Slate’s Best Books of 2015 coverage Source: Underrated books of 2015: Overlooked novels, collections, and nonfiction of the year.
“It is the rear-guard action of people who believe that just because other people are coming in with different views, different interests, and different concerns, and aren’t willing to naturally accept the previous order of things, that all doom and terror and fire from the skies is happening,” John Scalzitells me.
We’re talking about the most recent skirmish in a larger war, a war for the soul of nerd culture. This one involves the Hugo Awards, a literary award ceremony, but it’s the latest iteration of a new battle that already feels ancient.
Scalzi is an award-winning, best-selling novelist, the author of enormously entertaining science fiction novels like Old Man’s War and Redshirts. If you’ve read his popular blog, you’ll know he’s a passionate individual, and he seems incredibly frustrated by those in the science fiction and fantasy community who have launched this “rear-guard action.”
It’s the latest iteration of a new battle that already feels ancient
Yet if you talk to the people on the other side — who have dubbed themselves the “Sad Puppies” — they will point to Scalzi as part of a larger problem within the community. Yeah, their rhetoric might be a little over the top, but they’re the ones saving the industry from political correctness and the “literati.”
These Sad Puppies are, depending on whom you ask, the saviors of the Hugo Awards from mediocre books, a bunch of bigots, or part of a cynically motivated awards grab.
Tell me what happened in 100 words or less
Science fiction’s prestigious Hugo Awards are chosen by a fan vote at both the nominee and winner stages. However, the number of people who vote at the nominee stage is small enough that a concerted effort by a small group can have disproportionate payoff.
That’s what happened with two groups purporting to support traditional space opera science fiction and politically conservative authors, who initially made up 72 percent of all nominees. Once this happened, many accused both slates of supporting racist, sexist sentiments. These voters say — accurately — that they followed the rules.
Who are the Sad Puppies?
The term Sad Puppies is used interchangeably to refer to a group of Hugo voters and a specific slate of works advanced by those awards. It’s also often — inaccurately — been used to refer to a completely separate campaign. We’ll get to the other campaign — the Rabid Puppies — in a moment.
Ann Coulter looks like a textbook feminist. Without a husband or a staff position at a major media company, she has created an enormous national brand, writing 11 New York Times bestsellers and selling over 3 million books. And although the public views her as a bigot, she’s friends with tons of gay guys and black standup comedians. Is she for real or a performance artist who poses as a conservative to make big bucks? Broadly managing editor Mitchell Sunderland went to a gun range with Ann Coulter and her best friends to find out.
Can we stop explosives guides from landing in violent hands? And if so, at what cost to free expression?
After the 9/11 attacks, the FBI was given expanded powers to pursue terrorists in the United States. Its counterterrorism force grew exponentially. Over the next decade, the number of informants and agents in the field grew to ten times the number deployed during the COINTELPRO days, when the agency launched its now largely discredited program to investigate, disrupt, and destroy groups it saw as threatening to the nation. These operatives have targeted the FBI’s recent list of enemies of the state: al-Qaeda-inspired homegrown extremists, sovereign citizens groups, white supremacists, militias, anarchists, environmental and animal rights groups, Puerto Rican separatists, and lone wolves of any stripe. The FBI counterterrorism mission is to circumvent attacks before they occur, and so controversial sting operations have become a regular means to identify and arrest suspects seen as potentially violent. These operations rely on an FBI agent or highly paid informant soliciting conspiratorial and instructional speech from a suspect, and have led to suspicions that the FBI is engaging in unscrupulous methods. The informants offer themselves as technically adept trainers and explosives experts who talk suspects into bogus plots and engage them in speech that crosses the line into conspiracy and instruction. Under ordinary circumstances, many observers think, these suspects would have neither the means nor the will to carry out terrorist attacks. The statute 18 U.S.C. § 842(p), which bans the teaching or demonstration of a making or use of an explosive weapon, has provided a way of prosecuting suspects based on their conversations about weapons and their collections of popular weapons manuals and videos not linked to any specific act or plan. A provision of the USA PATRIOT Act, 18 U.S. Code § 2339, prohibits “providing material support to terrorists” and allows related forms of speech to be used against defendants in court. Since the laws act to catch persons on pretext, dangerous instructional texts have become key in demonstrating that persons are poised on the verge of action.
Nerdiest. Worlds. Ever.
This month’s New Horizons flyby of dwarf planet Pluto and its biggest moon Charon left a wealth of incredible data in its wake, with unforgettable pictures of geographic features such as the now famous giant “heart” on Pluto.
But the highly detailed pictures gave the New Horizons team a welcome problem: What do they call all those craters, plains and mountain ranges?
Now, thanks to maps the New Horizons team plans to submit to the International Astronomical Union (the official governing body for names of celestial objects), we know the answer.
Their names are drawn from movies, TV shows and books sure to gladden every geek’s heart — including Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Firefly, Alien, Lord of the Rings and the works of H.P. Lovecraft.
The New Horizons team actually asked for submissions from the public, and they were happy to oblige.
Pluto, according to IAU rules, must have its fictional names drawn from underworld mythology — so the NASA team offered the Cthulu regio (regio being a large area differentiated by its color) and the Balrog macula (dark spot), honoring Lovecraft’s dark god and J.R.R. Tolkein’s underground demons, respectively.
The campaign gods are smiling down on Ted Cruz, gifting him a feud with conservatives’ most despised news outlet at a time when most 2016 campaigns are gasping for Trump-free air.
At issue: The New York Times refuses to grant the Texas senator’s memoir, “A Time for Truth,” a place on its powerful list of bestselling books, despite his publisher’s insistence that his numbers should vault him well ahead of other titles in the top 10.
News of Cruz’s exclusion broke this week after HarperCollins, the book’s publisher, sent a letter to the Times inquiring about its omission from the list, sources with knowledge of the situation told POLITICO, which first reported the story. The Times responded by telling HarperCollins that the book did not meet their criteria for inclusion.
On Thursday, a Times spokesperson said that the book was excluded because the paper had found its sales to be mostly “strategic bulk purchases” — a common practice among political authors, but a claim hotly disputed by Cruz’s campaign.
“The Times is presumably embarrassed by having their obvious partisan bias called out. But their response — alleging ‘strategic bulk purchases’ — is a blatant falsehood,” Cruz campaign spokesperson Rick Tyler said in a statement Friday. “The evidence is directly to the contrary. In leveling this false charge, the Times has tried to impugn the integrity of Senator Cruz and of his publisher Harper Collins.”
“We call on the Times, release your so-called ‘evidence.’ Demonstrate that your charge isn’t simply a naked fabrication, designed to cover up your own partisan agenda,” Tyler continued. “And, if you cannot do so, then issue a public apology to Senator Cruz and Harper Collins editor Adam Bellow for making false charges against them.”