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May 13th, 2015

10:18 am: Superversive Blog: Trigger Warning or Smelling Salts?

Smelling salts


A Victorian administers smelling salts to a lady who has fainted.



I know of a family where the father was a man of many virtues, but—like all of us—he also had some vices. One of his vices was that he treated his wife quite imperiously, ordering her around and expecting a great deal of her, treating her a bit like a servant of old.


But, for the most part, she did not mind. She loved him. She had been raised to believe that marriage was service, and she served with joy. Besides, she felt he had a right to have things as he liked—he was the sole breadwinner of the family.


Basically, he had the virtues of his vices.


This couple has a son. The son is a disabled adult. Unfortunately, he adopted some of his father’s vices without the corresponding virtues. For instance, he orders his mother around in just the way that his father did and speaks disparagingly of her efforts in exactly the same manner.


Except…the father was the woman’s husband and her breadwinner, at the very least, he deserved respect. The son neither deserves honor from his mother, nor does he provide for her.


He does not have the virtues of his vices.


(I do not in any way mean to imply that the son does not have his own strengths. He is a dear person. But this particular vice is not accompanied by a corresponding virtue.)


The Victorians are renowned for their hypocrisy—but you have to shoot high, to have noble standards, to have whole portions of society bother trying to pretend to live up to them. And for all those who only pretended to be virtuous, or Christian, or caring, there were those who actually did live up to these noble goals. Those who helped fight slavery or poverty or a thousand other ills.


The Victorians might have been judgmental, but they valued rationality and carried themselves with dignity.


They had the virtues of their vices.


Not so the Neo-Victorians (Neo-Vics for short), by which I mean this new brand of social do-gooder that is so popular today. Like the Victorians, they make a career out of rushing around and trying to improve things by pushing their noses into other people’s business. Unlike the Victorians, they are totally lacking in dignity.


They do not have the virtues of their vices.


But there is another way in which the Neo-Vics are like their predecessors. Victorian women are famous for their delicacy. Women of earlier eras did not faint away at the sight of a mouse or at an uncouth word. (Pioneer women, for instance, did not faint away at anything.) Nor did the ladies of, say, Queen Elizabeth’s day.


Fainting spells and hysterics came from two things: one, tight corsets—not a problem we have today. (Thank, God!) Two, hysterics were a way to show disapproval. If one fainted away at the very mention of something, men at least had to keep it out of the drawing rooms.


Sadly, we are seeing that again today.


Colleges used to be a place where people went to confront daring ideas and learn from them. Now, even 2000 year old Ovid’s Metamorphoses is so objectionable that students are demanding that they not be asked to read it unless the university provides them with atrigger warning, to prepare them ahead of time for the vile humanity reflected within.


ovid


Ovid may be old, but Echo and Narcissus still seem timely.



But is it really a trigger warning they need…or smelling salts?


(In case the term is unfamiliar, smelling salts were what they used in Victorian Days to help a young woman who had swooned recover from her faint. Smelling salts are also called “salt of hartshorn” because the ammonia that is the active ingredient in the solution was once distilled from the hoofs and horns of deer. Today, smelling salts are used by some athletes to stay awake and aware for games.)


I find this encouragement of mass-hysteria very sad indeed.


In my youth, feminists faced issues such as getting women into work places where never a high-heeled shoe had trod. Men truly thought women were too emotionally weak to survive in the workplace, so we gals set out to show them that they were wrong.


We were tough. We could hack it. We were the equal of any man.


This striving to show the strength of our character had a second benefit. We became strong. When problems came—and in life, problems come—we were able to face them, if not with dignity then at least with courage.


It breaks my heart to see the current generation succumbing to fits and hysterics rather than striving for strength and courage.


To use a single example from many, thee is a woman named Adria Richards who is known across the internet as an outspoken feminist. Her claim to fame is that she reported two geeks at a tech conference—for telling a risqué joke involving the word “dongle”.


Putting aside how strange this is when compared to the crudity of almost every walk of modern life, doesn’t this strike you as exactly the kind of thing Victorian women were known for?


Objecting to crudity in men's speech? Shrieking at the mention of bodily functions? Covering piano legs so that no one would see a leg and, oh horrors!, be reminded of a woman’s leg and, thus, of….sex!!!!!


Only Victorian gals actually did refrain from discussing many of these things among themselves—even in private. The Neo-Vics insist on routinely using words, mainly related to bodily functions, that I would not use in my personal speech, much less put in print.


They lack the virtues of their vices.


I remember being a teenage girl. It was a very emotional time. I remember being having to choose whether to become more or less hysterical at times. Some environments encouraged me to exaggerate my weaknesses. Others encouraged me to bear up and develop strengths.


I was lucky. I encountered more of the second than of the first.


But today’s young people?


They are being taught that fits of outrage and hysterics is what society rewards. That they should communicate their moral outrage by exaggerating their weaknesses. Society aside, this cannot be good for them as individuals—to stress their fears rather than their strengths? To have their failings, their loss of emotional control, rewarded?


Those lessons may not serve them well when they encounter the real problems life brings.


And what is college for, if not to prepare us to be better suited for real life? (That was why employers used to pay more for college graduates. They performed better.)


So, should people be allowed trigger warnings? Safe spaces? And other mechanisms designed to increase and celebrate victimhood?


Or do they deserve more? Might they be better off if society handed them a box of smelling salts and said, “Take a good whiff, deary, and pull yourself together”?


What's your opinion?


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Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)


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May 8th, 2015

07:56 am: Tempest In A Teardrop!

Amusing pro Sad Puppy comics by our dear friends Codex & Q.

See the first comic here

I believe:

Larry Correia is the bear

Brad Torgersen is a carrot

Sarah A Hoyt is the mouse

John is the raven

The figure with horns is Vox Day

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

May 7th, 2015

09:38 am: Superversive Blog: Leveraging Diversity Through Inclusiveness

Subversive Literary Movement

Some of you know that I am currently taking the Boy Scouts of America’s Wood Badge Leadership Course. A friend, who had been both military and State Department, (they used to send him places to make sure it was safe before they sent the Secretary of State,) told me that it was the best leadership program in the world. Others have told me that the military has modeled some of its leadership programs after Wood Badge.

One of the five principles of Wood Badge is: Leveraging Diversity Through Inclusiveness. I am happy to say that they use the original meaning of diversity—things that are diverse and different, not the modern meaning, where the word sometimes seems to apply only to a very small group of popular issues.

The below is an excerpt from something that I may be including in one of my Wood Badge projects. I though some of you might enjoy the sentiment.

Bridge to Scouts 2

It is very difficult to hold to what you believe, when all the world is telling you that you are wrong. It is easy to duck your head and go with the crowd and turn your back on the things that don’t fit in.

But we are not raising our Scouts to do the easy thing.

We want them to raise their heads with pride, regardless of the mockery of the world.

But this can be very difficult. I know, because I have been there: alone, at odds with everything around me, even the laws of nature themselves seemed to conspire against me—the cruel laughter, the mockery, the loneliness of standing up for something no one agrees with. You have…

…this is the point where I would normally say, You have no idea what it is like.

Only I think you do know. In fact, I think you’ve been here, too.

Maybe your reason for feeling excluded is different from mine, but you’ve been here. Maybe you’ve been the sole member of your religion among strangers; or you’ve been the only person around from your culture, or country. Maybe it was your skin color, or your accent, or your gender that has separated you from the crowd.

Maybe you’re a mother who hasn’t had a conversation with an adult in weeks; maybe your a child who does not know any other children. Maybe you’ve been the sole member of the military amidst the frivolity of civilians; or the sole civilian amidst the practical-minded military.

Maybe you have suffered with a disability amidst folks who are free to run and disport themselves; or you have been the only able-bodied person serving others who cannot fend for themselves. Maybe your family or your peers do not share your love for your hobbies; maybe they even actively disapprove of them. Maybe you’re a geek among muggles, or you’re a fan of sports surrounded by folks who talk about weird things such as hobbits and droids.

Maybe you are feeling excluded right now, because I didn’t mention the cause of your exclusion.

Our reasons for feeling adrift—lone in the universe—differ, but the experience remains the same. We’ve all felt it. It is part of what make us human.

Our job as leaders is to help our Scouts face these moments of exclusion, that might become walls keeping the rest of the world out, and turn them into planks with which to build a bridge that reaches between themselves and their fellows and, ultimately, onward toward all humanity.

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Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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April 22nd, 2015

01:27 pm: Superversive Blog: Signal to Noise

Ever wonder why you are having such a hard time getting along with that once-dear friend who is now on the far side of the political Great Divide? This post might help bridge that knowledge gap.

 

noise noise_signal-mlab1_png_pagespeed_ce_b_GTiE6tAg

These illustrations are from an article on cameras that can be found Cambridge In Colour

 

Many years ago, I was playing in a roleplaying game known as The Corruption Campaign, along with my friend Bill of Doom. (Not to be confused with Uncle Bill).

Bill and I were involved in tricky negotiations some arrogant aristocrats (Princes of Amber). Sometimes, these went well. Sometimes, they went badly. But, after a while, I began to notice something.

Bill’s character, Stormhawk, was not a bloodthirsty guy, but he talked like an American. If Stormhawk disagreed with something, he would announce with almost no provocation, in a booming voice, “Kill them all!” or “Nuke them from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

But he very seldom did attack anyone who was not an outright enemy.

On the other hand, if he liked something or offered someone help, he was very sincere, and he meant what he said.

The aristocrats we spoke with were exactly the opposite. They would make flowery comments that sounded kind or flattering, but they meant nothing by them.

But if they breathed a word of a threat, they were deadly serious, and they meant to carry through.

They thought we Americans were crazy, deadly people.

We thought they were insincere flatterers.

Why?

In radio, there is a phrase called signal to noise ratio. It refers to the difference between the desired information ( the signal) and the amount of background interference (the noise).

The problem Bill of Doom and I had when confronting the arch princes was: Incompatible definitions of what was signal and what was noise.

You see, to Stormhawk:

Kindness: signal

Threats: noise

But to the princes:

Kindness: noise

Threats: signal

The lessons learned playing this game (Don’t think D&D. Think “wandering around in your favorite novel with regular moral twists) have proven helpful in our modern world, because what I see when I watch my friends on different sides of the political spectrum is:

Incompatible definitions of what is signal and what is noise.

Let me give an example. Let’s say there are two young ladies, Hanna and Annah (Nice palindromes there, Annah and Hanna, but now that we’ve got across the point—that they are just the same thing in reverse—I’m going to write the first one Anna, for simplicity.)

Bear with me here. This is only an example.

Hannah is pro-life. To her, life is holy. She cannot understand how someone could murder a baby, at any age. Or how they cannot care for these helpless little ones who cannot speak up for themselves. She tries to make it clear to everyone she speaks to, but to her dismay, some folks out there seem to care a great deal about lesser life forms, but they don’t care about babies!

How could this be?

At first, Hannah just speaks to her cause, but people keep throwing the environment in her face, more and more. They care more about falcon eggs than they do about real living human beings—even if they are not breathing human beings yet.

Hannah gets so mad that she blogs: Look, I don’t care about the stupid falcons. They could all die for all I care! We’re talking about babies!!!

Next we turn to Anna.

So…Anna is an environmentalist. To her, nature is holy. She cannot understand how someone could mistreat this beautiful world—that we all have to live in! Or not be concerned for these poor creatures who cannot speak up for themselves. She tries to make it clear to everyone she speaks to, but to her dismay, some folks out there seem to care a great deal about producing more humans to mess up the environment, but they don’t care about falcons becoming extinct!

How could this be?

At first, Hannah just speaks to her cause, but people keep throwing anti-abortion arguments in her face, more and more. They care more about unborn lumps of cells than they do about real living and breathing creatures.

Hannah gets so mad that she blogs: Look, I don’t care about the stupid humans. They could all die for all I care! We’re talking about falcons!!!

Now, on that particular day, Hanna happens to read Anna’s blog, and Anna happens to read Hanna’s blog. Each had written a long piece supporting their side, but the end of the piece was the lines in bold above.

Two weeks, two months, two years later, what is the result? What has each young woman come away with?

Hanna doesn’t recall that she lost her temper and dissed falcons. She only remembers her impassioned plea for unborn life.

Anna doesn’t recall that she lost her temper and dissed human beings—after all, she is a human being. She only remembers her impassioned plea to save the helpless falcons.

But what do they remember about the other person’s blog? Only the last line.

Why?

Because to Hannah—babies are signal, and falcons are noise.

While to Anna—falcons are signal, and human beings are noise.

Ever wonder why the opposition—whatever side you are not on—only ever seems to attack and quote the outliners on your side? The most horrible folks? The most obnoxious comments? How they never seem to get the point? How the throwaway line you, or your favorite blogger, tossed off when you were pissed off is repeated everywhere, while the strongly-reasoned arguments are ignored?

This is why.

To them, that throw away line is signal—because its on the subject they care about. To you and your blogger friend, it’s noise.

So, next time you feel the urge to bridge the endless gap—and maybe talk to that crazy lunatic on the other side who used to be a bosom buddy—try this simple trick:

Pick the lines the other person says that upset you the most. Ignore them. Just pretend that they are not there. Pretend that they are static. Noise.

Because, chances are, that to him, it is just noise.

And you’ve been missing the signal, tuning it out, all along.

Then, listen closely to whatever he seems to think is the most important part–even if it sounds like mad nonsense to you. NOT, mind you, what he says at loudest volume—that is likely to be noise, too—the part he speaks about fervently or with reasoning.

From there, you can often find a bridge, a common point of agreement—because at the very least, you now know what the important issues actually are. To use my first example: you are speaking kindness to kindness or threat to threat.

Even if you can’t agree, at least you will be talking signal to signal, instead of noise to noise.

It’s difficult, but after a few tries, you’ll be a champion Great Divide bridger in no time.

Give it a try.

And if you run into trouble—you absolutely can’t find the other guy’s signal—don’t hesitate to swing by and ask for help.

If nothing else, it gives me a chance to prove that roleplaying games are good for something after all.

Comments

 

 

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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April 15th, 2015

12:28 pm: Superversive Blog: When Should We Abandon Our Friends?

This subject has been quite topical recently. I thought a longer treatment than fit in a Facebook comments box was due.

Imagine that you had a friend. He was clever and funny, loyal, brave and generous. He had done some wonderful things for your family.

BUT he posted some very odious ideas online.

Let’s say he was, oh, a racist.

Maybe he hates Blacks. Maybe he's anti-semite. Maybe he is racist against whites.

Point is: it's ugly.

Now, there are worse things than racism in the grand scheme of things: supporting fathers honor killing their own daughters or those folks in England who wanted to make it legal for parents to kill their babies.

Those are worse.

But racism is pretty bad.

It is judging someone based on the assumption that they were made in some other image and likeness than the Almighty, the One Altogether Lovely.

So, there you are. You have this friend. You have good reason to like and be loyal to this person, but what he prints online is totally odious. Under ordinary circumstances, you would remain friends with him.

But the Internets gone wild and people you like and respect are calling for his head.

What do you do?

Cut Him Loose?

Pros: There are many good arguments for turning your back on someone with odious views, arguments far beyond the shallower ones, such as fear for reputation.

How else do we indicate to people what is good and bad, but by showing our support and approval. If we remain friends with someone who behaves in a manner or expresses ideas that we strongly disapprove of, do not we encourage them if we remain friends with them?

Don’t we become enablers?

If you continue to be friends with someone who is behaving vilely, aren’t you encouraging them?

Won’t it seem as if you, yourself, support these odious ideas? It is bad enough to be attacked for things you believe in.

Being attacked for things you consider vile is really hard to take!

 

Cons: The bad side of cutting him loose is: what kind of a friend are you, if you turn your back on those who have treated you well? Even if you are doing it for reasons of principle, won’t the person think that you are merely caving to popular opinion?

Other folks, currently your friends, might note this and not trust you as much in the future.

Because next time, it could be then.

Also, what about other ideas you also strongly disagree with but which happen to currently be popular?

Say, you are against the slaying of any human being—whether or not the wee thing has as of yet “popped out”, as my son would say. To you, this act is as vile as that of judging a man by anything beside the content of his character.

Are you actually going to turn on everyone you disagree with? Even the folks with ideas that no one around you objects to? 

And if not, when your ex-friend says: “This isn’t because you disapprove of my ideas, it is because my ideas are not popular”, what do you say?

 

Face The Fire?

Pros: If you turn on a friend when the Internet goes wild against him, you are a fair-weather friend indeed. Not a phrase most of us want to have associated with us.

Loyalty is a very valuable virtue.

But it is more than that. Over and above the good of loyalty to a friend, what about the friends themselves?

What if you legitimately disagree with their ideas? Will you have any ability to convince them of the error of their ways if you turn your back?

If you want any hope of persuading people to see your view of things, you had must remain friendly with them—otherwise, they will write off any advice you give them before considering it.

If you love your friend, then you can  find a way to bear the slings and arrows of outrageous reputation.

 

Cons: Let’s go back to that “shallow” bugaboo of reputation.

Reputation is much derided by the modern world. We laugh at the idea of protecting our reputations. We bravely announce that we would never let anything like that control our actions.

But it is quite a different thing when the world turns on you. When suddenly people you like and respect are shouting your down. In public. On Facebook. On Twitter.

In this day of New Victorians and Neo Puritans, shaming and public disapproval have again become the weapon of choice for society at large. And it is a very effective weapon.

Because it hurts.

It hurts emotionally. It can hurt professionally. It can hurt financially.

Speak to any of the folks who have been attacked online. It really hurts—especially when it is your friends doing the attacking.

It is one thing if you are standing up for something you love and belive in.

But is this really something you want to endure—for an idea you hate?

That is a difficult thing to ask of anyone.

 

The prosecution and the defense rest. The jury is now in session.

I know where I stand.

What would you do? 

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Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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April 8th, 2015

12:42 pm: Superversive SF: The Bosom-Jiggle Factor Index

Today, I thought I would do a post explaining the concept of the Needs of Drama vs. The Needs of Culture using visual aids.

Normally, I avoid things quite this tacky, but it is such a simple way to make the point. I hope my readers will for give me for the lapse.

(Originally, I thought of calling this post The Boob-Jiggle Factor Index, but I was reminded that my Facebook feed ends up in many people’s living rooms, where their kids are. Thus, the slightly less tacky title. For the rest of the post, I will use BJF, and you may decide, in your own imagination, whether the B stands for breast, boob, or bosom.)

So, to refresh, my theory is that there are two forces at work creating a story. The forces at work are:

The Needs of Drama—the qualities that make a story dramatic, eye-catching, intriguing. Sex, sizzle, bang, POW! Seduction! Explosions! LOTS OF CAPTIALS AND EXCAMATIONS!!!!!!

The Needs of Culture—the desire to use the story to teach lessons needed to participate in the culture, like an Asops Fable or a morality play. These stories include topics like: How to behave. How to treat friends. How to treat strangers. What is and is not moral. – the message of the work.

It is not my opinion that one of these forces is better than the other. Rather, I believe that there needs to be a harmonious marriage of the two of a work to be really great.

Too much drama leads to meaningless sex and bloodshed. Too much culture leads to boring message fiction.

Without further ado, The Needs of Drama vs. The Needs of Culture, as illustrated by the BJF Index:

The Needs of Drama:

  Lara croft 5  Lara_Croft_17_by_Nicobass

(And we can’t even see the jiggle factor here.)                             

The Needs of Culture:

lara-croft-2013

Here’s a comparison:

laracroft

 

For the second one, we move to Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel. For those who are unfamiliar with her, all the pictures below are of the same character.

For this second one, I am only discussing the straight out physical appearance—things like elegance of form vs. difficult to draw but easier to cosplay—not the race, religion, or any other aspect of the character. 

Just the BJF.

The Needs of Drama:

ms_marvel_avengers_age_of_ultron

The Needs of Culture:

Ms Marvel

(I’ve seen some really cute cosplay costumes for this new Ms. Marvel outfit. Ironically, the real dresses look better than this drawing.)

An elegant mix of drama and culture, perhaps?

Ms. Marvel cap 2

 

So…any questions?

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

April 7th, 2015

07:40 am: Kicking Puppies While They Are Down

Sad Puppies

This weekend, a lot of fans have acted in a disappointing, mob-mentality manner. Fans, I’m sorry to say, on both sides.

A lot of good authors received Hugo award nominations on Saturday…after hard work and the support of many fans.

But two people crying “The sky is falling! Gamergate is coming!” ruined it for a great many people.

The idea came into people’s heads that the Hugos had been hijacked and the nominations were illegitimate—people who did not bother looking into how the Sad Puppies campaign was run. (There was even a libelous—quickly retracted—Entertainment Weekly article based on some of this false information. EW had to issue a lengthy apology.)

Folks, it is true that more fans chose this year’s winners than any other year. But the difference between this year and last year was: 199.

Yep. 199 more fans signed up.

Not really an attack by the galloping hordes.

For this…199 new votes this year…people are calling to vote No Award, rather than read the works and pick the one you find the best.

What is this, folks? Elementary school?

So why did people say that Gamergate swung the vote?

Because one—note the word ONE—longtime fan is a Gamergate guy, too, and wrote a tweet calling on friends to support his favorite authors.

This gentleman, who goes by the name of Daddy Warpig, left this in the comments a post about the EW article:

Daddy Warpig commented on Entertainment Weekly guilty of libel?

BRAD: A letter I sent to the editors of Entertainment Weekly. To whom it may concern, I am writing to point out some …

As the shining, guilt-proving link between #GamerGate and Sad Puppies (according to Patrick Nielsen Hayden and followers):

1 – I only nominated works I read.

2 – I didn’t nominate Sad Puppies works I had read, because I didn’t believe they deserved it.

3 – I nominated other works I felt deserved it, which didn’t make it.

I’m glad I participated, and I’m looking forward to participating next year.

Also, I’m a nobody, who had nothing to do with Sad Puppies except sending out some tweets and joining Sasquan. PNH used my tweets to defame everyone in Sad Puppies. That’s despicable.

The people of Sad Puppies won a victory. #GamerGate had little or nothing to do with it.
Evidence: pic.twitter.com/ilZQ2x8LLu

Congrats, and good luck beating No Award!

 

For this, you kicked your friends when they were vulnerable?

And the Puppy fans, alas, were hardly better. For every Hugo nomination receiver I know who was attacked, I know an innocent Liberal fan who was ravaged by Puppy supporters.

Yesterday was a sad day for fluffy baby animals of all varieties.

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Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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April 5th, 2015

12:32 am: The Wright Household blinks in awe

Today the Hugo nominations were announced.

John was nominated for SIX Hugos.  This is an all time record. 

We are stunned and humbled.

 

To those who voted, thank you!

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

April 3rd, 2015

11:09 am: First They Came For The Oscars: My Take On The Hugos.

Hugo

With the Hugo Nominations being announced tomorrow, the topic of what is right or wrong with the award is quite popular right now.

I am going to take a step away from most of the discussion on this topic and say that I do not believe the issue is political.

Sure, at the moment, one group is on one side of the political spectrum and the other is on the other, but that is not the issue that is actually before us.

The issue is: Insular vs. Popular

Let me tell you a little about my background and why I believe this.

When I was young, I worked for my father. My father distributed movies to television. He would find public domain movies with expired copyrights (or no copyright, the laws were different then), find rental companies (reel–this was before tape) that had copies, and make these copies available to television stations to use for mid-afternoon and late night filler.

Doesn’t sound like much, but he put two kids through expensive colleges on that work.

My job, among other things, was to write catalogues. We did our catalogues along different themes: women’s movies, cowboy movies, scary movies, and—most importantly—Academy Award Winners.

Have you ever read the list of Oscar nominees for 1939? This was before they limited the number of nominations to five (which they seem to have moved away from again). It read:

o          Gone With the Wind

o          Dark Victory

o            Goodbye, Mr. Chips

o          Love Affair

o          Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

o            Ninotchka

o          Of Mice and Men

o            Stagecoach

o          The Wizard of Oz

o            Wuthering Heights

 

Can you imagine even half of those movies getting a nomination today? Do you think Gone With the Wind would still win? Would Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or even The Wizard of Oz still be listed?

Let me put this very clearly: Had this been 1939, everyone’s favorite movie of 2014 would have at least received a nomination, if not actually won—instead of receiving nominations for things like Make-Up and Visual Effects and losing to a move called Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)—which I had never heard of until I looked it up. (This does not mean it is not a good movie…but it sure as Sundays means it’s not a popular movie.)

I am speaking, of course, of Guardians of the Galaxy.

(Okay, disclaimer Guardians of the Galaxy, much as I absolutely loved it, was not my favorite movie of 2015. That distinction falls to my new top favorite movie, Winter’s Tale, which really did deserve an award, but instead was watched by six guys, one whom wandered into the theatre by mistake, a tree, and me. But I digress.)

 Oh, come on! You are thinking, a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy would never win best picture!

To which I say: Exactly!

What is the point of a Best Picture award that has nothing to do with the best picture of the year?

Really, the Oscar award should be called Top Artsy Film.

What happened to the award that used to go to movies like It Happened One Night and Gigi? My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music?

Can you imagine those movies winning today?

When did it become “Award for the snobbiest movie of the year?”

Okay, that’s not entirely fair, good movies do occasionally win, but, imho, the best movies of the year haven’t won in years. And it seems to have gotten worse in the last decade.

Why is this?

Is it a secret conspiracy? An evil plot? Demons?

Possibly demons, but I don’t think so.

I think it is a natural process that I will call saturation.

The Academy Awards are voted on by…the Academy For Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. These are serious professionals who care about the business. This means they watch LOTS of movies.

Lots. Scads, even.

And, like reviewers, who often pan movies audiences love, they begin to put a higher and higher value on originality.

Because they’ve seen it before. They want something new.

Also, they like things that are creative because they build on other things, things only they have seen. This movie harkens back in a clever way to one from fifty years ago. That impresses someone who has seen both movies.

It doesn’t do jack for the public.

So, the insular quality of the voting audience has, over the years, made the Oscars go from topical to trivial.

And good movies go by unnoticed and unremarked upon…except in the box office.

(Unless they are the best movie of the year, which only got viewed by six folks, a tree, and me. But I digress.)

So…what about the Hugos?

Same thing happened.

Hugos used to go to the big, commercially successful books everyone loved. (Like The Martian. I think we all agree…on both sides of the great Hugo divide…that The Martian would have deserved the Best Novel award this year, had it been eligible.)

And they voted for books on both sides of the political spetrum, as evidenced as the winners for 1960 ad 1962:

 

1960  Starship Stormtroopers by Robert Heinlein

1962 Stranger In A Strange Bed by Robert Heinlein

See? Both sides represented. ;-P

 

There were winners people still love today, such as Dune and Lord of Light. And winners that, nowadays, I alone still remember and like, such as And Call Me Conrad (This Immortal).

But back then, there was a regular corollary between the books that won and the books that were selling to general fandom.

Nowadays, the Hugos seem to have gone the way of the Academy Awards—being awarded by a relatively small group of fans who have read it all. So they look for very different things in a book than the general reading public.

There is nothing wrong with this.

 (Brief side note: people I have spoken to disagree on the merits of last year’s winner. I have not read it. It could be terrific. But I note that while a few people say they actually liked the book, most seem to like it because it got rid of he and she. In particular, because they thought this was some step kind of forward in women’s rights.

Folks, the Chinese language does not have he and she…and it hasn’t exactly opened their eyes on the matter of equal rights for the sexes. Okay, back to our main programming.)

But a vote from a small crowd of fans is not the same as a vote from a large one.

So lets look at two things in particular: Larry Correia and Redshirts.

Larry Correia.

Never mind what you think of his politics, Larry Correia SELLS!  (He puts more aside in one quarter of the year for estimated taxes than quite a few authors I know have made in their entire writing career. )

What’s more, people LOVE his stuff.

Teenage girls, school teachers, librarians, technical writers, erudite psychiatrists. What do they all have in common? They are all reading Hard Magic or the Monster Hunter books.

The excitement about Correia among fans reminds me of George. R. R. Martin about ten or fifteen years ago, when his third book had come out and not all that many people had heard of him, but if you had, oh my, did you go crazy with book love when you discovered that your neighbor who you ran into at the school bus stop was also a fan of Game of Thrones. Or Butcher. Even today, diverse fans across the spectrum light up at the mention of Harry Dresden.

That’s the kind of excitement Correia’s books are garnering.

Are his books the best written this year?

Maybe, maybe not. But I enjoyed Hard Magic tremendously, and if a book like that won an award, I would not thing the award ill served.

Even if there are better books out there, a pertinent, up-to-date award would at least give Correia and Butcher a nod…because the same fans who lay down their dollars so enthusiastically for these gentlemen’s books would tend to suggest them.

But before the last two years, these authors were not even getting suggested—because fans in general were no longer voting for the award.

Many fans I know don’t even know the Hugos exist. Which is a crime. If not for the present and the future, the dignity and name of the Hugos should be more widely known so as to encourage new fans to seek out the excellent winners of yester year.

Second case: Redshirts.

I have not read Redshirts, but I have heard a lot of flack about it getting an award. But I am not entirely sure the flack is merited. Here’s why:

I recently had lunch with a writer friend. While chatting over lunch, she mentioned that when she wants to share SF with someone who has never read it, she always recommends Scalzi, Old Man’s War, in particular. It was a great book, she explained, for introducing those dignified fellows at work to the world of science fiction.

And I realized that she was right. The very complaints I had heard about Old Man’s War, that it was derivative of earlier science fiction works, becomes a virtue if you want to introduce someone to the very ideas that those older books represented without overwhelming the person.

I am reminded of Eragon. A friend said he never read it because he was told, “Don’t bother. You’ve already read all those books” ( i.e. the books it was derived from. )

But my eldest son LOVED it. He’d never read the many things it borrowed from.

The story was new to him.

So, did Redshirts win its Hugo on its merits?

Probably not. Throughout time immemorial, works often win based on how much readers liked the author’s previous works. So, it was partially due to reader’s admiration for Old Man’s War that Redshirts got its nomination…a book, as we have just learned, that is useful for lowering the heavy investment cost sometimes involved with entering our beloved field.

Any writer who helps draw in new fans deserves a Hugo nod.

But Redshirts had something else going for it as well. Nostalgia. So many of us came into fandom through Star Trek. A book nod to the power of Star Trek delights us even as Galaxy Quest delighted us. (Hey, it really wasn’t a great movie…but who can resist being amused by it.)

Now, you can argue that Redshirts getting an award for nostalgic reasons is a blow against the Hugos because it is like the Academy voting for movies that have in-references to other movies.

Or you can argue that it is a win for the Hugos, because the book really did have a broad fan appeal—to the many, many fans who so love Star Trek.

I’m not going to take sides on that. For the point of this article, it doesn’t matter.

But if Redshirts had won with 30,000 fans voting or 100,000 fans voting, the answer would be much more clear than the current situation, where the Hugo was awarded by the 6,060 people voting at World Con 2013. (No slight against these good folks, mind you! They went and voted! It’s our own fault, if the rest of us don’t up and participate!)

There was a recent much copied quote about the Hugos belonging to a small group of people.

This should not be.

Science fiction already has an Academy-like award presented by field professionals. It’s called the Nebulas. The Hugos were supposed to be the popular vote.

The question is: How can it become popular again?

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Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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March 27th, 2015

12:02 pm: I Heart Spock – my meandering reminiscence of my life-long love affair with a certain Superversive V

star-trek-spock1

History has overlooked one of my favorite Star Trek characters. You never hear her name any more, even though you hear Uhura all the time. But no one ever mentions Nurse Chapel, but I loved Nurse Chapel as a girl.

Because she loved Spock.

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The thought of the unrequited love that this fine young woman (played by Roddenberry’s wife, Majel Barrett, who was also the voice of the ship’s computer) held for the calm, logical Mr. Spock delighted my teenage heart. Especially in the Amok Time episode, where she looked so hopeful when he suddenly got emotional.

I felt so sorry for her.

(Amusing note: Until this very day, I had always thought it was called Amuck Time…meaning the time when Vulcans’ emotions went amuck. )

I loved Spock, too. And like Nurse Chapel, I longed to have a chance to draw his attention. But even more than that, I wanted to be Spock.

The first step to being Spock was to look like Spock.

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I was a slender girl with long hair, so that did limit my ability to look like him…a bit. Other than that, though, you would think a Star Trek uniform would be relatively easy. Blue shirt. Black pants. Gold braid.

But no. My parents felt that was not done for girls to wear black pants. Apparently, this was a thing back then, thinking that only mature women were allowed to wear something that scandalous. So, no black pants.

However, I did cut my black bangs straight across my forehead. And I wore a blue sweatshirt that Mom and I had sewed gold braid onto the sleeves there-of.

I remember the one time I got to borrow a pair of black slacks and wear them with my blue shirt. I felt so Spock-like walking down the road.

But the real kicker for me was not the lack of black pants, it was that I can’t raise just one eyebrow. My mom can do. And I worked at it and worked at it…to no avail. When one brow goes up, so does the other.

Truly a sad thing.

(My favorite Jim Butcher line is still: He spocked an eyebrow.)

Spock 1

But I did not love Spock simply for his outfit or even his eyebrow. I loved him for his Superversiveness.

How was Spock superversive, you ask? Spock was the single impressive symbol of self-control in an age that celebrated indulgence.

Everything in our modern culture screams self-indulgence. Do drugs. Have sex. Let it all hang out. Scream and shout in public like sit-com characters—only now real people act that way, too. Do it your way. Don’t repress. Drink. Smoke. Life is a party. And anyone who says otherwise is a Victorian. A prude. A symbol of ridicule.

But not Spock.

He was the champion of logic. He was the Knight of Science. Kids could admire him and his reserved ways without anyone associating them with the Old Guard of the previous culture, who were so despised.

To quote Spoke himself, he was “fascinating.”

I read an article after Leonard Nimoy’s death praising Data for wanting to be human and condemning Spock for struggling not to be human. I could not disagree more. I loved Data, but he was trying to achieve something we already have, because he suffered from a lack of humanity.

Spock was not like that. He had plenty of humanity, but he tried to resist the worst of it. The fact that he occasionally failed was one of the things that made him so utterly delightful.

Or should I say fascinating?

 

Spoke was delightful in a way that the other Vulcans in Star Trek never quite achieved. Some of them were cool or fun to watch. But none of them had that magical twinkle nor the drama that came from the battle of two natures.

Spock 4

That battle of two natures was a familiar one to teenage me. As an overly-emotional teenager living in an overly-emotional environment, I could have used a lot more Spock-like qualities in my environment.

And I knew it.

I wanted to be like Spock partially because I so obviously wasn’t.

I was around ten when we first found Star Trek. My brother and I discovered it through the Saturday Morning cartoon, which I still love. They were terrific.

The involvement of Star Trek in my life went beyond just watching. My father distributed television programs, and for one short time, he was distributing some Star Trek episodes. I worked for him. Ordinarily, I made $2 an hour (not a bad wage back then for a teen). But because he considered me an expert, when I did work on Star Trek for him, I got paid $10.

It was Heaven.

Spock 3

My father believed in fresh air and used to send us outside for much of the day. One summer, we kind of tricked him. We figures out how to turn the space under the front stairs into a fort…so we could sit around even though we were outside.

All summer we played Star Trek. I was Spock. My brother was Sulu. My cousin Ariel was Kirk. Our story involved the crew as kids. Their parents all had the exact position they later had, while Kirk, Spock, etc. snuck around through the ship using secret passages the adults either didn’t know about or couldn’t fit through. (There was also a sister ship that had an equal and opposite compliment of crew of the opposite sex, so that everyone would have someone to marry. The only one I still remember was the brash female captain counterpart for Kirk, whose name was Cindy.)

That version, where all the crew were young, yet still living on the ship together reminds me obscurely of the new movies…where the whole crew ends up together when they are barely out of college, instead of after much life experience.

Just before Leonard Nimoy died, I had a conversation on Facebook with friends about whether or not the new movies undercut much of Spock’s appeal when they gave him a girl friend. Sure, it was shocking when we first found out, but once the initial surprise was over…did it take away from the character that he was no longer the tremendously aloof?

Spock 6

Different friends had different takes on this subject. But I feel that a lot of the mystery was gone. There isn’t nearly as much draw to try and figure out how to win the heart of a guy someone else has already won. (Not to mention that we didn’t even get to see how she did it! Really, a romance that won Spock’s heart should have been onstage. )

Also, I love Uhura as much as the next gal. I’ve played her in roleplaying games. But…it should have been Nurse Chapel.

Spock 5

I mean, after all these years of waiting!

So I wanted to write this to remember Spock and to remember Leonard Nimoy, the man who brought him to life with such wit and…dare I say it?…humanity.

SPock 8

PS. I never did get to be Spock, but I did get to marry the most logical, Spock-like gentleman I have ever had the honor to meet. (Nowadays, my husband is more Chestertonian, but when we were in college, he was very, very Spock-like. )

Which goes to show: way back when, when I watched those early Star Trek shows and I felt in my soul that I really could be the one to melt Spock’s cold Vulcan heart—I was right.

Click here to see my favorite commercial—staring Old Spock and New Spock.

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Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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