Lots to cover here, so lets get to it. (Note. A line of asterisks indicates change of subject.)
Voices have been heard making various comments in regards to the results of this year’s Hugo Awards. I have been personally shocked by statements made by individuals in the field who I thought I had known for a long time. That actually relates to what I thought I knew about them, as opposed to being a measure of duration.
Here’s the thing. I’ve always been gullible and trusting. I’ve always taken people I meet at face value. Good friends like to tease me by making outlandish claims, knowing that I will at least initially believe them and they delight in my expression and response when I come to realize they’re pulling my leg.
I’ve known this about myself for a long time and chose not to try and change that; it’s led to many a shocked revelation, but I’d rather be trusting and open than suspicious and close-minded.
When I first became a fan, I bought the whole concept, warts and all, though of course I didn’t see the warts until later. I believed that every other fan tried to be as accepting of others as it was suggested I ought to and tried to be. I believed that we were all about the art, and creativity and that commercial interests were a secondary, though necessary adjunct to what we did. I believed that “fans were slans” – outcasts who’d chosen found family over the mundane world. I believed that we all put community first and personal gain second. In short, I believed every implication about Fandom that can be found in The Enchanted Duplicator.
Put another way, I chose to adhere to what people said and wrote, rather than what they actually said and did. (Read my review of the Heinlein biography, part 2, for another example.)
And so it has come to pass that, once again, reality has intruded upon my fannish idealism as a result of this year’s Worldcon, not once, but twice.
The first was when people I thought I knew began to question Jemisin’s threepeat, her acceptance speech, etc.
The second time was when I asked myself why these people – brilliant, experienced and long in the field – thought that now was the proper time to voice their opinions in public and semi-public ways.
It is perfectly acceptable and reasonable for someone who did not like her work to say “I don’t think her novel was the best of 2017 and didn’t vote for it; I preferred other works over hers.”
It is perfectly reasonable and acceptable for someone to say “I have an issue with a single entity winning the same award this many times in a row – and have had the same issue with other categories in the past” (point of information: the semiprozine category was largely created to get Locus out of the fanzine category so others could have a shot at winning that particular award).
It is not reasonable nor acceptable to invoke shades of identity politics, cabalistic vote-fixing, nor to question Jemisin’s right to say what she did during her acceptance speech without putting the event into the context of her experience.
Anyone with a degree of familiarity of how the awards are voted on, of where the pulse of the industry is and how fandom is generally responding to the wider mundane world these days (eg – becoming a beacon of hope in a darkening world) should realize that questioning – or even seeming to question – the validity of Nora’s award and the appropriateness of her acceptance speech – are themselves going to be questioned.
First – she won. She won at a time when anti-bloc voting rules for the awards are in full effect. The numbers reveal that she won handily, leading the category at every step of the way. When No Award was dropped from the count, she received 78% of those votes, meaning that 33 of 42 ballots that had chosen No Award as their first choice, selected her novel as their second choice.
Second – her Hugo Award wins are not outliers; Nora has won Nebula, Locus and other awards, starting in 2010. She has been nominated, often multiple times, for other Nebula, Parallax, James Tiptree Jr, David Gemmell Morningstar, World Fantasy Best Novel, IAFA William Crawford Jr., Prix Imaginales, Locus, Hugo. (Not to mention being selected to review books by the NY Times. When was the last time that bastion of literary fiction sought out a science fiction and fantasy writer for that honor? Boy, she sure put one over on them, huh?)
Third – anyone keeping an eye on the fan press ought to realize that, at least within “Worldcon fandom”, there has been a steady and solid push for recognizing diversity and opening up the awards to both a wider audience and a broader selection of works, going on for a near decade at this point.
Fourth – this year’s Hugo Awards are considered to be the first year in several in which the awards are untainted by outside efforts to “destroy them”.
You want to complain that the awards weren’t long enough? That the applause was too loud and too frequent? Go right ahead.
Complain that the award results might not have been legitimate? That’s like standing in the middle of the tracks trying to stop a runaway freight train without your Superman suit.
In other words – of course you are welcome to express your views, but don’t be surprised when you get a lot – a LOT – of push back. Perhaps the better course of action is to enjoy the celebration and save your commentary until things have quieted down.
Note that I’m not talking about censorship here. I think there is still a lot to discuss regarding the direction the field is going, the way the awards are handled, how we move forward in the face of greater inclusivity, even how (one of my pet concerns) we maintain the culture and traditions of Fandom in a meaningful way in the face of broader mainstream cultural acceptance.
There is a time and place for all of that (there always has been), but when it’s time to celebrate, lets celebrate. And then, when it’s time to discuss things, we’ll discuss things.
It isn’t surprising that in this day and age, anything said or written in a public or private setting is likely to be broadcast, to personal/professional detriment, if doing so serves some asshole’s personal purpose.
In a nutshell: You wait until after the honeymoon to inform the bride that the rubber chicken at the reception gave half the guests heartburn. It’s really that simple.
One thing that has been apparent to me for quite some time is that newer fans – by which I mean tyro in both exposure to fandom and in years alive on this planet – have little to no engagement with the history of fandom (and of the field). This was exemplified by two comment/questions I heard at Worldcon, not once, but several times. They were:
Amazing Stories is a magazine based on the Spielberg television show
Worldcon started as a response to Dragoncon
Before I go any further on this subject, let me say that I believe this lack of historical knowledge is more the fault of MY generation of Fandom than any other single cause.
There are two things that bother me about this. Well, one of them is actually a two-parter, so, kind of three things that bother me:
1. new fans have at their disposal the greatest tools for research ever known to humankind and yet – statements like the above
2. the in-curiosity about our history
3. the lack of appreciation for the fact that without our historical underpinnings, none of this, from Worldcon to Dragoncon, would exist. We always say that Fandom and the field “stand on the shoulders of giants”, and we do. Why aren’t new fans curious about our foundation?
I’ve been a student of history, am a student of history, both mundane and fannish. The times when history has been an informative guide to the future and to the now are uncountable. History of course does not “repeat”, but history does show us that there are trends and that certain trends can be related to the here and now and provide some guidance and suggestions as to where we will find ourselves in the future. When someone world builds a science fiction story, what do they base their projections and assumptions upon? History.
History is, in fact, the only real tool we have for figuring out the course of future events. ALL predictive modeling is based on data drawn from history.
So why is it that Fandom seems so eager to ignore and discount it’s past? Our past is what has made Fandom what it is today. It is a useful guide to figuring out where we’re going and where we might go. (Indeed, the year I was accused of having inside voting information on the Hugos when I accurately predicted that certain award categories would be No Awarded was based on nothing more than my familiarity with Fannish history. Every single time in the past that the Hugo Awards had been attacked by outside forces, fans had rallied and defended the awards by voting No Award. No surprise that the results were the same at Sasquan. Expecting otherwise leads to that old rubric about the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and over while expecting different results.)
Am I saying that Fan History is the “one true way” and that we should all be just marching in lockstep towards the tower that holds the Enchanted Duplicator?
Absolutely not. That would be entirely unfannish. In order to maintain if not thrive, Fandom must find a way to appeal to and answer the needs of each generation. But without knowledge of our past and an appreciation for how we have arrived where we are now, change for new generations will not be informed change, and there are certain things we need to remember and keep reminding ourselves of.
One such, perhaps minor example, is referencing attendance at a science fiction convention as “buying a ticket” rather than buying a membership. I am positive that there were fans wandering the Dealer’s Room at Worldcon who had not a clue that they were a member of the World Science Fiction Society this past weekend (and will be for a year) and that membership carries with it certain privileges, such as nominating works for the Hugo Awards.
On the surface, it is a minor distinction. Below the surface? Buying a ticket implies non-participation. It suggests that the ticket holder is a step removed from the happenings. That they are experiencing, rather than participating. It encourages the attendee to think of the convention as a commercial transaction, rather than a social gathering. It places an unconscious barrier between the attendee and their potential curiosity about how this wonderful thing all came to be – why they are privileged to be given a membership in a unique, world wide organization that places everyone involved on an equal footing (well, tries to do that anyway).
There are some really good things about Fandom that can’t be fully accessed by someone who is not aware that there are reasons why we do the things we do, approach things the way we do. We all need to do better and encourage new fans to understand that they are joining a community (flawed but willing to admit those flaws and seeking ways to correct them), not just spending a few bucks to be entertained for a weekend.
FYI: The television show was based on the magazine. Amazing Stories began publication in March of 1926, ran continuously until 1992, has been resurrected several times and is now back in publication, in one form or another, since 2012.
Worldcon began in 1939. Almost 80 years ago. (Discrepancies in numbering owing to the fact that the convention was suspended during most of World War II.) Organized Fandom dates to the early 1930s. The reason there are Dragoncons, anime cons, comic cons and all the rest is BECAUSE there was a Worldcon.
We’re ALL people. We all come from the same “damn planet, monkey boy!”. We all have the same ancestors (yes, we do. Check out the research and realize that it’s logically impossible for it to not be so). If everyone on the planet stopped themselves for a moment and remembered that they’re talking to a distant cousin, someone who can talk to Auntie who WILL talk to your Mom about your bad behavior before opening their yaps, I think we’d be a lot better off. When a society fights within itself, it’s referred to as a “civil war” (what an oxymoron!). We need to realize that whenever we fight, it’s war within a family. Lets try remembering that.
Now lets talk about the awards.
I really hesitate to give oxygen to the “Goodlife” (See Saberhagen’s Berserker stories), but some mention is necessary to put this next part into context.
Those who have attacked the Hugo Awards since 2013 and continue to do so today, in fortunately ever-diminishing volume, have taken the position that the more diversity is represented in the award’s nominations and wins, the more we continue to “destroy” them.
This is because they are wedded to ideas about Fandom and the awards that are not related to reality. They began their attacks with the mistaken idea that the Hugo Awards are about popularity as related to and reflected in sales and earnings. They are not. (Historical note: Wollheim and the Futurians dissolved many a club in the early days and dealt the death blow to Gernsback’s Science Fiction League because “Fandom should not be in the service of any commercial business” – near quote, not exact; two Fanspeak words rarely in use today speak to this concept – “Filthy Pro” and “Huckster”, for professional author/artist and Dealer respectively. Fans with those appelations were still fans, still respected within the community, but the fact that they earned or tried to earn a living “off of Fandom” needed to be kept in mind. They had one foot in the commercial enterprise door.)
A large portion of the attackers also see the awards as an appropriate battlefield for advancing bigoted, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-trans and other agendas contrary to aspects of the general liberal concept that people should be accepted for who they are and that a white, male, western European pedigree is not a prerequisite for being able to write worthwhile science fiction.
In this latter aspect, they could not be more wrong. Even if there had been an era of the genre in which white, cis-het, Christian, European males were the only authors, they were largely writing with a (for their era) liberal bent and fundamentally wrote about people and cultures that were different from their own. They understood to one degree or another that the future was inherently liberal, even if we restrict ourselves only to definitions of liberal and conservative.
Science Fiction has always been about experiencing the new, the unexpected, worlds where they do things differently from the way we do them, people who look and act differently from ourselves. These are the things we EXPECT to see in our fiction, things we look forward to. How boring it would be if the future resembled nothing so much as a middle class (white) household of the 1950s during breakfast – without a twist.
Goodlife has chosen to attack something that doesn’t really exist, their mistaken perceptions of what the literature and its attendant fandom is all about, where it came from and where it is going. (Is there room for “conservative” science fiction? Sure there is. Well written “conservative” or even “libertarian” SF has always been respected by the field – just go check out how many Hugos RAH has.)
On line, they’ve been doing a happy dance, backgrounded with images of atomic bomb mushroom clouds, celebrating their self-proclaimed victory over the Hugos (and cabalistic SJW fandom…or is it gamma male feminist fandom…?). In response to that, allow me to relate a true story from my days at AT&T.
A co-worker had a nasty lottery ticket habit. He’d buy tickets every day, get visibly and loudly upset when he didn’t win and would talk incessantly about what he would do should he win the big prize. Other co-workers were sufficiently annoyed by this that one day they purchased that day’s ticket with the previous day’s winning numbers and slipped it onto the desk of said annoying co-worker. When he returned to his desk and discovered he’d “won” several million dollars, he marched into his supervisor’s office, quit and told her off with a long repressed rant, one whose words insured that he would never be able to recover his job, all before his work friends could intercept him and reveal their “joke”.
No, it’s not an analogy, but the circumstances are similar if you substitute Goodlife’s proclamations for the career-killing, bridge-burning rant of the former AT&T employee. Goodlife are basing their politics on a counterfeit lottery ticket.
No, the awards are not burning down, they are burning brighter.
I think the awards have gotten stronger every year, and better every year.
The attacks on them only served to strengthen them; the overwhelming rejection of the hijacks with No Award voting demonstrates just how much so.
The Hugos are unique in their purpose, in the community that supports them and in their results, and as I said previously, Goodlife is looking at them in the wrong way as evidenced by their statements and premature celebration. The Hugos have always been the collective vote of Fandom. To put them in their proper context, these are the awards voted upon by they greatest assemblage of people who love and have lived science fiction. They aren’t “best of” awards, they aren’t “popular” awards, they are awards given by a community, to other members of that same community*. (If they were commercially based awards – why the fan categories?)
(Clarification aside: My use of the word Fandom here refers specifically to those fans who are members of WSFS, either regularly or temporarily. These are the fans who, knowingly or not, are members of a society and culture that can trace its roots back to the beginning of fandom. This particular clade of Fandom is the one that possesses access to the history of the genre (largely through its aging members), is comprised primarily of literature fans and maintains the closest ties to what might be called “traditional” fandom. Again, anyone can become a member of this group – and the more they learn about where it came from, the better their experience will be. This is not to say that it is a “better” fandom than others, nor even a “purer” fandom than others, only that it is a specific fandom that participates and votes.)
Perhaps knowing that they are actually the “Science Fiction Achievement Awards” might influence the point of view. The individuals who are most familiar with the field, as a collective, get together and say “attaboy!” to some of their fellows every year.
Without knowing how they were created and without understanding what Fandom is all about, it is easy to suggest that they can be fixed by being turned into some kind of popular award, or even a juried award. But that would defeat their purpose.
Nope. The Hugo Awards are not headed for dissolution. They may in fact be entering an era of their greatest influence, an era in which Worldcon and its awards have fully embraced the World portion of its name and intent.
(*a community that anyone can become a member of, I hasten to add.)
Side note to the above: “Goodlife” proclaims there is a vast conspiracy, the “Cabal”, made up of politically motivated individuals, perhaps working at the behest of certain traditional publishers in the field – or at least finding common cause with them – and that this Cabal manipulates the vote so that the vast majority of winners represent some SJW-Feminist-LGBTQI-Communist-Anti-Gun-Pro-Flouridated-Water, political-messaging-in-fiction goal.
Of course, those of us not wearing tin foil hats tend not to believe things presented in traditional conspiracy theory formula (“There is a cabal and you can’t prove there isn’t!” Well of course we can’t, seeing as how you can’t disprove a negative….) but, here is the reality:
The works that they are objecting to (or rather, the authors of said works they are objecting to) keep on winning. Whether it be the “will of the fans” or the influence of a cabal, the results are the same: Goodlife is not winning. Which means, to put a fine point on it, they are losing.
In an ideal world, I would like to see everyone acknowledge that we all have hurts and that we all make mistakes and that the true measure of who we are is found in whether we maintain empathy for others, acknowledge our errors and can be seen trying to improve ourselves in our respect for and understanding of others. Which includes letting them know when you think they’ve gone off the deep end. In a friendly and caring way.
Hey, I did say “ideal”.
Yes, Kermit, Ira and I had a fantastic convention. One might even say Amazing. (snicker. For some reason that never gets old!)
We rolled out the first new print issue of the magazine. (Subscriptions being mailed out this coming week, as will be review and other promotional copies, FYI.).
We got high fives. We got compliments on the cover and on the contents. We were thanked numerous times for bringing the magazine back.
We gave away or otherwise distributed some 4400 copies of this issue, a very high percentage of all attendees. We met with new fans and old and the same for “filthy pros” of the author, artist and editor varieties.
We were given advice, both solicited and unsolicited, both good and not so good, but we thank everyone for their intent.
We learned a lot (like, next time – bigger booth and dammit, make sure to drop a box off in the SFWA suite!).
Prior to the convention, I was cautiously cautioned to not get upset if I saw copies in the trashcans around the convention center. While there may have been copies so deposited, the trashcans were lidded, so no such horror confronted my eyes. I did, on the other hand, see perhaps a thousand fans clutching their copies to their chests and wandering off with happy smiles on their faces.
We signed autographs; we were visited by BNFs and Big Name Authors and Artists and Editors who sought us out (no tugging on handler’s hems required).
We got to meet St. Arlen (who are actually a lovely couple), the people who contributed a huge sum to our Kickstarter when it was in danger of not successfully completing; had a very lovely dinner with them, learning that they are both Trufans.
We basked in the glow of a happy reception for our venture for a solid five days and are still coming down.
Thanks Worldcon! Thanks Fandom!
On the other hand, let me tell you something about shipping 2300 pounds of magazines cross country and the personal nightmare I thought would lead directly to my eagerly putting a bullet into my own brain (squish).
It’s 1978 and this eager young fan has just enjoyed the heady experience of having not only attended his first Worldcon, but of being on Committee and managing the Hugo Awards Banquet.
Back in school, he has applied for and – surprise, surprise – received a Leadership Grant from his university for the continued publication of his fanzine, now a semiprozine paying something like half a cent a word.
The issue is prepared with planned initial distribution at the next Worldcon, where he is already being told that he needs to get together with other new fan publications, including something called File 770, published by some guy named Mike Glyer.
The contents are stellar – interviews with Spinrad and Delany, articles by other pro authors, artwork by many of the hottest comic artists of the day, cover by a guy who would go on to illustrate for Analog and Asimovs and become the top illustrator of scientifically rendered dinosaurs.
And then, American Airlines (boo! boo!) lost the entire shipment to the convention, leaving him holding nothing but the cover illustration.
Fast forward 40 years, almost to the day, as the eager old fan stands before the loading dock supervisor on the convention center docks, holding a framed, over-sized print of the cover and inquires about his shipment of magazines: “Nope. Sorry. Haven’t seen anything like that. Hey, maybe they delivered them to your booth already”.
A mile walk reveals that this is not the case.
“Hey! Does anyone have a gun? I have to put a bullet in my brain. Twice in one lifetime ought to be a clue that should be heeded.”
(Fortunately, the convention center has a no firearms policy. A policeman outside the convention center was decidedly unwilling to lend me his Glock. And they say policemen are your friends…)
Returning to the loading dock, someone suggests we check the bone yard, a marshaling area for unclaimed and mostly unnecessary or abandoned shipments. And there they were! A glorious palleted stack of boxes, almost as tall as myself.
The pallet was delivered by forklift to our booth, but I had to break it down and haul each 42 pound box off the pallet and behind the booth.
I didn’t mind at all!
I also brought a copy of the ill-fated fanzine, Contact:SF, to the convention with me and finally got to show the whole issue to Mike Glyer. We had a bit of a laugh over it, but at least I can say that it finally made it to where it was supposed to be, albeit nearly a lifetime later. Below, our booth at the con, the cover of our issue and the cover of that copy of Contact.
One last word: Thank you ALL for your support and encouragement. Think about picking up a subscription, print or electronic. That sort of thing kinda helps keep us going!