Thoughts on the Hugo Awards


The nominees for this year’s Hugo Awards have been announced, and I’m thrilled to see that my editor at DAW Books, Sheila Gilbert, is once again nominee for Best Editor, Long Form. This is Sheila’s third time on the ballot, and here’s hoping this is the year she goes home with the rocketship.

That said, I’ve decided I’d throw in my tuppence-worth of thought on the Big Hugo Controversy of 2015. Many pixels have been spilt and much bandwidth sacrificed to discussions all over the Web, but it’s entirely possible you, gentle reader, are among the few who know nothing of this. Let’s see if I can sum it up while being fair to both sides.

This year, SF writer Brad Torgersen mounted a campaign called Sad Puppies 3 to solicit suggestions of people who fans thought ought to be on the Hugo ballet but might be overlooked without greater attention being drawn to them. From those suggestions, and in consultation with like-minded colleagues, he presented a slate of possible nominees (including my editor, Sheila Gilbert). He and the others promoting the slate–bestselling SF/fantasy author Larry Correia and SF/fantasy author Sarah A. Hoyt, among others–urged people to give the list serious consideration, to read the suggested works, and then, most importantly, to buy supporting memberships to this year’s WorldCon in Spokane and nominate and, later, vote.

The view of the Sad Puppies is that awards have tended to go to recent years to certain works primarily because those works carry an approved political message (specifically a left-wing political message), or because their creators are outspoken online advocates of approved political messages, rather than because those works are necessarily particularly well-written or entertaining science fiction or fantasy.

In contrast, the Sad Puppies slate includes authors of varied political persuasions, some right-wing, some left-wing, some unknown: the goal is not to promote a political agenda but rather to ensure that political agendas do not become the central feature of the Hugo Award nominees.

The Sad Puppies campaign was a remarkable success, with the majority of the nominees either being on the Sad Puppies slate or another one run by controversial but influential (his website generates enormous traffic) writer/editor Vox Day, who called his similar-but-not-identical slate Rabid Puppies (and whose motivations may be somewhat different).

Those who disagree with the Sad Puppies approach fall into, by my analysis, roughly four (overlapping) camps. While the Sad Puppies approach is entirely within the rules, open campaigning for the Hugos has traditionally been frowned upon. (It is the Sad Puppies’ contention that such campaigning has still gone on, but behind the scenes. I suspect that is true, but have no solid evidence for it.) This dislike of open campaigning is one reason some are unhappy with the Sad Puppies.

The second camp comprises those convinced that the reason for the Sad Puppies campaign is entirely reactionary: that the Puppies are upset that more people of varying skin tones and sexual identities and left-wing political views have been winning awards than did in the past, because the Sad Puppies are largely white straight conservative men and they believe only white straight conservative men should be winning awards. The fact that the current Sad Puppy slate is not, in fact, entirely made up of white straight conservative men, does not seem to alter their stated perception. The fact that the Sad Puppies flat-out state that’s not what the campaign is about doesn’t alter this perception either: they’re accused of lying about their true motives.

The third camp comprises those who believe the Sad Puppies campaign is really just an attempt by its organizers to net Hugo Awards for themselves. Since Larry Correia made the ballot this year and withdrew his name from consideration, and Brad Torgersen recused himself before the nominations even began, that one doesn’t seem to have much basis in fact, but the argument is still made.

The fourth camp comprises the several who believe that the Hugo Awards should only be nominated and voted upon by a core group of fans with a long involvement in either WorldCon or the SF publishing industry; that the new fans nominating and voting for the Hugos for the first time this year, without having any connection to WorldCon or the group of editors/publishers/authors/reviewers/bloggers who see themselves as the core of the community, are interlopers who are trying to take the Hugo Award process over from those to whom it rightfully belongs due to their years of interest in, and involvement with, the Hugo process. This attitude is seen on the Sad Puppy side as being a claim that there is a hierarchy of fans, and that they, despite their love of science fiction, are seen as “not real fans,” or at least a lower order of fans, ones who should not be allowed to have a say in the Hugo Awards.

The annoyance of those who disagree with Sad Puppies has erupted online into the kinds of vitriol with which anyone who spends any time online is all-too-familiar. Insults fly, accusations are hurled about, people are called racist and sexist and homophobic and stupid, and so forth, and so on.

There is a move afoot among those whose ox has been gored by the preponderance of Sad Puppies nominees on the Hugo ballot this year to vote No Award (a viable option under the preferential Australian-style ballot of the Hugo) above any work or person who appeared on the Sad Puppies slate, regardless of quality.

I think this is wrong-headed, not to mention cruel and disrespectful. It’s a form of guilt-by-association–you hang out with the wrong people, so you will be shunned. It’s playground tactics, and far more destructive to the Hugo process and the perception of the award among readers than the mere presence on the ballot of works with which whose nomination those voting No Award disagree.

Yes, the No Award option is there for those who honestly believe nothing was nominated deserving of the award–but read the nominees first and then make that decision. To punish people–like Sheila Gilbert!–simply because they happen to be on the Sad Puppy slate is flat-out wrong. And it WILL backfire. I suspect, because Ann Leckie’s book Ancillary Justice won for Best Novel last year, that the non-Sad Puppy nominee of choice is the sequel, Ancillary Sword. If the No Award-above-Sad Puppy movement takes off and is widely promoted, there’s little doubt that the insulted and annoyed whose own nominated works are being No Awarded will return the favour. No Award could win the Best Novel category. And that wouldn’t be good for anyone, except those few who perhaps would take perverse delight in the complete destruction of the award’s remaining cachet.

Where do I stand in all this? (I know you’re dying to find out.) More on the Sad Puppy side, simply because their stated goals (and unlike a lot of the critics, I’m not going to take the “sure, they SAY this, but I know they really mean THIS” approach–I take them at their word) are not to damage or destroy the Hugos, but to rescue them. To, in fact, INCREASE the “cachet” I referred to by increasing the number of people who nominate and vote for the award, and increasing the diversity of that group of Hugo-supporting fans.

And when I say diversity, I don’t mean diversity as in skin-color and sexual identity. I couldn’t care less about the skin-color and sexual identity of the authors I read, or the characters they write–provided they write, and the characters inhabit, a fascinating, mind-expanding, entertaining fictional world. True diversity is diversity of opinion, of thought, of storytelling style. That’s the diversity that matters within science fiction (and within the world in general). And the smaller and more insular the group of people deciding who deserves and doesn’t deserve a Hugo, the less of that kind of diversity we’re going to see.

The number of people nominating for the Hugos this year set a record. I suspect we’ll see a record number of people voting, too. This year’s awards will suffer, no doubt, from all the controversy, but I hope that what the Sad Puppies have accomplished is to blow open the Hugo process, letting in fresh air and light and way, way more science fiction fans, and offering the possibility to many, many more writers that they may not only some day win a Hugo, but will do so secure in the knowledge that lots of people both nominated for them and voted for them.

A lot of the people nominating and voting this year were unaware the Hugo Awards even existed until the Hugos were drawn to their attention through the Sad Puppies. Others knew the awards existed, but had no clue they could be a part of the nomination process by buying a supporting membership. Their reaction was, “Cool! I’ve got to get on on that.”

I don’t see that as a bad thing. How can it be? The Sad Puppies, contra their detractors, are not trying to wreck the Hugo Awards, they’re trying to save them, by raising their profile and making them more truly representative of the vast sea of science fiction, and science fiction fans, which surrounds us.

The Hugo Awards claim to be the most prestigious award for science fiction, and once they were, but they haven’t been for a while–and they won’t be again unless they penetrate the consciousness of the thousands who read SF and fantasy books and watch SF and fantasy TV shows and movies, and throng to the ComicCons and DragonCons, and they, too, begin to nominate and vote.

Sad Puppies isn’t going away. Sad Puppies 4 is already in the works, with Kate Paulk heading it up. I don’t know what form it will take–I doubt she does, either, yet. For myself, I hope that, rather than provide a “there are five slots and here are five nominees” list as was done this year, which lends itself to those who are motivated to do so to vote a “straight ticket” and which certainly lends ammunition to those who claim that’s what everyone did, they provide somewhat longer lists of suggestions, a la the Locus Magazine recommended reading list.

For myself, I considered the Sad Puppy list when nominating, and did make a few nominations that appeared on their list. My reasoning? I saw people on that list I’ve long thought deserved to be a Hugo nominee, and their presence on the list seemed to indicate that this year they might actually make the ballot–and I wanted to help them along. The big one there for me was Jim Butcher, who absolutely deserves a Hugo, in my estimation, and whose nominated book this year, Skin Game, is one of his best.

Barring a change in the notoriously hard to change World Science Fiction Convention bylaws, we may see record nominations and online recommendation battles in the years to come, record voting, and record interest in the Hugo Awards.

I personally think that’s a good thing.

Here’s my slate for the final ballot this year:

Sheila Gilbert, Best Editor, Long Form

Other than that, read everything, vote as you see fit. And ignore anyone who tries to get to you do anything else.

ADDENDUM RE COMMENTS POLICY: Since this post is generating more comments than most things I post, I should point out that all comments have to be approved before appearing. If your comment doesn’t appear right away, it probably just means I’m not at my computer for a while. If you don’t see it after, say, two or three hours, it’s possible I didn’t approve it. It’s more likely I just haven’t seen it yet. And it could also have ended up in spam, in which case I’ll still see it, but it’ll take longer.

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  1. Thank you, Edward, for this well-reasoned piece.

    I am neutral, mostly, in this mess. But I’m like you in that I believe the SPs are being unfairly maligned in certain circles, and malicious intent is being inferred where there is none. I also believe that most if not all of the SP voters were well-intentioned and conscientious, and actually read the books and stories they nominated before they voted. (I do not think that most, if any at all, voted a whole slate. Unlike what Vox Day did with the “Rabid Puppies” group.)

    I have a friend who is on the ballot — actually, I have several that I know very well, but one is a true friend of several years’ standing, and he couldn’t have known this sort of kerfuffle would’ve emerged. So rather than him being able to take pride in his nomination for the John W. Campbell Award, he’s had to see all this nonsense about everyone on the ballot urged by the SPs were racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted, or worse — when this does not describe my friend and never has.

    Finally, the book review site I work at, Shiny Book Review, was named on 30 ballots or so and did not make the final ballot. I am actually grateful we didn’t. If we had, I’m sure that I — a disabled, widowed writer of limited economic means who’s proudly in favor of LGBT rights and have written a story, coming out later this year, that’s actually a transgendered romance — would’ve been slandered in exactly the same way as my friend has been. Or that Brad Torgerson has been. Or anyone on the SP slate has been.

    And that’s just sad.

      • on April 15, 2015 at 12:02 am
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      Thanks, Barb. As I noted, my wonderful DAW editor Sheila Gilbert is on the ballot again, so I’m entirely with you on the unfairness to those nominated.

      I am frankly disgusted by the people within the field who are hurling the nastiest possible attacks at the Sad Puppy organizers without, so far as I can see, a shred of evidence. The Sad Puppies seems to have been entirely up front from the moment their campaign began about what they were and weren’t trying to do. From their detractors we see ad hominem after ad hominem, to the point of absurdity, so that a man in an interracial marriage can be called a racist without a trace of shame. And then there has clearly been someone on the anti-Puppy side with enough clout to get a flagrantly false narrative about what the Sad Puppies want into major media outlets like Entertainment Weekly (that one, at least, was retracted, but there are still hundreds of them about) claiming that, as I saw in a blogpost at Booklist today, by a librarian of all people, that the Sad Puppies want the science fiction field to be dominated by “racist white males.” How anyone can write a blatant lie like that without a trace of shame is beyond me. And yet the field is full of people making claims like that and worst. It’s disgusting. It’s vile. It’s childish. It’s wrong. It needs to stop.

  2. I quoted the original post, Wlydcat, where Edward Willett used that as a description of how Hugos were nominated previously with no evidence and where it seemed the actual evidence shows that in most cases it applies to the Sad Puppy and Rabid Puppy slates.
    I have not claimed the Puppy slates are exclusively racist bigoted right wing homophobes, although that applies to the editor nominated twice and the writer nominated six times by their own words.
    A large part of the difference this year is a magnified difference that has existed for fifty years in the Hugos. Science fiction fans are a varied lot and some can not see how many fans like works that they dislike.
    I had used a previous example from another field that it is like those who loved the first ‘Fast and Furious’ movie and complained about the liberal elites in Hollywood not nominating it for an Oscar. People’s taste vary and if I love the short poem “If you were a dinosaur my love” while I can understand some not liking it it is not a conspiracy when it is nominated and wins. Likewise there is a big Dr. Who and feminist component of fandom and they loved the collections of essays in ‘Chicks Dig Time Lords’ and many people and groups mentioned that in audio podcasts and their websites and it made the Hugo ballot although it did not win. ‘Redshirts’ I ranked last I believe on my Hugo ballot that year, too meta and I didn’t like the message, but the author was popular and fans love their Star Trek but it did not get placed on the ballot and win because “awards have tended to go to recent years to certain works primarily because those works carry an approved political message (specifically a left-wing political message), or because their creators are outspoken online advocates of approved political messages, rather than because those works are necessarily particularly well-written or entertaining science fiction or fantasy.”
    But evidently Brad and Larry and “Voice of God” and others thought that was the case and there was a conspiracy to keep their kind, whatever their kind is, off the ballot and definitely off the winners list and there was a way to fight the conspiracy – by polling like-minded individuals and then selecting a tiny portion of recommendations and suggesting people concentrate their votes for those.
    People are upset because of that happening. I really expect some categories to have No Award this year. I will read all the works nominated and will probably rank No Award above some.
    Meanwhile George R R Martin is more articulate and more polite in answering Larry Correia than I would be.

      • on April 14, 2015 at 11:54 pm
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      Since you have posted that, I believe I should post Larry Correia’s articulate and polite response to Martin.

    • B. Durbin on April 14, 2015 at 1:58 pm
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    Another panel that I’ve never seen replicated was ConJose’s “Improv Storytelling” (in hilarious fashion, they didn’t tell the panelists what to do, so I (fresh off college improv) suggested a pass-the-mic format. That panel included Terry Pratchett, Phil Foglio, Tad Williams, and a lady whose name escapes me for the moment (she’s primarily known for SF erotica, not my cup of tea) but who was very, very good.

    The big crime was that no one thought to tape it (in those pre-smartphone days.)

      • on April 14, 2015 at 2:30 pm
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      The Imaginative Fiction Writers Association (a.k.a. Ifwits) in Calgary ( do something called “Writers at the Improv” at When Words Collide every year, a game I like so much I always volunteer. Basically the audience suggests words which four or five two-writer teams each have to use in a sentence. Each writer writes a sentence, then the members of each team decide which of their sentences to present. The audience then votes on which sentence they like best, and the story builds round by round until the end, when everyone get to write an ending. The results tend to be pun-heavy and quickly slip to lowest-common-denominator humor, but it’s a lot of fun.

    • B. Durbin on April 14, 2015 at 11:34 am
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    Mr. Willett, you’ll be in Spokane this year—will you be doing any readings? I still remember your delivery in the panel “Authors Read From Their Juvenilia” (aka “The World’s Bravest Writers”) in Denver in 2008.

    (To anyone who will be attending Worldcon, Edward Willett has a very nice delivery style and had me in stitches with his reading of his horrible adolescent pulp. It’s worthwhile.)

      • on April 14, 2015 at 12:05 pm
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      Yep, I’ll be there. Don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing: they haven’t told us our schedules yet. I always suggest the juvenilia panel but so far Denver is the only WorldCon to take me up on it. Maybe they have trouble getting authors to take part…and I’m just more shameless. 🙂 In Denver we had Joshua Palmatier, Sarah Hoyt, Connie Willis and myself. I suspect Connie’s presence helped us get a good crowd…

      Likely I’ll be singing again: I do the Donald Swann setting of Tolkien’s poetry collectively known as “The Road Goes Ever On.” It went over really well in Chicago in the filk room. In Reno I did it in the huge main hall, which wasn’t ideal, especially since technology let me down and I ended up singing a cappella the first time around. (They graciously gave me another slot so I could do it with my accompaniment…).

  3. This really is the sort of non-thought, automatic slander for effect that I’m talking about.

    “We want more under represented people to enter the field and get awards *therefore* we should vote for stories that contain the right sort of inclusive messages written by the right sort of people.” is at least coherent and well intentioned, sort of.

    But are we all so uneducated that we aren’t familiar with the logical fallacy of “A therefore B” is not “B therefore A”. And yet that’s the supposed “proof” of racism and homophobia.

    “No, we shouldn’t vote for stories on the basis of who wrote them or for the value of their Important Social Message” does not prove any disagreement with the initial premise whatsoever.

  4. Ed, I wasn’t characterizing you or anyone involved in that way – it just seems to be the arguments that each side is flinging at the other.

    I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to see the full impact of this year’s noms. I will continue to buy SF/F books based on personal recommendations of people I trust, and the occasional run in with an author I’ve enjoyed in the past… 🙂

      • on April 9, 2015 at 7:15 pm
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      Works for me!

  5. So we’ve got the homophobic bigots on one side, and the crusader SJWs on the other? Good grief.

    My feeling is (as someone who has never used an award as a recommendation to buy a book, so ymmv) that next year, the Sad Puppies will have their slate, and someone will propose an anti-puppy slate, at which point it becomes a contest to see which group can convince more followers to buy WorldCon memberships for voting. Will the Hugos become meaningless at that point?

      • on April 9, 2015 at 6:44 pm
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      Ian, I wouldn’t typify it that way myself, but…

      I actually hope (but then, as has already been pointed out in this comment thread, I’m apparently naive) that there’ll be lots of people of all persuasions trying to point out the merits of a wide variety of books. I don’t know, of course, but I strongly suspect the Sad Puppies won’t present their recommendations as a slate next year, but as a more extensive recommended reading list, to forestall the accusations of mindless bloc voting.

      I have no idea what Vox Day will do–he’s the fox in the henhouse and seems to be toying with the process for amusement, and I suspect the overwhelming placement of Sad Puppy nominations on the ballot had more to do with his readers than the Sad Puppy people per se, since Day managed to get on the ballot several times without being on the Sad Puppy slate.

      Nor do I know what the anti-Puppy crusaders will do. Only time will tell.

      I did at one time buy books because they were Hugo winners…that hasn’t happened for a long time; but for me there’s still something special about the Hugo, no matter the turmoil surrounding its awarding year after year. I have an Aurora Award (for best Canadian science fiction novel for Marseguro). A rocketship would look great on the mantle next to it. And I’m quite sure there are many, many authors who grew up reading SF as I did who feel the same. So I hope the Hugos survive and are actually improved by this year’s kerfuffle.

  6. So, which am I? Awful, or a racist bigoted right-winger homophobe? Or is it both?

    I’m certain that you’ve read the nominated works, yes? Or know the people so honored to make the ballot? Somehow, you’ve got some sort of proof for these assertions?

    Do you consider them binding for Sheila Gilbert? Or Jim Minz? Or Toni Weisskopf?

    I’m sure Jim Butcher and Kevin Anderson and Chuck Gannon are also pleased to hear you call them right wing racist homophobes. I’m sure they’re probably awful, too.

    I mean, not every year can have such stirring storytelling and emotional gravitas as “Chicks Dig Time Lords” or this piece…

    • Wyldkat on April 9, 2015 at 5:44 pm
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    Excuse me Mr. Denton, you use quotes, so I presume you took that verbatim from somewhere. Would you care to cite a source? Because that is a direct contradiction to the first state purpose of SP3.

    “1) Get works and authors onto the Hugo ballot who might not otherwise be there; regardless of political persuasion. ” []

    I, for one, am tired of mind-numbing, uninspiring, bland, stories; stories that bludgeon us over the heads with messages. I want less stories like “The Badges of Her Grief” (which came across to me as Humans = bad.) and more like “Blue Ribbon” (which I saw as inspiring, with courage and perseverance we can survive). [Both of these stories are in the March 2015 issue of Analog Magazine, I invite you to read them.]

  7. John Scalzi and Charles Stross did not do this. They mention what works of theirs are eligible and turn over their comments for people to make recommendations.
    Sad Puppies took 20 – 30 recommendations per category in the comments and narrowed it down to 2-3 for everyone to vote for to get on the ballot. Vox Day repeated the Sad Puppy slate, which he also influenced, and expanded it to fill up categories to knock anyone not on the Puppy slates off. Since he had the resources to buy a Finnish publishing house to get himself and people he approves of on the ballot it is strongly suspected he also bought over a hundred supporting memberships between the last two world cons.

  8. I will restrain myself and just say you are naive if you don’t think this is not the most blatant move to exclude people, keep them completely off the ballot because they were different then this narrow clique. Most, but not all nominees were picked to be on the slate
    “primarily because those works carry an approved political message (specifically a left[now right]-wing political message), or because their creators are outspoken online advocates of approved political messages, rather than because those works are necessarily particularly well-written or entertaining science fiction or fantasy.” Brad was smart and added a few from outside for diversity, and also because some of the nominees are awful and they needed more quality. This was done so sloppily and with so few people involved they didn’t even realize until afterwards they forgot part two of the Robert Heinlein biography. And you can look elsewhere how Vox Day is financing much of this to get his revenge on the SFWA for kicking him out after posting racial insults on the official SFWA feed.

      • on April 9, 2015 at 5:24 pm
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      Gary, I will restrain myself and simply say I disagree.

      Actually, I think I’ll unrestrain myself a little and just say that to me it appears that you are blinded by political animus if you think this is “the most blatant move to exclude people, keep them completely off the ballot because they were different than this narrow clique,” since it seems clear to me that it is not. You are calling the organizers of Sad Puppies liars without a shred of evidence I can see, except that you wish and assume it to be true because it validates your personal worldview.

      I don’t believe they are lying. Clearly you do. So, yes, perhaps I’m naive. Perhaps you, on the other hand, are simply wrong.

    • Synova on April 9, 2015 at 1:48 pm
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    I don’t suppose it’s good manners to get too grumpy on someone else’s blog but Ard (#24) Sad Puppies in No way was marching behind a banner of excluding or stopping the overrepresentation of minorities in the awards. Since people insist on lying about that I tend to doubt similar charges against rabid puppies despite having ignored them and being well aware of what VD has said. It’s gotten so I expect the lies.

    Saying that no one should get an award BECAUSE they espouse certain ideologies or can checklist ethnicity or orientation isn’t saying they shouldn’t get an award. It’s only taken that way because lying is a way to win arguments. “You should read this. It will blow you away.” is a very different statement than “You should read this because the preferred sort of person wrote it.” Accusing people who object to the second and who explain clearly what they’re objecting to of having the exact same mindset but think only white men should win is lying. And yet I hear it constantly. Most recently as a taunt that the winners will be handed their award by a gay man or black woman… Neener Neener. It’s never been about that.

  9. Edward @51:

    FWIW, the “same things every year” inertia effect you mentioned is known to the people who take an ongoing interest in the awards process by participating in the Business Meeting. Indeed, Semiprozine (initially created to keep Locus from winning Fanzine every year) was considered so moribund that the meeting voted to kill the category. The reaction to this after the first year’s vote (changes take two years, remember) was sufficient to revitalize the category. We’re now seeing a lot more turnover in some of those “same every year” categories, and not just this year.

    Oh, and the Semiprozine rules are now such that Locus doesn’t qualify for the category anymore. Its editors are eligible for Best Editor Short Form, but the periodical itself is not eligible in any category at all.

  10. Thomas @50:

    Not malice nor whispering campaigns nor “secret slates” nor “marching orders from Tor” correctly describes what you mention with Tor Books or the Nielsen Haydens. It’s really much easier to understand in the proper context. The people in question are well know in Worldcon fandom, have a long association with Worldcons, and are therefore much more likely to be known to a sufficient number of people who were likely to cast ballots. You’re aware, aren’t you, that the Nielsen Haydens were convention organizers in their youth, including being part of Worldcon committees? It’s not a coincidence as much as it is a particular publisher and people associated with it knowing how to relate to the ongoing community of interest that is WSFS.

    WSFS is a club, albeit a club with thousands of members strung out all over the world, and whose members gather together once a year to form a small town for five days. (Think Burning Man without the dust storms.) When you’re a well-known and well-liked member of that community, of course it’s more likely that they’ll remember you come awards time. Heck, I placed around 12th in Best Fan Writer in 1995, which was rather surprising at the time but not in retrospect.

    • Thomas Monaghan on April 9, 2015 at 10:54 am
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    Then what would be the reason 2 Seniors editors of TOR Moshe Feder and Patrick Nielsen Hayden going on Twitter and FB putting forth that SP is ruining the Hugo’s. That the SPs’ have brought about a nasty feud. Why make a huge deal of it? I won’t even go into what TNH has posted about the SP’. Now if you want to has quite a few words about the SPs and they aren’t very polite about it.

  11. Ken @ 48:

    The Hugo Award has been “No Awarded” before. They didn’t disappear because the voters rejected the entire shortlist for the 1977 Best Dramatic Presentation.

    The contention “If you vote for No Award, you destroy the Hugos” is part of a “heads I win, tails you lose” statement. Every single voter has the right, and I would say the obligation, to vote any finalist below No Award if s/he thinks that finalist did not deserve to be on the ballot at all.

    Imagine that there was an intermediate stage between the nominating and final ballots, where every member of the current Worldcon could look at the five finalists and independently vote each of them yes/no, where “Yes” means, “I agree that this nominee is worthy of being a Hugo Award finalist” and “No” means, “I don’t think this nominee should have been a finalist.” At the end of this process, anything that didn’t get a majority of yes votes is eliminated. In this case, you’d have a majority of the entire membership approving each nominee’s placement on the finalist list. That’s what No Award does on the final ballot.

    Remember that because of the plurality-voting system that selects the shortlist, it’s rare for any finalists to have appeared on a majority of all ballots cast in a given category. Every year, there are members who grumble about the finalists, and every year No Award gets some votes. But it’s very rare for anything to appear below No Award. It happened last year, and it also happened some years ago when the shortlist for Best Fanzine seemed very mis-aligned with the tastes of many members of Worldcon. It’s only when there’s a widespread perception that the shortlist does not reflect the tastes of most of the members of the Worldcon that you get such reactions as happened here.

    The Hugo Awards are not the awards presented based on copies of books sold or tickets purchased. They are not the awards based on a poll of every single human being who consumed some sort of SF/F pop culture entertainment in any form last year. They are meant to represent the views of the entire membership of the World Science Fiction Society, whose members are those who have joined the Worldcon, using a final-ballot voting process that tends to return results that reflect broad consensus views, not just the results of a dedicated minority opinion.

    • Wyldkat on April 9, 2015 at 10:43 am
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    Coming over from the MGC link.

    This has to be one of the most balanced and fair assessments of the Sad Puppies movement I have seen. Thank you sir.

    As one of the ones who did not know how the Hugo Awards were nominated, let alone voted on, I was delighted to learn through Sad Puppies 3 that I do have a voice. I counted my pennies and squirreled away money for weeks in hopes of being able to register. I got in just before the initial window closed.

    I have been a fan of SF/F for over 40 years but now some are saying that my voice, and others like me, should not count because we registered for World Con for the first time this year; that we are the wrong kind of fan because we do not go to conventions. Some are saying we are wrong-headed (or worse) just because we like writers that they hate. I say to them – you’re wrong. This sand-box is big enough for all of us. My love of SF is no less than yours simply because I cannot make it to the conventions. My love is no less because I was ignorant until this year. My love is no less than yours simply because I may like a different kind of SF. My love is no less than yours and I have as much right to my voice as you do.

    On the difference between what Mr. Scalzi did a few years ago and what Brad did this year: (I followed a link back and saw the post, so this is not just hearsay.) In *my opinion*, what was done by Mr. Scalzi was simply blowing his own trumpet. –Look at me, vote for me, type stuff.– I perceive that kind of behavior as “Campaigning”. What Brad did was collect stories, taking some suggestions from his friends and fans, and post them for all to see. He posted a recommended reading list – which I will add did not contain any of his own works – and encouraged his fans to read those works; to vote for them if they found them worthy. In my opinion, what Brad did was more acceptable, it was less about him, and more about the quality of the work.

    In all honestly, if someone like myself, an unknown, put together something like Sad Puppies, it would have gone unnoticed except by a small handful of people. We all share stories, books, art, websites, we like and we encourage our friends to check them out – and if there are awards coming up, we encourage them to vote for those stories, books, art, websites.

      • on April 9, 2015 at 12:58 pm
      • Reply

      Thank you, Wyldcat! I tried.

    • Thomas Monaghan on April 9, 2015 at 10:06 am
    • Reply

    Now about hi-jacking do you think it’s a complete accident Tor has had so many nominations for the Long Form Editor? They’ve won 5 of the last 8 Hugo’s with a total of 18 nominated. They won it the first 4 years it was given. PNH has won it 3 times out 6 nominations. Patrick Nielsen Hayden and his wife have a total of 14 nominations in the last 30+ years. Coincidence?

      • on April 9, 2015 at 10:16 am
      • Reply

      Thomas, I’m not willing to ascribe nefarious motives to that side of the equation, either. The Hugo nominating pool has been small to begin with, and editors are one of the categories where nominations have come from even fewer people than the bigger categories. I suspect the answer lies with a) visibility (Sheila Gilbert, my editor, has no online presence at all and thus is relatively unknown despite having been editor/publisher at DAW Books since the mid 1980s; most people have no idea who edits the books they enjoy–sometimes the editor isn’t even in the acknowledgements), and b) inertia. There are many categories where the same things get nominated year after year after year. (Locus Magazine…Ansible…etc.) Being nominated is its own kind of visibility.

    • Alan on April 9, 2015 at 10:04 am
    • Reply

    Kevin @42, and others of the same belief: If you look at the history of Sad Puppies’ participation and the statements of those supporting it, I think you’ll see that the short list of recommendations provided was all about simply providing reasonable & worthy alternatives to the usual nominees – mostly with the expectation they’d all or mostly be locked out by back-door politics & informal block voting of the usual suspects, thus proving the assertion by their absence.

    That didn’t happen this time, very possibly because a larger than expected number of people became aware of SP and thought it worthwhile to expand the intellectual diversity of the SF market.

    If you believe a larger list is better (obviously, it should NOT be so large voters can’t read all the works suggested in the categories of interest to them), then offer your suggestions to Kate Paulk — or publish your own list of suggested nominations next year. It’s really not necessary to impugn the motives of those who’ve done the work and taken the hit for trying to make SF better.

  12. I have already passed along Kevin’s suggestion to Kathy Paulk, the woman coordinating Sad Puppies 4. There are people on the Sad Puppies side of things (vis a vis Rabid Puppies) who are investigating a way to build an automated or largely automated centralized list of all SF/F works published in a given year.

    It should also be noted that a coordinated “No Awards” campaign is giving Vox Day exactly what he wants…the chance to burn the Hugos to the ground.

    • Thomas Monaghan on April 9, 2015 at 9:51 am
    • Reply

    Truthfully the long list of everything that’s eligible is just another way of making sure nobody nominates. For one thing most people can’t afford to buy all of the items or the time to read them. I didn’t nominate anything for the SP because I hadn’t read them. I will be reading my Hugo package before voting and that’s going to be 5 books, novellas, short stories and more.

  13. It’s a good point about malice vs. misjudgment. (Yesterday someone complained that the link on to the current Hugo Administrators went nowhere and attributed this to malice. I’d left the mailto: off the front of the link; that’s not malice, it’s a typographical error, and I fixed it when it was pointed out to me.)

    The more I read the more I think it likely that SP isn’t quite a malicious exercise, but that it was co-opted by the Rabid Puppies, whose leadership explicitly wants to burn Worldcon to the ground and destroy the Hugo Awards. In this case, good-faith SP participants may be being used as unwitting pawns of a cynical, negatively-motivated person whose end-game seems destructive to the very thing the SP’s claim to be trying to “take back.”

    Yes, I was co-chairman of ConJose, the 2002 Worldcon in San Jose, California. I was also one of the Hugo Award Administrators that year. I’m glad you enjoyed the convention and hope you’ll have a good time in Spokane.

    Aside to anyone watching: It’s perfectly possible to have a great time at a Worldcon without paying the slightest attention to the Hugo Awards or the politics of WSFS. I am of course deeply immersed in the latter two, so naturally I focus on them; however, there’s a lot more going on at the convention. While the Hugo Awards ceremony is generally the climax of the convention’s activities, it’s sometime easy to forget that the Worldcon created the Hugos, not vice versa.

    (Having said that, some people seem to think the Hugos are some sort of independent event like the many other awards traditionally presented at Worldcon. That’s not the case, given that Worldcon owns the Hugo Awards. Full details upon request to anyone who wants them.)

      • on April 9, 2015 at 9:44 am
      • Reply

      Heh. From what I’ve seen (I’ve been to…let’s see…eight WorldCons thus far; Spokane will make nine) it’s possible to have a great time at WorldCon without even paying much attention to science fiction.

  14. Thomas @40 and Lar @41:

    Long lists of recommendations are not nearly as caustic to the process as curated lists of 5 works. Lots of groups like NESFA and BASFA generate lists of “works we liked and though award-worthy.” that are generally quite long and diffuse. Curated short-list slates have effect of concentrating votes like a political party rather than encouraging voters to think for themselves. Such political movements are relatively easy to subvert by people whose agenda has nothing at all to do with getting good works selected.

    If the SP was really about encouraging more people to read works they liked and think for themselves, they would have included every work anyone suggested on their recommended list, not strategically picked a slate designed to shove everyone else off the ballot.

      • on April 9, 2015 at 9:24 am
      • Reply

      But Kevin, why be so quick to attribute to malice what could be attributed to simple misjudgement? The Sad Puppies had no way of knowing they’d be as successful as they were. I agree that a longer list of works would have been better, and I hope SP4 does indeed follow that route. But I don’t see any reason to attack people on the basis of what you think they were “really” trying to do, when they’ve stated what they were really trying to do. Why not accept the argument in good faith and then argue about a perceived error in judgement, rather than attributing nefarious motives? Seems to me that approach in this situation, from both sides, would go a long way to diffusing some of the acrimony among those who are not completely invested in tribalism.

      And while I have you, I think you were one of the organizers for the San Jose WorldCon, weren’t you? We had a great time at that one. First one we attended with our then-toddler daughter. She’ll be with us again, now a teenager, at Spokane. So belated thanks for all your hard work!

    • Uncle Lar on April 9, 2015 at 8:38 am
    • Reply

    IMHO what it boils down to is that one tight little clique had a death grip on the Hugo process, particularly the nominations. They used that situation to reward what they felt were the “right” people based on factors having precious little to do with talent. This I believe was responsible for comments I encountered far too often on the discussion groups, “I used to use the Hugo nominations as a recommended reading list, these days not so much.” The real tragedy here is that we are losing SF&F fan base, literally driving readers away to other genre and forms of entertainment simply because what is labeled the best of the best has become message fiction that has lost any mass appeal. Nothing wrong with message fiction, Heinlein was noted for it, but it never overwhelmed the primary purpose which was to entertain.
    The true purpose of Sad Puppies in all its iterations is simply to open the Hugos back up to the greater fan base. It seems to have done that as well as demonstrated that the opposition is in the main petty, mean spirited, and more that a little vicious based on the nature and severity of their on line attacks.

    • Thomas Monaghan on April 9, 2015 at 8:14 am
    • Reply

    Well let’s talk about using the Locus Magazine recommended reading list. The only problem with that is they have their own point of view. This year there isn’t a single Baen item on their list. If you do a search for how often TOR gets listed on
    it comes up 42 times and Baen 0. So I hope if there are lists from various places next year I hope they’re as unbiased as they can be. TOR does deserve more recommendations because in part they produce a lot more reading but not 42-0.

      • on April 9, 2015 at 9:27 am
      • Reply

      Thomas, I agree. I have no problem at all with recommended reading lists and “submitted for your consideration” promotion or any of that. We need more of them, not less, and from as many different sources as possible.

  15. Any story has three sides, right? I didn’t realize the Hugos were more People’s Choice than Oscar (though I do recall Robert J. Sawyer talking about voting on his blog, so maybe I just wasn’t paying attention).

    What is a Hugo nod supposed to represent? The best the genre has to offer in a particular year? The most popular or widely read? The most meaningful? If this isn’t defined, how are the Hugos any different than a popularity contest or student election?

      • on April 6, 2015 at 10:51 pm
      • Reply

      Hi, Ian. Frankly, it isn’t any different. The Hugos are simply what the people who, in any given year (and, for the nominations, the year before, as well), have purchased memberships for the World Science Fiction Convention nominate and vote on for the Hugos. The voting membership is different every year. It’s definitely People’s Choice, minus the Gallup poll (is that still how they choose People’s Choice awards?). The Nebula awards, nominated and voted on by members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, are more like the Oscars.

  16. Speaking as the only other active member of the world-crushing New Space Princess Movement, Mr Willett, I must say I am proud to know you.

    You are a voice of calm and sanity in the midst of the web of lies called the Internet.

    Live long and prosper. May your princesses always be rescued!

      • on April 6, 2015 at 9:25 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks, John. If you’re going to brave WorldCon this year, we’ll have to have a New Space Princess Movement meeting and plot our world domination.

    • L. Jagi Lamplighter (Wright) on April 6, 2015 at 7:23 pm
    • Reply

    I did not realize that was you!

    Lol 😉

  17. Well, as long as you’re paying shipping to Canada, you might as well browse the site and find others you like; it all goes in one flat rate box.

    (Whistles innocently)

  18. Then you and John probably need this shirt…

    (Ob COI: I’m half of Reagency Design as well.)

      • on April 6, 2015 at 6:25 pm
      • Reply

      Tempted, Ken…for my daughter, of course. 🙂

    • L. Jagi Lamplighter (Wright) on April 6, 2015 at 2:00 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you, Sir, for your fair report.

    The Puppies had NO IDEA that they would be so successful. None. It is, in Brad’s words, “an embarrassment of riches.” Brad is very clear that, had he had any idea that it would be so successful, he would have set up his suggestions differently…perhaps 8 or 10 in each category, to make it clear that he was not suggesting a slate.

    I watched him draw up his ballot state, by the way, he just openly asked for nominations and picked from this group of stories people said that they would have voted for anyway…because they had really enjoyed them. (Keep in mind, the average reader has no idea what an author looks like or what groups they belong to. They are judging by the story.)

    It is very cruel to claim that people nominated my husband for his color or sex, and not because he writes a good story. He has strived and slaved away for years…a father with two jobs. We are so awed that in the largest Hugo nomination voting group every, fans saw fit to award him six nominations.

    It is humbling, and we are so grateful.

      • on April 6, 2015 at 2:34 pm
      • Reply

      You’re welcome! (By the way, did you know John and I are the only two members of the world-spanning Space Princess Movement? :))

    • Eggo on April 6, 2015 at 10:40 am
    • Reply

    Thanks for your reasonable take on the situation. It’s one of the only ones I’ve seen so far.
    The sheer number of higher-ups in sci-fi screaming about evil patriarchal conspiracies makes me wonder if the sad puppies don’t have a point about gatekeepers.

      • on April 6, 2015 at 10:44 am
      • Reply

      Thanks, Eggo.

    • PatrickM on April 6, 2015 at 6:41 am
    • Reply

    Thanks to article’s author for the balanced and well presented context background to this issue.

      • on April 6, 2015 at 7:21 am
      • Reply

      Thanks, Patrick.

    • Ard on April 6, 2015 at 5:55 am
    • Reply

    “I think they would counter that a politically motivated group has already, albeit it behind the scenes and informally, been deciding”

    I am sure that there are some lines of thought dominant in the people who have cutivated the Hugo awards. This tends to happen, communities have their background noise.

    I seem to be doomed be a contrarian apparently, because before all this scandal, I tended to think that there were too much politics in the SF awards world – leftist politics.

    However the answer was most definitely not this ham-fisted blunder of pushing a slate. Especially not one that features unapologetic bigots such as John C. Wright or one that originates by the Vox ‘death to the gays’ Day.

    The way this should have been done was to find good works, preferably without politics, or with moderate politics leaning either way and vote for them – but not to wave a flaming banner on the internet and march behind the noble idea of stopping the overrepresentation of minorities.

    Before this brouhaha I was speaking out against Jemisin’s political rants, but this is just so much worse.

    “SJWs” (and I hate this term by the way, hence the apostrophies) annoy me with their arrogance, but I find myself pushed into putting up with them more because the opposition is just simply disgusting.

    • Craig on April 6, 2015 at 4:10 am
    • Reply

    As far as judging editors – are there indications somewhere, for houses that have multiple editors, who edits whom?

    Especially since some of the nominees are also publishers, I’m not entirely sure how to measure one against the other.

      • on April 6, 2015 at 7:23 am
      • Reply

      Craig, about all you can do is hope the authors have mentioned who their editors are, either online or inside the books themselves. In DAW’s case, roughly half the books are edited by Betsy Wollheim and half by Sheila, but the only way you’d know my books are edited by Sheila instead of Betsy is to read the acknowledgements.

  19. Sheila is the friend of a very dear friend of mine (who is one of Sheila’s authors at DAW) and I’ve heard a lot about Sheila over the years.

    I really do hope she wins this year. I’m debating spending the money to buy a voting membership to help her win, however I am concerned about making an informed decision on a lot of the other categories, because I don’t know if I’ll have the time to read all of those works right now. And I won’t vote something up or down unless I’ve had the chance to look at it.

      • on April 5, 2015 at 11:33 pm
      • Reply

      John, you and me both. Re the voting membership: there’s no requirement you vote in every category! So don’t let that stop you. 🙂

  20. I fail to see how people who say, “These are the works I published last year and I hope that if you think they were deserving, you would vote for them” is “the same thing” as “Here is a slate of candidates designed to squeeze everyone other work off the ballot and make most of the people who have been voting on the Hugo Awards for a long time angry”

    In other words, promoting your own works is not “pushing a slate of candidates;” yet so many people seem to call them “the same thing.” Why is this? They’re such obviously different things that I fail to see how anyone could not tell them apart.

    A group actually interested in promoting a diversity of works of the sort they like would be better served in the broader community, and far less subject to criticism, if the were to promote recommendation lists such as those that NESFA and BASFA create, and to frequent crowdsourced eligibility fora such as the LiveJournal Hugo_Recommend community. In all of these cases, there is no “slate” of works, but instead lists (generally far longer than the number of positions on the ballot) of “things we like and recommend to you.”

  21. Like you, I was very happy to see Jim Butcher on the Best Novel finalist list.

    It will be very interesting to see how this all comes out in the end.

      • on April 5, 2015 at 9:24 pm
      • Reply

      That’s for sure. And we’ll be at WorldCon, so we’ll be in the thick of it.

  22. What I had wanted to say is that I think this is a reasonably accurate description of events, and rather comprehensive as well.

    I do think that people were thinking… we’ve got five votes for nominees, we should use them all… and not quite thinking through the process beyond that. I expect that next year there will be more suggestions, though not so many that people can’t read them all. Actually reading the novels and the stories before voting has been a consistent call this year, no matter that accusations to the contrary have been made.

      • on April 5, 2015 at 9:22 pm
      • Reply

      Thank you, Synova. I think next year will be particularly interesting. If any rule changes are proposed this year to change the way the Hugos are administered, they can’t take effect in time for next year. So next year we’ll see a lot of different recommendations from a lot of different quarters, I expect. Which I hope will be a positive development.

  23. I could go back and check but I believe that John C. Wright appeared on the Sad Puppies slate only once.

    Also, I’m confused as to the statement “all of their nominees are older white men.” Is this for the novella category only? Because it’s certainly not at all true for the rest of it. Science Fiction has never been an all white or all male genre, not ever. Pretending that the women nominated are men or that people with minority status aren’t quite minority enough and therefore white is pretty well inexcusable.

  24. Cliques with political agendas have been turning arts into propaganda in more than just scifi. At the end of the day, however, cliques with agendas have been at the essential nature of Human society, since the dawn of time. Whether one is in the in group, or out group…fundamental for social mammals.

      • on April 5, 2015 at 9:20 pm
      • Reply

      I concur, Dante. The basic organization of humankind is the tribe, and we inevitably form ourselves into tribes to this day. We just call them by different names.

    • Brad Handley on April 5, 2015 at 7:27 pm
    • Reply

    Whoops…. Sad Puppies was 3 for 3 on the category. And since the other two were captured by John Wright it looks like they will win a category unless people vote no award.

    • Brad Handley on April 5, 2015 at 7:22 pm
    • Reply


    The Sad Puppies got 2 of their 3 recommendations listed. The fact that John Wright is a prolific Novella author is besides the point. Obviously the slate worked. People read “One Bright Star” and said I want to see more of what he wrote. The point of Sad Puppies is to bring awareness to authors who are overlooked. So it looks like “Sad Puppies” accomplished its mission.

    Best Novella
    “Flow” – Arlan Andrews Sr. – Analog magazine November 2014
    One Bright Star to Guide Them – John C. Wright – Castalia House
    Big Boys Don’t Cry – Tom Kratman – Castalia House

    • Rick Bennett on April 5, 2015 at 7:10 pm
    • Reply

    Mr. Willett, a very nicely done post/essay/blog. Well said.

      • on April 5, 2015 at 9:18 pm
      • Reply

      Thank you, Rick. I tend to avoid doing this sort of thing. For one thing, it took me two hours, and I’m usually too busy writing. 🙂

    • Ard on April 5, 2015 at 6:58 pm
    • Reply

    “But as I said, skin color or gender or age (“older”) simply does not enter into my consideration for the Hugos.”

    It’s too late for that though. The nominees were chosen to limit the options to those in a large part who a politically motivated group saw fit to be allowed to participate in a contest of talent.

      • on April 5, 2015 at 9:18 pm
      • Reply

      I can’t speak for the Sad Puppies organizers, Ard, but as I read their arguments, I think they would counter that a politically motivated group has already, albeit it behind the scenes and informally, been deciding who was “fit to be allowed to participate in a contest of talent,” year after year, simply because the usual people nominating and voting have become a fairly insular group, most of whom share similar social and political viewpoints. I think they’ve probably overstated the case, but I don’t discount their concerns entirely, looking at recent winners.

    • Kriston on April 5, 2015 at 6:22 pm
    • Reply

    I see you did not mention, so I assume you did not know, that John Scalzi and Charles Stross did the same thing in 2008. They certainly did not get the huge outcry. Could it be because they supported the same slate that their publishers supported?

      • on April 5, 2015 at 9:11 pm
      • Reply

      Yes, Kriston, I’m aware there have been similar efforts on the past, but there’s too much history to cover all of it.

    • Edward on April 5, 2015 at 5:02 pm
    • Reply

    The Sad Puppies call for diversity seems not have worked given that they voted one author into 3 of the 5 slots in the Best Novella category and all of their nominees are older white men.


    Big Boys Don’t Cry by Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
    “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Analog, Nov 2014)
    One Bright Star to Guide Them by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
    “Pale Realms of Shade” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
    “The Plural of Helen of Troy” by John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)

      • on April 5, 2015 at 5:31 pm
      • Reply

      Sad Puppies only had three on their novella slate. The additional John C. Wright nominations came, I think, from Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies side of things, which I didn’t address in my post. But as I said, skin color or gender or age (“older”) simply does not enter into my consideration for the Hugos. I’m saddened it enters into anyone’s.

  25. Thank you.

    I enjoyed the happy-dancing-squee moment of being a finalist for roughly 3 hours, before I made the awful mistake of Googling the subject.

    I’m a finalist. I wouldn’t be without Sad Puppies. I honestly think there’s a best choice for the category I’m in, and it’s not my piece. It’s also neither of the three pieces designed to elicit schadenfreude.

    I would love for there to be a database that lists ALL eligible works for a given publishing year, with a field for the authors to flag for “This is the piece I think would best represent the best of my work.” Use that to generate the “Recommended Reading List” in mid-January.

    I would love to see flyers handed out at any con with more than 30,000 attendees giving the basic information on how to buy a Supporting membership, nominate, and vote (and hey, you’ll get more than $40 in eBooks.)

      • on April 5, 2015 at 5:17 pm
      • Reply

      I’d like to see that, too. Here in Canada, the Aurora Awards do just that: there’s an eligibility list that the organizers and volunteers maintain (it’s at Eligibility Lists/Aurora Awards). Of course, the amount of stuff eligible for the Hugos is enormously more than what’s eligible for the Auroras…

      I also like the idea of promoting the Hugos at the really big cons. I think the best way out of this spot is to increase the nominating/voting pool.

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