How to find deserving Hugo candidates?
May 4, 2015 2:02 PM   Subscribe

I seriously need some helpful soul, or maybe some kind of crowd-sourced thing that can tell me what I should be reading as things come out so I’m not floundering under drifts of pages on book mountain when the Hugo nomination period opens. Preferably some recommendation engine where my fellow writers, bless you guys I love you all but damn I know how we are, are not allowed to nominate or push their own books. I don’t want reviews, I don’t even want opinions, I just want a simple but large list of titles and authors
Rachael Acks about the plight of next year's Hugo nominators looking for worthy candidates in a field in which at least 4201 new novels in English were published in 2014.

Considering this, does it actually matter that one group of fans voted a slate of their friends unto the Hugos shortlist, when the huge mass of science fiction published each year means worthwhile candidates remain unconsidered anyway:
Both sides of this argument have made the claim how undeserving and deserving works are not being and being nominated for the ballot. Both sides are correct. Five possible nominations out of 50,000 eligible works? I mean, what certainty do we have that those five nominated works are superior to any number of the other eligible 49,995 works? Nor can any one individual read hundreds of works per day. Thus the decision of superiority falls onto the shoulders of the fans raised above the rest by their willingness and capability to spend at least $40 for the right to nominate and vote in the Hugo awards.
And if it does, how can any reader know which books/stories/people/etc are eligible in a given year if they don't follow fandom all that closely?

Luckily there are a few resources: These are all linked from the Hugo Awards own site. Also of interest might be Chaos Horizon, dedicated to "make sense out of award chaos" and the Hugo noms Wiki, crowdsourced nomination candidates.
posted by MartinWisse (243 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, that hiatus was brief.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:03 PM on May 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


Thanks for starting up a new Hugo thread! Your reminder about NESFA's recommended reading lists maybe suggests a good use for the MeFi wiki.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 2:13 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Use your wallet and support writers and authors that are deserving. And then spread your love of their work through word-of-mouth and social media. It's the best way.
posted by Fizz at 2:15 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Other things to look at: Locus magazine's recommended reading list (published by year); items that get starred reviews in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly: and maybe Goodreads.
posted by cstross at 2:15 PM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


This is a problem of basically any media consumption, and it's troubling to see that companies on the forefront of this sort of firehose (Valve, Amazon) seem either baffled by it or have come up with pretty uncreative solutions to date.

I'm not sure fixating on filtering more and more books to find the "best" Hugo nominees is a really good solution. Maybe a better solution would be to try and support/establish more targeted and creative awards and lists, like the Tiptree? I'd love an award for "Year's Best Really Chill SF where nobody gets blastered".
posted by selfnoise at 2:17 PM on May 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


So at the end of the last thread we had the beginning of a discussion about whether slates could be avoided next year. I posited that they could not, and that non-puppies should therefore consider slate voting as well.

If this year is any indication, the puppies are having a pretty outsized impact given that they represent a voting block of only 15% of the nominators. So if some of the magazines, authors, or websites who have the most stake in these issues put forward a comparable slate that wasn't so dumb, it'd be easy to swamp them. I often trumpet io9's best-of lists, and it seems like they could craft a pretty persuasive io9 slate if they chose. I'd also love to see a sci-fi/fantasy slate made up of only Black authors and editors, because increasingly I think there's room for that.

If there were a half dozen pretty good slates, nominators could mix and match as they saw fit and it would help divide the 4000+ books, short stories, editors, and so on into manageable and intelligible chunks. I think it'd improve the award and--more importantly--the general experience of drinking from that firehose that is modern media production.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:23 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh thank god. I was missing the old thread.
posted by Myca at 2:29 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Slates kill it dead, even non-toxic slates not authored by Vix Day and chums.

A cultural shift where recommendations are more open or in fact are encouraged seems likely though, which is not quite the same thing. The question is even if you do that are the numbers there amongst "organic" nominations to overcome slates, or are slate-busting rule changes required?
posted by Artw at 2:32 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


But, then, what about Sturgeons Law of Slates?
posted by sammyo at 2:39 PM on May 4, 2015


The problem with non-Puppies slates, it seems to me, is that the non-Puppies aren't really unified by anything other than not being Puppies. I don't think they'd necessarily be able to unite around anything other than not wanting the Puppies to succeed, and that's not really a unifying principal. In the end, for the thing to be effective you'd probably have more-or-less a conventional nominating process, with a committee of people hashing out the non-Puppy slate, and that seems sort of to defeat the purpose of open nominations. Otherwise, you just get a bunch of competing slates without enough support to overcome the Puppy onslaught.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:40 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Maybe a better solution would be to try and support/establish more targeted and creative awards and lists, like the Tiptree?

That's in any case a good idea. There's also the idea of massively expanding the Hugos ala the Romantic Times awards somebody mentioned somewhere, with Best Novel being split into best mil-sf, best young adult, best urban fantasy, undsoweiter.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:44 PM on May 4, 2015


Best novel released on a Tuesday.
posted by dng at 2:52 PM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Probably would stop caring about it utterly at that point also TBH.
posted by Artw at 2:53 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


it's troubling to see that companies on the forefront of this sort of firehose (Valve, Amazon) seem either baffled by it or have come up with pretty uncreative solutions to date.

You know, and Amazon reccs have a real problem in that they keep you in your comfort zone and recommend only things functionally similar to what you're already reading. Back in the day of bookstores being primary, you'd kind of find yourself accidentally getting caught by covers, or flipping through stuff. But there's just no way to sanely flip through the "SF selection" on Amazon.
posted by corb at 2:55 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't think they'd necessarily be able to unite around anything other than not wanting the Puppies to succeed

Looking at the numbers, it doesn't look like they need to unite so much as they need to just nominate, period.
posted by tofu_crouton at 2:57 PM on May 4, 2015


I don't think they'd necessarily be able to unite around anything other than not wanting the Puppies to succeed,

Really? Because you can count me right the f&*% in on that one.
posted by lumpenprole at 2:57 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Previous thread.
posted by halifix at 3:24 PM on May 4, 2015


Pardon me while I just drop an "oh, for FUCKS SAKE!" and never appear in this thread again.

Because seriously, people, this thread is six months too early or five months too late, and the world is was too full of fucktastic today.
posted by eriko at 3:41 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wait, what? No, eriko, we need you and your Worldcon guidance!
posted by corb at 3:43 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Couldn't we simply have 'feeder' awards that provide candidates to things like the Hugo? Kind of like minor leagues?
posted by percor at 3:45 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think the right time for working out how to track awards to nominate is starting in January, so your reading can keep pace with releases as they occur. By the time a nominating period opens, it's already too late!
posted by Andrhia at 3:49 PM on May 4, 2015


For those not following the latest Sad Puppy fiasco, Brad Torgersen tried to imply today that MeFi's own JScalzi prefers the company of gentlemen. Hilarity ensued as Scalzi answered with several tweets and a photo of some happy puppies.
posted by Ber at 3:59 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


A long list stagecroesvse like it would filter out an awful lot of crap - no puppies would make it through for sure, though it would be at the cost of increased complexity.
posted by Artw at 4:30 PM on May 4, 2015


Picking major awards by taking a vote of the attendees at an open admission convention has always seemed to me a bit nutso. I suspect it worked in the early days because SF fandom was a somewhat inbred and self-selecting exclusive club, so if you picked any random person who had the time and energy to devote to making the pilgrimage to WorldCon you could assume a pretty complete idea of what that person would be like, and in turn what they would like in literature, just from the fact that they're there.

And it's the end of that (and it surely has ended) that has the Puppies' knickers in such a twist. But it leaves the voting attendees scattered and unfocused as a total group. The Puppies' sabotage worked only because a small percentage of the attendees can suck all the air out of the room if they vote in lockstep.

Now there is a lot more diversity in SF than there was in the 1950's, but there is also a lot more slavish genre-following, and of those 4,201 new novels to be published approximately 4,180 were variants on the ever popular "teenage paranormal romance" niche, because there aren't nearly enough of those in the rest of the bookstore. The last time I checked my local Barnes & Noble there were exactly three titles by Iain M. Banks. There might actually be a reasonable number of good and different books waiting to be read, but good luck finding them. As noted above, Amazon reviews tend toward your own safe zone.

Speaking of Amazon reviews, here is a funny little anecdote that might illuminate something: Several times now they have spammed me with a reading list capped by my own self-published novel, almost always with Accelerando in the two or three spot, something by Vinge, and an Asimov down toward the bottom. I'm fairly sure that the robot isn't targeting me with my own book because it knows I'm me, it's just a grouping that emerges from people who buy books about the Singularity and far-future themes.

So that's not very helpful if you're looking for Hugo (or hey Nebula) nominees, because duh.

But if you throw all the teen witch and vampire people in a room with the space opera junkies, the rocket nerds like Andy Weir, and the people who are still pissed that I had to publish MOPI myself, you're not going to see anything that remotely looks like a consensus. Since it's a body that, unlike SFWA, exists only for the duration of the event and has no history or extended time to bat things around in a journal, it's going to be dominated by chance agglomerations. Or, now that someone has thought of it, hacks like what the Puppies did.

And I really don't see how that can be fixed. Both the voters and the short-list selectors need more focus than an open admission con can possibly arrange.
posted by localroger at 4:36 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure people just need to keep voting for whatever's been mentioned a lot on BoingBoing or io9 lately {/}
posted by comealongpole at 4:47 PM on May 4, 2015


Is there a list of truly great science fiction authors that have never received a Hugo or Nebula nomination? Somewhat rhetorical (although I'd be quite interested in that list) the cream of the crop bubbles to the surface or the hottest bubbles on the lava planet, or whatever. The chatty fan crowd tends to find good stuff.
posted by sammyo at 4:49 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't have the link, but someone did the numbers and it looked like the puppies dominated with only @300 of the @2000 nominators.

Even if you had five different non-puppy slates you'd still get more than 300 for some of them. And there would be slate-splitting and slate overlaps so this would effectively produce nominations for the ten or fifteen widely lauded books, stories, etc that most people think should be contenders.
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:50 PM on May 4, 2015


Now there is a lot more diversity in SF than there was in the 1950's, but there is also a lot more slavish genre-following, and of those 4,201 new novels to be published approximately 4,180 were variants on the ever popular "teenage paranormal romance" niche, because there aren't nearly enough of those in the rest of the bookstore.

This was unnecessary.
posted by kagredon at 5:02 PM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


What karegdon said. There's no need to shit on stuff you don't personally like because you're not the target demo. Isn't that what this whole thing is about in the first place?
posted by Andrhia at 5:11 PM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Is there a list of truly great science fiction authors that have never received a Hugo or Nebula nomination? Somewhat rhetorical (although I'd be quite interested in that list) the cream of the crop bubbles to the surface or the hottest bubbles on the lava planet, or whatever. The chatty fan crowd tends to find good stuff.

This isn't a complete list (obviously), and they're not all truly great (and a couple are sort of crappy), but I've checked various people on my bookshelves against the Hugo awards for novel, novellette, novella and short story, and the nebula for best novel and none of the following authors seem to have any nominations in any of those categories.

Douglas Adams
Neal Asher
Steve Aylett
JG Ballard
Jorge Luis Borges
Angela Carter
John Clute
Michel Faber
Ken Grimwood
Peter F. Hamilton
Nick Harkaway
M. John Harrison
Robert Holdstock
Anna Kavan
Stanislaw Lem
Doris Lessing
Richard Matheson
Haruki Murakami
Michael Moorcock
Audrey Niffenegger
Jeff Noon
Mervyn Peake
Hannu Rajaniemi
Will Self
Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

And some others who never won and have only had a nomination or two:

Iain M. Banks (1 hugo nomination for best novel, and for The Algebraist at that)
Italo Calvino (1 nebula nomination)
John Crowley (1 nomination for hugo best novel, two for short stories)
Jonathan Lethem (1 nebula nomination)
David Mitchell (1 nebula nomination)
Terry Pratchett (2 nebula nominations)
Christoper Priest (1 hugo novel, 1 novella, 1 novelette)
Alastair Reynolds (1 nomination for best novella)
Geoff Ryman (2 hugo novellettes, 1 nebula)
Lisa Tuttle (2 novella nominations - both for stories co-written with George R.R. Martin)
Jeff Vandermeer (2 nebula nominations)

From a lot of that list, I'd say if the awards do have a particular selection bias, it's against non-American authors more than anything. Or maybe that's just my particular reading bias.
posted by dng at 5:52 PM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


If this year is any indication, the puppies are having a pretty outsized impact given that they represent a voting block of only 15% of the nominators. So if some of the magazines, authors, or websites who have the most stake in these issues put forward a comparable slate that wasn't so dumb, it'd be easy to swamp them. I often trumpet io9's best-of lists, and it seems like they could craft a pretty persuasive io9 slate if they chose. I'd also love to see a sci-fi/fantasy slate made up of only Black authors and editors, because increasingly I think there's room for that.

This is the way to go, cure for speech you don't like is more speech, etc.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:57 PM on May 4, 2015


This was unnecessary.

Have you actually walked down the SF aisle at a mainstream bookstore lately? I was not kidding. More seriously between 2/3 and 3/4 of the shelf space is given to very obvious formula fantasy, much of it derivative and duplicative of stuff elsewhere in the store. Cover art has been honed to a narrow range of formulae that prevent anything from sticking out on pass-by any more. When you take in the other obvious formula genres there is very little there, and it's really impossible to find unless you have a heads up from some external source. I had to find out about Andy Weir when my wife brought his book home from the library. (Oh, and it's one of the best things I've read in recent memory, quirky and fun and fantastically realistic and well informed.)

The net effect of this has been to flatten the field. Someone like J.G. Ballard or Alfred Bester simply would not find publication today, because if you published them how would you make their book stick out from the pile of vampires and witches and dragons? When something should stick out it's invisible because of the size of the field.

Go to your bookshelf and find a book published before 1980. When was the last time you saw a cover like that on an actual bookstore shelf? Think about what that designer was trying to achieve and what modern book covers are like. The Hugos are a problem, but they are partly a problem because of another problem, which makes the Hugo problem a lot harder to fix.
posted by localroger at 6:25 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I mean, what certainty do we have that those five nominated works are superior to any number of the other eligible 49,995 works?

None at all. But my confidence that they'd be superior to what was actually nominated is pretty high.
posted by escabeche at 6:27 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


> "Is there a list of truly great science fiction authors that have never received a Hugo or Nebula nomination?"

I don't know if there's a list, but I could probably find you a few hundred without too much effort.

Just glancing at one random internet "top F&SF books you should have read" type thing and comparing it to the Hugo nomination list, I'm immediately seeing no nominations for Hugo-eligible authors J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Douglas Adams, Aldous Huxley, William Goldman, Margaret Atwood, Anthony Burgess, Richard Adams, T. H. White, Stephen R. Donaldson, Cormac McCarthy, Richard Matheson, and Robin McKinley. And that's even skipping a few on the list who were nominated but never for their fiction.

Atwood is the only one of those who was ever nominated for a Nebula, although some (like Lewis or Huxley) would never have been eligible for it.

But anyway, that's just from one crappy little list.
posted by kyrademon at 6:47 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


From a lot of that list, I'd say if the awards do have a particular selection bias, it's against non-American authors more than anything. Or maybe that's just my particular reading bias.

I'd also say that they have a bias against humor -- any literary award that never went to Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett is only barely an award.
posted by Etrigan at 6:51 PM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Uh, C.S. Lewis wrote the vast, vast majority of his works before the Hugo Award existed, sooooo....
posted by Justinian at 6:51 PM on May 4, 2015


Go to your bookshelf and find a book published before 1980. When was the last time you saw a cover like that on an actual bookstore shelf? Think about what that designer was trying to achieve and what modern book covers are like. The Hugos are a problem, but they are partly a problem because of another problem, which makes the Hugo problem a lot harder to fix.

oh word it's mefi's own brad torgersen

there were never trends in sff before ya paranormal romance. those memories i have of everything being about zombies a year ago or the resurgence of epic fantasy due to the success of GOT were illusory. it's those stupid, undiscerning teenage girls ruining everything as usual.
posted by kagredon at 6:57 PM on May 4, 2015 [19 favorites]


I'm pretty thrilled, though, that apparently the current slur against teenaged girls is that they're ruining everything by buying too many books.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:01 PM on May 4, 2015 [32 favorites]


> "Uh, C.S. Lewis wrote the vast, vast majority of his works before the Hugo Award existed, sooooo...."

C. S. Lewis wrote four of the Narnia books and Till We Have Faces (which he and a number of reviewers considered his best work) after the Hugo Award existed. That's actually more eligible books than some of the early Hugo nominees and winners wrote, and Lewis' eligible books include some that are easily among the most well-known fantasy novels in the English language.

Seriously, the dude was a Hugo-eligible author.
posted by kyrademon at 7:14 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well kagredon I'm sorry if you took it as a slur against teenage girls, it's just that they're the bete du jour. Yeah, it was zombies a couple of years ago. Same Problem Different Day. It's that the industry latches onto something like that and it's ALL YOU FUCKING SEE for two years. And when the two years are up it's not that the industry has gone back to having a diverse pallette, it's that it's found something else to latch onto with equal monomania.
posted by localroger at 7:14 PM on May 4, 2015


Why do these morons call themselves puppies? Why do others go along with calling them puppies?
posted by feralscientist at 7:15 PM on May 4, 2015


(Actually it was five of the Narnia books. I forgot that a book published in 1952 would have been up for the 1953 award.)
posted by kyrademon at 7:20 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why do these morons call themselves puppies?

They actually call themselves sad puppies. Which is kind of pathetic but their little clique seems to be taking a wallow in self pity.

As for calling them puppies, do you have an alternate suggestion that is one word and obvious to all concerned?
posted by localroger at 7:23 PM on May 4, 2015


Incidentally, the list of Locus Awards Finalists is up.

It's a good list.
posted by kyrademon at 7:27 PM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think that Puppies is a way of speaking about both the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies, who are like the good-cop/ bad-cop duo of the Hugos-hijacking universe. But I agree that it is very bad to slander puppies, because puppies are awesome. Look, everyone! Puppies!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:29 PM on May 4, 2015


Just as an historical note, Terry Pratchett withdrew his Hugo nomination for Going Postal. His statement (included/linked in the edited part of the post) was that he withdrew because he wanted to just enjoy Worldcon. The comments, written before the edit, include some informed speculation about additional noble motives. Anyway, the award process wasn't entirely a miss in his case.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:36 PM on May 4, 2015


> The net effect of this has been to flatten the field. Someone like J.G. Ballard or Alfred Bester simply would not find publication today, because if you published them how would you make their book stick out from the pile of vampires and witches and dragons? When something should stick out it's invisible because of the size of the field.

I don't know what the point of this is. That... too many people are buying books like [books you don't like]? That publishers look at sales numbers and jump on a bandwagon and they shouldn't?

I worked in bookstores for a bunch of years and I worked at a shoestring book review journal for another bunch of years, so I know from trends. All the complaining about trends (in which I have also engaged!) always just boils down - to me - to complaints about Those People who are reading the Wrong Kinds of Books and ruining it for the rest of us, and... So what. Too bad. It just makes the complainers sound kind of awful. I myself have sounded kind of awful on this subject, and I try to not do that any more (outside my head).

Here is a Quote Of Irony that I discovered thanks to the previous thread:
If you really love a thing — if you think your stuff is awesome! — you owe it to your stuff to not try to send deterrent messages or set boundaries on who else gets to love your stuff too. This is not hipstertown, where the moment somebody else loves your stuff, you have to stop loving your stuff and/or actively hate your stuff you formerly loved. You love your stuff! Somebody else loving your stuff, doesn't devalue how you feel; nor does it devalue the stuff proper.

Oh, sure, maybe the new folk aren't replicating your exact "passage" as a fan, but the truth is, they don't have to. Let it be organic — like it was for you! — and just be glad somebody else wants to celebrate your stuff too.

Because without people to celebrate stuff — newbs and fans (small f) especially — all of this crap we're engaged in, is just a closed loop. No light or energy getting in or out. Nobody to keep the *feeling* for the stuff fresh, and alive.
- Brad Torgersen
posted by rtha at 7:36 PM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Well kagredon I'm sorry if you took it as a slur against teenage girls, it's just that they're the bete du jour. Yeah, it was zombies a couple of years ago. Same Problem Different Day. It's that the industry latches onto something like that and it's ALL YOU FUCKING SEE for two years. And when the two years are up it's not that the industry has gone back to having a diverse pallette, it's that it's found something else to latch onto with equal monomania.

You think that only started in the last 30 years? Stanislaw Lem complained about it. Shit, if science fiction weren't subject to the forces of tropes and cliches and trends and then the pushback against them, we would've never had the New Wave and that would be a tragedy.

Your counterpointing of Iain M. Banks and Amazon's recommendations for you seemed to imply the subtext that there's real science fiction that deals with Smart Ideas and then there's (lesser) stuff that's about feelings and sexuality and finding your way in the world and other girly shit and there is no crossover at all between readers of the two (there are many young women buying hard sf who first got into sff through ya or through romance novels; you just may not have heard about it because bringing up how our gateway was Anne Rice or Tamora Pierce tends to get us mocked in a way that somehow never happens to dudes who fondly reminisce on cutting their teeth on, say, the Thrawn trilogy*.) Maybe that's not what you intended and I'm sorry if you feel unfairly attacked, but it's an assumption that one hears a lot in fandom and one that strikes very close to the Puppies' arguments.

*which is not a slam on the Thrawn trilogy in particular or media tie-ins in general, but media tie-ins are the closest non-gender-coded segment of the market that is general considered more pulp/popular entertainment.
posted by kagredon at 7:55 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Kagredon, I have repeatedly asserted that what the Puppies have done is an adverse hack and a perversion of a system that was already broken in other ways, and I would really, really fucking appreciate it if you would stop finding excuses to conflate me with them.

All I intended to convey about SF is that when I walk down the SF aisle at the B&N, which I pretty much can't help but do since it is the shortest path between the cafe and the bathroom, nothing ever catches my eye any more. And this is not for years of wanting for something to catch my eye. It's just that it becomes more tiresome as the years go by to do the same scan and see the number of books that I solidly know are worthwhile sink from the high double digits to the low and then to the single digits. Of the others which I don't know, which are the winners? Are there even any? Where is the guidance?

This is not to say that the sad puppies are the guidance. They are actually another problem. But they only exist because of a problem that was there first, and yeah maybe Stanislaw Lem complained about it but you know I don't think he ever saw it at quite the scale it is now. It's one of those things you really don't think can get any worse because well it'll all fall apart, right? Except you think that every year for thirty years, and when you look at the stuff you were looking at in the first year you are all WHAT THE FUCK.

That's where we are now. There is good SF out there and actual publishers are even publishing it. But there isn't more of it than there ever was. There's more of something, but I don't think it's just "I don't like it" when I say it's not good SF. And the volume makes the good stuff very hard to find.
posted by localroger at 8:08 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Seriously, the dude was a Hugo-eligible author.

There was no Hugo given the year Til we Have Faces was eligible, nor two of the five Narnia books you mention. And for the other three the shortlist was not put out so he may well have made it.
posted by Justinian at 8:40 PM on May 4, 2015


I think the first year for which we have a list of the nominated works rather than just the named winner is 1959(?). Someone else might know more accurately.
posted by Justinian at 8:43 PM on May 4, 2015


localroger: Your grievance is coming across like It's hard for me to judge all these new books by their covers! And, really? You're on the Internet with a bunch of sci-fi nerds here. You're more than capable of finding out which books are worth reading, and the solution does not involve hoping something catches your eye.
posted by Banknote of the year at 9:12 PM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


You love your stuff! Somebody else loving your stuff, doesn't devalue how you feel; nor does it devalue the stuff proper.

What? Of course it does! We are not Antonin Scalia here. Loving something isn't a property of a dead set of words on a page; it is alchemy between the self, the words on the page, and the imagined community with which we affiliate when we declare "I love this."
posted by escabeche at 9:31 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


People are willing to shit on things teenage girls enjoy because of institutionalized misogyny, and basically anytime anyone decides to come in and complain about this it means you can disregard anything they have to say and do something more valuable with that time, like picking up something by Sarah Rees Brennan.

And then spread your love of their work through word-of-mouth and social media. It's the best way.

I am physically incapable of shutting up about books that I love
posted by NoraReed at 9:37 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


> What? Of course it does! We are not Antonin Scalia here.

Is there a missing or invisible hamburger tag here? I can't even tell anymore.
posted by rtha at 9:57 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that bookstores are happy to stock most any kind of book, so long as it sells. Barnes and Noble is always happy to order whatever a person's looking for. if you don't know what you're looking for, try your local library. Helping people find the books they're looking for is what librarians do.
posted by epj at 10:27 PM on May 4, 2015


localroger, Sturgeon's Law is just as true today in Barnes & Noble as it was sixty years ago in the pages of Astounding. As someone who discovered Alan Moore because he was shelved next to Michael Moorcock and The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect because it was linked from a random diary on k5, I very much believe that Samuel Delany and Stephanie Meyer novels in the same section is a good thing that will result in more people enjoying Dhalgren as well as The Host. Reading isn't a zero sum game, and publishers are realizing that publishing isn't either.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:29 PM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's obviously a subjective impression, but to my mind, the state of SF has never been healthier.

When I go to ISFDB.org and do an advanced search for 1979 NOVEL in English, I get only 306 records. But I think ISFDB's historical info is pretty good, and I count about 38 SF/F titles from 1979 that I can definitely remember seeing or hearing about in several decades of combing through used SF paperbacks. There are numerous problems with comparing that to the 4200+ results for 2014 (lots of dupes because of pseudonyms, for one thing), so I won't try. But toward the beginning of this year, I listed around 42 SF/F books that I'd heard enough positive stuff about in 2014 to be worth mentioning. So ~100% of what I remember from 1979 totals to roughly the same number of books that I saw people making noise about in 2014 and noted as being of potential interest to me as a reader.

If there's a question about whether fantasy has taken over and/or there's not enough work that at least pretends to be SF anymore, I'm probably making some mistakes, but I'd pick out the following names from that 2014 list: William Gibson, Daryl Gregory, Robert Kroese, Emily St. John Mandel, John Scalzi, Peter Watts, Ben Winters, James S.A. Corey*, Andy Weir, John Twelve Hawks, Daniel Suarez, Ann Leckie, Hannu Rajaniemi, and Pierce Brown. That's 14 who had noteworthy books out in 2014 that are arguably just SF (I mean, as SFnal as what I'm comparing them to). And looking over my notes, here are some SF writers who didn't make my final list but who published things last year at least as good as many of the 38 books I recognize from 1979: Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Peter Hamilton, Marissa Meyer, Catherine Asaro, John Dixon, Gavin Deas*, Brandon Sanderson (for the sequel to Legion), Liu Cixin, Neal Shusterman, Gideon Defoe, Ian McDonald, Daniel Price, M. D. Waters, Jack Campbell, and Marko Kloos (BTW, most of these I've only sampled, but I did read Lines of Departure long before it went on the SP slate--it was OK). That's another 15, just from my own notes and recollection, for a total of 29 names I associated with SF from 2014. And looking back over the 38 from 1979, I see at least 9 that I might categorize as fantasy or other, if I really had to sort them out from SF.

In short, traditionally-published SF feels about as strong to me now as it was when I was starting to buy it as a kid, and that's ignoring the huge growth in branded fiction (Trek, SW, Halo, etc.) and self-published fiction. The further, enormous growth in fantasy / urban fantasy doesn't seem to have limited what I'm finding out about and enjoying--not just because I like fantasy too. For sure, the marketing and distribution of SF has changed, such that your local mainstream bookstore may not be the best place to discover new stuff (mine does OK?), and my usage of 'new releases' websites and Amazon previews is pretty extreme. But it's really not that hard to subscribe to a couple of good review sites and discover much more--and more reliable--info about what's out there than you could get in 1979.

*Two different pairs of authors: Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck and Gavin Smith & Stephen Deas.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:38 PM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I spent a couple weeks reading paranormal romances. There's some good stuff out there, but Sturgeon's Law does apply. If a book didn't manage to get good blurb ... put it back on the shelf and back away carefully. Trust me on this.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:05 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I had to think for a while about the question of whether Ballard or Bester could get published today, mainly because who writes like Alfred Bester? A point of comparison for Ballard was easy: one of last year's biggest releases was Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, and here's VanderMeer answering the question "What role did JG Ballard's work play in your mind as you composed [the first volume in the trilogy]?" It's not hard to spot the similarities as a reader, either.

For Bester, I eventually remembered Golem 100's use of illustrations, which have a weak parallel in the use of images and diagrams in John Twelve Hawk's Spark, another major release (reviewed at the NYT, Boingboing, etc.). So that kind of thing happened this year, and still considering only recent mainstream SF, I could think of one parallel to Bester's use of text spilling across the page: pages 232-233 in the hardback of Ian Tregillis's Something More than Night split into extra columns to illustrate something strange happening in the narrative. That was a December 2013 release from Tor, but close enough. I don't think many SF publishers would mind Bester's energetic prose as such, and they're demonstrably willing to go along with interesting ideas for the text.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:18 AM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Those People who are reading the Wrong Kinds of Books and ruining it for the rest of us,

Which is why I'm on my fourth draft of my paranormal romance novel. Because I'm one of Those People who reads Wrong Books and is ruinning Everything for Everyone. And next I'm going to write a YA dystopia, because that's what I grew up on in the 1970s. Because no, there AREN'T enough of Those Books.

Seriously, maybe the problem is the covers? Not that that's a new problem. I mean, I grew up in the 70s and you KNOW what type of covers they had back then.
posted by happyroach at 2:09 AM on May 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


I mean, I grew up in the 70s and you KNOW what type of covers they had back then.

It's always a thrill recognising yet another ship from the Terran Trading Authority's Space Ships 2000-2100 and noticing the wholly inappropriate book it's on.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:25 AM on May 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


> "Go to your bookshelf and find a book published before 1980 ... Think about what that designer was trying to achieve and what modern book covers are like."

Let's see what sci-fi and fantasy book cover designers were trying to achieve before 1980 ...

That negligee is not a very practical space suit, young lady.

Oh, no! The octopus grabbed me while I was naked! (NSFW)


All girls will dress like this in the Future.


All of my clothes were destroyed when the spaceship crashed. (NSFW)


Giant naked slave girl off the port bow! Shields up!


I'm ... riding some kind of rat demon thing? Or maybe killing it? And I'm probably naked.
posted by kyrademon at 4:26 AM on May 5, 2015 [23 favorites]


On the topic of the post at hand: A friend of mine has set up a Wikia to try to track worthy Hugo contenders over the course of any given nominating year. Strikes me as a pretty good starting point for "Hey, you should take a closer look at this thing I read."
posted by Andrhia at 4:37 AM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


One thing that kyrademon's cover (well, uncovered for most of the subjects) list brings to mind is the death of the mass market paperback as a medium for first publication. I buy fiction for my library, including paperbacks, and it is really hard to locate new fiction that comes out first in mass market "pocket book" paperback format. Most stuff is trade paperback and even the old reliable pocketbooks (Harlequin romances) are headed that direction. Even the serialized back tattoo vampire hunters and trenchcoat wearing wizard detectives are coming out first in trade now.

I think people would be more willing to take a chance on new authors at the sub-$10 price point (ungh, I remember when they were sub-$5!) than they are with $15-$20 trades / $25-$30 hardcovers. I mean, they could use the library instead, but let's not get crazy here.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:56 AM on May 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


Aren't we just doing ebooks at that price point instead, though?
posted by NoraReed at 6:58 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


People are willing to shit on things teenage girls enjoy because of institutionalized misogyny

I have a teenage - well, tweenage - girl, and all I have to say about that is: sometimes yes, but very often no. Look, teenage girls often just have really bad taste. I am writing this right now as a Taylor Swift CD blasts on repeat from the room decorated with zebra stripes. It doesn't mean I have internalized misogyny, it means the teenage years are about trying everything crazy and settling down and finding what your taste will be later.
posted by corb at 7:39 AM on May 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


Just as an historical note, Terry Pratchett withdrew his Hugo nomination for Going Postal. His statement (included/linked in the edited part of the post) was that he withdrew because he wanted to just enjoy Worldcon.

What a contrast with John C. Wright, who both gamed the Hugos and blogged wistfully about his desire to injure Pratchett.
posted by Myca at 7:50 AM on May 5, 2015


Have you actually walked down the SF aisle at a mainstream bookstore lately?

Um, that is not the place to buy your sf, unless your taste is extruded series and/or media tie-ins. Surely any serious reader of well-written sf knows this before going in the B&N, though...

Go to your bookshelf and find a book published before 1980. When was the last time you saw a cover like that on an actual bookstore shelf?

Unless I am misunderstanding the gist of what you were saying, I would just point out that sf covers have always been mostly terrible and embarrassing and tacky. They break Sturgeon's Law - because much more than 80% of them have always been shitty.

One of the appeals of the SFBC for me when I was a teen was that I could slip the dust-jacket off and read a book with a plain cover that wouldn't humiliate me or attract the wrong kind of attention on the bus or in study hall (or even from my parents - "what is that book you're reading with the bikini-clad girl and thrusting rocket?").

And some others who never won and have only had a nomination or two:

In recent years, Alastair Reynolds is the name that always comes to mind as one that the Hugos have shamefully neglected. (Aside: I am reading his new trilogy and think it's great.) I can't figure out why, except that maybe he's the heir to Iain Banks' inexplicable record?

And Adam Roberts should be getting more attention as well, though he's pissed some folks off over the years and is an academic to boot, so at least that makes sense in an inside-sf-baseball sort of way. And I guess it has always seemed like there are UK blind spots in Hugo voters' attention, whether because of publication delays in US editions of UK sf, parochialism, or something.

Honestly? As a 40-some year reader of the genre, the Hugos have traditionally always been more of a frustration to me than anything, long before the various pathetic breeds of puppies burst onto the scene.
posted by aught at 8:05 AM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Aren't we just doing ebooks at that price point instead, though?

True, which makes the random walking down the bookstore aisle discovery that much harder. Also, as noted above, Amazon isn't super helpful with the random discovery as it tends to keep its recommendations in a pretty uniform lockstep.

I'm in the process of trying to locate ebooks to load up on my Kindle before vacation next week. After being burned more than once on the self-published end, it takes a bunch of review studying (is this an actual review? A paid shill from Fiverr?) for me to spend the same five bucks I would happily throw away on a mass market paperback with the (foolish, I know) thought of, "Well... someone went through the effort to publish this so it can't be that bad..."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:09 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


IIRC, up until fairly recently the first publication date in English counted for eligibility date, whether it was in the US or the UK. And frequently the publication date in the US would lag behind, so well loved authors like Pratchett and Banks and Adams would publish a book in the UK, and there wouldn't be enough UK nominators to get it on the ballot, and then it would be published in the US the next year and people would say "that is great... except it isn't eligible." There's now a rule where they get an extra year of eligibility if published later in the US.

Also, as people have repeatedly pointed out, Pratchett *did* get nominated and turned it down.
posted by tavella at 8:15 AM on May 5, 2015


I buy fiction for my library, including paperbacks, and it is really hard to locate new fiction that comes out first in mass market "pocket book" paperback format. Most stuff is trade paperback and even the old reliable pocketbooks (Harlequin romances) are headed that direction.

Arrgh, I hate this. Especially when series change formats in mid-stream (I'm looking at you Steven Brust).

Aren't we just doing ebooks at that price point instead, though?

I guess that's what the market is demanding, yeah, but I can't stand ebooks. People like them, and I think that's great, honest, but I just cannot absorb really longform info from a screen.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:18 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I try to make myself download and read a sample chapter before buying a self-published book. Really artless books give themselves away within the first ten pages. Sometimes in the first ten paragraphs. When I skip this step I usually end up kicking myself.

I look at recommendations on reddit/r/fantasy and, to a lesser extent, at reddit/r/printsf. While they like bloodshed more than I do and romance less than I do (on average), the recommendations are pretty good. It's fairly easy to start a thread asking "Has anyone read anything by Author XYZ?"

Moderation levels on different parts of Reddit are all over the map, but /r/fantasy has succeeded in having discussions about female main characters and women authors without the shitlordery that has been noted from some of the more notorious other parts of reddit. In their sidebar they have lists of little known fantasy and standalone fantasy.
posted by puddledork at 8:23 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


> "I think the first year for which we have a list of the nominated works rather than just the named winner is 1959(?). Someone else might know more accurately."

I believe the voting and rules worked differently before then, and the winner was considered the only nominee; if you were in second through fifth place back then the Hugo Awards do not consider you to have been a nominee.

You are correct that only three of Lewis' novels were published in years that would have met the eligibility rules, but I know there were Hugo best novel winners who wrote fewer eligible novels than that (Walter M. Miller Jr. leaps to mind.)

When Jo Walton was doing her year-by-year Hugo reviews, Lewis is someone she included on her lists of "who was publishing SF/F that year but didn't get nominated", e.g. 1955: "In young adult I see Heinlein’s The Star Beast, Norton’s The Stars Are Ours, Eleanor Camerson’s The Wonderful Flight To The Mushroom Planet, and C.S. Lewis’s The Horse And His Boy"; 1956: "... C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew; two Andre Norton books, Sargasso of Space (under the name North) and Star Guard; and Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky."

But frankly ... I'm not sure why we're having this discussion? Being honest here, I'm not entirely certain why it matters?
posted by kyrademon at 8:27 AM on May 5, 2015


Aren't we just doing ebooks at that price point instead, though?

The price point for books has increased really radically over the last twenty years, though. I remember as a kid, being able to buy new book for 4$. Now, for example, Jo Walton's Among Others is listed as original price, $15. That is nearly a 300% increase. That's not inflation - gallons of milk have only gotten maybe twice as expensive. That's books, themselves, being a much higher bar to entry.
posted by corb at 9:08 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just cannot absorb really longform info from a screen.
Chrysostom

If you haven't tried one, the Kindle or other e-ink readers really do help. I couldn't stand reading long items on a computer or iPad, but the Kindle is very easy on the eyes.

I resisted getting an e-reader for a long time because I really like physical books, but after getting one as a present last year (and traveling and my last few moves having reminded me of how heavy and bulky books can be) I'm a convert.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:22 AM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have a teenage - well, tweenage - girl, and all I have to say about that is: sometimes yes, but very often no. Look, teenage girls often just have really bad taste. I am writing this right now as a Taylor Swift CD blasts on repeat from the room decorated with zebra stripes. It doesn't mean I have internalized misogyny, it means the teenage years are about trying everything crazy and settling down and finding what your taste will be later.

There is nothing wrong wih Taylor Swift or zebra stripes. There is nothing wrong with liking Taylor Swift and zebra stripes and then "growing out of it". And there are lots of adults who like Taylor Swift, or zebra stripes, some who came by them when they were young and some who got into them when they were older.

And yet you seem very comfortable holding up Taylor Swift and zebra stripes as things we will all agree are self-evidently low-quality and childish.

why. is. that. i. wonder.
posted by kagredon at 9:30 AM on May 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


And yet you seem very comfortable holding up Taylor Swift and zebra stripes as things we will all agree are self-evidently low-quality and childish.

Look, you know what? I'll call myself out. When I was a teen, I decorated my room with Lisa Frank art and poster-size covers of bodice-ripper romance novels. Then I went goth and added skull shit all over the place. My taste was not just subjectively bad - it was objectively bad. If you walked into my teenage bedroom, you would be horrified by the discordance.

This isn't internalized misogyny. My male friends had bikini-clad girls leaning over sports cars next to Tie fighters and walls completely covered floor to ceiling in Giger prints.

We are just bad at shit in our teens - girls and boys alike. Our brains are literally not fully developed. We don't have to hate ourselves to admit that.
posted by corb at 9:36 AM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


And yet parts of the sad puppies saddest laments are how they just wish everything was as good again and the same again as the things they loved as kids.
posted by dng at 9:47 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sure, but as a culture, we don't generally shit on boys having sports cars next to TIE Fighters next to HR Giger prints well into their 30s.

But we do laugh at adults quoting Taylor Swift lyrics.
posted by qcubed at 9:49 AM on May 5, 2015


Haters gotta hate hate hate hate hate
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:52 AM on May 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


as a culture, we don't generally shit on boys having sports cars next to TIE Fighters next to HR Giger prints well into their 30s.

Don't we? I know if I walked into an adult friend's apartment and saw bikini car girls on the wall, I would seriously re-evaluate our friendship.
posted by corb at 9:54 AM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


And yet people seem to be legit excited over JJ Abram's next abomination, unabashed, and little criticism for liking such a juvenile franchise.

But Taylor Swift's album releases are met with head shakes about how far our tastes have fallen.
posted by qcubed at 9:57 AM on May 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't understand as an adult what's wrong with wanting to decorate with Giger or Lisa Frank. I don't understand what's wrong with liking any of these as a teenager, liking them as an adult, or having hated them at one stage and loved them at another. I don't understand how taste, which is inherently subjective, can be "objectively bad".

Most of all, I don't understand how I can say "stop blaming teenagers (and especially teenage girls) for bringing down an industry because they like stuff, it is neither fair to them nor an accurate representation of what's going on" and have people think "but teenagers totally like the wrong stuff" is the right response. Good grief.
posted by kagredon at 10:28 AM on May 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


Seriously. Unless "teenage girls" (who have diverse tastes, but somehow get grouped together when it's time to complain) are stealing from authors or committing fraud or sabotaging awards, merely having different tastes is just that. The fact that this upsets people who end up actually doing things like sabotaging awards in response is more a reflection on those people than teenage girls or "SJWs" or whatever.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:35 AM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Don't laugh at people for what they like. Laugh at what they dismiss. Or cry when they sabotage it. Whatever.
posted by halifix at 10:51 AM on May 5, 2015


For the record, as a 36-year-old woman, I live in the hope that this Lisa Frank Xenomorph will become a purchasable print, and then I will buy the hell out of it and hang it in my living room with zero shame, delighted that I have conflated all possible variants of 'bad' teen taste into one amazing wall hanging that will instantly become my litmus test for which people are allowed back into my living room.
posted by Stacey at 10:53 AM on May 5, 2015 [14 favorites]


Well, this is certainly taking some different directions than the previous Hugo thread.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:55 AM on May 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yeah that Lisa Frank xenomorph is my facebook photo so this whole conversation about how i need to grow up and get over my bad taste is amusing to me.
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:57 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


this Lisa Frank Xenomorph

Now do an Anne Geddes chestburster!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:07 AM on May 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


Now do an Anne Geddes chestburster!

Wait, so would that be a xenomorph clawing its way out of an adorable baby, or an adorable baby clawing its way out of John Hurt?

Eh. Either way, I'm in.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 11:17 AM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Anne Geddes starting to lose it (Onion).
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:07 PM on May 5, 2015


I'll see your "Lisa Frank-style xenomorph" and raise you an "H.R. Giger-style unicorn" (or as close as I could google up)
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:33 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


After being burned more than once on the self-published end

James Nicoll is good at reviewing both self published and traditional science fiction.

Self published books he got me to try and like: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Cherryh style space opera revolving around a small independent trading ship but happier) — Becky Chambers, The Bone Flower Throne — T.L. Morganfield (Aztec based fantasy), The Dark Colony — Richard Penn (Canadian style frontier policing in a realistic colonised asteroid belt) not to mention Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman series of really great science fiction disguised as fantasy.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:38 PM on May 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's not about teenage girls or bad taste. It's about everything being a weak sauce clone of the flavor of the month, which just happens to be teen vampire romance right now but was zombies a couple of years ago after a Harry Potter phase, and is barreling toward Game of Thrones as surely as winter is coming.
posted by localroger at 12:49 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hey man, my "Game of Zombies" novel is totes original!

Seriously though? People have been tossing out romantic vampire, zombie and grim fantasy realpolitic novels since the 60s. I cut my teeth in YA dystopias in the 1970s. And hell, people have been playing "follow the leader" with books for ages.

I've seen no sign at all that there's less diversity in the field-quite the contrary. So it's not that there's actually a problem, it's more like "they are publishing books I don't care for, and that's WRONG".
posted by happyroach at 1:09 PM on May 5, 2015


And such has it been ever since corporations that make and sell books first discovered any unique book that became a major success. "We need a dozen more like this (multiplied by the number of corporate publishers)". As opposed to the even more plentiful 'boutique' publishers who wanted more books like the last one THEY liked.

Sturgeon had coined his "Law" in 1958, and the proliferation of books and authors and publishers and self-publishing and now web publishing since then has most certainly increased the Crap percentage from 90% to at least 99% (I just don't want to get into decimal points).

I refer you back to my post last year for the 70s Sci-Fi Art blog for further reminder of how far back it goes (although the blogger actually finds some good content... and has gone beyond the original narrow "70s" focus). And I MUST remind you that the endgame of the Hugos' Sad Xenomorphs is to fill the bookstore shelves with their own narrow (and generally lacking in quality) books, especially the one who now has his own publishing house.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:14 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


People have been tossing out romantic vampire, zombie and grim fantasy realpolitic novels since the 60s.

For real. The first shaggable vampire on TV was Barnabas Collins, and Cersei Lannister wishes she was Livia from I, Claudius. Also brother-sister incest. Also everyone dies violently.
posted by sukeban at 1:17 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


(for values of shaggable that approximate darkly interesting with a romantic, tortured past)
posted by sukeban at 1:19 PM on May 5, 2015


(But don't get me speaking on romantic vampires or I'm going to quote Goethe's The Bride of Corinth in the original German, because I am still a goth at 37. FFS, Ruthven, Barney, Carmilla and Geraldine from Christabel are all of the beautiful/ handsome, beguiling bloodsucker variety)
posted by sukeban at 1:22 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


> "It's about everything being a weak sauce clone of the flavor of the month ..."

I don't remember this ever not being the case. The percentage of forgettable sci-fi and fantasy that gets deservedly lost to the dustbins of history seems pretty much the same to me as it ever was. And that means more books being published produces more crap, sure, but also more brilliant stuff. Tons and tons of awesome books have been published this decade.

I would certainly believe that it might be harder to find them at B&N. But I'd think that was a function of increased number of books published, limited shelf space, competition with online sellers, and perception of what sells.

In my own life, I've switched from "wandering the bookstore looking for the ones that catch my eye" to "wandering the websites looking for descriptions that interest me". (Although in my case, it's more a function of the fact that I lived in towns with no good bookstores for six years and haven't gotten back in the habit now that I'm in a town that has them.) If anything, I find tons MORE interesting books that way, though. I keep a list of books to look into which is currently 134 books long.

I quite a lot of good suggestions from Metafilter threads, incidentally.

(And, um, just so you know, the vampire romance I'm writing is *different*!)
posted by kyrademon at 1:27 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's absurd, but I kind of like the idea of all living SF/F authors and publishers getting together to make everything be a clone of the flavor of the month for once. Whatever teen vampire romance is now as a sub-genre, I think it would be an entirely new and amazing thing once [all your favorite and/or obscure SF/F writers] had written a novel for it.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 1:28 PM on May 5, 2015


It probably would. Vampire romance starts looking a lot more interesting when you consider that the genre could realistically be considered to include Those Who Hunt The Night, Let The Right One In, and Sunshine.
posted by kyrademon at 1:37 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'll see your "Lisa Frank-style xenomorph" and raise you an "H.R. Giger-style unicorn" (or as close as I could google up)

Happily enough, the unicorn artist grumbles about some Hugo-award-winning writer coming up with the same idea. And so we come full circle.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:34 PM on May 5, 2015


Sturgeon had coined his "Law" in 1958, and the proliferation of books and authors and publishers and self-publishing and now web publishing since then has most certainly increased the Crap percentage from 90% to at least 99% (I just don't want to get into decimal points).

And this is my entire point. Yes there has always been more crap than gold, but the percentage of gold and its availability have both gone down. There are more SF branded books than ever, but fewer of them are any good than ever, and it's a very noticeable change. Sure I can go to web reviewers, or let my wife do it, or whatever, but back to WorldCon -- how many of those con attendees are doing such a general survey of the field to find those increasingly hidden nuggets of gold? How many of them are just depending on Amazon's laser-focused recommendations and seeing what's in the local big box book store? I would suggest that is your fundamental problem with the Hugos.
posted by localroger at 3:13 PM on May 5, 2015


By the way, for a good illustration of what is wrong with the whole industry a trip to Borderlands in San Francisco is eye-opening. They had books I didn't know existed and books I hadn't seen in years. After almost a decade of not seeing James P. Hogan in stores at all (even though a couple of his early works are genre classics, and there were cardboard stands when the third Giants trilogy book came out) I was finally able to replace the three early books that were on loan to a friend and got washed away by hurricane Katrina. At the time they weren't even available online. And Borderlands isn't that big. Other stores could do at least a good fraction of what they do, but someone would have to give a flying crap something other than short-term profit maximization.
posted by localroger at 3:18 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


> "... how many of those con attendees are doing such a general survey of the field to find those increasingly hidden nuggets of gold?"

Most of the ones who have been doing the nominations? I mean, one of the most frequent gripes I have seen about why the nomination process was so easy to game is that the people who hadn't "read everything" didn't feel qualified to nominate and instead trustingly left things in the hands of the avid fans who actively sought out the widest possible range the field had to offer. One of the results was that only a small percentage of the people who are eligible to nominate do so, which in combination with the nature of the nomination process made it easy for a tiny minority to game the system by voting in lockstep.

So, basically saying, what you are claiming very much goes against the conventional wisdom of what's been going on at the Hugos.
posted by kyrademon at 3:31 PM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Look, teenage girls often just have really bad taste. I am writing this right now as a Taylor Swift CD blasts on repeat from the room decorated with zebra stripes.

This is a weird example given that Taylor Swift is highly acclaimed by every critic I can think of who thinks about pop music at all. Pop fans who have good taste like Taylor Swift and Beyonce, pop fans who have bad taste like Katy Perry or the Black Eyed Peas, or at least so the critical consensus goes.

If you want to see how different kinds of popular art are coded, ask yourself how many threads about science fiction there are on MetaFilter and how many threads about romance novels there are.
posted by escabeche at 3:45 PM on May 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


Even more cute xenomorphs.
posted by Zed at 3:55 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Although contrary to the stated goal of the thread (being for 2015 Hugo finds), I will throw out the following recommendation for someone looking for truly different and interesting science fiction:

Ankaret Wells' Books of Requite, which are Lost Colony punk opera, with cyberspace, fencing, and -- well, as she says, science fiction romance featuring courtesans, programmers, revolutionaries, genderqueer bodyguards, technological tinkerers, swordfights, explosions, arguments, assassins and eels.

They're self-published, a little rough around the edges, but wicked fun, and hella creative. It's kind of a shame she hasn't gotten picked up by a traditional publishing house.
posted by suelac at 3:56 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


You only have to look at the kind of sci-fi that the people railing against teenage-girl-picks actually want to read to see that it's way more socially appropriate to shit on teenage girl shit and continue consuming media that is targeted at men in arrested adolescence than the reverse.
posted by NoraReed at 3:59 PM on May 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


Lisa Frank Xenomorph

THIS IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL COMBINATION OF WORDS POSSIBLE
posted by byanyothername at 4:18 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Identifying and communicating about great works to get excited about strikes me as one of the core functions of fandom as a whole. Marketing will do what marketing has always done -- try to sell to the market by collapsing genres into easily-understood categories, highlighting popular trends, misleading but sexactionblasterbot-filled covers. The institutions of fandom have always worked as a counterbalance to that, curating and promoting the gems that a house believed in, but that sometimes marketing didn't understand enough to sell.

So yeah, the bookstore is full of a lot of the same stuff. Same as it ever was. And that's one of the reasons capital-F Fandom as in Worldcon came into existence, to address that problem in the first place.
posted by Andrhia at 5:32 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


railing against teenage-girl-picks

Since it seems likely I'm the person you are thinking of here I would like to remind you that I also shit on zombies, Harry Potter, and the doubtless upcoming wave of Game of Thrones clones. My problem is not the content or the particular target group but the ubiquity of mediocre clones. It's just that the teen vampire romances are the current flavor of the month. So you may want to adjust your outrage meter.

Also, in my house, I am the Taylor Swift fan, and my wife is the one who is firmly convinced that nobody has ever actually bought one of her records and that everyone who has ever said a good thing about her online is obviously a paid shill for the record industry. For some reason my existence does not seem to affect this conclusion.
posted by localroger at 5:33 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


ask yourself how many threads about science fiction there are on MetaFilter and how many threads about romance novels there are.

How much of that is audience? I don't pretend to know the demographics on this site, other than a handful of real people/paid actors I've met at meetups and the assumption everyone else is a bot that passes the Turing test because of some amazing Markov chains...
posted by qcubed at 5:56 PM on May 5, 2015


There are not nearly enough recommendations for good teen vampire romances in this thread.

I'm personally very fond of Claudia Gray's Evernight series. Love the twist in the first book (won't reveal spoilers here, of course.)

Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series is a lot of fun and significantly better than the disastrously failed movie version would have you believe. It's also a series where Mead sticks the landing in the last book, which she sometimes has trouble with -- her Georgina Kincaid series, for example, is a better series overall, quite good and I'd recommend it, but the last book leaves much to be desired.
posted by kyrademon at 6:02 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Love the twist in the first book

My money's on an age difference that is less than between Celine Dion and her husband.
posted by qcubed at 6:53 PM on May 5, 2015


pop fans who have bad taste like Katy Perry

You can take that the hell back.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:32 PM on May 5, 2015


> My problem is not the content or the particular target group but the ubiquity of mediocre clones.

Same as it ever fucking was.
posted by rtha at 7:39 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


And such has it been ever since AUTHORS that WRITE books first discovered any unique book that became a major success. "

FTFY. And I'm talking like, since the 15th century maybe. Or maybe earlier. Maybe that guy named Homer who ripped off Homer.

Seriously, I'm seeing some major rose-colored glasses going on here, combined with the usual "Oh, the present is an inevitable downhill slope from the glorious past" nonsense that SF fans are so prone to.

This is seriously the best time for science fiction and fantasy of all sorts than I've seen in DECADES. I almost quit out of SF entirely in the 90s and 00s because transhumanism had turned SF into a creepy religion. But now? I can spend my lunch hour listening to PodCastle and Escape Pod, ClarksWorld, Starship Sofa, LightSpeed and others. I've got more books coming into the library than I can read. And I keep hearing about new authors and stories from these podcasts and, well, everywhere.

Sorry, no. I don't have time to listen to how awful the book market is these days. I've got to finish AfterParty, and then Ancillary Sword, and the Velvet series, end then I've got to run to the library to pick up Foxglive Summer and The Shambling Guide to New York, and arrgh, I've got a pile of new stuff here to read! Need more time!
posted by happyroach at 7:47 PM on May 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


Seriously, I'm seeing some major rose-colored glasses going on here

Well, I actually remember what the SF shelves looked like in B. Dalton and WaldenBooks back in 1978, and while yes there was lots of crap (hell John Norman had a whole shelf) I insist that it wasn't as bad as it is now. In half the shelf space you had at least four times the actual quality. In half the shelf space they would have a dozen titles by folks like Ballard, Moorcock, and Bester. Sure those guys are old hat now but there's very little new hat like them. OK so there's one guy who maybe did a Bester-like thing, but that's out of four thousand books instead of four hundred, and when Bester did it all kinds of other stuff was going on like oh say Philip K. Dick. Yeah now they want to make every scrap note he ever wrote into a movie but honestly tell me who would publish him if he was submitting today. He'd die of dog food poisoning.
posted by localroger at 8:22 PM on May 5, 2015


I was at prime start-reading-SF age in 1978 and I had seen Star Wars a bunch of times and when I went to the local Waldenbooks it was very, very clear to adolescent-girl-that-I-was that those books were not for me. I know that's not the experience of every girl of that age in that time; I also know I wasn't the only one, either, who saw closed gates and shrugged and headed down a different aisle.

I come to this genre now in large part because I see a much greater diversity available - but you say that's a lie. I don't believe you.
posted by rtha at 8:37 PM on May 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


"Sci fi these days is too derivative, I know this because I can't find things that are derivative in the way I want them to be when I search in one specific limited way."
posted by kagredon at 10:18 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well, I actually remember what the SF shelves looked like in B. Dalton and WaldenBooks back in 1978, and while yes there was lots of crap (hell John Norman had a whole shelf) I insist that it wasn't as bad as it is now.

The way I remember it, there were only maybe four meager bookcases that started off with things like Horseclans, Piers Anthony, a wall of Burroughs reprints, De Camp's Conan, and Stephen R. Donaldson. They'd put Terry Brooks on top alongside maybe some boxed sets of C. S. Lewis or Frank Herbert. Some of my first purchases included Vance's Dragon Masters, a Fafhrd and Gray Mouser book, and something by Avram Davidson that I bounced off of. Not bad, and I have plenty of nostalgia about it all, but I'd have been as well off or better with Harry Potter. And, wow, the local Books-A-Million today is so much richer and more inviting to kids that age--I imagine it's because they're one of the last groups routinely going to chain bookstores. You can still find potential Hugo nominees there, often prominently displayed before the deadline: Goblet of Fire leaps to mind for the section that I think you're talking about, but my local chain bookstore does have a "new releases" shelf in the adult SF/F section too. I do like that I can reliably sample more pages of them than I can on Amazon, so that's something. It's just so time-consuming to stand there and look up their reviews on my phone.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:10 PM on May 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


WRT the unicorn and xenomorph, some speculation on why mermaids look the way they do, and not like walruses.
posted by frimble at 1:19 AM on May 6, 2015


I think localroger is proving the adage that the Golden Age of SF is whenever any given reader was 13.
posted by Justinian at 2:39 AM on May 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


> "My money's on an age difference that is less than between Celine Dion and her husband."

I am pleased to state that neither series I recommended has a 500-year-old dating a 16-year-old or anything remotely like it. Although I believe one has a 24-year-old dating an 18-year-old.

That particular trope of vampire romance drives me *nuts* when it happens in an unacknowledged way. YOU ARE 30 TIMES HER AGE SO EITHER EXPLAIN WHY DATING HER IS NOT LIKE DATING A GERBIL FOR YOU OR THIS BOOK GETS THROWN ACROSS THE ROOM. Yeah, that's right, I'm looking at YOU, A Discovery of Witches! And you, Twilight - Edward does not get a pass for being "only" an 107-year-old creeper macking on a teenager!
posted by kyrademon at 3:55 AM on May 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


The weird thing about the age difference absurdities is that these are usually novels written by women! Read primarily by women! And the message they're consuming, gladly, with joy at the way the genre is somehow finally making room for women is.... "women have nothing to offer but youth and beauty."

I get that a sick misogynistic society creates sick misogynistic fantasies in its inhabitants. But this seems like a particularly on-the-nose example of it, and I find it very confusing when my awesome women feminist friends who rile at the treatment of the Black Widow or Melinda May will still somehow take guilty pleasure in Bella.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:41 AM on May 6, 2015


I can heavily recommend the movie What We Do In The Shadows.
posted by Artw at 5:51 AM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


And the message they're consuming, gladly, with joy at the way the genre is somehow finally making room for women is.... "women have nothing to offer but youth and beauty."

I don't think those books are about that. Those books are about cherishment and commitment, from what I see. They're for women who are tired as being treated as interchangeable cogs by man-children who don't want to get married until their late thirties if that - they are fantasies of being able to find someone who will love them forever, absolutely, while they still have their youth and beauty, while the world is still beautiful all over for them, before they've lost their hope and gained cynicism. They are fantasies about not having to settle for being the one who hopelessly loves most.
posted by corb at 6:51 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Now that I think about it, the Evernight series does actually examine that trope a bit, although not in the love story between the two main characters. But I do categorize "examining the trope and offering in-universe reasons why it might not be utterly ridiculous in this particular story" as significantly different from the "LA LA LA NOT EVEN GOING TO BRING UP THE FACT THAT THIS IS KIND OF WEIRD" approach taken by Twilight et al.)
posted by kyrademon at 6:56 AM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think those books are about that. Those books are about cherishment and commitment

Actually, they're about ethics in undead dating.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:10 AM on May 6, 2015 [10 favorites]


Well, I actually remember what the SF shelves looked like in B. Dalton and WaldenBooks back in 1978, and while yes there was lots of crap (hell John Norman had a whole shelf) I insist that it wasn't as bad as it is now.

I can't honestly say I remember American chain bookstores in 1978 -- the only bookstore I had access to in 78 was Stars and Stripes -- but if 1981 will do, let's just say your memory and mine don't match well at all.

Certainly I think you're incorrect in your comparison; if nothing else the sheer size of a standard B&N means that there's much more good SF to choose from in a B&N than in a BD/Walden. And I don't know which weirdo B&N you go to that doesn't (almost completely) segregate the YA stuff to a YA section, but it is quite literally the only one that I have ever heard of that does that.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:48 AM on May 6, 2015


Sadie Bruce's "Little Girls in Bone Museums" is the best short SF I've read this year so far, and is exactly the kind of work that the slaters want to suppress.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:36 AM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think those books are about that. Those books are about cherishment and commitment

I think it's more about "backstory is hard," combined with the idea that the wrong backstory will mean that readers won't be able to identify with the heroine, so it's better to provide as little backstory as you can get away with. Since it's difficult to believe that a heroine of a certain age has no significant life experience, you make the heroine younger so that's not a problem. (The other traditional option for not-too-specific heroine background was the "virgin widow" trope, which is mercifully uncommon in recent works. Though it did usually allow them to be a bit older.)
posted by asperity at 9:52 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Those books are about cherishment and commitment, from what I see.
Which certainly explains the success among women of "50 Shades of Grey". Nobody ever went broke overestimating low self esteem among women.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:53 AM on May 6, 2015


Which certainly explains the success among women of "50 Shades of Grey". Nobody ever went broke overestimating low self esteem among women.

50 Shades has a lot of problems, foremost among them the abusive behavior of the male lead that isn't recognized as such, but saying that it succeeded because of "low self esteem" is facile. More like "Nobody ever went broke overestimating the demand for even slightly kinky erotica written for/by women."

The vampire thing is interesting. My read on it in the "ancient vampire dude/teenage girl" thing is that it's a way to explore the idea of feeling/being made special by being desired by someone extraordinary, both because it establishes a reason to take an interest in the "ordinary" female protagonist and as wish-fulfillment. It's "see through the mysterious bad-boy's pain and heal it" and "Professor Smith understands my wisdom is beyond my years" rolled into one. But yes, there are aspects of valuation of the points anotherpanacea makes about valuation of youth and beauty, corb's points about wish-fulfillment about commitment (immortal commitment!), and asperity's points about the practical aspects of writing a protagonist that can act as a stand-in to the author in it too. The extent to which any one is represented in a book varies, and of course not all vampire romance uses that trope, and some of it slyly skewers some of the more problematic aspects. In conclusion, vampire romance is a land of contrasts.
posted by kagredon at 11:16 AM on May 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


I find it very confusing when my awesome women feminist friends who rile at the treatment of the Black Widow or Melinda May will still somehow take guilty pleasure in Bella.

I don't think you've thought very hard about this. Fantasy often takes the form of the things we repress in ourselves or don't allow in daily life. Often, for people who want to change the dominant paradigm, the dominant paradigm is the forbidden fruit. Fantasy can be a perfectly healthy way of working through the feelings we wish we didn't have, or don't indulge.

That said, Stephanie Meyer made millions of dollars but still can't afford any adjectives, so should be shunned and shamed. Terrible writer.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:51 AM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think you've thought very hard about this.

I mean, maybe you're right. But you go on to say exactly what I said before the part you quoted, so apparently we're in the same thoughtless boat.

corb I think captures the positive spin of the fantasy but the misogynistic subtext is still there: also asperity's idea that a protagonist should be an empty vessel for the fantasies of the reader to inhabit, so can't have too much back story seems right too, but on my reading these young protagonists often act and feel young in a way that doesn't seem true to that blank scrim: they fill the Mary Sue with their juvenile personas so the fantasy involves acting and being that ingenue, not just being oneself whoever that may be.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:03 PM on May 6, 2015


but on my reading these young protagonists often act and feel young in a way that doesn't seem true to that blank scrim

TBH I think this is a common failure mode in poorly-written YA, cross-genre. A lot of writers seem to have completely forgetten how they thought or acted as teenagers. There is YA, including paranormal romance YA, that doesn't fall into this trap, but then we're back at Sturgeon's law (namely, there's much more that doesn't, and in a genre with a lot of volume, it's hard to sort.)
posted by kagredon at 1:13 PM on May 6, 2015




Oh hey, Station Eleven is one of the books that was enthusiastically recommended during the meetup at Longitude. Actually adding it to my to-read list now. (Meant to earlier, but the first recommendation came after we'd had several tropical drinks, and the second "yeah, really, read it!" conversation came late in the evening at aubilenon's amaro meetup, so…)
posted by Lexica at 8:23 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


God, I loved that book. Loved loved loved. I probably babbled about it at that meetup.
posted by rtha at 8:28 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


God, I loved that book. Loved loved loved

Oh, me too! I enjoyed the hell out of that. It's strangely optimistic for a post-apocalyptic novel with superflu and all.
posted by suelac at 8:34 PM on May 6, 2015


I haven't read the Claudia Grey stuff mentioned here but I thought her Spellcaster trilogy was great beach reading. A Thousand Pieces of You was actually kind of exceptional, though; it's a character who jumps between her current self and the versions of herself in several alternate timelines, and the worlds she goes through are really... I'm not even sure what to call them except rich; they're beautifully well put together and you can really sink into them, and since the protagonist only spends much time in a handful of them you really get to see her figure out how her life is different in each world and how she herself changes from life to life with the same people around her but in different roles. The tech that the story revolves around isn't all that believable and is practically there as a sort of sci-fi cover on a fantasy artifact, but it's worth suspending your disbelief about that for the rest of the book, in my opinion.
posted by NoraReed at 12:02 AM on May 7, 2015


Uncanny Magazine has a pretty great overview of the history and purpose of the Hugos, putting the Sad Puppies in context to all that.
posted by Andrhia at 8:33 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


As an experiment today, I went looking for a particular book I wanted -- one that was recently released to much acclaim -- in two big bookstores in the fairly major city where I live. Neither of them had it in stock.

The book does exist, though. So possibly, looking on bookstore shelves is simply no longer the best way to find a book.
posted by kyrademon at 9:25 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


So possibly, looking on bookstore shelves is simply no longer the best way to find a book.

If I had a nickel for every time I've looked for a middle-of-series book at my local Barnes & Noble and come up dry, I'd probably be able to start buying hardcovers again.
posted by Etrigan at 9:42 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Amazon became a thing for a reason.
posted by Artw at 9:44 AM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes. Most bookstores used to be utter shit. Quite terrible.
posted by Justinian at 2:44 PM on May 7, 2015


Yet those shitty bookstores used to be quite reliable about having at least one or two copies of the last four or five books by all the most prominent authors, and most of the backlist of classics like Asimov and Clarke, as well as good stock of all the most recent releases by anyone of note. Somehow even with four times the shelf space today's box book stores can't seem to manage that. When I discovered Larry Niven I was able to buy all but two of the Known Space books from one B. Dalton. Ditto James P. Hogan, who I learned about from a review in IEEE Spectrum, whose entire backlist was in the store. And they always had the latest couple of books by folks like J.G. Ballard and Alfred Bester.

If you discover Iain M. Banks today, good luck getting anything older than The Algebraist without going online. Want to bone up on your Singularity reading by cramming Vinge? Not a chance. And last time I checked you'd have trouble answering the question Is it Snow Crash yet because B&N didn't have a copy of that either.

And we've already mentioned Amazon's suggestsions, which are great at showing you stuff you've probably already read but not so great at pointing you toward anything new.
posted by localroger at 3:10 PM on May 7, 2015


Yet those shitty bookstores used to be quite reliable about having at least one or two copies of the last four or five books by all the most prominent authors

No, they didn't.

and most of the backlist of classics like Asimov and Clarke,

No, they didn't.

as well as good stock of all the most recent releases by anyone of note.

No, they didn't.

I get that they may have stocked a selection you were happy with. But that's not the same as a good selection or wide selection. Either that or you had the extraordinary luck to have a local B Dalton's that ran itself like an SF specialty show.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:58 PM on May 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


Eh. There are simply more books published by more authors every year that passes. The backlist is going to suffer when there's more competition for shelf space. It's not a problem unique to SF at all, or even fiction generally.
posted by asperity at 4:17 PM on May 7, 2015


So ROU_Xenophobe are you suggesting that I imagined buying all those books at my local mall in the late 1970's? Because I still have a lot of them and I sure as hell didn't get them online.

As I recall the B. Dalton had one full aisle of SF, probably 8 or 10 shelves, or about a third of what my local B&N does now. Walden's had significantly less, four or five bookshelves.

Let me take one example which I remember very clearly because it is so scandalous.

In 1981 John Norman had published 18 books in the Gor series and one "nonfiction" work, Imaginative Sex. Dalton's generally had an entire shelf devoted to Norman and at any given time they usually had every single one of his books, with multiple copies of the first and last few.

Now, say what you want about BDSM porn masquerading as fantasy but name any series by any currently active SF writer with almost 20 books every single one of which is on the shelf at your local bookstore. And Norman was not an exception just because he was titillating; as I've said I was able to buy nearly all of Niven's canon (roughly equivalent to Neal Stephenson today in popularity) and all of James P. Hogan's (comparable to say Scalzi or Doctorow) all at once in a single visit. This is not my faulty memory at work because I actually have the damn books today, and they weren't left under my pillow by the Book Fairy.

Meanwhile, if you discover a series by anyone (except maybe GRRM because of HBO) with more than four books all of which are in stock, let us know.
posted by localroger at 4:39 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also: I do remember the mall bookstores I had access to as having more comprehensive coverage of some authors' backlist titles. I don't think localroger is wrong about that at all, though of course it's not like every tiny mall bookstore was doing a great job at things like series completion. It's just that it was a lot easier to do when the number of authors was fewer, and publishers had an easier time keeping the backlists in print and available.

The mass-market paperback becoming much less common is also a huge factor in what bookstores look like now. If you worked for a bookstore and wanted to revamp your selection to devote more shelf space to keeping a certain kind of science fiction well-stocked, you could strip the front covers off a bunch of paperbacks that weren't selling well, send the covers back, and trash the rest of the books. Boom, instant shelf space with a near-full refund on the stock. That, plus a catalog that's a fraction of what booksellers deal with nowadays meant that a lot of tiny bookstores had a fairly good selection of what was being printed at the time.

That said, it was all pretty variable, and reliant then as now on publisher marketing and individual bookseller interest. There were tons of books that I found later in specialty SF bookstores that had been published during my prime mall-bookstore years that I had never seen or heard of at the time, since I just didn't luck out in the right way at the right time. And I knew every SF title my local library branch stocked while I was a teenager -- hell, I shelved them myself for years -- and there were worlds out there that I missed even though we had a pretty good collection.

We're pretty much all in the "Time Enough at Last" scenario here, except that instead of vision correction what we're lacking is the possibility of reading even a fraction of everything we're interested in over a long lifetime. It's a better world for access to everything I could ever want to read than I ever dreamed of as a kid -- even if it's not always so easy to browse shelves to find it.
posted by asperity at 4:41 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


So ROU_Xenophobe are you suggesting that I imagined buying all those books at my local mall in the late 1970's? Because I still have a lot of them and I sure as hell didn't get them online.

I believe the suggestion is more that your local bookstore wasn't everybody's local bookstore.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:45 PM on May 7, 2015


Now, say what you want about BDSM porn masquerading as fantasy

You mean like that jewel of the late 1970s, The Sword of Shannara? Even setting aside the already discussed gender politics, your "everything new sucks" position is based on a pretty inaccurately remembered history.
posted by kagredon at 5:25 PM on May 7, 2015


your "everything new sucks" position

That's a nice straw man you got there, might want to be careful with matches around it though.

What I am saying is that there are some very specific things wrong with the way books are marketed and sold today. Those particular things are not improvements over the admittedly still imperfect situation that existed 30 years ago.

Gender politics has absolutely nothing to do with any of this. Gender politics isn't why it was all about zombies a few years ago. Gender politics isn't why the book that introduced ROU_Xenophobe's nick is not on the shelf locally. Gender politics isn't why my B. Dalton's had everything ever written by James P. Hogan when the IEEE said Two Faces of Tomorrow was the best book about AI ever written. (I'd suggest it's still one of the top five.)

Sometimes it's about simpler things like greed and laziness.

Oh, I was never able to make it more than about 50 pages into Sword of Shannara, which is at least 35 pages further than I made it with Thomas Covenant. But I'd rather have a bookstore that carried those things, and also all of Iain M. Banks' Culture novels and a healthy chunk of Neal Stephenson's backlist, than one that doesn't carry any of those things.
posted by localroger at 5:36 PM on May 7, 2015


I don't have a specific recollection regarding the completeness of B. Dalton's SF/F, but one index of it that remains in my mind is the bitter sense I have of the phrase, "I'm sorry--we don't have that in stock, but we can special order it for you!" This Usenet thread from January 1987, quite a bit closer to the reality of the thing than any of us are now, tells the story the way I remember it:
Used to be, that when you ordered a book from [B. Dalton], you'd sign a card, and a good year later they'd send it to you saying they can't get it from the publisher.

Now, (and I've done this twice in the last 2 months) you sign the card, and a week later you get it saying they're out of stock of the book in the warehouse.
Another poster backs that up:
I have to agree on this one. In the past 6 months, I tried to order two books at B. Dalton. Each time I signed a card, and each time a short while later I got a card back saying they were out of stock.

The two books were not especially rare or unusual and I later found both of them on the bookshelves at other bookstores.
Some of the folks in that thread are talking about textbooks (which apparently they simply refused to deal in), but neither of those posters were. My own negative experience with the process would have come from trying to buy SF/F.

Oh, the timing of those comments is mildly interesting: B. Dalton was sold in November 1986 and had its operations consolidated with Barnes & Noble. But if the latter comment is accurate, the stocking issues at the warehouse pre-date the sale. Checking on that, though, turned up some more info: in late 1981, B. Dalton changed how they budgeted for their stock, reportedly making it harder to reorder fast-moving titles but overall improving service. It's interesting that they had issues keeping things in stock by publisher: for memories that pre-date 1981, that may well be relevant.

Anyway, thank goodness this stuff is far in the past.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 5:44 PM on May 7, 2015


You're right that gender politics doesn't have anything to do with this supposed decline of the science-fiction industry. Which is why it's glaring that you keep coming back to paranormal romance ("BDSM masquerading as fantasty", really?) as your example, except for when directly called on it. Of course, it can't be that brick and mortar bookstores are on the decline, in part because most readers didn't have the good fortune with them that you apparently did (no matter how you insist on universalizing it) and flocked to the Internet.

Straw men, indeed.
posted by kagredon at 5:51 PM on May 7, 2015


As I recall the B. Dalton had one full aisle of SF, probably 8 or 10 shelves

Congratulations! You had a local B Dalton's that ran itself like an SF specialty shop. Most of us didn't. I can't recall ever seeing a Waldendalton's with more than four bookshelves of SF, one of which would be restricted to a few hardbacks. Which of course doesn't mean that they never existed.

I do remember the mall bookstores I had access to as having more comprehensive coverage of some authors' backlist titles. I don't think localroger is wrong about that at all

My memory is that Waldendalton's would usually stock the same random few until someone went through and stripped a bunch. So if you bought Foundation they'd have Second Foundation but not Foundation and Empire, and they'd have the same set of three random Clarke books, The Smoke Ring but not The Integral Trees, etc etc, for like a year. Then they'd have some other incomplete smattering.

Gender politics isn't why the book that introduced ROU_Xenophobe's nick is not on the shelf locally.

Banks is a terrible example as he has almost never been easily available in the US through what I gather is a set of self-reinforcing marketing fuckups.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:53 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was very specifically talking mostly about the late 1970's. As I recall it was the early 1980's when things started to go crappier.

And even then they never were too keen on ordering nonstock books. I suppose B&N does a much better job with that today, although the last time I ordered a nonstock DVD from them they packed it poorly and sent it by UPS, who destroyed it, so I ended up ordering it from Amazon anyway.

I will say that my 1970's bookshops were in one of the largest and busiest malls in the South; the Radio Shack down the hall was the busiest in the entire US for several years running, so that may have helped keep their inventory fresh. But as mentioned above the liberal unsold returns policy of the day (rip the cover and get a full refund from the publisher) made that not much of an issue if the store tried at all.

On preview:

As recently as 2010-ish the local B&N would usually have the last three or four Iain M. Banks Culture novels on shelf. The situation has been declining steadily for a long time.
posted by localroger at 5:56 PM on May 7, 2015


Which is why it's glaring that you keep coming back to paranormal romance ("BDSM masquerading as fantasty", really?)

You know, you might want to look up who John Norman is and what he wrote before writing something this stunningly ignorant.
posted by localroger at 5:57 PM on May 7, 2015


So I popped down the Barnes and Noble bookstore and found, not counting new books and sundry displays:

4 shelves of shelves of GRRM
3 shelves of Terry Brooks
1 shelf of Bradbury
Half a shelf of Asimov
2 shelves of Card
Half a shelf of PKD
a shelf and a half of Neil Gaiman
3 lonely looking William Gibson books
7 different Iain banks culture novels
2 and a half shelves of Prachett
Most of a shelf of SeanancGuire
A third of a shelf of Mira Grant
Both Anne Lecke books
a third of a shelf each for LeGuin and CS Lewis
2 and a half shelves of Tolkien
A small wall of Star Trek/Wars/Doctor Who
A similar sized wall of RPG tie-ins


...and a good mix of other stuff between all that including plenty on my to-read list.

Each shelf is about 3 foot long.

So anyway, bookstores aren't quite dead. I'd expect the selection at a smaller mall one to he garbage though.
posted by Artw at 6:12 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


7 different Iain banks culture novels

OK, can I trade my old B. Dalton for your new B&N?

That does suggest a lot of individual variance in how they're stocked. I'd expect more consistency from a chain, especially the modern B&N with computers and all that.
posted by localroger at 6:16 PM on May 7, 2015


That's in Seattle, though the ones out in various malls and in Bellevue seem pretty similarly stocked. May vary in less bookish parts on the country.
posted by Artw at 6:28 PM on May 7, 2015


(Also I checked where my book was in the comics section and they've either sold or quietly burned all copies of it. Yay!)
posted by Artw at 6:30 PM on May 7, 2015


May vary in less bookish parts on the country.

Well this is Louisiana, but this is also one of the most aflluent and literate communities in the state, and there is no surrounding network of similarly affluent and literate communities, so I suppose one lazy or incompetent manager could be at fault.

I suppose I should make an effort to check out the one in Metairie sometime for comparison. It's only 35 miles away...
posted by localroger at 6:36 PM on May 7, 2015


I'd expect more consistency from a chain

In my experience they always had a lot of local control over what they stocked. Up to and including stripping paperbacks to build levees with.

And for whatever reason (logistics, shipping costs, I dunno) they don't seem to have some core list of books that are always stocked, and if you buy the last copy, they order another. I think my best bookstore stock experiences were usually when I found books that had miraculously been on the shelf for years unsold. It's just not a very well-organized industry. We had some good recollections of chain bookstores past in the Borders closing thread a few years back that illustrate this.
posted by asperity at 6:36 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


OK, I will officially mea culpa. Apparently I had some really rockin' local mall bookstores when I was in high school.
posted by localroger at 7:04 PM on May 7, 2015


And for whatever reason (logistics, shipping costs, I dunno) they don't seem to have some core list of books that are always stocked, and if you buy the last copy, they order another.

We tried to do this with an expert system at Borders corporate (greetings from the wreckage), but predicting when to restock the kind of book that sells once a year at about 20% of your locations pretty much defeated it. And even when it worked, finding reliable stock of the kind of book that sells once a year wasn't a certainty, so you'd have long out of stock periods.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:02 PM on May 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's always a good time to reference the Thor Power Tool decision!
posted by Chrysostom at 8:47 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


sorry I got snippy. I just remember the Olden Times as being so bleah. For all their problems, Amazon and the big-box bookstores were like the gates of heaven opening.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:11 PM on May 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Olden times were bleah. When I was in high school I had a choice between my hometown bookstore, which had more Ayn Rand than SFF, and the bookstores in the next closest city with a bookstore, Greensboro, NC, which had SFF sections jam-packed with signed Orson Scott Card books and AD&D modules and fiction.

Quite honestly, there was a better selection of SFF in my Southern Baptist church's library! I wonder if those copies of The Foundation Trilogy, the Robot Series and The Once and Future King are still there.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:28 PM on May 7, 2015


So far Metafilter threads are my best resource for finding good things to read. Better than browsing bookshelves randomly, though that has gotten me some good finds. Way way better than amazon recs.
posted by isthmus at 9:56 PM on May 7, 2015


sorry I got snippy. I just remember the Olden Times as being so bleah. For all their problems, Amazon and the big-box bookstores were like the gates of heaven opening.

Now do it in a non-English speaking country where the only way to read Terry Pratchett and still get the puns was to a) buy the books when you're on holiday abroad, b) go to a specialized imported books bookstore.

Before sites like The Book Depository, 90% of my English language books were either Penguin Classics or stuff bought at airports.

(I read Pratchett first in the yellow-spine Martínez Roca editions from the 80s but moved into the English language originals as soon as I was fluent enough to understand them. I also have a German edition of Wyrd Sisters ("Total Verhext") from when I was an exchange student in Munich to remind me that it could have been much, much worse)
posted by sukeban at 11:29 PM on May 7, 2015


Come to think of it, I have trouble finding stuff that looks interesting to me at a bookstore these days, too. Part of that is I've read widely enough that the old standards are all checked off my list. But I've also evolved as a reader out of a lot of popular subgenres -- straight high fantasy, for example, is a hard sell to me these days. So I've considered the problem to be that I've changed, not that publishing itself has changed any.

But meanwhile, it is dead true that publishers are as ever risk-averse, and try to stick to the stuff they know will sell. (The old joke: a failing publishing company seeks advice from a group of accountants, who promise to turn it around; after a month of careful study of the books, the accountants come back with the advice: "Only publish the best-sellers.") ...And the weird cross-genre books I love with all my heart are definitely not a sure thing. Not that they won't sell, but it's hard for marketing to explain what they are so people like me know to buy them.

And alas due to the limits of physics, bookstores can only stock so many books at once, so every book has to earn its shelf space. There's no profit in keeping a book that sells one copy every three years. On top of that, small presses and self-publishers struggle to get bookstore distribution at all, and mostly don't. My book is getting all kinds of good buzz, but yeah, you'd never find it in a bookstore. So if you want to find the next thing like Hugh Howey's Wool or Andy Weir's The Martian, the only reliable way is word of mouth. It's my understanding that word of mouth is the only thing that ever consistently sells books anyway -- advertising is dicey, reviews may or may not be good and may or may not move the needle, giveaways and social media have their limitations. The only thing that gives a book legs (or a long tail, I guess) is that quality that makes a reader tell another reader, "Hey, you should pick this one up, it's great."
posted by Andrhia at 5:37 AM on May 8, 2015


A third of a shelf of Mira Grant
Both Anne Lecke books
a third of a shelf each for LeGuin and CS Lewis


I think that actually kind of illustrates the problem many of us are having. Ursula K LeGuin is exactly who we think of when we think big name, bold, great science fiction. CS Lewis is likewise a giant in the field. But they share the same amount of space as the Mira Grant books - which, whether or not people like them which I will not get into, are certainly not generatlly considered even kind of on the same level as the first two.

Likewise, only half a shelf for Asimov, one of the most prolific great writers in science fiction history, seems just wrong.
posted by corb at 9:47 AM on May 8, 2015


I think that actually kind of illustrates the problem many of us are having. Ursula K LeGuin is exactly who we think of when we think big name, bold, great science fiction. CS Lewis is likewise a giant in the field. But they share the same amount of space as the Mira Grant books - which, whether or not people like them which I will not get into, are certainly not generatlly considered even kind of on the same level as the first two.

I think this is in part a classification/genre ghetto issue, though, because if you wander over to the "Literature" or "Young Adult" sections, you will find LeGuin and Lewis shelved there as well (and if there's a "Religious Fiction" section, Lewis will likely be there as well.)
posted by kagredon at 9:51 AM on May 8, 2015


You know, that's an interesting point - come to think of it, when bookshopping for my tween, I've noticed that the YA section contains a lot of stuff that I think would not have been in what I still think of as the 'chidlren's' section some time ago.
posted by corb at 9:53 AM on May 8, 2015


I actually think having half of shelf of Asimov is too much at this point. I *like* Asimov (as a writer, as a person he was not that great), and have most of what he wrote. But he died in 1992, and had stopped writing interesting stuff considerably before that. Foundation's Edge was about the last halfway decent SF, and that was '82. Last really exciting book was probably The Gods Themselves. That came out in 1972.

The older stuff, I like, but I have a taste for Golden Age SF, and hey, I'm a 41 year old white guy. Foundation is still fun, but it is sexist and it is clunky as heck. Asimov was an idea guy, not a prose stylist.

I'm glad that lots of Asimov is still in print, but I doubt he's attracting a lot of new young readers, and I don't have any problem with a bookstore not dedicating a lot of space to him.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:07 AM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yah, I think it won't be too long before Asimov is mostly interesting as a historical artifact for people who are already SF nerds. Kinda like Doc Smith maybe is already, kinda.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:22 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Or VanVogt, I meant to add.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:22 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think you can liken Asimov more to Jules Verne: prolific, important, and name-checkable in a way that deeper cuts like VanVogt aren't, but rapidly being overtaken by contemporary tech, mores, and style.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:45 AM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Okay, what you said.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:12 AM on May 8, 2015


Asimov wrote a lot, but he wrote a lot of non-fiction, from chemistry to history to a historical background to the Old and New Testaments, apart from oddities like the Black Widowers. Most of the fiction he wrote was short stories, and there aren't that many SF Asimov collections, really. So one shelf seems right to me, too.
posted by sukeban at 11:15 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Eh, as a young'un, I think Asimov is still readable and read. He's not as accessible as Bradbury or Heinlein, sure, and so I don't think he's most readers' gateway into SF, but he's still a common second-step when you've already been bitten by the bug.
posted by kagredon at 11:20 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


The physics textbooks he wrote in the 60s are hopelessly outdated, tho. The history of chemistry book holds better.
posted by sukeban at 11:21 AM on May 8, 2015


Well, I mean, this is the shelf space problem. Unless you're a city block sized store like Powell's, you just don't have the space to stock ALL the classics plus ALL the hot new stuff. So what do you do? What choices do you make?

Frankly, if you're smart, you probably invest heavily in e-books, which is exactly what B&N was clearly doing last time I walked into a store. In an ideal world, whatever book you want, the minute you want it. I'm a festishistic holdout for physical books myself, but I wouldn't be surprised if in 20 years or less my shelves look as odd and quirky as my few friends who still have rack upon rack of vinyl records.

And that would indeed mean that walking through a bookstore, browsing through the shelves to see what catches your interest, may also become a thing of the past. That saddens me a bit, but on the other hand, the last time I went into a store, put on some headphones and checked out some CDs was ... I can't remember. Definitely more than 10 years ago, and I'm being conservative about that. It's OK. I found other ways to look for music.
posted by kyrademon at 12:54 PM on May 8, 2015


Anyone who feels like dissing on Isaac Asimov needs to re-read Nightfall (the original novella, not the novel bloated out by Robert Silverberg), then The Gods Themselves. Foundation had its moments, especially the first volume short story anthology, but was not his best work even if I do have a special fondness for violence being the last refuge of the incompetent.

The robot stories might not seem to hold up in light of modern technology, but he started an argument that persists to this day, and nearly all of his three laws stories were profound criticisms of how something as static as the three laws would fail in actual practice.

His nonfiction may not hold up too well because of technological advance, but he was quite aware that that would happen, and wrote about it. In an essay about Mercury turning out not to be tidally locked to the Sun after all, he complained about having to retire stories because of that, and self-effacingly mocked scientists for leading him astray -- "How DARE they be wrong!" It is also somewhat poignant to read his essay on the asteroids which ends with a plea to start with a mission to the most interesting one of all, Vesta, and to realize that he did not live to see Dawn reach Vesta two years ago.
posted by localroger at 5:47 AM on May 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, Verne still reads as more interesting and fun than Asimov. I world definitely give more shelf space to Verne than Clarke. Of course now Verne is in the YA section.
posted by happyroach at 12:29 PM on May 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Asimov's best work is all short fiction, which probably counts against him.

On the other hand, you could pretty much get the best of him from 2, maybe 3 volumes of that, so half a shelf isn't bad.
posted by Artw at 2:38 PM on May 9, 2015


A Sad Puppy review of The Monster at the End of This Book. (Uh, satire, of course.)
posted by Andrhia at 3:36 PM on May 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't say we're dissing Asimov, but he doesn't need to have a significant position in bookstore science fiction sections at this point (libraries, sure). Like, Max Shulman is as important in his respective genre but it would be stupid that have two shelves of him in the humor section in 2015. If you never retire (or at least prune back) the old voices, the Sci fi section starts to look like most Horror sections, where it's 5 shelves of Stephen King, 3 of Dean Koontz, a smattering of public domain stuff like Dracula, and Poe and Lovecraft's stories, and then maybe a Bentley Little book if you're lucky.

Beyond anything else I honestly would rather some potential up and comer's Warhammer 40K pulp or work-for-hire paranormal romance got shelf space over classic backlist. Shit, Jeff VanderMeer wrote some disposable Predator thing between volumes of the Ambergris series, and I wouldn't be surprised if that outsold anything else he did before Annihilation hit big. Disch did the same think with a Prisoner novelization (though in that case his ship never really came all the way in). That's worth more for the ultimate health of the genre than having lots of Asimov in stock, and it's a choice that does have to be made with limited physical space available (in non-specialty stores, anyway).
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:36 PM on May 9, 2015 [2 favorites]




If anyone is still paying attention, there's an interesting new proposal for how to change the Hugo rules to prevent future slates.

Also, Jason Sanford suspects that No Award will win multiple categories.
posted by overglow at 8:41 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just finished Goblin Emperor! OMG it's so good and satisfying, though I can't really decide why because it's comparatively light. Along with the Leckie, it's a clear candidate for best novel whether or not the puppies messed with the nomination process.

So, umm, I hope No Award doesn't win Best Novel.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:53 AM on May 13, 2015


I think Goblin Emperor is not as light as it seems at first. I'm very much looking forward to rereading it for details now that I've done the first-through PLOTSLURP reading.
posted by Lexica at 10:49 AM on May 13, 2015


Oh wow, that points-divided-over-nominations proposal is really interesting. It's definitely a voting system that is only feasible in an era of cheap and plentiful computing power. It's going to be some work making sure that the data is clean going in, though. (So ensuring that, say, "Miror Empire" is balloted with "The Mirror Emplire" and so on.)
posted by Andrhia at 10:55 AM on May 13, 2015


Agreed, it sounds really intriguing. I had previously liked the "expand the ballot as needed when we detect slate balloting" but that was kind of problematic in how parameters are set. This seems like it would address most concerns.

It's a little complex, but Hugo voters are already familiar with STV, so it's not like they haven't seen less common voting systems already.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:16 AM on May 13, 2015


2015 Campbell Award finalists. Not the best new author Campbell, the juried best novel one.
Nina Allan. The Race
James L. Cambias. A Darkling Sea
William Gibson.The Peripheral
Daryl Gregory.Afterparty
Dave Hutchinson.Europe In Autumn
Simon Ings.Wolves
Cixin Liu (Ken Liu, translator).The Three-Body Problem
Emily St. John Mandel.Station Eleven
Will McIntosh.Defenders
Claire North.The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
Laline Paull. The Bees
Adam Roberts.Bête
John Scalzi. Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future
Andy Weir. The Martian
Jeff VanderMeer. Area X (The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation; Authority; Acceptance)
Peter Watts. Echopraxia
posted by Chrysostom at 12:13 PM on May 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's early in the year but Robert Charles Wilson's The Affinities should be a straight lock to make the next Hugo ballot. It will be a real shame if the puppies screw that up somehow. I'd say Wilson doesn't get enough recognition except, well, he did already win a Hugo. I guess both those things could be true.
posted by Justinian at 3:33 AM on May 17, 2015


Has anyone else downloaded their Hugo packet yet? I am reading through these offerings and want company. Or several drinks.
posted by corb at 10:36 PM on May 21, 2015


Also if anyone is still reading the thread - does anyone know what the standard is for anthologies to make someone a SF/f editor? Vox Day and Tom Kratman's war anthology is only maybe a quarter actual stories, and three quarters what seems like essays from the Army War College.
posted by corb at 8:58 AM on May 22, 2015


I haven't grabbed my packet yet, but it's on the list for the weekend. That bad huh?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:18 AM on May 22, 2015


So has a gamer, here's my proposal to fix the Hugos: we have a bunch of promising solutions, but all of them individually can be gamed in different ways. So I say we use all of them.

We make a random table of Hugo voting methods, and just before the vote, we secretly roll for each nomination category. With nobody being able to tell what method of determining the winners is being used, it'll be that much harder to manipulate the process.
posted by happyroach at 11:48 AM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


That bad huh?

Well, the things not written by Vox Day or Tom Kratman aren't that bad - the essays look like they're from actual military scholars who likely have no idea what a minefield they're stepping into, and there are one or two good stories. But the intros before the stories written by Vox Day are....here, let me excerpt one:
"He represents the better, truer aspect of liberalism, now mostly lost to the of mindless modern progressivism of the shrieking harpies, glittery hoo-haas, and those immortalized by the inimitable Kate Paulk as Tempests in B Cups
There's also 'Vox Day Talks About Extinguishing Gene Pools', 'Vox Day Talks About Women' and my personal horror favorite, 'Vox Day Talks About The Dangers Of Non-White Neighborhoods'. His fiction piece is literally 'Heroic Soldier Is Attacked By Brown People Who Threaten His Pretty Blond Wife.'
posted by corb at 12:30 PM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Of couse that's not message fiction :D

For my part, I've been following File 770's posts, but the most amusing thing in the past two days has been Tom Kratman going ballistic on critics.
posted by sukeban at 12:52 PM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


(File 770 has been linking to a lot of Hugo reviews, BTW.)
posted by sukeban at 12:53 PM on May 22, 2015


Regardless of your politics, does it ever look good when you're arguing with reviewers in the trenches of the Amazon comments section? I thought doing that was a generally agreed no-no on grounds of professionalism.
posted by immlass at 1:16 PM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


The answer is no, but sadly that's been a Thing over the last five years. IIRC some authors were doing it on Goodreads and there was a brouhaha.
posted by corb at 1:17 PM on May 22, 2015


Oh, it's worth noting that this piece of drecht I'm fucking slogging through is on the Rabid Puppies list but not the Sad Puppies list, because even Brad Torgersen couldn't endorse it in good conscience, even when he had a story in the book. That should really say something.
posted by corb at 1:23 PM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


It was a thing before Goodreads. We still remember Anne Rice and her "you're interrogating the text from the wrong perspective"
posted by sukeban at 1:30 PM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


It was a thing before Goodreads. We still remember Anne Rice and her "you're interrogating the text from the wrong perspective"

Otherwise known as "The moment we all realized that Anne Rice's editor had a more than fulltime job."
posted by lumpenprole at 1:32 PM on May 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


The hilarious thing is they're not even bothering with a veil. A good half of these stories are like 'Here's a winning alternative if the godless communists/whistleblowers/Michelle Obama hadn't had their way.' (largely it involves manly SEALS)
posted by corb at 1:33 PM on May 22, 2015


Engaging with critics, especially online reviewers, is usually a poor idea and most of the time will make you look like a crazy person even when done with care.
posted by Artw at 1:41 PM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Welp, I've read 50 odd pages of Tom Kratman's reckoning of what it's like to be a sentient female tank and now I want to lobotomize myself. And that's just the first novella on the list.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:20 PM on May 22, 2015


/wondering when he'll splurge 5 dollars for an account.
posted by Artw at 7:33 PM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, god, Artw, that's not even funny as a joke.
posted by suelac at 7:42 PM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Kratman just showed up on James Nicoll's blog yesterday, for the first time in quite a while. He really must be feeling his oats.
posted by happyroach at 8:33 PM on May 22, 2015


Tom Kratman.
Tom Kratman.
Tom Kratman.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:38 PM on May 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


i read that comment and then all the books on my shelves turned to shit, please desummon him, i only have so much disinfectant
posted by NoraReed at 10:45 PM on May 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


You shut up! You are the audience! I am the author! I outrank you!
posted by Krom Tatman at 10:51 PM on May 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


^Best use of 5$.

==

OTOH and related to the Kratman tantrum, Hugo voter packet means mainstream fen have been reading Puppy works and consequently rating them on Amazon (first two links), ruining their arguments of Puppy populatity from ratings.
posted by sukeban at 1:48 AM on May 23, 2015 [3 favorites]




And Best Novellete.

This pretty much sums up the boring-ass style of all Puppy works:

As with much of the Sad/Rabid Puppy slate, there is a sense here that the author is trying to say something he thinks is profound, but that his assumed audience share so many of his political and religious prejudices that the meaning is completely opaque to those of us who are not conservative North American ex-military middle-aged white men in either the Mormon or Catholic churches, as almost all of the Puppy nominees seem to be.
posted by Artw at 10:42 AM on May 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


For those who are reading and want a good breath - Jennifer Brosek's anthology is actually quite good - the solo one, Bless Your Mechanical Heart. I'm willing to believe she's at least a highly talented editor, though once again, god knows how you judge that category.
posted by corb at 12:25 PM on May 25, 2015


Reading Goblin Emperor right now. Whew!
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:14 PM on May 25, 2015


This pretty much sums up the boring-ass style of all Puppy works:

Boring, flat, dogmatic, self-indulgent? Very bad writing, in other words.
posted by aught at 7:12 AM on May 26, 2015


OH JESUS CHRIST NO JOHN C WRIGHT NO. I actually came back from my lunch break early so I could alternate between breathing into a paper bag and warning you of how horrible his book of essays is.

For those of you who want to read the pinnacle of the horror, I give you John C Wright on Strong Female Characters, which includes the CHAMPEEN assertions that veterans DESERVE lady-gender performance and that ladyswears destroy the human race.
posted by corb at 2:02 PM on May 26, 2015


That's the one where he rips off Heinlein badly whilst completely missing the point of what he ripped off.
posted by Artw at 2:06 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I kind of now wish I had asked for the physical packet, so I could literally set this book on fire instead of deleting it from my Kindle.
posted by corb at 2:12 PM on May 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


OH JESUS CHRIST NO JOHN C WRIGHT NO.

Oh John C. Wright wrong!
posted by Going To Maine at 8:37 PM on May 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


For those of you who want to read the pinnacle of the horror, I give you John C Wright on Strong Female Characters

He's been a treasure trove of facepalm since 2009 or so. That's why some of us didn't give the benefit of doubt to the S/R Puppies in the previous thread.
posted by sukeban at 1:31 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks, going To Maine. I will now forever read his name as "John C. Wrong."

Corb, I also wanted to burn the one book of his I partly read*, or at least throw it with great force, and I agree that this is the great drawback of e-readers. On the plus side, as I remember, at least I didn't pay for it, thanks to some Amazon promotion.

* the wretched teen spanking / B&D authorial fetish one
posted by taz at 5:17 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


On the topic of finding new candidates, I read Naomi Novik's Uprooted yesterday, and it'll be one I think about next year. It's 'standard fantasy' but a fun, compelling read on the basis of fundamentals--many good scenes built around good characters and interesting magic.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:45 AM on May 28, 2015


For those of you who want to read the pinnacle of the horror, I give you John C Wright on Strong Female Characters

I couldn't make it through that. I made me want to hate-vomit.

However, I wish I could change my mefi name to 'Soviet Trained Python'
posted by lumpenprole at 3:27 PM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I couldn't make it all the way either...I know I said I would read everything in its entirety but I got about halfway through and hit the point where I was like "I AM GOING TO DECLARE WAR ON JOHN C WRIGHT" and decided that maybe I needed to take a break.

In terms of good people up for awards, though, Sarah Hoyt has some good stuff, and a lot of it is free on Amazon for those of you with Kindle Unlimited.
posted by corb at 3:48 PM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Man, I spent too much time listening to Sarah Hoyt on that Honey Badger Radio episode. She might be a fine writer, but man.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:27 PM on May 28, 2015






And now for something positive...

Rabid Puppies Review Books: HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON
posted by Artw at 4:49 PM on May 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


SCALZZZIIII!!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:55 PM on May 30, 2015


« Older Bad Biology: How Adaptationist Thinking Corrupts...   |   An assertion of creative agency Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments