Sad Puppies? Or Eye of Argon?

Sometimes bad writing inspires me with the thought, “I can do better than THAT!” Not this time.

This year’s Hugo awards (the People’s Choice awards for science fiction) have been swamped by the sad puppies and the rabid puppies. You can check the awfulness of the short story nominees in this blog post by Andrew Hickey.

I work hard on my short stories. I craft, edit, chop up, reassemble. And then a short story with a paragraph like this gets nominated for a Hugo this year.

“Eight point nine decaseconds later, the Hermes-class corvette ATSV Swiftsure rolls onto its belly and opens fire with twin 100 mm projectile cannons at a range of ninety kilometers from its closest companion. At such range the hyper-accelerated bolts of metal shred the second ship’s hull. The second ship returns fire with a set of 12 cm lasers that cut perfectly straight swathes of armor plating from Swiftsure. Atmospheric gases spray out of the violated hull in glittering white streams.”

This sounds awfully familiar … oh yes, the worst story ever written, The Eye of Argon!

“He has slept three times and had been fed five times since his awakening in the crypt. However, when the actions of the body are restricted its needs are also affected. The need for nourishmnet and slumber are directly proportional to the functions the body has performed, meaning that when free and active Grignr may become hungry every six hours and witness the desire for sleep every fifteen hours, whereas in his present condition he may encounter the need for food every ten hours, and the want for rest every twenty hours.”

At least the Eye of Argon was consistent about spelling out numbers. Although it violates hulls in a slightly grander fashion.

“The disemboweled mercenary crumpled from his saddle and sank to the clouded sward, sprinkling the parched dust with crimson droplets of escaping life fluid.”

There’s more. The same supposedly Hugo-worthy short story has this sentence. So much wrong in so little space.

“Disabling an enemy warship is not enough; they must be crippled, damaged, destroyed.”

I’m jerked from singular to plural. My sense of opposites is assaulted: in this context, disabled is a synonym for crippled and damaged. I offer this rewrite.

“Disabling an enemy warship is not enough; it must be destroyed.”

Simple, short, and direct. Even a Dalek would smile at that. As for these puppy stories, I urge a vote of no award. In other words …


3 thoughts on “Sad Puppies? Or Eye of Argon?

  1. I must disagree. Within the context of SPACE BATTLES! it is well known that a ship can be disabled with only token redshirt casualties and minor repairs that can be completed during the commercial break, or between chapters; whereas crippling a vessel leaves it helpless, subject to capture or destruction or forced to limp across the void between stars at sub-light speed.

    I agree on the singular/plural thing. It’s not 100% wrong, because “they” refers to warships in general, but it would read better if it were consistent.

    The first paragraph…ehhhh, it conveyed what he wanted to convey. If you aren’t interested in the gory battle between two entirely hypothetical fictional things, then yeah, it’s wordy. If you are, then I think even minor details like saying “8.9 decaseconds” instead of “89 seconds” are well thought out. Scientific notation. Nice contrast between the projectile weapons and the lasers, which shows how divergent the two warring cultures are; their technology has diverged.

    • Even though you disagree, I have to say what my Kittygirl character said after Super Holly rescued her: thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!!! I don’t get a lot of comments on my blog. I must shout out to Thy Critic Man and a few others for their previous replies, I love them all, except for the rare spam that I exterminate. Your reply was the longest so far. Considering I stuck a toe into the sad puppy Hugo controversy (and I will likely leave my remaining digits out of this), you were polite.

      Anyway. That story paragraph reminded me of the Eye of Argon the instant I read it. (Read The Eye of Argon if you have not already; it’s so bad, it’s a hoot.) Action writing, especially a space battle, should convey more that an “ehhhhh.” But this was a dry information dump. Alfred Hitchcock said that exposition is a pill that must be sugar coated. Check that link, we can all learn from the master.

      Projectiles and lasers in the same paragraph did not get me thinking about the tech. Maybe I was tired, maybe I have seen enough anime and SF that it hit me as the author telling me this is a kewl space battle, yawn.

      I have no problem with writing numbers as numbers — 8.9 instead of “eight point nine” — if there is a good reason for it. Since this is a computerized character, those numbers make sense. But the author sometimes spells out numbers, sometimes writes numbers as numbers. That is really bad self-editing. (I ran into this number issue with my character Cal “The Intellectual” Critbert. I’ll blog about that later, thanks for the idea!)

      I think you are making up space-battle definitions. I can’t object to that, it is a fun idea to play with, and I like your redshirt reference. But we have disabled car placards so that people who are crippled in some way (or differently-abled, gag, I hate that term, not a correct definition because Superman can be defined as such) can park in disabled parking spaces. I say real world parking trumps other worldly space battles. Why is the author beating around the bush in that sentence? If he wants to show the difference, he should not cloak the difference.

      Incidentally, when I read that bit about spraying atmosphere (that seemed too flowery to fit this computerized character), I immediately though of Argon’s “escaping life fluid.”

      But enough of my puny disagreeing with your disagreeing. I still appreciate your reply, and you gave me a blog post idea. Thanks.

  2. Pingback: Puppies eat vomit | Dave M. Strom: author of Holly Hansson, superheroine & writer

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