Political Lessons, and … the Hugo Awards?

I ran for elective office this year, and lost. (For the record, I spent about 0.41% of the total that all four candidates in my district spent up until the election, and I got 3.5% of the vote. Not close to winning, but a good return on my meager investment.)

I was also nominated for a Hugo Award this year, and lost. The story behind that has been chronicled on this blog and elsewhere, and I won’t go into it in this post. (For the record, and as nearly as I can tell from trying to figure out the preferential voting numbers, about 9% of the 5100 novelette voters selected my story as their first choice. I ended up in fourth place . . . two spots below “No Award.”)

I introduce the fact of my being on political and literary ballots this year because I observed two things in the recent Town Council election process that seem pertinent to this year’s Hugo Awards. Specifically, that the political parties inserted themselves deeply into what was supposed to be a nonpartisan race, and other players also wielded considerable influence; and that a lot of voter information was readily available for the candidates to use.

Now, with the caveat that this post is very long, I’ll try to make those connections.

Parties, Power Brokers, and Influence. I ran for Town Council in a single district here in Cary, North Carolina, and though the race was ostensibly nonpartisan the parties definitely made their presence known. The Republican Party endorsed one of the three of us who identified as Republicans — though not this particular candidate — and the Democratic Party endorsed the fourth candidate. The party endorsements brought with them not only some cachet, which those two candidates used to their advantage, but also party money for advertising as well as organized volunteer efforts for canvassing neighborhoods and working the polls.

In addition to the parties, several civic and professional groups were quite interested in the campaign. Some invited the candidates to meet with them in interviews or to fill out interview questionnaires; some sponsored “meet the candidate” social events; some even sponsored debates between the candidates. A few of those groups also endorsed candidates — again, not this candidate — and encouraged their members to support that person who they felt most confident would represent their interests if elected.

What relation does this have to the Hugo Awards? Simply, fandom has developed its own “parties” and thus the Hugo Awards have their own sets of power brokers (or would-be power brokers).

This year some people were very open about exercising their power. The “Sad Puppies” campaign was a party of sorts and encouraged people to consider specific works (mine included), while the follow-on (and aptly named) “Rabid Puppies” campaign flatly admitted that they intended to wield whatever power they could. When they succeeded at placing their preferred stories and people on the ballot — beyond my wildest imagining, if not others’ — a less organized but much more vocal cohort coalesced to wrest the voting power back into the hands of long-time WorldCon members (i.e., the traditional Hugo nominating-and-voting fans).

That is not to say that Hugo Award power brokers have only been active in recent years. Key figures in the science fiction and fantasy industry have long enjoyed considerable influence within the relatively small community of WorldCon fandom. Whether by their positions in publishing houses or the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), their notoriety, or the force of their personality; whether by their knowledge of the field, their literary achievements, or the number of people who read their blogs; or whether by other factors entirely, clearly some people became movers and shakers in fandom, and perhaps even kingmakers in terms of placing their favored selections on the Hugo ballot.

There was, for instance, considerable electronic weeping and wailing this year over whether, in the past, some “cabal” of industry insiders exercised deliberate and coordinated control over the nominating process. Accusations were levied with no proof beyond some statistical correlations, and despite the relatively weak charges they were at times denied with enough stridence that the old phrase “the hit dog howls” came to mind.* But from a group dynamics standpoint, a cabal was never necessary in order for insiders to have influence over the process. In the same way that a CEO or other leader can forget how much power they have over their employees and followers, people with informal power can forget that even a casual suggestion or question — “Have you read the new novel by [beloved author]? It’s marvelous” — can have an outsized effect on those who hear it.

Pillars of Influence
People can exert influence accidentally as well as intentionally. (Image: “Pillars of Influence,” by David Armano, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Taking that a step further, people can in some ways grow comfortable with or even addicted to the power they wield, even if that power is informal. They can come to enjoy it, to depend on it, and therefore to resent when it seems to have been taken away from them. In response, they could resort to making veiled (or not so veiled) threats, or to levying personal accusations that are demonstrably untrue. Again, the hit dog howls.

I will say at this point that I doubt there ever was a super-secret cabal directing Hugo-related fandom. But I know for a fact that insider politicking is as real in SF&F as it is in electoral politics, because I was faced with it in mid-April. Shortly after the nominations were announced, a friend of mine who has won Hugo and other awards and is generally well-known in SFWA and the SF&F community approached me, unsolicited and unexpectedly, to encourage me to withdraw my story from consideration.**

My friend wrote,

I think that you are a talented writer and that this is not going to be your only good story. . . . I think that if you made a statement withdrawing your story from the ballot, that you would get a bump next year and land on the ballot again. Not guaranteed, but I think that you would get a lot of good will.

My friend rightly pointed out that in some ways my nomination made me a pawn, a human shield, in the great Hugo fracas. My friend somewhat glossed over the point that I was destined to end up in someone’s bad graces no matter whether I let my nomination stand or withdrew it, but my friend was unceasingly gracious and pledged to support me no matter which decision I made. I very much appreciate that friend’s concern and their willingness to share their point of view while respecting mine; I count myself fortunate to have such a friend.

Now, a concerned friend reaching out like that would not by itself constitute insider politicking, even when the friend is nearly as deep inside the SF&F community as is possible to go. But when that same friend sends pretty much the same message to other nominees (a fact I verified from other people contacted), then . . . well, it certainly seemed to fit the description of a relatively powerful insider trying to exert influence over the process.

When one of the other nominees asked my friend about the fact that they had approached several of us, my friend wrote,

I was talking with a bunch of you individually . . . and started cutting and pasting from one email to the other. . . . I should have thought of how that would look. Please convey my apologies to whoever you spoke with.

I give my friend the benefit of the doubt, but I saw much the same thing even in the little Town Council race: insiders and special interests approaching candidates to see if we agreed with them or could be swayed to their positions. Some were more open and obvious about it than others, and their motives were clearer. As for my friend, I believe they were genuinely concerned for me and the other friends they contacted, and concerned for what the schism appeared to be doing to the community of fandom.

Looking back at what my friend proposed, it seems somewhat ironic to think that by withdrawing after being nominated I might improve my chances of being nominated in the future, not because anything else I might publish would be better than my 2015 nominated story, but because I would have engendered “good will” with the traditional fan contingent. As I wrote in reply,

. . . from a pragmatic standpoint I’m not sure whether withdrawing would really earn me the good will you speak of. I hope it might. But if good will garnered in that fashion is more important than any qualities inherent in my work . . . then the award really is more than just literary.

Consider this: If some of those who did withdraw — such as my friends Annie Bellet and Edmund Schubert — are nominated in the future, will they wonder if factors besides literary merit influenced the outcome? Since the primary complaint against my story and others was that they were nominated for reasons having little to do with their relative merits, it’s hard to see much of a difference with regards to receiving a friendly “bump” to “land on the ballot again.”

But in addition to the influence (deliberate or incidental) of insiders and power brokers, the other thing I observed in electoral politics that has some bearing on the recent Hugo unpleasantness is

A Plethora of Voter Information. Very early in my run for Town Council, I learned that the Wake County Board of Elections had available a comprehensive database of registered voters. I downloaded it as a huge Excel spreadsheet and narrowed it down first to Cary and then to just my district. In the end, I still had a lengthy list of around 24,000 registered voters that included names, addresses, party affiliations and other information, up to and including whether (and by what method) they voted in recent elections. The only thing missing was exactly for whom they voted.

How does that relate to the Hugo Awards?

During the WorldCon business meeting, when changes to the nomination-and-voting procedures were being proposed and debated, the membership passed a resolution calling for the convention organizers to release anonymized nomination data. The convention committee agreed to do so, but shortly thereafter appeared to back away from fulfilling that agreement because, as I understand it, they were finding it too difficult to produce the data without giving away the identifying information.

Why would the nomination data be interesting?

Consider that, within hours of the Hugo Awards ceremony closing, the io9 blog published an article with the title “This Is What The 2015 Hugo Ballot Should Have Been” in which the author put forth a vision of what the award results might have been had the “Sad Puppies” and “Rabid Puppies” entries not been nominated. The author began with this:

Based on the newly released statistics, Brandon Kempner of Chaos Horizon has a good analysis of the Hugo vote, (as does Nicholas Whyte in From the Heart Of Europe)—they estimate that the Rabid Puppies bloc was composed of 550-525 voters, while the Sad Puppies bloc made up 500-400 voters: around 20% of the 5,950 total voters. Of those numbers, around 3500 likely voted “No Award” out of principle, objecting to the lockstep nomination process of the Puppies.

and then made the leap from the number of voters to the idea that the SP/RP entries might not have been nominated at all. To me (the former engineer and nonstatistician), that seems to be trying to produce orange juice from a bag of apples. The question of what would have been nominated requires delving into the nomination statistics; the voting statistics are irrelevant to that question, because it turns on how many SP/RP nominations there were, not how many votes there were after months of competing rhetoric. With only the raw nomination figures, i.e., without the data that would provide insight into nomination patterns, it seems unsupportable to conclude that none of the stories and people on the SP/RP lists would have been nominated.***

Returning to the example of voter rolls that do not reveal voting results, it seems reasonable to imagine that if the Board of Elections can record votes and yet produce a database of registered voters that contains everything but those voting results, then it should be a simple enough — or certainly no more complicated — database management task for the WorldCon committee to produce records of the Hugo nominations without including identifying information, whether name or membership number or IP address.

Along those lines, if the WorldCon committee’s IT experts — and it’s a committee of geeks, surely they have ready access to a number of technology, computing, and database experts — cannot find a way to produce the promised data, then perhaps they could turn to the local Board of Elections for assistance. I doubt my local Board of Elections is that much different from any other in the country; it seems that their local board in Spokane should be able to provide some guidance.

Conclusion: Heinlein May Be Right.

Robert A. Heinlein maintained in Double Star that “Politics is the only sport for grownups — all other games are for kids.” As someone who enjoys other games and sports, as a spectator and participant, I’m not so sure about that; maybe I haven’t “put away childish things” in that respect, but I’m generally in favor of practicing youthful exuberance in order to stay young at heart. So I suggest a corollary to RAH’s observation: Politics is the sport people play even when they don’t intend to.

All human organizations, from churches to businesses to science fiction and fantasy conventions, are suffused with politics, some of it practiced openly and some of it practiced surreptitiously. It would be disingenuous to claim that the Hugo Awards were ever without politics and politicking; indeed, during the run-up to this year’s awards many thoughtful commentators acknowledged the awards’ political past, though the degree to which politics overshadowed this year’s award was unprecedented.

Perhaps I’m uncomfortable with Heinlein’s assertion because I obviously have not played the political game well, but I’d like to suggest that another of his observations may be more apt, more relevant as we move forward. From Friday: “It is a bad sign when the people of a country stop identifying themselves with the country and start identifying with a group. A racial group. Or a religion. Or a language. Anything, as long as it isn’t the whole population.”

We continue to see this play out in electoral politics, as small groups band together in solidarity over their specific interests. And we’ve seen it in genre politics as well, whether the rallying cry is “Diversity Now!” or “Golden Age Forever!” or something equally narrow in scope. The implication is that the way we think about the subject is right and all other ways must be wrong, which is a peculiarly limiting viewpoint in a community that enjoys speculating about all manner of fantastic encounters and possible futures.

From my perspective it seems that part of the issue from the beginning of this year’s Hugo Awards melee was a difference in outlook among people who love genre fiction in all its forms, but who placed themselves in one of two groups: one that loves genre and also loves fandom itself, and considers fandom the ultimate expression of its love for the genre; and another that loves genre but for which fandom and the fan community is an adjunct, an addendum, rather than a critical component of their genre experience. That is, one group was devoted to fandom as well as genre; the other was devoted to genre but not (or less) to fandom.

And as long as we divide ourselves, or in the case of fandom subdivide ourselves; as long as we separate ourselves into (virtual or actual) walled-off enclaves and echo chambers, and associate only with those who look like us, act like us, and believe the things we do; we will find it harder to understand, relate to, and get along with one another — in civil life as well as in the SF&F community.

I think we would be well-served as a fannish community if we talked more about what we love and why we love it, without implying that those who do not love it as we do are ignorant or contemptible. And I think we would be better off if we recalled another RAH observation, also from Friday (emphasis in original): “Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms . . . but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.” I believe the pithy advice that bears ST:TNG alumnus Wil Wheaton’s name sums that up rather well.****

I had several e-mail exchanges with the friend who encouraged me to withdraw my nomination, and my friend helped me refine this statement of what I would like to see in our discourse: I’d like to have less shouting and more talking; less gloating, more humility; less blaming, more acknowledgement of different points of view; less name-calling, more self-deprecation; less rage (but no less passion), more acceptance.

It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable; if it were not, I would have far fewer friends in this field. It may not be easy, but it is possible — and if Heinlein is right, it is actually necessary if the community (whether the SF&F community or the larger polis) is to survive.

I hope, for my part, I have succeeded in doing so. But that is for others to judge.

*If you prefer something more eloquent, perhaps “doth protest too much” would fit the bill.

**I do not intend to identify the person, because I do not want them to face any recriminations; I realize that makes some of the usage here awkward. If my friend wants to self-identify, that’s up to them.

***For example, I perused the 2015 Hugo Award Statistics and it appeared to me that both Annie Bellet’s “Goodnight Stars” and Kary English’s “Totaled” might well have been nominated even if they had not appeared on an anathema list. If that’s true, I’m not sure whether that would make their Annie’s subsequent withdrawal of the stories her story more ironic or tragic. (Whether other listed works would have fared so well is more difficult to tell.)

As a final note on the statistics, it would be interesting if the Hugo Award record-keepers would report the number of works that received ANY votes in a given year; in other words, to show that, out of the entire universe of eligible short stories or whatever, X received at least one nomination. The total number of nominating ballots is given in the statistics, but knowing how many unique works were on those ballots might give a glimpse into how homogeneous the reading tastes of the nominating cohort were.

****Wheaton’s Law: “Don’t be a dick.”

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Are You a Science Fiction Fan? Will You be Voting?

If the title isn’t clear enough, and the logo below didn’t show up, I’m referring to voting for the Hugo Awards rather than voting for the Cary Town Council. Being on one ballot was not enough for me!

(In fact, if you want to put me on a third ballot, you can nominate any of my filk songs for a Pegasus Award. Hahaha!)

Hugo Award Logo

But, insofar as the Hugo Awards go, the deadline is fast approaching for getting our votes in, as was recently pointed out by perhaps the biggest name in fantasy literature these days, George R.R. Martin.

The deadline is in fact the 31st of July — one day past the deadline for Pegasus nominations, haha! — and if you’re a member of the World SF Convention you should have gotten your Voter Packet and instructions weeks ago. If you’re not a member but you still want to vote, there’s just a little time left for you to purchase a Supporting Membership* and participate in the process.

In the blog post linked above, Mr. Martin noted that so far more than 2300 ballots have been cast. He asks,

Who are all these new Supporting Members? Are they trufans rallying to the defense of one of our field’s oldest and most cherished institutions? Are they Sad Puppies, Rabid Puppies, Happy Kittens, Gamergaters? Are those dreaded SJWs and ASPs and CHORFs turning out by the hundreds and the thousands? Are these the Neo-Nazis and right-wing reactionaries we have been warned of? The truth is… no one knows. We may get a clue when the ballots are opened and counted, but even then, the numbers may well just say, “Answer cloudy, ask again.”

If you’re not familiar with all the lingo in there, count yourself lucky. And if you’re undecided about voting or what to vote for, bear in mind Heinlein’s admonition:

If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for … but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.

So, vote! Even if you vote against me.

As for that other democratic process, we’ll have more to say in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

*A Supporting Membership costs $40, for which you get electronic copies of several of the nominated works (e.g., Best Novel) with which to make an informed decision.

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Halfway to the Hugos

For the most part, I’ve stayed out of the near-constant sniping that has characterized the run-up to this year’s Hugo Awards. (I’ve even tried to ignore it, but to no avail.) I’m caught up in it by virtue of my nominated story first being included on the “Sad Puppies” recommendation list, and if you don’t know what that is then I hope you consider yourself lucky.

After posting a few items in the early days of the controversy, I retreated to the fringe of the issue rather than stomping around in the middle of it — except when convention planners (cough, cough … ConCarolinas) put me on panels designed to dredge up the matter. Thankfully, those have come off with courtesy and even respect, two qualities I have missed in much of the debate.

But since we’re at the halfway point between the Hugo nominations announcement and the Hugo Awards ceremony itself, it seems like a decent time to add a few new observations and thoughts.

Note that I do not intend to try to change anyone’s mind. I get the impression that this feud is so rancorous because both sides genuinely love and appreciate genre fiction — science fiction and fantasy in all their various forms — and I consider it a shame that different viewpoints on it have devolved into such deep divisions. I only want to make, for the record, a few hopefully coherent remarks.

To aid the casual reader, here’s what I plan to cover in this overly-long post:
– My disappointment, but also my ambivalence, at the way things have been characterized
– The metaphor I’ve most recently developed to describe the situation I’m in
– Some Scripture verses I am trying to hold on to as this process unfolds
– My regret at being unable to attend the upcoming ceremony
Forewarned is forearmed. Now, knowing what’s coming, if you don’t want to read the rest that’s perfectly fine.

Hugo Award Logo

(This is what the fuss is all about.)

Unfortunate Characterizations. Some of the criticism that has arisen in the aftermath of the Hugo Award nominations has reflected disappointment at the way the nominations unfolded; that’s not too surprising, as reviewers and other commentators are only human. But some of the criticism has extended beyond the work, to include ad hominem attacks that only stoke the fires of righteous indignation.

People familiar with the controversy likely don’t need to be reminded of the kinds of things that have been said on both sides of this divide. In the same way that civil wars and other internecine strife are often the harshest of conflicts, the acrimony has been thick and the poison pens have yet to run out of ink.

Suffice it to say that various people, in various places, have characterized the “Sad Puppies” ringleaders and their “Rabid Puppies” counterparts — as well as those of us whose works were nominated — in … uncharitable terms. Words like racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and even neo-Nazi have been bandied about. Likewise, strong and often unduly harsh language has been used against those on the “anti-puppy” side, i.e., toward those on the side of the Hugo Award traditions and WorldCon fandom. Both of these are unfortunate, and I hope I have not contributed to the incivility. (That may be the primary virtue of being relatively unknown, and deliberately quiet.)

I find the practices of name-calling, threatening (even if only implied), and heaping scorn and vulgarity on one another to be extremely disappointing. I will leave it to those who feel hurt in the exchanges to address any accusations that have been made against them, as I do not intend to engage in any comparative analysis of who said what, when, to whom, about whom, and whether one slur or accusation was worse than another.

I will, however, say this: I find myself somewhat ambivalent about the possibility that people I do not know might characterize me in unfriendly terms, whether directly or through guilt-by-association. The fact is that most of the commentators do not know me, personally or even by reputation, and their reports can hardly be taken as reliable. I admit that I am somewhat concerned that other people, potential fans or potential friends who read such things, could come away with a false impression; however, I am confident that those who know me, who have interacted with me on a personal basis, will not be fooled into believing falsehoods about me.

I believe in the right of every person — particularly every U.S. citizen, since the right is enshrined in our Constitution, but really every living soul on the planet — to free speech. I believe that right, like all rights, carries with it certain responsibilities, and that when those responsibilities are abandoned the right can be curtailed. I believe we should exercise that right with care and compassion, and that where we fail to do so we may expect consequences and even repercussions.

And in that belief, I say: If I have been uncharitable in how I have characterized anyone on either side of this issue, or if in some other way I have failed to exercise my First Amendment rights responsibly, I apologize to anyone I may have hurt.

My Hugo Experience, in Metaphor. I’ve shared this a few times in one-on-one conversations, and once in a convention panel, but I may as well put it out here as long as I’m up on my virtual soapbox. Like members of Congress, I’ve revised and expanded my original remarks.

My new metaphor is …

Back in January, I was offered a “Sad Puppies” seat — economy class and “bring your own lunch” all the way — on a Hugo Awards flight. During a layover, some folks with “Rabid Puppies” seats embarked, and some of our SP tickets were stamped with RP as well.

When the plane landed in Nomination City, some of us were surprised, because we expected to land in Passed-Over-Ville. (Every other time people have told me they nominated one of my stories, I haven’t even made the post-award long list, so I didn’t expect this time to be any different.)

It seemed that the plane had been hijacked. When the flight subsequently took off from Nomination City, en route to Hugotown, the reaction to the hijacking was loud and angry. Some passengers snuck off the plane during the Nomination City stop, and a couple bailed out later; I’m not sure yet if their parachutes worked, if they made safe landings, or if anyone has picked them up out of the wilderness. I hope they’re okay.

The more it looked like a hijacking, the more some people on the ground talked as if they wanted to shoot down the plane; some of them seem determined to do so, even if only with their own personal weapons. Just as worrisome, some of the hijackers have talked as if they want to crash the plane in the middle of Hugotown. My fellow passengers and I are left to wonder if there’s anything we can do to improve our chances of survival.

I’ve been in touch with my friends, both inside and outside the community of fans, throughout the ordeal. Those who contributed to my ticket or who like my work or who support me personally almost all told me that they want me to stay aboard, and ride it out. One person advised me to bail out, parachute or no. Outside my relatively small circle of family and friends, from what I can tell quite a few spectators are glued to their computer screens, watching every agonizing minute of the event; I don’t know if they care a whole lot what happens to me or the other passengers.

As for me, it’s been a pretty turbulent ride and the storms are still raging. I just want the plane to land, so I can get off and go about my business.

Like any metaphor, this one has its weaknesses; but it’s the best I’ve been able to come up with, so I’m sticking with it for now.

Some Scripture I Consider Relevant. I don’t know if you adhere to any religious beliefs, but I do. Specifically, I’m a Christian. I won’t preach at you, though; if you’re ever interested in what I believe and why, just ask.

That said, I have been trying very hard to apply some specific Scriptures to my Hugo Award situation, and particularly to how I relate to people on all sides of the debate. Among others, I am trying to live up to these, all of which are paraphrased:

  • Let your speech be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so you know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6)
  • Speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15)
  • Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. (Philippians 2:3)
  • “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to them your left cheek as well.” (Matthew 5:39, the words of the Lord)
  • “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you.” (Matthew 5:44, the words of the Lord)
  • Do not pay back anyone evil for evil. (Romans 17:21, 1 Peter 3:9)
  • Insofar as it depends on you, live at peace with all people. (Romans 12:18)

And, perhaps more difficult than any of those, these cautions from the brother of the Lord (James, chapter 3, also paraphrased):

… we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, [but] the tongue — a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things — is a fire, the very world of iniquity…. No one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God…. Brothers, this should not be….

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth…. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and evil. But the wisdom from above is pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

I encourage anyone who holds to the same creed I do to consider whether they might apply these and other verses to help them maintain an even keel in the storm of rhetoric, and possibly to better represent the One to whom we owe our ultimate allegiance.

Wherever I have failed to live up to these admonitions, it is my fault alone. It always is. And at least my failures will continue to be mostly private, since

Unfortunately, WorldCon and the Hugo Awards Ceremony Are Out of My Reach. I’d like to visit Spokane in August for WorldCon, but at this point the likelihood is miniscule.

You might think I’d rather avoid WorldCon, and thereby avoid all the drama. I admit that sounds pleasant, but the drama would find me whether I’m present or not. And I would like to see my friends, on both sides of the debate — and possibly make new friends. I’d like to meet new people, become better acquainted with people I’ve only met once or twice, and hopefully convince some of them that I am a flesh-and-blood human being, neither a wild-eyed zealot nor a bug-eyed monster.

I’d probably spend a good deal of time in the filk room, anyway. Hopefully I wouldn’t be as intimidated as I was at WorldCon last year.

But, alas, between a higher-than-expected tax bill earlier this year, the production costs of my new CD, and the need to plan for some very special upcoming expenses, I don’t envision having the resources to attend WorldCon unless a whole bunch of people suddenly start buying copies of my album. (Don’t get me wrong, that would be fine by me and you can do so right here; but I don’t see it happening.)

Some Closing Thoughts. Whenever we value something highly, when we have invested time or treasure in it and derived some reward (however intangible) from it, and that thing is threatened in some way, we rightly resent and are justified in trying to defend against the threat. That is true whether we are talking about our families and friendships, our homes and personal property, our reputations, or institutions with which we identify. I think sometimes we forget that others have the same right, to defend those things which they value.

Based on that, I understand the impulse on the part of longtime WorldCon participants and serious fen to protect the institution and its flagship award. I understand that barbarians storming the gates, brazenly and with unexpected success, is frightening and naturally foments resentment and anger.

I choose the barbarian example deliberately. Outsiders are labeled barbarians not because that is what they call themselves, but because their language is incomprehensible to the insiders — to the refined ears of the citizens it sounds like “bar-bar-bar” (which among science fiction convention-goers is not, in itself, damning). But the outsiders do have language and culture, however strange it may seem to the citizens: from their own point of view they are not barbarians but Goths, Visigoths, or Ostrogoths; Celts, Huns, or Vandals.

This year’s Hugo-nominating barbarians, unlike historical tribes characterized as such, brought alms with which they gained entry into the city and bought their citizenship: the $40 Supporting Membership. And they brought their own opinions — perhaps studiously formed, perhaps informed or even influenced by others — which they expressed in the nomination process. They joined the community, but some of the original citizens still see them as barbarians, as outsiders, and seethe. I understand that, and I have seen the results in some of the reviews and comments about my own nominated story.

So I offer this: Reading should be a pleasure and a joy, and if any Hugo Award voter is upset at the way my novelette wound up on the ballot and has not read it yet, I encourage them and give them my full permission to ignore my entry completely.

Let me reiterate, and emphasize, that if the manner in which my story was nominated gives you any ill feelings, from the slightest nausea all the way to migraine-inducing rage, please do not read my story. Skip over it in the Voter’s Packet, pretend it doesn’t exist, and with my full blessing vote “No Award” in its place.

Our brief lives have limited joys, and I do not want to steal anyone’s joy for any reason. If reading my story will be more burden than blessing, set it aside and read something that is likely to please you. Pick a story that will engage you without setting your teeth on edge. Maybe in a month, or a year, or ten, you can return to my story and read it dispassionately and extract from it some small something of value. But even if not, if you never feel free from the 2015 Hugo Awards controversy and so choose never to read my story, that’s okay; at least it will not have added to your distress. I will content myself with knowing that a few people, at least, who read it have liked it.

For my part, I will continue to hope for the ire and indignation to wane, and for the firestorm to burn itself out without consuming the village. Or, if you will, for the plane to land so we can disembark.

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Last Day for Pegasus Award ‘Brainstorming’ — Poll Closes Tonight

If you haven’t already submitted your ideas for what songs, composers, and performers should be considered for the Pegasus Awards for excellence in filking, you have until early Friday morning to do so!

Pegasus Award Logo

Unlike other awards, the Pegasus Award cycle begins with a wide-open “brainstorming” phase. (In this respect, the Hugo Awards may have something to learn from the Pegasus Awards; but, I digress.)

The Pegasus awards honor science fiction and fantasy-related music in these categories:

  • Best Filk Song
  • Best Classic Filk Song — a song at least 10 years old that has “entered filk community public consciousness”
  • Best Performer
  • Best Writer/Composer
  • 2015 Rotating Category: Best Adapted Song — “parodies, pre-existing lyrics set to new music (for example, setting a Kipling poem), or other material adapted to filk”
  • 2015 Rotating Category: Best Time-Related Song — “31st wedding anniversary gifts are timepieces. For OVFF’s 31st Anniversary we focus on anything related to time”

Anyone who has an interest in filk music — which most people think of as science fiction and/or fantasy-related music — is considered part of the “filk community” and can participate in brainstorming possible nominees, nominating, and voting. The award by-laws define “exhibiting interest” using examples such as filking at SF&F conventions, attending filk conventions or “house sings,” taking part in related on-line forums, and just “discussing filk and filk related issues with other filkers.”

Speaking of “discussing filk and filk related issues with other filkers,” last week on the Baen Free Radio Hour we released part 1 of a 2-part roundtable discussion about filk. Here’s the link to an MP3 of the podcast. We’ll release part 2 sometime in May.

All that being said, you can probably claim to have exhibited interest in filk just by reading this far in this post (for which, thank you!), and therefore would be qualified to participate in the Pegasus Award process. So if you have favorites you’d like to suggest, fill out the Brainstorming Poll Form. Note that there’s only space for five suggestions in each category, but you’re allowed to fill out as many brainstorming forms as you like. (I filled out two.) But you have to submit your suggestions soon — as in, today! The deadline is one minute after midnight tonight, Pacific Time, or around 3 a.m. tomorrow morning, Eastern Time.

The actual nomination phase to decide what goes on the ballot will start next month, when the brainstorming results are released, and then voting will take place later in the summer. Then the Pegasus Awards will be awarded at the Ohio Valley Filk Fest in October.

So … start your brainstorming! And finish it, quick!

Related Posts:
The Pegasus Award Brainstorming Poll is Open!
In Case You’re Nominating for Any Awards This Year
What Do YOU Think is the Best Adapted Filk Song?
What Do YOU Think is the Best Time-Related Filk Song?

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Getting Just Deserts? I’d Rather Just Have Desserts

It has been “interesting” these past few weeks, for varying degrees of the word, watching the attacks and counterattacks of the Hugo Award fracas* and dealing with the fallout and toxic residue. Being a person of little import or influence may have shielded me somewhat, for which I’m thankful. At least for the moment, some of the ire seems to have abated, indignation reduced from a full boil to a slow simmer.

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake
(Getting just dessert is certainly tastier than getting one’s just deserts. Image: “Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake,” by Josh, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Despite the fact that my nominated story was part of the notorious slate of candidates that locked up more categories than anyone thought possible, several friends — including some who were aware of the controversy — sent me nice congratulations. And a few of them, in congratulating me, said it was “well-deserved.”

I value their support very highly — things that are rare are precious — and I appreciate the sentiment, but “deserve” carries a specific connotation to me such that I prefer not to use the word. My way of looking at it is perhaps peculiar, and one that others may consider odd, but I think no one “deserves” an award (least of all, me). To put it in a more direct way, I don’t “deserve” a Hugo Award — but maybe not for the reason that you think. The way I see it, no one does.

My first objection to saying that I or anyone else “deserves” an award goes back to my time in the Air Force, when I was writing evaluation reports and promotion recommendations and such. Even though “deserve” can mean “be qualified for” or “be worthy of” — and I hope that’s what my friends meant — I learned not to use the word because it can also carry the connotation of being “entitled to” something. No one is entitled to or has an automatic right to such a reward or place of privilege.

Thus I would not say, “Technical Sergeant So-and-so deserves promotion to Master Sergeant,” but instead would say she was ready for promotion, was qualified for and already taking on some of the roles of the higher rank, or perhaps that in my opinion she should have been promoted sooner. Likewise I would not say that Lieutenants Frick and Frack “deserve” Air Force Commendation Medals, but instead that they had each “earned” a medal by virtue of their service.

So when I think about the Hugo Awards — for “excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy,” and the “most prestigious award in science fiction” — I think that I do not “deserve” such recognition, and indeed none of us does, in the sense that none of us are entitled to it. None of us has a right to anything such as that.

The second reason I dislike using the word “deserve” is that in contrast to the phrase “just deserts” it seems to me everyone has things happen to them — good and bad, but particularly bad — that they don’t deserve. When we use the word that way, such as “Oh, that’s terrible, he didn’t deserve that,” the implication is that the person did not earn or have control over the outcome but rather that fate had conspired against them for reasons unknown and unfathomable. She did not deserve to endure that pain and suffering, he did not deserve to contract that disease.

To flip that from the negative to the positive: Even when I think of the good things that have happened in my life, I am loath to say that I deserved them. Some I could claim to have earned, but many seem arbitrary, in the sense that I did little or nothing to earn them, that fate conspired in my favor perhaps for no reason at all, when I might have deserved — really deserved — far worse. I am grateful for all such blessings, but I do not feel that I deserve them.

All of that is a long way of saying that I don’t think I “deserve” a Hugo Award nomination, much less an award itself, because things like that are (to me) not, strictly-speaking, deserved. Even so, I am grateful for the nomination and I might, just might, possibly, have earned it. Why? Because I did the work.

I wrote a story. In fact, the work I did on my story (or that any of the nominees and would-be nominees did on their stories) was complete long before the nomination period opened. I cast that bread upon the waters, so to speak. I did the work, cashed the check, and expected no further reward.

I still expect no further reward. I don’t “deserve” any further reward. I appreciate that some people think that the work — not me, personally, but the work I did — is worthy of recognition. I acknowledge that others disagree: some on the basis of the work, some perhaps for reasons unconnected to it. But I am buoyed by every report that someone appreciated spending time in my make-believe world; I claim no right or entitlement to any accolade, but I am humbled to think that anyone considered my work to be worthy of recognition.

I admit that all the controversy surrounding the nominations has made this a less pleasant experience than it might have been. A friend whom I respect even contacted me with the suggestion (encouragement? urging?) that I should withdraw my nomination, to avoid being caught, dragged under, and having my career drown in the raging turmoil. I appreciate the concern, and to some degree share it; the idea was, and in some respects still is, tempting.

But to paraphrase what I told some other friends when the furor was first cresting: whenever the uproar threatens to steal all my joy I try to concentrate on two things. First, I wrote the best story I could. Second, some people seem to have liked it. I would not go back and undo the first, and I will not cease to be thankful for the second.

And, for the record: I’m also thankful for desserts. Especially pie.


N.B. The above was adapted from an article I sent out in my newsletter. If you want to receive my newsletter, then I may question your judgment but you can sign up for it here anyway.


*I hesitate to call the Hugo Awards controversy a “war,” since at heart this is all contention over works of imagination. Far more has been written about it than may be possible to read (part of the hazard of any controversy involving writers). For my own take on the matter, if you’re curious, see What I Nominated for Hugo Awards, and Three Ideas to Consider and The Hugo Awards: Considering the Controversy.

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What I Nominated for Hugo Awards, and Three Ideas to Consider

Being a person of little influence, I did not publish my Hugo Award nominations or recommendations before the deadline. Very few people would have been interested.

I’m publishing them now because they seem to make a nice counterpoint to some of the controversy surrounding the awards. Plus, they give me a jumping-off point for looking at three ideas the World Science Fiction Society and World SF Convention might consider. Or not. I’m just another voice in the electronic wilderness, after all.

Idea Pirate Flag
(“Idea Pirate Flag,” by Richard Winchell, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Fair warning: This will be a long post. Much longer than my usual posts, I’m afraid. Feel free to skim, or skip, or just go back and read about my nominated story.

The Nominations. I am sorry to say that few of my picks ended up on the Hugo Awards ballot. I don’t generally nominate according to recommendations, even when the cause is to remedy “Puppy Related Sadness,” and I suspect the same is true for most people I know. And unfortunately, my time being increasingly precious these days my pleasure reading is often limited to works by friends of mine. I don’t offer that as justification or excuse, it’s just how it is. I nominate what I’m familiar and comfortable with.

If you didn’t get the “Puppy Related Sadness” reference, see this blog post by Larry Correia, which was part of the first round of what became the “Sad Puppies” campaigns to encourage his fans to purchase WorldCon memberships, nominate, and vote for the Hugo Awards. We are now in round three, abbreviated SP3, this time coordinated by Brad Torgersen; and I believe I am quite honest in my assessment when I say that without Brad and Larry calling attention to my story, in all likelihood it would not be among the Hugo finalists. I’ll reference the “Sad Puppies” controversy throughout this post, including as I discuss my nominations.

How far off were my picks? Let’s look at the professional literary categories.

My nominations for Best Professional Editor (Long Form) were:

  • Tony Daniel
  • Jim Minz
  • Toni Weisskopf

What can I say? I work with all of them in my supporting role as a Contributing Editor for Baen Books, and I know they know their stuff. If one day I am fortunate enough to have a publisher buy a novel of mine, I would happily work with any of them (hint, hint); but if I got the opportunity to work with another editor at some other publisher, I would probably nominate that person, too.

The actual 2015 lineup in this category, with 712 nominating ballots counted, includes Vox Day, Sheila Gilbert, Jim Minz, Anne Sowards, and Toni Weisskopf. My score: 2 out of 3, both of whom were on the “Sad Puppies” list.

My nominations for Best Professional Editor (Short Form) were:

  • Jennifer Brozek
  • Trevor Quachri
  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt
  • Edmund Schubert
  • Sheila Williams

Surprise, surprise — here I also nominated people with whom I’ve worked. Each of them has been my editor, in one form or another, and I respect them all. The 2015 category lineup, with 870 nominating ballots, consists of Jennifer Brozek, Vox Day, Mike Resnick, Edmund R. Schubert, and Bryan Thomas Schmidt. My score: 3 out of 5, all of whom were on the “Sad Puppies” list.

My nominations for Best Related Work were:

  • Letters from Gardner, Lou Antonelli (Merry Blacksmith Press)
  • “Lockstep: A Possible Galactic Empire,” Karl Schroeder (Analog)
  • Science in Sci-fi, Fact in Fantasy, Dan Koboldt (http://dankoboldt.com/science-in-scifi/)
  • “Spanking Bad Data Won’t Make Them Behave,” Michael F. Flynn (Analog)
  • “Why Science is Never Settled,” Tedd Roberts (Baen.com)

Here, you might get the impression that I like the science fact articles in Analog — and you’d be right. What you may not get is that Dan Koboldt and Tedd Roberts are friends of mine, Lou Antonelli is an acquaintance, and I think they do fine work. The 2015 Hugo nominees in this category, with 1150 nominating ballots, include works by Ken Burnside, Lou Antonelli, John C. Wright, Tedd Roberts, and Michael Z. Williamson. My score: 2 out of 5, both of whom were on the “Sad Puppies” list.

My nominations for Best Short Story?

  • “Ashes and Starlight,” David Farland (Shattered Shields)
  • “First Blood,” Elizabeth Moon (Shattered Shields)
  • “The Keeper of Names,” Larry Correia (Shattered Shields)
  • “No Lonely Seafarer,” Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed)
  • “Totaled,” Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge)

Controversy must abound here, since most of my favored nominees were stories I enjoyed from a particular anthology that means something special to me — including two by authors personally known to me. The other two are also very good stories by friends of mine, who sent them to me for consideration. But controversy is where you find it. The 2015 Best Short Story nominations, tallied from 1174 nominating ballots, are by Annie Bellet, Lou Antonelli, John C. Wright, Kary English, and Steve Rzasa. My score: 1 out of 5; yes, another on the “Sad Puppies” list.

My nominations for Best Novelette were:

  • “Beneath the Ice of Enceladus,” James C. Glass (Analog)
  • “Dancing with Death in the Land of Nod,” Will McIntosh (Apocalypse Triptych, Vol 1)
  • “Life Flight,” Brad Torgersen (Analog)
  • “The Magician and Laplace’s Demon,” Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld)
  • “Mind Locker,” Juliette Wade (Analog)

Can you tell yet that I like Analog stories? And, yes, I know almost all of those authors.

Turns out the 2015 nominations for Best Novelette (with 1031 nominating ballots) are by a guy with my name, plus Edward M. Lerner, Michael F. Flynn, Rajnar Vajra, and John C. Wright. My score: 0 out of 5. Shocking!

I only submitted three nominations for Best Novella:

  • Calendrical Regression, Lawrence Schoen (NobleFusion Press)
  • “Claudius Rex,” John P. Murphy (Alembical 3)
  • “From Earth I Have Arisen,” Matt Rotundo (Alembical 3)

Why only three? Because these fellows are also friends of mine, and sent me their tales to read; and, I didn’t even look at any other novellas from 2014 — not even the ones in Analog. Sue me.

The 2015 Best Novella nominees, based on 1083 nominating ballots, are by Tom Kratman, Arlan Andrews, Sr., and John C. Wright. Mr. Wright, it turns out, has three nominations in this category, which for my money is a little bit ungracious and not very sportsmanlike; had he asked my advice, I would have suggested that he set a new precedent by selecting the best of his stories and declining the other two nominations. But since we’ve never met, alas, my advice remains about as valuable as most advice. (Which is to say, not very.) My score: 0 out of 5. Perhaps I should be outraged? On second thought, I’d rather not; I tend to say things I regret when I am outraged. And sometimes even when I’m not.

And, finally, my nominations for Best Novel were:

  • Black Tide Rising (series), John Ringo (Baen)
  • The Chaplain’s War, Brad Torgersen (Baen)
  • Monster Hunter Nemesis, Larry Correia (Baen)
  • A Plunder of Souls, D.B. Jackson (Tor)
  • Trial By Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)

Why so many titles from Baen? Aren’t I more widely read than that? Not usually, no. Remember, as a contractor to Baen I’m charged with selecting novels for us to publish so I need to keep up with what our authors are producing. (Yes, I also need to keep up with the field in general. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I don’t read as many Baen titles as I should, let alone titles from other publishers.)

As it turns out, the 2015 Best Novel nominees (1827 nominating ballots) are by Ann Leckie, Kevin J. Anderson, Katherine Addison, Marko Kloos, and Jim Butcher, though Larry Correia turned down a nomination for MHN. My score: 1 out of 5 until Larry dropped out, then 0 out of 5.

So, all in all, I didn’t do so well on the nominating front.

C’est la vie.

Why, you ask? Why didn’t I nominate everything on the SP3 list? Am I not concerned, do I not want to remediate if not eradicate Puppy Related Sadness?

The simple answer is, I’m not a drone. And I prefer to think that other people are, likewise, not drones: that they are capable of making informed decisions even in the face of strong recommendations from people they like and/or admire. In my most optimistic moments, I think that’s exactly what happened; in my most pessimistic moments, I think that many people straight-voted the SP3 list or the alternate “Rabid Puppies” list without considering other worthy contenders, even though the SP3 organizers encouraged people to read the works and make up their own minds; in my all-too-infrequent realistic moments, I believe the truth is somewhere in the middle.

So, many of the recommendations from the “Sad Puppies” list made it onto the Hugo Awards ballot, including my own novelette. And there has been much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth — some of it, my own.

An episode from my youth may illustrate why I cannot muster the enthusiasm to cheer the overwhelming “success” (scare quotes intentional) of the “Sad Puppies” and especially the “Rabid Puppies” program. If you’re tired of this discussion, feel free to skip this next part:

When I was a senior in high school, an arsonist burned down our school: Winyah High School in Georgetown, South Carolina. (Some readers may think the general reaction should have been, “And there was much rejoicing,” but for many if not most of us that was a very dark day.) In response, the school board took the opportunity to plan for a new school, in a new location, and to merge WHS with the crosstown school. I was part of a group that began studying what mascot and color scheme the new Georgetown HS would have. We met; we solicited and came up with ideas; we took the ideas back to our respective schools and let the students vote. And when we came back together, our school’s votes had split among the different options while the crosstown, smaller school’s votes were nearly unanimous in favor of one particular choice, which won the day. Had they coordinated their voting, with encouragement to vote for that single option? Almost certainly. And for those of us whose school had been burned down, and now exists only in memory, disappointing barely scratched the surface of our emotions.

I say all that to say this: When I signed on to the SP3 list — and, yes, I was invited and agreed — I had no inkling that it would see such “success.” I anticipated a few finalists would hail from the list, but that other worthies would join them in every category. I remember well that old feeling of being shut out, the deep disappointment of feeling that my vote and my effort had been wasted, and I had no intention and certainly no wish to leave anyone else in the position. I didn’t, and don’t, think “Sad Puppies” was orchestrated to achieve that effect, and I regret that its “success” came at such a cost. I imagine that is a cold comfort to some of my friends.

Now, having procrastinated too much …

The Ideas. Something I observed during my years in the Air Force and subsequent years in a university setting is that the people who benefit from (or under) a system are often less likely to find fault with it. That is, officers who were promoted, or selected for command billets or other choice assignments, under the extant evaluation and selection systems tended to view the systems pretty favorably: after all, the systems recognized them as promotable or highly qualified — a favorable result — and therefore the systems could be trusted to produce other favorable results. Likewise, professors with tenure rarely complain about the tenure system; the system worked for them, so they are naturally disposed to think of it as a good system, if perhaps a bit onerous. No matter the organizational system, those who benefit from it often do not perceive its faults or look for ways to improve it. I submit that was true for those who benefitted from the Hugo Awards system before the “Sad Puppies” program, and I submit that it is true now for many who benefitted from the “Sad Puppies” onslaught. It is, in my experience, quite natural for this attitude to develop.

N.B.: That does not (I repeat, not) (I-tell-you-three-times, not) mean there is anything nefarious going on in the system, or that the people running the system are engaged in any kind of wrongdoing. Everyone is doing their best. And in general, everyone believes they are doing the right things.

Enough intro. For anyone who’s interested, I present below three ideas to consider for the Hugo Awards. I do not claim them as original, but I also have not scoured the hundreds of Hugo-Award-related blog posts with their thousands of comments to see if they have been put forth by other people. Undoubtedly they duplicate to some degree what others have suggested. I include them here based on the idealistic notion that the Hugo Awards might truly represent more of science fiction and fantasy fandom than simply WorldCon fandom; if, as some have suggested, WorldCon members wish to keep the Hugos to themselves, then these ideas would not apply.

1. Remove the limit of 5 entries per category, and put everything that gets more than 5% on the final ballot. A friend called my attention to a version of this, involving a more complicated scheme, but I think this simple idea would work in terms of inclusivity and ease of implementation. Simply, enlarge the pool of nominated works. Ties for 5th place already allow for a 6th nominee, but why stop there?

The statistics for this year are still being held close by WorldCon until after the awards ceremony, but had this idea been in place last year, there would have been 10 finalists for Best Novel, 13 for Best Novella, 7 for Best Novelette, still only 4 for Best Short Story, 7 for Best Related Work, 10 for Best Editor (Short Form), and 12 for Best Editor (Long Form). To examine just my category, Best Novelette, in more detail, the finalists out of 728 ballots cast would have been:

  • “Lady Astronaut of Mars,” Mary Robinette Kowal
  • “The Exchange Officers,” Brad R. Torgersen
  • “The Waiting Stars,” Aliette de Bodard
  • “The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling,” Ted Chiang
  • “Opera Vita Aeterna,” Vox Day
  • “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King,” Ken Liu
  • “Forbid the Sea,” Seanan McGuire

The outcome would probably have been the same — “Lady Astronaut of Mars” was a fine story (if I recall, I placed it 2nd on my ballot) — but what would it have hurt to have included Ken Liu and Seanan McGuire’s stories on the ballot? Or to have included Lauren Beukes, Sofia Samatar, Sarah A. Hoyt, Helene Wecker, and Scott Lynch on the Best Novel ballot? Etc. Is it better for the ultimate award recipients to be counted as the best out of 5 because of an arbitrary cutoff, or as the best out of 7 or 10 or more that met the 5% criterion?

Yes, it would mean more in the voter packet to read. So what? Hugo Award voters like to read, from what I understand. Plus, it’s not as if reading everything in its entirety is a requirement to vote. Folks will read as much as they want of what they want, regardless of anyone enjoining them to consider all the finalists on the merits. (Some friends have even told me that because my story was on the “Sad Puppies” list, they will vote “No Award” for it regardless of any merits it might have, and I suspect some will not read it at all; that’s disappointing, but well within their rights, and I appreciate at least their honesty about it.)

One more “counterfactual,” alternate-history-type scenario to consider with respect to this notion: If there had been no artificial cap of 5 per category, in 2013 there would have been 15 finalists in the Best Novel category, including Monster Hunter Legion by Larry Correia. Again, the outcome might have been the same — my daughter enjoyed Redshirts and suggested that I would, too, though it remains on my ever-lengthening “to be read” pile — but the ballot would have been demonstrably more open, more inclusive. And there might have been a little less Puppy Related Sadness in the world.

2. Establish arrangements for members of other conventions (e.g., Dragon_Con, GenCon, any of the Comic Cons) to receive nominating privileges. I have seen in several places the idea of reducing the price of WorldCon supporting memberships to enlarge the voting pool, and this could be an adjunct to that idea. It need not be limited to large cons, though at first they may be the most able to implement it.

Again, this would only apply if WorldCon wished to invite other con-goers to participate. Other conventions might have the choice between automatically enrolling all of their members or establishing a separate “Hugo Nominations” or “WorldCon Partner” membership with a nominally higher price, perhaps as low as $10 or even less, an amount that would be passed through to WorldCon. At the partner conventions, mentions in program books and at opening and closing ceremonies, plugs during literary and other panels, and later direct e-mail contact would serve to make more fans aware of the Hugo Awards and what they represent.

If Dragon_Con, for instance, became a “WorldCon Partner” at only $5 a head, WorldCon would get a cool quarter-million dollars. And if these were “nominating only” memberships, WorldCon could still sell full supporting memberships that conferred the right to vote on the nominated finalists.

I have no idea how many members of other conventions would nominate under such a program. I get the impression that some of the serious fen at WorldCon might dislike the idea of allowing more casual fans to submit nominations, especially if they might prove susceptible to outside influence. But it could make an interesting pilot program for a few years, to see if it gained any traction and had any impact.

3. Restrict professional publishing employees from in-house nominating. With respect to my nominations above, I pointed out that several were for Baen Books personnel or publications, and that I have a professional relationship with Baen as a consulting editor. I see no reason to be coy about that, to wink or pretend otherwise; indeed, I consider it quite natural that I would be more aware of and even more appreciative of Baen’s people and products than I am of other publishers’. I suspect the same is true of those who are employed by or work closely with other publishing houses, specific magazines, etc.

That is not to say that we do not read what other publishers produce; we do, though maybe not as much as we would wish. (You can take that as the “royal we” if you don’t like me speaking for other people.) But it is natural for us to consider the things we work on and those we are affiliated with to be superior. If that makes me sound biased, then guilty as charged; in my experience, everyone is biased one way or another, to greater or lesser degrees. The most problems creep in when we let our biases blind us, when we let them become prejudices.

The question, though, is whether these biases have ever skewed nominations one way or another. I cannot say. It may be that any effect they have had is negligible. But one way to minimize the possibility of any such biases would be to restrict convention members who are employed by specific magazines or publishing houses from nominating works from their own companies. (In some respects, this would be similar to the restriction from self-nomination in the Nebula Awards.) Writers and artists, often contracted to multiple companies rather than employed by one, would not fall under such a restriction. And the restriction would only apply to nominations; once a work was on the final ballot, anyone would be able to vote for it.

So What? In the main, I’ve typed this and hung it out here to get it out of my head. I don’t expect anyone to take it too seriously, for two reasons. First, there may be a thousand reasons why these ideas are bad, but I’m too biased to see them. Second, I’m still a newcomer to all this.

Yes, I consider myself a newcomer. I probably always will. While established writers my age were working on their writing craft, paying their literary dues, going to conventions and whatnot, I was making a career out of the Air Force, paying different dues, going TDY and whatnot. Some people are able to carry on both a writing career and another career; for a long time, I was not. I even gave up writing fiction for many years, and came back to it in more fits than starts. I have been on the fringes of fandom, aware of it, much longer than I have been involved in it.

As such, I confess my own naivete: for a long time, I believed that the Hugo Awards represented all of fandom, not just WorldCon fandom, not just “serious” fen. I believed that even though they were administered by the WSFS and WorldCon, decided upon and conferred by them, that the Hugos stood for the entire field. I believed that the WSFS and WorldCon were carrying out a duty equivalent to a sacred trust, on behalf of the entire universe of fans.

And even though I have recently been disabused of that notion, in my idealistic cors cordium I still believe it. As such, I would like to see the Hugo Awards remain a glorious ideal, a pinnacle of achievement, prestigious for all the right reasons, even if it means that I never receive one.

A Final Word. I apologize again for the length of this screed. I could probably use a good editor.

Thank you for some of your precious time.

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About My Hugo-Award-Nominated Story

I’m not going to talk about the Great Hugo Award Controversy in this post. If that disappoints anyone, then in the words of my former teacher, Dave Haasl, “For this I apologize, but this apology is in no way sincere.”

Hugo Award Logo

One additional note: This post is adapted from what I sent out today in my newsletter. Usually I give my newsletter friends a longer period of exclusivity, so to them I offer a sincere apology.

For family and friends who don’t follow science fiction and fantasy news, last Saturday the nominees for the 2015 Hugo Awards were announced, and my story, “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium,” which appeared in Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show online magazine last May, is a finalist for the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.

If you already know what the Hugo Awards are, you can skip this paragraph, but for family and friends who are not immersed in SF&F culture: the Hugo Awards are given for “excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy,” and have been called the “most prestigious award in science fiction” — so this is a pretty big deal. You can think of the Hugos as something of a cross between the Academy Awards and the People’s Choice Awards, in that they’re voted on by a fairly small group (members of the World Science Fiction Convention) but anyone is welcome to join that group.

My first reaction to the nomination was a profound sense of gratitude, which I hope will become clear as I tell you a bit about the story and how it came to be.

My “novelette” — which simply refers to a story between 7500 and 17,500 words long — revolves around human settlers on a distant planet trying to end years of subjugation by an alien species. Here’s the opening:

The door leading to the Tephrist’s studio reminded Cerna of a clam’s shell turned on its side, except it was grossly oversized, indigo-painted, and steel.

“Let’s go back, Phil,” Cerna said. “Why do you want to go in there? They’re the ones making you sick.”

Keller would hear none of it. His hand shook a little as he pushed against the damaged identi-plate. The plate and the imperfectly patched wall around it bore the imprint of the only human revolt to have reached this far into town.

As the door-halves swung apart on smooth tracks, Cerna resisted the urge to pull his friend away. The interlocking flutes were sharp edged and equipped with heavy-duty pins as long as his forearm that secured it in the off-hours.

The front room was square, and stark in its simplicity. It smelled pleasanter than Cerna expected, faintly of cinnamon. Not like death at all.

The ceiling was mostly open to the afternoon sky, typical of Peshari construction, but buttresses rose from the corners that were interconnected with steel bars. Shadows from the bars made patterns on the rough, pale, orange tiled floor and the sand colored brick walls. A few bricks were adorned with dead Peshari in miniature bas-relief.

A heavy-beamed archway roughly opposite the entrance led back into the work area. In between, a holo-pillar took up about a square meter in the center of the room, but it was turned off. Otherwise, the room was bare, with not even a plant to break up the uniform color. Cerna guessed that a place devoted to death might not be the best environment for living things.

If you’re curious and want to read more, I’ll put the link at the bottom of this post.

So, then, why was gratitude my first reaction when the committee told me I’d been nominated? Because I give credit to a number of other people for the story’s success — and even for its very existence!

First off, I wrote the story as part of the annual Halloween contest in the Codex Writers Group, and the two “seeds” I started with came from fellow writers Aliza Greenblatt and Eric James Stone. The story took second place in the contest, and James Maxey liked it so much that he called it to the attention of Edmund Schubert, the editor of InterGalactic Medicine Show. Ed asked me to send it to him, which of course I did. Just a few months later the story went online.

So I am deeply grateful to each and all of them for their contributions to and faith in the tale.

The story of the story (if you will) might have ended there. IGMS’s readership is smaller than the traditional powerhouse magazines like Analog and Asimov’s, and while it’s nice to think that some of the readers liked my story, I don’t remember it being reviewed or getting any other attention. But as “award season” started warming up my friends Brad Torgersen and Larry Correia decided to recommend the story, and others followed suit. For my part, I was quite happy that a few more people might read the story than would have ever heard of it otherwise; even with the widespread attention Brad and Larry and their “Evil League of Evil” could give it, I doubted it would make the cut.

Turns out I was wrong.

So here I am, with a story nominated for one of the most significant science fiction awards. From the moment I opened the e-mail with the news, I’ve been and remain most grateful, to the people named above and to everyone who read my story and liked it enough to nominate it.

Voting will take place this summer. I’ll find out in August if my story passed muster with the voters.

Until then, as I noted above there is more than a little controversy over my nomination, because it was part of the recommendation list that was passed around. But I hope you’ll forgive me for leaving that discussion to another day.

Because all I really want to say today is: Thank you, one and all.


Here’s the promised link, if you’d like to read “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium”.

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The Hugo Awards: Considering the Controversy

Of the dozen or so people who look at my blog with any regularity, there may be one or two who are interested in the current state of upheaval regarding the Hugo Awards, which, “presented annually since 1955, are science fiction’s most prestigious award.” The rest of you can feel free to ignore this post. Most people will.

The Hugos are conferred during the World Science Fiction Convention, and are determined by nominations submitted by and final votes taken of WorldCon members. They honor science fiction and fantasy works in categories such as Best Novel, Best Dramatic Presentation, and so forth. The categories themselves have changed over the years, and it could be an interesting exercise to examine the history of why the World Science Fiction Society decided to delete some categories and add others. But that would shed little light on the current controversy within the SF&F community over the awards.

That controversy — or feud, if you prefer — centers around what it means for a work to be considered the “best.” From one perspective, it’s a question of how well the method of selection reflects the community’s preferences; from another, it’s a question of the relative merits of any single work compared to all others.

To the first question, my friend Brad Torgersen (who recently included a story of mine on the “Sad Puppies 3” slate of Hugo recommendations) used a Venn diagram (seen in this blog post) to illustrate the representational aspect of the Hugo Awards. Having thought about this for a while, I’d like to extend his diagram as follows:

(SF&F Fandom Breakdown. Inadequate, I’m afraid, but a start.)

In my diagram, the ellipses correspond to:

  • A: Everyone who likes any kind of science fiction or fantasy story, whether presented as a movie, a TV show, a book, or in any other form
  • B: Those who consider themselves science fiction or fantasy fans
  • C: Those who attend SF&F conventions, whether general interest or fandom-specific
  • D: Those who attend the World Science Fiction Convention
  • E: Those who nominate or vote for the Hugo Awards — this ellipse extends beyond WorldCon because it includes “supporting members” who do not actually attend the convention
  • F: People who have heard of, but don’t care about, the Hugo Awards
  • G: People who, despite their consumption of science fiction or fantasy stories, would vehemently deny being science fiction or fantasy fans

I might have included people who have never heard of the Hugo Awards, if I could have figured out how to represent them. Also, I could have made the diagram more complete by trying to fit in SF&F professionals of one stripe or another, and even by trying to illustrate membership in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the nomination and voting for the Nebula Awards — but the picture seemed complicated enough so I stopped before it got too muddled.

At any rate, it should be clear that those who vote for the Hugo Awards are a small fraction of the “science fiction and fantasy community,” whether we consider that to consist of those who attend conventions or the larger group who consider themselves fans; indeed, Hugo Award voters are a miniscule portion of the very large group of occasional or even frequent SF&F consumers. Under the premise that the Hugo voting population has over time become less representative of the larger groups, one of the goals of the Sad Puppies campaigns has been to make ellipse E bigger by encouraging more people to become WorldCon members and to nominate and vote for their favorites.

We’ll return to this issue in a few moments.

For the second question — that of the merits of any single work compared to others — we should acknowledge that just as tastes differ from one person to another, tastes change over time. While I confess that my knowledge of the field’s history is lacking, I am given to understand that science fiction in particular used to be a literature of action as well as ideas, and that stories of characters’ accomplishments in the face of great peril or difficult moral choices were appreciated and honored. Thankfully, I can still find stories that depict moving encounters and risky endeavors; however, today those kinds of stories seem to garner less attention and fewer honors than (shall we say) more “refined” tales.

I, for one, do not seem to possess the sensibility to appreciate highly “literary” stories such as grew out of what was once considered the “New Wave” of science fiction, at least not to the degree that some of my friends seem to. Likewise, magical realism, avant garde, and “experimental” fiction leave me cold. I suppose my tastes are more pedestrian. For instance, I am unmoved by prose that is not narrative; no matter how brilliant or evocative the language is, if nothing happens in the text it will disappoint me and I will feel that the time I spent reading it was wasted. I more appreciate a story that involves interesting characters taking part in events that have consequences for themselves and others, that gives me the vicarious experience of escapades I will never attempt, in places I will never visit, with beings I will never encounter.

To select one example of how my tastes disagree with many of those who nominate and vote for the Hugo Awards, consider last year’s Nebula winner and one of the Hugo nominees for Best Short Story: “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love.” Other than its lyrical quality, I found little to appreciate in it — and I confess to some confusion as to how it fit the definition of a story, since nothing much happens. It is barely a vignette, and since the science it discusses is all part of a “what if” postulation it seemed barely science fictional as well. If it were re-cast as “If You Were a Polar Bear, My Love,” it would carry the same emotional content and perhaps be more science fictional, since the bit about “reviving extinct species” would at least imply that it takes place in a future in which polar bears are extinct instead of the present when dinosaurs have been extinct for millions of years. In neither case would any clones have been created from extinct DNA, though, and the text would still be a stream-of-consciousness exercise in fevered imaginings rather than an actual story with characters who take actions and overcome obstacles in pursuit of particular goals. However, since that sort of thing apparently appeals to a significant cohort of SF&F fans, it might still be an award-winning “story” — though I wonder if an editor would have given either the real or this imagined version a second look if the author had been an unknown.*

While I am confessing my own literary shortcomings, I’ll add that such “stories” wear me out. When I finish reading one, I don’t feel the breathless exhilaration of stepping off a roller coaster, or even of dismounting a carousel; instead, I feel the out-of-breath exhaustion of setting down a snow shovel, or saying goodbye to unwanted houseguests. I wonder how many readers, upon completing some inaccessible text, think well of themselves for putting forth the effort, like feeling good for eating one’s peas, and transfer that feeling of accomplishment to the text when it comes time to nominate or vote for awards. I also wonder how many — some fewer, I’d wager — enthusiastically repeat the reading experience for the sheer joy of it, or go looking for seconds. And if a story does not induce a reader to read it again, or to seek out others like it or other works by the same author, can it truly be the “best” the field had to offer?

I acknowledge that stories that leave me empty may leave other people exhilarated, or inspired, or with some other positive feeling, and who am I to gainsay their opinions? So I am left to congratulate the winners — the “bests” — while I shake my head in wonder. I suppose that if a story that fit my preferences were to win, other readers would be able to find fault with it and shake their heads in wonder that anyone would select it. Such is the nature of all electoral contests.

Unfortunately for me, science fiction (and, to some degree, fantasy) literature has of late elevated the status of “literary” works while ignoring more action-oriented fiction; at the same time, sales of SF literature have either stagnated or declined. Correlation is not causation, however, so we cannot automatically conclude that the rise of “literary” SF has adversely affected overall sales. Other factors may be at play, such as the mainstream acceptance of technologies that were once the purview of science fiction, and thus the loss of appeal of technology-based stories; the declining confidence in the ability of science and engineering to solve pressing problems, likewise; or the migration of segments of the population who used to read for entertainment to other forms such as movies, television, and video games.

And that leads us back to the first question, whether the Hugo Awards adequately represent the preferences of the SF&F-consuming public.

If I had more free time, I might attempt a comprehensive statistical history of the Hugos. Maybe I can go back to school someday, pursue an advanced degree in the history of ideas, and write a thesis on the subject. For instance, I’d be interested in digging up the records starting with the first Hugos — when the best novel award, for example, went to The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester — and examining, year over year,

  • The complete voting results, both for nominations and awards, including numbers of nominations received and numbers of votes cast
  • The numbers of eligible works, e.g., how many science fiction and fantasy novels, etc., were published in the appropriate year
  • Reported sales figures for the nominated novels, both prior to and after their nomination and prior to and after the award announcement
  • Sales figures for other SF&F entertainments, e.g., box office receipts, for the same time period
  • Etc.

It might be interesting to examine other tidbits as well, like the numbers of ballots (nomination or voting) disqualified for any reason. Unfortunately, those kinds of figures may not even have been recorded.

Though I do not have actual figures to present, can we conjecture what they might be likely to show?

Over time, the percentage of novels receiving nominations would fluctuate, but we might expect it to be generally lower now as independent publishing has flourished in the Internet era. We might therefore expect the votes cast for, say, Best Novel to have declined as a percentage of total novel sales for any given year. If we could devise some estimate of genre consumption in the total SF&F community (ellipse A, above), we would certainly expect the vote ratios for Best Novel to have declined because of the permeation of science fiction and fantasy into the larger culture since the 1970s. If these expectations hold true, then it should be clear that the Hugo Awards today reflect only a tiny fraction of the SF&F community.

Is that, however, a status quo we should accept?

If we believe in science fiction and fantasy as worthy art forms, capable of helping us examine the human condition and cope with change in ways that other entertainments do not, then it seems that enlarging our community would be a good thing both from a pragmatic viewpoint — more customers can support more content producers — and from the standpoint of wanting to impact the world around us. To that end, encouraging people to support the World Science Fiction Convention and participate in nominating and voting for the field’s most prestigious award should be a good thing. I cannot think of a good reason for anyone to prefer for the field and its flagship award to be small and insular, because if that continues (and especially if the SF&F field shrinks too much) many more puppies of all breeds will be saddened.

It may be that what is needed is a new, more comprehensive award. I used to tell people that I thought of the Nebula Awards as equivalent to the Oscars and the Hugo Awards as equivalent to the People’s Choice Awards, but I think I was wrong in that assessment. It seems to me now that the Nebula Awards are more akin to the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Hugo Awards are more akin to the Oscars (except that anyone can pay to participate in the Hugos), and that science fiction and fantasy do not have an award equivalent to the People’s Choice Awards. That discussion, however, will have to wait for another day.

Or maybe not. Even if awards multiplied like tribbles, they would still be only partly representative of the community as a whole. Those of us who nominate and vote will remain a self-selected cohort, and in the end the opinions we represent are only our own.

In closing, a personal note. I am neither the scholar nor the student of the SF&F field that I should be, but I respect it enough to have chosen it for my second career and I respect the Hugo Awards for their attempt to honor the best of the genre. And, yes, I would be quite pleased to count myself as a Hugo Award nominee or recipient. I imagine every author who has considered their work to be publishable and risked sending it to editors for possible rejection must at some time have thought of winning such an accolade, though some may not want the recognition (or the notoriety, as the case may be). For my part, I was quite happy when Brad Torgersen told me he was considering my novelette** for his slate of recommendations, if for no other reason than it meant that a few more people might read it than otherwise would. And if anyone liked my story enough to bestow on it a nomination, that would do my heart good.***

A final, really personal note. My blog posts are usually much shorter than this, and if you made it this far, and actually read this whole thing, I appreciate it. Thank you, sincerely, for your time.

*It may not be fair, but we (and by that royal “we” of course I mean “I”) do pay a smidgen more attention to works by authors whose names we recognize. We are, most of us, pretty human in that respect.
**Specifically, from the May 2014 issue of Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium.”
***I don’t have any illusions about actually winning. The one time an editor told me one of my stories was award-worthy it didn’t come close to making the list, and I can count on one hand, with fingers left over, the number of people who told me they nominated it.

– From 2014, Larry Correia offers An explanation about the Hugo awards controversy
– Brad Torgersen, in January, Announcing SAD PUPPIES 3!
– Brad Torgersen presents his recommendations in SAD PUPPIES 3: the 2015 Hugo slate
– Brad Torgersen offers SAD PUPPIES: some responses to the fallout
– Larry Correia with a Sad Puppies 3 Update
– Sarah Hoyt discusses the matter at When Duck Noises Fail Me
– Brad Torgersen expounds on SAD PUPPIES: the march of the straw men

Edited to note that “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” won the Nebula and was nominated for the Hugo. I had mixed up its accolades. GWR

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My Friend Brad Torgersen Suggests One of My Works for Hugo Award Consideration

Award-winning author Brad Torgersen included my novelette, “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium,” which appeared in the May 2014 issue of Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, as part of the Sad Puppies 3 campaign to encourage people to read and consider works that might otherwise be ignored.

I like the crew-patch-style logo:

(Sad Puppies 3 logo.)

Some Background, if You Need It. If you haven’t been following the recent controversy surrounding the Hugo Awards — and if you’re not a convention-going science fiction and fantasy fan, why would you? — bestselling author Larry Correia started the “Sad Puppies” campaign two years ago as a reaction to the tendency for the major genre awards to ignore (if not actually shun) popular works by conservative authors, with the result that nominees often represented highly “literary” works that were experimental or edgy or otherwise inaccessible to wide audiences, or “message” fiction that seemed more concerned with waving the flag for progressive issues than with being entertaining. In addition, there had there been reports of authors being blackballed and suspicions of vote-tampering by World Science Fiction Convention staff members.

Larry, who plied his trade as an accountant and auditor before he started writing full-time, saw that the threshold for making the Hugo ballot was relatively small — as low as a few dozen nominations in some categories — and encouraged people to nominate specific works. By comparing the numbers of people who reported their nominations to him with the figures reported by WorldCon, Larry showed that accusations of fraud were unfounded. The nomination and voting processes appeared to be operating above-board, which speaks well for the volunteers who organize and staff the conventions.

Tongue-in-cheek, Larry called his program the Sad Puppies campaign because some people love to be part of causes on behalf of the downtrodden. He wrote that

The ugly truth is that the most prestigious award in sci-fi/fantasy is basically just a popularity contest, where the people who are popular with a tiny little group of WorldCon voters get nominated and thousands of other works are ignored. Books that tickle them are declared good and anybody who publically deviates from groupthink is bad. Over time this lame ass award process has become increasingly snooty and pretentious, and you can usually guess who all of the finalists are going to be that year before any of the books have actually come out or been read by anyone, entirely by how popular the author is with this tiny group.

This is a leading cause of puppy related sadness.

Of course anything that is voted on is de-facto a popularity contest, and the fact is what I like may not be popular with very many people. The only way to make your vote count is to actually vote, and in the case of the Hugo Awards, not all of the people who buy books are interested in buying convention memberships or voting for awards. So it is that, just as with film awards in which movies that do well at the box office are often overlooked during award season, authors who are popular enough to sell thousands if not millions of books are often shut out of what has long been considered the premiere science fiction award.

Back to the Main Topic. I very much appreciate Brad including my story among his recommendations. You can see all of his suggestions at the Sad Puppies link at the top, where he wrote that he is carrying on the campaign to recognize

entirely deserving works, writers, and editors — all of whom would not otherwise find themselves on the Hugo ballot without some extra oomph received from beyond the rarefied, insular halls of 21st century Worldcon “fandom.”

Which is where YOU guys come in. Everyone who’s signed up as a full or supporting member of either Loncon 3 (last year’s Worldcon) or Sasquan (this year’s Worldcon) or MidAmeriCon II (next year’s Worldcon). If you agree with our slate below — and we suspect you might — this is YOUR chance to make sure YOUR voice is heard. This is YOUR award (as SF/F’s self-proclaimed “most prestigious award”) and YOU get to have a say in who is acknowledged.

I’m pleased that he considers my little story to be deserving! And even if folks find other novelettes to nominate, I’m pleased that some more people might read it now who otherwise may not even have heard of it.

If you’d like to read “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium,” here’s a link to it on the IGMS site.* Hope you like it!

*If you can’t afford to buy the online magazine and still want to read the story, drop me a line and I’ll see about getting you a copy.

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What Do YOU Think is the Best Adapted Filk Song?

This post is part 1 of a 2-part series related to the 2015 Pegasus Awards.

I’m looking for your suggestions!

Pegasus Award Logo

The Pegasus Awards honor science fiction and fantasy-related music, and each year the organizers select two special categories for awards. This year one of the categories is the “Best Adapted Song.”

This special category is pretty wide open for nominations, since it “can include adapting or parodying a mundane song or a filk song, but can also mean adapting a poem or book.” So it might involve the best use of an existing song to make a new filk song, or it could involve a song that best captures the spirit of a favorite story or movie.

So, seriously: what do you think is the Best Adapted Filk Song?

I’ve thought of a few songs by friends of mine (or, in one case, a friend of a friend) that I’m considering nominating:

  • “Band of Brothers” by Ken Theriot
  • “Dead Hobbit” by Madison Maria Roberts
  • “Duet With a Klingon” by Carla Ulbrich
  • “Has Anybody Seen My Goyle? ” and “Call Me, Arthur” by Scott & Kirsten Vaughan (a/k/a The Blibbering Humdingers)
  • “The Ballad of Jones the Cat” by Keith Brinegar and White Plectrum
  • “When We Come Out of the Stargate” by Danny Birt

I know there are many more adapted songs out there, so if you have favorites that you think I should consider for this category, send me your suggestions!

Or, even better, you can suggest songs for the entire filk community to consider by filling out the Pegasus Award Brainstorming Poll Forms.* (When it comes time to actually nominate for the award, you can only nominate 5 songs, but during the brainstorming phase you can fill out as many forms as you like.)

Thanks in advance!

In other award news, you have until the end of January to join the World Science Fiction Convention to be eligible to nominate and vote for the Hugo Awards. For the price of a supporting membership ($40), you’ll get electronic copies of all the nominated stories and artwork — it’s really quite a bargain! And, who knows? maybe you’ll even see something you nominated on the ballot. But only if you join!

*If you’d like to suggest or nominate one of my songs, that’s okay, too. If you haven’t heard my songs and you’d like to, drop me a line. We’ll find a way to make it happen.

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