This Year’s Hugo Nonsense

A provisional agenda for this year’s WSFS Business Meeting has been released. You can find it here. There are a lot of new Hugo-related proposals, many of them coming from something called The Hugo Awards Study Committee.

There has already been much outrage on social media, and the inevitable suspicion that this committee is part of the They who run WSFS. I’m not going to go into all of it, but I do want to try to explain what is going on.

When it comes to Hugo disputes, the sides can often be characterized as follows. One side is made up of people who think that Hugos are wonderful things, and that therefore as many people as possible should get one. This group contains a lot of people who are creatives and who might hope to one day win a Hugo. The other side is made up of people who think that Hugos are wonderful things, and that therefore as few people as possible should be allowed to win one, otherwise they will cease to be special. This group is made up mainly of people who are unlikely to ever win a Hugo.

The problem is that the “give as many Hugos as possible” group mainly have lives and are busy being creative. They don’t have time to serve on WSFS committees. The “give as few Hugos as possible” group is made up mostly of people for whom Fandom is a Way of Life. Therefore, when the Business Meeting asks for people to sit on a committee, it is mainly people from the “give as few Hugos as possible” group who volunteer, and it is their views that then dominate the resulting report.

The ”give as few Hugos as possible” crowd also tend to be the sort of people who are wedded to the idea that anyone who makes even one measly cent from their activity in the field is a “filthy pro” who must forever be excluded from fan categories. This never ends well, if only because the voters want to vote for their favourite creators regardless, so to enforce such a rule would require Hugo Administrators to be much more active in excluding people than they like to be.

From a political point of view, the problem is that WSFS committees are not democratically elected, and are not responsible to anyone other than themselves. Their members doubtless all think that they are doing their best for WSFS, but ultimately they will end up pushing their own views of how WSFS should be run. This is not a good way to decide on award rules.

The Business Meeting isn’t a good way to decide award rules either, but at least it gives more people a chance to have a say.

I certainly can’t have a stay, because attendance at the Business Meeting is reserved for in-person attendees only. There are very good reasons for that, but again this is not a good way to run an international organization. And until we come up withy a better one we will keep on having these embarrassing crises, year after year.