I’ve been quiet these past few weeks. I have half-written several short stories, Infopedia entries aplenty, all sorts to say and discuss, but I’ve had my head down getting the last few scenes written for the third Human Legion book. I’m aiming to hit that milestone next Tuesday: 95,000 words of action, surprises, tragedy, and maybe a little romance. And plenty of dead fish. I will then give it another round of consistency checks and editing before offering it out to any beta readers who are generous enough to offer to help take a look and tell me all the things I’ve got wrong :-).
More on beta reading very soon. But not today because today I’m too angry.
It’s not been easy scene-crafting these past few days because I have allowed my procrastination engine to be fed by an ongoing civil war in the SF community over the most prestigious science fiction literary award: the Hugo. Actually, as I watch in disgust while a small but vital part of the science fiction world hurls abuse at itself, it seems to me less like a civil war and more like naughty children brawling.
To them I say: “Stop it! You’re bringing shame on the wider SF community, and damaging a great institution in the Hugo.”
I can hear the brawlers’ childish replies now: ‘She started it!’, ‘He called me names!’, ‘It wasn’t my fault!’ Except, of course, the tenor of the scrap has been anything but childish, and that is the real problem. There have been ugly personal attacks, with intolerance and bigotry on open display. And stupidity. A great deal of stupidity.
There are a few honorable exceptions. George RR Martin is one. He’s an adult who is very much taking sides in this dispute, and is angry. And yet, unlike those acting as children, from what I’ve read, he’s taking on his opponents by engaging them with civilized argument rather than ugly trolling. I’m far beyond caring whether he’s right or wrong in his arguments. What I care about is the way the argument is conducted.
Because to all those who feel that personal abuse, rumor-spreading, and awarding 1-star reviews to books you haven’t read are valid forms of debate, I say again: shame on you! You are demeaning all of us in the community of science fiction.
What’s particularly angered me today – enough to break my silence – is that I learned an author I admire very much, Marko Kloos, has withdrawn his nomination for the best novel award. This is a terrible blow to anyone who supports well-written science fiction. He’s stated very clearly why he’s withdrawn (although that hasn’t stopped people immediately misinterpreting to support their own agenda). He’s withdrawn because he feels the Hugo has been debased this year, and if he ever wins that award he wants to know he won it purely on merit. He’s right: the award has been debased. It’s been irretrievably smeared with hatred.
I don’t hold up much hope that anyone will listen to me, but I’ll try to point out some things that are blindingly obvious to those, such as myself, who are looking in on this fight from the outside.Hopefully once I’ve done that, my procrastination engine can stay switched off.
First some background, for those who wonder what I’m ranting about.
The Hugos are voted on by members of a science fiction literary convention called WorldCon. It’s the most prestigious convention for a branch of the SF community that calls itself Fandom. Last year the total number of votes cast for the award was about 3,500. It’s easy to look at that number and dismiss it as so tiny that it’s irrelevant. For comparison, I am a very minor league author, but even I had a sales peak this January when I sold more than 3,500 Human Legion books in just three days.
But to those of us for who love to consume SF in the form of the written word, the Hugos do matter. Maybe not as much as they once did, but their connection to the great SF works of the past gives them a significance that is irreplaceable.
They matter to me personally. The starting point of the path that led to me being a professional SF writer is a former winner of the Hugo best novel award called The Forever War. If it hadn’t won that award, it might not have been available on the shelves of my library in England, waiting for me to discover it as a teenager.
Now, to what they call in my country, stating the bleedin’ obvious.
One of the central beefs in this brawl is the claim that a traditional form of SF storytelling, typified by space opera, has been crowded out by other styles in the Hugo voting, even though space opera remains immensely popular outside of fandom. Well, I love space opera, and epic adventures where big events happen, and there’s conflict and hard choices. I don’t know about the voting as such, but I agree that space opera and military SF can sometimes be considered second rate by fandom. I encountered that myself recently when the British Science Fiction Association’s review journal described the writing of Al Reynolds and Peter F Hamilton as ‘irrelevant’. So, yes, I have sympathy with this point of view.
There’s another side in this punch-up that feels diversity in science fiction is under threat, and therefore needs defending. For me, science fiction is the literature of ideas. Good ideas require imagination and originality. I don’t care where that precious originality comes from, but the more diverse the backgrounds, approaches, and styles of any group of authors, the more fertile their wellspring of originality will be. I have sympathy with this point of view.
I love space opera, military SF, diversity and challenge, traditional storytelling, and innovation. I tend to read a core of novels that are traditional space opera or military SF, and leaven that by ranging far and wide, often way outside SF/fantasy. What I like to read isn’t important, but it does (apparently) need stating that it’s very simple to enjoy BOTH traditional and non-traditional science fiction.
These two ‘opposing’ points of view are nothing of the sort! They can easily co-exist, and do so in many readers, which is one of the reasons some of us in the wider SF community stare so aghast at all the intolerant bigotry on display that insists they cannot.
There are still those in this dispute who make their points in more or less reasoned argument, despite provocation. Kudos to you.
But to everyone else:
If you want to disagree with someone, please try reading and understanding what they are actually saying, rather than what you assume they mean. Then explain why you disagree without hurling abuse.
And to anyone who does hurl abuse online. Or calls on ‘their’ science fiction supporters to hurt the careers of ‘enemy’ science fiction authors by awarding 1-star reviews on Amazon: shame on you! Because you bring disgrace on all of us in SF. I don’t care if we do share a basic belief on what constitutes good writing, if you troll your opponents, you do not do so in my name.
Finally, here’s some much-needed advice to anyone who, like me, appreciates diversity in science fiction. No matter how many times the following argument is repeated, using it will always make you look stupid and bigoted…
“I celebrate diversity in science fiction, so long as it’s not the style of science fiction that you like. Science fiction is stronger for having a multitude of voices, so long as none of them are yours (you whining man-babies).”
Come on, people! You don’t work for Minitrue. Step back for a moment, and consider how silly this argument is. You are so much better than this.
Rant over. Now I can get back to work.
However, I will post a related topic late next week about real book sales data, which will maybe shine a new light on this whole bun fight of ‘Sad Puppies are reactionary losers’ vs. ‘The Puppy Killers are an elitist monoculture’.
If you’re as fed up with this PuppyGate shambles as I am, I’d love to hear your comments, but please (1) no abuse aimed at anyone but me and (2) I gotta work, so I might be a few days to reply.