MIND MELD: Non-Anglo Presence in the Hugo Awards – Is it Possible?

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

This year’s Hugo award ceremony was a very interesting one, regarding gender and ethnicity. Most of the winners were women (congratulations to E. Lily Yu for the Campbell, and Maurine Starkey, Ursula Vernon, Lynne M. Thomas, Seanan McGuire, Elizabeth Bear, Catherynne M. Valente, Liza Groen Trombi, Kirsten Gong-Wong, Betsy Wollheim, Sheila Williams, Charlie Jane Anders, Kij Johnson and Jo Walton) and the Short Story winner, Ken Liu, is of Asian extraction, so maybe we can safely say the fandom has finally reached a point where writers are finally being voted for the sheer quality of their work instead of their sex or their color? Even if it’s too early to tell, things are seemingly going in the right direction regarding this matter – but there are still many things to assess. One of them is the virtually invisible presence of non-Anglo writers in the Hugo Awards (also in other Awards, but hey, this is Hugo week, so let’s talk Hugo as a symbol of all the other awards in Anglosphere).

We asked this week’s panelists…

Q: Do you think the Hugo Awards nominations are underrepresented by non-Anglo writers? Do you think it’s something to care about? If you care, what do you think could be done to change the current state of affairs?

Here’s what they said…

Berit Ellingsen
Berit Ellingsen is a Korean-Norwegian writer whose stories have or will appear in Unstuck, Coffinmouth, Rocket Science, elimae,SmokeLong Quarterly, Metazen and other literary journals and anthologies. Two of her stories received an honorable mention by Ellen Datlow for Best Horror of the Year Volume 4. Berit’s novel, The Empty City (http://emptycitynovel.com), is a story about silence. Her short story collection, Beneath the Liquid Skin, will be published by firthFORTH Books at the end of 2012.

I looked through the list of Hugo nominations for the last 10 years and the only nominations of work from outside of the Anglophone countries (the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) were the movies Spirited Away (nominated in 2003) and Pan’s Labyrinth (nominated in 2007).

Is that because translated work is not commercially viable, lacks popular appeal or literary quality? Some of the biggest commercial successes in recent years outside of SF/F have been translated work, such as Stieg Larsson’s or Jo Nesbø’s crime fiction, and Per Petterson’s literary fiction. Not to mention the imaginative work of Haruki Murakami, who is currently favorite for the Nobel Prize in literature. Hence, that conclusion does not seem to be correct.

Perhaps the lack of nominated translated work reflects the lack of translated work published in English SF/F in general. I find this problematic because that leaves literally a whole world of fiction with long traditions in the imaginary and fantastic, such as the Scandinavian, Japanese, Mongolian, Eastern European, African, to mention a few, largely inaccessible to English-speaking readers. I say this as a writer whose biggest influences have been translated work, from Scandinavia, France, Italy, Spain, Russia, Korea and Japan, as well as the Anglophone world. Without translations, there would have been little access to those works. (I write in English myself, my stories are not translations from Norwegian.)

Also, in what ways will reading or knowing works only from your own culture and language skew your perception of the rest of the world?

As has been discussed in other Mind Melds, translations and the flow of culture follows the general lines of political and financial dominance, from the English-speaking nations to the non-English, and from the industrialized countries to the developing countries, and much less frequently in the opposite direction.

It’s therefore very refreshing to see that some editors, such as Jeff VanderMeer and Nick Mamatas, are presenting translated fiction from outside of the English-speaking nations. Maybe that’s what’s needed for translated work to catch on in SF/F; more translated work published, a higher degree of exposure, more visibility, more magazines being open for submissions of translated work, so that translations become something familiar instead of something strange.

I find this important, because reading or watching a story from outside of one’s own country and becoming acquainted with the fears and hopes of other cultures and other people, might be one of the easiest and most direct ways in today’s conflicted world that we can truly get to know one another beyond the grating of economic and political differences and sensationalist news.

Chris Galvin Nguyen
Chris Galvin Nguyen is a Canadian writer and editor with one foot in Canada and the other in Viet Nam. Chris’s speculative and slipstream fiction, essays, articles and photographs have appeared in various anthologies and publications, including Room Magazine, Asian Cha, Tuck,The Winnipeg Review, diaCRITICS, Dac San Van Lang Boston, and Pure Slush. She is the author of Breakfast Under the Bodhi Tree, a forthcoming non-fiction book about Viet Nam. Chris is a voracious consumer of words and good food. She also enjoys growing stuff to look at and to eat. Chris tweets as @ChrisGNguyen. A list of her publications can be found on her blog.

I do think non-Anglo writers are underrepresented, and yes, it’s something to care about. The Hugos are supposed to be world-class awards, and they are awarded each year by the World Science Fiction Society at the Worldcon. And yet, the Hugos are U.S.-centric. Although it’s a “World Convention” the bulk of voters for the Hugos, according to the Hugo Awards official website, are Americans:

“Because such a huge proportion of the people who nominate on the Hugo Awards are in the USA, and because those people often do not get to see works first published outside the USA until a year later when those works get US publication, WSFS has been experimenting with extending the eligibility of works first published outside the USA. This extension has to be renewed annually by the WSFS Business Meeting, and historically has not always been extended since the rule was adopted allowing it.”

So why must this extension be renewed annually? Why not just make it part of the rules?

Many people argue that the Hugos are not to be taken seriously because of the small number of people who vote, or that they are awarded to popular works rather than to the best works. There are strong arguments for gender disparity and for a lack of representation of authors of colour. There is a lack of representation of non-Anglo writers as well; a lack of diversity in all directions.

The Hugos are a popular vote award selected by a fairly small group of mainly U.S. fans. So how do we get more people involved in the voting process? How do we get a wider variety of works exposed to the voters? Certainly, holding the Worldcon in more countries would help. Why not hold it in a different country every year? A list of the locations and the number of times each has hosted the Worldcon over the years, including next year’s Texas Con, demonstrates that there is very little global about this convention:

  • U.S.A. – 53 times (7 times in Chicago alone!)
  • Canada – 5 times
  • U.K. – 6
  • Australia – 4
  • Germany – 1
  • Japan – 1
  • Netherlands – 1

Surely, this plays a role in the huge statistical bias against non-Anglo works receiving nominations.

The larger the pool of people with memberships, the more diverse the selection of nominations would be. Holding the Worldcon in more countries would guarantee increased exposure and would pique the interest of local fans. It would also bring the con closer to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend because of the prohibitive cost of international travel and the high cost of attendance. (The attending membership fee for one adult for next year’s WSF Convention in Texas is US $180.)

Although attendance at the convention isn’t necessary in order to nominate or vote, voters must at least hold a supporting membership ($60 for the 2013 Worldcon), which they must buy by the end of January. (A supporting membership in the World Science Fiction Society includes the right to nominate for the current year’s awards, vote on the final ballot, and make nominations for the next year’s awards.) While $60 is still quite high for many people, just for the right to vote, more people would be interested in joining and voting if they perceived the awards as being global rather than American.

One post on the Spectrum website illustrates just how much the results are biased towards Americans:

“Consider that in the 52 years an award has been presented for “Best Artist”, only 15 individuals have won the rockets. Here’s a breakdown: …….14 Americans, 1 Brit. 14 guys, 1 woman. It was surprising that, despite being held in Yokohama in 2007, there were no Japanese artists nominated. Despite being a “World Convention” are only Americans voting for the Hugos, even when they are held overseas? A question worth asking.”

The number of women nominees for the Hugo Awards appears to be increasing. We need to see more non-Anglos and writers of colour on the ballots too. People all over the world are writing great works in eligible genres, so why aren’t they getting nominated?

One way to change this is to talk about non-Anglo writers (and artists) and their work and to consider their work at nomination time, and to entice a wider community of fans to participate in the voting. The great thing about the Hugo Awards is that anyone can vote, providing they buy a membership. So it would seem to me that the problem is how to get a wider fanbase to join and to vote. The fans are the ones to choose the Hugo nominees and winners, so obviously, either there are not enough fans from other countries voting, or fans are not exposed to enough different works. Or both. The rules are open to change by members, so more membership across a broader spectrum of readers is essential. Maybe it’s also time for a panel on the problem of getting more exposure for non-Anglo writers.

Also, at present, for a work to be eligible, it must be from the US or must be a foreign work that was first translated or made available in the US within the previous year (even if it was published earlier in another country). Maybe it’s time to widen the field of eligibility as well.


Editorial note: A factual correction pointed out by Cheryl Morgan:

…[W]orks are eligible for the Hugos as follows:

1. On first publication, no matter where in the world they are published, or what language they are published in. It also doesn’t matter whether the work is published professionally or self-published; whether publication is on paper or electronic; and you don’t have to submit your work, or pay a fee, in order for it to be considered.

2. On first publication in English. So if your work was first published in a language other than English, and then published in translation in a later year, you get two years of eligibility.

3. If the Eligibility Extension rule is in place, a work can also get a third year of eligibility on first US publication if all previous publications were outside of the US.

So works first written in languages other than English and published outside of the US are not only eligible, they can get up to three years of eligibility.

We now resume our regularly scheduled Mind Meld.
~John D


Romeu Martins
Romeu Martins is a Brazilian journalist and SF writer. He writes SF, Fantasy and Horror, with a particular interest in new possibilities involving the 19th Century. Martins had several short stories published in Brazil, from steampunk to weird western narratives, and even a Sherlock Holmes non-canonical story. A part of his novelette “Phantastic City” was published in Jeff VanderMeer and S. J. Chambers The Steampunk Bible, translated to English by Fabio Fernandes.

I strongly believe in the importance of science fiction as being the literary genre that, for excellence, awakes in all of us an imaginary beyond all ties that everyday life insists in keep us binded with. It is in the privileged space of SF that we can transcend any time, space, genre limitations in the most diverse statistical probabilities: from the most local geographical representations to the farthest points in this and in other universes; from the most *nowpunk* present to times beyond in unimaginable calendars; to the awesome number of men, women, gays, lesbians, transgenders, transhumans. Exactly because of that, the choice of the best and most representative in a genre shouldn’t be restricted only to a cultural point of view, as much all-encompassing this culture may be. The awards that seek to value the enormity of what is produced in SF, like the Hug and the Nebula, should have the opportunity to analyze what in fact is being thought, written and published in other corners of the world that don’t use English as its mother tongue.

In order to offer to the voters and judges of these awards such an opportunity, it would be truly necessary a major effort by writers’ and publishers’ organizations of several non-Anglophone countries to offer translations of their local SF production. Only such a dynamics uniting authors and translators professionally enabled for such an enterprise could begin the promotion of an offer, in equal conditions, of a set of new approaches, new points of view, new ways to reach the public that chooses the texts that will endure in the history of this literary genre.

Samit Basu
Samit Basu writes books, comics and films. His first three novels, the Gameworld trilogy, marked the beginning of Indian fantasy writing in English, and are now out as ebooks worldwide. His latest novel, Turbulence, a superhero novel set in India, Pakistan and England, is out in the UK now and the US next year. Samit is on the web at samitbasu.com and @samitbasu.

The short answer is yes. I’ve been following discussions around SF and fantasy over the last decade, and a consistent complaint is that SF and fantasy, in terms of audience, books published, promotions and awards, both SF and fantasy are overwhelmingly white and male. And while the field has definitely been growing more diverse in this century, the change doesn’t really show on awards shortlists.

While I can see the problem, feel a great deal of empathy for other non-Anglo writers and both hope and feel it’s going to get better no matter how slow the pace of change, the reality of my career so far is that I’m not in a position to be personally affected by this yet.

I just published my first book in the UK, and even though I spent the whole time sitting in India and nervously scanning the Internet, the response I got from both reviewers and readers were as warm and positive as anything I’ve had from India over the last decade. Did I feel discriminated against in any way for being non-Anglo? Not at all: obviously I didn’t get the kind of book deal or promotion or buzz that a really well-known author from the UK would get if launched by one of the biggest publishers, but that’s just market reality. Do I think my book has any serious chance of an award nomination? No. This is not saying that I think my work isn’t good – I just know, as we all do, that the writing is not the only factor at play. It’s more about the entire structure of the SF/fantasy publishing world being a certain way. I’ve been told for all my previous books that editors liked them, but marketing didn’t feel an unknown foreign writer could be sold in the UK/US in a big way, no matter how well his books were received in his home country. I’m sure this has happened to any number of non-Anglo writers over the years. But hey, I got published this year, so things must be getting better.

But there are so many flaws in any awards system that I don’t know if I can single out any one problem. There’s no aspect of publishing in any form where playing fields are level. I think awards are merely a reflection of what trends are seen as field-defining that particular year, and the lack of non-Anglo writers in awards shortlists is more a symptom of disparities in the process that occur long before the book is even considered for awards, like marketing, publisher enthusiasm and overall industry buzz than of any active discrimination at the awards level. The situation is worse in India, where people on literary award juries have actually come and told me I’d win Indian writing prizes if I wrote literary fiction.

Consider the Oscars. Through all our lives, we’ve seen so many perfectly valid accusations of discrimination leveled against the Oscars: on the grounds of race, genre, gender, medium. And there’s so much more about the process that is questionable: studios lobbying for awards, timing of film releases, jury selection. Nothing about the process is fair, and I don’t see how it could ever be perfectly fair. I think if I were a Hollywood filmmaker who didn’t fit into the most-likely-to-be-nominated category, I’d be very angry. But if I were a director of low-budget Bollywood films that managed to find a US distributor, I think I’d just restrict myself to feeling happy to be part of the industry, and hoping to at least attend the ceremony one day and sneakily take photos. And this is roughly how I feel about the Hugos. So yes, I do care. But I don’t think I know enough about the system, being almost completely outside it, to figure out any way to improve it.

16 thoughts on “MIND MELD: Non-Anglo Presence in the Hugo Awards – Is it Possible?”

  1. Thanks, Fabio.

    I figured Hugos were a likely topic for this week’s Mind Meld, but this is a twist on the topic I had not expected–but given talk in the genre community lately, should have.

  2. Thank you very much for the interesting question and for including me in this Mind Meld!

    Fabio, I’d love to hear more about your experiences, from not only a writer and a reader, but also as a professional translator’s point of view.

    How hard are translations to sell? Is the main worry from publishers the cost of the translation or a believed lack of appeal or accessibility to English-speaking readers? What’s the biggest hurdle, as you see it?

    Chris, what a fantastic breakdown of the Hugo stats! Had no idea that the extension of eligigility for translations had to be renewed each year.
    The delay in time for translated work must definitely work against them in a popular voting such as this.

    Romeu and Samit, very interesting to hear about your experiences with translations and publishing from overseas.
    I think most Anglophone readers rarely reflect over whether a work is translated from another language or not. If it’s available in English, it will be read.

  3. It definitely has to do with the composition of the voters, who are for the most part invested in (and genuinely enjoy) the products of the commercial publishing system in the US and the UK. This doesn’t mean that worthy works aren’t nominated–I thought Among Others was a great novel, to name just one; and some outstanding short fiction can be on the ballot–but that if you look at the trends over the years they tend to reveal that being in certain magazines helps on the short fiction side and, in terms of novels, being in widespread distribution from a major US/UK publisher helps greatly. To some extent, this is very much like the People’s Choice Award. Because brilliant work by less commercial writers in the US and UK is regularly ignored, too.

    To change that would actually on a wider level require a sea-change in reading tastes, unless, say, for example, there were a sudden influx of readers committed to unique and less-easily-categorized fiction from…wherever.

    Unless the entire goal is just to make sure that more foreign language and translated fiction of a center-genre/commercial nature is represented. But I don’t see that simply having more center-genre fiction from other sources should be the whole goal.

    I read widely and believe in translation projects not to just add another traditional thriller that happened to first be published in a foreign language into the mix, for example. I am much more interested in seeking out books that change my brain and give me a different perspective–including a different perspective on plot, story, and character. And because it is utterly ridiculous to think that you can have any understanding of the permutations of a word like “fantasy” or “science fiction” without reading fiction from around the world.

  4. As an American reader, I think that Samit Basu’s comment rings very true to me. The things I see on my bookshelf at my local Barnes and Noble are almost all US and UK writers. The same is true, though to a lesser extent, and independent bookstores.

    The age of internet ordering and eBooks makes this less of an issue. So the problem becomes one of getting books from the wider world on the radar of readers in the Anglophone countries.

    Personally, I have never been one for seeking out writers based on their country of origin, race, religion, etc. I suppose I had a naive belief that if I picked books based on their level of interest to me, the good stuff would make it to me from all over. A more mature re-examination of this idea makes it obvious that it doesn’t work that way.

    For both world fiction and self-published fiction, it’s worth it to take some time to seek it out. Today’s publishing and distribution tools mean there is lots of stuff out there to be read that the New York and London publishing offices won’t bring to out attention.

  5. these are great arguments. I especially find the first two are very compelling, with the names and stats. like Eric H. in the comment above, I don’t seek books according to language or country of origin, but I do like to sample writing across a wide variety of countries etc, and it’s disappointing that the Hugos are so American oriented regardless of the U.S. being the country they were “born” in. Yes, please, more recognition for non-Anglo writers and what they have to offer us readers.

  6. Yes, yes, and yes! To Berit Ellingsen words …

    “…reading or watching a story from outside of one’s own country and becoming acquainted with the fears and hopes of other cultures and other people, might be one of the easiest and most direct ways in today’s conflicted world that we can truly get to know one another beyond the grating of economic and political differences and sensationalist news.”

    ::claps hands slowly:: and ::nods head::

  7. Such an interesting topic and angle to the Hugo Awards, and the literary awards in general. I agree with Berit, that in our world that is constantly growing more global and interconnected, stories from other cultures could be an important bridge to understanding.

    And connected to this, here’s a simple yet surprising task i joined this year: to read a book from each continent. Which after a couple of books, made me sit down and look at world geographic and world population, and i arrived here:

    “The world in 7 books:
    So looking at the world from this angle, if you want to read around the world in 7 books, you actually would have to go and look for 4 books from Asia and 1 book from Africa – and then for 2 anthologies that cover the rest of the world in their pages.”
    here’s the whole post with statistics:
    http://virtual-notes.blogspot.de/2012/03/world-in-7-books-or-mapping-our-world.html

  8. # maybe we can safely say the fandom has finally reached a point where writers
    # are finally being voted for the sheer quality of their work instead of their
    # sex or their color?

    I think that’s perhaps a little bit naughty, do we really think the majority of fans vote on the basis of color or sex? (In the 1950s, maybe) I think they just vote for their favorite writers (which is not the same thing as voting for the best work, because most fans won’t have read everything that’s on the ballot (which is why I never vote) but will tend to vote for names they know (or perhaps I’m just as guilty of accusing them of things they don’t really do) The names they know will tend to be those that are put in front of them, and that tends to be local output, or globalized US/UK output. Change what they see and gradually you’ll change what they vote for (which I think is exactly what’s happening currently).

    But do the Hugos matter? I have to tread carefully on this one… I’m not saying they’re irrelevant, I’d love to win one, I’m happy for the people who have won one, but they’re not awards designed to make anything happen. They don’t really promote anything.

    Is the target to win some Hugos, or is the target to create a thriving non-anglophone-sf scene? I think if you do the latter, you might get the former as a bonus, you know? (I might be wrong in thinking there isn’t a thriving scene, but currently that’s how it seems to me. Admittedly I’m coming at this from a position of ignorance, and though I’ve asked questions in the past I’ve never been too sure about the answers).

    I used to think, (as I suspect many people do), that most countries have their own thriving SF scene. At recent Eastercons I’ve discovered this isn’t the case, at least that’s what I understood from the non-anglophone SF panels at the last two. Some places lack an SF tradition, and others are swamped by imported translations. Isn’t this the first thing to deal with, to find some way to encourage the production and translation of non-anglophone SF? (It could be that I’ve misunderstood, and actually there are thriving traditions of SF out there, but this is the level of my understanding at current).

    I believe that the creation of awards can be used as a tool for change. Look at the X-prize, etc. People have a natural inclination to take part in competitions, and the prize doesn’t even have to be much. Money is less of a motivator than a little fame and a handsome trophy (and the nebula trophies aren’t even that handsome!) and perhaps publication somewhere.

    Now, I know there are SFF Translation awards over at http://www.sfftawards.org/ (admittedly, I only just discovered them). But do these encourage new writers? I note that Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris is one of the long-form translations. This award encourages people to translate, but does it encourage new writers, and so build up a community of SF writers in countries that maybe don’t have the tradition?

    You know what I’m going to say: the James White Award is a good model, it has entry restricted to the type of people it wants to encourage, and work is judged anonymously to prevent any bias on the part of the judges. This is an award designed to promote and encourage newer writers. It’ll take entries from all over the world, but overseas entries will tend to be swamped by all the local writers. Everyone is equally unlikely to win, but if most entrants are British, the winner is likely to be British.

    You guys (by which I mean Fabio and Djibril) have already had success with kickstarter, and I think many people would support a prize or prizes for overseas SF.

    Translation is, of course, the big problem here, but I can think of two ways to deal with that.

    1) An award for work written in english by people for whom english is not their first language. This is probably the least desirable, but it would encourage new people to try writing SF, and once they’d had the success of making the shortlist (or perhaps just of finishing) and realized they could do it, they would carry on and surely start writing in their own language too.

    2) A prize awarded on a ‘team’ basis, where a team was a writer and a translator, much like a driver and navigator in rally driving. This might encourage both writers and translators? (Although then it might be stepping on the turf of the world translation awards)

    What if the prize was only open to writers who’ve not made 3 professional sales? (This would promote new overseas writers, rather than always being won by a few established writers over and over, and would let beginners feel they have a chance).

    Finally, what if the world were divided up into regions, and a prize awarded for the best work in each region? These could then be collected into an anthology. This would be a model similar to writers of the future.

    By tweaking the rules of the award appropriately one could hope to generate a community of writers. Look at how nanowrimo has caught on, many people who do it would probably never have tried writing a novel otherwise. The anthology would support the award and visa-versa (I don’t mean so much financially, as in terms of exposure. People who encountered the one would also discover the other, they would advertise each other). If you were able to have the anthology ready for awards night, I bet you’d sell loads of copies.

    As with anything, you’d need a degree of luck, but if you look at the JWA it seems to be ramping up. In early years they sometimes didn’t get enough entries to hold the award, but last year they got a record number. Because of the roll-over this year, I’m sure they’ll get a record number of entries again. This surely means more and more people will start writing SF (and not all of them from the UK/US, I see people from India and France clicking through my blog to read the JWA rules). If an award like the one I’m describing took off in a similar way I think it would really encourage the production of overseas SF.

    I for one would be less concerned with the hugos, than with having this happen. If it worked, then ppl in the US would see more overseas stuff, at least in the anthology, and so it would start getting voted for. I know there is the World SF blog and the World SF anthologies, but the more ‘things’ you have advertising each other, the better. If you have, say, just a website, how will people find it? If you have a website, and anthology and a award presented at a reasonably sized con, they all advertise each other, people can come across one or the other in different contexts and so learn about the overall ‘franchise’, if you know what I mean?

    On the other hand, this might be the maddest idea anyone’s ever proposed, or might have already been tried and failed. I don’t know. I’m just thinking ‘we need more awards, and more targeted awards’ right now because of things that others have said about the Hugos.

    Colum

  9. # Consider the Oscars. Through all our lives, we?ve seen so many perfectly valid
    # accusations of discrimination leveled against the Oscars: on the grounds of race,
    # genre, gender, medium. And there’s so much more about the process that is questionable:
    # studios lobbying for awards, timing of film releases, jury selection. Nothing about
    # the process is fair, and I don’t see how it could ever be perfectly fair.

    It can’t be fair, but that’s what I was trying to say about the Hugos above, the oscars aren’t really about the best film, they’re as much about rewarding people for long-term effort (so you often hear people speaking of it being ‘someone’s time’ to get an oscar). They’re about celebrity and advertising as much as anything else.

    These are not the awards you are looking for.

    What are awards for? Different awards are for different things. I guess if more non-anglephone writers were winning Hugos it would encourage non-anglophone writers, but it wouldn’t encourage new ones, as most Hugo winners have already spent a years honing their art. Few writers, whatever their language, really have a shot at a hugo when first they start out. An award that encouraged new writers would then lead to mature writers later who could pitch for a Hugo or nebula.

    A ‘competition’ style award with the rules set up a certain way could be fair. Anonymous judging would cut out the whole question of celebrity.

    In all this, I’m still operating under the belief that there are not strong SF traditions in countries outside of the US/UK (because that’s what I’ve understood from panels at eastercon) none of what I’m saying makes sense if I’m wrong about that, I guess.

  10. # People all over the world are writing great works in eligible genres, so why aren’t
    # they getting nominated?

    I missed this line when reading. If this is the case, then what I took away from non-anglophone SF panels at eastercon was wrong, and the issue becomes one purely of translation and visiblity, not of the actual production. In that case the awards structure I was proposing wouldn’t help so much, perhaps? I don’t know, I still feel the ‘writers of the future’ style setup might be a good way to introduce people to work they wouldn’t normally see.

  11. It’s always a dual problem of translation and visibility to the Anglophone market in every genre, mainstream included. Relatively little gets translated, significant part of it is established classicss, most of both the new and old translated works get little publicity aka basically reviews that would introduce them to a larger reading audience.

    The recent crime fiction book tends to somewhat obscure this, but even the so-called “high quality” mainstream literary magazines tend to give little notice to translated works in USA for example. (New York Review of Books comes to mind.)

    The future probably will see an increase of authors like Hannu Rajaniemi, writing directly to English instead of their native language, and bypassing their own countries book markets, going directly to the Anglophone market.

    This, of course, is not really positive globalism. Instead it’s basically assimilation of those non-English authors who can write good English to be part of the Anglophone circle of authors. Their work then arriving to their own language only if they succeed in the Anglophone market – and the translations are often not even done by the authors themselves.

    It will cause local, non-English, active science fiction and fantasy literary scenes and traditions to lose some of their best talent before they have contributed to and helped to continue the local traditions.

    The problem is that it’s hard to see a way of getting over this. Or at least a good one. I could imagine large international publishing houses being able to push new and the interesting authors through on several different languages at the same time, but it would work for only a few and writers of speculative literature probably wouldn’t be at the top on the list to get the treatment.

    Perhaps English needs to lose it’s status as a lingua franca to some extent before we can see a revolution in the Hugo Awards when it comes to non-Anglophone authors’ role.

  12. # Perhaps English needs to lose it?s status as a lingua franca to some extent
    # before we can see a revolution in the Hugo Awards when it comes to
    # non-Anglophone authors role.

    Alas, I suspect that won’t help. If english loses its status as lingua franca then something else will just replace it, and the Hugos will become less important, and everyone (including anglophone writers) will be complaining about how they can’t get into the Mandarin SF market, or something like that.

    The structures will remain the same regardless of the players changing, there will just be different winners and losers. What’s needed, I think, is some kind of infrastructure that presents work to people that they wouldn’t normally see. In some ways I think the booker prize, for instance, did this will literary fiction, gradually making it more ‘mainstream’. Nowadays people kindof know they should be paying attention to what’s on the booker shortlist, prior to that it was hard for them to know what fiction was highly regarded for literary standard (though the whole issue of what literary quality is and who should define it is a fraught one, all I’m saying is that the prize increases the visibility with the works on the long and short lists).

    This morning I’m less confident about my ‘awards’ idea though, yesterday I was all for more awards for all kind of purposes after seeing a post by Ian Sales about the state of the hugos.

    At last Eastercon I met some Dutch ladies who had an idea to set up a audiobook company importing and translating works from anglophone writers, selling those, and then using the money to develop and translate dutch writers and sell those back to the anglophone world. I did ask them if the idea of importing works by anglophone writers wasn’t making things worse for dutch writers, but they said that’s already happening anyway, and this way they would get a two-way stream going. Not sure if it’s a good idea, or if anything will come of it, but it’s an idea, you know?

    # The problem is that it’s hard to see a way of getting over this. Or at least a
    # good one. I could imagine large international publishing houses being able to
    # push new and the interesting authors through on several different languages at
    # the same time, but it would work for only a few and writers of speculative
    # literature probably wouldn’t be at the top on the list to get the treatment.

    This is kindof why I think the Hugos are a red herring. What’s needed is a grass-roots movement. The Hugos aren’t really designed to achieve the desired results. I think we need specific methods to encourage specific types of work to be done (I also would like to see a prize for Hard SF, myself. I bet there are other categories of work that other people would like to see more of, but our current award system does nothing to encourage specific types of work (well, not totally true, some awards do)).

    So really the question might be what can we do to encourage more translation I guess? There are the ssft awards already, what else could there be?

  13. The real question is: Do the Hugos really matter anymore? They are a ritual of a small in-group. The last couple of WorldCons I went to were so small it was disturbing. The “world” part was never valid. I think the genre has outgrown them. Also, in my decade-long career as a bookseller, not one customer ever asked for a Hugo (or Nebula) winner. You don’t see the awards being used to promote books or authors, and, most sadly, winners go out of print as fast as everything else.

  14. “Why not hold it in a different country every year?”

    Overwhelmingly almost every non-U.S. Worldcon bid that seemed remotely competent has won each time.

    But people have to put together their committee and bid for it. We can’t just order some country to hold it.

    As a point of relative trivia by now, the Worldcon was not, in fact, named that because it claimed to represent anyone outside the U.S. It was named “Worldcon” because it was held in conjunction with the World’s Fair of 1939.

    An Indian Worldcon would be a wonderful thing. Are there sf conventions in India and people experienced at putting them on?

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