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A Response to John C. Wright

The GUARDIAN interviewed me a couple of weeks ago about Puppygate and the Hugo Awards (before the ballot was announced, fwiw), and quoted me in the article that resulted. Here's what they said about what I said (of course, I said a lot more, but only a few bits were quoted):

“The prestige of the Hugos derives from its history. Robert A Heinlein won four times, Ursula K Le Guin won, Harlan Ellison won. That’s a club any aspiring writer wants to be a member of,” George RR Martin says. “When the Hugo ballot came out last year it was not just a right-wing ballot, it was a bad ballot. It was the weakest we’d seen for years.”

Now it appears that John C. Wright has taken umbrage at my opinion. He writes on his journal:

"Evidence enough that Mr. Martin had not read the works on the ballot. I say no more, lest I be accused of self-aggrandizement, for the works he thus criticizes are mine. He did not have so poor an opinion of my work when he bought it for his SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH anthology, however: a fact he conveniently forgot when he began leveling absurd and absurdly false accusations against me."

In the comments section of the same journal entry, someone named "Paul B" says:

"Sir, is it possible that Mr Martin never actually read (at least majority of) submissions for that Dying Earth tribute anthology? I know not how these things tend to work, or if you had any personal exchanges with him during that time (of the sort that included his personal thoughts on your story), but I know of many a case where a name of widely known author on the cover of various anthologies was used to bait potential buyers while said author had little or no involvement with said anthologies (think of those ghost and horror story anthologies of yore, where stories were advertised as “hand picked” by Alfred Hitchcock and the like)."

To which, John C. Wright replies:

" Certainly it is possible. It is possible that he did not do the jobs for which he was paid. That is one of the two possibilities, neither of which redound to his glory. Either he is lying now, when he uses the prestige of his name to belittle my worthy work as unworthy, or he was lying then, by putting his name on a book to lure the unwary reader into purchase, ergo using the prestige of his name to inflate my unworthy work as worthy. Either way, it is a lie."


I am not going to get down into the cesspool with Wright here, though, believe me, the temptation is strong. I will not let his comments go unanswered, however.

So let me just restrict my reply to the facts.

For the elucidation of Paul B, who admits that he does not know how these things work but feels the need to hold forth anyway, I have read every word of every story in all my anthologies, both the ones I co-edit with Gardner Dozois and the ones I edit solo, like WILD CARDS. In the collaborations, Gardner handles the bulk of the paperwork; the contracts, pro rata calculations, paying royalties, etc. But all the creative work is shared equally between us, and no story is purchased unless both of us agree that it is acceptable.

And yes, Gardner and I did purchase and publish a story from John C. Wright for SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH, our Jack Vance tribute anthology. The story is "Guyal the Curator." I thought then, and I think now, that it's a good story. Read it and judge for yourself. If you're a Jack Vance fan, I think you will enjoy it. Wright himself is a huge Vance fan. I don't recall how I knew that, but I did, and that fact was certainly foremost in my mind when I suggested to Gardner that we invite him into the book. He replied enthusiastically, and gave us a good story. If it had not been a good story, we would not have published it. Gardner and I did have to reject one of the other stories we had solicited for SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH, by another writer; we paid him a kill fee. And there were three or four additional stories that required extensive work; we bought them, but only after giving notes and asking for revisions. "Guyal the Curator" required none of that. It was a solid, professional piece of work, a nice Vance tribute, an entertaining read.

All that being said, I do not know why Wright seems to believe that by purchasing and publishing one of his stories seven years ago, I am therefore somehow required to like everything that he writes subsequently, to the extent that I would feel it Hugo worthy.

It should be pointed out that "Guyal the Curator" was not itself nominated for a Hugo (there being no Puppies around in 2009 to push it). None of the stories from SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH were Hugo finalists, truth be told. Do I think some were worthy of that honor? Sure I do. I cannot pretend to be objective, I'm proud of the anthologies I edit and the stories I publish. Do I think that all the stories in SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH (or ROGUES, or OLD MARS, or OLD VENUS, or LOWBALL, or any of my anthologies) are Hugo-worthy? Of course not. In a normal year, the Hugo finalists are supposed to represent the five best stories of the year in that word length. Was "Guyal the Curator" one of the five best short stories (actually, it might have been a novelette, after so long I do not recall the word length) of 2009? No. It was a good story, not a great story. The Hugo Awards demand greatness. It was an entertaining Vance tribute, but it was not a patch on real Vance, on "The Last Castle" or "The Dragon Masters" or "Guyal of Sfere." And truth be told, it was not even one of the five best stories in SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH. A good story, yes, I'll say that again. But there were better in the book. (And how not? We had an amazing lineup of contributors).

Which brings us back to Puppygate, and last year's Hugo ballot.

I read every word in every story in the anthologies I edit, as I've said. I did not read every word in every story on last year's Hugo ballot, no (or on any Hugo ballot, for that matter). I start every story and give them a few pages. If they grab me, I keep reading. If they bore me or offend me, or fail to interest me for whatever reason, I put them aside. Mr. Wright seems convinced that I did not read his stories on last year's ballot. He's half-right: I did not read all of them. But I started all of them (there were five), finished some, set others aside. The same as I do with any story I read; no special treatment.

I did not find any of them Hugo-worthy. Not one of them was as good as "Guyal the Curator," in my opinion. No doubt others liked them better.

It should be pointed out that the comments quoted by the GUARDIAN, to which Mr. Wright takes such umbrage, make no mention whatsoever of him or his work. I merely said that it was a bad ballot, the weakest seen in years. I stand by those comments; your mileage may differ. And yes, with his five finalists, John C. Wright was part of that, but hardly the whole of it. Truth be told, while I did not and do not feel his stories were Hugo-worthy, there was MUCH worse to be found on last year's ballot in other categories. But that horse has been beaten to death, so I see no need to give it any more whacks.

The bottom line here is that liking some of a writer's work does not oblige you to like all of his work. I yield to no one in my admiration for Robert A. Heinlein, but my love for HAVE SPACE SUIT, WILL TRAVEL and THE PUPPET MASTERS and "All You Zombies" and "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" does not make me like I WILL FEAR NO EVIL or TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE any better.

In closing, let me suggest to John C. Wright that you do yourself no favors by boasting constantly about the worth and brilliance and "literary" qualities of your own work. You might do better to take a lesson from a writer that we both love: Jack Vance. I had several conversations with Jack when Gardner and I were putting together SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH, and never once did he tell me how amazing and eloquent and literary he was. Quite the opposite. He never called his stories anything but "my junk" when speaking to me, and seemed bemused and flattered that so many other writers had found such inspiration in them. Vance was amazing and eloquent and literary, of course, one of the greatest wordsmiths our genre has ever produced, but he left it to others to sing his praises.

Hugo Withdrawal

I see that the fanzine BLACK GATE has withdrawn from the Hugo race, after being slated by the Rabid Puppies and nominated (perhaps) as a result of that.

You can read their reasons here:
https://www.blackgate.com/2016/05/01/black-gate-declines-hugo-nomination/

This is the second year that BLACK GATE has refused a nomination, so one certainly has to admire them for their consistency. And no one can deny that this is a very difficult decision for those, like BLACK GATE, that were put on the ballot by the Rabids without their consent (it is an easy decision for the Rabids themselves and their allies, of course, most of whom are squealing as happily as pigs in shit).

Since I'm on record as urging the "hostages" to stand their ground, I can't applaud this decision. But I will not criticize it either. They had a tough call and they made it, consistent with their own politics and principles.

I will quibble, however, about one of their assertions: that even if BLACK GATE had elected to remain on the ballot, they had no chance of winning. I am not going to go so far as to say they were the favorite... but I think they would have had a shot. All five of this year's nominees were on the Rabid Slate, yes. But two of the five -- BLACK GATE and FILE 770 -- are clearly hostages, slated without their consent. Despite the success of No Award in last year's voting, I think the presence of so many hostages this year changes the equation. My hope is that fewer fans will resort to the Nuclear Option. If so, I think FILE 770 will win here... but BLACK GATE would have given Glyer's zine its strongest competition. Oh, and yes, No Award will be contending too. TANGENT might have a very slim outside chance.

BLACK GATE's withdrawal changes all that, of course. The big question is, what takes its place? Whatever it is, I'd say that it instantly becomes a major contender here, just as THREE BODY PROBLEM became a contender last year after Marko Kloos pulled out of novel. My guess is that the rocket goes to either FILE 770 or the new nominee...

(One also wonders what will take place of the "The Commuter," the Thomas Mays nominee in Short Story. Mays has also withdrawn).

Sixth place has never been so crucial.

NFL Draft, Day Two

The second and third rounds of the NFL draft have come and gone.

My guys made some promising picks today. The Giants picked up Sterling Shepard, a young wideout out of Oklahoma who is said to be quick and elusive, with the best hands in this draft class. If he is all they say he is, Eli will finally have someone else to throw to beside Odell, someone who will not (we can hope) drop the ball. And if Victor Cruz comes back as well, the G-Men should have a hell of a passing game. Shepard should also be a big help in the return game. Next round, Big Blue added Darian Thompson, a ball-hawking safety. That can't hurt either. Their defense needs all the players they can get.

The Jets did well in the third by picking a linebacker out of Georgia by the name of Jordan Jenkins. The talking heads on ESPN and the NFL Network all seem to like him a lot, and a couple said he is better than his more heralded teammate Leonard Floyd, who went early in round one. Looks like this guy will be a solid pass rusher, and the more big bodies we have to get after Tom Brady, the better off Gang Green will be.

All the talk is about the Jets' second round pick, however. They went for a quarterback, Penn State's Christian Hackenberg. A lot of controversy on that pick. "Hack" was a freshman sensation under Bill O'Brien who then wilted in his sophomore and junior years under lesser coaches. I saw him in person last year, when I attended Northwestern's home game against Penn State in Evanston. He lost that game. He's lost a lot of other games too. Will be thrive with the Jets? Maybe. He has gifts. One can hope. One can dream. But...

But he's sure not going to be ready to start this year. And Fitz is still not signed. So who will quarterback the Jets? And does this mean that Fitz will not be resigned? I sure hope not. If he does come back, who is the odd man out? The Jets can't carry four quarterbacks. Does this mean they have given up on Bryce Petty already? Or...

... maybe they can trade Geno Smith. For a sixth. Or a seventh. Or a player. Or...

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NFL Draft, Round One

So the first round in the NFL Draft was last night, and both of my teams went for players from Ohio State. Any Buckeyes here who can tell me more about them? Jetboygirl, where are you?

The Jets picked a linebacker, Darren Lee, at twenty. Supposed to be very fast. A sideline to sideline guy. Okay, sounds good. More speed on the defense never hurts. I am glad they did not draft the Memphis QB everyone wanted them to. He's a project, and we need a QB now. They need to sign Fitz.

The Giants, at ten, drafted a cornerback with the unlikely name of Eli Apple. Seven picks in, the G-Men were sitting pretty, with their two top choices still available. But the the Titans traded up to eight and drafted the offensive lineman the Giants wanted, and the Bear vaulted up from eleven to nine just to get grab the top linebacker, Floyd. In other words, the Giants got their lunch eaten. Leaving nothing but an apple. Of course, in this pass-happy league, everyone needs corners, and the Giants need them more than most, considering how many passing yards they gave up last year. Still and all... I would have been happier if they'd picked Shaq Lawson, the pass rusher.

The damned Cowboys got the guy I really wanted, running back Ezekiel Elliott. Curse them!

Today we get rounds two and three.

I am hoping the G-Men pick up 'Bama RB and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. Or else maybe took a chance and grabbed Myles Jack, the injured UCLA linebacker.

But who knows? Anything could happen. That's what makes these drafts so much fun.

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Dragons in the Railyard!

Hiya kids, hiya hiya.

Well, it took a little longer than expected (we had previously announced a September 29 unveiling, which we had to cancel), but work is finally complete on the trompe l'oeil mural I commissioned for the railyard, on the back wall of 418 Montezuma, the building that holds the Jean Cocteau Cinema.

We had a little celebratory party yesterday, along about sunset. Wine, cheese, and dragons. Here's the big picture:



The mural is the work of JOHN PUGH, one of the world's leading trompe l'oeil muralists, whose works adorn buildings public and private all over the United States, Canada, and the world. He's been working on it, off and on, for close on two years now.

I hope you guys all love it as much as I do. Another cool reason to visit Santa Fe, the City Different, where art is everywhere.



Come check out the beasties for yourself the next time you're in New Mexico... then head around front, see a movie, and have some of our famous buttered popcorn.

The Puppy Wars Resume

I've had most of the day to consider the new Hugo ballot and what it means, and to read some of the online commentary. The ballot, as I said in my first post, is very much a mixed bag. Some categories are much improved from what we were offered last year. Some are worse. Some much worse.

Those of us who hoped this year's massive turnout might give us something more palatable than last year were mistaken; the 2016 ballot and the 2015 ballot are pretty much a wash. The two editor's categories are much stronger than they were last year. Novel has some very fine and worthy choices (though my own favorite novels from last year are missing). Some talented young writers are up for the Campbell. On the other hand, Best Pro Artist is a joke, Short Story is if anything weaker than last year, and Best Related Work is a toxic swamp.

It's too late tonight to go through the list category by category, though. We have months to do that, so I will leave you all to do it for yourselves. We will have a Hugo packet eventually, which will make the process easier.

It is important, for those of you who may not have been following the awards controversey closely, to note that three important things happened since last year:

(1) MidAmericon II reported a record number of nominating ballots, more than 4000, almost double the previous record. In addition to MAC members, those who were members of Sasquan and the forthcoming Helsinki worldcon were also eligible to nominate,

(2) Sad Puppies 4, this year headed by Kate Paulk, changed its approach and produced a recommended reading list, with anywhere from one to ten suggestions in each category, rather than slating four or five. The process was open and democratic, which Sad Puppies 3 often claimed to be but never was. Paulk also avoided the ugly excesses of the previous campaign, and never stooped to the sort of invective that her predecessor, Brad Torgersen, had been so fond of, with all his talk of CHORFs and Puppy-kickers. For all this she should be commended,

(3) in contrast, the far right Rabid Puppies did a slate, as before. However, VD played it cute this year, peppering his lists with poison pills by including some major, popular works by well-known authors, works everyone knew to be contenders regardless of any Puppy support, along with the usual spate of mediocrity and a few choice picks that appear to be purely "fuck you" choices.

So how did all these factors intersect?

The record turnout seemed to have no impact. Fandom nominated in huge numbers, but it would appear that they did not nominate the same things. They scattered their nominations among dozens, perhaps hundreds, of possible choices. We won't know the full story till we see the complete list of nomination totals on Hugo night... but I suspect (unless MAC cuts the list short) that we'll see many more titles than we're used to.

The same thing happened to the Sad Puppies. By shifting from Torgersen's slate to Paulk's list of recommendations, they suffered the same fate as many other recommended reading lists, be it the LOCUS list or the Nebulas or my own recommendations. They had almost no impact on the ballot. The Sads did get works on the ballot when their choices overlapped with the Rabids, to be sure, but very few works that were "sad only" made the list. SP4 was a non-factor. (And before someone else points this out, let me be the first to admit that the Sads had more impact than I did. As near as I can tell, I batted .000 on my own recommendations, which just goes to show that all this talk of about my immense power is somewhat exaggerated. No wonder I never get invited to the meetings of the Secret Cabal).

The big winners were the Rabid Puppies, whose choices completely dominated the list. The Rabids had nominees in every category, I believe, and in a few categories they had ALL the nominees. Mike Glyer has a nice breakdown on FILE 770: http://file770.com/?p=28616 It seems obvious that while traditional fans and the Sad Puppies have minds of their own, the Rabids just vote the way they are told to vote.

We should remember that this was just the nominating round. The final vote is still ahead. How will that turn out? Well, that's up to you guys. Helinski pre-supporters and Sasquan members could nominate, but they cannot vote, so the ultimate winners will be decided by the members of MidAmericon II. So join. Read. Vote. You can sign up here: http://midamericon2.org/

One last point. The Rabids used a new tactic this year. They nominated legitimate, quality works in addition to the dross. Works by writers like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Neal Stephenson, Alastair Reynolds (Reynolds went public well before the nominations asking NOT to be slated, but they slated him anyway), Andy Weir, and several others. Some of these writers are apolitical (like Weir), while others are known to oppose everything that VD stands for (Gaiman, Stephenson, King). One has to think they were deliberately targeted.

In some of the online comments I've seen, these writers are being called "shields." I've even read some people calling for them to withdraw, simply because they were on VD's list.

Withdrawing is the LAST thing they should do.

I urge them all to stand their ground. They wrote good books, stories, graphic novels, they did NOT take part in any slate. In some cases they were largely unaware of all this. In other cases they explicitly denounced the slates ahead of time (Reynolds, again). Punishing them... demanding they turn down this honor... simply because VD listed them is insane.

Marko Kloos and Annie Bellet did the right thing by withdrawing last year. Their was an ethical and courageous act; I applauded them then and I applaud them now. But this is a different year and a different situation. Given the well-known political views of some of these writers, it seems plain to me that VD and the Rabids picked them deliberately, in hopes they would withdraw, or would be voted under No Award. They would probably have put Scalzi (VD's best bro) on the ballot too, but he outsmarted them and withdrew before they could.

I am rather hoping that several of them win. Based on quality alone, some deserve to. Sure, VD will claim that as a victory, but as last year proves, he claims everything as a victory. We'll know the truth. The only real victory for him would be having any of these fine writers pull out. Let's not play his game.

Anyway... I am sure we'll all have much more to say about this in the months to come. Fasten your seat belts, friends. It is going to be a bumpy ride.

(Oh... and yes, for those who were asking. This does mean we will need a second set of Alfies).

Coming Soon to the Jean Cocteau

The Jean Cocteau Cinema was Santa Fe's first "arthouse" theatre (it opened in 1977, as the Collective Fantasy), and one of the hallmarks of so-called arthouses is that they show foreign films that the big multiplexes don't touch.

And so it is with us. Today we like to say that we're the most eclectic movie theatre in The City Different, but foreign films remain an important part of our mix. Only the foreign films we show are a little different than the ones you might catch at other arthouses.

This week, for instance, we're showing MY BIG NIGHT, a hilarious romp by the Spanish filmmaker Alex de la Iglesia.



Coming up in the next few weeks we have two the biggest-grossing films in the entire world... but they're two films you may never have heard of, if you're in the US, since they have received almost no attention in America. I'm speaking of MERMAID and MONSTER HUNT, both out of China.

Have a taste:





Watch our website for showtimes.

See you at the movies.

Hugo Nominees Announced

MidAmericon II has announced the final ballot for the 2016 Hugo Awards. You can find the list here:

http://midamericon2.org/home/hugo-awards-and-wsfs/2016-hugo-finalists/

It is, to say the least, a mixed bag. A lot of good books and stories, writers and artists... cheek by jowl with some stuff that is considerably less worthy.

I will have more to say when I've had more time to review and digest the ballot.

HBO Premiere

Tonight's the night.

Season 6 is coming atcha.



'Nuff said.



((Some of you will want to discuss the episode. Please remember, this is not the place for that. Go to Westeros, to Tower of the Hand, to Watchers on the Wall, to Winter Is Coming, and to all the other fan sites. Thanks)).

Draft Week

Okay, this is amusing. What would it look like if NFL teams drafted characters from GAME OF THRONES?

http://www.nfl.com/photoessays/0ap3000000654646/season-6-game-of-thrones-mock-draft

Meanwhile, the real NFL is less than a week off, and as usual mock drafts are everywhere.

I don't do mocks, but I do have my wishlist. The Giants are drafting tenth, and boy, do they have a lot of needs. I am still reeling at how bad their defense was last year. Historically, in good years or bad years, the G-Men have always had a fearsome D, and they need to get back to that. They spent a fortune in free agency to bolster the defense, and with luck some of those players should have a difference... but given the way injuries always seem to decimate Big Blue, drafting for more D would make a lot of sense. The biggest need is for a top pass rusher. We still don't know if JPP will ever be the same player he was before he blew off half his hand, and even if he is, he needs help on the other side. Joey Bosa or Shaq Lawson would make me very happy in round one, if either one should last till number ten. That being said, there's also a chance Ezekial Elliott will be there as well, and if he is, I hope the Giants grab him. I love old smashmouth football, and the key to that is a bruising running game. Elliott looks as though he could be special.

As for the Jets, who knows? They draft considerably later. Some mocks have them taking a QB, but I don't know... the two top QB prospects will be coming off the board 1/2 this year, looks like, and I don't think anyone else is worth a first round pick. I am still hoping Gang Green can resign Fitz, to be sure, but if not, well, the Jets took Bryce Petty last year, I'd sooner they give him a chance rather than start over with someone new. Not that I have a vote. But if I did, I'd say the Jets should draft for defense as well. You can never have too many pass rushers, especially when you're in the same division as Tom Brady.

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