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.
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.