Monthly Archives: April 2015

Columbus the what??

This week in a discussion of a fantasy work that takes late medieval Spain for a starting point, one of the commenters was relieved that there was so far no Columbus, that genocidal jerk.  !!! I responded that that although I I was aware that it was fashionable to deride Colombus, that  was hardly fair, that he was a skilled, bold, ambitious seafarer, but not even Pizarro (who was notably bloodthirsty) was genocidal.

Then someone wrote back that he was a rapist and a murderer, that it was right there in his own journals, and that he was just as bad (in proportion to the people he encountered) as Pizarro. !!!

I didn’t want to sound like those incredulous people who demand proof for claims they find incredulous, so I went looking on the Internet. The first thing I found was where someone had asked for documentation of the claim that Columbus was a rapist.  The best (!!!) voted answer was an insult, on the order of “Look it up on the internet, stupid, everybody knows this” (!!!).  Digging a little deeper produced a couple of copies of a claim from his journal about how the first Indians he encountered were unsophisticated and easily dominated,  and an account of one of his men about how he had forced a slave girl (this was after Columbus had indeed taken captive and enslaved some Indians), but this wasn’t Columbus himself.  And there were a bunch of spittle-flecked rants about how he and everything that followed from what he did was the embodiment of evil, from a bunch of persons, whose identified affiliations strongly hinted at ideological axes to grind, and who seemed to be unfettered by antiquated notions of sober, evidence-based scholarship.  At about that point, I gave up that line of search: I would have to go deeper than I had time for.

This is why I call myself an independent scholar. If this is typical of what passes for higher education in today’s universities, and gets filtered down to teachers and students, I want nothing to do with it.

The Enemy’s Ring

It is common, these days, to hear in internet discussions, the concept that if you are being treated unfairly, to hit back twice as hard. There are political conservatives who read “Alinsky’s rules for radicals”, and, seeing how successful the radicals have been at undermining the foundations of Western Civilization, adopt them. “Hit back, twice as hard” they say.

This is wrong. In terms familiar to Tolkien readers, this is precisely why Gandalf, Aragorn, Elrond, and Galadriel all refused to take the One Ring. This was because by using the Enemy’s power, they would be overcome by it, and become as evil, or worse, than he himself.

Tolkien was a Christian and a veteran of World War I, and much of the powerful imagery of the Lord of the Rings can be traced to both sources. He had seen the terrible destruction in Europe and the deadlock that resulted  when both sides used the same weapons and tactics of artillery, machine guns, and trench warfare.  He was familiar with the Christian teaching,  “The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not” and wove that concept into his story.  In the story, those leaders who refused the Ring understood Sauron far better than he understood them.

You cannot out-devil the devil, or his agents. You cannot out-troll a troll, because a troll who is steeped in vile thought and language  will be more vicious than any decent person has any concept of or any practice at being.  There is a better way.


Blocs and prejudices

George R.R. Martin appears not to believe that Larry Correia’s claims about the ideological prejudice and outright bigotry Larry encountered at a Worldcon when he was a nominee for an award are accurate, or that there has been any imbalance in the kinds of works or authors considered for Hugo awards in recent years. The comments  to what he has written indicate that many people fear that the Sad Puppy 3 slate of nominees are the result of mindless group think and that the slate has crowded more worthy nominees out of consideration. They do not believe that those who voted for the works on the slate have read the works they nominated.  They cannot believe that stories liked by so-called racist, sexist,  homophobic people actually have any merit.  Many of them are disposed to reject all these nominees without even reading them,  because they are tainted due to “bloc voting”. But this is doing exactly what they claim the SP voters have done: It is forming their own bloc in reaction.  What they need to do, what the Sad Puppy proponents want them to do, and what they have always claimed to do, is read the nominees, vote for their preferences, and let the best work win.

More puppies versus neotraditionalists

Neotraditionalists are those who have dominated the WorldCons and Hugo awards over the past 20 years or so. They consider themselves the “old guard” and are concerned about the purity of the process used to nominate and select the awards. The quality of storytelling, not so much.

One of my favorite authors has been Lois McMaster Bujold, and I’ve been an intermittent participant on the mailint list of  her fan site, which she occasionally visits herself, for the odd bit of commentary and clarification.  These are some out-takes from my commentary there, so are mostly self-quotes. Since my comments were inciting controversy and the standing etiquette on that list is to take such subjects off the list.

Last month I attended a presentation by J.A Jance, a writer of murder
mysteries.  She recounted that after she had several published and
successful books, she called the local University and offered her services
as a writer-in-residence for their creative writing program. She got the
response “Oh.   We only do literary fiction here. We don’t do genre
fiction.”  [Boom. The villain in her next murder mystery was a professor of
creative writing].  I have seen  a similar complaint uttered by various
other authors of Science Fiction. These claim that academia is dominated by
cognoscenti who utterly disdain genre fiction: SF, Fantasy, romance,
mystery, etc. I tasted a bit of that attitude myself when I attempted a
class in creative writing. As one audience member put it, the type of
literary fiction esteemed in academia is stuff in which nothing much
happens to  characters you don’t like anyway. It also doesn’t sell.

There are those (including myself) who believe that SF&F has been infected
by the same type of attitude. Over the past 20 years or so, the segment of
fandom that votes on the Hugo awards has become increasingly elitist and
favors works that are socially edgy, bleak and dystopian, weak on
story-telling merit, or otherwise unpalatable to a large segment of fans. I
have seen multiple claims by casual readers of SF that the declining
general appeal of Hugo award winners has driven them away from the field.

I’m not sure what the appropriate response to “Quit foisting dreck on us,
we demand some better candidates” is, but I’m pretty sure a panicked “The
Barbarians are invading!” isn’t it.


It doesn’t take very many highly vocal members of a group posing as
representative of the group to create a misleading negative impression
of the entire group. An attitude of ” ‘No award’ is better than anything
your crowd would vote for” is as about as snobbish and contemptuous as
I’ve ever seen.

There is also an occupational hazard among critics of art, literature,
music, food, or what have you. Those who see many examples of an art form
often develop  different tastes than those who are more casual about it.
It happens that such a critic may become jaded by seeing many
examples of art, then become overly critical of popular works and overly
fond of innovative works, however unpopular, and then dismissive and
derisive of the general public for its lack of taste. The natural consequence is that the public reciprocates and rejects the critic.

Such critics need not be professionals or academics.


> How about “‘No award’ is better than letting a highly-vocal, unpleasant > minority, whose leaders have been vocal and gleeful about tearing down the > award, dictate what counts as good SF/F.”

Well, both sides have been hurling invective at each other. But I don’t
read vocal glee in tearing down the Hugo awards in what I’ve seen of
SP.  That reasoning for no award sounds a little scorched earth to me.
One of the vocal proponents of the political correctness theory of literary
merit has recently  posted a diatribe that reads as if it might have been
ghost-written for her by an orc-maid  and seems to be actually gaining
recruits for the opposition.

>Very true!  Except that the Hugos today are no more likely to skew that
> way than they were in decades past, in my opinion. 2013 gave the Hugo to > Redshirts, for crying out loud! It’s a great book, but not at all > abstruse or in a heightened literary style or anything. Just solid > middle-of-the-road SF adventure story with a large helping of humor.

Well, yes, occasionally something good does slip through.

[I should amend that.  I haven’t read it, but the accounts I’ve heard indicate

that it’s not all that great a book. The least bad of inferior crop, ]


I am minded that the US Constitution set up a voting system such that the
electors in each state would each make an independent judgment about the
best person for the job. This scheme fell apart, perhaps inevitably,  with
the rise of political parties and the introduction of slates of candidates.

The situation with the Hugo awards has become similar, although this seems
not to have been the original intention of SP.  Their reasoning seems to be
that SF&F publishing and the associated awards have become dominated by
those who favor, celebrate, and praise gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender
activities and values, along with those of women and minorities, in the
name of diversity. Authors and fans who are insufficiently enthusiastic in
their praise and celebration of such activities and values have been
feeling increasingly marginalized for years. The SP activity has brought in
and is bringing in many new fans, with, possibly, a diversity of  opinions
and tastes.

However, when I read comments that have the flavor of  “This is our
playground now. Homophobic, racist, sexist, Christofascist bigots and other
unpersons are unwelcome”,  I am minded to paraphrase Polgara to Ce’Nedra:
What an absolutely charming display of enlightened tolerance.

Such a partisan split in the field is regrettable, but speaking as a
veteran of a long-term covert struggle for dominance that squeezed me out
of something I cherished, I prefer a more open conflict

Sad Puppies and the Hugo Awards

Ever since I was young and discovered the stories of Jules Verne in my elementary school library, i have loved Science Fiction.  I read the stories of Robert Heinlein, Arthur C, Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and later Andre Norton, Alan Nourse, and Ben Bova.  I didn’t discover Fantasy until High School, when a friend introduced me to J.R.R. Tolkien, but I have followed the development of the fields as they began to merge. I have a small to medium collection of my favorites, which I occasionally ad to

Somewhere along the line, I encountered the Hugo Awards and the Nebula Awards, which were awarded by fans and other authors.  Over the past 20 or so years, I have been less and less enchanted with the Hugo Awards as a guide to the kind of science fiction I would like.

To simplify the descriptions,  Hugo awards are selected and nominated by fans, specifically those who attend the WorldCon conventions. The history is complex, but right now, there are two major factions. The newcomers on the scene are the Sad Puppies, first organized by Larry Correia, with something of his history and reasons for proposing a slate of works to be considered,  here, although the current campaign is led by Brad Torgerson  The Sad Puppies were successful in having a major influence on this year’s nominations.  The other major party is the old traditionalists. These are livid with rage over the success of the Sad Puppies, and have proposed that “No Award” be selectect over anything on the Sad Puppy suggested slate, and have thrown away all restraint at demonizing and vilifying the Sad puppy organizers, recommended writers, and fans. Patrick Neilsen Hayden and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who run the Making Light blog are among the leaders of the old traditionalists, although t here are several others.


The Great and Abominable

First, a little bit of background.  In the Book of Mormon, there appears the description of a church that would arise following the ministry of Jesus Christ.

1 Ne 13: 4-10

And it came to pass that I saw among the nations of the Gentiles the formation of a great church.

And the angel said unto me: Behold the formation of a church which is most abominable above all other churches, which slayeth the saints of God, yea, and tortureth them and bindeth them down, and yoketh them with a yoke of iron, and bringeth them down into captivity.

And it came to pass that I beheld this great and abominable church; and I saw the devil that he was the founder of it.

And I also saw gold, and silver, and silks, and scarlets, and fine-twined linen, and all manner of precious clothing; and I saw many harlots.

And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church.

And also for the praise of the world do they destroy the saints of God, and bring them down into captivity.

And further

1 Ne 14:9-11

And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look, and behold that great and abominable church, which is the mother of abominations, whose founder is the devil.

10 And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.

11 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.

The Book of Mormon then refers the reader to the Book of Revelation in the New Testament; Revelation 17 and 18 have more description.

Then there is an injunction:

Doctrine and Covenants 18:20

20 Contend against no church, save it be the church of the devil.

The defining characteristics and recognizable marks of the great and abominable are a love of praise, sex, money, and power. These are found, not only among religious denominations, but secular organization.  For some time, I have had in mind a project of tracing the history of secularism from late classical times onward, but so far lack sufficient detail to do it.

However, I don’t think I can much delay getting involved in the fight against it.


Before I engage in potentially acrimonious discussion on other web sites I frequent, I find it appropriate to lay out my basic, bedrock, immovable opinions on homosexuality.
I view homosexual activity as wrong. To me, this is a matter of religious belief, morality, conscience, and reason.  I personally view it as somewhere between distasteful and repellent, but this is a separate matter.  I refuse to approve, endorse, or celebrate it.  I have listened to comparisons to civil rights and to racial prejudice and as a matter of reason reject them.  I will not let myself be intimidated, ridiculed, or persecuted into changing my mind. I can be ostracized and shunned, but I have become used to that. I can be called a bigot, but I’ve been called worse for better reason. I can be accused of having secret homosexual tendencies myself, but I consider this ridiculous pseudo-psychological claptrap. I have no wish to persecute those who believe otherwise, and so I will only say this here.