On That Path Lies Madness

I feel vaguely responsible for the trend that prompted this warning.

I don’t think there’s a thing wrong with sf/f authors reminding readers (and potential awards voters) of the work they have eligible for award consideration. It’s a larger field than ever, there are more outlets, online and off, and lots of stuff slips between the cracks even when people are actively paying attention. That said, you want to avoid getting all Chill Wills on people. There’s a difference between saying “this is my eligible stuff” and “Oh God, if you don’t vote for me I’ll die,” or something of more moderate phrasing but similar subtext.

Basically, remember that dignity counts. You can remind people your work is out there. You should let others (preferably people you have not planted) make the argument that your work should be on a ballot.

35 Comments on “On That Path Lies Madness”

  1. I went through your link to read the warning. Then I went through the link in that post to see who they were talking about. I notice you didn’t put the author’s name in question in your post, I don’t know if this was intentional or not, so I won’t mention the name. If people want to know what it is they can go through for themselves.

    I just wanna say I read the book that author is trying to get nominated and it’s crap. But that’s not what bothers me about him trying to get it nominated. It’s that he’s not even trying to get it nominated on merit but instead is making a blatant attempt to manipulate people’s attachment to an author much better than he will ever be to get himself an award. He makes me wanna gag.

  2. I’m quite fond of that particular author on a personal level, and I also enjoyed the book in question. It’s not how I would have promoted the book.

  3. I’ve noticed the trend and the varied methods that writers use to get the attention of nominators and voters. I like writers like yourself and Cory Doctorow who just make a post with a list of qualified works, and links when available. It’s for the best.

  4. I used to really like his stuff. He even had a couple things I would call great. But it just went downhill and I hadn’t read anything by him in years. Until I picked up the book in question for reasons I think you can guess.

    It started out really well, but about halfway through all the joy in it for me just disappeared.

  5. The Callahans books are a guilty pleasure for me, even though the later ones went decidedly downhill. But I haven’t read the work in question. I’m not sure why, actually. I would most likely have automatically picked it up when I saw it at the book store. It must have been published in a week I didn’t make it to the store, and then pushed off of the new books section by the time I returned.

    I’ll have to pick it up.

  6. I’m what you might call an uber-fan (nut-wing sicko ?) for the work of the late great author being used as a straw-man by that other author. I think it’d be cool in the extreme for the late Bob to win a posthumous Best Novel Hugo. However, I’d like it to be for something he actually wrote instead of for an outline to a story he toyed with but never got around to actually writing.

    IMHO labelling the work in question as being authored by “Bob & Co” is really quite sullying to Bob. Shilling to get a Hugo nom/award based on tenuous connection to Bob strikes me as being tacky.

  7. I’m pretty sure I don’t want this comment thread to be a pile-on against this particular author. I think the point of the ill-advised nature of his action has been made. And he’s a friend of mine. So let’s move on from that particular point.

  8. Rigel Kent, I think you missed that the post in question is from 2006, campaigning for a 2007 Hugo. It’s all history now.

  9. As the guy who started the pile on I just wanted to apologize, that was not my intent.

    Please feel free to delete my comment if you think it’ll cause any problems. I’m not interested (believe it or not) in being a disruptive influence.

  10. I enjoyed the novel in question also. It was a respectable effort, not deserving of all this piling on.

  11. Rigel Kent:

    I didn’t think it was your intent; you were just talking. And there’s no need to delete anything.

    I simply hope the discussion moves in another direction from here.

  12. Okay, I read through the links and figured out what you are talking about. I agree with others about the assorted Callahan stories – great ideas, well done. I enjoyed them, not feeling guilt about it by any means. I haven’t read the book in question and am not likely to. My reading list is already too long. I met the author a couple years back and he’s sure a nice guy – I really like him. He’s also a fine musician. But this shilling was in bad taste, the desperation drips from it and I’m saddened.

  13. That is why I heart your blog, Scalzi, when I typically avoid author blogs like the plague. So many of them carry this distinct smell of desperation and the compulsive urge to remind their readers constantly, in subtle and not so subtle ways, to please buy buy buy their books and one or two from their pallies. You’ve never fallen into that fault line. I skip over the posts by guest authors, mostly. ;)

  14. To try to go in a completely different direction I think Halting State is very deserving of a Hugo. I am completetly clueless about things like eligibility or voting for such things. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

  15. Mr. Scalzi,

    Sorry. It all just pushed my hot-buttons with regard to that particular book.

    On point (as I understand your original intent) I think it’s fine for an author to toot their own horn on their own web-page, say, as you’ve done from time to time and whereas you felt was merited. After all, it’s kinda a big portion of the point to having an author blog-site. Not so?

    The slippery slope begins elsewhere, and in other circumstances, such as the “foot-in-mouth” experience John Wayne suffered with The Alamo and the Oscars.

    I suppose every author who could be or has been nominated for a given Hugo has to decide for themselves the extent to which they’ll shill, beg, harrumpf, or self-destruct chasing the little shiny spaceship-plaque-thingie. Given the measurable bump such an award (or even nomination) can make to sales, its probably a good thing that SF is generally such a small market that a big-budget “give me the Hugo” campaign can only be seen as being cost-ineffective by most publishers and authors.

  16. 3: I like writers like yourself and Cory Doctorow who just make a post with a list of qualified works, and links when available.

    I’d rather see some completist-minded third party do this instead. Insert slippery-slope argument here and an acknowledgment that decades on USENET has biased me in favor of crushing potentially destructive practices, exiling their adherents, sowing their homelands with cobalt-60, raising the temperature of their homeworld to one million degrees, detonating their sun and then ramming a galaxy into their home island universe.

    If you were around for the Green Card Lawyers, you’d understand why.

  17. @21: I was around for the Green Card Lawyers and I don’t understand why. I see nothing objectionable in the slightest to authors doing what Scalzi and Doctorow do, as long as it is done in the “To those who are interested” tone.

  18. Because once self-pimping is acceptable, someone less reasonable than Doctorow and Scalzi will opt for obnoxious methods of self-pimping.

  19. It’s already happened. It didn’t appear to work very well. It also didn’t seem to be particularly related to what I’ve done.

  20. You know, James, telling reasonable people they mustn’t say something because less-reasonable people might imitate them imperfectly and be therefore annoying…never works.

    All you get is a world determined by the failure modes of unreasonable people. I.e., the world of grade school. Or of “Homeland Security.”

  21. A couple of important points made.

    I’m all in favor of a 3rd-party collecting all the information for eligible award candidates, nomination info, and finalists. Who’s going to step up and do it? Until someone does, and does it free of bias, then having authors list their own works “for consideration” is perfectly fine.

    As an added benefit for fans as well as another pressure on authors, this encourages writers to get more involved in the web, maintaining their sites and keeping engaged with people online so that they have a forum to announce works of their own. No, it’s not equal, but things never are in publishing and recognition.

  22. In small addition to Patrick’s point, there will always less-reasonable people who will find ways to goof up anything you throw at them. And I do mean anything.

    I don’t think there is a bottom when it comes to the failure modes of unreasonable people. You can always keep going down….

  23. All you get is a world determined by the failure modes of unreasonable people. I.e., the world of grade school. Or of “Homeland Security.”

    Ha! Thank PNH, I needed a good chuckle this afternoon.

    I don’t think there is a bottom when it comes to the failure modes of unreasonable people. You can always keep going down…. Well, yeah, there’s alway a botnet. When authors resort to spamming the net in order to win the Hugo, then I’d say they’ve hit rock bottom :)

  24. Thinking along the lines of a different tangent, what is with this trend of long-dead authors releasing new works, and when did it kick off?

    I first noticed it with V.C. Andrews, who died in 1986 and still has new series regularly hitting the shelves.

  25. It is a little bit creepy isn’t it? Of course with V.C. Andrews it’s supposed to be creepy, but that really should be limited to what’s in the books, not their origin.

  26. 25: Better to go down in inevitable defeat than stand mutely by and allow entropy to win unopposed.

  27. Now that I think about it, if the only thing I accomplish is to persuade reasonable people to drop the practice, leaving self-pimping for authors with the gravitas of G*n* St**nb*rg, I will be satisfied.

  28. Lis:

    Carolyn Keene and Franklin Dixon? Two authors who were created specifically so that regardless of the state of the original authors, the book series could go on (unlike previous authors, with pseudonyms, etc). I don’t think it started there per se, but it made publishers aware that they can purchase the name rather than the author in some cases.

  29. Well, I usually just lurk vaguely here, but this time I can’t resist. I think this Dead Bob thing holds the seeds of a permanent solution to the award-pimping problem. I hereby propose the following rule:

    Writers may promote themselves for the Hugo in any manner they choose … but ONLY posthumously.

    Enforcement might be a challenge, but if the pimpery rises above a certain as-yet-undetermined threshhold of annoyingness I’m sure someone will volunteer.

    There. Problem solved. And may I take this opportunity to remind all of you that MY latest book is eligible for the—- Thwack! Splat!! ARRRRGHGHG!!!

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