I live in a very rural place, and have for about half my life. Living where I do has always meant a long commute into town for school and work accompanied by the very early morning news.
The news is never good and never kind. I was sixteen and in my first year of university when I started paying attention to the news in earnest, exactly one week before September 11, and every morning I’d climb into the car by 6:00 am, exhausted and bleary, and grit my teeth against the litany of horrors. Wars; death tolls; loss of civil liberties; hate and fear-mongering. Not listening to the news never occurred to me as an option; in that respect it was like the weather. Not listening wasn’t going to change the reality of it, so better to be prepared.
But after the awfulness came the Arts Report.
It always thrilled me, awed me, soothed me, to hear that contrast: to hear that, in spite of body counts, in spite of unjust laws, in spite of all, people were finding ways to make art. They were playing music; they were telling stories; they were giving the very best of themselves in what always struck me, if only by juxtaposition, as acts of resistance to the grim reality of the world we inhabit. And they made that reality less grim.
I’ve always suspected that those who sneer at fantasy as “escapist” are those who’ve never had anything to escape. I’ve never entirely understood how, if your reality is defined by oppression, injustice and confinement, “escape” can be characterized as irresponsible, childish, instead of success against those who’d grind you down.
So when confronted by the worst in the world, I turn to art as its best. When I feel helpless and pushed down and afraid, I turn to art for my tools, for my voice, for my courage.
The Hugo ballot was announced today.
My heart goes out to those to whom the Hugo awards mean a great deal, who have worked hard making it into something with brand recognition and significance outside of genre, and who are seeing something they love twisted and perverted in bad faith to celebrate, not art, but a triumph against diversity in art.
But the reality is, for me, that I am used to bigots dominating the conversation and being galled by my existence. I am used to people vilifying my name, my language, my ethnicity, my gender, my sexual orientation. I am used to resistance as default, as the condition by which I exist. So this year’s Hugo ballot — on which are heavily represented men far better known for advocating white supremacy, violence against women, and hatred of queer people than they are for their fiction, to the point where it appears they were chosen for their advocacy over their fiction — feels like business as usual where I’m concerned.
So I will add this year’s Hugo ballot to the noise of the news. The news is never good and never kind. I will grit my teeth through it. I will roll my eyes at John C. Wright’s six-fold presence; I will laugh at Vox Day seeking to be honoured as the best of both Long Form and Short Form Editors; I will extend my sympathy to those who feel their Hugo nomination is tainted by the tactics used to place them there.
But when all’s said and done, I’ll turn back to art — the making of it, the reading of it, the championing of it — as the thing they can’t poison or take away. I’ll keep advocating for women, for people of colour, for queer people. I’ll keep reading gorgeous stories in amazing magazines and anthologies, and brilliant, ground-breaking books, and talking about them, and sharing them, and loving them.
That, ultimately, is what matters to me.