Sad Puppies' Kate Paulk Reviews all Hugo Award Nominees

Sad Puppies 4

With five days of Hugo Award voting left, Sad Puppies IV leader Kate "The Impaler" Paulk concludes her reviews of works in every nominated category.

The Campbells being the last category on the list, it just so happens that Kate's final series of reviews includes my eligible novel Nethereal.
I couldn’t stop reading Nethereal. The combination of fantasy styling over science fiction with an intricate layered plot and remarkably human characters sucked me in and refused to let go. Of note: Niemeier is the only finalist in his first year of Campbell eligibility.
High praise indeed, considering I'm up against Andy Weir. And her official review wasn't the only place that Kate expressed praise for Nethereal. Here's a comment she left on my unveiling of the updated cover with a blurb from Larry Correia:

Nethereal - Larry Correia blurb
Kate Paulk comment Nethereal

Whether your sympathies run more lachrymose or hydrophobic, you've got to show Kate--and her co-conspirators Sarah Hoyt and Amanda Green--due respect. They took on the thankless task of running Sad Puppies the year after SP3 leader Brad Torgersen was raked over the coals by international media hacks. That takes real conviction.

On second thought, their efforts weren't entirely thankless, as evidenced by this message from one of my readers:
...finally finished Souldancer. What a book! Now, more than ever I'm so happy the whole Sad Puppies thing happened - I've found so many new awesome writers (including you) through the hashtag that I'm just amazed. I mean, I thought sci-fi, for one, was surely dying since the bookstores were selling nada but...then you guys happen! And world seems right again xD
These sentiments are hugely significant, especially since the ringleader of the clique that burned down the Hugos has been appointed to succeed Tom Doherty as the head of Tor Books.

The Big 5 NY publishers, especially Tor, continue to hemorrhage market share. Meanwhile their former readers flock to indie and small publishers who offer them stories they want to read instead of trying to force people read what the literati think is good for them.

In the absence of multi-million dollar advertising budgets, Sad Puppies has proven quite effective at connecting self-published and non-Big 5 authors with SFF fans who'd despaired of finding fun stories to read. That fact alone justifies SP's continuing campaign.

Four years ago, Larry Correia founded Sad Puppies to uncover the bias in the Hugo Awards process. It seems that while they were at it, the Puppies also saved science fiction.

So thank you Kate, Sarah, Amanda, Brad, and Larry.

My SFF books Nethereal and Souldancer are both available now. Read with caution unless you have a couple of weekends to kill.


Over the Target

Denizens of Reddit's deepest bowels have taken umbrage at my observation that Hollywood is now a propaganda machine.
You heard it here first ladies: your existence in popular media is propaganda. Even though TFA became one of the highest grossing movies of all time and was pretty much universally well-liked, this fucking dude and like a thousand dudes just like him know the truth: it's actually leftist propaganda! They just know, guys. They figured it out.
It just so happens that I did figure it out. It wasn't that hard, especially since compulsively signaling their support for racial and sexual supremacy is all the rage among major film makers these days.

Case in point: Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams' response to a couple of Asian fans at last year's San Diego Comic Con:
First, I want to say: go, Asians! I’m not casting the movies that are coming up but if I was I would cast them as only Asian. I think you’ll see there are Asians in this film.
 Before you start furiously banging out comments pointing out that Abrams' comment is clearly a joke, I know. The quote above is there to give context for what follows.

Abrams went on to say:
We didn’t write Fin to be any color or anyone to be any color. We just cast the movie.
It looks as if that settles it. Taken at face value, Abrams' statement shows that his casting is totally color blind, and any claims that he chose a diverse cast for diversity's sake are completely off-base.

But then, there's the small matter of what he said in 2013 about how he cast his failed TV show Undercovers:
We wrote these characters but when we went to cast it, one of the things I had felt, having been to the Emmys a couple times — you look around that room and you see the whitest fucking room in the history of time. Its just unbelievably white. And I just thought, we’re casting this show and we have an opportunity to do anything we want, why not cast the show with actors of color? Like not for sure, and if we can’t find the actors who are great, we shouldn’t, but why don’t we make that effort because it wasn’t written that way
Read that quote carefully; then take another look at Abrams' 2015 SDCC comments. Notice how he used Undercovers' color blind writing to justify pushing an ideological agenda; then cited TFA's color blind writing as evidence that he didn't push his ideology with with Star Wars.

Of course, Lone Penguin-ing by urging onlookers to pay no attention to me because Sexist! is a sure sign that my arguments are inflicting serious cognitive dissonance on the peanut gallery.

So great was the cultural commissars' distress that they even took offense at a working author having the audacity to market his books.
Nothing says "fun, exciting yarn with the sole aim of entertaining you" like a conscious commitment to reactionary politics.
I understand that capitalism tends to produce insufficient bread lines and head pyramids for such commenters' tastes.

In addition, this one publicly betrays his inability to conceive of an author holding one set of beliefs while writing favorably or neutrally of others, or even--heaven forfend!--keeping politics out of his books altogether.

That's what I do. The failure of Ghostbusters 2016 is a good example of why.

But even pretending to authorial success while clearly not being a Real Writer™ isn't what made these people feel like someone peed in their Kool-Aid. What's really got their knickers in a twist is the mere existence of people who are...

Diverging from the Narrative

Although my opinion of TFA caused its share of freak-outs, the Reddit SJWs suffered a far worse case of butthurt over my failure to burn my pinch of incense to the flop that was Ghostbusters 2016.
is [sic] this about ghostbusters? yep. it's about ghostbusters.
jesus [sic] fucking christ, i've [sic] seen remakes of movies since the 90s and no one has ever made this much of a fuss over any of them. just [sic] don't see the damn movie and move on with your life.
Translation from the semi-literate crybully cant: "How dare you hit back!? You're supposed to curl into a fetal ball while chanting obsequious apologies as we kick you!"
I mean, jeez, AVGN, too, decided he wouldn't go see the movie, but he didn't make this huge fuss about "leftist propaganda", he just said he disliked the trailer and that's it.
Yeah. I should've kept quiet about the new Ghostbusters' brazen ideological slant and just not seen the movie. Just like James Rolfe did.

Because it worked out so well for him.

For the record, here is all the AVGN said:

Here's what he got for just saying he disliked the trailer and that he wouldn't see the movie:

The internet inquisition's claim to respect reasonable differences of opinion is a pathologically blatant lie. Far from respecting the free speech rights of people they disagree with, they're viciously hounding those who step out of line and censoring outspoken opponents on social media.

It's almost as if modern day witch-hunters always lie about their tyrannical intentions, always double down when their lies are called out, and always project their biases onto opponents.

Anyway, their true demands are clear: you will actively cheerlead for their pet causes. No dissent, or even neutral abstention, is allowed.

When the grievance-bots come for you

There was a time not too long ago when these torch and pitchfork-bearing cretins could destroy reputations and careers at will.

Those days are over.

The failure of the new Ghostbusters, the indie publishing revolution, and the death of Gawker all herald the dawn of a new, more intellectually and creatively open era. The gatekeepers are still there, but the walls have come down.

When a grievance mob comes for you, don't apologize. Don't play defense. These people are so used to getting their way whenever they throw a tantrum that they have no answer to a counterattack.

Like when I displayed my attackers' stupidity for all and sundry to behold on Twitter.

Result: my blog traffic and book sales doubled.

Thanks, Reddit mob!

The thought police are cowardly and ridiculous. They don't merit your fear; certainly not your obedience.

And just because it will piss them off:

My incredibly entertaining, award-nominated, category best selling SFF books are available now :)



Podcast Roundup: Catholic Geek Gab

My weekend turned out to be a podcasating marathon. All told, I spent two and half hours in geekish conversation. Now you can enjoy the results!

The Catholic Geeks

First up, I went on Catholic Geeks, hosted by author Declan Finn. He gave me the whole show to myself, so we covered a wide range of topics, including the origins of my first SFF novel Nethereal, my Campbell nomination and Hugo Award predictions, and indie publishing. Being two overeducated Catholic guys, we even delve into a bit of theology and the meaning of art.

It was a lot of fun, and I can't wait to be on Catholic Geeks again. In the meantime, you can listen to the episode here.

Your weekend would be lacking the recommended allowance of geekery without another geektacular episode of Geek Gab. Luckily we've got a fresh one for you!

Join Daddy Warpig, Dorrinal, and me as we gab about the new Netflix series Stranger Things and the enigmatic Star Trek Beyond.

Finally, I'd be remiss not to mention that today is the last day to nominate for the brand new Dragon Awards. Nominations close tonight at midnight, and participation is free for everyone.

As a reminder, my second book Souldancer is eligible in the Best Horror Novel category.

Fill out your nominating ballot here.



I'll Be on Catholic Geeks Tonight

Catholic Geeks

Heads up!

I'll be joining Honor at Stake author Declan Finn on the Catholic Geeks show tonight at 7:00 PM Easter/6:00 PM Central.

Join us for what's sure to be a lively discussion of the Hugos, the publishing industry, and general Catholic geekery.



Twitter Bans Milo. Rabid Puppies Release Ballot

Milo Banned

Twitter's ongoing animosity toward Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos has now culminated in Twitter permanently banning him from their social network service.

The company claimed that the reason for Milo's ban was his alleged incitement of a sexist/racist tweetmob. As we've come to expect by now, the allegations proved to be trumped up charges straight out of thought police gaslighting 101.

Milo's real crime? Posting a negative review of a movie that most folks with a working sense of humor found insufferable.

Not to worry. As with Twitter's last attempt to censor Milo, he will only become more powerful than they could possibly imagine.

Milo Forms
He hasn't even attained his final form yet!

In Hugo News

Rabid Puppies Supreme Dark Lord Vox Day has announced how he plans to vote in this year's Hugo Awards.

As was the case with the RP nomination ballot, yours truly makes a cameo appearance on the final list.

Rabid Puppies 2016 Campbell Award Ballot

Reminder: if you haven't voted for this year's Hugos yet, July 31 is the deadline to cast your final ballot.

And if you long for the day when Hugo nominees wrote fun, thrilling SFF that didn't denigrate its own audience, I'm bringing it back!



Soon to Be Forgotten Remakes of Recent Classics

I've written about Hollywood's devolution into an assembly line for ill-advised remakes. As a follow up to that post about (then) upcoming reboots, reimaginings, and ripoffs, here are some remakes of films from the 70s, 80s, and 90s which, unlike the classic originals, are doomed to oblivion.

RoboCop 2014
Robocop 2014

One of the few movies on this list that I've actually seen. The RoboCop remake is perhaps the mildest offender since its only real fault is failing to bring something new to the table--an absolute must for any remake.

Not that I'm excusing the film makers' poor judgment in deciding to remake RoboCop in the first place. The original tackled perennial issues ranging from anti-cop violence to the meaning of humanity to consumerism run amok so deftly as to be definitive.

Since any recognizable RoboCop story pretty much has to address these topics, any attempt to say something new on those fronts with thoughtfulness and style even approaching the original basically sets itself up for failure.

Total Recall 2012
Total Recall 2012

Full disclosure: I haven't seen 2012's Total Recall. Nor am I likely to. It's not even that the original film is perfect. On the contrary, while I have a soft spot for Verhoeven's 19990 version, the schlocky 80s action movie interpretation of Philip K. Dick's short story leaves plenty of room for improvement.

This remake was a chance to give "We Can Remember it for You Wholesale" the Minority Report caliber treatment it deserved. But the title alone tells me that I'd be in for a watered-down remake of the fun, often goofy Schwarzenegger action flick; not a faithful adaptation of  the PKD source material.

Conan the Barbarian 2011
Conan the Barbarian 2011

Speaking of lackluster remakes of classic Arnold Schwarzenegger films, Half in the Bag told me everything I needed to know about 2011's Conan the Barbarian.

Fright Night 2011
Fright Night 2011

Speaking of Half in the Bag, they also told me everything I needed to know about 2011's Fright Night.

Red Dawn 2012
Red Dawn 2012

I skipped this one, too--for the complaints of rampant shaky cam, if nothing else. However, reports that the commies invading the US were changed from the Chinese to the North Koreans provide the first major instance of a remake tarnished by political correctness and pandering to overseas markets.

Point Break 2015
Point Break 2015

This imitation of the Kathryn Bigelow original made my prior list of ill-conceived remakes. Can't say I'm displeased to see that it's already sunken into obscurity. Let Point Break 2015 serve as a harbinger of the fate awaiting uninspired remakes yet to come.

Ghostbusters 2016
Ghostbusters 2016

Covered this yesterday. Took second place to a kid's movie in its second week of release. Fell miserably short of the (formerly) worst film in the series' opening weekend. Only recouped 1/3 of its production budget, which was itself a fraction of the total budget after promotional costs. Tied for biggest PC propaganda piece on this list. Banned in the market that Red Dawn sold out to. Next.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Star Wars - The Force Awakens

Time to lay my cards on the table. Any dog with an internet connection can safely predict that an Escape from New York reboot will fade into obscurity five minutes after its misbegotten release. It takes true grit (actually a decent remake), keen insight into the popular zeitgeist, or stark raving madness to predict the same fate for a Star Wars movie.

But that's what I'm doing.

In a comment on my Ghostbusters 2016 post, reader JD Cowan predicted a coming backlash against TFA. Not only do I concur wholeheartedly, there are clear signs that a popular reaction against what's basically a Star Wars 1977 remake is already underway.

Say what you will about George Lucas' directing talents. He can dream up memorable imagery like nobody's business. Cameron is dead right when he says that TFA fails to match even the prequels' visual imagination.

Compare the two images below. The first is the iconic opening sequence of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The second is the analogous scene in Episode VII.

Star Wars IV Opening

Star Wars VII Opening

Now tell me honestly: which frame draws your eye in, imparts a sense of motion and action despite being a still image, and conveys everything you need to know about the film's antagonists and protagonists--including their relative strength and basic relationship?

And which one looks like a shadow puppet?

There's no contest. TFA's opening presents us with a mostly dark screen that's immediately much less interesting to look at than ANH's shot of Tatooine before the ships fly over. The only objects of note are promptly blocked by a vague black shape.

It's dull, it's flat, and it fails to impart even 1/10 of the plot, character, conflict, and theme information that the Devastator chasing the Tantive IV does in one frame of A New Hope. TFA's opening betrays an acute case of directorial Dunning-Kruger syndrome: someone who thinks he's fluent in the visual language of film when he's really a Chinese box mimicking true masters without understanding.

That's not even getting into the achingly PC propaganda shoehorned into the script.

Star Wars Episode VII made money because it's Star Wars--the only franchise that can draw massive audiences with its name alone. At least, it used to be. Fans are already wising up to the fact that TFA is a not-so-thinly veiled insult to their existence. If the foretastes we've had of Rogue One are any indication, Disney may be on the verge of squandering all of the franchise's social capital.

Think it can't happen? Then you're probably too young to remember the pop culture scene ca. 1985-1995, after the hype surrounding Return of the Jedi had died down and before the mid-90s special editions. Hard as it is to conceive of now, there was a time when Star Wars was reduced to an afterthought, if that; surviving only as a toy line.

Lucas has always been a consummate businessman. He knew what he was doing with the special editions and the prequels. Love them or hate them, they were wildly successful in attaining their primary purpose: reigniting public interest in Star Wars, particularly in the all-important kids' demographic.

Star Wars toys raked in mountains of cash last Christmas for much the same reason that the movie they cross-promoted did: the franchise's dwindling supply of good will. Contra the mint that Disney has made on Star Wars toys, there are signs that they're having trouble managing what has always been the IP's most valuable aspect.

Consider Disney's total overhaul of Star Wars game production, including mass firings, which resulted in the very pretty but roundly disappointing Battlefront 2015.

Then there's the tone-deaf marketing, exemplified by this ad in which a young boy who daydreams about being a Jedi Knight rushing to his sister's rescue has his fantasy crushed when his ingrate of a sibling easily saves herself while complaining that he wasn't as punctual as she'd have liked.

Star Wars Saves Christmas
Why didn't you do this BEFORE?
As the clearance markdown of Ghostbusters toys prior to the new film's release once again proves, companies ignore the different preferences of boys and girls at their peril.

To recap: under Disney's hamfisted micromanagement, Star Wars has become self-derivative, preachy, visually flat, and unmemorable. If upcoming films in the series continue this trend, expect an angry backlash followed by a lapse into oblivion--especially if they fail to transmit fandom to the next generation.

Perhaps I'm wrong. In fact, you might love all of the movies on this list. In either case I invite you to read my novels, which are space operas but not movies.



When Is a Movie Not a Movie?

When it's a cynical propagandistic cash grab.

Actually, we can scratch the last part now that Ghostbusters 2016 has failed to beat the opening weekend domestic box office take of Ghostbusters II.

Here are the numbers

Ghostbusters II: $29,472,894 (June 16, 1989)

Ghostbusters: $46,000,000 (July 17, 2016)

At first glance I seem to have contradicted myself, but look what happens when we apply the magic of inflation!

Ghostbusters II: $57,766,872 in 2016 dollars

That's over eleven million more than the Ghostbusters reboot.

A reboot that cost $144,000,000 to make, compared to its direct predecessor's $72,520,000 price tag.

In other words, Ghostbusters II, which is widely considered a failure, made back almost 80% of its budget on opening weekend, compared to only 32% for the reboot.

Hollywood will be quick to blame sexism. However, a glut of evidence IDs the real culprit of this commercial failure as artistic failure.

Ghostbusters 2016 Logo Shot in Crotch

Simpsons - Man Getting Hit by Football
The Simpsons did it better.
I must admit, the success of The Force Awakens dealt a serious blow to my faith in American audiences' judgment. Prior to reports of its opening weekend numbers, I'd expected the Ghostbusters reboot to top the box office and at least surpass the much-maligned Ghostbusters II.

The fact that many moviegoers are voting with their wallets against a film that epitomizes Hollywood's brazen contempt for them tempers my cynicism.

That's not to say that all is well in the world of pop culture.

If it sucks, don't go

There's no getting around it. TFA made a killing. And although it failed to meet expectations, Ghostbusters 2016 might still make its budget back and may even turn a profit.

If these later films were simply earnest but flawed products like the Star Wars prequels and Ghostbusters II, an argument for paying to see them could be made on the basis of "there's no accounting for taste".

Yet online and among gatherings of friends, there's no shortage of people who acknowledge TFA and GB 2016 for what they are: not movies meant to entertain, but crass propaganda. It's highly doubtful that either film would do as well as it did had people who know them for what they are simply not paid to be propagandized.

I've noticed a baffling phenomenon among my peers that can be summed up in one sentence: "Yeah, [Cynical Propagandistic Cash Grab X ] will suck, but I have to go."

No, you don't.

Otherwise rational people's willingness to pay companies who hate them for the privilege of having their personal beliefs, religion, and way of life mocked is a grim testament to how thoroughly pop culture has been subverted into a tool of the elite.

After pointing this out, I usually get excuses along the lines of "I don't want to go, but my girlfriend/spouse does, so what choice do I have?"

I answer: you have the choice to impress your significant other (and, even more importantly, your children) by showing integrity and frugality when you refuse to pay Hollywood scumbags to insult both of you.

Then there's the ever-popular: "I've been a diehard fan of the series for decades. Even if this one sucks, I have to see it."

I answer: look man, we all loved Star Wars/Star Trek/Indiana Jones/Ghostbusters/etc. You probably loved Twinkies as a kid, too, but if I stuck a bunch of them under a slaughterhouse radiator for 30 years and then served you the resulting moldy blackened goo, past fondness wouldn't bind you to choke down the putrid mess.

Moldy Twinkies
Pictured: your most beloved childhood franchise
Hollywood hates you. They've murdered the film franchises you loved and reanimated them as shambling husks. But instead of cloves and sawdust, they've stuffed these mummified impostors with PC dogma. These zombie films' main purpose now is to spread elitist groupthink like plague rats.

Nevertheless, the desire to see these hollow propaganda pieces is understandable. The loyalty once reserved for faith, family, and country has long since been given over to multimedia entertainment empires, designer labels, and high profile name brands.

It worked for a while, back when the high priests of consumerism at least paid lip service to the values of the institutions they'd displaced. Now they've gone rabid and are devouring the culture that birthed them.

Cutting the cord and waking yourself up can seem daunting, I know. Missing out on the cinematic flavor of the month can be scary, especially if you don't immediately see anything that can fill the vacuum.

But alternatives exist, even if the movie studios, record labels, media conglomerates, and big publishers won't tell you about them.

For example, there are any number of independent authors working around the clock to spin fun, exciting yarns with the sole aim of entertaining you.

I happen to be one of them.



In Defense of Ghostbusters (1984)


I really shouldn't have to do this. At this point, the best course of action for everyone is to dismiss the artistic and moral failure that is Ghostbusters 2016, let the remake die a quick, unmourned, and forgotten death, and rest secure in the excellence of the one true Ghostbusters film.

But now inveterate contrarians and shills are vainly trying to make the reboot look better than the Cannon Films fire sale material it is by taking passive-aggressive shots at the original classic.

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: your claims that the original Ghostbusters is dumb, sexist, or overrated don't make you sound cool. They make you sound like a smug, revisionist poser. It's just as irritating as a hipster saying he liked a band before they were popular. And in this case, calling the first Ghostbusters a bad movie is empirically wrong.

The short version

Ghostbusters (1984--how detestable it is having to clarify that) is an SNL satire--from back when SNL was good--of a Lovecraftian horror story.

The reimagining, on the other hand, is a cynical parody of the original.

That is what fans are upset about; not the sex of the lead players or the perceived effrontery of making a new entry in a "sacred" franchise. By all reasonable accounts the new film is a shallow cash grab smothered in sanctimonious propaganda, and fans have been wise to the con since the trailer dropped.

The film makers should have heeded the fans' warning. But as I've said before, Hollywood hates its own audience.

Defense in depth

If you still doubt the original Ghostbusters' greatness, consider the following reasons why it is rightly hailed as a classic.

The talent

Ghostbusters talent

Comedy is the hardest genre to write well. Just ask any pro screenwriter to find out why good comedy writers are held in such high esteem. Nothing else requires such precise timing, tone, and dialogue.

Well-crafted, genuinely funny jokes aren't written by accident. If a writer is consistently turning in solid comedic scripts, you can be sure he knows what he's doing.

It's no coincidence that the creative team behind Ghostbusters includes Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ivan Reitman, and Bill Murray--talents responsible for the golden age of Saturday Night Live, Animal House, Meatballs, and Stripes.

When a pro writer goes to work, he operates at a certain level of ability. Ghostbusters didn't just rise to its creators' high standard of excellence, it took their game to a whole new level.

The world building

Ghost Smashers

Okay, Ghostbusters might not be your thing. That's understandable. But with the shortage of movies based on original IPs these days, you've got to at least give the first movie credit for originality.

I already explained that comedy is the toughest genre to write. Ghostbusters ups the difficulty even more by genre bashing comedy with horror and sci-fi: two of only three genres that require the added element of world building.

Take it from someone who's built an expansive SFF/horror setting: world building ain't easy.

The unique lore of Ghostbusters wasn't thrown together in a weekend, either. Aykroyd first developed the film's core concepts based on a real-life fascination with the paranormal stemming from his childhood. He spent years refining these ideas into an expansive mythos that's only hinted at on screen.

Come to think of it, the fact that Aykroyd's original, somewhat rambling, vision was pared down to a manageable yet still satisfying feature length experience stands as further testimony to the film's brilliance.

The performances

Filmed in one shot.

Not only were the talents behind Ghostbusters ingenious writers, they were also gifted comedic performers. Stellar acting chops are also on full display among the rest of the cast--especially Bill Murray, whose celebrated deadpan delivery made Dr. Peter Venkman a font of legendary quotes.

Seriously, this film alone accounts for at least four percent of the 100 funniest movie quotes. All four belong to Murray, who improvised most of his lines. It's been argued, and I think rightly so, that Murray deserves a co-writer credit on this film.

Also worthy of high acclaim is Rick Moranis, who improvised the notorious party scene during a single, long shot.

Sigourney Weaver, better known for more serious roles, ad-libbed the famous "You're more like a game show host" line.

The visuals

Ghostbusters Wrightson

"Effects Movies" tend to get a bad rap, but let's face it: if your film deals extensively with SF and/or horror elements, you need sharp visuals to sell the story.

Few films can boast the art design pedigree of Ghostbusters. With an art team that included venerable Swamp Thing and Frankenstein artist Bernie Wrightson, this movie's startling yet endearing visuals and largely practical effects continue to endure as CG effects from movies made five years ago grow old before their time.

Ghostbusters Librarian

The original Ghostbusters was indisputably smart, funny, visionary, and visually gorgeous. What more proof do you need? I rest my case.