Hugos Happened

As Twitter followers will know, I was in Belfast over the weekend for an LGBT History conference. When I got home on Monday night and checked my email I found a message to the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee telling us that the announcement of the winners would take place on Tuesday. The announcement was due to be made at 6:00am California time, and Kevin is sick, so it fell to me to get the details online. Thankfully I had a working from home day and was able to do so.

The full list of finalists is available here. As usual there is much that I am delighted about (especially Dirty Computer), and much that is entirely new to me.

Elsewhere I have seen a bunch of fans my age complaining that they haven’t read any of the finalists, and indeed may not have heard of them. This seems bizarre to me. I own 5 of the 6 Novel finalists, and have finished reading three of them. I also own all 6 Novella finalists and have finished 3. I have read at least some books in 5 of the 6 finalist series. Some of the books I nominated are finalists, though inevitably not all of them because there’s a lot of good stuff out there.

I will admit that the Novelette and Short Story ballots are full of works I haven’t read, but that’s because I don’t have time to read magazines and anthologies as well as novels. That’s always been the case.

There are a few works that I’m disappointed not to see on the ballot. In my humble opinion, The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley should be in the Novel list; Time Was by Ian McDonald should be in Novella (though he might have declined seeing as he’s a Guest of Honour); and She-Ra should be in BDP: Long. But really I can’t complain. There’s plenty to vote for. I’m looking forward to the ceremony.

It’s Nominatin’ Time

The deadline for submitting nominations for this year’s Hugos is on Friday. To help you on your way, here are a few things you might not have considered.

In the Lodestar, the brilliant Anna-Marie McLemore has a 2018 novel, Blanca & Roja.

In the Campbell I shall continue to keep my fingers crossed for K Arsenault Rivera. If she doesn’t win this year, Shefali & Shizuka may get a bit angry, and no one wants that.

For fan writer I want to put in a good word for Bogi Takács who has been doing a fine job in writing about fiction by trans authors. I’m also nominating Bogi in Editor: Short for Transcendent 3.

In Fancast I would suggest that you check out Breaking the Glass Slipper, which has done some very fine feminist work over the past year.

I am woefully out of touch with what is happening in fanzines, but when it comes to semiprozines I will always have a place on my ballot for Tähtivaeltaja.

I am equally clueless about art and art books. I see that there is a book of the art of Into the SpiderVerse, but artist friends tell me that such books generally have poor reproduction quality as they are intended to cash in on the movie, not sell to art lovers.

In Editor: Long I’m nominating Navah Wolfe who has done great work with writers such as Rebecca Roanhorse and Rivers Solomon.

Dramatic: Short will doubtless be full of Doctor Who episodes again, but I’m nominating “Man of Steel” from Supergirl, Season 4. It is a fine description of how circumstances can conspire to turn ordinary people into far-right extremists. Kara and the DEO are partly to blame, because they can’t be everwhere all the time.

Dramatic: Long is going to be a fabulous fight between Black Panther and Into the SpiderVerse, but please do’t forget Dirty Computer: The Emotion Picture. Also season 1 of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is eligible. If it isn’t on your ballot, Catra and I will want to know why.

In Related Work I’d like to put in a good word for my pal Jason Heller’s Strange Stars, because we all need a book about the likes of David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix.

Series is a category that is still finding its feet. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Emma Newman’s wonderful Planetfall books, and of course for Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire.

I don’t read much short fiction at all, but I do want to put in a good word for GV Anderson. “Waterbirds” is available on Lightspeed.

Novellas are a different matter these days. They are available as books, I’m reading a lot, and it is a hugely competitive category. Much as I love Murderbot, my top pick this year is The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark.

And finally, in Novel, I’m sure you are all nominating Space Opera and Blackfish City, but please don’t forget The Mere Wife. Also I’m going to be nominating The Green Man’s Heir, because any book that can sell over 8000 copies despite being published by me has to be a work of genius.

Congratulations, Neil!

I’ve tweeted about this last week, but I wanted to do a proper blog post as well. Neil Clarke, of Clarkesworld Magazine, is to be one of the recipients of the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award at this year’s SFWA Nebula Conference. The Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award is given by SFWA for distinguished contributions to the science fiction and fantasy community, and his many years of editing Clarkesworld certainly qualifies Neil for that. Not only has he massively raised the profile of short fiction, he has also done wonderful things for SF in translation. I’m very pleased for him.

This year’s other Solstice recipient is Nisi Shawl who, as well as being a wonderful writer, has done great work through the Carl Brandon Society. I don’t know her as well as I know Neil, but she is a very worthy recipient.

Dirty Computer & The Hugos

Yes, it is that time of year again: Hugo neepery time. Over the past few days I have seen several people talking about nominating Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer. There has been much confusion over categories, so I’m here to explain.

As with the clipping material that was on the final ballot for the past two years, Monáe’s music belongs in the Dramatic Presentation categories.

The dividing line between Long Form and Short Form in these categories is 90 minutes (as stated here). So Dirty Computer is definitely Short Form, no matter which version you nominate.

Which version? Ah yes, here is the difficulty. “Dirty Computer” is the title of two different things. There is Dirty Computer the album, which is composed entirely of music, and there is Dirty Computer the Emotion Picture, which is a short film about an android called Jane 57821, and which features most of the songs from the album.

One of the things about the Hugos is that Hugo Administrators very rarely make public pronouncements about eligibility. That means we have to second guess them. I’m not privy to the inside of Nicholas Whyte’s brain, but I am fairly sure that he will view these two versions as separate works. One is solely a piece of music, the other is a film with a script and actors. They are both eligible in the same category.

Now of course you could always nominate both of them. You have six slots, after all. But if you are also filling your ballot up with episodes of Supergirl and a whole lot of lesser TV series (me, biased, surely not?) then you might not have space for both.

I’m going to ask you, if you only have space for one, to nominate Dirty Computer the Emotion Picture. Why? Because I think it has wider appeal than just the album. Fans of the music will love it regardless, and those who want something more substantial than a concept album will have the movie (starring Monáe and Tessa Thompson) to consider as well.

Your ballot entry should therefore be for: Dirty Computer the Emotion Picture; Janelle Monáe, Andrew Donoho & Chuck Lightning; Wondaland.

Donoho and Lightning are the directors, Monáe wrote all of the music and, as far as I know, the script as well.

On, and if you want to watch the film before making up your mind, you can find it on YouTube. It isn’t embeddable so you’ll need to click through. And you’ll need to log in to see it because it contains naughty words and sexy stuff.

Crawford Award 2019

In addition to the Locus Recommending Reading List, the other thing I do a lot of reading for each year is the Crawford Award. That is for a first fantasy book. This year it has been won by RF Kuang’s widely lauded The Poppy War. That’s hardly a surprising winner, but those of us involved in the process had many spirited discussions about other books, some of which have not had so much publicity. The short list is well worth checking out as well. Here it is:

  • The Black God’s Drums, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Breath of the Sun, Rachel Fellman (Aqueduct)
  • Armed in Her Fashion, Kate Heartfield (ChiZine)
  • Half-Witch, John Schoffstall (Big Mouth)
  • Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

I should also add that it was an absolute pleasure to work with Mimi Mondal. I have learned so much about India and the Indian literary scene from her.

Awards Eligibility Post

As you may have noticed, the Hugo Award nominating period has opened for this year. Consequently everyone is making eligibility posts. I wasn’t too fussed about that until I discovered that Jim Fitzpatrick is designing this year’s trophy base. As he is one of my favorite artists, I can’t wait to see what it looks like. And obviously I would love to have one.

Unfortunately I haven’t done much award-worthy in the past year. I have been too busy doing trans stuff. Technically I am eligible for Fan Writer, but I have done so little that it would be wrong to nominate me. And anyway, I have one of those already.

I do have one published short story from last year. It is called “A Piece of the Puzzle” and it appeared in the anthology, The Hotwells Horror, which a bunch of us put together to celebrate the life of the late David J Rodger. The story is set in Prohibition-era New York and features a young woman called Sonia Greene who has ambitions to be a writer. All of the profits from the sale of the book go to the mental health charity, MIND, so you would be doing a good thing by buying a copy.

It also occurs to me that my keynote speech from Worlding SF is a Related Work of sorts. You can watch the whole thing for free here.

Most importantly, however, The Green Man’s Heir is an eligible novel. Competition in the Hugos is fierce, but I would love to see Juliet appear in the also-ran list. And if you happen to be a member of the British Fantasy Society, you know what you need to do.

Clarkesworld News – Award and Bristol Appearance

I don’t have the time to keep up with my former colleagues at Clarkesworld as much as I would like these days, but I do keep an eye open for what they are doing. Today I’m delighted to report that the 2018 Small Press Award, given by the Washington Science Fiction Association, has gone to Suzanne Palmer’s “The Secret Life of Bots”. The story did win the Hugo for Novelette as well, but that news tended to get lost in the excitement around Nora Jemisin’s historic hat trick. This time around the glory is all Suzanne’s.

Also another former non-fiction editor of Clarkesworld, Jason Heller, will be appearing in Bristol in October. He’s going to be at Bristol Library on the evening of Monday, October 22nd, to promote his new book, Strange Stars. This is about the symbiosis between pop music and science fiction in the 1970s. It makes a perfect start to BristolCon week. Tickets are available here.

Today on Ujima – Hugos, SF, Cricket, REWS & Aretha

Today’s show was centred around a tribute to Aretha Franklin. I played a lot of her music, and I’m sure you are familiar with much of it.

I did run through the list of Hugo winners, because with several of the major fiction awards going to black women that’s very much of interest to my listeners. And I had a woman science fiction writer on the show. That was Anne Corlett whose novel, The Space Between the Stars, I very much enjoyed.

The Listen Again system malfunctioned again for that hour. Apparently it is some sort of BT issue. But we have the archived audio and I have podcast the interview with Anne so you can listen to it.

My second guest was slightly late due to Bristol traffic so I kicked off with coverage of the Women’s cricket. That included my interview with Raf Nicholson which I did between the two matches on Finals Day.

Then I spent a happy half an hour talking to Shauna Tohill of the all-girl rock band, REWS. She was lovely, and I love their music.

Also there was more Aretha.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here. I will podcast the interviews with Shauna & Raf in due course.

The playlist for today was:

  • Aretha Franklin – Say a Little Prayer
  • Rumer – Aretha
  • Arthea Franklin – Eleanor Rigby
  • Arthea Franklin – Bridge over Troubled Water
  • Aretha Franklin – Rock Steady
  • Whitney Houston – My Love is Your Love
  • Tina Turner – One of the Living
  • REWS – Shake Shake
  • REWS – Miss You in the Dark
  • Aretha Franklin – Respect
  • Aretha Franklin – Spanish Harlem
  • Aretha Franklin – Wholy Holy

And, thanks to the magic of YouTube, here are the two REWS tracks that I played.

Hugo Participation Trends

Yeah, I know I said I was just doing a post on the Hugo Study Committee Report and then I’d be done. However, this morning I listened to the new episode of The Coode Street Podcast in which Gary and Jonathan talk to Jo Walton about her book, An Informal History of the Hugos. A couple of things Jo said had me sit up and take notice, so I thought I would write about them.

The first point is an object lesson in how easy it is to think that something is traditional and has always been the way things were done. Jo, Gary and Jonathan were lamenting the lack of success that Iain M. Banks had in the Hugos. Jo noted that Banks had not had the advantage of the extra year of eligibility for works initially published outside the USA. That’s a rule I know well, and I was slightly surprised, so I checked the history. It was in 2002 that we added a rule giving works in English published outside the UK a shot at an extra year, but you needed a 3/4 vote in the Business Meeting. It wasn’t until 2014 that the extra year became automatic. So Jo was right, Banks did not get to use this feature of the Hugo rules. It is much more recent than I rememered.

Jo also mentioned that Hugo participation, in terms of numbers of voters, was increasing, and noted the effect of the Puppies on this. Given that it is my job to worry about bandwidth limits on the Hugo Awards website, I figured that the story wasn’t that simple, and I was right.

The following chart shows the total number of Hugo voters in the Final Ballot stage, the numbers that nominated in Novel, and the number of Final Ballots that express a preference in the Novel and Best Dramatic Presentation: Long categories. These are the categories that traditionally get the most interest. I stopped my historical digging at 2009 because that year’s data did not give separate participation data for each category.

The level of participation is almost 3 times what it was in 2009, but it has dropped significantly since the peak of 2015 when all fandom came together to repell the Puppy Incursion. What’s more it appears to be still dropping. That’s not altogether surprising, but it is something we need to be concerned about.

There are some interesting pieces of data as well. 2016 is notable in being a year (probably the only year) in which the number of voters participating in the nominating stage is higher than the number participating in the final ballot. That’s becaue a lot of people joined the 2015 Worldcon to join the fight against the Puppies, and were eligible to nominate in 2016, but having seen that the Puppies were mostly beaten they opted not to join again.

2017 is notable for being a year where a lot of people who particpated in the final ballot did not vote in the Novel category. That’s why I checked BDP: Long. Sure enough, I found that a lot more people participated in that than in Novel, which is also unusual. The obvious reason is that a significant number of voters were not native English speakers. While most Finns have very good English, reading six whole novels must have seemed a bit daunting. Movies were quite likely subtitle or translated.

Digging the Hugo Data

For seasoned Hugo watchers there’s nothing better than poring over the vast pile of stats that gets released after the award ceremony. Because it was 6:30am and I’d had very little sleep I had to put that pleasure off for a while this year, but I have finally got around to digging into the data. Here are some observations.

The thing that jumped out at me is that not one single Finalist finished below No Award this year. Last year we were still dealing with the zombie tail of the Puppy Infestation and several Finalists, including VD himself, were hit with the Loving Mallet of No Award. This year the Mallet was not required. This is surely a good sign.

I’m also pleased to note that all of the categories were quite competitive. In previous years we have had categories that resulted in first round victories for one of the Finalists. The closest we came to that this year was in Fanzine where File 770 needed just one more round to secure the win.

Having said that, in most categories the Finalist with the most first round votes normally held the lead throughout. That wasn’t always the case, however. The Campbell was a thrilling race with the lead swapping back and fore between Rebecca Roanhorse and Vina Jie-Min Prasad. The began counting on 324 first preference votes each. At the end of the 5th round they were tied with 437 votes each. Redistributions from Rivers Solomon finally gave the win the Roanhorse. It makes you wish that the vote tallying had been televised (except that both Finalists might have had heart attacks in the process).

What does interest me is the contrast between nominations and first preference votes. In some categories everything proceeded as expected. For example in Novel, Nora Jemisin got easily the most nominations and easily the most first preference votes. Murderbot’s domination of Novella was even more pronounced. Not every category was like that. Possibly the most interesting was BDP: Short where, of the two episodes from The Good Place, “Michael’s Gambit” got more than twice as many nominations as “The Trolley Problem”, but the latter got a lot more first preferences and went on to win.

Incidentally, BDP: Short also gives the lie to the oft-repeated myth about “splitting the vote”. That’s important in the nomination stage, but once you get to the final ballot the vote redistribution works in your favor. It was precisely the huge chunk of preferences it got from “Michael’s Gambit” that allowed “The Trolley Problem” to pull ahead of the Black Mirror episode.

The lower rankings were mostly more or less as I expected. I was surprised that New York 2140 did so poorly, and diappointed that “The Deep” did the same. Philip Pullman finishing last in the Lodestar was also a bit of a surprise.

Finally a few notes on the also-rans. Kameron Hurley and Analee Newitz lost Finalist slots to John Scalzi and Kim Stanley Robinson in Novel thanks to the EPH voting system. That shows that a significant segment of the voters in Novel had similar tastes. It will doubtless be a source of great joy to Men’s Rights Activists everywhere that EPH kicked a couple of women off the ballot and gave one of those places to John Scalzi instead.

Liz Gorinsky (Editor Long) and Julie Dillon (Professional Artist) both declined nomination, as did Emma & Pete Newman for Tea & Jeopardy in Fancast. I’m sad that we didn’t have our local heroes to cheer for, but I’ve done the same thing so I can’t complain.

Of the other local candidates, Gemma Anderson finished 9th in the Campbell. That’s her second year of eligibility so her last chance, but given her talent I expect to see more fiction awards in her future. In Fancast, Breaking the Glass Slipper, featuring Exeter-based Lucy Hounsom, was 11th. It is a good, feminist podcast that I’m sure would have a wider appeal if more of you knew about it. With Dublin being so close to us, the mighty South West Block Vote might come into play next year.

I think that’s it for the numbers. There’s one more thing I want to talk about, which is the report of the Hugo Study Committee. We’ve had enough Hugos for now, though. I’ll leave that for another day.

Best Dressed at the Hugos

It is very difficult doing this when you are not actually at the ceremony, so huge thanks to Susan de Guardiola for taking pictures for me. All of the photos below are hers except where mentioned.

Even so I am missing things. In particular I wish I had a picture of the amazing makeup that Julia Rios was rocking. There were doubtless many spectacular outfits in the audience that I have missed.

Having said all that, this was a spectacular year. Having a master costumer as con chair doubtless helped a bit. Here’s Kevin Roche rocking an outfit previously worn by James Tiberius Kirk.

Johan Anglemark had a much more traditional male outfit, but if you look closely you’ll see that he’s wearing a Moomin tie to represent Swedish language fiction. (Photo by Fia Karlsson)

Zoe Quinn is always very elegant. Most photos don’t show shoes well, and I know there were some spectacular pairs around. At least we have Zoe’s. She has some great tatoos as well. (So does Sarah Gailey, but I don’t have a good photo.)

Sarah Felix proved the point that if you have some really great jewelry then you need something very plain to set it off.

One of the best ways to get noticed at an event is to wear a solid block of a bright color. The Queen is an expert at that technique. Seanan McGuire was the most noticeable in bright orange, but this photo of her with Kate Secor (green) and Sarah Kuhn (pink) gives us a lovely rainbow (albeit not in the right order).

Mosty these photos tend to be of women, but Dominic Rowney proves that men don’t have to be boring.

Ada Palmer always has wonderful historical outfits, but my eye here was drawn to Lauren Schiller. I love the dress, and I love the Ascot-style hat, but I’m not sure that they go together.

There being a lot of trans people around, we got a fair amount of messing with gender expectations. Non-binary people like JY Yang can wear whatever they like.

And here’s KM Szpara coming at it from the other direction. (Love that skirt!)

By far the most noticeable outfit of the night was that worn by Tehani Farr who I believe was at the convention as part of the Mexicanx Initiative. You couldn’t miss those horns.

The thing that got everyone talking was Nora Jemisin’s caponcho, which was entirely appropriate for the star of the show. (Photo by Tor-dot-Com)

But my personal favorite of the night was worn by SB Divya.

In addition to being a Nebula-finalist writer (in Novella last year) and a Hugo-finalist editor this year wth EscapePod, she also has degrees in Computational Neuroscience and Signal Processing. And she has great dress sense. I’m very impressed.

Update: Post corrected as SB Divya’s novella was a Nebula finalist, not a Hugo finalist.

Hugo Night

It has been a long night here in the UK. I went to bed at 9:00pm and had my alarm on for 3:00am so that I could help out with the Hugo Award ceremony coverage. I did manage to get a bit more sleep after it finished, but that’s not really a good way to run a night.

Thankfully the ceremony went off pretty much without a hitch. The only major problem that we have is that, shortly after the ceremony finished, the video coverage was blocked, allegedly because of a complaint by BBC Studios. I say “allegedly” because we source these clips from the companies that make the finalists and the chances of an actual human from the BBC doing something in the middle of the night (UK time) or late on Sunday (US time) are pretty low. I spoke to the BBC’s intellectual property department this morning and they confirmed that this was probably the result of a software system being run by YouTube. The BBC is a large company with offices on both sides of the Atlantic so it may take a little while to sort this out, but I expect the video to be available again soon.

As to the results, I was very happy. There are way too many of my friends on the ballot for me to be pleased about every winner, but the results were great. I have a few special shout outs to make.

Firstly huge congratulations to my friend Mur Lafferty. Some of you may remember that Mur used to be part of the ceremony coverage team. These days she has more important things to do. Mur works incredibly hard and I’m delighted to see her finally win a Hugo.

Secondly, as you probably know, I adore Murderbot. I first read Martha Wells with The Death of the Necromancer back in 1998 thanks to a recommendation by Roz Kaveney. I loved it. I also loved what she has done in creating a genuinely alien rae with the Raksura series. And I am delighted that she’s finally been a big hit with Murderbot. It just goes to show that careers can follow all sorts of trajectories.

Finally, of course, there’s The Big One. Hugo history was made this year.

Speaking personally, I can’t remember a better constructed trilogy. OK, maybe The Lord of the Rings, but not a lot else. Nora thoroughly deserves this. I’m also reminded that I’ve been hugely impressed with her since The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Scarily she keeps getting better.

Hugos Tonight

The 2018 Hugo Award winners will be announced tonight, California time, which means in the early hours of Monday morning for me. However, I will be up and online to help Kevin and Susan de Guardiola with the text-based coverage of the event. Full details of how to follow that are available here.

The convention has said that they will be providing live streaming of the ceremony. However, there is no link up as yet. Also, as we discovered in Helsinki, the tech can go wrong on the night. As and when I get details of where to watch I will let you know.

Update: Here’s the live video feed. I’m off to bed now. See you in a few hours.

The Circus is Back in Town

Worldcon is happening in San José, and that means that the WSFS Business Meeting is back in session. The admirable Alex Acks has been reporting as usual. Here’s what went down during the Preliminary Meeting.

Understanding all of that probably needs reference to the Agenda, but for those of you whose eyes glazed over after the first paragraph or two I will attempt to summarise the key points.

Consitutional Amendments can’t be debated during the Prelminary Meeting, but changes to the Standing Rules can. This year there was particular concern that people needed to be given more notice about issues likely to be brought up. Also the Business Meeting staff need more time to get the increasingly full agenda written up and printed.

Consequently motions A1 and A2 were passed. A1 requires amendments to Constitutional Amendments to be submitted in advance, while A2 makes the deadline for submitting business 30 days rather than 14. Both of these rules can be suspended in the case of an emergency.

The rest of the meeting was devoted to setting time limits for debate tomorrow, but the Preliminary Meeting can also kill off motions entirely, which is why it is important to be there.

Motion D3, which is all about providing guidance to Hugo Administrators as to how they count nominations in Graphic Story, was “Postponed Indefinitely”, which essentially means it was killed off. There is a problem as to how nominations for comics are counted, in that some people may nominate an individual issue, whereas others may nominate the entire series. However, it was the sense of the Meeting that the proposals to fix this were poorly thought-out and should not be debated this year.

A similar fate befell motion D4 which was about redefining the Fancast category in the Hugos. This was expected, because the people who propsed the motion clearly had no idea how the word “podcast” is commonly understood.

I don’t think that many people will be upset at these two motions not being considered.

That does still leave several Constitutional Amendments to be debated tomorrow. The most interesting is D1, which opens the door to remote participation in the Business Meeting. It does not require it, but it does remove language which would prohibit it. If it can be made to work, this would be a very interesting innovation.

Motion D2 is an uncontentious fix proposed by the ever-watchful Nit-Picking & Fly-Specking Committee, whose job it is to clean up any typoes and bugs that creep into the Constitution.

D5 is all about redefining the distinction between Professional and Fan Artists. That may get contentious, but there are no easy answers here.

D6 is to change the Graphic Story Hugo category to “Graphic Story or Comic”, because apparently some people think that comics are not graphic stories.

D7 fixes an issue with the number of people listed in the runners-up listings for the Hugos. A side effect of the new counting system brought in to foil the Puppies was to reduce the number of people listed. This motion would fix that.

Yesterday on Ujima – Films, Muslim Women & Hugos

I ended up doing a bonus show yesterday. As I had to go into Bristol for the TV appearance, and I have nothing else urgent on that day, I figured I might as well spend some time in the studio. That meant putting together a show at short notice.

The easiest way to do that is with phone interviews, though it does mean using Skype which can mean very variable quality. I badly need an alternative means of doing phone interviews, especially as the latest versions of Skype actively prevent the use of third party call recorders. (Why anyone would produce a digital phone system and now allow call recording is a mystery to me.)

Anyway, there were people I could interview. In the first hour I talked to Jake Smith of Tusko Films. Jake was the directory for Talking LGBT+ Bristol, the film about the city’s LGBT+ community that we made for Bristol Pride. I figured that if Jake and I were going to be on TV for 3 minutes in the evening, we should have a longer chat about the film as well.

I also recorded an interview with Rivers Solomon because there has been some really exciting news about their next novel project. Getting to write a novel with clipping has to be a dream come true.

The Listen Again system appears to have been fixed, so you can listen to the first hour of the show here.

I did manage to arrange one live interview. On Tuesday there was a flash mob demonstration in the city protesting Boris Johnson’s appalling comments about Muslim women. I was very pleased to have Sahar from Muslim Engagement & Development (MEND) to explain about the different types of headgear that Muslim women wear, and why they wear them. She was joined in the studio by Lisa from Stand Up to Racism.

I had half an hour to fill so I rambled on a bit about the women’s cricket, and about this year’s Hugo finalists. You can listen to the second half of the show here.

While the show is available on Listen Again I won’t put it up on the podcast. But once it has fallen off those interviews will appear there (and in the case of Rivers on Salon Futura). I will try to get an old interview or two up on the podcast in the meantime. And if anyone would like to become a patron of the podcast I would be very grateful. We only need 8 more people at $1/month to cover costs.

If you would like to know more about the Jimi Hendrix album that I was playing tracks from, you can find some details here.

The full playlist for yesterday’s show is as follows:

  • Jimi Hendrix – Jungle
  • Jimi Hendrix – Woodstock
  • clipping – The Deep
  • Bootsy Collins – May the Force be With You
  • Bob Marley – Get Up, Stand Up
  • Santana – Riders on the Storm
  • Janelle Monae – Sally Ride
  • Jimi Hendrix – Georgia Blues

British Fantasy Awards

The short lists for this year’s British Fantasy Awards have been released. Obviously there are a lot of my friends up for awards, including obvious candidates like Neil Gaiman, Sarah Pinborough and Mike Carey. There are also a whole lot of people from our little South West community: Emma & Pete Newman, Jo Hall & Lucy Hounsom.

I’m pleased to note that Gender Identity and Sexuality in Current Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Francesca Barbini, is up for the Non-Fiction award. That includes essays by both Juliet McKenna and myself. There is a review of the book in the new issue of Fafnir.

But what I am most pleased about is seeing Ben Baldwin in the list for the Artist award. Ben has done some great work for Wizard’s Tower over the weekend, including the covers for Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom (above) and The Green Man’s Heir.

Good luck, everyone!

Translating the Hugos

With Worldcon being only a couple of months away, fannish social media is inevitably starting to buzz with proposals for adding new Hugo Award categories. Old time fans are doubtless muttering into their beer in disgust, using phrases like “giving out rockets like candy” and “devaluing the Award”. Fandom at large will, I think, continue to ignore such misgivings, because fans like giving people awards. If they can think of new excuses for doing so, they will go for it.

That out of the way, therefore, let’s take a look at this year’s favorite for a new category: a translated fiction award (or perhaps several).

Much of the talk that I have seen online about this focuses on the fact that the national awards in most European countries have categories for translated works. British Awards do not (which people often forget). The Hugos do not either. The argument is that if the French, the Germans, the Spanish, the Finns and so on can have awards for translated fiction then so should “we”. And by “we” people tend to mean “Americans”.

Of course there are good reasons why some sets of awards include translation categories and others do not. In English-speaking countries the proportion of published works that are translated from other languages is, very famously, only around 3%. (Actually I think it is a bit higher these days, but 3% is the figure that everyone knows.) In contrast, if you live in a non-English-speaking country, you may find that the proportion of translated works published locally is 50% or higher. Many of those translated books will be by internationally famous writers such as George RR Martin, or Stephen King, or Margaret Atwood.

In such an environment it is entirely understandable that the local awards would have separate categories for books written in the local language and books published in translation. The translated books are very common; and may be selling very well. You want to make sure that your local writers get a look in as well.

In the English-speaking world, because translations are such a small part of the market, there has never been any need to protect local writers by putting translations into a separate category. There are, of course, arguments such as whether books written by Americans should be eligible for British awards, and they happen for similar reasons. But translations are left to fend for themselves alongside books written in English.

So that’s why there are no translation categories in British national awards. The Hugos are different matter, because they are not the American national awards.

Yes, I know that lots of people think that they are. I still remember 2005 when a British publisher expressed their annoyance to me about being expected to take note of an American convention, giving out American awards, that had been so rude as to locate itself in Scotland for a year. But let’s remind ourselves what the eligibility criteria for the Hugos are:

  1. A work is eligible when it is first published, regardless of language and place of publication;
  2. A work is eligible again on first publication in English if all previous publication has been in languages other than English;
  3. A work is eligible again on first publication in the USA if all previous publication has been outside of the USA.

The reason for this somewhat complex set of rules is not, as is often claimed, to give special privileges to American fans, but a recognition that the majority of Hugo voters are American. The objective is to give a second or third chance to a work in the year in which it comes to the attention of that majority of voters. Should we move to a situation where that special treatment is no longer necessary then presumably the rules will be changed. People have, in the past, argued (unsuccessfully) for suspending the system in years when Worldcon is held outside of the USA.

Why is this important? Well, remember the whole fuss over the YA Award and why it is Not A Hugo? The objection was that the same work should not be able to win two separate Hugos in the same year. A YA novel would be eligible for the Novel Hugo (or Novella depending on length) as well as a YA Hugo. The solution adopted, which is exactly the same as was used by SFWA for the Nebulas, was to make the YA Award a separate category. So Not A Hugo (or Not A Nebula).

Obviously the same argument can be applied to awards for translated fiction. If there is a category for Translated Novel then any book eligible for it would also be eligible for Novel. It could win both. Three Body Problem presumably would have done so.

There are people who will not like this. There are people who, seeing a proposal for a Translated Novel category, will introduce an amendment that will remove the eligibility of translated works in the novel category. Some of these people are likely to try to remove the foreign language and translated eligibility options from *all* Hugo categories. Some people will think that is a price worth paying in order to get a Translated Novel category. Personally I think that losing the international and multi-cultural aspect of the Hugos would be a tragedy, especially now that we are starting to see a lot more non-US Worldcons.

Now of course there is no reason why the same solution cannot be adopted. We could create a WSFS Award for Translated Novel that was Not A Hugo. We’d call it the Ansible, obviously. But people seem to get very upset when awards are deemed Not A Hugo, so let’s look at other possibilities.

The question that we should ask before trying to create any new category of Hugo is: What are we trying to achieve?

Obviously we are not introducing a translation category to protect people who write in English. Presumably what we are intending to do is to bring more attention to people who don’t write in English. And perhaps we also wish to promote the general idea of translation.

How about this for an idea? Instead of an award for a translated novel, we instead have an award for services to translation. The sort of works/people who might be eligible include:

  • A translator for a body of work;
  • A publisher for publishing translations;
  • A magazine for publishing translations;
  • An anthology that contains a number of translated stories;
  • A non-fiction book or documentary about translated fiction;
  • An organisation such as StoryCom that promotes translated fiction;
  • A blog, fanzine or fancast devoted to translated fiction; or
  • The committee of a Worldcon held in a non-English-speaking country.

One of the benefits of this is that it would widen the number of works that are eligible. A Translated Novel award might not have enough eligible works to make a viable category.

One obvious downside is that people would complain that they are being asked to choose between apples and oranges, much as they do every year in the case of the Related Work category.

I’m by no means wedded to this idea. My main concern is that we keep the international aspect of the Hugos. If we can have them do more work to promote translations while retaining that feature I will be happy.

Mostly, however, I just want people to think carefully about proposing new Hugo categories. You can’t just add a new Hugo because it would be nice to give more people awards. The category has to work, it has to perform the function that you want it to perform, and you have to get your proposal past the Business Meeting. These things are not always easy.

Another Trans Award Winner

Recently I was feeling very positive about the large number of trans people who are finalists for the Hugos this year. But that’s not the only area in which trans writers are achieving success. Last weekend the winners of the Kitchies were announced. In the Golden Tentacle (debut) category I spotted two trans people that I know. And one of them won!

Congratulations, then, to Alex Acks who is not only the person who provides the best live commentary from the WSFS Business meteing, but can now call themself an award winning author. Hunger Makes the Wolf is a fun book. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.