Even More Hugo and Clarke Awards Reactions

The debate about the 2016 Hugo Awards is still going on and there is a somewhat more low-key debate about the Arthur C. Clarke Award as well.  Previous posts on the 2016 Hugos are here, here, here and here, for those following along.

So here are the latest links. Let’s start with the Hugos first:

At the New Statesman, David Barnett profiles Hugo winner N.K. Jemisin and also goes a bit into subjects such as racefail and the puppy debate.

At the law blog Duets Blog, Laurel Sutton points out that the aim of the rabid puppies is to tarnish the Hugo brand and points out that they didn’t succeed, because Hugo voters continued to award outstanding works. It’s an interesting perspective on the Hugo drama. Coincidentally, I’m also stunned what a big deal the whole New Coke thing apparently was in the US, since it did not really cause a big uproar in Germany at all. But then Coke is very much a kids’ drink here that adults only drink once in a while.

At nerds of a feather, Joe Sherry shares his reaction to the 2016 Hugos and shows what a slate-free ballot would have looked like (though he made a mistake in novelette, since Brooke Bolander got onto the ballot under her own steam).

Like me, Joe Sherry voted on merit, regardless how the nominees got on the ballot. As the results show, a majority of Hugo voters seems to have done the same this year, since rabid puppy “human shields” like “Folding Beijing”, The Martian and Andy Weir nonetheless managed to win in their respective categories, while other rabid puppy “human shields” like Slow Bullets, The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Seveneves, etc… managed to finish above “No Award”.

However, Joe Sherry also points out that there were worthy nominees that did not deserve to finish under “No Award”, but were apparently punished for the misfortune that Vox Day happens to like their work. The example Joe Sherry gives is fan artist nominee Matthew Callahan. I agree and indeed, I ranked Matthew Callahan and Christian Quinot both above “No Award” and above the eventual winner Steve Stiles. In fact, I think that most of the nominees in the two art categories were worthy – the fan artist with the unfunny comics and bad drawings of naked superheroines was the only one who deserved to finish under “No Award”. Other undeservingly no awarded slate nominees IMO are Sebastien de Castell and Pierce Brown for the Campbell award, Supernatural and My Little Pony in dramatic presentation, Invisible Republic and The Divine in graphic story, Daily Science Fiction in semi-prozine, “What Price Humanity?” in novelette, Jerry Pournelle in best editor short form, etc… Okay, so I didn’t like Pierce Brown’s trilogy, but I was still surprised to see him finish under “No Award”, since he apparently has a big fanbase. However, I also saw very little buzz about Pierce Brown’s trilogy both in the SFF sphere and in the YA sphere, so whoever his fans are, they don’t have a whole lot of overlap with WorldCon members.

At Dreaming About Other Worlds, Aaron Pound takes a look at the 2016 Hugo Awards longlist and wonders whether some nominees were no awarded, even though they were neither explicit puppies nor unworthy, because Hugo voters were mentally comparing them to the stronger works they had nominated that had not made the shortlist. He certainly has a point and indeed I have heard Hugo voters state that if a work is not as good as the weakest work on their personal nomination ballot, they will no award it. This is not my approach to Hugo voting, if only because my personal taste is quite different from the majority of the Hugo electorate and very few of my nominees make it. If I really were to no award everything I like less than my own nominees, I might well wind up no awarding more than half the ballot every year. However, Hugo voters have different voting strategies and “This is okay, but much weaker than X, Y or Z, which would also have been eligible last year” may well have hurt some of the slate nominees.

ETA: At Magpie Moth, Tim Atkinson also takes a look at the Hugo shortlist that never was (which includes Baen author Eric Flint for best fanwriter) and points out that it would have been much stronger than what we got.

At Women Write About Comics, Doris V. Sutherland also offers a puppy slate free Hugo ballot, though her conclusions are a bit different than those of Joe Sherry and Aaron Pound.

The main problem here is that it is difficult to estimate exactly how many rabid puppies there are, though everybody seems to agree that there were more of them nominating (due to their Sasquan memberships from last year giving them nominating rights) than voting. Camestros Felapton estimates that there are 160 hardcore rabid puppies as well as some sad puppies willing to nominate/vote for obvious troll nominations due to still being pissed off about losing last year. Camestros Felapton also reads Vox Day’s blog, so you don’t have to, and points out that the post Hugo week was not a very good one for Vox Day.

ETA: Ansible, the multiple Hugo winning fanzine, has a brief report on the 2016 Hugo Awards and the 2016 WorldCon among other goodies.

Charon Dunn offers her take on the 2016 Hugo awards and also points out that Hugo voters had no problems with generally popular “human shields” that were on the rabid puppy slate, they simply do not like having puppy picks of limited appeal foisted upon them.

At Bitter Empire, Lyda Morehouse offers her take on the 2016 Hugo Awards and points out that Hugo voters are well able to distinguish between human shields and puppy poo (though there were some edge cases, as discussed above). Lyda Morehouse also shares a photo of Zoe Quinn’s awesome unicorn shoes and reminds everybody that love is real.

Talking of which, at LitHub M. Sophia Newman recounts how reporting about the Hugo drama and learning about Chuck Tingle helped her overcome a bad case of writer’s block. Because love is real.

At Girly Geek Chic, Trimid Dew Lanns shares her experiences as a first time WorldCon attendee. She also goes briefly into the Hugo drama and describes how the ongoing drama left her wary of attending WorldCon, especially since the puppy campaigns and the resulting harrassment was overwhelmingly aimed at women and writers of colour. However, in the end, the puppies were beaten, women and writers of colour won and Trimid Dew Lanns had a great time at WorldCon. Because love is real.

On the other hand, writer/artist M.C.A. Hogarth, who is a conservative Catholic, but not a puppy of either stripe, did not have such a good time at WorldCon, since she experienced microaggressions targeted at religious people and conservatives. Which is not cool.

If even non-puppy conservatives feel microaggressed against (and I repeat, this is not cool), the same is probably doubly true for actual puppies. And so 2015 puppy-in-chief Brad Torgersen feels compelled to defend M.C.A. Hogarth from the ravening hordes of social justice zeppelins (yes, I know that’s not what the acronym stands for) and predict destruction and doom for the entire genre in his usual hyperbolic style.

Leaving aside the whole “But I can’t keep my political and/or religious beliefs to myself, they’re part of who I am” argument (Of course, you can. Other people manage just fine. And at least over here, it’s always rightwingers who have to spam everybody with their bigoted views – Christmas Eve at the Purple Owl Café was not written in a vacuum, you know?), one thing I find notable about the sad puppy discourse following the 2016 Hugo Awards is the undertone of “You Social Justice Warriors can have the genre and WorldCon and the Hugos. I’m taking my ball and decamping to the Dragon Awards. And BTW, your genre, you cons and awards are doomed, because we are the real fandom.”

ETA: Kate Paulk, one of the Sad Puppies 4 organisers, had a somewhat better time at WorldCon than M.C.A. Hogarth and found that most fans are decent people, though she complains that people kept saying mean things about the puppies (Gee, I wonder why) and felt the whip born by Pat Cadigan on stage at the Hugo ceremony was inappropriate for children and teenagers (Really? I found it pretty harmless). She also complains that two Hugo winning works which she does not name (but I think you can guess which ones she means) were substandard in her opinion and would never have come near the shortlist, if they had been written by white men. Kate Paulk is also very concerned that the authors in question will never improve, if they keep getting undeserved awards. It’s nice that she is concerned about the welfare of other authors, though N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, Hao Jingfang and Naomi Kritzer don’t need her concern, since they already are fine authors and have a shiny rocket to prove it.

Also, WorldCon is dying, the Hugos are doomed and the Dragon Awards rules. Okay, so the “Dragon Awards rules” bit was not by Kate Paulk, but by 2015 Campbell Award nominee Jason Cordova, but I’m sure Ms. Paulk would agree.

For more of the above, Brian Niemeier, rabid puppy nominee for the Campbell Award, utters dire threats against WorldCon, the Hugos and the SFF community in general and also declares that he never really wanted to win the Campbell Award in the first place, but that finishing under no award (as well as under Pierce Brown and Sebastien de Castell) stung nonetheless. However, Brian Niemeier would very much like to win a Dragon Award (which he claims has Social Justice Warriors terrified), therefore his Dragon nominated book Souldancer is currently free on Amazon (at least it was when he wrote the post), where it gained a higher rank on the free list than The Fifth Season did on the paid list, so the puppies have totally won. Okay, so he has zero idea how bookselling and bestseller lists work, but if it makes him happy…

Brian Niemeier and fellow puppy Declan Finn are nominated for the Dragon Award in the horror category. Now Doris V. Sutherland takes a look at the Hugos and the Dragons Awards and concludes that the puppies don’t much care for the horror genre, probably because puppies prefer what they consider feel-good fiction and thus aren’t the target for horror fiction.

Doris V. Sutherland makes an interesting point here, namely that the puppies don’t much care for overt horror and that works with horror elements that have popped up on the puppy lists/slates (Larry Correia’s novels, Supernatural, Grimm, Brian Niemeier’s and Declan Finn’s books) mostly aren’t actual horror, but merely use classic horror creatures and elements for another purpose.

Sutherland also notes that the two puppy groups seem to be very much stuck in a bubble of their own and completely unaware of what is going on in the wider world of genre. As proof, she offers some tweets from puppy supporters about the Dragon Awards shortlist in the horror category, where they declare that Brian Niemeier and Declan Finn are the only serious contenders in this category, even though their competition includes Alice by Christina Henry, Chapelwood by Cherie Priest, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay and An Unattractive Vampire by Jim McDoniel. Now I’m not a big horror fan, but nonetheless I have heard of Christina Henry, Cherie Priest and Paul Tremblay and enjoyed Cherie Priest’s Maplecroft, the prequel to Chapelwood, a whole lot. Jim McDoniel is the only unknown (to me) quantity in this category, whereas I wouldn’t have heard of Declan Finn and Brian Niemeier at all, if they hadn’t attached themselves to the puppies.

Now, as Doris Sutherland has pointed out, it’s quite possible that the puppies simply aren’t horror fans – with the exception of the borderline horror works of Brian Niemeier and Declan Finn, both of whom seem to write the sort of religiously tinged SFF that puppies seem to enjoy. However, I’ve also noticed a similar ignorance of popular and highly regarded SFF works elsewhere among the puppies. Hence we get Larry Correia first getting Adam Roberts mixed up with Damien Walter and then declaring that he’s never heard of Roberts. We also get rank and file puppies declaring they have never heard of N.K. Jemisin or Ann Leckie or Nnedi Okorafor or Rachel Swirsky. And anyway, they have no idea who is reading that stuff, since the local Barnes & Noble in Dogshit, Nebraska, does not carry those writers. We also get a whole lot of puppies stunned by the inventiveness of the Steampunkish setting of Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass, since they apparently never have run across Steampunk before. Add to that the misconceptions about classic science fiction that abound among puppies and a narrow view of the golden age that includes Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo, but not Judith Merril’s “That Only a Mother” and you get the impression that many of the puppies live in a genre bubble that includes Baen, Castalia House, some indie authors, some selected classics and Jim Butcher. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – reading SFF should be fun and not homework. But if you want to hold forth about the state of the genre, then maybe you should be familiar with the genre and at least know the names of the authors and books being discussed.

Unfortunately, Doris Sutherland’s fine post is somewhat marred by some pointless bashing of urban fantasy and paranormal romance and how they’re just “horror lite”, courtesy of a quote by horror editor Stephen Jones. Now it’s obvious that urban fantasy and paranormal romance are not horror, in spite of using classic horror creatures. But neither are they “horror lite”, instead they are their own subgenre (or rather two related subgenres, for urban fantasy and paranormal romance are not the same thing, even if there is some overlap) under the great big speculative fiction umbrella.

The purpose of horror fiction is – as Doris Sutherland and Stephen Jones point out – to frighten and to disturb. Urban fantasy and paranormal romance, on the other hand, don’t intend to frighten. Instead, the underlying theme seems to be the humanisation of the other. What were once creatures of horror, the ultimate other, become more human to the point of being portrayed as potential romantic partners.

Urban fantasy traditionally does not do well at the big genre awards like the Hugos and the Nebulas, unless written by Neil Gaiman, that is. However, the sad and rabid puppies count several urban fantasy writers among their more outspoken membership and have heaved urban fantasy novels by Jim Butcher and Larry Correia onto the Hugo shortlist. But if the underlying theme of urban fantasy is the humanisation of the other, then the puppies’s championing of the genre seems a bit odd.

However, if you look at Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter and Grimnoir novels, they’re not so much about humanising the other, but about shooting the other in the face. Correia himself even says as much in this old post on his blog. Correia’s novels are still classified as urban fantasy, because they feature classic horror monsters living in the modern world. But nonetheless, the feel is quite different from other urban fantasy novels. Coincidentally, this might also be the reason why I bounced hard off the one Larry Correia novel I tried to read, even though I normally like urban fantasy a whole lot. Because the novel did not deliver what I enjoy about the genre. However, it delivers exactly what Correia’s target audience is looking for.

If you look at the works championed by the puppies both sad and rabid, you’ll find quite a few works that might be broadly classified to be about “shooting the other in the face”, whether that other is monsters, aliens or in the case of the 2016 best short story nominee “Seven Kill Tiger”, human beings of a different race. Even the urban fantasy works other than Larry Correia’s championed by the puppies, namely the Dresden Files novels, Supernatural and Grimm, have a higher ratio of killing monsters to otherwise interacting with them (and male protagonists) than other urban fantasy works, even if they also humanise traditionally monstrous beings on occasion. It seems as if in addition to “religious sermonising”, “shooting the other in the face” is a theme that really appeals to puppies of both stripes.

Meanwhile, John C. Wright declares the Hugos, the Nebulas, the SFWA and the entire genre dead, because some stories he dislikes have been nominated for and even won awards. In addition to usual puppy bete noirs such as Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy, Rachel Swirsky’s “If you were a dinosaur, my love”, John Chu’s “The water that falls on you from nowhere” and Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s “The day the world turned upside down”, Wright particularly singles out Naomi Kritzer’s story “Cat Pictures, Please”, winner of the 2016 Hugo award for best short story as neither science fiction nor fantasy but “bland, experimental literary works of the type only read by other bland, experimental literary authors”. If Wright is that upset about “Cat Pictures, Please” of all things, I don’t want to imagine his reaction if Charles Tingle’s Space Raptor Butt Invasion had won.

This post by Jo Walton at Tor.com is not a direct reply to Wright and was indeed published a day before his post nor is it about the Hugos, but it nonetheless makes a great contrast, since Jo Walton traces how current SFF responds and relates to older genre works. Here is a quote:

There’s a tremendous continuity within science fiction, where the genre constantly feeds on itself, reinvents itself, and revisits old issues in new ways as times and tech change. It’s fascinating to consider how today’s new stories are all things that could never have been written at any earlier time and simultaneously deeply influenced by everything that has come before. The old work of the genre is the mulch out of which the new work grows. A great deal of science fiction is about the future—a future fleshed out in the present, and built on the bones of the past. Every present moment has a different imagination of the way the future might play out, and that gives us constant novelty. But because many of the issues and tropes of science fiction remain relevant, there is also a constant process of reexamination, a replacement of old answers with new answers to the same questions.

The examples Jo Walton uses to trace the relationship between current and classic science fiction are Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson, Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin, the Imperial Radch trilogy by Ann Leckie, Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer and “Cat Pictures, Please” by Naomi Kritzer.


That’s it for the Hugos, so let’s go on to the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award, which went to Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky.

The Arthur C. Clarke Award has occasionally caused controversy, such as when Christopher Priest insulted the entire shortlist or when the shortlist turned out to be all male, though it does not have nearly the same drama potential as the Hugos, probably because it is a juried award.

By comparison, the shortlist for the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award struck me as interesting, but not overly controversial. There was zero overlap with the Hugo or Nebula shortlist in the best novel category, but that’s nothing unusual, since the Clarke Award tends to favour more literary and borderline genre works, whereas the Hugos and Nebulas tend to recognise core genre novels.

Nonetheless, the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist seems to have caused a bit of controversy mostly in the UK. At Everything Is Nice, Martin Petto noted back in May that there seems to be little discussion about and reviews of the 2016 Clarke Award shortlist, partly because a lot of SFF blogs have shut down and partly because everybody was busy arguing about other awards. To remedy that, Martin Petto also offers a round-up of reviews of the 2016 shortlist.

As for reviews of the 2016 Clarke Award shortlist, I already linked to Abigail Nussbaum’s two part review of the entire shortlist at Strange Horizons in my last post, but here it is again, just in case you missed it.

Abigail Nussbaum declares that in comparison to the (non-puppy) novels on the Hugo shortlist, the Arthur C. Clarke shortlist pales – not because it is bad, but because it is bland. Coincidentally, I thought that this year’s Clarke Award shortlist was one of the more interesting I have seen with two good books/authors, two unknown quantities that sounded interesting, one “not my thing” choice and only one bad book. Ironically, that’s the one that everybody else seems to like.

From couch to moon agrees with Abigail Nussbaum that the 2016 Clarke Award shortlist is baffling and bland and that more interesting novels were overlooked in favour of books she does not care for.

Megan, the blogger behind From couch to moon, and Maureen Kincaid Speller also join Jonah Sutton-Morse at the Cabbages & Kings podcast to discuss the Clarke Award shortlist in two episodes.

At The Spider’s House, Nina Allan also agrees that the 2016 Clarke Award shortlist is bland and that the Clarke Award in general tends “towards a centrist, conservative (not in the political sense but in the literary sense), broadly commercial view of science fiction: familiar tropes, satisfactory plots, median, unfrightening writing”, while more experimental and exicting works are being ignored.

And what are those experimental and exciting works that are being ignored by the Clarke Award jury? Names that come up are both familiar genre authors such as Ann Leckie, Kim Stanley Robinson and Justina Robson as well as borderline genre writers like Anne Charnock or Matthew di Abatua.

Another title that is mentioned by several critics is The Thing Itself, the latest novel by writer/critic Adam Roberts. Adam Roberts himself weighs in to lament that The Thing Itself did not garner as much attention and award nominations as he had hoped. The comparison with Larry Correia’s lament that Hugo voters did not like his novels, which set off the whole sad puppies drama, is striking. Honestly, if you want to lament that your books are not doing as well as you’d like, follow Adam Roberts’ example rather than Larry Correia’s.

I cannot say anything about The Thing Itself, because I haven’t read it. However, Adam Roberts has appeared on my personal Hugo ballot at least once, though for his scholarly rather than his literary work.

We can expect that the shortlist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award will continue to be controversial going forward, since the award director Tom Hunter has announced that the Clarke Award will now open up to self-published work, especially since the 2016 nominee The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers was originally self-published.

Ian Sales, himself an indie writer, considers this decision baffling, since the Clarke Award tends towards more literary genre works, whereas the majority of self-published SF novels are “derivative commercial sf, space opera or military science fiction”. Coincidentally, Ian Sales also agrees with most of the bloggers linked above that the 2016 Clarke Award shortlist was lacklustre.

Finally, here is Paul McAuley back in May wondering just what the Arthur C. Clarke Award is for. It’s an interesting post (plus discussion in the comments) that goes into whether a science fiction novel should be judged by the same criteria as literary fiction or whether it should be judged by a different set of criteria.

That’s it for today and hopefully for the 2016 award season. Comments are still off, because talking about Hugos and puppies tends to bring out the trolls and talking about the Clarke Award isn’t exactly safe either, as an unpleasant interaction a few years ago showed.

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