I used to look forward to the Hugo Awards.
That was until last year’s Sad and Rabid Puppy nominating fiasco turned me off sufficiently that I can’t even muster much energy to say “meh” this year because the Puppies are at it again, as expected.
For those not familiar with the Hugo Award, it has been given out annually for over sixty years to recognize what are considered stellar works of speculative fiction. Unlike the Nebula Awards, the Hugo isn’t voted upon exclusively by “industry professional” (in contrast, the Nebula Award voting is open only to members of the Science Fiction Writers of America). Anyone who attends the World Science Fiction Convention has a say in the Hugos, so it’s awarded by a mix of writers, editors and genre fans. Overall, I’ve always found the winning works to be excellent, and those stories, along with the other non-winning finalists, were my doorway into science fiction when I was a kid looking for the “best” the genre had to offer.
So it saddens me to see the award hijacked by a small group of individuals who have turned the award into their own political statement, and have taken a my-way-or-no-way attitude. They would rather see the award destroyed than not get what they want, much like a tiresome toddler.
I’m not going to go into the details of the Sad/Rabid Puppy movement (a quick search will turn up lots of information), but essentially it’s a bloc voting approach that has found a way for a small group of people to game the Hugo nominating system and load the final ballot with their desired works/publications. Last year, the Puppy slates were incredibly successful, dominating the final ballot in nearly every award category. In the end, however, award voters (a larger group of people than those who tend to nominate) decided only one of those Puppy-pushed works was worthy of the award—and it likely would have won regardless of inclusion on the Puppy slates—and for the first time, no award at all was given out in five of the major categories. No award to honor the “best” in speculative fiction. Pretty sad.
This year the Puppies are back and have again gamed the system, but with a twist (technically, the Sad Puppies have “changed” their approach a little and offered up a “recommended list” based on reader recommendations, although I don’t know the specifics to say how different this actually is from last year’s slate). The Puppies have actually included some worthy works/publications on their list (and which likely would have gotten nominated regardless), and some of the categories look only half bad, actually. I suspect this is so they can claim success this year when one of these works wins. But the nominees in many categories are again chock full of stuff of questionable quality, much of it directly from the publishing house of the Rabid Puppy ringleader.
So sadly, I say “meh” again, and I won’t bother to post the nominee list (you can find it here, if you’re interested). At least there is hope that next year things will be different because a change to the award process is expected to go into effect for the 2017 award cycle (proposed changes need to be approved at two consecutive conferences to go into effect, so it actually hinges on getting approved at the business meeting this year, which it sounds like it will). For this year, however, I suspect we’ll see a lot of no awards again, and future generations of readers who rely on award lists to locate some of the best of the field published long before they were alive (like I did) will miss out on another year of speculative fiction.