Friday, March 13, 2015

Terry Pratchett: an indictment

Chaos Horizon points out the essential absurdity and historical irrelevance of the Hugo and Nebula Awards:
Pratchett never won a Hugo or Nebula award. Neither awards have ever known what to do with humorous/satirical SFF. Both awards failed to live up to the imagination that Pratchett showed in his best work: it’s easier to celebrate the serious and prestigious than the fantastic. Our field should have done better. Pratchett did receive Nebula nominations late in his career, in 2006 (Going Postal) and 2009 (Making Money). Neither are among his best books. Mort, Guards! Guards!, and Small Gods all would have been worthy winners, but I’d draw your attention to 2003, the year that Robert Sawyer won the Hugo for Hominids. Pratchett published The Night Watch in 2002, a twisty time-travel caper, that would have been an outstanding winner for that year.
I am proud to be able to say that I am among those SFWA members who were responsible for both the 2006 and 2009 Nebula nominations. (I also used to regularly nominate Charles Stross for awards, to little avail, back when he actually deserved them.) The fact that Terry Pratchett wasn't even being NOMINATED when the likes of Catharine Asaro were WINNING was one of the things that first led me to believe there was something very, very rotten in the state of SF/F awards. Here is the review of Going Postal I posted on this blog in September 2004. In case you're wondering how the review could have been posted in 2004 while the nomination was in 2006, it was because a) the Nebula schedule was bizarre back then, and b) I received a pre-release review copy of it.

In fairness to the Hugos, Pratchett also received a belated Hugo nomination for Going Postal, but he declined it. It's hard to believe he didn't even receive a nomination for his best book, Night Watch, in a year when the likes of Picoverse, The Other Wind, Solitaire, Passage, The Curse of Chalion, The Chronoliths, Cosmonaut Keep, and The Bones of the Earth did.

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Blogger swiftfoxmark2 March 13, 2015 9:04 AM  

Most of these awards are a joke. If there was a way that I could upset the Academy Awards, I wouldn't hesitate.

Anonymous Peter Garstig March 13, 2015 9:11 AM  

On surface, Pratchett is a joker. Of course he's not won an award that usually awards the superficial.

Anonymous Leonidas March 13, 2015 9:45 AM  

I still debate whether or not Night Watch is his best, but it is certainly damn fine - and of his best, it is the most truly SFF (as opposed to simply using SFF as a setting).

Anonymous Leonidas March 13, 2015 9:46 AM  

Which is to say, it's the most Hugo-worthy and should have won a damn Hugo.

Blogger John Wright March 13, 2015 10:13 AM  

"Neither awards have ever known what to do with humorous/satirical SFF."

An even more condemnatory condemnation, considering that "Allamagoosa" by Eric Frank Russell,won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1955, the first short story Hugo ever.

And, yes, it was humor.

Anonymous kfg March 13, 2015 10:44 AM  

Dying is easy, comedy is hard.

But it can be hard to take comedy as seriously as death, because comedy is funny. And then there is Pratchett, who made Death funny.

I hope he's still having the last laugh.

Blogger David-2 March 13, 2015 10:59 AM  

"Neither awards have ever known what to do with humorous/satirical SFF."

Yet Redshirts won. Oh wait ....

Blogger Marissa March 13, 2015 11:28 AM  

I've read both Hominids and Humans, the next one in the series. It's very PC nonsense. Female scientist, "noble savage" neanderthal who cooks his meat with lasers, a very goofy neanderthal society, a castrated rapist. The second one is especially hilarious, with an Injun explaining to a terrible racist white person why some peoples can build civilizations and some can't ("available resources"). And who can forget the sex scene with the well-endowed neanderthal?

These books make me want to bark laughter at how silly they are.

Blogger Expendable Faceless Minion March 13, 2015 12:01 PM  

It's no mystery at all why his books weren't nominated. When I was young, I'd buy anything that won a Hugo, and enjoy it greatly.

Later on, Hugo came to mean "Warning! Do not buy this crap, regardless of how promising the back cover synopsis or endorsements look!"

Terry was very smart, and knew how to sell books. It's no wonder he wouldn't let the Hugos taint his books, and his phenomonal sales show the wisdom of his decision.

Blogger YIH March 13, 2015 12:03 PM  

Most of these awards are a joke.
Typically around the Oscars you'll hear ''so and so won as a form of lifetime achievement award'' - IOW they didn't win it for that particular performance, they won it for their overall body of work.

Anonymous Jack Amok March 13, 2015 12:06 PM  

Let's take a step back and consider what's the purpose for having awards? There are basically two legitimate ones - an excuse to have a party and a chance to do some marketing for the industry.

As far as the first part goes, you'd want the awards to go to people who are well-liked by the rest of the industry so the party will be more enjoyable, so from that angle it's a popularity contest. From the marketing angle, you want the awards to highlight not necessarily the absolute best works, but rather the best works that were under-recognized. Harry Potter doesn't need an award because it's already sold a bazillion copies. So as a marketing tool, awards will go to works the insiders think the rest of the world needs to hear more about. it's like an unscrupulous waiter trying to push the fish special that nobody is ordering.

So considering the typical SFF writer, any award is probably doomed.

Blogger YIH March 13, 2015 12:10 PM  

"Neither awards have ever known what to do with humorous/satirical SFF."

Yet Redshirts won. Oh wait ....

Redshirts is like Night of the Lepus, it wasn't intended to be humorous/satirical.

Anonymous Stephen J. March 13, 2015 12:16 PM  

Pratchett's problem was the same one any humourist faces: if you simply don't find the work funny, first and foremost, it doesn't matter how much else good stuff is in there; you're not likely to appreciate it.

I'm one of those poor benighted souls who was simply never able to get into Pratchett's humour -- I can see why it's supposed to be funny but it simply doesn't tickle my funnybone. So the odds are good I would never have voted for him in a Hugo or Nebula, even had I ever been able. But that says nothing about the man's actual ability or his work's actual quality.

Anonymous Nathan March 13, 2015 12:21 PM  

Obvious, I think you're getting Niel Gaiman and Terry Pratchett confused. Please source your claim as Pterry's words in Ansible 218 were : 'When they told me I just thought: I can't handle this, not after all this time, and asked to be let off. That meant I enjoyed the con hugely instead of being a bag of nerves with a blood pressure of 200/95, and when the fateful verdict was given on Sunday night I was eating sushi two miles away. Best worldcon ever!' ( It's likely that he might have addressed it elsewhere, so, if you have a source?

As for Redshirts, well, I guess people do find Manos, the Hands of Fate entertaining. (I think a Golden Razzie for SFF might be appropriate.)

Blogger Cataline Sergius March 13, 2015 12:25 PM  

Well let's face it Night Watch didn't have anything going for it. No romance between a paraplegic troll and a transgendered dwarf. Lu-Tze wasn't beaten to death by a mob for being an ethnic slur. None of seamstresses had AIDs or a Slab addiction. ((Although slab only works on trolls and I don't recall that Anhk-Morpork had any) in those days at least.)

I mean good lord, the hero was a cis-gendered white male cop of all things.

How could anyone take this book seriously as art?

Anonymous Harold March 13, 2015 12:29 PM  

Mel Ott and Eddie Matthews were easily among the greatest baseball players to ever put on a uniform. Neither ever won an MVP award. The quality one's career (baseball or writing) can't be judged by whether an annual award was given to them. Nor can the reliability of the award-giving body be judged by whether or not a great baseball player (or writer) ever received an annual award.

Blogger Marissa March 13, 2015 12:37 PM  

it's like an unscrupulous waiter trying to push the fish special that nobody is ordering.

Yeah, and most people know the special is being pushed because it's inventory they're trying to get rid of.

As for Redshirts, well, I guess people do find Manos, the Hands of Fate entertaining.

Manos, the Hands of Fate, is so outrageously bad, it's good. Torgo, of the thunder thighs, was particularly memorable.

Blogger Vox March 13, 2015 12:49 PM  

Obvious troll is obvious. Go away, Obvious. You're banned. Be a big boy and resist the urge to cyberstalk.

Blogger Migly March 13, 2015 12:52 PM  

Make of it what you will, how was Night Watch (2002) going to beat a novel by Canada's most popular SF writer, Robert Sawyer, voted on by members of a Worldcon held in Toronto?

Anonymous Ostar March 13, 2015 1:32 PM  

Well the SJW's and other leftists who have ruled the SFF award nominations for a couple of decades are basically humorless scolds. So of course they will never nominate anything that's actually funny.
(Guards!, Guards! is one of the most laugh-out-loud novels I've ever read.)

Anonymous pseudotsuga March 13, 2015 2:17 PM  

Ostar--I think that's true. Pratchett's sharp satire was appreciated by leftists if it went one way only, but since he makes fun of the sacred "coo beasties" of the Wee Free Leftees, he cannot be regarded as serious writer.
I suspect that if one is a leftist, one would appreciate certain of his books much more than others, but one would not abide the satirical barbs of others.

Anonymous Bruce March 13, 2015 2:18 PM  

In the 1970s Budrys said Larry Niven was the only new writer still doing what Poul Anderson, Heinlein, and the Old Breed did. Now he's the only writer still doing it, full stop- stop wait, 'Riding the Red Horse' is one bright sign of hope. But 'The Goliath Stone' isn't even on the ballot. The Hugo awards no longer have anything to do with SF.

Anonymous Harry P. March 13, 2015 2:28 PM  

In hindsight it's quite mind boggling that Terry haven't won any such award. He was definitely humanist, his books had quite often some message which should have been popular with lefties (gender equality, criticism of racism, ...) and yet he wasn't good enough for them. Maybe envy or was it maybe fact, that they could subconsciously feel how much they suck compared to him?

Anonymous Leonidas March 13, 2015 6:12 PM  

Maybe envy or was it maybe fact, that they could subconsciously feel how much they suck compared to him?

You'll seldom go wrong when you attribute a lefty's behavior to an inferiority complex.

Anonymous Donn March 14, 2015 2:18 AM  

He did have a few tv shows so by that measure he was successful.

Blogger epobirs March 29, 2015 4:22 AM  

Income from sales of your works and derivations thereof will get you through times of no awards far better than awards will get you through times of no income from sales of your works.

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