Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/01/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 44, Whole Number 1856

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Yet More Hugo Nominations Changes and Sasquan (Worldcon)
                Membership (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        The Puppy Crisis (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        EX MACHINA (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
                edited by Jonathan Strahan (book review
                by Joe Karpierz)
                (book review by Joe Karpierz)
        And Now It's Time to Vote on Those 2015 Hugos! (a gloat
                by Dale Skran)
        Cable Channels, Hugo Voting System, and Terry Pratchett
                (letter of comment by John Purcell)
        No Award (letters of comment by Steve Coltrin, Ben Yalow,
                and David Goldfarb)
                OF THE WEALTH OF NATIONS) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Yet More Hugo Nominations Changes and Sasquan (Worldcon)
Membership (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

In the "Best Editor, Short Form" category, Edmund Schubert has
withdrawn himself from consideration.  However, as previously
noted, Sasquan has said that the ballot had already been sent to
the printers, so it will appear on the ballot.  Sasquan has stated
that they will note this and the "Black Gate" withdrawals on the
on-line Hugo form, though the list of nominees will not be changed.

Sasquan has seen a huge jump in membership, particularly Supporting
Membership, since all the Hugo stories hit the newspapers,
magazines, blogs, etc.  They sold 1000 memberships in the last two
weeks, going from 7000 to 8000 members.  They have members on five
continents, and even have one member in space (on the ISS)!

What all this means--AND THIS IS WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO ME--is that
the Hugo used to be an award voted on by people who attended
Worldcon, with the small number of Supporting Memberships being
people who often went to Worldcon, but could not go in a particular
year.  What it has become this year is an award voted on by people
who are willing to pony up $40 to be able to vote on the Hugos and
to get "The Packet" (which, trust me, is a big incentive for many),
but have no interest in Worldcon at all.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: The Puppy Crisis (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Many of you are probably aware that there has been a major brouhaha
over the Hugo Awards this year.  Up to the present the mainstream
has sort of ignored science fiction fandom and its awards.  Science
fiction fans were considered by many to be nuts who genuinely
believe in all the things that are written about in science fiction
stories: time travel, aliens in UFOs, psychic powers, humans with
mutant super powers, etc.  The mainstream did not know much about
the purpose of science fiction and those of us in science fiction
fandom were content to let the mainstream sleep.

This year is different.  A small group of politically motivated
supporting and attending members of the upcoming World Science
Fiction Convention decided to vote as a block to nominate fiction
that is favorable to their political point of view.  This bothers
many of the people in the science fiction community.  Now major
news and opinion magazines are weighing in on the argument, or at
the very least covering it.  These are major national magazines



One rather assumes that these magazines had science fiction fans on
their staffs all along, but their science fiction community
politics rarely if ever was covered.

But for better or for worse, this is my opinion of the controversy.

I think a lot of people have given in to a myth.  The myth is what
I think is a basic misunderstanding about what the awards are.  In
the case of the Hugo awards, the myth is that the fans have gotten
together to pick God's anointed best science fiction pieces
published over the previous year in each category.  Once they pick
the stories democratically chosen by mutual consent to be the best
they--the fans--have spoken.  What they have chosen is God's
Anointed choice.  It works like the selection of the new Pope.

Pardon me but that is not what happens when a novel wins a Hugo.
The Hugo Award is not about the book; it is about the voters.  In
this case it is about the attending and supporting members of the
upcoming World Science Fiction Convention.  We all pretend that
this is a reasonable set of people to judge and decide the
question.  We have pretended that for years.  But they cannot make
a book be the best novel.  They can only decide as a popularity
poll what book they most want to see win.  Their choice tells you
about them.  It tells you something about the minds of the people,
but voters do not make best novels. Writers make them.

What we can tell about the so-called Sad Puppies Affair is that the
demographics of the voters have changed.  It may be permanent or it
may be just this year.  There is more science fiction available
today than there was in the "old days."  People who want to push
their agenda can block-vote in an attempt to get a plurality.
There will be a handful of fans who might vote for the best
alternate history novel.  Others will like some new military
science fiction novel.  Someone else will like a good hard-science
SF story.  There are not that many fans who attend and/or support
the upcoming World Convention.  The fans are spread thin over a
large landscape of types of science fiction.  It does not take a
lot of people to form into a voting block and tower over that

And even if the voters form a voting block they cannot make their
choice the best novel.  Winning the Best Novel Hugo just means
there were a bunch of fans who wanted this particular book to be
recommended by the science fiction fandom community.  That was all
the Hugo has ever meant.  It is a statement about demographics and
not one about superior writing quality.

I have friends and family members whose political views are quite
different from mine.  When I am reminded of what their views are I
may think negatively of their opinions, but I do not want to
restrict their ability to express themselves.  When I see ideas I
do not agree with in the books that won the Hugo, I say to myself
that is just an opposing point of view.  In the New Republic
article mentioned above Connie Willis says, "When I heard about
this, I was sick at the thought of what they'd done and at all the
damage they'd cause."  Somehow I am not seeing all of the damage.
If the voting rules are broken people will remember 2015 as one
year with quirky Hugo winner choices.  But it certainly would not
be the first year for that.  If the voting rules are broken they
should be fixed.  If they cannot be fixed, perhaps they were not
broken to start with.  Perhaps the demographic of voters has

I guess my main point is that I probably would like to see the
voting rules repaired so that takeovers of the Hugos could not be
repeated, but I do not feel that irreparable harm has been done to
the Hugo Awards itself.   This would not be the first year that I
did not care for all the Hugo winners.  I will just remember that
in 2015 the convention membership had a bunch of voters who gamed
the system.

At worst there will be some novel out there that people I disagree
with wanted to call attention to.  They either have different taste
from mine or perhaps they were just buying advertising space.  In
either case I do not see what hard has resulted from the incident
and if there was harm, the worst thing that can be done is make a
fuss and call attention to it.

Meanwhile I have heard that in this whole votes race this year's
Worldcon has sold as of this writing 4183 supporting memberships at
$40 a crack. That is about three times the number that the Chicago
Worldcon got in 2012.  That ain't hay.

But don't trust my opinion.  I was the guy who didn't care about
losing Pluto as a planet.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: EX MACHINA (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: EX MACHINA is written and directed by Alex Garland.  From
the world's most powerful Internet company, Caleb, a software
engineer, has been chosen to spend a week as a guest of Nathan, the
company's reclusive founder.  Nathan is a technical and
entrepreneurial genius who lives and works at a highly secluded
house and lab.  There Caleb finds that during his visit he will be
asked to talk with a robot to determine if it is truly conscious or
just a machine.  Bits and ideas in the story are borrowed from
FRANKENSTEIN, BLADE RUNNER, HER, and even from film noir.  When the
story is all over there has been surprisingly little story told,
but the viewer will have been privy to some very sophisticated
philosophical ideas.  This is a film that respects the thinking
ability of the viewer, and if the intelligence is there it will be
rewarded.  Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10

BlueBook is the most successful search engine in the world after
having been created by the mega-wealthy and reclusive CEO Nathan
(played by Oscar Isaac).  Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is a young
software developer at Bluebook who wins a company contest for
programmers.  He will get to spend a week with Nathan at Nathan's
gorgeous and isolated home.  What he does not know is that he is
needed for an experiment.  Nathan has a robot Ava (Alicia Vikander)
with mostly human features.  She may also have actual consciousness
or she might be only a computer.  Nathan has brought Caleb all this
way to have daily interview sessions with Ava and at the end of the
week, Caleb will be asked if Ava is still just an automatic
computer or if she actually has consciousness.  From there EX
MACHINA had a plot that could have come from thirty-minute Twilight
Zone, but it is peppered with philosophical dialog about the nature
of computer intelligence and what it will mean to humanity.

We see a little of what makes Nathan tick.  He is a vulgar
alcoholic and he does little to cover this up for Caleb.  No doubt
a genius, he has mostly burned out knocking his head on the complex
question of the nature of human consciousness.  It is a puzzle for
the viewer to understand just how human Ava is and what does that
even mean?  She is maddeningly unemotional and that keeps her true
self hidden.  We see both though Caleb's eyes.  His personality is
the least developed of the three.  His passions are software coding
and logic, and he seems to have no other life.

The viewer is drawn into discussions of topics such as computer
awareness or whether a computer need a gender.  There are
interesting touches.  Just as Nathan created Ava, Nathan created
this complex computerized house.  Having created the house, he is
its master.  But for a short sequence in film Nathan loses the
authority to master the house and the house becomes the boss.  Can
the house master its own creator?

The story, written and directed by Alex Garland (who wrote 28 DAYS
LATER, SUNSHINE, and NEVER LET ME GO), unfolds slowly and precisely
among some cutting edge ideas.  It captures the viewer visually
with its cold colors of blue and gray.  Garland stays away from any
warmth.  Occasionally there is a thrumming on the soundtrack as if
there is some machine controlling even the supposedly free willed
humans.  It was filmed in Norway among stone mountains and cold,
snowy scenery.

This is a science fiction film that is mostly a cold exercise in
philosophy.  It is slow and deliberate.  Somehow it is appropriate
that this film should be released by Universal, the company that 84
years ago began the original Frankenstein series.  This is also a
film about humans creating the essence of life, but this time on a
chip.  This is science fiction without explosions, unless they are
explosions of ideas.  I rate EX MACHINA a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale
or 9/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



edited by Jonathan Strahan (copyright 2015, Solaris, 624pp,
paperback, ISBN-13 978-1781083093) (excerpt from the Duel Fish
Codices: a book review by Joe Karpierz)

I've been reading more short fiction recently.  I've often wanted
to read more short fiction, but never seemed to find a way to get
interested in doing it. However, now that I've been travelling for
work fairly frequently, I find anthologies and short story
collections are easier to read, as I don't feel as if I need to
read a large chunk of a book to make any progress.  I can read a
story or two, and stop when it's convenient.  I can stop at the end
of a story as the plane is about to land (Yes, I know, I can do the
same thing at the end of a chapter, but what do you do when you're
reading a book that has massively long chapters?).  Of course, the
downside is that I can stop at the end of a story and not pick the
book up for quite a while, which results in not finishing a book
for several months.

Once again, in an effort to just maybe get ahead of the Hugo short-
list game, I decided to read the latest in the series of Jonathan
Strahan's "The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year".  This
one is volume 9, covering stories that were published in 2014.  As
with any anthology, the stories are of varying quality, but there
are no bad stories here.  Strahan, an editor who reads short
fiction voraciously, is a veteran and accomplished compiler of
anthologies, and once again he does not disappoint.  The roster of
authors present in this volume reads like a who's who of science
fiction and fantasy short story writers, as you might expect.  And
the stories themselves are a reflection of those authors' abilities
and reputation.  I really don't know where to begin, so this may
ramble a bit.

Starting with the science fiction, as that is my first love, Peter
Watts gives us "Collateral", a story of a military cyborg who feels
deep remorse over accidentally killing a group of innocent people
she mistook as the enemy.  The story becomes one of morality and
ethics as, after Becker undergoes some work to deal with the
remorse that is crippling her, she makes a very interesting
decision regarding a freelance journalist who is doing a piece on
her. Elizabeth Bear's "Covenant" follows a convicted murderer is
given a new identity in part by not only undergoing a gender
transformation from male to female, but having his brain
functioning "corrected" to remove the bad stuff, while still
remembering everything he did in the past.  Bear then turns the
tables on the character as she is put in the same position as many
of her prior victims were. "Ten Rules for Being an Intergalactic
Smuggler (The Successful Kind), by Kelly Link, is an amusing tale
that gives us the story title's advice in the form of a story about
a smuggling operation gone horribly wrong.  "Amicae Aeternum", by
Ellen Klages is a brief but heartwarming tale of a young girl who
is about to embark upon a voyage in a generational starship and how
she spends her last day on Earth.  Rachel Swirsky's "Grande Jete
(The Great Leap)" is a gut wrenching tale about a man who is
building an android-like replacement for his daughter while she is
still alive; it is an interesting study of the reactions of all
three entities involved:  the father, the daughter, and the

There is no shortage of terrific fantasy stories here.  Nicola
Griffith's "Cold Wind" follows a woman who has been tracking down
another woman for years.  It is a story that gives us a bit of a
different meaning to the words predator and prey.  "The Scrivener",
by Eleanor Arnason, is an old fashioned fairy tale in a somewhat
modern setting, involving a father, his three daughters who he
wants to become writers, a critic, and a witch in a forest.  It's a
very nice read. Ellen Klages (yep, her second story of the
anthology) gives us "Caligo Lane", about a mysterious street in San
Francisco and the mystical woman who lives on it. "Tough Times All
Over", by Joe Abercrombie, is a just plain fun story of the comings
and goings of a mysterious object and all the folks who are
interconnected because they all want it.  It's light-hearted and
amusing, and well worth the read even if you can see where it's
going, in spots, a mile away.  Michael Swanwick's "Tawny
Petticoats" may be steampunk, but it feels more like a fantasy
(well, it does to me, anyway) about a scam that doesn't quite work
out the way it was supposed to.  Garth Nix delivers "Shay Corsham
Worsted", a story about a demon-like monster (I suppose that's
redundant) and his watcher, and what goes horribly wrong when the
government just doesn't listen (Funny, some things never change).
It's terrifying to think that while these particular set of
circumstances could not happen in real life, the government
screwing up something important that they themselves set up could
actually happen today and really throw things into a big mess.

There are some other stories that don't quite fit into either of
those categories, but are terrific nonetheless.  The most
disturbing is Caitlin R. Keirnan's  "Interstate Love Song (Murder
Ballad No. 8)", about a couple of travelling serial killers.  Tim
Maughan's "Four Days of Christmas" is both creepy and prophetic, as
those darned Santa Claus toy dolls that look at you and
automatically know your name just never seem to actually go away.
Then there's "Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary
Anthropology", which presents an interesting premise:  that a
country and its history can be created simply by thinking about it.
The deeper story, though, is the investigation and study of the
ethics of getting too involved with the people of that that

In the interest of brevity, I've left out several stories, but I
can list the authors whose stories I didn't discuss: Paolo
Bacigalupi, Lauren Beukes, Ken Liu, Genevieve Valentine, Greg Egan,
K J Parker, Karl schroeder, Ian McDonald, and James Patrick Kelly,
all well-known names in the field.  There are folks here whom I
honestly never heard of, but nonetheless provided some excellent
work:  Amal El-Mohtar, Kai Ashante Wilson, Alice Sola Kim, and
Usman T. Malik.

I'm pretty sure an anthology like this isn't easy to put together.
Strahan probably had to eliminate stories from this book due to
size constraints or contractual obligations. And yet, he came up
with a wonderful book.  There is, apparently, a wealth of good
short science fiction and fantasy being published every year, and
this is one place a reader can go to find some of it.  I highly
recommend this book for anyone who is looking for a sample of
2014's good short fiction.  Now I guess I need to go read Gardner
Dozois' anthology and see what it has in store for me.  [-jak]


(copyright 2015, Tachyon Publications, $25.95 Limited Hardcover,
ISBN 978-1-61696-192-3) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a
book review by Joe Karpierz)

I first became aware of Hannu Rajaniemi a few years ago when his
novel, THE QUANTUM THIEF, was published.  It was making a lot of
noise and getting a lot of attention, so I bought it.  And there it
sits, on my to-read stack, just like dozens of other books that I
want to read.  There was never any impetus to get me to read it, so
it continues to languish on the shelf.

It recently came to my attention that Tachyon Publications was
releasing a collection of Rajaniemi's short fiction.  I'd known
that he made a name for himself  in the short fiction arena before
THE QUANTUM THIEF was published,and I figured maybe short fiction
was the way to introduce myself to his work.  So I picked up HANNU

As with any other collection or anthology that I've ever read,
COLLECTED FICTION contains some really good stories, some pretty
good stories, some average stories, and one or two that just didn't
speak to me whatsoever.  Three of the first four stories completely
bowled me over: "The Server and the Dragon", which I had read
before in Jonathan Strahan's Engineering Infinity anthology, about
a sentient server in a lonely part of space who encounters another
entity known as the dragon which shows the server that there are
more things in life than just serving; "Tyche and the Ants", about
a lost colony on the moon, a story which for me is difficult to
describe; and "The Haunting of Apollo  A7LB", about a haunted
spacesuit that was hand sewn that is trying to return to Hazel, its
maker, and the one-time lover of the astronaut who wore it.

I think one of the things about this collection is that it displays
Rajaniemi's work as that of a writer who is not afraid to take
chances, maybe write things with a different style, maybe end
things where the reader does not expect them to end.  Not all of
the stories in COLLECTED FICTION (a very precise and unassuming
title, I might note) are different, but some of the better ones
are.  In addition to the stories I've already mentioned, "His
Master's Voice", a sort of cyberpunk, post-"something" type of
story, ends in a place I didn't expect, but is very satisfying.
"The Jugaad Cathedral" is a terrific cyberpunk gaming story--or is
it?--that I found gripping and involving.  "Invisible Planets" is a
sort of tour of the universe story with a lesson to teach, that was
for me a return to the kind of sense of wonder I got when I was
reading science fiction back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the
earth.  "Shibuya No Love" is an interesting take on the computer
dating scene, with that technology updated, once again, for the
cyberpunk crowd.  In this story, as in today's world, not all
matches will end in success and happiness.

I particularly enjoyed the super-short "Satan's Typist", which is
about just what it seems it's about, and "Skywalker of Earth", a
terrific adventure story that I believe is set in the same universe
as THE QUANTUM THIEF and its sequels.  "Skywalker" is the kind of
story where you don't really need to pay attention to the detail--
it's just a fun ride.  "Snow White is Dead" is an interesting piece
which Rajaniemi calls "neurofiction".  It grew out of an
interactive experience at the Edinburgh Science Festival in 2013
where the reader wears a device for measuring brain waves that
sends the information to a computer that attempts to determine
which way the story should go based on the reader's response to
given stimulii.  While the version of the story that is presented
in this book is clearly not interactive, it is based on what were
the most common paths chosen by readers at the demonstrations.
It's actually quite and engaging and disturbing story--one I truly

Other stories, while among those that didn't particularly speak to
me, were well done and nicely written.  In that group I would
include "Fisher of Men", a sort of sinister mermaid tale; and
"Paris In Love", which shows us that indeed, "hell hath no fury
like a woman scorned"

There is enough good stuff in this volume to make me want to pick
up THE QUANTUM THIEF, which is still sitting forlornly on my to-
read stack.  As I write this, however, the 2015 Hugo Nominations
will be announced in about two weeks, and my attention will be
diverted elsewhere.  Still, I'm convinced that I should make a more
concerted effort in that direction.  I feel as if I won't be
disappointed if I do so.  [-jak]


TOPIC: And Now It's Time to Vote on Those 2015 Hugos! (a gloat by
Dale Skran)

It is that time of the year again when faithful(?) fans everywhere
put fingers to keyboard and write bitter words attacking this or
that Hugo nominee, or this or that slate of Hugo nominations.  This
year seems to be especially fruitful in terms of the large number
of bitter words being generated, and I have no desire to step
between the "Sad Puppies," the "Rabid Puppies," and their supposed
elitist enemies.  In fact, I plan to hunker down and actually read
what was nominated and vote for what I like, and then of course
rush out and try to persuade my friends to vote the same way, just
like usual.

This year for Hugo for Best Novel I nominated:

THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir from Orbit US/Gollancz
WAR DOGS by Greg Bear from Orbit US/Gollancz
ANCILLARY SWORD by Ann Leckie from Orbit US/Orbit UK
ULTIMA by Stephan Baxter from Gollancz
ON THE STEEL BREEZE by Alastair Reynolds from Ace

It seems like my nominations ran into the "Puppy" buzz-saw, and
only ANCILLARY SWORD made it to the ballot.  However, I note that
SKIN GAME, a Harry Dresden novel by Jim Butcher, did appear on the
ballot.  It is my understanding that some controversy surrounds
this, with SKIN GAME being on the Puppy slate, but Butcher saying
he didn't agree to any such thing.  Don't let this farble get in
the way of reading a good book.  The Harry Dresden series is one of
my favorite dark-fantasy worlds, and it just keeps getting better.

My nominations for Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

INTERSTELLAR directed by Christopher Nolan
LUCY directed by Luc Besson
EDGE OF TOMORROW directed by Doug Liman
ASCENSION directed by Williams
CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER directed by Anthony and Joe Russo

Here I called it "right" 3/5 times--INTERSTELLAR, EDGE OF TOMORROW,
and WINTER SOLDIER.  They are all well worth seeing, but I'll be
voting INTERSTELLAR #1.  GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY would have been on
my list if I had to nominate 10 films instead of 5.  It's a lot of
fun, and visually stunning.  I haven't seen THE LEGO MOVIE, and am
a bit surprised to see it on the ballot from the trailers I've
viewed, but mileage varies.   I still urge you to see LUCY and
ASCENSION if you can--both are good, interesting SF films.  Don't
be put off by the violence in LUCY--in many ways the plot makes
more sense than that of TRANSCENDENCE.

My nominations for Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

"Governed as it Were By Chance" from Orphan Black/Series 2
"To Hound Nature in Her Wanderings" from Orphan Black/Series 2
"Twilight's Last Gleaming" from CW/The 100/Series 1
"The Flash (pilot)" from CW/The Flash/Series 1
"What they become" from  ABC/Agents of Shield

I am delighted to see that an ORPHAN BLACK episode, although not
one I nominated, made the ballot.  As you no doubt know, I think
this system of voting for episodes of a series is absurd, and am
happy to see that no more than one episode of the same series was
nominated, thus allowing the Short Form Hugo to approximate the
"Best SF TV Show" award rather than the "Best Dr. Who Episode"
award.  I am also happy to see THE FLASH (pilot), which I did
nominate, on the ballot.  It is hard to inveigh against GAME OF
THRONES.  I've just finished watching the most recent season
available on DVD, which includes the nominated episode, and it is a
worthy contender.  However, GAME OF THRONES has won a Hugo before,
and I urge you to watch ORPHAN BLACK and vote it #1. Although I
don't watch GRIMM, I'm happy to see it on the ballot rather than
another DR. WHO episode.  GRIMM has a fandom, and it deserves

In any case, I will most likely vote for the Short Form Hugo as
follows (and note that I am leaving those idiotic episode names off
in this list!):

#5--DR. WHO

Anyway, I am pleased to see three TV series that I regularly watch
and like on the Hugo Short Form ballot! And I am immensely pleased
to see only one Dr. Who episode nominated!

I said I would ignore the "politics" of these so-called "slates",
but there are some aspects I would like to address.  First, it has
always been true that the Hugo nominations system is *very*
susceptible to bloc voting, and especially to bloc nominations.
Bloc voting went on all the time--but the blocs were not very
large--or very organized.  Partially as a result of the actions of
these "small blocs" some works of low quality and narrow interest
get nominated every year.  And every single year many excellent
works fail to appear on the Hugo ballot.  This is almost inevitable
in a system with many quality works from many sources with no
formal means of calling attention to good works. With the Internet
it is possible to organize larger and more powerful blocs. The only
surprising thing is that it took this long for the "political
puppies" to emerge.

Second, traditionally there were two United States Worldcons to one
international Worldcon.  This had the tendency, taking into account
multi-year voting, of keeping a more or less "even keel" in the
voting population.  More recently, there have been both a greater
percentage and longer runs of international Worldcons. This has had
the natural tendency to skew the voting away from the tastes of
American fans.  With two "all-American" Worldcons coming up, it is
only natural for there to be a significant change in what gets
nominated even if there was no bloc voting.  I don't want to make
too much of this effect, but it is probably present.

Third, I've seen calls for "changing the electorate" of the
Worldcon in response to the "Puppy slate" situation.  I caution the
advocates of this approach to beware of what you ask for.  I have
become increasingly aware that Worldcon SF is becoming more and
more estranged from the mainstream of "nerd culture."  This culture
is now almost entirely media and game focused, and vastly larger
than literary SF fandom.  Many Worldcon SF fans hold media fans and
gaming fans in contempt.  If the membership of Worldcon was truly
representative of the fandom of 2015, it would be much more media
and gaming focused, and *much* younger.  And I think that the
people currently so worried about the "Puppies" would be quite
unhappy with the resultant Hugo nominees.

Fourth, there has been for a long time an informal process by with
an "elite group" created a "canon" of good SF *before* the Hugos
each year.  As you may suspect, I am referring to the SFWA Nebula
awards.  The nominations for the Nebula close on February 15th, and
voting starts March 1st, but the deadline for Hugo nominations is
March 10th.  Thus, the Nebula nominations serve as a guide to what
the SF writing professionals consider good SF for the previous
year.  It is also true that the Nebula winners are announced in
June, and the Hugo voting deadline is the end of July.  There can
be little doubt that over the years the Nebula process influenced
the outcome of the Hugos.  SFWA is, of course, not a "bloc voting"
organization, but one suspects that most SFWA members also vote for
Hugos, and that they most probably vote for stories that were
nominated for or won the Nebula.  Thus, the Hugos are often called
a "popular" award, but they have lived in the shadow of an "elite"
award for a long time.  If someone wanted the Hugos to better
reflect the taste of the average SF fan, changing the deadlines so
the Nebula had less influence would be one approach.

Fifth, and most importantly, there are those that are campaigning
to have "No Award" win in every category that appears to have been
affected by a slate.  This would be a sad outcome indeed, and might
lead to a permanent schism in fandom.  Far better to actually read
the stories, and vote for what you like best.  Maybe that does turn
out to be "No Award" but at least make it an honest "No Award" and
not a political "No Award."  Maybe, just maybe, you will encounter
an author like Jim Butcher that up until now you've never read, and
possibly learn something from the experience.

No doubt some will interpret the above comments as being
sympathetic to the various "Puppy" slates.  Nothing could be
further from the truth.  In particular, Vox Day seems so far to the
right as to make Jerry Pournelle appear liberal.  Just because Mr.
Day for some reason quite unclear to me seemed to like INTERSTELLAR
and THE FLASH does not mean that these excellent works should be
voted below "No Award" in an act of political spite.  If that
occurs, it will be a disaster of vast proportions.  As you probably
know, I consider INTERSTELLAR the best SF film of the last twenty
years, and probably in the top five SF films of all time.  For the
Worldcon membership to, in what amounts to a fit of pique, refuse
to award the Hugo to INTERSTELLAR because Vox Day and some friends
of his liked the film will create a stain on the Hugo that will
never wash off.  [-dls]

Evelyn notes:

Regarding media- and game-focused fans, I'll just quote the first
two sections of the WSFS Constitution (emphasis mine):

Section 1.1: Name. The name of this organization shall be the World
Science Fiction Society, hereinafter referred to as WSFS or the
Section 1.2: Objectives. WSFS is an unincorporated *literary*
society whose functions are:
(1)        To choose the recipients of the annual Hugo Awards
(Science Fiction Achievement Awards)...

Fans wanting a non-literary focus have lots of other organizations
and conventions to choose from: Dragoncon, San Diego ComicCon, and
about a bazillion other media conventions.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Cable Channels, Hugo Voting System, and Terry Pratchett
(letter of comment by John Purcell)

In response to Mark's comments on Turner Classic Movies in the
04/24/15 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:

I am very saddened that all our efforts to badger, cajole, and
protest Suddenlink, our cable television provider, to reinstate the
Viacom channels has come to naught, so we still do not receive TCM
channel, in addition to Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and many
others.  We did, however, acquire Pivot (which is mostly stupid
programming, but redeems itself by running BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
and FIREFLY) and BBC America, for which we are definitely glad.
BBC America has become one of our most watched channels now since
TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, and SHERLOCK.  There are some new series
coming up there that we're looking forward to, such as RIPPER
STREET.  So that was a good acquisition, but we miss Comedy Central
and TCM.  Bugger!

Mark replies:

We get TCM so I should not complain.  But we don't get BBC America
and that is the one big missing station for us.  [-mrl]

In response to Evelyn's explanation of how to vote for "No Award"
for the Hugos in the same issue, John writes:

Your brief explanation on how the Hugo voting system works is
helpful to those who find the entire Hugo Award madness, well,
maddening.  The thing to remember the most about this berserk
system is that voters need to rank each of the choices from first
to last so that their primary choices earn the most votes/points to
stay in the running.  I have long found this to be a very silly
method, and obviously those writers with large, faithful followers
will have an edge with this system.  This is why I consider the
Hugo Awards irrelevant to my tastes, even though I have voted in
recent years to essentially put in my two cents worth.  Nothing I
ever vote for ever wins anyway, but I will still attempt to swing
it around based on my consideration of quality of work rather than
who it is.  My take on the Hugo Awards is that they are no longer
the "science fiction field's Oscar equivalent", but more like the
SF field's equivalent of the Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards.  In
the next issue of my paperzine, Askew, I will be espousing on that
for a few paragraphs, but I thought you'd like this analogy
especially since it fits in with your commentary.

Evelyn notes:

Writers with large, faithful followers will have an edge in any
system.  However, IMHO the current system (known as "Instant
Runoff") gives them less of an edge than other systems.

For example, the Oscars are what's called "First Past the Post",
meaning everyone votes for one of the nominees, and whichever gets
the most votes, even if it's only 20%-plus-episilon (in a five-
nominee field), wins.  But it could easily be that everyone who did
not vote for the winner might have put the same film second on
their list, and one can argue that would be a better winner
(particularly if the first-place vote-getter was listed last on
everyone else's ballots).  This is not a completely unlikely
result; one year that I was a Best Fan Writer nominee I think I was
in first place after the first round, but never picked up another
vote in the elimination rounds.  See for more information.

And finally, John writes:

It was very sad to read about Terry Pratchett's passing. I do enjoy
the Discworld series.  They are a lot of fun, and I certainly wish
I had met him. Everybody who has tells me Sir Terry was a great
guy.  RIP, kind sir.

With that, I think I'm done here.  Many thanks for firing the issue
my way, so next week let's see what else you folks have on tap.


TOPIC: No Award (letters of comment by Steve Coltrin, Ben Yalow,
and David Goldfarb)

In response to Evelyn's comments on "No Award" in the 05/01/15
issue of the MT VOID, Steve Coltrin writes:

[Evelyn said,] "Let's say you have read one story and really hated
it.  It might seem that you want to vote "No Award" first, that
story second, and nothing else voted on.  WRONG!  When you do this,
you are basically voting *for* the story."

Per Kevin Standlee, that turns out not to be the case, and rating a
work below No Award will not result in a scenario in which it wins
but would not have had you left it off your ballot:

(I once did myself believe otherwise, on the always-trustworthy
basis of I Read It On Usenet Once, and the chestnut has hoared
mightily for years.  This problem might not plague us if we spoke
Pinnacle Sherpa, but then we'd have other problems.)  [-sc]

But Ben Yalow writes:

In the two-candidate (No Award and the one story) case, that's

However, if there are other stories you want to rate, then rating a
story below No Award can give it a win when it wouldn't otherwise
have done so.

Consider the following case:

50 people vote for work A, and no other
49 people vote for work B, and no other

Two people vote for No Award, then work B.

If those two ballots didn't exist, then work A wins.  However,
those two ballots have No Award eliminated in the first round, and
their votes redistributed to work B, which now wins 51-50.  [-by]

David Goldfarb responds:

Well, presumably those two people preferred the award going to B
(if it *must* be given) over A, so they're happy that they put B on
their ballots.

I haven't read SKIN GAME, and probably won't, but I've heard some
good things about Butcher's work in general.  I tried to read
THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS and set it aside, uttering the Eight
Deadly Words, after reading about a quarter of it.  If the Hugo
*must* be given to one of the Puppy nominees, I'd far rather it
go to SKIN GAME.  So both go below No Award, but DARK goes
last and SKIN GAME goes above it.  [-dg]

Evelyn responds:

Mea culpa.  I forgot that there is an additional test for No Award
winning, namely that it beats the second-place finisher in a head-
to-head race.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

NATIONS by Adam Smith (ISBN 978-0-553-58597-1), but will admit that
I got bogged down in the examples being given in pre-decimal
English currency, and using various obscure legal terms to boot.
(I know what an entailment is, but that is probably the extent of
my specialized knowledge.)  However, I did have a few observations
on the first part.

Speaking of each workman, Smith says, "He supplies them abundantly
with what they have occasion for, and they accommodate him as amply
with what he has occasion for, and a general plenty diffuses itself
through all the different ranks of the society."  This reminded me
of Herman Melville's thought in MOBY DICK, "Well, then, however the
old sea-captains may order me about--however they may thump and
punch me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all
right; that everybody else is one way or other served in much the
same way--either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that
is; and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands
should rub each other's shoulder-blades, and be content."

"Nobody ever saw one animal, by its gestures and natural cries
signify to another, this is mine, that is yours; I am willing to
give this for that."  Even now, 240 years later[*], this remains
true.  While some primates have been taught to exchange one
physical object for another (apparently capuchin monkeys have even
been trained to "understand and use" money), they do not come up
with this idea on their own, and when they are removed from the
(human) environment where they learned it, they stop doing it.  (I
suppose there might be any number of reasons for this that would
not totally preclude its possibility.)

[*] It's easy to remember when THE WEALTH OF NATIONS was written:

"In almost every other race of animal, each individual, when it is
grown up to maturity, is entirely independent, and in its natural
state has occasion for the assistance of no other living creature."
At first glance, this is true, since he said "almost": obvious
exceptions are social insects such as ants and bees.  However, in
general, it seems as though while many other animals naturally live
in social groups, isolated individuals can survive.

But there is a catch.  Isolated modern human beings can also manage
to survive, though Smith would say it was at nowhere near their
normal mode of living.  However, this is true of most other animals
as well, because in fact, avoiding predators is something that many
animals rely on "safety in numbers."  A lone wildebeest may be able
to find food and water, but it will not be successful in avoiding
predators for long.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           One of the most amazing things about mathematics
           is the people who do math aren't usually
           interested in application, because mathematics
           itself is truly a beautiful art form.  It's
           structures and patterns, and that's what we love,
           and that's what we get off on.
                                           --Danica McKellar