The Hugo nomination deadline approaches. What drama will this year’s awards bring with them? Hopefully none, despite the fact that every Hugo season the SFF internet reflexively bares its teeth and prepares for the kill.
On the one hand, I understand why people get upset about the Hugos. SFF fans tend to be obsessive, opinionated, and invested in the works we love. On the other hand, I can’t because having first met the Hugos in the middle of some intensely mean drama, I’ve never been able to take the things seriously. But! While the Hugos may be a lot of fun, or a drama machine, or a battle cry for some fans, they are important for authors. As Kameron Hurley recently explained, the size of her advances got a hell of a lot bigger after she won.
I can’t pretend to completely understand the award talley process, though Justin Landon’s detailed explanation of how the Hugos work is very helpful, and after I read it I realized my voting style had been totally contrary to my hopes for the year’s winners.
Filling out my Hugo nomination form this morning (anyone with a membership to LonCon3 or an attending or supporting membership to this year’s Sasquan World Science Fiction Convention can nominate), I thought back to the experience of attending the awards ceremony at LonCon3 last summer. It was pretty fucking glorious, with nominees dressed up in fancy gowns and suits and an auditorioum seating hundreds (thousands?) of fans excited to hear the results of the vote and listen to the winners’ acceptance speeches. For the first time, I could see why people care so much about this award. I could feel, first-hand, the excited energy that makes this community and this award special.
In case you are new to the party, I’ll give you the Hugo in a nutshell: “The Hugo Awards, presented annually since 1955, are science fiction’s most prestigious award. The Hugo Awards are voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), which is also responsible for administering them.”
All that voting takes is cash to join the convention, which can be done as a supporting member for about a fourth of the price of an attending membership. (This year, for example, an attending membership costs 210 USD, while a supporting membership costs 40 USD.)
The financial element has always bothered me about the Hugos. Any award based on money is not going to represent exactly the kind of outsiders and minorities that I think the SFF community should actively be supporting, both as writers and as fans. I’m excited to be able to vote this year, but I won’t buy a supporting membership for the ethereal previlege of voting in a popularity contest during a year when I haven’t been able to attend the convention. I am invested in who wins because I rabidly follow all the things that happen in SFF fandom, but the Hugos don’t really feel like my scene. How could they when the prerequisite is money, the gatekeeper that has been helping to keep the poor powerless since the invention of money?
The only thing I’ve heard said about this element of the Hugos is “it’s totally affordable to buy a supporting membership so go do it and support the authors and creators you love!” As if. Forty bucks is no small sum. While others discuss category eligibility, the latest sad puppy ballot, or short-list predictions, I’ll be standing in the corner lobbying for a free Hugo vote. No purchase required.