Hey, so this is coming out a bit earlier than usual because I am absolutely exhausted and probably won’t have the capacity to do this later.
Also, because I think its important to address my first ever Hugos, one in which I was able to participate in behind the scenes.
For those that didn’t see it, Arkady Markady’s speech really summed it up in her acceptance speech for Best Novel. To wildly paraphrase, she described the night as a contrast between a simplified, nostalgic past and a complex, difficult, and exciting present and future. There wasn’t anything malicious in the ceremony, but the throwbacks to the 1950’s and 1970’s award ceremonies was. . . problematic. Let me make this clear – I hold a lot of privilege, and am pretty hard to unnerve. But even I felt uncomfortable in much of it, and felt that it would probably have made plenty of others even more uncomfortable, upset, or worse.
But there was an up side. Speeches like that of R.F. Kuang calling out the problems in entering the writing world as a woman and a marginalised community – the harassment, pigeon-holing, and racim – and that of Jeanette Ng (who by all rights needs to be nominated for a 2021 Related Work Hugo for her acceptance speech) were amazing. Ng’s speech might not ripple into another name change for an award as her 2019 speech did, but it was just as powerful. And as is becoming tradition (twice is tradition, right?) she ended with an awesome hat.
In that sense, it really was a Hugo in two parts. George’s stories were clearly dear memories to him, but talking so highly of people who are known to have massively damaged diversity in SFF was (to put it mildly) a failure to really understand the modern SFF community.
This isn’t meant to be a criticism of George, but if we take out the diversity in the award winners of 2020 (link here), we can list maybe three or four winners. The classic gatekeepers kept out the voices of so many literary masters who will now never be known. They were Georges idols and peers. They are probably great memories and stories for him. But they are a reminder of damaging people in a damaging time that continues to impact modern works.
As someone who was involved in the show, and someone who both attended and contributed for the first time, it was an eyeopening experience. It might be a little bias of me, but I don’t want to put any hate on the volunteer team either. Having seen the work that went in behind the scenes, I felt genuinely bad for some of the people who had their work represented this way. I don’t know what opportunities or skills they had to change what was the final show, but I do hope that for Washington 2021, Chicago 2022, and WorldCons in the foreseeable future learn to look forward, rather than relish a selective past in the way they organise future ceremonies.
Links to previous days: