Fans – Get Some Backbone

At the risk of appearing to be All Hugo’s All the Time…

I’ve seen a ton of articles, posts and comments this week that all seem to reprise the theme that – the Hugo’s are broken, the award is now meaningless (if it ever meant anything – which it didn’t because only a handful of fans ever participated anyway), it can never recover and who cares anyway, the fix was always in, good riddance.

What a bunch of whiney, defeatist, worm-eating tripe! (or deliberately destructive political messaging, take your pick).

Listen to me now Fandom.  Listen really well.

The Hugo Awards are only broken if we let them be broken.

Fandom is nothing but resilient.  I can’t even begin to count the number of times that all of fandom was plunged into war!

We’re still here. And we’re stronger because of it.

Our very foundation rests upon the Exclusion Act of 1939.  Two legendary groups of fans, engaged in a death match for control of the hearts and minds of a few thousand social outcasts, who read pulpy trash that was so valueless remainders were used as ballast for trans-atlantic freighters.

That struggle could have killed the whole thing before it even got started.

But it didn’t.  Instead, Fandom kicked itself in its own collective ass and reinvented itself as a culture where no one was in charge – and everyone was in control.

Fandom was too important to be allowed to die.  The fans of 1939 didn’t walk away in disgust. They worked harder.

And because they did, because Fandom was more important to them than anything else in the whole wide world, science fiction was able to become a literature and a culture that influences the whole wide world.  Pulpy ballast indeed.

Those who argue that the Hugo Awards were always fixed by an insular cabal as an excuse for their behavior this year are deliberately trying to confuse the issue.  They want us all to believe that all they’ve done is expose sixty years of machine voting.

What they don’t want you to know is that nothing in the past comes within a thousand light years of what’s being done this year.  And while that’s true by any objective measure, it’s not even the point.  The point is that after every single one of those previous attempts at gaming the awards, WSFS, and its members, the fans, addressed the problem, made whatever corrections were necessary and moved forward with an even more robust awards system.

If we don’t run away or give up, the exact same thing will happen this time around.  We’ll work through the problem and emerge with a solution that will be acceptable to fans and that will preserve the dignity and importance of the awards.

All we need to do is hang in there.  So hang in there.


Mary Robinette Kowal is receiving a lot of attention and praise for her approach to this debacle, offering up supporting memberships, removing herself from consideration next year and producing one of the better explanations of the difference between “fans” (people who like SFF in some form or other) and “Fans” (those who attend conventions) (read her here) I’ve seen, but after reading her post and most of the attendant commentary, I think that an important point has been glossed over, or lost in the political speech.

Many claim that they see Fans (convention goers)  as an insular, exclusionary group that apparently works hard to make sure that only the right kind of people join its ranks, and that it is these same people who are responsible for marginalizing the SPs, and ultimately responsible for this whole mess.

And yet many of these same people claim no affiliation with convention-going fandom, little to no participation in Worldcon.  So how do they know what WSFS represents or what Fans are actually doing?  They claim they’re outsiders because Fandom rejected them, and yet they’ve never even knocked on the door.  They want to change the voting pool from Fans to fans, because they seem to feel that anything less is inherently exclusionary – or they stand a better chance of influencing a less-educated pool, or, because, popular vote.

What MRK seems to have unintentionally glossed over is the fact that while WSFS and convention-going Fans are a very small minority of the population of all fans (a more involved, more experienced, more motivated and more knowledgeable about SFF literature minority), they are a minority that any fan can join.

Yes.  If you want to be a member of WSFS, you have to join.  You have to want to  be and become a more involved, more motivated, more knowledgeable and more experienced fan.

Not once – not once! – during WSFS’s entire history has someone been told “no, you can’t be a member*.  Not once.

WSFS and the conventions that it hosts are part of a society.  It’s right there in the title – World Science Fiction SOCIETY.  There’s only one way to become an insider and that’s to join.  Anyone standing outside the door bitching about being excluded hasn’t tried to join.  Joiners bitching about not finding a society that 100% reflects their own personal views – well – welcome to fandom, a chaotic stew that tastes different every time you try it.

The point about fandom is not getting together so that we can all march in lockstep.  The point of fandom is to bring different tastes and interests together under the umbrella of a shared interest.  That interest isn’t this kind of SFF or that kind of SFF, it’s all kinds of anything that is SFF – and a lot of other things besides.

You don’t join fandom with an agenda.  You join to experience it and to contribute to it.  And you can’t change it from the outside, current attempts to the contrary notwithstanding.


(*with the possible exception of one or two who were members and were asked to leave for bad behavior having nothing to do with fannish activities, though no actual cases that would fit this caveat come to mind.)

















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