A Personal Note On the 2015 Hugo Awards, From a Reader and Aspiring Writer

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(NOTE: The list of nominees and winners for the 2015 Hugo Awards can be found here: 2015 Hugo Award Winners Announced.)

Early this morning, as I was getting ready for work, I checked my Facebook account and found that one of my closest friends posted a link to an article on the 2015 Hugo Awards. I’d completely forgotten that they were supposed to happen last weekend, despite the fact that there was so much hype building up around them over the past several months because of Puppygate, and even though I’d promised myself that I would be there (albeit via Twitter) to see it all go down. Life, unfortunately, has a terrible way of interfering with not only the best-laid plans, but the memories of laying those plans in the first place. (For the next Hugos I’ll actually plug the dates into my calendar; I already do that for book releases, so I might as well do it for the Hugos and the other important genre awards I value.)

The article, written by Amy Wallace of Wired Magazine, is titled “Who Won Science Fiction’s Hugo Awards, and Why It Matters”, and is about not just the awards ceremony, but almost everything that led up to it. It’s an excellent read, and I encourage everyone to go and read it. For those who are new to the whole issue of Puppygate, Wallace links to File770.com for a complete set of links to almost everything that’s been written on it that’s available online. If one is not certain where to begin, I recommend George R. R. Martin’s trio of posts on the matter, which can be found here at the following links (arranged in chronological order): here, here, and here. The second link is the lengthiest and most-read one, and is what made me aware of Puppygate in the first place.

But what I want to talk about is the “Why It Matters” part of the title. An enormous portion of the sci-fi readership is made up of people like me: readers who use the Hugos as a filter for their reading. People only have so much time in a year, after all, and it’s impossible to read every single release in a genre one likes, even if one reads and reviews books for a living. We wish to spend as little time as possible on duds, and spend more time on actual, quality reading; if a book wins a notable award like a Hugo, then it’s more likely to float to the top of the TBR list because it’s less likely to be a dud. It got an award, after all; there must be a reason for that.

So what does all of this matter? It matters because a line has been drawn in the sand: a line that indicates where the Hugos, and therefore sci-fi, will likely go in the years to come. It would be foolish to claim that the line is solid; so many things can and will change over the coming months, and maybe next year’s Hugos will be different. But what this year’s Hugos proved is that the sci-fi and fantasy community will no longer stand for racism, misogyny, homophobia, and a whole host of harmful thoughts and viewpoints that, in truth, do not have a place in a community that loves genres espousing openness and the acceptance of different viewpoints.

And this matters to me, both as a reader and an aspiring writer. As a Filipino woman who lives in the Philippines (half a world away from Spokane, the venue for this year’s WorldCon), I can only observe the changes and shifts in sci-fi at a distance, with no influence on what happens to it. I am just an ordinary blogger, after all, with no great following of my own. I don’t have the influence necessary to create massive sea changes, nor have I published any great creative work to do the same.

But I still read, and because I read, I’m still invested in what direction sci-fi and fantasy goes toward. Not all movement is forward movement, just as not all change is good change, and that’s very true of sci-fi and fantasy. The Puppies’ very existence is proof of that: when they rigged the nomination slate earlier this year they tried to push change backwards to some nebulous “golden age” that, in truth, never really existed. Had they won, they would have proven that there is no space for other voices, other realities, other visions, in sci-fi and fantasy, that the only stories worth telling are those that conform to the mould they’ve chosen to promote.

This year’s Hugo winners, and all the positive action that led up to it (in particular, many nominees backing out when they realised they’d been nominated because of Puppygate), prove that the community itself rejects the Puppies’ stand. It proves that, insofar as the community can make it so, the Hugos will be a space where anyone with a story to tell and the skill to tell it well can and will be worthy of at least a nomination for a shiny chrome rocket ship. This includes the Puppies—though whether or not they actually win the shiny chrome rocket ship is another matter entirely. (I would like to point out that many Puppies have been nominated before, but none have won; this has led me to conclude that the real impetus behind the Puppies is not so much a justifiable cause as it is a lot of sour grapes. This, quite apart from their thoroughly objectionable politics, makes them even more deplorable as a group.)

As a woman, a Filipino, a reader, and a writer, this year’s Hugos make me happy, and relieved. It means that the stories and articles that won Hugos were given the award because they had great vision, great depth, and exquisite writing. It also means that hopefully, in the future, such stories and articles will continue to win Hugos, and maybe I and others like myself—people of colour, women, LGBTQIA people, and many others—can make the dream of having our own shiny chrome rocket ship a reality.

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