Books Read- 203 Books to Read-282 Percent Complete- 41.86%

Just Finished (For the third time) - 'Mirror Dance' by Lois McMaster Bujold

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Yesterday I put up a new review for Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy.  I reviewed the whole series all in one go.  I'm not a big fan of reviewing each book in a series seperately, I talked about this at length in  my review for 'A Dance with Dragons.'  That book is pretty much un-reviewable without looking at the novels published on either side of it (some of which haven't been written yet).  While the books that comprise the Newsflesh trilogy aren't quite as inter-connected as A Song of Ice and Fire they still rely on one another to tell a story, and what's more I didn't really care too much for the later books in the series and didn't want to write a specific review just for them.

I was a little curious to see if more people felt like me when I finished the series, like 'Feed' deserved a nomination but the next two books in the series didn't live up.  I didn't realize there was such a large controversy over this until I went online and started doing some research.  There's Justin Landon's essay on the Hugos that really singles out Grant's work as an example of how the Award has fallen into the worst sort of popularity contest.  Also there's quite a few essays providing counterpoint to Landon's views.  Curiously the one thing most of these have in common is that at some point they mention how they know Grant personally, both John Scalzi's defense and Charlie Jane Anders over at i09 specifically mention how they know Grant personally, not doing a lot to disprove Landon's point.

Landon presents some good ideas.  Saying there are large blocks of voters who each year ensure that their favorites win an award isn't really stating something new.  If you look at the award as a whole there's no real denying that's the case, 'Doctor Who' is a pretty good show but I don't know if it necessarilly deserved the last eight Hugo awards for Dramatic Presentation or to be nominated three times every year.  Landon goes on to single out several other categories like fanzine (which doesn't include blogs) and editor that are continually won by a small group of people.  In the novel category Landon looks to Grant, Bujold, Kim Robinson, Scalzi, and a few others that are perennially nominated for Best Novel.

Landon has a point, almost everything some of these authors write can be relied upon to get a Hugo nomination, and it can get pretty irritating when those books you love don't get any respect.  It would be nice if more authors excused themself from Hugo consideration like Neil Gaiman did for 'Anansi Boys.'

Landon's main problem is he acts like this is all something new.  He brings up how it's scandalous that Bujold has garnered almost as many Hugo nominations as the great Robert Heinlein.  What he doesn't mention is that Heinlein got a lot more of those name recognition nominations than we like to talk about.  'Friday?'  'Job: A Comedy of Justice?' 'Time Enough for Love?'  Let's be honest here and say that those just aren't that great of books, but at the time almost anything Heinlein wrote would have gotten a nomination.  How are those nominations any different from what happened with Grant?  People were going to nominate Heinlein no matter the quality of his work, which is the same crime alleged against Grant.

Heinlein, Pohl, Asimov, Clarke, these are all great writers who at one time or another beneffited from their reputation and garnered an undeserved nomination or even award.  Can you really tell me that 'The Gods Themselves' deserved a Hugo over 'The Book of Skulls' or 'Dying Inside?'  Or 'The Fountains of Paradise' over 'On Wings of Song?'

The Hugo is a popularity contest plain and simple.  People complain about it every year, but it can be relied upon to constantly nominate the most popular piece of work.  I've got a pretty strong argument that Newsflesh probably wasn't the best work of SF published for the last three years, but I've got no leg to stand on if I try to claim it wasn't popular. 

This is one of the reasons I'm also reading the Nebula Award Nominees as well as the Hugo.  The Hugos are voted on by the fans, the Nebulas by the writers themselves.  Occasionally there will be works nominated for both, but a lot of times they are quite different.  Together I feel they give a much better overview of what was going on in SF for a given year.

Landon concludes his essay with a bunch of recommendations for what should have been nominated over Grant and Bujold for the 2013 Hugo (he really should have picked on Scalzi or Robinson more, blasting the two women makes him look like an ass).  I really don't know what to say about his choices.  Jemisin and Kiernan were nominated for a Nebula so they're still getting plenty of respect.  Also I don't really have anything I would have nominated in Grant's place.  I'm not that up to date on current SF, I'm that guy using the Hugos to decide what to read, not lobbying to get something nominated.

So while I'm not in any position to try and raise something up in place of Mira Grant's work, I'm ideally situated to compare her to past Hugo nominees as far as quality goes.  And while neither 'Deadline' or 'Blackout' are going to shake the foundation of the Hugo Award (neither were nominated for a Nebula) with their quality, they are far from the worst novels ever nominated, and nothing to get as upset over as Landon.  They're right in there with Scalzi's work, entertaining as hell, probably shouldn't give them too much thought.  Just perfect for the Hugos.  And still I'd say they were much better than 'Friday.'

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