I have, with no small measure of amusement, been following the meltdown over the Nebula/20Booksto50K affair.
(If you’re unfamiliar with that controversy, there are various reports about it on the Internet.)
In these things, very seldom is one side completely in the right and the other completely in the wrong. And so it is here: From a procedural standpoint, I get that online “slates” can affect the integrity of awards. In this regard, the science fiction “establishment” had a point…even if they were shrill and sanctimonious about making it.
I’ll be honest with the reader: I don’t give two hoots in a rain barrel about the Nebula Awards or who wins them. There is a more interesting and pertinent observation to be made here, beyond the scope of one paltry award:
The indie science fiction publishing scene continues to eat the lunch of the establishment. I’ve been following the career of Richard Fox, for example (an indie published author). He’s been cleaning up in the marketplace, without the help of the New York publishing houses.
Traditional publishing isn’t a bad idea, in and of itself. There is something to be said for professional curators and editors. The problem, though, is that the traditional science fiction establishment has been taken over by leftwing ideologues. Almost everything they (especially Tor Books) publish nowadays has a socio-political “angle”. A few years ago, their obsession was race. Now they seem to be obsessed with transgenderism.
There is a place for that in literary fiction, perhaps. In science fiction…not so much. Science fiction is supposed to be fun. This is what Richard Fox understands, that the sequestered grandees at Tor Books do not.
While we’re on the subject of science fiction awards: The Hugo Awards have become a spectacle in recent years. A single author has won the best novel award three years in a row….And for three years in a row, she’s made the same speech about her racial identity.
Meanwhile, the 2018 Worldcon event was thrown into disarray over the accidental “misgendering” of a transgender participant. Said participant played this kerfuffle for all it was worth, using the occasion for much online grandstanding and bellyaching about how “unsafe” he/she/em felt because someone had mistakenly used the wrong pronoun in a program. Are some people really that precious? Apparently so.
None of this is the end of the world, of course. Nobody dies if a group of people on the Internet chooses to work itself into a tizzy about a pronoun. Nobody dies if a group of people wants to pretend that a hackneyed speech about racial identity is something new and fresh and original in 2018.
But such histrionics are about as interesting as watching water boil or grass grow. The whole thing is pretty darn boooooring, in fact.
And that’s the real problem with the the traditional science fiction establishment: It has become a snoozefest. In the marketplace, few readers have the patience for longwinded navel-gazing speeches about identity politics.
Science fiction is supposed to be fun. Establishment science fiction simply isn’t fun anymore. Until that changes, indie authors are going to continue to eat their lunch.