Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Comment On The 2009 Hugo's

This link was sent in by Zen's Site, a blog entry about this year's Hugo's. An excerpt:

Dear Science Fiction Fandom

I wanted to have a word about the Hugos. Science Fiction Fandom, these are your awards: the shortlists chosen and voted for by you. And because I too am a fan (though without Hugo voting privileges) they are my awards. They reflect upon us all. They remain one of the most prestigious awards for SF in the world. These lists say something about SF to the world.

Science Fiction Fandom: your shortlists aren’t very good.

I'm not saying the works you have shortlisted are terrible. They're not terrible, mostly, as it goes. But they aren’t exceptionally good either. They’re in the middle. There’s a word for that. The word is mediocre.

Widely publicised shortlists of mediocre art are a bad thing. What do these lists say about SF to the multitude in the world—to the people who don’t know any better? It says that SF is old-fashioned, an aesthetically, stylistically and formally small-c conservative thing. It says that SF fans do not like works that are too challenging, or unnerving; that they prefer to stay inside their comfort zone.

This is bad because the very heart’s-blood of literature is to draw people out of their comfort zone; to challenge and stimulate them, to wake and shake them; to present them with the new, and the unnerving, and the mind-blowing. And if this true of literature, it is doubly or trebly true of science fiction. For what is the point of SF if not to articulate the new, the wondrous, the mindblowing and the strange?

Click here to read the whole entry.

Dissatisfaction with the nominees, eh? Maybe the solution The Oscars took, increasing the number of best picture nominees from five to ten, would help.


Blogger Cheryl said...

That's an interesting idea. In theory it could be done, but there are a few practical problems.

The first is that we'd need a lot more people participating in the nominating stage. There is an enormous number of books eligible for the Best Novel Hugo each year. Voters' tastes vary wildly, and getting 10 nominees with broad popular support is more difficult than getting 5. I think it could be done in Best Novel. It would be much harder in some of the other categories.

Just looking at the numbers from last year (, we would have had 12 Best Novel nominees with 3 books tied for 10th place on just 25 nominations each. People are always complaining about how few nominations it takes to get on the ballot, and this would make that problem worse unless we had more people nominating.

The other issue is that when it comes to the final ballot there is an assumption that the voters will try to read all of the works in the categories in which they vote. Asking people to read 5 novels in the space of a few months is not so bad. Asking them to read 10 starts to look onerous, especially with all of the other categories to consider as well.

8:44 PM  
Blogger pgenrestories said...

Hi, Cheryl. The way you describe the nomination process, you're right. There is some difficulty there.

I wonder then: How about an initial longlist of, say, 10 or 15, pared down to 5 eventually? Even getting onto the longlist will be an honor.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

We do something like that, in that we always publish lists of the top 15 nominees after the winners are announced. The problem with adding an extra stage of filtering is time. We don't want to do anything that discourages people from participating, and even the current schedule is very tight.

9:23 PM  
Blogger pgenrestories said...

@Cheryl: Okay, thanks for clarifying! If I can think of any other suggestions, I'll bring 'em up here, but I think you have pretty much thought it through very well. Thanks again!

10:06 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Thanks, but actually I really can't take any credit. The Hugos are the way they are because their rules are constantly argued over in public. Lots of people have spent lots of time thinking about and discussing the issues.

3:08 AM  

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