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Monday, April 20, 2015

The Great Hugo Dust-Up, Part 3

This one's taken me awhile to think about and to decide how to phrase things, but I've been saying essentially the same thing over on FB for a few days now, so maybe it's time.

The Hugo award is advertised as "sf/f's most prestigious award" and as being a "fan-based" award.

The simple fact is that, according to some authors, and a portion of the fan-base on the other side of the Sad Puppies 3 discussion, this simply isn't so.

The Hugo's tumbled into virtual irrelevancy a long time ago. I don't know exactly when that happened so don't ask me when that happened. I don't know.

Maybe it was when authors started realizing it didn't do a thing for them sales-wise. Maybe it was when fans started noticing that their favorites weren't getting awards, nor even recognition by being nominated. Maybe it was when a select group seemed to start dominating the nominations.

Whatever and whenever it happened, the Hugo's became largely irrelevant to authors and fans some time ago. So much so that a large proportion of the fans didn't even know they could buy a supporting/non-attending membership to WorldCon for a mere $40 and could then receive the voting packet (worth far more than the membership cost I hear) and then vote on their favorites. For authors, it was largely because they did not see any significant "bump" in their sales figures if they were nominated for or even won a Hugo.

The award, over the last few years, has become so irrelevant for some Big Names that they've stated publicly that they'd refuse the nomination or, if they accepted and won, actually do, um, "interesting" things with it.

So, the Hugo award has become largely of no interest to large portions of the sf/f fan base and to many authors in general.

Until this year, that is.

When the Sad Puppies 3 campaign managed to put their own ballot on the slate through no sleight of hand, no subterfuge, no underhandedness, no behnd-the-scenes "gaming"of the nominees, and pushed that slate onto the ballot largely by recruiting new fans to the fact that they could have their say, the Sad Puppies 3 campaign changed the way the Hugo award is being viewed by large numbers of people - at least for 2015. Unfortunately, they changed the way the Hugo is being viewed on both sides of the issue.

Now, Brad Torgerson and Larry Correia, and all those associated with Sad Puppies 3 have said all along that they did this aboveboard, with total transparency, and by means that are currently legal within the guidelines established by WorldCon, the organization that "owns" the Hugo. As far as I can tell, this is completely true. Brad, who led the coalition this year, has stated his position over and over and over again until he's practically blue in the face with it.

The aim of Sad Puppies 3 was to show that the other side was not concerned with inclusiveness, with what the other side had to say, with what was really supposed to happen with a Hugo award. Yeah, maybe they "gamed" the award nomination process a wee bit, but they did it with complete transparency of what their aim and goal was - to get a number of authors whose works the fans admired and thought worthy on the ballot. And they did it, brilliantly and with transparency.

The other side doesn't see it that way, of course. Even now there are several who have defined strict delineations between "fans" and "Fan-dom". There are some who want to see "No Award" chosen for everything, every category of the ballot just to spite the Sad Puppies ballot and to spite the award itself because the "wrong people" or types of people are on that ballot. Several people have even suggested that this option be chosen in order to "nuke the award from orbit, just to be sure". A few people on the other side have even begun to provide paid memberships for "those who cannot afford memberships on their own".

At first, I thought this was noble. I've stated that if I ha the money and fewer doctor's bills I'd do the same thing myself out of a sense of altruism. I recognized some altruism in the charity of some of these people, some of who are even Big Names in the field and whom I have stated I respect.

Now, of course, I'm hearing that their altruism has developed an ulterior motive.

Here's the thing - if you have to buy votes for an award, then that award may not be worth having at all. If you have to buy votes for anything, then that thing is probably not worth having in my opinion.

It's not the Sad Puppies who are doing this, it's the other side. They are so afraid of losing their perceived power, their perceived privilege of saying who gets a Hugo and who doesn't, whose writing is worthy and whose is not, they're buying votes now.

If that happened openly in a local state, or national election, the FEC (Federal Elections Commission the organization that oversees US federal elections and funding would come down on those parties like a ton of bricks.

But that's not likely to happen here since the parties involved are all, apparently, closely associated with "Fan-dom", not the fans whose award this is supposed to be.

We have, in front of us, an opportunity for the organization that owns the Hugo, WorldCon, to elevate this dispute above all the anger and vitriol - if they're willing to do it (I personally doubt they have the will or the power to do so anymore, however). They have the opportunity to return the Hugo to its state of relevance and respectability among fans and authors. They have the opportunity to act, as the ones who own the award, to "police" their own backyard (and houses, alleys, fields, and townships beyond).

WorldCon can act as the police for the Hugo. They have it within their power to debar any voting member whose vote was purchased by anyone, to debar anyone found to be purchasing votes, to police their own organization for those found to be issuing threats of violence or death against members of the Sad Puppies. They have the singular power to return the Hugo to the voting fans and not allow it to be kept by a select super-elite "Fan-dom", but instead to open the award to every fan of sf/f around the world.

People on the other side of the fight have been telling the Sad Puppies to "shut up, sit down, and be good little kids", but we're sick of that. We're sick of sitting at the kiddy table and letting the "adults" tell us what's good for us. We're sick of the Hugo falling into irrelevancy and disrespect by the general audience. We're sick of the threats of violence upon our persons and livelihoods. We're sick of being called names which are categorically untrue slung by people who are afraid of losing their perceived power to influence our reading choices. We're sick of the threats to "nuke" the Hugo. That's our award too.

WorldCon has another option as well. Either the Hugo is fan-based or it's not. WorldCon has the option of changing the rules so that only certain portions of the fans, ie Fan-dom, can vote for the award. If this happens, then the award will truly have sunk into such irrelevancy and disdain that it will be recognized as a piece of crap that means absolutely nothing.

Or they can state categorically that the Hugo is a fan-based award and that we have every right, and Sad Puppies had every right, to put who we and they wanted on the ballot without regard to anything except exceptionally good story-telling.

Does WorldCon have the will and the power and the commitment to good sf/f as judged by the fans or doesn't it?

That is the question.

For the Hugo.

For the fans.


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