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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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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And Sci-Fi/Fantasy Gets Crazier

Wow.

I mean … wow.

With all the excitement of E3 over the last week and my work on short stories, I haven’t really been following the Hugo Awards that closely. After all, most of what was being said had died down to a pretty standard echo chamber, to the point where checking out File 770 was starting to feel like loading the same page with the names on most of the articles transposed one posting down and the same comments from the day before. Honestly, I know that Mike Glyer is just trying to chronicle the whole thing, but at this point, its all become so samey that it’s not really doing anyone a service. It’s sort of like advertising for a product like Comcast. Everyone knows their product is trash, that they’re a terrible company, and that you can’t take anything they say in their advertising as true, but they keep saying it anyway.

File 770 feels like a lot of that right now. Insular makes a blog post with outlandish, unresearched claims. The next day someone else makes it with the same claims, even if the first claim has been completely disproven. They don’t care, and they’re not going to read anything that challenges what they want to believe. The end result is that reading File 770 feels a bit like standing in an echo chamber full of Comcast ads. And that comparison is actually relevant because of what happened sometime last week: an editor at Tor lost her head online and said some things she really probably shouldn’t have.

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The Coming of the Ent March

So, Hugo Awards once more. I was tempted to talk about piracy again, since I found out this week exactly how hard that’s hitting my sales, but piracy is like any other crime: Most of the perpetrators refuse to see themselves as having done anything wrong, and will often accuse the one they’re pirating from of being “wrong” for being upset at stolen from. So saying anything is like shouting into a void. Which does say something nice about the current Hugo Awards. All the controversy aside, at least something’s changing here.

Which is what I wanted to talk about, but not with this year’s Hugo Award. No, I’m talking about next year’s Hugo Award. Because regardless of what happens this year, it’s only the first act of what’s to come … And that’s where part of the whole debate begins, I believe.

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Battle of the Lone-Star Reviews

No, I’m not talking about Spaceballs, though that’d certainly make for a fun post. Though, since I’ve brought it up, I might as well put a plug for it right here: If you haven’t seen Mel Brooks’ classic lampooning of Science-Fiction Space Opera, you definitely should. But this post isn’t going to be about that. No sadly, this post is going to be about some dirty pool that’s been played in conjunction with—what else?—the Hugo Awards.

Now, while I haven’t posted about the Hugo Awards in quite some time, that still doesn’t mean I haven’t been following them. At a distance, since even attempting to stick my neck into that mess, even to just post a quick comment, is the equivalent of stripping yourself naked and running into a no-man’s-land (quite literally) of trigger-happy, ad hominem attackers. Watching the comment threads circlejerk back and forth with congratulatory backslapping only cements how far this division has come—there are dedicated, very vocal commentators on both sides, a lot of whom (particularly on one side) absolutely refuse to talk to the other side. They want backslapping, not debate. They want a safe space to shout their opinions over and over again, with no challenge to their statements.

So yeah, not much reason to get involved in that. But there’s been a newer development that I’ve noticed. Now that the packets are out and the votes are being weighed, some parties have apparently decided that it’s not enough to do the whole “No Award everything we don’t like strategy.” Now there’s another tactic flying around.

Lone Star reviews.

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