2015 Hugo Award Nomination Weirdness (And Why It Doesn’t Matter)

The Hugo Award Nominations were announced on Saturday. If you’re not aware, the Hugos are the de jure Best-in-Industry science fiction and fantasy awards. I say “de jure” because, as we shall see, they are not actually an industry award. They are fan-nominated, fan-voted, yet they’ve achieved a level of notoriety and recognition that makes them the preeminent awards for the genre.

This year, the nominations got “hijacked”. I’m quotating that word for a reason; more on that in a minute. The way the Hugos work is that a person becomes a member of the year’s World Science Fiction Convention by paying their membership fee, and then they are entitled to nominate works for various categories including best novel, best short story, etc. See Wikipedia for a full list of Hugo categories. Once the nomination period is over, the administrators crunch the numbers and the top five in each category are presented on a shortlist for voting by the same members1. This is where we’re at now.

For additional background, there is currently a brouhaha in the science fiction and fantasy community that can be boiled down like this2:

  1. I want people of different backgrounds to have opportunities to be successful, defining successful as published, paid, and awarded. These people include all authors and creators including white men, black women, bisexual transvestites, tri-sexual gosling-jugglers, liberals and conservatives, nice people and asshats, and all others who might be able to craft an engaging and excellent novel/story/movie, etc., because why would we want to deprive ourselves, the fans, and the world, of great stories!

This trend has manifested itself the last few years in the the “sad puppy” slate of Hugo candidates for whom the creators of the slate have begged their followers to vote for en masse, and without consideration of the individual works in question. For my own view, this is against everything the Hugos stand for because you are supposed to nominate and vote for excellent work that you feel represents the best of the genre. Bloc voting does not accomplish that task. For the view of the Hugos, this is perfectly within the rules.

The “sad puppy” slate of candidates made a surprisingly good showing on the ballot. Surprising in that it just so happens that works and people listed on the SP slate appear quite frequently on the nomination list. I feel it’s safe to assume that a number of people did harken to the call to join the convention and vote the bloc3 . John C. Wright in particular was either the year’s most awesome writer, and so recognized by a lot of people, or voted on blindly by a bunch of sheeple. The SPs did much better this year than last, probably due to the unfortunate conflation of Gamer Gate and the perception of reverse discrimination in the science fiction/fantasy industry.

But! It doesn’t really matter. I mean, it does matter, but only because some wonderful works produced in 2014 are not on the ballot and therefore won’t get their opportunity to win the Hugo4 The reason I quotated “hijacked” above is because while the ballot has indeed been hijacked by a bunch of people who could fit the definition of “cabal”, this is within the rules of the Hugo awards, and I take solace that there are still good works on the list that I’m certain that will win out in the Hugo preferential voting system. And even if by some horrible event the SP slate manages to win some Hugos, this is an effort that cannot be maintained year over year. Gamer Gate won’t have the impetus next year it did this, and I think everything will be okay.

The Hugos have been around a while and have weathered similar storms before. I’ll read the nominated works and vote according to their quality. Except for Vox Day. Fuck that guy.

(Those of you who are members of this year’s World Con, or may wish to become so to vote the Hugos, please become familiar with how NO AWARD works. It may be important to you.)

Update: i09 says it much better, and much less snarky, with other background information you might like to read.

  1. There is a period in which the administrators contact potential nominees to ensure they want to accept the nomination. Some don’t, and pass it to the next nominee in line. []
  2. Others may disagree with my framing []
  3. We’ll have more than a feeling once the Hugo Awards are announced in August. The World Con always publishes the statistics behind the nominations and the voting so that everyone may see how the sausage was made. []
  4. For example, I feel that The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was the best novel published last year. It is not on the ballot. []
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