Voting for the Hugo Awards — or why don’t eligible voters vote

Hugo Award that will be given during Anticipation 2009As many of you know, I’m a fan of science fiction and fantasy among other forms of entertainment and enjoyment.  Usually, hubby and I attend the World Science Fiction Convention which this year will be held in Montreal and is called (this year) Anticipation.  Members of the convention get to nominate and vote for the Hugo Awards which are given out at a ceremony held at the convention.  A friend pointed me to this great article on voting for the Hugo Awards. Kate Heartfield has raised many of the issues that have niggled at me for a long time.

We attend Worldcon every year that we can manage it. We attended our first as our honeymoon — we’d gotten married the weekend before the convention. Ever since, we celebrate our anniversary by attending the world science fiction convention and we’ve only missed three since that first one. We’ll be missing Anticipation this due to a variety of events including the current economic situation in the US. This year, because we were attending members of the last convention, we did nominate for the Hugo awards but we’ll be ineligible to vote for them.

Each year it has been a bit of work to figure out what to nominate (it has to have been published or first presented during the previous year), and once the nominees are announced to gather all the works and view and/or read them. But we, as do many others, take this privilege seriously. Hugo awards are presented to the best work of the previous year. The list of winners is impressive and many of the books, stories, and media that has won has withstood the test of time and is still remembered and read by fans of the genre.

Yet, each year when the numbers are published it seems that only about five hundred people (plus or minus a couple of hundred depending on the category) take the time and effort to nominate and vote for these awards. When the convention is in the US, membership (those attending is in the thousands (4-6,000) when the convention is outside the country the numbers are fewer but still many buy supporting memberships in order to nominate or attending in order to vote (whether they attend or not). Yet the numbers who actually nominate and vote remain fairly constant.

[NOTE: I'm not bothering to look up the actual numbers. These numbers are out there in the internet but I'm going from my memory and impressions and I'm fairly sure I'm only off on specifics and it's the generalities that I'm talking about.]

When we first started attending the conventions, we had to go out and find all the nominated works and read them and then vote. One rule we’ve had is if you don’t read/watch it you don’t vote in that category. These awards are for the best and if you don’t know that category and haven’t read in it or haven’t read anything published in the appropriate year then you can’t make an informed decision.

Over the last several years, publishers and authors have been making the works available to members of the convention so that they can read all the nominated works for free. Of course finding and viewing the nominated works in the media categories is a bit trickier but the advent of Hulu, NetFlix and other sites have made this easier also.

So, why don’t the members who are eligible nominate or vote? I don’t know. For the last several years, I’ve been asking and some of the reasons I’ve been given are:

  • I don’t have time
  • My vote won’t count, it’s sewn up before we even get to nominate/vote
  • I’m not an expert on the field, I just read it for fun
  • No one cares what I think
  • I don’t read any of the people who get nominated (follow-up question: did you nominate the ones you do read — answers is usually, No, why bother)
  • Why bother, the best stuff never wins (follow-up question: did you nominate or vote — answer, No)

In point of fact, these answers are pretty similar to why people, in the US at least, don’t vote in their political elections. What I can’t understand is how you can expect that your choices would ever win if you don’t bother to get out there and nominate (too late for this year) and vote. I get truly baffled by the people who say “my opinions/wishes/vote doesn’t count” and then a follow up shows that these same people don’t nominate or vote or let their opinions/wishes be known. Seems to me if you sit and do nothing, you can’t expect to have your opinion/wishes taken into account.

Many years none of my nominees make the ballot. Many years people on the ballot are ones that I’ve never read before — and who have later become favorite authors. By taking part in the process, I’ve found authors I might not have found otherwise. I’ve at least done my part to see that the best in the field gets a fair chance at the spotlight.

So, why do so few chose to exercise their option to make a difference and to celebrate the best in the field?

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