Fear and loathing at the Awards Table 4

Following up from the last installment in this series, I wanted to talk about a few more things regarding the 2014 Hugo ballot.

But first, did you hear that the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII has been announced? A lot of old names, a lot of new ones, and some genuine surprises (Serkis! Sydow!) in the mix. I am therefore cautiously optimistic about the new movie and its chances with Star Wars fans. There are probably one billion of us at this point, give or take a hundred million. Some of us liked the prequels. Many of us (most of us?) felt the prequels were a letdown. Without launching into an unfair tirade against George Lucas, the magic (for me) simply wasn’t there. In fact, the magic was so not there I haven’t devoted any time to the prequels, beyond an initial screening, whereas I’ve seen the original three films (the middle chapters) hundreds of times each. Does JJA actually have the right touch — to restore the Star Wars franchise to its former place in the hearts of all of us who grew up on the middle chapters? I hope so!

Okay then. Back to the Hugos.

But, some of the stuff on the Hugo ballot is only there because a bunch of Larry Correia’s people blindly put it there!
Now that I can publicly talk about my story “The Chaplain’s Legacy” having won the Analog magazine Analytical Laboratory (AnLab) readers’ choice award for Best Novella, I want to point to the AnLab (and Analog readers) as an independent source of verifiability. See, Analog is the oldest and most widely circulated science fiction magazine in the English language. Its readers are both a social and political panoply. Not the kind of readers who pay a lot of attention to in-genre stunts or shenanigans. Yet they voted “The Chaplain’s Legacy” as their favorite, for its category. And at least some percentage of those readers also voted during the nomination period for the Hugo awards. So while it’s understandable that many plaintiffs will see Larry Correia’s suggested slate (and its uncanny replication on the Hugo ballot) as proof that the works in question didn’t earn a place on the Hugo ballot in an honest fashion, I think the AnLab is fairly bulletproof. In that it confirms that “The Chaplain’s Legacy” is not just good, it’s good by the standards of a shrewd and non-connected body of readers who vote explicitly for enjoyment, not name recognition, nor political affiliation, nor because of any kind of campaigning on the part of authors.

“The Chaplain’s Legacy” also forms (along with its partner, “The Chaplain’s Assistant”) the backbone to my forthcoming Baen Books novel The Chaplain’s War. When Toni Weisskopf at Baen decided to buy The Chaplain’s War in 2013 she didn’t know that one of the components of the novel would be an AnLab winner and a Hugo nominee. But she had seen some of the enthusiastic reader comments I’d been collecting since “The Chaplain’s Legacy” hit the streets this time last year. I felt strongly then (as I do now) that the entire project was representative of me operating on full thrusters; and I think both the AnLab win and the Hugo nomination are strong signs that I am right about that. Plus, it’s not even the first time I’ve been on either the AnLab list or the Hugo ballot. This is my second time winning the AnLab and my second go-round on the Hugos; the first time being 2012 (for Worldcon, when I was also a Nebula and Campbell award nominee) and the first AnLab came to me for my novelette “Outbound” which was my first ever Analog story, published in 2010.

But, the Hugos should be about art, and “fandom” gets to choose which kind of art it wants to see representing “fandom” to the world!
Art arguments are an eternal road to a destination that does not exist, because art arguments ultimately revolve around questions of taste. And as one of my mentors once told me rather sternly, taste cannot be wrong. Just because a given book or story isn’t to your (the reader’s) fancy, that doesn’t make it bad. It just means the book or story was not written to your taste. Which is perfectly understandable given the fact that no book or story can possibly be written to please all tastes, all eras, for all readers. I personally think I happen to suit the taste of the same readership that enjoys Orson Scott Card, Larry Niven, Robert A. Heinlein, and so forth. Generally, I am right about that. And this means my work won’t be to the taste of readers who prefer different authors — though I always invite any reader to at least give me a try, with my short fiction. A novel is an investment. But a short story or even a novelette is quick, and will generally give a prospective customer a decent idea about me and my work.

If “fandom” is as diverse as it prides itself on being, then I think it stands to reason that many different kinds of work and many different kinds of authors will be represented on the Hugo ballot, year in and year out. In point of fact both the Hard Magic and Wheel of Time readerships are a) very large and b) very loyal. Shouldn’t it be that they too get to have a voice in what’s chosen for the year’s supposed best works? Or do the Hugos only deserve to go to “literary” works which are not necessarily having impact on a consumer audience as much as they’re being advanced by academic circle(s) which believe they have a responsibility to advocate for what they believe is their standard of merit? My personal thought is that it’s readers (especially lay readers, not academic readers) who should count the most. But this is a personal bias on my part, since I am a lay reader who discovered authorial ambition in his teens, and worked his way up to pro-level craft.

But, popularity has nothing to do with what’s good! Good fiction is utterly unconnected to what people are buying! In fact, the more popular a thing is, the more likely that thing is to be bad!
Remember what I said, about how Star Wars has a billion fans? Once upon a time Star Wars was this little low-budget sci-fi picture from a little-known director/producer named George Lucas. The movie debuted at the tail end of the 1970s when “people pictures” were something of a rage at the box office, and outside of disaster movies (like the Airport franchise and The Towering Inferno) there wasn’t a lot of effort being put into spectacular filmmaking that was deliberatley science fictional in nature. Then comes Star Wars and an unexpected, monumental success is born. Three films over six years transformed the motion picture industry forever, and moved science fiction out of the proverbial parental basement and into the penthouse executive suite on Hollywood Blvd.

I think it’s safe to say that three generations of avid consumer support have verified that the original Star Wars films are good by most standards that count. Star Wars will therefore outlive its creator, just as Harry Potter will outlive its creator. There is something in these franchises that resonates (over and over again) with audiences. Whether those audiences enjoy the movies, the television spinoffs, the games, the tie-in books, the toys, or whatever. There is a lot of there there. And I think you could say the same about successful fiction juggernauts like the Wheel of Time. Past a certain saturation point, critical or academic acclaim isn’t necessary for a given story or book (or series) to be deemed timeless. And shouldn’t the Hugos be about recognizing the timeless (or potentially timeless?) as much as they are about recognizing literary and academic esteem? Can there not be room for both the literary and the commercial, from year to year? Why does the entry of a big thing onto the “small” Hugo ballot cause so much unhappiness for some people? I honestly don’t know.

What I do know is that I am proud to be sharing the Hugo ballot with my compatriots in the Utah SF/F scene, and I am proud to have delivered (for readers) a product that those readers find genuinely enjoyable. Worth their time. And worth their money.

Which lets me segue into a conclusion I’ve been hesitant to address directly, but which I think needs to be addressed — because clearly a lot of people are talking about it under their breath but not a lot of people are talking about it openly.

What is a Hugo award really good for? Bottom line?

Meaning: does having a Hugo win (or a Nebula win or a Campbell win, or nominations for same) make a substantial difference for you when you take your book manuscripts to the marketplace and attempt to interest an editor or an agent?

The answer is — so far as I’ve been able to discern, after asking this question around the industry — nope.

Oh, to be sure, any accolade which can boost PR will be welcome. But the difference between whether or not you get a good agent or a not-so-good agent, or a good contract or a not-so-good contract, won’t be decided by how many times you’ve been on the ballots or have taken home trophies. The most well-known awards in SF/F aren’t well known beyond the field. And even in the field, they’re not well known to most readers. These awards are therefore talismans of prestige among the “insider” group. And while it’s a gas to be nominated or even win, there are limits to how much good these awards can do for you when it comes time to do business, as a creative businessperson trying to make a living.

This reality came as a shock to me when I was still relatively new to the field. I’d always thought of the Hugos as being roughly equivalent to the Oscars, which do have significant punch in the motion picture industry. Alas, the venerable Hugo (and Nebula) cannot take a somewhat small book and make it into a big book, as the Oscars occasionally do for films. Nor will slapping the words HUGO WINNER (or NEBULA WINNER) on the cover of a book cause a significantly large number of prospective customers to pick up and buy the book; if they weren’t already going to buy it before.

Why is that?

Some have argued to me that writers tend to look at the Hugos all wrong — that the Hugos were never intended to be professional awards given out professionally the way the Oscars (and to a certain extent, the Emmies and the Grammies) are given out. And I think (in light of the fannish roots of Worldcon) this is an argument that makes a lot of sense. From a certain fannish point of view.

But I think it also has to be simultaneously argued that unless or until science fiction gets an award that is roughly equivalent to the Oscars (NOTE: my personal opinion is that the Writers of the Future award is the only thing that comes close; but this is an award for new pros, not for established veterans) then the Hugos (and to a lesser extent, the Nebulas) are what there is. And if we’re going to put these accolades forward as being meaningful to the field, then it’s worth it for the consumers and the practitioners to both think long and hard about how these awards are selected, and for what reasons.

Maybe if the Hugo (and Nebula) voters didn’t shun tie-in novelists and media fiction, consumers would pick up on the fact that things they like to read are being recognized by science fiction’s top awards, thus the awards would attain greater significance for those beyond the halls of the “inside” SF/F group?

Maybe if the Hugo voters did not react (as some of them have reacted this year) badly to an “outsider” such as Larry Correia, bringing his popular series and the fans of same, into the selection process, then the Hugos (and the Nebulas) would have a little more cachet — as awards that truly recognize not just literary achievement, but commercial achievement as well?

I know, I know: the Hugos (and the Nebulas) aren’t supposed to be the spec fic equivalent of Gold and Platinum albums. Raw sales all by themselves shouldn’t be the only thing that earns a work (or an artist) acclaim.

But it just seems uncanny to me that the Hugo (and the Nebula) are this field’s most sought-after prizes, and yet they transfer so little to their recipients (in the way of direct professional benefit) that I’ve struggled since 2012 to wrap my head around how or why these awards are still regarded with such overwhelming awe by those of us who work in the genre.

Which is not (I think) a sentiment (on my part) which is likely to endear me to that core demographic within “fandom” that prides itself on thumbing its nose at commercialism, the publishing industry, and authors, and simply wants to keep the Hugos an “insider” thing for insiders who care. I knew before I wrote this series that examining any of the genre awards with a critical eye was liable to cause some controversy. But as I said elsewhere, I didn’t get into the science fiction business to be a prestige man. I got into the business because I was a reader who discovered authorial ambition as a young adult, and when I bumped my chops up to professional level I decided that giving readers a good time and making money were the first and second best reasons to do this.

And no, I am not putting down the awards or the nominees or the winners. Nor am I trying to say the awards are worthless. I have not advanced that argument here and I am not saying anyone should advance that argument elsewhere. This is not a “let’s trash the awards” festival.

I just want to look critically at what the awards are, and at what they are not, and maybe spark a little introspection as to the nature, purpose, and ultimate destiny of these accolades. Because when we put them forward as signposts for what we (collectively) deem worthy in the genre, we are sending not only messages to ourselves, but the world at large. Right now I think I see a lot of mixed signals going on — fandom, to big audience, to arists, to publishers — and as long as those signals stay mixed, I suspect the Hugos (and the Nebulas) will remain both controversial and devalued on the larger playing field of consumer culture.

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About Brad R. Torgersen

Science Fiction & Fantasy Author - Hugo, Nebula, and Campbell award nominee
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82 Responses to Fear and loathing at the Awards Table 4

  1. The problem with the Hugo’s allegedly not being about the commercial success is the nature in which they are selected. A membership is purchase for WorldCon, and then member is then eligible to first nominate and then vote for the works they think should win.

    There is no jury. There are no judges that must approve the selections. They are, essentially, a popularity award.

    So, it should be no surprise that, from time to time, popular works will get nominated. This is especially true since there are no rules about authors “rallying the troops” like multiple authors have done through the years. It’s going to happen. The vitriol spewed is both telling and alarming.

    The truth is, a win is a win. If commercial fiction is somehow a problem, then perhaps some of these people should try and figure out what makes it commercially successful. I’ll give them a hint though: It’s not the authors race, gender, sexuality, or even their politics in most cases. It’s because they write stories people want to read.

  2. Cat says:

    For what it’s worth, I’m well aware that probably most of the people on the “hate slate” (my coinage and not, as far as I know, in general use) weren’t consulted at all and are innocent. Then there are people who plainly coordinated beforehand, and people who seem to have in essence consented after the fact. I’ll bear those differences in mind. Can’t speak for others of course.

    I intend to read everything and give it a fair chance. It will probably make no difference in the end; I do not expect to have to make an agonizing choice between giving an award to an objectionable person and Unwilling Recognition Of True Literary Greatness. But I’m not going to tell people who have been treated badly by some of these authors that they have to give back better treatment than they got. To insist the victim be polite to her abuser is to become an accessory to the abuse.

  3. James May says:

    I don’t know what the Hugos are and are not. From 1983 to 1988 a cluster of fine SF novels such as “The War for Eternity” (1983) and its sequel “The Black Ship” (1985) by Christopher Rowley, the seminal “Eon” (1985) by Greg Bear, “In Conquest Born” (1986) by C.S. Friedman, “The Dragon Never Sleeps” (1988) by Glenn Cook were ignored by the Hugos. I thought those novels were better than most of the nominees.

    Then came the odd love affair with Lois McMaster Bujold, who in my opinion has never written anything as good as those novels above. Even more strange are people who compare Bujold to an innovating game-changer and leader like Heinlein. Her “The Curse of Chalion” (2001) is plodding. But… Hugo, Locus Fantasy, and World Fantasy Awards nominee.

    One of the greatest and certainly the most ambitious novel in SF history, the Night’s Dawn trilogy (1996-99) by Peter Hamilton, and also Hamilton’s two part novel “Pandora’s Star” (2004) and “Judas Unchained” (2006) were ignored by both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. The fact no one alive – (other than G.R.R. Martin) can do what Hamilton can do seems to be lost on the SFF community. I’ll admit Hamilton has fallen off the horse since then, but so has Niven – and for decades.

    “Palace” (1996) by Katherine Kerr and Mark Krieghbaum: ignored by the Hugos and Nebulas, yet went out of print so quickly paperback copies were selling for $75 on Ebay.

    “Infinity Beach” (2000) by Jack McDevitt, one of the greatest SF mysteries ever written: ignored by the Hugos (nominated for a Nebula).

    After having been introduced to the good taste of the Hugos with the initial Hugo Winners volumes, I now ignore them as something almost guaranteed to bore me. Today it’s a place of blimps and zombies, plus vomit zombies, and zombies and zombies, and overwritten art.

  4. David Lang says:

    As a historical fact, winning a Hugo could have very little effect on the sales of the book. Remember that with Traditional Publishing, the book is ‘old’ within a month, two at the most. by the time the Hugo award is presented, the book is long out of print, and probably long gone from the bookstores. There’s even a fair chance that the paperback version (if it was lucky enough to have a hardcover and a paperback) has come and gone.

  5. alauda says:

    The Reality Dysfunction was 500 pages of setup for maybe 50 pages of plot. I couldn’t get any further than that.

    Eon wasn’t particularly good either.

    @David Lang: And that’s because of Amazon constantly pushing their self-published novels on everyone.

  6. Joshua says:

    For me, Star Wars has been fairly successfully rehabilitated, if you will, by the Knights of the Old Republic computer game from a few years ago, and the Clone Wars animated series. I say that I watch that with my younger boys (which is true) but as the series has progressed, I’ve probably come to enjoy it even more than they do. So yes, the prequels were disappointing, but the franchise yet retains the ability to surprise and delight me.

    As for your main point; I think there’s a good reason for that: the Hugos and the Nebulas (and the Locus and the World Fantasy, etc.) are either completely ignored by fans, or are recognized for what they are–a bunch of pinheaded self-righteous, self-proclaimed literati patting themselves on the back for successfully sucking up to the right crowd. Even when I was a teenager, many, many years ago, I recognized that having an award (or being proclaimed as a “classic” by a literature type) was absolutely no guarantee of a work’s actual quality.

    I think this is absolutely true of the Oscars, and the Grammies, and the Emmies, etc. too, at least too audiences, to a large degree. However, because it’s a lot bigger audience, and a lot bigger industry, and the nature of making movies, TV shows, etc. is much more collaborative, being on the “in crowd” does bestow some professional currency. But not with audiences necessarily, other than a rather modest blip when nominees are announced, and only matter to small independent films who have an extremely modest box office run in the first place. How has, for example, Adrian Brody’s stock gone up with audiences after winning an Oscar? Or Roberto Benigni? Or Ralph Fiennes? Did Harrison Ford winning an Oscar for Witness make any difference to him after already starring as Han Solo and Indiana Jones?

    It’ll be interesting to see, now that Larry’s little Sad Puppies project has publicly exposed the total irrelevancy and silliness of the Hugos, whether that will lead to some kind of reform of the awards into a format that makes them somehow relevent again, or if it simply breaks them.

  7. alauda says:

    … um, I take the Locus and World Fantasy Award seriously.

  8. Tom Simon says:

    @David Lang: And that’s because of Amazon constantly pushing their self-published novels on everyone.

    Wrong as usual, Marston. Taking books out of print after a few weeks was common practice among the major publishers long before Amazon ever existed. And as a point of fact, Amazon does not ‘push their self-published novels on everyone’. Amazon’s ‘you might also like’ algorithm is no respecter of persons; it does not take the identity of the publisher into account in deciding whether or not to recommend a book to a customer.

    … um, I take the Locus and World Fantasy Award seriously.

    That makes one of you. What was it Sarah Hoyt was saying the other day? Oh, yes: ‘World Fantasy, chosen by the “experts”, lowers print runs. You figure it.’ In other words, there is a negative correlation between the World Fantasy Award and commercial viability. Either the award itself is bad publicity and damages the winner’s audience appeal, or being chosen for that award is a signal that one’s writing career is already moribund.

    You know, you really do have an impressive knack for being uproariously wrong. As a reliable source of error, you leave stopped clocks and blind squirrels in the dust.

  9. Marc Cabot says:

    @Tom Simon:

    1) Ouch. That’s going to leave a mark.

    2) Thanks for saying it better than I would have so I didn’t have to. ADS FTW.

  10. Skip says:

    Star Wars cast looks great to me, but there’s one thing we do know – there will be complaints that the character Serkis is playing will have racial stereotypes.

  11. Joel Salomon says:

    @Cat said, “I’m not going to tell people who have been treated badly by some of these authors that they have to give back better treatment than they got.”

    I shan’t argue with those who feel offended by Vox Day; that’s pretty much the reaction he intended to evoke. There are those who write as if Larry Correia did them wrong by including VD on his ballot—um, okaaay…. (Now if they had argued gun control on Larry’s blog or Facbook page and gotten the worst of it, I just might understand.)

    But search the blogs & Twitter for Brad’s name, and you will learn what a yucky person he is, how the SFWA awards (note: not the Hugos, which have nothing to do with SFWA) will be better for his absence, how he is blind to “Mormon privilege” and is a paramount whitesplainer—and why? Because he referred to VD as “controversial” rather than “scum”; because he wrote this article series and Shunning and Radioactivity and Larry Correia deserves a break; because of the reasons he gave for leaving SFWA.

    Are these yammerheads also “people who have been treated badly”?

  12. Most of the (tiny group) of people who are dead set against me, have been dead set against me for a long time. Going all the way back to when I defended the racial diversity of the Battlestar Galactica reboot. That was in the letters column of the now-defunct Science Fiction Weekly. I guess having a woman President and a latino commander and pacific islanders and asian people mixed in with some black and white Americans (mostly Canadian!) in the ship’s company and crew, wasn’t good enough to satisfy certain peoples’ predilection for ethnic bean-counting? Both my wife and I thought such complaints ridiculous, and we still find them ridiculous — and she’s not white. So there.

    But it doesn’t save me (even almost ten years later) from being branded The World’s Worst Person (waves to Sarah A. Hoyt!) because my detractors would rather bitch and moan about silly nonsense and imagined offenses, than be storytellers. I content myself knowing I’ve long since left several of them in the publishing dust, and will be leaving a few more in the dust in the not too distant future.

    Which reminds me that publishing is a little like acting: you can almost set your watch by the fact that as soon as an entertainer starts devoting more time to noisy and hyperbolic activism than (s)he does to her actual art, then his/her career as an artist will rapidly tank. Not irrevocably. Let them shut their mouths for awhile and re-focus on their craft, and they can come back. But being a noisy pain-in-the-neck complainer, and being a successful entertainer, just don’t gel. It seldom if ever happens.

  13. Synova says:

    “Said something I don’t like” does not equal “treated badly.”

    And “hate slate” is certainly as bad as anything Correia calls anyone. Why is that okay?

    (Granted, I’m in a slightly crabby mood for accidentally glancing at the university newspaper this morning… someone had written a letter to the editor explaining that a new student group wasn’t going to improve anything by attacking people’s race instead of non-racial elements, the group president responded in today’s paper by about six long paragraphs attacking the fact that the original letter writer was white. Why is that okay?)

  14. alauda says:

    Don’t you have some erotic mind control novels to write, Cabot?

  15. Dave W. says:

    Erotic mind control? Still better than stalking with fish semen.

  16. Joshua says:

    *sigh* I think alauda rather handily demonstrated my point about how serious the awards are.

  17. alauda says:

    No, no, no, the erotic mind control novels deserve nothing and have won nothing. The novels with nanomachines drifting like fish semen were nominated for many awards.

    Let me put it this way, I remember the line about fish semen from Empty Space and the line about multiple star systems dancing pavanes in Eternal Light but I can’t remember the protagonist’s name from Caliphate or Opera Vita Aeterna.

  18. ^This, ladies and gentlemen, is why it’s a bad idea to let your children it lead-based paint chips. Otherwise, they’ll turn out like Clamps and have an unhealthy fascination with fish semen.

  19. dyingearth says:

    @Cat Please do yourself a favor and actually READ, not skim through various author’s blog and posting. Try not to let the myriad voices from the correct thinking group color your view for a moment and read. It is your own right to hold different view from the people who’s on the bad slate, but do what the Big Evil #2 (Larry Correia) said in his manifesto campaign, READ. Oh, about people’s head exploding, that’s just an extra bonus to get a response out of the correct thinking crowd. The past week have demonstrated the exact kind of response, character assassination and outright lies and distortions he was expecting. The correcting thinking just cannot help themselves.

    I personally found myself disagreeing with Big Evil #1 (Vox Day) more than agreeing with him. But his internet persona and tactics is to take the argument of his opponent and take it to the logical conclusion. This makes him ripe for the skim until offended tactic. You can just take words from anyone, and edit it to make them the next Anti-Christ. Once again, READ.

    I won’t get to Big Evil #0 (Tom, you know who you are).

  20. dyingearth says:

    @Synova White Privilege. What do I know, I’m just a Chinese immigrant from Taiwan. I’m not even the right kind of minority. it’s it a wonder how I managed to get out of 4 years of indoctrination university more conservative than when I went in.

  21. davidelang says:

    re: taking things out of context

    quote (supposedly from Cardinal Richelieu):
    If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.

  22. James May says:

    “The Reality Dysfunction was 500 pages of setup for maybe 50 pages of plot. I couldn’t get any further than that.

    “Eon wasn’t particularly good either.”

    I rest my case. The days of the literate and informed connoisseur of their own genre are gone. Bring on the dancing fish.

    In passing I might say that “In Conquest Born” has not one clever bit of prose in it. It is a marvel of fun and really clever military space opera.

    And Hamilton is a master. If anyone can tell me a writer who can duplicate his long scene in “The Neutronium Alchemist” where three opposition convoys cars chase each other in a snowstorm, while spaceplanes overhead attack each other and the convoy, while a battle in low-earth orbit erupts, and the convoys culminate in a battle in a warehouse where a mysterious alien reveals himself and an asteroid is about to hit that position, I’d like to hear about it.

    I understand what Alauda is referring to: a more lyrically nuanced, layered and artistic vision of SF – and I like that sort of thing as well. I love Ray Bradbury. The problem there is that almost no one alive can do that, certainly not M. John Harrison, although he came very close in his Moorcock/Vance pastiche “The Pastel City,” from 1971. All that other SF stuff he does is a snoozefest or overwrought metaphors and homeless adjectives.

    Naturally the vast majority of this is a subjective opinion. But some opinions are more informed than others. I’ll take a monstrously authoritative and unique artistic vision like “The Nightland” or Lovecraft and C. Ashton Smith over sensible conformist prose and good paragraph structure, dislocated verbs, unnecessary descriptions, adequate foreshadowing and appropriate use of third person omniscient any day.

  23. James May says:

    For those of you who like to pull apart craftsmanship and see what makes it tick, read this first paragraph from “Palace” by Katherine Kerr and Mark Kreighbaum and tell me what you see:

    “He stood where he liked standing, alone on the edge of the crowd and watching, above the crowd, too, on a ramp halfway up and curling round the dome of the Spaceport terminal. Checking tickets, carrying luggage, herding children, sapients rushed past in both directions, but no-one more than glanced his way. He was hidden in plain sight by his clothes, the finely tailored but utterly undistinguished suit of a merchant. Pale soft shirt, grey short-tunic, and a slashed kilt of the same grey – human trousers, graceless wear for a stub-ugly species, did you no good when you carried a tail, even a short stump of one like his. In one hand he held a sample case, splashed with colour and the name of an importing firm. Inside lay jewellery, artificial amber from the planet of Souk, opals from Kephalon, providing him with both a cover story and money to live while he got his real job done.”

  24. shoeshineman says:

    First of all, I am looking forward to reading your stories.
    Second of all, I suspect the Hugos can give some authors boosts in sales. Tor seems to think so anyway. Plus, in today’s world where discoverability is so important, every bit of exposure can help. So if that’s true, then I think publishers and agents will probably be concerned with who their authors endorse or seem to endorse or even associate with, especially in light of what happened with Ender’s Game and Donald Sterling. This is a business after all.
    Third of all, since LC’s slate and WoT brought in a lot of fans, others will respond in kind and many will not vote on merit but rather for their favorites despite what you or Scalzi say.
    Hopefully, more people will indeed vote, thereby increasing the Hugos’ significance.

    Uncle Byron

  25. alauda says:

    Isn’t conformist prose that kind that draws no attention to itself, like T.L. Knighton’s?

  26. James May says:

    Yes, conformist prose that kinda draws no attention to itself definitely has its uses, like in Vita Opera Aeterna. If you’d just get past that first sunset and read the damn thing without shaking it at the world like you’re counting coup, you’d find the prose fades into the background and the story tells itself. I understand you don’t like the guy but wake the fuck up.

  27. alauda says:

    The story is “elf discovers religion.”
    No thanks. I spit on theology.

    Although I don’t see why he needed an ornate opening if it doesn’t fit the tone of the story.

  28. alauda: why do you spit on theology? Is that merely a sentiment for Vox’s sake?

  29. alauda says:

    Theology is a waste of time.

  30. alauda: but why do you think it’s a waste of time?

  31. dyingearth says:

    Brad, the difference between an avowed lapse Buddhist/Agnostic like me and Andrew Marston (Alauda) is that I’m not against religion. My eternal salvation isn’t high on my priority list. But I don’t spit on it, quoting Mr. Marston.

  32. David Lang says:

    @shoeshineman

    didn’t the hugo voters have to be registered before now? or was that only for the ones eligible make the nomination vo
    tes?

  33. NowAndThen HereAndThere says:

    Scalzi said that his Hugo directly helped him get the Redshirts TV series deal. So maybe they’re useful for things like tie-ins?

  34. The one way I’ve seen Hugos demonstrably aid a writer is with foreign sales. Foreign markets do pick up on the fact that a story or book has been a Hugo winner, and this can aid overseas contracting. But domestic contracting isn’t impacted significantly, and most American writers aren’t helped much. I am surprised if Scalzi’s claim is accurate, since being a perennial on the New York Times bestseller list is far more attractive (to tinsel town) than a Hugo. Maybe one of Scalzi’s buyers is a fan boy? Of course, “TV Deal” is like “Movie option” in that merely getting a project picked up is just the first step. There are 25 more steps between actually being optioned, and seeing your book reach the big or small screen. Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter books are also coming to TV . . . . once the 25 additional steps are taken. That’s the rub about being a “big” writer in SF/F. you find out being “big” on this field doesn’t really help you much out in California.

  35. It’s always amusing to see Clamps bash away at my own writing, when his is so bad. It’s particularly amusing since mine is making me money, and his is on the circle jerk known as DevianArt.

  36. alauda says:

    You mean to tell me Amazon isn’t a giant circle jerk?

    Because it totally is.

  37. Tom Simon says:

    My dear Marston, people buy and sell things on Amazon. It’s a gigantic business, with over $78 billion in sales in the last four quarters. The book business is a small part of that, but Amazon accounts for nearly half the trade books sold in the United States. Since the collapse of Borders, it’s basically Amazon that keeps the entire publishing industry alive. It is also, of course, Amazon that poses the single biggest threat to the publishing industry, since it has allowed hundreds of writers to bypass that industry and earn their living by selling books directly to readers.

    Now, no doubt you are too pure and high and holy to care about money, and don’t require any for any purpose, so that it would be beneath you to sell your precious drivel anywhere. But the stuff comes in pretty damned handy for us humans, I can tell you. Some of us are making a living wage by selling on Amazon, and some of us are making a few extra bucks on Amazon to eke out our income from other sources; but every dollar we make shows that a real live reader has thought well enough of our work to part with some hard-earned money. Who ever thought enough of your writing, Marston, to pay a single dollar for it?

    You should not sneer at your betters, you know. And since you are so gloriously incapable of discerning who your betters are, I would suggest to you that to be on the safe side, you should not sneer at anybody at all.

  38. Popguy says:

    Brad: “If “fandom” is as diverse as it prides itself on being, then I think it stands to reason that many different kinds of work and many different kinds of authors will be represented.”

    Yeah, but I’m not sure what is the opinion you’re arguing against here. None of the liberals I’ve been reading (the folks on Making Light, for example) have suggested that all works on the ballot have to be to their tastes or as un-commercial as possible or anything of the sort. The things that rub people off is Vox Day (for his opinions and for the way he has treated people) and Correia’s allegation that there’s some shady Socialist intelligentsia governing the fandom and conspiring against anybody who doesn’t share their extreme politics.

    Fandom is diverse and many different kinds of works have been represented in the ballot in previous years as well. I have a hard time imagining past Hugo winners (novel category) J.K. Rowling, Susanna Clarke, Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon and Vernor Vinge as anything other than a bunch of very non-alike, very popular and commercially very successful writers.

  39. Joshua says:

    And very liberal writers. You left that adjective out.

  40. alauda says:

    Only in Larry Correia’s circle could Vernor Vinge be considered liberal.

  41. David Selig says:

    I honestly don’t get where this talk comes from that the Hugos are too elitist and for the literati. Look what novels win and get nominated. Where the “highbrow” works which are read and loved by lit snobs and academics only? I can’t think of any. Gene Wolfe, M. John Harrison, John Crowley, Joanna Russ, Samuel Delany, J. G. Ballard – the writers most often cited as the most “highbrow” in the genre and being academic darlings, don’t have a single Best Hugo novel win between them. Le Guin is the only one who comes to mind who has an academic reputation and a lot of success at the Hugos, but then she has always been a very successful writer commercially too.

    Is “Redshirds” a “literary” novel? Of course not. What about “Among Others”? Nope. Mira Grant’s work? Nope. Same for the vast majority of the nominees and winners. It is an award by popular vote, after all, so this is to be expected.

    The Hugos have their fair share of issues, but being too “literary” certainly isn’t one of them IMO.

  42. Joshua says:

    Only in yours is he not liberal.

    And David, the notion isn’t that literary novels win the prize, it’s that left-wing message fic from authors with a “diversity” background are way over-represented. Those kinds of works aren’t any more literal than the Futurists of the Soviet literary area. And for exactly the same reasons.

  43. David Selig says:

    Some example of left wing “message fic” which has won or even been nominated for a Hugo lately? I can’t think of any of the top of my head.

  44. kamas716 says:

    @Popguy, what ‘extreme politics’ is Correia espousing? Maybe I’m reading with rose tinted glasses, but it seems the Correia’s politics are along the lines of ‘government should be small and stick to the things it’s actually authorized to do’ and ‘you do your thing and leave the rest of us the f**k alone to do our things’. Am I missing something?

  45. Popguy says:

    I agree with David. Can somebody give an example of a Hugo winner or nominee that is left wing “message fic” with zero entertaining content? Harry Potter, perhaps? Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell? The Graveyard Book?

    Secondly, here’s a question Brad asked in his blog post: “Do the Hugos only deserve to go to “literary” works which are not necessarily having impact on a consumer audience as much as they’re being advanced by academic circle(s) which believe they have a responsibility to advocate for what they believe is their standard of merit?”

    I have a hard time seeing the books mentioned above as “literary” works only read by academicians. :D

    @kamas716: I think you misread my comment, or at least my intention. I wasn’t saying that Correia’s politics are extreme. I was writing about “Correia’s allegation that there’s some shady Socialist intelligentsia governing the fandom and conspiring against anybody who doesn’t share their extreme politics”.

  46. kamas716 says:

    Ah, thanks for the clarification.

  47. James May says:

    “Zero entertaining content” is a straw man, since no one is asserting that. They are asserting entertainment – and art – is compromised, not destroyed. They are asserting that messages are not sufficiently buried to allow you to be persuaded by their more classic principled neutral appeal. They are asserting an appropriate “message” elevates “B” novels to ludicrous heights. Case in point, Ann Leckie’s “Ancillary Justice,” with it’s non-gender pronouns having an appeal to the identity-choir, and as laughably trendy to the non-converted as naming a spaceship the “Joanna Russ,” or “Puffington Host.”

    Secondly, there is really no “message” in PC SFF per se. In the case of the latest message fic, the “message,” or “wisdom,” if you can call it that, lays in the very bodies of what QUILTBAG intersectional feminists approve of – whatever is the opposite to their “straight white male.” Their very race and gender is the “message,” diversity their credo. There is little below that surface to convey. Orientalize a space station ala Aliette de Bodard and voila! – art emerges.

    Case in point: Hugo and Nebula nods for Saladin Ahmed’s “Throne of the Crescent Moon” and a Nebula nod for N.K. Jemisin’s “The Killing Moon,” both with the good sense to have non-white authors, non-white characters and non-Western settings which trumps their actual literary value. Read any review of each and race and geography are mentioned in almost every one. None of that is mentioned in, for example, reviews for “The Mote in God’s Eye.” In truth, Ahmed or Jemisin’s novels aren’t any better, as innovative or even as good as Henry Kuttner’s “B” level Elak of Atlantis fantasies from the late ’30s or Norvell W. Page’s “B” novel “Flame Winds” from 1939. Were Ahmed and Jemisin white, you wouldn’t know who they are. They’ve been affirmative actioned to the front of the line, as has Leckie. The idea Leckie should get a Nebula nod for space opera and the infinitely better Peter Hamilton none is ludicrous and obvious. Were Hamilton a woman the PC would never shut up about him. Look at “Hild”: not even SFF, yet shoe-horned into the Nebulas by virtue of bi-sexuality and feminism being confused with literature. There’s your message.

  48. David Selig says:

    “The Killing Moon” is a really good novel and plenty entertaining too. Much worse novels with conventional worldbuilding by white men are nominated pretty much every year. Of course people mention its unusual setting in most reviews, because it is one of the features of the novel which makes it unusual for the genre. On the other hand, “The Mote in God’s eyes” setting is totally conventional in terms of race and the worldbuilding of the human civilization there, plus it is not the focus of the novel, so of course it doesn’t get mentioned much in reviews. Stop looking for “liberal conspiracies” everywhere.

    Jemisin has fans because she can write. Same for de Bodard, one of the very best short fiction writers in the genre today. “HIld” is an excellent novel too. Yes, there’s very little, if any, SFF elements in it, but this is hardly the first time a work by someone known as a SFF writer has been nominated even though there is barely any SFF elements.

  49. Yeah Clamps. The world’s largest book retailer is totally a circle jerk. Seriously, what are you huffing?

  50. James May says:

    No one’s looking for a liberal conspiracy. The racialist language of the PC, and the fact they recommend books by race/gender is a documented fact, not my opinion. Conversely, the idea white men dote on each other’s books IS a fantasy which you can in no way document with quotes or institutions that specialize in white-race advocacy. Feminist-oriented webzines keep pie-charts for race/gender literature. By an amazing coincidence, no one in feminist-land keeps pie-charts of Veteran’s Hospitals. When is obvious obvious?

    And the reviews I mentioned are also a documented fact; you just need to read them. I don’t get these ideas from thin air but from reading them in some places and noticing the complete lack of such things in others. It is common to see “Yaay! Afrofuturism” and there are actual black SF symposiums. There is no corresponding ideology where it is common to see “Yaaay” Eurofuturism” nor can you produce quotes that assert “white men” anything, or produce white SF symposiums that celebrate “whiteness.” Stop pretending to a one-to-one equivalence that doesn’t exist just because the idea appeals to you. Stop pretending demography/majority equals ideology. That’s pure PC. Be like an umpire. Call balls and strikes. Let the chips fall where they may. By PC standards, middle-weight boxing and the NBA are a racial conspiracy. Odd the PC leave them alone and never call for racial diversity there.

    The fact you think one of the greatest SF novels ever written is conventional and that de Bodard is one of the “best” says a lot about your knowledge of the genre. Jemisin has fans partially because she is an affirmative action darling who has been pushed exactly as that. The same is true of the cutely anti-white, anti-Western stories and non-fiction remarks of de Bodard. Yaaay! Non-western. Yaaay! Non-straight white male. Boring Anglophone “monoculture.” When is obvious obvious?

    Anyone who can look at this year’s Nebula nominees and not see it for what it is is either blind or a liar.

  51. David Selig says:

    IMO this year’s list of Nebula nominees is the best list of nominees for a SFF award in ages. Out of the six I’ve read, there are 2 masterpieces, and 4 really good novels. But I guess it is a conspiracy because there are too many books by women or something, right?

    De Bodard is a really good short story writer. Of course you are too busy blaming her for being racist, sexist and what not because she *gasp* prefers to read and write about non-Western cultures and her stories feature mostly female characters, but that’s your loss.

    “Mote”‘s setting, when it comes to the human civilizations described, is about as conventional as it comes. I don’t see how this is debatable in any way.

  52. My personal feeling is that SF/F is large enough (as a creative space) for everybody to write about whatever it is they want to write about.

    But it’s been a long time since the Hugos or the Nebulas actually represented (in the main) what’s being popularly consumed. Which is a big reason (I think) why consumers don’t acknowledge the Nebula or the Hugo. These have become niche awards for an academically-minded niche group that wants to use the awards to make statements, more than they want to acknowledge broad-market appeal.

    So, I do think it’s fair to say that some authors are used as positional goods, because there are readers who like to wear their fondness for said authors as a kind of talisman of social standing, political standing, or as a form of affirmative action within the arts.

    Which is not, of course, the authors’ fault.

  53. Something else: The Mote In God’s Eye was a book I read very late in my reading of all of Niven’s work. For a book billed as a classic of the genre, I could see why people thought that, without necessarily thinking it myself. I actually enjoyed The Integral Trees much more than Mote or The Gripping Hand. Though it’s obvious Mote will live on after Pournelle and Niven, much moreso than Trees or The Smoke Ring.

    Will any of the books being written now by non-male, non-white authors about explicitly non-white, non-Euro cultures and themes, survive to become classics in the same way as The Mote in God’s Eye? Impossible to say. I think such work(s) will have to entertain people (in the way Mote entertained) in order for those work(s) to achieve similar standing. And I am going to confess that there are times I suspect entertainment is secondary on the minds of some people, when it comes time to anoint the year’s supposed best books and stories.

  54. alauda says:

    I have a hard time believing Mote is so well-regarded.

  55. Synova says:

    “Of course you are too busy blaming her for being racist, sexist and what not because she *gasp* prefers to read and write about non-Western cultures and her stories feature mostly female characters, but that’s your loss.”

    Stuff like this… is sort of kind of the point. Not that I intend to speak for anyone but myself but the idea that science fiction is somehow typified by Western-only male conventions makes me check the fantasist quotient going on. My favorite novel that I’ve read recently has mostly female characters and an “Eastern” setting. Most science fiction writers read SF or fantasy because they want to spend some time “away from home” so the more alien the feel in relation to your own culture the better. So it boggles the mind, really, when suddenly it has become necessary to position the entire genre as some sort of oppressive structure full of conventional people who despise stories about non-Western cultures and female characters (or non-cisnormative or whatever) who (apparently) give a flying fig about the color or plumbing of the author. And if you say “I don’t give a flying fig about the color or plumbing of the author”… well, you’re now on the racist hatey-mchaterson side of the isle.

    Which is an incredibly liberating place to be, actually, as no one will for even a moment disparage my current favorite book because it’s got the wrong sort of hero or the wrong cultural setting, or an author with the wrong skin pigment, plumbing, or politics.

  56. Synova says:

    As for too many books being set in the “West”… Somehow when one is watching Anime, the aliens given a choice of the entire world, always land on a tiny island in the North Pacific. What’s up with that?

  57. You didn’t know, Synova? There is a rare mineral found only in Japan that attracts kaiju, aliens, and tentacle monsters at alarming rates, but that also means the rest of the world is kind of immune. :)

  58. James May says:

    It’s a double standard. If I say the ethnicity of a cast member left a “sour taste in my mouth,” it’s racism. If the PC do it, it’s “prefers.” In fact the casting of “Noah” was “racist” period, and the PC are still whining about it. The truth is SF is full of racial supremacists hiding behind “me too.” If a white SF symposium is supremacist, so is a black one. It’s this wanting to have things both ways that make the PC such Orwellian nut-hatches, and liars.

    As for AA not being the author’s fault, when a half-Irish, half-Muslim never mentions the half-Irish, and continually makes pointed public remarks about the “Arab” half, that IS the author’s fault – it’s pandering, and it corrupts art the same way it would corrupt your car being fixed if race was a priority rather than mechanical aptitude. No one’s getting Nebula nods for being Irish, nor should they.

    Heinlein read a late draft of Mote and wrote to Niven/Pournelle:

    “1. This is a very important novel, possibly the best contact-with-aliens
    story ever written.
    2. It has a major fault and a very large number of trivial faults. Both
    the major fault and the endless trivial ones can be corrected.”

    Niven/Pournelle followed his advice and ruthlessly edited Mote. No one had ever written a novel like that so I fail to see how it is conventional. It is extremely clever – so clever only Peter Hamilton has matched it in 40 years.

    Synova is right: the idea SF has ever been xenophobic when it is a genre of xenophiles is goofy to assert. When is a title like “Weird Tales” obvious?

    This is all the same thing as if you brought your car in to be fixed and the non-stop dialogue instead was about race and gender. What about my car?

  59. James May says:

    Have you seen the latest PC Twitter drive with SFF’s racialists? #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

    What about the NBA? Does that need racial diversity? How about Chinese soap operas? Egyptian films? Samba music? What about Legong dancing and Batik-making in Indonesia? Do they need more racial diversity? How about middle-weight boxing and Arab literature? Asian martial arts films? South Korean films? What about Guatemalan baseball leagues – Venezuelan? Rap and hip-hop? 90% of the Carl Brandon Society award winners are women. Pie-chart that.

    A more honest hashtag would be # WhitesAndNoOneElseNeedDiversity.

    The same is true of history. If British colonialists did something they’re still teaching courses. If “the greatest centre of Arabic learning and literary composition outside the Levant” (Darymple – White Mughals) in the 18th century was mysteriously in S. Central India, that goes into a memory-hole. The Taj Mahal in the north of India is too obvious for useful idiots to grasp. So is a name-change from Constantinople to Istanbul. So are Egyptian Christian Copts who can’t be President in their own country by law because there’s no colonial settler system there – none at all.

    The PC is a group of race and gender supremacists together with naive useful idiots. They lie as routinely as they breathe, and they are gunning for you and no one else. Their “diversity” is a sham and an easily demonstrable one. Apply the tenets of law or any rule of logic and fair play to it and it falls apart in 2 seconds.

    How obvious is this:

    “SFF readers, check out @bees_ja’s timeline for recent series of tweets recommending stories featuring women & queer characters, good stuff.”

    Any Tweets like that about men and straights in the SFF community? No. But that above is as common as dirt. When is obvious obvious?

  60. Synova says:

    And of course “stories featuring women & queer characters” is… anything written by Sarah Hoyt?

  61. Fail Burton says:

    Don’t forget to check out CisCon’s timeline recommending stories featuring non-disabled white men who like women and NASCAR racing. Don’t forget this year’s panel discussions will include micro-aggressions against whites like “Can you fix my computer” and “Have you ever won a cow-milking contest?”

    Check out our safer-space for white men and women and the segregated cheese whiz-eating contest and “Blade Runner” demolition derby afterwards.

    “How not to be a QUILTBro” is this year’s theme. If you have allergies to scented products or like Trigger Warnings don’t come. CisCon is a dangerous environment if you’re crazy. If you’re normal it’s like sitting on a bench in the park on a sunny day.

  62. Fail Burton says:

    Here’s what the president of the SFWA thinks it is important to retweet. Is anyone surprised?

    “Retweeted by Ink-Stained Wretch The Clarke Award ‏@ClarkeAward 2h “Space: Not just for white men anymore” Saw this ace sign posted in the SF&F section of Foyles St Pancras pic.twitter.com/2SH68e6LOE”

    Gould should be asked to resign on the strength of that incredibly racist retweet alone.

  63. Popguy says:

    Brad: “But it’s been a long time since the Hugos or the Nebulas actually represented (in the main) what’s being popularly consumed.”

    I’m really not sure what would be consumed more popularly than recent Hugo-winners J.K. Rowling, Susanna Clarke and Neil Gaiman, for example (I have no sales figures at hand, though). When exactly do you think the really popular works were getting the Hugos (that they aren’t getting nowadays)?

  64. Popguy: when a novel like Ringworld could get a Hugo, I think the alignment of popular and Hugo-winning were closer than they are today. Case in point: have the Honor Harrington books ever gotten a Hugo nomination, even once? How about the 1632 books by Eric Flint? Rowling’s win actually caused similar heartburn (among “fandom”) to what’s been demonstrated by Wheel of Time being on this year’s ballot. Ergo, anything massively popular usually has a significant degree of prejudice against it, when it’s being considered for the Hugo. I don’t personally understand that, frankly. And I think it indicative of the disconnect between “fandom” (small) and fandom (big).

  65. Popguy says:

    Brad: Are you sure that Honor Harrington or 1632 books are really *that* popular? You are probably right about some people’s aversion to best-selling books, but I guess it also has to do with the evolution and differentiation/atomization of the genre. There are more SFF books published than in the Ringworld days and the subgenres and stylistics have become much more varied, and it means that there are niches for many small audiences which don’t necessarily overlap anymore. The Hugos are voted by the fans who are fanatic enough to attend a Worldcon, so there’s some disconnection from the wider reading public in any case. I’m not sure if there’s any way to fix it, really.

  66. Nathan says:

    Popguy, in 2012, the top ten best sellers for science fiction were Ender’s Game, The Hitchhiker’s Guide, several Star Wars and Halo media tie-ins, Ready, Player One, and a Honor Harrington novel. So, yes, based on the only metric of popularity that matters, sales, yes, Honor Harrington is that popular. Please note that if the Hugos were driven by what was selling, *none* of the nominees for 2013 would have made it. Instead, the nominees would have been two Star Wars tie-ins, a Halo tie-in, Ready, Player One, and the Honor Harrington novel.

    With the general appeal of TV and movie SF,anime and manga stories, and sf and fantasy games, why is the market for SF/F *books* shrinking?

  67. Popguy says:

    Alright. Hmm. Are those national or international figures? I was doubting Brad’s remark because, from the perspective of someone living outside US, calling those works the most popular ones felt odd. But I guess what’s visible in the SF community around the world varies somewhat. Flint is not particularly popular here in Europe, and I had never even heard of Honor Harrington.

    Ready Player One was published in 2011, though, so that wouldn’t have been on the list.

    As a side note: One could perhaps argue that the Goodreads Choice Awards, for example, reflect the wider audience’s reaction to the books published last year (there are much more voters than in the Hugo ballot). The list of 2012 looked like this: http://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-science-fiction-books-2012

    Scalzi, Star Wars and Weber are all on the list, but Pratchet & Baxter won. Fantasy, paranormal fantasy (eh?), horror and YA fantasy & science fiction are listed in their separate categories.

  68. Nathan says:

    Apologies, computer issues prevented a prompt reply. The top ten was from Publisher’s Weekly and the data has lamentably moved beyond a paywall. Removing Ready Player One doesn’t change the point; for an allegedly popular award, the Hugo nominees really don’t reflect what people are buying. Nor does it change the fact that the genre’s doing a poor job of capturing the TV and movie sci-fi and the anime/otaku crowds. The readership’s shrinking, and the histrionics over the Hugos and the other “controversies” are the equivalent of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

  69. James May says:

    I think the histrionics are the Titanic. Readers don’t like being told by SFF writers they’re a bunch of privileged racists. Every time Scalzi touts a racial revenge fantasy like Long Hidden, itself based on a racist and false history of the world, people are saying eff you, especially when they get deleted for disagreeing.

    Take Wells’ Martians, turn them into whites, stretch it from now to the “dawn of time” (as Long Hidden’s blurb puts it) and you have the PC history of the world, not even as authentic as Mel Brooks.

    The Nebula nominees this year are basically an “eff you” to straight white men, and here’s a quote from one time Nebula nominee Kate Elliott:

    “Sometimes I feel like my new epic fantasy is one big ‘Fuck you’ to the tradition/history of male-centered epic fantasy narratives.”

    Folks are taking these people at their word and tuning out. The funny thing is these PC nitwits assert mid-century straight white male SFF authors were giving an “eff you” to gays, women, and blacks – another straight up lie from paranoia-ville.

  70. I rather suspect that activist fiction results from writers who spend so much time dwelling in academic and/or like-minded activist circles, that they assume the public ought to be on the same wavelength. I have heard and read authors declaring their intention to confront the reader on various issues, and I sort of shake my head. Mostly because if your mission is to perturb and/or bother your reader, especially about a political or social hobbyhorse, you’re assuming that a) the reader somehow needs to be educated by you because b) you’re some kind of moral authority on the issue. Now, there are readers who deliberately seek to be “confronted” in this fashion, but again, they are a vanishingly tiny minority in the greater consumer body — who are simply looking to be entertained. Not be given pablum per se. Just not seeking to be hectored, lectured, or sermonized.

  71. James May says:

    Ellison and others started doing that in the ’60s. It’s some addiction to the idea art is actually a series of epiphanies of wisdom that’ll open your eyes. At worst it’s kinda conveying the idea they’re ashamed of their own genre. At best it made for some fun stuff like “Time Considered as a Helix…” or “A Rose for Ecclesiastes.” But it wasn’t hate speech.

    I listened to a Baen podcast about Edgar Rice Burroughs and it was all about the work from beginning to end. Everybody was happy and there was not the slightest hint of the way PC talk about SFF, which is indistinguishable from anti-Semitism, except the PC light up heterosexuals, men, and white folks. The PC seem to have almost no interest in SFF except as how much it can serve to focus on the 3 objects of their hate, or the moral supremacy of gays, PoC, and women.

    ’60s pushback was against conformity. Imagine if that New Wave had been all about a paranoiac obsession with women, non-whites, and gay folks – every story somehow a reaction to that or with populating goofy supremacist awards and anthologies with whites, heterosexuals and men.

    That’s the PC.

    There’s no doubt in my own mind the PC are the creepiest, stupidest, and most toxic people who’ve ever entered the genre.

  72. Popguy says:

    I’m not really sure if I understand the reasoning of James, Brad et al. You seem to suggest that many current SFF pieces are preachy and unentertaining, but what sort of works you mean exactly?

    In this year’s Hugo ballot, for example, all stories in the short story category involve non-heterosexual characters or non-Western cultures (or both). Do you consider them preachy?

    I don’t agree that it’s necessarily hate speech to question the traditional SFF on the grounds that majority of protagonists have been straight white males. I guess no-one can really deny the fact that non-straight, non-white and non-male people were under-represented in the classic SFF. (Those groups form the vast majority of human race, however: only about 50% of humans are male, and out of that 50% only a small minority is white, and out of that minority a couple of percents are something else than heterosexual. In many respects, it’s also fair to say that straight white males are quite privileged.) I enjoy fiction that addresses this in an interesting way, despite the fact that I am a straight white male myself.

  73. Popguy says:

    I also think that calling people who don’t think the way do “the stupidest people who have entered the genre” is not nice.

  74. Side note: I read the word privilege and I interpret it through my military experience. Ego, a privilege is something you earn. It is not given to you, nor are you born into it. You earn it. The politically correct concept of privilege assumes just one interpretation, and nullifies all other interpretations. At least so far as I’ve seen, where that term is used in the present SF/F landscape. Thus I tend to bridle when I see or hear privilege invoked. Especially if it’s invoked specifically to shut down or shut up a specific person, or a specific group of people. Which it often is. Not always. But often.

    Now, where preachy is concerned, one way I might try to define it is like this: preachy (to me) is when the narrative flow of a book or story is deliberately derailed or interrupted so that the author can make a) a sidebar comment directly related to contemporary sociology or politics, and/or b) thrust words or actions into the characters’ mouths which are glaringly obtrusive, because these things are obviously commenting directly on contemporary sociology or politics not necessarily related to the plot.

    Even if I happen to agree with the point(s) the author is trying to make, I find it off-putting to see this kind of overt editorializing in fiction. Which is one of the reasons I could never finish Atlas Shrugged. The whole thing kept thwapping me in the face with a rolled-up ideological newspaper. Also, the landscape was so bleak, and so rife with moral and intellectual cowards — including some of the protagonists — that I just could not get all the way through. I put the book down three separate times. And I am not sure I will ever go back and try for a fourth. I have other books to read.

    Also, I remember a story in Asimov’s recently that stopped me dead in my tracks, because the author elected to spend several paragraphs grinding her contemporary political axe about an issue which was only tangentially related to the characters’ predicament. This was an award-winning author of rather significant reputation. But she engaged in very sloppy storytelling just so that she could thwap me in the face with a political comment.

    Notice the commonality between the two experiences: getting thwapped in the face.

    There are deft ways to insert your views and ideology into a piece of fiction, and there are not-so-deft ways. If I detect an author is being not-so-deft it really detracts from my reading experience. Sometimes enough so that I will literally not finish the book or story. Which usually takes a lot because I finish things I start, and I hate to let a book or story go before I’ve reached the end. But even I have limits. Too many thwap episodes, or too strong a single thwap, and I will be thrown so utterly out of the story, the author won’t get me back.

    As to the content of the ballots, my sense is that the ballots are being used as giant sky writing signs for the voting body to broadcast its political and social proclivities on its sleeve. Ergo, non-hetero, non-white, non-western characters . . . . because the voters are deliberately trying to make a statement that they are “fans” of, or inclusive of, the non-white, the non-hetero, the non-Western. The actual objective (knock on wood) quality of the book or story is secondary to the fact the voters are making a statement. This happens with authors too. Look at the crowing over the Nebula winners for 2014. The excitement about the fiction itself is secondary to the excitement that — finally! — women dominated the fiction categories to the exclusion of all male competitors.

    This is viewed as a significant accomplishment, for those wrapped up in identitarian struggle within the field. My preference is always that the stories or books win because they entertain but the voters have other ideas much of the time, so we see voting patterns that reflect what the voters often want to say about themselves as people. Not whether they found the fiction itself worthwhile.

  75. James May: I noticed the toxicity for the first time about ten years ago, when people were attacking the rebooted Battlestar Galactica for being “racist” and “sexist.” I thought those complaints were rather remarkable charges — for a program that had a female President and a latino Commander, and a mixed civilian and military ensemble that included asians and pacific islanders, as well as africans, alongside caucasians.

    I ran the debate past my wife — who is not white — and she thought it specious. When I defended BSG publicly, I myself got labeled.

    My suspicion is that PC aren’t as interested in “progress” (however one defines progress) as they are in controlling and manipulating the discussion. They want to be the arbiters of what is and is not said, who gets punished for what kind of word crimes, etc.

  76. James May says:

    Popguy, I don’t care if work is preachy, I care if it is hate speech. You may not agree with what is hate speech, but the PC people doing it do, they just have two standards, but they agree in a back-handed fashion. The PC routinely set standards and don’t live up to them. They just maintain racism and sexism against whites is fine. All male, all white, no, all female all PoC yes. If an anthology is accidentally white and male, that’s a problem with racism and sexism. If an anthology is purposefully, ideologically without males, or whites, that’s justice.

    A segregated high school prom is racism. A segregated dinner and room at WisCon is justice.

    “Old white cis-male” is accurately typical in a negative sense and commonly used by the PC in SFF. “Old black lesbian” is racism. Crossing that gap for the PC is some Rubik’s frickin’ Cube buried under the Sphinx after being wrapped in a Gordian Knot.

    So SFF was mostly white or male. So what? But it’s sexist racism. The NBA is 80% black. So what? Is that racism? NASCAR’s white. So what? Do the PC care if middle-weight boxing or Bollywood is non-white? No. America needs diversity, Africa doesn’t.

    Do these people care about male/female diversity in Vet’s Hospitals? No. Racial diversity in rap music? No.

    No one has ever been under-represented in SFF. It is not the KKK or a census – no one has ever been excluded. That is a lie no one can make a case for. The gay and out black Delany was published at 20, Nebulas at 24 and 25. The gay and out Joanna Russ was published immediately. Le Guin was published immediately, and with Hugos and Nebulas for ’69 and ’74 novels. These people just weren’t there prior to that. No one was keeping them out. How did Francis Stevens, C.L. Moore, Leigh Brackett and Andre Norton get in? The editors knew they were women.

    Boxing is not a census, and neither is NASCAR. The idea is daffy. Either apply this principle of diversity to all, or none. You can’t make any of that stick anyway cuz you can’t social engineer hobbies; that’s not how they work. Any idiot knows that.

    A black SF symposium and Yaaay Afrofuturism is fine. A purposefully white one (which no one has ever done) and Eurofuturism (which no one is championing) is racism.

    You can see the PC are hanging themselves with their own rules, not mine.

    Frankly, I’m surprised that as an adult I have to explain the basic principles behind law and justice. A person who can’t make such simple comparisons or understand what fair play, the Golden Rule, goose-gander is probably can’t do much in life. If you want to indulge in this PC weirdness, fine. But please don’t tell me you don’t understand that fire burns, so don’t burn others, because that’s our mysterious “reasoning” you can’t grasp.

    In that sense, and given the insane rhetoric of the PC, calling them the stupidest people who ever entered the genre is accurate, since I regard them as little different from a band of retarded neo-Nazis who think they’re anti-racists. Of course, you’d have to be able to make simple comparisons about hate speech to understand that, and not be dazzled by people who talk about wheel-chair access, or the stupid idea non-whites aren’t racial bigots in equal measure to whites, women can’t hate men like the PC take it for granted men hate women, or that gays can’t have the common gender phobia that is the opposite of homophobia.

    Here are some phrases from the last 3 paragraphs from the just Nebula-awarded Incan alternate history “The Weight of the Sunrise,” someone brought up elsewhere:

    “And you know the rest of the tale—how the Americans fought their war without our (Incan) funding and achieved their freedom anyway, though they still suffer the schism of slavery in a so-called free land.

    “The boys we (Incans) freed from Loddington (white American)…”

    “Marco (black slave freed in the story)… traveled the seas to foreign lands as the great explorer Marco Ronpa. Your father (Marco) opened the prosperous trade we now share with China.

    “Your father (Marco) gave you his features…, and blessed you with your
    proud strong face (try saying a white face is proud and strong on purpose)…”

    Of course Loddington dies. I knew he would the moment he first appeared. The entire story, and all these racial revenge fantasies, are always the same. They’re non-stop digs at whites and the West. They pump up non-whites and deflate whites. They add technology to the Third World, frequently robbing it from the West, a white guy usually dies in just retribution. Anyone non-white is noble, anyone white is ignoble. You have entire anthologies of racial revenge fantasies like Long Hidden and We See A Different Frontier. It’s politically correct and racist, sexist nonsense. Any PC alternate history has Muslim or Mughal or Aztec or Incan Empires against which anyone writes racial revenge fantasies. It’s only Spanish and British colonialism.

    When is obvious obvious, buddy? Instead of asking us about our reasoning, you should be asking yourself about your own – because where the hell is it? We already knew mid-century SF was white in a country that was almost 90% white. What’s your reasoning though – that it was a KKK? Show me the quotes, the stories to back that up.

    You seem to have some idea that some PC racist too dumb to know they’re racists should somehow affect me. It doesn’t. The PC take few pains to hide its own institutional patterns of segregation, discrimination, intolerance, exclusion and self-obsession or its endemic hostility and who it is that hostility is aimed at; its own rhetoric speaks volumes.

    Here’s what’s revealing: Ancillary Justice makes all the awards for it use of, and questioning the use of, gender pronouns. The woman who wrote it, and her entire PC culture, literally have no race and gender-neutral definition for words like racism, bigotry, sexism, gender-hatred and gender-expression phobias. In other words, they have no idea how law works. What in the world is stupider than that? What is stupider than digging a semantic trap and falling in it yourself? You tell me.

  77. Popguy says:

    Well now, I think you’re sugar-coating SFF history quite heavily there. You mention the black and gay Samuel R. Delany as proof of the diversity of the genre. However, now we know about the troubles he had during his career. In the sixties, for example, the legendary writer and editor John W. Campbell rejected to serialize Delany’s novel Nova because the protagonist was black. Does that sound inclusive? It’s a fact that there were blacks, gays and women doing science fiction. It’s also fair to say, I think, that they had it harder.

    The point I actually made was about the under-representation of certain kinds of protagonists, not certain kinds of authors, although that is an interesting discussion as well.

    You write a great deal about “double standards”, racism against whites, sexism against males et cetera. I don’t agree with you on that at all. Discriminating against groups that have the most power is not the same thing as discriminating against groups that do not. Writing about law doesn’t make sense to me, because this is not about the law. It’s about increasing equality.

  78. James May says:

    You know I never said one person equals diversity. I said it was proof the industry didn’t keep him out. If there weren’t more that’s no one’s fault. And why make Campbell – one guy – an industry, and pretend the industry – which regularly published and honored Delany – one guy? This is exactly the dishonest engagement we are all heartily sick of. It goes round and round and round.

    Please keep your daffy conspiracy theories out of a beloved genre of art – they are toxic and nonsensical. You have not one fact to back up this toxicity.

    Go after the NBA is you’re so convinced of racial conspiracies. Almost all white writers in a country almost 90% white in 1960 is nothing compared to 78% black in a country 13% black, although I’ve little doubt you’ll find some semantic and logical gibberish to explain why one is a thing and the other not, and why you see this here, and not there. It’s like an insane tea party with Alice. Good luck with the NBA. Much inequality, according to your standards. But since you think invoking the principles and moral ethos of law is wrong, I guess the weather vane you use in it’s place will explain away the NBA and indict SFF.

    As for power, thanks for explaining Nazis weren’t racist until they came to power.

    Good luck with the NBA – they’re awaiting your condescension. Have at ‘em, tiger.

  79. Popguy says:

    Well, you yorself made the point that a handful of writers (Delany, Russ etc.) is proof that there is zero racism or misogyny in SFF. Those same writers have themselves told that those things exist. Have a guess at which statement sounds more believable to me. :D

    As for the Nazis, you seem to be under the false assumption that Jews, Roma and other minorities were in equal positions of power before Nazis took over and brought racism to Germany. I don’t think that’s true or that Nazis are the only ones to blame for what happened. They knew how to use the racial/cultural tensions and prejudices to their advantage. From the perspective of 2014, all the Western societies were quite racist in 1930’s.

    Same thing with Campbell. He wasn’t a bad person and he didn’t dislike Delany because the guy was black and gay (which is somewhat progressive in that historical context), but he still thought that it’s not ok to publish a book with a black protagonist (which is undoubtedly racist).

  80. James May says:

    Again you can’t read. I didn’t say there is zero racism. Zero racism exists nowhere. I said their immediate success was proof there was no institutional bigotry.

    Delany didn’t say Campbell thought it was not okay, he said “Campbell rejected it, with a note and phone call to my agent explaining that he didn’t feel his readership would be able to relate to a black main character.” That’s no more racist than Lebron James not selling posters to NASCAR fans or you not having a Justin Blieber poster on your wall or gay SFF writers readers favoring “Hild” over Heinlein. Who are you going to market at WisCon: Heinlein or “Hild?”

    And the Campbell incident is 6 weeks before this measure of success:

    “With five days to go in my twenty-fourth year, on March 25, 1967, my sixth science fiction novel, Babel-17, won a Nebula Award (a tie, actually) from the Science Fiction Writers of America. That same day the first copies of my eighth, The Einstein Intersection, became available at my publishers’ office. (Because of publishing schedules, my seventh, Empire Star, had preceded the sixth into print the previous spring.)” Those are cold hard facts, so I don’t need to listen to Delany’s hard luck story. There were plenty of white SF writers not being published or getting awards.

    And the Nazis didn’t BRING racism to Germany, they institutionalized it. That’s why you couldn’t put a Jew on a train in 1930 and could in 1940. The hate was there all along. The first Crusaders lit up Jews on the Rhine 900 years earlier.

    There is no institutional racism in America. There never has been in SFF. It’s an urban myth passed on by people who understand how clues in a mystery novel work but not in real life. Is it any wonder people so despise the PC and the way they put their own prejudices before the horse? You yourself are pushing negative racial profiling of almost 200 million people from half a century ago and calling it some kind of justice and ignoring plain facts.

    And since those racist societies ended slavery in Africa and the Middle East til they went their own way, that means “quite racist” compared to who? S. Arabia didn’t end slavery til 1962. It wasn’t illegal to own a slave in Niger til 2003. Oman abolished it in 1970. The Arab word “Abeed” (slave) is interchangeable with “black person.” Why do you think that is? What’s this bizarre obsession with the West? Almost every PC narrative has to strip away mountains of context and facts to work. That’s why the PC are monumental liars and have to delete comments, ban commenters, or even have comments turned off. That don’t work here. I’ve already said enough to get deleted 5 times at a PC site, and if Torgersen was like the PC, you too.

  81. Popguy says:

    Western societies 50 years ago were quite racist compared to Western societies today, certainly not compared to Saudi-Arabia. (If you think that the people who you label PC see countries such as SA somehow better than USA, you might be mistaken.)

    But then: Western societies of 2014 may seem quite racist and sexist from the perspective of, say, 2064. There are income gaps between men and women, between whites and PoCs etc. Huge majority of people with significant political or economic power are white men. In many countries (or US states) gay couples cannot get married. These are examples of institutional racism/sexism today, and I hope future will be better in many respects.

    Campbell turning down stories because of black protagonists and Asimov harassing women in conventions (and getting away with it) et al seem to suggest that everyone wasn’t equal in SFF either.

    (But I’m starting to get the impression that nobody is reading these comments in addition to the two of us, and neither of us is going to change the way he thinks.)

  82. J. Marten says:

    Correia’s awards slate was a brilliant solution to the way conservative writers have been sidelined by the Hugo community. If conservatives can break into the Hugos this way, maybe we’ll start seeing a more diverse and popular approach to SF awards generally.

    Why not take it a step further?

    Instead of relying solely on Correia, perhaps we could poll the top conservative-leaning SF/F writers — Card, Ringo, Weber, Drake, Correia, Pournelle, Hoyt, you, and several others — annually about the year’s best writing, and then post the consensus list? If nothing else, it would give conservative SF fans a greater voice at the Hugos, and provide us with some awesome reading material recommendations.

    And ironically, it might even encourage us to read left-leaning SF more often. Because it’s a lot easier to appreciate an alternate viewpoint when it’s *one* option instead of the *only* option.

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