Yesterday, I decided to have a bash at a draft ballot for the Hugo Awards. This will be the first time I’ve ever voted in them – although I attended the 2005 Worldcon in Glasgow, it was all a bit last-minute and I didn’t join the convention until a couple of months before. I am not a big fan of the Hugos – as I’ve said several times before on this blog. It’s a popularity contest dominated by a bunch of people whose tastes I do not share – nor even their opinions on what genre is or should be. I also think the awards reflect a situation in science fiction and science fiction fandom that has not pertained for over thirty years, and it’s long past time some swift and brutal changes were made. But I can’t make those changes, and it’s all set up in such a way that changes are near-impossible to implement… However, I can use my ballot to make my position clear…
There are at present sixteen categories of award: novel, novella, novelette, short story, related work, graphic story, dramatic presentation (short), dramatic presentation (long), editor (long form), editor (short form), professional artist, semiprozine, fanzine, fancast, fan writer and fan artist.
First, I don’t think any award should go to a person. It should go to a work. So my ballot for both editor categories and both artist categories will read “no award”. I would do the same for fan writer, but I have my reasons for nominating people for that – on which more later.
Second, the novelette category is a completely fucking stupid waste of time. It’s a hangover from the days when magazines offered different pay rates for different word-lengths. The only venues where novelette is still used are the Big Three genre magazines: Asimov’s, Analog and F&SF. Once upon a time, they dominated the short fiction categories, but their day is long past and they’ve become increasingly irrelevant. Kill the novelette, kill it dead. Anything longer than a short story and shorter than a novel, I will be nominating as a novella.
I have never seen the point of the dramatic presentation categories. The film industry has enough awards of its own, and it really couldn’t give a shit about an award handed out by a tiny bunch of sf fans who meet up in a hotel once a year. Kill both categories, no one will miss them.
The semiprozine category is a joke. Q: when is a magazine not a magazine? A: when the Hugo Award, with Tory-like mendacity, keeps on redefining what is eligible for semiprozine and what is not. You can count the number of genre magazines with salaried staff in existence now on one hand. If it publishes genre fiction to a schedule, it’s a magazine – no matter what medium. And let’s not forget that a lot of original fiction also appears in anthologies. We really should have a category for them too: Best Original Anthology.
If the semiprozine category is risible, then the fanzine one is a living fossil. Recent years have seen a small handful of websites nominated in this category – which, it could be argued, are the twenty-first century equivalent. Except most genre websites are single-author, so their content would also make them eligible for fan writer. Yes, there are collaborative websites, such as past winner SF Signal, but as far as I’m aware there is no distinction made in the rules regarding the number of contributors. And really, isn’t a fanzine – ie, a voice in the genre conversation – just as much a related work as a non-fiction book from a reputable publishing house? (Assuming, of course, it’s about genre and not just some old farts whinging about the “good old days in fannish fandom”.)
The one people award in which I will be nominating is fan writer. As a political act. It’s a people award, it should be killed. But it’s also time the Hugo Awards ditched the whole fanzine thing and took serious note of where the genre conversation now takes place. Fanzines – paper fanzines – are completely fucking irrelevant and have been for decades. I will be nominating five bloggers, because I think the Hugo needs to get its arse in gear and recognise that fandom has moved online.
The two artist categories… They should award it for a piece of art, like the BSFA Award does. Does it matter if it was done by a pro or a fan? With people sourcing cover art from deviantart.com and so on, any kind of distinction between filthy pros who do it for the money and grubby fans who doodle for the boo has long since evaporated.
The nominations for the 2014 Hugo Awards close on 31 March. I still have plenty to read if I want to make reasonably informed choices for the categories in which I plan to participate. I’ll post my draft ballot in a few weeks. But don’t be surprised if “no award” appears rather a lot on it…
I know, comments on reddit… But when I saw the comment here by JW_BM, I couldn’t let the stupidity go unchallenged. They write of my “utter ignorance to the boom in novelette self-publishing”. What boom? And it’s “ignorance of” not “ignorance to”. Could they possibly mean all those novellas that people have self-published? Perhaps they don’t know the difference between a novella and a novelette. Perhaps they spectacularly missed the point I was making. Actually, there’s no perhaps about it. Sigh. I know, comments on reddit… I won’t even bother addressing the stupid remarks about the dramatic presentation awards. Rabid Dr Who fans? At a worldcon? I think they’ll find most Dr Who fans don’t even know what a worldcon is, never mind a Hugo Award. Bugger. Looks like I did reply, after all.