Thursday, April 7, 2016

What the World Needs Now Is Another Sci-Fi Award Like I Need a Hole in My Head

So, a certain regional science fiction convention has announced a new genre award. This has been met by cheering in certain quarters by people who think a convention held in America's fifth most backward state will quickly gain the cachet to eclipse the floating craps game that is the Hugo Awards and their international voting base.

The idea of artistic awards has always been idiotic -- all they do is reflect the faddish tastes of whatever group picks them out. In the worst cases they fall prey to works specially tailored to the voting base (i.e., the safely liberal -- but not too liberal -- Oscarbait films that dominate the Academy Awards), but even under the best circumstances, artistic awards are shortsighted reflections of the current zeitgeist. True greatness can only be determined if people fifty, a hundred, or five hundred years from now can still look at a work and find something in it that's applicable to their lives. If an artistic award gets that right, it's purely by coincidence.

That being said, not all awards are created equal. That awards are inherently flawed doesn't mean that some aren't more flawed than others. The people championing the Dragon Awards (inevitably to be known as the Draggies) seem to think that the award will be better than the Hugos because DragonCon has a larger voter base than WorldCon. But, again, DragonCon is a regional convention. You get a larger sample size, but of a smaller cross-section of society. It's already bad enough that SF awards are dominated by American tastes without narrowing it further to a specific section of the United States. The people championing the new award aren't really doing it because of the larger voter base. They're doing it because it's nice and provincial -- it's not gonna be tainted by all those damned foreigners and their fellow travelers with their cosmopolitan tastes. This is going to be an award for Hobbits, picking out works full of nice, Hobbity sentiments, and the fact that not anyone outside the Shire will give a damn ... well, nothing outside the Shire matters anyway.

And that is why the Draggies can never live up to the expectations people are setting for them.. The Hugos are far from a great award, but to win it, a work has to appeal to people from around the world. You can't write a story that makes Americans go, "Fuck yeah! USA!" and expect to win. But with the Draggies, that's exactly what people are expecting to happen. If it does, they will fail; if it doesn't, the people championing them now will denounce them.

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