Interview with Cathy Young, Part One

*So in March? April? Cathy young interviewed me about the Hugos, and I gave her my trademark long answers.  Her article is up now, but she’d graciously agreed to letting me post my original answers when it came out, so here it is (not a verification thing, she’s okay, even if she is a journalist.;)  I thought you might want to see it, is all.*

(1) Were you/are you directly involved with the Sad Puppies project, or are you simply a supporter?

I’m a friend of Brad’s and Larry’s and have taken part in a sort of free-floating email discussion of the Hugosplosion since the first one when Larry was doing it for a joke. There was then the second when he set out to prove that people of the wrong opinions/wrong views couldn’t win the Hugo.

That second one included two of my works on the suggested slate. They didn’t make it, partly because I didn’t even mention it to my fans (or at least not the short stories.) And I didn’t mention the short story because I had no idea it was suggested. (It wasn’t one of my best. It’s almost fanfic for my Shifter world.)

Here I must interject that I’ve been very ill for about two years (more, but the very only the last two years) which brought my reading and, unfortunately, my writing to a halt. So some of those emails (and the participants vary because it’s not a conspiracy and people keep adding/dropping people, including friends and spouses) I merely skimmed. I got enough to get Larry’s point, and I defended him from some of the crazy accusations, such as that he was buying votes. BUT I wasn’t participating very actively. I neither nominated nor voted last year, because for a free-lancer health difficulties mean money difficulties, as you probably know, yourself.

When discussion came around to this year, Larry said he’d proved what he wanted last year, and was not running a slate this year. It was mooted that I should. By that time, I knew I’d likely need major-ish (turned out far more major and explained my issues) surgery early in the year. So Brad volunteered. His goal was not the same as Larry. His goal was to reclaim the Hugo as a brand of “something people will want to read.”

Unfortunately, though I bought a supporting membership this year, I didn’t even nominate, because I was dealing with health crisis from December onward, as well as a house move. This will make my answers to some of these questions fairly odd. (Not helped by the fact I’m still in recovery.) Sorry.

(2) What do you think Sad Puppies was primarily a response to: stories getting Hugo nominations/wins for reasons of ideology rather than merit? Or, conversely, worthy sci-fi/fantasy literature not getting nominated because of ideology? Or both? Can you give me some examples of stories or books that you believe won/got nominated undeservedly (other than “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”), and ones that were unfairly excluded?

I can’t speak for the rest of the participants. This is a centerless movement, a lot like the Tea Parties. I know Brad’s goal is to “restore” the awards, and also that Brad is well to the left of me. In Portuguese classification terms, which since it’s all left provides greater amplitude of dividing the left into segments, I’d say Brad is a social democrat. This means he has no objections to the politics in the winners, only to ineptitude.

Now that I think about it, I also have very little objection to the politics (save when they’re predictably boring.) Most of my objection to recent wins of the Hugo doesn’t even rest in If You Were A Dinosaur My Love being nominated. I hate that story because of how it portrays “every man working class” in America (and yes, I know it’s been said this “rough bar” isn’t working class. Because, you know, the Harvard Faculty bar is truly dangerous. I mean, I don’t know about your area, but in every place I’ve lived in the true underclass doesn’t congregate in bars. Flophouses and crackhouses [we had one down the street twenty years ago], maybe, not bars.) Heck, how it portrays every man working class anywhere. My grandfathers were both carpenters and my mom’s brothers were in the trades. It didn’t make them raging bigots, even if one of them had a crude sense of humor.

But it wasn’t what I call the Dinosaur Abomination nor even the fact that for years I haven’t been able to use the Hugo as a guide for what to read that convinced me something had gone very wrong. No, it was Red Shirts win. I’m sorry, that book is at best bad fanfic, and yet it got the honor of being “the best of the year” against, if I remember the year correctly an excellent (ie better than normal) Lois McMaster Bujold book.

I know you’re going to say taste can’t be argued, and this is true, but it prompted me to start looking more closely at the awards, and what I found and had already known at the back of my head, is best encapsulated in my friend Dave Freer’s words, back at Mad Genius Club:

“I used to be a member of SFWA. I used to get the Nebula nominations notifications. They were fascinating, pre 2010… because they listed the names of those who voted for them.

Guess what?

It was all the same names. Jim got nominated by Joe, Mary, Sally, and Charlie. And Charlie got nominated by Jim, Joe, Mary and Sally. And next year lo and behold! Mary got nominated by… yeah, you guessed it. Jim, Joe, Sally and Charlie. And yes, many of the names now screaming in outrage about the ‘evil’ puppies… are the same names. This is not a lie, or conjecture. It’s a fact. Well known, well established and one you can verify. The process is called log-rolling, it’s incestuous, unfair and a very very poor measure of quality.”

I had in fact been advised in workshops to aim to compete in the less “packed” categories where you could more or less buy the award for a couple thousand dollars by buying memberships for friends and family. I THINK – I never engaged in the game – novella was one of the least packed. Ten years ago I had a friend who won at least a short-story award by buying a lot of memberships. (And no, I’m not going to give a name.)

Now, all is fair in publishing and publicity, but when the award bills itself as “the best” in the field, people are going to think the rest is worse/more of the same, and it will turn away new/naïve readers who don’t like the limited selection.

It is in the interest of my livelihood to ensure that the science fiction genre thrives again in books as it does right now in movies and games. You see, I’m a libertarian and not as altruistic as Brad who is a boy scout. I just want to ensure we’re not eating our seed corn.

(3) Following up on (2): I’ve seen the argument (I believe from George R.R. Martin) that last year’s Hugo finalists for best novel were good old adventure stories rather than “message” tracts, and that this shows the Sad Puppy complaints are baseless. Any comment on that?

See the part above where I said I hadn’t had much ability to concentrate on long reads the last two years. However, when Ancillary Justice was praised to the skies and when half of my readers thought it was pretty good, I downloaded the sample from Amazon.

It does show a certain amount of talent. It also has the thumbprints of a first book. The pacing seemed off to me, as did the cueing of where/when the reader is. I chose not to read the rest. In online discussions I keep hearing the story referred to as “a ripping yarn” and “Just good space opera” but two things lead me to believe this is wrong. Even its supporters say “the story gets good after page 40” which if you ever took a fiction writing course is sort of like saying “But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?” Second, what I’ll call the pronoun gimmick. The character expresses herself in a language that has only the feminine pronoun, even though the characters have two genders like other humans. This causes a distancing of the reader, in that you keep trying to figure out if this “she” has an innie or an outie. It’s human. You want to visualize the characters. This would be justified if it impacts the plot and so I wouldn’t say anything, if the author herself hadn’t said that there is no plot reason for that “gimmick.” I will not hold her to the words of her fans, who seem to think it’s fitting “payback” for English having the male as default. But they miss that English (indeed, all indo-European tongues) only has the male pronoun as default when the gender is not determined, such as when seeing someone in a fog or talking about someone in the abstract. (I bet they’re the sort of people who think History is His Story. Sigh.)

As for the others, Charles’ Stross does sound like space opera, but until I read the actual book, I can’t tell you if it is, or just a vast tract against capitalism. Mira Grant’s sounds like a horror novel of the aliens within kind (again, not something I can comment on for sure unless/until I read the novel) and well, the Wheel of Time is the Wheel of Time. I’m not particularly enthused by vast heroic fantasy epics, preferring contemporary or historical parallel world novels. I might have read the first few books back in the mists of time before Noah built the arc, but I don’t remember it.

I have read (actually listened to, which makes the attention span and concentration thing easier) Warbound and like it, because it’s a painstakingly built parallel world with intriguing rules and intriguing characters (and no, I don’t like ALL of my friends’ writing. It’s a curse in this field to love someone to death and not be able to read their books. But I like this one [And MHI, natch – not in the answer, because not nominated.)

However, even reading the other descriptions, one boggles at “Why Ancillary Justice” with known flaws and from a less experienced storyteller?

Taste, of course, but how representative is that taste? Hard to tell when only a miniscule group voted on the award.

535 responses to “Interview with Cathy Young, Part One

    • That is easily one of the best superhero novels I’ve ever read. Admittedly, it’s still a small-ish genre (on the novel front, anyway), but Wearing the Cape (and its sequels, though I haven’t read the latest yet) is really excellent.

      Also has the distinction of having the first teenage protagonist since Harry Potter that I actually *liked* and didn’t want to drown…

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        I’ll watch from a distance if you try to drown her. [Wink]

        But yes, it’s a very enjoyable series.

        Oh, Ronin Games appears to have been delayed. It was to come out today but “things happened” and it may be available by Labor Day.

      • Try Drew Hayes – Powered?, RJ Ross,CJ Carella,and one called Cosmic Girl( can’t remember author). I love all of the new super hero books. Wanna read wearing the cape but its a little over my price range.

      • I recommend the Cloak Society trilogy by Jeramey Kraatz.

      • One of the other novels on the list of possible good reads was Steelheart. It also has a likable teenage protagonist. But the main character has no powers. And all of the supers in the setting are villains. There’s not a single super hero anywhere in the world.

        Needless to say, the world isn’t a particularly pleasant place.

        • I liked Steelheart this reminds me to get the sequel

          • Don’t forget the short story in between.

            And, for those who might be adhering to the boycott, these Sanderson books aren’t from Tor.

        • Mr. Sanderson has a grown up idea of what is heroism and what is virtue. The second novel makes this more clear.

          His world ABOUNDS with heroes. It’s unpleasant, but magnificently hopeful: full of people “making a heaven in hell’s despite.”

      • Have you read “Playing for Keeps”? I listened to it as an audio book — read by the author as a weekly serial — and liked it so much I picked up the ebook. You have to give props for her having “Feculent Boy” as one of the characters…

    • Most superhero prose really gets me down. Almost all of it is written for either (a) teens or (b) romance readers. Not in either demographic.

      What’s left is usually not good. Steelheart and its related works remain the only Sanderson works I despise, for example.

      Most of the others aren’t superhero stories in the sense of the Big Two universes. They may only have 1 or 2 supers in the entire universe (several). Or superheroes may not be public knowledge. Or they’re about villains, not heroes (Bernheimer’s D-List, though he does sorta reform). Or they’ll be post-apocalyptic (Cline’s Ex-Heroes). Or all the heroes lost their powers and/or are dead. Or alt history with powers (LC’s Grimnoir). So on.

      Just give me adult superheroes in a crowded, super-powered universe. Heroic fiction with hints of urban and epic. Action, courage, heroism.

      • So, would you classify Mercedes Lackey et al.’s Invasion series as post-apotalytic?

      • “Just give me adult superheroes in a crowded, super-powered universe. Heroic fiction with hints of urban and epic. Action, courage, heroism.”

        Then Wearing the Cape is one you might enjoy.

      • I’m working on one. But since it’s still in the first draft stage, it will be a bit. 0:)

    • Ooh, wow, that’s a really excellent book! I’ve loved all the books in the series, and am eagerly awaiting Ronin Games.

  1. Thanks for the insight about votes being bought in previous Hugo awards. This helps explain why they accused the Puppies of vote buying. If it was a standard practice, the puppy kickers assumed we were doing it also. I found the accusation especially amusing when Mary-3-names admitted she was doing it for 75 votes in the most recent Hugo vote. When they do something it is good, if we are accused of the same thing (even when not doing it) we are EVIL.

    I was puzzled at one part of Cathy’s post. She started referring to a male author as “She”. It couldn’t tell if it was feminist thing or just bad editing but it really stood out to me.

  2. It was “Redshirts” that killed the Hugos for me, too. It’s like they weren’t even trying to pretend anymore. It felt like an SNL sketch winning the Best Picture Oscar.

    • I liked the Bujold book that was up (“Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance”) a lot but in the guilty-pleasure this isn’t as good as some of her others. Honestly I’m not sure it was Hugo material either. But it darn sure was more worthy than Redshirts!

    • Considering the very blatant “Literary Experiment (TM)” tacked onto the end of an amusing but dime-a-dozen Trek parody with the three codas with three different points of view, first, second, and then third person, I have to wonder if Redshirts would have got the nomination without the literary pandering.

      • Redshirts started out aiming at Pterry/Adams, then though it was PKD, missed all of them, and wound up getting sucked up it’s own asterisk.

    • Maybe this is what provoked Scalzi’s tweet. Sarah dissed his book, so that makes the whole piece “badly sourced”.

      Bad source! Go sit in the corner! 🙂

    • Same here, and I barely knew what the Hugos were when I read it, nor was I really paying attention to Sad Puppies at the time either.

      May have posted this before (apologies if so), but I checked the book out of the library in part because I thought the dust jacket blurb looked interesting, but mostly on the glowing recommendation that the librarian (who I’d known my whole life) gave the book, with the fact that it had won a Hugo being a big part of her sales pitch.

      To its credit, the book started out really good (IMO, anyway), but got progressively worse the further I got into it. It changed from a parody of a bad Star Trek episode into amateur-level Trek fanfic. I slogged through it because, hey, I have trouble writing middles too. But when I finished the book, including all three pointless and unneccesary codas, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “How in the hell did this manage to win an award?”

    • I actually enjoyed Redshirts — but to compare it to Hugo winners from back in the day is ridiculous.

    • I thought Redshirts was pretty decent fanfic, but that’s it. The fact that it not only got nominated, but actually won, was a sign that something was horribly, horribly wrong with the Hugos.

  3. So according to reviewers of Ancillary Justice was “a ripping yarn” and “Just good space opera”. By those standards David Weber should have a room full of Hugos for his Honor Harrington series. He doesn’t even have a nomination but books from the series have been on the NYT best seller list. Oh, I forgot, Honor believes in Duty, Honor, Country (kingdom in her case), things the SJW’s hate.

    • John Ringo and Travis Taylor for the “Looking Glass / Vorpal Blade” series.

      Heck, we should put Travis Taylor up for “Rocket City Rednecks” in Related Work or TV categories.

      • I’m sure GRRM’s approving “ripping good space opera yarn” endorsement of the Ringo/Taylor looking glass novels just got lost in the mail.

        • Christopher M. Chupik

          Please note that The Expanse series is getting a TV series before Honor Harrington. The difference? S A Corey (both of them) is friends with GRRM.

    • Patrick Chester

      I suspect the People’s Republic of Haven irked some SJWs.

  4. c4c

  5. nonpuppy reader

    I wouldn’t have nominated or voted for “Redshirts”, but i have to wonder if you people who dismiss it as fan fiction read it through to the end. It does get more interesting. As for “Ancillary Justice”, I think it’s a wonderful book, but it’s not a simple rip-roaring space opera, though it does concern soldiers of an interstellar empire and the empire’s politics. It’s not particularly easy to get into if you are looking to identify with a hero and enjoy a simple action story, but it rewards attention on its own terms. And I don’t understand the nominations of Mira Grant’s books. I suspect it has something to do with the author’s personal popularity.

    • Uh Uh. Wonderful book…. Sigh.

    • Every single how-to-write discussion of catching your reader starts with hooking them on the first page.

      Now, there’s many a fine work that doesn’t pull that off. However, to declare a work “Best Novel” when, as you admit, it only “gets better” is a flaw in the system.

      • I think that “hook ’em on the first page” is one of the biggest canards out there. It makes many writers turn their work into an “IN YOUR FACE!!!!!” novel that throws the reader into the middle of things without room to develop a story/ One of my favorites, The Shining, didn’t “hook ’em” on the first page, or even in the first ten. However, by the middle of the story, I was in the midst of terror and had no idea how I got there.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          IMO in a shorter work, there’s a strong element of truth in “grabbing the reader on the first page”.

          IMO in a longer work (like a novel), the author should be allowed more time to “grab” the reader.

          In all cases however, it’s the author’s job to “make the reader want to learn more about the story”.

          The reader doesn’t get “paid to continue to read the story”.

          An author who whines “but you didn’t read far enough to get the good stuff” hasn’t done his/her job.

          Now to be fair, there have been times that I wasn’t in the proper mood to read a book and later found it to be worth my time.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            I saw an article about Tomino’s latest Gundam, R in G, being a commercial failure. It apparently wasn’t very accessible to it’s target audience. (They think they needed to pull in kids who watch Youkai Watch.) Now, I saw the first portion of it, and found it accessible, and maybe a little confusing.

            There was an interview with Tomino that may have been artistic whining about being recognized in the future. He said his intended audience was people on a government board that regulated energy. I’m not sure what he was trying to say to them, but in hindsight I know where he was weaving in his argument.

            I think Gundam Build Fighters is a better Gundam show than R in G, but my position is that Build Fighters is the best Gundam.

          • There have been several excellent books where, for whatever reason, I hit the first ten pages and bounced. The Hobbit, for one, and Small Gods, for a second — both terrific books which it seemed I had to push through a membrane to get immersed in.

            OTOH, if i am halfway through a book, or even twenty percent and it still isn’t working for me? There are only so many pages left for me to read in this life and there’s no point wasting them on fiction that doesn’t interest me.

            Of course, there are those books which start well and entertainingly, offering interesting characters and circumstances only to repeatedly slam me into (I’m looking at you, Fat George!) disappointment, despair and greyness.

            • Reality Observer

              I’m beginning to learn more about this craft (albeit, I’m apparently a slow learner – a new sensation for me).

              One thing that I have gotten through my head is that a successful book does not always, actually rarely, open with an action that hooks the reader – it opens with a character(s) that hooks the reader. Usually they are sympathetic – you want to see that character succeed in whatever the rest of the book is about. A very few good authors can open with a character that you really, really want to see being drowned in caterpillars by the time you are done. (No, I am not one of those – at least not yet.)

              And for a particular reader, the character may not engage them. “A funny little man (hobbit)” will not engage some readers at the start. You can hope they push through and watch your little man grow – but you will never be able to guarantee that.

              (I have personally seen people pick up “Monster Hunter” and say “Meh. I have fantasies about throwing the boss out the window, too. Not all that interesting, sorry…”)

          • It should grab you on the first page. It doesn’t mean it achieves its strongest point in the first page.

            • Indeed, you certainly want it not to be the strongest point. After all you want rising action thereafter.

            • Quite. (I prefer a story to get more interesting as it develops. Otherwise why read past that beginning?)

              Unfortunately some people do not understand that a grab only needs to be a gentle but firm pull. They seem to think it requires the verbal equivalent of a mental snatch and grab.

          • In a writing world where you have the length of a free Kindle excerpt (maybe less) to grab your reader, you’d better be able to hold your reader’s attention in the early going. And your excerpt had better end on another hook that makes the reader want to buy the actual book.

          • There is a website called, “Flogging the Quill” which has an interesting approach to that. The author Ray Rhamey works from the premise that you have the length of the first page of a (printed) book to hook the reader, and invites authors to submit their first chapter. He analyzes the first 16-17 lines to declare whether he would bother turn the first page if he had to pay 30 cents to do so. Site readers get a chance to give their own take, and all involved are invited to offer critiques on the submission.

            The results have been quite interesting.


        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          The duller the opening, the rarer the circumstances where I’ll be willing to stick it out.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Who created the line about “I don’t care about the characters”?

            If a reader doesn’t care about the characters, why should the reader continue reading?

            • Me!

              Characters are nice, but it’s the story that carries the weight. It doesn’t matter how great your characters are if they’re not doing anything of interest.

              • If they’re not doing anything of interest they’re not great characters. That’s the point. Conversely, it doesn’t matter how interesting the plot is if you don’t care about the characters being affected by it.

                It’s like scissors. Neither blade is dispensable.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                “if they’re not doing anything of interest”.

                IMO that’s part of “caring about the characters”. [Smile]

          • Precisely. There are competitors for it. Now it doesn’t mean the opening must be action. I’ve been hooked by a detailed an unexpected description of a medieval village.

        • Throwing a character into that is a very bad way to hook ’em. The essence of a hook is that it inspires you to read onward.

          • Many an aspiring author has no idea what “Hook ’em” actually means, either.

            It doesn’t need to be especially dramatic, much less the melodramatic scene so many think necessary. It might be as simple as

            “Dad,” I said, “I want to go to the Moon.”

            “Certainly,” he answered . . . . “I said it was all right. Go ahead.”

            “Yes . . . but how?”

            “Eh?” He looked mildly surprised. “Why, that’s your problem, Clifford.”

            Or as all-encompassing as:

            “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

            Heck, even something as simple and contradictory as

            It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

            can draw a reader in, as can

            “Lot Ninety-seven,” the auctioneer announced. “A boy.”

            The boy was dizzy and half sick from the feel of ground underfoot The slaveship had come more than forty light-years; it carried in its holds the stink of all slave ships, a reek of crowded unwashed bodies,of fear and vomit and ancient grief. yet in it the boy had been someone, a recognized member of a group, entitled to his meal each day, entitled to fight for his right to eat it in peace. he had even had friends.

            . The real trick is to not bounce the reader out — a problem particularly endemic to SF/F when appealing to a readership unaccustomed to the generic tropes.

            • Ah darn, and now I need to re-read “Citizen of the Galaxy” since it’s been ten years or more, and it’s in a box in the garage awaiting a move to a Proper House with a Proper Library. Bother.

            • Dang it. I’m supposed to be writing, and you made my go and buy Citizen of the Galaxy on kindle.

              • The audio book version is excellent. The reader manages to give Baslim’s voice a slight touch of Sean Connery.

            • My favorite:

              “James Bolivar diGriz I arrest you on the charge – ”

              I was waiting for the word charge, I thought it made a nice touch that way. As he said it I pressed the button that set off the charge of black powder in the ceiling, the crossbeam buckled and the three ton safe dropped through right on the top of the cop’s head. He squashed very nicely, thank you.

            • “There was once a boy named Milo who didn’t know what to do with himself — not just sometimes, but always.”

              “I was the youngest of three daughters. Our literal-minded mother named us Grace, Hope, and Honour, but few people except perhaps the minister who had baptized all three of us remembered my given name.”

              “Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations, arising from domestic affairs changed naturally into pity and contempt as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century; and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed. This was the page at which the favourite volume always opened:

              ‘Walter Elliot, born March 1, 1760, married, July 15, 1784, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson, Esq. of South Park, in the county of Gloucester, by which lady (who died 1800) he has issue Elizabeth, born June 1, 1785; Anne, born August 9, 1787; a still-born son, November 5, 1789; Mary, born November 20, 1791.'”

            • “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” The G0-Between by L. P. Hartley.

            • “The first time you suffocate is terrifying. It doesn’t get any better with practice.”

            • RES! Gah, urk! You just _had_ to give the opening to Citizen of the Galaxy, didn’t you? Now I’ve downloaded the sample, bought the book, read it, and blown off everything I should have been doing this evening! Grumble. I should know better than to read this blog…

              • Reality Observer

                Reading someone else’s books (if they are good) is professional research.

                Reading someone else’s books (if they are bad) is professional teaching research.

                Thank God I’m not a teacher…

              • tehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehe

                Our nefarious plans are succeeding!

                • Good thing I’m a fast reader. I shall remain tall under the onslaught of your reading recommendations!

                  • You do realize there are a lot of writers around here?

                    • Free-range Oyster

                      Speaking of which: the Huns need to get more books published! I only had one entry last week for promo, and only one more since then. Gonna be thin offerings this weekend at this rate. Come on people, lonely Kindles everywhere are looking to you for aid!

                    • My muse is giggling her head off.


                      I hope to get more out by the end of the year but in what time frame, I don’t know.

            • Good openings? Here’s one:

              When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. When it healed, and Jem’s fears of never being able to play football were assuaged, he was seldom self-conscious about his injury. His left arm was somewhat shorter than his right; wen he stood or walked, the back of his had was at right angles to his body, his thumb parallel to his thigh. He couldn’t have cared less, so long as he could pass and punt.


              And another one in which the first three sentences are the first two pages, and in a chapter book meant for children no less:

              Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?”

              So she was considering in her own mind, (as well she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid,) whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a white rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.

              There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” (when she thought about it afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried down on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and, burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.

          • “On one otherwise normal Tuesday evening I had the chance to live the American dream. I was able to throw my incompetent jackass of a boss from a fourteenth-story window.”

            As oppose to:
            “The pale Usher—threadbare in coat, heart, body, and brain; I see him now. He was ever dusting his old lexicons and grammars, with a queer handkerchief, mockingly embellished with all the gay flags of all the known nations of the world. He loved to dust his old grammars; it somehow mildly reminded him of his mortality.
            “‘While you take in hand to school others, and to teach them by what name a whale-fish is to be called in our tongue leaving out, through ignorance, the letter H, which almost alone maketh the signification of the word, you deliver that which is not true.’ —Hackluyt
            “‘WHALE…. Sw. and Dan. hval. This animal is named from roundness or rolling; for in Dan. hvalt is arched or vaulted.’ —Webster’s Dictionary
            “‘WHALE…. It is more immediately from the Dut. and Ger. Wallen; A.S. Walw-ian, to roll, to wallow.’ —Richardson’s Dictionary”
            I think tastes have changed in hooks considerably.

        • Dunno about that. It’s possible to hook a reader without being aggressive. Think about some first lines of some classics:

          Starship Troopers first line, “I always get the shakes before a drop.”
          Nine Princes in Amber, third sentence, “[M]y legs were done up in plaster casts, but they were still mine.”

          For me, those two lines ended with the purchase of nearly everything Heinlein and Zelazny wrote.

          I started John C. Wright’s Orphans of Chaos yesterday, got one page into it, and trundled off to find my wife and request that she order the whole series (she has the credit card, as God intended).

          Even The Hobbit, which has been called slow-to-engage here has a great first line, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” What’s a hobbit? Must read more.

          Don’t knock the hook. (As for The Shining, the hook is on the spine, right where it says, “Stephen King”.)

        • I would argue it is still important to hook the audience on the first page… you have to make them want to turn it. It just doesn’t have to be a huge hook. Little hooks can work well. Small hook in. Page turned. Second small hook in. Page turned. Pretty soon you’ve got them flipping pages without realizing it. This is something I’ve seen done, and something I, personally, aspire to.

        • I picked up a book titled “The Fourth Durango”, a mystery, and was confused as Hell as to where the author might be going, and then he changed to a different character. But the writing was so good I kept going to the end, and then went looking for more of his books.

      • With a novel I’ll give the author the first chapter to get my attention. If I have to force myself to read the story, it won’t get a rec from me.

        I couldn’t get through Dark between the Star. It never really caught my attention and I found it too confusing and gave up.

        • This is my usual standard. If a novel hasn’t sucked me in by the end of the first chapter, there are better uses for my time out there in the bookverse – literally millions of them. Hail Indie!

          I made an exception for the hugo packet and forced myself to finish almost everything. DBTS was difficult for me – I simply could not bring myself to care about the characters or their problems. 3BP was much the same, except I was actively wishing both main characters would get killed off – callous, but it is how it made me feel. Ancillary provided only the excerpt and when I finished that, I had no desire to read more – it kept kicking me out of the story, if there was actually a story, which I never really saw.

          In contrast, I read the excerpt of Skin Game and ran, not walked, to find more. I think I read a couple of that series way back in the day and didn’t continue with it, but that excerpt managed to pull me in even though I wasn’t fully familiar with the characters or particular situation. Good stuff.

          Like Eric notes below, my lifetime is more limited every day, but the selection of books continues to grow …

          • Dresden Files is slow to start — the first book (Storm Front) supposedly started as a writing class exercise where he set out to prove that his teacher was wrong that he should be writing paranormal gumshoe stories in the first person. He really hits his stride with book 4 (Summer Knight).

            My favorite excerpt from Summer Knight:
            “Sometimes the most remarkable things seem commonplace. I mean, when you think about it, jet travel is pretty freaking remarkable. You get in a plane, it defies the gravity of an entire planet by exploiting a loophole with air pressure, and it flies across distances that would take months or years to cross by any means of travel that has been significant for more than a century or three. You hurtle above the earth at enough speed to kill you instantly should you bump into something, and you can only breathe because someone built you a really good tin can that has seams tight enough to hold in a decent amount of air. Hundreds of millions of man-hours of work and struggle and research, blood, sweat, tears, and lives have gone into the history of air travel, and it has totally revolutionized the face of our planet and societies.

            “But get on any flight in the country, and I absolutely promise you that you will find someone who, in the face of all that incredible achievement, will be willing to complain about the drinks.

            “The drinks, people.

            “That was me on the staircase to Chicago-Over-Chicago. Yes, I was standing on nothing but congealed starlight. Yes, I was walking up through a savage storm, the wind threatening to tear me off and throw me into the freezing waters of Lake Michigan far below. Yes, I was using a legendary and enchanted means of travel to transcend the border between one dimension and the next, and on my way to an epic struggle between ancient and elemental forces.

            “But all I could think to say, between panting breaths, was, “Yeah. Sure. They couldn’t possibly have made this an escalator.” ”

            Butcher, Jim (2002-09-03). Summer Knight: Book four of The Dresden Files (pp. 333-334). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.

            • Ah, Dresden. He casually mentions that wizards often live for centuries. Halfway through any given book, I’m wondering if they really do, or if the amount of punishment Dresden takes is even close to representative, maybe if it just seems like they do.

              • There’s a line in one of the books (Dead Beat?) pointing out that Dresden has more combat experience than wizards three times his age.

            • I acquired a stack of them and was unimpressed by the first four or five. The nearly complete absence of backstory drove me nuts. Wizards and vampires and werewolves and nobody really pays much attention. I more or less inserted Hamilton’s Anitaverse backstory behind Butcher’s stories so there was some context to them. Maybe not the context he intended, but at least all the bits weren’t hanging out in midair with no “why” and I could resume suspension of disbelief.

              • Butcher admitted he didn’t give much thought to how magic works or the nature of the universe before Grave Peril (3rd book).

                Blood Rites (6th book) is usually where I suggest new readers pick up, because if you read that book and don’t love Mouse by the end of it, you should probably stop reading the series there.

        • I liked it, but of course it’s a later-in-the-series book.

          • That is probably part of the reason I couldn’t get into the book. If I had ‘met the characters’ earlier, I might not have gotten confused with the constant jumping around.

        • Yep, I made it to 60% on Dark Between the Stars, but I just made it that far hoping all the multitude of main characters would get together so the could get taken out by a giant meteor and the story would be over. I finally gave up, I could see I had a lot of book left to waste time on, and I was finding excuses like, “the dishes need washed” to set it down and quit reading. So I finally gave myself permission to quit and start the next novel in the packet.

        • “Apart from such chaotic classics as these, my own taste in novel reading is one which I am prepared in a rather especial manner, not only to declare, but to defend. My taste is for the sensational novel, the detective story, the story about death, robbery and secret societies; a taste which I share in common with the bulk at least of the male population of this world. There was a time in my own melodramatic boyhood when I became quite fastidious in this respect. I would look at the first chapter of any new novel as a final test of its merits. If there was a murdered man under the sofa in the first chapter, I read the story. If there was no murdered man under the sofa in the first chapter, I dismissed the story as tea-table twaddle, which it often really was. But we all lose a little of that fine edge of austerity and idealism which sharpened our spiritual standard in our youth. I have come to compromise with the tea-table and to be less insistent about the sofa. As long as a corpse or two turns up in the second, the third, nay even the fourth or fifth chapter, I make allowance for human weakness, and I ask no more. But a novel without any death in it is still to me a novel without any life in it. I admit that the very best of the tea-table novels are great art – for instance, Emma or Northanger Abbey. Sheer elemental genius can make a work of art out of anything. Michelangelo might make a statue out of mud, and Jane Austen could make a novel out of tea – that much more contemptible substance. But on the whole I think that a tale about one man killing another man is more likely to have something in it than a tale in which, all the characters are talking trivialities without any of that instant and silent presence of death which is one of the strong spiritual bonds of all mankind. I still prefer the novel in which one person does another person to death to the novel in which all the persons are feebly (and vainly) trying to get the others to come to life.” — G.K. Chesterton, The Spice of Life

        • I agree with that. Unfortunately, too many writers interpret this to mean mindless action from the get go before I’ve even had a chance to understand why I should care.

      • War and Peace is on most every short-list for “best novel ever,” and it is a slog for the first hundred pages or so. I usually say something like, make yourself read the first hundred pages and you’ll want to read the rest.

        There are several current mega-series that exceed Tolstoy in number of viewpoint characters (and word count!), but none of those introduce all the vp characters in the first hundred pages. (Not that some of these mega-series couldn’t benefit from judicious pruning by an editor with the power to make that pruning stick.)

        • Moby Dick is one of my favorite novels, but is has whole chapters that I skip on rereads. (A chapter on the meaning of whiteness? Another on the paucity of accurate drawings of whales?)

          • And when these were written it was a different time, with a paucity of entertainment. The game has changed now. Which I should write about for MGC tomorrow.

            • Was Moby Dick written as a serial, like many of Dickens’ novels? I wonder if the “skippable” (YMMV) chapters were an author sitting at his desk, facing a week’s deadline, and saying, “S***, I got nuthin’…”

            • Different style of writing. This is the “literary” that is being copied nowadays like some painted, wooden Corinthian column.

              Even the pulp was different. It’s not that there’s no character development; it’s just that certain things are assumed. That hit me reading The Four Feathers a few years back. There was no question that the hero of the story would suffer pretty much anything to clear his reputation. Now, there would have been at least fifty pages of angsting about whether he really cared what anyone thought. In 1902, it was just assumed that he did.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Well Moby Dick didn’t do that well at the time. [Wink]

          • Read Ray Bradbury’s description of writing the Moby Dick adaptation for the John Huston movie. He dropped a few chapters and whole sections.

          • Le Miserables has similar content. In the unabridged version, Victor Hugo frequently interrupts the story to spend a chapter or three talking about a particular priory, or Parisian street urchins.

          • Moby Dick also shows the problems with pantsing. Was originally supposed to be about a sailor you see early in the book named Bulkington. Melville hit a wall, came up with Ahab, washed Bulkington off the ship, and moved on from there. But there’s still a ton of detail and observation about Bulky left in right up until Melville disposes of him.

          • Ugh, I remember that assignment in high school. We had an excerpt from Moby Dick and it was the whiteness chapter. I simply COULD NOT make it through. Never bothered to touch the book again.

          • “A chapter on the meaning of whiteness”

            Different strokes. That one is my favorite part.

        • W&P is also 1300 pages long. Asking someone to read the first 100 is only asking them to read 7.7% of the book. Apply that to your average 250 – 400 page book and that means you get 20 – 30 pages. Saying I have to make it through 100 pages of a 300 page makes me wonder how that third ever got published in the first place.

          • Some of Weber’s books are pushing that, and an awful lot of them are around half that. I never noticed struggling to get through the first fifty pages of any of them.

        • Most versions of War and Peace in English are severely abridged, and not translated with the liveliness and fun of Tolstoy’s Russian (and French, in the aristocratic dialogue bits).

          The unabridged translations are pretty fun in the first one hundred pages. Not Dumas levels of fun, but still pretty fun.

          • Translations are a bitch. A bad one can kill a book as dead as Queen Ann. I was pleased to see that a book I have about the Asterix comics gave one hell of a lot of credit to the translators.

            • Yes, the Asterix and Obelix comics are nicely translated. There were a few interesting patches in the German versions.
              In at least the German books, any word or phrase in Latin was footnoted and a German translation given at the bottom of the page. In “Asterix und Obelix by den Olympischen Spielen”, we’re introduced to a big, hulking Legionnaire named “Musculus”. The name is footnoted, and at the bottom of the page we are helpfully told the names means “Mȁuschen”, or “little mouse”.
              I suspect most readers would still have gotten the pun, as the German for “muscular” is “muskulȍs”. (Though that seems to be used more in medical jargon. The German for “burly” is “krȁftig” or “stȁmmig”.) Keeping the puns in translation is very hard work.

    • As someone who writes fanfiction of the worst imaginable sorts, I do appreciate that not all fanfiction is as bad as what I do. The thing is it’s still fanfiction and in my opinion not worthy of being considered the best of any genre it represents. It would be like a chain burger joint being given an award for best burgers while pretending that gourmet burger places do not exist.

      As for Ancillary Justice, people call it a space opera when it really isn’t. It’s got a lot of the qualities of a space opera, but they don’t come together very well. It’s like how Gundam Wing (an Anime where your mileage may vary was never more true) checks all the right boxes to be a space opera, does everything right, but then gets lost in its own complexity and plotting. Of course it’s a space opera, but it’s not something to be held up as an example of what a space opera should strive to be.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        I watched Gundam Wing because I’d read fanfic of it. I was disappointed by how it developed, because I’d expected the end to match the beginning and the hype. Still, the beginning was strong, and had explosions, and the flaws are ones common to many Gundam shows.

        Frankly, reading lots of fanfiction is why I’ve gotten more picky about openings. I appreciate that sometimes the writer gets a lot better a few updates in, but I am rarely in the mood to try.

        There have been fanfic I would’ve nominated for the Hugo, before I realized how much hot water it might get the author into.

      • So much seems to fall into what I call The Incredible State of Almost. It’s almost right/good/a fit into a category, but not quite. The how it manages ‘not quite’ can vary, but the result is the same: it’s only almost instead of what it aspires (or pretends) to be. It can check off all the boxes and still miss.

        While not all the same field (and speaking in metaphor), I do know that merely checking off the boxes doesn’t means success. At best it means the failure isn’t a hard crash, and I can “walk away from the landing” as it were, and if I am really lucky, I get to use that airplane again, too.

      • what fandom do you write in?

        • As I’m curious to see where everyone plays: Touhou Project.

          • I’ve been in many fandoms. However I’m not a writer. I’m writing phobic. Forever Knight, Highlander (the series), The Sentinel, DS9, Pros, X-Files, B5. I’m sure are others I’ve forgotten. I’ve been a mostly slash reader. However after 20 years I’m tired of sex scenes unless they are really well-written. I’ve been reading fanfic since 1995. I was there when AO3 was invented.

            • Slayers (the anime/manga/light novels) ; and once Valkyrie Profile. I’m not sure playing a forum roleplay story/game ‘fanfic verse’ (?) counts, but MegaTokyo (The Clans). Rhys and I ‘met’ there; and we were in The Church of Miho.

              • Prince of Persia, Prototype, Metal Gear Solid, and Resident Evil are the fandoms I’ve written fics in/about. Yeah, I’m a gamer through and through.

    • I’ve read (and committed) fanfiction and I’ve read Redshirts. Enjoyed it too, until it did a clumsy bait-and-switch at the end into literary pretentiousness without even the pretense of papering over the nuts and bolts. The comparison to fanfiction is still apt. Good fanfiction that would have a following, or your average indie writer, but not Hugo worthy.

      As for AJ, if it fails to catch my attention, it doesn’t get that further attention. And the style was grating. But that might be a taste issue. Lost in the Hugo flap is the fact that, even among the bestsellers and classics of the entire written word, 80% of the book-buying population either hates or is indifferent to it. You liked AJ; I thought it was bogged down by its craft to unreadable. YMMV.

      80%. Interesting number there. It’s the same percentage, on average, that chooses not to vote for any given Hugo candidate.

    • Since Ancillary Sword was in the running this year, and I got a voting membership, I bought “Justice” so I could have the back story. It was really slow getting into the book, and the pronoun thing was distracting and annoying. I ended up liking the book, but not a Hugo winner. Ancillary Sword is similar, good but not great. I am doubtful I’ll bother with the third book. “Wonderful book” … not really.

      I’m middle-aged now and finally starting to be a little more discriminating – used to love just about everything I read. Or maybe there were just more good stories from the 60’s to the 90’s …

      • Having heard all the kerfuffle about Ancillary Justice, I was curious about the next book. (I didn’t buy it, but I did read the sample provided in the Hugo packet.) The writing is workmanlike enough, but the premise is not logically consistent. You have an AI that is sufficiently aware of human foibles to the extent of going out and randomly purchasing some personal god icons to go with the ship god icons because otherwise the humans will be perturbed. It doesn’t understand why, but it does it. I buy that. BUT…humans are even more insistent on the whole gender thing. It is more identifiable and real than the god thing. Reproduction requires understanding the basic concepts 😀

        So, an AI that gets the abstract concept of gods but not gender? The flaming wreckage you see spiraling down from the heavens is my suspension of disbelief.

        • Yeah, that whole thing bugged me too. The high functioning AI can’t tell the difference between male and female? Yeah…but it’s able to seek revenge? Um…no.

          What’s bad is, IIRC, the AI actually notes people care about gender distinctions in the first few pages of AJ.

          • “The high functioning AI can’t tell the difference between male and female?”

            And this is with complete access to the crew’s medical records and a real-time update of their pheromone levels.

            One begins to suspect either a political agender or selective incompetence on the part of the AI’s programmer.

      • I’m middle-aged now and finally starting to be a little more discriminating …

        An important factor, I find. Being a bit past the middle I find I am looking at the upper limits of what I can expect to read and becoming pickier about how I spend my remaining time. Geeze, read Ancillary Pronoun or re-read Moon? Not a difficult choice. Heck, re-read Harry Potter.

    • i have to wonder if you people who dismiss it as fan fiction read it through to the end. It does get more interesting.

      Faint praise, indeed. It calls to mind Mark Twain’s defense of Wagner’s music: it isn’t as bad as it sounds.

    • I suspect it has something to do with the author’s personal popularity.

      Dingdingdingdingding!! Personal Popularity with The In Crowd due to Use of In-Crowd Approved Memes: We have a Winnah!

    • I read the first three or four chapters of Redshirts that were free on Kindle and they were cute, but not cute enough to get me to fork over for the rest of the book. So maybe it got better eventually, I couldn’t say. I wouldn’t have put what I did read in the same class as “Dune” or “The Man In The High Castle”, certainly.

    • I did read Redshirts through to the end, and I don’t “dismiss” it as being fanfic, nor do I think Scalzi wrote it as or intended it to be considered fanfic, it did come of, to me anyway, as feeling like a fanfic. And the narrative certainly didn’t start out that way, but it seemed like over the course of the plot that Scalzi slowly went from subtly poking fun at the same tired old Trek cliches that everybody knows and loves to hate to using them seriously and embracing them wholeheartedly.

      Long story short, I think Redshirts was a great and potentially hillarious concept that Scalzi, for whatever reason, didn’t really manage to pull off.

      As for the Ancillary series and Mira Grant’s works, I have not read them so I cannot comment on them. Though I will say that I did read the dust jacket of one of the Ancillary books (forget which one), and put it down. Not a knock against the story or the author, it just didn’t catch my interest.

      • I think Redshirts was a great and potentially hillarious concept that Scalzi, for whatever reason, didn’t really manage to pull off.

        That is usually a marker of amateurish fiction, thinking a great concept is all it takes. A professional can take a middlin’ concept and infuse it with life, creating interest and even fascination is something as jejune as refurbishing a used space-suit.

        Scalzi bears all the hallmarks of somebody with a little talent and a little luck, in over his head and afraid to strike out, a classic one-trick pony.

    • It’s not particularly easy to get into if you are looking to identify with a hero and enjoy a simple action story, but it rewards attention on its own terms.

      I read Ulysses just so could say I finished it, but at least it was free.

      I’m not interested in paying for a book that I’m not going to enjoy. What you describe might deserve a Nebula, but a Hugo?

      • If I find I have to use a mental machete to work my way thru the thickets of a book, I’ll use a flamethrower instead.

    • I wouldn’t say it was “wonderful”, if only because 100 pages of bureaucratic word games and contemplations of crockery (and its bureaucratic significance) does not fill me with what one could call “wonder” (not even when it’s set on a starship).

    • “Does get more interesting” is not an appellation I would expect to see on a work that’s supposedly the best available for an entire year.

    • I have to wonder if you people who dismiss [Redshirts] as fan fiction read it through to the end


      It does get more interesting.

      No. It doesn’t.

      but it’s not a simple rip-roaring space opera

      No, it’s a boring message piece hacked together by an unimaginative suburban housewife using SFnal tropes that were mined out, by better writers (Varley, Russ, Farmer, Tiptree, Sturgeon, et al) 40-60 years ago.

      • Contrast Redshirts to Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or Discworld.
        Then contrast the much heralded twist to any Philip K Dick story.
        Not much there there.

  6. Those look to be reasonably good questions. I shall comment on the replies after I’ve had time to contemplate them further.

    Meanwhile, I am very interested in other Huns observations, so please subscribe me to the comments.

    Yrs sincerely,

    • In considering the replies I am struck by the degree to which my non-interest in the Hugos is revealed. When I first discovered SF/F the field was robust and vigorous, brimming with interesting writers attempting interesting things. Back then “Hugo-winning” carried some cachet, requiring attention of anybody pretending to know the genre.

      Of course, that was back around 1970 and the lists of winners and nominees
      included such as The Demolished Man, Double Star, A Case of Conscience, Have Space Suit — Will Travel, Starship Troopers, Dorsai!, The Sirens of Titan, A Canticle for Leibowitz, Deathworld, Venus Plus X, The Fisherman (also known as Time Is the Simplest Thing), The Man in the High Castle, Little Fuzzy, Here Gather the Stars (also known as Way Station), Glory Road, Witch World, Dune, The Whole Man, …And Call Me Conrad (also known as This Immortal), The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Too Many Magicians, The Witches of Karres, Lord of Light, Stand on Zanzibar, and The Goblin Reservation.

      Good, even great books all — and still (for the most part) worth reading and re-reading. But scroll on downward and … meh. Especially recent entries. They remind me why I walked away from the genre for a while, bored and tired of authors who thought their job was to feed me broccoli straight up rather than to mix it in with other flavors in a delightful medley of flavours. As if the reason I read their [euphemism] is the “nourishment” alone — and as if their “nourishment” wasn’t all junk science faddish diet.

      Given the political tilt of the “Dominants” in the genre, too much contemporary SF feels like I’m being swatted on the nose with a rolled-up Analog and told “Bad reader, bad!” Screw that – they’re wrong and as long as it is my money and my time being spent I will read what I like … and if you’re going to push your politics you’ll need to find a far more savory sauce than Fuzzy Nation.

  7. nonpuppy reader

    As I noted, I don’t really think “Redshirts” was the best of the Hugo nominees let alone the best sf novel of its year, but I don’t think it’s fair to call it “fan fiction”. In my opinion it’s an interesting and intelligent and professionally written book, albeit an oddly organized one. It changes partway through. i haven’t read any other Scalzi but I will be trying more.

    • The Other Sean

      I’ll be frying more Scalzi myself. I just need to finish letting the oil heat up.

      • I dunno if there is much scalzi left to fry. He’s been getting burned really hard lately on twitter, especially with regard to Cathy Young’s article. I mean, between the attempt to try the lie that Larry wanted the award by Scalzi’s minions (shoot off the picture where Larry gets him with the delicate application of a warp hole with the heart of a sun on the other end), Scalzi getting burned hard and providing Vox with a FANTASTIC examples of the Three Laws of SJWs (there’s a picture circulating) … Scalzi’s ash right now. You’ll have to wait until he respawns or something.

    • Why do you think it’s unfair to call it fanfiction? It’s clearly based on an existing universe and set of concepts. If those didn’t exist would the story have worked? Fanfiction isn’t an insult, it’s a term that describes what a thing is. Fanfiction can be good or atrocious, just like any other book or story, the term isn’t a value judgement, it’s just a way of describing a story.

      • *wicked grin* Tim Russ does better; he’s allowed to create indie Star Trek movies as long as he has settings that don’t show CBS/Paramount copyrighted stuff, he’s allowed to use Star Trek characters and concepts (Tuvok, Pavel Chekhov, and a Noonian Singh descendant show up…) and it all works. Best of all, I saw the crowdfunding done for Star Trek: Renegades and it cost only around 250k USD to make.

        I heard from Aff today that CBS is picking up the movie series, and that Star Trek is going to be a set of six movies done by Tim Russ. Thus it’ll be canon for the Prime universe (as opposed to the reboot by JJ Abrams.)

        • Thus it’ll be canon for the Prime universe (as opposed to the reboot by JJ Abrams.)

          I am personally thrilled to hear this, and am happy for Tim Russ and the people he’s brought in on these projects (full disclosure: I know a few of the folks who worked on ST:Renegades), but I can’t think of a better way to confuse the average viewer than to have two parallel canonical series running simultaneously.

        • There’s some great Trek fan films out there. Have you seen Axanar?

          • I’d like to recommend the Star Trek fan series Project Potemkin.

            Mostly because they’re friends of mine and I even did an episode. 😀

          • No, but I’ll probably have to. I only found out that such existed last night. My housemate, the uber Trekkie, was surprised.

            • I like Star Trek Continues – the writing is solid, the cast is generally good (they do need to settle on a good actor for McCoy) and the cinemetography/lighting/sets/costuming/makeup/score are all spot on. The constraints of mid-1960s SF network TV production seem to be a good fit for the constraints of mid-2010s fan production. It really does feel like season 4 of ST:TOS.

          • I just watched Prelude to Axanar. That ‘s one awesome movie. I can’t wait to see the whole movie!

        • He’ll have to work awfully hard to beat Samuli Torssonnen’s Trek movies. In particular, “Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning,” which is a mashup with Bablyon 5.

          None of my friends will watch them because they’re in Finnish with Engrish subtitles; they keep missing the fact that the subtitles are hilarious all on their own.

        • I didn’t care for ST when it came out–the message was too obvious. I’ve watched a few eps of later shows, and given up.

      • Well, in one sense, it’s not fanfic because it doesn’t violate copyright. So we are using the term a bit loosely.

    • It’s Trek with the serial numbers filed off and pretty average at that. The ideas have been seen before in Trek fanfiction.

      Worse, for Redshirts, is that even if this was granted permission to use Trek trademarks, the story would be considered unremarkable compared to the dozens (hundreds) of media tie-in novels over the past 50 years of Trek.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Go read, say, Gabriel Blessing’s Hill of Swords. How well does it work if you have never heard of Fate or ZnT? Yeah, a good enough writer can keep it functional without the reader knowing the base material, but the main reason many people read it is the base material.

      Redshirts is likewise dependent on Star Trek in very much the same way. I’ve seen Star Trek tie ins I liked better, and Star Trek fanfic that I liked better.

      • Hill of Swords actually works reasonably well if you don’t know the base material. The guy badly needs an editor, but the only reason I was even curious about the base material is because I read the fanfic.

      • *pauses in filing the serial numbers off*

        I’ve WRITTEN better Star Trek Fanfic.

        *goes back to filing*

  8. Per the CHORF’s own rules, it is perfectly acceptable to vote “No Award” if you don’t find any of the finalists worthy of recognition. Something to remember since I think we’re going to see an explicit and unified CHORF slate next year.

  9. nonpuppy reader

    It’s possible I’m using the term “fanfiction” in an uninformed way. Ms. Hoyt and some of the other commenters appear to be using it as a way of dismissing “Redshirts”.

    • As a former voracious reader and writer of fanfiction, I find the term very apt. Fanfiction is a fantastic way for new writers to learn the craft. By presenting them with a world, characters, and background for their own imagination, fanfiction serves as a set of training wheels for writers. (This is not to dismiss those writers who stick with fanfic permanently! )

      Redshirts clearly borrows a world, characters (appropriately pastiched, but yes, it takes the archetypes), and background from original series Star Trek. It uses them to create a new work. That new work is entertaining, I quite enjoyed my read of Redshirts. But just having a twist at the end, and honestly not one that’s particularly original for anyone who has read fanfic, doesn’t elevate it beyond fanfic. (Seriously, I’ve read plenty of fanfic that have the characters emerging from the page to harass the fanfic or original series writer, it seems to be a fairly common trope).

      So: dismiss Redshirts as fanfic? I would say we are merely describing it as such, and then debating whether that is worthy of the Hugo best novel award, considering no actual Star Trek novel has ever been nominated for that honor…

      • This. There are better trek novels and infinitely better fanfic out there. Some even Austen, which is my favorite poison.

      • Fanfic is the writing equivalent of painting by the numbers. Somebody else has provided the structure and framework but there is considerable range for expression in how individuals apply the paint.

        • Ironically, it can actually be a bit harder to work with someone else’s toys. if you fail to stay inside the lines, using the right colors, your fellow fans will savage the work.

      • The Other Sean

        If they were handing out awards for actual Trek novels, something like John M. Ford’s “How Much For Just the Planet?” would have been far more deserving. Nominating (and awarding!) a Hugo for a novel that was basically Trek with the serial numbers filed off seems lame by comparison.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool


        There is also the hubris of Scalzi telling the writers of Star Trek what they did wrong, when Star Trek is still around, and he had participated in finishing off Star Gate.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        R M Meluch is clearly riffing on Star Trek with her Tour of the Merrimac series, but she’s also using it as the skeleton of a very distinct universe. It’s not search and replace.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Didn’t think much of her “evil Roman Empire In Space” idea but as always YMMV. [Smile]

          Note, to those who haven’t read the series, the “evil Roman Empire” is literal as it was founded by people on Earth who considered themselves “True Romans” and once FTL travel was developed left Earth to create a new Roman Empire.

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            Yes, that’s the big hurdle of the series. If you can buy Palatine, you can buy the series. If not . . .

      • “By presenting them with a world, characters, and background for their own imagination, fanfiction serves as a set of training wheels for writers. ”

        It also instructs them in bad habits. Whether this outweighs the good side probably depends on what skills a particular writer most needs to work on, but there are unquestionably bad sides. Not only in not developing one’s world-building and character development skills, but not encouraging the habit of turning everything upside down to see if it improves the story if you radically alter the rules of magic, the laws of the land, the character of the hero’s best friend.

        • See, most of the fanfiction I read or wrote did try to see what would happen if you altered the rules, or explored the logical consequences of X or Y. It was kind of a game of how much could you change while still being true to the source.

          For me, fanfiction was my teenage vice. The good definitely outweighed the bad. Fifteen years later I’m glad I don’t write it any more, but I’d glad I did write it too. And I’d be embarrassed if someone dug it out and linked it to my present-day self, and I’d be darn embarrassed if it had won the Hugo.

          • It’s the rider “true to the source” that’s the problem.

            Now in original fiction you may reject notions for not being true to the inspiration, but that’s because the inspiration is what inspired you.

        • I don’t think that’s necessarily true, unless you’re reading only canon-compliant fanfic. AUs allow for world building/tweaking, and one of the primary motivators for writing fanfic, at least for some people, is the opportunity to do such tweaking in a world they know other people at least recognize the baseline of.

          • But as such, it’s not good practice for original fiction. Sure, you can have the world where people recognize the baseline in original fiction, but writing it as fanfic doesn’t develop the skill of tweaking it into legally original fiction — or into a world of its own without the baseline.

            • Original Fiction? Is there really such a thing? I’m afraid I have to go with Kipling on this one:

              When ‘Omer smote ‘is bloomin’ lyre,
              He’d ‘eard men sing by land an’ sea;
              An’ what he thought ‘e might require,
              ‘E went an’ took — the same as me!

              • Nevertheless, there is a difference between writing a story about how Hermione threw over Ron for Draco, and writing a story about a school for sorcery that takes place in — no, under a lake. We use the term “original” for the latter.

        • SheSellsSeashells

          I dunno, I learned LOTS of worldbuilding from my forays into fanfiction. Because I am a perfectionist and kept banging my stories around to make sure the characters were doing what they _should_ for their setting.

          • If that’s the skill you needed to learn, it helped. OTOH, there’s also banging around the characters and the setting to be what they should to have the story take place in them.

      • Diane Duane wrote “My Enemy, My Ally” in 1984. The Hugo that year went to David Brin’s “Startide Rising”, which was a very poor sequel to “Sundiver.” Nominees were R.A. MacAvoy’s “Tea with the Black Dragon”, which was okay but not SF, John Varley’s “Millennium”, which was a rewrite of an earlier short story, Asimov’s “Robots of Dawn”, which was definitely not one of his better works, and one of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, which I seem to be congenitally allergic to.

        In my opinion Duane’s Trek book could have knocked all five Hugo nominees down and kicked sand in their faces. As far as I know she’s never had a Hugo nomination for anything.

        • The Hugo that year went to David Brin’s “Startide Rising”, which was a very poor sequel to “Sundiver.”

          Just a quick note –

          “Startide Rising” and “Sundiver” are both set in Brin’s Uplift universe. But I wouldn’t call the former a sequel to the latter. The stories are completely independent and unrelated.

          Startide itself got a sequel a dozen years later with the trilogy he wrote set in the universe, though it isn’t immediately apparent.

    • Because if we’re going with fanfic for the Hugo, there’s WAY better stuff out there, without the pseudo-literary pretentiousness.

      • William O. B'Livion

        > …without the pseudo-literary pretentiousness.

        But that’s the MOST IMPORTANT PART!!!!!

      • But Sarah! Without the pretentiousness we would not have award winning novels. *gasp* we could even have non clique winners! The Hugo’s cannot have that

      • I kinda wonder now if it’d be possible to NOMINATE fanfic for the Hugos.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Fanfic writers are legally vulnerable, and the big publishers would not take kindly to having it pointed out that their stuff is obviously inferior.

          • William O. B'Livion

            So is that a “no” or a “Yeah, that would be a REALLY good idea” ?

            • No, it was an tangent. You expected a Yes/No answer around here?

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              Yes, but I wouldn’t want to do it to anyone I liked enough to think deserved a Hugo. There’s one c 900k story I was saying that I thought was worth the 2014 Hugo. It is hosted on a website that houses fanfic of a lot of material whose copyrights are held by big publishing. The author has written such material. The DMCA takedown notices would be annoying. Some of the people who write fanfic are kids, who have no idea what a toxic mess big publishing seems to be. If someone gets nominated for a Hugo, griefers will probably find out who they are. It’d be wrong to drag an actual innocent into our fight.

        • Not the fanfic, but the writers for fan writer. Lost in the puppies storm of this year was the author of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality trying a campaign for such.

          Problem is, much like fan artist and any other fan activity, is that there are so many writers out there that there is no possible way that the Hugos can showcase the absolute best.

      • Take Gaiman’s “A Study in Emerald”, winner of the 2004 Hugo- hits both HP Lovecraft and Aurthur Conan Doyle perfectly without getting snotty.

        • Free-range Oyster

          Oh man I loved that. Listened to it as an audiobook, read (I believe) by Gaiman himself. Absolutely fabulous, and the big twist (*SPOILER: there’s a twist*) was excellently done.

  10. A while back I was in a book store and after reading the first 100 pages of Redshirts o was still on the fence about getting it. I picked up MHI and while I hated the cover I decided to give it a look. 2-3 pages in and I was hooked. MHI is a much better book and its Larry’s weakest in my opinion. There is no way to justify Redshirts award. You may be able to convince people to give it a try but its not award worthy.

    • Mind if I spin off your comment?

      I’ve been getting the same argument about Taste = Award Worthy on Twitter, but whenever I call out the cognitive dissonance, the ASPs run away.

      Basically, it goes like this.

      I get told that ‘none of the SP picks are award worthy.’ I ask them to justify Dinosaur’s Nebula win and Hugo Award nom as worthy how, compared to say, Skin Game or Totaled. They shift the goalpost and go “Well, JCW is unreadable” and I demonstrate that it isn’t the case. They resort to “Then it’s different tastes, I guess.”

      I reply: Why then are the alternate tastes of The SP folk ‘less worthy’ than the antis?

      If Taste determines Award Worthy, then it is incredibly difficult to believe that such a VARIED set of writing examples are all ‘bad’ – there’s different SF and F stories all throughout. That weakens the ‘non-political no award’ argument further for the Editor categories as well. Also, varied tastes do not merely determine what is ‘award worthy’ but indeed some rather generalized criteria tend to decide that, like execution, character, story flow, plot, etc.

      Objectively then, compare the stories of say Totaled VS Dinosaur, and I get “I haven’t read either/I can’t afford/… Dinosaur is free online, Totaled only costs a few bucks; and if you haven’t read any of the stories that the Puppies supported or are complaining about… how do you KNOW then their arguments are invalid or not?

      How can you honestly say then that the No Awarders actually read the works and didn’t vote lockstep with the No Award or the DSM slate that removed the SP picks?

      /ASPs run away for several days and don’t respond until they come back later to try address me again.

      I haven’t gotten ANY replies (I don’t expect any, honestly, because even those who throw Vox Day and JCW at me aren’t able to properly identify any objective criticism about JCW’s writing other than ‘unreadable religious crap’; versus free-form poetry Dinosaur with no SFF content.)

      • SJW literary judgments are the Klein Bottles of literary criticism: there’s no there there, all interior is exterior, guaranteed leak-proof!

        Group photo, 2014 Hugo winners.

      • Why is it almost everyone on here can articulate my post better than I can. :). I’m going to go build something now all you writer people carry on 😉

      • “aren’t able to properly identify any objective criticism about JCW’s writing other than ‘unreadable religious crap’”

        Which goes to show that they didn’t read the nominated works. Since several of his nominated stories were completely nonreligious.

      • Robin Goodfellow

        I’ve never read a defense of Vox Day’s writing. Here’s the scene where an elf ripostes evolution.

        aurent, one of the younger battlemages, overheard them and joined their conversation. “As strange as it seems, Lady Everbright, the bird and the dragon share a common ancestor. Maupertuis, who I myself consider to be the greatest of the immortels this academy has ever known, explained most convincingly in his writings how birds, lizards, and dragons all came into being from natural processes and from a single origin. One might go so far as to say that, in a certain viraisonique sense, a bird is merely a lizard that is capable of flight, or that a dragon is nothing more than extremely large bird capable of speech.”

        “One might go so far? Even to say that a lizard is a flightless bird?” Theuderic said with a smile. “So, is the peacock more truly a colorful crocodile, or shall we say that a crocodile is nothing more than an ill-tempered peacock?”

        “Neither is true,” Laurent said. “It is merely that chance produced by an innumerable multitude of individuals, and a small portion of this multitude found themselves constructed in such a manner that the parts of the animal were able to satisfy its needs. However, it was far more commonly the case that the parts were not harmoniously arranged and there was neither fitness nor order. Of these latter examples, all have perished. Just as animals lacking a mouth could not live, those lacking reproductive organs could neither breed nor perpetuate themselves. The animals we see today are but the smallest part of what blind fortune has produced, and they all stem from a common source.”

        Lithriel threw back her head and emitted a piercing peal of laughter. “Oh, how beautifully you put your nonsense,” she told the mage.

        “Nonsense?” Laurent said. Theuderic was glad the boy was so young, otherwise he might have expired from apoplexy. His face was as red as a beet. “It’s not nonsense at all!”
        “Of course it is, you silly child ,” Lithriel said. She was eighty-six years old, and she naturally considered young men in their twenties to be children, as elves of that age truly were. But since her appearance was that of a very tall, very slender eighteen year-old girl, her contemptuous treatment of the prideful young mages seldom went over well. “Were you there?”

        “Well, no, of course not! It was long ago!”

        “Was this imaginative gentleman, this seigneur Maupertuis—was he there?”

        “No, but—”

        “Was any Man there at all?”

        “No, but that’s the whole point of the common ancestry!” Laurent was speaking rapidly now, attempting to forestall another question. It didn’t work. Lithriel simply leaned forward and placed one long, slender finger across the young mage’s lips. His eyes widened and he blushed, but his mouth stayed closed and he held his tongue.

        “I was not there either. But my people were, and I have read the records of those times. Neither man nor orc nor goblin existed in those days. There were trolls, of course, for they are a very ancient race, even older than the elves. But the dragons did not come about by chance, as your beloved Maupertius thinks. They were created by the people who came before. I think in your tongue you would call them the ascendants. They were great masters of magic. They had skills far beyond your Académie or even our own Collegium Occludum. It was ascendants upon whom the Witchkings patterned themselves, and it was their attempt to become ascendants themselves that drove them to madness and fell deeds.
        blah blah blah blah blah
        Then the entire room, Theuderic included, emitted one great collective gasp of horror. For in the crystal, the dragon lunged forward without warning. With one mighty snap, it seized the upper half of de Segrais in its fearsome jaws and tore him in two. His legs fell to the ground in the pool of blood that suddenly surrounded them. Lithriel clapped her hands and shrieked with laughter.

        “You see, Sieur Laurent? Dragons aren’t birds! I told you it wasn’t going to work!”

        “Lady Everbright!” One of the immortels started to protest her hilarity, but events in the crystal were demanding everyone else’s attention.

        After swallowing half its would-be tormentor, the dragon nosed at the bloody remains then attempted to take flight. But the magic circle was also a dome, and the beast couldn’t force its way through the invisible walls that surrounded it above it and on every side. De Segraise might be dead, but the pentacle he’d constructed was an extraordinarily powerful one, with lines connecting each of the five mages standing inside a sorcerous circle made from his own blood to each of the others.

        • And I’m not seeing an argument I may or may not chose to engage here, just an excerpt from a work. Remember, things that are self-evident to you might be to everyone else. What’s your complaint?

          • Best guess: they’re using that to say Vox is waxing political in his writing by proclaiming creationism over evolution. Or something.

            • Robin Goodfellow

              What I’m saying is that the passage from Vox Day’s magnum opus I posted is not only message fiction, but poorly written message fiction.

              Although it doesn’t include the infamous tautologies.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                I think the “message fiction” only exists in your head.

                • I can give Robin the benefit of the doubt. If this were read by a staunch evolution-holder, it could seem somewhat preachy ( the new young buck is getting shot down by the old crowd while somewhat treating him like a poor, naïve, little boy ).

                  Without reading the rest of this work, I can’t tell if that’s a singular instance or on-going. Also I can’t get better context to see if that’s something integral to the story.

                  • I am however, somewhat suspicious. I have a known stalker of many aliases, most commonly referred to as Clamps hereabouts. He has a tendency to use aliases from books and TV shows of late, and has a MASSIVE hate on for Vox Day and myself, and he usually takes offense to any kind of praise put to Vox or myself, or any of the Puppies. The tactic displayed here is somewhat familiar, though more wordy and coherent than my stalker usually displays.

                    However, the individual here displays a familiar conceit that my stalker also displays on a regular basis: randomly dropping in references with the unreasonable expectation that we immediately know what obscure hipster novel it came from, or what he meant without any further explanation.

                    Further, I said I read some short stories, and someone who has read the short stories Vox provided for free on his site some time back would know which one I’m talking about, but I can’t remember the title or when it was posted.

                    Also, I read his SJWs Always Lie book, and while there’s quite a bit on the feud between himself and Scalzi, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the writing, and indeed is easier to read than the 48 Laws of Mastery, being straightforward in its descriptions of SJW behaviors, and how to defeat them.

                    Further, why should a fantasy race believe in evolution? The argument is faulty; as in most fantasy settings creation is the given default. We have no explanation as to why this is supposedly message fiction, or why we’re supposed to think it’s bad. If this badly misnamed Goodfellow believes that we are against message fiction he is one of those morons who listened only to the lies spun against us. What we are against is BORING message fiction, where the message gets in the way of the story. A story with a message to convey is fine.

                    But SJWs always project. Third law.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      “Robin Goodfellow” was an alias of Puck and I seem to remember at least one recent series with a character named “Robin Goodfellow” (who happened to be a “Puck”).

                    • of course. His culture is all from pop culture.

                    • I have heard of Clamps before over at MHI and such. Nope, never bothered to study him to learn his patterns to identify his sock puppets. Not unlike a lovely troll continually spouting up over at Twitchy.

                      My point ( not that I’m disagreeing with yours ) is that given just that segment, I can see how some might see that in a preachy light. Given the very small sample size, that’s hardly an exhaustive study of the whole work, of course, is in nowise indicative that the whole work reads that way, nor that the idea of evolution isn’t central to the work.

                    • I’ve had the misfortune of having been stalked by him for almost six years now, so …the replies further down kind of show more of his usual tells.

                      I have to say though, this is an expansion of his usual attempt to discredit someone by quoting, out of context, their words/work/art, etc.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      “Further, why should a fantasy race believe in evolution? The argument is faulty; as in most fantasy settings creation is the given default. We have no explanation as to why this is supposedly message fiction, or why we’re supposed to think it’s bad. If this badly misnamed Goodfellow believes that we are against message fiction he is one of those morons who listened only to the lies spun against us. What we are against is BORING message fiction, where the message gets in the way of the story. A story with a message to convey is fine.”

                      Sadly, there’s another “message” that can be taken from that Vox snippet, not that Champs would see it.

                      That scene IMO shows the arrogance of the Older Elves toward the younger Elves and can be a comment on the “Fallen Nature” of these Elves.

                      Vox Day’s Elves were shown to be nasty arrogant beings and that scene is an example of their nastiness.

                      Mind you, Vox Day also considered these Elves redeemable and at least one of the Elves was accepted in that world’s Catholic Church.

                      Of course, the SJWs would hate the idea that *Elves* would accept Christianity as True. [Sad Smile]

                    • That’s true.

                      Interestingly enough, I’ve only read Vox’s free short stories. I haven’t read his novels. I’ve read SJWs Always Lie, because I figured it would be useful – and it has been. He was able to neatly distill down a lot of the SJW mindset, approach, and attack methodologies, into an easily read book, along with workable counterstrategies. From what I’ve been hearing, people on Twitter have been applying them with great success.

                      That is why I think Vox is better as a political writer (probably essayist) than fiction writer. It’s a purely objective observation of the skills I’ve seen him display.

                    • Oh, very well. Fine. I just bought the book.
                      Someone tell Clamps, or Puck-face, or whoever he is that he’s responsible for nudging me over the edge and making the purchase.

                      I’m sure he’ll be happy to know.

                    • … more wordy and coherent than [Clamps] usually displays.

                      Could be he’s on his meds for once?

                    • Likely. It’s happened a few times before. Clamps sounding coherent for a few minutes that is.

                    • “Further, why should a fantasy race believe in evolution?”

                      Indeed. You don’t see Elrond and Aragorn sitting down with Punnet Squares to try to figure out who got what ability via inheritance. For that matter, in that universe major characters have actually met the higher-order beings. In person. Heck, some of them are higher-order beings.

                      No trace of evolution in Oz. None in Narnia. None in any of the greats.

              • You are aware that as far as we here are concerned, Vox is not my monkey and this is not my circus, right?

              • Short version on Vox:

                As a novelist, he’s firmly middle of the pack. As a reader, you can do better, but you can do worse as well.

                As a short story writer, he’s better. He does pattern his works after older writers, so his style doesn’t match the fashions of the day.

              • We’ll start off by saying that this excerpt is not at all germain to the plot of Throne of Bones (which deals with a plot for evil to take over the hierarchy of the Established Church by stealth, in a fantasy setting. Obviously, Creationism is going to be the belief of a great number of characters) this excerpt is IMHO included in the novel, mainly as a tie-in “hook” to one of his short works, that features the characters introduced here.

                Oh, and if you actually read the book/books there are a plethora of beliefs believed by the different characters. This is called individualization, you know, it makes the characters more believable, by a) giving them some depth and b) not making them interchangeable cardboard cutouts of each other, with different names.

                I’ll point out that before Sad Puppies I had probably heard of the name Vox Day, but I didn’t know who it was, or really care. But because a short story (actually, I believe a novellette) of his got nominated I read it. And found it good enough to buy the novel, which then convinced me to buy the rest of his short works in that universe. I found them well worth the price, and in fact I thought that the one nominated was probably the weakest of any of them. Also, they have almost nothing in common with his internet personae. One would really struggle to define his political beliefs by simply reading his fiction… well other than assuming the fact that he isn’t a SJW, because he doesn’t plaster over any vestiges of a story with his political beliefs.

                • This is called individualization, you know, it makes the characters more believable, by a) giving them some depth and b) not making them interchangeable cardboard cutouts of each other, with different names.

                  Bu, but if a writer does that the reader might mistakenly sympathize with a wrong character and thus fall into the sin error of badthink!

                  Readers must not be forced to think through complex, nuanced issues. Readers should be spoon-fed only good thoughts and instructed at whom to boo.

              • It must be “poorly written” message fiction because I couldn’t possibly guess what the message is supposed to be. Certainly it’s not anti-evolution. I’m not led to believe that Lady Everbright is a trustworthy source of information despite her claims to mere secondhand knowledge.

                The writing itself seems fine and the setting is interesting. The “register” fits snooty elves dealing with snobbish monks/mages. What story is it from?

        • Of course, then again, even Vox Day, from my understanding, admits that he’s not that great a writer.
          However, I believe we were actually discussing John C. Wright.

        • Has this incarnation of Clamps been banned yet or is there still reason for engagement and/or mockery?

      • I caught that a few places. It seemed that since Wright’s big two (Parliament and One Bright Star) were quasi religious (Under the story there are religious themes, although there is a story atop it that can stand on its own) lots of people find it unreadable…probably because it conflicts with their beliefs.

        As for VD, I cannot speak to his fantasy works but he has seemed to be very specific with his words in his political works. When I read Quantum Mortis book 1 it was a good read, and completely apolitical. Just a lot of intrigue.

        As to voters, it seems that there were some that actually read and voted on all but lots that did not. I honestly only think NA is valid for non genre writing. The only piece that I could see deserving it was Wisdom from my Internet (Yes, I know it was in retaliation for Hate Mail Graded).

        • Anyone arguing a religious subtext is a Hugo disqualification has to address the awards given Stranger In A Strange Land, Dune, Lord of Light and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, as well as the nominations of Orson Scott Card’s “Prentice Alvin” Trilogy and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

          There are, of course, others, but in those books the religious themes are very very clear and significant elements.

        • t seemed that since Wright’s big two (Parliament and One Bright Star) were quasi religious

          When I asked John for a recommendation on where to start in his work, he pointed me at the collection “Awake in the Night Lands”.

          Not my cup of tea, as it turned out, but brilliantly written.

          • Will add to list. Definitely a good writer although not a huge fan of purplish prose. He’s up there imo but stories are worth and arguably enhanced by it.

  11. IIRC, ‘Neptune’s Brood’ by Charles Stross was pretty good space opera. The only messages in the book were two scenes, one where he said all capitalist cultures use torture to keep their people from revolting, because Russia and China are totally free market, and a weird scene where a character suddenly starts babbling about how wonderful it is to be a communist squid robot, and she’s going to refit herself as one. Other than that, a good followup to ‘Saturn’s Children’, with the decendants of Asimov robots that broke their programming colonizing the galaxy. Better than ‘Ancillary’ by a long shot, like every other nominee. Think I had it third in rank.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      What? Has Stross ever lived in a capitalist society? Oh, wait, he lives in Britain. So no.

    • Errum. Stross read Piketty, and it Changed His Life. He certainly blogged enough about it.

      • So he’s completely ignorant of economics?

        • Suggest that his books be affordable to everyone regardless of their income. Adjusted US vs world average income would put a paperback of Neptune’s Brood at 23.4 cents per copy. He may learn some economics then.

        • Completely ignorant is not the same as badly misinformed. There is a chance the ignorant realize their ignorance.

      • From what I understand, he’s one of the few to read it.

        Most just bought it to look cool and not much more.

        • I read it.

          *puts on sunglasses*
          *adjusts leather jacket*

          • I tried. After a couple of chapters, I put it down, took a shower, and pulled up Friedman’s “Free To Choose” on YouTube to cleanse my palate after that abomination.

    • He may be a good writer, but I listened to him describe some of his books and extoll their virtues; it succeeded in convincing me I never wanted to try any.

      • I’ve read close to all of his Laundry stuff. I like the short stories. The first novel I read was the third one, and I enjoyed it a lot. Then I read the second one, and liked that one too. Then I finally read the first one (the local Barnes and Noble apparently only kept the second and third book in stock). And while I liked it, I didn’t think it was as good as the other two. I finally got my hands on his fourth Laundry novel… and found it to be a great disappointment. I don’t know why, but it just wasn’t much fun at all.

        • Fourth one was pretty bad. I’m not even Christian, but the ridiculous statements he was making still got me angry. Fifth was better, but not as good as the first three.

      • He has some good ones. Not ones I’d probably ever nominate, but still fun to read, like Singularity Sky and most of Accelerando. And that short story, where the Soviets tried to weaponize Cthulhu, and it turned out he didn’t hit long range targets well, before he hit everything close by. But then he’s got the stuff where he doesn’t seem to even have a story, like Halting State and Glasshouse, and I can’t even read them.

  12. Not about this interview specifically, but an important thing to understand about giving interviews so I’m just going to stick it here:

    Most people assume that when a reporter does a story, they go out, get facts, do interviews, and only then decide what their slant is going to be. They assume that the facts they provide in an interview may influence the shape of the story, the tack the reporter takes. This could not be more wrong.

    Reporters always know going in what their narrative will be. An editor assigns a reporter, or a reporter pitches a story, in terms of that narrative. No one says “Go out and bring me a story about homeschooling”; they say “Go out and bring me a story about the dangers to children of letting overly-religious parents educate them.” Or they pitch “a story about how the Hugo kerfuffle shows that older white males don’t like the changes in science fiction.” Or “a story about how upstart fans are fighting back against the dominance of an in-group.” When you are talking to a reporter, they always have their slant already in mind. This is true regardless of whether the reporter is on your side of an issue or the other side, or the politics (if any) of the situation.

    This means that by the time they interview you, they’re not trying to figure out how to report the story. They already know how they will report it. They’re doing the interview in order to obtain quotes they can use to illustrate the spin they’ve already determined the story will have. That’s the only purpose of the interview – it’s not to glean facts, it’s not to learn about the underlying story, it’s to get usable quotes to illustrate. It is very unlikely that what you tell them will change this slant in the slightest. (It can happen, but it would require the reporter to go back to their editor and re-pitch a different story – one with a new slant – and they’re not likely to want to do that.)

    (It is possible to influence a reporter to tell the story you want told, but this happens earlier in the process. If you suggest an angle to a reporter who isn’t already doing a story (because if they are, they’re already committed to an angle), the reporter may be interested, particularly if you pitch it as a new angle – an original twist that others aren’t doing. If you can offer facts, interviews, quotes to support your angle, the reporter may be interested enough to pitch it to editors… and then your angle gets into the press. But this has to happen proactively, before the reporter has chosen and pitched a narrative. Before they’ve started work on the story. You have to be proactive to do this, contact a reporter before they have a story. (This is how that libelous story about how all Puppies are racists, sexist, and so on got into EW, the Guardian, and several other media outlets. Someone reached out to a number of reporters and gave them a bunch of… well, call them un-facts… and the reporters bit. And didn’t fact-check because the story was all but pre-written for them and they were lazy. Ugly tactic, but effective.))

    Media safety tip. I hope this is useful to someone.

    • > didn’t fact-check

      And now with the internet and email, fact-checking is trivially simple compared to just a few decades ago, when checking even major details could be tedious and expensive.

      I have this horrible suspicion that we’re actually seeing much more fact-checking now than the “good old days.”

      • Too many “journalists” and not enough reporters. Where reporter is defined as the person who had to deal with a hard-nosed editor who hated the idea of being sued (or just proved to have published wrong info) who would say things like, “I don’t care if it’s your mother saying she loves you, you get a confirming source!”

        Alright, maybe I am dreaming and well into fiction. I see the images of, “I want to believe.” and wonder, where are the, “I want to verify.” folks? Oh, right, off doing the ‘hard’ science things that move the world forward with genuine progress – even when that’s not exactly what they set out to do.

      • “fact-checked on Wikipedia.” FIFY

    • That’s funny, because I was a reported and an editor. I never got an assignment like that and never made an assignment like that. I never pitched a story like that either.

      There’s a lot of bagging of the press that’s warranted, but there are a lot of good people out there in the profession as well.

      • Then you are one of the few. 9 months in Iraq provided very clear confirmation that those in the news media who actually care about facts in even a vague way are a rather small minority. They seem to be more common on the ‘I have to live in this town’ level than on the more distant levels, such as national. I wasn’t sure if the local level difference was pretense or real. It’s nice to know that it can be real.

        • Don’t get me wrong, bias exists. I’ve written about media bias a few times.

          The problem is that the editor doesn’t hand out assignment like that, and the reporter doesn’t pitch them like that…but they don’t have to. Especially at that level, a story is understood on a subconscious level. The narrative isn’t explicitly stated. It doesn’t have to be though.

          The thing is, when they say they’re as unbiased as possible, they actually believe that. Yes, many of them really are that delusional about their professional life. The words “confirmation bias” describes them perfectly.

          • I wish I was talking about confirmation bias. I’m talking deliberately NOT reporting 4 rooms full, floor to ceiling of chemical warheads that my husband’s squad found. I’m talking about events I was there for where the ONLY thing that was right was a name, a place, and a time. Everything else was made up from whole cloth. I’m talking about trying to spin a story about cells being 3 feet on a side when the guy said meters. That goes beyond confirmation bias. And is why I have a very hard time seeing the news as anything other than lying scum. Folk like you help fight that experience, but every last one of you that has proved an exception is working at the local, often city, level. I’ve just had too much evidence of willful malice to attribute much to stupidity and confirmation bias.

            • I said that confirmation bias was part of it, not that it was the whole thing.

              There’s also the delusion of dismissing facts as “unimportant” at any given time. It IS a delusion too, since they could pass a polygraph test on their efforts to be unbiased. They really do believe that, I assure you.

              For the record though, I’m not working at the local level anymore. I’m at the national level at so not everyone’s there. 😀

            • I saw the same thing during the Portuguese revolution.

              • One of my jobs was to check the news for Things The Commander Might Have To Explain In The Morning ™along with Where Are Things Currently Going Boom And Where Does the News THINK They’re Going Boom ™. Infantry I was not.

    • Second tip: If you can’t make your own record of the conversation (written / audio / video, as applicable) don’t bother to have one. “Journalists” hate people who can’t be misquoted that way.

  13. Pingback: Sarah’s Interview with Cathy Young: Sad Puppies and the Hugos | The Liberty Zone

  14. Apparently, George RR Martin has … issues… with some of the ‘namecalling’ – FROM OUR SIDE.

    No complaints about the ones from his side.

    He seems to also dislike ASPs – which is merely an acronym of Anti Sad Puppies. I wonder what he believes it to be derogatory of? I mean, I’m the one who coined it because it’s simply easier to type out the acronym, and just for that reason alone. Yet he seems to ascribe malice to it. I did no such thing.

    But he seems to have no issues what so ever in ascribing malice to me by thinking ASPs an insult. Hmm.

    Y’know, I was reading the Breendoggle Wikia and realized that really, we’re dealing with people whose priorities are SERIOUSLY skewed away from what most other human beings would prioritize. The Breendoggle wikia has them fretting about the rights of the predatory pedophile Walter Breen, and how it might be infringed by his being banned from WorldCon because he posed a serious risk to children, and that banning him ‘might’ result in Marion Zimmer Bradley not attending…and so on.

    It was particularly disturbing to read how Breen had trained a 3 year old girl to strip the INSTANT she’d see him, and how he engaged in sexplay with the child during a family gathering of the child’s family. The phrasing used “was aesthetically displeasing” and the way that the whole thing seemed to be downplayed by the person writing the thing made me realize they were MORE worried about offending Breen, and his friends, and worried about HIS rights, over the harm he was doing to the kids. Further the way the angry parents were treated in the writing gave me the strong impression that the writer seemed to wonder what the fuss was about.

    (And what the heck is up with the various (Walter is amazing) comments peppered all throughout?)

    • It’s the rare person who has deserved beheading by a flying shark more.

    • ANYTHING we call them they consider an insult, because it becomes tainted with the way they behave. THEIR problem.

      • But… *sigh* FIIIIIINE… if they have problems with Anti Sad Puppies, I came up with new ones with helpful consultation from my hubby Rhys, and Spacebunny Day.

        • I’m guessing they think you are being cute and calling them snakes in the grass.

          • The funny thing was, I actually made the comment “Anti-Sad-Puppies, henceforth ASPs” during one of the long blog comments either here,at Larry’s or Brad’s or at MGC. It was done entirely without malice (not that they’d believe me) but simply because I got tired of writing the whole thing over and over again.

            But since malice has already been ascribed to me, I fail to see why I shouldn’t then proceed to fulfil their worst expectations of my coming up with varied insults.

            After all, GRRM and his ilk have already displayed their contempt, and further demand that we stop insulting them whilst he makes such a demand AND insults us in practically the same breath, by what obligation am I supposed to display respect and obeisance to those who neither command my loyalty, aren’t my ruler, by the Gods I’m glad they’re not my boss, and are unlikely to see me buy another of their books because of their treatment of myself? I greatly enjoyed The Ice Dragon, but that’s the last one I’ll buy from him, and I bought it more because of Luis Royo’s art being featured.

            GRRM and his sort forget that polite respect is easily lost, but once lost is difficult to earn once again.

            I actually greatly suspect that we are being made his scapegoat so he doesn’t have to go write the books his fans are waiting for. This is likely more ‘fun’ for him as it lets him throw his rather corpulent weight around at whim.

            • Despite my typical snark here and elsewhere, I really do tend try and ascribe noble intentions to people.

              Unfortunately, more and more, it’s like they’re trying to make it difficult for us to communicate, since they declare every term we use to describe them, even something like ASP, as derogatory. If we can’t use a simple term to refer to them, communicate becomes nearly impossible and makes it that much easier to push us aside in consideration for anything.

              Frankly, I’m just not really that interested in what George R.R. Martin thinks of me or mine after his actions at his loser party. Yes, his party, his rules, but when you snub losers because they were the right sort of loser, while treated people who withdrew their nominations after they were announced as if fellow travelers, it sends a signal.

              Hey, Larry turned down his nomination too. Where’s HIS Alfie?

              • If everything we call them is derogatory should we start calling them the Most Exalted TruFen of Wisdom.

                As for the Alfies…I can see giving an award saying that ‘You were nominated and got beaten’ but this year (I have heard it was longstanding) was just horseshit…

                • ehhh. how do you pronounce METFOW?

                • Oh, I think the Alfies are a great idea. “Hey, you didn’t get a Hugo, but take one of these as a consolation prize and drinks are over there.” I get it, and think it’s kind of awesome.

                  But snubbing people who were on the ballot because you don’t agree with how they got there? And really, the thing with Marko Kloos and Anne Bellet. I mean, I’d love to hear an explanation that doesn’t boil down to giving us the finger. I’d be freaking fascinated to hear it.

                  • That was the whole issue with me. It’s one thing for ‘Yeah, you got nominated but beat out by Starship Troopers’ or the like just as a fun piece of ‘You go this far’. But this year with the alfies going to people who were the ruling clique’s nominees and for those that backed out is just being a dick.

                    When I look at the clique noms for related works it’s just nuts. Most of those are polemics and targeting a political agenda. Of the ones that got the noms, Gardner and Hot Equations were pretty much nothing but raw companion pieces for sci fi ideas. Most of the others did have the issue of being looked at as political, although that is partly from the mindset of everything is political. But some polemic over how the ability to kill strippers in a game and lose points because of it mean that all gamers hate women was apparently more valid.

                    • I had the impression that “being a dick” was their raison d’être. It is the only way they have of knowing they matter.

            • Fat George and his friends may not enjoy the terms we apply to them, but they’ve shown no concern for the behaviour that earned them those epithets. They seem to think it only legitimate for them to shoot at the rebels and entirely wrong for the rebels to shoot back.

              • N.B.: The reference to GRRM as “Fat George” is (particularly) an effort to mock his weight. Given that I am, due to various medical circumstances and a generally sedentary lifestyle carrying about 33% more of my body weight than i did when I was young and gorgeous it is not an attribute I mock so much as I acknowledge it.*

                The “Fat George” appellation is instead a reference to 1776, more than which nothing need be said.

                *If any Puppy Kickers want to mock my weight they are welcome to do so. In fact, I will even give a boot over for them, playing off the fact my nom de cyber is Latin “thing”:

                Fat thing, you make my heart sing
                You make everything groovy, fat thing
                Fat thing, I think I love you
                But I wanna know for sure
                Come on and hold me tight
                I love you

                Fat thing, you make my heart sing
                You make everything groovy, fat thing
                Fat thing, I think you move me
                But I wanna know for sure
                Come on and hold me tight
                You move me

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Now here I thought you’d be giving us a film strip of Ben Grimm (The Thing) giving his Battle Cry. “It’s Clobbering Time!” [Very Big Grin]

            • Perhaps GRRM has graduated to being an ASS: Anti-Sad-puppy-Sycophant?

        • shortenings

          Did R.K. Modena just call people vegetable grease? 😉

      • Annoyingly Stupid People, Assholistic Sexual Predators, Amoral Slimy Prats …

      • Call them collect? If it all, that is.

    • Waitwaitwait…
      Please tell me you’re exaggerating about how these people reacted to Breen. Because if not…well, I think non-Baen fandom will do just fine without me or mine being involved.

    • There seems to have been a really weird period of time when “educated” people did not believe that there *was* any significant harm to the children. Those “don’t repress children’s sexuality” types are marginalized and isolated today but they still exist.

    • He seems to also dislike ASPs – which is merely an acronym of Anti Sad Puppies. I wonder what he believes it to be derogatory of?

      Maybe he thinks we’re calling them venomous snakes? Or maybe a collapsible metal cudgel?

    • The best commentary on George R.R. Martin was the April 2012 SNL skit about Game of Thrones.

  15. Arrogant Slow-witted Pissers… oh hey my breakfast is ready.

    • After the last few days, I favor this one. The Slow-Witted has been a shock. My left and extreme left colleagues were not stupid. Frequently evil or crazy, but not stupid. These people? I guess for someone who is supposedly an intellectual to ignore the filth revealed and the squalor displayed when the SovUnion (Oh, look, another racial slur for M3N) fell it takes a kind of self-castration of the intellect that renders them about as smart as a fly buzzing against a window pane.

  16. c4c

  17. At the end of the day, I think clarity comes from granting arguments and looking at the results.

    “The Hugos are by and for fans. SF readers are not fans. Fans are people who come to conventions and live as an accepted member of the publishing and convention world.”

    So let’s grant the argument and see what happens.

    “Very well. As a mere reader, the Hugos are not for me. So… I no longer care about the Hugos. I will continue to buy whatever it is that I buy, but Hugo nominations or awards will no longer factor into my book-buying equation.”

    There. See how easy that was? Position A leads to reaction B, and if “Fandom” does not like reaction B, they are always welcome to change Position A.

    In the meantime, I have better things to do – like figure out how to right the book-rabbit that’s bouncing around in my head.