My current view is that competitive awards for artistic endeavors are inherently bullshit, but that they also have proven to successfully draw people’s attention to some Good Stuff. Sometimes I think that success in that endeavor is worth putting up with the bullshit, and sometimes I don’t, but I certainly haven’t come up with any better way to draw attention to Good Stuff. And I like Good Stuff! And often I would like my attention drawn to it!
So, the Hugo Award nominations seem on the whole to be trending towards the positive balance of attention and bullshit, these days. It’s still bullshit, and the Hugos are a particularly nonsense form of awards bullshit, being neither a jury award nor a popular award, but they have still, over many years, drawn my attention to a large number of good books and writers which I have enjoyed, and that’s a Good Thing.
This year (the 2019 Hugo noms for stuff published in 2018, in case any Gentle Readers are reading (or re-reading) this from far enough in the future for that not to be obvious from context) (or the past, I suppose) the six finalists for Best Novel include three books I already read, and another that I started and chose not to finish. And my immediate reaction was something like Cool! See how up-to-date YHB is on the current specfic! And then a day or so later, I thought but that means this award is drawing my attention to only two books. You know? And one of those is by a writer whose earlier book in the series was already nominated, but I haven’t got around to it yet, and the other already Nebula-nominated and is by a writer who won the Campbell last year. I am more likely to get around to reading those books than I was before my attention was drawn to them again, but not all that more likely.
The other novel-related award (Your Humble Blogger pretty much only enjoys novels, which isn’t where all the Good Stuff is happening, but there it is) is the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, where I have only read one of the six nominees and attempted a second. Unfortunately, one of the other writers happens not to be to my taste, but that leaves three new-to-me items of potential Good Stuff to check out. Excellent! I clearly have done an excellent job of not keeping up with current YASF, at least of the current YASF that the Hugo-nominating crowd likes.
It’s a kind of tension I hadn’t noticed before—the more you keep up with a field of artistic endeavor, the less useful the awards in that field are in drawing your attention to Good Stuff. But of course, the less you keep up with a field, the less you are likely to be interested in the Good Stuff to which the awards are attempting to draw your attention. Sigh.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,