Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hugo Awards: A Summary

Some years ago (1973 - 1984) I taught ballroom dancing for a living. In between selling lifetime courses to elderly widows and bedding thirty-something divorcees, I went to several dance competitions every year.  I competed in the pro-am division, meaning a professional-amateur partnership. My students were the amateurs, and had the credentials to prove it. My students did pretty well, but it wasn't until the owner of the studio, Dan Nash, hired current ballroom title holders to come into the school and train us that I really excelled. When our studio went to a competition, we tended to win nearly everything. We were good, but not that good.

The truth of the matter was that when our studio attended a competition, we brought a lot of entries.  50 separate entries was not uncommon, and the number could go as high as 100.  That meant that the organizer of the competition was making a significant amount of money from us, as well as increasing the size of his event. The judge, or judges, were the same people who had been in our studio training us the week before. Again, there's money floating around here, and if the judge has spent time training us, he at least knows who we are, right?  He also knows that a solid portion of his income is derived from our studio.

So there's some bias here. Maybe a little conflict of interest one way or another. Both the judge and the organizer will deny any favoritism, but at best there going to be some bias towards anyone spending money with these people.  At worst it's obviously fixed.  Reality is somewhere in the middle.

Cut to the recent fiasco called the Hugo Awards. The controversy that now defines the Hugo awards can be found all over the Internet, but what it really boils down to is tyranny by majority and the political correctness of the author. The quality of the work has nothing to do with the award.

This is a bold, somewhat antagonistic statement, but it isn't without proof.  To read about the whole bloody business, you can begin with Mutiny at the Hugo Awards by Cathy Young, and continue with Sad Puppies 3: Looking at the Results by Larry Correia. Another article worth reading is Offensitivity by Cedar Sanderson, where the author explains just how something like this can happen.  The consequences are sort of covered in this article: Credibility.  Not that consequences are going to bother any of the winners, who now have a brand new trophy that looks something like a marital aid.  No fooling here; I wouldn't put this thing on my mantle on a bet, because sooner or later someone is going to state the obvious and wonder aloud where it's been.

As for me, I didn't care about the Hugo awards before this whole thing started, and I don't care about the award now.  The actual awarding process has been dominated by the tree house club for years, and the only thing that's changed is the official membership, the official winners (which rotates every year) and the fact that having Hugo Award Winner! listed after a given work does not ensure any sort of quality. If quality reading is what you're after, nose around the bookstore until you find an author you like, then stay with him.  See who he likes, and you'll very likely find another author or three.  You'll be happy, the author will be happy, and the Hugo tree house club won't notice.  Probably a lot like the dinosaurs failed to notice that the mornings were getting uncomfortably cold and food was a bit scarce this season.

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