The Hugos: why even bother?

This post started as a comment elsewhere but has changed a great deal to become this post. Additionally I felt I needed to write this post first, so that I could explain some of the analogies I might make.

Blackpool – a place where party conferences happen. Also Clara from Doctor Who is from Blackpool (as is Jenna Coleman).

In the light of recent controversy there are numerous proposals on voting strategies for the Hugo Awards, rules changes, ethical principles and debates on the nature of the awards themselves. This post is part of my thinking out loud on those issues.

The Hugo Awards are one of the most prestigious awards within science fiction and fantasy. An award of comparable reputation are the Nebula Awards, which are organized by the Science Fiction Writers of America organization. There is significant overlap between the two but they do have different approaches.

  • The Nebula Awards are decided by a jury – and can be seen as judgement of a work by peers of the author
  • The Hugo Awards are decied by a popular vote – and can be seen as support from fans

However calling the process for the Hugo Awards a popular vote is misleading. Yes, it is open for effectively anybody to vote who is willing to buy a supporting membership but, in effect, it is a vote of a particular kind of community that we could call the WorldCon community. That community I have compared in a previous post to being not unlike the activists who might be involved in a political party. They are a narrower group than just people who generally support, read or like science fiction and fantasy. In so far as they like the activists within a political party they act partly in terms of how they see the genre as whole. That doesn’t make them particularly wiser or more insightful or even less prone to short term thinking and/or factionalism just as party political activists don’t necessarily always work for the best interests of the party they support.

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Mad physics

In a discussion on File 770 I was rude about the physics of faster-than-light travel while defending some of the madness of Doctor Who’s Kill the Moon episode and commenter “ccm” replied:

FTL spaceships? Hah! What about a freakin Time Machine that can grow and jettison rooms as needed, produce pretty much anything you need, can travel anywhere and anywhen with no concerns about fuel, weight, etc….and seems to be some kind of living creature as well.

Well fair point.

But I still think that FTL drives are as bad and in someways the madness of whovian physics makes more sense. The absurdity of the Who reality is a kind of realistic realism.

Now that will require some justification. Continue reading