Some Reactions to the 2018 Hugo Award Finalists

For my own take on the 2018 Hugo Award finalists as well as the 1943 Retro Hugo Awards finalists, go here. Meanwhile, reactions from around the Internet are trickling in, though the debate seems rather muted this year, compared to the last five years (yes, there were intense debates about the merits of the Hugo finalists even before the puppy years). Mostly, people are just happy that we have a very good Hugo ballot that is entirely free of puppy poo.

This is more or less the tenor of Joe Sherry’s post about the 2018 Hugo finalists at the Hugo-nominated fanzine nerds of a feather. He’s really happy about the overall high quality of the finalists as well as happy about the nominations for nerds of a feather as well as for fellow nerds of a feather contributor Charles Payseur in the best fanwriter category.

At Dreaming About Other Worlds, Aaron Pound also shares his thoughts on the 2018 Hugo finalists and is happy to have a strong and puppy-free ballot. He also weighs in about the new YA Award and the insistence on stressing that it is “not a Hugo Award”, even though to most fans and voters there won’t be much of a difference.

In his post at Patreon, Aidan Moher is also pleased with the overally high quality of the 2018 Hugo ballot with some reservations. One is that Aidan Moher is not happy with the best fanzine nomination for Rocket Stack Rank following some controversies in the past year and wishes Quick Sip Reviews had been nominated instead. Never mind that Charles Payseur of Quick Sip Reviews has been nominated for best fanwriter, so it’s not as if he’s been forgotten. Not to mention that there is room for more than one (or even more than two, for that matter) SFF short fiction review sites. Besides, even though the approach of Rocket Stack Rank and Quick Sip Reviews to reviewing short fiction is very different, both do good work and both are valuable resources that complement each other well. And coincidentally, I disagree with both of their reviews much of the time, because tastes differ. That’s precisely why it’s important to have more short fiction review sites.

Another issue that Aidan Moher raises is that of repeat nominees, i.e. that the same names keep showing up on the Hugo shortlist year after year after year. Now repeat nominees are definitely is an issue, though it’s far from a new phenomenon, but instead one we’ve been seeing for more than thirty years now. Mike Resnick got at least one nomination per year for twenty years or more. Michael Whelan practically owned the best pro artist category in the 1980s and early 1990s. Hell, best fanwriter was a two person race between David Langford and Mike Glyer for approx. twenty years. I also think everybody can name one or two finalists (not necessarily the same finalists) in any given year that you personally suspect were nominated more because their fanbase will nominate anything they produce and less on the strength of this particular work. For example, I was a bit surprised that The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi made the ballot, for while the book is perfectly fine and enjoyable, I don’t find it particularly outstanding. There are more interesting and innovative space operas out there, but Scalzi is popular with the Hugo electorate. And while I like a lot of Seanan McGuire’s work, I have to admit that the Wayward Children series just doesn’t do it for me like it evidently does for others. And then of course, there is the annual nomination for whatever Doctor Who episode is eligible that year. Though the Doctor Who dominance has receded compared to previous years (there was one year where the best dramatic presentation ballot consisted of four Doctor Who episodes and one episode of something else, which I disliked, so I wound up ranking four episodes of a show I had already given up on) and it’s been a while since the good Doctor has been able to win the category. Just as we regularly see new names and also a churn of established names in categories like best fan writer, best fan artist, best pro artist, best semiprozine and best fanzine, which used to be dominated by the same names year after year after year.

And besides, many people continue to do good work year after year. Should we not nominate them, because they’ve been nominated before, if we honestly think they are the best choice for the category in question? There are names I nominate year after year as well, because I simply like their work a whole lot and because I honestly think they are among the five best in the respective category. Though I also have to admit that when I have a choice between someone who has had plenty of Hugo nominations before and someone who has never been nominated, I tend to go with the new voice, all else being equal.

Talking of new voices, at the Singapore Straits Times, Toh Wen Li celebrates the two Singaporean Hugo finalists, J.Y. Yang and Vina Jie-Min Prasad, who has a great Cyberpunk story in Uncanny this month. The Straits Times also has a nice double review of J.Y. Yang’s Hugo nominated novella The Black Tides of Heaven and its sister novella The Red Threads of Fortune.

The Indian site celebrates the two Indian Hugo finalists, Mimi Mondal, who is nominated in the best related work category, and Gautam Bhatia, who’s on the staff of Strange Horizons.

Meanwhile, the Australian publishing news site Books + Publishing focusses on the various Australians nominated for the Hugo Awards this year. Initially they forgot Camestros Felapton and best fan artist nominee Mia Serreno a.k.a. Likhain, but they’ve been added in a corrected version of the article.

At the Washington Post, Michael Cavna focusses on the best graphic story category and profiles Emil Ferris, artist/author of My Favourite Thing Is Monsters, ironically the lone nominee on the best graphic story shortlist I am entirely unfamiliar with. Turns out that Emil Ferris is female in spite of the name.

ETA: Night Shade Books is thrilled about the best series Hugo nomination for Martha Wells’ Books of Raksura series and offers a short primer to the series, including a suggested reading order.

Meanwhile, over at the puppy camp, there is resounding silence regarding the 2018 Hugo finalists. I checked out a lot of puppy blogs, but there’s nothing. It seems that the puppies have all moved on to the Dragon Awards or the Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance Book of the Year Award (for which you can vote here) or the Planetary Awards. They are also happily proclaiming the impending pulp revolution. This is a good thing, because it means that the movement formerly known as sad and rabid puppies is finally doing something constructive and building up their own structures rather than trying to hijack and take over someone else’s. Plus, this is the first year of Hugo voting where I finally have a ballot completely free of puppy poo to vote on. Yes, there are still nominees I’ll probably no award, but that’s because I dislike these works that many other people evidently like, not because the puppies or anybody else for that matter cheated them onto the ballot.

Though Camestros Felapton, most worthy nominee in the best fan writer category, did uncover some puppy activity after all on Facebook, where I don’t have a account and therefore cannot see it. Because it seems that Larry Correia – the man who started it all, when he lost the Campbell Award to Lev Grossman back in 2011 and couldn’t come to terms with the fact that the Hugo electorate liked another writer more than him – is bitching on Facebook that the 2018 Hugo shortlist is an April’s Fool joke, because it is full of Tor books, women, writers of colour and people and works puppies don’t like, that people are nominating works based on the author’s gender, race or sexual orientation and not because they actually like them and that the Hugos are only good for academics trying to get tenure anyway. Oh yes, and the Hugos, WorldCon and Tor are doomed. In short, it’s more or less the same stuff we’ve heard from that crowd before. Camestros had some highlights here, while Larry Correia’s original post and the comments may be found here.

As usual, the puppy arguments are easy to debunk. As for Tor’s supposed dominance, as pointed out in my original Hugo post, Tor or more precisely Publishing only dominates in the novella category for obvious reasons, because Publishing’s novella line is the biggest market for novellas around. Some magazines do accept novellas and indeed Uncanny could get one nominated, and of course, writers can always self-publish them. However, magazine and self-published novellas are competing both with Publishing’s marketing dollars as well as with the very high quality of their novella line. If you’re an indie, you really have to be someone of the calibre of Lois McMaster Bujold to even get noticed.

Meanwhile, Orbit actually dominates the best novel category, but then a few pups have noticed by now that Orbit a) exists and b) that they hate it, too, which is progress, I guess. Meanwhile, the short fiction categories are a mixed bag with Uncanny winning six nominations (plus best editor and best semiprozine), and Clarkesworld winning two each and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex and Asimov’s winning one each. But then, the puppies have decided that they hate Uncanny, too. Best series is another mixed bag with two nominations for Tor, and one each for DAW, Broadway Books, Nightshade and Harper Voyager. The YA Not-a-Hugo Award is yet another mixed bag with one nomination each for Viking Press (owned by Penguin Random House Bertelsmann), Harper Teen, Alfred J. Knopf (also owned by Penguin Random House Bertelsmann), Big Mouth House (operated by Small Beer Press), Henry N. Abrams Books (operated by Hachette) and a small press/self-published book. So in short, the alleged dominance of Tor/Macmillan/Holtzbrinck is very much a fiction outside the novella category.

As for the “But what about the poor white menz?” complaints, I already addressed this point here one and a half year ago. The short version is, it took fifteen years for the first woman writer to win a Hugo in a fiction category and seventeen years for the first writers of colour to win a Hugo in a fiction category. A few years in a row of Hugo shortlists and winners that are majority female don’t change this balance. Maybe, after fifteen years of only women winning Hugos, the men can start whining.

Besides, there are men, some of them even straight and white, on the 2018 Hugo shortlist. Looking at the fiction categories alone, there are John Scalzi, Kim Stanley Robinson, Yoon Ha Lee, K.M. Szpara, Robert Jackson Bennett, Brandon Sanderson, Sam J. Miller and Philip Pullman. All of them are male and all but one are white. However, the problem of our canine friends is not so much that there are no male Hugo finalists, but that the wrong men got nominated. The puppies’ IMO inexplicable hatred for John Scalzi is well documented, Yoon Ha Lee, K.M. Szpara and Sam J. Miller are all LGBT writers, Kim Stanley Robinson is an environmentalist, Philip Pullman is known to be highly critical of organised religion. Okay, so I have no idea what their objection to Robert Jackson Bennett and Brandon Sanderson could be, especially since Sanderson’s bestselling fantasy series should be right up their alley.

As for the puppies’ insistence that people nominate and vote for women, writers of colour and LGBT writers as a form of virtue signalling and not because they genuinely like those works, Hugo voters across the board have repeatedly been saying that they nominated and voted for the works they liked. I certainly have been nominating only works I like and my Hugo ballot has been full of women, writers of colour and LGBT writers these past four years. However, I have also nominated Tim Powers, a white conservative Catholic man, because I love his fiction. However, as has been amply demonstrated, the puppies have problems accepting that tastes differ and that other people might genuinely love works that they dislike. Hell, there are works on the Hugo shortlist that I don’t particularly care for or outright dislike, but enough people apparently felt differently and so those works made the shortlist.

As for the claim, that authors are using Hugo nominations and wins to persuade universities to hire them for teaching positions and/or give them tenure, as was extensively discussed in the comments at Camestros’ post, university hiring committees usually don’t care about the genre fiction or the Hugo Awards and may not even know what the Hugos are. A literary award might help an author to nab a university job, a genre award won’t. Besides, there only is a single author on the 2018 Hugo shortlist who is a university professor in a field related to writing and literature, namely Nnedi Okorafor. All other authors on the shortlist don’t work in academia and aren’t currently applying for any teaching positions.

Meanwhile Jon Del Arroz’s Happy Frogs site has put out its Hugo voting recommendations. It’s obvious that his picks aren’t even remotely serious, since he intensely dislikes many of the people he recommends, but then recommending works and people you hate for Hugo Awards is a thing among the remnants of the puppy movement – Vox Day did it last year as well and recommended N.K. Jemisin. Apparently they think that if people they hate win Hugos, it will devalue the award or something. And no, I don’t get it either. And just in case there was any doubt regarding the Happy Frogs slate, Jon Del Arroz has also posted a video in which he shares his thoughts on the 2018 Hugo finalists. That is, he mostly mocks the Hugo finalists’ names, complains that there are too many women and that he hasn’t heard of most nominees and generally displays his complete and utter ignorance of pretty much everything. He also feels offended and persecuted by commenters at File 770 yet again. Nonetheless, his Hugo picks are actually pretty good, but then we do have a really good ballot this year, so even if you picked your first choice at random, you have a high chance of hitting something good.

Comments are closed – puppies and frogs whine elsewhere.

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