Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Another note on the proposal for a “saga” award

So, I happened across this post by NK Jemisin, regarding the proposal for a new Hugo category for series.

Now, Jemisin is one of my favorite new fantasy authors. I have loved all her books so far, particularly THE SHADOWED SUN, but it’s hard to choose, because seriously, all of them. However, here is what she has to say about the possible “saga” award:

The “sagas” proposal privileges not just established authors as John Scalzi notes, but established successful white male authors. Systemic bigotry being what it will, it’s tougher for people from underrepresented groups to survive in this area, let alone thrive in the way that a multipart series would indicate.

To which I must admit that my response is . . . really? Women are not succeeding in writing series?

Well, it’s true that my library is biased toward my personal taste, but let’s just take a look:

SERIES BY WOMEN

The Range of Ghosts series by Elizabeth Bear

The Chalion series, the Sharing Knife series, and the Vorkosigan series by LMB

The Natural History of Dragons series by Marie Brennan

The Demon’s Lexicon series by Sarah Rees Brennan

The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

The Girl of Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson

The Foreigner series and the Fortress series by CJC, among earlier works

The Ysidro series by Barbara Hambly

The Dragon series and lots of others by Robin Hobb

The Inheritance trilogy by NK Jemisin

The Sevenwaters series and others by Juliet Marillier

The Oath of Fealty and the earlier Paksenarrain series, plus the Hunting Party series and the Trading in Danger series, all by Elizabeth Moon

The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik

The Beka Cooper series by Tamora Pierce

The Divergent series by Roth

The Hunger Games series by Collins

The Raven Boys series by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raksura trilogy by Martha Wells

. . . and then I got tired and stopped. Those are the series in the hardcover section of my library, without moving into the paperback section or turning on my Kindle.

And in the hardcover section, how many series do I have by guys?

SERIES BY GUYS

The Taltos series by Brust

The Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks

The Thousand Names series by Django Wexler, which doesn’t have the third book out yet but will soon

The Pathfinder series by Orson Scott Card

Plus I have the first book of the Dagger and the Coin series by Daniel Abraham and Leviathan’s Wake by James SA Corey, but then I have the first book only of a couple series by women, too, so that doesn’t change the proportion, which is obviously better than 4:1 women to men.

So. This is no doubt separate from questions of whether women authors get reviewed as often as male authors, or whether their titles stay in bookstores as long as those by male authors, or other such questions.

But right offhand . . . I do not find arguments that women are not succeeding in the longer series form persuasive. At all.

For the other question, about whether a series award would privilege established authors? Of course it would. But all awards privilege established authors, in the short forms as well as the long forms. Everything Ken Liu or Rachel Swirsky writes is actively sought out and read with an eye toward nominating it by a large number of people who nominate stories, which is not the case and cannot be the case for a newly published author. This does not strike me as a good reason for ending all awards. So the idea that a series award is out of line for this reason also does not persuade me.

Could a great series like Foreigner, with a fairly, shall we say, self-selected readership, compete with anything that has been made into a movie? Probably not. Could it compete with a series by an author with A Mobilized Fan Club? I don’t know. But I’m willing to experiment. I do think a lot of series, by women and by guys, *are* award-worthy, and *are* to a considerable extent excluded from awards because they are series books. I want to see them recognized. I would like to see a series award opened up to series completed in the past rather than just ongoing series, but of course there is no shortage of ongoing series that are truly great, too. Like the Foreigner series. You all know how much I want this to be recognized as the greatest SF series ever written.

So I’m glad to see the Saga proposal, even though I think it’s a silly name and the initial framing of how to handle it was perhaps not as well thought out as it could have been. I want people to argue about this and figure out how to do it properly, and then I want a series award available before CJC finishes her Foreigner series. My personal guess is she’s only got a couple more to go, so let’s hurry the process along and have it in place by then, okay?

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1 Comment Another note on the proposal for a “saga” award

  1. Linda S

    Yes, this struck me as an extremely strange objection. Leaving gender aside, it’s true that a series award would probably favor established authors, but I agree with Eric Flint that this is a feature, not a bug (http://www.ericflint.net/index.php/2015/06/23/a-discussion-with-john-scalzi-about-the-proposed-saga-award/).

    I’m in favor of some kind of series award myself, though setting up the rules is obviously tricky. I’m also a little concerned about how it will work in practice. For instance, I think SKIN GAME could work as an argument either for or against a series award. On the one hand, I think judging it as a stand-alone novel underestimates its virtues. On the other hand, I’m skeptical that voters who aren’t already fans of the series will be willing to read all 15 books (or even the last 3-5 books) to judge the series as a whole. I read Correia’s whole Grimnoir trilogy before voting on WARBOUND last year (thanks, Baen), but there was no way I was going to make it through all of WHEEL OF TIME, even though Tor generously included it in the Hugo packet.

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