I find it difficult to put a coherent thought together at the moment, so I just have to hope that this message comes through.
My writing world has seen two straight issues come about lately. First, there's the Hugo Awards issue: A writer named Adam Roberts has seen fit to express his dissatisfaction with the nominees in a very well-publicized blog post. That his creative tendencies have seen fit to express this displeasure in a letter addressed to the Science Fiction reading audience can be seen as either interesting or arrogant (depending on which side of the fence you occur) is just an aside; the main point to take into account is the fact that Adam Roberts is displeased.
On the heels of this international issue comes the list of those individuals named to the list of Philippine National Artists this year. One of the aforementioned individuals, a man named Magno Jose Carlo Caparas, is now a National Artist in the area of visual arts and film. The local artistic community seems to have taken offense to this, and suddenly the web sites I frequent are suddenly filled with catcalls and hate mail.
Both of these issues revolve around a similar premise: Worthiness. A first group of people have seen fit to grant certain awards to a second group of people, and a third group of people suddenly decides to challenge the merit of such nominations. There is one issue at the core of these two events, and that is the simple fact that different people have different opinions about other peoples' work.
Muddying up these waters, of course, are our own elegant methods of expressing our feelings. Some of us attempt to dissect the situation, wondering how circumstances converged unto this final decision. Some of us feign indifference, nursing the conflict within their own minds. And some of us attack the controversial winners, asking how it is that something they despise can gain so distinguished a recognition.
I feel that the third aspect of our expression has been outnumbering the first two so far. And I refuse to join this growing mob.
Kvetching is not a new concept. We can't expect all opinions on a single work to agree with each other, after all, and we're bound to run into situations where that movie or song or novel or painting or comic that we despise suddenly turns up on the winner's pedestal with a nice blue ribbon affixed to the frame. We can probably fill entire shelves with works that we dislike, yet which have likely won countless awards, or sold innumerable copies.
It's not inconceivable that a selection committee somewhere will come up with a winner — or even a list of nominees, mind you — that we think deserves to be buried somewhere and forgotten for centuries. We can't agree on these things all the time.
What I'm saying, however, is that this sort of thing happens. It's been around since the first time one man decided to compete against another in the opinion of their own peers.
Adam Roberts most likely has his own opinion of what should go on the Hugo shortlist this year... but frankly speaking, that's his opinion. It's for him to decide. If he's not on the Hugo selection committee, then it's entirely his problem if none of his choices are recognized. I'm not going to pander to his complaints if he's the one who has issues with the Awards organization, lament or no lament. Roberts can complain about how Science Fiction concentrates on old-fashioned concepts, but again, that's his opinion. I don't see why I should be drawn into his argument.
For the purposes of this writing, I assume that the people running the Philippine National Artist nominations have followed their established procedures to the letter, and this is why I don't necessarily question Caparas's ascendance. I neither like nor dislike his work, to be honest, but it's not my place to figure out who should be National Artist and who shouldn't. I leave that to what I presume to be an honest and open-minded selection committee. If people question his title just because they don't like his works... then, well, that's not something that I feel is worth arguing about.
If these assumptions are wrong, of course, and if there was something wrong with either of the two distinguished panel selections this year, than that's worth arguing about. You can question greed. You can question selfishness. You can question whim or indifference or domination or unmitigated power-mongering, especially when it comes on the heels of a competition that you once assumed to be fair. I feel that action is justified in these cases, if only because integrity and impartiality is obviously at stake.
But questioning a writer's accomplishment just because you yourself don't like his work? That's a really low blow.
So watch what you say. Watch what you do, and ask yourself where your motivation lies. You may choose to investigate the situation further, perhaps to see what redeeming value lies in these winners and find out how their judges were able to notice this when others did not. You may choose to throw in the towel and work on that potential award-winning work of yours for next year.
You may also choose to take up the poison pen and spread your vituperations across the World Wide Web. That's your choice, really. Just bear my words in mind: Look at yourself first, and ask why you wish to piece such an argument together in the first place. Check your awareness. Open yourself up. And most importantly, figure out why you're willing to throw yourself into the fray in the first place.
Otherwise you're just going to be part of the mob. And the mob eats its own young.