Changing My Stance; or why I will be going to the business meeting at the Hugos.

In case it wasn’t glaringly obvious from my other posts, I am a baby F/SF writer. And in an effort to make friends and influence people (and buy cupcakes and listen to amazingly clever people talk on panels and make a fool of myself in a public space,) I am going to Chicon this year! It’s in Chicago, and I’m actually staying in the conference hotel (with excellent people) and I am very excited.

As an attending member of the conference, I was eligible to nominate for the Hugo awards, which meant that in January I was carefully making a list of all the novels and short stories I had read in the past year (and for the Campbell, past two years), measuring them against each other, and filling out my ballot.

To be honest, I did fill out the ballot with the kind of giddy excitement you feel when you are finally part of the club and people take your opinions seriously. But I feel like that any time I get to vote. LOOK AT ME I AM AN ACTUAL ADULT FUNNY CAT SHIRTS NOTWITHSTANDING. Oh, okay you need to see my photo id, that’s fair. SEE I AM OF SOUND MIND WHOO. I may have been one of the only people to legitimately try to convince my peers to vote with the argument “but it’s so fun!”

Yesterday the Hugo nominees were announced, so of course my twitter feed went absolutely insane. I am gleefully delighted that two of my Clarion instructors are nominated, John Scalzi for Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue, and Kij Johnson for The Man Who Bridged the Mist.  The stories are awesome (though spectacularly different) and I know who I’m cheering for in their categories.

As the excitement continued, however, I noticed that it was only a certain sector of my feed lighting up with congratulations and counter-congradualtions and glee. The sector which writes books for “grown-ups.” None of the YA writers of Science Fiction or Fantasy were involved in this conversation.

I did not expect this.

See, I write YA Fantasy/Science Fiction. So when I go to the book store, I check out the YA section. (It’s usually near the front.) And then I go to the Science Fiction and Fantasy section. (Usually near the back of the store.) I knew that the books I liked were located in two different sections, but I considered that more of a fortunate shelving plus (two sections to browse! awesome!) than a sign that these were extremely different genres. I considered YA F/SF to be F/SF, albeit F/SF that dealt with themes of becoming and coming of age, strongly character-centred, and with maybe a bit more romance. But it’s just a flavour of the grander line of Fantasy/Science Fiction, right?

According to the voters of the Hugo awards, it’s a lesser flavour of the tradition. There is not a single book, novella, novelette, related work, short story, or etc on the ballot that could be termed YA. The only place where there is some cross-over is in the editorial side, where several of the editors have also worked with stories for the teen market. The ballot draws a line between the YA stuff and the Good stuff.

So I thought about that for a bit.

I think I should emphasis again that I am very surprised. I am new to considering the industry, but the people I follow all seemed to be interested in reading in more than one section of the bookstore. I got into Clarion with two stories that were YA, and for goodness sake, the anchor team at Clarion this year is two best-selling YA authors (Cassandra Clare and Holly Black). I had not before noticed the signs that my genre was not considered as “good” as those books in the grown-up section.

If there had only been one YA book on the ballot (or one story from a YA anthology), I think I wouldn’t have surprised at all. I mean, it is quite clear that some compelling story lines when you are 15 fail to be as compelling when you are 35 or 40. Twilight, for example. Very effective when you are not allowed to drive yet. Less wonderful to read when you are a bit older. But to have no YA represented at all?  That makes me think that the voters just aren’t reading in the YA section. Even when you look back at other years of hugo nominees, the only ones that made it to the list are books that would be cross-shelved in the adult section, like books by Cory Doctorow.

I mean, last year we had The Freedom Maze come out, a moving and spectacular inditement of racism’s multitude of forms. It happens to be shelved in the YA or MG section. Red Glove, a FREAKING AWESOME book with con men, spectacular magical and political systems, twisty romance and death. Bumped, a scathing and hilarious critique of the reproductive underbelly of modern religion’s focus on purity and secular society’s focus on sexuality. 2011 saw the release of Chime and The Demon’s Lexicon and Goliath and The Girl Of Fire And Thorns and The Boy At The End Of The World. None of them made it to the list. And I think that to have not one of these books even nodded to by the ballot is to have a poorer ballot.

I had heard people say before that the Hugos should include a YA ballot, but I had thought that was rather silly. Wouldn’t they be included in the regular ballot of novels, short stories, novellas and novelettes? Why would they need an extra category?

Because, it seems, nothing found in the kids section is worthy of making it onto a list of best F/SF of the year. It has to be put on a separate list of best TEEN F/SF. I can’t say that I’m delighted to finally figure that out. I liked it better when I thought I was a full member of the club. However, if making a new list, is what it takes to get people to recognize the awesomeness that is going on at the front of the store, I am all for it.

Also, let’s face, it, this way we get twice as many nominees to squee over and fete, and the possibility of more authors and therefore fans coming to the con, and GENERAL AWESOMENESS. What’s not to love?

4 thoughts on “Changing My Stance; or why I will be going to the business meeting at the Hugos.

  1. Tim

    Hey Jaz,

    I like this post a lot. I think that you do have to go and fight for what you believe in; in this case, that YA fiction has a place in SF. The way to change that with the Hugos, obviously, is to get more and more people to read it and take it seriously, and the way to do that is to go to the conventions and talk about the books you love.

    Also I like this post because I can’t wait to see you there. 😀 But I really think it shines a light on something interesting that I wasn’t aware of. I did know that there is kind of an SF mentality about Serious Science Fiction and Meaningful Fantasy, but I didn’t really realize to what extent YA is excluded from that.

    (I also think there are a lot of other good books not included on the Hugo ballots, but the exclusion of YA as you describe it seems more symptomatic of the mentality of the fandom as a whole. But the good news is that things can change.)

    Also also: Red Glove rocks.

    1. Snazel Post author

      Thank you, Tim! I’m looking forward to seeing you too! And looking forward to going to Sprinkles. 😀

      I agree that there are a lot of stories left of the slate. I hadn’t really considered the list before I saw this discrepancy, but then I went back to look at quite a few years. There isn’t much humour that makes it to the list, and almost none that wins. And it’s romance-light. And there are definitely more genres and sub-genres that don’t make it to the list that I don’t know well enough to notice the absence. (Not many tie-in novels, for example). I look forward to helping things change, because if there’s one thing I can always do, it is talk endlessly about books.

      And yes, Red Glove rocks. *high five for red-glove-appreciation*


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