Clearly, I’m all about the quiet dignity.
(Photo once again by Tom Suter)
I have a few comments to make about Hugos won and lost, so if you’ll indulge me (and you’ll have to, because this is my site), and allow me to do it in an entirely artificial Q&A format:
THE HUGO I WON
So, uh, which Hugo did you win?
Best Fan Writer.
Aren’t you a professional science fiction writer?
Indeed I am.
I sense contradiction.
Not really. In science fiction, nearly all pros are fans, and some fans are pros. One needs to be careful, as Patrick Nielsen Hayden would say, to note that “fan is not the embryonic form of pro”; nevertheless, the streams, as we might say, do cross.
So for what writing did you win this Hugo for?
You’re looking at it. I write about science fiction and the science fiction community all the time here on Whatever, and I try to promote science fiction literature on a regular basis.
Is this is a first?
Sort of. Others have won Hugos for online sites, although technically they were editing awards. In 2004, Cheryl Morgan won the Best Fanzine award for Emerald City, which was online as well as in print, and there was a one-off Best Web Site Hugo in 2005, which was won by late, lamented SciFiction, and given to its editor, Ellen Datlow. And Dave Langford, who has won the Fan Writer Hugo for the 20 years previous to this one, distributes Ansible electronically (I know this because it pops up in my e-mail on a regular basis).
However, as far as I and anyone else I’ve asked can see, this is the first time a writing Hugo, much less a fan writing Hugo, was given out for writing done exclusively on a blog (there was once a Best Novel nominee which was originally published on a blog, but it didn’t win). So in that regard, yup, it’s a first.
How do you feel about this award?
I’m over the friggin’ moon, thank you very much. And more than that, I think it’s entirely in keeping with the frankly weird and Whatever-centric manner in which my science fiction career has developed. You know, I have a science fiction career because of Whatever; it was here I posted Old Man’s War, which is how the book was sold. And at this point, I am equally known as a blogger and as a science fiction writer. The idea that an award from the latter portion of my life is commorating what I do in the former is just six different and tasty flavors of cool. I mean, dude: I get a Hugo for writing on Whatever? What’s not to like?
But it’s not the Best Novel Hugo.
Well, that’s the big one.
Sure, and I’d like to win one. In the meantime, I get to be the first guy ever to win a Best Fan Writer Hugo while being simultaneously nominated for the Best Novel. I get to be the first Campbell Award winner ever to win the Fan Writer Hugo. I get to be the first guy ever to win a Hugo for what he writes on his blog. And I’m the first guy in two decades to win the award who is not the guy who won it the year before. You know, all this is fairly damn cool. Allow me a moment of pure creamery ego to have pulled all this off. Because I feel pretty good about it.
So, go on. Tell me, if you dare, that this Hugo isn’t a hell of an achievement in itself. I’ll laugh, and then beat you with the trophy. And then you will fall. Because the thing is damn huge.
How does it feel to topple Dave Langford?
I didn’t topple him; I believe he still stands upright.
No, I mean he won the Best Fan Writer Hugo for 20 years consecutively until you won.
Well, look. There’s Dave Langford, the absolutely lovely man who writes the absolutely indispensible Ansible, and then there’s the Langford Streak, which is in nearly all ways an entirely separate thing. Am I happy to have broken the Langford Streak? I am; it’s nice to have a Hugo. Am I under the illusion that I’ve somehow replaced Dave Langford in any meaningful way? Don’t be silly. I can’t replace him; he’s irreplaceable. Also, I don’t think his clothes would fit me, and he has more hair. I try to replace him, people would notice. I’ll just continue to be me.
It’s not out of school to note that Dave Langford was one of the very first people to send me good wishes on my win, because he is just that much of a class act. My response to this was to note the singular honor it is to follow in his footsteps. Because it is.
Are you planning to work on a streak?
With a careful caveat that what follows is not a commentary on Dave Langford or his list of consecutive wins: Hell, no. My ambition is not to win Best Fan Writer again; my ambition is to see Best Fan Writer won by lots of different people. Because you know what? There are lots of people writing lots of excellent stuff about science fiction and its community, both online and in the traditional fanzines, and what I think would be excellent is if the Hugo voters would open their eyes to these writers.
In my acceptance speech for the Fan Writer Hugo, I stressed how honored I was that the Hugo voters had connected me to the line of fan writers, because the first pro writers of American science fiction were indisputable fans first, and it was an unfathomable honor to able to stand in that line. And having stressed how genuinely honored I was to have the award, I asked the people in the audience to please not give it to me next year. Instead, they should spread it around. That’s what makes for a vital award category. Repeat winners? From time to time, sure. Dynasties? Really, let’s not.
Now that you have a Hugo, should we expect to see “HUGO WINNER” on the cover of your next novel?
No. Both I and Patrick Nielsen Hayden (my editor at Tor) feel strongly about this. If I am ever lucky enough to get a Hugo for my fiction, then yes, I will put “Hugo Winner” on the cover of some other piece of fiction. Until then, it gets put into the jacket flap bio.
To be clear, it’s not that I think that the Fan Writer Hugo is a lesser award, not to be celebrated. Trust me, people, I’m feeling pretty celebratory, and I don’t intend to be shy about noting my Hugo status when I feel it’s appropriate. But it’s not ethically correct to pimp out the Fan Writer award for my fiction work. There’s also the small matter that if I did, I’m pretty sure that fandom assassins would stab me to death at the next convention. And they would be right to do so. I’d rather not be stabbed.
So, no. To the extent that I have any control over marketing (which, as an author, is not always a sure thing), you’ll not see “Hugo Winner” on my fiction covers until I win a Hugo for my fiction.
THE HUGO I DIDN’T WIN
So, you lost the Best Novel Hugo to Michael Chabon and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.
I sure did.
By nine votes.
So if just ten more people would have voted for you, you’d have won.
Out of almost 750 voters.
Sounds about right.
So you missed winning by just a little over 1%.
Is this going somewhere?
Well, how do you feel about that?
I feel fine.
Oh, come on. You don’t have to lie to us.
How dare you accuse me of lying, you figment of my imagination!
But, okay then, tell us why you’re not pissed.
THE REASONS I’M FINE ABOUT NOT WINNING BEST NOVEL THIS YEAR
1. Rumor has it The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is a fine novel. Losing to a novel that sucks would suck. Losing to a novel that is excellent is fine. In this regard, I would have been fine with any of my fellow nominees winning over me.
2. So, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist writes a #1 bestselling novel that receives glowing awards in the national press, sucks up major awards, is nominated for others, and sells hundreds of thousands of copies, and I’m supposed to feel bad about losing to him by single digits? Really? No, really: Really?
3. You know, if I had spent the evening being depressed that I had lost a Hugo award, all the while cradling another Hugo Award I had won in my arms, you know what would have happened to me? I would have been tossed out an eight-story window by an enraged mob. For starters.
4. I think people forget this, but my first novel came out in stores only just a little over three and a half years ago. So in the space of less than four years since the functional start of my science fiction career, I’ve been nominated for four Hugos (including for Best Novel twice), the Campbell and the Sidewise award, and won the Campbell and a Hugo. And, thing is, the books sell pretty well, too.
So, look, people: I do not deserve pity. And if I were to display self-pity in this regard, I should be bludgeoned to death, with hammers, as an object example for every other science fiction writer who ever got astoundingly lucky and then became a miserable bastard about it.
5. This year’s Hugo trophy, while really quite beautiful, is also unwieldy. Carrying two around would have simply been impractical.
So there you have it.
Let me know if you have any questions for me about the Hugos, won and lost; I’ll be happy to answer.