It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it: a view on Hugo-gate

jonathan ross

Sorry, I lied.

If you haven’t heard about the debacle which unfolded over the weekend, the summary is this: Jonathan Ross was going to be hosting the 2014 Hugo Awards; some people weren’t too impressed with the choice of him as host; in the resultant controversy, he ended up stepping down.

Now, there are plenty of opinions floating around here — too many, in fact — and I don’t really want to get into the substantive issues. I doubt that this post will make me many friends, but if I wanted a quiet life I wouldn’t have a blog. Or a Twitter account. Or the internet. In fact I’d live in a cave somewhere, cut off from the rest of the world.

But what the hell, eh?

So, the biggest problem with what happened was that it snowballed very quickly into an angry, shouty mess. A lot of people got very, very upset, and it actually made it difficult to take any sort of rational or helpful steps.

I quite like Jonathan Ross. I think his ITV show is a bit sub-par, but as a person I find him entertaining. People are entitled to disagree with that, of course. And if they feel that he’s an inappropriate choice of host, that’s fine too.

But there are ways, better ways I think, of expressing it than to go on Twitter and attack Ross or the LonCon directly and in full public view. Those unhappy with Ross could have spoken, first, privately with the organisers. They could have expressed concerns in a calm, reasoned way. I thought that was what science fiction was supposed to be known for?

That didn’t happen though. Instead we have a situation where a genre slap-fight has become an international incident covered in major UK newspapers. Seriously, here it is: in The Guardian, and the Evening Standard. You’re not telling me that any of this is positive coverage. And it won’t go away quickly.

In the Twitter age, it’s very easy for these things to get out of hand. It snowballs, I know, but it is always disappointing to see people I respect escalating such an argument, to see people weighing in despite freely admitting that they don’t know the facts. The word “misogynist” in particular was grotesquely misused — though that is a global symptom, not a purely genre one — and I don’t buy the connection to previous issues over harassment at conventions; there is a difference between problems which have happened, and what someone might say or do.

But there’s one group of people who seem to have been overlooked; the nominees and winners. A Hugo Award is the glittering pinnacle of a genre writers career. I doubt I ever will, but I should feel honoured if I am ever nominated. And now, for those up for the 2014 awards, this experience is overshadowed by the unpleasantness of this controversy. Which is a shame, because really this is at the behest of a slim minority.

I’m sure this will be repaired. Wounds will be healed, discussions will be held. For my part, I fully endorse Alasdair Stuart’s suggestions regarding LonCon and the Hugos. But the public nature of this row has damaged all of us, and the perception of everyone who is part of and loves the genre world.

So I end not with the slow hand clap I began with, but a weary, ’twas-ever-thus sigh, at the things we do to ourselves.

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