Wednesday, 24 January 2024

The debacle around the 2023 Hugo Awards

I’m not going to go over the drama surrounding the 2023 Hugo Awards that erupted following the release of the nomination stats. File 770, Cora Buhlert and Camestros Felapton have detailed analysis and commentary, if you want the gory details (it’s even made the mainstream media!).  There’s been some great analysis around the blogophere, but, as you’d expect, there’s a degree of hysteria as well, with some commentators suggesting that the awards are, or could become, irrevocably tarnished. I think this is a definite overreaction.  I agree this is different to what happened during Puppy-gate, because this time it’s the award process itself that is under question, not an external group trying to game the awards, which themselves remain transparent.  This time round, there’s no transparency at all, with obfuscation and diversion from Dave McCarty, the Hugo administrator for this year.

But, for me, at least, this is very much a 2023 problem, not a problem with the awards as a whole.  I think the lesson to learn here is to not let McCarty have oversight of the awards, and that people will be watching Glasgow very closely (as they should), but I think there’s enough eyeballs on the awards to ensure that either their integrity remains intact, or that (as in this case) any meddling is caught quickly – I think the full 2023 stats had been up for only hours before the first social media and blog posts about the anomalies started going up.  The community cares about these awards.  There’s pride that they’re regularly referred to as the leading awards in the SFF field and I think this love is already being demonstrated in not just the detailed analysis of the stats, but also all the attention being paid to the WSFS constitution and its structures to try and find a way to prevent this from happening again.

In the end, since each WorldCon is an entirely independent beast, we can’t say that a previous mess will necessarily infect the next one, since there will (almost certainly) be entirely different groups of people running them (and hopefully willing to learn lessons from their predecessors).  I’ve got no answers myself, but I’ve got faith that the community will work something out.

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