It’s All About The Bling

So, let’s suppose there was an award that no longer meant increased circulation for the book that sported the little seal on the cover: how far would you be willing to fight to preserve the right to have the award given to the people you wanted/to have the chance at the award yourself? If you were, that is, someone who played by the rules of the “in” group, the writers and publishers we’ll call “the old establishment”?

I am making a leap here, as I’m not sure the Hugo no longer boosts print runs at all.  I know it no longer boosts them as it used to, because the Hugo used to be d*mn big noise, when I came into the field.  The hierarchy when I came in, as told to me by older and more scarred pros was as follows: The Hugo meant an increase in circulation; the Nebula did nothing for you; World Fantasy Award LOWERED your circulation.

No use arguing those, btw.  Last time I sat at a world fantasy banquet, the publisher was loudly hoping her author wouldn’t win it.

How does this happen?  This happens because science fiction forgot it was science fiction and its greatest aspirational desire was to be considered “literary” — where “literary” is neither better nor worse than other writing but has the markings of “stuff they teach in college.”

Now I have nothing against stuff they teach in college, but it’s in truth just another genre.  You might think it’s “better written” but that’s because it’s what your college professors told you it was good writing.

As someone who has enough training to teach literature in college, let me tell you a secret: there is no sacred anointing that makes that stuff good and the rest “trash.”  As a writer it took me years to get rid of the markings of “literature” in my writing and even more years to believe that this was NOT what denoted quality. My first series still suffered heavily from it and was tagged as “literary fantasy”.  So did the Magical British Empire for that matter.

Those markers?  They’re mostly an aping of the things we consider “literature” or “important literature” because they attach to books that have proven their importance by surviving the centuries.

So, for instance, the language will be a little difficult, and the rules of the world/behavior might seem irrational.  Listen to me very carefully: in centuries old work it is so because the time has changed.  To put them in intentionally is akin to faking antiques in furniture something I know how to do and which is in fact a difficult craft, but which does not make the furniture into REAL antiques, no more than the use of tricks to make something feel like an old work that has been good enough to survive the centuries makes that work one that will survive the centuries.

In fact, something you can be sure of is that almost every work that is lionized by the elites of its day will be ridiculed by the future.  With exceptions, of course.  Shakespeare was beloved of both the groundlings and the elites.  But he lived in more robust times than most of us do/have throughout history.  In the bloody turnover of Elizabethan England, a lot of newly enriched merchants were the elites, and they hadn’t acquired a veneer of faux sophistication yet. And what kept Shakespeare’s work alive and going is that he did appeal to the masses.  Go and count how many small American towns are named after his characters/locations.  These were colonists, living hardscrabble.  They had no room for affectation and affected tastes.  They loved it because it spoke to them.

But unfortunately somewhere in the nineties or two thousands, the turn over of science fiction and fantasy professionals and fandom into the hands of people with degrees in humanities from excellent colleges was complete.  Which means these people are trying to write/publish that which would impress their erstwhile professors or their colleagues now.  And they all come from similar milieus.

This would be fine if science fiction were in fact a “literary” subgenre.  Or if “literature” would ever approve of science fiction.

In fact science fiction is still sneered a by academics and their minions who hark back to an SF that never existed and talk of “naked girls and alien space lizards.”  In fact a well known novelist with SF themes got very upset and said something of that kind when they asked her about science fiction.

(Oh, and let me interject here that yes, there is craft to “literary” and it’s hard to do.  But that doesn’t make it “better” — better according to whom, tovarish?  How will your work survive the ages when people won’t give you their beer money now. — every genre is hard to do WELL.  Yes, even romance.  The increasing slide of romance into erotica means that people have more trouble conveying “sizzling hot” without describing the body parts going into other body parts.  That’s craft they’re lacking. Writing transparent prose so that the reader remembers as if he lived the story and doesn’t stop to admire your pretty prose is d*mn hard, particularly for someone afflicted with my love for words)

So, given that you could never get into the “big boys” table of literary and are stuck trying to make science fiction/fantasy look “literary” and looking down at your colleagues and screaming you are SUPERIOR TO THEM, and that the award at best gives you a modest boost, how hard would you be willing to fight to keep it within the right kind?

Apparently the answer is: up to calumny, slander, character assassination, death threats, hate male, and the destruction of your own reputation as a sane and reasonable human.

When we set out on this, back in the dim days of our first discussions of Sad Puppies (I object, of course.  I have cats) the goal was to make the Hugo worth something again.  Granted, we can’t cater for everyone’s taste.  If you’re a heavy mil-sf guy and the prize goes to hard sci fi it won’t be to your taste.  BUT to cater to the “literary” crowd is to cater to the tiniest fandom in SF.  (I found this out in sincere arguments with agents while looking for one between my third and fourth.  They all wanted me to write literary sf — because I CAN do it — because it would win awards and increase THEIR prestige (and make me slit my wrists in a warm bath if I had to write much more of it.  It was no fun.) But they all candidly informed me that it sold almost nothing and so I should try to get a job teaching or write for literary journals or something.  Why do you think they kept telling us that Ancillary Justice as a “fun space opera” — because no one buys “literary”.  Or yeah, some people do, but not enough to keep you in writer kibble.

Our idea, goofy as it sounds was to get some good books/good names associated with the Hugo, so Hugo would mean a boost in print run again.

We were shocked at how hard they were willing to fight to keep it a “just us” club.  And the ridiculous levels they’d go to.

And then I realized that, like the agents I interviewed they don’t view the Hugo as a promotional tool at all.  They view it as bling.

What I mean is, when your book hardly sells, and you have to have other jobs –teaching, speaking, whatever — you need the awards as an appearance of legitimacy.

Awards are very important because most of the general public, even the casual readers who MIGHT try SF know nothing about the award process, who votes for them, or how it has gone.

So if you can’t say “I’m a bestseller” saying “I have x award” gives you immense prestige in the eyes of the world. I realized this while talking to someone who had read his first ever sf novel over summer and was asking me about mine.  He was like “yah, uh uh” until I said “And it won the Prometheus.”  He obviously had clue zero what the Prometheus was, but “won the Prometheus” translated to “instant affirmation someone else liked it” and he wrote down Darkship Thieves for looking up later.

And even if — as has been the run in recent years — picking it up after finding it had won an award, you immediately put it down and promised never to read any SF again, if that was the best out there, the bling still has value.

Why?  Because they’ll book you on TV when there’s something even vaguely related to SF.  Because all foreign countries still translate Hugo winners because they don’t know any better (and also most of them are more addicted to the symbols of status than we are.)  Mind you, it’s killed their market.  There’s a reason that Portugal no longer has sf/f shelves in most bookstores.  BUT you’ll still make a boatload of money from so many (if small) translation rights.

For the outside world, those who don’t read sf, having “x” “y” or even “z” award still translates to money in your pocket and being considered by the world at large as the best in the admittedly tiny pond of science fiction.

If your philosophy in life is “I got mine” and your goal is to get while the getting is good, and “Apres nous le deluge” doesn’t trouble you at all, you will of course do everything to keep riding the award pony until it’s so dead that it even stinks in the nostrils of the “mundanes.”

Think of it as the parable of Solomon.  If they weren’t killing the field in the name of uplifting it, we’d even let them have it. Because what we love, more than our own careers is Science Fiction.  Note most of the supporters of Sad Puppies have no books on the ballot, not even short stories.  And some who are on the ballot are there under protest: Dave Freer, for instance.

As it is, of course, we have to keep fighting. Because we want the genre to mean something and we want other people to find the joy and challenge in it that we have found.

If the books that won the Hugo, once upon a time, could speak to a young girl/woman in Portugal, who transitioned from reading them in translation to reading them in English and perfected her English in the process, if the genre could change her life and help her endure rather trying times, it’s a genre worth saving.

And saving doesn’t speak to going back to the past, but to porting the same enthusiasm and life to present day sf.  (i.e. stop with the formulaic repetition of what you think are “international” or “multicultural” truths.  Their attempt to be cosmopolitan which somehow uses exotic puppets to deliver their message to the world just reveals they never were out of your university campus, at least not in their mind.  Of them I think it can only be said: “Pardon him, Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.” Real cultures have evil as well as good, a lot of them have more evil than we do, and it is patronizing and ignorant of them to make them into less than human, and walking advertisements for theirr academic philosophy. I agree that there needs to be more variety now, in a connected world, than there was in the past.  BUT not a variety that makes natives of other cultures into painted saints.  Trust me, that would have disgusted me when I was fully in that culture.  Oh, and if they try to attract people of the culture you’re writing about, forget it.  They’ll almost certainly get it wrong.  I can’t read anything set in Portugal.  the “flavor” is wrong. EVEN when other Portuguese write it, because they’re catering to the US market, anyway. And it’s better to write middle class US and make it exciting than to write a novel set in Lisbon and make it deadly dull by having all the usual villains and pseudo saints.)

I know this will be twisted and screamed at.  If they could twist Toni’s post that amounted to “let’s establish bridges of understanding” to mean she was trying to exclude people, they can twist anything.

And I don’t expect them to stop, because they care about nothing but their own false bling, their tarnished glory.

I just want them to know we won’t stop either.  Because that baby you want cut in half is still alive, if barely.  And we’d like it to grow up into a fully realized person, one that can lead humans to the stars and keep humanity human wherever we go.

Yeah, it’s a crazed dream, but at least it’s not all about the present and bling we can get to make people who know nothing of the field respect us.

And you know, as we’ve said over and over and over again, with us it’s all about the dream.

We’ll continue working for it.

329 responses to “It’s All About The Bling

  1. I tried reading Balzac once. Couldn’t make it past the first page. I agree that “great literature” in what speaks to the reader in a meaningful way.

    • Mickey Spillane persuaded people to part with a lot more of their money than Balzac did. Lots of people had problems with that; even SI Hayakawa devoted some Spillane smackdown space in one of his linguistics books.

      In order to sell, you have to write what people want to read.

      • Yes, but any good thing can be taken too far. For an analogy: some doofus who can build a track in Ableton Live and hit “play” on his laptop can now put on an EDM (electronic dance music) “concert” and tens of thousands of people (including my daughter, bless her heart) will go attend it. Are they making “music” people are paying to “listen” to? I suppose. Are these knob-polishers (double entendre intentional) musicians by my definition? No.

        • Well, yeah – there’s a big market, for presumably good psychological reasons, for things that are derivative and familiar; a smaller one for things that are actually new; and only a portion of the new things will be good enough to become “classics”, as in sold enough over a long time to become a memorable part of the culture. So you’re going to get a lot of that.
          I expect we’ll soon have robots/AI systems generating basically derivative works, competing with the less creative people; unfortunately, they may also out-compete beginners who aren’t quite accomplished enough to do something both well and new at the same time – something we might need to do something about.
          I also expect my faith in human creativity isn’t misplaced, and we will also continue to have new things – even derivative things with a new twist – of value to many people.

  2. c4c

  3. Can’t say in that in my 40+ years of reading SF that having a Hugo stamp on the cover made me pick up a book. In fact over the last 10 years or so, when choosing among books by authors unknown to me I’ve avoided the Hugo winners. To me, a voracious reader of SF/Fantasy, but someone who was never part of ‘Fandom’ this whole fracas seems like a very energetic tempest in a very small teapot.

    • Back in the old days, I would consider a Hugo Award Winner to be a plus for an unknown author. In the last 15 years, it has become the opposite, an indication that the author is not worth reading. Sad Puppies (I’m sorry Sarah, but *I* have never seen a Sad Kitten… I don’t think that emotion translates to feline brains.) clued me into what the problem was. Now, having found them, I do consider the imprimatur of Baen, or the recommendation of MadGeniusClub/ATH to be an indicator of something worth my time and money, but for the Hugos, only time will tell if they recover from the tarnishing in the hands of SJWs.

      • Don’t think cats can ever be sad? You’ve never seen one when you’ve shut the back door and put out the wrong food.

        • Havelock cat is often the saddest cat on Earth. Like when you haven’t petted him for ten minutes.

        • They are not sad, they are p*ssed. Now those rare cats that like to be petted are embarassed that you are so unmindful that you fail to realize they need petting. That is the closest ‘Embarassed that my owner doesn’t pet me kittens’ doesn’t have the ring that ‘sad puppies’ does.

          • In cats, neglecting to pet them or properly care for them does not cause anger, rather it causes an expression (vocal, attitudinal, or in overt conduct) of their embarrassment at having such poorly trained staff.

  4. “… Ancillary Justice [w]as a “fun space opera” …”

    Anyone who would tell me that loses credibility almost instantaneously. Ancillary Justice is one of the poorer books I’ve read in the last couple of years, and certainly not space opera. In fact, with all the magic handwaving running around, I’d say it’s the more of a “space fantasy” than Star Wars.

    Yeesh. That’s what I got for reading that book. This kind of reaction. Poorly written, chock-full of infodumps, poorly paced … how Ancillary won any awards at all is a mystery to me. It needed at least another 3 or 4 passes through an editor to clean it up.

    I mean, come on people, it gives us overcomplex alien words for pants.Pants. Just to be “sci-fi.”

    I kind of wanted my time back after I finished it.

    • SF by and for people who don’t like SF. They haven’t grasped the fundamentals of the genre and thus they adorn their work with the superficial aspects of it, like a drag queen version of femininity; except drag queens generally do a better job of grasping that for which they reach.

      A common experience of SF fans is what happened, when you were an adolescent and selected a book to read at the pool, at the beach, any where an attractive member of the targets of our desire might see us reading. In my memory books of SF were slightly less likely to attract favorable interest than a paperbound copy Secrets of Seduction. A certain adolescent embarrassment lingers too long in those wanting to make SF “respectable” literature.

      • I read a book that felt like that, a highly-lauded book that felt as though it were written by somebody from outside the genre. I finished it simply because I felt, as I described to somebody later, that “there must be a pony in there somewhere!”

        I was rather surprised to find it so highly lauded. It didn’t hit that point for me. (And Jasper Fforde did it better.)

      • I don’t know if I would agree that it was by someone who didn’t like Sci-Fi (though I’ll admit I have not read any of the author’s other works. However, I would agree that it felt like it was written by someone who didn’t know much about Sci-Fi (what little of the interview with the author I glanced at in the back cemented that) but liked the idea and wanted to write some. Which works, I think, with what Ancillary became. Ancillary isn’t a poor concept—in fact one of the great shames of the book is that the underlying idea is actually pretty good, if slightly unoriginal—but poor execution. There’s a decent plot concept buried in the mire, but it’s the rest of the book that drug itself down—the utter persistence of expository infodumps (always coming after the event to explain why it was important), the utterly bloated first 120-odd pages, the completely Hollywood solutions, timing, and physics, the constant tell/no-show, and the more improbable (and inexplicably unreasonable) decisions made by some of the characters.

        Yikes, that’s a list. But all of it could have been fixed by an editor who would have been willing to give the book a few more passes. At some point, some editor somewhere did not do their job. They looked at Ancillary and said “Good enough.” But it could have been fixed, and it could have been a good story.

        However, if I’m wrong and Leckie does not like Sci-Fi and was attempting to change it … well, she’s writing the wrong genre, then, really. And she needs a much more daring editor.

        Oh, and because everyone throws it out there, the gender thing added nothing to the story. It was not used in any clever way. It was not a mechanic to the plot. It was just there, a visual gimmick that served little purpose after the first paragraph other than making secondary descriptions (such as men and women’s chest, ironically enough) all the more important to the character.

        • I don’t recall intending that comment to be about Ancillary Justice specifically, just the general type of “contribution” to the field it represents.

          I still recall my astonishment one Sunday morning on picking up the Sunday NY Times (a friend who serviced paper racks gave it to me free, and back in the ’80s that wasn’t over-priced) and discovering the front page of the book section had as the featured review an SF novel by a classmate of mine from High School, It wasn’t so much his acclaim as it was the fact I remembered him from the school literary magazine (he was editor) and Creative Writing class as somebody who thoroughly disdained SF. I never bothered to pick up his book as I doubted he’d read enough in the genre to fully grasp its conventions.

          My impression of such ‘literary” excursions is that the authors don’t respect (probably a more accurate word than like) the field; they enter it big-footing, as if it should welcome their deigning to notice. They can’t bother learning about proper world-building and treat the genre as if it were a play-house of straw people and plastic furnishings.

          By employing a literary technique in a SF novel they tend to exacerbate the worst of both genres. They assume that readers will accept an improbable world because “it’s SF” and be grateful for the literary stylings.

          • Oh, I see. And yes, I agree. This does happen.

            What really irks me is then those authors get interviewed about their book, and they talk about how “No one has based a Sci-Fi empire on the Roman Empire before, I’m the first” or “No one has done a time-travel romance before, this is new ground” and the interviewer just applauds and agrees, because neither of them know anything about Sci-Fi.

            • It isn’t just they don’t know anything about Sci-Fi, they don’t think it worth their while to know anything about it.


              They don’t know and don’t want to know the territory.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              How to tell if a (genre) writer is so ignorant that the book may be lousy.

              Fantasy: No one has ever had someone from the real world travel to a magical world.
              Sci Fi: I’m the first to have an inventor create a space drive, and his own spaceship to use it.
              Mystery: No one has ever had the detective be the real killer.
              Horror: If you think about it, vampires are scary, so you can use them in horror.
              Thriller: No one has ever done communist or Muslim terrorists.
              YA: I knew I needed to talk about rape/drugs/murder because no one ever does.
              Girl’s fiction: No one has ever used horses before.
              Superhero: No one has ever had a superhero who doesn’t have super powers.
              Cyberpunk: My original idea is that dying in VR is dying in real life.
              Romance: I’m the first to have an arranged marriage, that falls apart when they meet other people.
              Western: No one has ever had a professional livestock handler get into an altercation with Native Americans.
              Wuxia: No one has ever used the murder of a teacher as motivation for revenge.

              • Wuxia?
                Lunacon, eight? years ago. A young man in the audience at a panel makes us promise we won’t “steal” his idea. By then we’re rolling eyes. He starts with “There’s this shop that sells magical artifacts.” I never heard the rest, we were laughing so loudly.

                • Wuxia: a genre of Chinese fiction or film dealing with martial arts, sorcery, and chivalry.

                  Think Crouching tiger, hidden dragon. Martial arts + fantasy.

                  • Magic is not actually required. Like a Gothic, it’s always on the border but can fall on either side.

                    • BobtheRegisterredFool

                      Yeah. It is the martial that drives the fantasy. There is a lot of what might be considered mysticism in Chinese traditions of martial thought. While I think that there is nothing there beyond the material, there are folks who believe the magical interpretation.

                      An example: I’m not sure if the concept of ‘killing intent’ is present in Wuxia, I’ve mainly seen in in Japanese fiction of the type. On the fantastic end, there are works that use it as a mystical quality that can be cultivated, where having more beats having less. In extreme examples, it can be used to kill or injure people just by being there. I suspect the truth beyond the legend was using body language to convey psychological state. I once met a dog, and somehow knew it would jump me if I let it get behind me.

                • BobtheRegisterredFool

                  Chinese. The Wu apparently means Martial, and the Xia means Hero. Concepts related to the Xia are also translated as Chivalry. So, stories of martial heroes, which commonly use a particular flavor of pseudohistorical setting.

                  I edited out a mention of Xianxia, a related genre. The Xian means immortal, and the standard assumption is Daoist magic and cosmology.

                  It is not unusual to have one of the following in Xianxia: A hero who simply tries harder. A hero gets a special object that drastically increases the speed of cultivation. A hero is transmigrated from one world to another, possibly bringing with them powerful knowledge. A hero has an abnormally powerful freak lineage. A hero has traveled back in time to their younger self, with powerful knowledge.

                  • So, basically, Xianxia = most shonen anime?

                    • BobtheRegisterredFool

                      Well, Shonen is a demographic, not a genre, but there are differences. Shonen Jump makes a flavor of Manga that is pretty distinct from Xianxia webserials. Some of that difference is age of the market.

                      The most easily explained difference is what tends to happen to minor antagonists.

                      In Xianxia, they end up crippled or dead pretty regularly, and wholesale extermination of their family is not rare. Exceptions where they end up in the supporting cast tend to be blood relatives of the main character. The other major exception is a very powerful neutral showing up, and asking that a life be spared to give him face.

                      In Shonen Jump properties, it isn’t all rare for defeated antagonists to show up in the main character’s team during the next story arc. Otokojuku naturally did an extreme parody of this, all sorts of freaks would show up as transfer students at school, when they were sitting around waiting for the next tournament arc.

                      Secondly, yeah Japan shows a lot of Chinese influences. Onmyo is derived from Taoism. Pop Onmyo in manga and anime tends to have very different features from pop Taoism in Xianxia. Take Tokyo Ravens, for example. Where are all the immortal pills and medicines?

              • These days, it’s more “Thriller: no one has ever done a story where the terrorists are either part of a right-wing secret government conspiracy or are actually just puppets of the evil white male big business.”

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  One author made the evil businessman a member of the Religious Right. Oh, his main ally was a rogue General. There was also a “mad scientist”.

                  • Well, obviously the right-wing secret government conspiracy is actually driven by the white male military industrial complex.

                    One of these days, I’m going to write a story where an arms dealer is just trying to make an honest buck rather than secretly causing the conflict. Seriously, at this point anyone that includes an arms dealer is just telegraphing the plot.

                    • Oh, yes. I mean even H. Beam Piper included in Lord Kalvan that the Stygon priests were manufacturing wars.

                    • BobtheRegisterredFool

                      Well, it goes along with some of the other lies they try to peddle. I once had someone try to convince me that the NRA was just a marketing tool of arms manufacturers. Stupidly, as I already thought he was ignorant, impaired, or a liar, and effectively white supremacist to boot.

                      Part of the process of Europe becoming more peaceful was exporting a lot of violent characters to North America. Some of these passed their qualities down. It is pretty clear that changes in actual violence cannot be explained by changes in temperament alone. Modern communications and transport brought more potential citizens in as potential fighters in any given conflict. To get practical benefits from an act of violence, you need to gather a lot more support. Most of the population right now can only get this support for legal violence.

                      It is too risky, for now, but it is not certain to always be so. We have had tremendous changes in level of risk just in living memory. The government is the public face of this change in risk, but the real muscle is our fellow citizens. The root is our fellow citizens, we cannot perfectly forecast them, hence there are potential risks that might be managed by arming ourselves.

                • BobtheRegisterredFool

                  There are other examples do not match the rest well. Mystery for one. I did the best I could with Horror, Romance, and Westerns, but I fear that my ignorance of the genres may show. Frankly, I’m not super well read in some of the other genres either. Compared to folks here, I haven’t even read much Sci Fi.

          • John D. MacDonald wrote a couple of SF novels, but apparently felt he had to denigrate them as lesser works.

          • This is the problem I had with Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. When the author specifically states that they added zombies to “make the book interesting,” you know there’s a problem. Add to that the fact that the author specifically got some very basic points wrong, such as having the Japan-fashion housekeeper with bound feet, and that the zombie plague, as stated, would either have overrun the world or died out by the point of the novel, and you have some real issues. Respect the material you’re working with, because contempt shows.

            It could have been a great novel. As it was, it failed on a number of major points. (I have heard that Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, by a different author, is a far superior treatment of the concept.)

            • And yet SSSM is still unreadable to an Austen fan.

            • The problem with Pride & Prejudice & Zombies was that the joke was completely made by the front cover.

            • Android Karanina was probably the best one of that sub-genre. The adapter managed to keep Tolstoy’s points (to an extent. Let’s face it, sci-fi limits your ability to praise the simple sanctity of rural life.) and texture with a massive sci-fi framework.

            • Not all of them run on that principle. Mansfield Park and Mummies, for instance, had fun entwining the concepts. Why is Lady Bertram so languid? Because of the mummy’s drawing off her life force — having great care not to seriously harm her, at that.

          • “By employing a literary technique in a SF novel they tend to exacerbate the worst of both genres.”

            Writing is like playing catch at the seashore next to a cliff. It’s a problem when the ball goes over the cliff, or the reader doesn’t get what’s going on. The thing about mundane genres is that they are playing inside a playground with a nice high fence. This is why fantastic genres are always stylistically conservative. If a mundane writer says, “Two moons hung by the horizon,” the character’s seeing double. If a fantastic writer says the same, the character’s on another planet with at least two and probably more moons, something’s split our moon into at least two and probably more pieces, or we’ve acquired more otherwise, OR — the character’s seeing double. Which means the reader can be much more easily baffled in fantastic genres.

      • like a drag queen version of femininity; except drag queens generally do a better job of grasping that for which they reach.

        Well, yeah. Most drag queens have actually met women and know what they look like. The people who don’t like SF, but want to appropriate the tropes, carefully refrain from contaminating their minds with the good stuff.

        So they end up with the literary equivalent of the Gripsholm Lion – that infamous beast, stuffed and mounted by a taxidermist who had never seen a lion. And about as convincing; but not nearly as interesting, because there are thousands of the damned things, and books make lousy tourist attractions.

    • Well, you know, pants can be complicated things. In our WIP, since it takes place in 12th century Japan, we don’t use the word pants, we use “hakama,” which are a really wide legged trouser worn as part of the traditional Japanese clothing. Obviously, they are “pants” on some level, since they are worn over the legs and each leg has its own tube of material, but they really aren’t pants the way we think of pants.

      So maybe, when you have a people who don’t bother differentiating between sexes like in “Ancillary Justice,” then the stuff they use for pants, even if they are exactly the same as 501 jeans, aren’t pants, but something else, because, ummmm, reasons.

      • I do understand that. Where my umbrage came from was that there was nothing given to indicate that these “alien pants” were any different than plain “pants.” A hakama I understand, as it’s not a pair of pants as we think of them (and I would expect you point out in the story what makes hakama different from pants).

        In this case it was just “complex alien word” for a pair of normal pants to sound science-fictiony, and it really irked me.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Aren’t Hakama originally at least cognate to chaps?

    • Worse, Ancilliary Justice took what should have been a good story and made it painfully dull and outright annoying with the pronoun idiocy. Just the idea of an AI accustomed to running a huge ship along with a standing army of human bodies being reduced to a single one of those bodies should have been plenty all by itself.

      Given the synopsis as the basis for a spec contract, there are dozens of writers out there who could produce a better book in a month or so.

      • Thanks for your comments about the Ancillary series. When the 2015 Hugo nominations came out, I told myself that I would not vote in any category until I’d read all the nominees in that category.
        Had to back-track a bit on that a bit: I couldn’t finish Ancillary Sword. It kept being *almost* worth reading, but *so* affected and just poorly written.

        Perhaps if I’d already read the first of the series, it might’ve been OK, but as it was, I placed it sixth of the five.

        • I haven’t read Ancillary Justice, but Ancillary Sword seemed very much like there was a great story in there, but it had to sneak out past the story the author thought she was supposed to be telling.

    • Sounds about right. Based on Ancillary Sword Leckie should fire her editors.

  5. Was “hate male” intentional or a fortuitous slip?

    • Certainly true, since the self-same Guardians of Culture want us to spend a year reading man-free fiction.

      • One can hardly call Mrs. Hoyt’s stories man free.

        And let’s not even start on Mrs. Bujold’s…

        • No, not characters, no male writers are to be read.

          • Depends on whom you check. Some want neither.

            • Are there enough books out there with only female characters to take a year to read? Or are males ‘allowed’ in a subservient, supporting, minor character role?

              • I think the idea was to read only female authors, but I confess I started skimming that blog after about the second sentence and by the end was leaping paragraphs entire.

                The problem, of course, being how is one to know if an author is female? I gather Sarah is not female, nor Cedar nor Kate nor Ayn nor ad infinitum.

                Scalzi, OTOH, would, I suppose, be perfectly acceptable.

                • But do you know for certsin that the “female” authors identify as male and vice versa?

                  Readers need to research authors thoroughly before reading their stories or the Evil Pale Penis People will “win”.

                • The point wasn’t to encourage people to read X or Y group. (Females and Minorities) the stated point was to demand people STOP reading a certain Group. (White Males) the irony is completely lost on them.

              • I suspect that men are allowed in supporting roles. You could, for instance, read my Madeleine and the Mists. 0:)

    • unintentional. I actually cleaned up a little after pressing finish, but that one escaped me. SO caffeine deprived.

  6. > …it’s hard to do. But that doesn’t make it “better”…

    That’s how I regard hitting really high notes on the trumpet. Sure, it’s difficult, but that does NOT make it a Good Idea. How about using the trumpet as a _musical_ instrument, rather than a squeakhorn, like it’s a dog’s chewtoy noisemaker?

    • akin to Mariah Carey’s squeaks. Just because you can make a dog come with no one else hearing it doesn’t make it fit your stupid pop song. But then again it is pop, which needs only looks and a modicum of talent, not actual artistry. Squeaks somewhat to time of a beat … not talent … Aretha singing Nessun Dorma, in Pavarati’s key, two octaves lower than her normal. qualifies.

      • High squeaking soprano parts is not new. Pretty much any time composers get a singer that can do that crazy stuff they have them do it. See the Queen of the Nights aria from Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Poor Wandr’ing One from Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance . And yes it is Gilbert and Sullivan but Gilbert just wrote the words the ludicrous high notes were Sullivans job/fault.

        • Or the other direction. When the first choral conductor to do Rachmaninov’s “All Night Mass” (aka the Vespers) saw the Nunc Dimittis, he said he’d never find basses who could do that “They’re as rare as asparagus in January.” But they do manage to find them. It is the lowest choral note in western music. (Telarc recording of the Robert Shaw Chorale, plus a few ringers. Highly recommend if you are into that kind of music.)

        • I’ve been in Pirates of Penzance several times, and the only time that high aria made sense was the time they played Frederick and Mabel as two socially-inept teens who had NO clue how to interact with the other sex. At all. He’s trying to shake her hand and she’s freaking out that this guy that she’s theoretically fine with actually wants to touch her. Cute as the dickens and absolutely hilarious.

          • blink

            They get played as anything else?

            • Most of the time, I see them played as naive but not total doofs. Disney-romantic, in other words. This one was him stepping forward with a goofy grin on his face, and her backing off and going a little bit higher in the aria. The highest note is actually when he makes contact with her, like “OMG WHAT DO I DO NOW.”

        • Actually, these kinds of parts led to concert pitch standardization 🙂 Some prima donna would travel to a strange city where the orchestra was tuned way sharp (string instruments sound brighter if you put more tension on the strings) and she wouldn’t be able to hit her highest note anymore. So the French (who else?) put together a commission that decided A above middle C was now to be 435 Hz everywhere. Later, as a compromise with established practice in the UK and the US, the international standard became a little higher at A=440 Hz.

          • I was under the impression that the first attempted standardization was on 432 Hz, but they ended up eventually standardizing at 440 Hz because everyone tuned a little higher to have a “brighter” sound.

            More recently, I believe Flatt & Scruggs were known for tuning sharp to get a brighter sound.

  7. If the continued popularity of the works of Willie the Shake prove anything it’s that sex and violence sells. Much the same can be said about Admiral Bob’s stuff once he got past YA and prissy old maid editors.
    The ragged vestiges of Puritanism still set the bar defining the break between romance and erotica fairly low here, so a writer has to be rather cautious should they choose to tread that territory. Still, it’s worked before and will again. Or so say the fans of LKH amongst others.

    • Good LORD no. Erotica is all over romance to the detriment of emotional attachment, which is annoying.

      • Reality Observer

        Particularly when emotional attachment is the definition of romance – at least to me.

        Anne McCaffrey wrote some very fine romances – with just the right amount of science fiction / fantastic seasoning to drag a middle-aged (now somewhat older) GUY into reading it. One that would not pick up a “traditional” romance even with nothing else to feed the word addiction.

        I note that the one piece of “erotica” she wrote – can’t recall whether it was on commission to Playboy or Penthouse – she expanded later, eliminating the entire chunk of “erotic” stuff that was in the original short. (And thereby made it a far better piece of work, IMHO.)

        • To me too. Heyer did great romances without even a kiss.

          • About the only ones I read, as it happens. Though I read some others, I tend to do the “self-abridged” versions, as in, Hmm, sex scene, skip that… (There’s one author whose books taken only about ninety minutes for me to read, since I can skip over great swaths of text and she has a lot of them. Oh well, they’re for when I need brainless action books…)

        • Bujold’s Sharing Knife series actually has sex scenes that I can read without a serious case of the giggles, and it’s because she’s going purely into the emotional experiences instead of the physical “Tab A into Slot B.” There’s also a serious problem with physical descriptions in that our culture veers entirely into the crude, and doesn’t have much in the way of lovely descriptions like “the gates of jade.” It’s hard to make something beautiful if all you have is dirt to work with.

          • All G-D had to work with was dirt, and He had to make that Himself. He still managed to create beauty wondrous to behold.

            Lesser creators typically need to start with finer quality material and even so typically achieve poorer results.

      • For people that can’t tell love from lust, romance and erotica are the same.

      • I originally had three (purposely women-friendly) erotic scenes in my WIP. Upon rereading the complete draft I realized two were nonessential to story requirements and excised them. The third I deemed essential to the relationship dynamic, but I rewrote it several times to hit the tone I wanted.

        • Reality Observer

          I will have one coming up – and I’ve already pretty much decided that there will be just enough information to set and explain some of the subsequent long relationship (which, like any real “romance,” is going to vary considerably over time).

          At which point, I will close the bedroom door on the reader. Their imagination will need to take over from there; which actually (at least to me) makes a book better.

          • Thank you. I’ve read books in which I have to switch to skimming the purple prose (because the story stopped there and the obvious “I’m doing this because my editor said a sex scene sells” started) to be sure I didn’t miss the resumption of the story. Irritating.

    • Or, as George Alec Effinger had a character refer to him in one of the Budayeen books, “Wilm al-Shaykh Sebir.” With a circumflex over the e, if I remember right.

    • Well… except Heinleins stuff sold better and was more popular before he went loony-tunes with the sexy-fun. At least… I was fairly sure that Door Into Summer and Double Star (two of my faves) weren’t Juvies.

      • clark e myers

        I’d not defend Door into Summer from accusations that it is a first appearance of approved pedophilia in the canon and arguably a weak woman out of her mind for the male protagonist. See later the twins that weren’t and other consequences of growing up around members of the Long family.

        Double Star is unusual in Mr. Heinlein’s works in being a bildungsroman where the principal grows up all the way. Interesting in context to notice that both sides in the story’s central dispute shared roots. As Larry/Lorenzo realized, when a party has the right of it and triumphs that party will fracture promptly after driving all opposition from the field.

  8. Also:
    Bling, Blang, Blung.
    Ding! Dang! Dung.

    Yeah most bling is… crap.

  9. Dammit.

    Now I HAVE to write a novel called Naked Girls and Space Lizards. It will be totally evocative of America of the 1950’s. The protagonist will be a brown space lizard having an existential crisis over his rapacious ways, unlike the unthinking albino ice lizards from the northern realms of his planet, so it will have to be a tragedy, sort of like a Gorean warrior hero with ED.

    This is all on you, Hoyt.

  10. ” (I object, of course. I have cats)”

    I object, of course. Cats have you.

    (says the former feline servant)

  11. I started reading SF in 1965. I figured out that a Hugo winner was a good bet after reading the Foundation series in 1967. From that point on, whenever I read ‘Hugo winner’ on the cover, I would buy that 50 cent paperback with my $1 a week allowance. Through the ’70’s and ’80’s it was a useful guide post. By the early 90’s the field had exploded and I could barely keep up with the SF authors I liked, plus the non-fiction material I was buying, never mind new ones. Stopped following the Hugos and Worldcon. I bought Redshirts (as an ebook) in November 2013. Okay read but NOT a Hugo as I knew them from the glory days of the ’60’s and ’70’s. That made me sad.

  12. The problem with gaming the Hugo (or any award) is that, having done so you can no longer values the achievement, having proven it no longer means what you believed it meant.

    In Figures of Earth, James Branch Cabell gives to his protagonist a gift which is both blessing and curse, that he should always achieve what he set his mind to and, in its achievement, know its true value.

    In the end, as Cabell notes:
    “For although this was a very heroic war, with a parade of every sort of high moral principle, and with the most sonorous language employed upon both sides, it somehow failed to bring about either the reformation or the ruin of humankind: and after the conclusion of the murdering and general breakage, the world went on pretty much as it has done after all other wars, with a vague notion that a deal of time and effort had been unprofitably invested, and a conviction that it would be inglorious to say so.”

    • It reminds me that “May you get everything you deserve,” is either a blessing or a curse, depending on what you deserve…

  13. I may have mentioned this before, for for cat lovers: http://www.gocomics.com/ten-cats/

  14. As an English Major, let me say that I would rather read Naked Girls and Space Lizards than anything considered “literary” from any genre. Why? because NG&SL will almost certainly be interesting and exciting, while the literary “greatness” will make me want to suck-start my 1911 out of sheer boredom.

    I swear that the only reason 99% of the sh*t we call “literary” is considered “great” or “a classic” is because some old, wrinkly, miserable hack of an English Professor decided that his students were far too happy and energetic, and he wanted to make them just as miserable as he was, so he found the most drawn-out, boring, slow-moving novels that he could and declared them “classics” and their authors “literary geniuses.”

    Case in point: Herman Melville. Or as I like to call him, “Herman F*cking Melville.” I know, I know, he never wrote sci-fi, but fact remains that the couldn’t write an exciting, well-paced, well-plotted story even if you put a gun to his head. And yet the man is considered to be one of the Titans of American Literature. Only the most depraved sadist, one bordering on full-on sociopathy, would willingly inflict drek like that upon endless generations of students.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      IIRC Moby Dick didn’t do that well during his lifetime.

      • Gee, I wonder why?

        Had to read it for my American Lit class. Or at least, I was supposed to. I gave up partway through the second or third chapter. Still paid close enough attention to the prof’s lectures to get a good grade on the paper.

    • I tried to read Billy Budd, Foretopman; gave it up pretty quickly.

    • My mother strongly recommended that I pass on MOBY DICK unless I wanted to rwad about Whaling.

      We spent the summers near New Bedford Mass., so that wasn’t as unlikely as it sounds….

      • I liked Moby Dick, especially the whaling parts. Was the only one in HS English to read the whole thing.

        • I was the only one in my high school to read Tolstoy’s War & Peace … all the way through, and of my own free will, over a summer vacation. Piece of cake – just skimmed over the boring philosophical conversations that went on for a chapter at a time. Ripping good family saga, otherwise.

          Interest was piqued by broadcast of the Bondarchuk version of the movie.

          • I was in 7th grade reading War and Peace when my mom’s book club was reading it. We read two separate books. I read War and she read Peace.

          • I read it a few years ago. A friend of mine who’s big on the Napoleonic era was talking it up. It was a decently written book, and unusually optimistic for Russian lit. But I wasn’t happy with some of the plot elements.

        • My husband liked it too. I still haven’t read it.

        • I enjoyed it as a boy as a book on whaling. Never finished it though. I just stopped at the second day of the chase. It takes skill to make a chase boring.

        • If it had just been whaling parts I’d’ve liked it just fine. It was the dimestore philosophizing “the whiteness of the whale” that put MB into the “never again” category.

    • The true purpose of most high school “literature” classes seems to be to ensure that its victims never voluntarily pick up a work of fiction for the rest of their lives.

      “Yes, this book is SO GOOD that I had to have six weeks of college interpretation and a teacher’s manual to appreciate it. I know it’s good because I paid good money to be taught how good it was! You should be grateful.

      Nope. Wasn’t grateful even one little bit.

      • I found Effie Briest pretty good, at least in German and shocked heck out of my professor by demonstrating her husband HAD to be impotent in the final.
        I looked sooooo innocent (and was) back then, professor never recovered.

      • I suspect you are correct. One of my good friends from college was a voracious reader… but only non-fiction. Refuses to even consider picking up any work of fiction. He hates “literature” and by extension all fiction, because of the drek he was forced to slog through in school.

        Which is too bad, because I know him well enough to know that he’d love Larry Correia, especially The Grimnoir Chronicles.

        • There was a quote, supposedly from Stalin although no search I’ve managed has turned up a citation, to the effect that he wanted limited universal literacy: citizens should be able to read Party Diktats but not want to read anything else.

          Modern Literature seems to be an attempt to achieve that, people able to read but willing to read only that which is required.

        • I have a whole slew of booktalks for those readers. Because after having read 30 or more teen novels in a row, I am them.

    • And yet many writers feel the need to do a version of Moby Dick, and it often turns out well. Star Trek has even done it twice (first time was better). It really is a great story, written in an awful, awful, awful style.

      I couldn’t get through Billy Budd though. I found _Bartleby the Scrivener_ appropriate to the style… and mercifully short.

      (My English class horror was Willa Cather’s “My Antonia”. Which was apparently well-thought of in its time)

    • clark e myers

      I rather completely disagree.

      On the issue of SF it is literally true that Melville did not write sci-fi. Just the same I suggest that there is a cross-over between exotic settings – world building – and SF.

      I suggest it would be possible to give Kim (or even to show the movie) to a typically uneducated American youth, who doesn’t know the context, as a recent Hugo winner and get it back with praise as SF. Similarly I suspect I could give such a youth Moby Dick as a shared world tale in a setting by David Weber and get the book back with praise.

      One of the many things I like about Teresa Nielsen Hayden is her discussion of plot and story.

      In my own not at all humble opinion Moby Dick is an enjoyable read all the more so in retirement say. Cultural literacy is more help than footnotes in enjoying as opposed to merely following a book. There are books that take a certain experience of life to really enjoy as the author intended I think. Sinclair Lewis earned his awards but I’d be surprised to find today’s high school english students enjoy any of his work.

      The teacher is not, by design, trying to expand his student’s reading for pleasure but trying to show the tricks and how they are accomplished. More do you see what he did there not isn’t that both obvious and admirable? Issue spotting after the manner of the Socratic method in law schools so the student can, has the option, be a practitioner.

      In particular there is a tradition going back to Gilgamesh and exemplified in modern times by the writing of Louis Lamour of telling stories that are not novels. Similarly, and I think related to the rise of the printing press and departure from any oral tradition, there are stories that are novels.

      A person might well prefer tales in the oral tradition to a novel but equally a person ought by rights be able to tell the difference and explain why on a balance a work falls into one category or the other. A lot of traditional SF, with its cardboard characters, was strong on story in a story telling tradition. Literary not so much story.

      • clark e myers: “In my own not at all humble opinion Moby Dick is an enjoyable read all the more so in retirement say.”

        Hum… I’ve been retired for 16 years now. Been reading the “classics” (a.k.a. “The Great Books”). Enjoyed “Iliad”, not quite as much “Odyssey”, loved “Tom Jones” (which I read in high school without having much stick in my head), disliked “Tristram Shandy” (which I read in high school and really liked). Read “Aneid”. Read Aeschulus. Tried to read “Moby Dick” and failed. Just plain failed. Simply couldn’t get into it at all, and thought the thing needed working over by somebody who knew how to tell a story.

        But than, that’s life, YMMV, and no accounting for taste.

        Now reading Dante. My, my!

  15. The Literati always fight like hell to keep what is popular from being considered “respectable”, and then when they lose they pretend they never fought it at all. They really, REALLY didn’t want to admit that Hammett and Chandler were important and influential, and even as late as the mid-1970’s were fighting a rearguard action. Tolkien was first openly despised, then damned with fain praise, an snow they try to make out that he was respected all along.

    They are hampered in their endless battle against anything anyone with any sense might actually read by a number of factors. In the first place, there are only so many PhD. dissertations you can wring out of analyzing a piece of obvious drivel like THE HANDMAIDEN’S TALE. No PhD. dissertations, no young associate professors to do the scut work and to be lorded over by their elders and betters. Also, if they stop granting new PhDs., then the accustomed pavane will halt, and somebody might get around to asking why everybody was dancing in the first place. Then the whole pyramid scheme that is Higher Education these days will come crashing down and the Literati might have to (*shudder*) WORK for a living. Hell, a significant number of them haven’t published anything of any weight since they made Full Professor; they’ve been spinning out the same interminable Deconstructionist research project for twenty years, and hope to continue to do so until retirement. Whereupon they will kindly leave their “papers” to the University, which will quietly flush them down that memory hole known as the Research Library Annex.

    Also, since they have made a fetish of being “Shocking”, they have to put up with each new generation of Grad Students being shocking by taking up something they elders refused to touch with a barge pole.

    And when you get right down to it, most of what has been beloved by the Literati, in the teeth of popular indifference, over the centuries, has ranged from merely tiresome to absolutely awful. Very rarely has Intellectual fashion and popular taste coincided, and nowadays such exceptions tend to be regarded as embarrassing.

    Steinbeck, embarrassing. These people do make me want to spit.

    They will, eventually, HAVE to seriously consider BEN HUR, if only because the beautifully written pieces of intellectual candyfloss that the Literati of that era lauded to the skies have all been (mercifully) forgotten.

    Aside; they caved on the subject of Dashiell Hammett (and therefore also on Raymond Chandler) because his literary legacy was championed by his long term lover Lillian Hellman, and they were all (rightly) scared to death of the old Stalinist bitch.

    • If popular works can be “respectable” then where is the privilege in being elite?

      Next thing you’ll be claiming that in blind tests wine from a carton can be considered superior to wine from crystal decanters.

      • Are you implying it is the crystal decanters that make the difference? I can pour a box wine into a decanter. You can, too. The trick is getting the really good stuff into the box. (I know–I think–you meant to say a box wine can taste as good as wine from an ollllllld, dusty bottle with a highly-thought-of winery label, or better.)

        • In a blind tasting the packaging of the wine doesn’t matter, thus any assertion about the relative merits of such packaging are moot.

          The advantages of a classically leather-bound novel, with gold-edged pages over a Kindle is in the tactile experience of handling the package and nothing to do with the story contained within that package.


          Although, as with ladies’ lingerie, the elaborateness of packaging can make the contents seem more precious.

          • Further words on the matter of judging a wine by its source:


            Gotta love Australians. You can take the Aussie out of the bush …

          • Well, and it doesn’t need an internet connection, or electricity, and it doesn’t have electronics with a one to two decade shelf life due to lead-free solder, had a demonstrated useful lifespan of over a thousand years, and requires only a modest amount of ambient light to use. And it’s made with fully-recyclable organic materials!

            Oh, and if it’s a reference book, you can flip back and forth between sections far faster than with any e-reader.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              One Bible study I was at, the leader was jumping to several different verses. It was “fun” doing that with my electronic format Bible. [Wink]

            • True, but at this point my eyes literally glaze over from paper (except if it’s really white). A high B/W contrast ratio is essential to my eyesight, so screens and Kindle Paperwhite it is for me. Besides, no longer traveling all over the place with one suitcase just for books 🙂

          • I bought a leather cover for my kindle from amazon that has a built in light for when it’s dark.

            I love it, I get the leather book cover feeling, and the nice adjustable kindle text (for when my eyes are tired) AND a thousand books in one handy device.

          • scott2harrison

            I beg to differ. The packaging does matter. Crystal decanters have lead in the glass and wine is acidic. You don’t want to drink wine that has been in crystal for more than a couple of hours.

        • If you place the wine in a lead-crystal container for a long enough time, it will accumulate enough lead that they *may* think it tastes better… More likely, it will turn to vinegar in a very nice crystal decanter.

        • Actually, they can. Because our sense of taste is so heavily linked to our sense of smell, the shape of the glass can heavily influence the amount of wine exposed to the air, the rate of oxidation, and the amount of fumes still captured when you lift the glass to drink. This is why there are different shapes for red and white wines, as well as sparkling and dessert wines.

          Serve the wine in the wrong style of glass, and it will taste differently than if you serve it in the right style.

          This doesn’t even get into decanting the wine, and allowing it to oxidize, which on some wines is a detriment, and some wines is vital to enjoyment…

    • FWIW, I liked The Handmaid’s Tale. Mainly because my parents flipped their proverbial lids when they discovered that I was reading it for a high school English class.

      • Other than unlikely world building, unbelievable plot and contrived “moral” it was … a book. Yes. I can say it was a book.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Of course, it also fit right into the “World View” of our self-appointed elites. [Frown]

          • Natch. Otherwise it would never have been published.

            • Nor made into Major Motion Picture – a sure sign the elites think a book is an Important Lesson for the moviegoing unwashed.

          • [I] … fit right into the “World View” of our self-appointed elites.

            … unlikely world building …

            There is no correlation to be drawn, there is nothing to see here, pay no attention to the person behind the curtain. Move along. The Emperor is dressed in garments of the finest kind.

          • Paul: you mean, the ones who are constantly terrified of the rise of a fascistic out-of-control Evangelical Christian state, while ignoring the fact that a fascistic out-of-control secular state is growing up around their ears? (chuckle)

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Yep. Or at least they “claim” to fear a Christian Theocracy.

              Considering how they “bow” to offended Muslims (who might riot or chop off their heads) but continually insult Christians I wonder how much they really fear Conservative Christians.

              Just like they “fear” gun-owners but don’t stop insulting gun-owners. [Sad Smile]

              • It’s safe to fear a christian theocratic takeover a la Handmaids Tale or V for Vendetta – it’s likelihood of actually ever happening is vanshingly small, and in the meantime the believers of that flavor won’t hunt you down and cut your head off for writing that book or making that movie.

                • It’s an incredibly improbable event if only because the minute one got off the ground it would immediately splinter over hymns vs. praise songs, wine vs. grape juice, or what the Bible mandates the color of the carpet be.

                  • Oh, heck, yeah! I was raised and educated as a strict-form Lutheran. Yeah, get enough protestants to come together to agree on any overreaching doctrine? I’ll hold your coats and make popcorn, while y’all finish thrashing all that out.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    Yep, a Christian Theocracy isn’t possible for those reasons.

                    What the Idiot Anti-Religion Secularists should worry about is enough Christians to decide that we’re not going take anymore nonsense from them.

                    I mean, we can live with our “idiot” fellow Christians because they aren’t threatening us, but those Anti-Religion Secularists are a threat to us and our brethren (who are just In Error). [Very Big Evil Grin]

                    Note, I doubt that any of Sarah’s regulars are Anti-Religion Secularists. [Polite Smile]

                  • Hmm, now, are you discussing a Protestant theocracy instead of a Catholic or Orthodox one? Protestantism is prone to continual schism because its central theory has no way to stop them.

                    • The anti-religion post-apocalyptic ones usually are Protestant flavored. The fantasy ones are bastardized-catholic flavored. I suppose in theory a Christian theocracy could occur, but it would be driven from the Civil authorities outward not the reverse that is usually depicted. The few historical Christian semi-theocracies were usually either a case of a small cohesive group that liberalized quickly as the population grew OR where the civil government was using it as a way to destroy political enemies.

                      One of the problems is that many (*cough* liberal atheist *cough*) authors tend to conflate a theocracy with a culture that has a shared set of values rooted in a particular belief system. The latter happens all the time, but when those values aren’t traditionally liberal the author needs to create a evil-conspiracy-theocracy to explain it.

                      Theocracy – where the civil government is run by clerics acting directly as agents of God – is nearly impossible in any modern Christian context. For Protestants it is because they are each their own arbitrator of doctrine and morals. For Catholics and Orthodox it is because they like the Church as a concept but wouldn’t trust it to run the government.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Sadly, too many non-writers non-religious people have a “strange” definition of theocracy. IE “a culture that has a shared set of values rooted in a particular belief system”. Which is why you get idiots that talk about a “democratic” theocracy.

                    • The same confusion between deliberate, coordinated, intelligent action and consistent response to stimulus is frequently expressed by those on the Left. (See comment elsewhere today about chickens “ganging up” on a snake.)

                    • Israel might technically a theocracy since the Torah is the foundation of their state. However you don’t have to follow the Torah, you don’t even have to be Jewish to be a citizen of Israel.

                      This is just one giant nit.

        • That’s just because modern toilet paper comes on a roll instead of bound along one edge.

        • The same could be said of a little volume I picked up in a yardsale;

          TRAINING CADAVER DOGS.

        • I barely remember the plot, and all I can remember is that the protagonist was named either “Offred or “Ofglen,” and my parents went ballistic when they heard I was reading it. That second bit was the only thing that really made the book memorable for me.

          • I haven’t read that story, but I always wondered how you could have a ‘christian society based on the old testament’. Obviously the author knew nothing about religion, or at least about Christianity. I mean it’s like saying: A christian government based on the koran. It just doesn’t make any sense.

            • Doesn’t make sense to me either, but then again a whole lot of real-world “Christians” try to live that way and implement those values on the rest of us, so theoretically it could happen.

            • Remember, this was post-apocalyptic. Things tend to get jumbled. And if there’s one thing humans are really good at it’s using everything available to justify what they wanted to do all along. Religion has historically been a prime tool of such people.

              • True, But just from the notes I’ve seen of it, it sure sounds like she ripped off the Covenant from Robert A. Heinlein, doesn’t it?

                • It’s been a while since I’ve read either, but I would say the Covenant is like a government run by a cross between Adolf Hitler and Mike Huckabee while Handmaid’s Tale describes a slave society designed by Goebbels. I don’t remember much talk of the politics of the world.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  That’s assuming that she knows of the Heinlein story (which I doubt).

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Sorry Jeff, but the “apocalyptic event” was this group taking over after the President & Congress were killed by an unknown group (possibly Islamic).

                • As I said, it’s been a couple of decades since I’ve read it, but I recall that the apocalyptic event was that a sizeable fraction of women were rendered sterile. That’s what created the handmaid position in society.

          • See, if our yard ape came home with that book we’d view it as an educational opportunity… for her teachers. Oh the fun we could have…

        • “Dan Fielding . . . was a mammal.” (Revisits scene from “Night Court” in head.) Yup, same intonation, same problem finding something good to say.

        • Ugh, Margarte Atwood…. As a Canadian I apologize for our country inflicting her on the rest of the world. As a remedy I recommend another Canadian author (non sci-fi but great read) Stephen Leacock and his “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town”

          (I grew up in that town and the book describes it perfectly even a hundred years later. 🙂 )

      • I liked it too. What’s interesting is that I saw a quote from Margaret Atwood recently that said she was surprised when all the Christianists (it’s a word for the surface-level types) got upset at her, because she specifically based all of the concepts of her New Gilead on the *Old* Testament exclusively. Hadn’t noticed that, but it’s a good point.

        I think I liked it because it’s another form of post-apocalyptic fiction of sorts, but all the other stuff of the time was post-nuclear, for the most part. (The Stand is about the only post-apocalyptic novel put out in that time period that’s from pestilence.) If you grew up convinced that the world was going to end through MAD, post-apocalyptic novels were a form of comfort, in that SOMETHING was going to endure…

  16. Hm… I’ve been thinking a lot on this subject myself recently. My comment here is getting close to “novella length” so I’m tossing it into Notepad++ and I’ll put it up on my blog or something later (unless you’re hard up for guest bloggers or sommat and would like to see it) but I’m starting to think that we’re facing a crisis of there not being an actual award for all of sci-fi/fantasy (each con is giving out awards for its favorites) and it maybe not being possible for there to be a global sci-fi or fantasy award anymore because the genres have spawned sub-genres of their own.

    tl;dr version of super-comment is this: Category error. Massive category error that ain’t helped by an interesting form of regulatory capture by a group who hate the rest of the sub-genres because of the same kind of screaming rage that destroyed the painting world during the Cold War.

    — G.K.

  17. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Because that baby you want cut in half is still alive, if barely.

    I’m reminded of a bit in the first Otokojuku series that is a spoiler.

    Otokojuku was published by Shonen Jump, and is a comedy of maiming and dismemberment. It had a cheerful disregard for continuity, and used over the top machismo to make subtle points about manhood.

    Which means the baby is sure to live, so as you loudly shout ‘ancient Chinese medicine’ enough times.

    If Xianxia teaches us anything, it is that there is a tremendous market for good old fashioned stories.

    • A good story badly told will usually out sell* a bad story no matter how wonderfully told.

      *Absent some form of massive shove down the public throat by the publishing industrial complex.

      • Which explains the entire career of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

        • Reading your original comment I flashed on the “evolving” critical response to Jim Thompson and Mickey Spillane, two writers disdained vigorously by the critical establishment when they first appeared and who are now revered, if primarily for the purpose of smiting their successors (much the way Liberals now complain that this or that conservative is not as respectable as Reagan or Buckley, both of whom have endeared themselves to the pecksniffian present by having the good grace to die and thus no longer be able to challenge the uses to which they are put. There is something there akin to the earlier practice of digging up the corpses of dissident churchmen in order to burn them for the edification of the masses, but I digress …)

          • I haven’t read Thompson but there’s a lot about his life to make me suspicious: Communist Party membership for about five years, involvement with the Wobblies, and he went straight to the top when he went to Hollywood (Kubrick and Redford hired him.)

            • And he was director of the Oklahoma branch of the Federal Writers’ Project during the depression, took over for a Marxist economic professor. Whenever there was an opening in the charge of far leftists or Marxists, Thompson flew straight to the top. Not what I’d think of as a neglected pulp writer.

            • Yeah, but no hardline Communist would’ve written The Getaway.

              • Haven’t read the novel. The first movie has no virtues other than Peckinpah’s direction the technical details and some of the acting.. No one seems to like the remake. I don’t like the everybody’s-a-thief-or-killer world of the story.

                • Have not read the novel, have not seen the movie, but “the everybody’s-a-thief-or-killer world” is a common theme of communist critiques of capitalist society, displayed nowhere so clearly as in Brecht’s Threepenny Opera libretto.

                  Some would argue that “the everybody’s-a-thief-or-killer world” simply means it is a fallen world and that the solution to that fall lies not in economics not politics.

  18. Pingback: Why The Puppies Did It | The Arts Mechanical

  19. I haven’t bought a Hugo Awarded (or nominated) novel because of that. I have some that were (rah, rah, RAH, doncha know), but I haven’t bought much new SF in the last 15 years. ANALOG is most of what I read, in SF.

  20. There is a correlation between the battle over the Hugo awarding and the larger political debate in America (and elsewhere, but most notably here.)

    This was driven home to me by reading, immediately upon completing today’s post and comments here, this excerpt (via Power Line) of Michael Mukasy’s WSJ OpEd from Saturday:

    Once you assume a public office, your communications about anything having to do with your job are not your personal business or property. They are the public’s business and the public’s property, and are to be treated as no different from communications of like sensitivity.
    http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2015/08/mukaseys-judgment.php

    The Hugo is the property of SF Fandom at large, it is not a bonus to be handed out for favored participants. To the extent SF Fans participate in its awarding is the extent to which the Hugo has meaning.

    A main reason they hate Sad Puppies is that, through three successive campaigns, Sad Puppies has revealed the Emperor’s Robes of the Hugo’s claim to represent fandom to be nothing more than the faded baggy drawers of a zealous clique. Sad Puppies forced them to abandon their claim the Hugo represented all SF fandom, thus a large element of their complaint about slating is that enables them to complain a tiny unrepresentative minority, by gaming the voting rules, has dislodged their tiny unrepresentative minority from the fortress of Hugo.

    That is why their effort is to “prevent” slating rather than increase participation.

  21. Hugo Award winner does not sell a book to me.

  22. Alas, trying to deprogram SF Moonies is tough. The entire corpus dogmatica progressiva is just that, a dangerous, mind controlling cult. The Scriptures tell us that the poor we will have with us always; so too the lunatics.

  23. Shakespeare hit a patch of unpopularity after his death. Indeed, during the Restoration, one acting troupe kindly let another do Shakespeare — but not Ben Jonson, the first troupe hung onto him for dear life.

  24. The Literati movement tends to remind me of Screwtape’s advice to Wormwood regarding his client’s reading choices. One should read books in order to impress others, and not for enjoyment.
    And thus Screwtape’s favorite means of damnation- where one does neither the things they should, nor the things they like. Thus, they gain neither pleasure in this world or heaven in the next.

  25. Randomly, I am in my husband’s hometown on the way to Spokane, and went to church this morning. It’s the day of the church picnic, so I fell to talking with someone whose name I cannot recall (since the last time I saw her was November.) I said where we were going and mentioned about Worldcon and how Supporting memberships get you Hugo voting rights and a packet of e-ficiton. And I swear, she went on point. Apparently, F&SF are a family favorite for her and her kids (their dad is a nonfiction junkie.) The idea of a packet of e-fiction for $40-$60 was an incredible deal. I also told her that if they got such a membership before the nominating deadline, they could nominate anything wonderful they found that was eligible.

    It honestly hadn’t occurred to me to actively scout out fans to add to the voting pool, but it’s only been the last four years that it’s been that kind of bonus. And I swear that I will use this power for good—that is, to get as many people on board as I possibly can, because the only way the system cannot be gamed is to make the voting pool big and broad and full of people of all walks of life.

    • It honestly hadn’t occurred to me to actively scout out fans to add to the voting pool …

      Apparently the extant voting pool was just fine with the size of the pool being what it was. Their problem now is their inability to get those !@#$ barn doors closed again.

      There will always be those who prefer benefit by keeping the pond small.

      • That was the big surprise for me once I started following the Puppy topics. I’ve read collections of Hugo-winning stories, but as far as I remember they never said who awarded them. It was enlightening to find that only a small subset of registrants of a fan convention were the voting body.

        • Funny how that is, ennit?

          Is like discovering that the Center For Science in The Public Interest* consists of little more than three copy-writers staffers and a fax machine.

          *For example; no assertion of actual employment data should be imputed.

        • Pre-SP, a lot of “Hugo Nominees” were nominated by less than thirty people.

  26. Reblogged this on westfargomusings and commented:
    Sarah sums it up right here, in it barest, most minimalist form. This is what SP3 is about.

    “…it’s a genre worth saving.

    And saving doesn’t speak to going back to the past, but to porting the same enthusiasm and life to present day sf.”

  27. I know this will be twisted and screamed at. If they could twist Toni’s post that amounted to “let’s establish bridges of understanding” to mean she was trying to exclude people, they can twist anything.

    I think this is the reaity that came home for me this year. The fact that nothing I wrote — however innocent, however it may have been intended, regardless of context — could and would be warped for tabloid point-and-gawk purposes, by people determined to make me the bad guy no matter what. There can be no dialogue with people who read and listen to you for the sole purpose of seeking to find offense, or who are looking for excuses to drag you through the mud.

  28. And to add: people who get the vapors being compared to the Cheka, probably shouldn’t promptly turn around and behave like Chekists. I see Arthur Chu and Co. have dialed in some more bomb threats. If I were the pearl-clutching Puppy-kicking crowd, I’d be more concerned with the beast that’s been unleashed in my own ideological back yard. Again, bomb threats. You can’t dialogue with bomb threats. You might think you’re being a good “ally” now, but just wait until it’s your turn. The Cheka targeted a lot of good Party people back in the day, while also flensing the “traitors” who weren’t onboard with the Party. Everyone is always a good Party member . . . until it’s their turn to get kicked in the head. Just don’t say nobody warned you what was coming.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Chu:

      “Arthur Chu ‏@arthur_affect · 5h5 hours ago
      You know who I think called in the bomb threat? Every single person on my newly swollen block list #BlocklistLibel”

      Not exactly a denial, now is it? 😉

      • Chu is mental. I don’t think he even realizes the miscreantly flavored kind of crazy that he’s gathered to himself with the endless Social Justice Bully antics that he pulls. We’re talking Weather Underground crazy.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Chu had a good thing going when he quit Twitter. Why did he have to screw it up by returning?

    • That’s the problem with being a good Party member. No matter what your record or how vehement your assertions, you can never put up an adequate defense when the Party starts to eat its own.

      The Black Marias run all night, and they can stop anywhere.

  29. Christopher M. Chupik

    From Twitter:

    “Athena Andreadis ‏@AthenaHelivoy · 2h2 hours ago
    Sarah Hoyt apparently nurses the ambition of becoming #sciencefiction’s Ayn Rand.”

    Please. Sarah’s a much better writer than that. 😉

    • I’ve read Rand. I am not a Rand fan. I think Sarah is the far superior storyteller. Hell, I think Sarah is the far superior ideologue, too.

      • Ayn Rand was in dire need of an editor that was willing to use an axe…. Some decent ideas, and concepts just overly wordy. I did the unabridged version of “Atlas Shrugged” by Audible….. *whimper*

        • I couldn’t deal with the book. (I love “Anthem” though — as I do Rush’s musical retelling of it, “2112” :)) Actually, when all the usual suspects started dumping on the movies I bought them on iTunes, and especially Part I has a very compelling story. Many people speak of AS changing their lives: she might have changed many more if she had been able to find an editor that she could work with and had the book condensed.

      • I am a Rand fan – of the author – and she and Ms Holt write in different genres.

        Unless you’re referring to the two women’s respective political screeds rather than their novels, in which case, yes, Ms. Holt trumps.

    • Who the fuck is the crazy chick opining on me? All these people with illusions of writing.

        • Whoa! Sarah – she’s been featured in a Beeb documentary. Better kowtow now and beat the rush!

          • This is my middle finger.

            • Wait – it’s that crazy chick? I was watching that BBC “Explain SF stuff to Normal People” and she kept popping up as one of their “expert” authors. I’d never heard of her, so I looked her up, and I’d still never heard of her.

              Hardly worthy of digital signaling from someone of Our Beloved Evil But Terrible Space Princess’ exalted benificence.

              • Now I think about it, comparing me to Ayn Rand is the craziest thing anyone has said about me since Miss Butthurt or Miss Luhrid (I can’t tell them apart. They whine in the same frequency) decided I was a Jeb Bush supporter. It’s a “Say what? Is the sky made of cheese in your world?”

                • clark e myers

                  Perhaps, I say perhaps, the work might be quite different.

                  To a first approximation raised in a far away land, studied and influenced by great writers who wrote in languages other than her milk speak, emigrated to the United States of America, married here, and not only liked its political system better than her homeland of birth but went on to say why. Supported free market principles and Republican candidates. Nope nothing similar there.

                  Granted there are real differences but I am reminded that to a first approximation Irish separatists and unionists are all Irish and sound like they all belong in Brigadoon just listening to them.

    • I’ll take Sarah’s Stories any day. That’s why I keep coming here. I have never read Rand and don’t want to.

    • Don’t make the mistake of thinking she reference Rand the writer. She means Rand the manufactured lefty brazen idol she asssumes we all worship.

    • Ayn Rand used to SF. It took SJW’s to make her nonfiction.

  30. Christopher M. Chupik

    I found this cute Sad Puppy map:

    • I think the author’s misplaced Wright and Lamplighter. I’d’ve stuck them on the near shore to Sadland.

    • Camestros has typically been a complete git toward the Puppies, but this map is awesome. See, if the Puppy haters could do more shit like this, they’d be maybe half as annoying? We might even begin to suspect there’s a sense of humour lurking under all that snobbery and hostility.

      • I find it interesting that I’m at the top of the Puppy thing. YAY. But why is Larry at the bottom?

        • That’s where the sea-demons come out, and he has all the lightning-katanas.

        • The map has obviously been flipped, left to right, offering a mirror image of the true territory. How else to explain the positioning of Baen, Amazon, Hoyt and Correia in the portion representative of the Old World, the land of High Privilege, Excessive Ornamentation, Affectation and Who You Know?

          Clearly they belong to the Right Hand of the map, representative of vibrancy, innovation, eschewal of non-essentials and dedication to practicality.

        • Larry only attacked their award.

          You’re attacking their whole genre.

          Jeff Duntemann wrote about Human Wave a while back and directed his readers here to Read the Whole Thing(tm).

          • The funny thing, you know, is that I’m attacking the genre not because of them, exactly, but because I was educated in it. I know postmodern “literature” for the sterile and depressive bitch it is. It needs to die that the culture might live.

        • White Morman male privilege?

        • ” But why is Larry at the bottom?”

          Because he is the foundation on which it all rests. Such is the history of the movement — he caused all that came after.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        The labeling is unforgivable insult to Toni Weisskopf, Second Emperor of Baen. 🙂

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        It’s more creative than the usual profane insults and accusations of Nazism, that’s for sure.

  31. I agree. I think Lamplighter should be in the Sea of Puppies, and Wright a peninsula of Sadland.

    • (Waggles hand) Lamplighter and Wright should have their own island in the Sea of Puppies, or be connected to Rabidonia via an isthmus.

      • Where are the Fjords of Flint? The Shoals of Sanderson? Nor do I see a base for the Gamergate Freebooters. Where reside the Riders of the Guardian?

        Puny map.

  32. Who was it who the other day brought up The Who in the Hugo/LPE context:
    “It’s an eminence front/It’s a put-on”

  33. I don’t know if many towns and cities in the US are named for Shakespeare characters, but there are a lot of hamlets . . .

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      I know a story, possibly apocryphal, about a performance of Othello in the Old West. An audience member was so outraged by Iago that he pulled out his gun and shot the actor dead on the stage.

    • THP. Actually once, on a trip from the midwest to the beach (I want to say in NC, since I’ve never been in Florida but it was more than 30 years ago and it’s nebulous) I kept myself awake tagging the Romeos, the Juliets and the Veronas, etc. Tiny, blink and you missed it places.

  34. Now, talking about romance and erotica, DO NOT MISS THIS ONE:

    I Don’t Care if My Best Friend’s Mom is a Sasquatch, She’s Hot and I’m Taking a Shower With Her (Paperback) – January 15, 2015
    by Lacey Noonan (Author)

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/150758833X?ref_=as_li_tl&redirect=true&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=150758833X&linkCode=as2&tag=slastacod-20&linkId=VXLFVZU5YZWWCOBZ&pldnSite=1

  35. A few quick comments –
    The first SF book I ever picked up was because of the ‘Hugo’ stamp on the front. I didn’t know what a Hugo or Nebula was, but awards must mean ‘good’, right? That was Ender’s Game.

    The forty or so ‘known’ authors I read aren’t quite enough to feed my habit. I’m the guy with my nose to the glass at Barnes & Noble ten minutes before opening on the release date of the next book on my list. (No e-books. They’re not as good for disciplining children as, say, a Robert Jordan hardback. A thump on the head works wonders.*) The trick is finding something worth reading. So not just the Sad Puppies list, but some of the comment threads have been a treasure trove of new authors to look up. Whether the Hugo is ultimately restored as a stamp of quality or not, the whole affair has been extraordinarily helpful.

    * For anyone who may object to my whacking my kids with books – My eldest is always respectful to her mother, even if she does steal my books. (Though that may be plain self defense.) She tells folks she was raised by Dean Koontz. My youngest also shows proper deference to her mother, but can’t remember our address. So… win some, lose some.

    • Sarah – here’s an idea for a series of posts, by you and by guests (other than me — choose established SF contributors): try a weekly post on “classic” SF authors and why you loved or were meh or actively disliked their work. Heinlein, Simak, Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury, Williamson, Tenn, Smith (both of them), Kornbluth — all authors past caring about your opinions, each of whom contributed significantly to what SF was and became.

      Consider it a form of Readers’ Guide to vintage SF, for those who came in late, or a walk down Memory Lane (alright, because of the recent pulpy covers and you know you want me to say it: down Mammary Lane.) Some warts and all reviews might be a productive change of diet from what normally indigests you.

      • I absolutely will do this. Remind me if I forget, once house is up (hopefully by end of the week) and the world has stopped spinning quite so hard. I’d like to do them as podcasts.

    • I don’t necessarily object to you whacking your kids with books, but with Robert Jordan hardcovers????? That’s just asking for trouble. Either the kids will get brain damage, or they’ll randomly start describing the fabric of their dresses at inappropriate moments.

      • GIGGLE. I used to throw books at my kids when they interrupted my writing, but I never actually hit.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Because they caught the books and read them? [Grin]

        • Alright now, something needs to be said, it needs to be said NOW, and I am the one to SAY it.

          Do not hit your children in the head with books. Do not throw books at your children.

          The risk of damaging the book is just too great.

          STOP IT.

          bloody ‘eathens.

      • Younger son did speak in Shakespearean English for a while, but that was because I listened to audio books.

      • Jordan’s particularly egregious, but I’ve noticed (professionally) that a lot of authors have a tendency to over-describe clothing. Not sure why. Me, I like those descriptions, so they generally don’t bother me, but when editing I do watch for flow-breaking blocks of fabric and embroidery. Not everyone has my taste/tolerance for knowing just what characters wear. Funny thing, I was just pruning a few of those on a client’s ms before I read your comment…

      • They were week-before-Christmas good when I was toting a Robert Jordan around. A Zelazny paperback? Not so much.

        A classics list would be wonderful and greatly appreciated.

        I recently dug up copies of Wolfe’s New Sun series because I remember wanting my own Terminus Est as a teenager. Somehow I’d missed the last book and the two follow-on series. And the whole Latro series. And a half million short stories.

        Weird how Terminus Est stuck in my head, though. The stuff we read at that “impressionable age” stays with us. (If anyone has an old battleship and some smallish nukes laying around, I really liked Footfall, too.)

    • We do hope you check out the promo posts, too. 0:)

  36. Pingback: The State of Fandom and the Hugos: Category Error