The People Who Show Up


The Hugo Awards are one of Science Fiction’s best-known trophies. Shaped like giant phalluses in the form of rocket ships (as opposed to giant phalluses shaped like golden men), the Hugos are the Oscars of the science fiction world.

Now, in the last couple of years, more diverse fiction has been being awarded Hugos. This isn’t a good thing, or a bad thing. It’s just a thing.

Some people, such as author Larry Correia believe that this is because the people who vote in the Hugo Awards – which is, essentially, those fans who go to or purchase a supporting membership for WorldCon, the World Science Fiction Convention – is composed actually a clique of people all voting for their friends, and does not reflect the tastes of SF fandom as a whole.

(Personally, I don’t believe that there is a secret clique of Social Justice Warriors, plotting in a dark room to ensure that only literary SF works make it through to the ballot. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” If this happened For Reals, we’d know about it. But anyway…)

To rectify this perceived injustice, Larry set up what’s become known as the Sad Puppies Campaign. In essence, it’s very simple. He encouraged you to

  1. Buy a supporting membership for WorldCon.
  2. Nominate works that you think should be on the ballot.

In that way, books that you like get to be eligible for the Hugos, and books that you don’t, don’t!

Huzzah, amirite?

This year, Larry and author Brad Torgerson went a little further, putting together a slate of works that they thought were deserving of the award, and encouraging people to vote for them.

All common, fair, above board. It had never been done before, and they were perfectly within their rights to do so.

Notorious asshat and genuinely terrible person Vox Day also got involved – think of him as the right-wing equivalent of Requires Hate, and you’ll not only be in the right ballpark, you’ll have made it to first base – with his own slate of Rabid Puppies, not associated with the Sad Puppies.

(Vox went ahead and put himself at the top of each of his list of suggested authors, which, again, is completely within the rules.)

The Sad and Rabid Puppies slates swept the nomination process this year.

Now, what this means for the Hugos is that many people won’t have the chance to vote for who they like, because the work isn’t on the shortlist. And the reason it isn’t on the shortlist, is because the Sad Puppies showed up. They organised. They voted. And they have a slateful of nominations.

Well, good for them. This is how democracy works.

There’s a lot of whining at the moment about how, well, it goes against the spirit of the Hugo Awards.

Bollocks to the spirit of the Hugo Awards. Care about this? Buy a membership. Vote. Vote for No Award this year, if you don’t think any of the works are worthwhile. Vote for works you do think are worthwhile on the slate. Encourage other people to do the same.

Just fucking vote.

Because if you’re not organised, you can be damn sure that people whose opinions you despise are.

Which brings me to the present.

Here in the UK, there’s a General Election in just over three weeks. If you’ve not registered to vote, you can’t. And if the shitbags get in? (Whoever your personal brand of shitbag is.) Then the result is on you.

Organise. Register to vote.  It takes about three minutes. You’ve got until the 20th of April to do so.

If you don’t like the way things are going, for the love of Christ make a difference. And vote.

Redemption Schedule

I’ll be at cuddlesome and friendly SF con Redemption this coming weekend up in Coventry. Should you be around and about, here’s the panels I’m on…

Stargate – Gone and Forgotten?
3pm, Friday
Basically, why Stargate the TV series is dead good.

Imaginary Friends
7pm, Friday

Six, Harvey, Harvey, Hopkirk (Deceased) and more – what function do people who only one character and the audience can see serve?

Doing the Time Loop
10pm, Friday
Episodes which repeat. Episodes which repeat. Episodes which repeat. Episodes which repeat.

The Prisoner: What was it all about?
11am, Saturday
I have a theory, and it is mine. OK, probably some other people’s too.

Creativity Workshop
2pm, Saturday
I’ll be running my workshop on how to improve your creativity again.

What Makes a Great Villain?
Sunday, 6pm
Contrast and revelation. Probably.

So, if that lot’s not enough to keep me busy, I’ve also taken on the job of editing the newsletter, so if you want to help out, come see me!

(And if you want some stuff that’s not me, you can look at the full programme here (PDF).)

Tickets available on the door, should you fancy that little lot and find yourself free.


FATE Combat Cheat Sheet

My Tuesday Night RPG group has been playing Zeitgeist for the last couple of years. It’s a steampunk fantasy game, and it’s got a great story. Strong recommend here.

We started off playing it in 4th Edition D&D, but after a while it became clear that the system wasn’t supporting the cinematic playstyle that we were using. And every time a combat happened, the whole thing just ground to a halt. So we switched to FATE – a fast-moving pulp-inspired system that was exactly what we needed.

The only problem was while the game is actually great, the rulebook keeps all of the rules for combat scattered throughout it. So we always ended up having to look things up using one of the half-a-dozen post-its and bookmarks scattered throughout the book. Which was a bugger.

So, if you’re playing FATE and have the same problem, here’s a helpful cheat sheet that I created for combat.

FATE Combat Cheat Sheet

Feel free to use, copy, share, print, pass on, and adapt for your own games.

This is a picture of the prophet Muhammad.

At the top of this post is a picture. It is a stick figure. It says: “Hello. I am the prophet Muhammad.”

The drawing is crude. It could be of anyone. The picture is not a caricature. There is no judgement attached to it.

However, the word-bubble attached to it makes clear, explicitly and absolutely, that it is a drawing of the prophet Muhammad.

This is my line in the sand.

If you are scared of killers, I am not. I am an atheist, and I am willing to die for my beliefs.

There are people in the world who believe that drawing or publishing an image of the Prophet is blasphemous and should be punishable by death.

I have done both. This is my line in the sand.

Christmas Pimpage

Stuck for Christmas Presents for your friends and family? Why not give them stuff I’ve written this year?

There’s Cthulhu Lives! from Ghostwoods Books. That there is an Amazon affiliate link which gives me an extra 20p or so at no extra cost to your good self. It’s like ticking the Gift Aid box when you give to charity – except in this case you get an actual book for your cash.

Or an eBook. They do those too.

Ethical objections to Amazon can be dealt with by buying it from another retailer. Ghostwoods has a list.

Or if your pals prefer something a bit more doctorwhoey (which is completely a word and in no way something I’ve made up) then you could try Outside In. It’s on sale in the US at Amazon or from my website in the UK.


The Wheel of Karma

Some years ago, I had a minor entanglement with Alex Dally McFarlane and the notable hatemonger known as Requires Hate (also known as Winterfox, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, and too many other aliases to mention here), where they bullied a friend of mine off of Twitter and very nearly out of fandom altogether for the crime of Not Being Anti-Racist Enough.

So proud was MacFarlane of this feat, that she crowed about it on Twitter (tweet since deleted) and in a blog post on her own site which – at the time of this writing – is still up. (In case it should mysteriously disappear at some point in the future, here’s a copy from The Wayback Machine.)

As mentioned in the comments, the tweets MacFarlane presents are quite one-sided, and she tells a wee porkie about the number of people who confronted her for bullying. Alas, I didn’t screencap the whole conversation at the time, as like most of the people involved, I simply blocked and moved on, figuring – to quote MacFarlane’s own words to me – Not interested in working with idiots.

However, things have recently started to come to light suggesting that this was not simply an isolated incident.

It seems that MacFarlane and Requires Hate have a track record of attacking women on the Internet. Here’s another tale of their methods. And another.

Should you wish to go deeper down the rabbithole, Laura Mixon has a very fine overview of Requires Hate’s output over the last ten or more years.

These are not just isolated incidents. Many other people are now discovering that they, too, were bullied by Requires Hate, often abetted by MacFarlane. Many of them didn’t realise it was a campaign of deliberate hatred, and often blamed themselves. Others had seen how people who attempted to speak up against Requires Hate were bullied and attacked in literally every venue on the Internet where they appeared. Here’s Requires Hate attacking a rape victim for over six months.

And now, one-by-one, her victims are beginning to speak up. To realise:


It was not me.

It was not my fault.

And I was not alone.

And people are beginning to realise that those who attacked anyone who dared to disagree with them under the battle flags of Justice For The Oppressed and If You Are Not With Us Then You Are Complicit In Oppression might not be doing it because they believed in the causes they espoused. Requires Hate, for example, has been sending death threats to people who disagreed with her for years before cloaking it in the flag of social justice.

And now all the karmic justice that has been piling up behind her has finally caught up. The mills of god grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.

If you’ve been harassed by Requires Hate, you may want to contact Laura with details. As Laura says, “BS/RH’s targets need to know that they are heard and believed.”

Each person who reveals their story makes it easier for the next person to reveal theirs.

It’s often said that sunshine is the best disinfectant.

Let us bring some sunshine into the dark corners of this world.

My Stalker Hell

I was dating someone a while back. Doesn’t matter who.

It ended.

Shortly afterwards I started receiving emails from sockpuppet accounts on an online dating site which we both frequented. It was easy enough to tell who they were from, because after a few how-are-you your-profile-looks-interesting getting-to-know-you exchanges, they would make the same claim as the person whom I’d been dating: specifically that all of my female friends were whores and cunts, and that I was having sex with all of them.

Also that I was going to get what was coming to me. That was new.

One I particularly remember, because it ended with the words “We know where you live.”

It got to, I think, about three of these before I’d had enough and reported it.

Around this time Housemate Matt came home one day shocked and surprised because someone had thrown a stone at him in the street. He never did see who or find out why. It may have been unrelated. But I have my suspicions.

The last interchange I had with this person was via another sockpuppet account, this time purporting to be an old male friend. This time that someone I was seeing was ugly, and that they would see me in Leeds, where I was going for a conference.

Needless to say this old male friend didn’t exist.

At this point I’d had enough and spent a few hours looking up the law, and sent this to the latest sockpuppet.


You’re probably not aware of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, as amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. Here’s a helpful link.

You may be particularly interested in reading the guidelines on sentencing on that page.

You’re probably also not aware that your IP address, which tracks the computer you’re on, is recorded by [DATING SITE] whenever you access the website. 

Get help. Do not pull this shit again.

The response from “jamessprat” was as follows:

I think you meant this for someone else, but will say hello in Leeds.

The harassment stopped, and I’ve never heard from them or their sockpuppets again. Which is all for the best. And, needless to say, the mysterious Mr Sprat did not turn up to say hello in Leeds.

During this time, I thought to myself that this, in some small way, must be what it’s like to be a celebrity on the Internet.

It was only a couple of days afterwards that I realised that wasn’t quite right, and the following was closer to the truth:

This, in some small way, must be what it’s like to be a woman on the Internet.

Acting on the Edge

M’brother Rafe taught at East 15 Drama School on something called The Project.

It’s a big part of their training, and basically involves a metric shit-tonne of research, followed by an in-depth week-long semi-improvised residential workshop where you will be in character almost all week long. It’s completely immersive, and if you’re interested in how to merge yourself into a character completely is an experience unlike any other.

Everyone I’ve spoken to who’s been through the training has said it’s helped them as an actor, and most have said that it was the high point of their training.

Also that it was physically and emotionally draining, and not something to go into lightly.

He and Kelly Golding have teamed up to make the training available for those outside a drama school for the first time.

The training is for professional actors only – you need to have been to a drama school or have half a dozen paid gigs under your belt even to apply.

Basically, this is a postgrad course for actors. There are no workshops, showcases, or films made as a result of this. It is purely and simply an opportunity to get new tools to help make you a better actor, without the pressure of public performance.

The cost for nine days of training is a heavily-discounted £550.

Find out more and apply on the Red Table website.


Final Draft Stage Template

Ages ago, I made a Final Draft Template for Stage Plays.

People keep asking for a copy, so here it is.

Stage Play

Just add it to your Final Draft Templates (or double click on it to open it) and, voila!

This version is for FD8. I may have an older version for 7 lurking around somewhere. Ask if you need it and I’ll try to dig it out.

D&D Adventurers League

Dropped into my FLGS yesterday to try and play some 5th edition D&D, and it was a bit unclear exactly how the organised play system was supposed to work. So when I got home I armed myself with a glass of whisky and dropped down the rabbithole. If you want to give the new edition of D&D a try, here’s what I found out…

(Or if you want some dragon-killing action on the side, if you know what I mean. It’s all right. I won’t tell your DM.)

There’s a huge overarching storyline – Tyranny of Dragons (ToD) – which will be lasting over the next six months or so in *everything*.

Video games. Stores. Home play. Written fiction.


You can create or consume as much or little of this story as you like. If you want to play it at home, you can. Just buy the two main adventures Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat, and you’re done. If you want to play those adventures at a store with people you know (or don’t), that can happen too.

D&D Encounters is the pickup game on Wednesdays for stores, 1-2 hours a sesh, and is basically level 1-4 of the main storyline. You can just turn up, be given a pregenerated character (or bring your own), and start playing there and then.

After that, you can either carry on the main ToD storyline at-home or in-store – either way someone needs to person up for a hardback at that point – or start turning up to D&D Expeditions, which can only be played in-store.

D&D Expeditions are 4-hour games set in a different part of the world, but still all connected to the main storyline. If your character is of the right tier (levels 1-4, 5-10, 11-16, 17-20), you can play any adventure in that tier. There are “levelling bumps” for in-store play which will get your character from one tier to another if you miss a few sessions, so it’s easy to continue playing with friends. There are *many* of these adventures, and more on the way.

They all tie into the main storyline, showing the events and consequences of ToD in a different area of the world. After playing a storyline, the DM reports back the decisions made by the players – did they destroy the dragon? Sell out the old man? Eat the tasty basilisk and tell the street traders in the local city just how delicious they were? The majority decisions as reported back then become facts in the history of the world, and may have long-term consequences…

D&D Epics are fifty-plus player world-shaking events. Whatever happens in these gets wrapped into the overall storyline and will affect the world in a big way. There are none scheduled for the UK yet. 

You can swap between any of these stories at-will provided you’re the right level. So you could start with Encounters, move to a few Expeditions, drop into the main storyline for a level or few, decide the fate of the world in an Epic, and then have some home play with the character, switching between between them all as you like provided the games they’ve played through are official ToD products.

The adventure in the starter box is also completely legal for organised play. Take the characters who’ve played through it to your FLGS, and they’ll be fine. Or play through it there.

Want to give D&D a try?

Then all you need are an adventure logsheet (to show what happens in the game) and a pre-generated character. Print one of these bad boys and girls out, take them to the store, and you’re good to go.

The store should have both of these available, but I’d print one of each out and take it anyway on the off-chance they don’t.

Pregenerated Characters
D&D Adventurers League Logsheet

Wizards of the Coast (the company that make D&D) will only tell people about D&D Encounters events which happen on Wednesday. So if your FLGS wants new people to come in and spend money (they almost certainly do) then they’ll be running Encounters on that night for sure. Maybe another night too, but almost certainly on a Wednesday. So that’s where you start.

Want to create your own character?

Then the free entry level is a copy of the Basic Rules, and a copy of the Adventurers League Player’s Guide (which tells you how to make a  character legal for organised play).

Player’s Guide
Basic Rules

Don’t like the character you’re playing with? Any time from level 1-4, you can change anything about them except their name. Class, Race, Stats, anything you like. You don’t get locked into a choice until they hit level 5.

Want more options? 

Then buy yourself a Player’s Handbook. The Player’s Guide tells you what’s legal. (It’s pretty much everything.)

Want more or higher level games?

Anything that’s not a drop-in Encounters games (ie the main ToD storyline past level 4 and D&D Expeditions) can be scheduled by your FLGS on any day of the week. It might be Wednesday, it might not. Talk to them to find out what they have on.


If you’re in London, your FLGS is Dark Sphere. Other FLGSes are available.