I saw my first Hillary For America bumper sticker today, on a car I nearly had to rear-end to read it. (The near-rear-ending was their fault; they were lost and apparently had no concept of how to get the fuck off the road and look at a map. They sped up, I sped up, they jammed on the brakes and made a right turn. Fuckers.)
I wonder if the Queen Bitch’s campaign decided it would be better to have smaller stickers so they don’t present as much of a target as the Obama 2008 and Obama 2012 stickers that still proliferate up here…although, come to think of it, they really seem to be disappearing these days…
So, this year I joined WorldCon for the first time (as a supporting member) and got to vote on the Hugos.
I’ve been a science fiction aficionado most of my life. 50 years, or close to it; way back in the 1960’s, before I could even really understand what I was reading, I got hooked by a two-volume set of A Treasury of Great Science Fiction, edited by Anthony Boucher.
I was thereby introduced to A.E. Van Vogt (The Weapon Shops of Isher), Poul Anderson (Brain Wave), Alfred Bester (The Stars My Destination), George O. Smith (“Lost Art”, which is part of the great Venus Equilateral), and Nelson S. Bond (“Magic City”) among others. I later re-read them all in the light of somewhat greater maturity and understood that I had been reading classic SF from a golden age that had just preceded my own life. But that was the trigger that started me off reading SF nearly half a century ago. And it colors my appreciation of modern SF quite a bit.
You may notice that I have carefully avoided using the term “fan”. That’s because (and in someone else’s construction that I saw a couple of days ago) I’m a fan, not a Fan. I’ve been to exactly three SF conventions in my life, and I can name them easily: NorthAmericon in 1979, Rivercon V in 1980, and our local InConJunction 2 in 1981. NorthAmericon was as close as I’ve ever come to attending WorldCon, given it was held to give US fans something to do since WorldCon was being held in England that year.*
I stopped going to the local ‘con after one try because, frankly, I didn’t (and still don’t) like most of the people who were running it back then. Fen qua fen ordinarily give me the willies, and these folks were exceedingly strange, even for fen. (Some of us who were less than cordial about them were wont to refer to their SF club The Circle of Janus as “the circular anus”.) Anyway, as a card-carrying introvert even back then, I quit going to SF conventions about the time I was 22.** Fuck, I don’t even go to GenCon, and it’s here every year until the SJWs force it to move because they don’t like our governor. Which would be a pretty stupid reason to move it, but they’re SJWs, so I digress.
Over the years, particularly after Heinlein died, but moreso after Poul Anderson died, I sort of lost interest in “modern” science fiction, because most of it was new-agey, touchy-feely, socially-aware, globull-warmerongering-friendly feminist pap. And today, so much of it is post-apocalyptic “we’re doomed anyway” downer shit. (The Black Tide Rising series by John Ringo being a notable exception to the mill run of such.)***
But then I found Baen, and authors who were actually writing the kind of science fiction I wanted to read. Even if Eric Flint is a red diaper baby. I still like his stuff, and he has a good editorial eye. Plus, he likes a lot of the same authors I do
(Oh, and by the way: In the main, I hate fantasy, or what we used to call “sword and sorcery” (with a couple of significant, classic exceptions). I wish the fantasy genre had never gotten bound up with science fiction. They are completely different genres, with different sets of fans, and other than their common speculative nature, they really don’t deserve to be lumped together. But that’s a bone to be picked another day.)
So where am I going with this?
The year of the *. (No, that’s not a footnote.)
I admit, fully and openly, that I sided with the Sad Puppies, and voted as one (which is not the same thing that the CHORFs**** are calling “voting the SP slate”, since there wasn’t a goddamn SP slate). I have sat here for many years and idly wondered from time to time just exactly who the fuck decided that certain Hugo winners ought to have a Hugo. Finding out that the Hugo voting has been largely taken over by the Social Justice Warrior (SJW) crowd AKA CHORFs went a long way toward explaining that to me.
I was not aware of Sad Puppies, by the way, until this year, which was its third annual iteration. And I’m not going to get into the Rabid Puppies vs. Sad Puppies distraction; I don’t know who Vox Day is, and I don’t much give a fuck, other than that he seems to be a raging asshole.
And as I said on Facebook yesterday, I’ve never bought a book because it had a sticker on the cover proclaiming it to be a Hugo winner or nominee. Someone else (I think one of Hoyt’s Huns) mentioned dollars as votes. Just so.
The fact that the number of No Awards for the Hugo in its entire history just doubled over the weekend tells me that the CHORFs are fully in charge and have no intention of relinquishing their hold (or what they perceive as their hold) on SF fandom. While I agree that the Puppies won by losing (and thereby proving what a total group of childish assholes the CHORFs are), it doesn’t mean I have to like it. And I don’t.
By all accounts, Toni Weisskopf really deserved a Hugo for Best Editor (Long Form), but because she was Puppy-tainted, she came in second to No Award.
And I read, critically, both KJA’s The Dark Between the Stars and Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem. (I tried to read Ancillary Sword, but the first chapter defeated me; I simply couldn’t be moved to care. The Goblin Emperor was crap from the first sentence. And I’m not a Jim Butcher fan; sue me.) Liu’s book was good, and I enjoyed it. But Anderson’s book was better and it deserved the Hugo. It didn’t get it because Anderson is smeared with the Puppies (plus he’s not a darling of the SJW crowd).
It just gets worse from there so there’s no point in discussing it. Then there was the just-plain-nastiness of the SJW crowd, starting with “you can cheer the no-awards, but you can’t boo them.” Fuck you, assholes.
The Hugo is finished as a serious award. It was finished anyway, years ago, because it was only voted on by a self-selecting group that either attended WorldCon or bought a supporting membership (after that became possible). When that group became slanted to the SJW/CHORF crowd, the awards started tilting toward the type of SF that I described as being distasteful to me, above. And now that the proggies have full control, they’re unwilling to let go of it, even when the awards they’re giving are going to pedestrian crap, or aren’t going to anyone (No Award) no matter how deserving.
There’s apparently going to be a Sad Puppies IV, but with all due respect to the organizers, I don’t think that’s the appropriate response. The Hugo is old and busted; something else needs to take its place. Whatever that something is, it needs to be disassociated from WorldCon (something else that’s old and busted), and made more accessible to the body of fans who actually buy and read the books. It’s clear that WorldCon and the World Science Fiction Society no longer represent a vital cross-section of fandom, and indeed, there seem to be a lot of fans out there who don’t know what either of them OR the Hugo are.
Regardless of the awe and respect that many fans have for the Hugo, it is clear that the sand of cultural progressivism has jammed its gears. When you’ve butted up against that immovable object with your irresistible force and still haven’t been able to budge it an inch after repeated tries, it’s time to walk away and try something new.
It’s a big multiverse. There’s room for more than one award in Science Fiction.
* And at which it was my supreme pleasure and privilege to meet Forrest J Ackerman. And setup and run his slides of the Ackermansion, which I got to visit two years later.
** Which doesn’t mean I don’t go to conventions of any sort. I’ve been to national and regional conventions of my college service fraternity, and I spend far too much time going to Masonic events, and I haven’t missed a Grand Lodge convocation since 2000. In fact, my wife and I are getting ready to run the Indiana hospitality suite at the 2015 Supreme Council session of the AASR-NMJ. But that’s different; the people who attend such things aren’t fen. They’re grownups. Well, by and large, anyway.
***My preference is what Sarah Hoyt calls “Human Wave” SF.
**** Here, let me Google that for you.
I think this is the first time they’ve done this, unless they’ve been snuggling up at night when we aren’t awake.
Last week, I decided to let the ham shack computer upgrade to Windows 10, so I filled out the little reservation thing for that and forgot about it because I figured it would be weeks before it got pushed to that machine.
This morning, I got up and looked at my work machine — which rebooted itself last night for MS updates — and found out that the Windows 10 upgrade had failed.
Excuse me? I very specifically DON’T want my work machine to upgrade to Windows 10. And a quick look at the shack machine showed no similar attempt to upgrade.
I don’t know how it’s possible for that to happen. I mean, I did not fill out the reservation form for the work machine, and yet, it tried to download and install Windows 10 overnight anyway.
So fuck ’em — I deleted that fucking KB3035583 Get Windows 10 app that appeared several months ago, and set Windows Update so it would not download it again. You can see how to do that here. The annoying thing is that you have to search on the KB number, because it shows up in Windows Update somewhat disingenuously as “Update for Microsoft Windows (KB3035583)”.
So far I’ve done this on four machines, with one more to go.
Together in all these memories
I see your smile
All the memories I hold dear
Darling you know I’ll love you
Till the end of time
All of my memories keep you near.
In silent moments imagine you here.
All of my memories keep you near.
Your silent whispers, silent tears.
70 years after Hiroshima, there should be perspective.
There isn’t. People still rant and rave about the “ethics” of dropping the Bomb.
I was reminded yesterday of how silly that was when Brett Stephens of the Wall Street Journal wrote an article entitled “Thank God for the Atomic Bomb”, which of course was also the title of a 1981 essay in The New Republic by Paul Fussell, which (at least at the moment) can be downloaded in full here.
Fussell’s main point, which is echoed by Stephens, can be summed up in the following quote from his essay:
Understanding the past requires pretending that you don’t know the present. It requires feeling its own pressure on your pulses without any ex post facto illumination.
Or, for those who follow John Ringo,
“This is a picture. All it tells you is what you see. If you don’t know the context you know nothing.“
What Fussell said in 1981, and what Ringo put in the mouth of one of his characters in The Last Centurion, is absolutely no different than what I was taught in history classes at university in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, which boiled down more or less to, “Historical events cannot be interpreted from a modern-day perspective.” Yes, you do have to walk a mile in their shoes to understand their lives.
Think about that for a moment. Think about the history classes you’ve taken in the past, and historical books that you’ve read (primary sources, like autobiographies and classics written by people who had been there and done that). If you’re not a history major, that won’t be many, but I’m sure you can remember reading selections from various and sundry historical personages and wondering how they could say or do such things. When you did that, you were committing the sin referred to by Fussell and Ringo. You were considering the historical event or person from your latter-day, “enlightened” perspective, and not placing it or him/her into their historical context.
Today we are horrified, for instance, by American black slavery, and think we know that only the Civil War could put a stop to it. Yet historical perspective suggests that if the Civil War had not happened, slavery would have died out on its own within another generation — simply because the Industrial Revolution would have put paid to it.1 Even in the 1860’s, slavery was uneconomical for many, many slaveholders, who honestly did not know what to do about it that wouldn’t lead to the “ruination of their personal economies”2, and chose to ignore it and continue with the status quo, regardless of the morality of doing that. (Which is probably why many fought so hard to maintain it. Fear of the unknown future is a strong motivator.) Had the Civil War not occurred, hundreds of thousands of young men would not have been killed or maimed on the battlefields of that war, and millions of dollars of American treasure would not have been thrown away on four years of warfare. And the end result would have been slavery phased out within the next 20-30 years.
We have similar reactions when we read ancient and medieval history. We even have it when we read the Bible. If we do not investigate the context of their lives and times, we cannot begin to understand the motivations of the people who lived in them. We may never fully understand them, but we certainly will not if we do not attempt to view them as they viewed themselves.
This is why we experience cognitive dissonance when trying to understand the German people during WWII, or the Russian people during the Communist era.3 We choke on things like the Holocaust or Stalin’s purges because we do not have the context in which to place them. In short, we weren’t there. We understand intellectually that these historical events were horrific and inhuman and genocidal, but we can never embrace them in a visceral or tangible way and know exactly what the people involved in them went through.
When progressives write — or, to be fair, rewrite — history, as they have done in their march through the institutions over the past half century and more, the idea that experience of a thing, or at least the placing of a thing in its historical context, is essential to the understanding of that thing is thrown out the window, and rather than asking “How would the people of the day understood that?”, they ask “How do you feel about that?” Thus history becomes “touchy-feely”, something that would have earned me (in 1991) a lot of red ink and probably no better than a C on a term paper, if not indeed a suggestion that perhaps I should transfer to the political science or English literature department. Or even, if the professor was feeling nasty, the School of Journalism.
This rewriting of history prevents students from learning, for example, that President Woodrow Wilson was a Fascist, who was admired by Mussolini, who did his best to emulate him; that Margaret Sanger was a raging atheistic racist abortionist rather than the progressive feminist promoter of women’s rights she is portrayed as by Planned Parenthood and modern progressives; and finally (leaving a lot of things out in the interest of avoiding TL;DR), that dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, rather than being somehow immoral and ethically suspect, was a lifesaving event for perhaps a million American servicemen and who knows how many Japanese civilians and Home Guard who, but for the word of their Emperor, would have been decimated while decimating Americans in the final battle for the Japanese Home Islands.
The problem, as Fussell and Stephens both note, is that we have no way to know that Operation Downfall, the plan for the invasion of Japan, would have played out that way. All we know is what history tells us, and in Fussell’s case, what the context of living in that time and being marked for probable death in the invasion of Honshu made clear to him.
Having reached the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima — something I have been keenly interested in since I read John Hersey’s Hiroshima4 in my teens — perhaps there is no better time than now to reassert that in order to prevent repetition of history, we need to learn history. And in learning history, we need to be careful to place what we learn into its historical context, or we haven’t really learned anything at all, and we’ve simply wasted our time.5
The lesson of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that sometimes good men must do bad things to avert even worse things down the road. Harry Truman knew that, and he ordered the bombs to be dropped. Seventy years later, without context, progressives have no way to properly evaluate his action, and because of their current attitudes and 20/20 hindsight, they condemn him for it, without realizing that in doing so, they condemn themselves.
1 In my opinion, and contra the arguments of the Cliometricians whose research shows that slaves were “more efficient” than free farmers by something like 30%, there is too much evidence that the slave economy was already at risk due to innovations such as Eli Whitney’s cotton gin and other contemporary industrial improvements, which were not war-driven technology and existed in their own civilian, commercial space.
2 I love that line from 1776.
3 Let alone Mao’s Cultural Revolution, or the Cambodian killing fields, or Vietnam after reunification, which are even more alien to our Western ways of thinking.
4 Hersey is one of the authors who comes in for a right pummeling by Fussell; the book focuses on the aftermath and the victims rather than the reason why they became victims. It ignores the larger context in order to make its touchy-feely point.
5 This is the problem Barack Obama contends with concerning Iran; he has learned touchy-feely history (if he has learned any history at all) and has used what he knows to inform how he deals with the Mad Mullahs. Our next president needs to do better, and so do we all.
I’m finally getting a handle on the fact that my cat is gone. As my reader knows, we don’t have children (except children-by-proxy, one of whom is the mother of our “grandson”), so for us, the cats are our kids. I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose a child, but I know what it’s like to lose a cat who has become a member of the family. Maybe we Americans do treat our pets too much like family, but to anyone who says so, I say fuck you. Tiggr was my friend and buddy and companion and his absence hurts my heart more than I can express. When the vet asked if we wanted a footprint cast for him, I said no; his footprints are right here on my heart.*
Meantime, as noted in an earlier post, we brought Tux home on Saturday. Unfortunately he and Tiggr never got to meet, because we were concerned that Tiggr might not take well to being pestered by a kitten in his condition. But I imagine Tiggr and Tux communicated through the door of the room where we were keeping Tux, because Tux is exhibiting some of the same habits I remember from when Tiggr was a kitten.**
When I got home last night, I told the lady wife that I thought it was time to let Tux out. We had let Frankie into the room a couple of times just so they could meet, but the first time Tux hissed and growled at Frankie, and the second time Tux had a complete change of heart and charged at Frankie (playfully, so far as I could tell), and Frankie backed up and hissed. I said I thought that Frankie might be more likely to chill if he knew he had the whole house to back up into, and she agreed; so we opened the door and let matters take their course.
So far they got along just fine all night, and this morning as well. Frankie is napping back in the radio shack and Tux is nosing around in the hellhole I call my office, and all seems well in the world.
I still miss my Tiggr, but knowing that Frankie is not rejecting Tux out of hand is helping me cope with that.
* And there is enough of his fur around this house to make another cat. See, my sense of humor is recovering.
** Although he did not get up on the bed last night and snuggle up to me, with me thinking “If I roll over, I will crush this cat.” Which is what Tiggr did the first night he came home with us. So far Tux does not seem to be a climber, although there is certainly plenty of floor space in this house for him to explore first.
We have a proud tradition around Curmudgeon Flats of cats deciding that they are more important than whatever I’m working on at the computer. This tradition has been passed on from eldest cat to eldest cat to eldest cat in an unbroken line going back to at least 2000. Today Frankie took his place as Chief Disrupter of Work as we move into the post-Tiggr era. (The two in the middle are both Tiggr. The top one is Snoopy.)
It’s done. He was ready and he went quickly, in my arms and on my chest, right where he went to sleep the first night we met him.
There was never such a cat as Tiggr of the 27 Lives. And never will be again. So mote it be.