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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Correction(s)

In my post at Black Gate in support of Amazon's decision to forbid authors to review works in their genres, I erroneously stated that Catherine Asaro was the SFWA president at the time she was awarded the 2002 Nebula for Best Novel.  Michael Capobianco, another past SFWA president, corrected me thusly:

"The Quantum Rose won the Nebula Award for best novel on April 27, 2002. Catherine Asaro was not an officer of SFWA at the time. She was VP of SFWA from July 1, 2002 to June 30, 2003 and President of SFWA from July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2005."

However, a little research showed Capobianco's correction to be a little on the disingenuous side, which I suspected given his misleading answer concerning the justification for changes to the Nebula award process.  The SF Site reported in 2002:
SFWA Elections 

The results of the SFWA officer elections were announced on April 27 at the SFWA Business Meeting in Kansas City, MO. Sharon Lee defeated incumbent Norman Spinrad for the Presidency. Two other authors received write-in votes. Catherine Asaro defeated Lee Martindale for the Vice-Presidency, again with two other (different) authors receiving write-in votes. Chuck Rothman (treasurer) and ElizaBeth Gilligan (Secretary) both ran unopposed. Because of the closeness of the race for Eastern Regional Director, the election committee has decided re-balloting will take place in that race.
 Nebula Awards

Only hours after being named Vice President of SFWA, Catherine Asaro was honored with a Nebula for her novel The Quantum Rose (Tor).
In other words, Asaro wasn't the President, she was the Vice President-elect.  Which underlines the point that I was making, which was never that Asaro had somehow abused her position as President, or, as more accurately, Vice President-elect, (I don't even know how it would have been possible in either case), but  rather that the award that year was a simple popularity contest which led to a mediocre novel being unjustly awarded the Best Novel award.

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22 Comments:

Anonymous Josh January 17, 2013 1:04 PM  

OT: thoughts on the Manti Te'o story?

Anonymous kh123 January 17, 2013 1:47 PM  

Cue the Tor "quantity ensures quality" argument.

Anonymous Red Comet January 17, 2013 1:50 PM  

Wonder how nervous new authors were about trying to win a Nebula or Hugo back in the days when the likes of Heinlein, Herbert, and Dick were still alive?

Anonymous Daniel January 17, 2013 2:19 PM  

Heinlein and Philip K. Dick never won a Nebula. Herbert only one one (the inaugural) and was never nominated again.

I believe this indicates a long-standing problem with the Nebula.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2013 2:46 PM  

So who is running against you?

Anonymous VD January 17, 2013 2:57 PM  

So far, Stephen Gould. His platform is that everything is fine and nothing needs to change.

Anonymous Daniel January 17, 2013 3:35 PM  

I've always wondered about the recent differences between the Hugo and the Nebula. Neal Stephenson won 1 Hugos for the Diamond Age, and was nominated for Cryptonomicon (inexplicably losing it to A Deepness in the Sky) and Anathem. The Nebulas only nominated him once (in the year following his Hugo win), and that was for the Diamond Age only.

Back in the 70s and 80s and early 90s, the Hugos and Nebulas were nominated for the same years, so it was particularly notable when Quantum Rose won the Nebula the same year American Gods won the Hugo. To be frank, it looked extremely stupid on the part of the Nebulas. Now, AG won the Nebula the following year, but that looked like a make-good. Funny thing about that is that Perdido Street Station was probably better than either of them at the time.

In any case, QR could have won a Harlequin or something for that atrocious cover, but I never read it and don't know any who did. I know about 15 people, both weird fiction folks and non-weird, who read and liked or loved American Gods. (I don't know anyone else who read Perdido Street Station, either).

Blogger James Higham January 17, 2013 3:53 PM  

Well, that's that cleared up.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2013 3:54 PM  

"So far, Stephen Gould. His platform is that everything is fine and nothing needs to change."

Well then he'll get the Tor vote...

Blogger TontoBubbaGoldstein January 17, 2013 4:00 PM  

Josh,
I envision a news conference where Te'o answers each ensuing question with a stronger "Yes", until he finally blurts out (Frau Blucher style), "He vas [is] my......BOYFRIEND!!!"

Anonymous VD January 17, 2013 4:08 PM  

I know about 15 people, both weird fiction folks and non-weird, who read and liked or loved American Gods. (I don't know anyone else who read Perdido Street Station, either).

I liked American Gods, but found it unimpressive. I REALLY liked Perdido Street Station. I suspect Mieville will eventually surpass Stephenson as SF/F's best.

Anonymous Asher January 17, 2013 4:13 PM  

@ VD

So far, Stephen Gould. His platform is that everything is fine and nothing needs to change.

So, Stephen Gould DOESN'T believe in evolution. I KNEW it

I mean if man can't be measured then he has, by definition, transcended evolution.

Anonymous Daniel January 17, 2013 4:38 PM  

I liked American Gods, but found it unimpressive. I REALLY liked Perdido Street Station. I suspect Mieville will eventually surpass Stephenson as SF/F's best.

The quality gulf between PSS and AG was sizeable, and I'd guess nearly as broad as the gulf between AG and Quantum Rose, but I sure as heck am not about to find out. AG could have been a very nice and tight novella, but even so - the fact that I saw that book (AG) everywhere in the hands of people I would expect and people I would not expect is probably what sealed the awards for it.

I had never even heard of Quantum Rose, nor seen it, until you brought it up. I can't believe it is a contemporary in the same broad milleu as American Gods and Perdido Street Station. Yes, I am judging a book by its cover, but come on, it looks like Phantom Menace Slash-Fic.

Anonymous Asher January 17, 2013 5:07 PM  

I have two of my own nominations for the Nebula awards:

A) The Mismeasure of Man
B) www.jezebel.com

Anonymous bob k. mando January 17, 2013 5:47 PM  

...but rather that the award that year was a simple popularity contest ...


as, indeed, are all awards which involve a voting or judge/jury process.

the problem with Asaro / QR being that it seems quite likely that people were conflating popularity of the book with popularity of the author ( amongst the SFWA membership ).

Anonymous Daniel January 17, 2013 6:28 PM  

as, indeed, are all awards which involve a voting or judge/jury process.

The award should go to the work that best meets the award standards, as determined by popular consensus. That's wayyyyy different than an award going to authors whose work isn't judged on any criteria, but are terribly (nice, clever, handsome, generous, promiscuous, whatever.)

So, I can see Babel-17, for example, beating out The Moon is a Harsh Mistress or Dune or something like that, on certain grounds (even though I myself would vote for Harsh Mistress) in a "popularity" contest with guidelines.

But what it seems like now is that Charlie Stross (or insert the name of any other good writer right now) gets "popularly" beat out by Rapey McSquee's "The Squick and the Dead: An Homage To Star Trek Fan-Fic." It is just silly.

If you had ever read the (admittedly, quite pretty) prose of the absolutely mundane, plotless, and too cute novel Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, only later to discover it had been nominated for a Nebula, you would get it: things have changed. Yes, mundane crap could make it onto the short list in the past (esp. if your last name ended with a V, started with an A, for example) but that was not commonplace. Now, easily half of the nominees are artless: decent, but forgettable. American Gods would have been blown off the map by To Your Scattered Bodies Go and 1971 (or whenever) was not a great year in books! But no way that one stands on the podium with Ringworld or Lathe of Heaven or whatever McCaffery had out by that point.

So, popularity contest, or popular vote for what most closely meets a standard of excellence. Big difference, and as a reader, I know. I paid little attention to Nebula's in the past, but now it is just a joke. It is worse than boxing "championship" belts.

Anonymous Jack Amok January 17, 2013 10:55 PM  

...but rather that the award that year was a simple popularity contest ...


as, indeed, are all awards which involve a voting or judge/jury process.


Not necessarily, it depends on the wisdom of the voters (and what a hilarious phrase that is, here in the America of Obama's second term...).

It strikes me that the problem with the Nebulas is similiar to the problem with the Oscars. What started out as an award to acknowledge achievement devolved into a cheap badge of clique membership. Instead of using the award to recognize something significant about the art, the stewards chose to use it as a totem of their own petty little inner circles. L'art, c'est moi might as well be their slogan.

If, by the inherent cussedness of things, Vox wins the Presidency, simply mixing up the process won't fix the problem. He will need to change the way those voting on the award regard it. He'll need to awaken in them a love of the genre for it's own sake, not merely as an afectation they use to signal their group affiliation.

Anonymous bob k. mando January 18, 2013 12:49 AM  

Daniel January 17, 2013 6:28 PM
That's wayyyyy different than an award going to authors whose work isn't judged on any criteria, but are terribly (nice, clever, handsome, generous, promiscuous, whatever.)



Jack Amok January 17, 2013 10:55 PM
Not necessarily, it depends on the wisdom of the voters (and what a hilarious phrase that is, here in the America of Obama's second term...).


odd how you two are so emphatically in agreement with a statement that i've already made.

bob k. mando January 17, 2013 5:47 PM
the problem with Asaro / QR being that it seems quite likely that people were conflating popularity of the book with popularity of the author ( amongst the SFWA membership ).


perhaps you don't think i emphasized the salient enough?

the fact remains that Vox's complaint is a bit imprecise in it's phrasing. and this amuses me. this is probably his biggest fault, that he tends to go charging into situations without properly assessing them and then counts on his hyper-intelligence to horsepower his way out of the mess he got himself into.

i've also noted previously that awarding "Best Novel" awards to things like Quantum Rose and Among Others is an indictment of the jury pool. awards and the awarding committees are a closed loop. the respect one shows to, say, an Oscar winner is in direct correlation to the previous history of winners and reflects directly on the taste and quality of the judges from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

do you respect the Palme D'Or more than an Oscar winner? WHY or WHY NOT?

because one organization or the other has consistently demonstrated better 'taste' and a higher commitment to 'quality'. ( in your personal opinion, of course. this is all QUITE subjective, by definition )



awarding Nebulas to Harlequin romance knockoffs and 'Mother and children' genre stories demonstrates that the current Science Fiction Writers of America *process* is seriously corrupt ( in my view ).

the question is whether it is possible to 'correct' the process without also "electing a new people" to the SFWA membership.

Anonymous Jack Amok January 18, 2013 12:54 AM  

...this is probably his biggest fault, that he tends to go charging into situations without properly assessing them and then counts on his hyper-intelligence to horsepower his way out of the mess he got himself into.

What better way is there to live live, mon ami?

Anonymous VD January 18, 2013 4:35 AM  

this is probably his biggest fault, that he tends to go charging into situations without properly assessing them and then counts on his hyper-intelligence to horsepower his way out of the mess he got himself into.

Hey, how do you think A THRONE OF BONES got written? Anyhow, if I was going to properly assess things to the level I consider necessary before writing blog posts, I'd be posting twice per week, not thrice daily.

Anonymous bob k. mando January 18, 2013 9:37 AM  

Jack Amok January 18, 2013 12:54 AM
What better way is there to live live



Life is Life!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LB9lObWclFQ



VD January 18, 2013 4:35 AM
Hey, how do you think A THRONE OF BONES got written? Anyhow, if I was going to properly assess things to the level I consider necessary before writing blog posts, I'd be posting twice per week, not thrice daily.


well, there is that whole cost/benefit calculation to make in every situation, for all of us.

you get some things at the cost of others.

if you'll excuse me, i go now to the race track, 1,100 miles away. just helping out in the pits, nothing overly exciting.

this will 'cost' me posting opportunities on Vox Popoli. c'est la vie.

Anonymous Daniel January 18, 2013 1:55 PM  

Isn't Among Others the one that is the diary of a teenage syfy fangirl? Yikes. Thanks for reminding me that one won a Nebula, bob.

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