« Gyrocoptic Terror from the Skies! | Main | Pension Reform -- The Wisdom of Crowds Weekend Open Thread »

April 16, 2015

Comments

I remember a time, some decades back, when those on the left rejected as oppression anything society in general valued, including coherent writing.

Perhaps those on the right in fandom have adopted the same worldview -- that writing well is necessarily a sign of failure to fight the oppression of the liberal establishment. It would at least explain why everything put forward in these two lists was so bad.

(As you say, Poul proved pretty conclusively that you could be conservative and write well. But then, that was back when conservative mostly was the establishment.)

You may think there's no such thing as an objective standard of literary quality, but it's quite possible to tell the basic difference between competent writing and the stuff that isn't.

I agree with this.

There are always questions of style, or subject, or point of view.

But basic craft can be evaluated fairly objectively.

I remember a time, some decades back, when those on the left rejected as oppression anything society in general valued, including coherent writing.

I think that time corresponds roughly to the time when most people who identified as being "on the left" were about 19 years old.

With time, daylight emerged between being progressive (insert whatever word you like) and "sticking it to the man" as an exercise in adolescent self-expression.

That's my analysis, anyway.

Dr S, i hate to do this... but there are a couple of typos in there which kinda stick out, given that they're in the middle of a post on SPAG. one is near "Opera Vita Aeterna" and the other near your use of 'rightfully'.

feel free to delete this :)

It seems to me that, if a piece of writing can be enjoyable aside from 'literary merit', (And that's certainly the case.) this logically implies that a piece of writing can be UNenjoyable aside from 'literary merit'. (And having read enough Hugo nominees in my day, that's also certainly the case.)

Unless these awards are supposed to be the literary equivalent of, "Eat your brocoli, blast it!", this raises the question of whether literary merit should play such a high role in handing them out.

Now, I've got to run off to the dentist, don't mistake that for disinterest. ;)

cleek:

I fixed the first one, thanks (I was C&Ping from a comment I made elsewhere). The second is also a in a location where I C&Ped, and for the life of me I can't see it.

Could you point it out? Otherwise I have to make Sprog the Elder find it (she inherited Mister Doctor's eagle eye for such things -- if I'm writing anything long or important I try to get one of them to proof-read. My editorial skills are more "big picture", I like to think.)

I'd say that, while the Hugos are not about literary merit per se, competant use of language should be a necessary (albeit not sufficient) criteria for consideration. It's not a matter of rewarding literary merit so much as a matter of rewarding good stories once literary competence is achieved.

Could you point it out?

it's: "Word choice: I can't figure out what he means, that rightfully was the word to use."

i can't quite make out what your saying there.

could be entirely my fault.

I'm not really familiar with the sci-fi world. Can someone tell me what the Hugos *are* about?

What is the standard for "best"?

Is literary quality considered a sort of secondary factor?

Is it considered at all?

and the babies are threatening to wreck future awards .

But then Vox Day and his followers made it impossible for me to remain silent , keep calm, and carry on. Not content with just using dirty tricks to get on the ballot, they’re now demanding they win, too, or they’ll destroy the Hugos altogether. When a commenter on File 770 suggested people fight back by voting for “No Award,” Vox Day wrote: “If No Award takes a fiction category, you will likely never see another award given in that category again. The sword cuts both ways, Lois. We are prepared for all eventualities.”

I assume that means they intend to use the same bloc-voting technique to block anyone but their nominees from winning in future years. Or, in other words, “If you ever want to see your precious award again, do exactly as I say.” It’s a threat, pure and simple. Everyone who votes has been ordered (under the threat of violence being done to something we love) to let their stories–stories which got on the ballot dishonestly–win.

because it's about merit.

drat.

It seems to me that the puppies are responding to a perceived loss of influence. After all, John W. Campbell, jr., took science fiction in a conservative direction pretty early on. Michael Moorcock's portrayal in "Starship Stormtroopers" comes to mind:

"Astounding became full of crew-cut wisecracking, cigar-chewing, competent guys (like Campbell's image of himself). But Campbell and his writers (and they considered themselves something of a unified team) were not producing Westerns. They claimed to be producing a fiction of ideas. These competent guys were suggesting how the world should be run. By the early fifties Astounding had turned by almost anyone's standard into a crypto-fascist deeply philistine magazine pretending to intellectualism and offering idealistic kids an 'alternative' that was, of course, no alternative at all. Through the fifties Campbell used his whole magazine as propaganda for the ideas he promoted in his editorials. His writers, by and large, were enthusiastic. Those who were not fell away from him, disturbed by his increasingly messianic disposition (Alfred Bester gives a good account of this)."

Full text here: http://flag.blackened.net/liberty/moorcock.html

"What I still don't understand is *why*: why a group of people who wanted me to judge works "on their merits" would nominate things without significant merit. And, especially, things that are *objectively* bad."

I'm puzzled at your lack of understanding. These guys are clearing judging primarily by political 'merit'.

wj: "I remember a time, some decades back, when those on the left rejected as oppression anything society in general valued, including coherent writing."

I don't.

cleek:

What I'm trying to say is: In the phrase, "I rightfully quit my fooling around and waited for further instructions from the master sergeant" I can't figure out what he means by "rightfully", or what he's trying to convey that "rightfully" seemed like the correct choice.

Barry, I guess you weren't in the Bay Area in the later part of the 1960s. ;-)

One of the more delightful experiences to be had reading fanfic is watching a writer mature. Once a fanfic writer has a plot idea more complicated than "I'm gonna put these two characters in a room to watch them boink," a plot idea that carries the characters and situation to new and different places than the source material, the writer's skillset always seems to mature relatively quickly. Somewhere between 10K and 20K words, a lot of the chattiness, text messaging habits, fourth-wall violations and the like just disappear, and a workmanlike prose emerges.

It's not fabulous prose, but it stops trying to engage the reader with artificial attention-grabbing stuff like that of Tumblr and Livejournal post-adolescent angst posts. The writer starts to tell a story. It's rarely a commercially marketable story; fanfic writers want a lot more slice-of-life, introspection, and revelation, even moreso than your traditional romance novel. (I sometimes suspect that the quiet slice-of-life anime is big with some US audiences because they're tired of YA save-the-world bombast and really want good examples of, as my two teenagers daughter put it, "how do I adult already?") They want to share with each other what they think is going on inside these characters.

They're not fantastic writers. They're mostly just kids with free time and creative urges and God bless 'em for it.

I have read the Vox D*y story and was unimpressed; I haven't read Corriea or Torgerson. But from my experience, and from the examples you've provided, it seems to me that they have a lot more maturing to do before they're ready for the big time.

" In the phrase, "I rightfully quit my fooling around and waited for further instructions from the master sergeant" I can't figure out what he means by "rightfully", or what he's trying to convey that "rightfully" seemed like the correct choice."

Ok, Doc, I'm going to have to say this straight out: That's not an example of bad writing. It's an example of bad reading.

It meant that quitting his fooling around was the right thing to do.

Now, granted, "I properly quit my fooling around" would have been better English. I spent my youth being mocked and spit at, and more painful things, precisely because I spoke excellent English, as though I were speaking written English. I went out of my way to learn to speak "colloquially".

It seems to me that you can criticize the narrator in a work of literature for not speaking perfect English, though doing so might, depending on the atmosphere intended, be somewhat foolish. But criticizing the author for having his characters speak as real people do, rather than in proper written English? Not so justifiable.

"But criticizing the author for having his characters speak as real people do, rather than in proper written English? Not so justifiable."

Oh, completely agreed, and I got that impression too, but the phrase in question was not the character speaking (i.e., not in quotes) except to the reader as first-person narration.

IIRC, authors have to use a lot of care to do first-person narration well, and this passage illustrates why.

BTW, an Iain M Banks novel, "Feersum Enjin (sp?)" had first-person ban-spelling narration. The story was fine, the narration was very annoying.

No, I loved Feersum Endjinn.

The narrative voice was tough to get into for a few pages, but well worth the effort, IMO.
As a sustained technical excercise, I though it rather impressive - and after a dozen or so pages, it ceased being a challenge, and became transparent; a bit like listening to someone speak in a broad and unfamiliar accent.

Torgesen, on the other hand, is just tough going, and unrewarding.

Ok, Doc, I'm going to have to say this straight out: That's not an example of bad writing. It's an example of bad reading.

It meant that quitting his fooling around was the right thing to do.

Now, granted, "I properly quit my fooling around" would have been better English.

I think it's bad writing.

First of all, you don't "rightfully," or "properly," or "rightly," do something that you've been ordered to do by a superior. You might do it promptly, or reluctantly, or obediently, or unhappily, or.... Any of those adverbs would be OK, if they helped the story.

Second, I don't think you do things liek taht rightfully at all. You can complain rightfully. You can, if you are a cop, write someone a speeding ticket rightfully. Doing something "rightfully" means there is a justification for your action, and you could have done otherwise. That's not what's going on here.

A couple of other things struck me.

"Supervising Chesty and me," is deaf. How about "Supervising me and Chesty?" Sounds better, IMO.

"the United States' most sophisticated remotely-operated vehicles in existence."

As opposed to the ones that aren't in existence? That phrase would have cost me a letter grade or so in high school English.

FWIW, w/o actually reading the story, I'd assume by the title that "Chesty and me" are officers, so the instruction from an NCO, even a senior one, wouldn't be an order from a superior, but rather from an exasperated subordinate. As a colloquial phrase, I personally don't have a problem with the use of "rightfully" here. Having said that, I agree that most any of your suggested substitutions would work better, and I'd actually say the author presumably meant to say "rightly". And having said that I'll also add that I loathe colloquial 1st-person narration and it tends to leave a bad taste of wistfulness for 50s and 60s scifi with Big Ideas and Mediocre Writing.

nv,

I think you are too hard on "colloquial 1st-person narration."

Still, it's easy to feel that way, without you have read a book by the name of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," but that ain't no matter.

I have to say, as an Army officer with a BA in English, that this is actually how enlisted military folks talk. I don't necessarily like to listen to it - it's hard to follow, especially in a written sworn statement - but it's pretty accurate. I don't follow the line of reasoning that says that the first person narrator should have an internal voice that is significantly different than their speech in dialogue.

"Righfully" in this context is pretty standard southern rural dialect. It translates as "appropriately." "As appropriate, I quit my fooling around." Master Sergeant, of course, is the man's name. Master Sergeant is how you address them and how you speak about them, to be differentiated only if there is more than one person with the same name, thus: "Master Sergeant Brown and Master Sergeant McSimmons are arguing again."

I wrote a similar analysis last year, right after the awards were announced, on a somewhat higher level (story structure, rather than words and paragraphs): https://www.owlfolio.org/fiction/the-literary-merit-of-right-wing-sf/

Torgerson's failure on that level boils down to, he's retreading stuff that's been done before, only with weaker, flatter characters and poor plot choices (specifically, choices that lower the stakes, which is exactly what not to do in a thriller). This speaks even more poorly of his ability (or lack thereof) to recognize the "wheat" among the "chaff," as you put it.

Tom Sawyer demonstrates that, if you are as good as Mark Twain, you can do first person narration and make it work. But most people, including this author, aren't even close to that good.

From the other side(I don't have an opinion about it either way.)

Leftists Attack Libertarian Sci-Fi

As an almost complete outsider to the SF world. I just want to say that I appreciated Elf Steinberg's 5:47.

It gave me good insight into what the SF scene, and specifically the fanfic scene, is about, and what the appeal is.

It seems kind of cool to me that there are venues for people to try their hand at writing their own stuff, even if they are not quite ready for the big show yet. It reminds me of jazz sessions, where folks are allowed and (depending on the session) even encouraged to jump in and do their best, even if they are extremely rough around the edges.

The way to be great is to suck a lot, usually for a long time, until you don't suck anymore. And, if that moment never arrives, at least you tried, and probably had some fun and learned some things along the way.

It's a shame that the Sad Puppies (whoever they are - I hope they didn't give themselves that name) are messing with it. I kind of feel your pain about all of this, now.

"I remember a time, some decades back, when those on the left rejected as oppression anything society in general valued, including coherent writing."

Reminds me of the article from 15 years ago on that very topic: "Is Bad Writing Necessary?"

"I remember a time, some decades back, when those on the left rejected as oppression anything society in general valued, including coherent writing."

I don't know where on 'the left' this happened, but I've been a left-wing activist (Trade Unionist, member of the Socialist Party and it's precursor Militant, reader of SF/F and gamer) for 30+ years and I don't remember that. Good English has always been important in the circles I've moved in.

Maybe I'm from the wrong country or something.

"I'm puzzled at your lack of understanding. These guys are clearing judging primarily by political 'merit'."

There's nothing a conservative loves more than his own political correctness. Unless it's the smell of his own farts.

Kyle:

Thanks for your insight. The character is, in fact, supposed to be a highly-skilled (helicopter & other vehicle pilot) Army officer, not enlisted. I would expect his voice to reflect that level of education and experience. The author is a Master Sgt, though.

Ideally you're right -- 1st person narrative should match the character's voice. The trouble is, as other commenters have pointed out by referencing Huck Finn, that sort of thing comes with a high degree of difficulty, especially for characters who aren't "bookish".

ObNitpick: Tom Sawyer uses third-person narration; Huckleberry Finn uses first-person narration.

"Barry, I guess you weren't in the Bay Area in the later part of the 1960s. ;-)"

Posted by: wj

No. I was not in an unrepresentative area of the country in a time loooooooooooooooong since dead.

Having looked at that Michigan Standard piece, to me it cries aloud 'dismiss out of hand' without being really informed on the topic at hand. It shows all the characteristic traits of a 'war on Xmas' story, so even if the basic facts should be true, they are not doing themselves a favor unless their sole audience is the true believers anyway. It's not about these guys being to the right of me, over here I know similar pieces mainly from eternal-yesterdayers* on the Left (who also tend to be terrible at writing btw).

*Ewiggestrige

James,


ObNitpick: Tom Sawyer uses third-person narration; Huckleberry Finn uses first-person narration.

Correct.

Sorry to sow confusion.

I'm not sure whether to be complimented or insulted that you and wj think the comment was totally my own creation.

Skip down to the start of the book.

Zack:

Thanks for the link to your analysis last year. I couldn't really talk in much depth about the Correia novel, because I couldn't really get into it.

That wasn't *entirely* because, when the slate was announced, Sprog the Elder intoned Warbound: Book Three of the Grimnoir Chronicles in this fake Portentous Voice, and I could never even *think* the title without laughing after that.

Because seriously, Grimnoir Chronicles sounds like a parody of the "I'll make it all *dark* and *gritty*, that'll be different!" school of thought.

Your point (and great supporting links) about how writing that resists conventional tropes is bound to require more thoughtful care from the writer, which may lead to it being better-crafted, is appealing, but I'm not sure yet if I agree. I have to think about it some more.

I've tended to guess that the Puppies' disregard of literary standards has to do with the (current American) conservative meme that academia and everything associated with it is The Enemy -- where the associations extend to "science" and "subtle writing".

I was not in an unrepresentative area of the country in a time loooooooooooooooong since dead.

And yet, I was there (in college at Berkeley), and I'm not even retired yet. Let alone dead. So perhaps not quite so long ago as that.

As for "unrepresentative"? Well yes and no. The point was how liberals, representative of the whole country or not, were viewing following standards. On language or anything else. And in that, I submit, the Bay Area was representative. Unless someone who was around then and elsewhere in the country wants to offer up some ddata to the contrary.

i'd just assume that narrowing one's focus to works that are politically correct [to a very conservative audience] limits the number of eligible authors so greatly that there just aren't enough really good prose stylists to choose from.

byomtov: I was responding to wj's (more recent) post, not yours; I did immediately recognize the phrasing you used as from Huck's beginning.

Huck Finn also demonstrates the degree to which writing in dialect is a tightwire: when done well, it's extremely effective. In other cases, it can cause problems. (Twain doesn't just use Huck's own dialect, but has a number of distinct, fairly accurate, dialects represented by different speakers, including general American "educated" English, and it's a careful detail of the book.)

Take the point of "rightfully" above. It's been pointed out that this use is in the narrator's dialect / idiolect. However, it's not as "obviously" dialect in the way that Twain, Faulkner, etc. is, which means that's it's more likely for a reader to be brought up short by the unexpected use of a word in an unusual way.

One of the risks with using dialect, and one's own dialect, as the narratorial voice is that it complicates the matter of copyediting: normally, there are standards for tightening up prose to written standards, but they don't necessarily apply where a normally oral dialect is being used to characterize the narrator. Is that extra "in existence" unnecessary filler, or is it meant to capture what the narrator's type of person would say? And it's trickier again where the narrator's idiolect is the same, substantively, as the author's, because it's harder to tell whether a variation is deliberate or just carelessness.

FWIW, Torgersen does not show the signs of a craftsman-type writer, and his own statements show that he values story over craft. That makes him likely to read as clunky to someone like me, but other people may (and obviously do) have different judgements.

There's nothing necessarily linking conservative values to simple, or careless, prose: I call Céine, Pound, and Proust to witness.

I rightfully quit my fooling around

It's a diction problem, not one of grammar.

The word he's groping for is probably "dutifully", if the character was reluctant to quit fooling around, or "gladly" if he wasn't, or something like "virtuously" if the character was motivated by a desire for goodness, or "self-righteously" if the character intends his attention to duty as a tacit rebuke to others who are still fooling around.

It's not clear to me which of those is meant, or maybe the author intends something else entirely which I've failed to grok. That's why it's bad writinig.

"An author should
...
12. _Say_ what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
13. Use the right word, not its second cousin."

Mark Twain's Rules for Writing

narrowing one's focus to works that are politically correct [to a very conservative audience] limits the number of eligible authors

One of our political parties has the same problem with candidates for office.

Unless someone who was around then ... wants to offer up some data to the contrary.

I was in Iowa then. We had leftists, particularly in Iowa City.

I've spent the last thirty-five years in the Bay Area.

All I can say is that trying to generalize from the Bay Area to Iowa is quite a stretch.

Joel,

Add,

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.

James,

Take the point of "rightfully" above. It's been pointed out that this use is in the narrator's dialect / idiolect. However, it's not as "obviously" dialect in the way that Twain, Faulkner, etc. is, which means that's it's more likely for a reader to be brought up short by the unexpected use of a word in an unusual way.

Not only is it not obvious dialect, there is really no earlier clue, at least in this passage, that the narrator customarily speaks in a southern rural dialect, as suggested by Kyle. That's not the tone of the passage, and we also learn that the narrator's retired mother lives in a large home in the Bay Area.

All I can say is that trying to generalize from the Bay Area to Iowa is quite a stretch.

Understood. But comparing the liberals in Iowa City to the liberals in the Bay Area? Maybe still a stretch, but much less of one.

The main difference, I suggest, is that in one place the liberals were a very small part of the population, whereas in the other they were a much larger and more visible one. (Still distinctly a minority, actully, but definitely numerous enough to be high profile.)

Too much verb tense and POV shifting...

"Ever heard of Woolf? Joyce?"

"Yes."

"Amateurs."

These guys are clearing judging primarily by political 'merit'.

Oh padawan, you have much to learn in the ways of cynicism.

Actually, my first thought could easily be wrong here, because Doctor Science considers VD (and JC Wright) more likely to benefit from this fiasco than Mr. Grimnoir. Unlike Correia, VD does not appear to benefit by filling the ballot with crap-plus-Correia. But still, let's not be so hasty to camp at a conclusion.

Nous, I recall when I got to read Portrait of the Artist in college. And said to the instructor "The problem with Joyce is that he doesn't know how to handle the English language." He was a bit shocked. But having, at his request, tried to read Ulysses (and failed ot get through it), I remain of the same opinion.

Joyce absolutely can handle the English language, he just thinks it deserves to be roughed up a bit. So he hit English over the head with a sap and left it in the alley.

Then Sam Beckett came by and repeatedly put a boot into English's prostrate form.

Ping.

byomtov: My personal suspicion is that it is Torgersen's own idiolect rather than a conscious characterization of the narrator's, but given two paragraphs to go by and first-person narration, it's a bit of an open question.

One obvious craft-related question is "why write in first-person"? There are lots of reasons, but here, who knows? My own guess is that Torgersen is writing by putting himself in the narrator's place to develop the story, a technique one step away from Mary-Sue.

Then there's the use of dialect (as opposed to military jargon, which has an obvious role of adding verisimilitude to the narrative). Is it because he's interested in providing a specific background for the character? If so, is he being consistent, or just sprinkling in words, whether opaque to outsiders, or well-known markers (like a writer marking a southerner by scattering y'all over his speech without any other adjustments)? Does the character's origin play a role somewhere in the story?

I don't think that these are the sorts of questions Torgersen is asking himself. I suspect that he thinks he is writing transparent prose and isn't expert enough to get there. But on the basis of these two paragraphs, as I haven't read the story, I can't tell.

wj: It is demonstrable, and has been demonstrated many times, that Joyce does indeed know how to handle the English Language, and Ulysses is a tour-de-force of different ways of doing it. One short work pointing this out is Kenner's Joyce's Voices, about narratorial technique in Ulysses.

@joel:
The word he's groping for is probably "dutifully", if the character was reluctant to quit fooling around, or "gladly" if he wasn't, or something like "virtuously" if the character was motivated by a desire for goodness, or "self-righteously" if the character intends his attention to duty as a tacit rebuke to others who are still fooling around.

There's another possibility you're not considering: the likes of you aren't supposed to grok this. Of the people who chimed in on this thread, the ones who had the least problem parsing appear to have been Kyle and me, and we both have a military background. There is a certain genre of SciFi which specifically aims to write in a "military" manner, and "southern rural" may not be an apt description of the dialect that the American military homogenizes towards, but it's certainly a strong influence. Military writing also tends to be intentionally "dumbed down" structurally - not out of anti-intellectualism (though that does crop up), but rather simple pragmatics: you want simple, clear, unambiguous language because you can't know the reading comprehension of your intended audience.

Ofc, it says something that you're trying to push works that willfully cater to a niche audience - to the point of excluding a broader readership - as deserving of praise, recognition, and honors from that excluded broader readership...

@Dr. S:
Because seriously, Grimnoir Chronicles sounds like a parody of the "I'll make it all *dark* and *gritty*, that'll be different!" school of thought.

That particular choice of titles is actually so much worse than just trying to sound edgy. I can hardly even imagine it's accidental, nor that the book isn't a parody. I'd not be shocked if it wasn't, but I would be appalled.

The character is, in fact, supposed to be a highly-skilled (helicopter & other vehicle pilot) Army officer, not enlisted. I would expect his voice to reflect that level of education and experience.

To (perhaps needlessly) clarify this point, Flight Warrant Officers are, when not directly enlisted as WO candidates, selected from the enlisted ranks and don't necessarily have the same educational background as "traditional" commissioned officers. Warrant Officers in general enjoy broader respect among enlisted personnel than other officers because they're "one of us" from the enlisted perspective, and this perspective normally includes a streak of anti-intellectualism. So again, w/o reading the work, I personally would hesitate to assume that the narrator is supposed to be highly educated. Highly trained, certainly, but depending on the rest of his characterization a lack of "book learning" could well be a point of pride.

Doctor Science: I have to agree that "Warbound: Book Three of the Grimnoir Chronicles" is a title that, in a better world, would have belonged to a send-up of the "absurdly grimdark" subgenre. There is some internal justification for the name "Grimnoir" but I say it's spinach.

What really bugs me about this year's go-round is, Torgerson claims to be trying to open up the Hugos to a broader audience, yeah? Only I count among my friends a group of SF writers who are mostly younger, women, and/or PoC, and their reaction to this year's shortlist amounts to "well, forget me ever having a chance at it, Lucy will always take the football away." I have to believe that the bulk of Worldcon-fandom doesn't want them to feel that way, but here we are.

It is demonstrable, and has been demonstrated many times, that Joyce does indeed know how to handle the English Language.

James, I submit that, if you write stuff that your prospective readers cannot make sense of, it doesn't matter how brilliant professors and critics think it is. You've failed as a writer because you can't handle English as a medium of communication.

Which, after all, it its purpose. Following the standard rules for grammer and word meaning are fine. But if people cannot understand you, you haven't communicated.

Nombrilisme Vide: I read the entire series in order to review them, last year. I suspect Correia picked the title because he thought he was writing noir (in the film sense). But what he actually produced was black-and-white-morality superhero action in which the Good Guys Win, played 100% straight, no parody, no deconstruction, no nothin'.

I have to say that I did enjoy them, on the whole, in the same way that I'm perfectly able to enjoy a cheesy superhero movie -- except for the fact that none of the protagonists were at all pleasant to be around, and ultimately I felt insulted by being expected to root for them, and that was the final straw that put Warbound below No Award on my ballot. (What's the pro-wrestling jargon term for when the bookers are pushing someone the fans consider dull or icky? I'm sure there is one but I can't find it. Anyway, like that.)

wj: The audience Joyce wrote for did, in fact, "make sense" of it, and continues to do so, in much the same way as the same can be said for Dante, or Shakespeare, or any number of less major writers. They found doing so so interesting, in fact, that they were willing to go to great lengths to import Ulysses under rather severe restrictions, in the early years.

However, it's not really helpful to speak as though "making sense of" something is the same as "getting everything out of it at once, without detailed attention". Joyce (or other authors like him as far as approach goes: Milton comes to mind) worked at a highly detailed level, and part of the fun of reading Ulysses is making connections which the author put there and that you missed the first N times. A work of literature has a number of different aspects, and a simplistic view of language as used in that context as only "a medium of communication" if by that is meant "plain meaning" is reductive.

And, if people don't enjoy reading your works, you've failed as an author of fiction. Which is why this, "I don't care if a lot of people enjoyed reading it, it lacks literary merit." misses the point.

Being enjoyable to read IS an aspect of literary merit, in the context of popular fiction.

This gets back to the original complaint behind Sad Puppies, of course, which is that these awards had been captured by left wing literary snobs, and were excluding a lot of works that were actually quite good reads, on the basis of some combination of very much minority tastes, and/or political ideology.

As I've said, I haven't been following the Hugos for a decade or more, due to lack of time to read that many books, but this wouldn't be an implausible extrapolation of trends I was seeing when I was following them.

The remarkably vitrolic attacks I've seen on Sad Puppies sure makes it plausible.

Well, yes, that could explain it. It could, however, also be explained by precisely how the Puppies have chosen to go about "righting" that "wrong".

Dr S does include a link to Torgersen's full story in the OP.

it's definitely a military story, told from the POV of a Warrant Officer, in space, having a big battle defending a US space station against some Chinese marauders. the voice has the characteristic jargon-heavy terseness that military people use when writing about military things.

here's the opening:

The solar panels crumpled.

I didn’t hear them, but I felt them through the stimulus-feedback system. My proxy’s hands and feet still gripped the spars of the extended boom to which the panels had once been attached. Now those panels were splintered and floating away in bits—dangerous debris in an orbital zone already too clouded with fast-moving hazards. Not that I cared much at the moment. Half the team was red-lining towards black, and I had no telemetry from the other half at all, even though they were literally within shouting distance.

As long as I was still Operating, I knew only what my proxy knew, saw only what my proxy saw, and felt only what my proxy felt.


i don't really like the rhythm in his sentences. and i really dislike when sifi writers use language that people in the story would never use in order to make it comprehensible to readers. but that's something all sifi writers have to struggle with; some do it better than others.

even though they were literally within shouting distance

well, no. there is literally no distance in space where a shout can be heard.

Dr S does include a link to Torgersen's full story in the OP.

it's definitely a military story, told from the POV of a Warrant Officer, in space, having a big battle defending a US space station against some Chinese marauders. the voice has the characteristic jargon-heavy terseness that military people use when writing about military things.

here's the opening:

The solar panels crumpled.

I didn’t hear them, but I felt them through the stimulus-feedback system. My proxy’s hands and feet still gripped the spars of the extended boom to which the panels had once been attached. Now those panels were splintered and floating away in bits—dangerous debris in an orbital zone already too clouded with fast-moving hazards. Not that I cared much at the moment. Half the team was red-lining towards black, and I had no telemetry from the other half at all, even though they were literally within shouting distance.

As long as I was still Operating, I knew only what my proxy knew, saw only what my proxy saw, and felt only what my proxy felt.


i don't really like the rhythm in his sentences. and i really dislike when sifi writers use language that people in the story would never use in order to make it comprehensible to readers. but that's something all sifi writers have to struggle with; some do it better than others.

even though they were literally within shouting distance

well, no. there is literally no distance in space where a shout can be heard.

wow. blogs.com went insane there for a minute.

James,

Mary-Sue?

You've failed as a writer because you can't handle English as a medium of communication.

Which, after all, it its purpose.

This is, I think, an overly instrumental view of the purpose of language.

And, if people don't enjoy reading your works, you've failed as an author of fiction.

If nobody reads your book, but you enjoyed writing it, and/or accomplished what you wanted to accomplish by writing it, you win.

If nobody reads your book, and you want to write books for a living, you have a problem.

I wonder if the one point here is that the sick puppies (rabies is a disease) are worried that science fiction will pursue respectability the way poetry and literary novels did and suffer a similarly vitiating dominance by MFAs. That, I think, would be a legitimate worry. One of the nice things about science fiction is that it is in touch with its audience, and its authors are rewarded with royalties, not grants or academic salaries.

That said, there are sentences above, quoted from 'Chesty and Me,' that should be taken out and shot. The desire to avoid making science fiction into the sort of academically incestuous backwater that poetry had become by the 1970s is no excuse for nominating bad writing. It looks like the Dunning-Kruger problem -- those nominating don't know the craft of writing well enough to realize that they are nominating bad writers.

You know, I'm looking at the Sad Puppies 2015 slate, and guess who wasn't nominated by them? That's right, Torgersen.

So, why are we discussing last year's nominees, rather than this year's?

Brett:

Because Torgersen put together the list, ostensibly.

Mary-Sue: a term from fanfic where the author projects his-or-herself into the story via a character who is (usually) highly competent, in a plotline which involves the (at least ultimate) success of the character.

@byomtov
Mary-Sue?

Idealized or semi-idealized author-insertion characters. See e.g.

I think it needs to be pointed out, in light of JohnW's comment, that there are two slates in this contraversy. "Sad" Puppies, organized by Torgersen this year, and "Rabid" Puppies, which according to Hoyt is just an unauthorized copycat operation by Vox Day, which Sad Puppies had nothing to do with.

Two separate slates, even if VD copied most of the Sad Puppies slate. Just to keep that in mind.

Kyle and me, and we both have a military background.

ex-SP/4 Hanes, Field Artillery here.
I served with plenty of southerners.

Military slang of my era might have used "righteously" in this place, but never "rightfully".

Actually, the translation of the author's sentence into the military slang of my era would have many more words, and is not directly quoteable in this family publication.

From an outsider's perspective, it doesn't seem like Doc Sci's criticisms of whichever puppies' nominees rise to the sort of ivory-tower, academic elitism some people seem to be concerned about. It looks like a reasonably low bar for basic technical competence she's setting.

I also don't think anyone's suggesting that people should be nominating stuff no one likes, just on the say-so of a bunch of self-appointed literature professors (or whatever cartoonishly high-brow scenario you prefer) opining on the high level of quality the works represent.

The goal isn't outstanding literature (as defined in academic circles), without regard to popularity. It's popularity without a total disregard for basic competence. What it's definitely not is *stuff that people don't like.*

That's true, I forgot that. Sorry.

I personally would never have said "rightfully" (as I said upthread, I'd not have gone further than "rightly"), but I didn't feel any doubt of the sense the author is trying to convey. That sentence, while inelegant, was extremely unambiguous to me. FWVLIW.

And yeah, although it's not as dramatic as yesteryear, an actual narration in modern American military English would not be family-friendly.

(@joel)

Well, then, stop whining, and get more people who share your tastes to vote on the Hugos next year.

Seems to me a better solution than ranting about how evil the people who put up the Sad Puppies slate are.

Can't people whine, rant and get more people who share their tastes to vote? Maybe whining and ranting are a couple of ways to encourage such voting.

Brett, as per your complaints in the other thread about why you're forced to be Republican, the nature of the Hugo voting structure means that just getting more people with similar tastes to vote won't matter. If there are "puppy" slates next year, it would take alternate slates to defeat them. It's a structural problem.

(Also, yeah, what hsh said)

Mary Sue

Well, then, stop whining, and get more people who share your tastes to vote on the Hugos next year.

Seems to me a better solution than ranting about how evil the people who put up the Sad Puppies slate are.

Dude, what are you trying to do, break the internet?!!??!?

NV:

That's true, I forgot that. Sorry.

Not offended.

My favorite depiction of military culture in quality SF is Haldeman's Forever War. (This choice is probably influenced by having been drafted.)

Right after 'Nam ended, I would have said The Word For World Is Forest, an anti-militarism polemic novelette by Ursula LeGuin, but we got smarter about some things in the Powell years. The effects of Cheney/Rumsfeld/Feith and Blackwater/Xe have been so dire that it might again be a good choice.

Brett,

The Rabid Puppies used all of Torgeson's slate. They (that is, Beale) just added some of their own: http://difficultrun.nathanielgivens.com/2015/04/14/sad-puppy-data-analysis/

Regarding "rightfully", he chimed in, late to the party:

I've heard it used in Southern dialect by my father's family (Georgia coastal plain, near SC, in and around Statesboro), but not really as an adverb.

So, "that car is rightfully mine", used as an adjective modifying "car", makes sense to my ear. The care properly and justly belongs to me. But I don't know what it would mean to "rightfully drive the car".

Just two tiny cents, and with that I will stand down from any resulting debate about what is and is not proper Southern dialect.

It's been a while since I hung out with those folks. Most of the ones I actually know are, sadly, gone now.

Actually, sorry, yes, after sitting here talking to myself in the voice of my Aunt Melba, I can hear rightfully as an adverb, but oddly only in a negative sense.

I can hear something like "You can't rightfully drive the car, it doesn't belong to you". But for some reason I can't hear "You can rightfully drive the car, it's your car".

It seems to me that would come out more like "You go right on ahead and drive that car, it's your car".

And, with that, I leave the field of Southern diction battle.

You may fire at will with your rightful...

I think I prefer the one-two punch approach: hit 'em rightfully and then hit 'em leftfully. Just so you hit them fully. ;-)

(Definitely got to get more sleep, if I'm getting this silly....)

Ranting and whining is how the puppies advocated for their slate. That and denigrating those they view as enemies.

I think "rightfully" implies a legal right in a situation where that right might possibly be unclear, or maybe where there are legal alternatives.

Thus, "You can rightfully drive the car" implies, to my ear, that you are entitled to drive it, even though that may not be clearcut. That is, you can drive it even though, say, it belongs to someone else. "Rightfully" would be unnecessary if it was your car to begin with.

"Susan rightfully complained." She had a valid reason for complaining, but had no obligation to do so.

"Susan rightly complained." She would have been wrong not to complain.

"All I got to give up is McCaslin blood that rightfully aint even mine...."

Lucas in Faulkner's Go Down Moses

Other than that, I rightfully got nothin'

Bernie has, rightfully, persuaded me.

bless his heart

Shakespeare knew.

And he shall think that thou, which know'st the way
To plant unrightful kings, wilt know again,
Being ne'er so little urged, another way
To pluck him headlong from the usurped throne.

Richard II

Act V, Scene I

Richard, addressing Northumberland, who has helped Bolingbroke depose him.

russell skrev :

I can hear something like "You can't rightfully drive the car, it doesn't belong to you". But for some reason I can't hear "You can rightfully drive the car, it's your car".

It seems to me that would come out more like "You go right on ahead and drive that car, it's your car".


My ear agrees with russell's.

byomtov's convincing explanation unfortunately doesn't seem to me to apply to the sentence of interest (over which I'm now going to stop obsessing).

1. first, convince your radical "conservative" followers that the establishment is oppressively liberal.

2. declare yourself to be a neutral alternative to the horrible left establishment.

3. when people point out that your motivations and slant are explicitly "conservative", despite your deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny,deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny. assert your fair and balanced goals.

4. profit.

Joel,

Who are you going to trust, me, or your lying ears?

What Russell thought Aunt Melba said.

Any of you who think the parts of "The Exchange Officers" I quoted sound like a person's voice, could you read the story and tell me what you think of it, as a whole?

OH BRETT BELLMORE NO.

(cf: http://fanlore.org/wiki/OH_JOHN_RINGO_NO)

If my patience comes back, I may take another stab, but it was so painfully written that I stopped about three pages in. It reads like a cheap serial scifi throwback, and not in a good way. "Workmanlike" is the kindest description I can muster - it's crude and clunky, and can't decide how to treat its readers.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad