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2016 Hugo Awards: “So join. Read. Vote.”

I’ve been reading fantasy and sci-fi for as long as I can remember[1], but this is the first time I’ve ever become a member of the Hugo Awards voting pool. (A voting membership costs $50, and members also get to make nominations for the 2017 Hugo Awards.)

My faithful Kindle Paperwhite (paid link) is already getting a good workout, with plenty more to come!

I wish I had 10 heads and 20 hands

I’m a voracious reader, but rarely a focused reader. I usually have at least a dozen books — a mix of fiction, gaming, comics, and sometimes non-fiction — in various states of “on the go” at any given time. Right now I’m reading (all paid links) Seveneves, GURPS Time Travel, Playing at the World, The Colossal Conan, Stormbringer, Blood Rites, Thuvia, Maid of Mars, Blood Meridian, The Burning Land, and the Bible, and rereading Jonathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four.[2]

Right now, that means Seveneves and GURPS Time Travel. But I’ve got a bookmark, be it physical or virtual, in all of the titles on that list — although in some cases, I’ve been “in the middle of” them for a couple years or more.

This makes becoming an informed Hugo voter a task that’s both exciting, because I love fantasy and SF, and daunting, because holy shit there’s a lot of reading that has to happen before the July 31 deadline.

Just the novels, ma’am

Considering only the five nominees for Best Novel, which are (all paid links):

. . . and using only the rough metric of “how many pages Amazon lists for the edition I looked at,” that’s 2,864 pages of reading I need to do. Granted, Best Novel is the category I expect to involve the most reading, but there are oodles of other categories in addition to this one.

The only category for which I rode in fully prepared is Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form, because I’ve already watched all of the nominated films. (Choosing one, though? That’s going to be tough!)

Still, no complaints here. “Oh no, I have to read a bunch of interesting books!” doesn’t carry a lot of water, as complaints go. I’ve ready plenty of Butcher and Stephenson, but Leckie, Jemisin, and Novik are all new to me. I’m excited to read their work — and many other nominated works, as well.

Time, horseshit, and Rabid Puppies

Will I be able to read 100% of the Hugo nominees? Realistically, probably not. I’ll do my best in the time I have, though.

I vote in the ENnie Awards every year, and I don’t even attempt to read/play every nominated work — doing so would entail giving up too much of my time. Instead, I play/read the stuff that interests me, and vote for stuff I feel familiar with. Unlike the Hugos, the ENnies don’t offer up a voter packet, but I make a point of visiting nominated blogs and checking out nominated free products.

I also don’t feel obligated to read every Hugo-nominated work, because fuck the Rabid Puppy agenda. I have a horseshit filter, and you know what? It didn’t stop working when I became a Hugo voter.

If a nominated work stands on its own merits, like Seveneves does, I don’t care if it also appears on the Rabid slate. If a slated work doesn’t stand on its own, or if it advances or supports Rabid Puppy horseshit, it’s going below No Award on my ballot.

I like, and agree with, John Scalzi‘s take on this topic:

If you vote your own conscience, there is no wrong way to vote for the Hugos. There is, simply, your vote. It’s your own choice. Think about it, take your vote seriously — and then vote. No one can or should ask you to do anything otherwise.

I have no stake in how anyone else votes; I’ll be voting my interests and conscience.

The bigger picture

I’ve learned a lot by reading different takes on slates, Puppies, Hugo voting, and all things Hugo-related over the past couple of months.

File 770‘s list cross-referencing nominees with the Rabid Puppy slate is going to come in handy, and the site’s ongoing Hugo commentary and links have been a great read. Gay dinosaur erotica-author Chuck Tingle, nominated by the Rabid Puppies to troll the awards, is a fucking national treasure, and he’s doing a delightful job of trolling them right back.

At least one other “troll nominee,” My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, is an excellent nominee in its own right, and I’ll be fascinated to see how it does. Chuck Wendig said some excellent things about last year’s Hugo mess that are pertinent this year, too. Ditto Brandon Sanderson, in his post about this year’s awards.

“So join. Read. Vote.”

The quote in the title of this post is George R.R. Martin‘s advice to potential Hugo voters, drawn from an excellent blog post he made after the nominations were announced, The Puppy Wars Resume.

It’s good advice, and I’m taking it.

I wish it didn’t cost $50 to take, though. $50 is a lot depending on one’s circumstances, and I bet there are plenty of folks interested in the Hugos for whom that $50 is a barrier to entry. But the sentiment is sound.

I’m still reading, listening, and finding my feet as a Hugo Awards voter, but it’s a responsibility I take seriously — and no matter what happens, I’ll get to read some good books, and the awards themselves will be interesting.

[1] The two earliest fantasy and SF books that I read were, respectively, The Hobbit (paid link) in second grade and Tunnel in the Sky (paid link) in fourth grade. I might be forgetting something earlier in either case (or both), but I have “time stamps” for those two.

[2] My to-read stack, physical and virtual, is hovering around 130-150 books, and has for at least the past five years. I try to spread my unread books across multiple shelves so that they can’t gang up on me.

Categories
RPG community Tabletop RPGs

You can validate others’ experiences without invalidating your own

Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorism Problem, by De Scriptorice, has been making the rounds in my circles on G+, and I’ve been trying to figure out what I wanted to say about it. Not because I’m of any importance, but because what that post describes is awful, and speaking up matters.

Yesterday, I read Why Should We Listen To Anecdotal Evidence of Harassment in Gaming? and Why I Don’t Play Magic Any More (both by Ferrett Steinmetz), and it clicked.

De Scriptorice’s experiences

Here’s an excerpt from De Scriptorice’s post:

I am thirteen years old and in a game store for the first time. I examine their selection of dice and take them to the counter to pay.

“How old are you?” asks the balding, middle-aged man behind the counter.

“Thirteen.”

“Old enough to bleed, old enough to breed!” he chuckles in glee. The Warhammer 40K gamers at the table behind him take up the refrain. “Old enough to bleed, old enough to breed! Old enough to bleed, old enough to breed!”

I run.

That’s one of the least-bad experiences she relates, which speaks volumes about the kind of shit she’s dealt with over the years.

My experiences

None of the experiences in those three posts jibe with my experiences as a white, male, cisgender[1] gamer.

I’ve gamed in groups with women, people of color, gay and bisexual folks, and folks with physical disabilities, and if there was harassment at any of those hundreds of gaming sessions, I didn’t spot it.

I love that anyone can sit down together and pretend to be other people for a few hours, no matter who they are in real life. This has shaped my perception of gaming as a positive force, and of gamers as a welcoming community.

But

But. But. The fact that I haven’t witnessed harassment doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, or that it’s not a real problem.

The world is much, much bigger than my worldview. Which is sometimes an uncomfortable thing to realize, but just as often a transformative, meaningful, mind-expanding thing to realize.

And at the same time, recognizing that there’s a harassment problem in gaming, and in related spaces like conventions and gaming stores (and related hobbies, like cosplay), doesn’t invalidate what I’ve experienced. Both truths are true.

It’s possible to both see gaming as a good thing, which it is, and as a hobby that attracts its share of assholes, bigots, sexists, and other problematic folks, which it also is.

Willingness to change

Seeking to invalidate someone else’s experiences of harassment in the gaming community is bullshit.

The same goes for fighting against inclusivity and diversity in games — that’s bullshit, too.

Change is good. Change can be hard! But it’s still good. When I see bigotry, I see people who don’t want to change even a little bit. Who don’t want to acknowledge that the world isn’t exactly as they’re currently picturing it. Whose personal identities appear to be so bound up in their current worldview that calcification is preferable to admitting they’re even a tiny bit wrong.

We — everyone, all of us — should be open to seeing the world in other ways. If someone says they’ve experienced harassment in the gaming community, accepting that as truth costs you nothing.

For those who aren’t open to that, well, Chuck Wendig says it best in this response to folks complaining about gay characters in Star Wars: Aftermath:

And if you’re upset because I put gay characters and a gay protagonist in the book, I got nothing for you. Sorry, you squawking saurian — meteor’s coming. And it’s a fabulously gay Nyan Cat meteor with a rainbow trailing behind it and your mode of thought will be extinct.

Harassment, bigotry, homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, and hate speech have no place in the gaming community.

The more gamers there are rolling dice and making cool stuff and designing weird adventures and sharing their perspectives, the better off all of us are.

That’s what I want gaming to be.

[1] My gender identity matches the gender I was assigned at birth.