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.












Filed under book publishing, SFFH

5 responses to “Hugo Rumblings

  1. I’m only distantly aware of all this hoo-hah–never even heard of this Opus Day* fella prior to this week–but it’s become all but impossible to avoid in the sf blogosphere. Everything I read makes the Hugos sound more and more like the Oscars: valuable glam for the winner, but not automatically an indicator of quality, or even boasting the most worthy contestants in the field. Anyway, I may be wrong about that but it’s not that bit I wanted to comment on.

    I read about the Jonathan Ross thing at the time, and I feel sorry for him to tell the truth. He’s a bit of a clown these days, and not afraid of public rudeness that can tip over into the offensive, but he’s also a true lover of fantastical/non-mainstream genres–dig up his classic late-80s series “The Incredibly Strange Film Show” (and its sequel, “Son Of ~”, both of which can be found on Youtube, at the moment at least) and you’ll see a glimpse of the fan lurking at the heart of the naughty little boy TV presenter.

    I can picture his hosting the awards ceremony being akin to Ricky Gervais’s childishly provocative but entertaining turn at the Golden Globes–maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but not necessarily bad for the program. I also imagine Ross would have had plenty of fun at the expense of the right wing hijackers that everyone is up in arms about now… and that’s a little ironic, since it could be argued that Ross lost the gig in the first place due to a case of underhanded, politicised system-gaming. I find myself wondering how many of the people currently wailing about conservative gun-nuts in scifi are the same ones who thought the guy who kissed Neil Gaiman on the lips at the podium was going to make the Hugos look bad…

    * I’m quite proud of this

  2. That particular individual has garnered many nicknames, so you can certainly add yours to the mix.

    As for Ross, I feel no pity for him whatsoever. He’s a man who’s made part of his sizable fortune by sexually humiliating female guests on camera he knew couldn’t fight back for the sake of their careers — just part of the regular old boys club of Britain. No bad boy, just mercenary sexism. Nor did he lose the gig. He decided to give it up — after he’d sneered at upset people on Twitter. And then he let his lad fans go after authors like Seanan McGuire, and his PR people spread a lot of lies throughout British media about what had happened, so it was basically a marketing coup for him for his controversy image. So do not weep for him, Argentina.

    The main thing wasn’t whether Ross could do the hosting gig or not. The main issue was that after WorldCon promised to be significantly sensitive about women’s issues re the convention and female authors getting equal respect as professionals, they went and hired a professional sexist comedian for the job. No matter how discretely he did his patter at the banquet, the mere fact that he’d been hired was basically a big kiss off to the female author nominees and attendees, and they also didn’t follow the rules of the convention and Hugos to do it or announce it. So male and female members of the organization were upset.

    • Hmm. That doesn’t sound particularly worthy, no.

      Every time this all crosses my path there’s some new dimension not previously detailed, but one of the undoubted pleasures of living in Spain is that I don’t even have to worry about ambient exposure to the UK press. It likely would have passed me by entirely if I hadn’t wandered into Scalzi’s blog earlier in the year and started following it.

  3. Hi Kat, just dropping in via Scalzi’s post about the Four Levels of Discrimination to express my appreciation of your contributions to that thread. Well done! Am now following your blog 🙂

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