Thursday, May 28, 2015

More Hugo's reading: Related Works ... voted category most likely to make you completely bewildered

I am plunging ahead with my Hugo's reading. Now that I have the reader's packet I have started working my way through some of the other categories. For whatever reason, I opened up the folder for related works this past weekend and started trying to process them.

My initial reaction is, what the heck is this stuff ?

The nominees in Best Related Work are:
  • “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF”, Ken Burnside (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House) 
  • Letters from Gardner, Lou Antonelli (The Merry Blacksmith Press) 
  • Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth, John C. Wright (Castalia House) 
  • “Why Science is Never Settled”, Tedd Roberts ( 
  • Wisdom from My Internet, Michael Z. Williamson (Patriarchy Press) 

So Hot Equations - discussion of thermodynamics that explains why spaceships etc. won't work the way they are conceived in most science fiction. Yeah, yeah ... you can't win, you can't break even, you can't get out of the game. Been there, done that and this discussion just isn't interesting me. Mostly this is just reminding me that I want to work on my thermo lectures for next semesters environmental geochemistry class. How about talking about what authors could do to make their 'science' fiction better? That would be much more helpful and I would find it more interesting. So - it does relate to SF/F and has potential to be of use to some people. 

Letters from Gardner, soooo ...  this is actually stuff written by the author Lou Antonelli about his development as a writer ? Not getting the title here, it confused me. Ah ... "The note at the bottom of that form rejection was the first Letter from Gardner." Well, now at least I know what the title is supposed to mean.

So, reading along this is part memoir, part lecture (I am starting to sense a theme) and includes pieces of his fiction. I am tired and just not finding this very interesting. There really isn't anything for me to engage with. Not horrible, but not particularly exciting either. I don't see this as award worthy. 

Skipping the JCW.  

Why Science is Never Settled - oh goody, another lecture. Again - what the heck is the deal with the title? Anyhow, the author is going to explain the scientific method to me. 'k. Yeah, well I am one of those people with a PhD behind my name and, seriously, I don't need to be lectured at about this. More to the point,  I can't even see using this as a reference in any of my classes (I think I already have much better shtick that I do for my intro classes to get them engaged in this topic).

I also don't get his point. Sure science is subject to revision, so what? The whole point is that science is supposed to be self-correcting. After all, it was scientists who 'corrected' these so called "scientific blunders." And some of these examples are oversimplifications - a few are downright wrong - like "The highly public "ClimateGate" scandal has reportedly shown abuse of prepublication peer-review to publish some articles and block others" - really? That is how you are going to frame it? I don't get the authors constant digs at the concept of consensus either. Of course there has to be some sort of consensus in order to establish a conceptual framework from which you can build. The framework is subject to revision, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Alright, given the title, the above two points and the authors fascination with 90% - is this supposed to be some meta-level anti-climate change thing? Weird.   

If the author is really interested in improving pubic education in STEM fields, I can tell him from my experience and that of my colleagues in science education - this approach is not the way to do it. 

Finally, I don't get this entry. What does it have to do with SF/F?  At all? 

(BTW - if you need a teaching resource concerning the scientific method and examples Berkeley's Understanding Science website is quite good.) 

Wisdom from My Internet - Wow, this one actually starts with a lecture that the author added specifically for Hugo's readers where he 1) apologizes for prematurely announcing his nomination and calls some people a name; 2) thanks a person for being added to the slate except that he thought it was going to be for a short story (that he provides a link to) and 3) starts to explain about how awesome his friends, I mean his fellow nominees in this category are.  Seriously? This strikes me as profoundly unprofessional.

Then I started trying to read the actual work - which appears to be a compilation of what the author considers his cleverest tweets?  Or something like that. Amateur standup night?

Blink ... blink ... blink...  um, really ?

To put this politely - this submission has absolutely nothing at all to do with SF/F.  So on that basis alone I will stop considering it. That way I don't actually have to comment on the content, about which I would be unable to be polite. 

So - that happened. Huh?

Since I was having trouble making heads or tails of this collection of materials I took a look at some past lists of nominees. 

The 2014 Best Related Work nominees were:
  • We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative”, Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink) (winner)
  • Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, Jeff VanderMeer, with Jeremy Zerfoss (Abrams Image)
  • Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It, Edited by Sigrid Ellis & Michael Damian Thomas (Mad Norwegian Press)
  • Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary, Justin Landon & Jared Shurin (Jurassic London)
  • Writing Excuses Season 8, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Jordan Sanderson

Hey, cool - I am already familiar with Wonderbook.  I got a copy as a gift last year and still remember some of the intricate illustrations and snippets of the content. Okay, now this one I understand and agree that it is pretty nifty piece of work.

And I just found We Have Always Fought online. Content aside - this work has relevance to SF/F, is written coherently and is engaging. It also is, in part, an interesting reaction to some more recent findings in Viking archeology - I read about this a while back since I try to follow, to a small extent, news in archaeology ( - a little puzzled, but have no desire to track back why an article from 2011 suddenly was big news last year. The article does also appear to be a lecture (is that a requirement for this category?) but at least it is a well-structured one that gives you something to think about and respond to.

Other nominees appear to be variations of perennial favorites. So, at least to my eyes, this list of nominees makes some sense.

In terms of this years nominations, I am still trying to figure this category out ... this is starting to turn into homework ...  so I also asked for suggestions as to what other works people expected to see in this category.

JJ and Nick Mamatas thoughtfully provided some suggestions on File770

JJ on  said:

Elisa: “Are there other things that you might have expected to see nominated in this category – the second volume of the Heinlein biography? I have very few points of reference for this one and would appreciate some ideas of what to look at for comparison.”
It helps if you understand that a large part of the Puppy nominees in that category were there simply as an “F*** You” to non-Puppies, and not because they are genuinely SFF-related works.
Here are some works that people had suggested for that category:
Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Vol. 2 – The Man Who Learned Better, 1948-1988 by William H. Patterson
What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton
The World of Fire and Ice by George RR Martin, Elio Garcia, and Linda Antonsson
Speculative Fiction 2013: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentaryedited by Ana Grilo & Thea James
Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology by Dan Wells, Howard Taylor, Brandon Sanderson & Mary Robinette Kowal
Stand Back! I’m Going To Quote Junot Díaz (Thinking about language) by John Chu
Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World by Anne Jamison
Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy (a month of guest blog posts) by

The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft is definitely something that *should* have been on Best Related Works this year, but sadly was not. (Dunno if it almost had the votes, but it was deserving.)

Again - books that make some sort of sense, some of which I heard buzz about last year and that are clearly related to SF/F.

My conclusion ?   I have no idea what the nominators were thinking with these selections. I just can't find the redeeming value that would make any of this years items award winning.


  1. Hi, I came here via the link roundup at File 770. To answer your last question: I nominated Jodorowsky's Dune and had some hope that it would actually make the final ballot.

  2. You do know about the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy strategy to pack the slate, right? This is a political agenda.

    1. I do know, which is why I signed up this year as a supporting member. Frankly I can't even see a coherent political agenda. What I see is a bunch of people who know each other and thought they could monetize the awards. Sheesh.


Hi! I do read all of the comments and want to let you know that I really appreciate your stopping by and taking the time to leave a note. Work has fallen in on me and I have not had enough time to reply coherently lately so I apologize preemptively but still want to assure you that your comments are valued. I am using comment moderation to avoid using more annoying spam avoidance. Thanks for your patience.