Thursday, April 05, 2007

Oprah has better taste than Fandom, or the insatiable desire to be persecuted

The Hugo nominees are out.

Believe it or not, the nominees aren’t that embarrassing this year. There are notable omissions to, particularly, the best novel list, but none of the nominees are laughable choices. The nominees, in the unlikely case that you’ve just returned from sabbatical, are:

Glasshouse by Charles Stross

-Blindsight by Peter Watts

-Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge

-Temeraire (His Majesty’s Dragon) by Naomi Novik

-Eifelheim by Michael Flynn

While I voted for two of the five nominees, there are two prominent novels that were snubbed by this year’s balloters.

The Lies of Locke Lamora was the best fantasy novel released in 2006. If every fan with nominating power had read it, each and every one would have nominated it. At this point I believe it’s just a matter of getting the word out on Lynch’s groundbreaking new series. (Look for a review of the second installment of the Gentlemen Bastards Sequence, Red Seas Under Red Skies later this week.)

The other neglected heavyweight of 2006 was The Road by Cormac McCarthy. And what should be more embarrassing to fandom than snubbing this masterpiece is the fact that media diva Oprah Winfrey has just announced that The Road is the next selection for the bestseller begetter, Oprah’s Book Club.


Shame on you, fandom.

(And hey, aren’t you glad you listened when I told you to pick up The Road first edition? Oprah’s going to make the prices soar... )

Once again, I have little opinion on the short fiction of 2006. I have not read enough to make an educated decision, and an informed vote is the only sort worth making.

There are a couple of gems in the related books category, the awe-inspiring John Picacio art book and Julie Phillips’ splendid treatise on James Tiptree Jr. I’ll probably share my thoughts on the other categories at some later time.

But I wanted to get to the infuriating conjured outrage that is circulating on the live journals of some SF fans with an overwhelming need to find something to be offended over.

This years Hugo’s are sexist and racist.

At least that’s what’s being said.

It appears someone (many people) have gone through the fiction nominees and realized that there is only one female nominee, and despite Worldcon taking place in Japan, there are no Japanese authors on the ballot. And of course, the inevitable conclusion has been reached that this must be due to institutional prejudices.

Because, it could not be possible that in this particular year, there were no works from female or Japanese authors that truly struck a chord with fandom. No, there is an ‘old boys’ skiffy club’ which has decided we’ve had enough female and minority winners for a while.

I believe quite strongly that taking a writer’s sex into consideration when nominating a work is sexist, whether it be against woman or man. I believe quite strongly that taking a writer’s race into consideration when nominating a work is racist, regardless of ancestry. Furthermore, I believe that the work is what matters, not the genitalia or culture of the author. It is completely alien to me to look at a work of art and consider the sex, race, or religion of the artist. And I am having a hard time discerning just how people can view things in this manner and then purport to be against discrimination on the basis of sex or race.

Science Fiction fandom is not a collective with any sort of nimiety of prejudice. It very well may have been at one point, but we’re talking about a conglomerate that awarded the Nebula for best novel to a homosexual African American from Harlem long before the death of Martin Luther King. We’re talking about a genre that has been on the cutting edge of feminist fiction for decades. And that same feminist fiction has won a slew of Hugo’s and Nebula’s.

If one wants to argue the quality of the nominees based upon literary and genre merit, I’ll be the first to sit down, listen, consider, and express my own feelings. I could literally do this for days. But to argue which works belong on a list solely on the existence or absence of dangly bits in the respective author’s nether regions or the geography of an author’s forbears is prejudice of the highest order, and demeans SF fandom a hell of a lot more than leaving 100 works of the same quality as The Road off the ballot ever could.

For the Hugo award to have any value whatsoever, it must be awarded to the best work of the year in it's respective category.

Regardless of any other consideration.

William Lexner

P.S. Vote For Blindsight.