This Probably Isn’t Funny, But…

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© James Pyles

…we’ve got plenty of toilet paper in Boise, Idaho.

Addendum – March 13, 2020: Idaho’s first case of coronavirus has just been confirmed. While an Oregon doctor said that 82% of cases are mild, there is also information about how it is different from the flu.

This is off the cuff. No research (or damn little) involved. I’ve been listening to the hysteria over coronavirus for weeks it seems. No cases in my little corner in the world, but I can’t ignore that thousands have died. I also can’t ignore that this isn’t anything like Stephen King’s The Stand, either.

Look, I’m sorry actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson contracted the virus while on a trip to Australia, but on the other hand, being celebrities doesn’t mean they are any more victims than the rest of the world.

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Mike Resnick, Jaym Gates, and Yes, Go Ahead and Block Me

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The late Mike Resnick – photo found at Goodreads

I’ll warn you now that this one is really long (if you include the screenshots), so if you’re a TLDR person, stop now.

Another warning: This is one of my rants about the culture wars that appear to be gaining momentum in the “official” world of science fiction and fantasy. It seems that it’s not enough to write a good story anymore.

I’d never heard of SciFi author Mike Resnick before he died. He’d won Five Hugos and other awards during his career, so that says something. He was heavily eulogized (if you’ll pardon the pun), and also memorialized by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. But he was also criticized.

Let’s get to his death first. From Heavy.com:

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“I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” or How to Succeed in Both Offending and Encouraging Readers

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Cover image for issue 160 of Clarkesworld Magazine – Zarrio by Edwardo Garcia

UPDATE – January 18-2020: Fortunately someone archived the original story, so it is preserved, even though Clarkesworld it offline.

UPDATE – January 16, 2020: This story has been pulled from publication by the magazine, and the rationale can be found here!

On twitter, I happened across a tweet by Cora Buhlert. It was referencing a story written by Isabel Fall for Clarkesworld Magazine called I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter. Actually, I saw that Buhlert was referencing a twitter conversation of someone called The 1000 Year Plan (actually a Marxist blogger named “Gary” who announces personal pronouns as “he/him”) commenting on Fall’s story.

As you can guess, he didn’t like it.

What got my attention first is that Gary tweeted:

All of the comments are absurdly over-the-top praise that appeared almost immediately after the story was published. There are way more of these than is normal for a Clarkesworld story.

I looked at the story and couldn’t see any comments anywhere. Slightly earlier, Gary tweeted:

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Fiction’s and Real Life’s “Bad Guys” and Stereotyping

I’ve been thinking a lot about villains lately. Actually, this particular File 770 “Pixel Scroll” first brought the topic up in my mind. If you scroll down to item #4 “AUTUMN LEAVES” and to “Watchmen” just below that, you can read:

Oct. 20, 9 p.m., HBO
Confession: I know nothing about Watchmen. Never read the comic or saw the (polarizing) 2009 film. I had to pause many times while watching the pilot so I could look up characters and backstories on Wikipedia. With that said, I can’t wait to see more. Set 30 years after the comics, Watchmen takes place in a world where police hide their identities due to terrorist attacks and a long-dormant white supremacist group wants to start a race war. The show is expensive-looking but not hollow. There’s a humanity to the characters that is often lacking in comic book adaptations, due in large part to the exceptional cast, including Regina King, Jeremy Irons, and Don Johnson. Hardcore fans will have to make up their own minds, but this novice is intrigued. [emph. mine]

I know I wrote a blog post sometime ago about adult-oriented comic books and how they are now themed to emphasize social justice, but I can’t find it again. I do remember that, thanks to Donald Trump, most, if not all of the villains are straight white men, and specifically alt-right white supremacists.

No, I’m not defending racism, white supremacy, bigotry, or anything like that. My wife and children are Jewish, so I specifically take a dim view of antisemitism as well as other forms of prejudice and bigotry. Yes, some of my political views are unpopular to certain demographics but I don’t advocate for hate.

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In Response to “Toxic Fandom”

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Found at knowyourmeme.com

Oh heck. I wasn’t going to comment on this here. Seriously. I admit, when I saw the title of the File 770 article Fandom, Entitlement and Toxicity I had a pretty good idea of what it was all about. When I saw the author was my old “friend” Hampus Eckerman (really, we’ve only had brief online encounters, but they were pretty unpleasant) I was sure of it.

Turns out I was wrong.

What Eckerman was really saying was that his “ownership” of certain characters and franchises, he focuses on “The Amazing Spider-Man” comic book, can lead us as fans to respond pretty badly at times when the creators of these pieces of work do something that rubs us the wrong way.

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One More Commentary on the Dragon Awards

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Image found at DragonCon.org

I’m new to the whole hype over awards for science fiction and fantasy, well, ever since last year when I learned about the controversy involving the Hugos and the so-called Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies.

However, I’ve been paying attention to the Dragon Awards. Unlike most other awards of this type, anyone who has internet access can register for no cost and be able to vote for their favorite authors, books, television shows, and so forth (in other words we mere mortals). I even voted myself, but unlike others, the purpose of this blog post isn’t to share who I favored.

I discovered at least three other commentaries on the Dragons: File 770‘s Mike Glyer, Camestros Felapton‘s, an apparently associated blog which I’ve just started following, and Richard Paolinelli’s SciFiScribe.

They all had slightly different takes.

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Tiptree Award Name May Change (Here We Go Again)

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Cover image from “Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home”

I read Alice Sheldon’s (pen name James Tiptree Jr) anthology of short stories Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home decades ago when I was a kid (all right, a young man) and recall thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve probably heard of the award named after her, but didn’t pay much attention until reading Mike Glyer’s pixel scroll this morning.

In this case, the award name may be changed due to a personal tragedy in Sheldon’s life. From Wikipedia:

Sheldon continued writing under the Tiptree pen name for another decade. The last years of her life were not happy ones, as her husband was a nearly blind invalid incapable of caring for himself, and she herself was suffering health issues caused by a lifetime of smoking. In 1976, then 60-year-old Sheldon wrote to a friend expressing her desire to end her own life while she was still able-bodied and active, but she was reluctant to act upon this intention, as Huntington would have no one to care for him, and she could not bring herself to kill him.

Eleven years later, on May 19, 1987, Sheldon finally carried through her plan—by shooting her husband in his sleep, followed by herself; she had telephoned her attorney after the first shooting to announce her actions. They were found dead, hand-in-hand in bed, in their Virginia home. According to biographer Julie Phillips, the suicide note Sheldon left was written years earlier and saved until needed. In an interview with Charles Platt in 1980, Sheldon spoke of her emotional problems and of her previous suicide attempts over the preceding 20 years.

The James Tiptree Jr. Award is given in her honor each year for a work of science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender. The award-winning science fiction authors Karen Joy Fowler and Pat Murphy created the award in February 1991. Novels such as Half Life by Shelley Jackson and Light by M. John Harrison have received the award.

At least one person commenting on File 770 had compassion, but who knows how many other people judge without understanding what Sheldon may have been going through (I still read 770 but choose not to comment there because of how I was recently treated by some of its other readers).

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The Sins of John W. Campbell Revisited

Author Jeannette Ng – image found at the Angry Robot website

Just for giggles, I revisited the comments at File 770‘s article Storm Over Campbell Award. As you may recall from my own wee missive Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award Acceptance Speech and Here We Go Again, Ms Ng, a fantasy writer based in the UK, was recently given the John W. Campbell award for best new writer, which she accepted, and then went on to point out Campbell’s terrific flaws, which included being a fascist.

There are now over 200 comments on Mike Glyer’s commentary on Ng and Campbell, and of course, they all damn Campbell, some even comparing him (more or less) to Mussolini. Further, one person said that anyone with even the tiniest hint of actually liking anything Campbell ever did is considered a fascist sympathizer. Really. I had heard of Campbell, but before this, I never had any idea about his political beliefs.

However, even according to Wikipedia, while he may or may not have been a fascist, he certainly was a racist.

His opinions go far beyond the occasional “joke in bad taste,” and many well known authors, including Michael Moorcock and Isaac Asimov, lambasted Campbell for his even then unpopular and heinous ideas.

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Are the Science Fiction “Culture Wars” Still Alive and Well?

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Image found at DragonCon.org

I’ve tried to steer this blog away from the more controversial and/or political topics I’ve covered in the past, but then I read Richard Paloinelli’s missive Wikipedia or WikiPravda?. Richard and I share some similar viewpoints, but I lack many of the wounds and scars he’s received in the past, such as those attributed to Mike Glyer at the File 770 science fiction fanzine. I think I was contended with there exactly once. It actually impressed me, since relative to Glyer’s readership, I’m pretty much a nobody.

In the recent past, I’ve heard that Wikipedia, Patreon, and YouTube have been accused of attempting to shut out politically and socially conservative creative voices through censorship and defunding. Since I’m merely a consumer of Wikipedia and YouTube and wouldn’t know what to do with Patreon, I’ve had no personal experience, but on the other hand, I have no trouble believing they are all biased left, either.

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Amélie Wen Zhao’s Fantasy Novel “Blood Heir” Available November 2019!

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Cover art for the novel “Blood Heir” by Amélie Wen Zhao

If you read my February blog post “Blood Heir” and Social Justice (or is it vengeance) which echoed many other voices on the web, you’ll recall how author Amélie Wen Zhao was bullied on social media to pull her book Blood Heir from publication over what Slate.com author Aja Hoggatt called accusations of racism and being “anti-black”.

Tablet Magazine called her detractors a twitter mob composed of what’s been referred to as “YA Twitter:”

an online community composed of authors, editors, agents, reviewers, and readers that appears to skew significantly older than the actual readership for the popular genre of young adult fiction, which is roughly half teens and half adults.

The Tablet article goes on to say:

As Kat Rosenfield, a Tablet writer who is herself a published YA author, wrote in a deeply entertaining Vulture feature on The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter, in the summer of 2017, “Young-adult books are being targeted in intense social media callouts, draggings, and pile-ons—sometimes before anybody’s even read them.”

Even though the author defended herself and explained the cultural context (her own) that inspired her novel, she was dragged through the virtual gutters and intimidated into indefinitely delaying the release of her book. She’s an excellent example of having apologized when, objectively, she really didn’t do anything wrong except cross paths with the YA twitter “powers that be.”

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