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.
“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.
“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.
Since it appears that this thread ate my previous comment:
Doctor Strange – I checked all 15 entries of “Chesty and (I/me)” in “The Exchange Officers.” Every single one was grammatically correct.
Well, don’t that beat all. I had been referring to the copy of the story I received in the Hugo Packet last summer. Cross-checking to the PDF you linked, I see that all the instances where it should have said “Chesty and me”, but didn’t, in the packet text are correct in the version you linked. I wonder why we got an unedited version? That was a really poor choice for awards consideration.
Even with the blatant grammatical errors removed, Torgersen’s prose needs editorial work. Let me take a couple of random paragraphs, right where the first “Chesty and me” occurs in the clean copy:
“Please don’t do that,” said an Air Force master sergeant who’d been supervising Chesty and me during our first day in the suits. We’d already logged two weeks going over mechanics and theory, hitting the books and soaking our brains in math, diagrams, and history lessons on the develop-
ment of these, the United States’ most sophisticated remotely-operated vehicles in existence. Even a single arm from one of the proxies was worth more than my retired mother’s five-bedroom McMansion in the Bay Area.
I rightfully quit my fooling around and waited for further instructions from the master sergeant—just one of many technically-savvy non-commissioned offers who prowled on the sidelines. The closed hangar in which we all stood was part of the ODIS simulator—a place where new proxy Operators could get a feel for their machines, and the body suits could be “tuned” to their wearers. No human being’s electromagnetic or physiological signature being quite the same as any other’s.
It needs tightening up — why is he telling us the guy is a master sergeant twice, and so clumsily? Why say more than my retired mother’s five-bedroom McMansion in the Bay Area — are we supposed to know from this that old mom is extremely wealthy? that in this universe retired people have more property than they can cope with? or what?
A number of the sentences could stand to be re-ordered, to flow better and be more active: The closed hangar in which we all stood would be better as “We were all in a closed hangar, …”
Word choice: I can’t figure out what he means, that rightfully was the word to use.
These 2 random paragraphs include both infodumps and a sentence fragment (the last sentence in the second paragraph).
Overall, Torgersen’s sentences just aren’t very good. It’s probably hyperbole to say that software should be able to flag his mistakes — but I don’t think those mistakes are really just a matter of opinion. This is basic stuff, the kind of bar any writer needs to clear to get out of the “90% crud” zone predicted by Sturgeon’s Law.
I’m not saying every good sff story has to be a literary masterpiece — on the contrary, I often prefer prose that doesn’t call attention to itself, that just gets the job done. If “The Martian” had been eligible for awards this year I would have voted for it cheerfully: Andy Weir’s writing is workmanlike but not the *point* of his book.
You’ll note that none of my comments are about the contents, political or otherwise, of Torgersen’s work. I’m just saying, if this were fanfic I might read and even enjoy it — if it involved characters or tropes I was already committed to — but I probably wouldn’t recommend it or say it was *good*. To have it presented to me as though it might be worthy of a major award felt like an insult to my reading ability and to the memory of Poul Anderson (probably my favorite conservative sff writer of all time, winner of 7 richly-deserved Hugos).
PS That’s Doctor Science, btw.
Doctor Science – Yeah, my phone auto-corrects to some interesting things; sorry about that.
I’m not claiming that the mechanics of this particular piece are great. It’s not really even a style of story that I like. But I don’t know that this disagrees with my stance on the issue: we’ve gotten to a point where awards and nominations are being given to works that aren’t even science fiction or are… decent efforts (the ideas are interesting and the setting is conveyed well). And from what I read of others’ opinions, Torgersen writes better work than this.
I would still, on any day, rather have a conversation about the quality of a decent sci-fi work than about works that aren’t even SFF or blistering about the politics of works. If we can get back to the point where we’re doing the former, I’d be pleased.
Also annoyed that Correia declined. Nemesis is great, and we should have had it as an option.
I just put up a post at Obsidian Wings incorporating some of my comments here: “Objective standards of literary merit: the Hugos, the Puppies, Sturgeon’s Law”. Come on over if you like.