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.