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Hugo Awards, Pt. 2 – Thursday Thoughts #4

Thursday ThoughtsOn Thursdays, I take a break from reviewing books to share my thoughts on all things books, fandom, and random. All opinions are my own. Yours may differ. Feel free to respectfully disagree and discuss in the comments.

What’s in a Ballot

During the nomination period, I wrote about the Hugo Awards here in this space. I explained what they are, why I’m interested in them, and some of the drama surrounding the awards that hit a head last year. While many of us wanted to believe we could be spared some of the same issues this year, I know I knew it was unlikely to happen.

The finalists were announced in April. While the ballot doesn’t look as bad as last year (there aren’t nearly as many categories that were swept by the slate), there are some really troubling nominations. In the Best Related Work category, for example, not only are there several works not deserving of award consideration, but some of them are outright attacks on people.

In some categories, the slate included some deserving works. I’ll be honest that I didn’t look at the slate until after the finalists were announced. And there were maybe three nominations I made that were also on the ballot. So it’s not all bad, right?

Don’t Be Fooled

Let’s face it: the real reasons that the Rapid Puppies slate exists are that Vox Day feels he is deserving of an Hugo Award and it bothers him that so many people he despises (John Scalzi, women in general, etc.) get the recognition he wants. Yes, he will say his crusade is to stop people from being nominated because of who they are and instead focus on the merit of their work. And yet, his name shows up several times on the ballot he created. And most of the works are published by Castalia House, where he is both a writer and an editor. So even if we accept that his crusade is about “merit,” it’s very clear that to him “merit” means “me and my people.”

No Award?

I expect that we will see No Award at least a couple of times this year. I don’t think we’ll reach (or beat) the record of 5 non-awards in a single ceremony. But what is truly frustrating is that this crusade doesn’t do anything to help the awards. The people who support the slate say they’re trying to fix a broken system. But what it does is not only rob some deserving individuals of recognition on the ballot, it also robs fandom and the World Science Fiction Society from celebrating great works together. None of us want to see a category with No Award. That’s no fun. But the members have shown that they will use it when they feel nothing on the ballot is worthy of consideration. Or when they are forced to consider works that are, quite frankly, abhorrent.

Hope for the Future

I mentioned in my last post on this topic that some rule changes were put forward at last year’s WorldCon. Those changes were debated, refined, and approved. But any changes to the constitution must be ratified by a second convention business meeting. Those items will be on this year’s agenda, and I am excited to say I will be there in the room advocating for much-needed reform.

What I like best about the reforms suggested, though, is that they aren’t necessarily focused on just minimizing the impact of a slate. What they actually do is give each individual member as much of a voice in the final ballot as possible, not just favoring the most popular works. The fact that it also makes it far less likely for a slate to sweep a ballot (unless other members also feel those works are deserving), is just an added benefit.

What’s Next?

Well, voting is open and I’ve been catching up on some of the things on the ballot that I haven’t seen/heard/read. Voting closes at the end of July and we’ll find out the results in August. (And again, I’m very excited to be attending my first ceremony in person at MidAmericon II in Kansas City.)

You’ll probably see some reviews in the coming weeks for some of the books that are finalists that I’m still catching up on. A few have already been here on the blog. And maybe we’ll have a Thursday Thoughts roundup with my final ballot once I have it all sorted and submitted. 🙂

Adapting The Handmaid’s Tale – Thursday Thoughts #3

Thursday Thoughts

On Thursdays, I take a break from reviewing books to share my thoughts on all things books, fandom, and random. All opinions are my own. Yours may differ. Feel free to respectfully disagree and discuss in the comments.

There’s always a sense of excitement I feel when I hear that a book I’ve enjoyed is being adapted for the screen. Not only does it mean there will be more attention for the book and the author, but I know I get to experience the world of the story brought to life. So I can’t let news like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood getting a small-screen adaptation go by without comment.

I make no secret that I love dystopian fiction. In fact, I don’t think I could make a secret if I wanted to. And The Handmaid’s Tale is quite simply one of the best I’ve ever read. It’s a true gem of a work, and those who haven’t read it should run to their nearest library and check it out. (And I suggest doing so before the show airs, since we know adaptation rarely does justice for the book.)

There are reasons I should be worried, I’m sure. Every book-to-screen adaptation has its problems. It’s inherent in adapting a book to a film that things need to be cut. I remember lamenting the things that were cut out of the Harry Potter series of films. There are things I think are critical to the story that are only to be found on the page.

But that’s to be expected in a film adaptation. A book that takes several hours to read would be a film of a similar length if everything stayed in. And while people are willing to go see 20+ films featuring James Bond, there’s something different about an episodic series of films than a seven-volume telling of a single novel.

What one really needs to worry about is when those responsible for the production take too much creative license. I’m thinking of adaptations of books like Geography Club where I felt like I was watching a different story–just set in the same place with the same character names. And there’s the equally troubling adaptation of The Scorch Trials from The Maze Runner series. So many liberties were taken there that I remain completely perplexed about how they will be able to do The Death Cure without writing a completely new plot.

What has me excited about this particular adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale (it was previously adapted for film; a decent production but nothing stellar) is that it’s for the small screen. A television show offers more space and time to deal with the story. A ten-episode season of one-hour episodes gives around 450 minutes versus the 120 minutes where movies tend to top out.

That’s not to say television is the answer to true-to-book adaptations. Examples like The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars showed clear deviations from the book series early on. Part of the reasoning for changing things up is to give the story something new for fans of the books. Of course, sometimes it’s fans of the television show that influence production. True Blood (which was always presented as being based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries) notably kept a character alive, deviating from the books, due to popularity with the show’s fans.

Even with the tendency for television to explore different avenues of the story, I’m ready and waiting for The Handmaid’s Tale. Due to the ability to explore so many layers with more time, I think I’m just more ready to forgive deviations on the small screen.

But, as a friend of mine says, “At the end of the day, any adaptation is a crap shoot.” That may be true. But every once in a while the dice land in our favor…

Musings on Book Fandom – Thursday Thoughts #2

Thursday Thoughts

On Thursdays, I take a break from reviewing books to share my thoughts on all things books, fandom, and random. All opinions are my own. Yours may differ. Feel free to respectfully disagree and discuss in the comments.

One of the communities I identify with online is fandom. And fandom is a rather broad term, as it consists of so many smaller sub-communities. So, to be more specific, one of the primary groups I’m a part of is book fandom.

The other day, a colleague asked me about my fandoms. She asked, “What do you spend your time on outside of work? What excites you?” And my response included books, reading, and volunteering. It also included specific television shows and podcasts. And since I’d already been thinking about the nature of book fandom, I walked away with more on the brain.

When I talked about being a fan of books, I left it at just “books and reading.” When I described being a fan of other media, I cited specific examples. And I tend to notice this is the case for many when it comes to fandom. In other media, people tend to identify on a more direct level with a specific work. And while there are books and series that have active fandom groups, I sometimes feel like it’s not on the same level.

For me, I think a big part of this is just the nature of books themselves. As someone who would describe himself as a huge fan of books, I don’t often read the same book twice. There have been a few exceptions over the years. But I usually prefer to read something new if I can. So that means that the experience of reading a book isn’t always a sustained one. Yes, I spend time thinking about a book after it’s finished. I usually review it, recommend it, and talk about it (if it’s a good one!). But I’m onto the next book by the next day.

With movies, it seems a bit easier to do a re-watch. And television shows usually run over a period of days, week, months, or even years. There’s an increased ease with which one can engage with a work over a sustained period in those types of media. Thus, I think it becomes easier to identify with a specific work rather than the medium as a whole.

But that identification with specific works brings its own challenges. Television fandom finds itself segmented, and sometimes that leads to tension across fans of the medium. In book fandom, because we so often jump from book to book, it seems easier to feel like a part of the broader community. I don’t have to watch three seasons of a show to catch up to a fellow blogger. I just need to pick up that book she’s just recommended and see if I feel the same way.

When I try to identify what makes me a part of book fandom, I think of my brother. If you ask him what he likes to read, he will tell you the names of the two books he’s read cover to cover. And then he’ll let you know those are the only two books he’s read cover to cover. If you ask me what I like to read, you best have at least a half hour to even just dip below the surface.

I think what defines book fandom is that people who like to read, well, they like to read. And we will read as much as we can. Even though I’m a huge fan of movies, I don’t often go see a film just to see a film. But I will pick up a book because I’m bored and it looks semi-appealing. Readers are as much a fan of the act of reading as they are the books in front of them. And that’s how I think I will identify myself going forward. I’m not just a fan of books (though they are pretty lined up on my bookshelf). I’m not just a fan of specific authors or specific genres. I am a fan of reading.

Hugo Awards – Thursday Thoughts #1

Thursday Thoughts

On Thursdays, I take a break from reviewing books to share my thoughts on all things books, fandom, and random. All opinions are my own. Yours may differ. Feel free to respectfully disagree and discuss in the comments.

The Hugo Awards

Those who’ve followed the blog for a year or longer know this. I am a Hugo Awards voter, and I get excited about the awards season. That means I do discuss them on the blog. And since we’re currently in the nomination period, why not start tis series with the Hugos as a topic?

What are the Hugo Awards?

The Hugo Awards are a fan-driven honor for science fiction creators. They honor both fans and professionals in several categories. The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) presents the Hugos. All WSFS members may nominate and vote. Membership is available to each years Worldcon, at both attending and supporting rates.

Members spend the start of each year looking at the previous year in science fiction and fantasy. And many members take the time to recommend nominations to others. Usually nominations close in March, with the finalists announced in April. Voters then spend the next several months checking out any finalists they missed before. A committee collects and tallies the votes. The awards ceremony takes place at Worldcon with a livestream available online.

Wasn’t there some major drama last year?

There is drama surrounding the Hugos every year. I think most awards have this to some extent. With the ability to vote being so open, many people feel more ownership of the awards. And when the awards don’t turn out the way they want, some people feel particularly scorned.

Some vocal fans haven’t liked the ballot’s more recent increased diversity (creators and stories). They’ve organized a group to stuff the nominating process with a specific slate. Last year this led to many of those nominees becoming finalists. And because many Hugo voters did not appreciate this, they made use of a seldom-used option: No Award. If voters feel all or some finalists aren’t worthy of the award, they can include “No Award” on their ballot. Since the rule started in 1959 through 2014, No Award was only voted 5 times. Last year that number doubled as it was voted in 5 categories in a single year.

There’s much more to the whole story. It generated a lot of thoughtful commentary (including a series of posts by George R. R. Martin). If you wish to go down that rabbit hole, it’s not difficult to find it. And I want to stop there to focus on this year’s awards.

What’s the scoop for this year?

There were proposals made last year to change the nominating process. Amending the WSFS constitution needs approval two years in a row, so nothing’s changed yet.

We’re currently in this year’s nominating period (through the end of March). I’m already close to having my ballot completed, and when it’s done I will share it here. Every novel and novella on my ballot gets a review here. Some shorter fiction doesn’t, because I find reviewing short stories to be a challenge. The categories like editor don’t lend themselves to review. And I don’t review movies or tv shows here. So anything that doesn’t have a review will include a brief statement of nomination.

If you’re a fan of science fiction and fantasy, I encourage you to consider thinking about the Hugos. The deadline to be a member to nominate this year passed. But the Hugos happen every year, so you haven’t missed out forever.