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Artist, Heather Oliver             

The Hugo Awards: Tweeter Expands My Horizons

Hugo Deb KosibaThrough the recent spike in the volume of tweets, I became aware of two things: 1) there is a Hugo award category called “Best Fan Writer” and 2) according to the rules, I’ve been eligible for it since 2008. At least in principle, because the real universe is significantly different.

The Hugos are essentially a popularity contest, which means you need to self-promote relentlessly to get nominated (being connected to insiders and gatekeepers doesn’t hurt either). These days, this means that people with the loudest blogs and most adoring acolytes are the likeliest to show up on the ballots. The configuration has also resulted in the seasonal listing of qualifying works – a litany as interesting as “the best/worst X of last year”, “my new year’s resolutions” and “what I did during my summer vacation.”

“Fan Writer” seems to have been established as a sop to people whose lives revolve around SF/F cons and to writers in the genre who want extra nominations beyond fiction writing. And whereas the criteria for some categories are almost absurdly high (particularly the two for Best Editor), those for Best Fan Writer merely require writing about the genre in a non-professional venue that, per the Hugo site, “includes publications in semiprozines, and even on mailing lists, blogs, BBSs, and similar electronic fora”.

By my count, of the 50 awards in this category given so far, 20 have been won by David Langford and 7 by Richard Geis, both whiteAnglomen. More recently, however, runaway diversity became fashionable: since 2008, winners in this group continue to be whiteAnglo, but a mere 60% (three of the five) have been whiteAnglomen! And this year there has been a spate of suggestions for nominations of non-whiteAnglomen (in several permutations), after which we will undoubtedly return to our regular programming.

In this climate of wild radicalism, my name finally came up: as a footnote in the relevant entry of the World SF blog by Lavie Tidhar; and more prominently in the livejournal of Nick Mamatas (thanks, guys!).  Given my habits, I will not list the blog posts that qualify for the Hugo. Those who read my blog saw these articles when they appeared. Those who don’t will not rush to read them. I do realize that being a practicing scientist and a voracious reader beyond the SF/F enclosure handicap me considerably: I was recently chastised for “not reading the classics” by someone whose concept of “classics” is AsimovClarkeHeinlein; someone else objected to my using (avaunt!) scientific terms in an article about “hard” SF.

In the extremely unlikely event that I should win, I may do something extravagant to celebrate. Maybe I’ll publish a passage of “positively portrayed” sex (yet another topic of recent conversations in SF/F) to give people a glimpse of what lovemaking in a polyandrous society of telepaths might be like. Since my view is that such descriptions need to use precise terms if they’re to be potent, don’t expect to see manual-reeking couch-fainting terms like “sensual”, “reponse”, “aftermath” and their ilk. But do expect to see focus on the woman’s pleasure.

Image: the 2012 Hugo trophy, designed by Deb Kosiba.

16 Responses to “The Hugo Awards: Tweeter Expands My Horizons”

  1. Yes, you are definitely eligible, Athena. As am I.

    I might be a whiteAngloman, yes, but I do want a nomination.

  2. Athena says:

    The point to consider, Paul, is whether candidates have anything new and unique to say. In your case, given your particulars (and those of the Hugo) I have no doubt that you will be nominated and will most likely win at least once — perhaps even multiple times. So you don’t need to worry, just wait and it will fall in your lap.

  3. Sue Lange says:

    Hey kids, good luck to both of you!

  4. Fan based awards have been given out since the beginning of the Hugos in 1953 – they are not a SOP to anything and are as important and revered as any other category.

    The first winner of s specific fan writer award was Alexi Panshin. Many pro writers in the field were fan writers well before they became known professionally, writers with names like Ray Bradbury and Robert Silverberg.

  5. Athena says:

    Thanks, Sue! I have my predictions about how far these suggestions will go, of course.

  6. Athena says:

    I know who received Fan Writer awards, Steve, I went through the list. It’s really not debatable that the criteria for Fan category are odd, that its recipients have been stunningly homogeneous (even more so than the field itself) and that David Langford cannot have been the sole person who wrote ably about SF for twenty of the last thirty years. Also, it seems to me that allowing writers to compete in this category after they’re rather obviously pro makes it meaningless (or a sop, take your pick).

  7. Cora says:

    I quite enjoyed Dave Langford’s columns in SFX when I read the magazine approx. 15 years ago. Nonetheless, his Hugo win by subscription was ridiculous. Never mind that Langford is the person who unleashed the “Margaret Atwood does not consider herself an SF writer and thinks SF is only about giant squids” meme upon the world, since I traced it back to Langford writing about supposedly hearing Margaret Atwood say the offending words on BBC radio. Interestingly, there is no evidence that Margaret Atwood ever actually said those words, since the BBC program has long since vanished into the ether.

    I don’t really get the fan writer category either, since half the people nominated are people I’ve never heard of in spite of hanging around the online SFF community (i.e. they’re probably offline fanzine people) and the other half pro writers with popular blogs like John Scalzi or Jim Hines.

    Anyway, I wish you luck to get nominated. Not that it really matters much, since I cannot nominate or vote anyway.

  8. Athena says:

    Thank you, Cora — though I doubt I will even make it to the ballot! It’s just amusing to see people tying themselves into pretzels to justify the rules (and the winners).

  9. Asakiyume says:

    If you *were* nominated, and you won, would you travel to wherever they’re awarded to accept?

    (Are the Hugos the ones that are given out at World Fantasy?)

  10. Walden2 says:

    Athena, if we chant your name a lot here, will this help? Any particular deities we need to sacrifice to, just in case? :^) :^)

  11. Athena says:

    Francesca, I had to look this up, which tells you how much I know myself: they’re awarded at the World SF convention. In 2013, it will happen in San Antonio, Texas. I’ve visited the city; it has a very pronounced character but during August in that part of TX your shoes stick to the pavement and your sweat pools on your body.

    Being nominated is just a preliminary — you actually have to make it to the shortlist of 5-6 names. I don’t know if Hugos are like Oscars, where you don’t know until they pronounce the name in the auditorium. I wouldn’t go if this is how it happens, though I would give a friend who plans to attend a speech to deliver by proxy (a common practice). If I knew beforehand that I had won, I’d probably go.

  12. Athena says:

    I doubt it, Larry, unless you consider SF/F fandom a deity!

  13. Caliban says:

    The Hugos are like the oscars–you don’t know until they read it.

  14. Athena says:

    That settles the issue of travel plans, then!

  15. delagar says:

    Well, you’re among my favorite people writing about SF. As I’m sure you know!

    And yes on the pretzels!

  16. Athena says:

    Thank you, Kelly! As I said, I’m sure I won’t make it on the ballot. Besides being a scientist and using pollysyllables, I fall between too many stools to avoid or count.