So the nominations for the Hugo Awards (and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, which is, we must ritually say, Not A Hugo) were announced this weekend, and have already occasioned a fair bit of comment while I was spending quality time with my family. (Here, have some cute kid pics.)
Here are some reactions, and reactions to reactions:
( the slate of works pushed by Vox Day, cut for length )
The Wheel of Time, the fourteen-book epic fantasy series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, is nominated for Best Novel in its entirety. Here is where I disagree with some quite good friends, and say that even if this makes sense (and I am not convinced that a fourteen-book series really belongs on a Best Novel category, whether or not that is technically permissible), I didn't nominate it and I'm not voting for it, because frankly I don't think it deserves it. Yes, it more-or-less stuck the landing (ugh, I've still never written up the last volume), but the multiple books of wheel-spinning in the late-middle (I've still never read one of them all the way through; err, also, pun not intended) and the incredibly poor way it handles its gender politics mean that as far as I'm concerned, it would be a nostalgia/tribute vote and not one on its merits.
There are some really exciting things on the ballot, too. Ancillary Justice is one of the most talked-about novels in my circles this past year, and I look forward to reading it. A blog post about erasure of women from history is nominated for Best Related Work (next year, I nominate medievalpoc for something—Fanzine? Fan Writer?). Sites I read regularly are nominated in Semiprozine and Fanzine (Strange Horizons and The Book Smugglers, respectively). I've been nominating Abigail Nussbaum for Fan Writer for years, and I'm thrilled to see her on the ballot; Liz Bourke and Mark Oshiro also do great work. [*] And the Campbell Award nominees are, as best I can tell, at least 80% non-white-males (and the cover of Max Gladstone's first book, the 20%, looks like this). So that's pretty great.
[*] Though eligibility for Fan Writer, when it comes to paid-for work out on the web for free, is really messed up under the WSFS Constitution (PDF), and badly needs revision. When it's not 11:30 at night I can elaborate, if anyone cares, but really, I'm mostly convinced that it should be changed to "nonfiction writer" instead, as someone-or-other suggested.
All that said, I promised agnosticism, which is this: I genuinely cannot find it in me to care whether the Hugos devolve into, as James Nicoll points out with characteristic brevity and asperity, political parties, or whether prior community norms about politicking prevail, or Vox Day et al. get bored, or whatever. Worst comes to worst, a few years of concerted effort results in actual winners instead of mere nominations for hateful trolls, and a few year after that, booksellers and the like catch up and realize that the Hugo is no longer prestigious, and, well, SFF fandom is big, even the bits of it that self-identify as fandom, and WorldCon and the Hugos are only a small part of that. Maybe Locus stops overweighting subscriber votes and becomes the popular award of record. Maybe the Nebulas experience a surge in prestige. Maybe I hit the lottery and endow a juried award in my honor. Who knows? But the Hugos aren't that big a teapot, at the end of the day, and if people want to self-identify with them and participate in the community that votes on them, great, they should do that, and if people don't, great, they should do that too.
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