Hugo And I

Hugo And I

This week there’s been a lot of discussion and controversy on the old interwebs about the nominees for this year’s Hugo Awards. Long story short, a bunch of people have gotten together and created enough influence amongst the voters that many of the nominees can be found on one or both of the slates put forward by those people. This in turn has upset a bunch of other people because apparently that’s not how it’s supposed to work. Cue much bad language and online dickery.

For those not familiar with the Hugo Awards, they’re given out annually to the writers and creators who are deemed to have created the best sci-fi and fantasy of the previous year and have been going since 1953. There are several categories, mostly related to writing but also including awards for film, TV and comic books, with the biggest category being Best Novel. Nominations are made by the fans* in the first few months of the year, from which a shortlist of five nominees is drawn, and then those same fans* get to vote on which of the five nominees in each category will get the prize. In terms of importance, the Hugos are considered to be one of the most prestigious awards on the sci-fi table, and it’s one of the few awards I’ve had my eye on since I first decided I wanted to be a proper writer.

(* In this case, the term fans refers to anyone who’s paid for either an attending or supporting membership for WorldCon in the year of the awards or the years either side. At the time of writing a supporting membership costs $40, so there is an entry fee for taking part.)

Now, I’m not going to get involved in the argument about which side is right and which side is wrong, but a little back story is required. As far as I can tell the crux of this whole shebang is that those responsible for ‘hijacking’ the Hugos, known variously as the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies, have done so because they felt that in recent years the awards have been dominated and controlled by a group of left-wing affirmative action champions who have excluded anyone who doesn’t conform to their left-wing agenda. In response, the various Puppies have created a slate that their detractors have labelled as right-wing and dismissed out of hand. It’s gotten so inflamed that many of those detractors have called for a blanket vote for No Award in every category containing nominees put forward by the Puppies. Everybody involved seems to be getting all worked up over this and there’s even talk that the Hugos are broken beyond repair.

Since this all kicked off I’ve tried to keep track of both sides of the argument, and while I’ll admit I don’t agree with everything that’s been said, I can see why it’s become such a heated topic. I think there are valid points to both sides of the argument, but I also think that there are some ridiculously stupid points being made by both sides. I couldn’t say with any certainty whether there’s been any collusion or gaming of the awards in the past, though there probably has been; that’s just human nature. I personally think that what the Puppies have done might have been just a step too far, but that’s just me; the point could have been just as effectively made with a slate of three nominees per category, or even just one. Whatever, one thing I do believe is that this hasn’t broken the Hugos beyond repair; it’s just changed the game slightly, and now everyone needs to adapt to the new playing field.

For those nominees who have appeared on one or both of the Puppies’ lists this may well be the Hugo they never wanted. Whether they agree with what the Puppies are saying or not, there will always be a question mark surrounding their initial nomination and whether or not they truly are the best of the year. Likewise, those nominees not on the Puppies’ slates will be left wondering if they won because they deserved it or if they just got there because of the protest votes against the Puppies. True, winning will still be a buzz for whoever walks away with those rockets, but there will always be a slightly toxic edge to that buzz because of the controversy that’s embedded itself in the awards this year. However, I still wish the best of luck to everyone who’s made it on to the ballot.

So what else can I do as a fan? Well, the way I see it the best course of action is to cast my votes. I’m not going to arbitrarily vote No Award for every category, just like I’m not going to arbitrarily place non-Puppy nominees above the Puppies (or vice versa). As far as I’m concerned that sort of approach just makes the situation worse and risks breaking the Hugos further. Instead, what I’m going to do is take the time to read the entries and cast my votes accordingly. If something deserves to be on the ballot it will get placed. If it doesn’t deserve it, I won’t vote for it. I may or may not use the No Award option, but if I do it will only be because there’s nothing in a given category that I feel deserves to win. Rightly or wrongly the nominees have now been named and as fans, if we truly want to be democratic and fair, then the only way to proceed is to treat this year’s awards like any other.

Okay, I know that may not fix the problem, and if the Puppies really have gotten themselves organised then they could potentially sweep the final ballot just as easily as they did the nominations, but that hasn’t happened yet. Hopefully it won’t happen at all.

Anyway, that’s just my two-cents on the matter.

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