So anyway despite my general Hugos salt, I am pretty chuffed the AO3 is finally a finalist. People (including yours truly) have been advocating for that for years, so… it’s nice to finally see it there.
Oops, Jason had already tweeted it! https://t.co/wEgwbhQXcK
— Apex Magazine (@apexmag) August 21, 2018
He also notes that "Despite this, NONE of the year's best anthologies selected the story for their volumes. I don't think I've ever seen such a glaring oversight by all the major year's best editors."
I do think the story was picked up by @paulaguran. So…one out of eight?
— Apex Magazine (@apexmag) August 21, 2018
A couple of years ago, I was at an Author Event listening to a Big Name Editor talk. Let’s refer to the editor as “You”, just to be confusing.
So. You are a big name SFF editor, who publishes well-known, well-regarded annual collections of the “best of” variety. You have won multiple Hugo and World Fantasy awards, to name just a few. You are, for the most part, visibly a member of some, but not all, of the most privileged groups in society.
What I remember most about You speaking is the way You mentioned, quite offhandedly, that You never do blind or slush submissions for anthologies any more. You feel You don’t “need” to, because You have been in the scene for decades and You know it and are an identified tastemaker. Instead, when You’re putting together an anthology, You approach the authors You want to include. They rarely say no. I mean, why would they? You’re You, after all.
Like I said, this was just one little throwaway comment in a bigger, much longer and far-reaching conversation. Yet every time I think about things like diversity in SFF, or inclusion, or slates or cliques or whatever the Outrage Du Jour happens to be… I think of You, and Your comment. Because, here’s the thing. Those authors You include? The ones You choose to represent as the “best of” Your industry? These authors are, almost exclusively, already well-established big names. They’re also almost exclusively like You, demographically speaking.
Incidentally, I don’t read Your anthologies. After all, they’re always filled with the same handful of authors writing the same handful of stories. And they just aren’t my thing.
Funny, I guess. The way that goes.
So a while back, there was a proposal floating around to jigger with the fiction categories in the Hugo Awards. Specifically, the idea was to add a “best saga” category, while simultaneously dropping the category of “novelettes”.
Sounds reasonable, right? I mean sagas are super popular, and what the fuck even is a novelette, amirite?
Well, as N.K. Jemisin points out, what the fuck it is, is often a way for marginalized voices to start careers. In other words, it’s much easier for people who exist outside of the perceived SFF “orthodoxy”–that is, anyone who isn’t a straight, white, middle-class man–both to write shorter fiction, due to time constraints, and to get it published, since markets for shorter fiction tend to be more, say, adventurous than those for commercial novels.
Not only that, but the addition of the sagas category flips to the other side, in that it implicitly benefits authors with established careers, specifically the aforementioned straight, white, middle-class men.1
In other words: the format is political.
- Actually, this is an interesting assumption in itself, since there are a lot of, say, YA and UF/PR series that would qualify, almost all of which would not be written by men, if nothing else. [↩]
[Brad] Torgersen is conflating literary ambition with leftism and demographic diversity; ideology and entertainment are not at odds in science fiction. Most major science-fiction writers have had strong political convictions that have been reflected in their work. A genre that includes the socialist H.G. Wells, the libertarian Heinlein, the Catholic conservative Gene Wolfe, the anarchist Le Guin, the feminist Margaret Atwood and the Marxist China Mieville can hardly be thought of as essentially nonpolitical entertainment.
Nor is it the case that literary ambition is the province only of the left. Much of the best literary science fiction has been written by writers whose politics are right wing. Robert Silverberg, for instance, is a conservative, but his best novel, “Dying Inside,” is a story of a telepath, rich with allusions to Kafka and Saul Bellow — writers Silverberg was emulating. The faux populism of the Puppy brigade is actually insulting to the right, since it assumes that conservatives can’t be interested in high culture.
—The New Republic on scifi and the Puppies.
What is it with right wingers and their weird insistence on treating their own like brainless idiots who can’t understand or, heaven forbid, enjoy complex and challenging things?
Jim C. Hines does one of the most thorough histories of the Sad Puppies I’ve seen. It’s also one of the most damning, since Hines gives very little editorial and instead relies on collecting quotes from Puppies like Correia and Torgersen.
The sad part for me, in reading this, is realising that I… kinda agree with Correia. At least when he says things like:
The ugly truth is that the most prestigious award in sci-fi/fantasy is basically just a popularity contest, where the people who are popular with a tiny little group of WorldCon voters get nominated and thousands of other works are ignored.
Which is an opinion I don’t think I’ve been shy about expressing: that’s what the point of this post was, for example.
Where I do differ is politics, obviously–I’m not at all convinced WorldCon has been subverted by some kind of international SJW conspiracy,1 or that would even be a problem if it were–and also in… organisation? I guess is probably the best way of putting it. Because yeah, I’d like to see more of fandom get directly involved with the Hugos, as opposed to treating them as some rarified Other, looked at and admired, but never touched.2 But what that means for which people and works win what categories… meh. You do you, kids. I live in a country where it’s compulsory to vote in government elections, so to me, just turning up and getting your name ticked off the roll is the achievement.
Because if the Hugos are a popularity award for SFF fandom, then, yanno. Maybe that’s who should be voting in them. And I’m pretty sure SFF fandom is more than about 2,000 people, no matter which works are getting rocketed.
That being said, I finished Three-Body Problem on the weekend, and… wow. What a book. And what a polar opposite in so, so many ways to Goblin Emperor, at that.
Speaking of which, here’s a segue into Hines again:
More central to the Sad Puppies, when I see Brad railing against “affirmative action” fiction, I see a man who seems utterly incapable of understanding sometimes people write “non-default” characters not because they’re checking off boxes on a quota, but because those are the stories they want to tell, and the characters they want to write about. Dismissing all of those amazing, wonderful, and award-winning stories as nothing but affirmative-action cases? Yeah, that sounds pretty bigoted to me.
Indeed. I mean, you wanna talk affirmative action? Then, okay. Let’s talk affirmative action. And by that, I mean in the sense N.K. Jemisin points out, which we usually call “the boy’s club”. Because this? That right there is the definition of “affirmative action”; the definition of politically driven quota-ticking. There is no universe in which Wisdom From my Internet could get onto the Hugo ballot legitimately. I know it’s gauche to trash-talk other authors but c’mon. It’s not even SFF! Sure, you can have an argument about the SFF-ness of, say, “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love“, but at least it’s an argument. Wisdom From my Internet isn’t even that.
Although, let’s be real, I maybe kinda would like to live in a universe where “wordvomit from my racist uncle” was so outré as to be considered specfic.
We can only dream, I guess.
- Actually, the Puppies’ argument is even worse, since it seems to be saying that WorldCon fandom is “niche” and “academic” and adverse to “visceral, gut-level, swashbuckling fun”. To which I would say… bro. Bro, srsly bro. Srsly. I guess Torgersen just has a different definition of “visceral, gut-level, swashbuckling fun” than me, and since his probably doesn’t include things like “doesn’t treat people as subhuman because of their race, gender, sexuality, or physical or mental ability” then, yeah. Yeah I think this is a pretty fair thing to say. Sorry not sorry I don’t find bigoted stuff to be “swashbuckling fun”, I guess. [↩]
- Which, incidentally, is the main response on Tumblr to the fandom-in-the-Hugos post. Even people who regularly vote in the Hugos admit to not making the connection that they can actually, yanno. Nominate the works and artists they actually like, as opposed to the ones they think they’re supposed to like for the purpose of the award. [↩]
The interesting thing about the 2015 list of nominees for the Prometheus Award is not who is on it, but rather who is not. Even though the set of authors that make up the core proponents of the “Sad Puppies” very clearly view themselves as being on the libertarian side of the spectrum (and in some cases they have inserted segments into their books that are clearly pandering to Prometheus Award voters), and yet, there is zero overlap between the set of books they promoted for the 2015 Hugo Award and the set of books that were chosen as finalists for the 2015 Prometheus Award. In short, despite sharing an ideological bent with many of the authors promoted by the Puppies, the Libertarian Futurist Society didn’t see fit to even consider honoring any of the novels that were pushed for the Hugo ballot with a Prometheus Award nomination.
–Aaron Pound on overlap.
You know, if even your own ideological peers shun you, maybe you’re not exactly on the side of angels. Just a thought.
(Also, related to the post-if-not-the-quote: “‘Repent Harlequin!’ said the Ticktockman” is a fucking terrible piece of facile teenage fapfiction. I can see why libertarians love it.)
From slashmarks’s response to my Hugos post:
I can’t help but think some of the issue here is that for a lot, maybe even the majority of the younger fandom crowd, forty dollars is a non trivial expense for something that probably doesn’t matter all that much to them. Like, “it’s actually not worth spending that much money for something this irrelevant,” non trivial.
This is a good point, but the even gooderer news is that the small existing voting/nominating pool the Hugos are used to means it… actually doesn’t matter all that much.
Yes, $40 is a lot to a lot of fandom. But there’s plenty that fans can do for free as well, and 99.99% of that is making/reblogging posts talking about, a) the Hugos, and, b) things that are eligible for the Hugos. So next time nomination season comes around, even if you can’t afford to nominate/vote, even just a I-can’t-do-this-but-you-might-be-able-to signal boost amongst your fandom means more than you might think.
This post is sitting just under 300 notes right now, most of which have been in support for the idea of Tumblr fandom getting more involved. I’d like to point out that this is about ten percent of the average Hugo awards voting base. Ten percent! Think about that for a moment. Even if only a fraction of fans who’ve thus far liked/reblogged this post participate in the 2016 Hugos, that’s enough to get a nominee on the ballot in some categories (yes, really). And those categories? They’re going to be the ones of most immediate personal interest to Tumblr fans, I think, like fanwriter/-artist.
I’ve been following the reblogs to this post, and I am seeing a lot of “I didn’t know this was a thing but now I do I’m totally going to participate!”, which is awesome! People are proposing nominees for their fav fanwriters, and getting excited by the realisation that, yeah, you really can nominate the AO3 if you want to. And I’m sure there’s a lot more potential nominees out there I don’t know about, because I’m not you, but who would totally deserve to be on the ballot.
So, yanno. Talk about them! Even if you can’t vote for them yourself, a few reblogs really do go a long way.
The [Eisner Awards] are in actuallity what the Hugo awards are often assumed to be – an industry award. The main purpose of the Eisner’s is to serve the comic book industry in the ways such awards do, primarily by raising the profile of the industry’s best work and expanding the audience for the medium overall. On a much larger scale, the Oscars have been fulfilling this role for the film industry for decades. So why doesn’t the SF & Fantasy field have a proper industry award?
The main reason is that the Hugos, and alongside them the Nebulas, come very close to being an industry award without quite fulfilling that role. The Hugos could do, and many people seem to be working to get them there, but they won’t achieve that without becoming much more international and overhauling their voting system. The Nebulas are voted for by industry professionals, of a kind, in the membership of the Science Fiction Writers of America. But the SFWAs membership does’t actually include the publishing professionals it would need to be an effective “academy” in the style of the Academy Awards.
–Damien Walter on awards.
There’s also the:
- Locus Awards, run by the (US-based) magazine of the same name
- BSFA Awards for British science fiction, which is often won by US writers
- World Fantasy Awards which, in the grand tradition of WorldCon, is another US-based award
- Ditmar Award and the Aurealis Award, for Australian speculative fiction
- Chronos Award, for Victorian ((It’s a state in Australia.)) speculative fiction
One of the things that, I think, it’s important to note is that almost all of these awards are coupled tightly to either a convention (Ditmars, Chronos, Hugos), a magazine (Aurealis, Locus), or a writer’s guild (Nebulas, BSFA). Without putting too fine a point on it, the reason there are so many, I think, is because they’re a form of in-group back-patting. Popularity awards for people who are known inside the clubhouse. That’s why they often seem to be kinda… divorced from SFF’s current commercial landscape, which is somewhat more globalised.1
I also think this explains why the US-based award trio–the Hugos, Locuses, and Nebulas–are considered the “premiere” awards; because the US is the biggest English-language SFF market, and thus has the biggest convention scene, and thus the most potential voters.
That’s it. That’s the trick.
I’m sure the US’s proximity to the also-English-speaking Canadian scene doesn’t hurt, either. If you crunch the numbers, the US-Canadian population is about 350 million; an entire order of magnitude above the population of the whole of the UK (64m), and Australia-New Zealand (27m).
These are not geographically close regions, meaning it takes effort (read: an 8-22 hour plane flight) for a writer/con-goer from one region to participate in the industry scene of another. That matters, I think, and it matters in a way that tends to be invisible to Americans, because they’re not usually the ones who need to travel.
There’s a lot of talk lately about “reforming the Hugos” and whatnot, but increasingly I think what’s needed doesn’t actually involve the Hugo Awards at all. The Hugos are what they are: gold stars for the US convention scene.2 There’s nothing wrong with that. What I do somewhat object to, in the same way I object to naming a US-based convention “WorldCon”, is pretending that the Hugos represent global SFF fandom.