Fifty Shades of Thog

They've tinkered with the Hugo Award rules again. At this year's World SF Convention the definition of Semiprozine – that mysterious halfway house between fanzines done for love and commercial SF magazines – was tweaked to exclude publications with full-time paid staff. Which means the major newsletter Locus, with 22 Semiprozine Hugos, is no longer eligible in what they call the "Locus category". Meanwhile the first Hugo for Fancast (fan podcast) was presented, while a proposed Young Adult Fiction award got voted down, partly because YA stories including a Harry Potter novel have already won Hugos without needing a special sandbox of their own.

Amid the frenzy to create as many Hugo categories as possible for good writing, the awards neglect much-loved badness. But the Worldcon had a traditional panel discussion on bad prose, numbing listeners with excruciating snippets of ineptitude, and I was filled with quiet pride to hear from a survivor that the selections were dominated by my own showcase of grot, Thog's Masterclass.

Since the Hugo administrators aren't interested, here are the Thoggo Award winners and some runners-up from recent Masterclasses.

Most Striking Simile. "He picked up his coat from the back of the sofa and moved to the door, feeling distinctly like an ambulant and green soft fruit." (Keith McCarthy, The Silent Sleep of the Dying). "The silence between them was as audible as the twang of an overstrained rope." (Barbara Hambly, The Ladies of Mandrigyn). "The question hung there like an invisible cloud of flatulence." (Neal Stephenson, Reamde). "... the denatured alcohol corroded its way through my GI tract, not stopping until it reached the basement, where my tailbone and testicles resided like an old croquet set." (Joseph Gangemi, Inamorata).

Best Anatomical Peculiarities. "He is forty years old, with a black beard shaped like a spade, a lawyer and a judge ..." (Jo Walton, Lifelode). "Shirley's eyes were fixed respectfully on her knees." (J.K. Rowling, The Casual Vacancy). "Her eyes were like a condor's, or some worse star-spawned bird of prey, crimson edged and bleeding into blank holes at the center that seemed to be pinpoint windows into her diseased soul. Kullervo thought he saw things crawling around behind those windows." (Emil Petaja, Tramontane).

Best Use of "Literally". "She literally flowed with stories and spunk." (Brad Torgersen, "Outbound")

Best Scientific Units. "Carlyon, like all Martians, a brown-skinned giant of six hectares high ..." (Bengo Mistral, Pirates of Cerebus).

Best Hangover. "Liam gave up trying to scrub his brain awake through his scalp." (Dana Stabenow, "On the Evidence").

Neatest Tricks. "Her mind boiled coldly." (Felicity Savage, Humility Garden). "Her supple arms drooped to the floor and encircled the lamp overhead. Then her long legs joined in." (Pavel Kohout, The Widow Killer). "My hands are already dirty just from setting foot on this planet." (Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson, Hellhole).

Best Feral Eyes. "... abandoned buildings where the homeless hide and hungry eyes that will take your cigarettes and your wallet." (Joseph S. Pulver Sr, "To Live and Die in Arkham").

Magical Mystery Metaphors. "Jimmy looked over Nadine's head at Annabeth and Sara, felt all three of them blow through his chest, fill him up, and turn him to dust at the same time ..." (Dennis Lehane, Mystic River). "I had too much altar boy in me to seize the bitch goddess of success by her ponytail and bugger the Zeitgeist with my throbbing baguette." (James Walcott, Lucking Out).

My Worldcon panel mole added that the only quoted mainstream fiction to approach Thog for sheer awfulness was, interestingly enough, Fifty Shades of Grey. Why isn't Thog a runaway bestseller?

David Langford has the only authentic portrait of Thog at