George RR Martin is not having a good year.
Not only has he missed the self-imposed deadline for publishing his long-awaited Game of Thrones sequel, The Winds of Winter, he’s now in hot water for what are being dubbed racist, misogynistic and transphobic remarks at an awards show.
As a titan of fantasy publishing, Martin seemed an ideal choice to host the remote version of the Hugo Awards, a fan-voted annual awards ceremony that’s a pretty prestigious date in the science fiction and fantasy calendar.
Martin’s brief seemed pretty easy; host the awards via a pre-recorded ceremony.
Unfortunately fans aren’t happy with what actually went down, in a broadcast that saw Martin repeatedly mispronounce the names of Black and brown authors, crack gags about the genitalia of ‘eunuch’ Oscar statues and pay tribute to dead white, male authors who held fascist beliefs.
At one point Martin kept invoking the name of John W Campbell, a sci-fi writer who had a Hugo Award posthumously named after him until last year, when award-winner Jeannette Ng delivered a blistering speech, calling him a ‘fascist’.
“John W Campbell, for whom this award was named, was a fascist,” Ng said at the time.
“Through his editorial control of Astounding Science Fiction, he is responsible for setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day. Sterile. Male. White. Exalting in the ambitions of imperialists and colonisers, settlers and industrialists”.
The award was retitled the ‘Astounding Award’.
Martin was also accused of erasing the achievements of Black author N.K. Jemisin, who has won Best Novel three years in a row – a historic accomplishment.
But instead, Martin took the opportunity to ramble on about a white man who also won the same award three times – but over a period of nine years.
The hosting abilities of the Game of Thrones author did not go down well.
In a blog post, cultural critic Natalie Luhrs said she had “never in my life seen any awards ceremony that, in its whole, was so blatantly disrespectful of the nominees and winners”.
Others said Martin’s comments put a real dampener on what should have an exciting and organically diverse field of talented nominees and winners.
Some authors were outraged.
Others also began to reconsider their participation in the Hugos.
Jeanette Ng said that without marginalised writers, the Hugos “stop being the future”.
For their part, the chairs of the Hugo Awards issued an apology, saying they acknowledged that they “got some things wrong”.
In a statement posted to ConZealand and social media, they wrote:
We acknowledge that we got some things wrong at the Hugo Awards Ceremony today, and through doing so have hurt members of our community.
We sincerely apologise for that hurt. We apologise for the mispronunciations of names, and any disrespect implied. Phonetic guidelines were made available to us, and we did not overcome the challenges we faced.
As Chairs, we accept full responsibility for this. The Chairs also made the decision to provide an agnostic platform for all the participants, and did not place restrictions on any speech or presentations.
As for George R.R Martin, no such apology seems forthcoming.
He did, however, post a vague Voltaire quote, reading: “We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies”.
Fans told him he was “compounding the problem, not fixing it” and that he needed to apologise, stat.
indy100 has reached out to Martin for comment. Maybe that apology will arrive when The Winds of Winter does...