The Problem With Taste Tribes

Adam Sandler comes in two modes. He can be a good and fascinating actor. The issue here is that he needs to be controlled by another director and just appearing as an actor. The finest example of this is Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love. Punch Drunk Love featured Adam Sandler as a strange, lonely and emotionally abused man prone to rage and weird schemes to get frequent flyer miles. He was actually acting. He has tried to do the acting thing since Punch Drunk Love with varying degrees of critical and commercial success. Normally not that much commercial success.

The other Adam Sandler mints money. This Adam Sandler does movies that are willfully immature, juvenile, scatological, and perpetually offensive without any charm or wit. This is the Adam Sandler most known to the public and produces love or hate reactions. I am on the hate side.

The usual Adam Sandler was in the news yesterday for being obnoxious, immature, and jerky. Native American Actors walked off his set for offensive jokes and humor including “offensive names for Native American female characters and a scene where a Native American woman urinated while using a peace pipe.”

Like many people, I don’t find this very funny and I never understood why Adam Sandler is supposed to be a comedy legend. I didn’t even like his stuff when in High School. What I’ve seen errupt over this issue is the problem of taste tribes and the Big Sort.

A lot of my friends are on the left and their friends on the left so I saw a lot of stuff about the Adam Sandler story yesterday. Maybe more than most because a lot of friends are or were involved in the performing arts as well. One person made a comment about how Adam Sandler is already Box Office poison and this is going to make him especially so.

The problem with this comment is that it is absolutely not true. Grown Ups 2 was budgeted at 80 million dollars and made a gross of 247 million dollars. This is a rather big return on investment. And here we have a problem of taste tribes in which you assume your view is the conventional wisdom because everyone around you has close enough opinions and tastes. There are 300 million people in the United States and it is silly to think that your side (whatever that might be) will always be in the majority on every issue.

There are probably conservative or right-wing variants of people being shocked that a particular entertainer is popular and well-selling but I think that the far right-wing is more atuned to the idea that their tastes and ideas might be on the outskirts and they are willing to fight for it. Gamergate and the Hugo fight are vile and noxious but the proponents of both idiotic arguments seem to recognize on a deep down (and potentially unconscious level) that their tastes are no longer dominate.

This is what the Sad Puppies say:

A few decades ago, if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds. If you saw a barbarian swinging an axe? You were going to get a rousing fantasy epic with broad-chested heroes who slay monsters, and run off with beautiful women. Battle-armored interstellar jump troops shooting up alien invaders? Yup. A gritty military SF war story, where the humans defeat the odds and save the Earth. And so on, and so forth.

These days, you can’t be sure.

The book has a spaceship on the cover, but is it really going to be a story about space exploration and pioneering derring-do? Or is the story merely about racial prejudice and exploitation, with interplanetary or interstellar trappings?

There’s a sword-swinger on the cover, but is it really about knights battling dragons? Or are the dragons suddenly the good guys, and the sword-swingers are the oppressive colonizers of Dragon Land?

A planet, framed by a galactic backdrop. Could it be an actual bona fide space opera? Heroes and princesses and laser blasters? No, wait. It’s about sexism and the oppression of women.

Finally, a book with a painting of a person wearing a mechanized suit of armor! Holding a rifle! War story ahoy! Nope, wait. It’s actually about gay and transgender issues.

Or it could be about the evils of capitalism and the despotism of the wealthy.

Do you see what I am trying to say here?

The basic gist of all of this can be boiled down to “Our tastes are no longer dominate or important to a large section of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Community. We need to do something about it!”

My big problem with the Hugos is that it is more like the People’s Choice Awards because of the voting structure over being like the Drama Desks or the Obies. Anything picked by a mass number of people is going to get extremely political. Stuff picked by so-called industry experts and professionals can also be political and the experts can make bad or inexplicable choices but a good source of reform can be having panels of published SF and F Authors, Editors, and Reviewers pick works for Hugo nominations instead of having an open process that can be easily gamed.

The real issue here is that taste tribes and other acts of political polarization seem to allow people to imagine world’s of total victory. A world in which they are always the dominate viewpoint, the decision maker, and the dissenters exist in nothing more than silence and shut-up. This is not going to happen. Karl Rove imagined that 2004 would start a decades long Republican majority. Likewise people thought 2008 would be the start of a Democratic majority. Rather we seem to be entering into something that more resembles prolonged trench warfare at Verdun.

I am not completely against the idea of sorting based on taste tribes. A former OTer with libertarian viewpoints is facebook friends with a former OTer of very right-wing view points. I don’t know what they get out of their frequent and high-intensity fights over various issues besides a heightened probability of hypertension. I do think we would be better off learning that in a nation of 300 million and a world of 7 billion that not everyone is going to agree with us or have the same tastes as us and that is okay. We might learn to live together.

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136 thoughts on “The Problem With Taste Tribes

  1. Other stuff aside that SP quote is in many ways why i don’t read/see much sci fi any more. He is complaining that Sci Fi/Fantasy don’t reliably repeat the same old stories and tropes. How dare people use speculative fiction to speculate about all sorts of wild and weird things. Shocking.

    I started to find less different and weird and refreshing in sci fi/fantasy so i fell away from reading it. I’ve come back a bit to Scalzi and some Mieville. Perdido St Station….wow….now that gave me something different. PSS made me Wonder, yea for that. That is what speculative fiction should do to me. If others want the 139th barbarians swinging a sword story, good for them, but i’ll be reading/watching something else.


    • It’s funny, I was reading one Sad Puppy complain about Weber never being nominated (he specifically mentioned Off Armageddon Reef). Now, I’m a big fan of Weber’s. And that book? I own two copies (paper and electronic, although I got rid of the first) and have actually bought it as a gift for two people.

      I’d never in my life nominate it for a Hugo.

      It’s good. I enjoy it a lot. I’ve recommended it to friends, especially friends who like war stories and military sci-fi.

      It just seems obvious to me that ‘good’ and ‘enjoyable’ are not the same thing. Heck, ‘great’ and ‘my favorite book ever’ are not the same thing!

      Although we SHOULD have a thread of all-time great books. (Lathe of Heaven is pretty high up my list, just off the top of my head).


    • I recommend Catherynne M. Valente for some very out-there, trippy novels somewhere in sci-fi / fantasy / speculative / mythology-revisiting territory. I loved Deathless and especially Palimpsest, and I’ve read the first three of her Fairyland YA series and enjoyed them quite a bit as well.


  2. I want everyone to step back and marvel at that quote.

    A fully grown man, an actual published author, has posted his scathing denouncement of his chosen genre — and that denouncement? He can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

    My God, toss that man a Hugo and a Pulitzer Prize.

    Although if you’re not a sci-fi fan, his ‘spaceship on the cover’ is basically complaining about Ancillary Justice. (Hugo winner from last year) Which is hilarious on several levels — first, Ancillary Justice is MilSF, which the Sad Puppies complain is excluded.

    Secondly, the whole stuff about race and sexism? It’s because all the pronouns in AJ are “she”, which many complete idiots have taken to be some sort of feminist statement. They’re “she” because they’re being puppeted by a frickin’ alien who has no concept of gender, can’t tell human gender apart, and really doesn’t care anyways, because it’s an alien using human bodies as (effectively) attack drones.

    So the entire feminist statement there is Lecke chose “she” instead of “he”, which obviously means judging a book by it’s cover is RIGHT OUT and it’s time to invite in Charles Beale and his cleansing sword of fire.


    • I disagree with the Sad Puppy statement but I think that more generous reading is popular. Science fiction readers always had a significant faction that simply loathed literary fiction in all it’s forms and functions. To them science fiction and fantasy were supposed to be anti-literary fiction. Plot and escapism was the most important element and more important than anything else. All the elements of literary fiction from elegant writing to characterization to themes was simply not supposed to exist in science fiction or fantasy. This argument is incredibly dumb because H.G. Wells put socialist commentary into some of the first science fiction novels ever but this line of thinking always existed in the fan community. The Sad Puppies are just the latest incarnation of this fad.


        • I have problems counting Frankenstein has science fiction. This is an anachronistic way of viewing it but Frankenstein reads more like a literary novelist deciding to do his or her take on science fiction than a science fiction novel even though this makes no sense in the context of when Frankenstein was written. Even the most political and literally of science fiction authors read in the spirit of the genre than literary authors. Ursula Le Guin seems closer to a pulp writer than the Bronte sisters in style while Mary Shelly seems closer to the Bronte sisters in style.


          • Frankenstein meets the basic criteria for science fiction. The tone is, of course, very different from the sci-fi of decades further down the line.

            But style has never been a defining aspect of it.

            Frankenstein is very early work, of course, but consider this — every story about robots that rebel and turn on their creators? Frankenstein. (Although really I think that particular mythos can be traced back earlier, I’m thinking some stories about golems for one).

            Culturally, Frankenstein has shaped a lot of Western sci-fi. Given the basic story is about a creation of science gone horrible wrong, killing it’s creator, then musing about what it means to be human….how is that not sci-fi?


      • Lee,
        I think you’re mischaracterizing… The Plot First people are the ones who like Shiny Ideas (or, in Niven’s Case: The Totally AWESOME). They want more science, more methodology — characterization second, because the shiny ideas are better than characterization.

        (sidenote: YOU try doing characterization in 2 pages or less. I’ve seen it done, and done well, but damn that’s difficult).


        • I’m not a fan of his work.

          I used to read his primary blog before he became obsessed with John Scalzi.

          His secondary blog still has some valid points, though.


          • He has a lot of views that are shared by many people here, in fact. I mean, we can, as so many do, laugh at his combination of libertarianism and Dominionism, but he’s pretty bog-standard Austrian-type libertarian most of the time. Even the “I’m in Mensa so my reasoning is correct” attitude is pretty standard in that regard.

            Those views are supplemented, however, by some views that are definitely not standard: women’s suffrage leads to fascism, white supremacy is good science, vaccines are evil, evolution has been falsified, say what you will about the Nazis but they knew how to ethnically cleanse an area and we could learn a thing or two from them, and so on.


  3. Or is the story merely about racial prejudice and exploitation, with interplanetary or interstellar trappings?

    Like Asimov’s Pebble in the Sky, 1950.

    Or are the dragons suddenly the good guys, and the sword-swingers are the oppressive colonizers of Dragon Land?

    Gordon Dickson’s The Dragon and the George, 1976. Or in some ways A. Bertram Chandler’s Giant Killer, 1945.

    Nope, wait. It’s actually about gay and transgender issues.

    Like John Varley’s Eight Worlds stories, which began with Picnic on Nearside, 1974. Or LeGun’s The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969.

    So whatever else you want to say about Torgerson, he doesn’t know shit about science fiction.


    • He apparently thinks Star Trek lacked message. Star Trek. First interracial TV kiss? A war between a race that was half-white and half-black (versus the half-blacks, half whites?). An obvious socialist utopia?

      Star Trek not only had plenty of messages, they weren’t even subtle.

      That’s what I don’t get about the Sad Puppies. It’s run by two authors — they have to know their argument is not born out by, well, the entire history of sci-fi or fantasy. At all. So what’s their real beef?

      Beale is obvious. His name is all over the RP slate.


      • Let that be your last battlefield was something else. I watched it as a kid and was like huh… then I happened across it about two, three years ago and I was genuinely shaken after the end of it. They played that on national TV in the friggin 70’s?!?!?!


        • That episode gets some guff for “heavy-handedness”, and I guess if you saw it recently or as an adult I get that; but I saw it as a kid too, and it was something that made a real impression on me, and I thought about more than once as I grew up.

          So maybe it is heavy-handed; but there were sure a lot worse lessons an impressionable kid could have been absorbing.


          • The heavy handedness was more of a “A guy that writes sci-fi and fantasy for a living can’t POSSIBLY have viewed Star Trek as lacking messages”.

            I think a lot of the problem is simpler. Writers write what they know. They write stuff that interests them. So their work is going to be infused with their ideas, their worries, their questions. The bad stuff is blatant screeds, but the good stuff — it’s part of the author’s mind on paper.

            And you don’t see your own issues like that, because what you’re writing is what makes sense to you. You see your deliberate messages, but not the million little things that shape you and your life and your background.

            So when you read something written by someone with a far different perspective, you see their deliberate messages — but are bombarded with all the ways they don’t see the world like you do. And that can become “all those ideological messages”.

            I just don’t see how you can get to the professional stage and claim sci-fi lacks messages. I mean, maybe you can fool yourself about your work, but seriously. I’d be hard pressed to name a single decent sci-fi show or book of the last 30 years that didn’t have SOME messages. Didn’t wrestle with some interesting problem of society or human nature.


            • That’s not actually what they’re saying.

              What they’re saying is that of course the SF&F that’s lasted has been about sneaking messages in under a candy coating of laser blasters…but that the candy coating was still what brought people to the table, and that lately it seems like the candy coating is more of a dusting with powdered sugar.


                • Actually, to ditch the metaphor. It’s not a candy coating. It’s a bloody story about an idea.

                  If you remove the coating, you have Anvillicious Author or Author Tract, as TV Tropes calls it. Like Goodkind — after his sword of truth books hit big, somewhere near the end it went from fairly stock fantasy with big self-reliance character to the main character basically shouting objectivism at the weirdest pacifist/socialist parody I’ve ever seen.

                  I am not kidding, there’s a bit where the protaganist slaughters his way through unarmed protesters who were, quote, “armed only with their moral clarity”.

                  It’s not like the rest of the books were message free, but for that one he just outright discarded practically everything BUT the message and it was like reading a pamphlet. A really thick pamphlet that was badly written.


                  • It’s a good three leagues until we reach the Wizard’s castle, Gildor, but at
                    this pace we can be there by dusk, weary though we shall be. I’m dreaming
                    of the soft couch we’ll find when we get there. I am getting old. When I
                    was a lad, I could run from luncheon until supper, never stopping. Hardly
                    slowing down, I wager. There was a game I used to play. One lad would
                    throw a ball for another to strike, and if he did, he would run around
                    the courtyard. Good training it was, sharpened the eyes and the wits. Do
                    you know, when the young pages play at it nowadays, the thrower never takes
                    a turn at striking? Where’s the sense in that, Gildor? If a lad’s a strong
                    thrower but not a skillful striker, that’s part of the game. Should a great
                    lumbering ox of a page have a small, quick one to do his running for him?
                    Gildor, the world is not as it was.


    • Its even worse. H.G. Wells, one of the founders of science fiction, put some very obvious socialist commentary in all of his works. These were written in the 1890s or early 20th century. The real apolitical science fiction that the Sad Puppies are complaining about only existed briefly during the pulp fiction period. Even than you can argue that they had a Kiplingesque white man’s burden ideology.


  4. A few thoughts:

    -You are wrong to cut Adam Sandler into only two categories. Adam Sandler the guy who was on Remote Control, Saturday Night Live, and who made <Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore was very funny. At some point he turned into a real life caricature of the guy he played in Funny People. So, there is the funny Adam Sandler, the lazy Adam Sandler, and Adam Sandler the actor with a surprising amount of depth.

    – Not really sure who the Sad Puppies are and not all that interested in spending the time to understand the whole Hugo Awards thing, but what they are presenting is a somewhat complicated viewpoint. On the one hand, if you are complaining about the books you’re reading being too complex and telling more stories and sharing more viewpoints than you expected, then I have no sympathy for you. Grow up and learn to read like an adult. On the other hand, I kind of get it. The real question is whether these new works of SciFi really are bringing a more complex, more interesting point of view or whether they’re just social justice propaganda. I don’t have the knowledge or familiarity to know the answer, so I will refrain from speculating.

    I am not completely against the idea of sorting based on taste tribes… I do think we would be better off learning that in a nation of 300 million and a world of 7 billion that not everyone is going to agree with us or have the same tastes as us and that is okay. We might learn to live together.

    – To some extent people’s tastes will tend to cluster around certain aspects of their personality and their political leanings, so learning to live together is a great idea. I fully support it. Another great idea, however, is to not form aesthetic tastes as a pre-fabricated bundle, corresponding to some political ideology.

    Politics is stupid; good art is not. Stop letting the former ruin the latter.

    ps – It is funny how whenever people of a certain progressive persuasion mention Gamergate, they are sure to state how vile, or some other such suitable adjective, it is. It’s like old Catholic ladies making the sign of the cross whenever they mention a saint’s name or see a bad omen.


    • Same here. I haven’t paid much attention to the Hugo Awards story, but Saul’s depiction of the argument seems grossly unfair. He paraphrased it thus: “Our tastes are no longer dominate or important to a large section of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Community. We need to do something about it!” I think their argument is the exact opposite, that a small section of the sf/fantasy community is attempting to dominate the awards, and through them, the market.


      • That is their argument, and it’s really stupid. As those of us who read SF are all pointing out, what they’re calling a recent perversion of SF goes way back and has been winning awards since the beginning (which for the Hugos is the mid-50s).


        • JR’s skepticism is actually useful. JR, unconnected to the Puppies and the Hugos at all, but probably fairly friendly to the possibility that, indeed, a literary award might be getting skewed to disadvantage writers who drift too far from the gatekeeper’s boundaries of ideology. (He’d probably be more skeptical of anything but selection bias, once he read into the way the Hugos work. If the pool of voters is all who pay to support or attend a specific Con, and the people doing the nominations are the sub-pool of voters willing to fill out the form, then you have two levels of self-selection which can easily skew the results without any guiding hands at all).

          Anyways, having read the argument JR proceeds to think “You are obviously representing their argument unfairly” because even to a casual observer, it’s a pretty crap argument. No one serious enough to plan for and toss a spanner into the works of a major award due to bias is going to be that lazy with the intellectual underpinnings.

          Which to me, begs the question: If their stated reasoning is dumb — so dumb that even a casual observer jumps to ‘you’re distorting their claims, you have to be’ — then what’s their real reason, not the lazy justification?


    • Luckily, GRRM has taken the time to analyze the time period of the Hugos that Larry and Brad are so unhappy about. Where’s the beef?.

      From his conclusion, Martin is part of the sekret cabal. It’s basically a big giant eye roll at LC and BT followed by “Really? REALLY GUYS?”

      He’s not the only one. I’ve yet to actually hear which books the Sad Puppies are so sad about. Two names keep coming up — Scalzi (who won for Redshirts, a Star Trek riff that had no message other than ‘Killing people off on TV for drama is cheap writing’) and whose other nominations were for…MilSF, the stuff Brad and Larry claim is never nominated.

      And then Lecke, for Ancillary Justice — also MilSF. Other than the fact that all the pronouns are ‘she’, I can not seem to find some super social message there.

      A short story (“If you were a dinosaur, my love”) comes up a lot, but that’s….it.

      Complaints that Scalzi gets nominated to often (but not Charles Stross, who is an actual socialist and gets nominated just as often), that MilSF isn’t represented (despite several recent examples, including a winner) and one short story.

      That…scarcity…of actual book names and examples makes it feel like a justification. Given the Sad Puppies started because someone’s book was up for two awards and won neither, well……sour grapes is at least a very common human condition.


        • DensityDuck:
          Scalzi hasn’t *ever* written a MilSF book.

          “Old Man’s War” was not MilSF.

          Then you must have been reading an alternate-universe version of the book with entirely different contents. In this universe, Old Man’s War is most definitely military sci-fi. Any claims to the contrary are factually incorrect.


          • I’m with you. How is Old Man’s war NOT military sci-fi? It’s not particularly hard, but it’s not nearly as soft as some of Modesitt’s stuff (I’m thinking Parafaith War, for instance).

            Or heck, what about Ancillary Justice? That won last year!


          • +1
            From Wikipedia – “Military science fiction is a subgenre of science fiction featuring the use of science fiction technology, mainly weapons, for military purposes and principal characters that are members of a military organization involved in military activity; occurring sometimes in outer space or on a different planet or planets.”
            Most of Scalzi’s oeuvre meets that definition. Which is one of the things that makes the puppies so angry with him.


            • Thrilling observation there, Holmes, but unfortunately irrelevant. You claimed Old Man’s War is not MilSF.

              Old Man’s War meets the standard definition of MilSF. Your response is apparently “Not all military sci-fi is military sci-fi”. I remain unenlightened as to how OMW doesn’t count..

              So exactly what is YOUR definition of MilSF, how does Old Man’s War fail to meet it? And to bring it to point: Why should your definition be binding, as opposed to the pretty bog-standard, widely accepted one El Muneco quoted?


                • It’s solid. It’s a Hugo award nominee, it’s well written, and a solid premise.

                  I suspect DD doesn’t consider it milSF because it’s not packed to the gills with hardware porn. However, it does spend quite a bit of time on the actual…technology, let’s say (to avoid spoilers) available and how and why it’s relevant.

                  Considering the main character is a soldier in an war against aliens, equipped with fancy sci-fi gun and quite a bit of the book is him fighting in battles, it being anything other than military sci-fi is ludicrous.

                  It’s just not hardware porn, and the book is about the protagonist more than it’s about the fights.

                  Worth reading? If you don’t like Scalzi’s style, I’d say no. Otherwise, it’s a good choice. I enjoyed it quite a bit. Redshirts (the one that actually won him the Hugo) is an entirely different concept, and any fan of Star Trek AND of well written TV should read that one. Quite funny, too.

                  It’s certainly worth 6 bucks on kindle or in paperback.


                  • I think the Star Trek comparison is apt.
                    You’re not going to get anything from Scalzi where the viewpoint is /too/ alien, where the specifics of technology or intricacies of characterization take away from the plot, much in the way of experimentation stylewise, or really anything that isn’t grounded in a place we might get to from right where he is sitting now.
                    And I like his work, always have. But he won’t make a SF hall of fame. A novel’s worth of work every year until he (and I, we’re close in age) retires, he might end up as a Keith Hernandez “Hall of the Very Good for a Long Time” club member (that’s a baseball reference, a SF equivalent might be, um, Keith Laumer?).


                    • I dunno. Lock-In was pretty good. Redshirts and even OMW showed he has a fairly good sense of humor. Not Pratchett style “writing for humor”, but the ability to capture the absurd on page.

                      That’s harder than it looks. Redshirts was all about the absurd, of course. (My favorite line there involved the Ice Lake in the Ice City on the Ice Planet…and of course, the Ice Sharks). Specifically the absurdity of Star Trek, when viewed from a step back.

                      But in OMW and others, what he has is the ability to note the absurd, let it flourish — but in the way real life is often that way.


                      • One of his novellas The God Engines was very good. A bit weirder then his OMW stuff.

                        Some of his humor is just nerdrerific: Gamerians (sp) from one of the OMW books. Gamera ….love it…love it


                  • The entire OMW series is about a giant frickin interstellar war. It’s battles, offensives and war stuff like that. Of course it milSF. I’ve liked all the books of his i’ve read. Good fun stuff, like has been said, not ground breaking but entertaining books.


              • “So exactly what is YOUR definition of MilSF, how does Old Man’s War fail to meet it? ”

                When you think of an action movie, do you think of “First Blood Part 2” or do you think of “Apocalypse Now”?

                Because if I followed your reasoning here, I’d think of both of them.

                Note that I’m trying to claim Old Man’s War is aspiring to be something more than milSF. I guess I need to make that clear for the categorical thinkers here. But hey, if you can’t get past “shootin’ aliens with lasers means it’s milSF”, then hey, I can’t make you think any better than you’re capable of.

                PS Old Man’s War is a bait-and-switch. I was expecting something like “when wars are fought with technology, intelligence and experience are far more important than physical strength and reflexes and endurance, so we’ll have a story that’s basically old guys playing StarCraft. And we can have an interesting meditation on whether you can get combat stress vicariously, tying it back to modern American drone operators. And maybe we have a question of whether an army where every human is an officer would identify with its ‘soldiers’ and feel empathy when they’re lost in combat. And, of course, we have the bit where the bad guys break through to the command center and the old dudes have to fight after all.”

                What I got was much less interesting than that.


                • You didn’t give a definition of ‘military sci-fi’ there. You just reiterated that you didn’t think OMW was one, and that you also felt OMW was a ‘bait and switch’ because you saw ‘old man’ and thought ‘hey drones’. I’m not even gonna go into that.

                  So….definition of military sc-fi, please? Preferably specific enough so I can understand why OMW fits or does not fit? Also good enough to see if Ancillary Justice is one, or whether — say — Weber’s Off Armageddon Reef is one, or Modessitt’s Parafaith War?

                  Because again, using the standard, acceptable definition of ‘military sci-fi’ OMW is not even an edge case. It is clearly military sci-fi.


        • OMW is clearly MilSF. Enough so that it’s obvious Scalzi did his homework, since he never served. It may not have the insider flags that something written by Drake or Ringo would have, but it wasn’t a hack job written by an antiwar activist who can’t see military members as humans.

          Redshirts was a hoot.

          Little Fuzzy Reboot was well done & makes me want to go read Piper’s original again (loved that series when I was a kid).

          Scalzi is good reading. He needs to spend less time writing a blog & more time writing stuff I want to pay him for.


      • Well, they also complain about “Chicks Dig Time Lords” which even GRRM says is an undeserving joke. But you’re not really interested in their actual objections, are you?

        For anyone who pretends that there hasn’t been a shift in using the Hugos as a method of rewarding/punishing political views, riddle me this: without a change in the pre-SP status quo, would Orson Scott Card ever get another nom? Admittedly, Speaker for the Fishing Dead is no masterwork in the vein of “When you were a Timelord’s Redshirted Dinosaur, My Love,” but at one point it was considered a kinda-ok book, back before it became mandatory to demand boycots of OSC’s works.


          • Whether or not his books are are good is irrelevant. If quality was relevant, explain the movie boycotts (which began before we knew how shitty the movie was). What is relevant is that he is (gasp) a Mormon who (gasp gasp) actually believes in the tenets of Mormonism. Therefore, by offering any support (by admitting to liking, or heavens forfend nominating for an award!) you are offering support for the genocide of all non-cishetwhitepatriarchs. Now, once you realize that support for crimethinkers is a moral abomination, it is obvious why all non-goodthinkers must be excluded from all awards, past, present and future.

            Why you can’t openly admit this is bizarre to me.


    • …You don’t think that threatening to rape and murder people, and making it clear that you know their address and location and have all the necessary information to carry out such a threat, and driving them from their homes, and threatening to bomb their speaking engagements, is vile?

      If it was being done to someone who was critiquing, say, violence in Islamic cultures rather than violence in video gaming culture, we’d call that terrorism.


  5. In order to get people to high culture, we need to have an understanding that there is stuff that is better than other stuff and the best stuff is the stuff that you ought to be enjoying… but with an understanding that acquired tastes have some barriers to entry that need nudges to help overcome them.

    What we need is a decent “Middlebrow” again.

    It might also help to have stronger delineations between “childish things” and “adult things”.


    • How would you define a decent “middlebrow” culture? What are the components?

      I think the delineation observation is interesting. I have a theory that we are in a mass revolt against the idea of deineation. This sort of came up in While We’re Young when Ben Stiller’s Generation Xer expresses admiration for the adamant refusal of Adam Driver’s Millennial character to delienate or differentiate between high and low culture.

      The other variant I see from the fan scene is an very popular quote by C.S. Lewis about how becoming an adult is about giving up childish things with the addition of “including the desire to be an adult all the time” This can be expressed as “I have a job. I pay my bills. So what if I like video games and comic books over Truffaut movies and theatre.”

      In some ways these shifts have been going on for decades. As early as the 1930s, it was popular for high school and college students to wear comfortable clothing at school including jeans and cords. However, there was a firm understanding that you stopped wearing jeans after college because it was a childish thing. The Boomers turned jeans into an everyday sort of thing and decided that rock n’roll was there thing and they would not give it up. The Boomers were not that great at keeping up with new forms of rock music though and new bands once they became parents. Generation Xers and Millennials seem more determined to keep up with new bands even while being parents.

      So how do we mark differences when there is a firm culture that says it is wrong and immoral to do so?


      • Middlebrow is entry-level highbrow (given with the expectation that, if possible, you won’t stay stuck there but actually move to the good stuff).

        The other variant I see from the fan scene is an very popular quote by C.S. Lewis about how becoming an adult is about giving up childish things with the addition of “including the desire to be an adult all the time” This can be expressed as “I have a job. I pay my bills. So what if I like video games and comic books over Truffaut movies and theatre.”

        There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a piece of cake when you find yourself at a birthday party. There is much wrong with the expectation that cake should be a part of every meal and everything wrong with the idea that cake can be a meal in and of itself. It’s a good way to die of malnutrition and/or get really, really flabby.

        You have more than one job and more debts than merely the monetary.

        So how do we mark differences when there is a firm culture that says it is wrong and immoral to do so?

        Shaming. I’d suggest the mockery of people who prefer cake to steak with an implication that they’re some variant of being either stupid and if that doesn’t work, shift to implying that they’re evil.

        Sort of a public fat-shaming of those who eat cake at every meal and refuse to exercise.


      • in the 1930’s??
        “However, there was a firm understanding that you stopped wearing jeans after college because it was a childish thing. ”
        In the 1930’s people had two sets of clothes: work clothes and sunday best. Well, working people at any rate. You wore sunday best to the baseball game, because you didn’t want to stink of rotten eggs.


    • I’m in agreement. A lot of people with strictly high brow tastes always loathed middle brow entertainment but they didn’t understand the essential purposes of it. One of the reasons why middle brow was important was that it provided a bridge between low-brow and high-brow art and entertainment. This allowed people to waddle towards high brow from low brow without having to jump right into the pool.

      Middle brow art and entertainment was also aspirational. It taught people that there is art and entertainment that you need to struggle with and digest a little before you can completely understand it. There used to be an idea that if you aspired to be educated person, you needed to at least try certain things and know about certain things like the novels of D.H. Lawrence or artistic cinema like Fellini or classical music. Middle brow art and entertainment was a way to introduce people to the skills necessary to enjoy high brow art and entertainment fully. It also inoculated an idea that some things are important even if they aren’t the most fun.


  6. “A lot of my friends are on the left and their friends on the left so I saw a lot of stuff about the Adam Sandler story yesterday.”

    Seriously Saul, do you have any friends other that the left?


  7. The connection of Adam Sandler with the Big Sort seems weird to me. Sandler isn’t exactly Foxworthy. That you dislike Red America and dislike Adam Sandler’s stupid things don’t really make them a part of the same thing.


    • I was trying to tell my side to get real and not be surprised that people like Adam Sandler even though I think he is immature and dull.

      And I am fairly sympathetic to Will’s point of view about Republicans and popular culture even if I agree with the viewpoint that conservatives often do popular culture wrong.

      I just watched While We’re Young yesterday. Adam Driver’s character is supposed to be nffubyr. One early hint that he is a nffubyr is that he says these “I don’t think you can count on the government to support arts you just have to create.” A few seconds later he whispers a confession of “I actually voted for Romney in 2012.”

      My thought is that there are plenty of ways to show Driver’s character was an nffubyr without using those two lines which obviously play well with a smug liberal audience that is likely to watch a Baumbach film. I generally like Noah Baumbach films too.


  8. What I’ve learned from Sad Puppies is you can’t go wrong complaining award nominees are too white, but can’t be right complaining that award nominees are not white enough.

    (and that, as Morat & Schilling said, Torgersen has no idea how pulp covers were commissioned)


  9. d the experts can make bad or inexplicable choices but a good source of reform can be having panels of published SF and F Authors, Editors, and Reviewers pick works for Hugo nominations instead of having an open process that can be easily gamed.

    Hrmm, that sparks an idea. Have the fans vote for the books, and then vote for the judges (judges can not have a work under consideration). Then the judges make the final call on who wins what awards.


    • So, make the Hugos the Nebula’s then? Nebula votes are restricted to the SFWA — which means professional, published authors.

      Plus, wouldn’t shoving a panel of judges in there make the Hugos MORE easily gamed or biased? I mean, half the people speculating about shadowy conspiracies seem to think that’s how it works already, rather than being nominated by attendees and members of Worldcon.


  10. Yawn.

    Adam Sandler? Not seen anything since Happy Gilmore. Don’t care.
    Hugos? Please! A bunch of folks didn’t like the recent recipients of the awards ’cause they were too political or not sci fi enough. Whatever, and they campaigned to get more nominations on the docket and, end the end, folks they liked won. Don’t we do something like that every other November or so? But it gets better. The folks who lost are all pissy that they got schooled at their own game? Cry me a river.

    ” We might learn to live together.” Yah, good luck on that. Humans have been hating on “the other” since they stood up on too legs and could fashion tools…or earlier. We don’t WANT to live with “the other”.


      • Yeah, I’m aware.

        Voting: “The Hugo Awards are voted on by fans, and anyone who purchases a supporting membership at Worldcon can nominate two years in a row.”……

        Nominations: “Suffice to say, the nominees in pretty much every category (other than Best Novel) come pretty much exclusively from a fan campaign called Sad Puppies, organized by Brad R. Torgersen and Larry Correia. Last year, Correia organized a campaign which successfully placed one item in each category on the Hugo slate ”

        Not an exploit…it’s called “working the system”.


        • That’s…not what I meant. I meant how the actual voting system functions.

          Not “who can vote” but how the voting for nominees is done and tabulated.

          To skip to the end: That particular type of voting is highly vulnerable to bloc votes. Because independent voters scatter their votes around the entire field, a small minority (we’re talking a quarter or less. With as many candidates as the Hugos have, even 5% or 10%) can take effective control if they vote as a unit.

          Which makes sense — if 500 people are scattering their votes around semi-randomly for 50 candidates in groups of 5, a group of 100 people voting for the exact same 5 will tend to get all or most of their choices because their voting is cohesive.

          In programming terms — it’s a failure mode. It allows minorities to capture nominees in outsized proportions to their numbers (RP swept several categories entirely, for instance). Given that is NOT the intent of the voting system, it’s clearly a failure mode.

          The general outrage against the Puppies is simple — for 70 years or so, it’s been custom not to vote slates, for the simple reason that everyone understood slates would break the voting system.

          Calling it “working the system” is erroneous. While legal, it was only because (1) banning slates is too subjective and (2) it hadn’t been a problem for 70 years.

          You can feel free to admire it, but you should be able to admit the obvious: It’s exploiting a weakness in that form of voting. You don’t have to take my word for it — there’s plenty of work on election theory, and bloc voting in situations like this is a known failure mode. That’s why this particular method fell out of favor some time ago.

          While it’s also known that ANY election system can be gamed, very few can be gamed so trivially or with such outsized results.

          There are also known fixes. I favor RAV, myself, which alters how votes are counted. Effectively, it changes the weight of remaining votes. If your ballot of 5 choices has already selected a winner, your remaining votes count less. This iterates down the list.

          One of the things I like about it is that it addresses the Puppies claimed concerns (a cabal of lefties stacking the vote) because it automatically handles not just identical slates, but ballots that are too similar. Works heavily popular with a minority 20 or 25% of the voters have a much higher chance of getting their works on the ballot.

          It seems quite win-win to me. Prevents abuse of the system and creates a more diverse final system — where ‘diverse’ means ‘highly popular with sizable, but minority, subsets of the voters”

          That fixes EVERYONE’s concerns. Which is, of course, why I suspect everyone to scream about implementation. One side will (as Martin does) be deeply unhappy about changing a 70 year old tradition because he’s sure that the genie can be stuffed back in the bottle, the gentlemen’s agreement renewed — and the other side will scream because now they can’t lock down entire categories by running blocs.


          • Like you said, it’s legal and within the rules of the organization. That’s what I meant about “working the system”.

            “The general outrage against the Puppies is simple — for 70 years or so, it’s been custom not to vote slates, for the simple reason that everyone understood slates would break the voting system.”

            You can’t break what is, inherently, the designed structure of the voting system. Maybe it’s a crappy design, but i’m not speaking to that. The fact that “everyone” didn’t vote in slates before is irrelevant–they COULD have.

            Someone, who was upset about recent voting results, looked at the system and how they could get the outcomes they desired. They found one and implemented it. That sounds almost exactly like campaigns for political office. (Surely you’re not saying you have a problem with DEMOCRACY AND AMERICA!? warning: sarcasm alert) and every couple of years the FEC tweaks the laws and things settle down a bit, only to have someone clever exploit some other rule.

            I’ll not comment on the proposed solutions, because, frankly, I don’t care. I’m simply arguing that those who don’t like this result are all butthurt because they got schooled.


            • It takes a special sort of person to watch a group exploit a convention’s voting system, hijacking it for political purposes, and breaking 70 years of good-natured tradition as “getting schooled” and mocking the folks who give out and administer the award for being ‘butthurt’.


              • Again, since we’ve had this convo. You call it “exploit”. I call it “working the system”. And I wasn’t mocking the people who “give out and administer the award” I WAS mocking the people who were complaining about the results, that they didn’t like, by a group who “worked the system” to get the results they wanted. If that is one in the same, so be it.

                A word of advice about those folks. Stop bitching and do something about it if you really don’t like it. And if the Sad Puppies start bitching about how they got schooled with the new rules, I’ll happily mock them.


    • Dammit, this WASN’T the story my friend won an award for… (What kind of award do you get for revolutionary tentacle porn? The kind you don’t want in the house, obviously. It looks like Chihuly art).


  11. The aesthetic issue (i.e “we can’t tell a book by it’s cover!”) has been hit upthread, but there are a couple of other fallouts of the SP/RP-Hugo thing that also touch on the “tribe” thing…
    – Conservative SF readers should get more involved in fandom: well, of course. More diversity makes both sides better off. I’m getting a vibe that normal, everyday readers whose main introduction was through Baen e.g. channels are holding back because they feel a coolness – this impression is fueled for political reasons by the fanatics, but I don’t think it’s entirely baseless. One of the hostages of this whole mess is that the well might be poisoned in legitimately reaching out to that fan base that would and should be otherwise welcomed. All my friends and I were conservatives in the 80s and didn’t feel excluded per se, but I can understand that things have changed. (Ironically, more than one of us have commented on Making Light, which apparently is Ground Zero in the SJW conspiracy).
    – There was a SJW cabal that has been defrauding certain authors of deserved awards because of their politics: pretty well debunked. There have been multiple analyses of voting patterns, and there is neither fraud nor systematic bias (demonstrated). 44% of first-time Hugo nominees never get anything beyond that first nomination. That’s pretty much where Correia and Torgerson fit, from what I understand of the general consensus.
    – Given the above, the proper course of action is to invite Theo Beale and his GamerGate allies into the party, rules-lawyer the nomination process, and basically destroy the ability of the Hugo voters to honor anyone other than their cronies. Lest you think my mention of the GG alliance is a red herring, at least one of the SP/RP slate nominees would have refused the “honor” if not for fear of GG retaliation – which I guess makes him/her a “church lady” for justifiably fearing a movement(*) that exults in its ability to intimidate through fear of death threats.
    (*) Back at the beginning, there were some GGers who were legitimately concerned about ethics in game journalism. I thought it was cute/quixotic… They should have talked to a gearhead about how badly even a famously corrupt journalism segment impacts a hobby – i.e. not at all, really. Now, anyone who adopts the tag is accepting the “baggage” intentionally.


    • I’m rather fond of Baen, and I’m definitely one of those evil liberals. I’ve spent quite a bit of money on their e-books. Strangely, their catalog is NOT all conservative sci-fi and fantasy. It’s like they’re some sort of publishing house.

      I think that’s one big blind spot for the Puppies. Baen and Tor? They don’t care about your politics. You have to be Beale level toxic before they’ll consider dumping you. They just care if you make money.

      Tor, the Great Satan of this, publishes John C, Wright.. (He’s the one the Rapids nominated for like six awards).

      Sure, Baen specializes a bit — a BIT. Bujold’s on their list of authors for Pete’s sake.John Scalzi, the evil liberal figurehead, has been published by Baen!

      Publishing houses are there to make money. If they dump an author (rather than the author leaving) it’s generally because either the author isn’t selling well or the author is a giant PITA to work with. (Which is, I understand, not that uncommon).


      • Correia called out on his blog the fact that Tor is in no way a publisher that actively discriminates on politics. He noted that it’s easy to confuse some of the attitudes expressed on the various blogs of as being representative of the attitudes of the bulk of editors at Tor, but that is a mistake & most of the editors are business people first & really only care if a work will sell well & make money.


  12. I am on the hate side.

    I’m sure you’re being hyperbolic.

    Anyway Happy Gilmore is a legitimately funny movie. And has a young, chubby* Julie Bowen.

    I still refer to the guy who played Shooter McGavin as “Shooter McGavin” even when he is playing a different role.

    *Hollywood chubby, not actually chubby


  13. I’m sort of surprised but glad that you didn’t use the go-to Pauline Kael story that everyone uses on this topic (and usually misquotes) about having a sense that there were people out there who voted for Nixon although she didn’t know anyone who had.

    What’s amazing to me about these fights is how trivial they are. I mean, people aren’t fighting about the longest war in American history, or the rapidly vanishing prospects for their generation, or the relative emptiness of our cultural and intellectual life; they’re arguing with great passion about pop culture bullshit as if it was of any consequence. There’s something interesting about that on a psychological level. And it’s like they see it but can’t stop.


    • Well I have some standards for avoiding cliches :)

      “What’s amazing to me about these fights is how trivial they are. I mean, people aren’t fighting about the longest war in American history, or the rapidly vanishing prospects for their generation, or the relative emptiness of our cultural and intellectual life; they’re arguing with great passion about pop culture bullshit as if it was of any consequence. There’s something interesting about that on a psychological level. And it’s like they see it but can’t stop.”

      I am not sure I completely agree with this. I think culture fights can be proxy wars for these issues. I quoted the more moderate of the right-wing factions in the Hugo Fight. The other extreme group (Rabid Puppies) won more of the Slate and are being run by a truly noxious guy named Theodore Beale. Beale believes that there is scientific evidence to prove other races are inferior to Caucasians and openly questions female suffrage. So fighting over the Hugos is really a fight with somone who does want to go back to the Colonial Age of the 19th century.

      “or the rapidly vanishing prospects for their generation”

      There was a bit of a fight over this on Linky Friday and we have gone over it on other threads. The issue is that not everyone agrees because a lot of people are still doing well while others suffer or might continue to go down. Some think that robots take our jobs means Star Trek utopia instead of Metropolis dystopia, etc.

      I suspect that there is a lot of psychological fatigue from arguing the serious stuff because it seems like an unwinnable battle for both sides. So we argue over culture stuff.


      • The is an expression I’ve heard for the past 50 years or so, but it’s probably older: “academic politics are so vicious because the stakes are so low.” The same sentiment may apply.


    • Best MilSF novel, human official military vs. human official military.
      Best MilSF novel, human official military vs. human irregular military.
      Best MilSF novel, human irregular military vs. human irregular military.
      Best MilSF novel, human official military vs. aliens.
      Best MilSF novel, human irregular military vs. aliens.
      Best MilSF novel, human official military vs. autonomous intelligent weaponry.
      Best MilSF novel, human irregular military vs. autonomous intelligent weaponry.
      Best MilSF novel, autonomous intelligent weaponry vs. autonomous intelligent weaponry.
      Best MilSF novel, libertarian slant.
      Best MilSF novel, neoconservative slant.
      Best MilSF novel, paleoconservative slant.
      Best MilSF novel set in Honorverse.
      Best MilSF novel set in CoDominium.
      Best MilSF novel set in Posleen universe.
      Best MilSF ripoff of C. S. Forester.
      Best MilSF ripoff of Patrick O’Brian.


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