Hugo Awards were announced last night, and it was certainly something. I don’t think I’ve ever seen people aploding when an award was not given. Today, I’ve been following Twitter, and there’s plenty of talk about the Hugos. Who won? Who lost? Was there a clique orchestarting people against Puppy nominees?
In short, I don’t think so.
I voted in Hugos for the first time this year; I bought the membership in January or so, because I wanted to participate in the site selection vote (go Helsinki!). I had no idea about the power struggle, and remained blissfully ignorant until about the time I got the voting packet and started reading the first short story I got my hands on. And I thought it was terrible.
And that’s what I think manifested itself last night.
You see, it’s people nominating the works. Regular Worldcon members. If they haven’t liked Puppy kind of works in recent years, it’s highly unlikely they start liking them when those works are forced upon them. And when they are out of options on what to vote, they’ll resort to voting No Award.
They don’t need any kind of command from high authority to do that (in fact, at least George R. R. Martin wrote against No Award). From what I’ve gathered, most Worldcon members are SF/F fans, and that means they read books. A lot of books. In all likelihood, many read the ones that were nominated this year, or at least the ones that were in the Hugo Voter’s Packet – which was mostly Puppy nominated stuff.
I know I did. I voted only on categories where I had time to familiarize myself with the nominees, and this year it meant reading a lot of bad fiction. There was heavy religious message (remember complaints about message fiction?), multiple novelettes and short stories that weren’t stories at all but only pieces of one, and some that were just plain lousy.
Now, Puppies tend to bring up Rachel Swirsky‘s If You Were Dinosaur, My Love, a short story nominated in 2014. What they usually don’t mention is that it was nominated but it didn’t win. Actually, there were at least 318 people (pdf) who thought No Award would’ve been preferable. Alas, there were other choices and The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere ended up winning the award.
This year, in five categories, if you didn’t like Puppy choices, the options you had were to vote for the least bad, not vote at all, or vote for No Award. For a fan who cares about the integrity of Hugo Awards, voting for something they think is not worthy of an award is not an option. It’s no surprise No Award swept those categories.
Full disclosure: I voted No Award for Best Novelette, Best Novella, Best Short Story and Best Related Work. Not because of who wrote or nominated the works, but because of what they nominated. When related work isn’t related to SF/F, I don’t think it should get an award. When a short story is like a bad, philosophical Wolverine comic without the art, philosophy, plot and the lovable canuck, I don’t think it should win an award.
If you look carefully, I mentioned Best Novelette: I thought Thomas Olde Heuvelt‘s story, which ended up winning the category, was deeply flawed, worse than some of the puppy choices, and not worth an award. And it gets better! In Best Novel category I actually voted Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem as last, below No Award, because I thought its handling of both aliens and science was just awful.
… But that just shows people have differing views. And it also shows that No Award isn’t a punishment: it’s a valid choice when you truly don’t think a nominated work is worthy of the award. Or if you don’t like the whole concept of the category. Or yes, because you don’t like the politics or the way some work got the nomination. Point is: it’s the voter’s discretion to use No Award as he or she sees fit, and it doesn’t have to be personal.
Speaking of personal, let’s reiterate. I answered today in Twitter multiple times to the question on why I thought certain writer unworthy of the award.
Frankly, I don’t care about the writer. I didn’t know any of the writers, about their worldview or politics. But guess what I did? I read the nominated works. That was enough for me to give an educated vote. Not the way someone wanted me to vote but the way that suited my personal preferences on what I consider good fiction and writing.
So, what next?
This year there was a record number of members. Some of them were puppy supporters, some not. That means that there are lots of new people that can nominate works for Hugo 2016.
So, I have a suggestion. Next year, don’t wait for someone to give you a list of works you should vote. If the Puppies continue, as they’ve said they will: please don’t push nominations for your friends or your own publishing house.
There’s about eight months. Spend that reading books. Novelettes. Novellas. Short stories. Read them. Find the ones you think are truly excellent. Nominate those. And let the people vote for a set of fantastic Hugo winners in 2016.