Back To The Future – Of The Hugos

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d0ef_back_to_the_future_mark1_delorianSometimes, life suddenly makes sense.

Earlier this week, I mentioned a blog post by Sad Puppies 3 instigator Brad Torgersen, in which he waxes eloquently about tribalism as the socio-psychological mechanism behind a lot of what we call other -isms (racism, sexism etc). I perceived a fallacy in his use of this well-worded and convincing theory to support Sad Puppies, and recklessly entered the Comments fray.

In my stumbling attempts to argue from reason and reasonability, I was met halfway by fellow commenter Keranih, who is more of a Puppies supporter, while it can plausibly—though not entirely accurately—be said of me that I’m originally in the WorldCon tribe.

While strong language flew around us, we quickly established common ground, and at Keranih’s prompting left debating the past events behind pretty rapidly to focus on what might be done to fix the future—of WorldCon, the Hugos, and whatever warring Tribes are involved in the fray.

Now admittedly I’m not in a position of any power, and Keranih assures me she isn’t either, so all this may just be Utopian theorizing. But leaving aside the practical implementation, it was immensely gratifying to stand in the middle of a battlefield, watch someone approach in enemy colors, and quickly take off our remaining armor to sit down and parlay.

Here, then, as a co-production between two moderates from opposing camps, is our jointly conceived view on…

What to do next?

Keranih: I think that we need to get the hell past the assignment of blame and start working on fixes. Today would be good. Yesterday would have been better. I’ll settle for this afternoon, for getting started.

(1) Voting on merit on this ballot

Floris: For this year, I think it’s essential that every fan owning the right to vote does so in agreement with his or her own conscience. But to me, the most reasonable and fair way to go about that is to accept the final ballot as valid and legitimate–as it in fact is in the letter of the rules–and judge the nominated works on merit only.

Keranih: I entirely agree. In particular, I hold that outside outright rule breaking that attempts to invalidate nominees based on fannish disgruntlement is setting a very bad prescient such that any vote with which a vocal group disagrees is subject to being over ruled. Not good.

(2) Using the current exposure for good

Floris: Also, I think it’s a very good idea if the exposure the Hugos are currently getting is turned into something positive, in the sense that it’s getting more fans involved or at least interested in the Hugos and the voting. It would be optimal if all involved Tribes would switch their rhetorical tactics into pointing out that yes, this is the final ballot, and yes, anyone who wants to spend $40 gets to vote, so yes, let’s quit this pointless bickering and start voting. Individually.

Keranih: More voting = good. Again, agree entirely.

(3) Taking it down a notch and reaching across the divide

Floris: To get to that point, I think it’s essential that all Tribes acknowledge their own responsibility for the whole fracas, tone down their rhetoric, and enter a dialogue about the things that they do see as positive in the other. Find common ground, explore the similarities in their opinions and objectives, and work from there. A bit like you and I are doing, assuming for the sake of argument that you’re more of a Puppies fan, and simplifying matters by sticking myself in the WorldCon tribe (both of which are probably major simplifications, if not errors). There are clearly Tribes in specfic fandom that reflect the socio-political Tribes in the world at large, but I expect that bottom-line, fans have more in common than these bickering sub-Tribes think, and that the tribe of specfic fans has more to unite than to divide them.

Keranih: Yes, yes, yes, this – Fans are My People. I reserve the right to be very cranky at other Fans, but still. Team Fandom!

Floris: LOL!

(4.1) Taking the Hugos into the broader fandom

Floris: And looking further into the future, I think two changes are needed: one, that knowledge about the Hugo voting system is disseminated much more widely, and encouraging all fans to vote becomes the default in all Tribes.

Keranih: Agreed – but I note this is going to be a major hurdle for some people. There are some people who feel the Hugos represent that section of fandom that “goes to cons” and even more specifically “goes to book cons/Worldcon.” I don’t agree this holds with the PR that WC/WSFS puts out re: the Hugos…but that doesn’t mean people who have been involved in and voting for the Hugos for years don’t feel this way. Their concerns need to be addressed.

(4.2) Bringing down the price of a vote

Floris: And two, that the price of a Supporting Membership is brought down to a level that is affordable for all but the most derelict fans. Forty bucks is a real amount of money, that some people have to live on for a week; $5 can be taken out of even the most tight budget once a year.

Keranih: I would like to point out that Sad Puppy Mad Mike Williamson was probably the first to promote this idea. 🙂 (No, not all the good ideas are ours, but we do have some.) OTOH, I have seen some pushback that there is a non-negliable cost associated with setting up the distance website, prepping the nomination packet, etc. I agree with the sentiment, but hold that the economics of it would have to drive whether or not we do this.*

(4.3) Partnerships with other Cons

Floris: Additionally, I expect the Hugos would benefit from extending voting rights to other specfic Cons. (Suggestion stolen from the Hugo thread at my online writers group Codex.)

Keranih: I myself see no downsides to this (aside from 4.1 above) and would appreciate it, because to the extent I have one, my “hometown” con is Dragon*con, and I’m not likely to give up on that in order to haul all the way to whereever Worldcon is. But others would likely have better, more informed opinions.

(3, revisited) Play the long game

Floris: To get to this point, I think it’s essential that all Tribes acknowledge their own responsibility for the whole fracas, tone down their rhetoric, and enter a dialogue about the things that they do see as positive in the other.

Keranih: Yes. And I say again – we didn’t get to this level of vitriol overnight. We’re not going to fix it tonight. But we do need to start, and we need to acknowledge up front that it is going to be a long process with compromise, hurt feelings, and stop, I am too pissed off to talk to you any more right now from both (all? yes, ALL) sides. We need to be willing to invest the time and be willing to accept temporary deadlocks in order to get to the best solution.


Note: The only reason this seems purely a matter of me proposing and Keranih agreeing is that she had the wherewithall to ask the question “what next” in the first place, bringing me into position to start off.

* Post-discussion note: I’m sure that there is a non-negligible cost involved, but I expect the decrease in price will be offset by the increase in quantity, and given that a lot of the process is automated, a lot of the cost is independent of the actual tally.