I’d hoped to get my comments on the generally excellent winners of the 2020 Hugo Awards up today (ETA: It’s here). However, this was not to be, for two days later we’re still talking about the neverending Hugo ceremony from hell, as it will probably be known one day, when some toastmaster at the 2060 Hugos will bore the audience to death with remembering how they survived the neverending Hugo ceremony from hell back in the olden days of 2020. And if that toastmaster should be me, you officially have my permission to kick me off that stage.
You can read my account of the ceremony as one of the finalists who were waiting on tenterhooks while George R.R. Martin went on and on and on here. In that post, I also linked to the reactions and summaries of the disaster that was the 2020 Hugo ceremony by Natalie Luhrs, Sean Reads Sci-Fi, Miyuki Jane Pinckard and Matt at Runalong the Shelves.
However, in the past days I’ve come across even more reactions to the 2020 Hugo ceremony from around the web.
ETA: I’ll just keep adding to this post, because more and more reaction posts keep showing up.
My fellow best fan writer finalist Adam Whitehead shares his thoughts on the 2020 Hugo ceremony, including the torturous wait imposed on the finalists. And since Adam is in the UK, he was very much in the same boat as me (and Alasdair Stuart, for that matter) that the ceremony took place in the middle of the night for him.
Erin Underwood, the 2020 DUFF winner who presented the Best Fan Writer category, explains what the 2020 Hugo ceremony was like from the POV of a presenter and confirms that she was never given any guidance in how to pronounce the finalists’ name.
ETA: There also is some coverage of the disastrous Hugo ceremony in mainstream news outlets and major geek news sites, probably because George R.R. Martin was involved.
At the Guardian, Alison Flood reports about the 2020 Hugo winners and completely fails to remark on the many issues with the ceremony, which really takes some doing.
ETA: Torsten Adair’s report at the comic site The Beat focuses mainly on the Hugo winners, finalists and longlists in the Best Graphic Story and Best Retro Graphic Story categories, but also touches upon the many problems with the ceremony.
ETA: At the New Zealand news site The Spinoff, Sam Brooks reports about the strange, shambling mess that was George R.R. Martin’s hosting of the Hugo Awards ceremony.
Also at The Spinoff, Casey Lucas reports about the other SFF awards ceremony CoNZealand messed up, namely the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, New Zealand’s national science fiction and fantasy awards. All CoNZealand members, regardless of country of origin, were eligible to vote for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards this year, only that hardly anybody knew about this, because it wasn’t publicised. And those who did find out that they were eligible to vote didn’t receive the voters’ packet. And then, to add insult to injury, the Sir Julius Vogel Award ceremony was stuck onto the back of the Retro Hugo ceremony like an afterthought. Given CoNZealand’s track record with award ceremonies, I now wonder whether there were issues with the Prometheus Awards, which are traditionally handed out at Worldcon, too.
ETA: The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand, the organisation behing the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, has announced that the voters’ packet for the award will be made available again to CoNZealand members.
Andrew Liptak declares that the 2020 Hugo ceremony was a mess, which it absolutely was.
At Digital Spy, Louise McCreesh reports about the 2020 Hugo ceremony.
At Pharyngula, P.Z. Myers weighs in on the 2020 Hugo ceremony, mostly quoting from Natalie Luhrs’ excellent post.
ETA: At Rokzfast, Jacob Tyler weighs in on the issues with the 2020 Hugo ceremony and links to several tweets.
ETA: At Women Write About Comics (which would be a great choice for Best Fanzine next year – hint, hint), Doris V. Sutherland shares her thoughts on the 2020 Hugo Awards, the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards and the 2020 Hugo ceremony.
ETA: New Zealand fan Soon Lee also weighs in on the 2020 Hugo ceremony and particularly focusses on the almost complete lack of any New Zealand content. Soon Lee also points out that it’s offensive that George R.R. Martin seems to assume that New Zealanders have no idea what the Hugos and Worldcon are.
ETA: Discon III, the 2021 Worldcon in Washington DC, has announced that the hosts of their Hugo ceremony will be Malka Older and Sheree Renée Thomas, so the 2021 Hugo ceremony will be a lot younger, a lot less white and a lot less male. After this year’s disaster, I can only see this as a good thing. The toastmasters at Chicon 8, the 2022 Worldcon in Chicago, Illinois, will be Annelee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders, two time Hugo winners for Best Fancast and another excellent choice. So I’ll think we have two good Hugo ceremonies ahead of us.
Another of the many problems with the 2020 Hugo ceremony is that the acceptance speech of Best Editor Long Form winner Navah Wolfe was cut off by a technical glitch. Navah Wolfe has now shared the full text of her speech online, which you can read here, here and here. I think this is my favourite acceptance speech of the night, though most people seem to prefer R.F. Kuang’s. I’m also horrified that it’s even legal in the US for a company to fire an employee who’s pregnant.
Norwegian fan Dag-Erling Smørgrav shares his thoughts on the 2020 Hugo ceremony and particularly focusses on George R.R. Martin and Robert Silverberg repeatedly praising John W. Campbell, which was clearly a jab against the renaming of the former Campbell Award as the Astounding Award and Hugo finalist (and eventual winner) Jeanette Ng. And as I said in my previous post, I have some sympathy that Martin as one of the first finalists ever for the Campbell may not be happy about the renaming (even though the fact that the Campbell Award is now the Astounding Award doesn’t take away Martin’s accomplishment in getting nominated for it in 1973), but the repeated jabs at the Astounding Award and Jeanette Ng were petty and uncalled for.
Sword and sorcery writers Remco van Straten and Angeline B. Adams also weigh in on the 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony in a post fittingly entitled “When Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth”. And indeed it’s interesting that both Dag-Erling Smørgrav and Remco van Straten/Angeline B. Adams evoked dinosaurs in their posts about the 2020 Hugo ceremony. I guess Camestros Felapton, who wrote the brilliant Hugosauriad to discuss how dinosaurs are a recurring theme on the Hugo ballot, has found the dinosaurs at the 2020 Hugos, only that this year they weren’t on the ballot, but up on the stage.
As sword and sorcery writers, Remco van Straten and Angeline B. Adams are well aware that it’s possible to appreciate the SFF of yesteryear while remaining aware of the flaws of these works and their creators and so point out how problematic many of the writers and editors of yesteryear who were explicitly mentioned at the Hugo ceremony truly were.
Van Straten and Adams also have a great post about the controversy surrounding the sword and sorcery anthology Flashing Swords #6, from which several authors pulled their stories, after they became aware that editor Robert M. Price’s foreword was a sexist and transphobic screed. In their post, Van Straten and Adams point out that sword and sorcery was always a diverse genre and that women like C.L. Moore and newly minted Retro Hugo winner Margaret Brundage were an important part of the genre from the beginning and that writers of colour like Samuel R. Delany and Charles R. Saunders and transpeople like artist Jeffrey Catherine Jones were part of the genre at least from the 1960s on. The 2020 Hugo ceremony is only mentioned in passing, but the post very clearly illustrates that the past of our genre was a lot more diverse and a lot less straight, white and male than it is often remembered.
ETA: Robert J. Sawyer weighs in on the problems with the 2020 Hugo ceremony and points out that George R.R. Martin repeatedly referring to various writers and editors by their nicknames alienated the audience even further. Now it’s not too big of a stretch that “Silverbob” refers to Robert Silverberg, who introduced himself as Bob when I was on a panel with him. But the “Piglet” thing threw me, too, since I’ve never heard George Alec Effinger referred to by that name and it’s not easily deducible either.
ETA: At Future Less Travelled, Vivienne Raper, a fan and critic whose taste in books leans more conservative, declares that the 2020 Hugo ceremony was a dumpster fire, which it absolutely was.
ETA: James Pyles sent me a link to his thoughts about the 2020 Hugo ceremony, so here it is.
ETA: At a site called The American Thinker, which seems to be the usual US conservative website obsessed with “the Left”, Kamala Harris and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Andrea Widberg reports about the problems with the 2020 Hugo ceremony (which she doesn’t seem to have watched) and declares that “cancel culture” is going after George R.R. Martin and that it’s somehow the fault of the Maoists. Never mind that Maoists are exceedingly rare in the twenty-first century, several of those who criticised George R.R. Martin are the children of people from China and Hongkong who left those countries for political reasons, so they’re extremely unlikely to be Maoists.
ETA: The usual canine suspects are mostly silent about the 2020 Hugos, which means that they’ve moved on, so good for them. Vox Day is mainly starting fights with Patreon these days, but he still can’t resist a quick post about the Hugos, which mainly quotes from the Daily Dot article. Vox also gloats that George R.R. Martin is cancelled now and that he hopes John Scalzi will be next (not that anybody ever brought up Scalzi, except for Vox Day who’s obsessed with him). There’s also a jab against his other obsession N.K. Jemisin, though he seems to have missed that she has won four Hugos by now, and a lot of use of the word “rape” for a very short post. So in short, business as usual.
ETA: Puppy come lately Jon Del Arroz sees to have moved on to comics these days, but he also feels compelled to weigh in on the Hugo ceremony in this video. Of course, he didn’t even watch the ceremony (well, he saved himself almost four hours by that), because Worldcon and the Hugos are dead and the Hugo winners don’t sell, blah, blah, blah. Never mind that one look at Amazon presents a very different picture. He also thinks it’s ridiculous that people are upset that George R.R. Martin and the other presenters mispronounced several names, which is interesting coming from someone whose name is not pronounced the way you would assume either. As a result, Del Arroz probably gets his share of mispronounciations, too (and he makes a point of saying his name at the beginning of every video, likely to counter that), so you’d think he’d have some sympathy for people being fed up with having their names mispronounced all the time.
YouTube being what it is, I also came across a bunch of other videos from aggrieved white gamer dudes weighing in on the Hugo ceremony, usually without having watched the ceremony or following the Hugos at all, because the Hugos and Worldcon are supposedly irrelevant. What drew their attention was the involvement of George R.R. Martin and the fact that he supposedly was cancelled. Never mind that all of these folks were screaming about the ending of Game of Thrones or the fact that Winds of Winter is still not out not so long ago. There’s a bunch of these videos – apparently, there are a lot of disaffected white gamer dudes with too much time on their hands out there. You can find examples here, here, here and here. I wouldn’t recommend watching them, unless you have a lot of time to kill, since it’s mostly the same blather about SJWs, cancel culture, blue checkmarks on Twitter, Sad Puppies, etc… that we’ve heard umpteen times from that corner before.
ETA: At a blog called The Dark Herald, Cataline Sergius weighs on in the 2020 Hugo ceremony (one day after it happened, even though the Hugos are supposedly not even on their radar anymore) and claims that winning a Hugo damages an author’s reputation. I guess N.K. Jemisin, Mary Robinette Kowal, Arkady Martine and other recent Hugo winners are crying all the way to the bank.
British writer Ed Fortune calls the 2020 Hugo Awards ceremony the worst awards ceremony he ever had the misfortune to sit through and also goes into the debacle about the 2019 Hugo Losers Party, where the venue George R.R. Martin booked was too small and several Hugo finalists and their plus ones were left standing outside.
Two time Hugo winner Cheryl Morgan shares her thoughts on the disastrous 2020 Hugo ceremony and also remembers the incident in 2006, where Harlan Ellison groped Connie Willis on stage at the Hugo ceremony, just in case you were wondering if Hugo ceremonies can get worse than what happened this year. Cheryl Morgan also points out that Harlan Ellison at least seemed mortified that his behaviour had damaged the ceremony and the Hugos, even if he didn’t quite understand what the problem was. She is not so sure that George R.R. Martin and Robert Silverberg understand what they did.
Cheryl Morgan also has a follow-up post about how and why Worldcons go wrong, which is well worth reading. Cheryl also points out that pointing fingers at the World Science Fiction Society doesn’t help, because the WSFS is us, i.e. every supporting and attending member of Worldcon.
Jason Sanford also discusses the 2020 Hugo ceremony and the many problems with it. He makes a lot of good points, but then he goes into something I’ve also seen on Twitter, namely that Worldcon is old, irrelevant and in danger of dying and that the big media cons like San Diego Comic Con and Dragon Con in Atlanta are the future.
Leaving aside the irony that the Puppies said the very same thing back in 2015/16, for better or for worse, Worldcon is a different beast than commercial cons like San Diego Comic Con and Dragon Con (and let’s not forget that Dragon Con’s literature trek leans strongly conservative/rightwing, even if the overall membership doesn’t). Worldcon is less polished than the media cons, because it’s entirely run by volunteers. At Worldcon, the barriers between fans and pros are much lower, because everybody is a fan first and a writer, artist, editor, publisher, filmmaker, etc… second. This doesn’t always work out as intended, as this weekend’s events have shown, but I still love the inclusive idea behind it and it makes me sad when I hear of people – often writers and fans of colour – who were made to feel unwelcome at Worldcon. But while Worldcon isn’t perfect, as Cheryl Morgan said, Worldcon is us. We can make it better and many of us try in a myriad of ways, whether it’s people braving the Business Meeting to submit proposals or this year’s Hugo finalists and others who worked behind the scenes to make programming more diverse and inclusive or the many volunteers who keep the convention running.
But the best thing about Worldcon is that it’s not stationary, like San Diego Comic Con, Dragon Con and so many other cons, but that it moves around. Of course, the “World” in Worldcon is still too often ignored, the locations are still too often in the US, though we’ve been seeing more non-US locations in recent years, and whole continents barely get a look in. But while there’s at least a chance that Worldcon will eventually come to your country or continent (plus, if you find enough likeminded fans, you can bid to bring a Worldcon to your country), you’ll always have to go to San Diego to attend Comic Con and to Atlanta with its hellish airport to attend Dragon Con. Entering the US was always an unpleasant experience (ask me why I hate Atlanta airport so much sometime) and it has only gotten worse in the past twenty years and even worse in the past four. Even if they get a visa, which is by no means assured particularly for people from non-western countries, a lot of people from outside the US are reluctant to travel to the US. Some people like Cheryl Morgan are unable to enter the US at all through no fault of their own. So those who are saying, “Worldcon is old and irrelevant, so let it die and go to Dragon Con or San Diego Comic Con instead” are saying to everybody who can’t or won’t travel to the US and everybody inside the US who cannot afford to travel to Atlanta or San Diego, “You don’t matter. We don’t care if you can’t come.” I’m sure that’s not what they mean to say, but that’s how it comes across.
Jason Sanford goes on to declare that the Retro Hugos must die, because John W. Campbell and Cthulhu won Retro Hugos this year. Like so many others who complain about Campbell and Cthulhu and maybe Forrest J. Ackerman, he fails to mention that Leigh Brackett and Margaret Brundage, two awesome women who went unrecognised in their lifetimes, also won Retro Hugos this year.
I’ve already pointed out how strongly I disagree with the people who cry for the Retro Hugos to be abolished, because they don’t agree with some of the winners (and I’m not thrilled about the Retro Hugos for Campbell, Cthulhu and Voice of the Imagi-Nation either). I also strongly disagree with Jason Sanford when he calls Retro Hugo voters “a small group of people stuck in the past giving today’s genre the middle finger”.
I have nominated and voted for the Hugos and Retro Hugos, when they were offered, since 2014. Like so many others, I was frequently underwhelmed by the finalists and winners, so I decided to do something about it. I started the Retro Hugo Recommendation Spreadsheet and Retro Science Fiction Reviews to point potential nominators to worthy works and to show what else was out there beyond the big name writers and editors. I also didn’t vote for or nominated Campbell, Cthulhu and Voice of the Imagi-Nation.
It’s perfectly fine if someone doesn’t want to engage with the Retro Hugos and doesn’t care for older SFF in general. However, if you didn’t bother to nominate and vote, don’t complain about the results. And don’t call those of us who are interested in the history of our genre reactionaries – unless maybe they are presenters hijacking the current day Hugo ceremony to reminisce about the past.
I care about the history of SFF because I think it is important to know where we’ve been to understand where we are now and how we got here. It also infuriates me how much of the history of our genre has been forgotten and erased, how the only ancestors that are remembered are a narrow group of straight white men and tht there’s another round of “Wow, women, writers of colour, LGBTQ writers and other marginalised groups are writing science fiction and fantasy now” every twenty years, even though women, POC, LGBTQ people have always been here, only that their contributions to the genre have been ignored and forgotten.
I like having a way to honour those writers and artists who went unrecognised during their lifetimes. The Retro Hugos are one of the few ways we have to do this. They may not be perfect and I certainly don’t think that John W. Campbell needs yet another Hugo, considering he won plenty during his lifetime. But rather than abolish the Retro Hugos, I’m trying to make them better and also to challenge received wisdom about what the genre was like in days of old, a received wisdom that’s usually much straighter, whiter and male than reality.
ETA: In the latest edition of The Full Lid (which you should subscribe to, if you haven’t already), my fellow best fanwriter finalist Alasdair Stuart also weighs in on CoNZealand, the sidelining of the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, the disastrous 2020 Hugo Award ceremony, where Alasdair was much in the same boat as me, except that he was also up for Best Semiprozine with Escape Pod and had to wait even longer, only to have semiprozines dismissed as “not paying enough”, the unofficial CoNZealand Fringe side programming and the 1945 Retro Hugos.
ETA: At the blog of the excellent small press Foxspirit Books, Russell A. Smith shares his thoughts about the 2020 Hugo ceremony (which he compares to Lord of the Rings in length) and the 1945 Retro Hugos. It’s a good post, though I have one minor quibble. John W. Campbell “only” won the Retro Hugo for Best Editor, not Best Series because the only potentially eligible series Campbell ever wrote, the Arcot, Morey and Wade series finished in 1931 (which is a good thing, because while these stories influenced a lot of writers from Campbell’s stable, the Arcot, Morey and Wade stories are pretty dreadful) . Instead, the Retro Hugo for Best Series went to the Cthulhu Mythos by that renown racist H.P. Lovecraft and a whole lot of others.
ETA: Jason Sanford is not the only Retro Hugo hater out there. Aaron Pound thinks they’re a joke, because the voters often go for famous names over story quality (which is precisely why I started the spreadsheet and Retro Reviews).
Richard Gadsden has some suggestions to improve the Retro Hugos, which he e-mailed to Chicon 8, the 2022 Worldcon. Once again, he’s completely unaware that there was a crowdsourced eligibility and recommendation spreadsheet or that Paul Fraser assembled links to every single eligible story published in the SFF pulps.
Font Folly also points out that a lot of the problems with the Retro Hugos stem from people trusting received wisdom such as that Astounding was the best SFF magazine of the 1940s and that John W. Campbell was the best editor, even though this isn’t the case when you actually read the magazine, because Astounding actually published a higher ratio of crap than many other magazines, even though they also published a lot of classics.
ETA: Comrade-in-arms Steve J. Wright, who heroically reviewed a whole bunch of Retro Hugo eligible stories and discovered both a lot of dross and some overlooked gems, shares his thoughts on the 1945 Retro Hugo winners here. Steve J. Wright also shares his thoughts on John W. Campbell and points out that even though he did not vote for Campbell, Campbell was a more nuanced figure than the simple “saviour of science fiction” or “fucking fascist” dichotomy makes him out to be.
ETA: The Hugo Book Club also weighs in on the Retro Hugos and declares that contemporary voters and nominators often have to rely on received wisdom and hindsight, because they don’t have the same overview of the field that fans of the time did. They also point out that Best Series doesn’t work well with the Retro Hugos.
ETA: Remco van Straten busts another bit of received wisdom regarding the 1945 Retro Hugos and points out that the 1945 Retro Hugo winner for Best Graphic Story Superman: “The Mysterious Mr. Mxyztplk” is credited to the wrong person, for the art was not by Superman co-creator Joe Shuster, but by Ira Yarbrough, an uncredited artist who worked in Shuster’s studio. But even though Yarbrough and other studio artists were uncredited, golden age Superman fans have long since figured out who drew which stories. So the misattribution is embarrassing and shouldn’t have happened, especially since Alex Raymond’s co-artist Don Moore is credited correctly for Flash Gordon, as are the creators of the nominated Spirit comic, none of whom is Will Eisner. I guess the lesson is to reach out more to golden age comic fandom in correctly sourcing who actually drew those comics.
And yes, Hugo voting already is a lot of work and Retro Hugo voting adds to that workload with the added complication that there is no helpful Hugo voter packet – you have to track down all of that stuff yourself. But I’d rather help voters and nominators to make more informed decisions than to abolish the Retro Hugos altogether, because I don’t like how they turn out.