Thursday, March 29, 2018

Chicanonautica: Why I Don’t Give a Damn About the Hugos, Nebulas, and SFWA

By Ernest Hogan
I got disgusted with awards--especially the sff ones--way back in the twentieth century, and my physical and mental health have been the better for it. Sure, it would nice to have a snazzy doodad with my name on it as a token of appreciation of my work, that would impress people who don’t know any better, but I’m cynical about such things--my wife had to talk me out of throwing away my high school diploma--eventually, the day would come when I’d see it as a worthless hunk of junk.

I lost faith in the Hugos in the Eighties when the movie of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff won for Best Dramatic Presentation--this wasn't even fiction, it was history. The World Science Fiction Society--which is just the people who bought memberships for the WorldCon any year--had lost track of what the genre was!

And there are people who dutifully buy WorldCon memberships every year, read all the nominated works that they can, and vote. They are the people who should, not somebody with a conflict of interest like me. And people like me should leave them alone.

But, then we shouldn't be surprised that books from popular series like Harry Potter win (we’re lucky it didn’t go to Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey as well) and shenanigans like the Sad Puppies debacle happen. I’m amazed that things like that don’t happen more often.

The Nebulas are even worse. They are decided by the members of SFWA, the Science Fiction (and Fantasy) Writers of America, a so-called professional organization. Unfortunately, it means that everybody has a conflict of interest. The winners tend to be the most popular works among a group of people who are in competition against each other.

It felt good when I became eligible for SFWA membership and was accepted after the bizarre approval process. For a bright, shining moment, I felt that I had arrived. That cheap thrill didn’t last. Being a SFWA member didn’t make selling my work any easier. And suddenly, I was getting mail and phone calls from people who thought I could do something for them, even if was just letting them waste my time.

I didn’t even know when my membership lapsed. When I did, I realized that I didn’t need any of the crap from SFWA to find markets and make sales. I didn’t miss all their stupid publications.

Also, at conventions, if I wanted to get into the SFWA suite, I just had to find someone I knew and they would let me in.

And it’s wonderful to be able to tell people campaigning for the Nebula that I’m not a member.

I haven’t felt the need to renew my membership.

There was a time I almost did, though.

Once, while Googling my name--that’s how I keep track of unauthorized translations, and student films of my work--a Russian science fiction magazine called Esli came up and my name was in the table of contents. After studying the Cyrillic a while, it became clear that Obsidian Harvest, a collaboration I did with Rick Cook that was in Analog, was being offered for sale.

There were also works by a number of big name sff authors.

From Wikipedia: It was started in 1991 in Moscow, as a publisher of foreign SF stories, but soon broadened its format to include Russophone writers as well.

Rick, who is a member, though we should inform SFWA. I agreed.
There was a flurry of emails, and in the end it was decided that they would ask the magazine to play nice in the future. In other words, nothing was done.

I did not renew my membership. In fact, I felt like Groucho Marx when he said, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

And my career goes merrily along without them.

Frankly, I would rather get paid, published, and read than win any awards.

Also, in my ten years as a bookstore clerk at Borders, not one customer ever came in and asked for a Hugo or Nebula winner. 

Most people have never heard of them.

The more I hear about awards of any kinds, and how they work, the less I’m impressed. I’m sure the details of how the Nobel guys decided to give theirs to Bob Dylan would read like proof of the end of Western Civilization. Which is okay, I’m ready for what comes next.

Ernest Hogan has been called the Father of Chicano Science Fiction, and probably will never win a major science fiction award.

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