Animals in the House

20 Apr

Happy Easter — whatever that happens to mean to you. For me, it’s a four day weekend and chocolate bunnies and candy eggs. Oh, and cute baby chicks and frolicking lambs.

Meanwhile, down in Toronto, the Prime Minister’s wife is at the Toronto International Film Festival showing of a film about Internet cats — all in aid of the Humane Society.

Speaking of cats, there is a large, presumably whiter than white, one among the pigeons as a result of the Hugo nominations announcement yesterday. Lots of gloating and outrage all around.

Some people say we should change the way nominations are done; some say we should abolish the awards altogether. A bit like calling for an end to democracy because your candidate didn’t win (or more likely, theirs did).

I say, it’s a dog-eat-dog world. I say, you can’t have a horse race if half the horses are hobbled. I say, we should address the elephant in the room.

Nominations for the Hugos and, I suspect, for the Nebulas, and for any award where people get to nominate and vote are subject to all the benefits and flaws of any democracy (and don’t get me started on juried awards). Voters may be driven by the loftiest ideals or the lowest partisan motives — sometimes both at the same time. Voters may be deeply immersed in the issues or voting based on a single issue. Voters may care intensely about the merits of candidates or be concerned only with loyalty to the tribe, however that tribe might be defined. Moreover, people have always campaigned for recognition and sometimes for inclusion on the ballots. Some people have even campaigned for other people to be on the ballot (I myself have recommended several books/stories I liked; sometimes, though not always, written by people I liked).

Anyone who thinks it’s only about the art is naive; those who believe it’s all about popularity are cynical. Even if it is about the art, art has always been political to a greater or lesser extent. Ezra Pound comes to mind.

As John Scalzi has already said, people are on the ballot because they are qualified to be on the ballot, that is, because enough people followed the rules and nominated them to be on the ballot. The five or so who made it, in each case, got more nominations than anyone else did.

As for whether they deserve to be there… under the rules, they absolutely do. Artistic merit? History will decide that not the people who nominated and not the people who wind up voting. Bulwer Lytton comes to mind — more popular than Dickens in his time; now remembered mostly for “It was a dark and stormy night…”

The Hugos are interesting in one respect. While those who nominate the Nebulas (and the Canadian Aurora Awards for that matter) are also qualified to vote for the Awards, the Hugo voters are significantly different than the nominators.

You are qualified to nominate if you were/are a member of the 2013, 2014 and 2015 WorldCons at the time nominations closed. To vote you have to be a member of the 2014 World Con. Voters are therefore a subset of the nominators PLUS anyone who buys a 2014 membership between the close of nominations and the close of voting. Hard to say what that means, though looking at last year’s results you can see that getting the most nominations was not always a guarantee of winning the award (though finishing first in the first count was).

Manipulating award ballots has been going on ever since there were award ballots. Block voting by clubs, open and secret ‘vote for me’ campaigns (especially those based on vote for me so we can screw the other people), even, it is rumoured, instances of buying fraudulent memberships have all been done in the past — and who can say how far in the past. The first two are, perhaps sadly, within the rules; the latter is not. Imagine such things happening in a democracy — think, Tammany Hall, Huey Long, the Hunt Brothers.

Everyone on the ballot deserves to be there. But whether they deserve to win, is another question. I know I will try to read all the entries — I say try because I have limited patience for bad writing — and will vote for the best of them. I will not prejudge any of them. I will support the most meritorious. In my opinion. Your opinion may vary.

So don’t monkey around — exercise your franchise and don’t be an ass about it.

News about publishing

New Books out from Bundoran Press — Strange Bedfellows and Breakpoint: Nereis.

Speaking of jury prizes, here’s one for women only.

And another for self-published writers. No cash but a review in The Guardian isn’t bad.

Alistair MacLeod dies.

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