First & most importantly: I am absolutely ecstatic about the winners of the 2020 Hugo Awards. What an incredible set of finalists to begin with — voting was SO HARD in so many categories, and they are all an amazing snapshot of how vibrant and wondrous and inspiring our genre is.
I’m so honored to have won my fifth (!!!) Hugo Award as part of Uncanny Magazine‘s team, especially with once again, as the entire Semiprozine finalists slate is very, very strong. FIYAH in particular has done a phenomenal amount of work and will only continue to grow stronger and stronger. I can’t articulate what it means to have each of my five years with the magazine marked with a Hugo Award win, but this is such a fantastic way to cap my time with the team. I’m especially thrilled for my teammate Chimedum Ohaegbu, for whom this was her first time as a finalist, and who is now the FIRST Black woman editor to win a Hugo Award. Chimie is a powerhouse and Uncanny has been so fortunate that she chose to work with us — I can’t wait to see how she’ll continue to grow and shape the genre with her vision and voice.
I’m also especially heartened by Booksmugglers‘ win for Best Fanzine, making Ana Grilo the first Brazilian Hugo Award winner, and Thea James the third Filipina to win a Hugo Award. Jeannette Ng’s Best Related Work win for her 2019 acceptance speech for the then-John W. Campbell, now Astounding Award for Best New Writer is delicious schadenfreude after all the handwringing over her daring to speak the truth and call Campbell a “fucking fascist” at the awards podium last year. And R.F. Kuang’s speech for winning the Astounding Award was a heartbreaking and genuine condemnation of how unwelcoming our industry still is to those like her — and as it turned out, rather horribly prescient about this year’s ceremony regarding her point about how often people will mangle your name.
I’ve already said a lot about the complete and total train wreck the Hugo Awards Ceremony was elsewhere (there’s far too many entries for me to link to but they’re pretty easy to find on my Twitter timeline). But I’m still furious. From the constant tech issues to George R.R. Martin’s embarrassing and insulting mispronunciation of finalists’ names,–including FIYAH, several white folks, and nearly every single BIPOC–to the near complete erasure of New Zealand’s own SF/F community and Indigenous people, to the needlessly punishing run time of over three and a half hours–more than half of which can be attributed to the self-aggrandizing racist sexist transphobic ramblings of GRRM and Robert Silverberg–the one night of the year that was meant to honor the finalists as some of the best and brightest of SF/F was instead a dull backward-looking sloppy affair that in no way reflected the actual professionalism, vitality, and bright future of our field.
This is on top of the fact that CoNZealand itself was plagued with inconsistent communications to attendees and finalists, badly arranged and often whitewashed programming, mistreatment of BIPOC and other marginalized folks, and a host of other problems. While the pandemic has made event running more complicated, so many of these problems could have been avoided because we’ve been here before.
(And no, “professionalism” is not mutually exclusive with “fan/volunteer-run” events.)
This was the first Worldcon for a lot of folks. This was the first time a lot of people were finalists. And instead of joyous welcome and basic standards of consideration and respect, they got condescension and dismissal. We all deserved so much better.
Suffice to say, there’s more than enough blame to go around. As a professional for whom none of this is new, GRRM could have asked the ceremony organizers for a pronunciation guide for everyone’s names–I don’t recall being asked to provide pronunciation for my name, but even if I had been, it apparently wouldn’t have mattered because the con only provided guidance on a few names. It’s tempting to put all the blame on one person, but there were a lot of poor choices based on ill-considered priorities by those with decision-making powers. They could have asked for re-recordings with people’s names pronounced correctly. They could’ve provided GRRM and Silverberg with scripts and time limits–and if they’d said no, thanked them for their time and gone with someone else. Instead the organizers chose to prioritize not inconveniencing two old white men at the expense of all the people who their ceremony was supposed to honor. This was another in a disappointingly long line of systemic failures within Worldcon organization and culture, which is an extension of the systemic failures in SF/F itself.
Every person who poured their energy and good will into volunteering for this con, who offered advice and assistance that was ignored and dismissed, who went out of their way to try to patch holes and fix fuck ups so the con wasn’t a complete disaster, is owed a huge apology. We all are (and no, that “statement” CoNZealand put out isn’t anything close to an actual apology).
In my acceptance speech, I said this:
I really hope that the organizers for Discon III, Chicon 8, and every other Worldcon bid take a good long look at who Worldcons have actually been prioritizing and how those choices have consequences, because if they don’t, this is just going to keep happening again and again, until fans and creators throw up their hands and turn elsewhere. These repeated fuck ups aren’t from any lack of trying by folks who can see these oncoming wrecks and try desperately to change tracks; they’re from a continued refusal by those in position of power to listen or do anything that constitutes real change that would be upsetting to the folks they actually prioritize (read: not marginalized folks, no matter how many awards and critical acclaim we may garner ourselves). Conrunners (and other folks with privilege and visibility in SF/F) have power, and with it comes a responsibility to be aware of how their choices can change everything.
I don’t think I can end on a better note than Jeannette’s acceptance speech this year. The entire speech is brilliant, but these portions in particular resonate strongly:
And for those who’d like to see all the delightful moments from the awards (because they were there! I promise! They were just sandwiched between the bloviating dusty reminiscing of old men desperately trying to reassert their primacy), an enterprising soul created a cut of the ceremony “When the Toastmaster Talks Less.”