Genre Grapevine for 6/29/2021

This column is available free to the public. If you like my writings on genre issues, consider backing my Patreon.

Worldcon Updates

There have been a few updates since my primer on the recent Worldcon and Hugo Awards controversies. First, DisCon announced that Bill Lawhorn had resigned as convention chairperson. Linda Deneroff was also announced as taking over the division head position, which is responsible for administration of the Hugo Awards.

Finally, DisCon's Gadi Evron emailed finalists stating that the four-person limit has been rescinded and all Hugo finalists and their plus ones are welcome at the Hugo reception and ceremony.

Evron's email also stated:

  • Day passes will be provided at no cost to Finalists and their plus ones for the entire day of the Reception and Ceremony. If you cannot attend in person, we will be glad to have you attend virtually.
  • Finalists will be able to participate in the Hugo Ceremony remotely.

In addition, the Discon program team "will be holding two open forums through Zoom on July 10th and July 11th, accommodating people in various time zones."

It's worth pointing out, as John Scalzi did the other day, that the issues we're seeing here are actually with the Hugo Awards ceremony, not the awards themselves. The Hugo Awards have actually been doing really well, as demonstrated by this year's excellent finalists.

DisCon has also released this year's Hugo Voter Packet. Members of DisCon can access the packet by logging into the member-only area.

Strange Horizons on Hugo Nomination and Collective Role in Creating the Magazine

As mentioned in my original Worldcon/Hugo report, some people in fandom blamed Strange Horizons for the recent controversy because the magazine listed the names of 87 staff members who helped the magazine become a Hugo finalist.

I personally saw the blowback against Strange Horizons as uncalled for. After all, the magazine was simply recognizing the large number of volunteer staff who helped create their magazine in 2020. Too often people downplay, ignore, or are not aware of how much the SF/F genre depends on volunteers like these. So I'm glad Strange Horizons took the step to recognize all of their people when they received a Hugo nomination.

I asked the Strange Horizons staff for their take on all of this. Below are their responses.

"At Strange Horizons, we believe that all art comes from collaborative labour. The zine that you read is the result of the combined efforts of first readers, copy-editors, accessibility editors, content editors, and special guest editors. We believe in recognising the labour of all these individuals. And in our ideal world, this would not be an outlier: when talking about novels, for example, we would honour the author, the editor, the proof-readers, the beta readers, the printers, and so many others. We hope that this can be the beginning of just such a conversation about how our community recognises and respects collective labour."  — Gautam Bhatia, Co-Ordinating Editor, Strange Horizons
"We also note that in the past, narrow practices of recognition have served as devices of exclusion, and that is why we believe that it is doubly important that all nominees who wish to, be able to, attend the Convention. We believe that this is what genuine inclusion looks like." — Dan Hartland, Reviews Editor, Strange Horizons
"Specific to our zine, the list of names we gave is an accurate accounting of who decides what goes in our pages and how it looks when it gets there. In the past, to meet the criteria of not more than seven names, we've had to randomise and rotate the names we send in; that, however, is not true to our horizontal and collective structure — what we have done this year, is." — Romie Stott, Managing Editor, Strange Horizons

Heated Discussion in Horror Genre about Content Warnings

The horror genre held a contentious discussion about content warnings earlier this month, a discussion Tim Waggoner described as "Holy hell." The debate got even more heated when Silver Shamrock Publishing wrote a thread comparing content warnings with Nazi censorship. The thread was later deleted (for more on the thread, go here, here and here). Silver Shamrock later apologized then followed up the apology with more complaints.

All this led Chesya Burke to ask, "So Silver Shamrock Press literally died mad about it?

Despite the heated discussions, many good points were raised during the overall conversation. As Emily Reed stated, "The point of wanting trigger warnings is not censorship; it's about being prepared."

Bracken MacLeod also wrote a good thread, saying that "If Horror is truly intended to be for everyone, then we have an obligation to be considerate of our audience. I do NOT believe that TW/CWs ought to be required. Quite the opposite. I think it's a matter of the author's individual conscience. BUT, we're not all writing about heady cloudless days and easy nights on the beach. We're often writing about trauma and the effect of emotional and physical trauma. And here's the thing, 'triggers' are not mere offense. They're a forceful rekindling of past trauma."

However, as Silvia Moreno-Garcia said content warnings "can be wildly inaccurate. I had someone content warn one of my works for poverty. Another one for animal death (the dog lives). The Storygraph lists Mexican Gothic for 'cannibalism' as explicit, moderate & mild. Which one is it? A little bite or a buffet?"

Moreno-Garcia also pointed out that content warnings are frequently applied to writers of color.  "What I've seen happen most commonly with warnings is that when it's something people like, they'll read it anyway (like a superhero show, etc). But when it's some author of color or minority writer, it immediately becomes an impassable hurdle. So Beloved, can't read it because incest but Game of Thrones gonna watch all seasons. It's an especially easy tool to wield for censors who hate things like GLBT authors or POC. They can hide their hatred under a fig leaf."

Moreno-Garcia was then attacked for this thread and called a bad author who hated readers; in response she wrote a very good follow-up thread. Alex Brown also responded, saying "you can't go about making your case for TWs/CWs by harassing authors and putting them on specious 'bad authors' lists. This is a big, complicated conversation with answers that will never satisfy everyone, but trolling marginalized authors ain't one of them."

Adiba Jaigirdar was inspired by Moreno-Garcia's thread to go to Storygraph and see what content warnings were listed on Jaigirdar's book The Henna Wars. Turns out incorrect content warnings for the title included warnings for racial slurs, child abuse, and transphobia, none of which are in the book. "Talk to me again about how content warnings don't get weaponised against POC," Jaigirdar said. Also check out this follow-up thread, which goes into more details on what Jaigirdar discovered.

Otherwise Award Update

While this year's Otherwise Award (formerly known as the Tiptree Award) is behind schedule, they're still planning to name finalists and hand out an award for a work published in 2020.

"Our timing has been delayed due to the pandemic," said Sumana Harihareswara of the Motherboard, which manages the award for the James Tiptree Literary Award Council.

Motherboard chair Alexis Lothian added, "Yes, the award will be taking place this year! The pandemic has delayed us from our usual schedule, but our jury is reading away. We don't have a final date for an announcement scheduled, but I can confirm that there will be an award!"

Other News and Info


  • Diabolical Plots, which published the amazing Nebula Award winning short story "Open House on Haunted Hill" by John Wiswell, is looking for volunteer first readers. Deadline to apply is July 10. And Diabolical Plots will also be open to submissions for the first two weeks in August. Finally, Diabolical Plots will have their first themed submission window in October. The theme is "Diabolical Potts” and it will be a food-themed speculative story issue edited by Kel Coleman. Details>>
  • The Dream Foundry contests for beginning SF/F writers and artists are returning for another round. This year, the prizes for first through third place in each category will be $1000, $500, and $200. There is no submission fee. Deadline August 10. Details>>
  • The Horror Writers Association (HWA) has established two $2500 Scholarships to assist in the professional development of horror writers. In addition, the HWA is also offering the Rocky Wood Memorial Scholarship Fund for Non-fiction Writing, an endowed fund providing grants for research and writing nonfiction relating to horror and dark fantasy literature. Deadlines for all these scholarships is just after midnight on August 1. You don't have to be HWA member to apply. Details>>
By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 124 exclusive posts
By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 124 exclusive posts