Don’t Rehash an Argument Just Because

File 770 has a post by Chris Barkley that is a proprosal for the next Worldcon business meeting: http://file770.com/?p=41112

The gist of it is this: Worldcon has decided to have a Young Adult award for SFF books modeled on the Campbell Award – that is it will be an award run with the Hugo Awards and using the same processes but be technically not-a-Hugo. Being a not-a-Hugo avoids questions of multiple elgibility so that in theory a book could be a finalist or even win both the Hugo for best novel and the YA Award. Seems to me like a smart idea.

A secondary question was what to call the award. Lot of possibilities. Andre Norton already been used but Heinlein is famous for his ‘juveniles’, Madeleine L’Engle was an inspiration for many, and Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea novels were an entry point for many young readers into SF and Fantasy.

But naming it after a person has issues:

  • Their reputation changes over time and not just that they become ‘problematic’.
  • It can narrow the perception of the award – particularly with the hazy nature of Young Adult. Picking an author famed for books for younger readers may skew perception of the award in that direction (at least initially).
  • Specifically for an award for books for youngr people, there’s an issue with using a less contemporary writer as the flagship of the award.

So instead a name was picked that was not an author name: Lodestar. You can read the discussion from the business meeting here on Alex Acks’s blog http://katsudon.net/?p=5646

Seems like a decent name to me and in the end the reputation of the name will be driven by the award rather than vice-versa. Could the name be better? Probably but the pursuit of the perfect name for a product is a classic way of sending a project into development hell (I carry the scars). It is a classic case of where good-enough is perfect rather than vice-versa. Finding consensus on a name can be nigh on impossible and eventually consume more labour than any potential gain from finding a better name. It is a classic daft move to get embroiled in finding a GOOD name rtaher than avoiding a BAD name.

So kudos to all the people who did all that work last time and got a name that has no obvious faults. Hoorah!

And then…well the proposal linked to above is to re-prosecute the business of the name for the YA award. The co-signatories have a great alternative name but…they can’t tell people what it is yet. Not only that they can’t tell people WHY they can’t tell people what it is yet.

“We will also embargo the name until the start of the Preliminary Session.

There is very good reason why the name will not be revealed at this time and that explanation will also be given at that time.”

?!?!?

It would have to be an extraordinarily good explanation. I’m guessing the name will be Ursula Le Guin but that’s still a bad idea. Aside from anything else her fiction for children and YA is just one part of her writing legacy and she isn’t particularly emblematic of Young Adult writers or the genre.

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28 comments

  1. JJ

    *Barkley *Madeline

    Your thoughts are on-the-mark. I really hope that this can be withdrawn, and that Worldcon members can instead work on the review and revision of the Hugo Category criteria which is supposed to have been going on.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. JJ

    sorry, it *Madeleine

    There are too many ways to spell Madolyn  Madelyn  Madelynn  Madelin  Madeline  Madeleine!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. frasersherman

    Sigh. Having covered local government, I’m quite familiar with the impulse people have to refight decisions that don’t go there way. Never give up. Never surrender. Etc.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Mark Hepworth

    It’s sufficiently weird, mysterious, and exploitative of the rules that I find myself doubting the motivations of the makers.
    (That’s probably harsh, but there’s just something *off* about how this is being done)

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Laura

    Another objection is that if the Business Meeting decides to do a name change instead of just ratifying Lodestar, the award will continue without a name for another year.

    Like

  6. JJ

    Mark Hepworth; It’s sufficiently weird, mysterious, and exploitative of the rules that I find myself doubting the motivations of the makers.

    They weren’t happy with the name Lodestar, and this is their attempt to override that decision. They mistakenly thought that Worldcon members would all either accept it unquestioningly because Le Guin is so beloved, or feel that they couldn’t vote against it without looking like jerks for voting against naming it after Le Guin.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Laura

      Yeah, if you look at the YA committee’s report, you can see there were quite a few votes for Le Guin on their community survey. But the committee definitely didn’t want to suggest anyone living. Now this group (sounds like it’s mainly Chris Barkley and some people who weren’t sure what they were getting into) wants to play on our sentiments over her recent loss.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Mark Hepworth

        Le Guin isn’t a terrible idea, but as you say the committee had really good reasons for avoiding people’s names and they’re not making any arguments why that should be reversed – and apparently don’t intend to, either.

        I think JJ may have hit the nail on the head here.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Paul King

    I note that of the eight people originally listed as signatories, four have been removed. One never even signed, and another seems to have been under the impression it was simply a petition. That does not speak well of the proposal and, to me, really suggests that it should be withdrawn

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mark Hepworth

      Down to four now? That’s really poor and you’re right that the remainder should take it as a sign.
      I don’t believe any of the remaining names write YA, and while it’s possible that some of them are massive YA fans who are clued into the YA community, I somehow doubt it. Stomping in to try to replace something arrived at by consultation with the YA community isn’t a good look.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Lurkertype

    Oh, FFS. Leave it alone, people. I may have to wander into the meeting just to HELL NO this quickly, so we can get on to more important business like Hugo voting. WSFS has already Been There and Done That, and “Lodestar” is a perfectly good name. Future cons won’t have to worry about things like the ugly Lovecraft bust if we go with “Lodestar”. It’d make more sense to rename the Campbell at this point, and there are few reasons to do that.

    Let it gooooooo….

    Liked by 1 person

    • JJ

      Lurkertype: It’d make more sense to rename the Campbell at this point, and there are few reasons to do that.

      I and a whole lot of other people would love to rename the Campbell. But it’s not ours to rename, it’s Dell Magazines’ award, and they sure as hell aren’t going to remove the name of the guy who edited their SF magazines for 35 years just because he was a racist, a crackpot, and a dishonest businessman who cheated his authors.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Lurkertype

        I meant “a few reasons”. Darn articles.

        As far as cheating, we ought to rename the Hugo, but too late, what with 60+ years to build up the reputation.

        I say we need to use the name “Lodestone” everywhere so people realize it’s already got a perfectly fine name.

        Like

      • Laura

        Before this whole kerfuffle, I did see people mentioning this award and saying that it will probably be called Lodestar next year.

        Like

  9. lampwick

    I hate the idea of naming it after Le Guin. People always seem to be eager to associate women with Young Adult and Children’s Literature, maybe because these genres aren’t considered important and so you can marginalize yet another woman, keep her out of the canon of Really Important Writers. A long time ago Locus wrote that Carol Emshwiller wrote stories for children, and Emshwiller, who didn’t write those stories, at least then, wrote back and said that she was tired of being called a kids’ writer just because she was a woman, and that she would have rather had Locus say that she wrote pornography.

    I don’t at all think that YA is unimportant, just making an observation about how this will be perceived. And I think Le Guin, in particular, can’t be boxed up in any one genre, someone who wrote science fiction, fantasy, poetry, essay, unclassifiable in addition to YA. If you’re going to start an award named after her, it would have to be the Everything Award.

    Liked by 3 people

    • PhilRM

      This. Much as I love the Earthsea trilogy, it represents only a tiny fraction of her accomplishments.

      Someone over at File 770 made the suggestion of a Le Guin award for a first novel by a woman author; that strikes me as far more appropriate.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Kat Goodwin

      Yeah, it would make more sense if you were doing a person to name it after Jane Yolen. Of course, she’s still alive. I think Lodestar is a good name.

      Like

      • Laura

        A person’s name is just guaranteed to be more controversal. I’m sure there’s somebody who Le Guin rubs the wrong way. She was certainly opinionated and not afraid to speak her mind.

        Like

  10. Laura

    I’ve loved Le Guin for as long as I can remember, but this award needs to be named Lodestar as planned. The Wizard of Earthsea was published the year I was born, and I’m turning 50!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. katster

    Given this bit:

    “However, we also think that the name of this new award should have a name which not only should be universally recognizable, but have an equivalent weight to the name of John W. Campbell, Jr.”

    I’d say your guess of Le Guin is spot on. The only other thing I could think that might be close is Rowling, but that squares the problematic by naming it for a living person. (“Today in the Business Meeting at the 2034 Worldcon is the consideration of an amendment to change the YA award name from the Rowling after the infamous incident last year in which Ms. Rowling mooned the chariot carrying the remains of the recently deceased King Charles III…”)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Laura

      We know it’s Le Guin. The beans were spilled by one of the people bowing out from signing the proposal. Which goes to show how little Chris Barkley told them about what they were putting their names to.

      Liked by 2 people

      • katster

        Yeah, I wrote that before I’d seen the confirmation. I was just trying to think of other possibilities, which led to the point that it would be even more problematic to name it after a living person because living people can do dumb/evil things. Dead people can have their life re-examined (see Lovecraft, H.P.), but they can’t add more infamy. (And then I had to come up with some absurd reason why there’d have to be action…)

        That said, I can see where honoring Le Guin would be nice, but this just doesn’t feel like the right place.

        Liked by 2 people

  12. Kat Goodwin

    Y’know, it’s entirely possible for another convention to create and award an Ursula Le Guin Award, or her estate might decide to launch one. Not everything has to be done by WorldCon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • JJ

      Kat Goodwin: Y’know, it’s entirely possible for another convention to create and award an Ursula Le Guin Award, or her estate might decide to launch one. Not everything has to be done by WorldCon.

      And even if it were done by Worldcon, it doesn’t need to be this award. The insistence on slapping her name on whatever is the first award which comes available, regardless of whether it’s really the most appropriate vehicle to honor her, seems really ill-advised.

      Like

      • camestrosfelapton

        And Le Guin is such a big personality in the SF field I’d feel weird voting in an awardwith her name on it – it’s like saying ‘I think she would approve this book’ in a way that I don’t feel with Hugo or Campbell even though they are also named after people.

        It shouldn’t matter if Le Guin would like the winner but I can’t help feeling a ‘Le Guin’ award would have that effect.

        Liked by 1 person