Episode Number: 134
Episode Title: The Eternal Discourse (listen to this episode)
Transcript by: Susan the Great
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Renay: Hi friends, I’m Renay.
Adri: I’m Adri.
Diana: And I’m Diana.
Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour.
Renay: Welcome back to the pod, space bees. It’s been a minute! I am once again joined by guest hosts Adri and Diana, who agreed to come on, help Ana with her hiatus, and also talk about the Hugo Awards. That’s right! We’re still on brand.
Diana: It’s always the Hugo Awards.
Adri: Hugo season is eternal.
Renay: It’s gonna be really interesting to dig into the finalists lists and the associated drama—because there is always discourse around the Hugo awards. It never fails! Something happens and this year is no exception. But first, we’re gonna talk about our one good thing. Adri, would you like to go first?
Adri: I would! As those who follow me on Twitter might know, I have recently had an addition to my family. I have adopted a dog. Her name is Zagreus, a.k.a Zag, the lady dogling. I had a gender-appropriate back-up name, but I’ve been talking to other friends about having a Hades-themed dog and decided that as dogs don’t actually have gender identity, why not name it after a Greek god?
That’s my good thing. We’ve been settling in. She’s found many comfortable places to go to sleep, because she’s part greyhound and that’s what they do. But yeah, my house is full of doggy goodness again, which is very, very exciting.
Diana: That is exciting. Dogs are great.
Renay: Now that I’m thinking about it really we should have had Adri go last because she probably has the best good thing.
Adri: Well, I can keep talking about her afterwards if you want. After every single drama thing we can bring up, I can be like, “Oh, hey, but remember I have this dog now?”
Renay: Dogs are the best. Okay, Diana, what’s your one good thing?
Diana: It will happen by the time this podcast gets posted, but my mum who’s currently in Ontario is getting her first AstraZeneca shot this week. Ontario is a massive shitshow right now in regards to the COVID outbreak because Doug Ford is fucking incompetent and never should have been Premier. I’ve been really worried about her because of that. I’m not as worried about my family in Nova Scotia, because that province is actually doing what it’s supposed to to keep folks safe.
I know she won’t be fully vaccinated for a while, but just knowing that she has some protection is just a huge relief for me.
Renay: My one good thing is that I splurged on some hangeul material to help me with the alphabet. I have been struggling with learning the Korean alphabet for several months. I started doing regular study in December of last year. I got through the consonants okay and then I hit the vowels and it’s like there’s a wall in front of me with the vowels.
They look so similar. It’s a little bit different than the consonants, which sometimes look similar depending on if they’re aspirated? Have more wind? But the vowels are different than that. It’s been really frustrating and for some reason my brain is just not taking to the vowels like I took to the consonants.
I ordered this book called Hangeul Master from TalktoMeInKorean.com. It’s a whole workbook. It has little audio clips. It has places for you to copy the vowels as you say them and I’m hoping, fingers crossed, that it helps me out a lot. It’s really made me happy to have extra support just to study, because my study so far has been mostly with free resources. It feels really nice to have structured learning, which apparently: I need.
It’s an adventure! It’s fine. I’m actually having fun, which is the point—have fun with it. That’s my one good thing.
Okay, space bees, please let us know what your one good thing is. I would like to hear your good things, because given the state of the world, hearing people’s good things makes me happy. Please indulge us and let us know what’s good that’s been happening to you.
Renay: Next up, we’re going to talk about the media that we’ve been consuming. Adri, would you like to go first?
Adri: My reading has been sort of valiantly battling on. Like many people I’m really not getting the amount of reading that I want to done at the moment.
I’m currently doing a mini project to read all of the Octavia Butler that I have not previously read, which at the start of the year was Fledgling and the Patternmaster quadrilogy and some of the short fiction.
I read Fledgling in January and I’ve just finished off Wild Seed, which is the chronological first in the Patternmaster sequence but it’s not the first book that was written. And I was specifically recommended by someone randomly on Twitter that like, “Oh, you should read them in the chronological order, cause otherwise this book is spoiled by what came after even though it was written as a prequel. So it was kind of written with the expectation that people would know what happened in future books.” And it kind of has that vibe about it—there’s a lot of really intriguing stuff.
The Patternmaster books are—it’s humans evolving beyond human capacity. This particular book is following two immortal beings and one of them can body-hop at the expense of killing people. He’s developing his preferred race of humans and breeding all these psychic tendencies into them. There’s a lot of thematic stuff that I think is gonna come out more in future books which I’m very eager to get to. I’m enjoying my experience. I’m reserving my judgement until I can see where the pattern is going in the Patternmaster sequence, if you will.
The other thing I’ve been doing—which is directly related to the Hugo ballot—is I’ve suddenly gotten really, really into Blaseball. For those who don’t know this is a sort of online baseball simulator that’s been going since last year. You have virtual baseball games but they’re all happening with weird procedurally generated characters and there’s also this big, weird horror, Welcome-to-Nightvale-esque stuff going on with hellmouths and alternate realities and peanut gods descending from the sky.
When I found out about this on Tuesday when it turned up on the Hugo ballot, I was like, “This seems very weird and I don’t understand it. I’m too old for this shit now and I really don’t understand how I’m gonna get into this for the purpose for the Best Video Game Hugo.” Then within 24 hours: I’m on the Discord; I know the strategy of my team; The Atlantis Georgias are now my life. Because obviously I went for the sea team that aren’t very good, but we’re trying, you guys.
I’ve got really invested in this weird baseball thing. And just for context as you can tell from my accent I’m English. We don’t really have baseball as a sport here. It’s not a thing. You play rounders at school but otherwise we don’t have it. When this first came onto the Hugo ballot I was talking to my co-editor Joe Sherry, and I in passing was like, “Yeah I visited my aunt and uncle in the US and they took me to see a baseball match and it was really confusing.” Joe was like, “Look, the first thing we have to establish is it’s not a baseball match, it’s a baseball game, and the fact that you just called it a baseball match is maybe an indicator of where you are starting with the concept of baseball.” Anyway, I now understand a lot about baseball and its relationship to peanut gods.
I think everyone should join Blaseball with me.
Renay: Okay, Diana, what two things have you been into recently?
Diana: First, I recently drove ten hours back from my grandparents to where I currently live, and on the way back, I listened to the final book in the Vorkosigan saga, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold. I really enjoyed it.
I’ve been reading this series on and off for almost five years? I finally finished it and I really loved how this book served as a cap, it feels like, on this current cycle in the saga, but also leaves it open so if she wanted to go to the next generation and look at what happens with them, it’s there.
For me at least there’s a really interesting discussion about grief, but also healing and moving on, and just re-considering your legacy and what you want to leave behind. One thing that I really enjoyed about this book is that there is no real big conflict. The biggest conflict in the story is Cordelia trying to move the capital of this colony, Sergyar, to a different city because where the capital city currently is is on a very active tectonic fault line and she’s like, “There’s a volcano and it’s gonna blow and it’s gonna destroy the town, and we can just move the capital.”
I love this series. I wish the physical books weren’t so ugly. If you want a good laugh I highly recommend looking at the covers for the Vorkosigan books, because they’re terrible.
Adri: It really is Baen at its best, isn’t it?
Diana: [laughs] I know! But I might honestly just buy them on ebook because the ebooks are not published by Baen and the covers for the ebooks are slightly better.
And then the other thing that I’ve been consuming lately is: I restarted Dragon Age Origins. I’m gonna blame KJ for this because I had not intended on starting any new games before the Mass Effect remaster came out. Then KJ’s like, “Oh I spun up a new warden. I’m a city elf!” and I’m like, “You know what, I miss that game. I haven’t romanced Alistair in a hot minute.” I spun up a new warden. I’m playing an elven mage. I just finished the Circle Tower. The Fade is still the fucking worst. The gameplay is very clunky, now, because it’s twelve years old but also I have a very—I do like this game a lot.
Renay: My media consumed: the first thing is a set of online concerts. It was called BangBangCon. The first instance of BangBangCon was last year, when BTS did like twenty four hours of past concert videos.
This year, this year they did it again. They showed the BTS Begins concert from 2015. They showed the 5th Muster in Busan. They also showed the concert from Sao Paulo in Brazil. I did not stay up for the Sao Paulo concert. I went to bed because it was six in the morning. All they do is they livestream these concerts over their Youtube channel and you get to experience the concert.
Because BTS is a band of the future, if you have ARMY bomb, which, if you don’t know what an ARMY bomb is, it’s like a little light stick, you can connect your it to Weverse, which is their app that you can interact with artists on. If you connect your Army bomb in Weverse and watch these concerts the ARMY bomb works like it would have at the concert. It’s just super cool and scifi. I love that! That you can connect to an app and have your light thing react to music from a concert that happened years ago.
I find the way that they end concerts to be very, very nice. Right before the actual last song, they get up and they do all these heartfelt comments to each other and the audience and it’s just very nice.
Switching gears entirely: I’m reading a book, which is very notable, for me, who has been struggling with reading for a while now. The book is The Sum Of Us by Heather McGhee. The Sum of Us is about how racism hurts both Black and Brown people, but also as the wealth inequality in America gets worse and worse, it also hurts white people. It goes over a lot of stuff, that I know about from my history degree, like redlining, the subprime mortgage crisis, and how that subprime mortgage crisis was tested on Black communities—Black and Brown communities first—and as wealth inequality continues to spiral out of control, white people are getting caught up in these predatory practices.
We can’t have nice things because we don’t want Black and Brown people to have nice things. The book shows us this in a very concrete way. Heather McGhee talks about public swimming pools. In the US, the public pool used to be a feature in American life and they tried to integrate them. Instead of integrating them, cities would turn them into private clubs, and in some cases, a lot of cases, they would drain them, fill them, and close them for everybody, including white people.
I don’t know how the book’s gonna end. I’m only half way through, but if you wanna learn about why the US is so fucked up, this is a good book to start with because she cites a lot of really good research, really good books. One of the books about the pool thing that she mentioned is called Contested Waters. Somebody wrote a whole book about it!
Wow! What a great book to end this segment on. Everybody who’s listening is like, “Renay, why didn’t you lead with the book and then BTS! That would have made more sense.” Yes, it would’ve. Why didn’t I? I don’t know. I don’t know why I made that choice.
Okay, space bees, please let us know what you’ve been reading or playing or watching. Even if it’s sad, I’m interested in recs! I’m interested in recs even if I’m not doing a lot of things. I still want your recs. I’m still on brand. Please send them.
Renay: Recently, the Hugo Award finalist list was released by Discon III. This year, there were twelve hundred valid nominating ballots. That’s a little lower than I would like, but it resulted in a pretty solid ballot. I’m actually pretty pleased. We’re here to talk about the inevitable discourse that rises from the release of the Hugo finalists, every year, without fail.
Diana: It’s inevitable. There’s gonna be discourse with the Hugo.
Adri: It has started quite—well, I mean not early, because it starts when the ballot comes out, but yeah. We’ve gone quite hard quite soon.
Diana: I feel like it might just be nearing maybe the end of the pandemic and everyone just has a lot of feelings and it just exploded. But it also could be that certain segments of the fandom are seeing their inevitable irrelevance and are lashing out because of it.
Adri: My first thing I wanted to say about the Hugos was that I love everybody in this bar! And I feel like I should also congratulate you, Renay, and Lady Business on your—is it your third nomination?
Renay: That is a good question. What is time? I think this is fourth.
Diana: Yeah, because you got nominated in 2016 and 2017 you won. And then you won in 2019.
Renay: So yeah, but also Adri: congratulations to you as well!
Adri: Thank you!
Renay: My ultimate plan has not come to fruition yet, but I will continue campaigning.
Diana: What is your ultimate plan?
Renay: My ultimate plan is to get Adri a Fan Writing nomination, so everybody knows how great she is. Listen. She’s doing great work.
Adri: No. Thank you. It’s an amazing category this year, for Fan Writer, so definitely I’d like to see that one day. I’ll just rest in the comfort of two nominations this year, which is kind of bizarre, but amazing.
Beyond my own personal ego, and wanting to celebrate it at every possible opportunity and being really excited for Lady Business, I’m super excited in Fancast, that we have not just Claire but also Rachel from Kalanadi on the ballot this year, representing for Booktube. They’re both such good channels, and also they do quite different things, or at least I look to them for different content when I’m looking at Booktube. Rachel does amazing in-depth reviews, particularly of sort of older works. Claire’s got Genrewise, and the new stuff and also like the fun D&D stuff last year.
That ballot’s really exciting. I’m really excited by the fan categories in general although as I think we’ll get into, it would be nice to have a few more nominations on those. I’m sort of pleasantly surprised that actually even though I felt like I didn’t do a lot of reading last year, I have read most of the novel, novella, and series categories. It feels like in eight months I might be able to maybe finish this. That is a good feeling.
One thing, and I should full disclosure— I am on the ballot with CoNZealand Fringe this year in Best Related Work so having hashtag opinions about Best Related Work feels like I’m getting very personal. This category has been the source of the discourse in many quarters and I think we’ll talk a little bit more about the particular essay and what bullshit the community has pulled in response to that very excellent essay by Natalie Luhrs.
Because we’ve got CoNZealand Fringe—we’ve also got FIYAHCON—I don’t know if you guys went to FIYAHCON but I had the best time. They put on such a good show—such a smooth convention. The experience had its ups and downs, but in terms of the panels and the names they brought in, and also the Ignyte Awards were just an absolute joy to watch. I’m super thrilled to be sharing a ballot with them.
I’m less thrilled by the commentary around, “Well, because now we have conventions on Best Related Work, and this isn’t what the category was made for! The non-fiction is being kept out of Best Related Work!” or “Non-fiction is being kept from well-deserved wins because things like Archive Of Our Own or Jeannette Ng are winning for things that are a record of what fandom finds important and what is—what we value in our fandom.” I don’t know if it’s because it feels more personal this year, but coming up against that, and especially coming up against it when it’s in relation to former finalists or it’s a counting out the really great other finalists that are in this category this year because, oh no, people are just gonna vote for the essay because it’s easy to read. It’s just such a bizarre way of looking at this category. Things deserve to be in here. It’s Best Related Work; it’s the catch-all category. I’m sorry that your favorites are not winning. There are six things on the ballot in every category every year so most of the time your favorite thing doesn’t win.
And the other thing which I wanted to mention, which I’m super excited about as a category, and super kinda intrigued by, as you probably got from my Blaseball shout-out earlier, is the Best Video Game category. Best Video Game has been put on the ballot as a special award this year. Each year the Worldcon can use their discretion to have a special category.
There has been a really excellent campaign that really deserves to have won its argument by now—that’s been spearheaded by Ira—to demonstrate why Best Video Game should be on the Hugo ballot on a regular basis. It’s great of DisCon that they’ve enabled this kind of trial to kind of get over some of the hurdles that people seem to have on this such as, “Oh no, we had a Best Video Game category this one time in 2005 and it didn’t work, and therefore how could it possibly work in the late 2010s/2021? What could possible have changed in fifteen years?!” I don’t know. Sometimes when you’re in a certain segment of fandom, maybe the answer is nothing, but for the rest of us things do in fact change over periods of decades.
It’s really exciting. I’ve obviously already wasted too much time on Blaseball. I am mega, mega excited about Hades and also about Spiritfarer. It’s a really nice mix of kind of bigger name stuff and indie games, so hopefully there’s kind of a range of accessibility and especially if the con’s doing the kind of livestreams as well, then even people who can’t directly purchase a second-hand playstation as I have, can still experience those via the streams and then pick up some of the smaller games.
Renay: Ira’s presentation for having a game award is not just for video games, it’s for all games. The video game award was a nice trial and I hope that we can use the data to push for a best game, but Ira’s proposal is about all games: board games, card games, and video games. I understand why DisCon did it this way, with video games, because people think games now, often you’re thinking of the big triple A titles, but the proposal, which I hope, eventually, gets approved, is for best game. So this category could become even more diverse and interesting.
Adri: It’s Best Interactive Experience, isn’t it? Best Game or Interactive Experience. It’s really interesting that Blaseball is on there. That in particular is a game where the game element of that is very, very light touch and limited. It’s actually what a particular fandom has done around that that creates what is Hugo-worthy. Someone has coded something—they have storylines that are clearly being led from the game company, so they’ve done more than just set up a computer to have some randomly generated names and let it fly—but it is an interaction between a developer and a fandom that is constantly ongoing.
Obviously, as I’ve said, I’ve only been in the fandom for four days, but so far it’s been a really, really nice experience. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I joined the Discord, and what I got was people who were super polite, super willing to explain random lore things. So all of the characters, it’s about what people kind of headcanon them as? And there’s this kind of accepted interpretations for certain characters, and then some of them are more nebulous.
The best pitcher on my team the Atlantis Georgias is a goldish encased in a block of ice with arms and legs. That is the accepted Rigby Friedrich. That’s their accepted interpretation. But somebody else could be like, “Actually no, I don’t think it’s a goldfish! I think it’s a clownfish encased in ice.” There’s a lot of creativity in the community. Obviously these fandoms have facets, and they can turn, but it’s done in a way that’s very respectful and collaborative and diverse, and interested in bringing diversity in a constructive and well-managed way.
Blaseball. Plug number two.
Diana: One thing that I really like about the video game category was—and Renay kind of touched on it a little—is that it is a mix of big triple A titles and these indie games. It’s especially like Blaseball. I remember hearing about it when the pandemic—I feel like the pandemic really made that popular? And then you have titles like Hades, and you have Spiritfarer, so I really like that these smaller indie titles are getting their time to shine with this award.
Adri: Blaseball kind of passed me by in the initial pandemic, but Hades and Spiritfarer, for different reasons, felt like 2020 was inexplicably quite a good year for them to release in terms of the popularity they got. And they’re both amazing games.
Renay: And the pandemic did not hurt Nintendo with Animal Crossing New Horizons. I literally got Animal Crossing New Horizons, but I haven’t played a proper Animal Crossing game since the GameCube. I was just so thrilled to see this on the ballot, even though, yes, it is a game from like a big company. Nintendo is not small; they do not need help. Animal Crossing like saved lives, because you could go hang out with friends. I spent how much time watering Anna’s flowers and it made me so happy?
I know that the big complaint about the game category is that, “Oh how can you address the finalist if you don’t have these gaming consoles?” That really drives home the fact of how insular some of the Worldcon community can be, because literally you can go to Twitch and type in the game that you want, and there are people playing that game on Twitch. There are people doing Let’s Plays on Youtube. I know the concom plans to put stuff on their Youtube channel so people can find it.
Allow me to make a public service announcement: you do not need to buy a gaming console to experience some of these games. There are people on Twitch dot tv and Youtube dot com playing them for you, and talking about them, and you can go watch them. It’s a whole genre of things.
Adri: The focus on accessibility there—so as long as you have an internet connection, you can watch Youtube. These things exist for free and when you compare that to: we have the Hugo packet for some of the works that end up on the literature ballot and there’s a push towards more free to read short fiction, although that tends to annoy the same people who also don’t want to see a video game category, because how could they possibly play all those video games. Yeah, the idea that accessibility is a unique problem for video games? It’s not representative of the ways which you can engage in gaming and in understanding a game.
Renay: The other part of the ballot that’s newer is the Lodestar Award. Not a Hugo! Lodestar’s really new. Our great pal Anna was a huge champion for the Lodestar. Worked very, very hard to make it a reality and now it’s reality and I’m super happy that we have it. Because it’s so new and a lot of the adult science fiction and fantasy community can be very condescending towards YA fiction as a marketing category, we’re gonna run into some of the same problems with this award. Awards like this when they’re brand new, they have to learn from the people who build them from the ground up, what they’re going to be.
We’re in that space with the Lodestar because it’s so young. The Lodestar ballot was super fascinating to me, because it had a real mix of things that I considered YA, and then one thing I thought was middle grade but I guess it’s not, and then there’s adult stuff that is not YA but maybe markets well to YA readers? That’s part and parcel of the fact that the category is very young, though readers for the award are often not young adults. We haven’t done a ton of outreach that I’ve seen to YA communities.
Diana: Renay is being much being much nicer than I am, cause this is kind of leading into my—and I feel bad because Adri was just so positive about so many things and my list is like, “Well, let’s get into it.” The Lodestar is a big thing, and so Renay talked a little bit just like it’s a newer category, there’s kind of some ambiguity, but: here is my problem.
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik should not be on this list. Part of my frustration is that yes, there are adult books that have appeal to YA, but there is an award for that. It’s called the Alex Award. It is distributed by YALSA, which is the Young Adult Library Services Association which is part of the ALA, but this award is specifically designed to award adult books that have crossover potential. Looking at the long list for the 2020 awards, A Deadly Education was a nominee. It didn’t win, but it was a nominee. It was listed there, and Naomi Novik should also know about the Alex Awards because Spinning Silver got one.
For me, it’s incredibly frustrating, because there is so much amazing YA SFF. This is gonna be really harsh, I know, but I have a lot of feelings about it and none of them are positive. It’s a white woman taking up space where she doesn’t belong.
I don’t know why Naomi Novik accepted this nomination. Nominees do have the option to refuse a nomination for whatever reason. Again, it is just so frustrating to me. There’s that aspect of the science fiction community and the administrators not doing their due diligence and I think this was something that came up during the award building. There’s no real definition for what constitutes YA so there is this ambiguity. But on the other hand I do think there is a bit of responsibility on the author themself to acknowledge that they’re taking up space where they don’t belong. It feels like it’s there because it’s Naomi Novik, and the science fiction community loves Naomi Novik so they’re gonna get her on the ballot no matter what. That is my Lodestar rant.
Adri: There are other categories, not just this year, where there’s been conversation about when does an individual who is nominated for this award step back and say, “We’re not gonna do this this year.” When is that a decision that’s entirely on them? Well, it’s always a decision that’s entirely theirs, but when is there a bit more of a moral, or an ethical, or a general reason for them to do that?
I’ve had multiple conversations with people where I’m the one going, “Oh, well you know what if the voters voted for it! It’s not great. I don’t personally love that this work is on there, when maybe it has won several times and other things could have won in a certain category. That’s a decision they can make and I respect it.”
For this, because YA isn’t something that the entire Hugo community are entirely on board with. It is something that does get looked down on. There’s a lot of discourse that repeats around the fact that, particularly women and particularly women of color authors, writing in certain genres, are constantly pushing back against the notion that their work is YA and having it miscategorized, and having to draw that line of like, “No, it’s not. It doesn’t insult me that you’re calling my work YA, but it just isn’t, and it isn’t just because of my identity as an author.”
There’s so much commentary on what gets to be an adult work, and how respect works in that entire context that can be a podcast in itself. Naomi Novik should also know about all of that and taking a nomination because the voters considered you YA when you know full well that your work is not actually YA? Does that not feed into some of the most negative side of that discourse that, “Oh okay, because it’s a woman who’s written about a magic school it must be a YA.” But you wouldn’t say that about Patrick Rothfuss or whatever.
I read and reviewed A Deadly Education. It is in the category of books that I would probably call “quite tiring”. Not personally going to pick up the sequel, which is not the same as saying it was bad, but there was discourse all of its own for this book as well, which is neither here nor there.
Renay: I’ve read nothing in this category and therefore have no real opinions. My criticism around the Lodestar is mostly that I’m not sure what outreach we’re doing to YA communities. I don’t know why supporting memberships continue to be so freaking expensive. For example, ChiCon next year, the Chicago Worldcon, has set their supporting memberships at fifty dollars. Why is it so high? Set it low and sell more memberships!
Diana: I feel—and I don’t know when this is gonna happen just because of the way the Hugo Business Meetings are structured and how entrenched the old guard is—but there does need to be a conversation. I feel there’s kind of been a discussion about this, in conjunction with FIYAHCON, where the Hugos is at a crossroad and it can either reform and do things like more outreach to the young adult community, and start pulling them into the SFF community, and restructuring the supporting membership, or it’s gonna be more irrelevant and then it actually will be the community’s equivalent to the Golden Globes.
Renay: [laughs] Ouch!
Diana: Which is not a compliment! The Golden Globes are trash.
I will say for the novellas—for my positive thing. I’m really happy with the finalists, although it is a little sad that it is very much the Tor dot com category, because there are some other publishers that are doing novellas, but I feel like Tor has managed to position itself as the leader in this category. I hope other publishers start doing more novellas? Or like, more of the smaller publishers that are doing novellas like Tachyon get more of a push just because there’s a lot of good things out there, and it is a little sad to me that this entire category this year is all Tor.
Renay: Hello, novella publishers and authors, and people who are fans of novellas from publishers other than Tor dot com. There’s a whole spreadsheet and you can put your novellas in it. It’s linked in the show notes.
Diana: The last thing that I want to talk about and Adri kind of alluded to this when she was talking about the Best Related Works: the discourse around Natalie Luhrs’ essay.
Adri: “George R. R. Martin Can Fuck Off Into The Sun.”
Diana: For folks who are unaware, last year’s Hugo ceremony was an utter disaster, in large part because George R. R. Martin was mad about the Astounding Award being the Astounding Award, and so decided to spend three and a half hours eulogizing dead fascists, disrespecting nominees, giving Bob Silverberg a platform to be gross, making transphobic jokes, and essentially turning the ceremony all about him. I drank a lot of hard alcohol that day, because that was the only way I could get through the ceremony.
Natalie Luhrs really eloquently captured a lot of what folks were feeling about that particular Hugo ceremony. I will admit, I nominated that for Best Related Work. I thought that it was a very good commentary on the fandom at the time.
Unfortunately, a certain gossip rag that likes to style itself as a news source decided to take issue with this essay, and whose editor decided to file a complaint with DisCon saying that this essay being on the Hugo ballot violated its code of conduct. And so it’s essentially an old white man trying to bully a work that has been nominated, that has been said to have value by the community, off the ballot and weaponize the code of conduct.
And then you have people who are like both-siding this when there isn’t really a both sides! This is a work that is on the ballot, whether they like it or not. It accurately talks about issues in our community, and if you’re mad at it, it’s not the children who are wrong, it’s you!
Adri: I accept that many people have many fond memories of George R.R. Martin, but I don’t see how it’s in question that particularly over the last two years—so the ceremony last year also the Hugo Losers Party in Dublin in 2019. I know this is all a bit inside baseball, but he effectively shut half of the Hugo losers out from their own party, which for some reason he gets to run every year and didn’t think he needed to book a big enough venue for, and then was very defensive about, “Well I can’t possibly keep up with all these people who are getting fan category nominations now that there’s eighteen per magazine!” and “Do they really expect me to kick my friends out so Hugo losers can come into the Hugo Losers Party?” That is the legacy that George R. R. Martin is setting himself up for with current fans, and not just current fans but current people who are in fact on the Hugo ballot, like it or not, they are being recognized even though they’re not your friends from thirty to forty years ago.
It must be wonderful to then have so many people who are so extraordinarily concerned about your feelings about the fact that you’re ruining your own legacy and people are calling you out for it that they will just go to bat for you at the drop of a hat. It’s extraordinary bad faith and disingenuous what’s happening. The fact that it’s being treated as, “Oh, well, everybody should just have known that this was a code of conduct violation and to not treat it like this and not treating Natalie like this would be us showing terrible hypocrisy,” when you are just bullying someone who is a finalist over this particular thing! Someone with a lot less power than George, who has an eight figure HBO deal in the pipeline. It’s disgusting. It is entirely in keeping with the particular magazine that it’s coming from. Yeah.
Renay: I was explaining this whole thing to Zach. We were musing over the code of conduct thing. I have written some codes of conduct. I’ve had to enforce some codes of conduct. He made the point which I thought was fascinating: he said that endeavoring to boot Natalie off wasn’t the correct response if it was a CoC violation. The correct response if it was a CoC violation would be to strip the voting rights from the people who nominated it, because they are the ones violating the code of conduct. To fire the Hugo administrators who passed it along, because they’re the ones violating the code of conduct.
Natalie didn’t break the code of conduct at all. She was writing commentary outside the convention, about something that happened at the convention. She wasn’t in the metaphorical con space. She accepted the nomination, because the community awarded her that honor. She’s not at fault, the people “at fault,”—in quotes here—are the people who put it on their ballot and the Hugo administrators who forwarded it on as a finalist. They would be the ones that would be in trouble here if it was actually a code of conduct violation. “Okay, this needs to be off the ballot!” Okay, sure, then if it needs to be off the ballot then we need to strip all the voting rights from the people who put it on there and get rid of the Hugo committee. That’s the only logical end point that I see from this debate.
Adri: But then that would mean holding people who are your buddies to account within the administration. Why would you do that when you can just go after an individual woman?
Renay: We have a lot of problems talking about power imbalances, because obviously the SFF community itself is a complete morass of power imbalances. I have more power than Rando Fan Number 1, because I have Hugo nominations. I have to keep that in mind when I’m talking. An author who has a publishing deal and an agent and has several books published, they have more power than me as a rando fan writer who has a few Hugo nominations, because you have to consider the context that you’re in when you’re making accusations or claims of wrongdoing. You have to think about your power in the situation and that takes some nuance.
Adri: Yeah, I will also note that Annalee Flowerhorn, who wrote in the public domain the element of a standard code of conduct that deals with reverse -isms or someone telling someone else to please go away is a code of conduct violation because it hurts that person’s feelings. They literally did a Twitter thread when they went, “Okay, this is in the code of conduct for this reason, so no actually telling someone to fuck off into the sun can be a code of conduct violation in certain contexts. It doesn’t seem to be one here, so I can clear that up for you as the person who wrote this text of this code of conduct that this is not what it’s there for.” It’s not about enforcing the code of conduct, is it?
Diana: It also sucks because it feels like it is taking away from some of the really fantastic work that’s in the Best Related Works category. It’s an incredibly strong category this year, you have things like FIYAHCON; you have things like CoNZealand Fringe; you have the Octavia Butler book; you have BroWolf. It’s gonna be difficult to figure out how to rank things! For me that’s the biggest problem with the Hugos: how do I rank things? A lot of these categories have so many strong nominees.
Adri: Yeah, I also think it’s an amazing category, but I am a little bit biased. No, I’m really proud to be sharing the category with FIYAHCON and with Natalie specifically. Amazing books as well.
Renay: Some of the things that end up on Best Related Work would often not get a lot of attention otherwise. The idea that being a finalist means you’re overlooked is weird to me.
I would have never heard of the book by Lynell George, which is A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler. I would never have heard about that book without this ballot! That’s what these ballots are for! They’re historical documents about what we value at a point in time. I don’t know why we seem to want to divorce finalist lists from their social and political context, but award ballots are historical documents.
I don’t think we’re gonna see a sudden wave of cons being nominated for this award. We’re in a particular moment, in a horrible global pandemic that we’re all suffering through together. Cons have had to shift online and we’re finding value in connecting. It’s like the most science fictional idea you could have: connecting over vast distances using electricity.
I don’t think we’re gonna see a wave of cons being nominated. I think we’re in a very specific moment that makes it valuable to honor these things that are doing good work. There are two things here: they did good work in a really awful, hard, context. They’re just different and they have value in their own context.
Being a Hugo voter means holding multiple ideas in your head at one time in order to make a decision about where things fall on your ballot. It shouldn’t have to be this stressful; if it’s stressing you out, maybe it’s time to take a step back.
Diana: That is really well said, Renay. Were there other specific things you wanted to talk about?
Renay: Oh, you know, I had some thoughts.
This is connected to my supporting membership cost thing. I was having a conversation with Joe Sherry and The G on Twitter, and Joe happened to share a bunch of numbers for nominations in the fan categories. Some of the numbers in the fan categories have fallen, in some cases. More and more I see the fan categories as a great place to get started. To find a voice, to find your people. I don’t think it’s accidental that John Scalzi when he was nominated for it in the Best Fan Writer category that he had this sort of rise in Hugo voting fandom, because he came in the Best Fan Writing category; he was a Hugo Voter; he saw places that could be improved. He was the one who started the Hugo award packet with the material inside of it for everybody to read—he was one of the leaders on that initiative.
The fan categories get kind of buried, and I think it’s unfortunate because I think that the way that they’re written, they allow for a lot of flexibility. Obviously, a few years ago the original quote-unquote fanzines—pdfs and the paper fanzines—and the blogs had a dust-up about blogs being eligible. That was a really fun time. We sort of saw it between podcast and Booktube, as if the Fancast was only ever for podcasts, which is false.
Because the fan categories are so versatile, they’re written in such a way to allow you to interpret what they mean, and find a way to include more things. The fan categories need to have more participation in them, but I don’t know how to accomplish it and I get really frustrated about it.
Diana: For me part of it ties back to the conversation we were having about the price of supporting members. For things like Booktube, for things like podcasts? There’s so much stuff out there.
It ties them both to the conversation about the supporting membership and reaching out because for me my perennial nomination which never gets on the Fancast list is Jay and Miles Xplain the X-Men. I think it slots perfectly into the Hugos; it is a long-running podcast talking about explaining the X-Men; and Jay and Miles are a fantastic duo of hosts. They do have ties to the larger SF community, but I think because of the way that the Hugos have kind of siloed themselves off, that there’s just not that engagement between the people who listen to Jay and Miles Xplain the X-Men or the people who listen to Desi Geek Girls with Preeti Chhibber and Swapna Krishna that there could be this explosion of interest in nomination but the barriers to entry right now are too high for the casual fan—or for folks who would, I guess, be more on the casual spectrum of the Hugo fandom.
Renay: The numbers this year for Fanzine had 271 votes; Fancast had 376 votes; Fan Writer had 365 votes, and Fan Artist had 221 votes. This is just the nomination period. And this is why, for example, a few years ago a bunch of fascists were able to logroll the Hugo Awards, because before we had protections for slates, built into our nomination system, it was really easy. Because voting in the nomination period seems like a very specific universe of people versus people who vote in the awards once the finalists are out, which can overlap with the universe of nominating voters, but is not the same. They’re different universes of voters. And I wanna find a way to move people who are in the “I will vote in the finalists” group to the “I will vote for nominees” group. I’ve tried that with my Hugo sheet and I feel like I’m having some success, but I want more success now!
Diana: I think there needs to be like a serious discussion at the Business Meeting about lowering supporting costs, because here’s the thing, too: I don’t understand why it’s so high. It feels like fifty dollars is an arbitrary number to spend. Someone like me who has a good job can afford it, but it’s a barrier to entry to folks who might be interested in getting involved but are like, “I can’t afford it. They obviously don’t want me here.”
Adri: Yeah, like fifty dollars is not nothing at almost any level of income. You are choosing to spend a pretty significant portion of your entertainment budget or whatever, say, “Okay yes, this award”—because really what are you getting the supporting membership for if you’re not voting in the awards—“This is worth this much to me to get engaged with.” Then you get into sort of, “Okay well yes but you get the packet!”
Technically the value of works in the packet is more than fifty dollars, but if you’re already kind of engaged in doing the nominations then you’ve quite possibly read a lot of those and owned them or have taken them out of the library, anyway. Having it in a horribly formatted PDF isn’t actually that valuable to you.
I suspect that to a sizeable portion of the community, that is working as intended, that it is supposed to be: you are buying into some grand nebulous idea of Worldcon the institution or the as Hugos the institution—that should be an outlay of money. We should keep the filthy casuals out.
I think it’s a whole different conversation to have for a virtual DisCon membership—what’s going to be involved in the $75 there? Which is pretty significantly over any of the other virtual conventions I’ve seen. CoNZealand kept its prices basically at the same as an in-person con. I think one of their stated purposes of doing that in their closing meeting was that, “Well, we actually don’t want it to be generally accessible. We want it to be that people who are bought into Worldcon go to this.” I think it’s a huge shame. I’m obviously particularly invested in the fanzine category.
I see so many blogs and newsletters and things that are doing really, really great work in this category on the whole, the nominees are far too white, but that’s the case in most of the fan categories, unfortunately. I feel like when we have these conversations around this voting, especially for Fanzine, to a lesser extent for Fancast, we end up having a conversation about, “Oh, well, you know, is this media still relevant?”
If you don’t understand the world of book blogging in 2021, and you’re wondering if that exists, then friends I have some news for you. This whole scene is really alive and well, it’s just that you’re shutting it potentially out of whatever reading you’re doing, or whatever you’re engaging with that you’re considering for Hugo consideration.
Any conversation around Worldcon that is about Fanzines always ends up being like, “Well, should they be online? Can a fanzine be online now? What’s the internet?” I made the terrible mistake of going to the fanzine panel in Dublin in 2019, and um…
Renay: It’s just so strange to me. You’re in a science fiction space and you’re asking if this digital thing—being created using computer science—is eligible.
Adri: Renay, we don’t have issue numbers, so can it really be a Fanzine, truly, if it doesn’t have an issue number? Are questions that some people spend a lot more time thinking about than they rightly should.
Renay: I’m open to ideas of how to get more people involved.
Okay. I’m done being like, “More people get involved, do it!” We’re gonna close the chapter on that, because I will go on for it for three hours.
The Best Series category, this is the first year where I actively felt like, “Oh hey, I can read and vote in that category.” It’s a super strong category this year. I admit that some of my fondness for it is that there are a bunch of women, and then John Scalzi. If you’ve followed me for any time at Lady Business, you’d know I used to do these rec lists. Women, non-binary people, and John Scalzi. Hilariously, I’ve only read two books in the Interdependency. I’ve not read the last book. I’ve read all the Murderbot Diaries. I think I’m two books behind on October Daye, and the other series are new to me, but I feel very happy about the books I get to read for this category!
I know that when Best Series was started, it was meant to reward these extremely long running series, like seven, nine, eleven books. A good example is October Daye. This award was intended to award these long-running, intensely nuanced, and complicated series. On the flip side, you have a flip side you have a series like The Dresden Files, which is not being honored. Oon the one hand, you can look at how the voters are changing. Voters are getting more diverse and so as the Hugo voters get diverse, some of the series that are long-running, like The Dresden Files for example, are getting shoved out of the category, because they’re misogynistic!
Diana: As someone who has read The Dresden Files: they’re incredibly misogynistic and I think one of the other things is that with the October Daye books in particular, you can watch Seanan McGuire grow as an author. There’s value in going back and seeing what’s been seeded, and trying to identify that, whereas with The Dresden Files you don’t get that. Also, Jim Butcher has not grown as an author. His books have the exact same feeling no matter what; there’s nothing new.
He doesn’t know how to write female characters or people of color. As someone who has The Dresden Files books—I haven’t read the last two books because I heard something happened to a character I liked, I’m just like, “Nope, I think I’m done with this series now, I’m not even gonna bother checking it out from the library” I don’t get the sense that Jim Butcher respects his female characters at all, and it really shows up in how he writes them.
The one thing I will say is a surprise for me given how big of an author he is, is I was a little surprised that Brandon Sanderson’s big-ass book series was not nominated for Best Series, because that —
Adri: The Stormlight Archives.
Diana: Thank you. I personally don’t read Sanderson, but I know that is a big series and I have friends who aren’t in the Hugo fandom who like Sanderson a lot. That was a surprise that that wasn’t nominated, but for the most part I really like this list. It’s another really strong slate of nominees.
Adri: There was some grumbling amongst the Sanderscene, if you will, the Sanderfans, about the lack of Stormlight Archives on here. It was nominated two years ago, I think. It’s since had one more novel, and these are absolute doorstoppers of novels for anyone who’s not familiar with him, and then a novella. It qualifies on word count, but it’s only really had one really main release which is one reason I can think why it might not be there.
It’s interesting to think about what the category was intended to do and the fact that it’s intended to be sort of recognizing series as work that is worth honoring even when individual novels might not have made the Best Novel lists or where you know, the series as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
On this list, there are three series, so The Independency book one was up for Best Novel. Lady Astronaut and the Murderbot Diaries are both former winners, and also both represented in Best Novel this year, so that’s three where there is some overlap with Best Novel. Then the other three? The Daevabad trilogy is really really big and it hasn’t had a Best Novel nomination, and it’s really great to see it here. I’ve actually only read the first one. That will change this year.
And likewise for The Poppy War. Obviously Kuang was a winner of the Astounding Award last year, but The Poppy War and its sequels haven’t made the Best Novel ballot. It’s a really good, well-respected, really impressive trilogy of novels. It’s also extremely hard to read. Then obviously October Daye has been an on-off appearance in this category.
It is fifty percent working as intended and two of those three things are trilogy, so I don’t think it detracts from the intention of the category that it is looking at shorter and more manageable and also, thank goodness, not horrendously misogynistic series.
Selfishly, and I’m going about this completely the wrong way, I would quite like to see Foreigner by CJ Cherryh on this ballot because I want an excuse to read it, and otherwise don’t see how I’ll read twenty books, but I appreciate that would be a nightmare scenario for many people, so maybe I’ll just read the books myself without having to see them on the ballot first.
Renay: Also I get really confused about the eligibility thing, because it’s a lot of numbers and I’m just like, “My head hurts, and I don’t understand.” The only thing I put in this category this year was The Murderbot Diaries and October Daye.
Diana: I put The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. One because I’m petty enough to put a completed YA series in Best Series and two, it was a very good series finale, in my opinion.
Renay: Now I wish I has put that in the Best Series, because absolutely.
Diana: I will say, I’m gonna be campaigning very hard for next year’s ballot, for Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Complex series. I absolutely adore it. I had nominated it for this year and it will be eligible because we’re getting a new book this summer. For those who are complaining about how no long-running series get on the ballot, this will be book five, so a longer-running series. It is more urban fantasy and non-epic fantasy, if that’s what folks are complaining about, so I think it ticks off a lot of those boxes without being gross and misogynistic.
Renay: Okay. On this ballot, what is something that is your favorite thing on the ballot, that does not involve you and you did not nominate.
Diana: I would say, one thing I’m looking forward to, is on the Astounding, both Simon Jimenez and A.K. Larkwood. I’m excited to read those for different reasons. Larkwood because so many folks in our circle of friends have spoken about The Unspoken Name and how much the love the Unspoken Name. Then for Jimenez, this is a work that I have seen in the context of, “Here are books by actual Latinx writers that you should be reading instead of American Dirt,” but I haven’t really seen it in the SFF speculative context, so I’m really excited to see what that book’s about.
Adri: Yeah, so for me, I did not watch any films at all last year, and very few TV shows, either. It’s actually the entire Best Dramatic Presentation ballot, not least because actually this year I will have time, cause there’s eight months to actually watch some films. So, yeah, super, super intrigued by Birds of Prey, even though Batman stuff is not usually my jam.
Diana: It’s so much fun.
Adri: I’m excited for that. I’m excited for The Old Guard, because I know a couple of our friends are sort of in the fandom for that. It’s always really interesting to see something and be like, “What’s going on here?” And then also my romcom summer-y soul is very excited about Palm Springs, so yeah I’m very excited for that. And then also for Simon Jimenez as well. I really need to read The Vanished Birds.
Renay: I didn’t predict it, but I figured it would be nominated and that is The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin, and I was like, “I’ll have an excuse, maybe I can trick my brain because I need to read it for voting and I can read it finally!” I pre-ordered The City We Became. I got it two days after it came out from my indie that I order from now, after my bookstore was destroyed by a tornado! Thanks, weather! I stare at it every day on my shelf, and I was very excited to see it here because I am convinced I can trick my brain into reading it. This was the first year when I nominated for the Hugos, a lot of things were blank, and I was really trusting fandom to come through for me, so thanks fandom!
Do we have any final thoughts about the 2021 Hugo ballot?
Diana: I would say overall I really like the works that are nominated. I do wish there was more diversity in some of the fan categories. I am really looking forward to reading a lot of the works that I haven’t read before. And congratulations to the two of you for being nominated!
Adri: It has its ups and downs. It is a representative of a wide section of fandom, not my own exact personal opinion, so I don’t love everything equally but that’s okay, that’s all part of the awards! Shout out to the Hugo spreadsheet, especially for next year, because I think there are a lot of really good people in the fan categories, including the nominees this year, but also in terms of people who are maybe being overlooked for future years that would make that a more representative segment of people doing great work in this space.
Renay: The Hugo sheet for next year, which is for things that are being released in 2021, is open and available. People have been adding stuff. Not as fast as I would like, but I’m trying to be patient.
Adri: It is on my list.
Renay: Adri doesn’t get to add anything for herself because I do that for her. [laughs]
Adri: It’s okay. I have a few other people who I rate almost as highly as I rate myself.
Renay: The categories that I really want people to focus on? Obviously the fan categories, but especially the fan artists, who are doing really cute science fiction and fantasy art that are just being overlooked. I want us to get creative about when we’re thinking about people who post art we like, where are they posting it and can we put the link in the spreadsheet so we can show people the breadth of science fiction and fantasy work that is out there.
The Hugo sheet will be linked in the show notes. I highly recommend that everyone go and bookmark it even if you’re not gonna get a supporting membership to nominate or vote in the Hugos. I still want your recommendations. When more people show the art and the media that is out there, the better our award gets, even if you don’t plan to contribute, because the voters will see it in the spreadsheet and they’ll check it out, and you will introduce people to things that you love even if you’re not a participant in the award.
The only criteria is that it fits in the category, and the criteria are defined in the spreadsheet. And if you’re not sure, you can add it anyway. The admin will come and fix it if it’s not eligible.
Space bees, if you have Hugo opinions or thoughts that you would like to share with us, if you would like to tell us that we’re wrong, so wrong, you can feel free to email us, that’s cool too. We are interested in hearing your thoughts! We are Hugo nerds.
Renay: Space bees, thank you very much for listening to our show. Adri, where can people find you online?
Adri: I am a co-editor at the fanzine Nerds of a Feather Flock Together, which is www.nerds-feather.com. You can also find me having opinions of various qualities at @AdriJjy on Twitter.
Renay: And Diana, where can people find you?
Diana: You can find me mostly on twitter at @BookishDi, I also occasionally talk about books that I’m reading on Youtube; it’s also BookishDi. Just be warned if you try and like, fight me about The Dresden Files I will fight back, because I have some very strong opinions about those books.
Renay: Everybody be warned: do not pick a fight with Diana about The Dresden Files.
This episode was made possible by Fangirl Happy Hour’s space bees in the Patreon hive. Thank you all of you for continuing to stick with us during this extremely, extremely strange time. Our production is by me. Hello. Our art is by Ira and our music is by Chuki Beats and BoxCat Games. Our transcripts are by Susan, who is always ahead on the transcripts! It’s still me that’s behind, but we’re trying to get better at it this year. 2021 is the year. You can find and read all Susan’s transcripts at fangirlhappyhour.com. Thanks for listening to our show space bees, see you next time, and remember to wash your hands, wear a mask, and take care of each other.
Renay: Why do I have so many slacks is the question. How did this happen? I’m in like twelve now.
Diana: Oh, Renay, that is too many! Put some back!
Diana: Was that a cat?
Renay: That was a cat. Loki. No. Listen. I don’t have—
Renay: Loki, why? You were being so good. You weren’t even in here, that’s how good you were being. You weren’t in here.
Renay: I have learned my lesson after The Dinosaur Lords.
Diana: Oh god.
Adri: The Dinosaur Lords?
Diana: It was really gross, there was like loving descriptions of breasts.
Renay: Don’t do it, Adri! Don’t look it up!
Adri: I am looking at the cover, but I think I shall let this one pass me by. Yeah. 3.0 rating on GoodReads.
Renay: Listen, I was so excited about this series. I was so excited, but maybe if it had been not written by a dude it would have good but unfortunately it was written by a dude.
Renay: The whale is a representation of the love BTS and ARMY have for each other, so restock the plush whale! Restock it! What are you doing!?
Renay: Everybody have one good thing? Do I have one good thing?
Diana: I have a good thing.
Adri: I do.
Renay: I think Adri has the best thing.