So, the Hugos, huh?
Every year I disagree with the inclusion of a good number of works or people on the Hugo (and Campbell) shortlists. And that’s fine – not everyone is supposed to have the same taste. If we did, the 5 works that make the shortlists would also be the only ones on the longlists. But tastes and opinions differ, and there will never be a year in which the Hugo Awards accurately represent my choices for the Best 5 of everything (and I doubt there will ever be a year in which the awards represent my choices for even a single category). But that’s the nature of democracy. Last year I was shortlisted for a Hugo for Best Editor (Long Form). Was I one of the best 5 novel editors in the genre across the English-speaking world? Hell, no. But enough people liked the work I did well enough to have nominated me. I may never get another Hugo nomination, but I will always know that the one I achieved was gained without trying to game the system. A few nominees (across multiple categories) last year were part of that year’s “sad puppy” slate. This year, the sad puppies (and their cohorts, the rabid puppies) managed to swamp the categories with works and individuals that might otherwise not have made the final ballots.
It’s a shame, because this year’s winners will win tainted awards. Those that appeared as part of the litters of puppies’ slates will always know that the puppies’ influence on the awards was at least partly responsible for their win (possibly majorly so) and that will surely devalue the award. Those that win who did not appear on the slates may well worry that their win was as a result of the members of the World Science Fiction Association voting against the puppies as a matter of principle. That will also devalue the award. This year, no matter who comes out on top, no-one wins.
The people I feel most sorry for this year are the ones who appeared on the slates, who might have made the list anyway, this year. Or next, or the year after. How awful to have your work tarnished by being associated with a bunch of political activists, who appear to be out solely to destroy the awards. Because, let’s be quite clear, here: that must surely be their endgame. If the works of the alpha puppies was good enough to appear on the ballots (or to be longlisted, even) they surely would be. Encouraging supporters to buy Associate Memberships purely to bloc vote not only goes against the spirit of the awards, it makes the awards worthless (some people believe that awards like this are worthless anyway, but that’s a discussion for another time).
After expressing my disappointment on Twitter and Facebook at the state of this year’s final ballot, I was contacted by someone who was on the ballot, and who was also listed as part of the puppies’ voting block. This person I know to be an extremely hard working person in his category, and he told me that my words had hurt him. I have no doubt that this person could have found himself nominated this year without the puppies’ involvement. If not this year, then at some point. How much more satisfying would it be though, to know for certain that your nomination came not as a result of political in-fighting, but as a result of the joy that your work has provided people over the years. If you’re reading this, Mystery Person X, I truly hope your work is allowed to speak for itself in years to come.
It’s important to remember, I think, that among the list of absolute dross that is listed on the puppies’ slates, there are also pearls. And not all of the people listed on the slates were aware of their inclusion (or what that inclusion meant).
So this year, as every year, I will be paying very close attention to the nominees, and will vote according to how I feel about each particular category.
If I feel a work does not merit inclusion on the final ballot, I will not include it in my vote. And if I feel that there are works (or people) on that ballot that do not deserve to be on there, I will be voting No Award.
But the system is broken. It’s always been open to abuse, of course. But this year the abusers came out in force and coordinated their abuse.
I have some further thoughts, but it’s Easter Sunday, and I’m going to go spend some time with my family. More later, no doubt.
I leave you with a few quotes from last night’s Twitter (unattributed by design):