The Hound and the Fury 6/22

aka Destination: Loon

Today’s roundup features Brad R. Torgersen, Paul Weimer, Vox Day, Edward Trimnell,John C. Wright, Barry Deutsch, N. K. Jemisin, Adam-Troy Castro, Jared Dashoff,  Jason Sanford, Rebecca Luella Miller, Spacefaring Kitten,  Melina D, Lis Carey, John Seavey, Rick Novy, Helena Bell and cryptic others. (Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Kary English and Rev. Bob.)

Brad R. Torgersen on Mad Genius Club

“So you want to write an award-winning Hard Science Fiction story?” – June 21

[Begins with a series of insights about writing sf professionally.]

Now, for a few personal caveats. These are just my prejudices and biases speaking, so take ’em or leave ’em.

Endless polishing is death on productivity, and death on learning. I never learned anything from spending months or years tinkering with the same piece of work. Give yourself a personal rule, for when you’re going to stop on a specific work, and move on to something new. Either how many revisions you’ll do, or how much time you’ll devote to finishing touches once you’ve put THE END on the tail, etc. Just don’t get locked into thinking you can make any story perfect. I can speak from experience: good enough really is good enough.

Downbeat endings suck. They are ‘literary’ and some critics and aesthetes love them. But they suck. If you’re going to roast your characters in hell, at least give them a little silver lining at the end? Some kind of hope for a more positive outcome? Your readers will thank you.

Stories that demote humanity to being puny and insignificant, also suck. We may be small and/or not as advanced as other intelligent life in the universe, but we didn’t get to where we are now by being meaningless dullards. Humans are crafty and stubborn. Never say die. We should be reflected as such.

Some of the best HSF I’ve ever read, inspired in me the notion: Wow, this is how it could really happen! Be it space colonization, or warp drive, or first contact with another intelligent species from somewhere else in the galaxy. When you play by the rules — keeping the universe as we know it relatively intact, accessible, and consistent — you’re shining a light on a possible path. Not predicting the future per se, but illuminating a way that things might develop. That’s the kind of story that may inspire some teenager somewhere to become a rocket scientist.

Speaking of which, leave the “playground equipment” around for your readers to mess with. That’s a Niven-ism. If the reader gets to the end of your story and can imagine events continuing on — populated by your characters, the reader in character form, or both — then you’ve really won. Because you’ve made your world and your story so engrossing, the reader doesn’t want to leave! That’s a reader who will want to come back for more. That’s a reader who will be loyal, and tell others about your work.


Paul Weimer on Blog, Jvstin Style

“Campbell vs the New Wave, and Brad Torgersen” – June 22

I do think that Torgersen is missing a large bet on a lot of stories. And I am not sure that Literary=downbeat=suck is an equation that works. HEA and HFA are fine and dandy, but those aren’t the only stories. Hell, look at Stephen Baxter’s Xeelee stories as an excellent counter example. I’m sure Baxter would be surprised to be called literary. And he definitely does not suck.

What strikes me from this article is how it fights the whole Campbell vs the New Wave argument that I’ve opined was at the heart of the Sad Puppies.. One of the File 770 group called him Neo-Campbell. So there you have it.

Torgersen post shows that SF fandom and authors are STILL fighting the New Wave conflict, decades later. The past isn’t dead, its not even past.


Vox Day on Vox Popoli

“A necessary endorsement” – June 22

Refusing to take a side and trying to remain above it all will no more bring an end to the tactics he dislikes than the League of Nations prevented World War II. Misbehaving bullies can only be stopped with superior force. To stop the lynch mobs, Mr. Trimnell should help us bring them to an end by multiplying our force. We will abandon the tactic as soon as the SJWs do… like Ronald Reagan with the Evil Empire, we will trust, but verify. But until the SJWs give up their rhetorical tactics of name-calling, marginalization, and disqualification, we will continue play by the Chicago Rules and exploit every mistake they make and every opening they give us. The TOR boycott is nothing more than holding TOR Books accountable for the wholly unprofessional behavior of its SJW employees, behavior that would have gotten a minimum-wage Walmart greeter fired on the spot.

Furthermore, there is no symbiosis. The SJWs are not dependent upon anyone’s outlandish statements; if an opponent has not said something objectionable, they will simply lie and claim he did, then run their usual insult-isolate-disqualify routine. We, on the other hand, have a rich and continuously replenished pool of outlandish statements from which to choose to use against them.


Edward Trimnell

“Debating the Tor boycott” – June 22

I expressed my disagreement with Vox’s position on the Tor Books boycott…and Vox expressed his disagreement with my disagreement.

My dislike of boycotts remains.

I remember the mindless campaign orchestrated against Orson Scott Card a few years ago. Card’s sin was basically to express a view of marriage that was all but universal (including among liberals and Democrats) until ten years ago. Yet the SJW mobs did their best to silence Card, urging a nationwide boycott of the movie adaptation of Ender’s Game, and barraging the offices of DC Comics until Card was dropped from the company’s Superman project.

Ah, but that is exactly the point….say the forces behind the anti-Tor boycott. The SJWs do it.

I believe it is important to remember what separates the freethinkers from the SJWs. The freethinkers seek to outthink their opponents with a more persuasive argument in the marketplace of ideas.

The SJWs seek to silence their opponents through harassment and intimidation. (This should surprise no one, since the SJWs are almost all anti-market and anti-free speech.)


John C. Wright

“The Three Laws of Morlocktics” – June 22

[Quotes a long string of comments from File 770 but purports not to know the source, then says –]

The fear seems to be based on the grounds that her calling me and you neo-Nazi homophobic bigoted misogynist racists was cricket, but my accepting her lame apology like a gentleman (so she and I could get back to work) means that secretly I, and the other fine people called Sad Puppies who would like to reform the Hugo Awards, and return the award to be granted for merit of the work, rather than for the political correctness of the work, now have or may soon concoct an cunning yet dastardly plan!

The women who sound indistinguishable from phobia-afflicted delusional neurotic believe I and mine intend to send Daddy Warpig (the one Gamergater who expressed support for the Sad Puppies slate) to New York to blow up public monuments there with Vatican-made explosive rosaries, and dox and vox and vaporize Miss Gallo.

Because my expressions of neutrality and your letters to Tor asking for professional courtesy are so appallingly frightening that is creates an atmosphere of unsaferiffickness. Or something.

I would say that if women are that easily frightened, it is up to us men to make sure that no cad and no blackguard is ever allowed to speak to them. And if political argument over a pathetic space-yarn award gets the ladies this scared this quickly, it seemed that the Victorian standards for male and female roles were entirely correct. The poor, fainting, delicate damsels in distress must be keep safe from all the bumps and jars of the real world.

Either that, or these nags and termagants are a scandal and an embarrassment to their sex, because they are pretending to be frightened, when they are not, to arouse the very feelings of Victorian protective gentlemanliness that they at other times despise.

Which is it to be, ladies? Equality of the sexes in political matters? Or ultra-damsel-gushing, shriekingly school-girlish, play-pretend hysterical so beloved of the Left? The two are mutually exclusive.

Leftism or Equality?

Pick one.



N. K. Jemisin

“An open letter to the WSFS about unintended consequences”  – June 22

Whoa. Did you guys think this through? No, seriously. Beyond whether “The Wheel of Time” could get a Hugo, or whether you, personally, like short fiction or not. Did you consider how proposal B.1.3 looks, both within and outside SFFdom? What message it sends about WSFS priorities? Consider the context. In a year when there’s been intense mainstream-media coverage of an attempt to ideologically tarnish the Hugo Awards, effectively making them less representative of the genre’s current dynamism and way more representative of racist white guys’ vanity publishing, this proposal compounds that problem. Let me break down how this looks to people outside of the WSFS process….

So let’s review. In a year when misogynists, white supremacists, and homophobes have already managed to use the Hugos to advance their own interests, along comes this proposal making it easier for privileged white men to gain recognition, at the direct expense of the marginalized. I’m going to assume it’s an unintended consequence that this proposal effectively reinforces the Puppies’ efforts; there’s been no reason to think that anyone on the WSFS is anything other than professionally neutral on the matter. Until now. So, c’mon ya’ll. Did you really think this through? Is this the best time for B.1.3? Are you really willing to throw short fiction under the bus just to give bestsellers another accolade? Do you mean to throw a level playing field under the bus, to give more affirmative action to successful white men?


Adam-Troy Castro

“Spaying the Hugos” – June 22

The proposal to simplify the Hugos by eliminating the Best Novelette category and replacing it with a Best Saga category is an excellent start, in large part because it will completely eliminate any interference with those fresh young talents who nobody is ever interested in and who just complicate things.

But it doesn’t go far enough. A few more appropriate changes would certainly help usher the awards into the twenty-first century.

First, eliminate the short story and novelette awards as well. As everybody keeps pointing out, the short fiction markets are dying and the annual competition for an award not supported by the free market is unseemly. Short fiction has never produced anything of worth, anyway. Name just one time it has. I bet you can’t.

Make the contest all about novels, the big awards that really mean something, and make the smallest award the one for best stand-alone novel, because everybody also knows that stand-alone novels are for writers with no staying power…..


Jared Dashoff in a comment on Whatever – June 22

Over the years, long fiction in the greater speculative fiction category has moved towards publishing works in series, rather than stand-alone works. Stand-alone works are still published and are eligible for Hugos in various categories, but some of us thought that the expansive works, where the individual volumes may or may not stand alone and be worthy of a Hugo themselves, deserved recognition. So we set out to create a Hugo for them. Best Saga became the title mostly because as the work gets longer, the title of the Hugo gets shorter.

Having attended many WSFS Business Meetings between us, and personally having been on the Head Table before and being on it this year, we felt the sense of the Meeting (i.e. how many that generally attend the Meeting feel) was that another professional fiction category would throw off the balance if a category was not removed. Based on long discussions and floating the idea past folks, we settled on the Novelette category. This bumped up the maximum word count for a short story, and dropped down the minimum word count for a Novella. No work that had been eligible was no longer eligible, it was just eligible in a different category….

In response to this opposition to the Novelette collapse, we contacted Kevin Standlee, Chair of the Sasquan Business Meeting, to ensure we could amend our proposal so long as it was before the deadline for the submission of New Business. We are now in the process of doing that and amending the discussion text to remove any reference to the Novelette collapse. Some original proposers have decided not to join us in this effort.

Going forward, the proposal will only include the addition of the Saga Hugo and that will need to pass or fail on its own merits. If it fails, we will be sad, but we accept that it was not the Business Meeting’s want to create an award for such works. If others wish to submit a proposal related to the shorter fiction works, that is their prerogative, but I will not be submitting one nor supporting it.


Rebecca Luella Miller on Speculative Faith

“Awards And The Problems Behind Them” – June 22

The irony of the brouhaha is that the Puppies seem to be arguing against the politicizing of science fiction and it’s preeminent award by politicizing the method used to select the award winners.

Having been behind the scenes for the Clive Staples Award in the past, I know a good deal about the ways people try to game the rules in order to help those they hope will win. One reason CSA instituted judging the short list—the finalists—by a panel of qualified judges was to avoid this kind of deck-stacking which would reduce the award intended to honor good writing and storytelling to a popularity contest (or a philosophical statement).

Yes, there are diversities among Christian writers, and some would push the point by “gaming” an award if they could.

Other awards have bypassed readers altogether in order to steer away from the popularity contest approach (come vote for my book even though you haven’t read it, just because you know me, sort of). But those are susceptible to other problems—unqualified first round judges, high entry fees, sponsoring organization promotion requirements, poorly conceived judging sheets, and the like.

In short, no award is likely to be perfect, but one that combines readers’ choice with qualified judging evaluations seems as if it has a better chance of honoring the year’s best book.

The Hugos? Seems to me they have gone the way of the Oscars and in the process have opened the door to a horrible mess. This long-running award is in the process of making itself irrelevant to readers.

The Clive Staples Award, on the other hand, is a tool which can help readers learn about the books that other readers value.


Spacefaring Kitten on Spacefaring Extradimensional Happy Kittens

“Kitten/Puppy Dialogues (on Pizza)” – June 22

In the comments to the last Wednesday’s post titled Answering Peter Grant, a Puppy supporter called Xephon has been vocally criticizing me for several things I’ve said. The arguments in his/her first few short comments made little sense to me, so I thought the discussion was going nowhere, but then this lengthy account landed on the comment section.

I’m still unconvinced, but Xephon brings up some points I want to respond to, and because this is going to take up some space, I’ll rather do it in a new post.

The sickening truth is that the anti-Puppies need Beale more than the Puppies do. He’s done nothing for my side except stir an increasingly rancid pot. Those of us who have distanced ourselves have learned that we are wasting our time, because all we hear from the other side is, “because Vox Day”. You need him to be your bogeyman, the focal point for your opposition. If he didn’t exist, someone would have invented him.

One of the funnies recent developments in the discussion around Hugos is that the second you mention Theodore Beale/Vox Day, somebody charges in and accuses you of “because Vox Day” fallacy. It sure is an interesting variant of “playing the ‘Playing the Hitler Card’ card”. Let me state once again that Beale’s Rabid Puppies slate swept the Hugo ballot. Your demand that everything related to him should be removed from the Hugo discussions does feel a bit odd — especially when we’re talking about his boycotts and other schemes.


Anony-Mouse on Cedar Writes

“Get out and Vote!” – June 22

Do NOT vote NO AWARD for anything. Yes, I know the temptation to make a statement by putting something below No Award at the bottom, but in the unlikely case of close races NA can have an adverse affect on outcomes because it’s a weighted ballot. And frankly, it’s a pet peeve of mine. NO AWARD is a political statement, and this isn’t supposed to be about naked politics.

Do NOT vote at all for anything you do not think is worthy, regardless of why you do not find it worthy. See previous.

DO try to vote for at least one good thing in each category rather than leaving the category blank. For example, some of the fanzine/semiprozine entries have been nothing but contemptuous of dissidents against the establishment. I will not vote for them. Others have been accepting of everyone, I will rank them.


World of Pancakes

“Retraction regarding the Sad Puppy John C. Wright” – June 22

I don’t do this sort of thing very often, but I’m retracting my last post. Let me explain why. In repose to charges of homophobia, Wright said the charges were a lie and responded in a fashion which could be described as equally “homophobic” and “bizarre.” I wrote a long-ish piece taking him to task for this. It’s a solid bit of work, but I’d like to disavow it as of now. Since posting this piece, I’ve read a good deal more of what Wright has written outside of his novels. I’ve come to the conclusion that Mr. Wright has enough going on his life that piling on like this is neither fair nor necessary. I stand by the content of what I wrote, but, given Mr. Wright’s situation, it was needlessly mean of me to write it.


Melina D on Subversive Reader

“Hugos 2015 Reading: Best Graphic Story” – June 22

[Reviews 4 of 5 nominees.]

It was so wonderful to read a category and understand why all the nominees (that I could access) were nominees. These had quality story telling, good art (and art telling stories which I appreciate so much), interesting plots and characters, character development, humour, and in some cases, extreme ‘feelings’. These are the things I want in all my fiction (except the art, of course) and they’re never restricted to one ‘type’ or ‘style’ of fiction – romance fiction can deliver these things as well as epic fantasy, historical fiction as well as apocalyptic fantasy.

When you hold the quality of this category – just the writing and story telling to start with – up against the others, you really see how bad most of the work in the short fiction and related fiction categories are. And you have to ask why? Why didn’t the slate people put forward work that is well written and engaging? (Or more of that work?) Is there a lack of well written and engaging work which is action oriented/classic age/milSF? Is there a publicity issue for works that are well written and action oriented/reminiscent of older stuff and? Or did this slate become a cynical/destructive force designed to reward certain writers/publishers while ‘punishing’ others?


Lis Carey on Lis Carey’s Library

“Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews” – June 22

This is a 2015 Best Semiprozine Hugo nominee. Beneath Ceaseless Skies is an online magazine of literary adventure fantasy. It’s visually attractive, and it offers some impressive fantasy fiction. I was pleased to find an archive that allowed me to check out the 2014 issues, the relevant issues for this year’s Hugos. An extra delight is that it offers audio fiction as well as print. This is an altogether fine magazine, and I’m very impressed.


Reading SFF

“2015 Hugo Awards Reading: Cixin Liu – The Three-Body Problem (2008/2014)” – June 22

I liked that the novel posed lot’s of mysterious questions and even answered them in a way that made sense, at least most of the times. While there are a lot of things in this novel that I liked a lot, there are a few things that I did not like as much. Mainly, this is not a character driven novel. This novel is about the science, not the characters. It’s very hard SF (which is fine), but it’s so hard, that at times whole passages read as if they were taken from a popular science text-book on futuristic physics. I guess it’s difficult to have everything: an imaginative and engaging story, cool science and great characters. The Three-Body Problem scores 2 out of 3 of these, which is a very good score.


John Seavey on Fraggmented

“Review: Ancillary Justice” – June 22

I think that’s why, despite appreciating ‘Ancillary Justice’, I didn’t really enjoy it all that much. There is a plot, and it’s actually a very clever one. But Leckie takes a lot of time in getting to it; she’s got a lot to say about the Radch, the empire that controls vast segments of the galaxy, and she wants you to really get a handle on the reality of living in the empire they’ve created. Vast chunks of the novel are taken up explaining customs, linguistics (yes, including the bit the book is famous for, that the default gender is “she”) and politics of the Radch, long before the plot ever kicks into gear.


Rick Novy on Entropy Central

“Lampooning the Hugo Awards – Free Short Story” – June 22

aka…The Bluegills, the Bream, and the Shiny Stones

Every once in a while, a writer will produce a piece of fiction with a short shelf-life. Such it is with a story i wrote a couple of months ago. The intention was to make a statement about the 2015 Hugo Awards, so I lampooned it. I shopped the story to three pro markets that I thought might be able to handle the expiration date. One market called it amusing but not right for the magazine. I happen to agree it’s amusing, and the editor is probably right about it not being a good fit.

I decided the shelf life of the story is now way too short to try to sell the story again, so I’m posting it here for free. I hope you enjoy it.

Without further ado…


911 thoughts on “The Hound and the Fury 6/22

  1. A bad book by Samuel R. Delany, who definitely fits your bill, deserves a Hugo less than a brilliant book by, say…

    Steven Schwartz,

    On this one, get back to me when Samuel R. Delany writes a bad book. 😀

  2. @Brian Z: “Nor would I want it to.”

    And yet, all you can think about amounts to “how can I game the system under these new rules?” – which are designed to resist being gamed.

    See, people truly interested in nominating The Best Stuff don’t mess with crap like puzzling out what other people might nominate, or how long it’s been since this guy got a nomination, or who has what chance of getting onto a possible longlist or shortlist or midlist. They just nominate the stuff they think is the best.

    Simple. Honest. Straightforward.

    Because they’re being fans, not playing games.

  3. @Brian Z:

    Thanks for the small press links. I like your best overlooked system, that may be because I try not to mix the categorical imperative and fun.

    If I squint I can see why someone who votes for works that are brilliant, overlooked, but susceptible to signal boosting might get worried about any rules changes. At least with slates you can see them coming, and unless there are three totally discrete ones they won’t obliterate the long list which is what you seem to care about.

    I think however, with EPH, your strategy shouldn’t change. You are still making guesses based on majorly popular and minorly popular works. Your guesses as to popularity are not altered by Hugo rule changes. If you are trying to land minor edge-case works in the long list then voting for them, as many as you can, is your best bet. The ones ones with the least support will get eliminated (mostly one by one) and your surviving voting power will help push any left onwards.

  4. influxus, my personal voting strategy for nominating for the Hugos is my own problem and I neither need anyone’s help with it, nor would like to change or keep the rules the same based on how convenient it might be for me personally! I was primarily sharing as an example of how someone might both a) want to vote strategically and b) think of themselves as having good intentions. 😀 Also, to plug some authors and small publishers I really like.

    My larger concern, as I’ve said, is I see a decline in the quality of the Hugo ballots over the past several years – accelerated, in my view, by the puppy campaigns – and wonder if changing voter behavior is a key factor. Hence, my concern with the potential impacts of EPH on voter behavior.

  5. Ann, on The House of Shattered Wings. I can pre-order the Kindle version on and I am in the UK. It is due for release on the 20th August just like the hardcover or large format paperback.

  6. ” I see a decline in the quality of the Hugo ballots over the past several years”

    You realise this is very much a minority view, right? What works have been nominated and or won which you consider substandard?

  7. Ann there was a long discussion of this earlier, and I ranked the Best Novel ballots from something like 2007 onwards and tried to describe patterns I thought I might be seeing. I’d be interested in having a similar concrete discussion with folks about short fiction, but I don’t think I have time to do it right now.

  8. @Brian Z:

    Your best overlooked strategy evoked a more interesting character than the cardboard cut out, unengaged and/or drunk characters you’ve imagined voting up till now. If we’re going to speculate about how imaginary people might react to hugo voting rule changes, I am only going to do so with interesting cases.

    Please keep spruiking the presses and books, The House of Shattered Wings sounds worth pre-ordering, although like Ann I’m going to need to find a route around the geo-cartels.

  9. Ann Somerville: [Brian Z.,] What works have been nominated and or won which you consider substandard?

    He went through a small list in an earlier thread — at which point, a whole bunch of people piped up and explained that they thought the “substandard” works listed by Brian were, in fact, excellent.

    In other words, Brian couldn’t demonstrate that the “substandardness” of these works was anything other than just his own opinion — and, based on the nominating and voting totals, clearly a lot of other people felt very differently than him.

  10. “Brian couldn’t demonstrate that the “substandardness” of these works was anything other than just his own opinion ”

    Yeah, I figured. Which means the Hugos were working just as planned, and any ‘decline’ is entirely illusory.

  11. Ann Somerville, you could also read my comments before dismissing them. And it is not like I’m the only fan who noticed.

  12. Here were my initial comments and my views were somewhat influenced by the discussion that followed, so you might have a look at that too. (I was particularly impressed by Nick’s saying The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Ancillary Justice were two first novels worthy of the Best Novel Hugo, since he is not one to mince words.)

  13. Brian Z: it is not like I’m the only fan who noticed claimed this.

    Yes, and it’s not like there aren’t a whole lot of fans saying otherwise.

  14. I’m sorry, Brian but since the other people claiming there’s been a decline are the Puppies, and they’ve make unsupported claims about affirmative action, and you are pro-Puppy….

    I’m going to go with the majority on this.

  15. I’m going to go with the majority on this.

    You mean Redshirts?

    Just kidding! 😀

    Oh come on, you got me to go the trouble of linking it for you, take a look and let me know what you think based on what I actually said. You can still disagree!

  16. @Brian Z,

    So does that put Ancillary Justice and Hundred Thousand Kingdoms up in the worthy bunch. Are there any others that moved up there?

  17. “take a look and let me know what you think based on what I actually said.”

    Okay, I haven’t read *any* of these. But based on

    I wouldn’t have wanted to give a Hugo to the novels by Scalzi, Mira Grant, Sawyer, Bujold’s “ummm… minor works,” Blackout/All Clear, Redshirts, Ancillary Justice, Warbound, WoT, His Majesty’s Dragon, or Leviathan Wakes.

    I’m seeing a Puppyish hatred of (a) Scalzi and (b) female authors.

    So all this represents are your personal prejudices, which are coincidentally shared by a bunch of people who are behaving like twats right now.

    So all you’ve demonstrated is that your taste does not align with the previous Hugo voters. So what?

    I have tried several times and failed to read LOTR. I do not think of it as a work of genius. This is true for a bunch of other ‘classic’ works. Does this mean they are not worthy of being called ‘classics’? Or does it just mean my tastes do not align with the majority?

    I think you are suffering from the straight white man’s delusion that your taste is somehow important, and thus must be paid attention to. Fortunately, as a mere woman, I have never had this delusion. I am used to be ignored, unrepresented, and in a minority of voices being recognised.

    The Puppies are that straight white man’s delusions in group form. That doesn’t make them any more persuasive or important.

    It’s a big world out there, Brian. White people aren’t the majority even of English speakers. White men are not a majority anywhere. Get used to not being the loudest voice in the room.

  18. influxus, I went back and read all of AJ (I had earlier stopped after a couple chapters) but haven’t done so with Hundred Thousand Kingdoms yet so let me comment once I’ve had a chance to. In general I’m opposed to giving Best Novel to a first novel unless it is truly exceptional. AJ’s flaws still bug me (even though I see why a lot of people like it so much)

  19. Ann Somerville,

    Okay, I haven’t read *any* of these…
    I’m seeing a Puppyish hatred of (a) Scalzi and (b) female authors.

    We may be at an impasse then.

  20. @Brian Z: “In general I’m opposed to giving Best Novel to a first novel unless it is truly exceptional.”

    In general, I’m opposed to giving Best Novel to any novel unless it is exceptional. I see no need to differentiate between first, middle, or last novel in that respect. Best means best. Not “good show,” not “solid effort,” not “I loved your last book,” but best.

  21. aeou – Would you recommend Covenant if the only fantasy I know I can stand is Pratchett?

    No*. Usually I suggest some of the lighter Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber, one of Pratchett’s influences.

    * In fact UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should Stephen Donaldson be taken as a substitute for Terry Pratchett.


    Gabriel F – When you understand that Person of Interest is a riff off Batman (which to my shame I only realised when they brought in Ace the Bathound) you calibrate your expecations accordingly. Most injuries only slow people down until the next ad-break. Some are used as plot points and presist for an episode or two.

    I’m not sure which of Finch’s injuries you refer to. The ones from his origin story are character points rather than plot points so they only need to make emotional sense.

    Also Wait, are we seriously spoilering for Lost? Seriously?

    Didn’t the Lindelhof and Cuse spoil it already?

  22. It’s a big world out there, Brian. White people aren’t the majority even of English speakers. White men are not a majority anywhere. Get used to not being the loudest voice in the room.

    Don’t you mean get used to not being the loudest voice at Haikasoru and Small Beer? or do you just ignore everything I say?

    Another of my 2014 best novel picks was from the small publisher Lethe Press, but now I’m glad I didn’t mention it since I’m afraid that one might have been a white man.

    Another was from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, but you can just guess what book that was yourself.

  23. aeou, I’d have to know more about what specifically you can’t stand about the non-Pratchett fantasy you’ve read before knowing whether to recommend Donaldson.

  24. “or do you just ignore everything I say?”

    I think you know who is the white man I’m talking about, Brian. You’re smarter than this.

  25. I see no need to differentiate between first, middle, or last novel in that respect.

    Rev. Bob, first novels often have structural and/or stylistic issues that the writer is still ironing out. I can forgive those if it truly pushes the envelope in other ways – AJ, on balance, didn’t quite do it for me, but when I have time I’ll go back to Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which I looked at a long time ago but didn’t really get deep into.

  26. paulcarp on June 23, 2015 at 7:40 pm said:

    “It comes in PINTS?” quote from The Fellowship of the Ring.

    Is it possible that that is some movie quote rather than from the actual novel? I could be wrong, but I don’t seem to recall that one.

  27. Gabriel F. on June 23, 2015 at 10:11 pm said:
    Wait, are we seriously spoilering for Lost? Seriously?

    Oh, is *that* what was going on?

  28. Peace Is My Middle Name, “It comes in pints?!” is a LOTR movie quote and does not appear anywhere in the books. It’s a device to emphasize that Merry and Pippin are young and naive…

    And, apologies for the dumb question… but how does one put up an avatar? I’ve looked around the site but I just can’t figure it out.

  29. Rev. Bob –

    Hrm… In general, I prefer serious over comedic and am not overly-enamoured of steam. I am open to non-het romances and poly romances, too. My problem is that I have real difficulty parsing what quality it is that makes me bounce off a given PR/UF; it tends to be the first chapters of the novel, whatever it is.

  30. @LunarG:

    Well, good news and bad news. The good news is that I just saw a tweet from the author I’m editing, saying that the manuscript – a contemporary limited-magic fantasy romance between a poly+trans triad – is finally complete. The bad news, of course, is that it’s only a first draft and we still have to edit it. (It’s also got rather a lot of sex in it, but no steampunk, so depending on which meaning of “steam” you mean, it may be Right Out anyway.) There are some tie-in short stories in the works, but I don’t expect to see any fantasy elements in them.

    I trend more toward the light/comedic end myself, in terms of outright PR, and Dakota Cassidy does an excellently trashy job of that. I’ve mentioned her “Accidentals” books in other comments, and with her shift to selfpub, she’s got a freebie out now that skims over the first nine books by having the author interview the main characters. (Look for “Interview With an Accidental” and you should find it.)

    Jennifer Estep’s got a pretty solid range, and I’d be a bit surprised if at least some of her work isn’t up your alley. The “Bigtime” series is superhero romance, the “Elemental Assassin” line is her most popular and is more of an action UF with romantic elements, and her “Mythos Academy” books are a completed YA UF series with appropriately teenaged romance. She has a new series debuting soon, but I haven’t checked it out yet. I’ve heard some rumblings that it tackles some of the Elemental series’ tropes.

    The author’s name slips my mind at the moment, but if the idea of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as an until-recently-retired suburban mom interests you, search for “Deja Demon” – which I’m pretty sure isn’t the first in the series, but once you find one book, the others are easy. 🙂

    I’ve gotta dash for a while, but ask Laura Resnick about her “Esther Diamond” books…

  31. I am sometimes disoriented by people saying quotes from LOTR without making it clear they are talking of some invention of the movie scriptwriters.

  32. Brian Z is often, to me, as fingernails to chalkboard. But I have to admit I liked his take on sealion/Fish. Bravo.

  33. I don’t think that winners like Blackout/All Clear, Redshirts, and Among Others show a change in Hugo voter behavior, even though they are all bad books.

    “YAY CONNIE!!!” is a common voter motivation, as is “YAY STAR TREK!!!” as is “YAY A BOOK ABOUT US!!”

    Proto-Puppies have used the same strategy to get nominated at least. “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” benefited from “YAY STAR TREK!!!” as well as “YAY MORMONISM!!” and “YAY GOD!!” more generally (YAY GOD!! is a common Puppy trope).

    One hardly has to defend every Hugo winner, especially in the Novel category, to be against Puppies, slates, and race-baiting.

  34. @Bruce Baugh, this page, re: Lia Swope Mitchell’s “Slow” –

    Your link is broken; it’s giving me “http:///” instead of a URL. But your reaction to the story sent me Googling and I’m looking forward to reading it.


    @Rev. Bob:

    @Kurt Busiek:

    This may explain why I’m a Stephen King fan.

    It sure is why I am. Paying another visit to Castle Rock is kind of like coming home.

    The King version of Castle Rock sounds a lot more interesting than its real-life counterpart. Not that the King version of “interesting” is where I’m eager to live, mind.

    I really need to read more Stephen King. I mean, I live in Boulder.

  35. Some quicky replies to people:

    @Jane_Dark and JJI am a huge fan of Seanan McGuire and Mira Grant (I hate zombie books)–the latest Toby Daye KILLED ME, it was so beautiful and tied so much together, and I now have to go reread it all to get even deeper.

    I wasn’t too happy with the latest Incryptid (not a fan of the brother) but love the earlier ones, and was also impressed with Parasitology though I do see some common tropes, characters, etc. with Newsflesh.

    @RedWombat Seconding of thirding strong objections you post to Brian Z’s use of “we” in its various forms: it’s insidious, dubious, and I am starting to think as he persists, verges on gaslighting.

    It also makes me think of one of my favorite rejoinders to that type of discourse that references a joke which refers to the Lone Ranger and Tonto (from the tv show not that horrendous recent film) in which the typical stereotypical “Indians” are attacking, the Lone Ranger says to Tonto, “We’re in trouble,” and Tonto replies, “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?”

    It goes the the privilege that gives some people the comfortable delusion that they can in fact speak for all, and it’s damn frustrating especially with his other rhetorical moves (to go and talk rationally to the worst of the puppies, to insist on derailing to his concerns about the future Hugo awards, etc.).

  36. Nick:

    I don’t think that winners like Blackout/All Clear, Redshirts, and Among Others show a change in Hugo voter behavior, even though they are all bad books.

    No, they aren’t.

    The first two are flawed, but they aren’t *bad*, and I consider Among Others actually a great book, for what it’s trying to do. You don’t respect what it’s doing, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.

    John Ringo has written a lot of *bad* books: bad sentences, bad structure, poorly-thought-out ideas, ideas which are actually evil.

    Sturgeon’s Law, dude. All three of those novels are in the 10%, calling them “bad” is exaggeration and/or snobbishness.

  37. Nick,

    I’m against slates and race-baiting. I’m not sure what it means to be “against puppies” so I’ve held off on endorsing that one.

    Some problems with the awards process seemed to appear prior to 2015, so I’m more sympathetic to people who perceived a problem than some others are. Was it signal or noise? Perhaps we’ll have a clearer idea know soon enough. Be that as it may be, taking it back to the mid-80s or mid-90s is stupid. Whatever changed, it changed as a result of what happened online.

    Doctor Science,

    The first two are flawed, but they aren’t *bad*, and I consider Among Others actually a great book, for what it’s trying to do. You don’t respect what it’s doing, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.

    John Ringo has written a lot of *bad* books: bad sentences, bad structure, poorly-thought-out ideas, ideas which are actually evil.

    I’m not a fan of Blackout/AllClear or Redshirts but I agreed with much of what you said, up to “actually evil.” Let me chew on that last part and get back to you.

  38. Dr Science,

    Last week you accused me of asshole behavior for belittling the opinions of others (which, incidentally, I did not do—I simply declared my own opinion). Now you are literally doing what you falsely claimed I did, by suggesting that I am either being dishonest or a snob.

    However, I’m not going to suggest that you’re engaging in asshole behavior, I’ll just make a mental note to myself that you like some bad books, actually defend them as good, and can’t conceive of others thinking them bad, and consider subsequent book recommendations you might make accordingly.

    Among Others is a downright awful book; it is cloying, poorly formed (the diary entries read nothing like diary entries except for the excessive listing of books), makes grotesque appeals to the vanity and self-regard of the worst aspects of fans and fandom, and the plot as such is a simple set of clichés.

    However, of the three, the worst is Blackout/All Clear, which makes outrageous historical errors on every few pages, trafficks in the worst class-snobbery with its cliched characters (particularly Binnie and Alf), demonstrates zero understanding of history as a field of study, and necessitates characters acting like flustered, clucking, chickens to even create the initiating incident.

    Redshirts is also a bad book, but at least offers a slightly interesting structure. But it has the usual problems: every character sounds alike, every joke or reference comes with a literary elbow to the ribs, there are long streams of “snappy” dialogue that does not snap, and as metafiction it is more like an unfunny hours-long version of the end of Blazing Saddles than anything interesting. It would have been a cute 2500-word short story.

    Reading these books and coming to these conclusions is neither exaggeration nor snobbery. You simply have some sort of problem with the existence of people (or perhaps with me in particular) who don’t like the books you do, and who don’t like them for their egregious flaws. It wouldn’t be worth mentioning, except that you take exactly my position for books by John Ringo, which you don’t like.

  39. Rev. Bob –

    Thanks for the recs! When it is available, I’d love to try the novel you describe, as it is steampunk that I can take or leave, usually. Based on your prior posts, I’d already snagged some Dakota Cassidy to try. I will do the same for Jennifer Estep; the elemental stuff sounds intetesting. Laura Resnick has been on my “to read” pile for a while now…

  40. @LunarG:

    I can’t share the novel yet, but I can link you to the author’s manifesto, and there are a few sample scenes (ranging from moderately to very NSFW) elsewhere on that Tumblr. Just remember that those are usually freshly-written snapshots, before I’ve had a chance to look over ’em… but they should at least give you a hint at the style. J.B. likes to post some smutty stuff once in a while to whet people’s appetites, but that does mean you don’t see a lot of the plot or character development there. (Which is a shame, because that’s what I love about the manuscript.)

    We’ve been talking about marketing, and the first thing to go on sale will probably be a standalone story that ties into the first part of the book. I understand it’s a lesbian tryst with some D/s play in the mix, and I’m looking forward to seeing it. I don’t expect it to be fantasy except in the smutty sense, though. 😉 If you visit J.B.’s Twitter page, the header image is a slice of that story’s cover. Anyway, once that story comes out, the rest of the tale should follow in short order.

  41. Nick Mamatas – I just finished Among Others and while I enjoyed reading it I can absolutely see your points as well about the diary entries. I found it odd how the book focused on some scenes more than others, and by the end I felt like the book had given me a list of books to read that sounded way more interesting than what I was currently reading.

    And as someone who liked Redshirts more than others have you make some strong points there as well that I can’t disagree with about dialogue and characters. I think it works better as a piece of metafiction more than you do but so it goes.

    You weren’t responding to anything I’d said but I saw you list those three as bad books and mentally knee jerked about it, however reading your thoughts I can see why you’d think so and respect that even though my opinion is different so I’m glad you shared that.

  42. Brian Z:

    I’d have to know more about what specifically you can’t stand about the non-Pratchett fantasy you’ve read before knowing whether to recommend Donaldson.

    It’s not that I can’t stand it is more that it didn’t stick. I stuck on Pratchett, was recommended rose of belgarion by Eddings which was readable in the same way Le Carre is. I.e. I might read it if there is nothing better. Went on to Tolkien and found him to be less polished than Eddings but I did see the raw material Eddings and just about everyone had filed the serial numbers off of. I think my problem might be magical magic. It just seems to be a way to do deus ex machina without anyone complaining because magic. Oh, the magical maguffin just started glowing with no prior clues. How convenient for the plot.

    I really do love the gap cycle and the SJW whining about the protagonist in covenant makes me suspect it might reveal some badthoughts about human nature which should give it an extra boost.

  43. I like that no one even tried to offer bigger sites. Is making light and whatever and this all you got? And you’re talking all tough when you are not grabbing for the smelling salts and pulling up the fainting couches. I wonder how small part of fandom Fandom really is. 10%? 20%? it’s a goddamn joke.

    P.S. Please stop picking on Aaron, he just gets a little carried away in his rhetoric. He is one of you and compared to others he does little to scare away moderates. They just scroll him by after him showing his one trick. Aaron, I am sorry for singling you out. I forgot what kind of bullies SJWs are. I realize my credibility with you is shot but I really do mean it. I shouldn’t, but I do.

    Hampus Eckerman:

    The rest of the world is moving on, enjoying summer, readin ahead of the voting. No wonder the puppy in its victims cardigan is sad. The horror of actually having to listen to book talk.

    Are you sure you live in Sweden? We have had about three days of summer this year. At least where I am. Something about the coldest and rainiest summer in 50+ years nation wide?

    SJWs always lie.

    Also, spell your name like you care. There is no eck there is only ek. Eck might be a syllable one utters when stepping in SJW.


    “Thank you for the recommendation for Standing on Zanzibar. That actually looks very good, and right up my alley in terms of the intertextual stuff.

    Have you tried keeping a list on your computer of everything you read, and when? That helps me keep track of stuff. What are you reading and enjoying right now? (Me: Neuromancer and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, both for the first time.)

    You are welcome. That book is a roller coaster and felt strangely modern/relevant. Sort of the same feeling of Gibson’s early stuff when it was new only Brunner does it 30+ years later. When I reread Count Zero it feels dated in a way that Zanzibar doesn’t. Perhaps it is just rose colored glasses lessening Gibson and his will work will shine anew once I get more distance. I saw someone recommend other works from Brunner down thread. He is probably right (except for the warning about wrongthink badfeel, one point for the puppies) but I have this thing for strange books. Try The Dosadi Experiment by Herbert it is odd in a completely different way from Zanzibar but it is differently weird in the same sort of way.

    I have tried in the sense that I had all my e-books in one directory and then later in Calibre. Calibre changed format once and I never did manage to convert via older versions. Calibre might have changed format a second time but I think the DB file had just been corrupted. Then my harddisk crashed and I stepped on my E-reader.

    Right now I read no books. The last five years I have gone into a cycle where a I read a book a day for a few weeks/months and then nothing for up to six months. It might be that I only have a few living must buy authors like PF Hamilton, Ringo, Stephenson, Kratman (and others I forget) left. It was easier when I had more back log, more living authors and more time. The last not-just-entertainment I read was Redliners. I should have started the author with that instead of bouncing on Hammer Slammers or another series of whatever his name. That book is a must read in mil-sf I just wish I had read it earlier.

    I hope you will love Neuromancer I can’t see how you could not.

    Ann Somerville:

    “We just disagree with each other.”

    Three SJWs, four opinions?

    Ann, my sweet blossom, it is not that you disagree on most subjects it is that you agree on a few specific subjects. You disagree with each other in the same way theologians of the past disagreed about the number of angels that can dance on the head of the pin.

    Neil W:

    aeou – Would you recommend Covenant if the only fantasy I know I can stand is Pratchett?

    No*. Usually I suggest some of the lighter Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber, one of Pratchett’s influences.

    * In fact UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should Stephen Donaldson be taken as a substitute for Terry Pratchett.

    Never did say I wanted a Pratchett substitute. I wrote more substantially about fantasy to Brian Z somewhere above.

    Ann Somerville:

    I think you know who is the white man I’m talking about, Brian. You’re smarter than this.

    That is literally racist. SJWs: screaming racist out of once corner of the mouth while using racial epithets for individuals out of the other. It is disgraceful. Who gives a shit what race an individual has? If you want to compare traits between groups I would understand but why in three kinds of hell is an individuals race relevant?

    Doctor Science:

    John Ringo has written a lot of *bad* books: bad sentences, bad structure, poorly-thought-out ideas, ideas which are actually evil.

    Which bad books? Which bad Sentences? What bad structure? Which poorly thought out ideas? Which actually evil (sic) ideas?

    Always be specific, always name names. I think you might not even be a real Fan. In fact I think you might not actually have read a single book in your life etc. so on and so forth.

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