Worldcon presented the Hugo Awards last night. The Hugo's are science fiction's oldest and most prestigious awards, given by the science fiction fans of the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon). These were the results in the categories I cared about and voted in.
- Best Novel went to The Three Body Problem, by Cixin Liu, Ken Liu translator.
- Best Novelette went to “The Day the World Turned Upside Down”, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Lia Belt translator.
- Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form went to Guardians of the Galaxy, written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman.
- Best Novella, no award given.
- Best Novelette, no award given.
- Best Short Story, no award given.
Worldcon gave the Best Novel award to the right book and I'm thrilled how that turned out. Aside from that, I'm disappointed in these results. They show me that the Worldcon membership has become political and is no longer interested in science fiction.
This was the year that the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies both published slates of suggested works for Hugo nominations. The Sad Puppies are led by a man who's Hispanic, former gun shop owner, and NRA member (Larry Correia); alongside a man who's a naval chaplain married to a black woman (Brad R. Torgersen). The Rabid Puppies are led by Vox Day (Theodore Beale), a performance artist (one hopes), who loves to provoke with inflammatory rhetoric that openly flirts with racism and misogyny.
Larry and Brad have both long felt that science fiction has become a boring wasteland of message fiction, more concerned with political correctness than with entertaining stories. The stories they dislike tend to be written by racial, sexual, or religious minorities. Naturally, Larry and Brad were attacked as racist homophobes, who wanted to keep science fiction pure for white, male authors. (Wired published a fairly even-handed overview of the whole Puppies saga.)
I'm disappointed that the Worldcon membership had such a political reaction to the Puppies. Many of them vowed to give no award, rather than give an award to a work that the Puppies had nominated. Now that the results are out, we can see that many voters did just that: no award was given in five different categories. This was overtly political voting. It wasn't based on the quality of the stories. The "trufans" voted according to whether or not they liked the fans of a given story. I'm disappointed that a fan base that supports tolerance and diversity would judge a work not on its own merits but on the merits of its supporters.
It has also become clear to me that the Worldcon membership is less interested in science fiction than it is in literary merit and stories of the fantastic. This is most clear in two of this year's winners: “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” and Guardians of the Galaxy.
The Hugo Voter's Pack included a copy of “The Day the World Turned Upside Down”, alongside an interview with the author, Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Heuvelt said:
The whole turning upside down was a metaphor to begin with, so I think this is more a love story, or a humorous-grief story, or a fantasy than a real SF.
Having read the story, I wholeheartedly agree. Heuvelt constructed the story around the grief that Toby (the narrator) feels after breaking up with his girlfriend, Sophie. This breakup turned Toby's emotional world upside down, even as gravity reverses all over the globe and the real world literally turns upside down.
It's an interesting concept, but it has everything to do with emotional upheaval and nothing to do with science. It's a good story (although not to my personal taste), but I don't think it should be a candidate for (let alone a winner of) science fiction's foremost award.
It was up against three stories featuring various elements of science. All were well written and would have made deserving winners. The Worldcon membership chose instead to give the award to a literary tale that didn't include any science fiction.
Guardians of the Galaxy was a fantastic film. It was brilliant, fun, and funny. I've watched it three times and even bought a copy. But it's a movie based on a comic book. True, it happens in space and features ray guns, space ships, and a world destroying energy source. But there's no science involved anywhere in the story. It's a story of the fantastic, not a story involving science.
The Hugo membership chose Guardians of the Galaxy over Interstellar, a movie that involved true science fiction in its best elements. Interstellar showed a world ravaged by blight and the scientists and explorers that risked everything to build a ship and fly through a wormhole, to find a new home for humanity. The story involved real science, was well written, well acted, and entertaining. In my opinion, it was everything that a Hugo winning movie should be. But it lost to a truly entertaining comic book movie.
Based on this year's nominations, reactions to who nominated works, and which works won awards, I think it's clear that the Worldcon membership is no longer interested in the science part of science fiction. Instead, they're interested in fantasy, stories of the fantastic, and literary stories. I enjoy those, but I want to find a group of fans who still appreciates, and honors, the fiction of science, stories that can both entertain and teach you about the laws of the natural universe.