August 23rd, 2015

buzz

While we are waiting for the full stats, a thought on how the #SadPuppies failed

It all could have been more difficult. The campaign to No Award the Puppy slates this year was made much easier by two factors, both of which were eerily predicted by Cat (I think catsittingstill) in a comment on Brad Torgersen's blog after last year:

Next time, bring your best game. Read a lot, talk among each other, pick your *best* stories. No bland reguritated elf seeks god never finds him though but boy won’t it upset the Hugo voters stories. Encourage your readers to nominate for quality, and *only* to nominate things they have actually read and liked. If you get stuff among the finalists, encourage your readers to read *everything* before voting. Even if there are people on the other side that aren’t taking the high road, after this year’s performance, you can’t afford to play tit-for-tat.

Remember that it’s partly a popularity contest. Choose for your spokesman someone who can avoid being a weapons-grade jerk in public... You desperately need a spokesperson who can respond to an essay about moving beyond binary gender–if they respond at all–with a “I’m sure you thought it went without saying, but just in case, don’t forget to write a good story also” instead of a 4,000 word rant attacking a position–“don’t bother writing good stories”–that the essay writer never took. You need someone who doesn’t accuse the average WorldCon voter of lying about what we like–voting for stuff we hate because of the author’s race or sexual preference.

If you want the Hugos to be about the best pulp, fine; people can like pulp and that’s okay–you’ll need about 3K more voters who prefer pulp to literary, but that could be possible. But you really need a leader for your campaign who can avoid antagonizing the neutrals.

It's reasonable to say that this advice was completely ignored. Brad Torgersen bragged of the "open" "transparent" process by which his slate was selected, but in fact it was just him and his mates deciding which of their mates should be on the list, without any actual judgement about quality. For all the Puppy complaints about cliques, political messages and works getting nominated which are of poor quality and are't sfnal enough, in too many cases they did exactly what they accused the imaginary cabal of doing. And people notice.

Cat's second point is even more important. Correia, as Puppy spokesman, was petulant but at least persistent. Torgersen was far worse: he is good at stringing words together to make an emotional point, not always that good at choosing the right word to make an intellectual point, and lousy at engaging with other people's arguments. Journalists who knew little of the situation and suddenly needed to write about it took one look at his blog, with made-up acronyms and made-up enemies, and decided who was right and who was wrong pretty quickly. That impression would have been confirmed by looking at other Puppy blogs, or indeed reading the comments to Torgersen's, in which one Puppy author threatened to turn up at an opponent's house - which he had located - with a gun.

It would have been tougher to argue for No Award this year if the Puppies had chosen better material and had had a spokesperson who cultivated the neutrals rather than annoying them. Will they learn for next year? I doubt it.
buzz

Hugo Awards 2015 - full analysis

There were very few close results this year. Hugo voters delivered decisive verdicts on what they wanted and didn't want to win. Outside the Dramatic Presentation categories, not a single Puppy nominee beat No Award. No Award won five categories, all on the first count, and also got the most first preferences for Best Novelette. Also worth noting that the two fiction categories that were awarded went to translated works, the first time that translations have ever won Hugos for fiction as far as I know.

I have found only two contests (and pretty minor at that) where the margin was less than 50 votes - Bryan Thomas Schmidt beat Vox Day for fourth place in Best Editor (Short Form) by 12 votes, and Steve Stiles beat Brad Foster for fourth place in Best Fan Artist by 37. Most years there would be at least half a dozen.

Wesley Chu, Elizabeth Leggett, Laura J. Mixon, Journey Planet, Orphan Black, The Day The World Turned Upside Down and The Three-Body Problem all won their awards despite being the last finalist nominated.

At the nominations stage, there were also very few near misses, thanks in part to the lock that the Puppies managed to achieve on this part of the process.
  • The tightest squeeze for the ballot was in Best Fancast, where The Coode Street Podcast missed by one vote, Verity! by three and The Skiffy and Fanty Show by nine.
  • Saga vol 4 missed Best Graphic Story by a single vote (was it eligible?) and the latest Schlock Mercenary by nine.
  • Seanan McGuire's Each to Each missed Best Novelette by three votes, and Kai Ashante Wilson's The Devil in America missed it by seven.
  • Maurine Starkey missed Best Fan Artist by three votes, and seven others were less than ten below the cutoff.
  • The Drink Tank missed Best Fanzine by eight votes. For Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), Agents of Shield: Turn, Turn, Turn missed by nine votes and Game of Thrones: The Lion and the Rose by ten.
  • The Book Smugglers missed Best Semiprozine by 10 votes.
  • Charles E. Gannon's Trial By Fire was 11 votes off the Best Novel ballot, and Andy Weir was likewise 11 behind Wesley Chu for the Campbell Award.
Edited to add: See also Brandon Kempner's analysis; he puts the total number of Rabid voters at a bit above 500, and the total Sads a bit less.

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Let's hope that this is more enjoyable next year.
plovdiv

The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri

I see that this has had mixed reviews, but I very much enjoyed it - a story of an Indian immigrant to America, whose political brother is killed by state violence in Calcutta, leaving his pregnant wife to be adopted, and indeed married, by the protagonist. This obviously leads to some grimly fascinating (and entirely believable) family dynamics over the decades, interlocking with the experience of Asian immigrants in even a relatively liberal part of the USA. Tightly written with what one could almost call vivid understatement in places.
earthsea

History, by Elsa Morante

This is one of the 100 greatest books ever according to the Norwegian Book Clubs, but I note that none of my friends on LibraryThing and nobody who I actually know on Goodreads has read it, so it's likely that you haven't read it either. (Unless you are peadarog or mojosmom, the atter of whom put in a strong recommendation.)

You've missed a treat. I think this is one of the best novels I've read about the second world war and its aftermath - the life of a child in Rome in the 1940s, conceived in violence, his (secretly Jewish) mother and brother doing their best to survive in awful circumstances. While others spout political certainties (whether of ideology or geopolitical alliance), the harsh reality for those whose lives are wrecked by conflict remains the same. Each chapter, covering a year, is prefaced by a headline summary of the major political developments of that year as a sort of political canvas against which the domestic drama plays out. It is not fast-paced, but I found it intensely absorbing, and it deserves to be much better known in the English-speaking world.