Kage Baker subscribed to one trade publication, as a writer – Locus, which is pretty much the Grey Lady of the genre. I still subscribe.
It’s where the best and most fearsome reviews come out; it’s where the size of the publishers’ ads shows plainly who is or is not in favour. There are interviews with the most watched of the up and coming, and with the eminences and dons from their Olympian fastnesses. There are lists and review of conventions (although the listings in Asimov’s are also excellent for that), and ever-fascinating details of who sold what to whom … plus the even more fascinating rumours of who might have. Volume sold at various bookstores. Speciality advertisements – agents, artwork, marketing. Online journals evolving into or out of pro status. The inevitable lists of the dead.
Kage read it with great interest – she loved insider gossip, even of the cut-and-dried journalistic sort. She read other people’s review with acumen and sympathy, but she never looked at her own until I had read them (in my capacity as filter) and translated for her. It could take her a couple of weeks to work up the nerve to read a review, even after I assured her it was good – and most of hers were. And the reviews in Locus are excellent, matter; a writer can learn things even from the bad ones. If they don’t throw themselves off the roof in despair first …
Locus also gives out their own awards, voted on by the people who read the magazine and therefore (theoretically) have an interest in the entire genre. Kage was always thrilled to get a nomination, and longed for a win – which she got, last year; I am looking at it now. The Locus Awards mattered a great deal to her.
So did the Nebulas, even more – they are nominated and voted upon by authors, the members of the Science Fiction Writers of America: as Kage affectionately said, “One’s terrifying peers …” Again, last year was her year to win, and her Nebula (a thing of beauty that looks like a still photograph from the Hubble) holds pride of place on her desk right now.
And then there are the Hugos – usually regarded as THE award, although I don’t think Kage was alone in holding the Nebulas in greater esteem. Today, the list of the Hugo nominees came out. Those are always a giggle, as the Hugo is – despite its undeniable solemnity and prestige – pretty much a popularity contest. Anyone who buys a membership in the World Science Fiction Con can nominate, and subsequently vote; and the majority of those who buy memberships are fans. And to some extent, authors with large numbers of organized fans are the ones who win Hugos.
Whenever someone observes this phenomenon, of course, other people (rarely writers; usually fans) start yelling Bad sport! Sour apples! So writers rarely comment on it out loud. Over the years of being Kage’s retinue, though, I have heard several giggling conversations observing that a collection was being taken up to assassinate So-and-so, just so someone else, anyone else, could win a Hugo … but that sort of things goes on at every awards ceremony, I’m sure, and is rarely acted upon.
Kage was nominated last year, as she knew she would be. (She died – it was practically a guarantee.) She did not win. Which would have been all right with her, as what she really liked were the cunning little rocket ship pins they send out to all the nominees – she had several of those, and wore them proudly. I got the newest one late last year, and it’s on the desk right now.
Anyway, my opinion is not really a matter of moment. I am not a writer. (Not yet. I hope to be …). I am still only a chronicler, a translator, an amanuensis. I can make snarky observations and not be blamed. Much. Never mind that I have been an active reader of science fiction for half a century, and never wavered; that the written word is still my forte, and not anime or cinema or toys … my opinion only counts if I buy a ticket to the Hugos. Which is fair enough, I think; if I can’t find my way to pony up the brass for a nice chicken dinner, can I really be taken seriously?
Anyway, I’ll watch for the winners in Locus and online, and cheer for the ones I think deserved the nod in all these contests. It’s rare that utter dreck gets nominated, and rarer still it wins (though it happens, hilariously). But for now, I am gonna go work on editing what will be a new book from Kage Baker later this year … so keep your eyes peeled, Dear Readers. She may yet be back.