This past Saturday I found myself online during the live stream Hugo award nominee announcement. Hot dog! I thought, time to watch this shit unfold in real time. For the last two years I have followed the Hugo discussions closely. They—the discussions and the awards—are a strange and unwieldy beast.
I think I’m going to nominate the announcement of these nominations next year for Best Drama Short Form. Oh my heart. — Stefan Raets (@sraets) April 4, 2015
As long as I’ve been aware of them, the Hugos have been wrapped in controversy. It seems, in fact, that controversy is a key element of the Hugos. This year’s controversy was an extension of that of last year: a group of loud right-wing people on the internet were organizing a voting block to get their picks onto the nomination list because, according to them, the Hugo was going to the dogs (aka women and minorities were getting on the nomination list), and was out of touch with fandom, or something. They bore the name “Sad Puppies.” Last year they did this with mild success. This year they asked for the help of the kind (COUGH) folks of Gamer Gate (PUKE) under the auspices of both Sad and Rabid Puppies and managed to get almost all of their picks onto the nomination list.
Well this is a shit show. — The Book Smugglers (@booksmugglers) April 4, 2015
The Best Graphic Story category, which the block voters did not take interest in, is awesome, and I was excited to see my favorite nominee (Saga) on it. Then SFF fandom of the internet watched as category after category was taken entirely by the block voters’ picks. I laughed. I shrugged. I started reading people’s responses.
The Hugo means a lot of things to a lot of people, and the people it means something to, it means a hell of a lot to. Those people were angry. You might be wondering, well is block voting against the rules? Nope. From that perspective, from the perspective that block voting may have been happening (no has been) quietly since the dawn of the Hugo, came my initial shrugs. The critique is that block voting is not in the spirit of the award and that manipulating the Hugo in order to prove a political point undermines the true focus: the science fiction and fantasy works that members of the World Science Fiction Convention love. I can get behind that, though I admit that it took Ferret Steinmetz’s Chess Club analogy to really win me over to the “not in the spirit” viewpoint.
The Hugo is the award of the World Science Fiction Convention. It is a community bound by one of the awesomest geeky gatherings you can imagine. Putting on an award together is like being a part of the second biggest, loosely organized book club in the world (book blogging itself is the first). It costs $40 to buy a supporting membership for the club, which buys you the privilege of voting. (Tangential note: I think that $40 is too much if we want to create an inclusive community, which I very much do, but that is another discussion entirely.) It costs two or three times that to buy an attending membership that lets you vote and attend the event. Once you’ve bought that membership you get a say and sometimes a voters’ pack of all the Hugo nominated works.
I have attended and loved the World Science Fiction Convention; I have been seduced by its magic. I also enjoy voting for awards, thoughtfully reading books, and discussing which of the year’s printings are the year’s best. A right-wing voting block takes the sizzle out of it, even for a cynical, pessimistic participant like myself. There are a lot of other interesting awards out there that we can have fun with until the voting block gets bored and goes home. I won’t give up on the Hugo, but I also can’t seem to get mad about it, as much as I dislike the opinions of the folks behind the block voting campaign. Perhaps it is because I can’t imagine the Hugos without controversy; this mess—though the nature of the mess may vary from year to year—feels like an intrisic part of the award.
On announcement night I got to chatting with Megan of From Couch to Moon (go read her blog now, it’s the best) who relativized the award for me with this comparison:
@bookpunks My high school was bigger than the voting Hugo population.
— couchtomoon (@couchtomoon) April 4, 2015
Ever since, I have been imagining the SFF/Hugo community as attendees at a virtual high school. Hugo drama is a lot like high school drama. Competing factions. Clichés. Cliques. Cruel teasing. The cool kids table in the cafeteria. The geeks. The gossip. The threats. The bullies. The rumors. The outrage. The lies. So let’s cope with it the way we might have coped with high school. We’ve already found our tribes, so let’s stick together, keep reading and talking about the books we love, and laugh at the people determined to turn the experience into something hostile. We all know which of us are still going to be cool when we grow up and graduate.
Oh, you wanted to know who the nominees this year are? If you insist.
There are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of posts on this subject rolling around the internet. Some I have read include: The Post-Hugo Nomination Debacle Edition at The Book Smugglers, The Hugo Awards: An Entity at War With Itself from Justin Landon at Pornokitsch, The 2015 Hugo Awards: Thoughts on the Nominees by Abigail Nussbaum at Asking the Wrong Questions, i spent all day yesterday waiting at a red light by Elizabeth Bear, The Hugo Award Nominations *wince*, and The Hugo Awards: GamerGate Edition 2015 by Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.
Now let’s all go vote for the Locus Award. It’s free! It’s now! It’s fun! No drama!