Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When did the Hugos become the Dancing Bear Awards?

There's an old saying about dancing bears: "The marvel is not that the bear dances well, but that the bear dances at all." The uproar over conservatives nominating conservatives for the Hugo reminded me of that.

When I was young and reading f&sf, people like Samuel R. Delany, Ursula LeGuin, and Octavia Butler won awards because they wrote well. No one promoted them on the basis of their social or political or publishing identity. But now, houses like Tor provide lists of who they've published, and sites like 50books_poc provide lists of work by people of color, and Lady Business has feminist lists, and RetroHugoWomen lists women of the past who're eligible for RetroHugos. So far as I can tell, only the socialists have failed to provide slates. Which is entirely my bad. I didn't know that's how the game is played now.

I doubt there was ever a time when the Hugo Awards were not affected by backstage manipulation. But in the last few years, it seems how well the thing is done is less important than who is doing it. Everyone wants their bears to win the dance. Or maybe the awards are seen as an arena now, and the game is bear-baiting.

Whatever the case, may the best bear win.

Recommended: Asking the Wrong Questions: The 2014 Hugo Awards: Thoughts on Award-Pimping