July 28, 2019

Hugo Reading 2019: Best Fan Writer

Best Fan Writer is fun, because it's a little closer to the kind of scribbling I do. (Not that I'm comparing myself to anyone here--far from it!) But it's supposed to be stuff put out for fun and not for money, which means it could be anything and everything, from reviews to analysis to deconstruction to calling out to humor to snark. In practice, I suppose there are more reviews and reviewers than anything else--we do love to talk about good books, after all. I like reviews well enough (obviously, given most of the content of this blog), but I prefer essays that go deeper, that examine themes and worldbuilding and the choices of creators. The latter kind of writing is well represented in this year's shortlist.

My ballot:

6) James Davis Nicoll

James Davis Nicoll made me exhausted just looking at his packet submission. It's his entire year of reviews for 2018--722 pages. I wanted to go lie down as soon as I opened the file. His work ethic and speed of reading impresses me, but unfortunately the sheer number of entries by necessity makes them a little on the superficial side. I'd prefer fewer reviews and deeper delving into each individual book.

5) Charles Payseur

Charles Payseur better fits the formula I just outlined--fewer reviews, deeper delving. His specialty is short fiction, although there was a novel review, the transcript of a podcast, and a couple of personal essays included in his packet. They were...okay, but nothing that struck me as really outstanding.

4) Alasdair Stuart

Now we start with the essayists and analysts. Alasdair Stuart's offerings include essays on Dr. Who (13), Clipping, the Kitschie Awards, problematic faves, and most absurd of all, Burt Reynolds' appearance in Season 9 of The X-Files. (Which I personally liked, apparently a lot more than most people. I'd take Scully, Doggett and Reyes any day over the unholy mess that was the show's final season.) These articles are fairly short, but they're more personable. Also, anybody contrasting Johnny Rotten with the 13th Doctor earns a kudos in my book, even if it doesn't quite rise to the level of the other nominees.

(This is another case where the top three placements, for me, pretty much came down to a coin toss.)

3) Bogi Takacs

Bogi Takacs concentrates on what e calls "QUILTBAG+" issues, and all of the entries in eir packet are viewed through that lens. E is a little more measured and deliberate in eir writing, a style that demands thought and contemplation afterwards.

2) Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

According to her packet, Elsa Sjunneson-Henry writes about "disability in genre fiction," and she does it with a razor-sharp, biting wit. She takes apart the Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water in four pages, and has a fascinating essay about performing burlesque with a disability. Writing such as this, pointing out the ways the book/movie industry and individual creators have fallen short in their representation and challenging them  to do better, is invaluable.

1) Foz Meadows

Foz Meadows isn't as prolific as some of the other nominees in this category, but she makes up for it with the depth she gives to her essays. Her movie and game reviews are detailed and fascinating; she thoroughly deconstructs Star Wars: The Last Jedi, nailing how Rian Johnson failed in both his themes and his characters. She doesn't usually approach her subjects through the lens of a particular issue, but she takes each one on its own merits and dives deep, which I appreciate.

Next up: Best Graphic Story

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