Been reading up on Hugos and Nebulas, simply because. Dreamer is coming out next year so I technically have a nomination-eligible work. In Search of Amika is also a nomination-eligible work. “Null(Void)” was a nomination-eligible work.
I strongly doubt any works I have and will make will ever make a single ballot, let alone net an award I have only heard of from time to time, and usually when those awards are in trouble. (I think I first heard of the Hugo Award, for example, because of the Sad Puppies thing – wait, no. More on that below). It’s not because I think my works aren’t good. I wouldn’t put them out if I thought they were total trash and should never see the light of day ever. It takes a lot of work to make a book, have the book edited, format the book into reading form and then format again into an electronic form and then format the book again for audio form – and I skipped over a lot of other fairly necessary stuff. That’s a lot to do for something that is “trash” so, no, I don’t think my works are trash and thus wouldn’t net anything Hugo or Nebula.
It’s because the Hugos and Nebulas are kind of trash to me.
Mind you, I am really, really new to the publishing industry. I spent a lot of my years hanging around the music industry, where things are a little different. For one: have you ever heard of something called a Grammy? Everyone knows what that award is, including people who are not in the music industry or care about the music industry. Whether people think it is a worthy award or a whole lot of gaming and politics or simply “it’s an award that looks like a small brass record player”, they know what a Grammy is. I have friends who have Grammys, have been nominated for Grammys, and have voted on the Grammys. And if you are a random person reading this, please note I probably don’t have to explain what a Grammy is, what it looks like or what it means. You probably are going “What is a Hugo? What is a Nebula?” (unless you care about sci-fi/fantasy literature awards). So, there’s that one big difference for me. I’m going from one arena where the awards are very well known and established to a different arena where the awards just sound more like “which nerd is most popular in that random group of nerds over there” to me. I can show off a Grammy and not have to explain what a Grammy is (I just would have to explain how I got one since I don’t put out music – fun fact, you can win Grammys for other things to do with music besides personally playing it. I am not interested in procuring one, though) but I feel like I would have to explain a Hugo or a Nebula. Or have any possible ego I could have attached to those awards be quickly deflated by someone saying “J.K. Rowlings has never needed or gotten one of those, why is it important?”. There’s also the Billboard awards, Mtv awards, etc etc etc.
Those awards I definitely have a soap box for but that’s for when I am at the back of tour buses, to my friends who probably are not interested in music award politics, or to my cat, who sleeps halfway through my yammering. But as for Hugos and Nebulas, I didn’t really know they existed and I only knew they existed because of super bad behavior so they kind of leave a bad taste in my mouth. I mean, before Sad Puppies, I knew of Hugos through L. Ron Hubbard (the guy who invented the scam religion/cult known as Scientology) buying a bunch of memberships and voting for himself that way. So I didn’t exactly already see Hugos the same way I or any other person would see a Grammy. I kinda thought the Hugos weren’t real because of that. Or at least, real legitimate. As for Nebulas (and Hugos), good old racism is generally what demotes the awards in my mind.
Basically, because so many White writers win, I don’t see the awards as super legitimate because it isn’t like anyone who writes great sci-fi/fantasy/spec fic can win, you have to be White first and if not, you better have Whiteness centered in your works and a lot. And even then, they’re only letting you get an award because Tokenism, which waters down the grandness of such an achievement. If you aren’t White, you’re not really competing with the other writers, you’re competing with the Othered writers because remember, there can only be One (two or three if someone is feeling spicy) winner – so that the communities that dole out these awards can say “Hey, we’re not racist. We gave at least one (1) award to at least one (1) non-White at least once in the entire history of our existence. Like Octavia Butler! And also Not Dead Octavia Butler – we mean N.K. Jemisin! See? We are burbling with diversity! Overflowing! Just named two people there!”
Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, no. I’m new here but this sounds like total bullsh*t. Bad enough I have to hear pointless yammering from old people who still think Lovecraft & Asimov doesn’t suck. Probably because I’m younger and don’t have a deep love for Sci-Fi/Fantasy that could resemble a Klan meeting in fantastical elements but these pretty obvious issues really diminish the awards in my mind.
Plus it seems like WorldCon (Hugos) and SFWA (Nebulas) have major problems cleaning house or keeping out the bigots. Like, major incompetency levels. It sometimes feels like telling a teenager to clean their room, they heard you loud and clear and they can understand exactly what you said – but they’re still not going to do it. And when you remind them “hey, you have to clean your room”, they hem and haw, even wonder what is the importance of having a clean room, they’re the only one sleeping in it. Press on them with “your room is a sty. Fix it.” and out come the super reluctant and moody blustering as they might do something but really it’s just moving some stuff around and a lot more incessant complaining. They’ll whine more than they do something. That’s WorldCon & SFWA to me when it comes to these very simple things of rooting out built-in prejudice in their own systems and especially their own awards. I get it looks complex to them, just like keeping a clean room is to a teenager who has 0% desire to have a clean room. It’s only complex if they make it out to be.
Speaking as a Black writer who pens sci-fi/fantasy, you kind of learn to devalue these awards because you know for fact it’s not designed for “the best writer in spec fic”, it’s for “the best White writer in spec fic – and maybe for others who also like writing stuff White people like”. I already have said I don’t write race pain stories, I’m not into Suffera Stories like that. But White people like to see PoC, especially Black people, in pain and torture. I guess it reminds them of their ancestors’ glory days or something but yeah, it’s pretty telling when Get Out, a horror film, is considered a comedy by White film goers. There’s a lot to be said about racism-induced sociopathy right there. And if they get non-White characters, it’s best preferred to be penned by White people because the characters are still basically in their image of “what is a Black/Asian/Latin/etc person”, no need to worry about being introduced to characters that could viciously break out of the stereotype box and possibly even seem like their own individuals – y’know be seen as much akin to how White characters are treated and depicted: like actual people.
These folks are very happy and comfy with keeping things White so it is hard to really care about the awards when they’re pretty redundant in a way. Well, they sort of make themselves redundant because what’s the point of trying to get an award that already disregards you almost right at the start? Where it basically doesn’t matter how well you write or create, you don’t satisfy Whiteness enough so who cares what you make? Where “hey, everybody! We gave an award to someone not White! Look at us! Look at us! Are you pissed off yet? We just did a thing!” is what makes headlines. That’s pretty trash.
If the awards were actually about outstanding works in speculative fiction, regardless who they are about or who writes them, then I would see something to get sort of hyped for. A goal to strive for because, frankly, that would sound cool. But not if there is an implied “you must be this White or White-adjacent” to even remotely be considered. Then the awards just sounds dumb.
At least they’re not The Grammys. That way, I’ll never have to worry about anyone ever asking me “when do you think you’ll win one?” because the average person doesn’t even know that Hugos or Nebulas exists.