Wisdom from the Hugo Results

Here are seven (nutty) nuggets of information that we can get out of the Hugo results and statistics:

1. The science fiction and fantasy fandom won’t take any bullshit from conservative culture warriors who want to use Hugo awards to make a political point

Not counting the movie and TV show categories, every single nominee on the two slates finished below No Award, by a significant margin. That was a surprise to me. I expected that the results would be a mixed bag, but the fandom was out in force and up in arms.

2. I’m not a puppy-kicker after all

I tried to give every nominee a chance (even though many weren’t worth it) and ended up putting few puppy picks above No Award. As I was doing it, I still considered myself some kind of an Anti-Puppy hardliner, because I’m sure my dislike for the Puppy movement and their absurd arguments does show and some pro-puppy commenters made it clear that they think I’m a nasty, wretched SJW troll. But what do you know — turns out that the majority of fans was less forgiving and I ended up being the mellow moderate.

3. We need EPH

The Hugogeddon 2015 has proven, though, that the nomination phase is easy to game. The system breaks down when there’s tactical voting, and it should be changed so that we can be sure that the results reflect the opinions of 100% of the nominating fans, not 20%. E Pluribus Hugo rule change proposal is the logical step to the right direction. The long list of great works that Brad R. Torgersen and Vox Day managed to force out makes a very good case for EPH.

4. Puppies might bite our ankles until the end of time

In the tradition of all true supervillains, Vox Day vowed to be back for blood next year. I very much doubt that he has the minionpower to do much damage without a sizeable useful idiot contingent that will be hard to put together after everybody saw how miserably Sad Puppies failed. In the age of Internet, however, trolls are a resource that will never be exhausted.

5. Puppies often lie…

It will be interesting to see how the Puppy ringleaders plan to coin the campaign next year. First, it was about the swashbuckling fun that feminists take away from wrongfans. Then, when very little fun was to be found on the slated works, the goalposts switched place and it was about getting more people to realize that they could vote. At some point, it was also about countering the evil, liberal mass media that lies about the Puppies, or evil, liberal creative directors who lie about the Puppies, or evil, liberal publishing houses that publish Puppies AND lie about them.

None of these goals requires throwing smear around like Brad Torgersen did right from the start in his screed posts, though, so the logical conclusion is that sticking it to the SJWs was mainly the point all along. I guess most Hugo voters realized this.

6. …but some Puppies are honest

Despite what many people may think, all Puppy voters didn’t follow the party line.

Take Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson, for example. It’s very hard to come across any praise for the book by somebody who isn’t a devout puppy, I think. It was severely bashed in almost all non-Puppy reviews I read. However, the stats show that out of the 251 voters who thought that DBtS is the best book of the year, only 130 chose Jim Butcher’s Skin Game (that’s the other Puppy nominee) as their second choice. Nearly as many of them (93, to be exact) thought that Three-Body Problem, Goblin Emperor or Ancillary Sword is the second best novel of the year. I guess they voted what they felt is the right choice. Especially Goblin Emperor and Ancillary Sword were severely bashed by Puppies, in turn, but over fifty voters went that way.

Another example: in the fan writer category, fans of the staunch anti-SJW evangelist Amanda S. Green were more likely to have the staunch social justice advocate Laura J. Mixon as their second choice than fellow-Puppies Dave Freer or Jeffro Johnson. Actually, even if you combine the Green-Freer and Green-Johnson voters, they’ll still lose to the Green-Mixon crowd. Judging by the internet rhetoric, that was unexpected. And that’s a nice setup for my last point.

7. Other fans like the weirdest things

If two fans can’t get a fight started about the merits of some book or writer, they aren’t real fans at all. You can’t herd cats and you can’t herd fans.

Yes, I mostly agree with the non-Puppy voters on the Puppy nominees’ merits. The non-Puppy nominees’ merits are a different matter entirely. Three-Body Problem is good, Ms. Marvel is great and there’s a nice raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy, sure. However, nobody in the world can convince me that they’re better than Ancillary Sword, Sex Criminals and Lego Movie. No one.

Congratulations for all the Hugo winners and losers, and condolences for everybody who just learned that they would’ve been on the ballot if the Puppies hadn’t messed it up!

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23 thoughts on “Wisdom from the Hugo Results

  1. Harmon

    First, let me say that I found your discussions of particular entries for various awards to be helpful and enlightening. Oddly, comparing your ballot to mine suggests to me that when we agree, we are in full agreement, and when we don’t agree, we are in diametrical opposition. I interpret that to mean that we are both making our judgements independent of our personal political positioning.

    It was the Sad Puppies campaign that brought me back more deeply into the SFF universe than I have been for years (60 years reading SFF, now). I’m sure I’m not the only one who came in from the SP angle, but did not vote the SP slate blindly. If the Hugo establishment (and there obviously is one) were to act wisely, it would endeavor to incorporate the SPs (as opposed to the Rabid Puppies, who want to destroy the awards and honestly say so) into the process. I guess we’ll see.

    What appears to me to be the SJW “No Award” campaign played right into the hands of the RPs. It seems obvious to me that the NA’s are the Social Justice Warrior version of the RPs. I have more respect for the RPs, because they are up-front about who they are and what they want to do, whereas the SJWs – well, let’s just say that I think that the RPs insult using the truth, and the SJWs insult using lies. I don’t care for insulting behavior, but if I have to choose…

    Your use of No Award was the same as mine – that is, I ranked the entries I thought were deserving of an award, then ranked No Award, then ranked the ones left over. At the time, I thought that this was an approach that both respected the process and demanded quality nominations. But the downside was demonstrated by the vigorous audience approval of “No Award”. It was disgusting. It insulted real writers, present at the ceremony, who had done nothing at all to deserve such disapprobation. That single obviously political reaction has rendered the honor of being nominated nugatory. “No Award” should be abolished.

    Al this suggests to me that it is the nomination process that needs some rethinking. Slating quite obviously distorts the nominations. But as Jerry Pournelle told me in an email exchange, there has always been campaigning for particular nominees. I have no idea how to address this question. I can only hope that it is addressed, and in good faith. Frankly, I’m not sure that will be good faith will be involved. I hope I’m wrong.

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    1. spacefaringkitten Post author

      Thanks for your perspective which is quite different from my own, obviously.

      The thing that I agree with you about is that there’s nothing wrong with voting for what you like. Demonizing people who voted for Kevin J. Anderson or Jim Butcher or Kary English because they’re genuine fans of their work is foolish and unfair.

      On the other hand, I believe that the Sad Puppies slate was foolish and unfair as well. Nominating the completely unrelated Wisdom from my Internet is just plain trolling, don’t you agree? Or pushing for the Campbell Award Eric S. Raymond — a guy who has published one single story? I don’t understand how anybody who cares for Hugo awards or SFF would want to do something like that. Still, there were over 200 people on the nomination phase who voted for WFMI and ESR. I think we need No Award as a safeguard in these situations. Next year, every writer knows that the Hugo voters are hostile to slate nominees and everybody is hopefully quick to denounce any slates that might be there, so there’s no risk of getting insulted.

      “What appears to me to be the SJW “No Award” campaign played right into the hands of the RPs.”

      This statement I don’t understand. The Rabid Puppy campaign didn’t win anything when no awards were given in the categories they managed to completely hijack, no matter what Vox Day is spinning. Thousands of fans came around to make sure he doesn’t get to snatch a Hugo. Looks like a defeat to me.

      You didn’t specify who are the SJWs you’re talking about dismissively and what they lie about, so it’s hard to comment on that part.

      Pournelle’s point is more or less the same one that George R.R. Martin has made.

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      1. Harmon

        Yeah, I couldn’t grasp how Wisdom from my Internet had anything to do with SFF. I put it below No Award. But I haven’t asked for a rationale. Maybe there was one… (I can see how you might think it was trolling.)

        On the Rabid Puppies, it seems to me that people conflate the goals of Sad Puppies with those of Rabid Puppies.

        Sad Puppies basically believe that the Hugo selection process is distorted and needs to be corrected. They think that the nominations were controlled by an in-crowd which used criteria other than the quality of the story to select nominees. They believe in the Hugo, but think it needs reform. Their immediate solution to that perceived problem of under-the-table slating (in Chicago, we say “a wink is as good as a nod”) was formal slating. (The over-the-top reaction to that slating rather proved their point, in my view.) Their longterm solution, I think, was to increase participation from all sources, in the belief that more participation will dilute the politics.

        (But I see that Brad Torgersen now thinks that participation next year is going to decrease – in other words, he seems to think that Vox Day has won):

        Brad R. Torgersen on August 23, 2015 at 1:27 pm said:
        “I will predict this: Hugo participation numbers probably plummet after MidAmeriCon II, and never recover. Ditto for supporting and attending memberships. We’re talking total voting that is maybe 1,500 people tops, and total attendance is maybe twice that. Max.” https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/democracy-numbers/

        Rabid Puppies believe that the process is utterly bankrupt – essentially, they are out to destroy the Hugos. (Hence, “Rabid.”) They really didn’t care if any of their nominees won. In fact, had their candidates won the NA categories, it would have deeply undercut their message that the process is corrupt beyond repair.

        As I see it, Vox Day has successfully mousetrapped people into No Awarding enough categories that an objective observer can conclude that there was a campaign to reject all Puppy nominations of either flavor, regardless of merit. (I believe that Vox Day wishes that even more categories had been NA’d – it would have made the point even more clear.)

        Concerning the SJWs, what I saw on the internet was an indiscriminate attack on all Puppies, S or P, without any actual attempt to look at the facts. All Puppies and their nominees were Vox Day – seen as racist, homophobic, sexist – even the women & non-whites. These charges were simply incorrect, at least as to the SPs, and it doesn’t take any work to discover that if you actually care about the truth of what you write. If you make such charges, you are either stupid or a liar. I don’t think these people are stupid (though it is tempting..).

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      2. spacefaringkitten Post author

        There are several things I don’t buy, but opinions are opinions, of course.

        Sad Puppies basically believe that the Hugo selection process is distorted and needs to be corrected. They think that the nominations were controlled by an in-crowd which used criteria other than the quality of the story to select nominees.

        I guess pretty much everybody is familiar with Brad Torgersen’s talking points, but what he offers, I think, is just sweeping generalisations with no proof or sound logic whatsoever. For me, it makes no sense to argue that most Hugo fiction is all message, no fun, intellectual leftist agit prop that was nominated because of a political correct feminazi mindset. That’s just absurd babble to me, and nobody in the Puppy camp has managed to explain their reasoning to me in a way that would make me understand what it’s about.

        I mean, take “The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere”, last year’s Hugo-winning short story by John Chu. It’s a great story, it discusses interesting topics (prejudice, gay rights, honesty, traditions etc.), it’s well-written, it has an original fantasy element, it’s fun to read, it makes the reader think and so on. In short, it’s a worthy winner in my opinion. It seems like even mentioning this story is enough to get all Puppies freak out and denounce Chu as someone who only got the award because he has an Asian name and he writes about gay characters.

        Do you view Chu’s Hugo win as proof of the distortion in the selection process? Or Ann Leckie’s win? That’s another book that was pure swashbuckling fun from cover to cover. Where does this idea of things being wrong come from and what would make it right, specifically?

        As I see it, Vox Day has successfully mousetrapped people into No Awarding enough categories that an objective observer can conclude that there was a campaign to reject all Puppy nominations of either flavor, regardless of merit.

        Well, nobody in their right mind can deny that many, many people voted deliberately against all Puppy nominees. You seem to think that they didn’t have the right, so to speak, to protest against the smallish clique that swept the whole ballot in some categories and forced everybody else’s nominations out. Granted, you can make the case that slates and tactical voting are perfectly legal and they don’t break any rules, but in that case you must acknowledge that neither does voting for No Award.

        I don’t pretend I care what Vox Day says he wants this time or what he tried to do. In my opinion, voting for No Award in short fiction and related work categories was the logical step for both those who wanted to judge the works based on their merits and for those who wanted to vote against slates, so I’m not unhappy with the result.

        Concerning the SJWs, what I saw on the internet was an indiscriminate attack on all Puppies, S or P, without any actual attempt to look at the facts. All Puppies and their nominees were Vox Day – seen as racist, homophobic, sexist – even the women & non-whites.

        You’re right, it makes no sense to argue that Larry Correia or Brad Torgersen is a white supremacist type of old-school racist. On the other hand, the things they did with Sad Puppies certainly hurt women and POCs — in part, the SP enterprise was about dismissing past female/minority Hugo winners and suggesting that they in fact shouldn’t have won and that Hugos are just crappy affirmative action. That quite problematic from a female or race perspective, obviously. But yeah, some news outlets did cut some corners there.

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      3. Harmon

        My point was not that the SPs are necessarily or entirely right in their perception of what has been going on with the Hugo Awards. My point was that their objectives are remedial (even if you don’t agree that there’s a problem), unlike those of the Rabid Puppies, whose objectives are straightforwardly destructive, and that the anti-Puppies do not seem to grasp that distinction, or care about it if they do. Both groups of Puppies seem to see the same problem. Where you have to distinguish them is in their proposed remedies. Rabid Bolsheviks and Sad Mensheviks.

        As to whether the Puppies of either ilk are right in their perceptions concerning recent awards, I can’t make a direct judgment, having not read enough of the things they are complaining about. I did read the dinosaur love story (which in my view is (a) not SFF and (b) utterly uninteresting in any respect) and Ancillary Justice (which I read because of the Sword extract, & I thought it was pretty damn good (put Sword 2 after 3-Body) so I’m looking forward to reading all of Sword, currently in my read pile). On the strength of an entirely inadequate sample, it looks like the Puppies may be overstating their case, but they do have one.

        Indirectly, however, the reaction to the Puppies tells me they hit a nerve. The simple fact is that everywhere one looks these days, there’s a contingent of SJWs for whom what you are matters more than what you do. And the sweeping No Award vote seems to me to substantiate the Puppies’ view of matters.

        My point about Vox Day was not that people didn’t have the right to vote No Award. It’s that it appears to me that they did it, not by reading the stories and making objective evaluations, but rather, by jerking their collective knees, and that this was a stupid thing to do, and exactly what Day was after. I don’t know if you are familiar with the Uncle Remus stories (let me make a plug here for the Julius Lester “translations” of them – absolutely wonderful) but you probably are familiar with the Tar Baby story, where Br’er Rabbit tricks Br’er Fox into throwing him into the briar patch. Those people who voted a slate of No Awards, made Br’er Day’s point for him. He made the SJWs throw him into the briar patch.

        Although, on reflection, I think maybe I do believe that those people who voted No Award without reading the nominations abused that right, in addition to merely being stupid in doing it. It is one thing to have differences of opinion about the merits of any particular nomination, even to the point of thinking that none of the nominations merit any award at all, and accordingly voting a No Award. It is entirely another to vote No Award without first reading all the nominations and making a fair judgment. And I think the latter is what happened.

        (I would not be surprised to learn that a bunch of RPs did the same thing, though I’m not sure how that could be detected…)

        One of the things on my to do list is to look back through recent Hugos & see if any of the stories might interest me. On your recommendation, I will make it a point to read Water. (I’m also taking a look at the stories on the Alternative Hugo Ballot at tobiasbuckle.com)

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  2. JJ

    Harmon: The simple fact is that everywhere one looks these days, there’s a contingent of SJWs for whom what you are matters more than what you do. And the sweeping No Award vote seems to me to substantiate the Puppies’ view of matters.

    How? How does it substantiate this?

    A lot of people, like me, were pissed off about what the Puppies did with the slate, but were willing to give them a chance to prove their point. A lot of people, like me, read their stories. A lot of people, like me, found those stories to range from okay but unremarkable to mediocre to downright rubbish.

    A lot of people read the entries and found one or two or three worthy of voting above No Award.

    Are you telling me that all of us who read the works and felt they didn’t measure up to the quality we’ve come to expect of the Hugo Awards are lying SJWs who voted because who people are matters more than the quality of what they write?

    If yes, well then, you and I have no common ground. I’m not obliged to put above No Award works which I don’t feel measure up to the quality expected of a Hugo nominee.

    If you feel that people who felt that slates destroy the spirit and intent of the Hugos and No Awarded everything that was on a slate did not legitimately do so, then you and I have no common ground.

    If you agree that people had the right to No Award slate works based on poor quality, or based on the fact that they object to slates, then tell me this: How do you tell the people who voted No Award for those reasons from people who voted based on politics? What is your basis for lumping all of them into the latter group?

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  3. Harmon

    “”And the sweeping No Award vote seems to me to substantiate the Puppies’ view of matters.”
    How? How does it substantiate this?”

    Wel, as Thoreau observed, some circumstantial evidence is convincing, as when you find a trout in the milk. Now, it’s not quite troutsville, but when I take together the indiscriminate villainization of all Puppies, the campaign to vote No Award, the No Awarding of a record number of categories, and the audience glee at the No Award results, I tend to believe the lady doth protest too much.

    “If you feel that people who felt that slates destroy the spirit and intent of the Hugos and No Awarded everything that was on a slate did not legitimately do so, then you and I have no common ground.”

    I said, and I quote my prior post: “Although, on reflection, I think maybe I do believe that those people who voted No Award without reading the nominations abused that right..”

    So yes, I do think that voting against a writer without reading the material, isn’t legitimate. Please note – I don’t think that’s any different than slate nominating a writer without reading the material.

    Do you seriously disagree with that? If you do, then you are right about lacking common ground.

    “If you agree that people had the right to No Award slate works based on poor quality, or based on the fact that they object to slates, then tell me this: How do you tell the people who voted No Award for those reasons from people who voted based on politics? What is your basis for lumping all of them into the latter group?”

    False premise: I have NOT said that I agree that people had the right to vote NA based on the fact that they object to slates. I think I see the paragraph where you might have derived your conclusion, and point out to you that in that paragraph, I was talking about “those people who voted No Award without reading the nominations,” not those who read first and voted later.

    “Are you telling me that all of us who read the works and felt they didn’t measure up to the quality we’ve come to expect of the Hugo Awards are lying SJWs who voted because who people are matters more than the quality of what they write?”

    Not at all. I do believe, however, that “many, many people voted deliberately against all Puppy nominees,” as do you.

    I’m not going to make any more posts here on this subject. It actually has been somewhat fruitful, at least for me, but it appears to me that not much more can be gained by keeping on with it.

    I did read The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere, and unless you object, I’ll post my thoughts on it here even though it’s only tangentially relevant to this thread.

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    1. spacefaringkitten

      I hope you noticed that the commenter you are responding to changed there.

      I’m generally in agreement with JJ and I feel that voting against slates is a legitimate approach, even if that wasn’t my own. I especially loathed the Puppy slates because of the mean-spirited way in which the slatemakers dismissed past winners and nominees. We would all be happier in an alternate world there wouldn’t have been a Sad Puppies slate but a curated reading list that was advertised only in a positive way and that included more professional-level nominees.

      Yeah, please go ahead and tell us what you thought of John Chu’s short story.

      Even if I did enjoy “Water That Falls On You From Nowhere”, my first choice last year was “Selkie Stories are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar which beat “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love” with an extremely narrow margin in the race for the second place. I like all three better than this year’s offerings, but it’s possible you don’t agree with me there. There’s a fabulist undertone in the dinosaur story which makes it sufficiently SFF in my mind, even if I don’t necessarily think it was anywhere near the top three of best SFF stories of 2013.

      This year, my top short story pick was probably “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” by Matthew Kressel (if it wasn’t “Cimmeria” by Theodora Goss). Can you share yours?

      You must be the first Puppy sympathizer I’ve met who doesn’t fiercely hate Ancillary Justice, so you did surprise me there.

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      1. Harmon

        “I hope you noticed that the commenter you are responding to changed there.”

        I didn’t notice – I thought I was responding to you. Thanks for pointing that out. Apologies to JJ.

        I didn’t have a top short story pick this year (i.e., published in 2014.) Until the Puppies campaign came to my attention, my engagement with newly published SFF was sporadic and utterly random. So my head wasn’t in a place where I said “oh, that’s a great short story I should remember & recommend to others” and as a result, I haven’t kept track of that & would have to go back & review what I read – not worth the trouble. I promise to pay attention this year (although it’s half gone – I really think that the Hugos ought to work on a 2 year overlapping cycle.)

        And I really don’t know any other SFF fans to make recommendations to. I do have one son who delves into the genre now & then, but aside from Neil Gaiman, he doesn’t read shorts. He actually recommended AJ to me a while back, so when it popped up indirectly on the Hugo nominations, I read the AS extract, and immediately went out to start at the beginning so that I could read AS in order.

        I’m still digesting Water. I’ve drafted something to post, and my general reaction is that it is a decent story, but not quite SFF, but I need to think a little more about that before saying anything more.

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      2. spacefaringkitten

        The boundaries of SFF genre can (and will) of course be debated as long as we have something that we call SFF. I’ve always thought of SFF as something that differs from plain realism, and water falling unexpectedly down on people is a very unrealistic phenomenon, but I guess all of us fans have our own working definition of what is (good) SFF.

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      3. Harmon

        SFK: The boundaries of SFF genre can (and will) of course be debated as long as we have something that we call SFF. I’ve always thought of SFF as something that differs from plain realism, and water falling unexpectedly down on people is a very unrealistic phenomenon, but I guess all of us fans have our own working definition of what is (good) SFF.

        Assuming for the moment that Water falls within the boundaries of SFF, it could be either Science Fiction or Fantasy. It would depend on which way the author wanted to take the story – towards a scientific explanation or some kind of fantasy explanation coming out of magic or some other nonscientific place. In point of fact, though, he did neither one, which I think supports the idea that perhaps it is neither, and hence some other genre entirely. But it also supports my idea that if it is intended as SFF, it’s not up to the job, having failed in the development of the “what if” element.

        One of the thoughts I had about Water is that it might be regarded as Magical Realism. There’s an interesting article at http://www.writing-world.com/sf/realism.shtml about MR. But if you accept the article’s definition of MR, Water doesn’t seem to fit, though it’s worth consideration. (Interestingly, given the reference to ghosts, Hamlet might be MR…)

        I entirely agree that SFF differs from plain realism, but as the article shows, so does MR. And yet, MR is not SFF. This demonstrates, I think, that some additional factor is needed to define the SFF genre. The MR article names speculation as an element of SFF – i.e., my requirement of “what if.”

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      4. spacefaringkitten

        Assuming for the moment that Water falls within the boundaries of SFF, it could be either Science Fiction or Fantasy. It would depend on which way the author wanted to take the story – towards a scientific explanation or some kind of fantasy explanation coming out of magic or some other nonscientific place.

        This is where we see things differently. I don’t think that an explanation — whether scientific or magical — of the unrealistic elements is in any way needed (or even desired) to make a work SFF. Sure, that probably was an essential ingredient in the flavor of SFF that one could now describe as old-fashioned or classic, but there’s also room for doing things differently. I don’t think that a work has to match some pre-defined criteria to qualify as SFF. If it conveys strangeness in an interesting way, it’s good enough for me. This perspective of course makes it impossible to make hard distinctions that would make SFF stand apart from genres such as magical realism and I’m fine with that.

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      5. JJ

        I would agree that an explanation of science or fantastical elements is not required to make something “science fiction” or “fantasy”.

        Sure, if a good scientific basis is included in the story, that’s what makes it Hard SF. But a lot of the soft SF and Fantasy that I’ve read gives only a passing explanation — or none at all — for the non-mundane parts of the worldbuilding. It’s still SFF. And I don’t necessarily need, or mind the lack of, a detailed explanation of how it’s all supposed to work.

        I really like what’s been included in the Wikipedia entry for Magical Realism, comparing it to Fantasy:

        Prominent English-language fantasy writers have said that “magic realism” is only another name for fantasy fiction. Gene Wolfe said, “magic realism is fantasy written by people who speak Spanish”, and Terry Pratchett said magic realism “is like a polite way of saying you write fantasy”.

        I totally agree with that.

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      6. spacefaringkitten Post author

        Yeah, on yet another hand, genre labels are just marketing tools. A big chunk of the stuff that I consider SFF-ish is published as mainstream fiction, especially in countries where the SFF readership is not as large as in the English-language market.

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  4. JJ

    Harmon: Wel, as Thoreau observed, some circumstantial evidence is convincing, as when you find a trout in the milk. Now, it’s not quite troutsville, but when I take together the indiscriminate villainization of all Puppies, the campaign to vote No Award

    “Circumstantial evidence” is a phrase meaning “I’m making a guess based on what I see”. This is not the same thing as actual evidence.

    the indiscriminate villainization of all Puppies

    Please provide citations as proof of this. What I saw was very-well-justified villainization of the Puppies, based on their own very-well-documented behavior.

    the campaign to vote No Award

    Please provide citations as proof of this. What I saw was many, many people saying, “I tried to give the Puppy works a chance, but I found them average / mediocre / bad / utterly unreadable, and ended up putting them below ‘No Award’ because of this.”

    I do believe, however, that “many, many people voted deliberately against all Puppy nominees,” as do you.

    No, Harmon, I don’t believe that. I believe that some people did vote all slate works below No Award as a way of protesting slates. But from what I saw, a lot of those people read the slated works anyway. And either one of those choices was a perfectly legitimate approach. Those works did not get on the ballot legitimately, and if people chose to No Award them because of that — after reading or not reading them — that was a perfectly legitimate decision.

    You say you’ve been away from the SFF world for a long time. So you may not be aware that “No Award” is not a Puppy-specific thing. It has been around for many, many years, and a lot of people employ the use of it every year or many years, because they don’t believe things belong on the Hugo ballot. This is not voting on politics, it is voting on quality. Using No Award against slate items is not voting on politics (though of course the Puppies want to pretend otherwise), it is voting on principles.

    Harmon, I think you’ve limited your reading during the past few months to Puppy blogs, and I don’t think you have any real awareness of what non-Puppies were actually saying and doing. Because the vast majority of non-Puppy voters actually tried to read the Puppy works (though many, including me, admitted that there were some or all works they could not finish, because they were just so bad) — and what they found was that was those works were simply not up-to-snuff.

    You can try all you want to pretend that this was about politics. But the reality is that it was about lack of quality. The Puppies had a chance to put some really good stuff, the type of stuff they claim they love, like the Heinlein bio and The Three-Body Problem, on the ballot, and instead they sabotaged their own cause by putting average-to-horrible works on the ballot.

    And now they are screaming that it’s about politics, because they’re not willing to acknowledge that their ballot consisted mostly of crap.

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  5. Harmon

    ““Circumstantial evidence” is a phrase meaning “I’m making a guess based on what I see”. This is not the same thing as actual evidence.”

    Not really. People go to jail based on circumstantial evidence. Many years ago, as a beginning lawyer, I had a hand in making that sort of thing happen. Now, I won’t say that I think the circumstances here reach the level of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but they do reach, in my view, “a preponderance of the evidence.” Meaning that it’s not enough for jail, but will likely support a civil (as opposed to criminal) fine.

    “You can try all you want to pretend that this was about politics.”

    I regard that as an insult.

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  6. Harmon

    The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere

    I found a copy of The Water that Falls on You from Nowhere at http://www.tor.com/2013/02/20/the-water-that-falls-on-you-from-nowhere/
    This story seems to me to be well crafted, and if it had shown up in the New Yorker, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised. But I have trouble with the idea that it is science fiction/fantasy, and if it is, I don’t think it’s very good SFF.

    Of course, deciding whether something is really SFF is slippery at the edges, as are most definitional issues. But I don’t think that it is merely an “eye of the beholder” or “your mileage may vary” matter. I think that to be considered SFF, a story must (1) contain an element that is in some fashion objective in nature within the context of the story, and non-existent (unless an extrapolation) in our current version of reality, and (2) explore the question “What If?” in connection with that element

    “Water” certainly fulfills requirement (1). The idea that anyone who lies gets a cold shower every time he lies is a very neat idea. But a neat idea is not sufficient to make a story SFF, anymore than the appearance of a ghost makes a story a horror story – unless you want to say that Hamlet is a horror story.

    But I think “Water” fails requirement (2). There is little exploration of the water as an aspect of the story. What is this water (aside from pure H20)? Where does it come from? How did it appear & how did people react? How has it altered human behavior? How have malicious people turned water into an advantage? Is it really the case that this water would change anything, or would human ingenuity wiggle its way entirely around it, and how? What happens in a society in which everyone knows when you are lying? What is lying, anyway? Is it a lie to tell an untruth to a person who has no right to know the truth – i.e., does the water fall when you lie to the Nazis about the Jews being in your basement?

    And perhaps most importantly, how is the outcome of the story any different than it would have been, sans water? This is a story about a man, his lover, and his relationships with his sister and his parents in light of his lover’s acceptability to the family. It is not a story about the impact of an apparently inexplicable phenomenon on any of that. With only a little tweaking, the story works even if you entirely eliminate the water. If the (1) SFF element (2) doesn’t make a difference, it isn’t SFF.

    In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the story of a gay man who has to deal with his family’s traditional expectations wasn’t the first draft, and then the author was inspired to juice it up with the water, as much for symbolic purposes as for SFF purposes. As symbolism, the water is Freudian. And if you view the story that way, it seems to me to snap right into focus.

    So my bottom line is that I understand that someone might consider this to be an SSF story, but I don’t think it is very good SFF.

    (When/if anyone responds to this, you might not hear from me right away if I have anything further to say. I’m expecting to be “just south of Cognito” for the next week or so.)

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  7. JJ

    JJ: You can try all you want to pretend that this was about politics.

    Harmon: I regard that as an insult.

    Go right ahead and regard it as insult if you wish. But if you continue to repeatedly insist that this is about politics because that’s what the Puppies have told you it’s about, instead of actually listening to what non-Puppies say and understanding where they’re coming from, and why it isn’t about politics for them, then I’ve got no sympathy for you. You’re insisting on pretending that it’s about something that it’s not.
     

    Harmon: I think that to be considered SFF, a story must (1) contain an element that is in some fashion objective in nature within the context of the story, and non-existent (unless an extrapolation) in our current version of reality, and (2) explore the question “What If?” in connection with that element.

    But I think “Water” fails requirement (2). There is little exploration of the water as an aspect of the story. What is this water (aside from pure H20)? Where does it come from? How did it appear & how did people react? How has it altered human behavior?… And perhaps most importantly, how is the outcome of the story any different than it would have been, sans water?

    I’m really surprised to hear you say this — and I encourage you to consider going back and reading the story again.

    Firstly, because I think you are judging the story in terms of science fiction — and it’s not SF, it’s fantasy.

    Secondly, the effect of the water falling when someone lies — the fantastical element — is one of the major cruxes of the story: What do you do, how do you react, when this phenomenon makes it impossible to hide from yourself, what you actually feel and believe? When you must face certain things, because the appearance of water means that you cannot continue fooling yourself?

    I don’t think that there’s any question that “Water” is a Fantasy story.

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  8. JJ

    Harmon: I have better things to do than engage with someone who deliberately persists in insulting me.

    In other words, you regard anyone saying that your claims about their motivations being untrue as insulting you. Huh.

    Never mind that you’re insulting non-Puppies by claiming that you know better than they do what their motivations are.

    So in other words, you’ve already decided what other people think, and you’re not willing to consider the fact that what you’ve decided is wrong. Thanks for making that clear.

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  9. Harmon

    SFK: “This is where we see things differently. I don’t think that an explanation — whether scientific or magical — of the unrealistic elements is in any way needed (or even desired) to make a work SFF. Sure, that probably was an essential ingredient in the flavor of SFF that one could now describe as old-fashioned or classic, but there’s also room for doing things differently. I don’t think that a work has to match some pre-defined criteria to qualify as SFF. If it conveys strangeness in an interesting way, it’s good enough for me. This perspective of course makes it impossible to make hard distinctions that would make SFF stand apart from genres such as magical realism and I’m fine with that.”

    In using the word “explanation,” I wasn’t intending to suggest that the explanation actually be laid out. What I was trying to get at is that the Science or Fantasy aspect of the story was grounded in an objective reality – even if the “reality” is Hogwarts. The reason for this was to distinguish SFF from Magical Realism, in which the Fantasy aspect of the story is grounded in the subjective beliefs of the characters.

    A story with ghosts in it, where the ghosts are real and can impact the other characters through intentional action is SFF. A story where the ghosts are not real, but reflect a perceived reality as understood by the characters, is Magical Realism, which I think is, and should be, outside the boundaries of the genre, at least for purposes of awards.

    “I don’t think that a work has to match some pre-defined criteria to qualify as SFF.”

    This seems to me to be an assertion that SFF is not a genre. Is that what you mean? You can’t have a genre without boundaries, even if the boundaries are porous in practice.

    At any rate, it does seem to be the crux of the matter, and a fundamental point underlying the SP dispute. In essence, you are saying you have no standards for deciding if something is SFF. If I’m not putting words in your mouth, I believe you are using the methodology used by Justice Stewart in his famous definition of pornography: “I know it when I see it.” The SPs are saying that there are in fact specific qualities which are essential to SFF, which can be identified, although they haven’t actually specified what they are. (I think some of them simply reject Fantasy as qualifying at all, but are afraid to say so or Sarah Hoyt will nail them to the wall with a thousand million words as nails…)

    In law, we have what are called “touchstones” for clarifying what kind of legal principles should be applied in deciding a case. A touchstone is not exactly a rule or definition. It represents a “quality” that is inherent in the situation, rule, principle or idea, which identifies it as a member of a class. (Justice Stewart was unable to identify such a touchstone…)

    Your touchstone (“strangeness in an interesting way”), as you recognize, is different from the historical ones, which I have tried to identify (“what if,” objectiveness even in fantasy worlds). But your approach, unlike mine, would sweep in some of Henry James’ stories such as The Jolly Corner or The Turn of the Screw – do those qualify for the Hugo?

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