Hugo Awards and such.

Alright, copy/pasted winners list, with a little commentary from me. Long story short: The Sad and Rabid Puppy movements got their asses kicked hard in the voting (they got zero awards), but are now insisting that it’s a victory for them.

I spent the weekend of the Hugos camping in central Washington for five days on a geology trip. Gotta admit, I didn’t really worry about any of this stuff during the trip. Fun fact, folks: Real life is better than internet drama! Following this, I’ll be avoiding blogging about the Sad Puppies and all that drama- in fact, about internet drama at all.

BEST NOVEL (1827 ballots)

  • Winner: The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu, Ken Liu translator (Tor Books)
  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
  • Skin Game: A Novel of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (Roc Books)

The Three Body Problem totally deserved this one. One of the best science fiction novels I’ve read in a long time. I reviewed it a while back. Props to Marko Kloos for pulling out of the race so Three Body Problem could get in- that had to be a tough decision. (Larry Correia also withdrew from the race, along with numerous other authors. Correia was the only Puppy to do so, to my knowledge.)  As for the other two Sad Puppy nominees still on the ballot, I’d be shocked if Anderson or Butcher paid much attention to the drama at all- by all accounts they both seem to be really nice, really busy guys with no time for internet drama. I feel kind of bad for them, getting caught up in something entirely out of their control.


Here come the Hugos, prepare for internet drama!

Edit: Oh, wait! I’m going to be camping during the upcoming Hugo Drama! That’ll be nice.

I’ll give some quick coverage of the drama, for some sort of closure’s sake, since I’ve been blogging about it off and on for a while, but I’m pretty tired of it.

Seriously, internet drama is one of the greatest wastes of time you can have in your life. There is essentially nothing redeeming about it. Arguing with people online? Most of the time, you’re making yourself an actively worse person. Time spent arguing with people on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, etcetera does nothing more than bring you that much closer to death.

I seriously regret all the time I’ve spent on Internet drama. None of that shit is what I want to remember on my deathbed someday.

Plot Devices: High Fantasy and the Treaty of Westphalia

Quick show of hands, who knows what Westphalian sovereignty is? For those of you who don’t want to read through the entire Wikipedia article, it’s the principle that any nation state has the right to govern itself and its internal affairs without interference from other nation states, and that each state is equal under international law. (Though it all frequently plays out differently in practice.) Westphalian sovereignty originated with the Peace of Westphalia, a series of treaties that ended the Thirty Year’s War and the Eighty Year’s War in Europe, who had had so many wars by that point they just gave up on original names. Prior to the Peace of Westphalia, constant meddling in the affairs of other countries was completely normal. It should be noted, of course, that the interrelation of royalty throughout Europe was a big cause of this.

Real quick, I want you to look at a map of Middle Earth. Feel free to look up a higher resolution one if you want, but there aren’t any precisely defined borders on the map- there isn’t any sharply defined line between Gondor and Mordor, other than the obvious geographic features. This isn’t because J.R.R. Tolkien just decided to draw a geographic map of Middle Earth and call it a day- the omission of borders was deliberate. This is, admittedly, speculation on my part- I don’t know for sure that Tolkien was deliberately modeling the nations of Middle Earth after pre-Westphalian states, but it seems extremely likely. The man was an exceptionally knowledgeable student of European history- for him to have included the strictly defined Westphalian state seems extraordinarily unlikely.

And indeed, in a reading of The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, the only borders really mentioned are geographic ones, and nations don’t even pay lip service to noninterference in each others business- which, of course, tends to be rather secondary, since they aren’t novels about nation states, but of good versus evil.


St. Vitus’ Plauge; Or; The Truth Behind Disney Song and Dance Numbers

Between the 14th and 17th century, a rather unique plague repeatedly struck Europe: St. Vitus’ Plague. It’s also known as the Dancing Plague or dancing mania. Large groups of people would abruptly break out into dance, which could last for days, weeks, or even months, only seldom stopping for food or rest. Many people died of exhaustion during the breakouts of St. Vitus’ Plague. One incident, the Dancing Plague of 1518, affected over 400 people, lasting for a full month. Other, related, phenomenon existed as well. Tarantism is the best example of one of them- it was a form of dancing mania nominally either caused by a spider bite or performed to cure one of its venom, though scientists and historians mostly agree that spiders weren’t involved. Ergot poisoning has also been linked to dancing mania. (Hurrah for hallucinogen producing fungi on grains being extremely common in Medieval Europe!) (more…)

Phantom Blender Syndrome

The other day, my mom, who was visiting from Kansas, bought me a blender for smoothie related purposes. (Thanks mom!) When we brought it home, my roommate insisted that he had a blender, had owned one for months, and this new one was unnecessary. We gave it a look, of course, and my suspicions were quickly confirmed: There was no such blender in the apartment. My roommate was clearly suffering from Phantom Blender Syndrome, or PBS.

Phantom Blender Syndrome isn’t talked about much, despite the fact that as many as one in seven Americans suffer from it. Don’t believe me? Do you own a blender? Are you really sure about it? Why don’t you go check? Go ahead, I can wait.