Tag Archives: books

You have to read this (2012) book

3 Feb

With that description, about two dozen con members, including Beth Mitcham, Manny Frischberg, and I as panelists, shared recommendations and Hugo-related thinking at the Foolscap 2013/Potlatch 22 combined convention in Redmond, WA on February 2.

I promised notes, and here they are. The list of recommendations is first, and then notes about what would disqualify an otherwise-eligible book from consideration, and what we’re suckers for.


Mentioned, but not recommended for a Hugo by those in the room:

What makes a book not Hugo-worthy?

  • Part of a series, and can’t stand separately from that series. Agreed that it’s probably unfair.
  • Not as good as the author’s previous works (whole room agrees that it’s totally unfair, and yet true. It’s just not about the rest of the nominees or the rest of the books.)
  • Unmotivated transformation of a character–when they suddenly start making decisions and acting differently than they have the whole story so far, and there’s no reason for the change
  • Breaking the story’s own internal rules
  • Pinheaded politics (like when the author sets up a strawman for ideas they don’t like, but doesn’t do those disliked ideas justice.)
  • Author intrusiveness (unless it’s done very well.)
  • Broken economics (like when there is no source of fabric, food, or water… and yet folks survive for generations.)
  • Lectures about the author’s point of view.
  • Women lacking agency
  • Deus ex machina
  • Predictable stories

What are we suckers for (what do we love to see) in a novel?

  • Steampunk elements
  • Characterization and dialogue
  • Science fiction ideas (Stephen Gould and John Scalzi were brought up as examples of authors who do this well)
  • Humor
  • Coming of age
  • Not formulaic
  • Aliens who aren’t humans in alien suits
  • Real social/interpersonal/societal conflicts
  • Agency
  • “Off-mythology”–mythologies we don’t hear enough about (like Norse, for example, and unlike Greco-roman.)
  • Networks of characters
  • Moral ambiguity–characters making tough choices
  • Technology as it affects people
  • Books from which we learn something–especially when what we learn is plausible or “real.”

Note that I didn’t capture who recommended what, and might have missed a thing or two–feel free to comment, add, disagree without trolling, etc. Thanks for participating in the discussion.