Leading Critics Form Clarke Award “Shadow” Jury

Nina Allan has announced a “shadow” jury will critique the Clarke Award this year, composed of Megan AM (“The AM stands for Anti-Matter”), Vajra Chandrasekera, David Hebblethwaite, Victoria Hoyle, Nick Hubble, Paul Kincaid, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and Jonathan McCalmont.

Allan explains in her introduction:

The idea is not to ‘challenge’ the official jury in any way, but to bring more to the party: more readers, more critics, more books, more discussion. And the beauty of a shadow jury is that everything can be out in the open. Over the following weeks and months, you’ll be able to read along with us, find out which books we love and which we’re not so wild about – and more to the point, why. I’d bet there isn’t a single Clarke-watcher out there who hasn’t at some point found themselves completely at a loss over some jury decision or other.

THROWING SHADE. Will fans feel a thrill of controversy because the group is taking the form of a jury, and reminding people about occasions when they were “completely at a loss” at a Clarke jury decision? (No one will soon forget Christopher Priest’s rant about the 2012 shortlist.) Will the prestigious critics on the shadow jury – some of them among the best-known working today – end up overshadowing the official jury? Is there any reason to mind if they do?

STATEMENTS AND MANIFESTOS. The Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy, hosting the jury online, has launched its activities with lengthy justifications. And as an added resource, they have posted Paul Kincaid’s introduction to a 2006 essay collection about the award-winners.

ANNOUNCING THE SHADOW CLARKE 2017: a note from the Centre by Helen Marshall

The Arthur C. Clarke awards are different from the Hugos in that shortlist and eventual winner are determined solely by a juror, thus, in many respects, bypassing the contentious process of lobbying and promotion that has accompanied voted awards. And yet the award has been no less controversial. Paul Kincaid, in his introduction to The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology, writes that the original organisers at no point set out firm criteria for what was meant by “best”, by “science fiction”, or even by “novel” (12). In consequence, the earnest debates—of individual juries as well was the broader community of reviewers and critics—have both through their agreement and their opposition sketched out a fascinating survey of what science fiction might have meant in any given year.

After the Clarke award celebration in 2016, when Nina Allan first approached me about arranging a shadow jury of the Clarke Awards, I could see the value of the suggestion. Similar experiments have been illuminating in respect to mainstreams awards such as the prestigious Man Booker Prize, but no such experiment, to my knowledge, has been undertaken for a science fiction award. 2017 seems a particularly auspicious year to begin particularly because it is a time in which many in the community feel the need for an outlet for reasoned debate and discussion. Of course it isn’t our intention that the shadow jury will challenge the decision of the conventional jury; rather the value of the experiment comes, I think, in expanding the commentary. Questions about the state of the field and the underlying definitions of “best” and “science fiction” continue to be meaningful, particularly in an industry that is increasingly dominated by marketing categories and sales figures rather than criticism. What science fiction is and what it ought to be doing should continue to be debated if the field is going to evolve beyond the commercial pressures that inevitably influence the decision to publish.

ANNOUNCING THE SHADOW CLARKE 2017: an introduction and a manifesto by Nina Allan

It goes without saying that the overall health of a literary award is determined by the quality of the debate surrounding it. No matter how lucrative the prize or how glossy the promotion, no award can remain relevant or even survive unless people – readers, critics and fans alike – are actively talking about the books in contention. For readers, fans and critics to remain engaged, an award must aspire to foster an intellectual climate in which rigorous and impassioned debate is seen as an important and significant aspect of the award itself. Such a climate will by definition ensure that an award can not only survive, but flourish.

Inspired by the shadow juries that have worked wonders in enlivening the climate of debate around mainstream literary awards over the past few years, we thought it would be a fantastic idea to harness some of the considerable critical talent that exists within the SFF community in similarly enlivening the climate of debate and critical engagement around the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

The normal process by which shadow juries operate involves a panel of shadow jurors – usually drawn from those readers, critics and book bloggers who habitually follow the award – reading the official longlist of their chosen award when it is released, reviewing the books individually and then coming together as a jury to decide on a shadow shortlist: that is, the shortlist they would have chosen had they been the official jury. When the official shortlist for the prize is announced, the shadow jury would then critique that shortlist, before once again convening to vote on their shadow winner. In the case of the shadow juries for awards such as the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (now the Man Booker International) and the Baileys Prize, the shadow winner has normally been unveiled on the evening before the announcement of the official prize. One need only cast a casual glance around the literary blogosphere to see how the presence of shadow juries within the literary landscape has increased the feeling of excitement and personal involvement on the part of readers, armchair critics and students of literature.

Because the Arthur C. Clarke Award does not at present implement a longlist stage, the formula we have agreed upon is a little different, but will hopefully prove at least as effective in fostering debate, if not more so.

Our panel of shadow jurors will convene when the submissions list for the Arthur C. Clarke Award is made public. From the list of these submissions, each shadow juror will then select their own personal, preferred shortlist of six books – these could be books they have already read, books they are keen to read, or a mixture of the two. Having chosen their shortlist, each juror will commit to reading and reviewing their six books before eventually declaring the ‘winner’ they would have chosen, had their shortlist been the official one. We believe that by giving each shadow juror the opportunity to select and discuss what they believe was ‘best’ in ‘science fiction’ in 2016, the Shadow Clarke will be able to showcase a wider variety of books, writers and styles of science fiction, thus generating a sense of involvement and inclusion across the entire length and breadth of science fiction fandom. It goes without saying that we would encourage fans and readers beyond the shadow jury to read along with us, to posit their own guesses and above all to disagree with our choices! That is what critical engagement is all about.

INTRODUCTION from The Arthur C. Clarke Award: a critical anthology by Paul Kincaid

[[Paul Kincaid has been on over a dozen Clarke Award juries, many times serving as the chair. He co-edited The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology (2006) with Andrew Butler, another frequent juror and chair. This is an excerpt from his introduction.]]

…Since Clarke wanted to use the award to encourage British science fiction, our second topic for debate was whether the award should be limited to British writers. In the end we all felt that there were just too few British writers to make that sustainable, so we decided that the award would be for the best science fiction novel receiving its first British publication in the year.

…It is what was left to the jury that has made the Arthur C Clarke Award both idiosyncratic and controversial, often at the same time. At no point did we decide what was meant by ‘best’, by ‘science fiction’, or even by ‘novel’. Consequently, the jury meetings I’ve taken part in have featured some very lively debates on each of these topics – and no two juries have ever arrived at precisely the same definitions.

It is, however, the very nature of those debates, the fact that what is considered ‘best’ or ‘science fiction’ is going to be different every year, that has made the Arthur C Clarke Award such a lively and essential survey of the year in science fiction. As The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, edited by Peter Nicholls and founding judge John Clute is at pains to point out, the award was controversial from its very first year. When Margaret Atwood received the first Arthur C Clarke Award for The Handmaid’s Tale, it seemed that the Award was deliberately turning its back on the core of the genre (particularly given that the runner-up that year was Bob Shaw’s The Ragged Astronauts – not, as Edward James has suggested, Samuel R. Delany’s Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand). In fact what I think that first jury was doing, after what I recall as very close debate, is something that has been a surprisingly recurrent practice of juries since then: they were not looking in towards the heart of the genre, but outwards from the genre. As Nicholas Ruddick points out, The Handmaid’s Tale has had such resonance, both within and outwith the genre, that it is hard to think why it might ever have been considered a controversial choice.

Of course, that was far from the only time that the Award has skirted controversy. If stimulating debate, not to say heated argument, is one way of raising awareness of science fiction, then we have to admit that the Award has been a rousing success since the start. Tempers have tended to fray most when the Award is imagined to be flirting with the mainstream. There was even jeering at the presentation of the Award to Marge Piercy for Body of Glass (again, I suspect, this was at least in part because the runner up was another popular genre favourite, Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson). But, as Maureen Kincaid Speller shows, you don’t need a rocket ship on the cover to raise exactly the problematic issues of who we are and what we might become which are supposedly central to everything we understand about science fiction.

… Of course the job of the Award is to raise awareness of science fiction, not just inside the genre but more generally, but that is not achieved by saying science fiction and the mainstream are the same. Rather, the Award points out how many interesting, exciting, challenging and innovative things there are to be done with genre materials, some of those things speak to the core of the genre and some bring a freshness and vitality to mainstream, and some do both….

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 12/24/16 Pixel Scroll is Coming To Town

(0) OFF ON THE TWENTY-FIFTH. Me and the reindeer will be dashing between family events tomorrow, so may your Christmas be merry and bright, or another holiday you celebrate be outta sight!

(1) SEASON’S GREETINGS. Kip W. created the blog version of a favorite carol:

Deck the file with scrolls of pixels!
Follow, la la la, and tick the box.
Stalk the gods with well-aimed clicksels,
Follow, la la la, and tick the box.
Jolly verses, filks a-sounding,
Follow la, follow la, tick that box
Jesting titles, puns abounding,
Follow, la, and don’t forget the box

(2) ALL-TIME BEST SELLING SFF AUTHORS. Gift-giving fans are making the cash registers ring this holiday season, giving The Wertzone’s Adam Whitehead the idea for an interesting roundup – “The SFF All-Time Sales List”.

George R.R. Martin is not in the top 10!

(3) WHERE’S SANTA? Follow Santa’s journey around the world with NORAD’s Santa Tracker. Yes, even the jolly old elf can’t escape the eye of our surveillance society!

(4) WORLD SF. Paul Kincaid reviews the VanderMeers’ The Big Book of Science Fiction for the LA Review of Books.

Of the 105 stories in The Big Book of Science Fiction, 31 are by women, which is a remarkable advance in comparison to many of its predecessors.

More remarkable is Sinisalo’s nationality. As a literature of the 20th century, science fiction has often been perceived as characteristically Anglo-American. The usual story goes like this: SF is often said to have originated in Britain (Mary Shelley, Wells), but with the advent of the pulps, particularly Gernsback’s Amazing Stories, the genre quickly became overwhelmingly American. Writers from Canada or Australia were allowed into the club, but anything not written in English was for all intents and purposes invisible. After Verne, Zamyatin, and ?apek, science fiction in languages other than English certainly didn’t feature in the histories. There may have been an awareness that science fiction was being written in Germany, in the Soviet Union, and perhaps even in Japan, but there was little idea of what that science fiction might actually look like. Even when work by Stanis?aw Lem and the Strugatsky Brothers began to appear in translation, these were regarded less as representatives of other science fiction traditions than as clever foreigners who had learned how to do an American trick. Only since the turn of the century has the idea of science fiction as an international literature once again started to take hold. Even so, representative anthologies still tend to be overwhelmingly American.

It may be a pleasing shock, therefore, to discover that the contents of this anthology include stories from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, China, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Russia, and Spain.

(5) WITH OCCASIONAL SILVER LINING. John Scalzi selected 20 posts that represent the year at Whatever:

It’s a politics-heavy wrap-up, which is not surprising in an election year, and in this election year in particular; it could have been even more election-heavy but I didn’t want to depress everyone more than they already are. There are other things thrown in there as well for balance, including some happy stuff (really!). No matter how you slice it, however, 2016 was a dark mess, and many of the best Whatever entries this year reflect that.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • December 24, 1973 Twilight series author Stephanie Meyer.

(7) SCHEMING STREAMING VIDEO. Steve Davidson might deserve a lump of coal for finding a new reason to worry about the Hugos this weekend —  “It’s not that I don’t get it, I can’t get it!”.

Until very recently, Hugo voters in North America could pretty much count on everyone having access to the same shows, with little to no (or at least customary) expense associated with that access.

Things have been changing.  I, for example, do not get HBO (nor any of the other premium movie channels).  Which means that I can’t watch Game of Thrones, which means that I don’t vote for Game of Thrones, not because it isn’t a worthy property, but because neither I, nor anyone else, should vote for things they are not familiar with.

Personally, that’s a minor issue for me.  I’m not that much into fantasy (ok, so it might have some SF elements looming) nor soap operas.

But what about The Man in the High Castle?  That’s on Amazon Prime.  Or the new Star Trek: Discovery coming to CBS’ premium streaming service.  Or Jessica Jones on Netflix.  Or some series on Hulu.

Right now, “TV” shows can be delivered to you through broadcast, cable, through multiple paid streaming services, through your gaming console and VR (strap your phone into a goggle system) is beginning to rev up.

An individual wanting to have access to everything that might be eligible will soon need to spend a tidy sum; internet access, multiple premium cable channels, Amazon, Hulu and Netflix subscriptions, two (or more) gaming consoles, a VR headset (and who knows what subscriptions) and, potentially, subscriptions to streaming services offered by multiple broadcasters and indie streaming outlets….

(8) THE POET LARIAT. Camestros Felapton lifts our spirits

So this is pixels and what have you done
Another scroll over, a new one just begun
And so this is pixels, I hope you have fun
The near and the dear books, the old and the young
A very merry pixels and a happy new scroll
Let’s hope it’s a good one with a variety of beers
And so this is pixels for blogs and for books
The rich and the poor ones, the hobbits are Tooks
And so happy Scroll Pixels for pups and for not
For SF and F let’s stop all the fights
A very merry pixels and a happy new scroll
Let’s hope it’s a good one without any um, what rhymes with scroll? Roll? Poll? Drole? Prole? Soul? Stole? Mole?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian and Gregory Benford for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Redheadedfemme.]

 

The Wind’s Hind Quarters 6/30

aka Quit Zoomin’ Those Paws Through The Air

Starring in today’s roundup: Charlie Jane Anders, Jon F. Zeigler, Arianne, Melina D, Paul Kincaid, Martin Wisse, Justin Howe, Lou Antonelli, Doctor Strangelove, Terry Weyna, Spacefaring Kitten, Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag, Grac and embrodski. (Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editors of the day Richard Brandt and Daniel Dern.)

Charlie Jane Anders on io9

“Eight Books You Need To Know About To Understand The Hugo Awards Snafu” – June 30

about books

But all the discussions about the Puppies, pro and con, tend to bog down in generalizations. So let’s get specific. Here are eight books that can help illuminate this mess. Because this is about books, or it’s about nothing at all.

[Anders takes a highly interesting approach, contrasting what reviewers and Sad/Rabid Puppies advocates have to say about these eight sf works:]

  • The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  • Monster Hunter Legion by Larry Correia
  • Blackout by Mira Grant
  • Redshirts by John Scalzi
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  • The Book of Feasts and Seasons by John C. Wright
  • Seveneves by Neil Stephenson

 

 

Jon F. Zeigler on Sharrukin’s Palace

“The Hugo Dispute: An Assessment” – June 30

[Thorough article. This is just an excerpt of two of the topics:]

Over at Amazing Stories, Steve Davidson recently blogged about possible fan responses to this mess. Some of his suggestions strike me as either impractical or actively harmful, but I think he’s on the right track with at least one item:

“First, the crafting of a formal statement that articulates the position that Fandom and Fans (which includes authors, artists, editors, podcasters, bloggers, fan writers, fan artists and everyone) do not game awards (or other fannish institutions) for personal, political or financial gain. Further, that individuals who may be eligible for awards state formally that they do not grant permission for third parties to include them or their works in voting campaigns or slates or organized voting blocs and that if their names or works are found on such, it is without their express permission.”

As a purely voluntary principle for creators in this space, I think that’s well worth considering. So here’s my line in the sand, to be repeated if and when it becomes fully relevant.

I won’t participate in organizing a slate for any industry award. If and when I publish something that’s eligible, I will not give my permission for that work to be included on any slate. If someone includes my work on a slate without my permission, and that work reaches the ballot, I will withdraw it from consideration. If that means the award becomes irrelevant to my success as an author, so be it.

I can succeed without having to chase fan politics. I can do that by pursuing the work I love: writing and selling stories. If that isn’t enough, I don’t intend to waste my time stewing over might-have-beens.

Now, as it happens, the argument above assumes that the rules of the awards process aren’t going to change. If they do change to make slate voting more costly or difficult, that mitigates the problem. There are multiple ways to get that result, some of which admittedly constitute a cure worse than the disease.

Fortunately, there’s a proposed rule change that will be considered at the WSFS business meeting this year, and that seems very promising. That’s the so-called E Pluribus Hugo proposal, a modification of the procedure for counting nomination votes.

I’ve spent some time looking at the EPH proposal. In fact, while I don’t claim to be an expert, the comparative study of election systems is familiar to me (my professional background is in mathematics and computer science). Thus far I’m quite impressed.

 

Melina D on Subversive Reader

“Hugos 2015 – Where to now?” – July 1

So what do I do next?

I was talking to my sister about the Hugos the other night. My sister is not in the community (though she does read and watch speculative media), but she’s worked in politics, so she understands a lot about the political process and it was relatively easy to explain how the slate dominated the awards this year. She helped me clarify some of my thoughts and then asked the question:

“So what are you going to do about it?”

Funnily enough, I’d been turning this question over in my head for a few days. What was I going to do to make my voice heard? How was I going to stand up and say ‘I want the best writing – the absolute best – to be nominated for and win Hugos Awards.’ I want writing which makes me feel something, writing which makes me stay up late reading, writing which makes me want to tell everyone about what I just read.

I have two main powers as a supporting member – I can nominate and I can vote. There is a third power though – I can write about it. I can write about the stories and books I read and why I love them or why they don’t quite work for me and why other people should go to read them. I can write about the nominees and why I would vote for one or the other. The power of the internet means that I can put my voice out there.

I can also read more. This Hugo ‘season’ has allowed me to find a lot of new places to find short fiction and I’ve already started reading some from the first half of the year. I’m reading more blogs and online magazines and looking at their book reviews and announcements. I’ve made sure that I’m putting more time into reading – even if it’s just a short story before bed.

There’s a few places I can go to find 2015 stories and media, but I’d also like to open it here. What new fiction or nonfiction are you consuming? What have you really enjoyed? What would you like to share with others? Leave a comment, tell me about it. I might go on to read and review it, I might not, but it gives me new places to explore and new things to try. I might find a new author I absolutely love, or find myself reading a new type of story I’d never even thought about before.

With more reading, I’m going to feel more confident nominating. And by sharing my reading, I hope I can encourage others to read and nominate their favourite stories of the year. Maybe it won’t be enough to negate the slate, but at least I’m doing something positive.

 

Paul Kincaid on BestScienceFictionBooks.com

“A Reply to Kevin Standlee on the Hugos”  – June 30

[Excerpt is first of four points.]

1: No, I do not want a “Strong Leader”, and that is not what I said. What I want is a more responsive organisation. Every award that I know of has a mechanism in place that would allow for a change in the rules between one award presentation and the next. Some of these amount to a strong leader, most do not. None of them takes at least two years to put in place any rule change.

Situations change, and in our modern digital age they change very rapidly indeed. It surely makes sense that awards should be able to respond just as rapidly. As it is, whatever might be proposed at the next WSFS meeting cannot take effect until after it is ratified at the following WSFS meeting in 2016, which means it will be the 2017 awards before there is any actual change. If the Sad and Rabid Puppies behaved within the rules this year, as indeed they did, then they have free rein to do exactly the same next year. That does not strike me as an award process that is fit for purpose.

Here’s is a proposal to make the award more responsive without a “Strong Leader”, (it may not be the only possibility or the best, but it is at least a notion that could be considered): I have seen a number of proposals online for possible changes to the Hugo rules. Why not provide a venue online where these proposals can be thoroughly debated by all interested parties, so that when the next WSFS meeting comes along all that is needed is for the proposal to be ratified or not by the meeting, and lo, the rule change is made, there and then, within the year? As it is, whatever debate has gone on previously, the proposal can only formally be made at the next WSFS meeting, by those who can attend the Worldcon (an expensive commitment, especially if it is on a different continent), and will then only be ratified by those attending the next WSFS meeting at the next Worldcon (yet another expense). By moving the debate online and making the WSFS meeting a ratification body, I think you would actually make the Hugos more democratic, not less.

So no, Kevin, I do not want a strong leader.

 

Martin Wisse on Wis[s]e Words

“If you want to change the Hugos, understand their history” – June 30

Okay, I don’t want to begrudge anybody their Hugo rant — ghu knows I’ve written enough and in fact I’d agree with quite a bit of this criticism:…

The Hugos are the way they are, with all their strengths and weaknesses because they’re the result of a decades long specific democratic process and the 2015 categories and rules are the fossilised remains of this process. You cannot understand the Hugos properly unless you not only know that the Best Semi-prozine category was created to shield all other fanzines from the Locus juggernaut, but also that the same sort of thing happened with the Best podcast category, the long struggle to get comics recognised properly and why there are two editorial categories and what went before that.

And not only that, you need to know the process and rules under which these changes are made, like the proposers of E Pluribus Hugo frex do seem to. You need to understand how the business meetings work as well as why and how it was established, even without Kevin Standlee to prompt you. You need to be a bit of a process nerd to be honest. (You also need to realise that much of this was designed by Americans, who seem to have a national weakness for over complicated voting systems with huge barriers to entry…)

This bone deep understanding and awareness of what is and isn’t possible given the history and current structure of WSFS and the Hugos is likely why people like Kevin Standlee might be a bit dismissive of such criticsm as well as looking overly lawyerly. That’s the risk of being an insider, you have a much better grasp on the mechanism of the system and less of an idea of what it looks like from the outside

But what you should also realise is that knowning this history and being familiar with the whole process more than likely also gives you an overwhelming sense of how fragile the whole structure is, how easy it is for a well intended proposal or rules change to damage or destroy WSFS. I see a deep fear and wariness behind that “slow and prone to complexify process, a desire to err on the side of caution, knowning how close it has come to all going kablooey.

 

Justin Howe on 10 Bad Habits

“Caring is Meaningless” – June 30

This is a thing I wrote in response to some SFF fandom bullshit going on. If you’re reading this and don’t know what the Sad/Rabid Puppies are, well, I envy you. Stay unaware. Don’t google it. Google prehistoric squirrels or Steven Universe conspiracy theories instead. It’ll be time better spent. For the rest of us poor bastards who have eaten of the Fruit of Bullshit from the Tree of Train Wreck, this post is for us.

When someone says, “Well, at least I care!” all they’re saying is, “Well, at least I have an opinion!” I’ve read this from one of the Sad Pup ringleaders, and couldn’t help but read the bit about “caring” as the foot-stomp of the petulant, self-righteous child. Caring is meaningless. Caring can be split so many ways and made to mean anything. You can carry it down into all kinds of Godwin Law absurdity. Mussolini cared about train schedules. Custer cared about the Sioux. You can’t say they didn’t. They certainly cared enough to have opinions about them. To state so sternly that you’re justified in your actions, because “you cared” is simply a sleight of hand attempt to raise feelings up to the level of values, because you’re not wise or self-aware enough to process your feelings without making noises.

 

Lou Antonelli on This Way To Texas

“Puppies in the heartland” – June 30

The Puppy Kickers cite well-known authors who are known conservatives – Mike Resnick and Larry Niven are two – but they came up through the ranks years ago. People like Larry Corriea and Brad Torgersen have entered the field in the past ten years, and have seen and felt first-hand the snubs and insults of the snobs. Both were nominated for the Campbell Award for Best new writer in their first year of eligibility. They didn’t win. Now, that award allows you two years of eligibility, and over the years many writers have has two shots at winning – but neither Larry nor Brad were even nominated in their second years of eligibility.

The Puppy Kickers would assert it’s because as people got to know them better, they realized they sucked as authors. I suspect it’s more likely they were shunted aside because they do not conceal their Mormon faith.

In 2012, when Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee for president, most of the leading lights in the s-f  literary world combined their hatred for people of faith with their hatred for Republicans by attacking Romney in the most vile language. Quite frankly, I personally believe there are some things you should never say to or about people, regardless of the subject. In light of the attacks on Romney, is it any wonder all the Mormon s-f writers went off the reservation? It’s almost a human rights issue – “you can’t say that about one of my coreligionists.

I doubt most of the Puppy Kickers have any Christian friends, and certainly no Mormons. But here in Middle America there are plenty of Christians, Mormons, and even – as Jay Lake used to say – “low church atheists” – people who don’t believe in the supernatural, but, like Jay, didn’t mind if you needed a faith.

I remember when Jay said the source of so much ill feeling were the “high church atheists” – people who didn’t believe in God, and wanted to stamp out your religion, too. Jay was a smart man and a nice guy.

As I have made the convention circuit, I have been heartened by the many people who have been kind and supportive of my work, and either supportive or tolerant of the Sad Puppies effort. It reminds me that most people are thoughtful and considerate human beings, and the internet is a tool that is – like the machinery left behind by the Krel as depicted in the s-f classic movie “Forbidden Planet” – letting the darkest and worst innermost aspects of human nature loose upon the land.

 

Doctor Strangelove on Strangelove for Science Fiction

“Attention seeking troll puppies” – June 30

The various Puppy leaders, it turns out, have little to say, and their arguments implode into insignificance. They don’t think a literary award, the Hugos, should go to literary fiction. They don’t think science fiction should contain messages, or be socially progressive. Their voting slates, of course, contain attempts at literary fiction and message fiction. If we set aside their arguments, all we are left with is noise. Their attention-seeking trolling of the Hugo nomination process in essence says “look at me, look at me!” That is sad, indeed.

 

Terry Weyna on Fantasy Literature

“Magazine Monday: Hugo-Nominated Short Stories 2014”

[Reviews all five nominees.]

The short stories nominated for the Hugo Award this year are a disappointing lot. I read a great many stories in 2014 that were far better than at least four of these tales.

 

Spacefaring Kitten on Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens

“Jeffro ‘GURPS-disadvantaged people ruin SFF’ Johnson” – June 30

Reading Jeffro Johnson was an interesting and even SFFnal experience. I mean, one of the most enjoyable aspects of science fiction and fantasy is that it has the capacity to offer alien experiences and viewpoints.

Most likely I disagree with Jeffro Johnson on a wide range of topics, but unlike the three Mad Genius Club bloggers who are competing with him for the Best Fan Writer Hugo, Johnson makes a better job at explaining his views. He is also mainly interested in science fiction and fantasy instead of waging a culture war against “social justice warriors” which is more than a welcome change after wading through the polemics of Dave Freer, Cedar Sanderson and Amanda S. Green…..

 

Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag on Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog

“Hugo Reading – Fan Writer” – June 30

[Reviews all five nominees.]

Johnson is the clear winner here, since he seems to be the only one that really fits what I think of as the category. I might put Mixon on the ballot as well, but that is a difficult choice. Both of them are going below “No Award” I think. The other three do not deserve awards for the writing in their packets. In fact, they really shouldn’t have been nominated at all. My guess is that all three must have been on the slates, since I do not believe they could have been nominated by the merits of the writings they provided.

If I sound a little bitter, it’s because I’m feeling bitter… How can people who clearly hate fandoms not their own be nominated for a Hugo Award? My concept of fandom is a big umbrella under which all of us can hang out and do our own thing in a non-judgmental setting. To read screeds against other fans is depressing. To see those screeds nominated for awards? Gah. Seriously, did any of the people voting on the slates actually read these works and say, “Yes, this is the best writing about fandom I saw in 2014.” and, if so, why? How? How can writing that rips someone apart be the best? Why all the hate?

 

Grac on Grac’s Never-Ending TBR Pile of Doom

“The Three-Body Problem – Liu Cixin” – June 30

… I gave this book 3 because of the clunky/heavy part midway through, which almost made me give up. I can see why some people loved it, but I wasn’t one of them – it may well still end up winning this year’s Hugo but I don’t think it’s better than my vote (The Goblin Emperor, in case anyone is interested!). I prefer my science fiction a bit more people-oriented, to be perfectly honest, and the characterisation of many folks in this novel left something to be desired, even as the background of the Cultural Revolution and modern-day China added to its interest.

 

embrodski on Death Is Bad

“Amazing Man” – June 22

I dashed off a little short story, inspired by the Sad Puppies Hugo Fiasco. I had fun writing it, I hope someone finds it enjoyable to read. :)…

….“So all of this…” Paula gestured around herself to indicate the Presidential Palace, the Liberty Legions, and presumably the entire Liberated States of America. “All of this was because you felt snubbed by a group of people you don’t even like?”

Amazing ripped the glasses from his face and crushed them in his fist. His responding roar was super-human, shattering all the glass in the Palace and leaving Paula with mild, but permanent, hearing loss.

“It’s about ethics in journalism!”

Emilio won a Pulitzer that year, as well as a Peabody, an Oscar, a Grammy, a Dobby, and a Tony Award; all purely on merit and not for any other reason at all. Amazing Man won the Nobel Peace Prize. That last one raised a few eyebrows, but it was pointed out that the Peace Prize had previously been awarded to people with a much higher body count than Amazing Man had managed, and wouldn’t it be better to keep it that way? It was hard to argue with that logic.

Miss Perry was released, because Amazing Man was above petty things like personal revenge. She is now happily employed as a Field Hand in the Angola Liberty Farm.

So Long and Thanks for All the Puppies 5/1

aka The Good, the Bad, and the Yapping

Rachel Acks and Abigail Nussbaum begin the May Day roundup, followed by Mark Leeper, John Scalzi, Paul Kincaid, David Langford, Laura Mixon, Kiesa, and a colleague who has chosen a saner course.  (Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Milt Stevens and Laura Resnick.)

Rachel Acks

“The Hugo Nomination Problem or, I Am a Bad Reader”  – May 1

I’m sure this does not reflect on me well as a human being. I also know I used to read a hell of a lot more back before I didn’t have a full time job and a part-time writing gig and a daily commute during which reading tends to give me severe motion sickness. But here it is, the call for help. I seriously need some helpful soul, or maybe some kind of crowd-sourced thing that can tell me what I should be reading as things come out so I’m not floundering under drifts of pages on book mountain when the Hugo nomination period opens. Preferably some recommendation engine where my fellow writers, bless you guys I love you all but damn I know how we are, are not allowed to nominate or push their own books. I don’t want reviews, I don’t even want opinions, I just want a simple list or titles and authors and maybe a helpful link where someone can say hey, I think this book should totally get a Hugo, and then other people who agree can maybe give it a plus one, and that’s it. Let me form my own opinions.

Does something like this already exist and I’ve just never seen it because I’m a failure at google? Is this something a complete computer incompetent like me could set up on her own site pretty easily? I’d do it in a heartbeat if I knew how.

 

 

Abigail Nussbaum on Wrong Questions

“The 2015 Hugo Awards: A Few Thoughts as Voting Opens” – May 1

In addition to No Award-ing the Puppies, there are two other categories where I will be voting No Award for all nominees.  I’ve already written about the Best Fan Writer category, and in addition I will not be voting to give a Hugo in the Best Novelette category, even though it contains a non-Puppy nominee in the form of Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s “The Day the World Turned Upside Down.”  Chance has written eloquently about the many problems with this story, which does not deserve to win a Hugo by default.

Speaking of Chance, she’s thrown herself on the grenade of the Rabid Puppies’ short fiction selections, and is reviewing them one by one with sad and hilarious results.  Her reviews are required reading, first if you like funny and snarky writing, but also if you’re still under the impression that literary merit has anything to do with this campaign.

 

Anna Kashina

“Hugo awards: what can be done to save them?” – May 1

Going forward, I believe that the best way to redeem the situation and restore the prestige of the Hugos (and perhaps the other awards) is to ensure that every nominator and voter actually *reads* the work they are voting for and actually considers it to be better than the other comparable works published the same year, based on valid criteria. Barring that, the awards have no meaning, I think everyone would agree to that.

How to achieve it practically?

For one, every nomination should be publicly listed, with the name of the person nominating and voting for each work openly accessible, along with the checked “yes” next to the questions on whether they personally read the work, and whether they truthfully consider it the best in the genre.

I would go even further, though. I would request for each nomination to contain a short paragraph of what you like about the work and what made it stand out for you and seem like it deserved the award. This information should also be made public from the start and required with each nomination (notably, reasons based on the race, ethnicity, and political and religious views of the author should not be permitted).

I am aware that this would probably drastically reduce the number of people willing to nominate. But I bet that no slate voting would be possible with this kind of a system. Even if a person is willing to outwardly lie on a public form, if the writeups for the slate voters are commonly generated through a campaign, this fact would become immediately transparent.

 

Celia Darrough on Bustle

“How The 2015 Hugo Awards Became A Battlefield (And Not Over Science Fiction)” – May 1

If the science fiction and fantasy literary genre has an Oscars, it’s the Hugo Awards. Since the 1950s, the awards have recognized the works of science fiction and fantasy (SF/F) greats, including Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, George R. R. Martin, and Michael Chabon. But, if you look at a complete list, you’ll notice one thing about the roster of past winners: A majority of them are white men. And this year fans, the media, and the organizers themselves claim there’s a conspiracy to rig the Hugo Award nominations to keep it that way.

Here’s what’s happening: For close to a decade, the Hugos have made strides toward increased diversity, with deserving women and members of minority groups added to the nomination list. (See: Octavia Butler, Ann Leckie, Saladin Ahmed, Nalo Hopkinson, N.K. Jemisin, and Ted Chiang, all of whom, save Butler, were nominated after 2000.) But the 2015 awards, whose winners will be announced in August, have become a battlefield as longtime supporters of the awards allege that two online groups known as the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies tried to subvert the nomination process, apparently to keep the awards mostly white and male — a statement that the leaders of the Sad Puppies — Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen — and the Rabid Puppies — Vox Day — vehemently deny.

 

Mark Leeper on MT Void

“The Puppy Crisis” – May 1

I think a lot of people have given in to a myth. The myth is what I think is a basic misunderstanding about what the awards are. In the case of the Hugo awards, the myth is that the fans have gotten together to pick God’s anointed best science fiction pieces published over the previous year in each category. Once they pick the stories democratically chosen by mutual consent to be the best they–the fans–have spoken. What they have chosen is God’s Anointed choice. It works like the selection of the new Pope.

Pardon me but that is not what happens when a novel wins a Hugo. The Hugo Award is not about the book; it is about the voters. In this case it is about the attending and supporting members of the upcoming World Science Fiction Convention. We all pretend that this is a reasonable set of people to judge and decide the question. We have pretended that for years. But they cannot make a book be the best novel. They can only decide as a popularity poll what book they most want to see win. Their choice tells you about them. It tells you something about the minds of the people, but voters do not make best novels. Writers make them.

 

John Scalzi on Whatever

“The Myth of SF/F Publishing House Exceptionalism” – May 1

Sanford is correct in his point that as a matter of books from Baen whose individual sales can compete with the sales of individual books from other science fiction publishers on a month-to-month basis, as charted by the Locus list, Baen’s showing is modest (the May Locus lists, incidentally, show no Baen books, whereas Tor shows up five times, Orbit five times, DAW four times, Del Rey three times, Ace and Harper Voyager once each, and non-genre-specific publishers like Bantam and Morrow taking the rest of the slots).

But does that mean Ringo’s larger assertion (sales of SF/F publishing houses are down since the 70s except for Baen) is false? Not necessarily! Here are some reasons Ringo might still be right:

  1. Ringo’s first assertion (SF/F publishing houses sales down since the 70s) is independent of how any individual title by any publishing house stacks up against any other title by any publishing house in the month-to-month or week-to-week horse races known as the best-seller lists. That a book is #1 on the Locus list one month does not mean it sold the same number of books as any previous #1; nor does it speak to the overall sales of any particular publishing house….

Ringo appears wants to make to two arguments: One, that Baen has experienced consistent, across-the-board growth in its sales where other SF/F publishers have not. Two, that this is due to Baen not publishing authors or tales that are “SJW”-y; only “cracking good tales” allowed, the definition of which apparently preclude any Social Justice Warrior-ness (although apparently may include any number of conservative/reactionary tropes)….

The second part of Ringo’s assertion, the implication that Baen’s continuous sales upswing is due to cracking good SJW-free tales, I’m not going to bother to address seriously, because what a “Social Justice Warrior” is at this point is something of a moving target, the most consistent definition of which appears to be “Anyone left of Ted Cruz who certain politically conservative authors want to whack on in order to make whatever dubious, self-serving, fact-free point they wish to make at the moment.”  I believe George RR Martin has recently been relegated to SJW status for being upset with the action of the Puppy slates and the Hugos; this is a curious maneuver if we’re talking “cracking good tales” and sales numbers as a proxy for… well, whatever they’re meant to be a proxy for.

It’s also bunk because while Baen is being used by Ringo as a synecdoche for a certain subgenres of science fiction (and the non-SJW agendas of the authors who produce it and the readers who read it), I have to wonder whether Baen itself wants that responsibility or affiliation. I mean, as just one example, we’re all aware that Baen published Joanna Russ, yes? More than once? Joanna Russ, part of the “new wave” of science fiction that Ringo identifies as a proto-SJW movement? Joanna Russ, who was the very definition of what is labeled a Social Justice Warrior before any conservative or reactionary person even though to spit such an epithet from out between their lips? That Joanna Russ? The only way that Joanna Russ does not fully qualify for retroactive SJW status is if the definition of “SJW” actually includes “cannot be published by Baen Books.” And yet, apparently, she could tell a “cracking good tale,” because that’s what Baen publishes. Strange!

 

Paul Kincaid on Bull Spec

“Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, April 2015: awards coverage, big announcements, new books, and more” – May 1

Look, I wasn’t going to talk about this, it’s not really in my remit, but the one thing the Sad Puppies have done is guarantee that the Hugo Awards this year are all about politics and nothing to do with the quality or otherwise of the works nominated. A win this year, in any category, and regardless of whether the winner was on a slate or not, will not have the cachet that a Hugo win once had. They have spoiled the awards even for those they are supposedly trying to promote.

 

David Langford on Ansible #334

“Dysprosium & Puppygate” – May 1

Since I consider slate voting a thoroughly bad thing, I expect to make judicious – though not indiscriminate – use of the No Award option on the final Hugo ballot. Meanwhile, all sympathy to John Lorentz’s hard-pressed Sasquan Hugo committee; to Kevin Standlee and others who’ll be running a perhaps overcrowded and fraught Worldcon business meeting at which anti-slate rules changes will be proposed; and to slate nominees who were unaware either that they’d been included or that this placed them in an exposed position on a new battlefield of the US culture wars.

 

Kiesa on Kiesa’s Mutterings

“Hugo 2015 Best Novelette”  – May 1

Up to this point, I was feeling really good about the novelette category. I could, without any reservations place the three slate stories below no award because I didn’t feel they were good. However, then I came to “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale”. I felt this was a really good story. It is by far my favorite of the five options. The story pulled me in from the first paragraph. I got bogged down a tad during the journey to the alien world. However, once they landed it picked up again and had a great ending.

So . . . I’m still not sure how I’ll actually vote. I’ll probably vote in the order I’ve listed above. However, any stupidity that appears between now and when I place my vote may change my opinion.

 

 

Laura Mixon

“Yes. But.” – May 1

At the risk of yes-butting people over my report on Requires Hate/ Benjanun Sriduangkaew/ Winterfox, I want to respond to a few points that have been made in recent posts or in their comment threads regarding my Hugo nomination.

Kate Nepveu:   Yes, but (1) my statistics were poorly supported or cited, and (2) the wrong people commented on and/or supported my efforts.

Abigail Nussbaum:  Yes, but (3) perverse pie charts! plus (2) the wrong people commented on and/or supported my efforts.

Shaun Duke:   Yes, but (4) Requires Hate has stopped her abuses, apologized, and deserves forgiveness. [UPDATE: while I was adding links to this post in preparation for uploading it, I saw that Shaun Duke has apologized. I’m leaving my response to point #4 up, because I have heard others raising the same point, and I want my position to be clear.]

Geoff Ryman:   Yes, but (5) racism! The Sad Puppy/ Rabid Puppy attack on the Hugos is a much bigger problem than Requires Hate.