hugo awards

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The format is political.

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.

  1. 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. []
2015-07-15T07:49:02+10:005th September, 2015|Tags: hugo awards, publishing|

Literature for the left, literature for the right.

[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?

2018-04-27T13:50:20+10:006th August, 2015|Tags: culture, fandom, hugo awards, sff|

“Bark, Kittycat,” said the Puppyman.

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.

  1. 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. []
  2. 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. []
2018-05-22T09:00:53+10:008th June, 2015|Tags: fandom, hugo awards, sff|

Even libertarians don’t want to clean up Puppy piss.

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.)

2018-06-26T13:21:37+10:0021st May, 2015|Tags: hugo awards, sff|


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.

2018-09-05T13:34:32+10:0020th May, 2015|Tags: fandom, hugo awards, sff|

Industry recognition.

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

… and so on and so forth. Like, ad infinitum, because this is just a brief list of stuff I’ve heard mentioned lately for one reason or another. There are a jillion others out there.

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.

  1. Somewhat. For a given, largely language-based, value of “globalised”, anyway. []
  2. And a very particular part of that scene, too, ref. the no-love-lost between “SFF fans” and “media fans”. []
2016-05-14T11:01:56+10:0014th May, 2015|Tags: fandom, hugo awards, sff|

Noah Ward.

I got my voter number and PIN for the 2015 Hugos last night, so yay for being able to go vote.

Still no voter packets,1 so I’ve held off ranking in most categories, but–after spending a few posts dissing the tech behind the voting–I’m actually pretty impressed by the way they’ve done the ballot, which essentially remains open and editable until the cutoff date.

Having all the categories stacked on top of each other like that, though… Wow. Yeah. Looks like it’s gonna be a good year for Noah Ward, that’s all I’m saying.

  1. And some contention as to whether we will, in fact, even get voter packets []
2015-04-30T07:59:32+10:0030th April, 2015|Tags: fandom, hugo awards, sff|

You keep using that word…

Interesting article by Barth Anderson looking at what really constitutes “conservative SFF“. He alludes to the fact, quite rightly I think, that “conservative” (use of scare quotes will be evident in a minute) SFF isn’t a dying breed; it’s just so ubiquitous we don’t even notice it as “conservative” any more. He gives the example of The Walking Dead and, in the comments, adds “superhero films” to the roster.

But–and it’s the kind of but that would appeal to Sir Mix-a-Lot–in saying that, both Anderson and myself are making one of the biggest classification errors I’ve seen in the Puppies debate and broader culture wars.

That is, the “conservatism” espoused by Christian theocrats like Vox Day and/or libertarians like Larry Correia isn’t actually, well. Conservative. And that’s true whether you’re talking the specifics of SFF and the Hugos or in a broader cultural sense. People like Day and Correia and their ilk are better understood as neo-reactionaries, with the difference being that while conservatives are, well, conservative in their political opinions–i.e. they oppose radical change–neo-reactionaries are very radical, they just tend to be some flavour of fascist authoritarian radical as opposed to the Marxist radicals of the hard Left.

The problem is that, in 2015, actual small-c conservatives are almost impossible to find, for tedious historical reasons I won’t go into. Most everyone who calls themselves a “conservative” nowadays is, in pure PolSci terms, some brand of reactionary. Australians, you may have noticed this schism recently with the bunch of old guard conservatives like Malcolm Fraser coming out to denounce their modern, reactionary successors. It’s not that Fraser suddenly became a radical progressive in his old age. Fraser is as Fraser was. It’s the politics that shifted around him.

Anderson kind of semi-senses this distinction when he says things like:

we’ve reached a moment in history I never thought I’d see, with classic hallmarks of social conservativism arguably falling out of favor with the bulk of Americans: Namely, shunning gay marriage and homosexuals from society; criminalizing marijuana; keeping health-care privatized; having national discussions about racism, homophobia, and police brutality, that I never thought I’d see in the national spotlight .

Let’s be clear; this isn’t a mark of the growth of progressivism. It’s a mark of the slow shifting of the small-c conservative middle. Civil rights movements have been making noise about racist police for (at least) sixty years. The fight to decriminalise marijuana has been around since (again, at least) the 60s. Gay rights since (ditto) the 80s. And every single industrialised nation outside the U.S. has managed to have universal, state-sponsored healthcare1 for the last century without the world descending into death-panel induced dystopia.

In other words, after nearly one hundred years of accumulated evidence it’s ideologically a-okay for someone who considers themselves a conservative to think that maybe universal healthcare is worth a second look. Conservatism doesn’t mean the automatic rejection of all social, political, and economic change. It just means being slow and cautious about it.

In theory, anyway. Like I said, the label “conservative” has been hijacked as part of the culture wars, and actually finding people who fit in the textbook-defined box can be tricky.

Except, to come back to the point, in the context of the Hugo Awards. You remember George R.R. Martin’s series of posts on the Hugos? Well, those are classically small-c conservative, in that he seems more interested in preserving the legitimacy of the institution of the Hugos/WorldCon than he is in advancing a radical socially progressive agenda. He’s not the only one espousing this position; the anti-Puppy faction is, I think, made up of more “true SFF conservatives” than it is actual progressive radicals, and the way to tell the difference is to tease out why any one individual is pissed off at what the Puppies did.

In other words: People who are mainly pissed at the Puppies for being bigoted pieces of human shit? Progressives (a.k.a. Social Justice Warriors). People who are more outraged that the Puppies disrespected the traditions of the Hugo awards? Small-c conservatives, who we nowadays also tend to call small-l liberals.

Yes, classical liberalism–of the “all men are created equal” type–is a historically conservative position, given that it’s been around for two hundred fucking years and its predecessors are the basis of every single one of our modern democratic institutions, from the courts to the parliament. This is why neo-reactionaries hate democracy and love theocratic fascism and/or oligarchy delete as appropriate.

If you’ve just read all that, first of all, good on you. And second of all, yes. Yes, indeed this means I think Barth Anderson’s breakdown of The Walking Dead as being a conservative show is wrong in the sense that I think it’s a neo-reactionary show, not “conservative” per se. (Which also accounts for the commenter who takes umbrage at Anderson’s classification of “agriculture and motherhood” as things conservatives are opposed to. Conservatives, no. Neo-reactionaries? Definitely yes.)

But, then again, the words are used so interchangeably nowadays that maybe it doesn’t matter.

  1. So much so that the ability to adopt universal healthcare is actually considered one of the milestones to show a country has moved from “developing” to “developed” status. []
2017-11-16T11:17:03+11:0029th April, 2015|Tags: fandom, hugo awards, politics, sff|

Buying prestige.

[I]f a few disgruntled misogynist closet cases compensating for their small guns by writing about big guns can rig the Hugo, then any organization with sufficient pull and money can rig the Hugo. Such as publishers. At the point where the Hugo becomes a case of who has the most money to rig the elections, it becomes worthless.

So it appears the “Sad Puppies” may win the battle, and lose the war. It may be that science fiction only has one prestige award in the future — the Nebula Award. SFWA membership requirements make it impossible for the “Sad Puppies” or anybody else to rig Nebula awards. In the end, what makes libraries (who account for most publisher profits) buy Hugo Award winners is the notion that winning a Hugo Award means it’s popular and high quality. Once it’s demonstrated that winning a Hugo Award means only that the publisher spent more money to rig the election this year than other publishers did, the Hugo becomes meaningless to libraries — and to anybody else, for that matter.

–Badtux the Snarky Penguin on summoning a bigger fish.

I think I’ve mentioned something similar to this before, so I don’t disagree with the sentiment. But I’d just like to take a moment to pause and reflect on the problems in the perception that the only remaining “prestige” award, outside of the Hugos, is the trade award for the U.S. SFF writer’s guild.

Fuck you if you don’t write in the (SFWA-approved way in the) U.S., I guess.1

  1. Disclaimer: yes, this means me. You don’t need to be a U.S. citizen to be a SFWA member, but my publisher is still blackballed, despite the fact they changed their contract offerings to meet SFWA requirements. Go figure, I guess. []
2015-04-29T08:01:59+10:0029th April, 2015|Tags: fandom, hugo awards, publishing, sff|

Buying in.

For many fans in the US, $40 is an expenditure that requires some thought. Spending $40 out of the household budget just to have a say about Best Book of the Year may be frivolous. It may reduce funds available for sports, a field trip or some other enrichment for your children. It’s not a slam-dunk.

And for many other fans, still in the US, it is out of reach. It isn’t a question of diverting the monthly Family Movie Day budget for one month. It is not even a discussion. Many of these people read, review and write SF; they blog, and some of them teach at the college level. They are shut out of the “democratic” Hugo selection process by economics.

Now let’s consider fans in Indonesia, Namibia, Lithuania. Can most of them afford $40 US?

If everyone who wanted to vote had voted, the Rabid Puppy slate might not have found such traction, even if they had a  newly-recruited voting bloc. If the cost of a supporting membership were $6, I wonder what would have happened. Just generally, beyond this year and next,I wonder what would happen. Would we start seeing SF best-sellers from Kenya and Estonia on the short list? Would we start getting more works in translation? In other words, would more nominators and voters introduce us to more good books (which, after all, is ultimately the purpose)?

–Marion on money.

For the record, I think the answer is “no” to the “would a lower voting entry fee get more international works on the ballot?” question, for a variety of reasons of which the money itself is just a small component.

But I do think lowering the cost of supporting WorldCon memberships–which, let’s be realistic here, are really mainly “Hugo voting rights memberships”–would open up the Hugos to pools of voters it’s traditionally underserved. To whit: young people. Teenagers. Still English-speaking, predominantly Western teenagers, true. But teens nonetheless. And teens, particularly teen girls, are the cultural tastemakers. Just ask Marvel.

Of course, this is also the main reason I think a lowering of the membership cost won’t happen. Because WorldCon is nothing if not conservative, and, like, ew. Teen girl cooties. Gross. If we let them into the Old Boy’s Club they might vote for, like, Twilight or whatever it is Girls These Days are into, amirite boys?

And we couldn’t possibly have that…

2015-04-30T07:46:35+10:0029th April, 2015|Tags: fandom, hugo awards, sff|