jueves, 3 de septiembre de 2015

I don't want a Hugo

This is sort of a personal recap on the Hugo kerfuffle. From someone who's only been to the States visiting friends. So, not the same starting point of either camp.

Personal background in SF

Two basic points: I grew up with the Nebula as the professional award and the Hugo as the reader's choice. And I'm Mediterranean. Spaniard. Oh, three: I consider myself a conservative, but card carrying reds (think younger Eric Flints) disagree strongly (I am the token conservative, mostly, in most of my groups). From the barricades and even when they have to carry one of their own to the ER because a trailer truck decided to run him over (I do hope the jerk gets to be a ward of the state). Anyhow, US and European left/right axis are not equivalent (#).

Then, some more personal background. I used to read books published by most of the SF imprints. DAW, Tor, Baen... I switched from those translated to Spanish to original English (mostly, paperbacks) in the mid 90s, simply because it was much cheaper, even at the costs of the dollar and S&H back then. While I did have some extra trouble finding things I liked (the main Spanish editor was good and I had to retrain my choices), I didn't think much of it for a while.

Then I discovered Webscriptions, currently Baen Ebooks. 4 bucks a book, I believe, back then, and... no S&H costs! Plus, I was already using Linux. Open formats were a must if I wanted to read it. For quite a while I bought Baen or hardcopy. Several hundred books of Baen. If I wasn't the only one (and I wasn't) it does explain things [+]. I recall I had to get a Gold credit card because, back then, standard issue didn't cover e-commerce.

Now, another personal note: I'm mostly "blind" to character descriptions. I didn't realize the love interest in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn was black haired (she was, right?) until sometime in the 4th book; I don't think I'd have realized Simon was redhaired if he wasn't on the cover. Didn't realize Tabitha Jute was black until I read an interview on book covers well after I'd read the book. I got that a tad earlier with Parable of the Sower, I think about the time she pairs up with Morgan Freeman (yes, that's my image and I'm sticking to it). This means a lot of the diversity ruckus goes way over my head: my image of the characters stems from what they DO, not their physical description. Yes, that's influenced by the local equivalent of a WASP background and a much lower immigration that the States. Much, much lower. Also, surnames don't mean much to me. I don't get that "he's called Rodriguez, so he must be Latino." Different backgrounds, and really bad name memory. Plus, single-surname standards can't be trusted. I can't tell you the name of the main character of a book I finished not 12 hours before. She was Russian, but I can't say much more (tall, short; willowy... I think, sort of... I think her hair color was reddish; and pale, but she's a vamp). I recall Murphy (Dresden series) is short; no idea of any other of the characters (although I picture Charity Carpenter as Molly Weasley). I think I've seen her painted in dark, long hair; I don't know if it's accurate... My basic template for a SF/F character is "white, American standard, one each"; last night I kept putting a black cop in that story above with the face of Sean Connery in The Untouchables; black cops are plainclothes, and usually inspectors (21st Jump Street). And the whole US (do recall I am not from the States) fascination with race is... weird. A fourth of this and an eighth of that? Really weird. Who cares?

You get the idea. This has a side effect: if you put an Eastern character, I won't peg him as such unless there's a lot more to it (Mongol tribes, or sharp daisho, or miles and miles of desert, or...). Said otherwise: "token diversity" is meaningless, to me; I don't even see it.

Another thing. Check this. Any Spaniard who went through high school until the mid 90s (and I'd have to check the current syllabus; might still be there) was exposed to that. Quevedo vs. Góngora. Culteranismo and Conceptismo. Quevedo, by the way, is the guy in Flint's 1632 series, in Rome.

Góngora should have been strangled at birth. Historians might disagree, but high school students won't. Insufferably florid vapor.

SF and me these last years

Now, rewind a couple of years. I was weaning myself off Tor and Scalzi, both of which I'd followed a lot. You can find why in some earlier posts. Also, Penguin, but that's not related to SF, in my case. Regarding Tor and Scalzi, I got fed up with "my way or the highway and, BTW, the way is now MUCH narrower that last week" and insults to readers who didn't agree with the topic du jour.

I think I actually landed on Correia's blog thanks to Scalzi. Unsure. And I think I got wind of the puppies just before he started with the second one. Again, not sure.

The thing is, what he was saying about SF being more and more limited rang a bell. I didn't much care about the "left wing" "conspiracy", although it matched with my Spanish experience [*]. More on that later.

But there was something I believed in.

Look, I have right in front of me a recent book. Palmatier's Shattering the Ley. Big megacorp style dictatorship government ruins the ecology overusing natural energy resources and a bunch of small fry try to rig a solution while everything collapses.

I enjoyed it. Why? The ecological message? Nope. The revolution? Neither. The female character? No. The fact it implied, here and there, that the locale was somewhere near home? Not at all (too little, too late, and I don't really care). Two reasons: worldbuilding and adventure.

Could tell you similar things about some books I got from Baen's shop, including some by Kameron Hurley (not exactly a Puppy defender; my only gripe with her trilogy is that there's not enough... call it hope).

The Hugo Awards

What I believe in, what got me to follow Correia's thread, is that fiction should be entertaining. I believe that this was in Correia's posts last year. That the publishing establishment was throttling entertaining voices because they didn't reflect their perceptions (not enough anguish, or too many whites, or... Yes, linked to "leftist staff", as if it were any better when it's done by right wingers; see my footnotes).

This seems to be troubling when Correia says it, but Eric Flint's been saying the same, with different words. Yes, he assures us it's not a conspiracy, it's only the intelligentsia publishing what it cares about and praising its own while shutting the rest out. I fail to see how that makes any difference to the reader (or to the writer who doesn't get published). Also... well, publishers have been under trial for conspiracy (yes, Apple), so I would be wary of them. Also... that would mean big publishers are missing at least about half their potential readers. Which is, of course, one of the reasons for indies (and Baen).

Mind you, it's an antiquated... establishment. We're talking publishing. Unless the Hugos start going to small presses and indies, they'll become the SF Publisher's Association Awards. Which shall make them meaningless. Sort of a crippled Nebula. Flint insists that's the normal result of literary awards. Even though the Hugo is a fan award? Maybe. The normal result of life is death, but that doesn't mean we should sterilize ourselves, much less our kids.

I also believe that the "you could have won if it wasn't for your supporters" meme is astoundingly daft. If those "no award" votes were really there to punish someone who were not those writers themselves, then the whole thing has put the fandom in the thug business. "Don't rock us or something will happen to your friends". Also, the way Voxdemort acts, he might as well start proposing, say, Wil Wheaton for the Hugos. Or Joss Whedon.

My overall point? That there's a strong tendency by those in the publishing industry to steer the prize. A prize that's supposed to be the reader's. Of course, we've seen here and there how quite a lot of writers consider readers (Preston et al, basically, and the diatribes from some publisher's blogs; also, Kloos, for different reasons). A reader's prize under control is meaningless.

And, yes, BOTH sides are guilty of this. Your point? And do please stop that "our side won... the other side is responsible for what happens next". Yes. BOTH EFFING SIDES. If you win, you have shown power. With power comes responsibility. Own. Up. If you won, work for it.

Personally, I'm upset, in the British sense, that the WorldCon fandom can throw some people under the bus because someone else nominated them. "Without asking for their permission", that of the nominees. Sorry. What!? Do you have to ask awardees for such things? Really!? The uncritical thinking of that utterance is unbelievable.

And that it pretends to be True Fandom... Please. I know professional producers who LOVE F/SF but have never stepped into a WorldCon... Nor do I think they will, as things stand now. One of them is one of those card-carrying picketers above. So much for "right wing".

But, no. I'm going to erase anything that I can link to the puppies from the following list (no Baen works, just in case; certainly no Castaglia). I'm also going to skip "Fan-this" Still "No Award" is "better" than...

  • Jim Butcher
  • Kevin J. Anderson
  • Analog. Four times
  • Card's IGMS
  • Galaxy's Edge
  • Lou Antonelli
  • Carter Reid
  • Mike Resnick
  • Jennifer Brozek
  • Bryan Thomas Schmid
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Anne Sowards
  • Jim Minz
  • Kirk DouPonce
  • Alan Pollack
  • Nick Greenwood
  • Carter Reid
  • Abyss & Apex
  • Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine
There are a lot of those names I've never read. Some others I don't like. Even some I have an aversion to. Doesn't matter.

"No award" is preferable to Kevin J. Anderson, Mike Resnick, Jim Butcher, Analog (no matter how hard it tries)...

With an attitude like that, Asimov would have been writing romance. Le Guin would have been told "you need to get other people to nominate you".

Take care.

(#) Which leads, for example, to the "Nazism is leftie" meme... and B/W pics of the British royals practicing the salute, 'coz they're known commie sympathizers. My ass.

(+) Basically, I've been told (by people very far from the puppies) that "if you want to sell, go Baen".

(*) Which is usually "right wing". But then, neither is what it pretends. It's more "publishing establishment, runny maroon" than red or blue. Fandom properly was maybe more in a similar L-R divide, if you squint enough. My memory is mixing things, so I'll stop here. Plus... The Spanish fandom might have been about a hundred people. Really not important.

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