All The Colors of Kibble 4/8

This new roundup about Sad Puppies and Hugos features an artist/novelist who is happy to stay out of it; a lead dog who disbelieves fans will vote No Award; a prestigious bestselling author as familiar with the field’s customs as anyone; a few other opinions; and an idea passed on from an anonymous rules wonk.

James Artimus Owen on Facebook – April 8

A question I’ve gotten from about twelve thousand people: “Hey James, what’s your position on the whole Science Fiction Awards controversy going on?”

My response: “I LOVE Science Fiction Awards! I get one twice a year. It’s called the ‘Royalty Check Award’ and I’m always SO THRILLED to get it! My winning it is not based on political positions, Secret Literary Illuminati, Depressed Basset Hounds, covert bribery, overt campaigning, or who I had dinner with at a convention in Kansas City that one time where we ate the thing. It’s based ENTIRELY on how readers liked my books, and is not based on competing with anyone else’s books. I really like all those other awards, and would love to get one because they’re heavy and I have two stacks of paper on my desk but only one ceramic Buddha to hold them down. I am happy for my friends who are nominated for and win those awards. But for most writers, and especially the new ones, I hope you realize that no effort you put into making your book good enough for the Royalty Check Awards is ever wasted – and if those are the only awards my books ever get I will do as I always do: happily deposit it in the bank and then go have pie. It’s what Shakespeare and Steinbeck would have done.”

Brad R. Torgersen

“Sad Puppies 3: The Judgment of Solomon” – April 8

But I don’t think this will be the case. Oh, no question, “No Award” is going to be featured prominently in any category where Sad Puppies 3 (with the counter-slate Rabid Puppies) occupies all five of the available slots. I won’t be surprised to see “No Award” take third, or perhaps even second, place. But I doubt very much that “No Award” will claim first place in any category. Because there simply aren’t enough fans — even WSFS stalwarts — who are willing to turf an entire category out of spite. There are too many worthy works in all of the categories. Including works not on the SP3 or RP slates. And SF/F fans are like cats: notoriously averse to being herded. Plus, as a few pros have demonstrated, there is plenty or principled logic to support reading and voting for a work or a person on a slate despite disliking the slate itself. Why punish a good writer or editor or artist, simply for being on a list? It’s not like all the people participating in the nomination period dutifully went down the rows, reliably checking all the items without a second glance. Not for SP3, and not for any other suggested lists either — and there were many such lists, though perhaps not quite so extensive as ours.

 

George R.R. Martin in Not A Blog

“Me and the Hugos” – April 8

The prestige of the Hugo does not derive from the number of people voting on it. If numbers were all that counted, worldcon should hand the awards over to Dragoncon and be done with it. (Though I am not sure that Dragoncon would care. Years ago, the LOCUS awards used to be presented at Dragoncon. I attended one of those ceremonies, the last time I went to Dragoncon. Charles Brown handed out the awards in a cavernous hotel ballroom that was ninety per cent empty. The same ballroom was filled up standing room only for the following event, a Betty Page Look-Alike Contest. Which tells you what Dragoncon attendees were interested in. Which tells you what Dragoncon attendees were interested in… and hey, I like Betty Page too. A few years later, LOCUS moved its awards to Westercon, where they always draw a big crowd.

The prestige of the Hugo derives from its history. The worth of any award is determined in large part by the people who have won it. Would I love to win the Hugo for Best Novel some day? You’re damned right I would. But not because I need another rocket to gather dust on my mantle, as handsome as the Hugo trophies are. I want one because Robert A. Heinlein won four, because Roger Zelazny and Alfred Bester and Ursula K. Le Guin and Fritz Leiber and Walter M. Miller Jr and Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl and so many other giants have won the same award. That’s a club that any science fiction and fantasy writer should be thrilled to join.

Only… here’s the caveat… I wouldn’t want to join the club because I was part of someone’s slate, or because my readers were better organized or more vocal than the fans of other authors. It is not easy to win a Hugo, and it is especially hard to win the Big One — Hugo voters a tough crowd, one might say — but if that honor ever does come to one of my books, I hope it is because the voters did actually, honestly believe I wrote the best novel of the year, a work worthy to stand on the shelf beside LORD OF LIGHT and THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS and STAND ON ZANZIBAR and THE FOREVER WAR and GATEWAY and SPIN and…

 

George R.R. Martin on Not A Blog

Tone – April 8

I am against punching and kicking. Up, down, or sideways. No punching here, please.

I applaud the Tone Argument. The Tone Argument is valid. Yay for the Tone Argument.

We can disagree with each other without attacking each other. And no, I am not going to listen to you if you’re screaming at me and calling me offensive names. You shouldn’t either, no matter who you are. None of us should have to put up with that shit.

It really pisses me off, reading some of the threads and comments on both sides of Puppygate, that every time someone calls for a more reasoned discourse and an end to all the name-calling, we hear a chorus of, “they started it” and “no, THEY started it” and “they called me X so I will call them Y” and “don’t you dare silence me, I will say anything I like, I’m the one who speaks truth to power.” I don’t care who started it. I just want it to stop.

 

Ryan Britt on Electric Literature

“How Bigots Invaded the Hugo Awards” – April 8

If you’ve heard the rumblings about the Hugo nominations, perhaps you just shrugged your shoulders and said “what’s a Hugo again?” Even if you know that the Hugo Award is one of the two most coveted science fiction and fantasy literary prizes (the other being the Nebula), you still might assume the controversy is a nerdy Alien Vs. Predator situation in which picking a side feels like rooting for an arbitrary monster. But that’s not the case here. What has happened is simple: an angry mob has exploited a loophole in how nominations occur in order to crash a party that they seemingly detest anyway. The gaming of the Hugo Awards Ballot wasn’t executed for frivolous reasons: it was organized by racist, homophobic people who want science fiction to be going backwards instead of looking toward the future.

Was the airlock left open for certain creatures to enter the starship of the Hugo Awards? Yes. On both the Hugo website and the site for the current World Con (SasquanCon) you’ll notice that to become a voting member requires about $40 dollars. Even the Hugo Awards site itself says specifically “voting is easy.” If you have the 40 bucks and you don’t care about not attending the ceremony itself, you can vote. In the past, this hasn’t really resulted in what most would consider overt gaming-of-the-system, but the ability is clearly there.

 

Kameron Hurley

“Thoughts on That Controversial Awards Announcement” – April 5

So do please read the fabulous Tiptree winners and excellent longlist. The Tiptree longlist always makes a fabulous suggested reading list, and this year is no different. I would certainly like to see more talk online about this list than I’m seeing; there are tons of great book discussions ahead – don’t feel limited by the selections offered for bigger awards. Go forth and read! I’m in the middle of reading Monica Byrne’s THE GIRL IN THE ROAD right now, and it’s fab.

Let’s celebrate an award worth talking about.

 

Jason Sanford

“A modest Hugo Award proposal” –  April 8

I received the following proposal from a long-time genre fan who wishes to stay anonymous….

Where smaller categories get bogged down and overwhelmed by manipulation — short fiction, related work, etc. — is that there are many dozens of “very good” stories and (since long blog posts are related works now, though another topic would be creating a “short related work” category for that so that book-length related works can have their say, but boy is that a digression) related works, and (with the rise of so many anthologies and small press e-zines that do good work) so many short form editors, etc. That a hundred people like stories ABCDE, and another hundred like AFGHI, and another… so when an aggressive slate pushes VWXYZ everything (except perhaps the “A” that is a majority choice from the get-go) is pushed off. The long tail of good stories is its own defeat.

But! We can solve this with better democracy, in a way that (I hope) even the Sad Puppies would like. The approach is to allow *more* instead of *fewer* nominations per voter, ranked, and counted by a special Condorcet method which preserves proportional representation.

Proportional representation means basically that if 60% of ballots are A-B-C-D-E and 40% of ballots are F-G-H-I-J that the 5 nominees are A-B-C-F-G. This is what I actually favor: minority representation is important no matter which “side” one might be on. It makes for an environment where if 600 people really dig literary spectrum stories, and 400 people really dig pulp adventure, that each can put forth some nominees, instead of the 600 always having their sway. (Or the 400 turning rabid and ramming a wedged slate down everyone else’s throat.)

Further, by allowing 10 short fiction nominations, for example, we can avoid the problem of so many people (who like the same 20 stories) splitting their own voice and picking non-intersecting groups of 5 stories, only to be overwhelmed by a dedicated group that won’t split its vote.

Torgersen Volunteers To Be Leader of the Pack

Did you hear the mournful baying of the Sad Puppies this morning? Yes, the pack is back in 2015, this time under the direction of Brad Torgersen. And his arguments for renewing this bloc voting campaign are one dogwhistle after another.

For those of you who don’t know what SAD PUPPIES is, it’s a (somewhat tongue in cheek) running effort to get stories, books, and people onto the Hugo ballot, who are entirely deserving, but who don’t usually get on the ballot. Largely because of the nomination and voting tendencies of World Science Fiction Convention, with its “fandom” community. In the last decade we’ve seen Hugo voting skew more and more toward literary (as opposed to entertainment) works. Some of these literary pieces barely have any science fictional or fantastic content in them. Likewise, we’ve seen the Hugo voting skew ideological, as Worldcon and fandom alike have tended to use the Hugos as an affirmative action award: giving Hugos because a writer or artist is (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) or because a given work features (insert underrepresented minority or victim group here) characters.

Likewise, the Hugos tend to be a raw popularity contest, for all definitions of “popular” that include “Trending with Worldcon.” Which may or may not have anything whatsoever to do with actual sales success on the open market. And that was Correia’s original point: if the Hugos really are the preeminent award in SF/F how come the Hugos so often ignore works and people who are, in fact, successful ambassadors of the genre to the consumer world at large? What the heck is going on here?

So, SAD PUPPIES has tended to push back. Against the Worldcon fandom zeitgeist.

Usually you can’t see these kinds of contortions outside of a circus.

  • The Hugos are a popularity contest – but not the right kind of popularity.
  • The Hugos don’t necessarily correlate with sales success – but neither did last year’s Sad Puppies slate, once you got past Larry Correia.
  • The Hugos “skew ideological” – Did you know they were trying to cure that problem when Vox Day got a Sad Puppies endorsement last year? (I thought it was only on House they try to cure patients by giving them another disease…)
  • The Hugos often ignore “successful ambassadors of the genre to the consumer world at large” – That dogwhistle is at a frequency almost too high for me to hear, but I believe he has a particular New York Times bestselling author in mind.

Anyway, if you felt something pushing against your “Worldcon fandom zeitgeist” today — that’s because the dogs are off the leash!

How I’m Voting in the Best Novella Category

All five of the 2014 Best Novella Nominees rank above No Award on my Hugo ballot, which is saying something this year. Nearly all of them succeed on their own terms and it’s easy to see why each story has its fans.

(5) “Equoid” by Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)

This is the first of the Bob Howard “Laundry” adventures I’ve ever read. Stross has written many stories in this series, including several novels, and it’s quite popular. So why would a yarn with that pedigree land fifth on my ballot? Because I don’t vote Hugos to stories that make me want to throw up.

In the middle of this Lovecraftian parody/espionage tale there’s a confrontation with a monster that details a hideously graphic sexual violation.

Ordinarily I would have clocked out of the story at that point. I abandoned Paolo Bacigalupi’s Windup Girl when a scene struck me as outside the bounds of entertainment, and it was far less offensive. Yet I couldn’t shake off the fanzine fan ethic that says – don’t review stuff you haven’t read. So I finished “Equoid.”

Even apart from that dealbreaker, Stross’ sustained cleverness is almost overwhelming. It’s like being on a panel with David Brin, a constant flow of truly inventive ideas that nevertheless focus attention on the author more than the subject. However, there was one thing I truly enjoyed — the parallels drawn between bureaucratic infighting and action in the field. That definitely qualified as a “truth said in jest.”

(4) “The Chaplain’s Legacy” by Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)

The science fiction field tends to be hostile to religious faith, so it’s rare to find a good exploration of that topic in the genre. Torgersen’s characters begin at several different points on the topography of belief. He draws each one to a resolution that feels genuine, which is not easy to do. Otherwise, this is a linear, action-driven space opera that would have fit comfortably in Astounding (and evidently still fits in Analog today). Only fourth place for this effort because the writing style is rather basic.

(3) The Butcher of Khardov by Dan Wells (Privateer Press)

Dan Wells’ story has an even higher body count than “Equoid” but confines itself to regular barroom and battlefield morbidity. The protagonist has a technology-related superpower that leads to a great military career though with many a pitfall. His life story is told out of chronological order, something Wells carries off very well – and the choice for the last segment is completely satisfying. A professionally impressive work, though one that isn’t much fun because the protagonist is psychotic.

(2) Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Press)

The other day I read an editor promising her readers “gorgeous prose,” and Valente is an author who supplies that in abundance. In this novella she reweaves the traditional Snow White fairy tale as the life story of a child of a wealthy miner and a Crow woman, told in frontier diction — perhaps not the same as Charles Portis’ True Grit, though it came to mind, and absolutely without a trace of humor. The protagonist is an abused child inevitably trapped by a desire to please her parents. Throughout her life she copes with all the racism and sexism the 19th century has to offer. The historical realism (indeed, some of these details come from the Hearst family) makes the story feel like a duty to read.

The story is essentially a series of episodes that hold together because the reader knows the fairy tale. Otherwise the experience would be comparable to reading Harlan Ellison’s “The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore.” But that’s a short story. When I reached the point in Six-Gun Snow White of asking “Will this be over soon?” there were 80 more pages to go.

(1) “Wakulla Springs” by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (Tor.com, 10-2013)

“Wakulla Springs” by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages is by far the most entertaining and slickest written story nominated in this category. The cleverness, use of dialect and diction, and the awareness of social issues noted in the competition are all present here but remain in balance with storytelling and characterization.

There is one drawback. It’s not science fiction, and it’s only fantasy in a very general sense. Now when I was a lad I might have felt obligated to defend the purity of the Hugo Award against incursions of popular mainstream fiction. But this year, when so many games were played to get things on the final ballot, I refuse to be stopped from voting for what I regard as the best story in the category.