Friday, September 23, 2022

Quick Sips 09/23/2022

It turns out We’re Here 2020 won an Ignyte Award! Which means that I, as one of its editors, gets a shiny gold medal! Fucking right! I am incredibly honored by this, and incredibly proud to have had the opportunity to work with C.L. Clark and all the authors featured in the anthology. I was a bit too shocked and fuddled during the ceremony to make a great speech (in part because I think I was booted from the stage before I could and then wasn’t sure what was happening so I panicked to some extent), but basically what I was trying to say is that I’m incredibly grateful that I can do something that I love, that is all about reading great stories and sharing them. The hard work, that of the authors who wrote and got the works published previously, is arguably the more difficult, but I’m really happy all the same to be a part of it, and am floored that the We’re Here 2020 went undefeated for the awards it was up for. Thanks to everyone who voted for it!!!

Otherwise, I do see the old Fan vs Pro debate making the rounds again, as it does just about every year. The debate is presumably about fairness and relevance, though there are actually a few different discussions being had. But probably the most important/central question is: “What kind of fan work should be recognized by the Hugo Awards?” Because really, for all we might be talking about other things, that’s really the only question that we can impact. Trying to define Fan vs Pro is ridiculous for all the reasons that people are already enumerating: “pros” are also fans; fan work that isn’t directly compensated/for direct compensation can still be indirectly compensated; uncompensated fan work is easier for those with means/privilege; name recognition/power imbalances are not unique to the fan categories; etc etc etc.

People get rather touchy about pros in the fan categories, and not always for the worst of reasons, though I think the biggest of them is the dominant SFF fandom treats wanting to win a Hugo as a sign that you don’t deserve a Hugo. It’s why campaigning is frowned on by a lot of people, especially when it results in people/works on the ballot who are deemed otherwise unsuitable. The reluctant hero is still something that a lot of people in fandom really like, and so there’s a certain romanticism to finalists being people spontaneously recognized for their work rather than people who want to win an award. For some, being honest about wanting an award is enough to invalidate that person’s award-worthiness. When really and honestly, I am 100% sure that even the people who are loudest about wanting and liking awards are not in the field simply to do so.

But what about pros who decide they want to win a fan Hugo award and wade in just to snag a trophy so they can put Hugo Award Winning in their bio and on their book covers and then never to a fannish thing ever again? And seriously, what? Like winning a fan Hugo is some sort of easy task. Like voters are swayed simply by a name. Let’s put aside the fact that all winners have to first be nominated, and then have to actually, you know, win enough votes in a system where voters can be petty and punitive. Fan Hugos are often the work of years of fan work and tireless efforts in the SFF spheres. Even when people claim a finalist or winner was only nominated because of a few articles or essays at Tor or Uncanny, there’s the invisible work in social media and other spheres of fan activism, engagement, and effort.

So let’s circle back to the question we started with. “What kind of fan work should be recognized by the Hugo Awards?” If you answer “the kind of fan work that is underappreciated and deserves recognition” then I’m sorry, that’s not what a popular vote award is going to give you by definition. Already appreciated fans, fanzines, fancasts, and fan artists are going to have the advantage because by virtue of having fans of their own, they’ll get more votes. If you want awards that will seek to award people doing thankless and vital work, you’re going to need a juried award (both steps, too, because even a juried first stage, popular vote second stage is going to probably favor already popular fans).

And I could propose that we get together and create The Fannies (bwahahahaha), but that again is avoiding the question again. “What kind of fan work should be recognized by the Hugo Awards?” Like with all the other categories, the answer is that we should recognize the fan work that was the most popular in a given year. Yes, platform will effect that a lot. Money will effect that a lot. But unless we’re going to seek to correct for wealth, access, and privilege across all the Hugo categories, singling out the fan awards without reckoning with the current shape and state of SFF fandoms is pointless at best. Might as well just say with your whole voice that you don’t think specific finalists or winners DESERVE the recognition. At which point everyone can see what it is you’re really doing.

Do I think the fan categories of the Hugo Awards are currently broken? Well as a seven time finalist…not really. But maybe that’s just because I like being a finalist? I mean, maybe I should say yes they’re broken because I likely will never win a fan Hugo. But again, I’m not owed a Hugo for the (amazing and prodigious) fan work I’ve done. There probably just aren’t enough people who really care for what I do for me to win, and you win the award by getting the most votes. That’s the system, not a flaw in the system. Trying to restrict voting, changing eligibility, and otherwise fucking with things to try and make sure that the undesirables can’t win is…actually not something I think we should be considering, especially given how our democracies at large are under attack along the same lines.

We just really have to be honest about if we think the system is broken. Is it? Do the finalists and winners truly not deserve the recognition. Don’t counter with people you feel deserve it more. *Do the winners and finalists not deserve the recognition?* If you’re unwilling to say yes to that, then we’ve answered our other core question: “What kind of fan work should be recognized by the Hugo Awards?” The answer is, the fan work that is currently being recognized by the Hugo Awards.

Good day.


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