Saturday, 27 October 2018

An appreciation of Alasdair Stuart

Alasdair Stuart’s mild Manx accent might be one of the more recognizable voices in science fiction.
Alasdair Stuart and his Escape Artists
crew at the 2018 Hugo Awards
(Photo via Olav Rokne & Amanda Wakaruk
Any science fiction fan who listens to podcasts is likely familiar with his work as host of Pseudopod, as well as his frequent contributions to other podcasts in the Escape Artists network.

In addition to this high-profile work, Stuart’s contributions appear in a variety of venues including the Barnes and Noble’s website, Tor.com, SYFY.com, his personal blog, and many, many more. Stuart is prolific and varied in his output, and much of it could be classed as fan writing. 

Which is why it is surprising that Stuart has yet to appear on the Hugo Award ballot in the Best Fan Writer category. Last year, he was a scant 13 nominating votes shy of being a finalist. Several members of our book club have had him on our nominating ballots repeatedly over the past few years; hopefully this will be the year that finally sees him recognized by his peers.

In terms of simple quality of writing and argumentation, Stuart has long been one of the finer writers
Stuart may be a bigger fan of Doctor
Who
than we are. But his analysis
is always worth reading.
(Image via Variety.com)
engaging in critical examinations of science fiction, fantasy, and fan culture. This is not to say that we necessarily agree with Stuart’s analysis of every matter (particularly when it comes to his unflagging support of Doctor Who), but his arguments are always worth consideration.

But more than this, 2018 has so far been a particularly good year for Stuart’s oeuvre. He’s provided us with an examination of storytelling as a tool, he’s written an ode to Burt Reynolds work in science fiction, he offered an argument for hope, and he’s watched and reviewed all the Predator movies (so you don’t have to).

In one of our favourite pieces, he writes: “Stories teach us how to live in the world and how to make the world better for those who follow us and for ourselves. They are a memetic exoskeleton that has wrapped around humanity as long as we’ve been humanity. Stories teach us how to be us.”

Stuart also contributes to the science fiction community through guesting on innumerable podcasts and blogs. He has shown a willingness to help out small-time operations, and to signal-boost causes he feels are worthwhile.

Eligibility for the Fan Writer category explicitly excludes work that appears in professional publications. However, any person’s Fan Writing is going to be judged within the context of their overall output, and many professional and semi-professional writers have been honoured as fan writers. For example, it would be disingenuous to suggest that the people voting for Bob Tucker in 1970 were unaware of his professional work or his significant contributions to fandom.

In that spirit, it’s worth noting Alasdair Stuart’s broader works within fandom this year, such as his examination of Hugo finalist The Deep, by Clipping, his interview with Brooke Bolander on Barnes and Noble’s website, and his hosting of Pseudopod

To bolster the case that Stuart’s active fandom should be recognized, we ask Worldcon members to consider his rescuing of the Escape Artists network when they were going through troubled times in 2013, his strong presence on Twitter, and his contributions to innumerable conventions and panel discussions.

As the owner of — and part of the team that creates — the Escape Artists podcast network, Stuart had a hand in one of last year’s Best Semiprozine finalists. But that is a group nomination, and it doesn’t recognize Stuart individually as a writer or as a fan. 

Even if the award for Best Fan Writer has only existed since 1967, variations such as “Actifan,” “Reviewer” and “Fan Personality” filled a similar role in earlier years. In its current form as one of our most community-driven awards, Best Fan Writer might be the award that is at the heart of what the Hugo Awards represent. Fan writing is a community-building activity that has been important to the genre since before the Golden Age of science fiction.

By carrying on traditions that have existed since the dawn of fandom, Alasdair Stuart embodies exactly the type of fandom that the Best Fan Writer Hugo should celebrate.

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