A Note About the Hugo Nominations This Year

It is:

1. Yes, I’ve seen the slate. The slate shows up even in Australia! And I woke up early because I crashed from exhaustion last night before 7pm. Finishing a book takes it out of you.

2. I’m very pleased for the several friends and/or writers who are on the ballot this year. This includes everyone in the Best Novel category, all of whom I consider friends, and any of whom I would be happy to see take home a rocket this year. And as always, I congratulate all the nominees for the Hugo and the Campbell. It’s fun to be nominated, and nice to get recognition. I’ll be voting.

3. This year I’ll do what I always do when voting for the Hugos, which is to rank the nominees every category according to how I think they (and/or their particular works in question) deserve to ranked. Preferential balloting is a useful thing. I will be reading quite a lot.

4. If, in the fullness of careful consideration, I come to believe certain nominees in a category do not merit being on the ballot at all, then I will do two things:

One, I will leave those nominees off my final ballot. If they’re not on my ballot, they can’t be ranked.

Two, after ranking the nominees I do believe deserve to be on the ballot, I will use the “No Award” option to signal that I would prefer that no Hugo be awarded, rather than to give it to any of the remaining nominees. Like so:

HUGO FOR BEST USE OF YOGURT

1. Deserving nominee #1
2. Deserving nominee #2
3. NO AWARD

And thus undeserving nominees number 3, 4 and 5 receive no benefit from being on the ballot, and my preference for no award to be given to those people/works I deem unworthy of the award in that category is registered.

5. And yes, in fact, “No Award” can be placed first in a Hugo category. It has done so several times in the history of the award, when the voters for the Hugo Award decided that nothing deserved to take home the rocket. Voting “No Award” at the top of your ballot is not a new thing; it’s a perfectly allowed and legitimate way to register one’s opinion of what’s available in a Hugo category.

6. This year in particular there are going to be questions about whether some nominators more or less blindly voted a slate of candidates to make a statement, rather than voting their own personal set of preferences (if they had personal preferences) at all. My thought about that is what it always is: It’s done. If the rules of voting were followed, then game on.

I also think it’s worth remembering that not everyone who was placed on a slate (or had works placed on a slate) asked to be on the slate, or necessarily supports the intention behind a slate or the people who created it. Another way to make this point: Even people you might think are assholes can have decent taste from time to time. I’m not inclined to punish creators strictly on the basis of who has nominated them, or why.

7. That said, when a slate of nominees is offered whose very title explictly carries in it a desire to vex and annoy other people, it’s legitimate for people to ask whether what’s been nominated on the slate has been placed there solely on the basis of quality. It’s also legitimate for people to decide that in general, slates of nominations are not something they’re comfortable with, or wish to support. There is no rule that disallows nominating for the Hugos from a slate; there’s also no rule that disallows Hugo voters from then registering their displeasure that these slates exist.

I also think it’s okay to penalize graceless award grasping by people who clearly despise the Hugo and what they believe it represents, and yet so very desperately crave the legitimacy they believe the award will confer to them. Therapy is the answer there, not a literary award.

The good news, for me, at least, is that it’s generally obvious in the reading what’s on the ballot on the basis of quality, and what’s there, essentially, as trolling. Good stuff will be on my final ballot, ranked appropriately. Trollage will not. It’s just that simple.

8. In sum: I think it’s possible for voters to thread the needle and give creators fair consideration while also expressing displeasure (if indeed one is displeased) at the idea of slates, or people trolling the award. This might take a little work, but then voting on the Hugos should be a little bit of work, don’t you think. This is a good year to do that.

This is also a very good year to make sure that you do vote.