April 24, 2014

Hugo? Hugo who?

Hugo Gernsback, that's who. If you aren't into SF, you probably don't know what the Hugo award is. And you're probably better off for not knowing.

Back in the 1980's I was romantically involved with a woman who was heavily into science fiction fandom. She attended multiple conventions per year, always including the World Science Fiction Convention (AKA "WorldCon", a trademarked term), and while we were involved she dragged me to most of them.

I wasn't really a Fan although I did read SF at the time. So at most conventions I'd seek out the game room and try to stay busy there. (Gamers are viewed as a lower breed; tolerated but not really part of the guild.) The true fans? You've never seen such a load of self-important people in your life.

SF fans themselves are aware of this phenomenon and have a term SMOF for such amongst them. It stands for Secret Masters of Fandom and refers to the folks who think they're doing something far more significant and important than just reading books and hanging out. (And drinking beer.)

SMOFs have a place in life, and the rest of us who attended conventions were grateful. It's the SMOFs who are willing to put in dozens or hundreds of hours organizing the cons so the rest of us could attend. But they could still become rather annoying at times.

In Boston (where I lived at the time) the center of SMOFdom was NESFA, the New England Science Fiction Association, whose club house was in Cambridge. NESFA basically was in the business of putting on Boskone every year. They spend the entire year organizing for each year's Boskone. And they've been doing it for decades. (The first Boskone was in 1941.)

NESFA and Boskone got so insufferable that eventually another group started putting on their own convention, which they named Arisia. (Which is a fannish joke. "Boskone" were the villains in the classic Lensman series, and "Arisia" were the good guys.)

Anyway, back to the WorldCons and the Hugo awards. The first Worldcon was held in 1939 in NYC, and for a long time it was US-exclusive. But eventually they started holding them other places in the world. Groups in various cities put together bid committees and attend conventions and Worldcons to try to advertise their bids, and each year at the Worldcon there is a vote on where the con two years out (IIRC) will be, so as to give the winning bid committee a reasonable amount of time to do their organizing.

The voters are everyone who attend the convention, or who pay for a membership and don't bother attending. And it's become something of an agreement in fandom that it should be held outside of North America every third year. (Though apparently that pattern has broken recently.)

Everyone who buys a membership also receives a ballot for the Hugos, to be mailed in before the con by a particular date. I never bothered, but you wouldn't believe how seriously some people take that. It's a big responsibility, you understand. The fate of the world depends on making a good choice. Or so it seemed.

Back then, I don't recall that anyone ever paid attention to author ideology, but given the way that Political Correctness has invaded everything else, I'm not at all surprised to learn that it's taken over the Hugo award process as well.

"We can't give the award to him no matter how good his book is! He's one'a them Conservatives!" Sheesh.

The most amazing thing of all about the process is that so many people think it actually matters who wins. I never understood that.

After I broke up with her, I stopped being involved in fandom. It was never anything that mattered much to me, but she expected me to go with her, and I admit it was kind of fun. In 1990 it was in The Hague, so that's the only time I've ever been outside of North America.

Not all the events that are planned are about SF. At The Hague one of the events was a beer tasting. The idea was the people would bring beer from their home nations and share it around. Now this was just about the time that the American Craft Beer revolution was beginning, and in Europe we still had the reputation of carbonating horse piss and calling it beer. So I took a six-pack of Anchor Porter with me. Which was heavy and a hassle, but I did manage to get one Brit to do a double take after he tasted (and liked) it, and I told him it was from San Francisco. "Let me see that bottle!"

The Netherlands is a beautiful country. I can't imagine living there but I'm glad I visited it.

For that matter, the only time I've ever been in DC was to attend a con.

But in the end, those kinds of cons are sounds of furiousness signifying nothing (or whatever that phrase is) and the people who get the most enjoyment out of them are the ones who don't take it so seriously. (And spend their time hanging out and drinking beer.)

And as to the Hugo awards? They're beauty contests. I never took them very seriously before my stint in fandom, and now I don't grant them any credence whatever.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in General Entertainment at 04:58 PM | Comments (27) | Add Comment
Post contains 898 words, total size 6 kb.

1 Larry's entire End Puppies Sadness II operation is just to demonstrate what an absurd process this whole thing has become.  And the response have validated his theory.

Posted by: BigFire at April 24, 2014 05:49 PM (KnlFg)

2

It would be hard to see how a Gene Wolfe or a Jerry Pournelle could win the Hugo now, sadly.

It use to be possible to leave politics behind when we experienced most entertainment (Not entirely, but even then, a good story that advocated a certain stance had to a good story first.).  Now that is no longer possible.  It does not even require a Vox Day-level iconoclast to get the outrage lobby active - if the writer and his/her/its story does not have the proper take, they will be destroyed.

I am still amused over last year's controversy which riled the writers' community, regarding the SFWA's official magazine.  Irony indeed, that the editor responsible for the 'sexist' content and who resigned over it, was a woman, Jean Rabe, who is an experienced fantasy author in her own right and had worked on the production and editorial staff of Dungeons and Dragons, among other things.

 

Posted by: cxt217 at April 24, 2014 06:19 PM (8T/QO)

3

Have you heard what they tried to do to Orson Scott Card? See, he's a Mormon and he doesn't support gay marriage, and the Right Thinkers tried to organize a boycott of the "Ender's Game" movie because of it.

It was a really big deal in some quarters for about a month last year.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 24, 2014 06:56 PM (+rSRq)

4 What blows me away is that John Scalzi won last year.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 24, 2014 06:59 PM (+rSRq)

5 A better reason to avoid Ender's Game would be that its a fairly crappy movie, by most accounts.  Which doesn't shock; adapting the parts of the book that make it good would be *really* hard.

As for cons, I go to a few, but don't take them too seriously.  I don't think even the organizers of Katsucon ( anime ) or Balticon ( sci-fi ) view them as anything more than an opportunity to get together and have fun ( and make lots of money hopefully, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with that ).  Needless to say, neither have any world renown awards associated with them.

Posted by: metaphysician at April 24, 2014 07:40 PM (3GCAl)

6 Why should that be surprising?  Scalzi is a fully approved member of the literati, and his books got a heavy marketing push in all the right media.  I liked Captain Vorpartil's Alliance, but the fact that it was a nominee for best novel says horrible things about the state of the industry.  I haven't read anything else on the list, and from what I know of those author's other works, I don't expect to.  With that competition, a novel from a known name with a trekkie tie-in was the obvious leader, even if it wasn't that good a book.

Posted by: TheSquirrelPatrol at April 24, 2014 07:40 PM (da+4f)

7

Orson Scott Card had been getting pretty close raising the ire of outrage lobby before they jumped on his shared stance towards same-sex marriage with Barak Obama.  He was quite vocal about both fighting Islamic terrorism and supporting Israel, which already give him two more black marks.

A more subtle case is what happened to Elizabeth Moon in the past year, where the fact she disagree with the opinions of the feminist lobby got her disinvited from one convention and repeatedly slandered.  I doubt Moon, who is a veteran Marine officer, was impressed.

As a sidenote, both Moon and Larry Correia both are published by Baen.  The late Jim Baen always had good taste.

Posted by: cxt217 at April 24, 2014 07:47 PM (8T/QO)

8

 I don't think even the organizers of Katsucon ( anime ) or Balticon ( sci-fi ) view them as anything more than an opportunity to get together and have fun ( and make lots of money hopefully, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with that ).  Needless to say, neither have any world renown awards associated with them.

With the possible exception of Anime Expo, I do not think any of the domestic anime cons really care to give awards, or at least have the pretension to try to do so.  On something that is appreciated by me, at least I do not have to worry about politics whenever I go to Otakon (Or at least, Otakon did not have the 'Voices for Peace' idiocy that a bunch of na├»ve peacenik VAs decided to stage back in the mid 2000s.).

Posted by: cxt217 at April 24, 2014 07:52 PM (8T/QO)

9 Considering how big it is, ComiCon is rather unpretentious. The only demonstration I think I've ever heard of was one year when Fred Phelps decided to picket the place. A bunch of the attendees decided to have a counter-demonstration.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 24, 2014 08:30 PM (+rSRq)

10 I imagine it helps that comics have *never* been a particularly respected medium.  Its hard to be Serious Business when everyone views your fandom as a kid's pastime, and has for decades.

( not that there aren't toxic strains of elitism in the fandom, quite the opposite. . . but they don't manifest in the same ways your talking about, at all )

Posted by: metaphysician at April 24, 2014 08:46 PM (3GCAl)

11 As the previously referred controversy with Jean Rabe showed, even long time liberals like Barry N. Malzberg and Mike Resnick aren't immune.

Posted by: muon at April 25, 2014 05:45 AM (XIprt)

12 I avoided the Enders Game movie under the assumption that it would be bad. As noted upthread, the best bits of the novel are inside Ender's head, and that's notoriously difficult to translate to movies. Constant voice-overs get annoying. And it's really hard to find a child actor with enough acting skill to bring subtle emotions and thoughts to the audience's visibility- that sort of thing takes both talent and experience.

As to the Hugos, I talked about the sales bump with a SF editor I'm acquainted with on the internet. If memory serves, for a novel a Hugo nomination generally leads to between a hundred and a thousand extra sales, which isn't a lot. Winning a Hugo is worth between a thousand and a few thousand, which is quite good for genre works.

Posted by: Boviate at April 25, 2014 07:57 AM (CeQ+R)

13 I was going to avoid seeing Enders Game in the theater until people starting calling for a boycott.  I'm glad I went - it was actually a good movie.  They were able to stage some scenes well that I thought would have been impossible.  Not as good as the book, to be sure, but still an enjoyable flick.

Posted by: Siergen at April 25, 2014 01:47 PM (WVGDf)

14 It's fair to say that Scalzi's politics are completely in line with the SFWA as observed (he was the president a year ago, for that matter), and that those politics are definitely not the ones you would assume from reading Old Man's War. I keep up with his blog pretty regularly, mostly because it's generally interesting - even when he's pretty far out on the left he's not frothingly so.

It's good sometimes to be an anime fan and not have to worry about all this privilege this, author's politics that stuff. I just have to wonder what the people who freak out about Card would think about The Manga Artist and His Assistants or all the sister-con stuff from recent years...

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at April 25, 2014 06:17 PM (zJsIy)

15

 It's good sometimes to be an anime fan and not have to worry about all this privilege this, author's politics that stuff.

Generally true, except for the occasional "America is bad/evil" that appears in anime - which comes with the territory.  Same with the kind of radical environmentalism message found in some other titles.

Some of the people on the English-language production side do not make it easy to separate entertainment from politics (I still remember Pixy's acerbic take on one of them from years ago - gives me chuckles even today.).

I am not sure whether Larry Correia's or Elizabeth Moon's books are to my taste, I disagree with Vox Day more often than not, and I have found Orson Scott Card's work entertaining if not particularly noteworthy, but every time I see a controversy like the past couple ones erupt, it makes me want to buy some of their books.

Posted by: cxt217 at April 25, 2014 08:08 PM (akMxn)

16 Whedon is like Scalzi in that he writes self-reliant characters but is pretty leftist.

Posted by: RickC at April 25, 2014 08:49 PM (0a7VZ)

17 They didn't hand out Hugo awards at the 1939 Worldcon, and since this is the 75th anniversary, they'll be doing it this year.  The nominees are E. E. Smith, Jack Williamson, T. H. White, C. S. Lewis, and Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Which is a much more interesting lineup than this year's actual nominees, though Charles Stross's Neptune's Brood is pretty good.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at April 26, 2014 09:32 AM (PiXy!)

18 I'd have to vote for Burroughs.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 26, 2014 10:46 AM (+rSRq)

19 Wow, tough lineup.  And multiple tempting spite-votes ( do you pick the avowedly Christian writer, or the avowedly pro-modern civilization writer? ).

Posted by: metaphysician at April 27, 2014 07:47 AM (3GCAl)

20

And speaking of the politicization of the private sphere...

 

 

Posted by: cxt217 at April 28, 2014 06:56 PM (qTyyx)

21 Scalzi responds in detail to the "Heinlein couldn't win a Hugo" argument at metafilter:
http://www.metafilter.com/138967/Reclaiming-Heinlein#5537300

Posted by: azizhp at May 09, 2014 11:55 AM (LclDE)

22 oops didnt format the link - here it is: http://www.metafilter.com/138967/Reclaiming-Heinlein#5537300

Posted by: azizhp at May 09, 2014 11:56 AM (LclDE)

23 I'm not impressed with Scalzi's strawman. Amusingly, the very next comment is a too-perfect-to-parody Leftist groupthinker who's never met anyone to the right of Michael Moore: "I find fascinating the idea that there are right-wing science-fiction authors. I mean, science-fiction, more than any other genre, deals with the future, with change, with possibility."

-j

Posted by: J Greely at May 10, 2014 07:48 AM (1CisS)

24

Sadly, there are a lot of people like that on Metafilter. It's the reason I use a pseudonym there.

I used to, but I caught so much grief that I created a new pseudonymous account and closed the previous one.

But, by gum, they're open-minded and inclusive! Just ask them!

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 10, 2014 08:16 AM (+rSRq)

25 Scalzi's argument seems to be that Heinlein would have been smart enough to keep his political beliefs in the closet.

Posted by: muon at May 11, 2014 05:40 AM (XIprt)

26 Scalzi's argument seems to be that Heinlein would have been smart enough to keep his political beliefs in the closet.

He pretty much did that anyway.

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 11, 2014 06:33 AM (OKRM1)

27 The same argument applies to Scalzi. I'm boycotting him because he had to go around telling people that "Ted Cruz is the biggest asshole ever". Looks like Heinlein is still smarter!

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at May 11, 2014 07:14 AM (RqRa5)

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