Sam Wiebe


The Hugo Awards

(This is a response to Amy Wallace's article in Wired, Who Who Won Science Fiction's Hugo Awards, And Why it Matters: )

Ok. I know four-fifths of fuck-all about SFF, (other than a borderline-unhealthy obsession with Blade Runner and a broken heart from the shitty ending to Mass Effect 3). But as a writer I've found the Hugo awards an interesting debacle to follow.

You have two pretty worthy causes at stake here--the championing of good writing, and the championing of diverse voices in a genre. Anyone who thinks those are incompatible, or even competing values, is deluded.

I'd like to think the Crime/Mystery genre is more advanced than SFF when it comes to representation, but I have nothing to back that up other than anecdotal evidence. It could be that this kind of revolution/revolt has already happened, is happening, has yet to happen.

In my own career I've been nominated for two Arthur Ellis awards, won one, won the Kobo Emerging thing, and been nominated for a Shamus. I've been way more fortunate than most.

Now, I'd like to think I received those accolades because I'm the unheard voice of my generation (or A voice of A generation, as Lena Dunham said on Girls.) You know the part in Casino where Joe Pesci says about Kevin Pollack, "He'd like to think the Teamsters gave him all that money because he's so fuckin' smart"?

The Shamus nom was really meaningful, because it's the category that Walter Mosely won for Devil In a Blue Dress and Dennis Lehane for A Drink Before the War. I grew up idolozing those guys. And I assume this year's award is a lock for Julia Dahl's Invisible City, because I've heard nothing but raves about it so far. (It currently sits at around base camp of the gloomy Eiger that is my to-read list).

But here's the rub--would a writer of color or an LGBT writer have those same awards? Would they have the same access to those awards?

And that's the thing--if the playing field isn't level, than awards are even more meaningless than they really are. 

And these are (in my mind) legit, judged awards, not really capable of the manipulation that the Hugos are. If the Hugos had a judging panel, they'd definitely be less susceptible to gaming the system. But maybe it's BECAUSE of how shitty they're set up that we can look at the system a little bit more objectively.

There are some interesting counter-arguments mentioned in that Wired piece. Of course quality should trump identity. Of course self-published and small-press authors face a harder struggle. But that's been twisted into some competition between 'blue-collar' and 'diverse' writers--one claim doesn't--shouldn't--can't--discount the others.

To me the real hero is Annie Bellet, the person who gets what the better parts of the Puppies group was trying to do, but refused her nomination because they sided with a racist/misogynistic-troll-'performance-artist' over people fighting to have their voices heard. The best quote from that article: "I want these awards to be about the fiction, and that was important enough to me to give one up."

Anyway, that Wired piece is worth a read.

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