Short #Hugo post #SF #SFR

I’ve been writing SFRs since 2007, which makes it nine years of seeking out new life, exploring alien civilisations…and sticking romance in there! And if you’ve read any of my editorials from past issues of SFRQ, you’d know that I think romance is an integral part of any relationship; that love is the one thing that ennobles us and sets us apart from intelligent machines. If I didn’t believe this, I wouldn’t be writing SFRs, but–in all honesty–I can’t say that such a perspective has been, or is, respected.

The 2016 Hugo shortlist was recently published, and there are two things about it that I find dismaying. One is the fact that, in our first year of eligibility, SFRQ didn’t make it to the shortlist. ::cue violin music::

The editorial team expected this–after all, we’re a pretty niche segment of SF and, although our number of daily visitors has recently reached 2500 (yay!), in the free-for-all of the intertubes, that’s still small potatoes. Nonetheless, we were still quietly hopeful, despite me trying to play it cool during editorial meetings, and it was disappointing that our name didn’t appear. Marlene Harris, reviewer, librarian and all-round Great Person, has pointed out that, after the Awards ceremony, the number of votes in each category, for each nomination, are released, so we can check to see how many people actually nominated us. In this way, we can get a sense of how high the tally bar is set and, as Heather and Diane have pointed out, there’s always next year.

The second thing, however, is much worse, and that’s the degree to which petulance has entered the Hugo awards in particular, and science-fiction in general. I’m not just talking about Vox Day, but also about the repetitive and divisive discussions that have swirled around science fiction regarding its very make-up. These discussions are not new (just ask Michael Moorcock when he introduced New Wave into British SF), but it’s frustrating to have to travel the same rut time and time again until, it seems, we’re now in a deep, narrow ditch that we can barely crawl out of.

I wonder what these people are afraid of, these self-appointed gatekeepers of SF , because such reactions can only be down to one thing: fear. Fear of change, fear of losing control. Or, should I say, fear of a perception of losing control. I’m also insulted by the rigid categories such critics put me in. Because I’m a brown-skinned woman, for example, I must only be capable of writing neo-colonialist social SF. Well, if anyone has read my fiction, they’d know that I like nothing better than delving into physics and hard science! But, according to these “defenders” of SF (and, as I said earlier, they encompass more than Vox Day and his thuggish cohorts), only white men can write the kind of hard, adventure-laden adventures that the genre apparently stands for. It’s obvious none of them have read any of the SFR that I have, because our sub-genre is suffused with adventure and spaceships and hardware! But I’m getting off the point.

What I don’t understand is how such “critics” form their basic concept of the world. It’s a world where Kellog’s only sells cornflakes, because they think that introducing a second variety of breakfast cereal would somehow “lessen” their flagship product. It’s a world where you can only buy a car in one colour, because offering variety is somehow an “attack” on the original hue. It’s a world of Wyse terminals, with no way of changing–or even having!–a wallpaper on your computer screen.

What a banal world that is, and yet it seems to be the world that a small segment of so-called fans of science fiction prefer. Yet, were we able to peer into their houses, at their computers or the vehicles in their garages, I doubt they slavishly follow the “only one is good enough” car/cereal/computer line. Yet they expect the rest of us to. Isn’t that interesting?

I say again, what exactly do they fear? Could it be…evolution? And isn’t that an ironic thought. To these “champions” of “hard SF”, I’d point out that you can’t stop variation, not even in a species of fruitfly. And nobody is going to be able to stop it in a genre, no matter how loudly and petulantly they squawk. It’s just going to be tedious to get through, on our journey from exclusivity to inclusivity. As a famous ad once said: “It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.”

Many thanks to all who nominated SFRQ in the 2016 Hugos. We’ll be hoping (and planning!) for better luck next year.

Author: Kaz Augustin

Writer, Linux geek, cook, homeschooling mum and middling soap-maker

5 thoughts on “Short #Hugo post #SF #SFR”

  1. It looks like my previous, long comment vanished, so I’ll try it again. But, I’ll break it into shorter pieces. When I read this article my first question has to do with the rate of pay. The SFWA suggests that a professional rate is 6 cents per word. As I recall, you pay 2.5 cents per word. Just from the point of view of economics, it seems that you wouldn’t get as high of quality of submissions. And, I assume you are seeking the highest quality you can get. I understand having limited resources but wouldn’t this discourage some authors from submitting?

  2. I’ve tried this a dozen times but it won’t post anymore of my comment. I post but nothing happens.

  3. I can’t figure out why it doesn’t take the rest of my comment. There are no links, no contact information, and no mention of any products or services. Yet, each time I try to post, nothing happens. I return to the page and the comment count is the same. Maybe WP spam shield is blocking it but I have no idea why.

  4. My second question relates to the genre itself. When I think about classic romance, I think about exotic bird stories. These are stories where the female main character is plain. She can be middle-aged, overweight, impoverished, shy, uneducated, struggling, or socially awkward. In contrast, the male love interest is invariably rich, tall, handsome, trim and fit, intelligent, educated, successful, and socially adept. If the story is erotic in nature then he will also be well-endowed.

    Classic romance features male characters who are absurdly perfect. Fabio was a common cover model for two decades. At 6′ 3″ with shoulder length hair and a body obtained by a daily workout ritual he was so far outside of the male mainstream that he was almost a caricature. Yet, that seemed to be what readers of romance wanted.

    In Valley of Horses by Auel this pattern is pushed even further. Jondalar is 6′ 6″ tall, has long, blond hair, and is very fit and handsome. The young women he meets are eager to jump into bed with him; but, alas, he must hold back because his manhood is of such size that he can’t achieve full penetration. I had wondered if maybe the romance genre had changed significantly since then. However, the material on EC still seems to match this pattern.

    I read Heather Massey’s piece about having characters diverse enough to include physically challenged individuals. But, I’m having a hard time fitting these two ideas together. How can you have diversity and imperfection in characters while also insisting on absurdly perfect characters?

  5. Well, I found the problem. The spam shield was blocking the word p e a c o c k which I replaced with ‘exotic bird’.

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