Monday, May 04, 2015

The Quality of Puppies

I haven't read all of them yet, but in the short fiction Hugo categories dominated by puppies, most of the nominees don't seem to be worthy of a Hugo. Why?

I think there are two main reasons. The simplest is that, for the nominations exclusive to the Rabid Puppies, Vox Day is not a good judge of writing quality, in my opinion. He can't tell when he himself is writing badly, and he is inordinately fond of works published by his own tiny Castalia House, which publishes works that are passed over by larger publishers with better distribution and marketing.

The Sad Puppies are a bit different. I believe that the were honest in their desire to pick worthy writing, but they handicapped themselves in several ways.

The first was their stated goal to support works that wouldn't get on the ballot without their boost. That means that writers who have shown the ability to get nominated without puppy support were off the table, in theory. That's a lot of good writers.

In practice, the Sad Puppies made some exceptions for editors and dramatic presentations. Because I'm pretty sure that most of them would have been on the ballot without their help.  But putting Resnick and Weiskopf on the ballot was such a wonderful opportunity to stick it to the SJWs that it couldn't be passed up.

I have no idea why they picked Sheila Gilbert. She seems like a good person. But if you are picking a slate to show you are not sexist, you must include some females.

The second is that they ruled out writers tainted as Social Justice Warriors, as defined by them. This also narrows the field. I realize that they have tried to spin this as wanting authors who put good storytelling ahead of message, but this is quite subjective. The reader's tolerance for message increases when the message is congenial.  Indeed, if the author's view of the world matches the reader's, the message may be invisible to the reader.

I found their two John C. Wright nominations to have quite a lot of message, but I'm not a conservative Catholic.  For calibration, I think the Narnia books were a bit heavy on the message, but Gene Wolfe is fine.

The third is that the Sad slate was ultimately constructed by just four authors: Correlia, Torgersen and  two anonymous authors. Their ability to capture the best of the best was limited by how widely they read. Based on the slate, it seems that they were mostly fond of MilSF, Urban Fantasy and C. S. Lewis homages.  Which doesn't seem to adequately capture the full spectrum of the SF/F genre.

Also, I don't think their subjective view of the best SF/F writing of 2014 is quite the same as the median Hugo voter. I know it isn't mine.

Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly identified Tom Kratman as one of the group creating the Sap Puppy slate.


Tom Kratman said...

Who's feeding you your information? I ask because it's off in at least one particular.

Will McLean said...

Mr. Kratman:

If you can tell me what I am mistaken about, I can try to answer your question.

Tom Kratman said...

I had zero to do with selecting the puppy "slate." I;m on it, yes, but I had nothing to do with that nomination process, either.

Or am I misreading your comment?

Will McLean said...

Apparently, I misunderstood something written by one of the self-describe ELoE. I have corrected the post above.