RIP Hugo and your Awards

The Hugo awards, often considered to be the most coveted and prestigious award within the SFF genre, has always had a political side — this isn't news and to be fair it would be almost impossible to find an award that isn't influenced in some way by those who organise and of course those who vote. I've always tried to stay away from these politics, as a reader and reviewer they don't interest me in the slightest — except when they (as they sometimes do) result in a majority of deserving works not getting the chance over those that really don't deserve the publicity.

The Hugo's have always been pro-american and much less a worldwide award, even such universally recognised, non-american authors such as Terry Pratchett have struggled to find nominations. For a good few years the awards have become even less and less representative, not just geographically but lacking diversity in race and gender. As an observer it has appeared that only a select group of established authors ever got a chance of an award. Last year though things had finally started to change and younger men and women of different race finally began to see their works deservedly recognised.

This year there has been an organised backlash to this long-overdue celebration of diversity in SFF. Led by a number of sexist and racist individuals and supported by the racist homophobe Vox Day, whom I will not describe in detail here lest it encourage his infamy but has gone as far as advocating throwing acid into the face of women and made claims that black people are not homo sapiens.

The short-list of pretty much all the Hugo award categories — with the exception of Best Novel (which does admittedly have a great battle between Anne Leckie and Jim Butcher) — have been fixed by this loud minority — a group known as The Sad Puppies (whom I will refer to here as Sad Socks) to almost exclusively include only their choices of  predominately male, white writers on the Hugo award shortlist. The Sad Socks are also affiliated with the extreme misogynist hate group known loosely as Gamergate and seem to think that diversity in SFF is somehow wrong.

While this is not the fault of the Hugo organisers (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America or SFWA), the fact that a small group of organised Sad Sock individuals could so easily game what is supposed to be the pinnacle of SFF literary achievement to me seems the final nail in the coffin of a creature that has been slowly dying since the beginning of the 21st century. It's not like the SFWA didn't have any forewarning this would happen, analysis of last years voting suggested that Sad Socks had some influence and this years disaster was predicted by a number of people including Jason Sanford.

Some of the authors nominated have already turned down their chance of winning, not wanting to be associated with such a mess. Saddest of Sad Socks Vox Day has been nominated for two awards while his tiny publishing house (which very few had heard of until now) Castalia House has no less than nine nominations.

Some members of the SFWA (such as previous Hugo winner John Scalzi) have suggested using the "no vote" option which would mean if voted for in majority would result in no award given for that category. While this represents a way to prevent those undeserving works receiving a Hugo, it doesn't fix the issue or allow those that should have been nominated a chance. The whole point of the Hugo is to vote for the best works in SFF over the past twelve months, not to spend $40 so you can prevent a bunch of jokers from getting such an award. It renders the Hugo award meaningless and doesn't fix the fact that at least this year, the Hugo award is well and truly broken. The SFWA admit that what has happened is not against the rules and therefore cannot be undone, I for one say that such a flagrant foul against the spirit of the awards merits action — at the very least a refund for those who have spent $40 on nothing.

A number of other book reviewers, author and readers have mentioned ways the voting system could be improved, such as the modest proposal by Django Wrexler, a proposal mirrored by author Ramez Naam while the ever lucid Chuck Wendig sums the issues quite succinctly "Keep calm and don’t worry about the dinosaurs".

Perhaps it's time for another award to take place as the premier award in Speculative Fiction, there are many others just as deserving of our attention, such as the Arthur C Clarke award and the Philip K Dick award to name two of many.

Whatever happens unless the SFWA can radically change the way the award voting / short-listing works, I can't see how anyone can have any faith or confidence in future Hugo's.

RIP Hugo and your Awards.