My one thought on the Hugo Awards

There’s been a bunch of news about turmoil among SciFi authors and fans the past couple of years. See:

I like SciFi but don’t read enough to have an opinion about the relative merits of the nominees proposed by various feuding groups. But I did read Ann Leckie’s first two Ancillary books, and I was surprised to read both Hoyt and Wired focus on Leckie’s pronoun usage.


Ann Leckie’s debut novel Ancillary Justice, whose protagonists do not see gender. Leckie conveys this by using female pronouns throughout.


But quite beyond that the block voting for the clumsy Ancillary “but pronouns” would have won first place if it weren’t Australian Rules) is a blot on the face of our genre and makes me sigh and roll my eyes.

Warning: Spoilers in what follows:

Yes, the Hugo is one reason I bought Ancillary Justice on iBooks. But I enjoyed it enough to finish it and buy the sequel… and finish that too. I’ve also bought and finished one of Hoyt’s books, but it wasn’t one of her Hugo nominees, so it’s probably unfair to compare the failure to grip of a free teaser book with Leckie’s work. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in Leckie’s Ancillary series, and while I noticed the pronouns they struck my as a very minor aspect of the imaginative universe Leckie has constructed. The distributed consciousness of the Ancillaries was much more interesting than the pronouns. So was the fact that the distributed consciousness of the protagonist was an AI implanted in slaves taken from conquered cultures. So was the hierarchical and formal society the characers moved in. So were the mysterious aliens beyond the edge of the empire (or whatever it was called).  Ancillary Justice did not strike me as particularly political or moralizing, unless you think its “social justice warrior” political correctness to construct a universe that includes a particularly horrible form of body-snatching cyborg colonialism along with a decadent and corrupt social structure.

If Ancillary is political at all, it’s tame compared to some of my favorite Heinlein novels: Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Or HG Wells. As Peter Suderman’s Reason piece points out, alternative societies have always been part of SciFi

Political disagreements have been with science fiction for practically as long as there has been science fiction. Seen through a longer lens, what becomes clear is that they are an inherent part of the culture—which is, after all, built around detailed speculation about how society and technology will evolve—and arguably even what has helped it thrive for so long.