NOTICE: Posting schedule is irregular. I hope to get back to a regular schedule as the day-job allows.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Of Politics, Puppies and Professionalism [Full link to blog for email clients.]

First off, I am grateful and proud of the Hugo nomination of my article "Why Science is Never Settled" in the category of Related Work.  Do I think it is my "best"?  Well, I think my best article was the one published 3 years ago, so certainly not eligible this year.  My best last year?  Certainly.  Related Work?  By all means.  Science is a process, not a conclusion, pronouncement or law.  There are all too many instances of misrepresentation in SF and public media, and they fall on all protions of the political spectrum.  Sadly, there is politics in science, but in my opinion, it has no place there.

Do I think my work is the Best Related Work this year?  Not necessarily.  There are two entries that really talk about the nuts-and-bolts of writing, another explores some common themes in futurist writing regarding the nature of humanity.  The fourth Work is a collection of snarky emails, FB posts and tweets.  Seems to me that a collection of blog posts and pithy responses to hate mail won in this category a few years back.  Still, my Work talks about the Science part of the name: "Science Fiction" I am proud of it, and hope that the Work speaks for itself.

Personally, while I might be inclined to vote for myself (who wouldn't?) I do have sufficient honor that I choose not to do so.  If I voted today, my vote would likely go to Letters from Gardner, by Lou Antonelli. It's about writing - the process, learning to edit, how to handle rejection, and ultimately how to get published.  It's not a collection of fanfiction, self-congratulatory pats on the back or "challenges to the conventional wisdom" which are neither challenges, conventional nor wisdom.

Now on to the political part of this post - association with the Sad Puppies campaign.  I do not apologize for being associated with the group.  They are not the people calling names.  They are not the ones who silence dissent by mangling and distorting words. They are not the ones who publish legally actionable falsehoods and then weasel into a correction and retraction that is neither.  They are not the ones who would rather trade on feelings in contravention of facts. They are the not the ones who don't even bother to look up the facts.   They are not the ones who can't bother to see that the SP recommendations include females, non-whites, non-privileged, liberals, libertarians, moderates - and yes, conservative white males.  Frankly, there is not a single one of them who had so much privilege as to spend their college years traveling Europe couch surfing and living off of rich friends.

The thing is - I always thought it was the work which was nominated.  The author produced it, but the vote was supposed to be based on the quality of the book, story, article, 'zine, movie and/or TV show.  Thus, I don't claim, that I was nominated, but that my ARTICLE was nominated. If all that you-the-voter are basing your decision on is me, then by all means, don't vote for me or my article, because that very bias indicates that you have no idea what I've written. 


At this point, I was going to say that I have friends on both sides of the divide - SP or otherwise.  Unfortunately, that is not true.  I do have friends with multiple positions regarding politics, sexuality, firearms, education priorities, favorite Pratchett character (Vimes, of course) - and whether Putin memes are funny.  I do have friends among the Sad Puppies nominees.  I do not have friends among the shrill harpies.

Case Closed.

See, I am a professional.  I have been in the field of science in one job or another for 35 years.  I have been a fully-credentialed (PhD) scientist for 28 years.  I have lived in ghetto housing and worked 22 hour days to complete experiments, grant proposals, manuscripts and presentation slides.  I used to take bread, peanut butter and jelly with me to scientific meetings to save on meal costs.  Yet, during all of that time, there is not a single year which I have not published in my field, performed experiments, written grant proposals and directed others in the pursuit of science.  There is not a single year that I have not put forth 100% effort into science.  - Well, actually, that's not quite true.  In 1999 I nearly died of a raging infection that went septic.  That was July, and I spent the remainder of the year in a hospital bed.  On the other hand, during that >6 month recovery, I still managed to submit two grant proposals (one of my own, own with a colleague) and both got funded.  We also submitted two papers - both published - with one of those in Nature.   [So, maybe 90% dedication that year, with the remainder devoted to staying alive.] 

I stand here with a nominated work. I wrote it professionally.  Yes, I use a pen-name.  That way my peer-reviewed experimental and academic work can always be distinguished from my work in the SF/F field.  You can look me up, Google will likely provide both names, but I'm not going to do your homework for you. 


Judge my Related Work on it on its merits, not on me.  If you like the Work, fine.  If you don't like it, also fine.  But don't pre-judge me without reading the Work - and don't ever assume you know all there is to know about me.

Let me close with an example that I think epitomizes this current culture war regarding the Hugos.  This year, Best Fanzine includes The Revenge of Hump Day, edited by Tim ("Uncle Timmy") Bolgeo.  You may know the name from the Archon controversy where the convention rescinded his invitation to be Fan Guest of Honor.  It was due to a malicious campaign started by an individual who called him racist because of a tacky, tasteless joke in The Revenge.   The person who started the campaign actually tried to cause a disturbance at Archon and had to be removed by Con Security.  So essentially, the person claiming that someone else would cause a problem - was the problem.

There's too much false accusation, lies and rabble-rousing in this campaign.  It needs to end, and this year's vote on these nominations is a battlefront.  The people screaming loudest, most shrill-y, most vehemently --- are the problem. 

Where do you stand?

Stand my ground, I won't give in / No more denying, I've got to face it / Won't close my eyes and hide the truth inside / If I don't make it, someone else will / Stand my ground. 

-- "Stand My Ground" - Within Temptation.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

With Thanks and Best Wishes to All (2015 Hugo Nominees for Best Related Work). [Full link to blog for email clients.]

Today the short-list of nominations for the 2015 Hugo Awards was announced.  I am proud to have an article nominated in the Best Related Work category.  I am thankful for the selection and humbled by the support of the voters.

I am rather proud of the nominated work - Why Science is Never Settled (on the website, and available in their Free Library in the Free Nonfiction 2014 collection).   Note that this is a two-part article the link above takes you to Part 1 - Part 2 is here.

I am proud of it because I didn't set out to trash any specific concept, but shine a light on how science works (how it should work) and what happens when that goes wrong.  Scientific inquiry is a method, a process, and a journey.  It changes constantly as new facts and phenomena are revealed.

As for it being a worthy nomination, I am glad that some voters thought so.  I received a few nominations last year for A Terrible Thing to Lose - which was both an examination of John Ringo's zombie apocalypse thriller while also being an examination of the zombie theme and a look at real science behind the zombie genre.

That's what I try to do - bring real science into the field of science fiction and fantasy.  My personal favorite article was the first I wrote for Baen - Putting the Science in Science Fiction - where I examined the two-way relationship between science and SF.  There is much of current science that seems like (and was inspired by) science fiction, and so many sources for science fiction are found in cutting-edge science.  Personally, the passion of my research career has been shaped by SF - whether it is the 32 years of physiology & pharmacology, the 13 years of neural prosthetics research, or the brand new direction of investigating brain effects of space radiation.  I continue to read SF, write SF, and *do* SF in my day job.

But I am not alone in my nomination, there are other worthy works right up there with me:

Michael Z. Williamson's Wisdom From My Internet is a collection of funny, snarky and pithy emails, tweets and facebook posts.  Mike oscillates between cynical, irreverent and just plain funny - and that's in real life.  His science fiction is rollicking fun, his observations on the digital age of social media are no less so.

John C. Wright's Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth is an astounding collection of essays.  If you have not read Wright's fiction, please do so.  He crafts words into images and scenes like a Master.  His nonfiction is no less compelling, and I urge everyone to at least sample his work.

Lou Antonelli's Letters from Gardner: A Writer's Odyssey chronicles an SF author's quest to be published.  Part anthology of short fiction, part history, part writer's guide, Antonelli leads readers through the process, the highs, the lows (the rewrites) of a developing writer.  It is a worthy Best Related contribution to SF's highest literary award.

Ken Burnside's The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF is one of the essays that complete the anthology Riding the Red Horse. This is an ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL reading if you are writing fiction that involves spacecraft, aircraft, rockets, missiles, bombs, ballistics - anything that relies on Newton's laws.  Burnside writes in an easily understood manner, and it doesn't matter if you are neither writing nor a fan of military SF, it's still an excellent guide.

[By the way, when reading Riding the Red Horse, you may come across a familiar name.  It's my first foray into fiction, I hope y'all like it!]

So, that's the short-list for Best Related Work.  There's some really good stuff in there, and frankly, I need to reread some of it myself. I congratulate all of my fellow nominees, and will cheer on with pride whomever wins this category.

Finally, I want to thank my editors: Toni Weisskopf and Tony Daniel at Baen.   As long as they keep requesting - and the readers keep reading - I will gladly keep writing about the SCIENCE of science fiction.