Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Feels different this time: the 2016 Hugos

I picked up a tweet from a Puppy supporter the other day complaining that there is a media blackout of the Hugo Awards this year "because they can't smear Chuck Tingle like they did Brad Torgersen". Of course, to those who had not heard of the Hugos before last year, it seems odd that there is less coverage this year; in fact things are pretty much back to normal or perhaps a little above normal - my survey of bloggers on 21 July this year found roughly half as many as last year on 18 July, but roughly twice as many as on 21 July 2013. (My 2014 and 2011 surveys were done much closer to the deadline.)

The big difference, of course, has been that while the slate organisation has been even more obviously politicised this year, the slate candidates themselves have been less so. Last year we had repeated stirring of the pot by Brad Torgersen (his own worst advocate) and Larry Correia; this year, both have largely quit the field and left it to the somewhat incoherent Kate Paulk and to Vox Day, for whom this is not a top priority. Last year we had one of their nominees making death threats, and another trying to get a critic fired from his day job and even trying to call the police to Worldcon itself to move against one of the Guests of Honour, and others fulminating in the most offensive manner possible; we had George R.R. Martin and Eric Flint weighing in repeatedly. This year I've seen around half of the slated nominees openly repudiate their slate support, including every single one of the Best Novella finalists. Last year, four finalists withdrew, a process that took a couple of weeks of drama. This year, two withdrew the day after the final ballot was announced, and then it was over. It has simply been less dramatic.

My own sense is that "No Award" is likely to win in Best Related Work, Best Professional Artist, and Best Fancast, which are completely dominated by slate nominations which would have been unlikely to make it without slate support; that's three categories ratehr than five last year. It's quite possible that Best Novelette, Best Graphic Story, Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form), Best Semiprozine, Best Fanzine and the Campbell Award will go to finalists who had slate support, but who probably would have made it to the ballot anyway. And in the other categories, I'd be surprised to see the slated candidates win. It's not exactly global domination.

This all has an effect on how future ballots should be approached. I've put my name to two amendments to be discussed at this year's WSFS Business Meeting in Kansas City (which I will not be able to attend). The most extensive discussion of these amendments (plus others) is on File 770, and I'd encourage you to comment there rather than here on the substance. The two amendments which I am supporting are:

1) To move the deadline for eligibility for nominations back a month, from 31 January of the year of the convention to 31 December of the year before. Apart from the obvious points about making the process easier to manage (particularly if other amendments are adopted which will add further complexity to the process), it just struck me as incongruous that 31 January is the only calendar date mentioned in the entire WSFS constitution.

2) To introduce a qualification stage, to allow Worldcon members to to reject candidates that they believe have benefited from inappropriate promotion. The argument is discussed at some length on File 770. I'll summarise my own position by saying that this was pitched to me last year by someone who did not know what they were talking about, including running tallies for the top 20 nominees (which is completely unimplementable), and I was very sceptical. But two things changed my mind. First, the BSFA Awards introduced an extra stage of the nomination process this year, and I felt that it materially improved the outcome, particularly in the Best Non-Fiction category. The second was that WSFS veteran Kevin Standlee came up with a version that I thought could work to improve not only the robustness of the system against slates, but also several other issues, and I signed on in support as soon as I saw his proposal. Slightly refined, that is what is going to the WSFS Business Meeting next month.

I am the 2017 Hugo Administrator, and I'm not expressing a view on any of the changes approved last year and going to this year's WSFS Business Meeting for ratification, other than to repeat that I'll be ready to implement any or all of them. And please don't read too much into my non-support of the other proposed amendments going to this year's WSFS Business Meeting; life is too short to express an opinion on absolutely everything.
Tags: hugos 2016, hugos 2017

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