melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
melannen ([personal profile] melannen) wrote2015-08-25 08:20 pm
Entry tags:

dead dogs

I missed the Hugo announcements because I spent all day floating around in [personal profile] lindentreeisle's mom's swimming pool, which was definitely a better life choice, let's face it.

I'm still catching up on liveblogs and stuff, but looking at the numbers that were released, something occurs to me: the puppies may not have been 100% wrong. Because if you look at the nominations numbers, it really does look like a small group of people (~70-100) are all nominating from the exact same relatively small group of works, all of which share the trait that they are very thoughtful about stuff like gender, sexuality, race, imperialism. Whereas when you looked at the other (non-puppy) works nominated, there are a lot more of them, but fewer of them hit that nominations threshhold, because the votes are spread among more works, so they are each less likely to get a nomination.

And the taste of that small group of people, while it isn't entirely different from the tastes of the wider fandom, isn't exactly convergent, either. Just look at some of the stuff that did get wins this year. And the effect is that it almost looks like slate nominations.

I mean, obviously it *isn't* : what it is, is that if you've come to the realization that fiction that isn't deeply thoughtful about stuff like gender, sexuality, race, and imperialism is not good fiction, and especially is not great SFF, because anything else is lazy goddamn worldbuilding, then you still have a WHOLE LOT FEWER stories to pick from. And so there's a lot less less spread in the noms.

And obviously the answer isn't to have a competing slate, because that's a solution to a different problem. The answer is for the Puppies and their friends to make sure there are SO MANY books published every year for the diversity-aware bloc to pick from that their nominations are as spread out as the straight-white-men's nominations.

Get on that, Puppies. Please.

(That might actually happen anyway, if all the people who bought first-time votes this year nominate next year, and nominate a lot of less-printsff-mainstream stuff. We'll see.)
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)

[personal profile] seekingferret 2015-08-26 01:17 am (UTC)(link)
Wait, where are you drawing this conclusion from? Just the released nominations data, or the complete anonymized dataset that they were planning to release on request? Because I don't see how you could conclude from the released nominations data that any group of people other than the Puppies were all nominating the same works.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)

[personal profile] seekingferret 2015-08-26 01:44 am (UTC)(link)
so it may not be true at all, but I definitely see how it could look true without doing the math. and we should implement my suggested fix either way. :p

Heh, yep. :P

But I suspect this probably is the parable of drawing a bullseye around the bullet holes in the wall at play. There are other authors you might associate with the same social-justicey people that don't cluster around that 70-100 nomination point, but you found a pattern because you were looking for one.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)

[personal profile] seekingferret 2015-08-26 02:42 pm (UTC)(link)
I just put in a request for the full dataset. I think my intended general methodology is to try to look at individual works on the Puppy List, individual non-Puppy nominated works, and some sort of sampling of works below the ballot threshold and count the total number of other works that were nominated on the same ballots in the same category as a particular work.

i.e. my hypothesis would be that the nominating ballots that contained The Dark Between the Stars would have less other Best Novel nominees than the ballots containing The Three Body Problem, since TDBTS was part of a slate and 3BP was not.

This would also let us look at your hypothesis that the ballots containing Unlocked would look more like the ballots containing The Dark Between the Stars than the ballots containing The Three body Problem.
naraht: (Default)

[personal profile] naraht 2015-08-26 06:22 am (UTC)(link)
...if you've come to the realization that fiction that isn't deeply thoughtful about stuff like gender, sexuality, race, and imperialism is not good fiction, and especially is not great SFF, because anything else is lazy goddamn world building...

You know, this may be a slight derail, but I'm actually not certain I agree with this. In terms of my own reading preferences, I absolutely do, but overall I feel that there are a lot of different things to be thoughtful about and a lot of different goals that stories can be aiming at. A short story about the physics of alien beings living on a neutron star might be incredibly thoughtful about physics but not be designed to say anything about gender or race - even if the protagonist is a racial or gender minority.

My point is completely different from the ones the Puppies are making, but I do think the world of literature would actually be a poorer place if all fiction focused specifically on these issues. Generally speaking you can't have it all - even if you're talking about the balance between plot, characterisation, and style - and to say that one axis always has to be turned up to full means that you're discounting other types of good writing.

(I feel like I shouldn't have to say this, but I probably do: I don't believe that the Puppy nominations were good fiction by any metric.)
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)

[personal profile] seekingferret 2015-08-26 12:00 pm (UTC)(link)
I would suspect there is a distinction between [personal profile] melannen's "deeply thoughtful about" and your "focused specifically on". Ancillary Justice is not in any sense a book focused specifically on gender. It's a space opera that in support to a fairly intricate plot, is primarily asking questions about power, freedom, and the problems of empire. But it is deeply thoughtful about gender and its place in the worldbuilding.

Whereas Hugo nominee from a few years back Leviathan Wakes is a densely plotted book with similar themes about power and empire, but which is not at all thoughtful about gender and defaults to conventional detective novel tropes with basically a single female character in the whole novel. There is much to admire about Leviathan Wakes, but its failure to think about gender and race and their place in its world building weakens the novel because it results in much shallower world building.
swamp_adder: (Default)

[personal profile] swamp_adder 2015-08-26 06:04 pm (UTC)(link)
Regarding "good worldbuilding": it's literally impossible to give careful and serious thought to every single aspect of worldbuilding, because it's not literally possible for a single human being to build an entire world in complete detail. Anyone who tries will just end up like Tolkien: spending so long building the world that they'll never get around writing the actual story. And to me, singling out one particular aspect of worldbuilding, whether it's the sociology of race and gender or scientifically-accurate physics or biology, and saying "this element is absolutely necessary to good worldbuilding, but the others are optional" just seems... kind of arbitrary? I just don't see any reason to think that a story that deals thoughtfully with gender issues but puts zero thought into its portrayal of FTL travel and whether it makes any scientific sense has objectively better worldbuilding than one which does the opposite. And while a story could do both things, I don't think it necessarily has to in order to be good.
cahn: (Default)

[personal profile] cahn 2015-08-26 10:50 pm (UTC)(link)
then yeah, that's just bad writing, that's a-fish-in-a-bottle-of-7up level worldbuilding fail

I just have to say that I snorted at this. HEE.
catpella: Imperial logo and Aurebesh text of guild name (Default)

[personal profile] catpella 2015-09-04 11:07 am (UTC)(link)
That's a beautiful line.
swamp_adder: (Default)

[personal profile] swamp_adder 2015-08-27 06:13 pm (UTC)(link)
Well, yes, a book should be at least "baseline adequate" in all significant areas of worldbuilding in order to be good SF. It sounds though like you're differentiating between baseline adequacy and "deeply thoughtful" worldbuilding, and saying that a work needs to be not just adequate but excellent in all areas in order to be worthy of a Hugo, which is what I was reacting to. Am I misunderstanding you?
swamp_adder: (Default)

[personal profile] swamp_adder 2015-08-27 10:05 pm (UTC)(link)
Out of curiosity, have you read any novels published in 2014 that you think would have really deserved the award?
catpella: Imperial logo and Aurebesh text of guild name (Default)

[personal profile] catpella 2015-09-04 11:07 am (UTC)(link)
I want to +1 this comment so badly.
cahn: (Default)

[personal profile] cahn 2015-08-26 04:32 pm (UTC)(link)
Yeah, I agree with this, although I see what [personal profile] melannen is saying too.

That is, I think to be great fiction/SFF you have to be thoughtful about all kinds of things, including worldbuilding/gender/imperialism. (And in my opinion, to be great SF, you additionally have to be thoughtful enough about the science not to make any stupid mistakes.)

But you can be adequate fiction/SFF -- even a Hugo winner -- without necessarily thinking about those things. See 3BP, which I thought succeeded on many levels while failing dramatically on a number of other levels.

(And to be fair, I did vote it under No Award, but I think I might have been convinced to vote it over No Award, glaring flaws and all, had it just gotten that one piece of physics right that it got terribly wrong.)
cahn: (Default)

[personal profile] cahn 2015-08-26 10:48 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, I agree! And I've got a high threshold both ways: to get my vote I feel you should be more than adequate. I would (had I been voting then) also have No Awarded Scalzi's Redshirts, which while it was adequate and entertaining, I didn't find particularly interesting or thoughtful.
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[personal profile] elf 2015-08-27 12:08 am (UTC)(link)
I used to have nightmares about Stephen Colbert deciding he wants a Hugo. I've since decided that that would be an awesome thing, and shine a spotlight on how broken certain aspects of fandom are, especially where it intertwines with the professional world.

The Hugos were a terrific set of awards when the core of the SFF fandom community--as sparse and diverse as it was--did their community-building at SFF conventions. They don't, anymore, so it's a bit weird for the broader community, including publishers, to give much credence to an award that's always been a popularity contest among a specific subset of fans.

Forty years ago, that subset was more-or-less representative of SFF readership as a whole. Now, it's not; there are huge genres completely ignored by Worldcon and the Hugos. (I'm waiting for the year when "Best Video Game" gets on the ballot. You think we've got drama now...)

Other than that, though, I agree. There's a problem in that the convention-going community's standards for groundbreaking, thought-provoking, innovative-worldbuilding stories are being met by a relatively small group of authors. And the solution is obviously to get so much diverse fiction published that there are hundreds of amazing choices every year, instead of hundreds of variants of formulaic military fic or space-opera fluff, and a only handful of books that can change the way people look at the world.
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[personal profile] zlabya 2015-08-29 12:49 am (UTC)(link)
"fiction that isn't deeply thoughtful about stuff like gender, sexuality, race and imperialism is not good fiction, and especially is not great SFF"

So, so true.