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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Hugo Awards: Best Fan Writer
This is a category about writers who publish non-professional work. This can appear in appear in a number of venues, but all of this year's nominees are actually bloggers (there is some consternation about some of these non-fiction categories, as they seem to maintain a lot of legacy publications, like "zines", which have generally moved onto the web these days. Not being that familiar with the history here, I'll refrain from commenting further, except to say that it seems like some reform might be wise at this point). The writer in question may actually be a professional, but the publication cannot be so. For example, John Scalzi (winner of last year's Hugo for Best Novel) won this award a few years ago for his blog.

Other than that, the criteria here is a bit on the vague side. From my perspective, the name of the award indicates that the author should be a fan of something. And since this is about Science Fiction and Fantasy, that fandom should probably relate to works in those fields. This does not preclude them from writing about other things, or from a particular perspective, but one of the things I found this category is that many authors are preoccupied with a single topic that has little to do with actual Science Fiction.

Of course, this notion of reviewing authors who review SF does feel a bit awkward. I am nominally a part of this field, though I'm nowhere near as talented as these authors. But then, I'm not a particularly good fiction author either, and I've got enough hubris to think my opinion matters there, so what the hey? Let's get to it. My ranking as it stands now:
  1. Abigail Nussbaum - She comes into this category with a bit of an unfair advantage, in that she's a blogger I already read regularly. This is because she's a fantastic critic. Even if I don't agree with her (and I frequently don't), her thoughts are always clearly articulated and well thought out. You can tell, because her posts are often almost comically long. Some might find that off-putting, but as someone who has a tendency to ramble, I can't find fault in that (and to be clear, I don't think she's rambling). Like all of the female nominees, Nussbaum will frequently comment on the depiction of women in SF/F, but unlike some of the other nominees, this is not always an overriding topic, but rather one amongst many layers of depth that she embeds in her reviews. There are times when it seems like she likes nothing or that she comes off rather strong, but that's the way of the critic. To me, she is a clear winner here, while the rest are all on relatively equal footing.
  2. Mark Oshiro - The idea here seems to be absurdly in-depth reviews of specific books (or TV shows). I get the impression that this would work extremely well if you were playing along and reading the same books, but if you're not, I don't think you'd want to read regularly. On the other hand, one of the posts included in the Hugo Voter's Packet was a review of the pilot episode of Pushing Daisies. I actually added season 1 to my Netflix queue (yes, I still get discs, wanna fight about it?) based on his enthusiasm. Of the nominees, only Oshiro and Nussbaum have managed to guide me in that way (i.e. as a fan), which is why they get the top slots). There's an awful lot of stuff at Oshiro's site though, and I did not have time to read through most of it, especially considering that I have not read a lot of the stuff he's covering. But when he is, I'm on board. This gives him a slight edge over the rest of the nominees.
  3. Liz Bourke - This is a blog for Tor that is specifically designated to look "at the successes and failures of media in terms of portraying women, touching on the history of women in the genre, and highlighting discussions about women and genre in the blogosphere." So the perspective here is pretty consistent, but strangely, it doesn't feel as dominant as the next two nominees. It could be that much of the work focuses on actual book reviews, which are generally well done (though not as detailed or multi-faceted as Nussbaum's work). Also, she seems to actually like the books she's reading, which could lead to the same sort of infectious enthusiasm as Oshiro.
  4. Kameron Hurley - Another blog that is seemingly devoted to the political feminism of the genre, I was a little turned off by the fact that none of the posts in the Voter's Packet were really about SF/F. There was one good post about My Little Pony fandom that I suppose would qualify, but it's not really about being a fan of that show so much as how female fans should feel about Bronies. It's an interesting and thought provoking post, and in poking around on her blog, I'm seeing some other interesting stuff as well. I would put this one about on par with the previous nominee and could probably swap the two...
  5. Foz Meadows - Yet another blog that is almost completely devoted to feminist rebuttals of misogyny in fandom. Unlike previous nominees, this one has a distinctly informal air, with stuff like Futurama memes and a tone that is filled with exasperated rage. In a lot of cases, this is a justified reaction, but it can also get repetitive. And this is another situation where I don't get the impression that Meadows doesn't actually like a lot of this stuff. That doesn't make her a bad writer or mean that her blog is worthless, but it does seem less about SF/F than the other nominees. It can be a fun read, but it's funny, it kinda reminds me of Larry Correia's blog in a lot of ways. They are, of course, complete political opposites, but that's kinda the point - they are both preaching to their respective choirs.
So there you have it. Stay tuned for the Best Dramatic Presentation (short and long form) ballots on Sunday.
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This post is part of the Kaedrin Weblog. It's been categorized under Science Fiction and was originally published in July 2014.

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