A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A (HUGO AWARD FINALIST) FAN
By Chris M. Barkley: Wednesday, 28th of June. Another day in a string of long summer days.
I rise early in the morning and immediately check my email on social media sites and email in-box. There is no sign of the Hugo Award Finalists for 2023.
And the beat goes on.
For a majority of this month, I have been awaiting the results of the Hugo Award nomination process to find out who the Finalists this year are.
I checked my email account in the morning before breakfast and before I left the house early this morning on my way out the door.
The smoke from the Canadian wildfires have drifted down all along the east coast and extends as far west as Chicago and south into the Ohio Valley where I live.
A report on NPR’s Morning Edition stated that prolonged exposure to the wood smoke particles would be the equivalent of smoking a half a pack of cigarettes a day. I have been feeling congested for the past few days and I am quite sure that there is a causal relation between these conditions and my recent spate of sinus headaches.
Today, as I have been all of this week, I was transporting my granddaughter Lilly to her summer nature camp at a large city park for a majority of the day. I picked her up at 8:30 a.m. and, befitting all seven-year-olds on summer vacation, she was the complete opposite of being bright eyed and bushy-tailed that early in the morning.
The drive to the park was ominous and foreboding; as we drove through the city, the hills in the distance looked as though they were shrouded in a thick fog. The previous weekend there had been clear skies and a marginal amount of humidity in the air.
When Lilly and I arrived, I presented her with a N-95 surgical mask for protection against the smoke. She rejected it once she noticed that other kids there weren’t wearing masks. I didn’t push it; I know how badly kids her age want to fit in and appearances and peer pressure can be big factors. Been there, bought the tee-shirt…
Before I left the park, I checked my email in-box on my phone. There was no notice from the Chengdu Worldcon about the Hugo Finalists this year.
There had been an announcement earlier in June stating that they hoped to make the list public by the end of June and I had been checking my social media accounts and email on an almost hourly basis.
While I made the long drive back to the house (and intermittently stuck in rush hour traffic), I had plenty of time ruminate on many things:
-What was my next column going to be about? I was going to do a column each on Across The Spider-Verse, The Flash and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny but I decided to hold off and do a story about the entire (and incredibly remarkable) month of sff releases. And, of course, the Hugo nominations.
– I have to admit (to myself) that I had an unspoken and ulterior motive for keeping an eye out for the 2023 Finalists. Although I would be happy if any of my fellow 2022 Finalists were nominated, I held some tiny, infinitesimal, almost impossibly small hope that I might make the cut. But, I knew this was certainly a pipe dream at best; it was way too far into the month and all of the nominees had to have been contacted by now. Well now, maybe next year…
-Yesterday, the Science fiction Hall of Fame announced their inductees for 2023: multiple Hugo Award winning author N.K. Jemisin, writer/director/composer John Carpenter, the entire Dune franchise (created by the late Frank Herbert and continued by his son Brian and many others) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show film (based on the original stage musical by Richard O’Brien) whose accomplishments and influence are so monumental enough that it needs no further comment from me.
– In turn, what about me? Could I ever contemplate being in the SF Hall of Fame? Well, again, probably not. All of the notable things I have done in my fannish life (these series of columns notwithstanding) have been mostly out of the public eye. But I recall the wise words of Wendell Pierce, one of the outstanding ensemble of actors who were part of HBO’s The Wire, considered nowadays as one of the greatest television series ever created. But, incredibly, in its highly acclaimed five season run (from 2002-2008), the series was nominated for only TWO Emmys, both for Outstanding Writing for A Drama Series in 2005 and 2008. Last year, while performing a starring turn as Willy Loman in a Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Pierce was pretty blunt about The Wire’s lack of recognition from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences:
“I didn’t want an Emmy. I said then the lasting testament will be: This show will be one of the most revered and critically acclaimed shows that will never have any awards, and it will just show you how shallow people’s approach to commercialized art can be. That they missed the point of the power of art. I wear it as a badge of honor that we didn’t receive any Emmys.”
And when I read that, I instinctively knew that as far as artistic attitudes were concerned, that THIS was the best and most admirable attitude to have. And make no mistake; I was ecstatic AND quite honored to be nominated for the Hugo Award last year but, in the long run, what I have done as a fan has been noted, logged and a part of fandom’s history. I wouldn’t turn down an award or honor (and I have been a Fan Guest of Honor at three conventions since 2019) but in my lifetime, it’s the work that matters.
My head was really aching when I got home so I took a decongestant and two Advils. After dropping a few packages at the post office, I headed over to our county’s Friends of the Library resale shop for some therapeutic shopping. The biggest dilemma I had while I was there was trying to remember whether or not I had previously purchased a copy of the 2009 Nebula Award Showcase (edited by Ellen Datlow). A check of a list in my wallet confirmed I had. Crisis AVERTED!
As 3:00 p.m. approached, I gathered my purchases and checked out. The volunteer workers there asked about Lilly, who was a frequent visitor there when she was much younger. I showed them a recent photo of her on my phone and I told them that was now a tall, seven-and-a-half-year-old. They all marveled at how much she had grown and they were happy to know that Lilly was an avid reader. I also promised to bring her by for a visit before the summer was over.
After picking up and dropping off Lilly, I headed home with thoughts of taking an afternoon nap. The humidity had increased considerably and I was still feeling a little congested.
I checked in with my partner Juli, who was working at home out of the spare bedroom. I won’t describe what she does but let’s just say that the application of coffee every day has prevented a lot of needless deaths in the financial consulting industry.
But, before my head hit the pillow for a well deserved nap before All Things Considered, I made one more check of my emails on my phone…
The time stamp on the email was 1:31 p.m., EDT.
Hugo Awards – CONFIDENTIAL – Best Fan Writer
Dear Chris Barkley,
I am delighted to inform you have reached the list of Finalists for the 2023 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer, to be presented by the 81st World Science Fiction Convention (Chengdu Worldcon 2023). Please keep this nomination strictly confidential until the public announcement of the full ballot at the end of June.F**K!!!!!
The Hugo Awards are presented to specific works of science fiction or fantasy and to people with a body of work in science fiction or fantasy appearing in the preceding calendar year, in this case 2022. A work eligible for the Best Fan Writer category is defined as:
Any person whose writing has appeared in semiprozines or fanzines or in generally available electronic media during the previous calendar year
The rules for the Hugo Awards as a whole may be found in Article 3 of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) Constitution:
We would very much appreciate a response to this letter no later than Friday June 30th to inform us whether you accept this nomination, wish to withdraw your novel from consideration, or must inform us that your novel does not qualify for the ballot under the above definition.
If you accept the nomination as a Hugo Award Finalist, please reply-all to this email with the following information:
(1) Provide information confirming that you have published a work that qualifies you for Best Fan Writer for 2022, as described above.
(2) Confirm or correct your name as it should appear on the list of finalists. At present we have:
(3) Confirm this email address or let us know if there is a different one you would prefer to use for communication regarding the 2023 Hugo Awards.
Traditionally, the Hugo Awards are presented in person at a ceremony during the current year’s Worldcon. The convention is scheduled to be held in Chengdu, China, from October 18 through 22.
Provided you accept your nomination, we will soon be seeking further information from you as we move toward the formal announcement of the awards and the preparation of the Hugo Packet of nominated works. The Hugo Finalist Liaison Team will coordinate communication between Hugo Award Finalists and Chengdu Worldcon from the composition of the final ballot through the post-convention wrap-up.
If you have any immediate questions about your Hugo Award nomination, please contact me by reply to this email, or, if you have matters you do not wish to entrust to email, I will be happy to arrange to speak to you by phone or Zoom equivalent at your convenience.
By this time, Juli was thinking that by shouting this series of loud expletives that I had either a) gotten suddenly sick, b) somebody died, c) lost my damned mind or d) ALL of the above.
When I came into the office, she looked quite alarmed. “Are you ok? What happened?” I gave her the phone. Her eyes widened in surprise. Her mouth dropped open in shock.
Juli took off her headphones, leaped up and hugged me. “I am so happy and proud of you!”
THAT felt better than getting the nomination itself.
I don’t know how or why this happened. It doesn’t matter either. I and everyone else will find out when the long list of nominations are finally released after the Hugo Ceremony in October.
A subsequent announcement from the Chengdu Hugo Award administrators made it clear that they were still in the process of notifying all of the finalists and that the delay in the announcement will be pushed into July.
Here’s the thing; it occurs to me that some people who are either disenchanted with how the Chengdu Worldcon Committee has handled their responsibilities or that this year’s Worldcon was being held in the People’s Republic of China, were refusing their nominations. And that’s their right to do so.
I am also aware that in accepting this nomination, I will be opening myself up to a typhoon of criticism from people who think that I, and others who will be on the final ballot, should have refused to have anything to do with a prestigious convention being held in a totalitarian state.
Compounding all of this are the deterioration of financial, political and diplomatic relations between the United States and China and the almost daily confrontations between the two aerial and naval services in the areas surrounding Taiwan.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited China three weeks ago in an attempt to cool tensions and today, the very day the Hugo Finalists are being announced, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has begun a trip to Beijing which will include several meetings between US business leaders and prominent Chinese economic officials: (“Janet Yellen heads to China, seeking to ease tensions” at NPR.)
I am a proud American. I love my country, cotton candy, warts and all. On several occasions, I have taken an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and I did so of my own free will.
BUT, I am neither a nationalist nor a populist in my personal beliefs. Many times over the decades I have not hesitated to express my displeasure with my government, at the local, state or federal level.
I am a human being and a citizen of this planet, first and foremost, a member of fandom and then a citizen of the United States
Additionally, I want to point out that my 2023 Hugo Award Finalist nomination came from the sf fans in our community, who have ALWAYS have (and hopefully, always will) be the driving force of the nomination process.
I did not openly campaign for this nomination. To me, this nomination is a clear indication that not only are people reading my column, they also appreciate what they’re reading. I also think my, and the other nominees from the US and (presumably, other nations) refutes any claims that the Chengdu Worldcon Committee or the Chinese Communist Party have the final say or control over the process.
To those fans who nominated me, I humbly and profusely thank you for your continuing support. I am grateful and honored to be recognized in this fashion and I will continue to do so for as long as I am able to. To me, the work I have done and being read, is the greatest reward a writer can wish for.
I also want to thank Our Gracious Host, File 770’s Editor-In-Chief, Mike Glyer for publishing these rather annoying and idiosyncratic opinions and my partner and beta-reader, Juli, for putting up with me on a daily basis.
As Rachel Maddow says, Watch This Space…
“The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” — Gloria Steinem