Background: last year I got mad as hell about the Sad/Rabid Puppy thing. The Hugos were taken very seriously by both my parents when I was a child: they both nominated and voted for the works, fans, editors, and artists they felt represented the best that the genre had to offer from each year. This year, when I saw the slate, I mostly just got sad.
I know that the only people really qualified to complain about the Hugo nominations or any eventual winners are those fans who actually vote.
And I’m still not voting.
My reason for not voting is quite simple: I don’t think I’m qualified to judge what works and people best exemplify the genre this year. If I am perfectly honest, I would say I am only qualified to vote on one or two Hugos this year: Best Dramatic Presentation Long- and Short-Form (and honestly, I’ve only seen the Doctor Who episode, so I wouldn’t exactly say I’m any judge there). This is the case most years. The last time I read a novel before it got a Hugo nomination was in 2010, when I was blown away by The City & the City, by China Miéville (I don’t think I actually finished Embassytown before that year’s nominations came out, though I may be wrong on that one). It’s much the same with short fiction. The things I read right when they come out, for the most part, are works by my friends or authors I follow closely. Everything else I put in the pile of “will get to it eventually.”
I’m a slow reader. And I have a full-time job and a commute that doesn’t allow me much reading time. I have a huge to-be-read pile, and the only things that get precedence over the stack (or even in some cases over whatever I’m right in the middle of) are very special books. Pratchett (forever may his name be on our lips and in our hearts) was one such author. Miéville is another. Otherwise, you go to the bottom of the stack, and gods help you if you’re behind a tome by Sanderson.
The reason, as so many others have stated, that the Puppy slates were so effective is that it’s very difficult, in the nominating stage at least, to get fans to agree on much of anything. In past years, the difference between getting a nomination and not often came down to a dozen votes. Because most fans only vote for things they like. They usually only vote in categories where they feel qualified to make judgement. There’s a reason that the Editor categories often get under a thousand votes: fans who don’t feel qualified to make those judgements just don’t vote there.
I’m not voting this year because, if I voted on any of the major categories, I don’t feel that my votes would be much different from the Puppy votes that made the nomination list what it is this year. I’m not qualified, and, realistically, I’m unlikely to have the time to read the whole packet.
I’m going to vote in the Hugos based on my own informed opinions or not at all. Voting based on any ideology may work for politics, but it’s no judge of quality in fiction.
EDIT: This is not to say that you shouldn’t vote, just that, realistically, as much as I’d like to vote in the Hugos this year, it doesn’t feel right for me.
Please, if you care about our fandom, vote. If you can make the time commitment to make an informed decision vote. If you read a lot of new stuff in the genre and want to nominate next year, vote. Even if you can’t afford a voting membership, Mary Robinette Kowal and others are giving away voting memberships.
Vote. Vote. V O T E .
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