So I’ve been away. To get back into it, here is a review of Son of the Black Sword, Larry Correia

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I have to admit, I approached this book with some concern. I have greatly enjoyed every book I’ve read by Larry Correia, which is all of them, but all of his books prior to Sonof the Black Sword take place in worlds very much like our own. Monster Hunter International is in our world, but with all of the legendary monsters we grew up fearing. The Grimnoir books are what our 1930s might have looked like, if people started gaining magical gifts in the 1800s. Even the Dead Six books, with Mike Kupari, are our world, if perhaps a small step into our future. All of these worlds are easily understood and relatable. The characters are very much like people we all know, with the same experiences and backgrounds to which we ourselves can relate. So the thought of Larry going into a completely new direction, a fantasy world that he has designed from the ground (or sea) up… Honestly, I was a bit concerned that it might (just maybe) be more than he can handle.

Wow. Was I wrong.

Son of the Black Sword introduces us to Ashok Vadal, Protector of the Law. In a world were all have their assigned place, and demons rise from the seas, the Protectors are given magic and authority to stop the depredations of the demons, and enforce the Law at any cost.

A single Protector could be a match for a riot, an uprising, or even a demon, but even among the Protectors, Ashok is powerful. He is unquestioning in his enforcement of Law and custom, devoted to the mission of the order, and would be considered among the most dangerous even when not bearing a powerful, magical sword.

But what would happen if the most dedicated servant of the Law found that his whole existence was prohibited by the very Law he upheld? What if his life and memories, and even his very dedication to the Law itself was nothing but a lie, a construct forced on him?

Trapped by his own unswerving dedication, Ashok is declared an outlaw and imprisoned, and the Order of the Inquisition forces a sentence on him that causes him to betray the very society that he had defended his whole life. As Ashok is forced to confront his black and white world, he is shocked to discover that not everything is black and white, and not everything within the sway of the Law is just. The consequences of which lead him to a path of rebellion, war and a return of the forbidden gods.

As I said, I was initially concerned about Larry Correia, famous and successful for writing urban fantasy and what he cheerfully refers to as “Pulp”, writing pure fantasy in a world of his own creation. But as I always seem to be after reading one of his books, I was incredibly satisfied with the finished product. He has built as complex and original a world as any in the fantasy market. In all honesty, probably a lot more original than most. He has populated it with believable characters placed into extraordinary circumstances. All of the characters are understandable and sympathetic, even the ones that you are not cheering along. He has written incredibly good action sequences and he’s done it without a single firearm present.

So after all is said and done, if you haven’t picked up on it so far, I highly recommend this book, not just to Correia fans, but to any fan of good fantasy. I couldn’t wait, so I bought the Advanced Reader Copy from the fine folks at Baen.com (I swear, it’s like they deal in crack. I look over my bookshelf, both real and e-copy, and I see an awful lot of Baen logos…) and it’ll cost you $15.00. If you are more patient, and love the real books, the Hardcover version will be released 27 October and currently, they are asking 18.63 on Amazon. They are calling it an Epic new fantasy series, I cannot disagree.

~Shib out…

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Monster Hunter International, by Larry Correia. A Review.

They say that a great novel will grab your attention immediately, so let’s look at Monster Hunter International…

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~~

On one otherwise normal Tuesday evening I had the chance to live the American dream. I was able to throw my incompetent jackass of a boss from a fourteenth-story window.

 ~~

You, Sir, have my attention.

Now I know that many if not most of the readers on this page are already familiar with Larry Correia, AKA The International Lord of Hate (pbuh), and the book itself has been out for several years, so this review might not be needed. But hey, there are always new readers. We should be in the business of expanding the base and by Heaven above, business should be good! Besides we should be happy to show new folks from whence we have come so they can experience all the fun and excitement our genre has to offer. Also, and just as importantly, Baen Publishing is offering the first book of the Monster Hunter Universe, Monster Hunter International, as a free e-book. Free. Here.

http://www.baenebooks.com/p-1024-monster-hunter-international.aspx

It comes in many formats, including Rich Text Format which means you can read it in Microsoft Word on your computer. And, as with all Baen e-books, it is DRM free. So not only can you read it, you can also addict your friends! What’s not to like?

Ok, now that every here has absolutely no excuse to NOT have this book, let’s talk about it!

Monster Hunter International, the first of (currently) five books in the Monster Hunter Universe, introduces us to Owen Zastava Pitt, an accountant working in Dallas, and hating his boss. Owen is a big guy, as accountants go, and has a fondness for guns. I know what you are thinking, Larry Correia, a great big former accountant with an inordinate fondness for guns, is writing a story about a great big accountant with an inordinate fondness for guns… We aren’t exactly stretching much, are we? And the term “Mary Sue” comes to mind. You know what, that’s fair. Many journeyman writers often hear from the Pros, “Write what you know,” and perhaps Larry took that to heart. He then proceeded to write a heck of a rip roaring story. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it’s never, ever boring. If you follow his blog, you know Larry loves what he calls “Pulp” stories, and he loves B grade monster movies. He then proceeds to share that love with the rest of us, and thus, Monster Hunter International is born.

So we’ve met Owen, and now we get to meet his vile boss, Mr. Huffman. From the very first, Owen doesn’t like Mr. Huffman who, from all accounts, is not a good boss. Angry, prone to blaming others for his mistakes, lazy and not real bright, I’m sure none of us have ever had a boss that could fit that description (maybe a little sarcasm, there). However, Mr. Huffman is going through a bit of a life change. You see, a month before, he had been bitten by a werewolf. Now, he plans on eating Owen.

We now begin to learn that all those scary stories, all those things that go bump in the night, are not as make believe as we all would wish. After surviving his encounter with the werewolf and waking up in the hospital, Owen is introduced to two of mankind’s answers to the supernatural world. One is a government agency, the Monster Control Bureau (MCB), tasked with suppressing outbreaks, and also suppressing the knowledge of the monsters from the normal world. The other answer, in true capitalist American fashion, is a representative from Monster Hunter International (MHI), a private contracting company that makes its living killing monsters for the government provided bounty. MCB is there to kill Owen if he has been infected, and to threaten him into silence if not. MHI’s Earl Harbinger is there to recruit him.

After he is released from the hospital, Owen meets again with Harbinger and another representative of MHI, Julie Shackleford. Julie is described as, “…beautiful. In fact she was possibly the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She was tall, with dark black hair, light skin, and big brown eyes. Her face was beautiful, not fake beautiful like a model or an actress, because she was obviously a real person, but rather Helen of Troy, launch-a-thousand-ships kind of good-looking…” (Shib here. In another world, in another life, I think she might be named “Bridget”. Just saying.) Julie is there to help recruit Owen, and give another perspective on the business of monster hunting. As she tries to explain how the government has set up a fund to pay bounties on harmful, unnatural creatures, providing an unusual business opportunity for the right type of people, Harbinger answers Owen’s questions about the various types of creatures that are running around in the world. We’ve already run into werewolves, and we now learn that there are zombies, ghouls and vampires as well. Some of our stories and legends get them right, some do not, but they are out there.  After the meeting, Owen finds cannot return to the world pretending that the werewolf never happened, and agrees to become a Hunter.

Owen joins other recruits at the MHI compound in Calzador, Alabama. Among the recruits are Holly, a stripper captured by vampires, and Trip, a high school teacher whose class had turned into zombies. These two, with Owen, form the core of our developing cast of characters going forward. We are also introduced to the veterans of MHI, Sam Haven, the former seal and now one of their instructors, Milo Anderson, resident gun smith and weapon tech, and Grant Jefferson, another instructor and, much to Owen’s frustration, Julie’s boyfriend. The training is understandably hard, both physically and mentally. Much as in the military, the best place to find out if someone on your team cannot handle the stress of this extremely dangerous job would be during training, as opposed to out in the field.

We also get (and this is quite refreshing for a lot of us) accurate depictions of firearms, their uses and their capabilities. As a veteran, I cannot tell you how frustrating it can be when you see Hollywood turn a small handgun into an AutoCannon of Death and Destruction, with included infinity-clip™! Or when a hand grenade detonates into a 30 foot fireball, or when a normal sidearm knocks a villain head over heels, flying back 10 or 15 feet. You will not get that from Mr. Correia. He is a fire arms expert and an instructor. He knows his equipment, and he doesn’t insult his audience.

As we move past the training, we are introduced to the main conflict of the novel. Master Vampires, along with another, unknown creature, are seeking an artifact of great power, one capable of threatening humanity, and possibly opening access to the Earth to creatures that are beyond imagination. Here we can see Mr. Correia’s familiarity with the world of Lovecraft, the possibility of things so alien that they cannot functionally interact with humanity, whose goals and needs go beyond hate and evil, and are so far outside our reality, that for them to intrude into it, would cause death and destruction on scales that could only be compared to an extinction level event. As MHI tries to get out in front of the vampires and stop their depredations, they are also trying to find out the goals and objectives of this new creature, to stop him from using the artifact and destroying civilization.

Monster Hunter International is a great fun read, and is interesting for many reasons. It is Mr. Correia’s first novel, and sometimes, that shows. Some of the development could be smoother, and some of it is predictable. That said, the action scenes are first rate, and the book is never, ever boring. On top of that, it is a fun, exciting story, not bogged down by trying to shoehorn heavy handed messages about whatever the cause de’jour the author might posses. This is a great example of a book and an author that started out as an experiment in self-publishing that went wildly right. Mr. Correia was so successfully publishing this that Baen offered him a contract to republish it. That turned into a sequal, and then turned into two other series (The Grimnoire Chronicles and Dead Six, with Mike Kupari). Additionally, Mr. Correia has published Iron Kindoms with Skull Island Expeditions.  Mr. Correia is rightly considered a new and rising star in the world of Science Fiction/Fantasy as well as an amazing promoter of other new talent through his frequent Book Bombs on his blog, Monster Hunter Nation (http://monsterhunternation.com/).

So, you know you want to read this, and the price is certainly right (FREE! FREE! FREE!). If you don’t already have the book, you have to ask yourself, “Why the Heck not?” Whatever your reasons, just remember…

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            After reading (and re-reading) this book, I know it isn’t Mr. Correia’s best work, but it is still very, very good. I would give it 4 of 5 stars. I’ve purchased more than one copy, as gifts, and at least once as a replacement when I loaned it to a friend and mysteriously never got it back.

The World(s) that Pratchett Built

I have never spoken to Terry Pratchett, yet I feel he was among my dearest mentors, teachers and friends. Because though I never spoke to him, for over 30 years, he spoke to me.

We often debate the differences between Message Fiction, and Fiction with a Message. The importance of a great story versus the importance of advancing an idea or a value. Can you enjoy a story when the story itself is overwhelmed by the message the author is trying to promote? Is there value in a great story with no message at all? Can a story be great without a message? These are all great debates to have, an import discussion that our community should go through often. But ideally, I think we can all agree that if an author were able, on a regular basis, to embed messages and values into engaging and engrossing stories so well, that at the end, all you could do would be to tell friends, “you have to read this, it may be the best thing I’ve read this year”. And in all that, you’d never even talk about what a great message it was, well, that author would be a Master. Which brings us to Terry Pratchett.

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Most famous for his Discworld books, Pratchett has authored 41 books within that setting. While I would consider any of them appropriate for any reader over the age of 12 in your house, 5 of these books, The Tiffany Aiching series (The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, and I Shall Wear Midnight) and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents are considered “Young Adult”. Additionally, he has collaborated with Stephan Baxter in The Long Earth series and Neil Gaiman in Good Omens. Finally, he has assorted other works, many related to the Discworld, such as The Discworld Companion, The Diskworld Mapp, and Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook. But enough about his bibliography, let’s delve into the stories of the Discworld.

For a new reader, in might seem a little daunting at first. 41 books, where to start? Do I have to read them all? Will I get bored? There are several ways to approach this challenge and for just about the only time in my life, I am not going to recommend reading them in the order they were published. While it probably wasn’t his original intent, Pratchett’s Discworld books very conveniently break into themed runs or groups. While there are several books, such as The Small Gods, Pyramids, and Moving Pictures that could all be considered stand alone, most of the books can be grouped into the following categories; Rincewind, The Witches, The City Guard, Tiffany Aiching, Moist Von Lipwig, and of course, Death. Since I really don’t like to recreate the wheel, I’ll just point you to a great table, breaking out the order of publishing as well as the groups on the Discworld Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discworld). For my purposes, I’m going to concentrate on the City Watch.

I think the reason I love the City Watch books so much is that in these books we see most clearly the development and evolution of characters within their universe. Or perhaps, the characters get tested and stressed, until we can see what was at the core all along. Sam Vimes we meet as a drunkard, a man stuck in a job that he knows will probably, eventually, leave him dead in an alley, unmourned. Carrot, a human adopted and raised by dwarves, but in all the ways that matter, a dwarf in his heart. He must learn about human expectations and society as an outsider And of course, Sgt. Colon, who just wants to make it home each morning, and Corporal Nobs, who carries a document attesting that he is, in fact, human.

But Sam Vimes rises. The drunkard is burned away, and what is left is the steel of the Servant of The Law… eventually. From the first book, Guards! Guards!, Vimes chafes at the restrictions forced on him by expectations and the numbing force of the city bureaucracy. He has given up, and retreated into the bottle, but finds that he cannot stay there. When a dragon is unleashed on the city, he comes out and fights to protect what is his. He pushes through on stubbornness and a sheer refusal to be stopped.

All of this is presented in a gloriously funny manner, poking fun along the way at government, bureaucracy, secret societies, dragons and dragon-slayers. As well as any other targets of opportunity that might present themselves along the way. While it is not the first Discworld book, it is a great place to start. Guards! Guards! brings us into a more developed world than Color of Magic (The first Discworld book) and The Light Fantastic (The second), one that has allowed Pratchett to work out his mythologies and rules that govern his fantastic universe. In it, he builds wonderful characters with lives and histories and motivations. Each endearing, and each relatable in their own way. Within the city of Anhk-Morpork, and within the city guard, Pratchett is able to explore, the themes of crime and punishment, racism (or on Discworld, speciesism), the challenges of women in field populated mostly by men, the role of Kings and government, the rule of Law, and military adventurism. And still, with all the messages and points that he wants to talk about, you never feel like the message is the point. Rather, you feel like you’ve read a great story, one that you will return to read again, to share with your children. One that you will tell your friends that they have to read, because it might be the best, funniest, most amazing thing you’ve read all year.

Unfortunately, Pratchett has gone on to meet his maker. He made a wonderful character of Death, so I hope that when the final messenger came to meet him, it was as two friends who have talked many times, going off for a final walk together. I believe that was the attitude that he himself held. After all, this is the man, when knighted, chose to include in his personal Coat of Arm the phrase, “Noli Timere Messorum”. Do Not Fear the Reaper.

 Pratchett-Arms

Sir Terry Pratchett

April 28, 1948 – March 12, 2015

DareDevil, a Netflix Original Series.

Well, I finally got around to watching the DareDevil series on Netflix. I’ll be honest, I thought the first episode was, at best, OK. I dealt with the origin material well, and as far as I could tell, stayed pretty true to the roots of the comics. but still, OK. I’ll admit, DD was not my favorite Marvel property growing up. I do seem to recall that there was a period were he seemed to be the crossover character of choice, kind of like Wolverine in the 90s. As a result, the show did have to overcome that bias that I brought to the table.

DD So I watched Episode 1… Next day, Episode 2. Better, they had gotten a lot of the background material out of the way, and started to build the storyline. Still, I was not on fire for it. It was just better TV than average. The next day, I watched Episodes 3… and then 4… and then 5. If you’ll pardon my saying so, it had become a World on Fire. The hook was in and set. Sunday, episodes 6, 7, 8, and 9. I was mad because I knew dang well my job did not care how much i was enjoying the show, I still needed to be up at 5:30 to go to work. As I said somewhere else, if you are watching the sun rise, it should be because you are getting up & getting ready for work, not because you couldn’t stop watching DareDevil. I finished out the show on Wednesday night. One week, total, had passed and i am cursing/blessing Netflix for releasing the whole series in one go, and very unhappy that it will be 2016 before we get any new episodes.

A word of warning. As many of the Superhero movies have been lately, this is dark and gritty. For those curious about the Marvel Timeline, Season One takes place AFTER the Battle of New York (Avengers), but before the rise of Hydra (Captain America: Winter Soldier) There is quite a bit of violence, and violent death. Matt Murdock, aka DareDevil, has has anger issues that would make Bruce Banner say, “Hey, now, just a minute…”  After interrogating a thug, Matt has no qualms about dropping him over the side of a low building, confident that, since he’s landing in a trash container, he’ll probably survive. Murdock personally has a code against killing, but he has little problem with going right up next to that line.

The lead is played, and played well, by Charlie Cox. I am not personally familiar with anything he has done since the movie Stardust. But he does well. He needs to, because otherwise, he is in serious danger of being overshadowed by his cast mates.

Elden Henson plays a great Foggy Nelson. The kind, idealistic partner at Nelson & Murdock, Attorneys at Law (or Avacados at Law, you’ll know what I mean when you see it). He is joined by Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, their Office Manager, and initial damsel in distress. But the real danger of show thievery is Vincent D’Onofrio, as Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin.

D’Onofrio is not generally one of my favorite actors. I was never a fan of Law & Order, and while I liked Full Metal Jacket, his role there went from pathetic to deeply unsettling. As with the series itself, it took a couple of episodes to get used to the idea, and there were many times he reminded me of his role as Edgar in Men in Black, but he developed into the believable villian mastermind, and a credible physicle threat to DareDevil, as well.

Finally, I’m going to give a shout out to Toby Leonard Moore, who played James Wesley, Fisk’s Majordomo. He played his role extremely well, providing the right level of utter professionalism as the lieutenant to a major power player, with the right amount of ruthlessness that you would expect from someone in that position, coupled with respect and friendship of a man working with a boss he genuinely likes and respects. I don’t want to get into spoilers, but I don’t think we’ll be seeing him in season two, and I’ll miss the guy.

So, in review, I’m giving DareDevil Season One Four and a Half Stars (Out of Five). I enjoyed the heck out of it, and I’m looking forward to returning to Hell’s Kitchen in Season Two.

~Old Shib

No More Gatekeepers. With quotes from Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men.

“Nac Mac Feegle! The Wee Free Men! Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! Nae master! We willna’ be fooled again!”

― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

(I’ve included Pratchett quotes from the book Wee Free Men throughout this essay, because Pratchett had a true gift for saying what needed to be said. Read enough of his work, and you’ll see a solid, dependable and honorable philosophy and wonderful way of seeing the world around us. Now, to the essay…)

Earlier, I was reading through a thread started by a Hugo nominated TOR editor. The primary purpose of his posting seemed to be explaining the differences between being a fan of Science Fiction, and being a Capital “F” Fan. He went on to define what should constitute a true “Fan”. It goes well beyond reading and enjoying material from the genre. Frankly that is not enough. You need to be an active Fan. You must know the history, and be able to pass the knowledge tests. You must be participating in the approved activities and going to the approved cons. He goes on at length about the importance of the History and Traditions of Fandom, and how if you are not willing to invest that level of effort, then you simple are not a TruFan (He uses this term). The resulting implication? If you do not meet these standards, you are still allowed to hang around, but you don’t really have any business trying to make your voice heard, you should be self-aware enough to know that you shouldn’t be voting for any awards, and that you really just need to be quiet while the adults are talking.

“No,” said Tiffany, patiently. “It’s about zoology.”

“Zoology, eh? That’s a big word, isn’t it.”

“No, actually it isn’t,” said Tiffany. “Patronizing is a big word. Zoology is really quite short.”

To me, this seems more like he wants a professional (or perhaps semi-professional) organization, and not a community of fans. If this is truly what he wants, that’s fine, but he needs to change a lot of what Worldcon says about itself, and what the Hugo says about itself. He needs to change a lot of the definitions, and he needs quit pretending that he is anything other than a Gatekeeper, desperately trying to separate all the TruFans from the common rabble.

Personally, I have no use for Gatekeepers. I do not need them for my day to day life, and I do not need them between myself and the world of Science Fiction. I don’t need them telling me what I should be reading, what movies I should be seeing, what games I should be playing. I don’t mind people recommending things, saying, “Hey, I loved this, I think you might like it as well”, but telling me, “these are the qualitatively better authors and these are the qualitatively better books, and there is no reasonable argument against them”… well, no, thank you.

“I can see we’re going to get along like a house on fire,” said Miss Tick. “There may be no survivors.”

I have said many times and in many places, I don’t mind fiction that has a message in it. I don’t even mind if they are pushing things to which I might not totally agree. But story first, thank you. Entertain me first and foremost. When the message is more important than the story, or it seems to be tacked on to the characters for no discernable reason, or it becomes the only definition of the character, you have taken me out of the story. You have taken me out of the fun. You have basically built a homework assignment for me, and are now trying to convince me that I should consume this because it is good for me.

Personally, I do not care for the Twilight franchise, nor the Hunger Games. But these books, along with Harry Potter, have brought in thousands of new fans. Anything that can entice the average 7th to 9th grader to read books outside of school is amazing and the fact that they are bringing those readers into our community, a community that has been having challenges staying young and commercially viable, is outstanding! Bring more! Let us argue the relative merits, let us debate about what are the good parts and what are the bad parts, let us fight about whether we like this or that particular author, or book, or even series of books, but first, let us acknowledge that this is our community, we are kindred spirits, we have more in common than not.

I am a fan. Small “f” and proud of it. I love Heinlein and Asimov and McCaffery and many more of the “Old Masters”. I love that today’s Science Fiction and Fantasy, thanks in large part to G.R.R. Martin, and J. K. Rowling, and yes, Stephanie Meyer is becoming a growing, convoluted and active community. I love that when you go to a Con, you stand an excellent chance of coming across Deadpool, standing next to Tony Stark talking to Ned Stark (head attached), as Gandalf and Frodo walk by. I love that Trekkies can argue the merits of ship-to-ship combat with members of the Manticore Navy. I love that movies can be made into comics can be made into books can be made into games, and that this can happen in any order. I love that, thanks to the internet, I can see what happens at Cons, I can read about what happens at Cons, all without actually having to go to the Con. Am I missing out? Heck yes! I don’t get to hear the jokes, go to the room parties, gawk at the costumes, and meet the creators. But at the same time, I get to see that I am not (as I suspected and feared growing up) alone in my love for the genre.

“There’s no one to stop them.” There was silence for a moment. “There’s me,” said Tiffany.

I know now that there are thousands of us, and that there is just no way a self-appointed Gatekeeper has a chance. These weasels have exactly the amount of power over us that we give them and I, for one, will no longer be silent about it. I will take great pleasure in the self-professed “Pulp” of Larry Correia, in the Space Opera of David Weber, the amazing urban fantasy of Jim Butcher, and the excellent world building of Raymond Feist. I will read the covers off of everything that the late, great, Terry Pratchett ever put out, including the Bromeliad Trilogy. I will read authors who are out and out socialists (Eric Flint) and outspoken libertarians (Sarah A. Hoyt). Heck, I might even break down and read Ancillary Justice. But whatever I do, I will not let others define my fun, I will not let them define the terms and standards, and I will not let them keep me silent. I did that in high school when the “cool kids” made it clear that reading Clarke and Howard and Heinlein was not cool and I was desperately trying to fit in. It did no good then, and it will do no good now.

I willna’ be fooled again!

Crossposted at https://otherwheregazette.wordpress.com/

We’ve always been at war with Eastasia…

What to say about the current Hugo issue.

In a way, it’s disheartening. Like some I’ve read, I always imagined the SciFi community as THE place, where finally, we could all get along. That we had self-selected far enough down, that we had all reached a common point where we could finally be ourselves, accepted, and home… This, sadly, is not the case.

For three years now, Sad Puppies have impacted the field. The brain child of Larry Correia, grown to the point where it is not just making an impact, but it is, in fact, running amuck. Factions have formed, sides have been chosen, and that hope that we can all get along lies crumbling in the ashes. And the really sad part, is that might just be the best outcome that could be hoped for right now.

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For too long, the Hugo, called the most prestigious award in all of Science Fiction and fantasy, has been developing problems. The first is the sheer paucity of the voting field. When “the very best book in the SciFi community” is getting there on less than 50 votes, there are serious problems, both with the field and the community. The second is the drift. Like many navigational errors, just a little drift, left long enough, will eventually result in your arrival at a place well off from your intended destination

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Is it the fault of the Puppies group? In a way, yes, it is. We should have done this years, decades, ago. Not arguing for a return to the “Golden Age of Science Fiction”, but to push to include worthy, adventurous works. To recognize and include the message fiction that we might not generally like, but recognizing such works that might be well crafted. To bring to the front those works that might be otherwise be trashed as “Pulp” or Space Opera, again, recognizing that not all Pulp or Space Opera would be worthy, but still, David Weber deserves a Hugo nomination or three. We need to be there so that the works nominated represent a greater variety, not forceing the drift all the way right, but countering the natural drift that always will occur, especially when we don’t bother to show up!

But we’ve let the boat drift for decades, the course correction required is, inevitably, severe. And those people who are comfortable with the way things have been going in those decades? Not happy, not happy at all. Again, in a way, this is our fault. Any of us with children know that a child will push boundaries just as far as you let them, and then a little more. If you never say “no”, if you never correct, the child will eventually become a terror. And when you finally decide to impose the boundaries that should have always been there, you are treated to a spectacular meltdown, and deservedly so. Does that sound familiar to anyone?

Are either side acting like adults? Not totally, of course, this is the arena, and everyone with an internet connection is invited. But still, there are bright spots, here and there. Brad Torgersen played nice for a long, long time. I think he may have lost his temper a few times, but after the attacks by Arthur Chu, and the article published by Entertainment Weekly, I find it difficult to the point of impossible to blame him. Before being forced into a correction, the EW article read, “Hugo Award nominations fall victim to misogynistic, racist voting campaign,”…Still, he, Larry Correia, Sarah Hoyt and some of the other “leadership”, I think, have behaved better than could have been reasonably expected (We organize, mostly, like a bag of cats. Leadership is therefor a bit of a challenge). Larry has been called a “rape apologist”, Sarah has been accused of being a white male (not that there is anything wrong with that), and of course, all of them have been called racists.

On the other side of the field, George R. R. Martin has made a reasonable statement. He thinks the Puppies are wrong, and have broken things, but his argument is at least rational, debatable, and seems to lack gratuitous insults. Mary Robinette Kowal has kindly asked that the folks arguing against Sad Puppies to try to refrain from Death Threats, so, there’s that…

nice

I’m not here to throw red meat, not yet. I’ve made my share of pithy comments, and I’ve thrown out the occasional insult. Clearly, I am not without sin. And I have chosen my side. I am on the side of no one telling me what is right fun and wrong fun. I am on the side that will say, “I honestly don’t know what politics that author has…” I’m on the side that can poke fun at anyone, and everyone who might step into the target zone. {Please note, there is a huge difference between “poke fun” and attempts to cleverly shame, degrade and drive out.). I’m on the side of the publisher who can successfully house, push and publish Trotskyites, Libertarians, Democrats and Conservatives, as well as gay, straight, and bi, all without making sure that is THE FIRST THING you see in the author bio.  I’m against the side that attempts to ostracize, the side that keeps blacklists, the side that makes ANYONE feel like they have to hide what they think or feel about certain issues. The side that whispers, the side that will accuse without proof in attempts to shut down the discussion. The side that says, “We’re open minded, but we won’t interview you, review your books, or ask about your side of the issue.” I have no use for the tolerant who are only tolerant of those who think like they do…

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Hopefully, we can remain the Happy Warriors. This is a fight worth having, but after, we are very much family. Sure, some of us are the embarrassing crazy uncle, many are the unreachable liberal that just makes you grind your teeth, one or two might be cousin that maybe has too many guns (Williamson, Correia, maybe me, someday…) (But really, can you have too many?). But almost all of us came to this place because we were pursuing a sense of the magnificent, of wonder, of magic, or science so advance it is indistinguishable from magic. After this all settles out, we need to argue about things we disagree on, sure (I will no longer be silent, thank you), but we also need to find the things we have in common. Maybe a little of, “I disagree on this book, here, brother, but have you read Pratchett?”, and a little bit of “Let’s argue about the parts of The Lord of the Rings that were not so good, and which parts were transcendent!” Books or movies, you ask? Why both, of course!

~Shib

Why I am a fan, or perhaps, how I got here.

Growing up, I thought I didn’t fit in. As an adult, I’m pretty sure that is not uncommon. No one really fits in, we are unique individuals and until we learn how to empathize and adjust to each other, we will float along, banging into each other, but not necessarily connecting. Some of us can do this so quickly and naturally, it seems like magic. Others, not so much…

I was probably 10 when I discovered Tolkien. How? I honestly can’t remember, but it ignited such a love of reading that it probably scared my parents. After all, I was the youngest of 5, and this was not how the other kids spent time. I read anything I could find, as long as it was fiction and fantastic. Out of desperation, my Mom prevailed on one of her friends, and i was inducted into a book club. So there I was, younger than anyone else in the group by a good 8 years, but in a way, fitting in better than I did at school.

So Tolkien told tales of Middle Earth, and was followed by C. S. Lewis and Mars (Out of the Silent Planet), and Madeleine L’Engle. Did I mention it was Mom’s friend from Church? There was a theme, and still, these were wondrous books to a boy of ten. I went on to meet a farmboy named Luke, both in movies and books, Conan, King Arthur and The Book of Three. Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica (original series) were the choice a weekly appointment. Of course, Star Trek (Also original series), in syndication, whenever it was on… Can you guess my age yet?  Down the path I went. Still, I wanted more, there was never enough, and the library knew me on site.

But the final event that put me, unalterably, in to the universe of the Fantastic was when my good friend loaned me  The Color of Magic, by Sir Terry Pratchett. There was no going back. Pratchett led to Douglas Adams, and the Science Fiction Book Club provided me with Dragonriders. Wow. How can anyone turn from that? It was and is… glorious.

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This genre, Science Fiction and Fantasy, can offer us everything!  There is nothing that you can imagine that cannot be, and isn’t that the point? We live the lives of great warriors, powerful mages, strong princesses and cowardly kings. We see men and women in powered armor fighting for their lives, against aliens or man. We listen to Roy Batty tell of attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. Of watching c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser  Gate. All those moments,lost in time, like tears in the rain. But they aren’t lost, are they?  We see humanity at both it’s best and worst, offered through the lens of fiction.

Do we, as a group of fans, agree on everything? No, we are unique individuals, and our tastes reflect everything that is unique in us, everything we have seen, everything we have experienced. But surely, we can look at each other and at least see kindred spirits. I can look over at the Twilight fan, shake my head, chuckle a bit, and go back to reading Ringo, or Correia. I may not agree with the choice, but I am glad they have the choice and glad they made the choice. I am ecstatic that Hogwarts and Sparkly Vampires brought so many new fans into the fold, because, if anything, it magnifies that chance of a Science Fiction or Fantasy book being made into a GOOD movie, one that respects the source material (I’m looking at you, Starship Trooper, and I am not amused) and has the budget to make it amazing. Who could have ever said, 20 years ago, that Peter Jackson would show us Middle Earth in such a way that I believe that J.R.R. himself would say, “That is beautiful.” . Still, even Peter can misstep…

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What a wonderful world we live in. I embrace my fanishness. I glory in being able to sit down with a good book, either a new one, or an old friend that I’m visiting again, and read. I love being able to put  Firefly into the DVD player and rejoin Mal and Zoey. I love that they cast Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. All of these things are of fandom, and so much more! And thank goodness for the internet, that allows all of us like minded (and semi-like minded) to meet and debate and push and pull and provide the spark that inspires the authors, the cartoonist, the directors, the comic publishers, and all the rest, that provide us such a multifaceted universe, full of the fantastic, the magical, the brave and craven, the costly victory and the glorious defeat. It is all there, we just have to reach out and take it.

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~Shib