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Saturday, June 06, 2015

I Missed May

One of the things that comes up now and again in an author/writer's life is the inability to stick to a personal commitment due to the intrusions of our personal and professional lives.

As some of you may know, I've been sic quite a bit this year, though I'm not certain you'd call 3 minor and 6major (if they put me out under anesthesia I call it major) surgical procedures and 6 weeks in the hospital in the first 6 months of this year "sick" exactly. I do know that it takes awhile to recover from any surgery and that the drugs being administered to keep one out of pain and from catching an infection can seriously muddle one's thinking and thus writing processes.

So, when I promise myself and others to commit to a certain blogging and writing schedule and then can't meet that schedule, please understand that it's due to circumstances largely beyond my control.

Thus it has been that I missed the entire month of May. I was posting on FaceBook, however, during much of the time, but just seemed to fuzz out about this blog and the half-dozen other projects I've had in progress. FB's nice, comforting, and a horrendous time sink for an actively employed author/writer. But posting short notices to FB doesn't get stories written nor inform people about my interests, what's going on in the FOTS Universe, or anything else. But it's a lot of fun to fiddle away over there while Rome burns over here.

So, dear reader, I promise I will try to do better in the future by doing at least one blog post a week dwelling on the state of my current slate of works in progress, happenings in the FOTS Universe (I should call it the Multiverse since there are now 2-3 different games running and more being planned and/or recruited for), a but about the Hugo Awards and my readings of the Hugo materials, and maybe a bit about what's going on with me personally.

In the meantime, thanks for your patience.

Thanks,
Greg

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Great Hugo Dust-Up - A Comment

I received news the other day that the voting for the location of next year's (the year after next) Hugo Awards/WorldCon had been opened.

Today I received news that the voting for this year's actual awards had been opened - but the voting packages had not been sent out yet. Here's the email I received,

Hugo voting is now open. Go to the Hugo Award Voting page to cast your vote. Your voting credentials are:

Membership #:
PIN:  

The Hugo PIN lookup page can send you this information again if you misplace this email.
Your vote may be saved at any time. You can modify your vote by signing in again using your credentials, and entering new information. The information posted on your ballot at the closing time of 11:59 PM PDT, 31 July 2015 will be your final vote.

We hope to have the Hugo Packet ready by late May and will post an announcement on our website and via Facebook and Twitter when it becomes available.

If you have any questions or problems with your ballot, please write to hugoadmin@sasquan.org.

John Lorentz and Ruth Sachter
Hugo Administrators, Sasquan

Seems just a little "fishy" to me that you open the voting before the voting packages have been sent out, but that's just my suspicious nature with all the other things that have been flying around about the award this year.

Still, doesn't this give people who already own the works on the ballot a bit of an advantage over those who do not?

If I were one of those people who believed in back-alley conspiracies, I'd almost think that opening the voting before a lot of people had received their packages was actually intended to give a small, select group of other people the chance to vote, and vote often, for their favorites (like of the "No Award" type of vote).

Please note that I am not criticizing the Administrators nor Mr Lorentz and Ms Sachter. I am saying, however, that in a normal election you have your voter's packet and materials needed to vote before the ballot locations are opened and before voting can begin.

This just seems a lot like putting the cart before the horse or allowing certain sections of your voting community to get votes in early or to allow special select groups to do so in order to gain an advantage somehow. That's an admission of ignorance about that part of the process on my own part. I haven't been involved in voting until this year and that's a serious oversight on my part that shall not be repeated.

I hope that's not the case. I hope the voting process will be completely above-board, but after all the shenanigans I've heard of this year, I'm not so sure. It just smells to me. I'm too used to American politics and the way things are done therein, I suppose.

For the Hugo.

For the fans.

Thanks,
Greg

Py'ron Army Pushed Back in North by New Militant Coalition



Py'ron Army Pushed Back in North by New Militant Coalition
Nichelle Balford, GNN Foreign Office, Bietur - TFR Jane's Defense Weekly

Pro-Coalition Military government forces on Bietur (subsector 415x419) suffered the latest in a series of reversals when a recently formed rebel coalition captured the town of Jsir al-Shughur in the northern province of Ildib on April 25.

The recent defeats began at the end of March when the Southern Command rebel coalition seized the town of Busar al-Sham in southern Bietur and the Nisib crossing over the important  Jordnan River.

On March 28, the city of Ildib fell to the Jyash al-Tah Operations Room, a new coalition of anti-Coalition Military government militant factions led by former Py'ron Imperial Ground Forces General Jahbat al-Sunra, a member of Bietur's anti-Coalition affiliate. Jyash al-Tah capitalised on this success to attack Jsir al-Shughur located 30 km to the southwest, on April 22.

The operation was coordinated with Arhar al-Mash and several other rebel groups that launched attacks to the south to prevent reinforcements reaching the town from Hanrah.

It was assumed that the pro-Coalition Military government army would mount a robust defense of Jsir al-Shughur as it sits on the highway leading southwest to the regime stronghold of Lakatia. However, the town fell to Jyash al-Tah on April 25 and the Qamreed army base 8 km south of Ildib city was overrun on the following day.

The pro-Coalition army's presence in Ildib is now limited to a narrow finger of territory running along the M4 highway to the army base at Al-Matsumah, 5 km south of Ildib city.

Unless the pro-Coalition army is able to mount a counter-offensive to retake Jsir al-Shughur, the troops in the Al-Matsumah pocket risk being cut off. The rebels could also push further south toward the city of Hanrah or alternatively swing southwest towards Lakatia.

However, the pro-Coalition army already is seriously overstretched and is relying increasingly on auxiliary mercenary forces from Balanon, Riaq and Ghaniaf led by Rian's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The deteriorating situation in northern and southern Bietur appears to have been behind a visit to Retrahn on April 28 by Bietur Defence Minister Afhad Sajsim al-Reif. The Bietur News Agency said Reif's visit was aimed at "strengthening coordination and cooperation between the two armies".

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Galactic Network News & Rumors - FOTS-Related

Still staying away from The Great Hugo Dust-Up, but I'll get back to it in a few days. Right now, it's just time to climb down off my own high horse and have a little fun.

Naturally, in a 4x pbem game where there are several players playing essentially double-blind (ie they don't know what their opponent(s) are doing and often have limited information on the status of their own units until the turn is over), there's a lot of pressure on the GM to provide some kind of news & rumor service for the game. I've found this really helps keep the game "fun" and let's the players all get in on the action with their own interjections, news articles (factual or fictitious), and rumors via the wonder of FTL communications. In fact, FOTS last game spawned at least 1 website specifically designed to portray the "evil" Pyronians (Py'ron species) in their own light. Titled "Pyronia Today" the site is put together like a sort of daily or weekly news magazine and gazette designed to demonstrate that the Py'ron are not the slavering animals their cousins the Kontairu (Kon'tai species) portray them as.

Anyway, it's really fun for me when this type of stuff happens so I'm going to have a little fun with the same sort of thing here on the blog specifically concerning my upcoming RPG run at the Roll20 site for Fire On The Suns: A Blaze Of Glory. FOTS ABOG is the rpg based on FOTS, as if no one could have figured that one out. I like to say that FOTS ABOG is the "up close and personal" view of the FOTS Universe. I'll be using the Mongoose Traveller rules for the game for the most part, but the setting will be entirely in the Fire On The Suns Universe which is decidedly different from the standard Traveller universe and the Empire.

The game itself will begin approximately 10 years after the sudden withdrawal from the field of battle by The Unspeakable Ones, an advanced alien species that came to the FOTS region of space seeking the prison of their god "He Whose Name Is Unspeakable". Incredibly powerful compared to the star nations of known space, the UO were barely held at bay for 10 years by a powerful, but fragile alliance of the Terran Federal Republic, the Hee'Dra Republics, the Sa'Reen Confederation, the Kon'tai Unity and finally the Empire of Kahs (late, very late, to the party) after the UO had exterminated the Swarm, driven the Machines from their last holdouts, smashed the Q'Tez Hegemony, and coopted the Py'ron Ian (Pyronian Empire). Nobody knows for sure why the Unspeakable Ones suddenly picked up their toys and left, but everyone has been breathing a cautious sigh of relief that they did because things were close at the end, very, very close (as will become clearer in Fire On The Suns Book 2 and probably Book 3).

Anyway, the Galactic News Network (GNN) was the nom de pleume for the FTL news network for the FOTS Universe and that designation has stuck around through a dozen or more years.. I was working on my Roll20 game this afternoon at break time and, while looking at and designing the map(s) of known space, an idea and an article hit me all at once, so here's the first installment of the FOTS ABOG GNN News & Rumor Mill,

-----

TERRAN FEDERAL REPUBLIC ADMIRAL EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER HEE'DRA EXPANSION

GNN, Terra) - Rear Admiral James Tanaka (Terran Federal Republic Navy, Ret.) expressed concerns over Hee'Dra expansion this afternoon following a tour of the Terran Federal Republic's trans-Plutonian military shipyards today, alleging the Hee'Dra were "getting ready for a rematch with the Repubkic".

Tanaka, 75, is best known for ordering the fusion bombardment of the Py'ron colony known as Hell's Cauldron following weeks of intensive back-and-forth fighting between the TFRN, the TFR Space Marines, and the Py'ron Imperial Defense Forces in 2278 during the early days of the Unspeakable War. Three hundred and seventy five million Py'ron soldiers and civilians are believed to have been killed in the bombardment, virtually the entire population of the planet. He is also responsible for ordering the TFR's 5th Fleet, under Rear Admiral Richard Bainbridge at the time, into Hee'Dra Republics space and the resultant deaths of an estimated five hundred million Hee'Dra citizens. Both the Hee'Dra Republics and the TFR-outlawed Revolutionary Py'ron People's Ian have branded Tanaka a war criminal for his actions at Hell's Cauldron and later against the Hee'Dra. It should be noted that the RPPI is an outlawed organization that continues to persist throughout the worlds of the former Py'ron Ian which collapsed following the withdrawal of the Unspeakable Ones in 2284. The worlds formerly claimed by the Py'ron Ian remain part of the Terran Federal Occupation Zone today.

Interviewed following a tour of the TFR's trans-Plutonian military shipyards during which Tanaka was shown the TFR's latest Nighthawk class battlecruiser, the former Admiral expressed his concerns that the Hee'Dra were rapidly expanding on sll of their borders and potentially threateing their neighbors.

"The Hee'Dra are expanding toward the Sa'Reen, toward the Federa..., I mean the Republic, and have almost entirely cut off the Kon'tai from expansion to Coreward. They're crowding their neighbors, competing against our allies for space to expand into and colonize. If I were still in service I'd almost think they were spoiling for a rematch against the Republic."

It is well-known that Tanaka has held a grudge against the Hee'Dra since they allied with the Py'ron in the early days of the UO War and launch several attacks against outlying Terran colonies along their mutual borders. Almost seventeen million Terran soldiers and citizens were killed in the early attacks, Tanaka's only son being among the casualties.

This has been a report from Talak Singh, on assignment for GNN in the trans-Plutonians.

-----

Hope you enjoyed the read. Comments are, of course, invited, but please be polite.

Thanks
Greg





Monday, April 27, 2015

Just Getting Away For A Little Bit

This post will divert drastically from The Great Hugo Dust-Up and, instead, focus more on my game Fire On The Suns. In fact, it will focus completely on it. Once in awhile one just has to get away from all the chimps flinging poo.

Fire On The Suns is a 4X (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) play-by-email (pbem) game I designed about 20 years ago which is still going strong, held together, largely, by a small group of dire-hard fans. hen I designed the game it was intended to be a large-scale, computer program driven, campaign system for a variety of tactical games that badly needed a campaign system imnsho.

So, every now and then, my friend Jeff Engel sends me a "tech batch", writeups of new technologies for inclusion in the Master Tech Handbook which is, basically, the FOTS Bible. One of the conditions I originally set for the game was that every tech had to be internally consistent within the larger framework of the game and the game universe itself. We (myself, Jeff, and many of the fans) have worked hard to insure that no particular tech "breaks" anything else in the game.

This is just the latest tech batch Jeff sent me last week, which I haven't had time to go over in depth or detail, but which will serve as a sort of introduction to the way techs work in the game and how our thinking in regard to the game goes.

Don't worry, I'll get back to The Great Hugo Dust-Up in another day or three.

Casual officer-directed construction support

Officer-directed construction is a practical and technical prerequisite for this technology. It provides a certain quantity of the matching funds officer-directed construction requires as a normal part of the economic function of the state. Each level provides 5% of RP production per turn in RP's exclusively for that purpose and requires a Development stage of research, 5 AP pregame as a transferrable technology, or 2 AP pregame as a non-transferrable background ability.

Psionics: Eavesdropping (ESP ability)

An Eavesdropping cabal can catch whiffs of the basis of a technology in use nearby (in an interstellar sense) and give its state a large leg-up developing that technology itself. An Eavesdropping cabal has a base 10% chance each turn of providing the state the Discovery and Research stages of a technology in use on a foreign colony or unit within its range. Range is initially 8 sections, additional Development efforts adds 8 sections each. Additional levels increase the chance of Eavesdropping by 10% each. Some other psionic abilities interact helpfully with Eavesdropping. A cabal that also has Echoing can use Eavesdropping on ruins and derelicts, as if their technologies were still in use, when the cabal is actually, directly on-site, and gets a 50% higher chance of Eavesdropping if artifacts recently used by the current, living targets of Eavesdropping can be handled, as from free trade relationships in the case of some publicly used techs. Translating improves Eavesdropping chances by 25%. Clear Dreaming can share the same unit surcharge; there is enough overlap in the technical training and sensitivity to relevant technical impressions. However, any given cabal is either doing Clear Dreaming or Eavesdropping in a given turn, not both. The location for Eavesdropping for a given turn is that location as which the cabal spends most of the turn – players cannot get more Eavesdropping utility running the cabal up and down a border very quickly. In most cases, both Discovery and Research stages will be picked up, but GM's may rule that for extremely unfamiliar techs or strange tech bases, the Discovery stage only is acquired. This should be considered exceptional though. GM's may allow Eavesdropping sometimes also to detect that certain Development-only techs are in use by the target state, but Eavesdropping never grants those techs: the nuts-and-bolts of a Development stage are for other abilities or normal development.

Obscure (disadvantage)

An Obscure species has a persistent and unusually hard time communicating with others, with the following effects:
1 – Diplomatic communications should go through the GM to make sure they are at least somewhat unclear or mis-convey some details. Very basic communications may not be affected – especially hostile ones – but subtle misunderstandings should be almost inevitable. GM's should mitigate the forced misunderstandings over time.
2 – Espionage by the Obscure race suffers a 20% penalty.
3 – Free trade or better requires at least one turn at limited trade and either two more turns or a one-time 250 RP fee to establish regular translation services.
4 – Rights of passage or refuelling rights require a one-time 250 RP fee for their own regular translation services.
5 – Defensive and offensive military alliances are possible only using forces for which the Obscure race has a graded officer assigned to command: no routine measure of leadership suffices.
6 – Free communications, project co-development and intel-sharing arrangements are impossible.
7 – Tech transfers in either direction require an additional 100 RP's each the first turn of such exchange between the Obscure race and any other, and 50 RP's extra thereafter. On the third or later turn of exchanges, a 250 RP fee to establish a permanent translation service for tech exchanges can be paid by either party instead to waive the per-transfer fee.
8 – Non-standard treaty relationships should face similar problems – GM's can specify them for players as needed.
9 – Assimilation chances by the Obscure race are capped at 20% per turn, or 30% in case of assimilation into a periphery state. (In that case though, the periphery state will still suffer all the usual problems of dealing with an Obscure race.)
Obscure is worth 5 AP normally, but GM's may adjust that downward in case of species otherwise unprepared for civil arrangements anyway.

Private exploration

A state with private exploration has a tendency to have individuals or small groups, perhaps small companies – at any rate, non-governmental entities - perform some system surveys in nearby sectors on their own initiative, with their own choices for where to explore. Private exploration requires a 60% or less tax rate and is incompatible with Communist or Socialist economic policies or hivemindedness. Each turn, 50% of that turn's portion of the 6 th turn bonus is generated for spending on private explorer vessels, at 10 RP's each. Every 30 private explorer vessels perform one entire sector's system surveys each turn. In case of fractions, GM's may provide less than a sector's worth of surveys, or take it as a percentage chance pro-rated of a full sector's surveys. Anything hostile destroys or captures the private explorer vessel surveying that system, and creates some public pressure for the government to Do Something in response in the following turn or suffer a -5 PSR penalty per unanswered incident for that following tun (-20 PSR in any turn as a maximum). Private exploration survey targets should be revealed to the player before a turn's orders are completed, so that the player (1) can get some warning where people may be getting into trouble, and (2) avoid duplicating survey efforts. A player may deny private exploration in a given sector entirely in a turn, but suffers a flat -5 SR penalty for doing so in a turn, however many sectors are ruled off-limits for private explorers. Private explorers will not survey sectors more than a turn's safe starship cruise outside the comm grid, or sectors where there is a known hostile presence. Otherwise, GM's may select the target sectors randomly or according to any whims, designs, plans, or impressions of popular curiosity.

Natural beam weapon engineers

This background ability costs 10 AP, but could be discounted by specific background technology (beams) in the same way as a narrow or specific research aptitude in beams could be. Natural beam weapon engineers indicates a deep level of skill and familiarity with beam research, construction, operations, and upkeep, with the following benefits:
1) Beam research skips Research stages.
2) Units with one third or more of their equipment spaces in beams receive a 5% discount at construction or refit when built by this species, cumulative with Expense Management Tech and under the same 25% cap. In case of units with 50% or more of their spaces in beams, this is a 10% discount.
3) Background abilities specific to beams are half cost. Natural beam weapon engineers does not discount itself, and specific background technology is an additional exception.

Natural energy torpedoes engineers

This background ability costs 10 AP, but could be discounted by specific background technology (energy torpedoes) in the same way as a narrow or specific research aptitude in energy torps could be. Natural energy torpedoes engineers indicates a deep level of skill and familiarity with energy torpedo research, construction, operations, and upkeep, with the following benefits:
1) Energy torpedo research skips Research stages.
2) Units with one third or more of their equipment spaces in energy torps receive a 5% discount at construction or refit when built by this species, cumulative with Expense Management Tech and under the same 25% cap. In case of units with 50% or more of their spaces in torpedoes, this is a 10% discount.
3) Background abilities specific to energy torpedoes are half cost. Natural energy torpedoes engineers does not discount itself, and specific background technology is an additional exception.

Natural missile engineers

This background ability costs 10 AP, but could be discounted by specific background technology (missiles) in the same way as a narrow or specific research aptitude in missiles could be. Natural missile engineers indicates a deep level of skill and familiarity with missile research, construction, operations, and upkeep, with the following benefits:
1) Missile and missile launcher research skips Research stages.
2) Units with one third or more of their equipment spaces in missile launchers receive a 5% discount at construction or refit when built by this species, cumulative with Expense Management Tech and under the same 25% cap. In case of units with 50% or more of their spaces in missile launchers, this is a 10% discount.
3) Background abilities specific to missiles and missile launchers are half cost. Natural missile engineers does not discount itself, and specific background technology is an additional exception.
4) Missiles are built at double the build rate otherwise applicable in factories and in shipyards.

Natural railgun engineers

This background ability costs 10 AP, but could be discounted by specific background technology (railguns) in the same way as a narrow or specific research aptitude in railguns could be. Natural railgun engineers indicates a deep level of skill and familiarity with missile research, construction, operations, and upkeep, with the following benefits:
1) Railgun shell and launcher research skips Research stages.
2) Units with one third or more of their equipment spaces in railgun launchers receive a 5% discount at construction or refit when built by this species, cumulative with Expense Management Tech and under the same 25% cap. In case of units with 50% or more of their spaces in railgun launchers, this is a 10% discount.
3) Background abilities specific to railgun shells and launchers are half cost. Natural railgun engineers does not discount itself, and specific background technology is an additional exception.
4) Railgun shells are built at double the build rate otherwise applicable in factories and in shipyards.

Prompt fire training

Prompt fire training is available as a background or natural ability for 5 AP, but can also be researched in-game. Discovery stages should usually be waived for states with a pregame history of using the specific weapon, Research stages are transferrable, but Development stages are specific-specific. Prompt fire training is researched or bought by weapon type (beams, energy torpedoes, railguns, missiles, etc.) and a unit with it pays a 15% unit surcharge for the training. Only crewed units may make use of prompt fire training, but variants of it for automated units may be Researched and Developed. The unit's crew is able to fire that class of weapons on with hair-trigger reaction speeds. Assuming the first round of fire does not consist of a surprise attack or fire by cloaked units or weapons with longer than normal range, the units with prompt fire training can fire their weapons as if they were long range ones, ahead of other normal-range fire on either side. This round of fire replaces the first normal range round of fire by those weapons. Fire proceeds normally thereafter. In the case of fighter or similar units firing XO rack based weaponry, prompt fire training still replaces the normal range round of fire, even though the XO racks being fired in later rounds are clearly not the “weapons” fired in the prompt fire training round.

Natural shield engineers

This background ability costs 10 AP, but could be discounted by specific background technology (shields) in the same way as a narrow or specific research aptitude in shields could be. Natural shield engineers indicates a deep level of skill and familiarity with shield research, construction, operations, and upkeep, with the following benefits:
1) Shield research skips Research stages.
2) Units with one third or more of their equipment spaces in shields receive a 5% discount at construction or refit when built by this species, cumulative with Expense Management Tech and under the same 25% cap. In case of units with 50% or more of their spaces in shields, this is a 10% discount. Any unit with a technology for shields that normally carries a unit surcharge counts for the 5% discount; any with two or more, for the 10% discount, whether or not the equipment space requirement is met. Shield related, enhancing, or dependent systems like resistant shields count for the shield equipment space total as well.
3) Background abilities specific to shields are half cost. Natural shield engineers does not discount itself, and specific background technology is an additional exception.
4) Shields are repaired at half cost.

Natural hull engineers

This background ability costs 10 AP. It could be discounted by a state with specific background technology covering both structural reinforcements and ablative armor, but not otherwise. Natural hull engineers indicates a deep level of skill and familiarity with spacecraft hull research, construction, operations, and upkeep, with the following benefits:
1) Structural reinforcement, ablative armor, and resistant armor research skips Research stages, where applicable. Research into larger spacecraft hull sizes gets a 20% bonus to effective funding, as does build rate research.
2) Units with one third or more of their equipment spaces in structural reinforcements receive a 5% discount at construction or refit when built by this species, cumulative with Expense Management Tech and under the same 25% cap. In case of units with 50% or more of their spaces in structural reinforcements, this is a 10% discount. In case of component armor, count the total effective equipment spaces (including those from component armor) and all the effective structural reinforcements it provides. (Essentially, a unit making thorough use of component armor is very likely to get at least the 5% discount.) Any unit with a technology for hull or armor improvement, protection or regeneration that normally carries a unit surcharge counts for the 5% discount; any with two or more, for the 10% discount, whether or not the equipment space requirement is met. Armor and hull related, enhancing, or dependent systems like resistant armor count for the structural reinforcement equipment space total as well.
3) Background abilities specific to structural reinforcements and armor, or for higher build, refit, and repair rates, are half cost. Natural hull engineers does not discount itself, and specific background technology is an additional exception.
4) Hull and armor damage are repaired at 50% normal cost and double the normal speed.

Electronic warfare aptitude

EW aptitude is normally bought as a background ability for 5 AP per level, but could be researched in-game from a Discovery stage. A culture with EW aptitude takes to ECM/ECCM, battlecomputers, and other systems for electonic combat such as sensor ghost projectors with ease and skill. Each level discounts the purchase of such technologies pregame by 25%, up to 50% with two levels. Two levels in EW aptitude also allows the state to waive Research stages on electronic warfare technologies. Each level provides a 1 point target and DEFENSE bonus as a sort of primitive battlecomputer and ECM bonus, or a 20% bonus to the actual target, DEFENSE, yield, or RESIST value provided by electronic warfare systems.

Salvaged repair operations

Improved salvage operations is a technical and practical prerequisite for this technology. As a background ability, it can be bought for 5 AP with natural scavengers as a prerequisite. It allows RP's from a battlefield, recovered through salvage operations, to be used in that very turn for repairs to friendly units powered-down on-site. The amount of RP's salvaged from friendly units that is dedicated to friendly unit repairs is doubled, given that they are assumed to have similar structures and basic bits used. (Provoked by Tony  Fleming)
Your comments are, of course, invited.
Thanks,
Greg
 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fisking A Cat - The Great Hugo Dust-Up, Part 4

Tom Knighton says it much more eloquently than I ever could so I'm linking over to his post,

http://tlknighton.com/?p=7070

Go thee and read.

Thanks,
Greg

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Great Hugo Dust-Up, Part 3

This one's taken me awhile to think about and to decide how to phrase things, but I've been saying essentially the same thing over on FB for a few days now, so maybe it's time.

The Hugo award is advertised as "sf/f's most prestigious award" and as being a "fan-based" award.

The simple fact is that, according to some authors, and a portion of the fan-base on the other side of the Sad Puppies 3 discussion, this simply isn't so.

The Hugo's tumbled into virtual irrelevancy a long time ago. I don't know exactly when that happened so don't ask me when that happened. I don't know.

Maybe it was when authors started realizing it didn't do a thing for them sales-wise. Maybe it was when fans started noticing that their favorites weren't getting awards, nor even recognition by being nominated. Maybe it was when a select group seemed to start dominating the nominations.

Whatever and whenever it happened, the Hugo's became largely irrelevant to authors and fans some time ago. So much so that a large proportion of the fans didn't even know they could buy a supporting/non-attending membership to WorldCon for a mere $40 and could then receive the voting packet (worth far more than the membership cost I hear) and then vote on their favorites. For authors, it was largely because they did not see any significant "bump" in their sales figures if they were nominated for or even won a Hugo.

The award, over the last few years, has become so irrelevant for some Big Names that they've stated publicly that they'd refuse the nomination or, if they accepted and won, actually do, um, "interesting" things with it.

So, the Hugo award has become largely of no interest to large portions of the sf/f fan base and to many authors in general.

Until this year, that is.

When the Sad Puppies 3 campaign managed to put their own ballot on the slate through no sleight of hand, no subterfuge, no underhandedness, no behnd-the-scenes "gaming"of the nominees, and pushed that slate onto the ballot largely by recruiting new fans to the fact that they could have their say, the Sad Puppies 3 campaign changed the way the Hugo award is being viewed by large numbers of people - at least for 2015. Unfortunately, they changed the way the Hugo is being viewed on both sides of the issue.

Now, Brad Torgerson and Larry Correia, and all those associated with Sad Puppies 3 have said all along that they did this aboveboard, with total transparency, and by means that are currently legal within the guidelines established by WorldCon, the organization that "owns" the Hugo. As far as I can tell, this is completely true. Brad, who led the coalition this year, has stated his position over and over and over again until he's practically blue in the face with it.

The aim of Sad Puppies 3 was to show that the other side was not concerned with inclusiveness, with what the other side had to say, with what was really supposed to happen with a Hugo award. Yeah, maybe they "gamed" the award nomination process a wee bit, but they did it with complete transparency of what their aim and goal was - to get a number of authors whose works the fans admired and thought worthy on the ballot. And they did it, brilliantly and with transparency.

The other side doesn't see it that way, of course. Even now there are several who have defined strict delineations between "fans" and "Fan-dom". There are some who want to see "No Award" chosen for everything, every category of the ballot just to spite the Sad Puppies ballot and to spite the award itself because the "wrong people" or types of people are on that ballot. Several people have even suggested that this option be chosen in order to "nuke the award from orbit, just to be sure". A few people on the other side have even begun to provide paid memberships for "those who cannot afford memberships on their own".

At first, I thought this was noble. I've stated that if I ha the money and fewer doctor's bills I'd do the same thing myself out of a sense of altruism. I recognized some altruism in the charity of some of these people, some of who are even Big Names in the field and whom I have stated I respect.

Now, of course, I'm hearing that their altruism has developed an ulterior motive.

Here's the thing - if you have to buy votes for an award, then that award may not be worth having at all. If you have to buy votes for anything, then that thing is probably not worth having in my opinion.

It's not the Sad Puppies who are doing this, it's the other side. They are so afraid of losing their perceived power, their perceived privilege of saying who gets a Hugo and who doesn't, whose writing is worthy and whose is not, they're buying votes now.

If that happened openly in a local state, or national election, the FEC (Federal Elections Commission the organization that oversees US federal elections and funding would come down on those parties like a ton of bricks.

But that's not likely to happen here since the parties involved are all, apparently, closely associated with "Fan-dom", not the fans whose award this is supposed to be.

We have, in front of us, an opportunity for the organization that owns the Hugo, WorldCon, to elevate this dispute above all the anger and vitriol - if they're willing to do it (I personally doubt they have the will or the power to do so anymore, however). They have the opportunity to return the Hugo to its state of relevance and respectability among fans and authors. They have the opportunity to act, as the ones who own the award, to "police" their own backyard (and houses, alleys, fields, and townships beyond).

WorldCon can act as the police for the Hugo. They have it within their power to debar any voting member whose vote was purchased by anyone, to debar anyone found to be purchasing votes, to police their own organization for those found to be issuing threats of violence or death against members of the Sad Puppies. They have the singular power to return the Hugo to the voting fans and not allow it to be kept by a select super-elite "Fan-dom", but instead to open the award to every fan of sf/f around the world.

People on the other side of the fight have been telling the Sad Puppies to "shut up, sit down, and be good little kids", but we're sick of that. We're sick of sitting at the kiddy table and letting the "adults" tell us what's good for us. We're sick of the Hugo falling into irrelevancy and disrespect by the general audience. We're sick of the threats of violence upon our persons and livelihoods. We're sick of being called names which are categorically untrue slung by people who are afraid of losing their perceived power to influence our reading choices. We're sick of the threats to "nuke" the Hugo. That's our award too.

WorldCon has another option as well. Either the Hugo is fan-based or it's not. WorldCon has the option of changing the rules so that only certain portions of the fans, ie Fan-dom, can vote for the award. If this happens, then the award will truly have sunk into such irrelevancy and disdain that it will be recognized as a piece of crap that means absolutely nothing.

Or they can state categorically that the Hugo is a fan-based award and that we have every right, and Sad Puppies had every right, to put who we and they wanted on the ballot without regard to anything except exceptionally good story-telling.

Does WorldCon have the will and the power and the commitment to good sf/f as judged by the fans or doesn't it?

That is the question.

For the Hugo.

For the fans.

Thanks,
Greg





Thursday, April 09, 2015

Raising Straw Men In The Corn Field - The Great Hugo Dust-Up, Part 2

This post won't be nearly as cogent nor as long as the previous one. Those kinds of posts come upon me only once in a great while. It won't be as reasoned or as persuasive either. Reason and persuaion are also occasionally in short supply in the dark recesses of my grey matter. But here goes...

At least as early as Saturday afternoon, almost immediately after the 2015 Hugo nominations was announced, so suspiciously fast, in fact, that one could almost have assumed someone might have advance word of the final nominees list, an individual with power over acceptance of an author's stories for a certain sf/f magazine stated that they believed the only way to counter the Sad Puppies slate was to vote "No AWARD" for everything except for say graphic novels and dramatic presentations.

Quite a few others have been raising this "option" over the last few days. First off, let's review what a "straw man argument" is and then we can talk about why this isn't really a valid defense against Sad Puppies.

From the vaunted source Wikipedia,

"A straw man is a common reference argument and is an informal fallacy based on false representation of an opponent's argument.[1] To be successful, a straw man argument requires that the audience be ignorant or uninformed of the original argument.

The so-called typical "attacking a straw man" argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent's proposition by covertly replacing it with a different proposition (i.e., "stand up a straw man") and then to refute or defeat that false argument ("knock down a straw man") instead of the original proposition.[2][3]

This technique has been used throughout history in polemical debate, particularly in arguments about highly charged emotional issues where a fiery, entertaining "battle" and the defeat of an "enemy" may be more valued than critical thinking or understanding both sides of the issue.
In the United Kingdom the argument is also known as an Aunt Sally, after the pub game of the same name where patrons throw sticks or battens at a model of an old woman's head.[4][5]"

 So, people are saying that, essentially, in order to save the Hugo, the fans have to destroy it by voting "No Award" for everything except what this select group of other fans tells them to vote for and how to vote for it.

How does voting "No Award" destroy the Hugo, you ask? Well, quite frankly, it doesn't. This tactic can only work if the Sad Puppies and all those who support the Sad Puppies are really as stupid as the other side thinks we are.

So, the first leg of the straw man argument is established as someone telling someone that doing this will defeat the Sad Puppies because, essentially, they're all just really, really stupid and evil and we can't let the Hugo fall into their hands.

Of course, this also means that another leg of the straw man is also established - those advocating this stance apparently believe that those who follow this strategy are equally as stupid as they believe the Sad Puppies to be. That their target audience needs to be led, to be told how to vote and who to vote for. This does, naturally, hint at a staggering amount of egocentrism and elitism on the part of those advocating such a move. Those they're talking to are too stupid and naive, to ill-informed, uneducated, and uninformed to be capable of forming their own opinions without one of their betters to lead them.

The first leg of the straw man is more firmly established by the simle fact that there's only one organization that can stop awarding the Hugo and that's WorldCon. No one else has the power of control over the award itself. WorldCon owns the award. Fans vote for the nominees and the final ballot, but they don't actually own the rights to the award itself. Only WorldCon has the power to say, "We will not award the Hugo any more". Thus, saying ths will stop Sad Puppies and deny the Hugo award to a finalist is a logical fallacy in and of itself. WorldCon could, on its own, simply say, "The award goes to..." no matter what the outcome of a vote.

In addition, there appears to be a mindset afoot on the other side that Sad Puppies are simply a crowd of mindless sheep. None of us have their own will, their own opinions, their own power to do more than walk and nod and comment in lockstep with Brad and Larry. In my opinion this comes from a mindset on the other side that we're all good little stormtroopers and do whatever our leaders tell us, but I suspect the truth is a bit more like trying to herd rattlesnakes (rather than cats). The other side's members might move in lockstep with their leaders, but Sad Puppies never will. We're used to having our own opinions and ideas and voicing them, sometimes loudly and repeatedly, over the castle walls at midnight during a lightning storm.

And, as the advocates of the "No Award" option likely already know, the Sad Puppies can't quite be counted on to follow the advice of the other side and also vote "No Award" so the only hope would be to out-vote the Sad Puppies.

From the outcome voting numbers for the final nominees, any fool with a calculator can run the numbers and see who apparently outnumbers who.

So, there's the second leg of the straw man. If the other side votes "No Award" as ordered, while they'll be good little troopers all marching along in lockstep with their leaders, they're not likely to stop Sad Puppies who will most certainly NOT vote "No Award". So, the other side's members will have essentially thrown their vote away and can only hope the "No Award" votes outnumber any single other nominees total votes.

They're counting on Sad Puppies to be unable to corral enough of their members so as to present a solid voting bloc (and this one's really funny since the other side is also railing and wailing against even the idea of voting blocs) that can muster enough numbers to counter their "No Award" bloc(s). Heck, they're even saying that the Sad Puppies voters are so far all over the place nominee-wise that they cannot present an organized count for any single nominee on the slate.

 In the final equation, the idea of voting "No Award" and thus countering Sad Puppies is a logical fallacy and thus a straw man argument. I can basically guarantee you that virtually no Sad Puppy will vote "No Award" and, on top of that, I'd be willing to lay down serious money that a lot of the folks on the other side of things who are advocating this approach, not only know it won't work and is a straw man, that they themselves will not follow through with a "No Award" vote of their own.

Because they know it won't work. They know the Sad Puppies will vote. In fact, they're counting on the use of this argument, this fallacy, to get people to walk away from the voting process entirely.

And there's the real straw man.

Stopping the members of their on side from voting, from participating in the process. Which would give the Sad Puppies and enormous win t which the other side can then point at and say, "See? We told ya' so."

What the other side is saying, in advocating for a "No Award" vote is that no one but themselves is smart enough to be allowed to be part of the process. The rest of us are all just sheep, to be led and trained and told what to think, where to sleep, what to eat, how to live, but not smart enough to participate in the really important things like participating in a process. See, I think a few of the elitists on the other side think they're really, really smart. If one looks at things objectively, most of everyone in fandom is actually a pretty smart individual or they would not be reading sf/f. But some people think they're much, much smarter than the rest of us.

And they think they have a plan.

They think we're stupid enough to be fooled by such statements. They're sure their own followers can be led down the primrose path and told who to vote for and how. And they think that eeryone can be fooled all of the time.

Personally, I'm not raising any straw men out in the cornfeld. But I can see my way toward knocking down a few.