The Hugo awards ceremony this weekend has drawn outcries from those who are dismayed at the treatment of diverse voices in the science fiction and fantasy fields we love. I don’t want to take time cataloging small slights and larger injustices. Instead, here’s one thing I can and will do to work toward positive change.
Spoiler alert: Like many aspects of our lives, it’s about the money.
Some years ago, I made a concerted effort to record what fiction I bought and read, with a focus on finding marvelous new writers, including some who have been doing great work for decades but get overlooked. That felt right, even joyful.
But it still wasn’t enough.
Then Patreon came along and I began kicking in modest amounts to support writers and publications whose work I admired and devoured. Last year I took a hard look at my list and saw that the number of white men were over-represented by a lot. I thought about why this might be. I do think it was partly a function of who had publicized their Patreon and who was more assertive in seeking support. Those reasons matter not at all. I knew I needed to be more inclusive. So I added more marvelous creators. Again, that felt better, and encouraging.
But this, too, isn’t enough.
Today is the first of the month, a day on which Patreon sends me a list of who I support and the dollar amounts for each one. Doing some basic arithmetic, I see that the white men are still over-represented in total financial donations by a fair bit. Sure, I can explain how one person has dropped out and I added another and I increased my financial support for another two. But the point remains. It still isn’t enough.
The best time to fix this would have been when I first joined Patreon. The next best time is now.
It’s that time of year, once again, when writers set out to gently remind our faithful–but perhaps forgetful–readers as to what we published that is eligible for the Hugo and Nebula awards, as well as for the plethora of other literary awards.
For me, it’s simple: most of my work was either nonfiction, like my 2 Analog guest editorials, or reprints of previously published stories. However, I did have one novelette published in the April 2016 issue of Analog. It’s title is, “Diamond Jim and the Dinosaurs.” I’d be honored if you’d give it a look-see because who doesn’t need to read about dinosaurs roaming around Antarctica?
As for next year, I’ve got a passel of new dinosaurs, with extra ferocity, ready to serve up to my readers!
No I’m not talking about the impending holidays; they’ve been in full swing for weeks now. I mean it’s barely mid-November, we’ve not had a hard frost yet, and already I’m getting notices urging me to nominate stories and novels for various awards–Hugos and Nebulas most prominently. Grumble. Sigh. Make no mistake, I do appreciate my friends and fellow writers letting me know what they’ve come out with that is award-eligible, and I fully intend to make nominations in various categories, but there’s a month and a half left in 2015, during which time, there will be plenty of good new stuff coming out. To say nothing of the fact that my To-Be-Read pile is threatening to topple and bury my electronic devices containing yet more unread prose. I’ll blog about some stories and novels I quite enjoyed this year, but not until I get that pile under a little more control. Maybe next month. More likely January.
Even so, I love receiving the notices. If nothing else, they’re a terrific reminder of how much a number of my friends have achieved in an extraordinarily competitive field. I’m proud of every one of you!
As for me, the stories I sold this year won’t find their way into print until next year. I did have two guest editorials published in Analog (The Future Is Prologue and Conspiracy Theories for Everybody), but nothing in the fiction categories.
I’ve returned from Sasquan, the World Science Fiction Convention thinking about the fact that in two of the three short fiction categories, no Hugos were awarded this year. Nor were Hugos given out to editors of long or short works. While there are reasons for this turn of events, which are discussed at great length elsewhere, I find that there is another troublesome development, even setting aside the political and social divisions running through the science fiction community. Namely, even in more tranquil years, short stories, novelettes, and novellas do not get the love—meaning readers, publicity, and money—that they merit. As a writer of short fiction, I’ve even had intelligent people who love good books out-and-out say with a sniff that they don’t read short stories. While I do share their love of sinking into a wondrous novel, it saddens me that these readers are missing out on so much.
They are missing out on two wonderful things. First, a writer can take risks in short fiction that might crash and burn at novel length. Some fascinating ideas and set-ups are perfectly-suited, even stunning when embodied in short stories but couldn’t be sustained at novel length. (Naturally, the trick for the writer is to discern which ones are which.) The ideas that coalesced into my second-person account of limbo dancing during the zombie apocalypse would have collapsed at a longer length.
The second reason to read short fiction is to discover some terrific new writers whose imagination, attitudes, and unique voices will bring you pleasure for years before these writers get their first novel published. With a minimal investment of time and money, you can try out new writers and unfamiliar magazines. What with so many people bemoaning their lack of time for reading, I want to point out that you can download and read short stories on your smart phone while standing in line at the grocery store or the DMV or while commuting via mass transit. It’s never been easier.
Oh and while you’re at it, make a note of the shorter works that bowled you over with their goodness. Anybody can take part in the selection of the Locus awards, Anlab ballot, and a number of other awards. If you have some selections already picked out, doing so will be a breeze.
It’s that time of year again for readers of science fiction and fantasy to make nominations for the Hugo awards. In fact the Hugo nomination deadline is March 10, 2015. It’s also time for writers belonging to the Science Fiction Writers of America to make nominations for Nebula awards. That deadline is February 1,2015. Yikes, both dates are right around the corner!
Every year I stumble upon the usual spate of articles bemoaning the fact that “too few” people submit nominations for the Hugo and Nebula awards, with the bemoaners asserting that the nominations have been rendered less meaningful by reduced participation. I don’t have a lot of patience with this viewpoint. Instead, I have an idea … If you’re reading my blog because you are interested in science fiction and/or fantasy stories, you might consider making some nominations if you are eligible to do so, and voting when the time comes.
So what is worthy of being nominated as one of the best science fiction or fantasy works of 2014? It seems like I go through the same mental process each year. First, I absolutely intend to make some nominations because there are several terrific novels and shorter works that were published in the last year. But wait, there are so many stories, long and short, that I did not read, and didn’t even open. How can I possibly put forward informed choices?
Then I remind myself that absolutely everyone who nominates is in this same position. There are hundreds of choices (or maybe more?) if you consider every science fiction and fantasy work that was published in 2014. Nobody could attempt to get even a cursory overview of everything out there. So, I’d better start making my selections because that excuse won’t cut it.
After I’ve drawn up a preliminary list, I usually see that it seems skewed toward those publications I like best, such as Analog. Well, Analog did publish 3 of my stories over the years, and one of those, “Dino Mate,” is eligible in the 2014 short story category. How could I not find that Analog stories speak to me? That’s one reason why I’ve read more of that magazine this year than any other periodical.
So I usually start by figuring out my choices for the Analog Readers Choice Awards. This is a marvelous award as it is chosen by Analog readers. You don’t have to qualify to be a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, which is for professional writers. Nor do you have to be a member of any science fiction convention or group, which can be pricey. Anyone can fill out the Analog ballot by February 1, 2015 in the comfort of your own computer. Here it is:
But getting back to the Hugos and Nebulas, my next step after deciding on my AnLab choices is to take a look at the Tangent On Line Recommended Reading List. I love that the Tangent reviewers make such an outstanding effort to look at nearly every novella, novelette and short story that has been published in the past year. However, even just looking at what they recommend can be a lot, so I tend to focus especially those works that have 2 or 3 stars or that are written by the ever-growing list of writers whose works I admire. Here’s this year’s Tangent list:
One last thought—I’ll undoubtedly have missed some great stuff when I submit my nominations. Not to worry; I’ll be sure to read all those nominees when it comes time to vote for the Nebulas and Hugos.
Whenever I attend the World Science Fiction Convention or Nebula Weekend, I go to the Hugo or Nebula award ceremonies. Not only do I invariably have friends and mentors who’ve been nominated, but I always vote and tend to feel passionately about the merits of particular works. No, I won’t tell you, my dear readers, which works from years past or present that I feel were overlooked for the win, or not even nominated. You can certainly find such opinions on many other blogs, and if you’re reading this, you probably have your own ideas. But what I can talk about is the emotion in the room when winners are announced. There is nothing in the world like hearing the cheers for a writer or editor who has poured heart and soul into a work, and had major doubts and been stymied along the way, who is then so richly rewarded.
Someone asked me this year which is the “bigger” award – the Hugo or the Nebula, and I found it a hard question to answer. The two awards are given out by different groups. The Hugo is voted on by supporting and attending members of the World Science Fiction Convention. They tend to be readers, writers, editors, agents, gamers, costumers, and others with connections to the field. The Nebulas are voted on by active members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and they are professional writers. So it largely comes down to the difference between recognition by ones fans who read one’s work and recognition by one’s peers who are also writers. Since I write about imaginary stuff, I got to wondering what would happen if a writer were to rub a magic lamp and the genie gave the writer their choice between winning a Hugo and a Nebula award for a particular work of fiction. If the writer could only pick one or the other, which would he or she chose? Well, I suppose if he or she already had one of those awards but not the other, the choice might well be the one the writer does not have. But what if he or she has neither or both?