Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #57

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We NEED To Talk About Worldcon (and the Hugo Awards, too)…

By Chris M. Barkley: This coming June, I will be celebrating my forty-fifth anniversary in science fiction fandom.

I have attended over two hundred conventions since 1976, including twenty-nine World Science Fiction conventions. I not only went to those Worldcons, I also had the pleasure of serving at a majority of them in some capacity, as a volunteer, staff member, office head or, in one instance at Chicon 2000, as a hotel liaison and a member of the Chair’s Staff.

Needless to say, I have witnessed or participated in a number of remarkable, bizarre and historic incidents during my tenure working at Worldcons. I not only know how the sausage was made, I helped make it as well.

Having been privy to what goes into producing a Worldcon, I have looked on in despair at the recent developments regarding this year’s Worldcon convention, DisCon III. The squabbling and outrage over the costs of the Hugo Award Pre-Ceremony Reception and the listing of nominees on the award might have gone as just business as usual if it hadn’t directly lead to the resignation of Co-Chair Colette Fozard and the designated Division Head, Jared Dashoff, who was to administer the 2021 Hugo Awards and site selection for the 2023 Worldcon. Ms. Fozard left over the vehement backlash and vicious personal attacks made against her and Mr. Dashoff (and the Hugo Administrator he was working with) resigned over the Convention Committee’s handling of the nomination controversy.   . 

And when you add the ongoing pandemic, the uncertainty over the prospects of holding an in-person convention by August AND recently announced bankruptcy of one of DisCon III main hotels, the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, it seems like a recipe for an epic disaster.

Yet, despite these setbacks and obstacles, my intuition tells me that these difficulties will be overcome and there will be a Worldcon in Washington D.C. Because any fannish historian will tell you that committees and veteran fan volunteers are determined and are not easily deterred.

But there is a deeper concern over the future of non-profit, fan run conventions.

The internet, the various new ways and forms of nearly instantaneous communications and the advent of social media have been a double edged sword for fandom and pose a vital question for fandom: Do the benefits of technology outweigh the darker, toxic effects of human interaction? And how long will it be before these complex volunteer endeavors become financially unviable.  

After decades of observation, it seems to me that the problems the World Science Fiction Society face are dogmatically systemic. 

To wit, all of those who either hold positions of authority in fandom for an inordinate amount of time have become so enamored with the way things have been done, over and over again, that they are unable, or unwilling, to evolve with the times.

We have built an elaborate web of fail-safes over time; the Fannish Inquisition, The annual WSFS Business Meeting, SMOFCon and its companion the email listserv, and other various websites, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

And yet, Worldcons keep on making the same planning faux pas and blunders, and have subsequently been the victim of trolls, disruptors, outliers and racists. 

Clearly and obviously, some swift and decisive action needs to be taken.

And make no mistake about it; when fandom WANTS to be swift and decisive, they can. We only have to go back and see what happened during the Puppygate Crisis of the previous decade, in which divisive slate nominations and voting was effectively squashed.

THAT sort of dynamic action is needed, right now.

I offer the following recommendations:

  1. The next several Worldcons and bidding committees need to either hire or seek pro-bono help from professional convention consultants about our con-running standards, organizational planning and practices. I say this as an insider who has been volunteering at cons and Worldcons over since 1983. We NEED someone from the outside looking in because despite all of our efforts to run better conventions, we need someone to take a hard, objective look at what we do. Trying to reinvent the same wheel all over again with each new Worldcon committee isn’t very productive.
  2. There is  an overall and ongoing concern is the perpetuation of gatekeeping in  fandom. I know this, I’ve seen it in action and have had numerous, personal experiences myself. The fact is, those of us who have been in the vanguard of conrunning this past generation are all getting old. If we want our conventions and traditions to continue much past the current decade, we need to get more people involved in fandom who will be imbued with the enthusiasm to continue on. While self examination is certainly called for here, the need to be less dismissive of new ideas and people (and the perceived gatekeeping that goes along with it) is more important.
  3. We should amend the WSFS Constitution to allow the Business Meeting to occur outside of the realm of the main convention several times a year, either at SMOFCons, regional conventions, neutral sites not involved in a bid for a Worldcon or via Skype, Zoom or other meeting apps. These meetings should be widely publicized and open to the general public to attend in person or remotely. If anyone wanted to present business, raise objections or vote on motions, they would either have to be a current member of a Worldcon or be given the opportunity to buy a current supporting or attending membership. Of course, the main objections to this proposal would be that either it might be too complicated to accomplish OR bad actors may want to disrupt the process. I think that it is worth that risk to present what the Business meeting does transparently to the public and drum up support from those who may be unaware or curious about the Worldcon and the Hugo Awards. And who knows, perhaps some of those people will end up attending or helping current or future conventions. 
  4. I have either sponsored or instigated many changes in the Hugo Awards over the past twenty years. My goal was to help raise its profile to the world, to honor those who were not being given enough attention by fandom and to keep them viable in an increasingly crowded media landscape. It seemed obvious to me that as recently as five years ago, several categories, including the Best Dramatic Presentation, Editor, Artist and Related Work categories were badly in need of an overhaul due to the changing scope and presentations of the categories involved. Whether this would involve an expansion or retraction of the number of awards we give out is a serious issue that has been repeatedly postponed or regulated by committees by the Business Meeting for quite a while now. The needless quibbling over what should happen must come to an end and some definitive decisions need to be made. For the record, I agree that as many essential nominees should be listed on the nominating and final ballot. 
  5. As for the Hugo Award itself and the expenses they incur, I offer several options to consider: We can consider amending the WSFS Constitution to hold Worldcon on a biannual basis and consider a blanket two year period for nominations. If that idea is too radical, how about splitting all the categories up and awarding a set every other year? Or, if we choose, we can keep the current system but establish a copyrighted, affordable and standard base (using the Academy Awards Oscar base as an example) for future use. 

Now, I can imagine that some of the fannish pundits reading this have rejected nearly every suggestion I have outlined above out of hand. I will refer them back to the comment I made earlier about being more self critical and listening more.

My objective here is twofold; first, to get your attention and secondly, to tell as many people as possible that fandom has some big problems looming on the horizon. 

I have tried, at the WSFS Business Meetings, at conventions and throughout the columns I have written over the past few years in these columns, have either tried to present my experiences, offer solutions or, in this case, sound the alarm to a set of growing concerns.

After twenty years of either attending or offering legislation at the WSFS Business Meeting, I declared in 2019 that I would no longer attend, for reasons that I have outlined here in previous columns. I have taken up a new role.  

If fandom is a proverbial glass house, I’m the fellow chucking the rocks at the windows.

To get your attention. For our own good.

54 thoughts on “Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #57

  1. Extremely sensible set of proposals and I do think of special bases are the rising costs then it may be time to retire them and standardise the award cost.

  2. CLEARLY, the solution to the Hugo Awards nominee problem is the following:

    The creators of both Long and Short Dramatic Presentation, Graphic Novels, Semiprozines, Fancasts and Fanzines must restrict themselves to two and only two creators each.

    This is based on the data provide by Colette Fozard as compiled by Nicholas Whyte that demonstrates that these and only these award categories are the ones with more than two named creators.

    Of course, eliminating those categories would solve the problem as well, but I think that’s a bit too radical for the community at this point.

  3. The creators of both Long and Short Dramatic Presentation, Graphic Novels, Semiprozines, Fancasts and Fanzines must restrict themselves to two and only two creators each.

    That’s been soundly rejected by the community for being unfair particularly to minority groups

    Worldcon needs to think again

  4. steve davidson says The creators of both Long and Short Dramatic Presentation, Graphic Novels, Semiprozines, Fancasts and Fanzines must restrict themselves to two and only two creators each.

    Why? If more than two creators are involved in creating something, why should they not be noted? Other Awards do it.

    And eliminating those categories would really, really dumb.

  5. first, it’s a joke. For example, it’s difficult to do a graphic novel, say, with only two people, films the same.

    Secondly, not so much on eliminating categories; we don’t need the dramatic presentation awards at all as a starter. If it were strictly for screen writing/script writing, that would be one thing (a change I would favor), but I really think that among the real, non-jokey solutions is to winnow the categories back down to strictly writing ones.

  6. @Cat:
    I am pretty shure, that Steves comment, was not meaned serious.
    About the articel: I am strongly against having the Hugo only every second year, it would mean honoring only half the people.
    Busness meating is for the inner dealings of worldcon, having the stuff happening at another covention, seems to me a really bad idea.
    We need (after the pandamic) to talk about methods how we can chance the rules, when a personal meeting is not posible. But the whole articel is a nope for me.

    Edit: Ninjad by Steve

    And about eliminating Catagorys, I am very oposed to eliminate Fancatagories, I don’t see the sense of eliminating the dramatic catagorys and would hate to eliminate Best Graphic Story.
    I would cry much if Best Editor was eliminated (sorry editors here on File 770)

  7. Here’s my suggestion. The Hugo should be for the work. So there should be one Hugo with the name of the work that won it. The creators of the work can decide where it resides. Maybe it goes to one person, maybe it rotates around a group. It’s up to them. A list of creators can be provided, with some sort of reasonable upper limit (maybe a dozen). Those people can be listed on the ballot, can attend the reception, and bask in the glory. Perhaps they can be given some smaller commemorative object, like a plaque. But the Hugo is for the work, not for for the people.

  8. Sorry Leslie that seems to me a cruel solution for a small problem. A Hugo for a work is allways cellabrating the creators, there are limitations for how many hugos are provided for one work, but I don’t know the upper limit. And we don’t have to talk about the optics here, or do we?

  9. If WSFS governance is so complicated that we need a mass meeting of the entire membership multiple times a year, I contend that is too complicated for a mass meeting of the entire membership, period. Better to elect a representative body that can concentrate on such matters, with any changes to the basic governance (i.e. the WSFS Constitution, including the Hugo Awards) subject to a vote of the entire membership by ballot, rather than at a mass meeting.

    Do I think the WSFS Business Meeting would ever vote itself out of business? It seems unlikely to me, even though I think we’d would be better for it.

  10. Is there a post somewhere that puts hard numbers behind the claim that the Hugo Awards have become too costly because of the larger number of nominees in some categories?

  11. Thanks for writing this post Chris.
    I agree strongly with 1, 2 and 4 and also think we should consider eliminating categories.
    3 sounds like it would make the business meeting even more gridlocked. I would suggest conducting polls to get an idea of what membership thinks but keeping the meeting limited. That would also help ensure that it isn’t only the loudest voices who get heard.
    I was initially taken aback by 5 but considering the number of repeat nominees it isn’t a bad idea.

  12. I have pushed before for WSFS to embrace modern technologies and failed. My efforts to allow online voting a decade ago were killed as being insecure, though our present system has evolved enough that it’s practically what we’re doing anyway. However, a Zoom session with 200 attendees (that is not a webinar) is pretty unwieldy. I’m guessing the online meeting technology will continue to evolve, though.

    Anyone can see past WSFS Business Meetings online; there are recordings. It hasn’t noticeably increased attendance or interest.

  13. @Bookworm:
    Currently we have the following catagorys.
    Best Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Series, Related Work, Graphic Story, Editor Short and Long Form, Professonel Artist, Semiprozine, Fanzine, Fancast, Fan Writer, Fan Artist
    and the two not a Hugos Lodestar und Astounding (ignoring the special one this year)
    what do you think should go?

  14. Pingback: Oh Worldcon! Oh the Hugos! - Amazing Stories

  15. @Cat Eldridge

    If more than two creators are involved in creating something, why should they not be noted? Other Awards do it.

    True, but the dominant awards for creators in contemporary pop culture (Oscars, Emmies, Tonies, Grammies) all allow the awarding bodies to put in hard, arbitrary limits on how many people can receive a particular award. For the Hugos to do likewise makes sense. Reasonable people can disagree about how many (and that’s a decision that historically has been left to individual Worldcons, but could be formally worked out in business meetings), but saying that any limit is bad is unrealistic.


    Is there a post somewhere that puts hard numbers behind the claim that the Hugo Awards have become too costly because of the larger number of nominees in some categories?

    When Worldcon budgets exceed $1M, and the marginal costs of additional people (+trophy, +extra words on ballots, etc., +food and drink, etc.) is at most a few hundred dollars, then I think the money issue is something of a red herring.

  16. @ StefanB. My preference would be:
    Combine Novelette and short story into one category
    Nix Best Editor Long Form
    Nix Best Dramatic presentation- a lot of people vote in these categories but don’t seem to feel strongly about them. And the nominees don’t care. So leave this to the Oscars etc
    Combine Fanzine and semiprozine into one.

  17. I’ve a post on the JOF facebook page discussing the problems with the issues.

    And to be honest money is not the biggest issue. The larger issue is one of logistics in hosting a pre event reception for the ever growing number of finalists and their guests and seating these same people at the event in a reasonable time.

    The best (out of the box) suggestion I’ve ween for this is to split the event. We have regularly been running two Hugo awards many years with the Hugo’s and the Retro Hugo’s. But the general opinion seems to be that the Retros are getting long in the tooth. So why not retire them and use the slot to split the Hugo Awards into two .

    One suggestion would be say a split between written and media with the Art, Fancast, comic and Dramatic Awards one night. And the written and writer awards the other night

  18. rcade: Is there a post somewhere that puts hard numbers behind the claim that the Hugo Awards have become too costly because of the larger number of nominees in some categories?

    There were some numbers offered in a similar discussion on the JOF group at Facebook. It’s a public group, you should be able to find the post.

    My personal opinion is that the significance of the numbers to each person depends on their predisposition to think there are too many categories (or not), too many people eligible to attend the pre-Hugo reception (or not), that the Hugo ceremony runs too long (or not). They are hardly backbreaking numbers by themselves.

  19. I’m concerned because of the pandemic, Worldcon will have to move to December, and on top of that they seem to be losing their hotel. ‘Tis this the winter of our DisCon tent?

  20. @Bookworm: One of your sugestion would personally hurt me, quite a bit and imho make the Hugo lesser. So you understand that I am not a fan towards your first point.
    I wouldn’t mind seeing Best Editor Long go, can live with best dramatic gone, if that is needed.
    I am less of a fan of combining Semipro and Fanzine, I can only speak from last year, that if that doesn’t kill one of the catagorys outright (I fear Fanzine), Semipros and Fanzines were somethink very diferent last year.

    I a have to kill stuff, I would sugest series and probably not adding catagorys like Best Video Game.

    @Tom Becker:
    Or beeing virtuell again

  21. (I don’t follow WSFS and Hugo politics closely)

    Unless I’m mistaken, and I might be, BDP awards go to the work’s Producer(s) and ‘zine awards go to the Editor(s); in neither case do they go to the plethora of people who have contributed to the overall work. Yes? The issue seems to come up when more than the expected couple-or-three people are listed as “co-editors” or the like, elevating them to not only be recognized but receive the material parts of the award. Where can/do you draw a line? It’s easy to imagine a situation where the finalists from just two or three categories would exceed the number of finalists in all the others combined. This becomes a large burden to the worldcon.

    I’m also unclear on how limiting the number of award statues and name listing is “unfair particularly to minority groups” but that’s probably because I haven’t seen it articulated anywhere that I usually read.

    So… we recognize a single person as an artist; a single person as an author (unless there’s a co-author), the producer of a BDP, etc. We don’t officially recognize the cover artists, book editors, copy editors, set designers, sound editors, authors-of-zine-articles, CGI animators, printers, etc even though their contributions have a very large part in making the work what it is. Why is that? I’ll posit because there are just too many and the creation has to come from a single driving force, and we give the award to that force.

    Hitting Chris’s #1-
    In some areas/divisions, there -are- domain professionals involved; the greater problem is that many parts of many worldcons don’t intentionally cooperate forward; this leads to certain wheels being reinvented. OTOH, there are some divisions/areas which have a good body of pass-on information if future cons care to use it. (For instance, as I understand the registration system from CoNZealand was reworked for Discon3 and DC is working with ChiCon to make sure it fills their needs, and also to make it generally available going forward.)

  22. z!: I’m also unclear on how limiting the number of award statues and name listing is “unfair particularly to minority groups” but that’s probably because I haven’t seen it articulated anywhere that I usually read.

    I’ll address the effect of limiting the names listed. It’s categories like Best Semiprozine and Best Fanzine where teams of creators can be involved. If only four get on the screen during the presentation (as was going to be DisCon III’s plan before it was revoked), and half the slots already go to the chief editors (the Thomases for Uncanny, Chris and James for Journey Planet), then after they pick two more, the bunch who get left off will include people in various marginalized groups. (Even the finalists where the chief editors are from marginalized groups still may have teams big enough that others will have to be left off.)

  23. If people are marginalized because they are routinely pushed aside, that’s bad. If they are marginalized because (as it looks to be in this case) their contributions at issue are on the margin, then their omission from awards isn’t an injustice.

    If ranked correctly, the fifth contributor has no more than 20% input (and likely less). Is it still appropriate that they should receive full Hugo recognition? What if it was 10%? 5%?

  24. I’d like to see Best Editor Long Form considered for removal. There’s never much information to go on about what a book editor has done in a particular year, so it ends up being a vote on the person instead of their work over the award period.

  25. Good points, and good discussion so far.

    I would consider the big question: Why do we have a Worldcon at all? That will totally change the potential answers.
    Are we focusing on the Business Meeting? The Hugos? the Program? Dealers? etc.
    Each of those items had a different set of people who want to participate.
    There is certainly a lot of overlap, but the number of people who don’t have a clue about the Business Meeting in particular is the bulk of the attendees. And it will be the rare attendee who will find the Business Meeting in the midst of a lot of other great programming.

    I don’t have an easy answer. But we need to learn how to take advantage of current (and future) technology, or we run the risk of becoming irrelevant.

  26. I thoroughly approve Kevin’s points 1 and 2. “How we’ve always done it” is a trap; it would be worthwhile to have an outside eyeball. And the gatekeeping is, and has been, obvious for some time.

    @bill: “their contributions at issue are on the margin” is not the same statement as “people are marginalized.”

    Here’s the complaint being made. To run a semiprozine or fanzine with four editors/contributors, you’re requiring a large number of hours per editor. Many marginalized people do not have N/4 hours a month to spare. They do have N/8 hours to spare. If you say “only 4 editors may be nominated”, you’re saying that the model of fandom requiring enormous spare-time commitment is the only awardable model, and that people who do excellent group work, but can’t carry the burden of the work across only 4 people, won’t be recognized.

    The model of “fandom is a way of life” as applied to editing semiprozines and fanzines (and no doubt other projects) excludes people who are doing great work. Editors who can’t afford to treat editing as a second job are still awesome editors. If you have an eight-person collaborative, it’s (as people from larger groups have testified) impossible to fairly decide who are the four who deserve the nomination.

    Btw, Mike, the redrawn header is glorious.

    edit: I pulled 8 out of a hat. Substitute your favorite large number.

  27. Well I as a newbie was last year pretty focused on the program and the Hugos.
    I don’t think that the Business Meeting is that much of a draw. It is important, but I don’t think many people become Worldcon members because of it. But I certainly knew it was happening, but it wasn’t livestreamed and it was as I heared over in 10 Minutes last year.
    But beeing on Youtube and the prominence in the puppyyears means I know of it.

  28. … “seek pro-bono help from professional convention consultants’?

    My experience is that these professionals would be shocked at what we have been able to negotiate for, and get away with (especially with things like our corkage and forkage waivers) and their first recommendations would be that we should double our price, and seek corporate sponsorship. (I do think we could do more with sponsorship… but that is a delicate subject, I know)

    In many ways, professional conferences are also behind where we are, as a community, with things like codes of conduct and accessibility.

    I don’t see that these professionals have to offer us, other than a $500 a head Worldcon with no consuite, brought to you by Google and Comcast.

  29. Lisa Hertel on January 25, 2021 at 8:06 am said:

    Anyone can see past WSFS Business Meetings online; there are recordings. It hasn’t noticeably increased attendance or interest.

    Based on anecdotal evidence, I would disagree with that. What the recordings have done is removed the “mystery” from the meeting, and while some of the Usual Suspects have stopped attending, we’ve had turnover in attendance. It may be that some people who used to regularly attend (and are still seen at Worldcons) are less happy about participating when what they say is “on the record.” It was objections to us even making recordings that led me to introduce rules that explicitly authorize such recordings and further to allow the meeting to stop recording if sufficient members want to do so. (This has never happened.)

    Lisa Hayes puts a whole lot of effort into making those recordings, and has spent several thousand dollars of her own money buying professional-grade camera equipment to do so. You can imagine how she felt when someone came up to her at one meeting and said that it was her recordings that convinced them to attend Worldcon and participate in the meeting, because they realized that they could be part of it, rather than the meeting being some mysterious “they.”

    We had between 300-400 people at the meeting in Spokane, which is a sizable percentage of the total attendance. Had we overflowed that room, the next-size up was 1000. I had been giving serious thought to how the mechanics would have to change if we got that large. You think things are done “by the book” now? It would have been even more formal with 1000 participants. And I have no idea how we could manage it in what amounts to a gigantic Zoom meeting.

  30. I would definitely like to see more year round discussion between Business Meetings. Particularly with committees who are tasked with coming back the following year with recommendations. And open up discussion to more people. Online discussions are what helped get EPH and other proposals in place as relatively quickly as they were.

    Definitely against splitting up or doing Hugos every other year. But I’ve been in favor of changing up the categories. As has been discussed before…change semiprozine to professional magazine (what are now semiprozine would be pro). Add best anthology or collection. Remove at least short form editor since they would be covered by those two categories. I’m not keen about adding a best publisher instead of long form editor. Some editors/publishers have been more helpful about indicating who edited what, but others have been even less helpful.

  31. I, too, find the suggestion of bringing in a professional con runner in to advise each new Worldcon concom offputting. FWIW, my observation has been that the volunteers who regularly support Worldcon to be more knowledgeable about the needs of a convention than people who are in it for the money. If Worldcon needs help from a professional on anything, it’s usually public relations. Some of the people who are assigned the job have little understanding of what they’re doing.

    If 2020 showed us anything, I believe it’s the need to be able to make emergency adjustments to our procedures when untenable situations arise. Abbreviating the business meeting last year because members couldn’t be on site to vote on any motions seemed farcical, especially in a community that so values technical advancement.

    I do agree that we are getting older and need to prepare turnover to younger generations and am disappointed that more of them seem show more interest in animé or pop culture cons. However, Star Trek conventions were my gateway to the community. I have been amazed that an international convention that’s been predominantly hosted by the community’s American sector during its first several decades is finally attracting major interest from organizers in other countries. I’m sure it would be worth listening to their perspectives. Different cultures may see things the founding sector cannot.

  32. I would definitely like to see more year round discussion between Business Meetings. Particularly with committees who are tasked with coming back the following year with recommendations. And open up discussion to more people. Online discussions are what helped get EPH and other proposals in place as relatively quickly as they were.

    Laura, this is why the SMOFs list was established.

  33. Regards nominations-
    I’m hearing a couple of different things- one is how many people may be included as part of a single nomination, another is how many will be shown on-screen during the awards ceremony or invited to the pre-ceremony reception, and a potential other how many award statues will be given for that one work.

    Was any question about the first?. Although… please see below.
    The second is somewhat manageable with multiple slides as is often down for BDPs although even then, many names = smaller type = less readable.
    The reception? More people becomes higher cost/space (and I’d assume the cost is >$50/person, but that’s an educated WAG). An extra $1000 for the reception may seem like a drop in the bucket, but worldcons have many drops to contend with.
    More statues? There’s a cost and also a time-to-produce element for both the rockets and bases. And does the con over-produce to meet a potential need or under-produce and need to make more? Either way, someone will complain. At least rockets can be passed on to the next year, but bases can’t.

    The discussion of number-of-names doesn’t address the existing disparity between the practice for BDPs and for other works. We accept that BDPs are awarded in a certain way, largely, I think, because of the sheer number of creators involved. How are ‘zines different?

    BTW, if it seems like I’m advocating for a particular outcome, I’m not. Just trying to understand people’s thinking.

    @StefanB In-person business meetings often draw 300-400 people. CoNZealand’s was so short because there is no mechanism for remote attendance to the BM; the in-person meeting essentially sent everything they could to DisCon.

  34. @Adrienne Foster
    So how can a non-SMOF like myself get in on that discussion? Plus, I’ve been disappointed in previous years when committees come back with something along the lines of “We didn’t have a chance to have much discussion…can we have another year?” Maybe if people had been aware, they could have picked up the dropped ball.

  35. I sscond the motion to get rid of the Best Long Form editing Hugo. Very few of the Hugo voters know whether the nominees for this category do any line editing and whether they are any good at it. And I speak as someone who edits non-fiction books for part of my living.

  36. I don’t know about inviting in procon runners–I probably wouldn’t–but it never hurts to get a fresh set of eyes from somewhere if you think things are getting stagnant.

  37. z!: The discussion of number-of-names doesn’t address the existing disparity between the practice for BDPs and for other works. We accept that BDPs are awarded in a certain way, largely, I think, because of the sheer number of creators involved. How are ‘zines different?

    The reason zines are different is that they’re created by people who are active in the sff community — and have constituencies that show up at the Business Meeting. Nobody in Hollywood takes an interest in WSFS governance.

    You probably wanted a legalistic, definition-driven answer, but that’s not the reason.

    Remember, in 2009 there was a motion made to eliminate the Semiprozine Hugo. The category’s supporters got the Business Meeting to keep it.

    And fanzine fans have a long history of advocating rules changes for that category, some of which have passed (like the original creation of the Semiprozine Hugo itself.)

  38. Laura: Plus, I’ve been disappointed in previous years when committees come back with something along the lines of “We didn’t have a chance to have much discussion…can we have another year?”

    Discernment is often needed to distinguish when that kind of report actually represents the successful attempt to sandbag a proposal. There was a year wasted that way when the people trying to prevent passage of a Best Young Adult book Hugo got it sent to a committee run by their guy. The same kind of parliamentary sleight-of-hand was successful in killing off the Best Music Hugo proposal a decade before.

  39. If I wanted to change how Worldcon is governed, it wouldn’t be because it doesn’t work. It would be so people wouldn’t have to sacrifice valuable convention time that they have paid quite a lot for. Because that will make sure there will be a certain demographic subset that is overrepresented for decision time.

    I do think an online alternative would be great at some time in the future, depending on development of software solutions. It would be easier with a representative body of course.

  40. None of these fixes get at the root causes of the issues faced by worldcon committees in recent years. Fandom is changing and is doing so rapidly. It is, in many ways, a very different place than it was forty years ago when I was first attending conventions. If we don’t understand that, then controversies like this year’s Hugo kerfluffle will continue to happen. We can start by listening to each other across the lines of age, ethnicity, and privilege.

  41. Regarding the Business Meeting, I think an amendment to allow for a virtual meeting in case a physical meeting isn’t possible will become necessary, though I understand why a virtual Business Meeting and online voting on proposals is not wanted, because the risk of a puppy-type takeover attempt is definitely there. So safeguards (e.g. online meeting and voting yes, but only if you have an attending membership) will be necessary. Also, as Hampus said, the Business Meeting takes up a lot of valuable con time. It used to be only one morning, but the one in Dublin ran every single morning, which meant that people had to sacrifice a lot of other activities to attend the Business Meeting. I’m not sure what the solution is, but the current situation is becoming unwieldy.

    Regarding Hugo categories, I understand that the increase of categories and finalists in recent years is becoming problematic (and the Hugo reading load has increased a lot with the introduction of Best Series and the Lodestar), but I still wouldn’t want to eliminate categories altogether, though some need an overhaul. I definitely wouldn’t want to touch the four fiction categories (five if you include series), especially not the short fiction categories, because short fiction is still where the new voices in our genre are coming from. I was initially in favour of Best Series, but it adds a lot to the reading load and is IMO not really working as intended, i.e. the finalists are rarely those longrunning popular series, where individual works don’t stand alone well, for which the award was originally created. I could live without the Lodestar, because I’m not a big YA reader, but then not every category has to be for me.

    Best Related definitely needs an overhaul. It was initially created for non-fiction books related to the genre and then the definition was expanded to allow for things like the online SF Encyclopedia. But by now the category has become so vaguely defined that a lot of people seem to define it as Best Fannish Thing (currently, there are campaigns to nominate virtual conventions, which while wonderful, are not what the category is for). For those of us like me who actually care about genre-related non-fiction, this is annoying. Also, non-fiction requires a lot of research and a book like e.g. Alec Nevala-Lee’s Astounding may take years to come together, only to lose out against an edge case finalist. Personally, I’d hate to lose Best Related Work, but we need to define it better.

    I really don’t want to lose the four fan categories, because those honour the people for whom fandom truly is a labour of love. An overhaul might be necessary, e.g. the criteria for fan and pro artist are strange and fairly opaque.

    The two dramatic presentation categories are among the most popular and get the highest number of nominations and votes, so I think eliminating them would not serve the purpose. Never mind that we’re currently in a new golden age of SFF related media, so why shouldn’t we honour those works that so many of us watch and enjoy?

    Semiprozine definitely needs an overhaul, because as the category is currently defined, small token payment markets who pay 10 USD or so per story are competing with the likes of Uncanny or Fireside, who pay well above pro-rate, but still count as semi-pro, because the editors would rather pay the authors than themselves, which is laudable, but still causes an imbalance. I suspect the best way to handle this is change semiprozine to best magazine and recategorise pro-paying zines like Uncanny and Fireside as pro-zines (nor would they have any problems competing there) and put the token payment markets into the respective fan categories.

    The editing categories are permanently on the chopping block, it seems, but the editors, both long and short, actually care about the Hugos and Worldcon and also show up in significant numbers.

    Regarding multiple finalists per category, for dramatic presentation this normally isn’t a problem, because a lot of finalists don’t show up or send a representative of the studio. For graphic story, it seems to me as if a whole lot of finalists, even if listed, aren’t necessarily present either. That leaves, semiprozine, fanzine and fancast, which have large teams and where the finalists also show up in significant numbers. I understand the issue, but it is difficult to resolve. Some possibilities would be:

    Limit the number of names per finalist (not popular and leaves out a lot of worthy people)
    Limit the number of trophies (already done, as far as I know, though I think additional trophies can be ordered)
    Limit the number of people a finalist can bring to the reception and after-party (again not popular)
    Limit the reception and after-party only to finalists or accepters and their plus ones (because at least in Dublin, there were a lot of people both at the reception and the after-party who were neither finalists nor accepters nor plus ones. On the other hand, do we really want to kick out the Nielsen-Haydens, Betsy Wollheim, GRRM or John Scalzi, etc… when they’re some of Worldcon’s biggest supporters?)
    Get rid of the reception and after-party altogether (I’d rather have this than lose categories and finalists, but it wouldn’t be popular and besides, it’s fun to feel like a movie star at the Oscars for one night).

    So in short, it’s a problem, but I don’t know how to resolve it either.

  42. @Madame Hardy

    @bill: “their contributions at issue are on the margin” is not the same statement as “people are marginalized.”

    I understand the difference; indeed, it is key to my point.
    The fact that the same circustances that may make a person marginalized may also serve to minimize their contribution to something that wins a Hugo doesn’t mean that their small (or as I said, “marginal”) contribution should be recognized as if it were larger.

  43. @bill, I think we may be talking past one another; my point is that none of the 12 people involved in FIYAH (for instance) are “marginal”; it’s just that the burden is distributed between 12 people rather than 4. If FIYAH gets a nomination, how are they to decide that one Acquiring Editor is more important than another?

  44. Regarding the Pre-Hugo reception. It cannot be eliminated completely because it serves several very important functions. Chief among these is cat-herding.

    Up until sometime in the mid-80s there was a Hugo Banquet. People involved in the Hugo Ceremony, whether as nominees, acceptors, or presenters, were generally present and accounted for. When the banquet was eliminated, it was found that it was hard to make sure that everyone who was supposed to be there was there and on time. The pre-reception was created in order to gather everyone into one place.

    Anyone who needs to be on stage at the ceremony is checked in. If there needs to be some kind of communication with an individual, they can be easily found. Since 1998 it has also been the opportunity for taking pictures of all the nominees in each category. Final instructions are also given before the ceremony begins.

    On one occasion, a young neo-pro was nominated for his first Hugo and he was concerned that his name would be pronounced correctly. I introduced him to the presenter who would be reading his name and left them to have a conversation about it.

    I strongly believe that anyone who is not directly involved with the ceremony should not be there. When I ran the Hugos in 2002, I issued invitations only to nominees, accepters, presenters, senior ceremony staff, and the convention chairs. Someone asked why I had not invited all of Division Heads. I answered that if they weren’t doing something in or for the ceremony, they did not need to be there. That was all the pushback I got.

    At two recent worldcons, I had invitations to the pre-reception and did not attend. I was not working the ceremony for those years and when asked, I said that there was no reason for me to be there and that I would just be an extra useless body.

  45. @Madame Hardy — saying that none of the 12 are “marginal” (and there may well be a better word to use here) is just refusing to acknowledge that some contribute more than others (but it is a slap to whoever is 13th on the list . . .) It’s part and parcel of working on collaborative projects that neither the burdens, nor the honors, are shared equally.

    The cut-off has to be arbitrary, in that there is no possible way to allocate the honor exactly in correspondence with contribution. That being the case, let the active Worldcon committee do its job: “Authority and responsibility for all matters
    concerning the Worldcon, except those reserved herein to WSFS,
    shall rest with the Worldcon Committee.” If Discon wants to limit to 4, then let them limit to 4. And if Chicon wants to remove limits, let them. And if the business meeting doesn’t like it, they can come up with another plan. But letting whoever is loudest on Twitter decide has its own set of problems, such as driving away experienced staff.

  46. Hampus writes:

    It would be so people wouldn’t have to sacrifice valuable convention time that they have paid quite a lot for.

    Well, they have paid for membership in WSFS for that year, and among the things they have paid for is the privilege of attending the business meeting. This may not be what’s at the top of their minds, but that really isn’t something I am willing to change.

    I guess I could raise a proposal that forbids worldcons to schedule other programme items in conflict with the business meeting, but I don’t think it would pass. And if it would pass, I wouldn’t actually want it to. But, if that is the main blocker, it would in theory be an avenue, so on and so forth.

    Cora writes:

    It used to be only one morning, but the one in Dublin ran every single morning, which meant that people had to sacrifice a lot of other activities to attend the Business Meeting.

    To be fair, I have only attended the business meeting since Spokane in 2015, but I kept an eye on the schedule when it was in London in 2014, and in London it ran multiple mornings. In Spokane, Helsinki, Kansas City, and Dublin, it ran for about the same number of days. I can’t speak for San Jose in 2018, as I wasn’t present. But, to me, this seems like “about the same” for the last 6 or so years at least.

  47. @ Tom Becker – if that were to happen, an additional concern would be that all the budget would be used up by December. It would be the winter of our income spent.

  48. @ZL: I didn’t get my point acros that well.
    Why I know the BM has many visitors, I still don’t think it is for many people the main reason to go to Worldcon. I also think we need mechanics to get thinks done if we ever have the same problem again that we had 2020 and may have 2021.

    @Cora: Re catagories: I mostly agree, exspecially in the 4 fiction catagories.
    I would rather loose best series, than Lodestar, because I liked the finalist in the Lodestar last year quite a bit.

    Actually if we talk about eliminating catagorys the why would be a big question.
    I mean if you want to save the readers time, combining Novelette and Short Story is the last efective. (last year, it was posible to read 10 of the 12 finalist online before the packet arived)

  49. I’m working on writing up a proposal. It’s pretty simple: a permanent Hugo administration committee that provides continuity from year-to-year that will administer the awards themselves, while the WorldCon will be in charge of presenting them. In essence, the changing ConComms won’t be handling anything but the ceremony (and funding things, but that’s neither here nor there…)

  50. In the interests of transparency, I wonder whether it would be possible to record committee meetings as well as the business meeting?

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