Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,

Not That It Will Do Any Good

As we enter Hugo Award season, let me remind people of a few things:

  • There is no "Hugo Committee" that decides who should and should not get a Hugo Award. There is (usually) a Hugo Awards Administration Subcommittee ("The Hugo Administrators"), appointed annually by each World Science Fiction Convention. The Hugo Award Administrators' job is to determine technical eligibility of nominees and voters, to tally nominations and votes, to contact nominees, to deal with mechanical matters like getting trophies engraved and announcement issues, and other matters of a "ministerial" nature. (Incidentally, according to the WSFS Constitution, the only people in the world ineligible for a Hugo Award are the members of the Hugo Administration Subcommittee. The reason for this Subcommittee is that otherwise the entire Worldcon committee would be ineligible, and there are usually a few people working on a given Worldcon who might be plausible Hugo Award nominees. WSFS decided before my time that it was a bad idea to make the entire Worldcon committee ineligible for a Hugo Award because it would discourage otherwise qualified and talented people from working, so they added the rule that allowed the Worldcon committee to "firewall" the administration of the Hugo Award from the rest of the convention committee.)

  • There is no "Them" who determines what the categories should be. The Hugo Award category definitions are in the WSFS rules (alas, the site is currently one year out of date for reasons over which I have no control). The members of WSFS determine what's in the Constitution. Anyone can join WSFS by joining the current Worldcon. So posting messages that amount to complaining that the Board of Directors must Do Something makes you look foolish, or at best uninformed. WSFS is governed like a New England Town Meeting, so everyone is responsible for themselves.

  • The failure of your favorites to be nominated for/to win a Hugo does not constitute a failure of process. The Hugo Awards are voted on by the members of WSFS. Any member of WSFS can nominate and vote. Anyone can join WSFS by buying at least a supporting membership in the current Worldcon. Making the final ballot means enough people nominated the work. Winning means lots of members of WSFS liked it better than any of the other nominees. It doesn't mean that the process is broken just because your tastes aren't identical to those of members of WSFS who took the time to vote.

  • Popularly voted doesn't mean "voting should be free to anyone." While anyone can join WSFS by buying at least a supporting membership in the current Worldcon, that doesn't mean voting is free. While personally I think we charge too much for the right to vote and favor pending changes that should, I hope, provide Worldcons with a chance to bring the cost of supporting memberships down to more like $20-$30 instead of $40-$60, I also don't advocate making membership completely free. WSFS is a club, and like any club it has the right to set its own membership rules.

  • Complaining that "It's not fair!" makes you look like a whiner. If you don't think the Hugos are fair, you can work to change them to be more the way you want them to be. (See the next point below.) If you think that it's too much trouble to go through that bothersome democratic process because you're so obviously right that everyone should immediately recognize it, you're welcome to go set up your own competing awards that work the way you want them to and see if they can accumulate sufficient prestige. You might be right, after all, but I have my doubts. Just don't try to call them Hugo Awards, because Worldcon owns the service mark on that. (And if you think that's not fair, try manufacturing a soft drink and calling it "Coca-Cola" and see how well that goes.)

  • Democracy is hard work. The process to change the Hugo Awards is Not Easy. This is a feature, not a bug. Governing documents aren't supposed to be easy to change. (See the ongoing meltdown of California's state government to see what the consequences of making it too easy to change a fundamental governing document are.) I've been attending Worldcons and the business meetings thereat since 1984 (and haven't missed one since 1989). This isn't easy. It takes work to persuade other people to support you, and even more work to get them to show up and vote in person at the oh-so-horrible hours before Noon at a Worldcon. Sometimes you don't get your way. Either you can throw a tantrum and walk away or you can keep slogging. So far, I've been doing the latter, even though there has been more than once that I've wanted to do the former.


Feel free to point others at this post if you think it would be valuable.
Tags: hugo awards, worldcon, wsfs
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