Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Awards and Geekdom

Every year at about this time, they announce the Origins awards.  And every year at about this time, I throw up a post complaining about the relevance of awards for a hobby industry that use retailers and distributors as gatekeepers.

And that's still a problem.

But this year, compared to the Hugos, the Origins awards look downright brilliant.

The way the Origins awards work (to my understanding, at least) is as follows:

Step 1: A panel of industry insiders and experts puts together a long list of potential nominees that they take to GAMA, which is a convention for retailers, publishers, and distributors.

Step 2: The folks at GAMA vote on this list, usually eliminating the small indie publishers who didn't hit distribution. The top five from each list are the official nominees.

Step 3: We vote.  And by "we," I mean "anyone who wants to sign up to vote."

The flaw with the system - for me, at least - is Step 2, as I mentioned before. Game Store owners (and I love you guys - I really do) and distributors aren't usually going to put forward a game that they can't get. Because in theory awards lead to sales.

This year's nominees are unusually strong, but it's been a very good year in gaming. Notice, however, that there aren't a lot of independent games in there.

And voting is live.

But the Hugos ...

So the process with the Hugos is as follows:

Step 1: People who are members of WorldCon nominate their favorite works for a Hugo.

Step 2: The five works in each category that are most-nominated make the final ballot.

Step 3: We vote. And by "we," I mean "members of WorldCon."

"Members" includes two groups.  "Supporting members," who pay about $40 to be able to vote, receive whatever packet is sent, and receive a program from the convention itself are the most numerous group. The other group is folks who are actually attending the show.

It's my understanding that supporting gives you more than one year of nomination/voting power, but it's very possible that I'm wrong there.  I'm sure someone will be along to correct me at some point.

The numbers of actual voters and nominators compared to the numbers eligible to do so is actually sad and depressing.

How sad?

Two authors - Vox Day and Brad Torgerson - got about 300 people to nominate from their specific lists of eligible works. And these works dominate the final ballot.

Here are some historical numbers on voters and folks involved in the nomination process.  The number involved this year is an even lower percentage.

It's caused a huge stir.  To the point where more than a few nominees have withdrawn, either because they don't want to be associated with the "Puppies" lists or because the winners of this year's Hugo awards may feel like there will always be an asterisk associated with that award.

And it's a shame, because there are some really good works on the list. For example, I really liked Ancillary Sword (which is the sequel to Ancillary Justice, which is well worth the read).

To make things worse, the folks involved with this are using the "We didn't break any rules," argument. And have co-opted GamerGate language, referring to their opponents as "SJWs."

As a gamer, I am well aware that "We didn't break the rules," is shorthand for, "I know I'm being an asshole."  Because I hear it at the table all too often.

There's kind of a lot I want to say here, but - quite frankly - I don't have time to write it and you probably don't have the time to read it.

Either way, File 770 has been doing an excellent job of keeping folks informed from a mostly-neutral position.

But why is this such a big deal? Why are people wailing and gnashing their teeth at the situations? Why are the Origins awards important? Who cares about the Hugos?

It's because we're fans.

Fan is short for fanatic, and I think we all forget that sometimes.

We are passionate about our hobbies, whether it's reading or gaming or painting or photography or stamp collecting. And we want our [thing] to be recognized as the best [thing.] I think it's because there is a perception that awards lead to sales - and they do, but not in a dramatic fashion.

I think Joe Peacock put it very well in this post:
Fandom isn’t about being more of a fan than anyone else. Fandom is about loving the stuff you love. When someone else decides to check it out, that doesn't LESSEN your love for it… It just multiplies it. 


  1. Anonymous6:11 AM

    Three of the final novel nominees--Ancillary Sword, The Goblin Emperor, and The Three Body Problem were not on the puppies slate, which can be seen here:

    The Three Body Problem actually only made the slate after Marko Kloos withdrew Lines of Departure, quite sensibly not wanting to be associated with a tainted nomination process

  2. "quite sensibly not wanting to be associated with a tainted nomination process."

    Actually Marko had no issue with the nomination process. He withdrew because of Beales RP3 slate.

    1. Anonymous12:23 PM

      In fact, anyone wanting to know why Marko withdrew can read Marko's own words on the matter:

      From reading his post, I'd say you are both right. He writes,

      It has come to my attention that “Lines of Departure” was one of the nomination suggestions in Vox Day’s “Rabid Puppies” campaign. Therefore—and regardless of who else has recommended the novel for award consideration—the presence of “Lines of Departure” on the shortlist is almost certainly due to my inclusion on the “Rabid Puppies” slate. For that reason, I had no choice but to withdraw my acceptance of the nomination. I cannot in good conscience accept an award nomination that I feel I may not have earned solely with the quality of the nominated work.

      I also wish to disassociate myself from the originator of the “Rabid Puppies” campaign. To put it bluntly: if this nomination gives even the appearance that Vox Day or anyone else had a hand in giving it to me because of my perceived political leanings, I don’t want it. I want to be nominated for awards because of the work, not because of the “right” or “wrong” politics.

  3. I'm not a sad puppy, though I have ties to it and have been following it. The sad puppies are far less like rules lawyers and far more like poker players. Poker players calling out the guy with all the extra cards tyucked in his sleeve