The Hugo Awards for 2020
August 1, 2020 10:28 PM   Subscribe

2020's Hugo Award winners were announced this weekend in a lengthy livestream available as a merciful edit. Full stats [PDF] break down votes on nominees discussed previously. Rebecca F. Kuang's acceptance speech for the newly-renamed Astounding Award movingly summarized issues in the field, and Jeannette Ng won a Hugo for her previous acceptance speech for the renamed award. Departed members of the community were memorialized in an annual list and in Neil Gaiman's acceptance speech. As for the presentation, Andrew Liptak says, "Last night's Hugo Awards ceremony was a mess," and Natalie Luhrs says, "George R.R. Martin can fuck off into the sun." SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal: "This is a large systemic failure." ConZealand's statement. GRRM's first comment and his second. John Scalzi on how to be a Hugo MC. Incidentally, the Retro Hugo results [PDF] presented a related issue for the eighth time.
posted by Wobbuffet (116 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
...

I cannot comment, but know things. That sucks.
posted by ChrisR at 11:35 PM on August 1


Roger needs to tell Dodger it's time for a reset.
posted by EsotericAlgorithm at 12:08 AM on August 2 [9 favorites]


I am so sad and so angry and so disappointed.
posted by Zed at 12:08 AM on August 2


"the failure mode of clever is asshole"

That one's hitting me hard today, for some reason.
posted by catachresoid at 12:18 AM on August 2 [33 favorites]


GRRM is one of the worst woman haters SFF has seen. In my opinion he is also a writer of genius, but his works lost all appeal for me more than a decade ago.

The Hugo powers that be should take Seanan McGuire up on her offer to host it next time around. Now that would be Big Fun.
posted by jamjam at 12:22 AM on August 2 [18 favorites]


Taken aback by the runaway win for Good Omens. I thought it was horribly clunky. One of those shows were you are embarrassed to have been the one to pick it to watch after dinner.
posted by biffa at 12:42 AM on August 2 [7 favorites]


I'm intrigued by the suggestion that there were multiple books last year better than Gideon the Ninth, but the mess that was Every Heart a Doorway has generally limited my interest in checking out anything else by Seanan McGuire. Still, congratulations to all the winners, and hopefully this discussion can manage not to focus too heavily on the old white man.
posted by one for the books at 2:08 AM on August 2 [5 favorites]


Has anyone transcribed the GRRM speech?
posted by corb at 2:39 AM on August 2 [1 favorite]


I swear every year something happens at the Hugo's to make them suck or to generate controversy. What is the point of them continuing?
posted by Braeburn at 3:16 AM on August 2 [1 favorite]


the mess that was Every Heart a Doorway has generally limited my interest in checking out anything else by Seanan McGuire

Booooo!

(I say this in a loving way and totally accept that we can have differing opinions)
posted by Literaryhero at 3:18 AM on August 2 [8 favorites]


Metafilter: I am so sad and so angry and so disappointed.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:41 AM on August 2 [10 favorites]


Braeburn, the Hugos—like other significant literary awards—are worth continuing for many reasons. They’re a site of controversy because they tend to map to larger current cultural, social, and political controversies, at least in recent years. The value awards have includes everything from acknowledging the best in any given year, to highlighting deserving works that haven’t sold as well, to inspiring healthy competition, to serving as a starting point for readers, to driving sales. That last is huge—big ups in sales to readers and to libraries in the short and the long terms. All of that outweighs shenanigans, intergenerational conflict, and controversies.
posted by cupcakeninja at 3:42 AM on August 2 [20 favorites]


Taken aback by the runaway win for Good Omens. I thought it was horribly clunky.

I found it okay but just okay. The cast was great but it felt a little too smug in tone and the special effects looked like they were from 1995.

Us should have won.
posted by octothorpe at 4:09 AM on August 2 [4 favorites]


one for the books, Seanan McGuire's fiction varies quite a bit. I didn't like Every Heart a Doorway because I just felt I was being told it's bad to abuse children and I already knew that.

I like the October Daye books, the Incryptid series (even though I think the mice are boring) and The Twisted Ones better.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 5:36 AM on August 2 [1 favorite]


Has anyone transcribed the GRRM speech?

It will be finished in 2032.
posted by srboisvert at 5:45 AM on August 2 [67 favorites]


Has anyone transcribed the GRRM speech?

You'll probably have to watch the awards themselves. From what I'm gathering for the links though, is that Martin mispronounced everyone's names, made references to influential olde timey sci-fi dudes who are problematic. Then, because Martin himself is an olde timey dude, he droned out a bunch of rambling stories about past Hugo awards he'd been at. Also, joked about the award statue being a eunuch, which is pretty on-brand for him.

Clearly he wasn't the greatest MC, but I'm not sure what people were expecting from him. If you want sharp, conscious commentary, maybe don't invite Grandpa to be your presenter.
posted by Panjandrum at 5:53 AM on August 2 [17 favorites]


> "What is the point of them continuing?"

Well, the presentation of the awards aside (which is not to dismiss the presentation as a non-issue; it is a serious issue) -- the Hugos did a fantastic job of recognizing the best in the SFF field this time around, and it turns out that the best in the field is overwhelmingly women, people of color, and LGBTQ+.
posted by kyrademon at 5:56 AM on August 2 [29 favorites]


I feel for New Zealand fans - for once they don't have to fly halfway across the world to attend WorldCon, COVID-19 means that they don't get any of the advantages of hosting, and their WorldCon committee fucks up on multiple fronts (including seemingly not highlighting New Zealand authors, which, come on, who else is going to highlight New Zealand if not New Zealand?)

Speaking of which, a twitter thread highlighting some recent SFF by New Zealand authors.

I also want to point out that the reason why there are so many Hugo Award controversies is because there has successfully been change, and the Old Guard is angry. Jeanette Ng successfully got the Astounding Award's name changed (and was awarded for it this year!). The only reason why there was any controversy about fanfic writers on AO3 referring to themselves as Hugo Award winners is because Archive of Our Own actually won the award. The Sad Puppies existed because the nominees were getting too 'diverse' and that movement was successfully stopped. This is one of the few cases in this trash fire of a universe where things really do seem like they're headed in the right direction, despite the best efforts of reactionaries trying to tell us that facists aren't that bad, really.

Maybe the retro hugo award can be fixed to focus more on works that were overlooked at the time - the logistics of having a popular nomination process on stuff that's almost certainly out of print seems like a lot. Pronounciation guides should be a fucking given. There's definitely more work to be done, but I'm less cynical than usual that things might get slightly better, at least in this respect.

I admit I didn't finish my Hugo reading for this year - I made the mistake of thinking that To Be Taught if Fortunate would be a nice cozy Wayfarers-esque read when I was doing the overnight watches during the Minneapolis protests, and that experience made me want to read nothing but romance books for the next month. But I am glad that RF Quang (who, I'm going to point out, is the same age as the A Song of Ice and Fire series) won the Astounding Award this year. I was less impressed by the novels I read, but thought that A Memory Called Empire deserved its win - and that other novels that weren't shortlisted like The Raven Tower and Black Leopard, Red Wolf were better than The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

I do want to highlight the novella cateogry, because it was super strong this year - of all of them, I think In An Absent Dream is the only one that I wouldn't have expected to be a winner in a different year. The Haunting of Tram Car 015 is so much fun in a wonderful setting, The Deep worked well as a metaphor or intergenerational trauma, To Be Taught if Fortunate and Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom were both very moving, if in different ways.

(Obligatory Fanfare link)
posted by dinty_moore at 6:07 AM on August 2 [13 favorites]


If the reviews are accurate, that sounds absolutely terrible.

Also, joked about the award statue being a eunuch, which is pretty on-brand for him.

I (with many caveats) like his books, but the whole event sounds on-brand for him. Long-winded, sloppy, slightly naughty in a 1960s kind of way, and leaning on the same three or four retrograde ideas about what is funny and what is sexy -- for all that I have enjoyed reading them, that describes his books pretty well.

The books aren't aging all that well, I don't think, nor is the TV version, and this speech sounds like it had already aged poorly before it even happened.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:08 AM on August 2 [10 favorites]


One of the other things is that, for once, the awards wasn't shown live. Someone could have reviewed GRRM's tapings and given him feedback, even if the feedback was just 'how to pronounce this nominee's name' or 'Hey, maybe less talk about how great John Campbell is, we changed the award name for a reason'. They just didn't want to.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:17 AM on August 2 [9 favorites]


Someone could have reviewed GRRM's tapings and given him feedback, even if the feedback was just 'how to pronounce this nominee's name'

The take-away here is for producers: If your presenter mispronounces a name, you keep reshooting the segment until they get it right.
posted by mikelieman at 6:19 AM on August 2 [22 favorites]


> "Speaking of which, a twitter thread highlighting some recent SFF by New Zealand authors"

While one of A. J. Fitzwater's stories is mentioned in that thread, I'd like to give a specific shout-out to her recent (New Zealand set) novella No Man's Land, which I very much enjoyed.

> "... other novels that weren't shortlisted like The Raven Tower"

Just as a note, The Raven Tower made the shortlist, but Leckie declined the nomination.
posted by kyrademon at 6:20 AM on August 2 [10 favorites]


The Hugos are doing the inverse of the Oscars. The Oscars will make a big deal about diversity in their awards ceremony but generally fail to actually nominate or award the diverse talent they claim to celebrate. Whereas the Hugo awards, at least post the Sad Puppies reforms, are going to talented authors of many persuasions.

Hopefully they can correct the much easier problem of hiring a non-embarrassing MC to give out future awards
posted by JDHarper at 6:24 AM on August 2 [16 favorites]


GRRM is one of the worst woman haters SFF has seen.

Eh, that’s a big mountain, and I don’t think Martin is the summit. Not because he isn’t misogynist; I mean, hell, he’s from 20th/21st C America, and he seems to have spent the last 40 years not learning much. However, it’s really clear that he doesn’t understand women at all; I had breakfast with him some 30 years ago, and he seemed honestly perplexed and sad that the ending of Beauty and the Beast made his audience mad. It’s also clear that he’s mistaken inverting tropes for subverting them and thinks “gritty” automatically means “good.” He’s an old white guy talking/writing for old white guys guys, and that doesn’t fly well anymore.

What is ironic is that Martin and Silverberg were part of their own revolution against the state conventions of SF in their day; being the last gasp of the old guard is… well, let’s just say it’s possible to outlive your revolution.

Lastly, terrible Hugo MCs aren’t uncommon. I remember watching Spider Robinson all-but-literally shit on the fan awards one year.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:29 AM on August 2 [36 favorites]


If your presenter mispronounces a name, you keep reshooting the segment until they get it right.

This is an absurdly high bar, unless your idea of "getting it right" is not actually "right", but "close enough" to some (usually American English-speaking) approximation of closeness.
posted by Soi-hah at 6:35 AM on August 2 [1 favorite]


Is it? It seems like the baseline of respect to find out how someone you are attempting to honor pronounces their name and to get it right. It's not like don't have time to find out in advance.
posted by JDHarper at 6:42 AM on August 2 [29 favorites]


{Reshooting a mispronounced name until it is said correcty} is an absurdly high bar, unless your idea of "getting it right" is not actually "right", but "close enough" to some (usually American English-speaking) approximation of closeness.

If the average American can correctly pronounce names like Giamatti, Tchiakovsky, Schweitzer, LaBoeuf, Gyllenhaal, Chalamet, and Saorsie correctly, then properly pronouncing names like El-Mohtar, Jemisin, Huang, Ohaegbu, and Takács is ABSOLUTELY NOT an "absurdly high bar."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:53 AM on August 2 [84 favorites]


At the risk of contributing to an otherwise-unhelpful derail, the "pronunciation" thing has to take the limits of human capabilities into account. When I was in college, I tried to learn how to pronounce a Chinese friend's last name correctly. After many attempts, he said I was somewhat close but "you're saying X when it's actually X" and I could not hear the difference between the two.

This isn't a skin color thing, either; I don't expect most Americans to be able to pronounce the "ch" in my German last name with anything like full fidelity. And my wife cringes whenever I try to say the Romanian words for dog or bread, because I simply cannot produce the vowel sound in those words.

But I don't think this is about accurate pronunciation at all. It's really about caring enough to try.
posted by Slothrup at 6:56 AM on August 2 [20 favorites]


I do think there's a difference between "your language doesn't differentiate between aspirated p/not aspirated p or l/r but you're trying your best" and "not being able to be fucked to see that FIYAH, an American publication basing their pronunciation on American English, is pronounced to be like 'fire', or not even telling presenters the correct pronunciation", and to be clear, we are talking about the second case here.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:57 AM on August 2 [25 favorites]


No-one is asking you to read a new-to-you name perfectly - the first time you see - on camera

If you ain't familiar with the name, either work with a group who provides phonetic guides, or better yet Look It Up!
posted by lalochezia at 6:58 AM on August 2 [5 favorites]


Gideon the Ninth is an astonishing novel, and immensely enjoyable. Those sentences! By far one of the best things I've read in the past year.
posted by Gadarene at 6:59 AM on August 2 [7 favorites]


Also, pointing out that this is FIYAH's website. You should go there because a) they do good work - not just publishing but also reviewing other Black authored SFF if you're looking for something longer to read and b) it becomes really, really fucking obvious that their name is based on 'fire', considering it's in their logo, they use a lot of fire based imagery, and talk about the original FIRE!! anthology.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:23 AM on August 2 [3 favorites]




If anyone read the links, GRRM got guidelines for pronouncing names phonetically, he just fucking didn't try.

I was wondering about the producers....were they volunteer? I can imagine them feeling too intimidated to demand a celebrity fix something, especially if they weren't seasoned pros. But I'm speculating.

Anyway there were also lots of people not sent links for panels they were on and other snafus.

This is How You Lose the Time War was brilliant and deserved the win, and LaGuardia was on my to-read list so I'm excited for it also.
posted by emjaybee at 7:35 AM on August 2 [5 favorites]


There have been reports (looking for links, there have been a lot in the last few days) that not all presenters actually recieved the pronounciation guides - it sounds like they were asked for and then just not distributed.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:38 AM on August 2 [3 favorites]


Martin claims he did not receive a comprehensive guide, but I have no way of verifying that.

I was wondering about the producers....were they volunteer? I can imagine them feeling too intimidated to demand a celebrity fix something, especially if they weren't seasoned pros. But I'm speculating.

In Mary Robinette Kowal's tweets linked in the OP she indicates that she saw some of the issues but didn't feel comfortable bringing them up with Martin. So you can imagine if the SFWA president felt intimidated that a con volunteer probably didn't feel like they had standing to try either.
posted by selfnoise at 7:44 AM on August 2 [7 favorites]


I have been reading far fewer novels now thanks to covid and homeschooling but when I saw the Hugo nominees list I thought I should read at least one of them and I picked A memory called empire! I enjoyed the book
posted by dhruva at 7:46 AM on August 2 [3 favorites]


Taken aback by the runaway win for Good Omens.

I suspect they weren’t voting for the show, but for one of the authors of the original book. It’s difficult to refuse an award posthumously.
posted by zamboni at 7:55 AM on August 2 [8 favorites]


I was pretty prepared, with the help of a bottle of vodka, to be mildly bored in between announcements and tolerant of a history lesson. But between the focus on not just old white men but old white racists, fascists, and known sexual harassers, the bizarre treatment of some of his presenters, and the mispronunciation of very nearly every single name, it was clear that Martin, at least, was there to enjoy the ability to revel in his memories of Worldcons past and not at all to make new memories for the current audience or nominees.

That said, I am absolutely fucking delighted that Arkady won. A Memory Called Empire is one of my favorite books ever, and it deserved it. Arkady is a dear friend of mine, too, but I have a number of friends on the long and short lists this year, and Arkady's book was the one I desperately wanted to win for its own sake.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:02 AM on August 2 [8 favorites]


Martin claims he did not receive a comprehensive guide, but I have no way of verifying that.


Assuming that he did not -- entirely possible -- he could have ASKED for one. Yes, I too would not want to try to contact 120 people to get all their names, but he could have just asked the conrunners for a list.

The rest of his comment is also nonsense. Why would people in New Zealand, particularly, want to hear about the history of the Hugos? Why did he discuss Campbell specifically so much when his name was just taken off the award? Why does he think that people wanted to be backwards lookig, not forwards.

I like the October Daye books, the Incryptid series (even though I think the mice are boring) and The Twisted Ones better.


FYI, The Twisted Ones is by Ursula Vernon aka T Kingfisher, not Seanan McGuire, whose October Daye series I am still a fan of, as well as her pandemic-style horror which she writes under Mira Grant (not all the books under that name).
posted by jeather at 8:04 AM on August 2 [6 favorites]


Everyone involved with running WorldCon is a volunteer. Some may receive rebates on convention membership fees for their work, but nobody on the organisation side is doing this for paid reward.

That is no excuse for ineptness or lack of preparation. However, and I speak as someone who was involved for many years in fan-run volunteer conventions, it can lead to a substantial imbalance of power between conrunner and professional guest. I'm naming no names, but I've had the experience of being a mid-level volunteer staff member trying to cope with the ego of a high-profile guest, and it can be quite awkward.

Now, the vast majority of pro guests are a pleasure to work with, but there are a few who are, shall we say, 'high maintenance'. Worse, the higher-profile a pro guest is, the more anxiety there will be that they might react badly, and if that pro guest has a huge social media following all it takes is one slightly grumpy tweet about how 'I gave up my valuable time to do X for this event and apparently it's not good enough' and you will have just bought your (volunteer) convention committee an outraged Twitterstorm.

Of course, if you don't try and sort out an issue with a guest, you may well get your committee that outraged Twitterstorm anyway.
posted by Major Clanger at 8:11 AM on August 2 [7 favorites]


As a lifelong reader of SF, I am thrilled that Hugo nominations/awards are now regularly bringing a great diversity of new, terrific writers to wider attention. I don't have the time (or inclination) to fan out as hard as I used to, so don't track writers well anymore, or keep my ear to the ground for what's new and great, and no matter what a mess the awards ceremony is, the recent reforms to process have successfully brought more than a few wonderful, new-to-me authors to my attention, and really reinvigorated my SF reading.

This ceremony looks to have been unfortunate, but like JDHarper mentioned, it also looks like a reverse-Oscars: the Hugos are actually doing the hard work, as the nominations and awards demonstrate; while the Oscars are still hoping that cosmetic changes in their ceremonies will convince everyone that their processes (and institutional values) have changed, while the actual awards immediately put the lie to that.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:16 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]


It's possible some/most of the volunteers didn't know or bother to check the pronunciations, either. (It also seems like what they elicited from the nominees was phonetic spellings, instead of quick recordings? Seems like in this day and age they should collect both and require the host to practice...)

I was struck in GRRM's response at his noting that hey, all of his stories had gotten laughs before! When I see things like this I try to make a note to myself to remember as I age in hopes of avoiding this kind of blindness. Like that the way the people I surround myself with react is never universal, and I can't assume it is or insist it should be.
posted by trig at 8:19 AM on August 2 [7 favorites]


If the average American can correctly pronounce names like Giamatti, Tchiakovsky, Schweitzer, LaBoeuf, Gyllenhaal, Chalamet, and Saorsie correctly

They can't. This is exactly what I meant by "close enough to some degree of closeness".

I've been looking at the IPA [ˈtɒkaːt͡ʃ] for a while now and while I'm confident I could give a best-guess approximation, I wouldn't dream of having the audacity to think I can pronounce it anything close to "correctly" or "properly".

Names are important. It is important to ask how a name is pronounced and give your best effort in replicating the sounds. When you are MCing an awards ceremony you might want to give an extra bit of effort!

However, unless you are 100% confident that you know how to pronounce a name exactly the way its owner does it is not a good look to grandstand how someone else is mispronouncing it, even if they are MCing an awards ceremony and have clearly put in only the modicum of effort. You're going to mispronounce it too, just maybe in a different way.
posted by Soi-hah at 8:33 AM on August 2 [13 favorites]


Everyone who has had a name being pronounced by someone whose first language is not yours has had the experience of "this is being mangled but they are trying" vs "this is being mangled because they want to mangle it". People can tell the difference.

Incidentally I was delighted that A Memory Called Empire, possibly my best book of 2019, won.
posted by jeather at 8:36 AM on August 2 [31 favorites]


(including seemingly not highlighting New Zealand authors, which, come on, who else is going to highlight New Zealand if not New Zealand?)

They apparently even squashed the Sir Julius Vogel Awards ceremony in after the Retros. There was a voters packet prepared as well, which was not emailed out. Which, again is a huge fail in terms of promoting New Zealand SFF.
posted by scorbet at 8:38 AM on August 2 [3 favorites]


However, unless you are 100% confident that you know how to pronounce a name exactly the way its owner does it is not a good look to grandstand how someone else is mispronouncing it, even if they are MCing an awards ceremony and have clearly put in only the modicum of effort. You're going to mispronounce it too, just maybe in a different way.

Look, the names mispronounced included Navah, Arkady, FIYAH. The first two he put the stresses in the wrong place. This isn't advanced linguistics, this does not require an ear for Hebrew or Russian. This just requires, you know, asking. The last was also a simple "I have never heard or thought about this word before so I'm gonna guess" fuckup, and when it's your literal job to say it on camera, that's not good enough.

Amal, being a sweet and benevolent soul, seems to tolerate Americans not getting the sound in the middle of her surname correct - it's there, but it's one that doesn't appear in English and most people whiff it. (I have never asked her about it, but I also took several years of Hebrew and can manage that sound just fine.) But... FIYAH. Come on. This isn't hard. This just takes a little bit of effort.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:38 AM on August 2 [11 favorites]


Hi! Making no effort to pronounce a name correctly is rude! There is an undeniable history of racism and nativism here, so making no effort to correctly pronounce certain non-Anglo names is not just rude, but racist, nativist, and deeply hurtful! Defending that on the pretext that some languages are hard is gross! The more you know (rainbow appears)!
posted by prefpara at 8:40 AM on August 2 [34 favorites]


Has anyone transcribed the GRRM speech?
It wasn't just one speech. GRRM spoke for 1 hour 50 of a 3.5 hour program, according to the person who made the edited version.
posted by cheshyre at 8:40 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]


Holy crap, Ursula Vernon is T Kingfisher? I really enjoyed The Twisted Ones. It's not a horror novel, precisely, but it's a solid building out on Arthur Machen with a good rising tension and weird and horrible images. If you like rural horror/suspense, this may very well be up your tree.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:54 AM on August 2 [5 favorites]


As for the pronunciation derail... yes there are names that are hard for Americans to pronounce (and other names that are hard for people from other countries/cultures/first languages to pronounce) and comparing a bunch of names that people hear "closer" pronunciations of (Tchiakovsky, LaBoeuf, Gyllenhaal, etc) broadcast pretty often to the names of authors who are generally only seen, not heard, is kind of fudging the point, but...

Martin's job was to present awards. That includes making a decent stab at pronouncing the authors and titles of the books. It's what he was up there to do! much more than to tell stories and shine the spotlight on himself and his friends. If he didn't think he could do that, he should have declined the honor of presenting.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:07 AM on August 2 [4 favorites]


Jeannette Ng's acceptance speech (for the Hugo for her acceptance speech) was phenomenal and deserves a Hugo of its own.

I didn't like Every Heart a Doorway because I just felt I was being told it's bad to abuse children and I already knew that.

I am not actually sure Seanan McGuire wrote it with this intention, but Every Heart a Doorway is deeply, deeply about being neurodivergent, to me. About this world never quite fitting you right, and the trauma of being forced to accept that.
posted by brook horse at 9:14 AM on August 2 [9 favorites]


Holy crap, Ursula Vernon is T Kingfisher

Yes, for anything that’s not upbeat books for kids or “things [she] enjoy[s] writing” as she put it in the afterword to her latest A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking. (Which is brilliant.)
posted by scorbet at 9:19 AM on August 2 [6 favorites]


I have very strong opinions about how Good Omens is very, very good, and I have written at length about it, and I could write at length about it again.... But that feels a bit like a tangent in this thread. But! Anyone is welcome to MeMail me, of you would like to hear my very passionate, lengthy thoughts on the subject.
posted by meese at 9:27 AM on August 2 [14 favorites]


In general, GRRM's tone, the mispronounciations, and the talking about the old days led to the impression that he probably hasn't cared about any of the new SFF that might have come out in the last year, which is a shitty way to approach an awards show about all of the great SFF that has come out in the last year.

Anyway, more on the Sir Julius Vogel awards and how they were swept to the side.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:29 AM on August 2 [4 favorites]


As a linguist, I can attest that there are degrees of both effort and success in correctly attempting to pronounce words not of your native language or culture. However, in this case, there were just blatantly 0.0 degrees, along this and other dimensions. (I've also seen whispers on twitter that he *was* asked to rerecord some takes and refused, not sure if this is true). So given that context (which you can get from the linked articles), taken together with stuff like the rosy positivity about people like of Campbell etc. (this while Jeannette Ng was literally getting a Hugo for the speech I just linked), these derails about "but names are hard" here ... read kind of badly.

On the plus side, I'm also very excited about A Memory Called Empire winning, it's definitely the book I've been rooting for in awards this year. Highly recommended. Despite this mess the fact that there *were* so many names that someone like GRRM wouldn't lift a finger to pronounce correctly to me is a hugely positive sign that things in SFF have turned some kind of corner from the era that he represents.
posted by advil at 9:30 AM on August 2 [9 favorites]


If the average American can correctly pronounce names like Giamatti, Tchiakovsky, Schweitzer, LaBoeuf, Gyllenhaal, Chalamet, and Saorsie correctly, then properly pronouncing names like El-Mohtar, Jemisin, Huang, Ohaegbu, and Takács is ABSOLUTELY NOT an "absurdly high bar."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:53 AM on August 2 [17 favorites +] [!]


Guess how I pronounce "militia"? I read it a hundred times in classic sci fi books and that self-defined pronunciation is still what is stuck in my brain - something I bet many in the Hugo crowd do as well. I only know some of these (tchiakovsky, Gyllenhaal, Jemisin) because I've heard them often enough that my english-speaking brain has lodged that "these sounds go with these letters." And, most Spanish language names I can get OK, thanks to having taken Spanish 1 a few times.

We need to be saying more names more often so that this happens more often. Movies need characters with non-white names. Movie stars are beginning to discontinue "whitening" their names. People need more language classes, and less segregation in the classroom. We're making progress, and I want to continue in this direction.
posted by rebent at 9:30 AM on August 2 [3 favorites]


An old, old, old trope in SFF involves a human ambassador meeting a representative from a non-human empire and mispronouncing their name, causing the characters who brokered the meeting to gasp and exclaim, "By stressing the wrong syllable, instead of saying Ambassador Thr'llx's name correctly you insulted his ancestors! The Xenans will declare war because of this!"

I strongly suspect George RR Martin has read a story or two featuring that trope.

I also have to believe he has read, if not written, stories about humans interacting with, for example, the Seelie Court, which frequently stress how important manners are -- at least from the humans towards the Court. The Court, wielding far more power than the humans, never seems to have to be as polite to the humans, stressing and reinforcing the power imbalance.

Finally, the power and importance of names is old as our stories. You see it in everything from The Bible to Rumpelstiltskin to early cyberpunk. Again, I have to believe Martin knows this.

So, with that understanding, I feel that making a sincere effort to pronounce a name correctly is such a small but powerful way of saying "I see you, fellow human." And I am hurt and saddened by this, because "our" genre of SFF is supposed to be all about exploring what it truly means to be human.

I know I probably mispronounce some of these names in my head, but if I were ever required to speak them -- especially in the context of honoring the names' bearers -- you had better believe I would learn and come as close to saying them correctly as my born-and-raised-in-Florida-lived-in-Texas-for-the-past-25 years accent would let me.

We can be better than this. I hope the 2021 Hugos show that we can learn and grow.
posted by lord_wolf at 9:41 AM on August 2 [40 favorites]






What K Tempest Bradford says rings very true to me. I was at TorCon (seventeen years ago now!) thinking how out of place I felt as a 21-yr-old woman, how the con really belonged to white guys 50+ years old, and... pretty soon we were going to hit a change-or-die moment. And I think we already passed that moment, and didn't go down the "change" road.

The thing is, I don't like media cons. I'm not interested in industry events, I'm not interested in celebrities, I am anti-interested in crowds and waiting in lines. I would much rather see old-school science fiction book fandom turn into something bigger and more accepting of diversity and of new blood, than focus my congoing time and money on media cons. But if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen.
posted by Jeanne at 10:33 AM on August 2 [3 favorites]


Instead of continuing down the derail of names are haaaaarrrrrrdddddd which by the way makes it all about the super rich white guy sitting in his private theater paid for by TV money, can we instead center the winners? This is the worst kind of privilege fragility. Ugh.

Up in the FPP, Rebecca F. Kuang's acceptance speech about how if she had known how hard all of this was going to be? She wouldn't have even tried.

Can we talk about how to make fandom more inclusive and raise up the voices of the brilliant work instead of continuing to focus on the rich white guy who doesn't realize the world has changed.
posted by ladyriffraff at 10:39 AM on August 2 [12 favorites]


On how other genres deal with the history of their genres, and specifically about Campbell and ASTOUNDING.

For a Twitter thread, it’s a solid essay, but Jess Nevins misses a point: history is important. You cannot engage fully with a genre without a sense of its past, but it’s past is not its present. So, say, Gideon the Ninth is heir to a line going back at least into the 19th C, and owes debts to Campbell and Brackett and Herbert and a whole lot of Warhammer 40K, and someone studying the history and literature of SF needs to think about that line (good and bad), and authors ought to be students of their genres (and read widely outside them, too), but the reader picking up the book just needs the weird world, the twisty mystery, the dusty regret, and the lesbian necromancers. Genre authors owe a debt to the past, but their responsibility is to engage with the present and the future.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:50 AM on August 2 [8 favorites]


The pure joy and hope mixed with determination in Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone's speech was so uplifting.
Write, "We have always fucking been here." Write, "It doesn't have to be like this." Write, "It gets better, because we will make it better together." Write, "This is how we win."
I have not read This is How You Lose the Time War yet because I ran out of time (heh) and had to return it to the library, but I'm moving it back up on my priority list.
posted by brook horse at 10:55 AM on August 2 [6 favorites]


It's such a good book. I should have bounced off it hard, it's ornate and literary and not especially plotty, but I loved it a whole lot.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:56 AM on August 2 [1 favorite]


It's also a pretty quick read! If you needed more motivation to pick it up, know it can be finished relatively quickly.
posted by meese at 11:00 AM on August 2 [1 favorite]


I taught as a substitute teacher for years. One of my districts was--by data, not a boast--the most diverse school district in the nation at the time. I'd find names I had never heard before on every roster sheet, several times a day, sometimes day after day.

I didn't have any special training. It's not that hard to deal with. All you have to do is ask and actually care. And if you're hosting a show and you can see names on your sheet you don't know how to pronounce, it's on you to fucking ask.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:07 AM on August 2 [8 favorites]


Kudos to Memory Called Empire - for a first novel, too.
I enjoyed it very much, especially as a Byzantinophile.

But eh, Every Heart a Doorway disappointed me.
posted by doctornemo at 11:22 AM on August 2


I didn't get to read A Memory Called Empire yet, but can strongly recommend Middlegame which was fantastic. First time in a long while I've been kept awake because I just have to finish the book.

I had a slightly harder time with Gideon the Ninth, which seems to be very popular with everyone here, because I found the large cast of characters hard to keep track of. That said though the necromancer magic system was an interesting concept, and I enjoyed imagining the setting.
posted by ElliotH at 11:30 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]


Jess Nevins misses a point: history is important. You cannot engage fully with a genre without a sense of its past
The reference librarian and prolific annotator and encyclopedist of mystery, science fiction, fantasy, and superhero genres and their roots really, truly does not miss that point. But he's making a different point. Nevins' thread begins:
As far as I know, mystery fandom--mystery fans--don't tell you that the only way into the genre is through Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler, though of course fans of both want you to read the works of both authors. New romance fans aren't gatekeeped w/Georgette Heyer & Barbara Cartland, though if the newbies haven't read either they'll be told how good both authors' works are. Nobody in horror tells a new arrival that if they haven't read Oliver Onions or W.F. Harvey they aren't real fans.
but the reader picking up the book just needs the weird world, the twisty mystery, the dusty regret, and the lesbian necromancers.
He's agreeing with you.
posted by Zed at 11:41 AM on August 2 [2 favorites]


I would suggest people not judge In an Absent Dream (which was the actually nominated book) by Every Heart a Doorway. Though it's part of the series, it can be read completely standalone, and is IMHO much stronger than the first book. I enjoyed the first book, but there are valid critiques of it. In an Absent Dream didn't have those same flaws, and had quite a few extra strengths of its own. It was my favorite of the series by far.
posted by brook horse at 11:44 AM on August 2 [3 favorites]


We all have limited lifespans, and it's ok to not engage with a genre fully by reading literally everything everyone calls foundational, even if you are an author in that genre. I care much more if books are engaging with SFF (or mystery, or romance, or) as it is now than one that engages deeply with the past and ignores the present. There are lots of ways into a genre, and Heinlein etc is not the main way into SFF anymore, and that's not a bad thing.
posted by jeather at 12:04 PM on August 2 [17 favorites]


I tell you what, I never trusted dudes who wear those cap things
posted by thelonius at 12:14 PM on August 2 [5 favorites]


You know what's foundational to the genre? Children's fantasy, and yet no one is out here calling on everyone to read MacDonald, Baum, Nesbit. Modern fantasy is said to have began with George MacDonald and do I ever hear us talking about The Princess and the Goblin? No. No I don't. So maybe, it's not actually about that, after all.
posted by brook horse at 12:18 PM on August 2 [20 favorites]


Actually I am out here calling on everyone to read MacDonald, Baum, and Nesbit. The Christian allegory is pretty heavy-handed in The Princess and the Goblin but you can forgive it because God is an old woman and Jesus is a pigeon, and otherwise it's a fantastically surreal. I mean, there's a cat with legs as long as a horse's. Baum is really quite funny, and Marvelous Land of Oz is an important early transgender work whether it was intending to be or not. And of course, Nesbit single-handedly transformed the genre--the credit is usually given for setting, moving from nonsensical adventures in secondary worlds to rule-grounded magic set in the real world, but she also was influential in writing children as children with all their agency and flaws and strengths and not little angelic avatars that walk about observing the world. There's racism and sexism etc. to deal with in all of them, but the same can be said for The Greats of adult SFF, so if we're going to go on about foundational work, we might as well change it up for once.
posted by brook horse at 12:45 PM on August 2 [25 favorites]


Oh yes, everyone should read The Princess and the Goblin!
posted by hydropsyche at 1:28 PM on August 2 [3 favorites]


All righty, I finally have some time at the end of this long day, so I'm going to WAX RHAPSODIC ABOUT SOME BOOKS.

Like several others here, I thought A Memory Called Empire was the best 2019 book I've read yet, in any genre. I was thrilled that it won. I thought Arkady Martine's acceptance speech was great. The book is a stunning blending of palace intrigue, murder mystery, and space opera with a riveting setting and great characters.

Gideon the Ninth, while it has received more mixed reviews across Metafilter and Fanfare, was another fave of mine. If there's one thing I love, it's SFF novels that drop you into the middle of a fascinating world with minimal explanation or exposition. And when that fascinating world can be described as "queer space necromancers", well, I'm pretty much sold.

The Raven Tower (made the shortlist but author declined the nomination) was great. A narratively interesting and engaging extended riff on Hamlet with a truly remarkable narrator, about whom I won't say more to avoid spoilers.

I haven't read Middlegame. I tend to have an odd reaction to Seanan McGuire. I love her stuff that no one seems to have heard of (Indexing! Sparrow Hill Road!), while her more popular books leave me a bit cold. I'm intrigued that people are saying that In An Absent Dream is a step up for the Wayward Children series -- I thought the series had rapidly diminishing returns and have held off on getting a copy, but I may bump it up the list now.

The other books on the novel shortlist didn't knock my socks off, but I get why they're there and think they deserved their spots.

Books I'd recommend off the novel longlist include Children of Ruin (not quite as good as Children of Time, but it has super-interesting nonhumans), Gods of Jade and Shadow (charmingly told historical fantasy; I especially loved the ending), and Magic for Liars (the detective as emotional hot mess has long been a staple of the mystery story; Ivy Gamble may have the dubious distinction of being the messiest yet, which makes for a great story.)

On to Novellas.

This Is How You Lose The Time War was my favorite novella of last year, by far. Likewise thrilled it won. I'm so happy that such a lyrical, cerebral, oddball book has gained such widespread popularity. It's both a great time travel story AND a great romance story. I'm also a sucker for epistolary writing, so that was a nice bonus for me.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate is well worth the read. I wasn't so taken with the very beginning and the very end, but I thought everything in the middle was great. And it's a welcome paean to the concept of science for its own sake.

On to The Lodestar. So far, I've found the Hugos a bit better at picking the best YA books than the Nebulas usually are.

Catfishing on Catnet is a great book and a worthy winner, even if it's the first one I've gotten to that wouldn't have been my top pick. The story this book is based on was charming; the book itself has more plot and more action (as books do), but still retains much of the charm, while adding a cavalcade of interesting characters.

The Wicked King probably would have been my top pick ... I know not everyone shares my adoration of Holly Black, but I have no idea why. It probably didn't help that it's book two of a series. But I thought she knocked it out of the park with this deftly told tale of plots and counterplots, assassinations and assignations, passion and ambition. Early on, the main character is told that someone she trusts has already betrayed her. That might well be the theme for this entire book. The question isn't whether it will happen; the only questions are who, when, how, and perhaps most importantly, why.

Deeplight has some of the best worldbuilding in YA -- not surprising, since Hardinge is one of the best writers in YA. Another great book by this great author.

Off the longlist, I quite liked Wayward Son. A fun book that widened and deepened the world, but it's not a stand-alone even within the series; the emotional arcs and plot arcs seemed somewhat truncated. However, the ending certainly indicates that another book is coming, so I expect this was intentional.

The Astounding Award

Yay R. F. Kuang! Once again, would have been my pick. The Poppy War is fantastic. It starts out reading like a YA mage school book. Then it turns into something else. Something very else.

And her acceptance speech is something that needs to be said, and needs to be heard.

I haven't read everyone on the short list, but Tasha Suri has written at least one book I very much like.

Best Series:

I'm further along in the TV show than the books (bad, bad me), but so far The Expanse has a lot to love about it.

Winternight is a great series. The third book may be the strongest, and the first two were already strong.

I liked the one book I've read in the Planetfall series.

Off the longlist ... well, Alliance-Union by Cherryh contains multiple classics; I need to read the newest one. And oo! Elemental Logic! Everyone go read Elemental Logic! Elemental Logic is the BEST SERIES EVER SERIOUSLY.

Other comments:

I should read Emergency Skin. N. K. Jemisin is one of our greatest living authors.

I don't read a lot of short stories, but the presence of one named "I (28M) created a deepfake girlfriend and now my parents think we’re getting married" on the longlist makes me want to find it, especially since I already know I love Fonda Lee's work.

In Best Related Work, Jeanette Ng's last acceptance speech sparked change and I hope this year's speech for winning with last year's speech sparks further and deeper change.

Off the BRW longlist, The Disappearance of John M. Ford was a very interesting read. Especially for fans of John M. Ford.

I read graphic novels, but none of the ones I read made the list. Ah, well.

My reaction to Good Omens was the same as my reaction to the book (loved loved loved Crowley and Aziraphale, meh on the rest). Not at all a bad winner. And Neil Gaiman's acceptance speech was touching.

Russian Doll was GREAT, and Captain Marvel caught me by surprise with how good it was.

The Good Place is amazing and I'm so happy it won. Watchmen and The Expanse are also both fantastic shows.

I am glad that the vindication of Navah Wolfe continues this year. For those who don't know, immediately after she won the Hugo last year, Saga Press suddenly let her go. (She's working for Subterranean Press now). So she won the Hugo again this year. So there.

What I've read of Bogi Takács has been great.

I ... think that's it for now.
posted by kyrademon at 1:36 PM on August 2 [25 favorites]


We all have limited lifespans, and it's ok to not engage with a genre fully by reading literally everything everyone calls foundational, even if you are an author in that genre.

Well, no, that would be for an academic career. No one should read all of Clarke and Asimov and Brackett and Moore and so on, but it’s important to be aware of it; understanding the “rules” and tropes you are invoking or discarding is critical to deploying them with skill. One of my gripes with Grossman’s The Magicians series is that he seemed a) convinced he was breaking new ground and b) fantasy started and ended with Harry Potter and Narnia.

Most genre writers are most of the way there, since most of them grew up reading the genre, but filling in gaps is a life’s work. A greater danger to authors might be having too high a % of a given genre in their reading history.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:04 PM on August 2 [5 favorites]


Well GRRM is a dick, but I'm now ordering lots of awesome sounding books by awesome people, so at least there's that. I'll soon have new great stuff to read while waiting for the next ada palmer book to finally get published. I am excited.

(I also completely LOVED both Us and Russian Doll. And while I get the post-humous vote for Pratchett, it's a bit sad that neither of those won.)
posted by kaibutsu at 3:07 PM on August 2


[few comments removed - it's fine if your take on this is different from other people's take but maybe revisit the Community Guidelines for a refresher about how to discuss intercultural issues (like name pronunciation) thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:15 PM on August 2 [4 favorites]


but I'm now ordering lots of awesome sounding books by awesome people

I’ve been going through some of the NZ SF recs, starting with the Sir Julius Vogler shortlist, and will be buying some of the ones that take my fancy. (My already close to avalanche-proportioned (virtual) to-be-read pile is not happy though.)
posted by scorbet at 4:19 PM on August 2 [2 favorites]


The thing I liked about Gideon the Ninth is that it's super teenagey, and Muir just acknowledges it, and leans hard into it, and it becomes a kind of celebration/commiseration of being a teenager. I found A Memory Called Empire equally teenagey in almost all respects, but felt that Martine wanted to pretend her characters were plausible adult characters, doing adult things, which just didn't work for me at all (along with many other problems, I thought it was okay, but wildly overhyped).
posted by smoke at 4:22 PM on August 2 [5 favorites]


Ooo, are we in the recommending-NZ-SFF portion of the evening, scorbet? If so, I am here for it!

I've already brought up A.J. Fitzwater for No Man's Land and of course have already discussed Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth. So, let's see, who else ...

Elizabeth Knox! The two books of the Dreamhunter Duet, Dreamhunter and Dreamquake, are excellent (although I liked the first somewhat better than the second.) Marvelous, atmospheric books with fabulous worldbuilding. They're sometimes sold in a single volume called The Invisible Road, for some reason.

Margaret Mahy! The Changeover is a great book. Odd, scary, sensuous, lovely. A Carnegie Medal winner.

Katie O'Neill! Princess Princess Ever After is an absolutely charming graphic novel. Really, it's just super-cute and adorable.
posted by kyrademon at 5:16 PM on August 2 [8 favorites]


The pure joy and hope mixed with determination in Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone's speech was so uplifting.

Well that's me ugly crying in the midst of all this 2020 absolute shit. Pretty sure what they're expressing here is why I've always loved this genre.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:17 PM on August 2 [3 favorites]


So, I was one of those people that 'went' to worldcon. As a New Zealander, verging on 50, white guy, who used to actually read biographies of past SF authors, usually filled to overflowing with tales of worldcons past, I was quite looking forward to it in a bucket-list kind of way. The virtualisation in the face of Covid was, to be sure, a disappointment, but I rolled with it, interested to see what they could do with the situation. I even filled in the volunteer form, and helped them reduce their website loading speed, but wasn't approached for much beyond that. I do know a few volunteers who did do much, much more work, who are obviously disappointed with how things ended up. I suspect exactly how it went down will result in some kind of reckoning, but I don't know enough to comment further.

I do think think it's worth pointing out that the awards, glitchy, and with a problematic AF host as they were, were only part of what was five days of diverse and intersting programming. Obviously I couldn't be there to see everything, but the panels I did see were predominantly female, possibly a little too pale, but definitely not entirely so, with 'rooms' that connected speakers from around the world, providing their pronouns on screen when they wished them, and the processes in place seemed to lead to generally high-quality discussions, with all of the background chatter being kept to linked online chatrooms. We don't often get that level of mix here in NZ and it was great to be a part of. There was a lot of NZ talent 'empanelled' and they all had good stuff to say and recommend. I hope that people don't dismiss the WorldCon as a whole as a result of the Hugos - as there was a lot that was very good under very trying circumstances (I do know there were some problems there too - some overzealous, badly-trained zoom background-image moderation occured, however, as far as I know that wasn't the norm).

But the whole awards thing seemed, to be blunt, a shambles. WorldCon members were actually allowed to vote in the NZ Sir Julius Vogel (Previous NZ Prime Minister and writer of SF) Awards - but figuring out how to get the packet, lovingly put together by those previously mentioned volunteers, involved going to a completely different website, and following instructions to join a google group. It was not mentioned anywhere on the conzealand website or their email blasts that I could see. Free NZ SF Words for all Hugo voters - an opportunity for an order of magnitude more eyes on their work wasted! The Vogels themselves were a live ceremony on a Sunday before the con, but were whittled down to a 15 minute video as part of the con programming, shown after the Retro-Hugos - so about 11:45am on the Thursday NZT. As I actually attended, it was a shame to see what was a really quite fun, diverse and vibrant event not celebrated more.

And then, the Hugos. Little to no recognition of Māori culture (a number of panels I was on did recognise indigenous people in their introduction) beyond some words in each voice of god voiceover. GRRM being every kind of negatively-connoted *-ist under the sun, in additon to being puerile, thoughtless, self-indulgent and petty. Considering how much he has written for television, I don't know how he failed to realise that what one might forgive in a dinner speaker (because there is food and drink and other people around to otherwise stimulate) is far more dreary and tedious on a (glitchy laptop) video. How could he be so willfully and obviously petulant in his chosen material? It was both boring and dreadful for all the reasons people have gone into, and more, and I'm literally a middle aged white male with a history of reading this stuff!

But the winners were glorious. Truth telling, shit-kicking, fun-having wonderful people. Bless 'em all!

(Soz for essay - peace out)
posted by Sparx at 6:20 PM on August 2 [28 favorites]


>> We all have limited lifespans, and it's ok to not engage with a genre fully by reading literally everything everyone calls foundational, even if you are an author in that genre.

> Well, no, that would be for an academic career. No one should read all of Clarke and Asimov and Brackett and Moore and so on, but it’s important to be aware of it; understanding the “rules” and tropes you are invoking or discarding is critical to deploying them with skill.


I think these two comments are speaking to different audiences. If someone wants to write in the genre, they should definitely do some homework and background research by reading the foundational works. But "some" doesn't mean reading everything by any particular author or from any particular period.

Readers shouldn't feel any obligation at all to "do homework" by forcing themselves to read works that they don't enjoy, or that don't speak to them, or that have underlying messages they find harmful. Readers should just dive in and read what they enjoy and what speaks to them. If they find they're curious about where things came from, cool enough! But not a requirement.
posted by Lexica at 7:30 PM on August 2 [6 favorites]


Readers shouldn't feel any obligation at all to "do homework"

Indeed. A part of me stills dies inside when I see a redditor calling The Name of The Wind or Malazan "The greatest work of literature ever created!", however.
posted by smoke at 7:52 PM on August 2 [3 favorites]


Just FYI, you could fill a library with all the "foundational" work of science fiction I haven't read, and I don't think anyone could say I don't know my way around the genre.

Science fiction is a genre in conversation with itself, but one does get to choose one's conversational partners, as it were.
posted by jscalzi at 8:27 PM on August 2 [37 favorites]


Not to push the pronunciation debate to weird directions, but the commonly accepted spelling is Tchaikovsky and not Tchiakovsky. We are talking about the Russian composer, right? It looks like to be a rather common misspelling, but the original Cyrillic is completely clear (Чайковский, not Чйa...). I mention this only because reading comments justifiably angry about mispronunciations and at the same time many of those same comments misspelling a name is kind of awkward.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:32 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


following on from kyrademon's post, Elizabeth Knox has also written The Absolute Book, which has had universally fantastic reviews (still on my to-read list), and Wake, which is an excellent NZ-set horror/fantasy. AJ Fitzwater has also written a book about a dapper lesbian capybara pirate, so who could resist that?
posted by Pink Frost at 2:14 AM on August 3 [4 favorites]


I'm feeling pretty sad about WorldCon: it was meant to be in my home town, and I was planning on it being my first con. I volunteered for a while but (like a lot of people) pulled out. Decided not to attend online because I wouldn't have known anyone and would have been wandering around a virtual space on my own (or so it felt). Even though I'd volunteered, I didn't have a good sense of what actually happened at a con, and even though I asked people, I didn't get great answers. In hindsight I'd probably have quite enjoyed it. Ah well.

I did watch the Hugos. What struck me was GRRM spending all his time talking about the past, telling long anecdotes about Heinlein and so on - but almost no time on the actual nominees. Why not spend even a minute each talking about who they are, the stories they are trying to tell? That was really disappointing.

Secondly, really disappointed at how NZ was treated. "We were meant to be in New Zealand - that is, Middle Earth", said George. NO. It's New Zealand, that is Aotearoa. One of our local publishers tweeted it perfectly: I" am not the only one who is tired, so tired, of that being all people see when they see Aotearoa New Zealand: some other country's stories. Some other world superimposed over our landscape. And I say that as someone who loves those films, but... so tired." [that Twitter thread has links to other NZ book recommendations as well].

It sort of felt as though WorldCon wasn't really about NZ, or local people, but about a group who all know each other and look inwardly towards each other, rather than outwards to others, or to the land that they're standing on [virtually, in this case].

On the positive side: the winners' speeches were often great (though poor subtitling meant I missed a lot). Jeannette Ng, Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone especially. Mary Robinette Kowal was an excellent presenter. Notably, those very people have been very generous with their time on Twitter. promoting the NZ writers who were ignored on the day. And I found a lot of awesome people to follow on Twitter just by following the awards/con hashtags. Definitely a lot of good there.
posted by Pink Frost at 2:36 AM on August 3 [10 favorites]


Yes! we're Aotearoa, not Middle-Earth, as much as I love LoTR I'm so sick of all the Hobbit stuff, we're so much more than that
posted by mbo at 3:45 AM on August 3 [5 favorites]


Why not spend even a minute each talking about who they are, the stories they are trying to tell?

My hunch: he doesn't know, and doesn't care to learn.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:43 AM on August 3 [6 favorites]


Critic and fanwriter Cheryl Morgan has posted on Why Worldcons Go Wrong, noting some of the points I referred to but with much more depth and further examples. As she notes, award-winning author and SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal herself admits to having been too nervous of the consequences to raise her concerns with GRRM when she saw his prerecorded segments:

The point here is that if the President of SFWA didn’t feel confident enough to tell George he was getting it wrong, what chance did younger writers, or volunteers on the CoNZealand committee have?
posted by Major Clanger at 4:59 AM on August 3 [11 favorites]


My partner is the chair of the just-seated Chicon 8 Worldcon in 2022 (and I'm not linking to it because that is perilously close to a problematic self-link... google is your friend). We hope you liked the Dublin Hugos, as she was also the division head in charge of events at that convention, and that Hugo ceremony (flaws and all) is something she believes better celebrates the future of the genre (and that's taking into account the technical difficulties that plagued the captioning).

She's a firm believer in the future of SF/F and we're looking forward to having that on display in Chicago for fans.
posted by ChrisR at 8:04 AM on August 3 [9 favorites]


Yes! we're Aotearoa, not Middle-Earth, as much as I love LoTR I'm so sick of all the Hobbit stuff, we're so much more than that

as a friend who lives there put it a few years back. "This used to be a great country, but then they went and turned the whole thing into f***ing Middle Earth. We've still got hordes of orcs wandering around the south island."
posted by philip-random at 8:20 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


DisCon III, The 79th Worldcon (Aug. 25-29, 2021, in DC), has announced that the Hugo Awards hosts will be Sheree Renée Thomas and Malka Older.
posted by Wobbuffet at 9:25 AM on August 3 [4 favorites]


Will the committee give Martin a special award so the presenters can mispronounce his name?
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:33 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


My partner is the chair of the just-seated Chicon 8 Worldcon in 2022 (and I'm not linking to it because that is perilously close to a problematic self-link... google is your friend).

Self-linking is allowed in comments, FWIW.
posted by Lexica at 10:34 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Natalie Luhrs has been nominated as Best Fan Writer in the past, so it's pretty conceivable this could come up again next year. Anyway, GRRM continues to be at the center this morning:

- Sam Brooks in The Spinoff in NZ: "Game of Hats"
- Doris V. Sutherland at Women Write About Comics: "2020 Hugo Awards Reflect Struggle Over History"
- Moya Lothian-McLean at Indy100: "Game of Thrones author accused of racism and transphobia over awards show performance"
- Michael Schaub at Kirkus: "George R.R. Martin Takes Flak as Hugo Awards Host"

Kirkus is a venue where I'd have really hoped the focus would be on the books. Optimistically, maybe GRRM's name draws some attention there, but the winners are all in one brief paragraph.
posted by Wobbuffet at 10:34 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Further media coverage:

- Madison Malone Kircher in Vulture: "George R.R. Martin Accused of Racism and Just Generally Sucking After Hosting Hugo Awards"
- Kaila Hale-Stern in The Mary Sue: "Why People Were Furious With How George R.R. Martin Hosted the Hugo Awards"

Cora Buhlert has commented on what it was like to wait on Zoom all evening and has also collected links to many other reactions: "Some Reflections on the 2020 Hugo Ceremony a.k.a. Reminiscing with George" and "More Reactions to the 2020 Hugo Ceremony and a bit about the Retro Hugos."

In somewhat better news for the winners, Goodreads linked to the results via both Twitter and Facebook, and LibraryThing linked from Twitter.
posted by Wobbuffet at 3:42 PM on August 3


The CoNZealand panel videos last until 9 August NZT for those of us who bought an attending membership. Fortunately, the 15 CoNZealand Fringe panels are free and available to all on YouTube. You could start with four NZ authors talking about the scene.
posted by Jesse the K at 4:11 PM on August 3 [5 favorites]


As someone who is rarely reads Hugo nominees in the year they are nominated, I was unduly pleased that I read, and immensely enjoyed, both A Memory Called Empire and This Is How You Lose The Time War. There were three new books I read last year I can't stop thinking about, and those were two of them.
posted by lhauser at 5:49 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


There were three new books I read last year I can't stop thinking about, and those were two of them.

What was the third?
posted by jeather at 7:28 PM on August 3 [5 favorites]


Transcripts of most of the Hugo Award winners' speeches have been posted on Mary Robinette Kowal's blog, for anyone who prefers reading to watching.
posted by JiBB at 11:15 AM on August 4 [4 favorites]




Will the committee give Martin a special award so the presenters can mispronounce his name?

And the winner - geh-ORG air-air marTEEN!
posted by Meatbomb at 6:28 PM on August 6


Hello, checking in from the future. (Last year I was all over the Hugo awards Fanfare and generally treat the Hugos like my own Superbowl, but this year is...this year so while I managed to read most of the things and vote on time, I am reading all the Metafilter hot takes when they're sort of cold and congealed. Ah well.)

Anyway, while I was reading this very thread and putting the SJV books and making the library holds I could, I got an email from CoNZealand that a partial SJV packet is available. It's too late for the voting, but someone somewhere got at least that through. Not all of them are there, though, and it's a real shame that as a voter I had no idea I was eligible to vote (or even that these awards would be given out) until reading this very thread.

It was actually hearing about the Puppies years ago that brought me back to sci fi/fantasy. I loved fantasy as a kid (Redwall, Narnia, Harry Potter) but lost touch with it as an adult. I thought I "should" read sci fi since all my other engineer classmates loved it, but only dabbled. Then the puppies came along and complained about how it was too diverse, too progressive, and that got me interested enough in following the nominees in the years after, enough that I paid to vote in the last few Worldcons and have attended the one recent one that was near me. I'm so glad that sci fi and fantasy have moved on from the "classics" I thought I needed to drag myself through in order to be a true fan, but honestly didn't enjoy that much, or I liked as long as I ignored how they treated my entire gender as MacGuffins (Foundation, Dune, Neuromancer...). I often don't agree with the rest of the voters these days, but I still respect nearly all of what gets to the ballots and there's no denying the high quality of the field these days. Sci fi and fantasy are better for hearing the stories on the margins, and I'm spoiled with how much I get to read that isn't my own experience. Or that captures my experience beautifully.

Speculative fiction is a huge space, though, with lots of subgenres and subcultures. It's a shame that a lot of old guard with a lot of power that only want to go back to the way it was get to suck up all the air in the room. I really don't understand the Retro Hugos and never vote in them and wish they'd just go away. What's the point of going back and dragging out the same names we already know from 70 years ago? It would be cool to honor people who never got the attention they deserved because they were gatekept out by the likes of Campbell. But it would have been even more exciting to see the NZ awards get the air time the Retro Hugos got in the newsletters and then some. And I'm still perplexed at the fact that Worldcon logistics seem to start over from scratch every year(???). That sounds exhausting and like a good way to burn out volunteers without being able to improve on past mistakes. And I think that is a good reason to keep looking to the past--not to glorify it, but to learn from it as we look ahead.
posted by j.r at 6:28 PM on August 15 [2 favorites]


After more reading, I retract my statement about wishing the Retro Hugos would go away. I think Cora Buhlert makes an excellent point that many people out there are doing a lot of work to acknowledge the people who were unsung in their time, and the Retro Hugos are a really good way to do that if people are willing to go further than received wisdom. I should have known--I read How to Suppress Women's Writing by Joanna Russ. Women, queer folks, black and brown folks, disabled folks, etc. have always been there reading and writing. Conflating Campbell and his ilk with the "good old days" just erases them again.
posted by j.r at 7:14 PM on August 15 [3 favorites]


the Retro Hugos are a really good way to do that if people are willing to go further than received wisdom

I think part of the problem is that the people who are more likely to look a bit further than the usual suspects are also more likely to want to actually read all the nominees. There’s a lot of reading necessary if you want to at least give most of the works on both the current and Retro-Hugo lists a fair look, and again most people will prioritise the current Hugos.

However, if you’re just looking for name recognition, there’s much less work involved, and probably you’ve even already read the work you’re voting for. (Though probably a number of decades ago). So you end up with more votes for the well known names, simply because it’s *easier*.

There’s a similar problem with the nominations round. It’s much easier to find an Asimov story, (as a lot of them are still in print) than it is to even be aware of some of the others who were writing at the same time. Then you need to actually locate a copy to read it.

I don’t know what the solution is. I mean, a friend of mine fills out any blanks in her nominations by finding works by women that others are recommending (without reading them), but I don’t think that’s a method everyone should use.
posted by scorbet at 5:08 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


After a bit more thought, I don’t think there’s much that can be done except try and encourage more people to nominate/vote who are likely to look outside the usual. Anything else (like “campaigning” for particular nominees to win) feels a bit too much like “slating” for me to be comfortable with, even if I would feel that it’s in s good cause.
posted by scorbet at 3:21 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


I mean, you could try to use a yuletide version - have some sort of cutoff if something is 'too popular' (book sales? publishing? I don't know how to figure that out, especially if we're talking about current perception of past authors) for the retro hugos, but the hugos are generally a popular award. The people who are voting in the hugos aren't necessarily folks who are steeped in the history of the field - I know I wouldn't necessarily know who to recommend over maybe a handful of names pre-1970, much less one for each year. It feels like you'd at least need some sort of expertice to do the nominations, and I don't know how you'd choose for that without funnelling the same folks over.
posted by dinty_moore at 5:16 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


have some sort of cutoff if something is 'too popular' (book sales? publishing?

Anything like that would unfortunately mean changing the rules for the Award, which is not impossible, but could be challenging, particularly if there are people who are strongly opposed (for whatever reason). It also takes at least two years, as it has to be ratified at Business Meetings at two consecutive Worldcons. I’m not sure of the details, but I think it’s decided on by whoever is actually present at the Business Meeting, not by the general Worldcon.
posted by scorbet at 7:44 PM on August 16


Yeah, I agree scorbet. I try to read all of the nominees in at least the four main literary categories, and there's only one year in three attempts when I actually managed that before voting, and it wasn't this one. Extra reading time would probably go to Best Series, or, let's be honest, all the shiny new stuff that's coming out. So I can prepare to nominate things next year! (Or the things that got onto my TBR from previous years and I just didn't get to before the new shinies.) And then there's all the other categories like editor, fan writer, etc. that I've barely touched. If I had known about the SJV awards ahead of time, would I have read much? Probably a little bit but not enough to feel like I did it all justice.

You are right that honestly, I am unlikely to do much digging into whatever decades-ago year is up for Retro Hugos, because there will be a lot to wade through, it will be hard to find the unsung voices, much of it will be bad or even offensive, and the easy things will be stuff like Asimov as you said. I'm amazed that there are people willing to sift through and actually find the gems. I wonder if it would be better done not as a popularity contest, but have something like a hybrid Locus-Nebula awards where there are people whose jobs are to sift through everything and put out a recommended list, and go from there. Decouple it from the Hugos and make it something else?

While I'm at it, I think "there's too much out there" is a mild problem with the regular Hugos too. (Not that it's a problem really. I love having this problem!) There was some recent year when half of the novellas were later books in already-popular series or spinoffs from a wider universe. Why? Because previous voters got exposed and then wanted to read more, and there's only so much reading time, and it's a lot of work to seek out and read all the new stuff that you haven't heard of yet. The same names come up frequently year to year even in the newer wave of more diverse Hugo finalists, and they do deserve it but there's so much that misses the ballot just because people didn't have time to find it.
posted by j.r at 6:21 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]


There is a proposal to have panels about older lesser known/forgotten authors instead of the retro hugos at Chicon, which makes the most sense to me. Generally, I think the low barrier to entry for hugo nominations is a good thing (though the 'too many things to read' is still an issue, I agree) but I don't think it works well for the retro hugos.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:46 PM on August 19 [3 favorites]


I’d prefer the panels too, I think, rather than another set of Retros. It definitely wouldn’t be possible to make any rule changes by then (2 year ratification) so this seems like a better way to avoid a re-run of this years.

I have to admit, I would be quite pessimistic about any changes to the rules. A juried or at least semi-juried system would be great, for example, but probably require a lot of rules regarding who would be allowed to be on the jury, and how they are selected to try and ensure that the juries have the right knowledge, and are representative of worldcon. (Preferably not a group of almost exclusively white US-based men, for example.)

There was a similar conversation going on earlier about how to prevent “unsuitable” places like Jeddah from being selected, instead of just hoping that no one votes for it. I got the impression from those discussions that everything needs to be precisely defined, and there to be as little possibility as possible for abuse.

(I’m not that involved in conventions/fandom but I know a few who are, so I frequently end up on the fringes of these types of discussions.)
posted by scorbet at 3:47 PM on August 23


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