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Defeating the Anak

I’ve been following with vague amusement the latest doing of the world of sf/fantasy, or at least its loud and public arms. Rather inevitably that involves John Scalzi, his deep hurt that he’s being teased about his dresses and his Hugo award for ‘Redshirts’, a rather mediocre joke about a TV serial, not precisely the caliber of Lord of Light or Dune. It goes with the turf (well, the lawn) that seems, especially when you’re known for taunting the (safely*) tauntable. Push even the safely tauntable’s buttons for long enough and sooner or later someone may respond. The outrage about how successful he was and how big his lawn was because he worked hard was really funny. If it was down to hard work, a lot of near starving authors would be billionaires. If it was down to talent, so would a lot authors who never ever got a publishing deal. What the man does well is self-promote, and choose the path of least resistance (the easy setting – which may be how he is. It’s still the easiest choice), which is to sing the publishing establishment’s tune. Loudly and often. That is the route to success in traditional publishing, outside of Baen who still buy all over the show, and from complete unknowns who do not sing their tune. (Baen have authors from across the political and religious spectrum. Good on them, support them, buy their books.) Otherwise, if you want traditional publishing push and you have the misfortune to be a white male, I suggest you establish a loud internet presence and embrace feminism, and squall loudly about the lack of diversity and how bad white males are. It worked for Lord Haw-Haw , and Vidkun Quisling with the establishments they wanted into. It could work for you.

And then we had John Ringo actually daring to taunt back, which as it lacked the safe part, was rather good. The defense by the queen bee of Tor that the Hugos are the most fair of the SF/Fantasy awards was interesting. It’s probably true, in the sense that the one legged centipede would still win the Miss Lovely Legs competition in the land of the earthworms. Actually, all it is, is a popularity contest – which thus comes down to either your book is widely read and loved, and/or you network and self-publicise well, or your publisher/friends do so for you. As the point of any literary award is to TELL readers what a great read is, using it for books where the publicity is already great is fairly pointless. If the award was actually fair it would be split more or less on demographic English reading lines (which would mean the left wing would win… about ?a quarter of the time, centrists of various shades half and the right at least as often as the left.) publishers would be represented more-or-less by sales share. I doubt if this holds true, having looked at the list.

Of course those of us who have no real talent for self-promotion, but may be great writers (the two do not have to go together), are really the ones the awards should target. But that’s not happening, and probably won’t. We really do need a better, alternative system. I don’t see exactly how it can work. Do you?

*As in permitted by the PC rules (break these and your publisher and the left wing self-elected enforcers of various ‘fail’ will prosecute you without due process, appeal or mercy), and also those whom the probabilities show are extremely unlikely to respond at all, even less likely to do so violently, who are powerless to affect your publishers and who will out of a sense of fairness you never display to them, still try to judge your books on merit. And where you can claim victim points if they do much as mock you. Because you’re so bwave. Those who mock the Taliban, or tease the high gods of PC are brave. The rest play the game on the easy setting.)

115 Comments
  1. The Hugos are voted on by a tiny fraction of the fandom, by those who have the money to buy a membership (or at least a pre-supporting membership) for the Worldcon that year. The percentage of attendees who actually vote is small enough that in theory, (especially in the smaller categories) one could even BUY a Hugo.

    But Self-Promotion DOES seem to be a huge factor. Taral Wayne gets nominated for best fan artist time and time again, but never wins, because he doesn’t promote himself very hard. Talent alone isn’t enough.

    That said, if that’s the way the system works, there’s no point in complaining that the system doesn’t reward those who don’t follow it. If you don’t want to be a whore, don’t complain when the Johns won’t pay you. (And if you are a whore, don’t expect the reverence reserved for Virgins).

    The point of writing isn’t to win awards. They’re nice, to be sure, but the point is to reach readers. The only awards that matter are the accumulation of a fan base, and sales. If you’ve got that, and you’re true to your craft, who needs anything else?

    September 9, 2013
    • Oh I agree that’s how the system works, and If you want your rewards from that system, you have to play by its rules – that’s precisely what I advocated. However I think it is over to the rest of us, readers, writers etc to point out that those whores who are claiming to be virgins (in this case writers of works which win by merit, purely as the product of talent.) are what they are. I’m happy to let them get rewarded and recognised as popular with their in-group. Unfortunately they’re not happy with that, and want to be treated like virgins.

      I think awards are important to a lot of writers because as a group we tend to be insecure about our work. That said it’s a stupid reason for the giving of the same: seriously the only decent measure of worth is people putting their money down. What awards SHOULD be about is giving pointers to what it is worth putting your money down for. Look, this doesn’t really concern me personally much, I have a small established fanbase, and no vast expectations. I’d like a lot of people to read my work, but it’s never meant enough to me to over-ride my principles or personal ethics (I could brown-nose and shriek discrimination far more effectively than most, if I was really determined to climb at all costs). What does upset my personal sense of right and wrong is that there are great writers out there, who can’t find readers because either they won’t or can’t play the system. I write, but I’m a reader first. Great authors are probably 1:100 000 people. Right now, with the existing system, I’d guess we miss 9/10 of those. Reasonably good writers are more common, but the great… they’re worth finding, even if they’re not good at self-promotion.

      September 9, 2013
      • Internet to the rescue. Reader blogs, Review articles, and things like the Human Wave Reading List are important for spreading the word about good books. If good writers are poor at self-promotion, those who are good at promotion ought to help out.

        September 10, 2013
        • Those who are good at promotion almost invariably want a piece of the pie, Mauser — a piece that those of us less handy at promotion are ill-equipped to provide, because we AREN’T selling at the levels of other authors who either are good at it, or have a large house behind them doing the promo. If they’re really good at promotion, they hang out a shingle and charge as a publicist/PR expert. If they’re really REALLY good they charge primo prices to do so.

          September 14, 2013
  2. Ori Pomerantz #

    What the man does well is self-promote, and choose the path of least resistance (the easy setting – which may be how he is. It’s still the easiest choice), which is to sing the publishing establishment’s tune.

    Self promotion and being agreeable to business partners are part of the job. They shouldn’t be, just as dressing professionally shouldn’t be a part of my job and safety evaluations for classrooms shouldn’t be part of a military NCOs job ( http://chrishernandezauthor.com/2013/09/06/in-the-shadow-of-the-green-safety-dot/ ). But in a world with a huge number of choices people need to make snap judgments, and external cues (like self promotion and the opinion of people in the industry) are useful to them.

    You’re a rebel at heart, and we all like you for it. But rebels, by the nature of things, tend not to be on very good terms with the establishment. And those awards are essentially establishment awards.

    BTW, what would it take to create the “Jim Baen Memorial Award for Dragging Science Fiction Back to the Gutter”?

    September 9, 2013
    • BTW, what would it take to create the “Jim Baen Memorial Award for Dragging Science Fiction Back to the Gutter”?

      Suggested song clip:
      Takin’ it to the streets.

      September 9, 2013
      • Can I have have my personal ‘takin’ it to the cattle-yard floor’ version? :-).
        Dave’s Motto ‘We are the salt of the manure pile’ (which for the curious is saltpeter. ;-))

        September 9, 2013
    • Heh. A rebel I came, and I’m still the same. That’s actually only partially true, Ori. I know what society’s rules are. Some I accept quite cheerfully. It’s blind acceptance without a second thought that really irritates me.

      Yes, the self-promotion is an aspect of the job. It has become such because the people whose job it was (the publishers and retailers) figured it would be cheaper for them to do so. Authors, readers and their business have suffered. My point, as I made above to Mouser is that exceptional talent (and I am not one) in say gymnastics which could win your country a gold medal in the Olympics is of such value that you need to have a system which is not filtered by something which is not directly relevant.

      We’ve got a Jim Baen Award. Maybe we need a ‘Dragging it back to the gutter award’ 🙂 – I’d be delighted to be nominated for that.

      September 9, 2013
      • Ori Pomerantz #

        You’re right about society’s rules. But as you said, you’d rather have your integrity than the rewards for losing it. This means you’ll get less rewards than those who either lack integrity, or who truly thinks that the PC orthodoxy is correct.

        Anyway, the question is how could we know about exceptional talent that doesn’t self-promote effectively? Publishers may have served that purpose once, but as you said they mostly don’t anymore. They’re also huge corporate behemoths that are unlikely to be moved by anything short of the threat of bankruptcy.

        As a reader, who would you trust to discover authors for you?

        September 9, 2013
        • BobtheRegisterredFool #

          I trust other readers, and writers whose other stuff I like.

          I picked up ‘Doc’ E. E. Smith, whose books I love, from Ryk Spoor and Dave Weber. I picked up Georgette Heyer, whose writing I admire, despite that the genre often doesn’t work for me, thanks to Toni Weisskopf and Dave Freer.

          At the big fanfic website, I use the ‘favorite stories’ link quite a bit.

          September 9, 2013
      • (Mauser, not Mouser. My breath does NOT smell like mice. Well, not usually.)

        September 10, 2013
        • Heh. My apologies – a mental slip onto one of my favorite characters – Lieber’s Gray Mouser.

          September 10, 2013
  3. Eamon #

    I followed that discussion this weekend over at Ringo’s. (I don’t drop by Scalzi’s anymore, no point.)

    While I understand the points Mauser and Ori Pomerantz make above, the bigger problem Dave Freer and John Ringo allude to (Ringo? Allude? You jest) is that this award has more to do with satisfying the in-group regarding your politics. I know nothing that I haven’t read, so I’m without authority on the issue, but more than one author contends that the vote can be and is manipulated to silence the undesirables. Self promotion in the face of that is pointless. Though Larry Correia’s Sad Puppies Campaign does try…

    I think Ori Pomerantz is on the right track, incidentally. I think a Jim Baen memorial award would be a grand idea, and if the awarding held to Mr. Baen’s philosophy regarding politics (who cares!? is it good?) then it might become an award with meaning to the readers. And one fans would vote for. Anybody know Toni Weisskopf well enough to suggest it?

    As an aside, I read Red Shirts and I’ve read other Scalzi. It doesn’t even approach the best of Scalzi much less having anything at all to do with the best in SF/F

    September 9, 2013
    • Eamon #

      Ack! Missed the follow-up check mark…

      September 9, 2013
    • I got excited when I heard that there was basically a Star Trek fanfic being published, called “Redshirt.”

      I got through the first chapter and a half or so… good heavens, where was his editor?!? Most fanfic is better than that, and doesn’t have the nasty, self-satisfied and sophomoric vision of “sophisticated” “humor” baked in.

      And that’s before I found out anything about the fellow.

      September 9, 2013
      • I read the free sample, also before I knew anything about him, and it not only seemed derivative, it certainly had no love for the source material. Sarcasm only goes so far.

        September 9, 2013
        • BobtheRegisterredFool #

          I read the whole thing. I also read the bit about how he was a consultant on Stargate Universe (or whatever the third live action series was called). I now wonder if that had anything to do with why it was reputed to be terrible.

          I like fanfic. It wasn’t the sort of fanfic I remember much, or am likely to go back to.

          Gibson did a better Star Trek alike in Sic Semper Morituri: Pilots in Nerima. Or at least one I’m more likely to go back and reread.

          September 9, 2013
          • Eamon #

            Yeah, I don’t know how much Scalzi had to do with making SGU awful (and it was, what I saw of it) but regardless he was proud of his time on that show. And I’d be embarrassed.

            September 9, 2013
            • BobtheRegisterredFool #

              I only saw a few or so eps at the end of Universe, partly in case I needed help developing fanfic for the other Stargate series. I also saw a fair amount of Stargate Infinity, and I would be more interested in seeing more of that, than in seeing more of Universe.

              September 9, 2013
              • Eamon #

                Not familiar with Infinity, I think Universe soured me enough I stopped paying attention and i only watched the first few. Well and the general self-immolation of that entire network.

                September 10, 2013
                • BobtheRegisterredFool #

                  Infinity was the children’s cartoon, and seems like it had an entirely different continuity. (Ouch. I just remembered that, IIRC, the buggy was powered by a fuel cell, or something, that ran on water.) Suffice to say that it didn’t exactly hold up well if one wanted to see SG1, or a future world of same.

                  September 10, 2013
      • Eamon #

        Yeah, I thought it’d be fun, if irreverent, fanfic. But it was more…bland pudding, than anything.

        I hoped for a Galaxy Quest sort of story, ya know? Fun, gentle mockery with a bit of reverence for the enduring nature of the source material? Nope.

        I find myself wondering if his success tied to his self-imposed echo-chamber isn’t tainting his fiction. Something has gone wrong.

        September 9, 2013
        • Teasing with love.

          Instead, got more like “bully that targets the most popular geek.”

          September 9, 2013
          • Eamon #

            Yes, exactly. Perfect summation.

            September 9, 2013
    • Uh, there IS a Baen memorial award, but it’s not what you were talking about.

      I like the idea of another award, call it the Gernsback, where the best-selling SF work least likely to be voted for by the swells at SFWA/WorldCon is selected.

      September 9, 2013
      • Ori Pomerantz #

        You’re right – I forgot that a Baen award already exists, with a completely different meaning. Maybe we should call it the gutter award 😉 .

        I think it should be voted on by previous recipients, who proved their ability to evaluate good SF/F by writing it.

        September 9, 2013
        • Ori, we don’t need another Nebula. I’ll quote Heinlein “I don’t know what writers are good at, but evaluating each other’s work isn’t it.”
          However, I suggest the Anson and the PTerry — voted on by attendees of certain cons — LC for sure, maybe Dragon con…

          September 9, 2013
    • Oh, John Ringo’s right. The books can be cooked. It’s skewed even without that – A small subset of con-goers vote (and that does not exclude interested parties, enough to be at least decisive), a small set of fandom want to or can afford to go to worldcon, and that group is at least to some extent predicated by which authors are there (which comes down, often enough to comps and money, so opportunity to shift the odds there.)

      I’d say ‘good’ is the problem. One man’s good is China Meiville, another’s toilet paper is the same. What we’re really needing is an award which will point to ‘popular read’ without the writer necessarily being a populist. We’d benefit from it (sf/fantasy just reaches too few people, and an award that actually said ‘hey almost anyone has a good chance of enjoying this’ I’d see as value.) But how do you select such a thing?

      September 9, 2013
      • kastandlee #

        You do not have to attend Worldcon to vote for the Hugo Awards. A non-attending membership was $60 this year. 1,848 people voted this year. 1,649 people voted in Best Novel. Even assuming one knew exactly how many people were going to vote (unlikely), it would have cost about $100,000 to “buy” a Best Novel Hugo, as you’d have to guarantee a first-ballot majority. The seems impractical to me.

        September 9, 2013
        • kastandlee #

          Darn it, make that $50K. (1649 / 2 = 825 votes for a majority * $60 = $49,500) Forgot to divide the number of votes cast by two to get the necessary first-ballot majority.

          September 9, 2013
        • Doesn’t that have the problem of assuming that nobody did vote buying?

          Looking at the 2015 pre-buy, a “supporting” membership is $40, meaning that $1k is 25 voting memberships. (With five votes each, the site informs me.) You also don’t really have to have a first ballot majority, just figure out how likely it is that your competitors are doing the same thing in the same category, and how likely it is that folks will split their votes.

          September 10, 2013
          • kastandlee #

            I don’t know where you got “five votes each.” Each member, supporting and attending, gets one and only one vote.

            If you think your method will work, I’m not sure understand how instant-runoff voting works. The only way you can wipe out the entire field is to get a first-ballot majority. Not just a plurality, a majority. There have been cases where there were nominees that got strong first-ballot pluralities (on the order of one-third of the total votes cast) but ended up finishing last because they were every other member’s last choice, and therefore all of their subsequent preferences transferred to other candidates.

            Instant-runoff voting isn’t the first-past-the-post method used in most public elections. It’s a method that tends to converge on a consensus candidate who might not be everyone’s A-1 favorite but that is surely not actively disliked by a majority of the electorate.

            I have no problem with people saying that the voters have no taste (individual voters’ tastes are of course completely subjective), but implications that the process itself is corrupt, when Worldcons take considerable care to make the process as open and transparent as we possibly can, get me riled up.

            September 10, 2013
            • Something that Worldcons often do before the final ballot is publish the number of nominees and voters. A common mistake that people make is to forget that each voter gets five votes. For example, if a category has 30 nominees and 35 ballots that does not mean that most nominees only got one vote. There could have been up to 35 * 5 = 175 votes.
              http://www.thehugoawards.org/the-voting-system/

              September 10, 2013
              • kastandlee #

                The section you quote has to do with the nominating ballot. At the nominating stage, you can nominate up to five things in each category. You cannot cast five nominating votes for the same thing in a category.

                September 10, 2013
            • Please stop assuming that someone who disagrees with you can’t figure out something you already explained.
              You incorrectly assume that the only way to “buy” the process is to follow the 100% assured way of getting a win, when it’s far more likely that it would be corrupted by basic advertising type spending– this also means that the process won’t be in the “Glorious Leader got 99.9% of the vote again!” area of disbelief.
              Giving yourself a 10% boost, especially if in the process you influence where future cons will be, and what the nominees for the next time are, is a reasonable advertising expense.

              September 10, 2013
          • That also assumes you can’t get some kind of a bulk deal, and that none of the publishers got free attendance for supporting and voting for the location…..

            September 10, 2013
            • kastandlee #

              The only people who get free memberships to Worldcon are the Guests of Honor. The publishers, program participants, and staff have to buy their memberships, too. (The Worldcon will refund memberships post-convention if they have enough money to do so after paying the bills. Most recent North American Worldcons have been able to do so, but it’s not guaranteed.) I was co-Chairman of the 2002 Worldcon, and I had to buy my membership just like everyone else. In fact, I and the other co-Chair were the last two members of the committee who got refunds.

              September 10, 2013
              • The only people who get free memberships to Worldcon are the Guests of Honor.

                Why are you switching over to attendance memberships when the topic was voting?

                Right there at the Sasquan.org/registration footnote: “Friend and voted: Rate in US Dollars: 0.”

                September 10, 2013
                • kastandlee #

                  Yes, but all of those people paid money to get that membership! They paid the Advance Supporting Membership ($40), which gives them a supporting membership in the winning Worldcon, whichever convention wins. Those people who bought Friend of the Bid pre-supporting memberships in the Spokane Worldcon bid and also voted received automatic attending memberships, but if you actually looked deeper, you’d discover that those people paid more than it would have cost to buy an attending membership after the election.

                  Nobody is getting free memberships except a handful of guests of honor. You’re misunderstanding how the membership system works and what people paid to get the “free” memberships at which you’re pointing.

                  September 10, 2013
          • kastandlee #

            I don’t know how you define vote buying.

            I don’t believe there is a significant issue with deliberate attempts to subvert the election by malice aforethought. I’ve administered the Hugo Awards three times. I’m one of the people who actually got to see the votes as they came in. There is in general no pattern of fraud.

            Just because the candidates you prefer don’t win doesn’t mean the process is corrupt. It means the members who choose to nominate and vote have different tastes than you do.

            September 10, 2013
            • I don’t know how you define vote buying.

              It means that you buy a vote.
              Kind of like “vote fraud” means that you commit fraud to get votes, and exists even if it’s not 100% iron-bound.

              It’s quite clear that I’ll make no headway against you, and am comfortable with what I’ve offered standing up to anyone who reads this later on, so I’ve no need to continue.

              September 10, 2013
              • kastandlee #

                Okay, I’m starting to think that you’re being deliberately obtuse.

                Is it “vote fraud” if I buy my wife’s membership and she votes?

                September 10, 2013
                • If you instruct your wife (or even solicit), yes (and this is common to almost all voting systems, particularly if something is supposedly judged on merit) If you buy membership for your office staff and instruct them (or even ask) yes. If your house only has one possible nominee, even paying for their membership would be considered pretty borderline. In a truly ‘fair’ vote if you were a nominee, no nominee vote should come from interested parties (so your wife, publisher, their staff, their dependants -spouses, children – your mum) should abstain both in Noms and final votes. This would be normal ethical practice.

                  September 10, 2013
                  • kastandlee #

                    Ethics are a matter for individual voters. There’s no rule against voting for yourself or a family member or co-worker or fellow convention committee member, and I would consider it absurd to attempt to legislate something like that. The member of WSFS are free to nominate and vote for anything or anyone they choose to vote for.

                    September 10, 2013
                    • Read my comment properly. Look up the word ‘should’ . And then find the place where I say WSFS were held responsible for any of this and quote it. It does not exist outside of your head. You’re assuming a vast degree of importance for yourself and WSFS – which once again the only person who has done so, is yourself. Get over it. I am sure you tried very hard to limits of your very small power to do a good job.Most of the problem areas are outside your control. You should be upset, but not with the messengers who are telling you it isn’t working well. It isn’t. I’m not sure what can be done about it, but admitting that conflicts of interest can exist would be a start.

                      September 10, 2013
                    • One then assumes you favour nepotism and favoritism. Nice to know, thanks for letting us know.

                      September 11, 2013
        • Foxifer has done a good job of taking apart some of your points. Let me follow through. Firstly, you begin with an incorrect premise: that a book would have zero votes. It is very, very unlikely that either an author, or publisher would try something quite so stupid. Particularly with an author with a history of nominations it would relatively easy to calculate how much you need to add to push them past the post. Secondly as the history of voting is known or at least available, a fairly accurate estimate of the numbers of nominations and votes is possible to establish with reasonable accuracy (second false premise), Thirdly you premise ‘conspire to win’ which is also quite possibly false. There are three other more likely scenarios, 1)Conspire to exclude – which merely requires one person to either provide false information (it came out too early / it’s too long for a short//it was written out as radio play so it should be a dramatic production – or something of this ilk. It is quite possible for this to happen by accident anyway, and I know the matter is not refered back to the author. 2) conspire to get nominated (a cheaper option – and as I’ve been asked to vote for a book I’d never read, one which I know happens) Soliciting votes is cheating, let alone buying them. 3)Conspire to improve the likelihood of winning, firstly by soliciting votes, secondly buy telling employees of your house (which includes your authors) who attend who to vote for. “We’re pushing Fanny Bobble this year, she deserves to win.”
          Three false premises kind of makes it a null argument before you start, but answer your final point: have you any real idea what sort of publicity and marketing spend publishing puts onto their darlings? It’s based on a percentage of the advance, with those below a certain figure getting nothing/included in the ‘also availble’ brochure. The figure changes from house to house, and probably year to year – but I gather can run 25% of the advance. If the advance is vast the overspend is bigger because they need to get it back. I know one author who had more than a million spent on her promo (which included a tour of Europe and the US and dinners with book-buyers and booksellers). Even $50K is not a lot of money in these terms (and the real figure to skew the odds is probably not more than the publisher comping their office staff, and dependants – which is tax deductable, even if they don’t get it back). You will note that almost all of this is outside the control and possibly knowledge of the Worldcon staff or Hugo committee.

          September 10, 2013
          • kastandlee #

            Don’t be daft. You’re seeking to find a conspiracy where none exists. Never suspect a conspiracy when there is an equally likely possibility such as “the members who vote like something else.”

            September 10, 2013
            • Thank you for informing me that the solicitation I recieved to vote for a book I had not read was imaginary. You are not bothering to read properly, and that and actual argument according to rational method (set out basic premises which are beyond dispute, set out a position which can then be proved true or false) is a basic requirement around here. Re-read the comment you are objecting to very carefully. Absorb the word ‘can’. : “The books _can_ be cooked. It’s skewed even without that – A small subset of con-goers vote (and that does not exclude interested parties, enough to be at least decisive), a small set of fandom want to or can afford to go to worldcon, and that group is at least to some extent predicated by which authors are there (which comes down, often enough to comps and money, so opportunity to shift the odds there.)”

              Your arguments fail at every level to disprove any of the above.

              September 10, 2013
              • kastandlee #

                Campaigning for a work is not a conspiracy. It might be distasteful, but it’s not a conspiracy. You want to believe that the system is corrupt simply because you don’t get your way.

                September 10, 2013
                • You labor under a delusion that I _have_ a favorite, or feel someone else in the competition should have won. I simply USED to take the Hugo as a measure of merit, and buy accordingly. I don’t any more, and, if that is a broad trend, that should worry you a great deal. Tell you what, I’ll ask here next week. For it to be a measure of merit a high standard of ethical behavior is needed. And that means lobbying is at least to be frowned on.

                  September 10, 2013
            • Daft? A voting situation where only “stake holders” have a vote can’t be compromised? You, sir, are daft. Do only property owners get to vote on your living situation in your place? One thinks not.

              September 11, 2013
          • kastandlee #

            You seem to think that Hugo Administrators won’t see the pattern of conspiracy you are imagining. They have. If you knew your Hugo Awards history, you’d know that.

            I do not believe that a conspiracy of multiple hundreds of people could possibly be kept secret, and that’s exactly what would be required for your paranoid fantasy to succeed.

            And if you’re saying, “Books that sell well and are heavily advertised are more likely to win,” then that’s not a conspiracy. That’s life.

            September 10, 2013
            • Would you like to provide us with information of the statistical the statistical skills of your administrators? Some show that you HAVE analysed the probability patterns? I’d fascinated seeing as much of the data you would need is not public access and is closely held by the publishing houses themselves. This is something which is my field, which I am busy working on the figures for at the moment. Get over it. You’re totally out of your depth, and, barring the exclusion of an author by your staff (or miscount which no one has accused you of) all the potential problems lie outside your ambit.

              September 10, 2013
              • *mental image of “proof of employment” requirements and legal claims similar to those required to fly– “no, I was not asked to vote for anything….”*

                September 10, 2013
            • Just life… I’m sorry…(Oh my lamentable memory) I had the silly idea that the Hugo was the award for the _best_ Science Fiction or achievement in the field. I missed the fact that it now is for the best MARKETED AND ADVERTISED (or lobbied for) sf. Well, you’re the administrator. You must know. We can quote you on that then? Look, let’s face it. The Hugo no longer commands the respect or has the value it once did as a measure of merit to readers. This is a loss to readers, and to the industry. This is almost certainly not much (if anything) to do with administration, but to the abuse or failure of a system which was intended to measure _merit_, and did once deliver fairly well on those terms. The effective use of the system to find the best on merit requires high standards of ethics from the participants. Where the margins between books are small – one vote would be all it took exclude Dune or This Immortal (both stunning books, worthy winners) if either Herbert or Zelazny had got their mum to vote – they’d have won. They couldn’t know that, but we do have a basis to conclude the margins are sometimes small. Thus a very small amount of unethical behavior can change a lot. Please get it into your head that this is not in WSFC’s control. No one expects you to control it, or particularly blames you for it. It’s just (to use your words) life. That doesn’t mean we have to pretend it doesn’t and can’t happen.

              September 10, 2013
              • kastandlee #

                Oh, for pity’s sake: “Best” can’t be defined objectively. It is and always will be a subjective judgment of the members of the World Science Fiction Society who decide to vote. That’s all it is. And you can quote me on that all you want.

                For anyone to pretend that there is some sort of Platonic ideal of “Best” is being, at best, foolishly idealistic. If you think the Hugo Awards don’t go to the works you like, create your own awards and present them to the works you like. Good luck trying to get anyone to take you seriously.

                And don’t kid yourself: people bitterly criticized the Hugo selections back in your Golden Age, too. You just weren’t there to read it, and the internet hadn’t been invented yet, so the complaints were more difficult to get distributed, so most of them just fumed about it.

                September 10, 2013
                • Looking at your picture, I’m probably older than you are. I started reading sf on my ten year’s-older-than-me’s collection sf – and at that stage we were sure to buy anything that had ‘Hugo winner’ or nominee’ on the cover. Looking at the list, I think I missed 1955’s winner, read most nominees as well, until fairly recently. I actually know a fair amount about the infighting etc. Perhaps you need to find out who I have long term friendships and associations with, before jumping to conclusions. You display great skill at that.

                  Best IS difficult and subjective – I said so earlier, in fact in the very comment you started your little rage in. “I’d say ‘good’ is the problem. One man’s good is China Meiville, another’s toilet paper is the same.”
                  I wish you’d actually read what was written!

                  The fact that it is difficult simply makes it more important to try hard for the sake of a genre I love, for which I wish the best. Foolish idealism it may be. Do make up your mind. One moment you accuse me of being cheat who would crook for his favorites, and next I’m a foolish idealist. I suspect the latter is closer to the truth, but then I think that ideals are worth striving for, be they ever so foolish. I gather you don’t. How do you square that with needing a high level of integrity to be AN administrator? I would have thought it a prerequiste. In fact I assumed it was.

                  I don’t have specific ‘works I like’ that I think an award should have gone to. And yes, actually an alternative is what we’re talking about here: a way for readers to filter the large volume of books, to select what will be good for a lot of people, books that will foster growth in the genre. The problem is that worldcon is not really representative of all readers, and the attendees that vote are not perhaps as foolishly idealistic as they could be, and there is the possibility that interested parties can manipulate things. I’m not sure what an ideal system would be (which I also said before). It is unlikely in the extreme to benefit me, but would benefit the field, which in case you didn’t know, is not doing well. If you have value to add to that, please do. If all you have to add is more wild suppositions, then please go away.

                  September 10, 2013
                  • Looking at your picture, I’m probably older than you are. I started reading sf on my ten year’s-older-than-me’s collection sf – and at that stage we were sure to buy anything that had ‘Hugo winner’ or nominee’ on the cover. Looking at the list, I think I missed 1955′s winner, read most nominees as well, until fairly recently.

                    My reading sources were (Vietnam vet) uncle’s collection, their little sister’s (my mom’s) stuff, and the school library; in my lifetime, it’s gone from “look for stuff with an award” to “AVOID stuff with an award.” Hugo did not manage to overpower that, although it’s not on the list of “utterly avoid if it’s on the title”– which is actually pretty big praise…..

                    September 10, 2013
                    • Snap. On the ‘look for, to avoid’. This, although it is not pleasant news, is what con and award organisers need to know, as this is their source of income to some extent. Our visitor was shooting the messenger telling him what he really needs to know, but doesn’t want to hear. I seriously don’t know what they can do about it. My brother went off to the army in ’65 or 6 IIRC – so it’d be a similar collection :-). Sigh. Great books some of them.

                      September 11, 2013
                    • kastandlee #

                      If you think Worldcon’s organizers make our living by organizing conventions, you’re deluded. Two months ago, I made the last payment on the loan I took out to pay off the personal expenses I incurred bidding for and co-chairing the 2002 Worldcon. None of us get paid for doing this.

                      September 11, 2013
                  • In a life or death situation, such as being stuck on the loo with an empty roll…I choose China Meiville. Good prose; if one wants a book that has well written words and a interestingly described scene but a rather sketchy plot. Plot in a Meiville book exists not to tell a story, but merely a vehicle to move along the prose. Bleag.

                    September 12, 2013
                • Good luck taking seriously the Hugo’s. By and large they suck. They suck big. They suck because they are the result of a group of people that have nothing better to do then spend a long weekend at a clusterfuck. And ten vote on the result of a massive circle jerk. And I, douchebag, can talk about the Golden Age as well. Who the fuck were you back then? What makes your simple ass a SMOF? What life experiance enables you to determine who is a great writer and whom is merely good?

                  September 11, 2013
              • kastandlee #

                And, to correct your factual error here: I am NOT “the administrator” of the Hugo Awards. I am someone who has been one of the administrators three times in the past. The names of the people administering the Hugo Award have been for the past few years been included in the year-by-year information on TheHugoAwards.org, but that’s a relatively recent addition, so there’s a lot of blanks in the past.

                The Hugo Awards are generally administered by a different group of people selected by each year’s Worldcon. Despite your desire for there to be a Sekit Cabal that subverts the will of the Real Men, it’s really a small group of people who work very hard on what they do in relative anonymity. And one of the things for which they are selected is a commitment to being honest and open about the process. What we don’t select for are people who will disregard the votes of the members and pick the their own personal favorites, which is what you’re accusing them of doing, presumably because that’s what you’d do if you were in charge.

                September 10, 2013
                • This is your one and final warning. Ad Hominem attacks are not tolerated around here. Good manners require you to retract what you imagine I’d do. I don’t think you are in any position to even begin to guess. In future you will required to quote what you wish criticize or I will delete your comments, because you’re not reading well. For the record, despite solicitations, I never voted in a single Neb, because I could not find time to read all the works and will not vote unless I can do so fairly. I did not vote at the only Worldcon I attended for the same reason. I felt very guilty about it, because I believe in the need for strong ethical participation.

                  I had at no point assumed there was a secret cabal. I apologise if I was less than clear. I know how it works, and I actually had no criticism of that – if you think I did, please quote the precise words. They exist only in your head, you will find. And will you please get over your sense of grieviance. Basically you’ve had to concur with every point I’ve made in the first place or run off at a tangent rather than do so.

                  September 10, 2013
                • Knew I read it somewhere: “I’ve administered the Hugo Awards three times ” to quote you in an earlier comment to Foxifer.- No mention of ‘ONE OF THE’. So, actually, the factual error is due to your own statement. I can do my best with my mistakes, but yours you need fix yourself.

                  September 10, 2013
                  • kastandlee #

                    There is no factual difference between “I’ve administered the Hugo Awards three times” and “I am someone who has been one of the administrators three times in the past.” Neither one of these statements implies that I am or ever was the One and Only Hugo Administrator in the Whole Wide World.

                    September 10, 2013
                    • (Dour comment.) You know for someone who rushed in to defend something that wasn’t actually attacked, all you’ve managed to do is convince me that at least one of the adminstrators of the Hugo Award squirms and weasels, and doesn’t show the ability to man up and say ‘yes I was wrong about that’ or ‘I shouldn’t have said that’. I know it’s out of fashion but for me that’s the mark of a good, honorable man, who I can trust. It led to one of the more successful collaborations in recent sf history, so it is actually worth doing. Next time you say something that can be read either way, don’t jump to conclusions that I can read your mind and know exactly what you thought you meant. Assume that I could just possibly have read it the way it would seem to most people. At the moment you seem set to do as much damage to your credibility and the Hugo, and those doing their best to administer it well – when nobody else was! Is this your intention, or is it just that you are not used to being challenged?

                      Please understand this: I did not set out to attack you or WSFC. If you actually read what was written you will find this true. I did say that the process is flawed from an area that you have no control over, (publishers and Authors with large social networks) and because the marketing and publicity area has taken such a large role that the value of the Hugo – to readers – has been seriously degraded. I say this not, because as you somewhat bizarrely conclude, my favorite didn’t win. I didn’t have one, or even know who was in the running. I simply compare the calibre of the books winning now, to those that used to, and worry about what this is doing to my favorite genre. It’s a genre in trouble, IMO because marketing and publicity have trumped fun reading by as wide an audience as possible. It makes no major difference to me: I’m an old codger, I can go fishing instead of writing, but I’d still like sf to thrive, because I enjoy reading it.

                      September 10, 2013
                    • In other words you are a disingenuous dick. Thanks for clarifying.

                      September 11, 2013
                • Wait, kastandlee, you said you just paid off a loan you took out to co-chair a WorldCon in 2002…and you call other people daft? You took out a ten year note for an event that in it’s inception was run by a bunch of teenagers in the NYC, Philly and Chicago area. For reals? And ConJose turned a neat profit. 60K iirc.

                  September 12, 2013
          • Foxifer has done a good job of taking apart some of your points. Let me follow through.

            *bow* Thank you on both.

            The funny thing is… on consideration, I don’t really have a problem with “vote buying” for this. It’s 100% what it’s advertised as, and subsidizes the con. It’s only if folks try to inflate it past “based on folks who paid to vote” that I get huffy.

            September 10, 2013
            • (wry smile) I had no problem at all making sense of your ‘it’s cheating even if you merely skew the odds, no matter how where you do it even if you don’t win’. It makes sense to me. Good job. Our ‘one of the administrators’ seemed to feel it was only cheating if he counted the numbers wrong – which it is too, but there’s a lot more to it. I have no problem with those who buy a ticket, vote, but, if you’re not being really short sighted about it, there is no long term point in cooking the books. Look at one time Worldcon was where the hard-core fans went. They cared deeply about sf, read a lot. It was probably not bad sample. Now? Not so much. Also, well, there are legal ways of cooking the books – Lets say Colin Smythe had a book which could be entered for the Hugo, So did Tor. Mr Smythe is one man (who originally published Terry Pratchett). At most it’s him and his author and maybe one spouse voting for P’Terry, an unknown at the time. Tor has 20 staff attending, 40 authors, and enough spice to bring it all up to a hundred and one nominee. (You could repeat this with Baen – they’d have 20 to Tor’s 100 – except the barflies make it an even fight) If you were really wanting the best you’d ask interested parties to recuse themselves in the vote. If they wanted the best they’d be cool with that. A rising tide floats all boats. If what you’re after is your personal success even if means knocking things down, then you go ahead and use your hundred votes.

              September 11, 2013
              • Heaven knows I usually need “making sense of” (explaining) anyways….

                September 11, 2013
                • LOL – the problem for me is always ‘how the hell can you not see something that damned obvious? Do I have to explain it step-by-step?’ At which point I have a patience failure and jump seventeen steps -which doesn’t help the situation ;-/. I’m told that it’s usually a sign of either being too well informed about something – like a vet trying to explain military discipline to a civ, or granny trying to give a 10 year old recipes (and leaving out stuff she doesn’t even think about) or being a little smarter than the average bear. I suspect both apply to you.

                  September 11, 2013
                  • *blush*

                    September 11, 2013
                  • Ok, so my problem with your thesis is this. If I go and look back at the last decade of Hugo winners I see the following:

                    TOR (with their house advantage) – have won 4 times in the last decade from 11 nominations – RotP have won 8 from 29 – similar win to nomination ratios there. There’s a lot of different sizes in imprint there but if the scale of the Tor House effect is real I’d expect to see more evidence.

                    Alternatively I can look at the winners from Tor and see if there’s a pattern:

                    Spin 2006 – I’m a bit ‘meh’ on Spin, I voted for Accelerando, but Charlie Stross was less well known in the US then and probably only made the ballot because of left over Brit nominations from 2005.

                    Rainbow’s End 2007 – no question in my mind best book of the batch and the year.

                    Among Others 2012 – Wasn’t a fan, but a weak field. I voted for Feed because nothing really grabbed me from the list

                    Redshirts 2013 – Weak field, weak book. Didn’t vote this year, but couldn’t finish 2312, and I wouldn’t vote, normally for sequels or series.

                    Years Tor lost…
                    2003 – strong field, didn’t much like the winner, actually voted for KSR that time
                    2004 – didn’t vote, not big on any of them, dealers choice
                    2005 – Ian McDonald got steamrollered by the Bloomsbury Publishing machine… the vote was close, so I’ll give you a point for this being a year that the publisher skewed things
                    2008 – big field, Neil Gaiman won… I expected that to go to Anathem, but big year, hard to call
                    2010 – tie for first, Boneshaker, which I thought was crap, lost
                    2011 – Tor didn’t make the ballot

                    I’ll give you a possible publisher effect for 2005 with Bloomsbury, but I’m struggling to see anything in the last decade that looks like the publishers are having any real impact. Sorry. The data doesn’t support your thesis.

                    September 11, 2013
                    • Daveon, you start with a false premise ‘there is a pattern of winning and it recurs every year’. neither pattern nor recurrence nor winning need to be invoked (i.e. you can interfere with the odds once, or when it suits you, or attempt to do so unsuccessfully. you can also fiddle with the chances of nomination, which is even harder to pick.) Your premise would be possible to detect also if only one house was trying it. If I were doing this for a gambling enterprise the things I’d be looking for would be sudden increases in voting numbers, non-attending votes, any sudden increases in attendance by publishing houses/ their authors, and mostly whether the long term probabilities were correct. This is de facto a popularity contest (which is a good thing IMO) so these should closely approximate, the principle source of error being where a book was hard pushed, sold a lot and wasn’t much liked. The trouble with that is it requires data on titles and actual sales and dates of the same, which are closely held trade data. It would still be hard to prove, and would depend heavily on the degree of manipulation engaged in (if 20 votes will make a big difference, it is very hard to pick up by the best systems. That’s how successful gamblers operate, no vast wins, just a steady small bias towards themselves. Ask a casino operator just how hard it is to track this down. They can and do ban players without proof. Proving it was deliberate, especially if not done regularly would be harder.) As the Hugo had some financial (as well as social cachet) there is motive – and as a friend of mine who writes software said to be me about viruses: If there is opportunity and money, someone _will_ try to exploit it. My point is that it _can_ be done, and legally, if not ethically.
                      Thank you for a thoughtful comment.

                      September 11, 2013
                    • I’m not going to be as nice as Dave Freer because i went back and read what you had to say on your blog about kastandlee being banned here. He was banned because he continued to say people were making statements they weren’t and when called upon to actually quote, he failed to do so. Instead, he moved the goal posts. Since you were so quick to write a post about how we banned Standlee, perhaps you ought to do a little more research. If you did, you’ll see that he is only the third person since the beginning of the blog we’ve ever banned. We welcome debate. We don’t welcome comments that misrepresent what others have said on the blog or that make personal attacks on people. We give warnings and, in Standlee’s case, he received at least two warnings before the ban hammer fell.

                      What I find funny is how folks we’ve never seen on the blog suddenly appear because we’ve invoked the name of Ringo and his comments about Scalzi and the Hugos. Or maybe it’s because we just don’t feel the Hugos have the same meaning for folks that they used to. Or maybe it’s because we’d rather write books people want to buy and read than try to kiss up to the few individuals who can afford a membership just so they can vote on the Hugos. Don’t like what we say, fine. Come debate — as you have done. We appreciate that. But if you want to take swings at us, do it to our face. Don’t run back to your home playground and then whine and talk about how you doubt your comment will make it out of moderation. Sorry to disappoint you on that.

                      September 11, 2013
                    • I went over to look…and was amused to see that the first comment is from someone I know over at Jordan’s place. Not as bad as Yama the Space Fish, but that’s an incredibly low bar.

                      September 11, 2013
                    • Dave – yes, it could be done.

                      But I can’t see a single shred of data that it is being done, which is more or less my point. Nicholas Whyte did another analysis based on frequency of incidence on Goodreads and that correlates with recent winners, including Redshirts, very closely.

                      It wasn’t a great book IMO, it wasn’t a great year either. But at the heart of the issue is John Scalzi is a commercial author who writes stuff people like. Is he creating high art? Nope. Is he intending to? Based on reading Whatever, again nope. Does John Scalzi work hard to write stuff that will sell. Hell yes.

                      He’s been doing it consistently since he left college and all power to him for that.

                      I’d love to see you do some further analysis on the data, it’s all public. I just strongly suspect that you’ll see no evidence of an publisher action in the award process.

                      September 11, 2013
                    • Ok Amanda, just to be clear. I don’t remotely think Kevin moved any goal posts, I think he was generally being quite restrained in the face of some utterly preposterous statements which showed no real understanding of, nor interest in the mechanics of the Hugo Award process.

                      As I pointed out, with maths, was there’s not a single shred of evidence that I can find, except for 2005 where the publishers might have influenced anything. Kevin cares deeply about the Hugo Awards and he cares deeply about keeping things above board. I know him reasonably well and you’d have a hard job finding somebody more inherently honest than him. He views the tone of this blog as an attack on his integrity and having read all the posts myself, I completely agree. Sorry. But that is how you have come across to me in this thread.

                      As for how people found you? I got her via James Nicholl’s livejournal. And as for ‘running back to a home playground’ – one of the problems with the Blogsphere is it’s really rather hard not to. It’s one of the reasons I still like Livejournal, old fashioned as it undoubtedly is.

                      September 11, 2013
                    • Daveon,
                      I’ll give you this much, I don’t know that there’s necessarily a publisher bias in the Hugos, oh wait, when was the last time a Baen author won a Hugo? Oh wait, tons of nominations for Larry Corriea got _thrown out_ because some entitled idiot with delusions of godhood thought they were somehow fraudulent.

                      Why? Because Larry got up on his hind legs and did what he does better than anyone (and I defy you to say me nay) in the industry and promoted himself.

                      Jerry flipping POURNELLE doesn’t have one of those silver dildoes sitting on his desk. Are you seriously going to tell me that any of the drek which has won a Hugo in the last 20 years was better than Lucifer’s Hammer, or holds a fucking candle to Mote in God’s Eye?

                      Good GOD man, what does it take to get through to you people that the Hugos are a not-fucking-funny joke?

                      They mean NOTHING, except — rather like the Pulitzer — that you hold the right ideas and suck the naughty bits of the right sorts of people.

                      Scalzi winning a Hugo is like Obama winning a Nobel Peace Prize. Neither of them has done anything to actually earn it and in both cases it shows us what a farce the awards have become.

                      September 11, 2013
                    • Kitteh-Dragon #

                      Out of morbid curiosity – Are the Hugos restricted to being won by authors published by only two houses? Because I only see you “running the numbers” for two houses. Which makes those numbers nonsense. And makes me wonder how anything you say can be remotely applied to the actuality of the Hugos?

                      September 11, 2013
          • Oh, and buying Con memberships for your employees, and telling them what your business prefers, would be deductible, skew the odds and be a really nice treat to improve employee loyalty.

            Dear Husband went to PAX one year as a military recruiter– would’ve gladly paid for the privilege AND provided a spike in high tech queries. (Plus, all of the “Wow, man, you have an awesome costume” comments about his digicamies were priceless.)

            It’s not like someone’s double-checking that they “vote right.”

            September 10, 2013
  4. I vote that everybody sends me books and storeis, along with eating and rent money, and I will decide which books and stories are the best for the year. I’ll take care of the fannish side. That ex-librarian chick who reviews everything on Amazon can be the non-fandom voter. We pledge to be fair and thorough.

    September 9, 2013
    • Heh. That used to be my daydream job… trouble is you soon start to suffer from the same flaw as NY editors do (Okay ONE of the same) – which is that you’d stop being a typical reader…

      September 9, 2013
      • Ori Pomerantz #

        We have juries because when you have people who are legal professionals their opinions of what is reasonable get to be very different from those of typical people.

        Maybe we need a similar system here.

        September 9, 2013
        • I was passed over for jury duty once on that issue. When I said I was an engineer, the councel noted that I deal with absolutes (it works or it doesn’t) all day, and would I be comfortable with the concept of “reasonable doubt”. I said that I had not problem with the idea of reasonable doubt, and noted “however, what I believe is reasonable and what you might think are reasonable may be two different things”. I said nothing more than the truth, but he did not want me on the jury for some reason …

          September 13, 2013
    • You’d wind up reading slush, and that just isn’t good for the brain. really.

      September 9, 2013
    • Are you talking about Cedar?

      September 10, 2013
      • While I am an ex-librarian chick, and I do reviews on Amazon, that’s hardly enough to have made an impression. I think she’s talking about someone else.

        September 12, 2013
  5. Dan Lane #

    “Actually, all it is, is a popularity contest – which thus comes down to either your book is widely read and loved, and/or you network and self-publicise well, or your publisher/friends do so for you.”

    I don’t see but two options here. One, the popularity contest, is already well represented. Sure, we dress it up in pretty colors- okay, some are unflattering in a “your mother dresses you funny” way, but still that’s the basic structure. Get a bunch of folks to vote for this piece, which is already well known, so the award means… Yeah. Covered. The popularity contest might as well be the NYT bestseller list and nothing more for all the real difference it makes? Maybe so, but it has some (small) impact. One thing the Hugos do right is to provide those who give them money with copies of the works nominated, and this can introduce one to authors and stories heretofore unknown- because we aren’t made of time any more than we are of money.

    The second option also already exists. That is the works selected by a smaller group with an outlet to a larger audience. Think magazines, blogs even. There’s some element of popularity contest here, but in microcosm. That’s just part of human nature, I guess. If you trust that small group enough, you might take a look at their suggestions (e.g. award winners). Many of those that still exist have eroded their fanbase and narrowed their appeal. This does not serve the greater readership, it is only agenda pushing.

    Granted, I’m an agenda pusher of sorts myself. I’ve got some strong opinions, and those color how I view a story in the long run. Picking a work that will have broad appeal looks like it would be *tough* on the one hand, and ridiculously simple on the other. What makes a really good story? What factors can damn near everybody agree on? Military Sci-Fi is niche, but something I am quite fond of- I have shelves full of such things. Others might find these as completely uninteresting as I do Harlequin Romances. Is it like porn- you know it when you see it? Is it like art- if you have to explain it, it sucks? Is it like friendship- you know you have it when you realize you’ve already started to care what the other person thinks? Is it like sex- you know how good it is when you have to compare everything else to it? *grin*

    If I knew *what* basic factors would have the broadest appeal, you’d better believe I’d find a way to market that and make money off of it. Start my own Readers Monthly and charge a few pence per copy, just talk about great books and tell everyone where to find them. This would be option two- the Great and Powerful Wizard will tell you what’s what, so Read This Next. Some already claim that title, and are quite sure they know what you *really* should be reading. The way of the PeaSea is misleading, though- it promises wide appeal, but never delivers.

    It all may go back to the ur-tropes that run through the human condition- triumph over evil, boy meets girl, and so on. The latter could explain the continuing success of the romance genre. That’s one element, maybe. Another might be does this story convey any emotion? Is it seamless, or is it cumbersome or trite? How well can someone fall into the story and see the things they author never mentions- how well does it inspire the imagination, how immersive is it? How a story answers these and more might answer the “is it good?” question.

    On the one hand, I want to pick this apart and understand how it works, on the other, I don’t want anything to really get in the way of my enjoying a good story. A good award/publicity engine would be able to tell me “If you like Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, and Robert Heinlein put in a blender, you’ll probably like the smoothie that is ‘Space Waitress Solves The Case’ a compilation by Eamon, Pohjalainen, et. al.” Any independently wealthy readers want to take a stab at fixing this for me?

    Oh and apologies to Sarah, Dave, and everybody else whose ideas I might have maybe possibly stole from. It wasn’t intentional, they were just sitting there, all unattended-like…

    September 9, 2013
    • Eamon #

      It’s good that you picked up those ideas, Dan. Unattended ideas are…crafty/sneaky/dangerous things. Little disembodied racoons poking about in all the cubbys and cabinets. Just be careful, they breed well, even in captivity.

      September 9, 2013
      • neuter the bloody things. Honestly otherwise they’ll eat you out of house-and-home.;-)

        September 11, 2013
    • Dan, I do apologise – your comment was worth a lot of thought, so I left to when i had a decent break and, lo, I had Mr Self-important Obnoxious who was determined we were attacking him. Search on tropes and themes is definitely something that I reckon will happen. The hard trick is going to be telling the difference between a great writer and someone who gets the tropes, themes, and still makes you fall asleep 🙂 In the medium term, I reckon a decent search operating in a different way — possibly working on this ‘these folk like each other, share similar views and interests and therefore have a reasonable chance of liking the same books’ – will evolve. Hell, i take book commendations from my brother as 95% accurate, and many of my friends as pretty damn close.

      September 11, 2013
      • Dan Lane #

        Apology accepted, sir, though you needn’t do so. Life has its way of dragging our attention away sometimes. At least, it does mine. I am trying to school myself in patience. Actually, I have been trying to do so for over thirty years, and while I can admit to some success (I no longer throw tantrums when Spiderman does not come on tv when I want it to *grin*) I’m also reminded the the world is much, much bigger than me. This gives me time to read stories while I wait.

        The- I can’t help but call it ‘clumps’ method in my head, though it does sound rather silly- where you get folks with similar tastes sharing book recommendations is probably the most effective. I know I do this with my reader friends. There’s the hard sci-fi nerd, the fantasy geek, the urban fantasy girl, the classic romance sisters, and so on… I can see a “what my friends are reading” app or something very like, linked to Amazon and iDevice and other such technogadgetry being quite successful that way.

        Mr. Self Important was quite bizarre. Is there such a thing as a reverse troll? Someone who comes around loudly and ineptly defending a thing with fallacies and calumnies in order to discredit that thing? Perhaps I am giving that particular denizen too much credit. *shakes head*

        Perhaps tying the reading app with something that incentivizes one to use it, like revolving discounts (new discounted books ever month or so, maybe 15%) would draw folks to it. LinkedIn does something with jobs like this, I think? Anyway, another thing I think helps is reviewing books. I don’t have any statistics to support this (there is this amazon website that talks about it some), but if someone cares enough to write a review on goodreads or amazon (or both, and more…), then they are probably more likely to tell their friends about the book. Not sure how to really encourage reviewing, though, seems either one is predisposed to do so or not.

        In the mean time, the savvy reader marks his recommendations well, to encourage his favorite writers to write faster by giving them money via royalty checks and sales… *grin*

        September 12, 2013
        • You know Dan, that’s a corker of an idea! A ‘what my friends are reading (and how much they like it)’ app is an idea i just _love_. It’s the first one of these app type things I’ve ever hear of that I’d be dead keen on. Google + seems another obvious place for something like this. Because, yeah, you can go to goodreads, or people who bought this also bought, but hell, the opinions I trust and value are from the people who are friends, with whom I share common ground and interests (and given the relatively few degrees of seperation, my friends are likely to derive their reads from people I would share common ground with, if I knew them) Heh. Ori is always nagging me to start a reading list because he trusts my tastes – next time I’ll suggest he gets some clever app writer to devise it.

          I must say our troll’s skill at opening his mouth to change feet was truly stunning. I thought I was good at it, but he took it to shock and awe level.

          September 12, 2013
          • Ori Pomerantz #

            I’ll think about it. The main issues are:

            1. Where do I get your reading list from?
            2. Where do I get my friend list (to see that you’re there) from? How do I get people to rate whether they think a particular friend has a similar taste in books?

            It will probably need to be a Facebook application.

            September 12, 2013
            • Dan Lane #

              Reading list would most easily be from Kindle and similar reading software- these application exists across platforms, so integration would be… interesting. I don’t even know if Kindle set up to export the current book that will open when you turn it on. I know you have that bookmark file to hold your place, if that has a timestamp on it that could possibly work for this.

              “My friends” list involves something I tend to avoid. *sigh* You’re right, social networking is going to be key there. A facebook app, an android/iDevice app, even one for e-readers and so on, all tied together… You’d need probably a lot of server bandwidth if this moves.

              For connecting people, a lot of us use instant messaging software (icq, yahoo i.m., etc). That mechanic exists already. Linking to these programs would be complicated (legally? I dunno, just sounds that way). I already use icq to recommend books to my friends overseas.

              Automating this on a phone or on my desktop would take up very little of *my* bandwidth on the client side, just a few bits to identify “Sci-Fi brother in Germany” and a text line with hyperlink to Amazon that says “Reading ‘A Mankind Witch’ by David Freer” and a star rating. Maybe have that rating clickable in case the reader wants what you personally think of the book- I don’t know about other people, but I generally talk about what the book is and why they should read it just a little bit anyway.

              September 13, 2013
  6. Dave,

    I just got around to reading this and thought I’d leave a comment concerning the Hugo-defending kstandlee. As best I can tell, trolling to defend the “integrity” of the Hugo award is a hobby of his. Three years ago, I wrote a column for Bruce Bethke’s (now defunct) Friday Challenge website concerning Fredrick Pohl being awarded the Hugo for Best Fan Writer. I thought (and still think) Pohl should never have been considered for the award and that Pohl should have removed his name from consideration.

    Interestingly enough, a “Kevin Standlee” — who had never, ever commented on anything else ever written for the site (over 1300 total posts) — came and argued with me and several other readers about the issue. Honestly, seeing the same Hugo Hitman trolling for any negative opinions about the award tends, in my opinion, to lend credence to the conspiracy theories. Unless Standlee really has his entire life wrapped up in the Hugo awards.

    Here’s the column, if anyone wants to see Standlee’s comments:

    http://thefridaychallenge.blogspot.com/2010/09/ruminations-of-old-goat_20.html

    September 11, 2013
    • kastandlee #

      I’m the same person. I’m one of the relatively small number of people who actually do have formal responsibility for watching after the registered service marks that WSFS owns. For instance, you can’t set up your own “Hugo Awards,” just because you don’t like the existing ones any more than you could start selling flavored soda water under the name “Coca-Cola.”

      I simply don’t like people spreading lies about how the Hugo Awards work. Disliking the taste of the voters is one thing (and not debatable, it being subjective), but distorting facts and coming up with conspiracy theories about how the entire system is a lie and there’s no point in participating because the Big Sekrit Cabal controls everything get my goat. I shouldn’t let it. I should let such folks stew in their own delusions, I reckon. It’s like arguing with Birthers, who get to make up their own facts as well as their own opinions.

      Incidentally (addressing another comment), I was born in 1965. So I guess I’m simultaneously a young whipper-snapper who doesn’t know how the Real World works and an Old Fogey who needs to die already so that Real Fans (i.e. those under 30) can have all the toys already.

      September 11, 2013
      • This is the very last warning you get, kastandlee. YOU are the one who came in here and started playing the shifting goal posts game. Dave’s post did not spread lies about the Hugos any more than I can sprout wings and fly. If you want to know why folks don’t respect the Hugos like they once did, read the stories coming out about how authors find out their titles were removed from consideration AFTER the award ceremony. Ask the common sf/f reader to name the last Hugo winner they read — most won’t even be able to tell you what the Hugo is. Hell, we’re writers and the so-called premier award for our genre isn’t well-known. How pitiful is that? Folks know about the Oscar and the Tony and the Emmy, even if they don’t watch much TV or go to many movies. But not the Hugo.

        Now look at what Dave said. Read it, put your dictionary beside you so you can easily look up the words you don’t understand. Then I suggest you offer him an apology for misstating what he wrote. BTW, if you haven’t figured it out yet, Dave is the nice one of the bloggers here. He’s our like our little brother and we don’t take kindly to folks calling him a liar, especially not trolls who have never been to the blog before and who, I feel confident to say, will never return — unless we discuss your tarnished award some more.

        September 11, 2013
        • kastandlee #

          If you are talking about Mary Robinette Kowal’s novelette being ruled a dramatic presentation, based on previous precedent regarding audiobook productions: It is very possible that the communication could have been handled better; however, the administrator were not acting in bad faith, in my opinion. Or do you think that they should contact every person who receives even one Hugo Award nominating vote to tell them, “Sorry, you got votes but you’re not on the ballot”?

          (Note that it appears quite likely that the written-word (as opposed to the spoken-word) version of Kowal’s story will be eligible for next year’s Hugo Awards, should the voters choose to nominate it then. And every member of this year’s Worldcon is eligible to nominate next year.)

          If you want to believe that there are Massive Conspiracies of Big Bad People to skew the results or to defraud Poor Defenseless Authors by Fat Cat Conrunners making Big Bucks, well, I guess I can’t stop you any more than you can sprout wings and fly.

          Ironically, from the blogoverse, I take it that the Hugos were mishandled both due to a massive left-wing politically correct publisher-controlled feminist conspiracy and a massive right-wing sexist racist homophobic conspiracy at the same time. I guess people have to have something to believe in.

          Running the Hugo Awards is a lot more difficult than you think it is. The last time I was involved in actually administering them was 2002, and I’ve been very leery of accepting the offers to do so again since then. If you think it’s easy, I invite you to go try and set up your own awards that are Done Right. These folks say they want to try to do so. Maybe you should go help them give awards to the Right People.

          September 11, 2013
          • Okay, I warned you. Hammer is falling. Nowhere did I say anything about any sort of conspiracy. Nor did I, or anyone else here, say we thought running the Hugos was easy. What I did say was to look at what others think if you want to know why the Hugos aren’t held in the same light they once were. I also suggested you go back and actually read what Dave wrote. Instead, you come back and continue the same line you were warned about. So, the hammer falls — and this is after having consultation with other members of the blog. You make only the third person we’ve had to do this to.

            September 11, 2013
            • Dan Lane #

              And this is one of the reasons I read this blog. Thank you, Amanda, and Dave, and all the rest.

              It’s nice to see accountability and responsibility upheld and respected here. *grin*

              September 11, 2013
              • Thanks, Dan. Of course, if you look through the later comments, you will see that there’s at least one person who doesn’t agree with you 😉

                September 11, 2013
                • Dan Lane #

                  *chuckle* I admit it, I was skimming those when my eyes started to glaze over. Sixteen hour days sometimes do that.

                  Looking back at our provocateurs, I’m slightly embarrassed. When I was in college, I used to gloss over the drunks passed out in the stairwells, too. For much the same reason.

                  I try not to get fiesty with people online, because I’m not a very quick thinker. The fact that I need a copyeditor (or at least a very active conscience) to keep me from making a fool of myself online keeps me from getting *too* uppity. *grin*

                  Hopefully, no one notices when I fumble a metaphor about sledgehammers and flies on another blog I comment on sometimes…

                  I’m also kind of slow in that I think most people are like me, in that they look back at what they said and think “wow, I could have put that better” and give them the benefit of the doubt…

                  Then later find out I probably shouldn’t have. *shakes head*

                  September 12, 2013
      • The Hugo is now not what it used to be. Now, It’s a popularity contest conducted amongst those who have nothing else to do with their lives except on a long weekend. I’m sure, kastandlee, that you conduct a fair and square election amongst a group of sadly nerdy people, who all pat themselves on the back for how cool they feel for reading the latest SF version of a progressive screed..and liking it.

        Shit, dude, did you read all the crap posted about Scalzi? He pwned you…though he will never admit it. You sensitive folks bought it hook, line and sinker.

        September 11, 2013
    • I think you’re quite correct, Henry. The sort of inept to outright stupid ‘defense’ that the unpleasant troll put up did more to make people suspicious than anything anyone else said. I honestly cannot see what he hoped to gain by it, as it was completely self-defeating. As I said earlier, I used to see ‘Hugo’ as commendation. That’s gone south badly lately. Possibly my old-fashioned tastes just don’t run in tandem with the modern Worldcon goer, but Standlee did absolutely nothing for his or its credibility, and made me certain to avoid, rather buy a Hugo winner. I wonder how on earth that contributes to protecting the value of his brand?

      September 11, 2013
  7. I’m having a computer issue at the moment, so it is difficult to reply. The self-important kstandlee appears to have set out to tarnish his own reputation and that of the Hugo, and reduce the chances of readers attending Worldcon, and has been remarkably successful at that, IMO. His only other skill appears to be a to show folk why a lack of elementary good manners is obnoxious and counterproductive. He’s added nothing of value, misinterpreted and deliberately distorted everything that was said, broken the house rules, been warned, ignored the warnings and is henceforth unable to post. Own goals seem his special skill but he’s thus unable to exercise what I suspect is a self-elected defense role. Wasn’t that clever? Like the rest of his comments.

    Try to learn.

    September 11, 2013
  8. Daveon – what is it about you and your ilk, that seems to impact your ability to read or do stats? The most important piece of data is that of book sales – which is not public domain. If you read and could understand the rest of what I said (and actually I can prove things with maths, unlike your ‘proof’.) you would see your ‘proof’ is nothing of the kind. Go and read the original post and you will find my comment on hard work and talent. You whine about the tone – but it’s just fine for your friend to come and never – mind his tone – come up with a series of totally unsupported increasingly crazy insults, I’m a cheat, I’m upset because my chosen didn’t win, I’m like a birther (which is really hilarious, considering where I live), daft and a conspiracy theorist and ignorant. Almost every single comment he made was in some way derogatory, and mostly not actually correct in substance either. Every time this was pointed out to him he was too gutless to say, ‘okay fair enough, I read that wrong’. He came up with a series of bizarre statements which came out of his head, and accused me of saying them. For instance: The only person, literally the only person who made any reference to income or integrity of con-runners was him. But somehow we were running them down? The sekrit cabal lunacy was never mentioned by another soul. Whut? When asked to quote on various accusations, he couldn’t. He was warned, ignored it, after a degree of tolerance seldom shown elsewhere, booted. As a result he will be unable to do what he plainly cares about, and damaged himself and it. Now, this is your final warning too. Read properly without preconceptions, engage thought, reply don’t run off and bad-mouth on your own site, and you’re welcome. Break even one of those rules and you’re out.

    September 12, 2013
    • Dan Lane #

      Furthermore, Daveon, read *carefully.* I know Kevin is your friend, you’ve said so, but look at the comments with a bit of objectivity. Yes, we’re a bit of a rough and tumble group here sometimes. We’re all adults, and expect each other to act accordingly, no matter that we are many miles away from each other through the internet. However, look at where I see this all started.

      “I don’t know where you got “five votes each.” Each member, supporting and attending, gets one and only one vote. If you think your method will work, I’m not sure (you) understand how instant-runoff voting works.” (parenthesis mine).

      I’ve a bad habit of being pedantic, so I recognize it when other people do it. Kevin was talking down to Foxfier, and deserved what he got. In the post I just quoted, he admitted to getting “riled.” Losing one’s temper in an argument may be common, but that does not excuse his actions thereafter. Those actions, those words, are what drew down the consequences he received. Note how he retaliated by escalating through scorn, accusation, ad hominem attacks after this point. This is classic “trollish” behavior. Please counsel him to not do this, as a friend, because it will only cause him more grief.

      For yourself, absence of evidence (“not a single shred of evidence”) is not evidence of absence. Arguments from disputed authority (“Sorry. The data doesn’t support your thesis.”) are also not a strong basis. On the “not great books” you will see that those points have been made here, as well by others- that’s a large part of what we are lamenting! Whether the Hugos are/are not subject to manipulation is a diversion that is more important, I believe, to you and Kevin than it is to us.

      I would *like* to see an sf award that I truly care about. Of all the books I read last year, and it was not all of science fiction and fantasy published that year by a long stretch, I’d have to say Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter Legion was a runaway favorite for me at the time (I’m still discovering good books, some found right here through MGC). It has a lot of the qualities I look for in a book that *should* win some award- because it is a good read, and has wide appeal. You may disagree, and that’s fine.

      I will say that over the years, the Hugo winners- Scalzi, Meiville, Stross et al- none of them have been truly satisfying. Why is this disturbing? Because there were books I read in those years that were, that I recommended to several friends who agreed. Not that “they should have won! The process is rigged!” Just that noting a book has won a Hugo is now a factor that tells me I may well not like this book- it is a caution, not a praise. That is a sad thing for the Hugos. It pales beside the larger issue I see in the sci-fi genre, *finding* the good books and reading them has become… more difficult.

      In short, the point is not “Hugo awards are subject to possible vote shenanigans!” Though there remains enough reasonable doubt to suggest to *my* mind that it is *possible,* that, again, is not the point here. It’s quibbling over minutiae. The larger issue of how to grow the genre, identify good authors (and stories), communicate this knowledge throughout the sci-fi reading public, and support those authors with our purchases… That is worth my time much more than minor little details.

      September 12, 2013
  9. To those who insist that the Hugos are relevant:

    I was in a bookstore (not as common for me as it once was) and picked up a book that looked interesting on the cover. Flipped it over to read the blurb… and put it down. Emblazoned across the back was “Hugo Winner!” and in that two words, I knew I wasn’t going to want to read it. (It was, for the curious, the 2010 novel winner Windup Girl)

    These days, I find books I want to read through recommendations, reviews, but never awards. And as you can see, as a reader I’m inclined to avoid a book that has won an award, because I know the popular taste and mine do not align. I’ve thought about buying a vote for the Hugos many times. I know it’s only about $50, and I get a bunch of material to read so I can assess my vote. Why didn’t I? Well, because I’d have to read all that crap in order to fulfill my personal honor and vote for the best thing. Do you really think all Hugo voters have that kind of honor? How much do you know about people? Most of what is nominated is not to my taste, and I’m not going to give up what little reading time I have left to bother.

    Instead, I’ll buy authors I know and like, ones that have honor and treat their fans graciously. I don’t interact with all the authors I read, but I have dropped authors who disappointed me as a reader, including the guy who won the Hugo this year, because he revolted me with a book that ought never have been written about a beloved universe a better man than he could ever dream of being invented, and then he sullied. As a reader, I will never forget that, or forgive it.

    September 12, 2013
    • Dan Lane #

      You dodged a bullet, miss. There was indeed a lot of crap in this years’ nominees, and only about two worthwhile (that, for me, includes Schlock Mercenary, I think, which is comic goodness but not a “book” book…). Those are hours I will not get back, and I ended up not voting because I was still a few novellas and some long form short of being done when the final votes were being tallied. It would not have been a fair vote, thus the abstention.

      I read Old Man’s War and was interested enough to buy the sequel… and stopped there. I was initially interested in the *concept* of this years’ winner, but after peeking inside quickly realized I should have learned my lesson the last time.

      I am going to miss bookstores. They are a lot less common now than they were when I was in college about ten years ago. I used to dream of owning my own bookstore, because books! Now I just want to be independently wealthy, so I have more occasion to read and the financial wherewithal to get all the new books I want when they come out, rather than having to budget for them… *chuckle*

      September 12, 2013
      • I once thought a used bookstore would be my idea of the perfect job… now, over a decade of self-employment has taught me more than a few lessons.

        As for budgeting for books, yes, and I went to primarily ebooks to help with that, too.

        September 13, 2013

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