Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #52

A Few (Pointed) Observations of the 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony

By Chris M. Barkley:  I usually don’t offer any commentary after the Hugo Awards are given out because the will of the voters has been expressed and as the song goes, “Some will win, some will lose, some of them will sing the blues.”

And when you consider what happened last Saturday morning in Wellington, New Zealand, I think what unfolded may have looked really bad, but it could have been far, far worse.

Having said that, I think the CoNZealand Hugo Awards Ceremony team deserves a modicum of credit for bringing us a telecast of the awards at all under somewhat grueling circumstances;  even though there were a number of other glitches that were glaringly evident as time went on.

And on.

AND ON…

THE HUGO AWARDS CEREMONY

Yes, the CoNZealand Hugo Awards Ceremony will probably go down as one of the longest and most poorly executed as of now and well into the near future. I am quite sure that everyone involved, and I definitely include George R.R. Martin and the CoNZealand production team had the best of intentions.

I believe that he, and Robert Silverberg, were trying to convey to a global audience the grand, sweeping history and the importance of the award, which is still, after sixty-seven (67!) years, the only prestigious literary award given to authors and artists by readers. But they took an awfully long time to convey that. 

When planning something as arduous as the Hugo Awards Ceremony, the uppermost thing to keep in mind is that brevity and conciseness are your friends and droning on and boring your audience is not what you want under any circumstances. A VERY tight script would have redeemed this broadcast.

Also, and more importantly, GRRM and the producers on his end completely misread the audience tuning in. While his folksy reminiscing and cute anecdotes about the good old days of pre-internet fandom may have been entirely appropriate on a Worldcon panel (of which I have no doubt he has done countless times beforehand) his comments were perceived by the somewhat younger crowd as meandering, problematic and boring. His stories were about as meaningful and relevant as Henry Ford regaling Elon Musk about what a genius idea the production line was.

I am rather puzzled how GRRM, a seasoned writer/producer of several tv shows, could have possibly not foreseen this Titanic-sized iceberg in the making. And with at the very least five or so months of advanced planning, it was entirely avoidable. 

But there’s the rub; this fiasco was NOT entirely GRRM’s fault. He had plenty of help. 

Someone in CoNZealand’s end of the production and the producer in charge of GRRM’s studio, whom I do not know and cannot readily find,  should have recognized the problems at the scripting stage and should be held ultimately responsible for this fiasco. And whomever they are, they should have provided GRRM with the proper pronunciations of the nominee’s names far in advance of the start of the Ceremony.

Very little responsibility should fall on the line producers of the broadcast, Directors Alan Bond and Dragos Ruiu, who were recruited late in the process.   

The script GRRM and his producers had drafted by early July had a proposed running time in excess of OVER THREE HOURS, and that was without the recipients’ speeches! That’s as long as some of the more egregious Academy Awards telecasts of recent years. The final running time of the Ceremony (including the Hugo Award recipients’ speeches) clocked in at three hours thirty-four minutes and fifty-eight seconds. (And for those of you keeping score at home, no, it was not as long as Gone with the Wind; it would have needed yet another 24 minutes to accomplish that. But it sure FELT like it…)

Several days after CoNZealand ended and the bloody autopsies of the broadcast were in full swing, I came across a Facebook post that claimed that the original tech crew had been unceremoniously sacked and had to sign non-disclosure agreements to boot.   

And then there was also this curious post from a recent File 770 comments page:

Chip Hitchcock on August 6, 2020 at 8:30 am wrote:

“@Soon Lee: I’m sympathetic to the issues brought up by having to pivot so close to curtain time. ISTM that the program book should not have been one of those, but the slow connections in the Hugo ceremony (explained in another thread as having been picked up on 3 days’ notice because the original team crumped) is understandable.”

Curious about these claims, I spent several days seeking out, contacting and speaking extensively with a source who worked on the convention. I can completely debunk and dispose both pieces of gossip:

The original technical crew did not “crump”. Nor were they sacked or forced to sign NDAs.

According to my source, the decision was made to replace the New Zealand crew by the American based production team on the evening of July 29 (the first day of the convention) at the request of the US-based producers. This request was made directly by them to the Events Division Head, Mel Duncan. The explanation that was offered was that the tech crew was too widely distributed across several time zones (AEST/NZST/PDT/EDT) and the producers wished to use a centralized crew based solely in the Pacific Daylight Time zone.

That is all fine and well in theory, BUT the original crew had already gone through several rehearsals already and may have been in a better position to handle the technical issues or difficulties that occurred. Or not. We’ll never know for certain.

One thing is certain, GRRM and the production team haven given the World Science Fiction Society a big, black eye. Needless to say, this terrible program has churned up a considerable amount of negative reactions from a wide spectrum of fans and critics. How bad? One acclaimed Hugo Nominated Best Series author, Tade Thompson, was so disgusted by the perceived racism (in praise of problematic writers and editors from generations ago) that he publicly announced on Twitter that he would no longer accept any future nominations from WSFS. So yes, really bad.   

(For those of you who are curious, there is a fan edited version of the Ceremony that is an hour and forty two minutes long.)

BEST RELATED WORK and BEST NOVELLA

The BEST part of the broadcast was the acceptance speeches by the recipients, they were fantastic! In particular, I was especially happy for Jeannette Ng, whose speech at the Dublin 2019 Worldcon accepting the (now former) John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer won the 2020 Best Related Work category. I was privileged to be in the room when it happened; her scathing condemnation of white privilege, fascism and racism was truly one of the most electrifying moments in modern literature and subsequently made headlines around the world. Ms. Ng’s acceptance speech was also heartfelt and stirring, too. 

Of all of the fiction award winners, my only lament is that Ted Chiang’s magnificent novella, “Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom”, was bested by “This Is How You Lose the Time War”. But Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s story was an epic tour-de-force and just as deserving.

THE 1945 RETRO-HUGOS

I had other concerns. 

When the Retro-Hugo Awards were first established in 1996, it was generally thought that it would be a good idea to honor works of fantasy and science fiction from 50, 75 and 100 years ago. And now after honoring eight years (1938,1940, 1942-1945, 1950 and 1953), folks are having second thoughts about the whole endeavor.

The good news is that the late Leigh Brackett and artist Margaret Brundage were big winners. Brackett won twice, the first for her novel Shadow Over Mars (aka The Nemesis From Terra) and in the Best Related Work for her Writer’s Digest article, “The Science Fiction Field”. The late Ms. Brundage was honored as the Best Artist of 1944, primarily for her artwork that year for Weird Tales

The bad news, as far as I was concerned, was yet another Short Form Editor award for John W. Campbell, Jr and a Best Series award for H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

It seems to me it’s as though when the Retro-Hugos are handed out, the nominators and voters seem to punch Campbell’s award ticket EVERY SINGLE TIME. I freely admit that, without question, he was one of the most influential editors of 20th century sf literature. And despite being a bit of a weird, cranky, an eccentric and a virulent racist, he was revered by his peers and fans alike for decades.

And because of those beliefs, I don’t think that Campbell is held in such high regard by a majority of contemporary fans, writers and editors. But the Hugo Award is not given for a person’s beliefs and character, they are given for the work that has been done. And as much as I may dislike JWC as a person, there is no doubt he did some admirable work, in his era.

By my count, Campbell’s work has netted him fifteen Hugo Awards, eight of those being Retro-Hugos. The question I have is this; how much adulation is enough? Because it seems to me that even with some of the more recent revelations of Campbell’s true nature, there is a die-hard cadre of enthusiasts who will continue giving his surviving family members a Hugo Award in spite of those personal criticisms of his character.      

Well, I stopped nominating and voting for John W. Campbell, Jr.on my Retro ballot years ago. Because there were other editors of that early era who deserve recognition, too. 

As for H.P. Lovecraft, I also recognize that he has had a lasting influence in modern day fantasy and horror. He is also a very disturbing individual and racist whose writing style was admired by his contemporaries and many, many others after his death. Despite that, I have no love or admiration for his work, no matter what his personal views were.I find his works turgid, stomach-turning and generally unpleasant. So my opposition to honoring Lovecraft’s work is strictly aesthetic not personal.

In closing, I will note that Clifford Simak’s “Desertion”, the runner up in the Short Story category, was one of the most enthralling tales that I had ever read in my youth.  It is a far superior story in comparison to the winner, Ray Bradbury’s “I, Rocket”. I think that Bradbury’s long literary shadow was at work here and I believe that honoring such an inferior story would shock and dismay him.

BEST SEMI-PROZONE and BEST EDITOR, LONG & SHORT FORM

Somewhere in the middle of this miasma of an awards show, both GRRM and author Robert Silverberg mused at length about the Best Semiprozine and the Long and Short Form Editing categories. Specifically, why were these awards named in such a manner.

Well, if they knew their Hugo Awards history, they would have known that the Semiprozine category was first awarded in 1984 and, according to Wikipedia, “…is given each year for semi-professionally-edited magazines related to science fiction or fantasy which had published four or more issues, with at least one issue appearing in the previous calendar year.” The award was dominated for decades by Locus Magazine (with 8 wins as Best Fanzine in the 13 years before the creation of the Semiprozine category, followed by another 22 wins until a WSFS Constitution rules change in 2012 made it ineligible in that category.)

I was so disgusted by this category and Locus’ repeated wins that I was once recruited by Discon III Fan Guest of Honor Ben Yalow to try and KILL it altogether at a WSFS Business Meeting. Obviously, we did not succeed, at least, in this timeline. But that’s another story for another day…

In the past decade, there have been meaningful attempts to draft a constitutional amendment to make this category more relevant (and ditch the unwieldy name as well). 

This rather dovetails with Mr. Silverberg’s comments about how odd it was to have a long and short form award for editors. Having labored for three agonizing years in the conclave of SMOFs email lists and the Business Meetings, I can tell Mr. Silverberg that I was in the room where it happened and that he really, REALLY, doesn’t want to know how this particular sausage was made. 

What I can tell you is that the intent of splitting up the Editing category was to find a way to honor magazine/anthology editors and book editors, who had been sadly neglected over the decades. How neglected, you may ask? 

The last two Hugo Award winning book editors were Judy-Lynn Del Rey (1986) and Terry Carr (1987). Both were deceased by the time they were honored..

Ideally, in the 21st century, this mess can be easily solved by establishing the following categories:

  • Best Magazine: Any magazine (in print or online) related to science fiction or fantasy which had published four or more issues or edited volumes in the previous calendar year.
  • Best Anthology or Collection: Any Anthology of original stories or a single author collection related to science fiction or fantasy published in the previous calendar year.
  • Best Book Editor:The editor of at least four (4) novel length works primarily devoted to science fiction and / or fantasy published in the previous calendar year that do not qualify as a magazine or a website.

The only thing needed for the last category to work is the establishment of a uniform commitment by publishers to credit the novel’s editor in every book. Besty Wollheim of DAW Books has been working for the past two years to make this happen. Bravo to her!

There has been some disturbing news in the past few years that certain members of the Business Meeting might be open to abandoning the Book Editor category in favor of a Best Publisher or Imprint Award. I think that would be a terrible shame to shunt book editors back into the shadows after thirteen years in the limelight.  

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION LONG & SHORT FORM

One of the most egregious oversights this year was the omission of the HBO mini-series, Chernobyl from the Long Form category.

If fans had enough gumption to nominate a film like Hidden Figures, which brilliantly dramatized the work of African-American “calculators” who helped guide the Mercury spaceflight program of the 1960’s, what was the impediment to nominating the chilling and dystopian epic of the worst nuclear disaster on record?

In a similar vein, I practically shouted to anyone who would listen that fans should NOT nominate individual episodes of Watchmen, the acclaimed ten part series that served  as a “indirect sequel” to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s 1986 Hugo Award winning graphic novel.

And it ALMOST worked; an official statement from CoNZealnd’s Hugo Award Administrators posted on the voting results read as follows:

Watchmen gained enough votes to qualify in this category (81), but two individual episodes also qualified for the Short Form category (“A God Walk Into Abar” 81, “This Extraordinary Being,” 54) with more votes collectively. The Administrators therefore removed Watchmen from this category.”

UGH!   

With Watchmen relegated to two episodes in the Short Form Category, the beneficiary of that move was The Rise of Skywalker, who slipped into the sixth spot with 75 nominations. Next in line was Spider-Man: Far From Home with 74 nominations. (See the 2020 Hugo voting statistics here.)

And what’s this? The entire season of Russian Doll was nominated????? Russian Doll but not Watchmen? That’s the year 2020 for you; all crazy, all of the time. 

So with Chernobyl nowhere to be seen and Watchmen regulated out of the Long Form competition, is anyone surprised that the adaptation of Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens (also nominated as a series) was the eventual winner? A good choice, yes, But personally, I’d like to think that Watchmen would have given them a run for their money.

In the Short Form category, the same story, same show, a related result:

“Good Omens: Hard Times (Episode 3)” gained enough votes to qualify in this category (108 nominations), but the entire series of Good Omens also qualified for the Long Form category, with more votes. The Administrators therefore removed “Good Omens: Hard Times” from this category.”

The beneficiary here? The Doctor Who episode “Resolution”, which was promoted on the ballot, just ahead of an episode of The Good Place, “Pandemonium”.

And as much as I like Michael Shur’s comedy of moral philosophy and demonic manners, I heart simply aches that “The Answer” was given the nod over two of Watchmen’s incredible episodes, “A God Walks into Abar” and “This Extraordinary Being.” 

This sort of heartbreak could be avoided if the WSFS Business meeting would come to its senses and adopt the common sense solution that fellow fan Vincent Docherty and I formally proposed two years ago at ConJose (and can be found in Appendix B: 2018 Report of the Hugo Awards Study Committee, on page 27). 

Best Dramatic Presentation: Series – Any TV or streaming series of four 60 minute episodes or more than 240 minutes.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Episodic Form – TV or any other dramatic form, 30-89 minutes.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form – For films, audio books, theatrical productions, 90 minutes or more.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form – Any dramatic form of 30 minutes or less.

Yes, FOUR categories of Dramatic Presentation. If anyone has a better idea, please step forward at the Business Meeting and be prepared to be hammered down.

So, until the proposal above comes to pass (or something like it), my advice to all of you nominating voters stands; if you love this year’s series of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Homecoming, Lovecraft Country or The Umbrella Academy, DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT nominate individual episodes, nominate the whole series. That’s what the Long Form Category was created to honor in the first place. 

THE LODESTAR AWARD FOR BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK

No one has EVER explained to my complete and utter satisfaction as to why this cannot be a Hugo Award category.

NO. ONE.

I hope it happens one day. Soon.

In the meantime, CONGRATULATIONS to Naomi Kritzer for her winning book, Catfishing on CatNet. Well Done! 

THIS award should be either a Hugo Award category OR renamed to honor the works and memory of  Ursula K. Le Guin. At this point, either would suit me just fine. Just Sayin’…

46 thoughts on “Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #52

  1. This article does miss the fact that the best series award for the Cthulhu Mythos went to more than Lovecraft’s work. Indeed Lovecraft had already been dead for a number of years by the time the stories of 1945 were released. The series itself possibly deserved best series for one of the years it was active, and the additions for 1944 would be I believe “Dweller in the Darkness” and “The House on Curwen Street” which were primarily August Derleth pieces. It occurs to me I don’t know what the views of August Derleth were on pretty much any subject, save that he was a very big Sherlock Holmes fan.

    My point is that simply saying it was an award to Lovecraft is oversimplification, particularly for a series that at this point arguably includes recent celebrated works like Lovecraft Country, a Study in Emerald, and more. There’s a good argument that the series at some point definitely deserves a Hugo, just like if the dates ever match up either for a current or retro Hugo the Oz series very likely deserves one. Granted from what I know of him founder L Frank Baum was more forward-thinking than Lovecraft, which will probably and understandably make it more palatable to a great many people.

  2. Lots of interesting stuff here. One thing on this piece:

    Ideally, in the 21st century, this mess can be easily solved by establishing the following categories:

    Best Magazine: Any magazine (in print or online) related to science fiction or fantasy which had published four or more issues or edited volumes in the previous calendar year.
    Best Anthology or Collection: Any Anthology of original stories or a single author collection related to science fiction or fantasy published in the previous calendar year.
    Best Book Editor:The editor of at least four (4) novel length works primarily devoted to science fiction and / or fantasy published in the previous calendar year that do not qualify as a magazine or a website.
    The only thing needed for the last category to work is the establishment of a uniform commitment by publishers to credit the novel’s editor in every book. Besty Wollheim of DAW Books has been working for the past two years to make this happen. Bravo to her!

    I disagree only slightly. I would definitely be happy to see a Best Magazine and Best Anthology category formed, but not Best Book Editor (which oddly would be the only one to go to an individual, rather than the work). This is the one place where I would follow the lead of the Academy Awards a little and I would simply present two statues for Best Novel: one for the best novel writer and one for best novel editor (much as they have Best Producer), so this year Arkady Martine’s editor would also have got a Hugo.

  3. Do you really want a work to be disqualified from Best Novel because it got more nominations in Best Young Adult Book? Because that is what could happen if the Lodestar Award is turned into the Hugo Award for Best YA Book.

  4. Alan Bond (sorry, I never got his surname) indeed did a good job. And let’s not forget that while everybody else, including Hugo finalists, could tune out, he had to stay till the bitter end.

    I’m also sad that Chernobyl didn’t even make the longlist, but I guess the story it tells is not one that a lot of folks in the SFF community (which still has a lot of people who are pro-nuclear power) want to hear.

    H.P. Lovecraft died in 1937, i.e. he had already been dead for seven years by the time for which the 1945 Retro Hugos were awraded. The Cthulhu Mythos qualified on the basis of two novelettes by August Derleth, “The Trail of Cthulhu” and “Dweller in Darkness”. And even by 1944, many other writers had contributed to the Cthulhu Mythos, e.g. Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch, Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Henry Kuttner, Frank Belknap Long, etc…So I tend to view it more as a win for the world Lovecraft created than more the man himself, though I understand that others disagree. It also wasn’t very high on my ballot (and not at all on my nomination ballot), but then Cthulhu is more enduing than the other eligible series of 1944.

    I agree that “Desertion” was robbed BTW.

  5. I never vote on any of the editor category. I have no idea how to judge it. Now for an anthology, diid I think all the stories to be good choices could be a thing I could judge so Editor of an anthology is preferred over book editor. I mean I am finding grammar and other mistakes in the recent David Weber books from the early 2000’s only say that something I recently read did not deserve an editor award. But that does not help me choose in the future.

    I never vote for works such as Hidden Figures, Chernoble or Apollo 13 despite the fact they were all excellent. I could detect no actual science fiction. Sure parts were fictionalized to tell the story but African American Women were actually hired as Computers and then engineers, there was a horrible accident caused by human folly in Ukraine, there was a near disaster on a moon mission. I could detect no SF or Fantasy, maybe horror at the treatment of the African American Women, the horror of a nuclear disaster and the terror of an accident in space but that does not really fit the horror category. Maybe add related works to Dramatic Presentations. And these are because they show the triumphs and follies of our technology.

  6. So, until the proposal above comes to pass (or something like it), my advice to all of you nominating voters stands; if you love this year’s series of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Homecoming, Lovecraft Country or The Umbrella Academy, DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT nominate individual episodes, nominate the whole series. That’s what the Long Form Category was created to honor in the first place.

    Actually, no.

    I know that because: (a) I chaired the committee that developed the proposal to split the Dramatic Presentation Hugo; and (b) I initially presented a proposal to that group to split the Hugo into one-time presentations (such as theatrical films), and long (multi-part) presentations, such as an entire season–and that proposal was voted down by the committee.

    People on the committee wanted to split the Hugo into a short-form (which would be episodes of a series–the 90 minute divider was set to allow for two-part episodes on commercial TV–and whatever occasional short film that might fit) and long form–theatrical movies and similar televised events. The idea that an entire season of a series might be awarded the long-form Hugo was not even anticipated, let alone part of the plan.

    (I still have all the email discussions–I just recently found my old email archives.)

  7. According to my source, the decision was made to replace the New Zealand crew by the American based production team on the evening of July 29 (the first day of the convention) at the request of the US-based producers.

    I did not know any of this. Were the rehearsals such a complete mess to require this drastic last-minute change? The timezone spread is much less an issue than connectivity. I was helping in Programming Ops as a Zoom host & we had hosts signing in & working shifts from different timezones, and the panelists were also calling in from their own respective timezones. Where we had issues were when technology failed but that’s what contingency plans are for.

  8. **THE LODESTAR AWARD FOR BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK**
    THIS award should be either a Hugo Award category OR renamed to honor the works and memory of Ursula K. Le Guin.

    Still banging that rusty old gong, eh? Aside from the issue of renaming an award for any one person, Le Guin is very much the wrong person to cite given her modest amount of YA work. Andre Norton may not have written explicitly black characters, and may only have written female leads once editors were willing to print them, but she did make Native Americans (and other seriously downtrodden people — not just mildly disadvantage) heroes, she did a huge amount to counter the mindless Boy’s-Own orientation of juvenile SF of her time, and her total body of good work is huge. SFWA knows this, which is why their YA award is named for Norton; there’s really nobody else to compare to her, so having the award be named for a symbol rather than a person is the best option. And ISTM that Kevin has adequately answered your desire for it to be a Hugo; I’m just as happy not to see Hugos trying to divide along other axes.

  9. I’m pretty sure Norton’s *Starman’s Son” has explicitly Black characters

  10. There used to be a Best Professional Magazine Hugo, from 1953–1972. Lifting from Wikipedia:

    During the nineteen nomination years, twelve magazines run by fifteen editors were nominated. Of these, only five magazines run by eight editors won. Astounding Science-Fiction/Analog Science Fact & Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction each won eight times, out of eighteen and fifteen nominations, respectively. If won three of five nominations, New Worlds won one of its six nominations—though its win was in the 1957 “British Professional Magazine” category—and Galaxy Science Fiction won only one out of its fifteen nominations, for the first award in 1953. Of the magazines which never won, Amazing Stories was nominated the most at eight times, while the only other magazine to be nominated more than twice was Science Fantasy with three nominations. John W. Campbell, Jr. received both the most nominations and awards, as he edited Analog Science Fact & Fiction for all eighteen nominations and eight wins. Edward L. Ferman and Robert P. Mills both won four times, while Frederik Pohl won three. H. L. Gold received the second most number of nominations at twelve, while Cele Goldsmith received the most number of nominations without winning at ten for her work on two separate magazines; she was the only female editor to be nominate

    In retrospect it seems like choosing which magazine had the best year is a lot easier than working out which editor, particularly the sort who work behind the scenes at publishers, did.

  11. Yep, what Kevin said re. not a Hugo. And it’s not even a theoretical argument – note that this year Alix E. Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January came just a few nominations away from making the ballot in the Lodestar Award as well as Best Novel.

  12. I’m against the idea of naming the award after a person in the first place. But for what it’s worth, in addition to Norton, HM Hoover, Diana Wynne Jones, Alexander Keys, and Williams all had much larger and more influential collections of YA books. Honestly,there is no argument for LeGuin that couldn’t be made better for say, Diana Wynne Jones. Or hell, problematic as he is, Heinlein.

    Likewise, the reasons not to have it a Hugo category have been covered – though I should note that this wold most likely harm women authors the most. All of which is to say, basically, stop it already.

  13. Rose Embolism: All of which is to say, basically, stop it already.

    Didn’t Barkley finally promise last year, after all of his fiascos of the last few years, to stop trying to screw up the Hugos? He must be taking lessons from CUL in how to keep social media promises. 🙄

  14. Hairsplitting, pedantic definitions can sometimes create problems. Back in 1978, when I was peripherally connected to the Iguanacon committee, I asked Jim Corrick, the person in charge of the Hugo Awards, why The Silmarillion missed the final ballot. Corrick told me he threw out all nominations for The Silmarillion because it wasn’t a novel. He said it was a story collection, which happened to contain a novel-length story (“Quenta Silmarillion”). He then said that if there had been a sufficiency of nominations for “Quenta Silmarillion,” he would have put that on the ballot. There weren’t any. Corrick had a Ph.D. in English literature, specializing in the novel, and his overly-pedantic definition of “novel” cost the Tolkiens, father and son, a good shot at a Hugo. At the very least, it would have given Frederik Pohl’s Gateway a run for its money. I had been planning to vote for J.R.R. Tolkien’s final work, and I was disappointed.

  15. I was at a seminar once about getting along with difficult people and the presenter told us that studies show that people judge themselves by their intentions but judge others by their actions. I’ve found this useful when I remember it.

    Andre Norton wrote one novel in which all the characters are black, Wraiths of Time. One of my favorites as a kid.

  16. If Lovecraft can win a Best Series for work done by others after his death, imagine the possibilities for Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

  17. Sorry to be such a pedant, but this is such a beautiful line, so beautifully sung, it needs to be quoted correctly: “Some are born to sing the blues.” Sorry – had to get that off my chest.

  18. Loki’s bones, give the Le Guin thing a rest. The Lodestar doesn’t really speak to me as a name either, but it’s not about me and it’s not about you.
    Kevin is right about the dual nomination issue. There is a problem that the (not a Hugo) thing is interpreted as a put down, but “oh this book is so good it can’t be considered for the ya award” wouldn’t be great either. Should a really great ya novel be able to win two? Maybe. Kameron Hurley’s essay We Have Always Fought effectively won three.

    I agree that Best Anthology would be a valid category, and better than editor short form.

    Best Magazine might be valid. It seems a tad daft that the few remaining prozines get nothing, and honestly Uncanny is turning into the new Locus.

  19. Yes, FOUR categories of Dramatic Presentation. If anyone has a better idea, please step forward at the Business Meeting and be prepared to be hammered down.

    Excellent idea. I’ve been noodling about such a change for a while now.

    Genre entertainment….like all entertainment…has changed….again.

    (I got a great price on “….” last week. Expect….more….)

    The changes were unfurling in the 1990s with the introduction of serial episodic elements to weekly, non-soap opera entertainment. I’m largely thinking about STDS9, but I’m sure there are other examples.

    And now we have episodic series where nominating a single episode does not adequately reflect the sentiment that is given the entire series.

    The current method made sense in a time where a show would present discrete episodes that are not tied by plot (i.e. ST) and may not even employ the same characters week-to-week (i.e. Twilight Zone). It makes less sense today.

    On the remote chance that I attend a business session, count me in as a vote in favor of a sensible change.

    Re: changing horses mid-race. I have stories. They rarely end well.

    Re: editors – That also sounds like a reasonable solution. The magazine/anthology is what we read. Make that the focus of the award rather than the person assembling it.

    Regards,
    Dann
    TAGLINE ERROR! Report to tech support

  20. @Jeanne (Sourdough) Jackson: that is a fascinating and appalling story — fascinating because the popular image at the time had the Iguanconcom as very young (such that someone old enough to have a PhD would be surprising), and appalling because precedent over some decades is that the administrator doesn’t get to make that class of decision. cf Apollo 13 or Hidden Figures being up for Dramatic Presentation (which I’m inclined to agree with, contra @Linda Robinett, because there is dramatic fiction interwoven with the facts). I wonder whether Corrick would have tossed nominations for fixups such as Childhood’s End or City; AFAICT such collection-novels have become much less common, but they could come back given the increase in markets for short work thanks to e-zines.

    @Tom Becker: Shelley would be long odds; in theory a single large work (e.g. Brittle Innings) could support a nomination for a given year (especially if, cf. the above, the administrator did not try to overrule nominators’ ideas about what constitutes a series), but in practice I expect such a possibility would be swamped by series with many more-recent instances rather than just one. I note that ISFDB shows only one instance to qualify the Cthulhu Mythos for this year’s Retros but the Retros are less-followed.

    I also note that ISFDB shows only one other post-Lovecraft work in the Mythos through 1944, despite comments that there’d been a lot of works not-by-HPL by then — does ISFDB need correction, or was this win in fact mostly for HPL’s … debatable … work?

    I also wonder how much print work follows the original Frankenstein; the word-count rule suggests that the plethora of movies shouldn’t be counted.

    @NickPheas: Kameron Hurley’s essay We Have Always Fought effectively won three. I see her win, and the win for the zine it appeared in (but was the essay really the only notable thing about that zine?); what was the 3rd?
    And Best Single Anthology might be easier to vote for, but (cf above) there’s so much good magazine work happening that I’m not sure killing Editor – Short Form is reasonable. I suppose it could be reverted to Best Magazine if Anthology were split off, but at what point does subdividing the awards mean too much subdividing of attention?

  21. Jim Corrick was in his late twenties, and by the time of the con, was the oldest of the organizers. The final Iguanacon committee was in their early to mid twenties. There had once been a leavening of age and experience on the committee (Jim and Doreen Webbert had helped organize a Seattle Worldcon in 1961 or 1962, for instance), but several rounds of infighting ejected anyone with any sense. Corrick was from Tucson, and represented the committee’s ties with that city. He was in it to manage the Hugos, which as a young literature prof were a professional feather in his hat. He managed to stay out of the internal quarreling, a near-miracle for that committee.

  22. I like the idea of a Best Anthology/Collection Hugo. There are a number of anthologies and single-author collections that are, IMO, of sufficiently consistent high quality to be worthy of such an award–Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things, Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, Kelly Link’s Get in Trouble, various Ellen Datlow anthologies, and so on.

  23. Let’s not overlook Andre Norton’s ANDROID AT ARMS, with an African hero in an African setting. (Would she be allowed such “cultural appropriation” today?) Miss Norton herself had American Indian ancestry.

  24. @Andrew (not Werdna): I think I read Starman’s Son, but I have no memory at all of it; do you recall the Black character(s) as peripheral (which happened in a number of genre works, even retro types like del Rey) or central?

    @World Weary: I don’t know that work at all; I’d gone off Norton’s style by 1976, when it was published. By contrast, Ice Crown (first I know of with a female lead) is from 1970, and Galactic Derelict (first IKO with Native American lead) is from 1959.

    I’d love to see mentions of any older instances, as Norton may have been more forward-looking than I thought could be argued. Star Rangers (1953) is commendable for casting those prejudiced against aliens as villains, but it doesn’t counter genre omissions of Earth types.

    I’m reminded by going into this detail that reading a lot of Norton before I’d read more than 1-2 Heinleins probably had a good effect on my own breadth; Maryland in the 1950’s and 1960’s made it easy to assume that things were as they should be.

  25. @Chip: I’m thinking of Arskane who is the second most important human character (Fors and his telepathically bonded giant cat are the most important characters – but Arskane is Fors’ partner throughout much of the novel). Arskane describes his people this way “Let me tell you of my own people—this is a story of the old, old days. Among the flying men who founded my tribe were those born with dark skins—and so they had in their day endured much from those born of fairer races.”

  26. P.S. Depending on when the civilization ending event occurred in the past of “Starman’s Son,” Arskane’s ancestors may have been Tuskegee airmen.

  27. @Chip Hitchcock

    I also note that ISFDB shows only one other post-Lovecraft work in the Mythos through 1944, despite comments that there’d been a lot of works not-by-HPL by then — does ISFDB need correction, or was this win in fact mostly for HPL’s … debatable … work?

    By HPL’s death in 1937, the Cthulhu Mythos included works by Robt E Howard, Bloch, C. L. Moore, Frank Belknap Long, and A. Merritt. By 1944, Derleth had added writings to the Mythos (more than one; see Weird Tales Mar and Nov 1944).

    But you are no doubt right in that the award was for HPL’s work. And as to whether it was “debatable”, so long as the award is given for the works, and not for the character of the creator, I don’t really see anything to debate about here.

  28. Thinking that Chernobyl was not nominated because SFF people are pro nuclear power seems like a silly argument. My non-nomination had nothing to do with whether I am pro or anti nuclear power. It had to do with (a) I didn’t watch it, and (b) from the description it appeared to be a documentary or docudrama, not science fiction (this is the same reason I don’t nominate or vote for things like Hidden Figures or Apollo 13, but clearly the group mind has other opinions about these types of presentations).

    The category of Best Editor has always baffled me. How can we judge an editor unless we see the original manuscripts versus the final products? Maybe an author submitted a hot mess that had to be skillfully mined for gold, or perhaps the author submitted a gem that only needed slight buffing.

    Best Semi-Prozine is very problematic. Either a periodical pays its contributors or it doesn’t. A Best Magazine would be much better–with judging based not only on the consistent quality of its fiction and/or non-fiction, but also its art design, layout, and other tangible aspects. Magazines are products of many skilled people, not just the editors. If you wanted to split it into Best Magazine and Best Anthology, that would be fine.

    A similar argument can be made for Long Form. Books are not just the writing, they are the covers, layouts, etc., too. If you’re going to reward books like this, Best Publisher would seem to be more appropriate, although my suspicions are that Tor/Tor.com would dominate every year if this were the case.

    It’s probably time to revisit Best Dramatic Presentation, too. As others have noted, the shape of televised drama has changed significantly in the past decade or more. A Best Dramatic Series award makes a lot of sense.

    The Retros are problematic for so many reasons. In addition to some of the comments already made, the core problem is that voters are clearly not thoroughly educating themselves on the work itself. How else do you explain Bradbury’s dominance with inferior work? How else do you explain that Alex Raymond’s amazing work on Flash Gordon is trounced by juvenile Superman or Wonder Woman stories? Moreover, items that are only remotely SFF (if at all), such as The Spirit and The Shadow, are inexplicably nominated. What I would propose, and I realize it will never happen, is that the finalists be chosen by a knowledgeable jury, with the winners chosen by the members. But at the least, we need some scholarly analyses of the pool of potential nominees that can put them in context. Cora tried valiantly to do this on her blog (as did I and some others on Goodreads), but how many voters bothered to read these reviews (or better yet, actually read the works)? Many of the works are long out of print, so finding them becomes a real hurdle (I managed to eventually find all the fiction finalists except for the Buck Rodgers strip, but it was a challenge, especially with libraries closed due to COVID-19). Many of the radio programs that should have been considered are long destroyed (if ever recorded to begin with). Also, modern category definitions that are used by the Retros are not always appropriate; for example, feature films from the 1940s were often fewer than 90 minutes, and novels were rarities. It would make more sense to divide Dramatic Presentation at 60 minutes, and lump Novels and Novellas together.

  29. Chernobyl wasn’t science fiction, nor fantasy. Giving a Hugo to Chernobyl (or Hidden Figures for that matter) would be like giving a Hugo to the movie Lincoln. Sure, it’s great. But it’s really not what the Hugo Awards are.

    Leave other awards to celebrate non-genre work. There’s plenty of awards for non-genre work. The Academy Awards recognized Hidden Figures. The Emmys recognized Chernobyl. D’you know what’s never going to win an Emmy or an Oscar? Great works of science fiction.

    Sorry, but the nomination of clearly non-genre works for a genre award just fills me with rage. It’s an abdication of what the Hugo Awards are supposed to be about.

    It’s the World Science Fiction Society. It’s the World Science Fiction Convention. The awards were originally called The Achievement Awards in Science Fiction. Parasite was a great movie. I’m thrilled it got an Oscar, but would have been livid to see it on the Hugo ballot. Moonlight was a great movie. I’m thrilled it got an Oscar, but would have been livid to see it on the Hugo ballot.

    The Hugo Awards have a purpose. That purpose is undermined when we start throwing awards to just whatever.

  30. @OlavRokne—

    Anthony Boucher once said that his job as editor of F&SF wasn’t necessarily to publish fantasy or science fiction, but to publish stories his readers would like. So sometimes they didn’t have much in the way of sf/f content.

    I think the Hugo Awards go to things that sf fans like, whatever that might be, and I’m fine with that.

  31. Go have a look at the actual definition of the Hugo Awards for Best Dramatic Presentation and then come back after you’ve found the words “or related subjects.” This is something where the Administrators are loathe to go against the judgement of the awards jury (the members of WSFS who nominate) as to whether a work is sufficiently related to SF/F.

    Personally, I’m more annoyed at things being nominated in Best Related Work that are actually Dramatic Presentations. Dramatic is not the same thing as fictional. Either the coverage of the moon landing shouldn’t have been nominated, or else documentaries, award acceptance speeches, and suchlike belong in Dramatic Presentation. Alternatively, there should be an amendment that explicitly says that Dramatic Presentations must be primarily fictional in nature, as it does appear to me that most of the voters already think that is the case.

  32. And then there was the Special Hugo awarded to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins for the Best Moon Landing Ever. It was richly deserved and most appropriate. Armstrong even managed to unwittingly mimic Morrie Abrams’s difficult landing in Heinlein’s “Rocket Ship Galileo,” except that Abrams had plenty of propellant left over. In both cases, the pilot had to take over manually because the computer tried to set the ship down on a dangerous spot (I think it was boulder fields in both cases). Armstrong heightened the drama by landing on fumes.

  33. @bill: I haven’t had the stomach to read much Lovecraft, but those who do commonly argue that his racism burned through in his work; that’s why I called it “debatable”. (Note, for instance, Ruthanna Emrys’s response to HPL’s portrayal of Innsmouth.) A quick skim of the ISFDB entry for “Cthulhu Mythos” shows a thin scattering of works by others; I’d estimate everyone else together produced less than half of the wordcount shown, but that may be biased by attempts to fast-count around the fact that none of the others’ works were translated even half as often as HPL’s (suggesting the others’ relatively modest importance). Oh well — it’s done and won’t be undone, like the 2015 non-Retros.

  34. It’s worth noting that in addition to Cthulhu Mythos stories by pro writers like Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, Frank Belknap Long, etc., there were also many Mythos stories by “amateur” writers, work that we would call fanfiction these days.

  35. My personal opinion is that awards like the Hugos should by and large go to discrete works– the “Best Editor” awards are so difficult to judge (I No Award them every year), especially the novel ones. I’d like to see a Hugo for Best Anthology/Collection and a Hugo for Best Magazine and editors of books can just feel good when a book they edited wins (which is what good editors do, IMO, get out of the way of the book and its author).

    @Kevin – how are you defining “drama”? I don’t think it has to be fictional, but it does have to be a narrative, I would say, and I don’t think a speech is a narrative.

    Either the coverage of the moon landing shouldn’t have been nominated…

    I mean, personally, I would say, yes, that material should not have been nominated. But I wasn’t alive then!

  36. Kevin Standlee on August 9, 2020 at 4:25 pm said:
    Go have a look at the actual definition of the Hugo Awards for Best Dramatic Presentation and then come back after you’ve found the words “or related subjects.”

    Yes. I’m fully aware. I’ve thoroughly read the rules, as well as about 20 years worth of WSFS business meeting minutes. FWIW, it does give me a lot of respect for you and for your work (among others).

    I’m also in agreement that the rules probably can’t be crafted such that it would exclude non-SFF works (because there’s always liminal works, and genre definitions are difficult.

    There’s a difference between believing that the rules should permit Chernobyl to be nominated, and believing that it should be nominated.

    This isn’t about the rules, it’s about the idea that Hugo voters should respect science fiction and fantasy enough to want to recognize and reward works of science fiction and fantasy. Other awards will pay plenty of attention to stuff like Chernobyl.

    As a parallel: Michael Jordan was great at basketball, and possibly the greatest of all time. But if they’d given him the MLB MVP, I would have said that was ridiculous. Technically, he was at one point eligible for the MLB MVP. And there’s no denying that he was great and deserved lots of awards. But he didn’t deserve that award, even if he was eligible.

  37. Four DP Hugos? Perish the thought. I was quite against expanding it from 1 to 2, but Kevin worked hard to make that happen.

    My feeling. The DP Hugo is/was “the least important Hugo that gets the most votes.” Indeed, it is less important because it gets so many votes. While WSFS fans love media SF, it is not their focus. More to the point, there is so much focus on it out in the world — and other awards for it — it seems to me WSFS wants to focus on the things that make a Worlcon different from a Dragoncon or San Diego Comicon. Written genre fiction and the fandom of it. Even though we love the media stuff, it’s not what we’re about. But it’s so pervasive that it’s going to get the most votes, and distract from where I think we should have focus.

    On top of all that, we know that attendance by nominees and winners of these awards is sparse. For many years it was zero, or the Hugo commitee would break protocol and tell the winner they had won to get them to send somebody. And the somebody they send is only sometimes the person we wanted to send.

    It’s simply not an imperative that every worthy piece of genre media get recognition from WSFS. Not enough to plump out a list of awards that is already pretty plump, and even takes almost 2 hours to give out when you edit out long winded toastmasters.

    I would personally drop all the media awards and, like the Nebulas, replace them with 1 or 2 awards for the writing. Not that fans would focus completely on the script, but they would try harder.

    When I looked at this year’s long form nominees I was disturbed. The universally panned Star Wars 9? A couple of (spectacular) comic book movies with great production values but dismal writing? It should be an honour to be nominated and if these can make the list, it isn’t. For an award category to be healthy, there should be more than 5 (or 6 to stop the puppies) excellent nominees every single year, of which one can be awarded a seal of greatness, to say, “This, this is an example of the finest that can be made.” This is not true in many categories, frankly.

  38. NickPheas:

    “The Lodestar doesn’t really speak to me as a name either, but it’s not about me and it’s not about you.”

    I like the name, but then “lodestar” is a common used expression in Sweden. To be a lodestar is to be someone who is leading the way for others to follow, someone to look up to. I don’t think of the award as much as winning a Lodestar, but as the recipient being named a Lodestar by the fan community (yes, yes, I know it isn’t the author who wins, but the book).

  39. Chip asks

    @NickPheas: Kameron Hurley’s essay We Have Always Fought effectively won three. I see her win, and the win for the zine it appeared in (but was the essay really the only notable thing about that zine?); what was the 3rd?

    Best Fan Writer. The zine win is the tenuous claim to be honest, though it was never a finalist before, and I think folded a couple of years after, so there’s little doubt that WHAF draw it a lot of attention.

    And Best Single Anthology might be easier to vote for, but (cf above) there’s so much good magazine work happening that I’m not sure killing Editor – Short Form is reasonable. I suppose it could be reverted to Best Magazine if Anthology were split off, but at what point does subdividing the awards mean too much subdividing of attention?

    The advantage is that the result is clearly defined. I know what an Anthology is, I can look at two of them and assess which I like best. I can sort of do that with short form, by comparing F&SF and the latest John Joseph Adams doorstop, but it’s somewhat apples and pears.

    Long form though is the real problem. I know that Lee Harris edited Middlegame, and that Middlegame read very well. Do I know how much work he did to make it read well? Not a hope. Did he do more than whoever edited A Memory of Empire?

  40. Nickpheas: The advantage is that the result is clearly defined. I know what an Anthology is, I can look at two of them and assess which I like best.

    Sure, it might be a little easier for voters to select Best Anthology and Magazine than it is to select Best Short Form Editor, but I don’t want to award a book or a magazine for editing, I want to award an Editor.

    Likewise, I’m vehemently against doing a Best Publisher or Imprint award for Editing, because there’s no satisfaction for me as a Hugo voter in that — I want to award an Editor. (And note that there’s more to editing than suggesting changes — to me, recognizing a gem and making the decision to acquire a novel for publication is at least as important than the actual final editing. And a lot of Editors have a hand in creating the cover art, too.)

    Some of the Best Novel finalists and winners in the past several years have had 3 or 4 editors with their hands on a book — and, like the WGA with movie writing credits, sometimes there were acrimonious circumstances which resulted in that many editors being involved. If we award a Novel and its Editor, we may end up handing out 5 or 6 trophies — 1 author and a bunch of Editors — and so I don’t think that’s a good solution, either.

    This is why I’ve been putting together the Editor Eligibility posts: because I feel strongly about recognizing the Editors — not faceless magazines or publishers — and I want nominators and voters to have the best possible information to make those decisions.

  41. I agree–for modern times. Back when we were handing out Hugos for Best Prozine, though, the magazines were anything but faceless–their faces were their editors. Of course, there could have been some argument in the 1960s, if we had had a Best Editor–Short Form. If we’d awarded three Hugos to Frederik Pohl, the question would have arisen: Is this for his work on If, on Galaxy, or on Worlds of Tomorrow? He edited all three magazines simultaneously, and won three Hugos for If. Busy fellow, Pohl! My all-time favorite prozine editor.

  42. @OlavRokne:

    This isn’t about the rules, it’s about the idea that Hugo voters should respect science fiction and fantasy enough to want to recognize and reward works of science fiction and fantasy.

    Do you then favor abolition of Best Related Work?
    There was a sardonic slogan wandering around some decades ago: ~”If the government doesn’t trust the people, it should dissolve them and elect a new people.” I’m disinclined to argue what voters “should” do; Worldcon members –let alone fans as a whole — are not one even in spirit, let alone in opinions. Leaving aside ancient disasters like They’d Rather Be Right, how often recently have you said “What? Were they thinking?” over at least one winner? Consider that there were probably a lot of such cries — but not nearly all of them over the same winner. (Although probably most of them were more tactful than the instance MZB cited after 1978, when somebody “commiserated” over the wrong novel winning but made clear they’d wanted something other than The Forbidden Tower.)

    I certainly remember when studios had to be begged and/or promised to get someone to come — but ISTM that hasn’t been true for decades. And I note that a lot of the engineers who made the space program possible mentioned growing up with SF; ISTM that making one of our laughed-at dreams real is non-trivial

  43. Pingback: More Reactions to the 2020 Hugo Ceremony and a bit about the Retro Hugos | Cora Buhlert

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