Further Hugo Thoughts

Listening to Coode Street this morning, I heard Gary commenting that the nature of this year’s ballot may be something to do with the electorate being predominantly American (given that we have two US-Worldcons in succession). There’s a point there, but it’s not the one that people normally make about fans voting for writers from their own countries. American fans, in my experience, are not terribly nationalistic. They’ll buy books by people from any country. They may have cultural biases so that, for example, they might prefer the work of one British writer over another, depending on which is more accessible to them. But the main issue is that they vote for what is available. Two US Worldcons in succession means that the nominees will probably be drawn solely from books that are easily available in America.

Other people have been complaining that the choices this year are very “safe”, “traditional” or “middle-of-the-road”. That too is partially a function of being limited to books that are easily available in the US. But it is also a function of increased turnout. Back in the days when the number of people participating in the Hugos was very small, fans liked to grumble that their tastes were not reflected in the short lists because the voters were a small, unrepresentative clique. This year set another record for the number of people submitting nominating ballots, and yet there are still complaints. Everyone likes to think that their tastes are shared by the majority, but my guess is that most people who are serious about fiction will find that the majority doesn’t share their tastes at all. They certainly don’t share mine.

One interesting thing about this year’s ballot is the number of nominees with a connection to A Game of Thrones. Obviously Series 1 and A Dance with Dragons are nominated, but there are other nominees who might benefit from a strong turnout by GRRM fans. Anne Groell is up for her first ever nomination in Editor: Long Form, and the books she is most well known for editing are the Song of Ice and Fire series. John Picacio also has a GRRM connection, having recently completed illustrating a Game of Thrones calendar. But the most interesting connection is with another Novel nominee. James S.A. Corey is a pen name for a writing team composed of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Ty’s previous claim to fame is his work as GRRM’s personal assistant. This is probably the first time ever that an author and his PA are both up for the same award. (Your turn next, Lorraine.)

The other newbie in Editor: Long Form is Betsy Wollheim, but she’s by no means new to the business. She’s been working at DAW since 1975, and has been in charge since 1985, but she’s been in the business pretty much all of her life. Her father, Donald, was pioneer of paperback publishing and primarily responsible for the pirate edition of The Lord of the Rings that Ace put out in the early 1970s. There are some extracts with a Locus interview with Betsy available here.

The Fancast category is hugely competitive, with five very fine nominees. I’m still very dubious about the idea of separating categories by the method of delivery, but the category looks viable right now. Of course it could end up with the same nominees year after year — we can’t know that yet. But for now it looks healthy.

There was apparently an error in the embargoed press release sent out by Chicon 7 that led to Brad Foster being left off the Fan Artist nominees in many announcements. This was another of those “tie for 5th place” issues, and somehow one of the six nominees got dropped. Talking of Fan Artist, no one has been able to answer my question about Randall Munroe. I love XKCD as much as anyone, but as far as I can see it is a profit-making business and if that is the case I’d like to know what fan art Munroe does.

I’m totally bemused as to what Seanan McGuire’s Wicked Girls is doing in Related Work. It’s great to see a filk album get nominated, but music has always been eligible in the Dramatic Presentation categories. There’s no need for it to be in Related Work.

The gender balance in fiction is very good. 11 of the 21 nominated works are written by women. Elsewhere things are not so good. The Dramatic Presentation, Graphic Story and Professional Artist categories, for example, are almost entirely male.

And finally a quick nod to Orbit. According to Liza Trombi (also on Coode Street this episode), Mira Grant’s Countdown is the first stand alone published piece of short fiction from a major publisher to make the ballot. As far as I’m aware, it is only available as an ebook. This is a very interesting development in publishing.

17 thoughts on “Further Hugo Thoughts

  1. I know that a while ago Seanan mentioned that Wicked Girls might be eligible in Related Work. I pointed out previous albums which had received nominations in BDP, but apparently her fans chose to go with RW for the nomination.

    1. That’s playing the numbers, isn’t it? In all likelihood Wicked Girls would not have got on the ballot in a BDP category, but fewer nominations are required in Related Work.

  2. Howard Tayler seems to have a good explanation why is makes some sense for Munroe to end up in fan artist according to the rules as they are written. He posted it in the Hugo Award Nominee thread on Whatever.

    1. It doesn’t help that the copy of the WSFS Constitution on the official website is horribly out of date. (Please don’t ask me why, my blood pressure is already high enough this morning.) But basically what Howard appears to be doing is playing rules lawyer to explain why someone who is clearly a professional can sneak into a fan category. I’m deeply unimpressed.

      1. An other explanation is that people vote for Munroe in fan artist because his art is so dissimilar from the people nominated in professional artist. And that his market is different. Neither of which explains why the committee does not shift the nomination to professional (against what I assume is the ruling opinion of the voters).
        In my opinion the rule lawyering is just as good an explanation as any other I have come across.

        1. Careful now, suggestions that Munroe belongs in Fan Artist because of the type of work he does sounds suspiciously like those people who say he’s no good because he’s “only” a cartoonist. Art is art, and he’s very good at what he does.

          There’s no reason why someone with a professional career can’t win a fan category. John Scalzi and Fred Pohl have both done so, and they did it by producing very fine work that they made available for free, entirely separate from their fiction. It’s entirely possible that Munroe does things like this, or that he makes no income out of XKCD. If either of those things are true I’ll be perfectly happy.

          What I’m concerned about is that people may nominating him in Fan Artist because they think it is a soft category that he can win easily even though he does nothing that qualifies him for it.

          1. Yes sorry, you are right and that is definitely not what I intended.

            At the moment for me it is one of those magic vagaries of any award. For me what Munroe manages is to express love for the way genre works. So at least in that way he does not stand out on the ballot. Perhaps related work might be more sensible.

          2. The Fan Artist & Writer Hugo categories have always been odd, as some folks think of “Fan” as “amateur/non-pro”, while some see it as “work done for no pay, for the fun/fannishness of it”. The second is how I’ve always seen it, and is why, though I am a professional artist, I’ve had no problem with being nominated as a Fan Artist, since the vast majority of the people in the SF community, if they have seen anything at all of my work, have seen only those things I have drawn and sent for free to fanzines. The Fan Artist category has always had such small response, it’s interesting to see any mention at ALL of the category the past two years, and that can all be placed on having Munroe in there, drawing attention to it. Like many other categories, new technology has brought up new questions on just what it means anymore to do “fan” art. Next few years might be interesting… I’m still doing the old-fashioned “send a drawing to someone to use in their zine” kind of Fan Art, but that seems to be a smaller and smaller piece of the pie compared to the whole internet. (Click my name above if curious about what I consider a fanzine still, put up a list of those I had work in for 2011.)

    1. As far as I’m aware, Writing Excuses is a professional operation, which makes it ineligible for Fancast, and it is neither fiction nor drama. As such, Related Work is the only place it can go. I have no objection to anything going into Fancast if it is genuinely ineligible elsewhere. It is only when things go there when they are eligible elsewhere that I get worried.

      1. Writing Excuses is indeed a professional operation—we had an internal discussion about the fancast category when it was announced, but it doesn’t fit there. I’m interested to see (eventually) how many nominations it got in fancast, though.

      2. Thanks for the reminder that there is the “nonprofessional” aspect of Fancast.

        I am only superficially familiar with Writing Excuses. Could you or another commenter state what its professional characteristics are? (This is an admission of ignorance rather than a prelude to a disagreement.) When I looked at the site it seemed as if I would be able to download the latest podcast at no charge, but there is verbiage about an Audible sponorship.

        1. As I understand it, the show effectively does advertising for Audible. Every post on their blog carries an ad, which makes it pretty up front and obvious.

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