Hugo Rumblings

I’m actually trying to put a lot of stuff together, books wise and such, but it’s taking me a bit. Meanwhile, there seems to be a lot of screaming all around over the final ballot for this years Hugo Awards, which will be handed out at WorldCon, which this year is in London, England, as LonCon. The WorldCon was already a bit beleagured on the Hugos due to a thoughtless and brief decision to have “lad humor” British talk show host Jonathan Ross as host for the Hugo banquet. (This seems to have come about because Ross’ wife is a producer who has worked Hugo nominated sci-fi projects and worked with Neil Gaiman.)  As this came right after promises from the con to the author community that they would be particularly watchful as to treating female and non-white authors as equal professionals and work on an atmosphere of accessibility, inclusivity and workable harassment policy for authors and fans, that plan detonated nuclear style for a few hours before Ross stepped down after calling various people stupid on Twitter.

Currently, the uproar is about nominations achieved for author Larry Correia in the Best Novel category and for various authors/artists he put on a recommended slate, including controversial far right extremist author Thomas Beale under the pseudonym Vox Day. Correia has expressed disdain for Hugo voters and the kind of works they nominate (which seems strange, given that the Hugo often puts very popular bestsellers on the ballot.) And the slate was supposedly a way to up-end the Hugos, at least at the nomination stage. So a lot of folk are unhappy about what they see as a log-rolling effort for a political agenda on the ballot, while the other side claims that looking at the political agenda they said that they were doing is out of bounds. Given the form of the voting on the Hugo (you either buy a membership to attend WorldCon which includes a vote or buy a voting only supplemental membership and then you vote on the entire slate of nominees, not just for one,) political agendas aren’t likely to get you very far, nor particularly cause harm to the Hugos, but the wider discussion has some value.

Then there’s the smaller debate over the nomination of the Wheel of Time series for Best Novel Hugo as one unit, written mostly by Robert Jordan, with Brandon Sanderson finishing the series under Jordan’s outlines and partial ms. after Jordan’s saddening death. Because none of the books in the series have been nominated for the Hugo before and the series is finished, Hugo rules allow the whole series to be nominated in that category, (and indeed Wheel of Time is one giant novel spread out over a lot of books.) The Wheel of Time being a seminal work in SFF and an immensely popular bestselling series of length, there are fears that Jordan fans will overwhelm the other, individual title nominees. It’s entirely possible that Wheel of Time will take the prize on a combination of enthusiastic fans and the need to give this last chance tribute. On the other hand, WorldCon is in London this year, with more UK denizens attending than others and Wheel of Time is a bigger deal in the U.S.

I don’t have a problem with Correia and even Day being on the ballot. If they got the votes, they got the votes, and soliciting doesn’t enter into it. I certainly don’t have a problem with Wheel of Time being on the ballot, daunting as it may seem. But I also have no problem with vehement debate and disagreement over those developments. Awards are cultural, and by that nature, political. The whole point of nominating works for these awards is to draw awareness to first the existence of literary works of any kind and the interesting facets of visual media ones in SFF; and second, to provoke just these sorts of discussions about what is there and what is not but perhaps should be there. (If we could do it without death and rape threats for the female side, though, that would be nice.)

Do these discussions open up new possibilities and sensibilities for authors in disadvantaged groups, like women and non-whites? Or does it allow old obstacles to linger? I’m not sure; I think that they may do both but lean towards the former. I do know, though, that you can’t block fans from expressing their interests in the field and voting on those interests, especially when it involves paying a fee to do so. And I do know that such a situation does not mean that an award will fall apart or become utterly worthless, no matter who is on the ballot.

For whatever reasons, these works were of value to somebody in enough numbers to get them on the ballot. Now they will be judged on that value. And that value, like always in fiction, is subjective and open for discussion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I Want the Album

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A Major Earworm — Make A New Dance Up by Hey Ocean!

Seriously, you’ve been warned. This will be stuck in your head for quite awhile:

 

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Art Stuff

I would like one of these lawn dinosaurs very much, please:

http://iraffiruse.net/post/77916191769#.UzYwivldUWJ

Katerina Plotnikova does very funky photo art:

http://www.boredpanda.com/surreal-animal-portraits-katerina-plotnikova/

Isaac Cordal’s sculptures are also amazing:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/27963055@N02/with/5717242910/

2 Cellos are also awesome:

 

 

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Yay Science!

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What D’Ya Know, Science Fiction Isn’t Dead

If you had a conversation in the SFFH community sometime in the 1998-2003 time period, you might well have been arguing with people who felt that contemporary fantasy fiction was rare, unimportant, limited mainly to YA, used to not exist in the past, and would never be anywhere near as popular in the field as pre-industrial secondary world fantasy. (By 2004, those conversations stopped.) If you had a conversation in 2008-2012, it would probably have been concerning wild assertions about e-books, how they were made, what they should cost, the right of illegal downloading, and how they and electronic self-publishing would kill all publishers off by 2014. As we know, these things are cyclical.

No conversation, however, in the SFFH community and at times in the media, is as cyclical as the science fiction is dying and soon to die conversation. And if you were having a conversation in the SFFH community in the 2004-2010 time period, it might very well have been about such claims: how fantasy was pushing SF out as a category market (again,) how women were the big readers and the myth that they didn’t like SF as much (again,) how technology had somehow magically invented all the inventions and big theories and so science fiction’s musings on the future couldn’t keep up (again,) how science fiction was largely dead in the movies (again,) how science fiction doing well in YA didn’t count, how vampires were the only thing going, etc.

Those conversations have died down now to occasional mumbles about how hard SF, the real SF, is still dying, but that never changes. The refrain of widespread science fiction and sci-fi death, however, has become forgotten. That’s because science fiction is all over the place and has now gotten enough hits to have people actually accept it as a media interest, rather than dismiss science fiction hits as somehow rare outliers.

In the movies just recently, Divergent, adapted from the bestselling YA science fiction novel, scored with a $56 million opening weekend, without even yet getting their global audience. It joins The Hunger Games movies, also adapted from the bestselling YA science fiction series read by both girls and boys and with female leads (trickle, trickle.) Last year, nearly a dozen science fiction movies were the big launches, everything from Iron Man 3 to Elysium to Gravity. This up-coming year, SF movies are quite plentiful – more Hunger Games, and Transcendence, Interstellar, Edge of Tomorrow, Jupiter Rising, etc. And that’s just Hollywood – world cinema is doing plenty too. This is not a sudden change; 2009 — a year in which the claims that science fiction was on its way out reached a fever pitch – saw the Star Trek reboot, District 9 and Avatar, the movie that took the number one box office slot. Science fiction is, in fact, and has been, more trusted in Hollywood than fantasy movies, which are seen as unpredictable.

On television, science fiction is on networks, on cable, on the Internet, and again global. Shows like Doctor Who, Orphan Black, Continuum, Almost Human, Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Defiance, Under the Dome, etc., are thick on the ground.  Some are more successful than others, but science fiction shows are a staple of the medium, a medium which is becoming more and more international and melding at least partially with web television on the Net, where science fiction stories are long time favorites.

In written fiction, science fiction has been building and rebuilding its audiences. The burgeoning YA fiction market was commonly seen as either a devourer of the adult category market or unimportant to the adult category market, depending on which claim people wanted to make about trends. The success of The Hunger Games in that market was dismissed as not sufficient for science fiction, given that it was YA and the phenom status of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, while other SF YA bestseller series like Maximum Ride and The Uglies were ignored altogether. Now YA is awash in dystopian SF series that have done well, to the point where the media wonders if they are taking over the field, both for teens and adults. This is of course not happening any more than the purported vampire takeover; teen readers are simply cycling through different types of stories. Right now, they are also enjoying SF with alien contacts, zombies, genetic engineering, cyber AI and space travel adventure, such as Karl Schroeder’s recent novel Lockstep.

The presence of big, acclaimed authors doing SF novels was regarded by some as “outsiders” whose success was supposed to destroy the SF category market, rather than bring more readers to it, as they usually do. Best-selling novels like the time travel love story, The Time Traveler’s Wife, the alt history near future The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, post-apocalyptic novels Oryx & Crake, The Road, World War Z and The Passage were seen by some as death knells for more established (and often equally acclaimed,) SF writers. Instead, they brought in a flurry of movie options for themselves and for SF classics that is still going on, and helped build a general interest in science fiction, as did SF thrillers that were sold in both general fiction and the category market. Currently, Karen Russell’s Sleep Donation is adding to that steady pool.

Category market authors – those working with SFF specialty imprints – saw big deals in the last decade, such as the one given a few years back to British author Alastair Reynolds, with more titles published on most major lists. Currently, The Martian by Andy Weir is causing a big splash and is already optioned for film. Novels like Influx, Red Rising, A Darkling Sea, Air, Ancillary Justice, and new offerings from older authors like C.J. Cherryh, David Weber, William Gibson, and Dan Simmons are racking up sales and buzz. Hugh Howey’s Wool succeeded as both an example of self-publishing audience building and science fiction bestsellerdom, with an adaptation and foreign sales. John Scalzi’s satirical Red Shirts also scored big on the lists and will be a short-run t.v. series. Bestselling novels like The Wind-Up Girl and The Quantum Thief have scored big in recent years, highlighting the crops of military SF, space opera, SF horror, quantum exploration, alien contact and whatever else they can come up with.

So at this point, I am reasonably confident in saying that the predictions I made back in 2008 for SF’s continued health have been accurate. And that perhaps people need to read the story of Chicken Little every so often.

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Some April Fool’s Humor

There are things in the hopper, but it’s April 1st and I’m dealing with zombie and cannibal invasions and the devastating How I Met Your Mother t.v. series finish, so here are a few mild funnies that people did today:

– Over at SF Signal, author Tom O’Donnell writes a funny piece in which he refutes SF Signal‘s supposedly negative review of his barbarian fantasy novel.

– Author Ada Hoffmann gives her conference schedule for the non-existent but should totally exist Dinosaurcon 2014.

– Every year, John Scalzi does something elaborate for April Fool’s Day, usually involving his friends, and at one point, scoring Hugo nominations for it. This year, his pal author Mary Robinette Kowal does the honors. Yeah, fine, but we know that Young Man’s War: First Contact is totally going to happen.

– And just because photos from of our planet are cool, here’s NASA‘s warm-hearted joke for the day.

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