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The value of ‘name’

Now once upon a time (your cue that this is merely a made up tale. No real coffee machines or companies were involved), there was a clever young man who made a new kind of coffee machine. It, simply, made better coffee than anyone else’s machine. It was reliable too. He could have sold his patent, but he was proud of his coffee-machine, and wanted the quality to stay the same. So he got his funds together, started a little factory, and made great coffee machines all his working life. He named them after his father, Frederico. They were expensive (because it was small scale, and used only the very finest materials, with craftsmen doing the artisans’ work with love and care), but the best.

Over time, of course, other coffee-machine makers had improved: but a Fredrico was every coffee-connoisseurs desire.

Eventually the inventor grew old and sick, and decided he would have to sell up and retire.

The Gigantic coffee machine company – who made many brands of machine, mass-produced, and in whatever country they could do it cheapest… bought the business.

Now, they had no interest in his little factory, his team of craftsmen, or even his way of making coffee-machines.

What they wanted was…. The NAME.

They made a million ‘Frederico’ brand coffee machines in a factory with the cheapest possible producer, and on the back of the reputation the Frederico enjoyed… sold them at huge profit. They were of course nothing like the original, but Gigantic had made a short-term profit, and that was all the CEO cared about.

Now… as a result, you can’t find a buyer for Frederico. Not even the handful of originals, which are still excellent machines.

It’s a tale you’ll find repeated endlessly in reality, and not just in business.  Names have value. That value is the reputation carried by that name. It is usually a long hard slog to build up… and it can be trashed very easily. BUT, of course, while trashing it, it is possible to abuse the trust people had in that name, to make a short-term profit. It always ends the same sad way as the Frederico. For authors… your name IS your career. It’s your most precious property. It’s your reputation, which gets you commendations and come-back readers (if you’re popular). If your book tanks, or is strongly associated with another genre, well, your publisher may want a pseudonym. Maybe you do too.  But if your name has a following of readers… you stick with that name. Unless of course… you trash that.

It’s equally true of awards. They have names. Those names have value: A reputation based on the popularity among readers of the books (and authors) who have won them in the past.  If that name happens to be the Thursday Award – and having it on cover will take you from selling 10 000 copies to 50 000 copies… it is worth 40 000 sales.  If you come from a country or culture Thursday means ‘butt-face’… or you think commemoration of that vile white male sexist homophobe misogynist warmongering conqueror Thor (all of those are pretty much applicable by today’s standards for Thor, the Norse god from which Thursday takes its name. Of course no one remembers that, or cares. It’s just one day before Friday)… you have two choices.  Either ‘suck it up, cupcake’, and take the 40 000 sales that go with the reputation of that name. Or refuse it.

Well. That’s what any logical person would conclude, right?

I was amused and delighted to read of the John W Campbell Award winner’s gracious and incredibly wise (for certain values of ‘wise’) little snit acceptance speech. Graceless wokeness is now very fashionable in certain circles. I’m sure it goes down very well there, if rather like a cup of cold vomit with us of the ordinary readers. I quote Jeannette Ng. “John W. Campbell … was a fascist. Through his editorial control of [the magazine] Amazing Science Fiction, [Campbell] is responsible for setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day. Sterile. Male. White. Exalting in the ambitions of imperialists and colonisers, settlers and industrialists,” said the 33-year-old in her acceptance speech.

Aside from the fact that she got the name of the magazine wrong, and, um, doesn’t actually know what a fascist is or was (clue: ‘fascio’ is derived from the Latin for a bundle of sticks. A single stick can be broken. Their strength lies in a bundle. They were keen on nationalizing industry and having a totalitarian state.), it is… wryly funny that Ng, who plainly believes that all members of any group are alike as two peas in a pod and merely express the character defined by their skin color, sex or ethnicity, rather than being individuals… is Chinese. Her viewpoint therefore defines the Chinese as a group, all guilty of the sins of any other Chinese. Hmm. Think about it: Are the Chinese known for ‘Imperialism and colonizing, being settlers and industrialists, ever. Heaven forfend such a thought… Tibet? The Paracels? Shenzen industries, etc.  Or having a vast male bias reflected in the numbers of girl children aborted in favor of boys – leading to a sex imbalance of millions. No pot calling a kettle names here…

However the Woke have spoken, Dell Magazines folded immediately to oblige her, and the John W Campbell Awards are no more. They’ve been renamed.

And like any new name: it has no reputation yet. Who knows, one day it may be valuable, selling extra copies of the book. But Ng has given sf a gift. Future winners will have to make their own reputation, create their own value, instead of trading on the achievements of the past. Past winners will no longer no longer have to worry that the new winners will be like the Gigantic coffee-machine company.

And now they’ll have to earn their own reputation instead of riding on the coat-tails of others they despise and denigrate. It is possible: the DRAGON AWARDS have gone from a brand new award to having considerable value – simply because a substantial number of the winners sell a lot of books. They enjoy genuine popularity. They don’t need patreon accounts. It has become a name with a reputation and a value… and nobody gives a shit that the original dragon ate maidens for tea.

And this year, we here at MGC have a massive celebration: these are the winners of the 2019 Dragon Awards, by popular accord:

The readers have spoken… or at least voted for one of our own, of whom we’re very proud.

Science Fiction novel: _A Star-Wheeled Sky_, Brad Torgersen
Fantasy novel: _House of Assassins_, Larry Correia
YA/Middle Grade: _Bloodwitch_, Susan Dennard
Military Sci-Fi or Fantasy novel: _Uncompromising Honor_, David Weber
Alternate History novel: _Black Chamber_, S.M. Stirling
Media Tie-In novel: _Thrawn: Alliances_, Timothy Zahn
Horror Novel: _Little Darlings_, Melanie Golding

Bravo!

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

37 Comments
  1. Draven #

    *mumbles something about a sci fi book winning the fantasy award

    September 2, 2019
    • Reziac #

      I did a good deal of mumbling about how they have all these categories of SF, but fantasy is still mostly lumped together. Still, as it’s not the Shrieking Harpy Award, I can gladly congratulate the winners.

      September 2, 2019
  2. Yeah! I’m glad for the winners, and very happy for everyone who made the nomination short list this year. I didn’t love all the books on the lists that I read, but none were bad or made me feel like I’d lost something by reading them.

    And a big thank you to DragonCon for running a good award program and nomination/voting system.

    September 2, 2019
    • Indeed – and one which is broadly in synch with sales and population demographics in its nominations.

      September 2, 2019
  3. 23 skidoo

    September 2, 2019
  4. Even from my position way out on the fringe it was a heck of a lot of fun watching for the last few weeks… watching the energy and activity of the nominees, the sheer joy and awe of the winners (especially Brad!) and the grace and optimism of the losers was… at the least an engrossing spectacle.. I look forward to nest year.

    September 2, 2019
  5. Noted.

    September 2, 2019
  6. An award where I actually read some of the books already? C’est impossible!

    September 2, 2019
    • d #

      May not have read the book rewarded. But I have Heard of the books at least. Agree. “C’est impossible!”

      September 2, 2019
    • There was a Hugo nominees endcap at B&N for… one week. Less, actually. All titles I’d looked at and thought, “nah, life’s too short.” I actually own several of the Dragon nominees.

      September 2, 2019
      • B&N shows good sense in 86ing that endcap. Going by reviews, this year’s winners are deeply political and unpleasant. A definite Do Not Read! recommendation. A situation where you pick up the book, start reading the blurb, then shudder and put it back before you finish.

        By contrast, I’ve bought maybe five books this year (because most books SUCK lately), two of them are winners on the Dragon awards. The other winners seem worth ten bucks to check out. Clearly an award given by people like myself.

        September 2, 2019
        • Draven #

          this surprises you because?

          September 2, 2019
          • Because B&N have been part of the problem, IMO

            September 2, 2019
            • Draven #

              my response was to Phantom regarding this year’s Hugo nominees

              September 2, 2019
              • I thought you meant B&N, I was going to say that they never show good sense.

                I’m surprised by the Dragons because -no- other award even nominates books or authors I’ve heard of or would want to read. This one gives the award to two books I actually read and liked.

                I’m not surprised by the Hugos, they are running true to type. All politics, all the time.

                September 2, 2019
      • Ditto.
        Although I have to confess that I really need to keep the definitions of “Fantasy” and “Science Fiction” in front of me so I don’t blur them together.

        September 3, 2019
    • I know, right?

      September 3, 2019
  7. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

    And now the Tiptree Award may be renamed as Alice B. Sheldon (ie James Tiptree Jr) murdered her invalid husband and then killed herself.

    This was known when the Award was first named. 😡

    September 2, 2019
    • Of course it is. Everything about that award is already mental, no reason why they wouldn’t rename it AFTER THE SAME PERSON.

      Having looked up the circumstances of that murder/suicide thing, I’m inclined to cut poor old Alice some slack. I’m not smart enough to make the call on that one.

      September 2, 2019
      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

        Agree.

        She needed help both with her depression and with caring for him.

        September 2, 2019
    • Christopher M. Chupik #

      They have decided to keep the name. As I figured they would.

      September 2, 2019
    • I didn’t know that. No biggie; what she’s written and which I’ve read, maybe 4-6 stories, I won’t fail to miss her.

      September 2, 2019
      • Of the stories of hers which I’ve read, they’re pretty good. However, they suffer from the Akira problem: I heard for years about how awesome Akira was. When I finally sat down to watch it, it was cliche-ridden badly-done tripe.

        I asked a friend who has been an otaku for a very long time about this, and he explained it was not unlike people coming to Lord of the Rings after reading tons of D&D tie-ins and quest fantasy: everything that was groundbreaking in the original has since either been done to death in successors, or expanded, improved upon, and since become a standard.

        We went back through Akira, and a few other animes, as a history of the field lesson, and it was amazing to break it out as “this was the first time this was done. This was the first time someone tried that. This other anime, which didn’t have distribution in the US at the time, was doing this, so that’s what this is referencing. And in Japanese politics at the time, this was a concern, so that’s why this…”

        It’s really helped with reading and watching older stuff.

        I would love to see a “history of the golden age & silver age” course that broke stories out like that, because a lot of them… even some Heinlein… American english and literary conventions have changed just enough since he wrote it, that it keeps throwing me out.

        September 3, 2019
  8. My only question is when will “Hugo” be thrown into the bad-think trashcan?

    One only has to read some of the pieces that Gernsback put between the covers of Amazing to realize that Campbell was extraordinarily “woke” for the time.

    It would not matter whether either man had (in their personal views) been in absolute alignment with Ng – their job was to select stories that would sell the magazines, and pay the writers, the printers, the distributors and newsstand (or candy store) owners, etc. enough to keep on writing, printing, and selling them.

    Of course, that anyone in that chain should be voluntarily paid by the consumer escapes them. The consumer is too stupid and/or too ignorant to know what they should be reading (the same as they cannot know what they should eat, what insurance against health problems they should have, what a comfortable thermostat setting is, etc., etc. etc., and I am now nauseous.)

    September 2, 2019
    • Bravo. point well made.

      September 2, 2019
      • I must admit that most of the stories that I have read from those days are those that Asimov selected for his Before the Golden Age collection. (Yes, before I get a bunch of replies, I do have the pulp archive links. No, I’m not following them up until I’m well past the current need to avoid rabbit holes.)

        The thing is, those are the stories that Asimov eagerly consumed then. As did all of the later Futurians – a Left wing bunch if there ever was one.

        There were some writers who strayed from that formula, even then – but it is Campbell who made it possible for them to earn enough to write them, and for new writers to also break the mold (including Asimov himself). He also (much like Jim and Toni) didn’t care what they looked like, or how they took a leak – IF they produced stories that his customers would buy.

        September 2, 2019
    • “My only question is when will “Hugo” be thrown into the bad-think trashcan?”

      Next year is my seat-of-the-pants guess. They seem to feel they’re on a roll.

      September 2, 2019
  9. PapaPat .Patterson #

    When I saw the titles that were on the finalist list, I feared for the worst.
    Particularly when I read the earliest pieces applauding the “mainstream” move for the Dragons; which apparently was the result of a concerted effort by one or more special interest groups. I posted what I discovered on two of my blog entries.

    Alas, when I actually READ the entries, in the SF, Fantasy, Mil SF, and Alt Hist categories, I discovered rancid things. There were notable exceptions: in particular, the very last book I reviewed, “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik, was OUTSTANDING, and others were very, very good.

    But that which I feared most did NOT take place. While invasive species did supplant some deserving titles on the finalist list, they were not given the award.

    I would sho’nuff love to know how that took place, ‘deed I would.

    September 2, 2019
    • They cheat. It’s what they do in the other awards, why would this be different? They colluded around agreed in secret candidates.

      September 2, 2019
      • Might it even have been a [gasp!] SLATE Dave? Say it ain’t so!

        September 2, 2019
      • I find the prospect of a conspiracy dubious, mostly because these people are as capable of concealing their movements as an elephant. I do not find it difficult to believe that there are enough fans of Kameron Hurley to get her onto the finalist list. I also think that if they thought she had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning it they were delusional.

        As a side note, I find it hilarious that Tor has a lock on the award given by the con that is old, grey, and dying, and Baen has a lock on the one given by the con that is at worst middle-aged.

        September 3, 2019
    • Completely tangentially: Pat, your review convinced me to buy Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver. Thanks!

      September 2, 2019
  10. Mary #

    That’s one of those pieces of wisdom that never sinks in.

    September 2, 2019
  11. mrsizer #

    It sounds as if you are talking about the appliance manufacturer named for the non-horned-helmet wearing raiders. Sad story. It was published somewhere a few years ago. Now I need to find someone who makes decent gas five+ burner, two oven stoves.

    September 4, 2019
  12. Update Sept. 9th, a week later and the Floppy Woke are suddenly Very Upset that Dave painted Jeannette Ng with every sin of the Chinese race in exactly the same way that she painted John W. Campbell with every sin of the White race. (China Mike particularly so, and no surprise as so much of his traffic is made in China.) They don’t seem to get the whole demonstrating absurdity thing, its beyond them.

    Bad Dave, no eggroll for you!

    They’re also Very Upset that eeevile white men were given awards. Dark suggestions of cheating are bandied about.

    No linkage, I’ll not give the useless pricks a free click. Anyone wants to go wading in the sewer, you can google it. I suggest not bothering, the above covers everything said that wasn’t abuse.

    tldr: same shit, different day.

    September 6, 2019

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