Dear Puppies: Please talk about what you love

Hey, Puppies,

Can we talk?

I’ve been watching this Hugo thing unfold with an ever-growing sense of disquiet. A lot of people are angry right now, and the anger isn’t helping anyone. In fact, it’s hurting people all over fandom, no matter where they stand on the Hugos.

Sometimes anger is productive, but I haven’t seen anything remotely productive out of this yet, so maybe it’s time to start talking about books.

“Oh, so we’re supposed to make nice and sweep it all under the rug?”

No. Talking about books doesn’t sweep anything under the rug. What it does is build common ground, and common ground is that place where productive conversations can eventually happen. Anger and more anger just makes everyone defensive. Doors slam, walls go up and people become more insular, not less.

“Why us, Kary? Why do we have to go first?”  Because there’s a lot of our stuff on the ballot.

If you love it so much that you nominated it, it’s time to tell the world about it. Which is your favorite, Dark Between the Stars or Skin Game, or was it something else entirely? Write a post on why your pick is so awesome. Put it on your blog, your Tumblr, your Facebook, etc. Heck, put it here as a comment.

Then do the same for your second favorite or something in one of the other categories. If we all do that, the internet will be brimming with book recommendations instead of outrage, which, frankly, would make it a much nicer place to be than it is now.

“But they started it!” At some point, it doesn’t matter who started it.

You know what started it? Books started it. Stories we love, by authors we love. Middle Earth. Ringworld. Westeros. Gotham City. That’s what started it. Mary Shelley. H.G. Wells. Jules Verne. They started it, too.

So let’s take a page from the Dread Pirate Roberts. Let’s put down our swords and rocks and talk about books like the genre intended.


144 thoughts on “Dear Puppies: Please talk about what you love

  1. Thank you for this wonderful post! I’m not a Puppy. I guess I’m kind of a Hugo insider having voted a few times and attended one WSFS business meeting to advocate changes to the Hugos back in 2006. A love of books is indeed what it is all about.

  2. Things I love I haven’t seen mentioned yet:

    Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series. There’s a talking Irish Wolfhound. And werewolves and vampires.

    Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty books. They just keep getting better and better.

    Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate. Steampunk werewolves and vampires, aw yes please, give me more of that.

    Anything by Rob Thurman. The woman is brilliant.

    Anything by Dan Wells. Just. How does he do that.

    Steve Diamond’s “Residue.” It’s a bit YA for my normal taste, but I love his kickass female protag and his earnest male protag.

    FWIW, I’m keeping the “stack of things I’ve read that were published this year” in their own pile, so I can go through it and nominate things next year. This way I won’t be scrambling.

    Also, I swear I posted this last night, but it must have gotten eaten by gremlins. Never feed them after midnight!

    1. Hi, Julie,

      The spam filter ate you – no clue why. I dug you out, dusted you off and here you are. 🙂



    2. Please tell me you’re aware of Gail’s two spinoff series – the Finishing School YA books (which set the stage for Alexia’s series) and the Custard Protocols (starring Alexia’s daughter, Prudence)…

      Carrie Vaughn’s superhero books – two so far – are good, too, and if you like the idea of mixing supers and romance, Jennifer Estep’s just self-published the fifth of her Bigtime series. (Okay, sixth work, book five – there’s a short story in the middle.) Her other work’s also excellent; she’s probably best known for her Elemental Assassin urban fantasy books, but there’s also the Mythos Academy YA series. She’s either just published or is about to publish the first of a new series, and I can hardly wait to lay hands on it. (So far behind!)

      Speaking of urban fantasy and romance, Dakota Cassidy’s apparently switched from tradpub to self-pub with book ten of her Accidentals series, which started with The Accidental Werewolf. It’s even funnier than it sounds, with each book in the series following the same basic template: someone gets accidentally turned into a supernatural being, freaks out, falls in love, comes to terms. Light, breezy, and fun – my only reservation is Penguin’s high prices on the ebooks.

      I’m easy to find on Goodreads; if you like those recommendations, feel free to prowl through my library for more material.

  3. I’ve been reading a lot of super-hero novels lately. They seem to have become a thing, and some are really good. (BTW, not a puppy, and will vote No Award over slate writers.)

    The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar – An experiment gone awry unleashes a worldwide wave of undying Übermenschen in the 1920’s, who participate in the history to come on all sides. The novel focuses on character and the toll that war takes on its survivors.

    Ex-Heroes (Ex-Heroes, Ex-Patriots, Ex-Communication, Ex-Purgatory, Ex-Isle) by Peter Clines – An initially inexplicable event unleashes both the Zombie Apocalypse and a wave of super-heroes. A group of survivors in Los Angeles, both super and mundane, struggle to recover a semblance of safety and civilization. This series is outstanding – it’s got good action, good writing, and great characters. Despite the situation, it mostly avoids the grimdark miasma prevalent in apocalyptic fiction.

    The Mikweed Triptych (Bitter Seeds, The Coldest War, Necessary Evil) by Ian Tregillis – Nazi experiments create a group of super-powered humans and the British fight back by enlisting warlocks to gain the help of demons. But one of the Nazi super-humans can see the future… This series is well-written and exciting, but does wallow in the grimdark. No one is ever happy as they struggle to save the world.

    Prepare to Die! by Paul Tobin – This one is fun and profane as the Reaver goes through his bucket list before going to meet his fate at the hands of Octagon.

    Wild Cards (lots) edited by (lots) written by (lots) – the granddaddy of them all. An alien virus unleashes a wave of death, super-humans, and the unfortunately warped, and then things happen. The series has been running for decades, and can be uneven (many of the books are mosaic novels with different authors running their characters through intertwining story lines), but it’s fun and inventive. It doesn’t hurt that George R. R. Martin is the grand editor.

      1. I know a lot of people aren’t happy with the No Award option, but I’m OK with it. People get to vote how they want, for whatever reasons they find compelling. It’s how the system works.

        1. I’m treating the situation somewhat like James P. Hogan’s Voyage from Yesteryear, in which an authoritarian mission from Earth seeks to assume control over Chiron, a Libertarian colony. Naturally the Libertarians win, and they do so by slowly peeling away the Terrans who can be convinced of the goodness of the Chironian way of life, until only a bitter hard-core remnant can be obliterated by particle-beam weapons. (And speaking of discussing books, I loved it back in the day. It’s one of only a few books that I’ve read more than once. Hogan was good before he embraced Holocaust denial and Velikovskyism.) I imagine anyone who can be convinced by arguments in the Puppy debate has already been convinced, one way or the other. So it’s time for action.

          I seek to deny the slate organizers the satisfaction of having any of their nominated writers win a Hugo because I disagree with their tactics and beliefs. Further, the result of the slates is that a set of generally inferior works won nomination; I understand that many people feel that “Totaled” is the best work in its category, but without a competitive field, I don’t believe it should receive an award.

          I don’t feel that I’m an “omega monkey” displacing my anger onto a weak target. Rather, voting No Award is literally the only thing I can do to directly attack the slate organizers. The situation will be better next year, since the community is now sensitized to the problem and will make sure that better works are nominated. (This is the first time that I am voting in the Hugos, despite having attended a number of Worldcons over the years. Next year I’ll be nominating as well.)

          1. I understand your position, and I won’t argue against it.

            In my post you refer to, the omega monkey would be me, not you. 😉 That post was aimed at the verbal abuse the nominees have been receiving despite the fact that a great many of them don’t share the beliefs of the organizers you mention.

        2. It was the need to say it that I found crass. People will do what they will do. Including oversharing I suppose.

  4. Stuff I like:

    Correia. Duh.

    Everything by Butcher, obviously. Skin Game was, IMO, the best in the series so far, although the happy ending has me dreading what’s going to happen in the next book. Really looking forward to Cinder Spires.

    Most everything except Reckoners by Sanderson. Words of Radiance was my #2 book for 2014. Just brilliant (no pun intended).

    Brent Weeks Lightbringer series. Lots of oddball ideas, screwball characters. Mostly works, occasionally doesn’t. But you have to admire the sheer audacity of making playing Magic the Gathering (with serial numbers filed off) a central point to any swords-and-sorcery novel.

    The first two books in Max Gladstone’s Craft sequence. Gladstone has an absolutely beautiful way with words, and the first two books marry unforgettable characters with fascinating plots. Unfortunately, the third book reads a lot like fan fiction by someone who liked the first two. And the fourth looks to be a prequel, so, meh.

    Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage trilogy. Some inventive moments. Some “wha-huh?” moments, too, unfortunately, but overall enjoyable. Add a few magic systems and some gods into a French Revolution pastiche.

    Still waiting on Rothfuss’ Doors of Stone, like everyone else.

    Abercrombie’s stuff usually leaves me cold, but I enjoyed the first Shattered Sea book (Half a King). The second wasn’t as good, but I have warmed to it a little more once I got past the shock of a new protagonist.

    Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards were great before Republic of Thieves, which is half suspenseless foreplay and half flashback featuring a bunch of dead characters. A really huge disappointment.

    I’ve read Weber’s Safehold books, but milSFF is not my favorite subgenre and he seems to be hitting that second act wall with his last book. Hoping Hell’s Foundations Quiver returns some of the spirit from the earlier books.

    Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns series is interesting, but wouldn’t score as tops. Waiting for the third book.

    Looking forward to Peter David’s new Star Trek: New Frontier books. Star Trek fan fiction writ large and well.

    Oh, and everything by Jasper Fforde. Everything. Especially if he gets off his duff and writes the sequel to Shades of Grey (no, not that one; the funny British one without the S&M).

    1. Yes! Not enough people know about Jasper Fforde. Shades of Grey totally blew me away. There was just so much fabulous world-building, and Fforde is so whimsical that lots of it seems to have been done just for the fun of it, and then in the final act all those cute little asides and jokes come together as super important facts – and then it’s just the best twist ending ever!
      Did you like the Thursday Next series as well?

      1. I liked the early Thursday books a lot. The later books, not nearly as much. Getting through The Woman Who Died A Lot was a real effort; took me over a year of stop-starting. Wish he’d restart the Nursery Crime and Shades of Grey series before writing more.

        1. Same, I just kinda.. drifted away from the Thursday Next books. I didn’t stop enjoying them, but after a few they just weren’t compelling enough to ever climb to the top of my reading pile.

      2. I see your Fforde and raise you Tom Holt. Delightfully insane, in the same vein as Douglas Adams… except more prolific, due in part to the whole “not being dead” thing. (Still, he’s good for a book a year, not even counting pseudonyms.)

    2. I adored Shades of Grey. I’ve been bitterly disappointed that Fforde doesn’t intend to continue the story for some time. Even when he does return to that world, he says he will write a prequel. Color me blue. 🙂

  5. Yes to the Thursday Next series! Really liked the first four. So much fun with footnotes.

    Sorry, Kary, I have to post more recs:

    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. So fast, so fun, so well-constructed.
    Bad Monkeys and/or The Mirage by Matt Ruff: Bad Monkeys is kind of a sci-fi punk Catcher in the Rye. Very quick read. The Mirage is one of the more gutsy books I’ve ever ready.
    Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman: The best delivery drug.
    Moving Pictures / The Truth– Terry Pratchett. One’s movies, the other’s a newspaper, both work as standalone introductions to Ankh Morpork.

    The entire Sandman graphic novel series (also Gaiman).

    The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss–it takes this book 60 pages to hook you, and then the next 600 will FLY by.

  6. As someone who is very much not in sympathy with the Puppy movements, can I put in a plug for Gray Rinehart’s Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium? It’s a story about folklore, folk memory and resistance to oppression, all of which I’m a sucker for, and its use of myth as a means of resistance is inspired. It also captures the strange dynamic between oppressor and oppressed, with flashes of mutual regard amid the bitterness, rather than painting it black and white as authors too often do. It’s going at the top of my ballot, Puppy or not, and I only wish it had worthier competition (no, The Triple Sun isn’t particularly worthy, depending as it does on an Idiot Plot).

    I’ll also praise Kary’s Totaled. I’ve seen it called a Flowers for Algernon knockoff, but it’s that only in the same sense that Miss Saigon is a knockoff of Madama Butterfly – it’s clearly inspired by Keyes’ work and uses some of Keyes’ tropes to add to its familiarity and accessibility, but it’s a new story that explores different themes (loss of body as well as deterioration of mind) and adds considerable value to the original. And Flight of the Kikayon, from Kary’s Campbell packet, also blew me away – from now on, I’ll read anything I see with her by-line.

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