It isn’t every day that a literary award show is completely dominated by women, however, the Hugo Awards set a new precedent this year with women winning in almost all categories. Another reason why this year’s Hugo Awards calls for celebration is that author NK Jemisin made history by winning a Hugo for the third time. This year she won the Best Novel award for the third book in her Broken Earth Trilogy, The Stone Sky.
Jemisin was the first African American woman to win this award back in 2016, for her book, The Fifth Season. The author also won a Hugo in 2017 for The Obelisk Gate. While accepting the award the author delivered a moving speech.
“This has been a hard year… a hard few years, a century. For some of us, things have always been hard and I wrote the Broken Earth trilogy to speak of that struggle and what it takes to live, let alone thrive, in a world that seems determined to break you. A world of people who constantly question your competence, your relevance, your victories, and existence,” she said.
Jemisin added that through her writing she not only draws up an account of the structural oppression of the humans throughout history but also addresses her feelings about this particular moment in American history. During her speech, the author said that she was happy that the genre has finally accepted the marginalized, albeit grudgingly.
“As this genre, finally, however, grudgingly acknowledges that the dreams of the marginalized matter and all of us have a future, so will the world. Soon, I hope. Very soon.” she said.
Jemisin also took the opportunity to shun her naysayers. Before ending her speech she said, “This is the year in which I get to smile at all those naysayers. Every single insecure, mediocre wannabe, who fixes their mouths to suggest that I do not belong on this stage, that people like me cannot possibly have earned such an honor, and that when they win it’s meritocracy and when we win it is identity politics. I get to smile at these people and lift a massive shinning rocket shaped finger, in their direction.”
Hugo Awards, also touted as the most important award in science fiction and fantasy had experienced a rough patch in the last couple of years. As Guardian reported in 2015,” two linked online campaign groups, known as the “Sad Puppies” and their more politically extreme running mates, the “Rabid Puppies”, have been campaigning hard to register supporters and bump their preferred titles on to the shortlists. They have managed it, too: this year’s (i.e. in 2015) Hugos are packed with Puppies titles.”
The puppies made a voting bloc that only propelled white male candidates, and in the process, hindered gender-based diversity in nominations of the Hugo Award. As a result of which, Hugo voters did not give out any awards in five categories during the 2015 award ceremony.
However, this year is an indication that things have changed for the better as Hugos were handed out in all the categories. Apart from Jemisin, Martha Wells won a Hugo for her Novella, All Systems Red and Suzanne Palmer bagged the Best Novelette award for The Secret Lives of Bots. The best short story went to Rebecca Roanhorse forWelcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience and Best Series went to World of Five Gods, by Lois McMaster Bujold. You can see the full list here.