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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Never start a fight, but always finish it.

"Never start a fight, but always finish it." - Captain John Sheridan, Commander, Babylon 5.

Last night the Hugo Awards were broadcast from the Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention. I was there. It was a night to remember. It was alternately tense, funny, somber and sad. To say it was an emotional roller coaster would be like comparing a bumpy ride in the back of a pickup truck to Six Flag Great Adventures. At the end of the night, I was ready for a stiff drink, which I soon had in my hand.

As I've mentioned before on this blog, this was the year a group of Sci-Fi fans and second-rate editors tried to game the Hugo voting system. They prepared a slate of nominees to their liking, they bought memberships to the convention so they could vote (many of which were paid for from an editor's own wallet,) and they stacked the ballet. Here are my objections to such system gaming.

First and foremost, it excludes very deserving authors from consideration. This is egregious bad form in my opinion. What I mean is this: let's have a look at the Hugo nominees for the novella category.
  • “Flow”, Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Analog, 11-2014)
  • Big Boys Don’t Cry, Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
  • One Bright Star to Guide Them, John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “The Plural of Helen of Troy”, John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)
  • “Pale Realms of Shade”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
These were all slate-vote nominees. One author has THREE nominees. Do you know what that really means? That means at least two authors who were at least as deserving of consideration, were pushed off the list. If you consider the entire slate to be one nomination source, then at least four other deserving authors were pushed off the nominee list. FOUR.

Look, it's damn hard to get onto a Hugo Award nominee list. The vast majority of authors never even get close. For those with great talent, they may only have one work that ever reaches such a height. To have one author hog three nomination slots is to throw your middle finger up in front of all your colleagues and say, "fuck you." Now, I don't normally use such vulgar language in my posts but that is the only language appropriate to the situation.

This year the Hugo Awards did something they haven't done before. They anonymized the voting data and published it all for public consumption. This allows us all to see what the nominee list would have been if slate-vote nominees were limited to one consideration. Here's what that list would have looked like.
  • Big Boys Don’t Cry by Tom Kratman
  • One Bright Star to Guide Them by John C. Wright
  • Flow by Arlan Andrews Sr
  • The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Regular by Ken Liu
Yeah, that's right. Both Patrick Rothfuss who wrote The King Killer Chronicles and Ken Lie who translated The Three Body Problem both got the finger. THOSE TWO AUTHORS DESERVED BETTER. Mr. Wright only had to give up two of his nominations and they would have gotten better. And have a look at the bottom of the released statistics, Mr. Rothfuss and Mr. Liu were not the only authors pushed off the ballots by the selfishness of a few.

I'll put it another way, only the best story wins. Any author knows which of their stories is the best, and that s/he can only win once. Having more than one nomination simply means your two less capable works are just running interference. In such a circumstance, you are not winning on merits alone. You are winning on merits AND the elimination of competition. They don't allow that in horse racing and I'm sure as hell not going to allow it in the Hugo Awards.

THAT, that right there is why I voted no award for the novella category, not because Mr. Wright can't write. Irrespective of his alleged political convictions, he could still be a damned fine writer. I may not agree with Ayn Rand's or Kurt Vonnegut's politics, but that doesn't mean Atlas Shrugged and Slaughterhouse Five aren't masterpieces. But I'll tell you what, if either one of them had occupied three slots with their first, second and third-rate books, I'd have voted no award for them too. Anything else condones unacceptable racing behavior and it is wrong.

The other reason why I voted no award in the slate-vote categories is because of the wanton self-aggrandizement exhibited in those categories. Look, if you are going to create a political movement to make a particular point, have the common decency to not use it for your own self-promotion. I'm looking at you Mr. Day. It makes you look like a crook. Are you a crook? Well then, don't act like one.

There is one thing good the slate-voting did for the Hugo Awards this year. The official website summed it up extremely well, so I will quote it (emphasis mine.)
5,950 members of this year’s Worldcon voted in the 2015 Hugo Awards, according to an announcement from Sasquan, the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention. This breaks last year’s record of 3,587 ballots, and represents a 57% voter turnout, the highest participation level in the past decade. More people voted this year than attended all but eight of the 72 past Worldcons.
WOW! Gods, I hope the science fiction community can keep that level of engagement. I mean, just walking around the convention center was an experience I won't soon forget. I've met people I look up to as a writer. I've met people I look up to as human beings. I've met new friends and people from all over the world. And I actually do credit the slate-voting for the turn out. Had they not kicked over the dung-heap so to speak, people would not have gotten out their metaphorical torches and pitchforks. And this turn out is not just restricted to the vote. As of last night there were 5097 people in attendance. That's a record too if I don't miss my bet. So thank you slate-voters, you've really helped make this years WorldCon a huge success.

But don't let that go to your head. You need to learn to play better with the other children on the play ground. We are a generally accepting bunch, but we don't like sand thrown in our faces. And though we tend to be pacifistic and we never start a fight, we will finish it - just like we did this year. Play nicer. You'll get better results.

3 comments:

  1. It's funny that you bring up B5 at the start because this exact thing happened to B5 a couple of times: multiple episodes got nominated in 1996 and 1997. JMS (rightly) believed that if they kept all the nominations, the B5 vote would "split" and they'd end up losing the actual award. So they declined the multiple nominations both years, additional nominations for other productions were made, and B5 ended up winning the Hugo both years.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Left The Three-Body Problem in the plane by accident, only read the first chapter.....

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Be civil, be responsible and most of all be kind. I will not tolerate poor form. There will be no James Hooks here. We are all better than that.