Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Adam Roberts Hates Your Hugo Vote

In case you didn't know, Adam Roberts has better taste than you do.

So stop fooling your silly little head with the idea that you know what you like to read, and what's of interest to you. Just do what he says in future, and he won't have to whine at you a second time. Read the books he tells you to, and then vote for them when award time comes. You clearly aren't competent to judge what you enjoy and want to honor.

After all, Roberts teaches at a university, and that makes him unimpeachable. Remember: the thing to do is to listen to experts on literary matters, and avoid things that they consider mediocre or sub-literary. That's how SF got to where it is today, isn't it?


Anonymous said...

I didn't notice him say "I am an expert" or "I am a professor and know better." In fact, he says "I am a fan."

Knock him for what he says, not where he works. You don't have to be a professor to be a snob.

S.M.D. said...

Anonymous: Clearly you missed the sarcastic tone here :P.

Quite funny, by the way, Mr. Wheeler.

Paul D said...

S.M.D., maybe I'm completely missing the sarcasm, because I certainly didn't take it that Andrew was sarcastically saying that Roberts was right - I took it that he was making fun of Roberts' credentials. Which would be unfortunate, as at no point did Roberts claim to be anything other than a fan.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Paul D.: I'm sarcastically saying that Roberts is a misguided twit who thinks his opinions are automatically superior to those of others.

Said attitude is very common in literature professors, even if he did not specifically whip out his credentials and slap them on the table in that particular essay.

Ray said...

Whether or not he's a professor, he's right about the current Hugo novel shortlist.
A lot of fan favourite authors, a lot of poor novels.

Anton Gully said...

I must admit, I agreed with him too, even if his tone was a little condescending. But it's his opinion, and his voice. He addressed "fans", the way other writer's address nations. I wouldn't read too much into it. He's getting hammered for having an opinion that some prominent authors and bloggers disagreed with. I saw the first of these on Whatever, and I like Scalzi but it doesn't mean I have to agree with everything he says.

Paul D said...

I'm sarcastically saying that Roberts is a misguided twit who thinks his opinions are automatically superior to those of others.

That's what I thought you were saying, and I think that's too bad, as I really didn't get that he thought his opinions were superior, just that he disagreed with the Hugo list.

RobB said...

I got the sense that Roberts was telling the folks who helped to put the books on the Hugo short list, you know READERS and by extension, potential readers of his books, that they taste in books was poor and misguided.

As for his credentials, in SF circles, they are fairly widely known.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Anton: A "little condescending"? The same way that King Kong was a little monkey or the Pacific Ocean a trifling pond? I'd hate to see what you call a lot of condescending.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Paul D.: Of course Roberts thinks his opinions are superior; he wouldn't bother to browbeat fandom assembled for several hundred interminable words about their horrible taste in books if he didn't.

Even more so, everyone prefers their own opinions; that's the whole point of opinions.

The problem with that Roberts essay is not that he said some of the novels aren't very good -- people say that every year, and I've said similar things about several of the nominees myself. The problem is that he's declaring that he knows what should win -- and, even more so, what the very different and varied nominators all should like and honor. In doing that, he's a massive jerk.

You can say that book X sucks, and then we argue about it. But if you say that someone is wrong for liking book X, it's much more personal and much less forgivable. Roberts decided to lecture fandom as if it were one of his introductory classes of easily-led nineteen-year-olds, but we don't have to listen to him to get credit. And we are also thus very likely to tell him to fuck off, as we have done.

Paul D said...

I guess I just don't see him as being as condescending as a lot of others, and don't feel the need to react so strongly (I actually went out and bought a Roberts book today)

Peter Hollo said...

Is it just that Adam Roberts is English, or is there another reason that so many people are getting in so much of a stink over a pretty accurate and not particularly over-the-top essay of his?

I really don't understand your reaction here. I thought you were better than that. Clearly I'm not the only one :)

Andrew Wheeler said...

Peter Hollo: I don't think I can say it any clearer than I already have -- Roberts wasn't complaining about the nominees, he was complaining about the nominators.

He assumed that there are preexisting, universally accepted standards of excellence in fiction, and that those standards were absolutely identical to his own. With that as his basis, he gratutitously insulted several hundred people for not agreeing with him.

His argument isn't bad, but it proceeds from completely invalid premises -- Hugo voters, as a class, do not agree with his standards in the first place, and so he's primarily trying to convince them that they have bad taste, top to bottom, in the kind of books they enjoy. And that is precisely identical to all of those old "why do you read that rayguns and rockets crap" arguments.

Anonymous said...

I've been staying out of this, but enough already.

First and foremost, the twit couldn't even bother to vote for the Hugos, so he has absolutely NO legs to stand on. If you have a strong opinion, back it up by actually bothering to vote. If you're too lazy or incompetent to vote, then you've forfeited your right to complain. (If you have a computer, internet connection, and $40 or so for a supporting/voting membership, you can vote for the Hugos. Some folks may have a hard time coming up with the money, etc, but one would assume a prof with a blog and a number of published books had the means and opportunity. Therefore, I don't really care what he thinks about the ballot. If it mattered to him, he should've voted.)

Don't get me wrong: everyone is entitled to their opinion; that's the entire point of a popular vote v juried award. And that's why the only sf/f award that ever mattered in terms of sales was the Hugo. But Roberts didn't bother to vote. So he should stop whining about how he should be more successful than all those hacks on the ballot, and his novels should be the ones that are named Hugo Award finalists (oops, you mean he didn't outright say that? I could've sworn that's what he said, almost verbatim. Then again, maybe I'm just an old cynic who's listened to this kind of whine from unsuccessful writers for too many years...)

And to be quite clear: this is a tired, old argument that has surfaced fairly regularly for decades. It's simply the nature of popular vote v. juried award. Get over it. And VOTE, if you're going to complain. (The best version of this whine, IMSHO, came from Jonathan Lethem, in the Village Voice, back in the late 90s, I believe. And reprinted in the New York Review of Science Fiction. What, you've never heard of the NYROSF. Boy, you surely must be well-read, well-informed folks...)

And that's the kicker for me. If he were just a prof commenting from the ivory tower, I would've chalked it up to reading preferences, education, and approach to reading/appreciating fiction. But that he's a writer of mixed success makes it reek of sour grapes. To me. In my opinion. Disagree if you like. But do vote for the Hugo.

Now pardon me while I wipe the froth from my mouth and go back to more useful things to do with my time.


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