There is a post up at Making Light that discusses ways to change the way the Hugos are voted on. I can only assume that the desire is to prevent wrong fans daring to have wrong fun again. There were a host of suggestions made to prevent a repeat of this years set of nominations. It has been empirically demonstrated (Assuming the ratings of people who paid for a work is worth anything) that the quality of the nominations this year are higher than the quality of nominations in recent years. So i’m not really sure what the complaints are all about. Isn’t the point of the award to get fans to vote on high quality popular works of science fiction? What am I missing here?
But lets leave all that aside. What do you think would be the result of reworking how the awards are voted on so that the system is “fairer”? I can only assume “fairer” in this context means “more like it was before the rabble got involved”. Has anybody suggesting all these changes thought through what it will mean for the Hugos and Worldcon going forward? I mentioned in the Nuking the Hugos post that, apparently, before the various Sad Puppies campaigns the attendance at Worldcon and the numbers of votes for the Hugos were declining and that it has gone up each year since then as the campaign to prevent Puppy Sadness brings in more voters and their $40 voting memberships or full price Worldcon attendance tickets. I know i’d have bought a full price membership and gone along but I am located in Australia and the price of getting to Worldcon in Spokane is considerably more than the price of admission and well outside of my budget. Maybe 2020 in New Zealand if they end up hosting.
So, lets assume they get the changes they want, that something like Sad Puppies is prevented from happening again through one voting change or another and the sorts of gaming that public campaigns are conducive too is made more difficult, if not impossible. What do you think the result will be? I bought a voting membership for a Hugo for the first time in my life, I ponied up the $40 and made a vote and helped spread the word about the Hugos and how to participate. I will get a vote next year as well, that is how voting memberships work, but what do you think will happen in 2017 when Worldcon is looking for people to buy voting memberships after the rules have been changed to insure that things are back to business as usual? Do you think I will be parting with $40 then? Do you think I will be saving up some cash to buy a full Worldcon ticket in 2020 and organize accommodation and everything to get to the NZ Worldcon. No, probably not. Does this make me petty? I don’t think so. Attending or voting is a use of the finite funds I have available, if I think voting or going is a waste of time then I will spend the money on something else. I will “vote with my wallet”.
I’m reminded of a few other things by all this talk of changing the voting regulations to prevent something like Sad Puppies happening again. When I say “Academy Awards” and “Nobel Peace Prize” to you, what are the things you think of? I don’t know if you are like me, but “Nobel Peace Prize” is synonymous with “joke” in my mind, and it was in that category long before Obama won one. I haven’t taken them seriously since Arafat won one and Gore winning it for a tedious lecture just made it seem ridiculous. Obama winning it was just one of those cases of it getting into “Let me double check this isn’t the Onion” territory. Certainly going forward I will automatically assume any winner is a joke.
By comparison the Academy awards don’t conjure up that image for me, but I do know that a film labeled “Academy Award Nominee” makes me think it is likely going to be a SnoreFest and “Academy Award Winner” seals it as “Pretentious drivel that will put me to sleep”. I no doubt have particularly plebeian tastes (Woo Hoo! Laser space gun battles for the win! Boom! Kapow!) but I also buy movie tickets, DVD’s, rentals, etc. Hollywood can probably afford for me to ignore the Academy Award movies and just pat themselves on the back and have their art films make no money and vanish into obscurity, offset by Spectacular Laser Space Battles XXVIII that I will line up to see and enjoy. Still, I know i’m not the only one who feels that way about any movie tainted with the label “Academy Award winner”.
What does all this mean for the Hugos and Worldcon and voting? If the rules are changed and UnGoodThink voters are excluded then I probably wont participate in future and Worldcon will lose my $40. Will that make a difference to WorldCon? By itself probably not, I doubt I wield that much influence but I doubt I will be the only one on the margin that will change their behavior. For others it will take more to push them out, but little by little you will exclude more and more people, they will walk away and over time that will be the end of the Hugos and Worldcon. As for the Hugo award itself, i’ve seen what won before Sad Puppies got involved in recent years and a Hugo win will becomes like an Academy award, a sign of something that I doubt I will like and isn’t worth spending my finite cash reserves on. Not when I can get the latest Grim Noir story by Larry Correia (Larry write more of those!) or enjoy the latest Hard Luck Hank book.
Will my decison make a difference? As I said, probably not, but everybody has a point where something ceases to be worth the price of admission. Where something goes from being a mark of presitge to a signal of worthlessness. So change the voting rules, lock out the WrongFans, make the awards pure, do whatever you like, but expect me to probably take my money elsewhere. Not because I am being bitter and vindictive but because $40 will buy a bunch of stories I will enjoy and that is a better use of it than the chance to cast a worthless vote in an award that will provide me with a reading packet of dreck I wont enjoy that will mark whatever wins as “Boring Crap for Snobs”.