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Subject: What The Hell Is the Matter With the Hugo Awards Committee? rss

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Ok, so I just finished reading Among Others by Jo Walton - this year's Hugo Winner.

And it's insipid trash. Seriously. Just trite garbage.

I get that to some degree it's a hommage to sci-fi, and a tribute to a young reader's discovery of great sci-fi, but Ready Player One did a far better job of that and wasn't filled with any of the melodramatic and tedious thoughts of a barely-interesting teenager.

So, I thought they were a little off when Yiddish Policeman's Union won in '08, since, as good of a book as it is, it's not really sci-fi, and I was really annoyed with Graveyard Book winning, especially when Anathem and Little Brother were both nominated. And then Blackout/All Clear which was more soap opera than thoughtful Time Travel novel. But this... this is contemptible.

Given that this is the case, I am thinking of running a sci-fi award myself. Maybe here on BGG. I don't know. The Hugos used to be respectable. They used to really offer the best of the best of the genre. Is the whole genre melting into the cheese fondue goo of Twilight-inspired urban fantasy? Is that what's going on? Whatever happen to the days of great, hard sci-fi, or epic space opera? Where are the novels with vision? The only book on this year's nominee list that even comes close is Embassytown and it's more a meta-novel than actual sci-fi.

Blah. Sorry for the semi-incoherent rant. I am just pissed that a genre I love seems to be slowly filling with fluffy teenage bullshit. I love teens, and they need to find books to love too. But pandering to them by writing dumbed down, two-dimensional adaptations of the monomyth aren't the way to go about it.

Gah!

/rant
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Unfortunately, teenagers aren't the only audience who want shallow entertainment. Part of the reason I quit watching most movies and television.
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I say make the award into as phallic of a rocket as you can make it with the motto "If it ain't hard, then it ain't SciFi!"

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SVan wrote:
Unfortunately, teenagers aren't the only audience who want shallow entertainment.

I don't think The Graveyard Book is the greatest thing I've ever read (it's not even the greatest Neil Gaiman book I've ever read), but Blackout/All Clear is hardly shallow entertainment.
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MScrivner wrote:
Ok, so I just finished reading Among Others by Jo Walton - this year's Hugo Winner.

And it's insipid trash. Seriously. Just trite garbage.

I get that to some degree it's a hommage to sci-fi, and a tribute to a young reader's discovery of great sci-fi, but Ready Player One did a far better job of that and wasn't filled with any of the melodramatic and tedious thoughts of a barely-interesting teenager.

So, I thought they were a little off when Yiddish Policeman's Union won in '08, since, as good of a book as it is, it's not really sci-fi, and I was really annoyed with Graveyard Book won, especially when Anathem and Little Brother were both nominated. And then Blackout/All Clear which was more soap opera than thoughtful Time Travel novel. But this... this is contemptible.

Given that this is the case, I am thinking of running a sci-fi award myself. Maybe here on BGG. I don't know. The Hugos used to be respectable. They used to really offer the best of the best of the genre. Is the whole genre melting into the cheese fondue goo of Twilight-inspired urban fantasy? Is that what's going on? Whatever happen to the days of great, hard sci-fi, or epic space opera? Where are the novels with vision? The only book on this year's nominee list that even comes close is Embassytown and it's more a meta-novel than actual sci-fi.


First - there is no Awards Committee. The Hugo is voted on by people like you and me (as long as you pay for at least a supporting membership for the Worldcon).

I think you are doing down Embassytown. Proper SF in my book. People I know didn't like Leviathan Wakes but that is SF too, just not good SF in their eyes.

There was some excellent SF published last year. The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi missed out by one nomination on being on the final ballot. Children Of The Sky by Vernor Vinge was only 9 nominations behind that.

I can name a whole load of novels which aren't even on the list of nominations (which is cut-off at 5%). The reason is they are mainly small-press OR British - and not enough US readers buy either small-press or books from British publishers. For example I read The Quantum Thief in October 2010 when it was published in the UK. So it was eligible in 2011 - and got 48 nominations. Last year it received its first publication in the US and got 70 nominations. It is unlikely that the 48 who nominated it in 2011, also nominated in 2012.


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Verkisto wrote:
SVan wrote:
Unfortunately, teenagers aren't the only audience who want shallow entertainment.

I don't think The Graveyard Book is the greatest thing I've ever read (it's not even the greatest Neil Gaiman book I've ever read), but Blackout/All Clear is hardly shallow entertainment.


No just very badly researched. So badly researched it threw me out of the story time and time again.
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Re: What The Hell Is the Matter With the Hugo Awards [-]Committee[/-] Voters?
andyl wrote:
Verkisto wrote:
SVan wrote:
Unfortunately, teenagers aren't the only audience who want shallow entertainment.

I don't think The Graveyard Book is the greatest thing I've ever read (it's not even the greatest Neil Gaiman book I've ever read), but Blackout/All Clear is hardly shallow entertainment.


No just very badly researched. So badly researched it threw me out of the story time and time again.


Exactly.

And I don't necessarily think it need all be hard sci-fi. I would be happy if some old-school Space Opera were nominated as well.

I guess I knew that the Hugos were voted on by Worldcon attendees and not a committee. I just assumed that if you were a serious enough fan of the genre to attend an entire convention devoted to it such that you got to vote, your tastes would run beyond shallow, teen-girl fairy stories.

The rest of the list, at least until the 2000's, is respectable and representative of the best of the best of the genre. Why did the democracy of the past have such good taste, while the democracy of the present wallows in such lowest-common-denominator ignorance?

(And btw, I adored Embassytown, but not because of its sci-fi trappings. I adored it because it was one long love letter to the power of metaphor, which is pretty po-mo meta in my book, and off course from sci-fi I generally like - Hyperion, Neuromancer, Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, etc)
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MScrivner wrote:
Ok, so I just finished reading Among Others by Jo Walton - this year's Hugo Winner.

And it's insipid trash. Seriously. Just trite garbage.


In your opinion, of course. (I've bolded the important part.)
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wytefang wrote:
MScrivner wrote:
Ok, so I just finished reading Among Others by Jo Walton - this year's Hugo Winner.

And it's insipid trash. Seriously. Just trite garbage.


In your opinion, of course. (I've bolded the important part.)


Well of course. And if you liked it, I am ok with that. And I can get all literary critquey if I must to defend my opinion that it is insipid and trite. My point was not to trash the book. It was so bad that I really don't feel like it's worth my time even to discuss it. My point was to to use my contempt for the book to comment on how whomever is picking these as the award winners seems to have lost their bloody mind.
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MScrivner wrote:
wytefang wrote:
MScrivner wrote:
Ok, so I just finished reading Among Others by Jo Walton - this year's Hugo Winner.

And it's insipid trash. Seriously. Just trite garbage.


In your opinion, of course. (I've bolded the important part.)


Well of course. And if you liked it, I am ok with that. And I can get all literary critquey if I must to defend my opinion that it is insipid and trite. My point was not to trash the book. It was so bad that I really don't feel like it's worth my time even to discuss it. My point was to to use my contempt for the book to comment on how whomever is picking these as the award winners seems to have lost their bloody mind.


I liked Among Others but I don't think it was worthy of a major Sci-fi award. I thought it was an easy enough read that was interesting. I wouldn't mind if it won something like the booker award, but the Hugo should be for something far more obliquely... well, sci-fi.

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I've always preferred the Nebula to the Hugo.

The Nebula is voted on by writers. It's less of the popularity fest which the Hugo is.

Hugo=People's Choice
Nebula=Oscars.

Both are flawed in their own way, but I find the Nebula award winners to be more consistently excellent.

Darilian
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Darilian wrote:
I've always preferred the Nebula to the Hugo.

The Nebula is voted on by writers. It's less of the popularity fest which the Hugo is.

Hugo=People's Choice
Nebula=Oscars.

Both are flawed in their own way, but I find the Nebula award winners to be more consistently excellent.

Darilian


Except that, ahem, Jo Walton won the Nebula this year as well.
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MScrivner wrote:
stuff ...especially when Anathem... additional stuff


Oh hell yeah, love that book! Now I have to read it again. That baby rocks you right out of your socks about 5 times.
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I read very little sci-fi, but a lot of fantasy.

In regards to Hugo winners/nominees, I like the graveyard book.

The only other recent winners I have read are Harry Potter, American Gods (which was great) and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell which was incredible.

I like Neal Stephenson, but he is damn heavy and I would think is too much for many readers.

I havent read any china mieville, though that will change as he is next in the queue.

I actually ordered a few of the other recent nominees on a lark as my queue was dry including Among Others (though NOTHING about it beyond the award drew me to it), The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and the aforementioned mieville books. We will see.
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MScrivner wrote:
andyl wrote:
Verkisto wrote:
SVan wrote:
Unfortunately, teenagers aren't the only audience who want shallow entertainment.

I don't think The Graveyard Book is the greatest thing I've ever read (it's not even the greatest Neil Gaiman book I've ever read), but Blackout/All Clear is hardly shallow entertainment.


No just very badly researched. So badly researched it threw me out of the story time and time again.


Exactly.

And I don't necessarily think it need all be hard sci-fi. I would be happy if some old-school Space Opera were nominated as well.


The Hugos have always been about the best SF or fantasy book. It has never exclusively been hard SF or space opera.

Quote:

I guess I knew that the Hugos were voted on by Worldcon attendees and not a committee. I just assumed that if you were a serious enough fan of the genre to attend an entire convention devoted to it such that you got to vote, your tastes would run beyond shallow, teen-girl fairy stories.


I think that Among Others is far more than that. As a UK SF fan of about the same age and social class as Jo, I can say it spoke pretty strongly to me. It is far more a love-letter to growing up different, a love-letter to 70s SF than a teen-girl fairy story. If anything I would imagine that teen-girls would not find the book half as interesting as I did.

Hugo-worthy? Well I would have nominated other books. But given the final ballot I would probably have had voted Embassytown first, and Among Others second.

Quote:

The rest of the list, at least until the 2000's, is respectable and representative of the best of the best of the genre. Why did the democracy of the past have such good taste, while the democracy of the present wallows in such lowest-common-denominator ignorance?


Because it isn't necessarily true.

I have already said that I found more in Among Others than you. There have always been year's with surprising winners. Foundation's Edge for example. That was almost a long-service award by fans. Also true is that some writers tend to be favoured more than others. I'm not sure all of Bujold's Hugos are deserved for example. Finally there are writers who are consistently over-looked when it comes to winning - for example Gene Wolfe, Chris Priest - maybe because of distribution or that the book is more difficult, more work, than some are used to.

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Friends of mine here in KC have been on more than one Hugo Committee for the WorldCon. The committee is tasked with collecting and sorting the nominations from the paid members, assembling the ballot and including it in a Progress Report for mailing, then collecting and counting the ballots via the "Australian rules" method. Meanwhile, they have to approach different artists, get sample suggestions for the trophy design, then commissioning enough (plus a couple spares) from the artist selected, having the labels engraved with the categories and winners, then keeping it all secret until the award ceremony. It's a lot of work from a small group of volunteers.

One thing I was surprised to learn over the years of talking to the committee members is how few nominations it takes to make the ballot in some of the categories. Best Novel, Best Movie, Best Fanzine, and so forth always get plenty, but for some of the others it only takes a half-dozen to a dozen nominations to make the ballot.

If you are seriously concerned about the works that make the ballot, buy a non-attending membership, convince people who like the same things you do to buy one also, then all of you nominate the books, stories, movies, fanzines, etc. that you like. Since the committee puts up to five nominations in each category, 20-30 people could probably get works on the ballot in most of the categories. (It wouldn't be the first time a concerted effort by a small group got a particular book onto the ballot.) Once the ballot comes out, lots of SF fans make an effort to read the nominated works so they can choose the best among them. Your favorite may work its way to the top.
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claymore_57 wrote:
Since the committee puts up to five nominations in each category, 20-30 people could probably get works on the ballot in most of the categories. (It wouldn't be the first time a concerted effort by a small group got a particular book onto the ballot.)


As you said novel is one of the more competitive awards. It took 71 nominations this year to make the final ballot, 78 nominations last year. I don't know about 2010 - the aussiecon4 website has been taken down, and the numbers aren't in www.archive.org. In 2009 only 54 nominations were needed.

Also getting a book onto the ballot isn't any guarantee that it will win. As L. Ron Hubbard found out in Brighton in '87.

But I just want to back claymore_57 up.

Buy a supporting membership, nominate and vote.

What he didn't say is that most Worldcons also supply a Hugo voter packet which contains many of the nominees on the final ballot (in electronic form) to the voters.

For next year (in San Antonio) a supporting membership is $60. For the year after (in London so I have a full membership) it is currently $40.
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