Survivorship bias can be found doubly in the Retro Hugos, because not only do people (and the Retro Hugo nominator base is small compared to the current year Hugos) tend to nominate the famous stories, the ones that endured, they also tend to nominate and vote for writers (and editors and artists) whose names the recognise. This is why unremarkable debut stories by future stars tend to get nominated for the Retro Hugos, while better but lesser known works and authors tend to get overlooked…
But even taking the known problems with the Retro Hugos into consideration, the breadth and variety of stories on the 1944 Retro Hugo ballot is astounding (pun fully intended), as is the fact that quite a few of them don’t really fit into the prevailing image image of what Golden Age science fiction was like. And this doesn’t just apply to left-field finalists such as Das Glasperlenspiel by Hermann Hesse in the novel category or Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and The Magic Bed-Knob by Mary Norton in the novella category, neither of whom I would have expected to make the Hugo ballot in 1944, if only because US science fiction fans wouldn’t have been familiar with them. No, there also is a lot of variety in the stories which originated in US science fiction magazines.
As I said, go read her entire post, it’s worth your time.
Among the claims that is constantly put forward from some quarters are that:
- until very recently, virtually all sf/f was written by straight white men,
- until very recently, the vast majority of readers of sf/f were straight white men and boys,
- for most of fandom’s history, the vast majority of people organizing clubs and conventions were straight white men (young and old),
- even now, the vast majority of “real fans” are straight white men and boys,
…therefore any sf/f that features protagonists other than straight white men, and talks about any issues not of interest to straight white men, isn’t real science fiction or fantasy, but it is so-called message fiction.
But the truth is that all four of those claims are false. And that isn’t a matter of opinion. Go look at the 1944 Retro Hugo ballot. More than a single token woman author. And even more intriguing, a rather large number of protagonists and major characters in the works are women and people of color.
In a previous blog post, I linked to some of 1930s, 40s, and 50s sf/f fan publications, showing that some of the most prominent founders of U.S. science fiction fan clubs during the Golden Age were queer men and women (who also became active in the gay/lesbian rights movement).
Go to the staff meeting of any medium-to-large sized fan-led sf/f convention today, and take a look at just how many of the people in that room are not male. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find a disproportionate number who are queer. And that has been the case for at least three decades that I know of (I didn’t attend my first convention until the late 1970s, and didn’t start paying attention to how they were run until the late 80s, so I can’t offer personal testimony beyond that).
Look around any big convention at how many girls and women are doing cosplay, or staffing booths in the dealer’s dens, or are panelists. It’s harder to find how many are queer, but next time you’re at a convention, look for some panels whose titles mention queer topics, then go stick your head in the door of a couple and see how full the rooms are.
Listen, I’m an old literally white-bearded white guy. I grew up reading Heinlein and Clarke and Asimov in the 1960s. But I’m also gay. And I was also just as fervently a fan of Ursula Le Guin, Andre Norton, and Madeleine L’Engle back then. But more importantly, one reason I was a fan from such an early age was because my mother was one of the biggest fans of Robert Heinlein and similar sci fi of the 50s and 60s you will ever meet. I am a second generation fan, but it wasn’t my dad who was reading sci fi (he preferred spy novels and westerns), it was my mom.
I’ve written before in a different context how my mom’s old, worn copy of Dune (which she told me I had to wait until I was older before I could read it) often tantalized me on the book shelf when I was a kid. A couple of things I should add to that story: she bought the Ace paperback brand new when it first came out in 1965, and it was looking very worn around 1969 when she decided to move it to a less tempting location. It looked that way after only 4 years because she re-read it frequently.
I know that’s only one anecdotal sample, but I also remember that when we went on our regular visits to used book stores when I was a kid, my mom was never the only woman browsing the sci fi/fantasy shelves.
People of all genders read, create, watch, and love sci fi and fantasy (and comic books and horror and thrillers and weird fiction and all the other sub-genres). People of all sexual orientations read, create, watch, and love sf/f. People of all races read, create, watch, and love sf/f. People of color, queer people, women, and nonbinary people all exist, and together, they outnumber straight white men in world population (and also U.S. population, if you’re one of those people who think that the phrase “Third World Country” is objective terminology). If you’re trying to exclude people of color, queer people, women, and non-binary people, you are the one focusing on a niche market.
If you are a writer excluding any or all of those categories of people from your cast of characters, whether you mean to or not, you are serving a misogynist, racist, homophobic agenda. And that’s definitely not a non-political stance. Those stories are not non-political fun.
Science fiction was arguably created by a young woman/teen-age girl (Mary Shelley), for goodness’ sake!
The Hugo Awards Ballot was released a bit ago (and I linked to at least one post about it at the time), and one of the more interesting items to make it to the ballot was the fanfiction web site, Archive Of Our Own (known to many of us as AO3) in the Best Related Work category. This nomination is, of course, not without some controversy. Best Related Work is usually awarded to works of non-fiction, such as biographies of authors and editors from the field, or collections of non-fiction essays and/or reviews, and so forth, but the definition of the category allows for other things, which bothers some people. This is hardly the first time that something which isn’t clearly a non-fiction book or collection or non-fiction essays has been nominated, and it won’t be the last.
The first objection many people have is that it doesn’t qualify. I think this blog post says it best: Archive of Our Own is a work and its related and I’m really happy that it’s a Hugo finalist.
Cam expanded the official definition of the category into a bullet list and then answered most of the issues. I’m just going to blatantly steal most of it here, then proceed:
- Related to the field or fandom. Lots of SF/F in there and by its nature what gets written is out of fanishness. Check.
- Either non-fiction or, if fictional, is noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text. The contents of the archive are fiction but what is being nominated is the thing as an entity. Consider the difference between lots of science fiction novels and a library of science fiction novels. It’s the library that’s being nominated, which includes its contents but which is not the same as its contents. Check.
- Not eligible in any other category. Obviously. Check.
- Which has been substantially modified during the previous calendar year. I think this is the only weak point in an eligibility argument…
On the last part of the category definition, the archive itself, as a platform, has some significant expansions to the search and filter options. There are a number of other feature improvement during the 2018 calendar year, including: support for several new character sets (which means the works originally written in languages the previously couldn’t be uploaded and read can—it isn’t just emojis!), importing several other fandom archives that were in danger of being lost due to various issues through the Open Doors Project (which isn’t just about importing the contents, but also the relational data and ownership controls), and a change log.
If the argument is that the platform itself and the way it enables fannish activity is what has been nominated, then I think those clearly qualify as significant changes in how the platform worked before.
A related controversy to the questions of whether it is really eligible under the current definition is whether the category definition itself is the problem. One form this argument has taken is that a win for AO3 will open up the floodgates of other weird things being nominated and soon non-fiction books and the like will never be honored again.
That’s a slippery slope argument, and there are many reasons logicians consider the slippery slope assertion a logical fallacy. And I’m not wasting any more pixels on a logical fallacy.
An actually debatable aspect to this argument is whether or not non-fiction book-length works deserve specific category of their own, while a separate and more explicitly Miscellaneous category could exist beside it. I think the answer at this time is that we just don’t know if it would make sense to split this into two categories.
One reason I lean against splitting them is that, as it is now, the down ballot categories get the attention of fewer nominators and voters as it is, and I think that added another category isn’t going to help that situation. Whether there are enough items that aren’t non-fiction books at this time to give us more than 6 candidates a year is simply not clear.
Another reason I lean against it is that no matter how categories are defined, there going to be works that don’t clearly belong in them. Books, stories, dramatic works, et al, are works of art. And art is supposed to be creative. Humans are tool-making animals that constantly improve existing tools and invent new ones. There are going to be emerging forms of artistic expression that don’t clearly fit into an existing category. For that reason I’m very comfortable with having at least one of the categories have a flexible enough definition to allow for those unexpected things.
I mean, seriously, if sci fi fandom can’t accommodate novel means of expression, then what is the point of its existence?
And a third reason I lean against splitting the category is that well, some years there aren’t that many excellent non-fiction works of book length concerning sf/f or the fandom published. At least not IMHO. If, when the nominating data is released after the awards ceremony, it turns out that some book-length non-fiction just barely missed making the ballot, that might indicate that we need to rethink the categories. Which is why I said we can’t know, just yet.
Let’s move on to the next controversy: what exactly has been nominated here? Most everyone is going with the argument that it is the platform and the manner in which it promotes and facilitates the creation, collection, and discovery of fanfiction and related information. And I totally understand that interpretation and that is certainly what many of the people who were arguing in favor of nominating it said.
But I want to point you to item number two in Cam’s list above. I really like his analogy of thinking of this as a library that has been nominated. The library as a whole is more than just the sum of its parts, but it also includes those parts. And further, without those parts, it is meaningless. A library with no books at all is just a building with shelves, right?
Well, sort of.
A library is also a system for collection, collating, relating, and distributing books. And that is not an insignificant thing. Which is why a lot of people are pushing the nomination of the platform. But a library is also a system for stimulating imaginations. In that way, a good library is, itself, a work of art.
A library is also a system for education, and more than just as a repository of information. Sufficient exposure to books has the effect of inspiring some people to write books of their own, and so a library is also a system for creating writers, and ultimately, a system for creating more books. Again, the library can’t do that if it doesn’t contain the books that inspire.
AO3 fulfills that phenomenon, too. There are many professional writers working today who started out writing fan fic. And I don’t just mean younger writers reading fanfic online. The internet didn’t exist when I was six years old, and I hadn’t yet discovered the existence of mimeographed-then-sent-through-snail-mail fanzines, yet. But I was writing my own versions of stories I loved at that age. Sometimes my motivation was to tell more stories because I had reached the end. Other times I was unhappy with how a story had turned out, so I decided to write my own version.
All of that is how I got into writing. It’s why I started faithfully reading The Writer and Writer’s Digest in the local libraries. It’s why I started mailing my (at the time very derivative) stories to magazines when I was 12 or 13 years old. It’s why I kept working at it until I started actually getting published (even if it was almost always in very small circulation ‘zines).
The creation and consumption of fan fiction is, in itself, a fannish activity. The conversation, both implied and overt, that happen between the fans and creators of fanfic constitute commentary on the original works that inspired the fan fiction, as well as the phenomena of how people receive and react to narratives and other works of art. Creating fan fiction, for some, is a training ground for going on to create original fiction.
And sometimes, when either the original works have gone into public domain, or when a clever writer changes things just enough that they don’t infringe on trademarks, fan fiction wins Hugo Awards.
So, a platform that facilitates the creation and discovery of hundreds of thousands of works of fan fiction certainly deserves to be in the running for a Hugo itself. And everyone who contributes to it, not just the administrators and programmers, should be proud.
Before I comment further (and link to some other reactions to the ballot), I should list the actual winners, just in case you haven’t found this information elsewhere:
Best Novel — The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin
Best Novella — All Systems Red, by Martha Wells
Best Novelette — “The Secret Life of Bots,” by Suzanne Palmer
Best Short Story — “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™,” by Rebecca Roanhorse
Best Series — World of the Five Gods, by Lois McMaster Bujold
Best Related Work — No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Best Graphic Story — Monstress, Volume 2: The Blood, written by Marjorie M. Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form — Wonder Woman, screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, directed by Patty Jenkins
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form — The Good Place: “The Trolley Problem,” written by Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan, directed by Dean Holland
Best Editor, Short Form — Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
Best Editor, Long Form — Sheila E. Gilbert
Best Professional Artist — Sana Takeda
Best Semiprozine — Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Julia Rios; podcast produced by Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky
Best Fanzine — File 770, edited by Mike Glyer
Best Fancast — Ditch Diggers, presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace
Best Fan Writer — Sarah Gailey
Best Fan Artist — Geneva Benton
Best Young Adult Book — Akata Warrior, by Nnedi Okorafor
John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer — Rebecca Roanhorse
First, Nicholas Whyte has a breakdown of the statistics and voting that I found fascinating. Cora Buhlert has some very insightful (as always) comments on the winners. Camestros Felapton has his Hugo reactions and the comments contains some great observations. And Alexandra Erin has some interesting thoughts about conventions, awards, fandom, and what it all means.
A lot of the other blog posts and stories you will find out there are focused on N.K. Jemisin’s historic win: she’s the first person ever to win the Best Novel Hugo three years in a row. Two years ago it was big news that she was the first African-American woman to win in that category. As one person observed on Twitter: that historic first was more about how exclusionary society and the Hugos had been during the 60-some years of Hugos before that. So that win was only historic because the community had previously been less than welcoming. This year’s historic moment is much better: she’s won three times in a row because her novels are awesome.
The fact that I even point this out is used by certain people to try to prove that these wins are undeserved, or that those of us who voted for these works are doing so for some kind of political messaging rather than because we actually like the stories in question. And all I can say to them is: we already know you are bigots and a-holes, so we don’t really care what you think.
But, in the interest of full disclosure, I will let you in on an important detail (which I didn’t quite realize myself until a few minutes ago when I dug out all my Hugo ballot emails from my email archive): at none of these last three years did I chose Jemisin’s novel as my number one choice on the ballot. Each year her novel was my second choice. This year, for instance, I really quite liked her book, and it was a difficult choice, but there was another novel (Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee) that I liked slightly better. Similarly last year and the year before there was another book that I liked better than Jemisin’s, so I put them just above hers. Do I wish that my choices each year had won? Well, yes, but I was also quite happy that Jemisin’s book won each time, because I liked each of them, too.
That’s because I’m able to understand that just because I likes one book slightly more than another that doesn’t mean that my favorite is somehow inherently a superior work to the others. Which isn’t to say that I don’t believe there aren’t ways to grade the quality of the writing or plotting or execution of a story, just that everything else being more-or-less equal, my tie-breaker is going to be different than yours.
It is true that I find stories written by women, people of color, or queer people are more likely to resonate with me in ways that stories by white cisgendered heterosexual guys do not. That isn’t because the white cis het guys are inferior to the other people, it’s because in our society white cis het guys get to operate on the lowest difficulty setting and thus are less likely to perceive some aspects of our society that the rest of us have to deal with. I’m a white guy, yes, but I’m also an out gay man who as a child was unable to hide my queerness; growing up I experienced society differently than my straight contemporaries. I saw unfairness in places where they found opportunities. I saw barriers where they found open doors and welcoming arms. The way I was marginalized isn’t the same way that people of color or women and so on are marginalized, but writers from those groups ran into similar barriers and injustices. Their perspective is going to be, in many cases, more like mine than not. So, yeah, I find the stories they tell and the viewpoints they employ more interesting.
So, yeah, I’m more likely to read books by these authors—not because I’m refusing to read white cis het guys, but because they are more likely to be recommended by the reviewers I have learned have similar tastes as mine, they are more likely to write about subjects I find interesting, and (most importantly) when I begin reading their stories, I’m more likely to be pulled in and keep turning the pages.
I read stuff written by men. I vote for stuff written by men. Checking my ballot, I see that works written by men made it into the top half of several categories on my ballot. But I had to go look—I didn’t remember because that is not how I choose which pieces to vote for. By the time I’m fiddling with my ballot, moving the entries around, all I’m thinking about is the story and how I felt while I was reading it.
I only nominate stories/magazines/shows/podcasts I have read/watched/listened to. Once the ballots are out, I do my darnedest to read all of the things that made it to the ballot that I haven’t already. And when I’m reading, I’m not thinking much about the author. Because if they have done their job, the story is going to consume my attention.
To sum up, I quite enjoyed this year’s ballot. I have a couple more authors on my list to look out for. It was quite fun. And as I said after I turned in the ballot, now I have a lot of other things in my to-read pile that i need to get back to.
But, before I close, I highly recommend you watch N.K. Jemisin’s 2018 Hugo Award Best Novel acceptance speech.:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
So, to re-iterate, the hardest part this year was picking which things to put in first place in each category, since I thought pretty much everything this time around was award worthy.
Technically I still have several hours after this post will publish when I can go back in and move things around on my ballot, but I really think I need to stop dithering and just leave it.
Two categories that I almost always decide on last are the Editor, Long Form, and Editor, Short Form. For short form, usually if I recognize which publication an editor worked on, and I’m familiar with it, I feel confident I can rank them. It’s when I don’t know the publication well that I feel a little less certain.
Editor, Long Form is easy if, like this year (and as I recall last year) every nominee provides a list of all the books that they worked on that were published in the year under consideration. Then I have something to judge them on. This category was previously one of the hardest for me in the nominating phase, until I read a suggestion on someone’s blog: look at the list of the books you’ve decided to nominate, go to the publisher’s web site for each, and find out who the editor of that book was.
I’m kicking myself for not thinking of this during the nomination phase with regards to professional artist. If a book that I know is eligible has a great cover, I should nominate that artist. So, next year I hope to have more than one nominee in that category!
Anyway, it’s been a fun couple of months reading the stuff that made the ballot. Now that I’ve finished my voting, I can go back to reading other things in my big to-read pile!
Anyway, the winners are:
The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)
Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com publishing)
“The Tomato Thief”, by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016)
“Seasons of Glass and Iron”, by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)
Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)
Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)
Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:
Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films)
Dramatic Presentation, Short Form:
The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes”, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough (SyFy)
Editor, Short Form:
Editor, Long Form:
Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky
Lady Business, edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan
Tea and Jeopardy, presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman
Series:(Special Category added by option of Worldcon 75)
The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: (Not a Hugo Award, but administered along with the Hugo Awards)
And I’m sure that in certain corners of the trollnet there is a lot of angry thrashing: Women swept nearly every category at the 2017 Hugo Awards. To paraphrase Ruth Bader Ginsburg: and for how many years were the categories literally swept by men (and almost always white men, at that)? Let me repeat: I’m an old, literally grey bearded, cis male white fan who literally learned how to read from Robert A. Heinlein novels, and every single one of this year’s winners were fabulous sf/f works that deserve that award because they are awesome stories.
So, congratulations to all the winners!
Oh, another thing announced yesterday: Worldcon 2019 will be in Dublin, Ireland! It’ll be the first Irish Worldcon! Yay! There’s a lot of other fun news from the con, you can see a bunch of pictures and more here.
On to other things: Terry Gross is one of my favorite people to listen to on the radio. She’s been interviewing people for years, and much of what I like about her show is how many times she made me really connect with and care about people I didn’t expect to. Anyway, she was on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon this week, and it was funny in a way I absolutely did not expect. Watch the whole clip to learn about her process, but also to get a really good laugh when she tells the story of the time Bill O’Reilly angrily stormed out of an interview.
NPR’s Terry Gross Has a Sick Burn for Bill O’Reilly Walking Out on Their Fresh Air Interview:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.
Lots of people have been freaking out about all the nuclear war talk this week. I left most of it out of yesterday’s round up of links other than to link to an analysis of why it is almost certain that we don’t actually need to be worried just yet. But besides most people not understanding the technological hurdles as to why North Korea doesn’t have that missile-capable bomb there’s more. And Nothing New On North Korea Except Donald Trump’s Freak-Out. There actually isn’t any new news. Only one agency is saying this is a possibility, and that same intelligence agency claimed the same thing several years ago and was shown to be wrong then. Furthermore, Donald isn’t suddenly talking about this because of a security briefing he got. He started angrily threatening war when he saw a headline in the Washington Post… which he has also claimed in one of the fake news outlets, but obviously he doesn’t really think that, does he? Anyway, Rachel Maddow’s clip that I linked is really good. And she had an actual
(recently retired) intelligence expert whose specialty was North Korea for decades. It’s really worth the watch.
Related, I’m really irritated that this is even necessary: From the editor in chief of Christianity Today: The Use of Nuclear Weapons Is Inherently Evil. Even though I consider myself a former christian, it angers me to a level that is difficult to describe that there are so-called christian pastors saying the opposite, saying things like Megachurch Pastor Says Trump Has God’s Approval to Start Nuclear War. Geezus! Even the religious right’s favorite president, Ronald Reagan, condemned nuclear weapons as “totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly destructive of life on earth and civilization.” And who can forget what the late evangelist Billy Graham said on the subject: “I cannot see any way in which nuclear war could be branded as being God’s will. Such warfare, if it ever happens, will come because of the greed and pride and covetousness of the human heart.”
Well, we certainly have a president who epitomizes greed and pride and covetousness…
Grrrr! And don’t get me started on the literal Nazis marching in North Carolina… but at least some Republicans are waking up: Former GOP Senator Calls For Trump’s Removal “Donald Trump is seriously sick. He is dangerous. As a citizen, a former U.S. Senator and twelve-year member of the Armed Services Committee, I urge you to act at once. This is an emergency.”
I can’t end on a sour note. So, here’s some much better news: ‘Sense8’ is back in production, and the finale is going to be totally ‘epic’ and Formerly Abused Husky Now Helps Children Who Have Been Abused.
And yet it it can bother us a lot.
Some works of art (movies, books, TV series) are racist or sexist or misogynist or homophobic or transphobic or ableist, but still have some redeeming qualities. We’ve all liked something which had some problematic stuff in it. The original Dune novel is homophobic (the more evil a character was, the more gay they were, no good character is even bi-curious), for instance, but I still really enjoyed the novel when I read it as a teen (and the first few sequels). I still like the book, but now that I’ve become aware enough to recognize the homophobia, there is a caveat when I recommend it.
I wrote a lot of fan fiction in my late teens and early twenties and some of it utilized the same problematic trope as Dune: the few bisexual and gay characters I wrote back then tended to be at least a bit on the wicked side. This was true for a while even after I started coming out to myself as queer. So while I can’t excuse the inherent homophobia in a lot of stories written in the 50s, 60s, and even the 70s, I understand that it doesn’t always come from an actively malicious place. I’ve also written before about how shocked I was when, after someone pointed out a certain amount of sexism in a story I’d written, that when I looked at a lot of my other works with that in mind, there was casual sexism all over the place. So just because someone is able to enjoy a piece of art because of a small amount of problematic content that doesn’t necessarily mean that they endorse the prejudice.
While I’m willing to let other people like whatever they want, I’m not required to approve of their choices or withhold judgment. If someone only likes things that are extremely anti-semetic, for instance, it’s perfectly okay to infer from that predilection that the person is more than okay with anti-semetism. Furthermore, if:
- the only works a person likes pushes a misogynist, homophobic, racist agenda;
- and/or if they actively try to exclude works that give marginalized people a place at the table;
- and/or if they actively harass fans who recommend works that center marginalized people;
- and/or if they campaign against writers or artists because of their race, ethnic background, sexual identity, et cetera;
- and/or if they say that portraying queers or people of color and so forth in a positive manner represents an existential threat to civilization…
…they have clearly shown that, like Bradbury’s classmates, they are not friends, and are actually enemies. Not just enemies of queers and other marginalized people, but in my not-so-humble opinion, enemies of science fiction/fantasy itself. I firmly believe and will always insist that sf/f is ultimately about hope. Even the most dystopian sci fi and gruesome horror hinges on a glimmer of hope. I am not being a hypocrite or intolerant if I decide to stop spending time with enemies (which includes exposing myself to their opinions). I am simply following Bradbury’s example: I’m taking my dinosaurs and leaving the room.
That’s enough about that, for now.
Voting on the Hugo Awards ends soon, and I’ve been fiddling with my ballot off and on for a while. Because of the move, I didn’t get around to downloading the Hugo Packet until later than usual. And because the unpacking is still going on and June at work was all about lots of very long hours, I’ve been having trouble reading all the stuff that made the ballot which I hadn’t already read.
Anyway, the status of my ballot as of Wednesday night is behind the link…
Not writing about it so much this year was intentional. One benefit of that was that I had fewer vitriolic comments come in on this blog that I had to delete rather than approve. I was a lot less anxious about what the results of the voting would be than I was last year. I’m not sure how much of that was because last year the Hugo voters overwhelmingly rejected the Puppy slate, rather than a result of actively avoiding writing and thinking about them as much.
I am quite certain that at least part of the reason I was less emotionally distraught going in was that I didn’t force myself to read all the way to the end of every entry in short story, novella, and novelette this year. I gave each entry three pages to hook me, and if they didn’t hook me by then, I stopped and put them beneath No Award on my ballot. Reading some of that awful stuff—stories that would have been rejected for poor composition, lack of plot, or gapping logic holes by most of the fanzines I’ve ever been associated with—and getting outraged at the knowledge that such poorly crafted material had displaced more deserving works was a big part of why I was so upset last year.
The works that won this year are great and quite deserving. A couple of them were even things that I nominated, so that was fun.
There was some drama at WorldCon, at least some of it related to the proponents of the Puppy cause. But I also hear that a lot more very cool stuff happened.
I don’t think I want to get into that. And a bunch of what I would like to say has already been said by other people: Abigail Nussbaum observes in Sunday, August 21, 2016 The 2016 Hugo Awards: Thoughts on the Winners,
“The one thing I keep learning, again and again, as I study this award is that, much as it frustrates me, much as it throws up shortlists that disappoint me, much as it often seems stuck in a middlebrow rut, the Hugo is always what it is. It doesn’t take thousands of new voters to keep the Hugo true to itself, because the people who vote for it every year will do that job themselves. With something like half the voters we had last year, we still managed to send the same message: that we have no patience for astroturf; that we have no time for writing that embarrasses the paper and ink used to print it; and that this is an award that can be gamed, but it can’t be stolen. This year’s Hugo voters had no trouble telling junk from serious nominees; they saw the difference between the nominees being used as shields by the puppies and the ones that truly represent their literary tastes and politics. And even more importantly, in the best novel and best novella categories in particular, Hugo voters recognized some of the finest and most exciting work published in this genre in years.”
One place where I disagree with Nussbaum is about the nature of the drop-off in voting numbers this year compared to last, after last year had such a dramatic surge of new voters. Last year’s number of voters was 5,950, which was a big leap from the 3,587 ballots cast in 2014. This year, the number dropped down to 3,130, which is in the ballpark of the 2014 number. However, as many people pointed out, 2014 had an usually high number of Hugo voters. In fact, from 1976 through 2010, the average number of ballots cast each year was about 1100.
So to argue that the voting numbers this year have dropped back to the level before is a bit shaky. Yes, last year after news broke of the Puppy assaults on the award, a couple thousand more fans than usual purchased WorldCon supporting memberships. Based on all the blogging and how they voted, those extra memberships were people coming to vote against slate voting, or at least the worst of the slates. But that the numbers didn’t leap that high this year doesn’t mean those extra fans all gave up. I know of six people who voted for the first time ever last year because of the Puppies, and who also voted this year. That isn’t a scientific sample by any means, but 3130 votes is a lot higher than the pre-Puppy typical number.
Also, last year wasn’t the first year that the Puppies ran their campaign, it was simply the first year that they managed to take over entire categories on the ballot with their bloc voting scheme.
She’s right that it is harder to get people to do something they’ve never done before consistently, but I don’t think that all of us who had never voted before last year are going away.
Then over at WeHuntedTheMammoth.com we have: Fake sci-fi boys cry salty tears over Puppies defeat at the Hugo Awards, which observes:
“[Theodore “Vox Day” Beale] is trying his best to spin the defeat as a victory (“we have the SF-SJWs exactly where we want them at this point in time”) but even the fake sci-fi boys on Reddit’s gamergate hangout KotakuInAction can see what happened. And they are indeed sad little puppies about it.”
The Reddit conversation in question links to this wonderful Guardian article: Hugo awards see off rightwing protests to celebrate diverse authors which observes:
“Another attempt by the Sad and Rabid Puppies groups to hijack the science fiction award goes to the dogs, as authors and titles not in their campaign take top prizes.”
And past Hugo-nominee Saladin Ahmed had a couple of good observations on Twitter:
The Hugos went to some very deserving works. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (which won Best Novel) was one of the best books I’ve read in the last couple of years; it’s hard to describe, but it is a book about a world where apocalypse events happen with great regularity, but it is also funny and hopeful even while commenting on the nature of inequality. And “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (which won Best Short Story) was the a truly delightful take on Artificial Intelligence while being a comment on the human condition. I could keep going on, because oddly enough, my first choice in most of the categories of the ballot were also the winners. They were all really good. To read a good run-down of who won, you can check out this blog: The 2016 Hugo Awards or Fandom 2 : Puppies 0:
“To sum it up, in spite of canine interference, women won or co-won Hugos in nine of seventeen categories. All four fiction categories were won by women, three of them women of colour (plus a man of colour winning as translator). So inspite of the rabid puppies doing their worst, we still have one of the most diverse list of winners ever. And even though a couple of IMO puppy hostages finished under “No Award”, we also puppy hostages winning. Actual puppies, however, lost and lost badly.”
And I could repeat all the arguments I and others have made before of how the claims of the Sad and Rabid Puppies are highly illogical, but you’d have more fun reading the Guardian’s Book Blog where Damien Walter reads and reacts to some of the Puppies’ favorite authors, Hugo awards: reading the Sad Puppies’ pets:
“[T]he Sad Puppies don’t want any of their books to end up on bestseller lists or TV screens. It’s the same frustrating paradigm that British MP Michael Gove hit upon when he said that people were sick of experts, or what Donald Trump plays upon when he rails against “professional politicians”. We’re seeing the Dunning-Kruger effect played out on a mass scale, and the Sad Puppies are just a speck in that wider problem.”
Okay, the Puppies will be with us for years to come, just as we have never gotten rid of white supremacists nor men who want to take the right to vote away from women. But over time, the movements wither. As we’re seeing right now with the upsurgence of the Teabaggers and other Trump supporters, hate can rear its ugly head again. But in the long run, light dispels darkness and love beats hate. All this anger about people other than straight white dudes winning every single award is the dying gasp of a shrinking fraction of the population.
Vox Day and his ilk will keep trying to whip up trouble as long as he thinks it will help him sell books. But I think history is clear that he is going to be appealing to a smaller and smaller group of people. And as Mr. Spock once observed: “Without followers, evil cannot spread.”
Fortunately, there are people actively working to spread good. Alexandra Erin points out that the point of conventions or Hugos and any other awards is about connections and feelings of genuine admiration: WORLDCON: Comedy tomorrow, Hugos tonight. And once again George R.R. Martin hosted the Hugo Losers Party and handed out awards to people and publications that would have made the ballet without the slate voting: Alfie Awards.
The Rabid Puppies stuck with their bloc voting scheme, though this year their notorious racist/homophobic leader, Vox Day, tried to be clever, putting on his list some authors who have been critical of the Puppies in the past, but who also were likely to be nominated by a lot of regular Hugo voters. Since no matter what happens, Vox always claims that the outcome was a victory and that all of us fell into his trap, I assume that when a couple of these big name authors win he’ll be crowing afterward. And if they don’t win, he’ll say this proves that the Hugo voters are part of an evil cabal who refuse to give any award to anyone he recommends. Or something.
Anyway, this year the voting process for me was a lot less stressful than last year. Last year I tried to read every nominee, regardless of whether it was on one of the slates. I wanted to be able to say with a clear conscious that I gave every work a fair chance and only deployed the No Award option when it was deserved. Which meant I forced myself to slog through some truly awful, extremely poorly written stories. And that gets to be depressing after a while.
A friend asked why I was doing that rather than what she did: she started each story, but if by the third page or so it hadn’t hooked her so that she wanted to keep turning the pages, she stopped and put the title under No Award. “The awards are supposed to be for excellence, after all.” I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that. If a story isn’t good enough to hook me, then it doesn’t deserve my vote. Simple!
That made this year a whole lot easier. I mean, seriously so, so very much easier. Because once again, most of what the Puppies nominated did not pass that test. Yes, No Award was my top pick in more than one category.
The Retro Hugos were a bit more fun. The regular Hugos recognize works published in the previous calendar year. So the stories and other works we’re voting on for the 2016 awards all had to be published in 2015. The Retro Hugos are for works published many years ago, in years when there was a World Science Fiction Convention, but no awards were given. It’s an optional award that can be held at a WorldCon that is either 50 years, 75 years, or 100 years after one of the years when no awards were given. MidAmeriCon II, this year’s WorldCon, took nominations and is taking votes for works of science fiction published in 1941.
Why that was fun for me is because, first of all, a huge number of the short listed works are stories/books/movies with which I was already very familiar. Heck, I have copies of three of the five shortlisted novels on my own shelves! A bunch of the short stories, novellas, and novelettes are in anthologies that I have on my shelves. I own on DVD three of the movies (one is a serial) nominated in Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, and four of the shorts nominated in Dramatic Presentation, Short Form!
Also, Raymond A. Palmer was a golden age editor who deserves to be way more well-known than he is, and so it was fun to vote for him in the Best Editor, Short Form category!
Anyway, this year’s Hugo Ballot and Packet are disappointing in that so much bad stuff was pushed onto it by the Rapid Puppies, and I remain irritated thinking about all the good stuff published last you that ought to have made the ballot but didn’t because of the bloc voting. We absolutely have to pass the E Pluribus Hugo rule change this year, so that bloc voting becomes harder to do in the future.
The Rabid Puppies piddled all over this year’s Hugo Ballot, again. Like Men’s Rights Advocates, GamerGaters, Trump voters, and other angry (mostly) white (mostly) men who claim they are being oppressed any time that people who don’t look like them manage to achieve more than marginal representation, they’re going to keep causing trouble. But as I and many others pointed out last year, their malicious posturing brought a whole lot of fans who are queer, feminist, and people of color into the Hugo voting process who weren’t involved before. While each of those groups may make up a minority of the total fandom populations, I know that collectively we outnumber the Puppies.
Science fiction is the fiction of the future. Even its dystopian and post-apocalyptic sci fi is, ultimately, about hope for a better tomorrow. Love trumps hate and hope trumps resentment. And no one can take the hope for the future from me.
ETA: If you’re looking for who actually won, go here: Here are the winners of the 2016 Hugo Awards – Once again, slated works were largely outvoted.
Because no one has ever taken the equivalent of exit polls when people leave physical bookstores or log off of online stores to determine why people buy specific books, we have less hard data about the long term effects winning awards on someone’s sales. Library data indicates that books which have won the Hugo, Nebula, or Clarke awards have much higher circulation rates (more people check them out, they remain on the shelf for shorter times between check-outs, et cetera). Some marketing research seems to support the idea that when browsing, people are more likely to pick up and look at book that says “award winner” on it than those that don’t.
Which is all to say that one of the reasons I care is because getting nominated or winning the award can significantly benefit a writers’ career, particularly one that is not otherwise well known. So spiteful schemes to push works of dubious quality onto the ballot causes actual harm to the people who otherwise would have made the short list. Super spiteful schemes, like this year’s Rabid Puppy slate, which push material that the organizer chose precisely because of how bad it is, are even worse.
Which brings us to one of this year’s nominees: “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” by Chuck Tingle. Tingle (not his real name) is a niche erotica author who produces a lot of really weird erotic fiction that is clearly not meant to be taken seriously. He had never even heard of the Hugo Awards before his nomination was announced, and had to have it explained to him by an interviewer who was asking him for a reaction. His immediate reaction was to say that he despite getting nominated for an award because of it, he is definitely not in favor of bloc voting.He has since educated himself on the topic. This inspired a series of Gif- and video-illustrated tweets mocking Vox Day, the racist & misogynist guy running (and profiting off of) the Rabid Puppy campaign.
Tingle also wrote a new “book” for the occasion: “Slammed In The Butt By My Hugo Award Nomination.”
That wasn’t the end of his trolling of the Sad and Rabid Puppies. He has since asked Zoe Quinn, who is hated by the puppies and their allies the GamerGaters, to attend this year’s WorldCon and if Tingle’s story should win, to accept on his behalf and give a speech about whatever she wants. So if the puppy loyalists vote for Tingle’s story, they give one of their most hated people another public forum to talk about the issues they hate being talked about: Weird porn author who was dragged into Hugo Awards mess pulls off epic troll.
He didn’t stop there. He realized that despite the fact the Vox Day has managed to use the Rabid Puppy campaign to radically increase traffic to his blog and publishing site, and to sell more books to the sorts of racist, homophobic, misogynist fans who apparently previously didn’t know how to find them, Vox had never purchased the Rabid Puppy web domain. So Tingle bought it and set it up as a site to mock Vox and to promote some of the authors that Vox has so often publickly denigrated: Chuck Tingle thwarts devilman Vox Day, buys TheRabidPuppies.com for HARD buckaroos.
sometimes devilmen are so busy planning scoundrel attacks they forget to REGISTER important website names. this is a SOFT WAY of the antibuckaroo agenda but is also good because it makes it easy for BUDS WHO KNOW LOVE IS REAL to prove love (all).
please understand this is website to take DARK MAGIC and replace with REAL LOVE for all who kiss the sky.
Tingle hasn’t just turned his unique satirical eye toward the puppies. His commentary on the transphobic bathroom laws and similar nonsense, “Pounded In The Butt By My Irrational Bigoted Fear Of Humans Who Were Born As Unicorns Using A Human Restroom” is available (as all of his delightfully weird titles are) on Kindle.
I don’t think that there is anything particularly award-winning about “Space Raptor Butt Invasion,” but Tingle’s actions are definitely award-worthy. I know I’m not the only regular Hugo vote who is considering putting Tingle’s story above No Award on my ballot because he’s been both a good sport about this, and so delightfully entertaining in his take down of the Rabid Puppy ringleader. And for a man who finds many weird ways to put the phrase “pounded in the butt” into story titles, he’s been much more civil in his attacks on Vox Day than Vox has ever been to anyone.
If you want more details on Tingle’s campaign against the bigots: Satirical erotica author Chuck Tingle’s massive troll of conservative sci-fi fans, explained.
When I first started to draft this post, I had more information and links about the Rabid Puppies and Sad Puppies, but I think that Cory Doctorow was right on the money when he recently said, “the two groups who want to kill the Hugos call themselves “Rabid Puppies” and “Sad Puppies” for fantastically tedious reasons you can look up for yourself if you care to.” Re-hashing the reasons they’ve launched these campaigns and the inconsistencies and contradictions in their arguments is tedious. We’ve all written way more about it than they deserve.
Tingle’s bizarre and hilarious response reminds me that life, reading, and storytelling are far too important to take seriously. It’s much easier to enjoy a good story if I laugh about something frivolous first than it is if I’ve been ranting about someone being a jerk.
So I’m going to go read another of Tingle’s stories, then get back to the serious work of reading and writing sf/f.
ETA: Chuck Tingle isn’t the only person who writes silly stuff that is more worth your time than the rantings of outraged people. May I humbly suggest:
A few other people have written about this year’s list. In sad puppies 4: the… better behaving?, Dara Korra’ti says a lot of what I was thinking when I saw the list. I’m glad that the Sad Puppies have taken a more transparent approach. I’m glad that the list isn’t dominated by stories published in only one very small publication house owned by one of the organizers. I’m really glad that three of the recommendations in a single category are not by the same author. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that the people running it this year are sincerely trying to do no more than get more of the works they like on the ballot, rather than push a political agenda. I’ve never objected to recommendation lists no matter who makes those recommendations. As Dara explains:
What I object to is their conspiracy-theory paranoia, their Not Real Fan bullshittery, their political propaganda, their insistence that people voting for things other than their list has nothing to do with actual enjoyment or quality but a cartoonish parody of a political standard they made up, and – most of all – their ballot-stuffing last year. But I do not object to them making recommendations lists.
I am also still a firm believer that at this year’s World Science Fiction Society business meeting we must ratify E Pluribus Hugo so that the particular hack that the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies exploited last year won’t easily happen again. And I remain slightly worried that the only reason the current leaders are being reasonable this time (and the more noxious folks are being quieter) is because they hope the rules change won’t be adopted, so they can do what they did last year again, since any rules change has to be approved in two consecutive annual meetings to take effect. I really hope that isn’t what they’re doing.
Unfortunately, since last year they were crowing that there was no way they could lose because they had taken over a couple of whole categories, then threw a hissy fit when it was pointed out that Hugo voters could No Award those categories, and then they tried to claim that’s what they wanted all along, et cetera, I have no confidence that this isn’t just a tactic to lull some voters into a sense of false security.
Alexandra Erin also shared some thoughts on the topic I found myself nodding in agreement to in Hugo Stuff: Just taking a moment to acknowledge…. The most important bit, I think is:
The fact that a small, self-entitled clique that sought to wrestle control of the award away from fandom at large was able to game the ballot formation so effectively last year came down to how low participation in the nominations historically has been. The fact that this same clique was given a thorough drubbing by fandom at large in the actual awards came down to how high participation was.
Meanwhile, in Sad Puppies Are Up + My Hugo Recs Cisrova wonders:
It may have been a mistake to post a recommended reading list with probably over a million words of content two weeks before nominations close. Unless it was a clever trick to say “aha! Sad Puppies was about the discussion, not the final list!” in which case, well played. That means that those who came over from places like File770 to leave comments and votes are now Sad Puppies.
And Cora Buhlert rounds up a few more comments and facts at Hugo Season 2016: The Return of the Puppies, and asks:
…if your followers heap abuse on everybody who dares to disagree with you, is it any surprise that a lot of people want nothing to do with you?
All that said, I am still happy about a few of the silver linings of last year’s Affair of the Melancholy Canines: lots of fans and small press writers who never participated in the Hugo voting before have joined; I met several cool people (particularly several very interesting queer and feminist writers) because of the discussions surrounding the affair; and the nominees for Dramatic Presentation, Short Form finally had some diversity.
I don’t think enough people give the Puppies credit for that last bit. In the previous nine years, at least two of the options in this category each time were episodes of Doctor Who (or a related show). The last few years the category has been three or four Doctor Who eps and a Game of Thrones episode, and maybe one other show. But last year, five different television series were represented. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the biggest Doctor Who fans out there, but there are and have been other shows that deserved a nod. Last year the ballot consisted of five different shows, one episode each. Which I think was great.
I have been reluctant to post my list of Hugo recommendations because, as Cisrova observes, with only a few weeks left until the deadline, there isn’t much time for people to actually read all the things I might recommend, and I think you ought only to recommend things you’ve actually read/watched/listened to et cetera. I’ve spent most of my spare time the last two months reading books I bought that were published last year, and reading short stories in on-line zines in order to have more things to nominate. But I figure there is nothing wrong with sharing recommendations, as long as one is clear that it is just a recommendation for things I think you ought to read or check out:
Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
(I decided in the spirit of choices, to limit myself to one episode for each series I nominated)
- Ash vs Evil Dead: El Jefe
- Doctor Who: The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion
- Orphan Black: Certain Agony of the Battlefield
- The Expanse: The Big Empty
- Person of Interest: If. Then. Else.
- The Discworld Series, by Terry Pratchett
- The Shepherd’s Crown, by Terry Pratchett (in case the series as a whole doesn’t make it)
- The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard
- The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin
- Karen Memory, by Elizabeth Bear
(I’m still working on this… lots of stories I’ve read and liked are shorter than novella length)
- The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, by Kai Ashante Wilson
- The Witches of Lychford, by Paul Cornell
- Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor
- “The New Mother,” by Eugene Fischer
- “How My Father Became a God” by Dilman Dila
- “Ashfall,” by Edd Vick and Manny Frisberg
- “In Libris,” by Elizabeth Bear
- “The Ways of Walls and Words,” by Sabrina Vourvoulias
- Cabbages & Kings
- Galactic Suburbia
- The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast
- The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy
- Flame On!
- Vajra Chandrasekera
- Leslie Light
- Mark Oshiro
- Cora Buhlert
- Alexandra Erin
Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
- Mad Max: Fury Road
- The Martian
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
- The Rocky Horror Show Live
- Geek Knits, by Toni Carr
- Bone Walker, by Crime and the Forces of Evil
Next, I need to go through all the online zines I read and figure out which editors to nominate in short form, and figure out what fan sites (in addition to File 770) that I read regularly count as fanzines.
I’m nominating only things I’ve read/watched/listened to myself. And I plan, just as I did last year, to read everything that makes it to the ballot, no matter who wrote it or who included it on a slate or list. If I don’t like the piece, it goes below No Award; if I like it, it’ll rank above No Award—again regardless of who wrote it or recommended it.