Sad Puppies and magical thinking

So, I’ve characterized the line of thinking behind the Puppies’ discontent as being unable to understand when reality runs in ways that are counter to their tastes/beliefs without imagining some kind of dark conspiracy or cabal (or “clique”, to use their preferred term).

This belief is so strong that a combination of confirmation bias and the effect of “believing is seeing” causes them to interpret all available information in ways that point to the existence of the cabal, even when this requires them to imagine that people are meaning the exact opposite of what they say.

Given that, this tidbit by John C. Wright (and yes, I double checked sources this time) on the subject of the growing support for same-sex marriage equality is perhaps less surprising:

Considering the miniscule number of people who suffer from the objectively disordered passion of same sex attraction, considering the logical impossibility of living chastely within an oath to pursue unnatural sex acts, considering the absurdity of insisting on a mating ritual for partners who cannot mate, and considering the lack of penalty for divorce of such unions or betrayal of the oath, one is left with no choice but to conclude that there is no human reason for this surprising and surprisingly victorious social movement. It is a supernatural effect, and it does not come from the regions of the unseen order favorable to human life.

Hence, prayer and fasting is the most logical response, and the most effective.

Got that? Given that all the things he believes about marriage and gay people [MUST BE BOTH OBJECTIVELY TRUE AND MANIFESTLY OBVIOUS TO EVERYONE ELSE], there is no conclusion we can draw except that evil magic is responsible for the current state of affairs, wherein it looks like his irrational prejudices backed by selective readings of culture-specific religious texts and pseudoscience are held by a shrinking and increasingly irrelevant minority.

The natural world won’t allow him to be wrong about this, so if it seems like he is, then the cause can only be some malignant force beyond the natural world that is selectively overwriting the laws of physics in order to bring it about.

The thought process amounts to:

  1. I can’t possibly be wrong.
  2. I appear to be wrong.
  3. Therefore, magic.

Now, before we get too far ahead of things, I should mention that I am not discounting the existence of the supernatural. The older I get, the more spiritual I find myself becoming and the more value I find in the moral lessons of the Bible (where “moral” refers to questions of how we treat each other as human beings, and not specific codes of conduct for particular peoples who lived thousands of years ago).

So the point here is not “Let’s laugh at the silly Christian for believing in silly things.”

The point here is, let’s have a moment of pity for the man who is so up in himself that when he finds himself on the wrong side of history he can only account for the discrepancy by imagining an inimical force has rejected actual reality and substituted something else, and then let’s consider what this (admittedly rather extreme) example an tell us about the general psychology among the Puppies and Gators who are currently making such a noisy mess of the hobbies/genres that so many other people are just trying to simply enjoy.

Popular opinion and the course of history are going against him on something, so John C. Wright imagines the fiery claws of that popular Christian fanfic character, The Devil, must be at work against him, which allows him to both contextualize what’s happening in a way that’s more acceptable and imagine himself as a sort of spiritual warrior actively fighting against what is essentially a magical conspiracy.

Isn’t that essentially what’s happening with much of Gamergate and the Sad Puppies? They see a game or book they don’t approve of or get the appeal of getting some buzz, and they can’t make sense of it, so they reject the straightforward reality of the situation and imagine there is something MORE going on. Not something more than natural, as is the case here, but… more than what’s visible on the surface. Cabals. Cliques. Conspiracies.

Nobody could really like games like Gone Home or Depression Quest. Nobody could really think authors like Rachel Swirsky or N.K. Jemisin or John Scalzi deserve nominations. No, there must be something else going on. It’s obvious, so obvious that they have no choice but to believe it.

That’s a scary idea.

No choice but to believe.

On Genre Poetry

If you think about it, it’s kind of weird that speculative fiction even exists as a genre. In a way, all fiction is speculative. If we weren’t imagining a world that is other than the one we know in some fashion, it wouldn’t be fiction.

But it goes beyond that, because once upon a time, there wasn’t a special word for fiction that was fanciful, fiction that included monsters and magic or even mechanical marvels. Those were all just part and parcel of the storyteller’s palette. The people who spun myths into tales were both entertainers and historians. There was no sharp, bright line. It took a long time for the idea of telling stories grounded in mundane reality to catch on to the point that we need a special word for stories that deal with glittering fantasticality.

This is perhaps even more true when it comes to poetry. So many poets throughout even recent history have worked in mythic realms, trafficking in fantastic or spiritual symbolism, incorporating folklore and legend into their verses. Poetry often deals heavily in metaphor, of course, so the argument about whether a given poem is really a work of fantasy or merely using fantasy to make a point while not actually telling a story could go on forever in some cases, if anybody felt it was worth their time to make it.

So we might ask ourselves: is there any need to label speculative poetry, genre poetry, SF/F poetry, or whatever you might want to call it?

Despite the case I just laid out, I would say that yes, it is a useful distinction to make… just not an absolute one. People tend to want to read things that speak to their interests, after all. We like what we like. If what you like is robots and artificial intelligences or mermaids and dragons—or robot dragons and artificially intelligent mermaids—then it might well be that speculative poetry would be right up your alley, even if most of the poetry you’ve encountered has done nothing for you.

I wouldn’t know how big and rich the world of speculative poetry is if not for the friendship of Elizabeth R. McClellan, who introduced me to it first through her participation in its fandom and then, increasingly, through her own career as a poet. I spent years watching from the fringes, convinced that this was all that I could do, that I didn’t have the right skills or anything to say.

That changed when I wrote “Institutional Memory“, a poem that started out as a short story that just wouldn’t come together. The time scale I wanted to capture was too grand, the point of view too diffuse. I couldn’t make it work as a story, so basically on a lark I tried it as a poem.

It worked, and I caught the bug. I’ve written easily a dozen solid poems since then, and sold four of them so far. The first sale was “Institutional Memory”. It was bought by the magazine arm of the SFPA, the Speculative Fiction Poetry Association. The fee wasn’t large in any objective sense, but it paid most of a year’s dues to the SFPA, which struck me as a fitting way to spend it.

Now, the SFPA isn’t like the similarly named SFWA, the Science Fiction& Fantasy Writer’s Association. Note that it’s the Poetry Association, not the Poet’s Association. This is not an organization for professionals but one for appreciators. In practice I suspect that most people who join the organization are or hope to be poets, and I also suspect the benefits of joining such an organization are more immediately clear if you are or hope to be a poet, but you don’t have to prove your right to be there. I had my first pro sale when I joined the SFPA, but that is not a requirement. There is no requirement. Nothing is required, everything is permitted.

Earlier in the year, I announced plans to promote speculative poetry through a website called The Every World Poetry Digest. My goal would be twofold: to let readers know what’s out there to read, and help poets learn what’s out there for them to sell to. I had planned on launching the project in earnest in May. That has been pushed back until I’m done with Angels of the Meanwhile, an unplanned and unexpected labor of love on behalf of Elizabeth R. McClellan, though it’s still coming.

In the meantime, I’m still going to do two things to promote my chosen field of poetry.

The first is to highlight the fact that the SFPA exists, it has open membership, and for as little as $15 a year you can be a member, get a quarterly PDF zine with poems from both career writers and rank neophytes and a chance to nominate for and vote on the Rhysling Awards (the equivalent of the SFWA’s Nebulas). The SFPA can be found online at

The second is to mention that if you want to know some names you should be paying attention to in the genre poetry scene, you should seriously check out Angels of the MeanwhileThere are some serious big name, big time poets in there, along with some people I think will be well worth watching in the years to come. It’s by no means an exhaustive list; I’m not saying “Anyone who is anyone is in this collection.” But if you’re looking for a place to start, it should be a good one.

Actually, I’m going to do a third thing. I’m going to ask people to comment with the poem or two (or if you really can’t decide, three, but let’s keep things reasonable) that they would most recommend to others as a starting point if they’re interested in exploring the topic but not 100% sure where to look. It can be a classic work like Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” or one of Poe’s grim fancies, or something that came out more recently, but ideally it should be something that folks can find and read online for free, because I’m going to take them and collect them into a Speculative Poetry primer post of sorts.

There is a surprising (and growing) wealth of genre poetry on the internet, but one thing I am absolutely convinced of is that there are far more people who would read it than who, at current time, do. What I want to do—with this post, and with the Every World Poetry Digest—is give the world a signpost for finding it.


Yesterday, I made a post that referred to a Facebook post as being by John C. Wright. I have since been informed it may have been by John Ringo, but complicating this matter is the fact that it is no longer available to check (or be read). I have since found other references to it as being Ringo’s, and the link I first followed appears to have been removed, so the balance of probability I have to say lies with the information I acted on being faulty.

I found this post by clicking a link posted by someone who is a supporter of the same political and ideological cause that Wright has been championing in SF/F fandom circles, so I had no reason to doubt that the information accompanying it was correct. Certainly I do not attribute this simple mistake to malice. I also take full responsibility for not having read the by-line of the post, and for having passed this confusion on to others in doing so.

While the larger point of my post—that the self-professed Puppies of various stripes are very free and loose with accusations that require substantial leaps in interpreting facts while trying to hold their critics to a very different standard—remains true, I don’t think the best way to get that point across is to challenge one random person to defend what another random person has said as literally true.

Accordingly, I have removed the post in question. I may in the near future incorporate parts of it into a new post that addresses the topic more generally.


STATUS: Thursday, April 30th

The Daily Report

Bad news: My fairly new laptop has what seems to be an intermittent short in the keyboard. When I type the letter “C”, some of the time it registers multiple keypresses in the same row. I took the keys off and did a fairly deep clean over the weekend when the problem first appeared, and that made things better in that I could make it do it by pressing the C key in a specific way, but regular typing was fine.

Since then, the problem has sort of surged back. I kind of suspect that airborne dust and pollen might be the problem, as the windows in my bedroom don’t exactly have a perfect seal against that sort of thing. I also kind of suspect that the demolition going on has stirred up a lot more crap, as seems like a lot more dust has been coming in. I might have to find a different place to keep it or start storing it in a case or something, because I can’t take the time to deep-clean my keyboard every couple of days.

The State of the Me

Doing okay. A little frustrated by the laptop thing, as I’ve otherwise worked my laptop into my work routine. The point of buying a larger, more expensive laptop was that I was hoping to cut down on the amount of time I lost wrestling with it and increase the amount of time I could just pull it out/open it up and start working.

Plans For Today

Well, my initial plan for the day was to take my laptop to a bookstore and sit down and do some serious writing away from noise and distraction. I’m… not sure what’s happening now?


This is how deep an invisible ideology can be.

Today on Twitter, a screen cap made the rounds that showed part of the peer review that accompanied a rejection of a paper by a scientific journal. This is the cap:

Now, that in and of itself is prima facie sexism, and an example of an ideological bias in action. Even if the rest of the review had been full of cogent, specific, and objective criticisms of the rejected paper, the belief that men would inherently serve as a “possible check” against bias where women wouldn’t is a biased belief that can be explained only by sexist ideology.

Really, it’s so obvious a case that I didn’t see any point in commenting on it when it first made the rounds. Then a science news website picked it up and wrote about it, giving a more complete picture of what’s going on.

And, hoo boy.

It’s even worse than it looks on the face.

It seems the subject of the paper was a gender gap among Ph.Ds who make it to the post-doctoral level. The person who returned that review seemed to refute the idea that such a gap was remarkable, writing:

Perhaps it is not so surprising that on average male doctoral students co-author one more paper than female doctoral students, just as, on average, male doctoral students can probably run a mile a bit faster than female doctoral students.

Let’s put this together, shall we?

We have a person who believes that it is due to natural physical differences between men and women that male academics wind up with their names on more papers than female academics, and on the basis of this belief, this person is advising two female academics to let a couple of fellas put their names on their paper.

You want to talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy?

There it is, right there in action.

No, it’s not even that. It’s actually much more of a straight line than typical circular logic. It’s not a person inadvertently making the thing they predicted come true. It’s a person saying, “This is inevitable, it just sort of happens, no one makes it happen! Now make it happen.”

Someone who’s not a big fan of critical thinking about systemic problems might look at this and say that I’m accusing this unnamed scientist of telling the researchers to add male co-workers in order to prop up the status quo, which I’m not.

I’m not accusing anyone of a conscious agenda.

But if we work under the assumption there was no agenda, we’re still left with the fact that the reviewer—in the course of a single document—attributed a phenomenon to natural causes and then attempted to artificially engender that phenomenon.

How does this happen?

If it’s not due to a conscious agenda, then it seems pretty obvious that we must conclude it is possible for people to internalize a systemic bias without realizing it, doesn’t it?


Cameos From A Life

“I’m guessing rituals like weddings are important to you,” Jack said to me.

“…yes and no?” I said. “I actually don’t have a lot of patience with ritual for ritual’s sake. What means something to me is a ceremony that means something to the participants, that makes a statement more than ‘this is the phase of my life I’m in so I’m doing the thing that one does now’. A wedding, or a funeral, anything like that… it should be personal, like a piece of art. It should express something.”

“Is that why the idea makes you nervous? Because you’d have to stand up and say something?”

“Oh, no,” I said. “I’m not at all afraid to say things through art. The best way to say anything worth saying to anyone is by releasing a piece of art out into the world and then going to hide forever.”

STATUS: Wednesday, April 29th

The Daily Report

Yesterday had a good start, but a weird finish. I just hit a wall in the afternoon and shut down. Too much bad news, too much danger to people I care about.

That aside, things are still generally looking up. I’m on a much more financially secure footing than I’m used to. I’ve just converted a lot of monthly subscription expenses to annual ones, which is both so much cheaper and so much easier to keep track of.

My first major publishing project, Angels of the Meanwhile, started as something I threw together in a hurry to help a friend in need but it has turned into something incredible, both in terms of the content and the caliber of contributors and the support and attention it’s been garnering. Seriously, this is an awesome book, and… I think I’ve got the bug. I have an idea for a more… sedately paced… anthology I’d like to do once the smoke has settled and the dust has cleared on this, as a commercial project. But that’s getting ahead of things.

Today I had a call for submissions for flash stories about weird plants pointed out to me. I don’t have anything on deck for it yet, but I’ve certainly done my share of flash fiction about dangerous and menacing plants. In fact, just glancing at Fantasy In Miniature to refresh myself on what ideas I’ve already worked over, I’ve realized I have no less than three flash stories about forests menacing mankind.  My favorite weird plant story, though, is this one.

The State of the Me

One thing I’ve been doing differently here is trying to get outside of the house more. Since spring first sprang, we’ve been taking a walk around the neighborhood every day that the weather allows. I’ve also been making a point to get out and do things outside the house more often, with people. I think both of these things have been helping a lot.

Plans For Today

I’m going to be focusing on Tales of MU in the afternoon.


“Be careful out there.”

We’re told over and over again that we can’t hold the police responsible for the actions of a few bad apples, even when those “few bad apples” remain in police employ and receive accommodations and promotions. Yet how many people out there are blaming thousands of peaceful protesters for the actions of a small handful of vandals?

We hear a lot about the cycle of violence whenever there is property damage and injuries attached to a political protest. We hear less about this when worse property damage and injuries are attached to a sports team’s win, or loss, or existence.

We do hear about the cycle of violence when a body—usually Black—lies in the street, slain at the hands of men who wear the flag on the shoulder and a shield over their heart and drive around in cars emblazoned with the motto “to serve and protect,” but what we’re being told isn’t “We need to stop this from happening again.” It’s, “This is an unfortunate incident, but if any windows are broken it’ll become a full-blown tragedy.”

You know what the real cycle of violence is?

The cycle of violence is police hearing that students are planning a peaceful walk-out and then running to ambush them with military-grade equipment, simultaneously paralyzing the transportation network that would be necessary for them to actually disperse as ordered and then punishing them for not dispersing. People gathering to peacefully protest violence, being met with inescapable violence.

The cycle of violence is the police learning that major street gangs have ordered a ceasefire and then concocting a story that it is so they can team up to hunt cops.

The cycle of violence is police captains and trainers telling their officers to go for the kill when dealing with criminals “so there’s only one story”.

The cycle of violence is the police relying on stereotypes and unconscious biases for designating who is a criminal who needs to be taken down and who is a citizen who may be be talked down or brought in but must ultimately be protected, if only because it’d be too much of a headache if they were killed.

The cycle of violence is the police forces across the country who, whenever this happens—and it is now very close to a daily occurrence—respond by telling their officers to “be careful out there”, meaning not “Try to understand that this is a sensitive time and there are a lot of wounds out there, old and new.”, and meaning not, “One of our own just killed a person… maybe a criminal, maybe not, but they were still a human being and part of the community that we’re sworn to protect and we bring more dangerous people alive every day so this could have been avoided and it should have been avoided, so by God, let’s do better.”

No, they tell their officers, “Be careful out there because are at war now.

And what happens?

Seriously, the gap between extrajudicial killings by armed officers in the United States is sickeningly short under the best circumstances, but look at how quickly the bodies pile up in the wake of the highest profile-cases. When their victims are in the news, our nation’s cops don’t get any more reflective. They don’t become any more cautious or judicious in their deployment of force.

Instead, they become more militant. They become more trigger-happy. They become more aggressive and quicker to escalate.

And what happens?

The cycle of violence.

In times like this, yes. Let’s pray for peace. Let’s pray for understanding. But let’s turn our pleas towards those who are actually employed to keep the peace, and who are the ones whose response to crisis is to bring war to those who are looking for peace.

Let’s pray that the cops do learn how to take care.

STATUS: Tuesday, April 28th

The Daily Report

My watchword (watchphrase?) for the day is “Make the most of it.” Fittingly, I woke up this morning and wrote 2,200 words on a project I’ve had burbling in the background that I’m probably going to be announcing sometime this summer… this depends on more external factors, which is why I haven’t been talking about it. It’s hard to imagine a better start to the day than that

Only about half of what I wrote is actually usable prose. The rest is basically brainstorming to get the character’s voice and some details of her life and the world-building down, but that’s still useful.

Still, though, even if that half had wound up being pure garbage… man, there is some serious utility in not being afraid to sit down and write some garbage. The fear of writing garbage is what keeps us from writing anything.

I’m going to be pushing Angels of the Meanwhile pretty heavily from here on out. We’ve extended things another month, in part because of the very exciting new additions to the table of contents (including Ellen Kushner!). Reserve your copy for $1, $5, whatever price you want. A nautical ton of brilliant poetry and prose, all to benefit a good cause.

The State of the Me

Had a busy, tiring weekend that I was still bouncing back from yesterday. Feeling much better today.

Plans For Today

As I said: “make the most of it”. I’ve already written on the new upcoming project. Today I’m also going to be writing on 50 Grades, and of course Tales of MU.

Angels of the Meanwhile UPDATE: ELLEN KUSHNER AND MORE

angels of the meanwhile cover

Angels of the Meanwhile, the e-chapbook/anthology to benefit Elizabeth R. McClellan (@popelizbet), is available for pre-order for now. We’ve extended the pre-order window through June 1st in order to be able to promote the collection through the Memorial Day convention season and in order to give more time to highlight some of the newer additions to the collection.

That’s right, I said new additions! We are welcoming Ellen Kushner (Swordspoint) and Randee Dawn to the fiction categories, along with Christina Sng in poetry! They join an already impressive cast of talent that must be read to be believed. (See below!)

We have fairies and fauns, we have love and loss, we have grief and growth, we have mermaids and sirens, we have dragons and firebirds, we have night hags and gorgons, and far, far more.Pre-Order Today at the Price of Your Choice!Get your order in by June 1st This special benefit anthology is a unique assemblage of talents and words to aid a cherished community member in need. This kind of collection is not easy to come by. Blink and it will pass you by!

Email Address (For Delivery)

You can name your price on the next page after pressing the button. We’re using a simple PayPal form so that your entire contribution, minus PayPal’s fees, go directly to Lizbet to help pay the expenses relating to her injury. Delivery is now anticipated for July 31st. Yes, that’s also pushed back a month so I can focus on promoting it during the order period, and editing afterwards. Line editing expertise will be contributed by Rose Fox, co-editor of the Long Hidden anthology.

The book will be delivered as a package of three formats: Kindle, other e-book readers, and a PDF (suitable for reading on almost any device, including a computer). All free of restrictive DRM.

Table of Contents

Bits of Prose (Flash Fiction, Prose Poems)

  • This Is The Place Where Lost Things Go – Kythrynne Aisling
  • The Merry Knives of Interspecies Communication – Bogi Takács
  • The Choices of Foxes – Sonya Taaffe
  • Foam – Dusti Morton
  • The Sweat of their Brows – Alexandra Erin
  • The Dirty Fairy – Deborah Walker
  • Beauty Sleeping – Ellen Kushner


  • Beastwoman’s Snarled Rune – Rose Lemberg
  • Pain Shared Is Catching (For April Grant) – Erik Amundsen
  • Gorgon Girls – Saira Ali
  • This Is What It’s All About – Lupa
  • Blodeuwedd – Amal El-Mohtar
  • Burning Wings (For C.S.E. Cooney) – Jennifer Crow
  • The Changeling Always Wins – Nicole Kornher-Stace
  • The First Wife – Lev Mirov
  • Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas Lost at Sea, 1527 – Lisa Bradley
  • The Secret of Being a Cowboy – Catherynne M. Valente
  • Firstborn – Christina Sng
  • Children of the Faun and Fae – Merideth Allyn
  • Ivan Icarus – by C.S.E. Cooney
  • We Named Our Grief Irene – Virginia M. Mohlere
  • Fucking Doughnuts – Legoule
  • Allison Gross Speaks of the Worm – Gwynne Garfinkle
  • Sand Bags – Dominik Parisien
  • Hot Wet Mess – S.J. Tucker
  • These Are Days – Roni Neal
  • lis pendens – Mike Allen
  • Thread Between Stone – Bryan Thao Worra

Prose Stories

  • The View of My Brother’s Profile In The Rear-View Mirror – Randee Dawn
  • Inside, Looking Out – Alexandra Erin
  • Changed – Nicolette Barischoff
  • Fire Flight – A.M. Burns
  • The Legacy Box – Satyros Phil Brucato
  • Illusions of Safety – Angelia Sparrow