Hugo Awards 2015 – the aftermath


The Hugo awards have completed, and it was a definitive rebuke to the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy slate. For a great summary, see this article in Wired; for reactions, see Mark (neutral), see Richard (pro-Hugos), and John Wright (pro-Puppies).

I’ve been mostly a lurker with respect to the whole Hugo controversy – though I did strongly support Ms. Marvel over at my non-geek-facing blog. I am grateful to Mike at File770 for due diligence in keeping all sides of the debate visible.

I think that the main lesson here going forward is that the Hugos are vulnerable – relatively small numbers of people can influence the results. If nothing else, we should thank the Puppies for raising the controversy to the level of rallying people to participate.

However, there does need to be a way to broaden the base to make the system immune to coup. The EPH proposal is a good start but it seems to me (and I may be mistaken) that it is designed as a band-aid to the problem arising from the vulnerability, not a genuine solution to that vulnerability.

Make no mistake, EPH or not, it is still perfectly possible for Vox Day and whoever else to interfere with the results next year. There’s nothing I see in EPH that can forestall another wave of Noah Wards, since ultimately the outcomes are still gameable due to the small numbers involved. The time of hiding in the Shire is over – the world beyond has taken notice, and the stakes are higher.

What are the solutions?

For one thing, the Hugos were given a gift in terms of mass media coverage this year. From Wired to WaPo, Puppygate was media catnip as a proxy in the culture wars. This means that there are several dozen journalists who are now experts on Hugo arcana and who are an audience that can and should be cultivated. More importantly, all of their readers are now marginally aware of what the Hugos are, and the involvement of luminaries like GRRM also helps raise that awareness above background noise. Press releases to these journalists and direct advertising in their publications will maintain the interest.

Also, what about more aggressive marketing to Communities of Geekdom? For example, Comic-Con (and it’s satellites around the country, like Chicago’s version last weekend). AMAs on Reddit? A pitch to the writers at Big Bang Theory? How about a big party somewhere, a mass book signing of Hugo nominees?

This is just 5 minutes of brainstorming on a blog post. The point is that the official machinery of the Hugo Awards itself needs to start contemplating solutions to grow the base and keep the Hugos relevant to a broader swath of fandom than has been sufficient till now.

I hope that this wasn’t a banner year for Hugo voting, but rather the beginning of a strong trend. If not, the Hugos really are in danger, long term.

related: Mark’s observations

2 thoughts on “Hugo Awards 2015 – the aftermath”

  1. Ah, the “any press is good press” gambit, eh? I hope you’re right, because I’n on the inside of this thing and if it weren’t for Seveneves (and maybe that Bujold novella), I’d totally be out next year. Everyone is acting so petty and vitriolic and I find that repulsive. If I were on the outside, I’d probably just back away slowly.

    I’m sympathetic to some of the arguments being made on both sides, but everyone seems to be doing their best to be as alienating as possible. If the Hugos are in danger, it’s because awards are no longer being given out to the best SF anymore (if they’re given at all!). Ironically, they seemed to be at their best when they were a small, isolated group. The past two years had the most participation ever and all its brought us is angst.

    1. i certainly agree that there are people being petty on both sides – but I wouldn’t equate the two. The puppies (both varieties) leadership cant be fairl;y compared to the smattering angry fan here and there. For the most part, the Hugo Establishment has been pretty tolerant as far as I can tell, and reacted properly – within the rules themselves. I definitely think that the Hugos still represent the best of SF, and I hope that Ramez Naam and Hannu get some love next year 🙂

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