Thursday, April 24, 2014

a "best art" award is not a "best person" award: on Vox Day and the Hugo, and Elia Kazan and the Oscar

The more repressive leftists of science fiction fandom are upset because Vox Day has a story on this year's Hugo Award ballot and are proudly announcing they will not read it and will vote against it. I, a free speech socialist who has worked and marched for many causes that Vox Day abhors, from integration to gay marriage, am entirely indifferent to his presence on the ballot and will shrug if he wins, because this is a truth: the art is not the artist.

When Elia Kazan, infamous for informing to HUAC rather than face the risk of being blacklisted by Hollywood, was chosen in 1999 for an Honorary Academy Award "in appreciation of a long, distinguished and unparalleled career during which he has influenced the very nature of filmmaking through his creation of cinematic masterpieces", I first thought he should not be honored. I don't like cowards and opportunists, and the anti-union subtext of On The Waterfront will always bug me.

But he was a great director. Whether some people who he informed on would've become even greater directors if they hadn't been blacklisted, we'll never know, but anyone interested in the art of film should know Kazan's work. If anyone deserves an Honorary Academy Award, Kazan does.

Whether Vox Day deserves a Hugo, I haven't a clue—I haven't read the nominated story. But I know this: anyone who votes for a literary award without reading all of the nominees is being intellectually dishonest. You don't have to see or read the whole story, but you should be able to say what it was about the work that stopped you from finishing it. "The reputation of the artist" is only valid if you're voting for Miss Congeniality.

Now, I'll happily agree with the argument that the Hugos and the Oscars are only popularity contests. Anyone who studies a field can make a list of works as good or better than the ones that won awards. But if that's your take, please leave art out of the discussion and just admit you're supporting your team.

ETA: At The Wheel of Time Nominated for a Hugo Award, Brandon Sanderson notes, "The Hugo Awards are a popularity contest—but they should be a fiction popularity contest, not an author popularity contest."

ETA 2: Larry Correia responds to the uproar at An explanation about the Hugo awards controversy | Monster Hunter Nation

ETA 3: Roman Polanski and the sin of simplification | Victoria Coren Mitchell: "When Roman Polanski, who has lived in exile from America and its justice system for decades, was nominated for an Oscar for directing The Pianist, Samantha Geimer called on the Academy to "judge the movie, not the man"."