During CoNZealand, a group of fans put together a set of panels, which took place outside convention hours, which would be available for free via Youtube and offer a taster of the Worldcon experience to those unable to participate in CoNZealand's programming hours, or hadn't bought a membership but were interested in the kind of content provided. The result was a set of 15 panels over 6 days, archived and available for all at www.conzealandfringe.com.
As a fringe event in the tradition of Edinburgh Fringe and other international collateral events, CoNZealand Fringe was conducted entirely outside core programming hours and spaces, and panels were not official CoNZealand programming. CoNZealand Fringe is not endorsed by CoNZealand.
Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together is pleased to host the transcripts of CoNZealand Fringe panels for fans who are unable to watch the videos or prefer a written format. This is the transcript for SFF Awards in the 2010s: A Retrospective, which ran on Friday 31 July 2020 at 6pm BST/1pm EDT/10am PDT/5am NZST (next day) and is available here. Other panel transcripts are available via our transcript hub.
SFF Awards in the 2010’s: A Retrospective
Host and moderator: Shaun Duke (he/him)
Panelists: Bogi Takács (e/em or they/them), Didi Chanoch (he/him), Usman T. Malik (he/him), Jeannette Ng (she/they)
Shaun: All right, we should be live. We're here! We've done it! Theoretically. So, I’ll give people on the chat just a hot second to make sure that they can see us so if somebody in the chat would post - Yep, perfect. We're good to go! Awesome.
All right, well thank you everybody for coming. So I'm going to introduce our panellists and we'll kind of get started here but if you are here, you are here for the panel on the SFF awards in the 2010s: a retrospective. I'm here with a number of fantastic and amazing panellists. Just to let you know that who I am: I'm Shaun Duke, I am one of the people behind the Skiffy and Fanty Show. If you're watching, you happen to be on our BookTube channel right now. So, but that's all I will say, I will throw it over to Jeannette, would you please tell us who you are?
Jeannette: Hello, I'm…My name is Jeannette Ng. I wrote a book called Under the Pendulum Sun. It's all right. I'm here, I'm wearing a stupid crown because I won the Astounding last year, formerly known as the Campbell, and this is the last time I’m allowed to wear the crown in public, and because I've never actually received the official crown due to convoluted logistical reasons, I've got this cheap one from the internet as a substitute. So, I'm afraid I'm going to lord it all over you, just very briefly, at least in the visual dimension right now. Sorry.
Shaun: [Laughs] Awesome, um, Bogi, how about you?
Bogi: Yes. Hi everyone! I'm Bogi Takács. I’m a Hungarian Jewish person currently in Kansas, and I'm a finalist for Best Fan Writer and have been for the past three years I think. And I also write and just had the short story collection titled The Trans Space Octopus Congregation. I think this is it in a nutshell.
Shaun: Awesome. Usman about you?
Usman: Hello everyone. I’m Usman Malik. I'm an intermittent writer of speculative fiction. I actually, well I suppose I should talk about it now, I have my debut collection coming out in Pakistan. Early 2021. It’s gonna be called Midnight Doorways: Fables from Pakistan. That’s me.
Shaun: Fantastic. And lastly, Didi?
Didi: Hi. I’m Didi Chanoch, I'm a translator, publisher but on hiatus right now, from Israel, formerly purchasing editor for a couple of publishing houses here. And, yeah, I'm way too interested in science fiction awards.
Shaun: [Laughs] Well, that's perfect because that's what we're here to talk about. So, I want to start with, somewhat of a more general question because we're talking about an entire decade of awards, and that's a daunting task, for what is essentially an hour long internet panel. And so I want to start with, really a question about how do we begin to make sense of, or understand what the 2010s of the award season actually means? Like, what is the big takeaway of the 2010s? And I will kind of go down the same direction and then we'll kind of mix things up on how we start. I'll start with Jeannette, what's your big takeaways from this decade?
Jeannette: I feel like there's been a bit of a paradigm shift in terms of what the award is, is for, what works and who we want to listen to. Who we want to be the face of the genre. And I think the change has been a long time coming. I don't want to pretend it just all happened, but you know, a decade itself is a reasonably long time, but you've got various weights are pushing, you've got the puppies and its many incarnations. You've got new awards springing up around that, both good and bad.
And obviously we've now got, we also had a reckoning around the people we are honouring in terms of our awards in terms of the names. There’s the statue of Lovecraft no longer being, you know, a thing. And obviously with my own speech last year with changing the Astounding, changing the award to Astounding, but obviously I'm not alone in that. It's also been, a lot of this has been a long time coming. And people we've had a lot of... And it's not just in SFF that we're having this same moment of recalibrating, saying “wait, you know, all this legacy stuff, maybe we want to get rid of some of it, maybe we don't like some of it,” and that's all good?
Just there's just a lot more work to be done, and there's a constant push back to a lot of the commentary around the various speeches like N.K. [Jemisin]'s one's very quite famously, for example, a lot of commentary around the performance of the award ceremony, at least to me I've been very aware of, where like, you have to perform some kind of gratitude. And what is this for. But I think it’s also glammed up a bit more, I think we used to be, my impression of the nerd prom used to be much more nerd and less prom. But that might just be me. Not that nerds or proms are inherently opposed concepts.
Shaun: Oh, fair enough. All right. What about you, Bogi, you want to respond to any of that or add anything?
Bogi: Yes, I strongly agree with Jeannette that, that there has been this kind of push and pull when it comes to inclusion and people are going like, “this is too much” or “this is not enough”, back and forth. And one thing that made me wonder when I looked at the panel description is that 2010 starts in, well, 2010. But that means we’re cutting off one of the big discussions in fandom that happened in 2009, and which affects, the whole outcome and everything, specifically Racefail ‘09. And I was kinda like, OK, this is technically now the 2010s, but its effects ripple through genre, I would say even since then. And of course this was just one thing and I wouldn't go like, and I agree with Jeanette that it's not like “oh there's one thing” or one moment. I really strongly disagree with that, because there are people who have been working on inclusion, with respect to various different minority groups for decades in SFF. So, I feel like there has absolutely been a change, and many of these sometimes multiple decades-long efforts, are kind of bearing fruit, so to say. Yeah, so maybe that's what it is.
Shaun: Okay, great. Usman, why don't you jump in here. What do you kind of take from the 2010s?
Usman: You know, a few years ago I read this history book, it was, you know to be honest it was a really condensed history book because I just wanted to know really what the history of the world is all about. And there was this comment by the historian, in his introduction where he said that a lot of people think that 9/11 was a huge changing moment and the world will never be the same since. And this historian had an argument with that hypothesis and he said, the world is not just limited to this. This, it was a BIG moment, but this is not a, this is not the biggest moment, ever. So I think about awards in the same way, I think about a lot of these discussions in SF fandom the same way. For me, I often think that we are so, the SF fandom is so Euro- and America-centric that all the discussion happens in a very small echo chamber. And no offence to SF fandom, but I think if you, you know, come to Asia, if you come to India, South Asia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the conversations are very different. The power struggles are very different. So, the world has been getting better for a long time, overall. I mean, I'm not dismissing that we have climate change or the pandemic or the apocalypse that’s upon us. But overall, in history the world has been getting, becoming a better place and I think from 2010 to 2020, overall the trend has been towards bettering, not worsening. And the shift of power that's happening that Jeannette & Bogi were talking about. It's very clear, it's very evident. It's very exciting to watch. But I think as, and as a writer who sometimes writes SF, I do like to pause and sort of imagine that maybe we should be thinking about even bigger and better things. As, for example: one of the things I would like to talk about is how do you bring this idea of SF to places that really don't view it with the same lens. So, SF awards are getting better. We have exciting, amazing, brilliant writers coming forth and the ideas are just exploding. But I still think there is so much work to do there.
Bogi: Oh Yeah.
Usman: That’s pretty much my comment on the trend.
Shaun: Awesome. Okay, so I'm going to come back to this because I think the comments so far have given me a lot to think about regarding the question I have about how awards represent values. But I want to make sure Didi gets a chance to respond to this initial question before we jump into that. So Didi any thoughts about the 2010s you'd like to share.
Didi: In addition to mostly agreeing with what people have said, I will mention that the summation of most Jewish holidays can be ‘They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat’. And certainly, in the case of the Hugo's in the 2010s. It's a little bit, ‘They tried to kill us, we survived, lets read’. I think there was a big power shift that came with a lot of pain. But I do think that we are in a much, much, much better place than we were a decade ago. And that is something that I think we should celebrate here.
Shaun: Absolutely. So, we're definitely gonna come back to - well we’re kind of there now actually, because a lot of the comments so far they've been made to do this idea of how awards might represent the values of a community or whether that is the values in terms of social or political, because in some way the awards do have an effect there, but also what we value in terms of literary output or film output as well. So, I wanted to talk about, thinking about this shift, and how the awards have come to represent different values over time, or how we think that awards in this period, represented that - values whatever values those might have been, whether their our own or other people's or challenges to values. So, I want to start with Usman, because I think this was what made me think immediately think to go there.
Usman: So, I'm sorry, is your question about the SF awards and how people's values about them have changed. Am I understanding you correctly?
Shaun: I was thinking more in terms of how the awards themselves represent values, whether that's literary values or personal values, which - they can be one in the same but I see them as somewhat separate?
Usman: So you know, one of the things that I think that would probably - the thing that immediately comes to mind is about the aesthetics of awards, right, about aesthetics of art and literature, and I have been thinking about this for a long time. I'll give you an example. I recently read a story, and I thought it was a wonderful, lovely story, some colleagues did not think it was a good story. And they did not feel compelled by it and it started me thinking as to what the aesthetic value of the story for me, was to me compared to them. And then I realised that the cultural landmarks, the historical context, the nostalgic… the evoking of nostalgia, the regression into childhood, all those senses of wonder, all those powerful tools at the writers, in the writers arsenal. They are very different when applied to a different audience. And so, an American writer…sorry, an American reader is never going to respond to this the same way, as a Pakistani might do with a story by a Pakistani immersed in Pakistani history, or mythos. The same way, you know, a story that's set in the Philippines is not going to be read the same way in the Philippines as it might be in the west or the UK or the US, so I came to think about awards the same way. To use that - so, you're in the 1930s in the 1940s, you've got John Campbell you've got Lovecraft you've got all these people, and they have this idea of literature that is completely, either, created by their own niche of people interested in that genre, are the literary critics of the day, or even the opposition, the counter culture, right? And so there's things that can be very different. So the way they envision an award is not going to be the same as it’s going to be envisioned 40 years later. That happened with the World Fantasy Award. When it was first set up in the 1970s I believe originally it was supposed to be an homage to HP Lovecraft. But the awards symbolism has since really evolved much farther and farther out. It is not about HPL any more. It is about the world of fantasy. It's about fantasy all around the world. It's a global thing. It's a tree with roots going all across the world. So that's how, I mean, I hope that answers some of your questions?
Shaun: Yeah. That definitely gets us in the direction I was thinking about. I see Bogi kind of nodding. You wanted to jump in here?
Bogi: Yes. I have also still been thinking about Usman’s previous answer and question about, like what can we do more? and how can we do even more, and this made me think about translations, where I've seen a very strange trend, or maybe completely un-strange trend is that in the past couple of years, I feel like literary translation awards have gotten much more inclusive of speculative works altogether, but speculative awards have not really had such a parallel increase in translated works. Now obviously these translated works are pretty good if they are being finalists for general literary awards or even winning them, but they are often not marketed as SFF altogether, and also just completely bypass the entire attention of English language SFF fandom. And. And I know that there has been a lot of back and forth about whether, should there be a SFF translation award in particular, what should it be like, etcetera, etcetera. And it is difficult. I feel like juried awards, like the Otherwise, which has recently been renamed, have a place there because when there's the jury, it's not gonna come down as much to okay, this is the book that has been marketed and this is the book that everybody got a review copy of, this is the book that everybody could like see promoted on their Goodreads etc. But I feel like overall there's just such a way to go about translations in particular, so this is kind of like just one aspect of this really big question, but it's one that I kind of wanted to highlight.
Shaun: Didi, yeah I know you're also a translator did you want to respond a little bit here too?
Didi: Yeah, I had a couple of things. First, this was the first decade in which a translated novel won a Best Novel Hugo -
Bogi: That’s true,
Didi: - Which is a pretty big thing.
Didi: You know, there’s definitely been progress that's been made. And I also want to note that we did have, for three years, a science fiction translation award. In the early parts of this decade. That Cheryl Morgan, and others were involved with. And, you know, it didn't gain a lot of steam and the people who started it, they were pretty much the only people doing anything with it and they ran out of time and energy. And so it died. But there was a bit of a nascent progress towards that. And I also see a lot more science fiction, being translated into English. You know, obviously, science fiction in English, has been getting translated into many languages, this whole time. But we've seen the other way started. We've seen Ken Liu’s work in this regard has been incredible. And also did result in that first Hugo for the Three Body Problem. We're also seeing, you know, authors like my pal from Israel Keren Landsman, and in her book, The Heart of the Circle getting translated. So, we're definitely seeing progress. Is it enough, no! Should we need to do a lot more, sure. But that's, that's going to be a theme.
Shaun: For the whole panel: What can we do to improve things? More!
Shaun: Jeanette I wanted to throw this to you if you wanted to kind of respond to these, these elements that have been brought up, or you wanted to take it this slightly different direction with regards to values.
Jeannette: I think with regards to values. I think we are at least to me, I'm seeing more people, treating the awards as not giving a crown or a celebration of something that they already love, that's something they're already a fan of. Like, I don't know, Wheel of Time, “we want Wheel of Time to win an award, we want Game of Thrones to win an award because we love it” kind of thing. I feel like I've seen, at least I feel like there's less of that and we're more into the sort of - or maybe it's just me and I see more of that kind of feeling - of “we want to push ourselves to find something interesting”, and that kind of that - and sometimes even the kind of feeling of “I feel like this should win”. I, at least I saw that a lot, and narcissistically perhaps it's just because I was reading a lot of people talking about me, a lot of people said, “Oh, I feel like Jeannette should win because it's such a beautiful well written book and, and I'm really excited about what she's going to come next, but I don't think it's a very good book, in and of itself.” Like, there is this kind of rhetoric of excitement and promise and pointing the way, even if - and that's, I don't think that's necessarily bad, even if they’re sort of overcoming their own, what they perceive to be their own personal disengagement with something. In a sort of like, “this is really good even if... And I think more people should look at it even if I did not personally connect with it” kind of attitude that I've seen more. And I feel like that's something that I feel like I wouldn't see like a decade ago, as much.
Shaun: Interesting. I have to think about that a bit more because I don't know that I noticed that, but I wasn’t looking at it and you obviously have a personal connection to that in a way which I think is really interesting.
Jeannette: I will note that I am probably attuned to that for some reason.
Shaun: Sure absolutely, Usman, it's fine yeah if you'd like to jump in, please.
Usman: No I, something Jeannette said really struck me. You know, recently I was reading this book. And I realised it was, it was a good book. It was a fun book. The book was not for me. And so, I would not be the person who would ever want to be in a place where I had to review it or to make comments about it, because the book is not, it’s just not something that really connects with me. I think Jeannette is absolutely on the mark about that, that separation, I think there are people who are recognising that and I don't know if people would have done the same thing 20 years ago for maybe my lens is just too narrow to really appreciate that.
Shaun: That's interesting, yeah, because you're right there is an aspect of being able to recognise the quality of something, even though you don't necessarily connect with it in a way that others might have, which I think is really interesting and, and we could dive into that but that leads to a whole other can of worms so I will, I will save that kernel of interest for elsewhere. But I did want to take this as an opportunity, because we can't really talk about the 2010’s without dealing with its problems. And I think based on Didi’s face that you're guessing where I'm going with this, because the 2010s are course the era of the puppies. For the Hugos, and some very - I mean, this led from, Usman was talking about power dynamics a bit ago and it made me immediately think well this is, in fact, an aspect of power, there’s essentially a fight was being had over what the award was going to represent and who was going to have a say in that award. And now that we're in 2020, it's been a couple years since that has been an omnipresent threat on, at least for the Hugos. I'm really curious of how you guys see it in retrospect now. Now that we're here, we're in, I mean I get that it's 2020 and it’s nightmare year from hell but, you know. So I will start with Didi because you made a face. And so, [laughs]
Didi: Yeah. I think that, you know, the puppies, Sad or Rabbid, were the dying screeches of the former power, which is still the power in the world, but is less so, in science fiction. And we all probably know the quote about that, that “when you're used to privilege, equality feels like oppression,” which is exactly the position that was expressed by these people. They saw works that they do not support getting nominated and winning. And that freaked them out because “isn’t this ours?” There's this strong feeling of ownership, that some people have. And I personally view ours as being a broader world. And so, yeah. It was a dire threat, there were a couple of really weird years, but I do think we are in a much better place, you know. I've said a bunch of times I think this year's Best Novel Hugo slate is the best one ever, and I've gone through the lists! I’ve looked! I think ‘70 was pretty good. But I think this one is going to, when looked on in 20 years, is going to hold up really really well. Yeah, we've been through this, this attempt to narrow down. And we've reacted by widening out. And, and I think we have a much broader spectrum, being considered. And therefore, also getting nominated and winning in our awards.
Shaun: Absolutely. So I guess I want to kind of broaden this too. Because I know that Usman you were talking about the World Fantasy Award and, Jeannette, you may have had a hand in the changing of an award name, very possible. Yeah. And so, I want to kind of broaden this just a little bit because obviously, if we're thinking in terms of what Didi is talking about this notion of the sort of last dying grasp of a older breed, as it were, award changes are part of that because there's a fight over maintaining tradition, etcetera. So I wanted to throw it to Jeannette and then we go to Usman and then we'll go to Bogi. If you want to kind of think about this in terms of how we represent the awards by their names or, in the case of the World Fantasy by the bust. Because this is I think part of that same fight happening in the 2010’s.
Jeannette: I suppose I, I'm, I see the fight very much related to the larger kind of geek fandom fights around things like Star Wars, GamerGate, ComicsGate [exhausted “etcetera” noise]. It's all incredibly tedious, and when you're in the middle of it, incredibly unpleasant, really, and, and it's hard to see it as entirely over. It just feels quiet to me. But, that's, that's just probably my nerves speaking. Because I know I wrote a stupid article about a children's TV show and I'm aware that, you know, there's a - that got linked to on a GamerGate forum or something and it's, it's just that kind of awareness that kind of puts you a little bit on edge. So I'm very reluctant to ever say, “We've won”. Even though it is definitely quiet now and it feels like we've settled down a little, um, I think that a lot of the problem with things like the award names and things is that we get complacent.
I've told the story many times before, but I got on stage, and said, you know, “Campbell's a fascist”. I didn't expect it to be a controversial thing to say, which I know sounds really, really weird. But I thought we all knew. It's on his Wikipedia page, people’ve been saying it for years. It's not a secret. And it's one of those feelings where, I didn't do it to change the world because I thought I would, I was just, I thought well, you know, I should probably say it because it's true. [Laughs] And I thought it was one of those things that we all knew and we're okay with it, and what was great is I said it and it reminded everyone, everyone to go “yes, actually, we aren't okay with it.”
But I think that's - and I think, to a certain extent, a lot of the, some of the house cleaning right now feels like a sort of waking up and realising “Oh, all these things that we've kind of taken for granted and all these things that kind of almost blended into the background, they're not just...” I mean, and you can kind of say the same about, I don’t know, statues in marketplaces or whatever but they have a very similar effect where you stop seeing them until you see them again and then you go, “Oh fuck, we should we should do something about it,” and everyone going, “It's not a secret it's on the Plaque!” kind of level. So that’s… [sighs].
Shaun: Thank you. Thank you. That’s really interesting insights there. Why don't we throw it over to Usman. Do you have anything you wanted to kind of add here?
Usman: You know, I, I haven't had much of a... I have not been in that sort of difficult position that Jeannette has described. I can only imagine how horrific it must have been. I will say this. In 2012, I had just entered the horror and science fiction world. I had no idea that there was actually a real world out there, I thought I was just a freak writer. So, I entered this world, and then through some coincidence I actually, I became part of the circle of some of the Puppy lot. And so as things evolved and as I started realising things that were floating around. I will say this, you know, the folks led the puppy effort. I mean, most of you know who they are so I’m not going to name them. But they are interesting because a lot of them are libertarians. And, you know recently, a conservative commentator from the New York Times resigned and after resignation she put out this idea that, you know, ‘when I was in grad school I started noticing this infiltration on campus of people who were intent on suppressing free speech’. And you know, then there's always the question that you were, that Didi was recently talking about, that, you know, equalisation is not really oppression. And you’ve been screaming about free speech for decades and now when this free speech is not to your liking and all of a sudden, it is suppression, not free speech any more. And that's the point this commentator was making and the puppies were doing the exact same thing. I don't see it different from that broader interaction at all, you have these folks who don't want the government involved in anything, who don’t want anyone saying they're telling them what to do and then they are creating an advance slate and telling everyone to go vote for that slate so, there’s so much hypocrisy in that, in that stance and position. Even if one were to look at those awards, those books for the books’ sake, it just leaves a nasty taste in your mouth, or by association. That's, that's my only comment on this. I'm not sure if I’m in much of a position to say that we won or lost, I don't think that’s… I think that's irrelevant at this point. I think the intent is to keep things interesting, authentic, broader, more inclusive, make the world of SF a more interesting and a better place.
Shaun: Strongly agree. Strongly Agree. All right, Bogi I want to give you a chance to respond to all this before we move on to what I hope will be a slightly more happy question because I know this is the dark, dark side of the awards, so.
Bogi: Yeah, so I feel that, I agree with Jeannette that right now there's a kind of lull in this but that's it absolutely comes and goes. That means it also tends to come back and I see this quite acutely, because I'm both active in English language SFF and also Hungarian language SFF, and the bell-like peaks of this kind of like are completely de-synchronized compared to each other. So when I'm like okay now it's settling down, in the English Language groups of my Facebook. And then it’s flaring up in the Hungarian language SFF groups in my Facebook or vice versa. So, it's not like… I feel like there's always some topics that I have to avoid in certain contexts because I know that a flame war is going to happen. It's just different topics at different times.
So that's one of the things I wanted to say, and I also wanted to say something a little different just a bit going back to what Didi said about how Cheryl Morgan and others were trying to set up a translation award. And how that, I feel like there are a lot of, like, efforts that happen, and are awesome, but people are not necessarily able to sustain just the humongous effort that's required. For example, when I started posting in English, The World SF Blog, which was done by Charles Tan and Lavie Tidhar, that was absolutely a thing, and then they also, they also closed it after a couple of years.
And right now Rachel Cordasco is doing SF in Translation and having even an audience poll which is like the closest I can think of when it comes to bringing attention to specific works right now, and this made me think of completely different configurations like games awards, and the YA awards, which people have been really pushing for more awards to contain these categories and successfully pushing for them. And I just don't know, I don't have answers but I feel like something to contemplate would be what is necessary for, like a sustained effort to be successful, because I don't know, I don't claim to have, like, the Philosopher’s Stone or I don't know, so I don't know about how to do it. But that's just something to think about. And that also circles back to the culture wars theme, is that if a group manages to sustain an effort, then that's what really causes change. Whereas if a group makes an effort, whether we conceive of it as positive or negative, but doesn't necessarily manage to sustain it or feels it's too much effort to sustain it, like swimming against the tide, so to say, then that effort will just kind of fade out, and maybe it will come back in another way, but I don’t know. Yeah so that's, I think that’s...
Jeannette: I want to quickly jump in with the culture, and the culture war aspect, and sort of, and perhaps it's just the kind of gamer side in me, the kind of Munchkin side where I look at this, and I feel like, where Worldcon is, does affect who wins because the voter base can change a lot between where it, where it’s held, and obviously there are people who are very dedicated voters who will vote, or are going to buy a voting - Didi for example, but, um, but in general I think that does - And I don't want this become like a Jeannette’s kind of calling out specific people of “oh you only won because it was in blah country blah year”, but you know I'll happily say that I think I got a leg up because we were in Dublin. That was to my advantage, it was a home court advantage and I'm not… And this isn't to disparage people who have won or say other people should have won but I think that, where can host, where has the means to host, where has a fan base to host, and that, kind of knocks on, and I think that's quite an interesting thing to at least examine and think about, and what we can do or not do about it. At least in concept, because, yeah.
Shaun: Yeah I -
Jeannette: Especially since we're starting some more conversations of non-Anglophone countries hosting.
Shaun: Yeah, I guess the other side to this would be like for juried awards, right, who happens to be on your jury has an impact on what gets attention. And obviously, there can be other aspects of that like where the juried award is, so there's conversation now about the Booker I believe, which requires, like a 5000 pound, like you have to pay a fee to submit the work for consider - I don't know exactly how it works but there's money involved, which obviously impacts, which works might even be considered because if you're with a small press like they probably don't have 5000 pounds, that they can just throw out for work, so.
Didi: [Shakes head emphatically]
Shaun: [laughs] Yeah, exactly. Yeah, so I mean you're right that there's an element of who happens to be involved in an award process whether it's fans, or it is the jury, or whatever, dramatically impacts, what works get consideration. Right, so perhaps if Chengdu bid for Worldcon wins, we might suddenly see more translated, or maybe not translated works on the ballot, depending on how many people from that region, perhaps, join the Worldcon. I don't know, that'd be interesting,
Jeannette: But, like -
Shaun: Oh, go ahead Jeannette. I'm sorry.
Jeannette: Yeah, but even within the anglophone world I think America does have very different tastes to, say, the UK. There are many people who will tell me about their, who will after half a drink or so will start talking about their sales and go like, “Oh yes, all my sales are in America” or like, “oh all my sales are in the UK.” All my sales are in the UK.
Shaun: Yeah, absolutely. So, let's take a shift to something slightly happier than, than Puppies and, you know, racists arguing that we should keep a racist bust, and other kinds of problems to maybe a thing that you found particularly, that you really enjoyed about the 2010s, whether it was a change in an award, or an… a moment in the ceremony there was a question I think from WorldsInInk in here. That’s about like you know a favourite moment in award ceremonies, but something that for you is memorable about the 2010s, a moment, a change, a person winning or something like that. Like, give me one, just one just [kisses fingers] chef’s kiss. Perfect. Didi, do you want to go first?
Didi: The hat trick. The Broken Earth hat trick. Nora Jemisin finally being able to go on stage, to be there for the third one, and the incredible speech, and the whole thing. You know, I think it's such a landmark incredible work. And the fact that it now has these three consecutive awards to back that up, is it's just beautiful to me. It made me so happy.
Shaun: Fantastic. What about you, Bogi?.
Jeannette: It felt like a paradigm shift.
Bogi: Yes, yes, yes, and also part of that paradigm shift was also Jeanette’s speech so I would absolutely want to add that because there I was like [raises hands for emphasis] Yes! So, um -
Didi: There was cheering. There was cheering for Jeannette’s speech, this is a truth.
Shaun: Yeah, I was there, there was cheering.
Bogi: Yep. And also, I would also like to say something, that's kind of like a behind the scenes type of thing, is that this has been the first time where I have been invited to be on awards juries. And I have seen that some awards have specifically made their guidelines, for example the Lambdas have explicit guidelines. Okay, they're not an SFF award per se but they do have an SFF category, and I juried in this category two years ago. So, they have explicit guidelines to avoid there being the jury being composed of three white Anglo men, or stuff like that. And so that's one thing that I've seen that's like a very positive thing that was for me personally awesome, because I got a pile of books to read. [Laughs] So, that was like a kind of a standout thing for me that might not be visible from the outside. And the juries were where I was in, I was like, by no means the only marginalised person in any sense but the juries ended up to be mostly marginalised people now that there is an explosive push against this. Of course it has a little bit of a flip side, and the flip side is that this usually either doesn't pay or pays very low for the people doing the jury, so this also becomes like another thing, “okay we can get marginalised people to do this for peanuts” kind of thing so that's, like, I will point that out. But also one more thing that really struck me, and this is something that's very visible for everyone is that if you just go on Wikipedia and look at like who got Hugos in various categories, in some categories, there was a period where there were like the same five people, or like four or five people, nominated year after year after year. If you look at the fan writer category I feel like this is especially like, I was shocked when I saw this, and this has very much changed so I feel that even right now, and this goes back to what Usman said there's like so much more to do. And so much more change, to like enact, but where the awards started from was just so incredibly different from where they are right now, that, like, it was personally shocking to me and when I did that, I rewrote my award speech that that we had to record I don't know if I'm gonna win so maybe the award speech will be just be forever on my hard disc but I changed it to have a list of people who I would also like to see nominated for the award. Because I feel like just, okay we have come a ways, but there's still so much. So yeah, that's, that's just a couple words for now.
Didi: I just want to make a tiny comment in response to what Bogi said, that, I want to shout out Renay’s Hugo's Spreadsheet of Doom, which I think has been super helpful for people too, in expanding in categories like Fan Writer because having a list makes people go ‘Okay, let's, check that person out’. And I think that was very useful especially in these categories.
Shaun: It's also really helpful for, like, the Astounding because of the rules of the Astounding right, where you have to only be eligible for a certain period of time and it can be really hard to find that stuff. So, I want to jump to Usman and then I want to go to Jeannette. So Usman was or is there a memorable moment for you from the 2010’s?
Usman: You know, one of the things that I noticed, one of the audience members, put that question out there. The question was about horror awards and has horror become the forgotten stepchild in the speculative fiction awards pantheon. Yet, in the, in the SFF conversation horror is really not counted as part of the SFF fandom. I think it's a pity because Ray Bradbury, going back to someone like Bradbury or Campbell or whoever. The golden godfathers, whatever you're gonna call them. They were as much into horror as they were into SF, and I'm not sure that all of them made that distinction back then. In the 1980s because of commerciability, and because of the fact that a lot of pulp writers came to the fore to try to make a quick buck, the bubble of horror burst and by the end of the 1980s horror was just, you didn't want to be called a Horror writer any more, you just weren’t, you were a supernatural thriller writer or dark fantasy writer. So, I think for me the best one as someone who's loved horror since I was a kid, I didn't even know that I liked horror. I just, I remember this time when I was 14, a friend from school visited me and he looked at my bookshelves and said, “Dude, what's up with all the vampires and the werewolves?“ and I looked at my shelves and I was like “Holy crap he’s right. What is wrong with me?” And that's when I realised I loved the grotesque, much more than the arabesque, and I have sort of stuck with that love through the years so, seeing Horror maybe rebounding, you know, it’s it’s just bounded back, made a resurgence in the last decade. It's gone from “I don't want to be called a horror writer” to now everyone wanting to put out a horror book and you know, become the next Bird Box or Paul Tremblay's Head Full of Ghosts or, now Stephen Graham Jones’ little, is it little? I'm forgetting the name of the book. Little Indians, I want to say? I'm sorry, I can't recall -
Shaun: You mean the new one? The Only Good Indian.
Usman: There it is, thank you, I’m sorry. So, seeing all these titles come out and these people really become powerhouses helps everyone. And I think for me that is a watershed moment where I want people who like this to me kind of get back to their roots and say, you know, if I want to do some horror, if I want to do some interesting Clive Barker sort of dark fantasy, or erotica, you know, QUILTBAG or LGBTQ sort of fusion, I can do it with absolutely no worry about labelled a gutter writer, which happened all the time in the early 2000’s. So that was my big, again I confess that selfish to my, the horror lover in me. But that's one, the other one I would say is seeing, as a person who does identify strongly as a Pakistani origin writer. I've seen the Pakistani SF scene explode in the last three, four years, and seeing this group coming up. 6, 7, 8 writers and about 16-17 speculative artists which is incredible. I didn't know that there is anyone doing this in Pakistan till the last couple of years. That's been really exciting. That’s me.
Shaun: That's, that's awesome. That sounds fantastic. Alright Jeannette, you get the last say on this question before we move to some audience questions. So.
Jeannette: At least for me, one of the moments I enjoyed the most is actually I helped. I really like doing people's hair and makeup before the award ceremony. It was, Mary Robinette Kowal organised the big kind of dolling up for the Hugos, I mean, I like the pageantry of things. So, I really enjoyed doing people's hair and kind of just fussing around and it made it feel more important. I'm not just kind of rolling out of bed and showing up and, kind of, I don't know, maybe it's just kind of flashbacks to preparing with your friends before going to the party or whatever but it was really nice and I really enjoyed it and I got the impression, at least, that Mary Robinette Kowal was trying to bring more kind of that pageantry in general to the awards. That there was at one point more of a kind of “show up in your T shirts and jeans”, which is, again, always 100%cCool. Not a problem. Not a criticism. But kind of make it that kind of party? and I like - I enjoy it. I enjoy dressing up, excuse to wear the dress.
Shaun: [Mimes] And the hat thing.
Jeannette: And the hat, and I do like hats too. I mean, I’m a live role player, I like pretending, I like very stupid clothes. So, I really - and I think that gives at least going to it a certain feeling of like “Oh yes, I feel all special”. So I enjoy that.
Shaun: Totally valid. That's awesome. Okay, so I want to take a couple of audience questions so Adri has asked a really good question about your dream niche award. What would you pick if you could have any niche award, what would it be and I want to start Jeanette, unless you're not ready.
Jeannette: Not ready.
Shaun: You need a hot minute. Okay. Who would like to go first show a hand. Oh! Bogi got it all right, we'll start with Bogi.
Bogi: Yes, and I'm kind of gonna be cheating because my favourite award has already come into being. And then it went on hiatus, and people are trying to bring it back again. So I'm just gonna talk a bit about that. So my favourite award as a reader. I started like, in like the late 2000s, when I have more access to like English language stuff through the internet. I started reading like “okay I'm gonna read the current stuff”. And whatever is available in English, and I very quickly determined that the award that like most closely aligns with what I enjoyed reading were the Carl Brandon awards. For those who are relatively new, this was an award that focused on Race in SFF and it had two categories, one category was about topics of race by authors of any race, and the other award was for an author who belongs to a racial minority. And I just thought that the winners of this award were just stellar! Like, they just kicked it out of the park. And I was very sad when the award went away, but right now I think Nisi Shawl and a bunch of other people are trying to bring it back. So, this might be a thing again next year or the year after so I would just like encourage everyone to keep an eye on this, because like this was my favourite and it might be coming back.
Shaun: Awesome, awesome I really hope it does, who would like to go next with your, your dream award. Didi’s making a face so Didi gets to go.
Didi: There was a face of “I don't know”, because that we, you know, as a translator, obviously, translation is interesting to me, but it is a super difficult thing to judge. Because, to really judge translation, you need to read both the original and translated work, and you're not gonna be able to get a jury that reads, all the languages. And it is, it would have to be juried, because it is, you know, you are judging craft more than art I think, so, yeah. So, not that? Yes, my niche award is not translation.
Shaun, Bogi: [laugh]
Jeannette: Oooh! Flash fiction, flash fiction is really cool. And would be really fun to see more celebration of that. And the bonus is it won’t drastically increase the length of your Hugo reading list, which I feel like is a good selling point for a lot of people. I mean, I think because I'm kind of stuck again, a bit of a thing where I'm kind of, I feel like I'm the odd duck out in in the Best Related Works where we, we’re seeing a lot of stuff which is quite relatively academic and kind of biographies and memoirs show up in it. And I wonder sometimes if, once they show up in that category enough times we should split them into their own category, like video essays might be a place where we might, because, that's a very active source of discussion and discourse on the internet. I mean, obviously Lindsey Ellis's Hobbit duology got a look-in the other year, but it, I think that - I'm very into video essays as well so that would be cool. I'm seeing best Booktube from the comments as well. I don't know if that would, because… oh we do have best podcast now as well so, it feels like in the same vein?
Didi: Yeah, and Claire [the commenter] has a Booktube. [Laughs]
Shaun: A bit biased. Yeah, a little biased.
Jeannette: Not at all biased, I see.
Didi: And it’s nominated for best fancast this year.
Shaun: It is, correct. Yep. So, let's talk to Usman. Do you have a dream award that you might want?
Usman: Yeah, you know, I've been thinking about this option for a while. I really would like the, Worldcon, the Hugos to add the best Hugo for best science fiction outreach effort. To marginalised communities, to people who are not able to do any of that. And I don't think that any such award exists in the science fiction world. I think that that is something to consider. Any programme, any organisation, any science fiction society, whatever. Whoever do the best outreach to marginalised communities and make the best efforts to bring people into the fold.
Shaun: Absolutely. Okay, so I want to end on a looking forward note because we are in 2020. And I know that 2020 is not exactly the greatest year that we could exist in. It's been a little strange to say the least. But I want to end on a, look we just talked about a whole decade and we talked about some changes, you know, things have been progressing, there's been some positives and there are negatives, but things are moving in that direction. So, what are you hopeful for this decade? For SFF awards or SFFH awards. We'll put the H in there as well. What makes you hopeful about this next decade of awards seasons? Who'd like to go first. Don't make a face Didi or I'll pick you! Jeannette, please.
Jeannette: I slightly want to, so Archive of Our Own obviously won last year? Last year, and that that kicked off an interesting fight to me because it spotlighted a different kind of rift within the fandoms. Because you have the kind of more fanfic online active and you've got the kind of SFF fandom which is they're not the same. And obviously, there were people who were, there was a whole fight around badges and whether or not fanfic writers who were on Archive of Our Own were allowed to call themselves winners of the Hugo themselves blah blah what is the award for. It got very pedantic, I don't want to go into it. But I also think it's quite interesting because it did highlight a rift within our communities, that isn't quite the same as the previous described, kind of puppies versus the everyone else, it was much more kind of pedants? It's .. okay pedants is the wrong word, but it wasn't the same rift, or at least it didn't feel like the same rift to me and I thought that was, and I think I would like there to be space for us to examine those rifts and not be forced in a place where we're having to go, “well no I don't agree with you 100% but we've got to just team up right now because the big bad is coming”. And I think in general, there are a lot of differences I have with people who I very broadly agree with and have a lot in common with that I do want to have the space to examine, but we don't have that space or that luxury to examine it, because there is this bigger threat, and that bigger threat is very existential, so we've got to put that all aside, but we haven't solved those problems we've just hugged it out for now. So, I think that's one think I look forward to.
Shaun: Awesome. I think that sounds fantastic. Bogi you're kind of nodding a bit. Do you want to give us your take?
Bogi: Yes, and also just very quickly answer, because it was asked in the sidebar. Where can we support the Carl Brandon award and the organisation for that is The Carl Brandon Society, and they're on various social media and things like that – check them out. So I just wanted to quickly interject that.
And as for what I’m happy about, I feel like that when I first started voting for the Hugos that was, I think, in 2010, or 11. And it was part of an initiative that was started by Shweta Narayan to get more people who are outside from like the Core SFF Fandom to also vote on these awards. And that was when I started reviewing in English because I felt that, okay if people are like, supporting me and giving me membership then I might as well actually give back and review and tell people what I like. And I feel like there was a period when what I liked was very far from what ended up on the ballot. And I feel like it’s not pretty far but I have like super niche interests. But I feel like now, when I’m looking at a ballot, I’m just feeling better. I don’t know, and I would like… I feel like there's a whole panel’s worth of discussion of whether this change is like linear or just comes like this [makes up and down motion with hand]. And I don't necessarily think that like this year's ballot is the best of all ballots. So I don't know, I might disagree with Didi. But I feel like we could disagree for like the whole other panels’ worth. So there's that. But I feel like there's hope for the future, but I very much agree with Jeanette, that as long as we have to deal with “oh my god we have to like deal with this big existential threat” that it’s really hard to concentrate on anything else. And actually this is how I felt like about the programming this year is that, just in the middle of the coronavirus and everything else and the political changes, and how that affected our lives I was like oh my god I don't even If I’m going to be participating in anything because I'm just out of energy. I’m out of effort. I'm out of everything. [Laughs] And then I was basically dragged to here by a group of people and I’m very grateful for that and the encouragement. And I feel like that's a happy note to end on because I'm here and I have been… I’m very grateful for that.
Shaun: That is definitely a very, very good thing. You got to find the joy when you can get it. So, Didi. Is that a face?
Didi: Uh, sure. My biggest reason for optimism is the fact that this year’s first novel ballot finallsts in the Locus is as good as either their best science fiction or best fantasy, and half of the Best Novel finalists in the Hugos, are debut novels, we’re getting a lot of great new people writing really good stuff. And that's, you know, it's more a reason for optimism about genre. But that's what I got.
Shaun: Perfect, no, optimism is appreciated. Alright, Usman you get to be the last one. So give us your hope, your hopefulness for this decade for awards and related things.
Usman: First, I'm going to say it's so lovely to see you Bogi. I've never, I don't think I've ever been talked to you face to face, or Jeannette. Didi, I’ve met Didi once, and I’ve of course met Sean. It's lovely to meet you all and listen to you. And thank you for being here. I. So, I, this is something I'm really passionate about, I guess, or I think about a lot, I really would like both, you know, folks from who are on the progressive side of things and on the conservative side of things to really have more generosity of spirit. There should be more self-examination, there should be more generosity spread on both sides. And I say that as a die-hard leftist progressive, someone who wants change, someone who wants things to get better. But there, I just don't see that enough from either camp. And so, I really would like that to reflect and seep into the science fiction world as well as much as possible. The other thing that I've been thinking about and I’d never have thought of that five years ago, is I would like Science Fiction writers, or all writers or whoever - people who “imagine” for a living, to be, maybe interact more with centres for science and imagination centres and, or even environment and imagination centres, because I think we don’t have much time left, as a species, as a planet. I really believe that, I'm back in Pakistan after a decade of being in the US and I’m at Karachi, the city that’s on the coast, in the south of Pakistan, just faced one of the worst flooding Karachi’s ever seen. And I don't think in 10 years Karachi is going to exist as a city any more, I think the science fiction writers really need to think about that, and maybe actually engage more. We know that the US damn military is engaging with Science Fiction, we know that. So it may be a good idea for us to sort of work on the environment aspect of things and policy. If, you know, Newt Gingrich could do it, maybe some of us could also be in the corridors of power. So that is something to think about.
Shaun: That's a, that's a very good thought to end our panel on. Thank you, thank you Usman. You're making me think a lot of - I was just watching a video, I believe Jakarta is essentially slowly sinking, and will eventually have to be moved. They’re in the process of moving the capital so, that's something that, yeah, I agree, we need to be thinking more about. So, okay, well we are past our hour, and I want to thank all of my wonderful panellists for all that you have done today, in bringing your lovely selves and your great thoughts for this, you all are fantastic, thank you.
Usman: Thank you.
Shaun: And thanks all our listeners who were here, and people who will eventually show up later and will not be watching this live. That's it. We're gonna say goodbye. I'm gonna end this broadcast, go read some science fiction and fantasy and horror.
Usman: Cheers from Pakistan.