Author Archives: Officer B-flat

Neo-nazis and crybabies.

In recent weeks, two completely separate people have said stupid things. Two different people have been the victims of two baying mobs.

I talked about Irene Gallo before. To summarise, in a facebook post, promoting her employer – Tor Books – she called a bunch of Sci-fi fans (including several who read Tor books, some who are published by Tor, and who even nominated one of their books for a Hugo), Neo Nazis. This has led to calls for a boycott from the supporters of Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies. However others were quick to defend her. The Puppies are being pretty whiny here, but to give Grant credit, he is quite explicit about not wanting any dismissals or resignations.

In other news, Nobel winning scientist Tim Hunt, at a dinner made a rather bad joke about Women in labs, falling in love and crying. This was a juicy little soundbite for the media, and (especially presented out of context as it was) naturally offended a lot of people. He was roundly mocked for his comments, as he should have been. People then demanded the university sack him, and the university complied. Any other profession, and he’d have a good case for wrongful dismissal. Grievances about sexism normally go through a formal process. But he’s already been tried and found guilty by twitter so the university’s role is just to carry out sentence. This criticism of the twitter mob has been met with criticism. The criticism is attacked as Tone Policing by idiots who like their buzzwords.

I notice that the criticism and defence of these two people is split along lines of allegiance. Had Tim Hunt said Female Scientists are Neo-Nazis, would the roles have been reversed? Had Irene said that the sad puppies were cry-babies, would those who rounded on Tim Hunt also have demanded her resignation from Tor? The criticism seems to be based not on right and wrong, but on tribalism. Libertarians are extremely defensive of Tim Hunt. Feminists extreme fringe is extremely defensive of Irene Gallo.

Is it really too much to ask that we simply don’t make sexist jokes, or accuse people of being neo-Nazis in public? Can we perhaps accept that after the public shame ritual, and an apology, that these people might have learned their lesson, and to actually allow them to get on with life? Or must we demand a sacrifice to the gods to atone for their terrible sins?


Reddit, freedom to hate fatties

The internet explodes again.

Reddit has banned the /r/fatpeoplehate subreddit. A few people have complained very loudly. Understandably when your community is unceremoniously pulled from under your feet. This was a surprisingly popular sub at 150000 readers – about the same level as writing, or guitar subreddits. Not huge, but certainly a sizeable niche.

As a freedom of speech fanatic, I should care. While reddit is under no legal obligation to provide any freedom of speech, it is something that generally does offer, and is part of its business model. They are providing a service, and a good business should provide the service its users expect. I’m no libertarian-capitalist. I consider businesses to have responsibility to the community they serve. The subscribers of /r/fatpeoplehate are that community. And while they may be offensive, freedom of speech is the freedom to offend!

But reddit changed its policy some time ago. They don’t offer freedom of speech. As they became more successful, their Overton Window narrowed. Even after, such a sub would have been  acceptable. Reddit still demands an excuse to wield the banhammer. In this case they had one. Users threatened people off-site.

Of course, the problem is still essentially non-existent. Switching to is a trivial matter. Or at least it will be when they deal with the influx of disgruntled redditors clobbering their servers. The free market may not be magic, but in this case it seems to work.

Sad/Rabid Puppies meets Godwin

So, the Sad Puppies, and related Rabid puppies saga lingers on. The most recent kerfuffle has been Irene Gallo, of Tor accusing Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies of being “extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups”.

While it was rather poor form for a publisher to insult writers, (some published by Tor), and while she really should have made it clear that on her public facebook page that she regularly uses to promote Tor (and not her personal one as people have suggested), in a response to a post promoting Tor, she doesn’t speak as a representative of Tor, that was just poor form.

The problem is, you can’t start calling people “Neo-Nazis”. Eric Flint addresses this here. Call them a bunch of rabid lunatics, or right wing fanatics, or brain dead troglodites if you will. Neo-Nazi starts to suggest an actual accusation. Many will see it as a figure of speech, but the fact that Flint felt the need to defend this shows that some people will take it seriously. That becomes, what’s known in the trade as “Libel”. And while Tor would most likely win a lawsuit, they don’t want to be put in that position.

That is really the only thing she did wrong. Irene has since apologised over all she needs to apologise over. I was pleased to see that John C Wright accepted the apology, but some were nowhere near as gracious.

Yet Irene has nothing else she needs to apologise for. The “Neo-Nazi” comment was clearly not intended literally. If people take it literally then all she need apologise for is undue offence. She apologised for appearing to represent Tor, as is correct and proper.

This is exactly the sort of behaviour they criticise the extreme left for. She’s apologised for all she need apologise for. It’s time to move on. It’s time to stop the outragism.

Sad Puppies.

Earlier this week, Breitbart took up the issue of the Sad Puppies Hugo campaign.

In summary, Sad Puppies is a campaign to counter the left wing bias in the Hugos, where third wave feminist authors are over-represented, and anyone on the right is maligned. So some of the right wing fans decided that the right wing minority should actually push some of the more right wing authors. Fair enough. There are no rules about promoting certain authors and certain books. I don’t think the Hugos could work if there were such an rule. And there’s no denying there’s a clique in Fandom.

The article is rather too apologetic in places, but the point that politics shouldn’t enter into the nominations is valid.

So great! Let’s see their slate from last year:

I have only included the fiction part, and only those that made it to the shortlist, simply because these are the ones I read.

Opera Vita Aeterna” was simply the most pointless tedious Novelette I’ve read. Honestly, did they just include this one to piss off Scalzi?

The Exchange Officers” was has some action. But this is the 21st century. We rather expect something with a little more filling.

The Chaplains Legacy” started well, but the story itself was unconvincing, and I couldn’t get more than a page into

The Butcher of Khardov“.

I actually rather enjoyed the “Warbound” series, but I still wondered what it was doing in a Hugo awards list. It’s very pulpy and action packed, but it really felt more like a pulp RPG than something that is meant to have some sort of point beyond mere entertainment.

So essentially, the reason these works needed the push from the right wing was because they were rubbish. Not because of politics.

WSFS membership simply isn’t made up of the staunch “Social Justice Warrior” that Breitbart seems to think. It’s certainly left wing, and has its fair share of third-wavers; but it is mostly a Labour/Democrat voting flavour of left wing. While a lot of them will quite likely turn their noses up at the more toxic right-wingers, there’s no significant bias towards the extremists on the left.

So we now have Sad Puppies 3. I approve of this in principle, I just hope this year a few of them are actually, you know, good!

So why can’t I pick a female character?

It was a while ago now, but last year, Ubisoft got in trouble for not having female characters in Assassin’s Creed. The reason? Because it’s double the work. A criticism that was criticised heavily by people who don’t have a clue about the realities of game animation.

So here’s how it is; Male and female animation is different. Here’s an example. Try moving the slider left and right. Clearly even at this absolute minimum level of detail, we’re looking at definite male and female movement. Apply a female skin to a male animation and it looks like a man in drag.

This is a single animation for each sex.

I worked for a games company where we put a lot of effort into our animation. And we only had about 40 animations. Every single character was male. Even the NPCs. Why? Because we only had male characters. Did we want to add female characters? Of course we did! The designers wanted female characters. The managers wanted female characters. The animators wanted female characters. The CEO wanted female characters. But it got put back because there were more pressing concerns.

Ubisoft claims this would require 8000 additional animations. Probably not totally true – there will be some duplication – but looking at this gameplay video, there’s certainly a lot of movement. We have walking running, rolling, several types of jumping, climbing, vaulting, punching, all within the first minute of gameplay. And yes, each one has to be animated separately for a female character. Each needs to have been tested for a female character. We need to tweak and tune it. It takes time.

A former designer claimed that it’s really not that hard. “A couple of days”. It’s idiots like this that lead to the death marches and permacrunch that makes the games industry such a joy to work for. He’s a designer. Not an animator! Yes. Many games do have a female protagonist. A lot don’t allow a male one. Too hard to do? Or perhaps the animation resources were better spent making the female character as good as possible.

Portal would have required essentially no effort for a male player character.Why was there not an option? Because really nobody gave a damn!

Do the critics really think there’s some huge conspiracy amongst the developers to not have female characters? To what end? Why would they be so desperate that women aren’t wanted? Do the critics really imagine that game dev studios are clubs with a “no girlz allowed” sign hanging out the door? Sure, it’s male dominated. So was Core design when they created Tomb Raider. They thought the idea of a female protagonist was cool! So did the team behind Assassins Creed III: Liberation.

So why is playing a female character so damn important? And why only this game? There are hundreds of games where you can’t play a female character and while not as many, certainly no shortage of games with female protagonists. Why single out Assassin’s creed? And if it’s so important, what would you drop to make room for it?

Islam is not a religion of peace! Nor is it a religion of hate!

Islam is a religion.

Whether the practitioners are hateful or not is up to them. They’ll be hateful if they have another religion.

Most people, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Atheists, Agnostics and al the other hundreds of religions in the world don’t want to shoot people for causing offence. It wasn’t Catholicism that made the IRA blow up innocent people. We weren’t arguing over whether Catholicism was good or bad. We were focussed only on that subset – the brutal murderers who felt their cause was more important than innocent life.

So why do we lump the crazy Jihadists in with the normal moderate Muslims? Can we not judge by the person?

The people to blame for the attacks in Paris were the individuals. They were acting on their own volition. They had the choice to do nothing. Or to angrily protest outside Charlie Hebdo’s offices Or do hundreds of other things.

And the same goes for the opposite. My Muslim co-workers – the ones who chatted and joked with the rest of us, and brought in snacks at the end of Ramadan – were not decent friendly people because they were Muslims. They were just decent friendly people. Most people are. Religion has nothing to do with it.

On Freedom of Speech

Yesterday, 12 people were killed for drawing pictures.Gunmen killed 12 people at the offices of French Satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. This is tragedy for the victims and for the people who knew them and the chilling effect of freedom of speech.

One of the victims – Charlie Hebdo editor, Stephane Charbonnier – once said “I am not afraid of retaliation. I have no kids, no wife, no car, no credit. It perhaps sounds a bit pompous, but I prefer to die standing than living on my knees.”

Because freedom of speech matters.

And a lot of people disagree on what the right to freedom of speech is and why it matters.

Randall Munroe’s XKCD comic has commented on this in the past. This is a view I see frequently. It is wrong! Others have said that freedom of speech comes with responsibilities. This is also wrong. Freedom of speech is a right.

It is not about providing a platform. The speaker needs to find their own platform. If you provide a platform, your provision may be influenced by the principle of freedom of speech. The same principle that guides the right to freedom of speech.

It’s not about the First Amendment. This is informed by freedom of speech. But it only applies in the US and is only a protection of the right. Not a grant.

The right to Freedom of speech is about being free to speak. If anyone manages to intimidate me from speaking they are violating my right. It doesn’t matter if that is by law, by threats of or actual violence or by physical restriction. Laws against speech infringe our rights. Shooting cartoonists infringes this right. Destroying magazine offices infringes this right.

On the responsibilities that comes with freedom of speech – there are none. We are in no way obliged not to offend. My right to say what I think I greater than your right not to be offended. You have no such right. We arenot obliged to be silent in fear of retaliation.

This freedom is something that can take down kings and presidents. Even destroy empires. We need to defend this power we have. This is the ultimate protection of the weak over the powerful. If we accept that we must restrain ourselves in the face of threats, we lose that power.

We lose our freedom.