Sunday, March 20, 2016
Rating Black Tide Rising, plus Universe Rules
Sister Marina Fontaine asked me how I could come up with an Amazon rating for an anthology which contained a story of contested merit.
Therefore, having read the book, I now have to review it, and I'm not yet over the issues which took me off-line for a week, But before I write the Amazon review, I'm gonna blog on the background issues.
First, and most boring to you, dear reader, is the reason I've been off-line for a week. I have the great good fortune to be the recipient of a fabulous DNA package which incorporates genes for exceedingly manly height, outstandingly handsome facial features, and a scintillating intellect which rivals that of a Sicilian with a speech impediment. It also brings a late-blooming feature of HLA-B27, which sometimes manifests as ankylosing spondylitis, a progressive degenerative disease, mostly appearing as joint pain, and accompanied in blood tests by extremely high levels of inflammation. It hurts. Always, it hurts, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. And, a few months ago, I discovered that the use of the keyboard was causing me such pain in my hands, that I had to come up with an alternative. I found that I was able to use the built-in speech recognition in Windows 7, and so I dictated merrily away, soon finding that the interface was not interfering with my awr-inspiring creative processes.
Then, the bluetooth dongle stopped working, so it's back to the keyboard again. And that's what I'm doing now. I anticipate I'll have some unknown amount of time before my hands start hurting again, but what the heck; we have no guarantees that ANY part of our body is going to function, period, so I have no reason to complain.
I may whine pathetically some time when I am in a particular spasm mode, or when the pain centers in one area for a long period of time and JUST WON'T GO AWAY, because it HURTS, dammit, but that's NOT complaining. I'm not going to pretend it doesn't hurt, but I'm not going to say it's not fair, or I don't deserve this, or one of those stupid statements. People who complain misunderstand the rules of the universe. Here are the relevant rules:
1. You are going to die. So is everybody you know and love, and know and hate, and don't know at all.
2. It's not personal, but it remains lethal.
3. Before you die, you are going to experience pain. Of all kinds.
4. You get to choose how you are going to deal with that, up to the point at which you are overwhelmed.
(The following isn't a rule of the universe, but it's worth incorporating:)
5. Until you are overwhelmed, don't treat people like a jerk.
And now, back to the question posed by Sister Marina: how do I evaluate an anthology containing a story of contested merit.
Brother Dave Truesdale pointed out that readers/reviewers have to discriminate between the STORY and the AUTHOR in evaluating a work. That's true, and it's also rather difficult, because of something called the 'halo' effect; if a person has accomplished a Great Thing, the side effect is that true perception of their other work is blurred, because it is seen through a filter of the Greatness of the Great Thing. Same thing is true if the person has done a Horrid Thing, although I suppose that could be called the 'horns' effect.
So: what's the specific application?
Black Tide Rising is a collection of stories, written in a world established by John Ringo, in which a genetically engineered rabies virus infects enough people to end civilization as we know it. It contains a story by one John Scalzi, titled "On the Wall." And Scalzi is on "The Other Side."
It is IMPOSSIBLE to summarize the rift which has grown up among members of the science fiction community, but there is one, and it's not a simple canyon. It's more like lots of them; think erosion and meteor impact, and you might get an idea of the splinter groups. But a lot of it has to do with the Hugo Award process, and it. sort of, has provided a focal point for the nastygrams posted everywhere in the last twelve months. And there is a somewhat artificial designation of people into the categories of 'Puppies' and 'Puppy Kickers.' As a GENERAL RULE (!!!), 'Puppies' are identified with Baen, and 'Puppy Kickers' are identified with Tor; NOTABLE exceptions to this are Baen authors John Ringo, himself, who doesn't give a fuzzy rip about the Hugo Award, and Eric Flint, who appears to regard it all as sound and wind, signifying nothing.
So: how does a story by John Scalzi, roundly derided by Puppies, show up in a Baen anthology, alongside such prominent Puppies as Sarah A. Hoyt?
Not a clue. Not a freaken clue. Feel free to speculate.
I DO know this: John Scalzi HAD, at one point, three books available through the Baen website. Those three are no longer available for purchase through Baen, but may be downloaded if previously purchased, and that's a relatively new status (as in, I have no freepen idea when it happened).
But: WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Well, I think we are just going to have to wait to discover that. Keep the pitchforks and torches where you can get at them, but you may want to keep some specially-fed meat animals on hand as well, in case a feast is called for.
But, in a short answer to Sister Marina, I'm going to try to follow Brother Dave's advice. I THINK, although I'm not sure, that this is a case in which I can do that. I'm certainly not going to penalize the rest of the book, if I find one story to be a problem.
Maybe I write the review tomorrow.