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How to Fix (Discussion of) The Hugo Awards

April 6, 2013

The Easter weekend saw the release of the shortlists for the 2013 Hugo Awards. Those of you who were kind enough to pay attention to my list of nominations will have noticed that they bear little resemblance to the actual shortlists. So it goes.

Like many people surveying the shortlists, I could not help but feel irritation and regret over the fact that genre literature’s most prestigious and well-known award continues to get it wrong all too often. However, this regret was as nothing when compared to the regret I felt when reading much of the discussion of these shortlists. These types of discussion have never been particularly pretty but I think this year’s flotilla may well have sunk to a new low.

hugologo

Soon after the shortlists were announced, the blogger Justin Landon published an interesting and clearly heart-felt piece about why he was withdrawing his emotional investment in the Hugo Awards and hoped everyone else would do the same. Given that such posts were thinner on the ground than in previous years, Justin’s post served as a useful venting space for a lot of the strong emotions elicited by the Hugo shortlists. In fact, the 200 comments responding to Justin’s post contain pretty much every argument and position that you usually find in these types of discussions.

As we shall see, people are often quick to dismiss these discussions as other people getting annoyed about their favourite books and stories not appearing on shortlists. However, while this type of reaction certainly does exist, it only ever forms the outermost layer of the discussion. To put it simply, differences of opinion as to which were the best works of SFF published in a particular year do not sustain 200-long comment threads. What does sustain these discussions are far more substantial and annually evolving disagreements that align themselves along two different axes:

The first axis of disagreement regards a perceived disconnect between the amount of prestige associated with winning a Hugo and the ability of the Hugo awards to celebrate the most deserving people and works.

  • Some argue that this disconnect can be resolved by engaging with the Hugo process and helping to ensure that only the truly deserving benefit from the prestige associated with winning a Hugo award.
  • Others argue that reform is impossible and that the only way forward is to somehow decrease the prestige associated with Hugo victory until it is commensurate with an institution that systematically celebrates weak populist fiction and one small community of fans.

The second axis of disagreement regards the mere existence of the discussions surrounding the first axis.

  • Some argue that people who disagree with the outcome of the Hugo Awards process should not voice said disagreements online because the disagreements themselves are intellectually unfounded and/or voicing said disagreements is harmful to the community as a whole.
  • Others argue that everyone is entitled to an opinion and that that the social fallout of these discussion is either beneficial to the community as a whole or none of the commenter’s concern.

With regards to the first axis, I am legitimately and completely torn. On the one hand, I think that large social institutions such as the Hugo Awards can be wonderful things and that this potential means that it would be foolish not to engage with them. On the other hand, I recognise that nothing short of a major demographic shift (such as Baby Boomer dieback or annexation by a far larger and more dynamic fandom) will prompt meaningful reform and so any time and attention I invest in the Hugo Awards will most likely be wasted (as it was this year). However, while I may be unable to make my mind up as to which of these positions best encompasses how I feel, I think it is incredibly important that people discuss their own feelings in public, which brings us to the far more important second axis.

Over at Lady Business, Renay expresses her concern about the nature of these discussions as someone who is relatively new to this particular fandom. While I could probably quote Renay’s entire post and agree with pretty much all of it, I’ll limit myself to this extended extract:

What I believe, and what can’t fit into a clever tweet, soundbite or quote, is that the SF/F community lacks nuance and generosity: toward the Hugo award itself, the people that nominate, the people who vote, the people who are their peers and competition, and the people who are passionate about it in a myriad of different ways. The “bitterness” over the release of the nominee list is practically (how did Rajaniemi put it?) a weaponized meme used to mock and shame people into silence before the nominees are even announced. Before they even came out this year I was already dubious about saying anything that wasn’t “yay nominees!”. I’m really, really new to this process, compared to some fans who have been around for 20+ years, but it feels like speaking out about your thoughts on the nominees very quickly turns personal and hurtful, where you can get pecked to death by technicalities, smugly told how ignorant you are, or effectively harassed for being unwilling to engage in ways people approve of — on both sides. That’s not a healthy environment, and it doesn’t really inspire people to participation. The only way to encourage nuance is to invite it, not make lolmemes about bitter Hugo rants that become part of the culture; no longer a funny joke, but something that makes real people feel unsafe or disinterested in the award or the award’s culture.

The Hugo Awards are absolutely unique in so far as they not only position themselves at the absolute centre of the SFF field, they also rest upon a set of democratic mechanisms that would allow them, in principle, to embody the will of absolutely everyone with even a passing interest in the literatures of science fiction, fantasy and horror. What I take away from Renay’s post is that, while the Hugo Awards are a political space that can be reshaped through discussion and campaigning, the feelings of distrust and resentment that fill this space make it impossible for any sort of political process to work. Going by the comments on Justin’s blog, the SFF community appears to be stuck in two self-contained vicious circles:

Whenever an alienated fan feels inclined to express their concerns about the Hugos, established fans such as Kevin Standlee use an array of tactics (including mockery, tone escalation and flood-posting) to shut down debate leaving the alienated fans feeling not only disenfranchised but also increasingly angry and resentful over the Hugo Awards’ claims to universality and democracy.

Whenever established fans devote time and money to ensuring that the Hugo Awards are not only well-attended but smoothly run, a group of people with very little invested in the process appear and begin to question not only the outcome of the Hugo process but the integrity of the process itself. Whenever a fan attempts to correct a mistake or encourage further engagement, they are met with hostility. Given that these outliers appear unwilling to contribute to the Hugos, the only option is to ensure that the complaints and protestations are silenced lest they negatively impact the awards and the convention that hosts them.

I have been following these types of discussion for the best part of ten years and that decade has seen online reactions to the Hugo Awards become ever more aggressive and balkanised. People outside the process see the Hugo Awards becoming increasingly isolated and dysfunctional while the people who are heavily invested in the process fear the institutions slipping away from them, hence the orchestrated campaigns to not only preserve ‘fan writing’ as something that is done in the remnants of the traditional fanzine scene but also block any constitutional overtures that expansive and progressive fans might want to make to the vibrant and energetic YA and comics communities.

Renay is quite correct when she says that more patience and mutual respect would solve the deadlock and there are a number of departures from established behaviour patterns that I think might help not only to soften the debate but also to encourage more people to become invested in the process:

Firstly, I think it is really important to recognise quite how much is going on in a typical Hugo Award ballot. For example, while my particular interests draw my attention to the number of familiar names in the Best Novel and Best Fan Writer categories, it is important to recognise that there is more to the Hugo Awards than just those two categories. Indeed, even though the decision to create Best Fancast and a Best Graphic Story categories may not have seemed entirely sensible at the time, both categories have done a great job of encouraging elements of the community to look beyond their comfort zones to not only different forms of genre writing but different ways in which to discuss them. Hugo voters have also clearly begun to take on-board many of the complaints that have been made about diversity in the field. I am the first to admit that I have no interest in reading the works of Seanan McGuire, Lois McMaster Bujold and Saladin Ahmed but there is no denying that their presence on the Best Novel shortlist stands in stark contract to both the British Science Fiction and Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlists, which comprised nothing but white men. Yes, Hugo voters continue to favour traditional forms, nostalgic themes, and familiar names that are (more often than not) attached to North American people but it is important to recognise nuances in both the shortlist and our own opinions. It is possible for the Hugo Awards to produce terrible shortlists and yet show signs of cultural renewal.

Secondly, I purchased a supporting membership for next year’s London Worldcon and this allowed me to nominate in 2013, 2014 and 2015 as well as voting in 2014. Many people talk about the $50 price tag associated with buying a supporting membership for this year’s Worldcon but buying a supporting membership for next year’s Worldcon always costs a lot less and essentially extends your nomination powers from 2 to 3 years. My supporting membership cost me less than the price of a book and my extensive rundown of nominations cost me nothing except time and space on my blog. If you care about the outcome of the Hugos then buy a cheap supporting membership that will allow you to nominate and if you can’t do that then at least take the time to put up a blog post making a few suggestions for those of us who do decide to nominate.

Thirdly, when I began researching my nominations post, I was appalled at how few people were discussing who to nominate compared to the vast numbers of people attempting to get the vote out for themselves. Seriously: We may not be able to fix all of the problems surrounding the Hugos but we can all help to improve the quality of nominations. Even More Seriously: If you are one of those authors and fans who ‘remembers’ to encourage people to vote for them but somehow never ‘gets round’ to listing their own nominations then you are nothing more than a toxic narcissist who really needs to read the Wikipedia entry on the Tragedy of the Commons.

Fourthly, every year, the World Science Fiction Society has a business meeting at Worldcon. The minutes of these meetings can be found on this site and they provide an absolutely fascinating insight into both why the Hugos are the way they are and where they may be headed in the future. Aside from being monumentally inefficient and really little more than a series of disconnected and often ill-considered monologues, these ‘discussions’ are also striking in terms of their complete intellectual isolation. Indeed, despite the Internet being full of people discussing the problems with the Hugo Awards and how the process might be improved to make it seem more welcoming to outsiders, the minutes make absolutely no reference to any outside discussion. Most of the people who vote in WSFS business meetings have manifestly not bothered to engage with the wider debates and so come across as almost absurdly disconnected, ill-informed and self-serving in their opinions. Clearly, if the Hugo Awards are to continue being relevant to future generations of fans then the people who are currently in a position to involve themselves in the process must recognise the concerns and perspectives of the wider SFF community. All too often, the minutes of the World Science Fiction Society business meetings read like the proceedings of an 18th Century parliament: Isolated, self-involved and democratic in name only.

Fifthly, I have spent the last few months working my way through a lot of fanzines and fan history. While this journey may have helped me to understand many of traditional fandom’s eccentricities (totally see why you would prefer traditional fanzines to blogs!), it has also driven home quite how much changed with the invention of the Internet. As Jo Walton’s Hugo Award-winning Among Others describes, fandom used to be quite a lonely existence as most fans only ever saw their friends at conventions. Fanzines and amateur press associations may well have served to give fans a sense of wider community but their principle role was to keep social networks alive in-between face-to-face meetings. This means that, aside from speed of communication, the major difference between traditional fandom and online fandom is that while online fandom is all about the books (and links to authors, publishers, review venues and award bodies), traditional fandom is all about the people meaning that books only ever serve as a sort of common ground and phatic medium. This is why few traditional fanzines engage with books and why fandom had to create the term ‘Sercon’ to designate fan activity that resulted in serious and constructive discussions.

Because online fandom is all about the books and getting your opinions out there, it is now possible to be a committed and energetic science fiction fan without attending conventions and without actually knowing any other fans in real life. This cultural shift has effectively opened up Anglo-American science fiction fandom to hundreds of people who could never have followed the traditional pre-Internet path into organised fandom. Unfortunately, because traditional fandom has been incredibly slow to recognise these alternative paths into fandom, many fans are left feeling excluded and unappreciated.

Seen through the eyes of many traditional fans, the complaints appearing on Justin’s blog do not matter because the people making them are not really fans: If they were fans, then they would go to Worldcon. If they were fans, then they would vote in WSFS business meetings. If they were fans, then chances are that they would have met some of the people involved in running the Hugos and would appreciate the time and effort that BNFs and SMOFs put into the process. If they were real fans, they’d write letters of comment and publish fanzines but they’re not… they’re casual fans, convention fans, media fans… the great unwashed.

What people like Kevin Standlee are failing to grasp is that discussions of why the Hugos suck and why they need to change are a starting block for getting more involved in fandom: Year One, you voice your complaints about why the Hugos suck. Year Two, you encounter a load more people who agree with your account of why they suck. Year Three, you all agree to nominate and vote in the Hugos. Year Four, you all attend an actual Worldcon and get involved in halting the suck.  Year Thirty Five, you are the fan guests of honour at an actual Worldcon.

By silencing debate and mocking people who dare to complain, established authors and fans are making that path seem far more difficult and, in Renay’s words, dangerous than I suspect it actually is. Why bother voicing your opinion when it’ll only be shouted down? Why bother to try to change things when people in positions of power are not only dismissive of your concerns but also actively hostile to the idea of such discussions even taking place?

Online fandom can be quite an isolated existence as much of your genre-related activities boil down to solitary pursuits such as reading and writing. The only time you really engage with other fans (particularly early on) is when they comment on your blog or link to your site. The only time you encounter fans from radically different traditions is when there’s a huge disagreement over something like the Hugo shortlists.

While I understand that these types of negative discussions may be irksome to those people who are nominated or involved in organising the Hugo Awards, it is really important to understand quite how damaging the actions of people like Kevin Standlee can be. Seeking to silence debate through mockery and browbeating is not only intensely divisive and a tangible barrier to many people who might otherwise have become emotionally invested in the Hugo Awards, it also positively reeks of racial and economic privilege as those demanding silence invariably seem to be male, white, middle-class and North American.

People who throw around words like “bitter”, “repetitive” and “entitled” would do well to remember that not everyone walks the same path into fandom and that many of today’s faceless, bitter and entitled commenters could well have been tomorrow’s BNFs.

I know full well that the Hugo Awards will never recognise either my tastes or my values and I realise that, even if they did, I would still feel intensely uncomfortable about the idea of belonging to such a large and cohesive social institution as Worldcon (remember what I said about being torn?). However, as alienated as I feel from both the awards and the convention that supports them, I still recognise their potential and want that potential to be within the grasp of as many people as possible. I want a Hugo Award that is socially, politically and culturally inclusive but I feel that the debate, as it is currently conducted, is not exactly helping anyone to bring this future about.

257 Comments
  1. April 6, 2013 10:11 am

    Thanks again for your interesting comments.

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  2. April 6, 2013 6:03 pm

    As someone who’s been involved in fandom and Worldcon business meetings since the 70s and, most to the point, in more than his share of agitation and controversy about the Hugos, I commend you for your calm, rational, and well-reasoned discussion of how the current state of the awards looks to a smart appreciator of SF&F who isn’t part of “traditional fandom.”

    There probably isn’t much you or other sensible young people can do about the current state of affairs except wait for us old pharts to die out. In the meantime, I’m glad to know you’re out there.

    Like

  3. ex-smof permalink
    April 6, 2013 7:25 pm

    Of course, one of the problems that some like I (a worldcon runner/smof/bnf) have is that the tactics you describe are used in other areas of “worldcon” fandom, so that if you try and innovate or go against the thinking of the older established SMOFS, the same problems occur and tactics are used against you. In many cases, younger, active, fans have given up the battle for change and, in my case completely GAFIATED in dispair at the blinkered, short, sighted attitudes of the old pharts. The problem then can be that the new wave are trained to think in the same way as thire predecessors and this perpetuates the problems since all the innovators are gone.

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  4. Bruce M. Miller permalink
    April 6, 2013 7:46 pm

    Well written but at its heart is the assumption that those who define being a fan as being part of a social network are now wrong and should give it up. While no one definition of “fandom” or the Hugo awards is the sole correct one, the one that will prevail will be the one held by voters at the Worldcon business meeting.

    People who consider the old social network unimportant are unlikely to attend those business meetings, which means they have little voice. On the other hand, it’s not clear why they should.

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  5. April 6, 2013 8:00 pm

    So, there are three things about this which bother me.
    Firstly, the WSFS Business Meeting is entirely self-selected. It is not a representative body of any description : the people who participate are there entirely on their own recognizance, & the only opinions they can reasonably be expected to bring are their own. So, to expect them to “engage with wider debates,” when the people who consider themselves to be part of those “wider debates” don’t bother to come themselves, or to form committees & send delegates to represent their views (thus splitting among ten or twenty people what can be the problematic costs of attending a Worldcon), or to “engage” with the people who do attend in any other fashion than writing derisive comments about them on the Internet, seems a bit (to use your words) “self-serving”. One might expect the Business Meeting participants to assume, & if they did it would hardly seem an unjustified assumption, that they are the only people who care much about these things (if we measure caring by willingness to put oneself out to a greater extent than generating kilobytes of electronic text), which should therefore that be managed their way.
    Secondly, I have to question the idea that there is no social component to “online fandom”. It’s possible, I suppose, but my observation is that the Internet has scarcely diminished the importance of social networks. For example, it certainly seems that a major feature of the anime conventions I attend & volunteer for is meetings between people who either only see each other at long intervals, staying connected electronically between time, or in fact have never met face to face before, having previously known each other only through the Internet. And much the same goes for groups of people. I would go so far as to say that an anime con is typically composed of dozens or hundreds of smaller conventions, all brought together in one place, at one time, by common interest, convenience, & tradition. And all this with fourteen-year-olds!
    Thirdly, it seems to me that you are unfairly attacking Kevin Standlee here. I’m slightly acquainted with the gentleman (at my first Worldcon, five years ago, I had the good fortune to be befriended by his wife), & — entirely aside from the question of whether he is a decent chap, which is quite irrelevant here — I have never known him to discourage people from becoming involved with the process. Quite the opposite! In fact, I do not know anyone who goes to such lengths as he does to ensure that people have the chance to participate, no matter whether their opinions agree with his or not. In fact, I would go so far as to say that there are, among those who participate in the work of maintaining the infrastructure of fandom, few more relentless critics of the exclusionary mindset which is undoubtedly found in certain fannish circles. He’s been known to get mad when people expect things to be done in a way to suit them, without showing any willingness to help out with the work, but most anyone would, & he with better justification than many.
    Now, I do have to admit to a bias here : to me, any argument which ends by talking about “privilege” tastes like a weak argument. That’s not because I deny that the thing exists, but because it has always seemed to me that people who bring it into their arguments are covering up for their own cowardice. I suppose I have a bit of a berserker personality, & if it looks to me as though somebody is barring my way, I just charge straight at him. I don’t sit down in front of him & whine about how it’s not fair that he’s there. Sometimes this means that I wind up lying dazed on the floor, but them’s the breaks!

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  6. April 6, 2013 8:20 pm

    By the way, the page you posted to with the minutes of the WSFS Business Meetings also includes the videos of the most recent meetings. My wife and I shot those videos and posted them. I was instrumental in getting the WSFS rules changed to make it explicit that any member has the right to record and distribute recordings of the meetings, and that the meeting can also arrange for the official recording and distribution of the recordings. So outside of reading the minutes, which are intended to be a recording more of what was done than what was said, you can go watch every minute of the process and hear every speaker’s actual words as he or she said them. Yep, I guess I’m very much interested in discouraging people from participating. That’s probably why a significant minority of the SMOFS — which really means those people with an interest and desire to participate in convention running, including the inevitable politics thereof — were very unhappy when I started recording and posting the meetings and when I started proposing rules to make such recordings explicitly a part of the rules. A real exclusionary person, I am.

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  7. ULTRAGOTHA permalink
    April 6, 2013 9:25 pm

    This cultural shift has effectively opened up Anglo-American science fiction fandom to hundreds of people who could never have followed the traditional pre-Internet path into organised fandom. Unfortunately, because traditional fandom has been incredibly slow to recognise these alternative paths into fandom, many fans are left feeling excluded and unappreciated.

    I simply cannot understand how you can say this in a serious way.

    A fan who has never been to and/or has no interest in going to Worldcon can, for a mere $50 ($40 starting next year) purchase a supporting membership that will allow hir to nominate three years running (on line!) and vote for the Hugos for the year the membership was purchased (again, on line!). And s/he will probably get a nice voting pack for the year of the membership that hopefully includes e-versions of all the written material that was nominated. (Depending on the cooperation of the publishers–a factor outside of the control of the Hugo committee.)

    Anyone can watch both the announcement of the nomination slate and the Hugo ceremony live on line.

    These rule changes to allow and encourage this were made by traditional fans attending those WSFS meetings you so decry.

    Tell me again how exclusive the Hugo process is?

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  8. April 6, 2013 9:33 pm

    Possibly Kevin gets a bit defensive when he hears suggestions that don’t always lead to practical solutions. I know he means well and would like to expand the community. If you’re getting a negative vibe from that quarter, or from any individual, my suggestion is to not take them too seriously, and specifically to not interpret their comments as representative of the community.

    Flawed or not, the Hugo Awards have tremendous visibility and history that cannot be casually displaced or set aside. If there are problems with the Hugos, my solution is to fix them. Ten years ago I helped split the “Dramatic Presentation” Hugo into short form and long form, which are often used (and I thought should have been more clearly articulated) as best television episode and best movie.

    I think the current problem is not with the rules as written (except for the 5% threshold, a technical thing), but with the breadth of nominations, which very much depends on the interests of nominating members. For which the solution is to submit nominations of stuff you like. We are having a discussion about this on a conrunning list, and the solution I’ve suggested is to broaden and better publicize recommendation lists, to make more books, stories, and other works more visible to more nominators. That will take a lot of effort, which someone is going to have to do. (I plan to solicit recommendations from Canadian fans and conrunners in the new year.)

    I didn’t nominate in the novel category because I didn’t read enough books written in 2012 to feel qualified to nominate. However I will say that Lois McMaster Bujold, Seanan McGuire, and John Scalzi write some of the most accessible (easiest to read) fiction in the field. They are great storytellers. I have read Redshirts, and before the Hugo nomination list was announced, Bujold’s and McGuire’s recent works were on my must-make-time-to-read list. I also look forward to reading Saladin Ahmed, whom I know nothing about, and Kim Stanely Robinson, who I don’t think I’ve gotten around to reading before. I don’t know what other works might have been worthy of nomination; again my suggestion is for people to publicize their recommendations well ahead of the nomination deadline.

    I would not take minutes of the business meeting too seriously. Many of us make an effort to listen to the broader conversation. The business meeting is very pressed for time; some of us make brief comments, but most of it is just about plowing through the agenda and voting on what we’ve previously discussed in other forums. I have suggested making ratification of motions, approval in the second year, be online so as to broaden participation among those who don’t attend the meeting in person. I haven’t gotten much support for the idea and I understand the counter argument. The assumption of deliberative meetings generally is that people are best informed by being present for the discussion, which minimizes less-informed input from taking over the outcome. I’m not presenting this as an inviolable rule, but a lot of us in the community favor fact-based decision-making, which puts the burden of proof on those recommending change (as I do). At any rate, if the outcome is important, and I think the Hugos are important, then we need to start from the status quo in order to change things. If you want to change what happens at the business meeting, you need to show up.

    Kevin may have expressed some frustration because these really aren’t new issues. I’ve been trying to break down barriers in fandom for thirty years. New people are always coming into the discussion, so some of us are always looking for ways to broaden and expand the community and find ways to welcome and incorporate every new wave of fandom. Though I would also say that the Hugo Awards have a lot of value in terms of name recognition, and some people want to preserve that value. My perception is that, while we have a lot of different opinions, the bedrock assumption that many long-time conrunners have is that the Hugo Awards belong to the Worldcon community, and they want that connection to remain; Any attempt to completely decontextualize the Hugos from the history of Worldcon will meet resistance, which some would express that others are free to start whatever awards they wish with whatever rules they like, but the Hugos will continue. Some think that the history of the Hugo Awards and Worldcon adds value, as many of the suggestions offered have been made and often tried in the past.

    In fact, insofar as there is a new problem today, and I think there may be, it is not because of smoffish narrow-mindedness, but exactly the opposite. Broadening the pool of nominators, which has happened in recent years, increases the number of nominations required to get on the ballot, which makes it a little harder for lesser-known works and authors to get on the ballot. This is a side effect of inclusion, not exclusion. So the solution is to find ways to educate the community of nominators about other works that are worthy of consideration. Broadening the community further, while a good thing in many respects, would IMO exacerbate the problem of visibility and marketing trumping, I won’t say quality, but perhaps diversity.

    I’m not part of this year’s Worldcon committee, but I can say that if any individual wants to get involved, I’d help find pointers to get them in the loop. For anyone who represents a community, I would certainly connect them to Worldcon marketing people to help find better ways to reach out to other groups in fandom. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I try to engage anyone with constructive suggestions.

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  9. April 6, 2013 10:43 pm

    I think much of the online debate around the Hugos is misplaced, in part because of a lack of understanding. Complaining about the fact that the awards go to populist fiction is a symptom of this. The Hugos exist to select the most popular books known to the voters, on the assumption that these reflect the titles most likely to be popular with the reading public. The Hugos are awards for popularity not literary merit. The awards were created as an antidote to to the many juried literary awards out there. They fulfil a different function. Selecting populist works is a feature not a bug.

    The other area of area of misunderstanding is around the nature of Worldcon and “traditional” fandom. Back when I was actively involved in running conventions I made it clear that I ran conventions for the type of people who like the conventions I run. There is absolutely no obligation on any conrunner to change the way they run an event in order to attract different people. And it is the people that show up and do the work that get to make the decisions. I suspect that those people spend their time attending conventions and perhaps reading fanzines rather than reading blogs. So what goes on in the blogosphere is largely invisible to them. If the collective will of the blogosphere is for a change in the way the Hugos are run then its members might like to start an outreach project. Discussing the Hugos in a blog is not a practical contribution towards changing things.

    There are indeed many faults of the Hugos. From my standpoint the biggest one is that despite being awarded by a World Convention they are still too focussed on the anglophone countries.

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  10. Daveon permalink
    April 6, 2013 10:54 pm

    First of: thought provoking piece, it certainly got me to examine a bunch of my core concepts. But I’ve some issues with parts of it.

    Background: I come at this as a Convention attending non-SMOF, not even on the email list. While Kevin and I know each other and I’ve met Moshe on occasions I suspect neither could pick me out of a line out. I am white, middle-class and reasonably well off. However, I, like another commentator have an issue with invoking privilege in a dicussion like this. I can’t help who I am, all I can do is try to consider if it impacts my position on things, and in this case, I’m not entirely sure that it does.

    It is singularly unhelpful to invoke white, middle-class priviledge in a discussion around an event which carries a relatively high price tag. Short of divorcing the Hugos and the Worldcon, which I think also misses the point, those things are going to be intertwined.

    I’ll also point out that I’ve been involved in online fannish activities since the mid-1990s. And have had more than a passing involvement in media focused fandom too.

    There is certainly a split between ‘traditional’ fans, as they see themselves, and younger fans who’ve grown up with a more web and media focus. And that’s been a fight and point of contention for as long as I have been involved in fannish things – 25+ years at this point. And I think you’ve done a great job outlining that problem. Fan groups and conventions were the only way for many of us to interact with other SF fans and the SF club at Univerisity was my first experience of other people who actually cared about Science Fiction as much as I did, and meeting those people was a liberating experience, as Jo Walton really points out.

    However, you make some specific points that I think are problematic and just as much at the heart of this debate as the comments you directed at Kevin.

    1. You seem to snear at the ‘parliamentary’ workings of the WSFS meetings. But the reality is, that’s how bodies like that have to work. Whether it’s your government, local council, housing association, sports club, church, work, a standard’s body or whatever, there’s a reason why there are consitutions, formal meeting structure and minutes that are followed. Without them, you simply can’t function. In every single situaton I can think of where people think there isn’t something in that function, you either find that there is, or you find that there’s somebody doing that job because if it doesn’t get done everything stops working.

    If you have an alternative, I’d really like to hear it… but that brings me to my second problem:

    2. You finish with asking for: I want a Hugo Award that is socially, politically and culturally inclusive but I feel that the debate, as it is currently conducted, is not exactly helping anyone to bring this future about.

    I want to know what you think that Hugo looks like. Because I didn’t take it away from the piece. I saw you complain about the people who manage the process and how detached they are from the ‘actual’ fanbase, and I saw an invocation of privilege. But I don’t actually know what you think a socially, politically and culturally inclusive Hugo looks like and how you’d maintain such a thing without it ossifying into what a 2013 version of such would be.

    And that’s really at the crux of this. You and a lot of others talk about ‘debate’, but to debate you need to have some clarity around the terms of the debate, and not just in a school sense of ‘This house resolves that the Hugos are broken’.

    Without that clarity, we’re going to argue and get nothing done.

    Which brings me back to why we have to have people like Kevin who take out the trash while people are shouting at each other or while lazy sods like me are sleeping through the Business Meeting because I was partying until dawn.

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  11. April 6, 2013 11:01 pm

    Bruce — Not in the least! I am completely sympathetic to established fandom and really can see its charms whilst also realising that they were never going to be a particularly good fit for me personally. Having said that, I know a number of people around my age who do get on very well with established fandom… they just exist online as well.

    My point regarding the changing nature of fandom is that long-standing members of that fannish social network shouldn’t get to decide who is and is not a fan. I want that social network to continue existing (Hell… I even hope that some new people start making traditional fanzines!) but that mode of fannish existence needs to exist alongside more recent forms.

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  12. April 6, 2013 11:17 pm

    Alex — Having read the rules governing the Hugos and read the business meeting notes in an effort to make sense of why certain rules have the shape they do, I must admit that I am not necessarily filled with hatred for any particular set of rules.

    I mean… if I were in the business of setting up an award myself I would probably leave it up to the voters to determine which works got nominated in which category and I would steer clear of any neologism that meant that people needed to look up definitions in order to make nominations. Beyond that, I am sad that the YA award was voted down and I think that the attempt to narrow the definition of ‘Fanzine’ is a very short-sighted and isolationist urge that really would be better off being ignored.

    I lament many of the choices that Hugo voters make, but I think these choices reflect social and cultural problems rather than constitutional ones.

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  13. April 6, 2013 11:32 pm

    Kevin — The reason why I named you is that I really want you to understand how people on the other side of the fence see you.

    I know that you are passionate about the awards and I know that you devote a lot of time and money to making sure that the Hugos run smoothly. The problem is that, when you wade into these types of discussions in order to correct people, you are frequently the only person from the WSFS involved and your obvious anger makes it look as though everyone in the WSFS is incredibly angry, aggressive and authoritarian. Read the link to the Lady Business site: You are literally scaring people.

    I salute you for your passion and your devotion to the awards but I do wish that you would maybe think about manifesting your passion in a slightly different manner as shutting down the types of discussion that were taking place on Justin’s blog is really not in anyone’s long term interest.

    Thank you for your role in having the business meetings recorded, I found them invaluable when trying to interpret a lot of the jargon. I’m really not surprised that people wanted those sessions to remain semi-closed as people do seem to say things in the business meeting that they would not necessarily argue for in an open forum.

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  14. Lisa Deutsch Harrigan permalink
    April 6, 2013 11:33 pm

    FIRSTLY – The Hugos are What We, the Supporters and Attendees of Worldcon, want them to be. We voted the rules and we made the nominations. If you don’t like the way it is done, Go Make Your Own Lawn! There can always be more awards.
    Sorry, I don’t think the Awards are Broken. They are what they are. They aren’t perfect, but we have a WSFS meeting where everyone can come and express their own opinion, propose New Rules, and try to reach consensus. But These Awards have been around for DECADES, Same Basic Rules, That is Their Strength. You know who voted on them and why.
    And I’m being Real Serious, If you don’t like the award, then Go Make Your Own. We’re not stopping you. It can be a ONLINE Event, where everyone goes to a Website and Nominates. Top Item gets the Award. And everyone will know what they are, the kind of person who votes for them, and whether they like the answers or not.
    And then you too can be blasted for not awarding what THEY thought was the True Winner for that year. Because, that’s what everyone does. On every Award awarded. Really, trust me, they do -see Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, even the People’s Choice Awards (which are now using an online system). Every Award System is Busted according to someone.

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  15. kastandlee permalink
    April 7, 2013 1:36 am

    Oy, Dave! Of course I’d remember you. You did a good job being the announcer for our Match Game SF show at Renovation. Indeed, if you were coming to Westercon this year in Sacramento, I’d ask you if you would like to announce our two planned shows there as well. You have the knack for it.

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  16. kastandlee permalink
    April 7, 2013 1:45 am

    Johnathan: What’s coming across as anger is significant frustration at the fact that I’ve almost never heard a new argument in twenty years (although I’m sure the points must seem new to the people making them), and that nearly all proposals for “reform” boil down to “do what I want without me having to actually do anything personally.”

    I might add that I (like Alex) think that WSFS would be better served by having the ratification stage of amendments to the WSFS Constitution be done not “online” but by ballot distributed with the following year’s Hugo Award final ballots and with the same deadlines, rather than by the following year’s Business Meeting. Or even lengthening the process an additional year (annoying as that would be) by submitting anything ratified by the second Business Meeting to a vote as above. I’m unsure that it would actually change things that much, but it would give people (including the non-attending members) a voice in the process that they do not have now. For this, I am considered a lunatic radical by many of the Usual Suspects.

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  17. kastandlee permalink
    April 7, 2013 1:53 am

    I never had a very strong feeling one way or the other about the YA Hugo, but I do take a fairly significant stand on a technical issue: no work should be eligible in more than one category. Works of written fiction, whether marketed as YA or not, are already eligible in one of the four written-fiction categories. Trying to carve out a separate category is somehow saying that either works marketed as YA fiction shouldn’t be eligible in any of the other written-fiction categories, or else they should be eligible in two categories simultaneously. If the former, then we implicitly are saying that YA works can’t possibly be the Best Novel of the year and have to have a special protected place of their own, and if the latter, then we’re saying that in this one case only, we should allow the same works to be eligible in two places at once, which feels very wrong to me.

    Something I never have understood is that some people seem to have interpreted the attempt to carve out a separate YA category as somehow saying that works marketed as YA aren’t eligible for a Hugo Award, which I find utterly mystifying. Of course they’re eligible. How else could they have won Hugos in the past if they weren’t?

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  18. Alex permalink
    April 7, 2013 4:34 am

    I wasn’t at the meeting where the YA award was voted down. Obviously different people had different opinions, but it is my understanding that some people felt the change being proposed was unclear, specifically as to whether a specific work would or would not also be eligible for the Best Novel award. What I heard from various parties is that if the change could be submitted in a way that would work, there would be plenty of support.

    My suggestion in fact was to have a new award with a different name, similar to the Campbell. It would be administered the same way and publicized through the same channels, but it could more easily overlap with a different name, i.e. a work might be eligible for both the Best Novel and Best YA. However, like many suggestions for change, my suggestion hasn’t gotten traction. Other award changes and new categories in the recent years have emerged more or less as the result of a consensus process where many options are considered and scenario-checked before coming into effect.

    There are other awards. The Andre Norton and Hal Clement awards, organized by Duckon and often presented at Worldcon, do recognize the best of YA fiction each year.

    The point being that if one wants to change things, the way to do it is to get involved. One could quote the Bartlett rule, “Decisions are made by those who show up.” I phrase it differently, that in fanspeak “to complain” and “to volunteer” are the same word.

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  19. C.O'Halloran permalink
    April 7, 2013 4:48 am

    I don’t get the controversy here – the Hugo Awards have always been voted on by members of Worldcon – that is the purpose for which they were created – to allow Worldcon members to recognize the authors that they feel are best. As has been pointed out, if you want to nominate, become at least a supporting member of Worldcon and you can nominate for who you like multiple years. If you want a particular work to be nominated, encourage friends who feel the same way to become supporting members and nominate that work as well. If you want to give awards to authors and not become a member of Worldcon, go ahead and do all the work involved in creating, organizing and publicizing an award that has been done by the Hugo organizers. I say this as a Worldcon member who volunteers at Worldcons, but actively tries not to be involved in the con-running level. In other words – I participate, I volunteer, but I don’t have the dedication of those who run these things – like Kevin Standlee who you constantly denigrate in your blog. Kevin Standlee is one of the dedicated people who make Worldcon happen and deserves praise, not mockery. If Kevin comes off as negative to people who suggest changes, I’m surprised. He is constantly working to try to get more people involved in Worldcon and fandom and some of the other con-runners think of him as a darn radical who is always trying to change and improve things.

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  20. April 7, 2013 4:49 am

    I’ll chime in briefly as one of the ‘new generation of fandom’ that Jonathan speaks of. From my perspective, over the past 8 or 9 years of my engagement in fandom, which is pretty much only on-line. Every year there is discussion on the Hugos (negative, critical, whatever). Every year Kevin shows up and rebuts everything. This has happened to me a few time, and I simply stopped discussing. To me, I see Kevin (and the SMOFs that he represents, whether he likes it or not) as a huge barrier. This years even stronger and more polarized discussions have lead me to a couple of conclusions – I never want to attend a Worldcon (I was considering this year in San Antonito since I’m originally from Texas and I could maybe pull it off), and that Hugos are way more broken that I ever thought they were. Whatever progress they’ve made is completely overshadowed by the governance structure of the award and a steadfast dedication of those in charge to make sure that not change occurs.

    In short, Kevin’s own actions have done more to damage the Hugos than anything that some wannabe fan blogger could ever do.

    And with that, I’m done with the Hugo discussion this, though I imagine I’ll see you all again in a year.

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  21. Alex permalink
    April 7, 2013 6:04 am

    Worldcons are amazing, life-changing experiences, but they are also conventions, which is to say, gatherings of people. I attended my first Worldcon 30 years ago, I went because I had two groups of friends that I knew would be there. It was aweso, for me. I met Isaac Asimov and many other great authors.

    I suppose I attend Worldcons for George R. R. Martin, for Neil Gaiman, for Lois McMaster Bujold, for Robin Hobb, for countless other brilliant writers, and for filkers, costumers, artists, and others among the most creative people in the world. And also to see and spend time with in person friends that I have made through fandom. I certainly wouldn’t define my convention experience by one or two people I don’t get along with.

    But I would tell anyone to go to their local convention. That’s a very good way to connect to a wider circle of fandom. A good convention is going to include people who attend other conventions.

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  22. Daveon permalink
    April 7, 2013 6:29 am

    I never want to attend a Worldcon

    Neth: I have to ask why? Because of what a few people say online? Really?

    It’s really great fun. There are great people. It’s a chance to meet the authors in a way you’ll rarely manage at other conventions. There’s fantastic chat and great parties.

    They’re fun and compared to some of the other conventions they’re actually relatively small. And as for SMOFs… you know, I couldn’t give a flying f*** about SMOFs. I enjoy the conventions. I’m glad people make it fun for me.

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  23. auntiem42 permalink
    April 7, 2013 7:29 am

    neth, even my grandchildren have attended a Worldcon (once when it was in the neighborhood, its really all they can afford). And we all go to the local conventions where fandom gathers because not everyone can afford Worldcon. If you can’t be bothered to be a part of the Worldcon community by attending, or learning the rules, then What Difference Does It Make? You have already Excluded Yourself.
    Believe me, with all the generations that are at a Worldcon, we are not exclusive or demanding a secret hand shake. All we ask is that you Love SF and Fantasy as much as we do, want to meet the creators and the fans and share ideas, stories and fun.
    I told my daughter, “Marry within the Religion”. And I didn’t mean Christian or Jew, I meant Fandom. Because her joy was in the creating and the sharing and the wonder of SF&F. Her room was full of books, her closet with costumes. Her long weekends full of conventions large and small, sharing with friends. She did marry a fan. And now their house is Full of Books, each of their kids has several bookcases in their rooms. There are costumes and games and creative play. There isn’t a lot of money, but they have filled their lives with other fans, and when they can, they still come to the cons. And the grandkids meet the creators and make friends who understand the magic like they do.
    I’m sorry you don’t understand, locked in your online life. But we really are friendly out here.

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  24. C.O'Halloran permalink
    April 7, 2013 8:00 am

    It is possible for change to be made – but to make that change you have to be a part of the process. After all, podcasts and graphic novels have been added and believe me, some people were against this change. But someone proposed the change going through the proper channels and was seconded, and there was a vote (or two) and the change happened. The point is you have to join the organization and work from within to make the change. I don’t suppose the Academy Awards or the Tony Awards would appreciate people on the outside telling them to change how they vote on their awards (which is done by members of the industry, another “insular” group.) If you want to make changes, join us and make your changes from within. I love Worldcons and my fandom family and we are made up of all types. Yes there are some who resist change (I I don’t believe Kevin is one of them), but we’re not all that way. Give us a chance.

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  25. April 7, 2013 8:41 am

    I actually agree with some of the points you made early in your post. But you completely lost me when you blamed Kevin for trying to belittle and attack people and silence any discussion and change. I don’t know him personally, but I’ve seen him fight for many years to raise awareness for the Hugo Awards, bring more people to them, and make them more accessible to wider fandom.

    Note that this doesn’t mean he’s trying to change the fundamental nature of the awards, that they are voted on by the members of WSFS (ie. Worldcon) — maybe that accounts for some of the blame he seems to be getting — but to get more people involved within the current system. He’s also an avid proponent of finding real-life solutions to bringing down the cost of Worldcon supporting membership (which allows you, among other things, to vote for the Hugos). And believe me, he’s getting a lot of flak for this among the more conservative Worldcon fandom.

    I think a thorough and thoughtful discussion on what the Hugos are, how they work, and could they work better in some other way is always useful and should be welcomed. But I also think that the majority of discussion I’ve seen isn’t through or thoughtful, and much of it looks on the outside like complaining one’s own favorites don’t succeed (even if the motives of the person saying that were something else altogether).

    I personally think that the best way to change who get the Hugo nominations is to work within the current rules, by getting more diversity in people nominating for the awars (which is already happening, albeit slowly). Because, let’s face it, changing the rules of the awards — even if you have a new idea that actually is workable — is hell of a lot of really boring work. (But if you want to go that route and try to propose changes in the WSFS rules, Kevin will be the first to voluteer to help with drafting the proposals so that they won’t be rejected on technicalities, no matter if he personally supports your idea or not.)

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  26. April 7, 2013 9:00 am

    Kevin — I completely understand your frustration, particularly when a lot of people complain without bothering to check the rules on eligibility and stuff like that. I completely understand why your reaction is what it is but these complaints really are babysteps towards more complete engagement with the process and by coming down hard on what you see as pointless and repetitive sniping, you’re putting up barriers between your tradition of fandom and the outside world.

    Regarding the YA Hugo, I also understand the ‘legal’ difficulties involved in putting together a YA category and that Hugo people like to have precise definitions for everything rather than allowing the voters to decide. I feel that a YA Hugo would have the potential to build a bridge between the SFF field and that of YA. We in SFF have not been particularly good about encouraging YA people to join our cultural spaces and so they’ve basically gone off and built their own blogosphere, their own websites and their own conventions. Having a YA Hugo and encouraging YA authors to appear at Worldcon really would help convince the people who read YA genre to not only start reading SFF but also to get involved in our cultural spaces… after all, the SFF field is not getting any younger. Given that this window of opportunity gets smaller and smaller as YA’s institutions get bigger and bigger, I think this really is a case where a bad, quick law is better than a good, slow one.

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  27. Tero permalink
    April 7, 2013 9:05 am

    “––I feel that a YA Hugo would have the potential to build a bridge between the SFF field and that of YA. We in SFF have not been particularly good about encouraging YA people to join our cultural spaces––”

    Just out of curiosity—assuming you are correct, do you feel a YA Hugo is the only way to achieve this?

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  28. April 7, 2013 9:09 am

    AuntieEm42 — “I’m sorry you don’t understand, locked in your online life. But we really are friendly out here.”

    I think the point that Neth and I are trying to make is that you often don’t seem nearly as friendly as you seem to think you do :-)

    I think there’s a cognitive bias at work here and I know that I’ve fallen prone to it myself in the past. If you walk a particular path and you find that path quite easy, the assumption is to assume that the path was just as easy for everyone who tried to walk it. This is why people who are wealthy criticise the poor: After all, they made fortunes… why don’t those lazy people go out and make their own? Similarly, you may well have encountered fandom and found it friendly and welcoming, my experiences are very different indeed and I’m a white middle-class English-speaking male.

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  29. kastandlee permalink
    April 7, 2013 9:16 am

    At the risk of you calling me a “mass poster,” I’m seriously interested in responding to points you raise here.

    I think you may misunderstand the Business Meeting’s desire to have the definitions clear. There actually is quite a bit of leeway for the voters to express their opinion. For instance, look at Game of Thrones: Last year the voters said they believed the entire season was a single dramatic unit, but this year they expressed their opinion that an individual episode was more appropriate. Mind you, they can’t (and didn’t) have it both ways, with the whole series nominated in one place and individual episodes in the other. Similarly, works of written fiction whose length is within 20% of a category boundary are likely to be placed based on where most people nominated the work, not on the technical word count.

    What would be wrong, in my opinion, is having the same work appear in two categories simultaneously, which is what having a separate YA Hugo would mean. Except for some pretty significant differences (fiction versus non-fiction), the Hugos do not make category distinctions based on content or marketing category. IMO, a separate YA category would eventually lead to the same work being nominated for (say) best YA Fiction and Best Novel. Wouldn’t you complain about that? Alternatively, a work that got enough votes to qualify for Best Novel might be disqualified based on the fact that is was “YA” and qualified for Best YA Work, and that would cause even more Hugo angst. I seriously don’t see a way out of that. And I don’t think either case is hypothetical, given that works of YA fiction have won the Hugo Award for Best Novel at least twice of which I’m aware.

    Let me tell you exactly how I stood on WSFS taking up the various YA proposals: Two years ago I voted against consideration of the question, but only on technical grounds because I believed the agenda was too crowded for it to get a fair hearing. (When you only have around 2 1/2 hours of total floor time for substantive debate, you have to be rather vicious about what you let get onto the floor.) This past year I voted to allow the motion’s consideration, but when it came to actually voting on the proposal itself, I abstained completely. I simply couldn’t resolve the question either way to my satisfaction, so I declined to vote on it one way or another. If the proponents can come back with a proposal that does not, in my opinion, create as many problems as it fixed, I’ll give it another hearing.

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  30. April 7, 2013 9:19 am

    C. O’Hallaran — I’ve noticed people comparing the Hugos to the Academy Awards and I’m not sure it’s a particularly good fit. For one thing, the Oscars are an industry award voted on by past Oscar winners and so are understood to be beyond the democratic reach of film fans. Also, the Oscars are absolutely terrified that people will stop paying attention to them, which is why they’ve started using younger hosts and having more nominees. I’d say that the Oscars work considerably harder at keeping themselves alive than the Hugos appear to do.

    If you want to talk about the ‘unfairness’ of the criticism leveled at the Hugos then I actually think that other genre awards are a much more useful point of comparison. Indeed, the Hugos are beautifully and perfectly transparent and literally anyone can pay the price of admission and get involved. The Arthur C. Clarke Awards, on the other hand, are completely opaque: Not only do you have to be a paid-up member of the BSFA or the SF Foundation in order to take part, but it’s not at all clear how jurors are selected. I think they’re basically approached at cons and pub meetings by the bloke organising it… which raises not only the same access issues as the ones surrounding WSFS business meetings but also a whole battery of social concerns too.

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  31. April 7, 2013 9:30 am

    Kevin — One book winning two Hugos would definitely be a sub-optimal outcome and that outcome would become more and more sub-optimal if it started happening on a regular basis. However, I think the benefits of having a proper YA Hugo vastly outweigh the raised eyebrows that double-dipping would cause.

    For me, this is one of those situations where the absolute intellectual integrity of the constitution really needs to take a backseat to the cultural politics of building a bridge between one literary genre fandom and another. I don’t really read much YA but with so many genre authors already working that side of the fence, there really is an opportunity here to help rejuvenate the SFF field and welcome a whole new generation of fans.

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  32. April 7, 2013 9:40 am

    Tero — No, I don’t think that a YA Hugo is the only way of achieving that rapprochement but I do think it would be a major step in the right direction.

    The rise of YA happened while I was a regular reviewer of genre fiction and I know for a fact that genre websites and blogs missed the boat on tapping into that wider readership. Rather than treating YA and YA authors with respect, genre reviewers did that thing of going “Oh it’s very good but I’ve seen it all before”. I can think of a number of points where someone from SFF reviewed a YA novel and the review attracted attention in YA circles only for the SFF people to be incredibly dismissive of the YA crowd’s concerns.

    Even today, people like Baccigaluppi, McDonald are Mieville are producing YA but reviewers and bloggers are treating these works as being much less interesting and worthy of consideration than works written with the traditional genre market in mind.

    When I say that I understand Kevin’s reactions to people criticising the Hugos, it’s because I’ve been in similar situations myself. If you write a review of a YA novel and the review gets linked on a YA website resulting in a load of pissed-off YA fans turning up on your blog, your reaction is not “That’s an interesting perspective, thank you” but “Who the fuck are you?!”. That second type of reaction is *never* the right course of action if what you want is to be inclusive and welcoming.

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  33. kastandlee permalink
    April 7, 2013 9:45 am

    Well, I think you significantly overstate the “rejuvenation” factor, but let’s stipulate it for now and take up another issue: Who decides what is YA?

    Most of the current definitions of the categories are mostly technical: word count or length of work. (Note that the categories that give some people, including you, the most heartburn, are those where it is notoriously difficult to draw a category distinction in a technical sense.) Hugo Award administrators are discouraged from doing anything other than acting as technical referees, counting ballots and doing what the voters demand of them except in cases when it’s technically impossible to do so. (Say, the voters nominating a short story as a novel or a five-minute online video as a long-form dramatic work.) Since it’s not possible IMO to draw a technical distinction between a YA work and a non-YA work (any more than it’s possible IMO to draw a technical distinction between SF and Fantasy), what happens when the voters nominate a work that you don’t think is actually YA. And they will.

    You see, I’m not one of those people who is opposed to any more Hugo categories. (And those people exist; in their extreme form, there might be only four or five categories: possibly Best Novel, Best Short Fiction, and Best Fan Writer. Some people would drop the last two.) In case you didn’t know it, I was one of the people backing the split of BDP into two categories and worked diligently in the early 2000s on the category split to try and find something that had maximum inclusion, rather than throwing away anything that wasn’t a television show or a theatrical motion picture. I supported the adoption of Best Graphic Story. I’m lukewarm about the Best Editor split, but not because I Hate More Hugos. What I oppose is confusing the electorate any more than the current situations already do. We have suboptimal situations in some categories already; I see no good cause for creating more of them.

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  34. Tero permalink
    April 7, 2013 9:52 am

    “Tero — No, I don’t think that a YA Hugo is the only way of achieving that rapprochement but I do think it would be a major step in the right direction.”

    Thanks. I’m not sure myself if a YA Hugo would have the positive effect many seem to think it would (and this belief, to me, seems to correlate strogly with how unfamiliar people are with how the Hugos actually work), even if a working consensus on how to execute that could ever be reached. I wish more effort would go into the other possible ways to bring YA people in, and I think that would be more fruitful than quibbling about a YA Hugo. (I think this is actually happening, from what I’ve seen.) One such way would, IMO, be making more people aware that YA lit is at the moment considered equal to “other” literature in the Hugos — and celebrating all the YA works that have won Hugos.

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  35. auntiem42 permalink
    April 7, 2013 10:20 am

    I worked on the YA Award. Yes, I did. I couldn’t make it to the meetings, but I was one of the people working on definitions, etc.
    In the Mythopoeic Society, we don’t seem to have the problem of what is YA and what is adult, but then again, we are a “juried” award. In that a self selected group within the Society forms the four juries, and there is much overlap. So if YA and adult are considering the same book, they will dither until it is decided which category they will stick it in.
    But the Administrators of the Hugos are not sure that everyone will get the memo and understand what is YA or not. Did you know Techinically the Hobbit is YA or a Children’s Book. Where as Lord of the Rings is definitely adult. Things like that drive administrators crazy.
    I do not think that a YA award will bring in more YA. I do think the YA award will honor books that usually won’t make it to the Novel award because so many people don’t think YA deserves a Hugo. Even if it is a Good Book. The Novel is for Adult Books. Whatever that means.And yes, I have nominated YA Books for the Novel, and other Hugos.
    Me? I even go into the Children’s section if they have good books in there. Then again, I went into the Adult section at 10 to check out my first Asimov and Bradbury. I prefer reading out of the ENTIRE Library.
    And I found fandom because it was the only place where there were people who read the books I love and the movies I love to see. I do a lot of outreach in the other types of cons, like anime and media. And I go to fan run Media Conventions all the time. I prefer to cross the streams of my fandom. No explosions yet.
    And if you ever come to a convention, ask me for my “Definitely Not in Kansas” ribbon. They are always on me at every convention, even when it is supposed to be on knitting. And I wore my Doctor Who Scarf too. Some of the knitters weren’t to sure about me. :D But those who were fans, shared in the fun. We exchanged Doctor Who markers and fandom. Because that’s what fans do.I might have convinced one to come to her first Westercon, and she is in her early 20s. That is outreach.

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  36. April 7, 2013 11:12 am

    Kevin — I don’t think you need a definition of YA to have a YA award anymore than you need a definition of Science Fiction to have a Science Fiction Award. People know it when they see it and people’s conceptions of what fits into a particular category changes organically over time. Let the nominators and voters make their own minds up!

    An interesting example of this type of thing in practice is the Clarke award which, despite being an SF award, has recently been nominating works of urban fantasy and novels containing talking horses. Naturally, this pissed a lot of people off and last summer’s “Is SF Exhausted?” debate was informed by irritation at the failure of SF to distinguish itself from fantasy. But then you look at this year’s shortlist and you see nothing but core genre.

    Something happened.

    People talked about it.

    something else happened.

    Even though I don’t think that Clarke Award should go to works like Zoo City, I recognise the wider social context in which that decision was made and I think people will look back at the award and say exactly the same thing. I really don’t have a problem with a similar process taking place in the Hugos… not every problem needs to be bureaucratically nailed down before the award even exists. The YA Hugo is a good idea and the potential benefits are so substantial that it’s worth giving it a serious try.

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  37. April 7, 2013 11:28 am

    AuntieM42 — Outreach is always good! I’m also aware that my cognitive biases are probably colouring my perceptions too and that many new people probably find fandom a lot less intimidating than I do but there are definitely people out there (including Neth and Renay) who have encountered established fandom when it’s being defensive and have turned and walked the other way and even though I’ve sort of done that myself, I think that’s just incredibly sad because I look at fandom’s institutions and history and I can see why so many people have been passionate about it.

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  38. Alex permalink
    April 7, 2013 1:29 pm

    Clearing up a few misconceptions:

    * The problem with a YA award is simple. It’s not about the “definition”. It’s simply a question of whether one book can be eligible for both the Best Novel and Best YA Novel award. Some people think that should not happen. Some people think it could. When we agree on how to proceed, we’ll find a way to do this. “We” here refers to everyone who chooses to participate in the process of making rules. There is no barrier, other than membership in the convention.

    * Kevin doesn’t own the Hugos. He tries to explain things, from his perspective, with an effort to help people understand and include people.I believe that active convention fandom is good for people and we should bring more people into it. Not to put words in Kevin’s mouth, but I think he would likely agree with that sentiment.

    * The business meeting is not the Worldcon. At most 5% of attendees participate in the business meeting, often many fewer. It’s one of the sausage-grinding parts of the convention; it has to happen, but many people don’t consider it the fun part, which is why most people skip it. It is interesting because of the democratic aspect of allowing people’s opinions to influence the community; to some of us this is important, whether we attend in person or not.

    * Not everyone communicates perfectly, online or in person, all the time. I post dozens of emails a day, plus comments on various forums; throw in Facebook and Twitter and I am likely well above a hundred discrete posts a day on various topics, so being online for 25 years, I have written many hundreds of thousands of emails, posts, comments, and tweets (and I was a writer before the Internet, when we used to use typewriters and postage stamps). I have made many, many mistakes online over the years. So it goes. Not that I don’t take responsibility for things I’ve said, but I hope that people put me in the context of all of my efforts. I can’t think of anyone that I agree with on every topic; in fact what I was taught in business school that if two people do agree on everything, one of them is not necessary to the organization. There are a few people in fandom that I consider wrong most of the time, but I certainly don’t define my experience of fandom by those people. And I would definitely not judge my experience of an entire community on the basis of what one or two people who happen to be involved said on a topic or two.

    * “YA” isn’t a separate or somehow isolated community. There are many people in “traditional” fandom, defining that only as people who attend long-established conventions, who have and share interest in YA literature, and this is not new at all. When I was a kid read things like The White Mountains and A Wrinkle in Time, and when my mom was young, she read the Heinlein “juvenile” novels, and later recommended them to me. Long, long ago, back when my great-grandmother was reading H.G. Wells, all science fiction was considered juvenile in some circles. There is more good YA now, and that’s a good thing and worthy of attention in the wider community. Individuals have a variety of opinions, but there is no group conflict here. There are people who enjoy YA books who don’t attend conventions, and that’s fine, but they should not feel that their choice not to attend conventions is something that anyone is doing to them.

    If you don’t want to meet your favorite authors and other awesomely creative people, no one is forcing you to spend your time and money to do so. But I think if you avoid a whole group to avoid one or two people who annoy you, you’re going to miss out on a lot of positive experiences in life. So I would tell people to grab a friend and try out your local convention. If you have a good time, you’ll want more. Worldcon is to a local convention as single-malt whiskey is to lite beer: a lot more concentrated and a lot more interesting. Maybe not everyone’s taste, but certainly worth it to the people who enjoy it.

    Like

  39. April 7, 2013 2:03 pm

    I don’t necessarily want to go down this particularly avenue of discussion because I’m not sure that it’s necessarily constructive but Alex says:

    “There is no barrier, other than membership in the convention.”

    The problem is that attending a Worldcon costs money. Staying in a nearby hotel in order to attend a Worldcon costs money. Flying either to another country or to another side of your own country in order to attend a Worldcon costs money. Attending more than one Worldcon in order to not only make a suggestion at a WSFS business meeting but also shepherd that suggestion through a series of business meetings costs a lot of money.

    We are not only emerging from a global recession, we’re emerging from a global recession that has left record numbers of young people unemployed and often working for free.

    I know it’s not the done thing to mention money with respect to fannish involvement but I think pretending that there’s no real barrier to attending a Worldcon is rather insensitive, particularly if you realise that there are people involved in the wider SFF community who come from places much further afield than the US and the UK.

    One of the reasons why I would like to see the WSFS be more open to online discussion is that the barriers to online discussion of the Hugos are much MUCH lower than those to face-to-face discussion and I think that recognising and validating online discussion would be a good way of encouraging people to step up over the much bigger hurdle. The Internet makes everything much easier to access, I think it would be nice if this was treated as a positive thing and an opportunity.

    Like

  40. Alex permalink
    April 7, 2013 3:06 pm

    I think raising the question of money is changing the topic of the conversation. I would simply clarify then to say “there is no social barrier”.

    If we were talking about money, I’d point out that we don’t control the cost of airfare, we have minimal control over the cost of hotel, such that the committee typically has influence over maybe 20% of the cost of attending a Worldcon, and within that 20%, things like function rooms, decorator, tech, and many other departments cannot be unilaterally directed by the committee; you could do a Masquerade with 2500 people in the audience using flashlights and cardboard megaphones, but it wouldn’t be a good idea. I would point out that the average family has an entertainment budget equal to about 8% of pre-tax income, so from a marketing perspective, it’s not that people “can’t afford” to attend a convention, it’s that people are choosing other priorities, but that is really a pesonal consumer decision that does not affect the revenue that a convention’s supplier require. Since I don’t work for an airline or tourist industry, I’m not interested in maximizing their profit at the expense of my community, so as my goal is to increase the number of people involved and the quality of the experience, I work to make sure that conventions are worth coming to. What makes it worthwhile for me is the other interesting people that attend, so I do what I can to make it worth it for the interesting people to attend. I also do what I can to reduce the cost of non-attending participation.

    Though I would make the point that Worldcon is not the universe of fandom, it’s only one convention. I strongly suggest that people attend and get involved in running their local conventions and/or their special-interest conventions. But generally I would say that a lot of people are focused on running conventions, Worldcons and local conventions, more efficiently, and that the question of managing convention budgets is a separate discussion which is not usefully improved by adding the social baggage of “so-and-so was mean to me”. And I’m not going to go to an airline website and post an essay about privilege and how they are excluding my friends from attending various events with the high cost of their plane tickets. If you start by talking about social or procedural issues, and then switch to budget, that’s not helpful, productive, or honest. There are people who are expert on the qiestions of budgeting,and if that’s what you want to talk about, people will be happy to engage you on the topic, but lumping political baggage into the discussion is just saying “other people should pay for me to come”. Someone has to pay the bills, and those who suggest directly or indirectly that costs should not be shared relatively equally are not going to find that their arguments are persuasive to many others.

    If we’re just talking about the Hugos, I would say that the prestige of the award derives from its history and specifically from its track record of picking the best works in the field, as considered by many observers. If we want to improve the award, I would say the ways to do that would be to educate and expand the Hugo voting community. However, my personal opinion is that the in-person discussion and experience of Worldcon is an essential component of the definition of the Hugo voting community, in that it includes interaction with hundreds of people who do have a wide and diverse interest in the field who learn from each other and share knowledge and interests with each other, including an awareness of the history and best works from years past. Separating the Hugos from Worldcon, treating Hugos as something that just happens in press releases and blog posts, would greatly diminish the long-term value of the award to readers, award nominees and recipients, scholars and reviewers, and others. So I work to sell Worldcons, including the cost of airfare, hotel, and convention membership, as an experience. And for people who find the costs daunting, I encourage attending local conventions, where you don’t have the cost of airfare, where you can commute instead of paying the cost of the hotel, and where you will still come into contact with people who have experienced the wider circle of science fiction and who can share their experience and interest with other attendees.

    Like

  41. Moshe Feder permalink
    April 7, 2013 4:24 pm

    Alex wrote: “If you don’t want to meet your favorite authors and other awesomely creative people, no one is forcing you to spend your time and money to do so. But I think if you avoid a whole group to avoid one or two people who annoy you, you’re going to miss out on a lot of positive experiences in life. So I would tell people to grab a friend and try out your local convention. If you have a good time, you’ll want more. Worldcon is to a local convention as single-malt whiskey is to lite beer: a lot more concentrated and a lot more interesting. Maybe not everyone’s taste, but certainly worth it to the people who enjoy it.”

    To which I just want to say, well said!

    Your later post about the economic challenge of attending worldcons is sensible as well. Sometimes finances have kept me or people I’d hoped to see from attending, but that’s not the con’s fault nor a reason to divorce it from the Hugos.

    To state the obvious, those who find the Hugos too insular or elitist, whether for financial, cultural, geographic, linguistic, or generational reasons, are free to start their own alternative award. It could be totally online-based, free or very cheap, and as genre-inclusive, category-inclusive, and medium-inclusive as they care to make it. I suspect most Hugo voters would applaud the effort and many would choose to participate by voting. If the effort is sustained over a long enough time, and the works voters choose to honor are sufficiently distinguished, then the new award will eventually be just as respected and coveted as any other.

    In the final analysis, legitimacy has to be earned by sustained effort, the sort of effort “traditional fandom” has applied to Worldcon since 1939 and to the Hugo Awards since 1953. [Yes, fellow fannish pedants, I’m aware they were skipped in ’54, but the string is unbroken since 1955.] Sixty years of consistent work on the awards by motley generations of passionate, eccentric, semi-anarchistic volunteers is something to be proud of. It’s understandable that the heirs to that tradition might be resentful of newcomers “from outside” with their own agendas, seemingly hoping to coopt the fruit of all that labor without contributing to it themselves.

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  42. Moshe Feder permalink
    April 7, 2013 4:28 pm

    Jonathan, thanks for posting those trackbacks. I linked to your post on my Facebook page, where it’s drawn a number of comments from friends who are past Hugo nominees or Worldcon committee members. Have a look at http://www.facebook.com/feder

    Like

  43. April 7, 2013 4:49 pm

    Why would there be an issue over the YA definition? It could be handled how GAME OF THRONES is handled at the moment: it either gets more votes in the ‘long-form’ category and ends up there or more votes in the ‘short-form’ category and ends up there. With a YA book, if it gets tons of YA votes, it ends up on that list, and if it gets lots of adult votes, it would end up on the main list.

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  44. April 7, 2013 5:13 pm

    The YA award was discussed at length over several weeks on the SMOFS mailing-list. Anyone with a real interest in getting any part of the Worldcon constitution changed should sign up for the list – no sekrit handshake required. The archives of the list will reveal that various members of the SMOFS list proposed multiple variants on ways that a YA award/Hugo might be given. All of the many proposals had significant drawbacks and no compromise solution seemed possible.

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  45. April 7, 2013 6:08 pm

    Moshe — Thank you for your comments and for posting a link to facebook :-)

    My piece was written on the assumption that some sort of common ground might be found between two increasingly entrenched positions and I don’t think that “feel free to start your own award” is a particularly jealous or conciliatory attitude to take.

    In fact, it’s pretty much the exact same attitude that fueled Justin’s original post: Many people in my position think that the Hugos are not fit for purpose and in the way. When Justin says that we should all stop caring about the Hugos, he’s effectively saying that non-traditional fans should set up their own awards and replace the Hugos as the most prestigious awards in the field. In fact, if you look at the David Gemmell Legend Award and Kitschies, you’ll see that people are doing exactly that.

    I decided to write my piece because while I feel little kinship with traditional fandom, I do recognise the value of those venerable institutions and would rather see them reformed than new ones created from scratch.

    So no, I don’t think “start your own award” is a particularly helpful thing to say… I think it’s divisive, dismissive and culturally regressive. I understand the impulse to say it, but I think it’s an impulse that’s worth rejecting :-)

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  46. April 7, 2013 8:24 pm

    Shrdluo1 — I think it will be a crying shame and a real indictment of the process if the WSFS can’t cobble together a working YA proposal in time for this year’s Worldcon. Not to be unkind, but a lot of people would like to see one and it really would be a shame to not deliver one because of bureaucratic paralysis.

    Like

  47. April 7, 2013 8:26 pm

    In other news, I would like to urge any people reading this far to take a look at Paul Kincaid’s observations about SF Awards in general and the Hugos in particular:

    http://bit.ly/143D6N6

    Like

  48. kastandlee permalink
    April 7, 2013 8:38 pm

    I’ll be astonished if we get a proposal through the Business Meeting this year. OTOH, if you really are a member of next year’s Worldcon, you could propose one yourself. And if you plump for Helsinki’s Worldcon bid and they win, then if the proposal passed London, it would be up for ratification outside of the Dreaded USA. (Sarcasm not aimed at you; I’m extremely frustrated with my own country’s government.)

    I know you’re likely to interpret this all as sarcasm aimed at you, but it’s not. The way I got changes done that I wanted done was to do them. It’s the responsibility of people who feel passionately about things to do the work to make them happen. It is emphatically not the responsibility who do not feel strongly about issues to make changes just to suit other people. That’s not “raising the barriers” or “trying to exclude people,” that’s just how the real world works.

    You, personally, really are in a position to do something. Talk enough people into supporting your position and showing up. It’s not even so logistically impossible as non-Americans seem to think it is, given the actual and potential lineup of the next three Worldcons.

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  49. April 7, 2013 8:51 pm

    auntiem42 – while I’m generally an on-line fan, I do get out. I have attended local cons, I regularly attend SFF author signings I can get to, I’ve met and drank with many fellow fans and authors over the years. But, Iike it or not, the defenders of the Hugos and Worldcon come across as extremely unfriendly, unaccepting, privileged, and un-interested in engaging the whole of SFF fandom. That alone, and specifically the ever-present and exhausting replies of Kevin Standlee make Worldcon very unappealing to me. I have limited time and resources for traveling to any convention. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to travel to a convention I feel welcomed at. At this point that would be a regional con with an especially appealing mix of authors (for my tastes) or perhaps a World Fantasy Convention that is relatively close. As long as I see the sort of discussion that I’ve seen around the Hugo, I’m just not interested in attending.

    And that is the big problem. The Hugos and Worldcon continually come across as not wanting to engage the whole of SFF fandom. Which means that people like myself who would want to engage are looking elsewhere.

    As for the awards, well, the governing rules of the Hugos are simply stupid. The more I see and hear of them the more I realize that meaningful change will never happen without a complete re-write (which of course won’t ever happen). Intelligent and widespread voting could make some change, but see above about how welcomed I feel. I’ll throw my efforts elsewhere in fandom because Worldcon doesn’t want or need passionate fans who don’t have the means to travel year-in, year-out.

    Yes, all of my points can be debated and refuted. But, they still remain how I feel. All these discussion reinforce that many (probably most) fans of my generation feel very similarly. The Hugos and Worldcon are undermining their own future and defenders like Kevin Standlee only dig the hole deeper.

    It’s a shame, we all want he Hugos to mean something, yet they mean less and less every year and their seems to be no desire to actually change that, and every sign I see points to actions that only serve to accelerate the descent.

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  50. April 7, 2013 9:21 pm

    It’s not bureacratic paralysis. There were several proposals but none were believed to be good enough to get passed. The people who want to create the award have taken note of the objections raised and hopefully will come up with something better. If they come back with something viable posting it on the SMOFS list is the best way to get it reviewed by people who can take an idea and turn it into a motion that has the best chance of success. There is as yet no known viable proposal. A significant part of the difficulty in changing the Hugos is that while there are lots of people who have vague ideas that Something Should Be Done but there isn’t much visible consensus about how to do it. If the people who want change get their act together they may find themselves pushing at an open door.

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  51. April 7, 2013 9:24 pm

    Shrdluo1 — That sounds exactly like bureaucratic paralysis to me… lots of people agreed that Something Needs To Be Done and yet somehow the bureaucracy is unable to make that Something happen.

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  52. kastandlee permalink
    April 7, 2013 9:25 pm

    “Bureaucracy” implies a bunch of faceless functionaries in charge. The problem is that Democracy is Hard. Dictatorships are much more efficient.

    Like

  53. April 7, 2013 9:27 pm

    Kevin — You say:

    “It’s the responsibility of people who feel passionately about things to do the work to make them happen. It is emphatically not the responsibility who do not feel strongly about issues to make changes just to suit other people. That’s not “raising the barriers” or “trying to exclude people,” that’s just how the real world works.”

    This makes it sound like the WSFS is run with little interest in the world outside of the WSFS. I understand it’s not the responsibility of individual WSFS members to crusade for the beliefs of people who don’t go to Worldcon but I’m saddened by your suggestion that the WSFS recognises absolutely no responsibility to the wider SFF community. That’s really very very sad.

    Like

  54. kastandlee permalink
    April 7, 2013 9:38 pm

    Not at all. But it appears to be difficult for you to understand that not everyone shares your values, nor is everyone else required to put aside their priorities to suit yours. WSFS has changed — multiple BDP categories despite bitter and nasty invective from people opposed to them, a Graphic Story category despite people complaining that the Hugos should only be for words on pieces of paper (they don’t like the BDP categories, either). That’s because members felt strongly enough to persuade enough other people to make the change.

    There are members who believe strongly in this YA Hugo proposal that they keep bringing it back, but as yet they’ve not been able to persuade enough people that they have a proposal that won’t make things worse than they are now. Change for its own sake is not a good thing. Heck, it took around ten years to get the BDP proposals that started with “we should be able to recognize TV shows separately from movies” into something that the membership would accept.

    Again, I personally think that we should have ratification be done by the membership as a whole through a balloting process, and I’m one of the people who has campaigned in favor of proposals that have the net effect of lowering the cost of voting. (Although I’m opposed to making it so inexpensive or free that ballot-box-stuffing becomes the norm.) I’m also opposed to a proposal that will come up this year that will set a floor on voting membership prices. And yet I’m the one (see neth’s comments) who is “driving people away.” Is it any wonder I get exasperated?

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  55. Moshe Feder permalink
    April 7, 2013 9:40 pm

    Jonathan, I’m sorry you think that my suggesting a new award is “divisive, dismissive and culturally regressive” because that surely isn’t how I intend it. I sincerely believe that a properly designed and run new award could go a long way to help solve the problems of genre comprehensiveness and feelings of exclusion you wrote about. Egoboo isn’t a zero sum game nor is it a dwindling natural resource upon which the Hugos have an
    OPEC-like stranglehold. We can always make more to give away if we choose to. The willingness to generously offer praise for good work is actually one of fandom’s highest and most laudable values. There’s no need to limit egoboo or define it by one rocket-shaped token.

    Was SFWA’s decision to create the Nebula Awards divisive of the SF community, dismissive of the Hugos, or culturally regressive? I don’t think so. The two awards have coexisted perfectly well for years. The addition of such juried prizes as the World Fantasy Award and the Clarke Award have done no such harm either. So I don’t see why my hypothetical non-convention-based award deserves such opprobrium from you. If done right, it could fit comfortably on the virtual mantelpiece right beside the others. As I said, I think many present Hugo voters would support such an award, which would hardly make its existence divisive: indeed, it might instead pull _them_ out into the wider SF&F world beyond traditional fandom.

    And just to be clear, I’m NOT saying that the Hugos are perfect as they are, nor am I necessarily happy with what wins — in many years, what I nominate doesn’t make the ballot, and in most years, what I vote for doesn’t win or even comes in last. Indeed, in some circles I’m still best known as the fan behind the “Vote No Award” campaign, an effort to sustain a minimum standard of winner-quality by reminding everyone that we aren’t _required_ to give out a rocket in every category every year. I still use the No Award option on my ballot freely whenever it’s justified and urge all to do so.

    But the shortcomings of taste or judgment reflected in the results have more to do with the very nature of democratically chosen awards and the mathematical impossibility of a perfect election when there are more than two candidates (see Charles L. Dodgson’s classic paper on that) than anything to be found in the Hugo rules. So I’ve resigned myself to it, even if the most egregious examples (like “Moon” winning BDP a few years ago or “Apollo 13” even being nominated) still make me want to tear my hair and throw things.

    The Hugos have continued to evolve in the years since my friends and I paid for the “Vote No Award” ad in the Worldcon progress report, instituting new categories and splitting old ones. I’m sure that will continue. If that isn’t happening fast enough for you, then I respectfully suggest that change is best effected from within the system. If you won’t or can’t do that, then developing a new award is a time-honored and respectable alternative and one that ultimately might be of greater service to the community and the field.

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  56. April 7, 2013 10:02 pm

    Nope. The problem is that there are multiple groups who want different things that they want called a YA Hugo. It’s not the job of the bureaucracy to smack people’s heads together until they stop arguing with each other. If anyone seriously wants a YA Hugo then they need to put together a proposed amendment that will get approved by the Business Meeting. Personally I’m in favour of a YA award but don’t think it can be a Hugo. To be worthy of the name it would have to be voted on by a reasonably large informed electorate, by which I mean readers within the target age-range. There aren’t enough of them in a typical Worldcon membership. (That’s another problem that I think WSFS should address.)

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  57. kastandlee permalink
    April 7, 2013 10:54 pm

    neth: I don’t know you. I don’t know where you live or what you look like. Here’s a question, meant very seriously: If someone bought you a membership to a Worldcon, would you attend? If so, which one? Loncon 3?

    I ask this because if so, I will personally take up a collection and contribute myself to buy you an attending membership to that convention. You won’t need to interact with me (except if you turn up at the Business Meeting, which is your right, of course). You can just attend and discover what it’s like.

    I attended my first Worldcon (my first ever SF convention, actually) when I was 17 years old, riding a bus overnight 450 miles and paying the inflation-adjusted equivalent of USD140/night for a hotel room. I used up a fairly significant proportion of my personal savings at the time to do so, and I admit that I couldn’t have done so if I hadn’t been living with my grandparents room-and-board free. My grandmother collected me at the bus station the morning I got back and drove me to my first day of college classes. I was still wearing my convention membership badge and other do-dads collected during that convention. It was life-changing to me. It was because it was so life-changing to me that I’ve spent so much of my life and my personal resources working on it. And you know why I went? Not to vote on the Hugo Awards. Not to participate in the Business Meeting (although I did attend the Hugo ceremony and I did go to the Business Meeting, where I made one motion: the adjournment of the first day’s meeting). I went because I was a massive Elfquest fan and wanted to attend “The End of the Quest” party being held there. I went there because I was a huge comics fan, and half of my luggage was stuff to be signed as I met my idols. I went there because I was a fan, and the experience has never left me, even nearly thirty years later.

    So I say: If the membership cost is the only thing holding you back besides the Evil Kevin, I’ll help remove the former, although I won’t remove myself, sorry about that. But with 5000 other fans there, you don’t really have to even talk to me unless you really want to do so.

    No sarcasm. No joking around. I mean it.

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  58. April 7, 2013 11:20 pm

    Kevin

    Believe it or not, even though I single you out, I’m not really meaning this personally, and I certainly don’t consider you ‘evil Kevin’. I also imagine that you’re a perfectly nice person to meet in real life and that we’d probably get along.

    I just feel that you’re the embodiment of the problems with the governance structure of Worldcon and the Hugos. You immediately focus on the procedural details of any discussion and refute ideas point by point. You’re relentless in your defense and people eventually just give up the discussion as a result. It’s intimidating and from the outside looking in it is the opposite of an invitation to get involved. I think all most of us would like to see is an admission that the Hugos aren’t functioning very well right now, or at there is widespread perception that they aren’t. Basically, it comes down to whether the Hugo awards are simply a convention award or if they really are supposed embody SFF fandom as a whole. If it’s the former, re-brand the Hugos and move forward as now. People outside the convention won’t care and those within can have it as they want. If it’s the latter then serious and fundamental reforms of the awards need to be made. And as you and others have made clear, that won’t happen under the current governance structure, so top-to-bottom governance reform needs to occur. Honestly, I’d recommend that outside expertise in Needs Assessments and Strategic Planning be engaged to help reform the organization (I’ve been involved on the Board of Directors for non-profit professional organization for some time and have been through these processes – they are very helpful).

    But I don’t have the time, energy or resources to try and become in Worldcon, especially with the governance structure actively discouraging involvement from anyone who does not have financial and time flexibility to be very involved.

    And that brings me to your generous offer. Honestly, while money is tighter at the moment that I’d like, that’s not the biggest barrier for me attending a Worldcon, particularly if it’s held in the US West. It’s time. Work, my involvement on the BOD of a non-profit and family keep me way too busy to travel in this manner. Especially the family part – it’s not fair to my family for me travel this way when I’m away so much for work already. When my kids are older I hope to have the flexibility for it, or if some future convergence of schedules allow me to do both a business trip and attend a Worldcon. I had hoped that maybe San Antonio would allow me that flexibility this year, but it would be tough (it’s looking like I’ll be in Denver about that time).

    So, maybe I will attend a Worldcon one day. Probably so. But, believe me, the perception of people like me who haven’t attended is one of it being fairly unwelcome. What doesn’t help is that people who are around my age and younger who have attended that I’ve spoken with don’t make it sound much better. Access to authors in an intimate setting is great, but feeling like an outsider the whole time is just no fun. And I hear that a lot from the younger attendees of Worldcon. And that doesn’t even begin to address the mess that is the business meeting. Really, I think it’d be best to just burn all those rules and start from scratch.

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  59. kastandlee permalink
    April 7, 2013 11:29 pm

    neth:

    I am puzzled at why you think the Hugo Awards should be “rebranded.” They’ve always been what they’ve been. What I think you’re saying is that you don’t like the fact that anyone cares about them. Am I misstating your position?

    And as far as governance structure goes, it does sound very much to me like you don’t want the members to have anything to do with it. Maybe I’m misunderstanding you.

    And since you seem to be in the US West, let me further tell you that when I rode the bus from Marysville to Anaheim in 1984 when I was 17 years old, there wasn’t anybody standing there telling me not to attend. I was, I admit, astonished that it turned out that the person standing in line next to me turned out to be a friend of the comic book store manager who had encouraged me to attend Worldcon in the first place. Nobody demanded credentials to attend the Business Meeting (other than the general requirement of a badge, of course!). I sat there and participated, even though I’d never been to one before. Maybe (probably) people didn’t take me seriously, but I was given the same procedural courtesy as every other member. And that hasn’t changed. I’m sorry you seem to think it has. This is why I am frustrated when you seem to take the position that “young people” aren’t welcome. If they weren’t, then I would have been thrown out on my ear. Or is 17 too old?

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  60. Mary Kay permalink
    April 8, 2013 12:22 am

    Baby Boomer dieback will help, eh? I hope you remember that comment with shame when you hit 60 and folks wish you’d shut up/go away/die so they can do X. Really.

    The Hugos are fan based awards and any fan can participate who really wants to. Even back in my starving grad student days I managed to have the Worldcon memberships necessary to nominate and vote. When enough of the younger fans do that, then things representative of what they like will appear on ballots/win Hugos. It really IS that simple. (Yes, I’m very well fixed financially these days, but I haven’t always been. I still participated because I CARED.)

    And for the record in those years when I nominate, which I don’t always do because I don’t if I haven’t read enough, my ballot seldom resembles the final ballot. And when I vote my votes seldom go to things that win. I don’t get bitter and shout about how everybody needs to do things differently. I sigh at the proof, once again, that my tastes are minority tastes.

    I am happy to have younger fans around participating in my version of fandom. However, I don’t hang out in forums explaining to the anime fans, costumers, filkers, gamers, etc. that they’re doing it wrong. I participate in those events on their terms or don’t go. I expect the same courtesy from people hanging out in my version of fandom. Hoping I’ll die so things get more the way you like them is really beyond the pale.

    MKK

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  61. April 8, 2013 2:03 am

    Having just read the original commentary and subsequent replies up to Mary Kay’s post, I’m at a loss to determine what the point is. Your blog rambles on about your thoughts on the Hugo community and the only real specific example it cites–to paraphrase–is that Kevin Standlee is a bully.

    To be honest, I’m really disappointed that the UK version of Being Human didn’t make the ballot, but those are the breaks. I’ll hope it will make it next year.

    The Hugo results are an accumulation of FAN favorites. Most of the nominators and voters are not people who have studied the crafts of writing, editing or art, they’re simply voting for what they like. Sadly, what they like isn’t always the high-quality, meaningful material. Sometimes they’re nominating friends. I’m sure one of the finalists on the Hugo ballot made it for popularity at conventions and not for the quality of work. The reasons people nominate something aren’t always altruistic. I heard many pundits say the reason Argo won the Best Picture Oscar this year was because Ben Affleck hadn’t been nominated for Best Director.

    I don’t understand what you see is the problem with the Hugos. They are awarded based on a consensus of what the voters choose. Over the years I believe the Hugo administers have become very good at how to handle the process. If you want to see what speculative writers agree is the best science fiction of the year on a professional level, you go to the Nebulas. If you want to know what artists think of as the best of their peers, you look at the Chesleys. Star Wars received little recognition at the Oscars, but it was the shoe-in at the 1978 Hugos.

    Considering the escalating numbers of nominators the Hugos has seen over the past few years, it has proven that interest in participation is growing, not falling apart. There were 409 nominating ballots in 2007, which had been fairly typical. It has been steadily growing since then. This year I heard it broke last year’s record with 1,343 nominating ballots.

    You said you want to encourage more discussion about the Hugos, but about what exactly? Exactly what about the process do you think is broken? It sounds like your real complaint is that none of your favorites made it on the final ballot and you’re disappointed that your blog didn’t haven’t enough influence to put them on it.

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  62. Daveon permalink
    April 8, 2013 5:04 am

    That sounds exactly like bureaucratic paralysis to me… lots of people agreed that Something Needs To Be Done and yet somehow the bureaucracy is unable to make that Something happen.

    Jonathon: sorry but that’s NOT an example of bureaucratic paralysis. As several people have pointed out, there’s a lot of debate on what the category means and how it would work overall. The problem is democratic paralysis brought on by the fact that people need to decide what they want. You can’t do ‘something’ if you don’t have a clear idea of what needs to be done… It doesn’t matter how streamlined and effective or agile a bureaucracy you run if those involved don’t actually know what they want.

    Up thread you said you wanted a more culturally and socially relevant Hugo Award. I asked then what you meant. I still don’t really know… And that’s at the heart of this. You can’t complain that people are blocking something from being achieved when you aren’t clear on what is being blocked.

    .

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  63. Daveon permalink
    April 8, 2013 5:09 am

    Neth. I am really struggling with what you really want from this? Like with Jonathon’s complaint about nothing being done, you can’t insist that something needs to be completely restructured but go on and say that basically somebody else has to do what you want done,

    I understand not having the time to get involved, I’m running a start up. When I’m at a con I do what I can to help people out… When I’m not there. I’m not there.

    I’m also at a loss to comprehend your perception of an event youve not attended? I’ve been to 4 Worldcons in 20+ years. I loved them all.

    Like

  64. Daveon permalink
    April 8, 2013 5:15 am

    Retreading the thread. Jonathon, you are starting to sound to me like you really wish there was a secret cabal of SMOFs sitting in a room somewhere making these decisions and enforcing them, so that the problems of messy democracy would go away.

    There’s a saying that springs to mind: be careful of what you wish for.

    Like

  65. April 8, 2013 6:32 am

    Daveon — No… I’m going to stand by the ‘Bureaucratic Paralysis’ charge because I think it is pretty clear what people want: A YA Hugo. However, because of the way in which the Hugos are governed, there is a problem even getting this idea to the point where a vote might be tabled. This is a bit like a head-of-government saying “I want to invade country X” but because the people running the country can’t decide what “invade” and “country” actually mean, the invasion doesn’t take place.

    Regarding the secret cabal of SMOFs, would these be the people who issued a DMCA take-down notice when an anonymous fan started leaking what they were saying to the wider community? ‘Secret Cabal’ is needlessly inflammatory but I would certainly say that the Hugo Awards have a problem with openness and accountability to the wider genre community.

    I did say that I wanted a more socially, politically and culturally open set of Hugo Awards and this discussion has, for me at least, made it clear quite how difficult delivering such a thing might be.

    Firstly, I would like established fandom to recognise that people complaining about the Hugo Awards on the internet are not only entitled to their views but also part of the on-going cultural conversation about what fandom is and where it’s heading. Today’s complainers are tomorrow’s established fans and trying to silence criticism prevents that process from happening.

    Secondly, I would like to see more of the Hugo governance brought out into the open. Publishing minutes and Youtube clips of business meetings is a good start but I think having discussions of the process be locked away on a largely unknown and manifestly secretive mailing list is really not culturally healthy.

    Thirdly, as Kevin mentioned, I think that opening ratification up to people outside of the business meeting would be a really good idea. Worldcons are setting up websites to handle the nomination and voting processes anyway and it wouldn’t take much more effort to allow a wider vote. Yes, processes would have to be changed (for starters you’d have to table motions quite a lot earlier) but putting that process within the immediate reach of people committed enough to vote and nominate might encourage these people to get involved in governance. I suspect most people wouldn’t be interested but then, a lot of people who attend Worldcon don’t bother to vote for the awards anyway.

    People resorting to the standard defence mechanism that I’m bitter about my choices not getting selected are kind of way off base… at this point, I’m not as concerned about the outcome of the Hugos or the constitution governing them as I am about the culture surrounding the discussion of the Hugos and how the awards are governed. I don’t think it’s healthy to have an institutional culture that sees wider discussion as some sort of attack that needs to be defended against.

    Like

  66. kastandlee permalink
    April 8, 2013 7:01 am

    > for starters you’d have to table motions quite a lot earlier

    Not necessary. I have never said that the first passage of motions would be by popular vote. The Business Meeting would still have to pass things. I’m talking about the ratification stage. This is similar to how amendments to the California constitution happen: if the state legislature approves them, they are placed on the following general election’s ballot, and if a majority of those people voting vote Yes, the change becomes part of the state’s constitution.

    In my opinion, we would be better off if amendments given first passage by the Business Meeting were submitted to the members of the following year’s Worldcon by ballot distributed with the final Hugo Ballot and having the same deadline. Anything that got more yes votes than no votes when balloting closed (roughly a month before the Worldcon) would be ratified and the change would take effect with the following year’s Worldcon. (Note that I have all of the necessary details worked out, and my proposal can be made to work without having to utterly recast and destroy all existing institutions of WSFS.)

    The business about a “web site” is a red herring. It’s irrelevant. We already have a voting system in place, and we explicitly authorize electronic voting in everything except site selection. (Please don’t get me started about that exception. I’m not happy about it. See Aussiecon 4 Business Meeting video if you want to know why. Remember, by WSFS standards, I’m a lunatic radical leveler trying to Destroy Everything.) While most people now vote electronically, they’re not required to do so. Some people may have difficulty understanding this, but even now there are still fans (my wife is one of them) would don’t like electronic voting and would prefer to cast their ballots on paper; however, it doesn’t matter. The existing system can handle both electronic and paper ballots.

    I’d even be amendable to a process that bypasses the Business Meeting entirely, although that really is much more radical. If a specified number or percentage of members of the current Worldcon signed (yes, I don’t have a problem with there being an electronic signing system) a petition for a given constitutional amendment, that amendment would then be placed on the ballot of the following Worldcon, and if ratified it would take effect with the following Worldcon. Again, there is sufficient detail and process to make it possible to do it. (It does have the very serious fault present in California’s initiative constitutional amendment process, in that very badly drafted legislation gets written into the state’s fundamental governing document.)

    I would also require that the initial constitutional change that actually implemented this be required to go through the process itself. That means the first time would actually require three years: the existing two-year passage-ratification process, followed by the members of the third Worldcon having to vote in favor of it, and then a transition process to deal with other constitutional amendments that were pending when the change was made. It’s complicated and procedurally awkward, but it can be made to happen.

    I think, however, that you’d still have the same problem about a YA Hugo. A constitutional amendment that says, “There shall be a Young Adult Fiction Hugo Award” with no other words in it has as much meaning as “There shall be peace on earth and goodwill toward fen.” I know that doesn’t make you happy, but I’m interested in things that work, not ideological purity.

    Mind you, I think that getting the Business Meeting to vote away what little authority it has would be extremely difficult. Harder than it was to get the British House of Lords to vote away most of their own authority. WSFS doesn’t have a Monarch, after all. It would be more like the House of Commons voting to place all important decisions before the public for a referendum.

    I really want you to subscribe to the SMOFS list. It’s not really the Lair of People Who Control the World that you think it is. In fact, I bet that if you did subscribe, you’d rapidly unsubscribe due to your frustration with the participants. Anyone can subscribe if s/he asks. The address is published in the WSFS minutes. (Yes, the link in the last one was dead; that wasn’t deliberate, and has since been fixed.) The only reason membership is “limited” is because the list manager doesn’t want people subscribing who don’t really understand what the subject matter is. Nevertheless, I personally don’t think that I have anything invested in the list being “secret.” Do you really think there’s a Shadowy Cabal that Controls Everything? Seriously?

    Like

  67. April 8, 2013 7:40 am

    The Arthur C. Clarke Awards, on the other hand, are completely opaque: Not only do you have to be a paid-up member of the BSFA or the SF Foundation in order to take part, but it’s not at all clear how jurors are selected. I think they’re basically approached at cons and pub meetings by the bloke organising it…

    The bloke organising it has very little to do with selecting the judges. As you say, to be a judge you have to be a member of either the SFF (an academic SF organisation) or the BSFA (a fan SF organisation) or work for a third organisation (currently Sci-Fi London). So the award itself is aiming to cover high and low criticism and with one semi-outsider perspective but the selection of the judges themselves is down to the individual organisations. Any smoke filled rooms are at this level, rather than anything to do with the director of the award.

    Like

  68. Daveon permalink
    April 8, 2013 7:48 am

    Jonathon: you see one problem I have is that I don’t want a YA Hugo. End of. I don’t see any particular need for it, I wonder how many people would vote for it and I don’t really know what it is anyway. So while you say it’s clearly what people want, well, I’m a person, and I don’t want it. I’ve read the debates, I’ve had people discuss it with me and I remain highly unconvinced it would do anything. Now, fortunately I don’t feel too strongly about it and I won’t be blocking a vote or trying to, but what I am doing is trying to show you that just because you want something and a lot of people you know want it still doesn’t mean you can have it over the wishes of others. It would just be another category I’d leave blank.

    Next. I don’t know who issued the take down. It wasn’t me because I’m not a member of the list and couldn’t. If I had been able to though, I damn well would have done. That Tumblr served no purpose other than to point and laugh at people talking on a list SO secret anybody can join!

    My core problem with this discussion is what you are reading as an attempt to silence new fans, I read as people who have a lot of experience trying to keep things working trying to explain to people on the outside what the harsh realities are. As I’ve said, I don’t go to the business meetings, I don’t really have a role in this except as somebody grateful that there are people like Kevin who do facilitate something I enjoy very much.

    What colours my view on this is simple: I did the student politics thing, I’ve run large committees for things in the real world. I’ve helped out with people running global standards bodies. I’ve spent 20 years working in the software industry involved in commercial and product development focused businesses. And they work in a similar way and anybody who hasn’t been involved before who comes along demanding change who hasn’t really worked on some of the tricky stuff and doesn’t have details of what they want is going to get shut down quickly. In the work place, in extreme circumstances, you could get fired. This is one of the reasons I don’t get involved in this stuff in Fandom because it’s hard and my hobby is something I do to get away from my real life of endless meetings and planning!

    Finally back to your inclusive Hugo Awards, and what, for me is the most frustrating thing. You propose, in general terms some things that I think make sense – making it easier to find the minutes etc… But somebody has to write the minutes and get them up, somebody has to take the video and put it out there. Somebody who isn’t being paid to do any of those things who will do it because they’re a good person. In this context his name is Kevin and he’s had a lot of things said about him on this thread.

    But no matter what changes are made to the way a volunteer organization works. At the end of the day, you cannot vote on nor debate vague concepts like ‘cultural inclusiveness’. It’s meaningless. Unless you can codify what you mean we’re no closser to a change that can work, no matter how much you streamline the bureaucracy around it. You can’t just expand the nomination process without also setting rules up for what will make it onto a ballot, otherwise the ballots themselves will end up meaningless too. Getting to the point of having a motion to table (btw that means the exact opposite in American English than it does in British English… Learned that one the hard way) requires thinking about these things in detail and presenting something that can work.

    And so we’re back here with nothing specific on what you propose to actually get things done. I agree with most of the ideas you outline… Making them happen requires that you engage with people and come up with some specific proposals. People can’t vote on something. It’s one thing to come up with a good idea. It’s something else entirely to execute on it.

    That’s why those twins didn’t build Facebook and Mark Zuckerburg did.

    Like

  69. Tero permalink
    April 8, 2013 7:49 am

    “No… I’m going to stand by the ‘Bureaucratic Paralysis’ charge because I think it is pretty clear what people want: A YA Hugo.”

    And I would say you are mistaken. There are people who want a YA Hugo. There are also people who don’t want that (including some YA authors), many of them outside the “established fandom” blamed here. You frame this issue as if there is an Internet-wide consensus that there should be a YA Hugo, and a clique of obsolete fandom who oppose this with the support of bureaucratic tactics. This is incorrect.

    I agree that the process could be more open. But you are not doing your argument any favors by assuming that your viewpoint is pretty much universally supported, when it isn’t.

    Like

  70. April 8, 2013 8:01 am

    Kevin — Your suggestions sound excellent and I wish you the best of luck with them, I think they would all serve to make the process seem a lot more accessible and making stuff seem accessible is half-way to getting people to become more involved :-)

    And I have registered for the SMOFs list now, if only out of curiosity!

    Like

  71. April 8, 2013 8:17 am

    Daveon — I take your point about not wanting a YA Hugo but surely you would like there to be a tabled motion so that the issue could be settled democratically one way or another? From what I’ve read here, there’s a large question mark over whether or not a working motion will even be discussed at the next business meeting and that really is bureaucratic paralysis because the bureaucratic process is making it impossible for a decision to be reached either way.

    I don’t think you need fixed definitions for the categories: If people decide that erotic cabaret performances involving garden furniture qualify for the ‘Best Young Adult’ novel then that’s the will of the voters and a healthy wider discussion can not only unpick that choice but maybe help to ensure that the definition goes in a more interesting dimension in following years. The legitimacy of the Hugo Awards come from its heritage and its democratic nature, not from the elegance of its legal draftsmanship.

    I know that anyone can join the SMOFs list, but would you not agree that the DMCA take-down notice spoke heavily against the idea that this is an open discussion that anyone can join? If people said those (sometimes intensely stupid) things on a mailing list, why would they not be willing to stand by them in the light of day?

    I’ve been involved in a few volunteer organisations myself and I know that a) everything moves at the rate of the least committed person and b) everyone prefers talking about stuff to actually doing stuff. Many’s the time I’ve seen anemic and ramshackle volunteer groups spring to life whenever there’s a power struggle only for them to promptly go back to sleep once the power struggle is decided one way or the other. This is one of the reasons why I’m less focused upon the shortcomings of the WSFS constitution or the outcome of the awards than I am on how the Hugo Awards are discussed by the wider community. We might not be able to turn a supertanker any faster than the laws of physics allow but we can at least allow the crew and the people on the dock to suggest navigation tips and maybe take an interest in improving the engines and rudders.

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  72. Tero permalink
    April 8, 2013 8:24 am

    “would you not agree that the DMCA take-down notice spoke heavily against the idea that this is an open discussion that anyone can join?”

    Not when it was directed against something that clearly didn’t want open discussion, but instead carefully picked only quotes framed to make the discussion look one-sided, and took things out of context to make them look worse. In other words, the point of the Tumbler never was to give an accurate picture of the discussion but instead to make SMOFS look bad.

    That said, I think the takedown notice still was abusing the DMCA system. The blog contained a few individual quotes, not copyrighted works.

    Like

  73. April 8, 2013 9:15 am

    Tero — I agree that the Tumblr was not particularly charitable but people were saying the things that got reposted and getting the Tumblr shut down made the SMOFs seem secretive.

    It’s like that bit in Oliver Stone’s Nixon when Nixon is censoring the transcripts of what he said while in office. He’s blacking everything out because he doesn’t want people to think that their president would say awful things and an aide points out that censoring the transcripts not only make the bad bits seem worse, it also makes it look like the bad things were all the president ever said.

    The SMOFs Tumblr shone an unflattering light into the world of the SMOFs but while the light may have been incredibly unflattering, shooting out the light only made them look worse.

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  74. Tero permalink
    April 8, 2013 9:17 am

    I agree about that, trying to get it taken down was stupid.

    Like

  75. April 8, 2013 12:38 pm

    Hi,Mr.McCalmont,

    Kindly allow me to translate into romanian and to post in the Romanian SF&F online magazine (www.srsff.ro/), your review of „The Windup Girl”.
    Thank you.

    Best regards,
    Cristian Tamas

    Like

  76. April 8, 2013 12:55 pm

    Cristian, you could always email me! But sure, feel free to translate it :-)

    Like

  77. April 8, 2013 1:35 pm

    wow. You know I’ve never seen Kevin’s efforts on behalf of Worldcon, the Hugo’s, the business meeting and what-all to be informative, instructive and explanatory. I’ve been the recipient of both correction (on the facts – not opinion) and support during my own engagement with these issues.

    But then maybe my perspective is a but different than most because I also did what Kevin did: My trip was only a 45 minute one. On the other hand I was 13, not 17.

    I also had the most wonderful, eye-opening and life-changing experience of my life. I wanted to learn all there was to learn about fandom – running clubs, publishing fanzines, putting on conventions, hang out with all manner of different people from all over the world- some quirky, some even quite bizarre, but all colorful, interesting, each of whom had something of value I could learn. And they taught me – everything from how to make (really good) sangria in a 50 gallon garbage can, to how to use white space effectively in a publication’s layout, to how to schedule massively complex events (I ultimately managed the next-to-last Hugo Awards banquet in 1977).

    Where else can you sit in a hallway from sometime in the early evening until well past dawn endlessly discussing your favorite subject, but at a convention? And not just your favorite subject, but the favorite subjects of everyone else sitting around, as well as casual passers-by who happen to get drawn in?

    I don’t want to be negative about this at all – like Kevin, my interest in these kinds of discussions is not to shut down discussion or turn people away
    . MY interest is to try and convey the value and richness of fandom, its conventions and events and to encourage everyone to participate. That there are disconnects are painfully obvious when someone like Jonathan bothers to look deep and yet comes to the conclusions he does.
    One potential disconnect is seemingly at least somewhat generational; I never met a fan at a convention who wasn’t willing to argue their point when they felt strongly about it; perhaps self selection, but I also never met a fan at a con who wasn’t willing to pitch in and work – hard – to make something they believed in happen (over the course if YEARS if needs be). Here, on the web, I see just as much complaining and agitating – but I also see a lot of giving up. Instead of joining, I see people self-selecting themselves OUT of the process – excusing it with the belief that they aren’t welcome in the first place, so why bother?
    “Fandom” can’t kidnap likely recruits. Like Kevin did, like I and countless others did, the individual has to make the first move. They have to engage, state they they are someone who is interested and someone to be reckoned with. They have to TAKE a seat at the table and speak up. And yes, making that move can be scary and frustrating. It’s just like that first day at a new school. Will the others like you, respect you? Do they have milk and cookies at lunch or should you have brought your own? How will you ever figure out where you fit in?
    For its part, “Fandom” could be doing a better job at outreach and welcoming – but it should be remembered that fandom is largely a meritocracy. Great! You’ve done stuff in the past – what’s next?
    Fandom is very much about what the fans make it – it’s been that way from the beginning. You can self-select yourself in, or self-select yourself out.

    Like

  78. April 8, 2013 1:37 pm

    that should be that I’ve never seen Kevin’s efforts as anything BUT informative, instructive and explanatory..(stupid tablet keyboard)

    Like

  79. Alex permalink
    April 8, 2013 2:33 pm

    You wrote;

    “And I have registered for the SMOFs list now, if only out of curiosity!”

    Some would count that as a win.

    Like

  80. April 8, 2013 2:46 pm

    Hi Steve :-)

    While I’ve not really benefited at all from fandom, I can see that others have and so I really understand the affection for those institutions, that heritage and that way of life. I can see it even though I suspect it was never going to have been a good fit for me.

    On the issue of ‘working hard’ I think you need to step back and look at the bigger picture here:

    The problem is that what we’re effectively dealing with is the shatterzone between two distinct and partly overlapping fan cultures. On the one hand, you have the traditional fandom you speak of and on the other, there’s the internet-based fandom that I am happy to represent (though I do have serious misgivings about some aspects of it too).

    Some fans come up in one of the two cultures and then happily engage with the other side of the fence meaning that there are a lot of fans who maintain blogs, review widely, discuss stuff on twitter but also write for fanzines, go to conventions and literally speak the language. However, some fans on my side of the fence look at traditional fandom and don’t feel entirely welcome for a number of different reasons that I have mentioned elsewhere in both this post and its comments.

    What I will say is that many online fans work incredibly hard, they just work towards different goals in different ways. As I said in the post, a lot of online fandom is about the books and so online fans cultivate relationships with publishers and authors in an effort to get access to review copies and gain interviews and promotional stuff. They see it as helping the genre to be as successful as possible.

    One of the reasons why the Fan Writing Hugo has served as a real lightening rod for conflict is that many online fans feel that Hugo Writers completely fail to acknowledge their contributions to the field. You look at the shortlist and you see a pro, a semi-professional blogger and a bunch of traditional fanzine writers but none of the people who are really prominent in the world of online genre fandom: No Requireshate, No Abigail Nussbaum, No Liz Bourke, No Aidan Moher, No Adam Whitehead and so on… These are people who devote themselves tirelessly to discussing science fiction and yet they are systematically overlooked in favour of Chris Garcia and his half-baked observations on his last vacation and the last couple of movies he decided to watch.

    Many online fans put a lot into their fannish activities and yet apparently they aren’t “willing to pitch in and work – hard – to make something they believed in happen” Correction: they aren’t willing to pitch in and work hard to make something YOU believe in happen… a lot of these people lack the money and the social capital that would allow them to really benefit from a Worldcon, so why should they put any effort in when they have their own thing going online?

    My position is that these are two different fandoms that really need to be one and the same, but in order to make that happen there has to be more empathy and generosity on both sides.

    Like

  81. kastandlee permalink
    April 8, 2013 2:48 pm

    Thank you! I was hoping there was a word missing from the first reply. :)

    Like

  82. kastandlee permalink
    April 8, 2013 2:53 pm

    > many online fans feel that Hugo Writers completely fail
    > to acknowledge their contributions to the field

    Oh, that’s a simple one. Those online fans’ message isn’t reaching the voters. That’s not a failure of the voters.

    Imagine the most wonderful, brilliant SF novel ever written in some platonic sense. But if the voters never see it, they’ll never nominate it. You can, of course, complain about the taste of the voters, and I really don’t have a problem with that.

    These “online fans” need to do a better job of finding the 10,000 or so people who are eligible to vote, rather than kvetching that “the Hugos” are ignoring them.

    Like

  83. Daveon permalink
    April 8, 2013 2:57 pm

    Jonathon: The core of the YA problem, is there doesn’t, and I stand to be corrected on this, appear to be a working proposal that could even be considered. The business meetings, based on what I’ve read, don’t have time for floor debate and amendments. In that regard it isn’t like a parliament or a union where that’s what the meeting is. A workable amendment needs to be ready for presentation. But I think you must agree, with so little time available to get through business, if there isn’t a working proposal come the convention, that time shouldn’t be wasted?

    Do you need fixed categories? Yes, actually I think you do, otherwise the complaints we’re seeing here at the moment will look like a minor disagreement over which brand of cereal to buy. You can’t run a freeform award. Or rather I don’t believe you can, not without placing an unfair burden on the people that have to run the thing to make some really very unpopular decisions. At the very least having some free form erotica involving garden furniture in the YA Ballot would be pretty damn insulting to the YA authors being recognised on the ballot.

    As it happens, that isn’t far from my actual problem with the idea of a YA Ballot come from two places. First, I’ve seen cogent argument from authors that they don’t like the idea of a ghetto, that somehow a book aimed at Young Adults isn’t a work worthy of the Hugo – and yes, I accept there is an argument that some people actually think that way. Secondly, I don’t like the idea of creating narrow awards that make it even more of a pain to nominate. I already know too little about several of the categories.

    My other problem with category proliferation, especially with vague categories, is I think it ultimately will be counter productive. More categories will mean a wider spread of nominations. A Blog Category? Sure, but as long as you’re ok with creating a perpetual Whatever category for years to come. Not that I necessarily have a problem with that, there needs to be a way to recognise online Fanac… I’ll just be honest and say I have bugger all idea how you’d do that sanely. At least not without a small number of things getting the bulk of the nominations and everything else being a thin spread that will never ever see a ballot.

    On the SMOF thing. I thought the Tumblr wasn’t shining light at all, it was a mean spirited, pretty and cowardly way to point and make fun of people during a fairly nasty debate raging elsewhere on the internet. I don’t think that that ‘light’ did much except entrench opinions. It was enough that people I know who run Conventions were seriously questioning why they bother. People say stupid things on mailing lists, public and private, as they do on blogs. Pointing out a few quotes from discussion threads that ran to hundreds of emails, and only posting the ones designed to garner a reaction didn’t help. In years of selling for a living I’ve learned that it’s generally pretty hard to get somebody to come around to your point of view if you make fun of them.

    Ultimately, I’m coming at this from the opposite point of view. I’m less interested in how its discussed, although this has been fascinating, and more interested in how those that think there’s a problem want it fixed. The other issue, especially with completely volunteer organisations is that they move at the speed of the people doing the actual work, and if people aren’t bringing stuff for consideration then it won’t get done. Sure people can talk about the need for a new rudder and engines and the like, but at the end of the day the ships captain makes the turn and the ships engineer has to install the changes. And ‘I think it should turn faster’ isn’t something an engineer can implement. “Can we increase the steam pressure in the turbines by 10%” OTOH is something that can be done.

    Maybe there needs to be a Shadow or sub-committee version of the SMOF list or a blog even that discusses actual amendments and wording and actually works towards having a plan for increasing the turbine pressure… but somebody, and it’s really not going to be me, is going to have to be up for doing that work.

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  84. Daveon permalink
    April 8, 2013 3:01 pm

    Ugh… read before posting David. D’oh.

    I was extending the ship metaphor slightly when I pressed send. So “Can we increase the turbine pressure by 10%” is something that can be done. However, if the ship’s engineer turns around and says, “Not really, because of X, Y and Z.”

    Don’t get upset with him for blocking you when the proposal doesn’t work.

    And now think we’ve taken that metaphor to breaking point, but I assume you see where I was going with that.

    Like

  85. Alex permalink
    April 8, 2013 3:54 pm

    You wrote:

    “Daveon — No… I’m going to stand by the ‘Bureaucratic Paralysis’ charge because I think it is pretty clear what people want: A YA Hugo. However, because of the way in which the Hugos are governed, there is a problem even getting this idea to the point where a vote might be tabled. ”

    Some logical errors here. You are confusing “bureaucracy” with “democracy”. The reason there isn’t a YA Hugo today, simply, is that people voted against it. There is no obstacle to bringing a motion to the meeting. However, if you want to present a motion that will pass, i.e. that will receive a majority of votes, then you need to address the problems that people have with the motion. And the problem that most people have with the motion is not the “YA Hugo” aspect of it.

    The question is simple: should one book be eligible for both the “Best Novel” and “Best YA Novel” awards at the same time?

    If the answer to that question is no, many people (including me) will see a large problem in how a book is assigned to only one of these categories. Specifically that a great SF novel that would be considered (by voters) to be YA would likely receive many more nominations as “Best YA” then the wider category of “Best Novel”, so a book that might have won the “Best Novel” award would be excluded from the category by a technicality. Alternately, a great YA book might get enough nominations to be in the “Best Novel” category, as has happened in the past, but this would have the effect that, win or lose in the category it ended up in, a great YA book would not win the “Best YA Novel” category even if it was better (in the view of voters, reviewers, etc.) than any of the nominees on the ballot. This is a critical problem, which “let the voters decide” cannot resolve.

    If the answer to that question is yes, well, many voters simply don’t like the idea. That’s democracy, not bureaucracy. If the answer to that question is “yes, but”, which would actually be the outcome I support, this did not satisfy the person who was making the motion last year, and some of his supporters, at the time. Again, democracy. (The “but” I suggest is to simply give it a different name.)

    Whether such questions are decided in the room or submitted to the entire membership, the issues still stand. The motion as presented last year, in which individual works will not be eligible as both “Best Novel” and “Best YA Novel” at the same time, is not likely to ever receive majority support, because of the logical contradiction.

    The short-term consensus is that it’s better to not implement a flawed award than to have one. From my perspective, the path forward would be for the people presenting the motion to accept that the version of the rule that includes the contradictions is not going to pass, and for them to choose a different alternative.

    The process is democratic. Anyone who chooses not to be involved is accepting the status quo (notwithstanding rhetoric about exclusion or “bureaucracy”). Not participating is a choice. That’s democracy.

    Of course I’m simplifying to lump people’s opinions into groups; the reality is that each individual, whether they come to the meeting (or buy memberships at all) or not has their own opinion. Identifying groups is just a method of finding a path to consensus.

    For participating members of the Worldcon/Hugo community, the challenge is to define, administer, and present awards that are relevant to the science fiction fan community. People also have the alternative of creating new awards, though of course that leaves them the challenge of making the awards relevant.

    The question that remains, for you and for each of us, is what are you going to do about it. Every April there is discussion about how to improve the Hugos. And some of us make an effort to educate, inform, and include. New perspectives certainly bring new solutions; for some of us the tricky part is just to explain that the door is actually open.

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  86. Daveon permalink
    April 8, 2013 3:56 pm

    but none of the people who are really prominent in the world of online genre fandom: [list of names deleted]

    Has it occurred to you that there’s an alternative reason for this? In that, and I’ll be honest here, I’d no more nominate some of the people you list there than I would Ted Beale who also lays claim to a popular blog that gets overlooked by the voters.

    As I mentioned in my overly long post, the problem with the online world is there’s too much of it, and a public award with public nominations is, by nature, going to end up within a Standard Deviation of what are the most popular mainstream things out there are. I think there’s definitely a space to recognize online activity, good and bad, but something like the Hugos is just not the way to do it because the voting poll will end up spread too thin.

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  87. kastandlee permalink
    April 8, 2013 4:47 pm

    The funny thing is that the SMOFS e-mail list was originally established to be a place where people who cared about the technical minutiae of WSFS business could hash out proposals without having to eat up precious floor debate time. But over the years the scope has crept massively to cover all sorts of con-running issues, to the point where newcomers have been known to complain that “All you ever do is talk about WSFS constitutional stuff!”

    When I got back and read the minutes from the days before a really widespread use of e-mail and the web, I’m astonished at the sheer volume of business they did. Remember, in those days, you found out what was going to be be discussed by showing up at the meeting; nothing was published in advance. But I also think the meetings were a little bit longer. People who were there before me shudder at the technical discussions when they talk about it.

    Our goal at the Business Meeting — remember, I’ve presided over it five times in four countries — is to get the technical arguments off the floor, pre-con, and in focused committees, so that the debate before the Main Meeting can focus on the substantive issue (“Shall there be a YA Hugo”) rather than the technical ones. Whenever a proposal’s debate gets tangled up in technical debate, there’s a very good chance the meeting will get fed up with it and either send it to a committee with instructions to “come back next year with a more coherent proposal” or simply kill it entirely.

    Within my experience, you don’t see the debate in the British House of Commons or the US House of Representatives or the California State Assembly going into excruciating detail on the exact wording of a proposal; however, you do sometimes see that in the working committee meetings, where they are trying to work out just what they want to accomplish and how they can do it without causing unwanted side effects.

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  88. April 8, 2013 4:49 pm

    “These “online fans” need to do a better job of finding the 10,000 or so people who are eligible to vote, rather than kvetching that “the Hugos” are ignoring them.”

    Really? So putting a blog post online that is accessible to everyone, and then tweeting a link to it isn’t enough?
    You are saying that online fans aren’t engaging because they fail to turn up at the Worldcon business meeting. Yet when it comes to something that is published, and discussed online, then you have to search out the the Hugo voters and make them aware of it… Should we send people a postcard with links to our blogs, or hunt people down and force them to go online?

    You have actually highlighted the issue here. The “Worldcon audience” only accepts engagement when its done their way, and if it isn’t they dismiss it. If the Hugo voters want to engage with modern SFF fandom, all they have to do is go online and join the discussions, maybe make their own blogs. The only barrier to entry in modern fandom is an internet connection. -And I’d argue that without an internet connection, there’s no way you can follow what happens in SFF.
    So where are these Hugo voters? They only show up when the Hugo awards are discussed. Where is their engagement in SFF the other 11 months of the year when there’s lots of discussion of SFF going on online?
    If the people going to Worldcon really are interested in discussing SFF they are welcome to join the online community, no one is stopping them. If they choose not to do that, I question their commitment to SFF.

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  89. kastandlee permalink
    April 8, 2013 4:53 pm

    The membership lists of Worldcons are not secret, although the contact information isn’t published. (Shudders at the screams of invasion-of-privacy that would cause.) The eligible nominating electorate is the union of the members of the current, previous, and subsequent Worldcons as of the end of January every year. I daresay many of those people have internet connections.

    You can’t force people to read what you think they should be reading.

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  90. April 8, 2013 5:01 pm

    I’ll add a little more detail to what you have said. In order to propose an amendment to the constitution you have to be a member. There is no requirement for the proposer to be at the Business Meeting or at the second where the motion might be ratified. It is necessary to have broad support for the motion before it reaches the BM. Anyone who hasn’t already considered the motion and its consequences will likely counter-propose “Object to consideration.” That takes the BM to an immediate vote. If the amendment fails to pass that vote then it is dead immediately with no further discussion. In this situation there is no opportunity to fine-tune the amendment by debate. So if you want to put together an amendment start now to be ready for the 2014 BM. I think it’s already too late for 2013.

    The corollary of this is that a proposed amendment needs to be worded pretty much perfectly. It should be clear from reading the proposal what the effects and possible side-effects are. If the amendment appears to impinge on any other part of the constitution that should be explained. The proposer needs to convince the BM that they have read and understood the constitution and can be trusted to have foreseen any side-effects. How the proposer gains that trust is up to them, but a full discussion on the SMOFS mailing list should probably do it. If the proposed amendment is not close to perfect Object to Consideration will very likely kill it off.

    Just to make it crystal clear: asking WSFS to wave a magic-wand and implement a new award will achieve precisely nothing. Someone needs to put in the time and effort to walk the proposal through the process. If I remember correctly Kevin offered to help anyone who wants a YA Hugo to get their proposal into the correct form. If not there are plenty of people on the SMOFS list ready to do that if someone makes a serious attempt at a first draft.

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  91. April 8, 2013 5:04 pm

    I think Aiden Moher once worked out that his blog alone receives more traffic than the entire eFanzines portal that hosts most of the high-profile traditional zines… and yet many of the same trad fanzine faces keep appearing on the ballot.

    You can’t force people to care but I think that lack of care and respect makes it awkward when people turn around to online fans and tell them that they need to work hard and stop complaining.

    It’s sort of a Mexican standoff really.

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  92. kastandlee permalink
    April 8, 2013 5:08 pm

    It’s not quite as bad as you suggest: There’s still enough time to hash out proposals for this year’s Business Meeting. But showing up on the day with a new proposal like was done in the Good Olde Days before the Interwebz will get you thrown out without a hearing. Despite the desire to paint the BM regulars as dinosaurs who never read anything but physical paper with ink on it, in fact most of them have been paying attention to what’s likely to come up and will have formed initial opinions. They don’t like surprises.

    And you know what: that’s democracy, too. We don’t always think about this, but majorities (particularly two-thirds super-majorities) have rights, too, and one of a super-majority’s rights is to not have its time wasted with an obvious non-starter. In 1993 (the last Worldcon that didn’t have a web site, for historical reference), four particularly odious/clueless proposals landed on the Business Meeting’s desk, and the meeting summarily killed all four of them in less than five minutes, much to the dismay of the person who had gone to the effort to have all of those reams of paper printed up to meet the technical submission requirements.

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  93. April 8, 2013 5:08 pm

    You said “Really? So putting a blog post online that is accessible to everyone, and then tweeting a link to it isn’t enough?”

    There are two possibilities. Either doing that really is insufficient or the voters do see all of that writing and don’t think it is good enough for an award.

    What percentage of the Hugo electorate have Twitter accounts?

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  94. Paula Lieberman permalink
    April 8, 2013 5:09 pm

    If SF/F Hugos were pure popularity from “fans” then “Kim Harrison,” Laurell K Hamilton, Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Stephanie Meyer, James Patterson, the author of The Hunger Games, Jayne Ann Krentz,Christine Feehan, George RR Martin….,would all have Hugos for Best Novel for original work and some Star Trek and Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons novel authors would have Hugos for Best Novel for media tie-in novels. None of them do–though GRRM has Hugos in the shorter fiction categories, and Game of Thrones the TV series won a Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form.

    Ever hear of the Eppies, the Ritas, the Prisms, the Wooden Rockets…? All of them are awards which have selected Best Novel for SF/F from among -their- communities. Some of the winners you may have heard of, such as Sharon Lee and Steve Millers. Others you probably haven’t heard of, because you might not be reading SF/F published by romance publishers and/or online publishers. You don’t read romantic science fiction/science fiction romance/futuristic romance/paranormal romance? Why is that any more or less legitimate than media SF/F conventions and anime conventions? (For that matter, notice that anime work tends to not get nominated for Hugos….)

    Some of the SF/F romance authors are regulars at Norwescon, Philcon, Balticon, Arisia, Albacon, etc. Many go to Dragoncon and San Diego Comic Cons and such, and Yaoicon, Gay Romance Literature (or something like that), and romance conventions–Authors After Dark (paranormal romance convention) ,Romance Writers of America, Romantic Times, RWA chapter conferences including the futuristic/paranormal chapter…. look at the programs for those conferences and note the amount of SF/F-related programs and SF/F-related events.

    They have conventions, they do online chatting, they have blogs, they have message forums, they arrange meet-ups in person….do they and their up to millions of readership not fit in your definition of “fans”? But, most of them are not members of the Worldcon and are not Hugo voters, and even fewer of them go anywhere near a Worldcon Business Meeting where the couple hundred maybe people do the sausage-making which produces Hugo rules. Minors have not only attended and voted on motions at Worldcon Business meeting, they’ve in some cases oriiginated motions. And over the years, minors have had leadership positions at some Worldcons–a pair of high school students ran Registration at the 1971 Worldcon.

    The world is a different place today than it was in 1971, though. That world did not have the Internet, did not have online publishing, did not have desktop video production, did not have iPads and iStores and Android and personal computers and online forum and anime conventions with tends of thousands of people and San Diego Comics Con with 100,000+ people .

    The Worldcon is not the biggest SF/F-oriented event going, and hasn’t been for decades. Dragoncon is bigger, New York Comic Co are several times larger, anime conventions can be a full order of magniture larger, regional conventions (Norwscon, Balticon, and before they downsized Boskone and Minicon) can be larger, and San Diego Comic Con, is a -lot- larger. The early Star Trek conventions dwarfed the size of the largest Worldcon–but then more people follow TV series and go to movies, than read books.

    The Worldcon’s nature means it can’t grow the way Dragoncon and the Comic Cons and some of the local/regional SF/F conventions grew–“same time, same place, next year” builds attendance figures, and there is also a snowball effect, that people attend because other people they know attend, in the same place at the same time every year. The Worldcon moves around in not only location, but date. It’s more effort to plan when an event wanders around the world year to year and the dates also wander around, not to mention the cost issue of the travel and accommodations and adding travel time to the time spent at the convention.

    The Hugos represent the people who’ve gone out of their way to join a Worldcon and nominate and vote–as opposed to the exhortations I see urging people to vote early and often in on-line book popularity contests, particularly ones modeled after college basketball “March Madness” one-on-one matchup elimination contests. Those elimination matches do elimination down selects until There Is Only One, which one is the winner.. Those things reminded me of the long-ago Hogu balloting where stuffing the ballot was encouraged….

    The Worldcon has never been a popularity event–the Shaver mysteries SF/F magazine issues were I think the largest circulation issues of print SF/F magazines there have ever been. The Dero stuff was absolute crap, but on the basis of pure popularity, sold SF/F magazines better than anything else has. Shaver mystery fans, however, did -not seem to be a majority of Worldcon attendees, or for that matter, really be interested in attending Worldcons or other SF/F conventions….

    SF/F fandom is balkanized–there are anime fans, filkers, SF/R romance fans, GLBT SF/F fans, Star Wars fans, Star Trek fans (still), Browncoats, comic fans, costumers (cosplayers in the anime world lingo) Supernatural fans, Dr Who fans, Game of Throne fans, Twillight fans, Hunger Games fans, SF/F board and card games fans, online games fans, bloggers, fancasters, etc.

    Dragoncon’s parade celebrates single author fandoms and other special interest groups. The Worldcon’s focus is less on celebrating balkanization. Yes, someone can go to a Worldcon and only be around the artshow, or the dealers’ room, or gaming, or watching film/video, or attending concerts and filking, or attending arts and craft programming and events, but the focus of the convention is on it being a gestalt community, as opposed to being a collection of SF/F-related special interest groups all meeting at the same set of facilities on the same weekend.

    One thing that the Worldcon has traditionally had, is that professional in the field–writers, editors, and artists– were among its founders as being fans themselves. Editors and writers and artists still come to the convention, and some sometimes participate in the Business Meeting. The Worldcon was founded as a community, and continues to exist as a community. Every community has its own community values. The community values of different fan communities, differ… and if a community doesn’t meet with your approbation for its values, you choices include not only attempting to change it–which can irritate or even incense the longterm-invested “installed base” depending on how the would-be community -changer- is perceived as regards demanding changes not appealing to long-time workers–and/or starting up a -new- community provided there actually exist enough like-minding willing collaborators to create a new community….

    Fandom balkanization exists specifically because there were/have been enough likeminded people to create all those different communities. Some of them were spinoffs from “traditional” SF/F fandom–anime fandom in the USA mostly was started by people who’d been members of “traditional” SF/F literature and comic fandom. Comics fandom is a spinoff from SF/F fandom, for that matter. Some groups spontaneously generate themselves without any prior contact with other fandoms… the basic meme is one of people have a desire for a -community- of the same interest/interests focus/foci, and make themselves into community. There’s a self-selection process. If people find the community and like it, they join. If they don;t find it, they don’t join. If they find it and it doesn’t appeal to them, they leave without joining. Or, they participate for a time and then find something else which interests them more, or have things which have a higher priority which they do…

    The Hugos are community awards of the Worldcon. The Worldcon has a history stretching back most of a century now, with a bare handful of the original members still alive today–but there is a continuity, with many of the founders having attended the Worldcon for as long as they were physically and mentally able to partcipate. There’s a legacy that extends over the whole history–Robert Silverberg has been in attendance at every Hugo Awards dating all the way back to the first. Yes, the convention moves around and that makes it difficult if not impossible for most people to attend each year, year in, year out–but there are people that the -community- is so important to, that they do attend, year in, year out, year after year after year.

    That’s the backdrop that the Hugos are a public output of. The rest of the world doesn;t see the Worldcon community, it sees awards given by the community–and fails to recognize the longstanding community which gave rise to the Hugos. The Hugos are NOT a public popularity contest, they’re awards given by a community based on the community values. Outsiders demanding the community rejigger the Hugos to the outsiders’ perspective, are missing the point entirely. .

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  95. April 8, 2013 5:13 pm

    Shrdluo1 — I did spend a lot of time looking into these types of things and while I may not have hands-on experience, I do see what’s involved in getting a constitutional change through. However… when you say:

    “Just to make it crystal clear: asking WSFS to wave a magic-wand and implement a new award will achieve precisely nothing. Someone needs to put in the time and effort to walk the proposal through the process.”

    I see an overly bureaucratic culture in need of root and branch reform. combine that with the apparent social capital mountain that any would-be reformers need to climb and you’re getting close to an iron law of oligarchy situation in which everything grows progressively more bureaucratic and constricted.

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  96. Alex permalink
    April 8, 2013 5:24 pm

    Daveon writes: “Maybe there needs to be a Shadow or sub-committee version of the SMOF list…”

    The business meeting can empanel committees to discuss complicated questions. That’s how we handled the BDP split and other changes in the past. Those committees have had mailing lists. If additional channels of input are required, that’s not hard.

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  97. Paula Lieberman permalink
    April 8, 2013 5:25 pm

    PS–there was an attempt to try a YA Hugo years ago. There weren’t enough people nominating enough of the same titles, for the category to be on the final Hugo ballot. It has the standing therefore as “failed category.”

    There are other organizations and communities which have YA awards. in SF/F. Saying that there Must Be A YA Hugo To Provide Visibility/Promotion, is rather an insult to those awards, and in some ways to common sense–the success of the Twilight series, of The Hunger Games, and of other extremely popular YA series, has them outselling “adult” SF/F. They’re hardly invisible

    If someone doesn;t want to read YA, they don’t want to read it. Playing religious zealot proselytizer demanding people pay attention to and read something they’re not interested in, is rather like being back in a public school classroom having Books by Dead White Males as required reading…. I read SF/F by choice, not by force. The YA Hugo issue reminds me of, again, religious zealots. The YA books I read, I read because I want to, not because some busybody insists that I -must- read it because their taste trumps mine. And the YA books I don’t read because I’m not interested in plot/setting/characters/writing style/voice (I spedread Twilight and have avoided the sequels. Contemporary high school romance where the characters happen to include paranormals, is not appealing to me….) I would not appreciate being told, “But you MUST read these!”

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  98. Daveon permalink
    April 8, 2013 5:26 pm

    Really? So putting a blog post online that is accessible to everyone, and then tweeting a link to it isn’t enough?

    In a word. No. That’s not enough for anybody who wants to promote their blog for any subject, why on earth do you think that should be enough for you to get a Hugo Award?

    There’s a fairly large number of people who read Blogs and engage in on-line fandom and have been doing so since the mid-1990s. But it’s a two way street. The Hugos are voted on by people who go to the Worldcon – it’s what they are. Whether you go to the Business Meeting or not. (I don’t, I think I’ve said that, I have better things to do in the mornings at Worldcons like sleep off my hangover.)

    Just putting out a Tweet with a link? Give me a break, seriously. I read about a dozen blogs about SF on a regular basis, as well as LJ and a Facebook Forum… I am seriously lacking in time to read everything out there and get my job done, and I’m hardly alone in that. There’s a lot of noise out there. Likewise, for every Requireshate, there’s a Vox Day… and they have followers too. So, as I said upthread. Be very careful of what you wish for.

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  99. Daveon permalink
    April 8, 2013 5:33 pm

    I see an overly bureaucratic culture in need of root and branch reform.

    Yes, you’ve said this. But I’ve yet to see a credible alternative. We have bureaucracy for a reason, without it things just don’t get done. Honestly, I am sympathetic to the complaint… as I said, I’m certainly not going to take part in the process but, and this is important, I don’t particularly think anything is broken.

    If you think that something is broken and needs reform, but aren’t going to do anything about it, nor listen to the valid objections of the people who have tried to explain how it ended up like that then I’m honestly getting a Monty Python Life of Brian moment about politics. Or, probably more accurately given the news today, the sinking feeling I used to get at NUS meetings in the 1990s where one or another wing of radical left wing groups would complain about how nothing would get done and to protest this would walk out of the meeting having held up proceedings for an hour with endless interruptions.

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  100. Paula Lieberman permalink
    April 8, 2013 5:40 pm

    Getting a motion through the Worldcon Business Meeting is NOT anything like how the US Government or a plutocracy operate. There are no hidden earmarks and “Monsanto Protection Acts” inserted into hundreds of pages of legislation….

    Someone submits a motion and at the Preliminary Business Meeting people agree or disagree that it;s worth going forward with. If it goes forward it gets put on the agenda for the Business Meeting to deal with as business. People may propose amendments, which may of may not get incorporated into/replace material in the motion. The motion may be passed, rejected, or sent to a committee for further consideration. Or it may be voted down, and pop up the next year, yet again, like some thoroughly noxious pest plant.

    A change to the Hugos takes the approval of the Business meeting at two consecutive Worldcon–this prevents a local area from rewriting rules based on purely local considerations.

    About a third of the membership of the Worldcon are regulars coming back each or nearly each year, a third are sometimes attendees, and a third are from the local area and mostly won’t be attending another unless one comes back to the area within the next ten years or so.

    A delay of a year, to confirm that the Worldcon members who care enough to attend the Buiness Meeting think the motion is worthwhile, is a long time compared to how long the Worldcon has been in existence, and to how long the Hugos have been around.

    (Note, I was one of the people opposed to the BDP split–the Short Form has turned out to be “Best Dr Who” with the nominees sometimes including a minority of items which are not episodes of Dr Who…. to me that says “bad category.” )

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  101. Alex permalink
    April 8, 2013 6:06 pm

    Jonathan McCalmont wrote:

    “The problem is that what we’re effectively dealing with is the shatterzone between two distinct and partly overlapping fan cultures. ”

    Truthfully, I saw one culture, it just happens to be so large that it’s hard for any one person to keep track of all of it.

    So the logical solution which many people try to do is to identify channels and portals that do a good job of keeping track of what’s going on. These in turn link to each other, and so on. Eventually the word gets around. Can we improve these links? Sure.

    Someone else mentioned they follow a dozen good blogs. I’m like that. I have a Twitter account, but my main input channel is Facebook. A few people I follow are good at keeping up with what’s going on, so they are within one shout of a very wide range of sites and feeds, and those in turn are within one hop of a much wider set of forums, and so on. Word gets around. We can improve this, though from my perspective, it works much better to improve communication to assume goodwill. (Something I learned from editing Wikipedia.)

    There are some insular people in the Worldcon community, as there are in every fan community I have ever encountered. You list some fan writers you like that I’ve never heard of. Well I don’t follow fan writing very closely, so my not knowing them isn’t a big deal. I think Chris Garcia does an awesome job of encouraging and soliciting new voices and geenrating useful original output, but again that’s just my opinion; I think he’d be among the first to want to hear about other great fan writers. Honestly I think it’s very cute that you think fan writing is quite so important, and I think “traditional” fan writers’ hearts would be warmed by that sentiment. The truth is that it has always, really always been difficult for fan writing to get an audience, and all corners of that community would be delighted at any effort to spread the word. As I mentioned, we built portals to focus and share good works and good words, and I commend Bill Burns for his work in creating the eFanzines site. Might be an idea to make sure that your favorite fan writers are using eFanzines to get a wider audience. Or create another portal/aggregation site, and make sure it has stuff that is worth following.

    Like many fans, I spend lots of time online, though most of my effort is focused on running conventions, which is to say, providing places for fans to come together and share their interests. Like most conrunners, I’m happy to hear from and provide a forum for people who have new and interesting things to say. My suggestion, on the SMOFS list, was that some of us need to make more of an effort to solicit and promote recommendations, to widen the circle of what Hugo nominators become aware of.

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  102. Gerry M. Allen permalink
    April 8, 2013 6:08 pm

    I have nominated and voted for the Hugos for decades. The process works as well as it can be expected to. All arguments against the current process boil down to: I don’t like the way it works but it is someone else’s fault.

    Like

  103. Tero permalink
    April 8, 2013 6:28 pm

    Re: improving visibility of new stuff, new fan writers, etc: There’s been a LiveJournal community for recommending Hugo-worthy stuff for quite a long time. It occurs to me that a “Hugo Award Recommendations” Facebook group might be a good complementary thing, for reaching out to potential voters. My guess is that it would reach a different demographic than LiveJournal. And if several people link to, for example, good posts by the same sf blogger over time, I think people will notice.

    Anyone who is interested in bringing things to the attention of others can set one up — but of course to survive, such group would need a few individuals that would post content to the group every once in a while to keep it going (and to get others posting as well).

    Another example that, in my opinion, is much more useful in bringing diversity to the Hugos than demanding total overhaul of the underlying system is the World SF Blog, which is very good in highlighting stuff that has traditionally been not that popular with the Hugos.

    Like

  104. April 8, 2013 6:31 pm

    Daveon,

    You say that there’s alot of noise out there, yes there is. But I doesn’t take long to filter out that noise. If you engage in the vibrant and inclusive online SFF community, you’ll quickly find that the noise is created mostly by people outside it. The people who don’t engage in the conversation, but instead want to control it are the noise makers. (Vox Day is a good example of that sort of person.)

    I know some of the “Hugo crowd” are online, but they are not engaing with the wider fandom. Wider online SFF fandom is open to anyone who comes and joins in. (And unlike attending Worldcon, money and location is not an issue.) That the “Hugo crowd” choses to keep their online activity apart from that wider SFF fandom says a lot about their desire to be a small clique on the outskirts of modern fandom.

    Like

  105. kastandlee permalink
    April 8, 2013 6:33 pm

    That’s a good idea. I don’t personally like Facebook but can’t dispute its reach. The reason Andy Trembley set up the LJ community was that he had the accounts and it was easy to do, as he stated elsewhere here as I recall.

    I think it likely that TheHugoAwards.org would link to such a Facebook group if it proved itself out and more than just one individual’s soap-box, the way it currently does to the BASFA and NESFA recommendations.

    Like

  106. Alex permalink
    April 8, 2013 6:39 pm

    “would you not agree that the DMCA take-down notice spoke heavily against the idea that this is an open discussion that anyone can join? ”

    No, I would not agree. The DMCA takedown was not initiated by the SMOFS list.

    The Tumblr thread was not an attempt to engage the community in conversation, it was simply a mean-spirited act to attack some people by selectively misquoting them out of context to slant opinions in the most negative light. It was an effort to create conflict and hurt feelings, not to resolve any problem. It succeeded in this goal. In response, a couple of people whose feelings were hurt, feeling that their emails to the SMOFS list should not be constituted as permission to be copied (remembering that “copyright” means “right to copy”) in other forums, submitted takedown requests.

    The SMOFS list is not a decision-making body. No vote was taken. Copyright belongs to individuals, not to the group.

    If whoever was behind the Tumblr thing wanted to engage anyone in conversation, they were and are free to do so. The Tumblr thing was an attack without context; it did not provide any channel to respond, explain, or work towards any resolution. That’s why some people objected to it. Others thought it wasn’t worthy of notice, because there was no channel of actual discussion.

    Like

  107. April 8, 2013 6:44 pm

    When it comes to a defintition of YA, I think that is really simple. YA is not a genre, and neither does it fuction as an age classification, it’s a marketing category. (One that is very popular at the moment. Ender’s Game is for instance being marketed as YA now.)
    So I’d suggest this as (part of the text for) the rules for a Hugo YA category:
    “A novel is defined as YA if it is marketed as YA by its publisher.”
    It’s pretty simple, but it doesn’t really have to be more complicated.
    There’s been many “What is YA?” discussions, and it’s the only workable definition I have ever seen.

    Like

  108. Daveon permalink
    April 8, 2013 6:44 pm

    Weirdmage,

    I know some of the “Hugo crowd” are online, but they are not engaing with the wider fandom.

    Wider fandom? Lets see…. my Fandom is wide enough to include Kevin Standlee, a bunch of people from ancient Fandom like Ted White, Chris Garcia, British ‘serious’ fandom like Pete Weston, organizers of multiple Eastercons of different types and the likes of James Bacon and others who do various things online. I read a bunch of different blogs most days and track a variety of fannish things on LJ and other places. I did my own small part at several of the last Worldcons to help Loncon win their bid and get off to a flying start. I know a chunk of European fandom too. I used to contribute regularly to fannish newsgroups too. I put my companies resources into making sure there was a mobile app for the last couple of Worldcons, not for money, but because I thought there ought to be one… and moving forward I think there will now.

    But I’ve never run a con, I’ve never published a Fanzine, I did have a blog briefly but frankly it’s a lot of work I wasn’t prepared to put in to get people to notice. I am involved only at the periphery of fandom, but I like to think I’m pretty widely involved and as I said they might not know who I am, I am always surprised when people stop and say ‘You”re THAT Dave O’Neill….’

    So I’m sure you understand that after 20+ years going to conventions, reading Fanzines, and Blogs, and Newsgroups and going to parties and helping people where I can all over the place, to be told that I’m insular in my opinions is just a little bit insulting?

    Like

  109. Alex permalink
    April 8, 2013 6:57 pm

    Weirdmage wrote: “So I’d suggest this as (part of the text for) the rules for a Hugo YA category: “A novel is defined as YA if it is marketed as YA by its publisher.””

    Yeah, this is irrelevant. The problem with the YA award is not with the definition of YA.

    Like

  110. Paula Lieberman permalink
    April 8, 2013 6:57 pm

    “No… I’m going to stand by the ‘Bureaucratic Paralysis’ charge because I think it is pretty clear what people want: A YA Hugo.”

    It was very clear at the Business Meetings I was at which e.g. Chris Barker introduced motions for a YA Hugo, that it was NOT what the majority of people who went out of their way to go to the Business Meeting, wanted. The traditional stack-the-Business-Meeting-with-proponents tactic completely failed to provide a majority at the Business Meeting, year after year, in favor of implementing a YA Hugo. The vast majority of people at the Worldcon weren’t interested enough to bother going to the Business Meeting, and of the people at the Business Meeting, the proponents were outnumbered. If there were a strong “want” for a YA Hugo, then the votes would have gone differently.

    “However, because of the way in which the Hugos are governed, there is a problem even getting this idea to the point where a vote might be tabled. This is a bit like a head-of-government saying “I want to invade country X” but because the people running the country can’t decide what “invade” and “country” actually mean, the invasion doesn’t take place.”

    Huh? It got voted -down-, repeatedly. As for “tabling,” each Worldcon is run by the particular organization running the Worldcon that year. Worldcons hand over the gavel at the end of one year’s convention, to the group running the convention then following year. There are committees which exist longitudinally, but the Business Meeting at each Worldcon, is NOT a continuation of the Business Meeting at the previous Worldcon. “Tabling” is not a worthwhile endeavor for a once a year occurring meeting set!

    “Regarding the secret cabal of SMOFs, would these be the people who issued a DMCA take-down notice when an anonymous fan started leaking what they were saying to the wider community? ‘Secret Cabal’ is needlessly inflammatory but I would certainly say that the Hugo Awards have a problem with openness and accountability to the wider genre community.”

    Do you want your private conversations selectively leaked and quoted to the general public? What are you thoughts about “Climategate” where supposedly private correspondence was maliciously distributed and the message base on the server cherry-picked to post material out of context to defame authors of the material?

    The SMOFS email list is NOT the Worldcon Business Meeting, it’s an email list where people discuss mostly issues regarding running science fiction conventions and such. If you want to read hundreds of messages discussing registration lines at convention and what registration is like at different conventions and the pros and cons of live computer use for registration and badge printing, that was a recent topic.. frankly, most people who go to conventions are VERY much not interested in reading hundreds of messages about such things!

    “I did say that I wanted a more socially, politically and culturally open set of Hugo Awards and this discussion has, for me at least, made it clear quite how difficult delivering such a thing might be.”

    The Hugo Award are open. That the people who apparently have your views choose not to participate and/or are not a majority over those who feel different from you, is not an issue of “openess.”

    “Firstly, I would like established fandom to recognise that people complaining about the Hugo Awards on the internet are not only entitled to their views”

    I have seen no evidence of gag-ordering people who complain about the Hugos….

    ” but also part of the on-going cultural conversation about what fandom is and where it’s heading.”

    Fandom is balkanized. The Worldcon is one particular segment of fandom. It would be a very different entity indeed were there e.g. to be a giant influx of Once Upon a Time fans rewriting the WSFS Constitution and the Hugo rules to have Hugos for TV acting, for film acting, for set design and costume design, etc.

    ” Today’s complainers are tomorrow’s established fans and trying to silence criticism prevents that process from happening.”

    Huh? There are lots of people who are in fandom who are new who are not griping about the Hugos… and there are people who’ve been around for decades who grip about the Hugos (and other stuff).

    “Secondly, I would like to see more of the Hugo governance brought out into the open. Publishing minutes and Youtube clips of business meetings is a good start but I think having discussions of the process be locked away on a largely unknown and manifestly secretive mailing list is really not culturally healthy.”

    As others have been saying, SMOFS is NOT a “secret” list. But it is also not a public forum, it’s a private email list. The reasons include that most conventiongoers don’t -want- to deal with the minutiae of running conventions. Another reason is that a lot of ideas and comments get tossed around, that are not fit for publication–they;re in-jokes about people, they’ve evolving opinions which the settling point and the starting point perception can change substantively, and not only can a casual reader misintrepret something, there are misunderstanding/misinterpretations which happen even among people who;ve been working on conventions together for decades.

    Analogy: most restaurants the kitchen is NOT on public display. Or a different analogy–the locker room is not part of the public areas of a sports stadium.

    “Thirdly, as Kevin mentioned, I think that opening ratification up to people outside of the business meeting would be a really good idea. Worldcons are setting up websites to handle the nomination and voting processes anyway and it wouldn’t take much more effort to allow a wider vote. Yes, processes would have to be changed (for starters you’d have to table motions quite a lot earlier) but putting that process within the immediate reach of people committed enough to vote and nominate might encourage these people to get involved in governance. I suspect most people wouldn’t be interested but then, a lot of people who attend Worldcon don’t bother to vote for the awards anyway.”

    I was a Activist in the Boston Computer Society, and had as much of a front row seat equivalent to the demise of the organization as other people not on the Board of Directors had. The Board drove the organization into the ground. The organization’s bylaws did not have a way for the workers in the organization to overrule the Board. The vast majority of the membership of BCS couldn;t be bothered even to vote, much less vote cognizantly, members of the Board (the membership elected BoD members for was it three year terms?). The Board determined who the “recommended” candidates were and put a slate of them out. One or two people got enough support from disgruntled Activists to get on the ballot despite not being put there by the Board. Most voting was rubberstamping of Board choices… of the the small percentage of the organizational membership who bothered to vote.

    The reality is that a ONE PERCENT response to distributed ballots to members of an organization, can a higher participation rate than one can reliably expect….

    Relevance to Worldcon–most people are not interested in participating in Management Decisions and choices. They;re at the Worldcon to enjoy the convention, to to administer it…

    “People resorting to the standard defence mechanism that I’m bitter about my choices not getting selected are kind of way off base… at this point, I’m not as concerned about the outcome of the Hugos or the constitution governing them as I am about the culture surrounding the discussion of the Hugos and how the awards are governed. I don’t think it’s healthy to have an institutional culture that sees wider discussion as some sort of attack that needs to be defended against.”

    Once again, if you want awards congenial to your perceptions of Apppropriate, go start you own….

    ===

    “but none of the people who are really prominent in the world of online genre fandom: No Requireshate, No Abigail Nussbaum, No Liz Bourke, No Aidan Moher, No Adam Whitehead and so on… ”

    I don;t know any of those people… but then there are a couple billion people who are on the Internet, and the hundred of people I know include the people on Making Light, John Scalzi, Charlie Stross,… and I can’t keep up with the blogs and online forum postings of even a fraction of the people I’m acquainted with. So, why should follow blogs of people I’ve never heard of and never met, without being told whose these people and why it’s worthwhile paying any attention to them?!

    ========================

    “I see an overly bureaucratic culture in need of root and branch reform. combine that with the apparent social capital mountain that any would-be reformers need to climb and you’re getting close to an iron law of oligarchy situation in which everything grows progressively more bureaucratic and constricted.”

    Huh? Did you not read what Kevin wrote about offering to help people who wanted motions made at the Worldcon Business Meeting?

    Like

  111. April 8, 2013 7:17 pm

    Daveon, I did not mention opinions at all, so not sure where you got that from.

    You mention none of the hundreds of people I see being active in online fandom, but a lot of people who are active in the convention circuit. So yes, you are insular, and that you think you are not shows just how out of touch with modern fandom you are.

    Like

  112. kastandlee permalink
    April 8, 2013 7:18 pm

    You know, it really does work both ways: the people you mention as “active in online fandom” are insular, too, just on a different axis. Nobody can pay attention to everything.

    Like

  113. Alex permalink
    April 8, 2013 7:29 pm

    Just to clarify, the reason the YA Hugo was rejected was not that it was YA (though a few people voted against for that reason), or because of the “definition” of YA (though a few people voted against for that reason as well, that’s democracy). The problem that many people had is this:

    Scenario 1: Someone writes a great novel with strong YA elements. It receives 300
    nominations for Best Novel and 200 for Best YA Novel (the YA category is a subset so receives fewer nominations generally). Hugo administrator puts it on the ballot for Best Novel. It loses. Since it’s not on the ballot for Best YA Novel, it doesn’t win that either. Much less significant work goes on to win Best YA Novel. Hugos are broken.

    Scenario 2: Someone writes a great novel with strong YA elements. It receives 300 nominations for Best Novel and 200 for Best YA Novel (the YA category is a subset so receives fewer nominations generally). Hugo administrator puts it on the ballot for Best Novel. It wins. Since it’s not on the ballot for Best YA Novel, it doesn’t win that. Much less significant work goes on to win Best YA Novel. Cult of the awesome YA book bemoans unfairness that, even though their favorite won the consolation prize for “Best Novel”, lesser work (written by Annoying Guy who is gloating on his blog) has won “Best YA Novel”. Hugos are broken. Online YA community throws virtual rotten fruit at the Hugos.

    Scenario 3: Famous author writes a middling book with some YA elements. Realizing he won’t win for Best Novel, he tells his loyal readers to nominate the book only for Best YA Novel, and it gets on the ballot in that category. Book goes on to win Best YA Novel because the author is much better known in the wider Hugo voting membership, trumping better but lesser-known works in the YA category. YA fans bemoan the unfairness of this outcome. Hugos are broken.

    Yeah, I would have voted against that.

    Like

  114. April 8, 2013 7:41 pm

    No, Kevin. Doing something online that is open to everyone with internet access, without any sort of previous approval, isn’t insular in any way, shape, or form.

    It’s true that nobody can pay attention to everything. But everybody in online fandom is aware of that, and no one expects you to. But if you are active online, and especially on Twitter, you will at least be aware of what’s going on in the corners of fandom where you don’t actively participate. And if there’s anything in one sub-fandom that is relevant to your interest happens you can go look at it. -For instance I haven’t read any Paranormal Romance, but I see tweets about it because it overlaps with Urban Fantasy and YA, that again overlaps with more “traditional SFF”. Sometimes a discussion in PR is relevant to SFF as a whole, and is worth looking at. If I just confined myself to (for example) Epic Fantasy and Hard-SF, I’d miss that. The overlap online, or the wider online SFF community as I call it, means I don’t miss it. And that is why I think those that don’t participate in the wider online SFF community are missing what is really going on in SFF these days.

    (And now I’m off to read, so leaving this debate.)

    Like

  115. kastandlee permalink
    April 8, 2013 7:46 pm

    That doesn’t follow. Just because you’re on the web doesn’t mean you can’t be insular. Your very argument proves that. You appear to saying that things that interest you should interest everyone else, just because they’re Online.

    I’m aware of all these different communities. Just because I’m aware of them doesn’t mean that I should be spending my time paying attention to them, any more than they should be spending their time necessarily reading my LiveJournal (which is accessible to anyone with a web browser, you know, and I generally approve non-LJ members’ comments as long as they’re signed; I just screen them to keep out spam).

    Like

  116. Daveon permalink
    April 8, 2013 8:23 pm

    You mention none of the hundreds of people I see being active in online fandom, but a lot of people who are active in the convention circuit. So yes, you are insular, and that you think you are not shows just how out of touch with modern fandom you are.

    “Modern” fandom, you’ll excuse me if that makes me smile? The hundreds of people I see active on online fandom don’t count? The regulars over at Making Light, or Charlies Diary or Whatever?

    I’ve also been on panels discussing the nature of Social Networks like Twitter in their role in fandom with Lauren Beukes among others. You don’t follow my Twitter feed? Gosh.

    You complain that I’m out of touch with ‘modern’ fandom (whatever the hell you want to define that as) and yet you’re actually reveling in not even wanting to engage with all of fandom, which is something I find quite extraordinary!

    Like

  117. Daveon permalink
    April 8, 2013 8:32 pm

    Doing something online that is open to everyone with internet access, without any sort of previous approval, isn’t insular in any way, shape, or form.

    Just because you are online doesn’t mean anything. Do you read my Livejournal? That’s online, it’s open? You didn’t catch it? But it’s online!?!?

    What is astounding me about this discussion is how small your horizons are on this stuff feel to me! I feel like I’ve stumbled into a blog based version of the Trufen mailing list around the time I left in disgust because people were demanding to know who James Nicholl was and why he deserved to be on the Hugo Ballot.

    You want fandom to be wider and more inclusive? I think you need to examine your own preconceptions first.

    Like

  118. April 8, 2013 8:41 pm

    FFS Kevin. Stop trying to spin what people say into something else. I say I follow everything because I’m part of the wider online SFF community, and you interpret that as proof I’m insular… Only in the bizarro world where being open to everything is insular.
    I’m not saying anything about what interests me at all. I explicitly said that “It’s true that nobody can pay attention to everything. But everybody in online fandom is aware of that, and no one expects you to.” In English that means that you are free to pick what interests you.
    This is the second comment thread on the Hugo awards that you try to tell me what I mean by totally misrepresenting what I say back to me. Like I said the last time it’s not working. And it makes you look like a pathetic fool with nothing of substance to offer to the debate.

    Alex, my definition of YA solves all your hypotethical problems. -I didn’t make it clear, but a YA novel would only be eligible in the YA category. And a non-YA novel would not be eligible in the YA category. It’s as easy as that.
    -But having tried to discuss the Hugos with “Worldcon people” before, I know that there’s not a solution they can’t object to. People who only see problems with change isn’t the kind of people I, and the vast majority of the online SFF friends I have, want to spend time with. Instead we want to spend energy on making things move forward and change for the better.

    Daveon, “I’ve also been on panels discussing the nature of Social Networks like Twitter…”
    Yes, that certainly makes you part of online fandom, good example to counter my argument that you are only mentioning convention fandom…a panel at a convention.
    And really, I’m “reveling in not even wanting to engage with all of fandom”? No what I said was the opposite. The problem is that the only ones not really represented in wider online fandom is convention fandom. And that goes back to what I said about everything has to happen on your premise. We’re not excluding anyone, you have chosen to keep yourself seperate, and to only accept people who follow you to those places seperate from the wider fandom.

    Like

  119. April 8, 2013 9:10 pm

    Weirdmage: So why do you get to define what is “wider fandom?” From where I look, I see you placing your bubble at the center of the universe, when it’s not really different from any other bubble.

    There is no monolithic “online fandom.” It’s not even one single bubble, it’s a bunch of bubbles (as is convention fandom).

    Like

  120. Alex permalink
    April 8, 2013 9:13 pm

    Weirdmage wrote
    “Alex, my definition of YA solves all your hypotethical problems. -I didn’t make it clear, but a YA novel would only be eligible in the YA category. And a non-YA novel would not be eligible in the YA category. It’s as easy as that.”

    Doesn’t look easy at all to me. YA books have been nominated for, and won, the Best Novel award. You’d make that impossible. That’s a reason to vote against the idea as you’ve articulated it.

    Some people might consider a work to be YA, others not. A work could get 300 nominations for Best Novel, 200 nominations for Best YA Novel. You’d then force the administrator to ignore the will of voters and place it in the category with fewer nominations. That is not terribly workable or democratic.

    Like

  121. Daveon permalink
    April 8, 2013 9:17 pm

    Weirdmage, are you reading what you’re writing?

    We’re not excluding anyone, you have chosen to keep yourself seperate, and to only accept people who follow you to those places seperate from the wider fandom.

    The ‘wider fandom’? I’m keeping myself separate because I’m involved in different parts of online fandom to you? Or that I’m involved in convention fandom as well? Or I’m involved in fan groups you’ve probably never heard of with people you don’t know exist and have almost certainly never heard of you. And I’m the one keeping myself separate? Get over yourself will you!

    What you’re calling ‘wider fandom’ is just another little niche, in a wide big sea of fans who have never heard of you and who you have never heard of – and they’re just as valid as you are, even if you don’t read their blog or follow them on Twitter or Google+.

    Ask yourself this. Why was I on a panel of uses of social media… and why don’t you wonder what it is I do for a day job that possibly could make it a topic I could speak on at a Worldcon… or in fact, at a Social Media conference that has nothing whatsoever to do with Science Fiction.

    What I cannot get my head around is that you have a conception of fandom that is so… well… small.

    Like

  122. April 8, 2013 10:38 pm

    Daveon: I was thinking about that at lunch. A lot of us in “convention fandom,” particularly on the west coast, but also in Chicago, in Boston, in Kansas City, in Raleigh, in London, in Toronto, in Reykjavik, in Helsinki, are inside the companies and organizations that make “online fandom” possible. We have close personal friends we see inside and outside of conventions who are the architects of the internet, the people who have boosted speed and storage, the people who brought internet and social to mobile devices, the people who have turned the world upside down.

    We’ve watched usenet, Genie, Prodigy, AOL and Myspace rise and fall and be replaced by LiveJournal, Facebook, Google (including Blogger), Twitter, Pinterest and Reddit. We’ve been involved in web fora as communities have grown, migrated to new platforms, fragmented and birthed new communities. We’ve followed specialist email fan communities from eGroups to oneList to YahooGroups, and we’re looking for the next thing to replace it if Yahoo tanks.

    We are the early adopters and beta testers of the new services where new fan communities might be formed.

    Like

  123. Cheryl permalink
    April 8, 2013 10:45 pm

    Weirdmage: You keep asserting that there is a wider online SFF community. I keep up with a lot of different online SFF communities. I read blogs, follow some folks on Twitter and FB and G+. And even LJ and DW. I still read usenet and even help moderate a Babylon 5 newsgroup. However, I do not feel these different places are magically connected in a way that I could remotely call myself part of the wider online SFF community.

    This blog here plus others linked and/or referred to are new to me. I keep finding new and interesting fannish places online all the time. Do you really think you know every blog, group, email list (yes, those still exist) and so forth where fans gather to talk, joke and be fannish online?

    When I nominate works for the Hugos, I do go and visit the different communities to find ideas. There’s no way I could possibly have a life and keep current with all the SFF related stuff online. Do you really think all of the usenet groups, G+ communties, FB groups & pages, LJ, DW, Twitter and blogs form a cohesive online community that all know about each other and communicate with each other and could thus be a force for change in Worldcon and/or WSFS BM and/or Hugo voting?

    Just for reference: I started gaming in the late 70s, got deeply involved in anime in the mid 80s and then in Star Trek fandom and Dr Who fandom in the mid 80s through early 90s. Also the SCA. I went to my first Worldcon in 1995 and became deeply invested in that community. I’ve not been able to attend every Worldcon since then but I do try to get a supporting membership and vote on the Hugos. I’ve moved around a lot which is why much of my fannish life is online. However, I value in person interaction so I try to find the local fan group wherever I’ve lived and if I could not, I start one. I’ve volunteered at cons but I wouldn’t call myself a conrunner. Besides Worldcon, I regularly attend regional general sff/f cons as well as the odd anime convention and huge pop culture shows (Phoenix Comicon is about as large as I can handle). Not sure if I qualify as one of those insular Worldcon regulars though.

    Like

  124. April 8, 2013 10:51 pm

    When I first heard the title Redshirts by John Scalzi I laughed and thout the idea funny and might make a funny book. I did not think about reading it. Even serious Star Trek novels mostly suck. I don’t try reading them anymore. That is got nominated for a Huge sounds as bad as a Harry Potter book winning a Hugo.

    I read Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance. I like it. I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t nominate it for a Hugo. I would have nominated Komarr for a Hugo.

    All of Science Fiction needs to be fixed. Most people today do not understand that Star Wars is not science fiction. Even Roger Ebert understood that in 1977.

    Like

  125. Daveon permalink
    April 8, 2013 11:12 pm

    Andrew: I’d not thought of it like that, but yes. Indeed. Speaking of which I’ve been neglecting some of that stuff today, but I’m sure the real world is waiting :)

    Cheryl: I keep finding new and interesting fannish places online all the time. Yes. This.

    Like

  126. April 8, 2013 11:20 pm

    Umbrarchist: Say what you will about Harry Potter, it was a cultural phenomenon, and it got kids reading. It got kids reading more than just Harry Potter, because there were long waits between books, and they wanted to read more. A book that got a generation of kids generally excited about reading and genre (not just about Goosebumps or Sweet Valley High) is important, and deserving of recognition.

    Nitpicky exclusionary definitions of “Science Fiction” aren’t really helpful. Sure, Star Wars is space opera, or technological fantasy, or a futuistic rehash of Kurosawa. But there are not a lot of genre purists out there. A lot of SF fans are also fantasy fans. There are brilliant works that ignore the boundaries between SF, fantasy and other genres. L.E. Modesitt’s worldbuilding tours de force are, craft-wise, science fiction masquerading as fantasy. China Mieville’s award winning fantasy novels are, to a one, social sciences science fiction.

    Like

  127. Alex permalink
    April 9, 2013 12:06 am

    Andrew > CompuServe, that was how I got online, 25 years ago. ;) And I did meet Vint Cerf at a work function once.

    Like

  128. April 9, 2013 1:27 am

    Jonathan: “These are people who devote themselves tirelessly to discussing science fiction and yet they are systematically overlooked in favour of Chris Garcia and his half-baked observations on his last vacation and the last couple of movies he decided to watch.”

    So, yeah, Garcia is a buffoon. I will forgive you for not being familiar with the entire firehose that is Garcia’s fanwriting output.

    His series “52 Weeks to Science Fiction Film Literacy” in The Drink Tank was a big contrast to the rest of The Drink Tank, a serious and personal analysis of what he considers to be the 52 most significant SF films of all time (including the ones he hates, but realizes are still significant). And yes, he’s actually serious about film. He’s produced a few short films. He’s a regular juror for Cinequest’s short film program. He’s working on a documentary about the transitions convention fandom is undergoing right now.

    Journey Planet, although it involves many people involved in The Drink Tank, is a totally different animal, a serious (even in its levity) fanzine that puts science fictional and fannish topics under the microscope.

    And then there’s the stuff he writes for others. He’s contributed to SFSignal, Amazing Stories, and a bunch of other online outlets. Some of it is silly, some of it is serious.

    Oh, and he has a fannish dream job, he’s a curator at The Computer History Museum. Well, except for the salary, he works for a museum, and the salary is crap, particularly for Silicon Valley. But that said, there are days he gets paid to play and blog about vintage video games.

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  129. April 9, 2013 5:08 am

    Neth: why on earth would your family not be with you if you attended the San Antonio WorldCon? Worldcons are the family reunion of fandom. I would no more go to one without my child than I would go to a pow-wow of my tribe without her: how else would she learn the ways of her people?

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  130. April 9, 2013 6:43 am

    Andrew — I did skim a sizable chunk of Drink Tank and found even the series of posts you mentioned below my personal quality threshold. Journey Planet is interesting in that I think it’s quite a manipulative and intellectually dishonest enterprise as:

    a) He goes out of his way to request input from absolutely everyone in the fan-writing universe, thereby ensuring that everyone in the fan-writing universe will be well-disposed towards a particular issue (human nature innit) and

    b) He frames debates (particularly the panel parity debate) in a very passive-aggressive manner that ensures that while he is not seen to take a particular stance on a hot-button issue, he invariably frames the debate in a way that makes his opinions seem more legitimate and popular than they actually are.

    No… I don’t rate him as a writer or an editor and I think his continued presence on the Hugo ballot at the expense of pretty much anyone from the genre blogosphere speaks of the same systematic disregard that prompted people to try and keep blogs out of the fanzine category. An initiative that Garcia himself supported in a WSFS business meeting.

    Sure… by the standards of Arnie Katz he’s Voltaire but there really are people more deserving of Fan Writer nomination and victory than Christopher J. Garcia.

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  131. April 9, 2013 6:54 am

    OrangeMike — Yeeeees… but the point that’s emerged from this discussion is that not everyone considers themselves default members of the Worldcon family and the Worldcon family has little interest in the outlying clans.

    For example, I’ve been a genre reviewer and blogger for about a decade now and I don’t think I’ve met more than three or four regular Worldcon attendees. I do sort of think of myself as a member of the wider British SF community but Worldcon is a whole other matter. Again, not everyone has the same experience of fandom as you.

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  132. Daveon permalink
    April 9, 2013 7:36 am

    Worldcon family has little interest in the outlying clans.

    Oh what nonsense. Seriously. You’re sounding more and more like the Trufen hand typed fanzine lot by the second.

    I like Worldcons, I really do. I also like hanging out with the ZZ9 crowd both online and in the real world. I’ve been to Fanzine events while never publishing one. I’ve been involved in so many different online SF communities I can’t remember all of them. I’ve been to and been involved in Eastercons and have friends in the Media Fan groups too. My life is so damn full of other clans that I don’t have time to follow up on it all. And I am hardly alone nor unique in that. You’ve been a genre reviewer and blogger for a decade? I was blogging before the software was up to it and I had to roll my own…. Hell, I stopped doing that more than a decade ago too. Never heard of me? It’s mutual… Nothing Usual. Fandom is bloody enormous and there isn’t one true fandom. Not Worldcon fandom and most certainly not bloggers. Thing is, he Hugo fandom? That is interwoven with the Worldcon and moaning about it isn’t going to change that nor is insulting those that care about 75 years of continuous Fannish activity…

    I’m not 45 yet and reading this thread is making me feel ancient, it’s like trying to explain to my 15 year old niece that the reason her dad can spot when she’s fibbing about parties and drinking is because he and her uncle and aunts all did the same stuff and her grandfather caught us out too.

    This is feeling increasingly like I’m seeing arguments that I’ve observed over the last 25+ years rehashed by a new generation who think they’ve hit on something amazing, profound and new….

    This thread started with some comments about how people were acting in a condescending manner. Yes they are. I just think you need to take a very long hard look at yourself first.

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  133. April 9, 2013 7:49 am

    Eh, I just read all of the responses to date and I find myself wondering what inspires a certain cadre of respondents to pontificate at length about the minutiae of an entity that inspires more ennui and derision than anything else.

    I’m not a “fan.” If anything, I despise the very notion of an institutional “fandom.” Mass groups tend to lead to mediocre ideals, as MOR is as much a survival technique when dealing with individualized centrifugal forces (e.g. reading tastes) than any real ideal. The issue that is largely being shunted away by this focus on rules, constitutions, and other such organized blather is that of whether or not there should be any real “prestige” placed on these awards outside of those who attend yearly gatherings in order to socialize, get wasted together, perhaps attempt to screw each other’s brains out, and oh perhaps talk about “genre” stuff. Why should those who have no interest in such matters give a rat’s ass about “fandom” in the first place?

    Instead of a discussion of whether or not such shortlists (and yes, I’m quite aware of the limitations of various approaches, thank you very much in advance of some attempting to spell it out for an imagined neophyte) will mean anything in terms of the historical output of “genre” writing, there’s been such a devolution toward the “chickenshit” elements that one is tempted to proclaim only half-facetiously a Godwin’s Law-like truism where “in the course of any discussion of the validity of any SF/F-related award, the probability approaches one that a cadre of people who identify strongly with WSFS/WorldCon will intervene to talk about the mechanics of that institution to the detriment of discussion about mass reader tastes.”

    One result of all of this blah-blahing up above about rules and regulations is that for some people such as myself, it becomes hard to give a shit after a while. Based on personal reading experiences, I’ve seen mediocre to downright poor works being nominated (and in some cases, winning) and I’m left to conclude “my tastes are not the same as these.” Nothing wrong with that (several other genres have awards with similarly non-appealing finalists). What I used to find troubling was my naive belief that these Hugo Awards should matter to me. They rarely, if ever beyond slight irritation such as seen in this post, do these days. I’d rather there be a hermetic sealing-off of various sectors of “fandom” and let each party develop their own traditions in isolation. Maybe that way these “fan” awards can just go the way of other fusty institutions.

    But who am I kidding? The fun is all in the pissing matches, no?

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  134. auntiem42 permalink
    April 9, 2013 7:51 am

    Well, Jonathan, A lot of ONLINE Fandom disagrees with you about Chris Garcia. Since you think ONLINE Fandom is the only one that matters, it should be noted that Chris’ enthusiasm is what drives a lot of the ONLINE Fanzine Interest. And the ONLINE Fans love him. If the vote was only up to ONLINE Fandom, Chris would get the Fan Writer Award almost every year, Well, he’d probably have to share with James Bacon. ;)
    And as I have stated before, I’ve been Deeply Involved in the YA Award Debate, and very much for the award, I read a LOT of YA that doesn’t even make it to the Recommended lists. But there is a LARGE Population, which is also on the Internet, who is Against It. And until we can write a good argument for Why It is Needed and create a Wonderful Amendment to the WFSF Constitution, it isn’t going to happen.
    It isn’t a WSFS is against it thing, there are a Number of People who are general Worldcon people, who just Don’t Want It, period.
    By the way, there is a YA Awards group on FB, are you a member? We are discussing how to write the amendment and Why We Need This Award. It has kind of died due to lack of discussion, but anyone can join and give us New Ideas.
    And there are a number of Web places where the Hugos are talked about throughout the year, including on Live Journal. Several groups come out with Recommendation Lists, including BASFA which I am involved in.
    But as all of us have tried to tell you, The Hugos were never intended to be the Webby’s of the SF world.They are the award of the Worldcon, which requires buying at least a supporting membership in the Worldcon to participate.
    When you describe an award that the nomination and voting mostly takes place on the Internet, Well, that is NOT the Hugos. That is NOT how they were created, designed and supposed to be. That is ANOTHER AWARD entirely. It doesn’t exist yet. If you want THAT Award, the Worldwide Net SF People’s Choice Awards, well, may be you should create it.
    But don’t complain when an award that is NOT that, doesn’t behave like that. That is like complaining that the Oscars don’t let YOU vote on them from someplace out on the web. At least all the Hugos ask is that you Join the Organization by paying a Fee. To vote on the Oscars you have to prove you work in the Industry.
    And the actual Nominating Process, which is Online, is easy. We had More People nominating this year than any other year. WooHoo. We will probably have the Largest Number of People voting (which can also be done online) this year. We don’t make it difficult to nominate and vote for the Hugos. But you have to participate in Worldcon some how, by buying at least a Supporting Membership. If that sounds hard, remember, running a website to put the Nominating and Voting ballots costs money (even if all the layout work and counting is done by volunteers, that amount of traffic means that most internet providers want money). Sending out Paper Information to those people who don’t want to vote online, Costs Money. Working with all the people to create the Hugo Packet of all the award nominees takes phone calls and letters, oops money again. Creating the awards that are given away cost money, even if the artist donates their work, there are still materials costs. The Awards Show, Everyone loves an Awards Show, One of the most expensive things that the Worldcon does is the Hugo Awards Show. These awards Cost Money. So you have to Pay to Play by buying at least a Supporting Membership. That’s is how Fandom affords the Awards.
    If you want something that No One has to Pay, No One has to do anything but Nominate and Vote, Again That is a Different Award. And believe me, you won’t be having any Expensive Rocket Ship Awards to hand out in a nice awards show either.
    And I’m not going to London either, also didn’t do the Australia or Japan Worldcons either. I didn’t even make it to the last East Coast Worldcon. Our family doesn’t fly (health reasons), and we live on the West Coast, so if we can’t get there by car or train, we don’t go. Such is the nature of a World Science Fiction Convention, it tends to happen all over the world. *sigh*
    And a LOT of Items I nominated didn’t make it to the Final List either. I like too much YA. And one of the Doctor Who Episodes I nominated was not chosen. And I’ve never seen Game of Thrones (No HBO in our house) yet, so I’ll never nominate it. I forget what I voted for in the Long Form Dramatic Presentation but it wasn’t GoT. But I’ve learned my taste aren’t everyone elses. I AM trying to help create the YA award, but I’m not whining that we don’t have it yet.
    And yes, I nominated and will vote on this year’s Hugos. Even if what I want didn’t make it to the nomination list, or even eventually wins the award.
    That is the nature of a democratically nominated and voted award. I don’t always get what I want.

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  135. April 9, 2013 8:20 am

    I see what you’re saying Daveon.

    I know that I feel alienated from pretty much everything all of the time and this means that I am not only quite sensitive to the gaps between people and the groups they belong to (you should hear my comments on my wife’s relationship with the opera companies she sings with) but also inherently distrustful of social institutions. As I said in the original post, I know that Worldcon is not for me and never could be for me but I am concerned about the people who could find a home in trad fandom and yet do not because of the wall of defensiveness, condescension and incomprehending hostility that one runs into whenever one engages with traditional fandom.

    I accept that I may well be over sensitive to these types of things, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem. Similarly, the fact that people have been moaning about the insularity of trad fandom for 25 years suggests (to me at least) that there might actually be a real problem there. It’s like living in a house with a busted roof for 25 years and dismissing complaints about the damp on the grounds that those complaints have been heard before and are now getting boring… one way to silence the concerns is to fix the bloody roof.

    It’s interesting that you mention the Trufen mob because, in truth, I’m not seeing a great deal of difference between the stuff said by some people here and the stuff that Arnie Katz publishes in his fanzine. Katz has naked contempt for what he calls “mass fandom” and thinks that non-familiar forms of fandom should just fuck off and die but at least he’s honest about it… what I’m seeing in this thread is many of the same feelings dressed up in assertions that trad fandom is really friendly and welcoming just so long as you toe the line and learn your place. The narcissism of small differences applies on your side of the school-yard just as easily as it does on mine.

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  136. Tero permalink
    April 9, 2013 8:23 am

    Larry: “One result of all of this blah-blahing up above about rules and regulations is that for some people such as myself, it becomes hard to give a shit after a while.” – to me, voicing your opinions (again) would indicate giving a shit. If you really don’t care about the Hugos, walk away. The suggestion in your blog about spending the energy promoting the alternatives instead seems more productive to me. (And by the way, the Atikinson book you mentioned in your blog seems interesting, might have to take a look.)

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  137. April 9, 2013 8:33 am

    Larry — I think the bureaucracy surrounding the WSFS is a clear cut example of Michels’ Iron Law of Oligarchy:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_law_of_oligarchy

    Clearly, a bureaucratic institution set up to help fans celebrate their favourite works of science fiction now exists to provide bureaucratic fans with a sense of power and prestige. Having created a lens through which to see the field, the bureaucracy gets anxious and hostile whenever someone suggests a different way of seeing the field.

    As Paul Kincaid says, when other awards need to change, they simply change and this keeps the discussion focused on the works themselves. This is a 150 comment thread in which I haven’t actually discussed any books at all.

    That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and I’ve learned a lot from this discussion, but I do think it suggests a serious cultural problem.

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  138. Tero permalink
    April 9, 2013 8:34 am

    “what I’m seeing in this thread is many of the same feelings dressed up in assertions that trad fandom is really friendly and welcoming just so long as you toe the line and learn your place.”

    I think you have a point there… sort of. I _do_ think that trad fandom is welcoming. But that means, welcoming you to join then, “on their turf” (so to speak). What it doesn’t mean is all of the traditional fen are willing to welcome all other forms of fandom by coming and joining all the forums, blog discussions, etc. en masse (although many of them do). About the “learning your place” — I guess that depends on what your expectations are. I consider myself a friendly and welcoming person when I invite people to visit my house, even though I freely admit I would look at them askance if they took this to mean they are welcome to start rearranging my furniture, or demanding I move closer to them so it’s easier to visit.

    That said, I understand at least some of the frustration regarding how for examaple the Hugos are perceived to be closed, secretive, etc. I don’t necessary agree the perception is totally justified, but when there is such a perception, it would be good to get that changed. That isn’t the same as totally changing the nature of the awards, though.

    About improving the award: I don’t really think complaining the Hugos are broken and demanding they be rebuilt from scratch will accomplish anything except perhaps antagonising people and raising your own blood pressure. A “this is how I think the Hugos would work better, without changing the way they fundamentally are” approach might be more effective (and if you don’t see any way to accomplish what you want with that, maybe it is better to just walk away).

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  139. April 9, 2013 8:42 am

    Auntiem42 — Did that comment not provoke a tinge of cognitive dissonance? You’ve gone (in the space of two posts) from saying how welcoming fandom can be to basically telling me that nothing can or will ever change and I should just accept that move on.

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  140. April 9, 2013 9:02 am

    Tero — This is precisely why I know that traditional fandom is not and can never be the place for me :-) I’m very much an introvert, quite self-contained and ultimately beyond the point in my life where I feel any inclination to behave in an uncharacteristic fashion in order to win the approval of people I don’t know.

    However, I do realise that mileages do vary and that some people are willing to make that journey.

    My concern, when I wrote my original post, was that people were being dissuaded from that journey by a seemingly institutional hostility to any outside criticism or discussion. Not everyone is Jo Walton… not everyone discovers fandom and feels instantly at home, some people uncover fandom via the internet and their first encounter with trad fandom could well be one of the angry or dismissive responses that issue from the WSFS whenever the Hugo Awards are discussed.

    My complaints about the fan-writer category tap into this because I think it’s also evidence of trad fandom being unwilling to meet a group of incredibly devoted people half-way.

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  141. April 9, 2013 10:00 am

    From my reading of the situation your original post came across as complaints from the peanut gallery. I’ve followed the discussion since and now I’m absolutely certain that it was complaints from the peanut gallery. I’d hoped for something more but there doesn’t seem to be any substance here. “They” should fix the Hugos in some unspecified way is about all we’ve seen from you.

    I have pointed out that “they” don’t exist. I have pointed out that if you want to change the Hugos you can. Talk is cheap, actions drive changes. You haven’t yet persuaded me that you have any substantive contribution to make and that we are all wasting our time here. I can’t speak for “trad fandom”, whatever that may be, I can only speak for myself. Over the last few days I’ve listened to what you have to say and discovered that there’s no substance to it. You want to change the status quo in some vaguely defined way and will do anything short of actually doing something to achieve that.

    You haven’t persuaded me that your version of the Hugo awards would be an improvement. You haven’t persuaded me that the mechanisms for managing the Hugos need changing (or at least not the changes you seem to want.) I’ve met you half way and it wasn’t worth the effort. Now I’m done here. If anyone decides that they can make a positive contribution, let’s have a conversation about it on the SMOFS list.

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  142. Tero permalink
    April 9, 2013 10:36 am

    shrdlu01, I don’t think I agree with your reading. I see a genuine effort to address some problems with the current discussions (real or perceived, depends on the reader I guess), and an attempt to analyse them (with a possibility to build from that). Granted, fixing at least some of the problems may be incompatible with the core idea of the Hugos, and the provocative tone of the original article probably isn’t helping in getting any progress done, but I didn’t see it as just a complaint that someone else needs to do all the work.

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  143. April 9, 2013 11:34 am

    Shrdluo1 and Tero — All I wanted, from the start, was two things:

    A) People involved in the Hugos should stop attempting to silence discussion of the Hugos by people who are not currently involved.

    B) People not involved in the Hugos should recognise the value of the institution and try to broaden coverage of the nomination period in a more constructive and responsible manner.

    That’s it. That’s all I wanted.

    Am I demanding that other people do some work? Yes… because, unlike Kevin, I have no particular desire to spend my time policing online discussion of the Hugo Awards.

    I have no desire to attend a Worldcon and no desire to get involved in administering the Hugo awards… I know both my tastes and my limitations and I know when something is not for me. However, I recognise that some people with experiences similar to mine MIGHT want to take the step that I am unwilling to take and I think that the confrontational tone and defensive edge to these types of discussions form an unnecessary barrier to entry.

    And Shrdluo1, I put it to you that approaching someone’s thoughts assuming that they’re the complaints of an un-person does not constitute ‘meeting someone half-way’.

    Like

  144. Alex permalink
    April 9, 2013 1:47 pm

    Jonathan>
    Honestly I think that a lot of what you’re claiming is based on misperception and inaccurate assumptions.

    What I’ve seen is that Kevin puts a lot of effort into educating and informing people about the Hugos. It’s possible he has hit a wrong note here or there, but in the absence of specific quotes or links, the charge that he is attempting to “police” discussions seems unsubstantiated.

    Describing a set of fans as “traditional” fandom seems like a propaganda term intended to create some sort of generational conflict. You could talk about Worldcon or more broadly convention fandom. But it’s a very false assumption to claim that this group is isolated. As science fiction fans, many of us seek out new information and new perspectives. Specifically, many of us are involved in, or as Andrew points out, helped found, a lot of the institutions of online fandom. In recent years, online fandom has become so huge and diverse that it’s just impractical for anyone to keep track of more than a few slices of it. This is a good thing. We track our interests with various tools and channels. Certainly there are people who try to keep up with a broad swath of topics, and others of us keep tabs on a few of those to keep up with what people are talking about. There are people who are insular in every fandom, but there are also other people who seek to expand our circles of fandom, to include new people. You can’t really say that “fandom” is or is not “welcoming”, because the reality is that some people are good at welcoming people and some aren’t. It’s not fair to attack a whole group because it includes a few people lacking in social skills. Convention fandom isn’t isolated from the larger fan community, it’s the most visible element of fandom and as such pretty close to the center of most discussions.

    I’m an introvert. I don’t excel at small talk or starting casual conversation. That’s why I like conventions; to me they are a safe social space. I find it easier to talk to people where I have interests in common, and the threshold of commonality is much, much easier at a convention, where I’m likely to meet people who read the same books, watch the same TV shows, and study the same subjects, where I don’t have to pretend or avoid interest in banal and unimportant things. To build and expand this kind of fandom and bring it to more people, I put in time to do the work of organizing and running conventions. I also, in online circles, encourage people to come to and comment on conventions in order to make the conventions better with their ideas and participation. A lot of people do this; a lot of people do it better than I do.

    There are traditionalists in fandom. There’s a mailing list called “trufen”. I’m not on it. It is a small, quirkly, and not definitive subset of the wider fan community. I think fan history is important, especially for conventions to help us keep track of what has worked and what hasn’t in the past, to honor the accomplishments of people over the years to give reasons for what we do, and to contextualize what we do and why we do some things some way. But my fandom is in the present, and the future.

    Fanzine fandom is, to be sure, small and quirky. By “quirky” many would say original and creative and see that as a good thing. There are some people who want to preserve fandom as it was when they entered the community, but there are many others who want to share their interests and efforts and expand the community. That works a lot better when people come to the table with a positive attitude. As a group, fanzine editors welcome letters of comment, so it’s not hard to join the conversation; it just takes effort and interest. And “pubbing your ish” gains a lot of respect in that community.

    You said something about people running the Hugos for the power and prestige. To some degree that’s true. But my observation is that it is much less true with the Hugos than with any other award process that I’ve seen. The openness and transparency of the Hugos is such that when anybody tries to manipulate the outcome or process for their own benefit, they can be called on it and situations can be corrected before there are significant consequences. Many people hold the Hugos to a Caesar’s-wife standard of propriety, especially with the core Hugo administration process; there is no margin for error given here. The people who gain prestige from making the Hugos happen are those who do a good job of making things run smoothly, including all input, and helping to celebrate the achievements of the best in the field and in the community. I couldn’t say it never happens that people mistake their personal interests with the interests of the community, but it’s pretty rare and quickly corrected; again this problem is much more prevalent with other awards.

    Some changes to the Hugo awards are complicated and/or contentious. Calling this process “bureaucratic” implies there is a bureaucracy that controls it and restricts input. That is offensive to many people, and inaccurate. The process is democratic and involves a lot of consensus, and by consensus I mean discussion, which is open to anyone. So when someone complains about an outcome, we invite them to join the conversation.

    The truth is that the Hugos do adapt to changes in the culture of fandom. That’s how and why they remain relevant, and are likely to remain about as visible and relevant a generation or two from today. The “peanut gallery” response is legitimate in that it is much more helpful for people to come and join the conversation than to go off and complain in their blogs to their little circle of friends and, in doing so, assume a bunch of errors and bad faith, where such assumptions ignore a lot of the actual context, process, and history.

    I had complaints like this 17 years ago when I got involved in organized Worldcon fandom. Some of my complaints were based on incorrect assumptions. Some of my complaints were accurate in outcome but not on the causes of those outcomes. There is still room for improvement in some areas, though most of the things that warrant improvement require effort, which in turn requires recruiting, which requires engagement with comments and conversations when we find them. As a community we’ve gotten a lot better at responding to comments, partly because we’ve seen a lot of similar comments in the past.

    If you actually want to help implement positive changes, my suggestion would be to join the conversation where it is happening, and also to maybe not frame complaints on the basis of offensive and counter-factual assumptions.

    Like

  145. Daveon permalink
    April 9, 2013 3:16 pm

    Jonathon. Well, the fact that people have been moaning about things for 25 years doesn’t necessarily mean that things are broken, I actually see it as a generational thing, much like with my niece. She genuinely struggles with the fact that the reason she struggles to get away with sneaking off with her friends or trying to get to parties where parents aren’t attending isn’t because of some secret code between adults but because we all did the same things and learned the lessons the hard way. I’ve certainly be looked at in a strange way in Fannish circles because I like media SF and books. And you know what? Did I get some snarky comments from people? Yeap. Did I care. Nope. But one of the problems I see with the Arnie Katz of the world is that their Fandom was very small, and now it’s not. Arnie and a few others miss what was familiar and I can’t help that.

    However, one of the reasons I’ve jumped in her with both feet is that Kevin Standlee, for all his occasional sarcasm, isn’t like them. He really wants more people involved. But at his core he’s an organizer. He gets stuff done and does the paperwork to prove why it was done and how. And any Award,Organisation or anything related that wants to continue beyond the interests of a single individual needs people like that to do the actual work. The Hugos and the Worldcon are intrinsically linked. That isn’t going to change and nor should it. If people want a more inclusive, high prestige Award then I’m with the group who point out that the Internet is over there, have at it. If you want the Hugos to work better and have a more effective system of management, that involves engagement and working with people like Kevin. But engagement also involves listening to people pointing out stuff that won’t work and accepting that they’re not just saying stuff to be bloody minded.

    The narcissism of small differences applies on your side of the school-yard just as easily as it does on mine.

    The thing is, that’s actually a lousy analogy. I started in University SF Club ‘Fandom’. I have been involved in running a local SF Club that once considered itself the largest in the UK before imploding under the weight of work involved in that. I’ve done online fan things on newsgroups and the original first generations of website forums back when that was a kiss of death as far as newsgroup fandom was concerned. I’ve been on LJ for a decade, and various blog comments for even longer. Oh and when I can I like going to conventions, because I genuinely like hanging around with like minded people and I especially like hanging out with people who are as at home with a hand cranked mimeograph as they are with media SF of the last decade while arguing over what should and shouldn’t have been nominated. Three things that traditionally don’t go together remotely.

    I wrote a piece that got some coverage about 10 years ago on the need for more Inclusivity in Fandom. It’s probably time I went and found it…

    Like

  146. Daveon permalink
    April 9, 2013 3:31 pm

    what I’m seeing in this thread is many of the same feelings dressed up in assertions that trad fandom is really friendly and welcoming just so long as you toe the line and learn your place.

    Ok, so as a separate issue. I don’t necessarily think Fandom is all that friendly nor welcoming and never really has been. And I’ve been shouted at for having this opinion. My wife certainly doesn’t feel that way about it. But that’s a whole other 200 comment thread…

    However, nor do I think it needs to be. Life isn’t either. Yes, yes I know people in Fandom say that it is because for many it was the first place they have felt welcome, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy and instant.

    Fandom of any kind isn’t all that different to real life. You don’t turn up at University at 18 and assume that you get to join in everything instantly and get as much out of it as you will by your third year. Likewise, it’s fairly rare to start a new a job and walk into the CEOs job, unless they hired you for that. And trying to change an organisation without learning about it first isn’t going to Win Friends and Influence people.

    You don’t start a Blog and have the option to call yourself a top blogger. You don’t assume you’ll get huge traffic just because you do something. You certainly don’t get 10,000 followers on Twitter by starting a Twitter account. ‘Trad’ fandom really isn’t all that different. You don’t have instant online cred for turning up and you don’t instantly know all the people at a convention (delete/insert ANYTHING) because you want to.

    That said, I like hanging out with people. I like it online, I like it more at Conventions with a drink in hand having the kind of face-to-face discussions I just don’t get to have in my day to day life.

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  147. April 9, 2013 4:54 pm

    Alex, what is:

    “My suggestion would be to join the conversation where it is happening, and also to maybe not frame complaints on the basis of offensive and counter-factual assumptions.”

    If not an attempt to police the discussion?

    Like

  148. kastandlee permalink
    April 9, 2013 4:56 pm

    If “police the discussion” means “you can have your own facts as well as your own opinions,” then hand me the baton and the helmet.

    Like

  149. kastandlee permalink
    April 9, 2013 4:58 pm

    Jonathan: Based on your complaints about “bureaucracy” and “oligarchy,” I conclude that at your core, you actually have a complete contempt for democracy. What you want is a Strong Man of Fandom who will do what you want. You don’t actually want to be the Strong Man; you just want someone else to do all of the work for you and do things the way you want them done, without you ever having to get your hands dirty.

    Nobody is trying to silence you. Many of us are saying that if you can’t do anything more than call for revolution without real, workable solutions, then why should we bother to take you seriously? Also, if you persist in, as Alex put it, “counter factual” assertions, you should expect people trying to correct your facts. But maybe you really do believe that people are entitled to their own facts as well as their own opinions. Ghu knows that’s taking over modern discourse. *dismayed look*

    Revolutions are easy. Destruction is always easier than creation. Governing after you win the revolution is hard. That’s why most revolutionary movements, no matter how well-intentioned, lead to dictatorships (example: English Civil War). It’s a miracle that didn’t happen in the USA, actually; it would have been the logical outcome.

    You’re setting yourself to be the Thomas Paine of SF fandom, which maybe isn’t the worst possible outcome, but OTOH, Paine never actually accomplished much other than to antagonize most of the people who admired his writing.

    Like

  150. April 9, 2013 5:08 pm

    Daveon — You’re absolutely right that trad fandom doesn’t need to be friendly. As far as I’m concerned, Arnie Katz is about as relevant to my experience of science fiction as Celine Dion. He may consider himself a science fiction fan but I’m interested in books and he’s interested in ranting in his bunker because it’s no longer 1965.

    The problem comes when I, as someone with an interest in science fiction but not in Worldcon, decide to start talking about the Hugo Awards and someone responds to a Google alert and starts trying to shut me up. Then some of his mates arrive and tell me that I can’t really comment on the Hugo awards because I haven’t spent 25 summers in some American convention center.

    Go and read the post that started all of this: It’s someone with an interest in SF but no real interest in going to Worldcon saying that he no longer cares about the outcome of the Hugo Awards and would rather not think about them for reasons x, y and z.

    I’m sorry… but you don’t need to attend worldcon and go to the WSFS business meeting in order to have an opinion about the Hugos. If the WSFS want to have a secret award ceremony that only they know about then good luck to them… all I wanted was for people to be able to discuss how they felt about the Hugo shortlists without being shouted at or mocked by people invested in the process.

    Like

  151. Alex permalink
    April 9, 2013 5:11 pm

    Jonathan wrote:
    “Alex, what is:
    “My suggestion would be to join the conversation where it is happening, and also to maybe not frame complaints on the basis of offensive and counter-factual assumptions.”
    If not an attempt to police the discussion?”

    Seriously? I mean I grew up among scientists and engineers. Open discussion does not preclude attention to facts. If someone makes an unsourced and/or emotionally slanted assertion, people are allowed to call them on it. Channelling the discussion so that it happens in the earshot of people who are in a position to act on useful suggestions seems productive to me, assuming that change is actually warranted. When I want to persuade people to get things done, I look for constructive and persuasive arguments. The word “policing” here is inaccurate and pejorative; it blocks conversation. My goal is to improve communication to ensure that diverse opinions actually get heard.

    Like

  152. April 9, 2013 5:17 pm

    Kevin — When did I call for revolution? What I called for is for you to be civil and allow people to discuss the Hugo awards in peace because one day the people in the peanut gallery might want to climb down and have a go themselves.

    Demanding that all opinions of the Hugo Awards be grounded in flawless familiarity with the rules and procedures of the WSFS is absolutely policing the debate and while you might see yourself as some sort of liberal fan of inclusion and reform, your online behaviour is completely at odds with that aim.

    Like

  153. April 9, 2013 5:22 pm

    Alex — Demanding that all discussion and thought be channeled towards certain aims, in certain places and within certain methodological boundaries is policing the debate.

    Policing is completely the right word because the gist of this thread, and your comment, was that rather than expressing their feelings online for reasons personal to them, people should be constructive and involved in improving the functioning of the Hugo Awards. People who step out of line are gently corrected by Kevin’s barrage of posts and ‘corrections’. There’s even been moaning about using an appropriate tone.

    Why is it so intolerable that people be allowed to express their feelings on the internet?

    Like

  154. Mary Kay permalink
    April 9, 2013 5:24 pm

    Alex, Andy, & Dave

    Heh. Yeah, my sister-in-law is Susan Kare who, paraphrasing from pnh, designs everything you look at all day long. I met Steve Jobs st one of her parties once. And of course I’ve been active in online fandom for at least 20 years; asst. sysadmin at Compuserve, regular on RASFF, on LJ for a decade,I twitter, but I gave up Facebook because they’re evil. I have pubbed my ish, and run cons, oh, and once I administered the Hugo Awards. Alas, I am a Baby Boomer and can now only help my world by dying.

    But yeah, we’re insular and ignorant.

    MKK

    Like

  155. kastandlee permalink
    April 9, 2013 5:33 pm

    I don’t demand “that all opinions of the Hugo Awards be grounded in flawless familiarity with the rules and procedures of the WSFS.” I don’t even expect most Worldcon members to have that familiarity. What I do is to remember how opaque things seemed to me and how people with more experience than me explained how things work.

    Just as I will help someone technically draft in the proper form a proposal that I personally intend to argue and vote against, I would much rather that people be able to debate issues with knowledge of the context in which those issues exist. In other words, ignorance is correctable and excusable, but willful ignorance because the facts contradict your pre-defined conclusion is not, in my opinion.

    Since you seem to have difficulty with the difference, let me give you a specific example. It is a fact that there will be (unless the proponents withdraw it) a proposal before this year’s WSFS Business Meeting that would prohibit a Worldcon from selling a membership that included any WSFS voting rights (such as the right to nominate on the Hugo Awards) for less than the cost of a supporting membership. (And the cost of a supporting membership is in turn determined by a number of factors, but starting next year is likely to be in the neighborhood of USD40 for a while.) That is a fact, and none of the people in the debate about it dispute those facts.

    It is my opinion that this is a very bad proposal, and I will work to defeat it because I think Worldcons should have the right to set their own membership policies, and if they decide that they can provide a membership class that includes Hugo voting rights for less than USD40, they should have the freedom to do so. Obviously, the proponents of the proposal have a different opinion, and we have argued quite vitriolically over it. But none of us have asserted that (say) Worldcons are now forced to charge $200 and show up in person at the Worldcon in order to vote for the Hugo Awards or that current rules prohibit them from giving away voting rights. (I’ve seen people elsewhere, not related to this specific dispute, assert such things.) Asserting either of these and demanding that they be given equal weight in the discussion with what everyone else says is demanding that you have your own facts inconsistent with objective reality.

    Making counter-factual assertions about how the Hugo Awards work, how Worldcons work, and how people can get involved are what get me riled up. As Daveon says, I’m an organizer. I believe in democracy, even when I don’t get my way. I believe the society is stronger when the people willing to participate have a right to have their say within a reasonably structured framework that balances the rights of individuals, small groups, majorities, super-majorities, and the membership as a whole, even if that means I personally don’t agree with the decisions. (Besides, if I lose a battle, as I’ve done before, I can continue to work to get my way in the long run if I can convince others of the rightness of my case.)

    BTW, I have never objected in any way to arguments in the general form of “The voters are fools for selecting X,” because that’s an opinion, not a fact. When you assert it to be a fact, then I’m going to call you on it.

    Like

  156. Daveon permalink
    April 9, 2013 5:34 pm

    I’m sorry… but you don’t need to attend worldcon and go to the WSFS business meeting in order to have an opinion about the Hugos.

    No, no you don’t, but you also have to accept that the Hugos are the award of the Worldcon and they’re run by the WSFS. I have opinions about the Hugos but there is a difference between having an opinion and claiming they’re broken.

    Bad stuff wins all the time. Annoys the hell out of me. But Bad stuff wins awards all the time. That’s only an issue if you’re setting yourself up with unrealistic expectations of what an Award is and what it does.

    It really is one thing to have an opinion (The Sparrow stank and shouldn’t have won…) versus demanding that crap (like The Sparrow) shouldn’t be able to get onto the ballot in the first place. If you want to discuss ‘how to fix discussion of the Hugo awards’ then you can’t do that by ignoring what the Hugo Awards, as they currently work, are, and how they got there. Otherwise, in all honesty you’re not really talking about the Hugos, you’re indulging in a thought exercise about what an ideal high prestige SF Award would look like.

    Likewise, getting annoyed that the same people get nominated all the time, ignores the fact that the same people get nominated for Awards all the time, because that is the nature of fame and prestige. You can’t block people from nominations, or at least I don’t think you can, and the mechanism for turning nominations into a public ballot needs to be completely transparent and fair, and not have room for people to stick fingers on the scale to make things ‘better’. That’s fine as long as good people do it and a nightmare when that doesn’t happen, and it won’t.

    Now everybody here has been at pains to point out that if you want a high prestige award that has wider involvement by the web community, there is absolutely no problem with that. Off you go, the internet is over there, good luck and all that. However, if, as some others have suggested (Weirdmage and Adam Whitehead spring to mind) the Hugo name should be handed over to a new award that can basically ‘do it properly’, then surely you can understand that the people who’ve dedicated years of their lives to ensuring the Hugo Awards happen and work, not to mention the amount of their own hard earned cash they’ve put into travel and lost time, are going to have something to say about that?

    One of the reasons we still have a Hugo, 50+ years later, and a continuous fan run, non-profit event, which has lasted for 75 years(!) is because things are set up in such a way as to provide a mechanism for continuity of involvement and avoid things getting badly broken because somebody has a ‘great idea’ that just doesn’t work in the wild.

    Like

  157. Alex permalink
    April 9, 2013 5:54 pm

    Jonathan wrote:
    “Go and read the post that started all of this: It’s someone with an interest in SF but no real interest in going to Worldcon saying that he no longer cares about the outcome of the Hugo Awards and would rather not think about them for reasons x, y and z.”

    Which does not materially influence the history and profile of the Hugo Awards. It does invite comment and engagement.

    Jonathan wrote:
    “I’m sorry… but you don’t need to attend worldcon and go to the WSFS business meeting in order to have an opinion about the Hugos. If the WSFS want to have a secret award ceremony that only they know about then good luck to them… all I wanted was for people to be able to discuss how they felt about the Hugo shortlists without being shouted at or mocked by people invested in the process.”

    You don’t have to attend the meeting to have an opinion or discuss things. If you have a good idea, people will listen. We only use votes to resolve differences of opinion. Which, again, is democracy.

    The Hugos were broadcast to the world in a way that got quite a lot of media attention last year. Nothing secret there.

    In the past ten years, I’ve been to five Worlcons outside the US, on four continents. We move Worldcon around to bring it close to different groups of fans. In the past month I’ve been to conventions in three different countries, including yours. I had dinner with Gareth Kavanagh, an organizer of next year’s Eurocon; a couple weeks ago in Dublin. He is in Kiev today, on his trip to this year’s Eurocon. Our fandom gets everywhere. We will bring fandom to you, where “we” means active convention fandom. You don’t need to go far. If you can’t meet us halfway, we’ll find you online, because we are online fandom.

    You want an award that requires no cost and no in-person involvement, where you can just vote online? Let me suggest the Locus Awards. I (and probably they) think this is a bit more plagued by the popularity-contest problem that the Hugos and other voted awards have, but they’re pretty good and they are somewhat visible. Certainly authors in recent years do mention it on their book covers. The Locus Awards do not diminish or compete with the Hugo Awards. The Locus Awards are notable because of the quality of works that are recognized, the publicity Locus is able to bring to their award, the effort they put into administering the award, and the great contribution Locus has made to the science fiction community for many years.

    Insofar as the Hugo Awards are a product, they do have an owner, and not everyone will choose to be customers. Insofar as they are an expression of community sentiment, that happens in a democratic setting, which is to say, some people will disagree with the outcome. So the endpoint of the conversation is not going to be agreement on all points. That’s why we have a decision-making body, to be where the buck stops. Decision-making does have to happen somewhere.

    I do feel that we can improve the informal recommendation process, putting a wider array of works in front of nominators. I’ve made that suggestion and plan to work on it in the new year. It takes work, on many people’s part, so we need to recruit people to get involved.

    I don’t see “shouted at” or “mocked”. I see engaged. Invited to continue the conversation. Disagreed with on a few points. Helping you understand details you’ve missed.

    Like

  158. Alex permalink
    April 9, 2013 6:14 pm

    Jonathan wrote:
    ” Demanding that all discussion and thought be channeled towards certain aims, in certain places and within certain methodological boundaries is policing the debate.
    Policing is completely the right word because the gist of this thread, and your comment, was that rather than expressing their feelings online for reasons personal to them, people should be constructive and involved in improving the functioning of the Hugo Awards. People who step out of line are gently corrected by Kevin’s barrage of posts and ‘corrections’. There’s even been moaning about using an appropriate tone.
    Why is it so intolerable that people be allowed to express their feelings on the internet?”

    Semantics? Hayakawa said that communication is an exchange of symbols of meaning to both sender and receiver. I’m not sure your use of the term “policing” achieves this. The term carries the connotation of restricting input into the conversation, and that is certainly not happening.

    My opinion would be that using the term “policing” here is needlessly confrontational and unproductive. My suggestion is that conversation take place in the earshot of people involved, without publicly asserting bad faith on the part of people you don’t know.

    Many of us want to see the Hugos, and other awards, serve the interest of the community by recognizing the best works, so we want to hear about and correct problems, and we solicit input, constructive suggestions, and participation, getting the tasks done that are required.

    If you want to express feelings and not be contradicted, that’s really not debate. Debate involves an exchange of views. Your blog is a conversation on topics of your choosing. If your intent is to not understand or resolve the questions that concern you enough to write about them, then all I can do is apologize for not understanding your intent. But I hope that’s not your goal.

    Like

  159. April 9, 2013 7:28 pm

    Hi,

    I’ve been following this discussion here, and elsewhere, and all I can say is that I’ve been seriously disturbed by the attempts to silence and suppress all dissenting opinions – ie, mock, ridicule and gag Jonathan and anybody who expresses a disagreement with the ‘Hugo establishment’. Perhaps naively, I had no idea! Especially when Jonathan & others were voicing fairly mild, constructive criticism (as I see it) – hardly calling for violent revolutionary overthrow and blood on the streets. Frankly, to me – who has never really followed this sort of thing closely before – Kevin Standlee and his acolytes come across as *weird* control freaks who flood any discussion with endless ‘procedural’ and bureaucratic points obviously designed to close down debate. Get real, it’s *intimidating* and exclusivist. As a lifelong and passionate SF fan/advocate, etc I would rather cut my own throat (if this thread is anything to go by) then get involved with the Hugo Awards process, Worldcon and all the rest of it. Rage against the machine.

    Like

  160. kastandlee permalink
    April 9, 2013 7:42 pm

    I guess I should realize by now that many people much prefer believing in Massive Conspiracies instead of facing reality. It’s just like the people who know that since I chaired a Worldcon, I must be a multimillionaire — “everyone” knows those SMOFS are raking it in under the table since it obviously doesn’t cost that much to put on the convention. Silly me.

    A bit of unwelcome fact here: the term “SMOF” was itself coined as a way of poking fun as conspiracy theorists. It always has been, in my opinion, intended to be used ironically. Anyone who takes it literally and seriously has fallen for a joke.

    Like

  161. Daveon permalink
    April 9, 2013 7:45 pm

    Frankly, to me – who has never really followed this sort of thing closely before – Kevin Standlee and his acolytes come across as *weird* control freaks who flood any discussion with endless ‘procedural’ and bureaucratic points obviously designed to close down debate.

    Danny, without knowing what you do for a living, if somebody walked into your place of work and started explaining to you what you were doing wrong, and trying to change the things you did without ever having done it before, nor having worked there before, would you be ok with that and take it without comment, especially if you saw them doing stuff you knew damn well didn’t work?

    Because that’s what I see going on here. There’s nothing weird about it, it’s not even all that unique to Science Fiction, unless you make a gross assumption that things like Conventions and Awards just ‘happen’ without people working on them and following some rules.

    Like

  162. Daveon permalink
    April 9, 2013 7:50 pm

    BTW Danny, I saw on your blog you’ve been involved in left wing politics for a while. You’re honestly telling me you find the workings of the WSFS or any formal body procedural and bureaucratic? I used to watch the RCP and the SWP slam down NUS meetings with the best of them. In comparison to what I used to observe at those meetings, Kevin and the people who do all the work keeping stuff moving so that Fans can have a fandom are a joy.

    Like

  163. April 9, 2013 8:12 pm

    “As a lifelong and passionate SF fan/advocate, etc I would rather cut my own throat (if this thread is anything to go by) then get involved with the Hugo Awards process, Worldcon and all the rest of it. Rage against the machine.”

    More “flounce against the machine.”

    Like

  164. April 9, 2013 8:46 pm

    I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, believe me!

    Like

  165. April 9, 2013 8:54 pm

    Alex —

    You might not like the implications surrounding the word ‘policing’ but that is exactly how it feels to me.

    “In the past ten years, I’ve been to five Worlcons outside the US, on four continents. We move Worldcon around to bring it close to different groups of fans. In the past month I’ve been to conventions in three different countries, including yours. I had dinner with Gareth Kavanagh, an organizer of next year’s Eurocon; a couple weeks ago in Dublin. He is in Kiev today, on his trip to this year’s Eurocon. Our fandom gets everywhere. We will bring fandom to you, where “we” means active convention fandom. You don’t need to go far. If you can’t meet us halfway, we’ll find you online, because we are online fandom.”

    Now you’re not only seeking to police the debate, you’re also being pompous and sinister.

    Like

  166. April 9, 2013 9:02 pm

    Kevin —

    The only person who mentioned a conspiracy is you. I see no conspiracy, I see someone acting like a jerk and giving the organisation he is a member of a bad name.

    Another reason why your interventions in discussion are seen as hostile and illegitimate is that you invariably wing up battling these rhetorical phantasms that exist nowhere but in your head. All I asked for, all I’ve ever asked for, is for you to back off, be civil and allow people to discuss the Hugo Awards the way they want to discuss them. In response to this simple request you have called me a fascist and a conspiracy theorist… Seriously, you are in desperate need of gafiation, you have completely lost any sense of perspective.

    Like

  167. Seth permalink
    April 9, 2013 9:19 pm

    I see a lot of claims about someone “silencing discussion”. That would be a neat trick; the owner of a site could presumably silence discussion on his site. Umpteen gazillion other sites would have the discussion continue.

    In terms of the Hugos, I see a lot of statements about “The Hugos should magically change to be the way I want instead of the way they are.” That’s typically followed by someone (often Kevin) explaining just what is required in order to change the Hugos; the process is well known and understood, and there is no magic way to make it happen instantaneously. Rather, a lot of people (self-selected, so if you really care, select yourself in) have to be convinced that the change is good. This is apparently offensive to those who believe that their own ideas are so obviously better that they shouldn’t be required to go through the process.

    Like

  168. April 9, 2013 9:26 pm

    Seth — It’s funny that you’re seeing demands that the Hugos change magically because I’ve not actually made any demands or even raised any real constitutional problems. I’d get my glasses checked if I were you…

    The only request I’ve made is that people who are not directly involved in running the Hugos be allowed to discuss the awards without being flooded with corrections and a flood of confrontational rebuttals.

    It’s interesting… You’re not the only person to make this accusation and I’m starting to think that there are certain stock responses that get wheeled out whenever an ‘outsider’ discusses the Hugos.

    a) invite them to Worldcon

    b) tell them they’re bitter that their choices didn’t get on the ballot.

    c) tell them that they’re making demands despite not wanting to do any of the work.

    Like

  169. Daveon permalink
    April 9, 2013 9:34 pm

    All I asked for, all I’ve ever asked for, is for you to back off, be civil and allow people to discuss the Hugo Awards the way they want to discuss them.

    Oh come on! Seriously. That’s no different to what the Trufens do in their email list and bunkers moaning about all the crappy interweb users and their media fan friends. If you want open discussions, then here it is. Warts and all. People who agree with you, people who don’t. They’re all fans, they all have their right to a speak, and there’s even, unlike the Blogosphere a system for resolving the conflicts and reaching an actual, real, practical thing that works in the real world for everybody. Anything else? It’s an echo chamber. Now, as a blog, it’s your echo chamber, and you’re welcome to close down Kevin and all the others who share his point of view. It is your private space. But, you don’t get to ask for a discussion and then get annoyed when the discussion evolves and involves differing perspectives.

    The subtext I’ve taken from this discussion here, and some of the others elsewhere, is that a bunch of SF fans have been shocked to find that there’s more to their hobby than being active online, on twitter, writing a blog etc… and that for that to function in the offline world as well as online then there’s administration, rules and people who have to work to make stuff happen. The boring, real world stuff that they don’t think exists in their hobby. And I suspect, think their hobby shouldn’t have.

    Sorry, but it does. I see the same the same thing in the Software Start Up world if that’s any consolation?

    Like

  170. Alex permalink
    April 9, 2013 9:56 pm

    Jonathan wrote:
    “Now you’re not only seeking to police the debate, you’re also being pompous and sinister.”

    You’re sticking to the word “policing”. I’m just explaining that that word is not accurate in this context (it carries meaning that either you do not intend or that you have not demonstrated to be true) and is an obstacle to understanding. This is your blog. No one silences you here. We invite you to share your opinions elsewhere. That is not silencing you either. Disagreement does not constitute silencing; if anything, just the opposite in most forums I’ve seen. You’re allowed to say whatever you wish. And you say things that are factually untrue, other people may says so.

    And we have found you. Here we are on your blog. That’s why you have a blog, right? If this is where you choose to have a conversation, that’s where some of the conversation will occur. It’s “sinister” that people comment on your blog? Where is it you want to have a conversation?

    I find myself curious: Do you think there is a problem to be fixed? If so, do you want to help fix a problem that you’ve identified, or do you trust others to take care of it? Do you think your opinion (whatever it is, that’s not entirely clear) should carry more weight than others’?

    The Hugo Awards happen at and through the work of Worldcon. You can be a part of that or not, that’s your choice. Whatever you decide to do, authors will write, members will nominate and vote, conrunners will administer, host, and promote the awards as best we can, for many years to come.

    Like

  171. April 10, 2013 4:21 am

    “People involved in the Hugos should stop attempting to silence discussion of the Hugos by people who are not currently involved.”

    You keep making this assertion as if it was fact. It is not fact. Telling people how the process actually works here and now is not an attempt to stifle discussion; and that’s all the substance you’ve brought to the table.

    Like

  172. April 10, 2013 6:04 am

    Daveon — What is happening here is that I am requesting that people not involved in the WSFS be allowed to discuss the Hugo Awards in their own way and at their own pace without being silenced or bullied into abiding by the WSFS’s ideas about what constitutes constructive discourse.

    The response has been that I should either shut up and start my own award or post my complaints to a private mailing list and help draw up legislation.

    Can you not see that you are proving my point? I’m asking for civility and tolerance of difference, you’re demanding either silence or a greater level of investment than I am willing to give.

    It is these demands that are incredibly dangerous to the long-term health of your organisation as these demands not only come across as either weird or authoritarian… seriously, read Alex’s comments and tell me that those aren’t fucking sinister? If people are complaining that Kevin’s rhetorical style makes them feel unsafe then how are they likely to feel about Alex’s suggestion that there are people out there planning to hunt them down all across Europe?

    Like

  173. April 10, 2013 6:14 am

    After reading the latest comments from Kevin, Alex, etc I am now *convinced* that the Hugo administrators/bureaucrats are a bunch of weirdos that no sane person would want anything to do with.

    Like

  174. April 10, 2013 6:29 am

    Alex — The word is completely accurate, in fact… every response I’ve received in the last couple of days makes it seem more and more appropriate. You might not like the suggestion that you are attempting to police the debate but that is definitely how it feels and looks to me.

    I have identified a problem: Certain people associated with the WSFS are pathologically intolerant of any discussion of their awards undertaken by people not associated with the WSFS.

    How can this problem be solved? These people can stop turning up on other people’s blogs and attempting to police the debate. Solving this problem does not require the passage of a WSFS by-law that needs to be ratified and presented to the members for consideration and voting: it requires that a group of people turn off their google alerts and learn to tolerate different perspectives to their own.

    Let me make this clear: I have no desire to become involved in the running of the WSFS. I have no desire to join a sub-committee or help to draft an amended resolution. I have no desire to run my own convention or volunteer at a convention. I have no desire to help with programming, to appear on a panel, to take minutes, to pub my ish, to attend turkey readings or live my life in accordance with the teachings of the enchanted duplicator. I was mildly curious about next year’s Worldcon but after this exchange I’ve not only made my mind up not to attend… I’ve started to seriously question my decision to attend World Fantasy in Brighton later this year. I have no desire to make a contribution to your fandom because I have my own experience of genre that I find to be an infinitely better fit than yours.

    My ‘constructive’ involvement in the WSFS was never, ever, on the table. However, what concerned me was that the nature of the debate surrounding the Hugo Awards might serve to push people away from the level of deeper involvement that you and some of the others appear to demand from anyone with an opinion about the Hugo Awards and I think that the comments here have completely vindicated my fears.

    Like

  175. kastandlee permalink
    April 10, 2013 6:30 am

    Sinister? Now you’re simply hallucinating, unless somehow you really believe there are shadowy Secret Masters of Fandom. Alex was clearly satirizing the idea that there really are Secret Masters who will Hunt You Down. That was utterly obvious.

    But anyway, to address what you say here: “I am requesting that people not involved in the WSFS be allowed to discuss the Hugo Awards in their own way and at their own pace.”

    What’s the point of “discussing the Hugo Awards” if your “discussion” consists of, at best, half-truths and at worst, crackpot notions that bear no relationship to that terrible awful thing known as “objective reality”? But I guess if you want to be lumped in with the tinfoil-hat crowd, you have that right.

    Elsewhere, you dismiss the opinions of multiple people who have posted hear, a number of whom dislike me intensely, and one of whom I will probably be arguing directly against at this year’s Business Meeting on a matter tangentially related to the Hugo Awards. They aren’t my minions, in other words. You dismiss them casually with phrases that imply that we’re all part of some organized movement against you. Has it ever crossed your mind that we’re saying the things we’ve been saying because we’re right?

    You’re demanding that your assertion that 2 + 2 = 5 3/4 be given the same weight in discussion as what the math textbooks say, and then you seem to wonder why a whole lot of people who actually know how to add are exasperated with you. That’s really starting to look like willful ignorance to me.

    Like

  176. kastandlee permalink
    April 10, 2013 6:32 am

    “Certain people associated with the WSFS are pathologically intolerant of any discussion of their awards undertaken by people not associated with the WSFS.”

    No. Certain people, me among them, Don’t like people spreading lies, which is what you seem to delight in doing. That’s not the same thing.

    Sure, debate the Hugos all you want. But don’t make up facts that aren’t true. Expect to be called out on them when you lie.

    Like

  177. April 10, 2013 6:34 am

    Thanks Danny :-) I must admit, I’m slightly taken aback as to quite how far these comments have wandered beyond parody.

    Like

  178. April 10, 2013 6:37 am

    Kevin – “But I guess if you want to be lumped in with the tinfoil-hat crowd, you have that right”, “You’re demanding that your assertion that 2 + 2 = 5 3/4 be given the same weight in discussion as what the math textbooks say”, etc.

    This is rude, offensive, authoritarian bullying – simple as that. Quite clearly, you are not prepared to tolerate any differing or dissenting viewpoint. That tells us just about all we need to know about the Hugo awards/bureaucracy. Fuck it.

    Like

  179. kastandlee permalink
    April 10, 2013 6:40 am

    No, Danny: It’s saying “Everyone has a right to their own opinions, but everyone does not have their right to their own facts.” If you make stupid, non-factual assertions, expect people to ridicule them.

    Like

  180. Mary Kay permalink
    April 10, 2013 6:46 am

    Kevin — it’s time to stop now. There’s no helping people who willfully misconstrue the difference between fact and opinion. You can do no good; you can only do harm. Besides, think of your blood pressure.

    MKK

    Like

  181. April 10, 2013 6:47 am

    Sorry, Kevin – you’re congenitally incapable of saying anything which is not bullying, rude or intolerant. Get help.

    Like

  182. April 10, 2013 7:06 am

    Jonathan: “I’m slightly taken aback as to quite how far these comments have wandered beyond parody” – me too! This discussion, insofar as it has been a ‘discussion’ given the repeated attempts to stifle debate, has been quite a revelation to me – I had no idea things were so bad! Clearly, there does need to be a bloody revolution against the Hugo ruling class :-). Alternatively – and perhaps better still – just ignore the damned thing and do something more productive with your life, which is so short and precious.

    Like

  183. April 10, 2013 7:06 am

    Kevin — Which lies have I been spreading exactly?

    All I asked for was tolerance of different levels of investment and respect for the fact that not everyone expresses their passion for science fiction in the same way. By seeking to correct what you see as ‘lies’ you’re making the WSFS look like a hive of authoritarian bullies and effectively scaring away people who might one day want to become more involved in Worldcon and traditional fandom.

    Dude, you are out of control and your behaviour is harming the image of the institution you are trying to defend. Please stop.

    Like

  184. kastandlee permalink
    April 10, 2013 7:38 am

    Mary Kay: You’re right. I’ll go re-read John Picacio’s essay and remember that John’s a lot more respected and listened to than these people in their little bubble. Thanks for reminding me.

    Like

  185. April 10, 2013 8:07 am

    OK, a lot to parse after working 12+ hours:

    Tero, “hard to give a shit” does give a tiny bit of leeway, I suppose. The award shortlists themselves I just make a passing statement and move on. The assumption of these awards being the be-all, end-all of SF/F awards (a view held at least as much outside WorldCon virtual corridors as inside it, granted) is what bothers me every so often. But again, not enough to spend more than a few minutes every now and then opining on it before moving on to more productive matters (hope the Atkinson will be as enjoyable for you as it was for me).

    But what baffles many reading this thread seems to be the rather dogged defense of something that is at best a picayune matter to a great many. Like I said above, I do not consider myself a “fan”; “critic” suits me much better. The comments about how nice the convention water is makes me more distrustful rather than less; such things are an appeal to developing a mass rapport rather than a more discerning view of what might constitute “good,” if not great SF/F. Yet that does not mean that I or most others want WorldCon to be ended. It serves a purpose, albeit for many an outdated and perhaps out-sized one of being one barometer of what appeals to a certain group of people.

    However, “one barometer” ought not equal the totality of thought and those who operate outside WorldCon/WSFS bounds should feel free to voice their issues with it without a pro-WSFS amen chorus showing up and changing the topic from article-specific concerns to a litany of boilerplate comments. Although I must admit that Mary Kay’s comments about her sister-in-law are such non sequiturs that they and subsequent comments make it hard for any to consider writing a parody of certain fandom viewpoints; the actual comments themselves serve as superb self-parodies.

    So maybe this is really all a playing out of The Offspring’s “Come Out and Play”?

    Like

  186. April 10, 2013 8:16 am

    At the risk of commenting without having read all the comments since the last one I posted, I find a lot of what has been posted really hasn’t progressed the debate here. Jonathan, the initial impression I took from your original post is that at the very least you’re disturbed by the Hugo nominations, despite having made the effort to participate in the process.

    I suspect you believe that many of the nominators didn’t carefully consider their choices before submitting them and I tend to agree with you. Considering “F*ck me, Ray Bradbury” made it on the final ballot a couple of years ago when an episode of Community or Being Human would have been more deserving proves that point. Unfortunately, there were block of nominators who liked the idea of making a presenter say the F word. As much as I like Chris Garcia and his acceptance speech is many people’s favorite Hugo moment, I don’t believe a nominating slot should have been wasted on that video clip last year. Since I was there at the time, that clip didn’t even capture all of the detail or energy from Chris’s and James Bacon’s response. (He actually circled the bannister by the steps three or four times.)

    I don’t believe we need to “fix” the discussion of the Hugos. Am I correct that what you really want is eligible nominators to discuss what they feel are worthy candidates more? Do you want the nominators to take what they’re putting on their ballots more seriously? I’ll confess that I’m not always so altruistic in nominating, but I do take the final vote seriously. I was rather aghast that Dervish House came in last place when there were a couple of obviously weaker novels in the category a couple of years ago.

    To be frank, I don’t believe your original post on this thread was very well written. I don’t believe you thought out what was really bothering you before you wrote and posted it and it meanders too much. But your opening paragraph says lots.

    If you’re upset there isn’t a YA category, I’m indifferent, but a lot of people agree with you. There were a lot of complaints when the Harry Potter book won Best Novel, yet I never heard any about Graveyard Book. Chris Barclay (sp?) has been leading the charge for YA for a couple of years and hasn’t given up on it yet. I’m hearing more people support his cause and it could still happen. It didn’t win in 2011 because the Fancast passed and it’s unlikely the business meeting would create more than one new category a year. Perhaps even within a couple. If you want to see more discussion on the progress of that, I did run across a Facebook page on the subject:

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Discussion-Page-for-the-Young-Adult-Book-Hugo-Award-Proposal/187492394596256

    Your original post would have served you better to either focus on taking the nominating process more seriously or the merits of creating of a YA category. Shoot, you could have even written two. Accusing the process of being broken and the Hugo administrators of being arrogant, ignorant and pompous isn’t furthering your cause. It just makes the movers and shakers defensive. Since I have worked on Worldcon in past, still participate in the Hugo process and have had friends who have been nominated for and won Hugos, I can’t help but feel defensive too.

    Like

  187. April 10, 2013 8:24 am

    BTW, I notice your “Trackbacks” don’t include John Piccacio’s excellent blogpost. Are you going to include that too?

    Like

  188. Tero permalink
    April 10, 2013 8:31 am

    Larry: “Tero, “hard to give a shit” does give a tiny bit of leeway, I suppose.”

    Ok, point taken. :-)

    I actually pretty much agree with you on that the Hugos shouldn’t be seen as the only sf award, representing some global concensus. Also, my take on the Hugo shortlists is rather similar to yours — I view them with some interest, may comment some, but usually don’t expect them to represent what I think are the best or most worthy works produced in the field of sf.

    “The comments about how nice the convention water is makes me more distrustful rather than less”

    I’m sad to hear that — conventions are definitely not something that everyone enjoys (and in my opinion attending them isn’t a requirement for being a “fan”), but it’s pretty much impossible to find out if you’re one of the people who does enjoy them without attending a few and seeing for yourself.

    “However, “one barometer” ought not equal the totality of thought and those who operate outside WorldCon/WSFS bounds should feel free to voice their issues with it without a pro-WSFS amen chorus showing up and changing the topic from article-specific concerns to a litany of boilerplate comments. ”

    True. Unfortunately the discussions outside “the usual circles” often sound like a litany of boilerplate comments too, and I guess it’s too easy to fall into established patterns. I don’t know how to fix this, but trying to keep on original topic would of course be a good start.

    Like

  189. werthead permalink
    April 10, 2013 9:16 am

    “The question is simple: should one book be eligible for both the “Best Novel” and “Best YA Novel” awards at the same time?

    If the answer to that question is no, many people (including me) will see a large problem in how a book is assigned to only one of these categories. Specifically that a great SF novel that would be considered (by voters) to be YA would likely receive many more nominations as “Best YA” then the wider category of “Best Novel”, so a book that might have won the “Best Novel” award would be excluded from the category by a technicality. Alternately, a great YA book might get enough nominations to be in the “Best Novel” category, as has happened in the past, but this would have the effect that, win or lose in the category it ended up in, a great YA book would not win the “Best YA Novel” category even if it was better (in the view of voters, reviewers, etc.) than any of the nominees on the ballot. This is a critical problem, which “let the voters decide” cannot resolve.”

    As I said above, the EXACT same issue occurs at the moment when deciding if TV shows should be placed in Long-form (for entire seasons) or Short-form (for individual episodes) and they can’t be both simultaneously. This leads to anomalous situations like last year, where you had two TV shows winning Hugos (GAME OF THRONES for Long-form and DOCTOR WHO for short-form). There didn’t seem to be any controversy about this, despite it shutting out all the movies released that year from being represented.

    There is absolutely zero reasons why a YA Hugo wouldn’t work the same way. In odd years where a YA novel breaks through the mainstream and wins the main Hugo, you’d end up with two YA winners (one for Best Novel and one for Best YA). Is that really the end of the world? If it works for an existing category with the current rules, I fail to see why it would not work for a new category but with the current rules.

    “Scenario 1…”

    So why did none of these objections arise regarding the Long-form/Short-form issue?

    Personally, given that YA books do sometimes win the Hugos, I’m not sure if there is an overwhelming need for a YA category. I also forsee problems with people then pointing out that if there is a YA category, maybe there should be more fragmentation of the Best Novel category (I can see people suggesting Best SF, Best Fantasy and Best Horror fields as well). But mechanically I don’t see much of an issue with how the YA/Novel categories would operate since two other categories operate in the exact same manner now.

    Like

  190. April 10, 2013 9:17 am

    Adrienne —

    I disagree with the Hugo nominations but I don’t actually have a problem with them.If people legitimately think that Scalzi’s monotonous and manipulative Redshirts is the best that SF did last year then good luck to them… Naturally, I wish that my views were more common than they are because that way I might get more of the types of things that I like but I won’t lose any sleep over my minority opinion. If you read both my original post and the comments after it, you’ll find that I have not actually complained about the outcome of the Hugo Awards, merely the tone of the debate surrounding them.

    Nor am I overly fussed about the amount of care and attention that people put into their nominations. I think, as a general rule of thumb, that more consideration and open-mindedness is invariably a good thing but I accept that Hugo voters have different priorities and that they’re entitled to their collective opinions.

    What I want is for people to be allowed to discuss the Hugo Awards in their own way and on their own terms without having to face a deluge of ‘helpful corrections’ from people more invested in the institutions surrounding the Hugo Awards. I think that trying to police the wider discussion is not only obnoxious but also harmful to the long-term interests of the Hugo Awards as many people who might tomorrow get involved in running the Hugos are today spouting ‘lies’ and ‘ignorance’ on the internet. That is literally all I wanted.

    I’m sorry you felt that my post was poorly written and evidently I must have been at fault somewhere as you clearly didn’t understand either my initial statement of the ‘problem’ or the 10 or 20 re-statements of the problem I have made in the comments. I wrote in favour of civilised discussion of the Hugo Awards and you somehow interpreted that as displeasure at the outcome of the voting process. Obviously there’s some communication failure going on in there somewhere and I accept that part of the responsibility for said failure must fall on me as the author of the original comment.

    To be honest, I’m not exactly ‘upset’ about the lack of a YA Hugo. I don’t really read YA or care about the fate of YA authors but I think that having a YA Hugo would allow SF Culture to build a much-needed bridge to YA culture. I don’t care enough about the outcome either way to actually get involved and even if I wanted to get involved I lack both the skill and the social capital to actually have an impact on the process.

    Furthermore, I suspect that getting involved in running a convention I have no desire to ever attend is probably a sign of madness. I have no desire to be any more invested in fandom than I currently am but I reserve the right to call the WSFS stupid and short-sighted when they make a decision I disagree with. Even more than that, I think that anyone and everyone should have the right to express their displeasure at both the outcome of the Hugo Awards and the body administering them. I think this not only because I think that people should be entitled to express their opinions as a matter of course, but also because I believe that tolerating dissent is in the best long-term interests of the WSFS and the fannish institutions surrounding it. By seeking to silence disagreement and police the debate, people like Kevin and Alex are only scaring people away. Today’s whiners are tomorrow’s BNF and if you force out the whiners then you’re depriving yourselves of tomorrow’s engaged and productive fans.

    I genuinely find it puzzling that this idea should prove so hard to digest.

    Like

  191. April 10, 2013 9:26 am

    Adrienne — Trackbacks are automatically generated when someone links to this blog. Piccacio didn’t link to me and isn’t really addressing the same set of concerns as me so I’m not sure why I’d link to him. Plus, as Kevin points out, Piccacio is far better known and widely respected than I am anyway and I suspect his post will be far more widely read anyway.

    On another point, you say that I should have taken the nomination process more seriously and written two posts. Um… I did link to my extensive post on the nomination process in the first paragraph of my original post. Here it is again:

    https://ruthlessculture.com/2013/02/18/my-draft-hugo-ballot-2013/

    So, as you can see, I have taken the nominations process very seriously this year and produced two posts. I couldn’t find your list of nominations on your epinions site, do you have a separate blog?

    Like

  192. April 10, 2013 10:48 am

    Jonathan–

    I don’t blog very much, but my suggestions were included among the BASFA recommendations list on Live Journal. Since my father died around this time last year, I haven’t been able to devote much time Hugo activities when getting my parents’ estate organized has been such an enormous job. I’ll have to admit I thought your suggestions for Hugo nominations were much more articulate than this post and definitely go into much more reasoning than mine would.

    As for criticizing the system, you’re welcome say what you want in this country–as long as you don’t libel or slander–but people also have the right to react to your comments. Barack Obama and John Cameron do not have the time to respond to everything said about them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to.

    If you now feel too discouraged to give Loncon 3 a try–well, I sympathize. I’m sorry this soured any interest you had in going. I know there’s going to be people there I’d rather not encounter, but I’m not going to let them keep me from being there. It’s a big convention and they’re easy enough to avoid. It’s also a critical one for networking, for anyone wants to be a professional in the science fiction industry. Heck, I’ve already planned a stay at Hampton Court Palace as part of my vacation in the UK. One of the aspects I like about Worldcon is it gives me an excuse to travel.

    Like

  193. Alex permalink
    April 10, 2013 1:15 pm

    Jonathan wrote:

    “Alex — The word is completely accurate, in fact… every response I’ve received in the last couple of days makes it seem more and more appropriate. You might not like the suggestion that you are attempting to police the debate but that is definitely how it feels and looks to me.
    I have identified a problem: Certain people associated with the WSFS are pathologically intolerant of any discussion of their awards undertaken by people not associated with the WSFS.
    How can this problem be solved? These people can stop turning up on other people’s blogs and attempting to police the debate. ”

    Jonathan, you are the one trying to police the debate. You’re telling people what they can say and where they can say it. No one else here has the power to “police” the discussion. You disagree with some people, some people disagree with you, there is no authority dynamic that makes this a case of them policing you.

    The online world is a pretty open forum. People say what they want. If someone says things that are untrue, others will call them on it. If someone insults others, they’ll get a response. That’s what’s happening. That’s how things work online. If you have anything substantive to say, you’ve been invited to say it in places where people can take action on the suggestion. Online communication is pretty fast these days. Trying to hide your comments from feedback by posting them out of sight of most of the people who are informed about the subject is disingenuous.

    You have it backwards. Certain people associated with WSFS are evangelical about inclusion; we’ll respond to complaints with “come join us and show us how things can be done better.”

    The YA debate is an example. We reached a (temporary, time-constrained) impasse in last year’s discussion. One of the most likely paths to resolution is new input from people who weren’t involved in the discussion last year. So when someone expresses an opinion in some random place, we invite them to come speak it where it will make a difference.

    The only one here who is intolerant of discussion is yourself. You want to speak in an echo chamber where no one contradicts you and where those you attack do not have the characteristics of ordinary people (“pathologically” being the latest example of a pejorative and fact-free assertion). Some people care about their fandom.

    One of the things I learned from other online activities is to assume good faith. You are making unsubstantiated accusations. My suggestion would be that you stop injecting ad hominem assumptions into why you think other people hold their views, and for you to simply actually say what you want to say.

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  194. April 10, 2013 1:34 pm

    Alex – “Trying to hide your comments from feedback by posting them out of sight of most of the people who are informed about the subject is disingenuous.”

    This is truly mad and *real* conspiracy politics. All Jonathan did was make a few pretty mild and constructive criticisms of the whole Hugo process on *his* blog – only to be harangued and hectored by a relentless succession of WSFS fan-boys-cum-trolls in a most extraordinarily petty and intolerant manner. Then Jon is accused is trying to “police” debate and making “ad hominem” attacks! Sheer lunacy. And to rub salt into the wound, Alex exhorts Jon to “actually say what you want to say” – when he has done that on a number of occasions, simply and concisely. And calmly.

    You Hugo guys & gals are really are a bunch of disingenuous, passive-aggressive weirdos and fruitcakes. Or at least that is the overwhelming impress you give to any ‘outsider’ – ie, all those living in the sane world.

    Like

  195. Alex permalink
    April 10, 2013 1:34 pm

    To further clarify: What I (I think, clearly) said was that if you can’t be bothered to get out of your chair and get to your local convention, if the furthest you’ll go is to your computer, that’s where we will meet you for discussion. That’s your choice.

    I’m hoping that clarification can dismiss the misinterpretation. Interpreting a remark in a bizarrely paranoid way seems like a formula for unnecessary conflict. It may work for you to play the victim in an unresolvable conflict, but that’s not actually a path to positive change.

    Like

  196. April 10, 2013 1:35 pm

    Or should read: “You Hugo guys & gals really are a bunch of dishonest, passive-aggressive weirdos and fruitcakes. Or at least that is the overwhelming impression you give to any ‘outsider’ – ie, all those living in the sane world.

    Like

  197. April 10, 2013 1:45 pm

    Alex – “To further clarify: What I (I think, clearly) said was that if you can’t be bothered to get out of your chair and get to your local convention, if the furthest you’ll go is to your computer, that’s where we will meet you for discussion. That’s your choice. I’m hoping that clarification can dismiss the misinterpretation. Interpreting a remark in a bizarrely paranoid way seems like a formula for unnecessary conflict. It may work for you to play the victim in an unresolvable conflict, but that’s not actually a path to positive change.”

    Frankly, the thought of being in the same room as a bully and bore like you makes me feel physically sick.

    Like

  198. Alex permalink
    April 10, 2013 2:54 pm

    “Ad hominem” is attacking the speaker rather than the logic of the argument. Dismissing a speaker with judgemental adjectives is ad hominem.

    Jonathan is the one demanding that he not be presented with contradictory facts. No conspiracy in that, just IMO a disingenuous failure in logic.

    “Passive-aggressive” is claiming to be neutral while favoring (e.g. by quoting) slanted opinions. That’s where this discussion started, not from the responses.

    It is not “bullying” to defend people from unjustified attack. The work needs to be done. Someone needs to do it. One can ask people to do the work differently, and I often do, but it’s not helpful to sit back and condemn people who are putting in the effort. Certainly my own criticisms always implicitly include an offer to help and participate; that’s the way to get things done. Yes, raised by scientists, I’ll challenge people’s logic if I find it lacking.

    Sorry if I’m “boring” anyone, but I think science fiction is important. One of the ways we promote, distribute, and encourage science fiction to be written and read is with a great award. One of the ways we keep the award relevant is to adapt to change, which involves getting people involved, which occasionally means dragging them off the sidelines. If I’m working on a convention, it’s not about me, it’s about bringing authors, readers, artists, filkers, costumers, game designes, and other creative people together. I just try to make sure the reg desk brings in money to pay the bills, that the program book has information about the convention, that the hotel or other facility has rooms for programming to happen in. If you don’t like that people working on a convention are passionate about making the convention happen and be a success, I think one should really reconsider the social dynamic required to make such things happen.

    Fandom is a way of life. Call me a “fan-boy”, I’ll take it as a compliment. What I try to do in fandom is build bridges and, where necessary, hammer down the walls that people try to build. Including the walls they build around themselves.

    We all have our own opinions. It’s not about any of us as individuals, it’s what we accomplish together that matters. Logically what matters is the outcome, not what we each happen to think about each other’s opinions. Focusing on the individuals involved is irrelevant and unproductive. Sometimes we’re going to disagree. We need to focus on the substance of the issue, the facts, not filter it through various people’s interpretations of each other’s levels of or assertions of authority. I try to respect everyone equally, even though this will offend people who expect to be deferred to.

    It would be easy for me, and for others who care about the Hugos, to simply ignore the opinions expressed here. From what I can see, it is possible that there are kernels of meaning here that can be extracted, specifically recommendations about the kinds of work that can be recognized and nominated in the future. I think some people’s perception of the process is based on inaccurate assumptions, so I’ve tried to help strip away the assumptions. Some people are invested in their misunderstanding and misplaced sense of injustice. They’d rather complain than resolve anything. That’s their issue. I can only show that doors are open, I can’t force anyone to come through them.

    Like

  199. Alex permalink
    April 10, 2013 3:10 pm

    werthead wrote:
    ““Scenario 1…”

    So why did none of these objections arise regarding the Long-form/Short-form issue?”

    They did arise, and were discussed at exhaustive length. I suggested alternate wording to make it more clearly Best Film and Best Television Episode. Some people felt the time-based category would be easier to administer. For my view to have prevailed, either someone would have had to come with clearer wording than what I offered, or more people involved in media fandom would have had to support my opinion. Didn’t happen. That’s democracy. And it’s similar to the current discussion of the YA award.

    “Personally, given that YA books do sometimes win the Hugos, I’m not sure if there is an overwhelming need for a YA category. “”

    Many people share this view.

    There are YA awards. I am friends with people who have worked on administering and promoting the Andre Norton and Hal Clement awards for many years. Notwithstanding anything happening with the Hugos, I would certainly like to see the existing awards get more publicity.

    Which is why, like you, I don’t consider there to be an overwhelming need for a YA category. But my view isn’t definitive, it’s just my opinion. What I want to see is whatever the community actually wants. A different majority view might emerge from wider participation in the discussion. That would be okay. A better solution would be a consensus emerging from new suggestions, or, alternately, for the people supporting the exclusive YA-or-not-YA boundary to understand that that would be hard to administer and result in unfortunate outcomes, such that they can come to support one of the other alternatives. That would be okay too. That’s democracy.

    Democracy requires many things, including participation, respect for each other’s views (and specifically an awareness that disagreement is a legitimate part of the discussion), and someone to do the work of organizing a democratic decision-making process. I do not see Jonathan accepting any of that.

    Like

  200. April 10, 2013 3:35 pm

    OK Alex, you are a Hugo martyr :-).

    Like

  201. Alex permalink
    April 10, 2013 3:48 pm

    Danny wrote:
    “OK Alex, you are a Hugo martyr :-).”

    And that’s the problem. We need to get past name-calling if we’re going to work together. You don’t get to decide who is a “martyr”. There is no authority in an open discussion, so this is simply a comment about your own perceptions.

    I’m not involved in the Hugos, except as a voter. I’m on on the concom for this year’s Worldcon. I do other things in fandom, which allows other people to contribute in their useful ways. I enjoy fandom because I meet tons of amazing people. There are a handful of fuggheads (in my perception, so only relevant to me) around, but they are generally easy to avoid.

    Like

  202. April 10, 2013 5:31 pm

    Alex — Yeah… nice try. I wrote a post requesting a little bit of civility from WSFS people and established authors. Kevin has a Google alert, a bat-pole and a gang of cronies. I’m also arguing in favour of people being able to say anything they want, no matter how ill-informed and ill-considered it may be. Nice try but you’re going to have work a little bit harder than that to push my buttons ;-)

    Your attempts at re-framing the debate positively reek of dishonesty and special pleading: First someone expressing themselves on a blog or a message board is compared to bursting into someone’s place of work and telling them what to do. Now expressing an opinion about a set of awards is insulting the people who helping to organise them!

    I wouldn’t say you were evangelical… I’d say you were ‘civilising’. Your post about fandom reaching out and finding me had more than a touch of Manifest Destiny about it… as though anyone and everyone with a passing interest in science fiction is some sort of Sudetenfan who can be bullied and shamed into having their energies and insights harnessed by traditional fandom.

    In a lot of cases, I’m sure that people are happy to be ‘welcomed’, ‘appreciated’ and offered a path in life but it really is not up to you whether and when someone decides to escalate their involvement in fandom.

    Like

  203. April 10, 2013 5:46 pm

    Adrienne —

    You have my sincere sympathies with regards to sorting out your parents’ estate. I am only now reaching the end of a two year process of estate settlement due to the fact that my mother evidently did not deal with any form of official administration for the last ten years of her life despite living in two different countries.

    Two sets of lawyers, two sets of accountants and several major fallings out with various insane members of my family later and we are left with nothing but a house to sell. So I’ve been there ;-)

    To be fair, my Worldcon attendance was always on something of a knife edge. I’ve been to some smaller conventions and a) not hugely enjoyed the convention side of things and b) not coped hugely well with the crowds. I’m generally happier the more self-contained I am and conventions tend to run against that. I do have friends in the fan community that I would probably have liked to see but I think it’s almost certainly not my type of thing.

    Like

  204. Alex permalink
    April 10, 2013 6:16 pm

    Jonathan>
    Most people will see you are using a lot of emotionally charged language to obscure the actual issues. You seem very threatened by any contradiction, and if that’s how you feel, you might want to avoid inviting debate.

    You started by asking for “civil debate” but you are framing that with non-factual assertions (“silencing debate”) and by slagging people with unjustified charges. People will respond to that. Some organizers find it demotivating, and that’s not good.

    If change is worth doing, do it. If not, don’t. My fannish ethic is that to complain is to volunteer. The Hugos will go on with you or without you. They might be a little better if you have constructive ideas to share. I could care less when or whether you get involved; time frame is driven by the importance of the need for change, which is your (or each person’s) call. If you don’t think it’s worth dealing with, that’s fine, but the interval following the announcements is by default seen as a time for discussing change, and specifically for discussing changes to be introduced at this year’s Worldcon.

    Given the pace of social and technological change, and the time it takes to implement some changes, I’d like to address current issues in the present, to have time to deal with future issues that arise later. So yes, I think “put up or shut up” is occasionally an appropriate response, understanding that “put up” is always the preferred alternative. If you want a gilded invitation to make the world a better place, there is no authority to give you that; it has to come from you.

    Like

  205. Alex permalink
    April 10, 2013 6:28 pm

    Sorry, to further clarify: You raised the issue of “online fandom”. Online fandom is your computer. That’s your choice, if that’s where you want to have the conversation.

    I’m not “welcoming” you, I’m just trying to clear up your misunderstandings. A lot of people are better at “welcoming” than I am; they do so partly by ignoring factual disagreements.

    I made an effort to explain how things work. You kept missing key points. Did I phrase one point in a way that led you to misunderstanding? Maybe. I attempted to clarify. If that’s what you want to hang onto, you might want to reconsider your level of sensitivity. You started by claiming there is some disconnect between the Hugos and the broader community of fandom, but the level of discussion and publicity regarding shows that assertion to be clearly untrue. You see a wall between you and other parts of fandom, but it’s a wall you’re trying to build on territory you don’t own. The community belongs to everyone in the community; you can’t just launch attacks and then expect to be ignored.

    Like

  206. April 10, 2013 6:38 pm

    Alex — I choose my words careful in an effort to ensure that they communicate exactly how I feel. So when I say that you are attempting to police the debate, I am not exaggerating for effect but telling you precisely how it feels. You may quibble the semantics in an effort to muddy the point and obscure the ideas but my point remains: By seeking to correct and corral all discussion of the Hugo Awards, people like Kevin are policing the discussion in a manner that is not only intolerable but also contrary to the best interests of the organisation that Kevin seeks to defend.

    “My fannish ethic is that to complain is to volunteer. ”

    That may well be your ethic, but it is not most people’s. Most people complain because they feel that something is not as it should be and complaining about that thing makes them feel better. Not everyone shares your ‘fannish ethic’ and attempting to force other people to abide by it is creepy and authoritarian.

    “The interval following the announcements is by default seen as a time for discussing change, and specifically for discussing changes to be introduced at this year’s Worldcon.”

    Again, a blatant example of seeking to police the debate. In the real world, there is no interval of time — whether before or after the announcement of the Hugo shortlists — that is set aside for mandatory discussion of WSFS admin. You may choose to discuss admin during that period but nobody who is not already heavily invested in the WSFS is constrained by the norms and values of that organisation.

    Like

  207. Peter Card permalink
    April 10, 2013 6:58 pm

    Some bizarre stuff here. I’ve been to more WorldCons than not over the last twenty five years, volunteered at the lowest level of the food chain (“push that trolley, guard that door, register those fans”), nominated Hugos when I remembered too, and once or twice attended a WSFS business meeting, which I think makes me not-untypical of WorldCon members. There may be as many different reasons to go as there are people, but I find it hard to believe that the WSFS business meeting is the major attraction for any of them, if they even remember it exists. You go for the authors, the books, the (very variable) artwork, the films, the merchandise, the you-never-considered-that-but-it-was-awesome (my favourite)

    I guess that few people like to be contradicted, and this is Jonathan’s blog, so we should play nice, but the way of the world is that strongly expressed opinions will get reactions, sometimes using facts and documented sources (TM The Credible Hulk)

    I did notice that Kevin favours lowering the price of Hugo voting rights, and ratifying rules changes by the whole membership rather than whoever turns up for the business meeting, which would tend to open up the decision making, and opposes a proposed rule change that would put a floor on voting membership prices. It all tends to put him on the same side of the argument as our host, when they’re not winding each other up.

    However, I doubt that opening up the Hugo voting to a wider audience would make it any less a popularity contest. Sometimes the voters get it right. Be glad when they do.

    Like

  208. Alex permalink
    April 10, 2013 7:29 pm

    Jonathan wrote:
    “I choose my words careful in an effort to ensure that they communicate exactly how I feel. So when I say that you are attempting to police the debate, I am not exaggerating for effect but telling you precisely how it feels. ”

    No, this is illogical and not accurate communication. This phrasing isn’t about you, it’s an attack. You want to talk about your feelings, use a first-person verb. The word “policing” refers to the acts of others; it would normally be construed as somehow limiting the discussion, yet observably that’s clearly not what is happening, so it is simply a non-factual attempt to label others. It asserts bad faith and is thus an obstacle to “civil” debate. It’s laughable to suggest that open debate is not happening, here and elsewhere.

    The way to improve the discussion is to participate in it. If you have something concrete to say, say it. You don’t like the works nominated or the process by which they are nominated, offer a better solution. The actual subject contains layers of complication that need to be parsed logically in order for the community to understand and move forward.

    For example, just to choose Scalzi’s Redshirts as a lightning rod, I would describe the book as being easy to read, easy to share, and thus visible to a wide pool of nominators. I liked it, though the segmented story line was a bit non-traditional. I didn’t read enough novels last year to honestly say whether it deserved to be on the ballot, though if I”d read more, I might well have included it on my ballot. I heard a different complaint about nominations that addressed this, and it does seem to me that the criticism of nominators not considering a wide enough range of works may be legitimate, so the action that I’ve recommended is for more groups to put more effort into making recommendations. That’s going to take work. But sitting back and sniping without specifics is mostly just a distraction. Having to guess what you might actually be concerned about is awkward.

    This is online fandom. It’s not a bunch of isolated rooms, it’s like one big chamber with alcoves. You entered the conversation, why would it surprise you to be part of it? It is your claim that Worldcons are somehow separate from online fandom that has injected negative energy into the conversation. Slagging people gets attention, but it’s better to focus on the subject itself than on who is saying what.

    Like

  209. April 10, 2013 7:35 pm

    Alex —

    I don’t misunderstand you… I disagree with you.

    You see the world one way, you enjoy seeing it that way… I see it a different way. You can’t make me understand any more than I do because I understand your position perfectly. I understand your position and I explicitly reject it. Do you genuinely think that the only thing preventing everyone in the world from agreeing with you is that they have not yet been able to understand your worldview? Or is it just me?

    “You see a wall between you and other parts of fandom, but it’s a wall you’re trying to build on territory you don’t own. The community belongs to everyone in the community; you can’t just launch attacks and then expect to be ignored.”

    People sharing opinions that are different to yours are not attacking you. However, seeking to silence, correct and corral those people into venues you consider ‘useful’ is definitely attacking them.

    Like

  210. Alex permalink
    April 10, 2013 7:46 pm

    Your opinions are as valid as anyone else’s. Your understanding of facts is incorrect. Your use of language is misapplied, in that you use words to attach meanings that are not based on facts. There is no mechanism here to “silence” anyone, there is no “corral” without a wall, and objectively it is proper to correct statements which are not true. You’re entitled to your opinions, but facts are subject to verification.

    Like

  211. April 10, 2013 7:49 pm

    Alex is an instinctive dictator, he can’t see an alternative viewpoint without feeling the need to crush it. SF lovers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your Hugo chains!

    Like

  212. April 10, 2013 7:50 pm

    Alex —

    People who express opinions that are different to yours are not attacking you.

    All I asked for was that people be allowed to conduct their own conversations, on their own terms without being corrected, mocked, silenced or corralled into taking on administrative duties in the WSFS. The WSFS does not get to set the terms on which people engage with the Hugo Awards and Kevin Standlee’s grand crusade to convert the internet to having RIGHT and CONSTRUCTIVE discussions is not only intimidating and rude but also self-defeating as his actions are effectively making the WSFS look like a bunch of authoritarian bullies.

    Just let people be wrong on the Internet… that’s all I’m asking. If you let them be wrong on the Internet then maybe one day they will want to be right in the real world.

    Like

  213. April 10, 2013 7:58 pm

    Alex —

    There is more to human understanding than factual correctness. Two people can look at a situation, agree on the factual elements of that situation and yet understand it in ways that are not only different but entirely incommensurable.

    We are dealing here with issues of personal and group morality, moral facts may or may not exist but if they do then they are not subject to rational analysis and empirical testing. As a result your attempt to explain our political disagreement in terms of my inability to come to terms with the facts is both patronising and quite sweetly naive.

    Like

  214. April 10, 2013 8:01 pm

    Jonathan–

    Loncon 3 is still a while off. Maybe you’ll change your mind before then. If so, please look me up. Perhaps we can have coffee or a meal together and I can help start introducing you to a few friendly people. The non-tech way to contact other people at Worldcon is the Voodoo Board, which is usually around the registration area somewhere. It is basically a pinboard with a list of the preregistered attending members’ names. When someone wants to send you a message, but doesn’t know how else to contact you, they stick a little red-bulbed thumbtack next to your name and leave a message in the card file for you. If you need further help figuring out how it works, you can ask someone at the info desk.

    In the meantime, I’m going to jump out of the fray of this conversation, because it’s really not going anywhere and people are just repeating themselves and being uncivilized.

    Like

  215. April 10, 2013 8:02 pm

    Danny — I must admit, this discussion is really bringing out the anarchist in me. Alex’s line about hunting me down across Europe really sent chills down my spine… I keep wanting to grab a marinetti and a black beret!

    Sous les WSFS Business Meetings, La Plage!

    Like

  216. April 10, 2013 8:07 pm

    You are a marked man, Jonathan – you might have to go underground :-)

    Like

  217. Alex permalink
    April 10, 2013 9:00 pm

    I’m an instinctive democrat. I want people to be heard. I work hard to build and maintain systems to facilitate communication. Could be I take people seriously, but that’s my issue. Personalizing the debate is just a tactic for avoiding the subject matter.

    It is factually incorrect to assert that there is any mechanism to police, silence, corral, or otherwise control the conversation.

    Some of us are online a lot of the time (power and network permitting). If you say something in the earshot of Google Alerts, don’t be surprised if people hear you.

    Like

  218. Daveon permalink
    April 10, 2013 9:32 pm

    I must admit, this discussion is really bringing out the anarchist in me.

    And there it is. Fine, I have no issue with that myself. But I hark back to my boggling at the antics of the SWP, RCP, RCWP and others at NUS Conference in the 1990s, You can’t run global organisations which have to have structure and rules, and that’s the reality of the Hugos, not to mention Conventions costing the thick end of a million quid to put on, without having rules and a structure and accountability.

    This posturing is nonsense. Nobody is trying to stop anybody from speaking, nobody. They are correcting errors in fact, although there’s a good cartoon about that… They are trying, actually to engage, but I just don’t see any interest in engagement.

    I proposed a way to actually discuss how you could move the WSFS to something more user friendly and faster to respond (Jonathon, one of your key complaints)(http://daveon.livejournal.com/679162.html) but the reality is, you don’t really want to fix or change anything do you? You, Danny and some others want to sit in glorious purity in what you see as _real_ fandom. And that’s fine, perfectly valid. But don’t whinge about my interests and complain about people I know who put huge amounts of effort into making things I like happen for no personal gain if you’ve no interest in fixing the crap you don’t like.

    That’s passive aggressive.

    This post. To be clear. It’s aggressive. And it’s reminded me of why I got out of student politics all those years ago. Lots of people with grand visions who don’t actually want to change things. That’s why that twit Twigg ended up in government after failing in everything he claimed he wanted to do for students.

    Like

  219. Daveon permalink
    April 10, 2013 9:36 pm

    Just let people be wrong on the Internet… that’s all I’m asking. If you let them be wrong on the Internet then maybe one day they will want to be right in the real world.

    In the context of the Hugo Awards, a real Award, in the real world, just what the hell is the point of that?

    You started this thread with a call to Fix the Discussion of the Hugos, except everything you, Weirdmage and now Danny have done is the exact opposite. Now you’re saying that you don’t want to fix the discussion? You just want to have a moan in the pub about how crap all these weirdo fans are with their rules and stupid awards. Fine, you don’t want people objecting to that, don’t do it in public and ask for people to get involved in a discussion.

    If you do ask for a discussion, don’t be surprised if people take part!

    Like

  220. April 10, 2013 9:39 pm

    Alex —

    “It is factually incorrect to assert that there is any mechanism to police, silence, corral, or otherwise control the conversation.”

    I think that you are deeply intellectually dishonest because at least 50% of your interactions with me have been about the need for people to be ‘logical’, ‘constructive’ and visible to the people who are actually involved in the administration of the Hugo Awards. You even spoke about fandom hunting me down as though I were an errant slave.

    Kevin Standlee seeks to ‘correct’ what he considers lies and in so doing floods every discussion of the Hugo Awards with bureaucratic minutiae resulting in every single Hugo Award discussion revolving around him and his twisted moral compass.

    These comments have been filled with attempts to corral me into deeper involvement and when you and your cronies aren’t trying to corral me into going to conventions or joining discussion groups you’re telling me to fuck off and start my own award… and all I ever wanted was for people to be civil.

    My position has not changed in 200 comments and yet you continue to argue with me and have the gall to claim that you are not seeking to police the debate? Why is it so hard for you to accept the idea that people should be allowed to express themselves without fear of being bullied into silence by WSFS goons? How can you not grasp that this type of behaviour is why fandom is getting older and older?

    Like

  221. Daveon permalink
    April 10, 2013 10:02 pm

    all I ever wanted was for people to be civil.

    About what exactly?

    You have a problem with the Hugos. Ok, hands who doesn’t… oh me. . OK.
    You think the workings of the WSFS are bureaucratic and befuddling (no question they are, so are most bodies). OK,still with you.
    You don’t want to get involved in fixing that. Ummm, OK.
    You want a discussion but if that discussion involves suggestions about fixing things and things that you as a fan could do, you think that’s… insert the words of your choice about people… er… ok….

    You obviously don’t want to fix the Hugos, you’ve pretty much said that here. Honestly, you don’t seem all that interested in discussion. You don’t want to start another award that’s more representative of your interests and views.

    Can I ask. What do you want?

    Like

  222. April 10, 2013 10:12 pm

    Daveon —

    I have never said that I wanted to administer a global organisation. In fact, I am beginning to seriously resent your attempts to corral me into participating in the bureaucratic nightmare you call a science fiction society.

    My entire argument is and always has been that people should be allowed to express their opinions about the Hugo Awards without being silence, mocked, shamed or corralled into a level of investment they are not yet ready to commit to.

    Your ranting about ‘real fandom’ is really quite amusing… I struggle to think of myself as being a fan at all and so I’m really not likely to complain about someone not being a ‘real fan’.

    Your last two points are actually quite fascinating as you seem to be trying to construct a comparison between discussing politics and discussing the Hugo Awards. I hate to break it to you but the WSFS is not the government of science fiction and even if it was… I’m free to discuss politics without either running for office or working for the civil service. The discussions I’m trying to protect from the clomping feet of Kevin Standlee are the equivalent of people moaning about the government to their friends. Nobody in their right mind would suggest that you can’t discuss politics without being a member of a political party, why should this be any different for discussing science fiction?

    Also, you’re right… couldn’t give a monkey’s about your proposal.

    Like

  223. April 10, 2013 10:24 pm

    Daveon —

    I entered this discussion thinking that, while the institutions of trad fandom were not for me, they were probably a ‘Good Thing’ and worth keeping around for the sake of future generations.

    What concerned me was that people who were heavily invested in the Hugo Awards were seeking to silence discussion and that their efforts to silence and control the discussion were harming the Hugo Awards by frightening people away. I did not want to change the Hugo Awards, I wanted people to be able to discuss how they felt about the Hugo Awards without being mocked, silenced or corralled into ‘useful’ and ‘productive’ forms of discourse. I wanted people (other than me) to be able to discover organised fandom in their own time and on their own terms because without people discovering fandom, those social institutions are going to fall into disrepair.

    That was all I ever wanted and yet this simple request that people be civil is apparently completely beyond the pale.

    Like

  224. Daveon permalink
    April 10, 2013 10:27 pm

    Nobody in their right mind would suggest that you can’t discuss politics without being a member of a political party, why should this be any different for discussing science fiction?

    This is different because you basically asked to start discussing the workings of a political party, I think the analogy is actually accurate, without being a member and by responding to members trying to explain why they believe the things that they do and why they do them, by basically telling them to stop oppressing you!

    And when they suggest that you have valid points and you should help, you do a weird kind of inverse ‘flounce’ and get angry that people actually want you involved.

    Frankly, and I know you could care less, I have the degree of contempt for your approach as I do for anybody moaning about how the government never gets anything done and besides they never vote anyway because it encourages them. It’s the same crap that handed the country to Thatcher by creating a generation of infighting left wing factions of ideological purity whom she could pick off one at a time in her leisure.

    By all means discuss what the hell you like, but when you start discussing me and mine and what we do and do so in a public forum, don’t be surprised if I have an opinion.

    I actually had high hopes for this discussion actually getting some people to get involved and fix the things you identified which could be fixed.. Silly me.

    Like

  225. Seth permalink
    April 10, 2013 10:46 pm

    Jonathan, considering how many times you’ve posted here, how can you possibly attempt to claim that anybody is silencing you?

    If your goal is to have a non-contradiction love-fest, where only people who agree with you post, say so. Those of us who actually attend the Worldcon (and the Business Meeting), and therefore can directly affect what happens, will happily ignore your little discussion. I guess that will just give you more to whine about, which will make you even happier.

    But if your goal is to have any actual effect, there are processes that must be followed. You can’t change the rules just by wanting to. Nothing requires you to be logical, constructive, or visible; unless, that is, you want actual changes to occur as a result of your postings.

    “The WSFS does not get to set the terms on which people engage with the Hugo Awards” If by “engage with” you mean “talk about”, then of course it doesn’t. You post whatever you want, just like other people post whatever they want. If you don’t like what they post, get a reader that lets you auto-ignore them. On the other hand, if “engage with” means anything that actually affects the Hugo Awards, then the WSFS mosts certainly does set the terms for so doing. It sets the rules for nominating and voting, eligibility, etc.; it also sets the rules for changing those rules, the categories, etc.

    Or you can just post a few dozen more times about how you’re being “silenced”.

    Like

  226. April 10, 2013 11:01 pm

    Daveon —

    You are quite correct to separate out my reaction to the attempt to recruit me as I think that’s a slightly different issue that has been clouding the matter.

    Firstly: The issue I raised was that I think that people should be allowed to discuss the Hugo Awards in their own way without being mocked or sienced because today’s whiners might be tomorrow’s organisers and I think the silencing and mocking might be stopping people from investing further. That was all I ever asked for.

    Secondly: I said right from the start that fandom was not for me. I know my personality, I know my limitations and I know that I am psychologically incapable of coping with an environment like fandom. In truth, I can barely cope with the level of engagement that I currently have with SF… I routinely prune my Twitter feed and find the silence and anonymity of film reviewing far more comfortable. I said that I did not want to join up front and yet despite only asking for a little civility, people attempted to shame and coerce me into becoming more heavily invested. What did you think would happen when Alex casually informed me that fandom was going to hunt me down as though I were some sort of dangerous criminal? I do not want to be a member of your club and the attempt to suggest that this makes me somehow morally deficient makes me hate and fear your club.

    If you joined this discussion hoping to get me involved in WSFS matters then you wasted your time and I apologise for that. I am not psychologically and temperamentally equipped to deal with an environment like fandom and I’m totally okay with that… I know where to draw the line.

    In the post I linked to, Renay mentioned that she felt scared to attend a Worldcon because of the degree of hostility in this year’s Hugo discussions. While I don’t feel that attending Worldcon would place me in any sort of physical danger, this conversation has made it abundantly clear that I would not feel comfortable attending a major convention like Worldcon.

    Like

  227. Seth permalink
    April 10, 2013 11:22 pm

    Jonathan, you accuse others of “policing” and “silencing” you (on first glance, the most prolific commenter here), and expect not to be mocked. Expectation being a state of mind, you’re entitled to expect whatever you choose; however, some expectations are vanishingly unlikely to be met.

    If you want changes to be made it really is helpful to understand the process, even if you don’t want to participate personally. If you aren’t looking for changes, then what is your purpose for posting?

    Alex, not all facts are subject to verification. Claims might be verified or disproven.

    Like

  228. April 11, 2013 8:00 am

    Jonathan, considering how many times you’ve posted here, how can you possibly attempt to claim that anybody is silencing you?

    Hilarious. And presumably there is no such crime as attempted murder?

    This post starts by identifying a problem: “Whenever an alienated fan feels inclined to express their concerns about the Hugos, established fans such as Kevin Standlee use an array of tactics (including mockery, tone escalation and flood-posting) to shut down debate leaving the alienated fans feeling not only disenfranchised but also increasingly angry and resentful over the Hugo Awards’ claims to universality and democracy.” Rather than taking this on board, established fans have doubled down and made this comment thread the single best example of the problem McCalmont has identified. So really, hats off.

    The sixth comment is from Kevin Standlee and he made over thirty after that. The eight comment is from Alex and he made over thirty after that. The tenth comment is from Daveon and he has subsequently made about 25 comments. Excluding McCalmont’s own comments that is about half of all the comments people have made in the thread. The result is that over 200 comments later, there is no real discussion of the issues raised just those heavily invested in the WSFS telling McCalmont that he is wrong whilst simultaneously playing the victim (with Danny O’Dare – and plenty of non-commenters – looking on incredulously from the sidelines). Don’t be ashamed of your policing, be proud – you’ve won, congratulations.

    Like

  229. April 11, 2013 8:19 am

    Seth said: “Jonathan, considering how many times you’ve posted here, how can you possibly attempt to claim that anybody is silencing you?”

    Jonathan has showed remarkable staying power, because, I suppose, that’s the sort of person he is, and because that’s one of the points he has (I’d guess) being trying to demonstrate. Many other bloggers, including me, would have long since bowed under this kind of pressure. His very courteously framed post about how to discuss the Hugo Problem — the elephant in the room remains that the genre’s Blue Riband Award is a carcrash — has generated a niagara of comment, much of it aggressively (you might prefer: assertively) repeating the same points over and over, viz. only those Involved in the award have any right to criticise it (and if such people do criticise the award they better expect a hostile earbashing). A lesser blogger would have long since given up, or gone mad. It’s massively to Jonathan’s credit that he hasn’t done either. Many commenters here *are* effectively trying to silence him (= get him to change what he says — that is, to keep bugging him whilst he posts what he feels, allowing him to post unmolested only when he articulates the party line). Saying that nobody is trying to silence him because he hasn’t been silenced, is like repeatedly punching a guy to get him to fall over, and then, if he happens to be still standing upright, claiming that you weren’t punching him because he’s managed to stay on his feet.

    Particularly pernicious is the move to ‘facts’. This debate isn’t really about facts: it’s about cultural capital, kudos, the broader culture of fandom. There are facts involved, but mostly they are trivial ones (specific regulations concerning the governance of the award and so on) and they’re not in dispute. But many posters have attempted to frame talk of non-factual matters as factual, in order to ramp-up the debate. An example: one of J.’s points is that, whilst Kevin may think his contributions to these sorts of discussions are helpful, many people on the other side of them find his manner overbearing and his on-line strategies intimidating. This is a point about how people perceive the debate about the Hugos, and as such it is about subjectivities. (I happen to think it is a valid and important point). Reframing it as a factual claim — ‘it is factually untrue that Kevin is attempting to police the debate’ — enables certain commenters here to use ‘truth’ as a stick with which to beat J. By making this point J. becomes delusional, in denial of the facts. He is called a liar; his mental health is mocked (‘the tinfoil hat brigade’) and so on. This simultaneously bullies/insults Jonathan; and reassures the posters that everything in the garden is rosy.

    This is a great shame, I think. Kevin and his supporters will go away from this discussion saying ‘Jonathan McAlmont posted a mass of untruths about the Hugos; I called him on his lies but he refused to change his line.’ In fact Jonathan has not lied, and ‘calling him on his lies’ is precisely what he has been referring to in this thread as attempting to police discussion, But the net result will be that dialogue gets closed down, the Hugo Faithful settle deeper into their bunker mentality, and the rest of us will feel even more alienated and disaffected.

    Like

  230. April 11, 2013 8:44 am

    Adam – excellent post. I too have admired Jonathan’s patience and forbearance in the face of so much intimidation and bullying. The authoritarianism on display by the Hugo faithful has been truly astonishing, if not a little sinister – accept the ‘party line’ or we will declare you a non-person. Anathematised. And the sheer intellectual dishonesty of the Hugoers has been breathtaking and truly weird – a monumental exercise in self-deception and denial. I don’t think I’ve ever come across anything like it. I admit it, before this discussion started, I had no idea that getting involved with the Hugo/WSFS was like joining the Moonies or Church of Scientology (with a distinct Stalinist twist). Count me out.

    Jonathan – “bureaucratic nightmare you call a science fiction society”; absolutely. In fact, now I come to think of it, it would make a pretty good premise for a SF novel ;-)

    Like

  231. Peter Card permalink
    April 11, 2013 9:05 am

    “In the post I linked to, Renay mentioned that she felt scared to attend a Worldcon because of the degree of hostility in this year’s Hugo discussions. While I don’t feel that attending Worldcon would place me in any sort of physical danger, this conversation has made it abundantly clear that I would not feel comfortable attending a major convention like Worldcon.”

    … the thing is, that the increasingly heated exchanges here are almost completely unrelated to the actual experience of attending a WorldCon. Ninety-five percent of attending members never go near the WSFS business meeting. They’ve got better things to do. There’s probably a panel somewhere on the schedule titled “The Future of the Hugos” , or something like that. That’s pretty much it. The rest is rocketships, steam-powered hats, three-headed plush toys, films, books, astronauts, hung-over writers, amateur cabaret, costumes, more costumes, toys, mad science, the history of airships, x-ray astronomy, book readings, hung-over guest of honour talks, Martian rocks, cute SF cats. Normal stuff like that.

    Like

  232. April 11, 2013 9:07 am

    Peter – “The rest is rocketships, steam-powered hats, three-headed plush toys, films, books, astronauts, hung-over writers, amateur cabaret, costumes, more costumes, toys, mad science, the history of airships, x-ray astronomy, book readings, hung-over guest of honour talks, Martian rocks, cute SF cats. Normal stuff like that.”

    Now you’re really putting me off!

    Like

  233. April 11, 2013 4:59 pm

    Thanks, Adam.

    Like

  234. Seth permalink
    April 11, 2013 5:42 pm

    Martin, Jonathan has made over 50 comments, so quite clearly there’s no silencing going on. (Further, only one person has the power to silence anybody here. Hint: it isn’t any of the people you’re railing against.)

    If someone “feels disenfranchised” because he isn’t willing to go to the effort of voting (whether it’s for the Hugos in a given year, or the rules surrounding them in general), whose fault is that?

    It’s quite common (in many areas) for someone to come along and tell the people who do the work and invest their time “You’re all wrong; everything should be done my way so I’ll be happier about it.” That trick never works.

    Anyone who wants to change the way the Hugos work has to convince a sufficient number of voters at the Worldcon Business Meetings. Anyone who just wants to whine about it can much more easily do so, and will be accorded all deserved respect.

    Like

  235. adamrobertswriter permalink
    April 11, 2013 10:32 pm

    Why, Seth, I do believe you’re finally starting to comprehend the points being made here!

    You say “Jonathan has made over 50 comments, so quite clearly there’s no silencing going on”, which (of course) I choose to read as: “Jonathan has made over 50 comments, so quite clearly there’s no silencing going on despite my best efforts to accomplish precisely that.”

    You ask: “If someone feels disenfranchised” re: the Hugos “whose fault is that?” This is most encouraging. Your rhetorical question is a big step on your personal road towards accepting your portion of the blame. I applaud this.

    You say: “It’s quite common (in many areas) for someone to come along and tell the people who do the work and invest their time “You’re all wrong; everything should be done my way so I’ll be happier about it.” That trick never works.” This puzzled me for a moment, because Jonathan at no point says he wants every-Hugo-related-thing done his way (in fact he specifically says he doesn’t). But then I twigged: this is your way of sidling up to one of the key issues here — the ‘work and time’ thing. SMOFs invest work and time in running the Hugos (which they certainly do; something both commendable and important). But working hard for something, and investing time in it, doesn’t make it yours. The extent to which the award is being run, — being maintained — in order that the people running it can continue to feel big and important (since they work so hard for it) is an index to the brokenness of the award. I think your comment is your slightly oblique way of starting to accept J.’s “iron law of oligarchy” point. Bravo,

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  236. Seth permalink
    April 12, 2013 1:37 am

    Gee, Adam, I claim that silencing someone is impossible, which you interpret as somehow implying that I’m attempting to do so. While I often do the impossible, I reserve that for things that matter (or at least are more interesting than someone being wrong on the Internet).

    I take no blame for how someone else chooses to feel, especially when that choice is the direct result of his own choice not to take action.

    People don’t invest work and time on the Hugos in order to feel important (at least I don’t; and for anyone who might, it’s a really bad investment). It’s done because the work needs to be done in order to keep a good thing going.

    And if the Hugos don’t belong to those who invest in them, to whom do they belong? Do you propose that every Internet whiner have an equal say with people who put in time and effort to make the Awards the best they can, are familiar with their history and the reasons they are the way they are, etc.? Such awards would not be the Hugos. As has been said before, anyone who wants to is welcome to start such awards on whatever terms they want; over time, those new awards will become precisely as prestigious as they deserve to.

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  237. April 12, 2013 8:14 am

    OK, a few more observations:

    Tero, the reason why I said I’m distrustful of conventions is that I much, much prefer a more decentralized concept. For the past couple of years, I’ve attended the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville and for only the cost of gas/parking (which ranges from $4-15, based on the day of the week/time of parking) I get to walk around the Tennessee State Capitol grounds and listen to a wide range of authors and artists speak/perform. There are poets, singers, non-fiction writers, various fiction genres, all mixed together. In 2011, got to talk to Stewart O’Nan for a little bit while he was signing my books, then I saw him a few hours later listening to Donald Ray Pollock talk about the genres that influenced his writing.

    It’s so more intermingled in a festival setting. Conventions strike me as rather too centralized and focused on a small segment of my reading interests. But I’m one of those people who like being in a crowd and soaking in the vibe. Sure, WorldCon is large, but I get the sense, based on numerous comments I’ve read over the years, that the people wouldn’t have as diverse interests as I’d prefer. After all, there is something to be said for a day spent going from a reading done by Padgett Powell to a reading by poet Mark Jarman to a panel discussion on capital punishment and letters written by/to death row inmates that is much more inclusive, at least for me, than any SF convention could ever be.

    Seth, this comment of yours is rather telling on many levels:

    “And if the Hugos don’t belong to those who invest in them, to whom do they belong? Do you propose that every Internet whiner have an equal say with people who put in time and effort to make the Awards the best they can, are familiar with their history and the reasons they are the way they are, etc.?”

    Obviously, by this criteria they do not “belong” to the likes of me. After all, I don’t “invest” in them, associate my tastes with them, and so forth. Your terminology undermines your arguments above. “Internet whiner?” Please. What’s on full display here is a gulf of perception. I suspect many are like myself, happy for there being a club award for those who want to associate with each other and create something. More power to them for doing generations of marketing and the occasional rounds of carousing to make WorldCon a place for a certain subset of those who read SF/F fiction. Problem is that the “club” does not appeal to many who read online or hear from those who’ve attended the minutiae involved in it. Simple as that. The more verbiage e-vomited forth trying to “explain” this minutiae is counter-productive; it reinforces the “club” mentality and the negative aspects of it while simultaneously leading to many wonder if all of the verbose defense is merely a sign of a greater dysfunction.

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  238. April 12, 2013 8:19 am

    Larry – “The more verbiage e-vomited forth trying to “explain” this minutiae is counter-productive; it reinforces the “club” mentality and the negative aspects of it while simultaneously leading to many wonder if all of the verbose defense is merely a sign of a greater dysfunction.”

    Exactly, well said.

    Like

  239. Glenn Glazer permalink
    April 12, 2013 7:36 pm

    Sorry to come so late to this very important date. I think author Jim Hines sums up how I feel:

    http://www.jimchines.com/2013/03/grumbling-about-the-hugo-awards/

    Like

  240. April 13, 2013 8:26 am

    I genuinely hope that, because of this post, Jonathon gets a Hugo nomination himself next year.

    I mean, I’d nominate it myself if I understood the fucking categories.

    Like

  241. April 13, 2013 8:43 am

    Category confusion is always a problem.

    Like

  242. April 16, 2013 1:19 pm

    I’ve waded through this mire of a comments thread and subsequently feel that the Hugo status quo is looking pretty fucked on the basis of what its champions have demonstrated here. What utterly contemptible tunnel vision and disingenuity.

    Either that or, as Adam suggests, a deliciously wicked satire on parochial bureaucracy.

    Like

  243. April 16, 2013 1:51 pm

    I felt I should stop by again and add that my last comment is certainly not helpful in terms of reframing discussion around the Hugos to invite inclusivity (not only in terms of the current cadre), civility and reasoned debate (including the ability to recognise the validity of a countervailing opinion).

    The reason for my last remark was, given Jonathan’s admirable patience in calmly restating his (really very simple) argument and request and its utter, wilful misinterpretation and twisting by others, I don’t hold out much hope for inclusivity, civility and reasoned debate until these concepts are taken on board rather than wielded like clubs with which to beat the alien outsiders. That this is what I have taken away from this discussion is both disappointing and infuriating (as a young-ish genre fan who has attended multiple UK cons, I should add).

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  244. April 16, 2013 2:49 pm

    Another thing that has struck me is that I’m sure the barrier of entry used to be much lower than it is now…

    I definitely remember being told that I should stop complaining about the Hugo Awards because I neither nominated nor voted. However, despite nominating this year I am told to shut up because I am not traveling to Texas in order to attend the AGM of an American science fiction club.

    It’s one (already stupid) thing to say that people should shut up about democratic processes they didn’t vote in but demanding that people spend $1000s of dollars in order to simply express their displeasure online? total nonsense.

    This really is the Iron Law of Oligarchy: The Hugo Awards were created to celebrate not on good science fiction but the activities of the wider fan community. However, now the wider fan community is told to shut up if it isn’t willing to help run the Hugo Awards.

    Utterly Utterly demented.

    Like

  245. Nick H. permalink
    April 16, 2013 6:55 pm

    Changing the goalposts is nothing new.

    First year it ran, I complained about the rules for Best Graphic Story being unclear, and was told they were fine, that I was creating problems where there were none, and that people nominating would understand them. So I pointed out that (a) I was someone nominating. and (b) I didn’t understand them. Instead of anyone taking this on board, I just basically got shouted down under a torrent of justification. The long and short of it was, “Fans will nominate what they want, and we’ll let them decide what should be in the category” (an argument familiar from the older ‘should TV shows like Heroes be allowed to be considered as long form?’ argument).

    Second year it ran, I again complained, this time because a Fables volume was listed on the ballot, but the volume contained, IIRC, a stand-alone story and another mini-story arc as well as the main story. I pointed out that it people were nominating the story, shouldn’t it be the case that the story should be listed on the ballot rather than the TPB which includes it and other stories? It seemed a reasonable question to me – this is what the rules say, this doesn’t fit in the rules, so either people nominating are telling you the rules aren’t fit for purpose, or you’ve made a mistake. Reply I got? Along the lines of “Oh, we asked Bill Willingham (writer of Fables) how he’d want it to appear on the ballot, and that’s what he told us.” Oh. Guess fans aren’t deciding after all.

    This is leaving aside the whole eligibility period that makes no sense whatsoever – I stopped tracking it accurately after the first year, but the eligibility date goes by original publication date (be it in comic book form or web), but people were nominating TPB collections. Certainly for the first year, the following things were true:

    1. People were nominating TPBs they thought eligible because they were published in the right year – but weren’t actually, because they collected material published *earlier* than the earliest eligible date.

    2. Several TPBs that were eligible – notably the Girl Genius and the Schlock Mercenary ones – were not actually published until *after* the Hugos. The *only* way that people could’ve known to nominate those ones was due to the creators pimping them on their websites, saying “This is what I’ve done that’s eligible for the Hugo, nominate it!”

    For a few years people had been muttering about the various categories saying that certain things were only getting nominated because they were ‘internet famous’, but this was always impossible to prove. But with Best Graphic Story, the proof is shockingly obvious – with TPBs *NOT BEING RELEASED YET*, the only way people could’ve known to nominate them was by being told so.

    Not to mention the fact that minor punctuation differences kept Paul Cornell off the ballot in the first year.

    Not to mention that Girl Genius kept winning and winning the stupid thing.

    But apparently the problem was me, not the system. It’s not that the rules are unclear, oh no, it’s that I don’t understand what they’re trying to do with them. It’s not that my concerns are valid, I’m just making a fuss about nothing. And don’t I understand how hard it was to introduce the category in the first place? I should be grateful it’s there at all.

    I stopped caring. Why bother trying to engage at all when I get patronised and shouted down at every turn? They silenced me, I can tell you that. And killed my enthusiasm in the process. Oh well. So it goes.

    Oh, and, one more thing; they claim that saying “If you want to change things you can come to the business meeting at Worldcon and put a proposal forward” is being friendly and inclusive? No it bloody isn’t. That’s throwing the gauntlet down and saying “Oh yeah? Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.”

    It is, as you say, utterly demented.

    Like

  246. April 16, 2013 9:41 pm

    Nick —

    I think you’re touching on a really interesting methodological problem here.

    The situation you’re talking about arises from the absurdity that is the decision to hand out an award for something as vague and abstract as a story. Grant Morrison recently ended a run on Batman that lasted 7 years and the seeds of Batman Inc were planted in the decision to have Bruce Wayne take custody of Damian Wayne. That story did not fit in 7 years, how could it hope to fit in a single Hugo?

    The idea is that, in cases where the definition is not cut-and-dry, the Hugo Administrator steps in to make a ruling and clearly the last couple of administrators have lacked either the knowledge or the courage to wade into a poorly defined category… thereby revealing the need for strict categorical definitions to be nothing but a sham.

    I’m not surprised that you were silenced as this is how the WSFS deals with anything even approaching criticism: All concerns are mocked, corrected and dismissed and when that doesn’t work they try to shame you into becoming one of them and when that doesn’t work they move on to mocking and dismissing you as an individual.

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