Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

You Only Get One Shot at the 2015 Hugo Awards

Among all of the shouting over the 2015 Hugo Awards "Puppygate" and the calls to vote No Award is floating around something procedurally pernicious and that I encourage anyone who sees it to stamp out. That is the assumption that if the members of this year's Worldcon vote "No Award" on everything or substantially everything on the Hugo Awards ballot, that's okay because "the Retro-Hugos will cover it" or "Worldcon can hold a new election for 2015 next year." Both of these wrong.

ETA: This post is written based on the WSFS rules as they stand in April 2015. It does not anticipate rule changes. Look, it's technically possible to change any rule, so every comment below that has an implicit or explicit "But if you change this rule..." in it, I'll stipulate. I'm attempting to refute people who are assuming that as the rules stand right now certain things can be done that simply aren't true.

The Retrospective Hugo Awards are something that a Worldcon held 50, 75, or 100 years after a Worldcon was held that did not hold the Hugo Awards. The actual wording in Section 3.13 of the current WSFS Constitution is:

Retrospective Hugos. A Worldcon held 50, 75, or 100 years after a Worldcon at which no Hugos were presented may conduct nominations and elections for Hugos which would have been presented at that previous Worldcon. Procedures shall be as for the current Hugos. Categories receiving insufficient numbers of nominations may be dropped. Once retrospective Hugos have been awarded for a Worldcon, no other Worldcon shall present retrospective Hugos for that Worldcon.

For example, this year's Worldcon is 75 years after the 1940 Worldcon, Chicon I. The Hugo Awards were first held in 1953, and thus Sasquan could have held a 1940 Retro-Hugos election (for works first published in 1939). Spokane chose not to do so. (I expect many committee members are now breathing a sigh of relief for this decision.) So the 2040 Worldcon will have a chance to do so. (Had Sasquan exercised it's Retro-Hugo right, the 2040 Worldcon would not be allowed to do so.)

Aside: If there was no Worldcon in a given year, there was no opportunity to hold a Hugo Awards election. Therefore, the years 1942, 1943, 1944, and 1945 are off-limits. Nobody will ever be able to hold Retro-Hugos for those years because there were no Worldcons in those years due to the World War II gap between the 1941 and 1946 Worldcons.

The 2015 Worldcon is holding a Hugo Awards election. Therefore, there will never be an opportunity to hold Retro-Hugos for 2015 under the current rules, even if the members vote No Award in every category. At best, I think people are thinking that No Awarding means the "no Hugos [were] presented] at that previous Worldcon" rule would apply. This is clearly and obviously not the intent of the rule. It surely wasn't intended to mean that you could re-run the race for the 1977 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic presentation in 2027 just because the members of the 1977 Worldcon voted No Award in that category.

If a Worldcon holds a Hugo Award election for a given year, that year's "rights are exhausted" forever, even if the members select No Award in any or all categories. That's clearly the legislative intent of the rules.

Similarly, the WSFS Business Meeting has no authority over a single Hugo Award election. The WSFS Constitution is very clearly written to deny the Business Meeting this authority. The Meeting can't order a specific Worldcon to do much of anything. It can change the rules to affect future Worldcons, and that takes multiple years. This is a feature.

I'm aware of how frustrating it is to want something done Right Now. WSFS rules were written by people who distrust quick action and put all of the "executive power" into the hands of individual Worldcons, with only a few procedural limitations. This is absolutely deliberate and not something you can override. You could have 5,000 screaming Worldcon fans voting to Suspend the Bylaws, void the Hugo Awards results, and order the 2016 Worldcon to redo them, and it wouldn't mean a thing. MidAmeriCon 2 would ignore the order, and rightly so. The WSFS Mark Protection Committee, to the extent that we have the responsibility to protect the service marks of WSFS jointly on behalf of all Worldcons and all WSFS members, wouldn't recognize the legitimacy of extra-legal Hugo Award elections.

So don't let people talk you into voting No Award solely because you think that there will be some sort of do-over in 2016 or 2065 or whatever. It's not going to happen. As with any Hugo Awards election, I would encourage any member to use his/her right to vote No Award when you think that the candidates you rank below it or leave off your ballot don't deserve to be on that ballot, but don't do it just because you think you'll get a second chance with a new set of nominees.
Tags: hugo awards, worldcon, wsfs
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