nominations
Originated by Sad Puppies and supported by Rabid Puppies
Sad Puppies only
Rabid Puppies only
Titles withdrawn after the list was finalized

Best Novel (1827 nominating ballots, 587 entries, range 212-387)

Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Orbit UK/Roc Books)
The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu, Ken Liu translator (Tor Books)

Best Novella (1083 nominating ballots, 201 entries, range 145-338)

Big Boys Don’t Cry, Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
“Flow”, Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Analog, 11-2014)
One Bright Star to Guide Them, John C. Wright (Castalia House)
“Pale Realms of Shade”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
“The Plural of Helen of Troy”, John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)

Best Novelette (1031 nominating ballots, 314 entries, (72-267)

“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium”, Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, 05-2014)
“Championship B’tok”, Edward M. Lerner (Analog, 09-2014)
“The Day the World Turned Upside Down”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Lia Belt translator (Lightspeed, 04-2014)
“The Journeyman: In the Stone House”, Michael F. Flynn (Analog, 06-2014)
“The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale”, Rajnar Vajra (Analog, 07/08-2014)

Best Short Story (1174 nominating ballots, 728 entries, range 132-226)

“On A Spiritual Plain”, Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, 11-2014)
“The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
“A Single Samurai”, Steven Diamond (The Baen Big Book of Monsters, Baen Books)
“Totaled”, Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, 07-2014)
“Turncoat”, Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)

Best Related Work (1150 nominating ballots, 346 entries, range 206-273)

“The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF”, Ken Burnside (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
Letters from Gardner, Lou Antonelli (The Merry Blacksmith Press)
Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth, John C. Wright (Castalia House)
“Why Science is Never Settled”, Tedd Roberts (
Wisdom from My Internet, Michael Z. Williamson (Patriarchy Press)

Best Graphic Story (785 nominating ballots, 325 entries, range 60-201)

Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt, (Marvel Comics)
Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery, written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
Saga Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics))
Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick, written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate, Carter Reid (The Zombie Nation)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (1285 nominating ballots, 189 entries, range 204-769)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, concept and story by Ed Brubaker, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Entertainment, Perception, Sony Pictures Imageworks)
Edge of Tomorrow, screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth, directed by Doug Liman (Village Roadshow, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment; Viz Productions)
Guardians of the Galaxy, written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)
Interstellar, screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions, Syncopy)
The Lego Movie, written by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, LEGO System A/S, Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros. Animation (as Warner Animation Group))

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (938 nominating ballots, 470 entries, range 71-170)

Doctor Who: “Listen”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Douglas Mackinnon (BBC Television)
The Flash: “Pilot”, teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, story by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, directed by David Nutter (The CW) (Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television)
Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper”, written by David Benioff & D. B. Weiss, directed by Alex Graves ((HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
Grimm: “Once We Were Gods”, written by Alan DiFiore, directed by Steven DePaul (NBC) (GK Productions, Hazy Mills Productions, Universal TV)
Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”, ” written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions, Space/BBC America)

Best Editor, Short Form (870 nominating ballots, 187 entries, range 162-279)

Jennifer Brozek
Vox Day
Mike Resnick
Edmund R. Schubert
Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Best Editor, Long Form (712 nominating ballots, 124 entries, range 166-368)

Vox Day
Sheila Gilbert
Jim Minz
Anne Sowards
Toni Weisskopf

Best Professional Artist (753 nominating ballots, 300 entries, range 118-188)

Julie Dillon
Kirk DouPonce
Nick Greenwood
Alan Pollack
Carter Reid

Best Semiprozine (660 nominating ballots, 100 entries, range 94-229)

Abyss & Apex, Wendy Delmater editor and publisher
Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine, Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Association Incorporated, 2014 editors David Kernot and Sue Bursztynski
Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews
Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant
Strange Horizons, Niall Harrison, editor-in-chief

Best Fanzine (576 nominating ballots, 162 entries, range 68-208)

Black Gate, edited by John O’Neill
Elitist Book Reviews, edited by Steven Diamond
Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, Colin Harris, Alissa McKersie, and Helen J. Montgomery
The Revenge of Hump Day, edited by Tim Bolgeo
Tangent SF Online, edited by Dave Truesdale

Best Fancast (668 nominating ballots, 162 entries, range 69-179)

Adventures in SciFi Publishing, Brent Bower (Executive Producer), Kristi Charish, Timothy C. Ward & Moses Siregar III (Co-Hosts, Interviewers and Producers)
Dungeon Crawlers Radio, Daniel Swenson (Producer/Host), Travis Alexander & Scott Tomlin (Hosts), Dale Newton (Host/Tech), Damien Swenson (Audio/Video Tech)
Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
The Sci Phi Show, Jason Rennie
Tea and Jeopardy, Emma Newman and Peter Newman

Best Fan Writer (777 nominating ballots, 265 entries, range 129-201)

Dave Freer
Amanda S. Green
Jeffro Johnson
Laura J. Mixon
Cedar Sanderson

Best Fan Artist (296 nominating ballots, 198 entries, range 23-48)

Ninni Aalto
Brad W. Foster
Elizabeth Leggett
Spring Schoenhuth
Steve Stiles

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (851 nominating ballots, 220 entries, range 106-229)

Wesley Chu
Jason Cordova
Kary English
Rolf Nelson
Eric S. Raymond

Monday, April 27, 2015

An Open Letter to Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen

It has come to my attention in all the fracas that there are a lot of harsh words being spread around, mostly coming from the extreme sides. In an effort to get to the bottom of what is going on, I've been reading... a lot... and have noticed some things that lead me to write this open letter in the hopes that it can aid in understanding and help calm the furor. I have narrowed down the root causes of most of the tension to three major points. These are not the only issues, but I think everything else stems from them making these the root causes of the controversy.

First off, I'd like to address your contention that a group of "SJW"s have been controlling the Hugo nominations (and therefore who wins) for years. I have seen lots of statistics on this. I tend to be skeptical of claims like this because they can often turn out to be false, but I have looked at it carefully an honestly. I have so far seen nothing to convince me of this. The sheer volume of works nominated in most of the categories make this highly unlikely. With over 2000 nominations received, if there was a special "SJW" slate, Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies would never have gotten their slates through the nomination process. Instead, what I see is a very diverse set of nominations with certain ones being more popular. A popularity that is reflected in ratings and awards that have nothing to do with the Hugo nomination or award process.

Some have pointed to online forums where some have discussed nominations before hand, but I have never seen a slate of five top candidates to nominate, only discussions that include many more works than that. Some post their top picks, some an unsorted list of contenders. There doesn't seem to be any coordinated effort to settle on a final list of nominees. I did not see any discussion over the diversity variables of the work or the writer. So while there is indeed discussion in various places around the internet, there is a lack of any hard and fast proof of your contention that there are a group of "SJW"s controlling the Hugo Awards. The evidence just isn't there.

Your case also ignores just how long this sort of work has been leading the Hugo Awards. I have read widely in science fiction and dabbled in fantasy and there has long been a trend toward more literary works and more diversity. This is not something that has been forced on the Hugo Awards. If you look carefully, you will find that the previous generations wrote great stories that also had a message. Heinlein wrote both Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land showing the diversity of his range and beliefs. Stranger in a Strange Land was big with those on the left. Anne McCaffrey's Pern series started out with some very pertinent political messages carried with the great story. Her's were the first stories where I encountered openly gay characters in. She was the first woman to win a Hugo 47 years ago.

Rather than some secret cabal of "SJW"s, I think the now largely deceased earlier generations are to blame because the most popular books of the day did contain a message. So did many of the TV Series. Star Trek (both the original series and The Next Generation garnered two Hugos each) in particular. Many authors considered themselves moralists, making comments on the good and bad of humanity. I really don't see much difference in what is written today, in terms of the message that is carried by a lot of fiction and what was written 10, 20, 40, 60, or 100 years ago. Even the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs carry a message of sorts. I would agree that when the message overpowers the story and gets preachy that it gets annoying, but few stories lack a message because authors always put themselves into their work. Science fiction, more than most genres. In science fiction, the author must make predictions of the future - predictions on how humanity will turn out, either for good or bad. Even portraying the status quo is a prediction.

And I won't deny that there are groups who do have an agenda. But the evidence for them influencing the Hugos just isn't there. In fact the success this year of the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies slates is about the best proof that there is no "SJW" cabal in charge. The Hugo nominations come from the fans. Yes, they are the fans who participate in Worldcon, but every award has to come from some sort of organization, and the Hugos are the most open of all of them. When you look up the general popularity of a lot of the Hugo Award winners, you find that they often have a wide popularity. Red Shirts, Ancillary Justice, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who. These are easy to check in the best novel and best dramatic presentations categories. Red Shirts, for all the flack it got from some corners for winning, has been green lit for a TV Series. The Hugo wins for these directly reflect a wider popularity.

That brings me to the first of two points of why your success this year has caused such an uproar.

First, you put out a slate of nomination candidates. Not just a list of suggestions, but five nominees in some of the key categories. Your Sad Puppy slate was picked up, modified slightly, and shared as the Rabid Puppy slate which carried that to nearly every category. Because you listed five nominees, and between the two slates there were enough nominations to out vote the normal voters, you pushed out the more organic favorites of the year. When they publish the list of the top 15 nominees in each category later in the year, we will get to see just who got bumped off the list.

That you had works you wanted to see nominated really isn't the issue. You did this two times before with no uproar. That this year the two Puppy slates took over the entire nominee list in several categories is. It comes down to a slate and getting people, not to express their own opinions, but to follow yours to the letter that has people mad. I won't even get into the makeup of your list which has led to the nominations taking a step backward in terms of diversity. I'll just point out that it makes many even angrier. But it is the slate idea that you ran with that is the real issue. I personally would like to see the rules changed to prevent that in the future, but I won't be at the Worldcon so I can't take part in the rules meeting.

The second thing that has caused the uproar are your ties to Vox Day and his Rabid Puppy slate. I should note that it is actually this Rabid Puppy slate that swept the nominations. Where the slates differ, it is the Rabid Puppy slate that got the nomination. But the backlash is seems to be more directed at the Sad Puppy campaign as the originator and public face of the Puppy slates.

Vox Day had caused quite a stir previously in the SFWA. He has become persona non grata there and the opinions he has expressed in many areas, such as race, gender, his fellow writers, etc. has not won him any friends and those ill feelings toward him have increased the ire against you. Your cause is now forever tainted because he has ridden your coattails and you let him, even encouraged him. Rather than shun him as the pariah he is, you defend him. Instead of standing up along with the overwhelming majority of the SF community against what he stands for, you have embraced him as an ally. The enemy of my enemy is my friend... well, not in this case. He is a poison and both of you and Sad Puppies are forever tainted by your acceptance of what he has done.

In addition to his well know bigotry and his bad attitude concerning the SFWA, he has threatened to destroy the Hugo Awards. Frankly, this should have really caused you to distance yourselves from him. If the goal is to get works you enjoy nominated for an award because you feel they are being overlooked, you need the Hugos. Destroying them does not do you, or anyone else, any good. It does benefit Vox Day, giving him a much needed victory after the beating he took running for SFWA president. But if you want to see any awards ever, you need the Hugos intact. If the Hugos die we are left with the Nebula Awards. They are given out by the SFWA. Do you think you stand any chance of gaming the system there? No. That is not an award by fans like the Hugos.

There are more than one group who feel the Hugos are better off dead than be controlled by the other side. The problem is that Vox Day's view is a minority. The majority would rather see them die than see him control the awards. So if the Hugos die, it will be on the terms of the fans who attend Worldcon, not you or Vox Day. They have been the widely acknowledged crown jewel of awards for science fiction and fantasy. If they die that title automatically goes to the Nebula Awards. There has been a great many dual winners over the years. That duality in acknowledgment is another point against some secret cabal of "SJW"s gaming the Hugos, because there is no way for the same group to also game the Nebulas.

So, with a contention that there is a group of "SJW"s at work knocked down, with your slate voting concept seen as the great evil, and with your alliance with Vox Day pulling your otherwise noble goals into the gutter, I would hope you would reconsider your stand on the issues. The slate idea must go. It is really the root cause of ill will against you two. Had you succeeded in getting two nominees in each category, that would have been a success. As it stands now, the seeming success in getting so many nominees on the ballot and dominating so many categories is actually your downfall. And your association with Vox Day is pulling you down the final distance.

I read Brad's very nice post about racism and bigotry really being a type of tribalism. It made great sense. But to then be allied with Vox Day puts a lie to all the logic and thought of that idea. As long as you are allied with him and support him you tacitly support his horrible level of bigotry and no one can take what you say your own beliefs are seriously. In many minds, his bigotry applies to you two as well. There are some people it is just not worth being allied with, even if they share a similar cause. Being allied with Vox Day has very likely destroyed any chance either of you have of ever getting a Hugo or whatever might take its place. It is not your cause, which is just, but the combination of a nomination slate and being allied with Vox Day that is leading you down a dark path.

I, for one, am quite willing to forgive and forget if you forgo the slate concept and break ties with Vox Day. You do not have to give up your cause or give up trying to get works you feel worthy nominated. That is the whole point of the Hugo Awards being fan sourced. Anyone can conceivably win if they get noticed. But going for a slate and getting Vox Day and his cronies to carry their version of that slate to victory is not the kind of notice you want. You want people to see these works and agree to their greatness. Instead, these works may now tainted and their creators marked. But there is still a chance to save your cause.

In many ways, I agree with you. But I have long seen a trend to have a message in stories. The great writers I enjoy can't help but put there message in there. It is part of who they are. But that has rarely gotten in the way of a great story. It is that goal of a great story that any award given by science fiction and fantasy fans should put first. A lot of times all you need to do is put something great in front of them for them to see it. This time, the way you did it has overshadowed what you were trying to do. that is a shame. But what you are fighting against is not some secret cabal of "SJW"s, it is the participating fans at Worldcon. I'm sure there are a few in there who could rightly be categorized as "SJW"s, but it is the body who votes for who receives the award and not only do the winners of the Hugos tend to be popular at Worldcon, but they are popular with the internet at large. Some may doubt the quality of the winners, but when you take a look it is impossible to deny their popularity.

While the Hugo Awards may not work the way you want them to, they have worked for the fan community since they started. It is rare that such a fan selected award marks the best of the field and I think the Hugos are unique and worth preserving. I think the best way to do that is to move on from this year, make the best of the nomination slate, and start fresh next year. I must confess that I am trying to organize a campaign against slate voting that I have dubbed the Soft Kitty Campaign, but its sole purpose to get people involved, no matter who they are voting for. I want to get the word out that for $40 anyone can participate. I won't be supporting any slate or even any leading contenders for 2016. I want to return to the organic nomination and voting process that made the Hugo Awards great. I can't see a shred of evidence, but if you are right about a group of "SJW"s, it will negate them as well as whatever Vox Day might try. I don't want to see the Hugos die or fall under any one person or group's control. It should be the will of the fans and majority wins.

I hope, rather than take immediate offense at anything I have said, that you will stop to consider it carefully. I am not doing this for anyone but you. I see the justice in your cause and I think there is still a chance to save it. Make Vox Day and Rabid Puppies the fall guy and take your cause and fight again next year. If you stand for the principles that you claim to, this should not be hard. Vox Day stands for a tiny minority and does not care if he destroys something good. I think the two of you do care and I hope you get the chance to prove it. It may be too late as far as some are concerned as it is Sad Puppies that is taking the blame, but not everyone will hold a grudge.

From my perspective, it is really what you do next that matters most. Best of luck to both of you.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Taking Sides - Rescuing the Hugos

There are some times when you can't sit by the sidelines. I find that now is one of those times.

There has evidently been a movement afoot for a couple of years to change the lineup of titles that get nominated for the Hugo Awards. The creator of this movement has called it Sad Puppies. This year, it was actually successful, probably because it was joined by a nearly identical movement called Rabid Puppies.

How the Hugo Awards are supposed to work is that those who have paid membership to the World-Con (either attending members of non-attending associate members) can nominate and then vote for the winners. From the breakdown of nominations, it appears that most nominees receive under 100 nominations, so this isn't something that has high participation. For honest nominations, you need to read the works in question. The top five (six in case there is a tie for fifth place) titles in each category go on the ballot. That is how it is supposed to work.

Well, the two puppies movements each listed a slate of desired nominees. In several of the categories, the puppies movement nominees swept the nominations. The big question is if the people doing the nominating even read what they were nominating. If they didn't then quite a number of titles have dishonestly been nominated based on even fewer readings than normal. From the numbers, it looks like it was about 50 people who jumped on board and nominated the full puppies slate. Its also possible that there were more who only nominated some of the slate. Either way, it was a concerted effort to derail the normal process.

I've seen several of the supporters of the puppies moments claim that the nominations have been dominated by Social Justice Warriors (SJW) as if that were a derivative term. The science fiction I grew up on and love has always pushed for equality and justice so if following that example makes one a SJW, so be it, I am one. I was raised in a Christian household and the focus was always about being fair and just and living by Jesus's example. I grew up reading science fiction where the color of your skin, gender, and sexual preference made no difference. The TV shows and movies I enjoy have always been blind to race. Star Trek went out of its way to be more integrated than was normal. MASH taught me the horror of war and the duty of doing your part and treating the enemy as people. So if all this is bad, then the acknowledged greats of science fiction, television, and the movies have been wrong for many years. Sorry, but I don't buy that.

Instead what I have seen is the growing insanity of the right wing movement in this country. I was a Republican at one time, but the party has moved from where it was in the 80's and what it professed to stand for to adopt an insane mix of religious right causes along side some very un-Christian fiscal conservative causes and all that wrapped up in and anti-science and anti-education bundle that moves further to the right each year.

Meanwhile, I remain much where I was in the 80's, when talk of national health care was not a liberal socialist cause, but a concern for all. Where everyone was in favor of helping up the poor in this country and everyone was in favor of education and the space program. Today, it is like we have politicians from the 19th century trying to pull us backwards and I feel that is what the puppies movements are trying to do to science fiction. They champion the Edgar Rice Burroughs male dominated tropes (fine for 1915, but not fine  for 2015) and ignore how broad and vast science fiction has become. They bemoan the straying from the likes of Dune and Foundation while ignoring the rich tapestry of what we have now. They blame a secret cabal of SJW's when in fact the makeup of the genre has changed and they have failed to change along with it. Are they write that some deserving titles have not gotten nominated? Perhaps, but the solution to that is a campaign for a title or two and not a total takeover of the the award nomination slate.

The puppies movements are a sign of the poison of our time. Normally the wackos are spread equally between the right and the left, but today I see a disproportionate number on the right along with a disproportionate lack of education, belief in conspiracy theories, and belief in dogma over facts. The puppies movements are no different and if they keep this up, there are those of us who will fight back. Mark my words, this hijacking of the Hugo Awards will not go down without a fight and I will be right there in the thick of things.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Little Light on the Past

Three Science Fiction Authors That Inspired Me As a Child
by Margaret Fortune

Ask any science fiction writer to name the authors that inspired them, and you’ll likely hear some very familiar and famous names: Asimov, Clarke, Wells, Dick, Heinlein, Herbert, Verne. The list goes on and on, and no one’s list is quite the same. However, when I think back to my childhood, to the very first science fiction books that captured my imagination and inspired a love of sci-fi in me, it’s not the famous names that leap to mind. It’s the authors who wrote science fiction for children. Since it’s unlikely you’ll find these names on most people’s lists, I thought I’d shed a little light on a few sci-fi authors that maybe aren’t so well-known.
As a child, I was a voracious reader, and the library often felt like a home away from home. Now there wasn’t much science fiction for children at that time, at least not that I found, but there was a little bit. In particular, three authors—all female, interestingly enough—who first inspired me to dream of space stations, underground cities, and alien planets.

Louise Lawrence
I fell in love with her first book, Andra, from the moment I read it. Andra tells the tale of girl living in a rigid underground city in a future where Earth’s surface has been destroyed. Blinded in an accident, she’s given a brain graft from a boy who died in the 1980’s to save her sight. Not only does she wake up with the ability to see again, she has the ability to see a past Earth that was still green and free. 

This may be the first dystopian book I ever read, and I was enthralled by this restricted society and the rebellious girl who would challenge the authorities to ask for something better. The ending was both truly terrible and truly perfect at the same time, and this is one story I have never forgotten.

H.M. (Helen Mary) Hoover
Space stations, alien civilizations, colonies on Mars, underground cities. H.M. Hoover seemed to write it all, and she was, without a doubt, my favorite science fiction author as a child. The Delikon, Away is a Strange Place to Be, The Winds of Mars, This Time of Darkness…I honestly don’t think I could pick a favorite. These books, among many others, were all wondrous in different ways. What I will say is that these were the books that truly transported me to far-off worlds. That made me contemplate what it would be like to live on a space station or to discover an alien civilization…or to be conquered by one! 

Monica Hughes
I first saw her book, Invitation to the Game, in a weekly reader at school, and had to read it based on the cover alone. Set in an overcrowded futuristic Earth, this is probably one of, if not the first book, I read dealing with virtual reality simulations. However, it wasn’t this book, but the one it led me to, The Keeper of the Isis Light, that really left an impression on me.

The Keeper of the Isis Light tells the tale of an orphaned girl raised by a robot on an alien planet. As a baby, she was physically modified to withstand the environmental dangers of the planet, and though still human, looks distinctly different. Having never seen another human, she’s excited when a new colony comes to settle her world…only to find out that different isn’t always considered a good thing. This book’s commentary on what it truly means to be human—both inside and out—is a lesson worth remembering.  
These days, there is no shortage of MG and YA science fiction to inspire today’s youth. YA sci-fi is booming, from dystopian epics like Veronica Roth’s Divergent, to space adventures such as Beth Revis’s Across the Universe, to alien invasion stories like Rick Yancey’s The Fifth Wave. And as a YA crossover science fiction author, I hope my stories will one day inspire readers, both young and old, as well. The same way I was once inspired by battered old library books from the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s that contained amazing stories and added their own small piece to the world of sci-fi. 

Bio:  Margaret Fortune wrote her first story at the age of six, and has been writing ever since. She has a BA in psychology from the University of Minnesota – Morris, and her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in magazines such as Nth Zine, Neo-Opsis Science Fiction Magazine, and Space and Time. Her science fiction novel Nova is the first of a five book series coming from DAW Books in June 2015. 
Twitter: @mara_fortune

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Rise and Fall of the Eleventh

In this round of viewing, I am endeavoring to make sure I have seen every story at least twice. since I know what episodes I've had in my collection and when and how many times I've viewed them, I have skipped Doctors Three, Four, Nine, and Ten. Three, Four, and Seven I have seen uncountable times, but I only recently got my hands on the missing episode reconstructions for Doctors One and Two and filled in seasons twenty-one and twenty two completing my Fifth and Sixth Doctor collections. That left Eleven and Twelve to watch again.

It has been a marvelous experience to dive in with Matt Smith and really see him. His performance was brilliant. As the youngest actor he could have taken it many ways, but he played it as a very old man in a young body.

Unlike the Classic Era, the New Series often features many shorts and minisodes. I have not included those here, though I did watch them all. Also, the two parters are listed as a joint title.

The Eleventh Hour - Ameilia, fish fingers, and custard. The newly regenerated Doctor crash lands in Amelia Pond's back yard. He has two issues to solve - to fix the Tardis and to figure out what the crack in the wall is. He ends up putting the Tardis first and doesn't return for many years. He does it in a brilliant way which gives a good introduction to his Doctor. His choice of costume matches and he ends up looking like a 50's college professor. A fabulous story.

The Beast Below - The United Kingdom is replicated on a space ship that carries the last survivors of Earth. But something is amiss. There is no engine sound or vibration and people disappear. It turns out that the designers had captured a giant space whale and are forcing it to propel their ship. They hadn't even asked if it was willing. This story was good fun and the portrayal of a future Queen of England was marvelous.

Victory of the Daleks - Churchill calls and the Doctor answers, but something is amiss. A scientist claims to have invented armored soldier. The Doctor isn't fooled, if it looks like a Dalek, it must be a Dalek, even if they keep repeating that they are England's soldiers. Once they confirm the Doctor's identity, their plan is unleashed. They release a new breed of Dalek. This was an unusual episode with some nice ties back to Power of the Daleks and some nice twists. A good Dalek tale.

The Time of Angels & Flesh and Stone - A throw away line from her first appearance sets the stage for this River Song story. The crash of the Byzantium turns out to be a weeping angles story of excellence. Even viewing it a second time it took a moment for the Doctor referring to the natives having two heads to click that the statues only have one. The crack that appeared to the audience but not the Doctor in the previous two stories plays a major role and we learn that to be sucked through the crack is to be wiped from existence. This two parter is fantastic and full of action and adventure. The angels are well used and River makes the story a lot of fun.

The Vampires of Venice - Rory joins Amy and the Doctor and they head back to Venice, but something is wrong. At first it appears to be vampires, but the Doctor can tell they aren't and wonders what is so terrible that it doesn't mind being though of as a vampire. The creatures have a plan for taking over the Earth so the Doctor must stop it. A well done story and a good first story for Rory (well, second, but the first traveling in the Tardis).

Amy's Choice - Amy, Rory, and the Doctor are faced with a dilema, which reality is real and which is a dream. It prove a nearly impossible decision and it falls to Amy to decide. This was a well written and executed story.

The Hungry Earth & Cold Blood - Homo-reptilia are back. They aren't quite the Silurians who faced the Third and Fifth Doctors, but they are related. A drilling experiment has touched off their perimeter alarms and awoken a small portion of the homo-reptilia below. The factions have different ideas, some want to kill the humans some want peace. Near the end the find a crack and Rory is pulled through. When the peaceful faction wins out, the Doctor has them sleep for another thousand years and two of the humans join them. This story was an interesting way to bring back an old adversary and give them a fresh look. A well done story that certainly ends better than the previous encounters did.

Vincent and the Doctor - Richard Curtis gives us the Doctor, Amy, and Vincent Van Gogh. The troubled painter can see a creature that no one else can see. The Doctor identifies it when Vincent paints what it looks like. The Doctor wants to take it to join its fellows, but there is no way to communicate and they end up killing it. The ending scene at the museum pulls at the heart in typical Richard Curtis fashion. He should definitely do more.

The Lodger - This Amy light episode has the Doctor becoming a roommate with a man who has an interesting neighbor upstairs. People keep disappearing. It turns out that it is a time machine looking for a pilot. The design is important later, as many things in this season are. Very well done.

The Pandorica Opens & The Big Bang - A legend comes to life. The Pandorica is a box that holds the most dangerous being the universe has ever seen. Leave it to River to find it under Stonehenge. Romans, Cybermen, Daleks, and more show up as the Pandorica opens. All these enemies of the Doctor (for the Romans are actually Autons, including Rory) have come together to create the Pandorica to contain the Doctor. The cracks in the universe are the Tardis exploding and they think they can stop it this way. Rory struggles to maintain his identity but fails and kills Amy. But in a loop (because if he doesn't the universe will die because the Tardis is exploding with River inside) the Doctor comes back to tell Rory how to get him out and they put Amy in and Rory and Amy go forward the hard way while the Doctor jumps forward and has the younger Amy open the Pandorica. They have a Dalek to contend with to make trying to find a way to save River, the Tardis, and the Universe harder, but they manage to succeed, but the Doctor is on the wrong side and is no more. Until Amy remembers him, then he is back in a Tux to dance at her wedding. A whirlwind series finale that delivers.

A Christmas Carol - The Christmas episode always happen at Christmas and this one just happens to be on an alien planet where the Doctor gets to Scrooge a bitter old man. Fabulous music and a wonderful story make this an awesome Christmas episode.

The Impossible Astronaut & Day of the Moon - What a way to start a new series. The Doctor, now two hundred years older, dies in Utah and the Doctor (the younger version), River, Rory, and Amy must find out what happened. The trail leads to the White House then Florida where they find an Apollo space suit filled with alien technology and the Silence. The Doctor manages to stop the Silence, but they fail to find the girl intended to fill the suit. Delightful teasers. The story delivers but is not the best of the series.

The Curse of the Black Spot - Pirates and a water sprite open the story, but all is not what it seems. A dimensional ship and its healing hologram have them trapped. A fun story that has some nice surprises.

The Doctor's Wife - The title conjures images of River Song, but that is not what this story is about. Neil Gaiman delivers a triumph by having the Doctor follow a old distress beacon of a Timelord. Which of course turns out to be a trap. The lifeforce of the Tardis is placed in a human and the Doctor and his Tardis carry on a fun banter while Amy and Rory try to avoid dying in the hijacked Tardis shell. The Doctor has a few tricks up his sleeve that land him back in the console room and the Tardis is restored. One of the best of the Eleventh's stories.

The Rebel Flesh & The Almost People - Not every story carries a message, but this one did. In no uncertain terms it addressed the disposal of technology when it becomes so advanced that it seems alive. People inhabit synth flesh and to work in hazardous situations. But when events conspire to give the syth flesh a life of their own, things get dangerous. At the end of the story it is revealed that Amy is a synth flesh body and has been since Florida 1969. A fantastic story.

A Good Man Goes to War - The Doctor is after Amy and he pulls in a bunch of favors to do it. River mysteriously refuses. Demon's run is the target and the Doctor manages to take it without a fight. They rescue Amy, but her baby is gone. River reveals that she couldn't help because that baby is her. She is Amy and Rory's daughter. This story was a bit over the top, but good none the less. River's role is fantastic.

Let's Kill Hitler - So if the girl in Florida was River, what happened to her after that. Well, she went and found her parents (after at least one regeneration, maybe two) and grew up with them. It turns out Amy named her daughter after her best friend who.... is her daughter. The twists just make the head spin in a good way. But that body is shot and regenerates into the familiar face of River. Fun stuff and a good story.

Night Terrors - The Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive at an apartment building with strange things happening. The alien at work is just trying to find a home and they help it. It is a sweet story and a nice break from the intensity that preceded it.

The Girl Who Waited - What difference a choice makes. Amy is trapped in a faster time stream in a facility where terminally ill patients die. When the finally find her, she has been there for 30 years. She only helps them on the promise that she gets to live too, but the Doctor could never keep that promise. A very poignant ending.

The God Complex - Random people are trapped in a hotel and if they find the room intended for them they start worshiping the creature that will kill them. The Doctor finds a way to break the connection and reveals that it is a hologram hiding a prison. The monster dies. A chilling episode with the crack from the previous season making an appearance.

Closing Time - A light break. Looking back to the season opener, this is the Doctor's last stop before Lake Silencio in Utah. It is a sequel to the Lodger and features a crashed Cyberman ship causing havoc in a department story. Nothing really special, but still a good story.

The Wedding of River Song - The Doctor shows up for his execution and there is no surprise that it is River inside the space suit. But she won't kill him and it tears at the fabric of time causing all time to happen at once. In the end he convinces River to both marry him and kill him and the timeline is restored. But is the Doctor dead? No. He borrowed the Teselecta from Let's Kill Hitler so that he was both at Lake Silencio and safe from harm. It was a fun and surprising solution to the dilemma. A good season finale, though it came at it from a strange angle.

The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe - From Dickens to Lewis. This story is set in WWII and features a woman helping the Doctor and then him helping her in return. A very uplifting story..

Asylum of the Daleks - The Daleks need the Doctor's help. A ship has crashed on their asylum and something is wrong. As the Doctor investigates, he encounters Oswin, a survivor who has managed to avoid the Dalek Nano traps and can hack any Dalek system.

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship - The title says it all. An ark created by the homo-reptilia is on a collision course. The crew have been killed by the collector who has seized the ship. A interesting collection of companions, including Nefertiti, round out the story. This one was pure fun and a joy to watch.

A Town Called Mercy - The Doctor returns to the old west, but this time with some aliens to contend with. A cyborg is out for revenge on his creator but ends up becoming sheriff. Some good moment in a good story.

The Power of Three - Black cubes have invaded Earth and the Doctor is intrigued. He stays with Amy and Rory to check it out. when things start, UNIT gets involved and their new science advisor is non other than the Brigadier's daughter. And interesting idea and nice to see UNIT back.

The Angels Take Manhattan - The weeping angles have taken over a hotel in 1930's New York. They are tapping people and feeding off of them. Rory is their next victim. They use a paradox to escape, which clears New York of the angels, but there is a survivor who again takes Rory and Amy follows him. The Doctor is devastated. One of the most incredible exits for a companion. For while they are gone forever from the Doctor's life, they are not dead and life out their lives in New York, with Amy becoming a writer.

The Snowmen - The Doctor has retreated to 1890's London, with Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax, to mourn (or sulk, whichever seems to fit). But living show and a charming governess named Clara change his mind. He tried to offer Clara the Tardis key, but is prevented and Clara falls, mortally injured. His adversary is the Great Intelligence (last encountered by the Second Doctor) who has just formed. He defeats the Great Intelligence, but cannot save Clara. Only at her funeral, where he sees her headstone and her full name, Clara Oswin Oswald, does he realize it was her on the Dalek Asylum. The mystery is fantastic and the story was quite good.

The Bells of Saint John - Deep in the middle ages, the Tardis phone rings. It is a young women needing computer help. It is Clara and the Doctor is intrigued. The enemy turned out to again be the Great Intelligence and the Doctor defeats it for a fourth time. A great story.

The Rings of Akhaten - The Doctor takes Clara someplace spectacular and alien where Clara encounters a young girl. Turns out she is the most important person and to rescue her Clara has to do something amazing. A nice twist on the Doctor always saving the day. A somewhat slow story, but not too bad.

Cold War - A nice double meaning title. During the Cold War, the Doctor and Clara materialize on a Russian submarie, It has just brought aboard a block of ice with something inside. It turns out to be one of the most famous of the Martian Ice Warriors. He is soon lose on the ship out of his armor. The Ice Warrior ship that come to his rescue brings the entire submarine to the surface. Unlike the redesign of the Silurians, the Ice Warrior design remains unchanged, except that it is now armor instead of their skin. A nice change and a well written episode.

Hide - When is a ghost story not a ghost story, when it is the echo of a lost time traveler. Well done twist after some really scary scenes. Love this one.

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS - While trying to teach Clara to fly the Tardis, the Doctor lowers the shields and the Tardis is attacked by salvagers. The Tardis is going to explode and the Doctor slips through a crack in time and delivers a message that lets him raise the shields in time and avoid the salvagers in the first place.

The Crimson Horror - There are some stories that just work because of who plays the parts. The Pater Noster gang is back and Diana Rigg guest stars. Some great material and a nice Victorian themed alien encounter. A favorite of mine.

Nightmare in Silver - In the far future, Cybermen have advanced to a horrifying state and nothing can stop them. In a game of surviving until everyone could be saved, the Doctor nearly doesn't make it except that one of the kids Clara cares for guesses the secret that saves the day. The Cybermen were truly frightening in this one and the solution is drastic, but effective. And how could Neil Gaiman not deliver an excellent story.

The Name of the Doctor - Who is Clara? Why has the Doctor met her three times? When the Great Intelligence sets a trap for the Doctor and nearly wins, it is Clara who steps in to beat the Great Intelligence. She splits herself through the Doctor's timestream where she suggests which Tardis the First Doctor should steal and encounteres him many other times. The Doctor jumps into his own timestream to save her. They encounter one of the Doctor's many secrets right before they escape.

The Day of the Doctor - 50 years to the day from the first episode, the story starts up at Coal Hill School with Clara teaching. She goes to meet the Doctor but as soon as she is in the Tardis, the Tardis gets picked up. Kate Stewart and UNIT have a mystery. On Gallifrey, the War Doctor, the incarnation the Doctor has tried to forget, comes to the point where he can take no more. He stead the Moment, a dangerous weapon, to end the war. But the Moment is sentient and appears in the guise of Rose Tyler (as Bad Wolf). She opens a door in time that lands the War Doctor, Eleven and Ten in Elizabethan England. Zygons and Queen Elizabeth give the Doctors a challenge, with Ten being forced to carry through with his promise to marry the Queen. In the 20th century, they settle the Zygon problem and the War Doctor makes his decision. But this time he is not alone (or maybe he never was). This time there is a solution, but the result looks the same as if he had used the moment. He regenerates as he takes off in his Tardis. Ten returns to his wanderings, and Eleven contemplates a painting, only to have a mysterious curator tell him it is called Gallifrey Falls No More. Epic.

The Time of the Doctor - A message is being sent out and the Doctor has to know what it says. The message is coming through one of the cracks caused by the Tardis exploding and it is from Gallifrey. He can't answer and can't leave so he stays. He twice tries to send Clara away, only for her to end up being there at the end. Becausse of what she says, his fellow timelords give him a new set of regenerations. Eleven falls and Twelve takes the stage. Again, epic.

As you can see from my reaction, I loved this Doctor and his stories. One of my favorite eras. Not everyone feels that way, but that can't be helped.