Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Hugo Reading - Novella

I had some serious problems with this category. Three nominations are works by a single person? Any decent person would have withdrawn the two weaker nominations in order to give someone else a chance and to consolidate the vote. The fact that he didn't makes me less than enthused about even reading one of his works. Add in the fact that this is the same guy that wrote that truly awful short story, and I find myself dreading reading, or trying to read, the works in this category. Still, I swore I'd give every work a chance on its own merits, so here I go.

  • Big Boys Don't Cry, Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
    This is a story about a sad artificial intelligence. This became predictable pretty early on, and then it repeated itself quite a bit. There was also a couple of bits of faulty math early in the story that make no sense for an A.I. to make. It got boring and repetitive extremely fast, although it started out promising enough. It would have made an ok short story, despite being on a well-trodden subject with an extremely predictable ending. As a novella it was just too much of the same thing going on and on. Not something I would consider for an award.
  • "Flow", Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Analog, 11-2014)
    I was fascinated enough to read this one in a single sitting. It had an interesting lead character, some different kinds of culture to explore and it drove forward nicely. I was both disappointed and satisfied by the ending. I could have enjoyed a book that finished out his adventures, but it also made a certain kind of sense to finish where it did (a literal cliff-hanger!). I think this one will stay with me, which means it's probably something I would consider award-worthy.
  • One Bright Star to Guide Them, John C. Wright (Castalia House)
    It started out slightly promising, with clear descriptions and a bit of mystery. But it turned into a bad rehash of Narnia in just a few pages... right down to the number of kids. If it had been less derivative, I could have stomached it, but it honestly felt like the writer was also trying to ape the writing style of Lewis and failing miserably. The attempts at symbolism fall far short, and everyone seems to be a stereotype of some sort. Not something I would read by choice.
  • "Pale Realms of Shade", John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
    Well, it started with pretty good, set up an interesting premise, and then veered all over the place like it wasn't sure what it wanted to say. I read this one longer than the previous two stories by this guy, but eventually it started to get boring and mildly offensive. Finally there's the whole angel thing that felt like someone wanted to send a "very special message" to his readers, but honestly, by then I no longer cared about the characters, the story or whatever moral the writer believed he was trying to send. Certainly not as bad as some of his writing, but again, not something I would want to read in general.
  • "The Plural of Helen of Troy", John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)
    Another attempt at writing pulp. It's mostly incomprehensible and hardly worth trying to read. I got four or five pages into the PDF before I realized my mind was wandering. I tried again later and got the same result. So I think it's safe to say this wasn't something I'd generally be interested in. I skimmed the rest and it was as strange and unreadable as the beginning. I suppose there must be somebody out there who likes this kind of writing... I don't.
I only was able to complete one of the stories in this category from start to finish, the rest just don't deserve to be on the ballot at all. I guess I'll give "Flow" a ranking, probably below "No Award", and leave the rest off. It's sad, though. There must be some better works out there, but having three pieces by the same writer in one category? That's just pathetic. Perhaps that's what they mean by "sad" puppies?

Seriously, though, I really want to hear from the people who nominated these works. I want to hear why they thought these stories deserved the Hugo. I want to know what it is about these particular works that makes them literally the BEST things they read in 2014. I need to know what criteria those readers were using to pick these works, because for most of them I cannot fathom what would possess anyone who actually read the stories to say, "Yes, this is the best of the year." And I particularly cannot believe all three of those Wright stories were seriously considered that good by anyone, much less by enough people to get them nominated.


catsittingstill said...

The Wright stories... the kindest thing I can say is I thought he was good at hinting at wonder, but when it came time to write the wonder out in full he could never stick the landing. I got the impression that he knew that, and was trying to avoid having to write the wonder out in full, hence his tendency to tell instead of show--to summarize in the next pedestrian scene instead of writing out the magical scene.

I also found him more than mildly offensive. In Pale Realms, where the dystopic future is implied to be Islamic and the Devil claims to be the Prince of Freethinkers (as a Freethinker myself I said "this one goes to sixth place on the strength of that alone.") In One Bright Star where unthinking obedience is Good and questioning is Bad (do what the cat says even when it seems obviously harmful.) In The Plural where he tells Jack (about the woman he's been given) "Free her or marry her" and in One Bright Star where he says "you murdered your own child?" to a man whose rape victim had an abortion--in both cases as if the woman is some kind of puppet and her choice matters nothing.

OTOH, given Flow's attitude toward women (did you notice that everyone who does anything worth mentioning in that story is male, and the women are only for sex? And don't even have *names,* aside from the protag's mother? And what is *with* that BS about breasts?

Tastes certainly do differ.

Given what the rest have been like, I'm not looking forward to Big Boys.

Tegan said...

Yeah, I said Flow would stay with me... and the more I think about it the less I like it. It's like one of those books that's fun to read while you are reading it but afterwards you feel like you've wasted your time on it. As a story I enjoyed it, but then I started to think about it and... bleh. That it was the best of the nominees, in my opinion, is truly pathetic.

Dann said...

Keeping in mind "different strokes for different folks"....

I haven't gotten to the works from John C. Wright yet, but I found "Flow" to be only marginally above Noah level. I am thoroughly enjoying "Big Boys Don't Cry" right now. It will likely go in first place.

What is puzzling to me is the Publisher's Weekly note that precedes BBDC. It seems to me that BBDC inspires reflection that supports the general leftist perspective on war rather than being a story that irritates the left.

Very puzzling.


Tegan said...

The only irritating thing about BBDC is how repetitive and predictable it was. The ending wasn't a surprise at all based on how much the theme was pounded into the readers. It started out well enough, but rapidly turned into violence porn.

Flow gets worse and worse upon reflection. The lack of female characters, the lack of an actual plot, the lack of a resolution... I got caught up in the concept and forgot the importance of story while reading it.