The nominations list for the 2014 Hugo Awards was released yesterday and Easter weekend news release timing aside, it’s already been a topic of considerable discussion. To say the list is eliciting mixed feelings is putting it lightly.
For the most part, I’m pretty happy with the list. I’m absolutely thrilled to see Kameron Hurley’s eloquent and powerful essay, “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle, and Slaves Narrative,” and Queers Dig Timelords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It (editors Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damian Thomas) nominated for Best Related Work. Having recently become acquainted with both Mary Robinette Kowal and Ted Chiang‘s fiction, (both nominated in the Best Novelette category), I’m also happy to see their work being recognized with nominations as well. Likewise, I’d be happy with any of the winners on the Best Fan Writer list, but in my opinion, Foz Meadows and Kameron Hurley have had a consistent output of extraordinarily strong pieces over the last year.
The Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) category isn’t surprising in the least (my money’s on Gravity for the win, but I’m pulling for Frozen), and while I’m betting that An Adventure in Space and Time (written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Terry McDonough) will walk away with the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), I’m positively tickled that The Five(ish) Doctors (written and directed by Peter Davidson) was recognized and I rather hope it gets the award.
All that being said - I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t stunned by a few of the names on the list, mainly Vox Day, aka Theodore Beale, aka “the Racist Sexist Homophobic Dipshit,” who was given the (long overdue) boot from SFWA last year. Given the, ahem, quality of his writing that I’ve seen elsewhere, I can’t imagine how he managed to get himself nominated (Best Novelette) and no, I’m not going to link directly to anything that man’s written (but if you really want to get an example, Natalie Luhrs has a screenshot of part of his nominated work on Radish Reviews). You can google him on your own, but be aware that it comes with a heavy trigger warning for racism, misogyny, homophobia, and general terribleness. Likewise Brad Torgensen’s nominations in two categories, but given that he’s up against Kowal and Chiang, I’ll eat my hat if either of them lose out to Day or Torgensen.
For all the justified frustration at the fact that people like Day and Torgensen managed to get themselves onto the nomination list, Hurley notes that many of the other nominations point toward SF/F becoming more progressive, however slow and halting that process might be:
We spend a lot of time concentrating on backwards bullshit. I know why we do it – people whose mission in life is to basically to strip away your human rights are fucking scary. As the member of a couple of groups that a lot of people would like to throw in a gaol or drag to death behind the back of a truck, I get it.
But I’ve been blogging for ten fucking years. And let me tell you – if I wrote “We Have Always Fought” ten years ago, it would have been ignored at best, and widely ridiculed at worst.
I make no apologies for acknowledging how my enjoyment of someone’s work can be colored by their political opinions and actions. After reading Larry Correia’s “critique” of Alex Dally MacFarlane’s essay about not defaulting to gender binary characters, I can honestly say I have no interest in reading any of his work. I know several people who’ve enjoyed his books, regardless of whether or not they share the same political ideas, and that’s fine, but I only have so much time and money, so I’d rather spend it on authors whose work and outlook stand in support, rather than opposition, to the more inclusive, diverse and forward-thinking geek culture I want to continue to see taking shape. Given how vast the field of SF/F writers is, I don’t think I’ll be lacking for choice – just look at the list of nominees for the Joseph W. Campbell Best New Writer Award:
- Wesley Chu
- Max Gladstone
- Ramez Naam
- Sofia Somatar
- Benjanun Sriduangkaew
When it comes down to it, while I’m more than a little disappointed by some of the names on the nominations list (and some names who are not), when looking at the overall picture, I still see change in a positive direction for SF/F. I think Jamiam put it best about how to view this year’s Hugo nominations:
The Hugo ballot is supposed to reflect the “best in the field”, but like every other award in every other field it is more accurately a reflection of the cultural zeitgeist. All you need to do is search for “racism”, “sexism”, or “political correctness” on YouTube or reddit if you want to see how perfectly that ballot reflects the attitudes of the early 21st century. This is not just a genre problem; this is a cultural problem. And it most certainly is shameful.
But let’s not lose sight of the fact that the 2014 Hugo ballot looks very different than it did even a handful of years ago. The rest of the ballot is packed full of the very people Vox Day hates and fears. The rest of the ballot reflects the sheer number of people actively, visibly campaigning against the attitudes he espouses. In many cases they are campaigning by exactly the same means that Vox Day employed to get that nomination. And they are winning.
Things are changing, and for the better. The make up of the Hugo nominations are vastly different from how they looked a decade ago. Hurley’s “We Have Always Fought” is the first blog post ever to be nominated for a Hugo, hopefully the first of many, because some of the strongest writing I can remember seeing over the past several years has been primarily online. Invisible sold 100 copies within the first 24 hrs of its publication, not a bad showing for an e-anthology relying mostly on word of mouth for publicity. If the Hugo Awards really are more of a popularity contest, I can only hope that the winners reflect the idea that regressive, discriminatory attitudes aren’t going to net you enough fans to merit what is still considered a prestigious literary honor.
In the meantime, while I can’t nominate or vote for the Hugos, there are other things I can do - one of them is supporting the work of authors trying to make SF/F a better place by actually buying their books. For instance, Mary Anne Mohanraj’s beautifully written and moving novella, The Stars Change, is a wonderful work of science fiction that I’m very disappointed wasn’t on the nomination list for Best Novella. If you haven’t read it, go pick it up right now. It’s a short and worthwhile read – inspired in part by the social upheaval of Sri Lankan Civil War, Mohanraj manages to craft an eloquent statement about how compassion and empathy for those who are unlike ourselves can still be stronger than unreasoning fear and hate of the Other. Oh yes, and it does so with main characters who are people of color, queer and not always human, who are written as complex individuals rather than lazy shorthand tropes.
I just pre-ordered the Kindle version of Catherynne M. Valente’s nominated novella, Six-Gun Snow White. You can read Sofia Somatar’s nominated short story, “Selkie Stories Are For Losers” on Strange Horizons, and Chiang’s nominated novelette, “The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling,” on Subterranean Press. The nominated Apex Magazine has consistently had wonderful material, and $20 for an annual subscription isn’t out of the question for my financial means (bonus points for being a digital publication, as it’s easier for me to keep up with publications I can download onto Kindle).
Another thing I can do is contribute financially to an organization like the Carl Brandon Society, which runs both the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship, helps send writers of color to the Clarion writing workshops, and Con or Bust, which provides financial assistance to fans of color who wish to attend conventions. I happen to have a little extra cash to play with this month, so I’m making a donation to both. I can’t vote for any of the Hugo Awards (yet), but I can do this much.