Worldcon 76 Chair Kevin Roche has responded to complaints and criticism of the plan to announce this year’s Hugo finalists at several venues on March 31, like those quoted in the March 27 Pixel Scroll (item #15).
Roche made his statement on the Worldcon 76 website: “From the Chair: regarding the timing of the Hugo Finalist announcement”.
As Chair of Worldcon 76, I would like to express my regret for the distress the timing of our Hugo Finalists announcement has caused for Orthodox Jewish members of our Community. It was not our intention to show disrespect.
When we selected the time and date, it was in keeping with the recent frequent practice of making the announcement simultaneously to fans gathered at events around the world for conventions on Easter weekend (Saturday evening in England, Saturday mid-day in the Western US, and Sunday morning in Australia). My Hugo Awards team believes strongly that as the Hugos are at heart a fan-driven award, announcing the finalists at a time when there can be such simultaneous global presentations is a way to further increase fan awareness of and participation in the awards, ultimately raising its profile in the general population as well.
I am also fully aware of the arguments that Holy Saturday is one of the slowest possible days in the global news cycle, but, in fact, this strategy does appear to be working: Hugo nomination participation overall has been increasing, and this year we actually will have press and local business participation in our additional announcement event taking place in San Jose on March 31st.
We are, in some ways, a victim of our own success; the announcement itself has now become an event that many more people wish to experience, and the wave of buzz and response on social media during and after the announcement is exciting and engaging in its own right.
At this point, I cannot change the announcement timing without undoing months of work by many volunteers to coordinate with all the parties involved (not only the conventions, but the SF-themed restaurant which is hosting the special local event for Bay Area fans, professionals and press). That this timing disenfranchises a part of our community from the immediate celebration grieves me greatly. I hope those affected can find it their hearts to forgive me for the situation. I am truly sorry to have caused you this distress.
My staff who worked on the 2012 and 2015 awards, whose announcement days also coincided with the beginning of Passover, say they do not recall a similar wave of public complaint those years. Perhaps this means the Hugo Awards have now acquired enough public cachet and buzz that a fan-focused announcement event is less necessary. Future Worldcon committees will each choose their announcement dates as they see best; I am sure this year’s situation will inform their decisions.
Finally, let me congratulate in advance all the finalists on the ballot. Being nominated by your fans and peers is the honor of a lifetime, and I hope the joy of being so honored can outweigh the distress caused for some of our community by timing of the announcement.