Hymenaeus House Announces New Non-Fiction Book Project

So, Theophilus Pratt has hired me to do some research on a book he believes may infringe on a work he’s been putting together for some time now. The book is called SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down The Thought Police. He feels that it might be treading a little too close to his forthcoming magnum opus, John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author And I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularities.

I have to say, my first reaction was to be incredibly skeptical. Actually, my first reaction was to wonder “Why does Theophilus Pratt keep contacting me?” It later transpired that I am quite possibly the only person on the planet who still answers him. My second reaction was to wonder why I still do so. My third reaction, however, was to be incredibly skeptical. That, more than anything, engaged my curiosity enough for me to agree to do a little opposition research.

So I spent a good 35 minutes today reviewing the little tract to which he had referred me, and I have to admit, he has a surprisingly good point. For a book that is supposed to be dedicated to spotting and overcoming Social Justice Warrior Thought Police, SJWs Always Lie devotes a remarkable proportion of its focus to things like John Scalzi’s web traffic. Even the chapter that would seem to be the centerpiece of the author’s premise—the one that lays out the three laws of how SJWs always lie—offers no other example for any of the lies except the author’s belief that Mr. Scalzi has been falsifying his web traffic statistics for years, a claim which is dealt with in exhaustive yet incoherent detail, as if the author were the protagonist of a complicated political thriller.

At one point—I swear to God I’m not making this up, though I sort of feel like I am—the author details how he phoned in an industry favor to have the phone company pull data for him.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and you remember the scene where the title character convenes a community meeting in to address his bike theft, that is what the central thesis chapter of SJWs Always Lie resembles more than anything else.

So, while my final verdict to Mr. Pratt is that, yes, the books are surprisingly similar in subject matter despite the misleading title of the competing project, I don’t think he has much to worry about in terms of an actual competition. His own effort in the area could hardly be worse.

AWW: The Almighty DORC

Okay, let me tell you about the Almighty DORC, which is the system that’s going to put the desired degree of wildness into A Wilder World without having cumbersome dice schemes.

The Almighty DORC is the Deck of Result Cards.

This replaces die rolls for purposes of checks (which are now called “result draws”, to clarify that you’re being told to draw cards). It can itself be replaced by a random number generator and a chart, but the point of using cards is to offer more nuanced results without having to translate arbitrary numbers to results.

The cards come in three basic flavors: normal, wild, and critical. Normal cards are split right down the middle between success and failure. In the default deck build, there is one normal card for every wild card. Wild cards aren’t wild in the usual sense of “wild cards”; they just have wilder results.

Many of them start with, “You fail, and suffer an embarrassment in the process.” or “You succeed, but suffer a complication,” but some offer you a choice, or things that are harder to quantify.

That Was A Thing That Just Happened is a wild success that reads, “You failed, but through coincidental means, more or less the exact thing you were trying to achieve came to pass. Your arrow misses, but the target is taken out by friendly fire, or trips and is knocked out. You broke a pick in the lock, then discovered the door was just a little stuck in the frame. That was a thing that just happened.”

Its opposite counterpart, That Was A Hell Of A Thing, reads, “You succeeded, but coincidental means render your success moot. You knocked out the guard, just in time for the shift change. You picked the lock on the door, then discovered it’s barred from the other side. Whatever you were trying to do, you did it… for all the good it did you. That was a hell of a thing.”

The terms “embarrassment”, “complication”, and “injury”—the three most common meta-consequences—are roughly defined in the rules. An embarrassment is something that makes you look foolish or silly. It can spoil an attempt to impress or charm someone, or an attempt at subterfuge, but otherwise, it’s just fun (as long as you can laugh at yourself). A complication is something that makes your life harder or the situation you’re in worse. It can directly relate to what you’re doing, or be a coincidence. An injury means you take a wound, which in AWW can be either an HP loss, or the placing of one of the Qualities that defines your character into an injured state. Usually but not always such an injury will be to the Quality most applicable to the situation (pulled a muscle!)

The thing is, beyond the guidance for what constitutes an embarrassment, injury, or complication, the card leaves it up in the air. The Storyteller works it out from the situation, possibly with input from the player. Some groups may find it more fun to have players propose their own consequences. A rule variant called Parliament of Rooks means the player always proposes, and the whole group votes on it.

Critical cards actually have two parts: a card that says “Critical Failure” or “Critical Success” that gets shuffled into the Almighty DORC, and a corresponding deck of Critical Failures and Critical Successes. This allows there to be more different types of criticals, without skewing the odds in their favor.

Critical Failures include such hits as I Wanted The Opposite Of That, where you didn’t only fail, you achieved the exact opposite of what you were going for, with examples including things like spreading a fire you were trying to put out, injuring a person you were trying to heal, enraging someone you were trying to subdue, and so on. Critical Successes include things like Bank Shot, where you not only pull off exactly what you wanted, but you can accomplish another, roughly equivalent goal.

In cases where it’s hard to figure out an application for the extra consequences, the usual advice is for the Storyweaver to “bank” a stroke of good or bad luck to be dropped on your head later, though really a lot of the fun is in figuring out what it means to achieve the opposite of something.

The default DORC has 50 cards: 12 normal successes, 12 wild successes, 1 critical success, 12 normal failures, 12 wild failures, and 1 critical failure. A few of the wilds are repeats, as some are meant to be more common than others. One of the signature features of the game, though, is that you can adjust the “wildness” of the game up and down by adding or removing some vanilla success/failure cards from the deck (in equal numbers, obviously) or putting more critical success/failure cards in the deck.

Obviously, taking cards out of a deck each time you draw one changes the odds. Since there’s an equal chance for any card from a fresh deck to be good or bad, it ~*should*~ tend to stay fairly even, more or less, though players who keep a plus or minus count of good or bad cards used up might have a slight tactical edge.

The default rules call for the DORC to be reshuffled following any draw that results in a critical. The Vegas Rules variant has it keep going until the deck is exhausted. The Even Odds variant has all cards re-shuffled each time, which is likely to be cumbersome if you’re not using a virtual deck, but is the default assumption when you’re using a random number generator or dice chart.

Now, you might be wondering how this success/failure mechanism accounts for varying levels of user ability, and varying task difficulty.

Normally you draw one card and use it as your result. If you have advantage (total positive modifiers) for the draw, you take one extra card for each point you have, and then pick the one you want to use. If you have disadvantage (total negative modifiers), you take one extra card for each negative point, and the Storyteller selects the one to afflict you with.

Difficulty is just a threshold you have to reach in advantage in order to have your full points. If the difficulty is higher than your bonus, you lose one point for every point of difference. Most bog standard adventury tasks are difficulty 0, unless you’re going up against someone, then it’s based on their score (or what the Storyteller imagines it would be, if they haven’t bothered to define stats for the character). Sneaking past a sentry with +1 perception, the average person would have net disadvantage -1 (because their score of 0 is 1 shy of the sentry’s), while someone with +1 to stealth could use their one point unimpeded.

Note that result draws are always made from the point of view of player characters as the actors. The player draws to sneak past the enemy, or to spot the enemy sneaking past them. The player draws to hit an enemy, or to avoid an enemy’s attack. This keeps the player invested in what’s happening.

Now, this makes it so that each point difference effectively means you get to “try again” on a draw and use the better result. Any time you’re trying again at a thing with a set chance, you’re halving the chance of failure. So ignoring the complication that cards that come out of the deck are not immediately replaced, you’ve got a 50% of success with advantage 0, a 75% chance with advantage 1, an 87.5% chance with advantage 2, and so on.

While that’s a nice, significant difference for even one point—something that is a design goal—it does have the drawback that your odds of success change by less with each successive shift. But I feel like once you’re past the 75% mark, you’ve got a nice, reliable ability. Points on top of that are useful for helping you overcome difficulty. Plus, the fact that while the odds of success are 50% to begin with, the odds of success without hurting or embarrassing yourself are somewhat lower means that there’s always a benefit to having more points. Higher advantage not only means you succeed more often, but with fewer side effects and more control of the circumstances.

I feel like this resolution system, stacked with what I was talking about this morning in terms of how you define your character and how you describe your actions, puts the game into a flavorful, story-driven realm without succumbing to the typical “narrativist” tropes of “string together seven adjectives and three childhood traumas to decide how many fistfuls of dice you roll to win this gunfight”.

I don’t know how I’m going to keep satirizing the Sad Puppies at this rate…

Okay. This is not going to be my usual well-constructed Reasoned Discourse thing, only because I am laughing too hard, and I think that we could all share in the laugh.

So, a thing did happen at the traditional Loser Party after the Hugo Awards. That thing was George R.R. Martin, the man who sits upon the Iron Throne of the whole tongue-in-cheek affair that is the Hugo Awards Loser Party, showed up with a sack full of literal, actual vintage car hood ornaments and started handing them out like they were trophies.

Get it? Because award night trophies look like hood ornaments?

He handed them out to whoever it pleased him to, which I guess included the people he felt had been most hurt by the Sad Puppy shenanigans and the people whose tact and grace had impressed him: the people bumped off the ballot, the people who dropped off the ballot after having been bumped on, the even-handed blogger Eric Flint, people like that.

Obviously, this private individual carrying out a touching but still tongue-in-cheek private joke chose to honor people of his own choice.

So naturally, the Sad Puppies and even more so their allies in Gamergates went wild, screaming all over Twitter and their sub-reddits and the rest of the internet that THE FIX WAS IN ALL ALONG, that THE VOTING DIDN’T MATTER, that THE NO AWARDS WERE JUST A SHAM, because here was George R. R. Martin, handing out trophies at a private party and these were clearly the ~*real*~ awards, arranged by the Social Justice Hivemind…

I remind you: sack full of hood ornaments.

Not a figure of speech. Not hyperbole or a metaphor.

Actual hood ornaments.

This is old news at this point, though they’re still talking about it.

Today I discovered something new.

Okay, honored guest and Hugo host David Gerrold made a joke some time ago about this year they’ll have to hand out asterisks with the trophies. So at the pre-party, they had these commemorative coasters, with an asterisk and the Hugo logos printed on, which they gave out to the nominees. It was a gift, not an award. Its meaning was a joke. Some people thought it was a tasteless joke. I think it was a little off-tone and ill-considered, a rare misstep from David Gerrold, but it was not part of the award ceremony. Nobody got an asterisk next to their name on the ballot or in the results.

Nevertheless, there’s been some conspiracy-mongering around it, of a similar type to that which surrounded what I’m sure somebody will start calling #HoodOrnamentGate any minute now… well, I say “of a similar type”, but I’ve just learned it’s the exact same thing.


There are people out there saying that because the Hugo logo appears on it and it was given to nominees, it constitutes a Hugo Award, one that was issued in defiance of the WorldCon by-laws governing such things. I wonder if there were also gift bags that have the Hugo logo on them? I’m quite sure there were programs and other sundry items bearing the WorldCon and Hugo logos on them. I’m also quite sure that alone does not make something a Hugo Award.

So far, it seems to be mainly one person pushing the theory, and the comments on the page are both few and not exactly clamoring to uphold his nonsense.

But we can always rely on the good folks at Gamergate to roll up their sleeves and do what no one else will do… which is take the thinnest, most obviously wrong and easily disproved ~*theory*~ on the internet and immediately start touting it as “evidence” of something. Collusion, probably. Notably while the blog post asks the (extremely leading, and also easily answered “no”) question of “Did Worldcon defraud its members?”, Gamergate’s link to it trumpets, “Hugo Awards Under Fire for Disenfranchising Voters” as if this were a factual description of one person, on the internet, asking questions based on false premises.

I’d ask how they square this with their insistence on the highest standards of journalistic ethics, but I’ve asked Gamergate about its lack of ethics before, so I already know what the answer is: they’re not journalists, so it doesn’t count.

This is the one respect and one respect in which Gamergate is superior to the Sad Puppies. The Sad Puppies are complete and utter hypocrites. Gamergate slightly less so, in that they are honest about their hypocrisy. They fully admit that their goal is to foist what they call ethics on everyone else, not themselves.

In short, they come by their dishonesty honestly.

STATUS: Wednesday, August 26th

The Daily Report

One great thing about all the Hugo-related attention right now is that it reminded me that I had started a John Z. Upjohn novel before circumstances and sickness laid me low. I’ll be continuing that next week. I’m working on it now, but I want to get a little ahead of the game before I get too far ahead of myself.

In the spirit of not spending another day alternately overwhelmed by the volume of response and fending off Puppies repeating the same propaganda lines, I’m turning off notifications on multiple sites for a bit.

The State of the Me

Things continue to trend well. I’m having a bit of an emotional rollercoaster effect today and yesterday, and I’m definitely feeling the valleys a bit more acutely than the peaks. Like a case of the blahs, interrupted at intervals. Emotional state weird, but manageable overall. Physically good.

Plans For Today

Bowing to the strangeness of the day, I’m making no specific plans except that this afternoon I’m going to do the major writing for my new draft of the next Tales of MU chapter. Between now and then, I’ll work on what lets me maintain a kind of level, as it allows me to do so.

AWW: A Wilder Approach

So, those who’ve followed this blog and its predecessors for a long time know that I’ve spent a lot of time over the years on a roleplaying game project called A Wilder World. It’s had several iterations, none of which made it to completion. The closest one was very close. I had a rules build, I had a rich and deep character creation system, but it had a few problems. In retrospect, it was not a good system. It was three or four great ideas for systems, some of them contradictory, jammed together. I think I’ve said before on this blog that the attribute system and the archetype system both were pretty good on their own, but together it was like making the same character twice in different game systems.

I’ve been talking to fellow game and game design enthusiast Shweta Narayan about what I’m looking for and my obstacles, at various intervals. This is useful because we have close enough tastes and goals to understand each other, but different enough gaming experience to offer different insights.

After talks with Shweta in the winter and spring, I’ve been developing a less archetype-heavy version of A Wilder World. I started with the idea of what I thought of as “The Good Points” system, which would be: take a piece of paper. Write your character’s good points on a line, only mentioning the things that would stand out about them as a hero; e.g., it doesn’t matter who is stronger among Paul and Mary, unless one of them is the person who gets stories told about them for being strong. The game would have some guidelines for what constitutes a strong point, and rules for codifying/generalizing them.

The problem with that approach is that by the time you get done streamlining what random things people write down into, “Okay, that’s basically the example trait the rules describe here”, you’re left wondering why you don’t give people the traits to use as LEGO blocks.

But it got me back to thinking about defining characters primarily in terms of “what are you good at, what are you known for?” The example I used in my talks with Shweta was: if your character is an acrobat, if you are the acrobat in the party, if this is the story of you, the heroic acrobat, then the rules must allow you to acrobat, and acrobat consistently, and acrobat well.

The problem I kept running into was finding simple enough rules to allow for reasonably quick and dirty play that allow you to define acrobating well, merchanting well, alchemisting well, et cetera, in ways that are comparable but account for the difference between being good at tight ropes or being good at beakers of acid.

One breakthrough I came to on my own is that the reasons my combat systems don’t ever really *work* for me is that I’m hewing way too close to things like D&D, GURPS, and (heaven help me) Palladium when the model in my head isn’t “d00dz with sw0rds hacking 0rcz for l00t” but the cartoonier, more clever-idea-focused violence of fantasy cartoons like the D&D cartoon, the He-Man and She-Ra cartoons, the Avatar cartoons, and stuff like that. Not exclusively animated fare. You can throw the Classical Raimiverse in there, and probably a bunch of other stuff I’m overlooking.

(And just, as a pre-emptive thing, since I mentioned cartoons: I am aware that Toon exists. But it’s for emulating a very specific type of cartoon. Fantasy adventure cartoons have slightly more rubber physics than your typical D&D world, but only slightly.)

I shared with this Shweta last night, who pointed out that in a TV show, the writers and animators spend a lot of time pre-arranging the clever solutions, whereas in a roleplaying game, players have to think on the fly but definitely want those moments that make them feel clever and cool.

Shweta told me about a couple of card-based games I was only passingly familiar with, and the practice of using a card that gives a situation or move or weapon and then you have to sell the table on how it addresses the problem in front of you. This eventually led to a terrific idea for a conflict/check resolution mechanism that I’m going to talk about in a later post as it shapes up better. But it also led to a shift in philosophy.

See, it made me realize something: the one part of A Wilder World that has remained more or less the same through every iteration, is the magic system, and it basically operates on that principle (sans the cards). If you’re a green mage, you got plants. To solve a problem with green magic, you have to explain how plants are going to solve it. If you’re a necromancer, you got skulls and spirits. To solve a problem with necromancy, you have to explain how skulls and spirits are going to solve it.

And the Green Mage archetype would come with five or six detailed, rule-based special abilities to represent how plant magic is fundamentally different from skull magic (which is fundamentally different from fire magic), the core mechanic of “casting a spell” still depends on the notion that players and the Storyteller can work out between themselves what the limits of plant magic are, and how they differ from skull magic’s scope and features.

And hearing Shweta talk about combat based on “Okay, this is what I got. This is what I’m doing with it.” made me realize that this, the one thing that I have really liked from start to finish, this is the core mechanic. This is how I resolve the problem of a game that lets you be things as absurdly specific as an Elven Merchant/Acrobat or Automaton Noble/Pyromancer from level one without having you remember dozens of special abilities and all the ways they affect the rules is to define “Merchant” and “Acrobat” and “Automaton” and all the other things not in terms of 5 or 6 specific special abilities, but with a broad description of what it means to be such a thing, what such people are good at, and a few examples of applications.

And then when it’s your time to shine, you wield the special ability of Being A Merchant or Being An Automaton in much the same way you would wield the ability of Being A Green Mage: you explain how it comes to bear.

And yeah, maybe it’s easier to figure out how Having A Giant Sword And Knowing How To Use It applies to the problem of the 0rcz and their l00t than it is to figure out how Being A Noble applies to that situation. But not everybody looks for the same sort of challenge from a roleplaying game. And not every campaign offers the same challenges, especially when the rules aren’t centered with laser-like precision around whittling all the HP from 0rcz so you can absorb the precious XP spilled with their blood. And the fact that nobody is just one thing means you can take an interesting thing like Merchant or Noble alongside something that is bog-standard adventure ready.

To be clear, while this will result in a more narrative-driven gameplay experience, I’m not changing from my stance on narrative game mechanics that amount to “string together adjectives and traumatic childhood memories you just made up in order to get a bigger dice pool” as being a very game-y device very game-y games and not at all what I’m looking for. The narrative component is, “This is what you’ve got. What are you doing with it?” The Storyteller rates whether it’s definitely something you can do (basically automatic), something you could probably do (easy chance), something you could do (medium chance), or something you stand a chance of doing. (hard chance). Individual groups/Storytellers might want to reward more interesting and entertaining things with better odds, but the rules don’t dictate to what extent that is part of the game… so the game is only as silly as the group.

Of course, the other advantage to defining archetypes/broad abilities in terms of “here is what being/having this thing is all about” rather than “here are the five or six specific things that this thing lets you do in exact game mechanical terms” is that it makes it easier and less intimidating for players to define their own. They just have to come up with a scope that the Storyteller and larger group agree is not overly broad, like a Good At Everything trait. The fact that the exact scope of an ability can be negotiated through use provides for a little bit of elasticity on traits that might seem either too narrow to be useful or too broad to be fair… they can be basically refined through play.

I have a really good feeling about this direction, because my core gameplay goal with A Wilder World is a quick and simple, easy to learn system that allows you to do all the clever, exciting, wacky, zany, and/or daring stuff that people think about when they imagine a fantasy adventure, but I’ve been going about it by trying to make a quicker, more streamlined version of Dungeons and Dragons and then graft all the exciting bits on as extensions and exceptions.

Also, I’m one of the many people for whom the core of a game is really the chargen system. It’s a lot easier for me to design a kick-awesome character creation system that inspires people to make amazing characters and imagine their fantastic adventures than it is to build a detailed engine to support those ideas.

Well, my advice to writers is always to play to your strengths: if you’re great at dialogue, use dialogue to tell the story. If you’re great at detail and atmosphere, use that. Lean on what you’re great at, use everything else as needed.

So here’s an idea for a system that leans on character definition to deliver the goods. And frankly, there’s an element of “Your character should be good at this and this sounds awesome, it’s the sort of thing you’d totally be able to pull off if this were a story, so even though realistically this is a million to one shot and the rules don’t even provide for a way to adjudicate the odds, let’s roll for it.” to the way I GM most games, and that’s the style of play I most enjoy. This just canonizes it.

I’ll make more posts talking about the specifics as they develop, but I just wanted to get this out there.


STATUS: Tuesday, August 25th

The Daily Report

Did not have the best start to the day. I did wake up at 8:00 and make a blog post and have breakfast before my work day started at 10, but I got bogged down in the responses that post generated on its cross-posts, and some next-day responses to the Hugo post from yesterday.

Ah, well! I guess on the plus side, it’s publicity. A better self-promoter than I would be getting a huge boost off this, I’m sure. I’ll take whatever small lift comes my way.

I have achieved the formatting work I meant to do today, at least.

The State of the Me

As much as “not enough sleep” is frequently one of my problems, I think my decision to get up as soon as a time is reached when I am both actually awake and the sun is up is a good one. Staying in bed until just before my accustomed start time works out badly for a number of reasons.

Plans For Today

Well, most of the day is gone, and I’m a little wound up, so I’m actually going to be doing something kind of personal, by which I mean working on game design stuff. It’s in this weird intersection of “creative” and “technical” that lets me slip into the creative mindset more easily.

Thieves, Liars, and Why We Care

So, one of the Sad Puppy Hugo picks—and thus one of the people shut out of the awards this year—is Toni Weisskopf, an editor at Baen Books. The Sad Puppies, in their post-mortem attempts to twist the rebuke fandom gave them into “Evil SJWs Doing Evil Things”, have turned this woman into a political soccer ball, kicking her down the field and then demanding we either kick her back or let them score a point.

I think most people are quite sensibly refusing to play soccer with these creeps.

Myself, I have no opinion on whether or not Toni deserves a Hugo award in the greater sphere of things, though I will say that some commentators at File 770 give a pretty solid defense of their decision to vote No Award over her on the merits, given that she was nominated as best long form editor but it wasn’t clear what her actual contributions in the field were this year, and she declined to list any. Some of them point out that they personally didn’t vote No Award over Sheila Gilbert, a Puppy Pick in the short form editor category who provided clearer examples of her handiwork.

But of course, nobody acknowledges this, because this destroys the Puppy narrative. The Sad Puppy spin on this situation requires us to believe that nobody voted for any of their picks except for them (which makes their numbers look a lot bigger), that all the “SJWs” voted in lockstep, voting down the Puppy picks out of “spite”, that every vote for No Award is by someone who didn’t read or look at the nominations.

None of that is terribly surprising.

What is a little surprising is the next wrinkle.

A man named David Lang in the comments section I mentioned above had this to say:

“So why is Toni Weisskopf who head Baen so undeserving to win the best editor award?

She’s been part of Fandom, attending Cons since she was very young. She’s no outsider any way you look at it.”

I thought this was a little odd when I read it, like someone had got his propaganda twisted around in his head and mixed up a couple of Sad Puppy talking points. Surely, even if they believe that the Hugos tend to reward insiders, they wouldn’t expect it to be so naked? Then I saw a quote from a post on the blog of Larry Correia, the founder of the Sad Puppy campaign:

“Toni Weisskopf has been part of organized Fandom (capital F) since she was a little kid, so all that bloviating about how Fandom is precious, and sacred, and your special home since the ‘70s which you need to keep as a safe space free of barbarians, blah, blah, blah, yeah, that applies to Toni just as much as it does to you CHORFs.  You know how you guys paid back her lifetime of involvement in Fandom?

By giving 2,496 votes to No Award.”

This… this is what they’re actually going with.

The Sad Puppy narrative is that Toni Weisskopf was owed a Hugo for being a good member of fandom for decades. They nominated her in the category of best long form editor in particular only because that’s what she does, but the “CHORFs” or “SMOFs” or “SJWs” really owed her a Hugo because she’d put in her dues. The Puppies viewed it her nomination as putting her up for a lifetime achievement award for a member of a community.

Now, they all along have been claiming that this is basically what the Hugos have been reduced to. This is the narrative they’ve constructed to explain the discrepancy between their personal tastes—the tastes of those in the niches they cater to—and the work rewarded by the larger fandom community that WorldCon represents.

“They’re just giving awards to their friends,” they say. “They’re just giving awards to the people who voice the correct opinions. They’re just giving awards to people who go with the program. They just give awards to people who tick the right demographic checkboxes”

So they found a woman who was part of the community, and they kicked her down the field. They themselves obviously didn’t think her editing in 2014 was particularly notable as when they talk about why she deserved a Hugo, all they can mention is her years of “service” to fandom.

And you know what? If she had won while the other Puppy-packed categories were torpedoed, they would be crowing right now that they were right. Larry Correia says in that blog post, “I wanted the mask to come off and for the world to see how the sausage was really made, but even I was a little surprised by just how vile you are.”

Meaning he was expecting Toni Weisskopf to win an editing award for being a member of a community rather than merit, and that didn’t happen.

And he’s disgusted?

No, he’s disappointed.

But rather than admitting that the data has verified his hypothesis is false, he’s just adjusted his hypothesis. He and his flunkies are calling his imagined enemies hypocrites for not giving an award to someone he thinks should “deserve it” by what he thinks is their reasoning.

I love this, by the way. I love this trope. You see it so often whenever a horde of outraged reactionaries doesn’t get their way. They’ll start calling everybody else hypocrites, and it will be for one of two reasons. If they lack imagination, they’ll call the other side “hypocrites” for violating beliefs that only they themselves hold. If they have more imagination than discernment, though, they’ll accuse the other side of being hypocrites for violating the beliefs that they, in their feverish fantasies, have projected upon that side.

“You’re such a lousy thief, you’d probably steal my wallet if I gave you half a chance,” the Sad Puppy says.

“I’m not a thief, and I don’t want your wallet,” says everyone else.

“Hypocrites,” the Sad Puppy says. “To call yourself a thief and not steal a wallet! That makes you thieves and liars!”

And the sad thing is that in all of this moral and philosophical contortionism, Larry has revealed that he and Brad are still stuck on the idea that put them down this path: that it’s possible to be owed an award. Not deserve an award in the sense of being award-worthy, but be owed an award in the sense that it belongs to you by default and showing up is just a formality.

When this honor was denied to them and/or their favorites, they didn’t give up on the idea of the world owing people awards, they only gave up on the idea that it could be due to merit. And if they could just figure out what the magic formula is, they could expose that formula to the world and bring the whole system down to replace it with one where merit is the magic formula, meaning—in their heads—that the awards belong to them/their favorites by default.

On the subject of magic formulas, the Puppies also use the presence of Toni Weisskopf and Sheila Gilbert among others on their slate as a sort of protective charm. “You can’t say that we’re sexist,” they say. “You can’t say that we’re trying to oppose diversity. You can’t say these things. We have protection.”

They think of their opponents as people who are interested in quotas, so they do their best to fill them, and then call their opponents hypocrites (see above!) for not respecting the quota.

I’ll call the Puppies sexist for this reason alone: the frequency with which they use women as props.

They’re using Toni Weisskopf as a ball, kicking her themselves and setting her up to be kicked back.

Brad Torgersen used his wife as a shield when he was accused of racism, in a very public and very obvious way. Notably, when people pointed this out, he chose not to defend himself against the charge. Instead, he pretended he had been accused of something far worse (having married her as a sham, only to use her as a shield) and loudly decried that this idea was ludicrous. Yes, it is, Brad. Which is why nobody said it. The fact that you jumped from what people actually said—what actually happened—to defend yourself against a ridiculous but imaginary charge suggests that you know what you did, and you yourself find it indefensible.

Over on his blog, John C. Wright is managing to simultaneously hide behind his wife and threaten to beat other men’s brains in with her.

And there’s something very obviously deliberate in the choice of next year’s lead Sad Puppy, Kate Paulk. Ever since the choice was announced, they’ve been saying things like, “Let’s see anyone call us sexist now.” and “If they try to fight back next year, they’ll be violating their own principles!”

(“You probably want to steal my wallet right now!”)

There’s a scene near the end of the series Angel, when the title character is having a climactic battle with the season’s Proxy Big Bad, Marcus Hamilton (played, fittingly enough, by Gamergate celebrity darling Adam Baldwin).

Hamilton says, “Why do you keep fighting?” He points out that Angel has signed away his happy ending, the reward for which he has theoretically been fighting all these years. He points out, “There’s nothing in it for you anymore!”

Angel replies, “People like you, who don’t care about anyone or anything, will never understand the people who do.”

And Hamilton comes back, “Yeah… but we won’t care!”

The Sad Puppies, at the coaching of their antispiritual leader Vox Day, have actually made, “We don’t care.” into a sort of motto. They’re never going to understand the principles of the people they’ve decided to try to drive out of fandom because they don’t care enough to try. Any attempt to explain, any prelude to a meeting of minds, is met with a practiced, “We don’t care.”

I think this is part of why the Puppies have been characterizing the five unawarded Hugos the way they have been, using imagery like “scorched earth” and “nuked” and “they burned the village to save them.” To them, it’s all about the trophies and it’s only about the trophies. It’s only bigger than that insofar as they want to be the ones who hand them out, missing the point that there isn’t any one individual who has that power and that the trophies would lose their meaning if there was.

They’ll never understand why we fight.

And they won’t care.


Oh, forgot to mention in my status post…

…but after a lot of soul-searching, and looking at my own past trends, and thinking about what works and what doesn’t, I’ve decided that next summer, I’m just going to take an official break from Tales of MU. Whether we have another record heatwave or not, whether I have another year of terrible allergies and summer colds or not… well, there’s a reason hardly anyone spends the whole year writing the same story without a break, year after year. It wears you down.

I keep recognizing this. I keep saying I need to build actual breaks into my schedule. I keep not actually holding to it.

History tells me that summer’s going to be messy. Next year I’m just avoiding the mess. The length and details of the break are something I’ll have to figure out then, but it’s going to happen.

UPDATE: Angels of the Meanwhile

I have to tell you, when I first pitched the idea that became Angels of the Meanwhile to Elizabeth, she wasn’t sure that many people would be interested. I knew how so many people in our various overlapping creative and spiritual communities felt about her, and I assured her that people would be eager to help.

I still underestimated the magnitude of the response, and to say that it humbled me… well, that’s an understatement. At times I’ve struggled to even come to grips with the reality of what I’m doing. I was already feeling like a bit of a phony, like a kid standing on the shoulders of another kid wearing a trenchcoat to pass as an adult, when my work computer died this summer and took the assembled draft of the e-book with it.

I only lost maybe two weeks’ worth of work that wasn’t backed up to the cloud, but it took a lot of my willpower and ability to cope with the undertaking with it.

I realize now that I made a mistake, not in taking this project on but in taking it on alone, in seeing it as something that only I could do. It’s not the only mistake I made. I continued to underestimate people’s excitement for it. I saw the contributions purely in terms of people doing a huge favor at great cost for no reward… and I don’t want to shortchange our contributors, because it is a huge favor… but this is why, without bothering to sound anybody out, I immediately proclaimed that it would be a one-time deal. The book would be sent to the people who donated, and that would be it. It had to be that way, in my mind, because it wouldn’t be fair to ask people to give more than that.

Well, I’ve had a lot of people—contributors included—ask me about things like a print-on-demand for physical copies, or extending the e-sales past publication so that people who only heard about the project after the pre sale have a chance to get it. I didn’t think that would be fair to the contributors, but I didn’t ask anyone how that felt, and what I’m hearing now is that maybe it’s not fair to let this remarkable collection we’ve assembled together disappear into the ether.

Still… with the book not actually existing even in e-form right now, any talk of future sales is getting way ahead of the game. I’m putting this out there now just so it doesn’t come out of nowhere. Once we’ve got the initial promised volume put together and in the hands of the people who bought it, we can talk about other options.

I am maybe too hung up on starting and finishing things at clean break points on the clock or calendar, but that’s how I am. There is one week left in August. I believe I can re-create the lost formatting work during this week. I want the book to be proofed by more eyes than mine, especially since I have less of an idea how much of the proofing I lost in the crash. I don’t know how long that will take, so I’ll say that our new target for delivery is the end of September, though I’ll be hoping to get it out before then.

That’s where things stand now.

STATUS: Monday, August 24th

Personal Note

I haven’t said anything about it because it happened during a time when I wasn’t really blogging or saying anything very personal in public places, but a friend of mine from a close-knit internet circle passed away the weekend before last. It was sudden, it was unexpected, and the circumstances of it hit me and Jack both pretty hard. She was a member of the community where Jack and I first met. The day I found out about it was the first day that my recent illness was really in bull bloom, and I have to say that the two things didn’t help each other.

This weekend, we met some of our other friends from the group for a memorial brunch. It was the first time many of us had met each other. Sad circumstances, happy occasion. It did provide something like a bit of closure. I suspect writing about it, even in this oblique fashion, will also help.

This is what I mean when I say that last week was one of the worst of my life, though the end result of it all may be that I bounce back from what was already a growing period of silence, self-censorship, and ennui.

Let the doing of things commence.

The Daily Report

Day one of digging myself out from under the pile. I’ve got a lot to do, and it’s time to set priorities. Priority number one: rebuild what I lost of Angels of the Meanwhile. I have failed to keep a self-imposed deadline. It is important to remember that this is not the same thing as failing to accomplish the task, unless I let that missed benchmark overwhelm me.

At the same time, it is necessary to build and keep up momentum on my writing, particularly with Tales of MU, but I also need to keep the creative juices flowing more generally. For a while I had really good luck with setting some time aside on Mondays for truly random writing. This gave me short stories, longer stories, and poetry.  There’s still a week for me to enter the SFPA’s poetry contest for this year. While I do have a couple of pieces I could send in, I don’t have anything I feel is really suitable for it. Maybe I can come up with something?

The State of the Me

My sleep was really mixed last night, but I woke up at 8 in the morning today feeling awake. I got up and had breakfast, and was here starting this post at 10 on the dot. It’s a good start.

Plans For Today

I’m going to alternate creative and other work.

First thing I do after this, I’m going to make a long overdue update post about Angels of the Meanwhile.

Then, some random writing.

Then, some e-book formating.

Then, I’m going to work on Tales of MU. As I often do when I have a chapter that’s just not working, I’m going to try starting over from the beginning and going a different direction. Even if what I have is fundamentally workable, I’m just in a very different headspace than when I started it.