Sunday, April 12, 2015

Kicking Puppies

I’ve read science fiction and fantasy since I was old enough to figure out that there were genres in writing. 

When you’re just starting out with the whole literacy thing there aren’t genres, you know.  There are just books.  They tell stories, and you either like them or you don’t and then you move on to the next story.  Children like stories.  It takes adults to start classifying them and then judging them on those classifications.

I read all sorts of things now, and while I’m happy to read in any number of genres, the fact remains that as with most people there are certain kinds of stories I prefer over most others.  These alternate between history – stories constrained by reality, often hedged in by footnotes, and professionally useful to me – and SF/F.  I like this genre because when it is done well it forces me to think about things.  It says, “let’s take this aspect of the world we live in now and exaggerate it SO and then cross it with this other aspect of the world that we have exaggerated THUS and see what happens.” 

Of course, this can be done well and it can be done poorly.  It is often done poorly, in fact.  SF/F is a genre that has traditionally rewarded ideas rather than writing, and there is an awful lot of really awful prose out there filling up the space taken by my favorite fictional genre.  I’ve gotten to the point now where I refuse to slog through it.  If you’ve got an idea you want me to hear, you’d better say it well.

There are awards for those who do it well.

I’ve never paid too much attention to them before.  While I read a lot of SF/F, I’m not really a great fan of the Hugos or the Nebulas or whatever other piece of fandom-awarded hardware is next up on the list of statues to be given out.  It’s nice to know that such things exist and that they serve as a rough guide to the things that appeal most broadly the genre’s fans, but beyond that I have not been all that motivated to explore.

Apparently there are a lot of people who disagree with me on this.

Indeed, to judge from the flap and bother regarding this year’s Hugos, there is a small but determined group of halfwits, racists, barbarians, throwbacks, loudmouths, wannabe manly men, and assorted trolls who feel that this award is the pinnacle of their existence, one that they are willing to game the system to win and which, if denied for any reason, they are willing to destroy utterly in order to prove that if they can’t have it nobody can.

Hey, don’t take my word for it.  Read theirs.  I’ve done so, much to my regret, and a bigger cesspool of toddler-level entitlement, frat-boy sheltered living, and small-penis-compensating machismo you will never hope to find.  They’re quite open about all of it.

Do their mothers know they behave this way?  These are clearly people badly in need of growing up.

My favorite bit was the one where one of these proud Americans boasted that anyone who opposed them would be destroyed because they “were ready for war” and everyone else wasn’t.  War?  Seriously?  You’re a pasty-faced desk jockey hiding behind an onscreen pseudonym.  Talk to me when you have the balls to pick up a gun and go to Afghanistan.  That’s war.  It has been my experience that those who really are prepared for war, those who have actually experienced it, tend to be a bit less stuck up their ass when it comes to this sort of thing.  They know better.  They don’t need to parade it about, and they understand that war is a hard job for highly trained professionals and not a casual threat to be trotted out by people whose most strenuous activity today was hitting the space bar.  It’s the wannabes and pretenders who still think playing soldiers is a cool game to while away an afternoon.

Is it any surprise that these people proudly claim to be on the right wing of American politics too?  This certainly has been the playbook of the modern American right wing extremists for most of the last three decades.  It’s a shame that it has infected a perfectly fine literary genre, but not a shock really.

Part of me thinks it would be worthwhile to pay the membership fee just to have voting rights this year and list “No Award” on all the categories.

The Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies – for that is what these trolls have called themselves (seriously, I kid you not) – have already publicly declared that they will destroy the Hugos if people do that, though.  Because that would be the mature adult thing to do, right?

Honestly, it gives toddler tantrums a bad name.

And you know what?  Maybe getting rid of the whole notion of awards not such a bad thing.  Clearly we can’t have nice things in my favorite genre anymore.  Not everything lasts forever. 

The vast majority of people who read this will not care, and those who do will understand, as I do, that this post will change nothing.  But it’s my space on the internet, and sometimes you just have to holler at the batshit insanity of the world because otherwise people think nobody is paying attention.


LucyInDisguise said...

I care!

And please, if I may, allow me to add my voice to yours.

Bad puppies! Go lay down.


John the Scientist said...

Sone people are just in need of a rolled up newspaper across the nose.

Carol Elaine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carol Elaine said...

John, methinks we need to rub their noses in the mess they made. And turn a (high pressure) hose on them.

vince said...

I don't pay much attention to awards of any kind, since I see them for the most part as popularity contests. I do rely on reviews and what friends and family recommend, and sometimes just read things because they look interesting or different. Given what I see regularly through my Internet travels, that these sad puppies did what they did doesn't surprise me.

I highly recommend The Martian by Andy Weir if you haven't read it. Best hard SF I've read in many a year. I also recommend Alex Myers's Time Change trilogy.

David said...

You know, that puppy metaphor was probably a bad choice on their part given the general treatment one gives to bad dogs. I doubt they thought that one through, as I doubt they thought through any of it.

Vince, I've heard good things about The Martian as well, and it's on my list of things to read. Haven't run into Time Change - I'll have to look into it. Thanks!

The best SF/F book I've read so far this year has been Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, a surprisingly bittersweet take on the usual post-apocalyptic tale.