The culture war has been going on for a while. We’re used to it played out large. Trying to boil down 50 years of social history and politics into a paragraph is going to lose some nuance but, in broad strokes, you’ve people for whom established mores work, usually from homogenous communities, and people for whom they don’t — who are frequently labeled with various flavors of moral degeneracy. Usually to the scorn of history.
It’s played out in government, often in schools. We’re used to that. But now it’s also playing out in our fandom, our games, our conventions. This year the Hugo Awards took some collateral damage from being a battlefield in a war that is part of that narrative but is also somewhat removed from how we’ve been used to thinking of this fight.
Safe Space and the Geek Social Fallacy
There is a social movement of, largely, white male nerds misusing the concept of safe space to exclude people from geekdom.
Safe space is an area where anyone can be comfortable in who they are without recrimination, without bullying and without threat.
Most of our society isn’t safe. The litany of violence, abuse, and microaggression thrown at people because of fundamental aspects of their person is well documented
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Author Philip Sandifer (The Last War in Albion, TARDIS Eruditorum) has a fascinating take on the ongoing 2015 Hugo controversy, pointing out that debating with the Sad Puppies is a waste of time — not because they don’t have a point, but because they are largely irrelevant. Theo Beale’s Rabid Puppies slate largely dictated the outcome, and it’s Beale ‘s agenda that will shape the outcome in future years.
Relatively unreported — and indeed misreported in most coverage of this, is the fact that the Sad Puppies largely failed… In the only category in which both Beale and Torgersen proposed full slates, Best Short Story, Beale’s nominees made it.
Sandifer’s thesis is that the Sad Puppies, and the groundswell of fans who’ve gathered to support it, are the popular face of a much more tightly controlled effort by Theo Beale.
As we’ve seen, it’s not really Torgersen who is most important here; it’s Theodore Beale…. The Rabid Puppies were the slate that actually dominated the Hugos nominations, but the Sad Puppies give every appearance of having been actively constructed to allow them to… Regardless of Torgersen’s intentions, the practical result is that he’s providing the politely moderate front for a movement that is in practice dominated by Theodore Beale…
Torgersen makes much of empowering fans, saying that the slate “is a recommendation. Not an absolute,” and stressing that “YOU get to have a say in who is acknowledged.” Beale, on the other hand, discourages his readers from exercising any personal preference, saying of his recommendations that “I encourage those who value my opinion on matters related to science fiction and fantasy to nominate them precisely as they are.”
Read the complete article here.
Last week I mentioned running into Mike “Fitz” Fitzpatrick and his crew at the HAA in St. Louis. Fitz is the proprietor of Evil Intentions, a haunted attraction housed in the former Elgin Metal Casket Company in the suburbs of Chicago and during what is now the off-season, Fitz has opened the place up for paranormal investigations.
When we visited Evil Intentions last fall we agreed it was one of the best experiences of the dozen or so haunts we attended, mainly because of Fitz’s “low tech” approach which allowed the utter creepiness of the building to play a central role in the attraction. So I was entirely psyched when Fitz invited us to do a ride along during an upcoming investigation.
Mysteriously, BG photog Chris Z had a pressing engagement elsewhere, and perhaps not so unexpectedly, I could not solicit any of my colleagues to join me on this little outing. So it was down to me to go hang out in the abandoned casket company from 9 p.m. on a Friday night, to 2 a.m. on a Saturday morning.
Granted, the building does look even eerier in the middle of a March night while not decked out in all its Halloween lighting and finery. But the first thing I had to ask is why Fitz thought the place was haunted, just because it used to make coffins?
Apparently, it is a documented, historical fact that in 1890 a cemetery on the grounds became overcrowded and remains of early settlers were dug up and moved to the new Bluff City Cemetery less than a mile away.
Relocating bodies… Doesn’t it always start that way?
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Connie Willis has a long tradition as an MC and presenter at the Hugo Awards. She was asked by Hugo Award MC David Gerrold to present the Campbell Award at this year’s ceremonies, and she publicly declined the invitation on her blog:
You may or may not have heard of the Hugo crisis currently facing the science-fiction community… Basically, what’s happened is that a small group of people led by Vox Day/Theodore Beale and Brad Torgerson took advantage of the fact that only a small percentage of Hugo voters nominate works to hijack the ballot… When I heard about this, I was sick at the thought of what they’d done and at all the damage they’d caused… But I didn’t want to speak out and refuse to be a presenter if there was still a chance to salvage the Hugo Awards ceremony…
But then Vox Day and his followers made it impossible for me to remain silent, keep calm, and carry on. Not content with just using dirty tricks to get on the ballot, they’re now demanding they win, too, or they’ll destroy the Hugos altogether. When a commenter on File 770 suggested people fight back by voting for “No Award,” Vox Day wrote: “If No Award takes a fiction category, you will likely never see another award given in that category again. The sword cuts both ways, Lois. We are prepared for all eventualities.”
I assume that means they intend to use the same bloc-voting technique to block anyone but their nominees from winning in future years. Or, in other words, “If you ever want to see your precious award again, do exactly as I say.” It’s a threat, pure and simple… In my own particular case, I feel I’ve also been ordered to go along with them and act as if this were an ordinary Hugo Awards ceremony. I’ve essentially been told to engage in some light-hearted banter with the nominees, give one of them the award, and by my presence – and my silence – lend cover and credibility to winners who got the award through bullying and extortion.
Well, I won’t do it. I can’t do it. If I did, I’d be collaborating with them in their scheme.
Read our summary of this year’s Hugo mess here, and Connie’s complete statement on the matter here.
I may have got ahead of myself by reporting on three novels of 1960. This is because, in opening Operation Otherworld, an omnibus edition of Poul Anderson’s Operation Chaos and Operation Luna, I learned that Operation Chaos was not merely published in 1971 but also as four novellas or novelettes beginning in 1956. Their titles mark the four episodes that make up Operation Chaos: “Operation Afreet,” “Operation Salamander,” “Operation Incubus,” and “Operation Changeling.” All were published in The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy.
This book in many ways is a return to or continuation of the ideas first presented in Three Hearts and Three Lions. Indeed, Sandra Miesel in Against Time’s Arrow spends most of her analysis of Anderson’s concepts of Chaos and Law in this book rather than in the former. I, however, found myself more interested in Anderson’s presentation of parallel worlds and his technique of introducing the concept. The very first words:
Hello, out there!
If you exist, hello!
We may never find out. This is a wild experiment, test of a wilder hypothesis. But it is also a duty.
I lie dream-bound, only half aware of my world. They are using me to call for them across the time streams because that which happened to me, so many years ago, has left its traces beneath my ordinariness; they believe a message thought by me has a better chance of finding a resonance in you than if it came from almost anyone else…
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Read The Three Phases of Marvel’s Adam Warlock, Part One here.
My 10-year old son saw my Warlock comics (the ones showing the clowns and the Madness Monster I’ll discuss in this post) this morning and asked who Warlock was and why his villains were so weird. Then, of course, being ten, he asked if I could get him some Warlock comics. And I explained to him that he might not like them.
Warlock is a very sad hero, I explained. He tries to be good, and tries to make good choices, but all that ever happens is that people around him get hurt or he fails. I think that’s a good way to start this post.
I should also note that this post is constructed entirely of spoilers. 100%, wall-to-wall spoilers of a thirty-year old story. Embrace the spoilers.
In my last segment, I looked at the hero Adam Warlock, from his synthetic birth as “Him” in the 1960s to his rechristening as a messiah figure in 1972 and 1973 and eventual cancellation. This first period was an important start to what I said to my son. Adam Warlock tried to save Counter-Earth and ultimately, he could not expunge the evil in men and he left for the stars.
The second phase of the saga is the Jim Starlin as writer/artist era, which I measure from 1975 until the hero’s death in 1977. Jim Starlin produced two classic stories in this phase, the Magus arc and the Thanos arc. These are big and original for the comics of the time, so I’m going to cover the Starlin period in two posts. Today is the Magus saga.
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Sturgeon is Alive and Well… was Theodore Sturgeon’s fourteenth short story collection. It was first published in 1971, and came following a five-year gap after Starshine (1966). As I mentioned in my write-up on that book, Starshine went through nearly a dozen printings in as many years. But Sturgeon is Alive and Well… had only three: a hardcover in 1971, a paperback reprint the same year from Berkley Medallion (above left, cover by the great Paul Lehr), and a Pocket reprint in 1978 (above right, artist unknown.)
It’s now been out of print for 37 years, and there is no digital edition.
The title is… unusual. It probably made more sense in 1971, when Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris was an unexpected smash hit off-Broadway. Sturgeon touches on what a five-year gap between collections meant for a writer who made a living on short stories in his introduction.
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This is going to come out at some point, so I might as well say it here and now: I declined a Hugo nomination for this year’s Best Fan Writer award. I think it’s only fair to the people who voted for me to say why. Be warned, this is going to take a while. (And long-time readers of mine around these parts know that coming from me, that really means something.)
Firstly, given the nature of this post and the scrutiny that surrounds a major award, I should probably introduce myself. Hi. I’m Matthew David Surridge, a Montreal-area writer. I had a couple of longish short stories published a few years ago, one in the paper version of Black Gate and one at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. I’ve been fighting some minor but debilitating illnesses for a while which have kept me from writing fiction, but luckily reading and thinking about books is still within my power, and so I’ve been blogging here at Blackgate.com since 2010.
I mostly write about books I’ve recently enjoyed. In 2014, that included posts about surrealist Leonora Carrington’s The Hearing Trumpet, Elizabeth Hand’s Bride of Frankenstein tie-in novel Pandora’s Bride, a collection of short stories by Violet Paget AKA Vernon Lee, Amos Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, the medieval tales in the Gesta Romanorum, Mary Gentle’s The Black Opera, Stella Gemmell’s The City, V.E. Schwab’s Vicious, Olga Slavnikova’s 2017, Jan Morris’ wonderful Hav, Phyllis Ann Karr’s Wildraith’s Last Battle, Steven Bauer’s Satyrday, the Harlan Ellison–edited shared-world anthology Medea, Pat Murphy’s three ‘Max Merriwell’ novels (There And Back Again, Wild Angel, and Adventures in Time and Space With Max Merriwell), Sylvia Townsend Warner’s debut novel Lolly Willowes, E.R. Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros and Zimiamvia trilogy, and Patricia A. McKillip’s The Changeling Sea. I also often write about comics, and last year I discussed the Steve Ditko/Wally Wood/Paul Levitz run of Stalker from the 1970s; the first volume of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Hugo-winning Saga; Alan Moore, Antony Johnston, and Facundo Percio’s Fashion Beast; and Sage Stossel’s Starling.
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I think it’s kind of cool that I can remember when and where I found Science Fiction: The Great Years, Volume II, some 36 years after I bought it.
In the spring of 1976 my friend John MacMaster introduced me to science fiction, by bringing me Shakespeare’s Planet by Clifford D. Simak and Piers Anthony’s Ox when I was home sick from school. I was in the seventh grade, and I felt very adult, reading grown up books instead of Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators (not that there’s anything wrong with Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators — those books rule.)
I was thoroughly captivated by both novels, and afterwards began looking for anything labeled “science fiction.” One of the first items I found was Jacques Sadoul’s 2000 A.D: Illustrations From the Golden Age of Science Fiction Pulps, a dazzling art book containing hundreds of illustrations from American SF and fantasy pulps — showing stalwart men and women piloting spaceships into the dark reaches of space, curious aliens, sinister robots, mist-covered landscapes on far planets, and stranger things. It ignited a burning curiosity in me for all things pulp-related, and I began to haunt bookstores looking for any relics of that bygone era of pulp SF.
Shortly after we moved to Ottawa in 1976, I discovered that Canada’s capital was crowded with old bookstores, many of them hidden away in small shops on Bank Street and Sparks Street in the heart of downtown. I took the bus downtown every Saturday, returning home with bags filled with marvelous old paperbacks. It was in those crowded old shops that I first discovered Roger Zelazny, Robert Silverberg, Poul Anderson, H.P. Lovecraft, A. Merritt, and countless others.
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