The Memphis in 2023 Worldcon bid chairs Kate Secor and Cliff Dunn have posted a statement about their plans for averting some of the high profile controversies that overshadowed the recently completed Worldcon: “Our Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion”. The full statement is at the link.
Given recent circumstances, now that CoNZealand has (officially) closed we feel that a well-though-out response is merited to questions asked of us over the last few days. We have chosen this format to try and respond in full; to quote a mutual friend, you can’t tweet nuance.
RETRO HUGOS. The 2023 Worldcon will have the choice to award the 1948 Retro Hugos; Memphis won’t exercise that option.
The easiest question to answer is whether or not we intend to run Retro Hugo Awards: No, we do not. While we understand that some family members very much appreciate getting Hugos for the work their parents (or grandparents) did, the reaction to the Retros has been increasingly mixed. On balance, we therefore believe it is time to move on from these, at least for the time being.
CODE OF CONDUCT. The Memphis bidders describe ways they would use their Code of Conduct as part of their answer to the question, “What do you intend to do to make marginalized people comfortable at your convention?”
Beyond communicating the Code of Conduct to staff, panelists, emcees and guests of honor, they say —
…Most importantly, for major speakers and guests (e.g., ToastPerson for the Hugos, and Guests of Honor), we intend to have a serious discussion with them well in advance of their events to ensure that they are comfortable with the Code of Conduct and that any questions are answered. We will do our best to vet any remarks which are to be delivered at major convention events in advance.
More to the point, if we cannot come to an understanding with a guest or speaker regarding the Code of Conduct, then we will not put that guest in a position where they feel they cannot comply with it. If we are sent an advance recording of non-compliant remarks, we will either edit them, or we simply won’t run the remarks.
As to “live” material –
…While we intend to be proactive (see above), we know that the odds are good that we will have to respond. So we intend to communicate the consequences for breaking the Code of Conduct as well. These may include, depending on the exact circumstances (i.e. seriousness of the breach, whether it was or seems to be premeditated, etc.), anything from a reprimand, to the premature termination of a speaking opportunity, to removal from programming and/or the convention.
PROGRAMMING. Doubtless with the “Statement of 2020 Hugo Finalists re: Worldcon Programming” and similar criticisms in mind, Secor and Dunn also say —
We intend to be as proactive and attentive as we can be regarding the makeup of panels and making sure that panelists are not “miscast” out of the blue or placed with people they know they do not get along with. We will also do our best to ensure that a broad range of topics are covered, and to work with various marginalized groups to ensure that their views are represented.
Memphis, TN (USA) and Chengdu, China are the two declared bids to host the 2023 Worldcon.
I have no stake in the Retro-Hugos, but if Memphis 2023 is going to take a stand against them, they ought to say what they mean and not quibble. Oppose the Retros for a reason instead of saying things like “the reaction has been mixed” and that they should be dropped “for the time being.” That way the issue can be discussed out in the open like it should.
Well, that’s depressing as I like the Retro-Hugos. We can’t have nice things it seems.
I think they’re saying pretty clearly that the Retro Hugos cause a lot of problems that they don’t want to deal with, without enough benefit to motivate them to do so.
Which I find to be an utterly reasonable position.
Overall, it looks like they’re trying to take current problems seriously and attempting to deal with them constructively.
What Lis said.
@ Lis Carey
I think they’re saying pretty clearly that the Retro Hugos cause a lot of problems that they don’t want to deal with, without enough benefit to motivate them to do so.
Understandable. But what about the people who like the Retro-Hugos and don’t think that they’re a problem? Memphis wants to make a decision and avoid the consequences of that decision at the same time. There are people who disagree with the Retro opposition and would want to hold the Retros, and Memphis should give those people a place in the conversation.
(Believe it or not, I see both sides of this particular argument but because i am an Aspie, all too often I try to speak and am not heard. Thus my stand.)
Being new to all of this, what are the problems with the Retro-Hugos?
@ Keith Pratt
Being new to all of this, what are the problems with the Retro-Hugos?
Basically, since the early days of science fiction were mostly white and male and sexist (and usually racist), so are the Retro-Hugos. Also, there are some key players (such as Campbell) who were even more noxiously racist and sexist than the societal baseline.
Throw in concerns about the effect of early SF canons on diversity and Retro-Hugo reminders that there was a past where discrimination against women, LGBTQ+, and BIPOC people was rampant, and you can find many people who do not like the Retro-Hugos and prefer to concentrate on the more diverse SF in the recent past and present.
Honestly, I can see why some people don’t like the Retro-Hugos but I haven’t really made up my mind yet.
The other key Retro problem is what are we voting for? Who would have won, had the fans of 1948 had a say? Who do we, with our modern progressive sensibilities feel it would have been nice had they got a look in?
It would be impossible to vote like they would have 75 years ago. We have the context of who the authors and editors became later.
Personally, I think this is a good move by Memphis. The Retro Hugos have value, and I love classic SFF. But there have been some pretty dubious winners and nominees (Campbell and Lovecraft this year, the Batman movie on the shortlist last year).
I think it’s worth taking a year or two to sort out some of the quirks in the Retro process (possibly axe a couple of categories just from the Retros? perhaps tweak the Retro Hugo rules?).
The 1948 Retro Hugos don’t have to be presented in Memphis. They can wait until 2048.
Not so much of a “problem” as it is a decision, for every voter to make. The vote is for “achievement” in science fiction, and what that means is up to the voter (just like for the contemporary awards).
If there is a “problem” associated with the retros, it is that the voters (whose collective wisdom is generally thought to be pretty good) make decisions that a vocal minority finds distasteful.
In regards to retro hugos. I probably read some of the novels etc. when I was a kid and did not notice the sexism and racism. Same with the movies but I usually find that I do not vote in the retro Hugos because I don’t remember the works and don’t want to search for them.
I hate the decision by Memphis to not only refuse to run the Retro Hugos but to make this rejection a part of their Worldcon vote push. It’s a fun part of Worldcon for those of us who participate and there aren’t many eligible years left.
Now we don’t get one for 1948 until 2048 at the earliest if Memphis wins. Bah humbug.
The other problem with the Retro-Hugos is that they are supposed to be for “best fan writer of year X” or “best editor of year X,” and some people’s nominations and votes seem to be more “I like this person’s editing in general” or “I like Magazine Y, which this person edited for several years, including this one.”
Even for current-year Hugos, there’s some of that (our memories don’t have neat end-of-year cutoffs). But when we’re nominating or voting for the Hugos for the immediately past year, that year’s work is going be larger in our memories than things from further back, and we can’t vote based on what the person will do two or ten or thirty years into our future.
When nominating or voting for awards for a year we don’t remember, people do think of things that happened between that year and the present.
Maybe separate the Retro-Hugos from the individual cons?
The Retro Hugos have been controversial at best from the beginning. It’s not like the controversy is a recent development, though it has evolved in the last few years. And I don’t think Memphis would be the first Worldcon eligible to not do the Retro Hugos, though I couldn’t verify or disprove that with a quick search.
The Retro Hugos are not a thing a Worldcon is required to do. It’s optional. And Memphis is telling you upfront they’re not going to do them. You know upfront that they’ve made that decision. Decide how you want to vote.
I have a similar problem, though I’m only just beginning, with my new therapist, to feel I have a right to label this as anything other than “Lis is terrible at this.” And so I get especially frustrated and uncomfortable when people find it necessary to tell me that the view I managed to express clearly (much easier online) is wrong, or I was wrong to say it, or that it’s more important that other voices be heard. Note, not just expressing other viewpoints, but implying it’s somehow unfair or disrespectful to have expressed my opinion.
bill says If there is a “problem” associated with the retros, it is that the voters (whose collective wisdom is generally thought to be pretty good) make decisions that a vocal minority finds distasteful.
No, Hugo voters make decisions based on their individual beliefs. As a group, this community tends to be more than able to think for itself and not be swayed by what you say a vocal minority finds distasteful. They’re swayed by no one other factor than their own beliefs and those of individuals who they trust — something which you very obviously don’t agree with.
Liz Carey says The Retro Hugos have been controversial at best from the beginning. It’s not like the controversy is a recent development, though it has evolved in the last few years. And I don’t think Memphis would be the first Worldcon eligible to not do the Retro Hugos, though I couldn’t verify or disprove that with a quick search.
There were no Retro Hugos given for 1940 and the years 1947 to 1950. One assumes that at least some of those were due to WorldCons opting out from doing so.
@ Lis Carey
Note, not just expressing other viewpoints, but implying it’s somehow unfair or disrespectful to have expressed my opinion.
I apologize if I gave that impression. I certainly respect your opinion greatly and meant to be polite when dissenting. If I gave the wrong impression, it’s all on me. I’ve never been good at this, I’m afraid.
Relatively spotty since their first administration, with the greatest frequency recently. http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/awardtype.cgi?34
So who has a 2023 Worldcon bid in? And have they said where they stand on this issue?
I’m ambivalent. I like voting for the RetroHugos, but I recognize that they take a lot of work and a particular Worldcon is not required to award them. If Memphis doesn’t have people enthusiastic about doing a good job with the Retro Hugos (producing a Packet, or even producing a list of eligible fiction works), then fandom is probably better off without Memphis doing them.
The bottom line is that having the retro-Hugos and not having the retro-Hugos are both controversial decisions that will make some people unhappy! There is no third option that will satisfy everyone, so it has to be one or the other.
I honestly suspect most people don’t really care much one way or the other! I mean, sorting through a bunch of stodgy old stories written long before I was born is not something I find particularly appealing, and for the most part, I ignore the retros, both during voting and when the result come out. (I have no idea what won this year, for example, despite being a regular on this website where the results were prominently posted.)
So I’m pretty ok with the decision to possibly offend a different small minority than the usual one. If someone has to be offended, why not mix it up? 🙂
And really, if there’s any field that should be looking forward instead of looking back, it’s science fiction, which is all about the future!
We have just enough time to allow Memphis to implement the proleptic Hugos, for the best SF and fantasy of 2077, if we work out the details for the 2021 Business Meeting.
“proleptic” is a word that suggests that you may be a Julian May fan (at least her works are the ones that use that word frequently).
I think my main encounter was in the lead material to Bridge of Birds, where there appears a pair of definitions for “prolepsis” that neatly both admits knowledge of the novel’s anachronisms, and comments on its own existence.
Oh, I am definitely down for that! Even if I can’t quite remember why it was they didn’t going to be have had a Worldcon that year.
Maybe we can also finally get those Last Fandom awards I’ve been trying to promote for decades started too! 🙂
Shouldn’t the proleptic awards for 2023 be for 2073? (Which should be Minneapolis, but …)
So, all older fiction is stodgy? Odd assumption.
I miscalculated, but, just as the normal Hugo awards in 2023 are for works published in 2022, and this year’s retro Hugos were for works published in 1944, the proleptics should be for works published in 2022+50=2072. As long as the 2073 Worldcon will fail to award Hugos.
That’s fine advice in some years, but currently the only alternative to Memphis is Chengdu, China. If the Retro-Hugos are too controversial for Worldcon community sensibilities, how’s a China bid going to fare?
Has Chicon said whether or not they are doing them?
@Rob, “let me throw an awards ceremony at your convention” is not a small ask. Think about the presentation hall requirements, about inclusion in the program books/booklets/newsletters, about competing scheduling with other events, and, most of all, about being held responsible for something that’s being done inside your convention without your control.
Memphis is saying “We’re the people who don’t want to hold the Retro-Hugos”, and that’s as reasonable a thing to campaign on as any other.
Todd Mason on August 19, 2020 at 5:51 pm said:
Oh yes, and when I say “black lives matter”, that really means I want to kill all white folks. 🙂
Let me put it this way. The next time something gets nominated for a retro-H that I haven’t already read back in the day will be [quickly skims list] the third time. And the next time something gets nominated that I’m interested in re-reading will be [skims again] the fifth. 🙂
One of the (several) problems with the Retro-Hugos is that the exacerbate an issue that holds for the Hugos in general: In order to vote for the things we like, the things we are likely to like have to be known to us. For the contemporary Hugos, this means that an excellent work (or person) who starts out with a large public footprint is always likely to edge out an excellent work (or person) who starts out with a small public foot print. To be nominated, a work or person first has to be known. And works (or people) are often known for reasons that are independent of absolute quality (whatever the heck that is).
For the Retro Hugos, the “is it known” factor gets amplified by the ways in which our knowledge of and familiarity with the works of the past have been increased or decreased by generations of bias. Who got anthologized? Who was part of social networks that kept their work and reputation in public view? Who’s been featured in public histories of SFF and who was silently left out?
The question of “who do I nominate/vote for in the Retro Hugos” all too often boils down to “What names or works do I know about? What do I recognize?”
There’s also the dynamic that the people most likely to nominate and vote for the Retro Hugos are the ones who are most emotionally invested in the supposed “golden age” of SFF. And on a statistical level, people who are emotionally invested in the state of SFF at a 50 or 75 year remove are likely to be more conservative in their tastes than average. Please note that I’m not saying that all people who support the Retro Hugos have conservative tastes, simply that the Retros are likely to attract the interest of people who do. It’s understandable that the people whose tastes would be most likely to balance out the same-old same-old that we tend to see in the Retros are people who are less likely to be interested in spending their time and energy trying to inject that balance into the process.
There are other factors as well, and they all contribute to a massive feedback loop. At some point, it’s time to close the book and move on.
Even though I don’t really get into the Retro Hugos (I probably would have in the past few years if I had unlimited time, but I didn’t), I supported holding them because I’ve seen a number of people who really enjoy them. But then I saw Cora and others work so hard this year to publicize worthy works, only to have the nominators and voters — yet again — base their decisions mostly on name recognition instead of quality.
And then seeing the Sir Julius Vogel Awards treated at CoNZealand as mostly an afterthought (they had one Area Head for “SJVs/Retro Hugos” and no staff listed under them) — well, that has pretty much cemented my belief that the Retro Hugos aren’t accomplishing what they’re supposed to do (recognizing the most worthy works), and that the immense amount of time, effort, and money being expended on them by Worldcons is no longer justified (if it ever was; I refer dissenters to Silverberg being given, and accepting, a Best Fan Writer Retro Hugo in 2001 despite his open admission that he didn’t deserve it for the work he had done in 1950).
@Heather Rose Jones –
OTOH, it could be that we know the works we know today because they are better works, and the way that they show up in nominations and wins in Retro Hugo awards today reflects that quality.
If the results of the Retro Hugos are too conservative to suit people who aren’t participating, then a better response is for them to participate, not for them to “close the book and move on”.
@Rob Thornton: the people who want the Retro Hugos have had a place at the table for a long time. Unlike other conventions, Memphis has been upfront about a decision which is entirely in their power; how is that “avoid[ing] the consequences of that decision”? As for “the time being” — that’s not being wishy-washy; the rules (parsed) say that if 2023 doesn’t award the Retros then 2048 can (or 2073 if 2048 punts, and so on).
@bill: the problem is not simply that the some fraction (not necessarily a minority of the Worldcon membership, or even the people who vote for the regular Hugos) find the results distasteful; it’s that the results have periodically been outright ridiculous (e.g. in addition to Silverberg (as noted by @JJ), Freas also won despite doing no genre work that year). There’s also a question for any concom: how much should it sweat something that has so little interest? And note that the number of people it took to put the Retros in the constitution, and then to extend them indefinitely, is an even smaller fraction of the membership.
OBTW — I’d call your insistence that any decision you don’t like is the result of a vocal minority being heard over a majority a Puppy move if it didn’t date a lot further back; I remember when that was a favorite line from Nixon and Agnew — remember them? Remember how they ended up, and why?
Thanks. I accept your apology and apologize to you. I think I was being hypersensitive. 🙁
Speaking only personally, I’m relieved to have one fewer responsibility should Memphis win, as I’ve agreed to run the WSFS division for the Memphis Worldcon in 2023 should they win.
Red Panda Fraction on August 19, 2020 at 3:04 pm said:
This sounds similar to the people who seem to think that the Hugo Awards are something that should be held separately and independently from Worldcon, maybe even at a different convention.
Cat Eldridge on August 19, 2020 at 4:28 pm said:
The list of Worldcon bids that we know of is on the WSFS web site. (Although bidders rarely bother to tell any of us administering the site, so announcements are a surprise to us as well.) The only announced bidders for 2023 are Memphis and Chengdu. There’s still time for other bidders to get into the race. The filing deadline for the ballot is 180 days before the beginning of DisCon II (which I calculate is February 26, 2021).
If “holding the Retro-Hugos” is that crucial a feature for some folks, I suggest that they form a Worldcon bid with an avowed aim of holding them at their 2023 Worldcon should they win. This probably sounds sarcastic, but I mean it.
As I’ve heard that story, Silverberg made the comment after the vote, so it’s not like the voters could consider his admission in making their choices. Also, 2001 was only the second time the Retro Hugos were ever held and five years after the first time.
rcade: Silverberg made the comment after the vote, so it’s not like the voters could consider his admission in making their choices.
Of course not. They should have made their decision based on the paucity and quality of material he produced in that year.
Which is exactly my point. They didn’t base their decision on that, they based it on name recognition (and likely on the fact that he is still alive).
If I was on a Worldcon bidding committee, I would know better than to go out of my way to urge people to organize a rival bid based on their desire to do something my own bid committee was refusing to do.
Well, I’m pissed off about this, because as some of you may know, I and several others poured a lot of work into this year’s Retro Hugos to compile eligible works (to avoid issues like Robert Silverberg’s and Frank Kelly Freas’ wins) and review them and not just the famous stories either, but the obscure and forgotten ones, too. And the reason why I started the project is precisely because I was not happy with several of the Retro Hugo finalists and winners of previous years, whether it was weak early stories by future stars or racist finalists like “Der Führer’s Face” or that Batman serial or the Wonder Woman comic, which even won.
Meanwhile, the critics of the Retro Hugos did f*ck all to publicise the kind of works that would be more amenable to their sensibilities (which did exist in the 1940s). Many of them probably didn’t even bother to vote and nominate. They don’t even seem to know who won aside from those two and a half winners (Campbell, Cthulhu and Voice of the Imagi-Nation) they object to. From most critics of the Retro Hugos, I haven’t seen a single mention e.g. of the Retro Hugo wins for Margaret Brundage and Leigh Brackett, whom you’d think they’d approve of, or those winners who aren’t objectionable. They don’t even seem to be aware that the Best Series win for the Cthulhu Mythos wasn’t a win for Lovecraft per se, because Lovecraft was seven years dead in 1944 and the series was nominated on the basis of two novelettes by August Derleth.
And it’s perfectly fine not to care about the Retro Hugos, cause no one is obliged to care. But what’s not okay is paying zero attention to Retro Hugos and then complaining about the results.
Now I understand that holding Retro Hugos means a lot of work for the Worldcon in question and I sympathise with the reluctance to hold them for that reason And if that’s what Memphis had said, I still wouldn’t have been happy, but I would have understood. However, that’s not what Memphis said. Instead, the mere existence of Retro Hugos are apparently now a Code of Conduct violation, because it makes some people feel unwelcome. Add some of the comments here that those who care about the Retro Hugos are old and conservative and basically puppies and I certainly don’t feel very welcome.
With Nice out of the race, I wasn’t going to vote for site selection next year, because I usually don’t bother when I’ not going to attend the con anyway. But I might just make an exception and vote for “none of the above”, since I can’t really in good conscience vote for Chengdu either.
It might be possible to get a viable counterbid together in a few months. Heck, I could probably bid for Bremen Con or Oldenburg Con – both cities certainly have the facilities and I’m pretty sure the respective managers would at least talk to me. However, not quite three years is too short to organise a good Worldcon, especially with an inexperienced team. Even Memphis’ start-up time of four years is short.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to do it, if only because I care about Worldcon and don’t have the delusion that I could put a good one together in less than three years with an army of one.
Cora Buhlert: I’m not worried about you or anyone else doing it. It’s just my way of expressing that I feel disrespected when Kevin resorts to one of his false dilemma arguments.
Obviously, but I fail to see why we’ve decided voters aren’t sufficiently informed about the Retro Hugos when we have no idea whether most Hugo voters are informed about the current field either. Instead we trust that collectively the process will result in worthy winners.
The Retro Hugos are more likely to have informed voters today than ever. Old works from the relevant year are more widely available for free than ever before and people like Cora have done a great job at raising the profile of eligible works and creators.
Memphis has overreacted to social media criticism of the Retros from people who, based on the tweets I read, only cared about fulminating against a few reviled big name winners and had no other interest in the awards. They’ve decided to take something away from several hundred Worldcon members who do care to please people who likely didn’t participate this year and wouldn’t have in the future.
I hope another bid emerges or Memphis reverses the decision, because it’s going to be difficult otherwise to vote for it.
Yes, this is what annoys me, too. They’re using the criticisms of people who never paid any attention to the Retro Hugos as an excuse to take them away from the people who do care. If Memphis doesn’t want to hold Retro Hugos, because it’s too much work, that’s fine, but then they should come right out and say it.
Thank you for making this point. Lovecraft was too dead to be contributing eligible work. The award was possible because of the “August Derleth and others” named as winners.
Derleth coined the term “Cthulhu Mythos”. Take him and Arkham House out of the picture and I question whether the series is more than a footnote today, even in a modern award for works of the 1940s.