…as opposed to sad – or sick – puppies.
I know I’m a happy fan! Look where I am. As a kid, my first ever public appearance in SF was a letter in Amazing Stories. Now I own the trademarks. I’ve just become an affiliate member of SFWA. I’ve got a couple of hundred people joining me on the ride (and many thousands more partaking). I’m really only missing three things on the fannish checklist: Chairing a Worldcon, selling my first story and winning a Hugo. (For something. Anything.)
The Hugos have already been very good to me this year. Traffic is up, what with cites and links in mainstream pubs – Slate, DailyKos, others; we broke through the wall on Whatever; Making Light, and a bunch of other fan-related sites are sending people our way – including several from the “other side” (though that’s tailed off quite abruptly, almost as if someone said “don’t send them traffic” (which of course only means that the curious will want to know why). Membership keeps growing at an accelerating pace and I’ll be attending the Launchpad Astronomy Workshop as a direct result of running this website. (Great class this year – more about that later in a separate piece).
And I’m happy because I have the utmost confidence that in a couple of years, fandom will have figured out how to deal with what’s happened to the Hugo’s this year, will have fixed the problem and I’ll still have reason to lust after a Hugo.Which brings up today’s All Hugos, All the Time subject.
Yesterday, Sasquan announced (File 770) that the Hugo admins had removed two slated (fated) works from the final ballot and replaced them with two non-compromised works.
The justificstions for doing so are based in the rules governing the awards. Rules like, works may not have been published prior to the award year. Or, you have to have published something eligible during the award year
But that’s not really my subject for today. Today, in the Grande Old Tradition of science fiction, I’m going to speculate. In Particular, I’m going to speculate about how an author…or a publishing house…could possibly allow an ineligible work to make it all the way through to the final Hugo ballot without saying something about it in the spirit of full disclosure.
When one speculates, it is important to lay the ground rules and gather the factual information upon which that speculation is based. So – ground rules. This particular bit of world building will not utilize knowledge or technologies that are not currently available. No moon men. No talking squids in space. No future Strangelovian post-apocalyptic utopias.
Factual information. When professional authors get paid, they get a check or an electronic fund transfer Both have dates attached. Fact. Time travel is not yet an operational technology. Fact. Publications that buy stories – and even those that don’t pay hard cash, publish those works. As in – placing them on public view or at least offering them to the public. Fact. Cloning of humans is not yet a viable technology. Theory: Physicists have demonstrated that even if there are parallel universes, information can not pass between them. Fact. if information could transfer, we’d all be the first to hear about it. Fact. Ain’t seen nothing yet*. Final fact. Most authors are so inordinately proud of their published work, they generally tell anyone who will listen about it.
So. Ground rules laid. Starting conditions posited.
Now let’s count the ways that an author (in this case let’s spice it up and presume an author who believes his work is award quality cause it makes them money or gets high Amazon rankings) could reasonably forget, or be unaware, or otherwise be clueless about the publication status of their own stories, specifically the year in which it was published.
1. They’re so hard up for money that they cash their checks at the Cash Checks Here store and the Bank Under the Mattress doesn’t do online banking.
2. Someone published the story for them, without telling them – or paying them – and then ran around the country buying up all of the copies likely to be read by someone who might say “Hey Clueless Author, I just read your great story about Manly Men slaughtering all the gay POC aliens who were trying to transgender the Earth . I really like the phallic spaceships on the cover!”
3. The author died between then and now. Hey, could happen.
4. The author suffers from a classic case of selective amnesia. (“A popular term for amnesia for certain events. As commonly used, selective amnesia refers to a deliberate inability(unwillingness) to recall an event’s details“. “A rare side effect of head injuries.”
5. The work was published on the web. In the age of ebooks. And they forgot. Or they removed it from the web when it was included in an anthology. And forgot.
6. They weren’t able to understand the rules. Further, they weren’t able to figure out who to get in touch with to ask about them.
7. They just didn’t care one way or the other because their objective wasn’t to win the award, it was to fuck with the awards.
Now, it’s time for some real speculation.
Why would someone knowingly allow an ineligible work to be nominated for an award?
Well, if I were a schemer who liked to play head games with people and I was also trying to make a political point about the organization that was responsible for administering that award, I might find it extremely funny to try and set them up in a “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose” situation, especially if I was trying to devalue the entire award process.
Here’s how that might work.
I get my pals together and create a voting slate (knowing that since such a thing had never been done before, or at the very least never been done on such a monumentally annoying scale before, that it stands a good chance of succeeding) and when the list of recommendations that my minions will slavishly vote for is finalized, I’d salt it with a couple of ineligible works.
Heads I Win: for one reason or another, the ineligible works make it all the way through to the final ballot, the awards are handed out and: “See! We TOLD you the awards were poorly managed. How long has this been going on? This brings the validity of every single award given out for the past 60 years into question! What a crock. They’re totally valueless.”
Tails You Lose: the ineligible works are identified and removed from the ballot. “See! We TOLD you the fix was in. The ONLY reason that this work was ruled ineligible is because of the author’s politics! How long has this been going on? This brings the validity of every single award given out for the past 60 years into question! What a crock. They’re totally valueless.”
Interestingly enough, that latter scenario has already turned from science fiction to science fact.
In the real world the Hugo Awards administrators determined that Larry Correia’s story, “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” . had been published online in 2013, thus rendering it ineligible for the 2015 Hugo Awards (which are given to works that first appeared in 2014). They also determined that Jon Eno was ineligible for the Best Professional Artist award because he had no qualifying works published in 2014.
We’re also seeing the claims of bias and political favoritism leveled against WSFS: Scalzi’s novel Old Man’s War appeared on line in serialized fashion several years before it was nominated. Why wasn’t that declared ineligible? Must be because Scalzi is a champion of the SJW faction and fandom is controlled by the SJW’s and….
Hugo Award administration rules change from time to time, often in ways that affect eligibility. One such case applies to Old Man’s War. The rules interpretation at the time did not count online publication as “publication” back then. No harm, no foul.
Another such case applied to Locus. It was dominating the fanzine category, so the semiprozine category was created. Why was Locus a fanzine last year and a semiprozine this year? Must be a conspiracy! An open conspiracy participated in by every member of Worldcon and publicly disclosed at the business meeting!
(For more inside baseball on this issue, check out what Kevin Standlee offers over on The Hugo Awards website.)
But who bothers to read the rules for an award one is so desperate to win that they’re willing to embarrass themselves in front of the whole world to get one? (This kind of behavior doesn’t spring up over night. I’m wondering if some of these folks didn’t beat up other kindergartners to win the best finger painting award – and then got upset some decades later when mom finally took the gold star off the refridgerator door….)
I’m still a happy fan though. Throughout this whole affair, I see the people who do bother to read the rules, the people who have been involved as Fans, the Fans who care, responding with logic, facts and straightforward honesty. Fans aren’t afraid of the truth, and they’ll use that truth to overcome this sorry affair.
I’ve been wondering for a while whether or not it would be a good idea to suggest that fans take a personal pledge regarding the Hugo Awards. I’ve wondered enough that it’s time to throw it out here.
What if we all took a pledge not to engage in behaviors contradictory to both the letter and the spirit of the Hugo Awards?
“As a fan who cares about preserving the integrity and importance of the Hugo Awards, I pledge, of my own free will, that I will not engage in activities that diminish or devalue the awards, and I further pledge that I will discourage others from doing so in a respectful and professional manner. Further, if I should become aware of potentional problems with the awards – its process, its administration – I will work through the existing and approved processes to raise awareness.”
Or some such less hastily worded version. I think the intent is clear. Let’s all work towards restoring the relationship that we all once had with the awards.
Moshe Feder has already supplied a logo:
I think I want to place a proposal on the WSFS business meeting agenda this year. I think I want WSFS, as a body, to make a statement regarding bloc voting, campaigning and slates. I think WSFS should publicly declare that campaigning for an award or awards may be legal under the rules, but is institutionally frowned upon, because the idea of the rules is to let every fan have their say and to arrive at a collective consensus, unfettered by external politics.
I’d like to see something like that placed into the rules as a preamble to the Award section. A declarative statement of not only what the awards are and how they work, but also of their intent.I don’t think we can rely on osmosis anymore as a way for new fans to acquire the niceties of our culture. I think we need to become more overt about it. Not in a draconian way. Just in a way that makes a lot of these unspoken cultural artifacts more readily accessible.
*Happy to talk about He Walked Around d the Horses at another time.