Thursday, July 02, 2015

Not seen but never out of Mind.


As I went to the Folies Bergère
The King In Yellow wasn’t there
Nor hovering above the Moulin Rouge
With streamers on his pointy shoes.

As I went to the Eiffel Tower
I did not see Carcosa glower
Across the waters of the Seine
I haven’t got it on my brain.

I do not see the vast dark lake,
In every piece of gateau-cake,
Nor is my thought a running sameness,
That always returns to the nameless.

I do not see the two moons move,
Over the colonaded Louvre,
I do not hear Cassilda's Song,
Played in a tempo somehow wrong.

I did not see The Queen in Red
eating jam tarts in the Bed.
I do not see anything surprising,
Since the play’s curtain's awful rising.

I did not see the second Act,
When to the drownings, they react,
I left when Princes failed their quest,
My heart felt heavy in its breast.

My brother stayed to watch it all,
The doom that on them all would fall,
I do not see my brother now,
Save as the warders may allow.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

SHORT STORY

CONCERNING YOU SLEEPY ZOMBIES.

[Author’s note: the technical terms have been translated into human equivalents throughout.  This signal was decoded after many years of NASA work.  We can not know how long it will be before the decision it calls for is made.]

Galactinet – General Voting Issue – Status of Planet Earth.
Consciousness Reclamation Commission Report (CRC) : Our drones have now been surveying the planet since the late 40s of the preceding century their dating[i], (roughly 60 of our standard years) and we have archived considerable evidence of the nature of the problem as it has developed here.  Drones are low decision-capable subAI systems whose primary goals are data-capture and whose primary skills are avoidance. On non-conscious worlds they are undetectable by the inhabitants as they are structured so as not to trigger flight/fight response circuits in brain stem structures[ii].  They are faintly translucent, pallid discs with no exterior claw-like or teeth like impaling shapes and in flight are unlike any known natural predation silhouette[iii]. The discs are set to gather medical data.
To re-cap – we are aware of a consciousness destroyer virus (CDV) seeded by non-conscious agents into the Arrhenius life-spores[iv] of this area, and no species exhibiting its effects can be safely re-integrated into uplifted Galactic Society as a single/multi conscious stable entity until the effects have been removed. Where the effects are ingrained, the majority – or even the entirety of the life chain on the world in question may need to be excised. Before the committee is the review of the drone data and its synthesis from the planet in question.
The problem in fine, in respect of this world, is that the uppermost species (and the majority of surveyed lower species developed from the same panspermia strike) has developed a consciousness which is affected with CDV-62198-15(g11-13) but has been nevertheless proved capable of maintaining a working – if less than primary functional society.  The issue is – is such a society an acceptable re-integration candidate, or one which should be rejected? and if the latter should the world be interdicted or purged?  The adaption is essentially a medical one which is detailed below.
If CDV-62198-15(g11-13) were functioning normally (normally here carries, naturally, no sense of approval) the following events would have transpired when the infected population reached a trigger number of around 1 billion. It is unclear exactly how this is mediated though it has been suggested that when single males between the ages of 16-26 exceed a certain fraction of the population[v] stress effects can trigger war and violence, and that the hormonal changes coded for by increased fight/flight responses in the brain-stem can trigger CDV-62198.  Once triggered it: produces a medical complex comprising seven sub-symptomologies:
(1) Six genes on chromosome 15 are supressed creating an effect similar to partial Prader-Willis Syndrome[vi] - uncontrollable hunger, lack of muscle co-ordination, and obsessive repetitive behaviour. Note PW Syndrome alone is in no way a bar to galactic uplift, nor is any evolutionary caused genetic diversion.
(2) Fine-fibre dendritic webs in the brain, coarsen and cease to vibrate. This has a disruptive effect on self-modeling and the carteasian consciousness, as predicted by holonomic brain theory[vii]   [Author’s note – the alien terms are especially difficult to translate here, if in doing so I have neglected to pick your favourite origin-of-consciousness theory, do not let that distract you from the content of the signal.]
(3) CDV itself becomes an active viral package, infiltrating and switching cells particularly skin cells, and gut enterocytes, into CDV factories, infecting all bodily fluids of victim.  The virus acts as a epigenetic agent within the body, setting off stages 4,5,6,and 7.  In the gut it builds a subprocessor network of sub-brain tissue which it can use to ‘order’ violent action.
(3b) A minor side-effect of 3 is essentially lactose intolerance, where an infectee has eaten milk or cheese products within one-two hours of a CDV infection, this subset of symptoms can trigger – abdominal bloating, gas, cramps, diarrhea, nausea, borborygni, and vomiting. Any liquid expelled in vomiting of diarrhea will be CDV infected. This additional early on-set infectivity is ‘helpful’ to the CDV virus.
(4) Cortical changes linking pleasure centres to the biting reflex over-write the normal mammalian model. This is essentially an induced odaxelagnia.[viii]
(5)  Hypertropism of pleasure centres.
(6) Epigenetic mutations are forced on the three genes SCN9A: W897X, located in the P-loop of domain 2; I767X, located in the S2 segment of domain 2; and S459X, located in the linker region between domains 1 and 2. This results in a truncated non-functional protein. Nav1.7 and an incapacity to respond to pain.
(7) The parasympathetic nervous system that mediates the shut down of the fight-or-flight begins to decay, and be re-absorbed into the body.
The creature resulting from this set of cascading changes – is ravenous, unthinking, infectous, keen to tear and rend, derives what sole satisfaction it can from destruction, feels little or no pain itself, and can exert its stored-muscular strength for a considerable period.  It is a Zombie.  A CDV mediated Zombie infection is a deliberately induced conscious world-limiter and must be considered enemy action.
In the case in question
Due to an as yet undetermined glitch the CDV virus triggered during the evolution of the worlds population from lower forms, not at the 1 billion point, and has been present at sub-viral load levels endemic throughout the mammalian population. Over evolutinary time-scales three potential flaws in the genetics of the worlds’ creatures have so actived as to, in general, limit the effects of the virus. Creatures prone to the potential ‘trigger’ who did not have these limiters were destroyed, and consequently the three limiters – which we ourselves do not have, and which are evolutionarily suboptimal have persisted, in the infected population. [Author's note this can be seem in ordinary human medicine where a propensity for sicle-cell anemia persists - though disadventageous - in populations based in malerial endemic areas. The damage of the former impacts later on 'breeding sucess', than death from the latter.]
(1) For reasons which may be glandular the dendritic web thickening occurs throughout the infected population but it is cyclic and limited to around five to eight hours per day per subject.  This produces a period in which consciousness is shut down, it appears to be triggered by (i) low levels of light intensity, (ii) low levels of blood-sugar concentration – possibly linked to co-opting of gut-cells at (3) above.
This is Sleep a weird – astonishly limiting state which we do not require as the mechanisms for removing fatigue poisons in our cells and cataloguing items in our brains are more efficient.
(2) A mutation links the above drop in consciousness, which in a true-weaponised zombie would result in a creature functioning as a ravening maniac, to a condition, we rarely experience, that of muscular atonia.  While the brain stem areas governing neural activity the pontine tegmentum and the locus coeruleus continue to fire the muscles do not respond – the zombie on this world remains safely in its bed.  If it ‘sleepwalks’ it does not respond – generally – to violent impulses.
This doubles the danger of sleep leaving the person subject to it, highly vulnerable while they can not move.
(3) A substantial part of the population have developed better digestive tract flora than we possess thereby, symbiotically side-stepping the problems of CDV digestive tract penetration.  They retain a ‘feeling’ of at times being ordered by their guts, which is due to the CDV attempting to co-opt their central nervous system.
However – the trace activation of the CDV, and the interaction of the random mutations for sleep and sleep aponia, have acted in tandem to effect cultural evolution.
(i) The hypertropism of the pleasure centres, has diverted the society into a number of unusual sociological pathways, but the fixation on odaxelagnia has either not taken, or has been subsumed into a variety of equally valid pleasure facilitating actions. Alone of the known conscious forms stemming from human arrehenius-spore impact, the species mates more than twelve times in its lifetime. [This explains the rapid growth of the  world population].  Sleeping and vulnerable every night the creatures have – in the majority – pair-bonded on extended timescales and developed unprecedented levels of transgender bonding. Heterosexuality, unlike among ourselves, is rampant and accepted.
(ii) The lower pain thresh-hold and disinclination to disengage from being co-opted into a fight/flight mode, caused by CDV-syndrome, has left the conscious entities when not ‘asleep’ aggressive, prone to territorial conflict and – when not involved in war – obesity (due to the partial repression of ‘satiety’ signals.
So gentle-beings – what are we to do with this world of “sleepy” zombies, of “kinky” lovers, of ‘happy’ families, of “dangerous” warriors, of "cuddly" chubbies?  They are not destroyed, but are they destroyers?  Can they be integrated into our sleepless, predominantly sexless, non-familial, peaceful, thin culture?
The matter is before your voting pads. The decision is yours.



[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Arnold_UFO_sighting
[ii] http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/cells/fight_flight/
[iii] http://www.birdcontrolsolutions.net/en/shop/articles/C/C-08.php
[iv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panspermia
[v] http://www.culturechange.org/issue19/overpop_terrorism.htm
[vi] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prader%E2%80%93Willi_syndrome
[vii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holonomic_brain_theory
[viii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odaxelagnia

Monday, June 29, 2015

A brief history of the Hugo awards - the file 770 compiliation [as credited]

Many thanks to - the indefatigable Kyra who kicked this off, and whose astonishingly good contributions are included below (SBJ).  Also to in historical not posting order: Cubist, Ginger, GSLamb, Camestros Felapton, Simon Bisson "A Hugo A Hugo!", Greg, CPACA, Mike, Johan P,
Red Wombat, Seth Gordon, Ultragotha, idontknow, mc simon milligan, Brian Z, Jack Lint, Stevie, Chris Hensley, and Soon Lee.


Precosmic era  [Cubist wrote:]
Sadly, no records whatsoever have survived from UrCon (ca. 13.8 gigayears Before Present Era). From what little physical evidence has survived, we can surmise that one of the events was some sort of fireworks display that got exceedingly out of hand.

Prehumanic Awards [Ginger wrote:]
Well, the only remaining documents from Laetolicon (3.7 million years ago) are the footnotes, so whether they dealt with slate dominating over schist or even obsidian, we’ll never know. What is clear, though, is that they actually had aliens invading their territory. If only we could have retrieved their documents! Alas. Let this be a warning to you all: always save your documents in multiple formats, across different platforms.

[GSLamb wrote]
If I recall correctly, H.G.Wells won one of the first Hugos for The Time Machine at CONGAEA (roughly 300 mya).  I lost my ballot for this in the big flood, but I remember putting Audrey Niffenegger’sThe Time Traveller’s Wife above it.
A later, earlier rule change brought in by recourse to H. Beam Piper's time police prohibits works being eligible - before they're written (SBJ)

Pre-history and Early History (including some retro-HUGOs awarded by Bishop Usher whose attempt to prove that the first HUGO ceremony was in 4004 BC has since been widely disregarded.)

[Camestros Felapton wrote:] 
Have we discussed the year 15000 BCE Hugo winner for best fan artist yet? I thought it was a strong entry. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lascaux
[Bisson comments:]
Fan artist? No, they were Pro all the way. That’s the cover art for Mammoths and Hunters, an early RPG.
[Greg wrote] re: 15000 BCE fan artist: Well, of course Lascaux won! They flooded the voting pool. I thought the group from Altamira was significantly stronger, but clearly the Hugos disagreed.
[There was however some disagreement at the time, as CPACA notes:]
Grog say, Og picture “Deer running from fire” on wall Big Cave Over Water not deserve Hugo, Best Graphic Story. Fire servant of Storm God, come from lightening! Grog tired stupid religious themes passed off as science fiction. Go tell it to shamans!
Grog also tired “Best Graphic Story” – someone invent writing! Grog has spoken.
[I have to refer the reader to the evidence in the Doctor Who story "An Unearthly Child"
- "Orb will not give HUGO to you!" (SBJ).

[as Ginger notes]
With respect to controversy, need I mention that people are still arguing over the Original Controversy? The novella that is still published as “Genesis”, in which the main characters are created from “earth” — clearly science fiction, come on — and so on; the schisms created by the warring camps has only grown greater with the centuries since its publication. In contrast, Gilgamesh was completely overlooked, probably because it was mis-labeled a saga and not best novel; there may also have been some anti-Ur sentiment floating around. And what has ever been nominated out of the Aztec, or Pueblo/Hopi/Zuni, or indeed, any of the native North American traditions? They’ve clearly been completely blocked off by a shadowy cabal.

[Mike] Re native North American traditions?” I have it on the highest authority that the answer is Vox Day. The Voice will tell you himself! I thought the Voice was — historically speaking — a miniature equid, or a little horse?

(This appears to be a mistake - the voice of God is of course Metaton - and in a staggeringly organicist statistical fluke no transforming truck with delusions of godhood has ever won a Hugo.  SBJ)

[Johan P comments:] Oh, they completely swept the ballot in the years when WorldCon was held in America. It’s just a shame the reports from those cons never reached European fen, and nothing survives today. The closest we come to remember pre-columbian Worldcons in America is Leif Ericssons saga, about a group of Norse fens and their failed attempt to reach the IroqCon. 

[Red Wombat writes:]
Alas, they never got further than Newfoundland and I don’t buy for a minute those claims by Joseph Smith that he located the original ballots from Tezcatlipocon held in Seventeenth Jaguar Year. All those ballots and not a single vote for Doctor Who? Puh-leaze.

[Seth Gordon wrote:]
I still bear a grudge against Raamsescon for giving the Hugo to “Genesis”. It’s an entertaining yarn, I’ll admit, but to earn a major award you ought to do more than hack together a scroll full of clichés. (“Adam” and “Eve”? Really?) And the “Cain and Abel” subplot is a complete ripoff from DC Comics.
[Ultragotha comments]
Oh, I don’t know, Seth. It may have gotten off to a slow start but I liked the later story arcs. The flood thing with the animals was pretty good. Sure, it’d already been done in Gilgamesh, but I thought the details on building the ark were pretty well written. The framing of having the specs come from God broke up all the ShipPorn pretty well.
[Camestros Felapton wrote:]
 thought it was adapted from that Egyptian Manga – Set & Osiris.
[Simon Bisson]. Actually the Egyptians were pioneers of the ligne clair style that was later adopted to document the adventures of Belgian journalists in the near East (and later globally).
[Camestros Felapton recognises the reference:]
Ah yes – the great pantheon: Horus! Isis! Ra! Captain Haddock! *Choke*

date unclear

Of course very few remember the scandal of the West Saxony Aulde Worlde Con when the epic poem Beowulf was left off ye liste of nominees in total due to no one knowing the name of ye aulde author. [posted by idontknow]   [SBJ notes: it is odd that a contemporary con describes itself as Aulde Worlde, it is likely this refers to a Con considerably later than Beowulf retconning it an award,
perhaps dating to the division of West and East Saxony.]


mc simon milligan said:


I still think Zhuang Zhou was robbed at Panhelicon XII in 392 BCE when his short story “The Butterfly’s Dream” wasn’t even nominated due mostly to the Greek’s notorious xenophobia.
[Other's criticised the Greek's influence on the Hellenistic HUGOs with multiple wins for HOMER - which he obviously only got due to an SJW sympathy vote for his blindness - I mean "wine-dark sea" is that a believably evocative description? (SBJ)

[CPACA wrote]
Oh, I thought the dreadful decline in the quality of the Hugo nominees was traced back to Aristotle. Damn him.
Frankly I think Socrates was pushing it. I don’t think there has been a truly deserving winner since Pythagoras.

1066 - precursors of the Hugos - "The Haralds" [posted by Johan P]
When we complain about this year’s (2015 SBJ) puppy ruckus, it behooves us to remember that it’s blissfully peaceful compared to some historic debates – like the fights over proposals for “Best Saga” and “Best Graphic Novel” categories in the early 11th century. 
The traditional methods of slates and ballot-stuffing have always worked well for the award voting, but they’re less effective at the thing (business meeting) where only attending members can vote. So the main proponent of Best Saga, King Harald Hardråde of Norway, assembled an army and marched at the 1066 Con in order to force the thing to accept his proposal. However, Harald lost the battle of Stamford Bridge, and to this day there’s still no Hugo award for Best Saga.
With both Harald and his Best Saga proposal dead and buried, Duke William of Normandy had free hands to ram through his proposal for Best Graphic Novel, with the Bayeux Tapestry as the first winner.

[Note this had popular support at time, Ultragotha bardic cycle declaims:]

I think The Heliand belongs in Best Related Work.
(For those who are unaware, it is a re-telling of the Gospel aimed at pre-Christian Saxons, for use in converting them to Christianity by a less bloody means than Charlemagne used, and probably a basis of the “Holy Warrior for Christ” medieval movement, which fed into the Arthurian Matter of Britain.)

[Bisson writes:]
Also, the I think we’re all forgetting the first ever best novel Hugo, awarded to mononymical Wace for his Roman De Brut in 1155, where he created possibly the longest running shared world fantasy series, and certainly the first one to become a multimedia hit: The Camelotiad. His best known character, the boy-become-King, Arthur has been reinterpreted by many authors in novels, film, and comics.
I’m expecting he’ll be a shoo-in for the first Best Saga Hugo, with new books being added to the series more than 900 years after first publication.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wace Tapestry for Best Graphic S/t/o/r/y/ Embroidery.
1.:  the first "HUGO" award?.  1197 AD (Winner in bold)
The award itself dates back to 1197 and Bishop Hugo de Rainault (brother of the then Sherrif of Nottingham) who it will be remembered offered ‘a mighty prize for the most puissant account of how yon addlepate knave Robin Earle yclept Loksley might best be set about his heels.’

(It's now clear de Rainault used poor communications which meant the name could appear novel in the Nottingham area to 'steal' the name of an existing award - thank heavens unscrupulous men could never do that now.  The 'Haralds' were probably also 'Hugos' and the original name dates back at least as far as the "Hydrogen Universe Great Origin" Point or 377,000 years post Big Bang  (SBJ))

The original silver arrow has now become over time the stylised ‘rocket robin hood’ shape of the current award. 

Contenders at this period and later under Richard 1st - include:
“Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, and William Langland, who were all know to be bald and to have problems with short jerkins on rising are sometimes (following the suggestion of academic John Burrow) collectively called the Picardian Poets.”  [sbj post].

2: 1378  (Winner in bold)

The award nominations for best Modern English Poem(1) we we would now refer to this as Middle English, but when we were in the Middle we didn’t know we weren’t near the end –

Piers Plowman’s Puppeteers – in which two headed alien cowards show a plowman the wonders of the heavens. Its unrhymed alliterative verse was called ‘sub-judicial work’ and the SJW, slur was first used in anger.

Michael Moorcock’s The Pearl (he added the Fortress and Elric in later re-writes),

and the poem Cleanliness – which was no awarded as being basically the same when placed next to the previous years Godliness.

[Seigneur Simon Bisson - notes how the medieval rules worked]

And of course there is the long forgotten recourse to the Clameur De Hugo when one feels the rules have been violated. To do so one must kneel in front of a member of the WSFS Mark Protection committee and recite “Hugo! Hugo! Hugo! A l’aide mon prince! On me fait tort!” followed by the Lord’s Prayer in Jersey-French. The convention must then enter the Committee of the Whole and debate your petition without delay.

[Greg writes:]
  1. Seriously? We’re not going to talk about Best Dramatic, Long Form? I still haven’t forgiven the KnownWorldCon committee of 1595 for ruling that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was ineligible because, and I QUOTE:
    “Fairies are obviovsly real, and are yerefore no more fcience fiction than travelrs from ye future-landf, as ovr gentle-visitor Glyer of the Americas can attest. William Shakespeare’s comedy is yerefore DISQUALIFYED.” Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus only won the 1595 Hugo because the best fantasy play ever written was removed from the ballot.
    Sure, they gave Shakespeare the 1611 Hugo for The Tempest to make up for it, but Ben Jonson’s Oberon The Fairy Prince was the superior Dramatic Presentation that year, as none other than Samuel Pepys pointed out:
    “Up betimes and to the Hugos, where the Lord has seen fit to reward an inferior writer of an inferior work over Jonson. My mind is most agitated by this, and I believe I shall swear off both wine and plays.”
    I’d ask how it’s possible that Ben Jonson never won a Hugo with nine nominations, but given his disgraceful treatment of certain time-travelers, I think we all know the answer to that. Mike and others who were there can speak to that more directly, but I won’t bring up the shameful incidents here.
    Side note: does anyone know how Samuel Pepys got from 1660 to 1611?
3. circa 1590 [posted by Brian Z] 

His books and novellas banned until he was finally vindicated by the Campbellian Revolution, Giordano Bruno also composed filk cycles envisioning an infinite number of worlds with an infinite number of nominations and awards.
During the years of his trial in Rome, Bruno was confined in the Tower of Smofa, but refused to repent for his blasphemy, immoral self-promotion, and heresy in matters of dogmatic slateology. The charges included:
– holding opinions contrary to the Fannish faith and speaking against it and its SMOFs;
– holding opinions contrary to the Fannish faith about Single-Transubstantiation-Vote;
– claiming the existence of a plurality of slates and their eternity;
At the August 1600 WSFS business meeting, Antipope Charles VIII declared Bruno a heretic, and the Inquisition issued a constitutional amendment. Bruno is said to have replied: Maiori forsan cum timore sententiam in me fertis quam ego accipiam. (Perhaps you pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it.)
1657 [posted by Brian Z]

 It is today well known that officers of the Roman Inquisition repeatedly visited Cyrano de Bergerac, threatened his friends and and family, and read his Letters of Comment in several fanzines, in an effort to determine how he could possibly have discovered and written pulp fiction stories about the top secret Vatican project to develop the first ramjet. Tragically, L’Autre monde ou les états et empires de la Lune would only win a Hugo in 1657, after the author’s death.

4. 1831 [posted by Bisson]

And then there was Victor Hugo, who was so upset by never winning his namesake’s award for his mutant apocalypse story Notre-Dame de Paris that he wrote a long story of revenge and depression, Les Puppies. Now, of course, best known as a musical.

[Cubist wrote]
Side note: We’re all in agreement that the best novel win in 1868 for Three Men and a Boat, by Definitely-Not Connie Willis, who Certainly didn’t steal a time machine” is a little suspicious, right?

5.  [Kyra who else! wrote:] 1870 - 1874

As there has been some murmuring of late regarding the Hugo Prizes awarded during the reign of the late Queen Victoria, but as of yet little ordering or sense in their presentation, it would perhaps be worthwhile at this time to present a selection of excerpts from “A History of the Hugo Awards for Excellence in the Art of the Scientific Romances, Fairy Stories, or Thrilling Tales of Supernatural Gothic Horror, in the Form of a Novel or Epic Poem, as Voted Upon by the Members of the World Society for the Fiction of Speculation, Volume VII, 1863-1889″:

“… In 1870 the highest prize was given to Sheridan Le Fanu’s The Wyvern Mystery, and while I cannot in honesty say it was an error on the part of the Society Members, it is indisputable that Le Fanu benefited from a weakness of vigor among the nominees in this year. The Wyvern Mystery is, alas, far from the best tale to issue forth from Le Fanu’s pen …”
[SBJ adds - those at the Jade Pagoda Club will recall the concomitant controversy as to whether a dragon with two legs must be called a Wvyern which lead to the departure in considerable anger of at least on honourable member of that literary salon.]
“… 1871 was the year in which The Earthly Paradise by William Morris claimed top honors. A fine work indeed, and those who claim that Morris was elevated unfairly by his friendship with the pre-Raphaelite set are gravely misguided, and no doubt see conspirators lurking within every shadow …”
“… It came as a surprise to none that Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass successfully assailed the Hugo pinnacle in 1872, for this sequel long-awaited was met with clamorous applause by one and all. And yet, one cannot but shed a tear for Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, which suffered unduly from an abominable translation into the beleaguered English language. And one must also consider that in a different year, Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s peculiar but nonetheless popular Vril might have snatched the prize. Such are the vicissitudes of the Hugos, for none may predict when one’s mightiest work will perforce do battle with another yet mightier …”
“… The honors of 1873 justly went to Samuel Butler’s Erewhon, a treasure from its quasipalindromic title to its final word. And I shall note in passing that here Le Fanu achieves a more greatly lasting fame, with the success of Carmilla among the multitudinous contenders for Best Novella …”
“… 1874 makes us tear the very hairs from our head in frustrated rage, for we see Verne at last receiving his just reward as a writer of scientific romances … but for the lesser of his two nominated works! I shall never understand how Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea failed to best Around the Moon. Hang your heads in unworthy shame, Hugo voters of 1874. Hang your heads in unworthy shame …”

6. 1890 [posted by Kyra ] Why Mark Twain Didn't Get A Hugo

I can’t let this pass without comment. Looking back now, it seems obvious that “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” should have won the Hugo in 1890, and “Ardath” taking Best Novel instead seems nuts. But I think most people don’t realize exactly how popular Marie Corelli was just then — her stuff was outselling Arthur Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells, and Rudyard Kipling COMBINED.
Also bear in mind that Bardcon was in Stratford-on-Avon, basically Corelli’s home turf, and that Twain had pissed off her fans by basically stating that he despised her (he famously changed his mind when he met her personally, but that, of course, wouldn’t happen until 1907.) I think a fair number of local fans may have downranked Twain a bit as a result, although he finished in second place so clearly they weren’t putting him below “Not Altogether Worthy Of An Award” in the rankings.
Of the other nominees that year, “The Blue Fairy Book” probably holds up the best, but while Lang already had a reputation as a scholar, he wasn’t a big name in SFF fandom yet. Lewis Carroll’s “Sylvie and Bruno” had its fans then and still has them now, but most agree that it’s simply not at the level of his “Alice” books. And, of course, “Anno Domini 2000, or, Woman’s Destiny”, the dark horse candidate out of New Zealand, had way too much working against it to have a chance (although Sir Julius Vogel’s reputation as a writer has increased since then, which is why NZ’s big SF prizes are the Sir Julius Vogel Awards. Personally, I thought the book was exposition-heavy, but looking at it now you can’t deny its almost eerie predictive prescience.)

[Partisan passenger pigeon post argument at the time: SBJ]
That account of the 1890 Awards is a scandal! Edward Bulwer-Litton’s The Parisiens should have won, and it would have if it hadn’t been thrown off the ballot on the footling grounds that it had been written in 1871, and that the completion of the manuscript by Jules Verne’s son Michel (aka Monsieur La Voix de Dieu) was considered “pas attribue!” for adding in the Ice Sphinx from his father’s completion of Poe’s Gordon Pym on the grounds that no one had read it.

[Historian Kyra comments authoratively:]

Your account of my account of the 1890 awards is a scandal! The idea that a work that was serialized in Blackwood’s MORE THAN A DECADE EARLIER should have been eligible because of some hasty south-of-the-Channel refurbishment was nothing more than a blatant misdirection cobbled together by French fen who were angry about “Sans dessus dessous” not making the ballot. Well, I’m sorry, but the Hugo rules haven’t allowed works written in langues d’oïl since the 15th century and even then it was intended to mean works in Anglo Norman. The book got published in English the very next year as “Topsy-Turvy” (although it’s now better known as “The Purchase of the North Pole”) so I do not to this day know WHAT the big deal was or what all those angry telegraph messages were about.

(Although, frankly, there were more exciting 19th century Hugo awards …1872 Hugos: “Through the Looking Glass” goes toe-to-toe with the first English translation of “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, with “Vril” as the outside contender. And what do we find in Best Related Work? “The Descent of Man” … 1896 Hugos: A bunch of very good nominees like “Lilith”, “Journey to Venus”, “The Sorrows of Satan”, and “A House-Boat on the Styx” are all blown away by a little book called “The Time Machine”! While in short fiction we’ve got “How Fear Came” from “The Second Jungle Book” up against “The Yellow Sign” from “The King in Yellow” …)

[idontknow writes:]
And who can forget Thomas Hardy’s blatant attempt to achieve Hugo glory by shamelessly adding the mysterious Stonehenge to the otherwise naturalistic, (and very long), Tess of the D’Urbervilles only a year later? He knew which way the wind was blowing for genre fiction. He even later attempt to recategorize his earlier novel The Trumpet Major among his ‘Romances and Fantasies,’ despite it being a rather dry , (and very long), recounting of some of the battles of the Napoleonic wars.

[Kyra:]  Well, at least the voters saw right through him and gave it to Erewhon instead!
I also thought Carmilla deserved its novella win that year, too.

[idontknow]  I have no idea what it was about, but apparently there was an experimental novel published in 1892 called The Fate of Fenella that was written by 21 separate authors, who each wrote one chapter apiece, including Bram Stoker, Arthur Conan Doyle, and other popular writers of the decade. That actually sounds pretty neat.

7. 1892 [Jack Lint]
The 1892 Hugo Awards were marked by the controversy of Howard Pyle’s Men of Iron which was nominated by those who apparently had not read it. While it seemed to be part of the hugely popular mechanical men subgenre, it turned out to be nothing more than a story concerning knights and such. At the awards banquet, the voting body were admonished strongly that they had to read any book they wished to nominate. I believe it finished below No Award, but it was made into a major motion picture year’s later with Tony Curtis.  Speaking of the 1892 Hugos, does anyone have a link to the text of the nominated Guardians of Albion stage play? I’m curious how it matches up with the newer Guardians of the Galaxy? Obviously you have the Roderick Red Squirrel and Groat, but I don’t recall the other characters.

8. 1896 [Mark]
All that is known of the 1896 shortlist is that one Robert W. Chambers was nominated, although the title of his work is unrecorded. Those ballots cast, few in number as they were, were found to be spoilt. An extraordinary session of the WSFS Business Meeting was constituted, and the emergency resolution passed was the forerunner of the modern “No Award” rule.

[Advertisement:  Why not consider buying Simon Bucher-Jones retranslation of Le Roi en Jaune - together with the original french text of Thomas de Castigne's verse play - which is referenced by Chambers as 'The King In Yellow'.  Simply click on the BUY MY BOOKS page to see how]

Ugh pop ups....

9. Early 20th Century - various.

1903 More Mark Twain
[Brian Z wrote:]
Most prescient was Twain’s seminal early filk, A Dog’s Tale.
My father was a St. Bernard, my mother was a collie, but I am a Presbyterian. This is what my mother told me, I do not know these nice distinctions myself. To me they are only fine large words meaning nothing.
It would have made the 1903 shortlist if the committee had only thrown out those 12 sequentially numbered ballots for Ambrose Bierce.

[Cubist wrote:]

Let us observe a moment of silence for Antarcticon 1912. Bob F. “Fitzgerald” Scott led the 1911 exploratory deliberations of the ill-fated con’s crack Site Selection committee, which cannot be faulted for their enthusiasm, but many fannish historians (Moskowitz in particular) regard Larry Oates as the most emblematic exponent of Trufandom.
[SBJ added:]
- the lesson was not learned, by MISKATONCON '31.  Antartica has since been neglected by Worldcon - though the Russell Committee did attempt to set up a pre-Con there in 1982.

[Jack Lint wrote:
Still disappointed that “Wisdom from my ENIAC” won best related work back in 1947. (And most of the good bits were redacted!) I blame the conservative bias of Hugo voters.

10. The history of the 1953 - 2014 Hugo's has been too diligently studied by Social Scientists, Psychiatrists and Professional wargamer to bear repeating here. (SBJ) Some esoteric facts have however been added to this history:-

1969 [Bisson]
Then there was the time the Hugos were the trigger for a war between Honduras and El Salvador, over the nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation. The 1969 Hugo War is often thought to have been the result of a football match, but we of course know better.

11. The modern "2015" controversy - it's roots [Stevie writes:]

I’m still trying to work out why people think Mark Twain is manipulating the Hugo results from beyond the grave in collaboration with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle via the descendants of his favourite medium, when it’s pretty obvious to anyone who gives a hoot about such matters that it was, in fact, John Dee who set up the entire operation.
Admittedly, Newton put a spanner in the works – who do you think would be providing apples in an effort to get the information out?- but the judicious application of suitable quantities of mercury seems to have quieted things down, even if it’s only temporary. After all, life is temporary…

12. Post Human

[Jack Lint] claims Time Machine wins again, in 802,701 AD.  Morlock Controversy
[Cubist]  Wait. Which 802,701 AD Hugo Awards are you talking about here? I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but I thought that after negotiations broke down between the Eloi and Morlock concom members (around 801K AD, wasn’t it?), the WSFS split into two de facto independent, unrelated WSFSocieties, which ran two independent, unrelated Hugo Awards ceremonies. Or am I remembering that wrong?
[Jack Lint] – You’re right. I had almost forgotten that Wells won the last ever Hugo for his Dramatic Presentation, Short Form “Sweet Jesus, I’m Being Eaten Alive By Morlocks (And You Bloody Eloi Are Just Standing There)”.
[Chris Hensley]
You are remembering it correctly. A truce was signed between the two WSFSocieties when they had to ban together after the thirty-second incarnation of the John C. Wright ghola was nominated a record fifty-seven times, thanks to a slate effort by an army of Tleilaxian Face Dancers.
[Soon Lee writes:]
1.    Not quite right Mister Hensley. There are no Tleilaxu Facedancers, just as there are no gholas. It’s irresponsible misinformation & propaganda promoted by the Tyrell Corporation via third party cut-outs as part of their strategy of obfuscation.
The John C. Wright was part of the Nebula 6 series of replicants designed for the Rhetoric Infowars. But we can all agree that the gene splices incorporating Gandhi, King & Gyatso into the baseline template, intended to expand the oratorial capacity of the design, have been less than successful.
[SBJ comments - the timing of this makes the Tyrell Corporation an unlikely culpret - I suggest time travelling TERMINATORS pretending to be REPLICANTS is a far more likely senario, though whether
VOXDAYNET ever reached this far forward is arguable.]


30 Million AD? The Nightland - descendants of 'pure puppies' exist in a massive metal citadel, the last Redoubt beseiged by what they perceive as giant creatures that move slowly by inexorably nearer to destroy them.  Of these 'Judgement Watchers' the vast South Judgement Watcher is the most feared.  (SBJ)  Some Historians agree with the Citadelia Press re this assessment, others believe the abhumanity of the Outer things is in fact simply the new order, and it will eventually embrace the citadel and usher in a new age of reason and social enlightenment and better story telling.  Awards are sparce in this time, but we know that the Citadellian puppies generally regard literature as too dangerous for women, like going outside, or heavy lifting. [SBJ]

12. Great Race of Yith in insect form voting across time using mind projection begin to retro, the retro awards, preactively proactively. (SBJ)
13. [Simon Bisson]
The whorls of the galaxies were dead and empty, coal black tombs of dead stars and matter slowly fading away as protons decayed in the cold. Written in the very branes of the quantum foam of the De Sitter superspace vast conglomerate intelligences looked back at the universe they’d left behind. Words were no longer enough, but if we could translate their memestructures and their long and complex communications, this is what we might hear:
“The winner of the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation: Extremely Long Form goes to The Universe! A most entertaining construct, full of sound and fury, with a barrel load of laughs – and of course those amazing space battle scenes as the Rigellian Conservancy fought for control of it all.”
[Mark]
@Simon Bisson
And of course the delightful arguments about the appropriate unit of time to be applied to “Extremely Long Form”, and the controversy surrounding E Aeon Hugo.

13. Post-Mortem

A request has been sent to author Philip Purser-Hallard to clarify the state of the Hugos in The City of The Saved.  They may also be awarded ar RIVERWORLDCON, or in The Library of Heaven (see my blog post for details of the latter.)

A poem as by OGDEN NASH on the advisability of Nobel prize winners trying to be funny.


If you assay a remark jocular
Don’t be surprised to be poked in the ocular,
For you do not need to be oricular,
To know that “funny” remarks about how women burst into tears in labs, and either fall in love or don’t fall in love (and yet both of these are somehow bad) are now rightly considered to be insulting both to the gender in general and your immediate colleagues in particular!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

ECHOPRAXIA - Review


Oh hmm, this will be difficult.  ECHOPRAXIA (Second book in the BLINDSIGHT series, second half of the FIREFALL omnibus) is a well written book; its a thoughtful and astonishingly well researched book; it's a worthy sequel to Blindsight (except in one way which we will discuss), but....while its well worth reading, I think its philosophical conclusions to the extent that I understand them, are about as wrong as any can be, and I can't deny I find this off-putting.

Now normally that wouldn't stop me liking a book but unfortunately the conclusions here are so antipathetic that to me it's not like reading about about the stupidity of reading books, it is reading a book about how stupid it is that we should imagine we are conscious, reading books, and that it is wrong to imagine that we gain any benefit from doing so - at which point, well really why bother?

Spoiler alert

To taken only one aspect, the text of BLINDSIGHT is a narrative voice, that is not only shown to be unreliable by ECHOPRAXIA - it's shown that it must not be reliable - because it is not a narrative - intended to convey infomation - but a hacking attempt on a human brain, consequently its surface accuracy as a depiction of what actually happened to the Thesius is as unlikely to be true as a message about how I used to own lots of money in a Nigerian account, but now need to transfer it to yours is as an account of actual conditions in Nigerian banking. It must be true to the extent that the recipient can not disprove it enough to avoid being hacked, but because we're repeatedly told how rubbish consciousness is at determining such things, that's what exactly - a 1% level of truth based on what can be deduced within the solar system about the Theseus?  A simulacrum of 2% of the narrator? 99% true but the 1% is everything crucial to conceal, because that's what you'd conceal?

[A commentator rightly remarks that we knew, in BLINDSIGHT that the narrator was unreliable, and this is so: but of the three known levels of unreliability (1) narrator is honestly mistaken but reports what he knows, (2) narrator is dishonestly motivated and tells truth as far as it goes and conceals detail later to be revealed outside of narration and
(3) narrators entire message is a construct of an alien intelligence with a purpose other than its surface, whose surface may therefore contain any irrelevant level of truth commensurate with (i) verisimitude and (ii) effort expanded in construction (a lie is an energy intensive mechanism)  - I maintain that (3) is such a 'strong' level that where an analogy for it to be encountered in normal life the surface of the text would cease to be of interest (this message is a code, yes but what about the bit around it, well its basically noise or 'packing'.)]

If I'm reading a book the second half of which tells me that the book's account of the first half of the events it depicts [I read this as the two volume Omnibus] is at best a lie, I think it fair to expect that the second half should tell me what did happen.  ECHOPRAXIA doesn't, it shows me what's happening on Earth and latterly in near Sol space, but not anything about the people I thought I was reading about in BLINDSIGHT. [Except that one wasn't suffering from advanced anti-epilepsy surgery but advanced anti-deliberate-zombi-virus-attack surgery.]

Amusingly (I wasn't amused I was semi-angered, but I can see the case...) BLINDSIGHT is not now a novel about teaching us something by depicting characters and a world, it is a thing that teachs us something 'while disguised as a novel about characters and a world'. BLINDSIGHT is to a novel, what the message constituting the text of BLINDSIGHT (in ECHOPRAXIA) is to a truthful account of Siri of events on the Thesis, namely a simulacrum of that with a polemic / reprogramming intent, aimed at the recipients not as an entertainment, or a message, but as a weaponised lesson.

Again this hits the buffers of my problems with Peter Watt's critique of consciousness. When the main character makes [he thinks] a major choice at last, a choice the omniscient narrative - seems to tell me is free - how am I expected to evaluate this? When the entirety of the book is saying differently, that his choice can not be free nor unpredicted by an entity operating at the frankly ludicrous levels of intelligence (albeit unconscious intelligence) as the atomic slime mold that is seemingly (because as I will explain below, things are muddled) orchestrating things. Whether I am supposed to then be glad that he is prevented in his supposedly free aim, or not I can not tell - and therefore at the last I find it very hard to care.  Because, well, wtf.

On believability

Once you start writing God-like intelligences into a book, you need them at least to have an aim that if not understandable, can be mapped to the general reader-int as 'good' in some sense, otherwise you have an omnipotent evil following a bad aim - which can only be uselessly (but bravely) resisted, or an omnipotent irrelevance pushing a might-as-well-as-not destiny, at both of which we can only, finally, shrug, for if its that 'intelligent' and wants 'wot we no not wot' than chances are it will get it.  While too powerful an actor makes all the cast irrelevant, it is still possible to cast a narrative where the interest is in the principle of parsimony - the subtle manner in which the overmind/god/AI/aliens move their pawn(s) to produce the end result X.  [Just as human level powerful actors in drama are dramatic in how they succeed, not in whether they succeed. A Holmes story, how will he solve it!]

But in ECHOPRAXIA what the Portia entity or the Angels of the Asteroids, or God 'wants' is so incomprehensible, and its/their plans to accomplish it - whatever it is - so at once 'omnicognisent and 'un-omnipotent'  - it's a mind that can (without being a mind) work out how to build its local agency backwards out of a quantum information channel depositing it atom by atom (in a way glossed over that I do not find remotely believeable) but it can't give its agency when its built any goal that could not have been carried out by something - less unbelievable but slightly slower (and what *is the fucking hurry God?*) or less humane but far faster (why is something that is not a consciousness concerned about the cost in suffering to human consciousnesses - if it even is?  Why not nova the Ort Cloud super-Jovian and fry every conscious entity in the Solar System? If consciousness is a threat?).

Assuming - my best reading on one read, that the atom pattern entity which is sent down the matter-stream from the Ort Cloud - which builds itself into the slime-mold Portia is backed up in its aims by the at-a-distance-reprogramming of Siri's father - what actual benefit for the expenditure does this gain the entities in the Ort Cloud?  The removal of consciousness from humanity - helps them how?  and this is the same issue I had with Blindsight. Simply, I think consciousness is useful - I don't care if Peter Watts thinks it shouldn't be: if it wasn't it wouldn't be selected for.  Where is the natural real 'unconscious-species' of hive-humans, where is the zombi subspecies that mimics consciousness outside of its hermit shell houses (and once inside is either dormant or breeding for anything else is a waste of energy). We don't see these in reality, because the book's thesis is flawed. [I'm copyrighting 'hermit zombies' though I can get a story out of that.]  But even if consciousness was an evolutionary flaw in every respect, why would God / Aliens care?

The future depicted remains quasi-possible, right up to the bit with the back-engineered quantum teleportation -  but it is working hard to cease to interest me for it is self-evidently one in which humans of my subspecies - those that imagine they have conscious minds, and imagine that the health and well-being of conscious entities is the only point of action that has a value -  are stupid and quaint.  I can be told I'm worthless without paying for it.

Besides my ego : the real problem of that is where do you stop?  Human characters, human hives vampires, the Ort Cloud Angels, the Slime Mold entity, de, dum, de, dum, de, dum, God  If intelligence is a bug in entropy, isn't it even more likely that universes are a glitch in nothingness.  Why should any level of the chain of being care for any other. Why should it matter that God be reconciled to Man, if neither the actions of God, nor those of Man are meaningful. What does it matter if there *is* a God that builds *universes* if nothing in or off universes matters?  Why is a universe of ants, better than a universe of not-ants?  Why is a universe better than a not-universe?  

I know why I think a universe with a model of itself is better than one with not - it's because *I* am a model of myself in a model of the universe, and its nice.

An infuriating book that's head and shoulders over a lot of sf - but which I'm finding it very hard to recommend and which I'll probably only read once more myself - as a fairness check on this review.

[Added material in brackets after online discussion.  The discussion also made me realise I do still want to read anything else set in this world, in the hope that the unclear becomes clear, and the mechanistic becomes conscious.]

Friday, June 26, 2015

THE LOCKSLEY EXPLOIT - a review

This is the second book in a trilogy – if you haven’t read the first, there are going to be spoilers as I set the scene for and review the second.  If that’s a problem go read:

The Pendragon Protocol first – (I recommend it, I did recommend it here:

  
So – as we begin, Jory has left the Knights of the Round Table and is now Robin Hood – and it’s 2015.  This is a history of now, but not our now, but not an aenemic alternative history sketched in with familiar tropes either, nor is this Chivralpunk (if such a beast existed, this would transcend it.)  This is – absolutely – a historical novel, with a wide, enticing, entwining perspective.

Ahead lies history.  The Great Schism, the Battle of Trafalgar, the Seige of Jerusalem – the new Civil War.  The Two Pretenders (Or are they).  The Return of the Pendragon (Or is he).  And there is much death, some unexpected and heart-rending.

Okay, I may have lost the people who infuriatingly still haven’t read the first book.

What do you call a man who thinks he’s Sir Lancelot?   A nutter, right?  What do call an entire society who think they're the Knights of the Round Table?  And if they have the history and social standing and political clout, and martial prowess to back it up?  Well, you may say they’re psychosomatically boosted by socially encoded memecomplexes – and many an expert would agree with you – but if the experts are the new Merlin, and the former Lady of the Lake, can you be certain that’s the whole story?

As open conflict, guarded truce around a miracle, and then civil war, spread across the fields of Britain between the Circle (the Knights) and the Green Chapel (Robin Hood, and his Merry Men) with many an obscurer set of devical memes waiting in the wings, and the other world powers standing back: the book unfolds a history at once marvellous and terrible.  Would I prefer it to this world? - ask me when I know how the trilogy ends, but the world in these books has HOPE, as well as DESPAIR. 

Let me be succinct : ‘this is the biz’.  If you read my review of the first book on Amazon, I said there, I was going for 4/5 because I reconned there was a 5 following – well this is a good 4.7

Why not a 5 – well it’s a trilogy and I want to know how it ends, and I’m making certain assumptions and plots and counter plots in my own head – as all readers who are also writers do – if somethings I’m only guessing at aren’t right I might slip back to a 4.5 – if they are I’ll be whooping at a 5.  Think of 4.7 as a schrodinger’s review until I can see clearly the horizon's fires.

Also, there’s always something – the strength of the Narrator’s voice is a genuine strength, but very occasionally he (not perhaps the author) missteps – and when the opinion of the narrator clashes with the opinion of the reader there’s a mild disconnect, as the reader recalls the narrator is also a character.  This may be unavoidable, it may even be intentional – but its timing didn’t always work for me.  The Narrator criticising the person carrying the device of Lancelot because of / via something the Lancelot in Tennyson’s Lady of Shallott says seemed unfair to me, both because only half of the line(s) were quoted, and because – as the Narrator – ought to know – Launcelot in Tennyson doesn’t have the least idea who she was, or why she died – how can he be expected to give her a eulogy.  What he says is more than the Narrator reports:

But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."

This isn’t (quite) Lancelot being shallow and smitten by beauty, its Lancelot musing on death which ‘timor mortis conturbat me’ takes even the beautiful, and then extending to the dead, the best he can offer, the commending of her soul to the grace of God’s mercy.  Clipping the latter made (me) feel the Narrator was being mean-spirited, and *if* that wasn’t intended then,I think its a slight ‘shading’ error.  But hey – I can find *one* thing to criticise in a whole novel.  Buy this, it’s great.

And the author is a remarkable scholar and a gentleman, and he'll probably tell me I'm wrong about Tennyson, or that there's a good reason Alan/Talisan is. 
  
(My friend Finn Clark, who's also reviewed this book here: 
puts a little info block into his reviews, I like that idea so much I've nicked it:)

The Locksley Exploit (2015)
Written by Philip Purser-Hallard
Publisher: Snowbooks Ltd
ISBN 9-781909-679429