A Brief Note About Me Reviewing the Hugo Nominees
Posted on May 23, 2015 Posted by John Scalzi 14 Comments
I’ve been asked a few times if I plan to write any reviews of the Hugo nominees this year after I’ve read them. The answer: No, I don’t. One, if you look at my general modus operandi around Hugos, I don’t ever really comment on what I think of the merits of the individual nominees* until after the voting window has closed. Two, this year, this policy seems even more advisable as there are excitable people who would point out any reviews on my part as scale-tipping, regardless of what the review said. Three, as a general rule, in public, I try not to say negative things about the work of other writers. I will make exceptions from time to time. But generally, I avoid it.
Note well that I have not been shy about expressing my opinion regarding certain Puppies and their actions in creating the slates and pushing them onto the ballots. My opinions of them regarding these actions should be considered independent of what I might think of their nominations, to the extent that any of them are on the ballot. Even assholes are capable of noteworthy work, generally speaking.
If you are looking for reviews, there are many online, so you will not lack for them. And as ever, what I encourage you to do is read the work yourself and make your own mind. Here I will offer up one pro tip: It’s perfectly allowed to stop reading the work before the end, if you already realize there’s no way you’re going to give it the award. I never feel obliged to finish a story or novel once I realize it’s not working for me. Note I was like that long before I ever got nominated for awards, or started reading works to give them awards. I’ve always been a mercenary reader.
But, yeah. If you were expecting me to snark anything on the ballot here on Whatever, you’re going to be disappointed. Sorry.
* I’ll note that there are some things on the Hugo ballot this year that I was on record praising before they made the ballot, most notably The Goblin Emperor. Obviously I stand by previous praise, and would equally note that if you are voting for the Hugos this year you should read it yourself, along with the other nominees in the category, and then go with your own decision as to which of the nominees deserves the award.
Stop being so gosh-darn reasonable! It’s like a Jon Stewart rally over here!
I like the term ” mercenary reader”. I’ve always been that way. Life is too short and there’s too much out there, to force yourself to read books you don’t like. I’ve never understood people who feel they HAVE to finish every book they start.
I appreciate your comments on this John, and not changing your approach from prior years in response to the kerfuffle is, I think, a classy response – there is a danger of a pixel shortage with all that’s been written.
I still will be no awarding the puppies on the basis of lack of quality, however.
I don’t like “mercenary reader” because it suggests you read for anyone who puts up money, not for other reasons.
Looks like you got a Ruskie scammer on here, Scalzi. :(
Really like “Mercenary Reader”, which kind of fits me. I like that a lot better than the quote I use when Tammy or our niece Julie accuse me of not having finished a book I’m panning – “I don’t have to eat an entire egg to know it’s rotten.”
Mercenary reader? If the writer can’t make me want to read the next page they need to work on their writing. That is the gig.
It’s actually been a really fun exercise in reviewing to look at each piece nominated for its merit outside of the context of who put it on the ballot. Admittedly when I’m confused about why something made it on the list I do wonder if it was slated. I’m trying to avoid checking what’s been slated and what hasn’t so I can initially approach each nominee as worthy.
I kind of wish I had found out I could vote in the Hugos before this whole kerfuffle because then I think my first voting experience would have been more fun but maybe I would also feel worse about some of the submissions this year.
Do you find that in year’s past it was a glut of awesome and optimism? Or did previous years have their own share of not understanding why someone would think certain things were Hugo-worthy.
Hopefully that question isn’t too close to asking for negative reviews. I just wonder and would love to hear from anyone who has read through all of the nominees for previous years.
@rebekahgolden: I’ve only voted for the Hugos a few times, and none of them recently, but every time, there have indeed been at least a couple of nominees that left me shaking my head and wondering “why, and how, did this get nominated?” But usually, just a couple.
On the other hand, if you think something is good, and you vote for it, and it wins, that’s an awesome feeling. I think I’m most proud of having voted for A Deepness in the Sky. (Which was not my last Hugo vote, but quite possibly the most Hugo-worthy work I’ve voted for, in my admittedly biased opinion.) :)
Thank you Xtifr! And for the pointer towards Vernor Vinge. One of the best parts about my new Hugos awareness is the number of good books that are getting added to my Goodreads “Want to Read” list.
So how do I go about selling you a very good idea for a book? Obviously I don’t have a clue how this is done or is it……..
I wish I had come up with that term in high school: so many assigned books in English class that I did not finish. So many books…..
I am so happy to find out that there are others out there who start a book and drop it when it begins no longer to interest or amuse. I’ve done it after a paragraph, and I’ve done it in mid-book. Honeychile, if you think time is too short now, wait till you are past your mid-70s like me! By the way, I like “mercenary reader.” One does pay with time for what one reads.
The last I looked I don’t think I’d read anything on the Hugo ballot, though I just finished reading The Goblin Emperor and thought it was excellent. But it wouldn’t be fair for me to vote on the Hugos, imho, when I’ve read as few of the items on the ballot as I have. (I did see Guardians of the Galaxy and enjoyed it, but I didn’t really think it was outstanding.)
DavidNOE, there’s still time. I just finished “The Goblin Emperor” this morning and started “The Three-Body Problem,” and I plan to read “Ancillary Sword” before the voting deadline so that I can make an informed choice (plus have several enjoyable reading experiences). I have also read some of the shorter works and plan to read more of them in time to vote. I won’t vote categories that I haven’t seen/read. For instance, I never go to the movies, so I won’t vote in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form category. It’s okay to leave things blank.
The downloadable PDF of the ballot says that the deadline for voting is “Friday 31 July 2014, 11:59 PM PDT (Saturday 1 August 2014, 2:59 AM EDT; 7:59 AM BST; 4:59 PM AEST),” but I believe that should be 2015, so you’ve got a couple of months yet to read and vote in categories that interest you. If you use the online ballot, you can change and add your choices up until the deadline.