Jun 092015
 

Rocket-future-2This started out as a reply to a comment, and became long enough I decided to make it a post. If you’d like to skip to the chase, the bottom two paragraphs are the important bits, and my point is “It’s time to end the requirement that a Hugo can only be given to a work published for the first time in the previous calendar year.”

On my review of Three Body Problem, Beerwulf wrote:

>As far as the Puppies are concerned there is no “everything else that goes into making a good SF story”, what you consider to be the “everything else”, they (and I) consider to be just optional extras. One of the motivations for the SPs is that SF has become too literary, too concerned with the optional extras and not concerned enough with what’s important, what makes SF, SF.
[…]
I’ve commented before about “Pure SF”: science fiction with everything that isn’t science fiction removed. Even if I agree with everything in your review (which I don’t – I might comment later about that), then this would stand as a great example of “Pure SF”.

I can see that, and it makes a lot of sense. And I agree that what makes SF SF is the important part. I generally dislike EarthFic (Literary Fiction) and consider it a wasteland. All that “everything else” heaped upon itself is just empty fluff without the base. If you’re going to bake a cake, you need actual flour. But I also think that just flour isn’t enough for me. Hardtack will fill you up, but it’s not a joy to eat. I want all those other things too. I guess that’s where the “difference in taste” thing comes in. For some people that extra stuff probably detracts rather than adds.

I will say I enjoyed The Martian. It had enough of the Other Stuff to make me happy, even if it wasn’t quite as well executed as it could be. It was certainly better than Three Body, IMHO.

I’m not sure this really explains the Puppies that well though. They nominated Skin Game, and if we’re talking about the “Pure SF” Stuff, it has none at all. It’s an urban fantasy. They also nominated Parliament of Beasts and Birds, which is religious horror and again has no “Pure SF” in it.

If a contingent of readers did want to bring more “Pure SF” back into the Hugos, nominating the most right-wing or the best-selling SF is not the way to do it. Their best bet would be to alter the Hugos to adapt to the modern world. A LOT of great titles are being passed over due to adherence to archaic rules from the times of print publishing.

Aside from Three Body, what are the two best-regarded recent “Pure SF” books you can think of? For me it’s Wool and The Martian. Both are insanely successful and fairly well written. Neither was eligible for a Hugo because they were first published serially online. (As more and more great works are!) By the time they made it into print (or had a large enough audience that they could potentially be nominated) they had passed the year that they were eligible. This is ridiculous. Most people do their reading online nowadays, and most stuff that’s published online spreads through word-of-mouth. That takes a fair handful of months, no matter how good it is. Putting something online shouldn’t make you ineligible for a Hugo. It’s absolutely ridiculous that neither Hugh Howey or Andy Weir were even eligible for a nomination!

It’s time to end the requirement that a Hugo can only be given to a work published for the first time in the previous calendar year. My own preferred solution would be to extend it to anything published in the three calendar years preceding the convention. This allows for word of mouth to spread. Alternately, it can be changed to making eligible anything released for the first time in a new publication format in the previous year (print as opposed to electronic, or full ebook as opposed to a collection of posts), with previous nominees obviously ineligible. An inability to change this, IMHO, is much more likely to kill the Hugos than any silly Puppy movement.

  9 Responses to “Modernizing The Hugos”

  1. I agree with a lot of what you’ve said. I particularly agree with your conclusion and your proposed solution. The changing nature of the publishing business, the rise in self and indie publishing, (and fan fiction for that matter), means that the “released in the past 12 months” criteria is excluding good works that should be considered.

    One of my examples of Pure SF was Rendezvous at Rama. I believe that you won’t like it. ;)

    I agree that a lot of our disagreement is down to taste. I find Pure SF to be rewarding on it’s own terms, without the extras. To continue your food metaphor. I consider the SF to be the steak in a steak dinner. A side salad might be nice, perhaps some potatoes and other vegetables to add a bit of variation, but they’re not necessary. For me, just steak on a plate is sufficient for a nice dinner. It it might be a little samey, but each mouthful is still delicious. Pure SF isn’t hardtack, it’s sirloin.

    I want to clarify that I’m not arguing for the removal of literary elements, I’m arguing that they’re optional extras. SF works should be judged primarily on whether they succeed or fail as SF, and literary elements are secondary considerations which can add or detract (hello, Rama sequels!) from the work. In other words, I want a good story, and a good SF story must have strong SF elements. I’m specifically NOT arguing for a purification of SF.

    Just because (I believe) that the Puppies like Pure SF doesn’t imply that the only thing (I believe) they like is Pure SF. The Hugo award is for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and Skin Game and PoBB are clearly works of Fantasy. In defence of my theory, Skin Game isn’t exactly literary fantasy and its nomination can therefore be seen as a response to (in their view) the overvaluing of literary elements in Fantasy.

    I haven’t much of an idea of what “Pure Fantasy” is, does anyone have any good ideas or examples?

  2. “I haven’t much of an idea of what “Pure Fantasy” is, does anyone have any good ideas or examples?”

    Conan the Barbarian. The Lord of the Rings, obviously. Even something like Lilith Saintcrow’s “The Iron Wyrm Affair”, that being a steampunk with sorcerers in it.

    I bring up Lilith Saintcrow because while “The Iron Wyrm Affair” was quite enjoyable, her other Dante Valentine series is intolerable. Its fantasy, there’s magic, but she’s making all sorts of strident SJWish pronouncements plus a ton of rage/hate-sex that I find extremely objectionable. Its sitting on the table here, unfinished. The book is two and a half inches thick, I’m about a quarter inch in and skipping more than I’m reading. Just not a good read because sex-gender-social justice.

    I’ve deliberately avoided Ms. Saintcrow’s web presence, because I get the feeling her politics are of the more extreme kind. Not knowing makes it more fun to read her steam-punk books.

    By contrast -knowing- John Scalzi’s politics and having examined his web presence, that’s a problem. He’s got a new Old Man’s War series story out today. I liked the series to date, the story is probably pretty good.

    I’m not going to buy it. I can’t in good conscience spend any more of my money on his works. If some years from now I’m able to pick it up in used bookstore or a delete bin, I may do that. But Johnny ain’t getting another dime of mine, because he is who he is.

    Knowing too much about the author can be a problem when it gets in the way of enjoying the books.

    As to improving the fiction, we do that by getting more fiction published. We get more fiction published by drawing the gatekeepers out into the open and revealing their biases. Example, Sad Puppies so far has dragged a lot of the corporate culture of TOR books out into the sunlight, and revealed a purulent mess of steaming hate. New York liberals, revealed in all their glory.

    What will improve the Hugos is more fans and more books to vote for. Indie publishing is half the solution, Sad Puppies is the other half.

    Nobody, but nobody is saying that SJWs should be kicked out, not allowed to vote, should all be No Awarded, etc. Even the odious Theodore Beale isn’t saying that kinda thing, that I am aware of.

    On the other hand I see a large number of SJWs saying Puppies should be kicked out, have their votes stripped, be No Awarded, and so forth. Check out the Tom Doherty official Tor apology for Irene Gallo at Tor.com, the comments are really something.

    • >I’ve deliberately avoided Ms. Saintcrow’s web presence, because I get the feeling her politics are of the more extreme kind. Not knowing makes it more fun to read her steam-punk books.

      >By contrast -knowing- John Scalzi’s politics and having examined his web presence, that’s a problem. He’s got a new Old Man’s War series story out today. I liked the series to date, the story is probably pretty good.

      >I’m not going to buy it.

      Interesting. By way of contrast, I despise John C Wright’s politics, but I still read his story and enjoyed it. I take strong issue with Orson Scott Card’s politics and Ayn Rand’s politics, and still enjoy their works. I don’t know if I oppose Larry Correia’s politics per se, but I’m certainly quite a bit to the left of him on the spectrum, and I still read his books and like them for the stories they tell. I don’t think the artists should be black-listed because of personal political opinions they hold, and I do my best to judge their works based on the work itself, not the author. (Heck, Larry even gave me a shout-out on his blog for that reason last year.)

      Wasn’t part of the Puppy’s claim that an author’s political leanings shouldn’t be considered in this whole process? Your statements above seem to say that you’re glad to consider that a strong part of the process, and your only complaint was that you felt the “other side” was winning, and you want “your side” to win instead.

      /sigh. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

      • “Wasn’t part of the Puppy’s claim that an author’s political leanings shouldn’t be considered in this whole process? Your statements above seem to say that you’re glad to consider that a strong part of the process, and your only complaint was that you felt the “other side” was winning, and you want “your side” to win instead.”

        Ok, we try again.

        Mr. Scalzi has insulted me personally and SF fandom in general outside of his loyal minons. I’m boycotting him because of that personal insult. Damned if I’ll see a penny go to that little weasel.

        TOR Books by way of Irene Gallo, Moshe Federer and the Haydens have also insulted SF fandom in general and me along with them. I will still read books by my favorite authors that happen to be published by TOR, but I will also communicate to them that they should probably try to find another publisher. Because TOR is broken.

        AS I PLAINLY SAID, I am not boycotting other authors regardless of their political stripes or their publisher’s abject stupidity… if their work is fun to read. I’ve got an Ian Douglas book on my desk right now. I don’t know if Ian Douglas is black, white, male, female, straight, gay, or a one legged black lesbian tranny Communist who sexually identifies as a small asteroid. I assume Ian is a dude, but it doesn’t matter. I. Do. Not. Care. Its a fun book.

        Now, should I be made aware of some grossly indecent insult made to me personally by Ian Douglas, I’ll probably stop paying him money. Also If I start reading his next book and discover its a boring ass paean to Communism with kiddie porn in it, I’ll stop buying them. That’s not a boycott, that’s me exercising personal taste.

        Hopefully this clears up your concerted effort to misunderstand what I plainly said above.

        You have several times now tried to deliberately bend and twist the plainly stated meaning of my words into patterns of your own, painting me as some kind of frothing mad dog partisan. It doesn’t bother me, I see it a lot.

        However you seem not to even be aware you’re doing it. Its a peculiar mental tic I see often in university kids these days. You aren’t reading what I said, you’re type casting me and reading to that assumption.

        Its stupid. You should stop doing it.

  3. Would you put a cap on how many times a work could be nominated if it’s eligible for three years?

    I find that there’s always at least one thing in each category that I think is unworthy of a Hugo. These things are nominated by sincere and large fan bases. If an author with a large fanbase and social media presence churns out a book a year, or even a book every six months, then they could theoretically have 3 – 6 books eligible every year. I don’t want the best novel category to suffer the same fate as the TV category. Dr Who is entertaining, but it’s not good SF!

    • Naturally, only once. And I fear we actually already have the problem you’ve described. It is a general popularity contest after all, so the people with the most loyal fans do keep showing up over and over regardless.

      • Yes, I think you’re right. For myself, I thought Mira Grant’s Parasite was worse that Correia’s Warbound. And she gets nominated year after year. It’s a problem that’s going to get worse if the Hugoes are pulled more away from being a WorldCon thing, and more toward an ‘anyone who has $40’ thing. Worldcon may have it’s favourite authors, but its still mostly nerds so there will usually be good stuff on there.

        Do you think that books being eligible for nomination for 3 years, but only once in that 3 year span might encourage people to try to play the system? I mean, a book that’s nominated in its 3rd year has a better chance than a book nominated in its 1st year so now people will start thinking tactically about whether to nominate now or later?

        • I didn’t even bother reading Parasite, I’d been so burned by her previous two books. Glad to hear I didn’t miss anything. :)

          As to your second point… For the most part, I don’t think that sort of organization exists. The Puppies are the only group that’s actually managed to game the system like that. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t consider it an issue at all. And even in their case I think it would help improve the quality of the books chosen, and allow for the recognition of works published via new media.

          I disagree that a book nominated in its 3rd year would have a better chance than one nominated in its 1st. I think it has a better chance of getting nominated, but no better chance of winning, since it’s a straight vote between five works and I don’t see how it being the 1st or 3rd year would make someone judge a book’s appeal any differently. I would love Altered Carbon just as much whether I read it the year it was published for five years after the fact.

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