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April 16, 2015


the main female character is named "Chesty"?

Chesty and Chopper, fightin the Chinese!

but those are handles given to them by the colonel, Fern McConnell (aka Valkyrie). so it's OK.

"the main female character is named "Chesty"?"

Probably named after the famous general.

Yes, very explicitly (and transparently) named after the general, but that doesn't change the fact that it's an extremely blatant ploy* to let the author give the most prominent female character a name that reduces her to her appearance in a very gendered way. It's part of the old-fashioned scifi crap that got under my skin.

*Made even more blatant by the decision to have a female saddle her with that handle.

Anyone who can write "I spoke several obscenities" has a tin ear for language and hasn't thought through how to bring his scene to life.

The reason Correia/Torgerson and VD fail as writers is that they are so militantly clumsy and unimaginative. They don't think through what they are doing in any given scene and they seem to think that just slapping the "right" words on a page any old how will get the job done. They mix pedantry and attempted colloquialism like someone cutting Scriabin with Bon Jovi. The result is a semi-literate, noisy confusion that leaves the reader bored and increasingly contemptuous.

I suspect that the "properly" is an uncaught copy error, and the word that was intended was "promptly."

"The reason Correia/Torgerson and VD fail as writers"

From wikipedia:

"Correia's first novel, Monster Hunter International, despite being self-published, reached the Entertainment Weekly bestseller list in April 2008, after which he received a publishing contract with Baen Books. Monster Hunter International was re-released in 2009 and was on the Locus bestseller list in November 2009. The sequel, Monster Hunter Vendetta, was a New York Times bestseller.[1] The third book in the series, Monster Hunter Alpha, was released in July 2011 and was also a New York Times bestseller.[2]"

Man, what a failure as a writer.

there are many ways to fail

"Pushpin is as good as poetry, if pushpin is what you like." (Pushpin was apparently a pub game of the time - not to be confused with the Russian poet of a similar name.)

I was introduced to this aphorism by Jeremy Bentham as a freshman in college, and have never been able to refute it, even though I'm sure it's wrong.

Brett apparently has the same problem. All that matters is popularity; there is no independent way to measure quality.

Saves a LOT of time in literary analysis. Just look at the NYT bestseller lists, and you know what's best. (Pushpin.)

But it also should disqualify you from any discussion about literary quality. Are you listening, Brett?

Who sold more books? Goethe or his brother-in-law Vulpius? To the former's chagrin clearly the latter. And I would not assume that Vulpius considered himself as more than a pulp writer pandering to the lowest common denominator. The by far most successful German writer of today writes horror dime novels under a pseudonym and openly admits that his stuff vacillates unpredictably between well done and whipped crap.
And then there is that Mormon lady with her sparkling vampires and, or so I hear, abysmal style.
For the more classically minded: 'Naked came the stranger' (>100K copies sold)
I also found it quite pleasurable to read 'Atlanta Nights'.
Quality is clearly overrated as a marker/indicator for success.

Poor Brett certainly comes across as Pavlov's Puppy. Once something is labeled "conservative", Brett salivates and feels compelled to defend and cherish it, regardless of any logic, fact, or merit involved.

The brute fact in all of this is that the Puppies' pet writers don't win prizes because they aren't particularly good, talented or original writers. The Hugos are flawed, like all human institutions, but they do demand that a writer try a little harder and push a little further the Puppies seem willing or able to do. Maybe they should stop cultivating their self-victimizing petulance and take a harder, more self-critical view at what they are actually producing.

They might also stop lying about their behavior and motivations. Correia has been dog-whistling to the Gamergaters in obvious fashion, while happily pandering to Vox Day to scrounge up a few more votes. It's hard to respect people who willingly associate with such despicable company while whining about how unfair it is to label them as being part of it.

In sum, Puppies, if you want to get prizes, acclaim and respect as writers, do the hard work of challenging yourselves,write better and stop assuming that you deserve something you haven't earned.

Look, if 'literary quality' and writing skill have nothing to do with whether people enjoy reading something, maybe the problem here is that you've got a wacked idea of 'literary quality', not that huge numbers of people are reading crap. Maybe you are just a snob who wouldn't recognize good writing if somebody hit you over the head with an omnibus edition of Doc Savage.

Or maybe I actually have standards and can defend them with reference to the works in question, which is more than Brett has ever managed to do?

The Sad/Rabid/Grifter Puppies are the fiction-writer equivalent of pickup artists. They "know" they "deserve" prizes, the way PUAs "know" they "deserve" sex. If they can't get them from a willing group of voters/women on the basis of their own merits, they'll con, cheat and rape their way to what they "deserve". And then, of course, they'll whine even more that those they abused have the audacity to dislike and despise them and, oh horrors!, plan to make sure they can't repeat their despicable behavior.

Popularity is never a good indicator of quality, Brett, only of popularity. Dan Brown is a hack, but he's a best-selling hack because a lot of people like his simplistic storylines, manipulative plot devices, and cardboard characters. Take TV shows: something awful like Big Bang Theory is enormously popular even though it relies on lazy writing, broad stereotypes, and a teeth-grating laugh track. It's not complex or well-crafted; it's simple and plays to what the audience likes. That's why it's popular. Or take formulaic "summer blockbuster" movies; they're by-the-numbers constructions with all the substance of cotton candy, but they draw in the masses... and are forgotten soon afterwards.

It's reasonable to make distinctions beyond popularity when critiquing art. If it isn't, then the Hugos should just be a simple ranking based on sales figures. That it's not should probably hint that there's going to be some structural or thematic analysis performed, and one isn't a snob for accepting this.

Oh, bs. That's like saying that people enjoying a meal isn't a good indication of whether it's well cooked. Nope, the fact that the Monster Hunter series keeps selling out IS evidence he's a good writer.

I'm more and more convinced that Sad Puppies is onto something, and the Hugos have been captured by literary snobs, if this is the way you really think.

Indeed, "Eat your broccoli!" seems to be the theme here. The Hugos should be reserved for works people don't want to read, evidently.

That's like saying that people enjoying a meal isn't a good indication of whether it's well cooked.

McDonald's is very popular. No question there. But I defy you to claim that it is well cooked.

The Hugo awards are, in fact, popularity awards...from the SF fan community that is involved enough to take part in Worldcon. Which is not *quite* the same as just raw sales figures.

Don't recall if "Bimbos of the Death Sun" got a Hugo; probably not; but it WAS very popular.

The Nebula awards, voted on by members of SFWA, are much closer to being "literary" awards.

In both cases, the "literary merit" in SF is not quite the same as what one encounters in "literature" of the type that an MFA would study.

Perhaps there should be a special one-time-only Hugo award this year for "Gaming the Rules"; and then make sure it can never happen again.

Quality does not equal value. And, vice versa.

If a lot of people like something and want to read it, nuff said. Enjoy your book. That is called "value". Some number of people get pleasure from reading the book. No further justification is needed.

There are also reasonably objective measures for literary quality. By "objective", I mean they can be described sufficiently crisply that a given written work can be considered in light of them, without it being simply a matter of opinion.

There are reasons that Shakespeare and Chekov and Bellow are considered "good writers", and (for example) Jacqueline Susann is not. And, those reasons can be articulated, they aren't just a matter of some "snob's" opinion.

And, of course, Jacqueline Susann sold a lot of books.

If you like to read Jacqueline Susann, read Jacqueline Susann. If you like to read Chekov and Bellow, read Chekov and Bellow.

If you're going to talk about whether books are "good" or not, you need to be clear about the metric you are using to say what "good" is.

If the metric is "a lot of people like it, including me", that's fine.

If you're going to say "it's a very well written book", where "well written" refers to the actual craft of writing, that's also fine.

The two may overlap as a matter of occasional happy coincidence, but they are not the same.

No point in arguing about who's yardstick is better, everyone uses the metrics that best satisfy their purposes.

In this thread, specifically, I think Dr Science is interested in questions of actual literary merit, so perhaps "how many books were sold" is somewhat off topic.

As an aside, Emily Dickinson published about 10 or so poems during her lifetime. Out of the almost 2,000 that she wrote. I don't know how many people read the 10 or so, if it amounted to the low thousands I'd be amazed.

"That's like saying that people enjoying a meal isn't a good indication of whether it's well cooked."

Hungry dogs will eat dirty puddings.

Which, on reflection, really ought to be the Sad/Rabid/Grifter Puppies battle-cry.

"Lack of interest", Brett; "disinterest" means "objectivity".

@Mike Schilling

I sometimes have the impression that Brett is a misinterested participant in the great debates of the day.

The following analogy isn't meant to be definitive, but perhaps Mr. Bellmore will get something from it:

Imagine a fight - not a boxing match, but a no-holds-barred fight - between Shaquille O'Neal and a current flyweight boxing champion (it seems there are four of them holding different organizational belts right now). If Shaq, who is almost two feet taller than the typical flyweight boxer (who couldn't punch him in the face without jumping) and three times as heavy, has ANY notion at all of how to throw a good punch and how to grapple, I'm picking him to win the fight. I bet I'm not alone in that. (Could it go the other way? It's possible. But let's agree on the easily imaginable scenario where Shaq is a clear victor.)

So who's better at fighting? In one sense, it's gotta be Shaq, because he won the fight. On the other hand, there's such a thing as fighting skill. A 7' 300 pound man with the flyweight champ's boxing chops would take Shaq apart.

There's something people care about in prose style that's different from being able to produce prose that is minimally clear enough to communicate plot points. Many people don't really care about it, and that's fine; there are other things in writing. Many people do care about it, and consider it an essential component of literary quality, one that not only has virtue in its own right but can enhance all the other elements of literary skill. Surprisingly, it turns out many writers care about this stuff, as do at least some of the folks who care about voting in the Hugo awards.

What I think we're looking at here, is not a difference in skill, but rather a difference in genre.

I like Lord Dunsany's work. I like it a LOT. He was a very skilled writer, great stories. Probably the sort of author you'd concede exhibits 'literary merit'.

But if you took Monster Hunter International, or your typical Doc Savage story, and rewrote it in the literary style of Lord Dunsany, it just wouldn't work.

Or in the area of cooking, take typical theater fare; A tub of buttered and salted popcorn, and a frozen cherry coke. The popcorn is too oily, much too salty, the cherry coke is sickeningly sweet. But combine them while watching Iron Man, and it works, where a plate of chicken cordon blue and grilled asparagus would not. (Though I like those, too.)

Monster Hunter International belongs to a distinct genre, which has different requirements than the sort of fiction YOU like. That isn't to say that it doesn't have criteria for merit. They're just different.

To use the fighting analogy, if you put your boxer into a mixed martial arts fighting ring, against an opponent of the same weight, he'd probably lose. The mixed martial arts champ, forced to abide by the rules of boxing, would probably also lose.

They're champs at doing DIFFERENT things.

Now, perhaps this is a case for the Hugos adding a new category, "Fantasy Potboilers". But don't tell me that an author with Larry Correia's record of success doesn't know how to write. Of course he knows how to write. He just knows how to write stuff you don't happen to like.

"What I think we're looking at here, is not a difference in skill, but rather a difference in genre."

No,not at all. We are talking about skill in writing within the same genre. Nor does it help to suggest creating a sub-genre of fantasy potboilers, which rather lets the cat out of the bag as to the level of writing you find acceptable. Basically you are now applying the Hruska standard* to fiction prizes! The question, of course, is whether there is any point in having prizes if every mediocrity has to get one or feel unfairly treated by a cruel, hard world.

What you don't seem to grasp in all of this is that you keep coming back to the same inadequate argument that success equals good writing. Saying "...don't tell me that an author with Larry Correia's record of success doesn't know how to write" is just a restating of this failed assertion that does nothing to meet the case against Correia and Torgerson as writers. The question was never "does Correia/Torgerson/VD know how to write", but rather "Does he know how to write well?" with the implicit follow-up "Does he write well enough to deserve a Hugo?". Let's recall here that the Hugo is not meant to be a prize awarded automatically for number of books sold.

Skill in writing scenes, dialog etc has nothing to do with genre and everything to do with the author's willingness to think better, work harder, challenge herself to do something more. Suggesting that we set up a new genre for crappy writers is the sort of farcical suggestion that exposes just how desperate the Puppies and their supporters are to "win" a prize, any prize as a form of validation. There is a certain amusement in seeing conservatives advocate their own form of communism for the mediocre writers of the hard right, but it shows just how little faith they have in the quality of their writing.

Maybe, just maybe, these rejected writers should try asking themselves whether the fault lies not in their stars or some imaginary left-wing conspiracy but rather in themselves. No-one has produced a convincing argument that Correia/Torgerson/VD are producing ground-breaking fiction that stands out for its quality or originality. Why then should they feel entitled to win prizes? What have they got to offer apart from being white men writing old-fashioned fiction in a clunky style? If that's what you want to award prizes to, why not just set up your own awards? Hell,you've even got a ready-made name for them. Just call them the Hruskas and remember to award one to everyone who is nominated because mediocrity must be cherished. You wouldn't want to be like those evil Social Justice Warriors and have standards of quality, would you?

* Roman Hruska famously asked apropos a Supreme Court nomination:

"So what if he is mediocre? There are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they? We can't have all Brandeises, Cardozos, and Frankfurters and stuff like that there."

I'm thinking that, were I to buy a recent dictionary, I might find your photo illustrating the entry for "literary snob". You seem to be such a good example of one.

Your desperate conviction that a best selling author doesn't know how to write is absurd on it's face. Though not as absurd as the claim that your taste in literature constitutes some sort of 'objective' criteria for merit.

Now, if you'll excuse me, this conversation has inspired me to reread Monster Hunter International, and I'm really enjoying it much more than your raving.

Trashophilia seems completely unknown to Brett. Admittedly it is more prominent among cinephiles (= film snobs) than their literary cousins (apart from Dark and Stormy Night contests).
Btw, I have found an almost literal precursor of the famous passage in a Roman epic* from the 1st century AD just this week. ;-)

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thebaid_%28Latin_poem%29

Summary: You're a ranting literary snob. Screw off. The end.

I guess there is no way to judge quality in argumentation, either, so Brett's is as good as anyone else's.

Well, there IS a way to judge quality in literature. Several, as a matter of fact.

Sales is one of those. You're just rejecting it in favor of criteria that more closely align with your personal tastes, than the tastes of most SF fans.


Well, at least it wasn't Silius Italicus. Now there's a writer that the Sad Puppies and Brett should really cherish and adopt as an honorary maligned mediocrity deserving of a prize just because they say so!


Since you seem convinced that Larry Correia knows how to write, why don't you share three passages from his work and explain what makes him a good writer? Or is asking you to actually make a positive case for your er..dog ...in this fight cruel and unusual intellectual stimulation?

"Sales is one of those. You're just rejecting it in favor of criteria that more closely align with your personal tastes, than the tastes of most SF fans."

No, sales do not measure quality. They measure popularity. You really should try and grasp these fairly obvious distinctions. As was pointed out to you, people buy a lot of product from Burger King, but if you suggested that they were purchasing a gourmet meal with fries your own relatives would start looking for a good asylum where you could live out your days without harming anyone else or yourself.

As to these other criteria of quality that you claim to have identified, put your money where your mouth is. Share some of Correia's writing with us and explain to us where his genius lies. Can you do more than throw insults and play the victim, Brett?

Brett does have a valid point about "genre", but I'd formulate it a bit differently.

"Good fiction writing" has many components; the relative weight that is placed on these components varies from genre to genre.

You could write a beautifully crafted story, with deep characterization, subtle metaphors, and brilliant dialog. But if it doesn't involve a misdeed and efforts to "solve the crime", you won't be in the running for an award for mystery writing. And, strangely enough, fans of mystery stories put more weight on the details of the mystery and its solution than they do on some of those other "literary" factors, because NONE of the stories are perfect in every way, and choices must be made.

Brett's point about "sales" is evidence of popularity, but Hugos are given by popularity in a small, peculiar(!), highly motivated subset of the overall readership.


Yes/no/maybe. It seems to me that you are changing the discussion from one of effective writing to one of generic requirements. You can fulfill the basic demands of a corpse, a detective and the discovery of the criminal without actually writing a good murder mystery. Likewise, you can include beef, bread and vegetables without producing a good meal and end up with a Burger King product instead. Good writing goes beyond getting your generic ducks in a row, to the extent that it's even possible these days.

I'm guessing, though, that the Hugos aren't going to romance novels, even if they're really well written. I'm also guessing that SF fans like SF, so an award for SF works would align with the tastes of SF in that respect.

What I'd like to know is how Brett knows what the tastes are of most SF fans as related to who should be getting awards, rather than who one might bother reading. Someone who reads, say, 10 SF novels a year reads all 10, but doesn't necessarily like all of them equally, and even those such a fan liked most might not be the same ones that same fan would think worthy of an award.

Brett just doesn't seem to be like that, and doesn't seem to think most SF fans are like that (or should be like that?).

Brett wrote:
I'm thinking that, were I to buy a recent dictionary, I might find your photo illustrating the entry for "literary snob". You seem to be such a good example of one.

Your desperate conviction that a best selling author doesn't know how to write is absurd on it's [sic] face. Though not as absurd as the claim that your taste in literature constitutes some sort of 'objective' criteria for merit.

Now, if you'll excuse me, this conversation has inspired me to reread Monster Hunter International, and I'm really enjoying it much more than your raving.

This comment seems to be turning the dial up to 11. Would appreciate it if you would move it back down. Thanks.

consumers don't generally give awards to artists based solely on sales or popularity - popularity and sales are their own awards.

Let's recall here that the Hugo is not meant to be a prize awarded automatically for number of books sold.

This, after all, is why we have something called "best-selling author" that gets slapped on the covers of some books. Because even advertising copywriters realize that "award-winning" and "best-selling" are two different things. And the Hugo is an award for writing well, not for just selling lots of copies.

"Would appreciate it if you would move it back down. Thanks."

Sure, but let me explain why I did that.

Lester Dent has been attacked on this thread as a bad writer. Lester Dent, who in a week could write a novel that would still be in publication decades after his death. Who did so often enough that he's got more books still in publication and being enjoyed than the average Hugo winner probably will. A bad writer.

Larry Correia has been attacked as a bad writer. Due to this thread, I'm re-reading Monster Hunter International. This will be the third time I've read it. It's still enjoyable. That's kind of my personal gold standard for literary quality: Not whether you enjoy a book the first time you read it, but whether you keep enjoying it after you can quote lines from it, and the plot is no mystery. Larry has no trouble passing that test.

I recall English lit, being forced to read technically proficient pieces of crap that were no fun at all to read. I've never gone back to re-read any of them.

I should add that I'll never be able to un-read that weird story about the dying guy hallucinating that he's trapped on an island that's really his teeth. And I don't appreciate that.

Okay, I have to read *that*. Brett, what is the name of it?

I read all kinds of stuff including stuff I can easily identify as "trash" while I am reading it. I think the Hugos actually are a popularity award. It's not that the writing is objectively better, it's that a bunch of people voting for it liked it real well. That said, there is certainly a possibility for puppy faves to win in this popularity contest, and in the past many of them have. The whole framing suggestion that "they don't write'em like they uster" is simply not true. They write'em and we read'em and sometimes they win prizes.

That's not what this is about. it's about bullying and about shoving people on what they thought was everybody's playground. Brett, look at the reports of where the puppy nominations came from; they were much less of a popularity contest than the Hugo nominations.

Also, too, you'd think popularity was some sort of disqualifier for winning a Hugo, going by Brett. That's not the case just because there is any consideration at all of writing quality.

Brett, have you read the Torgersen story I've linked to? What did you think of *that*?

The best-selling fiction juggernaut of the last few years, without question, is Fifty Shades of Gray and its sequels. These books are so popular that they've actually re-shaped the thinking of people in the publishing industry.

Writing quality and popularity have very little to do with each other.

Of current SF best-sellers, Station Eleven is the one that is eligible for a Hugo -- but it's not on the ballot and probably wouldn't have been, because it's too "literary".

The thing to remember about sales figures is that they can, and generally do, reflect a lot more than quality. They can reflect brand loyalty (which frankly is not far from what Brett was describing with his comments on genre). They can reflect marketing and advertising. They can reflect the quality of the cover art. Sales are not a good measure of anything but popularity among the consumer public. An award that purports to be based on quality will not put popularity as the deciding criteria for its decision, and when the body voting for/deciding the award is not the same as the consumer public, sales figures become an even worse measure of popularity.

Perhaps it's worth making a distinction between good authors and good writers? I've always found this useful. Orson Scott Card is, IMO, a very good writer and a terrible author. He takes dubious stories with cliches, unreasonable coincidence, and inconsistent characters, and assembles them masterfully. Or to take a swing more in the direction of Brett's Lester Dent example, consider P.G. Wodehouse. Wodehouse is widely acknowledged as an excellent writer, and I heartily agree; his dexterity with written English was magnificent. However, the degree to which he was prolific undermined his talent as an author: his plots are shallow, frothy things which have been (IMO rightly) criticized as sometimes being nothing more than the same characters in largely similar situations with the names changed. I haven't read enough Torgerson to reasonably judge his abilities as an author, and they may be considerable. But as a writer, he's lacking. If you value authorship - the ability to come up with an engaging story arc - over writing - the ability to communicate clearly and evocatively in prose - then you'd be more forgiving to such a quality balance. If you value writing over authorship, it'll be a hard sell. I personally fall into the latter category. Nothing wrong with one or the other, but they do make for different sorts of reading publics.

'I'm more and more convinced that Sad Puppies is onto something, and the Hugos have been captured by literary snobs, if this is the way you really think'

The way he or she thinks doesn't have anything to do with the Hugos. Correia was nominated before the Sad Puppies thing. When he got nominated again last year as part of SP2, which annoyed rather than enraged, his was regarded as one of the least objectionable. So snobbish.

Of current SF best-sellers

Holy crap, Frank Herbert's "Dune" is still on that list! That is some staying power.

The Differences Between Commercial and Literary Fiction

BTW, I'm not sure that there's really much objection to the SP/RP nominees being on the Hugo ballot per se.

The objection is the hacking of the nomination rules, resulting in the SP/RP crowding out (nearly) all of the other non-SP/RP nominees, and what such hackery means for future Hugo awards.

Just to separate out the imagined from the actual record of the thread,

Brett wrote:
Lester Dent has been attacked on this thread as a bad writer.

NV wrote (after(!) your comment)
Or to take a swing more in the direction of Brett's Lester Dent example, consider P.G. Wodehouse.

Concerning Correia, you may have more of a point, but you don't get to insult people just because someone said an author you like is a bad writer.

I want to note for the record that the question here has not been that Correia is a bad writer, but rather that he isn't a good enough writer to deserve a Hugo award. The Puppies' case, such as it is, basically claims that the Puppies are writers who deserve the award and have been denied by a conspiracy. That they have no evidence of a conspiracy except their own assertions is part of why they come across as obnoxious, dishonest and arrogant. I will also note that Brett has been challenged to provide examples of Correia's work that he thinks are of good quality and explain why he believes them to be such. So far, Brett has failed to do so, which suggests that either he has not, in fact, read the work in question, or has no confidence in his ability to identify and defend passages of a high enough quality. Bluster and personal remarks can only cover up so much of a bad case.

The Puppies and their spokesmen can't have it both ways. Either their work is good enough to stand the test of debate, like everyone else's, in which case they need to show us what makes that work good enough, or, if the work is not, in fact, good enough, they need to acknowledge the fact and stop fabricating conspiracies and lashing out in a hateful manner.

So far, their behavior and refusal to defend their chosen work on its merits tell me that this is a controversy whipped up by a clique with no genuine concern for the quality of writing, but a vast sense of aggrieved, unearned privilege.

If there is any good news in all of this, it is that the white male privilege clique is fading out, both in sci-fi and fantasy, and, more important, across the US and the world as a whole. I believe that at some point we shall look back, shake our heads and laugh, perhaps with some embarrassment, at the idiocies perpetrated by this clique in its efforts to drag us all back to an mostly imagined past where men were men, fiction was badly written and two-bit bullies were lords of all they surveyed. Those days died for a reason and we are all well rid of them.

It's a shame that in the short term decent people will have to clean up the Puppies' mess and repair the harm that they have done to institutions that had served the community quite well over time and were gradually coming into line with the rest of civilization in matters of race, gender and awareness of a wider world. Still, I imagine most of us are used to cleaning up the filth left behind by the angry and the privileged. One more "deposit" by the Puppies ultimately won't matter very much over the course of time. As another writer, who never won the Hugo, once observed:

"When I look back on the perils which have been overcome, upon the great mountain of waves through which the gallant ship has driven, when I remember all that has gone wrong, and remember also all that has gone right, I feel sure we have no need to fear the tempest. Let it roar, and let it rage. We shall come through."

" but rather that he isn't a good enough writer to deserve a Hugo award."

Again, "Correia's first novel, Monster Hunter International, despite being self-published, reached the Entertainment Weekly bestseller list in April 2008,"

Nope, not good enough to win a Hugo? You really want me to say it again? Ok, I will:

Literary snob.

And that's my last comment on this, I leave absurdly early in the morning tomorrow for Michigan, in the hope of getting to see my sister one last time before she dies. So it's off to bed.

Best of luck getting there on time Brett; and deepest sympathies.

Brett has all my sympathy in this difficult time.

I have lost a lot of relatives. Sometimes you don't even know what you're losing until later. My daughter, for instance, despite her now-you-see-her-now-you-don't lifestyle, turned out to be the linchpin of our family, which came apart in unexpected ways after her death.

Anybody: Does anyone know the name of the horrific-sounding story Brett referred to above? (This one: "the dying guy hallucinating that he's trapped on an island that's really his teeth") I really want to see it. Just for the probably awful experience.

You know, the problem with the puppies' and Brett's assertion that the puppy slates represent a more democratic level of popularity is that they have recorded the support their nominations received from their partisans, and it turns out that what they have said about popularity just is not true.

Yes, Brett, the very best of luck for you and your family tomorrow.

So Brett, this list basically delineates the greatest writers of all time?


My sincere condolences re your sister. God speed.

Thanks for the list, bobbyp!

Read 1,2,3,8 (sucked), 9 (sucked), 10 (boring), 17, 20 (never again), 21, 22, 26(zzzz), 30 (never again), 34 (ditto), WTF is 39 doing on this list?, 41 about a bazillion times, aloud, in funny voices, 44, 45, 52, 56, 59 (although the death metaphor is disturbing), 60, 62, 63 sucked hard, 70 awesome, 78 several times, 91,

Be safe, Brett.


No Raymond Chandler. That really chapped my hide.

Shakespeare? Dostoyevsky? Kafka? Twain? Austen? Faulkner? Hemingway? Phfft. Nobodies I guess.

But Black Beauty! Now there's writing! /snark

Well, no particular hurry now, though I've still got a rental car to pick up in a couple hours.

Correia made the best sellers list self-published, which is roughly equivalent to some dude jumping out of the bleachers at the Olympics track and field, lapping most of the runners, and ending up with the Bronze.

And then being told he's lousy at running.

Don't know that I'd describe a list of best sellers as "the greatest writers of all time", but, yeah, I'd say only a literary snob would say, "Pfft! Those clowns don't know how to write!"

Why are the Bible and the Koran missing on that list? Or does the giving away for free of both spoil the sales numbers?
Of course there are also those books one 'must' own even without intention to ever read them. There was the immortal dispute between Thomas and Heinrich Mann about who of them was a 'classic'. Thomas claimed the title because his books stood on about every bookshelf in the country while Heinrich claimed that people bought his brother's books only to put them on the shelves* while his own books were bought to be read. For a true literary snob the latter would have been a disqualifier by itself. Kipling got never recognized by German liteary authorities BECAUSE his stuff was readable and popular. To my knowledge Kipling and Rider Haggard were friends. The latter's work is quite readable trash (turned into B movies, some good, some bad), Kipling's is quite readable art (for the most part). Btw, allegedly Disney asked his people, in preparation for The Jungle Book, NOT to read the book (if true, it shows).

*one would not be sufficient. Thoams loved hyperlong sentences filling overlong books

“I don’t remember reading about nipple clamps in the Bible.”

(from the classic work of staggering genius, 50 Shades Of Grey.)

If you read the note at the beginning of that 'best seller' list, it excludes religious texts that are often distributed for free.

And sure, there are nipple clamps in the Bible; but the terms got mistranslated for centuries because of that whole "leave out the vowels in written hebrew" thing. They kept the "free my *** from bondage!" thing, though.

So why are there any awards for books at all that aren't simply based on sales? Is everything that sells more better? Is this a standard that applies to anything at all, not just books?

If you want to judge books by their sales, why do you care at all about awards that are based on something else? Wouldn't all of those simply be manifestations of literary snobbery to be dismissed out of hand, and whatever discussion surrounding them be elitist rantings not worthy of engagement?

If you were one of the first people to read a book that later went on to be a best-seller, would you come to like it once the sales numbers were in, retroactively thinking it was "good" even if you thought it sucked when you read it, before it sold a bunch of copies?

Or do you actually form opinions about books not based only on their sales, just like the literary snobs who discuss whether or not a given book is worthy of consideration for a particular award?

Oscars are based on ticket sales, right? just as Grammys are based on record sales.

clearly any other criteria would be invalid.

Brett I don't know if you'll see this. On the recent renovation thread you posted about preferring to do the work yourself where possible, because you know you'll do it to your standards, which are higher than you'd get from those who are doing it to make a buck.

The analogy's got issues, but I think it's fundamentally sound.

But I defy you to claim that it is well cooked.

I would argue that it's cooked completely.

Popularity is not, not, not an indicator of quality. McDonald's, which was mentioned upthread, has more revenue worldwide than any other restaurant. Does that mean that it's objectively good food? I would say that it doesn't mean that. It just means that people like it, just as people liked pet rocks and hula hoops and EZ Bake Ovens.

So: if it's not a popularity contest, don't award it according to popular vote. Have people who are qualified to judge its quality. Which, by the way, is not me. I think if you have read and understood some subset of the greatest works of literature (NOT according to popularity; else having read the works of Rowling and Tolkein should qualify), then you've got a fair claim to having an opinion in the matter of quality.

Giving a vote to anyone ponying up e.g. $40, though, is asking to have your precious award co-opted.

I have no thoughts on VD. I understand he's not for everybody.

I also have no thoughts on Correia or Torgersen, neither of whom I have read. I have read Michael Z. Williamson, and it's fun stuff. But it won't ever be the classics. It's not written for that kind of consumer.

People often confuse "I liked it" with "good". I happen to be a fan of several military sci-fi authors. In fact, I have bought multiple copies (for myself first bound then electronic, and as gifts for others) of more than one book by one of the supposedly shut-out authors.

I would not, not even the ones I have given multiple copies of gifts, nominate any for a Hugo. They were QUITE enjoyable. I've read them many times. I gave them to friends who would enjoy them.

They weren't award winning, though, no matter how much I liked them.

Not that it matters. The real problem here is that the SP/RP exploited a failure mode in the nominations process and basically 'took over' several categories.

The fact that a small minority can control the entirety of the nominations in a category is an obvious failure mode -- whether it's some dark conspiracy of leftists or the obvious Rabid Puppy hack.

The solution is simple: Fix the flaw.

You can tell how serious the Sad and Rabid puppies are by seeing how they react to something like switching to reweighted average voting, which would rid the Hugos of ANY slate -- whether of darkly conspiring liberals or conservatives fighting the good fight, and instead ensure that the nominees reflected the general tastes of the Worldcon members who bother filling out the nomination form.

Perhaps the Sad Puppies will surprise me. The Rabid Puppies would, of course, claim the Hugos are not officially and openly rigged against them (rather than having altered the voting rules to prevent slate votes of ANY type). But then, the Rabid Puppies are Vox Day purchasing himself some Hugos.

Perhaps the Sad Puppies are, in fact, quite serious and not doing this out of some weird culture war imperative. (Although judging by the comments on the Sad Puppies blogs, it appears to be far less about Ethics In Sci-Fi Awards and far more "I HATE SCALZI!")

Why do they call them the Sad Puppies?

That can't have been a name they adopted for themselves.

it is.


On January 16th, Correira published a follow-up blog post featuring a picture of a sad-looking pug dog, which invited readers to help pulp novelists reach the ballot for the upcoming Hugo Awards.

On January 14th, 2014, YouTuber Steve Skojec uploaded a video titled “Sad Puppies,” which asked viewers to help “end puppy sadness” by voting for better books at Worldcon (shown below).

"But if you took Monster Hunter International, or your typical Doc Savage story, and rewrote it in the literary style of Lord Dunsany, it just wouldn't work."

Wouldn't that be "At the Mountains of Madness"?

Brett: As my people say, I will hold you and your sister in the Light.*

*And as my family say, "That way God can see you better."

Not sure if this has been covered, but Gary Farber noted on FB that VD, aka Theodore Beale, is the son of this august personage.

the human comedy never fails to entertain.

but, yeah, I'd say only a literary snob would say, "Pfft! Those clowns don't know how to write!"

50 Shades Of Grey was also self-published, initially. it has sold 60 million copies. in the UK, it has sold more than all the books in the entire Harry Potter series.

which means it rightfully deserves all the awards.

which means it rightfully deserves all the awards

If you want S&M porn, Anne Rice did it better.

Not that I know this through firsthand experience, mind you.

...actually, a LOT better.

Again, not that I have read any of e.g. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty.

I have however read Dave Barry's review of 50 Shades, and it doesn't seem to rise to any level of literature at all.

Anne Rice did it better

literary snob!

Anne Rice didn't sell 60,000,000 copies. so, whatsername who wrote 50 Shades Of Grey is objectively the better author.

Dave Barry's review of 50 Shades,

awesome :)

awesome :)

I take that as high, albeit secondhand praise. As in: I have not earned it.

Much as the 50 shades dudette has failed to.

Hey, E.L. James may have missed her calling!

"whatsername who wrote 50 Shades Of Grey" is, objectively, the richer author. However, dispite the prejudices of some, market success is not the only measure of quality.

Russel: Thanks for the kind words. I do want to emphasize that SF and Fanfic really are two different worlds and we shouldn't conflate the two. Fanfic is often set in the "real world"; the entire fanfic subgenre of "MAU" (Modern Alternate Universe) takes the characters the author loves and puts them someplace with which the writer and reader are likely much more familiar: a new school, freshman university or one's first job; quite literally the situation with which the writer herself is wrestling. These are kids trying to figure out "how to adult" and by writing a story about how their favorite character does it, they're trying to figure out how to do it themselves.

SF-nal AUs are a dead genre; few people read them, and fewer write them. Unless the source material is SF already, in which case any alternative universe is frowned upon. It's popular to move fantasy and historical characters to "now"; moving them into SF, or trying to place SFnal characters into a present-day situation, doesn't seem to move the audience. I've never been sure why.


SF-nal AUs are a dead genre

Huh? Surely The Lunar Chronicles are "SF-nal AUs", of fairy tales -- and they are BIG sellers.

I personally *loved* Julian Comstock (=Julian the Apostate), too, and thought it didn't get as much praise as it deserved. And then there's Fitzpatrick's War (=Alexander the Great).

Not to mention the Honor Harrington -- Napoleonic Wars IN SPACE! -- thing.

NV: I think workmanlike is being very generous: it reads to me like sub-par fanfic, clumsy and unpracticed writing.

Workmanlike probably is too generous, yes.

I tried to muster the willpower to go back and finish that awful piece, but what I'd read so thoroughly dispelled my suspension of disbelief in its attempts to be "authentic" that I just. Can't. Even. In particular, I came back to the ridiculous female sidekick "Chesty"; the author may be/have been a senior NCO in the US military, and he's trying really, really hard to wink and nudge to that effect, but he somehow managed in that necessarily long military career to avoid getting the first damned clue about the typical experiences of a female servicemember. His choice to make Chief Warrant Officer "Chesty" a passive, voiceless, "non-PC-just-one-of-the-boys", lie-down-and-take-it spineless wet noodle rang so false that I wanted to throw the story down in disgust. Given that it's digital, it obviously denied me even that small pleasure...

My opinion of "The Exchange Officer" (which I sincerely hope I am one of the few people in human history to have read more than once) is that it is profoundly uninteresting, written in a flat, unimaginative style and devoid of any meaningful content. If this is what conservatives find entertaining, I may find a twinge of pity for them in my SJW heart.

If popularity can't confer legitimacy on Democratic elected officials, it can't do so for Hugo wanna-bes, either.

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