Issue 29 – February 2009


Change the Hugos? Yes You Can!

The Hugo Award nominating season is upon us again. In the not-too-distant future the 2009 nominees will be announced, and the blogosphere will resound to cries of how “they” got it wrong again, and how the Hugos desperately need to be changed, but they can’t be because “they” would never allow it. This always confuses me, because the Hugos are the most democratic set of awards I know about. There is no “they,” there is only “us,” and consequently the Hugos can be changed, if only people want to do it.

OK, OK, I can hear you all shouting “but you have to pay to vote, it’s not fair!” Well, that’s true, you have to be a member of WSFS in order to vote. This year that would cost you $50. But compare that to other awards. To join SFWA as a lowly Affiliate member costs $55, you have to pass their requirements test, and you don’t get to vote in the Nebulas. Other forms of membership are more expensive and harder to qualify for. Or you could vote in the Locus Awards, which are free, but where your vote counts for a lot more if you are a Locus subscriber. So actually the Hugos are not that bad in terms of value.

However, even if you do decide to pay up, it is too late for this year’s nominations. You had to have been a member of Denvention 3 or Anticipation by January 31st. There are probably around 5000 people who qualify to nominate. But if this year is at all typical then less than 20% of them will bother to do so. It is the apathy of the other 4000+ that is the real problem. You might be one of those apathetic voters, or you might know someone who is.

The sad thing is that many of those people who do not use their right to nominate are convinced that they are not allowed to. Every year I come across loads of people who have very strange ideas about the Hugos. I’m going to share a few of their excuses with you, and explain why they are wrong.

I’m not qualified to vote

Oh yes, you are. If you were a member of Denvention 3, or are a member of Anticipation, then you are qualified to vote. No further qualification is required. You don’t need a PhD in science fiction criticism, or five best-selling novels in print. The Hugos are a popular vote award. That means voting by ordinary people just like you.

I haven’t read enough

You don’t have to. And more to the point, no one can. There are simply too many books and stories published. The nomination stage is not about picking the “best” works of the year. It is about hundreds, hopefully thousands, of people saying “I read this and it was really good.&rdquot; One of the objectives of a popular vote award is to get lots of people to say what they liked. Only when those nominations have been counted, and the top five in each category reported, do we go on to actually comparing them and picking the “best.”

I haven’t read any short fiction / related books / fanzines

There is no requirement that you nominate in every category. Indeed, hardly anyone does. Nor do you have to fill in five nominees in each category. All that you have to do is nominate a few things that you thought were good. Remember, it is a popular vote award, so the more the merrier. Every little helps.

I haven’t read/seen anything good enough

Really? Nothing at all? Has it occurred to you that you have very high standards, and other people might not be so picky?

I don’t know what’s eligible

That’s a fair point, though it is pretty easy to check a book for a publication date, or a magazine for a cover date. If in doubt, nominate it anyway. The worst that can happen is that you’ll waste a nomination slot. The rest of your nominations won’t be invalidated because you made one mistake.

There’s no point, “they” always fix the results

Only because you, and people like you, don’t participate. All that you achieve by not using your vote is to cede control of the process to people who do use their votes.

So, deadline for nominations is the end of February. The ballot is online, so actually casting your votes is easy. If you are eligible to nominate, please do so.

By the way, Clarkesworld is eligible in the Semiprozine category, and the fiction we publish is all in the Short Story category. Sean and former editor, Nick Mamatas, are both eligible in Editor (Short Form), and Sean is also eligible in Editor (Long Form). Ekaterina Sedia, who edited the non-fiction here before me, and has produced a fine anthology this year (Paper Cities), is also eligible for Editor (Short Form), but don’t forget that she has a fabulous novel (The Alchemy of Stone) out, too. This year I’m only eligible for Fan Writer. (One of these days I will beat Langford.)

Author profile

Cheryl Morgan is the non-fiction editor of Clarkesworld magazine and co-editor (with Kevin Standlee) of Science Fiction Awards Watch. Previously she edited the Hugo Award-winning online book review magazine, Emerald City. Cheryl has also written for a number of other SF&F magazines, including Locus, Interzone, Foundation, Strange Horizons and the Internet Review of Science Fiction.

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