Archive for September, 2015

American ISIS

Over the past several months, ISIS elements have either been in the headlines and news shows, particularly for their use of force, violence, and media savvy in getting across the point that nothing is sacred, except their own narrow beliefs, in their attempts to establish an Islamic religiously-based nation state. To this end, ISIS operatives have beheaded journalists, tortured and killed anyone who does not believe as they do, destroyed ancient cultural artifacts, sold whatever they could to raise funds for their holy crusade, and made it crystal-clear that women are not the equal of men and should be their slaves.

Much of the world, including the United States, has been appalled, disgusted, often horrified, and made the point that ISIS is not what a civilized nation should be, particularly because ISIS denies any freedom to anyone that is in the slightest against what they regard as Islamic Sharia law.

Yet…everyone tends to forget that we have an analogue to ISIS right here in the United States. And no, they’re not Muslim. They regard themselves as God-fearing, good religious Christians who often cite the U. S. Constitution – or at least their version of it – in much the same way that ISIS cites the Koran to support its horrific actions. If you haven’t guessed, yet, I’m speaking of the extreme right-wing, fanatical Republicans.

These people aren’t terribly interested in anyone’s freedom except their own, no matter how much they declare they are, except perhaps for the freedom to carry deadly weapons [another similarity to ISIS]. Their idea of freedom is exemplified most recently by Kim Davis, the county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples because the idea of gay marriage is against her faith. Let’s get this straight. No one is forcing Ms. Davis personally to marry someone of the same sex. The law and the Supreme Court have stated that any two single individuals, regardless of gender, have the right to get married. No one is forcing anyone into a single-sex marriage. But her freedoms are infringed because she can’t impose her views of marriage on others?

These right-wing groups also oppose environmental regulations in almost any form, claiming that such regulations are everything from excessive to unwarranted because the costs infringe on their rights to make money. In effect, they’re claiming that their right to make money trumps the right of the public to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and not to inflict huge ocean level rises and higher global temperatures and more massive storms upon our children and grandchildren.

Despite the fact that the minimum wage is well below a living wage, the right-wingers insist that they should be able to make a living by paying other people less than is adequate for those people to make a living… and then they complain that government should cut back on programs for the poorest Americans because taxes, especially on right-wing capitalists, are too high.

Likewise, in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court declared that, under certain reasonable conditions, women had the right to have abortions. The most violent members of the Republican right wing are insisting, literally, that a woman who will die if she brings a child to term has no right to save herself by having an abortion. This is anything but the defense of freedom; it is the use of religion to dominate someone else.

And let’s not get into the “life is sacred” or “right to life” simplistic mantras. Both are largely right-wing hypocritical propaganda. The same people who spew this crap are the very ones who oppose all the programs for the poorest and most disadvantaged. If there is such a thing as a right to life, then it should be manifested by support of all lives throughout their lives, not just until they’re born… and then left on their own. As for the sacredness of life, where did that come from? From religion, of course, and that means that using religion to restrict a woman’s freedom to control her own body — and to survive – is effectively using the law to arrogate one particular set of beliefs over every other… and that is, at least in spirit, the use of law to push a particular religion, and not all that different from using the law to create a nationally required church [which, by the way, is in fact forbidden by the Constitution]. Also, as for life being sacred, these are the same people who want, under the right to bear arms, the right to defend themselves by killing other people, waging war on other nations, and using and shooting every form of life that can be hunted, while supporting actions that have effectively resulted in the latest great extinction of planetary life-forms, suggesting that what life they regard as sacred is a tiny fraction of planetary life, and essentially white-skinned.

Admittedly, the Republican right wingers are making this assault on the personal freedoms of those who do not share their values largely through two essentially American tools – money and law – although in some cases, a few more fanatical right-wingers have actually used weapons to gun down doctors who performed abortions. Not only that, but each year the extremists push for more and more measures to restrict the freedoms of others, continually threatening to shut down government if they don’t get their way.

And, frankly, like all too many moderate and good Muslims, who are loath to strongly and publicly criticize Islamic extremists, all too many of the more decent elements in the Republican party have also been loath to speak out, largely because, I suspect, they immediately tend to be attacked, ignored, or ostracized.

As a life-long Republican, who retains his registration in spite of seldom being able to find a Republican candidate I can support, and who served in positions from precinct committeeman, state delegate, Congressional Staff director, and the politically appointed director of the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs at the U.S. EPA during the Reagan Administration, I am absolutely disgusted and appalled that the most conservative elements of the Republican Party have more in common with ISIS than with the Constitution drafted and envisioned in their writings by the Founding Fathers… and that they fail to realize that fact.

Understanding and UNDERSTANDING

Over past years, I tried to explain what my wife the voice and opera professor does, day in and day out, and why what she does is so brutally exhausting. I’ve largely given that up, because no amount of explanation seems able to convey the totality of what she does to people who don’t already understand the profession and little explanation is needed for those who do. I also tend not to talk about certain aspects of writing for similar reasons.

Since I am most obviously not a racial minority, gay, or a person of color, I hesitate to make comparisons, but I do think the same mental mechanism is at work in the majority of people of any culture or society. There’s an old saying about not judging until you’ve walked and worked in another person’s shoes, but in today’s digital and data-driven world, all too many people make judgments based on their own experience… and data. The problem with data is that it reveals demographics, distribution, and results… and, for the most part, not much beyond that. Sociological data can be so badly skewed by a multiplicity of factors that it’s difficult to determine which studies are truly valid for what purposes. Add to that the fact that today’s American society is perhaps the most segregated it has ever been in terms of income, occupation, and education. On top of that, pervasive but subtle racial and cultural segregation also still exists, and sometimes and in some places, that segregation is still anything but subtle. Not only are there glass ceilings for women, but those ceilings exist for others as well.

Yes, there are those who have lived with or in sub-cultures or groups outside those into which they were born, raised, or educated, but they often remain a minority, often untrusted by those in the group from which they came and often by those in the minority group.

Data, statistics, policies, and bureaucratic programs don’t solve the problems of feelings, especially the feeling of not being understood, especially in a society that has become more and more centered on the “me culture.” People, especially those with light-colored skin, tend not to look outside their own self-selected groups. And the less they do, the less they can even come close to understanding.

All one has to do is to look at some of the numbers. Despite all the rhetoric about police killings of blacks, for example, in New York those deaths are a fraction of what they were forty years ago. What hasn’t changed significantly is the ratio of black men killing black men, compared to whites killing whites. Death is far more omnipresent in black minority communities than in even the poorest of white communities. Yet while police killings of minorities have dropped, the other homicide levels have not fallen to the same degree, and the discrepancy between black and white homicide rates remains.

Under these conditions, it shouldn’t be that difficult to see why minorities, especially black minorities, are protesting and essentially saying, “You don’t understand!” And they have reasons for making that claim, because they believe if the rest of us really understood, we’d make a more meaningful effort to address the problems that lie at the root of all those black-on-black homicides, and not just to address police behavior alone.

Original Sins?

There are two basic aspects to any problem that an intelligent person should consider: (1) the cause of the problem and (2) the most practical solution. The first aspect is a good idea so that you either don’t repeat the problem [if you’re the cause] or that you can hopefully do something about a similar problem if you see it happening again [or at least get out of harm’s way]. The second aspect is the starting point for doing something to remedy the problem.

But what if the problem was caused generations ago, and since then all sorts of other problems have been created as a result of the original problem? And what if your forebears weren’t the cause of the original problem, but either weren’t in a position to do something about it or chose not to? Maybe I’m just being simplistically pragmatic, but it seems to me that the pressing question isn’t who was to blame back then, but what’s to be done right now… and what CAN be done right now.

I’m making this generic, because there are a great number of difficult situations across the globe where various countries, people, cultures, and sub-cultures are fixated on WHO caused the problem, rather than on what needs to be done. Not only that, but in a number of those cases, it’s not all that clear who was originally to blame. Blacks in the United States tend to blame the United States and white slaveholders for the institution of slavery, but virtually all of the original black slaves shipped to what became the United States were enslaved and initially sold by other blacks. It was wrong to buy and have slaves, but there wouldn’t have been any slaves if the institution hadn’t already been established in Africa, where, by the way, it seems to be undergoing a resurgence.

We now have refugees flooding out of Africa, out of parts of Asia, even out of certain parts of southern Europe. There are millions of refugees crowded into small areas on the edge of Israel. The United States has millions of illegal immigrants who fled terrorism and poverty in Latin American countries. In all of these instances, dealing with WHO created the problem has very little to do with how the world or various countries need to deal with resolving how to make these people safe and productive. And frankly, even when the problem has a current cause, the costs of dealing with those who caused it may not be practical. The United States, and even the world, doesn’t have enough troops and equipment to mount a military takeover of much of the Middle East and Africa to get rid of all the rebels and regimes that have created the massive flow of refugees.

Original sin is great for theologians, but it’s a lousy excuse for solving problems, and it also gets in the way of solutions, because people hate being blamed for what their ancestors did, and that just makes fixing things even harder politically and practically. But then, blame is far easier and cheaper than implementing solutions, especially when it’s far from clear how much blame belongs to whom and when.

Averages and Numbers

Mark Twain is reputed to have said that, on average, a man with his head in the oven and his feet in a bucket of ice water is comfortable. Today, that aphorism is more worth heeding than ever. Everyone seems to be obsessed with numbers, but most people really fail to understand all the numbers they so blithely cite or follow.

For example, in Cedar City, in January the relative humidity is often over 70%. Sounds really humid, doesn’t it? It’s not. Not in the slightest. The average high temperature is 42 degrees Fahrenheit, the average low 17F, and the altitude is close to 6,000 feet. At those temperatures, the maximum amount of water the air can hold [at 100% relative humidity] is between 2 and 4 grams per kilogram of air, and with the higher altitude, that kilogram of air is larger than at sea level, which means the water vapor is even more diffuse. By comparison, on a mild spring day, at sea level, with the temperature at 70F, and a relative humidity of 50%, each kilogram of air would hold 8 grams. So 50% percent relative humidity at 70F means twice as much water vapor as 100% relative humidity at 42F. Of course, that’s why it’s called relative humidity, and why it doesn’t mean near as much in the winter as in the summer.

In terms of income, averages can be extremely deceptive. In 2014, the mean [or average] U.S. family income was $72,641. That doesn’t sound so bad, but the median [the midpoint income, with half the incomes above and half below] family income was $59,939. And neither the median nor the mean indicates that 15% of American families, or roughly forty-five million people, have incomes below the poverty level of $23,500 for a family of four or $11,770 for a single individual [before federal and state benefits], that 66% of all Americans earn less than $41,000, or that half of all income was earned by the 20% of families earning over $100,000.

EPA estimated mileage numbers are another case where it helps to know what’s behind the numbers. The EPA test protocol is based on the car model in question being driven at legal highway speeds 45% of the time and in city traffic 55% of the time. Virtually all cars get better mileage at highway speeds than in local traffic; so if you drive exclusively in the city and suburbs, your vehicle is almost never likely to reach the EPA estimated mileage figures. Nor will it reach those figures if you’re one of those drivers who drive at speeds in excess of 80 mph.

Another problem with numbers is that far too many organizations are so obsessed with quantifying performance that they insist on quantifying the unquantifiable. My wife the voice and opera professor faces this every year, and each year the quantification demands get stronger and the insistence on a wider range of objective performance data gets louder… and the accompanying paperwork gets more involved and more time-consuming. One of the basic problems with rating voice performance is that, to begin with, unless a singer can match pitch, sing on key, and in the proper tempo and rhythm, they fail. Above that basic level of performance, objective quantification becomes close to impossible. Beyond that level there are no objective standards that apply across the board. Some professional singers are limited to two octaves or so; some few can sing a range of four. How does one quantify the richness or timbre of a voice, or the phrasing, or the breathing? What about the occasional voices that are unique, that go beyond mere technique? But the educational mavens want numbers! The same is true of writing. I’ve seen a great deal of writing over the years that is grammatically correct… and terrible. I’ve seen great storytellers with terrible grammar. Objectively weighing writing through a set of rubrics or “objective” parameters is close to useless – except for weeding out those who can’t write at all.

So why are we so obsessed with numbers when it’s very clear, at least to me, that there are places for numbers and places where relying on numbers makes no sense?

One reason is because, as a society, we fear what we think is the “tyranny of subjectivity,” of relying on personal and professional judgment that can be warped by factors unrelated to the quality [or lack thereof] of what is being measured or judged. Numbers seem so much more “impartial.” The problem is that they can be just as biased in their own way… and very few people seem to realize that. Except Mark Twain, who also said, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Yet we are swamped in a sea of statistics demanded by more and more institutions and organizations, and government bureaucracies who all seem to think that the numbers, and only the numbers, hold all the answers.

Water, Water, Everywhere

This past weekend I was in Denver, visiting family, and I took my usual morning walk along one of the walking/running/biking paths… and it seemed like I ran across more than a hundred people, most of them incredibly fit-looking, not exactly a surprise, given that Colorado is rated as the most “fit” state in the union. As a walker, albeit a fast walker who can almost keep up with the slower joggers, the few other walkers and I were definitely outnumbered by runners and bikers. And I was definitely outnumbered by all those who carried water-bottles and water back-packs; even some of the slowest walkers seemed to be carting water bottles.

I’ve never seen so many people carting water, and I have to ask why.

Living as I do in Cedar City, which is high desert, and dry enough most of the time to make Denver seem tropical by comparison, I’m well aware of the dangers of dehydration. I always make sure I’m hydrated before I take my walk, and then again after I return.

While the average humidity in Denver is around 50%, in Cedar City, from April to October it’s around 22%, and the high temperatures are close to those in Denver. But I don’t see the same proliferation of water paraphernalia in my home town as I was seeing in Denver.

What exactly is the concern with hydration that goes with the physical fitness cult?

I definitely understand the need for adequate fluids, especially on hot days,or if you’re well away from civilization. I certainly understand the need for endurance and long-distance runners to carry water bottles… but for 20 to 40 minute walks or runs, especially early in the day when it’s cooler? But then, when I did a little research, it turned out that if you’re exercising and in good health, it’s just about impossible to drink too much water.

But I still wonder if hydration is being overemphasized. Does everyone need to carry water all the time, especially in the middle of a city?

Reasons to Read

From my point of view, there are four basic reasons people read: (1) for entertainment, which includes escaping reality; (2) for knowledge, or to learn about things they don’t know in some fashion; (3) for inspiration, and/or to think about matters in new or different ways; and (4) for occupational/scholastic necessity, although I’d hope scholastic necessity includes learning (which it doesn’t, unhappily, for all too many students today).

People also delude themselves about those reasons. Reading about cinema stars or the Kardashians, or reading tabloid stories about natural disasters and the like isn’t learning; it’s entertainment. And reading to obtain knowledge in order to use that knowledge to reinforce existing thought patterns is certainly reading for knowledge, but it doesn’t do much for thinking when the mindset is already ossified.

One of the great benefits of fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy, is the best of books in these genres can not only entertain, allow a certain escapism, but also impart knowledge and spur thought. On top of that, they can provide income and a following for the critics who review them, although, from what I’ve seen over the years, a certain percentage of those critics neither learn anything from some books nor are able to think about what the book contained, but then they probably weren’t the best students, either.

In any case, F&SF at its best does all of the above, and at its worst still provides entertainment…and that’s not something you can say about an awful of aspects of society today.

So… keep reading.

Anger … and Non-Comprehension

One of the latest political polls I saw showed that the three “non-political” candidates [Trump, Carson, and Fiorina] for the Republican Presidential nomination now hold over fifty percent of the likely Republican voters. Another showed Bernie Sanders leading Hillary Clinton in several key primary states. Whether these numbers are totally accurate or whether they rise or fall, they’re highly significant in two regards.

First, they show how much anger and dissatisfaction there is among the electorate with professional politicians and Washington, D.C. And second, they show the lack of political and economic understanding on the part of most Americans, not to mention a high degree of hypocrisy.

I’ve already written about the anger, and that’s pretty obvious to many Americans as well as the political commentators.

I’ve mentioned aspects of the lack of understanding before, and some comments in response to my observations also illustrate that there’s a wide-spread failure to understand why seeming “simple” and “common-sense” solutions, as many proposed by Trump and others are called, are neither simple nor common-sense…and certainly not affordable under current taxation levels. A tremendous percentage of the American people, when it comes to government, have no comprehension of the costs involved, one way or the other.

Most Americans believe that wasteful federal spending should be eliminated, but they won’t support the elimination of excess military bases, because they represent jobs in their districts. The army has more tanks than it can use; that’s one reason why the army had no problem turning over excess armored personnel carriers and other equipment to police forces. The BLM runs essentially runs in the red because federal grazing rates are between half and a fifth of what private grazing rights go for. IRS audit rates are the lowest in years, if not forever, and getting to the taxpayer assistance lines takes hours at times because Congress cut IRS funding so much. Lower audits mean less revenue and more successful tax cheats. The list of Congressionally mandated requirements that reduce tax revenues and subsidize special or popular interests, virtually all in response to popular or contributor political pressure, would take pages and pages to even summarize.

There was a huge hue and cry over corporate profits and American companies moving their headquarters abroad, and the popular and political response wasn’t to deal with the reason behind those moves, which is the U.S. tax structure, but to make it more difficult for companies to do that… which is already proving ineffective and giving more companies to move their headquarters abroad — exactly the opposite of what would be desirable.

Minimum wage workers want higher wages, and need them if they are to be able to support themselves without federal aid, but small businesses don’t want higher wages mandated, and most voters who aren’t minimum wage workers don’t want to pay higher taxes to provide income support and welfare benefits to the working poor who need those benefits because their wages are so low.

In short, voters want lower taxes, but no cuts in federal programs that benefit them, only in “other people’s programs,” and they also want to beef up programs such as immigration enforcement, law enforcement, without any increase in taxes.

Yet they’re angry that the “career politicians” can’t deliver this impossible package, and they get angry at any politician or public figure who points out that what everyone wants costs more than anyone wants to pay.

So they’re voting for the “outsiders.” The problem is that basic economics doesn’t care whether a politician is an insider or an outsider. We’ve reached a point where we can’t keep borrowing more than we’re willing to taxes ourselves… and a huge percentage of the electorate isn’t willing to face the problem. They just want someone else to pay for it, and they’re voting for anyone who will support their delusions.

The Minimization of the Unobvious

With all the conflict during “Hugo season” about diversity, multi-culturalism, social justice and their relation to story-telling, I thought a little perspective might be useful, particularly with what I see as an underlying and incorrect assumption that F&SF was a white man’s province bereft of diversity and multi-culturalism until recently, say, perhaps the last twenty years or so.

To begin with, multi-culturalism and diversity in science fiction and fantasy didn’t start in the 1980s or 1990s. Andre Norton [aka Alice Mary Norton] was writing about full-blooded Navajos in the 1950s. Leigh Brackett featured Eric John Stark, with skin almost as dark as his black hair. The Left Hand of Darkness, the acclaimed novel by Ursula Le Guin featuring a biologically hermaphroditic alien human society, was published in 1969, and those are just a small smattering of the F&SF novels featuring diverse racial and gender settings and themes published long before the current “diversity” movement. Ironically, of course, a good many of those novels were written by women and published under male or gender-neutral pseudonyms. And yes, such novels were not in the majority. They were a definite minority, and often such efforts were overlooked when they were plainly there.

Ursula Le Guin has noted more than once that the dark skin of the protagonist of A Wizard of Earthsea has been continually overlooked by readers and cover artists [or perhaps that artist was instructed to overlook it for marketing purposes]. Heinlein’s main character in Starship Troopers was a young man of Philippine heritage who spoke Tagalog, something that still gets glossed over in critiques of the novel.

By the 1ate 1980s, more than twenty-five years ago, F&SF novels with culture, race, and gender issues were certainly prominent, and the works (and death) of James Tiptree, Jr. [Alice Hastings Bradley Sheldon] had inspired even greater discussion of gender and diversity in F&SF. Octavia Butler began publishing short stories in the early 1970s and went on to become a major voice for black themes and writers by the 1980s.

A number of other writers have quietly incorporated multi-culturalism, gender and gender issues, and other forms of diversity in their books as well, even if they have not been recognized as “standard bearers.” I’ve written eight books strictly from the female point of view and another three with multiple POVS, one of which is female in each of those three books. I’m also known for strong female characters. I’ve written two books from the “minority” POV, one a black male officer in a predominantly white space force, the other a blond Anglo in a predominantly Asian/Shinto culture, both of whom face quiet discrimination. I’ve also had strong minor characters [and not villains!] who have been gay, lesbian, and transgendered. I didn’t do any of this in service to any ideology. Those were the stories I was telling, and they were based on the kinds and types of people I know. I’m not claiming any honors or demanding praise, but I am saying that too many authors who quietly include what might be called multicultural societies and diversity in their worlds and who write a good story often have that diversity ignored or dismissed because it isn’t blatant enough, or because diversity itself isn’t the story. This often amounts to the minimization of non-obvious excellence and the elevation of often less-excellent message stories.

I’ll also admit that, at times, diversity can and should play a larger part. The Left Hand of Darkness is an amazing novel, and was especially so when it was written and published, particularly because it featured a straight protagonist facing politically and physically life-threatening situations sparked by the interplay of his very presence and two cultures whose hermaphroditic nature created a far more ambiguous and indirect weave of societal pressures than the protagonist could ever have anticipated. The story and the culture cannot be separated, and that’s the way it should be.

That doesn’t mean that every good or excellent F&SF story needs to be about diversity, or gender, or multi-culturalism, although not including a diverse cast of characters, given the makeup of our world today, strikes me a highly unrealistic. Nor should a novel be elevated unduly or praised merely because it features diversity, but a novel that has a good plot, and good characters, with diversity as well, should rate higher, in terms of literary value, than one that is simply a rip-roaring adventure story.

All of which underscores what I’ve been trying to point out for months – it should be the totality of the story or book, not the current flavor du jour [or decade] of what’s on readers’ social agendas, that determines the value of a book.

The Hugos or “You Just Don’t Understand”

As a result of some of my comments about the Hugo kerfuffle, I’ve received several comments, here and elsewhere, that state or imply that I just don’t understand what happened and why. I think I understand it very well. But I obviously need to go back to some of the basics that appear to have been overlooked.

Human beings work through groups. Those groups range from cliques and gangs to various organizations and businesses all the way up to government. All these groups have rules. Those rules fall into two categories: explicit rules and implicit rules. The explicit rules can be verbal, but in modern society are usually written. The implicit rules are always unspoken and supposed to be understood by members of the group. Often, if people don’t understand the unspoken rules and follow them, they’re considered to not really be a part of the group. Generally speaking, the more structured and larger an organization is, the more it operates on explicit and formal rules. And the more diverse it is, the more it needs a greater amount of written rules to make sure that everyone understands what those rules are, and the consequences for breaking them. That’s why governments tend to accrete more and more laws and regulations as they grow and age.

The World Science Fiction Society is closer to cliques than to governments. It has specific rules and written procedures for how the Hugo awards are determined, but, as the recent Hugo kerfuffle demonstrates, there are clearly unspoken rules of behavior expected by the group I’ve termed “the new traditionalists,” which has dominated the proceedings and award selection process for at least two decades.

Just in the past few days, author and editor Eric flint offered an essay describing, with statistics, the change in F&SF “literary”/award standards and how the field has changed from one where there was considerable overlapping between “popular” fiction and the works getting awards to one where there is very little, if any. This change suggests that “story” alone is no longer as important a factor in determining “excellence.”

The “sad puppies” were formed by a loose group of writers and fans who felt, rightly or wrongly, that the new traditionalists were sacrificing “story” to other factors such as diversity and gender issues in determining what represented the “best” in F&SF. They raised the issue, and, predictably, because they constituted the minority of those voting, were effectively ignored and their concerns dismissed and minimized. So, after several years, this past year, they came up with a “slate,” something that was not prohibited (and, in fact, probably could not be prohibited in any way that would be effective).

Immediately, Vox Day, aka Theodore Beale, came up with an even more radical “rabid puppies” slate, out of motives that appear to be far more grounded in self-interest, and possibly gaining lots of publicity for his small publishing house and the authors he publishes.

At this point, the new traditionalists and their supporters expressed outrage, and have continued to do so, claiming that the puppies “gamed the system,” despite the fact that what the puppies did was well within the written rules. Why such an outpouring of outrage? Because the method used broke the tacit and unwritten rules accepted and followed by the new traditionalists.

What is continually overlooked in this kerfuffle is that the sad puppies expressed a concern, which was overlooked and minimized. Exactly why did they have any incentive to follow unspoken rules which they believe put them at a disadvantage in expressing their concerns?

This underlying conflict then provided Vox Day with the perfect opportunity to “self-publicize” and gain a platform he could not have possibly gained in almost any other way… as well as, incidentally, to further negate the actual underlying issues originally expressed by the “sad puppies.” The reaction to his acts clearly confirmed that there are unspoken rules and that the majority of Hugo voters did not like others breaking those rules. Whether the Hugo majority actually represents the feelings of the majority of F&SF readers is also another question, because even the massive increase in the voting membership of WorldCon represents less than one percent of all fantasy and science fiction readers.

In any case, the fact is that the unspoken rule against “slates” has been broken, and if the new traditionalists and their supporters do not greatly increase their participation in the initial nominating process, something that a number of others have already stated, the same sort of slate versus anti-slate confrontation could happen again next year. And if it does, the only “winner” will be Vox Day.

We have two groups with very different perspectives on what constitutes excellence. Each believes the other is wrong, misguided, or the like. Those on each side can argue quite logically their viewpoint. The problem is that, all too often, people with fixed mindsets believe absolutely and firmly that their understanding of a situation is the only way it can be accurately perceived. It has nothing to do with whether one is liberal or conservative, or any other social outlook. It has to do with a certain firmness of thought, described as “principled” by each of themselves, while describing their opponents as misguided or unprincipled.

In the case of the Hugos, as I see it, and I’ve certainly been criticized for the way I see it, there is some truth in both the cases of the “sad puppies” and the “new traditionalists.” [I have to say that I don’t see much truth or objectivity in the points of the “rabid puppies,” but perhaps my mindset just doesn’t accept what seems to be hateful provocation or use of hate to self-publicize.] And, as I’ve said before, not only do I think the field is big enough for both viewpoints, but the sales of a range of authors prove that rather demonstrably.

Yet each side is contending that the other did something hateful and discriminatory, largely because one side refused to abide by unspoken rules that they believed minimized their concerns. In the end, the other aspect of groups that this conflict illustrates, again, is why unspoken rules tend to be superseded by written procedures in larger groups.

One thing I have observed over a moderately long life is that when two sides both feel so strongly, usually neither is as “right” as it professes… and until each addresses the other’s concerns in some fashion, the conflict will persist – unless one side just destroys the other, which has certainly happened in human history.