Wheel of Time; Hugo Novel Nominees; How I Read Nominated Works
Posted on April 22, 2014 Posted by John Scalzi 130 Comments
Because you asked, that’s why.
* Tor has decided to place the entire Wheel of Time series into the Hugo voters reading packet, which has surprised many — that’s 15 books, which is a hell of a lot of reading — and I think has convinced some others that this year’s Best Novel Hugo race might be over before it begun. Well, I have a couple of thoughts here.
One, good on Tor for committing the entire series to the voter packet: The nomination is for the entire series, so voters should read the whole thing and decide whether, in sum, it is worthy. Having it available in the packet for those who have not yet attempted the series is going to be useful for that aim.
Two, I think it presents a risk to the series’ overall chances, as opposed to just placing A Memory of Light into the packet. First, because, Jesus: Fifteen books. I suspect some people who haven’t already committed to the series are just going to look at that mass of 4.4 million words and go, “uh, yeah, no,” and that will be that. Second, fifteen books are fifteen different chances for the series to fail for any particular reader. Again, if you’ve not already bought into the series, this will not necessarily be a positive.
Three, while having all the books in the series in the voter packet might be an impetus for people to get a supporting membership to the Worldcon (along with, you know, everything else in the packet), it doesn’t follow that those people will then automatically turn around and vote for the series. It’s reasonable to posit that the people who are most likely to vote for the series are already invested in the series, i.e., they already have the books, in which case their presence in the voter packet is nice but not necessary. New people coming in may be attracted by the sheer bulk of the series, but they may also decide it’s not their thing (see points one and two) and prefer one of the other nominees.
Add those up, and there’s an argument to be made that having just the final installment of the series in the packet would have been the less risky proposition.
So yeah, don’t assume having the whole series in that packet is a net positive for the series’ Hugo chances. Tor putting the whole series in the reader packet is the correct thing to do. It’s not a slam dunk, however.
* On the subject of Wheel of Time, Brandon Sanderson writes a very good piece on the series’ nomination, both to the fans of the series and to those who are coming to it from elsewhere, essentially asking both groups to set aside any prejudices they have for or against the series and to make a principled choice in terms of the Hugo. Good for him, because he’s correct; the series should be judged on its merits, and he’s the right person to make that argument to both assumed camps.
With that said, I think we need to be careful with the assumption that the only people who nominated Wheel of Time as a series are the people who are in the tank for the series and only the series. There are five slots for each category on the Hugo nomination ballot; very few fans, I suspect, nominate only one work in the novel category. I find it difficult to believe there is no overlap between WoT fans and fans of the Ann Leckie, Charlie Stross, Mira Grant and Larry Correia’s nominated novels — and if there is indeed no overlap at all, then that doesn’t bode particularly well for WoT’s chances, given how the Australian Rules ballot works.
So again: Let’s not assume a WoT slam dunk.
* Indeed, with regard to the novel, let’s recognize the strengths each nominee brings to the table: Ancillary Justice has been nominated for just about every major science fiction award this year — Hugo, Nebula, Clarke, BSFA, PKD — and is arguably the most talked and praised science fiction novel of 2013. Neptune’s Brood is classic Charles Stross, and a very good novel of hard(er) SF, which is always popular, and Charlie is also the only UK nominee on the novel ballot, which doesn’t hurt when the Worldcon’s in London. Parasite continues Mira Grant’s novel nomination streak, is scary as hell and a damn fine read. Warbound is the surprise in the field (which is not bad), entirely different from the other nominees (also not a bad thing) and, as has been established, has its own passionate set of fans.
So once more: Let’s not count the Hugo novel chickens before they hatch. We might all be surprised — and surprise here would not a bad thing.
* I’ve been asked if I intend to read all the nominees this year. I do — some I have already read, and the rest I will get to when the Hugo voter packet comes out, if not sooner. My own particular reading style for nominations is to read until I get bored, at which point I stop. If I get to the end, then it means I wasn’t bored, so that’s good. I then rank the works that did not bore me, by various criteria including (but not limited to, and not in equal amounts) story, writing quality and emotional impact. Sometimes this requires tough choices. Sometimes it doesn’t.
When I note that I don’t always read a nominated work to the end if it bores me, some folks question whether that strategy is fair. My response: Hell yeah. If a work is boring, it’s fair to put it down — fair to me, at least, since I didn’t sign on to be bored. I don’t care if it might “pick up at the end” or whatever; if the writer didn’t pick it up at the beginning, I’m not sure why I need to do all that heavy lifting. I get bored pretty quickly; nominated works shouldn’t give me the chance to get bored.
(Mind you, as I sow, so do I reap — which is to say that if someone reading my work for the Hugos, etc gets bored with it, I am perfectly fine with them chucking it and moving on to the next thing. That’s life, people!)
* Also, no, I don’t plan to publicly comment on what I think of each of the nominated works (other than the generally positive things I’ve said about the novel nominees above) until after the award ceremony at least, no matter how fun some of you might think it would be if I did. Other people can take up that task. I will merely say what I’ve said before: If you’re voting on the Hugos this year, consider simply judging the works on their own merits. I don’t think you’ll go wrong if you do. In fact, I’m pretty sure you won’t.
I think not finishing is perfectly valid – it just moves something further down on your personal ballot.
Is it possible to read 4.4 million words without getting bored? Even if it’s the best thing ever, your body is eventually going to tell you that it’s time to go do something else.
The distinguishing feature of a good long series is not that you don’t ever get bored, it’s that it sucks you into picking up where you left off.
It’s hard but I’ll abstain from all the obvious jokes about getting bored and reading WoT (says a reader who finished the series, except for that one book which repeated the events of the previous book only told from other points of view).
seriously? you haven’t read the Wheel of Time yet?
I note that you don’t actually say definitively whether you’ve read any of WoT or not.
On getting bored of books- I think there’s a ratio of how bored I am at the moment versus how badly I want to know how it turns out.
For me the test isn’t boredom, it’s effort to restart. All the books I have not finished are unfinished because at the time I perceived the effort of getting back into them after I put them down as greater than the pay-off of finding out what happened next. For example, War and Peace is a powerful novel and I genuinely cared about the characters, but the effort of getting into Tolstoy’s frame of reference was huge.
To whom are you speaking?
If I want to pick something up again after I’ve set it down, I would argue that I’m not bored with it.
Our Host writes:
“My own particular reading style for nominations is to read until I get bored, at which point I stop. If I get to the end, then it means I wasn’t bored, so that’s good.”
… which is not terribly different from my own style of reading, nominations or no. Oh, I might try once or twice to push on through, but if reading a book for pleasure makes me wish I were doing something else, I will go do something else.
Which is why I never finished the WoT series and have no intention of picking it up again. I recognize I might have a different opinion on the series than others do, and that’s fine by me; I just couldn’t get through it, and stopped trying.
I do need to pick up some of the other nominees, though.
I am ecstatic that the Wheel of Time is on the ballot, but given its size and a lot of people’s previously-held opinions of it, I don’t think it’s a slam dunk either. With all of its pros and cons, I think it has the same fighting chance as everything else on the ballot. From what I hear, Ancillary Justice is going to give it a run for it’s money. I’m really looking forward to reading that one in particular, but everything in the Best Novel category sounds like a contender.
I am likely to get a sustaining membership for the voter’s packet, but the inclusion of WoT makes it -less- likely for me to vote on Best Novel. While I feel I can read all the works in the shorter fiction categories, there’s a whelk’s chance in a supernova that I’ll be able to read all the novel nominees.
I do like short fiction, so even skipping the novel award it is still a win for me.
That sounds like an awful lot of money Tor is pouring into this.
How much does it cost to go to Worldcon, and how many dollars of free books do you get for it? I could see people buying a badge just to get a set of great books.
When is the voter’s packet coming out? If it comes out relatively soon, I’ll have a few long road trips to get started on it. I’m hoping to actually be able to read most of the novels this year, so I can make an informed vote.
Anyone who thinks the Wheel of Time is a slam dunk to win doesn’t know the Hugo voters very well. Most people who get memberships to Worldcon do so every year; the voting pool will have lots of people in it who are the people who never gave any book in the series enough nominations to appear on the ballot. The tastes of your typical Hugo voter don’t line up very well with the tastes of the typical Wheel of Time fan.
The nomination and presence in the Hugo Voter Packet will certainly bring a number of new voters into the pool, but there’s no way to predict how many that will be, or how many of those will end up voting for the Wheel of Time. I also expect there to be a typical dedicated-fanbase dropoff in the preferential voting: the Wheel of Time may get quite a few first-place votes, but it’s less likely than most of the other nominees to get a high proportion of second-place votes, which every nominee needs, because hardly anything wins in the first round of the instant runoff.
If you look at past years’ full voting breakdowns, Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant suffers this pattern as well—she has a dedicated fanbase of new blood voters who love her work, but the rank-and-file Hugo voters aren’t into it as much as their traditional tastes. Something similar happening with the Wheel of Time nomination would not surprise me at all.
“I think we need to be careful with the assumption that the only people who nominated Wheel of Time as a series are the people who are in the tank for the series and only the series. There are five slots for each category on the Hugo nomination ballot; very few fans, I suspect, nominate only one work in the novel category.”
Thank you – I agree! I’m a big WoT fan. I’ve also been following the Hugos for at least a couple of decades, and just last year finally had the means to join WSFS myself and attend my first WorldCon. I’m hooked and will be attending as many as I can, and buying the supporting membership the years that I can’t.
I’ve been reading as much new SF/F as I can get my hands on. My nomination slots for the Novel category were full this year. One of the lines was The Wheel of Time as a series. I nominated as much as I could in the other categories as well.
I don’t know whether there is overlap in my tastes and the tastes of the fans of the other nominated Novels in the short list. I’m excited to find out! I’m half way through Ancillary Justice now.
I’m excited to find new things that I love. That’s what initially drew me into WorldCon, and it’s burning brighter than ever. Hey, that’s how I found you, Mr. Scalzi! :)
Though I nominated Wheel of Time as a series, it was never my intention to vote it in the #1 slot on my Hugo awards ballot without giving the other nominated works a fair chance as well. If I discover that I love one of the other nominated works BETTER than WoT, I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I will be!!
As Mao allegedly said: “Let a thousand flowers bloom.” Or a hundred. Whatever.
In any case, it is a good data point: What would readers think if all the Asimov Robot/Empire Foundation novels were presented in one packet, including the authorized Bear, Benford, and Brin sequels?
What would readers think if all the Dune novels were presented in one packet, including the authorized Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson sequels?
I am personally interested in writing and reading multi-million word polynovel constructs.
If 4.4 million words is too much for you, you could always rely on these: http://softandonly.com/tag/isams-wheel-of-time-summaries
Cadsuane: We must teach Rand al’Thor to cry again.
Sorilea: We must teach Rand al’Thor to laugh again.
Cadsuane: Do you have any idea what we’re talking about?
Sorilea: I’m drunk.
Cadsuane: Me too.
To you of course. WoT seems like one of those must read series in S/F-Fantasy. Lord of the Rings, Foundation, Dune, WoT. Probably Dragonlance in there somewhere as well.
As Samuel Johnson said of Paradise Lost, “No man ever wished it longer than it is.”
“I’ve been asked if I intend to read all the nominees this year. I do — some I have already read, and the rest I will get to when the Hugo voter packet comes out, if not sooner. ”
Did you just commit to reading (or having a jolly good try at reading) circa five million words between now and Worldcon? You’re a man of iron.
What would readers think if all the Dune novels were presented in one packet, including the authorized Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson sequels?
“‘You asked me once,’ said O’Brien, ‘what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it.’
With it being $40 for a supporting membership, and the whole Wheel of Time now being in the packet, I actually think this could be very good for the Hugos. The inclusion of such a popular and high-profile series makes it more likely that people will publicize the existence of supporting memberships and the voter packet and increases the likelihood of voters who will return year after year. After all, isn’t a collection of last year’s best SFF works worth $40? It’s an easy way to get recommendations from folks who like SFF, and it comes with copies of many of the works. (Incidentally, does anyone know if the Retro Hugo nominees will be included in the packet?) While these things may be well-known in some circles, a lot of younger fans don’t really follow WorldCon news too much. In my experience, from helping run a small convention in college, younger fans tend to hear “$100-200 membership” and tune out everything else they hear about it.
As far as the Wheel of Time winning this year, with the amount of push-back I’m seeing, and the number of folks who have tried it and never managed to finish, I just don’t see it happening, however much I might want it to.
I plan to modify my habit of reading the first couple of chapters of nominated books and then skimming the rest of each book (unless I get hooked and read the whole thing, which then bumps it to the top of my ballot). For WoT, I’ll likely read first and last chapters of each, and then find some spoiler sites to fill in the details. I will likely discuss some of it with friends who are ardent WoT fans to pick up the nuances.
Then I will throw my assessments of WoT and the other nominees into the Great Subjective Emotional Stewpot of Doom and simmer until my feelings about the rankings are ready.
That is the most fair way I think I can evaluate each the work and order them into a ballot.
I wish I had time to read all the nominees completely, but my reading time is limited.
I’d say he committed to having had read (or having a jolly good try at having read) circa five million words between now an voting. If he’s already read most of WoT, that cuts down on his remaining commitment considerably.
Of course, if he hasn’t read WoT, and he finds in the first 50K words that it’s just not his cup of tea, that also cuts down on his commitment, as that’s 4.35 million words he doesn’t have to continue reading.
It’s vaguely amusing to remember a bit of old history (which also serves to illustrate just how long these books have been around.
Robert Jordan is one of the only authors to have had his own Big8 Usenet group — rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan. It was voted in by a landslide consisting largely of people who *couldn’t stand the Wheel of Time books*, and voted for the group precisely because it would allow them to declare all Robert Jordan/WoT threads off-topic in rasfw.
This has nothing to do with the Hugos. But I’ve always remembered it, and continue to be slightly bemused by it.
“WoT seems like one of those must read series in S/F-Fantasy.”
There seems to be a range of opinion on that, actually.
Also, I’m not sure what suggests to you that I haven’t dived into the series.
I enjoyed the first book of WoT and set aside the second one, never went back.
It is my fond hope that Ancillary Justice will win the Hugo since I think NG is going to win the Nebula. Actually, if the noms and the discussion mean that more people read Ancillary Justice and like it, that would be a good outcome too.
I read the first half of The Eye of The World about ten years ago and liked it, but decided that I couldn’t get sucked in until the series was finished. Some dude at work had been complaining that he’d been waiting ten years to find out who killed so-and-so and I decided I didn’t want to be that guy. Fast forward to now, and I just haven’t gotten around to restarting it.
So yeah–all the Wheel of Time novels, PLUS all of the other nominated fiction for about $44? Yes, please! And as a bonus I get to vote on the 2014 Hugos and nominate for the 2015 Hugos…
Okay…ignorance on full display here.
So you mean to say that for a mere US$40, one can purchase a supporting membership and receive all of the ballot entries? Including a 15 volume set of the WoT?
My normal policy is that I won’t vote for a category unless I’ve read all the works in it. This usually means I don’t vote on novels, because unless I’ve read half of them before they get nominated, I’m unlikely to finish the rest between the nominations and the deadline, especially if any of the novels are in PDF format, which really fails when you’re trying to read hardback-format books on a Kindle.) (It’s really nice to have all the short works included in the packet!)
However, in this case, I’m certainly not going to finish reading WoT before the deadline; we’ll see if I get time to read the other novels. There was a book I once read that was probably the first volume of WoT, and I didn’t like it, but it’s long gone back to the used book store. Maybe I’ll recognize it from the readers’ packet.
And of course it’s usually tough to read Book 3 of most series without having read the previous books, though sometimes they’re readable standalone. It’s especially tough when the title makes it sound like “Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Volume I: The Dead City” only not intended as humor.
Several years ago I was a judge for the International Thriller Writers, inc., THRILLER Award. I started out trying to read each book sent from beginning to end, then started with the “read until bored” method. Some of that was simply the time and energy investment, but a perhaps more rational explanation (a rational rationale, so to speak) is that the award is supposed to identify and reward the “single best thriller” novel published that year. And, to my mind at least, if the “single best thriller” doesn’t grab me from the beginning and hold me to the end, then, alas, it wasn’t very damned thrilling. But then again, what do I know? I didn’t finish the book that eventually won the award. :)
If a book can’t get me hooked in the first few chapters, I’m not going to finish it. Life is short, and good books are many. I don’t feel in the least guilty about it. De gustibus, limited time, and so forth.
I freely admit that the Hugo packet has kept me buying supporting memberships in Worldcon since the packet began coming out, even for WC’s I had no hope of attending. And I nominate and vote. I nominate based only on what I’ve actually read, which can make for a short nomination ballot, but getting the Hugo packet allows me to consider almost all of the finalists for the big vote, and there is ALWAYS something in it that I will end up voting for that I would otherwise never have seen in time to vote. Especially down-ballot in the fan categories.
If you love the field, the $40 is a steal.
there is always a range of opinions on any topic, but the general consensus from my limited polling seems definitive. Also, I figured you hadn’t read them all since you indicated some surprised with not just nominating Memory of Light. But I’m still a little bitter after 20 years of reading a series at just how bad the ending was.
RE: “My own particular reading style for nominations is to read until I get bored, at which point I stop.”
Thank you very, very much for that comment.
I’ve been eligible to vote on the Hugo multiple times (am this year, in fact), but I have never actually cast a ballot. And the reason I haven’t is that it simply has never been possible for me to plod completely through each and every one of the nominated works, which I thought was required, or at least expected, of anyone who voted.
I may actually cast a Hugo ballot this year.
Technically, it’s only 14 books. Word is they’re not including the prequel “New Spring” because it’s not part of the main storyline which is the work that was actually nominated.
Resident Wheel of Time fan boy here…
I don’t think many people would like A Memory of Light if you haven’t read the rest of the series. This type of series builds on the previous books and its essentially one long work. I think if people who are not at all familiar with the characters picked up the last book they would not really understand what is going on. The characters are not reintroduced. I think people would will be bored. Some books are ‘serials’ which allow for people to pick them up at different points and pretty much follow them. This series is intentionally not written that way.
The first book ‘Eye of the World’ is what got most of us hooked. I understand that its not fair to say this, but its the strongest book in the series and even George RR Martin has stated it changed the genre.
I think the bulk of the WoT votes will come from the fan base. Throwing in all 15 books will entice alot of fans to sign up. I know this may not been as fair… but he is the most important fantasy author since Tolkein.
Look at it this way. There are normally only a few 1000 voters for the Hugos out of the millions of SF/F fans around the world. More than that show up for individual WoT book signings. So the relatively small number of Worldcon attendees are in essence the gatekeepers of the Hugos. The fan base of this series dwarfs the Hugo voter base. I don’t see a problem with a community this large paying to join and voting for our favorite author. I don’t see expanding the voter base is a bad thing.
I want to also add. I am a Mira Grant fan. I plan to read all the books. I also plan to read the short stories etc…
The cost actually comes to about $44. It depends on what the conversion rate between dollars and pounds is on the day you buy. It was $43.58 for me. And as I just mentioned, it’s 14 books, not 15. You’ll have to buy the prequel separately.
But yeah. That’s $44 for (almost) all of Wheel of Time, plus everything else that’s nominated and its publishers feel like kicking in. That works out to about $2.50 a book, and that’s not even counting the non-fiction titles. We know WoT is going to be DRM-free and probably multiple format because it’s Tor, and there are a couple other titles that will because they’re Baen.
All that, and you get to exercise your democratic prerogative and help decide who wins a Hugo this year, too! What a deal!
“So you mean to say that for a mere US$40, one can purchase a supporting membership and receive all of the ballot entries? Including a 15 volume set of the WoT?”
The Hugo Voter Packet was created a few years ago (something Mr Scalzi helped birth). The *hope* is to have every nominated work included, but it is not guaranteed. Some years it has had everything, some years it has not. People have to remember that the publishers are doing us a favor in this and be grateful for what we’re allowed to share with the voters to assist them in the process.
The packets are still being put together at the moment and will be released as quickly as can be managed (there will also be one for the 1939 retros and if you note the names in the novel competition there, I believe the phrase “epic” may be appropriate). It is exciting that Tor has committed to things the way that they have.
I’ve heard nothing but positive comments about Ancillary Justice, but I only made it 3 chapters in before I was bored. Might try it again later, but I just couldn’t get into it.
I think the entire series is on the series to entice the entire fan base to sign up for the hugos to get the series cheap. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have 2-3x or more voters this year atleast. Considering how large the fan base is and than how large the ‘damn this series is too long, but if I can get it this cheap…’.
As I said before. The Eye of the World is the best book.
To the guy who said he will just read the first and last chapter of each book… I don’t recommend that for The Eye of the World. There is a big spoiler at the end. Most people can sort of figure it out, but if you just read the first and last chapter it will ruin the book for you. Even if your not voting for the series, I recommend that you read the entire first book (unless you get bored) and not ruin it by reading the last chapter right away.
I tried volume one of the WoT several years ago, and bounced hard. The story seemed very much like hundreds of other fantasy novels that I had read. Now, this may be no fault of the WoT. It’s an older and popular series, and I may have read too many knockoffs to appreciate what was once an original vision.
So, my question to WoT fans: If volume one didn’t do it for me, what would be the best way to give the series a second chance? Is there are later volume that’s really good, and which would make a good starting point? Is there some mental adjustment I need to make in order to appreciate the book? (That happens to me sometimes—I hated _The Fifth Element_ the first time I watched it, but I was trying to watch it as SF, and not surrealist farce. A friend straightened me out, I tried it again, and it finally clicked. I wound up loving it.)
Obviously lots of people love the WoT, and I’d be happy to give it another chance.
I keep hearing this, and the logic still escapes me. Surely the “fan base” already have the books?
@cranapia… agreed. I already have them in hardback, Sure the first few are falling apart, but I don’t need to buy the whole series again.
> I find it difficult to believe there is no overlap between WoT fans and fans of the Ann Leckie, Charlie Stross, Mira Grant and Larry Correia’s <
There’s at least one fan of all five.
I read the first one, got the next two, heard about all the people who didn’t like the middle books, heard Robert Jordan was not in the best of health, decided to wait and see. (I like reading endings first.)
I was probably going to get the Hugo packet anyway. This makes it a slamdunk. Woot!
Oh, to the idea of already having the books – I’ve bought quite a few books in eBook format that I already have in paper. Most on sale, but not all. I loooove my Kindle.
I signed up yesterday for a supporting membership because of WoT being added to the voter packet. Can not wait to read it. Have only read the 1st book. Does not mean I will vote for it. Ann Leckie’s novel was beyond extraordinary and it will take a masterpiece beyond compare to supplant it. WoT may, don’t know, will be fun to find out.
@emk1024, I think you really can’t start later than book 2 or 3 and still have it all make sense. If book 1 didn’t do it for you, you might try reading New Spring. It’s shorter, and probably makes a decent introduction to the world and the series, and it is a self-contained story. (I say probably because I read it when it came out, after 7 or 8 of the others, so my perspective is one of retrospect, rather than one of experience.) You could also retry the first book and see if it catches you.
I will say that from a Hugo voting perspective, I’m iffy on reading New Spring first, for folks who haven’t since it seems to me like that sets a base level of knowledge beyond the nominated work. The series should be able to stand on its own; that’s the whole reason why A Memory of Light was not nominated, I think.
> I think the entire series is on the series to entice the entire fan base to sign up for the hugos to get the series cheap.
I think you’re right that the effect will be that it will entice people to become members in order to obtain the series.
I don’t think that’s the *reason*. From what I can see, Tor has been very, very supportive of the voter packet since day 1, and I think they’re acting here the way that I would have predicted they would act based on previous behavior: recognizing the importance of the Hugo Awards to the community, and doing what they can to support it.
> I wouldn’t be surprised if we have 2-3x or more voters this year a least.
I agree. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m concerned that a large number of the new voters will not vote in the downballot races, and that there’s a *risk* that this will result in an unusually high number of ‘no award’ categories as downballot races fail to get 25% of the votes that best novel does.
This risk is speculative, and can mitigated by urging new voters to consider and vote in every category, which I was very happy to see Mr. Sanderson do in his blog post. :)
For what it’s worth, I read all the series Mr. Kilroy mentioned, except Wheel of Time. I lost interest around book five or six and never went back. Nor do I plan to, regardless of its Hugo nomination. I suspect there’s a few more like me out there.
A fellow grad student absolutely adored it — I thought it was meandering and repetitive. It made for a few lively discussions.
I’m a life-long science fiction fan & fantasy (and I count those “Danny Dunn” books I read in elementary school as science fiction, thankyouverymuch) who has only ever attended one SF convention and never voted for the Hugos before this year. This time around, I got on-board for the nominating process.
I have not read any of the Wheel of Time books heretofore, and will have to figure out how I deal with that, as I really do want to be as fair as possible. I do intend to read the other nominees I haven’t already read. But I’ve got a favorite going in to this (Ancillary Justice) and it’s going to be a steep climb to knock it off the perch.
My ramblings on being a first-time Hugo voter:
@cranapia: not necessarily in ebook format… many fans check it out of the library. Others like myself bought the first book 24 years ago and no longer have it and so on.
are there any SF/F authors complaining about the WoT nomination?
Cranapia – I have all the WoT books in ebook format. *Most* of them are questionable-quality ebooks which I obtained via a torrent.
I’m happy to pay $45 to get legal versions of them all.
Yes, but keep in mind that the Hugo packet is electronic.
You would receive a key code allowing you to download the 14 WoT as eBooks.
The publishers are not required to give out free copies of the ballot entries, but if it’s like the last couple years, the packet will include electronic copies of the novels, novellas, novelettes, short stories, related works, and graphic works.
The awards for people have some kind of sample, like one issue of a fanzine, or one issue of a magazine, or a smattering of articles by fan writers. For artists, it’s images of representative works. For editor long-form it’s a list of stuff he or she edited in the previous year. I think it was in 2012 that the sample for a Campbell nominee was a whole novel.
So far I haven’t seen any any free copies of the dramatic presentations.
Some of the electronic copies aren’t in a very helpful format. Some are only available in .pdf and are impossible to read on a 7″ reader. Some have Kindle but not epub. Many don’t have covers. Some of the .pdf have printing registration marks.
Last year I paid to buy a couple of works from the Nook store because the copy in the packet didn’t work for me, even after a Calibre conversion.
As I recall, Tor has been providing high quality eBooks just like you would get if you bought them. So that’s a plus if you want the packet for WoT.
@Guess I don’t remember who it was, but I believe that a fiction nominee in one of the other categories said that anyone who nominated WoT should be ashamed of themselves.
@cranpia I mean I have the books (well up to Crossroads of Twilight which is where I dropped off since that pesky starting college thing interrupted my reading and somehow in the last 10 years I never got back to it) but I’m excited to have them digitally because my collection sits on a bookshelf at my mom’s house 3 hours away and plus I’ve found that I really prefer reading epics digitally (I’m still cursing myself for preodering the hardcopy of Words of Radiance because reading that was a pain. Almost caved and bought it digitally too). I hadn’t intended to buy them all digitally although I have been wanting to finish the series but $40 for all of it plus all the other works included (really excited to read Ancillary Justice now)? It’s really a no brainer. I am nervous about rereading them though since I started the series when I was 11 and have such fond memories that I don’t want them to be tarnished by reading through adult eyes.
Mathosaur: Thank you. It sounds like I really ought to re-read book one, then. But in that case, I may need to make some mental adjustments to give the series a fair chance. I’m totally OK with this—some literature requires appropriate preparation, at least for me. I’ve long since realized that when I dislike a book, it’s a not always the fault of book. Sometimes I’m simply the wrong reader, or I don’t understand the cultural context, or the book is a brilliant response to unfamiliar genre conventions. I’m willing to correct my defects and try again, and I’ve occasionally fallen in love with a work on the second reading.
Do you know of any really positive, insightful reviews that capture why book one of the WoT is important to the genre? Preferably ones without major spoilers? My goal is find a way to like the book for what it is, and not to accidentally miss the entire point because I’m coming at it from the wrong direction.
In the end, of course, I may just decide that the WoT doesn’t work for me. But I’d like to give it a fair chance.
I’ve never tumbled into WoT. Like others, by the time I heard about it, the series was extensive. I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit to it. Then there was Robert Jordan’s health issues that were delaying installments. And then there is my already prodigious investment in other series (Dragonlance, GoT, Robots, Foundation, Pern, etc.); I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get into yet another series.
From a reader’s perspective…erg.
But I have a couple of friends that really enjoyed it. So it wasn’t completely off my radar. The inclusion on this year’s ballot is most surely tempting.
In all likelihood, I will be getting a membership and be one of those “new” voters. In all likelihood, I probably won’t be voting in the novel category unless I can get through enough of those 5 million words to have an informed opinion. (i.e. becoming bored and thus ending my participation informing that opinion at something short of 5 million words.
If there are many folks like me, then Tor has done Worldcon a favor. And of course, they have done themselves a favor by creating more interest in a genre that they publish.
As a voter, I’m really troubled by the difficulty of comparing a 4.4 million word epic to a normal novel; I’m not sure that it’s possible to make such a comparison equitably, and I’m not sure what to do with it.
@Guess @aphrael & @Mai:
Thank you for the replies, all of which made such perfect sense I should have figured it out myself. :)
I would actually agree that Book 1 of WoT gets off to a slow start (IIRC, Jordan said that this was intended to start Tolkien fans off on more familiar grounds). It gets better. If you find the first book too dense and want to get on with things, there’s what to be said for starting with Book 2, using the glossary as needed.
(One advantage of paper books: flipping to the glossary is much easier.)
@emk1024 “If volume one didn’t do it for me, what would be the best way to give the series a second chance?”
My experience was that volume one when I first read it was just okay, and I didn’t feel a need to continue. Then a couple of years later I was doing hours of tedious Photoshop work and needed some audiobooks to listen to while doing that. I think I did start with the first one again, but it was the second book that really hooked me.
The first book uses many familiar tropes—I think the intention was to start readers off in a familiar place and build from there. There are also a few more mundane draggy bits in the middle of the first book that aren’t indicative of what follows. The second book broadens the scope with more points of view in different areas and starts upping the stakes considerably. I would hazard to guess that if you’re not interested in the future of the characters by the end of the second book, the series as a whole isn’t going to do it for you.
John, I’m just curious: how do you handle a series like WoT, that encounters a shift with the addition of a second writer to help finish it out? Do you still take it on the whole or does Brandon Sanderson’s addition affect the equation in any meaningful way?
Myself, I think the series starts slow, is fantastic for several books, OK for a few, weak for a couple, OK for a couple MORE and then finishes strong when Brandon comes on and wraps everything up with a nice big bow. I’m not sure there’s a good way to actually review it, though I also agree reviewing the last book would be a disaster for non-fans.
i’m also curious: does the reader packet include rights to e-books, instead? That would certainly affect the weight factor. ;)
Given how few of the WoT books really stand on their own, it sort of makes sense to nominate the entire narrative at one go and it’s kept people reading for so very long that it probably does deserve consideration.
Given the unknown balance between the series’ length and its popularity, there are some interesting factors at work here.
That said, I am tired (so tired) of “superfans will be involved and all shall go to hell” speculating.
A) I think it’s not too likely that flocks and flocks of fans will consider $40 a screaming deal for something they’ve already read and probably already own, so I don’t see too many new voters with WoT blinders getting involved. Maybe if they kind of wanted to be involved already this will be the final push, but generally, I really doubt too many people’s WoT fandom exists entirely divorced from the rest of the genre, and I also really doubt that those people are going to be the ones invested in something like the Hugo.
B) It does fans a disservice to assume they will be too uninformed about all but WoT to be legitimate voters. Even a superfan is not an idiot. Even someone who is especially invested in one series can be a fan of the genre and have something to contribute to the overall process. I’m inclined to call it a good thing to have a new set of genre fans involved in a process commonly criticized for being a kaffeeklatsch popularity contest.
13, not 15. Well, there’s A New Spring which is a novella prequel (dunno if it is in the packet). (IIRC the first 1 or 2 have been split in half for publication in some markets)
I don’t know that “has bought books” means “will not get attending membership for free ebooks” – personally I’m going (yay LONDON!) but I would have done that if I wasn’t – I’ve been reading WoT for decades, and as a result have a very *heavy* collection of paperback and hardback copies; free ebook versions is EPIC WIN from my POV.
Just giving people AMoL would have been a bit tricky. It, um, well – it’s volume 13 of a 13 volume (+ a novella) series, and it goes at breakneck speed to tie off the dozens of loose ends; it would be hard to make much sense of if you didn’t already know who all the people were, and anyone who thought “wow that was great” in spite of that would have had all the spoilers which isn’t a great place to start with a series. Just handing out book *1* may have made more sense, although EotW is not really representative of the style of the whole series IMO. In the past when sequels have been nominated I have bought the previous books – but with WoT that’s a *big* investment of money.
Erose – that’s the upside, sure, and it all boils down to how likely you think the upside vs. downside risks are. :)
I remember rasfwrj. It was a great place.
I think you are quite right that having 15 books being evaluated gives you 15 chances to hit a foul. I really enjoyed the WoT series, but if I was voting, the two books in the series I did not like would weigh heavily in its disfavor compared to some of the other single book novels. It may prevent the series from winning the Hugo, but is probably a net win for the series’ overall exposure. Purely as a thought experiment, if given the chance for a Hugo for a single book in the Old Man’s War canon versus the whole series, what would you want?
I followed the link to George R.R. Martin’s blog. He didn’t state that Eye of the World was genre changing. He said the whole series was. I think this is a very important distinction. First, because it weakens your argument that the first book is the best. Second, because to appreciate its importance, I really do think you need to experience the whole series. What I got out of Martin’s blog was that without Jordan coming on the scene and selling a ton of books, the fantasy publishing industry might not have given Martin’s bigger-than-a-trilogy epic its support.
For my part, I first read Eye of the World when I was 12. More than twenty years ago. As others have said, it was tropetastic enough that it was like a slightly new take on comfort food. The first novel I ever read was The Hobbit, so I was primed for another epic series. Twenty plus years on, I understand why an adult reader with more exposure to fantasy might get bored by Eye of the World.
I actually think you could pick up at Book 3 first, read from there, and enjoy the series. Sure, you are going to have missed a hell of a lot of context, but I felt like Books 3 – 6 were stronger than the first two. The problem was, with all respect to Robert Jordan, he was extremely repetitive. That, and whoever was editing his work really struggled. I am of the opinion that entire books between Book 7 and 12 could and should have been cut. When I was younger, I used to think the series was so long because it was a cash cow. Nowadays, with much more writing experience under my belt, there’s probably a simpler explanation. Robert Jordan probably had a very difficult time plotting out the epic and sticking to his plan. It’s hard enough to write a single novel that flows well but that also has enough tangents and suspense built in to keep readers engaged.
I do think they picked a dynamite writer to finish the series. The final three volumes that Brandon Sanderson co-authored with Robert Jordan were some of the best paced and satisfying in the series.In fact, I liked Sanderson’s work enough that I’ve bought and read all of his novels targeted at adults, and most of his shorter stories as well. I’ve also been impressed by the first two books in his Stormlight Archive, especially in how there is a clear plan to the structure.
To everyone else who read the whole WoT, are there books you think that you can skip and still make sense of the rest? And for those who did not like the ending, why didn’t you like it and do you think it will affect the chance for a Hugo?
Is it even fair to encourage people to skip the slower-moving parts of the series when considering it for the Hugo?
Oh, for a Readers Digest Condensed Books version of WoT….
(That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Back in the 70’s, my wife Hilde read the RDCB version of Robert Merle’s post-nuclear-war novel Malevil and thought it great. Then she tried the unabridged version and found it unreadable.)
(There was actually a science fiction version of RDCB, very briefly. Back in 1981, the publishers of Asimov’s tried publishing Science Fiction Digest, wherein several novels — Cherryh’s Pride of Chanur, for one — were condensed down to novella length. I believed they hired the same people who did the RDBC condensations for the work. Only lasted one issue, however.)
I’ve been to one WorldCon in my life, BucConneer in ’98 held in Baltimore. It was pretty amazing, especially since I came home with a good 200 dollars in free books, most of them hardcovers. I think I may have even met GRRM , though at the time I didn’t know who the hell he was.
While smaller cons like BaltiCon don’t have much in the way of free literature, I have walked away from San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Cons with a ridiculous amount of free books as well, most of which are signed.
I’m in favor of the Wheel of Time series geting a Hugo nomination if only “pour encourager les autres”–to encourage them to FINISH their series! (On that basis, I’d also be happy to nominate Charlaine Harris, too, for finishing her Southern Vampire series last year.)
I can immediately name four bestselling series (two of them not at book 14 yet, two of them well past #14) which I really =wish= would end. They’re series I’d keep reading if I thought there was any chance the authors would end them. Even after quality steeply declined, as it has in every one of the four series I’m thinking of, I’d have kept reading if I thought there was an end in sight, because I have by now invested enough time in these series to want to reach the conclusion and see how they end… But in each case, I’ve quit reading them, because there’s no end in sight, and I by now believe the authors don’t even have an hend game in mind (though maybe once upon a time they did–now forgotten or abandoned) and will just keep delivering ever-more boring, annoying, aimless installments in these tired, bloated, meandering goldmine series, ad infinitum, without ever coming to any sort of conclusion.
Those are series I used to really enjoy…back when they seemed (if only in my own deluded imagination) to be stories that were GOING somewhere. But I’ve quit reading them, I don’t recommend them to people anymore, and I even recommend people -avoid- reading them… bceause it’s so disappointing and time-wasting to read something that starts out really, really well…. but then peters out, goes nowhere, and never ends… Whether that’s a single novel or a long series.
So YAY! to the Wheel of Time and Brandon Sanderson for FINISHING, for having a conclusion, for resolving the story and ending the tale! I’m happy to see a nomination just for that, to set a good example.
It’s kind of strange that I finished the WoT series and even re-read some of it a couple times, but got bored half-way through Ancillary Justice. I even like Sci-Fi better than I do Fantasy and am a big fan of Ian M. Banks…
@aphrael – I can see your point, but as a fan of several authors whose fans have been accused of being game-ruining sheep, I tend to be seriously skeptical of anyone claiming that “the new blood from fans of thing x will sully the process for the rest of us.”
I also don’t know too many people who are truly passionate about one author or series in a genre that read nothing else in that genre.
I should think that would go double for people truly passionate about WoT. Simply by being a fan of the series you’ve demonstrated a dedication to reading and a tolerance for *really* genre-specific tropes. It’s not my favorite by any means, but I wouldn’t discount someone who’s put that kind of time into genre reading.
One thing I haven’t been able to find – when does voting start and what is the deadline for it? In other words, if I become a supporting member, how much time does that leave me to plow my way through the reading packet?
I think The Wheel of Time seems like a very odd Hugo nominee, but it was nominated, and so be it. I’ve never read it, partially because of its length and partially because I’ve gotten a heads up that it has some features I’m likely to find irritating. But an entire fantasy series that many people think is a classic, numerous other works that I either enjoyed this year or had been meaning to read, and voting rights, all for $40? That’s a good deal.
I don’t think anyone should assume I’m likely to vote for The Wheel of Time, either. I’ll read enough to get a sense of whether I prefer it to the work I’d currently put in first place, but it’s got strong competition and isn’t necessarily in my wheelhouse.
This isn’t just about the old timers. This looks like a great opportunity to invite and welcome new members, including young people and/or people new to the genre who don’t know they were supposed to read a hidden corpus before signing up.
I think my aversion to WoT lay not so much in the sheer sprawling massive length of it but the influence it had in encouraging other writers to massively extend their own series; I was initially greatly attracted to Katherine Kerr’s Deverry series, which was intended to end in a relatively small number of books, but the attraction waned when she started rewriting earlier books, which I had greatly liked, in order to change events so that she could write lots more books in the series.
I was not a happy camper; I really could not get past the irritation of having to shell out for the revised books in order to understand the newer books in her new as revised Deverry series. I gave it a try, but having done so I dumped it.
On the other hand I have no problem with CJ Cherryh’s rewrites of her Chernevog novels; she was disappointed with them at the time due to a number of reasons, and once she got the rights back was able to rewrite them and self publish them.
And, reverting to the realm of long series, I would be very happy to see CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner series nominated for, and winning, a Hugo; it is, in my view, a remarkable achievement and one which deserves recognition…
I think The Wheel of Time seems like a very odd Hugo nominee, but it was nominated, and so be it. I’ve never read it, partially because of its length and partially because I’ve gotten a heads up that it has some features I’m likely to find irritating. But an entire fantasy series that many people think is a classic, numerous other works that I either enjoyed this year or had been meaning to read, and voting rights, all for $40? That’s a good deal.
Seems like a no brainer to me.
And I expect that I’ll be entertained by all the novel nominees…..good stuff.
>> I find it difficult to believe there is no overlap between WoT fans and fans of the Ann Leckie, Charlie Stross, Mira Grant and Larry Correia’s <There’s at least one fan of all five.<
At least two. And I highly doubt that we're the only ones.
The idea that WoT fans have never read any other SFF is absolutely ludicrous. Even rabid fans of WoT and GoT had to read other things in the intervening years whilst they were waiting for the next book to come out. I actually know a group of, to this day, *extremely* close friends from all over the U.S. and world who first got together as members of rasfwrj. And every one of them is a big reader of all kinds of other SFF.
I am *SO* tired of the "If it's not MY kind of SFF, it's not valid SFF" attitude that so many people seem to be putting out. The world of SFF is huge, and it's filled with a lot of different fantastic things. I have discovered in the last few years an enthusiasm for different types, and different authors, that I previously never even knew existed (despite having considered myself a well-read SFF fan). Some of those were even because of — gasp! — being given the chance to read them for free in the Hugo packet.
I think that the WoT is going to gain some new fans because of all this. And I think that WoT fans are going to gain some new favorites because of this, too. I think that Worldcon and the annual Hugo packet are going to gain some permanent, loyal followers as well.
This is a huge "win". For SFF, for the Hugos, and for ALL OF US as fans.
For those of you who are looking for some way to get a handle on the Wheel of Time, you might consider checking out Leigh Butler’s reread at TOR. She does a series of summaries of all the books (starts out doing about ten chapters at a time and slows down to more or less chapter-by-chapter by the end), plus commentary (which I find enjoyable on its own terms but which you can comfortably skip if you want to get a feel for things).
Especially if you want to experiment with one of the earlier suggestions to start with book 2 or 3, it might help to read the plot summary of book 1, which will probably take less than half an hour and will give you some idea what’s going on. I do agree that while Book 1 is a good book, it’s very trope-following–I think I read that Jordan originally had something more unusual but decided to specifically follow a more Lord of the Rings-style structure for the beginning of the first book to make things more comfortable.
Actually, yeah, if you think about it–the Hugo packet itself (in any year) is a good idea for marketing supporting memberships to WorldCon. For–what? $50 (or less, if you buy sooner?)–you get a bundle with quite a lot of fiction, all of it deemed as among the best of the year by sf/f fans, rather than a random promo sampling of stuff publishers want you to buy (or of stuff publishers are trying to unload, etc.).
Getting =all 14!= WoT novels is a particularly big inducement. As it is, I use the Hugo ballot (and the Nebula ballot) as a recommended reading list and look the ballot over every year to see what I want to add to my reading list, based on what’s being chosen as the “best” of the year by these processes. Rather than chase down the titles, which is what I usually do (since I seldom register for WorldCon), I think it would be a good deal if, in exchange for a supporting m’ship fee, I received an email packet full of potentially good books, novellas, novelettes, related books, short fiction, etc.)
@ jadagul– Thanks for that tip. I’ve never dipped my toe into WoT.
Another tip, though this may not be a fast enough approach for Hugo voters, i.e. people thinking, “Is there a way to read 4.4 millions words before I vote?” I see that my library system offers the first WoT book as a downloadabl audio book. I think it’s 20 hours or something, but since I walk my dog for about 45 minutes every day, and am also doing a lot of gardening this year, I could get through an audiobook that long, on my trusty iPod, in fairly short order. After which, one can decide whether or not to continue with the series.
In regard to Laura Resnick’s suggestion of WoT audiobooks, I don’t know if the feature is available on regular listening devices or applications, but a blind friend could adjust the reading speed on the Talking Book device provided by the National Federation of the Blind. Even at double speed, the narration was understandable. (With the drawback of sounding like it was being narrated by Alvin and the Chipmunks. Though I suppose there are Alvin-loving individuals who would consider that a feature, not a bug.)
I tried to read the first WoT book back when it came out (several of my friends recommended it). I simply couldn’t finish it. I didn’t hate it or anything; it just utterly failed to engage me and make me want to keep reading. Not my cuppa.
If it were a single novel, that would be enough information for me to decide how to rank it. Since it’s a whole series, I guess I’ll ask if there’s some point where it becomes massively more interesting?
brucearthurs: The change the pace of the reading feature is available on a Kindle, at least to some minimal extent. The voices can also be changed from male reader to female reader, if I remember correctly. (I don’t like being read aloud to, and so have barely examined the possibilities.)
@xtifr: IMO, no. WoT didn’t interest me, at all, and I have made several attempts. But, caveat, I don’t like Tolkien, either. Ymmv.
A couple of points . . .
First, Tor? cool?? Tor gargles with liquid helium.
Worldcon voting, site selection and Hugo, is by the “Australian ballot” (instant runoff) system. Very detailed breakdowns of the results are published very promptly. So any hank-panky would be brought to light promptly.
And it’s very explicitly part of the Hugos Administrator’s job to deal thoughtfully with oddities and surprises. With the ongoing turbulence of media and channels we live in, that happens pretty frequently, and the system works pretty well.
I haven’t read WOT. It may be a fine series, and the authors good people. But there is no way in the bowels of hell I will be able to make it through 15 books by voting time. I can barely do a novel in two weeks as is (new job). Revoke my True SF Fan (C) card if you must for this, but I will be abstaining from reading or voting on WOT when my ballot comes in. I can’t give it the time needed for a fair read, but I’m not going to penalize the authors because of it.
This “series=novel” rule create a burden that must be borne by either the reader or the author. Either the author’s work will have to be judged based on only a part instead of as a whole – which is not fair to them – or the reader will have to commit in advance to what very well may be a million-page pile of **** in the hopes of finding ponies in there somewhere – which is not fair to us.
I seriously hope WSFS changes this rule. The Best Dramatic Presentation awards, so far as I know, don’t allow an entire series of a TV show or a series of movies to be nominated, those writers have to be content with putting a small part of their best work forward. Novelists should be under the same constraint. (That said, I don’t think a Best Serial Work/Franchise award like I’ve seen proposed elsewhere will work, unless its nomination/voting process are radically different from every other Hugo to avoid the TL;CR (too long, cannot read) problem).
While I enjoyed all of the WoT books (some more than others), I started the series with The Shadow Rises, which was book Four, and I was able to pick up most of it just fine. The Eye of the World was good, but it was a bit like the pilot of a TV show in that it isn’t as willing to move the reader out of the Fantasy comfort zone and into something interesting until later on. Also, if there’s one book in the series you feel like you want to skip, then Crossroads of Twilight is it. And there are entire plot lines that are a waste of time as well. But it’s more ambitious than anything outside of Game of Thrones (which I haven’t tackled yet).
I’ve also read Ancillary Justice and it’s pretty darn good as well. I dunno, in some ways the writing in Ancillary Justice was more innovative, but the characters weren’t as emotionally accessible. So I guess I’m pulling for WoT, because I feel like it deserves a Hugo, but I wouldn’t feel bad if it loses out to one of the others as this is a strong ballot this year.
Hmmm….$42.05 for a supporting membership for LonCon 3? I might have to go for that.
The Best Dramatic Presentation awards, so far as I know, don’t allow an entire series of a TV show or a series of movies to be nominated,
Nope. Game of Thrones season 1 won the BDP long-form prize in 2012.
(For that matter, GoT season two was nominated last year, but so was one of its episodes, in the short-form category. And, lo, the Hugo organizers said “look, we’ll let you have one or the other, but competing in two categories at once is a bit much.” And the producers opted to withdraw from the long-form category and go with the short-form nom. You could look it up. Page 22.)
As I understand it, that’s actually the serialization rule at play. As I understand it, a work can’t be nominated twice, so if a piece of a serial was nominated and run, I don’t believe that it is normally eligible unless it is so substantially different as to be unrecognizable (like rewriting a short story or novella into a novel). The whole reason WoT is eligible is actually because no individual volume was ever nominated. There’s at least been discussions regarding writers declining a nomination for a shorter piece of a serialized work in order to have the longer piece be eligible, though I don’t know if this has ever actually happened outside of the above example in Dramatic Presentation where they were both eligible at the same time.
An ex-gf defined WoT as something that needed editing, A LOT (we don’t need to be walked thru every trivial action), so I gave it a pass. No thanks.
As a voter I now find myself faced with what I think is a strange task, I wonder if anyone else sees it that way? I’m being asked to judge individual works against an entire shelf of works as a single whole. This is like, say, judging “all detective movies” against “Citizen Kane.” Do I simply take the best volume of the series and pit it against the other individual works, or, to be sort of fair, do I come up with some kind of mental average of the series and compare that against the single works? By comparison, judging apples against oranges is simplicity. I find the task in un-doable, but perhaps I take it too seriously.
(double post) The only series I’ve ever experienced getting BETTER was “The Demon Princes” series by Jack Vance.
The first book was journeyman writing: the last was genius.
@H Blanchard I’ve been pondering that myself. The big challenge I see is that while the Wheel of Time is one story, it was published in many parts, and when you publish a serialized work, you still typically need some amount of story-like structure to each piece, so each one will have a rising action, climax and falling action, so to speak. I think that the ultimate problem that most of us are going to run into is that when viewed as a whole, because of its presentation, it’s going to be a very bumpy story. I think you need to compare it as though it were one long novel, to be fair to the other works. That’s just one opinion, though, and as a point, I’ve never voted before, so I don’t really have any experience comparing works for this sort of thing.
I’m actually rooting for a tie between Ancillary Justice and WoT, though any other year I’d be rooting for Neptune’s Brood. (Still need to read the others).
I’ve actually been doing a readthrough/commentary on my blog for every Hugo winning novel ever, as well as the novel nominees for each new Hugo… so on top of reading one hugo winner per week, I need to read the entire Wheel of Time, plus the other nominees, plus the nominees for the Retro Hugo by LonCon 3.
Wow, I figured they’d include the first, or maybe first few. Bravo, Tor, I guess…
…but I kinda wish the Hugos didn’t have this series-as-work thing for novels. Apologies to Tor and Brandon, but if you think I have time to read 4.x million words AND all the other stuff in the packet, AND do my job and eat and sleep…gak! Well, hopefully I can at least start the series and get an idea for how much I like it.
Anyway, I’m like you, John; if a novel can’t hold my interest, especially in reading-for-voting, I’ll likely put it down. I don’t understand people having an issue with this; if it didn’t hold my interest, but other novels did, then they are demonstrably better.
BTW, on Tor’s site, someone pointed out the 25% rule; if the votes in a category don’t total at least 25% of the total ballots received, the category gets No Award. Gak. Hopefully a ton of WoT fans won’t join and vote for just the novel category. I doubt that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some joined and voted in only a few categories, and this tipped the balance so a couple of marginal categories got No Award. Hopefully not! But folks, and this applies to everyone, vote in as many categories as you feel even mildly comfortable voting in, please. :-)
Eye Of The World was a masterpiece. The Great Hunt was pretty good. The Dragon Reborn was… pretty ok. It had some issues but it was fine. After that, snooooooze. Nothing happened for the 5 five books. After The Path Of Daggers (I think that’s book eight? Nine?) I gave up.
Well, a few things happened. In the last chapter of each book, a thing would happen. I felt like everything after The Dragon Reborn should have been highly edited and condensed into a single novel. I found this really disappointing. I knew Jordan could turn out great stuff, because he had, but it felt like he was just cranking out filler material because he hadn’t decided how to end his series yet.
I don’t know that I agree with the assessment that Jordan singlehandedly changed the entire fantasy landscape. He was important, sure. But I recall the Sword Of Truth novels and the Shannara novels were also selling like hotcakes in the early/mid 2000s as well. He was just one component of this renaissance of High Fantasy, not the sole torchbearer.
I confess, I only bought my supporting membership after I saw the nominees. For a number of years, I supported every year, and diligently read every novel (even before the voters packet). In the last couple of years, while I am sure the nominated novels were all wonderful, none of them were ‘my thing’. This year, though… well, I have read the first three books of WoT, and liked them, but not so much that I would pick up book 4 over another book that struck my fancy. Now, I have an incentive to give it another try. And darned if this isn’t a very interesting list of nominees, even without WoT!
But I have GOT to start reading more current books! It is just that there are so many older books that I missed, and still want to read.
I remember reading a few of the Wheel of Time back in the day, when I was younger and had more patience for that sort of doorstop, but even then I remember thinking “get to the bloody point” about book 7 and swearing off them. Following this precedent, I now dread the day that Terry Goodkind finally decides he’s really, truly done with the Sword of Truth books.
The Sword of Truth books were ok when he wasn’t shoving torture-porn in our faces or indulging in allegorical soapboxing about the evils of Communism or constantly revising the backstory to his own fantasy world each novel because he hadn’t done any up-front world-building and was just making it up as he went along.
So… uh, sometimes they were good. I remember liking the parts that weren’t those.
I look forward to reading the rest of the WoT (Read up to 8 or so originally). But I doubt many non-fans are going to slog through all 14 books. I liked the first four books a lot but then they started to get boring and it became apparent that Jordan was stretching them out.
I got seduced (?) by WoT about twenty years ago and got through the first six or seven books if memory serves, but finally realised that what was keeping me going was the hope that the characters I found annoying, which was pretty much all of them, were going to receive appropriate comeuppances. But it was never to be, so I decided Mr. Jordan was a big tease and moved on to other things.
I find it interesting to see how people seem to rate the individual books of WoT so differently. Some people really seem to have like the first book, while I found it kind of a chore to start with. Others didn’t like the first two books, while I thought books 2 and 3 were some of the best in the early part of the series.
A friend recently reread his way through the series (after waiting for the last three to be released, thanks to Sanderson) and told me he didn’t find the middle books to be as bad as he had remembered, when read in context in the midst of a long read. I suspect they read much better as part of a long form work where you can keep moving on, rather than a book you’ve waited 1.5 years to get and realize that you’ll wait another 2 years for the next one.
My own modest thoughts on the controversies this year: http://marktiedemann.com/wordpress/?p=2185
I started WoT by reading New Spring and can’t imagine starting the series any other way. I would have been totally lost. I love the series but admit to skipping large chunks. I feel each book could have been hundreds of pages shorter. The only book I haven’t read yet is Memory of Light which came out after I was hit by a truck & each time I think about tackling such a long dense work I put it on hold. Looks like its time to tackle it so my vote for best novel will be fair.
I loved much of Ancilary Justice but felt distanced from the characters.
I found Parasite to be to scary and was unable to get very far into it – nightmare inducing. Have no idea how to rate that.
I’ve not read the Charlie Stross book but have enjoyed other books by him so I look forward to this one. I’m not sure if I’ve ever read anything by Larry Correia.
At over 200 books a year since I was pre-teen I’m not good at keeping track of what I’ve read. I’m getting better thanks to my husband, Goodreads, and kindle but last year at least 50 books I read were not tracked… At least I’m starting to remember favorite authors names & sometimes books/series I like/really dislike. Ten years ago I didn’t know that much.
I love supporting memberships & getting so many books for so little money so I can read, review, recommend, and vote on them.
I think Tor is not bribing Wheel of Time fans with ebooks, but rewarding them with freed up shelf space.
@LauraResnick: The author closest in style to Robert Jordan today is Ken Scholes.
He is a very good author in his own right.
I am a big fan of audiobooks myself. I use them to keep me from sitting on my butt. I have a sedentary job. So I don’t want to sit around any more than I have to.
The audio books are done well. They have a male and female actor to represent the different genders. If you lose track of what is going on google ‘wheel of time encyclopedia. You may need to google the WoT map since the characters literally go all over the place.
There is an interesting interviewing with Jordan at the end of book 2. He explains his reasoning for all of the battle of the sexes stuff. He is trying to create a world where the womans movement took place so long again that no one remembers it. It puts what he is doing in perspective. Also, keep in mind that all the female characters are based on his wife. So they may seem similiar. She discovered him and edited him, so you can understand why.
Books 1-3: Most people consider these the best books in the series including Brandon Sanderson. There was an old forum he used to be on that no longer exists. I remember him posting about it before anyone knew who he was. The prologue to the first one is what drew most of us in. The ending to the first 2 books are considered to be the best endings in the series.
Books 4-6: Book 4 has the most famous scense in the series. You will see fans talk about Rand in Rhuidean. Not sure its that enjoyable unless you read the first 3 books. It gave me a sense of ‘awe’ when I read it. Book 6 has the best battle scene.
Books 7-11: Weakest in the series. Especially 10 and 11. May want to just skim summaries of these and this is from a fanboy who started reading the books at age 16 and finished at age 38.
Book 12: Similiar in structure to books 4-6. He cuts down on the background characters and focuses on 2 of them. Most of us consider this to be his best book of the 3, but he does a poor job with Mat (most people’s favorite character). Mat is hard to write…
Book 13: Used to tie up all the lose ends that Jordan left. Its pretty good, but Brandon had to write this to set up the final book. If its a ‘have to write’ its not going to be the most entertaining. It is entertaining to us fan boys
Book 14: Final book. Brandon had alot to tie up here. I think he had difficulty getting into RJs head and tying things up like RJ would. Brandon’s prose style is alot different than RJs. (thought I am a fan of Brandons).
Google ‘wheel of time encyclopdiea’. Its a big wiki if you get lost.
@Robotech_Master You can actually get the Supporting Membership for $40, or very nearly, if you purchase it by mail to the North American address. I guess there’s a stamp and paper involved, but it’s a lot closer to $40 that way (unless exchange rates change in our favor after this comment is posted). And this far out from the convention, I think the processing time wouldn’t really affect when you get the reading packet.
It sounds like you’ve already got your membership, but in case there are any other poor students out there, it might be of interest…
I think you did a great job summarizing the WoT books.
I actually think that Sanderson did a marvelous job precisely because he didn’t try to tie up every loose end out there in the series. That was part of the problem with the earlier books. Too many ends introduced, and then too much exposition that ostensibly would tie up the loose end, but that in fact would just peter out.
It’s kind of far back up the thread, but I wanted to address your post in which you talked about gatekeepers and the number of readers of WoT. I think there are a couple of misperceptions there.
Now, before I say any more, please understand that I have no problems whatsoever with WoT, WoT fans, or the prospect of them flooding convention fandom with a whole new wave of members. I say, “Rock on, bro/sis!” I rode in on the coattails of Star Trek (the first ‘big-name’ people I ever knew in fandom, years before I even knew there was fandom, were John and Bjo Trimble and David Gerrold). Another well-known “non-fan” [wry smile] is Ben Yallow. So, you know, any old Fart who tries to play the true-fan card with me and fret about the Wrong Kind of People invading the conventions and voting on the awards? Not much sympathy, here.
Preamble out of the way…The WorldCon attendees are not in any sense of the word figuratively or literally “gatekeepers” of the Hugos. They can’t be, because the legal entity known as the World Science Fiction Society OWNS the Hugo. See Kevin Standlee’s explanation in the comments here:
You can only gatekeep that which other people could or should have access to. There have been attempts to gatekeep who is in the club to begin with (see preamble) but that’s at a different level. The Hugo? If you’re not part of WorldCon, it is legally and formally not part of your accessible world, by design.
The other matter I wanted to bring up is the relationship between readers and Fans. That WoT has millions of readers in the larger world isn’t really germane. If I recall correctly, today F/SF/H is the largest literary genre next to romances. It’s just huge. The audience numbers in tens of millions. Movies? Dollar wise, it might be the largest genre. Some authors sell huge numbers of books. Not just RJ or even JK Rowling. You’ve got Sir Terry Pratchett, who has sold an astonishing number and is absolutely considered part of Our Tribe, but Fandom and Convention Fandom hasn’t been taken over by Diskians, not even when he was WorldCon guest of honor (and Minicon guest of honor the following year).
Fandom has, forever, discussed the still-unanswerable question of what distinguishes a Fan from a reader/viewer. We don’t know. We probably never will. What we do observe is that somewhere between 1% and 0.01% of the greater audience end up being Fans. It’s a very small fraction, always. There is no reason to expect it to be different this time. Accordingly, it does not matter how many readers there are relative to Fans or how many Fans there are relative to WorldCon attendees. The first two categories don’t have standing or relevance in this matter. The Hugo is not theirs.
I’m not saying that WoT couldn’t bring in enough new members to noticeably change the demographic. Again, see Star Trek. But the history of other extremely popular works argues against it, and there is no chance at all that it will “take over.”
Similarly, doomsday scenarios about it hitting a 25% voting threshold and plunging all of Hugos into chaos are extraordinarily unlikely, especially when one understands how the Australian Ballot works.
Anything is possible. Some things are simply not worth worrying about.
Personally I welcome our WoT brethren, reasonably confident that they will not be our Overlords.
(And if I’m wrong about that… well… see how I already curry favor, fawn, fawn?)
pax \ Ctein
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WoT is, in my opinion, one of the best series I’ve ever read. I would recommend it to almost anyone. However, I understand that diving into these books is a PROJECT and you’ve got to really commit to reading them if you’re going to make it through. I agree, I think it’s right that they were nominated as a whole rather than just the last book (thought I did adore the last book. Thought it was a wonderful end to a beloved series). It’s a terrific series to be a part of, though.
I will likely pick up a supporting membership and read all 14 books in WoT. I got almighty annoyed somewhere in book 60 when Character X returned from Experience Alpha, as that opened the same option for Character Z, whose Experience Beta meant I would never have to read about them again. At least until X returned.
If I find I cannot get through them a second time, well, then it is probably not deserving of a Hugo. If, on the other hand, a decade more reading has inured me to such doorstops, then it may deserve one.
As far as the politically charged book, I have not decided. I could not get through Grimnoir 1, so I hold out little hope for the Larry C book, but I am willing to give it a shot.
@Eric RoM: Other examples of series that have gotten better as they’ve gone along (at least in my opinion): Discworld (my mom was initially dismissive of the series until I had her skip ahead to a point where it seemed that Sir Pterry was starting to get a better handle on the whole “character development” thing, at which point, she became a big fan), the Vorkosigan Saga, and Nancy Kress’s “Probability” trilogy, where I was actually a little disappointed with the first, but utterly blown away by the third.
On the other hand, I want to quibble with John over a minor point. I don’t think you need to read everything in a category to vote. I do think you should try them all, but forcing yourself to finish something you’re just not enjoying is going beyond the call of duty. On the other hand, I think you should give it a fair shot. Disliking page one of a novel is probably not enough investigation to judge the whole novel. Which is why I’m in a quandry about WoT, since I couldn’t finish the first novel. Is that enough to judge the whole series? I’m not sure yet. Still looking for suggestions of points where I should skip ahead to, to get a better grasp of the series’ better qualities, if that even makes sense.
I just bought a membership. I have not read all of the WoT books, but I already started a reread of them this year (I’m on book 4) and it’s not inconceivable that I’ll have read/ reread all of them by the time the voting happens.
I’m surprised at how excited I am about this.
On the other hand, I want to quibble with John over a minor point. I don’t think you need to read everything in a category to vote.
You appear not to be the only person inferring “…and how you should as well” from “How I read nominated works”.
He also says he stops reading them if he gets bored.
@Adrian Smith: On the first point, yes, “need” was a poorly chosen word on my part. It’s only a need for those of us who think it’s a (personal) need. :)
On the second point, yes, I’d overlooked that part entirely, so thanks. Seems I have no quibble with John after all.
I am currently reading Larry Correia’s GrimNoir series, since I own them but haven’t read any of them either and I figure I should do that before the packet comes out. I’ll probably read the first WoT book or two when the packet becomes available and intersperse it with the others. I also have a couple novels from one of the Campbell nominees, so I want to read them before the package comes out, too. Even then, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to slog through the entire series, especially since several of my friends claim that there are a couple books that are very slow going and basically don’t move the series forward much.
Also, if I run out of time for reading WoT (especially since I will try to read everything in the packet for the shorter fiction categories, graphic works, related works and Campbell), I’ll still vote for the best novel, but the WoT may get dinged if I can’t finish it in time.
I really hope that Orbit gets a clue, and either provides Kindle and ePub formats or, if they must provide a password protected PDF, that they at least provide one that is acceptably formatted to be read on an phone or an eInk reader. The ones that have been in the previous award packets are formatted with printer registration marks so you either have to choose a font that is so small that it’s unreadable on just about anything other than a full sized PC monitor, or a font that is readable but it breaks the PDF formatting which makes the book unreadable (and, IIRC, some lines and/or paragraphs are displayed out of order). It’s unfair to the authors, but I’m sure some voters skip the Orbit books and give them a lower ranking.
I did read about half the Wheel of Time series, but I cared more about the secondary characters like Matt and Perin. I was also pretty ticked off when certain villains were thought to be dead only for them to have a come back like some evil Obi Wan Kenobi BS.
Don’t mistake me for a hater, there are some great moments, even some great books, but I don’t think its a great series. As for Ancillary Justice it was an ok read, but it is screaming for a prequal series to fill in the detail being hinted at.
As soon as I read it, it was clear to me that Ancillary Justice was the one to beat for the novel awards in 2013. I actually find the two nominating campaigns *hilarious*, because I predict that their net effect will be to make AJ — the most radically-feminist novel that had any chance of being on the ballot — win by a wider margin than if the campaigns had never occurred.
This is because several of the books I expected to see nominated didn’t make the cut. Notably, Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey (pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), which I expected to be a strong contender.
Like @Rob Wynne, I remember the spinoff of rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan, and I do *not* expect WoT to be anything like a slam dunk. Australian ballot, remember, and while WoT has plenty of fans, Hugo voters are likely to tilt toward the people who *loathe* it — or who got exasperated around about book 3 or 4, like me. Or who gave up during the decade when Jordan kept writing longer and longer installments covering fewer events, like a literary Zeno’s paradox.
I cannot say the words “the Grimnoir Chronicles” without laughing. It’s just so over-the-top and, well, unserious in its seriousness. The golden age of science fiction may still be 12, but that doesn’t mean I want to read fiction by one.
Charles Stross’ home-field advantage may well carry the day, but if it doesn’t, I expect Anne Leckie to take home the spaceship.
I just feel WoT was shoe-horned in because of vagueness in article 3.2.4 which says a series can’t be nominated but then goes on to talk about a work appearing in multiple parts. I thought this referred to a novel being serialized in a magazine. That’s why Dune and Moon is a Harsh MIstress were each nominated twice. The more I think about this the more I’m convinced it doesn’t belong on the ballet. I haven’t seen an argument for WoT being on the ballot that wasn’t a variation of “this is a special case” or “it’s awesome so deserves some sort of award”.
I’m not concerned about reading it because I’m trying to decide if I’m going to put this below No Award or leave it off altogether.
According to this, RSHD/STD has called the shooting of Malala Yousafzi justified. Weird for him to be supporting the Taliban, but I guess he hates uppity women (or in her case, uppity girls) even more than he hates Muslims.
The writer there makes another good point: RSHD isn’t doing this to get a Hugo. Even he isn’t that detached from reality. He’s doing it to remind women, people of color, gays etc. that there’s someone out there who hates us, even while we mark our Hugo ballots.
Even if I were not in one of his many hate-targeted classes, I would rather the Novelette award not be given out than go to someone who things it was right to shoot Malala Yousafzi. And no, it really doesn’t matter to me how good or bad his actual story is.
Xopher: You probably already know this, but as I know you intend to rate at least one work on the Hugo ballot as unworthy of the award, you should note that the most effective way to vote “No Award” above any particular work or works, is to put “No Award at the bottom of your list, and then not list the thing(s) you think are unworthy. Listing a work or works you think is unworthy below “No Award” but leaving some slots blank has the small but possible chance of eliminating some other work, unless you make sure you list all the other eligible nominees before “No Award” and the works you consider not award-worthy. The “No Award Test” is designed to mitigate this, but isn’t 100% infallible; many people don’t bother to use the “No Award” label, after all.
@ronny Someone with more knowledge can correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that there’s at least been an instance of a duology being nominated together, although they were published in back-to-back years. Nevertheless, that, along with the precedent of a season of television being nominated in dramatic presentation long-form seem to be the precedent. Remember that the eligibility of each nominee for this year was reviewed by LonCon’s Hugo committee, if that matters at all.
Cally, let me see if this is right. There are two methods for getting the result I want:
Method 1: Don’t mark a preference for the VD piece, and mark No Award last of the things I do mark.
Method 2: Mark a preference for each and every one of the nominated items, with No Award second-to-last and the VD piece dead last.
Is that right? And are the two methods equivalent? I tend to mark a preference for each nominated item, and mark No Award only if I think the ones at the bottom of my preference list are unworthy in an absolute sense.
@Mathosaur I get what you’re saying in that the rules committee must have thought it passed the rules but I’m saying that’s a quirk that needs to be fixed. The award is for best NOVEL. Not a single person I’ve seen has even try to make the case that the 14 or 15 books of WoT taken in total is a novel.
When I saw Connie Willis for a reading for Blackout she told everyone it was half a story because the publisher insisted on publishing her book in two parts but they didn’t advertise it as such so if you wanted your money back because you felt misled go ahead and return the book. So yeah, I can see the case for that, I didn’t really agree with combining the 2 books for the Hugo but I could at least see the argument and I don’t think my displeasure about the issue affected my place in the voting.
As far as Game of Thrones for long form. Well, I’ll own up to being a bit of a hypocrite. I was tired of Dr. Who winning the short form Drama award and if it was going to take GoT being nominated for the entire season to win a Hugo then so bit it. I didn’t nominate it that way but I certainly voted for it.
@ronny My argument is more that those are the names we give those forms, but the criteria for voting are left up to the voters. Short Story, Novelette, Novella, and Novel are story-length categorizations, not determinations of the way in which they should be published. The Wheel of Time is one STORY, which is the determining factor in the rules. I guess what’s bugging me is that people are basing their feelings about whether or not it should win the award on whether or not they wish the rules allowed it to be eligible. I’m not saying to vote it highly, and I’m not saying not to change the rules. I think there’s a fair argument for changing the rules, or allowing for some sort of periodic special award for this sort of series. That’s a separate issue, though. It feels to me like folks are looking at it, saying “I wish it didn’t fit the rules as written,” and then voting it below “No Award.”