The agenda for this year’s WSFS Business Meeting has been published, and with it the usual collection of new business for consideration.
There has been quite a lot of discussion elsewhere already about the proposal to scrap three (but oddly not all) of the fan categories in the Hugos. I don’t think I need to add to that. You only have to read the commentary on the motion to see that it is the work of someone with a bee in his bonnet. The logic of it has been thoroughly dissected elsewhere. I guess it would be amusing to see it actually get debated, because some people would end up saying some very weird things on the record, but I’m expecting this to suffer Objection To Consideration at the Friday meeting. It you can spare the time to drop by on Friday to make sure it doesn’t get any further, please do so.
A rather more serious piece of business is the one called “No Cheap Voting”. Here is the text, to save you clicking through to read it.
4.1.1 Short Title: No Cheap Voting
Moved, to add a new subsection following existing section 1.5.7:
Section 1.5.X: No membership that includes any WSFS voting right may be sold by a Worldcon for less than that Worldcon’s supporting membership rate when it was initially selected.
Commentary: These voting rights are a perquisite of Worldcon membership. Anything including the same for less is distorted by definition.
The title of the motion, and the use of the word “distorted” should be enough to tell you that this too is the work of people who are angry about the way the world is going, and want to roll things back. But what is it all about?
Well, for a long time people have been complaining that voting in the Hugo Awards is too expensive. I agreed with them, and so did many other people. As a result, some steps have been taking to reduce the cost.
The main issue here is that voting in the Hugos is a right that one obtains by becoming a member of Worldcon. For a long time conservatives have tried to claim that being a “member” means actually attending the convention, but voting at the convention hasn’t been required for ages. Worldcons have long sold “supporting memberships” that allow people who can’t afford to attend to still participate in the event.
However, supporting memberships are still fairly expensive. For the current Worldcon in San Antonio they cost $60. London, to my horror, is not currently advertising a rate for supporting memberships. I very much hope that this is an error in their website, and not policy.
There are various reasons for the high price. Partly you get things other than the voting rights for a supporting membership, such as the program book and progress reports, which cost money to produce. And partly supporting memberships are tied into the site selection process. You have to buy at least a supporting membership to vote in site selection, and Worldcons have become dependent on the revenue from site selection to provide the initial cash flow that they need on becoming seated. Some progress was made last year, but supporting memberships can’t get too much cheaper without causing financial hardship to Worldcons, unless some other means of obtaining an initial cash injection is found.
Without cheaper supporting memberships, it might seem that Hugo voting cannot get any cheaper, but that’s not the case. There is nothing in the WSFS Constitution that would prevent a Worldcon from adopting a new class of membership: a Voting Membership. It would carry with it no rights other than voting in the Hugos, and would therefore be pure profit for the Worldcon. If it was priced suitably, it could result in a significant additional source of income, as well as increasing participation in Hugo voting.
The purpose of this new motion is to prevent Worldcons from ever creating this sort of membership.
That is, its purpose is to prevent the “Wrong Sort of Fan” from participating in the Hugos: young people, poor people, people from countries where $60 is a huge amount of money, and so on.
The commentary on the motion is a piece of ridiculous sophistry. A membership is a membership. There is no reason why creating a new type of membership would be a “distortion”, unless you have the sort of mindset that holds that allowing people who are poorer than you to vote is a “distortion”.
This motion is an attempt by people who already have voting privileges to prevent those privileges from being extended to others. It also cuts Worldcons off from a potentially very lucrative source of income. I want to see it voted down.