In which I continue my charge through the Hugo Awards shortlist.
Best Fan Writer
This is a hard category to pick from. I love the attention and exposure Mark Oshiro gives to books he's reading, and I'm also a frequent reader of Abigail Nussbaum's excellent reviews and essays. Liz Bourke's column "Sleeps with Monsters" is likewise required reading to understand the portrayal of women in both our genre and the media. I could easily see myself voting for any of these people in any other year.
But in 2013, two writers stood out to me for their penetrating insight and advocacy for improving our genre — Kameron Hurley and Foz Meadows.
Kameron Hurley's fiction has shocked the SF genre like a kick to the solar plexus, with novels and stories such as God's War providing a well-needed example of what next-generation science fiction can be. But the Hugo's fan writer category isn't about professionally published fiction — it's about fan writings. And the good news here is that Hurley's fan writings are also shaking up staid genre conventions. I read her blog continually and find her Locus Magazine column to be equally powerful. For examples of her best 2013 essays, I recommend "Everybody Already Knows: How Silence About the Realities of Publishing Hurts Authors," "'We Have Always Fought': Challenging the 'Women, Cattle and Slaves' Narrative," and "Making Excuses for Science Fiction."
Foz Meadows is also working hard to challenge genre conventions and improve SF/F for everyone. Writing across multiple platforms — including her blog, Tumblr, and Twitter accounts — Meadows is one of those essayists who not only cranks open your mind but rearranges your very neurons so you can't imagine a future without her vital insights. Among Meadow's must-read essays from 2013 are "On Grittiness & Grimdark," "Old Men Yelling At Clouds: SFWA Sexism," and "Why Terry Deary Is Wrong: The Case For Libraries."
I still haven't decided my top pick between Hurley or Meadows in this category, so I'm recommending both of them. The good news is that thanks to the Hugo's ranked voting system, we can easily make them the top two choices. I also have my fingers crossed for a tie.
As I said, all of the finalists for this year's award are worthy of winning (and have a great shot at winning in the future). However, Hurley and Meadows stood out to me with their excellent commentary and essays during a difficult year for our genre. It is also thanks to insightful writers like Hurley and Meadows that I remain optimistic about the direction science fiction and fantasy is headed.
For me, that's a great reason to make them the two top picks for this year's Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer.