Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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The Awards are Dead. Long Live the Awards.

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 27, 2016

So… um… the Hugo finalists were announced. Apparently they were announced early and secretly to certain people so they could get a news article out doing spin control ahead of the public announcement.

It’s… bad.

But first, the good. This was a year for Retro-Hugos, to back-fill for a year when the Hugos were not awarded. The rules allow that on 25-year anniversaries, and 1941 was a year much of the world was embroiled in a major armed conflict (one which sadly destroyed some budding writers of the era).

So…. the 1941 Retro-Hugo Nominees.

With smaller participation (and participation only by those who really seem to care), this list seems pretty solid. In particular, I’m excited to see Leigh Brackett on the list. Now, I don’t know if her first published short story, Martian Quest, is anywhere near as worthy as some of the other short stories, but I’m glad that the “Queen of Space Opera” has a nomination. Although technically, since she wrote the original screenplay for Hugo award-winning Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, she’s already at least associated there.

Sadly, the whole “Hugo Nominee” thing is… well, if it wasn’t trashed before, it is now. So… there’s the 2016 Hugo Award nominees.

Basically, the whole thing got trolled. Badly. On multiple levels – some subtle. Some REALLY not subtle (like “Space Raptor Butt Invasion”). Which is exactly what the “Rabid Puppies” promised would happen if the Hugos did what they did last year: Burned to the ground.

While I doubt “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” or “If you were an award, my love” will win the final award, the grade-school antics that we saw last year (with the “ass-terisk” award, etc.) are continuing and escalating. This year will be a repeat of last year, and there’s a better-than-even chance that even with rules changes, it’s going to keep getting gamed into irrelevance.

Which really, really tempers my cheer over Leigh Brackett getting a nomination.

Now, this sort of thing can happen to ANY award, not just the Hugos. If there’s one thing MMOs and working for a network marketing company taught me, it’s that ANY system can and will be gamed to hell and back again if there is sufficient motivation to do so. That explains U.S. politics in a nutshell.

However, while the preceding statement may be pessimistic towards any award, I do believe a competitive marketplace at least makes it more expensive for an entrenched interest to guarantee that they back the winning horse. So… with that in mind, there’s the new DRAGON CON AWARDS!

I’ve mentioned these before, and while I don’t think it’s “the answer” to the current problems besieging the formerly prestigious (like, until 10-20 years ago) Hugo awards, it’s at least an interesting alternative. The larger voter base may make it harder for a small group to game, but it also means a lot of voters aren’t going to be particularly well-read and will only vote for the best-sellers they are familiar with.

I just wish they had a “short fiction” category. Hopefully next year. I don’t think it needs to be broken down into Novella / Novelette / Short Fiction categories (that’s an artifact of an older fiction marketplace), just room for stuff smaller than novels.

But… while my personal jury is still out, I think the Hugos may be dead to me. I hope not. While science fiction and fantasy have always been a marketplace for ideas, I have not enjoyed the politicization of the award, something that I feel isn’t all that recent. But if the adults in the room (on both sides of the divide) are getting shouted down and the award is just being turned into little more than an ideological football, my interest is zero.

Filed Under: Books - Comments: 3 Comments to Read

  • Kyle Haight said,

    Without diving into the controversy, I was pleased to see that three novellas I nominated made the short list: _Penric’s Demon_ by Lois McMaster Bujold, _Perfect State_ by Brandon Sanderson and _Slow Bullets_ by Alastair Reynolds. IMO any of them would be a deserving winner.

  • Tesh said,

    The Hugos have been irrelevant to my interests for about two decades, since the books I care for usually aren’t on their vaunted lists. I’ve paid a little more attention to them in the last five years or so, and if anything, I see them increasingly as a contrarian indicator. If a book wins a Hugo, I can be assured that I am not only uninterested, but should make sure I avoid it. There’s far too much “message fiction”, and the messages are always abhorrent.

    It used to be just that they were preachy and somewhat dumb, like Spock musing that humans used to poison themselves with sugar, rather self-importantly thinking himself above such ancient mistakes as he drank his coffee. Silly, obvious author screeds that, while out of place and eyeroll-worthy, didn’t take up much more than a brief aside. These days, the whole point of most of these award-winning stories is to be contrary to values I hold dear and/or promote filth.

    Since that’s what the Hugos value, I can rest well knowing that they have their playground that I’ll happily avoid as they light it on fire.

    Vox Day seems rather unpleasant, and “enemy of my enemy” isn’t enough to say that I consider him an ally, but I’ll admit, I do think that this is a comeuppance that is well deserved for the politically-obsessed insane asylum that is involved.

  • Captainbooshi said,

    Tesh, I really don’t think that’s accurate, at least about the Best Novel category. There are legitimate complaints to be made about the Hugos, but not just that it’s all ‘message fiction.’

    I really only pay attention to them as a librarian who’s trying to stay current on popular SF, but looking at the last 5 years we have:
    -The Three Body Problem, which I have not read, is translated from Chinese and thus any messages would presumably be aimed at a completely different culture and have no real resonance here.
    -Ancillary Justice, which I did read, by someone else’s personal recommendation, and was genuinely one of the best sci-fi books I read that year. I guess you could call it a message book, but only if you really wanted to twist it and mis-portray it, and certainly no more than something like The Left Hand of Darkness, or other classics like that.
    -Redshirts, which I did read, since it was on the New York Times bestseller list, and I’ve liked some of Scalzi’s books in the past. I do NOT think it deserved the award for Best Novel, although I did find it enjoyable enough, but there’s also no way you can call it a message book.
    -Among Others, which I didn’t read. I don’t remember much about it, but what I do remember is that it was described as basically a love letter to all the SFF the author read back in the ’70’s, which doesn’t sound very message-y to me.
    -Blackout/All Clear, which I didn’t read and frankly remember nothing about, so I can’t comment about it. Looking at other nominees that year, I see Feed, which was one of the many zombie books coming out back then, and not something I remember as being award-worthy, but I don’t remember as having a message, and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which I remember as being decently well-executed fantasy, but also not conveying any particular message.

    Now, I don’t know anything about the down-ticket items. I find it easy to believe that ‘message fiction’ found it’s way into those categories for the same reason that the Puppies have been able to take them over so easily, namely that so few people actually pay attention to them a small group can dominate. Nonetheless, for the biggest award, the Best Novel, there’s no way you can fairly dismiss the winners as ‘message fiction.’ There are plenty of other criticisms you can make, and I’ve heard a few that I feel deserve consideration, but that one in particular I think is quite unfair.