De Gustibus – David Pascoe
With the madness raining down from on high in a flood of
mixed metaphor vitriol the anti-fun crowd have been spewing their hatred with predictable and familiar, if disappointing, illogic. Those seeking to prevent puppy-related sadness Sad Puppies (I’m not a puppy, personally, and I’m depressed, not sad) are hatey mchaters, secksissss, racisssss, homophobisss, and any other -isss you can imagine. We cheated. We bloc-voted, which isn’t cheating (witness the efforts of Hugo-winners-past) but should be (except when they do it; that’s just clever self-promotion). We GASP may not have informed those we put on the slate. We- but you get the picture.
retaliation measured response, the wise and not-at-all vindictive luminaries of literary SF are recommending their fans vote NO AWARD rather than allow their the good name of the Hugo to descend to the level of mere adventu-, ahhh, fu-, ummm, mere escapist pulp (yeah, that’s the ticket).
What’s bugging me, here, is the entire concept of the Hugo award. See, I get a “Best Novel” (or other category), but when you have a subset of any given group vote on it, you don’t end up with the best: you end up with the favorite. Not necessarily the same thing. I suppose, if you could get all readers of scifi to vote every year, you could reasonably call the winners the best of that year. Except they’d still just be the most-liked. Upon what criteria can we even determine what is best in
There are standards of craft that should be met. Is it readable? How’s the grammar, generally? How about continuity? Does the dialogue work? How about world-building? Are the major conflicts resolved? These are all questions of craft, and basic ones, really. Then there are slightly more esoteric subjects. Do the characters’ relationships encourage readers toward poor life choices (I’m lookin’ at you, Twilight) or lead one to believe humanity is doomed by its own hand, and that’s a good thing? Does the story keep readers up until all hours of the night, just to find out what happens next? (I could argue that as a simple, albeit unverifiable objective standard. But I won’t.) After all, as Mrs. Dave points out, some readers are simply more self-disciplined than others. We are not them. “Just one more chapter,” gets one exiled to the couch, where there may be light. The sleeping chamber is for just that, after all. Well, not just that…
The Hugos aren’t, and never were, for the BEST work, according to anything resembling objective criteria. The only criteria we could possibly use is most bought, whether through sales numbers (Hah!) or money made. How commercially successful is any given work? In that case, the aforementioned Twilight would win handily. As would any of the Harry Potter books. Let us not speak of Fifty Shades (after all, it’s as scifi as If You Were A Dinosaur-).
What I’m coming down to is the individual Hugos are misnamed. They aren’t the Best of anything, let alone the entirety of the genre I know and love best. Despite what it says right on the packaging! (And despite the unexpectedly honest blathering of a certain former editor, if you claim it’s the best of a genre, then everybody who wants to gets a say.) They’re simply the favorite of the subset of readers who happened to buy memberships to any given year’s World Science Fiction Convention. And that’s fine. I don’t actually have an issue with that, as such. However, there are a goodly number of people in the world who will look at just such a label (XXXXX, Winner of 20xx Hugo for Best Whatever) and make the assumption that this is the best the field had to offer that year. An understandable and logical assumption. And when it’s some silly saurian revenge fantasy, they’re going to form a poor opinion of my genre. And that vexes me.
It further vexes me when people who should know better encourage their followers to vent their spleen in such a childish manner: “I’m taking my rocket and going home!” When, instead of reading the nominated works, and judging them based on inherent merit, these giants of the field recommend torpedoing anybody’s chance to win. (Never mind that the ballots will almost certainly reflect a vote for 1) Ancillary Sword, and 2) No Award.) After all, any work holding a nomination is on the ballot because a sufficient number of people willing to pay to nominate chose to do so. And if this is a popularity contest, then let it be so. Don’t game the system just to spite a group of people who only want fun books to read (well, we don’t want only fun books. We want fun and challenging books, with interesting worlds, genuine characters, etc, etc.)
I didn’t really want to talk more about the Hugos, Puppy-Related Sadness, and the infantility (shut-up, spellcheck) of NSJWP and its adherents. It tires me. And so, let me end on a high note. I’d like to offer my congratulations to my fellow Mad Genii, Dave Freer, Amanda Green, and Cedar Sanderson, who are all up for Favorite Fan Writer, and major congratulations to Jason Cordova, who is up for the Totally-Not-a-Hugo Campbell Award for Favorite New Writer. Congrats to Toni Weisskopf and Jim Minz of Baen Books for
keeping me in crack providing such excellent mental fare to the story-starved masses. Congrats to all of the other nominees, and I’m delighted to see such a tough field. I’m joyful to have such difficult decisions to make this year. It is my hope and prayer that I can say this again next year.