Tuesday, April 29, 2014

You may have heard something about the recent Hugo Award shitstorm controversty. For various reasons, thoroughly documented around the interwebs, lots of folks are frustrated. Some are upset that certain viewpoints could be included. Others are upset that certain viewpoints could be overlooked. Some are upset that folks keep talking about the controversy, because it’s difficult to read when so many voices are yammering away in the background. As a community, our members embody and express a lot of different ideological leanings.

The problem with any further discussion of the current, contentious Hugo ballot is that it doesn’t really matter which way the readers lean. For the vote to have any validity, those readers must form opinions without anyone trying to push them further off center.

Yes, there are problematic works, writers, and ideologies represented. If you are a voter, the expectation is that you’ll support whatever your own assessment leads you to believe deserves an award.

I can’t tell you what that is! Half the time I don’t even agree with the rest of the Rampant Loon editorial staff about what makes a good story, much less the SF/F community at large. Some of the stories that show up on any award ballot would likely be the same ones I’d have rejected soonest, had they appeared in my slush. (In one instance—no, I will not tell you which story, or even which ballot, but it was NOT the 2014 Hugo list—a work I’d rejected went on to receive a nomination. I’ve only been doing this for a few years; every editor who’s managed to accumulate any sort of track record probably has a similar tale about something that got away.)

If you are not yet a voter, but would like to be, all you need is a supporting Worldcon membership. That currently runs about $40 USD, and you can learn more at this link: http://loncon3.org/memberships/

Now, here’s the thing: Hugo (and by extension, Campbell) voting is only available to Worldcon members who have purchased at least a supporting membership. Supporting members receive all the same publications, updates, and information as attending members. Supporting members receive the Hugo Voter Packet (which will be fairly substantial this year, given the size of one body of work nominated in the “Best Novel” category), and they are allowed to vote on the final ballot. Supporting members are also allowed to nominate works for next year’s Hugo/Campbell ballot.

I know there are an awful lot of you who are at least tangentially aware of the awards, because well over 35,000 of you downloaded the Campbellian Anthology in just the first 72 hours it was online... and that was three months ago. I have no idea what the actual numbers are now, but I’m pretty certain they’ve climbed.

How many people typically vote on the Hugo ballot? It’s a much smaller number. Last year’s Worldcon in San Antonio drew slightly over 6,000 members, and according to the Final Voting and Nomination Statistics Report only 1,848 of those bothered to vote. (See http://www.lonestarcon3.org/hugo-awards/statistics.pdf for the full breakdown.)

I’ll just let that ratio sink in for a moment: Last year, 1,848 people determined the Hugo recipients. This year, over 35,000 got excited about science fiction and fantasy in only three days time... and some of those people never cared about genre before.

Flash forward to the start of this year: 1,923 voters determined the works that would appear on the 2014 Hugo Awards ballot. (See http://www.loncon3.org/2014hugos.php for the breakdown.)

The 2014 Campbellian Anthology has now been online for three months. It will be available until 19 May 2014, since that is 30 days from when the ballot was announced. Three and a half months translates to a lot of readers who suddenly care about science fiction and fantasy, and some of you may even care enough to express an opinion.

If you believe the Hugo Awards matter, or if you believe the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer matters, then please become a supporting member and allow your voice to be heard. After all, those awards are supposed to represent your estimation of the best.

You can have your vote counted on the Hugo/Campbell ballot and help determine the winners, as long as you become at least a supporting Worldcon member before the voting deadline. Voting will probably run through sometime in July, if they handle the process as in previous years.

Posted by M. at 11:42 AM

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