Hugo Ballot 2016: Why I’m not reviewing this year

A scene from the 1938 serial, Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars, © Universal Studios.

A scene from the 1938 serial, Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, © Universal Studios.

Last year as I worked my way through the nominees for the Hugo Awards, I posted reviews of most of the categories. It was my first time voting, and it was the first year that the Sad/Rabid Puppies had managed to completely take over several categories of the ballot with their bloc voting scheme. This year, the new people running the Sad Puppies presented it as a recommendations list, compiled openly from suggestions from readers of their blog. Since most categories had too many nominees for members to just copy and paste the slate, they wound up having no more or less success than any other recommendation list.

The Rabid Puppies stuck with their bloc voting scheme, though this year their notorious racist/homophobic leader, Vox Day, tried to be clever, putting on his list some authors who have been critical of the Puppies in the past, but who also were likely to be nominated by a lot of regular Hugo voters. Since no matter what happens, Vox always claims that the outcome was a victory and that all of us fell into his trap, I assume that when a couple of these big name authors win he’ll be crowing afterward. And if they don’t win, he’ll say this proves that the Hugo voters are part of an evil cabal who refuse to give any award to anyone he recommends. Or something.

Anyway, this year the voting process for me was a lot less stressful than last year. Last year I tried to read every nominee, regardless of whether it was on one of the slates. I wanted to be able to say with a clear conscious that I gave every work a fair chance and only deployed the No Award option when it was deserved. Which meant I forced myself to slog through some truly awful, extremely poorly written stories. And that gets to be depressing after a while.

A friend asked why I was doing that rather than what she did: she started each story, but if by the third page or so it hadn’t hooked her so that she wanted to keep turning the pages, she stopped and put the title under No Award. “The awards are supposed to be for excellence, after all.” I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that. If a story isn’t good enough to hook me, then it doesn’t deserve my vote. Simple!

That made this year a whole lot easier. I mean, seriously so, so very much easier. Because once again, most of what the Puppies nominated did not pass that test. Yes, No Award was my top pick in more than one category.

The Retro Hugos were a bit more fun. The regular Hugos recognize works published in the previous calendar year. So the stories and other works we’re voting on for the 2016 awards all had to be published in 2015. The Retro Hugos are for works published many years ago, in years when there was a World Science Fiction Convention, but no awards were given. It’s an optional award that can be held at a WorldCon that is either 50 years, 75 years, or 100 years after one of the years when no awards were given. MidAmeriCon II, this year’s WorldCon, took nominations and is taking votes for works of science fiction published in 1941.

Why that was fun for me is because, first of all, a huge number of the short listed works are stories/books/movies with which I was already very familiar. Heck, I have copies of three of the five shortlisted novels on my own shelves! A bunch of the short stories, novellas, and novelettes are in anthologies that I have on my shelves. I own on DVD three of the movies (one is a serial) nominated in Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, and four of the shorts nominated in Dramatic Presentation, Short Form!

Also, Raymond A. Palmer was a golden age editor who deserves to be way more well-known than he is, and so it was fun to vote for him in the Best Editor, Short Form category!

Anyway, this year’s Hugo Ballot and Packet are disappointing in that so much bad stuff was pushed onto it by the Rapid Puppies, and I remain irritated thinking about all the good stuff published last you that ought to have made the ballot but didn’t because of the bloc voting. We absolutely have to pass the E Pluribus Hugo rule change this year, so that bloc voting becomes harder to do in the future.

The Rabid Puppies piddled all over this year’s Hugo Ballot, again. Like Men’s Rights Advocates, GamerGaters, Trump voters, and other angry (mostly) white (mostly) men who claim they are being oppressed any time that people who don’t look like them manage to achieve more than marginal representation, they’re going to keep causing trouble. But as I and many others pointed out last year, their malicious posturing brought a whole lot of fans who are queer, feminist, and people of color into the Hugo voting process who weren’t involved before. While each of those groups may make up a minority of the total fandom populations, I know that collectively we outnumber the Puppies.

Science fiction is the fiction of the future. Even its dystopian and post-apocalyptic sci fi is, ultimately, about hope for a better tomorrow. Love trumps hate and hope trumps resentment. And no one can take the hope for the future from me.


ETA: If you’re looking for who actually won, go here: Here are the winners of the 2016 Hugo Awards – Once again, slated works were largely outvoted.

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About fontfolly

I've loved reading for as long as I can remember. I write fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and nonfiction. I publish an anthropomorphic sci-fi/space opera literary fanzine. I attend and work on the staff for several anthropormorphics, anime, and science fiction conventions. I live in Seattle with my wonderful husband, still completely amazed that he puts up with me at all.

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