The 2015 Hugo Post

TL;DR: Ugh.

Used to be, I looked forward to the Hugo nominee announcements. It was fun, watching books and authors I dug make it to the shortlist. It was keen to discover new books I hadn’t been aware of and put them on my reading list. Come WorldCon, sometimes the works I liked the best won, sometimes they didn’t. This year, I watched the nominations with a sense of dread, which is exactly what the people who organized a slate-voting campaign wanted.

And I resent that.

Which, I realize, is also what many of them wanted, so good job, I guess?

Much has been written, and by far smarter and thinkier people than I, about what went down and how to proceed from here. I’ll give you some links to click on, if you need to do some research first. You might notice that the majority (possibly all) of the links point toward the type of writers and SF/F industry people and fans that the slate’s creators want to stick it to. I’m not going to link to the slate wranglers, because quite honestly, I find their “Golly-gee-gosh, we only want to encourage more participation!” to be disingenuous. Not when prominent members of their campaign have blogged and commented gleefully about tweaking the noses of “SJWs.” Not when they courted an internet hate group’s participation*. So, if you want the slate organizers’ take, I leave that for you to google. Bring your salt shaker and your comfort beverage of choice, especially if you wade into the comments.

Linkery:

Making Light 1 – posted before the announcements, when rumblings about the slates’ success began.
Making Light 2 – continuing the previous. Abi’s intro pretty much nails how I feel about voting. If you follow no other link, follow this one and read her words. Comments #539 and after are post-announcements.
Making Light 3 –  post-announcements, including links to the fuckery of inviting in GG.

Elizabeth Bear 1 (on fandom) and 2 (on slate voting, and what she plans to do)

Jim C. Hines, “10 Hugo Thoughts”

Charlie Jane Anders at io9, “The Hugo Awards Were Always Political, But Now They’re Only Political”

John Scalzi, “A Note About the Hugo Nominations This Year”

So, go forth and read. It’s a lot, I know, but it’s all good and important. If you’re not familiar with Making Light, it’s one of the few places on the internet where it’s safe – and important! – to read the comments.

Right. My take.

Most of what I said last year, when the slate was smaller, still stands. I apologize for repeating myself, but the sentiments haven’t changed all that much.

I still think slates are shitty. They don’t only take away nominations from their “opposing” side, they take nominations away from eligible works on their “own” side. The organizers had at least one “recommend works you enjoyed” post. From the 40-something responses in the post, they chose five for the slate. Which means 35 (ish) works got dropped off from the start. The slate is as unfair to those writers as it is to the writers they were intentionally trying to freeze out.

I still think recommend-stuff-you-liked posts and eligibility reminders are good things. Scalzi’s yearly “talk about Hugo eligible works you enjoyed” posts are great – they get hundreds of replies, from enthusiastic readers. There’s a huge difference between those and “vote for these five,” though the slate organizers would have people believe they’re exactly the same (see: disingenuous.)

Word-of-mouth is part of fandom. I love a thing so I want all my friends to read it and love it, too. A writer whose work I dig says “Hey, this other book over here was pretty good,” so I want to take a look. I initially picked up A Game of Thrones because it was highly recommended on a Wheel of Time fansite (WoTMania, I believe.)

When our yearly nerd family reunion descends on a Seattle bookstore, it’s a pretty safe bet that the next hour will be filled with us running back and forth in the stacks, dumping books into one anothers’ arms and saying You have to read this. It’s not subversive; it’s not sinister. It’s people who love stories sharing their enthusiasm. Recommendation threads are that same experience writ large and expanded out to people I might never meet.

On Make your own slate, if you don’t like it: Fuuuuuuck that. Like I said, I think slates are shitty, and that goes for any slate. I am heartened to see that even though fans are upset and frustrated, it’s not a situation that’s getting floated. Or, when someone says “The only way to fight it is to have our own slate,” other people push back. There’s a relevant quote here about tussling with swine.

On Get people to vote, if you don’t like it: Leaving aside the part where this isn’t an guaranteed way to prevent bloc votes from sweeping a category, couple of points.
1. If nothing else, more fans are learning about how the Hugos work, and I’m seeing people all over the internet stating they didn’t know they could nominate, but now they know for the future. I’ve seen people picking up supporting Sasquan memberships because they didn’t know that doing so allowed them to vote for the winners. More participation from enthusiastic readers is at least one silver lining we can take from all this. However.
2. Not everyone can afford a Worldcon membership. You need $40 to be able to vote for the Hugos. What might be a dinner out for me is someone else’s grocery bill. I don’t know what a good solution to this would look like – the price of supporting memberships helps Worldcon run. I don’t know if lowering that amount would bring in enough new members to recoup the costs. This is an area in which I’m not well informed. A couple of years ago, someone tried introducing a “No Cheap Voting” rule into the WSFS rules. You can see some discussion of it (and solid arguments against it) on Seanan McGuire’s blog***

What I do know is that my ability to afford a membership is an example of privilege.

On Why don’t you change the rules, if you don’t like it: This is another one that has a few points to it.
1. In general, in years without fuckery, the current nominating and voting rules have worked. They can be gamed, and that sucks, but it’s a risk that’s always been there. Some proposals seem to be in the works to try to lessen the ability of a slate to knock non-slated works out of contention. My concern there is, if there’s a way to exploit the system, determined people will find it. Some men just want to watch the world burn, and all that.
2. Change takes time. Even if someone comes up with a good proposal, it’s not going to go into effect right away. It takes, I believe, a minimum of two years for changes to the WSFS Constitution to kick in. Which would mean (my math and logic might be shaky here; it’s late and my googling skillz are fading) any changes now wouldn’t become official until the 2017 Worldcon. So the first nominating period with new rules would be for the 2018 Hugos.
3. It is perhaps naive and rose-colored of me to simply want people to be fair. Life’s not fair, cupcake, I can hear some people saying, and I know that. I know it, but I don’t have to like it. The slate voters followed the letter of the law, but not its spirit. Have I mentioned it sucks?

What it means for me this year: Oof. This is the tough(ish) question. Last year, I read  every nominee. I evaluated the works “on their merits” and voted accordingly, as the people who organized the campaign insisted we should do. The majority of the slated works were, I discovered, not to my tastes. In my opinion, none were Hugo-worthy, but I’d done my due diligence, given them a fair shake, etc.

I do not feel that same obligation this year.

I’ve bookmarked Kevin Standlee’s post on voting No Award. (Mr. Standlee, by the by, has been level-headed and graceful in just about every place I’ve seen these last couple of weeks, as he was last year. I’m sure he puts up with a lot of frustration around the awards. He is a class act, and if I ever meet him in person, I hope he’ll let me buy him the beverage of his choice.) People I respect have mentioned placing No Award above any person or publication on the slate. It’s the direction I’m leaning toward as well, but I’m also aware some people didn’t realize they were on the slate until it was too late to do anything about it. There might be a few works I will check out with that consideration, because as opposed as I am to slates, I do feel for the people who got unwittingly spattered by association. At least one person or work that was on the slate was also on my nomination list. Clearly, I thought that person or work deserved a Hugo in the first place. I’m glad I have some time between now and when votes are due to think it over.

What it means for me next year: I’ll be reading and keeping track of more short stories/novellas/novellettes. I have subscriptions to some excellent short fiction venues, and have woefully fallen behind. It’s time to catch up. I’ve kept a spreadsheet of what I’ve read/watched/enjoyed over the last year, and have continued it this year. It’s helpful to me to look back in December and see what I read in February and consider what I want to put on my nominating ballot. I’ll probably clean that up a bit and share it here, or create a 2015 works shelf on Goodreads. Sharing works we enjoyed and boosting signals is vital to genre, fandom, and (of course) bookselling. I intend to do more of it. Point in fact: Chuck Wendig is hosting a thread for stuff you dug in 2014. Go participate!

 

*Thus far, it’s unclear how many nominating ballots came from members of said internet hate group**. To me, it doesn’t really matter: at least one slate organizer thought they’d make fine companions, and invited them in. Another made a post welcoming them to the party. Sure, it’s within the rules – anyone with a valid membership can vote – but it’s slimy as all hell and these guys are smart enough to know that. Again, I’m not buying the “golly-gee-gosh, we just thought they might like science fiction, too!”

**Yes, I’m very carefully not naming said hate group or slate organizers. It doesn’t preclude anyone from either group seeing this and showing up here, but one less chance to show up on someone’s Google Alert.

***If I’m reading the 2014 WSFS minutes correctly, the amendment was passed at LonCon and is up for ratification at Sasquan.

3 Comments

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3 Responses to The 2015 Hugo Post

  1. Rashona

    Erm. I have deleted at least seven attempts at a response to this, because I didn’t want to lose friends. But given some of the stuff I’ve seen from my friends today, I’m not sure they’d have started *being* my friends if they knew I was one of Them. Apparently by being more pro- than anti-puppy, I am a hatemonger, rabid shitstain, and general conglomeration of the usual racistsexistcissexiststupidworthless stuff.

    The originator of the whole thing? I found his statistical analysis pretty damn convincing, and it jibed both with my experience of declining enjoyment of Hugo winners and my experience with ingroups and their ability to convey “THIS is what we do and THIS is what we don’t” with subtle emotional pressure and not a word spoken. That’s all.

  2. Lauren

    I think the dangerous thing going on here is that the puppies are selling three different lines: one, that good ol’ rollicking SF stories don’t get awards anymore; two, that there’s a grand conspiracy against people with conservative views; and three, that they’re going to teach those awful crybaby SJWs a lesson. George RR Martin has a pretty excellent analysis of that on his blog today (link: http://grrm.livejournal.com/418285.html ) which pretty thoroughly disproves the idea that people aren’t nominating writers from the puppies’ “side,” or who write the kind of SF they say doesn’t get recognition. BT’s charges of logrolling have been pretty well refuted by Kevin Standlee, the Hugo administrator I mentioned, who has been a fairly neutral, just-the-numbers-ma’am kind of voice the last few years.

    They ran a campaign literally based on “let’s stick it to the liberals and SJWs,” and two of the leaders, VD and LC (I am using initials because all of ’em vanity google, and I would prefer not to have them show up here.) courted Gamergate. Whether GGers ultimately bought memberships to nominate or not is unclear, but the fact that the slate’s organizers asked for the help of a hate group at all is appalling. BT’s posts feel deceptive to me because they tend to gloss over that gleeful stick-it-to-the-SJWs thing, even though he absolutely knows it’s part of it (and does, in several places, admit it). He was part of last year’s campaign as well, and it feels to me like LC and VD had him be the PR dude this year to have that degree of separation.

    I don’t know how to respond to you feeling lumped in with VD. I’ve never known you to spout hateful things, which he does, and is quite proud of. There is a massive difference, to me, between “I have conservative values/Christian values/etc” and the utterly vile sentiments he expresses. I don’t believe any of his hate is remotely reflective of Christian values, by the by. The few times I’ve visited his site and waded into the comments section, I’ve wanted to bleach my brain afterwards because of all the hate that’s there.

    With our friends, I’ve seen them expressing contempt for VD’s bullshittery. Which, if you’re referring to Reuben’s post on Chel’s FB page, he was referring to VD and his rabid fans, not to people who simply liked some of the same works as were on the SP slate.

    And I still think slate voting sucks, whether it’s done by puppies or by, I don’t know what the other “side” would be called. Kittens, I guess. If I do see an opposing/kittens slate next year, you can bet I will be calling it out as shitty behavior, too, and quite likely not voting for those works, though again, most of the mentions of people making opposing slates I’ve seen have either been joking mentions or (if they were serious) have been roundly condemned by people who have bigger dogs in this fight than I.

    One more “and” – I honestly do not like the part where people are dividing things into “sides.” I get that there are ideologies that don’t jive, but I certainly don’t believe that people with different political leanings can’t/don’t enjoy the same stories and writers. Considering most of the gtalk history you and I have is the two of us geeking out over books, I know we’ve got common ground. Slate voting, especially as long as VD’s involved, means books we both dig might get shoved off the ballot if they don’t get put on the slate in the first place. And that sucks.

  3. Rashona

    Well, the Reuben commentary was sort of the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I’m sorry I overreacted to his in particular. I have seen piles of commentary from left-leaning writers that would have them howling for blood if a rightie said it with a perspective flip, and I am very tired of knowing how many people I like and respect would consider me a Them when I consider them a pretty awesome Us.

    I know whereof the junior canines are speaking as far as fiction goes. The best example I can draw is reading a book called “Nadya”, the first twenty pages of which were AWESOME in the bookstore. Polish immigrants flee to the Wild West with their cute little girl after being burned off their farm for being werewolves. Fifteen years later, the angry-mob thing happens again and the now-adult cute little girl leaves the ashes behind and goes off to seek her fortune in a boy’s disguise. Yay! I snapped it up and went home to snuggle up with Awesome Book. Then I got home. Chapter 2: cute androgynous werewolf signs on with a wagon train, strikes up friendship with homesteader’s daughter. Two pages in: “She’s going to have a temporary lesbian affair with the homesteader’s daughter, isn’t she?” Two chapters on: lesbian affair happens; three chapters on, lesbian affair is revealed to be temporary. And it went like that for the entire book, where I was predicting every single social-justice plot point sixty pages in advance. There was no story, there was a checklist. I felt cheated.

    This is…rambly, to put it mildly. But. I have this weird triple connection going on in my head between in-groups, feminist-leaning websites as an expression of same, and C.S. Lewis talking about flippancy. (” Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk *as if* virtue were funny. Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it.”) While I make no claims for particular virtue, I see a lot of this in online chat, especially social-media stuff. I have been getting very frustrated lately because two of my favorite websites are turning into Jezebel With Bibles and Jezebel With Rayguns; I like Jezebel reasonably well, but how many of them do we *need*? Eventually I analyzed it down to the flippancy thing; everything I’ve seen written on Jezebel and increasingly the Jezebel Jr. sites I mentioned comes from a perspective of “21st-century mildly-left feminism is the perfect system of ethics and has all the answers you could possibly need, and any other way of looking at the world is just TOO funny and the people who hold it are TOO stupid to be taken seriously!” Which is absolutely fine for a 21-century mildly-left feminist website, but I get very snarly when the giggly-clique approach starts taking over a place I go for thought-provoking spiritual stuff or happy girl geekery.

    I don’t like “sides” either, but they seem to be determined to inflict themselves on me. 🙁

    And as far as geekery goes, I went for comfort reading and found myself an ebook of Holly Lisle’s Secret Texts trilogy, which are pretty awesome if you’ve never read them. Fantasy that’s not carbon-copy medieval European setting with a badass semi-werewolf heroine. I am a sucker for female werewolves, and nobody ever writes them, which is a topic for discussion all on its own, I think.

    I cease rambling now, because Nublet has decided to spend her allowance this week on a book-shopping spree. Good kid. 😀

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