The entire Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson Wheel of Time series was nominated for a Best Novel Hugo this weekend under a rationale advocated at Tor.com in January.
Now, in a move both appropriate and generous, Tor.com has announced that the entire Wheel of Time will be made available in the Hugo Voter Packet.
In another example of why I am kind of a weirdo, this news actually lessens whatever small impulse I had to buy a supporting or attending membership in Worldcon.
Because if I bought a membership, I’d feel obligated to actually read the contents of the Hugo Voter Packet, give some consideration to the content’s merits, and actually vote. And one of the reasons I haven’t had a membership in any Worldcon since 1984 is that simply finding time enough to read all the Hugo-nominated work before the voting deadline was difficult if not impossible. I’d feel guilty about that.
Add in a 13-volume, 10,000+ page Big Fat Fantasy, and that guilt goes to a whole new level. “Crushing guilt” sounds appropriate.
Here’s a modest proposal for the next business meeting on Hugo rules: “Trilogies of more than five volumes will be ineligible for the Hugos.”
I refuse to read a series that, in hardcover, weighs more than I do.
This leaves those of us voting with what I think is a strange task – judge individual works against an entire shelf of works as a whole. This is kind of like judging “all detective movies” against “Citizen Kane” – do we simply take the best volume of the series and pit it against the others – or do we somehow come up with an “average” judgment. The task borders on the un-doable.
There does seem to be an elephant in this horse race. This may not seem to be a problem if you have never seen a horse race before.
There were almost 2000 voters for the Hugo nominations this year. Many of them were essentially dragged in off the street to vote for one thing or another. This is sort of what ward heelers used to do with immigrant voters. We may need something like a residency requirement for the Hugo voting. I would suggest limiting the sale of supporting memberships to the year after the voting. In the year before the con, you wouldn’t sell supporting memberships or any other low cost voting memberships. Given a year, people might find out what an elephant was and what a horse race was and why the two don’t go together very well.
The irony is that there is a very good reason why WoT is eligible for the Hugo: there wasn’t a single book within the series that was worthy of a Hugo.
It is a popular series. It is a successful series.
It is not a good series, much less a great one (I say that with a caveat: if they improved after the third or fourth book, I can’t speak from personal reading). If it wins the Hugo, it will be for its magnitude, not its quality. It seems an obvious criticism: I don’t know any of its biggest fans who argue that it is great fiction…only that it is engaging, often entertaining and something of a familiar comfort.
It is an impressive series for many reasons…but Tor’s brazen politicking on its behalf is the only reason it is on the ballot. It has already proven not to contain a single Hugo-worthy book (after how many at-bats and two authors), so it is just daft that the whole galactic thing is suddenly worth significantly more than the sum of its parts.
If someone writes a new Lensman novel, will the whole series be eligible for a Hugo? That’s what this means, right?
Your theory is reasonable but fails in the specific case of the Lensmen series because (1) one of the novels was nominated for a Hugo in 1966, and (2) the whole series was nominated in the one-shot “All Time Best Series” Hugo category, also in 1966. See Edward E. Smith at the SF Awards Database. Only a series with zero nominations would fit through this loophole.
Technically you have to argue that the work is a single work, in parts, to be eligible. It cannot, in fact, be a series. That’s the claim made of WoT: that it’s a single work, published in parts (a la magazine serialization). I haven’t read it, so have little opinion beyond general skepticism.