[EDIT: 29th April, 17:44. It’s kindly been pointed out to me that the book I picked for my in-depth analysis for this year’s nominations was one of the (supposedly few, from what I had understood) that wasn’t on the Sad Puppies slate. That’s on me, but the less in-depth analyses (out-of-depth? Har, har, har…) are still set for this weekend, and maybe that will help me decide on my actual selection. Stay tuned.]
Ah, the Hugo awards. A tradition so close to my heart that I only heard about it when #GamerGate noticed it; which is especially bad as I’m supposedly a sci-fi fan, but I’m not actually a gamer.
So I’ve been doing some research as only I can do it—shoddily and with as little effort as possible—and it made me think back, back to days of yesteryear. In 2013 when I first started this blog one of my first posts was about the STGRB controversy. For those of you who don’t know, STGRB stands for ‘Stop The GoodReads Bullies’, and was a group who formed one side of another SJW conflict—however, this was a little different to the more recent debacles we’ve grown to love.
The basic background was this: a number of popular intersectional feminist book-reviewers had been declared ‘bullies’ by a group of mostly independent authors whose books had been criticised by them for reasons of sexism etc. Now, the timeline here was very murky, or at least it was when I first became aware of it, concerning who had stated this whole thing. There were accusations of ’rounding up mobs of fans’ flying back and forth from one side to the other (I’m sure the SJWs have a word for that in their Newspeak lexicon… eh, I probably don’t want to know) and of course, accusations of doxxing, threats and harassment.
Those who supported STGRB claimed that their books had been criticised unfairly, and that when this occurred more often than not the friends and followers of these feminist reviewers, many reviewers just as popular, would immediately give their book a correspondingly poor rating on Goodreads without even thinking of actually reading it for themselves—and with many of these being indie authors, drive the average rating of the book down significantly and negatively impact the impressions of potential readers.
Reviewers, on the other hand, considered these authors to be sexist, thin-skinned whiners who wanted to limit their free speech, many of whom by contrast to the indie authors among them had substantial enough fanbases or followers that when they complained about their bad reviews, a wave of negative comments and messages would be sent to the reviewer in question. A popular tag or ‘shelf’ used by these circles was ‘bba’ or ‘Badly Behaving Author’, which STGRB particularly despised as it indicated the reviewer was reviewing the author, not the book. Their cries not to be censored seem almost ironic in light of how things are now.
There was a lot more going on than can be summed up in three paragraphs, of course, but I don’t think my thoughts on the STGRB debacle have changed all that much in the last year and a half. These were said thoughts:
- The reviewers should have the right to declare the book to be whatever –ism they wanted to.
- The reviewers should have the right to be as cruel in their reviews as they wanted to.
- Although I personally think it’s uncalled for, the reviewers should also be allowed to say whatever they wanted to about the author personally. Goodreads is a consumer guide after all, and some consumers don’t want to give their money to people they think they wouldn’t like.
- The reviewers should not be rating or reviewing books they had not read, either because they wanted to back up their friend’s opinion, or because they wanted it to be a comment on something they’d heard about the author.
- The authors had the right to complain about any reviews they were given; especially if the review was misrepresentative of their work or of their character, though I would add to that that if you’re talking about an author with a massive fanbase; then one, I would expect their skin to be pierced only by the most outrageous of unfair reviews, and two, I would expect them to realise in advance that while they’re not their fans’ mother it never hurts to make known that you don’t want someone you’re in a disagreement with to be harassed by your supporters. The same goes for particularly popular reviewers taking on indie and small press books.
- Criminal behaviour such as doxxing, threats or harassment is criminal. On both sides.
I think that about covers it. The old STGRB blog seems to have been taken down, but I saw a few of their detractors up and about after I googled the term, though since Goodreads implemented one or two of the policies they wanted maybe STGRB have just gone away. Honestly, looking back on it I find both sides kind of unpalatable, though at the time I leant towards the STGRB side: they were both pretty censorious and both loved playing the victim. I also never liked the term ‘bullies’, I’ve always associated it with children on a playground and these people were all adults, despite how many of them acted.
Anyway, it only matters now in that for me it’s an interesting point for comparison, and you can probably see why I’ve brought it up, though I don’t really associate either side in that controversy with either side of what I’m about to discuss, just that I’m getting a little déjà vu. And speaking of which…
Accusations of isms and political agendas within both present and past nominations. Accusations of being only concerned about the author and their politics rather than the quality of their work. Accusations of rounding up the mob to see that their whims are done. Accusations of promoting or detracting from books without reading them—and this one I believe, sadly, has definitely been going on this year.
That was always what bothered me the most about the STGRB thing, and is something still I disagree with, even if I do agree that if the SJW clique really has been dominating the awards, then that needs to change so that other deserving authors can have their chance. Of course, for all I know, the SJW clique has been doing the exact same thing in previous years, and just as I saw two years ago, ‘revenge’ ratings are also out and about.
When I first thought of writing this post I wanted to come to grips first of all with what the Hugo Awards truly were; because there has been some debate about that and what is ‘supposed’ to be decided by the award. The best sci-fi books of the year? The most popular? The most well-crafted? The most meaningful?
All but the most popular are subjective, but if we’re going to use that as the metric, we have to admit… sometimes some awful shit can become popular. You know what I’m talking about. And yet, supposedly, if it is what’s voted for—and anyone can vote if they pay for membership, then a critical failure (whether it deserves such derision or not) is still worthy of a Hugo Award.
But what other metric are the Hugo Awards supposed to be decided by? What the literary elite considers ‘quality’? Not that that necessarily isn’t quality just because it not necessarily is, but then what else do we have the Nebula Awards for—assuming I understand the purpose of the Nebula Awards? Are they not the crème de la crème for said literary elite, in contrast to the Hugos’ vox populi?
Because the elitist-populist divide as it is seen by many following the controversy is as important a sticking-point as the left wing-right wing split—more important, to some. And I don’t know if there’s a real test to see whether a certain work is imaginative avant-garde versus pretentious garbage.
I mean, I’ve liked the avant-garde. One of my favourite TV series of all time is Patrick McGoohan’s ‘The Prisoner’—which you’ve probably already guessed from looking at my avatar if you’re at all familiar with the show—and that show, particularly the ending, could be very experimental in its expression, I think a lot of such experimental works have both major artistic and entertainment merit.
And some of them can fall into both avant-garde and popular categories; I mean, it’s rare—a lot of the avant-garde stuff, even the ‘good’ stuff, requires a lot more thought and reflection than what the average reader/viewer might consider entertainment—but then so does a lot of the really ‘hard’ science fiction: a more straight-forward exploration of complicated scientific theories, maybe, but to some people far more impenetrable than the more emotionally-driven artistry that certain works use instead of traditional narrative; works for whom evoking feeling is as or more important than evoking thought.
Are these the type of books the Hugos are meant to be giving recognition to?
I’m not in the in-crowd in the science fiction literature world—as an author I hate to admit it but I honestly relate far better to TV and movies and am only now getting into this because I’m writing my own sci-fi book (well, technically I’ve already written one, but it was YA, and I’ve always seen it in the context of the YA market rather than the sci-fi). I don’t know if, in recent years, the Hugos have become decided by a criteria more suited for the Nebulas, if this is about solely works approved by a clique of intersectional feminists dominating an award supposedly meant to be without political bias, if it’s a mix of both these things. I may be misunderstanding everything entirely.
One thing I really don’t think it is, is a reactionary attempt by straight white cis-men with delusions of persecution trying desperately to hoard whatever prestige comes from the Hugos away from more deserving women and minorities who were ‘just starting to be heard in the science fiction community!’… two hundred years ago when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. She’s a unique example, perhaps, but a telling one all the same.
All I can really do now is begin to take a closer look at the nominations themselves. This is a two-fold operation—first to analyse at least the literature nominations made over the last… Mm, let’s say five years for now, that’s how long the militant SJWs have been a really visible force in my opinion, and see if any patterns or talking points emerge from such analysis when contrasted with this year’s slate.
Second to read at least two of the books myself: one from this year’s slate, one from a year or two ago, just for comparison—and also because I haven’t been doing enough serious reading lately.
I know, I know, in the past I’ve more than deserved the title of ‘Grand Lord Universal Procrastinatrix (it’s Lord rather than Lady because… patriarchy), Mistress of Starting what She does not Finish’, but I’m going to do it! I swear!
Here—we’ll take a look at the analysis of present and past nominations another time; for now I’ll leave you with the selection of which of the ‘Best Novel’ nominations this year I’m going to read.
‘Ancillary Sword’, ‘Skin Game’, and ‘The Dark Between the Stars’ are out because I’m too lazy to read even the one preceding book in the Ancillary series; besides which that and the last one just don’t seem like my kind of book. ‘Skin Game’ sounded more my style, but as the fifteenth book in a series, I don’t think I have the time to catch up on the continuity enough that I—a continuity fiend—would feel happy judging it.
This leaves ‘The Goblin Emperor’ and ‘The Three Body Problem’, and the former had the phrase ‘hoping for the possibility of romance’ in its summary on Amazon, which made the eight-year-old boy within me go ‘Ugh! Lovey-dovey stuff!’ so, ‘The Three-Body Problem’ it is!
This originally Chinese book is perhaps not something I would have ordinarily read either—it seems a lot more ‘hard’ sci-fi than what is wont to compel me, but the ideas that I gleaned drove its plot from the Goodreads summary and a few of the top reviews on its Goodreads page really intrigued me despite my apprehension that I won’t be able to understand the science involved.
But it’s good to challenge yourself once in a while, isn’t it? Besides, one of the ideas it mentions relates somewhat to something in my book, and I need to make sure no one will ever think I ripped off this story. Otherwise I’ll have to build a mass memory-deleting machine, the power will go to my head, and I’ll become the laziest Evil Overlord Earth has ever known!
Look for my first glance at the Hugo Awards nomination slates on the weekend; I want to do a final post on ‘518′ before NaNo ends, and of course there’ll be another Missing Word Story on Friday.
Aren’t you glad it took a whole two posts before I started talking about SJW issues again? 😉