Who Deserves a Hugo?

Guest post by Tuomas Vainio: It seems to be a popular question today. Thus to determine the answer, I went to Amazon and searched for science fiction in e-books. As I scrolled down I noticed an option to refine my search to contain only the new releases from past 30 or 90 days. Respectively that is 2,472 and 6,807 works, which gives us the average of 82,4 or 75,6 new science fiction releases per day. Hence we can expect to have more than 27,000 new e-books released this year.

Then out of curiosity I did the same for regular books; I got 4,809 works for past 30 days, and 14,460 works for the past 90 days. That gives us the daily averages 160,3 for the former and 160,6 for the latter. Hence we can expect to have more than 58,000 new books released this year.

Naturally both electronic and paper based books will have overlap, not to mention that some of the new releases in Amazon could very well be; re-releases or even translations. Hence I suppose a rough annual estimate of 50,000 new works should suffice for argument’s sake. (I openly admit that I pulled that figure out my own arse.)

Both sides of this argument have made the claim how undeserving and deserving works are not being and being nominated for the ballot. Both sides are correct. Five possible nominations out of 50,000 eligible works? I mean, what certainty do we have that those five nominated works are superior to any number of the other eligible 49,995 works? Nor can any one individual read hundreds of works per day. Thus the decision of superiority falls onto the shoulders of the fans raised above the rest by their willingness and capability to spend at least $40 for the right to nominate and vote in the Hugo awards.

Whoever these fans are; they are likely to nominate the works they have read and liked themselves. Yet we have to consider how only a low percentage of those eligible to nominate and vote use their right. So if fans encounter a list of recommendations they deem favourable, then they might follow it out of their own volition. Therefore; if you contact your friends and families and share recommendations of eligible works on the blogs read by the wider audience, it becomes possible for anyone to affect the end result of the Hugo awards.

Now since these awards are something of an annual community highlight, you can check the various blogs of authors and see how they have listed their favourites year after a year. How they have shared their thoughts on if a work is deserving or not. Or more bluntly; who they think should win the award this year.

Thus I have to wonder what is so different this year, what sets the Sad Puppies 3 apart from the earlier attempts to game the awards? The most notable differences that I can see are that instead of having Brad’s and Vox’s recommendations we got Sad and Rabid Puppies’ recommendations, and both came with their own funny pictures. So for others to game the next year’s awards in their favour; it seems you only need a catchy name and a funny picture.

And frankly, if the Hugo awards were not gamed during previous years, then how can people make claims that the Puppies took the awards away from more deserving authors? And why has the awards literally exploded with varying degrees of online vitriol?

I mean; every year most authors do not get nominated, it is a fact. Thus, if the award is not gamed by anyone, no one can be sure who gets to the top. Hence there is no reason to be upset. Even if the Puppies were the only ones gaming the award, no one could be sure of their exact impact. There would be a reason to be mildly annoyed, but ultimately we would not know of their exact impact.

Thus the claims that there were more deserving authors pushed aside simply implies that there was pre-existing expectations on who would come out on top. Expectations that are not so unreasonable if you consider the effect of friends and family, the usual blog posts, and check what the combined effort amounted to on the years before in order to estimate the impact for this year. In a way it is almost like you had paid a boxer to go down on the fifth round, and when he does not, you have reason to cry out of the outrage.

So to sum it up; what we have is kettle calling the pot black during a school yard popularity contest with the associated level of immaturity.

And we get back to the question at hand; who deserves a Hugo? The only answer is as follows; it belongs to whoever that was nominated and voted for by those who were willing to fork out at least $40.

P.S. Oh, and I have not paid that minimum of $40. I ran into this whole thing by stumbling onto that original Entertainment Weekly article, which proved utterly nonsensical with just about 30 minutes of googling all the listed names, which in turn sparked my interest on this back and forth.