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How to win: Torture the language and muddle the story

I pay very little attention to the science fiction and fantasy publishing industry anymore. Almost every book I try to read, I end up flinging away in frustration after the first few pages. Almost no one knows how to write, and almost no one knows how to tell a story.

Instead, what passes for “good writing” is innovation in quirkiness. Last night at the World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, the Hugo award for the best novel of 2017 was won by N.K. Jemisin for The Obelisk Gate. I have not read this novel, nor will I. Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature saves me a lot of money and time, because I can fling books without having to buy them.

The quirk that Jemisin applied in The Obelisk Gate was to write the narrative in the second person, and in the present tense. And there is just enough dialogue in Amazon’s free sample to reveal that the characters are jerks who talk just like the here-and-now people in television’s meanest sitcoms.

This is the kind of writing that will win you a Hugo these days:

And this is the kind of characters and dialogue that will get you a Hugo these days:

Who am I protest? N.K. Jemisin sells lots of books, and I don’t. But I have to ask: Why does jerks arguing make good dialogue? I stand my ground: The best writing style is a style that the reader never even notices, a window into the story that is as transparent as possible. And though villains are necessary, there had better be some characters to fall in love with.

Here’s yet another Hugo winner that will be completely forgotten, and good riddance, before the pages have started turning yellow.

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