Monday, September 14, 2015

The Hugo Awards

I got to attend the Hugo Awards.

Before I had ever heard of the Oscars, or the Pulitzer Award, I was happily hunting down winners of the Hugo Award.  It has always meant the most excellent science fiction that was written in a given year.  My entire purpose in attending World Con was so that I could sit in that room and celebrate the best science fiction of the year.

I wish I could say it was everything I dreamed it would be.

It was a great experience, don't get me wrong.  I was excited just to be in the same room with a few of my heroes.

This is me happily sitting in my seat a good 45 minutes before it actually started.  I was excited.
I loved the pure love of the genre that was shown on stage.  I felt like David Gerrold did a great job as the MC.  He made totally nerdy jokes that made me laugh out loud.  He had enjoyable banter with various individuals on stage.  He even had a dalek come on stage to help present an award. (And the funniest part of the night was when the dalek left the stage saying, "I have to urinate!")  (It's funny because it sounds like exterminate.  I'm not sure if that's as clear in writing as it was in hearing it.)  (I know, when you have to explain the joke it ruins it.  Bear with me.)

Unfortunately, there was some sadness that went along with my experience.

You see, this year the Hugo Awards got way too political.  There was a conservative group of authors that had made a list of works that they felt were worthy of the award.  Enough people agreed with them that their list dominated the list of nominees this year.

Since I'm a big fan of science fiction, I had seen the list on their blogs and I had read many of the works.  Some of them I thought were great and I had nominated them myself.  Others I didn't like, so I hadn't nominated them.

There were those within the science fiction community who felt that putting works on a list was a mean, bad thing to do and so there was a big movement among them to not read any of the works and instead vote for "No Award", which basically means that you feel none of the works are worthy and you would prefer that no award be given in that category.

With that background, I can now explain the part of the Hugo Awards that made me a sad, sad boy.  I knew that there was a possibility that several categories would have no award given.  I really hoped that wouldn't be the case, but I knew it was possible.

Things were going along well.  I was enjoying the awards, the acceptance speeches, the nerdy banter, it was all great.  But then the first no award was given.  If I remember correctly, it was for best editor.  The crowd erupted in a cheer.  A guy sitting near me sounded like he would explode when he yelled, "YEEEAAAAH!!" at the top of his lungs.  That's when I knew that politics had become more important than literary merit.

You see, there's a reason that "No Award" is an option.  If there really are terrible nominees that aren't worthy of the award, there's nothing wrong with voting that way.  But if that's how I felt about the nominees in a particular category, I would vote that way and then feel sad that there hadn't been better options to vote for.  I would not be shouting for joy at the glee I felt because I had taken the award away from someone.  These people were happy that they had beaten back the big mean conservatives who had the nerve to say they liked certain works.  To make matters worse, they were punishing the nominees themselves just because of who happened to like their work.  Does that even make sense to anyone?

As the night went on, no award kept coming back.  It wasn't in every category, but it was in too many.  My mom kept looking at me to make sure I wouldn't cry or anything.  She knew how excited I was to be there and how sad I would be to attend an award ceremony with no awards.

Mom pointed out that when an award was given, someone would come from back stage to hold the trophy before the envelope was opened.

When the time came for the novel to be awarded, the individual emerged from back stage holding the little rocket trophy.  I was so relieved.  The novel category is the one I care most about.  I think I really would have cried if there had been no award.

And then, my favorite novel actually won!  The Three Body Problem was the winner of the 2015 Hugo for best novel.  I think I was as excited about that as the other dude was about the no award earlier in the evening.

This was the first book to win that wasn't originally published in English.  It had been originally published in Chinese.  The author (Liu Cixin) wasn't able to attend, because he was home in China.  But the translator (Ken Liu) spoke and it was super cool.  My favorite part was when he read some words that the author had written which praised him as a translator.  He had to stop and tell us that he felt awkward about reading the praise for himself.  His awkward humility just made me happy.

In the end, I was able to go home happy.  I was sad that there had been too much politics, but I could at least feel happy in knowing that my favorite book won in the most important category.

I don't know when I'll go again, but I'd really like to.  Next time, can we all agree to just read the works and vote on our favorites regardless of whether or not we like someone else that said it was a good work?

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