August 25th, 2015

buzz

Next year's Hugos: What I'm going to do

Mike Glyer over at File 770 has a tremendous assembly of reaction to the Hugo Awards, including some truly epic whining from the Sad Puppies (and my own post from Sunday morning). The votes were clearly cast against the slates on principle (apart from BDP) rather than on the quality of the work - there is no other way to read the figures. I'm sure that voters were motivated in this by 1) a general reaction against slates, 2) dislike of the politics of the slatemongers and 3) disgust at the poor quality of some of the slated candidates, in I think roughly that order, and I don't see any point in pretending that the votes against, say, Weisskopf and Gilbert were motivated by a strong feeling that Liz Gorinsky was in fact the best editor of the year rather than by the feeling that Weisskopf and Gilbert were on the ballot through illegitimate tactics. Fans rejected their candidacy not because of the quality of their work, but because of how they had got there (though it should be added that Weisskopf supplied very little evidence in her own support).

That wasn't quite as harsh a reaction as I would have liked, of course. Like Matt Foster, I would have preferred No Award to win in the categories where there was only one non-puppy candidate, and therefore no clear choice between legitimate candidates. This view came closest to prevailing in Best Novelette, where No Award actually got the most first preferences but lost on transfers from slated works. However, fandom as a whole clearly took the view that it is preferable to hand out the rockets to non-slate candidates, to make sure that the message is heard loud and clear, and I certainly do not begrudge or challenge the victories of Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Julie Dillon, Journey Planet, Laura J. Mixon and Wesley Chu, all of whom got my second preference.

Having had 48 hours to let it sink in that a clear majority of voting fans simply rejected the slate, I am basically sad but relieved, and still angry at those who cannot accept that they did a stupid, venal and evil thing which fandom at large refused to tolerate. Mike Glyer's roundup catches the most prominent frothing responses, but there is plenty more out there. But now that it is all over, there is little point in reading the words of people I disagree with for the sake of being outraged.

Instead, I recognise that my own failure to nominate this year was part of the problem, and I am going to make damn sure that between now and the nomination deadline in 2016 I have read much more widely in this year's published SF, including short fiction, graphic stories and related works, and I will aim to nominate five in each category. Brandon Kempner published a watchlist for novels some time ago, and there are a couple of other initiatives here and here covering more categories. I shall also regularly review where I've got to and what I currently feel like nominating. (At present the only SF published in 2015 that I have read is the four Doctor Who spinoff novels, of which the best is City of Death, but I know that they are unlikely to get on the final ballot and will save my nominations for more likely candidates.)

The more people who do this, the more likely that we can cut off any renewed attempt at slate-mongering at the nominations stage. Don't (just) get mad; get even.
buzz

Transition, by Iain Banks

I'm sorry to say that this late Iain Banks work didn't really grab me. The idea of people with access to different parallel universes trying to pull off politically convenient changes to their timeline is not original to him, and has been done better by others (most recently in The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, which we shortlisted for the Clarke Award). A lot of the characters are simply nasty without the redeeming virtues of depth or reflecting our own lived reality. One of my favourite writers, but really not one of my favourite books of his.
tardis

Space Helmet for a Cow, by Paul Kirkley

Yet another history-of-Doctor-Who book, but one with a difference: rather than analysing the stories for content or cultural context, Kirkley tells the story from the production point of view, including inside details of how each Doctor was hired and how each departed, and what the background mood music was like in the production team. I knew some of this but by no means all, and the full gory details of the friction between Eric Saward and John Nathan-Turner really made my jaw drop. The whole is written in a breezy style, with invented conversations jostling with real interview material (the difference clearly signalled in that the real quotes are given proper citations). I think it ends up being rather a good gateway drug for those who think they might want to read more about Who but aren't sure where to start - the end points, obviously, being Wood and Miles' About Time series and Philip Sandifer's TARDIS Eruditorum. And even those of us who thought we knew it all may get some surprises. This volume covers all of Old Who; I will get the second volume, which apparently starts with Dimensions in Time.