If the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) wanted to call me a hater, I would be inclined to agree. I have been one of the Hugo Awards’ hugest detractors in recent years with blog post after blog post excoriating the WSFS for their silly rules, the award for its myopic view, and the voters for their borderline idiocy. After attending my first Worldcon I want to tell the entire science fiction and fantasy community that I was wrong.
Let me say that again for emphasis. I was wrong.
Before I went to Worldcon I thought it was Camelot. I thought it must be this magical place where science fiction and fantasy fans went to create something larger than themselves. It was a place where they went to further the genre, to explore new lines of thought, and to inspire a new generation of content creators (whatever their age). The reality is something quite different. Worldcon, put on by the World Science Fiction Society, is a club, not an organization, and the Hugos are designed solely to recognize that club’s point of view. If club sounds like a pejorative, believe me that’s not my intent. Groups exist to serve all kinds of purposes and for years the WSFS club aligned closely with the science fiction and fantasy community at large. It was still a club, but a club that gave an appearance of something else. Those days are distant in the rear view mirror.
My revelation doesn’t sound that illuminating when I type it out.
It surprised me though. I genuinely thought the failure of the Hugos was a failure of the WSFS. Instead, the failing is my own. Because the Hugos aren’t failing at all. I was trying to force a square peg through a round hole. I was trying to appropriate the cultural identity of thousands. Does that sound a little hyperbolic? I don’t think it is. If I had been espousing that the Latin Music Awards needed to stop awarding so many Latin artists my objections might have been more widely panned. Instead, certain members of the WSFS came here to defend themselves and were shouted down. I’m sorry for that. The Hugos and Worldcon don’t belong to the science fiction and fantasy community at large. Nor should they. We do not have the right to demand they meet our standards.
I’m comfortable with this.
In fact, I’m somewhat ashamed that it took me this long to realize it. As I mentioned above, the WSFS and the Hugo Awards for a long period of time matched up quite well with the will of the community. Thus, it would be wrong to assume that the Hugos haven’t done good work. They have. And the role they’ve played is vital. The Nebula Award is by professionals for professionals. The World Fantasy Award is the same, but decided by a jury. The Tiptree and the Kitschies and the Philip K. Dick Award have very specific requirements. The Hugo Award has struck a wonderful balance. It is a curated and populist award simultaneously. By charging to vote, the Hugos keep out people who don’t take their voting seriously, but still retain the entertainment factor that only a large voting pool can accomplish.
Unfortunately, the group that the Hugo voting pool has become has drifted further into their own corner of fandom. They award categories who have no interest in being a part of the WSFS experience like Best Dramatic Presentation, while failing to recognize emerging media such as video games, blogs, and young adult writing. The result, is that the Hugos no longer relate to the new and developing communities within the science fiction and fantasy community. It’s a shame, but sticking our heads in the sand and pretending otherwise isn’t the answer. Nor is trying to culturally appropriate the Hugos from its rightful owners.
I propose something new.
The time has come to create something like the Hugos, but for a new generation of fans. An award that not only recognizes media that’s relevant to a modern consumers, but attempts to be inclusive to a worldwide audience. Instead of charging $50 for the right to vote, why not charge $5? Instead of holding the awards at a graying convention that attracts 5,000 fans, why not hold them at a multi-media convention that attracts 50,000? Instead of being stunned when someone from Hollywood shows up to hoist the award, why not be stunned when only four of the nominees make an appearance? I’m tired of sniping at someone else’s short comings. Instead of begging reality to become what we believe it ought to be, why don’t we just create the reality we want?
This is a mission statement.
If you run, or know someone who does, a multi-media convention, reach out to me. If you want to be a part of this movement, reach out to me. If you have ideas for how to make it better, reach out to me. I’m tired of pissing into the wind. Aren’t you?