Science Fiction and the Future

Now that the 2015 Hugo Awards have been awarded, it’s time for some reflections on the brouhaha, and what the voting numbers suggest.

Some Background

Hugo 2015I’m not going to recount the last six months’ worth of scheming, sniping, kvetching, and manoeuvering in the world of science fiction fandom.  So many prominent authors, fan contributors, organizers, and publishing professionals have chimed in—a simple search will generate massive hit returns; dozens, perhaps hundreds, of statements, tweets, articles, blog entries and comments were exchanged, leaving their marks. Highlights:

  • Miles Schneiderman’s recent overview on Yes! Magazine is as good a place as any to learn the core elements.
  • To understand the resulting slate of nominees, see Mike Glyer’s post on File 770.
  • Here is the official ballot after a few works were found ineligible and a couple of authors withdrew their works.
  • A quick overview and a longer explanation of how the voting works on the official Hugo Awards site.
  • The 2015 winners, as announced at last night’s ceremony.
  • The detailed voting results for 2015, as posted last night after the award ceremony.
  • A post-mortem by Amy Wallace on Wired Magazine.

The Awards Ceremony

I watched the award show live-streaming and was surprised that the high quality of the streamcast: hardly any technical glitches, except a couple of bandwidth hiccups at my end. This gave me a chance to appreciate the sterling job done by everyone at Sasquan and Worldcon. You can read Mike Glyer’s tally of the high points of the ceremony on File770.com.

I loved the hosts David Gerrold and Tananarive Due as well as the guests and presenters Connie Willis, Robert Silverberg, Linda Deneroff, Nina Horvath, Jim Wright, and a Dalek whose designation I sadly missed when it was given.  I loved the acceptance speeches, particularly those by Wesley Chu, Laura Mixon, Elizabeth Leggett, Julie Dillon; the crews of Galactic Suburbia podcast, Journey Planet, and Lightspeed Magazine; Ken Liu on behalf of Cixin Liu; and Pat Cadigan on behalf of Thomas Heuvelt.

I was personally delighted at the accolades, shout-outs, and awards for some of my favourites and even a few friends. I was moved by the tribute to those lost since last Worldcon, and I loved the genuine emotion, wit, respect, and camaraderie displayed.  This ceremony was a whole lot more fun to watch than the typical Hollywood-produced award shows: professional, yet human.

Aftermath

Let’s not play coy: yes, the voting was heavily politicized this year. The Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies’ slates were completely snubbed by fans. In fact, review of the statistics released after the show reveals that it was not even close. In just about every category except the cross-media awards (dramatic presentations, etc.), “No Award” ranked higher than any candidates from the SP/RP slates, even the poor nominees who had done nothing to associate themselves with that faction.  Of course politics were involved. Politics were precisely what the Puppies brought to the party by stacking slates of candidates.

There is a lot of discussion right now of what this all means for the future of the awards: more slate voting? New voting rules? New award categories? And so forth. But I’m much more interested in the wider picture of geekdom and even society at large that is emerging. Here are the conclusions I draw from the 2015 Hugo Awards.

1. The Geek Mind is Opening. I’ve been closely following several intersecting fandoms and geek communities over the last 35 years: science fiction and fantasy but also comic books, media, and tabletop games; freethought, atheism, and humanism; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.  Not coincidentally, this also led to renewed interest on my part for feminism, intersectional activism, and social justice. Yup.

I’ve touched before on the changes I’m seeing; resistance to diversity (shouting down, gaslighting, ghosting, stalking, doxxing, SWATting, and so on) is becoming more vocal and aggressive as it’s becoming more isolated.  As many said yesterday, science fiction has proven that it looks towards the future.  This means that the ride ahead will continue being bumpy, but its eventual outcome is in clear sight.

2. Allies Matter. We would not have seen the numbers we saw last night, we wouldn’t get the push-back against Gamer Gate, if not for male allies, white allies, straight allies, cis allies, currently non-disabled allies, and just plain I’ll-stand-with-you-for-fairness allies.  Yes, everyone fighting against discrimination, isms, exclusion and various barriers knows that allies are precious and to be valued.

So if you count your self as an ally but every once in a while feel a knee-jerk reaction need to say things like “Not all men,” “Not all white people,”, “All lives matter,” be reassured: you don’t need to. Your help is vital and effective; we know and appreciate it. If you feel you need to distance yourself from something ugly, do it through your acts, not by whinging. When you act as an ally, you can count this as your victories. And when you act like a privileged git by making it all about you, you’re not acting as an ally, and you’re left only with a sense of unease, resentment, and guilt.

3. Desperation Makes for Allies Among Opponents Too. We’ve seen the weird aggregation of MRAs, Gamer Gate, 8Chan, Internet scammers, right-leaning celebrities, propaganda outlets like Breitbart, and more, united not because of their interest in things geeky, but because of their common dislike for diversity. I have no doubt that this trend will continue and it should be watched closely, as it provides for unexpected escalations.

4. Pick Your Battle Ground and Approach Carefully.  For example, if you are angry that a fandom doesn’t pick your books often enough for awards, proclaiming that you don’t care about them, you’re not one of them, and you don’t need their silly award BUT you’ll rig things so you can win just to show them, is not only immature, it’s just not a winning strategy.  And if you’re going to compound this by calling those you disagree “Social Justice Warriors” as if it was a slur, maybe you don’t want to make your big stand when showdown is just a few driving hours from the West Coast’s vast strategic reserves of proud SJWs.

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