Monday, January 2, 2017

Interzone Guest Editorial

This week we announced the two finalists of the Sputnik Awards 2015/2016. Here's a guest editorial I wrote about the prize for Interzone 265 back in July (slightly tweaked).


After two years of faintly fusty Hugo Awards, the announcement came as a breath of fresh air with a zesty tang. In June, at WisCon 40, Nalo Hopkinson launched The Lemonade Award, to be presented for kindness and positive change in science fiction. The trophy is truly sublime. In fact, SubLEMON: each winner gets a sleekly fluted silvery Alessi® PSJS Juicy Salif Citrus Squeezer, a monstrous twelve-incher straight out of H.R. Geiger. When life gives you lemons, no one can hear you scream. Nalo Hopkinson should probably get the Lemonade Award for starting the Lemonade Award.

Meanwhile, signs of life are everywhere twitching. The Clarke Award, celebrating its 30th birthday, energetically contemplates future evolution. The new Eugie Foster Memorial Award plans to celebrate the best in innovative short SFF. Schneier and Quinn’s mathy analysis of mooted Hugo reforms show how things learnt in the context of fandom might have wider application. At File 770, Catherynne M. Valente and others toy with the notion of a new swarm of fine-grained smart prizes: ‘Best Action Sequence,’ ‘Best Twist,’ ‘Best Ending,’ ‘Best Villain’? ‘Best New Award’? Call them the Spoilers, Bruce Baugh suggests: “Make the trophy like a sci-fi hot rod’s spoilers. Seriously.” On YouTube, ambient SFF love reaches dangerous critical density and the BooktubeSFF Award bursts into existence.

And Sam Walton and I – from an original inkling by Ian Sales, and with assistance and dazzle from some dozen brilliant others – have created the Sputnik Award™. The winner receives a generously donated one year supply of Interzone. To delimit the Sputnik constituency, we’re adopting Valente’s procedure: “vote if you want, who gives a shit.” Voting is now open at

In fact, everything about the Sputnik Awards™ is open. It’s entirely experimental, and hopefully next year it will be a new experiment. We have settled on two themes to guide its evolution. One is digital democracy, or perhaps more generally, social media. Literary awards build spaces where fun and interesting conversations can occur, right? But you can say that about a lot of stuff. Perhaps a more compelling analogy is with user-driven content ecologies such as TV Tropes or Wikipedia. We collectively get back what we collectively put in, but that content is incentivised and transformed by a carefully-designed infrastructure. So could inputs be more varied than ‘books and votes,’ and the outputs more varied than ‘cultural capital’? We’ll see.

The second is politics, perhaps particularly left-wing politics. In 1843, after Arnold Ruge overheard Marx and his friends throwing him shade, Marx wrote to Ruge claiming that, “Ruge babes, our task is the ruthless criticism of everything that exists, babes.” Later that day, he wrote Capital. With Marx’s maxim in mind, perhaps the Sputnik Award™ trophy should be an almost traumatically vituperative critique of the winning novel. It could be, in Theodor Adorno’s words, written “from the standpoint of redemption,” and embedded in plexi-glass. Politics hasn’t decisively informed this year’s selection, but starting with next year, we’d like the Sputnik Award shortlist to give special attention to SFF with radical democratic themes, promoting social and economic justice, and celebrating not just individual freedom, but also collective freedom.

Oh and it’s Dungeons & Dragons themed, except with hedgehogs and stuff. It’s kind of dumb. Check it out.

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