How the media manipulates science fiction

I discovered an interesting site called Chaos Horizon yesterday. The author has developed a model to predict future Best Novel Hugo Award nominations on the basis of media coverage and past awards, and it worked pretty well last year. But what I found even more interesting and informative was his review round-ups, in which he tracks the media coverage of the various books he expects to be nominated.

Two of the listed favorites for 2015 are LOCK-IN by John Scalzi and MONSTER HUNTER NEMESIS by Larry Correia.


Mainstream Reviews:
Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A.V. Club

WordPress Blogger Reviews:
Ristea’s Reads (4 out of 5)
Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!
Bibliotropic (5 out of 5)
Alison McCarty (9 out of 10)
As the Plot Things (9 out of 10)
The BiblioSanctum (4.5 out of 5)
Infinite Free Time
Lucy Moo’s Book Reviews
Books, Bones, & Buffy (4 out of 5)
For Winter Nights

As you can see, that’s already a lot of reviews, and they’ve been pretty uniformly positive, averaging out to a solid 4.5 out of 5. The number of reviews is a testament to Scalzi built-in fanbase; the high scores speak to the book being well-liked.

Amazon Reviews:
(299) 4.2 out of 5 stars


Mainstream Reviews:

None? For each of these Review Round-Ups, I check the same places: Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, NPR, NYTimes, the Guardian, and Entertainment Weekly. These are some of the most popular and widely distributed reviewing venues, and they give us a good idea if the book is reaching beyond the core SFF audience. The fact that Correia received no discernible support from these outlets certainly says something. The lack of reviews in Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus is surprising, as they do short capsule reviews of tons of texts. For most authors, this lack of mainstream coverage would hurt them; for an author like Correia, this lack of coverage re-enforces his outsider or maverick status.

WordPress Blog Reviewers:
AdVerb Creative
Koeur’s Book Review
Bookstoge’s Reviews on the Road (4.5 out of 5)
Attack of the Books!
Alternative Worlds II

Not the biggest group of reviews, but all are fairly positive. It’s interesting that Monster Hunter Nemesis doesn’t show up as strongly in these places. Goodreads has 1700+ ratings for Monster Hunter Nemesis, which does indicate it’s selling copies. People just don’t seem to blog about Correia’s book with the same intensity as they do other texts.

Amazon Reviews:
(283) 4.8 out of 5 stars

It’s somewhat amusing to see that even though Chaos Horizons is aware of the Hugo controversy, he’s still genuinely surprised that there are zero mainstream reviews for Nemesis. What’s happening here is a microcosm of what happens in the gaming world. The pinkshirt media puffs up Pink SF and attempts to make it look better and more popular than it is, while ignoring better and equally popular non-Pink SF in an attempt to pretend it is not merely irrelevant, but doesn’t exist.

It’s even more obvious if you actually read the reviews for LOCK-IN. Most of them are more about the author than the book itself, because the content of the book is largely irrelevant, the object of the review is to signal that the book reviewed is the product of an ideologically-approved author and therefore should be supported.

I note that the Goodreads data is different than the Amazon data, but I tend to discount the Goodreads data as a proxy for comparative purposes because its readership has such a strong SJW bias. That being said, it’s probably an excellent proxy for the WorldCon membership and a Hugo-predictive model for precisely that reason.