Science Fiction/Fantasy

Reader Shame: Award Season Edition

Alex Acks

Contributing Editor

Alex Acks is a writer, geologist, and sharp-dressed sir. They've written for Six to Start and been published in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Shimmer, Daily Science Fiction, and more. Alex lives in Denver with their two furry little bastards, where they twirl their mustache, watch movies, and bike. Twitter: @katsudonburi Website:

Ah, awards season for the sci-fi-o-sphere; it’s not a time of year I look forward to. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled and full of squee when the awards crunch is done and there are happy authors out there with trophies for their awesome books and short stories and everything in between. But the process of getting there isn’t my favorite as a reader.

Hugo Award

(Or as a writer, for that matter, but that’s a whole other ball of disgusting ear wax.)

Why? I have a list for you:

  1. It’s a cruel reminder of just how few recently published books you’ve read. And here, “recently published” means “books published during the particular award’s nomination window.” You might think you’re feeling pretty good, chugging along through your backlog of the five brazillion awesome things all those excellent writers you love have been writing, bless their prolific little hearts, and you’ve even read some books your friends told you that you omg have to read right now about five years ago. And then it means nothing because all of those super awesome books are old news and ineligible and why aren’t you reading things that got published sometime this decade, dangit? It’s a level of reader shaming that’s only missing a sign and a cute but sarcastic photo on Twitter.
  2. If you actually have been keeping track of books published this year—good for you! and I hate you—you might end up having the opposite problem. You’ve read too many good books. The Hugo nomination ballot only has six spots per category. It’s probably inappropriate to send an edible arrangement with a tear-stained apology card to a writer you left off your ballot.
  3. It’s likewise not appropriate to find and hug every one of the writers you’ve seen mentioning their work on Twitter that you didn’t get around to reading or didn’t have room to nominate. Writers don’t like it when strangers burst out of the hedge near their front door to clutch them in a bear hug and whisper, “I’m sure your book was really good, I just couldn’t stop marathoning Criminal Minds long enough to read it. I’m sorry I’m a monster.”
  4. Once the nomination window has ended, with your ballot shamefacedly submitted showing more blank spaces than actual nominations, the stress isn’t done. Because then you get the list of finalists, right? So many awesome books and stories. Ones you haven’t read. And you’ve got three, maybe four months to get through the whole brick-like literary enchilada. Good luck, sport.
  • Maybe you manage to climb nominee mountain and read all of the offered awesome works so you don’t feeling like a cheating cheater awfulpants trying to grade a category that you don’t fully know. Believe it or not, I’ve done this a few times, thanks to my local library and a long bus commute. But this is the meanest part: congratulations, you’re now four months behind on your reading for this year, and someone’s already circulating a spreadsheet with reading suggestions for next year.

    Those who get through awards season without eating your feelings of reader shame via ice cream or deep-fried burritos, I salute you. For everyone else, I feel your pain and I’ve got a chimichanga waiting for you.