(Warning: Hugo neepery follows. Ignore if bored with the topic.)
Now that the Hugo voter packet is out, I’m getting asked rather a lot, mostly with an air of confidentiality, how I plan to vote in this year, what with the actual democratic nature of the Hugo nomination balloting representing hundreds of individual viewpoints subverted by a couple of jerks who created interlocking slates (one prominently featuring work created by one of these jerks’ own publishing company) and encouraged people, either bluntly or with a wink and a nod, to vote a straight ticket rather than come up with their own independent choices. People are wondering whether I plan to put all the nominees pushed by the slates under the “No Award” option, or simply leave them off my final ballot altogether, after placing “No Award” below the works/people I feel are legitimate choices.
My short answer is no, I don’t plan to do that. I will detail my longer answer in a second. But before I do, some thoughts to the Hugo voters this year:
To the people planning to put everything/everyone on Puppy slates below “No Award” or leave them off your ballot altogether: This is a solid and totally legitimate choice to make, and don’t let anyone tell you any different. My understanding is that at least one of the head Puppies has been notably petulant on the subject recently, which is a matter of some irony. If you believe that slates are inimical to Hugo balloting, or wish to register your disapproval of the selections this year, or think that the Puppies are assholes who deserve to be smacked on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper, or any other reason you choose to No Award them, it is your right, and some would argue, your responsibility, to vote them below “No Award” or leave them off the ballot entirely (after having placed “No Award” below your last actual choice). If this is your path, then rock on with yourself.
To the people planning to vote on the nominees as if it were a completely normal year: This is also a solid and totally legitimate choice to make, and you should also not let anyone tell you any different. Because you might not think slates matter much one way or another, or you might think the individual nominees, no matter how they arrived on the final ballot, deserve to be treated with courtesy and respect, or you might simply think “cool, stuff to read” and just get to it, or any other reason you might have to read and rate. Again: This is your path? Cool. Rock on.
To the people somewhere in the middle, for whatever reason: Hey, you know what? That’s fine too. It’s okay to be conflicted. After all, not everyone on a slate asked to be there, or there might be some people on a slate who you think should have been nominated regardless, or in your reading you might find something on a slate that blows you away and deserves a shot, or (again) whatever — it’s your ballot and your choice for voting. Rock on with your choices.
The short version of all of the above: If you vote your own conscience, there is no wrong way to vote for the Hugos. There is, simply, your vote. It’s your own choice. Think about it, take your vote seriously — and then vote. No one can or should ask you to do anything otherwise.
With that as preamble:
I think the slates are bullshit, and I think the people who created them (and at least some of the people on them) are acting like petulant, whiny crybabies and/or obnoxious, self-aggrandizing opportunists. I’m also aware some slate choices were not made aware they had been put on slates, or were placed on them under false pretenses. Some of those so slated chose to leave the ballot, which I think is impressive and well done them, but I can’t really fault those who chose to stay, not in the least because for some of them it would be politically or personally awkward to withdraw, for various reasons. And, on the principle that a stopped clock can be correct twice a day, it’s entirely possible something or someone that is a slate choice is genuinely deserving of consideration for the Hugo, and I am loath to discount that, particularly if the person to whom the award would be given was also an unwilling (or misinformed) draftee onto a slate.
So here is my plan:
1. I am going to look back on my own Hugo nomination ballot, and identify in each category the work/person I nominated that I judged to be my “last place” choice in the category.
2. When confronted with a nominee on the final ballot who was placed there by a slate, I will ask myself: “Is this work/person better than my own ‘last place’ nominee?”
3. If the answer is ‘yes,” then I will rank that work/person above “No Award” on my final ballot, and otherwise rank them accordingly to my own preference.
4. If the answer is “no,” then I won’t put that work/person on my ballot at all, and I will put “No Award” below my choices in the category so it’s clear that I would prefer no award given than to offer the Hugo to anything/anyone I’ve left off the ballot.
This, for me, strikes the appropriate balance between fairness to the nominees on the slates, and registering disapproval for the concept of slating. This way, if the work is genuinely good in my own estimation, it gets a fair hearing. But if it’s not, out it goes — and not just out, but also suffering the existential ignominy of “No Award” being preferred over it or them.
As I think this is a decent plan, I naturally encourage people to adopt it for their own, or adapt it for their own purpose. For those Hugo voters who didn’t nominate this year, I would suggest either creating a mock nomination ballot to use as a guideline, or using another award final ballot as a substitute. Here’s this year’s Nebula ballot, and here’s this year’s Locus finalist list. Choose your least favorite work in each category and use that as the benchmark.
But remember: It’s your vote and your choice. With the Hugos, it’s a very good year to take both seriously. Don’t let anyone keep you from voting your own conscience.