Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Who Owns the Hugo Awards?

Since I've said I won't respond any more on That Site because saying anything that disagrees with the host is "policing" the discussion and trying to stifle debate, I have to get this off my chest here out of the sheer frustration I have about people who have a fundamentally different view of the world than I have.

The specific comment to which I am referring is this, from Adam Roberts. I'll include the entire paragraph so nobody can accuse me of taking it out of context. Emphasis is mine:

[Responding to a comment from Seth]...“It’s quite common (in many areas) for someone to come along and tell the people who do the work and invest their time “You’re all wrong; everything should be done my way so I’ll be happier about it.” That trick never works.” This puzzled me for a moment, because Jonathan at no point says he wants every-Hugo-related-thing done his way (in fact he specifically says he doesn’t). But then I twigged: this is your way of sidling up to one of the key issues here — the ‘work and time’ thing. SMOFs invest work and time in running the Hugos (which they certainly do; something both commendable and important). But working hard for something, and investing time in it, doesn’t make it yours. The extent to which the award is being run, — being maintained — in order that the people running it can continue to feel big and important (since they work so hard for it) is an index to the brokenness of the award. I think your comment is your slightly oblique way of starting to accept J.’s “iron law of oligarchy” point. Bravo,

Here's where I think I and Adam (and any of the other Hugo whingers) part company. It sounds to me — and if Adam or anyone else over there sees this and wants to respond, I welcome it and won't call it "policing the debate" or trying to "stifle discussion" — that they think that nobody owns the Hugo Awards. I bet they think that nobody can own the Hugo Awards. (They express disdain for Worldcon, so they probably don't care who owns it.) That's where they are wrong.

Okay, depending on your definition of terms, nobody (in the sense of "an individual human being") "owns" the Hugo Awards (or Worldcon). But an entity does so. That entity is the World Science Fiction Society. That entity isn't a corporation; it's an unincorporated literary society, the members of whom are everyone who is a member of the current World Science Fiction convention. Therefore, every member of Worldcon owns the Hugo Awards, albeit jointly with around 5000 other people.

WSFS is a completely voluntary organization. Nobody is employed by it. Nobody is obliged to work for it. When it's working at its best, it's close to a meritocracy, where the amount of respect you get is directly proportionate to the amount of productive work you put into it. (Yes, I'm fully aware that we never reach that Platonic ideal.) That does mean that, in general, working hard for something and investing time in it does make it yours. John Picacio said this a few days ago:

What’s beautiful is that the ones that wield the power are the ones that are doing the work, and until someone works harder, works smarter, and works better than them — then the workers wield the power. As an American, I feel pretty good when accessible working people wield the power, rather than a faceless elite hiding behind pretense. Don’t you?

I suspect that the answer from Jonathan McCalmont, Danny O'Dare, and Adam Roberts to that rhetorical question is No. Having the people who do the work make the decisions is apparently "oligarchy" and "Stalinist" (which is rather funny considering O'Dare's apparently far-left-wing politics, but never mind). They object to the very existence of prestigious awards in the field of SF/F that don't do what they want them to do, without them having to lift a finger. They shouldn't have to do anything, since Organization Is Evil. Indeed, possibly Awards are Evil too. And maybe Property is Theft, too, considering that they don't think anyone actually owns the Hugo Awards or the Worldcon or anything like that.

Oddly enough, they could make common cause with the most reactionary Olde Tyme Fanzine Fannes who also don't think that WSFS should exist, or that anyone should own the Hugo Awards, or that "Worldcon" should be a protected trade name, or anything of that nature. But then again, far-left and far-right ideologues often find themselves meeting each other 'round back, it seems to me.

What seems to be my problem is that I believe in democracy, and I believe in free speech, but I also believe that "free speech" doesn't mean "I get to say anything I want without contradiction and without reaction or consequence, and you don't have the right to contradict anything I say, because actually disputing anything I say is 'oppressing my free speech.'" And I believe that if you work hard and do a good job, there's a pretty good chance that you will get ahead if is possible to do so. Now I suppose the further problem is that I'm white, middle-class, well-educated male. (That well-educated part at the expense of the state of California and the US federal government who subsidized part of the cost of that education; I'm no right-wing libertarian no-guv'mint nut.) That means I have privilege coming out of my ears. But does that really mean that my opinion is meaningless?

Administrative note: You don't need a LiveJournal account to post here. I moderate non-LJ posts to prevent spam. If you don't have an LJ account, please sign your post. Other than that, you're welcome to reply here, even if you disagree with me. But don't expect me to stay quiet if I disagree with your opinion or if I think your facts are wrong.
Tags: fandom, hugo awards, politics, worldcon, wsfs
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