Monday 6 April 2015

Making Hugo Lemonade?

I'm fairly new to fandom as a sub-culture. In fact, I'm currently attending my second ever major Convention - Dysprosium in London. I attended a very popular panel tonight which was scheduled at the very last minute: "Sad Puppies: The Hugo Awards and What Just Happened?" It featured lots of different views and ideas and comments about what to do in future.

After the panel, I has an idea for something that could be done right now, for 2015.

Why not create and issue a second set of (one-off) awards this year?

Here's how it could work:

  • The Organisers of the Hugos and/or Worldcon would have to be willing to offer logistical support
  • It should be easy to identify the works and authors that were displaced by the puppies-list. Simply subtract all puppies-listed ones and see what's topping the nominations counts.
  • List an equal number of works to the Hugos list for each category that issues the second set of awards.
  • Use the same voting procedures and the same electorate as the Hugos.
  • This is where Hugo organisers would have to come in: They'd have to distribute both lists in the same packet, alongside an explanation for why there are two sets of awards this year.
  • Ideally, there should be a packet for these awards, too.
  • Use crowdfunding to fund trophies and any prize money (if applicable) for this year. I'd happily chip in.
  • At the next Worldcon, schedule a prize giving ceremony for the second set of awards. (Personally, I'd make it a joint ceremony with the Hugos)
Of course, the second awards need a title. The puppies scorn fandom as a "hugbox" culture - seemingly suggesting that efforts to create a safe and kind environment are inherently bad because... I guess they hate areas where people are nice to each other? Personally, I'd be tempted to call the second set of awards the "Huggos" if Worldcon / Hugo organisers consent, just to fling the attempted insult back in their faces. But even without any Hugo-trademark-infringing, it should be possible to come up with a name...

And I'm sure there is some debate to be had whether such awards should cover all categories or only those which were completely rumbled by the puppies lists, but all that is detail that can probably be worked out. (From discussions tonight, it seems that there are some perfectly deserving novels on the Hugo shortlist, but the categories for short fiction and editors have allegedly been harmed a lot by the puppies' efforts this year.)

Here's why I think it would be a phenomenally useful thing to do:

  • It would shine a spotlight on works that were a) deserving of attention and b) displaced by the effort of the puppies.
  • Lots or people were debating about the long-term future of the Hugos. But any improvement to the Hugos themselves will take time to take effect...
  • If fandom manages to react in the same year as people try to attack / game the system, then this demonstrates a resilience and an ability to respond (even before any tweaks to the Hugos system can be discussed and decided) that could, in my opinion, discourage repeat attacks in future
  • It would set a precedent. Should the Hugos come under attack again in future, future organisers would not be caught unawares / have this tool in their arsenal. 

Longer term

I'm sure Hugo organisers are looking into tweaks to the Hugo voting mechanisms. I might write a separate blog about voting mechanisms later, if I can come to any conclusions about what would work & be resilient against concerted attempts to game the system.

Personally, I would be tempted to also look at the categories. For example, if one of the arguments made by puppies is that the Hugos are too literary, then perhaps the Best Novel category could be split in two - "Most Entertaining Novel" and "Outstanding Novel of the Year". (I always saw Hugos as awards rewarding outstanding, original and thoughtful work, but I'll be the first to admit that I also love novels that entertain without challenging me)

In the meantime

I'll email this blog post to a few people and see if anyone thinks it's a good idea worth pursuing. What do you think?

(Fair warning: if you think the puppies lists are a great idea, were the right thing to do, and are unproblematic, I won't approve your comment for publication)


Anonymous said...

I would get involved in this as time and finances allowed, and I'd definitely vote...

Federhirn said...

I contacted the Hugo Awards through their website. I did receive a reply very quickly. I asked whether I can post it here, but haven't had a second reply, so I decided to post the reply as comment without including the name of the respondent, just in case they'd prefer not to be named.

"It is an interesting idea, but the nature of the Worldcon (the body that gives out the award) would tend to act against a solution like this. Part of the dynamic of this particular gathering of fans from all over the world is doing so under the banner of a constitution that keeps the events connected and similar from year to year even though each Worldcon is thrown by different fans in different cities in different countries each year.

Something that wide a departure from the normal process would likely only serve to fracture our group at a time where doing so would be far more detrimental than normal.

I do deeply appreciate that your thoughts and energies come from a place of wanting to protect this thing we love. At this point our collective wisdom is that the process is still best served by the people who care showing up and making sure their voices are heard. While the nominations are over, there is still much of great substance to be decided in the voting and I encourage you to join in.

I thank you for your willingness to try to help."

Unknown said...

Your correspondent was right. The organization should not get involved in any way, as long as the rules are not broken.

If Worldcon members want to solve the problem of relatively small but disciplined voting-blocs having a disproportionate representation in the nominees list and shutting out everyone else, they have to change the voting system, because this one rewards voting-blocs immensely. Fortunately, there are fair and balanced systems that solve the problem, being fair to both individual voters and bloc voters. See here for a long discussion:

If you don't want to read everything, look for the Reweighted Approval Voting system, or RAV. It would be excellent for the Hugos.