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South Wales, and Beyond the Infinite
September 3, 2012 9:51 AM   Subscribe

What I wrote was unquestionably fiction — was fantasy. Among Others has magic and fairies. But I was writing fantasy about a science fiction reader who had a lot of the same things happen to her that happened to me. It’s set at the end of 1979 and the beginning of 1980, and it’s about a fifteen year old just when I was fifteen, and from a family like mine and in the time and place and context where I was. I was using a lot of my own experience and memories. But this is Mori, not me, and she lives in a world where magic is real. Jo Walton, who as editor for tor.com revisisted the Hugos 1953-2000, now has one of her own, taking home the 2012 Best Novel Award for Among Others. Other winners include Kij Johnson for her Novella The Man who Bridged the Mist (excerpt) and io9 regular Charlie Jane Anders for her novellete Six Months, Three Days. The Best Graphic Story award went to the webcomic Digger by Ursula Vernon. E Lily Yu took home the Bets New Writer award (technically not a Hugo) and was also nominated for her short story The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees. A couple of TV shows you have heard of also got awards. Links to many of the nominated stories here.
posted by Artw (51 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was watching the stream last night while working on some art. I wanted to see if Ursula would win. I was pretty sure she wouldn't, what with being up against two three-time losers to Girl Genius. She probably was too.

Then the stream cut out just as Neil Gaiman was walking to the podium after the episode of Doctor Who he wrote took "Best Dramatic Presentation (short form)”. After a moment, my attempts to reload it took me to a page saying Worldcon's UStream account was banned.

It never came back. I had to find out she won via Twitter. I'm really hoping to see a video of the whole thing pop up sometime today, because I WANT TO SEE MY PEER GETTING A HUGO!!1!.

The best theory as to why it was banned hat I've heard is automated copyright defense stuff triggering on all those Doctor Who clips. I love living in the future. Everything is awesome until media companies are involved.
posted by egypturnash at 10:07 AM on September 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yay for Jo Walton! Great book.

(Jim C. Hines counts as a fan author? Hm ... well, reading the rules, it looks like professionals are eligible, just not for their professional work. Makes sense.)
posted by kyrademon at 10:10 AM on September 3, 2012


So obviously, due to the relatively small voting body (1922 valid ballots this year) and it's self-selecting nature (you have to buy a supporting or attending Worldcon membership to be eligible) it's going to end up focusing on a particular, arguably quite narrow slice of the SF/F community and its output.

But as I was looking over the nominations this year, specifically for the shorter-form prose categories, I was wondering -- are there ever "outsider" nominations? So much short genre fiction is published in (curated, paying) online anthologies other than Tor.com, but has it ever attracted the attention of the Worldcon membership?
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:10 AM on September 3, 2012


The best theory as to why it was banned hat I've heard is automated copyright defense stuff triggering on all those Doctor Who clips. I love living in the future. Everything is awesome until media companies are involved.

ROGUE ROBOTS!
posted by Artw at 10:11 AM on September 3, 2012


IP INFRINGEMENT! EXTERMINATE FEED!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:32 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]




First, go Jo Walton!

Second, I'm sort of sad she solved the ambiguity of the genre of her novel in the Scalzi post. I kinda liked the slippery nature of the book.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:46 AM on September 3, 2012


Artw's link really deserves its own post. Holy fucking christ.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:47 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


the clips had been provided by the studios to be shown during the award ceremony. The Hugo Awards had explicit permission to broadcast them. But even if they hadn't, it is absolutely fair use to broadcast clips of copyrighted material during an award ceremony. Unfortunately, the digital restriction management (DRM) robots on UStream had not been programmed with these basic contours of copyright law.
posted by mediareport at 11:07 AM on September 3, 2012


How are Jason Snell and io9 sure it was robots if Ustream has yet to reply? I'm wondering how the clips were visible in the stream? Were they, say, shown onscreen on the stage and the screen was videotaped from the audience? If so, are there really copyright robots that could automatically sense that as a violation?

At this point, it seems just as likely it was an uninformed human watching the stream who reacted stupidly, while everyone else was away for the holiday weekend.
posted by mediareport at 11:14 AM on September 3, 2012


> are there really copyright robots that could automatically sense that as a violation?

They most likely picked up on the sound of the clip, with no need to recognize the video. Guessing it was robots is giving UStream the benefit of the doubt that it was poorly-programmed robots rather than them being actively hostile to the Hugo Awards specifically.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:20 AM on September 3, 2012


Sufficiently Turing failing dumb employee could hypothetically be responsible, but it seems unlikely they'd have one for every stream.
posted by Artw at 11:23 AM on September 3, 2012


 The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu - winner of the Short Story award.

Interestingly I think he's the only male winner of any of the written fiction categories. I don't know if that's a first.
posted by Artw at 11:25 AM on September 3, 2012


Hooray for Ursula Vernon! Digger is a wonderful piece of work.
posted by tdismukes at 11:26 AM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read "Among Others" around the same time I read "The Iron Dragon's Daughter" by Michael Swanwick, and the conflated mess is my memory is really glorious.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:31 AM on September 3, 2012


Maybe the copyright robots were just processing a prior claim to Neil Gaiman's face from James Herbert.
posted by dng at 12:00 PM on September 3, 2012


kyrademon, Frederik Pohl won for Best Fan Work recently, so Jim Hines isn't a precedent setter. ( I think Hines's "cover art poses" posts were alone worthy of Best Fan Work, but I imagine his creating spaces for people to talk about harassment, etc., at cons was probably the biggest factor.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:01 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


mediareport, the clips were shown in the stream by switching from the cameras to the video. The quality was pristine.
posted by egypturnash at 12:35 PM on September 3, 2012


A small correction to the post... Charlie Jane is an editor for io9 while Jo Walton is a regular (and amazing contributor, really surprised she hasn't won for fan author) on Tor.com.

But as I was looking over the nominations this year, specifically for the shorter-form prose categories, I was wondering -- are there ever "outsider" nominations?

Last year Rachel Bloom, the woman who did that "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury" video was able to rally enough of her viewers to get it on the ballot for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. All of the other nominees in that category, barring one, were episodes of Doctor Who. It was weird.

The categories dealing with literature are more evened out, but because of the small voter base and the focus on written word, the categories that don't deal with that can get pretty myopic. (The Comics category in particular is a pet peeve of mine.)
posted by greenland at 12:57 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been looking through Jo Walton's evaluations of Hugos past, and she says something interesting things. I don't always agree, but it's worth reading.
posted by ovvl at 1:03 PM on September 3, 2012


I'm surprised I haven't seen conjecture that the video outage may have been sabotage by members of the cult of Dan "Community" Harmon who had been nominated in the same category as Gaiman. Or even agents from NBC who had been misinformed that Harmon had won. Or is that too "conspiracy-theory-ish" for MeFi today?
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:29 PM on September 3, 2012


So obviously, due to the relatively small voting body (1922 valid ballots this year) and it's self-selecting nature (you have to buy a supporting or attending Worldcon membership to be eligible) it's going to end up focusing on a particular, arguably quite narrow slice of the SF/F community and its output.

Jo does a great job of demolishing this theory in her series on the Hugo winners which I assume you didn't read. Which is fine 'cause the series is extremely long. But to quote her, "the image of nominating fans as stuck-in-the-mud older geeky males had pretty much evaporated by the end of the twentieth century. "'

Can you come up with some examples of how the Hugo voters focus on a particular and quite narrow slice of written SF's output?

Anyway, congrats to Jo Walton. Couldn't have happened to a nicer person even if her novels aren't quite my cup of tea. (I do recognize their quality, they're just always for me). It's a testament to usenet that I pretty much knew what Jo's opinion on the Hugo winners was going to be before I read them. And keep on keepin' on with the anti-Dramatic Presentation crusade, Jo! Excelsior!
posted by Justinian at 1:43 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hell, even just the 2012 nominees for Best Novel should show how broad the ranks of nominated works can be. You've got a semi-autobiographical coming of age story, a blockbuster fantasy doorstop which should have been finished a decade ago (muzzles self), a post-zombie apocalypse blogger uber alles story, a New Space Opera, and then sorta first contacty kind of thing. How much more inclusive could you get? None. None more inclusive.
posted by Justinian at 1:47 PM on September 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


anti-Dramatic Presentation crusade

Fortunatly the nightmare outcome, Hugo winning a Hugo, did not occur.
posted by Artw at 2:03 PM on September 3, 2012


I'm wondering how the clips were visible in the stream?

They were part of a short AV presentation that was likely shown on a screen at the awards themselves and inline to those watching online.

I am annoyed that I didn't just stay there and watch rather than coming home and watching the stream in my pajamas. (4 days of WorldCon is a much longer time than I'd realized and by 7pm Sumday just wanted to be at HOME.)
posted by bibliogrrl at 2:05 PM on September 3, 2012


Jo does a great job of demolishing this theory in her series on the Hugo winners which I assume you didn't read. Which is fine 'cause the series is extremely long. But to quote her, "the image of nominating fans as stuck-in-the-mud older geeky males had pretty much evaporated by the end of the twentieth century. "

I didn't read the entire series, but I clicked around through it and I read the conclusion. I didn't mean to suggest that I think the the nominating fans are "stuck-in-the-mud older geeky males" as I don't think that at all. I just pointed out that the Hugo awards are voted on by a relatively small number of people, and eligibility to vote is something that one pays for.

On the one hand, I think it's really great that basically anyone with $50 to spend can get involved with the Hugos. I don't actually have a problem with the Hugos, any more than I have a problem with awards of this sort in general -- it's nice when great things get more recognition, irritating when bad but popular work is rewarded, and sad when excellent work is overlooked.

I only commented at all because I'd noticed, as I have noticed in previous years, that all of the short fiction nominations had been published in one of a very small handful of places.

I've skirted the edge of the SF/F publishing community for some years, now. I have met a lot of excellent people and I think it's great that writers and editors are so supportive of their peers. I've also noticed how cliquish and insular that community can be. You see a lot of the same names come up over and over. Jo seems like a great lady and I enjoyed reading her posts, but I also found it interesting that this year's winner for Best Novel is also an editor at Tor.com who just finished writing a huge retrospective about the Hugo awards. Like...that's fine, I have no problem with her or with her award or anything at all. It's fine! But it's a pretty good example of the ways in which the Hugos emerge from a small and close-knit community of people.

Can you come up with some examples of how the Hugo voters focus on a particular and quite narrow slice of written SF's output?

I think it's more that because the Hugos are fan-nominated, they're going to have the classic "popularity contest" problem. Works make it onto the short list because a sufficient number of people are ALREADY reading them. The Hugos are a great way to see your favorite authors be rewarded, but they aren't a particularly great way to discover anything that's amazing but overlooked -- books that didn't have a good enough publicity department behind them, short stories or novellas that were published in more minor anthologies, books by new authors that hadn't done enough networking to get their name out there. The Hugos aren't really about what's "best" -- they're more, "Here's what a group of people who cared enough about the Hugos to pay for the right to vote on them though was awesome this year!"

Which, again, that's fine! My irritation at that kind of thing is no different than my irritation at basically all awards ever.

Anyway, all I wanted to ask was whether or not stories from anthologies outside the SF/F mainstream ever made it onto the nominations list. Apparently, mostly not? So, question answered!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:39 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Any anthologies you're thinking of in particular?
posted by Artw at 2:56 PM on September 3, 2012


I would say all awards have some issues in either the nominating process or in the voting process. Good systems try to minimize both as much as possible. Bad ones do neither. But I think it's nearly impossible to eliminate any kind of unfairness, whether real or perceived.

Good awards listen to criticisms and try to adapt. The bad ones just say "this is the way we've always done things so this is just how we're going to do it." But I guess I'm OK with awards that reflect one specific kind of aesthetic or mindset in some ways. I think there are enough sci-fi/fantasy awards that the Hugos can be one thing and other awards can be something else.

Coordinating an award has taught me you can't please everyone, even if you try. Which is not at all to say people shouldn't question the process or speak up about it, either. But it's also made me much more charitable toward awards -- I know how much work behind the scenes goes into them.
posted by darksong at 3:17 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The best theory as to why it was banned hat I've heard is automated copyright defense stuff triggering on all those Doctor Who clips.

I blame Oswin.
posted by homunculus at 3:49 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Good awards listen to criticisms and try to adapt. The bad ones just say "this is the way we've always done things so this is just how we're going to do it."

Note that an attending membership for a worldcon not only gives you the right to nominate, and then vote, for the Hugo awards, you also have the right to attend, and vote at, and bring business to, the WSFS business meeting that (amongst other things ) dictates the process and the categories of the Hugo award.

So, if you really don't like it, you can try to change it. You will need to get a number of people there who agree with you, but it wouldn't be the first time an award was changed or added because enough people who cared about it went to the meeting and made sure it happened -- both BDP-Short and Best Editor-Long occurred exactly this way.

One of the biggest factors is that it takes remarkably few nominations to get on the ballot in many of the categories. After the nominations are announced, most people get access to the short fiction and such via the Internet, so the vote is higher, but just 2-3 extra nominations can push a work onto the ballot in most categories. If you want to have influence, that's where you
have the most.

The rule is that the top five nominees make it onto the ballot, unless there's a tie for 5th, in which case, all tied will be on the ballot.

Here's how close it can be:

In novel, one more nomination for "The Quantum Thief" puts it on the final ballot, two more knocks "Leviathan Wakes" off that ballot. Three more would have put MeFi's own cstross on the ballot for "Rule 34" in place of "Leviathan wakes."

In Best Novella, we had a tie for fifth, so one more vote for "The Ice Owl" or "Countdown" knocks the other off the final ballot.

In Best Dramatic Presentation(BDP)-Short, "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" missed the final ballot by one vote.**

In Best Editor, Long Form, Devi Pillai missed the ballot by 2 vote, and would have tied with PNH with 3 more votes.

In Best Semiprozlne, "Beneath Ceaseless Skies" missed the final ballot by one vote -- which would have put it in a three way tie for 5th with NYRSF and Apex. So, two more votes for BCS would have knocked *both* NYRSF and Apex off the ballot!

In Best Fanzine, Argentus misses by 1 (a shame, I know the guy who edits it. Good guy.) Argentus got 36 -- but the next three best, that made the ballot, got 37, 38 and 39 votes.

So, five of the categories change if one more vote is made. This is actually typical.

So, if you want to influence who gets the award, you must nominate and encourage others to do the same.


** However, BDP-Short was complicated this year by Game of Thrones (series) being nominated as well as individual episodes. The admin used the "serialized stories are nominated as one work" and the fact that many more people nominated the whole series in BDP-Long, and struck as ineligible the three episodes that would have been nominated. If we didn't do this, the difference between 5th (Remedial Chaos Theory, from Community) and 6th (Fire and Blood, from Game of Thrones) was only 4.
posted by eriko at 3:57 PM on September 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Anyway, all I wanted to ask was whether or not stories from anthologies outside the SF/F mainstream ever made it onto the nominations list. Apparently, mostly not? So, question answered!

I guess I'm just wondering what anthologies you're talking about? If there is somewhere publishing Hugo-caliber short fiction I want to read the Hugh-caliber short fiction. But in my experience, if someone is capable of writing at that quality, they publish in the more traditional venues because that's where the money is.
posted by Justinian at 4:06 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think my favourite moment from this year's Hugos may be this picture. Darkest possible Hugo timeline!
posted by penguinliz at 4:34 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


stuck-in-the-mud older geeky males

As an older geeky male, I have plenty of complaints about Hugos given to "SF" without any science in it. I certainly did my share of complaing when the Swords and Sorcery crowd approached a majority, and bitched pathetically when the L. Ron pantheon was loosed on the world. If that's "stuck in the mud" so be it. But I stopped getting what I wanted long before the end of the century. So it seems Walton (haven't read her essay) was conservative in her appraisal of the decline of my ilk.

And I'm still waiting for the movie set in the authentic, detailed other-world alien ruins inside the mile-wide dome. Because today's films are predictable, juvenile horselover.
posted by Twang at 5:22 PM on September 3, 2012


> "As an older geeky male, I have plenty of complaints about Hugos given to 'SF' without any science in it."

From the Hugo Awards web site:

"While the specific process has changed from its early days, and the categories have varied over time, one thing has remained constant, and that is that works of both science fiction and fantasy have always been eligible for the Hugo Award. The Hugo Award has never been exclusively for science fiction; it has always included works of fantasy. There never was a time when fantasy was 'added' — it’s always been eligible."
posted by kyrademon at 5:50 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


But in my experience, if someone is capable of writing at that quality, they publish in the more traditional venues because that's where the money is.

Ding ding ding ding ding.

Damn few make any money on the shorts, so the people publishing them work hard to have quality stories to publish.

Fundamentally, as MeFi's Own jscalzi and cstross would say, it's a job. They're writing not only because they want to, and they're good at it, but because it pays the bills. Just making an anthology isn't enough -- can you pay a decent rate for the stories? If so, you can find the best. If not, the best (or to be honest, the best's agents) will simply not bother with you.

Related: Things that I hate and will never change, chapter 173. There are clearly novels. There are clearly short stories. There is clearly a story that is longer than a short story, but not long enough to be a novel.

There is, however, no functional difference between a novella and a novelette. None. However, I know what would happen if WSFS tried to fix this -- a bunch of pros would show up and (as members, they have the right to...) vote it down. SFWA has four lights categories, and so will the Hugos. Forever.

If I cared enough to even attend, I'd actually argue that we need to try Best Artwork again.
posted by eriko at 5:52 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was actually a Hugo voter this year, thanks to mefi. (it was a great deal! All of the nominated works on my kindle). I really appreciated the chance to read works I otherwise wouldn't have seen.

That said, Among Others was one I had already purchased on my own (love Jo Walton). I already knew about Kij Johnson, but hadn't read her novella until I got my packet..and it was wonderful.
posted by maryrussell at 7:17 PM on September 3, 2012


I am really, really happy about Among Others' win. Good pick, fandom.
posted by Zed at 12:24 AM on September 4, 2012


oh wow, you get e-book versions of the whole Hugo slate for $50? I did not realise that, and that is now the final sell on me getting a kindle. Totally doing that next year.

I also picked up Among Others independently and really enjoyed it - lots of personal resonance as a misfit-teen-girl-fantasy-reader (and a new reading list, to boot). Was really happy to see it win.
posted by corvine at 2:31 AM on September 4, 2012


and a new reading list, to boot

Among Others bibliography
posted by Zed at 8:24 AM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I haven't followed the whole awards thing (other than to say, "oh maybe I should check that book / story out" ) but I just want to chime in and say I read and really enjoyed "Among Others." Also, like many other readers, I was surprised to learn the magic was not supposed to be ambiguous. Her explanation in the interview made sense, but I think I still like the ambiguity. Anyway - great book! Highly recommend.
posted by mkim at 6:14 PM on September 5, 2012




My Top 12 Memorable Moments From ChiCon 7
posted by Artw at 10:49 AM on September 11, 2012




The YA Hugos, pros and cons.
posted by Artw at 7:53 AM on September 12, 2012


Did not see this one coming: here's an explanation of how Among Others is Twilight for fandom.
posted by Zed at 8:42 AM on September 12, 2012


Abigail Nussbaum of "Asking the Wrong Questions" on ChiCon 7 and the Hugos.
But both the winners and the ballot as a whole reflect a trend that has dominated the Hugos for several years--towards nostalgia, fannishness, sentimentality, and stories that look inwards and backwards. The combination of an author I've never gotten along with and a subject matter that didn't appeal to me meant that I haven't read Among Others, but both that subject matter and the book's reception seem to confirm it as the epitome of that trend. In her acceptance speech, Walton quoted one of the commenters on her LiveJournal, who called Among Others "a love letter to fandom." I don't want the Hugos to be in the self-flattering business of rewarding their own love letters. I want them to look outward, for what's new and exciting and different in the field, for the works that will be shape and change genre writing in the years to come. But saying that again and again is starting to feel pointless.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:56 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would agree with that Narrative Priorities, I think the attention and respect they get is a bit on the hyperbolic side, but then I would think that: I think a lot of the attention and respect many bestsellers in the genre get is a bit on the hyperbolic side, too. On the bright side, Eddings, Jordan, Goodkind (god help us) and the like never got one.

The the rigours of publishing marketing these days, would surely inhibit that kind of choice. The growth of "classics" is more organic, orthogonal than that I feel. The explosion of self-publishing, small presses only exacerbates this. The next Gene Wolfe may never be published by a big house, may never exist in paper etc.

For mine, I think there's a tremendous diversity and excitement in the sf/f genres atm (I say this as a reader). I'm truly spoiled for choice and there's some incredible, interesting work being produced. The main challenge for me is finding it, and I would never really look at the Hugos for it - though this is not to say everything nominated or promoted in there is bad.
posted by smoke at 9:37 PM on September 12, 2012


I think it does Among Others a great discredit to suggest that all it's about is looking backwards. The nostalgia isn't the only thing or the most interesting thing going on. Among other things, it's about how the things Mor was reading and loving were delivering some pretty bad messages, and it's about her learning to live outside of books and make better choices than the ones she was seeing. Yes, it's set in the past. Yes, it's about someone who is reading both the contemporary science fiction and fantasy of that past, and things that were already old.

But it's looking forward.
posted by Zed at 10:50 PM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know, I like Abigail lots (she edits some of my reviews), but this is a comment in very poor spirit: "The combination of an author I've never gotten along with and a subject matter that didn't appeal to me meant that I haven't read Among Others, but both that subject matter and the book's reception seem to confirm it as the epitome of that trend."

Agree with Zed that there's much more going on there than just fannish wankery. It's a very good book.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:40 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


And it's utterly different than Embassytown, which came second, which is utterly different than Leviathan Wakes, which came 3rd...
posted by Artw at 11:24 PM on September 13, 2012


Among Others wins the British Fantasy Award.
posted by Artw at 7:33 PM on September 30, 2012


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