11-22-63

11/22/63I’ve always liked Stephen King.  He counts as one of the significant influences on me as a writer. And reading (listening to) one of his more recent works, 11/22/63, I came to an epiphany about one of the major techniques he uses to keep readers continually turning the pages. Maybe I just noticed it more when I listened to his work via audiobook than on the page, but once I noticed it, I remembered all the times he used this technique, bits from books I might have read decades ago.

It’s so damn simple too.

He foreshadows the crap out of everything.

He does it big, he does it small, he does it with the main story plot and he does it with the subplots about character relationships. He will flat out tell you something’s important behind this here door, and then he’ll walk the plot away leaving you desperate to know what’s behind it. 11/22/63 practically breathes foreshadowing simply because the nature of the premise, but the book itself is littered with smaller examples from the early mention of “the broom” to the narrator saying that placing a particular bet was a mistake long before we are ever shown why. It seems that rarely a scene goes by in the first two thirds of the book where he isn’t saying in some fashion, “You see this? Pay attention, it will come up later.”

It’s like crack to a reader, sprinting ahead to see each hint pay off.

Now pardon me while I go figure out how to do it as smoothly as he does.

Hugo Addendum

Over at Making Light there’s a serious proposal that seems a lot more constructive than the cries of “No Award” and looks as if it addresses the issue with slate voting. It seems to do so without being anti-democratic, needlessly arcane, or open to too much manipulation. I’d hope, despite the source, that those of the Sad Puppy side might get behind this since it would eliminate the disproportionate advantage given to a block of voters all nominating the same group of works, and therefore, possibly inadvertently, also dilute the consensus group-think that inspired the Sad Puppies to begin with.

IMHO, this proposal goes into the “constructive suggestion” bucket.

The 10 things I have to say about the Hugos

10) No, the Hugos weren’t captured by some sort of conspiracy. It’s silly to say it’s a conspiracy. So silly, in fact, that saying that someone else is saying it’s a conspiracy is a nice bit of rhetorical judo that makes one feel intellectually superior to the crazy wing-nuts who are saying— one is asserting— that it’s some sort of conspiracy. However, it does appear that, until recently, the pool of Hugo voters had shrunk to a few hundred people whose tastes, reading habits and circle of friends would graph out more like a bulls-eye than a Venn diagram.  But that’s the difference between conspiracy and self-selection bias.  i.e. It’s a clique, not a conspiracy.  But anyone who’s gone to high school knows that from the outside, the difference is sort of moot.

9) As I’ve said privately to some folks, I think bringing in more fans to the process is probably the best thing to happen to literary sf fandom during my professional career. I’m not going to qualify that, or hedge here. I think more fans = good. I give Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen full credit for that. For everyone else: Either the door is open or it ain’t. And if it ain’t, you might as well give up the voting entirely, make it a juried award, and let the Locus reader’s poll be the voice of the people.

8) Wailing and gnashing of teeth about the “destruction” of the Hugos is really unbecoming. We are talking about one single year of an award that’s been going on for well over half a century. Are we pretending, after all this time, that it all goes south and everyone packs it in because of this? Is the Worldcon Committee going to look at a thousand supporting membership checks and say, “The Evil One may have touched these.  Alas we must burn them and salt the earth so nothing ever grows again.”?

7) Speaking of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named; does everyone realize that everything he does is intended to piss people off? I mean every time you invoke his name you give him more power. People are withdrawing their nominations, specifically because of his endorsement. I suspect this gives him great joy.

6) This was also the greatest gift possible to those who wanted to smear Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen.  After all, everyone knows that proper debate on the Internet consists of finding the most extreme and unhinged example of something related to your opponent’s position and arguing against that. If you’ve stated anything about Larry and Brad being racist, sexist homophobes, and your argument consists of third party quotes by someone else entirely, you are an asshat. Really, there needs to be a Godwin’s Law 2.0 about invoking Vox Day’s name online.

5) “Gamergate” involvement seems only to have happened after the nominations, and only in the minds of a few online agitators who wanted them to be involved. Either as a crusading army of vengeance, or as a convenient sexist strawman to hang on the necks of the opposition.

4) The concerns about slate voting are valid. (Like #2 above, this is an assertion I do not qualify or hedge.)  But then the complaint is with The Evil One’s spamming the award with bloc voting for the Rabid Puppy slate. That was a destructive act, and was the major difference between the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies. Brad Torgersen explicitly wasn’t encouraging that behavior with the Sad Puppies. A moment of reflection about that, and about the small voting pool of the Hugos, is enough to explain why the “Rabid” Puppies had more impact (i.e. the Rabid Puppies were the ones demonstrably engaging in this behavior while the Sad Puppies weren’t.) There are non-destructive strategies to deal with this from both ends, such as future Hugo ballots allowing only a couple of slots per category, and future “slates” suggesting many more works per category.  Whining is not such a strategy.

3) No Award is valid if you think the whole category is void of merit, for whatever reason. But doing so to “protest” slate voting, to “save” the Hugos, or to insure they still have “meaning,” strikes me as wrong-headed and kind of childish. (See point #8 above.) The 2015 Hugos are not going to contaminate the 2018 Hugos, or the 2008 Hugos.  Cooties don’t time travel. All that kind of reactionary voting strategy does is reflect the current year award’s mess— and, honestly, if you think this year is hopelessly broken and tainted, a protest vote does nothing but certify that taint.

2) Name calling isn’t helping. Mockery isn’t argument. And the vitriol I’ve seen expended on this is going to last long after everyone has completely forgotten this year’s Hugos. Especially some stuff from the pros out there. People remember who acted like a dick long after they forget exactly why they acted like a dick. This includes fans, the people supporting you by buying the stories we’re arguing about.

1) Once we start talking about literary merit in what is intended to be the popular fandom award we have descended into matters of taste. Once you pretend to know some ultimate objective truth about maters of taste, you have become a pretentious twit.