(Before the alt-right) An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953–2000

White privilege and male privilege are alive and well in the Hugo awards, despite claims about “criminally overlooked” white males. All you have to do is look through the inestimable Jo Walton’s deeply annotated objective account of all the Hugo awards in every SF category from 1953 through 2000. (The historical info is strictly objective, but the book also contains highly subjective but fair essays about many of them.) You will see year after year in which all the nominees are white males, although recently people of color are being nominated, and women did pretty well once we got out of the ’50s and ’60s. But first, let’s look at the book itself.

What I’ve written above is not all that the book offers. An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953–2000, also includes the Nebulas, Campbells, Dicks, Mythopoeic, Tiptrees, and Locus awards from those years, as well as other awards that I’ve omitted.

But wait — that’s not all! There are also many fascinating and highly curated comments by others in the SF world from threads on discussion boards during that period. All this amounts to 574 pages of SF goodness, so you’re surely not going to read every word cover-to-cover. Yet it’s much more than a reference book, so you don’t merely want to look stuff up in it. Anyway, you couldn’t really do that, since there’s no index. 🙁 Other than that flaw, this is a book that manages to be written with a single author’s voice yet with the voices of others appearing throughout. The only good solution, IMHO, is to sit next to an internet-connected device and slowly scan the entire book (scan, not skim) from beginning to end, pausing to read all the prose paragraphs and looking up any authors or stories that spark your attention.

As one might expect, Walton achieves several goals here. One is simply that she assembles five decades of related information in one place, permitting the reader to see both the forest and the trees. A second is that she reminds the reader of favorite works, long-forgotten works, and works that bear re-reading. A third is that she causes the reader to rethink some earlier opinions that may have changed as well as some newer opinions that may need to change.

The end year of 2000 precludes any need to cover Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies and all the horribly Trumpian alt-right activity over “criminally overlooked white males” in the Hugo awards. These controversies didn’t start until 2013, which means that Walton could avoid discussing any them and didn’t need to discuss the close parallels to GamerGate and other right-wing populist activities. You’ll have to go elsewhere to read about nominee-packing and the like. Those of us who recognize and acknowledge our white privilege and our male privilege are disgusted by the antics of those who have sullied the science fiction world, which used to stay clear of politics other than the stories that affirmed inclusiveness and human rights, two concepts that are apparently foreign to certain so-called fans.

Categories: Books