You can’t pwn Science Fiction because it doesn’t exist

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This weekend’s… non-events…

This weekend’s… non-events… show that, though you use smart-arse hacks to pwn an award’s nomination process, you can’t also hack its voting community.

Just suppose you could, and ensure only tales about square jawed white male imperialists win prizes, or that the Hugo Awards from now on will be thinly veiled affirmative action. It might spoil Worldcon, cause some people to look elsewhere for their geek-fix. However in anything like the long term, it would have zero effect on Science Fiction, because…

Science Fiction does not really exist.

Science Fiction is just a label for a literary ecosystem; a feedback loop between publishers, authors, and readers, and it is the readers who determine which books flower, what subgenres thrive. 

Reading time is the most precious and private resource. People read, and therefore buy, what they like, not what they should.

So when you say, “This book deserves to be read “– O! The weaseliness of passive constructions — what you really mean is, “Joe(sephine) Rocket Pack should read this book on the way to work, or while waiting for an operation, or when battling depression or feeding a child in the small hours.”

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What entitlement! What certainty! And, how very unlikely many of them are listening to you!

Similarly, when you say, “Science Fiction should go in direction X!” what you really mean is, “I think millions of readers should damn well have different tastes than the ones they do have.”

What a bizarre sentiment! Good luck with that!

No, the only way of pwning Science Fiction is by writing, or pushing, books people want to read.

And, in this world of instant online reviewing, the worst fate for a book is for it to land on the wrong person’s e-reader.

That’s why Swords Versus Tanks will be going out with swords and tanks on its Pulp-inspired cover.

It’s also why People with Agendas should avoid trying to foist Approved Books on readers who will then eviscerate them with one-star reviews. I shall watch the fallout with interest…

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5 comments on “You can’t pwn Science Fiction because it doesn’t exist
  1. James Dempster says:

    I watched the whole shenanigans with only mild interest. Life can be difficult for the non-obscessive SF reader, who finds it hard to get all that worked up about an award whose imprimatur (or lack thereof) never made me buy a book.

    What surprised me was that the war being fought was one from half a century ago. All the things being complained about by the “puppies” I read as a voracious teenage consumer of “New Wave” SF in the late 1970s and very early 1980s. Much of it was already 10 years old. Did Chip Delaney never make it out of New York? How rabid do puppies become at the thought of “Camp Concentration”? Do Ballard and Brunner cause brainstorms? Why should I listen to Vox Day rather than Horselover Fat?

    I don’t know if news of the grandchildren of the New Wave has only just reached certain parts of the US and this is, to them, a new conflict, or whether they have reached their own speculative Alpine Redoubt and they plan to to bring down SF in some neo-Wagnerian Gotterdammerung.

    I think that they may find that no one much is listening.

  2. Geoff Hart says:

    The problem that the sad/rabid puppies describe is real: when you bring in much more diverse (ethnically, sexually, philosophically) voices, the amount of really interesting stuff available for reading increases. If there’s a fixed number of awards, then the chance of any given good heteronormative white guy stuff winning the award decreases. Simple statistics, not evidence of any bias pro or con.

    Since I consider awards to be meaningless popularity contexts, the Hugo Award kerfuffle means nothing to me, other than to restore my faith that fandom won’t cave in to people who behave like jerks. (John Scalzi, as usual, puts it very well in his blog: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2015/08/24/being-a-jerk-about-the-hugos-not-as-effective-a-strategy-as-you-might-think/)

    What the puppies really need is to create their own award that they can use for self-pleasuring while the rest of us blithely ignore them and go on enjoying the current renaissance in spec-fic.

    • mharoldpage says:

      > What the puppies really need is to create their own award that they can use for self-pleasuring while

      Or more to the point, we need some new awards focussed on adventure stories rather than ideas and literary execution (not that these are all mutually exclusive).

      I wasn’t joking about needing a Jim Baen Memorial “Blowing Shit Up In Space Award”.

  3. Geoff Hart says:

    My nominee for first recipient of that award:
    http://www.airshipentertainment.com/buckcomic.php

    Enjoy!

  4. Indiana Jim says:

    “It’s also why People with Agendas should avoid trying to foist Approved Books on readers who will then eviscerate them with one-star reviews.”

    That right there is the key point. While the Puppies believed a Liberal establishment were foisting their Approved Books upon unsuspecting Sci-Fi readers, they invariably were drawn into said supposed establishment saying, “your Approved Books are not approved because of your agenda.” They tried to say, “these are OUR Approved Books, because we don’t approve YOUR books!”

    *barf*

    It started out as an attempt to get people to notice perennial bestsellers, to slate titles by people rarely considered for Hugos, to get people to consider them! Then it turned into what it turned into. Like you said, you may hack the nomination process, but you can’t hack the voters.

    And thus, the Hugo community responded with a giant one-star review, not for the quality of the works, but the method of the promotion.

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