The Dragon Awards

In case you missed it, yesterday the winners of the Dragon Awards were announced and awarded.

What are the Dragon Awards? They’re a set of awards given out by Dragon Con, a Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Gaming con with over 70,000+ attendees—a pretty significant number compared to other cons out there. Still not heard of them? That’s fair. After all, this was their first year.

Yes, up until now Dragon Con has never had an award. But seeing the absolute meltdown going on over at the Hugo Awards over the last few years (where a tiny, frankly dying con has entrenched itself into the SJW blogsphere in an effort to save itself, insulting a rejecting anyone who didn’t agree with their narrative and taking steps to make sure only the “proper” people were involved, voting, and nominated), and hearing the cry from that same group of “Don’t like it? Go find a different award!” Dragon Con stepped up.

The result? An award that can both take nominations for and be voted on by anyone—anyone—with an e-mail address and an interest in the subject matter. For a con that is attended by over 70,000 people annually. Compared to the Hugo’s paltry attendance (most years below 5,000, actually) and rules and regulations that restrict voters to those who can pay a fee (and now, with recent changes, follow more stringent requirements), Dragon Con seems like a breath of fresh air.

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The 2016 Hugo Finalists

Well, the 2016 Hugo Award finalists have been announced. And … I can’t say the list is surprising. Good? I also can’t say that. At this point, the only topic of the entire set that seems to have any relevancy at all to the real world is the category for film, which looks to be a four-way battle between Fury Road, The MartianThe Force Awakens, and Age of Ultron.

And … that’s pretty much the only category worth caring about right now. The rest? Well, in case you’ve missed one of the other nominees, here’s one of the standout examples of what’s being voted on: Space Raptor Butt Invasion.

Yes. Dinosaur erotica. Cheap, written-in-a-day-or-two, dinosaur erotica.

Why?

Well, you may recall there’s been some controversy over the Hugo Awards the last few years. The Hugo Awards had become increasingly isolated and standoffish from their purported goals, turning into more of a personal award handed out between friends that pretended to represent “all fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy” than actually being that (we’re talking votes of a hundred total determining things like the “best” novel of the year). Which resulted, unsurprisingly, in the Hugo Awards going into a downward spiral of quality (hence why my local librarians both mocked it and stopped picking up books that were Hugo winners).

People got tired of it, noticed what was going on, and tried to do something about it. And the elitist group that had been using it as their own personal promotion platform dug in their heels. A game of tug-of-war ensued. And name calling. And accusations of sexism, racism … really, whatever this group of insulars could come up with. And once one party goes that far, well, it’s not hard for the other party to decide “The gloves are coming off.”

Enter a group calling themselves “The Rabid Puppies.” Long story short, after the insular group decided to pour liquid nitrogen over the whole mess by voting in lockstep to ensure that any category that didn’t have one of their chosen nominations on it was given “No award” and then twisting the knife by handing out literal butthole awards called Assterisks to those they didn’t want at the event, the Rabid group decided that enough was enough.

And now there’s a finalist list with Space Raptor Butt Invasion on it, the Hugos are facing a proposed rule change that only lets “Real fans” vote (Gotta represent all of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and the best way to do that is by mimicking Manor Farm, right?) … and, well, you have pretty much what happens when both sides act petty and dig in their heels. Everyone nearby shakes their head and walks away, disgusted. The mask has come off of the Hugos and … there’s not much to look at but a bunch of blatant elitists trying to keep their hands on everything.

So yeah, the Hugo Award is busily making itself as irrelevant as possible.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for an award that actually is attempting to live up to that “all of Sci-Fi and Fantasy” bit, you’re still in luck. Dragon Con has announced The Dragon Awards. Which, as a side, is a much better name for a Sci-Fi/Fantasy award. Who wouldn’t want to say “I won a dragon?

Anyway, after shouting for years “If you don’t like it, go make your own award,” it looks like a lot of those disgusted with the behavior of the Hugos over the last decade have finally done just that. No judges. No “real” fans. No social commentary. Just fans—any fans, no requirement to prove anything—voting on what they liked best from the year.

Yeah, you can sign up here.

So, 2016 Hugos? With the Dragons announced, I don’t really care anymore. After last years abysmal showing of narcissism, elitism, and more than a little racism, pretty much any other award couldn’t be worse, and … Oh hey, here’s a new one promising to not do all the things the Hugo has become infamous for.

Now, is there a chance that those same insulars will try and swarm the Dragon Awards en masse and kill it? Sure. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised. Assterisks, remember?

But given that it’s an award that for the moment is firmly out of their control, I’d bet they’ll have a much harder time of it.

So yeah. 2016 Hugos? Congratulations, you got what you wanted. You’re irrelevant now. You’ve convinced me. Posts from your most ardent insulars have convinced me. I, as GRRM so eloquently pointed out, and not a “real” Science Fiction and Fantasy fan. I don’t have enough money, and I don’t have the “right” ideals.

So … congratulations insulars. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve got your sinking ship. Keep it. I’ve left. The Hugo Award is a fading memory.

I’ll vote for the Dragons. Where I, and everyone else who calls themselves a fan for one reason or another, can vote for the things they love.

Goodbye, Manor Farm.

Casual Readers Not Welcome

Some of you might remember a post I made a few months back, during the lead-in to the whole Hugo Awards Fiasco, that asked the question “Am I a fan of Science-Fiction and Fantasy?

Well, to my surprise this morning, I have an answer.

According to George R.R. Martin, I am not. You probably aren’t either. Instead, you are a “casual.”

At least on the one hand, we can all nod and applaud for consistency. Martin’s comments about people not being “true” Sci-Fi/Fantasy fans was what prompted my first post on the topic, but now, in a comment saved by Dawn Witzke over on her blog, we have a very direct statement addressing Mr. Martin’s exact thoughts on the nature of things:

You’re making the same mistake that many of the Puppies did — assuming that more voters would make the award more relevant.

If it were only the number of voters that mattered, the People’s Choice Award would be more important than the Oscars. It’s not. The Academy voters are fewer in number, but they bring more expertise to the decision. Same’s true of worldcon fans. These are people who live and breath SF and fantasy, for whom “fandom is a way of life,” not casual readers.

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Larry Correia On the Hugo Awards

So, Larry Correia, they guy who started the Sad Puppy movement in the first place, has written up his thoughts on last weekend’s Hugo Awards. As Larry was the one who started the whole Sad Puppies movement in the first place (all alone, three years ago), its an interesting look on the conflagration that swept through the awards on Saturday. It’s also pretty accurate. Larry doesn’t mince words, he goes right to it and talks about what SP was about, and how Saturday’s fire proved him right. He makes points like this—

I said that most of the voters cared far more about the author’s identity and politics than they did the quality of the work, and in fact, the quality of the work would be completely ignored if the creator had the wrong politics. I was called a liar.

—which when coupled with this tweet from a Hugo Awards voter—

Sandifer

—means one thing and one thing only. Larry was right. This award has been political for a long time.

There’s a few standout points from the article I’ll quote here below, but for the full effect, go read the article yourself. It’s worth it.

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The Countdown

Tonight, the Hugo Award votes are tallied and the awards handed out. What’s the result going to be?

I hope it matters.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d like it to matter. And for a brief, flashing instant, it probably will. At least, for the reasons it should.

It should matter because the book/movie/whatever that wins the 2015 Hugo Award should be the award that fans of Sci-Fi/Fantasy voted for, and the one that the most Sci-Fi/Fantasy fans voted for. It should be the one that the largest number of fans agree on.

But for the last few years, that hasn’t mattered. For the last few years, the writing hasn’t mattered, the story hasn’t mattered, and certainly the fans haven’t mattered. That’s why this year came with reminders from a certain clique that newcoming voters to Worldcon weren’t real fans. And why if the Hugo Award actually functions as it’s supposed to, there’s going to be a brief flash of flame. Rage flame. Because the Insular hate-mongers that have been happily taking advantage of the fact that Hugo votership has been at rock bottom, at a point where just a few votes accounted for a win, are going to smear whoever wins if it isn’t them.

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Being a Better Writer: “High-Class” Literature and Shakespeare

This post was originally written and posted June 2nd, 2014, and has been touched up and reposted here for archival purposes.

Today’s topic is a little different. And a little late (for which I apologize, but I was wrapped up finishing reading a book, which I’m sure most of you can understand). Today’s topic is more on the philosophy of not just writing, but reading as well. I’m going to talk about the semi-divide between what’s often called “high-class literature” and what’s written for entertainment.

Sound a little confusing? Bear with me.

Remember those English classes you had in high school? Or maybe you’re still having them. Crud, you might be waiting for them to arrive. Well, I had those just like most people. And one of the defining memories I have of those days is of my teacher and the choices of literature they made.

You see, to my teacher, unless the work had been rubber-stamped by a faceless, indiscriminate board somewhere with the term “classic,” then it wasn’t worth reading. No joke. Our class actively debated this with our teacher on several occasions, because there were plenty of us who were active readers and enjoyed thumbing through a good book. The conflict was, however, that we “weren’t really reading,” at least, that was how we saw our teacher’s stance. We were told that Tolkien was garbage, that Harry Potter was trash, all because whatever high-class group our teach took their opinion from had disdained to give those books their stamp of approval. Instead, we were given books to read like Ethan Frome or The Catcher in the Rye. The first I absolutely despise to this day for its complete dryness and lack of real depth, and the second I could replicate my feelings for simply by browsing livejournal for a few hours until I’ve had my fill of teenage angst.

As you can tell, I wasn’t fond of either of them. But we had to read them anyway, because in our teacher’s words, they were what we were supposed to be reading. They were classics. All that other stuff we enjoyed? A waste of time. Not real literature.

Bottom line? If it didn’t have the classic stamp on it somewhere, we shouldn’t have been reading it.

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Ancillary Justice – “Being Literary” is Not a Free Pass for Being Poor

I fell asleep in the first forty pages of Ancillary Justice. It was not a good sign.

Now, to stave off the defenders who will undoubtedly make a case of “the best defense is a good offense,” I don’t fall asleep during books often. I’m no stranger to the great works of Science-Fiction (Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, etc), nor more standard and traditional classics (getting a degree in English will do that to you). So it was not as if I was not prepared to step outside and try something new. In fact, I was reading Ancillary Justice partly for those reasons. Ancillary, for those who have not heard, became in 2014 the first book to win a number of awards for “Best Sci-Fi Novel,” including the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the BSFA Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Locus Award.

Yes, this book had a lot of backing.

But there was also a lot of disagreement. I saw Ancillary being brought up by critics of the Hugo Awards during this last year as a criticism that indeed something was wrong with the awards. This only made me want to read Ancillary more, and with the amount of awards it had won, I figured that whatever criticisms were being leveled at it were probably blown out of proportion.

I was wrong. After picking up my copy from the library and spending the next few weeks reading through it, I’m astounded that this was given any awards at all. Ancillary Justice is plagued with problems, many of them so up front and egregious that any halfway competent editor should have caught them immediately. Having finished Ancillary, I can’t help but wonder if its victory over so many awards was handed out in the same manner that seems to drive the Oscars these days: that of “Well, I didn’t watch it (read, in this case), but I heard it was really cool and I like the concept, so I’m voting for it.”

Simply put, Ancillary Justice should not have won any of those awards. Not with this level of poor writing.

And that’s what I want to talk about: The poor writing. Because in reading, I thought to myself “Surely I can’t be the only one who’s noticed these problems. Someone else had to have noticed them!” And it turned out I was right. A quick search of the internet proved that they were common complaints with the book, because they are in fact, crippling, weakening problems. But in almost every case, a vocal defender showed up to rebuttal the criticism, dropping a line that looked almost exactly like this one:

You just don’t get it. This is a literary book. You just don’t understand literary works.

Without fail, that was there. Criticism of Ancillary‘s many flaws? “Oh, you just don’t understand literary works.”

Well, I do. And to all those who would try and use that poor argument? I’d throw it right back at you. You don’t understand literary works. And do you know why?

Because literary is not an excuse for poor writing. Good writing is good writing. “Literary” has nothing to do with it (though claiming otherwise certainly highlights a problem with the current Sci-Fi establishment if they actually believe this excuse).

So, if good writing is good writing, and being “literary” is not a magical, get-out-of-jail-free card, then what is wrong with Ancillary Justice?

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