Category: Hugo awards

2019 Special Hugo Category: Best Art Book

This is an exciting announcement from the Dublin 2019 Worldcon:

Best art book will throw up some interesting nominees but I can see a maze of eligibility questions. Dublin says:

An eligible work includes any art book in the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year or which has been substantially modified during the previous calendar year which isn’t eligible for Best Graphic Story.

Which is fair enough but Graphic Story has broad eligibility and I don’t think it is clear what kind of thing isn’t eligible (as opposed to what kind of thing doesn’t normally get nominated).

There’s also an obvious overlap with Best Related Work, which has broad eligibility criteria but a narrower range of what usually gets nominated (although it’s had some more left-field finalists in the past).

Still it will be fun to think of nominees!


CoOrDiNaTeD aTtAcKs!

Cast your minds back to April 7 2015. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish were beaten by the Connecticut Huskies in the NCAA Division I women’s basketball championship and Senator Rand Paul announced he was going to run for the Republic nomination for President of the United States. Meanwhile, in Sad Puppy related news, Larry Correia posted this:

“To the the SMOFs, moderates, new comers, and fence sitters I addressed yesterday, yes, we have disagreements with you. We’re happy to discuss them. We are not, however, happy to be libeled as the vilest forms of scum to walk the earth, and we are not happy to live in fear of career destruction. You want my part of fandom to coexist peacefully? You want to work out our differences and keep the awards meaningful? So do we. Though we disagree on the details and the issues, we also love this stuff. But coordinated slander campaigns, lies, character assassinations, threats, witch hunts? No… We won’t stand for that.” [CF: my emphasis]

“Coordinated slander”, oh my golly gosh! The issue being that the Sad Puppy campaign had become notable enough that its impact was being covered by the mainstream media. You’d think that was predictable — make a loud enough noise, eventually pay attention — but no, for Larry the news coverage must have been because of some hidden layer of coordination. A week later he was on the same theme:

“So here is a question for you.  What term would you use to describe the shared politics of the dozens of reporters, columnists, and bloggers who have run similar articles this week with obvious false accusations that Sad Puppies supporters ran an anti-diversity slate, motivated by racism, sexism, and homophobia? Jerks? Yes, they are, but that is a bit too coordinated for mere jerkage. That was a political attempt to establish a political narrative.” [CF: my emphasis]

Changing topics but not themes and sticking with a Sad Puppy outlet for a moment, fast forward to February 3 2017. Milo Yiannopolous’s star had risen high with an invite to the Conservative Political Action Conference and a book deal with Simon & Shuster when anti-Trump Republican group The Reagan Battalion released an edited version of a 206 video in which Yiannopolous justified sex with 13 year olds. At Mad Genius Club, Kate Paulk was unhappy about Yiannopolous’s book deal being cancelled:

“What I care about is that someone who has – objectively – done not one damn thing wrong is the subject of a coordinated effort to not merely silence him, but disappear him. I’ve seen this happen in the past. It happened to Larry Correia. To Brad Torgersen. I didn’t get the full force of it last year, but instead got the cold shoulder of people doing their best to pretend I’d already been disappeared.” [CF: my emphasis]

The theme being coordination obviously, the idea that if multiple sources are saying similar things it must be because of hidden coordination. Of course, some people really do plan things and approaches. Obviously the Reagan Battalion planned their media campaign against Yiannopolous but the “coordination” claim is stronger than that and proposes that the subsequent fuss and related outrage was also somehow coordinated.

I was initially planning this post yesterday after I read a series of tweets from Ethan Van Sciver, the right wing comic book artist who claims the mantle of ‘ComicsGate’®™. EVS was the guy who had the big falling out with Vox Day in September. In a series of tweets he disappointed me slightly by using the word “organized” instead of “coordinated”. I shan’t link to the tweets because it messes with the WordPress layout but the combined message was this:

“This Wave of Organized Attacks on ComicsGate consisted of:
1. The rise of @sinKEVitch as leader of AntiCG!
2. Jeff Lemire calling pros to arms against us!
3. Darwyn Cooke’s widow baiting CG!
4 Three Bleeding Cool hitpieces on me!
5. Hit pieces in the Washington Post, & INVERSE
6. Hit piece in The Guardian! The Daily Dot!
7. Robbi Rodriguez sending me a photo of his anus!
8. Vox Day trying to co-opt ComicsGate for the Alt Right!
9. Patton Oswalt condemning ComicsGate!
10. Pablo Hidalgo of Lucasfilm compares ComicsGate to the KKK!
11. John Layman spews bile at 21 year old CG writer Nasser Rabadi for 21 consecutive tweets!
12. Kieran Shiach penned hitpiece in POLYGON!
13. Marvel Comics Chief Creative Office Joe Quesada weighs in to debate @DiversityAndCmx and EVS: Loses debate.” [CF: my emphasis]

Rather like the Yiannopolous defence, the charge of coordination here crosses political lines. EVS suggests a conspiracy between a disperate group that includes the Guardian and Vox Day. The Yiannopolous piece suggested coordination between the left and the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Like I said, this post was going to concentrate on a theme among culture wars and be a break from writing about the nomination process of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. However, the morning news presented this to me:

“These are smears, pure and simple. And they debase our public discourse. But they are also a threat to any man or woman who wishes to serve our country. Such grotesque and obvious character assassination—if allowed to succeed—will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from service. As I told the Committee during my hearing, a federal judge must be independent, not swayed by public or political pressure. That is the kind of judge I will always be. I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. The coordinated effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out.” [CF: my emphasis]

It’s an interesting principled-tone Kavanaugh strikes whilst simultaneously accusing two different women of inventing ‘smears’ against him. And there is that tic again. Of course, yes, clearly the Democrats coordinate their opposition to his nomination just as the Republicans and other conservative groups have coordinated their support of him but the ‘coordination’ here is intended (as it does in the examples above) to imply that criticism is not just illegitimate but sinister and underhand.

“They” are out to get me and it doesn’t matter who ‘they’ are or that ‘they’ are a superfluous hypothesis to describe events. By casting events in this way, a call to action is made against the shadowy Them — who, to quote Kavanaugh, are a threat “any man or woman who wishes to serve our country”.

Personally I like to believe Them are giant ants. I prefer the classics.





Sad Puppies 4 is now slot machine spam…but in Italian?

I was checking some broken links and found myself back at the Sad Puppies 4 website. People may recall that the domain name hosting had briefly expired but then the site reappeared but with the promise of a Sad Puppies 5 removed.

I’m not going to link to the website (you’ll see why) but it hasn’t changed much since my last visit. The main difference is that the last blog post (an update from March 2016) now has an initial sentence in Italian. That sentence contains a link to a new page which is an advert (in Italian) for online slot machines.

I assume spammers have bought the domain and copied the content – thus ensuring the numerous links to the site still exist, creating a site that looks less like spamverts? (Speculation welcome.)

I think it was Puppy Bysshe Shelley who said it best:

“I met a book reader in an antique shop,

Who said—“A vast and senseless blog of books

Sits on my browser. . . . Near it, in a post,

A half sunk shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its writer well those passions held

Which yet survive, stamped on some other “gate”,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the editorial, these words appear:

My name is Puppymandis, Fourth of Four;

Look on my Works, ye fandom, and despair!

Nothing beside remains round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

Except slot machine adverts in Italian.”

How To Edit This Year’s Hugo Novel Finalists Into One Giant Voltron Like Book

Obviously, the best way of approaching the six Hugo finalists is as seperate books with their own distinct plots and characters. However, imagine the book world was under attack by some giant monster and all the books had to team up to fight it, how would that work exactly?

A reader who has considered the matter carefully might say “What are you talking about? Did the fumes from cleaning the cat’s catnip vomit go to your head?” The answer to those rhetorical questions are “see above” and “yes” and “why does the room keep wobbling like that?”

Where to start?

Luckily both New York 2142 and Six Wakes have connections to New York in the nearish future. The Collapsing Empire, Provenance and Raven Stratagem all have space empires in different phases of development. The Stone Sky has to team up with the whole of the Broken Earth series first but its post-apocalyptic back story puts the story way into the future.

So for a sequential order of a giant history of humanity try this order:

1. New York 2142 – in the near future humanity struggles with the impact of climate change

2. Six Wakes – shortly after which humanity develops a unique ‘cloning technology’ and begins space exploration

3. The Collapsing Empire – humanity has continued to colonise space but it’s method of interstellar travel has restricted its capacity to grow

4. Provenance – (somehow) humanity has found a way past the technological limits of space travel and now is spread all over. A remnant of a galactic empire exists that makes use of the ‘cloning technology’ (see 2.) but that’s not important for this book.

5. Raven Stratagem – technology has advanced even further to a peak of reality bending. Unfortunately toxic empires have grown even stronger.

6. The Stone Sky – we return to Earth were hubris and human experimentation have left the planet as a tectonic mess

So what is a fan writer anyway?

I appear, for once, to have some sort of verifiable credential on the topic about which I’m writing but I also know that I don’t have a good grasp of the long history/tradition of fanwriting. What is a fan writer, what constitutes fan writing, is fan writing a genre of writing or does it come down to (lack of) money or to the channel of distribution? Also, what does the sport of rugby have to do with this?

The official Hugo rules actually say very little:

Any person whose writing has appeared in semiprozines or fanzines or in generally available electronic media during the previous calendar year.

It doesn’t say “non-professional” or amateur. There is an implication from other categories with “fan” in it that implies non-professional is a key element of the term “fan” but the inclusion of semiprozines belies that implication. A semiprozine may pay its contributors and hence according to the rules a fan writer could be paid for their writing.

But those are the rules and I don’t regard formal rules as a good source of meaning. Rules are useful for delimiting meaning when we need sharp categories to settle disputes but they aren’t the ultimate source of meaning — if they were we would have no way of judging whether we have written god rules or not.

I think there are a number of ways people parse “fan writer”:

  1. Writing by anybody in the role of being a fan
  2. Writing by a fan rather than a professional writer
  3. A person who writes for fandom
  4. A person who writes fannish things i.e. within the genre of fanwriting

John Scalzi’s Whatever blog or George RR Martin’s Not a Blog hit three of those four but not the second. I see some concern about fan writing including the blogs or other channels of professional writers but I think those two examples strongly hit other (perhaps more vague) senses of fan writing. Both Scalzi and Martin are heavily involved in fandom. However, the professional aspect is a sticking point for some. I’ll come back to that.

A different issue I’ve seen discussed is what people expect from fanwriting. For example, I’ve not seen anybody explicitly say that fiction does not count as fanwriting but when looking at examples of what people expect from fanwriting, fiction doesn’t count. Fanfiction in particular, despite clearly being non-professional and for fans and of fandom(s) is not typically recognized as fanwriting in the Hugo awards. More recently I saw, frankly puzzling, notion that fan-orientated journalism/news-curation etc such as Mike Glyer’s work at File770 isn’t fanwriting, whereas I’d see that as canonically fanwriting (i.e. if I draw a big loop around what might be fanwriting, that is safely in the heartland and away from the outer borders).

I think people have developed an expectation of fanwriting being non-fiction writing in an essay format of matters to do with science fiction/fantasy and in particular:

  • reviews
  • criticism
  • discussion of the state of the genre

Which, OK, can all be fanwriting but not definitively. I wouldn’t think of Damien Walters’s Guardian columns on SF/F as being fanwriting even though his columns there often hit at least two of the possible meaning I listed above. I note also, as The Guardian isn’t behind a paywall, those columns count as generally available electronic media.

Not-paid-for makes for simple criteria (although as I note, not actually in the Hugo rules) but I don’t like that. I’m unambiguously an amateur and not just in the sense of not getting paid but also in the sense that this blog is purely a hobby (and also in the sense that I make no effort to create a polished product!) But amateur status is the essence of privilege — this is a hobby I can afford to have in terms of time and money and security. I don’t have a lingering student debt, I don’t have to work a second job, I don’t have childcare commitments (and when I did I had no time for anything fannish). Trying to use not-being-paid as a criterion becomes terribly exclusionary as well as hard to police in the era of Paetrons, Kickstarters, etc.*

Likewise, the purity of motive in evaluating fan writing can become a pernicious form of gatekeeping. I don’t disagree with a point Patrick Neilsen Hayden is reported as making that fanwriting is a genre in itself and not a junior level of professional writing but it is also NOT-not a “junior varsity” either. In other words, fanwriting can be its own very loose genre AND also be an entry point. Again this mirrors an aspect of fan-fiction — it is a genre or species of writing in itself that requires its own skills some of which are not easily transferred to or from professional fiction writing but it is also a space where potential professional writers learn their craft or find their talent.

Looking at the different types of writing done by this years Hugo nominees for Best Fanwriter, I think the mix was pretty good. It shouldn’t only be essayists and reviewers but it certainly should include them and include people whose working may be partly monetized (either as gigs at paying sources or via online crowd funding options). As a category I think it is in an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ state — a circular definition that fanwriting is what fans see as fanwriting works fine for the Hugos crowdsourced eligibility mechanism. My main dislike of “Best Fanwriter” as a category is that it focuses on the person rather than the work but “Best Fanwriting” would bring all the definitional issues above to the forefront and I suspect the category would collapse under its taxonomic weight.

Alternatives to fanwriting or additions to the category, might include:

  • A Best Related Work – Short Form as a space to reward essays, reports, speeches etc
  • A micro-ficition award
  • A fan-ficiton award

But, I can’t say I find any of those particularly compelling as ideas.

Wait! I promised some point about rugby at the beginning! Actually I know very little about rugby despite growing up in a family with deep connections to Rugby League and also being brought up in one of the strongest centres of Rugby League in the world and somehow now living as far away as possible from where I grew up and STILL live in a place that is mad for Rugby League. Anyway, Rugby League split from Rugby Union as codes of football because working class players needed some pay to keep playing. There’s a metaphor there about priviliege, the use of amateur status as a means of social exclusion and possibly something about cabbage ears. Luckily I don’t have an editor to tell me I need a better metaphor and a snappier conclusion.

Picking Through Hugo Numbers

Some stray observations from here:

No Award

The spectral monster that both haunts and protects the Hugo Awards haven’t gone, it merely manifests less strongly.  No Award didn’t win anything (despite the claim that categories were ‘burnt to the ground’ in 2015) but still go some votes. Four ways of looking at it:

  1. The number of initial votes
  2. The final number of distributed votes after preferences
  3. The initial rank out of 7 it got
  4. The final rank out of 7 it got after distributed preferences
  • Novel: Initial# 42  Initial Rank 7 Final# 134  Final Rank 7
  • Novella: Initial# 40  Initial Rank 7 Final# 160  Final Rank 7
  • Novelette: Initial# 48  Initial Rank 7 Final# 177  Final Rank 7
  • Short Story: Initial# 44  Initial Rank 7 Final# 167  Final Rank 7
  • Series: Initial# 103  Initial Rank 7 Final# 175  Final Rank 7
  • Related: Initial# 45  Initial Rank 7 Final# 135  Final Rank 7
  • Graphic: Initial# 73  Initial Rank 7 Final# 131  Final Rank 7
  • BDP-Long: Initial# 19  Initial Rank 7 Final# 160  Final Rank 7
  • BDP-Short: Initial# 48  Initial Rank 7 Final# 162  Final Rank 7
  • Editor-Long: Initial# 72  Initial Rank 7 Final# 138  Final Rank 7
  • Editor-Long: Initial# 76  Initial Rank 7 Final# 110  Final Rank 7
  • Prof-Artist: Initial# 51  Initial Rank 7 Final# 85  Final Rank 7
  • Semi-pro: Initial# 70  Initial Rank 7 Final# 93  Final Rank 7
  • Fanzine: Initial# 81  Initial Rank 5 Final# 201  Final Rank 7
  • Fancast: Initial# 90  Initial Rank 6 Final# 115  Final Rank 7
  • Fanwriter: Initial# 87  Initial Rank 6 Final# 149  Final Rank 7
  • Fan artist: Initial# 56  Initial Rank 7 Final# 105  Final Rank 7

In all categories the impact of No Award was minimal. I’ve highlighted categories with above-average levels of No Award. There is a constant baseline of fortyish 1st preference votes for No Award in every category. That increase with less voted on categories, which has a double effect on the proportion of votes that go to No Award. However, after preferences, No Award doesn’t make many inroads.

Two notable categories are Best Series, which got the most ‘nopes’ from voters (but still not many) and Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form which only got 19. Obviously there is a bit of a vote against Best Series (which I can sympathise with) but its not big and had zero impact.


EPH distributes nominations in a special way that should reduce the impact of a bloc of voters.

For Best Novel EPH had little impact on the top four nominees. However, it played a significant role in positions 5 and 6. Raw votes for the contenders for positions 5 and 6 were:

  • Collapsing Empire – 134
  • New York 2124 – 128
  • The Stars are Legion – 137
  • Autonomous – 136

Kameron Hurely’s and Annalee Newitz’s books would have been finalists in the old system. Interestingly the final comparison for sixth place ended up being between Raven Stratagem and  The Stars are Legion. It’s an interesting outcome but I think it shows EPH doing what it claims it would do – leading to a set of finalists drawn from a broader base of nominations.

Novella was more conventional, the top 6 raw vote winners were the finalists. Novelette had a raw vote draw for sixth place which was resolved by EPH. Best Series was a bit of a mess due to withdrawls and inelligibility. Other categories were largely dull aside from:

  • Professional Artist, were again there was some EPH action for 5th and 6th place.
  • Fanzine, were BlackGate was unlucky not to get a sixth place position.
  • Fan Artist, again some EPH shuffling of sixth place.



Post Hugo Post

So first off, thank you to everybody who voted for me. It really was special having Robert Silverberg present the awards. Sarah Gailey was a very deserving winner. I had a respectable showing but I guess the most elegant outcome would have been to have lost to No Award :).

Results here and here and breakdown of results are here

There were plenty of surprises but my only disappointment was that The Divine Cities didn’t win Best Series. Bujold is hard to beat though!

I wasn’t surprised, on reflection, that Sana Takeda won best professional artist — Monstress is exquisite and was my top pick for the graphic story — but I was surprised that Victo Ngai didn’t do better.

The did-Uncanny-win-twice thing happened, once for Best Editors and once as Best Semi-prozine. It’s a bit like Best Film and Best Director at the Oscars — it’s not an award for the same thing but winning either has a strong implication that they should win both. The two awards have too much in common currently and it is Best Editor that needs to change. Of course, both Uncanny and the Thomas×2 were deserving winners and I don’t want to take the shine off their rockets.

Sad that Mike Glyer couldn’t make the awards. He also withdrew File770 from further nominations, which was very magnanimous. Winning a Hugo this time in the first puppy free year since 2012 was important.

I haven’t had time to delve into the nomination stats much yet. Interesting to see how EPH works. As a rough rule of thumb, categories where the red highlighted nominees run consistently stepwise along the bottom, are categories were I think EPH probably had little impact. Where there is a bit of a ‘shelf’ with red text over black, it’s more interesting.

In other non-news it looks like the Castalia House blog has started functioning again – which is dissapointing:)