Cheeseburger Gothic

Oh Hugo, you've done it again

Posted April 21, 2014 into Books by John Birmingham

I think I'm beginning to understand why Murph had to enrol in that 12 Step Sci Fi Anonymous program. These cats is crazy.

I don't really follow the Hugos, but I do follow the SF blogs which makes it impossible to miss the regular Shock! Horror! Hugo Awards Horrifying Shocker! stories that roll around each year. The last one was only a few weeks ago, when that English TV (or maybe radio) guy Jonathon Ross (I think) was first invited then uninvited to host the awards and Neil Gaiman got very shirty.

Well, what a pity they didn't stick with Ross because he'd a been purrrrfect for this years piss up given the latest Shock! Horror! Update!

The shortlist is in and the shortlist is horrifying because there's some guy on it for Best Novelette who's genuinely horrifying and who asked his horrifying fans and readers to vote for him – Theodore Beale, who writes as Vox Day, and seems to be the kind of guy you punch on the nose as soon as you meet him, just to save time. There's another guy, called Larry Correia, I think, who may be less horrifying and who was shortlisted for best big book, or something, but... well, this is where my professed ignorance of the Hugo Awards lets me down. I don't really know how they work. I'd always assumed they were like 'normal' literary awards, in which publishers nominate their chosen titles and a panel of eminent nobodies gets together over wine and cheese to hand out the gongs.

I've eaten that cheese and necked that wine. I've won some of those gongs and lost out on many, many more. It's all very incestuous but there is something approaching rigour in the process. Maybe not getting there, but at least approaching it.

The Hugos? I'm not sure, and frankly I'm too lazy to even read the wiki page, but it seems you get on the shortlist by being voted there. Possibly by attendees at some big convention. Seriously, feel free to give me the shareware lite version.

This year some writers lobbied their fans for support, both for themselves and for a slate of other writers/books of which they approved. Some of these were shortlisted. As an outsider it seems an unremarkable outcome for a process based on a popular vote, but apparently the SF/fantasy community (the same one which lost its shit over Jonathon Ross) is deeply, deeply unhappy. Either because the books are shit, or, even worse, the peope who wrote them are shit heads. I dunno. Maybe both.

As best I can tell, there is some rigour in the final judging process, and if that's so I guess you'd expect some worthy, but slightly tedious work of art to win out over some stoopid, splodey, but hugely enjoyable abortion of a book. I recognised Ancillary Justice on the shortlist, which I have shortlisted on my iPad for a read later this year. I've been promised it's a space opera. I have high hopes for splodey. It is an uncontroversial choice.

As for all the shock and the horror. Meh. If you open a process to voting you can't complain when people you don't like vote for other people you like even less.

On a cheerier note I just pre-ordered a copy of The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin. It's part one of an award-winning trilogy and, according to David Brin, "arguably the best Chinese science fiction novel ever translated into English." I'm unaware of many books in that category, but I do like the idea. As Brin explains it:

The series explores the world of the Trisolarans, a race that is forced to adapt to life in a triple star system, on a planet whose gravity, heat, and orbit are in constant flux. Facing extinction, the Trisolarans plan to evacuate and conquer the nearest habitable planet, and finally intercept a message—from Earth. The Three-Body Problem, due out in October 2014, has been translated into English by award winning writer, Ken Liu.
Special note… TTBP deals very closely with the issue of the Fermi Paradox and whether we should shout "yoo-hoo!" into the cosmos -- a quandary about which I've also written, from time to time.
I've long maintained that the health of an enlightened and progressive society is measured by how vibrant is its science fiction, since that is where true self-critique and appraisal and hope lie. If so, the good news stretches beyond China!

45 Responses to ‘Oh Hugo, you've done it again’

JC is gonna tell you...

Posted April 21, 2014

These folks never learnt that "fitting in" was always overrated. They've just built their own Mean Girl-esque empire along the outer edge of the fringe wall... Sad.

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Dino not to be confused with reckons...

Posted April 21, 2014

Yeah I solved the 3 body problem.

Lao Tzu?

He got a cuople of punches in but I kicked his arse.


Fuck him.

The fucker won't stop.

Don't know what he eats but it aint right.

He has too much energy JB.

Fuck him.

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Murphy would have you know...

Posted April 21, 2014

The Hugos work by purchasing a membership to the World Science Fiction Convention.

Once you have that, you can nominate.

Larry Correia started out as self published at Amazon, sold like hot cakes and transition to Baen Books where he continues to sell like hot cakes. He has a large fan base and they tend to be the type of people who get pretty tired of the endless politically correct bullshit that infests the American Science Fiction Community. After years of simply taking it, most of them rallied to Larry's call to tweak a few noses via his Sad Puppies Campaign.

As for his novels, I can't speak about them by virtue of the fact that current research efforts coincide with the same general theme as Correia's works. Once the trilogy is wrapped up, however, I plan to work my way through the series.

I believe Rhino has read them and I suspect he thinks pretty highly of them.

Anyway, just another day in the land of American Science Fiction.



On the Outer Marches

Stephen mumbles...

Posted April 22, 2014

Correia has two series - one of them is modern day monster hunters, the other is a trilogy about people with superpowers set in the 1930's (It feels like Indiana Jones crossed with Avengers and noir detective stories to me). The book in question is the last of the second series.

If you think awards should be given to thought provoking, literary works with not much plot, you're not going to vote for this. I suspect that is part of the outrage, given who's complaining.

Murphy mutters...

Posted April 22, 2014

Personally, I'd prefer to read a novel that did not bore me to death or try to hammer me to death with a freshman level lecture on political science, history, sociology, anthropology or whatever. If I want to do that, I'll crack open a book by an expert in the field and read that.

Rhino would have you know...

Posted April 25, 2014

Larry's stuff is well written and fun. Much like JB he writes books that people enjoy and are willing to pay for.

It really is a tempest in a tea pot. What is considered the most prestigious award in SF had a total of 1900 voters participating this year. Essentially, you pay your $40 and you get to vote and get ebook versions of all of the nominees.

The problem is that this year the intelligentsia inner clique, much like the Japanese at Pearl Harbor woke a sleeping giant in the Corriea fan base.

Corriea is Latino and is constantly painted as beeing an angry white guy. I've never seen him at any of the meetings. Anyway, the ironic part is that the Hugo Clique usually criying about diversity, etc., is not acknowledging that Larry is the only minority on the slate. /snork.

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Dino not to be confused with is gonna tell you...

Posted April 21, 2014

Hey Guys,

Going to court tomorrow.

Likely unsuccesful 75%.

There will be a shitload of househod goods on the street in the next two days.

Bring your wheel barrows.

If the coppers come I will resist arrest this time.

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Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted April 21, 2014

Also, I'm looking at my bookshelves to see if I have anything on them that is a Hugo Award Winner. Aside from Brad Torgersen's Lights in the Deep short story collection (he was nominated in 2012 and again this year but has not won one yet) I can't find much that was published in the last fifteen years.

Most of what wins the Hugos pretty much fails to speak to me as a reader.

Up way to early this morning.



On the Outer Marches

pi ducks in to say...

Posted April 22, 2014

Hugo's? The ones I can think of in my book collection from the nominiees are...

Heinlein's Have Space Suit - Will Travel

Heinlein's Starship Troopers

Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land

Piper's Little Fuzzy

Herbert's Dune

Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar

Niven's Ringworld

Zelazney's Jack of Shadows

Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama

Heinlein's Time Enough for Love (my favorite Heinlein book)

Niven and Pournelle's Mote in Gods Eye

Silverbergs Lord Valentines Castle

Wolfe's Claw of the Conciliator (an awesome read)

May's The Many Coloured Land (another awesome series)

Clarke's 2010: Odyssey Two

Heinlein's Friday

Wolfe's Sword of the Lictor (another awesome read)

Gibson's Neuromancer ('nuff said)

Vinge's Peace War

Niven's Integral Trees (one of my faves of all time)

Niven and Pournelle's Footfall

Bear's Blood Music (not his best book IMHO)

Card's Speaker for the Dead

Gibson's Count Zero (best book in the series IMHO)

Vinge's Marooned in Realtime

Bear's Forge of God (the sequel is his best book IMHO)

Wolfe's Urth of the New Sun

Sterling's Islands in the Net

Gibson's Mona Lisa Overdrive

Simmons' Hyperion

Card's Prentice Alvin

Bear's Queen of Angels

Card's Xenocide (meh)

Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep

Robinson's Red Mars

Robinson's Green Mars

Bear's Moving Mars

Gibson's Virtual Light

Robinson's Blue Mars (deserves every award IMHO)

Stephenson's Cryptonomicon

Rowling's Prisoner of Azkaban

Rowling's Goblet of Fire (I don't care what you say... i like em)

Robinson's Years of Rice and Salt.

Not an insignificant list.

Bunyip puts forth...

Posted April 22, 2014

Actually just started rereading Ringworld for the nth time last night.

There's some good shit in that list, Pi.

Murphy mumbles...

Posted April 22, 2014

Published within the last fifteen years?

I've got a number of Hugo novels but they are all much older.

Darth Greybeard is gonna tell you...

Posted April 22, 2014

Agreed Mr Bunyip and Pi, good stuff indeed. My lot would be similar and as Murph notes, not from the last 15 years. Did Peter Hamilton or Iain Banks ever get a Hugo? But meh, I get a lot of my reading ideas at places like this anyway these days, not from awards. Actuall from places exactly like this.

Blarkon has opinions thus...

Posted April 22, 2014

Interesting to note how many of those on your list were written in the last 15 years.

pi asserts...

Posted April 22, 2014

I'm not sure I'm a good 15-year guide to what is the hugo award. The hugo has always been both a sci-fi and a fantasy award. Right back to Zelazny and Silverberg. I definitely don't read as much fantasy as I used to in a time in which it has become much more main-stream.

That being said... Stephensons Anathem (which I missed in my list) was definitely a good novel nominated in 2009. And Scalzi's redshirts (which I have not yet read) is the 2013 winner, and by all accounts a pretty good book? There's no doubt I'll be reading Robinson's 2312 as well. And George RR Martin's Dance with Dragons?

It's not all bare of good reads as far as I can see...

Blarkon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 22, 2014

Scalzi's Redshirts is (well the first part is) a fun riff on Star Trek.

Sort of like Galaxy Quest. A fun movie. A movie I have in DVD and Blu-Ray. But not a movie worthy of serious awards.

There were other, much stronger, books that came out that year that weren't nominated. Brin's "Existence". Reynold's "Blue Remembered Earth". Bank's "Hydrogen Sonata". Hamilton's "Great North Road" - and a large number of other books I haven't mentioned.

The problem is that the Worldcon attendees by and large tend to be quite insular in what they read - so we keep getting nominations for the same authors year after year, rather than substantive books.

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SeantheBookonaut reckons...

Posted April 21, 2014

Actually I thought the response to the racist fucktard Day was pretty low key compared to Ross.

I enjoyed Ancilliary Justice, possibly not enough explosions if that's you thing John.

But mate the Fancast category is almost 50 % Aussie Goodness.

As for a political correctness infestation. YVMV but I think the community is trying to drag itself away from the "good' old days when tit groping a female author on stage was considered a hoot.

Barnesm mumbles...

Posted April 22, 2014

I am about 10 pages from finishing 'Ancilliary justice' I found it okay, the genedered pronouns stuff made me rethink how I see gender in novels but its been a struggle to read and definiately light on the explodey stuff. I don't think it is really space opera.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted April 22, 2014


Murphy reckons...

Posted April 22, 2014

Sean, last I checked, Larry's never tit groped anyone on stage.

Nor has Vox Day.

As stated up there elsewhere, I get pretty tired of preachy, politically correct, let's change their thinking, novels written by folks who took a humanities class one or twice in college. To me they come off as third rate freshman level lectures on topics I have heard (or in some cases, given lectures on in my own job) only eleventy million or so times.

Perhaps it is too much time spent in Baptist Sunday School as a kid but there is very little I hate more than suffering through a sermon.

Which is how a fair bit of present day science fiction reads.

Blarkon has opinions thus...

Posted April 22, 2014

Ancillary Justice will win this year's Hugo because a vocal segment of the SF/F community is presently more interested in waving a flag about non-traditional gender identity than they are in literary merit.

I went the audio book route. It's an adequate novel. It's not a novel you put down and think "holy fuck this author is insanely clever"

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 22, 2014

Having spent good 'lectronic money on this book, nothing I'm hearing here is making me feel good about the purchase.

w from brisbane mutters...

Posted April 22, 2014

It is possibly the first fictional work in the history of publishing with the word 'Ancillary' in the title. That's got to be worth something.

Therbs reckons...

Posted April 22, 2014

The word "Ancillary" when used in the tite of a book means "Be Wary Of This One". If the book is a novel then the meaning intensifies to "Do Not Read Me".

Coming up with titles for novels is obviously not the author's strong point. This then doesn't bode well for the scribbling which follows the title.

pi has opinions thus...

Posted April 22, 2014

The first "non-traditional gender identity" mechanism I ever saw in a book was by Greg Egan (Diaspora). It was Ve did this, and Ve did that. As a mechanism, I thought it worked quite well, especially when there were clearly no possible gender stereo-types for artificially created consciousness'.

Anthony is gonna tell you...

Posted April 22, 2014

And for non-traditional gender there's always Ursula LeGuin "The Left Hand of Darkness". I used to avidly look for the Hugo Award winners but now there's so much other good stuff, I can't be bothered.

As for the political polemics, I disagree with a lot of the right-wing stuff out of Baen but I have bought an awful lot of it because it's good.

Blarkon has opinions thus...

Posted April 22, 2014

Oh it's certainly been done before - but there seems to be a push for this particular book to be awarded not because of its literary value, or because it is a rollicking great read, but because "it deals with these particular topics which are IMPORTANT and must be dealt with".

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Alexvdl asserts...

Posted April 22, 2014

I liked the blog post, but what really intrigues me is the idea of someone going to court, and therefore putting all their things on the curb. This is a story I want to read more of!

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Bill would have you know...

Posted April 22, 2014

I always thought the Nebula Awards were more prestigious than the Hugos. At least with the Nebulas writers were being judged by their peers. The only criteria to voting with the Hugos is having a ticket to WorldCon.

Blarkon would have you know...

Posted April 22, 2014

The Nebulas are also very cliquish. It's been said that they are more a reflection of the author's ability to play politics within SFWA than the quality of the work.

The inclusion of Fantasy with SF has also skewed the results, with at least one book winning the award because they were the only "obvious SF" on the list of nominees amongs other nominees that were straight fantasy.

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Therbs mutters...

Posted April 22, 2014

Hugo Award winners I remember reading were the likes of Poul Anderson, Robert Heinlein, Ursula le Guin, Phillip K Dick, Isaac Asimov, Robert Silverberg and Kim Stanley Robinson. It was mid-90's when I largely gave up on SF. It became even more silly when they included Harry Potter. If they include that, they may as well include Enid Blyton's Famous Five.

Just reread War of the Worlds. Fascinating how what I once regarded as gripping writing seemed now drawn out. I blame twitter.

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Surtac puts forth...

Posted April 22, 2014

Ho hum. Another year, another Hugo kerfuffle. I'm kind of over it now. Ian McDonald (The River of Gods, The Dervish House etc) tweeted last year (?or was it the year before?) something to the effect that Hugo results may now be determined by social media pressure, and I think he may be right. This year's 'issue' certainly seems to be in line with that opinion. I'll wait and see.

I've been buying a supporting membership and voting for the Hugos since about 2009, having realised how few nominations it took for some books to reach the final ballot. And then when I realised that changing my original intended vote in 2010 the way that I did directly enabled the best novel tie that year between China Mieville and Paolo Bacigalupi ... anyway I've been a regular voter since.

This year's novel list looks a bit 'meh' to me, apart from the Leckie (which I liked a lot) and the Stross (which I haven't yet read).

Oh, and Ancillary Justice just picked up the BSFA best novel for this year (in a tie with Ack Ack Macaque as it happens).

Blarkon ducks in to say...

Posted April 22, 2014

The Leckie was adequate. I suspect it is going to win because of the big push to show how inclusive Hugo voters are about non-traditional gender identity rather than on literary merit.

Murphy puts forth...

Posted April 22, 2014





On the Outer Marches . . . for a reason.

Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted April 22, 2014

I enjoyed reading Ack Ack Macaque more

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Barnesm asserts...

Posted April 22, 2014

"arguably the best Chinese science fiction novel ever translated into English" yeah that may be in a catagory of one, but Its one I am defenitely looking to read.

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Stephen swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 22, 2014

The Hugos are given out by the World Science Fiction Society, which runs the World Science Fiction convention each year. All members of the society can nominate and vote - there is no judging process at all. The people running it can (and have in the past) intervene if they have evidence of ballot stuffing, but otherwise it is purely votes from the members.

To get membership of the society for a given year, you buy a membership of that year's WorldCon. If you're not going, then you only need a supporting membership, otherwise you buy a (more expensive) attending membership.

I didn't hear about the lobbying mentioned until yesterday, but as it happened I nominated three of the works myself - two of my noms got on. I also nominated a few others that got got on, including Ancillary Justice.

I did hear about a large campaign to get Wheel of Time (the entire series) nominated as best novel, and it got on the shortlist. This was because of a loophole which states that an entire work can be nominated when the last part becomes available - aimed at novels released in magazines over multiple issues. I haven't heard any outrage about that - maybe because it's better known?

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Blarkon would have you know...

Posted April 22, 2014

The Hugos and Nebulas are "in crowd" awards. There are only a couple of thousand voters. Most of them read the same stuff as each other.

Iain M Banks never won a Hugo. Stanislaw Lem never won a Hugo. Terry Pratchett hasn't won a Hugo. Peter F Hamilton hasn't won a Hugo. Alastair Reynolds hasn't won a Hugo. I could go on naming great writers that haven't won a Hugo, but I'd be here all week.

Lois McMaster Bujold has won four Hugos. Three of them for the same series of books about Miles Vorkosigan. Connie Willis has won three Hugos.

The books are okay - but were never the most brilliant works of the year in which they won.

Darth Greybeard ducks in to say...

Posted April 22, 2014

Thanks Blarkon. But then, we know who's never won the Man Booker prize, don't we?

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted April 22, 2014

Easy, Tiger.

sibeen mumbles...

Posted April 22, 2014

From Wiki:

Bujold is one of the most acclaimed writers in her field, having won the prestigious Hugo Award for best novel four times, matching Robert A. Heinlein's record.

One of these people I have heard of, the other, no.

Blarkon reckons...

Posted April 22, 2014

The Vorkosigan books are fun reads. I certainly buy them and read them when they come out. I was very surprised that they had won Hugos (as I'd mentally reserved the award for works which were towering in their brilliance, casting long shadows and which could be re-read many times, each time giving the reader some new insight).

One of the issues the award has is that people nominate authors they *like* rather than books they *like*.

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Dino not to be confused with puts forth...

Posted April 22, 2014

Ok Jb,

Coppers can kick the shit out of me.

Keep writing Jb,

Keep writing.

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JD reckons...

Posted April 23, 2014

Larry Correia writes books with lots of gun-porn in them. And explodey-goodness. You should read them, JB.. Especially the Grimnoir novels. I really think you'd like them.

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Sam would have you know...

Posted April 28, 2014

Sinica has an interesting podcast on Chinese science fiction at

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