Road to the Hugo Awards: Presenting The Geeking Out About… Platform

Geeking Out About Spout © Geeking Out About

Geeking Out About Spout © Geeking Out About

As I’ve mentioned before, I became a sci-fi fan when I was in college. However, even though I was interested in writing sci-fi (and the one short story I’ve had published had been written during this time) I didn’t really get into the world of being a sci-fi writer until I learned who author John Scalzi was, thanks to Wil Wheaton. His writing about what it’s like to be a sci-fi author drew me into wanting to learn more about the fandom and the genre, to the point of where I now actively follow several prominent authors on Twitter and know the names of several more.

(I also “stuck my oar in” like almost everyone else did during the whole SFWA Bulletin #200 thing and was issued a DMCA takedown request as a result, but that’s almost ancient history now.)

When word first broke on how a vocal and reactionary segment of the sci-fi/fantasy fandom managed to rally its supporters over the years into jamming works they liked into the nominations list for the Hugo Awards, culminating in a near-total overrun in 2015, I was amused at how it began, appalled and how it progressed, and ultimately impressed at what they managed to pull off.

Which makes me think that if a group of terrible people can push forwards works they think epitomize the best in science fiction and fantasy, why can’t someone like me who is not completely terrible do the same thing?

Here then are the planks of the first-ever “Geeking Out About…” platform for the 2016 Hugo Awards season:

1. All works which are being promoted must be created by people who believe that genre fiction should contain diverse characters and perspectives.
2. All fictional works which are being promoted must contain at least two characters whose gender, sexual, physical, and/or racial identity is substantially different from the creator’s and also:
a) Has their own agency within the plot.
b) Has a scene with another character who is also of their same gender, sexual, physical, and/or racial identity where they don’t speak about the main protagonist but do advance the plot.
c) If there is a love interest for either or both of the characters, it is not the same character as the main protagonist.
d) If the characters die, the deaths are meaningful.
3. All non-fictional works which are being promoted must contain references to and/or significant discussion about diversity in genre fiction, and also:
a) If a web article written by one person or solo podcast or web series, must contain links to other articles or references to other work where the gender, sexual, physical, and/or racial identity of those creators/authors is substantially different from the solo creator’s.
b) If a multiple-creator podcast, article, or web series, one of the authors/creators or a guest speaker must be a person whose gender, sexual, physical, and/or racial identity is substantially different from the other creators.
4. All visual works which are being promoted which depict humanoid beings must contain imagery which does not demean individuals who are not of the same gender, sexual, physical, and/or racial identity of the creator.

As you can see, the “Geeking Out About…” platform is all about inclusivity, diversity, and reaching outside of a creator’s comfort zone to encompass new points of view into their own work. It’s all about promoting works where the creator has made a conscious effort to reach out not just to an audience who is just like them but can transcend their own cultural/physical identity and reach an audience which are not like them in substantial ways. I hope it goes without saying that all of the works I’ll be promoting must be things which I think are “good,” but that’s more of a subjective standard than an objective standard, so I didn’t include it as a plank.

Now that I have the terms of my platform all set, I’m definitely more eager to continue reading and experiencing more Hugo Award-eligible science fiction work as well as naming the first entry on my recommended list. Also, if you know of a work which you think I should consider, please drop a note in the comments and I’ll be sure to take a look at it.

Posted on February 9, 2016 at 13:50 by Trisha Lynn · Permalink
In: News from the Publisher, Opinions/Editorials · Tagged with: ,
  • Mikhail Koulikov

    “All fictional works which are being promoted must contain at least two
    characters whose gender, sexual, physical, and/or racial identity is
    substantially different from the creator’s”

    So, I’m curious – ethnic/national identity (so, let’s say, a German character in a novel by an American author, or a Korean character in a Japanese novel) is not enough?

    • Do you think there are substantial differences between German and American people? Or Koreans and Japanese people?

      (Hmm, do I need to add a plank that the portrayals of the substantially different characters need to be non-stereotypical? I fear I might…)

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  • RayCun

    if you’re encouraging people to recommend works with diverse characters, discussions about issues of diversity, that’s all well and good.
    If you’re going to use the same tactics as terrible people – encouraging people to vote for things on the basis of politics rather than excellence – that makes you a slightly different kind of terrible person.

  • Doug Dandridge

    Thanks for making the Hugos even more irrelevant than they were before. Of course the Hugos shouldn’t be about interesting characters and settings with great plots. Something that makes the average reader want to keep turning the page. And then we have the people who say if a cismale white writer constructs characters of a different ethnic group, he can’t, of course, do the portrayal correctly. Can’t win with you people, so I guess the only thing to do is keep putting out self-published work and making a good living, and the hell with the awards. Just another nail in the coffin of traditionally published scifi, while indies continue to flourish.

    • I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but it sounds like you’re saying that if a fictional work has more than two characters who are substantially different than the creator in some way, have their own agency within the plot, have romantic interests who are not the main protagonist, and/or are given meaningful deaths, the characters won’t be interesting or the stories won’t have great plots. I hope that’s not what you’re saying, but it sounds like it. And if you are, I can give you an excellent example of a work that was published in the past which fits my platform but also seems to be aligned with your preferences for “interesting characters” and “great plots.”

      When I was younger (and before I went to college), I read Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein and I loved that the main character was Filipino because it was the first time I saw someone with my same racial background in a novel where they were the main character and was written by someone who wasn’t Filipino or of Filipino descent. A quick perusal of the list of characters in the novel show that some other minor characters are also from a different ethnicity than Heinlein. It’s been decades since I last read it, but I can’t imagine that there wasn’t at least one conversation between any of these characters where Rico wasn’t the focus. (Then again, for first-person narrative works, that can be a tricky thing.) And there were no romances in the book, so part C doesn’t apply; there were deaths, and I think they had a great impact on the main character and plot. Which means that if it had been published today, Troopers would totally be a plank in the platform, *and* it’s interesting, *and* it was written by a cisgendered white dude, *and* it’s now a classic of the genre.

      Taking a look at the bibliography on your site, it looks like you have female characters in your books and/or characters who don’t have the same major characteristics as you. If you could please tell me which of your books is eligible for an award this year, I’ll gladly include it in my reading list. If I do find one that’s worthy, did you want me to include it on my platform?

      Whatever you decide, best of luck to you.

      • Doug Dandridge

        I really don’t care about the awards, yet. Maybe when I have earned some more cred. I write to entertain readers and to make a living at it. The thing is, your planks say nothing about a good plot. Of course if it has a good plot and interesting setting it should be a good story, but the summation of your points seemed to be that the book had to be inclusive in the manner of your planks without mentioning that the book should also be entertaining, or thought provoking, or any of the other things that have made books award worthy in the past. And no, I don’t want to go back to the all white male crews of the past, or in the case of Japanese 1960 and 70s Japanese movies, all Japanese crews, though the near future may not be too far off of that. I don’t put characters in my books out of a sense of inclusiveness.
        I grew up on Star Trek, and it has always seemed to me that we would all be in it together in the future, so I try to include a bunch of different ethnicities and philosophies, and yes,even though I’m not religious, religions, even those I really don’t like personally, because in most of my books it’s humanity against the Universe, and we don’t have time for all of those divisive things. I do it because it makes sense, not from any sense of trying to make things more inclusive. I will admit that I haven’t had many gay or lesbian characters, partially due to my own thought processes, but also partially because they don’t make up a huge proportion of the population, though I have made a commitment to have some in the future in proportion. I am not a homophobe, but they also are not always central to my thought processes when working out a story.
        As far as works that should have been considered in the past, how about Weber’s Honor Harrington, which had many female characters of various ethnicities. The main character is a half Asian, half White (don’t know if I should call her Amerasian or Eurasian, since her parents are from neither of those regions), and the Queen is a young black woman (not African American, because she is not from here). He always has some books coming out, but I think his earlier work is his best, before bloat started to set in, and I know those are not eligible for this years awards.
        Forgive me if I got you wrong. I want a good story, and really don’t care all that much about the background of the characters as long as their is one and it is plausible. Interesting is welcome, but not always necessary. Again, not all white males, because that is not realistic. And I didn’t see anything in your planks about a good story. Oh, and not all of my characters die meaningful deaths, but that is life. Some are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

        • “The thing is, your planks say nothing about a good plot.”

          I did address part of that with this sentence:

          “I hope it goes without saying that all of the works I’ll be promoting must be things which I think are ‘good,’ but that’s more of a subjective standard than an objective standard, so I didn’t include it as a plank.”

          For me, the part of the goal of the “Geeking Out About…” platform is to elevate those works which I like which incorporate diversity and inclusion into the very bones of their being and which reflect the society in which we’ve always lived where there is more than one type of person in the world. But at the same time, I don’t want to *impose* my taste upon other people. That way lies madness and the mess which was last year’s nomination and voting period.

          It’s funny that you mention David Weber’s Honorverse. I only twigged onto the series last year as I was doing research for the 2015 CONvergence panel called “David Weber’s Works.” The panelists were originally going to be Baen publisher Toni Weisskopf, a gentleman named Kevin Horner, and me, but Horner never showed up. Despite the fact that the Minnesota chapter of the Royal Manticore Navy was in full force at the con and had a party room, the room was very empty. (It’s possible this was because the panel was held at 12:30 pm on Sunday, but maybe not.) So it basically turned into a Q&A with me firing questions off at Weisskopf about Weber for most of the time, and then some time for questions after. And this was after I’d only read the first two books. I just finished the sixth one and I do think they’re very fun. Because I haven’t read the Horatio Hornblower series, they remind me more of Bernard Cornwell’s “Sharpe” historical fiction series (and I’ve only read the first one of that, so far), weird British Empire hangups and all.