Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Hugo Awards 2006: In Depth

Subtitled, of course: 'Harlan Ellison is an Ass.'

I had two great hopes entering the Arena of the Anaheim Convention Center this past Saturday evening. The first was that John Picacio would win a well-deserved Best Artist Hugo, and the second being that George R.R. Martin would finally win that elusive 'big one,' the Best Novel Hugo.

Well, we'll get to that later.

Has anyone taken a look at the votes tallied for the Hugo awards this year? In any year? And then compared them to the Worldcon membership?

Those new to Science Fiction fandom know that the community is very open and welcoming to new members. All are welcome, and even the strangest of personages (furries, klingons) are allowed a place at the collective table. However, a place at the table is the best that one can expect. Do not attempt to voice an actual opinion; it's simply not welcome.

Ever try to tell a SMOFer (Secret Master Of Fandom; Hah! Not so secret anymore!) that there is a better way to do things? You'd have better luck asking Harlan Ellison to act like a decent human being. If things were done a certain way in 1963, then there is obviously little need to consider changing them. For a community built around looking forward through literature, SF fandom is remarkably conservative and dare I say it, archaic in their manner of running conventions and awards.

Take, for instance, the manner in which Hugo votes are tallied. The cut off date for votes was July 31, despite the fact that half of a Worldcon's memberships are purchased at the door. That is half of the membership that is simply unable to vote, simply because they did not plan their year around this event. They still pay full price; in fact, they pay more for their memberships than those who sign up early. This not only punishes those new to fandom, it disenfranchises them and punishes those who are too poor to know in advance whether they will be able to make it to Worldcon. It's everything that the liberal leaning SF fandom purportedly rails against, and would be ironically hilarious if not so depressingly stupid.

With the technological ability of our modern society, how hard would it be to begin and end the voting at the event in which the awards are presented? A couple of computers and a few vote checkers would be all the output needed by the convention committee, and the entirety of the membership would have the opportunity to express their feelings.

Now I've heard it said that this implausible because the Hugo Awards themselves must be engraved in advance of the event. If this is the height of the argument against technological advance and across-the-board fairness and equality by the Old Guard, then I'll happily sink that laughable argument.

Make up engraved plates for all of the nominees. I am reasonably certain that with the 3000+ engineers and rocket scientists in attendance, we could manage to rivet them onto the cute little rocket ships. Hell, I bet one of our numerous PhD.'s could even handle engraving tools.

But such advances would mean that even the (gasp!) SMOFers would be in the dark as to who was getting a rocket, and that simply can't be digested, it seems. It wasn't done that way when Heinlein won, and so, it seems, we can never make things better.

This is a call to everyone who arrived at their first Worldcon and was laughed at for looking for the ballot box. We've come so far socially in the years since the first Worldcons, can we please advance with science now, as well?

For the love of Asimov, only 567 votes were tallied for Best Novel this year, despite Worldcon having over 6000 members. Stop the bloody madness! Until you do, SMOFers, the Hugo will not posses the validity it ought have. It is not the voice of the people; The Locus Award is.

------------------

The Hugo Award presentations began with an amusing skit between Robert Silverberg and Toastmaster Connie Willis. Amusing at first, that is, but quickly tired and incredibly overlong. (It's Saturday night at Worldcon, people! There are parties to attend!)

Forrest J. Ackerman was recognized for his contributions to fandom by not only winning the Big Heart Award, but having it renamed in his honor. (Who decides this, SMOFers? Not that Forrie is undeserving -- he most certainly is -- but I don't recall being asked my opinion, despite my so-called 'membership.')

That brings us to the other special recognition award recipient, Harlan Ellison. While I find it incredibly amusing that the two people LACon IV decided to honor absolutely loathe each other, I need to ask just what the hell Harlan Ellison has done in the past 20 years to deserve any recognition whatsoever? Is being the rudest asshole in the history of the community truly an award-worthy accomplishment? Is making him a bloody Grandmaster not enough? (And have we truly run so low on august personages that we ought to make a man who is most famous for editing an anthology a grandmaster of Science Fiction?)

So anyway, Harlan Ellison. It's no secret that Ellison sexually assaulted Connie Willis on stage at the Hugo ceremony; there has been much ado about it. Everything that need be said about it has already been said by far greater minds than mine, and so I will leave it at that. (Though I'd like to point out Nick Mamatas's offer to fly to the next convention to squeeze the evil midgets' man-titties, simply for comedic value.)

What has not been mentioned, in the wake of the assault, is his liberal use of the 'N' word in his panel on Saturday. (Yes, I'll refrain from its use here. I see no reason, as you all know which word I refer to.) I've also not heard tell of his calling the elderly widow of Robert A. Heinlein a 'fucking bitch' during his award acceptance speech. She had said, most likely as a result of his abuse, that although Ellison had more Hugo Awards than her late husband, Heinlein had the 'big ones;' the Best Novel Hugo's, and they were far more important.

I'm just gonna throw this out there, people. Harlan Ellison is not worth having to deal with Harlan Ellison. His work is not that good, and never fucking has been. Sure, he was important during the New Wave, but not remotely as influential as Michael Moorcock. He was edgy and experimental, but not to the level of J.G. Ballard and Samuel R. Delany. He, HE, is simply not worthy of our time or notice anymore, if he ever truly was. His output since the 70's is worthless, and the time spent reading it is time wasted. The only tome bearing his name that can be called required reading is Dangerous Visions, a wonderful anthology featuring the work of far better writers than himself. Yet we as a community allow ourselves to be repeatedly shat upon by a known liar, bully, and now sexual predator. I will never again attend a convention that has Ellison as a member, and those of any conscience ought not either.

Oh, and Harlan, the Best Short Story Hugo is nice and all, but Best Novel is all that anyone ever remembers. Sorry, but Virginia was right, and Robert was so much more important than you, that your attacks are the ramblings of a bitter old man who couldn't and didn't and now never will. I truly hope I've had my last dangerous vision of you.

--------------------

The Winners:

The Campbell Award for best new writer was awarded to John Scalzi. Congrats to John Scalzi.

The Best Artist Hugo went to Donato Giancola. Though my vote went to John Picacio, and I truly believe he deserved to win, Donato is well and truly worthy of this award. As Picacio magnanimously told me later on, Giancola has earned it. Any awarding other than to one of these two artists would have been a monumental travesty, and I am glad that Donato finally received his Hugo.

The Best Editor Hugo, or as I like to call it, The Editor Whom I'd Most Like To Buy My Craptacular Fanfic For his Magazine/Anthology Pretty, Pretty Please, I Voted For You For A Hugo, Doesn't That Count For Something, Even Though I Have No Idea What You Actually Do To A Story Other Than Buy It And So This Award Is Worth Less Than Best Dressed In My High School Yearbook went to the second biggest asshole of the night, David G. Hartwell. After receiving this *ahem* award that no one in fandom has any right to vote on unless they've had a book/story edited by each and every editor on the nominee list, Hartwell took the stage and began to preach a wonderful assertion that the late Jim Baen ought to be the recipient of this award next year, because he deserved it. However, this large-hearted plea was negated trifold by Hartwell's attack on the deceased: "Though he'd never do the same for me."

How in the hell Hartwell presumes to know just exactly what Baen would do in the event of Hartwell's death is beyond my ability to fathom. Good thing for David that Ellison was present, for if not, this classless tripe would have been the talk of the evening. Between Hartwell and Frenkel, you sure have some beauties, TOR.

The Hugo for Best Dramatic Short went to the unwatchable and laughable Dr. Who. At this point I realize that this particular membership has taste in their ass, and I'm feeling gloomy at the prospects of the remaining awards. I mean, Battlestar Galactica, people! Intelligent television, and one of their best episodes, no less. I should not have been surprised; after all, this is the crowd that supported Star Trek for decades and let Firefly fail in a single season.

The Hugo For Best Dramatic Long went to Serenity, and this was the only award in which my vote went to the winner.

The Hugo For Best Related Book went to Kate Wilhelm. I have no opinion, as I do not read related books.

The Best Short Story Hugo was won by David D. Levine for "Tk'tk'tk," or as I referred to it later that evening in my post-Hugo rant, "Suck'Suck'Suck." I mean, it was better than the Burstein and the Resnick, but against Margo Lanagan? "Singing My Sister Down" was one of the most moving fantasy short stories ever penned. What a travesty. Read it now.

The Best Novellette Hugo went to Peter S. Beagle, the anti-Ellison. One of the nicest men you could ever hope to meet, and an absolutely incredible author. He buried his mother just a few short hours after receiving this award. My heart and thoughts go out to him.

The Best Novella Hugo went to Connie Willis in an incredibly tight race with Kelly Link. Link's story was better, but Willis was the Guest of Honor for this particular convention, and so this was foreseeable, if regrettable. As Willis never had to leave her place as Master of Ceremonies to accept the award, it crossed my mind that she ought to have removed herself from the running, but what is, is. "The Inside Job" is not a bad story, it's just not "Magic For Beginners". (But then, not much is.)

And on to the 'Big One.' (Apologies, Harlan.) The Hugo Award for Best Novel went, deservedly, to Spin by Robert Charles Wilson. (Something I foresaw back in April. Go ahead, look.)

Spin is an excellent novel, and I am glad in many ways that it won. On the other hand, I was incredibly distraught that my friend George did not. This is personal bias rearing it's ugly head, true, but I so wanted to carry him proudly back to his awaiting party, rocketship in hand. He finished fifth of five in the results, and this is what upset my applecart.

Is this the backlash against fantasy we've all been expecting for years now from the SF community? Is it due to A Feast For Crows being the fourth book in a series? I simply don't know, but both theories hold at least some water. Will it be Martin's seventh and final novel that wins the award, a la Peter Jackson's Lord of The Rings movie trilogy? I do not know.

What I do know is that Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series is a pinnacle of speculative fiction; the absolute height to which epic fantasy has thus far brought us; far surpassing the work of Tolkein, Moorcock, Vance, Donaldson, Feist, Williams, and Jordan. It would be criminal if it were not to win the best novel Hugo at some point. But I digress.

Spin contains everything that is good about Science Fiction. I am not, nor will ever claim that a deserving book was not the recipient. Kudos to Wilson; I eagerly await his next.

The ceremony took just over two hours. After which, I returned to my fellowship, the Brotherhood Without Banners, and drank quite heavily. But that, as they say, is another story.


Post Script:

At one point, Robert Silverberg quoted an old George R.R. Martin speech in which Martin stated that his lack of the 'big one' (Best Novel Hugo) was the reason why Joe Haldeman always had the pretty girls around him and Martin, regrettably, never did.

Silverberg ought to have checked his facts, for it seems, as Martin has no doubt learned, that it is not the 'big one' that attracts the girls, but a monumental epic fantasy series. This picture was taken a few hours after the Hugo Awards. I imagine George will survive.

Comments on "The Hugo Awards 2006: In Depth"

 

Blogger Ran said ... (2:02 AM) : 

You forgot Betty Ballantine's special award, as well.

I think I agree with your first points regarding the membership of the con and the fact that some half of the attendees(? I'm taking it on trust that that is accurate) don't actually purchase memberships until after the cut-off date for voting.

As to Ellison, I think you're pretty much dead wrong about his importance in the field or his being deserving of recognition. So perhaps he's not done anything absolutely fantastic in the last 20 years (though I'd beg to differ -- Mefisto in Onyx was a gripping read, and its only 13 years old) -- what of it? Forrey Ackerman and Betty Ballantine haven't done much of note in the last twenty years, either, and I don't see a reason to complain about it. They deserve awards for their lasting contributions to the field, much as Ellison has.

Re: his remark concerning Ginny Heinlein, I don't care to speculate on the circumstances. The way he tells it makes it sound like she was rude to him first -- and to be utterly honest, from what I recall reading about her, she was a tough-minded woman who could very easily be rude to a whippersnapper she felt needed being put in place. Perhaps he instigated it, though.

Re: n-word, missed those remarks, as I missed the first few minutes and then left before the hour was done (though I gather he went on even longer than that?) I don't hold that the repetition of the word is necessarily a problem. What was the context?

Anyways, I'm not up to arguing, really. Mileage varies and all, but I think Ellison's position is pretty secure. The very long line for his signing, and the quite full crowd for his rant session, proves that.

 

Blogger Ed S. said ... (2:18 AM) : 

You seem to have come back from Anaheim rather bitter and angry. Are we off our meds?

As far as the Hugo voting is concerned I'm not sure how 6000 people voting on works many of them maybe haven't read is any improvement on the current situation.

In fairness to Ellison he has offered an absolute public apology (and has tried to get hold of Willis to apologize in person) and makes no excuses for his behavior although this probably doesn't really cut it. I do think your criticism of his writings and their influence is completely unjustified even if he hasn't done much in decades.

 

Anonymous Chataya said ... (8:35 AM) : 

Stego - spot on. Good reporting job.

 

Blogger Race said ... (9:45 AM) : 

I rather enjoyed the ceremonies myself.

Ellison is a total prick, but he amuses me at least.

I'll get to my write up probably this weekend.

 

Anonymous Xray the Enforcer said ... (10:49 AM) : 

Excellent report, William.

I was gobsmacked at the majority of the awards, most viciously by the Dr. Who win over BSG. As I said elsewhere, that's like claiming a McDonald's hamburger is the superior meat to a dry-aged steak. To me, this completely typifies the ossified nature of SF fandom -- fans so riddled with nostalgia that they cannot accept when something moves past them.

Of the others, Singing My Sister Down was the biggest loss of the evening. I was, in general, totally unimpressed with any of the nominees in most categories -- but this short story was one that stood out in excellence. That it did not win, well, what a goddamned shame.

Spin. You know how I feel about that book. I guess I can say that I'm glad it won over certain other entries, but I don't think it was the best of the bunch.

I wasn't at the awards ceremony (busy slinging drinks at that point), but I am disgusted by the reports of Ellison's behavior, and I'm glad that you (and others) have come out against that shit. It's 200-freakin'-6, and Harlan can't seem to hang around a woman without molesting her? And the Con organizers couldn't stand up to principles and have that jackass escorted out by security? It's an embarrassment. A note to future Con organizers: If you are going to invite a known asshole to your event, you better make sure you can handle him. It is not OK to just let it slide, because when you do, it means you tacitly condone that behavior. Is this the message you want to send to your revenue stream?

Quite honestly, I would never attend another WorldCon if it weren't for the BwB. The voting system blows (as you ably dissected), the selection of panelists disregards some of the best spec fic writers today in favor of those coasting on their decades-old laurels, and the Con organizers didn't give Ellison the public beatdown he deserved. It's a shame to see such a great opportunity to expand and integrate various factions of fandom squandered.

 

Anonymous Odie said ... (11:05 AM) : 

Not that I'm surprised, but I totally missed the groping thing... I thought the ceremony was amusing, but yes, the gags did get old.

Now if only the BwB would get as organized and as dedicated as the Browncoats, we may not have to have this conversation again. Then again, the BwB doesn't have desparation and an eternal black hold of a future to lookforward to, so there's no REASON to be THAT fanatical. But if you look at the final vote count for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (or whatever it's called specifically) Serenity simply bulldozed the other nomininees. C'mon people!

The only things I voted for, besides best artist because I could look up their works rather easily, was Best Novel and Best Dramatic Long. But I VOTED.

Another way the Hugos have not kept up with the times... There's like, what, 3 catagories of short stories, but nothing about Best Fan Website? And what the bloody bloomin' hell is a semiprozine?? You worry that you're not attracting any of the young croud to your conventions, and then you alienate them at every turn. But that's the subject for an entirely different rant.

 

Blogger Ran said ... (11:53 AM) : 

Regarding the categories, a website one once ran as a special category in a previous Worldcon (was it Torcon? Philcon? ConJose?), which is the right of any Worldcon to do. But it never got ratified as an official category. To do that, people who are members of a current Worldcon have to propose it at the business meeting (I think). I think its important to realize that members of cons _are_ the constituency who decides how the Hugos will be run from year to year -- they just need to show up and argue their points, and win allies.

Admittedly, it helps if you're an author or editor or a SMOF, to get changes made. There are a lot of parliamentary tactics and the like that need to be learned, because just because you have a good idea doesn't mean everyone else will agree. But in the end, if something's missing that really should be on there, its because no one has managed to put up enough of a fight for it.

Re: Ellison, he has apologized rather completely -- it was totally wrong of him, etc., etc. The thing is, such behavior is _not_ the norm -- his persona may be that of an asshole who insults everyone, but no one has ever accused him of sexual assault, as far as I'm aware. So, while they are aware of his foibles, not only did they give him an award, but they had no reason to forsee this particular furor.

 

Blogger Mirtika said ... (1:45 PM) : 

As someone who's been a fan of Ellison's writing (and have shelves full of his books, oldest and newest), I have to disagree with your analysis that he doesn't matter.

And as someone who's read a lot of this guy's essays and interviews, I've always assumed he was a rude, self-obsessed ass. I frankly can't figure how his wife tolerates the jerk. But, someone for everyone, as my sis says. He's interesting because he is so odd and furious and outrageous. But what is fascinating to read about is not what one may want to actually have congress with in real life.

I wouldn't go near the man for 10, 000 smackeroos. And I could use it for a new car about now.

As far as changing the voting rules...well, you like stress, huh? I'm all for extending deadlines to include as many folk sas possible, but the on the spot voting thing with the subsequent rushing around to create name plates for at-the-con tabulated winners--EGADS! Are you going to organize that yourself? Unless fandom has a cadre of super-organized, sweet-tempered system engineers ready to plot that out and train volunteers, it sounds like a major pain in the keister and disaster waiting to happen. Technology is one thing; last-minute doing-of-stuff by beleaguered volunteers is another.

And, btw, back to HE: any man who calls a fellow writer's widow a "bitch" is a truly lousy human being, period. Well, unless she's, like,actually a female dog. There is a good argument for old-fashioned courtesy and civility. Harlan gets such a kick out of being a troublemaker, that he forgets that what may be excusable and amusing in a young, angry man is pathetic and repulsive in an old man who should know way, way better.

I also want to disagree that the novel Hugo is the big one. Each literary form has its merit. I do remember some short story Hugo winners, and I look for each year's winners to be announced. I even post links on my blog for folks to go read nominees--one of the benefits of the short form that we can't get from the long. Free reading online pre-voting. Willis and Ellison themselves (and Ford and Chiang and Yolen and Wolfe and Tiptree and etc) are proof, imo, that the short form can be quite powerful and memorable--and much mroe easily re-read and enjoyed than the novel form. Okay, so I really like the short form. :)

Mir

 

Blogger William Lexner said ... (5:26 PM) : 

It wouldn't have been as interesting to read if it weren't in Ellisonesque rant form, would it?

Harlan Ellison was once a wonderful short story writer. I admit it.

Short stories are also wonderful in and of themselves. Some of the best work in SF and Fantasy in the past few years have been in the short form. I did not intend to demean it as a form. However, the novels, by and large, are what go down in history. Bradbury's best work was in the short form, but people remember Fahrenheit 451.

 

Anonymous Werthead said ... (5:47 PM) : 

Great analysis, Stego. I've always held Ellison to be somewhat overrated, more famous for writing an episode of Star Trek 40 years ago (that was nearly totally rewritten by others) and going about 35 years over-deadline on an anthology, than for much else. Some of his old stories were pretty good though, from what I remember. Spin dropped through my letterbox today and I'm looking forward to that. As for BSG vs Doctor Who: BSG should have won, no doubt. The new Who is a kid's programme, arguably far more of a kid's programme than the old series ever was, and isn't really able to stand up to an adult drama like BSG in a direct comparison. At least the (relatively) strongest episode won: the Dalek one was downright embarrassing.

 

Blogger Mirtika said ... (5:51 PM) : 

Do they? I remember Martian Chronicles, first and foremost. Stories--related, sure, but stories. "Night Meeting" still persists as a haunting reading experience. :)

Maybe they remember F 451 cause it's read in schools? The movie?

Mir

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (12:14 AM) : 

...despite the fact that half of a Worldcon's memberships are purchased at the door.

Where did you get that idea? I don't have access to the detailed figures for L.A.con IV, but for ConJose, the Worldcon I co-chaired, the number of at-the-door members was closer to 10%, and that's pretty typical. Who told you that half the members join at the door? Where's your data backing up that assertion?

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (12:16 AM) : 

With the technological ability of our modern society, how hard would it be to begin and end the voting at the event in which the awards are presented?

What an interesting idea? When are you going to bid for a Worldcon with this as one of your proposed New Ideas? I look forward to the Vote for So-and-So Parties (like the current bid parties for Worldcon sites) at the con. I'm sure it will make the process much better.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (12:22 AM) : 

Make up engraved plates for all of the nominees.

Aside from quitupling the cost of engraving the trophies, and thoroughly increasing the chance that the wrong name would be announced and/or put on the trophies (the wrong name was announced in one category in 1992, you know), this isn't that difficult. Admittedly, the cost of the extra plates wouldn't be really that much out of a Worldcon's $1 Million budget, but there would be something else cut to make room for it, because while only about 10% of the members join at the door, they make up more than 10% of the budget.

But such advances would mean that even the (gasp!) SMOFers would be in the dark as to who was getting a rocket,...

Now you're getting me angry. Are you asserting that a significant number of people know in advance the results of the Hugo Awards? You're wrong. Dead wrong. These results are kept very confidential, and on a need-to-know basis. Heck, I was one of the administrators in 1993, and decided that I didn't really need to know what the results were.

If you really think this information is widely disseminated, you know nothing whatsoever about how Worldcons run in this area. I do. Intimately. You're attacking the integrity of some people who work very hard for very little appreciateion, and then get stuff like this piled on them. You owe them an apology.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (12:26 AM) : 

This is a call to everyone who arrived at their first Worldcon and was laughed at for looking for the ballot box.

Okay, congratulations. You've managed to attract the attention of the Chairman of next year's WSFS Business Meeting. If you really think that this should happen, when am I going to see you propose it? You'll need two consecutive WSFS Business Meetings vote to require voting be held on-site or even at the ceremony the way you seem to want it to happen. I'll help you draft the wording. But you're the one who will have to get the Business Meeting to vote for it. That's not my business.

Every important change in Worldcon and WSFS has happened because individuals stood up and made it happen. None of them have happened by people sitting back and complaining about things about which they have little knowledge.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (12:34 AM) : 

Forrest J. Ackerman was recognized for his contributions to fandom by not only winning the Big Heart Award, but having it renamed in his honor. (Who decides this, SMOFers? Not that Forrie is undeserving -- he most certainly is -- but I don't recall being asked my opinion, despite my so-called 'membership.')

The Big Heart Award is not presented through WSFS. It is presented by First Fandom, I think. (To be honest, I don't know the specifics of the administration of this award.) None of the awards prior to the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Author are selected by the membership. Worldcons simply allow other groups to present their awards as part of the Hugo Award Ceremony. the Campbell and the Hugo Awards are administered by a system that is documented and public in the WSFS Constitution, which anyone can read and which any member of WSFS may propose amendments to.

Is it easy to change the WSFS Constitution? Of course not. It's not supposed to be easy to change a society's constitution. You have to convince a lot of people that the change is necessary.

Just out of curiousity, how did you come up with the name "SMOFers"? The term -- which isn't really secret, you know -- would be "SMOFs." And how can it really be secret when there is an annual convention about conrunning called SMOFCon and when there are handouts at the WSFS Business Meeting telling you how to subscribe to the SMOFS e-mail list, where many changes to WSFS rules (such as the Best Professional Editor split ratified this year and the Best Professional Artist changes given first passage this year) are discussed.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (12:46 AM) : 

Ran said...

Regarding the categories, a website one once ran as a special category in a previous Worldcon (was it Torcon? Philcon? ConJose?)

Twice, actually. Once in 2002 at ConJose and again in 2005 at Interaction.

But it never got ratified as an official category.

You mean "permanent" category, since the Special Categories each Worldcon are allowed to add are just as much Hugo Awards as the permenent ones.

But in fact, nobody has set actually submitted an amendment to the WSFS Constitution proposing to create categories for web sites. WSFS set up a "Digital Wilderness Committee" last year to propose changes, but little came out of it this year and they were told to go back and try again.

There is a good chance that the existing Fanzine and Semiprozine categories could be broadened to include web sites within their identities.


To do that, people who are members of a current Worldcon have to propose it at the business meeting (I think).

That is absolutely correct. I chaired this year's meeting and will be chairing next year's meeting. I work very hard to try and help people who want to propose things get them into the proper form and to explain to them how the procedure works. It's open to any member who wants to participate, but that doesn't mean it's easy. It's not supposed to be easy. You have to convince enough members (in two consecutive years) that the change is worthwhile, and that means persuading people to turn up and vote.

I think its important to realize that members of cons _are_ the constituency who decides how the Hugos will be run from year to year -- they just need to show up and argue their points, and win allies.

You are absolutely right. Only a couple hundred people attend the meeting, out of around 5000 or so eligible. Just like with mundane politics, the rest of the members who don't vote have less grounds for complaint, in my opinion.


Admittedly, it helps if you're an author or editor or a SMOF, to get changes made.

But that's only because they are more likely to be able to persuade others, not because of anything intrinsic about their positions.


There are a lot of parliamentary tactics and the like that need to be learned, because just because you have a good idea doesn't mean everyone else will agree. But in the end, if something's missing that really should be on there, its because no one has managed to put up enough of a fight for it.

Absolutely! Well said! And again, as Chairman of the Business Meeting, I really will help people draft proposals and explain to them the complexities of negotiating the Business Meeting. I just won't go get them votes -- that's their job.

 

Anonymous Scott Lynch said ... (2:24 AM) : 

For my money, Again, Dangerous Visions is an even better anthology than the first DE. It's so very, very worth reading. Anyhow, as to what you wrote:

I should not have been surprised; after all, this is the crowd that supported Star Trek for decades and let Firefly fail in a single season.

That's an unfair comment, William. The idea that fandom "let" Firefly fail is... okay, respectfully, it's nuts. Fandom in general busted its ass for that show, to the utmost extent of its influence. Fox is responsible for fucking up Firefly; they're the ones who juggled its schedule wildly, backed it half-heartedly, and failed to even show the pilot episode before all the others. They never gave the show any chance to pull in consistent ratings and evolve a customary timeslot, and then they pulled it before even the tiny season they'd authorized was finished running.

Any genre TV series attracts a viewing audience that is several orders of magnitude larger than its organized fandom. In order to hook that general audience and the ratings they bring, a network needs to behave... well, pretty much unlike anything done concerning Firefly.

Fox cut the show off at the knees before it even debuted, and then shot it in the head for not meeting a minimum height requirement. It wasn't us.

 

Anonymous mormont said ... (9:32 AM) : 

Kevin - with the greatest respect, your answer to Stego is only half an answer. Saying 'well, why don't you propose it? Here's how' comes off as defensive, I'm afraid.

His question is not just 'why isn't it done this way?' but 'why has nobody ever thought of it before?', and I think it's the second part of that which is really important, because of the implications of that.

The issue is not so much that there's something wrong with how things are done, but that none of the organisers seem to have noticed the problem or if they did, didn't address it. That could be seen as a symptomatic problem, and I think that's Stego's main issue.

I've worked in institutions where the constitution becomes sclerotic as well as ones where it changes so easily any passing crackpot can hijack it. Both suck. I don't know enough about WorldCon to say whether the former is the case for it, but it does seem to me an important thing to think about.

It's up to individuals to make changes, yes, but you can't depend on change coming from outside, particularly if (as I heard many people commenting) the interest from younger people is dwindling. You need to also notice and react to change from within.

I agree with X-ray that the selection of the panellists seemed odd sometimes, and the training of the panel chairs was poor too - some (Simon R Green, for example) neglected their responsibilities completely in favour of telling rambling anecdotes of their own.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (11:05 AM) : 

mormont said...

His question is not just 'why isn't it done this way?' but 'why has nobody ever thought of it before?'

What makes you (or him) think it has not been thought of?

Those people who have to do the work to make the convention happen have decided that the amount of convention resources it would take to make something like this happen are better spent on other parts of the convention. (Resources include money and volunteer time.)

These people are not stupid, nor do they sit around thinking, "What can we do to exclude lots of people from participating in the event?" Anyone who thinks that's happening has a pretty big axe to grind.

What I'm saying is that if you are so convinced that you are right, then you should get out there and do it yourself. Heck, that's why I became a conrunner myself!

The issue is not so much that there's something wrong with how things are done, but that none of the organisers seem to have noticed the problem or if they did, didn't address it.

It really seems to me that his main problem is "The Hugo Awards don't exclusively reflect my personal tastes, and therefore they are Wrong. They should only select those things that I want, and if they don't, they're obviously being subverted by Evil SMOFs -- there being no other kind, naturally."

That could be seen as a symptomatic problem, and I think that's Stego's main issue.

Worldcons are run by the people who make the effort -- and it's not a small one -- to run them. If you want them to change, you have to change them yourself. After having been on the bid and operating committees for a couple of them, including co-Chairing the 2002 event, I know from the inside how much work they are.

And I seriously doubt that "not being able to vote on the Hugo Awards by electronic device at the Hugo Awards Ceremony" had much of an impact on younger people attending the convention. Younger fans are, overall, going to events that cost less and seem more popular, like Comicon, Dragon*Con, and the massively popular anime conventions like the 25,000-person Anime Expo that was held in the same venue as this year's Worldcon eight weeks earlier.

...the interest from younger people is dwindling.

For all that I love the Worldcon, and have been attending continuously since 1989, I don't think it's something that younger fans really are going to be interested in, and I think the biggest single barrier is the cost, which is increasing at approximately 2x inflation. (It cost me $75 to buy an at the door membership at my first Worldcon, Anaheim in 1984; that's about $125 today.) And the cost is not easy to keep down without stripping away what a Worldcon has become. You could hold it in one place every year -- probably a big metro area like Los Angeles -- and work on growing it that way, and it would turn into Dragon*Con West, but it would stop being Worldcon.

I've worked in institutions where the constitution becomes sclerotic as well as ones where it changes so easily any passing crackpot can hijack it. Both suck. I don't know enough about WorldCon to say whether the former is the case for it, but it does seem to me an important thing to think about.

And think -- and talk -- about it we do, a lot. There's an entire mailing list whose primary focus is talking about WSFS Constitutional Changes. One has to be interested in the subject, and willing to participate in the debate, however, and many people are put off by having to do so. WSFS is a direct democracy: you don't elect representaives or sign petitions or vote by mail. You represent yourself. You have to show up and vote. You have to take personal responsibility for your own actions.

The way you amend the WSFS Constitution is to convince two consecutive WSFS Business Meetings that your change is a good idea. It doesn't even need a two-thirds vote, just simply majorities -- but it has to be two years in a row. I think this is a good compromise. Any change that is really worth doing is going to be worth doing as much in Yokohama as it is in Anaheim.

And the constitution has changed over time. For example, we now have two categories for dramatic presentations, rather than one. Getting that change took many years of debate. It takes time to convince enough people of the validity of change.

Basically what I'm saying is that democracy is hard work. When I want things to change on a Worldcon, I go out there and work on changing them. I don't just sit back and say that other people should make changes to suit me.

Besides, if he tried doing the work, he might discover why nobody else has tried it. It's not easy to explain something to someone who is convinced that it's only due to hidebound conservative SMOFS trying to disenfranchise poor helpless fans. Maybe if he spent some time beating his head against that wall like we've been doing, he'd learn that it was hard.

 

Blogger John C. Wright said ... (12:05 PM) : 

I met Mr. Ellison shortly during the Nebula awards, where he merely greeted me, a total stranger, by a string of random insults, like the grinning ravings of a drunk. There is no point in being angry with this sad little man: it is a shtick, an act, something he does to get attention and be amusing. He does not mean it any more than Moe Howard is actually the vicious character he plays in the funnies.

My guess? Mr. Ellison does it to be cool. He is retarded in the 1968 frame of mind where bad manners were the ne plus ultra of being cool and defying the establishment.

Ellison, during his speech at the Nebulas, admitted that he lacked character and regrets much in his life. He is old enough to hear the wings of the angel of death, and he knows he should be a better man: but he has not the strength of character to pull himself up by his bootstraps. Irreligious, he has chopped down the ladder by which one climbs out of such oubliettes one digs for oneself in life.

Now that the Boomers are the establishment, they do not know what to do with themselves. What does an iconoclast do once all the stain glass window and ivory statues are shattered rubbish?

I agree with you that editing one anthology, famous when we were children, does not merit any lavish praise. I cannot recall even one short story of his that I read that seemed to have any point, aside from an expression of anger.

REPENT, HARLEQUIN SAID THE TICKTOCKMAN and I HAVE NO MOUTH, AND I MUST SCREAM and ADRIFT JUST OFF THE ISLETS OF LANGERHANS: LATITUDE 38° 54' N, LONGITUDE 77° 00' 13" W and BEAST THAT SHOUTED LOVE AT THE HEART OF THE WORLD are simply not to my taste. They are ugly stories, cynical and wearisome. Indeed, my fingers grow weary merely typing the pretentious, wordy titles of these short stories. Does anyone remember a moment of romance, love, friendship, courage, benevolence, in a Harlan Ellison story? Is there found in them any character who is a good neighbor, a solid friend, stands for a principle, says a prayer, saves the day? Is there any good in them? I am not saying the ugly little stories are without art: But I say it takes far less art to carve a gargoyle than it does to sculpt an angel.

Contrast the beauties and humor and heartbreak of THE LAST UNICORN by Peter S Beagle with all the forgettable characters in Mr. Ellison's short stories.

Peter S Beagle was also at the Nebula, and he is a kind-hearted man. Let all writers dedicate ourselves to the Beagle standard and avoid the cheap gimmick of a Harlan shtick.

 

Blogger Mirtika said ... (12:44 PM) : 

Hi, John. Nice to "see" you.

One story came immediately to mind: "In Lonely Lands." Frienship.

"Jeffty Is Five": The narrator has had genuine friendship and affection for the miracle boy who doesn't age, and feels regret for failing the boy, even as he feels compassion for the stricken parents.

"Shatterday": A better man takes a lesser man's place, showing that we dont' always deserve what we have if we act like jerks.

"Count the Clock That Tells The Time." The saving grace of human contact and love.

"Paladin of the Lost Hour": Love and friendship both, and mercy.

I think part of the appeal of the stories is that there is this rage and loneliness and other negative emotions put in story context. The sins of humanity are on display, without facade. And sometimes, a shining moment.

Ellison's failure is that he KNOWS what it is to be better, but chooses to be worse.

Oh, and Mr. Standlee: Thank you for those insights into the business side. Wow.

Mir

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (3:43 PM) : 

Oh, and Mr. Standlee: Thank you for those insights into the business side. Wow.

Thank you. I know I came on a bit strongly there, but when people make baseless accusations about the legitimacy of the process, I do get angry. Complaining that the results don't match your own first-preference votes is a matter of taste that I try to avoid arguing; saying that because they don't match my taste, the process is corrupt is entirely different.

What I hope people understand is that change has to come from the individuals involved. You have to get out there and do the work yourself, not just sit and complain. I attended my first SF con -- L.A.con II -- in 1984, and turned eighteen years old during the convention. I have never forgotten the sensawunda of that experience, even though I am now forty-one. Yes, I want people to be included. I work like crazy to give them reasonable opportunities to do so. I will explain any part of the process to anyone willing to sit still and listen. In fact, my fellow SMOFs have been known to complain at me for "talking too much" when I preside over the WSFS Business Meeting, because I tend to aim at those people who are not familiar with procedure, and if you are familiar with it, hearing things explained in detail gets a little tiresome. But I'd rather err on the side of over-explaining than mystifying people with procedural smoke and mirrors.

And it's not impossible to make a difference. In 1984, I attended the WSFS Business Meeting at that first Worldcon of mine. My sole contribution was to move the adjournment of the Preliminary Business Meeting. Eleven years later, I was chairing the meeting, and over time, I have been involved in making a number of significant changes in WSFS, I think.

But it takes effort. Everything worthwile does.

 

Blogger Laurie said ... (3:55 PM) : 

SMOFFers??

I've been in fandom for over 30 years and never heard that word before!

There's a discussion about Hugo voting in almost every progress report the Worldcon does; I'm kind of astonished that you may never have read any of that information since you do seem to vote.

I generally agree with your comments on Ellison, however.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:57 PM) : 

I guess some version of iconoclasm will always be popular, but you have several very important facts wrong in ways that are easily verifiable from public sources. It tends to spoil the effect.

The percentage of memberships purchased at-the-door for the Worldcon is generally closer to 10% than 50%. And the price schedule strongly encouarages purchasing early; if people choose to wait under those conditions, it's not the worldcon's fault!

And who won the awards is a *very* tightly held secret until it's announced at the ceremony. The people conducting the ceremony generally don't know until they open the envelope. Of course a *few* people know -- a person or two for vote counting, the engraver (usually somebody outside of fandom), and closer to the event, often the newsletter editor (so that a special edition can be ready to pick up as people leave the event). And that's about *it*.

And to do the flip-side of your rant on "new ideas" -- it's really annoying the 50th or so time some enthusiastic person with no actual experience suggests a "brilliant new idea" that's been tried and found disastrous multiple times over the last few decades. So, yeah, sometimes "brilliant new ideas" are blown off sarcastically, if the speaker happens to forget that he's representing all of science fiction fandom to a fragile newby at the time.

(I'm David Dyer-Bennet, but don't choose to establish a "blogger" account.)

 

Blogger Freebird said ... (5:45 PM) : 

I've read through the post and all of the comments to date and while part of me wants to say that Ellison wrote some great stories and had some interesting critiques and another part just wants to condemn the obnoxious old bastard for churlish behavior, in the end I'm just left shrugging and dropping him from my mind/sight.

But there's a greater problem for some of us, and I don't know if any tinkering with the mechanics of the WorldCons can 'cure' this anytime soon: reader apathy.

I'm 32 years old and have paid some attention to the awards and some of the 'industry' stuff for about 5 years now. But what I've noticed (and I don't believe I'm the only one) is that there's a sense that the finalists are rather "safe" choices, nothing more than solid "comfort" works that don't really challenge or show any innovation in style, story, plot, or characterization. Just simply solid works.

Many of us don't care for these and when we see the umpteenth novel or short story up for an award, it's sometimes hard to motivate oneself to give a damn enough to read it. I've read previous works by four of the five finalists for Best Novel, but I only bothered buying one because the previous efforts didn't inspire me to think that the authors had improved remarkably in the prose/storytelling departments.

So it's likely that many of us just shrug and move on...what is it in us to care if so-and-so wins a Hugo for the 10th time for Best ________? It's an award of, by, and for the generation ahead of mine. I'll just look at the results, ponder a little bit on their meanings, and then go look for another quirky, challenging first novel, like that of Vellum or City of Saints and Madmen.

Maybe I just want the MTV Video Music Awards (as they were back in the 1980s) instead of the Grammies. Sigh. Lord save us all for me having thought that!

 

Blogger William Lexner said ... (6:00 PM) : 

Ok, some points need to be made and some cleared up:

1. Scott Lynch and John C. Wright on my blog. *swoons*

2. Kevin, that's a lot of points, and some I have responded to on your LJ. I'm sorry I did not make it clear that my rant was intended to be Ellisonesque. I love conventions and everything about them. Worldcon, Boskone, Readercon, World Fantasy Con -- these are highlights of my year.

But I'm mad at the manner in which Ellison was allowed to act. I'm mad that despite attending a *lot* of conventions, I still did not see anywhere to vote for the next con bid. I go for the literature and not the politics. I go for the dealers room -- I'm a collector, and I go because I have many friends I can't wait to see.

I'm mad that no one voted, mostly, and a lot of my friends didn't bother to get their memberships until the last minute. I said 50% do, and I ought not have. I ought to have said 90% of the people I know and spoke to about it.

I fully intend to do just what you mention, and I look forward to seeing you at future con business meetings.

I also truly meant that people ought to be allowed to vote at the convention, not live at the show a la Love Connection or whatever.

3. Scott, yeah Firefly fans are not at fault. This was a bad point, an incorrect one, and it ought to be deleted. However, I will let it stand in posterity. I won't edit my mistakes.

4. I see Dangerous Visions as a franchise. I agree that Again, Dangerous Visions is a wonderful book.

5. I was tongue-in-cheek with the SMOFer thing. I love the term, and think it's hilarious. I do not believe there are secret masters of anything, but I do believe that a lot of horrible decisions are made by just a few people.

I did not mean to suggest that everyone who has been to 20 worldcons knows who will win. It was sarcasm.

 

Anonymous Rev. Dr. Christopher J. Garcia said ... (6:30 PM) : 

Let me throw a couple of coins in teh fountain.

No Awards go any closer to the date of presentation than say a week. You could do at the con voting (say the first or second days only) and then present blank Hugos that are shipped to the winner (the Oscars are blank when they are given out, as are Emmys) and that would also mean that the famous "How the Hell am I going to get this thing home?" issue would be skipped. Then again, there are a lot of problems with the idea too, and more cost to the con, something that is high enough as it is.

Doing it with At-Con voting isn't a terrible idea, but it does introduce problems. I'd hate to force Hugo admins to have to tally votes in less than 48 hours. It's not an easy task.

I seem to remember talking to someone at con who was with reg and they said they'd had fewer walk-ups than last time, whcih I remember being about 12% (I'll have to look it up, but I know I saw that number about a year after the 1996 version)

As for SMoFs knowing who won, that's ridiculous. I'm wondering where all this anti-SMoFish sentiment comes from
Chris

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (6:31 PM) : 

Hey, Stego, Janice here. Stephen just pointed me to your blog and looks like I found it at an interesting time!

A few quick notes:

* As Kevin says, some of your facts are incorrect about the Hugo voting process, the Big Heart award, etc. However, I wish he'd chosen a more constructive way to let you know this. I myself am glad that you are interested enough in the process and in worldcon procedures to at least want to propose ways you'd like to improve them, even if your first shot might not have been based on completely correct information.

* Personally, I'd generally rather stick a fork in my eye than attend a WSFS Business Meeting because it seems to me that the parliamentary process often gets in the way of what is obviously the desires of the meeting. However, despite the fact that Kevin's response was very defensive, I have to concur that if you talk to the people familiar with the labyrinthine processes, and with the history of attempts in whatever area you're trying to affect, they will indeed try to help you construct proposals in a way that is acceptable to the process.

For example, this year's Art Hugo proposal was originally drafted in such a way as to probably never pass but through prior online discussion and an amendment at the business meeting, it eventually was worded in a way that both accomplished the goals of the proposers and satisfied the people who had trouble with the original proposal.

* Regarding "SMOFfers," no reason for you to know this isn't the common construction but as other people have pointed out, just SMOF ("Secret Master of Fandom") is the usual term.

* Regarding the Best Novel Hugo, even George didn't expect to win this year. Plus, if you look at the first round of voting, he actually was third in people's first preferences and only dropped to fifth (which I must admit, he was pretty peeved about :-> ) when subsequent preferences in later rounds came into play. I strongly suspect that what we are seeing is a "Lord of the Rings" scenario in which the last work will be awarded The Big One as a tribute to the entire series.

* As for Ellison, I think his particularly appalling behavior during the Hugos (especially to Connie Willis, one of the nicest people in the field if not the country in general) was a result of needing to get the spotlight on himself due to feeling upstaged by the excellent job being done by Connie and Silverberg.

I've been ranting about him for years. I think that his behavior has changed from when I first knew him in the late 70s from "they expect it of me so I have to act outrageously" to "I am H*A*R*L*A*N E*L*L*I*S*O*N so I can do whatever the hell I want, the more outrageous the better." Whatever sense of proportion he used to have about his public persona in front of an audience versus his behavior as a human being appears to be gone or going. I don't think whatever talent and contributions he has/had and whatever benefit he brings to a convention is worth the abuse and unpredictability of a very high-profile loose cannon. I also hate to see committees fawn all over him when he never passes an opportunity to insult and denigrate fans and conventions.

* Finally, I hope that your problems with the Hugos and your latest worldcon experience won't deter you or the others in BWB from attending and participating in future worldcons. I know that many old-time fans tend to be crusty and set in our ways but many of us really do value the influx of young fans and new ideas. (Not to mention great parties :-> )

 

Blogger William Lexner said ... (6:51 PM) : 

Janice,

You can bet that I'll figure out how to vote for Australia. :)

Oh, and for the record, I had a wonderful time this past week. Literally one of the best times of my life.

 

Blogger William Lexner said ... (6:55 PM) : 

Rev. Dr. Chris:

I have no anti-SMOF sentiment. I have an anti-bullcrap sentiment.

Your points on the awards and engraving them -- I addressed them in the rant. Ridiculous. The Academy of Arts and Sciences is not an organization we ought to attempt to replicate.

It can be done, and it certainly ought to be done. And until it is, the Hugo is just a large juried award.

 

Blogger Neth said ... (7:10 PM) : 

Well, as someone who doesn't pay the rather large dues it takes to vote, I have to consider the Hugo nothing more than juried award regardless of when or how the voting is done.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (7:39 PM) : 

Neth said:

Well, as someone who doesn't pay the rather large dues it takes to vote, I have to consider the Hugo nothing more than juried award regardless of when or how the voting is done.

If you're already a member of the Worldcon, then you don't need to pay anything extra to vote for the Hugo Awards. Do you mean the cost (lately around $40) to be at least a Supporting member of a Worldcon? I'm not really going to defend that very heavily, although I could. How much would you consider it worth to be able to nominate and vote for the Hugo Awards? Would $10 for a "Hugo Voting Only" membership (no publications, not other rights, just pay $10 and vote) be too much for you?

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (7:45 PM) : 

William Lexner said:

I'm sorry I did not make it clear that my rant was intended to be Ellisonesque.

Ah, well, okay then. I'm sorry, but the humor didn't come across to me, and you pushed some of the hottest of my hot buttons when you appeared to be attacking the integrity of the administrators. I apologize for coming out with guns a-blazing.

And I can't think of anyone who can possibly defend Harlan's behavior. I didn't see it myself because I had to leave after BDP Short -- I was Executive Producer of two of the nominees; although I knew they had no chance of winning, I really wanted to see the awards through that point -- in order to go set up Match Game SF After Dark. I've heard all about it later. Whoo, boy, what an idiot.

Still, Connie handled it really well, including her follow-up at the Closing Ceremonies. Hooray for Connie Willis!

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (7:47 PM) : 

Janice wrote:

Personally, I'd generally rather stick a fork in my eye than attend a WSFS Business Meeting because it seems to me that the parliamentary process often gets in the way of what is obviously the desires of the meeting.

You obviously know how I stand, but I am genuninely interested: How would you structure the decision-making process? Do you have any alternatives that you think would work better?

No matter what people think about me, I am not utterly wedded to Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised. It's simply the manual of rules that the Society has selected to work under, and it's my job to enforce those rules.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:52 PM) : 

Kevin wrote: Do you mean the cost (lately around $40) to be at least a Supporting member of a Worldcon? I'm not really going to defend that very heavily, although I could. How much would you consider it worth to be able to nominate and vote for the Hugo Awards? Would $10 for a "Hugo Voting Only" membership (no publications, not other rights, just pay $10 and vote) be too much for you?

[Janice again] Allow me to rephrase this using a tact filter: "Many people have been discussing the fact that increasing the number of Hugo voters might be a good thing to attempt and some people have proposed a $10 "Hugo Voting Only" membership. Would that interest you? Do you think this would answer some of the problems people have with the voting process and value of the Hugo awards?"

 

Blogger JaniceG said ... (8:02 PM) : 

Kevin said
Janice wrote: Personally, I'd generally rather stick a fork in my eye than attend a WSFS Business Meeting because it seems to me that the parliamentary process often gets in the way of what is obviously the desires of the meeting.

You obviously know how I stand, but I am genuninely interested: How would you structure the decision-making process? Do you have any alternatives that you think would work better?

No matter what people think about me, I am not utterly wedded to Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised. It's simply the manual of rules that the Society has selected to work under, and it's my job to enforce those rules.


Nothing to do with whether it's Sturgis, Robert's, or Sauron's rules. It has more to do with everyone knowing what someone or the group is trying to accomplish but making them rephrase it three or four times or ruling it out of order because someone else hasn't done something first to make the second thing possible or so that it fits in whatever segment of the business meeting we happen to be inhabiting at the time. I agree that you need some format to run meetings but I'd just like to occasionally be able to bend or break the rules when it's clear what people want to do.

(I also don't want to turn this blog thread into a discussion on parliamentary procedure so why don't we leave this side discussion to antoher time?)

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (8:04 PM) : 

Regarding cost: I went and looked it up for ConJose, whose final budget and finanical statement I have, and based on their costs, to have made plaques for every possible nominee would have cost the convention approximately an additional $2600.

This is not an impossibly large sum of money relative to the convention's nearly $1 Million turnover, but I do know that, based on when financial decisions had to be made compared to when we knew money was available, having to commit an extra $2600 could have caused any of the following items to have been scratched:

Internet Lounge

Projection Display ("Big Screen" or "IMAG") at Major Events

15% of the Food and Beverage in the Con Suite (although we could have added that back in at-con if we knew we had the money -- F&B is one of the few places that bonus at-con money can be used)

One Guest of Honor

One block of Hilton hotel-based program rooms (and thus a track or two of programming)

(That's just picking out a few things that cost about the same and upon which we would have had to make decisions on which to do. Budgeting a giant one-shot event is very tricky.)

Much more difficult than you think is getting the votes entered. Yes, we use a computer program to count them -- you almost have to do so with Instant Runoff Voting on a ballot as long as that. But data entry is a pain. You want computers and networks and so forth to make it more user-friendly? That's a bunch of additional costs for equipment and even worse, the people points (staff time) you'll need to ride herd on it. And what about when it breaks? And it probably will break.

There are a lot of very tough issues you need to be willing to face to do such a radical change. You can't just wave your hands and say "Oh, it's on a computer, it will go much faster." I've seen committees do that without really thinking about what the practical implications were. The last time I saw this, it was 1991 in Chicago, when the site selection administrator said "we don't need to check voter eligibility until after the voting is done, because all of the records are on the computer." It ended up taking fourteen hours to count the ballots, less than two of which were spent actually counting the 2,107 ballots cast. The rest was spent looking up the voters to make sure they were eligible. (And incidentally, we found that having a paper printout of the membership database was much faster than using a computer.)

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (8:12 PM) : 

JaniceG said:

(I also don't want to turn this blog thread into a discussion on parliamentary procedure so why don't we leave this side discussion to antoher time?)

Any time, any place, you name it. Your LJ if you like. If I find time, I'll state my case on my own LJ.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:24 PM) : 

I don't want to get into a great debate but there are several issues over which we clearly disagree. Your point that "it's Saturday night at Worldcon" and "we have parties to attend" tells me you really aren't interested in the Hugos nor in their meaning to the nominees, the winners, and the voters.

There were parties going on for days prior to the Hugos. They continued that evening, long into the next morning. And parties the next night. If you can't spare two hours for the award ceremony, then why did you bother to go in the first place? Perhaps you'd rather we just hand everyone a list of the winners when they arrive? Making a fuss over the nominees and the winners is part of what makes the awards special.

The winners of the awards are not widely known before the ceremony. Barely even "narrowly" known. Until that day, there were only two people who knew who won the awards: the Hugo Administrator John Lorentz and me, head of the division overseeing the ceremony. Even Kathryn Daugherty, who ran the ceremony, didn't know the winners until shortly before the ceremony began. The only reason I knew was so that there was a back-up holder of the information in case of some bizarre emergency.

Craig Miller

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:27 PM) : 

I'm sorry; I meant to also include a question. Where did you come up with the idea that half of the membership joins at the door? That's certainly not the case for Worldcons.

Craig Miller

 

Blogger Patrick said ... (9:53 PM) : 

As a juried award with the sort of voting system that pretty much everyone don't really care for, is it any wonder that the Hugo doesn't mean squat outside the people who are "in the know" in the SFF circles???

And those probably comprise less than 10% of the readership. . .

Great post, William.:-)

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (10:09 PM) : 

Patrick said:

As a juried award with the sort of voting system that pretty much everyone don't really care for,...

What do you mean by that? What would you change about the system if you could?

 

Blogger Neth said ... (10:43 PM) : 

Would $10 for a "Hugo Voting Only" membership (no publications, not other rights, just pay $10 and vote) be too much for you?

To be honest, I haven't really thought about what cost would be too much for me. I realize that there are costs to everything, but my instinct is that any cost is too much. Look at this way, I have to pay for the privilege to vote - that just feel wrong. It is automatically exclusive. I also realize that it is impossible (and not entirely desirable) to 100% inclusive, but payment for voting rights just doesn't sit well for me.

As for costs for actually attending the con, well I think they are rather high as well, but I understand that it is necessary for them to be so. My comment was really limited to voting.

So, in summary, $10 still seems high to me. Ideally it would be $0. To be completely honest, even a reasonable adminstrative fee of a few dollars would probably be enough to cause me to not bother to vote.

 

Anonymous Lisa Hertel said ... (11:09 PM) : 

You want to influence the Hugos? Buy a supporting membership. You'll even get credit for it if you decide to join at-the-door. Buy it before January, and you'll even get to nominate--a far more influential group. True, it will cost a bit more than a tank of gas, but far less than a full membership.

Sometimes, computers do not make a job faster or better.

 

Anonymous GRRM said ... (1:16 AM) : 

I don't agree with everything Stego says here, but he does raise some interesting points.

The WSFS business meeting strikes me as being a very conservative institution, and deliberately so. I think Janice speaks for a lot of people when she says she would rather stick a fork in her eye than attend one. I've attended a few myself over the year (but only a few), and if there had been any forks handy I might be typing on a braille keyboard. The meetings I've attended have been long and tedious, and much taken up with parliamentary procedure... which may be necessary, but certainly isn't fun. They have also typically been scheduled early in the mornings, making attendance a bit of a challenge for those of us who have stayed up late the night before and perhaps imbibed a bit. Nor is the business meeting very well advertised.

None of this is objectionable, in and of itself, but all of it does tend to limit attendance. In my experience, two sorts of people attend the business meetings -- the SMOFs, who are there every year (some perhaps with a fork in one eye, but there nonetheless), and what we might call the "issue oriented attendees," who show up to vote on some particular hot button issue on that year's agenda.

The last two years have seen a number of professional SF editors and their friends at the business meeting. They were there solely to vote on splitting the Best Editor Hugo, an issue that meant a great deal to many of them. With one or two possible exceptions, I doubt that any of them will be back until that "sunset clause" kicks in and it is time to vote on the same issue again. A few years ago it was the issue of splitting Best Dramatic Presentation that drew people to the meeting. Some fervently supported that move and came to vote it in. Others (like me) opposed it, and came to try to defeat it (as at Aussiecon, the last business meeting I attended).

What is the average attendance at a business meeting, anyway? Pretty small, if I recall. We've bemoaned how few people bother to vote for the Hugos, but the Hugo vote is huge compared to the number of folks at the business meeting. It would actually be pretty easy to pack the business meeting, and I am surprised that more people haven't tried it. The man who finds a way to keep fifty of his friends sober the night before and get them up early enough in the morning could rule all fandom.

Of course, anyone wanting to pack the business meeting would have to do it TWICE. Changes made at one worldcon have to be ratified at the next, and that strikes me as a very good idea. Otherwise we would soon have fifty Hugos.

There are certainly advantages to keeping the business meetings small and, well, sort of exclusive. SMOFs are well versed in fandom and its traditions in ways that new attendees may not be, and may have a more informed persepective on some of these issues.

On the other hand, there is much to be said for greater participation as well. Just moving the business meeting to an early evening timeslot would greatly increase its size, I suspect. Since Saturday and Sunday are traditionally reserved for the Masquerade and Hugo Awards, maybe Friday would be a good night for the business meeting. Publicizing it more would help as well. Modern worldcons list "major events" separately from all the other panels and speeches -- shouldn't the business meeting be a major event?

And here's another idea that might make the process more representative -- let the whole membership have the opportunity to vote on proposed amendments and changes. You could keep the rule that two successive worldcons need to ratify any change, but broaden the franchise. Worldcon #1 passes a proposal, and that's step one. Then, the following year, any amendment that passed is sent out to the whole membership of worldcon #2, along with the Hugo and site selection ballots. So rather than having a second business meeting ratify the work of the previous one, all the members of both cons get to vote, in a referendum.

(I suspect that would actually make changes even harder to enact, but at least those that did pass would be popular changes).

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (3:55 AM) : 

GRRM said:

They have also typically been scheduled early in the mornings,...

Generally 10 AM - 1 PM. The first time I had jurisdiction over them, I tried moving them to Noon and got yelled at quite loudly. At Chicon 2000, they tried moving it to 8:30 AM and got yelled at even more loudly. It is now a standing rule (1.4) of WSFS that the Business Meeting must start between 10:00 and 13:00 local time.

Nor is the business meeting very well advertised.

There are articles about it in convention progress reports. There was a section for it in the Pocket Program (besides its own program item listings). Its papers take up a fairly hefty chunk of the Souvenir Book (yes, I know, nobody reads that until they get home; I had to use it as a reference document during the meeting). There are reports of the BM's actions in the con newsletter. There would have been a news item about it in the first issue of the con newsletter, but the editor mislaid it.

I don't mean to sound defensive, but if the Business Meeting tried to make any more noise about itself, it would be accused of trying to overwhelm the convention and blow its own horn excessively. I'm already presuming a great deal upon the the rest of the convention, which considers the BM a sideshow of little importance. (It's a pity IMO, becuase it's not only the body that controls the makeup of the Hugo Awards, but it can also be quite entertaining if you approach it in the right way.)

...it does tend to limit attendance.

That is true; usually only between 100 and 200 people bother to attend. I think we may have had more at the 1994 meeting at ConAdian, which had a low attendance, too, so the BM attendance was relatively large -- around 8% as I recall -- of the eligible electorate.


Just moving the business meeting to an early evening timeslot would greatly increase its size, I suspect.

I personally wouldn't object to this, but I can see Worldcon Heads of Programming having kittens -- no, lions -- at this thought of using up their evening prime-time programming with such "waste."


It would actually be pretty easy to pack the business meeting, and I am surprised that more people haven't tried it.

It has been done. The very fact that you have to do it two years running has so far kept any "runaway" changes from happening. And as far as I can tell, anyone wanting to try and pack a meeting also knows why it's nearly impossible to do it two years in a row, because even if the "pack" returns the following year, the opposition will have had enough time to muster a counter-pack.

There are a lot of people who don't regularly attend the Business Meeting but would show up if the word of "Constitutional Emergency: All Hands on Deck!" went out.

Ordinary societies (like those that meet more often than once a year) usually require advance notice of bylaw amendments and super-majorities to amend. WSFS manages the same net effect by allowing a simple majority, but requiring two readings of the motion in consecutive years.


And here's another idea that might make the process more representative -- let the whole membership have the opportunity to vote on proposed amendments and changes.

Personally, I've proposed variations of them (never as formal proposals to the Business Meeting), and they're political dead letters. You'd have to get the Business Meeting to vote away some of the very little authority they already have. There would be complaints that we're saddling Worldcon committees with additional administrative costs. And I think you're right that fewer things would get passed. However, I do agree with you that if this was the process, then the claim that the WSFS constitution is unrepresentative and illegitimate would be substantially undermined.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (4:05 AM) : 

Neth said...

I realize that there are costs to everything, but my instinct is that any cost is too much. Look at this way, I have to pay for the privilege to vote - that just feel wrong.

Why is that? I suppose Janice will tell me I'm being untactful and someone else will tell me that I'm being elitist, but I'm genuinely curious about this.

Sure, a person shouldn't have to pay a poll tax to vote in a mundane election, but that's because we already pay for the right to vote -- it's called "taxes."

If you're a member of a club, shouldn't you be expected to pay dues to the club to fund its operations?

For example, I used to be a member of the California State Association of Parliamentarians, affiliated with the National Association of Parliamentarians. Not only did I have to pay membership dues to NAP, but I also had to pay a per-meeting fee to the local region whose meetings I attended.

WSFS is a club -- a non-profit literary society -- and it charges its members dues to be members of that club. The club members do get some rights that go with that membership, and among them are the right to nominate and vote upon the awards given out by that club.


It is automatically exclusive. I also realize that it is impossible (and not entirely desirable) to 100% inclusive, but payment for voting rights just doesn't sit well for me.

Do you still feel that way after reading my analogy with a club or society above?

Would you think the Hugo Awards were more legitimate if we just set up a web site and said, "Anyone who wants to do so can vote here"?

I know that probably sounds sarcastic. I don't mean it! I'm setting what I consider an extreme case -- surely you can see the problem with it -- and trying to find out where you think the boundary should be. There has to be some sort of balance here, and I'm trying to see what it is.

Also, TANSTAAFL. Someone has to pay the bills. Worldcons don't run themselves.

 

Anonymous mormont said ... (4:30 AM) : 

Kevin, your later answers are certainly interesting, but if you don't mind the observation, also certainly have the conservative flavour of someone who's been around an organisation for a long time. If a thing's been tried before and there were problems, I'm sure you'll agree that doesn't mean it won't work this time. But answering suggestions by pointing out the problems gives the unfortunate impression that you think it won't or can't be done.

(My organisation is full of people who come off like this, and I've been that guy on occasion, so don't take it personally ;).)

I have to agree with GRRM that the BM would work better in an evening time-slot, and the idea that the time of the BM is set out in an actual standing rule - well, that appalls me and seems symptomatic of a sclerotic constitution. When you get to having rules like that... you have too many rules, IMHO anyway.

I'm also seriously deterred by what I'm hearing about the conduct of BMs. I've never been to one, and this discussion is making me less likely ever to bother. Sure, it's up to individuals to effect change if they don't like these things, but frankly, the danger is that they're not going to bother if the procedure to do so is not accessible (which is a different thing from easy, btw). They're going to bugger off to other cons, or at best attend WorldCon and not participate in it.

I realise none of this is a refreshing insight and you've probably seen and taken part in debates around it a dozen times over the years. But I do want to say that there comes a time when the attitude of 'come change things if you don't like them' fails to address the issue and it's up to the people on the 'inside' to react, rather than people on the 'outside' to act.

 

Blogger Neth said ... (11:00 AM) : 

-Kevin

I suppose it all depends on what the WSFS wants the Hugo award to be. If your goal is to keep the award to be the exclusive right of the club (there-by excluding the vast majority of fans who are not members), then charge what ever you feel is appropriate for voting rights.

If the goal of the Hugo is to be the award that fans get to choose, then you need to make voting rights independent on club membership.

Unless the Worldcon is located at a place and time that allows me to attend with relatively little cost, then I'm not going to attend - translation, I'd be doing good to attend 1 in 10. If I'm not attending, then I see no reason to join WSFS, therefore I will have not voting rights. It still doesn't sit well with me to pay for the priviledge of voting - so even if the charge is an entirely reasonable administration fee it's unlikely I'll pay it.

I imagine that there a lot fans out there that feel similar in this.

I understand that cost is an issue for an organization like this - but why should the voters pick up the cost? Why not publishers - especially since a Hugo nomination leads to greater sales and Hugo win leads to more, yet. It seems that the publishing houses have more to gain than anyone with keeping the Hugos meaningful and popular. As things stand now, I don't put much weight in the Hugos at all.

Worldcons don't run themselves.

True enough - that's why you need to divorce the Hugos from Worldcon funding. Sure, announce the awards at Worldcon, but don't fund Worldcon with a Hugo poll tax.

Obviously, I'm not a member of WSFS, so I can see where my comments might not matter so much...but if you want to increase voting turn-out and the respect of a Hugo to rest of fandom, open the voting to rest of us.

 

Anonymous Roy G. Ovrebo said ... (12:06 PM) : 

neth: If the goal of the Hugo is to be the award that fans get to choose, then you need to make voting rights independent on club membership.

How do you intend to check voter eligibility if it's free? What's to keep a fanboy from voting 37 times for his favourite author? Do you want "Idol" style SMS voting?

I'd much rather want a system where few people vote, but they're legitimate.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (12:16 PM) : 

mormont said ...

If a thing's been tried before and there were problems, I'm sure you'll agree that doesn't mean it won't work this time.

That is true. But when every single Worldcon is a one-shot proposition -- remember, every year's convention is run by a completely different organization and is effectively a one-time event -- you get really conservative about what you try to do. Things that have been tried and failed in the past, unless you can make a really good case for risking trying it again, are unlikely to get second chances, because the organization putting on that Worldcon will itself never get another chance if they screw it up.

I have to agree with GRRM that the BM would work better in an evening time-slot,

Remember, this wouldn't bother me personally, and I've chaired it several times. But I can already hear the howls of protest from the people who attend it regularly. Come subscribe to the SMOFS e-mail list if you want to hear a couple hundred people land on you feet-first if you suggest such a thing. I'm not really as hidebound as you may think, but I'm also a political realist. That's why I gave up on the Noon starts, for instance.

...and the idea that the time of the BM is set out in an actual standing rule - well, that appalls me and seems symptomatic of a sclerotic constitution. When you get to having rules like that... you have too many rules, IMHO anyway.

(Standing Rules are not the same thing as a Constitution, incidentally -- they're two different documents, and I can explain the distinction between them if you're interested.)

That particular Standing Rule was adopted as a specific reaction to a specific decision of an individual Worldcon committee to schedule the Business Meeting for 8:30 in the morning. Even the regular attendees -- who I think would turn up if we held it at 2 AM in the middle of a field ten miles from the convention center -- protested over that one.


I'm also seriously deterred by what I'm hearing about the conduct of BMs. I've never been to one, and this discussion is making me less likely ever to bother.

What in particular is so off-putting? Yes, parliamentary procedure can be intimidating, but you must have rules when you have a deliberative assembly -- that is, a large group of (sometimes several hundred) people who are gathered in one place attempting to reach a group decision. It's not as simple as "So, where do you want to have dinner, folks?" (And certainly we've all had conversations when even that simple question becomes excessively complicated.)

In my opinion, many of the people who get grumpy about the BM (or any deliberative assembly) do so because that assembly "doesn't do what I want." That is, they complain "The rules are too complicated" because they can't have their way. Well, that's the nature of democracy. In fact, participatory democracy is a very messy business, and learning formal meeting procedure is to some extent like learning how sausage is made. (I grew up on a farm, so that doesn't make me squeamish, either.)


Sure, it's up to individuals to effect change if they don't like these things, but frankly, the danger is that they're not going to bother if the procedure to do so is not accessible (which is a different thing from easy, btw).

Okay, I'll accept that you can make this distinction. Will you accept that there are people -- the head table staff in particular -- who will do what they can to make the process accessible? Anyone who knows me knows that I will bend over backwards to explain how the rules work, how to propose changes, how to participate in the debate, and all of the things it takes to be part of the process. That doesn't mean you'll win your day, particularly if you can't persuade enough other people to vote with you.

We've had people show up at the BM with what they were convinced were the best thing ever to hit WSFS, but because they would not listen to our advice, they have been shot out of the water. For example, one person appeared a few years ago complaining that the "Best Novel," "Best Dramatic Presentation," etc. awards weren't really "Best" and should instead be called "Most Popular." She submitted a constitutional amendment to strike out "Best" and insert "Most Popular" in all of the category titles. Although the head table staff warned her of the pitfalls of this approach, but she was convinced of the Rightness of Her Cause. She was somewhat dismayed when her proposal was killed without debate by a vote of nearly everyone to almost nobody at the Preliminary Business Meeting.

"That's undemocratic!" She complained. "I should have a chance to present my argument!"

My reply to this is, "Democracy, and parliamentary procedure specifically, includes the protection of rights, and makes tradeoffs between the rights of individuals, minorities, and majorities. While individuals have some rights, the majority -- in this case, a strong supermajority of more than two-thirds -- has the right to not have its time wasted by a proposal that they're convinced is so hopeless that it's not even worth debating." This is not a failure of process. Without such protection, any crank off the street could and would come in and waste our time with a proposal that only he and one friend think is worthwile.


I realise none of this is a refreshing insight and you've probably seen and taken part in debates around it a dozen times over the years. But I do want to say that there comes a time when the attitude of 'come change things if you don't like them' fails to address the issue and it's up to the people on the 'inside' to react, rather than people on the 'outside' to act.

Most of them don't see any reason to change. They like things the way they are. They'll react to someone eles making change happen, but otherwise, if they like the status quo, why should they change things to suit other people?

Remember what I've already said: the reason I got involved was because I wanted to make things change in certain ways. I got some of the things I wanted. Other things, I saw once I had some experience, were better left the way they were. And still other things I was unable to change and I had to live with.

In my opinion, within the existing WSFS community, I'm somewhat of a radical because I will work to show you how to use the tools to make changes happen. Most people won't even do that, I think; it's too much trouble.

 

Blogger Neth said ... (12:40 PM) : 

Roy said:

How do you intend to check voter eligibility if it's free? What's to keep a fanboy from voting 37 times for his favourite author? Do you want "Idol" style SMS voting?

I don't intend to check voter eligibility - that would be the job of the organizers to work out. It's an issue, but it's not an issue that can't be overcome, and it's certainly not an excuse that a decision should ride on.

I'd much rather want a system where few people vote, but they're legitimate.

I'd rather have a system that reduces the influence of conflicts of interest. As I said, the things are right now causes me to put little weight in the Hugo.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (2:11 PM) : 

neth said...

If the goal of the Hugo is to be the award that fans get to choose, then you need to make voting rights independent on club membership.

You appear to be defining "fans" and "members of the World Science Fiction Society" as mutually exclusive sets. They are not.

In fact, the Hugo Awards, while broadly defined as a "fan" award, are properly the awards presented by the World Science Fiction Society. Membership in WSFS is not particularly exclusive, given that anyone in the world can join for about $40/year.

There are other awards out there in the field of SF & Fantasy that are fan-selected and have no entry barrier at all, other than having a computer and a web connection and the ability to use them. (That's actually an entry barrier, too, but most web-enabled people don't realize that. Google "literary digest poll" to see what the potential problem is.) In my opinion, none of them have, within the field, the significants of the Hugo, the Nebula, and the World Fantasy Award. The Locus Award comes fourth, and everything else is off the radar for the most part, barring a good publicist.

But the Hugo Award is not an award "given by everyone in fandom." It is the award given by the members of the World Science Fiction Society, just like the Nebula is the award of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. It's just that the entry requirements for WSFS are lower than those of SFWA.

Yeah, I guess I must be defensive and elitist and want to keep everything to a small clique (although I don't consider 6000 people to be a "small" group). Many members of WSFS seem to think I'm a madman who wants to destroy everything and turn it over to the invading masses. Being a moderate means you get shot at by both sides.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (2:20 PM) : 

I don't intend to check voter eligibility - that would be the job of the organizers to work out.

He was asking you a hypothetical question: Pretend you are the administrator of these "open to anyone in the world who can get to a web browser" awards. How would you prevent someone from setting a robot loose on it to vote a million times for his favorite work?

Saying, "That's the organizers' job" ducks the question. Saying, "Big professional polls manage it," also ducks the question. You're proposing divorcing the Hugo Awards from the organization that actually pays for them. Even as it stands now, nobody does this for a living. We're all volunteers, including the administrators. Difficulty of administration is a significant reason to not try and do something.

I'd rather have a system that reduces the influence of conflicts of interest.

Conflicts of interest? Would you mind elaborating on this? WSFS takes a modicum of care to avoid this. Worldcon committees irrevocably delegate the authority to administer the awards to a small committee (rarely more than five people), and the results are shown only on a need-to-know basis. (Like the plaque engraver, for instance, who is rarely part of our community.) Administrators have shown a great relcutance to do anything other than count votes and check publication dates and word counts (and they catch hell even when they make rulings based on those relatively objective things). Where is the conflict of interest?

 

Anonymous Maltaran said ... (3:35 PM) : 

Stego, I always enjoy your rants. I may not agree with some points, but I always like reading what you say. I will have to disagree with you on Doctor Who, though. Sure, it may not be the best nominee (although I haven't seen season 2 of BSG yet, so I can't say for certain), but it's certainly not unwatchable. I was surprised at three episodes getting nominated though, especially when Father's Day was one of them (that particular episode is indeed laughable, and should never have been nominated, let alone get third place. Damn block voting, I guess). For the record, I voted for the Empty Child/Doctor Dances (yes, I voted despite not having seen Pegasus. I also voted for Feast for Best Novel, despite not having read any of the other nominees).

As for the main point of the topics, we already have online voting for the Hugos. Is it so difficult to extend the deadline to less than a month before the awards ceremony? As for the point about the plaque engraving, you could do what the Oscars do and not engrave anything till after the awards are presented. Of course, you then have the expense of shipping the engraved awards out to the winners, rather than getting them to figure out how to take the things home. Or engrave plaques for everyone, as has been suggested, and simply attach the appropriate one on the night. I note someone said the estimated cost for this is $2600, but based on the at-the-door prices for LA that's only 13 extra members you need to attract.

 

Blogger Mirtika said ... (3:49 PM) : 

I am not a member of the society, and I have never been able to attend a WorldCon (though, in my dreams, often), but I'll say this:

I have no problem with the rules saying you must be a member to vote and a membership is $40.00.

I belong to writing organizations that give awards, and you know what? You gotta be a member to vote, and to be a member, you gotta pay the dues that range from $35 to $75.

I don't see how this is outlandish.

If fans want to give an award where voting membership is free, last time I checked, anyone can start an organization and get others to join and make the rules. :)

As someone with a huge apathy towards being part of any business type meetings (had my fill of those in the business world), I congratulate anyone who can stay awake through them without eating his or her tongue.

I also am someone who likes to minimize stress (for health reasons), and the idea of having last minute tabulations and coordination for some award is pretty dang blood pressure spiking.

I think the idea of a lesser membership just to vote--hey, 10 to 15 bucks sounds pretty reasonable to aid with tallying and security and verification costs for possibly thousands of more votes coming in--is not a bad one, actually. :)

And I think maybe we just do way too much kvetching...

Mir

 

Blogger Neth said ... (6:01 PM) : 

Kevin says:

He was asking you a hypothetical question: Pretend you are the administrator of these "open to anyone in the world who can get to a web browser" awards. How would you prevent someone from setting a robot loose on it to vote a million times for his favorite work?

Saying, "That's the organizers' job" ducks the question. Saying, "Big professional polls manage it," also ducks the question. You're proposing divorcing the Hugo Awards from the organization that actually pays for them. Even as it stands now, nobody does this for a living. We're all volunteers, including the administrators. Difficulty of administration is a significant reason to not try and do something.


I suppose the answer to the first part is I'd do the necessary research to find out how to do it. It's technical issue and it can be overcome. In the realm of SF I'm sure are enough tech-savy people to come up with a solution.

However, I think suggesting the above was missing the primary point I was making - and that is a reality check on what the Hugo is, what it wants to be, and do these match.

Actually what I was proposing was divorcing the funding of worldcom from Hugo voting - I see that as a big difference - maybe it isn't, but that's what I see from the outside looking in.

Conflicts of interest? Would you mind elaborating on this?

Mostly what I'm referring to is the rather small amount of voters actually voting in an already exclusive environment - this is just bad for many reasons. Again, from the outside looking in, worldcon seems to be made up more of 'industry insiders' (such as writers, editors, publishers, reviews, etc.) than a more typical fan base. It takes very little for conflicts of interest to occur in this environment - so and so is my friend, so I'll vote for them; they are published by the same company as me and if they get higher sales from a Hugo it could help me out; if they know I voted for them, maybe it'll help me get a story in their next anthology, etc.

Obviously I have no grounds for accusing anyone, and I don't know of any of this happening. It's just that I would expect issues like this to be a factor due to human nature.

Of course a more open voting pool brings problems of its own, and may not be be the better solution. Again, it comes back to what the Hugo is supposed to represent.

I realize that the Hugo is the property of the WSFS, and I suppose I'm probing the validity of it being that way. A lot of this discussion goes back to the state of SF as whole and its future. I'm saying that from my perspective the Hugo only represents a small portion of SF and that WSFS should consider ways of expanding that influence. While increasing membership of WSFS and (more importantly) increasing voter turnout within WSFS are good steps, perhaps other steps should be considered as well - such as expanding Hugo voting rights.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (6:11 PM) : 

Is it so difficult to extend the deadline to less than a month before the awards ceremony?

Possibly not. It's been four years since my last shift as Hugo Administrator, and even the three times I did it, I was not the person who actually had to key all of the ballot data into the computer. IRV ballots are sufficiently complicated that this is a non-trivial task. Now, with now more than 80% of the votes coming in through online voting, it may be possible for the web site to force the output into the same format as the computer program needs as input.

(As I recall, and I may be wrong about this, the first year that voting was done online, the administrator printed out the individual votes and re-keyed them into the counting program.)


As for the point about the plaque engraving, you could do what the Oscars do and not engrave anything till after the awards are presented. Of course, you then have the expense of shipping the engraved awards out to the winners, rather than getting them to figure out how to take the things home.

I think the biggest concern that a winner would have is that s/he might have to wait weeks or even months to get his Hugo trophy. In 1994, two Hugo Award trophies sat in my apartment for a month while I waited for the responsible person to send me the replacement plaques -- names had not been spelled correctly -- so I know this is a real concern.

Worldcons are generally pretty good about offering to ship trophies when the winners ask. I did so personally for two of the 2002 winners, but even then it was several days after the convention before I got it done, and one of the winners (his first) got very anxious about it.

Or engrave plaques for everyone, as has been suggested, and simply attach the appropriate one on the night. I note someone said the estimated cost for this is $2600, but based on the at-the-door prices for LA that's only 13 extra members you need to attract.

Yes, but it's highly unlikely that the changes in the Hugo Awards would attract even a single additional member, so you're really talking about which items you want to cut from the budget. I've already discussed the sorts of things that would cost about as much as all of those plaques. Not to mention the almost inevitable case of the wrong plaque getting on to a trophy. (Don't think it can't happen? In 1992 the wrong name was announced for the winner of Best Fanzine. The slide projected on the screen was correct; the engraving on the trophy was correct; the card in the envelope was wrong.)

Also, never forget that every year's Worldcon is a new ball game, run by a different organization, and so they have to re-create the entire infrastructure, including the web site for voting. The more complexity we add to the process, and the less time we allow for mistakes, the more likely it is we will have a catastrophic failure, such as not being able to present the awards at the Worldcon because we haven't been able to finish counting the ballots yet.

Still, with an increasing number of votes coming online, it might be possible to push the end of voting to the point (about a week before the first day of the con) when the convention stops selling memberships in advance. I'm not sure. I would need to talk to the people who have actually done the work.

Also, remember that every member, including the at-the-door members, has the right to nominate on the following year's Hugo Awards, even if s/he isn't a member. So all of you reading this who were members of L.A.con IV, even if you are not members of Nippon 2007, have the right to nominate works for the 2007 Hugo Awards. Given the apparent interest by the readers of this thread, I hope you're all collecting up your possible nominees from this year's works already, so you'll be ready for when the nominating ballot comes out in January or thereabouts.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (7:32 PM) : 

Neth said:

Again, from the outside looking in, worldcon seems to be made up more of 'industry insiders' (such as writers, editors, publishers, reviews, etc.) than a more typical fan base.

I don't know what you mean by "typical fan base." A fairly large number of industry professionals join Worldcon, but often that's because they are fans, too. Remember that most of the time, every member of Worldcon except the Guests of Honor has to buy his/her own membership. (I chaired the 2002 convention and paid for my own membership.)

Anyway, I expect that if you actually attended a Worldcon and (say) stood in the exhibit hall watching people walk back and forth, you would not say, "Oh, this is a professional conference of editors and authors."

Now the World Fantasy Convention is much more of a "professional" event. Worldcon is still what I would consider to be a fan event; however, I get the impression that you and I may have somewhat different definitions of fandom.

You do say this is "from the outside looking in." I suggest that your perception does not quite match the reality. I wish I could give you a Worldcon membership and travel expenses so you could see one for yourself. They're not to everyone's taste, but I love them. And just because I'm a tired old 41-year-old old phart doesn't mean I don't remember riding a Greyhound bus all night long to get to L.A.con II back in 1984, where I paid $75 -- a pretty substantial amount of money to me at the time -- and was enthralled with the wonder of the event. I'd been drawn there for a huge Elfquest gathering, but the other things there sent me over the moon. I've had a membership in every Worldcon since then, although I just couldn't afford to attend in 1985 through 1988. I've been attending every year since then, howver, including Australia, Netherlands, and Scotland (twice).

And aside from a semi-professional short story sale ($55, all of which I spent on buying extra copies of the book for my relatives), I can not be by any stretch of the word considered a professional in the SF field.

 

Anonymous Ed Dravecky III said ... (9:49 PM) : 

Would you think the Hugo Awards were more legitimate if we just set up a web site and said, "Anyone who wants to do so can vote here"?

Ha! If you open the vote up to the whole web, even with some form of registration, you can just go ahead and engrave the next Best Novel Hugo for Stephen Colbert's "Alpha Squad 7: Lady Nocturne - A Tek Jansen Adventure." Just ask the folks in Hungary trying to name a bridge (see http://www.m0hid.gov.hu/ for details) or any number of online polls overrun by dedicated and wired fans.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (2:27 PM) : 

By the way, Stego, congratulations on doing harm to Worldcon and the Hugo Awards. Ignorant rants incluing yours have managed to drive from the field people who were doing real, solid work to improve the state of science fiction and fantasy literature. However, when the only rewards they get for it are people like you, some of them throw up their hands and say, "Why should I bother," and Cheryl Morgan, whose Emerald City magazine and web site have been a positive force in the field for ten years, including the highly-valuable Hugo Recommendations List, is your latest victim. Cheryl had already announced she was going to stop publishing the magazine, but had initially intended to keep the web site in place along with the Hugo Recommendations List. But earlier today she announced that she's had it with the idiots and that there's no point -- obviously everyone thinks the Hugos are illegitimate and worthless, so why should she keep trying.

Before this, I was simply frustrated that you had your facts wrong. Now, I'm angry that people like you are actively undermining the hard work of people who have made a difference.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (4:54 PM) : 

I promised I would look this up, so I did.

Most Worldcons in recent times grant voting rights only to supporting and full attending members. (This is required by the WSFS Constitution.) They rarely grant voting rights to single-day attendees. Working off the assumption that relatively few people buy advance attending memberships between the Hugo Voting cut-off and the close of pre-registration, I went back and looked up the numbers of at-door attending memberships relative to the total number of WSFS members (those eligible to vote), and got the following:

Year - City - WSFS Members - At Door Attending
2005 - Glasgow - Insufficient Data
2004 - Boston - 5984 - 284 (5%)
2003 - Toronto - No Data
2002 - San Jose - 4856 - 404 (8%)
2001 - Philadelphia - 5347 - 349 (7%)
2000 - Chicago - 5608 - 376 (7%)

Going back farther into the past, the at-door-attending percentage is about the same, although it was 10% in San Antonio in 1997 and 16% in The Hague in 1990.

And before you get all excited about the "disenfranchisement" of single-day members: The total at-door membership (full + single-day) for recent Worldcons represents between 10% and 20% of the total membership (plus a spike of 25% in 1993 in San Francisco).

The details behind this are available on the SMOFInfo site, in the file "Details of membership numbers and sizes for a several Worldcons."

 

Blogger JaniceG said ... (8:45 PM) : 

By the way, Stego, congratulations on doing harm to Worldcon and the Hugo Awards. Ignorant rants incluing yours have managed to drive from the field people who were doing real, solid work to improve the state of science fiction and fantasy literature. However, when the only rewards they get for it are people like you, some of them throw up their hands and say, "Why should I bother," and Cheryl Morgan, whose Emerald City magazine and web site have been a positive force in the field for ten years, including the highly-valuable Hugo Recommendations List, is your latest victim. Cheryl had already announced she was going to stop publishing the magazine, but had initially intended to keep the web site in place along with the Hugo Recommendations List. But earlier today she announced that she's had it with the idiots and that there's no point -- obviously everyone thinks the Hugos are illegitimate and worthless, so why should she keep trying.

Before this, I was simply frustrated that you had your facts wrong. Now, I'm angry that people like you are actively undermining the hard work of people who have made a difference.


Kevin, pardon me, but this is ludicrous. While Stego might be basking in his unexpected fame and influence :->, it seems a rather overblown statement by Cheryl that discussion here and on your LJ means that "obviously everyone thinks the Hugos are illegitimate and worthless, so why should she keep trying." Participants in these discussions are hardly a statistically significant representation of everyone who votes on or hears about the Hugos.

Secondly, you and Cheryl essentially brought this on yourselves. Hardly anyone in the Smof/online hard-core fan community would have seen Stego's original remarks had you and Cheryl not made a point of sending everyone to his blog comments originally.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (11:28 PM) : 

JaniceG said ... (8:45 PM) :

...it seems a rather overblown statement by Cheryl that discussion here and on your LJ means that "obviously everyone thinks the Hugos are illegitimate and worthless, so why should she keep trying." Participants in these discussions are hardly a statistically significant representation of everyone who votes on or hears about the Hugos.

He isn't the only one who writes such tripe, just one of the most recent ones. Perhaps you simply turn a blind eye to it all.

 

Blogger Neth said ... (12:07 AM) : 

Kevin said:

He isn't the only one who writes such tripe, just one of the most recent ones. Perhaps you simply turn a blind eye to it all.


The problem is not in William's original comments (regardless of how true/untrue or representative/unrepresentative they may be); the problem is you referring to them as tripe. Comments like his (and the ones I've made as well) are indicative of real issues that people have with the current voting process. Whether the issues are real, not real, or somewhere in between, there is a perception that should be addressed. Disregarding them and calling them tripe does solve anything.

Kevin, at least you are involved in what is at least a moderately productive dialog here and elsewhere, but Cheryl throwing up her hands, giving up on it and blaming it on others is just unfair. Her issues are her all her own, and blaming them on others doesn't add anything productive to the various discussions going on. It's unfortunate that she feels the way she does (I know I'll miss her efforts at Emerald City), but lets not confuse the issue by blaming others.

...and back to previous discussions

however, I get the impression that you and I may have somewhat different definitions of fandom.


Probably - I'm including the more casual fan of SF in my definitions - people who are unaware of cons, have no desire to ever go to one, or just haven't ever been. These fans I speak of may not even be aware of what a Hugo is - mostly I'm just pointing out that the 6000 members of WSFS still represent a very small percentage of the broader fanbase out there.

Anyway, I expect that if you actually attended a Worldcon and (say) stood in the exhibit hall watching people walk back and forth, you would not say, "Oh, this is a professional conference of editors and authors."

When referring to 'industry insiders', I was really just referring to the voting members of WSFS. It's only a guess on my part, but I think it likely that what I referred to as 'industry insiders' make up a disproportionally large percentage of the voting members. Not to the same degree as WFC, but enough to blur the issue.

I wish I could give you a Worldcon membership and travel expenses so you could see one for yourself.

Ahh...that would be wonderful. I'll make it to one someday, but for the moment it's way down on the list of financial priorities.

The Hugo is still an interesting award, but it's more murky as to who is deciding things. With awards like the Nebula, or Locus - I know what context to place them in - or any number of the juried awards. The Hugo exists in a seemingly gray area that is more difficult to put a context to. Defining that context to a greater degree than it currently is will go a long way in defending its validity against the naysayers out there.

 

Blogger JaniceG said ... (12:17 AM) : 

Kevin Standlee said ... (11:28 PM) :
JaniceG said ... (8:45 PM) :

<<...it seems a rather overblown statement by Cheryl that discussion here and on your LJ means that "obviously everyone thinks the Hugos are illegitimate and worthless, so why should she keep trying." Participants in these discussions are hardly a statistically significant representation of everyone who votes on or hears about the Hugos.>>

He isn't the only one who writes such tripe, just one of the most recent ones. Perhaps you simply turn a blind eye to it all.


I wouldn't turn a blind eye to it in that I'd try to engage people in conversation and education about it (and I wouldn't call such opinions "tripe" while doing so) but yes, I would turn a blind eye to it in terms of it affecting my own behavior or desires. If I was producing work that was eligible to be considered for a Hugo and the Hugo meant something to me personally, it wouldn't matter much to me if some other people think that the Hugo or the way it's awarded is meaningless, nor would it deter me from continuing to produce work that was important or meaningful to me.

I certainly wouldn't hang a decision to stop producing my own work on the opinions of other people with whom I disagree or who I think are mistaken in their evaluations or opinions.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (1:32 AM) : 

Neth said...

The problem is not in William's original comments (regardless of how true/untrue or representative/unrepresentative they may be); the problem is you referring to them as tripe.

All right; but the softest I can make it is "Significantly misinformed." I'm still steamed at having the integrity of the administrators questioned.

Frankly, would he have been so down on the Hugos if your own favorites had won? I doubt it.

 

Anonymous GRRM said ... (1:52 AM) : 

Janice is dead right, Kevin, and you are being ridiculous.

I'm sorry that Cheryl is folding EMERALD CITY, even the bits of it that she was originally going to continue, but blaming it on Stego is absurd. His rant said nothing at all about Cheryl, or any SMOF or Hugo administrator. Most of it, actually, is about Harlan, and the sharpest vitriol is directed toward the winners and stories he did not like. That's his right.

He did say, however, "Those new to Science Fiction fandom know that the community is very open and welcoming to new members. All are welcome, and even the strangest of personages (furries, klingons) are allowed a place at the collective table. However, a place at the table is the best that one can expect. Do not attempt to voice an actual opinion; it's simply not welcome."

You -- and Cheryl, it would seem --have just proven him right.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (2:11 AM) : 

GRRM said ... (1:52 AM) :

You -- and Cheryl, it would seem --have just proven him right.

I never contradicted his rant about Harlan (which seemed justified), and I tried to avoid his unhappiness with having his favorites not win. I was, and still am, very unhappy at having the integrity of the Hugo Awards challenged just because his favorites didn't win. And yet, every year, we see people out there ranting about how unfair the process is and how the administrators are obviously stupid because Work A won when obviously Work E was much better. I've seen people going on about how the Administrator must reverse the results and take away so-and-so's Hugo Award because it's so obviously a bad choice, and similar uninformed and foolish things.

Criticising the taste of the voters is one thing (my own first preferences rarely win); saying that the award process itself is corrupt just because you don't get your own way is completely different. (Of course, you, George, have never done that, but that's because you understand how things work. You have worked within the system, and even when you didn't get your way, did not denounce the entire system as fundamentally corrupt.)

Do you see the distiction here?

 

Blogger William Lexner said ... (2:52 AM) : 

Kevin,

I've been sitting back and letting you rant, because it's a bit informative and a bit amusing. Like Cheryl on her own site, you are inventing straw men and battering them down -- go you.

I never said the process was corrupt. I said it was poorly run and somewhat nonsensical in some aspects and archaic in others. I poked fun at the so-called SMOFs because -- let's be honest -- they deserve to be poked now and again.

To blame the Emerald City thing on me is hilarious, and though absurd, I appreciate it. Hell, get me a t-shirt that says "I Killed Emerald City" and I'll wear it to every con I go to for the rest of my life. Hell, I just might get one made up myself.

There are plenty of great sites on the internet for SF/F/H reviews and commentary, such as Mumpsimus, SFSignal, LOCUS, The Agony Column, SF Site, sffworld, The Bodhisattva, Meme Therapy, Neth Space, Pats Fantasy Hot List, Asking The Wrong Questions, and about 60 something blogs of merit. (Including this one, thanks.) To treat the closing of Emerald City with anything but a 'shucks' is overreaction. The void will be filled quite nicely.

To infer that the closing of Emerald City can somehow hurt the Hugo's and Worldcon is rank foolishness. If you somehow believe that EC is the only place for pre-Worldcon commentary, then I'd like to introduce you to my friend 'Google.'

 

Anonymous GRRM said ... (4:37 AM) : 

Kevin, you say, "Criticising the taste of the voters is one thing (my own first preferences rarely win); saying that the award process itself is corrupt just because you don't get your own way is completely different."

Could you point me to the place in Stego's rant where he says that the process is "corrupt" or attacks the integrity of those who administer it? I have read the piece several times, and I don't see it.

What I see is him taking shots at the taste of the voters or the quality of some of the winners, which is something a lot of us have done after the awards... though perhaps not always so openly, or in such strong terms. He slams Dave Hartwell's comment about Jim Baen, he calls Dr. Who unwatchable and laughable, he mocks the short story winner while praising Margo Lanagan's story... but he says nice things about SPIN, about Peter S. Beagle, about Donato Giancola and SERENITY and their victories. He wonders about a backlash against fantasy, and admits to personal bias in his opinions...

Which is all they are. His opinions on the nominated stories. He has every right to them, and every right to express them. Nowhere in this entire ctageory-by-category discussion of the awards do I see any suggestion that the process was rigged, or any attack on the integrity of the administrators.

The only thing I see in this entire rant that could be construed that way is the offhand, almost parenthetical aside in a much earlier section of the rant, where he implies that "SMOFers" know the results in advance. And even that section is mostly taken up with him bemnoaning how few members bother to vote and putting forward his ideas about how the process might be improved... voting at the con, and such... ideas which may be wrong-headed or impractical, but are certainly not abusive.

So I can only ask once again -- where are these charges of corruption that you and Cheryl are so upset about? Please point me at the actual words.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (11:33 AM) : 

GRRM said...

Could you point me to the place in Stego's rant where he says that the process is "corrupt" or attacks the integrity of those who administer it? I have read the piece several times, and I don't see it.

Okay, since you asked:

But such advances would mean that even the (gasp!) SMOFers would be in the dark as to who was getting a rocket, and that simply can't be digested, it seems.

And here, when he says:

Of course the committee knows well in advance who wins the Hugo's. How else do they get the little rocket ships engraved? Libel? It's common sense.

And as far as I can tell, when multiple people, including Hugo Administrators, try to set him straight, he ignores them all, never apologizes for having his facts wrong, and as far as I know thinks we're all lying.

That's attacking the integrity of the process.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (11:48 AM) : 

William Lexner said...

I never said the process was corrupt.

You accused the administrators of widely disseminating the results among, as you call them, "SMOFfers," and when the reality was pointed out to you, refused to apologize. That's attacking the integrity of the process.

I said it was poorly run and somewhat nonsensical in some aspects and archaic in others.

And you did so from a position of ignorance, and when people tried to explain things to you -- some of them far more patiently than I did, I admit -- you dismissed them, effectively saying that the job isn't so hard, and certainly you could have done it better. I'd sort of like to see you try, but it would do so much harm to the Awards that it's probably better you didn't.

To blame the Emerald City thing on me is hilarious,...

Ever heard of "the straw that broke the camel's back"? You're not the only one out there spewing nonsense. Cheryl has simply gotten fed up with having the work she's done brought to naught by people who don't know what they're talking about.

 

Blogger William Lexner said ... (12:56 PM) : 

Kevin,

I inferred that *some* people know who is going to win the Hugo's. You replied that *no one* knows who is going to win the Hugo's. I retorted that obviously *someone* knows well in advance. Which is common sense, and was only argued by trying to tell me how few this number was. (And each worldcon is admittedly different) And this pissed you off.

Again, that you choose to read more into what I wrote than is there is your prerogative. You continue to invent these *issues* because there is nothing in my actual post you can argue. (Other than the 50% guess crap, which I owned up to publicly.)

And you have done nothing to convince me that I am ignorant when I state that half of Worldcon is run archaically. At first you (probably justly and correctly) stated that if I wanted it done better I should get involved. Fair enough. But since then, you have reverted to the old standby of "It's run the best it can possibly be run and if you complain then you're part of the problem."

Your original argument was helpful and well considered. Your second makes you sound like an ass.

Speaking of you sounding like an ass:

Straw that broke the camel's back?

Cheryl is quitting. She got what she wanted out of Emerald City or she was tired of doing it or life got in the way. This decision was made quite some time ago. For her to come out and say it is the fault of myself and others simply because we have different opinions on certain matters than her, makes her sound like a whiny infant taking her ball and going home.

You're mad, quite obviously, because Emerald City gave you a forum to speak to fandom and feel important, and now that forum is going away. You'll get over it, Kevin, or you won't. Neither of which outcome concerns me at all.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (2:41 PM) : 

William Lexner said ...

I inferred that *some* people know who is going to win the Hugo's.

First, you didn't infer anything. You said:

Of course the committee knows well in advance who wins the Hugo's. How else do they get the little rocket ships engraved? Libel? It's common sense.

It appears to me that you must have (this morning) gone back and deleted that posting, but that doesn't mean you didn't say it. Fortunately you were quoted in posts you can't delete before you tried to erase the evidence.

You claimed that the committee all know the results ahead of time. There are hundreds of people on a modern Worldcon committee. Perhaps you meant something different by the use of the word "committee" here. The word means something different in non-North American conrunning, for instance, just like the verb "to table" has opposite meanings in American and British English.

You replied that *no one* knows who is going to win the Hugo's.

Where did I say that? I haven't gone back and retroactively edited the records to erase my mistakes.

The most charitable I can be here is to tell you that trying to act like Harlan Ellison in print is probably not going to work well. Too much needs to be communicated by something other than the words themselves.

You're mad, quite obviously, because Emerald City gave you a forum to speak to fandom and feel important, and now that forum is going away.

Whatever gave you that idea? Aside from a couple of articles that Cheryl asked me to write -- and it was like pulling teeth to get them out of me -- and my comments on her blog, Emerald City was no more my forum than it was yours.

My anger is because Cheryl was doing some very important work -- not all of it visible -- to raise the profile of the Hugo Awards and of SF & Fantasty literature in general. She did it in spite of people like you who trivialized the Awards primarily because they don't reflect your personal preferences.

And on top of all that, we've lost what I thought was the best source for recommendations on nominations for the Hugo Awards. Oh, there are other sources, but I've always thought the EmCit list had the broadest base. Cheryl originally intended to keep doing that after the magazine uses up its inventory, but, as you have seen, you (and others; you don't get all the credit) have led her to decide that there's no use. Nothing she does will make any difference. I've tried to convince her otherwise. People with a lot more credibility than you have also tried. But her spirit is broken.

I don't see anyone else stepping up to fill the void she's going to leave. Heck, a recent discussion on the SMOFS points out that she's even left a hole in the Semiprozine category, because nothing other than the five works nominated this year have been getting a significant number of nomination votes.

Doggone it, if you'd limited yourself to complaining about the voters' tastes, you'd just be another random whiner, of which there are many each year. But no, you choose to trot out the argument that the process is wrong. Again, I ask you: Would you have been so down on the process if your own favorites had won?

 

Blogger JaniceG said ... (2:57 PM) : 

Kevin Standlee said...

<< William Lexner said...To blame the Emerald City thing on me is hilarious,... >>

Ever heard of "the straw that broke the camel's back"? You're not the only one out there spewing nonsense. Cheryl has simply gotten fed up with having the work she's done brought to naught by people who don't know what they're talking about.


What exactly does "brought to naught" mean? Your contention in this discussion seems to be that some people here and elsewhere think that the Hugo process is inefficient and archaic and even possibly corrupt and so Cheryl, who doesn't think so and thinks that those people don't know what they're talking about, has decided not to do work that might qualify for a Hugo any more because of those claims.

This contention also implies that the sole reason that Cheryl has been doing EmCit is because she wanted to be in contention for Hugo nominations. If that isn't true and she was doing the zine/site for creative or informative reasons, then she certainly can't blame people casting aspersions on the Hugo process for shutting EmCit down.

 

Blogger William Lexner said ... (2:59 PM) : 

Kevin,

Firstly, I did not delete any postings of mine. I do not do such things, as proved by my refusing to remove the section on Firefly here after being called on it and proven wrong. (I'd like to point out that you have editorial control over posts on your own journal.)I freely admit to having said what you quoted.

Which of course, does nothing to prove your point, just highlight my own. (Centrally being that you argue things that have never been said.)

As the Emerald City thing:

Whine about it to Cheryl, not me. She is the one quitting. If you feel the world can not survive without EC, then buy the name from her and continue it. I don't give a damn one way or the other. But to blame it on me is the height of stupidity.

You don't see anyone stepping in to fill the void? Again, you prove how out-of-touch you are. Refer to my list in a previous post.

The process is fucked up, regardless of who wins. Picacio and Martin, Link and Lanagan, Waldrop and Battlestar Galactica were my choices, but win or lose, 567 votes is not the judgement of SF fandom. If you can't see that a process wherein less than 10% of a convention actually votes is fucked up, you're blind or willfully stupid.

 

Blogger Neth said ... (4:38 PM) : 

William

I have a suggestion - since you've been so successful at eliminating Emerald City, perhaps it's time you expand your horizons to rid SF fandom of all such entities. You can take on Strange Horizons, SF Site, SF Signal and others to start (and let's not forget that upstart Heliotrope). Then you can really get going by taking out Locus - they're just begging for it. Before long you can elimante all current cons and the stage will be set for you to re-invent SF fandom as you see fit to it (perhaps I can play the role of a regional overlord or the like).

 

Blogger JaniceG said ... (6:10 PM) : 

Kevin Standlee said:

My anger is because Cheryl was doing some very important work -- not all of it visible -- to raise the profile of the Hugo Awards and of SF & Fantasty literature in general. She did it in spite of people like you who trivialized the Awards primarily because they don't reflect your personal preferences.

Do I understand this to say that Cheryl feels that EmCit was primarily intended to promote SF Literature and the Hugos and because some people now don't see the Hugos as valuable she feels the whole zine/site was a worthless effort? Good thing she never taught in the public schools or was an author whose work was denigrated by a reviewer.

And on top of all that, we've lost what I thought was the best source for recommendations on nominations for the Hugo Awards. Oh, there are other sources, but I've always thought the EmCit list had the broadest base. Cheryl originally intended to keep doing that after the magazine uses up its inventory, but, as you have seen, you (and others; you don't get all the credit) have led her to decide that there's no use.

I'm sorry you're losing your own source for Hugo recommendations but I never saw that EmCit was named as the main source for most people's Hugo nominations. And until this discussion, I never saw its main purpose described in this way. Frankly, I've managed to muddle along with the NESFA list, the Locus Recommended Reading issue, and my own personal preferences.

I don't see anyone else stepping up to fill the void she's going to leave. Heck, a recent discussion on the SMOFS points out that she's even left a hole in the Semiprozine category, because nothing other than the five works nominated this year have been getting a significant number of nomination votes.

As I suspect most reading this do not read the Smofs mailing list, I feel I should point out that the comment to which you allude was a glancing mention of Emerald City in a much longer message about the weakness of the Semiprozine category. Also, this is the first year in which she moved the zine from Fanzine to Semiprozine, so it's not like she's been bolstering that category for years.

Look, Kevin, I'm not trying to denigrate Cheryl's effort or Emerald City itself. If Cheryl's "spirit is broken" primarily due to this recent discussion and previous ones like it, then she is allowing her actions to be dictated by people whom she thinks are wrong and misguided. That's her own choice and shouldn't be blamed on other people.

 

Blogger UtterFrieght said ... (6:11 PM) : 

William,

My observations are that the Hugo's are dominated by the worldcon-obsessed minority of fandom. I've been going to worldcon for the past six years and have noticed that the generation gap is also a lifestyle gap. If fandom is going to speak for more then the pearshaped introvert they need to broaden the scope to allow others to vote.

I was able to vote on the preliminaries for this years Hugo's being that I was a member last year, that was cool. However, having a schedule difficult to manage, my membership was purchased after the deadline for the final ballot making the Hugo ceremony less meaningful for me because my voice was left out.

I propose the idea that the members from the year before be aloud to vote on the final ballot online. This should at least double the voting.

Ofcourse my issue goes way beyond that of how many people vote. I love going to worldcons to listen to the more polite authors and see the mass of books in the dealers room. That being said, the people are just wearing on me.

Maybe it's just a coincidence that the majority of the panels we went to had maybe one polite or interesting panelist, that the rest seemed to dominate with self absorbed rhetoric and/or were completly unqualified to speak publicly. This made it tragic for the one speaker with a voice to have to endure(worse when it's someone as personable and genial as a G.R.R.Martin or a Peter S. Beagle).

Maybe I also was the only one with a girlfriend being bumped around at nearly every dealers table by some heavy breathing over-medicated con-toad so they can see the book she's looking at. Or having middle aged men spending an unacceptable amount of time staring at her breasts. In five days I didn't even see one person hold open a door for a lady. What rock did these people climb out from under that they don't even respect any form of edicit and class. I know the world as a whole has lost allot of human decency(government worst of all) but never have I seen people skills then at a worldcon.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (6:13 PM) : 

William Lexner said ...

Firstly, I did not delete any postings of mine.... (I'd like to point out that you have editorial control over posts on your own journal.)

Well, I didn't delete it; you're the only other person who could have done so, I think. But I'm not absolutely certain how LJ handles that.

I freely admit to having said what you quoted.

Which of course, does nothing to prove your point, just highlight my own. (Centrally being that you argue things that have never been said.)


You claimed that the results are widely known, and you still haven't said you were wrong about that. That, to me, calls into question the integrity of the administration of the Hugo Awards.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (6:19 PM) : 

UtterFrieght said...

I was able to vote on the preliminaries for this years Hugo's being that I was a member last year, that was cool.

Good for you! You're part of the solution, and I'm glad you nominated.

I propose the idea that the members from the year before be aloud to vote on the final ballot online.

Unlike some of the things suggested here, this proposal is both workable and reasonable. Would I be right in guessing that you won't be coming to next year's Worldcon to present this proposal in person? If you are, I will help you draft the proposal in the proper form if you want the help.

I won't be presiding in 2008, but if you're going to Denvention Three, I suggest you start doing the ground-work necessary for a constitutional amendment to open voting in the way you suggest. You might find more support for such a proposal than you think.

This should at least double the voting.

I wish you were right, but I fear otherwise.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (6:25 PM) : 

UtterFrieght said...

In five days I didn't even see one person hold open a door for a lady.

Then you weren't around me, because I did it numerous times, not only for a lady (usually my wife), but for people with heavy loads or in mobies or wheelchairs. It's certainly common courtesy, and I agree with you that it's regrettably uncommon these days.

The one that irked me as much as anything were people who rode the escalators standing on the left, rather than the right, making it impossible for those of us who wanted to walk -- those escalators were long -- to do so. On one occassion, the woman in front of me on the escalator came to a halt when she stepped off, which caused me to be spat out into her back with nowhere to go because of a left-standing blocker next to her. And then she and the people with her yelled at me, even though I apologized.

We're in a "victim" society now, I think. The person who cries, "I'm a victim" first wins. And the game makes about as much sense as Mornington Crescent.

 

Blogger William Lexner said ... (9:21 PM) : 

Kevin,

You used the words 'widely known,' not me. I'm not going to argue what I said or didn't say with you any longer. That you choose to twist my words semantically to make them elicit the worst possible meaning is up to you, I suppose. Despite my repeatedly stating "That's not what I said," you continue to put words in my mouth. Fine. I'm the devil.

Neth,

Too funny, man.

Utterfreight,

When I go to a convention I get myself ready for it, socially speaking. Normal rules of etiquette simply do not apply. A lot of people (Not all! Some of the most wonderful human beings I have ever had the honor to meet, I have met at cons.) are simply incapable of social interaction.

Things that would get my ire up in my younger days make me laugh at conventions. I can't really get mad at the 60yr old, 400lb man with a too-small Cthulhu shirt and a tail bumping me out of the way at a dealers table.

Next Worldcon you go to, please be sure to stop by one of the BWB parties. We're incredibly welcoming, friendly, polite, most likely intoxicated, and overall pretty knowledgable fans of SF. (If not fandom customs)

Kevin,

Just as an aside, if you wanted to walk up the escalator, why not just take the stairs right next to them?

 

Anonymous GRRM said ... (12:09 AM) : 

We really need to cool off here, and bring some sense of proportion back to the discussion.

As near as I can see, this whole firestorm hinges on a simple misunderstanding of the word "committee."

Stego suggested -- wrongly, all agree -- that the committee knows who won the Hugos in advance. Kevin replied no, that's not true, only a SUBcommittee knows.

It is not quite clear from the ensuing discussion how large the Hugo subcommittee usually is. The word "committee" suggests more than one, even when a "sub" is attached as a prefix. So are we talking three people? Five? Seven? Perhaps it varies from worldcon to worldcon. Presumably these are the people who tote up the votes. So THEY know.

The discussions here and on other blogs have also pointed out that engraver also knows, as do the people (one person? three? five?) who print up the daily newszine with the results that is handed out as people leave the ceremonies. Plus it would appear that in some years the Dramatic Presentation winner has been told in advance.

I won't even go into the issue of how many of these people tell their wives, husbands, or best friends. That might be construed as another attack on the Hugo administrators... though, in truth, all that says is that they are human. Whoever said the only way that three people can keep a secret is if two of them are dead knew whereof he spoke.

I don't think any of this matters terribly much, or suggests that the Hugo process is corrupt. All in all, the Hugo administrators have a MUCH better record of keeping the results secret than does SFWA, where the Nebula results leak out regularly.

And I don't think that a neofan's confusing a committee with a subcommittee is a slight on the honor of all SMOFs either. As the rest of his rant demonstrates, Stego is quite capable of giving his targets both barrels in the face. If he had meant to say the Hugos were corrupt, he would have written, "The Hugos are corrupt," as plain as that.

He didn't. He wrote "Of course the committee knows well in advance who wins the Hugo's. How else do they get the little rocket ships engraved?" If he had only added a "sub" to that sentence, no one could possibly take issue with it. That sentence is not an attack on anyone's integrity, and it is certainly no cause for pistols at dawn.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (1:22 AM) : 

Only because you asked:

William Lexner said...

Just as an aside, if you wanted to walk up the escalator, why not just take the stairs right next to them?

FWIW, it was down, not up, and the answer is "because it's faster to walk down (or up) the escalator than to take the stairs.

Although, on escalators that long, when people insist on stopping, it might well be faster to take the fixed stairs. Sheesh.

Y'all were talking about normal rules of behavior. Well, ordinarily, on moving walkways (escalators and slidewalks), you stand right and walk left. Anyone who has been in an airport of any size should know this. Anyone who read the convention newsletter should know this. Frankly, I don't know why so many people stop walking on escalators, or why the stop walking on moving slidewalks (mostly found at airports).

The very fact that I have to explain this astounds me. It should be obvious.

 

Anonymous Mike "Yagathai" V. said ... (2:43 AM) : 

Pistols at dawn might not be called for, but they would be quicker and accomplish about as much as this back-and-forthing -- at at least afterwards we'd have a sense of resolution. Though honestly, considering the subject matter, phasers at twenty paces might be a bit more apropos.

Seriously, folks, this contretemps has left the realm of the constructive and entered the territory of bitter feuding, and any actual point that may be buried in the obvious ill will is so obfuscated that it's not really worth it for the audience to try to separate the argument from the vitriol. Can't we all be grownups about this?

 

Anonymous GRRM said ... (3:18 AM) : 

Yags, what you don't realize is that this sort of nonsense is an ancient, hallowed fannish tradition.

Back in 30s two groups of teenaged New York fans feuded so long and energetically that Sam Moskowitz wrote an entire book about it, to which he gave the modest title THE IMMORTAL STORM. Damon Knight once wrote that Moskowitz's account of that primodial fanfeud made World War II seem like an anticlimax.

 

Blogger Ran said ... (1:08 PM) : 

So, to do a small recap:

1) William didn't ever mean to imply that there was some sort of conspiracy involved in Hugo voting, merely that one could get the impression based on the way some things looked to him (like the vote cut-off date).

2) Kevin and others have corrected several errors of fact. 50% of memberships are not bought at the door (its more like ~8%), and various methods used to try and improve voter awareness and participation in some of the process (like the site selection voting) have not really proved fruitful. There are also logistical issues with some suggestions (for example, quadrupling the cost of engraving by engraving all in advance will mean other things will have to be pulled out of the budget.)

3) All seem to agree that there are various things that, if passed, could help.

I particularly liked George's suggestion of having the WSFS Business Meeting forward amendment's to the next year's voting public (and perhaps the previous year's voters? Certainly, if we're allowed to participate in nominating...) While it would probably make changes harder to carry out, this would at least help make people more aware, and ought to deal (as Kevin says) with concerns about the WSFS Constitution being somehow controlled by just the 100-200 people who are interested in it.

Perhaps this might be seen as cheapening the award ... but might not some sort of prize draw associated with voting be something to consider? 'Submit your vote and enter to win a grand prize of all the nominated works!'

Of course this costs, but perhaps publishers, writers, and/or others might be willing to donate their works. I really think a lot more people than those who voted actually have informed opinions on at least some of the categories, and just didn't bother to vote because they felt it too tedious or not important enough.

The chance of actually winning something could perhaps lead to more participation, which will probably better reflect the population of the Worldcon. Given that people could just submit the whole form with no votes on it to speak of, it would also probably not greatly impact the "quality" of the voting, I think.

Another idea that I've seen someone, somewhere (maybe here), suggest is the possibility of a voting-only membership. Something that doesn't get you some of the "swag" of being a supporting member (like progress reports -- I assume supporting members get those, anyways) and thus could be somewhat cheaper.

How much cheaper, I do not know, but if it could be gotten down to $25 or less ... well, probably few people would buy it anyways, but _some_ might, and one would assume those are people who are sufficiently motivated to vote in at least one category that it won't somehow ruin the "quality" of results.

Obviously, this is just discussion, but I don't see why we can't use this discussion to get something constructive out of it. William "ranted" and upset people, yes, but at root its because he cares about the Hugos. If some of the newer con-goers (such as myself) aren't as aware of all the history and reasoning behind how things are done, this does not mean we are uninterested in learning. I certainly am, in any case, and am about equally interested in doing what I can to see some of the better ideas for change implemented.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (4:14 PM) : 

I'm going to try to be constructive here.

Right now, WSFS imposes some minimum requirements on Worldcon committees. It does, however, allow Worldcons to offer voting rights to other classes of membership than supporting and attending members.

There is nothing in the WSFS Constitution that would prohibit a given Worldcon from offering people the right to buy a "Hugo Voting Only" membership for, say, $20, that gave them the right to cast a Final Hugo Ballot and nothing else. No nominating rights, either this year or next. No publications. Oh, if they showed up at the door, they could take the $20 off their membership, but I'd be surprised if many people did that, and besides, the accounting for that works the same way as dealing with a supporting member at the door.

As I say, any Worldcon could do that if they wanted to. Perhaps some of you should start pressuring existing Worldcon committees to offer it. Even better, start pressuring bid committees on the subject. One of the reasons that the "Pass-Along Funds" program (which is not regulated by WSFS, but is a private agreement among Worldcon committees) works as well as it does is that bid committees quickly learn that it would be political suicide to answer the question "Will you participate in PAF?" with any answer other than "Yes."

So if you start pestering Worldcon bids with the question, "Will you offer a relatively inexpensive Hugo-Voting-Only membership class?" and make it clear that you won't vote for them if they don't, they're likely to respond. Bidders (particularly in contested races) get very queasy about losing votes. (Says this veteran of one heavily-contested race and one only nominally conetested one.) The twelve-vote differential this year (beating the seventy-vote margin in 1991 for narrowness) will only exacerbate this tendency.

This possibility is currently legal, and imposes only minimal additional requirements upon Worldcons, so it doesn't fail the "impractical to implement" test.

 

Blogger Ran said ... (8:08 PM) : 

Very interesting, Kevin. Thank you.

One of the concerns, of course, is that a large fraction of supporting members are supporting only due to the fact that it gives them the right to vote. If you offer a cheap (free?) voting-only membership, you could very lose some significant number of voting members. Looking over the ConJosé budget you sent (thanks for that), mailing costs of Progress Reports and such only account for (very roughly) $1 a member, so you're not recouping it there, anyways...

The number of supporting members is quite a bit smaller than I expected, looking at smofinfo.com. In general it hovers in the 400-500 area (assuming it was similar this year, that'd be income of $20-$25000... hrm), with the one exception in 2001.

Do you have any idea as to why the supporting member tally was so high that year, Kevin? I hope the words "Rowling" or "Potter" have nothing to do with it. ;)

Think its time to track down the KC and Montreal bid committees and put this voting-only membership question to them...

 

Anonymous Mike "Yagathai" V. said ... (8:26 PM) : 

Well, I'm certainly no stranger to vituperative and pointless debate, and it's damn fun to watch. I'd just hate to see any real bad blood emerge from this silly little spat.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (10:56 AM) : 

Ran said ...

One of the concerns, of course, is that a large fraction of supporting members are supporting only due to the fact that it gives them the right to vote. If you offer a cheap (free?) voting-only membership, you could very lose some significant number of voting members. Looking over the ConJosé budget you sent (thanks for that), mailing costs of Progress Reports and such only account for (very roughly) $1 a member, so you're not recouping it there, anyways...

I'm not sure how you got $1 per member from that budget. Supporting members get all of a Worldcon's general publications, including their Souvenir Book. I worked out a while back that the cost per supporting member was around $20 per member, including the marginal cost of printing and of mailing.

I also wouldn't support making voting completely free, for the reasons I think were pointed out up-thread. You'd be overwhelmed with some pretty silly votes if you did so.


The number of supporting members is quite a bit smaller than I expected, looking at smofinfo.com. In general it hovers in the 400-500 area (assuming it was similar this year, that'd be income of $20-$25000... hrm), with the one exception in 2001.

Do you have any idea as to why the supporting member tally was so high that year, Kevin? I hope the words "Rowling" or "Potter" have nothing to do with it. ;)


Nah. I don't think it's credible to assume a huge bloc vote, particularly given the reluctance people have to pay that much money. I really have no idea why there might have been an abnormally high number of supporting members that year. Going back a decade further, ConAdian (1994) had a fairly large number of supporting members because so many people voted in the 1991 site selection election, and just under half of them voted for Louisville and would never go to Winnipeg.

Most of a Worldcon's supporting members come from the site selection in the form of voters who never convert to attending. Relatively few come later.

ConJose had a small batch of extra supporting memberships due to our "installment plan" where you put up a down payment in the form of a supporting membership and then made payments toward an attending membership, and if you failed to make the payments, you still had a supporting membership. This still wasn't a signficant number of extra memberships.

 

Blogger Ran said ... (12:37 PM) : 

Kevin,

Ahh, sorry. I had just counted up the mailing costs for the progress reports and newsletters, which seemed to be roughly equal in dollars to the total membership (around $5,000 or $6,000, whatever that might be) I did forget about all the other stuff that wasn't mailed.

Well, losing supporting members to a cheaper voting-only option doesn't look so bad as all that, then. Still, I imagine most cons would prefer supporting members to remain supporting members rather than cheaper, vote-only members.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:29 PM) : 

Er, Peter Beagle's mother died on June 24, according to the Conlan Press website. Which is not very long ago to the grief-stricken heart, but it's not quite as tragically recent as it sounded from your entry.

HLC in NYC

 

Blogger William Lexner said ... (4:46 PM) : 

HLC,

Mr. Beagle stated to my wife, in front of me, that he was burying his mother the following day.

Now I do not know the specifics, as I am not the sort to pry into such private matters, and truly it is none of my (or your) business.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (5:08 PM) : 

Here are the actual figures I teased out of the budget. (It's trickier than it looks, because the marginal membership costs are spread hither and yon across the budget.)

These are the things that a supporting member is entitled to receive and that cost the convention money to produce.

Pre-con Pubs, Printing: $6.15

Pre-con Pubs, Postage: $2.09

At-con Pubs, Printing, Net of Advertising Income: $5.24

Badges: $1.98

Post-Con Mailing Postage: $6.54

(The post-con mailing includes the at-con publications and membership badge. It's heavy, and ConJose sent it first class. One can economize here, but by the time CJ did its mailing, we decided that the savings by cheaper postage wasn't worth the delay -- besides, we had the money.)

So that's $22.00 per supporting membership. (It's sheer cooincidence that this comes out even.) These are average costs, and are higher for non-US members and lower for US members, due to the substantially more expensive postage to non-US locations, particularly the handful that don't participate in the ISAL program. (I've learned a whole lot about international mailing by working on Worldcons.)

You don't see a figure for the printing and posting of ballots because ConJose, being sensible, bundled those things into progress reports. A Worldcon that mails them separately will incur additional costs on top of these.

Still, I imagine most cons would prefer supporting members to remain supporting members rather than cheaper, vote-only members.

Actually, I doubt you'd lose many supporting members, given that most of them came in as site selection voters.

You're talking about a Hugo Final Ballot Vote only membership. It wouldn't give you nominating rights, either this year or next. It wouldn't give you site selection voting rights, either. So for $20, the Worldcon in question would probably have costs of about $1 in printing and postage for a ballot, if that much. This makes a Final-Ballot-only voting membership a decent financial proposition for the Worldcon in question, with a margin similar to that of a supporting membership.

 

Blogger Ran said ... (6:57 PM) : 

Thanks for doing that work, Kevin. I'll peer at the budget a bit more and get a better grasp of how to get that sort of data out of it. :)

Maybe I'll run an informal poll somewhere regarding what sort of memberships interest people.

 

Blogger Race said ... (10:09 AM) : 

Wow,
That was fun.

So what pot are you gonna stir up next William?



( I just wanted post #100 )
:p

 

Anonymous Jaxom 1974 said ... (6:16 PM) : 

This is all fascinating, and as someone on the outside looking in trying to understand, a couple questions have popped up that I'm not 100% certain I've seen an answer to yet.

1. Is Worldcon Not-For-Profit?
2. Worldcon is governed by the WSFS? Is this body not regulated?

Really so many questions, and I don't know if they'll make sense, but I'm truly trying to get a true landscape of this. I can't concieve of an organization, any organization, that seems to meet only once a year to handle business and only then during the actual convention the business is dedicated to!

I'm sure I've missed something. Is there somewhere I need to go to further read the history of all of this?

 

Blogger JaniceG said ... (7:20 PM) : 

Jaxom 1974:

No, you haven't missed anything. WSFS and the worldcon in terms of continuing bodies really are that funky. The worldcon is run by the committee of people who have bid for and won the right to host the worldcon in a given year. The members of WSFS are the members of a given worldcon for a given year. When that worldcon is over, the members of WSFS change to be the members of the next worldcon.

For more details, check out http://www.wsfs.org.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (11:27 PM) : 

Jaxom 1974 said...

This is all fascinating, and as someone on the outside looking in trying to understand, a couple questions have popped up that I'm not 100% certain I've seen an answer to yet.

Janice gave you the short answer. I'll give you the long one, if you're interested.

1. Is Worldcon Not-For-Profit?

The general answer is "yes," but the specific answer is "there's nothing that requires it."

You see, there is no single legal entity called "Worldcon." Every single Worldcon, every year, is a completely separate legal and organizational entity. Each one is freshly organized. (Well, sometimes the same legal entity will run another one years later, but this works as a first approximation.) Most of the organizations that run Worldcons are non-profit corporations or the equivalent type of legal entity in their countries. (All recent US Worldcons have been run by 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit corporations. Other countries have different legal forms that I can explain if you want to know. I'm currently on the board of directors of conrunning corporations in the USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom.)


2. Worldcon is governed by the WSFS?

Yes, in a very general way. WSFS is an unincorporated literary society. It has no headquarters, no home office, no board of directors, and no executive authority. There is no "WSFS Inc." or a "Presdident of WSFS." WSFS does establish through the WSFS Constitution the general guidelines under which the sites of future Worldcons are selected and the rules for administering the Hugo Awards.

Anything not specifically governed by the WSFS Constitution is up to the individual Worldcon committee, which acts in its own name and not that of WSFS.

Here's an analogy: The International Olympic Committee does not actually run the Olympic Games. The IOC sanctions individual entities to operate the various Olympic Games under the rules established by the IOC. (The IOC regulates Olympic Games far more closely than WSFS rules regulate Worldcon Committees, but the concept is the same.)

Is this body not regulated?

I don't know what you mean by "regulated." If you mean "governed by state or federal law," then the answer is "probably not" since there is not much of a legal entity.

There are a tiny number of things, primarily having to do with the intellectual property of WSFS (the registered service marks "Worldcon," "Hugo Award," etc.) that individual Worldcon Committees can't do. Therefore, WSFS established back in the 1980s an organization currently known as the Mark Protection Committee. That committee (I'm the current Chair) manages the WSFS service marks and investigates infringements, and if necessary, takes action to protect those marks from infringement.

Other than these few things I've mentioned, Worldcon committees are completely autonomous. They are operated by their individual committees.


Really so many questions, and I don't know if they'll make sense, but I'm truly trying to get a true landscape of this. I can't concieve of an organization, any organization, that seems to meet only once a year to handle business and only then during the actual convention the business is dedicated to!

Well, that's because WSFS doesn't actually deal with the management of the individual Worldcons. WSFS sets the rules by which Worldcons are selected and how they run the Hugo Awards, but because it takes two years for any change to be adopted, an individual WSFS Business Meeting can never do anything that directly manages the Worldcon at which it is held.

Because the membership of WSFS is defined as every member of the current Worldcon -- there's no other way to join -- the only place it could possibly meet is at Worldcon. Only a couple hundred (at most) members of WSFS (out of thousands) choose to exercise their membership right to participate in WSFS government.

WSFS is, in effect, governed by the Town Meeting form of government. Also, the government is extremely weak. I've often likened it to how the USA was governed under the Confederation Congress before the US Constitution was ratified. Virtually all authority is vested in the individual Wordlcons, who have all of the money and all of the power, while the central government is weak and mostly powerless.

Crazy? Well, it seems that way sometimes, but it's lasted for over sixty years now. I doubt anyone would have ever designed this system this way, but by slow evolution it has managed to work itself out to a surprisingly stable system. But it does look pretty strange from the outside, from people who assume there must be a single governing organization that Makes Decisions.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:04 AM) : 

(Balefont here)

Gods, reading this con consititution vs standing rules and business meetings bureaucracy is making my head swim. And I thought the American political system fucked...

George, you are the best writer I have encountered. You have my vote any and every year.

I just can't even come to grips with joining the WorldCon membership with all this... noise. I'd rather try fixing the American politcal system first.

William, I adore you my sweet. Much love, A

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (9:49 PM) : 

I just can't even come to grips with joining the WorldCon membership with all this... noise.

The rules have evolved over a long period of time, and are there to protect the rights of individuals, minorities, and majorities. (Believe it or not, majorities have rights as well.)

However, just like in mundane life, relatively few people choose to participate in the political process. You can join a Worldcon and enjoy it a great deal without participating in any of the things that require political activity. Heck, >98% of the members do so.

I bend over backwards to try and help people participate in the political process at the Business Meeting, to the point where the regular attendees (who already know how things work) get angry at me and complain that I talk to much.

In my experience, it seems to me that a lot of complaining about how awful the procedure is amounts to "Just shut up and do what I say." I'm not saying that's what you mean. I'm saying that the process of working in a deliberative assmebly, balancing different rights in an attempt to reach a collabarative decision, is always going to be messy. Remember the old saw about knowing how sausage and laws are made.

 

Anonymous Jaxom 1974 said ... (11:37 PM) : 

Kevin,

Thanks for the overview (and Janice for the site).

With humilty and all respect, I'm amazed that it has lasted for 60+ years without faltering.

Your Olympic analogy is excellent for garnering a bit better understanding of what your meaning. However, it would also seem to point out some of the flaws I think I see in what you've described above. Obviously I'm a total outsider looking to understand, so my commentary is obviously naive in many respects. But the IOC, to borrow the comparison, doesn't wait until during the Olympics to deal with business.

But I digress, obviously I don't know what I'm actually talking about since I'm not involved...but it is a good lesson should I ever get a chance to do so.

 

Blogger Kevin Standlee said ... (5:07 PM) : 

Jaxom 1974 said...

With humilty and all respect, I'm amazed that it has lasted for 60+ years without faltering.

You're not the only one.

Your Olympic analogy is excellent for garnering a bit better understanding of what your meaning. However, it would also seem to point out some of the flaws I think I see in what you've described above. Obviously I'm a total outsider looking to understand, so my commentary is obviously naive in many respects. But the IOC, to borrow the comparison, doesn't wait until during the Olympics to deal with business.

That's true; however, the analogy isn't all that good in that case anyway, and here's why:

1. If the Olympics were that much like WSFS, then every single athlete, official, and volunteer would be a member of the IOC and entitled to participate in the parent organization's deliberations.

2. If case 1 applied, the only time you'd ever be able to get all of the voting members together is at the Olympics itself. WSFS has literally thousands of members, and the only time they're all in one place (more or less) is at the Worldcon.

3. In the case of WSFS, the "sanctioning organization" has virtually no jurisdiction over the event actually happening. That is, the WSFS Business Meeting at a given Worldcon can't order the current Worldcon to do anything at all. (Heck, it has sometimes been difficult to get the current Worldcon to simply schedule the meeting at the desired time.)

4. All the WSFS Business Meeting can do is set rules for future Worldcons.

Now what I think you're thinking about is a central organization with a representative government, where the electorate elects representives to govern for them. WSFS doesn't work that way. It's a direct democracy -- a "town meeting" form of government. And that Town Meeting has been very resistant to allowing any centralization of authority at all. The Meeting does not want a Board of Directors running things. They want to make the decisions for themselves, and they don't trust anyone else but themselves to do so. Therefore, the government remains pretty weak, and the members seem to mostly like it that way.

Again, Worldcon isn't a single entitity. It's a bunch of individual entities who sometimes cooperate on matters of mutual interest, but otherwise are independent of each other and sometimes millitantly so.

 

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Blogger Karina said ... (1:20 PM) : 

As only the times show,not the date,I have no idea if this is even still a live debate. That coupled with the fact that I have to get the heck out of here and have only read half the comments makes me wonder if I should even bother. But...I am a fan,so it goes without saying that I will bother.

I'm just making a comment on the HUGO voting costs. The thing that has always bothered me about the HUGOs (or amused me, your choice) is the publishers putting in huge letters HUGO Award Winner!! across the cover as if the majority of the purchasing audience would be hugely impressed by how small the voting pool is...especially when you get down to the "lesser" categories. I think it annoys me that, to some extent, I am paying for a publishing house to make extra money because I liked a story.

I'm not saying the nominees shouldn't be recognized, it just irks me that the publishers get to capitalize on it.

That said, a seperate Hugo voting fee would irk me even more The WorldCon established the award, you need to be a member of the WorldCon to vote. And, they can establish whatever rules and procedures they feel work best

You want something that doesn't involve the WorldCon? Establish a "Fandom's Choice Award" for science fiction...and let everyone vote for free. Let me know how you do it without any costs that need to be covered somehow and then let me know how you let people know who won..also for free.

Can't happen. A support structure has to be in place and that costs money which has to come from somewhere, unless the award organizer is independetly wealthy and is doing this out of the kindness of their heart, which would open up a whole 'nother can of smelly worms.

 

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