Sunday, June 14, 2015

The REAL Hugo Controversy

The Sad and/or Rabid Puppies may try to convince you that there's a bias at work in the Hugo Awards*, and they may be right. However, they've overlooked the REAL shameful secret of the Hugo Awards. That secret? No novel written in a language other than English has ever won. Do you really believe that the best sci-fi/fantasy novel of the year was originally written in English... for SIXTY consecutive years? This stretches credulity.

Solaris, The Night Watch, 1Q84, The Shadow of the Wind, ... there are others. But Hugo voters don't seem inclined to read (or, if they do, to nominate) works in translation. I'd love to get on my high horse, but I don't read many works in translation, either, so I'd be a hypocrite to fault them for this. My solution? Create an award for work in translation. It doesn't have to be given every year, but it would help raise awareness AND it would genuinely broaden the scope of the awards to an overlooked** group of books/authors. So, Hugo committee, get on it!

* The bias is NOT that voting is done by the members of Worldcon -- that's the definition of the population, not a bias.
** By the Hugo community in particular, and also English-language genre fans.


Ray Blank said...

Bravo! Thank you for pointing out a truth that should be obvious to all, but which is conveniently overlooked by many.

Literally millions of words are being written about diversity in book awards, but they are written in English, by native English speakers, about books written in English, by native English speakers. The rest of the world is hardly mentioned as a footnote.

Many seem incapable of reflecting on the most obvious bias in the Hugo awards. The name 'Worldcon' is used without any irony, but I find it supremely ironic.

Kevin Standlee said...

What do you think the "Hugo Committee" does? Do you think the "Hugo Committee" decides what works are on the finalist shortlist? Do you think the "Hugo Committee" makes the rules for eligibility or decides what the Hugo Award categories are? None of these things are true. The "Hugo Committee" (formally the Hugo Awards Administration Subcommittee established by the current Worldcon) checks voters' eligibility, checks works' eligibility, and counts votes, based on the rules adopted by the members of Worldcon. Those rules can be changed by the members of Worldcon.

It's the members of Worldcon who vote on these awards and make the rules. Those rules actually give non-English-language works two bites at the apple: once when published in its original language, and again when translated into English. That's how The Three-Body Problem made the ballot this year.

In 2007, the Worldcon was in Japan, and a really significant number of the members were Japanese. Many of us thought that we'd see at least some Japanese-language works nominated for the Hugo Award. There were none. The Japanese members choose not to nominate. I've always been puzzled by this.

If you think there should be a category for Best Work Translated Into English, you're welcome to propose it as a change to the WSFS Constitution. Any two or more members of the current Worldcon can propose changes, even if they're not actually attending the current Worldcon. Alternatively, you could try convincing a future Worldcon committee to use its authority to create a Special Category to create a one-time category that covers the ground you think is being neglected, and then see if the members of Worldcon are interested in nominating anything in that category.

The process for changing the Hugo Awards doesn't involve lobbying a faceless Hugo Committee or secret cabal; it involves changing the hearts and minds of the thousands of members of the World Science Fiction Convention, who collectively make up the membership of the World Science Fiction Society.

jtingermany said...

Kevin, If you were speaking to me, this is what I think the "Hugo Committee" does -- organize, count, then present the nominations/votes. However, as I don't know any other Worldcon members (and don't think it's appropriate to pay for my friend's/relative's membership for the sole purpose of a change I want), I figured this was my best way to do something. And, lo and behold, it worked!

I know that there's a process for change, but I am, sadly, just one person. Unless, of course, you're interested in joining me to propose a change?

Ray, are you interested?

If either of you are, I'll type up a suggestion and we can move forward!

Unknown said...

I am the Chairman of this year's meeting. If you can find at least one other voting member (including supporting) who wants to sponsor a proposal, you can submit it to the Business Meeting. Read the Guide to the Business Meeting first before submitting anything.

jtingermany said...

Kevin, I will keep searching for a second member. I'll also read the rules and see if there's a way to make a suggestion to update these policies for the internet age (i.e. each member can post one suggestion to a forum that can be voted up or down by other members, suggestions with a certain level get to the committee, etc.).