Sunday, April 5, 2015

Hugo nominations

Yesterday, this happened.

And there was much outrage and celebration. Not from the same people.

The Twitter and Facebook explosions were like a train wreck. Kind of awful, but in a "can't look away" kind of way.

There was some "What is this Sad Puppies thing?" And, "Who the heck is John C. Wright?" I know about the former. I know very little about the latter. Except anyone who lacks the grace to turn down all but one nomination in a given category is going to have to work doubly hard to win me over.

I have mixed feelings about the whole thing, which I will try to put down in words. (I'm a writer, so I do that sometimes.)

First off, congratulations to the nominees. Especially Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Mike Resnick and Kary English. All class acts as human beings and great at what they do. My mixed feelings about the Hugos aren't about any individual. The nominees have all worked hard and deserve this moment.

My comments also aren't about the majority of the people who participated in the nomination process. As was pointed out to me yesterday, voters are not mindless drones following an agenda. Many people who turned in a ballot had thoughtful reasons for their picks. I respect that, even though I might not agree with some of your choices.

However, I suspect there were those who did vote for a specific slate of stories because those stories were recommended by certain people. Some of those stories might be fantastic and deserve to be on the ballot and would have been there anyway. I don't know because I haven't read them yet. I'm reserving judgment until I do read them. I'm willing to give every nominee the benefit of the doubt.

Here's where the mixed feelings part comes in.

I'm very excited for certain people who are nominated. I would have nominated them, too, had I participated in this process. But I didn't. I'm kicking myself for not having offered up my picks for the ballot. Partly because I don't think I have much latitude for criticizing if I didn't vote. Partly because the overall slate is not the slate I would have chosen.

I read some great stuff that came out last year and thought to myself at the time, "I hope this gets a Hugo nomination." None of those stories are on the final ballot. Not a single one. Would my one vote have made a difference? Probably not. But at least I would have made the effort.

The Hugos really mean something to me. When I was a kid, the little badge on the cover of a book that said "Hugo winner" made me feel awe. A Hugo meant that this novel or story was the best of the best, chosen solely on the quality of the work.

Then I got older, and somewhat less naïve. The Hugos strike me more like a high school election for prom queen and king. Popularity is a big factor. So is politics. Would I have liked to have been on the ballot for prom queen? Sure, why not? It never would have happened, but it would have been fun. Which is why I don't begrudge anyone their place in the spotlight. Enjoy it. I sure would.

But here's the thing: No one takes a prom election seriously. The results aren't regarded with the sort of awe I felt as a kid, reading a bone fide Hugo winner.

The Hugos should be more.

Which is why I cling to my childhood ideals of how the Hugos should work. This should be about the fans honoring excellence in science fiction and fantasy literature, free of all other considerations and outside opinions. It should be about quality and artistry. Each voter's picks should be their own, and the best work should rise to the top.

This year, there's at least the perception that's not happening. That the process has been gamed and tainted.

I'm going to put my money where my ideals are. When it comes to the final ballot, I will vote, as I should have done in the nominating process. I will buy the supporting membership and read all the things (or at least as many of the things as I can get to and/or stomach).

If a story is deserving, in my estimation, I'll give it a spot on my ballot. If I don't think it's deserving, I will leave it off entirely. "No award" is an option. As I said, this isn't the ballot I would have chosen, but it's the ballot we've been handed. I'll give the nominated stories a fair chance on their own merits, not on the politics and controversy behind them.

I'll vote as I think everyone should vote, and how a lot of people do vote. Not everyone. But a lot. No political machinery. No social outrage. No Twitter wars. Just me and the story.

And then we'll see.

Will my one vote make a difference? Again, probably not. I will watch the livestream of the winners announced at WorldCon and know that I made an effort.


C Stuart Hardwick said...

I suppose we could offer up our own "happy puppies" slate next year, and aim it at pushing story only over politics, but where does it end? I fear that all of this--no matter how done, only jurts us all in the eys of the readership. Then again, society thrives on controversy. ;-)

Jennifer Campbell-Hicks said...

I'm anti-slate in general. No Sad Puppies or Happy Puppies. No puppies at all. If two or three people make competing slates, then those two or three people are determining the Hugo ballot, not the hundreds of fans who otherwise would search out their picks on their own. Rule changes are needed to fix this, but I don't know what those changes might be.

C Stuart Hardwick said...

I agree completely.