Retro Hugos, Dragons, and Why I Don’t Care (for the most part) About the Private Lives of Authors

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© James Pyles – My brother, my parents, and me. I’m the one on the far left. Yes, I used to be thin. The photo was taken about 35 years ago.

Just when I thought I was done with the Hugo Awards and with all this year’s drama and trauma, I ended up reading Looking Forward on Looking Backwards at the Hugo Book Club Blog co-authored by Amanda Wakaruk and Olav Rokne. I don’t know which one of them I talk to on twitter, but they seem like pretty good people.

Anyway, the blog post focused on the Retro Hugos, which are sort of “lifetime achievement awards” for science fiction and fantasy authors who were active before the Hugo awards existed. Being an “older fellow,” I’ve read more than a few in my day, plus a lot of old school Hugo Award Winners. That is, science fiction Hugo winners before the Hugos (in my personal opinion) became less about the quality of a story and more about the “wokeness” of the tale and the writer (both being a necessity these days it seems).

To quote their blog in part:

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Tolerance, Intolerance, and the World of the “Stale, Pale Male Crowd”

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Image of the cover of Orson Scott Card’s book “How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy”

On the heels of my blog posts Looks Like the 2020 Hugo Awards Once Again Sucked, Loving and Fearing SF/F Fandom, and the currently highly popular Is SciFi Author/Editor Robert Silverberg Really Racist and Sexist (or has the internet once again lost its mind)?, a library book I just finished and am about to return caught my attention.

Written by Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead) the small book How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy was my choice to re-read in the hopes of dragging myself out of my current writing slump.

Published in 2001, all of the advice about how to publish, market, and, of course, win awards (Card won two Hugos, a Nebula, a Lotus, and in 1978, the John W. Campbell [now renamed Astounding] Award for Best New Writer) are outdated and useless.

But his lessons on how to write remain pretty much timeless, especially when you are actually learning the craft rather than trying to promote a social position, attitude, or bias (I say that knowing that all stories contain the biases of their authors, but lately, it’s gotten so much more obvious and even blatant).

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Looks Like the 2020 Hugo Awards Once Again Sucked

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George R.R. Martin –
Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Well this explains it. The article George R.R. Martin Accused of Racism, Generally Sucking After Hosting Hugos (also found at Vulture) contains a link to my December 5, 2018 blog post Is SciFi Author/Editor Robert Silverberg Really Racist and Sexist (or has the internet once again lost its mind)?. It’s gotten hundreds of hits in the last day or so, and I couldn’t figure out why.

Interestingly enough, the article I found as a pingback to Updexnews.com used the phrase “racist history” as part of the link when referring to my Silverberg article, and I hadn’t intended to call Silverberg a racist (really, I’m shocked I haven’t gotten even a single piece of hate mail yet).

On this twitter account, I found the following image posted prominently. It was the first indication I had of yet another WorldCon social purging by the righteous (yes, I’m being snarky…I’ll explain below).

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Are the Science Fiction “Culture Wars” Still Alive and Well?

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Image found at DragonCon.org

I’ve tried to steer this blog away from the more controversial and/or political topics I’ve covered in the past, but then I read Richard Paloinelli’s missive Wikipedia or WikiPravda?. Richard and I share some similar viewpoints, but I lack many of the wounds and scars he’s received in the past, such as those attributed to Mike Glyer at the File 770 science fiction fanzine. I think I was contended with there exactly once. It actually impressed me, since relative to Glyer’s readership, I’m pretty much a nobody.

In the recent past, I’ve heard that Wikipedia, Patreon, and YouTube have been accused of attempting to shut out politically and socially conservative creative voices through censorship and defunding. Since I’m merely a consumer of Wikipedia and YouTube and wouldn’t know what to do with Patreon, I’ve had no personal experience, but on the other hand, I have no trouble believing they are all biased left, either.

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Book Review: The Fifth Season

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Cover image of NK Jemisin’s 2015 Hugo Award winning novel “The Fifth Season

“Jemisin is now a pillar of speculative fiction, breathtakingly imaginative and narratively bold.”―Entertainment Weekly

“Intricate and extraordinary.”―The New York Times

“[The Fifth Season is] an ambitious book, with a shifting point of view, and a protagonist whose full complexity doesn’t become apparent till toward the end of the novel. … Jemisin’s work itself is part of a slow but definite change in sci-fi and fantasy.”―Guardian

“Astounding… Jemisin maintains a gripping voice and an emotional core that not only carries the story through its complicated setting, but sets things up for even more staggering revelations to come.”―NPR Books

“Jemisin’s graceful prose and gritty setting provide the perfect backdrop for this fascinating tale of determined characters fighting to save a doomed world.”―Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“A must-buy…breaks uncharted ground.”―Library Journal (starred review)

“Jemisin might just be the best world builder out there right now…. [She] is a master at what she does.”―RT Book Reviews (Top Pick!)

“Wait! What? Sure, it’s an interesting story, but… –Me

I’ve read most Hugo nominated and award-winning novels from 1988 back to 1958, when the Hugos first came into existence, but recently, I decided for the sake of fairness, I should consume more recent popular SF/F novels and stories to see how cultural perception is changing the landscape of speculative fiction. The fact that N.K. Jemisin is a three-time Hugo award winner wasn’t lost on me, particularly after having read her latest controversial historic Hugo Award acceptance speech.

Fortunately, The Fifth Season (2015), the first book in “The Broken Earth” series, was available through my local public library system. Given its obvious “hype,” I was hoping for something spectacular and afraid that it wouldn’t be.

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Hugo Award Winning Novels I Have Read

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Cover image of NK Jemisin’s 2015 Hugo Award winning novel “The Fifth Season

You might be wondering about why I’ve posted the lengthy lists of tabular data below.

Last summer and so on, when I was writing blog posts critical of the Hugo Awards, WorldCon, and a seeming lack of objectivity in how the Hugos are awarded, I learned a lot.

I’m not going to post a bunch of links to past blog missives, but I did learn that the Hugos were never meant to be particularly objective. Various works, including novels, are voted on by people who have paid to be at that year’s convention, people who are, for all appearances, very hard-core Science Fiction and Fantasy fans, and not necessarily the sort of person who might casually pick up a SciFi novel to read here and there (like most of us).

I also noted one of the criticisms leveled against SF author Robert Silverberg in the comments section at File 770 after Silverberg criticized NK Jemisin’s most recent Hugo Award acceptance speech, was that it was said Silverberg hadn’t read a SF novel in the past decade, like that’s a bad thing.

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Dabbling in Science Fiction Fandom

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Photo credit – Knoxville News – Science Fiction convention – place and date unknown

In recent comments on the File 770 SF/F news blog criticizing veteran SF writer Robert Silverberg over comments he made about author NK Jemisin’s Hugo Award acceptance speech last summer, one of the things mentioned is that Silverberg hasn’t read any SF stories written in the past ten years, like that’s a bad thing.

In comments I made on twitter last summer criticizing the objectivity of the Hugo Awards, one person accused me of not being “a fan,” as if being a fan were some sort of exalted and coveted position.

But as I continued to gather information about the Hugos and how one is nominated for an award, I realized that although the pool of voters each year is relatively small (I’d estimate anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand), probably all of them are avid SF/F readers and viewers who consume tons and tons of the latest available works. I guess that’s what my critic meant when she said I wasn’t a fan.

But wait a minute. How much SF/F do I read?

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Is SciFi Author/Editor Robert Silverberg Really Racist and Sexist (or has the internet once again lost its mind)?

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SF author/editor Robert Silverberg – 2005

If I hadn’t read a blog post at Superversive SF called The Cardinal Mistake With SJWs and Robert Silverberg, I probably wouldn’t be writing this.

First off, I’ll state for the record, that because I’m even mentioning Jon Del Arroz‘s (yes, he deliberately makes himself a lightning rod for controversy) name and daring to write something with a social and political perspective not shared (necessarily) by Democrats, leftists, and progressives (those words are not synonyms), that at least one person will be vocally upset with me here on my blog.

I suspect that a lot of other people who regularly read my fiction will simply not respond because A: they like me and what I write, and B: they think that I’m a nice enough guy not to be flamed for expressing unpopular opinions.

Thank you.

Anyway, I did read Del Arroz’s article which starts out:

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An Outsider’s View: Is WorldCon Going to Be Better Now?

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Screenshot of WorldCon76 main page taken 15 Aug 2018

After the recent progressive, politically correct meltdown at the upcoming WorldCon 76, I was wondering if there would be any appreciable fallout since it officially starts this afternoon.

I didn’t want to spend a huge amount of time poking around on the WorldCon site, but I did notice a page for Future WSFS Conventions. This coming Friday from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM Pacific time, there will be a panel to talk about the future locations of WorldCons. Next year, it will be in Dublin, but beyond that, there are multiple choices.

Now, in addition to location, I can’t help but wonder if other things will be considered, such as “inclusivity.” After all, the folks running this year’s Con had to do some major backpedaling and reorganization in just a few weeks, so I can imagine they’ll want to avoid such a social justice explosion in the future. Naturally, with a whole year (and future years) to plan for, they can consider #OwnVoice panels and such at their leisure, as well as making sure those authors nominated for Hugos represent a proper diversity of disadvantaged voices.

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Why Some Creative Works May Never Win a Hugo Award

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Screenshot taken from twitter

Okay, so the people on twitter who (very politely) accused me of being a moron because I was clueless about exactly what the Hugos are, and how creative works are awarded Hugo Awards are correct. I didn’t do my homework. I did have one woman accuse me of not even being a fan, and admittedly, in my youth I read a ridiculous amount of science fiction and fantasy compared to today.

So many books, so little time.

That said, I do read science fiction, but not every book I read is SciFi. Am I still a fan? Maybe not by that person’s standards, and I especially don’t read brand new science fiction, since I can’t afford to buy a bunch of brand new books, digital or otherwise. I usually depend on the public library, or occasionally a friend will lend me a book, but those works are usually several years (or decades) old.

That brings me back to the Hugos and twitter. I’m not getting any more tweets, but some of those previous tweets are being “liked” on twitter, and they show up in my notifications. I saw the tweet again yesterday that I posted a screenshot of above.

So really, the Hugo voters, those who nominate a work for a Hugo, and then those who vote for finalists and winners, aren’t all that many folks. Who are they?

I went to the Hugo Awards FAQ page and found out:

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