Friday, February 11, 2022

Quick Sips 02/11/2022

Hello again! Welcome to Tired Town, population: me. Though, I mean, in some ways I’m doing pretty good. Just…waiting for the tiredness to pass. It’s so strange, taking these steps to try and maintain a healthy relationship with my reviewing work, with work in general. Healthy in the haha like capitalism allows for a healthy relationship with work but still, it’s a work in progress. I can at least report some updates, some successes, some excitements.

I have turned over a longlist to by co-editor (the phenomenal L.D. Lewis) for We’re Here. The longlist represents a large part of my editorial work for the series, because I’m supposed to be the one canvassing the field and finding as many queer stories as I can, and then reviewing the submissions we get through the portal and then refining that down. This year, my second doing it, was complicated by all the other things I was doing: trying to wrap up QSR, trying to hit deadlines for Locus, participating in the Locus Recommended Reading List, and a few other projects thrown in for good measure (that the Hugos were so late in the year and took a rather hard emotional toll were icing on that cake I guess). You’ll be able to read a bit more about the process and my thoughts on the field in this year’s editorial, so do look for that when the book drops later in the year.

I also managed to catch up a bit on some reading from places that I’m no longer covering for review, like the January/February Apex and Uncanny magazines, plus issues of Nightmare, The Deadlands, The Dark Magazine, and more. Some really strong stories amongst all of those and for those wanting to see more of my thoughts on my favorites, I do encourage you to become a patron and get access to my weekly Sip of the Week recommendation posts, where I highlight a few stories I really liked from my recent reading. Some of these will also be covered in my Locus columns, but to basically get rolling access to my yearly recommended reading list, do consider signing up at any level.

Otherwise I’m already looking ahead to my next deadline for my third Locus column and reading as quickly as I can for that. I’m really hoping that after a few more months I’ll have this down and will be able to relax a bit more, but for now I’m still enjoying what I’m doing and excited about everything. Online, I’ve stayed as much out of drama as I can, though I might take a moment to comment a bit more on something I saw Jason Sanford and then Diabolical Plots discussing the Hugos and the nonfiction categories of that, specifically the Best Related Work category.

The category has become something of a lightning rod for controversy over the years, in part because it’s a catch-all category that encompasses not just nonfiction books but articles, speeches, and conventions. There’s often talk about how the category might be revised or expanded in order to give some more space for celebrating the field and the rich nonfiction that it puts out. Unfortunately, Hugo categories aren’t exactly…easy to wrangle or change. For good reason, really, though also for a lot of frustrating reasons, and not just because the process can seem opaque and cumbersome.

Rather, an issue at the heart of the Hugos is that a lot of people just…don’t seem to care for large parts of what the Hugos cover. The fan awards especially seem to struggle to attract voters, and almost always have a fairly large contingent of people who no award the whole category rather than voting on any of the finalists. There have been initiatives by bloggers and elsewhere to try and drive engagement and votes to the categories while remaining neutral on who is voted for, but still we see a general sense that there are popular categories and there are relatively unpopular categories, and juggling honoring and celebrating the field with being popular vote awards is tricky.

For me, the issues are best taken in pieces. First we have the categories themselves, and the ways that they leave some room for growth, especially when it comes to nonfiction. I want to set fan work aside for a moment here, because I don’t really think that a discussion of nonfiction awards needs to really lobby a change in the way the fan awards are covered. Rather, I think the core issue is that Best Related Work covers SO MUCH that it runs into a few issues. It’s essentially at the moment covering three different awards. Best Nonfiction Book, Best Nonfiction Article, and Best Community Event/Resource. At least in recent years, these three rather distinct categories of works have appeared all as Best Related Work finalists. To me, that seems to imply that, if we want to give a better and more precise award to honor the diversity of nonfiction works, we should be thinking about how these categories could be handled.

Most easily, there could be separate Best Nonfiction Article, Best Community Event/Resource, and Best Nonfiction Book categories. Personally this feels almost too prescriptive for me, though. It over-narrows focus in ways that I don’t particularly like. Of those three, I think Best Nonfiction Article is actually the easiest sell as a direct addition to the Hugos. There’s a large variety of nonfiction articles published, after all, from venues that range the fandom. Tor, Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Strange Horizons, Locus, the SFWA blog—all of those, but also the fanzines, blogs, newsletters, guest of honor speeches—these seem not only pervasive but able to drive some decent engagement. Already individual articles have been finalists for and won the Best Related Work Hugo. I think it’s probably time to break that out into its own space. The act would immediately change the dynamic for Best Related Work, too, allowing for more nonfiction books to be in the discussion there without having to change the rules for BRW aside from making individual articles no longer appropriate.

The Community Resource Hugo is, I admit, a more complex issue. Personally I’d rather this be made into a not-a-Hugo category like the Lodestar or Astounding. This already exists in places like the Ignyte Awards, and ngl it’s in some ways very interesting to look at a relatively new award platform like that as part inspiration to a much older award to sort of gauge what might be missing. But it would at least create a space to recognize and celebrate things like conventions or organizations or groups who have really pushed the field in a positive direction. This would fit the conventions and programming that has been nominated of late, and would have been a place for things like AO3 that wasn’t in the Best Related Work category.

Now, that really doesn’t address that issue from the beginning—that yes, this might make sense in a structural and organization sense, but would it translate into votes, into interest and engagement with genre nonfiction in a way that would sustain a whole Hugo category? And…honestly, I’m not sure. This is perhaps a bigger issue because of how the fan categories sort of perpetually walk a line where if engagement decreases much more there’s the risk no award would be given for those categories. That, regardless of how amazing the work is being done, if it’s not popular enough to drive votes and nominations, then it’s not a solution for the Hugos. A serious issue, especially when a lot of options for trying to increase engagement carry with them a the flavor of trying to influence the vote. For the Nebula Awards, after all, there is a recommendation list run through the SFWA forums themselves, but even those can be controversial as they can be slightly vulnerable to campaigning, something that the Hugos definitely do not need.

But how?

Unfortunately, that’s not a new question, and not one I suspect we’ll see an easy answer to. Not exactly. I mean, to circle back, I think that things like the Ignyte Awards are the answer. Not replacing the Hugos, but certainly opening up a space that the Hugos seem unable to fully fit into. Perhaps because the Ignytes are partly juried to find the finalists, and then popular voted on for the winners. There don’t seem to be any rules that would require them to not award a category that didn’t receive a certain amount of the vote. So even “unpopular” categories can keep being awarded.

Would that work for the Hugos? No, likely not. Not without completely reworking the awards. But something we could do would be to remove the provision that requires no award to be given if the not enough people vote in the category, and remove any automatic removal of categories that fall beneath a certain vote total/percentage. Instead, make it so no award if given only when No Award wins the category, and make the decision to remove or maintain a category a decision handled by the organization. Make the organization stand behind the decision to honor the categories they choose, regardless of how popular those categories are ultimately with the votership.

Essentially my stance is this. Best Related Work or Best Nonfiction Article might not be the most popular category. Voters might abstain because they don’t want to read the finalists, or don’t feel they are experts enough in the field. Does that mean they don’t want a Hugo awarded in that field? Likely not. They just don’t want to vote in that category. If people really want to get rid of a category, simply make that a process they can go through in the business meetings and such.

Anyway, that’s about it. I do feel like the Hugos end up hurting themselves with rules that punish unpopular categories. Though I mean I do understand that there’s cost associated with the awards, with so much about it, and certainly given the last few years calling to expand any convention-driven award is complicated. But still.

Sorry, though, for all that. In other news, I read through X-Cutioner’s Song and wow, that was very 90s. Also very anti-climactic. The whole thing is just a mess from start to finish and ugh, wow, despite some interesting moments it also derailed four different titles into something that…doesn’t really work. Huh. Oh well. Onward. Not sure what I’ll read next. Probably each of the titles through to the Fatal Attractions quasi-crossover.

In games, husband and I did start playing Pokemon Snap after having it for quite some time. It’s super fun and low stakes and I love just cruising around taking pictures of Pokemon and chucking fruit at them. Enjoyable on all fronts! And that’s about it for now. Cheers!


Support Quick Sip Reviews on Patreon

No comments:

Post a Comment