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Saturday, December 29, 2012

NebulaGate: the 2012 winner responds

Jo Walton, winner of the 2012 Best Novel Award for Among Others, writes at Black Gate: "I am not a member of SFWA and never have been.  I think that disposes of your accusations of my logrolling for a Nebula."

I responded thusly: "I never made any such accusation. Furthermore, your non-membership in SFWA says absolutely nothing about the possibility of others logrolling on your behalf, especially given that the nomination process was a closed one. The fact that your book was published by Tor Books is enough to make its Nebula Award suspicious on its face, given that the SFWA President and Vice-President are both closely associated with Tor.

Dating back to its first Nebula nomination in 1986, Tor Books has accounted for 24.4% of all Nebula Best Novel nominations. No other publisher has even half that many.

Now, it is certainly possible that Tor is simply an excellent publisher. However, given the unusually heavy involvement of its authors in the awards process, their representation in the organization’s offices and the confirmed logrolling in the recent past, logic suggests that Tor has been gaming the awards system for a long time.  In 1990, for example, 5 of 6 Nebula-nominated novels were published by Tor. Only 2 of 5 Hugo-nominated novels and 1 of 5 World Fantasy Award-nominated novels were."

I have not yet read Among Others, so I cannot say that its victory over China Mieville's Embassytown was unjustified.  I will read it, review it, and opine on the matter in January.  I don't have to read it to know that it merited beating out George Martin's A Dance with Dragons, and is not Ms Walton's fault that her affiliation with Tor Books renders her award suspicious in a way that it would not have been if it had been published by another, less-decorated publisher.  That being said, the reviews of her book indicate that readers who read the book after hearing of its award-winning status tended to find it to be less than expected, a pattern that has been observed with past Best Novel-winners whose awards are known to be questionable.

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73 Comments:

Anonymous CaptDMO December 29, 2012 12:13 PM  

Is this an implication that this industry's "award" formula MAY be adopting the (i.e)Nobel Peace Prize, Pulitzer Prize, "Time" Magazine, and Motion Picture Acadamy Prize, (ahem subjective) formulae for "excelence" or "merit"?

Anonymous Rantor December 29, 2012 12:28 PM  

Reading the description it is a girl's coming of age story with magic. Not what I would call science fiction and not the kind of fantasy I am inclined to read. Frustrated woman dreams about having magical powers. gag me.

I mean she lives in England and Wales!! not Azgal-Garoth or some such. Where are the Dark Lords of Pelentorp or the Dragon Keepers of Hust. How about some strong men-of-war and some wenches 'at need rescuin'.

I shudder and look forward to your review.

Blogger James Dixon December 29, 2012 1:53 PM  

Well, I haven't read (and almost certainly won't read) the book, but from past experience with her work Jo is a decent writer. That has little bearing on this particular book, of course.

Anonymous VD December 29, 2012 2:02 PM  

Well, I haven't read (and almost certainly won't read) the book, but from past experience with her work Jo is a decent writer.

I have little doubt that she is. The question is: is she a superlative one? And is her book better than Embassytown, which is a very, very good one.

Blogger Bruce Lewis December 29, 2012 2:04 PM  

One's standards would have to be pretty low to read any sort of mainstream SF these days. It's all men-with-tits, phaerie phantasies, steampunk fanzine stories, or gloom-and-doom no-future Brits. Oh, and transhumanist religious propaganda, lots of that.

The good science fiction of today is all on $0.99 download at Amazon. Raw imagination, unfiltered by politically-correct editors -- that's the stuff.

Anonymous stg58/Animal Mother December 29, 2012 2:13 PM  

I have to go back a few years to remember the last SF/F I read. I was given a box full of Heinlein when I was a kid, and I devoured those. The last good sci-fi I read was probably the Red/Green Mars series about US Marines on Mars, investigating alien artifacts. Also, John Ringo's series about Earth v the Posleens. Excellent, proabably because it draws from history for its inspiration. Hyperion was good too. I just beat Halo 4 this morning at 5 am, so I think I will download the Halo books and read them.

Anonymous Philalethes December 29, 2012 2:22 PM  

"You are being a total sexist here, buddy."

Now you've done it.

Until I read "A Magic Broken" a few days ago, I'd read practically no SF/F since the mid-60s, when I lost interest because I was, well, living it (my experiences in the psychedelic counterculture)—this after living in SF fandom during my formative years from the mid-50s. (I did re-read LOTR back when the movies came out—after first reading it when it first appeared in the US in the late 50s, but saw only two of the movies.) So I don't have much to go on, other than what you've been writing about the current state of the field. Which doesn't surprise me, given what's happened to the rest of our culture.

There were a few good women writers during my SF fan days, and I read and enjoyed them without thinking much about it. The only one I remember is LeGuin—in part, in fact, because she wrote interestingly about sexuality in The Left Hand of Darkness. But if the cover of Asaro's book (pictured at the opening of the BG article) is any indication, I can certainly see where the complaint's coming from. Maybe the cover is not representative of the book (though one would assume the publisher would want to represent it accurately to ensure sales to the intended audience), but assuming it is, it's obviously a romance novel, dressed up as fantasy with costumes and an exotic animal.

I enjoyed the Earth's Children books by Jean Auel, the first few anyway, because of what seemed to be well-researched background about how our ancestors actually lived; but after a while the bodice-ripping prose just got to be too much. It seems few women writers can avoid slipping into the kind of storytelling that most women by far (judging from sales figures) prefer. Not a problem in itself, only just stop pretending it's "literature", or even "genre fiction" other than the genre it actually is.

Interesting how the subjects addressed in "androsphere" blogs are now intersecting with this ostensibly unrelated discussion. E.g. the helpless slide into female solipsism—"It's all about the fact that the writer's a woman!" I just don't know if it's possible to have what I would call a discussion with these people.

Men create, then women adapt those creations to meet their needs—or suit their fancies. Wouldn't be a problem, except when they take over, and start requiring men to be like women so that they can understand them (and not be challenged by what they say or do). Men are different from women—males are different from females—for a reason: so that they can bring to women something they don't already have. Only exceptionally wise women understand this, which is why women in general must be restrained, and cannot be regarded as "equal" to men.

More and more, I have to question the wisdom of allowing women into these environments created by men—at least not without some serious, specific limitations to restrain their natural, instinctive, unconscious tendencies. Even the SFWA, which as I vaguely recall, was founded by men (some of whom I knew at the time). Women will take over, if they're not stopped. And then, as Camille Paglia pointed out, we begin the long, painful regression to grass huts.

Blogger Michael December 29, 2012 2:32 PM  

@Bruce Lewis "The good science fiction of today is all on $0.99 download at Amazon. Raw imagination, unfiltered by politically-correct editors -- that's the stuff."

Any suggestions on how to locate these jewels among the megatons of slag?

Anonymous Heh December 29, 2012 2:37 PM  

Countdown for Tad to shriek "you're just jealous!"

3... 2... 1...

Anonymous Joe Doakes December 29, 2012 2:55 PM  

Animal Mother, take a look at John Varley's Red Thunder.

Anonymous kh123 December 29, 2012 3:31 PM  

Dovetails perfectly with the previous post about the 4/5 back-scratching going on at Amazon. They honestly think that 5-star reviews and awards by (what are effectively) friends and coworkers are accolades won on the merit of their genius? I think only the Soviets could rival this sort of self-deception when it came to praising what has been described as non-entities or stunted talent in rarefied air.

"I knew without looking that there could be nothing of merit in all this. Not because no talent could emerge there - no doubt it sometimes did, but there it perished too. For it was a barren field, that which they sowed. I knew that in such a field nothing could grow to maturity."

-Solzhenitsyn; Oak and the Calf

Anonymous Feh December 29, 2012 3:31 PM  

I cannot say that its victory over China Mieville's Embassytown was unjustified.

Anything that denies an award to an America-hating Communist homosexual filthmonger practically justifies itself.

Anonymous kh123 December 29, 2012 3:34 PM  

" It's all men-with-tits, phaerie phantasies, steampunk fanzine stories, or gloom-and-doom no-future Brits. Oh, and transhumanist religious propaganda, lots of that."

Forgot the selkies and jewel-bedecked talking gryphons.

Blogger Log December 29, 2012 3:46 PM  

Silly me. I thought the issue was whether Ms. Walton was personally guilty of logrolling - which issue was entirely avoided by Vox's rather besides-the-point response.

Anonymous Sun Xhu December 29, 2012 3:56 PM  

?

It was never about "whether Ms. Walton was personally guilty of logrolling", but about the corruption at SFWA.

Blogger Log December 29, 2012 4:12 PM  

"I am not a member of SFWA and never have been. I think that disposes of [Vox's] accusations of my logrolling for a Nebula."

Anonymous Scintan December 29, 2012 4:17 PM  

Silly me. I thought the issue was whether Ms. Walton was personally guilty of logrolling - which issue was entirely avoided by Vox's rather besides-the-point response.

You're either being willfully obtuse, or you haven't bothered actually reading the two related thread posts.

Blogger James Dixon December 29, 2012 4:22 PM  

> The question is: is she a superlative one? And is her book better than Embassytown, which is a very, very good one.

Operating entirely from memory, which is not entirely reliable, I believe there have been one or two books of hers that were excellent. I doubt I could say any were superlative. But that's a rather higher standard, and one which I don't think most Nebula winners reach. As to the book in question, I have no idea.

Anonymous Jack Amok December 29, 2012 4:35 PM  

You're either being willfully obtuse, or you haven't bothered actually reading the two related thread posts.

I think it's more like being unconsciously obtuse. He read the posts, but has a comprehension filter in place that slots everything into one of a few predetermined world-view slots. Vox's post went immediately into the "He's accusing a woman of something, the dirty misogynistic barbarian" slot.

Blogger Log December 29, 2012 4:46 PM  

Or maybe I find the statement by Ms. Walton to be eminently comprehensible on its face. I appear to be alone. C'est la vie.

Anonymous Sun Xhu December 29, 2012 4:52 PM  

It was never about her... she just chose to try to make it about her, and you took the bait.

Anonymous VD December 29, 2012 5:02 PM  

Silly me. I thought the issue was whether Ms. Walton was personally guilty of logrolling - which issue was entirely avoided by Vox's rather besides-the-point response.

When did I say anything about Ms. Walton being guilty of logrolling? Please cite the relevant portion of my statement in that regard. I haven't even gone so far as to state that her Nebula Award for Best Novel was unmerited, which I have repeatedly stated with regards to Asaro's.

I have merely expressed my skepticism that Walton's novel was superior to Mieville's novel that it beat out for both the Nebula and the Hugo. Once I read it, I will state my opinion on the matter.

Anonymous Rantor December 29, 2012 5:05 PM  

Log, white knighting is frowned upon at VP

Blogger Log December 29, 2012 5:06 PM  

"When did I say anything about Ms. Walton being guilty of logrolling? Please cite the relevant portion of my statement in that regard."

Which would be why I described your response to Ms. Walton's statement to be "besides-the-point." Your response is irrelevant to the point actually at issue in Ms. Walton's statement.

Blogger Log December 29, 2012 5:12 PM  

Rantor, who's white knighting? I haven't got any vested interest in whether Ms. Walton had, or had not, engaged in logrolling for a Nebula. I don't even take a position on whether she has done so.

Anonymous MLK December 29, 2012 5:39 PM  

I am glad someone is finally uncovering this -- injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Anonymous VD December 29, 2012 5:47 PM  

Which would be why I described your response to Ms. Walton's statement to be "besides-the-point." Your response is irrelevant to the point actually at issue in Ms. Walton's statement.

There is no point at issue in Ms. Walton's statement. I never accused her of logrolling. So, the fact that she has pointed out that it was impossible for her to have logrolled is itself irrelevant. She successfully disposed of a nonexistent accusation.

Ergo, there is no point to be besides.

Anonymous VD December 29, 2012 5:48 PM  

Ah... I see. I failed to copy the first part of my comment at Black Gate.

"I never made any such accusation. Furthermore, your non-membership in SFWA says absolutely nothing about the possibility of others logrolling on your behalf, especially given that the nomination process was a closed one."

Anonymous Jack Amok December 29, 2012 6:00 PM  

It was never about her... she just chose to try to make it about her...

Indeed. And yet again the concepts at Alpha Game cross over as solipsism rears it's styled head.

Anonymous Club-Foot Bob December 29, 2012 6:32 PM  

Is it possible to snowflake about logrolling? I have a hard time keeping up with the newfangled talk.

Anonymous Rantor December 29, 2012 8:03 PM  

Bob,

Logrolling, old term for exchanging political favors..

Blogger Bruce Lewis December 29, 2012 8:54 PM  

@Michael December 29, 2012 2:32 P: "The good science fiction of today is all on $0.99 download at Amazon. Raw imagination, unfiltered by politically-correct editors -- that's the stuff."

Any suggestions on how to locate these jewels among the megatons of slag?


Nope. It's like being at a used bookshop. Just browse until something looks interesting. Anything's better than regurgited mainstream SF slop.

Thrill of the chase and all that.

Anonymous Jack Amok December 29, 2012 8:55 PM  

Something occurred to me in reading the Amazon reviews of Jo Walton's Among Others. One reviewer commented that it's a teenage girl's coming of age story, and probably would have appealed more to him if he had been female. All accounts of the book definitely paint it as a teenage girl coming-of-age story, the sort of story very few normal adult males will have any interest in.

So, the question: should a book that only appeals to women really win an overall Best Of competition?

Anonymous Jack Amok December 29, 2012 9:14 PM  

And looking at the cover art to the Asaro novel, I can't possibly imagine being compelled to read it.

Plus, I haven't read Storm of Swords, so I can't say if it was better than Quantum Rose or not, but I have read Tim Power's Declare, which was nominated the same year, and Quantum Rose would need to be an oustanding book to beat Declare. From the Amazon reviews, it doesn't appear to be quite that.

Anonymous Rantor December 29, 2012 9:14 PM  

@Jack,

But does traditional, male, technology, quest, fighting SF/F appeal to women? Maybe like the Oscars we need to go the best male and best female author route... we can easily go from four awards to eight and add special interest awards like best novella by a wereseal, etc. Prizes for everyone!

Blogger Bruce Lewis December 29, 2012 9:41 PM  

@Rantor December 29, 2012 9:14 PM: But does traditional, male, technology, quest, fighting SF/F appeal to women?

Nope. And I don't care.

Anonymous Josh December 29, 2012 10:54 PM  

Declare was an awesome book

Anonymous just another steve December 30, 2012 2:22 AM  

So if a book you don't enjoy (or think you might not enjoy even though you haven't read it yet) wins an award over a book you like better, you suggest that it only won because of malfeasance of some kind whether individual or institutional. That's a pretty damn big leap and one that's extremely insulting to the authors involved. And your commenters wonder why Jo Walton took it personally.
Newsflash to all - the fact that you personally don't like some books, or an author's oeuvre, or a whole genre doesn't make them less worthwhile, and doesn't mean that their success must be the result of some kind of conspiracy; it just means that you don't like them.
And to those saying that they couldn't possibly be interested in a book that features a protagonist that's not like them - you need to get out more. It's a naive and limited reader who reads only to identify with the characters and have his or her world view confirmed. More sophisticated readers can deal with difference and novelty.

Anonymous Sun Xhu December 30, 2012 2:29 AM  

Wow, "just another steve"... are you ears ok?

I think this whole topic made a sonic-boom, as it "whooshed" over your head.

Anonymous kh123 December 30, 2012 2:31 AM  

...And in our attempt to fall over ourselves white knighting, we forget just who out of this whole discussion here was actually on the panel in question. This isn't including the editor who sat on said panel and agreed with the assessment of logrolling in the article.

Anonymous just another steve December 30, 2012 2:40 AM  

Just curious - is it white knighting to support a male commenter's position, or does this derogatory term only apply if I agree with a woman commenter?

Anonymous The CronoLink December 30, 2012 2:46 AM  

OT:
You planning to overthrow president-for-life Scalzi, Vox?

Anonymous Jack Amok December 30, 2012 2:48 AM  

But does traditional, male, technology, quest, fighting SF/F appeal to women?

Of course you're right. There are no female Tolkien or Star Trek fans. No chicks liked Heinlein either. And my wife dislikes Vox's new book so much, she's reading it as fast as she can so she can get to the end and be done with it. Much like she did with Cryptonomicon (she disliked that so much, she went out and bought all the other Stephenson novels she could find).

Yes, certainly women are going to be less interested in trite hack-n-slash Rapists and Skull-Crackers of Gor books, or Gordy Gizmo teenage boy coming-of-age novels, but those books shouldn't be winning Nebula's either.

Question for Vox or any other SFWA (past or present) member: does there have to be a winner each year? Is there any provision for the jury to decide "eh, nothing good enough this year, no winner"?





Anonymous kh123 December 30, 2012 3:50 AM  

"is it white knighting to support a male commenter's position, or does this derogatory term only apply if I agree with a woman commenter?"

It normally applies to soapbox preening in general, but can also apply to comments that seem completely oblivious to things clearly stated thus far, both here and in the hyperlink given.

An easier way to sort it out is: Were you a part of the SFWA's judging panel at any time, or was the article's author above.

Anonymous kh123 December 30, 2012 3:59 AM  

...And that's not to say that it's a foregone conclusion that he's correct; merely that one needs to keep in mind that a). owner of website has a reliable track record for providing correct predictions on a myriad of subjects, and b). one should be circumspect because of (a) and even moreso if one is not a regular, of here or of anyplace else one ventures on the internets. Tuck it in, as the saying goes.

Anonymous just another steve December 30, 2012 4:41 AM  

@kh123 Nicely put.
I was responding to the totality of the posts here and at Black Gate about this issue. Corruption may very well be an issue with the Nebulas. I don't deny that, even though the evidence hasn't been produced yet. But, it's a dodgy proposition to tell the current Nebula holder (without any backup for the assertion) that her win may have been the result of dirty work at the pass by her publisher rather than because the Nebula voters found her book to be genuinely meritorious. And it's also dodgy to imply that a win by anything other than Embassytown suggests corruption. It's entirely possible for books other than the ones the folks here would choose to win awards legitimately.

Anonymous Jack Amok December 30, 2012 5:15 AM  

Meh, I'd say "White Knighting" is more along the lines of defending someone (male or female) either by attacking the other person with an argument that amounts to "how dare you..." or by spewing out a smokescreen of irrelevant points and distractions that all seem more concerned with defending the person attacked than with discovering any relevant truth about the subject under debate.



Anonymous VD December 30, 2012 5:31 AM  

it's a dodgy proposition to tell the current Nebula holder (without any backup for the assertion) that her win may have been the result of dirty work at the pass by her publisher rather than because the Nebula voters found her book to be genuinely meritorious.

What is dodgy about it? The historical pattern suggests that it may have been. Alternatively, and I don't discount this, the current Nebula voters could simply be a collection of juvenile idiots. It could be a combination of the two. Or, perhaps her book is mind-blowingly good and the numerous readers who were disappointed by it simply missed its quality.

Either way, it's hardly beyond the pale to note the obvious and the possible. I have nothing against Jo Walton, but neither do I give a damn about her or her feelings. She can do what she likes, but if I won an award over a clearly superior competitor, I would refuse to accept it. Nor would I be bothered if I knew my award was fully merited. So, if her feelings are hurt, then she probably at least suspects that it wasn't a merited victory.

Anonymous just another steve December 30, 2012 6:06 AM  

Your argument seems to be based on the assumption that Embassytown is inevitably a superior book to Among Others. And that therefore if Embassytown lost it's because of collusion or stupidity or some such. But you're not the final arbiter of what's good, bad, or outstanding, and sometimes the book you like best doesn't win the award. There doesn't have to be anything nefarious about this - it just didn't win because a sufficient number of people liked the other book better.
Jo Walton is no slouch as a writer. I didn't enjoy Among Others as much as some of Walton's other books, but it speaks to the pleasures of being a reader, and specifically of being a reader of science fiction and fantasy. I'm not surprised, therefore, that so many readers of science fiction and fantasy have found it enormously appealing.

Blogger Bruce Lewis December 30, 2012 6:21 AM  

Many people find fast food hamburgers appealing. This, however, does not change the objective fact that they are bad-tasting and bad for you.

SF is outsider literature. The straight, white, heterosexual Christian male is the ultimate outsider in this vile world we have created. I therefore read only SF that is written by and for straight, white, heterosexual Christian males.

To those who disagree: Fine. Enjoy your talking gryphon porn and Empowered Lesbian Wymyn In Space schlock. Eat all the McBurgers you like. It's your insides they're rotting, not mine.

But know this: somewhere, H. Beam Piper is laughing at you.

Anonymous just another steve December 30, 2012 6:47 AM  

"SF is outsider literature. The straight, white, heterosexual Christian male is the ultimate outsider in this vile world we have created. I therefore read only SF that is written by and for straight, white, heterosexual Christian males."
To which I can only say with Bertie Wooster: "'Well, I'm dashed. I'm really dashed. I positively am dashed, Jeeves.' And I was too. I mean to say, a joke's a joke, but there are limits."

Anonymous VD December 30, 2012 11:18 AM  

Your argument seems to be based on the assumption that Embassytown is inevitably a superior book to Among Others. And that therefore if Embassytown lost it's because of collusion or stupidity or some such. But you're not the final arbiter of what's good, bad, or outstanding, and sometimes the book you like best doesn't win the award. There doesn't have to be anything nefarious about this - it just didn't win because a sufficient number of people liked the other book better.

I have not made that argument... yet. Furthermore, how can you say that I am not the final arbiter of what is good, bad, or outstanding? If I am not, who, or what, in your opinion, is?

Alternatively, if you are saying there is no such arbiter, then what is the point of the award in the first place? If it is just a popularity contest, then the award should be given out on the basis of sales numbers, and Walton clearly does not merit the 2012 award.

Anonymous VD December 30, 2012 11:21 AM  

I didn't enjoy Among Others as much as some of Walton's other books

So it wasn't even her best book... and yet it was better than EVERY OTHER NOVEL published in SF/F in 2012. Right. Look, it doesn't have to be a dreadful book, or even a mediocre one, to fail to merit the award.

Do you not think it is just a little glaring that some of the genre writers who practically everyone recognizes as being excellent and at the top of the field never, ever win these awards?

20 years from now, who is more likely to be considered an SF/F Grandmaster, Mieville or Walton? Asaro or Stephenson? It's ridiculous.

Anonymous bob k. mando December 30, 2012 12:20 PM  

just another steve December 30, 2012 6:06 AM
But you're not the final arbiter of what's good, bad, or outstanding, and sometimes the book you like best doesn't win the award.




herp derp.

pointing out that commenter x is not the final arbiter of good taste or quality suffers the fatal flaw of clumsily trying to avoid noting the fact that this assertion applies equally well to both the person making the assertion and also to the members of whichever clique voted to award the work in question.

so, let us dispense with the passive aggressive attacks on character and standing. let's address the issue of the popularity of the work from a *larger* voting base. larger voting bases being harder to manipulate and game. i wonder what we'll find?

well, so far as Amazon is concerned, Among Others is *NOT* in the top 100 SF/F books in sales. it's ranked ~6,700th overall after having won two of the most "prestigious" awards in SF/F and being nominated for a third.

are you kidding me?

well, were DOES Among Others rank well? try "#35 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Women's Fiction > Mothers & Children".

okay, now you're just having me on. this book can't even crack the top 25 in it's PRIMARY ( non SF/F ) SUB-GENRE and you're telling me it was the "best" SF/F book published last year?

so, what's it about?
"Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic
...
tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled--and her twin sister dead.
...
Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination
"

so...

it's a book which solipsises the author's childhood, makes call outs to actual quality SF of old and rips off Harry Potter?

and this is 'quality'? not JUST 'quality' be *THE BEST* work of 2012?

Embassytown may fare worse in sales than Among Others did but at least it's not one long Mary Sue story.

as i side note, i heartily approve of the 'just another' appellation in your handle. there certainly are more than enough of your kind running around.

derp herp.

Anonymous Randy McDonald December 30, 2012 4:15 PM  

Philalethes:

"Men are different from women—males are different from females—for a reason: so that they can bring to women something they don't already have."

Ignoring the false binary oppositions you're setting up, doesn't your line of argument--if you're to be consistent--also mean that women can bring to men something that men don't already have?

Jack Amok:

"So, the question: should a book that only appeals to women really win an overall Best Of competition?"

Your argument is curiously limited: should books that only appeal to men really win an overall Best of Competition?

Your argument also begs the question of whether or not the books and characters and settings written by the female Nebula-award winers really are comparable to the "trite hack-n-slash Rapists and Skull-Crackers of Gor books, or Gordy Gizmo teenage boy coming-of-age novels".

(Myself, I happen to enjoy the novels of Jo Walton and Vonda McIntyre and Nicola Griffith while being certifiably male.)

Anonymous just another steve December 30, 2012 5:54 PM  

@bob k mando
Have you read the book? Making sweeping claims as to quality based on sales blurbs and Amazon rankings isn't particularly useful.

We're talking past each other. My point is simply that if a book you like doesn't win, it doesn't necessarily mean that there's been corruption or collusion, it just means that the voters tastes differ from yours.

Whether award voters pick the best books of the year, or even good books, is a whole other discussion. What they do pick is the books the generated the most buzz, that were read by the greatest numbers of the voting group, that hit the zeitgeist best. Awards are for better or worse a popularity contest. If your book is inventive, brilliant, provocative, and thoughtful, but hugely long and difficult to read, it might not win the award because it might not have been read by enough of the voters. A shame, but there it is.

And each award has a different character that's dependent on the make up of the voters. Some awards, the Man Booker for example, consistently go to books that I don't enjoy. So a 'Booker winner' sticker on book is a signal to me to avoid it. On the other hand, the Newbery Medal has a great track record as far as I'm concerned.

As far as Among Others goes, while it's not my favourite of Walton's novels (that would be Farthing, with Tooth and Claw close behind), I can see why it appealed to genre readers sufficiently to sweep the awards this year. It's a love letter to science fiction, to the pleasures of reading, and to fandom. And the voters are made up of people who share those passions.

Note that 'not my favourite' does not equal 'not her best' or 'not very good' - it's purely a measure of my subjective opinion.
Whatever her subject, Walton is a thoughtful, clever writer who writes interesting, odd stories that sit in the interstices of conventional narrative forms. Her books are certainly not the equivalent of a fast food hamburger or "trite hack-n-slash Rapists and Skull-Crackers of Gor books, or Gordy Gizmo teenage boy coming-of-age novels".

Anonymous Jack Amok December 30, 2012 11:01 PM  

Your argument is curiously limited: should books that only appeal to men really win an overall Best of Competition?

Yeah, so since you quoted what I said about hack-n-slash stuff, you obviously read it. Too bad you didn't understand it. Should I lead you through it? What did I say about books that appeal primarily to juvenile male audiences? Really, honestly, if your reading comprehension is that bad, your opinion on writing can't be taken seriously.

Your argument also begs the question...

Yeah, and Newton's Theory of Gravity begged the question of apples falling downward. Of course teenage girl angst-ridden, mommy-issues, magic wish-fullfillment is trite. It might be enjoyable by teenage girls (of any age) with mommy issues and unicorn wishes, but it's still trite.

Myself, I happen to enjoy the novels of Jo Walton and Vonda McIntyre and Nicola Griffith while being certifiably male

Please provide your certificate. I may have to decertify the credentialling agency that issued it.

Anonymous Jack Amok December 30, 2012 11:41 PM  

What our two white knights are missing regarding the comparison of Among Others to hack-n-slash is that I'm not saying such a novel can't be good, I'm questioning whether it ought to be considered as an overall best novel when it appeals so strongly to one sex.

Part of the demise of SF/F is that it's become chick-lit. Boys don't read it - not because they don't want to read, but because so little that appeals to them is published any more. There's a bunch of classic SF/F they can read, but it's out of date - there's been too much technological drift for the sci-fi. It's still fun to read, but it's yesterday's challenge. It needs to be updated.

Anonymous bob k. mando December 30, 2012 11:54 PM  

Have you read the book? Making sweeping claims as to quality based on sales blurbs and Amazon rankings isn't particularly useful.


it's at least AS USEFUL AS actually reading the book when YOU are going to make idiotic assertions about how it's not possible for any particular commentator to be "the final arbiter of what's good, bad, or outstanding".

no sh!t.

the same logic also applies to groups. appealing to the authority of groups is a fallacy, a sub-category of an appeal to authority. you can find it on your own.

the problem Vox is addressing is that the nomination / finalist processes at the Nebula awards appear to be seriously compromised. and that this has been going on for some time.


It's a love letter to science fiction, to the pleasures of reading, and to fandom.

ie - to solipsism and navel gazing. that's a fairly serious strategic flaw in a conglomerate genre which is often referred too as 'speculative fiction'.

sci-fi, in particular, USED TO BE about asking the unasked. i saw SF defined once as the literature of heresy. it was supposed to ask the *forbidden questions* ( perhaps, could there be some greater good that Mao served that justified murdering ~100 million people? ). lit about 'gosh, remember how cool this or that SF book was to read' is just about as far from that ideal as i can conceive of.

even Fantasy, at it's best, addresses issues of the human condition that are just a bit more significant than the rememberences of warm feelings you got from reading a book as a 'tweener. and yet, this is what you and practically everyone else feel the need to include in your reviews. i suspect that it's no accident that Walton's book is listed highest in a sub-sub-sub-sub-genre called 'Mothers and Children'.

i dunno. maybe if you want to start handing out awards for the best "Meta" book of 2012 ...

YOU WILL NOTE THAT VOX HAS MADE NO COMMENT ON THE QUALITY OR LACK THEREOF IN THIS PARTICULAR WORK. THAT HE HAS ACTUALLY SAID THAT HE WILL REVIEW IT IN THE FUTURE.

your entire premise from your first post here has been utterly besides the point and YOU have done nothing but continue to goal shift and refuse to address the point which Vox actually did make and which others with personal knowledge of the process have testified too.



doesn't your line of argument--if you're to be consistent--also mean that women can bring to men something that men don't already have?

logically unarguable.


Your argument is curiously limited: should books that only appeal to men really win an overall Best of Competition?

in a genre which had historically been the speculations and concerns of the masculine?

why? are you afraid that women don't have genres of their own to express feminine concerns or something?

hell, if i wanted to read 50 Shades of Grey under the Speculative Fiction banner i'd buy Jacqueline Carey. there's a reason why i spend virtually nothing on books these days. the SF/F shelves are over run with romance novels dressed up in vampire drag.




I happen to enjoy the novels of Jo Walton and Vonda McIntyre and Nicola Griffith

we're so proud of you. you're SO advanced and inclusive.

CJ Cherryh ( in spite of her fascination with interspecies sex and complete inability to portray masculine thought processes ).
RM Meluch ( in spite of her occasional forays into slash ).
Julian May.
Robin Hobb.
Ursula K. Le Guin.
Jean Auel.
Heather Gladney ( in spite of not having published in ... 25 years? ).
Anne McCaffrey.
Sheri S. Tepper.
Andre Norton as an adolescent.
Susan Cooper.

shall i go on?


Anonymous Randy McDonald December 31, 2012 12:37 AM  

Jack Amok:

"What did I say about books that appeal primarily to juvenile male audiences?"

As I understood it, you seemed to equate science fiction written by women--all science fiction, by all women--with "hack-n-slash Rapists and Skull-Crackers of Gor books" and "Gordy Gizmo teenage boy coming-of-age novels".

Did I interpret your analogy incorrectly? If I didn't, then it has to be said that your categorization is eccentric.

bob k mando:

"why? are you afraid that women don't have genres of their own to express feminine concerns or something?"

Um. Who ever said that science fiction was a male genre?

The question's somewhat funny coming from someone who wrote--in the same comment!--that "sci-fi, in particular, USED TO BE about asking the unasked." Why can't science fiction engage with questions about concerns of 49%+ of the human population? For that matter, why can't 49%+ of the human population write science fiction, or be fans of science fiction, or ... ?

"you're SO advanced and inclusive."

I just like good writing. Arbitrarily excluding genre books because of the gender of their author, or their genre-fitting subject matter, is ridiculous.

Anonymous Randy McDonald December 31, 2012 12:40 AM  

Jack Amok:

"What our two white knights are missing regarding the comparison of Among Others to hack-n-slash is that I'm not saying such a novel can't be good, I'm questioning whether it ought to be considered as an overall best novel when it appeals so strongly to one sex.

Part of the demise of SF/F is that it's become chick-lit. Boys don't read it - not because they don't want to read, but because so little that appeals to them is published any more."

Leaving your analysis aside, aren't you overlooking something? Can a novel be considered as an overall best novel when it appeals so strongly to one sex, you ask? What is to be said of novels that fail to attract girls, and women, on account of content that doesn't appeal to them? Surely these novels are themselves lacking. Surely?

Anonymous beerme December 31, 2012 3:13 AM  

Has anyone read The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon? It was the one and only book I bought based on awards won and I found it to be awful.

As a heterosexual white male I'm probably not the target market for a masterful novel.

Anonymous just another steve December 31, 2012 5:13 AM  

I slogged my way through The Yiddish Policeman's Union, also on the basis of good press and awards, and was left pretty cold.
I found a funny pocket review of it in a newspaper (can't remember which one now) soon after I read it, that I liked enough to keep.

"I liked the Chabon well enough, but it wasn't even my favorite alternate-world, post-WWII, Jewish-history, allegorical mystery novel of 2007 (that would be Ha'Penny)[which was written by none other than Jo Walton]."

Anonymous Jack Amok December 31, 2012 1:21 PM  

As I understood it, you seemed to equate science fiction written by women--all science fiction, by all women--with "hack-n-slash Rapists and Skull-Crackers of Gor books" and "Gordy Gizmo teenage boy coming-of-age novels".

Then your understanding is a piss-poor as I thought. You have nothing to contribute to the discussion except comic relief, and frankly, there's already more than enough idiocy to laugh at in the world.

What is to be said of novels that fail to attract girls, and women, on account of content that doesn't appeal to them? Surely these novels are themselves lacking. Surely?

From your obtuse, overwrought writing style, I assume you fancy yourself a good writer even though for you writing is more about the pretty words than the information they carry. So I guess it's no freakin' suprise your reading comprehension is so low. Or are you just another lefty troll who makes up things about people they disagree with?

Either way, good day.

Anonymous CaptDMO December 31, 2012 6:32 PM  

Jack Amok December 30, 2012 11:41 PM

Part of the demise of SF/F is that it's become chick-lit. Boys don't read it - not because they don't want to read, but because so little that appeals to them is published any more."

There IS that whole "new" genre of sphereacle terrain-free travel-variable, replayable, decision what the assumed character will do/carry/interact-repeatable- thingy that has evolved into cooperative/competitive/variable arena venues at the speed of radio waves.

Bethesda rules-EA drools

Blogger Randy December 31, 2012 7:10 PM  

Jack Amok:

"From your obtuse, overwrought writing style, I assume you fancy yourself a good writer even though for you writing is more about the pretty words than the information they carry. So I guess it's no freakin' suprise your reading comprehension is so low. Or are you just another lefty troll who makes up things about people they disagree with?"

It _is_ true that I came here after a SF critic of my acquaintance pointed out the existence of this writer, pointed out the things he was saying now, and pointed out that he had a long record of saying questionable things.

_Am_ I being a left-wing troll here? Probably about as much as I was at the site of another writer when I enraged her by pointing out that Salazar's Portugal may have been many things, but "fine" was not one of them.

Anonymous bob k. mando December 31, 2012 11:32 PM  

Can a novel be considered as an overall best novel when it appeals so strongly to one sex, you ask? What is to be said of novels that fail to attract girls, and women, on account of content that doesn't appeal to them? Surely these novels are themselves lacking. Surely?



this is infantile.

perhaps you'd like to ask why 2001: A Space Odyssey didn't win best Romance Novel of the year award?

oh, what's that you say? there's not enough sex for the Romance genre? well then, we'll just nominate Stranger in a Strange Land or perhaps The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

eh? you find it misogynist that i'm only making suggestions from male writers? howzaboot Left Hand of Darkness?

it NEVER WAS SUPPOSED TO BE about the 'overall best' novel. it was supposed to be the best GENRE novel of the year.

you invent false equivalencies and standards, demand that men adhere to them AND refuse to apply those equivalencies and standards to feminine genres.

this is the very definition of White Knighting.

Anonymous VD January 01, 2013 9:14 AM  

It _is_ true that I came here after a SF critic of my acquaintance pointed out the existence of this writer, pointed out the things he was saying now, and pointed out that he had a long record of saying questionable things.

Of course, she neglected to point out that he also has a long record of being correct and backing up those "questionable things" with substantial evidence.

I don't think you're a troll. I simply think you're in over your head. I assume you can at least understand that my recently published novel should not be awarded Best Romance or Best Hungarian Language novel.

Blogger Peter Ahlstrom January 02, 2013 1:51 PM  

On the Hugo ballot, I voted for Embassytown and did not list Among Others at all. But I am not surprised Among Others won, and not because of some conspiracy.

Among Others was written as a love letter to fandom (Jo said so in her acceptance speech for the Hugo). If you were a teenager in the 1970s and loved the books that the main character of the novel loved, then you have an instant connection with the main character. I was born in the 1970s and I hated Samuel R. Delaney's TRITON, which the main character loved. I didn't like Among Others. Many Hugo voters and members of SFWA were teenagers or in their early 20s in the 1970s, so they read all the same books the main character read, identified with her, and enjoyed her story in Among Others. I'm not saying all who were teenagers at the same time and read the same books would enjoy her story, but I find it completely believable that many did.

I personally found Embassytown to be far superior (though it was hurt by its slow beginning and steep learning curve). But I could easily see that a different type of reader would love Among Others.

Anonymous bob k. mando January 02, 2013 8:22 PM  

last i looked, Fond Remembrances of Science Fiction Past wasn't quite the same Genre as Sci Fi / Fantasy.

Blogger James Dixon January 03, 2013 2:35 PM  

> I was born in the 1970s and I hated Samuel R. Delaney's TRITON, which the main character loved.

Didn't pretty much everyone hate Triton? And most other Delaney novels? Seriously, Delaney has to be one of the most overrated writers ever.

Blogger Peter Ahlstrom January 03, 2013 5:45 PM  

My main reaction to the book was "If I wanted to read a list of books Jo Walton loved, I would read her reviews on Tor.com." I quite like her reviews, but I found the plot of the novel to be rather thin.

Nevertheless, it was indeed a fantasy novel, with a story involving magic, even if it felt like the majority of the page count was spent on listing the titles of novels the main character (and presumably Jo Walton) liked. I'd be interested to see a percentage analysis of the book, what percentage dealt with the magical plot, what percentage with other SF/fantasy novels, what percentage with teenage boarding school angst. But that would require spending more time with the book than I care to—reading it through once was more than enough for me.

Blogger Peter Ahlstrom January 03, 2013 5:50 PM  

By the way, this exact same story—"main character spends the entire story talking about SF that the author loved"—a.k.a. pandering to award voters—appeared in the June 2010 Asimov's and was entitled "The Emperor of Mars," written by Allen M. Steele. Naturally, it won the 2011 Hugo for best novelette.

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