I’ve been meaning to post about this year’s Hugo slate for quite some time, but haven’t been arsed enough to do so. Oh, there’s plenty of controversy this year, but most of it’s been covered by far more articulate voices than mine, and there’s nothing new I can contribute.
However, I did want to add my perspective on the actual voting process and talk about what I’ve done in the past, what I’m doing this year, why, and explain why the “no award” option finally makes sense to me.
This is my third year voting in the Hugos. And despite whichever controversies shadow the award every year, it’s always been a really interesting experience. The Hugos expose me to fiction I wouldn’t otherwise be reading, specifically in the short fiction categories. I should note here that my goal, each and every year, is to read every fiction category, including the Campbell Award, and vote accordingly. I vote in other categories too, if I have time, but the fiction gets my priority.
In the past, I’d start with the short stories, work my way through novelettes, then novellas, then bump down to the Campbell Award (which is usually a mix of novels and short fiction) before tackling the novel award. And I’d always wait until the last minute to actually vote, despite making notes and ranking the nominees on paper as I went. And I’d usually start mid-June, early July. In the past, I could get away with that because I was a fast reader, but this year has changed that considerably, so I decided to get an early start.
And since I got that early start, I decided to update my ballot as I complete a category. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still review my selections before submitting the final ballot right before the deadline, but if something happens and I can’t submit the final ballot, at least my selections will still be counted, because I voted as I read. Better still, this means each nominated work is still fresh on my mind, which is a good thing.
Right now, I’m working on the Campbell. I should be worried about Best Novel but I’d decided long before Orbit said they were only providing excerpts that there was NO FREAKING WAY I’d be able to read the whole Wheel of Time series, no matter what Tor was offering in the packet, so I knew I’d be reading excerpts regardless (thank goodness for Tor’s Wheel of Time refresher: that’s going to be HUGELY helpful). And that seems fair: if three of the five nominated books are only providing excerpts in the voter’s packet, then all of the books will be considered by excerpt only. And the good news is this: if the excerpt grabs me, I’ll keep reading, even if I have to go buy the book, and that only works in the nominated book’s favor, right?
But I want to step back a bit and talk about the one thing about the Hugos that’s always baffled me a bit: the option to select “No Award” on the ballot. And I’ll admit to still being a wee bit confused in that regard, because I figure once you select “No Award” as a ranked option, then you shouldn’t be able to rank anything else that comes after, even if you still have slots left. But!!!! I finally understand the point of the award, and that point is this:
If the nominated work is something that you don’t believe belongs on the ballot, if you would rather see nobody win the category instead of said nominated work win, then you vote “No Award.”
And there’s more to it than that, IMHO: in my case, I’m asking myself, “Did I nominate something in this category that’s BETTER than this nominated thing I’m reading right now?” If I feel I can find better fiction in a SF/F writer’s workshop full of unpublished manuscripts, then it stands to reason I should select “No Award” over said nominated works. If I’m reading something and wondering how in the hell it got nominated, then I should select “No Award.” I shouldn’t rank the nominated work in question just because it’s on the ballot, nor should I just rank my top two or three picks and not rank the rest.
To me, “No Award” means that if my picks were thrown out the window, I’d rather the award went to no one than the remaining nominee(s).
And trust me, outside of “Best Novel,” where I’ll base my vote on excerpts, I’m reading everything.
I don’t believe in using “No Award” because you aren’t familiar enough with the category or because you can’t be arsed to give the category a fair share. If you’re not versed in the category (say a book reader who never watches movies or television, or maybe only watches Doctor Who and doesn’t give the non-Who nominees consideration because they don’t watch those shows), don’t vote. Don’t select “No Award,” but skip the category. Simple and easy, and I’ve done it before.
That being said, if you genuinely believe the category itself should be abolished, regardless of the quality of the nominees, choosing “No Award” is perfectly valid.
Selecting “No Award” is a statement. In a perfect world, we’d read every word of every nominee before selecting that as an option, but not everyone believes they should have to do that, and that’s their prerogative. Of course, in a perfect world, we wouldn’t even need “No Award” as an option, because it’d be an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the nominees and we’d be happy no matter who wins.
It’s not a perfect world.
So if you’re going to vote “No Award,” then that’s fine. But do it wisely. And make sure you read this utterly fantastic and funny post on how voting “No Award” really works: in other words, once you vote “No Award,” do not rank ANYTHING after it, otherwise it might inadvertently get your vote. Which is weird, when you think about it, but it is what it is, so if you’re going to vote “No Award,” do it right.
And for a less entertaining but more official explanation of how voting and ranking works, click here.
It’ll be interesting to see who wins the Hugos this year.