Yet more on the Hugos and the problem of divorcing an author from their work

Rose Lemberg has a great post about the pitfalls of demanding that works nominated for the Hugos and other awards be judged only on the basis of merit, independent of the author and their personality or political views.

She never states it explicitly, but I strongly suspect that the post was inspired by this and this post by John Scalzi in which he asked people to give fair consideration to the works by Larry Correia and Vox Day (and Wheel of Time) on the Hugo shortlist and judge them solely on their artistic merits or lack thereof. This post by Brandon Sanderson asking people to give Wheel of Time a fair shot might also play a role.

Now there is a definite difference between Wheel of Time and the works of Vox Day or Larry Correia. Wheel of Time is a massive series of 14 books that I have little to no desire to read (even if Tor has promised to throw the whole thing into the Hugo voters’ packet), but I don’t have any problems with either Robert Jordan or Brandon Sanderson as people. Wheel of Time is simply a case of a book or a series in this case I am not interested in, just as I’m not interested in Neptune’s Brood, since Charles Stross’ works have never worked for me, or Parasite, because zombies and medical horror aren’t my thing at all, though I like both Charles Stross and Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant as people. I will give both books a try (and will also try the first Wheel of Time), to have at least some basis for judging them.

However, Vox Day and Larry Correia are both problematic and just plain unpleasant people (and I have had run-ins with both before*) and I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect me or anybody else who has had the misfortune of dealing with either gentleman or their posses to forget that and just focus on the merits of their respective works. Will I look at the works? Sure I will, if only to see what their writing is like. But will the personality of the writers in question influence my voting decision. You bet. And like I said before, the work will have to be knock-your-socks-off amazing for me to ignore the fact that the authors behaved like jerks.

This is not just a problem limited to ultra-rightwing writers BTW. Earlier this year, the names of two people with whom I’ve had issues in the past popped up on several recommendation and nomination lists as suggestions for “best fanwriter”. Now neither was nominated, so the issue has been averted. But if they had been nominated, my experience with and opinions of the people in question would certainly have coloured my judgment.

Coincidentally, the Hugos are not the only place where readers are asked to judge a work only on its artistic merits and not take the fact that the author is a horrible person into consideration. Today, I saw this report about the new novel by German writer Sibylle Lewitscharoff on the cultural program kulturzeit. And again we had someone – though not a white guy for once – ask people to forget the fact that Ms. Lewitscharoff has basically called children conceived via IVF not really human (more about that in this post, which also coincidentally involved a Hugo-related controversy) and just judge her work on its artistic merits. And again, I thought, “Well, easy enough for you to say, but I for one find it hard to ignore or forget that fact that the writer is a bigot. And if that makes me a bad critic, then so be it.”

Luckily, I’m not the only person willing to be a bad critic or bad Hugo voter. Kate Nepveu also responds to Scalzi’s request for fairness as well as the Wheel of Time nomination and points out that there are several valid ways to engage with a work of art and its creator and that no one should feel obliged to read the works of Vox Day or Larry Correia, if they don’t want to. Meanwhile, Rachel Ackes points out that every person has their own personal line in such matters and should act according to this personal line.

Susan Jane Bigelow points out that Vox Day, Larry Correia and their ilk are actively trying to maliciously provoke the glittering hoo-has, special snowflake, pink SF crowd, social justice warriors or whatever cutesy name they have come up with this week and that nobody has to engage with them or read their work.

At The Radish, Natalie Luhrs – whose last post on this subject attracted a troll attack of gigantic proportions – points out that no one is obliged to read works by people who actively despise them and to judge said work on its artistic merit, because art and fiction don’t exist in a vacuum.

S.L. Huang was originally neutral about the 2014 Hugo nomination slate, but also points out that more privileged people who are not normally the target of Vox Day’s and Correia’s rage (though Vox Day really seems to have a beef with John Scalzi) asking people who are targets to give their works fair consideration is hugely problematic.

Shweta Narayan points out that John Scalzi’s request to give fair consideration to the works of Larry Correia and Vox Day is contradricting Scalzi’s own widely publicized post about straight white male being the lowest difficulty setting. It’s an excellent post, so go and read it.

Finally, Ferrett Steinmetz points out what happens when works are nominated for awards based purely on their alleged or actual merit, namely that perception of a work’s objective merit is influenced by all sorts of subconscious biases and we still end up with a shortlist consisting only of straight white men more often than not.

Comments disabled because I don’t need the grief.

*Coincidentally, I have also interacted with Brad Torgersen, whose name also appeared on Correia’s “Vote this or puppies die” sample ballot. However, those interactions were not unpleasant, so I am willing to give Torgersen more benefit of a doubt than either Larry Correia or Vox Day.

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More 2014 Hugo Reactions

First of all, the winners of the BSFA awards have been announced as well with much less controversy than the Hugo nominations. This slate of winners hews a lot closer to my own choices than the Hugo nominations, e.g. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, Spin by Nina Allan, Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer and the artwork of Joey Hi-Fi were all on my Hugo nomination list.

Meanwhile, we’re still talking about the Hugo nominations. First of all, Stefan Raets has a great round-up of reactions at Far Beyond Reality. Lots of interesting reactions there. Here are a few I want to highlight: Continue reading

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The Annual Hugo Nomination Reaction Post

There are certain debates that reoccur with clockwork-like regularity in the SFF world, e.g. the gender debate, the race debate, the grimdark debate, the genre versus literary fiction debate, etc… However, there is only one debate that reoccurs at exactly the same time every single year and that is the debate about the Hugo Award nominations. Because the nominations are always announced on Easter Saturday, even if some people don’t like it*, it means that the online SFF world will be amusing itself during the long Easter weekend by debating, praising and complaining about the Hugo nominees.

Indeed, I even postponed a planned series of posts till after Easter, because the Easter weekend is Hugo nomination announcement time and I’ll be sure to post about that at least once, maybe repeatedly if there’s a bigger controversy.

Plus, this year I am even more invested than in past years, since I have nomination and voting rights. And lots of “Who?” or “What the fuck?” or “No fucking way!” nominees means I’ll have a harder time deciding who to vote for beyond the ever popular “No award”. Especially since I’m also not overly inclined to spend a lot of time on evaluating works I have zero interest in. To quote the late great Marcel Reich-Ranicki, “Life is too short for bad books.”

Anyway, here are the nominees for the 2014 Hugo Awards and 1939 Retro Hugo Awards. Continue reading

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The Obligatory Birthday Post

Today was my birthday.

It was also Good Friday, which means on the plus side that it’s a public holiday with neither school nor work. On the downside, it means that you can’t go out either, because Good Friday in Germany is a day where literally nothing is open. Many restaurants are closed, there are no sports events, no concerts, shows and other public events. Here in Bremen, they’re even closing down the annual Easter fair for an entire day, because the two big Christian churches feel offended by people daring to have fun on Good Friday. Oh yes, and if you’re feeling like having a party or going clubbing on Good Friday, best forget it, because dancing on a Good Friday is forbidden by law – the churches want it that way. You can usually get away with a private party, as long as you don’t bother the neighbours. But otherwise, you might as well be living in the world of Footloose for this one day.

As for the why, here is the usually quite reasonably Margot Käßmann, former Lutheran bishop of Hannover, ranting against Easter decorations and defending the “dance and fun” ban on Good Friday, because “we need a day of peace and quiet and contemplation”. Here is another Lutheran bishop with the same message. For some reason, I couldn’t find any statements by Catholic officials, even though the Good Friday dance and fun ban is usually a lot stricter in Catholic majority regions. Understandably, there is also a lot of opposition against this display of Christian privilege, as these articles from the Kölner Express, the Hamburger Morgenpost, the Münchener Abendzeitung and the Frankfurter Rundschau attest.

Now I’ve never been much for partying, besides I’m too old to dance the night away anyway. Nonetheless, my birthday being on Good Friday meant that going to a restaurant for lunch or dinner was out, because nothing was open. So I had lunch at home with my parents instead. We had pork curry, which is definitely against the rules on Good Friday as well, but which also happens to be my favourite food. And tonight, I settled down on the sofa and decided to engage in quiet contemplation of life, death and the meaning of either by (re)watching The Avengers on DVD, because it’s loud and full of explosions and just plain fun and would likely annoy the “Good Friday should be quiet” types. Even though it’s a movie about friendship and heroism and sacrifices and fighting the good fight, so I suspect Jesus would approve. I actually do have an unwatched episode of Game of Thrones lying around, but watching Game of Thrones isn’t really something that makes you happy, so The Avengers it was.

An unexpected side effect of having your birthday fall on the Easter weekend is that people tend to forget you. I usually get a couple of congratulations phone calls from family and friends, but today only my cousin remembered. Well, at least nobody rang me out of bed on a public holiday at 8 AM, as has happened in past years.

Of course, I got presents as well. Mostly books, because – well, I love books: Continue reading

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Springtime Pretties

We are experiencing an extremely early spring this year (which is hell for people with hayfever), so here are two pretty springtime shots:

Rapeseed field

This is the view from my bedroom window. A blooming cherry tree in the foreground and a blooming rapeseed field in the background. It sure looks lovely, though I’d enjoy the view more, if I wasn’t violently allergic to rapeseed pollen.

Pretty blue flowers

Some pretty blue flowers and some hyacinths in the garden

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New Silencer story available: The Great Fraud

Richard Blakemore a.k.a. the Silencer, pulp writer by day and crimefighter by night, is back.

His latest adventure is entitled The Great Fraud and was inspired by the weird ads for X-ray specs, sea-monkeys, amazing muscles in only seven days and other products of highly questionable value that used to be found in the backpages of comic books (probably still are, though I haven’t read them in ages). Here is a really fascinating article about the man behind many of those products BTW.

Those ads always stunned me, first of all because I couldn’t imagine anybody falling for products that obviously couldn’t work as advertised, and secondly because of the incongruence of false advertising for problematic products found in the pages of superhero comics whose heroes held very strong moral codes. Sometimes I wondered how a superhero would feel to find such ads in a comic book dedicated to his or her exploits? Most likely they wouldn’t be pleased. And they’d probably decide to do something about it.

So I created Charles William Finchley, fictional marketer of novelty products of questionable value, and sicced the Silencer on him. The result is The Great Fraud.

The Great Fraud is a bit of a departure for the Silencer series. First of all, Charles William Finchley is hardly a world-threatening menace like the rest of the Silencer’s rogues gallery. Secondly, The Great Fraud is the only Silencer story to date without a POV scene for the Silencer. Instead, we see the Silencer through the eyes of someone who finds himself at the receiving end of the Silencer’s brand of justice.

So here is The Great Fraud:

The Great Fraud by Cora Buhlert Charles William Finchley made his fortune selling novelty products of questionable value via ads in the backpages of pulp magazines.

Finchley is well on his way to becoming a millionaire, until his unscrupulous business practices put him in the crosshairs of the Silencer, a pulp hero come to life to fight crime in the streets of Depression era New York.

And the Silencer is not at all pleased that Finchley uses the crimefighter’s good name to peddle worthless junk…

 

For more information, visit the The Great Fraud page.
Buy it for the low price of 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Casa del Libro, Libiro, Nook UK, DriveThruFiction, OmniLit/AllRomance e-books and XinXii.

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Palm Sunday Linkdump

True story, I actually was in Rome on Palm Sunday once. Our hotel was near the Vatican and so I even chanced to see the Pope (John Paul II, i.e. two popes ago) holding mass on St. Peter’s Square. I also snagged an olive branch outside a church and walked around with it all day long, getting beatific smiles from several nuns.

And now let’s have some links:

Wired has a rather silly article about the resurgence of interest in vampires, inspired by the impending US release of Jim Jarmush’s Only Lovers Left Alive (The US is only getting that film now? Guess my Hugo nomination was wasted then*) and a TV show based on Guillermo del Toro’s novel The Strain. So why is the article silly? First of all, because there’s always a base level of interest in vampires and even though the explosion of interest in vampires in the mid to late 2000s has somewhat passed by now, vampires never went away to be replaced by zombies. And they didn’t just stick around in YA either, as the article insinuates. I absolutely understand if paranormal romance or romantic urban fantasy are not your thing, but that doesn’t make it YA. Never mind that The Strain is a pretty bad example, because it’s basically vampires as zombies, similar to 30 Days of Night, which first came out in 2007 and which I really hated.

Damien Walter sums up the debate about non-binary gender and queer characters in SFF for those readers of the Guardian who are not as plugged into genre debates as some of us are. The Guardian, particularly Alison Flood and Damien Walter, is doing really good work bringing debates in the SFF community to a mainstream audience.

A. Lee Martinez laments the triumph of grimdark and wonders how he fits into a genre where grimdark is increasingly considered a mark of sophistication. I certainly smypathize, though my own work is darker than A. Lee Martinez’, based on what I’ve read by him. Or rather, my work tends to oscillate between light and dark.

Here is a great post on writing sex scenes by Jennifer Crusie. Actually, I had the hardest time writing sex scenes, when I tried to write them mainly for titillation. Once I started considering the characters and what sort of sex these particular characters would have, it got a lot easier.

Blastr has some popular science fiction films reimagined as vintage movie posters. I really would love to see some of those alternate universe versions such as the Mission Impossible/Man from U.N.C.L.E style Iron Man, the 1970s kung-fu cum blaxploitation version of The Matrix or the Hammer horror edition of Ghostbusters. And Humphrey Bogart in Blade Runner of course.

*Only Lovers Left Alive came out in Germany in late December and was quite extensively discussed in the cultural pages of newspapers and cultural programs on TV, though amusingly enough none of our highbrow cultural critics seemed to have any idea who Tom Hiddleston is.

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A spooky, foggy morning

Waking up early can get you some really great views such as this spooky, foggy view out of the window, illuminated by an early morning streetlight.

Spooky foggy view

A spooky look out of the window at a foggy morning complete with streetlight and tree.

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A bit of ephemera

So this is what happens when I forget to take my trusty notebook with me and find myself with some downtime. I start scribbling bits of story on whatever scraps of paper are at hand. In this case, a receipt from a chain of DIY stores that I found floating around in my handbag.

Receipt

Bits of story scribbled on the back of a receipt

The scene in question is from a novella currently entitled Green Skin, Red Blood. The title may well change down the line, because the focus of the story has changed quite drastically to the point that it no longer fits.

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Two gorgeous new fantasy covers

I should actually have a new release to announce in the very near future, but for now feast your eyes on these gorgeous new covers for two of my existing fantasy stories.

You can see the covers under the cut for friends list mercy: Continue reading

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