Explaining the Hugos -- Whatever
The Hugos, one of sci-fi's most prestigious awards, have come under some fire this year. Nearly all of the nominees are safe, fan-favorites, with noticeable web presences. (i.e., John Scalzi, Neil Stephenson, etc.)
Some people have complained that, well, some of the books just aren't very good. I've only read "Anathem" from the list, so I personally can't comment. But it's a familiar reaction when looking at any awards shortlist. Why these
books? Are these really the best
John Scalzi, himself a nominee, tries to mount a defense:
Let’s say you visit a friend of yours in a city you don’t live in. Your friend has lived in that city her whole life, and is always talking up the charms of the town to you. So you go and you visit and you’re hungry. And you say to your friend, “so what’s a good place to eat around here?”
And your friend says, “well, there’s this very nice and expensive restaurant that just opened up that’s getting fantastic reviews, we could go there.”
You shake your head. “No,” you say. “Take me someplace you go to eat. Someplace you and your friends really like.”
That, he says, are the Hugos. They are the "local flavor" of science fiction. One of his commenters pops up and says, Scalzi, you're confusing "best" and "favorite." Scalzi does his usual thing in the comments (they're his comments on his site, if he wants to be a prick he can) and says, ". . . your theory is . . . appallingly condescending. But this has been an endemic problem with the Hugo discussion: Quite a lot of condescension coming from people who apparently are under the impression they are qualified to condescend."
And look, this troubles me. It seems to me what Scalzi (and many others) are arguing is that the Hugos are an award for the best sci-fi that would loan to non-sci-fi reading friends
. But not, say, the best that someone who is already steeped in sci-fi would necessarily read. This is the problem with all literary awards, I suppose.
What do you think?