Of Puppies and Principles

I have, courtesy of being narcoleptic, rather more experience with psychology than I would like, what with the way long-term sleep deprivation causes interesting psychiatric/psychological issues. I’ve also studied it the formal way and informally via observation and a lot of reading. Not to mention, I learned how to interact with humans by explicit observation and deduction because I’m sufficiently Odd not to get it the normal way (by osmosis while growing up).

Anyway, this little piece of anecdata leads to some thoughts about what could be considered the Sad Puppy Manifesto (although it isn’t, since the Sad Puppy organizers were – and are – more interested in doing stuff and getting results from said doings than in writing manifestos. Besides, the usual purpose of a manifesto is so the factions can have wars to the death over the wording of Chapter 27, Paragraph 45, Clause 15… Oh wait. That’s political manifestos. Nevermind). Despite this and the individual color of the three campaigns to end Puppy-Related Sadness, there actually are some broad principles that underlie the Sad Puppies campaigns.

  1. Story first. This doesn’t mean that other things aren’t important. It just means the most important thing is a story that grabs readers by the collar and hauls them into its world.
    1. Characters nearly first. Characters readers can relate to and empathize with (this does not mean readers need to like them, nor does it mean readers have to be exactly the same as them. It just means the characters have to make sense in context, do things that make sense to readers, and have goals that make sense to readers. Bonus points if you, the evil author, can have someone agreeing with a character who is doing something the reader actively loathes.
  2. Meaning and message should arise naturally from the characters and plot, not stop the action for a sermon. It’s natural for a commanding officer to let loose a lecture/tirade to a recalcitrant subordinate. It’s not natural for the hero to pause in the middle of slaying the monster to ponder the feminist psychosexual subtext of the monster’s appearance. He can do that later in his nightmares.
  3. Respect the readers. This should be bloody obvious, but it’s pretty obvious from some of the commentary that there are people who’ve missed it. I look at it this way: my potential readers are anyone capable of reading English who enjoys science fiction and fantasy. That is a hell of a lot of people, and they come from all kinds of places and lifestyles. There are city-dwellers, rednecks, bored housewives, computer programmers, you name it – and that’s just in this country. All of them have their own ideas about how things should be. Don’t assume they’re inferior to you – and if you do believe such a thing, try not to let it into your writing (and if you can’t, make sure an editor you trust cleans it out).
  4. The award that matters most is people buying the work. That doesn’t mean other awards aren’t nice: we all like a bit of recognition now and then. But if with all the millions upon millions of people out there who could be reading we can’t build an audience over time, then something isn’t working right. It could be sucky distribution. It could be that presentation or some of those other intangibles need a bit of a boost. It could also be that you’re writing for an audience of half-a-dozen and you’re already selling to them. (If so, do consider broadening your horizons a little bit).
  5. More voters and more votes mean more representative results. In 2008, fewer than 500 nomination ballots were cast for the Hugo awards. There were categories where the nominated works had fewer than 20 votes. In that environment, it doesn’t take much for someone with an agenda and a loyal following to push out anything they don’t like. In 2015, more than 2000 nomination ballots were cast. That makes it harder for things like the Sad Puppies campaigns, or our not at all hypothetical person with an agenda to push out everything else – but it doesn’t make it impossible. More people voting means that absent corruption on the part of the officials (which doesn’t appear to be a factor based on the information that’s publicly available), the results will tend to reflect the desires of the broader public (because the voters are a sample – and by the very nature of statistics, larger samples tend to be more representative of the overall population than smaller samples – and yes, I know it’s not that bloody simple. I’m trying to keep this short and failing miserably).

So, the tl;dr version? Plot and characters over message, respect your readers and really respect the ones who hand over their hard-earned money to buy your works, and the more voters at all stages of the Hugo awards, the better.

So, if you’re a member, read the stories, then decide which way you’re going to vote.

And while you’re at it, review the WorldCon 2017 Site Selection bids and pay your $40 to vote for the one you prefer: you’ll get automatic supporting membership for WorldCon 2017 before the price goes up.

You don’t get to bitch about the result if you don’t participate in the process.

71 Comments

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71 responses to “Of Puppies and Principles

  1. John in Philly

    Worldcon in 2017. Washington DC is an easy driving distance from Philly, but it is Washington DC. So do I easily drive to Mos Eisley Spaceport, or make a nice road trip to Canada.

    I have to download the Hugo stories and start reading.

    John

    • lonejanitor

      wish they’d do one in Denver… but I guess Kansas City might be in driving range.

      • emily61

        I wish they’d do one in Dallas.

        • Kate Paulk

          Fort Worth isn’t *quite* Dallas, but I dare say it’s a tad closer than Denver, KC, or DC. That one looks like a feeler for the viability of 2021.

      • Kate Paulk

        There have been 3 Denver world cons, if I remember right. I was at the last one.

      • B. Durbin

        Denver had it in 2008. We attended with a wee baby (though not the youngest at the convention.)

      • Holly

        Denver Worldcon was almost seven years ago. We were going to go, Lois McMaster Bujold was the guest of honor, but, well, Fourth Son will be seven this July.

    • Kate Paulk

      My driving limit is around 5 hours in a day, so DC hits the sweet spot despite, well… DC.

      Although, to be fair, the DC bid isn’t so much “WorldCon in DC” as a friendly takeover of what looks like a freaking awesome convention center and hotel which, alas, happens to reside in DC.

      • Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

        I like DC. Far nicer city than Las Vegas. One has decent museums, the other has signs saying, ‘Our girls are really dirty – Mud Wrestling tonight!’

  2. or as RAH put it…
    Robert A. Heinlein — ‘Certainly the game is rigged. Don’t let that stop you; if you don’t bet you can’t win.’

    • Kate Paulk

      Precisely. It’s possible to win even when the game is rigged against you, but as the actress said to the bishop, “Do me a favor, and buy a ticket.”

  3. H.P.

    Regarding message, I would add another point. Virginia Woolf said of Sir Walter Scott that you couldn’t tell what he was or which side he came down on. Authors should continue to strive for the same. Deep and weighty issues should be presented and presented in their rich and messy fullness. Characters should be honest, zealous advocates (but organically so) of their own beliefs and positions. Too often we get Mary Sues burning fields of straw men so simplistically arranged as to make a politician blush. And this may mean that Truffaut Was Right, but fiction makes a pretty poor vehicle for advocacy.

    • Kate Paulk

      Well, yes. It’s possible for a good author of any political stripe to write excellent plot and believable characters who have completely different politics than they do personally. Sometimes even in the same book. It makes the books more fun that way.

      • It’s one of the reasons I admire John Wright’s work so much: he wrote Awake In the Night and One Bright Star back when he was a fire-and-brimstone atheist. You’d never be able to guess.

  4. Pingback: Love in the Time of Collars 5/21 | File 770

  5. Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

    Problem is that Sad Puppies are attacking the wrong issue. I’m digging for numbers to support my thesis.

    • What issue do you believe would be better?

      • Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

        That’s a really long answer, which I’d rather not post here (WordPress is good for posts, but a pain in the backside for long comments). I’m going to post it on ZauberSpiegal in a day or so.

  6. Hey, Kate, I hope I’m not speaking out of turn, but as She Who Must Be Obeyed come 2016 puppy season, I hope you’ll let me assist in broadening the options for graphic works selection. I did, literally, write the book (okay, **a** book on the topic. And yes, it’s been more than a decade since A Core Collection for Young Adults came out, but I’m actively involved in Anime fandom, and review GNs regularly for work.

    We live in a golden age of visual storytelling, and Worlcon has been kind of backward in recognizing what’s out there.

    • P.S. Um.. How do you feel about unicorns? wanders off whistling a tune

    • H.P.

      I hope she takes you up on that. The lone SP recommendation for GN was very disappointing.

    • Kate Paulk

      Oh, I’d LOVE to see a broader range for graphic works.

    • I’m curious (as a cartoonist myself); what works do you think should have been nominated in graphic works this year, but weren’t?

      • Does the category include webcomics? I’d throw in Oglaf, but I’m a sick puppy. 🙂

        • The category does include webcomics (and several webcomics have actually won the category in the past). Nominating Oglaf would be awesome, imo. Definitely a better choice than The Zombie Nation.

          (Not that there was anything wrong with The Zombie Nation. But it’s not an outstanding work, either, let alone one of the five best of year.)

        • Amulet, Drive, Delilah Dirk, Freefall, Stand Still Stay Silent, Zita the Space Girl, Schlock Mercenaries (always a bridesmaid, never a bride 🙂 Attack on Titan.

          And that’s just the stuff I liked this year that is actually science fiction. If you expand to fantasy, the list gets even bigger.

        • Not only are webcomics included, webcomic “Girl Genius” took the award three years running as soon as the category was instituted!

          And last year, Randall Munroe won for the single XKCD mega-pseudo-strip “Time.”

          It can be a fun category 🙂

  7. Sounds like a close cousin to the Human Wave manifesto….

  8. Tuomas Vainio

    Thumb up!

  9. Cat

    I did participate in the nomination process. Despite having a higher bar to get over since I did it without reference to a slate that demonstrably pushed better works off the ballot.

    • So, now you know how 90% of the electorate feels.

      But, if you like, instead of that insane math thing they proposed over at MakingLight, you might look at my two-round proposal, which a) prevents multiple slates from dominating, and b) gives the people shut out a second chance to influence the final ballot, which improves their sense of involvement.

  10. Heya! I’m here through File770, which linked here both in a roundup, and in some of the comments.

    I’m fairly new to following the Hugos, but my question is: if these are your fundamental principles – what is it about the ballots until now that’s been giving you trouble?

    I mean, the last couple of Best Novel winners have been “Ancillary Justice,” which is space opera where the main character is an autonomous fragment of a warship’s artificial intelligence, and “Redshirts,” which is light metafictional satire of Star Trek where “real people” live the conventions of fiction and narrative.

    Both of these are, well, pretty cool ideas. I don’t see any reasonable definition by which these don’t qualify as “story first.” To the best of my recollection, neither one features any sermonizing whatsoever – certainly not “Redshirts,” which is light comedy, and as far as I remember, “Ancillary Justice” was heavily focused on actual action and, well, things constantly going on. I don’t recall either novel dissing out any reader segments, either, although I’ll allow there might be some mention I’m forgetting.

    So… everything about these novels seems A-OK as far as your principles are concerned.

    I could see how you might object to a number of the short fiction candidates – I did read “Dinosaur, My Love,” and I can see how that doesn’t fit – but the other stories I’ve read (“The Lady Astronaut of Mars” and “Selkie Stories Are for Losers”) are plenty strong on story and character, and don’t fall into sermonizing or dissing audience segments (as far as I recall).

    So,,, has my personal reading experience just happened to land on the really good stuff you have no issue with? Or am I missing something fundamental in the pieces I’ve read?

    • Redshirts was derivative, and a parody that clearly did not love the source materiel. There HAD to be something better that year. But, when you see how since 2000, the same 12 people took 45 of the 76 possible best novel nominations, there were folks who thought it was his “turn” to win.

      And as for Ancillary Justice, if you read all the folks praising it before the vote, they didn’t CARE about the space opera. They loved it because the Pronoun Trick somehow reflected their Gender Politics bias. It was all they could talk about. (But there’s a great review of it on GoodReads that totally dissects everything wrong with the plot.) Again, certainly not the best book of the year. But again, you saw the work of influential people trying to give it the triple crown.

      The previous campaign, Sad Puppies 2, was actually about a different topic. The charge was that people voting the hugos cared more about the race/gender/politics of the authors more than the story (especially the politics). Those folks claimed this wasn’t true (except with every other breath they took). Larry mobilized his fanbase to try to get just one conservative author on the ballot, and the SJW side of the fandom immediately pitched a fit and set about proving him exactly right, with a campaign to put every conservative below no award. It was a perfect Xanatos Gambit, and by losing, Larry won.

      If not for the no award campaign, that might have been the end of it. But Brad picked up the torch, and this year the idea was to make sure things were on the ballot with good stories, from people who’d never gotten the award. And the success was monumental. He didn’t plan on sweeping the categories (after all, he only had 5 nominees in 4 of the 16 categories) but maybe getting one or two. But the results are history, and a huge vein of fans who were disenchanted with the Hugos and didn’t know they had a voice, spoke.

      Now there are over 9000 (!) members in the con, and it’s impossible for any one group to leverage 10% of the vote as in the past, so we shall see what happens. It should be very interesting.

      • “Just one in each category on the ballot.”

        WordPress, y u no have edit button?

      • Hey Doc!

        You seem to be saying that the opposition to Redshirts and Ancillary Justice isn’t due to the actual content of those books – it’s not that they violate Kate’s proposed “Story First/No Sermons/Respect The Readers” principles – but to the reasons the individual voters nominated them.

        So I think you’re saying these two books would fall within Kate’s proposed principles; you just think they aren’t very good. Is that accurate?

        • For the record, I hated Redshirts with a fiery passion – it read to me like somebody novelized a “Top Ten Ways To Know You’re In A Star Trek Episode,” circa 1995 or so

          And, I loved Ancillary Justice, which just hit all kinds of awesome notes for me – from the protagonist being a component of a distributed AI, to the warring emperor clones, to the sheer awesome of jumping down a chasm to save some worthless ex-soldier.
          I really liked the Pronoun Trick, which was a clever bit of mindfuckery and at the same time seemed to me in a similar vein to Le Guin’s fluidly-gendered aliens in Left Hand of Darkness — purely in the sense of, “Huh, that does seem like an insignificant arbitrary change that changes everything.” But even so, that was only one component of a much larger, richer work (as, I should note, Le Guin’s Gethenian gender and kemmer is in Left Hand).

          So I think there’s a wider range of opinion than just “this book sucks” vs. “this book goes really well with my political beliefs and ambitions for the genre’s direction.”

        • You’ve got that backwards, the opposition is because they were touted without regard one way or the other for their content, but instead because of whom they were written by, and the POINT of the Hugo is to reward the best Science Fiction novel. Not the author who checks off the most Social Justice Victim Points, or the “I’m best buds with the Editor who runs this little Social Circle” factor. Would the book have won had it been penned by anonymous? Absolutely not.

          The fact that the content doesn’t live up to those standards is just the twisting of the knife.

          We’re talking about two issues here. One is the crap that has been choking off the market like an Algae Bloom, and the other is crap being pushed through for the awards. And it has gotten to the point that long time SF fans who used to look to the Hugo as a sign of quality now view it as a warning.

          (reading your other comment) the thing is, Everything Scalzi writes is basically some twisted, disrespectful rip off of some other author’s better work. And yet somehow he keeps getting pushed to the top of he heap. It’s certainly not happening because the stories are any good. So you gotta ask “How?” and when you get an answer for that, you’re gonna be mad.

          • You’ve got that backwards, the opposition is because they were touted without regard one way or the other for their content.

            I think that’s what I said – it’s not that the books themselves are objectionable to you; it’s that you think they’re being promoted/nominated/recognized for reasons unrelated to their content. Even if the books were good, that would be unfair; if the books are bad, it’s even worse. Right?

            • Kate Paulk

              Neither of the two books you’ve mentioned (Redshirts and Ancillary Justice) were things I considered Hugo-worthy – and that is my judgment on the content of those works.

              In terms of popularity, I’d recommend checking the Amazon rankings of Redshirts, Ancillary Justice, and some of the Sad Puppy nominees – the last time I looked all of them were comparable, but Ancillary Justice and Redshirts had mega-push from the publishers. The Sad Puppy nominees did not: they get their rankings almost entirely via word of mouth: which, to me, says that the ones getting push aren’t actually as popular as they would seem.

              Maybe I set too high a bar for “Hugo-worthy” – if I read the opening chapter and I’ve been drawn in to the extent that I’d have to re-read to judge the quality of the prose (usually in these cases the prose isn’t fancy, it’s understated and designed to become invisible) and the methods the author used to build the characters and illustrate the world (generally via Heinleining), that’s Hugo-worthy.

              For instance, with Ancillary Justice, the prose was far too clunky and the signalling was all wrong. The initial worldbuilding signals were all fantasy-adventure, so the sudden inclusion of classic space opera elements threw me – and this in the first few pages. That’s not up to the standard of writing I expect from a Hugo nominee.

              So, no. Not inconsistent at all.

              • Neither of the two books you’ve mentioned (Redshirts and Ancillary Justice) were things I considered Hugo-worthy – and that is my judgment on the content of those works.

                Sure, I can understand that completely, but if I understand the purpose of your post – you’re talking about principles and goals here. Once the type of fiction you like is in the spotlight, then we can talk about whether a specific instance is better and worse – and it’s no surprise that there’s difference of opinion there.
                What I’m trying to say is that if this post embodies your principles, then it’s not that we’re seeing a glut of nominees that violate the principles. That would mean nominees which are plotless, sermonizing, disrepectful, and unpopular.
                We’re seeing nominees that are in your ballpark; but you feel like they aren’t the best – or even very good at all. Which, hey, I can completely understand. (Especially with Redshirts, ::shakes head woefully:: ).

                I don’t think that you’re saying that clean, compulsively readable prose, or Heinleining the worldbuilding, are Sad Puppy Principles. They’re just a few specific signs of good fiction (which, I should add, I agree with entirely). They’re also somewhat subjective, though – some readers will connect with a particular prose style or worldbuilding attempt really well, and others will bounce of the same work.

                So I think I’m basically asking:
                If a novel with strong plot and character, no sermonizing, no disrespect of particular segments of society, and some measure of popularity gets nominated for the Hugo, or wins it,
                and you personally don’t like the book at all, while many other like it a lot,
                is that a situation that you feel is OK?

                • Well, if you’ve only just gotten here from File770, you’ve missed several YEARS of discussion about both the principles and the specifics, and the history behind those principles and how we all arrived at them.

                  Short form, those folks who haven’t even made as short a journey as you have who purport to tell you what we’re all about are talking out of their asses. Plus they loved Redshirts, so you can safely dismiss them 🙂

                  • I’d sincerely love to hear more.
                    I’ve read the specific posts declaring the existence of the Puppies, with the specific recommendations each year. This page is aimed at detailing the core principles, so it seems like a natural place to start. 🙂 But I’d love to read up on, well, anything you recommend explaining the principles. 🙂

                  • (Although, all that being said, I’d love an answer to the specific question at the end of my post above. It’d be an enormous help in clarifying things.)

                    • Kate Paulk

                      The answer to your question is – assuming the book’s quality isn’t an issue, absolutely I’m okay with it. I found the quality of both Redshirts and Ancillary Justice well below par, in many ways (that would be a whole other post and one which I prefer not to subject myself to).

                    • Kate — I’m not sure I understand.
                      Where’s the distinction between “you personally don’t like the book at all” and “you find the book’s quality well below par”?
                      What would you want to see happen with books that you find low-quality, but other people see as high-quality?

                      I’m not asking specifically about AJ and Redshirts, but about the general principle (although, hey, they’re still good examples).

                    • Kate Paulk

                      The distinction is being able to recognize that something is well-written but I don’t like it. Apparently this is a much rarer ability than I thought it was.

                    • It’s just that, in my experience, the opinion of what’s “well-written” differs wildly between people almost as much as “did I like it.” So it seems like a vague kind of thing to hang principles around.

                      That said, though, I think I understand and agree. I certainly often read things where I say “I see why this works for some people, but I don’t enjoy it,” and “works for some people” is a decent working definition of “well-written” (the precise definition depends on which people the “some people” are – and consequently, there are lots of different types of “well-written”).

              • In terms of popularity, I’d recommend checking the Amazon rankings of Redshirts, Ancillary Justice, and some of the Sad Puppy nominees – the last time I looked all of them were comparable, but Ancillary Justice and Redshirts had mega-push from the publishers.

                I actually specifically didn’t address popularity, because I find that a bit trickier to grasp. I did take a look at the current rankings, though:

                Non-Puppy:
                Third Body Problem: 4,018 Kindle, 182,425 Print
                Ancillary Sword: 5,725 Kindle, 24,756 Print
                Goblin Emperor: 6,822 Kindle, 49,460 Print

                Puppy (on the Hugo ballot):
                Skin Game: 3,714 Kindle, 164,601 Print
                Dark Between The Stars: 31,627 Kindle, 1,763,871 Print
                Puppy (not on the Hugo ballot):
                Lines of Departure: 853 Kindle (includes free Kindle Unlimited borrows), 36,810 Print
                Monster Hunter Nemesis: 13,513 Kindle, 14,991 Print
                Trial By Fire: 34,987 Kindle, 436,587 Print

                Obviously, these numbers may have been skewed quite heavily due the nominations. That being said, I’m not seeing any particular clear pattern. “Skin Game” and “3BP” seem right in the same ballpark, where “Skin Game” is volume 15 of a megapopular series, while 3BP is a huge critical success and a very recent foreign translation – two categories that seem very difficult to compare!

                “Ancillary Sword” and “Goblin Empire” are waaaaay ahead of “Dark”. MNH, which doesn’t enjoy the Hugo ballot, is way ahead of all the non-Puppy print books, but way behind on digital. “Trial By Fire” is way behind, not even close to the others’ league.

                (Kindle Paid and Paperback numbers for each book. Lines of Departure is the only one in Kindle Unlimited, which affects the ranking.)

                So I’m not really seeing anything approaching clear-cut conclusions here – certainly not in favor of Puppy popularity. And I don’t think direct comparisons (“This has a publisher boost, but this one’s a translation from Chinese…”) are very helpful here. Popularity is certainly important to reach some minimum criteria, but I don’t see it as useful for saying that a certain book shouldn’t get a Hugo nomination because “it isn’t popular enough.”

                • Kate Paulk

                  The ratings were reasonably close when I last looked. Obviously things have changed and I don’t have the marketing nous to dig through the data and work out what or where, much less why.

                  That said, it’s also rather difficult to factor in the effect of being heavily pushed: I personally have rarely seen Puppy-favored books get end-caps, much less any other form of push (this may also be because I live in the middle of nowhere). I have seen heavy push for many of the non-Puppy books – but I have no idea how many sales this gets those books (nor, I suspect, do the publishers, because if you ask many, many authors, they’ve been told by their publishers that said publishers don’t actually know how many of the authors’ books they’ve sold. Amazon ratings and ranks really are the most accurate tool available for the non-indie authors).

                  “Not popular enough” really only matters when you’re looking at the voting public who are deciding what they wish to nominate/what they wish to vote for. If – and this is a rather large if – the Hugos were truly representative of the preferences of the SF community, the nomination lists would be a reasonably close match to the high seller lists, and the works nominated would continue to rank/rate reasonably well on Amazon for years to come.

              • Going To Maine

                Hey-lo,

                Another File 770 migrant here, since we’ve been discussing your explanation for why you disliked Ancillary Justice. Specifically, this bit:

                “The initial worldbuilding signals were all fantasy-adventure, so the sudden inclusion of classic space opera elements threw me – and this in the first few pages. ”

                Can you clarify a little? The second paragraph of the book includes these two sentences:
                “This was the icy back end of a cold and isolated planet, as far from Radchaai ideas of civilizations as it was possible to be. I was only here, on this planet, in this town, because I had urgent business of my own”.

                In the rest of the first chapter the character buys a technology-based hypothermia kit (“I tore the seal off the kit, snapped an internal off the card… Once the indicator on the kit showed green I unfolded the thin wrap, made sure of the charge, wound it around her, and switched it on.”), and staying in “one of a dozen two meter cubes of grimy, gray-green, prefab plastic”.

                To my eyes, referring to being on a particular planet, medical kits, and prefabricated plastic seems like a clear indicator that there’s some kind of advanced technology around. Do you consider these to be mixed signals, or are there other parts of the text that seemed to be muddling things up?

            • Right, but it’s the second case, because the books aren’t good, so it’s even worse. If the books were good, they wouldn’t need to be promoted for political reasons.

              • But, well, you know a whole ton of readers plain-out did love those books, right?

                I know it’s fun as hell to read the reviews that really get why a book you hated is downright miserable (I’m currently stalking the Goodreads page of a book I DID. NOT. LIKE), but try filtering for 5-star reviews, and maybe sorting from oldest (trying this right now – for some reason, the sort order is wonky, so look at the dates), so you can see reactions before too much buzz built up.

                I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing a lot of people calling the Scalzi book really, really, really funny. Heaven help ’em, but there you have it.

                And the “Ancillary Justice” reviews have raves. There are some which are raving around the gender treatment, yes, but lots that are just raving overall. Here are a few of the first that pop up for me:

                https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/630151170
                https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/698125620
                https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/729267273
                https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/734497688
                https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/734753980

                — these are all ones that hardly even mention the gender schtick, and there are plenty more that mention it as one of the things they liked, but they also liked a whole bunch more.

                So I think it’s hard to say “the books aren’t good.” They’re obviously working, for a whole lot of readers. The enthusiasm for them isn’t false.

                I’m not saying you need to like the books. Quite the opposite; I think getting more interest in the books you love – and getting more interest from the readers who love that kind of book – is awesome and exactly what the Hugos need.

                But saying “Nobody actually likes those books” or “People only like those books out of political sympathy” just isn’t true.

                • Kate Paulk

                  For Hugo-worthiness, my standards are a bit higher than merely “good” – and frankly, the inclusion of sub-standard works while better written books by other authors are systematically ignored demeans both the award and the field.

                • I was looking through those reviews as well, and found some that were purely tearing it apart on craft. Even for things as simple as the overuse of the word “Gesture.” I can’t find the first one I read a whole ago that laid into the shortcomings of the plot, Taking 20 years to get this special gun, to take out one(?) of this distributed computer’s androids (“I’m going to bring down the internet by smashing this one desktop computer” logic) and then the jig’s up almost immediately. I may not be remembering it perfectly accurately. but it really dissected the plot for holes and stupidity.

                • Doc, for any given book, you can cherry-pick both positive reviews and negative ones. And they’re both useful exercises – the positive reviews tell you what the book’s strengths are; the negative reviews tell you its weaknesses.

                  In my experience, any book will have its fair share of both. I’ve read very few perfect books in my life – and even the rare book I consider a gem of perfection might fall flat for some other reader.

                  You’re saying “the book certainly isn’t the best book of the year; it’s popularity must have been due to deliberate influence.” I’m saying “Look, here are people who clearly did think this was a fantastic book.” You’re responding “But it has problems, too!”. And yes, it does. But… that doesn’t contradict the “people really liked the book” claim.

                  Can we agree that there are a lot of people who thoroughly enjoyed the book, flaws and all? I’m not asking if you did (or if I did), or if they’re right to like it. I’m just saying, empirically, they did – and plenty of them don’t attribute that to Leckie’s pronoun trick.

    • So, I’m jumping way back up the chain here because of WP’s nesting limits, but I’m gonna steal a whole post here from J. Greely over at .Clue. He’s been reading the nominees, as every responsible Hugo Voter should, and he’s already choking on some of the PC message drek we’ve been talking about. His reaction to 3BP:

      I really hope this is not representative of The Three-Body Problem, the last of the Hugo-nominated novels I’m reading:

      “…he had successfully predicted the birth defects associated with long-term consumption of genetically modified foods. He had also predicted the ecological disasters that would come with cultivation of genetically modified crops.”

      This part of the book is set in the more-or-less present day, and our allegedly-reliable narrator treats these statements as simple fact. Fortunately, it’s soon followed with:

      “He believed that technological progress was a disease in human society. The explosive development of technology was analogous to the growth of cancer cells, and the results would be identical: the exhaustion of all sources of nourishment, the destruction of organs, and the final death of the host body.”

      With any luck, this batshit-crazy luddite will be one of the villains. Or a spear-carrier soon to depart from the plot. Fingers crossed, because there’s a page and a half of this nonsense before he ever utters a word.

      Human Wave, it ain’t.

      (Crossing my fingers and praying the formatting works, nested quotes and all.)

      • Kate Paulk

        Oy. That fails so many basic science knowledge thingies the book should have been marketed as fantasy

  11. Bill S

    I went to the Hugo Awards web site and looked at all the results from 1993 onward (I knew what wasn’t there but I looked anyway). I was (expectedly) disappointed that there were no nominations for any of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series (Including short stories and novellas written by other authors), considered one of the crown jewels of military scifi/space opera. I guess there’s just too much Duty, Honor, Country (empire in HH’s case) in the books. I checked Baen’s publishing schedule and several of my favorite authors have new books in the pipeline (or already released) for 2015. Now is the time to push your favorites to like-minded people and encourage them to participate in the Hugo nominations.

    • Kate Paulk

      And Weber is a bestseller. So when I open the SP4 campaign, feel free to suggest one of his eligible works if you think it is worthy of a Hugo.