The Hugo Awards 2006: In Depth
|Subtitled, of course: 'Harlan Ellison is an Ass.'|
I had two great hopes entering the Arena of the Anaheim Convention Center this past Saturday evening. The first was that John Picacio would win a well-deserved Best Artist Hugo, and the second being that George R.R. Martin would finally win that elusive 'big one,' the Best Novel Hugo.
Well, we'll get to that later.
Has anyone taken a look at the votes tallied for the Hugo awards this year? In any year? And then compared them to the Worldcon membership?
Those new to Science Fiction fandom know that the community is very open and welcoming to new members. All are welcome, and even the strangest of personages (furries, klingons) are allowed a place at the collective table. However, a place at the table is the best that one can expect. Do not attempt to voice an actual opinion; it's simply not welcome.
Ever try to tell a SMOFer (Secret Master Of Fandom; Hah! Not so secret anymore!) that there is a better way to do things? You'd have better luck asking Harlan Ellison to act like a decent human being. If things were done a certain way in 1963, then there is obviously little need to consider changing them. For a community built around looking forward through literature, SF fandom is remarkably conservative and dare I say it, archaic in their manner of running conventions and awards.
Take, for instance, the manner in which Hugo votes are tallied. The cut off date for votes was July 31, despite the fact that half of a Worldcon's memberships are purchased at the door. That is half of the membership that is simply unable to vote, simply because they did not plan their year around this event. They still pay full price; in fact, they pay more for their memberships than those who sign up early. This not only punishes those new to fandom, it disenfranchises them and punishes those who are too poor to know in advance whether they will be able to make it to Worldcon. It's everything that the liberal leaning SF fandom purportedly rails against, and would be ironically hilarious if not so depressingly stupid.
With the technological ability of our modern society, how hard would it be to begin and end the voting at the event in which the awards are presented? A couple of computers and a few vote checkers would be all the output needed by the convention committee, and the entirety of the membership would have the opportunity to express their feelings.
Now I've heard it said that this implausible because the Hugo Awards themselves must be engraved in advance of the event. If this is the height of the argument against technological advance and across-the-board fairness and equality by the Old Guard, then I'll happily sink that laughable argument.
Make up engraved plates for all of the nominees. I am reasonably certain that with the 3000+ engineers and rocket scientists in attendance, we could manage to rivet them onto the cute little rocket ships. Hell, I bet one of our numerous PhD.'s could even handle engraving tools.
But such advances would mean that even the (gasp!) SMOFers would be in the dark as to who was getting a rocket, and that simply can't be digested, it seems. It wasn't done that way when Heinlein won, and so, it seems, we can never make things better.
This is a call to everyone who arrived at their first Worldcon and was laughed at for looking for the ballot box. We've come so far socially in the years since the first Worldcons, can we please advance with science now, as well?
For the love of Asimov, only 567 votes were tallied for Best Novel this year, despite Worldcon having over 6000 members. Stop the bloody madness! Until you do, SMOFers, the Hugo will not posses the validity it ought have. It is not the voice of the people; The Locus Award is.
The Hugo Award presentations began with an amusing skit between Robert Silverberg and Toastmaster Connie Willis. Amusing at first, that is, but quickly tired and incredibly overlong. (It's Saturday night at Worldcon, people! There are parties to attend!)
Forrest J. Ackerman was recognized for his contributions to fandom by not only winning the Big Heart Award, but having it renamed in his honor. (Who decides this, SMOFers? Not that Forrie is undeserving -- he most certainly is -- but I don't recall being asked my opinion, despite my so-called 'membership.')
That brings us to the other special recognition award recipient, Harlan Ellison. While I find it incredibly amusing that the two people LACon IV decided to honor absolutely loathe each other, I need to ask just what the hell Harlan Ellison has done in the past 20 years to deserve any recognition whatsoever? Is being the rudest asshole in the history of the community truly an award-worthy accomplishment? Is making him a bloody Grandmaster not enough? (And have we truly run so low on august personages that we ought to make a man who is most famous for editing an anthology a grandmaster of Science Fiction?)
So anyway, Harlan Ellison. It's no secret that Ellison sexually assaulted Connie Willis on stage at the Hugo ceremony; there has been much ado about it. Everything that need be said about it has already been said by far greater minds than mine, and so I will leave it at that. (Though I'd like to point out Nick Mamatas's offer to fly to the next convention to squeeze the evil midgets' man-titties, simply for comedic value.)
What has not been mentioned, in the wake of the assault, is his liberal use of the 'N' word in his panel on Saturday. (Yes, I'll refrain from its use here. I see no reason, as you all know which word I refer to.) I've also not heard tell of his calling the elderly widow of Robert A. Heinlein a 'fucking bitch' during his award acceptance speech. She had said, most likely as a result of his abuse, that although Ellison had more Hugo Awards than her late husband, Heinlein had the 'big ones;' the Best Novel Hugo's, and they were far more important.
I'm just gonna throw this out there, people. Harlan Ellison is not worth having to deal with Harlan Ellison. His work is not that good, and never fucking has been. Sure, he was important during the New Wave, but not remotely as influential as Michael Moorcock. He was edgy and experimental, but not to the level of J.G. Ballard and Samuel R. Delany. He, HE, is simply not worthy of our time or notice anymore, if he ever truly was. His output since the 70's is worthless, and the time spent reading it is time wasted. The only tome bearing his name that can be called required reading is Dangerous Visions, a wonderful anthology featuring the work of far better writers than himself. Yet we as a community allow ourselves to be repeatedly shat upon by a known liar, bully, and now sexual predator. I will never again attend a convention that has Ellison as a member, and those of any conscience ought not either.
Oh, and Harlan, the Best Short Story Hugo is nice and all, but Best Novel is all that anyone ever remembers. Sorry, but Virginia was right, and Robert was so much more important than you, that your attacks are the ramblings of a bitter old man who couldn't and didn't and now never will. I truly hope I've had my last dangerous vision of you.
The Campbell Award for best new writer was awarded to John Scalzi. Congrats to John Scalzi.
The Best Artist Hugo went to Donato Giancola. Though my vote went to John Picacio, and I truly believe he deserved to win, Donato is well and truly worthy of this award. As Picacio magnanimously told me later on, Giancola has earned it. Any awarding other than to one of these two artists would have been a monumental travesty, and I am glad that Donato finally received his Hugo.
The Best Editor Hugo, or as I like to call it, The Editor Whom I'd Most Like To Buy My Craptacular Fanfic For his Magazine/Anthology Pretty, Pretty Please, I Voted For You For A Hugo, Doesn't That Count For Something, Even Though I Have No Idea What You Actually Do To A Story Other Than Buy It And So This Award Is Worth Less Than Best Dressed In My High School Yearbook went to the second biggest asshole of the night, David G. Hartwell. After receiving this *ahem* award that no one in fandom has any right to vote on unless they've had a book/story edited by each and every editor on the nominee list, Hartwell took the stage and began to preach a wonderful assertion that the late Jim Baen ought to be the recipient of this award next year, because he deserved it. However, this large-hearted plea was negated trifold by Hartwell's attack on the deceased: "Though he'd never do the same for me."
How in the hell Hartwell presumes to know just exactly what Baen would do in the event of Hartwell's death is beyond my ability to fathom. Good thing for David that Ellison was present, for if not, this classless tripe would have been the talk of the evening. Between Hartwell and Frenkel, you sure have some beauties, TOR.
The Hugo for Best Dramatic Short went to the unwatchable and laughable Dr. Who. At this point I realize that this particular membership has taste in their ass, and I'm feeling gloomy at the prospects of the remaining awards. I mean, Battlestar Galactica, people! Intelligent television, and one of their best episodes, no less. I should not have been surprised; after all, this is the crowd that supported Star Trek for decades and let Firefly fail in a single season.
The Hugo For Best Dramatic Long went to Serenity, and this was the only award in which my vote went to the winner.
The Hugo For Best Related Book went to Kate Wilhelm. I have no opinion, as I do not read related books.
The Best Short Story Hugo was won by David D. Levine for "Tk'tk'tk," or as I referred to it later that evening in my post-Hugo rant, "Suck'Suck'Suck." I mean, it was better than the Burstein and the Resnick, but against Margo Lanagan? "Singing My Sister Down" was one of the most moving fantasy short stories ever penned. What a travesty. Read it now.
The Best Novellette Hugo went to Peter S. Beagle, the anti-Ellison. One of the nicest men you could ever hope to meet, and an absolutely incredible author. He buried his mother just a few short hours after receiving this award. My heart and thoughts go out to him.
The Best Novella Hugo went to Connie Willis in an incredibly tight race with Kelly Link. Link's story was better, but Willis was the Guest of Honor for this particular convention, and so this was foreseeable, if regrettable. As Willis never had to leave her place as Master of Ceremonies to accept the award, it crossed my mind that she ought to have removed herself from the running, but what is, is. "The Inside Job" is not a bad story, it's just not "Magic For Beginners". (But then, not much is.)
And on to the 'Big One.' (Apologies, Harlan.) The Hugo Award for Best Novel went, deservedly, to Spin by Robert Charles Wilson. (Something I foresaw back in April. Go ahead, look.)
Spin is an excellent novel, and I am glad in many ways that it won. On the other hand, I was incredibly distraught that my friend George did not. This is personal bias rearing it's ugly head, true, but I so wanted to carry him proudly back to his awaiting party, rocketship in hand. He finished fifth of five in the results, and this is what upset my applecart.
Is this the backlash against fantasy we've all been expecting for years now from the SF community? Is it due to A Feast For Crows being the fourth book in a series? I simply don't know, but both theories hold at least some water. Will it be Martin's seventh and final novel that wins the award, a la Peter Jackson's Lord of The Rings movie trilogy? I do not know.
What I do know is that Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series is a pinnacle of speculative fiction; the absolute height to which epic fantasy has thus far brought us; far surpassing the work of Tolkein, Moorcock, Vance, Donaldson, Feist, Williams, and Jordan. It would be criminal if it were not to win the best novel Hugo at some point. But I digress.
Spin contains everything that is good about Science Fiction. I am not, nor will ever claim that a deserving book was not the recipient. Kudos to Wilson; I eagerly await his next.
The ceremony took just over two hours. After which, I returned to my fellowship, the Brotherhood Without Banners, and drank quite heavily. But that, as they say, is another story.
At one point, Robert Silverberg quoted an old George R.R. Martin speech in which Martin stated that his lack of the 'big one' (Best Novel Hugo) was the reason why Joe Haldeman always had the pretty girls around him and Martin, regrettably, never did.
Silverberg ought to have checked his facts, for it seems, as Martin has no doubt learned, that it is not the 'big one' that attracts the girls, but a monumental epic fantasy series. This picture was taken a few hours after the Hugo Awards. I imagine George will survive.