More reactions to the 2014 Hugo Award winners

It’s getting really difficult to find new titles for all of these Hugo related posts.

Besides, I forgot to mention that the 1939 Retro Hugos have been awarded as well. Now I have to confess I don’t quite get the point of the Retro Hugos, particularly when none of the nominees are still alive to enjoy them. Never mind that the Retro Hugos will always be coloured by hindsight or does anybody honestly believe that two early shorts by a teenaged Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury published in fanzines would ever have made it onto a Hugo ballot in 1939, let alone that one of them would have won?

In general, the results are a mix of the bleeding obvious such as John W. Campbell’s classic “Who Goes There?” winning in the best novella category or Orson Welles’ classic radio adaption of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds (yes, that radio adaption) winning in the best dramatic presentation category and the utterly mind-boggling such as a Clifford D. Simak story I’ve never heard of beating Robert E. Howard’s excellent Pigeons from Hell as well as the Henry Kuttner’s highly amusing Hollywood on the Moon and C.L. Moore’s Werewoman. Or how about an early story by a teenaged Arthur C. Clarke published in a fanzine beating Lester Del Rey’s Helen O’Loy (which I dislike for its creepy sexism, but it’s still a minor classic).

I’m also surprised at the results in the best novel category with The Sword in the Stone and C.L. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet both beating E.E. Smith’s Galactic Patrol (largely unreadable these days, but of enormous importance to the genre as such) as well as Jack Williamson’s Legion of Time (still readable) and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Carson of Venus (ditto). I know a lot of people are fond of Lewis because of Narnia (which largely passed me by as a kid), but Out of the Silent Planet is pretty bad and doesn’t even have the significance of something like Galactic Patrol.

Now the Retro Hugos have been dispensed with, here are some more reactions to the 2014 Hugo Award winners from around the web:

At The Guardian, Hannah Ellis-Petersen offers a summary of the 2014 Hugos, though she neglects to mention Charles Stross, Mary Robinette Kowal and Sofia Samatar.

At The Daily Dot, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw offers a summary of the winners and controversies and points out that in spite of the alleged “greying” of Worldcon this latest slate of Hugo winners looks very different from the white male canon of previous years and is also finding their audience in different ways.

Jamie Todd Rubin points out that this year’s Hugo winner slate saved science fiction for him by restoring his flagging interest and faith in the genre. I guess many of us feel that way today.

Double Hugo winner Kameron Hurley reposts her two acceptance speeches at her blog for those who couldn’t hear them live. Some very good points about change, rage and the importance of words plus some bonus fuzzy llamas.

At Teleread, Paul St. John Mackintosh points out that the sad puppies came out looking badly out of their Hugo campaign and might have harmed their cause and credibility more than they furthered it.

Tim Hall makes a similar point at Where Worlds Collide and wonders whether the aim of the Sad Puppies campaign was truly to challenge a perceived leftwing dominance at the Hugos or whether the aim was to discredit WorldCon and the Hugos in the eyes of the fans of the Sad Puppies. Which strikes me as strange, because the Sad Puppies can (and probably already did) set up cons and awards of their own to hang out with likeminded people without discrediting those of the larger genre community.

At From the Heart of Europe, Nicholas Whyte offers some in-depth analysis of the Hugo voting and nomination stats.

Thea and Ana of Hugo-nominated The Book Smugglers offer a recap of their LonCon and Hugo experience with lots of pictures.

Ann Leckie, winner of the Hugo Award for best novel for Ancillary Justice, also recounts her WorldCon and Hugo Awards experience.

John Chu, winner of the Hugo Award for best short story for “The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere” recounts his Hugo experiences and reposts his acceptance speech.

The only thing that somewhat marred the otherwise excellent news from the 2014 WorldCon is that the 2016 WorldCon will be held in Kansas City, Missouri, a city whose main claim to SFnal fame is being thoroughly destroyed by a nuclear bomb in that infamous anti-nuclear war film The Day After in 1983, rather than in Beijing, capital of a country of one billion people, which has a huge if largely non-westernized SF fandom. Considering this comes after the 2015 WorldCon was awarded to Spokane in Washington (which has no claim to SF fame at all, as far as I can tell) over Helsinki and Orlando, it’s kind of obvious that many fans still haven’t grasped the significance of the “world” bit in WorldCon.

Jonathan McCalmont at Ruthless Culture had some thoughts about why holding two subsequent WorldCons in smaller US cities is not a good idea and why he feels there shouldn’t be two US WorldCons back to back at all. One potential solution might be a rule similar to the selection of football World Cup sites, since the FIFA rules state that two subsequent World Cups cannot take place on the same continent. Continents are perhaps a bit much in this case, but why no rule that two subsequent WorldCons cannot take place in the same country?

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29 Responses to More reactions to the 2014 Hugo Award winners

  1. Mark says:

    The Campbell Conference is in Lawrence, Kansas, which is nearby, so I assume there are a lot of fans and writers in that area. But Kansas City is indeed another city without an international airport (even though it is called an international airport), so for international guests it’s kind of inconvenient to get there. I have been there are couple of times for business trips and I can report that Kansas City has not much to offer in terms of tourists attractions.

    As to the “World” in WorldCon. It seems like the logical next step after the recent “is the genre diverse enough?” discussions, but I really never took the “World” in WorldCon seriously. It’s like the “World” in “World Series” Baseball. Whenever a WorldCon is somewhere abroad it feels (to an outsider, I have never been to one) like the mostly American and exclusively Anglophone Science Fiction community makes a road trip. The Hugo Awards, which I consider the major part of a WorldCon, are not “world” awards. They are awarded to mostly American, and exclusively Anglophone stories (at least in the fiction categories).

    I probably would have voted for Beijing anyway, but China is not really the best place for a road trip. Like you say, it has it’s own big SF community, but I think the overlap with the English-language community is minimal. You don’t go there and do your typical English-language WorldCon program, and award Hugo Awards to stories that exclusively appeared in English-language markets. So I don’t think it’s that easy, but it would have been an interesting opportunity, that’s for sure.

    • Cora says:

      A WorldCon in Beijing would certainly have been an opportunity to make WorldCon and the Hugos more international. Besides, some Chinese SF has appeared in translation in translation in recent years, so maybe we would even have gotten some Chinese Hugo nominees, unlike the Yokohama WorldCon of a few years ago, where all the Hugo nominees were westerners.

      And Kansas City like Spokane is just a weird choice from an international POV, even if they have an active local fan community.

      BTW, Lawrence was also prominently featured in The Day After as the site of the hospital/refugee camp where many of the scenes are set. Coincidentally, Würzburg and Wuppertal are nuked off-screen (briefly mentioned in the news broadcasts seen in the background), while that woman who’s about to get married says, “I don’t care what happens in Germany” and goes on to prepare for her wedding. And yet the film expects us to care about Lawrence and Kansas City. Still surprised it got the reception it did in Germany, but then I didn’t watch it on original broadcast.

  2. Mark says:

    Field trip, not road trip.

  3. Alison Scott says:

    Everyone would love there to be a Worldcon in Beijing, but running a Worldcon is hard work and few of us think that Beijing is ready yet.

    But I am starting to speak, and write, more about my belief that the Worldcon needs to get out of the US a whole lot more, and, in particular, that it needs to be in non-UK European countries a whole lot more. European fandom is enormous, and pretty disenfranchised in Worldcon terms.

    The immediate next steps to facilitate this are to ensure that Helsinki wins in 2017 (quiz question: when was the last time the Worldcon was within a thousand miles of Helsinki?) and Dublin in 2019; both strong bids with proven con-running track records and an extensive local fan base.

    What will you do to make that happen?

    • Joshua says:

      Since nobody else answered, the last time the Worldcon was within 1000 miles of Helsinki was 1990, in The Hague. The only other time Worldcon was held in that radius was 1970, in Heidelberg.

      In fairness to Worldcon site selection voters, I don’t think there have been a lot of bids from that area, either. Besides the unsuccessful Helsinki bid for 2015 and the pending 2017 bid, the only other bid I know of from that area is a Copenhagen bid in the early 1980s.

      • Cora says:

        Coincidentally, the Worldcons in Den Haag and Heidelberg were also the only ones I could have visited by car or train without needing to fly. Though Heidelberg would have been difficult, since it happened before I was born. I probably could have and would have visited the Den Haag Worldcon, since my Dad worked in Rotterdam at the time, which is only approx. 25 kilometers away, but unfortunately I had no idea the convention even existed.

        London and Glasgow, both former Worldcon sites, are at least on the same continent as Helsinki, though more than 1000 miles away.

  4. Which strikes me as strange, because the Sad Puppies can (and probably already did) set up cons and awards of their own to hang out with likeminded people without discrediting those of the larger genre community.

    Well, this year did see the introduction of the Baen Fantasy Award, with final judging by none other than Larry Correia.

    • Cora says:

      Oh yes, I’d almost forgotten about that one. That’s definitely an award for the sort of fiction the Sad Puppies like. Ditto for the Prometheus Award, at least as far as I understand it.

      • Sometimes. Other times it recognizes people from a totally different part of the political spectrum, such as Cory Doctorow.

        • Cora says:

          The Prometheus Award seems to alternate between honouring the sort of rightwing libertarian authors it was designed to honour and authors who are pretty far on the left side of the political spectrum like Doctorow, Ken McLeod, Charles Stross, etc…

  5. but why no rule that two subsequent WorldCons cannot take place in the same country?

    This is discussed more fully in the comments to Jonathan McCalmont’s post, but the main concern is that there are many reasons bids pick the years that they do, and adding yet another restriction people have to work around will lead to weaker bids. Even people from the Helsinki committee have stated they would not support such a rule.

    • Cora says:

      I don’t think anybody wants weaker bids and the bidding cities have of course got reasons (e.g. availability of venue) to bid when they do. But the US and general anglophone dominance of WorldCon is a problem which should be addressed.

  6. Jeff says:

    In answer to your question “why no rule that two subsequent WorldCons cannot take place in the same country?”

    At one point the worldcon did rotate between three regions of North America East Coast, West Coast and the Middle however that rule was abandoned as a region did not always have a volunteer fan group ready to run a worldcon in a region’s particular year. Now they just have to be a certain minimum distance apart.

    Anyplace hosting a worldcon really needs a large pool of experienced local volunteers to pull it off well. The good news is that the Beijing bid folks have asked if they can volunteer to help out in Kansas City to get that experience.

    Kansas City has a long history of hosting science fiction conventions including the 1976 worldcon which is remembered by many who went as the best one they ever went to. Their websites: http://kacsffs.blogspot.ca and http://www.midamericon.org/

  7. Adrienne Foster says:

    Just to get a feel of where you’re coming from, have you ever attended a Worldcon? …participated in its voting process for the Hugos or site selection?

    The last couple of paragraphs of this posting reek of ignorance at how the Worldcon community operates.

    When the membership of a Worldcon votes on site selection for its upcoming years, there is more to consider than where it is located. When it was held in Japan in 2007, the convention committee was around $35,000 over budget when the final accounting was done. Experienced conrunners consider how prepared the bid committees are to manage a Worldcon before they give them the honor to host one. If the voters had any idea the Japanese committee would end with such a crisis, most never would have supported them.

    The Beijing bid looked very naive in their proposal, but those who met them enjoyed their pleasant attitude and would consider them in the future, providing they gain more experience and knowledge working in the community. As most of us understood it, their main motivation in bidding was to attract more attention to Chinese fandom and they definitely succeeded.

  8. Lisa Hertel says:

    So you would rather have a Worldcon in a politically oppressive country run by 5 men who have only been to a Worldcon once and have no experience? Because hey, it’s not the USA.

    • Cora says:

      From what I’ve heard, China is quite welcoming to western visitors and leaves them alone unless they do something really stupid like beating their ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend to death with an axe, which just got a German man sentenced to death in China. But yes, the problematic human rights situation is a valid concern.

  9. There have only been two cases where two non-US countries have run Worldcons consecutively, and in both cases, Canada was one of those countries, and a whole lot of people (much to my annoyance personally as an honorary Canadian) insist that Canada is just an extension of the USA. (Except when they’re Americans who will never travel outside of the USA because Scary Foreign Country, and no, I’m not joking; I’ve been on the committees of three Worldcons in Canada, and a whole lot of Americans are terrified of anything non-US.

    Worldcon briefly had a rule that would have required Worldcon to alternate between North America and not-North America. The reason nobody remembers it is that one year after it was adopted, it was repealed, mostly due to complaints from the non-North American fans that they were not in a position to hold Worldcons that often. Trying to change the rules to somehow force groups who don’t want to hold Worldcon to either organize a half-baked bid just to meet a technical restriction or face the very real possibility of a year without any competent bids sounds a bit like “white knighting” in the sense of riding to the defense of an “oppressed” group who doesn’t want defending.

    Besides, don’t extrapolate from insufficient data. Worldcon trends move like supertankers turning. Look at the sites from the past twenty years, not just two or three at a time. In the decade from 2000, there was a roughly even distribution of non-US Worldcons (2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010). Furthermore, it’s not unreasonable to expect Worldcon distribution to roughly follow the distribution of English-reading SF/F fans. If anything, it’s surprising that there have been as many non-US Worldcons as there have been.

    I really wouldn’t worry about there being a couple of smaller-market cities in a row running Worldcons. Look at the lineup of announced bids for the next few years. It’s hard for me to think it’s an un-“worldly” connection. The best way to have a wide distribution is to support and contribute to bids you think are appropriate, not try to change WSFS rules to force the members of the society to go places they don’t really want to go.

    • Cora says:

      Thanks for the information and clarification, Kevin.

      I agree that upcoming WorldCon bids look a lot more international than recent ones and there are a lot of potentially interesting sites there (Helsinki, Paris, Dublin, Canada, Japan, New Zealand). However, Spokane and Kansas City are still two smaller and relatively difficult for Non-Americans to access sites holding back to back WorldCons. Never mind that Reno and San Antonio in the past few years were also not exactly major cities (though San Antonio is lovely).

      • San Antonio is actually the seventh-largest city in the USA. It’s larger than San Jose. What US cities would you consider important enough to be considered “major cities?”

        Spokane was selected, IMO, because about 60% of the electorate did not want to go to Helsinki, and between those voters, they found the Orlando site unpalatable for various reasons, and thus were left with only one US site. The reason there was no “major city” was because nobody from a “major city” submitted a bid. You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.

        My point is that with Worldcons, I think it’s unreasonable to take short time slices. Look at the last twenty year and the average is remarkably international compared to the fifty years before that. It simply means that there will probably be a run of years like the ones causing you concern. Unless WSFS were to change to a Central Control Committee That Selects Worldcon Sites — an incredibly unlikely possibility — this sort of messy democratic selection will continue. Letting everyone do what they want leads to four-way log-jams like the 2017 race, but the “cure” to such a situation is perceived to be worse than the “disease.”

        • To build on Kevin’s point, here’s how Spokane wound up on the ballot on the first place: There had been momentum building for a while to try and get a Worldcon to the Pacific Northwest, a region which include parts of both the US and Canada*, for the first time since 1961.

          Of the other large cities in the region, Seattle is too popular with commercial events in the summer for a non-commercial con to have a chance at using the convention center; Portland, OR has a terrific convention center but not nearly enough hotel rooms in the immediate vicinity; and Vancouver, BC was investigated but the room rates would have been prohibitive. Spokane has the convention center space, the hotel rooms, and the affordability.

          This is also the story of how Worldcon wound up in Reno in 2011. That con was run by a group from Portland that got tired of waiting for suitable facilities to become available in Portland. There was a bid for Seattle in 2011 for a time, but it was unable to come to terms with the Seattle convention center and had to fold, leaving Reno unopposed.

          It would be nice if Worldcon was always held in internationally famous cities with direct flights to everywhere in the world, but there are many, many factors that have to come together for a bid to be viable, and sometimes a less famous, slightly less-connected city is the one that works out.

          * Definitions of the PNW vary, but here’s the one from the regional sf award: Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, The Yukon, and British Columbia.

        • Adrienne Foster says:

          Not to mention that some of the world-class cities in the U.S. tend to treat Worldcons like second-class citizens. San Francisco and New York City sites are in such high demand that they have little interest in functions that bring so little financial stimulus to the locale. The last bid for San Francisco turned into one for San Jose, which was so much more receptive to the bidcom. The $8.3 million stimulus was appreciated by Silicon Valley even if San Francisco couldn’t be bothered.

          • Cora says:

            That’s an interesting point, though I imagine that London’s ExCel is also highly in demand.

            Coincidentally, this might also stymy a potential German bid, should there ever be one, because all our cities with intercontinental airports and suitably big convention facilities (Frankfurt, Hamburg, possibly Leipzig and Hannover) also host plenty of large trade shows, which would compete for the same facilities.

            • Adrienne Foster says:

              That is the attitude of the U.S. world-class cities; I don’t know if the science fiction community deals with same attitude overseas.

              London really didn’t have any appropriate facilities for a “modern” Worldcon until after it hosted the Oympics. I believe the success of the two Glasgow Worldcons also helped encourage the visitor bureau there.

              • Cora says:

                I suspect when faced with the choice between hosting a WorldCon or hosting something like a trade fair for the butchery or roofing trade, a lot of German venues would also go for the latter, if only because it’s a known quantity. This is probably why Leipzig would be the best choice for a hypothetical German WorldCon, because it has an intercontinental airport, extensive convention facilities and hosts several geek friendly events such as a big book fair, a gaming convention and a wave/gothic/steampunk meeting/concert. Alas, the state of Saxony is also marred by a sizeable minority of xenophobic rightwingers, so there might be safety issues.

                I think previous LonCons were held at the Earl’s Court convention centre. But Earl’s Court is pretty old by now (pre-WWII and neighbouring Olympia is Victorian) and no longer well suited for modern requirements.

        • Cora says:

          San Antonio is honestly that big? I must confess that my last visit there was thirty plus years ago, but at the time it struck me as fairly small, compared to Houston, New Orleans or Atlanta.

          As for the 2015 WorldCon, I suspect that a lot of international fans would have preferred Helsinki or Orlando to Spokane, since both are easier to reach for non-US fans.

          • Orlando’s airport may be easier to get to, but the Worldcon bid was for a hotel at Walt Disney World. WDW is very spread out, and its infrastructure is designed to make you leave your car behind and use the resort bus system for getting around, so going outside the hotel for a meal, or staying at a different hotel, would have been a huge logistical challenge. I’m a huge Disney theme park fan, and I voted for Orlando third.

            (I’ll note that the short-lived proposal to hold a Worldcon at Disneyland Paris would not have posed the same challenges; everything at DLP is clumped together and walkable. Mobility-impaired people would probably have to use the resort shuttles, but able-bodied people would at least be able to leave the shuttles for people who really need them.)

            • Cora says:

              That makes sense. Walt Disney World was already pretty huge and spread out when I visited it as a young kid and it has only gotten bigger since then. Back when I was there, Epcot was still under construction. By comparison, Disneyland Paris struck me as much smaller, though not being five might have contributed to that.

              Though as far as I recall one of the big romance conventions, either RWA or Romantic Times was at Disney World a few years ago.

          • Adrienne Foster says:

            I voted against Helsinki simply because I couldn’t afford two overseas conventions in a row and I wouldn’t vote for a bid I couldn’t attend. I think that was another factor that hosed Nippon 2007. Many of the people who voted for it did not attend.

            I heard a lot buzz amongst the site selection voters that they were dead set against the Orlando bid because so few of the bidcom’s central organizers had any experience working on them before.

            The reason Washington fans bid Spokane for Worldcon was because Seattle gave them the world-class city attitude for the past couple they proposed. Many of them worked really hard for Seattle in 2002, only to have to withdraw from the race because the facilities there wouldn’t cooperate with them. (Someone even died while working for that bid.) While few voters were excited about the Spokane bid, they saw it as the lesser of two evils.

            OTOH, Sasquan had been pulling together a competent, experienced staff. Glenn Glazer and Mike Willmoth have always been good at staying on top of their jobs. Laurie Mann is a seasoned programming manager. I was even recruited after a nine-year absence to do the writers workshop.

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