Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #85


By Chris M. Barkley: I, like many of you reading this, were absolutely riveted around 11:00 a.m. (Eastern Detested Time, as far as I’m concerned) on March 29th when the 2024 Glasgow World Science Fiction Convention Committee announced the Finalists for the Hugo Awards.

Having (possibly) won a Hugo Award in the Fan Writing category a mere five months and a week ago, I have a vested interest in the proceedings. As many of you may remember, I did recuse myself from future consideration in the category in my (somewhat surprising) acceptance speech on the stage of the 2023 Hugo Awards Ceremony in Chengdu, China. I’ll say more on this later on.

From the safety of our kitchen nook, my partner Juli and I watched the YouTube video presentation of the Finalists: 

Naturally, having been associated with the awards for a full quarter century (WHERE did the time go?), I have a few thoughts about this year’s Finalists:

— The very first thing that jumps out at me is that there are numerous nominees from China. After the debacle over explosive revelations regarding the 2023 Hugo Awards and the numerous calls for accountability and transparency over the past few months, it is heartening to know that despite the fact some of them were legitimately denied their voting rights, fans in China showed that they are still willing, at least for the time being, to being part of this process.  I hope you are as excited as I am about this encouraging sign.  

Before last year, the Hugo Awards had a reputation for being transparent in their processes and publication of voting results, something other prestigious literary awards (the National Book Awards, the Pulitzer, Booker and Nobel Prizes) notoriously do not divulge. 

And, I argue, it is because that tradition was egregiously transgressed and the corruption was thankfully exposed.

Needless to say, I can hardly wait for this year’s Hugo Nominee packet and read entries they chose.

— But, on the other hand, I am disheartened to read that several people, most prominently Bigolas Dickolas Wolfwood (in Best Related Works), Natasha Bardon (Best Editor-Long Form) and Camestros Felapton (Best Fan Writer), Hai Ya (Best Novelette, The Far North), Martha Wells (Best Novel, System Collapse) turned down their nominations. Each had their own reasons; while I don’t know why Wolfwood and Hai Ya declined, Martha Wells has previously stated she would not accept any more nominations for her Murderbot stories or novels. On his blog page, Felapton stated that:

2023 looms large here and there were definitely people I would rather see on the Hugo ballot for Best Fan Writer this year than myself. One was obviously Paul Weimer but I was certain he’d be top of most people’s ballots anyway but I was hoping some Chinese fans would make it onto the category. That didn’t happen but it is a decent list of finalists and there is nobody there that I would have wanted to replace.

Closely related to this was also the sense that I was likely to have gathered additional votes from things that I had written in 2024, specifically on the 2023 Hugo Award stats. Even if that wasn’t the case it would have felt like it was the case to me. So, I thought I’d feel happier skipping this year and putting my hat into the ring for next year.

I hope that makes sense. Thank you to everybody who voted for me and apologies for not publicly asking people not to vote for me before the deadline. 2023 stuff sort of got in the way of thinking about 2024 stuff.

I must state for the record that I have the utmost respect for Mr. Felapton and his works, and if I had not totally screwed up my timing on getting my ballot in, his name would have occupied one of my slots. It will definitely happen next year. 

You can read his full statement here:  “Why I Declined a Hugo Spot”.

The biggest news from last Friday was Ms. Bardon’s statement.  On Instagram she explained:

“I’d like to thank everyone who nominated me for Best Editor, Long Form for the #HugoAwards2024.

I’m honoured to have made the final list.

Unfortunately, given the censorship in 2023, and as a professional working within a field that often feels closed off by gatekeepers, I feel unable to accept the nomination. Though I applaud the transparency of this year’s organisers, I do not feel there has been enough to safeguard this from happening again, nor right the wrongs of 2023.

Congratulations to all finalists.”

It should be noted that Ms. Bardon is R.F. Kuang’s editor. Ms. Kuang’s bestselling fantasy novel Babel was notoriously excluded from last year’s Hugo Award Finalist list due to the malfeasance of the Chengdu Hugo Award Administrators. I have to believe that may have been a factor in her decision. My respects to her as well.

Novels, Short Fiction and Series:   Despite being retired with a lot of time on my hands, I must confess that being on a fixed income, I have been woefully behind on reading novels and short fiction over the past decade or so. But, I am looking forward to reading some old favorites like Ann Leckie, Martha Wells, Nghi Vo, T. Kingfisher, Naomi Kritzler and John Scalzi, as well as some who are relatively new to me such as C.L. Polk, P. Djèlí Clark, Emily Tesh and all of the Chinese nominees. Similarly, I am hopelessly behind on every single series on the list; I’ll try to get caught up but if I can’t by the voting deadline I may abstain from voting in this category altogether.

Related Works: I have had a keen interest in history, science and literary criticism since I was in grade school so I am quite pleased with the finalists in this category. In fact, I may splurge and buy hardcover copies of A City on Mars by Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith, A Traveler in Time: The Critical Practice of Maureen Kincaid Speller edited by Nina Allan and All These Worlds: Reviews & Essays by Niall Harrison. But I have to admit that the most intriguing entry here is the publication of The Culture: The Drawings, by the late Iain M. Banks, which showcases the drawings and sketches he used as reference points for his acclaimed fictional series. I don’t know if I can afford it but I have one hand on my credit card…

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Among this year’s crop of finalists, the biggest surprises was NOT Greta Gerwig’s Academy Award nominated Barbie (which I knew upon viewing was an automatic shoo-in) but the frothy fantasy/heist movie Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, which delves deeply into the game’s mythos without alienating anyone who knows nothing about the role playing game. 

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse was also a slam dunk for a nomination although I was not inclined to nominate (or vote for) it myself because it ends on a cliffhanger and I usually don’t want to award an uncompleted story (and I’m looking at YOU Dune Parts One and Two). 

And while I’m looking forward to watching Nimona and The Wandering Earth II, it’s Poor Things, also a 2024 Best Picture nominee, that interests me most because I see it as a possible dark horse winner in this category. 

You may also be on the lookout for a WSFS Business Meeting petition to extend the nomination period for the critically acclaimed (and a 2024 Oscar Winner for Best Special Effects) Godzilla Minus One, which had a limited theatrical run late last year.

One more thing; I would have nominated this year’s Best Picture winner, Oppenheimer, but I am only slightly disappointed it didn’t make the cut this year seeing that the Long Form category could have been filled with three times as many outstanding films and streaming series from 2023. 

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: FINALLY, the nominators are showing some love for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds! And two outstanding episodes got the nod; “Those Old Scientists” is a hilarious crossover with the animated series Below Decks wherein Ensigns Mariner (Tawny Newsome) and Boimler (Jack Quaid) get entangled in a time travel accident that has them interacting in the past with their legendary crushes Captain Pike (Anson Mount), Spock (Ethan Peck) and Uhura (Celia Rose Gooding). The ensuing hijinks made this an instant classic. The other episode, “Subspace Rhapsody” is another fun episode that has the crew of the Enterprise forced to perform in various forms of song AND dance. Fun, fun, fun! 

Doctor Who returned last December, with two of the three being David Tennant-Catherine Tate specials, the trapped on a starship “Wild Blue Yonder’ and “The Giggle” which introduced of the energetic new Doctor, Ncuti Gatwa and a terrifying turn by Neil Patrick Harris as the villainous Celestial Toymaker. 

The category is rounded out by what I consider are the two frontrunners; the final episode of Season 2 of Loki, “Glorious Purpose”, which may feature the very last appearance of Tom Hiddleston in his iconic title role and episode 3 of The Last of Us miniseries, “Long, Long Time”, in which guest stars Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett give the most tearful and wrenching performances in the history of television (Offerman won a 2024 Emmy for Guest Actor, Bartlett was nominated as well). 

Best Semiprozine: We could argue all day (and all night as well) about why this outdated and ill-titled category still exists but I think we can agree that all of the nominees are worthy of the Hugo Award. Among them are two previous winners (FIYAH Literary Magazine and Uncanny Magazine) and two perennial nominees (Escape Pod and Strange Horizons) and two newcomers, GigaNotoSaurus and khōréō, of whom I have never heard of before but look forward to sampling.  

Best Fanzine: Let’s all give a BIG welcome to first time Hugo Award nominees Black Nerd Problems (which is proudly based in Columbus, Ohio) and Gerri Sulivan’s Ideas, which was last seen in the year 2000 and saw the light of day again this past year. Being well acquainted with Journey Planet, The Full Lid, Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog and Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together, I look forward to reading the best they had to offer from last year.

Best Fan Writer: A VERY necessary aside; when I first started advocating for changes regarding the Hugo Award categories 25 years ago, one of the very first things that some of the more sage members of the Business Meeting crowd drilled into my head was that these awards were not supposed to be popularity contests, but by the merit of the work itself. Officially, as far as they were (and still are) concerned, the award does not go to the creator of the work but to the work itself.   

With that in mind, I thanked those who voted to make the works of a person of color for the very first time in the history of the Hugo Awards. I also made an impassioned and open ended plea to not make me the last POC to win and I pledged to recuse myself from the category for just that purpose.

I should also say that after the revelations about the voting scandal were made public last February, a number of people made it known that they were going to nominate me again this year.  And while I have very little doubt I could have made the ballot, I made the decision not to rescind the recusal and if I had been nominated I would have turned it down.

For better or worse, my name will be permanently affixed to the 2023 Hugo Awards and I am unwavering in my belief that other and more diverse fan writers should have a chance to be spotlighted. 

This year’s finalists, while all being quite worthy of the award (several are folks I consider good friends and peers), that I am slightly disappointed that this group is decidedly less diverse than recent years. However, the nominators, for this year, have spoken. 

Paul Weimer, who was unjustly left off of last year’s ballot is rightfully present, along with my fellow 2023 finalists Jason Sanford, Bitter Karella, Örjan Westin and two nominees from previous years, James Davis Nicoll and Alasdair Stuart. I look forward to reading their packet selections and I wish them all good luck.

If you value this category as I do, advocate for other voices and from different cultures and countries for next year and every year afterwards. 

The Astounding Award for Best New Writer: One of the things I look forward to every year is reading the stories from the writers in this category.

The BIG news in the Astounding Award category this year is the appearance of Xiran Jay Zhao on the ballot. They were excluded as a finalist for Best New Writer of 2023, despite receiving enough votes to place fourth on the nomination long list. 

Dell Magazines, who sponsors the award, granted Zhao an additional year of eligibility. As someone who has advocated making this category (and the Lodestar Award) actual Hugo Award categories, I am glad they are not in this particular case because there are no provisions in the World Science Fiction Convention Constitution to grant this rather immediate and welcome remedy.

I am ecstatic about Zhao’s presence and can hardly wait to read what stories they, and all of the other Finalists, will select for us to read. 

One final note: As of this posting, I have heard that the 2023 Hugo Award Finalists have not received their nomination certificates and souvenir pins. If this is true, I find this omission terribly upsetting. In addition, those who still want their Hugo Award trophies (and I am among them) have not received them yet, nearly six months after the end of the Chengdu Worldcon. And while I realize that some may not want them due to the association with the scandal, I think that the Chengdu Worldcon Committee has an obligation to offer these items to those who wish to have them.

As such, I want to publicly urge the responsible parties involved to fulfill their obligations and reach out and poll all of the 2024 Hugo Award Finalists to see if they want to receive what they rightfully deserve.         

For more opinions on the 2024 Hugo Award Finalists, here are links two more links with commentary by the 2022 Hugo Award winning Fan Writer Cora Buhlert (“Some Thoughts on the 2024 Hugo Finalists”) and my colleague and 2024 Finalist, Jason Sanford (“Genre Grapevine for March 2024”).

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12 thoughts on “Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask #85

  1. Scores of years from now, fen parents will warn their children about misbehaving….

    “Clean up your room or the Chengdu Hugo Committee will come get you tonight…

  2. Pingback: AMAZING NEWS FROM FANDOM: April 7, 2024 - Amazing Stories

  3. Thanks. Thoughtful and insightful as always. On kh?ré?, it was in the Best Semiprozine packet last year. On your reading, try the library including Interlibrary Loan for the more esoteric items, after using Worldcat to see if the items are out there.

  4. David,
    I love your suggestion of Interlibrary Loan (ILL), but many libraries do not participate in ILL, I have 2 home libraries, one does ILL and the other doesn’t. ILL will not work for books still on the new shelf at their home library. Also, my library that does ILL will cover the postage, but if the home library has a lending fee, they (reasonably) pass that charge on to me to pay. Every library that participates in ILL has their own rules.
    Having said all that, ILL has been a great way through the years for me to access books that do not have inexpensive editions or ebooks.

  5. Interesting essay. One correction: Geri Sullivan’s fanzine is called “Idea” (singular).
    And a question for clarification: In your section about the Best Fanwriter category, when you say “…I thanked those who voted to make the works of a person of color for the very first time in the history of the Hugo Awards,” are you referring only to this specific category or all of the Hugo Awards?

  6. Jerry Kaufman: I should have clarified that I was referring to myself as the first person of color to receive a Hugo Award in the Best Fan Writer category. Thank You…

    Chris B.

  7. One final note: As of this posting, I have heard that the 2023 Hugo Award Finalists have not received their nomination certificates and souvenir pins. If this is true, I find this omission terribly upsetting. In addition, those who still want their Hugo Award trophies (and I am among them) have not received them yet, nearly six months after the end of the Chengdu Worldcon.

    Six months is longer than it took to build the venue. But I guess some things just take more time.

  8. Pingback: Some Thoughts on the 2024 Hugo Finalists | Cora Buhlert

  9. Good to hear about Godzilla Minus One getting an extension. I thought it was an incredible movie.

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