So the 2019 Hugo Award finalists are out, and…
A full 80% of this year’s Hugo’s finalists are American.1 Like, just to remind people; these are allegedly the world science fiction and fantasy awards.
Critically, all of the finalists in the Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Short Story, Best Graphic Story, Best Dramatic Presentation, and Best Semiprozine categories are, near as I can tell, either American, primarily American, incorporated in America, or otherwise America-adjacent (e.g. Canadian). If you extend the category to include finalists from the UK, you can also throw in the Best Series, Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), Best Editor (Short Form), Best Editor (Long Form), Best Fanzine, and even Best Art Book, the category specifically included by the Dublin Worldcon. Also including Australia takes out Best Fancast and Best Fan Writer, as well.
Obviously, what you do with this information is up to you. But, personally…
Look. Normally I don’t talk too much about my own reactions to this sort of drama, because I think it’s kind of performative (and also, full disclosure, close to home). But, yes; I had a rule for myself this year that I wouldn’t nominate any American works or individuals for the Hugos,2 and I stuck with that. Needless to say, pretty much nothing I nominated made it to the final lists.
But for voting…
So, yes. I’m going to vote. In categories that have wholly American finalists, I’m going to No Award. In other categories, I’m going to rank non-American finalists as I see fit plus, at maximum, the one American finalist I feel is competitive on a global scale. Then it’s No Award.
This is a difficult decision because this knocks out some finalists I would otherwise have voted for, in a more representative playing field. And while it’s not those individual finalists’ “fault” that they benefited from a system that is, quite frankly, laughably and obviously unequal… they still did. And they did it at the expense of diverse international voices. There are plenty of awards for primarily US SFF, e.g. the Nebulas. Let them sweep those. But in a world award that’s not, y’know. Representative of the actual world? Nuh-uh. Fix whatever obvious structural issue is happening first. Because it’s not like this problem is new, or that people haven’t been complaining about it for years. And yet it still persists, which means it’s not going to fix itself without radical action.
So… radical action it is.
- Near as I can tell. Research methodology included Googling names and reading where people say they live from their Wikipedia pages and Twitter bios. I’m also entirely aware I’m collapsing “hyphenated” identities here, as well as potentially non-American citizens currently living and working in America. This is done intentionally; my point here is about access to American institutions, including markets, publishers and editors, cons and networking opportunities, and a general social and cultural “voice.” And while I definitely think this year’s Hugos represent a good diversity of American voices, the point again is that there’s a difference between than an a diversity of voices, full stop. [↩]
- On the theory that, even when I did think works were worthy, they wouldn’t need my help; which turned out to hold true, and the tiny handful of works I would’ve nominated made it to the list without my help. [↩]