Nominating season: resources

The Hugo 2020 nominations opened early this year but I’m only now trying to get my head into gear about nominating stuff. I think it’s going to be a strong year for novels but we’ll see. Meanwhile, mainly for my own reference, are links to a bunch of resources that make the process that bit easier!

And as everything is under control and we’ve got loads of time, here is the No Worries At All blob calmly considering their nominating options.

It has been awhile since somebody tried to rewrite Sad Puppy history

I believe it is usually January that we get an up-tick of attempts to vindicate Sad Puppy history and I imagine that we’ll get a few more attempts next year when SP3 marks its half-decade anniversary of accomplishing nothing but frustration, upset and column inches. However, I missed one earlier this month from science fiction’s top self-appointed witch-hunter and winner of the Dragon Award for Best Horror Novel That Isn’t Actual Horror, Brian Niemeier. https://www.brianniemeier.com/2019/12/no-american-man.html

Sadly nothing new. Some Scalzi bashing and some Tor bashing but let’s go through.

“To recap, author Larry Correia started the Campaign to End Puppy-Related Sadness when he smelled something rotten among the oldpub clique that hands out the Hugo Awards. He set out to prove that winning a Hugo has less to do with literary merit and almost everything to do with scratching the right backs while having the right politics.”

Nope. Larry’s initial campaign was overtly against the idea of nominating on the basis of literary merit. His imagined enemy where the ‘literati’ and ‘snob reviewers’. The campaign was an attempt to win himself a Hugo Award (which we know because he said so).

It is true that at every stage of the various Sad Puppy campaigns they have been presented as some sort of Manichean struggle of good-guys versus bad-guys but the nature of the split was repeatedly revised in a “we’ve always been at war with Eastasia” way. The conflict has variously been characterised by Sad Puppy supporters as:

  • Pulp authors versus the literati and snob reviewers
  • Marginalised conservative authors versus SJW entryists
  • Newcomers to Worldcon versus SMOFs
  • Outsiders versus the SFWA
  • ‘blue’ sci-fi versus ‘pink’ sci-fi
  • Traditional science fiction versus modern science fiction
  • Tor books versus Baen books
  • Indie publishing versus trad publishing

Of course, the reality is also multi-faceted, with multiple kinds of people becoming involved in a conflict with no single cause. However, the purpose of the reductionist group A versus group B framing is to create a clear just cause for group A.

“After three years, Larry decided he’d proved his point and retired from the Sad Puppies. “

Technically after two years. Sad Puppies 2 was the last Correia led campaign.

“When you have one publisher winning more than twice as many Hugos as the next most award-winning house, and when SFWA officers constitute an oversized chunk of Best Novel winners since 1986, you’d have to be terminally naive not to see a cool kids’ clique trading participation trophies.”

The ‘twice as many Hugos’ line is a reference to the number of Hugo Awards for Best Novel won by Tor. Niemeier adopts the anti-Tor line fairly consistently from here on in his history re-write. Of course, the full-on Tor hatred did become a feature of the 2015 campaign but even I find it hard to remember that the anti-Tor aspect of Sad Puppies was a minor aspect until quite late in the history. It is true that Tor versus Baen was always an undercurrent, specifically around the Best Editor Long From award and (from a Rabid Puppies perspective) due to Vox day’s specific animosity toward Nielsen Hayden’s.

However, the idea of the conflict being defined as a war against Tor did not fully crystallise until Vox Day manipulated a boycott of Tor books in June 2015. Prior to that Sad Puppies 3 had nominated one Tor published book for Best Novel (Kevin J Anderson’s The Dark Between the Stars), prominent puppy John C Wright (and multiple Sad & Rabid puppy nominee) still promoted himself as a Tor published author and the eventual winner of Best Novel in 2015, The Three Body Problem was voted for by many Puppy supporters.

“Imagine if one movie studio won more than twice as many Best Picture Oscars than its closest competitor in a similar span of time. What if a preponderance of Best Picture winners had also been directed by current and former high-ranking officers of the Directors Guild? Anyone who’s not a total NPC would at least entertain suspicions of some shady backroom  deals.”

Honestly I’m surprised Best Picture is evenly distributed and I find an even distribution more implausible than what we see in the Hugo’s. For added “this framing doesn’t add up” Tor winning a minority of Best Novel Hugo’s in that time period is also due to five wins (half of Tor’s total wins up to 2019) from Orson Scott Card and Vernor Vinge. Card, in particular, was used as the paradigm by many Sad Puppies of the kind of author who used to win Hugo Awards but no longer did. Vinge is an author less championed by Sad Puppies but was overtly cited as an example of a ‘good’ Hugo winner from the past by Sad Puppies 3 leader Brad Torgersen: “We’ve fallen a long way since Vernor Vinge won for A Fire Upon The Deep.

Nor does the Tor-narrative fit the other narratives. If the Hugos had recently become more leftwing and Tor was somehow to blame, then Tor would be winning more Best Novel awards in recent years. Of course, the other name that connects Tor, the SFWA and Puppy angst is John Scalzi and the particular and very personal animosity both Puppy campaigns have for him. That man himself is a very agreeable person who repeatedly tried to find compromise and understanding only seems to have added fuel to the fire.

“For its first three yeas, Sad Puppies performed the vital public service of wising normies up to the convergence of legacy sci fi publishing. In a way, it prefigured what #GamerGate did in the video game scene. But like pretty much every dissident online movement since, SP quickly devolved into petty territorial bickering. When its original founder was replaced by people who still want a pat on the head from oldpub, SP became just another bogeyman in the Left’s morality play.”

GamerGate is a kind of Schrödinger’s cat in Puppy rhetoric. The essential rule is this: Puppy supporter can imply that the two campaigns are connected but if critics of the Puppy campaigns do so then it is a terrible slander. Brian Niemeier is very much in favour of the misogynist Gamergate campaign, which given his overt support for male-only cultural spaces is not a surprise.

The digs in the paragraph above look like they are aimed at both Brad Torgersen and Sarah Hoyt but I assume the thrust of it is aimed at Hoyt. Quite how we can sort Correia, Torgersen and Hoyt into more or less connected to “oldpub” is unclear. Hoyt has been published traditionally and independently. Of the three she is closer to the post-traditional publishing model.

The indie versus ‘oldpup’ narrative is hard to maintain for the Sad Puppy conflict as a whole. Attempting to apply to the internal shifts of Puppy leadership is absurd to the point of incoherence. Nor did Sad Puppies descend into territorial bickering except in the sense that the bickering was always there. The argument Niemeier references was not until the non-appearance of Sad Puppies 5, when Declan Finn attempt to make some book recommendations using the ‘Sad Puppy’ name, generating an angry reaction from Sarah Hoyt (see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/06/26/sad-popcorn/ ). This was in 2017 by which point Sad Puppies had long since become irrelevant to the Hugo Awards.

“As mentioned above, Dragon Con now hosts the Dragon Awards. The Dragons boast far larger and much more open participation than the Hugos, and after rebuffing an SJW takeover attempt, they’ve largely settled into an antipodal role as readers’ choice awards for fans of a certain SFF publisher.”

The Dragon’s create a bit of a conundrum for Brian. Their headline categories are more dominated by Baen than the Hugo Best Novel is by Tor — which if Brian was remotely consistent would according to his prior arguments demonstrate that the Dragon’s are rigged. However, Brian won a Dragon Award in its first year and so more or less has to be pro-Dragon award.

The “SJW takeover attempt” is an even more egregious re-writing of history. He is referring to his own imagined culture war against John Scalzi in 2017 (see https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/niemeier-wants-the-dragon-awards-to-be-a-culture-war-but-the-culture-doesnt-want-to-play/ ). The “takeover” was authors trying to withdraw from the Dragons precisely because of the nominees like Niemeier. At the time, Brian was very much in favour of the Dragons not letting authors withdraw. When the admins saw sense and allowed authors not to participate, Brian was outraged and saw it as a potentially fatal defeat for the Dragon Awards. There was only one remedy that would save the Dragons!

The Secret Kings, my highly praised space opera novel, is the only viable competitor against Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire.”

https://www.brianniemeier.com/2017/08/conservative-play.html

Suffice to say, Brian didn’t win another Dragon and instead Babylon’s Ashes, by James S.A. Corey won instead. By his own weird standards then I guess that means the SJWs won or something? Who knows. With narratives that shift as easily as goal posts made of clouds, who can say.

Dave Truesdale on Diversity

Dave Truesdale has a post at According to Hoyt on the issue of diversity in Science Fiction [ direct link, archive link]. I’m technically not blogging this week but I can’t really ignore this one.

I’m not going to do a deep dive into the essay. It isn’t great or well argued. The initial premise is that calls for diversity are at odds with calls against cultural appropriation. This claim is stated rather than developed or substantiated. That claim then leads into this:

“That this is patently absurd even on its surface is laughable, but if you say something often enough and loud enough and have the media on your side…. But on the other hand they do not realize that, by their own definition and that of wikipedia, they are appropriating the distinct culture of the SF field, which is an inviolable crime in their eyes.”

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2019/11/20/to-be-diverse-or-not-diverse-that-is-the-question-by-dave-truesdale/

You can’t appropriate a culture you are part of, so Dave Truesdale’s argument rest on an assumption that “they” are not part of the “distinct culture of the SF field”. This assumption is not overtly stated or explored.

There are also repeated complaints about the SFWA Bulletin.

The nature of the problem is exemplified in lengthy footnotes, including:

“The past three or four years of Hugo and Nebula fiction award winners bear this out unequivocally. If you are white (and especially those males who do not kow tow to the Woke’s party line PC ideology), you’re out. No awards for you. Belong to a minority (even an artificial one—are you a member of the diabetic minority and has the SF field oppressed or overlooked your work?—they seem to pop up all the time these days), are a person of color, or a woman, and we see that you’re Woke, then you’re one of our kind of people. You wrote someting last year? Great, we’ll see about getting you on the ballot—after all, diversity.”

He says “woke” a lot.

He makes the “diversity of thought” claim a lot and again does not expand upon on it.

In short, it is an essay in the style of Dave Truesdale at Sarah Hoyt’s blog complaining about diversity — picture what that might be like…and that’s what this is.

Hugosauriad: Bibliography

Or how to read along to the Hugosauriad.

Below is a more comprehensive list but the main books I used include:

  • Dinosaurs! edited by Jack Dann and Gardener Dozios published by Baen Books. This has A Gun for Dinosaur, Poor Little Warrior and The Night-Blooming Saurian in it. They did a second collection Dinosaurs II which also has great stories in it but not any I covered.
  • A Fistful of Dinosaurs edited by James Patrick Kelley is another great collection and covers more recent stories. It included Think Like a Dinosaurs, Walter Jon Williams’s Dinosaur, The Measure of All Things (Saurs), and If You Were a Dinosaur My Love. It has a story by Robert J Sawyer (but not one I covered in his chapter).

Between those two collections you get a decent sample of the stories covered. Single author story collections I used include:

  • Ray Bradbury Stories Volume 1. This includes The Fog Horn, A Sound of Thunder and Tyrannosaurus Rex (aka The Prehistoric Producer) and a wealth of other Bradbury classics. I also quote the introductory essay ‘Drunk and in Charge of a Bicycle‘.
  • The Palace at Midnight: The collected stories volume 5 by Robert Silverberg. This has ‘Our Lady of the Sauropods’ in it as well as Silverberg’s introduction.
  • The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories by Connie Willis. For ‘In the Late Cretaceous’
  • The Thing in the Stone and Other Stories by Clifford D Simak. For the title story.

For non-fiction there two valuable sources:

  • Dinosaurs in Fantastic Fiction by Allen A Debus. This was the book that I should have read first if I was going to do this project properly. Unfortunately, I only got a copy quite late in the process. It’s a big broad study of dinosaurs in fiction and well worth a read.
  • An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953-2000 by Jo Walton. Itself a Hugo finalist, there are overviews and story reviews for every year of the Hugo Awards.

Full list after the fold

Continue reading “Hugosauriad: Bibliography”

Hugosauriad: Cenozoic – the end

In the end there were no more dinosaurs was the traditional end to their story. Cloaked in mystery they had departed. At first the story was that they had been out-evolved by clever, quick and adaptable mammals but that as a self aggrandising story invented by hairy primates bent on displacing each other. That tale was replaced by a story far more dramatic, one of death from the skies and an unjust disaster. Only recently have we come to see that the dinosaurs never entirely left but instead birds maintain their legacy and have always been with us.

I’ve run through sixty-seven years of dinosaurs and Hugo Awards and I’m not sure what I’ve learned. I expected to learn more about change but many of the more novel ideas about dinosaurs have been there from the beginning. The biggest surprise was how often dinosaurs were connected with themes of both revolution and atheism. The connection makes sense in retrospect but it was still a surprise.

I wasn’t surprised to see dinosaurs as aliens and non-alien dinosaurs slotting into the roles of aliens (either as intelligent beings or as monsters). Dinosaurs have always been an exercise in the creative scientific imagination. The gloriously strange Victorian dinosaurs of Crystal Palace park in South London have preserved our first attempts to imagine what these scattered bones stood for. The repeated reimagining of the dinosaurs from lumbering crocodilians to speedy murder-birds has paralleled the change of dinosaurs as symbols. Where once they stood in for a kind of colonial story of former residents displaced by superior mammals, they have become symbols of a lost ecology, being unfairly robbed of their planet by happenstance. Their extinction has changed to a memento-mori of our tenuous survival on a fragile planet.

The most noticeable relic of a past time across these stories is the big-game hunter. There from the start, the role of the hunter chasing the ultimate prize has faded from central characters to an occasional element. Not gone totally, as shown by Bob Peck in Jurassic Park or Rupert Graves in Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a a Spaceship but still a fading trope.

This project has not been a detailed study of the Hugo Awards but rather a sampling of aspects of it over time. The most telling conclusion that I can draw is that they are mercurially unchanged and hence utterly different. The winners and finalists have always been a mix of future classics and quirky decisions, with a streak of fannish controversy and sometimes pettiness. The demographic shift in numbers of women finalists has been the most noticeable and significant change, this was accompanied by a similar shift in how women characters were portrayed overall.

Has the quality shifted over the span of the awards? I’m not sure this question is answerable. As much as I loved A Case of Conscience (the 1959 Best Novel winner), it is clearly a story that needs work. Where earlier works have an advantage is their capacity to broach ideas that has since become commonplace in science fiction. Conceptual novelty is a harder task for more recent writers simply because so much territory has already been mapped out.

The generational shifts have been made less clear by my choosing only dinosaur stories and the capacity for Hugo voters for nostalgia means the 1960s includes wrks by an author born in 1875. The sixty-seven years of stories represent well over a hundred years of people when measured by birth dates. The Hugo finalists have often represented a large span of years, enabling them to be both ahead of their time and nostalgic for earlier periods simultaneously.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this series as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I hope to have a collected ebook version together before the end of the year. Until then farewell from the Hugosauriad.

The 1990s were peak dinosaur

I have been playing with the Google n-gram viewer to look at when dinosaurs were appearing most often in books.

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=dinosaur&year_start=1860&year_end=2008&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cdinosaur%3B%2Cc0

It looks like the late 1990s, in the wake of Jurassic Park was the top time to encounter dinosaurs in print.

But which dinosaurs? Here’s a selection:

Link

The volume for brontosaurus surprises me and makes me wonder if that peak is Jurassic Park related.

I had to leave iguanodon off the search terms because the way the n-gram tabulates figures, the Fonz of the dinosaurs just dominates the 19th century:

Link

These days the venerable iguanodon is level with the feathery newcomer velociraptor.