Sunday, May 10, 2015

Post Nuclear SNARL

I can't help but think that The overwhelming desire experienced by the majority of Hugo reviewers for the novella category will be that the whole thing just go away. First the novellas individually, and then, when they are done reading all five nominees, the entire category in which one of these stories might win. This can be achieved by voting “No Award” in as the winner for the novella category this year. This is a nuclear option, but what genre of literature could be better suited to exploring a nuclear option than Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF)?

I personally don't think the No Award option is nuclear enough. I would kinda like a refund on the purchase price of the books, and I would certainly like to prevent people in the future from being hoodwinked into purchasing any of these novellas by reading the endorsement implied by seeing “Nominated for a 2015 Hugo Award” on the cover. I would like these novellas to have never been nominated, and I believe that could be done. I almost would like for these novellas to have never been written, but I am afraid that is not possible.

Because Worldcon owns the Hugo trademark intellectual property they can manipulate it in order to maintain its value. They have done this incrementally in the past by adjusting the rule-set needed to be nominated for, or win, a Hugo. They can do it again by removing nominees that loose to “No Award” from the list. This would prevent unscrupulous publishers from realizing an increased prestige or profit as a result of stuffing the nominating ballot boxes.

I have no idea how to go about creating such a rule, or even proposing such a rule for that mater, but I do think it would be a good move. It may even be necessary, as the puppy thought police are not the only ones who might gain from a critically injured Hugo award process. The puppies are not the only ones who have the wherewithal to corrupt the nominating process for their own gain, and they are not even the ones who could do it best.

Across the spectrum of popular literature and dramatic presentation religious fiction has attempted to compete. There are cross-over artists who have made a name for themselves in both areas, like Orson Scott Card, but most do not break out of the cloistered audience that the religious publishing houses provide them.

When AOD was in elementary school there was a big push in her school to get all the kids reading a book called “Fablehaven” by an author named Brandon Mull. I was told that the book was just a great little fantasy novel, and that it was probably going to be the next "Harry Potter". Posters went up for it all over school, and I believe there was a group buy we were being pressured into participating in. I think Brandon Mull was also invited to talk to the children in the school district; it was a while ago. Fablehaven would go on to become a New York Times bestseller.

I was interested in why this book was considered to be so great. Many of the people suggesting it had not read it. I was told that it contained “the right kind of message”, so I wanted to see who was behind it. The book was published by “Shadow Mountain” publishers, which I had never heard of. Further digging uncovered the fact that “Shadow Mountain” was actually a division of Deseret Books, which is a publisher wholly owned and operated by the Mormon church.

Deseret Books also runs a bunch of book stores, and these book stores are one of the only places that Mormons with current temple recommend cards can buy the famous magic Mormon underwear. They also publish many books and stories each year that could contend for a Hugo if the nomination process could be tweaked enough.

Several religious groups have learned how to game crowd-sourced review processes. Meet the Mormons was the 10th highest grossing movie in the US the weekend it opened, and rotten tomatoes gives it a 90% positive audience score. However, I have yet to meet anyone who does not think it is really anything more than the slick continuous-loop-at-the-Mormon-temple-visitor's-center-indoctrination-pablum it was originally designed to be. The movie “God's Not Dead” grossed almost four times as much as “Meet The Mormons” when it opened, and sports a 79% positive audience score on Rotten Tomatoes; it also has a 2.5/10 average and a 17% overall critics score.

There are thousands of True Believers who will pay a few bucks to vote for what they believe in. If a fraction of these True Believers decided that it would be in their best interest to manufacture a Hugo nomination for the works they thought would be best for the rest of the world they could. They could do it with a fraction of the effort the rabid puppies expended.

Several of the stories that have been nominated this year (including the short story “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright that I just read but have yet to review) are religions fiction. The puppies have stated that it is the content of the Hugo nominated works which they wish to change, and they are stuffing the ballots to nominate religious fiction.

”The Christian worldview alone is where reason and science flourish without being strangled by superstition or corrupted by cults, political or otherwise." – John C. Wright

There are many awards for Christian fiction: The Carol Awards, The Christy Awards, The Illumination Award, The Catholic Press Award, The ECPA Award, and the list goes on; why should the Hugo be another? A true believing minority has shut out all reasonable candidates for the Hugo Novella, and in the process shown how vulnerable all the other categories are. If this group can profit off of the nominations it will likely continue, and more powerful players will enter the field. There are more True Believers than there are active members of Worldcon.

”You Will Be Assimilated” – Borg

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