Actual Hugo Comments

So, as alluded to over the weekend, the Hugo nominations this year are a train wreck. The short fiction categories are absolutely dominated by works from the "slates" pushed by a particular collection of (mostly) right-wing authors and that prion disease in human disguise "Vox Day." The primary purpose of the "slates" is to poke a stick in the eye of people on the other end of the political spectrum within SF, which is why three of the five nominees in one category got to John C. Wright channeling the spirit of Ayn Rand. If you want a round-up of the entirely predictable reactions to this mess, File 770 has you covered.

I was waffling about going to Worldcon this year-- on the one hand, promoting the Schödinger Sessions, on the other hand, it's $1000 to fly to Spokane-- and this probably ensures I won't go. I will, however, be buying a supporting membership so as to be able to vote these jackasses below "No Award, because, really. On the bright side, the reading for this will be simple, as I've already read two of the three Best Novel works I might plausibly vote for, and gave up halfway through the third.

(I will at least start the other two novels, assuming they're in the voter packet, but I don't expect to get all that far... Likewise the short fiction.)

In terms of the many discussions now raging about how to fix this, I'll cast my vote with Jim Henley and his call for competing slates. The highly complicated WSFS constitution and amendment process means any rule-based fix (say, limiting the number of nominations a member can submit to less than the size of the list of finalists) will take at least a couple of years to implement, and in the meantime, the slate-pushers will have free rein.

And while I would like to sympathize with the people invoking the grand mystical tradition of everybody voting for the works that deeply moved them and everything magically working out, that's nothing but a myth. The Hugos have always been an ungainly mix of literary award and popularity contest-- the infamous second-ever Best Novel winner is proof enough of that. Every year, the final ballot includes nominations for works that get there based less on their merit as works of fiction than the personal popularity of their authors, and sometimes those works even win. (Two of the four Worldcons I've been to in person, in fact...)

If I cared less about the result, I might enjoy the irony of a bunch of mostly conservative folks making radical changes to the system, while a bunch of liberals pine for the good old days of inside networking when the right people just knew the right people to vote for, but I'd actually prefer explicit and open campaigning. (Also, this situation is too much a depressing reflection of real-world politics...) So, suck it up, and somebody put together some counter-slates opposing this nonsense.

Of course, I'm not without self-interest in this, in that I feel a little guilty about my role. I was eligible to nominate for the Hugos this year, and sent in a ballot with five Best Novel votes but the short fiction categories left blank. I don't have much time to read these days, and strongly prefer novels to short fiction, so I just don't know enough about the state of the field to make a sensible vote, and most recommendation lists were too long and diffuse to do me any good. I would happily consider voting for a slate of short works put together by sensible people, though, if it means not having three-fifths of the nominations going to a single turgid polemicist. If nothing else, cutting down the list of stuff I have to read before I fill out my nomination ballot would be a huge improvement.

(I have a sabbatical starting this fall, so I might make some effort to read more short fiction with an eye toward being able to nominate a reasonable set of stories, as one of my occasional attempts to be a better person. The novella category is probably a dead loss, though, as I'm just not going to pay hardcover prices for single novellas in small-press editions, which seems to be what all the cool kids do these days.)

So, anyway, there's my marginal-participant contribution to the whole business. For what little that may be worth.

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I feel your pain about Worldcon. This is my second year as a voter and the first Worldcon I'll actually attend in person. (With my dad, no less!) It's a real downer that the short list has ended up this way. Well, for what it's worth, know that you'll have at least one reader at Worldcon if you decide to go.

I strongly approve of the competing slate idea. I would definitely commit to reading a bunch of short fiction suggested by someone like Jim Henley.