The Puppies lost the Hugos. Again.

The Hugo Award winners:

  • Best Novel: Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translation by Ken Liu (Tor Books).
  • Best Novella: No Award
  • Best Novellette: “The Day The World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, translation by Lia Belt in Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014
  • Best Short Story: No Award
  • Best Related Work: No Award
  • Best Graphic Story: Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt (Publisher).
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Guardians of the Galaxy written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Orphan Black “By Means Which Have
    Never Been Tried” written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett [Space/BBC America] (Temple Street Productions)
  • Best Editor, Short Form: No Award
  • Best Editor, Long Form: No Award
  • Best Professional Artist: Julie Dillon
  • Best Semiprozine: Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Wendy N. Wagner, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton and Christie Yant
  • Best Fanzine: Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Alissa McKersie, Colin Harris, and Helen Montgomery
  • Best Fancast: Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
  • Best Fan Writer: Laura J. Mixon
  • Best Fan Artist: Elizabeth Legget
  • The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Wesley Chu

Like last year, it has once again been proven that slate nominations can succeed but cannot win the Hugo Awards, yet do poison and disrupt them. We’ve had five No Awards votes previously; this year doubled that as voters rejected slating and the inferior works forced on the ballots that way. But it still meant that deserving people like Eugie Foster, for whom it would’ve been her last shot at a Hugo, were cut from the ballot to make way for assholes and chancers not good enough to get nominated on their own merit.

It also makes for mixed feelings about the first ever win of a Dutch person, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, whose story was …not good… to put it politely and somewhat on the sexist side and who won by default as the only non-Puppy nominee in that category. I wish i could celebrate his victory with a clear conscience and I’m happy for him, but going up against real competition there was no way he could’ve won.

Last year when the results had been made known i was convinced that the Puppies would’ve learned to leave well alone, to have realised that slating could get them nominated but not win the Hugos. This year I know there will be more shit, but fandom is mobilised now. Hopefully this means next years nominations are less of a trainwreck.

UPDATE: looking at the nominations data (PDF) makes clear what a waste the Puppies made of the Hugos. Just scroll through the short story, novelette and novella categories to see what could’ve been. For one thing, they cost Eugie Foster her last possible nomination.

Worldcon 75: Helsinki

It’s official: Worldcon 75 will be held in Helsinki, as it should be. Even if the North-American vote hadn’t been split between Washington and Montreal, Helsinki would’ve won. Barring accident, it’ll be the second worldcon I’ll be going to, but I wonder how hard it would be to do by train from Amsterdam to Helsinki?

Shirobako redux

watching the broadcast of the final episode

Remember when I said Shirobako was too good to watch quickly? I lied. instead, what i did was basically inhale the entire twentyfour episode series over the course of a weekend because it was just too good not to. This is one of the best, if not the best anime series I’ve seen in a long time, perhaps only matched by Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex which I binge watched earlier this year.

The Shirobako production staff holding their daily standup

Three reasons why I liked this so much: 1) its love for anime as a profession and medium, 2) its great, female centered cast (without the usual sexist bullshit of a lot of female centered anime) and 3) it’s a properly adult story about doing a job you love in an industry you love, with all the ups and downs that entails, that manages to be upbeat without losing sight of the realities of working in an industry build on exploiting the dreams of the people working in it.

the Exodus protagonists visit their creator

To start with the last, Shirobako follows the production of two successive anime series put out by Mushashino Animation, a smallish studio that has seen better years, mostly through the eyes of Aoi Miyamori, a production assistant, who vowed to break into the anime industry when in high school, together with her four friends of the anime club. Any notion of glamour though is largely forgotten under the pressure of getting Exodus, Mushashino’s first big new series in years, onto the television screen in time. Much of Miyamori’s work therefore consists of her running around between the various people involved in making anime, both in the studio and as freelancers: animators, 3D designers, colourists, sound production, etc, to get the work that needs done for the episodes she’s responsible for.

Aria Hitotose enjoying a sour plum from Third Girls Aerial Squad

That felt really familiar from working on big software projects, especially the frantic search for solutions when deadlines come close and things go wrong. In the second part of the series this gets even worse, as Miyamori is promoted to production desk, now responsible for coordinating the entire series of the new anime, The Third Girls Aerial Squad, rather than just individual episodes. Interestingly, it’s this part of the series which has most of the “as you know, Bob” explanations you’d expect earlier, somewhat justified by Miyamori learning the ropes of her new role, while the first few episodes instead almost drown you with jargon and the introduction of the many, many, people you need to make an anime.

the five protagonists of Shirobako

Which brings me to the second reason for why I like this series so much: its great cast. It’s centered around five high school friends who all are now either working in the anime industry or trying to break into it. Besides Miyamori, there’s Ema Yasuhara, working as a key animator at the same company, Misa Tōdō, working as a 3D computer graphics animator at a company specialising in doing cars, Shizuka Sakaki, an aspiring voice actress and Midori Imai, still in university and who wants to become a script writer. Miyamori is the series protagonist, with the other four regularly checked in on. They made a vow together back in high school, that one day they’d all work on their own movie and they’re hard at work realising their dream.

the Mushashino Animation crew

But that’s only a small part of the total cast, as Shirobako, especially in the first several episodes makes a point of hitting you over the head with how many people it takes to make one anime series. That picture above shows the staff of Mushashino Animation, which in itself is only a smallish studio. You’d think you’d drown in such a large cast, but the series is actually quite good at giving almost everybody their own personality. Though the focus is on the main five friends and especially Miyamori, the rest of the cast isn’t neglected either.

Tarō Takanashi having to apologise for one of his fuckups

As you expect in any workplace, there are personal conflicts, people agonising about their career choices, slackers, high achievers, careerists and dropouts. What’s noticably absent are the office romances. That’s refreshing; so many supposedly work based stories treat work as just the background activity to focus on romance. Yet there is pleasure in seeing competent people work together to resolve real problems and Shirobako proves that this makes for just as gripping stories as a more conventional romance story would be. What’s also refreshing is that there are no out and out villains here: even a screwup like production assistant Tarō Takanashi, pictured above, who was responsible for some of the biggest crisises in the first half of the series, learns from his mistakes and gets better. (Note: apparantly some of this is inspired both by the director Tsutomu Mizushima’s own past mistakes as well as the experiences P.A. Works had making Girls und Panzer, which twice had to resort to recap episodes due to screwups.)

With Shirobako‘s focus on Miyamori and her work as production assistant and then production desk, most of the plot therefore revolves around the production process of the two series, but her friends go through their own crisises too. Ema Yasuhara has to grow as a key animator to be able to keep up with the work demanded of her, while Misa Tōdō is well appreciated by her company and good at what she does, but is conflicted in whether she’d be better off moving to a 3D graphics company that does more varied work. Midori Imai meanwhile sort of gets her wish of breaking into the industry by becoming a researcher at Mushashino Animation, while Shizuka Sakaki struggles for most of the series getting even bit parts voice acting. It all works out in the end though, as the five get their wish to work on an anime series together. Sort of.

animators bonding over their shared love for Space Runaway Ideon

And of course at the heart of the series is the love of anime . While people have doubts, fail, burn out and recover, underneath it that love remains. So when a key animator and a CGI creator — after meddling by Tarō Takanashi again– fall out over who gets to do a key scene, it’s no surprise its their shared love of a thinly disguised Space Runaway Ideon which reconciles them.

Another example is the series that got the main protagonist Aoi Miyamori interested in anime and a career in it: Andes Chucky, a shoutout to the real life Rocky Chuck. In one of the early episodes we see her hum the theme tune walking home after having gone out with her friends one night. In episode 19, we get the full ending credits as a replacement to the normal ending song. In between it turns out one of the key animators on the series is still working at Musashino Animation, who becomes somewhat of a mentor to Ema Yasuhara.

Don-Don-donuts, lets go nuts

You could argue that Shirobako paints a rose tinted picture of the anime industry, even with all the problems and stress shown, especially in how the five high school friends in the end all seem to have made it in the industry. Yet on the other hand it’s not unknown for such a cluster of talent to make it through in real life, while especially Shizuka Sakaki barely has her feet on the ladder. It is self mythologising, but it’s well done and far from saccharine so I don’t care.

Stop trusting Lou Antonelli to mend his ways

Lou Antonelli is the perfect example of why you should be wary about accepting apologies from serial abusers. Because doing so enables them in their abuse.

Lou Antonelli is one of the lesser Pups, a minor science fiction writer who’s been busy cheerleading the rightwing campaign to take over the Hugo Awards. He’s also been busy harassing people who have the temerity to disagree with him or oppose him, specialising in a less direct form of swatting, by threatening to out them to their employers, or get the police involved. He’s been getting away with it for seemingly years, mainly due to SFF fandom’s well established tendency to forgive easily. this time however Antonelli was still apologising for attempting to sic the cops on David Gerrold with various people praising him for this apology when he was caught sending his fans out to harass Carrie Cuinn. A more on the nose version of the abuse-apologise-abuse cycle of professional bullies like Antonelli is hard to imagine.

What tripped up Antonelli this time is not just that he was caught trying to get David Gerrold in trouble, but that this was David Gerrold, a well respected, well established elder statesman within SFF and fandom. Usually he picks fights with much less high profile people, random fans, authors just starting out, those who can’t hurt him or his career. He only apologises when he’s forced to, when he can’t get away with it, then as here uses this apology as a whitewash as well as a weapon to attack his next victim with.

But he’s not the sole person to blame for this. If Antonelli is the abuser, fandom is his enabler. What makes Antonelli cabable of repeating this pattern again and again is that his victims, like Gerrold, are too quick to forgive and forget. This isn’t to fault him for this, it’s an inbuild instinct of civilised people who haven’t been exposed to repeat harassment, but fandom as a whole needs to learn not to do this and learn to pay attention to when Antonelli (or others like him) does it to lower profile victims.

Not a problem unique to us of course, but made worse by the fannish phobia for social exclusion. People are willing to forgive a serial harasser like Antonelli because excluding him from fandom would be a worse crime. As long as you’re part of the incrowd, you can do a whole lot of damage before you’re finally chucked out. This is incidently the real reason why Antonelli is treated differently from Benjanun Sriduangkaew/Requires Hate: she was always an outsider. Race and gender play their inevitable roles in this as well of course, but at the heart of the difference still is the simple fact that Antonelli is part of fandom and Sriduangkaew …isn’t.

We need to change this. We cannot let people like Antonelli get away with harassment over and over again just because they have the instinct to occasionally apologise in time. Just because we haven’t been harassed personally shouldn’t be a reason to not pay attention and know when to forgive and when not to.