Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Hugos: or, waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.

See more vintage Soviet propaganda art here.

I don’t really want to write this post. In fact, I was determined not to contribute to the annual bitchfest about how messed up the Hugo Awards are. Yet, here we are. As a relative newbie to the politics within the genre in general, and Hugos in particular, I’m approaching the whole topic with more than a little trepidation.

So many people have written so
much already about this year’s 
Hugos.  If you want to know more,
a good place to start would
 be this already massive
Last year, I went to my first WorldCon in San Antonio. I voted for the Hugo Awards, attended the awards ceremony, and enjoyed it immensely. The whole experience was also an eye-opening introduction to the kind of internal politics that go along with one of the genre’s biggest literary awards. I’m not talking about politics-politics here. I’m talking about the kind of hanky panky that surrounds any prize for something as difficult to judge as a piece of writing.

The discussions around the genre’s big prizes are just a blip in the background noise of internal politics specific to science fiction and fantasy writers. There are also ongoing debates about gender, race, privilege, and yes, politics. Because much of this discussion happens on the Internet it comes with a healthy dose of trolling and vitriol. But hey, that’s the sea we swim in. Still, it's all good. Debating tough topics is the kind of boots on the ground problem solving that allows groups who have a common interest, but are not necessarily like-minded, to evolve and stay relevant to their constituents.

Then an interested party sent me this Washington Post article from the Volokh blog titled “The Politics of Science Fiction,” and asked me what I thought. As I struggled to frame the whole brouhaha in a way that would make sense so someone who hasn’t spent any time in the genre trenches, I realized I was more annoyed with the element of this that has nothing to do with genre. This post wasn’t about the politics of science fiction; it was about using science fiction to say something political.
Basically, it looks like there was some logrolling
on the nominations ballot by some folks. Let’s 
just say the folks in question are not political 
moderates. Let’s just say one of the people on 
the ballot has some rather odious opinions. *
What I have run out of patience with, are the relentless voices crying in the wilderness (and I see it on both extremes of the political spectrum). People whose message is so important they feel justified co-opting – well – anything and everything they can get their hands on. Day in and day out, these people saddle up on their political hobbyhorses, and grab every news item, personal anecdote, and event for their cause.

I believe the Hugos were created to recognize great writing in our genre, and no matter how broken the system may be, trying to bend it into a tool to promote a political agenda belittles an already troubled award. I refuse to let these players – both the ones inside and outside the genre – hijack the Hugos as another example in an argument that, in the end, is both simplistic and lazy.

The Hugos have been around for 75 years and will be for many more. It is just one of many literary awards the genre gives out every year. I think, like Scalzi, I’ll play the hand I’m dealt. I’ll read ** and vote according to the merits of the works on the ballot. Through it all, I’ll keep putting my own words down on paper, because there are worlds to be built, characters to create and love, meaning to be searched for, because for me, it’s about the work.

Every year the Hugos come and go, in the end its the work that endures.

* That doesn’t mean his writing promulgates his views. I will read the whole packet and vote for the best piece of writing regardless of the author’s beliefs.

** I won’t be reading the Wheel of Time series because, well, I just can’t read a billion pages before the end of July.


  1. Agreed, Rebecca. It should be about the best writing. But, like all things these days in the U.S., politics gets intertwined with them (don't get me started with public health and religion :-). I was curious, though, where this political angle around his writings came from (especially because Glenn Reynolds is know to be a pretty incendiary political bomb thrower in his own right and not a genre writer, and I found this post from Jim Satterfield, a writer for the Moderate Voice. He actually points fingers and says that one particular nominee takes delight in attacking those who disagree with him (which is different than talking about the substance of his books) and that's why the focus has spilled over into talking about his political views instead of his work. From his comment at the Moderate Voice: "Some people are upset by the way Correia campaigned for the nomination. I agree with John Scalzi’s position on that issue that it’s just not that big a deal. It’s not that different from other writers promoting their work. But Correia takes a great delight in attacking those who disagree with him. He also is friends with Theodore Beale, who writes as Vox Popoli on his blog and in his WND column. He also was involved in the campaign that got both him and Correia nominations this year. To give you an idea of why so many in fandom dislike him so intensely and how that can easily splash over on Correia, since he seems to share so many of Vox’s views.

    There can be little doubt that Cameron’s opinion of UKIP is but a pale shadow of the U.S. bifactional ruling party’s hatred and contempt for white Americans who still hold to traditional values, believe in their constitutional liberties and derive their sense of identity from historical America. They mock the secessionist petitioners in Texas and other states, celebrate the infestation of even the smallest American heartland towns by African, Asian and Aztec cultures, and engage in ruthless doublethink as they worship at the altar of a false and entirely nonexistent equality.

    Yet Correia (and Reynolds?) know that he’s really a great guy without a racist bone in his body.

  2. Good to hear from you! I can't see the link to the Moderate Voice post, so I can't speak to that. As I kind of indicated, I'm only very passingly informed about the greater politics swirling around the nomination process. My feeling overall is that the Hugos really need to adjust the nomination (hell and the voting while there at it) process to make this a relevant literary award. My understanding is that Correia expressly campaigned to get himself and his buddies onto the ballot for political reasons. That said, all these guys are published writers, so as Scalzi says, fair game. But comparing the Hugo ballot to the Nebula ballot, I can't help but feel like the attendees of this year's World Con got shafted. There's just so much less to chose from.

    I've been trying to give Vox Day as little of my time, attention and brain space as possible ever since he came to my attention around M. K. Jemisin's World Fantasy win last year. Let's see if this link posts: