The Good, The Bad, The Boring

We were blessed, Larry Correia, Dave Freer, Brad Torgersen and John C. Wright and I to be the object of an attack by Damien Walter, Teh Grauniad’s village idiot.

I’m not going to fisk his idiotic eructation, (mostly because I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of reading it) save for saying that that portion which applied to me was just what left wing blogs report about my writing, to whit that I “mangle” sentences.  Which is by and large true… on this blog.  Because it’s written spur of the moment and I don’t have much time to spend on proofreading it, etc, since this is not my paying work.  (Should I actually fix the patreon account and start doing a serial for it, I will then spellcheck that, because, well… it will be paid.  The thing is I don’t want to commit to that, as awful as I’ve been with my subscription space, until I know my health and living conditions (or at least place) are stable.  So not before a year or so. Because my inability to keep the subscribers’ space going is one part health and two parts “moving four times in a year and a half.”  Mind you, we think we’re fixed for a decade, maybe for the rest of our lives, but the unpacking still goes on.)  It never seems to occur to these geniuses that even if my turned-in manuscripts were as bad as the blog (they’re on.  In fact, except for the one written during/while recovering from surgery, they’re cleaner than other people’s raw manuscripts), the editors would catch it.  So, of course, they assume my books are the same.

There were several other egregious errors, like assuming we’re all small press or indie published, which would be trivially easy for him to check on.  In fact, to date, I have ONE book that came out exclusively indie, and one that came out indie after being published by a small press.  All my other work is for major presses and most of it for presses-not-Baen.  (And yeah, I know I need to get pumping on the indie.  Interesting note, btw, all historical mystery writers seem to be doing one or more indie series parallel to their traditional one.  It’s just the same health issues, etc. that stopped traditional writing also stopped indie.)

So, again, not going to fisk him.  Partly because Larry Correia has already said he’s going to do it.  When he does, I’ll link it here.  Also, Dave Freer fisked it at MGC.

Instead I’m going to strike at the heart of his conceit, that what we write is by definition sub-par and not worthy of the august Hugo.  This is also partly in response to a comment on my echoing Brag Torgersen’s post on Dragoncon, in which the commenter said something about how he hadn’t read anything on that list, and to call him back in fifty years and tell him which of those books had survived. His implication, of course, was that the novels winning the Hugos will have longer longevity or speak to readers more, or whatever.  (He also said he hadn’t read any of them and to that I call bullshit, given that I know the gentleman’s reading habits and most of the books are from Baen.)

Sighs.  Does sinal salute.

Yes, indeedy, the mark of “true quality” such as schools used to give it, in writing at least, is to have survived … well, I’d set it at a 100 years, but I come from a place with much deeper history, where an “antique” takes 400 years or so to gel.

Part of the reason colleges and universities used to consider books that had survived that long “true quality” is that they assumed these books had the votes of uncountable readers throughout the centuries, so there must be some quality in them that made them popular.  An enduring quality that defied time and space.

To a large extent that is true.  My own fascination with Shakespeare speaks to that.  Not just his wonderful use of the English Language (which I could appreciate as JUST music, long before I learned what it mean) but the way he captured something essentially human transcends the limits of where and when he wrote and overcome even his egregious errors in geography and — at least initially — how royal courts worked and a million other details.

But this is only “to a large extent.”  There are other works that survive mostly because they are the only surviving works of the era, and because they have been reverently taught from a couple of centuries after their time.  A lot of medieval literature falls under this heading, and I’m not giving anyone my head on a pike by specifying WHICH parts of medieval literature because they’ll regurgitate what they heard in college.  I’ll just say not having learned the same things in college, I could never get into large portions of what are in the English Speaking World considered pre-Shakespearean masterpieces.

And then came the twentieth century.  Ah, the twentieth century.  When western civilization decided it was really important to process most of its youth through colleges in which they were taught what “well bred people should know.” (At least outside STEM disciplines.)

This and a sort of ridiculous civilization-wide adolescent rebellion, in which we decided that because we now have electricity and photographs all past art is irrelevant, led to the anointing of contemporary “literary” masterpieces and the establishment of “literature” as a genre.

Yes, I just said that literature is a genre.  It is in fact, all it is.  Its markers: beautiful language, a tendency to introspective writing, (Unless the goal is minimalist camera-eye and the author sells it as artistic), and a concentration on “plausible, everyday problems” are no more a mark of quality than are “transparent language, fantastic, unbelievable events, active less introspective protagonist.”

That they’ve been sold as “quality” is because these are things “Literature professors like.”

Things literature professors don’t like — I know, my MA is language and literature — include science fiction, fantasy, mystery and in fact all the genres once defined as “pulp”.  My own dad, an avid mystery reader, for a long time classed all sf/f as pulp.  (I’m happy to report he seems to have suffered reverse-infection.)

In fact literature professors dislike it so much that they tend not to read it at all, and to assume that it’s all about bug eyed aliens and half naked women.  For SF/F of course.  Though it would make an interesting mystery.

One of my favorite pasttimes through college was take some professor rebuking me on my reading habits and give him a story or two by Bradbury.  My favorite and — d*mned if I remember the title — for this the one of the people falling to Earth after a space disaster, who review their lives while dying.  Professors were usually blown away and often ended up championing Bradbury to the school library.

BUT those of us in genre know Bradbury is literature.  I think even most of the glitterati admit it.  Harder for them is to admit that people like Heinlein or Terry Pratchett or whoever the latest bestseller in sf/f that they don’t approve of could be considered “literature.”

And to me the most important thing is “who knows?” “Who cares?” “Who actually gives a very tiny rat’s *ss?”

Look, “literature” label and all that crap about “surviving fifty/a hundred/a thousand” years is virtue signaling and bullcrap.

All of it.  My realizing this was the moment at which I started writing and selling a whole lot more novels.

So, literature — let’s leave aside the beautiful language because tastes on what’s beautiful are more fashion than anything else — is supposed to be something that survives the centuries.  And you’re sure you know what that is.  And you want to give awards to that now.

How?  Where do you hide the time machine?  How do you know?

The “literature mavens” in science fiction and elsewhere, have staked their claim on “what survives will be socially relevant.”

This is because they are (it’s an habit) putting the cart before the horse.

To give them the history lesson they never got in school, what used to be considered literature were things anchored in the renaissance which was in turn anchored in the Greek-Roman tradition.  Obligatory references to classical history figures was big (you still find that in some older, revered books.)  And the more obscure the reference, the more “literary” the book.

This was hogwash, of course.  Why?  Because those books were not in fact likely to survive, or even be appreciated but by a tiny minority who was counting coup “Oooh.  A reference to Sisyphus, this is deep.”and by a slightly larger minority who wanted to peacock as though they were exquisitely educated/high class.

Sometime after WWI this had become obvious to everyone, and so they cast about for literature markers that meant this book “spoke” to people.

Now remember, these were by and large intellectuals, whose acquaintance with “people” is either limited to growing up (I hear some of them are born of normal human parents.  Yeah, I know, another d*mn thing for pregnant women to be afraid of) or not intensive.  I.e. they meet with say their cleaning woman or their waiter, but only long enough to take care of business.

This is part of the reason Marxism is so appealing to them.  It gives them all these big categories into which to classify those slippery, unclassifiable people.  They might not know any plumbers, but by d*mn, they know the “Working Class.”

So what they decided would speak to people were books… about those people.  Most literary books are books about college professors pretending to be plumbers or gamblers, or whatever.  They appeal mostly to college professors.  But college professors remain SURE they appeal to everyone, and are therefore “good.”

Yeah, I’m going on the evidence of what I studied in “literature” thirty years ago, but at least judging by a ten year younger friend who keeps getting given these “masterpieces” because he has a degree similar to mine (US variety) it has if anything gotten worse.

Which brings us to the infection of our field by glitteraty larvae too weak and stupid to actually make it in the literary genre, and who therefore have decided to make it in science fiction and call it newly literary or something.

I blame people like Bradbury and Heinlein who made our field more respectable.  But the infection wouldn’t be complete without the editors who went to Very Good Colleges and learned the same clap trap literature I learned, but never saw through it and weren’t there to figure out new ways of bullshitting professors, while reading science fiction under the desk.  They honestly either believe that the mark of quality science fiction is its mock appeal to some “class” or “minority” or they view it as a way to signal how much better than others they are at selecting rarefied “literature”.  Actually the second would explain why the appeal they select for keeps getting more exclusive.  They have long ago accepted this cr*p doesn’t sell, and are now on a mission to “appeal to minorities by having someone like them in the story.”  (As a double — triple? — minority, I object.  I can identify with green tentacled aliens as well as the pale skinned mostly Caucasian guy now working the office beneath mine. I can identify with him too at least enough to empathize.  Otherwise, why marry him?)

Will this “literature” survive fifty years?  Oh, for crying in bed.  How can it?  It’s not even particularly popular now.  Hell, unless a nuking leaves some of these books as the only testimony of what our time and place was like, I doubt anyone even will remember their names any more than we remember the names of “praised” literature from the Victorian period.

Meanwhile Agatha Christie, a favorite “intellectual” punching bag is doing QUITE well fifty years on, despite lacking all those markers college professors think so important.

People like the village idiot of the Guardian are emotionally stunted morons who think “good” must be what his professors held up as such.

The rest of humanity finds it predictable and too boring for words.  Except for those who are counting coup “Ah, one eyed, one legged Hatian Lesbian.  This book is quality!” and those who want to be seen as reading “intellectual” stuff.  Both of which are an ever-decreasing minority in an era of overworked, overstressed people with a lot of other books to read and a lot of other forms of entertainment at their fingertips.

Me? (And probably most of my colleagues mentioned and a few not mentioned.)  We read and write what appeals to us.  I have my own definition of good, which is something that either rivets me and won’t let go (I tend to re-read Jim Butcher by reading all books from first to latest over the course of a couple of days, because I miss them, like one misses friends) or does something emotional to me I wasn’t expecting (The Black Tide books kept me sane and reasonably emotionally together through the death-march of fixing the other house for sale, through MAJOR autoimmune attacks and fears of going bankrupt before the house sold.  How?  D*mned if I know.  Perhaps the sheer uplifting of hope, of doing something, of rebuilding before an all-encompassing tragedy put my own issues in perspective and set an example.  Or perhaps it just reached into my feelings and changed them.  How am I to know?) or provides me with unexpected insights into things people do (Terry Pratchett, particularly Guards Guards for why people feel they need kings, and Tiffany Aching to understand why older son feels driven to become a doctor.)

The rest?  I don’t care.  If reading about the oppressed class makes you feel excited, all  power to you.  Just remember it’s not a popular taste, or a particularly “refined” one.  It doesn’t make the books you like “good” and everyone else’s “bad.”

When I was three or so, my dad taught me de gustibus non est disputandum and most of us “get” it for matters of palate.  For instance, my son adores biscuits and gravy.  The fact gravy makes me shudder doesn’t make his preference “bad” or “wrong.”  It just means we have different tastes.  Why can people not accept that in books (except of course, for having learned in school there was a “good” book.)

If you can read a book and “enter” into it, and it holds your interest to the end, it is a good book for SOMEONE.  Maybe not for you, but for someone.  Live and let live.  And stop acting like an idiot.  Liking something or disliking something won’t make anyone believe you’re better than other people.  Unless your peacocking is directed at the immature, the insecure and (but I repeat myself) most college literature professors.

Yeah, some of what we read now might make it to college classes in fifty years.  Will it be good? will it suck?

Who knows?  It depends on the state of civilization then, and what they pick as markers.

So I ask again, do you have a time machine, tovarish?  No?  Then shut up about surviving fifty years, and just read what you like.  In the end that’s all that counts.

Which is why popular choice awards like the dragons make perfect sense.  The “this is good literature” awards (which used to be the Nebulas) not so much.

Popular choice tells you “you might like this. A lot of people do.”  All “good literature” awards say is “Some intellectuals will think you’re very smart for being seen with this book.”

As an author I’d prefer to get the first.  As a reader I say “read whatever the heck you like.  Your former literature professor will NEVER know.”



385 thoughts on “The Good, The Bad, The Boring

  1. So, the chimp has been flinging poo again? That seems an appropriate activity; must signal the other chumps chimps where to focus their self-loathing.

  2. On that “mangling sentences” charge … well, there you have me; you do mangle sentences. But forced to choose I prefer your mangled sentences and clarity of thought to their exquisitely edited sentences and muddy thinking.

    But of course they wouldn’t complain about your sentence mangles if you shared and supported their agenda — witness how tangled they get denouncing rape but excusing Bill Clinton. As I’ve stated, better your mangled sentence than their mangled sentience.

    1. Sarah’s sentence structure may go off-key sometimes, but at least she has something sensible to say.

      I’ll take that over perfectly crafted bullshit any time.

    2. It seem highly wrong to be criticizing poor sentence building from a ESL author who does this site as a freebie…similar to Jim Baen’s Drug dealer ethos from a newspaper famous for screwing up their own masthead.

  3. As I said in a comment at Mad Genius… actually, I’ll just copy and paste the comment over here.

    The worst insult I can think of giving to someone is to tell them “You are a liar, and the truth is not in you.” (Which comes from the Bible, in 1 John 2:4). Which is what I have had to conclude about both Damian Walter and Mike Glyer — and I have recently had to add Camestros to that list as well, having finally seen first-hand what he writes when he’s not trying to hide his opinion of the Puppy movement.

    1. I suspect Flopatron of being some sort of lawyer/law student. He argues by misdirection, nitpick, mangling words, redefining things in his favor. Currently he is arguing the “quality not politics” angle. Badly, be it said, as he merely dances around the issue and cannot back anything up.

      Business as usual, in other words.

            1. Bait?!? Wouldn’t that constitute cruelty to fishes? (Or whatever animule you’re trying to dee-bait.)

  4. Shakespeare was just writing to “pay the bills” not to be “remembered years after his death”.

    There were plenty of other playwrights in his day and few of them are remembered. 😉

      1. Thomas Kyd for examplum. Probably a bigger drawn than Shakespeare at the time, but now he’s just a footnote to the Bard.

    1. To be fair, Shakespeare was writing sonnets to be remembered, and said so. But he was young and stupid then, not old and canny.

      Sonnet 55, the motif of which is a ripoff of a lot of Roman and Greek and medieval guys:

      Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
      Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
      But you shall shine more bright in these contents
      Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time.
      When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
      And broils root out the work of masonry,
      Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn
      The living record of your memory.
      ‘Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
      Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
      Even in the eyes of all posterity
      That wear this world out to the ending doom.
      So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
      You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.

      Dangit, that man could write. Him and Tolkien and Chaucer are drinking beer with St. Brigit in heaven.

      1. At least two Horace odes, a dash of Xenophon, and probably other stuff I should have read for class but decided to bluff my way through instead.

        BUT . . . listening to Ron Pearlman recite a few of the sonnets on the original Beauty and the Beast CD? Shakespeare will last long after Horace and Xenophon are footnotes.

    2. To be clear — none of the scripts of any of Shakespeare’s plays were published in his lifetime, and afterward a small press folio for his fans appeared in only a limited edition. He wrote for a living art, for theatre is adapted nightly according to the performers’ “read” of audience reaction. The idea of it as literary, static, frozen in a single “authoritative” edition would have been absurd.

      Most artists, given a choice between “paying the bills” and “remembered years after death” will take the here and now, the opportunity to gloat over their contemporaries and enjoy the adulation of beautiful bimbos (of whatever gender) without hesitation. A very few “enjoy” such commitment to their art (more likely, are so tormented by their muses) that they eschew compromise and present reward but that has very little to do with not desiring such immediate gratification.

      1. Whenever I hear about being remembered “years after your death”, I tend to think of that scene in the Great Divorce. It’s the one with the artist who is told he has already been forgotten after dying, and the poor elite just can’t take it. He simply must go back and correct this gross injustice.

        It’s going to be forgotten eventually. At least make some money to deal with the here and now.

        1. It’s going to be forgotten eventually. At least make some money to deal with the here and now.

          All the other ancient Greek poets used to tease poor Homer for his inability to compose blank verse. What a hack! they sneered.

      2. Shakespeare’s plays weren’t published because they were TOO VALUABLE TO PUBLISH. There was no enforceable copyright, or ways of getting paid for the performance of a work by another company. So they were ‘trade secrets’ of his acting company.

    3. Yep. Shakespeare: crude fart jokes, murder, and mistaken identities all the way!

      Love his stuff, and seeing a production of Othello in a few weeks..

    4. Those worried about more immediate things seem, IMHO, to be more likely to make something timeless. The lack of forcing something out tends to let come out be more natural.

      Well, for a lot of what the Kicker’s crowd likes I can make quite a bit of a natural version of that with a lot of straining but even then I prefer when it comes out smooth and easy.

  5. What makes a book ‘good’ to me, is characters that I like and enjoy reading about (even half-way fall in love with, if the author is a very good writer) and a story-line that doesn’t throw me out of the story, that keeps me wanting to turn pages to find out what happens next, or, if I know what’s coming, how the characters will deal with it. By this standard, most of the books that were required reading (many years ago) when I was in high school and college are total fails.

  6. “We were blessed, Larry Correia, Dave Freer, Brad Torgersen and John C. Wright and I to be the object of an attack by Damien Walter, Teh Grauniad’s village idiot.”

    WOW, congratulations. I hope he spells y’all’s names correctly.

    1. Ah, but it’s the Grauniad, They claim layers of editors, and after they’ve corrupted it enough, they toss the possible spellings to the typesetters who then play 52 pickup with the type (figuratively. though as much money as they are losing they might go back to actual typesetting, that being what’s left after receivership)

  7. Dickens was madly popular in his day – and certainly looked down upon by the Victorian literati … and yet – there he is, and very few of the approved, high-toned Victorian literati are still remembered. Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Thackeray, Arthur Conan Doyle … all at a squint writing madly popular materiel – pulp for the masses.

    Damien must be one of those sad constipated little literary wannabes, who likes to hang around in the right literary circles. but just can’t squeeze out a single full-length novel.

    1. I gather it looked like Dickens was heading to the lists of the forgotten, but for the notice of G.K. Chesterton.

        1. I had to suffer through “A Take of Two Cities in high school. We spent a full nine weeks “studying” (ie, taking turns reading out loud) that festering pile of manure. And then we found out that was only the first few chapters…

          As for Shakespeare… while I firmly believe that adults should be free to read whatever they want, inflicting Shakespeare on children is criminal.

            1. I do find reading Shakespeare a bit of a rough go. Seeing the works performed? I still have pleasant memories of A Comedy of Errors done as a TV play. That is, it was clearly a play, but televised – not something enhanced (much) to take advantage of film or videotape editing. I wanted to see more like that – rather than “adapted for television.”

              1. The old show Moonlighting did Taming of the Shrew with the tv show’s cast on the premise of some kid being forced to read Shakespeare instead of watching the show.
                I think it is the only time I watched that show voluntarily, and it was hilarious. Bruce Willis and Sybil Shepard doing Shakespeare.
                heh. it’s on youtube

            2. ^ This on stilts. Shakespeare actually *acted* is saucy, bawdy, bilious, thunderous, suspenseful, and just plain emotive as all heck (that’s what stories are supposed to do after all- if all anyone gets from it is “meh,” it’s poor storytelling).

              We’re blessed to have one of the better theater companies in the nation not far away (and for darn cheap, too!). Shakespeare, done well, blows all television “shows” out of the water. It’s just that darn good.

            3. Tales from Shakespeare by the Lambs. Charles Vess’ Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. Good audio-book productions.

              I read and ‘re-read my Grandma’s Lamb, then got to see As You LIke it performed by the Old Globe actors as a prize for being well-behaved in 8th grade (I know. Different times)

              Hooked for life. Fingers crossed this works with the daughter product.

            4. Saw Heston’s JULIUS CAESER around age twenty, and I was “wow”! Before that, trying to read a few of the places, “meh”. Great stuff, but it needs to be seen performed.

          1. I thoroughly enjoyed a Tale of Two Cities at age 15, myself. Of course, I just pulled it off of a library shelf and started reading – no pretentious prof to ruin it for me.

            I swear, the way English is taught puts kids off of reading more than anything else…

            1. That, I’m afraid, is their cunning plan. make books boring, make the classics unendurable.
              My daughter first saw Shakespeare as plays. On TV at the age of about three, and she was enthralled.

            2. After Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in school, I wanted nothing to do with Mark Twain. And then I saw an adaptation of The Mysterious Stranger and through inter-library loan read the three (roughly..) different versions of that, and plowed through almost every Twain book the local library had (exception of Life on the Mississippi – folks were watching that at home as a series or such and I just could not get into it, so…) and more ILL for some things the local library did not have.

              And outside school, I’m far less inclined to read or watch something that is a “You gotta see/read/do/whatever this!” than “Say, you might like…” or something I just happen upon. To make it want to hate it, try to force it.

              1. I was floored to discover the kids didn’t like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Then they drew a blank on the Royal Nonesuch, and I discovered what they read was heavily edited. I tried to introduce them to the real deal, but it was another case of damage done.

                OTOH, Twain could be real bitter.

                1. Twain took sarcasm to a high art, but I liked Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Of course I read the unedited versions first, that didn’t have all the fun excised out of them.

                2. If you think Twain bitter better eschew Bierce.

                  Y’know, a lot of American novelists of the latter half of the 19th Cent tended to be bitter. I wonder what could have engendered such strong and lasting sentiment?

                  1. Twain can be bitter. He wrote some stuff too dark even for high school literature books. There was one story, told from a mother dog’s point of view, where a scientist killed her puppies.

                3. When I examined The Daughter’s second grade reader I was appalled. You could not find a better argument against reading. I had loved Laura Wilder Ingalls and found it fascinating, but the compilers had even managed to find a way to extract a boring passage from those.

            3. Long ago I read that no one who ever took English Literature in High School or College ever voluntarily read any of the books on the syllabus as an adult.

              1. After them so thoroughly destroying people’s desire to read, most people who took English lit in high school or college don’t read as adults at all.

          2. A Tale of Two Cities is particularly bad…

            Shakespeare is fine for teenagers and IMHO even younger children can enjoy some of the comedies. I recall watching “Two Gentlemen from Verona” when I was 8 or 9 and enjoying it. Though I believe they cut some of it because they knew the audience

            1. In Junior High School we did book reports weekly. The time I picked Tala Obtusities (somebody made an opera of it at college–better title), the book report reflected the first page. I might have made it part way into the first chapter. OTOH, if I had a Heinlein (Farmer in the Sky was a favorite in 7th grade) or an Ian Fleming Bond novel, and it’d last a few hours…

              1. Actual complaint from one of my teachers:

                “It’s supposed to be a book *report,* not a book young man.”

                Book I was reporting on? The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress…

          3. I quite enjoyed A Tale of Two Cities as an audio book. Of course, unlike the Dickens I had endured in school, Great Expectations, I was not stopped at every turn to diagram sentence structure, analyze elements of plot structure or write a character sketch.

            After listening to A Tale of Two Cities I listened to an audio of Great Expectations to find it was really much better than I remembered. (It would have been hard not to be better than I had remembered.) Later I listened to one of his Christmas stories, not A Christmas Carol, read by Tim Curry. Sadly, while the reading was excellent, the story was a bit maudlin.

            I have multiple audio versions of A Christmas Carol including two delightful ‘one man show’ versions, one by the late great Leonard Rossiter and the other by Sir Patrick Stewart.

            I think that Dickens is well served by being read aloud.

          1. What I was going to say. We’d miss “A Christmas Carol,” if only because if we didn’t have that, we couldn’t have “The Muppet’s Christmas Carol,” and it’s not Christmas until Rizzo says, “Light the lamp, not the rat! Light the lamp, not the rat!”

    2. Damien must be one of those sad constipated little literary wannabes, who likes to hang around in the right literary circles. but just can’t squeeze out a single full-length novel.

      Some people, being intellectually constipated, attempt to define that as an optimum state, and will lecture relentlessly on the virtues of it.

  8. Literature? Shakespeare wrote bawdy plays for the peasants and the groundlings. Kipling wrote poetry and novels for the common people. Mark Twain wrote newspaper stories and comedy.

      1. And Spock doing too much LDS in the 60s.

        Hmmm. LDS? Obviously a reference to white male Mormon authors (of whatever ethnicity, gender, or religion).

  9. I would venture that none of the shorter fiction Hugo winners from the last decade or so will be remembered even a year or two after they were first published. Yet I can remember (I don’t even need to go reread) stuff by Asimov and Bradbury and so on that still moves me.

    With the exception of the Bujold and JK Rowling wins I think the Hugo Novel winners will be similar, oh they may have slightly more time being recalled before they too disappear into obscurity, but in a decade or two they won’t be in print.

    1. Oh, I expect most of the shorts and novels will remain in print (however defined in this age of e-books) if only in collections of “Hugo-Winners” — but that is more an example of post hoc ergo propter hoc than any inherent merit — were it not for the award’s imprimatur they would slink away as readily as the “Best Picture” Oscar winner from 1930-31.

      In fact, if you SearchEngine “films that should have won best picture” you will get an insight into the ephemerality of such praise in the form of lists of films which linger more briefly in memory than the time it takes to scan all the lists of them.

    2. Heck, one of the most memorable Twitter comments of the last few days was Brian Niemeier’s OK everybody, I didn’t win a Hugo. It’s safe to buy my book.

    3. Heck, can anyone remember any of the shorter fiction Hugo winners from the last decade NOW?

      (I was going to include an exception in here for everyone’s least favorite non-sf dinosaur meandering, but then I remembered it didn’t actually win the Hugo, so I think I’m still 0-for-however many).

        1. Ideally we would have about five stories titled “No Award” suitable for nomination next year. . . .

              1. I don’t think I’m up to it. Even for Atlanta Nights we had an outline, and actually PublishAmerica managed to have lower standards than SJWs. Here’s a description of my chapter, from the guy who did a dramatic reading on YouTube:
                “This chapter combines extreme purple prose with some extreme malapropisms, and climaxes in the most pointless argument ever.”
                I think it would have to be a bit better than that.

  10. The morlocks labeled a literary analysis of Gene Wolfe as “offensive drivel”, and deemed Pournelle, dislike of whom is acceptable, barely, but disrespect of whom I find a boycott offense, to be worthy of “no award”.


    Pournelle’s reply, that it was easier to get by with money in a time of no Hugos, than with Hugos in a time of no money, was spot on.

          1. “Accents”?

            Everybody has accents in speaking … except for me. 👿

              1. Let’s talk aboot that. First time I heard a Canadian I pegged that one and told him he was doing it (I didn’t know other people heard this.) He denied it strenuously. And yet, he sounded like that.

                    1. I did not hear much difference between the accents of International Falls folks and those of Ft. Frances when I was up there two weeks ago.

                    2. We get Canadians coming through fairly often where I work, and most of the time they could almost pass as northern Minnesotans.

                      Except that they keep double checking prices, sure it’s a misprint (too low).

                1. I can’t find a quick and dirty Google link, but if you’re serious about changing your accent, the late, very much lamented, Suzette Haden Elgin described a do-it-yourself accent changer programme in one of her books.

            1. I don’t have an accent. I’m from New York.
              I’m learnificatin’ my Texan, though, got a cuppin for it. Of course, I’m learnin’ it from GW Bush and Ron White…

              1. To other denizens, please remember wolfsbane or silver bullets will be required to permanently injure werewolves like me. 😛

                Tbh, though for some reason your Portuguese accent sounds different than the New England Portuguese I am used to (grew up just outside Fall River, MA) And never took Portuguese

                  1. That explains all the bad dudes in your head. They’re looking to corrupt that poor Southern belle.

                1. The dysjunction of the two accents: what people hear (or I when I hear recordings) and what I hear is SO bad I’ve actually tried to find a speech coach for the theater who’d teach me to talk southern…

                2. I don’t know.

                  Dragonfire would likely permanently injure you and if it didn’t kill you, you’d wish that it had. [Very Very Annoyed Dragon Stare]

                    1. If burned to ashes and the ashes were blown over several hundred miles. [Very Very Big Nasty Dragon Grin]

                  1. I got an entire story out of the effects of dragonfire once. . . .

                    (Yes, it’s “Dragonfire and Time.” How did you guess?)

              2. Nooooo! Sarah!!!!!!

                Don’t punish us for a mistake somebody else made!!!! [Pleading Look]

            1. You gave me a turn. I was scrolling down the page and my eye picks up ‘Comrade Hoyt’ and my brain wailed, ‘Never!’ I nearly lost 10 years off my life, no thank you.


              I think I’ll be fine so long as nobody here refers to her as ‘Madame’.

                  1. But she moved from Colorado Springs where the winters were about the same as winters in Denver.

                    Note, one spring day I had to be in Denver but Colorado Springs got snowed in (I was living in the Springs). 😉

        1. Sarah’s writing always sounds like Southern to me (Cultured South, not Memphis Belle for y’all who get the subculture). A few other commenters have written accents, even without the hints.

          Mostly, this blog reads as educated tradesman or professional, to me. There’s quite a bit of knowledge expressed without the frippery or nose-in-the-air snobbishness you might find where the cliques try to score social points off each other. We have folks as expert in their various fields of knowledge as any salaryman.

          History, hard science, politics, nuts-and-bolts writing mechanics, as well as current events and the occasional foodie discussion all swap back and forth regularly. It reminds me of the old coffee shop back when I lived in Big City, Appalachia.

          Picture a high wooden bar, scarred by decades of coffee rings and plates heavy with eggs and hash. Patrons belly up to the bar with their newspaper (later, iPads). There’s always talk between the regulars and the staff. New folks pop in and out, usually without a ripple. It’s a comfortable, easygoing place. Everybody’s got an opinion, but there’s rarely much heat.

          It may be noisy and random, but there’s hard won wisdom and experience to be found, too. Newcomers can benefit from that. The regulars come for the atmosphere, and another sane voice to share a conversation with- tough to come by, these days.

          The truth doesn’t lie just because it talks with a funny accent, after all. *grin* I get the “funny accent” bit whenever I travel far outside of my little mountains- and everybody else does when they come here. *chuckle* You get used to it. After a while, like that sinfully comfy chair that squeaks just a bit when you get up, you wouldn’t have it any other way.

            1. No, he said he READ the accent you hear… which I do also, in some books more than others (possibly due to editing?) particularly your Candy Chocolate Dare novels *ducks*

              You still SOUND like Natasha, just speaking Southern with a large vocabulary. *runs*

              1. Hmmmm … doesn’t “Skwoose & Merle” sound like a filk singing duo?

                What?! Am I the only one around who remembers Swoosie Kurtz?

            2. I can see you at a taping of Firing Line with Bill Buckley except for the fact that you lived NC and Firing Line was recorded in SC. It was a fabulous show! If you get a chance sometime watch an episode. He was an excellent interviewer. He was erudite, charming, witty and had experienced so many different things in life. Lastly, he was never vulgar. I miss him dreadfully. I hope that his works are preserved and are still read a 1000 years from now. Some of his works were ephemeral but others were timely, and timeless. Many of his books were just fun to read.

              1. Lastly, he was never vulgar.

                Sez you — I saw him “debate” Gore Vidal during the 1968 Democrat National Convention.

          1. Anybody coming in here with nose in the air is likely to get pantsed. We are unimpressed by sesquipedalian baroquery and hard to intimidate intellectually although we are willing to be entertained. There’s been more knowledge spilled through the floorboards than gold dust in Paint Your Wagon‘s saloon. We get people rifling the sofa cushions for facts just to clink them in the faces of troll-wannabees without having to draw out the big knowledge.

        1. Hm, I am suddenly drawn to publishing something SF under the pseudonym “Noah Ward”…

            1. This Ward guy has been dominating the Hugos the last few years, after all.

              1. Unlike his cousin, jay, he isn’t particularly amusing. The SJWs certainly seem happy with his output — remember how they were cheering his success last year?.

            2. I want to see an “Atlanta Nights” style novel, written by Noah Ward, skewed with every SJW cliche out there and submitted for Hugo consideration. It would be beautiful.

                1. I’m assuming this to be serious and am willing to give it a go. So yeah, count me in is this is going to be a thing.

                    1. I so hope this ends up being a thing and that if it does I’m fortunate enough to be selected to be involved. The fact that I have more or less no writing experience and possibly no imagination won’t be a hindrance, will it?

                      Also, the phrase ‘multicultured pearls’ is making me laugh way harder than it has any right to.

              1. Even for Atlanta Nights we had an outline. and a character list.

                And some of the stuff we did might be a bit overdone for this. The computer generated chapter would give the game away. Even to them.

                1. There is no problem with having a character list and an outline… we don’t actually have to follow the outline, do we?

      1. As far as I am concerned that is a major example of why the award is just a clique circle jerk. I can understand why in the past he may have been overlooked (When you are writing with Niven there is gonna be competition in that timeframe), but as a short form editor he (As well as HWSNBN) did a very good job on the There Will Be War renewal. Stories on topic, tightly written and well varied. But the CHORFS admitted they shot him down because he was tarnished by his association…Meanwhile they support NAMBLA.

        1. Can they have a clique circle jerk even though they’re dickless?

          [Insert Original Ghostbusters, accept no substitutes, video clip]

  11. It can be very … enlightening to look at lists of Best Sellers from the 1930s or Very Important Authors and realize how little lingering impact they’ve had. Not even in college literature classes does Edna Ferber get discussed, and yet she was perhaps the most influential author of the first half of the last century. And authors recognized as masters in their day, employing all the knacks of Literary Work, are nowadays derided as “imperialist, misogynist, racist.” (You want beautiful writing? Open any book by Kipling at random. He will also give you “plausible, everyday problems” out the wazoo.)

    It is a terrible burden, being so insecure that one feels compelled to dictate one’s private preferences as Universal Standards of Quality, and I would be inclined toward sympathy except for their wanting to shove their abysmal tastes upon me. I don’t need their snobbery. I dealt with sufficient number of such “Cool Kids” in grade school and learned to trust my own judgement for my own tastes because (and here’s the Big Secret) Everybody’s Different.

    We all read for different reasons, and sometimes we want Big & Bold and sometimes we want quiet and cozy; sometimes we want fast and hectic and at other times we want slow methodical — it all depends on who we are and where our lives are taking us at the moment. And there are few universal standards because there are few universal states of mind.

      1. Nod, one reason that I’ll never (almost) say that a book is worthless.

        1. Worst comes to worst, they may be good for door stops, weights for woodworking or model projects (while glue is drying), emergency toilet paper*, emergency kindling, and as instrument for the inflicting of blunt force trauma.

          * I am now having a horrible image of Venezuelan libraries assailed by desperate individuals, raided for toilet paper.

          1. There is always the hollow book for hiding your valuables. I hope ‘Ancillary Stuff’ comes out in a single volume edition, it would make an outstanding hide-away, since no one in their right mind would ever pick it up to read.

          2. You can use them as bookshelves too. I have wanted a few “invisible bookshelves” for years, maybe I’ll manage that one of these days (can’t really have them in rentals, usually screw holes on walls are frowned on in them. In my current they allow a few, but only a few).

            You’d need hardcovers for those, but some of those can be had cheaply, or sometimes even for free from used book stores etc. Yesterday’s bestsellers or award winners nobody wants to buy today…


            1. Okay, that’s pretty damned cool. The only issue would be finding books I’m willing to gut for the purpose…I guess I could start by buying up a bunch of past Hugo winners…but I’d be embarrassed to have people think I owned them for reading purposes. Hmmm…

        2. Heck, if nothing else even that book which might otherwise be called worthless may prove to be just the right thickness to level a wonky table or heft to use as a flower press.

      2. Switching from the language and rhythm of one book to another can be an issue for me. Recently I was confronted with this when I had been happily bingeing on a recently discovered new to me author’s mystery series to pick up a much anticipated new book. I just could not get into it. Once I had to read a short story (Don Camillo came refreshingly to the rescue) to clear and reset — no problem.

    1. The fact that they call Kipling an “apologist for the British Empire” shows that they know nothing. Kipling would NEVER have apologized for the Empire. He gloried in it. Yes he recognized that it had faults, but he understood that the perfect is the enemy of the good.

      1. Kipling had direct experience of that to which the Empire was the alternative.

        Those who criticize him have no idea what they’re talking about.

        1. Sorry, but compare the offshoots of the British Empire to Spanish or Portugese. Which one is more likely to be stable, make an attempt to hide corruption, and treat people as individuals rather than groups (and treat the ‘preferred groups’ of the CHORFS as human). Regardless of the many faults of the empire, the existence of the British Empire significantly supported the growth of human rights. About the only ones that have regressed are the ones that turned around and started to try and ‘get back’ at their oppressors.

  12. my son adores biscuits and gravy

    Smart boy, breakfast of champions……..
    Even though it does make my waistline expand much more than eggs with sausage and bacon………

    1. I don’t gravy. Never have cared for it.
      And biscuits and gravy?
      Well, if you want to eat something that looks like it went halfway through a dog, that’s your business. Include me out.

      1. Just ’cause lotsa folks have had a bad experience with gravy that ain’t made right, doesn’t mean biscuits and gravy’s a bad thing.

        I can agree that it may not suit most people, but hey- I hear there’s folks who don’t like chocolate, or iced tea on a hot day, or naptime, or reading. *shrugs* A good gravy for biscuits enhances the flavor and makes them more tasty. It’s easy to find *bad* gravy and biscuits, though. In box mixes, in chain restaurants, and suchlike.

        1. Even gravy that others have raved about, does nothing for me – at best. I have long suspected that “Good gravy!” is more fictional than most fiction.

          1. I thought “Good gravy!” was what you said when you were surprised and didn’t want to use bad language? 😉

            Yes, I may be showing my age. 😀

            1. I saw sausage gravy, in the dining hall at Lackland AFB, when I was in basic training. Sadly, I must confess that it looked too much like vomit for me to ever contemplate eating.
              Biscuits are OK. With butter and honey melting into them, hot from the oven.
              Sausage gravy … no.

              1. Biscuits make a great substrate for a good many things. There are just two problems. One, biscuits and many of the things put on them are carbohydrate heavy. Two, sometime they arrive with gravy on them, and that is condition they cannot recover from and thus then go to someone else. Or to waste. Which, considering the carbohydrate issue, is at least not to waist.

                1. Good gravy should be protein heavy and carbohydrate light (lots of sausage, just a dab of flour), and should never have gotten near a chicken or turkey… unless it is egg gravy, which is acceptable.

                  My biscuits go with sausage gravy, egg gravy, or lots of butter; preferably with a suitable dipping soup. They are acceptable with jam on the butter, but I prefer soup to jam.

                  I confess to eating biscuits, with or without gravy, much more often for supper than for breakfast. Mainly because if it is good gravy, there are never any leftovers for breakfast, and I don’t like reheated biscuits unless they can be suitably saturated in sausage.

                    1. Hamburger or sausage gravy with potatoes was one of the standard foods of my childhood – cheap and quick to make, mother didn’t often have all that much time for cooking.

                      And gravy made of pork side is traditional in this part of the world – “Fresh, fatty side pork sliced and slowly browned in its own fat. Wheat or rye flour and chopped onion are browned in the pork fat and hot water is added to make a sauce. The sauce is mixed with the meat and left to simmer slowly, until the meat and fat are tender and succulent.”

                      (And for those interested, while I was looking for that pork gravy recipe I found this site, explanations of Finnish dishes in English – not real recipes though, just descriptions – that one about the pork side gravy is lifted from there :

                      We just call it fat sauce here. It fell out of favor for a few decades, with the low fat trend, but seems to coming back now.

                1. Beg to differ – Air Force mess hall food is usually darned good. All the other forces will freely admit so. The mess hall food at Sondrestom AB in Greenland was awesome.

                  But mess hall chow in other services … usually pretty grim, if not actually a health hazard. I had low-grade stomach upsets/food poisoning from the chow at Fort Ben Harrison for weeks, until I wised up and began cooking for myself over a hotplate in my dorm room.

                  1. The stuff on the subs at least used to be quite decent. When we first married my husband would trade with someone who wanted the holiday off, and then I’d join him on the boat for dinner. He had someone owe him, and I didn’t have to cook. It was a very nice arrangement.

            2. That or “Great Caesar’s Ghost!” as one of my great-uncles was prone to do when my aunts or children were around. I can only imagine what he said when he was out in the oil field.

          2. Some of the best gravy I have had was at my grandmother-in-law’s place for Thanksgiving… it was good on the turkey. It was amazing eaten congealed on rolls.

            ….That is also one of my favorite uses for chicken stock. It tends to concern people.

        2. Mmmmmmmm……

          Sausage gravy, made with the drippings of the sausage you just cooked that is crumbled up into the gravy just before serving it over biscuits fresh from the oven. Mop up the excess with a sausage patty between two halves of another fresh biscuit…….

          1. White gravy, bit of salt and pepper. Bacon grease, spices to flavor.

            That’s my favorite for biscuits- gravy for turkey and dressing is different, as is gravy for steaks and suchlike. Good biscuit gravy depends on the biscuit and how you like it to taste.

      2. Same here. Which is one of the reasons I don’t do French or Italian food. Some of it *might* have been edible before they poured feculent liquid over it…

        1. Excellent! More for the rest of us, then. Although I will point out that there are ways of preparing delicious pasta dishes sans what most what call sauce.

            1. That has worked well for me, as have vegetable and beef broth. Tossing the pasta with a bit of olive oil and garlic is another approach.

              If anybody considers both butter and olive oil, I’ve found tossing the pasta with the butter first, so it gets absorbed, then tossing with the oil, works best.

    2. So, has anyone here ever had corned beef gravy on their biscuits? ‘Swhat my family has made for generations, but everyone else seems to use sausage. We all got very excited when we found one of the groceries here carried corned beef at half the price per tin of other places. Top it with a little Creole seasoning and you’ve something amazing. In my own not so humble opinion, anyway.

      1. Naw, just fry up the corned beef, and put it with cheese and horseradish between the two biscuit halves.

  13. But the infection wouldn’t be complete without the editors who went to Very Good Colleges and learned the same clap trap literature I learned,

    I called them mickey mouse colleges twice today. Hard Knox U they ain’t.

    1. I read an interesting piece from Mike Rowe on bookface today. He referred to getting a degree as ‘buying a degree’. And it seems that is a valid way to describe it.

      1. U of A was quite up front about that when I attended in the early 1980s. As long as you came up with tuition, you could at least get an English degree, which was pretty much the “No Award” of the collegiate system…

        The only thing that would get you thrown out was bucking the system, which is why I got a police escort off the campus.

        1. You do need to maintain a certain GPA. A nephew of mine flunked out of U of AL unless you meant Arizona or Alaska.

      2. Thanks to HRC having felt the Berne, college degrees will soon be awarded to good little party members as gifts of the government and all “free thinkers” will have to survive in degree-free professions careers jobs.

  14. On Medieval Literature: All I know is what I like, and that includes Beowulf, The Song of Roland, The Canterbury Tales, and The Divine Comedy Of these, The Canterbury Tales is at the top. One reason I enjoyed The Divine Comedy was the professor, who did a wonderful job teaching the book.

    OTOH, I had to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and just didn’t care for it.

    1. I like it, but I’m a sucker for that sort of stuff. Tolkien was, too.

      Audiobooks are awesome for epic/long form poetry, or even long form poetry in translation.

      You know the story about Alan Garner, who came from the same part of the world where Green Knight was set and written? And how he couldn’t understand why anybody needed to footnote and explain these totally ordinary words? And how he got his Middle English prof chatting with his grandfather, who knew even more of those perfectly ordinary words?

    2. I like some of the Middle German troubadour-type songs (Walter von der Vigelweide, the original Niebelungen) , and the English stuff. And then there’s the goliard poems for those with a more earthy turn of mind . . .

    3. The strength of classic literature is primarily in how it echoes through culture. Canterbury tales has a few threads, Dante has the idea of circles of hell and torment by what you did, and Beowulf is an example of the heroic ideals and story style imo.

    4. I first read Divine Comedy (Finnish translation) when I was fifteen or so, and really loved the Inferno part. Reads rather like a fantasy adventure. The other two are less interesting.

      But I think I like the Niven – Pournelle fanfic version even better. 😀

  15. I have to shake my head on those rare occasions when I walk into a B&N during the summer and see those stacks of paperbacks of ‘A Separate Peace,’ lying in wait for unwitting high school students.

        1. That doesn’t offend me as much.

          Translating Shakespeare to English is the very defintion of accepting laziness and intellectual bankruptcy. I think even Damien Walter would oppose it.

          Only that idiot, Judge Posner, thinks it is a defendable idea.

    1. Yep. The mention of it caused a flashback to high school… one year it was one of my selections for Prose Interpretation competitions (Texas high schools competed in EVERYTHING).

      1. Bradbury was my gateway drug. I’d read everything he’d written up to about 1974 or so, when other reading started getting in the way. After a while, after I’d tried to tell people what this or that story was about, I realized Bradbury could write something interesting about just about any dumb idea – a gift and a curse. This psychiatrist is on a bus, see… A big guy is out front shooting hoops… I’d come crashing down: what *was* that story about, really? Why would anybody read it? But, boy, loved them as a kid.

        As a writer, I don’t imagine he’d be a good example to follow. Far too idiosyncratic, for one thing.

  16. “call him back in fifty years and tell him which of those books had survived.”
    Hmm, like Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, the hated H.P. Lovecraft?

    I lucked out when I was growing up, my Sophomore English teacher had us reading Romeo and Juliet, I paid just enough attention to answer questions while I read books under my desk. One day my teach strolled over to my desk asked me what I was reading, I showed him and he said ” carry on” and strolled back to the front of the room. I think I was reading Dune, or maybe one of the Pern novels, I was reading a real book, willingly, so he had succeeded in getting me to read.

    1. They have to murder Romeo and Juliet. If they taught it straight and accurately, it would be banned as a mix of pornography and pedophilia.

      1. Just watch the Zeffirelli (sp?) movie. Really it’s probably the best edition ever and you can’t hide the ephebephilia or the fact that it’s basically teenagers getting in big trouble

        1. I was gong to remark that Shakespeare usually ‘works’ on stage but in the movie theater not so much. The Zeffirelli R&J may be the exception that proves the rule.

          1. sorry, I liked the Branagh Hank five, awesome cast and the St. Crispin’s Day speech.

            1. THIS…there is nothing quite like his Henry V. It was sold on me long before St. Crispin’s Day…Derek Jacobi sold me in the first 2 minutes.

              “Gently to hear, kindly to judge our play”.

              In fact, the closest I’ve come to burning a book is when I saw the translations mentioned above and read the Chorus’s Prologue to Henry V.

              1. Oh yes. He got the battle right (among other things). He got so, so much right. And he was the correct age (or a lot closer to it than most).

                If I ever get to teach that part of history in a college-like setting, I’m going to have the students read that chapter of Keegan’s _The Face of Battle_ and then watch that film.

            2. The St. Crispin’s Day speech is a thing of beauty as written, and as performed in the Branagh movie was awesome. I remember memorizing it in high school (for English class), but I fear only bits and pieces remain in my brain. This, obviously, calls for a refresher….

            3. Branagh’s Hamlet was excellent on several points. First, his portrayal of the eponymous prince was the only time – read or watched – that I have been able to tolerate the character, rather than wanting to slap him upside of the head. Second, the decadent setting makes a wonderful backdrop for the depraved actions of the royals. Third, it is (almost) completely faithful to the play. Two scenes are switched in order to improve the pacing, but none are omitted and no dialogue is modified or added. Fourth, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams. Rumour has it the two were forbidden from being on set at the same time, because they would have cast and crew in such stitches that nothing would get done.

    2. I bet I’m not the only person here that got grounded for reading in class…But got out of my English 102 and was one of 2 freshman english tutors in a school where freshman tutors were supposedly not allowed.

      1. Never got grounded for reading (or writing) in class, but I’ll confess this involved many instances of “repeat what I just said” and also reading assignments of a page that contained novel.
        I used to be multitasking and have eidetic memory. Now I’d be dead.

        1. My darling (?) Child was having a sleepy day in third grade, put her head down on the desk, and was justifiably called on this by the teacher. When challenged, she raised her head, recited back the last five minutes verbatim, and put her head back down again.

          And people wonder why I’m tired all the time…

          1. When I was in Third Grade I got away with laying my head on my desk, but that was because I was having migraines. We never found out why — they did an EEG (I guess – we’re talking Kennedy Administration era, and people didn’t offer in-depth explanations to kids about why they were putting “grey chewing gum” in my hair) but found nothing.

      2. I was scoldedoing in class, but for various reasons didn’t care about getting in trouble. They finally figured out to confiscate the book until I’d actually done the assignment…

      1. Which the current CHORFs want to pretend doesn’t exist.

        Then again they pretend that about the 1975, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, and 1989 winners as well.

        Oddly, the 82 and 89 winners include ones of my favorite novels and are by the same author so was probably my biggest go to author in the 80s and early 90s but who, as a puppy, I have to as as not only a woman but a lesbian (I knew she was a woman but found out the later recently).

        In fact, one feature of the Hugo novel is a lot of them are still very readable and read but a lot of the losers are as well. TMiaHM was actually nominated in 1966 and 1967 (serialized then book form) and lost the prior year to Dune and The Immortal by Zelany both still very readable. Silverberg lost several times in the 70s with still readable novels as did Anne McCaffery (I still reread Dragonquest which lost in 1972 to To Your Scattered Bodies Go).

  17. All you need to know about “literature” as a genre is the fact that Bulwer-Lytton was once both commercially successful, and a shining critical light of his times as an author…

    Nowadays, he’s mostly known for providing a cartoon dog writing doggerel atop his doghouse with his standard opening, and a contest for “worst writing” held annually. Notwithstanding a bunch of well-known phrases of his which have become virtually cliche, like “the pen is mightier than the sword”, “pursuit of the almighty dollar”, and “the great unwashed”. The man is nearly unknown today, outside of that contest. He sure as hell isn’t read, that’s for sure…

    Not quite the predicted place in “literature” the critics of his time thought he’d hold, and I rather suspect the poor bastard would be horrified to know what regard he’s held in, today.

    On the other hand, give it a few hundred years, and perhaps he’ll be rediscovered and found to be someone both seminal and artistically significant. The muses of history are some truly unpredictable ladies, when it comes to this kind of thing.

    1. “Artistic Significance” is driven by the need for Doctoral Thesis production – suddenly discovering the “significance” of otherwise un-notable and un-remembered author from way-back-when is one of the certain paths to meeting the “original contribution to human knowledge” traditionally required for one of the “…Arts” PhDs.

    2. One of the greatest children’s SF of all times begins with “It was a dark and stormy night.”

      …and all the usual gate-keepers hated it. Life is funny.

  18. The fallacy is that there are universal standards for “good” writing, beyond the obvious one of giving readers value for money.

    Not even grammatical exactitude can be claimed as universally required. As for “beautiful language” and “plausible, everyday problems” … those are in the eye of the beholder. I find excessively ornate language a rococo distraction from the story and unbelievable as an expression of how people talk — give me Robert S Parker and Elmore Leonard any time — and I found the problems faced by Johnny Rico far more credible and everyday than those of Holden Caulfield.

    1. Grammatical exactitude should be considered criminal when used in the conversations of characters. Few people are as grammatically precise when speaking instead of writing. Unless your novel is populated by high level AI exclusively, I would not expect it.

      1. A friend, whose degree is in linguistics, tells the following story. (Short form)

        As a student of linguistics I was studying speech patterns for a class. When you have examined a possible sentence long enough, and said to yourself often enough, it becomes hard to determine if it is actually an example of how a person might speak. So one evening I went to a friend, a fellow student whose major was English. I recited a sentence I was uncertain about and asked, ‘Would someone say that?’ She replied that it would be wrong. I asked again, would someone say it. After more than a moment’s consideration the English major said, ‘Yes, someone might say that, but they would be wrong.’

  19. I am certain that what makes a book get thrown off the train for me varies from others: I recently found that I can actually get past suddenly having the sound of everyone switching off the safeties on their Glock pistols echoing across the hushed silence before the assault – if the story thus far has been otherwise well crafted.
    But I do find that one to many main characters having yet another “the action is about to start, and I’ve worked through all these EXACT SAME ISSUES IN DEPTH already in this story, but instead of getting on with things I am going to sit here and have an angst attack about my life choices, my dietary preferences, and the state of my landscaping RIGHT NOW” moment will always end in the metaphorical view of the metaphorical paperback fluttering out the metaphorical compartment window into the metaphorical French countryside (I like Sarah’s “thrown it off of the train” mental image much better than the “thrown against the wall” one I used to use when ebooks depart suddenly, so I stole it).

    In recognizing that some people’s tastes differ, I suddenly find that I am at odds and do not fit in with the literary in-crowd. And this makes me sad. For a picosecond.

    1. Think of it less as throwing away a book, and more of practicing “catch and release” 😀 It will be happier in the wild, returning to its origins….as wood pulp. Ciiiiircle of Liiiiiife….

        1. I think the Circle of Life is what results when somebody crams their head up their “exhaust pipe.”

    2. One wonders how many of the people who wrote scenes of massive pre-action angsting and whinging have ever seen any kind of action themselves?

      1. Precisely. In my experience, there’s a few seconds of OH SHIT!, a confusing muddle, and then a minute of damage assessment (Where is that blood coming from, is it mine? was I shot? Ooh, that should hurt, why doesn’t it, oh there it goes! Wait, where did the building go? and so on…)

        1. Yep, I’ve had plenty of experiences with, “Ooohh, that reeaalllyyy looks like it should hurt! …. dang that hurts!”

          Something that those who have never been in situations involving adrenaline pumping action never seem to visualize. Adrenaline and sheer terror combinations make an amazingly effective short term pain killer.

      2. The angsting and whinging come after the action, in my experience. And the shakes. And the puking.

        Before action is the sick feeling in the stomach and the red tunnel vision.

        1. Anyone else babble like an idiot in the aftermath of a major adrenaline dump/fear reaction, or is it just me?

          1. It’s a quite common reaction. Often much more humorous in someone else than in yourself. 🙂

      1. To be fair, the Glocks in question were distant future Glocks, from after the time when Gaston’s progeny had relocated company HQ by tagging along with one of the waves of colonization to be with with all the other Austrian-speakers on their own planet.

        Maybe they added external, loud, safeties just to get Gaston spinning in his grave back on the homeworld.

        Better those now-noisy and external loud safety bearing futureGlocks, however, than the pistols from the future Heckler and Koch factories located on the distant colony world Because You Suck, And We Hate You.

        1. The hero, a very large gentleman, carried a Smith & Wesson K frame revolver, chambered in .50 BMG, and a Broom Handle Mauser, in 20mm API. Suitably modified, of course.

          They were a little under powered for the work, but all he had on hand.

    3. “..the action is about to start, and I’ve worked through all these EXACT SAME ISSUES IN DEPTH already in this story, but instead of getting on with things I am going to sit here and have an angst attack about my life choices, my dietary preferences, and the state of my landscaping RIGHT NOW”

      And that is why I cannot read modern romance, and have to take a non-fiction break from most YA fiction after a while (the main characters ARE adolescents, after all)

      1. Makes one wonder if the authors have ever actually been in a fast paced, action oriented situation. It doesn’t have to be life and death, even being the one holding the ball in the middle of a football play should give them an inkling of how much time they have to angst over life choices.
        You might have time to think, “I wish I had my 45/70 instead of this stupid 22 revolver,” but that’s about it. You either do something with what you’ve got, or stand there and get ran over. Remember, when the action starts there is a fourth choice, lead, follow, get out of the way, or become roadkill.

  20. Well, I spent way too much time in so-called higher education, and it took quite a while to learn to trust my own inclinations again. Two observations, with your indulgence:
    1. The operational definition of “intellectual pursuit” is “something pursued by intellectuals”; e.g., watching US football or ice hockey is a brutish waste of time. But since the Deep Thinkers who read and write for The New Yorker enjoy following baseball, baseball is therefore the Sport of Intellectuals.
    2. Recently, The New York Times Book Review has taken to featuring (even to the extent of giving the cover) novels on SF themes, generally dystopian (duh). And EVERY SINGLE DAMN TIME, the reviewer either begins with, or soon gets around to, declaring that thanks to This Book, science fiction or fantasy has now transcended its dodgy pulp ancestry and entered the rarefied realm of Literature. It’s a solid, reliable sign that said book will either offend my values, bore me half to death, or both.

    1. Is the Times still doing that? I recall my shock on turning to their Sunday Book Review (back in the late 80s, I reckon) and finding the cover book review a SF book by a High School classmate of mine. Utterly amazing, as when we were in Creative Writing almost twenty years before he had sneered at my fondness for Heinlein and Sturgeon and pushed Herr Hesse as “the GOOD Stuff.”

      His having sunk to writing SF, even if he might have “transcended its dodgy pulp ancestry and entered the rarefied realm of Literature” was the sort of thing that used to induce snorting coffee out my nose.

      Even though I got the Times free (from having made friends with the carrier servicing the newspaper machines) it was overpriced twenty-five years ago, and that was back when Bill Safire was still writing there.

      1. Your high school classmate was just following Herr Hesse, whose _Magister Ludi, or The Glass Bead Game_, set in the far future, clearly is classed as speculative fiction. My younger brother, who fancied himself an intellectual, had a collection of the gentleman’s prose; in a moment of bookless desperation I looked through his bookcase, but that was the only one of Hesse’s oeuvre whose back cover blurb looked interesting enough to pick up. Good stuff, actually, but I’ve not yet got past the back cover blurbs of the rest. Clearly Herr Hesse was more broadly read than the noiser of his audience.

        1. Cover blurbs? Ah yes, they don’t always reflect the content. The Spouse, The Daughter and I used to enjoy a chuckle at the bookstore picking up and reading the blurbs on a line of Tor classic editions — imagine Pride and Prejudice sold as a bodice ripper.

          1. A few years back, I saw this book with a very “bad movie poster” cover and a blurb that read like a “bad movie blurb”.

            The title “Bride Of The Rat God” wasn’t much better but since it was by Barbara Hambly I “took a chance”. 😉

            Seriously, with Barbara Hambly I didn’t really think it was as bad as the blurb said but it gave me a chuckle.

            Oh, in one sense the blurb was fitting as the book was set in 1920’s Hollywood. 😀

  21. Speaking of Shakespeare, whom I also still like and whose works by the way are still being performed today, I seem to remember being taught many long years ago that he and his work and the Globe theater was low class, not literature, and not worthy of consideration by other than the lower class. But which have survived the test of time.

    1. People do read the sonnets, I believe. OTOH I doubt that anyone but professors of English has voluntarily read “Venus and Adonis”.

        1. You’re an outlier. You were a graduate student in Literature! btw, did you have to take any linguistics?

  22. As a Southerner I say, if you don’t like biscuits and gravy, you’re wrong. But that leaves more for me, so feel free to be wrong.

    As for the century – I’m just finishing Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series. For the first time. Somehow I missed it. (I know!) A century ago he was describing radar controlled collision avoidance systems and hyperloop transportation, along with the scantily clad maidens and bug-eyed monsters. I think what makes them such classics is the important lessons we can still take away from them. For instance: Virginians are unstoppable killing machines with hearts of gold and tongues of silver. Also, keep track of your womenfolk. (Daphne gets kidnapped in each and every one! Lo-jack her or something….)

    Bradbury is beautiful. Often I’ll have to read the same paragraph two or three times just to let it sink in. Whereas Steinbeck just makes me want to throttle someone – him, myself, whoever. Hemingway, mainly myself. (Which may suggest he read his own work.)

    Some writers (e.g. Correia, Mrs. Hoyt) drag you through the story at high speed and when it’s done you curse them because they haven’t written the next one yet. Some, (e.g. Bradbury or Wright), you need to sit on the curb, light one up, and have a drink until the feeling of being hit between the eyes goes away. Reading too many in a row could be unhealthy. Most ‘high litrachoor’ you’re just glad it’s over.

    Either way, I’m a sucker for a well turned phrase. Burroughs’ description of someone as a “chimpanzee with a haircut” is my most recent obsession. (Now I just need a victim.) Whether it’s ‘pulp’ or not, my gauge of whether it’s good or not is how many times I interrupt my wife to say, ‘Hey, listen to this!’ (She’s very patient with me.)

    1. “I still live” is a good principle. My main complaint with the movie version was that the movie character didn’t have much in the way of joie de vivre until the very end, something the original exalts during most of his adventures (as long as none of his loved ones are in immediate danger).

  23. Except for those who are counting coup “Ah, one eyed, one legged Hatian Lesbian. This book is quality!”

    Oh, yeah? WHICH leg, h8er?

      1. That would have to be “One-eyed, One-legged, dwarven, Haitian Lesbian” to work with the beat.

  24. Hey, I appreciate a good oblique reference to Sisyphus!

    I am greatly amused that REH is rapidly approaching the century mark. Verne and Burroughs have passed it.

  25. As for the “Literature is what lasts 100 years” argument, as made by the Lit’ra’cha types, I dismiss it thus;

    TARZAN OF THE APES was published in 1914. GREAT storytelling. Absolutely appalling writing.

    We are well past the 100 year mark for BEN HUR (1880), and A STUDY IN SCARLET (1886). I don’t think any of the Lit’ra’cha types will want to claim either.

    Most of what has passed for lit’ra’cha since WWII has disappeared without a trace. For that matter, the same is true of most of what was well loved by The Right People in Mencken’s day. Mencken remarked on it, acidly and at length. He also championed books that I have no desire to read (SISTER CARRIE), but respect and expect to last. What he would think of the current crop of collegiate navel-gazers would, I expect, set fire to any paper it was printed on.

    The Lit’ra’cha types hate Kipling, in large part because they are uneasily aware that he could cram more action, vivid description, and human nature into 30 pages than their pets get into 600. And Kipling is going to outlast the silly sumbitches, if only because of “The Sing Song of Old Man Kangaroo” and Mowgli.

    1. I decided that I’m going to use “Jobsen’s Amen” this year when we talk about colonial India. ” . . . But Himalaya heavenward heading sheer and vast sheer and vast/ In a million summits bedding on the last world’s past/ A certain sacred mountain where the scented cedars climb/ And the feet of my beloved hurrying back, through time.”

  26. There are the Oz books, which I think are passing the 100 year mark. Louisa May Alcott, L.M. Montgomery. A lot of my reading, actually.

  27. Having had seven best sellers, and having lost something like 7 Hugos and won none of them, I long ago developed a compensatory philosophy which seems to be consistent with reality. “Money will get you through times of no Hugos much better than Hugos will get you through times of no money.”

    Since the 2016 nomination was essentially earned by anthologies put together in the Cold War 80’s when they didn’t have a category for Hugos, I was not surprised that my old friend Ellen Datlow won it. She’s still an active editor, and a very good one.

    1. The shame of the petty No-Awarding is on them, not you and not the people who nominated you.

    2. “Money will get you through times of no Hugos much better than Hugos will get you through times of no money.”
      I like the cut of your jib! May I steal that?

    3. Your collection – re-released – was the last book my dad was able to read before the Alzheimer’s shut down his ability to read anything longer Han a few paragraphs.

      It’s possible your paths crossed back in the day. He was one of the founders of the USN nuclear power program under Adm. Rickover.

  28. You named my all time favorite Pratchett book. Now I have to reread all of them. Thank you!

    PS: Biscuits and gravy with sausage is incredibly good. But diabetes says too much of a good thing is bad. 😦

          1. We went to the International House of Pancakes recently, and ordered bacon, as one does. It was the first time that I have ever had to add salt to my bacon. I don’t know how or why they did this but it was the most flavorless bacon, I have ever eaten.

  29. “Most literary books are books about college professors pretending to be plumbers or gamblers, or whatever.”

    Reminds me of book that I through aside in disgust a while back. It was supposedly a “gritty novel of revenge,” and every character in it from the cops to the waitresses to the doctors to the gangsters all talked like they were New York Times reporters; the only exception were the really hardcore criminals who talked like New York Times reporters with Tourettes syndrome. That wasn’t the only the only reason that I ended up using it for baseball practice, but it was certainly on the list.

    It’s ironic that they all claim to want “diversity” so badly but are completely incapable of creating it. Of course, maybe that’s why they insist we need more one-legged Haitian writers: they aren’t capable of writing characters unlike themselves, so they assume no one else is either.

    1. While often being quite disdainful of real plumbers and gamblers, at least as far as the opinions of plumbers and gamblers, especially their opinions about books and what might make one good, are considered. Especially if aforementioned plumbers or gamblers might offer an opinion about some ‘deep’ book much praised by a literature professor for it’s gritty realism concerning the lives of plumbers and gamblers, when it comes to that a plumber or gambler saying that aforementioned realism is not realistic will not matter. At all. What do they know, after all they are merely plumbers and gamblers with no education in literature. It’s all a metaphor, you see? Doesn’t matter if it has no connection to the real lives of any plumbers and gamblers.

  30. I’ll just say not having learned the same things in college, I could never get into large portions of what are in the English Speaking World considered pre-Shakespearean masterpieces.

    As long as you don’t include my man Dante in that roster, we’re good. 🙂

    Seriously though, I’d’ve thought you had an ear for some of the stories coming out of l’amor Cortes. Now you’ve pricked my interest. Sounds like there’s a story there…

  31. One of the benefits of reading fiction is that you get practice in understanding a written description of events. It is also a demonstration to you of how to record a sequence of events. For this purpose, fiction needs to be clear and self-consistent. By this measure, Agatha Christie scores well, as does Shakespeare (making allowances for language changes). I suspect that most modern literary fiction in the experimental tradition would score very badly.

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