Posts Tagged ‘the hugos’
Best. Semi. Pro. Zine. Just typing it causes me pain. Of all the made up categories, this is the most made up. This places is me in a bit of a quandary because Strange Horizons (which is eligible in the category) is the centre of my SF universe and I’d love to see it recognised. I also think it has a pretty good shot this year since despite being a notionally American magazine, it is very international in content and outlook. But come on! Semi-fucking-prozine! I’ll vote but I sure as hell won’t encourage this idiocy by nominating.
Everyone thinks the Hugos need fixing but everyone has different solution. For example, the G at Nerds Of A Feather suggests in ‘A Modest Proposal For Hugo Reform’ that the number of categories need to be expanded. As I say in the comments, I think the opposite: that number of categories need to be reduced to concentrate on the things the voters know well. The corollary to this is that I think better use should be made of the Best Related category to cover everything the other categories exclude.
The wording of the category is: “The best work related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, published in the prior calendar year and which is either non-fiction or noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text.” That is pretty broad as – in addition, to non-fiction – there are lots of things that are neither fiction or non-fiction. In practice, though, the award is dominated by criticism, biography and writing about writing with the occasional art book thrown in for good measure. So my list of nominations is a deliberate attempt to push the boundaries of the definition.
But just before that, two quick points on exclusions. Discussing Best Editor: Short Form, I said that collections and anthologies were eligible for this category. This is incorrect and was based on a misleading description of the category (from the Nerds Of A Feather post linked above, in fact). I would still like it to be true but there is no way to stretch the actual definition that far so I’ve not included any this time. Discussing Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form, I said that it should really be Best Film. If that ever came to pass then I’d nominate computer games here; since it hasn’t yet, my nomination for Tomb Raider goes where it is most likely to attract other nominations.
1) Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers Of Space by Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman
Popular science book for children in which Dr Walliman’s tour of the solar system is accompanied by Newman’s lovely Soviet-influenced illustrations (all the rage in SF art at the minute). It is simultaneously educational, inspiring and beautiful. If you truly want to install a sense of wonder in your kids, buy them this.
2) Les Revenants by Mogwai
Soundtrack to the French television series by the Scottish post-rock stalwarts. A more sombre affair than their own albums, chilly, coiled and gently menacing. Fuck filk. (By the way, this year’s Rave Tapes is even better.)
3) Best Speculative Fiction 2012, edited by Justin Landon and Jared Shurin
Collection of the best of internet criticism compiled by one of my Best Fan Writer nominations and some other guy. I don’t own the book but I’ve read the individual pieces. This vote, however, is for the enterprise itself. The baton has now been passed to Ana Grilo and Thea James, the perfect pair of, er, pair of hands.
4) Red Doc> by Anne Carson
take the entirety of the
common sense of humans
and put it in the palm of
your hand and still have
room for your dick.
A mix of poetry, drama and narrative that holds the unique distinction of being shortlisted for both the Kitschies and the TS Elliot Award. It is a painfully grounded fantasy that manages to be instantly welcoming and accessible whilst retaining layer after layer of depth. (Niall Harrison will tell you that this book belongs in the Best Novella category as it is a science fiction or fantasy story of between 17,500 and 40,000 words. Don’t believe his lies.)
5) Sky Arts Ignition: Memory Palace
Exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in which a Hari Kunzi story is matched with twenty works from designers and illustrators (that is Mario Wagner above). If you missed it, a book is available. Here is Lila Garrott’s review for Strange Horizons.
What these nominations all have in common is that they are substantial, discrete pieces of work that are not eligible for any other category. Some people are taking it even further than that and I’ve seen a couple of nominations for individual blog posts such as ‘We Have Always Fought’ (which, incidentally, is being collected in Speculative Fiction 2013). This doesn’t seem quite right to me – it just about works in the BSFA Non-Fiction Award but only just and it is much narrower in scope. Equally, whilst I will be nominating a Janelle Monáe video in Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form, I’m not convinced you can brigade the album and its video into a single Best Related nomination. But more power to them. Just because it isn’t how I see the award, doesn’t mean I want to set up a needlessly complicated definition. This urge to cover and control everything is part of the problem behind several of the current categories when Best Related offers a wonderful opportunity to be unconstrained.
At the risk of repeating myself, I am in favour if giving awards to things that do exist (for example, novels and short stories) and against giving awards for things that don’t exist (for example, novelettes and semiprozines). The best dramatic presentation categories, however, are even worse than nonexistant. Here we have a made-up term for a collection of non-comparable things that have perfectly good names, arbitarily divided by length. To all intents and purposes, Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form is the Best Film category. A film has won every year since the award was created except for 2012 and 52 out of 55 nominees were films. The award definition might talk grandly of “a dramatized production in any medium, including film, television, radio, live theater, computer games or music” but this is obviously bollocks. why not simply reflect the reality by calling it what it is?
The lone non-film winner was the first season of Game Of Thrones because ludicrously episodes of a television series can be nominated in Short Form and the series itself can be nominated in Long Form. The picture with Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form itself is less stark but still overwhelming: a TV episode has won every year except for 2004 and 2009 and 47 out of 55 nominees were TV episodes. Even these two exceptions did not provide good evidence for keeping the criteria open; both ‘Gollum’s Acceptance Speech’ and ‘Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog’ were essentially bonus prizes to well-established and rewarded fandoms.
This year, one of my film nominations is eligible for both Long Form and Short Form because it is 96 minutes long which falls within the 90 minutes, plus or minus 10%, boundary. Obviously I’m not going to nominate it in Short Form but I shouldn’t really have the option. However, since the category is currently open to all ‘dramatic presentations’, I am including one non-film nominee (and will include one non-television nominee for Short Form). But hopefully in the future I won’t have that option either.
1) Upstream Color – I remember very clearly the unexpected mindfuck of watching Shane Carruth’s Primer at the Sci-Fi London film festival, stumbling out into Soho dazed. Terrifyingly, that was a decade ago and it is only now that Carruth has followed up his debut feature. It would be a cliche to say it was worth the wait – a cliche Carruth would probably balk at given his abortive attempts to make other films – but it is a remarkable film, made even more so by extent of the maker’s endevour (Carruth wrote, directed, shot, scored and edited the film as well as playing the lead) It has the beauty of Terrance Malick’s late films with an added intellectual and imaginative heft. It is, in other words, the sort of film that has no chance of getting on the shortlist of the Hugos. Go and watch it immediately and then read Abigail Nussbaum’s four thoughts (a good example of why she should be nominated for Best Fan Writer).
2) Tomb Raider – I first heard of this as ‘the game where Lara gets raped’ which is a pretty good example of the internet’s tendency to work itself up into a froth on the basis of imperfect information. In fact, the latest installment of the series, written by Rhianna Pratchett, is pretty much the opposite. Here is Liz Bourke’s review but the best and most concise description comes from Renay: “escape from Patriarchy Island”. It is also a wonderfully balanced, intuitive and immersive game (exactly the opposite of Bioshock Infinite which a few wrongheads have suggested nominating).
3) Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 – Monster’s Inc is not just a great film but also an extremely original science fiction film. So it was a huge disappointment that the sequel was simply a mildly amusing campus comedy. In contrast, Meatballs 2 is gonzo SF that takes its insane premise – the ability to make it rain food – and runs wild with it. A perfect example of the freedom that exists within children’s animation to produce films that would be considered avant garde in adult Hollywood. Writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are also responsible for The Lego Movie so I’ve got to see that soon. [Edit: Apologies to Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn who actually directed this film - Lord and Miller did the first one.]
4) A Field In England – In short order, Ben Wheatley has established himself as the most exciting director in Britain. His signature is to play with genres and here we have a collision of English civil war, passion play, John Dee occultism and psychedelic trip. It is all satisfyingly odd, if unmistakably a side project. This year he is adapting JG Ballard’s High Rise, which is very exciting, and directing a couple of episodes of Doctor Who, which is deeply conflicting.
5) Byzantium – Do we really need another vampire film? Probably not. But if we have to have them, I’d like more like this. Neil Jordan builds his film around two wonderful performances from Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan as young mother and teenage daughter, locked in that relationship for eternity. Sadly, it is two thirds character study to one third vampire schlock but it is hard not to cheer at the hearty ‘fuck you, vampire patriarchy’ of otherwise silly plot.
I would have liked to post my Short Form nominations at the same time as these but I haven’t found the time for my telly watching yet. Since the point of publicly posting my nominations is to encourage others with voting rights to seek them out, I thought I better just crack on with these ones. Do check them out, if they sound interesting.
I’ve grouped these two categories together because I don’t have any of my own recommendations for either one of them. They also come perilously close to flunking my three criteria for Hugo categories: they must be for real things, there must be a sufficiently large pool of such things and the voters of the Hugos must be informed enough about such things to make meaningful nominations.
Best Graphic Story
A tortured description of the type sadly typical of the Hugos but I think everyone understands it is talking about comics. I love comics but, as I’ve written about before, I don’t really read them. I certainly don’t read them enough to but together a meaningful set of nominations and unfortunately, unlike the Best Artist categories, that can’t be fixed with a quick Google. So I will nominate anything that anyone persuades me is worthy in the comments. But it does beg the question, are Hugo voters, in general, qualified to nominate in this category? The evidence of the last couple of years since the category was instigated in 2009 aren’t positive: Girl Genius won for the first three years until the Foglios recused themselves and the bafflingly shit Schlock Mercenary has been shortlist every single year. I think we are approaching a make-or-break point for this category where the Hugo voters need to collectively step up or acknowledge that there can be important parts of SF that we just aren’t the right people to assess.
I’ve never listened to a fancast (or, as they are known in the real world, a podcast) and I’ve no interest in starting. So I don’t want recommendations and I won’t be voting in the category once the shortlist is announced. Unlike the Best Editor categories, this is purely personal taste, but I do wonder if there is any real value in having a new fan category when the existing ones are relatively unpopular and the chief difference is the medium. Now, at last year’s Worldcon, Best Fancast was actually more popular than Best Fanzine but only by 841 votes to 820. This makes them them the third and first least voted categories (with Best Fan Writer sandwiched). Would combining the two produce the best of both worlds? New blood, more interest and a bigger pool?
You’ll probably have gathered that I think there are too many Hugo categories; given there are currently 16, I think that is inarguable. ‘Prizes for all’ is neither practical or sensible and a little bit of focus might encourage greater participation: last year only 1848 ballots were cast out of 6,060 total memberships.
Like Ian Sales, these are several Hugo categories that I have big problems with but I think these two categories should simply be merged. The idea of both the Best Pro Artist and Best Fan Artist categories is to reward an artist for a body of work over a year. I see no reason why the issue of payment should come into it.
Not only is it a difficult distinction to draw, it is not present in the other categories. The only other time the word ‘fan’ appears is in Best Fan Writer and there it is as much a description of the type of writing being awarded (writing about speculative fiction) as it is the person being awarded. You can probably count the number of people who make a living from writing about SF on one of John Clute’s fingers. Nor is it a distinction that makes any appearance in the awards for writing speculative fiction itself which are all based on word count. So, for example, Seanan McGuire’s self- published story ‘In Sea-Salt Tears’ appeared on last year’s Best Novelette shortlist. In the only other categories that are awarded to individuals rather than works, the two Best Editor awards, the distinction is again the form of the content rather than the economic status of the producer of the content (this also brings us into semi-prozine territory – more on that later). So below are my two individual sets of nominations but in an ideal world, they would single set of Best Artist nominations.
Best Pro Artist
Best Fan Artist
Another unique feature of these categories is the relative anonymity of SF art, despite its ubiquity. You might well picked up a book because of its cover but you probably won’t know who was responsible. So I’m very grateful to people like Aidan Moher who post about art throughout the
year and this post was only possible because of him, Justin Landon, Liz Batty and Lady Business. But I’m even more appreciative of the Hugo Award Eligible Art(ists) Tumblr. This is everything that author eligibility posts aren’t: a neutral third-party space that crowd-sources information from artists and fans alike and presents this side-by-side allowing nominators to easily compare the quality of these suggestions.
But my knowledge of the field is still weak and you may have noticed that I’ve only selected four artist for each category. Please lobby me in the comments with your recommendation for the fifth spot. Feel free to tell me why my other nominations are wrong and should be replaced too!
I won’t be nominating in either Best Editor Long Form or Best Editor Short Form and I will be voting No award in both categories. I don’t want to re-hash this post too much but these awards can only ever really be for best publisher or best currator, neither of which I feel require a category within the Hugos. They also overlap with the other categories which isn’t very helpful.
Consider last year’s Best Editor Short Form shortlist. First up there are Stanley Schmidt of Analog and Sheila Williams of Asimov’s, both of which would have been eligible for Best Professional Magazine, except that category was abolished on the grounds of being pointless in 1972. Then you’ve John Joseph Adams of Lightspeed Magazine and Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld Magazine, both of which were eligible for Best Semiprozine (and indeed both were shortlisted – Adams with Stefan Rudnicki and Clarke with Jason Heller, Sean Wallace, and Kate Baker. Finally you have Jonathan Strahan, editor of three anthologies (The Best Science Fiction And Fantasy Of The Year: Volume 6, Under My Hat: Tales From The Cauldron and Edge Of Infinity), all of which were eligible for grab-bag category Best Related Work. Plus, of course, all the individual stories they edited were eligible for hte various short fiction categories.
So the concept of best editor is partially unrewardable, partially rewarded by other categories and partially rewarded by proxies. What is left does not justify a single seperate category, let alone two.
I found it very easy to come up with my Best Fan Writer list but Best Fanzine is much harder. This is because, whilst both are historic terms, fan writer maps across nicely to the world of bloggers whereas fanzines are a bit tricker. I do not think all websites or even all blogs are fanzines; for me, they have to be collaborative (either through shared ownership or significant guest involvement) and to have a strong sense of community.
1) Pornokitsch – Nuff said.
2) Nerds Of A Feather – I first came across this bunch when they interview Paul Kincaid (in two parts) at the end of 2012. Over the last year I’ve watched them became the best group blog going, chiefly because of the staggering range of things they cover. Is anyone else writing about the death of the western, Deltron 3030 and, er, Pepsi-chicken flavoured crisps? Plus, of course, they use the awesome power of MATH.
3) FerretBrain – If you want a wall of text by a very clever person about something you previously had no interest in, then FerretBrain is your go to place. Sadly Kyra has been quiet for most of the year but we still get plenty of braindumps from ArthurB and Dan H to chew on.
4) The Book Smugglers – Ana and Thea’s enterprise is now so big that I’m sometimes surprised it can be contained in a single blog. It is of particular interest to me as a reader of the branch of children’s literature known as Young Adult but they have also consistently provided a platform to an incredibly diverse set of voices (not least through the annual Smugglivus).
5) A Dribble Of Ink – Pretty much the opposite of a traditional fanzine (or, indeed, Ferretbrain). Aidan Moher’s blog is an experiment in pushing the professionalism of fandom as far as it will go. This nomination is less about Moher’s own writing than his focus on design and illustration as well as his curation and ambition.
There are, of course, still paper fanzines (although even these are probably now more commonly read as PDFs rather than actual paper). I don’t read any of these.
Of course, awards season means not just this but actually talking about good stuff. I am a Hugo voter this year and I’m planning to post as much about my own nominations list as possible, starting with Best Fan Writer.
1) Abigail Nussbaum – Hands down the best blogger in the field. I am in awe of Nussbaum’s ability to maintain the holy trinity of blogging: writing regularly about a broad range of subjects in depth. Even her brief reading round up posts are more in-depth than a lot of online reviews but she writes at length about books, films and television (and even a bit of Shakespeare). She missed the shortlist by one nomination last year, let’s not make the same mistake in 2014. (As an aside, I’m very pleased to have Nussbaum as an editor at Strange Horizons and I’m glad she still publishes her own reviews there. However, I wish her reviews for SH attracted as many comments as posts on her blog.)
2) Jared Shurin – Probably the best blogger in the field in the UK but also the most fun (for example, slightly off-the-wall stuff like this. As well as this, Shurin is also the best ambassador for a lot of subgenres that don’t get much interest downwards from critics or articulation upwards from fans. Obviously some other people do talk intelligently about, say, epic fantasy but not as consistently or comprehensively. (Pornokitsch is obviously a shared endeavour and though Anne Perry writes less now she’s joined the publishing world, she is still an important part of the blog. I will be nominating Pornokitsch seperately as Best Fanzine.)
3) Nina Allan – I’ve known Allan as a writer for some time but 2013 was the year where she really came to prominence as a critic. She was the most prolific reviewer at Strange Horizons last year (including contributing a Short Fiction Snap Shot) as well as writing extensively on her blog (which doesn’t allow comments – boo!). I have particularly valued her perspective on horror such as in this post on FrightFest.
4) Jonathan McCalmont – McCalmont hasn’t quite done a Mamatas but he is writing noticeably less than he has in the past and 2013 might be the last year he makes a significant contribution to the field. He does still write critically, including for me at the BSFA Review, but his contribution in 2013 was also strongly political. When a fan can put a lot of effort into supporting the Hugos and be made with aggressive stupidity and, ultimately, self-sabotage in response from those overly-invested in the award, the bluff needs to be called. The genre needs more people like McCalmont and fewer like Standlee.
5) Requires Hate – This is a purely political nomination. If there is one thing that holds speculative fiction back, it is its massive complacency. She was a bit quiet towards the end of the year but RH was still a well deserved boot up the arse.
In a post entitled ‘The Hugos, The Clarke Awards And What Do You Want, Exactly?’, Cora Buhlert writes:
“The Hugos are broken” posts came mainly from (male) British critics this year, and not against international fans and writers in general… Indeed, the one thing I don’t see on the list are British nominees, at least not in the fiction categories, which probably explains the dissatisfied grumblings of British fans and critics right there.
I’m not sure that first point is borne out by her own round-up post which links to not a single male British critic. Given this, her explanation for these grumblings is even less plausible than it would ordinarily be. She then goes on to discuss the Arthur C Clarke Award:
Indeed, my main reaction to the Clarke shortlist in comparison to this year’s Hugo controversy is the question to all the Hugo critics, “Is this really what you want?” An award shortlist chosen by a jury of qualified experts, which nonetheless winds up consisting entirely of white men and books which are far less diverse in theme and style (several of the nominees are basically reimaginings of hoary old SF tropes) than those on the Hugo shortlist, for all their flaws. One thing that all of these discussions and their recurrence show is that the SFF community is changing. However, it’s not necessarily changing into the direction that the brigade of young male British critics would prefer.
I don’t know who this brigade is but – speaking as a young(ish) male British critic – I certainly prefer this year’s Clarke shortlist to that of the Best Novel Hugo (and I prefer the BSFA Award shortlist to both). I base this on my previous experience of the work of Kim Stanley Robinson, Mira Grant, Lois McMaster Bujold, John Scalzi, Chris Beckett, Nick Harkaway and Ken MacLeod (and M John Harrison and Adam Roberts). That is not to say that I’ve read the majority of the work on the shortlists but I do think it allows me to make a relatively informed comparison. However, what I find interesting about Buhlert’s post is not these specific points but the fact she links criticism of the Hugos with criticism of the Clarke, particularly with respect to diversity. I think this is unsuccessful because of a failure to discussion the ways in which the awards are fundamentally different, a difference that is, I think, how they are decided (five judges versus any interested member of Worldcon) than what they decide. By discussing that issue, I aim to answer Buhlert’s rhetorical question more fully.
The Clarke Award is for best science fiction novel published in the UK; the Best Novel Hugo is for best speculative fiction novel published in the US. The Clarke Award has a pool of eligible work pre-selected by UK publishers; the Best Novel Hugo has no pre-selection of its eligible pool. We know that this year, that means that the judges of the Clarke Award had 82 works to select their shortlist from (substantially higher than in previous years). But the Best Novel Hugo pool is vastly bigger than this – at a conservative guess I’d say at least four times the size. We also know from Niall Harrison’s count that ratio of speculative fiction books published by men and women is very different between the two countries. For example, using books received by Locus in 2011 as a proxy, he found:
Overall, 47% of titles listed were written or edited by women, 53% by men; that’s closer to parity than last year. It also obscures a large difference between the US and the UK. In the US, last year, Locus received very nearly equal numbers of books written/edited by men and women. In contrast, only 1 in 3 books received from the UK was written or edited by a woman.
Which brings us to the fact that this year, for only the second time in its 27 year history, there are no novels by women on the Clarke Award shortlist. I mentioned this briefly the other day when I talked about the existing data on women and the Clarke but it is perhaps worth unpacking a bit more. It is my belief that the lack of women on the shortlist can only be explained by individual sexism, institutional sexism or some combination of the two. A good example of the former theory can be found in this post by James Nicoll:
Congratulations to the Clarkes for resisting the deadly temptation to produce a more diverse nominee list, especially given the outrageous – by what appear to the current standards of British SF – presence of women, persons of colour and Muslims on the submissions list. In particular I’d like to praise you for snubbing Alif the Unseen, which could have only embolden those people into further creativity in the field of SF.
I think most people would agree that when it comes to likely reasons why the judges did not put Alif The Unseen on the shortlist, naked anti-Muslim hatred is pretty far down the list. When it comes to women, however, there is a much stronger case. This is based on the demographic argument that women make up more than half of the world’s population so we should expect them to be represented in those proportions. Given the distance between the 50% we should expect and the 0% we got – the argument goes – it is just not plausible that the four women and one man who judged the award this could not select a book by a woman on merit. As someone puts it in the comments on Nicoll’s post: “An all-male list shows that they’re already judging by something other than quality.” Now, this is a very handy rule of thumb but one that is predicated on supply of eligible work matching those demographics. For the Hugos, it does; for the Clarke, it doesn’t come anywhere close.
To take an example from another area where women remain disadvantaged, a lot of the actively bad practice has disappeared from recruitment and promotion over recent decades but it doesn’t matter if you have impartial criteria and a representative and independent interview panel if only men apply for the job. In this way, a fair selection process can still produce a disproportionate outcome. This counter-argument has been put forward by Liz Williams, one of this year’s judges, and I think it is a compelling reason to believe that the sexism here is institutional rather than individual.
In this respect, I was struck by something that Paul Kincaid said before the award: “If, for instance, Empty Space, Jack Glass, Angelmaker and Alif the Unseen are all excluded from the list, we will have very legitimate cause for concern.” Angelmaker did make the shortlist so hopefully he didn’t find cause for concern with the award this year (Kincaid has written his own dyspeptic piece on the Hugos and the Clarke). What struck me, however, was that you would be hard-pressed to change the ratio of authors and make this core proposition 75% women. If the judges don’t like a highly-rated novel by a man then there are plenty of other highly-rated options by men. If they don’t like a highly-rated novel by a woman then that can wipe out a lot of the available pool. Niall Harrison suggested in his excellent piece on the shortlist that the most plausible other contenders by women were The Method by Juli Zeh (which was shortlisted for a Kitschie) and Pure by Juliana Baggott. There is also vN by Madeline Ashby, a book that had much more mixed reviews but represents pretty much the only core science fiction contender by a woman). I am looking forward to reading these novels but I wish there were many, many more of them; as with the employment example above, I think the focus of fixing the problem needs to be on removing barriers for people who aren’t white men.
You’ll also notice that Empty Space, Jack Glass and Angelmaker are all most readily identified as science fiction whereas Alif The Unseen is most readily identified as fantasy. No one knows whether the judges liked it but didn’t think it was eligible or thought it was eligible but didn’t like it (or, indeed, didn’t like it or think it was eligible). These edge cases offer an additional opportunity for elimination and, if they are not eliminated, they always prove contentious. For example, this comment by Jonathan McCalmont in the context of a very interesting article about how to fix discussion of the Hugo Awards: “An interesting example of this type of thing in practice is the Clarke award which, despite being an SF award, has recently been nominating works of urban fantasy and novels containing talking horses.” Both Zoo City (a primarily fantasy novel by a woman that can be read as science fiction) and The Waters Rising (a primarily science fiction novel by a woman that can be read as fantasy) are dismissed. (McCalmont goes on to echo Cheryl Morgan’s suggestion that this year the judges have directly responded to this reaction: “But then you look at this year’s shortlist and you see nothing but core genre. Something happened. People talked about it. Something else happened.” I find this theory unlikely.)
So, what do I want from the Arthur C Clarke Award, exactly? I want knowledgeable judges to read the submitted work, think carefully about which of these novels truly constitute the best science fiction published that year and advocate passionately for these books to their fellow judges. I want them to be open-minded about what constitutes science fiction and I don’t want them to try and second guess the response their shortlist. I’m lucky because this is exactly how I believe the award already operates. But I also want the judges to be able to draw on a broad, bold and diverse pool of high-quality submissions and sadly that isn’t the case.
The Hugos, however, do not have such a problem so what do I want from them? I want the voters to act as if they were judges, to treat the process of voting as a privilege and a responsibility. I want them to read the material made available to them in the voter pack and cast an informed ballot based on this, meaning categories such as Best Fan Artist to receive as many votes as categories such as Best Novel. I want everyone who can vote to actually vote, meaning more people voted than nominated. But I also want everyone who votes to nominate next year and make use of what the Clarke doesn’t have: a pool of potential nominees constrained only by the imagination of the people who decided the shortlist. Being an informed nominator is a tough job – it is much harder than being an informed voter – but it is only way to make an informed vote truly meaningful. To make this process easier, we all need to help each other by posting our draft ballots, engaging with low nomination categories and just generally talking about what really is the best that speculative fiction has to offer.
The Hugo shortlists were announced on Saturday and, if not utter twaddle, they are still pretty bad. On a personal level, I think four things I nominated made the ballot (yay, Strange Horizons!). When it comes to the actual voting, I suspect I will probably be using No Award quite liberally. But judiciously. God knows there are stupid things about the Hugos but Aidan Moher is completely right that the primary problem is not the process but the voters. So I’m going to try to be the best voter I can.
The winners of the BSFA Awards were announced the day after the Hugos. They look good in their own right but even better in comparison. Which is not to say that any of my choices actually won.
Best Novel went to Adam Roberts for Jack Glass. Obviously, my first vote went to Empty Space by M John Harrison but I’m very pleased to see Roberts win an award. As, I imagine, is he. When the shortlist for the Arthur C Clarke Award is announced later this week, I expect Jack Glass to be on it (if not, blame me).
Best Short Fiction went to ‘Adrift On The Sea Of Rains’ by Ian Sales. This year’s shortlist contained three interesting but flawed stories and three stories that were beneath consideration. Of the former, ‘Limited Edition’ was the most interesting and least flawed and got my first vote but this novella got my second slot. However, I’ll expect his next story in the series, ‘The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself’, to go further.
Best Artwork went to Black Sheep for Jack Glass. I discussed the shortlist at length when it was announced and I was obviously hoping for a Joey Hi-Fi win. Since that was not to be, I’m glad Jack Glass pulled off the double.
Best Non-Fiction went to the World SF Blog, adding to their Kitschie from last month. This is funny category and one I where I naturally gravitate towards a discrete work. So this was the only category where my second choice didn’t win. My first choice was Paul Kincaid’s ‘The Widening Gyre which crystallised some of my own thoughts and framed the most important debate of last year for me. Second place went to Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, edited by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn; I have my problems with the book but it is long overdue.