The Hugos: It’s About Time

The Hugo Nominations came out last week and I am pretty darn excited about most of them. But there were also some deeply problematic things on the ballot, and there has consequently been a lot of discussion about how to handle those.

Here’s my take on things:

Vox Day does not deserve my time

I’m not going to read that story. It might be all right, it might be offensive, I don’t really care. I know some people advocate judging the fiction separately from its author, but I just can’t do that. I already know that I won’t vote for Vox Day.

Look, I’ve paid money to be able to participate in a proud tradition of SFF fandom. I’m so giddy that I’ll be able to attend the Hugo ceremony this year. I’ll be damned if I’m going to facilitate a man who has voiced such loathsome opinions to get up on stage at the Hugos and open his mouth.

So if I know I won’t vote for him, no matter what, why should I bother reading his story? Life is too short to give a man like that the courtesy of my time.

Not sure Larry Correia does either?

I’ve heard Correia speak on various podcasts before and while he never came across as a particularly nasty piece of work, I did not appreciate the tone or content of his voting slate blog post. The fact that he recommended Vox Day’s story really does not ingratiate him to me. I also have absolutely nothing in common with his target audience of, as he puts it, ‘gun nuts’.

But with the Hugos, we’re voting for the stories, not the authors. Surely if I don’t object to him as strongly as to Vox Day, I should read his book and judge it fairly. Well maybe.

His nominated work is the third novel in a series – now, I’m the first to admit I have a chip on my shoulder about works that do not stand alone being nominated for Best Novel. I dislike those because they pose an ultimatum: read all the books that came before, or judge something out of context. Last year I attempted to read Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance without having read any other in the series and it was such an unpleasant experience reading it out of context that it’s pretty much thrown me off of ever reading the Vorkosigan novels.

So I’m not sure I’ll read Correia’s novel. The odds are so small that I would like it at all, it hardly seems worth it. Particularly in a year where I am so enthused by the rest of the ballot: I want to read all the zines, the non-fiction writing, the non-Vox Day short fiction. I’m excited about finishing Parasite, reading Ancillary Justice and Neptune’s Brood. And if I decide to start on The Wheel of Time, goodness knows I won’t have a spare minute to give Warbound.

In short, Larry Correia’s attitude has pushed him to the bottom of the To Read pile, and we all know how often I get to the books stashed down there.

Time? What time? I have no time, I have to read these 14 door-stoppers

And so we come to the thorny question of The Wheel Of Time, which was nominated in its entirety in the Novel category. A lot of the complaints I’ve heard were that it’s a joke for a 14 book series to be nominated as one very, very long serialised story. But the rules are very clear that it is eligible; if it weren’t, the Hugo Committee would not have let it be on the ballot. They will strike things out if they are found to be ineligible.

Apparently there were also complaints about the quality of the work, but these seem simply unjustified to me. I personally think ‘The Name of The Doctor’ was pretty bad, but I’m not arguing that it shouldn’t be on the ballot. I just won’t vote for it. If we all agreed on what’s good, we wouldn’t need the awards at all.

My own complaint is more that it feels unfair to people who are not already fans of The Wheel Of Time. I have every sympathy for fans wanting to posthumously honour Robert Jordan by nominating the whole series rather than the latest instalment alone (written by Brandon Sanderson, who was chosen to complete the series after Jordan’s passing).

However, this means that where I could read Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance as a stand-alone and judge it as such, I can’t do that with The Wheel Of Time. The whole story is nominated, so I’m being asked to have an opinion on 4, 410, 036 words. More than FOUR MILLION WORDS.


How do I do that in four months? Do I not read the other nominated works? Do I use a time turner? I make an effort to read a lot and I know I like at least Sanderson’s writing but even so, 14 books in 4 months is a tall order. Even if I bought all 14 audio books (which I won’t because that would be a ridiculous amount of money), it would still be 461 hours of narration.

What if I can’t do it? I can’t compare something I’ve read to something I’ve not read. I can’t have the same voting experience as someone who has already read all or most of the books. That is taking a choice away from me in this contest, it is disenfranchising me from this vote. It’s like saying ‘You haven’t already read The Wheel Of Time, therefore your opinion isn’t valid here.’

I work for an election provider, so from a professional standpoint I can say that disenfranchising voters from ballots they are eligible to vote in is officially really, really bad. From a personal standpoint, it feels like the old guard of fandom is telling me I’m not a part of their club because I’ve not read this one specific thing. Either way, it’s hurtful, unfair and plain annoying.

If you have any suggestions as to what I could or should do about The Wheel Of Time, I would love to hear them. Let me know in the comments or on twitter, because I think I might like it, if I didn’t feel so annoyed at it!


Happy Anniversary, London!

Last Sunday marked the five-year anniversary of my arrival in London.

I’ve now lived in this country longer than it took me to go through high-school, or complete my degree. I’ve now lived here almost a fifth of my life. More than a fifth of my memories are from here.

It is officially A BIG THING.

Five years ago, I stepped off the overnight coach from Paris with a big suitcase filled with stuff too heavy for the plane, and went to meet Amy, who I went on to live with for several years. The house-hunting started that day, and that night there were tears of frustration and homesickness.

Less than a week later, I met Jenn and Rach, who let us stay at their place, geeked out about Harry Potter with us and took us out for sushi and karaoke. We eventually found a place, I met my other lovely flatmates, more awesome friends, an over-enthusiastic ginger kitten made of adorableness, and life went on.

One day, everyone was getting super excited about this thing that I didn’t get, because it was early days and I couldn’t catch everything everyone was saying. When I asked what the fuss was, I got more than I’d bargained for. Had I ever wanted to write a book? Did I have a lot of essays due in November? Did I fancy writing a book with them? In a month?

I thought ‘what’s the worst thing that can happen?’ and it didn’t even occur to me to think of the best thing that could happen. I’ve met so many amazing people in the NanoLondon community, and in London in general – I just can’t wait for the next five years, the next ten, etc.

Bring it on, London.

Dr Who - Asylum of the Daleks

It’s Dr Who time again!

The new series of Dr Who opened yesterday, so naturally we had some friends around to watch the episode and nerd out over it in style.

Pre-Who preparations included watching the Dr Who cast bowling with Wil Wheaton on YouTube and catching up on Pond Life.

We also bought a nifty mcguffin to connect our hitherto games-and-DVDs-only TV to the aerial.

@NickMB even came up with a themed drinking game:

Dr Who drinking game

The episode itself was fun and creepy, if full of things that didn’t really make sense – but I’ve come to accept, especially over the course of the past series, that Things That Don’t Really Make Sense are kind of a fixture on Dr Who.*

What still irks me is that it seems like the writers are trying to have it both ways:
– On the one hand the Doctor is Mr Logical, and figures out something is wrong with Oswin because she claims to be baking but where does she get the ingredients?
– On the other hand, the whole crew escapes on the TARDIS which just happens to have found its way on the Dalek ship somehow.

The Daleks! I loved the idea that the Daleks find beauty in pure hatred, a bit like Dexter admires talented serial killers. And the concept of a planet full of something that actually scares the Daleks (when one Dalek was enough to reduce Nine to panic!) was truly powerful. We’re a far cry from their fantastic Doomsday assertion that the Cybermen ‘ARE-BE-TTER-AT-DY-ING’. Near-fossilised Daleks coming slowly back to life were suitably scary and I loved the very tense moment of panic the Doctor had when he was backed in the door frame.

Of course, the effect was slightly ruined for me by the idea that the Daleks now have a place in their heart for Parliamentary Democracy. The rest of the evening was spent toying with the idea of starting a spoof ‘@DalekMP’, ‘@DalekPM’ or ‘@DalekShadowSec’ twitter account. Shame ‘@DalekBackbencher’ is one character too long for twitter.

Oswin! I enjoyed Oswin as a character, although she seemed very similar to the Doctor in some ways (rapid movements, quick-fire explaining away of her feats of hacking, extreme self-confidence), and just as cheeky as River. Her story felt very creepy and moving, in the same way as that of the little girl who is the library in Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead.

We know by now that the actor who played Oswin will play the new companion in the Christmas special and possibly beyond, and I have to say, I’m not very comfortable right now with the pattern this all seems to form. I do love a good bit of Timey-Wimey, and there is no denying that Steven Moffat has done it beautifully in the past, but this is bordering on too much.

/** Amy & Rory rant **/ Seriously, what the actual nonsense was that? The five minutes of soap-opera ‘I love you more’/’No, I love you more’ mid-episode just completely took me out of the story and left an utterly sour taste in my mouth. What a ridiculous, lazy way to break up the Ponds, not to mention get them back together in five minutes. There is no emotional pay off from their getting back together because we’ve barely had time to see them apart, and have no idea why they are apart. This made me sigh in exasperation, while I cried buckets in the first ten minutes of UP!, which were silent.

Also, one would hope that two people who have lived through such strange stuff as Amy and Rory have since they met the Doctor would realise that, actually, having lots of babies the traditional way is not the only way to raise a family. /** rant **/

* Now that I’m done writing this, I realised I lied a little bit. These things quite obviously still bother me. Mostly it was fine, though the Dalek Parliament is comedy gold waiting to happen. Just, the ’emotional’ stuff was bad storytelling. Not to mention sexist, because that’s another post altogether and many people have already written it, better than me.