Hugo Awards and Sad Puppies

ReguIa

Journeyed there and back again
#1
So what's the deal here? I'm never into all these awards and stuff, frankly I don't care. If a book has a Hugo award winner sticker on it or something doesn't make me want to buy the book. What I look for is reviews on goodreads and the general opinion people seem to have of a certain novel.

From what little I read I understod that this group thinks the Hugo's are filled with books chosen for their political views and such, and not for how well made and most importantly enjoyable they are.

These people didn't see it as a good system because ''blockbuster'' like books never had a chance with the awards. Only very fine literature that dealt with sensitive issues, oppression, sexism and stuff like that.

Here's a quote from one of the members of this group.

''That’s what’s happened to Science Fiction & Fantasy literature. A few decades ago, if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds. If you saw a barbarian swinging an axe? You were going to get a rousing fantasy epic with broad-chested heroes who slay monsters, and run off with beautiful women. Battle-armored interstellar jump troops shooting up alien invaders? Yup. A gritty military SF war story, where the humans defeat the odds and save the Earth. And so on, and so forth.

These days, you can’t be sure.

The book has a spaceship on the cover, but is it really going to be a story about space exploration and pioneering derring-do? Or is the story merely about racial prejudice and exploitation, with interplanetary or interstellar trappings?

There’s a sword-swinger on the cover, but is it really about knights battling dragons? Or are the dragons suddenly the good guys, and the sword-swingers are the oppressive colonizers of Dragon Land?

A planet, framed by a galactic backdrop. Could it be an actual bona fide space opera? Heroes and princesses and laser blasters? No, wait. It’s about sexism and the oppression of women.

Finally, a book with a painting of a person wearing a mechanized suit of armor! Holding a rifle! War story ahoy! Nope, wait. It’s actually about gay and transgender issues.

Or it could be about the evils of capitalism and the despotism of the wealthy.

Do you see what I am trying to say here?''

Does anyone know more about this?
 

M. D. Ireman

A farm boy with a sword
#2
I can't say I know any more than you do, as I don't follow any of these awards either, but from the sounds of it we understand it correctly: that the picks for these Hugo Awards were so blatantly based on books having preferred political agendas as opposed to their actual quality that it has caused some backlash.

I find books (and movies, etc) with transparent agendas loathsome, particularly so when they think they're being coy about it. And in the fantasy genre especially, where we are often trying to be rid of the typical trappings from the modern world, to have some PC agenda not just inserted but consuming the plot is unbearable.

It really makes me happy to know that fantasy/sci-fi readers are some of the first to complain about this trend which has been becoming worse and worse in entertainment media. When movies like Snowpiercer break the top 50 of the best Sci-Fi and Fantasy movies of ALL TIME on Rotten Tomatoes, you know something is very fucking wrong here.
 

TomTB

Super Moderator
Staff member
#3
Is this the same as the whole Hugo vs Gemmell Awards debate that's been going on for a while now? I've seen various authors wading in on the topic (Mark Lawrence most recently) and some avoiding the topic.

Like @M. D. Ireman I can't say it's something I have a lot of knowledge about. Nor is it something I particularly care about, either.
 

ofer

Journeyed there and back again
#4
Yes, there's a little bit controversy about the Hugo award at the moment. From what I understand, there's a group of writers who claim that the current winners/nominees are chosen because of political views and agendas rather than the merits of the book itself. Have no idea which side is right, and don't really care.

I tend to regard book awards the same way I look at Oscar awards - if a book wins an award, it probably means it doesn't suck, but it doesn't necessarily mean that I will like this book or that it really was the best choice. On the other hand, the fact that a book is a bestseller doesn't mean that it's very good either, and the fantasy genre is full of examples.

To cut a long story short, while I note that a certain book is a bestseller or won an award, it doesn't really change my mind whether I'll pick it up or not. I much prefer to rely on recommendations from people whom opinions I respect - probably the majority of these boards.
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
#5
I heard about this as well and although I don't know much about it, something strikes me as quite obvious in all this whining. From what you quoted @ReguIa it boils down to "good all days" argument and "we don't want no change". I don't buy that for a second, you cant stop the evolution (as in change) in anything and speculative literature is no exception.
I'm not against talking about the criteriums for choosing Hugo award books, and god knows thanks to internet everyone has a platform to make that happen. I suppose hacking the system from the inside only proves that the system is bad, not that your stance on what the criteriums should be are right.
I read this article on the topic over at Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/09/george-rr-martin-right-wing-broken-hugo-awards
and I have to say there seem to be some real right wing nuts involved in to it. I consider myself a progressive and of course I don't agree with them, but I think they should have a voice. Bottom line, Hugos are a popularity contest, and as such bound to be faulty. I agree with that, but at the same time you have some nasty people that are openly homophobic and racist on the Sad Puppies side like Vox Day and if it was up to them women, people of color or homosexuals should never be considered for an award regardless of whether their book deserves it.
Here's what Vox Day said about N. K. Jemisin for example:
"an educated, but ignorant half-savage, with little more understanding of what it took to build a new literature"
That's really nasty and racist shit right there.

In the end I think GRRM hit the bulls eye with this:
“If the Sad Puppies wanted to start their own award … for Best Conservative SF, or Best Space Opera, or Best Military SF, or Best Old-Fashioned SF the Way It Used to Be … whatever it is they are actually looking for … hey, I don’t think anyone would have any objections to that. I certainly wouldn’t. More power to them,” he added. “But that’s not what they are doing here, it seems to me. Instead they seem to want to take the Hugos and turn them into their own awards.”

For me personally I value more what people on my Goodreads friends list have to say about the book than whether the book has won an award. I agree with @ofer and his comparison with Oscars. It's generally like that, although sometimes it's quite opposite. Like for example this years winner Birdman, boy did I NOT like that movie at all. Beautifully shot yes, crap movie with even crappier ending? Oh yes.
 

kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again
#6
Sounds like an internecine conflict that I don't have to worry about as long as the works keep appearing and I can pick and choose. That so many big award winners have ended up not being my cup of tea allows me to ignore all this.
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#7
Sigh, the Hugo Award has been in shambles for most of the 2000s. I've long since stopped using the award as a yardstick for quality science fiction.
 

M. D. Ireman

A farm boy with a sword
#8
In light of all that, it would appear I did not understand the true reason for the backlash.

Though it shouldn't require a swing in the opposite direction to get people upset (to the extent that they can give a shit about these awards, which I suppose few of us actually do) about accolades being given based on politics instead of merit.
 

Axcellence

A farm boy with a sword
#9
I read some really great books, and later found them to be Hugo winners.

All the awards do is recognise quality. Some books maybe more of a taste to one set of people and others to some else.
 

ofer

Journeyed there and back again
#12
Read our bog post about it on the sci-fi blog. Paul has a good post about it (he was one of the judges for the Arthur C Clarke Award and the British Science Fiction Award, so has an insider's take on it knowing how the whole judging thing works): http://bestsciencefictionbooks.com/blog/the-hugos-and-the-puppies-part-1/
It was quite an interesting read.

@btkong
Have you considered changing the blog design? It's really really hard to read grey text on stark white background.
It's weird. I read that a few days ago and the page format was all different (bigger font, better contrast, etc) - and yes, it was much more easier to read then the current format.
 

Buffy V Slayer

Knows Who John Uskglass Is
#14
So, after reading this thread, I read the post by btkong and looked into the issue a little more. It bothers me that this group cloaks their own agenda for maintaining the dominant ideology of North American capitalist values as "the old virtues of excitement and storytelling" and set it up as being in opposition to "nebulous literary 'quality'" - but I'm not surprised by it. This is not a new tactic; privileged groups always seems to (sigh) want to maintain the "old traditions" (of exclusion and inequality). To me it reeks of the attempt to smother voices that have traditionally been outside mainstream storytelling. The "old virtues of excitement and storytelling is bound up in tropes such as the farmboy with a sword who, through grit and determination, and little help from society, becomes an overnight success. Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed a farmboy story or two, but this resembles very closely the ideology of the extreme right that constantly puts forth the fact that one's wealth and success is primarily determined by his ('her' is generally left out) own motivation and ability, which is just a patently false concept that allows those who actually have most of the wealth, power, and voice to legitimize and maintain it.

I'm guessing that their allusion to "nebulous literary 'quality'" refers to how a text uses the elements of fiction, including language, characterization, narration etc to create meaningful themes that are original and thought-provoking. At least, that's what makes good literature in other categories capital "L" literature (from an academic's perspective). Literature is, and in my opinion, always should be a dialectic between existing social and political ideology and those that may emerge as a result of questioning the status quo.

To be honest, as an academic and an arts major, it is hard to even read this type of unintelligent soapbox preaching from a privileged group like this one. If you want an alternative and exciting (as well as a more positive and hopeful) view on Sci-fi and Fantasy's unique ability to invoke social change, I am including a podcast I listened to the other day that I found to be really thought-provoking and interesting (plus it speaks about Margaret Atwood at one point, who is a Canadian gem). It's from a podcast called Stuff Mom Never Told You and the episode is called "Can science fiction change the world?" (but it really talks about both fantasy and science fiction):

https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/stuff-mom-never-told-you/id304531053?mt=2&i=339881571

Sorry, rant over. :)
 

btkong

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#15
I'll fiddle with the text size and text color. The current blogs (best fantasy and best science fiction) are temporary layouts -- I'm getting the actual new designs built at the moment, but it's going to take a few months I think before it's all done.

But good to note -- I agree the text is too small and gray.

Have you considered changing the blog design? It's really really hard to read grey text on stark white background.
It's weird. I read that a few days ago and the page format was all different (bigger font, better contrast, etc) - and yes, it was much more easier to read then the current format.
Thanks for the feedback!

On the note about the Sad Puppies, I think the whole thing is just ridiculous. The Sad Puppies people may have a legit beef with the 'Old Guard' locking out works that don't fit the 'award mold' but to hijack the awards process for a political purpose, bleh.
 

dunebuggy

Knows the real name of Lower Corte
#16
Only found out now,what the sad puppy and hugo award drama,was about. My first reaction,was to cringe..don't really pay any attention to awards but all awards are subjective and not hard in stone fact,that a film or book is the best of best and I don't really get why having a message that deals with societal ills or anything is bad. Speculative fiction,sci fi is a wonderful platform to confront issues. Its a choice ultimately,what you want to read and hugo awards or not,doesn't change that. There is a book for everyone,conservative,liberal,silly or whatever floats your boat.
 

Amaryllis

Journeyed there and back again
#17
I don’t think I should have to add a preface or qualify my statements, but just to make sure it’s out there, I’ll say that I generally identify as a liberal. Now, I understand that simply stating that is not ‘proof’ (I could just as easily say I am a 6’8” 320lbs black powerlifter, you can’t disprove that either), but if anyone cared enough to go through my posting history to research, I think the trends would bear that statement out. I say this just to be able to state flatly that I am not siding with anybody because they are ‘my’ people, my political allies/avatars, or because I am an employee of the straight white cis male hetero patriarchy fighting against the lasses and the coloreds getting their spot at the master’s table. I have been behind most of the liberal causes to have happened in the time since I became aware of politics, though I do stop short of the sort of asinine thought policing snowflake leftism that occurs on university campuses these days.

By the way, this is going to be long.

Anyway, I was wondering when this would come to these forums. It does appear I’m a few days late, but I will try to make up for it. I do have a few things to say, because I am ‘internet acquaintances/friends’ with a few of the people involved. I read about Larry Correia and Sad Puppies #whatever it was a year or something ago, and I sympathized with it to a certain degree, but it was like the kind of sympathy you might have when you see a dog outside your window across the street, trying to snuffle its way into some food in a garbage can, and not quite able to get it. I mean, you feel for it a little, but not enough to get up and go get involved. I'm sure we all have something like this in our lives somewhere. I believe it’s very obvious that there are political slants in fantasy and sci-fi that may very well have a profound effect on the kind of exposure you are able to get, what places will publish you, how the press will treat you, and perhaps even what awards you are able to get. If this wasn’t the case, then you wouldn’t have such strong trends in these kinds of literature pushing inexorably in one single direction. It’s kind of making its way into EVERY facet of culture, especially those corners you might have previously thought were ‘entertainment.’ So I mean, I care, but…I also sorta didn’t. My reaction was to simply stop trying to push myself to read things that bored me, no matter how ‘critically acclaimed’ it was, how ‘thought provoking’ or ‘challenging,’ or how many people told me I should, etc. It doesn’t fix the ‘problem,’ but it did fix the problem in my little bubble.


I didn’t actually feel motivated to throw in with them, until Entertainment Weekly published their article “Hugo Award Nominations Fall Victim To Misogynistic And Racist Voting.” EW wasn’t the only publication riding this narrative; there were at least a good 4-5 others (and certainly countless tiny ones that nobody reads). You may notice that if you click on the article now, the title of the article has changed (as well as some of the vitriol present in the original: you can contrast the current version with the original version if you like). If you scroll to the end, you will notice a note about the correction, which occurred because one of the people spearheading SP3 threatened to sue them for libel if they didn’t fix it. Any narrative that begins with a lie so bald-faced that it can result in possible legal action is certainly something to be suspicious of.


And it seems to be a blanket accusation being thrown across the board, with few voices of reason to be found (George R.R. Martin was classy enough to actually try to debate, to his credit). An attempt to shout people down, or rather discredit them as people so that anything they say subsequently is rendered meaningless. Oh, he’s just a racist misogynist, so it's safe to ignore everything else he says. I have seen veiled threats of career sabotage to people who accepted nominations from these slates. Plans to try to torpedo the Hugos in retaliation. Statements that ‘It is our fandom, not yours. Get the fuck out.’ People fainting like olden day movie maidens because somebody says something dubiously ‘offensive,’ only to say things 10x as offensive in retaliation.


And the thing is, if there wasn’t a problem, if there wasn’t real malice behind this, this whole thing wouldn’t have even been a story. There would have been no scrambling to assert control of the mainstream narrative. People would have just voted for what they liked, or not voted, and moved on with their lives. The fact that there was, and the fact that it was so virulent and mean, immediately justifies every complaint that the ‘Puppies’ leveled. The awards can't be stolen from you if you didn't OWN them. Personal politics are secondary in this case – I’m going to side with the people who aren’t acting like spoiled, bratty children, or who can frame their thoughts around something other than ‘my opponents are dumb, and their fans are DOUBLE dumb,’ or communicate in a language other than bitter snark.


It was quite an interesting read.

‘Interesting’ is definitely the most generous – and admirably neutral – word I might use for that read. If it was slanted any further, you’d need to turn your monitor sideways to read it. I’m honestly a bit embarrassed to see it on a site I have respect for. Honestly, who is Paul? Does he post on the forums? Is he a writer? Is he affiliated with anybody in this whole issue? Has he won or been nominated for Hugos in the last handful of years? Clicking on his author name just finds more things he has written, and no information, but if pkincaid is Paul Kincaid, then it certainly looks like it. I could write a post longer than his just detailing the amount of garbage he’s spewing. If the guy lied any more, he would have to be interred. Shit, I could probably write a post longer than his just coming up with cheesy metaphors for how terrible I think it is.


Here's what Vox Day said about N. K. Jemisin for example:

"an educated, but ignorant half-savage, with little more understanding of what it took to build a new literature"

That's really nasty and racist shit right there.

N.K. Jemisin had just specifically called him “a self-described misogynist, racist, anti-Semite, and a few other flavors of asshole.” She repeatedly goes on and on about how everyone in America is racist, how all white people are racist, how being in a racist country makes you racist regardless of what you think unless you’re engaged in apologetics and activism basically every waking moment, and how being racist against white people is impossible, because racism requires ‘systemic power’ (redefining words appears to be pretty common). That statement certainly was nothing to be proud of, though in context it seemed less about her race and more about her perceived intelligence/sociopolitical acumen. But I don’t agree with the racial argument he framed around it either. In any case, the insult wasn’t shouted into a vacuum. When two people are shitty to each other, we should hold both of them accountable. Nobody has such problems with N.K. Jemisin.

As an aside, this actually feeds into something else I think, which is that I kind of hate social media because of this sort of thing. Out of principle, I'd rather not know my author's political opinions, and it bothers me perhaps more than it should to find out than an author I thought highly of has turned out to be a vile piece of shit. I understand using one's platform to politically campaign for things important to them, but authors are oftentimes completely indistinguishable from trolls in this day and age. This gives me a lot more respect for someone like Steven Erikson, who as far as I can tell, has stayed as far out of this mess as he possibly could. You go Steve. Publish Kharkanas #2 pls.
 
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Amaryllis

Journeyed there and back again
#18
In the end I think GRRM hit the bulls eye with this:

“If the Sad Puppies wanted to start their own award … for Best Conservative SF, or Best Space Opera, or Best Military SF, or Best Old-Fashioned SF the Way It Used to Be … whatever it is they are actually looking for … hey, I don’t think anyone would have any objections to that. I certainly wouldn’t. More power to them,” he added. “But that’s not what they are doing here, it seems to me. Instead they seem to want to take the Hugos and turn them into their own awards.”

The very statement “take the Hugos and turn them into their own award” suggests that the Hugos already belonged to a different party. You cannot usurp something that didn't belong to someone else. Granted, this is nitpicking, but GRRM never really made a case that there weren't a lot of politics involved in the Hugos.


I agree. The sad puppies seem like a bunch of whiney guys stroking each other's egos and upset that nobody likes their books.

What Hugo winner in the last 5 years is more commercially successful than Jim Butcher? The only one with a maybe is Brandon Sanderson. Butcher has never been nominated before this year. ‘Upset that nobody likes their books’ is trying to twist the narrative, although admittedly, if your only exposure to the situation was that godawful blog post on bestSF, that is exactly what it would seem like. But let's face it, that article is so bad that Michael Jackson's 1987 album is reentering the Billboard charts exclusively because of it.


privileged groups always seems to (sigh) want to maintain the "old traditions" (of exclusion and inequality).

What exclusion is this? I’m genuinely curious what you mean. Both official slates contain a number of women and minorities. Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies. What inequality? Correia has been campaigning (and losing) to leftist works for a few years now. If we define systemic oppression in the way that N.K. Jemisin does, where the less powerful group in any given setting cannot be guilty of oppression of the group in charge because they lack 'systemic power,' then the Puppies cannot be accused of anything untoward at all unless they sweep the awards this year. And even if we don't want to be incredibly petty and pedantic, I don't see where the inequality here is coming from. The 2014 Hugo ballots (concretely not populated by backwards white men trying to maintain white traditionalist values) was still filled largely with white people.


The "old virtues of excitement and storytelling is bound up in tropes such as the farmboy with a sword who, through grit and determination, and little help from society, becomes an overnight success. Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed a farmboy story or two, but this resembles very closely the ideology of the extreme right that constantly puts forth the fact that one's wealth and success is primarily determined by his ('her' is generally left out) own motivation and ability, which is just a patently false concept that allows those who actually have most of the wealth, power, and voice to legitimize and maintain it.

Ignoring the superfluous sexist allusion, this actually is interesting to me. I've never thought of it this way, but it does make a certain amount of sense. I personally think of it as more of the ultimate traditionalist (not in the political sense) fantasy, as a lot of old fables and fantasy stories alike have begun in similar ways -- which gives people inspiration to continue it -- along with a certain amount of wish fulfillment (what person coming from relatively nothing DOESN'T wish they could literally take on the world and emerge as the ultimate hero of their own story?). But the parallel to the old conservative 'you're not successful because aren't trying hard enough' nugget that some upper class people like to trot out is certainly apparent when presented that way. This line of thought bears some follow-up at a more convenient date, and might also go a way toward explaining exactly why a lot of material coming out of the 'other' side is so full of rape and other such things.
 

kenubrion

Journeyed there and back again
#19
Amaryllis, you said "I didn’t actually feel motivated to throw in with them, until Entertainment Weekly published their article “Hugo Award Nominations Fall Victim To Misogynistic And Racist Voting.”

In my opinion, that article made me sympathetic to Sad Puppies and actually verified to me that they were on to something. See, I already knew who was complaining, and knew it was a broad spectrum of folks, and Paul/EW intentionally lied about them.

One thing that no one has mentioned is the additional complaint they have about the preponderance of Tor clients raking in the Hugos. I have no way to confirm that but if true it could be taken as a smoking gun.

Also, was it here or an Amazon discussion that mentioned that one guy has three nominations in one category. That doesn't look kosher.

But bottom line, I don't care, those were just my passing thoughts and intuitions. This is not my fight and I'll read books with or without awards clinging to them, because I've read enough stinkers with a Hugo attached.
 
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Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#20
@Amaryllis, finally a voice of measured reason on this thread. I had no desire to get involved in this debate at BFB for exactly the kind of responses that have been proffered and I still have little desire to get sucked in. However, I can't resist mentioning a few things, now. From what little I know, I will briefly say that I do sympathise with the concerns of the 'Sad Puppies' because they have some merit and whilst vocally complaining about their grievances is correct, I don’t condone their gaming the system, which loopholes in the Hugo rules allow and where these rules have not been revised (and will likely not be revised next year, either). While the Hugos, like any other award, have always been political, I believe that block voting was not previously utilised to this degree not just because of the furore it could cause, but because it might seriously damage the Hugos in the long term – an escalation of such tactics from both sides is certainly one potential outcome.

Yes, I do think there has been an increasingly leftist skew in the Hugos, most apparent in the last 15 years, where simple quality of a work has been occluded by the principle of inclusion/diversity/statements. It's especially been coming to a head the last few years. For example, three of the four short stories that were nominated last year were LGBT themed. This was a clear plan of certain people who were calling for diversity in nominations. This is very disagreeable to me. Should other stories be passed over in favour of presenting a certain viewpoint? Absolutely not. The SPs don't claim to pick nominations based on a political ideology, their shtick is to pick nominees based on story merit, not to allow SJWs as they call them from stacking the ballot in favour of an agenda. And where are the criticisms of the kind of 'block voting' done last year in favour to promote LGBT issues? As @Amaryllis said, "When two people are shitty to each other, we should hold both of them accountable."

Now, as for the 'Rabid Puppies'...yuck, they're a virus.

I have no problem with a novel that is steeped in ideology (either left or right) and political slant will certainly not be my principle criterion to measure the work. I have enjoyed and loved works from authors whom I've gleaned to be either on the far left or the far right from their stories. I think there is a huge disconnect between the industry and fandom that wasn't there up till the 90s - it's steadily progressed as the purview of what the industry entails has grown substantially and very quickly over the years, especially with the growth of fandom post-Harry Potter. I enjoy diversity in my reading and fully support it, but like I mentioned previously, I no longer use the Hugo as a measure of consistent quality like I used to before. Partly due to this disconnect, the Hugo is now more representative of the changing face of fandom rather than anything else.

Harlan Ellison, one of the great iconoclasts of 20th century popular culture puts the current fiasco into perspective all the way back from the mid-90s. The only difference between then and now is the tending inclination to hold the awards at gunpoint by the tactics being employed.


I don’t know much about Paul Kincaid, but I also think the blog post on BSFB is a little disingenuous, especially when the blogger states that “‘Social Justice Warriors’ (SJWs) is a term that nobody else in fandom even recognises,” which simply isn’t true as I’ve seen the epithet bandied about frequently by loads of people.

As for that article by G. R. R. Martin, his idea of every group/genre forming their own awards is also very short-sighted. How will that help the genre industry in the long term? It will only dilute the value of the awards further (a process already underway due to the proliferation of quite a few other awards that have were formed) and receiving an award will become more and more meaningless.

On a separate note, I'm very glad for your pointing out the "asinine thought policing snowflake leftism that occurs on university campuses these days." This has long been a problem and many universities in the U.S., U.K. and much of Europe are essentially centres for cultural Marxist indoctrination and are (counter-intuitively) some of the most intolerant places you will find where anti-leftist opinions are drowned out by vitriol and intolerance. In my experience, ‘liberal’ leftist ideologues have regularly undermined free speech by demanding “the right not to be offended” and resorted to character assassination with the same alacrity as the opponents they decry when their opinions and worldview have been threatened (in the U.K., the BBC is a prime example, a known leftist stronghold contrary to the impartiality they are required to uphold). The statement “I’m offended by that” or “I find that offensive” is one of the most ludicrous and useless such whiny proclamations one can make and I refer all of those who are in the habit of uttering such meaningless phrases to Stephen Fry’s succinct response.