April 5th, 2015


Of the 2015 Hugos

Many electrons have already been spilt on this, and if you want a detailed roundup, Mike Glyer has it.

Myself, I think this is a pretty bad situation for the Hugos.

In six categories (three short fiction, two editor, and Best Related Work), all five finalists come from the slates of nominees backed not only by the mild-mannered if somewhat incoherent and inconsistent Brad Torgerson, but by another person who supports acid attacks on feminists and describes non-white people as savages. Four of the five finalists for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and likewise four out of five in the Best Fan Writer category, were backed by one or other slate. A third of the short fiction finalists, including 60% of the Best Novella nominations, are by the man who wrote a frothingly incomprehensible letter of protest to the Science Fiction Writers of America last year, complaining about the apparently unreasonable proposition that SFWA's bulletin should try not to offend its own members. Some crap is nominated every year, but this year has demonstrated how easily the system can be gamed by a few dozen people willing to spend $50 on a supporting membership.

The slate efforts claim to be about widening diversity and improving quality in the Hugo system. They have had precisely the opposite effect. No woman has been nominated Only two women are finalists in the short fiction categories; although two women are on the Best Novel list, they are the two out of five not backed by either organised slate. One of the organisers (the acid-throwing racist) blithely talks of "blowing up the Hugos". Back-slapping slate supporters are jubilant, not about getting good candidates onto the Hugo list, but about poking their "Social Justice Warrior" enemies in the eye. (And boasting about a fawning and mendacious article published on a right-wing news website by a leading supporter of GamerGate.) This is an effort to destroy, not to enlarge; to tear down, not to build.

I have no ethical problem with those whose tastes are different from mine and therefore nominate works I don't like, because they like them more than I do. I am normally sympathetic to the view that one should assess works on their literary merit, though for me that would always also include the political context in which and for which they are written; and I normally take it as a pleasure of my reading year to work through the Hugo finalists and publish my ranking of them here.

This is different. This campaign is based on spite, not love. This is people who don't actually care about the Hugos, abusing them because they are an easy target to promote their own political agenda. I don't feel any motivation to read or review the works or other finalists that they have supported (I am open to reasonable argument, and Andromeda Spaceways have indeed made one, but the bar is high). I anticipate that I will be supporting a vote for "No Award" in at least the three short fiction categories, the two Best Editor categories and the Best Related Work category. And I don't think I'll be alone.

2015 Hugos: Initial observations | Voting No Award above the slates | How the slate was(n't) crowdsourced | Where the new voters are
Best Novel | Short fiction | Best Related Work | Best Graphic Story | Pro and Fan Artist | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), Best Fan Writer, John W. Campbell Award

Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel

I really loved Bechdel's Fun Home, which analysed her relationship with her closeted, repressed father; this didn't quite spark for me in the same way, though it's still pretty good. It's the story of Bechdel's mother's life, and of how Bechdel herself came to write it all down, and of her own relationships with lovers and therapists over the years. Perhaps because it lacks the brutal punchline of Fun Home, it felt rather less structured and didn't have the same element of drama. Bechdel is still sharply observant, not least of herself.
train, tintin, leuven

Boerke bijbel by Pieter De Poortere

A collection of De Poortere's popular one-page graphic stories about "Boerke" ("Wee farmer") or sometimes his cousin "Hoerke" ("Wee whore") who endure the craziness of the universe, usually dying in some all too plausible way at the end. Not really for me; too much punching down, rather than punching up, and an attitude of depressed fatalism leading nowhere very much.