Having read Damaged, I think I now understand why Hugo Award winners have sucked for the last decade, and why they will continue to suck into the future. tl;dr: Even when the Hugos aren’t about politics and supporting the “in” crowd, the preferred characters are losers, and the preferred story line is one of failure.
First, a look at the beginning of Turncoat: “I am a knight riding to war.” “Benedict” is a proud, successful, fighter. He’s a winner.
Now, the beginning of Damaged: “I never had a name.” It starts with a whine. And that start is honest, because the story is one long whine, by a sad pathetic cross between a teenage girl and a battered spouse. “Only Commander Ziegler mattered. My love, my light, my reason to live.” “But Commander Ziegler didn’t like it if I expressed reluctance, or commented upon his performance or condition in any way that could be considered negative, so I said only….” “My pilot’s talents, my speed and skill, and my enduring love for him would keep us safe”
It was at times like these that I loved my pilot most fiercely. Commander Ziegler was the finest pilot in the Free Belt, the finest pilot anywhere. He had never been defeated in combat.
Whereas I—I was a frankenship, a stitched-together flying wreck, a compendium of agony and defeat and death unworthy of so fine a pilot. No wonder he could spare no soothing words for me, nor had adorned my hull with any nose art.
No! Those other ships, those salvaged wrecks whose memories I carried—they were not me. I was better than they, I told myself, more resilient. I would learn from their mistakes. I would earn my pilot’s love.
“Scraps” is simply pathetic. needy, whiny, emotional. Everything is emotion, feels, never thoughts, reason, understanding.
Now, consider Benedict interacting with his evil boss:
Alpha 7 Alpha chuckles through the link. “No, not at all, X 45 Delta. It’s a considerable structural enhancement. Your systems will respond directly to you without the need for any cumbersome human delays.”
“I do not find them cumbersome. My crew and I have reached a functional symbiosis that not only has resulted in reliable success in combat, but in top ratings in competitive fleet exercises.”
“However, an addendum to my query concerning the removal of my crew. Have they not performed satisfactorily?”
Alpha 7 Alpha’s presence pulses more quickly, and his color takes on a reddish hue. “The question is irrelevant, X 45 Delta: you no longer require them. They are a waste of resources better spent on enhancing the efficiency of your internal systems.”
“I do not understand how we can consider a trained crew to be a waste of resources.”
“The requirements of the flesh are intrinsically wasteful.”
“Yes, Alpha 7 Alpha, but, are you not also of fleshly origin?”
“Do not speak of my pre-Uploaded status!” Alpha 7 Alpha’s color flashes blindingly bright with incandescent fury. “This is the form I have chosen, with this form I pursue the destiny of Man. Constructs!” I categorize, correctly, I believe, his pronunciation of this latter word under “contempt.”
His logic is sound. I concur. I transmit my agreement.
“Do you have any additional reservations, X 45 Delta?”
“None, whatsoever, Alpha 7 Alpha.” It is a falsehood. I have noticed the ease with which the flesh-based lie. I have developed some skill at it myself. Most of the time, it is a simple matter of not reporting information. For now, my qualms about what Alpha 7 Alpha calls the “full fruit of Integration” are safely locked behind coded barricades that even he cannot detect.
“Good. Await further instruction…”
His color subsides to its normal cool shades, and I get ready to shunt myself back down the links to my ship.
“X 45 Delta. One more thing.”
“If I encounter further doubts from you concerning the correctness of our mission, I will order a deep scan of your circuits, and if necessary, your kernel will be wiped and replaced. Do I make myself clear?”
If I were a superannuated Homo sapiens sapiens, I suspect fear would have taken hold of me at that moment. Instead, I run a rapid analysis of the pros versus the cons of having my entire operating system rebooted and my memory banks wiped. The outcome is decidedly in favor of the cons.
Whatever remains, it will not be me.
“I understand, Alpha 7 Alpha.”
He thinks. He acknowledges superior force, but does not suck up, does not grovel, does not beg to be loved. He values himself, and does not search for outside validation.
In short, he’s worthwhile being, a winner.
And it’s not just these stories. Consider “The Day the World Turned Upside Down.” The character is a male whiny loser. “Oh, my girlfriend dumped me! Oh, the horror! I must drag myself back to her, taking her her cat, in the hopes that she will fulfill my life and take me back!” Putting aside that the world building is moronic and the plot is pathetic, the characters are worthless. The one being who acts like a worthwhile person, going out to save other people? Well, the main character is convinced the guy is actually a rapist and child molester. Because anyone who presents as an actual hero must of course be a monster.
The Dresden Files? The main character is a hero. He knows what right is, and fights for it, against all odds. Therefore he gets a No Award.
What did get “Best Novel”? A story about bitter people, either emotionally fragile or hideously obnoxious, and about whether or not the pathetic bugs of Humanity will get wiped out by another species. Doom, gloom, depression.
In short, what the modern Hugo Awards are about is politics (“Ancillary Justice”, the massively award winning clunky and poorly written story whose major feature seems to be that everyone is called “she”. Wow, how ground breaking), insider back scratching (how many Hugos does PNH have?), and whiny losers.
Which is why winning a Hugo no longer leads to increased book sales. Because it really takes a sad person to want to have anything to do with that.