Tuesday, April 26, 2016

HUGOPOCALYPSE II: Where Do We Go From Here?

WorldCon just premiered Hugopocalypse II, and guess what--it's almost as depressing as the first one. Sure Best Novel, Novella and Semiprozine are pretty good, but the rest is bad. A few categories, like Best Related Work, Best Fanzine and Best Fan Writer, are out and out shitshows.

...which brings us to the inevitable question of where we go from here. Interested parties may suggest and debate various rules changes, which they most assuredly will. But at this point I think we all have to admit that voter mobilization works and is here to stay. It's just too easy to do.

So I'm looking at the Hugos and seeing two viable paths. First, a counter-mobillization. Second, looking for a more productive use of time and money. Right now I'm strongly considering the latter.

"But wait--wouldn't disengaging just give them what they want?"

Maybe, but I suspect what they really want to do is create a conflict situation, because that's worldview affirming. Last year's repudiation of the slate-derived nominees had moral authority precisely because it wasn't tied to an alternative, politically-inspired slate. It was fans standing up to the conflict entrepreneurs who were imposing their bullshit culture wars frame on the rest of us.

This year is kind of different, and kind of not. The Sad Puppies dropped the slate and made a recommended reading list instead. Though some people disagree, I thought their new approach was a move in the right direction--away from conflict entrepreneurship and toward something more constructive. I appreciate that.

The Rabid Puppies, on the other hand…well, it's more complicated. Yes, in some ways they also changed tack, insofar as they included titles with non-puppy appeal (including some that are written by or reflect a left-wing politics). I did a quick count in the fiction categories and concluded that 9/20 of their nominees would appeal to voters outside that clique. That's a significant difference from last year. And the rhetoric seemed toned down too. That's all good, in my book.

[Plus I have to admit that nominating Space Raptor Butt Invasion is kind o funny.]

On the other hand, unlike the SPs, the RPs still presented a slate (despite the unconvincing boilerplate statement to the contrary). So outside the popular categories, it's pretty much all RP all the time. And this is the big problem for me, because the clear message is "organize or be rendered irrelevant."

Like I said last year, I don't want the Hugos to be an annual rerun of the US presidential election. That already takes up too much oxygen as it is, and the Hugos are supposed to be about fans celebrating the best stuff they discovered over the previous year--not voting in lockstep to further someone's agenda. So I won't back any proposed counter-slates--not even one that reflected my exact political worldview (and it's very doubtful that any would). I want nothing to do with that--nothing at all.

On the other hand, what's the point of voting in a one party system?

"Fine. But where do we go from here, then?"

Every year I ask myself if I should just defect to the Locus Awards. After all, the categories much better and I really like the nominating system, which limits the possibility of slating. And in truth my issues with the Hugos run far deeper than recent events--most notably the nonsensical categories and the tribal voting patterns, which often devolve into a contest over who has the most dedicated following. (And yes, this is one area where I broadly agree with Larry Correia, who started the whole puppy thing. On the other hand, I find his analysis of how and why it happens way off base, and categorically reject his solution.)

Unfortunately, the Locus Awards don't have the fan categories, and this is where the slates have done the most damage. So those of us who see value in the fan awards need to figure out a way to salvage them, or recreate them in a way that's relatively immune to slating. I don't claim to have a solution myself, but if you do, then I'm listening.

As for the Hugos, I guess I'm not quite ready to cut my losses yet. And I'll definitely wait and see what happens with the final ballot voting. But I am going to think long and hard over whether this is a good use of money and time, and if the answer is "no," then so be it.


POSTED BY: The G--purveyor of nerdliness, genre fanatic and Nerds of a
Feather founder/administrator, since 2012.