John Scalzi on whether Heinlein could win a Hugo today

Nerds_feather

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Very interesting post, which unsurprisingly comes from Scalzi's well-established liberal/Heinlein-loving perspective.

For reference, another SF writer (John C. Wright) made the claim that Heinlein couldn't win a Hugo today (because, you know, "thought police," "political correctness," "feminists," etc.). Foz Meadows has deconstructed this post quite thoroughly.

But I think Scalzi's piece can also be read on its own.
 

Silver Owl

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Oh that's quite the worm can that's been opened!

I'm centre left politically so although hypersensitive liberalism does irk me sometimes it looks to me like Scalzi was just plain wrong in many of his arguments.

Wow I've managed to sit on the fence
 

Mark_Lawrence

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A pertinent question is: would he care either way?

Almost nobody I interact with knows what a Hugo is, much less cares who gets one.

I'd never heard of them until after I got my publishing deal, and I'd been reading fantasy and sci-fi for 35 years before that. It's certainly not an ambition of mine.
 

AndrewT

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Anyone else besides me unimpressed with some or even most of the works awarded Hugos?
 

Brian G Turner

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Am I the only person here who thought the John C Wright piece was a purposeful attempt to troll for attention?

I mean, seriously, the use of language here reads to me as perfectly exaggerated:

Orson Scott Card publicly expressed the mildest imaginable opposition to having judges overrule popular votes defining marriage in the traditional way. The uproar of hate directed against this innocent and honorable man is vehement and ongoing.
IMO it's clearly link bait, so am surprised anyone's taking it seriously.
 

Silver Owl

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Am I the only person here who thought the John C Wright piece was a purposeful attempt to troll for attention?

I mean, seriously, the use of language here reads to me as perfectly exaggerated:



IMO it's clearly link bait, so am surprised anyone's taking it seriously.
I wouldn't go as far as to say it was deliberate but he is wrong in his argument either way. Shame really as this is the sort of thing that puts me off buying books by certain authors.
 

Nerds_feather

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Am I the only person here who thought the John C Wright piece was a purposeful attempt to troll for attention?

I mean, seriously, the use of language here reads to me as perfectly exaggerated:

IMO it's clearly link bait, so am surprised anyone's taking it seriously.
I wouldn't go as far as to say it was deliberate but he is wrong in his argument either way. Shame really as this is the sort of thing that puts me off buying books by certain authors.
It does seem attention-seeking, but I don't think trolling is the right lens to view it with. Trolling is attention-seeking without purpose beyond that act. This is more Daily Mail style incitement--making emotional arguments, playing fast and loose with fact, context and logic, etc. It's bilious and more than a little silly, but it's written in all seriousness, I think.

But tbh I thought the most interesting bits of Scalzi's piece were his comments on Heinlein.
 

psikeyhackr

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Anyone else besides me unimpressed with some or even most of the works awarded Hugos?
I was shocked when I heard J. K. Rowling got a Hugo.

The award is a ROCKET.

I wrote a program that counts the science and fantasy words in text. The use of the word 'wand' progressively increases through her Harry Potter series. It is funny how she says someone "rocketed" while riding a broom.

LOL

I do wonder if Heinlein would give a damn about winning a Hugo today. Maybe the early Heinlein who needed the money would write what the market wanted. But would the later well to do Heinlein bother? Possibly I am just as out of date as Heinlien would be, but so much of the stuff "called science fiction" today has just gotten shallow in my opinion.

psik
 

Bick

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I'd never heard of them until after I got my publishing deal, and I'd been reading fantasy and sci-fi for 35 years before that.
Really? Every decent SF book that wins has "Hugo Award Winner" emblazoned across the cover somewhere - how did you miss this for 35 years? :confused:

I think Scalzi is right, for sure. And I imagine Mark is right that he might not much care - but he'd win it whether he cared or not because he was an excellent SF writer.

Psik - regards vomit zombies - Scalzi does say "updated for today's audiences"!
 

J-Sun

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Anyone else besides me unimpressed with some or even most of the works awarded Hugos?
Depends on the timeframe. From the mid-80s on, IMO, the Hugos entered a steep qualitative decline. Before that, while they infrequently coincided with what I'd've picked, they usually represented reasonable alternatives. The Hugo anthologies Vols. 1-5 are great, even essential, reading. I've read all the novel winners up to the early 90s [1] and some after and most of them are great and essential reading, too, at least in that earlier time frame. But even since then, some excellent works have been noticed here and there.

Anyway, I agree - Heinlein was a pro and was popular and good and would win accolades (such as the Hugo or whatever else) any time. And I figure that's with or without a temporal update. I still see comparisons, no matter how misplaced, to Heinlein on many many book blurbs, including those of people who do win Hugos these days - Steele, Scalzi, whoever. That said, I'm not very familiar with Wright (and, fairly or unfairly, I've gotten "near-nut" vibes) but he probably has a point that these days represent a more militantly anti-Heinleinesque [2] era in "fandom" than any since the New Wave. Which is kind of funny since American society, at least, is otherwise nothing like it was in the New Wave era and consists of only the dregs of both liberalism and conservatism. Apathy towards large-scale vital issues and focusing on minutia of thought-control which violates their own principles from the "liberals" and a bovine know-nothing do-nothing obstructionism and destructive radicalism which violates their principles from the "conservatives".

And, speaking of, that's actually the main point of Wright's piece, where Heinlein is used merely as an example. Wright's piece is long-winded (which I regard as a high crime as I'm never long-winded!) and, yes, it uses overly emotional rhetoric. My understanding of Card is that he said quite a bit worse but, otherwise, regardless of Wright's polemic approach, he absolutely means this and it is in no way trolling and his examples are valid and his logic is mostly correct until he gets bogged down in the law/custom discussion which, even so, provokes interesting thoughts.

"Science fiction was proud to be a literature of the new and startling. A spirit of intellectual fearlessness was paramount." - "Science fiction is under the control of the thought police. The chains are invisible, but real. For a genre that glories in counting George Orwell as one of its own, this is ironic, to say the least." - "The older the strata of science fiction being mined, or the more deeply into nuts-and-bolts the SF tale, the smaller the percentage of women found in the candidate pool." - Especially "The leftists are turning on their own. Ideological loyalty is no defense." And I won't quote the bit asking how, if a field of free-thinking nuts like SF has become so conformist, what chance society at large?, as his rhetoric tries to invalidate his point, but the point IS still sound. Anyway - I suspect I would agree with Wright on scarcely anything aside from this, and I don't care for how this is written, but it's got a point. The Heinlein example is incorrect but what made him select it is valid.

(BTW, I find it amazing to think some SF fans haven't heard of the Hugos - for years, on the backs of magazines, were ads for the SFBC which prominently offered the Hugo anthologies presented by Isaac Asimov. Most every author - from Asimov to Sterling - talked about them and they were a genuinely big deal. Zelazny died at a Worldcon where the things are given out. For years it was THE award for SF until being joined by the Nebulas and, even now, after a proliferation of awards and years of qualitative poverty, they're still The Big Two. Even today, every winner has it blurbed on the cover (sometimes even on the spine *shudder*), references to being "worthy of considered for a Hugo" abound. Every history of the field and most casual articles refer to them. It's like being in visual media and having never heard of the Oscars or Emmys or something.)
_____

[1] Except for the infamous Clifton/Riley award - which consensus would argue shows the Hugos have never been perfect - Clifton wrote some okay stories, though, and I'm still open to the idea - just haven't managed to work up enough energy to connect with a copy.

[2] "Heinleinesque" being also dynamically "Campbellian" - even if they stopped seeing eye-to-eye with each other in terms of content - valuing free, unconventional, even offensive-to-many thought. Also being technophilic, extroverted, expansionist, tough-minded, valuing liberty, etc.
 

Ursa major

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It's like being in visual media and having never heard of the Oscars or Emmys or something.)
I've heard of the Emmys, but only because they're mentioned here in the UK if someone from here wins one. The mainstream media in the UK rarely mention the Hugos, and then never in headlines (unless there's a spat, as there was over Jonathan Ross's brief moment as potential Hugo awards hosting**).

** - That's if it became a headline story here. If it did, I didn't see it.
 

Mark_Lawrence

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Really? Every decent SF book that wins has "Hugo Award Winner" emblazoned across the cover somewhere - how did you miss this for 35 years? :confused:
Maybe they don't bother printing it on UK editions, or if you're not looking for something you don't see it. I think perhaps though that the small number of people concerned with the award radically overplay its importance in the wider world to themselves.


I think Scalzi is right, for sure. And I imagine Mark is right that he might not much care - but he'd win it whether he cared or not because he was an excellent SF writer.
That pre-supposes that excellence is the ticket to the award. Which as far as I can tell it isn't. I'm sure that a degree of excellence is a requisite, but you very clearly have to tick several other boxes as well. From my (admittedly rather limited) experience it seem that there's a Hugo type of book, that glad handing at conventions is a big bonus, and that having the approved social messages is another. I'm sure the 'type' changes slowly from year to year and that there are exceptions that have bludgeoned their way through the hoops by sheer popularity and quality but the fact that a couple of authors have won certain categories time and time again (I seriously had never heard of Lois McMaster Bujold before I looked at the Hugos a couple of years back ... and that's a name I _would_ remember) just shouts that it's a clique choosing the clique favorites over and over.
 

J-Sun

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The mainstream media in the UK rarely mention the Hugos, and then never in headlines (unless there's a spat, as there was over Jonathan Ross's brief moment as potential Hugo awards hosting**).
I don't doubt it but I wasn't directly comparing the Hugos to the Oscars or anything. Movies are orders of magnitude larger than SF books and Oscars are orders of magnitude larger than Hugos. I just meant that it is to SF as Oscars are to movies - the Big Award. Mainstream media in the US never mentions Hugos or Nebulas (unless in passing) either.

I think perhaps though that the small number of people concerned with the award radically overplay its importance in the wider world to themselves.
Same as above - I don't think anyone thinks Hugos have any great importance to the wider world, directly. But they are reasonably coveted by many people in the field. Just like nobody cares who wins an advertising award or best car salesman or whatever unless they're an adwriter or car salesman but then it's a nice thing for them.
 

Victoria Silverwolf

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This discussion reminds me of an essay by Thomas M. Disch that appeared decades ago in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. (It's old enough that people like Card, Martin, and Willis are discussed as "new writers," so let the reader beware. It rambles around a bit. Here's the full text (PDF file.)

http://www.press.umich.edu/pdf/9780472068968-17.pdf

Also relevant is George R. R. Martin's response, also from F&SF.

Literature, Bowling, and the Labor Day Group | George R.R. Martin

Interesting reading, anyway. Both authors probably have good points to make. There's a lot of politics in the way awards are given out (not so much in the "politically correct" sense, I think, as much as "So-and-So is a nice person" or "So-and-So is getting old and sick and hasn't gotten attention in a while.")
 

Ursa major

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I don't doubt it but I wasn't directly comparing the Hugos to the Oscars or anything. Movies are orders of magnitude larger than SF books and Oscars are orders of magnitude larger than Hugos. I just meant that it is to SF as Oscars are to movies - the Big Award. Mainstream media in the US never mentions Hugos or Nebulas (unless in passing) either.
I realise that. I was just using your earlier comment as a hook on which to hang the point that you seem to be assuming the SF world was, before the Web, much the same in the UK as in the US. I'm not sure it was. It may still not be. (Not having visited the US since 1994, I couldn't say.)
 

psikeyhackr

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Really? Every decent SF book that wins has "Hugo Award Winner" emblazoned across the cover somewhere - how did you miss this for 35 years? :confused:
That is what I thought.

psik
 

Bick

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Maybe they don't bother printing it on UK editions...
Well, they mostly do, though not always. I just checked my UK editions of Ender's Game, Forever War, Hyperion, Ringworld, Dune and Gateway and they all announce it pretty clearly on the cover. Neither Rendezvous with Rama, nor The Diamond Age do, but they seem to be exceptions from the winners on my shelf. I guess you don't judge books by their covers - my old English teacher would approve!
 
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