Monday, August 24, 2015

The Hugos and Kidlit, by Matthew MacNish


Disclaimer: this is a deeply personal post for me, and it may be my last at Project Mayhem for some time, as I take a hiatus to reevaluate what my goals for and role in publishing will be for the foreseeable future. Heavy news, for my five fans, I know, but I am nothing if not honest.

From the jump, let's make a few things clear: I LOVE books. I love STORY, and I enjoy it in many formats, be they books, video games, roleplaying games, film, television, or whatever, but I ESPECIALLY LOVE BOOKS. I have ever since my father, may he rest in peace, read The Lord of Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien aloud to me and my sisters when we were but knee high to a hobbit.

Books convey story to reader in a way that no other medium for storytelling can. A novel, at its best, is essentially, at least to my mind, the absolute cosmic joining of two disparate consciousnesses into a singular experience. Not every writer can write every book, and every reader experiences each book in a way that is absolutely unique to their lives and scope of memory.

This is the beauty of the printed word, especially when applied to fiction in the form commonly known as a novel, but certainly eqaully importantly when it comes to short stories, novellas, vignettes, flash fiction, and ... what's that other category? There's something between a novella and a novel, right? Or between a short shorty and a novella?

I ask because I don't remember, but also because form and function and how they are awarded is rather heavily covered in the news at the moment.

In case you live under a rock, the Hugo Awards, SF/F's most historic and prestigious award (compare to the Printz, the Newberry, and the Caldecott when it comes to Kidlit) have recently been under siege. What happens next is critically important, not only to publishing, but especially to the fandom that awaits its whims.

Why am I writing about this on a MG blog?

That's a great question. Kidlit has historically been ... excluded from the Hugo awards, which I don't necessarily take huge exception to, personally, because those awards and WorldCon have a particular history which in general is not exclusionary, but I still do wonder what all of this means ... for all of us ... fans and authors, and aspiring writers ... and I have to say I have personally experienced the awkward and embarrassing feeling of being treated like an outsider at WorldCon, and I don't know if it was intentional, and I tend to think it wasn't, but at the same time, who knows?

At the risk of getting too deep into the vernacular, I don't personally care for the puppy's tactics, be they Sad or Rabid, but I do at times find myself wondering whether fandom, or the Hugos, or WorldCon, are as accepting as I would like them to be.

We have certainly seen SF/F become more accepting of women and people of color and LGBTQIA stories of late, and that is a good thing if you ask me, but I do wonder whether it will ever be a little more inclusive when it comes to Children's Literature. Paolo Bacigalupi, for example, won a Hugo for his adult novel The Windup Girl in 2010, but he also writes award winning fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade readers, none of which has a category to even be considered on the Hugo ballots.

Do we need to change that? I don't know. I'm new enough to serious SF/F fandom and WorldCon that I don't know that it's my place to say, but I will say this: after the puppy slates this year, both Sad and Rabid, more fans voted on the Hugo awards than ever have before, and that, I think, is good for all of us.

. . .

If you'd like to learn more about what happened at the Hugos, here are some articles, but note that this whole situation is highly political, and I am providing these links to allow access to both sides of the argument, not necessarily because I agree with everything they say.

The 2015 Awards

The Mary Sue reacts

Breitbart has a differing perspective

NPR is generally neutral, as usual

And io9.com makes an interesting point

36 comments:

  1. You have to wonder if the voting was for the best or just a popularity contest...

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    1. That is certainly a valid question.

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    2. Isn't all viting ultimately a popularity contest at heart?

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    3. Probably, to some degree.

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  2. Good luck, Matthew, whatever you decide! FWIW, QQQE helped me hoe my query-writing skills so much, I feel like I owe you credit for helping me get my agent.

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    1. That is wonderful to hear, K. Thank you very much for letting me know.

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  3. I think organizations, clubs, higher powering bodies that judge, or whatever you'd like to call them, can become complacent and stagnant. They can grow so rigid within themselves that they forget to breath and allow for new and exciting possibles. Most of life is like that. People build comfort zones, things that feel familiar and safe, and often times don't even notice it. I don't follow most awards, whether it be for books, films, etc... Why? It's been my experience that there is a lot of bias (and some back scratching) in most of these areas. That is not to say that some awardees aren't justified, because they are. There are many who win recognition who deserve it. I applaud those and really try to ignore the others.

    For you Matt, I completely understand needing to step back and reevaluate where you fit into this business and where writing fits into you. I've done a similar thing over the past year. To be honest, I'm still doing it now. I wish you all the luck in the world and look forward to hearing from you again. You are a great guy, writer, and dad. :)

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    1. That's is certainly a valid point, Sheri. I suppose there is probably a little bias in all awards. Thanks so much for stopping by and for the kind words.

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  4. There's a lot of politics in most awards. For some of them, the campaigning is more visible. I think I prefer it that way -- let's see how the sausage is made. Then you can judge the validity of the judging.

    I'd love to see kidlit represented here -- fantasy and scifi is underrepresented in Newbery voting, which tends to be contemporary or historical realism.

    And Matt, if you step back, I understand that. We all get to the point now and then when we have to look at obligations, goals, and wonder what the heck we are doing. I love your posts though!

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    1. I would definitely be nice to see a prestigious award somewhere specifically for SF/F kidlit, but I don't know what the best venue would be.

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  5. I don't follow the Hugo Awards personally, but I do hope it can be more inclusive, and I think a children's/YA category would be a welcome addition.

    I too am taking a hiatus from "Talking Animal Addicts" as far regular blogging/book reviewing goes.

    I'll still be around on Twitter every so often (@TAA_Editor/@Taurean_Watkins) , but due to personal matters (and some rethinking of my own publishing goals) I had to go on a sabbatical from blogging, and my releasing new videos on T.A.A.'s YouTube channel will be more infrequent for the foreseeable future.

    I'm certainly not checking out or giving up. It wasn't an easy to decision to make. But this is something I need to do.

    I love many of the posts you've done here, Matt, and it's no secret you'll be missed. I guess it's a "season of transition" for both of us, albeit for different reasons.

    Take Care,
    Taurean W.

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    1. Thanks Taurean! I'll be sure to follow you on Twitter. You've been an excellent reader here at PM, and your contributions of always thoughtful comments are much appreciated.

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  6. I'm hoping for more barriers to be broken when it comes to the Hugo Awards. What drew me to SF/F when I was a child was it's openness. I think if we continue to demand it, it will happen.

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    1. I hope so Jay. I am definitely encouraged by the turnout they experienced this year.

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  7. I didn't realize there were such barriers. Having read all Bacigalupi's books it seems there should be a category for children'ts novels. I bet I'm not the only one who was introduced to SciFi through children's books by authors like Burroughs, Verne, or L'Engle.

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    1. I'm sure you're not the only one, Bish.

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  8. I definitely am all for anything that is more inclusive, whether it is book content or more people involved in voting. I hated seeing this process getting so politicized.

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    1. I can only hope, in the long run, that the increased awareness is for the best.

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  9. This battle has been going on for awhile, and well, I have my opinions and I'm not feeling bad for people butthurt that women or people of color are getting attention. Having said that, sometimes issues like this expose a need to look at how the contest itself is set up and whether it serves the community well enough.

    RWA (romance writers) is beginning to see a similar issue after a Nazi gestapo Christian inspirational made it through to the Ritas this year. It's not that RWA nominated this book, it's that the author paid to submit it, and just enough people (5-10) rated it high enough to make it through. This pokes at a rather disturbing underbelly of ignorance regardless, but if you even blink at the US political news, I think it's pretty clear we are in the midst of a culture and values war where racism, sexism, and privilage are being dissected.

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    1. All excellent points Steph! Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts.

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  10. Matt, you've been here since the beginning (or at least my beginning here)! I hope this isn't the end forever. Here's to learning what you want to do and finding deep satisfaction there.

    Very curious about the sad puppy / rabid puppy...

    Fair or not, I think children's literature will always be the "less important" one when paired with adult literature. We are the deviation from the norm. I find this with verse novels within the kidlit community. Anything that isn't the standard makes its acceptance more difficult. BUT that doesn't devalue it (as we know...even if others perhaps don't).

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    1. Definitely not the end forever, Caroline! I love being a part of this blog, and hope to oneday have more to offer again. Lately it is simply that I have not had any time to write, and if I'm not doing that, there seems to be little point to blogging about writing.

      But yeah, I can only imagine what the experience of writing MG novels in verse is like, and how that must sometimes leave you feeling like an outside as well. Thankfully we have each other, and some readers who get it. :)

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  11. I don't keep up with writing awards so I have little opinion of that. I'm still impressed that your father read Lord of the Rings to you when you were a kid. That must have taken a very long time!

    Personally I think it's a good idea to read advanced books to kids rather than just child lit. I used to read some rather advanced books and stories to my girls when they were little and they seemed to keep up with them just fine. I'd also make up a lot of my own stories and they loved those. My stories could get pretty strange sometimes.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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    1. LOTR definitely instilled a love of the written word in me from a very young age, Lee. And it did take a long time! Several months if I recall correctly.

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  12. I think it's pretty damn important that diversity be important for kid lit, because we need to be introducing the beauty of diversity at an early age.

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  13. That would be a novelette, which is after a short story and before a novella, just in case no one answered that (because I'm not reading through the comments).

    I did a post (or two?) about the puppy thing a while back.

    I agree with you about books.

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  14. I know there are artificial barriers to children and YA authors in many writing communities and awards. I can't say I spend a lot of time thinking about it, since I'm introverted enough to think: Any group that doesn't want me as a member ... makes me want to go hide in the nearest public restroom.

    However, while hiding inside a stall, I can say that I'm pretty sure these barriers come from people who are FRIGHTENED by the quality of literature being written for children and teens -- as well as the popularity of these works. I feel nothing but pity for the recent adult authors who have written disparagingly about YA and MG books. ("Blah, blah, I've never read Harry Potter, and adults who read it are missing out on important adult works.") Don't you hear the seething jealousy in those words?

    Matt, we at Project Mayhem will miss hearing from you on a monthly basis, but we all have times when blogging has to take a back seat to life, work, and writing. I hope you'll still consider accepting query critiques at your personal blog because I reference you ALL THE TIME. Not everyone takes my advice, but occasionally someone does.

    All the best for you going forward from here ... Dianne

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    1. Dianne, I ABSOLUTELY will still accept critiques at my blog, and I'm happy to do them anytime. Sadly, I haven't had a request for one in months.

      And I think you're probably right about biases against kidlit. I think there is often an element of jealousy or at least lack of understanding in most prejudice.

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  15. Love that your dad read to you and that's your wonderful memory. I read every night to my son and still do when the right book comes along. He's 9 so he likes to read his own books and I love that the most. Take care of you. Keep moving forward. Heather

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  16. Love that your dad read to you and that's your wonderful memory. I read every night to my son and still do when the right book comes along. He's 9 so he likes to read his own books and I love that the most. Take care of you. Keep moving forward. Heather

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  17. Great post, mathew. This is a wonderful example of a great blog post. Love the links and the commentary. Now why no new posts? How's the re-evaluating going?

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    1. Thanks, Joe! Honestly, I'm just so busy at work and raising my family and running my company that I have so very little precious time for writing. Blogging once a month doesn't take up that much time, but it's just one of those things where I have to prioritize to find any time to write.

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Thanks for adding to the mayhem!