No Award is Not the Nuclear Option

Anyone surprised that I’ve been keeping up with Uberhund and the various weighing ins of weighty names on the various subjects?  No?  Good.

First:  Respect to all alleged SJWs who have seen fit to offer up well-reasoned and heartfelt opinion(s) on the matter.  It’s running the full spectrum, from Norman Spinrad to George R.R. Martin, and just about anyone else you’d care to mention.

I say alleged SJWs because, not having opposable thumbs, Uberhund must resort to strapping brushes to forepaws with poorly tightened collars which necessarily results in a certain lack of nuance and precision.  Acknowledging that is not an apologetic – they’re the ones who gave up fingers and thumbs from the get go.

Second:  I note (with some small amount of satisfaction) that the manner in which the “sides” have presented their arguments is a perfect illustration of the contention that there is only one “side”:  Wannabe Uberhunds and their pet myna birds bruiting the same droning messages, piling on one website and forum after another, carefully reinforcing the sound bites and party lines – while everyone else offers up their personal opinion, opinions that share one thing in common – the belief that the Uberhunds done wrong – while varying wildly in their assessment of degree, their focus and their solutions.

The latter is distinctly fannish.  The former is not.

Third:  Several commentators have, of late, been referring to voting No Award “across the board” as the “nuclear option” and warning us all that utilizing that tactic will “destroy the Hugo Awards forever and ever”.

Since my original post on Amazing Stories has been cited far and wide as one of, if not the first, widely disseminated call for voting No Award, I feel compelled to address what I think are some misconceptions and inaccuracies connected to those statements.

I called for placing any work listed on a slate either off the ballot entirely or below No Award if you honestly believe a slated work was Hugo worthy.

I clearly stated that this was a vote against slates and organized campaigning – not a vote for or against individual authors, their personal politics, individual works or the supposed messages contained within those works.

I’ve read plenty of posts and comments that clearly indicate that many people are intending to follow this recommendation:  they’ll read the works, make their judgement on Hugo Worthiness, rank works that are worthy and not on slates from 1 to N, then place No Award in the next slot and finally, place any works that appear on slates AND that they deem Hugo Worthy (in other words, had they not been on a slate, they’d be above No Award) in numbered order of preference.

This is not a nuclear option.  It is, in fact, the very same thing that GRRM and Rich Horton are calling for, though they are being a bit more circumspect in their presentation.  I’ll not put words in those gentlemen’s mouths, but there is a clear subtext to the discussion of the so-called nuclear option, which is:

hardly anyone expects the works that are on the slates to be found Hugo worthy.  Especially in those categories which are completely dominated by slated items.

There are a few things that need to be mentioned here.  First – anyone with voting privileges is given one and only one instruction regarding how to vote, which is – vote your conscience, or your opinion (which may or may not be the same thing).

However much some of us may disagree, voting your conscience INCLUDES dismissing a work out of hand for numerous reasons that have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with a read of the work itself;  maybe the cover artist took your check and never produced; maybe you have vowed to never give the author any attention ever again;  maybe words in the title so offend you that you can’t even look at it.  Yes, those might be ridiculous reasons, but the evaluation of Hugo Worthiness is an entirely subjective one.  There is no right or wrong.  Objecting to how someone chooses to vote is also entirely subjective (and pointless).

There’s also this to consider:  anyone who reads a work that is on a slate and decides to leave it off the final ballot (or place it below No Award) is going to be accused of A: not reading it (because it is obviously so wonderful that of course it should be voted #1 – see, it’s on the ballot!) and/or B: reading it and making a political decision rather than a critical/artistic one.

The only people who are going to make those accusations are the very same people that have saddled us with this problem.

Voting No Award for any and all works that appear on a slate is the only strategy that provides the voter with an option that is not a subjective one.  We are all, in fact, being presented with two and only two options when voting on the final ballot:

1. read everything, rank works according to Hugo Worthiness (most likely not giving the #1 slot to works appearing on slates*) – and being accused of making decisions based on the politics of the works and/or the politics of the authors


2. adopting the default of any and all works on slates below No Award or not on the ballot at all – and being accused of making decisions based on the politics of the works and/or the politics of the authors.

The only difference is that if the voter opts for #2, they have a logical, provable, OBJECTIVE justification for how they voted.  With the added bonus that voting in that way sends a clear message that you are against slates and campaigning and will not tolerate it in future.

(Note that “voting like normal” is not really an option because the choices on the final ballot in many categories are not reflective of a normal nominating process.)

The one thing that does confuse me about the argument against No Award (which again, seems largely to be arguing against voting No Award in every category without even considering the non-slate works, which is not what we’re talking about here) is the claim that doing so will destroy the Hugo Awards for ever and ever, amen.

Even if the majority vote No Award across the board and not a single Hugo is handed out this year – there will still be Hugo Awards in future.

First, changes to the voting system will take us to 2017 before anything can be put into effect.  So we’re going to be dealing with the same issues in 2016 – at a minimum.  This is not a short-haul issue.  It’s a long one that will likely reverberate for many years to come.

Second.  Does anyone seriously think that the Uberhunds are going to be one-and-done?  They’re already on year 3 and have announced year 4.  If none of their slate works win an award this year, they’re going to double down next year.  If a handful of their slated works win an award this year, they’re going to double down next year.  From several months ago and into the forseeable future, they are going to be engaging in Hugo campaigning all of the time.

Why?  It’s pretty simple.  Our objective is a free and open general consensus award that is reflective of what WSFS members believe are the best works of the year.  Their objectives are not the same.  They want to “burn the Hugos down”; they want to prove that the wisdom of a giant crowd is better than the wisdom of a smaller crowd.  They want commercial considerations to be ascendant.  They want the field dominated by a particular kind of “message fiction”.  They want to prove that all of their woes can be pinned on a secret SJW cabal.  They want to prove that diversity means what they say it means, not what it really means.  They want to prove that they’ve been right all along.

These are not WSFS objectives.  These are not fannish objectives.  These are political-economic objectives.

The only way that any response to the campaigning could result in a nuclear option is if WE give up on the awards.  If you examine the historical record, you’ll discover that fandom has never – never – given up on a good thing.  (And it also has a pretty good track record of rejecting bad things and removing them from the culture.)

The only people who have a finger on the nuclear button are the fans who have been participating in WSFS and following its cultural imperatives – both written and implied – since 1953.

In the long run, the only real weapon the Uberhunds have is persistent nastiness.  They don’t have a moral argument, nor history, nor even reality, on their side.  It may be that we’ll have to wait them out; it may be that we spend a few years not being able to properly honor some in the field.  (On that score we’ve already heard from a substantial number of potential nominees that they would rather not be handed a tainted award if given a choice.)  If that’s the price we have to pay to eventually get back to handing out awards that reflect the true consensus of WSFS members, then so be it.  We’ll be stronger and better able to deal with this kind of thing.

One final note.  Some are arguing that rejecting all slated items punishes those who were not willing participants/had no knowledge they were being included.  The solution there is simple.  If you have an eligible work in any given year, clearly state somewhere that you do not participate in campaigning for the awards, reject any involuntary inclusion in such and do not give permission for your name and works to be included.  Most everyone who would be in such a position in years to come have already pretty much taken a position:  they’re either happy to take advantage of whatever benefit may be derived from being included on a slate, or they do not want to have anything to do with it.  I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of voters will take you at your word – whether you are ultimately included on a slate or not.

There’s really only one way to stop this kind of thing.  The community at large must send a clear message that it rejects it.

*comments on numerous blogs, forums and discussion groups provide numerous examples of individuals who have already read many of the nominated works and have found them to be unworthy of elevation to Hugo Winner status.  Yes, its subjective, no the sample is not a scientific one, but it is a trend that seems to reflect a general consensus among likely voters

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