Yet More Reactions to the 2017 Hugo Finalists

Thanks to Mike Glyer of File 770, the hits on my Hugo reaction post and the space opera post of the day before have gone through the roof. My first round-up of Hugo reactions from around the web got a lot of attention as well.

Meanwhile, more reactions are trickling in, so here are the latest links:

First of all, at File 770, JJ has compiled links to all of the 2017 Hugo nominees or excerpts thereof that are available for free online.

Also at File 770, Kyra scopes out the Hugo nomination stats and distribution and comes to the conclusion that the clearest favourites were to be found in the dramatic presentation and semiprozine categories and the least clearest in the short story and fan categories.

ETA: At the Hugo-nominated fanzine Rocket Stack Rank, Greg Hullender also attempts to analyse how many rabid puppy nominators there were in 2017. The answer is between 88 and 118, by the way.

At her blog, Cheryl Morgan offers a brief reaction post and is overall pleased with the quality of the nominees.

At newstalk, James Dempsey lists the 2017 Hugo nominees and also offers a summary of the puppy affair, which he blames on men’s rights activists. Well, Vox Day is affiliated with the men’s rights movement, but he isn’t even mentioned in the article. And while Larry Correia, who is mentioned by name, may be many things, he never struck me as an MRA type. It’s not the only inaccuracy in the article, e.g. Larry Correia lives in Utah, not in California.

At Metafilter, there is an interesting discussion about the 2017 Hugo finalists. I came across it, because I got hits from there.

As for nominee reactions, Natalie Luhrs, highly deserving finalist in the best fan writer category, celebrates her Hugo nomination with this post, complete with flailing Kermit gif.

The CBC radio program All in a Day has a brief segment about the Hugo Awards, featuring Hugo nominees Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.

Comic artist Alex Garner is honoured to be nominated, but not quite sure why they ended up in the best fan artist category, since Alex Garner is a professional artist:

For more nominee reactions, here is Daveed Diggs of Clipping, the rap group nominated in the best dramatic presentation category for their album Splendor & Misery, on Twitter:

Coincidentally, I’m pleased to note that Daveed Diggs makes the only all-male category on the 2017 Hugo ballot a little less white.

For more about Clipping, who at least to me are the serious 2017 Hugo nominee I know the least about, Jason Heller interviews them at The Pitch and also shares some videos for those who want a sample of their work.

ETA: Camestros Felapton has also reviewed Clipping‘s Hugo-nominated album Splendor & Misery and finds a lot to like about it.

However, the most mysterious of the 2017 Hugo finalists is undoubtedly Stix Hiscock, author of Alien Stripper Bones From Behind By The T-Rex, which gained a Hugo nomination in the best novelette category due to tickling Vox Day’s dino-erotica kink. The identity of Stix Hiscock was a complete enigma, but now Beth Elderkin of io9 has managed to track down the mysterious author and reveals that Stix Hiscock is a woman writing erotica under multiple pen names. Stix Hiscock apparently had no idea neither of the existence of Chuck Tingle nor of Vox Day and the rabid puppies. That makes the best novelette category a six women race, by the way. If you’re curious about the actual story, Lela E. Buis has reviewed it here.

Meanwhile, everybody’s favourite Hugo-nominated author of satirical erotica Chuck Tingle strikes again by snapping up the domain name of his evil twin Stix Hiscock and using it for good. Honestly, it’s stunts like this that gained Tingle a best fanwriter nomination and may even see him win, though he has very tough and deserving competition in Natalie Luhrs, Foz Meadows, Abigail Nussbaum and Mike Glyer. Personally, I suspect that best fan writer will be among the hardest categories for me to decide, since five nominees are brilliant in their own unique way and even the puppy nominee isn’t completely awful. Though since it turned out that Stix Hiscock is not in fact Chuck Tingle’s evil twin, but another unwitting puppy hostage, I’m hoping for a Chuck Tingle and Stix Hiscock team-up against the devilman. Because love is real.

On the other hand, very little has been heard from the puppy camp. Yes, puppy hangers-on like Declan Finn and Jon Del Arroz weighed in one the Hugos (I linked to their comments in my last post) and here is another post I missed from a Castalia House blogger called Jon Mollison declaring the Hugos irrelevant. ETA: Jon Mollison also takes issue with the fact that a lot of sites cheer about the diversity of the 2017 Hugo finalists, but don’t talk about the works itself, which he claims is because the hated SJWs don’t read. For starters, accusing other people of not reading is a bit rich coming from someone who blogs at the site which celebrates the rediscovery of that obscure and long lost author Edgar Rice Burroughs. And besides, an overview of the 2017 Hugo finalists is not exactly the place for an in-depth discussion of the nominated work. Never mind that many of the finalists were already reviewed and discussed in depth, when they first came out, and will likely be discussed again, once everybody who missed the nominated works the first time around has had the chance to read them.

But otherwise, the leading sad and rabid puppies are conspicuously silent so far, even those that managed to snag a nomination. Perhaps, they’ve all decamped to the Dragon Awards by now. We can but hope.

Talking of th Dragon Awards, you don’t have to be a puppy to nominate and vote – anybody can sign up and nominate. The link is here.

On the other hand, puppy tears have elicited a bit of Schadenfreude among non-puppies, as these tweets from Cheryl Morgan and Charles Stross show:

And at Amazing Stories, Steve Davidson counters some of the usual puppy criticism that the Hugos and WorldCon are dead, long live DragonCon and the Dragon Awards by telling people to educate themselves about the history of WorldCon and the Hugos.

What is more, after two years of talking mainly about puppies, we’re also finally back where we were in 2013/2014, debating and grumbling about the relative merits of the nominees:

At the Barnes & Noble Science Fiction and Fantasy blog, Ross Johnson focusses on the nominees in the new best series category and declares it one of the hardest to vote upon. I agree with Ross Johnson that the best series category has come up with an excellent set of finalists, even if not every series is to my personal taste. Though interestingly enough, best series is one of the fairly few categories, where I already have a preliminary ranking, though that may change, as I revisit series I haven’t read in a long time. I’m also pretty certain which series will take my number 1 spot, namely the Vorkosigan Saga.

On the other hand, best fan writer wil be one of the hardest categories for me to vote in, since we have five very different and highly deserving nominees and even the puppy pick isn’t a complete disaster. So Camestros Felapton offers his evaluation of the 2017 best fan writer finalists here.

But as usual, most debates so far focus on the best novel category.

Cametros Felapton is ambivalent about Death’s End by Liu Cixin, but find it’s closer to The Three Body Problem, the Hugo-winning first volume in the series, than the somewhat lacklustre second volume The Dead Forest. Now I have to admit that though I was happy when The Three Body Problem won the best novel Hugo in 2015 and finally put the “world” into WorldCon, the actual book did not do much for me and wasn’t my first or even my second choice on the ballot. I haven’t read Death’s End yet (nor The Dead Forest for that matter), but I’m pretty sure it won’t be my top pick in this category, especially since some of the other nominees were books I enjoyed a whole lot and even nominated.

On the other hand, I’ve heard from quite a few people that they bounced off Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer due to the narrative voice. For example, here is Chris Gerrib deciding that Too Like the Lightning is just not the book for him.

I find these reactions to Too Like the Lightning interesting, because the 18th century style narrative voice was a large part of what drew me to the novel in the first place, even though I dislike theological and philosophical discussions in my SF and Too Like the Lightning promised to have a lot of that. But then I read many of the actual 18th century novels whose style and voice Ada Palmer is imitating at university and therefore had exposure to that style that others might not have had. Too Like the Lightning is not without flaws (and note that I haven’t read the sequel, Seven Surrenders, yet, because it’s still only available in hardcover and as a very pricey e-book), but it’s definitely an ambitious work in an era that has seen a lot of ambitious SFF works. Coincidentally, Too Like the Lightning also proves, along with The Fifth Season, the Imperial Radch series and several of the short fiction nominees of recent years that this is a time for strong and unique narrative voices in SFF.

Another work that has caused some divisive reactions is Becky Chambers’ second novel A Closed and Common Orbit. Now this is not a book I would have considered controversial at all – in fact, it’s probably one of the most accessible novels on the shortlist, a lot more accessible than Ninefox Gambit or Too Like the Lightning or The Obelisk Gate (I haven’t read All the Birds in the Sky yet, though my copy arrived today).

But for some reason, Becky Chambers’ novels are really controversial, particularly among the anti-nostalgic fraction of UK fans and critics. I’m not entirely sure why, but there was a lot of grumbling from the usual quarters when Becky Chambers’ debut, The Long Way to Small, Angry Planet, was nominated for Golden Tentacle in the 2014 Kitschies and subsequently shortlisted for both the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. Here is Jonathan McCalmont eviscerating The Long Way to Small, Angry Planet in his Interzone column and here is Megan doing the same to Becky Chambers’ novel and the rest of the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist at her blog From Couch to Moon.

Both reviews are quite typical of what I called the “anti-nostalgic fraction” in my “three fractions of speculative fiction” theory in that a well regarded novel that was praised for its diversity and progressiveness is criticised by anti-nostalgics for being not progressive enough, e.g. there are complaints that the character of Rosemary, you know the brown-skinned human woman who is in a lesbian interspecies relationship with a polyamorous reptilian alien, has the shockingly conventional job of administrative assistant or that The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet fails to criticise capitalism and that the captain and crew of the Wayfarer want to – horror of horrors – make money. In many ways, these reviews sound eerily like the 1970s pop culture criticism that I came across in mouldy paperbacks during my time at the university, where any pop cultural phenomenon was inevitably attacked for not raising the consciousness of the working class or not criticising capitalism or similar, which usually left me yelling in frustration, “It’s G-Man Jerry Cotton, for fuck’s sake. It’s not supposed to usher in the communist revolution.” I though that sort of thing had died out decades ago – at any rate it was obvious that the mouldy paperbacks containing those pronouncements hadn’t been checked out of the university library in years – but apparently it’s still alive and well among the Shadow Clarke Jury.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet never made it to the Hugo shortlist (and it does have its share of flaws) and wouldn’t have been eligible last year anyway due to being originally self-published in 2014, though Becky Chambers might well have gotten a Campbell nomination last year, if not for puppy interference. However, this year, Becky Chambers’ A Closed and Common Orbit, a sort of sequel set in the same universe as Chambers’ debut novel, made the Hugo shortlist in the best novel category. And predictably, some people are not happy.

At the Metafilter discussion I linked above, Charles Stross (yes, I checked, it is the author) has this to say about Becky Chambers’ Hugo nominated novel A Closed and Common Orbit:

I’m … I don’t like to trash-talk other authors, but I’m not happy to see that particular Becky Chambers novel on the best novel shortlist. She’s a good writer: I’m sure she can (and will) do a lot better. (Confession: I have a mad hate on for “teching the tech”, Star Trek style, especially in space opera. Also for aliens who are humans in funky latex face-paint, starships bumping into asteroid fields, and about two other cliches per page of that novel. YMMV and it’s just a matter of taste, of course, but I’ll be happier if the win goes to any other novel on the shortlist, and I bounced hard off two of them.)

Considering that two of Charles Stross’ early contributions to the New British Space Opera, Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise, were at least partly responsible for my frustration with the entire space opera subgenre in the early 2000s, as chronicled here, I’m not surprised that he doesn’t like Becky Chambers’ books and that he has no idea why anybody else would like them either. After all, IMO the biggest strength of Becky Chambers’ novels are the characters. And characterisation has never been Charles Stross forte, to put it mildly.

Interestingly enough, I have never seen anybody from the puppy camp comment on either The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet or A Closed and Common Orbit, probably because those books are not on their radar at all. But considering that both books feature a diverse cast, including LGBT and non-binary characters, are explicitly nonviolent and are set in a future where all humans are mixed race and the lone white guy is something of a freak, I’m pretty certain that the vast majority of puppies would not like them.

Which once again shows that the traditionalist (which includes the puppies) and anti-nostalgic fraction will probably never agree on what makes a good SFF book, but are often eerily united with regard to books they dislike.

Comments are off. Puppies (and disgruntled anti-nostalgics) whine elsewhere.

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