There’s been lots of back-and-forth on the Internet lately regarding this year’s Hugo nominations. I’ve read a few versions of both arguments and I’m not taking any sides, except that I hate to see allies cannibalize each other, and I’m grateful exchanges were mostly civil.
Here’s the basics of the story, for those of you who don’t keep up with controversies in the world of SF/F (I have a hard time keeping up myself):
The Hugo is a popular vote award, which means that anyone can nominate and anyone can vote, providing they’re willing to pay the registration fee. Authors often promote their own (and others’ works) to attempt to convince or remind people to vote for them.
Well, this year two writers who have a history of saying problematic things that many find offensive (including yours truly) managed to do this with their followings, and thus: the ballot includes two works by authors that enrage many people.
Sides I’ve seen taken on this are that we should immediately discount the Hugos forevermore; and alternatively, that we should just treat the award as we normally do and vote for the best work (which will almost certainly not be either of the problematic texts under discussion).
The problem I have with discounting the Hugos (which already is not my favorite SF/F award) is that there are a lot of deserving authors on it, and it feels unfair to them to dismiss it. In fact, other than those notable exceptions, the 2014 Hugo nomination list is pretty diverse. Lots of women authors, several authors of color, at least one LGBT author.
But I’m not happy about this situation either, so I am choosing option #3.
I’m putting the Hugo in general on personal social probation. But I plan on doing what I can to promote the authors on the ballot that I like. Aliette de Bodard and Mary Robinette Kowal are on the list; Anne Leckie and Sofia Samatar are in my TBR pile.
I’d like to see those ladies win, and for certain points to be proven.
Now there’s more. I spend a lot of time at the SF/F website Worlds Without End. Several of the regular members and the site administrator had a discussion about what, if anything, we could do. For this year the answer is not much.
But for rest of the year we are pledging to read a half-dozen or so 2014 novels each, books of each member’s choosing, and nominating the ones we think best. The most nominated among them will be presented as a recommendation for next year’s Hugo Awards, cultivated from our own membership. A sort of go-to guide for people looking for books to read and perhaps nominate, that we’ve already given the thumbs-up in a democratic way.
In the future the site may consider creating an award of its own, but for now, we’ve got a start. And that’s something.
UPDATE: Worlds Without End has collectively decided to enable its users to tag up to a certain amount of books as award-worthy, so that at the end of the year we’ll have an organic list of suggestions for readers’ perusal and possible nomination for all popular vote awards next year.