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SF/F Corruption: Part I

Thursday, December 27th, 2012 | Posted by Theo

the-quantum-roseWhy Amazon is Correct to Ban Author Reviews

There is word of a backlash against Amazon’s policy of preventing authors from reviewing certain books on its web site. The Telegraph reports: “Critics suggest this system is flawed because many authors are impartial and are experts on novels.” However, speaking as the first nationally syndicated game review columnist and a longtime professional reviewer for publications such as the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Atlanta Journal/Constitution, Chronicle Features, Computer Gaming World, and Electronic Entertainment, I can assure those who find this policy to be unjustified and unfair that it is absolutely and completely necessary due to the corruption, both professional and ideological, that is rife within the publishing industry in general and the SF/F industry in particular.

The problem isn’t merely one of authors sockpuppeting and heaping praise upon themselves under false identities. I am a member of the SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, and I have had the dubious privilege of sitting upon three of its Nebula Award juries in the past. More importantly, I have had access to the SFWA Forum, and its updated list of Nebula Award nominations, for more than ten years. And one of the things that rapidly became obvious to anyone who attempted to participate honestly in the system between 2000 and 2010 was that the Nebula Award is, first and foremost, a means for various small groups of people to shamelessly and dishonestly promote the works of themselves and their friends.

You need not take my word for it. Anyone who is a member of the SFWA can peruse the back issues of the Forum and quickly see exactly what was happening behind the scenes until the 2010 rules changes. No sooner were works from certain authors published than they were immediately recommended for the award by the exact same group of authors who had recommended the author’s previous books. And, in most cases, those recommendations either had been or would be reciprocated by the author whose new work was being recommended, in some cases almost surely unread due to the timing involved concerning the publication date. Because it only took a small number of recommendations — ten, if I recall correctly — to get a work on the initial ballot, this “logrolling” repeatedly put the same names forward for the various Nebula awards at the expense of other, much more deserving authors.

Jason Sanford, who favors the new rules, described the process thusly:

The old Nebula rules encouraged [logrolling] by making it easy to both nominate friends and supporters for the preliminary ballot (by letting members nominate so many stories) and to verify that these people were returning the favor, since all nominations were public.

There is some reason to doubt that the new rules are any better, especially given section 11(b), which states:

Nominations shall be treated as confidential information and only the names of the works and numbers of nominations will be available for viewing by eligable members after the awards ceremony.

This takes the old problem and makes it worse by allowing the logrolling to take place behind closed doors and hidden from public scrutiny; limiting the nominations to five apiece will only serve to concentrate and streamline the incestuous activity. One SFWA member already noted a consequence of the post-2010 rules: “During the final week, I was barraged with pleas via LiveJournal, Twitter, and Facebook to help get stories onto the ballot at a volume far above anything I’ve ever experienced before.”

The past logrolling is why there are so many undeserving Nebula winners in the recent past. Catherine Asaro’s The Quantum Rose, which won the Best Novel award in 2002, is perhaps the most egregious example; Asaro was the SFWA President at the time, a pleasant and popular woman by all accounts, and the author of a book that in no way merited being even mentioned in the same breath as George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords, published in the same year. Asaro won the Best Novel award for what was the sixth book in an entirely forgettable space romance series about strong independent women and the handsome men who find them irresistible… in space. It is worth noting that while George R.R. Martin was nominated for each of the first three books in A Song of Ice and Fire, he never won a Nebula for Best Novel. Other excellent authors who inexplicably failed to win Best Novel awards include Neal Stephenson, Charles Stross, and China Mieville.

vonda-n-mcintyre-the-moon-and-the-sunContrast with them some of the authors who did win the awards for Best Novel. In addition to Asaro’s embarrassing award, (she was also nominated for best novella that same year), there is 2012 winner Jo Walton, whose banal Among Others somehow beat out Mieville’s brilliant Embassytown. (Read my Black Gate review of it if you are unfamiliar with it.)  Vonda N. McIntyre’s The Moon and the Sun beat out Martin’s A Game of Thrones, and Nicola Griffith’s Slow River beat out The Diamond Age. If you haven’t heard of these award-winning books despite being a hardcore SF/F reader, there is a reason you haven’t. They aren’t dreadful, but they aren’t particularly good either, their Nebulas notwithstanding. And the fact that Charles Stross couldn’t even make the final ballot for Accelerando or any of his excellent Laundry novels is alone enough to demonstrate what a complete travesty the Nebula Awards have been for more than a decade. Perhaps the new rules will fix the problem; I remain extremely skeptical as I suspect they will actually make the problem worse. Regardless, the need for the change is sufficient to prove at least the past existence of the corruption.

Note that Black Gate itself suffered as a consequence. I recommended several deserving short stories and novellas; they were completely ignored in favor of much lesser stories by the usual small pool of suspects. In most cases, my recommendations were the only ones given to very good stories such as “The Haunting of Cold Harbour” by Todd McAulty.

In light of the subject, I was vastly amused, while writing this post, to learn the name of a reviewer who produced the most helpful five-star review for The Moon and the Sun, which contrasts greatly with the many reviews complaining the book does not live up to the hype:

***** Shimmering lyricism December 11, 1999.  By Catherine Asaro

After discovering this, I checked all 14 of Asaro’s reviews. She has never given less than 5 stars to anyone, and most of the books reviewed are in her genre.

So, the critics are incorrect. Any reasonable examination of the SFWA’s history will conclusively prove that most authors who involve themselves in the reviews process are extremely partial, heavily prejudiced, and grant ratings that are deeply questionable from an objective perspective. Amazon is correct to ban authors from reviewing books published in their genre; indeed, the bookselling giant would be more than justified in banning them from posting any book reviews at all.

And speaking of reviews, I recently finished reading Charles Stross’s The Apocalypse Codex. I will be posting a full review here in the near future.  In summary, I found it to be the best and most ambitious of the four Laundry novels.

78 Comments »

  1. This is an awesome expose, but entirely unsurprising. As Erik S Raymond notes, the hot white core of real science fiction continues to be 1950s American engineering culture, which is inherently libertarian and/or conservative…but the social aspect of science fiction has been captures by the 1970s left wing (as happens with almost every organization, given enough time).

    If one would prefer a single image to replace 1,000 words criticizing the inbred self-satisfied left-wing orthodoxy of the modern SF community, one could do no better than any JPG of John Scalzi handing out Hugos.

    Comment by TJIC - December 27, 2012 8:12 am

  2. Theo is correct when it comes to the inbred logrolling. As SFWA Bulletin editor from 1999-2002 I can attest to this first hand. A small clique and their “in” friends control quite a bit of what goes on in SFWA (at least it did back then and I have no reason to doubt that things have changed).

    This is why the Hugo, to my mind, is the more desired award and better represents the feeling of genre readers. Vote-trading, at least to some small degree, always occurs, but Nebula Award voters have honed this aspect to a fine art.

    Comment by Dave T - December 27, 2012 9:42 am

  3. I would be very curious to know what, in your view, constitutes “ideological corruption,” since that implies that you place some value on ideological purity.

    Comment by Amal El-Mohtar - December 27, 2012 11:20 am

  4. that implies that you place some value on ideological purity

    I should hope I do, but that is irrelevant in this context. The ideological corruption to which I refer here relates to the increase of ideological restrictions in the genre imposed by the various gatekeepers, not any failure to adhere to the pure strains of a particular ideology.

    Comment by Theo - December 27, 2012 11:34 am

  5. Great article Theo and I agree with the comments by TJIC and Dave T. A Nebula award used to carry weight for purchasing with me. I read some of these recommended novels and after a couple of bombs I look at the award more like a warning label. I’m just sick to death of the left wing bias from the major publishing houses. Do the editors have to pass the Al Gore litnus test or something? The integrity of the system is compromised and you won’t get a review from a reliable perspective.

    One of the reasons that I come to Black Gate is to read the reviews. I’ve bought several books because of recommendations from this site. I know the people here read the same thing I do and have similar tastes. I wish they had a Black Gate award.

    Comment by Wild Ape - December 27, 2012 12:26 pm

  6. When I first read a story about this–in the New York Times maybe?–my initial thoughts were, “Eh, I don’t care one way or the other.” But when you mentioned being a game reviewer, I thought about game makers reviewing other game makers’ games, and quickly realized what a bad idea that would be. (Used to subscribe to the late, great “Computer Gaming World”, and still follow Jeff Green on Twitter.)

    All that said, I disagree with your disagreement for Catherine Asaro’s win. Just because you believe something is forgettable doesn’t make it so. I’ve read many of her stories in that series, and still remember them years later, and remember them as being strikingly good.

    Similarly, just because you believe something is banal doesn’t make it so, and I disagree about Jo Walton’s win. Undoubtedly, a reviewer’s beliefs about an artistic work are useful (and in this case, allow me to place your book review’s on my scale of being less trustworthy *for me*), but attempting to extend your beliefs to the beliefs of others–in this case, award wins–is illogical and speaks more about the ego of the reviewer.

    Surely, Neal Stephenson, Charles Stross, and China Mieville should all have wins, though not necessarily in those years. And while I like GRRM’s works, I’m not particularly perturbed that he hasn’t won, yet anyway.

    Comment by awsnyde - December 27, 2012 1:30 pm

  7. All that said, I disagree with your disagreement for Catherine Asaro’s win. Just because you believe something is forgettable doesn’t make it so. I’ve read many of her stories in that series, and still remember them years later, and remember them as being strikingly good.

    Memory can be a tricky thing. Here is the point. Asaro has never won Best Novel before or since. She only had one other novel even make the final ballot, which happened three years before. Her own fans don’t consider Quantum Rose to be the best novel in the series.

    She just happened to win while she was President of the organization and while she was doling out 5-star reviews to other SFWA members books. Her books don’t have very good reviews, don’t sell very well, and practically no one who reads SF/F has ever even heard of her aside from her Nebula award.

    And this is supposed to be the very best that SF/F produced that year? No. It’s a joke. Even if you happen to like her ludicrous books about 18 year-old female planetary governors and the men who alternatively rape/pine after them, you should be able to see that this is prima facie evidence of the corruption we know existed in the SFWA and may still exist today.

    Comment by Theo - December 27, 2012 2:03 pm

  8. Also, while I can’t comment on “The Moon and the Sun” specifically, as I haven’t read it, your contention that her review “contrasts greatly with the many reviews complaining…” contrasts greatly with reality. There are 17 five-star and 13 four-star reviews, and much smaller numbers of lower-starred reviews (only two one-star reviews). And the “most helpful” tag is simply an indication that the greatest number of review readers found that review helpful. From my experience, the reviews that often end up with that designation are often the best written or give the most information, and that appears to be the case here. Now, would I trust an Asaro review: That’s an entirely different question! (And the answer is “probably not”.)

    I also feel like you’re equating how good something is with popularity when you state, “If you haven’t heard of these award-winning books despite being a hardcore SF/F reader,” when if fact, as we all know, the opposite is often the case. And in this case, I’ve heard of them all, even if I haven’t read them all.

    Despite all that I’ve just written, I agree completely with your conclusion. And as I think more on it, given how big a fan I am of Stross and especially Mieville (if he’s not in my top 10 list of authors, he’s certainly in my top 20), it’s probably more accurate to say that *for me* your negative reviews are less trustworthy, but I will still take note of the positive.

    Comment by awsnyde - December 27, 2012 2:07 pm

  9. Undoubtedly, a reviewer’s beliefs about an artistic work are useful (and in this case, allow me to place your book review’s on my scale of being less trustworthy *for me*), but attempting to extend your beliefs to the beliefs of others–in this case, award wins–is illogical and speaks more about the ego of the reviewer.

    You’re certainly entitled to your own opinion. But you have no literary taste if you genuinely believe that JK Rowling is a more talented wordsmith than Tanith Lee. You have no appreciation for world-building if you think Stephanie Meyer creates a more original world than JRR Tolkien.

    And if it’s all completely subjective, how can you possibly justify giving any book an award in the first place? The entire context of a literary award assumes the ability to state, with some degree of conclusiveness, that one book is better than another.

    Comment by Theo - December 27, 2012 2:08 pm

  10. “Her own fans don’t consider Quantum Rose to be the best novel in the series.” Well, that’s more a condemnation of awards in general, as I’ve heard the same type of contention about many Emmy, Oscar, and Tony awards. It doesn’t mean the award is deserved, in general, it just might not be the best work. And in this case, the award is well deserved, even if the process to get there was flawed–and I agree completely that it was.

    As to your other contentions:

    Her books don’t have very good reviews: I have seen many good reviews of her books, and not only at Amazon (in fact, not primarily at Amazon).

    Don’t sell very well: Again, the popularity versus good debate, but in addition, I could very well say the same thing about Stross, and even Mieville.

    Practically no on who reads SF/F has ever even heard of her aside from her Nebula award: And where is your polling to back up that contention? I don’t even really follow the awards, and I’d heard of her long ago. It is perhaps more accurate to say that those who don’t read the SF/F magazines and Years Best books haven’t heard of her, but while that may be true, I’m not going to attempt to state it as fact without evidence of any sort. And again, we’re back to the popularity versus good debate.

    Comment by awsnyde - December 27, 2012 2:19 pm

  11. Huge Tanith Lee and Tolkien fan here, but I can’t comment on your contention as I haven’t read either Rowling or Meyer. That said, considering how *all* SF/F is not considered literary by many (not me, I completely think it can be), that’s a dangerous road to go down.

    Comment by awsnyde - December 27, 2012 2:23 pm

  12. Look, awsnyde, there are a myriad of ways to demonstrate that Catherine Asaro sucks and in no way should have ever won that award. Let’s take off the kid gloves and utilize the cruel technique of quoting a reviewer who actually thought her award-winning SF work was all right:

    “Kamoj Quanta Argali is the 18 yr old governor of a planet of former slaves. When a newcomer on the world Havyrl arrives to recover from an ordeal which left him half mad, he spies Kamoj taking a bath in a river and falls for her. Impulsively Havryl offers to marry her which causes strife and conflict throughout the region, as Kamoj’s spurned fiancee vows revenge.”

    Just in this brief summary, we can see Asimov-style etymological nonsense. Ludicrous world-building. Literally ancient plot mechanisms. Generic romantic love triangle. And yet, the story is even worse than one would suspect on the basis of this description.

    You can defend the literary qualities of Asaro vs Martin, Mieville, Stross, and Stephenson all you like. Be my guest. I simply find that to be very amusing coming from someone who publicly questions the trustworthiness of my reviews.

    However, the point is not Asaro’s mediocrity. The point is the corruption indicated by the fact that such a mediocre novel was deemed to be SF/F’s best.

    Comment by Theo - December 27, 2012 2:37 pm

  13. Ha, ha, quoting a reviewers words as proof of the badness of the author in question: Completely lame. I could quote large portions of Tolkien that sound far worse, and I’m sure even you would agree.

    Comment by awsnyde - December 27, 2012 2:51 pm

  14. And I should add, saying that I publicly question the trustworthiness of your reviews is completely (and I fear, disingenuously) taking my words out of context, as I specifically highlighted the fact that they’re not trustworthy *for me*. No two people have exactly the same tastes, and it is incumbent on any review reader to determine who hews closest to one’s own.

    I do the same with movie reviewers, and would consider Richard Roeper to be my most trustworthy critic. The “trust” in this case has nothing to do with whether one believes the reviewer is “helping out friends”, or angling for good reviews of their own works, but with how well one believes the reviewer’s tastes will coincide with one’s own. If you took it any other way, I apologize for not being clearer.

    Comment by awsnyde - December 27, 2012 2:55 pm

  15. I think your argument that it is embarrassing that Asaro won during a year in which she was president for a later novel in a series could be held up as valid on the face of it simply because it *looks* shady, independent of what anyone actually thinks of that book or the others nominated that year. I don’t think your inclusion of Jo Walton’s win bolsters your argument simply because the brief mention looks more like a case of sour grapes over the novel you prefer not winning. Where is your evidence that anything untoward happened with Walton’s win? It did not just win the Nebula, it won the Hugo and was nominated for a world fantasy award and it is also a novel that has been reviewed favorably not just by critics but by book bloggers all over the internet since its release. It is one of those rare genre books that actually reached outside of the genre community and connected with readers who “don’t normally read science fiction or fantasy”.

    Comment by Carl V. - December 28, 2012 2:45 am

  16. Perhaps Walton’s win is much less egregious. I don’t know, because I can’t examine the nomination process thanks to the new rules. The fact that it “reached outside the genre” doesn’t make it an excellent SF/F book, particularly not a better book than Embassytown. The reviews certainly don’t indicate anything superlative.

    “It’s perfectly fine, well-written and all, but I didn’t find it exceptional in any way.”

    But I’ll review it at some point and opine on the matter. The Hugo point is not irrelevant, but also raises questions of its own.

    As for my argument, there is no need to bolster it. Corruption in the SFWA is a documented and easily proven fact. Keep in mind, this is merely Part I. I haven’t even cited the specific examples yet.

    Comment by Theo - December 28, 2012 4:09 am

  17. I gave up paying attention to author reviews, or awards (either nebula or hugo) a years and years ago…

    When I started paying attention to what people were writing on blogs. Call me a cynic, but I just don’t think most people can give a honest public opinion of a “friend’s” work.

    When I realized how incestuous the nebulas were, and how much idealogical orthodoxy (and being “one of the family”) was important to the Hugo’s.

    Comment by TW - December 28, 2012 6:28 am

  18. I understand, just pointing out that whether or not you found Among Others exceptional does not appear, TO ME, to have anything to do with corruption in the SF/F awards community, instead it seemed like an unrelated comment about which novel you should have felt won the award that year. I personally think it weakens the argument (or if not weakens does nothing at all for it) if it is placed in there with no context about how your Among Others vs. Embassytown opinion relates to corruption in the voting/promotion process.

    Comment by Carl V. - December 28, 2012 12:19 pm

  19. I’m not entirely sure how this article, entirely about perceived corruption in the Nebula awards, warrants the headline or intro about Amazon banning author reviews. I’ll try and briefly address both subjects separately.

    On Amazon banning author reviews: I fail to see the point in them doing this. Authors can most certainly be biased in their reviewing choices, but then so can non-authors – much of the various recent surfacings regarding fake/purchased reviews have NOT involved fellow authors, but specific reviewers/reviewing sites. So there’s no reason to trust authors any less than… any other reviewer. I’d be happy for Amazon to flag up a review and say “this review came from another author”, but banning is an absurdity unsupported (so far as I am aware) by the facts on the ground.

    But enough on that, since nobody seems to be discussing the issue, and instead have leapt on either the perceived corruption of the SFWA/Nebula process, or on the nature of awards/reviews and the age-old, never-to-be-solved, arguments over whether quality is intrinsic, and how it intersects with popularity (it should always be noted that both change over time – some artists who were unsuccessful in their own lifetimes become popular – or are granted the numinous accolade of being “great” or “important” – long after death, and vice versa. Fashion exists both in popularity and in judgements of quality, which alone should imply that quality is not an absolute). I therefore have nothing further to say on the “popular vs award-worthy” debate.

    I am not a member of SFWA but I know many members. There is no doubt that many people do canvass their fellow professionals when it comes to Nebula time (just as happens in any other society that gives out awards amongst its own). I personally find that canvassing uncomfortable, but that’s largely because I have a British upcoming and in the UK, it’s deemed socially incorrect to blow one’s own trumpet. In America, less class-ridden (though by no means exempt), it’s considered much more acceptable. To conflate that to “corruption”, however, is something of a leap I’m not ready to make. Corruption implies the buying of votes, rather than simply persuasion (for example, is our political system corrupt by allowing campaign advertisements? Is asking someone for a vote an inherent sign of corruption? The definition being used seems uncomfortably broad). To baldly state that Catherine Asaro’s win is a sign of corruption is a bold move. It is one thing to accuse her of only winning the award because she was SFWA president; it is another jump to deem that “corruption”, and for me it would require fairly stringent proof that people had voted for her novel entirely in the hopes of receiving some form of recompense. If there is evidence that Asaro gave out good reviews in exchange for votes, bring it on: if there is not, then we are in the territory of slanderous innuendo.

    And as a final note, I would love to know if it is a coincidence that every “unworthy” winner excoriated in the above post (by these “objective” standards that the rest of us apparently fail to reach or understand) is a woman, and every unjustly slighted great is a man? Is this just a piece of embittered nostalgia for the semi-mythical days when White Men Ruled SF – even though the author of the piece wasn’t born when that statement would have been true?

    Comment by tchernabyelo - December 28, 2012 12:36 pm

  20. So there’s no reason to trust authors any less than… any other reviewer. I’d be happy for Amazon to flag up a review and say “this review came from another author”, but banning is an absurdity unsupported (so far as I am aware) by the facts on the ground.

    Banning is actually supported by the small amount of research that I and one of my readers have separately done. It’s not conclusive yet, but there is sufficient evidence to indicate that there is a genuine problem. Why do you think Amazon enacted the ban, if the problem is absurd and nonexistent?

    To conflate that to “corruption”, however, is something of a leap I’m not ready to make. Corruption implies the buying of votes, rather than simply persuasion (for example, is our political system corrupt by allowing campaign advertisements? Is asking someone for a vote an inherent sign of corruption? The definition being used seems uncomfortably broad). To baldly state that Catherine Asaro’s win is a sign of corruption is a bold move. It is one thing to accuse her of only winning the award because she was SFWA president; it is another jump to deem that “corruption”, and for me it would require fairly stringent proof that people had voted for her novel entirely in the hopes of receiving some form of recompense. If there is evidence that Asaro gave out good reviews in exchange for votes, bring it on: if there is not, then we are in the territory of slanderous innuendo.

    Did you miss the bit about Part I? I recommend waiting until I name specific names and provide concrete examples that you can examine before you start claiming that my case is baseless. Did you fail to notice that the former Editor of the SFWA Bulletin has supported my statements?

    We are SFWA members. You are not. We know what was happening and we know why the rules were changed in 2010. Do you?

    Is this just a piece of embittered nostalgia for the semi-mythical days when White Men Ruled SF – even though the author of the piece wasn’t born when that statement would have been true?

    No. Do you truly fail to see the difference between Asaro and Stephenson? Between McIntyre and Mieville? Those simply happened to be the works with which I am sufficiently familiar. I haven’t read the works of either Chabon or Bacigalupi, so I cannot comment on them.

    If I was simply targeting women, would I not also mention winners such as Bujold, Le Guin, and Moon? Obviously, I am not.

    Comment by Theo - December 28, 2012 1:25 pm

  21. If you were not targeting women, perhaps you might have found, somewhere, one male example of an unworthy award winner, or one female example of a writer unjustly overlooked.

    I did not miss that this was “part 1″. However, this article makes accusations WITHOUT supporting evidence. Until and unless that evidence is forthcoming, I repeat; we are in the territory of slander and innuendo (which you also dive cheerfully into with your “me and one other guy” “research” on Amazon reviews).

    In internet parlance, “pics or it didn’t happen”.

    Comment by tchernabyelo - December 28, 2012 1:58 pm

  22. If you were not targeting women, perhaps you might have found, somewhere, one male example of an unworthy award winner, or one female example of a writer unjustly overlooked.

    That’s obviously stupid. And, as it happens, the individuals I have witnessed doing the logrolling in the SFWA have been women.

    I tend to doubt you’re going to be any happier when I start naming specific names and prove the existence of the corruption.

    Nor are we in the territory of “slander” since that would require “a malicious, false,and defamatory spoken statement”.

    Comment by Theo - December 28, 2012 3:03 pm

  23. I’m fairly surprised it took so long for the “OMG sexist” argument to show up.

    Comment by TW - December 28, 2012 3:10 pm

  24. Apologies. I meant libel, of course, not slander.

    TW – if every single cited example happens to be “a woman got this award and a man deserved it” then I think it’s perfectly reasonable to highlight that fact and suggest that the person picking the examples should examine if they might have some unconscious (or, indeed, conscious) bias.

    Meanwhile, Theo, I await your proof.

    Comment by tchernabyelo - December 28, 2012 4:22 pm

  25. I’d like to make it clear that I have purposely NOT commented on any author or their novels. I have merely concurred with Theo that there are shenanigans going on re the Nebs voting process that I think are deplorable. There are cliques who stick together (as in most organizations), and some of them even go so far as to purposely avoid voting for certain types of SF they don’t like (i.e. the perceived Analog _stereotypical_ story, for but one example). But again, this happens in all organizations, whether book or film or whatever. Doesn’t make it right, but it’s not unique to SFWA.

    I personally got fed up with the cliques, in-fighting, nastiness, politics, and all the rest of it, which is why I resigned my Bulletin editorship in 2002 and let my membership lapse a year or so later.

    SFWA turns (too many)inherently pleasant people into snarky, mean animals after awhile and I found myself turning into one such and decided I’d had enough, that I didn’t like who I was turning into.

    There are a lot of terrific folks in SFWA too, wonderful people, but the bad outweighed the good for me. The only thing I really miss (aside from the nice folks I can still correspond with or see at cons) is the Directory. :)

    Comment by Dave T - December 28, 2012 8:51 pm

  26. I am not a member of SFWA and never have been.

    I think that disposes of your accusations of my logrolling for a Nebula.

    Jo Walton

    Comment by bluejo - December 29, 2012 11:55 am

  27. I never made any such accusation. Furthermore, your non-membership in SFWA says absolutely nothing about the possibility of others logrolling on your behalf, especially given that the nomination process was a closed one.

    The fact that your book was published by Tor Books is enough to make its Nebula Award suspicious on its face, given that the SFWA President and Vice-President are both closely associated with Tor.

    Dating back to its first Nebula nomination in 1986, Tor Books has accounted for 24.4% of all Nebula Best Novel nominations. No other publisher has even half that many.

    Now, it is certainly possible that Tor is simply an excellent publisher. However, given the unusually heavy involvement of its authors in the awards process, their representation in the organization’s offices and the confirmed logrolling in the recent past, logic suggests that Tor has simply been gaming the awards system for a long time.

    In 1990, for example, 5 of 6 Nebula-nominated novels were published by Tor. Only 2 of 5 Hugo-nominated novels and 1 of 5 World Fantasy Award-nominated novels were.

    Comment by Theo - December 29, 2012 12:30 pm

  28. I have served on Neb juries too. And the Election Committee. I used to be a member of SFWA.

    Trust me on this, I have never been as pressured and log-rolled for a nomination as I have been by male authors. Right down to almost in person physical arm twisting. Women hardly did anything at all, other than send their works to me. And everyone does it.

    These are among the many reasons I used to belong to SFWA. It was ALL ABOUT THE AWARD and who was allowed to be or not to be a member.

    You are being a total sexist here, buddy.

    Comment by C - Foxessa - December 29, 2012 2:22 pm

  29. Trust me on this, I have never been as pressured and log-rolled for a nomination as I have been by male authors. Right down to almost in person physical arm twisting. Women hardly did anything at all, other than send their works to me. And everyone does it.

    That may well be. I can’t speak to your experience. I can prove what I am saying, complete with documentary evidence.

    You are being a total sexist here, buddy.

    I suggest you wait until you see the evidence to make any such assertions.

    Comment by Theo - December 29, 2012 2:54 pm

  30. “Wait until you see the evidence…”

    Well, you’ve actually already provided the evidence. You mentioned three authors who didn’t deserve awards, all female. You mentioned five authors who deserved awards but didn’t get them, all male.

    If you put this in a 2×2 table (0, 5, 3, 0) and apply Fisher’s Exact Test, this yields a p-value of 0.0179, i.e. well below the 0.05 that is widely regarded as the basic scientific standard of evidence to reject the null hypothesis. In this case, the null hypothesis is “the sex of the author has no effect on your choice of whether an award is deserving.”

    Comment by chrislawson - December 29, 2012 8:16 pm

  31. Do you genuinely believe that Asaro, McIntyre, and Walton were all deserving winners of the Nebula Best Novel award in their year, Chris?

    And do you also believe that George R.R. Martin, Charles Stross, Neal Stephenson, and China Mieville have not, between them, written a single novel worthy of winning a Nebula Best Novel award?

    Comment by Theo - December 29, 2012 8:47 pm

  32. As an aside, the Amazon 5-star hand-off I found with just a cursory 5 minute look was by Jon Sprunk.

    Now, for all intents and purposes the reviewed book is in the same genre he writes in, and he may have genuinely liked it; but it’s pause-worthy that both he and the reviewed are under the same publishing house.

    This is also assuming that his books didn’t receive 4 or 5-stars in kind from the author/s he reviewed. I’d figure one is smart enough to have a separate Amazon account for purchases that is named differently than their author’s page.

    Comment by kh123 - December 29, 2012 9:23 pm

  33. Looking at the Amazon author’s page that Theo linked, I figure what Amazon ought to do is give authors a “My Book Reviews” page linked to from their author’s page.

    That would give authors a place to review other’s works, a place where readers who like a particular author could go to get ideas, and it would also maybe discourage any review-based logrolling since if an author’s reviews dissapoint their readers, it will reflect poorly on them. OTOH, if readers feel like the reviews are good and reliable, it should help out the author.

    Transparency – shine the light of day on things.

    Comment by JMHawkins - December 29, 2012 10:03 pm

  34. First of all I’d like to second JMHawkins idea. It allows authors to still share their opinions but adds some accountability. To use an example that Theo mentioned, if people saw all 14 of Miss Asaro’s 5 star reviews in one place it might give people a better idea of the quality of her critique.

    As to chrislawson, this is not a science experiment and so scientific standards of evidence are hardly appropriate, but even if they were you have it backwards. The “hypothesis” here, null or otherwise, is Foxessa’s wherein she accuses Theo of being sexist in this article. When someone makes an accusation it is their responsibility to prove it, it is not the accused to disprove it. And just because the authors that Theo is praising are male, and the ones he’s criticizing (which is not exactly, or at least not all, of what he’s doing as his primary target is the process itself)are female is not sufficient evidence to prove the point.

    That said there is something that bothered me about the article. In it he described Jo Walton’s book Among Others as banal. This gave me the impression he had read it. After reading the comments I see this isn’t so. Now after what I’ve said I’m certainly not going to accuse Theo of intentional dishonesty, but I will say at the very least it was sloppy writing.

    As to the rest of it, I am withholding judgement until Theo has presented more of his case.

    Comment by Rigel-K - December 30, 2012 12:50 am

  35. This piece, and many of the comments on it, are dense with non sequitur.

    Sometimes, some books who some people think should not win the Nebula, actually go on and win the Nebula. This is proof of nothing, really, except that people like to grouse about awards.

    And Theo’s assertions about Asaro add up to this not-terribly-severe crime: she did a really good job of self-promotion. Every author has to give some thought to that these days, and different people have different methods. Some people, for instance, drum up ridiculous controversies in the hope that people will pay attention to them and their work. Despicable, really, but whole careers have been founded on this kind of rage-baiting.

    Comment by James Enge - December 30, 2012 1:45 am

  36. Well, incest in some cultures is seen as a preferable arrangement, with wall-eyed no-neck children as the pinnacle of beauty.

    Comment by kh123 - December 30, 2012 3:37 am

  37. I haven’t all those books, so I’m not in a position to offer a personal opinion on their worthiness as winners/nominees. But I would point out that Jo Walton’s book has won the Hugo (which you yourself indicated was a reliable award), the British Fantasy Award, and is one of the current nominees for the World Fantasy Award. It is also true that Walton has never been an SFWA member so has never been in a position to do any log-rolling for the Nebula. So regardless of whether you liked AMONG OTHERS, your essay is a spiteful piece of character blackening based on the fact that your favourite writers, who all seem to be male, don’t win every award you’d like them to, whereas writers you don’t like, who all seem to be female, are undeserving winners.

    You’re not going to find me defending the early Nebula balloting process, which seems a lot like horse-trading to me, but your insistence that anyone who won an award for a book *you* didn’t like is undeserving makes you egotistical, and the fact that all of your poor under-awarded writers (almost all of whom have won multiple awards in other years) are male, and all of your manipulative, log-rolling, underserving winners are female (even when one of them turns out not to have ever been in a position to log-roll the Nebula), well that makes you sexist.

    I also find it the height of hypocrisy that you can demand readers wait for “evidence” before deciding that your article is sexist when you obviously did f-all research before publicly smearing a group of writers (all of whom happen to be female).

    Comment by chrislawson - December 30, 2012 3:38 am

  38. I’m wondering if there’s any possibility that those claiming sexism would admit that in fact sexism played a part in the award-granting situation if a recognizable trend (i.e., logrolling in favor of a certain brand of writers) were clearly shown.

    Comment by kh123 - December 30, 2012 4:55 am

  39. Some people, for instance, drum up ridiculous controversies in the hope that people will pay attention to them and their work. Despicable, really, but whole careers have been founded on this kind of rage-baiting.

    Perhaps, but how can this controversy be considered ridiculous if the organization had to change its rules due to the problem? And can you be certain that the problem hasn’t gotten worse now that the nomination process is hidden from public view?

    As for despicable behavior, James, you would certainly know all about that, wouldn’t you?

    Now seriously, do some of you folks still not realize that my own blog alone is much bigger in traffic terms than Black Gate? I don’t post things like this to attract attention. I don’t need to. I post things like this because what has been happening is wrong and because good writers, in some cases, BLACK GATE writers, have been and are being shafted.

    And just to be clear, I do NOT include myself in that group. This isn’t about sour grapes. It is about injustice being done and exposing the deceit that makes it possible.

    Comment by Theo - December 30, 2012 5:35 am

  40. That said there is something that bothered me about the article. In it he described Jo Walton’s book Among Others as banal. This gave me the impression he had read it. After reading the comments I see this isn’t so. Now after what I’ve said I’m certainly not going to accuse Theo of intentional dishonesty, but I will say at the very least it was sloppy writing.

    That’s a fair criticism. I said that on the basis of reading all the reviews. I withdraw the adjective and will edit the post accordingly.

    Comment by Theo - December 30, 2012 5:36 am

  41. your insistence that anyone who won an award for a book *you* didn’t like is undeserving makes you egotistical

    To be sure. Of course, since I’ve been a nationally syndicated reviewer and generally considered a very good one, a certain amount of self-confidence in my reviews is perhaps understandable.

    I also find it the height of hypocrisy that you can demand readers wait for “evidence” before deciding that your article is sexist when you obviously did f-all research before publicly smearing a group of writers (all of whom happen to be female).

    A suggestion is not a demand. If you want to risk getting caught out by the evidence and looking like a complete ass, be my guest.

    And I’ve read Asaro’s Best Novel winner. To put it mildly, it is not good. It is not even mediocre; it is an embarrassingly bad representative of the genre and in its particular case, the cover more than does it justice.

    I intend to read all of the winning works that the pattern suggests are questionable, then compare them to the works they beat out. If I am incorrect, I will admit it. If I am not, will you?

    Comment by Theo - December 30, 2012 5:44 am

  42. “I intend to read all of the winning works that the pattern suggests are questionable, then compare them to the works they beat out. If I am incorrect, I will admit it. If I am not, will you?”

    No, because the point isn’t that awards often generate winners that you (or anyone else) disagree with. That’s the nature of awards. Your accusation was that these books you didn’t like were only winners because of corruption. For that you need to actually prove corrupt practices, not just prove that you didn’t think the winner was a good book. After all, you’ve already completely fucked up by accusing Jo Walton of log-rolling when it is *impossible* for her to log-roll the Nebula and yet you haven’t even had the courtesy to retract the accusation and correct your post.

    Secondly, I don’t for a second trust your judgement on whether a book is a worthy winner. Your whining about AMONG OTHERS being an unworthy winner when it has won the Nebula, the Hugo, the British Fantasy Award, is on the nominee list for the World Fantasy Award, and was Amazon’s Best SF/Fantasy Novel of the year should alert you to the fact that you are a shit reviewer. Not because you don’t like the novel, but because you think your opinion as a reviewer is so pure that a book you don’t like can only win awards through corruption, even when the author was in no position to corrupt the process. And I especially don’t trust your judgement now that you have the tattered remains of your credibility on the line.

    Comment by chrislawson - December 30, 2012 9:04 am

  43. After all, you’ve already completely fucked up by accusing Jo Walton of log-rolling when it is *impossible* for her to log-roll the Nebula and yet you haven’t even had the courtesy to retract the accusation and correct your post.

    Really? And where is your evidence that I “completely fucked-up”? What, specifically, is the statement you believe requires retraction?

    I especially don’t trust your judgement now that you have the tattered remains of your credibility on the line.

    (laughs) Perhaps I am a “shit reviewer”. Perhaps I am wrong and Stephenson, Mieville, Stross, and Martin are all dreadful authors, unworthy to sharpen the pencils of brilliant SF/F wordsmiths such as Catharine Asaro and Jo Walton.

    Look, if the award was “most popular Tor Books author”, I wouldn’t care at all. But it’s Best Novel. And the Quantum Rose probably wasn’t even in the top 50 that year. This isn’t about “the nature of awards”. This is about the scent of SFWA corruption stinking so badly that they had to change the rules. Perhaps they fixed them. Perhaps they didn’t. There is some reason to believe they did not.

    You do know the SFWA changed its rules in 2010, right? Why do you think they felt the need to do that?

    Comment by Theo - December 30, 2012 11:25 am

  44. The Quantum Rose won the Nebula Award for best novel on April 27, 2002. Catherine Asaro was not an officer of SFWA at the time. She was VP of SFWA from July 1, 2002 to June 30, 2003 and President of SFWA from July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2005. Catherine was running for VP at the same time as the Nebula vote, so you could argue there was some correlation, but that’s a stretch.

    The Nebula rules change was instituted not because of the perception of corruption, but to change it from an award with multi-year rolling eligibility to an annual award coinciding with calendar year.

    Comment by Michael Capobianco - December 30, 2012 1:42 pm

  45. The Quantum Rose won the Nebula Award for best novel on April 27, 2002. Catherine Asaro was not an officer of SFWA at the time. She was VP of SFWA from July 1, 2002 to June 30, 2003 and President of SFWA from July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2005. Catherine was running for VP at the same time as the Nebula vote, so you could argue there was some correlation, but that’s a stretch.

    The point isn’t that she somehow utilized her office to win the award. You have the same historical Nebula recs that I do….

    The Nebula rules change was instituted not because of the perception of corruption, but to change it from an award with multi-year rolling eligibility to an annual award coinciding with calendar year.

    Is that so? Then why are the nominations no longer an open process, Mr. Capobianco? (NB: Mr. Capobianco is a former president of the SFWA.) Why are nominations now capped at five? And, if we are to take your explanation seriously, how on Earth were those two changes required in order to make the award coincide with the calendar year?

    Comment by Theo - December 30, 2012 1:52 pm

  46. Theo, the Board couldn’t resist tweaking the rules to lessen the possibility of log-rolling, which the membership does see as a problem, but that wasn’t the reason for re-writing the rules from scratch, which you were implying.

    Comment by Michael Capobianco - December 30, 2012 2:18 pm

  47. Michael, your explanation does not appear to be in accord with the current president’s 2007 platform, in which he wrote:

    The Nebulas are one of the two major awards in literary science fiction, but their luster has dimmed over the last several years; they are no longer the equal to the Hugos in terms of relevance and timeliness, and their nomination process leaves them open to accusations of nomination via logrolling rather than literary quality. As a result they are less useful to SFWA members in promoting their own Nebula-nominated work, and they are less useful to SFWA as a publicity-generating tool. I will suggest a number of steps to bring the Nebulas back to their position of pre-eminence in the science fiction world, including a return to calendar year nominations, making the nomination process anonymous to eliminate the appearance of quid-pro-quo nominating, and presenting the Nebulas at major SFF conventions — i.e., in front of fans, rather than away from fans at a private SFWA function.

    How do you explain the current President successfully anticipating this “tweaking the rules” that you are saying was not the reason for the rules change by three years?

    And seriously, do you genuinely not see any appearance of corruption in an awards process where authors published by Tor account for nearly a quarter of all nominations since 1986? Especially in light of how many of those award-winning books neither seem to sell particularly well nor be especially well-regarded by Amazon reviewers.

    Comment by Theo - December 30, 2012 2:28 pm

  48. Mr Enge hit the nail on the head. The traffic on your own blog may indeed be higher than this site, but the world net daily crowd is more concerned with proving that people and dinosaurs coexisted, or North Korea’s ability to destroy Murica with killer satellites, than your trolling some authors they never heard of.
    Any bets part two reveal John Scalzi at the heart of all this? Anyone?

    Comment by Calven - December 30, 2012 2:31 pm

  49. Theo, you made the accusation that women are corrupting the Neb and dragging it down.

    On Black Gate and on your blog present frequent preposterous statements and declarations about gender, about books and about genres. From the perspective of someone who has a trained and experienced critical acumene, you don’t know what good writing is — you are the one, after all, right here on Black Gate, that praised as brilliant writing a passage from a male writer’s fantasy that included the sound of lowering a drawbridge as a soft click — something equally unlikely (I am not about to indulge your childish tantrum throwing self in going back and looking.)

    Again, it is to laugh, that the same people who release and praise sexist and other phobic drivel also believe women are so powerful they have corrupted the holy body of SF/F and its organizations.

    If the Neb nom process is corrupt, that is one thing, but then to state the corruption is caused by women who write sf/f — while lying about even what you have read and not read — that is something else. And what that is, is sexist. It’s yours, all yours, you did it. Own it, buddy.

    Comment by C - Foxessa - December 30, 2012 2:32 pm

  50. I further note that Tor or Tor/St. Martin’s has won every single Locus Book Publisher Award since 1988….

    Comment by Theo - December 30, 2012 2:36 pm

  51. By the way, since Tor publications seem to be particularly up your nose, has it never occured to you that Tor publishes a very long list of authors every year? That Tor has its own heavily traffiked website in which anyone can participate, and which also promotes its authors and titles (compare the interactive activity on Tor.com, which doesn’t only do its own titles and authors and promotion thereof, but is open to much else beside, and the visitor activity on sites like Orbit and Pyr, for instance. DAWs is merely a part of Penguin.)?

    As well, Tor’s authors and other publishing figures attend almost all conventions of every kind.

    And the senior editor, with his wife, maintains a very popular website of their own, Making Light, and have for mumblety years. Authors show up there too — and not only Tor authors.

    One after another your raise these stupid arguments that upon even a slight examination are — well, yes, stupid.

    Yeah, critical acumen all right — you ain’t got. You can’t even do your research.

    Now, watch the froth!

    Comment by C - Foxessa - December 30, 2012 2:39 pm

  52. Theo, you made the accusation that women are corrupting the Neb and dragging it down.

    Correction: have corrupted the Nebula. I’ve got no shortage of rec lists proving it. The same women were always recommending the same authors every chance they got.

    From the perspective of someone who has a trained and experienced critical acumene, you don’t know what good writing is

    Which of these four authors I have praised do you believe is not a very good SF/F writer: Neal Stephenson, Charles Stross, George R.R. Martin (pre-Feast, anyhow), or China Mieville? What author have I incorrectly identified as a good writer in the past? Tanith Lee? Theresa Edgerton? Lois McMaster Bujold? Pat Wrede?

    Again, it is to laugh, that the same people who release and praise sexist and other phobic drivel also believe women are so powerful they have corrupted the holy body of SF/F and its organizations.

    Math is hard, isn’t it, Foxy. 10 nominations is all it took until 2010. Now, who knows?

    while lying about even what you have read and not read — that is something else. And what that is, is sexist. It’s yours, all yours, you did it. Own it, buddy.

    You’re lying now, Foxy. I have never, ever lied about what I read. I did conclude, perhaps improperly, that Walton’s work was banal on the basis of the Amazon reviews. I will be sure to write a full review of it after I read it, and to compare it to Mieville’s Embassytown as well.

    Comment by Theo - December 30, 2012 2:42 pm

  53. Theo,

    If nearly 25% of all Nebs recs since 1986 were from Tor, then this means that just over 75% of the Nebs recs since 1986 were not from Tor. Now, take into account that Tor is the largest SF book publisher in the United States and it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that a fair number of their books might just earn a Neb rec.

    I bought a red car some years ago. A friend was quick to point out that statistics showed that more red cars get into accidents than any other color. To which I replied, “Maybe there are just more red cars on the road.” To wit, maybe there’s just more Tor books to nominate from, and they must be doing something right re quality and sales for them to be the leading SF book publisher in the country (if not the world).

    Just a thought.

    Comment by Dave T - December 30, 2012 2:46 pm

  54. One after another your raise these stupid arguments that upon even a slight examination are — well, yes, stupid.

    Do you think you are somehow making a contrary case? Foxy, darling, you are underlining mine!

    Do you seriously think Tor’s various and often admirable efforts on behalf of its authors made logrolling on the part or on behalf of its authors LESS likely?

    Look, everyone knows it happened. Many of us know who was involved. Pretending that it was all innocent or that it never happened isn’t possible.

    Comment by Theo - December 30, 2012 2:50 pm

  55. If nearly 25% of all Nebs recs since 1986 were from Tor, then this means that just over 75% of the Nebs recs since 1986 were not from Tor. Now, take into account that Tor is the largest SF book publisher in the United States and it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that a fair number of their books might just earn a Neb rec.

    Yes, and perhaps if anyone cares enough to defend Tor’s reputation, they can compare percent of the total SF/F market in numbers of books published and total sales to percent of the awards. Or, they can simply look at who all the confirmed logrollers are published by….

    Comment by Theo - December 30, 2012 2:58 pm

  56. they must be doing something right re quality and sales for them to be the leading SF book publisher in the country (if not the world).

    I imagine Goldman Sachs would be interested in this line of defense against corruption… how can we be cheating when we’re so successful?

    Comment by Theo - December 30, 2012 3:00 pm

  57. OK, let me get this straight… *Theo* is complaining about like-minded people promoting each other and themselves ahead of people of more merit?

    So the two Black Gate posts in the last week alone promoting Vox Day’s A Magic Broken ebook are completely coincidental? We are supposed to believe the like-minded posters showing up here to support Theo while hurling insults about alleged left-wing bias in SF have nothing to do with the extreme right-wing WorldNetDaily site he contributed to? And it’s just a lucky accident that Theodore Beale has a Wikipedia article of considerable length and detail while much more established authors in the field have shorter articles or sometimes none at all?

    Comment by zoinkin - December 30, 2012 3:02 pm

  58. John Scalzi, he current President, whom you quote, had nothing to do with the Nebula rules change, which took place when Russell Davis was President. Scalzi, you will note, lost in 2007 and didn’t become President until 2010. The main criticism of the Nebulas over the last twenty years was that rolling eligibility created a system in which older works from previous years could win a Nebula, which made them less relevant. That was the impetus for the rules change.

    For many years, a work that was sent to all voting members by a publisher had an edge, and that might account for some of Tor’s advantage, assuming your figure is correct.

    I would suggest that if you’re going to run for SFWA President, which it appears you are, you focus on more important aspects of SFWA than the Nebula Awards, which are a very small part of its reason for existence.

    Comment by Michael Capobianco - December 30, 2012 3:03 pm

  59. Theo wrote: “I imagine Goldman Sachs would be interested in this line of defense against corruption… how can we be cheating when we’re so successful?”

    Except that Tor isn’t cheating, Theo. Your argument is that Active SFWA members eligible to vote for the Nebs are, by log-rolling and collusion.

    Because Tor has an active and successful marketing and networking strategy doesn’t make them evil, just successful at what they do. Other SF book publishers can operate the same way if they deem it is in their interest.

    Comment by Dave T - December 30, 2012 3:12 pm

  60. I would suggest that if you’re going to run for SFWA President, which it appears you are, you focus on more important aspects of SFWA than the Nebula Awards, which are a very small part of its reason for existence.

    Never fear. The Nebulas are the least of it. This was simply a little throwaway post concerning something I happened to observe a while back.

    Comment by Theo - December 30, 2012 3:14 pm

  61. > As for despicable behavior, James, you would certainly know all about that, wouldn’t you?

    Theo,

    I’ve stayed out of this debate because, as BG’s publisher, I carry a heavy stick even when I don’t wish to. I thought you had an interesting point to make in your original post, and have tried to be tolerant of the language in the comments, even as it has gotten nastier.

    But the above comment crossed a line. I’m very close to asking Michael Penkas, our website editor, to shut down this conversation and have the post deleted.

    Please don’t allow your comments to reach that level of personal attack again.

    Comment by John ONeill - December 30, 2012 3:15 pm

  62. Because Tor has an active and successful marketing and networking strategy doesn’t make them evil, just successful at what they do. Other SF book publishers can operate the same way if they deem it is in their interest.

    True. The real question is, is it good for SF/F and the SFWA to be a little Tor pond, run by Tor authors for the benefit of themselves, and by extension, Tor Books?

    Perhaps it is. But I don’t think that is a foregone conclusion.

    Comment by Theo - December 30, 2012 3:22 pm

  63. Please don’t allow your comments to reach that level of personal attack again.

    As you say. In fact, I think I’ve said more than enough here and will cease commenting on this post.

    Comment by Theo - December 30, 2012 3:28 pm

  64. Please refrain from employing profanity or personal attacks on this comment board. Neither is necessary in this discussion.

    Just a friendly reminder from the website editor.

    Comment by MichaelPenkas - December 30, 2012 3:34 pm

  65. “We are supposed to believe the like-minded posters showing up here to support Theo while hurling insults about alleged left-wing bias in SF have nothing to do with the extreme right-wing WorldNetDaily site he contributed to?”

    As someone else stated above, WND readers are more concerned about what evil, evil Obama will do, and how the ever holy Republicans can regain a House majority, rather than anything to do with nerd literature. Even most of Vox’s blog regulars look down on the whole of WND as fairly neo-con content if I remember correctly.

    “And it’s just a lucky accident that Theodore Beale has a Wikipedia article of considerable length and detail while much more established authors in the field have shorter articles or sometimes none at all?”

    Since Wikipodium’s never been a place for one’s detractors to write a skewed or caricature-by-omission biography. I’d think you’d have a stronger case if you’d stated that most of his Wiki page has been written or edited by the Scalzi or Pharyngula crowd at one point or another since its inception.

    In fact, looking at it now, there’s a grand total of two or three dispersed sentences on the Wiki page that even mention his fiction background or his books.

    Comment by kh123 - December 30, 2012 5:01 pm

  66. Yes, kh123, Theo certainly has been more successful at self-promoting his non-fiction endeavors than his fiction.

    Not that being a WorldNetDaily writer is any great prize, but how selective do you think they were in picking who wrote for them when his father was a major shareholder and a member of the board? It’s also probably not a coincidence that some video games he worked on were primarily distributed as bundles with hardware purchases when his father’s investments were also in that area. (It’s much easier to have higher distribution numbers when the software comes free with some other product that people actually *want* to spend money on.)

    Would the people who didn’t get to be WorldNetDaily writers (assuming any were turned down) be justified in complaining about nepotism? Seems to me that’s worse than just the networking he was complaining about.

    Of course Theo’s hypocrisy doesn’t excuse any favoritism in the selection of Nebula award winners. Certainly it’s likely there has been some there, just as there is with most awards to varying degrees. But the proof Theo provides for it is laughably nonexistent, and it has only limited relevance to the situation on Amazon.

    Comment by zoinkin - December 30, 2012 6:32 pm

  67. “It’s much easier to have higher distribution numbers when the software comes free with some other product that people actually *want* to spend money on.”

    You’d have a case if the unspecified games or developments you mentioned won “Best Of” in competitions touted as being impartially selective and a true measure of the game/item’s worth; an even better case if you can show those professionally close to him chaired such.

    But if you can provide sales figures for the stand-alone vs bundle, or Vox stating that any of these bundles was “Best Selling Game/Technology of the Year”, as well as whatever potential WND columnists were denied because of his being chosen based on his lineage, I’m all ears. You can even wait to do it in an upcoming Part II installment if you’d like – truth doesn’t have an expiration date – and I won’t even call you a hypocrite or liar in the meanwhile.

    As is, what you’re describing in the game bundle scenario is called – wait for it – business. It’s aim is to recoup costs and make a profit, to push product, to create incentive for customers to buy, unashamedly or otherwise. Business and the market are, by their very nature, unfair (especially to competition), based on their concern for the bottom line.

    Now, if that’s what the Nebula Awards are all about, then at least it should be stated upfront; that way, there wouldn’t be any issues with creative votes being swayed by commercial concerns, whether it’s intraprofessional quid-pro-quo or (the more likely) publisher purse strings influencing the voter decision to pedestal-place a Warhol as a Rembrandt. Who knows, we may even get a Tor or Pyr bundle book one year – two stories in one binding! – with two authors winning the Nebula for their outstanding efforts in making a ground breaking back-to-back selkie/space tryst classic.

    You seem to agree to some extent that some of the above is the case with the Amazon situation; we’ll just have to refrain from any Pavlovian outbursts of “sexiss” and wait to see if the evidence will bare this out with the SFWA as well.

    Comment by kh123 - December 30, 2012 7:21 pm

  68. Is it just barely possible that the reason a big, successful SF publishing company gets 25% of the awards in the genre is that it publishes 25% of the award-worthy books in the genre?

    And even, perhaps, chooses to select only the better manuscripts to publish? And invests some of its income into editing those texts toward better condition for reading before printing them?

    No, no, what am I thinking, that would be a *business* model!

    Comment by Pyre - January 2, 2013 6:24 am

  69. Looking back at the February issue of LOCUS, and limiting our search to just hardcovers, as the bulk of original fiction submitted to award systems used to come from that format: out of some 202 novels published, 68 of them were by Tor (34%). No other publisher comes even close. However, when you throw in the trade paperback category, Tor only represents 8% from that format category. Taken together, it amounts to 85 titles out of 418 or 20%. So this is suggestive that Tor produces a lot of output compared to other publishers, which is a good thing, and that if we pair it up with the awards results, that a lot of its books are award-worthy. To test this, if we take a look at the World Fantasy Awards, as an example, from 1998-2012, Tor got 15 nominations from a total of 84 nominations, or 18%. 2 won. For the Nebs, Tor got 16 for the same time period, out of 80. (20%.) 2 won. For the Hugo Award, which is more of a popularity-driven system, it’s some 20 out of 77, or 26%. 5 won.

    There’s no real surprises here. Tor gets the nominations and the wins because it produces the highest amount of award-worthy material, moreso than most publishers. I’m not too sure what other conclusion anyone would derive from this.

    Comment by Sean Wallace - January 2, 2013 8:59 am

  70. Theo also conveniently ignores several factors, in his calculations, from 1986 to 2012. The publishing industry is in constant flux. A lot of publishers come and go. So, looking at this historically, it’s a little harder to even compare nominations and wins, as a lot of its competitors have vanished, either by folding or mergers. The closest example might be Bantam Spectra, with 18 nominations out of 154, or 12%. Which is awesome considering its much smaller output, compared to Tor. The other closest example might be Ace Books, with 10%.

    Comment by Sean Wallace - January 2, 2013 9:18 am

  71. [...] there is an odd blog post on Black Gate entitled “SFF Corruption” in which a blogger is accusing Jo Walton and a few other [...]

    Pingback by Sale announcement, and a short note on “Among Others” | RoseLemberg.net - January 2, 2013 11:29 am

  72. “The Quantum Rose won the Nebula Award for best novel on April 27, 2002. Catherine Asaro was not an officer of SFWA at the time. She was VP of SFWA from July 1, 2002 to June 30, 2003 and President of SFWA from July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2005.”

    Theo’s accusation (that Asaro used her SFWA Presidency to win the Nebula) remains plausible if you allow for time travel.

    One impossible assumption’s allowed in science fiction, isn’t it?

    Comment by Pyre - January 2, 2013 3:31 pm

  73. Heh. Just dropping back in here because somebody pointed out the funniest bit of the whole comment thread.

    “There are cliques who stick together (as in most organizations), and some of them even go so far as to purposely avoid voting for certain types of SF they don’t like (i.e. the perceived Analog _stereotypical_ story, for but one example). ”

    Oh.
    My.
    God.

    People are ACTIVELY NOT VOTING FOR THINGS THEY DISLIKE! HOLD THE FRONT PAGE! HOW DEEP DOES THIS CORRUPTION GO?!?!

    I myself will henceforth, in order to be scrupulously fair, only ever vote for things I don’t like, so I can’t be accused of corruption.

    Comment by tchernabyelo - January 2, 2013 3:34 pm

  74. So, of these shocking accusations:Catherine Asano, “the most egregious example… was the SFWA President at the time” — no, she wasn’t until over a year later; and wasn’t even VP until over two months after getting a Nebula.The next example of “logrolling” listed was Jo Walton, who has never been a member of SFWA, thus could not have engaged in the insider-(vote)-trading alleged.Walton’s book was presumably unworthy of the honor because “banal” in Theo’s opinion; but surprise! Theo had never read that book — so on what basis did he judge it unworthy, given that it also won the Hugo? And how many other works has he reviewed without reading them first?Tor Books’ 25% Nebula-winning rate, far from being shady or symptomatic of corruption, is roughly proportional to its market share of quality SF, as Sean Wallace showed with his survey of sundry award nomination stats.
    The accusations at this moment appear to be shreds clinging to the tacks on the bulletin board.

    Comment by Pyre - January 3, 2013 3:48 am

  75. Well, now I know that the unordered-list [ul] feature doesn’t work here….

    Comment by Pyre - January 3, 2013 3:56 am

  76. So, of these shocking accusations:Catherine Asano, “the most egregious example… was the SFWA President at the time” — no, she wasn’t until over a year later; and wasn’t even VP until over two months after getting a Nebula.

    Actually, Mr. Capobianco was just spinning the facts again. From The SF Site:

    SFWA Elections

    The results of the SFWA officer elections were announced on April 27 at the SFWA Business Meeting in Kansas City, MO. Sharon Lee defeated incumbent Norman Spinrad for the Presidency. Two other authors received write-in votes. Catherine Asaro defeated Lee Martindale for the Vice-Presidency, again with two other (different) authors receiving write-in votes. Chuck Rothman (treasurer) and ElizaBeth Gilligan (Secretary) both ran unopposed. Because of the closeness of the race for Eastern Regional Director, the election committee has decided re-balloting will take place in that race.

    Nebula Awards

    Only hours after being named Vice President of SFWA, Catherine Asaro was honored with a Nebula for her novel The Quantum Rose (Tor).

    The point isn’t that Asaro somehow abused her position. I have never said that, nor do I have any idea how she could even have done so. The point is that the award in 2002 was a simple popularity contest which led to a mediocre and undeserving novel winning the award for Best Novel.

    Comment by Theo - January 17, 2013 11:38 am

  77. A question for all of you who have commented here. How many of you genuinely believe that The Quantum Rose was the best SF/F novel published in its year of eligibility?

    Come on, now, don’t be shy….

    Comment by Theo - January 17, 2013 11:40 am

  78. [...] SFF Corruption Part I [...]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in December - January 30, 2013 2:04 pm


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