June 21st, 2021


Talking About WSFS With Winnipeg

On Sunday, I appeared on the Winnipeg in '23 Worldcon Bid's Twitch.tv stream to talk about Worldcon, WSFS, and the Hugo Awards. The stream was live at the time, but apparently didn't appear as a saved stream on their channel. However, it was being recorded and will eventually be re-posted to their YouTube channel. This may be just as well, as shortly after we started the live Twitch stream, they realized they'd forgotten to turn on recording for Zoom (it was a Zoom call that was being streamed to Twitch), and we had to start over.

Collapse )

From Winnipeg's point of view, the reason they wanted me there was to explain why you have to not only spend at least US$50 do join a Worldcon in DC to be eligible to vote, but then to spend another US$50 to actually cast a vote. We stressed that both of those amounts are effectively your membership dues in WSFS: the first for 2021 and the second for 2023. You end up with two years' worth of membership, and you get certain rights (like nominating and voting for the Hugo Awards) with those memberships.

In addition, I stressed that, particularly in an election with more than two candidates like the 2023 Worldcon Site Selection, how important it is to not just mark an X by a single candidate, but to rank your candidates in order of preference, and how we count the votes in an instant-runoff voting race. I have personally been involved in ballot counts for a Worldcon and for a NASFiC where no candidate had a majority of the first-ballot votes, and so the subsequent preferences of the people who supported the least-popular candidates were what swung the election to the eventual winner. Also, just having the most first-preference votes is no guarantee of eventually winning. There have been multiple Hugo Award races where the first-ballot plurality leader has not won. Indeed, in at least one case, that candidate not only did not win, but eventually placed last, which is a sign of a polarizing candidate who has a strong minority constituency but who is deeply disliked by the rest of the electorate. Instant-Runoff Voting doesn't select for most popular: it selects for least unpopular, a subtle-but-important difference.

We ended up going on for an hour, and I apologize for having rambled a bit. I probably need to work this up as a more structured discussion, because a lot of what is in the official rules was built up step by step over time, and so there's a lot of places where, as Cheryl Morgan pointed out to me, you have to say, "Before I can answer that question, I need to tell you some other things."

Still, I'm sort of glad we were able to start by saying as forcefully as I could that WSFS is the World Science Fiction Society, and the only way to join it is to be at least a supporting member of Worldcon. That works both ways: if you buy a Worldcon membership, you're a member of WSFS. Given some nonsense I read recently about someone who IMO must think that the Hugo Awards are some outside event that asked Worldcon to host it, I wanted to make it clear that the Hugo Awards were created by the members of WSFS (that is, the members of Worldcon), belong to WSFS (the members of Worldcon), and that separating the Hugo Awards from Worldcon would be like separating your foot from your body and expecting the foot to go off and have an successful independent existence.

Because I'm an advisor to both the Winnipeg and Memphis bids, I did my best to not tell people for whom they should vote, but only how the system works and how they can become a member, what they get for being a member, and how they can effectively exercise their membership rights. I'm happy to do that for anyone who will listen to me.

I will post when the recording of the interview goes up on YouTube.