Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hugo Thoughts: Fannish Pursuits

These are two of the categories I always have the most trouble voting on, but, luckily, both were well-represented in this year's mega-gigundo Hugo Packet, so I am somewhat less badly informed than usual. And I'll try to make this post shorter than yesterday's epic, too.

Best Fan Writer

  • James Bacon
  • Claire Brialey
  • Christopher J Garcia
  • James Nicoll
  • Steven H Silver

James Bacon was represented in the packet by a longish article about his favorite female characters in comics, from Halo Jones to Tulip from Preacher. (I also saw his name several times in various of the nominated fanzines.) And he shares his surname with a meat product that I greatly enjoy. But I didn't find his work particularly memorable, I'm afraid. He was nominated last year as guest editor of the fanzine Drink Tank.

Claire Brialey had three interesting, thoughtful essays in the packet, all with distinctive, individual points of view and specific things to say. I suspect I'll be voting her at the top of my ballot in this category. She's been nominated for Fan Writer three times before and as editor of the fanzine Banana Wings an additional five times, without winning yet.

Christopher J. Garcia had an exceptionally fannish collection of writings: a short piece about setting his beard on fire, one of the very popular "what I remember about this list of books" thingy covering Clarke winners and nominees, an editorial all about a recent case of High Fan Drama, and a review of a Steampunk Exhibition. He's clearly very plugged in to all of the things fans like to do and talk about, and writes entertainingly about them. He was nominated last year both in this category and for editing the fanzine Drink Tank.

James Nicoll is Internet-famous, and writes the most entertaining reader's reports that I've ever read. Unfortunately, those are both proprietary and professional -- in that he gets paid for them -- so they don't count in this category. And I've thought that his LiveJournal posts -- probably his primary fannish writings -- have gotten shorter and more desultory in recent years, mostly "hey, look at this" drive-bys. (He used to be a great fannish writer on rec.arts.sf.written, whence I gafiated a few years back, and may still be so now.) And his choices for the packet -- two book reviews, another one of those pieces of orbital-mechanics wankery that SF-dom is eternally in love with, and a funny little piece on blurbs -- didn't entirely thrill me. So now I'm torn between voting out of honesty or in-group solidarity. He was nominated in this category last year.

Steven H. Silver is one of the great menschen of the SF world: he does the news for SF Site, writes for various fanzines, is editor and publisher of the very fannish and SFnal ISFiC Press, and one of the judges for the Sidewise Award for alternate history. I often find his writing to be on the meat-and-potatoes side, but he's one of the major bits of glue holding together the entire fannish community. He's been nominated nine times before in this category and three times in Fanzine for Argentus.

Best Fan Artist

  • Brad W. Foster
  • Randall Munroe
  • Maurine Starkey
  • Steve Stiles
  • Taral Wayne
Brad W. Foster is one of the stalwarts of this category, having been nominated twenty-three times since 1984. (He's won it seven times, most recently last year.) His figures always seem rubbery and weightless to my eye, but he's regularly funny, which is an important point for a cartoonist.

Randall Munroe has never been nominated before; he's the creator of the popular and very SFnal webcomic XKCD. I suspect his stick-figure art has already been the source of many outraged LOCs from various SMOFs, and I might personally question how "fannish" his work is when it's his primary source of income -- but, on the other hand, he does give it out for free, like artists for traditional printzines do, so there's a definite parallel there.

Maurine Starkey isn't someone I was previously familiar with, and I have to admit that her work in the packet didn't particularly "wow" me. (Though she did pick four pieces in different styles, which was nice to see.) I see she has a DeviantArt page, if you want to see more of her work. This is her first nomination.

Steve Stiles, on the other hand, has been nominated nine previous times for this award (with a huge gap between his '67 and '68 nominations and the string that began in 2003) without winning yet. He also chose works for the packet that didn't really impress me, though his work always has a manic energy that I enjoy.

Taral Wayne has been nominated for this award nine times before, from 1987 through last year. His work -- at least the parts of it that I've seen -- are primarily in the furry vein, with copious nudity. That's not exactly my thing, but it's clearly popular. (And his choices for the packet included a "sexy" Rocket J. Squirrel and a piece with a blue-haired furry figure in a suit that seems to have nipple and crotch cut-outs, which wasn't at all what I expected.)

These are the clubbiest Hugo Awards there are, with usually the lowest voter turn-out and a solid core of people who really care about them surrounded by a larger group of the rest of us. But there's nothing more fannish than having a really strong opinion on who should win Best Fan Artist, so go for it.

Hugo voting closes in 17 days. (As of when I posted this; if you're reading it later, that deadline is midnight, Pacific time, on July 31st.)

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