The OF Blog: So people are arguing again about the validity of the Hugo Awards

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

So people are arguing again about the validity of the Hugo Awards

I know I said my piece on the 2013 Best Novel shortlist the other day and had intended that to be my only real substantive comment on the issue, but I did see a comment on Twitter tonight wondering what my contribution might be to the rather large (over 180 comments when I just now checked) debate over at Justin Landon's Staffer's Book Review

To be honest, a few years ago, I might have been fired up about this issue (I probably was; too lazy to see what I blogged in 2007-2012 on the issue), but mostly I feel ennui over it now.  I've come to accept that WSFS/WorldCon/Hugo and I "just aren't that into each other."  I like more experimental fictions with diversity being more than just the color of one's skin, the gender and/or sex of the writer, or the locale from which they write; I want a wider range of narratives that challenge my senses as well as my thoughts.  Those type of fictions, even though many glide through the semi-permeable "walls" of various literary genres, just aren't going to be popular as an aggregate with mass audiences (or with 3-5K convention attendees).

So I've begun to feel as though I need to move away from it.  The Hugo Awards cater to a certain crowd.  Great.  Let them continue to please those who attend the convention circuits and who favor a particular style.  Doesn't mean I should endorse it as THE view on fictions that touch upon the science fictional and/or fantastical (or weird, horrific, etc.)  I don't, as I usually look forward to seeing what the World Fantasy Award or the Shirley Jackson Award jurists put out for their shortlists (oh, and the National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, LA Times Book Prize, Orange/Women's Prize, Booker Prize, Asian Prize, and others that sometimes include works of the fantastical on their various lists).

The Hugos don't cut for me.  Neither do the Nebula lists, which I think are equally unappealing to me.  Notice how little I've said about the latter for the past couple of years; that's the level of disinterest I have.  I think I should start doing the same for the Hugos and not cover them at all here in the future, unless there is something that interests me in a positive way (for what it's worth, I'm about a quarter into Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312 and I'm reminded positively of his Red Mars, which was my favorite of his Mars trilogy, but it'll be a while before I write a review, if I bother to do so).  Yesterday I read an excellent article by Matthew Cheney on "Most Everything is Terrible" that I think is very applicable to this situation with people taking stances on the Hugo/WSFS issue.  Too readily we proclaim judgment on issues without stopping to question whether or not we are at fault.  I'm weary of voicing my disapproval of selections from an award that does not cater to me.  There are other options, such as promoting those alternatives and leaving the undesirable ones to receive less e-ink from myself (and perhaps others).  To keep proclaiming one's opinion on this issue (or other related ones) is beyond beating a dead horse:  it is a willful refusal to move on and discover what you personally like without worrying overmuch about how certain others think it is a steaming pile of crap.

That being said, give some consideration to reading Kate Atikinson's just released Life After Life.  There are elements that should appeal to SF, alt-history, literary, and perhaps fantasy readers.  Or maybe Ron Currie, Jr.'s Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles might be more to your liking.  Better to find out than to fret over things you cannot change. 


Heloise said...

Great to see someone actually abstaining from flogging the dead horse. Cheers!

Shaun Duke said...

I genuinely think that after some of the stuff being said in the comments of the aforementioned post on the Hugos post, some of us will officially write of the award as worthless. It's been made quite clear that the people involved behind the award not only don't really care what people outside its committees think, but also really don't care that an award controlled by an old guard sort of elitism remains the vehicle by which the SF/F community is largely judged.

It's sad, really. The criticisms and judgments being made are actually relevant to making the award a better populist award.

And my impression is that this has led a number of people to write off the award as utterly worthless and undeserving of future attention. We'll see if people commit it to long term memory, though.

James said...

The Hugo Awards lost their relevance when my taste drifted toward books they just don't cover. I have been following Justin's post since it dropped and the shitstorm in the comments has been a very entertaining and enlightening read, but it doesn't affect me. I'd much rather pay attention to the World Fantasy Awards, the Shirley Jackson Award, and even the Kitschies--at least with them I can expect to have read something on their list.

I did wade into the comment section once though, but that had more to do with people screaming at someone for bringing up gender bias in the Bujold vs. Heinlein part of the post. Because, y'know, how dare you accuse someone who recommends books by women of having gender bias! :|

I will be looking into Life After Life. You might be interested in The Age of Ice by J.M. Sidorova--though it doesn't come out until July. Should be reviewing that soon.

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