It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible

In which I gaze into a crystal ball

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… although I’ve no idea why because it still hasn’t given me a winning number for the lottery. But now that the Hugo nomination period is closed, and everyone who was going to nominate has done so, what can we expect to see when the shortlists are announced over the Easter weekend?

There’s been quite an interesting discussion over the last month or so among (mostly) British fans, prompted by the fact the Worldcon is in London this year. We plan to attend, so for the first time (for many of us, anyway) we’ve made a serious effort to nominate works for the Hugo Award. And one point that has come out of this discussion, and the various draft ballots posted on blogs, etc, is quite how stupid many of the Hugo categories are. I mean, seriously, what bunch of idiots thought up “semiprozine”? What type of bulbhead defines dramatic presentations long form and short form with such specific language that long form is open to both tentpole summer blockbuster movies and the entire 26-episode season of a television series? As for the novelette… I accept that the term once had historical significance, but it’s now an anachronism and needs to be summarily dispatched. And let’s not talk about awards going to people rather than works… Or the fan categories…

Whatever. I saw a whole bunch of varied draft ballots covering a widespread of fiction and non-fiction in each of the categories. And the really sad thing is… I think the eventual shortlists will be full of the same old shit. The novel shortlist will be Gaiman and McGuire and Corey… and the novellas will be all Valente and Swirsky and Chiang… and the short stories will be all Liu. Though Leckie might well make it onto the novel shortlist, and Samatar to the short story shortlist.

In other words, it’s going to be fascinating seeing how much of an impact hosting the Worldcon in the UK will have, how much of a blip in the old guard’s voting us vocal online Brit-based (and other non-US-based) fans will have on the final shortlists. Having said that, in 2005 the Worldcon was in Glasgow and the Hugo best novel shortlist was entirely British – and only two of the books were published in the US during the preceding year. (The other fiction categories, however, were overwhelmingly American.) But that was nine years ago, and the online sf community is so much bigger and more vocal now. And more balkanised too.

Which may well be part of the problem. I’ve only seen draft ballots from those within my circle of friends and acquaintances, so I’ve no real idea of what the wider Hugo voting public has been nominating. The fan categories will be a good indicator of this. Do the old farts and their paper fanzines outnumber those from the online community? Will the fan categories join the twenty-first century or remain stuck back in the 1950s? Will a blog make it onto the best fanzine shortlist?

Like I said, I’m not holding my breath. The Hugo Awards, for all their claim they’re “world awards”, are resolutely American, with rules designed to maximise the visibility of works to US voters. The Worldcon, despite its name, is a US con. Even for Loncon 3, there are more US members than UK – although, to be fair, more UK-based members will be attending; but more US-based members have bought supporting memberships. Don’t forget, however, that members of last year’s Worldcon, which was in San Antonio, Texas, also get to nominate in this year’s Hugo Awards. As does anyone who’s bought membership for next year’s Worldcon in Spokane, Washington…

So that conversation we’ve been having online about the Hugos over the past couple of months? I suspect we might as well have not had it for all the good it will do. But I sincerely hope to be pleasantly surprised.

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