Kate Paulk Uncovers a Conspiracy

pe630728And it’s a good day at the Mad Genius Club. Kate Paulk (“Terry Pratchett and the Sadness of Puppies”) has revealed another reason the gatekeepers of the Hugos must go.

Terry Pratchett never won a Hugo.

The man was only the greatest writer in the last thirty years or so. He was only consistently head and shoulders above every other author in the field – and I include out of genre authors in that assessment – for almost his entire writing career. Only capable of stopping traffic when he held a signing because so many people showed up. Not Hugo-worthy at all.

But then, he didn’t fit the criteria endorsed by the self-appointed luminaries of the field.

Those bastards!

And would you like to know who to blame, what self-appointed luminary had the most to do with this outcome? I’ll give you a hint. He’s a famous writer. He was knighted by the Queen. His name is — Sir Terry Pratchett!

Going Postal was a finalist for the 2005 Best Novel Hugo and would have been voted on by members of a Worldcon hosted in the UK — the best chance he ever had to win – except Pratchett chose to withdraw it.

You can’t win the lottery if you don’t take a ticket.

Why did he do that? Tom Galloway says Pratchett publicly stated two different reasons. “One was that he didn’t want to spend the evening under the state of suspense and anxiety as to whether he’d win. Two was that he wanted others not as established and doing well as an author to get the nomination.” Pratchett even told Tom a third reason that has never been made public — which only proves how deeply Sir Terry was implicated in this terrible conspiracy.

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40 thoughts on “Kate Paulk Uncovers a Conspiracy

  1. Shocking! I hope that Kate Paulk will now lead us all in a crusade to vilify Terry Pratchett for this terrible injustice against Terry Pratchett…

  2. Yes, of course, you’re right Mike.

    However, according to the comments on that post, since it “took 33 novels” to get him to the nomination stage still proves their point, to their eyes.

  3. Not to mention Sir Terry was a Worldcon GoH, or that this year’s Worldcon is also the 2015 North American Discworld Convention.

    It’s also being claimed in the comments that Douglas Adams has never had any recognition from the Hugos, the 1979 nomination for Hitchhiker’s Guide apparently notwithstanding.

  4. So we’re going to hide the info in plain sight? You’re right about one thing, she’ll never look for it here.

  5. There is an apocryphal story of Terry Pratchett and J.K. Rowling at some snooty literary event. She was lamenting that it was unlikely she would ever win the prize being given out. He suggested she go home and console herself with all the money she’s made, it always worked for him.

  6. IMHO, Terry knew that he was a better Writer than (almost?) anyone who had ever been nominated for the Hugo. So did many more people than had ever considered themselves “s-f fans”, or been members of the WorldCon. So nu?

    And yeah, I am suggesting that there seem to be a lot of people who try to make themselves seem Important by associating with genuinely Important people.

    (And, mind you, I’ve done a certain amount of Name-Dropping in my time, and might well do more in the next few years.)

  7. That apocryphal story may have its roots in this Pratchett anecdote:

    Terry Pratchett, already interrogated about Hugoesque longings at the Discworld con, dropped pleadingly to his knees as Hugo-maker Peter Weston interviewed him in Boston. Peter: ‘I have Hugos. You have lots of money. We can come together.’ Terry also confessed that until he began writing YA novels, he had received no reward for his work, except of course a pile of money the size of St Paul’s Cathedral.

    This was the year before Pratchett declined the nomination for Going Postal. I can’t find the record of what he said at the Discworld convention, but the next Ansible mentions“The accounts of Terry Pratchett’s mock-yearning after a Hugo”, so I presume he had decided even then that he didn’t want one, for the reasons he later stated.

  8. Realistically I think pTerry kind of snuck up on people. The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic had them thinking “oh yes, very funny stuff to be sure” and it took a while for them to look at his later books and say “y’know, this is more than funny; this is very true, and wise.” It took a while for me to realize that, anyway.

  9. Greatness is in the eyes of the reader. I read a Terry Pratchett novel and concluded that he was the worthy heir of L. Sprague DeCamp and Fletcher Pratt, but that’s as far as I would go.

  10. Pratchett had poor US publisher support for many years, which didn’t help. What people don’t read in the year of release, people don’t nominate.

    That said, a lot of the novels I consider his best as standalones did come out in years with strong winners and fields (examples such as Good Omens vs. Hyperion vs. A fire in the Sun; Small Gods vs. Barrayar vs. The Summer Queen), so it’s one of those things where you can make a passable individual case for each of the individual works being left out from winning, but the lack of even nominations prior to the one he declined is still not a good reflection on the awards.

  11. Tonight while researching an article I came across my 2004 Worldcon report with this Pratchett anecdote:

    [Peter] Weston interviewed guest of honor Terry Pratchett, complimenting him on being awarded the Order of the British Empire. Pratchett admitted the title is less significant now that there is no British Empire, but insisted there is still one piece of empire left, “… a little island in the middle of the ocean with puffins on it. Those puffins damn well have to do what I say!”

  12. “There is an apocryphal story of Terry Pratchett and J.K. Rowling at some snooty literary event.”

    Terry Pratchett and J.K. Rowling were also the two authors kept off the 2008 Hugo Best Novel shortlist by the quiet campaign of John Scalzi and Charles Stross for their nominations.

    41 THE LAST COLONY John Scalzi
    40 HALTING STATE Charles Stross
    29 MAKING MONEY Terry Pratchett

    The three leading vote-getters by McDonald, Chabon, and Sawyer received between 65 and 58 votes. John Scalzi also received 43 votes for Best Fan Writer but no votes at all for any of his novellas, short stories, and dramatic presentations that he announced were eligible.

  13. I expect that Rowling not even publicly acknowledging her Hugo win until a year afterward did more to reduce the voting for her subsequent books than anyone campaigning against them. As with Pratchett after he declined a nomination, most Hugo voters are willing to honor the message that their favorite author isn’t interested.

  14. Hunh. Plenty of nominations for Scalzi’s novel that year, but none for the other works that he announced kind of suggests that the nominations were for the work, and not either the name or the announcement.

    “those puffins damn well have to do what I say!”

    A power that a mere Hugo award would not have conferred.

  15. There were years — decades even — when Terry would have loved, absolutely loved, to be shortlisted for a Hugo, never mind win one. I think his only honour from the SF community was a BSFA Award for Pyramids, though that’s one better than the fantasy community, which only gave him a lifetime award in 2010, when time was running out. (There was one Locus Award, which I mention for completeness.) I think the assumption was that because he was so popular and successful he wouldn’t really care. That was a mistaken assumption.

  16. VD, I wonder what will not get nominated due to the Sad Puppies political machine. And political machine it is. The ward boss tells all the patronage workers who to vote for. In whatever circle of hell Richard J Daley is burning in, he’s looking up and saying, “Good job, puppies”.

  17. VD, I wonder what will not get nominated due to the Sad Puppies political machine. And political machine it is. The ward boss tells all the patronage workers who to vote for. In whatever circle of hell Richard J Daley is burning in, he’s looking up and saying, “Good job, puppies”.
    And speaking of Scalzi. Q: How many Sad Puppies does it take to change a light bulb? A; 100, one to change the bulb and 99 to say, “Gosh, I hope this makes Scalzi’s head explode

  18. Sorry for accidentally posting twice.
    Q: How many Sad Puppies does it take to change a light bulb?
    A: None, until they’re told what bulb to use.

  19. There have already been some comments about how humorists fare badly in competition for literary awards.

    Topical humor has a shelf life, and satire is perceived as attacking, not empathic.

    Makes me suspect that while people like to laugh, they love to cry, and vote accordingly.

  20. Robert: You’re right, humor and empathy are not mutually exclusive. Awards for “the best,” though, tend to put a premium on earnestness, a quality diluted by the presence of humor.

  21. Malcolm, I’d argue that being a Worldcon Guest of Honor counts as a significant honor from the SF community. Yes, technically it’s the decision of one smallish group of people in any given year, but those choices are expected to comply with pretty high standards of worthiness; at any time there’s generally a non-official list of “folk worth considering for Worldcon GOH” so it’s really more the sf community as a whole indicating who’s considered worthy. And I certainly don’t recall hearing any comments about how Terry was an inappropriate choice for it.

    The big miss, in my opinion, was not getting a SFWA Grandmaster Award. With no offense to the last winner or three, I particularly remember thinking this year that I wished Terry had gotten it in case there wasn’t another chance (I figured things weren’t going well when he missed both the Discworld Convention and didn’t even pop in informally for any time at Loncon to see people).

    I could easily be wrong on this, but I think other possible problems with getting a Hugo were a combination of primarily writing in one setting and reusing characters/protagonists and his maintaining consistent high quality. By this, I mean that by the time he broke out in the US (and people presumably went back and read the previous books), he was at a point of “Oh, it’s this year’s Pratchett Discworld novel. It’s just as good as the last 20”. No book stood out as being “Wow, that was significantly better than the last 20, and different too!”. Yes, Terry’s writing improved over the years, but he quickly and subtly reached a high plateau. Yes, even among the later books there were some I’d consider better than others…but not at a “Wow, somehow Terry managed to make a big jump there”…because the other ones were still extremely good.

    So, yes, any number of Terry’s books deserved a Hugo or at least a nomination. But none of them jumped out from the pack of his previous work to make people go “Gotta remember to nominate that!”.

    I think his best chance after 2005 was for Nation (different enough to attract notice, very high quality), but it was also a book that was borderline with respect to sf or fantasy, which may have hurt nominations.

  22. Tom, I’d certainly agree about the Worldcon guest point — how would I not, given how absurdly pleased I was to be a Guest at last year’s? At a lower plane than the writer guests, but still…

    And, even more absurdly, there’s some correlation between Terry’s recognition and mine. We both won one BSFA Award, and we were both guests at one Worldcon. But the gulf between his achievements and mine is so vast that the only sensible conclusion from that is that either I have been ridiculously over-honoured or he has been ridiculously under recognized.

    Certain authors over the years have had a particularly close relationship with the Hugo voting and nominating cohort — Lois McMaster Bujold and Connie Willis come to mind. From the UK, China Mieville has fared much the best. I think Mike Glyer’s comment about humorous writing being inherently undervalued is the truth of it.

  23. “VD will use anything to scrape at Scalzi.”


    “I just suspect jealousy.”

    Of what? If you ever saw the two of us in the same room, you’d be disabused of that notion in a nanosecond. You can thank him for SP. I’m not jealous of the little con artist, I utterly despise him.

  24. I was going to ask yo0u to change “Fletcher Pratchett” in my comment to “Fletcher Platt,” as it should have been. Oddly, that exact malapropism has been on my mind lately, as I have a nasty sense of humour, but I didn’t intend to make it. I’m surprised that it apparently went unnoticed. Maybe it means the readers unconsciously agreed with my appraisal?

  25. ‘Of what? If you ever saw the two of us in the same room, you’d be disabused of that notion in a nanosecond’

    The idea that you think the two of you in a room together would be in any way indicative of the jealousy being attributed to you is hilariously telling.

    ‘I utterly despise him.’

    Come and see the animosity that’s inherent in Sad Puppies! Help, help! John Scalzi’s being despised!

  26. Over the years I have noticed that when one persons hates another, they share a lot of the same traits.
    Hmm. Hmm.
    I suppose it is a lot better than self loathing. Project those feelings onto someone else.

  27. Of what? If you ever saw the two of us in the same room, you’d be disabused of that notion in a nanosecond. – Theodore Beale.

    You don’t have that much more hair than him these days. And I’m fairly sure even that is because he shaves his head rather than go around with that terrible “I’m balding but I won’t admit it” wispy bald mountain look.

    We both won one BSFA Award, and we were both guests at one Worldcon. – Malcolm Edwards

    Yeah, but he got a frickin Knighthood from the Queen of the British Isles and Commonwealth. As public recognition of both the consistently high quality and volume of his writing.

    Would be a teensy bit underwhelming for him to get a Hugo for one novel now.

  28. Sir Terry Pratchett writing seemed so effortless. It doesn’t stall the reader with “style” And maybe he was writing so much for a few years that you couldn’t really select something for an award.

  29. Vox Day seems to despise a great many things and people besides John Scalzi. Maybe he should join an ashram in an attempt to stop hating anyone who isn’t exactly like him, and turning a major genre award into a laughingstock?

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