Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hugo Awards 2014/1393: Editors, Zines, Fan Writers, and Related Works

August has certainly flown fast! I read all of the Hugo Award nominees that I could and voted by the midnight PST July 31/Aug. 1 deadline, and then I spent time catching up with other things. Before I knew it, they were announcing the 1939 Retro-Hugo awards! The 2014 Hugos will be announced later today. I'll write this without reference to the results and add links later.

Best Editor, Short Form:
There wasn't anything in the voters' packet for 1939. I have heard about how great and influential John Campbell was, and hadn't heard of the others (Farnsworth Wright, Raymond Palmer, Mort Weisinger, and Walter Gillings), but that didn't seem enough of a reason to vote in this category. Blank.
2014: John Joseph Adams, Neil Clarke, Ellen Datlow, Jonathan Strahan, and Sheila Williams were nominated.
Adams submitted The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, which had a lot of fun stories.
Clarke submitted Clarkesworld Magazine 78, which has some very fine stories and essays, including the chilling "86, 87, 88, 89," by Genevieve Valentine, an interview, and an editor’s note.
Datlow submitted 12 separate stories, very different from each other and quite good. I really liked "All the Snake Handlers I Know Are Dead" by Dennis Danvers.
Strahan submitted Fearsome Journeys: The New Solaris Book of Fantasy, which has 13 stories. A really solid collection of good stories; my favorite is "The Dragonslayer of Merebarton" by K.J. Parker.
Williams submitted Asimov’s Science Fiction, September 2013. A good editorial, a novella I didn’t care about and a really interesting one (What We Ourselves Are Not, Leah Cypess), a few poems, some more stories. Not too impressive.
My vote: Strahan, Clarke, Datlow, Adams, Williams.

Best Editor, Long Form, 2014 (no nominees for 1939):
Nominees were Ginjer Buchanan, Sheila Gilbert, Liz Gorinsky, Lee Harris, and Toni Weisskopf.
Buchanan provided a list of books and collections she’d edited.
Gilbert provided the same, with an introductory paragraph.
Gorinsky provided a list with a paragraph at the end. More importantly, she produced three books that I really enjoyed: Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells (collection), Without a Summer (Mary Robinette Kowal), and Fiddlehead (Cherie Priest).
Harris had an intro paragraph with her list. There are several books on the list that I’ve heard of and would like to read sometime, but none I’ve read.
Weisskopf didn’t submit a list.
My vote: Gorinsky and then blank, since I haven't read any on the Harris list.

Best Semiprozine, 2014 (no nominees for 1939):
Nominees were Apex, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Interzone, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons.
Apex supplied one issue, with "Call Girl;" "Titanic!;" "Karina Who Kissed Spacetime;" "Reluctance;" an essay on SF and religion; and an author interview.
BCS supplied two issues (stories only), one of which bored me, but one of which had some quite interesting stories: "Cherry Blossoms on the River of Souls;" "Walls of Skin, Soft as Paper;" and "The Coffinmaker’s Love."   
Interzone supplied one issue with stories, an interview, news, and film and book reviews, plus illustrations. Magazine layout, nice production. “Haunts” is a really interesting story about dueling and ghosts and sacrifices; I’m not sure what it’s trying to say, but it’s got quite a personality. "The Kindest Man in Stormland" was also quite striking, atmospheric and ominous,  rough and strong. "Trans-Siberia" also gave a strong feeling of place and time. I enjoyed the whole issue.
Strange Horizons provided an ebook that included four of its weekly issues, with stories, essays, poems, and reviews. "Sadgoat," "Din Ba Din," "Difference of Opinion," and an essay on fanfic/fanart boundaries with original creators were notable.
I left Lightspeed for last because it supplied its entire year in one package. No layout, and nothing but stories included, which is disappointing, but I loved every story in the January, February and December issues. Quite vibrant and interesting, beautiful, urgent, and moving. 
My vote: Lightspeed, Interzone, Strange Horizons, Apex, BCS.

Best Fanzine:
1939 packet had 2 nominees out of 5 and neither link worked for me. No vote.
2014 nominees were The Book Smugglers, A Dribble of Ink, Elitist Book Reviews, Journey Planet, and Pornokitsch.
The Book Smugglers submission included seven reviews and three essays. Art was unimpressive. Justin Landon’s essay about gender parity and cover art dismantled a number of arguments and explanations for disparity quite nicely.
A Dribble of Ink’s submission in the voters packet has Kameron Hurley’s separately Hugo-nominated essay “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative,” three other people’s essays,, and seven reviews/explorations of books and movies. Very nice art and production.
Elitist Book Reviews delivered 10 reviews and an author interview. I haven’t read any of the books, and few of the authors.
Journey Planet provided a single PDF containing ALL its output from 2013. Yay thoroughness! Very nice art, initial TOC fonts a little hard to read but everywhere else is easy, traditional layout, themed issues on a variety of topics. Editorials, letters to the editor, essays, interviews photos, and illustrations. A great production.
Pornokitsch supplies 9 pieces, reviews and essays. Enjoyable but nothing big.
My vote: Journey Planet, A Dribble of Ink, The Book Smugglers, Pornokitsch, Elitist Book Reviews.

Fan writer: 
1939 packet had 1 nominee out of 5, so I didn't vote.
2014 nominees were Liz Bourke, Kameron Hurley, Foz Meadows, Abigail Nussbaum, and Mark Oshiro.
Bourke’s voters packet had reviews of three books I haven’t read, and an essay on the radicalizing effects of seeking out female authors to read.
Hurley’s packet, oddly enough, didn’t include “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative,” perhaps because it was submitted as a standalone Best Related Work. The packet has essays on censorship and bullying (SFWA sexism debate), gender and My Little Pony fandom, health insurance, and being erased from the narrative/history.
“… how long will it be until I’m on an MLP board and get called a “Fake geek girl” for liking My Little Pony?
“You’re laughing, I know.
“But I’m a historian, so I’m not.”
Meadows’ voter packet includes essays about men writing female characters, SFWA sexism, and the politics of grimdark SFF. Lots of rage ranting but great at picking out problems with other people’s arguments. Here’s a quote:
“Grittiness has its place in fiction; as do representations of existing inequalities. But when we forget to examine why we think certain abuses are inevitable, or assume their universality -- when we write about a particular prejudice, not to question, subvert or redefine it, but to confirm it as an inevitable, even integral aspect of human nature -- then we’re not being realistic, but selective in our portrayal and understanding of reality. ”
Nussbaum’s submissions are all reviews of works I haven’t read/watched, except that I watched one episode of Elementary, and she reviewed the season. The reviews are thoughtful, diving deep into motivations and arcs, and the writing is excellent.
Last year, I dismissed Oshiro as just doing reviews, albeit thoughtful ones. Here again, we have Mark Reads and Mark Watches, but the Mark Reads review about Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane is primarily how the abuse in it resonates with Oshiro’s own abuse as a boy. It was powerful and brave.
My vote: Hurley, Meadows, Nussbaum, Bourke, Oshiro.

Best related work, 2014 (no 1939 nominees):
Nominees were Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebraton of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It; Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary; We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative; Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction; and Writing Excuses Season 8.
Queers Dig Time Lords is a follow-up to 2010’s Chicks Dig Time Lords. Sequels are a hard sell for me for Hugo Awards anyway, because it’s very difficult for them to exhibit the originality that I prize for the Hugos. I read a few essays, and they were interesting and engaging, but not more so than the other nominees. 
Speculative Fiction 2012 starts off with a bunch of reviews, from then-current novels (e.g. 2312 and The Killing Moon) to old standards (Atlas Shrugged and The Sword of Shannara); of the books I’ve read, I found these reviews thoughtful and well written. Other reviews, such as the review of The New Yorker Science Fiction Special by Maureen Kinkaid Spiller, examine the genre world as it is now, as it’s perceived by others, and where it may be going. The next section, Essays, covered topics from female agency, female representation in reviews and other gender issues to decolonization to escapism to class issues to the history and future of SFF. The third section, SF Life, covers pieces from personhood in My Little Pony, to how much weight to give a writer’s politics, to a con review, to zines, to disability in SFF, to racism and problems with the Stop the Goodreads Bullies campaign. I don’t actually see a lot of difference between Essays and SF Life except that SF Life focuses slightly more on ongoing fan debates.
We Have Always Fought is not included in the voters’ packet, but it’s easy to find online. It’s an essay about how story tropes ignore and rewrite reality and then pretend that the rewritten history is what’s realistic, and how important it is to recognize these tropes and step outside their limitations. It’s well worth reading, but it’s only one piece on only one subject.
I looked through Wonderbook, which does have beautiful, engaging, surreal illustrations and sidebar essays by noted authors, as well as the principal author’s text. I haven’t tried using it as a writer’s guide myself, but it certainly is inviting.
I’ve been listening for a couple of years to Writing Excuses, a podcast for writers, would-be writers, and anyone who enjoys hearing from published authors about creative writing processes. Always interesting and often hilarious. Topics abound, from Writer’s Block to Writing Combat to Writing the Other, and many other ideas.
My vote: Speculative Fiction 2012, Writing Excuses, Wonderbook, We Have Always Fought, Queers Dig Time Lords.

Update 12/30/2015: I've felt this for quite a while but now I'm actually writing it: I made a big mistake not voting for We Have Always Fought to win the Best Related Work award. This was an extremely well researched, well thought out, well written work that led a huge number of people to think hard about their assumptions about the field, and gender roles within the field, and assumptions about gender roles in the wider world as well. Nothing else nominated had an impact like this, and it's inspiring to see how the conversations about this have continued since then. Here it is in written and illustrated form, and here it is as a podcast.

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