Are Hugo Awards political?

Hugo Award- Creative Commons (2008-09-18 22:52 Shsilver )

Hugo Award- Creative Commons (2008-09-18 22:52 Shsilver )

The SF world seems to be in the middle of a very interesting debate that could change how Hugo awards are given out. My impression of the Hugo awards is that they are like the Oscars but for books, and authors are nominated for the quality of their work by a small electorate. This electorate attends WordCon from what I understand, and membership is bought with a fee.

Like all debates, the issue can’t be black-and-white, and the rest of us are left to ferret out the truth somewhere in the middle.

Wendy Delmater, Editor of Abyss and Apex had this to say:

I’d like to close this editorial with a comment from “the SAD PUPPIES: some responses to the fallout” post on Brad R. Torgersen’s blog. It addresses the concern of some that SP3 is “vote buying” or bad motives like squashing diversity of any kind. No, the Hugos are The People’s Choice Award of the genre. Thanks to SP3, people are realizing they can vote. If that makes the usual suspects a little concerned (most of whom I know and love and have voted for in the past, like fellow editors Ellen Datlow, Neil Clarke, Gardner Dozois, Sheila Williams, and John Joseph Adams), I say bring it on. Authors and publishing houses who have campaigned  in the past, however quietly, must feel like the Redcoats did during the American Revolutionary War. They may have done things the old fashioned way, and thought the revolutionaries guerrilla tactics uncouth. But, if I recall correctly, the revolutionaries won. And today, we’re allies with England.

The uglier part of the debate seem to be mired in a “True fans V.S. Elitists” kerfuffle, as if the Hugos don’t represent true fandom at all, and I think Mary Robinette Kowal does a great job of debunking that in a very classy way. She ends her editorial with an offer to help people buy memberships.

Watching the debate about the Hugo awards, I’ve noticed that both sides are saying that the wrong fans are making decisions. To this I cry bullshit. I suspect that the majority of fans in the SFF community have experienced some form of shunning or shaming from people outside the community who look down on SFF as juvenile. That climate is changing, but for many of us, that was a reality. 

My thinking is that Edward Norton said it best in Birdman, “Popularity is prestige’s slutty cousin.” The Hugos carry with them a huge amount of prestige and respect- having one gives you a spot on the shelf next to the best of the best in the genre. We don’t want the process to purely be the result of the demos, because that would be like giving Lego Movie an award over something like Birdman. Popular appeal is one thing, but it does not and cannot be the only indication of excellence. (If that were true I’d have to be a Justin Beiber fan. Yeek.) I also want to hold that an author’s background and political persuasions should have nothing to do with the process, and some people within the debate are claiming that it does matter. I have no idea if that is true, but that would stink if so.

Further Reading:

Kevin Standlee Breaks down the factions and speculates the outcome of the Business Meeting.

George R.R. Martin adds his musings.

Larry Correia, who started the campaign, adds his bit here.

So get out the popcorn I say, and let’s see what happens.

2 thoughts on “Are Hugo Awards political?

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