In Which Our Heroine Ponders Rankings

19 July 2004

I did not wake up to an alarm this morning, and the alarm did not fail to go off. Something in Mark's brain triggered that he should sit bolt upright two minutes before the alarm. So he did, and we were both awake, and we got up at 4:48.

I'm grateful for this, mind you. I would gladly trade those two minutes for the comfort of not having to wake up to an alarm. I hate the feeling of being jolted out of sleep by something beeping. I think this is a big part of why I started getting up early when we lived in Concord: I had the alarm set for the amount of time I needed to breakfast and shower and dress and drive up to Davis. But if I got up earlier than that, I had time to work on the book and didn't have to start my day with that hideous NEENEENEENEE.

So after breakfast I went back to bed and actually got back to sleep. Four separate times, I dreamed I had awakened and was doing something or another. But at least I got more sleep.

I did more Hugo-related reading yesterday...sigh. I would rather see SF devoid of religious characters than have it get them so wrong so often. And Robert Sawyer's Hominids felt it had to go on about religion to a significant extent, even portraying the inner thoughts of religious characters, without really "getting it" at all, or even observing religious people's behaviors very keenly. Like this:

"Still, maybe she was thinking now more like an atheist than a true believer [in that she was concerned with wrongful convictions in the court system]. A believer should hold that Milgaard, Morin, and Marshall [all falsely convicted] were eventually going to receive their just, heavenly reward, making up for whatever they'd endured here on earth." Let's go with no, shall we? A true believer in what? I'm around Christians rather a lot, but I've never run into one who justified suffering because God would pay you back later. Bringing food to the hungry, comfort to the sick and grieving, and oh yes, freedom to the oppressed: that's what we're supposed to do. Sure, there are plenty of Christians who don't do all that, but social justice is far, far from absent in Christian thought. There are definitely holes in social justice that are influenced by misapplications of Christ's teaching, but I really don't see this one much.

Also, apparently 1930s German Christians believed Jews would go to heaven. And apparently you need a religion to believe something is wrong or embarrassing without seeing evidence that it hurts someone. And also the Big Bang theory would be replaced by something based on the Northern Lights if only we weren't hung up on God.


I'm hoping Humans, the one actually up for the 2003 Hugo, is better than Hominids. Hominids wasn't bad enough that I won't read Humans. But it was pretty stupid in spots. It also seemed to me that Sawyer was hoping that he would have changed enough features of the alternate culture that it would be hard to pick one out as improbable in context, illogical, etc.

I'm not sure how to rank books if one is bland throughout and another has higher and much lower spots. Some people think there's an easy answer: that more highs, more attempted highs, or fewer lows automatically win out. I don't believe that. (This is why I generally don't believe in total orderings. Among other reasons.)

Looking through the list of books we own from 2003, I guess I don't feel that the Hugo list is an accurate representation of how good books could be in that year. There are some I haven't read yet, some that are clearly unsuitable due to being nonfiction or some such, but otherwise -- there's some good stuff out there. I probably would have ranked Paladin of Souls and Singularity Sky highly, and we'll see how Ilium and Humans do for me, but the Brust/Paarfi books were better, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was better, Wizard's Holiday and Grass for His Pillow were better, Monstrous Regiment, Messiah Node, The Poison Master, all were better than Blind Lake. And that's just from what I've got in my own collection so far.

I wonder how much of this is an anti-fantasy skew. I've heard people claiming that the Hugo should go to science fiction only, that the World Fantasy Award is for fantasy. But the WFA is not determined in the same way at all, and right on the con website it says, "The Hugo Awards are awards for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy." I don't know how much clearer than that it can get. But I'm not sure how else to explain the presence of mediocre SF on the ballot in a year when there's good fantasy out there. Maybe it's a sum of things: an anti-series bias (but both Paladin of Souls and Humans are #2 in their series), an anti-YA bias (but if Harry Potter can win...), poor timing for some specific books, whatever it might be.

I read too much spec fic to look at a lackluster award nomination list and groan about the decline of the genre. I like books that are getting published. People whose writing I like are getting first-book contracts here and there; people whose books I have liked in the past are getting reprinted and getting contracts for new books. The genre is not dying. It's not growing feeble. It's just maybe not the best nominee list we could have.

And I haven't gotten far in Ilium yet at all, because we went up to Rachel and Ben's for dinner and had lovely steaks and corn and saw a rabbit give birth in the middle of their lawn. True story, and one that leaves rather less reading time. And I haven't started Humans at all, and it may be better than Hominids. So I may like them better than I anticipate and better than the books listed above. That's what I'm reading them to find out. Right then. Open mind reactivated.

A week from today is my birthday. Just in case you were, y'know, sitting around wondering.

Back to Novel Gazing.

And the main page.

Or the last entry.

Or the next one.

Or even send me email.