06 September 2012

Thoughts on the 2012 Hugos

I ranked a lot of the winners first in my voting, which I thought was pretty cool. And some of them I had second. (Instant runoff voting is fun.)

The novellas were the hardest for me to rank, because the four I ranked were all really good, really well-written pieces, and I would have been happy with any of them winning. (The two I didn't just didn't do anything for me.)

I was fairly pleased with the winners' list. I agree with Carrie's thoughts to an extent--of the people on the list for several of the categories, the obvious winners won: Neil Gaiman. George RR Martin. Sheila Williams. Locus. That isn't to say none of these people deserve their wins, just that they're very popular. To an extent, the Hugos are a popularity contest, kind of like being nerd prom king/queen.

And there's nothing wrong with that. (Also, best anything is always a very subjective matter.)

What I thought was good about the Hugo winners' list was that many of the winning pieces had a sort of newness to them. It wasn't the same old 1950s SF story told with less-flat characters and more-current story techniques. It was still a mostly-white list, but there was a majority of women.

(Also, it's about damn time Betsy Wollheim won. DAW has published a lot of good, popular books since the 70s. In her acceptance speech she said, "Dad, FINALLY there's a Hugo with the name Wollheim on it." He'd be chuffed.)

The place I was most pleased to see the winners were the fan writer and fan zine categories. I read Jim Hines' blog, and I enjoy it. I kind of agree with Carrie, in that he's a big name, people have heard of him, so maybe he had an unfair advantage, but I also disagree. He has a different type of fannish writing than the other people on the list.

I think there's a change in what people want to read about in fan writing. Personally, I like the meta stuff, the sociology of fandom, the picking apart of sexist or racist tropes in novels or comics, and lampooning the anatomically improbable drawings of women in comics or on book covers. I like book reviews, movie reviews, that sort of thing. I'm not really interested in reading stories about how one time someone I don't know hung out with some other people I don't know, which apparently is what fan writing has been about for the last 50 or whatever years.

If Jim had declined the nomination, I would have voted "no award." With the demise of metafandom, I don't know who's writing the type of fannish writing I like to read, so point me there, if you have anyone, so I can read and rec them when the time comes.

Look also at SF Signal and compare it to the other fanzine nominees, like File 770 or Banana Wings. SF Signal has book reviews, book discussions, and mind melds, where a bunch of people talk about the same subject--like this recent post on whether a non-Anglo presence is possible in the Hugo awards. File 770 has some interesting stats geekery about the Hugos, and their November 2011 issue had a good bit of "get off my lawn, you whippersnappers media and anime fans!"

Which, I gotta say, as an anime fan, that's a pretty huge turn-off.

I wasn't at the business meeting where the graphic story category was permanently ratified and the YA category once again denied, but apparently there's a contingent that fears change, that thought graphic novels were a fad, who thinks that YA is a fad. This says a lot about traditional fandom, really.

So, I wonder: are we looking at a sea-change as far as fan writing/zines are concerned, where we new fans who aren't interested in traditional fan writing and fan zines are starting to be heard more? Or is this an anomaly? How long will it take to get a YA category for the Hugos? Discuss.


John Wiswell said...

I wonder if some of the non-traditional fan writers don't go for things other than proper zines. Certainly there's some creative stuff in the podcast realm, but there are also message boards, closed groups, web comics (you go, Ursula Vernon) and collaborations like 4chan. The internet affords such a diversity of preoccupations that many talented writers who might typically be labeled fan writers (at least at first) now go head-first into whole other zones.

CD Covington said...

Well, Jim Hines doesn't write for zines; he blogs. The winner for best fanzine is a website/blog (it looks like it's set up with wordpress). The livejournal community metafandom used to collate links to LJers writing about fan stuff--but they haven't updated since June 2011.

The problem with pulling people from LJ to nominate for Hugos is that most of them want to keep their real names private, and I'm not sure ... well, I don't think a lot of the cane-shakers want pseudonymous fans on their lawns, either.

So I consider blogging fan writing, because it's fans writing about stuff--like portrayals of women in various books. One of my friends wrote a very detailed post on where Buffy fails on feminism, but it's in German. So while I think it's a great, interesting analysis, only 10% of fans or something could read it.

In a way, by not doing 'traditional' zines, maybe newer fan writers are limiting their audience. But I prefer to think of it as the cane-shakers needing to broaden their horizons. (The eternal debate in fandom, apparently.)

Anonymous said...

I'm checking the comments to see if you get any recs for meta writers; I share your assessment of what constitutes interesting fan-writing and meta, so I hope some people drop links!

CD Covington said...

I do, too! I miss metafandom so much :(

I know NK Jemisin writes about some meta stuff, but she's a pro writer too (she's been a fan longer than a pro, but if we shouldn't consider Jim Hines because he's a pro, we can't consider NK, either.).

The fans writing pseudonymously (and f-locked) part is the hardest! I've read some really great meta, but it's been under lock and/or by people who don't want their real identities publicized. Argh.