Puppies! — My Two Cents

I’ve hesitated to wade into this mess.  Not because I’m particularly cowardly, but because so many thoughtful people with far more stature in the field then me have very eloquently spoken out about the Hugos and the slate.  I’m speaking of course about George R.R. Martin and Connie Willis.  Here’s what I thought I could add to the discussion.

Brad Torgersen who is one of the Sad Puppies wrote the following on his webpage —

“A few decades ago, if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds. If you saw a barbarian swinging an axe? You were going to get a rousing fantasy epic with broad-chested heroes who slay monsters, and run off with beautiful women. Battle-armored interstellar jump troops shooting up alien invaders? Yup. A gritty military SF war story, where the humans defeat the odds and save the Earth. And so on, and so forth.

These days, you can’t be sure.

The book has a spaceship on the cover, but is it really going to be a story about space exploration and pioneering derring-do? Or is the story merely about racial prejudice and exploitation, with interplanetary or interstellar trappings?

There’s a sword-swinger on the cover, but is it really about knights battling dragons? Or are the dragons suddenly the good guys, and the sword-swingers are the oppressive colonizers of Dragon Land?

A planet, framed by a galactic backdrop. Could it be an actual bona fide space opera? Heroes and princesses and laser blasters? No, wait. It’s about sexism and the oppression of women.

Finally, a book with a painting of a person wearing a mechanized suit of armor! Holding a rifle! War story ahoy! Nope, wait. It’s actually about gay and transgender issues.

Or it could be about the evils of capitalism and the despotism of the wealthy.

Do you see what I am trying to say here?”

Torgersen presents these alternative stories as if they are a bad thing.  I don’t agree.  The world has changed.  People have different expectations about what is normal or accepted, and the rules have changed which means while the traditional has its place it’s not the only place where we all have to live.

We inhabit an amazing world where technology has advanced to the point that I can have a real time conversation with a person on the other side of the planet.  A person whose race and culture and gender are vastly different from mine.  Where in the words of Carl Sagen we are all living on a “small blue dot”,  “…a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam”.  Yet we’re all the same species with the same drives and loves and passions.  These are the things that bind us together.  Why we have told stories around campfires for thousands of years, familiar stories of love and loss, bravery and heroism, themes that cross every culture and transcend our differences.

While the underlying themes may be the same the solutions to these themes can differ and that’s wonderful.  It would be such a boring world if there was only chocolate ice cream or just vanilla ice cream.  How much better to have Spumoni, and raspberry, tutti frutti, butter pecan….

Science fiction is now a world wide source of entertainment from our movies to our TV shows.  Shouldn’t our prose also try to reflect this wonderful kaleidoscope of human diversity?  In fact prose is probably the best place to present this fascinating dance of differing outlooks and beliefs, to speak to and hear from people who aren’t just like us.

I think it deepens and enriches our genre when we have women, and people of color and the LGBT community, and different religions or no religions discussed and explored.

Over the years I’ve had people ask “what do you do?” and when I tell them I’m a writer their initial reaction is “oh cool”.  Then they ask what I write and when I say science fiction the reaction becomes “Oh, that’s kid stuff.  I don’t read science fiction.”  By broadening our field to include this rich symphony of different voices I think science fiction has graduated from being that “Buck Rogers, kid stuff” into a genre which is perfectly positioned to discuss big issues and the deepest human motivations in really interesting ways.

This isn’t to say there isn’t a place for some good old fashioned buckle and swash, but that shouldn’t be the entirety of our field.  Let’s not eat just vanilla ice cream or sing one kind of song.  Let’s explore all of the wonder that the minds of humans can imagine.  I see no evidence that the buckle and swash is being forced out in favor of a more diverse fiction.  The pie is getting bigger not smaller.  More books are being published.  More voices are being heard.  Today readers have an expansive feast to be enjoyed.

What I’m trying to say is none of us should be afraid.  It’s a small blue dot and because of advances in technology we have the ability to hug each other close and face the void united in our humanity and celebrating our differences.

37 Responses to Puppies! — My Two Cents

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    Someone over on Facebook just pointed out to me a wonderful Robert Heinlein quote about critics, but there is a wonderfully apt section in his statement.

    “…you are not permitted to have Heavy Thoughts. Space Ships and Heavy Thinking do not mix — so shut up and sit down!”

    This is what I was trying to say, but the old master seems to have pretty much summed it up in one sentence. 🙂

  • Rick Novy says:

    Regarding science fiction being kids’ stuff…
    I’ve had people read excerpts of my SF, and say “I don’t normally like sci-fi, but I like this.” What I think happens is people get so used to what Harlan calls flashing lights they see in popular movies with minimal plot. They extrapolate that to entire genre, not realizing the genre contains some extremely sophisticated “deep-thinking” material that works on the page but not necessarily on the screen. A lot of the best science fiction novels would hve a much larger following if they were classified as general fiction. In particular, I think readers of our more popular cousin, the technothriller, would be natural hard SF fans. The question is how to make that audience aware of hard SF and give them a positive experience to overcome the preconceived notions they hold.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      So true. When people don’t know it’s science fiction they like it even when they say they don’t read S.F. We get to raise interesting questions, still have a plot. so much literary fiction doesn’t have a ripping good story. In science fiction we can do it all.

  • Rick Novy says:

    Interestingly enough, I only saw the Heinlein quote after I submitted my comment.

  • Christopher Long says:

    Wait, hang on… did no one ever quote that old, OLD saying to Mr. Torgersen? The one that goes “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” I mean?

    The Puppies are, in my considered opinion, a bunch of idiots. Which may come across as cold or inconsiderate, and if so, I’m sorry. While I’m not blaming authors just because their works are on the list, I am blaming the organizers for being a bunch of neck-bearded, micro-minded, misogynist morons who make me ashamed to be male.

    Then there’s the fact that Robert Heinlein *existed,* which kind of blows their arguments out of the water. With books like “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “I Will Fear No Evil,” (or his later novels “Friday” and “To Sail Beyond the Sunset”) he kind of blows their claims that this movement to include more subtle, humanist themes is new right out of the water. Heck, even “the Moon is a Harsh Mistress” puts all decisions about sex in Luna in the hands of women, and that one’s kind of a rousing space opera, in my opinion.

    You’re right, it’s fear that is causing this reaction. I’m sad that the Puppies have pretty much sacked the Hugos, but you know, I’ve never been one to worry about whether a book won an award (or a movie an Oscar, for that matter) when deciding whether or not to read (or watch) it. So they can be afraid of people like me, who consider them irrelevant.

    You know, part of my… I think I have to call it “amused hostility” towards Larry Correia and his ilk, comes from their choice of names. I have long used the word “puppy” as an insult, despite the fact that I love dogs.

    To me, a puppy is anything with a size twelve mouth– attached to a size two brain. That lot? They fit my definition nicely.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I think it’s really important that we separate the Sad from the Rabid. The Rabid’s truly are a bunch of racist, homophobic, misogynist folks who just want to burn the whole thing down. The Sads seem to be upset because the world is changing, and they are longing for a time in science fiction that never really existed. Rather like the Tea Party who seem to think that Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best were actually how America looked.

      Oh sure we had manly men doing manly things, but there were also subtle works like Jack Williamson’s Darker Than You Think where Jack took on issues of deep seated superstitions, and the things that can be revealed by psychoanalysis. We’ve already touched on Heinlein — female ship captains in the 1950’s, and then there’s Stranger in a Strange Land for heaven’s sake.

      As the world changes and becomes more inclusive there is this tendency to decide there must be a conspiracy instead of just accepting changing tastes and different demographics.

      I would only request that we refrain as much as possible from pejoratives. I confess I broke my own rule in some of my epic rants about the monumental fail that was the end of Mass Effect 3, but I think we can’t engage well with people if we call them names. George R.R. has given us all a master class on how to interact with respect and civility during this whole “sad” affair.

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    I think it’s worth reproducing the entire Heinlein essay about critics because a lot of it is germane to this discussion.

    “He will permit any speculation at all — as long as it is about gadgets only and doesn’t touch people.He doesn’t care what mayhem you commit on physics, astronomy, or chemistry with your gadgets… but the people must be the same plain old wonderful jerks that live in his Home Town. Give him a good ole adventure story any time, with lots of Gee-Whiz in it and space ships blasting off and maybe the Good Guys (in white space ships) chasing the Bad Guys (in black space ships) but, brother, don’t you say anything about the Methodist Church, or the Flag, or incest, or homosexuality, or teleology, or theology, or the sacredness of marriage, or anything philosophical! Because you are just an entertainer, see? That sort of Heavy Thinking is reserved for C. P. Snow or Graham Greene. You are a pulp writer, Bud, and you will always be a pulp writer even though your trivia is now bound in boards and sells for just as much as Grace Metalious’ stories… and you are not permitted to have Heavy Thoughts. Space Ships and Heavy Thinking do not mix — so shut up and sit down!

    The rule is: Science Fiction by its nature must be trivial.
    This of course rules out… a large fraction of my work — and all my future work, I think.”

  • Jonathan Andrew Sheen says:

    See, I have much the same complaints as Torgerson. I prefer the kinds of stories he’s hoping to see behind those covers. I’ve felt similar disappointment.

    That doesn’t mean he isn’t deluded thinking it’s some kind of secret conspiracy in which some liberal cabal orchestrates these “deceptive” covers and it’s even more ludicrous, enough that it would be comical if it weren’t so damned tragic, to believe that this secret liberal cabal is meeting in a secret conference room under the Bonneville Salt Flats to fix the Hugos. Fixing the Hugos can’t be done in secret, and you can tell that by looking at the results of Torgerson, Correia and Beale’s attempt to do so.

    So I don’t see as many of the stories I prefer. I don’t have a right to force my tastes on mass audiences. I don’t see a lot of TV I’m wild about these days, either, so I watch “Star Trek: The Original Series” and “Emergency” and “Dragnet” and “Adam-12” on MeTV and Netflix.

    Torgerson should go to his bookshelf, pick up one of Pournelle’s “Jannisaries” novels, and let fandom go where it will — which is where it will go anyway.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      And that is how a grown up reacts, Jonathan. Well done you. I think there is still a lot of fun, swashbuckling fiction being written and published. Victor Milan’s Dinosaur Lords is going to be one kick ass series, S.M. Sterling’s Change novels fit that bill very nicely as does Walter Jon Williams brilliant Praxis series. Part of the problem is that the field is just huge now so it’s hard to know what to read. I read my friends books or I look for recommendations from those friends. I also pick books based on people’s appearances on panels. That’s how I discovered the amazing Max Gladstone. I had the good fortune to be on a panel with him at Boskone, he was interesting. I bought his first book and was blown away.

      I find it interesting that you aren’t happy with TV right now. I think it’s the golden age of television. There is so many brilliant shows on the air. There is truly something for every taste. That’s why I’m working so hard on this spec TV pilot right now. I would love to be back in the pool, so to speak.

      And no, there wasn’t a conspiracy. The field has changed — both the readers and the writers. When I was a kid it was an almost exclusively male domain with few women hiding behind initials and I can only think of one writer of color — Samuel R. Delany in that period. Then Octavia Butler joined that rather exclusive club. That’s not the case any longer. I love the fact the field has become like an eleven ring circus with all kinds of stories and heroes and heroines at play.

      • Slurpy says:

        While I agree that it is the golden age of television overall, I do find the lack of quality sci-fi disheartening. We have GoT and Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy and Daredevil, but no good gritty sci-fi this millennium, except for BSG.

        • Melinda Snodgrass says:

          I don’t we don’t have a spaceship show right now, but perhaps The Expanse will fill that void. And we do have Arrow and The Flash and Agents of SHIELD and my favorite show — Person of Interest which is a science fiction show though in a contemporary setting.

        • Catherine Reed says:

          Defiance is my current go-to scifi show. Seriously good writing. I don’t know if the Puppies would like it or hate it. I mean, there are spaceships, kind of, and guns, and paramilitary types abound, but there’s also explorations of all those pesky social issues that keep popping up everywhere you look.

          • Melinda Snodgrass says:

            I haven’t watched it yet. Thanks for the recommendation, Catherine. I’ll try to add to the already bulging list of shows I watch. So much good TV.

  • Actually, I have decided I am totally on board with 100% RELIABLE & COMPREHENSIVE PACKAGING as a standard for book covers. I think this is a great idea!

    Yes! I advocate packaging of books to warn me that the female characters in a novel are all coat-holding carboard cutouts and the male characters address them as “cupcake” and “baby doll” and “cutie.” Packaging that would warn me that the writing is so convoluted and pretentious, or so clumsy and tepid, one can only wonder at what the English language ever did to make the author hate it so much. Packaging that would alert me that the characters are all stereotypically tedious action heroes who shoot everything in sight and make “clever” puns after killing someone. Packaging could warn me that every black character in the book is a servant, every Hispanic person a criminal, every woman a sex object, and every atheist an Evil Marxist Villain.

    This would be a GREAT system, and I fully support it!

  • Michael Tuck says:

    So here’s my question for Torgersen, based on his words.

    Would he prefer to read stories about:
    racial intolerance, where the exploitation of minorities is celebrated?
    forced colonization of “backwards” races, where the colonizers are portrayed as the heroes?
    sexist oppression of women from the viewpoint that such oppression is desirable?
    gay and transgender oppression, positioned as being good for society?
    the triumph of the wealthy capitalists over the filthy rabble?

    I’m thinking he’d snap those books up and devour them as fast as I would a Gardner Fox space opera or a Robert E. Howard swordswinger. And he’s welcome to do so. I would never attempt to control what another person reads. But if I want to read SF books about incest or parthogenesis or the subjugation of humanity by giant pink worms, that’s as much my choice as it is Torgersen’s to read space opera or books about dragons and elves. Like many people on his side of the ideological divide, it apparently isn’t enough for him to pick through shelves groaning under the weight of books he wants to read, he doesn’t want to have to shuffle past all the books he doesn’t want to read. If I read his words right, and those of his fellow travelers, he doesn’t want those books to exist at all.

    That position is on the wrong side of a big bright line, and must be opposed.

    Thanks for providing your thoughts on the subject, Melinda, and a forum for discussion. And Laura Resnick, I’m with you 100% on that. 🙂

    • Michael Tuck says:

      Not sure how fetching I’d look in a brass bikini, but I’m game to give it a whirl. Always up for expanding another boundary. 😀

      • Melinda Snodgrass says:

        It might be a liberating experience, Michael. 🙂

        • Michael Tuck says:

          “How Michael Looks in a Fetching Brass and Spandex Swimwear Ensemble” comes under the subgenre of “Things Man Was Never Meant to Know.” If Clark Ashton Smith were to illustrate the next Victoria’s Secret swimwear catalog…

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I have a feeling Mr. Torgersen won’t love my space opera series. I got the idea when I pictured a giant twenty foot tall ant-like alien cowering in terror from… a much smaller human with a big mucking gun. I think we’re a mean bunch of monkeys who do violence really well, and if we do saunter out into the galaxy and meet up with aliens we will probably try to kick the living shit out of them because… other. And other is bad.

  • Ron Newman says:

    Didn’t John Brunner’s “Stand on Zanzibar” win a Hugo? Way back in 1969? Covering many of the themes that Torgersen claims to hate in SF?

  • JaniceG says:

    The Torgersen essay has a long strained analogy about being used to a snack food and then discovering it tastes differently than it used to. He manages to ignore the fact that (a) food companies constantly tweak their brands to match current tastes, and (b) most snack foods come in different flavors because manufacturers know that consumers have many different tastes and don’t all want the same flavor.

  • The ahistorical analysis is very bothersome. The SP brigade act as if the New Wave (LeGuin, Dick, Ellison, Tiptree, Delany) never existed, when in fact, they are now canonical. SF that I read has always been concerned with social issues. Even the juvie adventures of Andre Norton dealt with gender and had purposeful racial diversity.

  • Larry Lesser says:

    I’ve long held that social conservatives, by their very nature, are doomed to extinction. They cling to, and long for, the Old Ways, their social comfy blankie – but as a culture and as humanity, we’re always growing, maturing, working to improve ourselves, moving on. Ultimately, there’s no room for children at the adults’ marathon race. By the time they shout out against being left behind, it’s too late, because it’s already all over EXCEPT for the shouting. So what do they have left? Anger, frustration…an expression of a failure to mature, an “I want my blankie NOW!” with the intellect of adulthood. But the world isn’t out to get them, it’s not about them at all! And the social conservatives will never, ever understand that.

    So to sum this all up:
    The world changes all the time – that doesn’t mean it’s a conspiracy.

  • James McCormick (J.E. Mac) says:

    “Torgersen presents these alternative stories as if they are a bad thing. I don’t agree.”

    Here’s where I think a lot of the problem stems from with the whole Puppies thing (and communicating on the internet in general).

    I disagree.

    Wait, James, what are you disagreeing about?

    Exactly.

    I don’t see Torgersen saying that socially conscious books are a bad thing. This seems to be the conclusion that most people jumping on the “dumbing down SFF” bandwagon seem to think.

    I see him saying that the books he picks up thinking they are going to be rollicking SciFi adventures aren’t.

    I don’t know why people immediately equate this with, “Oh Brad wants to dumb down SFF!” Or worse that he’s a homophobic, racist, pig. The internet loves bandwagoning its insults doesn’t it?

    Here’s the thing. I whole heartedly agree with Brad. I do think the perception of where SciFi is at in the mainstream marketplace is in the utter fucking shit-hole.

    He isn’t talking about content. What he’s really getting at is marketing and mainstream perception of the genre as a whole. Brad wants to see SFF occupy a much broader place in the market. What he is responding to is — “WHY isn’t is?”

    Seriously, why isn’t it? I think that’s a pretty good topic for conversation. On both sides. For the genre as a whole.

    Torgersen’s hypothesis is that the public perception of “quality” modern SFF tends to be dry, humorless message porn.

    As a SFF fan, I know this isn’t true. A lot of the stuff I like is both thought provoking and entertaining. I know why Scalzi gets up in arms about this (Because he is a shining example of a SciFi writer writing witty fun “adventures” in the traditional Space Opera sense that also have a great deal of heart and depth as well).

    But I actually agree with Torgersen. The mainstream perception of SciFi is dry, boring, and humorless, preachy message porn.

    (For those of you that missed it, the emphasis is on PERCEPTION).

    –So, why hasn’t the discussion been about this?
    –Why has it been bogged down in the he said / she said bullshit of some weird bipartisan agenda?
    –Who cares?

    Now, look… you can feel free to disagree. You can think it’s a flawed hypothesis to begin with. That’s fine. That seems to be the tact most people are taking. To me, it does come off quite a bit like a child sticking their fingers in their ears and screaming, “Clang clang goes the trolley,” because they don’t want to hear it.

    But I see Brad looking for solutions. He didn’t just make a claim. He backed it up by saying this is what I think is good SciFi. And I can’t find fault in that.

    I also want to relay this.

    I was raised very conservative. (I hear the internet machine gears grinding, tallying all the rude, crude things to say, just on this admission, rather than looking at the content of what’s being said. So be it).

    My parents are avid readers. Particularly my step mother. She loves reading fiction. She reads mostly Thrillers. Their library is covered from head to toe with David Baldacci, Robert Ludlum, Clive Cussler, Vince Flynn, James Patterson… pretty much name a NYT Bestselling Thriller author and they’re there, on the shelf.

    She’s a fan. You might call her obsessed.

    She knows I’m a SciFi fan. She knows I’m an avid reader. She sees the parallels in herself. One day, when trying to relate with my interest in SciFi, she said–

    “I just can’t really get into SciFi. I like stories about people.”

    Think about that a minute. Before you jump her shit. That’s a mainstream conservative Thriller loving female’s reaction to the genre of SciFi. You can cite all the SciFi books you want that are contrary to this notion. The point is — this is what she believes. This is her perception of the genre.

    And quite truthfully, I don’t think she’s alone in this perception of SciFi as a genre.

    In response to this, the logical discussion should be something like —

    “Well, what can we do about it?”
    “What can we do to change the perception of the genre to more accurately reflect what SciFi actually has to offer?”
    “How can we bring SciFi to a wider audience?”

    But I haven’t seen that line of thought at all. Not once during this whole Hugo / Puppies thing has anyone even tried to talk about that. It’s largely been name calling and a whole bunch of “Nuh uh, you are!”

    And the irony is — that discussion is the very prompt that Larry Correia started three years ago. Same one Torgersen is running with this year.

    And people whose writing and insights I admire, seem to miss the point. (Scalzi, I’m looking at you and your most recent blogpost(s). Taking pot-shots that it was Larry upset that he didn’t get a Hugo that brings up this discussion… WHO CARES? The reasons why are irrelevant. The only things that matter are — Is he correct? Is SciFi miscontrued in the mainstream? If so, what is there (if anything) that can be done about it?

    For a genre that’s supposedly touted for being a genre of ideas, it seems weird to me that discussion on topics like this don’t ever come to discussion. Instead they end up in the mire of childish name-calling.

    Maybe that, in and of itself, is the answer. Maybe the reaction we’re seeing is the very reason why mainstream perception of the genre is so fucked to begin with.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      I agree with a lot of what you are saying, but here where I disagree. I don’t think science fiction is viewed as dry and boring. I think it’s viewed as kid stuff. Not worthy of serious literary attention even though some absolutely brilliant wordsmiths are working in the field– Paolo Bacigalupi, Delany, Gould (I could go on, but let’s leave it at that) and have worked — Roger Zelazny, Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison.

      In it’s infancy science fiction was more about tech and less about characters. That really changed with the New Wave and many of the older whiz bang writers hated that. But science fiction was growing and changing as the society was growing and changing — the Civil Rights movement, the women’s rights movement. That is continuing to happen as the society (hopefully) becomes more tolerant and inclusive so now we have LGBT characters and issues discussed.

      Science fiction has also often been a cautionary tale. Look at Jack Williamson’s wonderful autobiography Wonder’s Child and you’ll see that fear of nuclear annihilation drove much of the fiction of the 1950’s. Now writers talk about climate change, nano tech, etc.

      The way I read Torgesen’s complaints was that the Big Dumb Fun, Gee Whiz, Whiz Bang science fiction no longer dominates the field, and that our more literary writers who tend to win awards don’t tend to write that kind of story. I have absolutely nothing against Big Dumb Fun. I can’t wait to see the new Avengers movie. I went to Pacific Rim expecting nothing but big ass robots kicking the shit out of big ass monsters. That’s what I got and that was fine. But I don’t want Pacific Rim to win a Hugo. I want Interstellar to win a Hugo. It’s a much more ambitious thought provoking movie.

      It also seems that the cautionary tales that are being told don’t sit well with the more extreme right wing. The rise of gay rights, concerns about climate change are fighting words for much of that wing of the conservative movement so I think that is a bit at play as well.

      As for anyone saying rude or crude things to you. Not in my space. Everyone is welcome to sit around the kitchen table, grab a cup of coffee or salsa and chip and a margarita depending on the time of day and have a respectful conversation.

  • Judith K. Dial says:

    I think that not only has the public never known what to do about sf, nor has the field.

    If we did, then there would not have been the age-old disagreement/discussion about what was sf, what was fantasy, etc.

    I think that using the visual shorthand that publishers had for what type of story was inside as an argument about what kind of sff is being produced is off. So, the art editors/publishers/marketing types have changed what they use, and are choosing to mix it up. You can still find old-fashioned sf, fantasy, etc.

    It isn’t as easy as it used to be. It certainly isn’t as easy as when you could read everything published in a given year. But railing against the changed universe seems like a waste of time.

    I spent 30 years in the book business. I’d planned to sell sff into my retirement years. I could not keep my store open. That isn’t the field’s fault, the internet’s fault, or anyone, except perhaps Amazon’s fault. And Amazon couldn’t have impacted the brick & mortar stores as much, including mine, without help from the public — the same public who were my customers.

    Okay, so be it. I closed my store. I have different jobs now, instead of bookselling, because the world has changed. That’s life; things change. Progress happens, whether we like it or not.

  • James McCormick (J.E. Mac) says:

    “I agree with a lot of what you are saying, but here where I disagree. I don’t think science fiction is viewed as dry and boring. I think it’s viewed as kid stuff.”

    I get where you’re coming from. And it’s interesting to think that SciFi gets hit from both sides — the literatti crowd likes to dismiss it on “childish” grounds while the pop culture side gets to dismiss it on dry and boring. (Again, talking perception here — the reasons why people pick up a book (or won’t) without even reading it).

    I was really coming from the viewpoint of mainstream entertainment in a larger sense than just novels. SciFi as a genre across all mediums.

    The argument you present does make a lot more sense when you see SciFi as a genre that was desperately clawing for respect in a literary sense. I don’t think this is the argument Torgersen is presenting. I don’t think he cares if the Hugo awards stories that are “literary” or not. Pretty sure his argument is that he wants the Hugo to award stories that are reflective of the genre.

    Which is where the problems really come into play. Because what does that mean?

    SciFi as a genre doesn’t depict what kind of story is being told. The genre doesn’t hint at what the emotional experience of the read is going to be. Thrillers, Comedies, Horror, Drama, all do. In fact, SciFi is pretty much always a hybrid genre. You can tell SciFi Thrillers (Altered Carbon) as easily as you can do SciFi Parody (Redshirts).

    And as I said above, this here, what we’re talking about, this should be the discussion. For the life of me, I don’t know why it gets so off-track.

    • Melinda Snodgrass says:

      Because it became about the awards and the rules, and the problems go deeper than that. Yes, It is hard to define science fiction. It’s speculative. It can be anything. Wild Cards is a good example. We have aliens and space ships. We have mean street cop stories. We have tales of derring do. We have medical dramas, political thrillers. Just as Wild Cards can encompass all of those so can science fiction and that confuses people. I think that is one of it’s great strengths and why we have conquered popular entertainment, and we are so well suited to discuss weighty and knotty issues of gender and race and colonization and climate change. What other genre can do that? It’s why I love the field so very much and am so saddened by this mess.

    • Jon Torrance says:

      If Brad Torgerson doesn’t care about SFF awards going to works that are too “literary”, he should have refrained from writing things like the following:

      “In the last decade we’ve seen Hugo voting skew more and more toward literary (as opposed to entertainment) works.”

      That’s him in the post announcing SP3 as quoted at Black Gate (see http://www.blackgate.com/2015/04/04/a-detailed-explanation/)

      • Melinda Snodgrass says:

        Yet it seems like the puppies contingent, both rabid and sad, complained bitterly about Red Shirts winning, and that was just pure, straight up entertainment. Even to the point of being an inside joke. Perhaps it was because they all object so strongly to Scalzi? Look, I’ll be honest, I read, blurbed and enjoyed Red Shirts, but did I think it was the best novel that year? Probably not. There has been a mix of fun and ambitious over the years, but I was reviewing the list of winners and it was striking at the level of greatness contained there. The Demolished Man, A Case of Conscience, A Canticle for Liebowitz, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Man in the High Castle, Way Station, Dune, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Lord of Light, Stand on Zanzibar, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Forever War, The Dispossessed, Rendezvous with Rama, The Wind Up Girl, City and the City, Fountains of Paradise, Hyperion, A Fire Upon the Deep, The Doomsday Book, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. This is just a sampling of the extraordinary works that have been honored. None of these are “just fun”. And please don’t assume that I found the books I didn’t list to be unworthy. I’m just taking the cream, if you will, off the top of the list. And I think if you look at the entire list of winners the puppies arguments become even less persuasive.

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