Hugo Ballot Reviews: Best Fan Writer
Today I’m reviewing nominees for Best Fan Writer. This is awarded to a person for work(s) published in fanzines, semiprozines, mailing lists, blogs, BBSs, and similar electronic fora. Work the person may have published in professional publications should not be considered when judging for this award.
So, this one was interesting…
My first thought after reading the samples provided for each nominee in the Hugo Voters Packet was: are the Puppies trolling us?
Going by the excerpts, the only thing that was happening in 2014 in the sci fi/fantasy/fandom neighborhood the fan writers were writing about was politically correct bullying of various people who don’t mean to be racist/sexist/et cetera (and we should stop being mean to them) and the fallout of the Requires Hate revelation. These are not the only topics in the packet, but the only writer included in the packet who doesn’t write about those things, only reviews sci fi and fantasy books published years (often decades) ago with commentary on how those books influence subsequent gaming systems—so he isn’t writing about 2014.
Of the five nominees, only two are writers I’ve heard of before: Laura J. Mixon (and her pseudonym M.J. Locke) and Jeffro Johnson. Spoiler alert: I had read and enjoyed both of their blogs before the Sad/Rabid Puppies gamed the Hugo nomination process.
Laura J. Mixon’s sample in the Hugo packet is her several long, methodical, exhaustive posts documenting the Requires Hate debacle. For those not in the know: Requires Hate was a user name of an anonymous internet personality who harassed and vilified various writers and prominent fans in certain internet communities. Requires Hate wrote vitriolic reviews filled with ad hominem attacks and frequently threatened people with bodily harm among other awful stuff. And then someone found out that the person behind that user name (and several other well-known internet trolls who had been harassing the same people) is Benjanun Sriduangkaew, a Thai women who is an out lesbian who had been getting short stories published for a few years (and was a past nominee for the John W. Campbell Award).
But the reason this category felt like trolling is: from three of the nominees all or nearly most of their material is complaints about so-called Social Justice Warriors and Political Correctness gone awry. I’ve looked at the blogs of these three, and they wrote about some other topics last year. Things that had a lot more to do with science fiction and fantasy than this other stuff. In this category, each nominee provides their own samples. Why choose this stuff when they could have included other material that would make them seem less like the nerd version of the Drudge Report or Rush Limbaugh?
Going by the packet submissions from Cedar Sanderson, Amanda S. Green, and Dave Freer, which we can presume to be what they consider to be their best or representative work, all of them want to be judged as editorialist or “commentators.” I don’t see that any of their samples rise to the level of excellence in editorializing or commentary. Snark they have aplenty, but persuasiveness, not so much. Nothing in their packets makes me feel inclined to vote for them. Poking around on there web sites looking for more didn’t change my mind.
Laura J. Mixon‘s submission consists of just one topic, the Requires Hate issue (which Dave Freer also talked about). Her posts weren’t typical blog posts, but rather an exhaustive report of how may people received threats, what the threats and harassment was about, and so on. Because harassment is a serious charge, and because we all know that there is a tendency for people who aren’t actually targets of the harassment to dismiss it as “it’s just the internet” I understand the reason she decided to be that thorough. She also tried the be fair and even handed, so it wouldn’t come off as just a hit piece. Seriously, Google Laura J. Mixon and find the report on her website. It has pie charts, bar graphs, and appendices. She took the issue very seriously because a lot of people had been hurt by the actions of one harasser.
And looking through her two blogs, it’s really the only non-professional scifi-related writing she did last year. Most of her other blog posts are one sentence things like, “Look at this video of mission control when the space probe passed the comet” or “There’s this new cool book out about Steampunk you should check out.” So I get why the Requires Hate thing is her sole contribution to the packet.
It’s thorough, well written, well organized, fascinating to read, and is about an issue that caused trouble for many writers and fans. I’m not sure the volume of her fan-writing quite qualifies her as the best fan writer of the year. The report might have been better nominated for Best Related, to be honest.
Jeffro Johnson’s packet features several of his book reviews from last year. They are always interesting to read. There were more than the ones he included in his packet last year, and he did write about other gaming topics, but a lot of his posts are these kinds of reviews. I did enjoy them, even though I know that at least two of them I had read last year.
I looked through his blog for last year to get a sense beyond the packet (and because I had gone and looked at everyone else’s blogs). He wrote a few more ambivalently defensive posts about GamerGate than I recalled, but I know his blog is one of those that when I see a title that looks like it’s about a console game, I skip. So I was less aware of his opinions on that. Reading through some of them now, I’m struck by the fact that when he writes about topics other than book reviews, it’s difficult to know what his point is.
And that’s a toughie, because in this category it is the person’s entire non-professional writing during the year that is supposed be judged. It’s one of the people categories, rather than a category about a specific piece of work.
So I’m not sure which of these two I’m going to put in my number one slot. And I’m running out of time to decide.