Well, the self-imposed moratorium on Hugo related posts has come to an end. I had to take a step back and breathe deeply. I needed a break from the attacks against people I respect. I needed a break from the arguments over who science fiction and fantasy belong to. Most of all, I needed a break from the internet voices telling me that I am not a real fan because I don’t go to enough cons — or at least not to the right cons.
As I’ve written in the past, I’ve been a fan of science fiction and fantasy most of my life. I stood in line to see the first showings of each of the original Star Wars films, so I know Han shot first. I saw the feds in one of the main scenes in ET carry guns and not walkie-talkies. I had the pleasure of meeting and spending a little time with Anne McCaffrey, discussing the original Pern books and being enchanted by a woman who could send my imagination on such flights of fancy.
I have read thousands of science fiction and fantasy books over the course of my life. Some good, some mediocre and some bad. Some of the books I loved when I was younger no longer hold the same cachet for me as they once did. But that’s okay. The books didn’t change, I did. I grew up and my tastes have changed. But that doesn’t mean the books weren’t good and didn’t influence me when I was younger.
Yet, according to some, I am not a true fan and don’t deserve to nominate, much less vote, on what books and other media are worthy of winning a Hugo.
Of course, those are the same people who claim those of us who support Sad Puppies 3 don’t want honest review of our work. Funny, I don’t know any author who doesn’t want an honest review. We will stand up to sock puppet and revenge reviews but the honest ones, we want. We need them. They help us improve our craft and connect with our readership. But that’s another post for another time.
I can’t speak for anyone else but here’s my take on the process. I don’t want to break the Hugos and I don’t believe SP3 did. What I want is to see the Hugos have the same impact on readers they had when I was younger. There was a time when readers saw “Hugo Nominatee” or “Hugo Winner” on a cover and bought the book because they knew it would take them on an adventure they would love. Now, that’s not really the case. Too many readers, at least until this year, weren’t even aware of the Hugos. Others had learned to leave Hugo winning books and stories on the shelves because they had been burned one time too many by stories that did not call to them, stories they felt were more message than story.
There is nothing wrong with having a message in your story so long as the reader doesn’t feel he is being beaten over the head with it. That has been the biggest objection I’ve had to many of the nominees over the last few years. I couldn’t get lost in the story because the author’s message kept getting in the way.
Anyway, back to the point. A decision has to be made by those in charge of the Hugos. If they want it to be a true “literary” award, then say that’s what you are doing. Limit who can nominate to academics and those directly associated with the publishing industry, much like they do with the Oscars and Tonys. Of course, that would mean some of those who have been closely involved with the actual putting on of the various WorldCons would no longer be able to vote but that is the cost of making this sort of change.
However, if the Hugo is truly supposed to represent the best in science fiction and fantasy, then promote it to all who are interested in the genre. Make an actual effort to let the reading and watching and gaming public know they can nominate works they think are the best. Lower the price for the ability to nominate and vote so it is more affordable to all. There are other changes that would have to be made, sucvh as changing the time frame to allow the Hugo committee longer to vet the nominees, making sure they are eligible.
There is one thing I do know about the Hugos this year — well, two actually. The first is that my respect for Brad Torgersen has grown with each day. He has handled himself much better than I ever would have were our places reversed. Here is a man who loves the genre and who wants to help grow its readership. Yet he has been attacked, labeled some of the most hateful things any person could be. And why? Because he dared rock the boat to let the reading public know they have a voice in who gets nominated for a Hugo.
Did Brad make recommendations he felt were worthy of a Hugo? Of course he did. He was very public about it. But at no point did he say anyone should vote the way he said. These were recommendations. Were there some folks who followed nominee by nominee what he listed? Possibly. For myself? No. I did not nominate everything Brad recommended. Nor did anyone else I’ve spoken with. I nominated works I thought were the best for the year, works I had read or seen.
The real issue in all of this is what the Hugos are supposed to recognize and who gets to decide. That is a decisive enough issue. However, those who have come out against Sad Puppies have muddied the waters, and easily so, by the appearance of Vox Day and his Rabid Puppies. Vox is a lightning rod in the genre. Just mention his name and some people will call an exorcist. Others will run for the hills. The best way to describe the impact he has on the sf/f community is to picture someone walking into a room and everyone suddenly falling silent. Heads turn in his direction, blood drains from everyone’s faces and mothers pull their children behind them while the fathers step forward to protect their loved ones. Or maybe the image of Donald Sutherland at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is even better. Mouth open, blank stare and pointing. Yes, Vox has that sort of impact on people.
And that is the problem. They are making Vox the issue and are, in all too many instances, refusing to even consider a nominee he might have liked or recommended. That is, as I have said before, a disservice to all those authors and artists who have done good work, worthy work.
Look, here’s the truth of the matter. Vox is but one man. Yes, he might say things that make us uncomfortable. He might believe things that seem further out than left field. But, as writers and artists, we have no control over who reads/sees or likes our work. If you don’t like Vox and can’t bring yourself to read his work, that’s fine. But don’t condemn others who have no relationship to him except for the fact he nominated them. (Full disclosure here, I was one both SP3 and Rabid Puppies. I didn’t realize I was on Rabid Puppies until well after the nominees were announced.)
So here’s the thing. I don’t give a flying rat’s ass about who nominated a work any more than I care about that author’s politics or anything else about their personal life or belief system. At least not as long as it doesn’t beat me about the head in place of the story in their nominated work. I don’t care what publisher put the work out (and that despite the vicious attacks made against Brad and others by a former Tor editor and other current Tor employees). I will read/watch the nominated works and then vote for what I think is the best and most deserving of winning an award that used to have meaning to the reading public and, hopefully, will again.
And, along that line, I just finished Lou Antonelli’s Hugo nominated “On a Spiritual Plain”. I highly recommend everyone check it out. It’s not the sort of story I usually like but it grabbed me and held me through to the end. It made me think even as it took me on that flight of imagination I expect from good SF/F. It is definitely one I will consider when I mark my final ballot and I will post a review either later today or in the morning. Well done, Lou!
Now, go read a nominated work and decide if it is worthy based on the work itself, not on who nominated it. Otherwise, there will be no real winners, no matter what the final results say.