WSFS: The Old Pharts Fight Back

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.

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59 Responses to WSFS: The Old Pharts Fight Back

  1. Niall says:

    London, to my horror, is not currently advertising a rate for supporting memberships

    It’s listed on this page — £25.

    • Yes, but it’s not listed on the membership types prominently displayed up front. You have to dig down two levels to get to it. That makes it appear that it’s only being offered if you know to ask for it (like the “hidden menu” items that some restaurants offer), effectively only for “insiders.”

  2. John Coxon says:

    Loncon 3 is selling supporting memberships for £25, but it’s not obvious on the website. I’d advise you to contact either Website or Membership through the online form to ask how to purchase one 🙂

    • Don’t be silly. The point is that the membership is hidden away where only people who already know what one is can find it. For people new to Worldcons or who might have heard that there were ways to get involved that don’t require spending hundreds of pounds or flying across an ocean, they’ll come to the front page, see “oh, nothing for me here,” and leave.

      • John Coxon says:

        I don’t see how my (fairly plain-spoken) comment was me ‘being silly’, nor do I appreciate ad hom responses to comments made in good faith. I shall avoid commenting in the future.

  3. Cheryl says:

    Update on the London added above. Thanks to everyone who commented.

  4. Jonathan M says:

    I found Loncon’s supporting membership just fine *shrug* But yeah, it might be a good idea to have a link to supporting memberships right on the front page. Come nomination time, a lot of people will google the Hugos and just turn up on the Loncon website and the fewer hoops you make them jump through, the more likely you are to get their money and potentially their involvement 🙂

    This year’s proposals do seem to be about turning back the clock. Aside from the one about publishing accounts, there’s an attempt to keep membership prices high, an attempt to dismember the Fan Hugos and an attempt to introduce what is essentially a Best Filk Hugo despite the fact that the last Filker died of loneliness in the late 1970s. That proposal is all about cultural politics as the first line states that filking is a core fan activity. Really? Really?

    I’ve been following discussions on SMOF mailing list but I must have missed the discussion surrounding the cheap voting memberships. Given that Cheryl is obviously editorialising, can someone spell out the arguments put forward in favour of the proposal? Is it about leaving money on the table or something?

    • Cheryl says:

      I note that I am not on SMOFs and have therefore not seen any of the discussion. However, if there are other arguments for this motion, why are they not in the commentary?

      • Jonathan M says:

        I think the lack of commentary is deliberate.

        Issues of cost and accessibility are likely to attract the attention of the wider community while administrative jargon and vague generalities make the wider community lose interest. Just another boring Hugo ammendment…

        The lack of commentary is deliberate because the less people think about this proposal, the more likely it is that it’ll slide through unopposed. What commentary the proposal has is all about conservative dog-whistle politics… terms like “perquisite” and “distortion” are all about getting out the reactionary vote without turning the proposal into a big fight about accessibility.

    • Seanan says:

      Given that there are multiple filk conventions every year, all around the world, we had a filk CD on the ballot in 2012, and the Pegasus Awards (the largest award in filk) regularly have voting numbers which rival individual Hugo categories (not the Hugos as a whole, but when only 400 people vote in a given category, claiming the whole number would be disingenuous), I can see the argument for a Filk Hugo.

      • The last time there was a proposal for Best Music, the Worldcon trialed it as a category. There weren’t enough nominations to justify it progressing to the final ballot. Now that was almost twenty years ago. The question is whether enough has changed to make it worthwhile trying again.

        Personally, I don’t think filk by itself justifies a category of its own; however, considered as a super-short-form dramatic presentation, it might. But rather than Best Dramatic Presentation Fan we should consider re-splitting Short Form so that there is a Very Short Form (must think of better name than that) for items less than ten minutes or so. Filk performances (presumably recorded and uploaded to YouTube) would qualify.

        • Seanan says:

          I don’t necessarily feel that it should actually BE a category; I was more responding to the “attempt to introduce what is essentially a Best Filk Hugo despite the fact that the last Filker died of loneliness in the late 1970s” comment. Filk is a large and thriving community; if the numbers are there, I see no reason not to send up a balloon.

          But you are best Kevin for being a sense of history and groundedness. 🙂

  5. Geoff Thorpe says:

    While I intend to oppose this motion there are a couple of points I would like to make.
    1) You quote the current supporting rate of $60 for Lonstarcon not the rate as of september 2011 which is relevant to the motion.
    2) The voting rights get you the voter’s pack. The equivelent kindle rates for the 5 novels alone is $40.69 . People already buy supporting membership just to get the pack. If the pack were available at $5 with the money going to the convention, and publishers saw large numbers of people buying it with no intention of voting, that could see the loss of this valuable item.

    • Cheryl says:

      Has LoneStarCon raised the price of supporting memberships? That rather surprises me, though I’d be surprised if it has ever been less than what London is charging.

      That’s a very interesting point about the Voter Packet. What you are saying there is that publishers are only likely to be happy about providing works if the number of people benefiting from it is small. Yet the whole point of the Voter Packet was to encourage more people to participate in voting. I can see why people might want to pull up the drawbridge to protect that right, but up until now we have been openly using the Voter Packet to encourage more people to get involved in the Hugos, and publishers still provide books.

      By the way, just in case anyone is unsure, publishers do not get any direct revenue from the Voter Packet.

      • Jonathan M says:

        Has there actually been any push-back from publishers with regards to expanding the number of Voting Packages?

        If so, who and where?

        If not, then it’s stupid to legislate on the basis that they might.

    • There are people who object strongly to implying that you will always get a Voter Packet and to selling supporting memberships with an implication that “look, buy this and get all of these goodies!” In fact, I’m uneasy with that implication myself. There is absolutely no guarantee of a Hugo Voter Packet. It is entirely dependent upon the goodwill of publishers, authors, artists, and rights-holders, and every Worldcon has to start from scratch asking for their permission to include the works.

      Personally, I wouldn’t be that happy with a $5 voting-only membership either, and I’m not someone advocating for free voting for anyone (which of course gets rocks thrown at me by the people who say that paying any sum to vote is Unfair). Personally, I think the retail price of a new large hardcover SF/F novel is the approximately right price for a supporting membership as long as the cost of the publications is separate, either distributed electronically only or available at a supplemental cost that represents the publications’ variable cost to the convention to provide them in paper form.

  6. Emma Bull says:

    Speaking as an Old Phart, I officially approve this essay and support changes that make Hugo voting cheaper and easier. Because, damn, when I hear the word “inclusive,” I smile. And when I hear “exclusive,” I frown. Barriers have no place in my fandom!

  7. I’m reminded of a conversation I had at the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal where a guy I was chatting with said, “The Hugo awards are largely decided by people who can afford to spend $1000 on a weekend.”

    I’d never thought of it that way before, but, having recently toured some (much) poorer countries, I’m far more attuned to it now than I was then.

    I think Kevin’s point of a paper-pubs free Supporting membership that’s around the price of a hardback is a good idea. That said, I’m personally miffed at the number of voter packet books only available in formats that aren’t readable, imho. (PDF is perfect for page proofing but sucks as a reading format.)

  8. Dave McCarty says:

    I have a couple places where I disagree with the conclusions that you’re drawing. I think the LSC3 price for voting/supporting membership is sort of a high water mark and that point is receding. Loncon 3 is back to 25 gbp (about $40 usd) and the fee for the 2015 race is also $40. The mechanism driving the cost even that high is not (IMO) the need for the site selection fees to fund things nearly as much as it is the linking of that fee to the initial attending membership cost. If you want the initial attending membership to be in the range of $150 (as it has been the last several years), then the constitution currently requires that you can’t have a voting fee less than $35 or $40. I was party to loosening the rules to allow the drop down from $50/60 fees, I plan to try to loosen it further very shortly.

    I think there’s enough reasonable people with the goal of reducing the supporting membership cost down to $25-$35 that I don’t think it’s useful to try to have a “voting only” membership. I also (personally) don’t see the value of people joining *only* to vote. I think the Hugos (by design) represent the will of a community and a supporting membership (with it’s links to publications and site selection) is in my mind a positive step towards joining the community. I think allowing a mechanism for voting without joining the community in some form is a mistake.

    • Well, Dave, would you support an amendment to the No Cheap Voting proposal that would also strip out the requirement at 1.5.3 to make paper publications the default? That would be to add a second clause to the proposal, thus:

      2. Strike out section 1.5.3, allowing Worldcons to offer electronic-only distribution of publications as the default of a membership:

      1.5.3: Electronic distribution of publications, if offered, shall be opt-in.

      If you’re agreeable, I’ll prepare this as an amendment to the proposal on the agenda for consideration at the Preliminary Business Meeting. I’m all in favor of it, as you may be aware, even though I’m one of those who lobbied for the current language a few years ago. I’ve had my mind changed by changing circumstances.

      • Steve Cooper says:

        A change like this would reflect the actuality. For Loncon 3 if you strip out the Worldcon regulars (those that joined at Chicon 7 or shortly after) Where a preference was made something like 75% have opted for electronic only. It was even just shy of being the majority amongst the former group.

        Now this may be to do with Loncon 3 being a none-NA Worldcon and folk not wanting us to spend $15 on mailing them PRs that can be better spent elsewhere.

        But I doubt this accounts for many and we should think about apportioning those that don’t indicate a preference to the majority, rather than the minority. As those that really care will opt in to paper publications.

    • Cheryl says:

      Dave: I’m all in favor of people becoming part of a community. What I don’t want is us passing a motion, the central tenet of which is that voting should not be cheap. Even if the practical effect of this were to make voting $10 rather than $5 I still think that the wording of it is poisonous and should not be passed.

      • Dave McCarty says:

        Well, the word “cheap” is only in the descriptive part of the motion, not in any of the language to the constitution, right? I don’t find that kind of thing to be anything more than hyperbole and I find it easy to ignore (mileage for other may obviously vary).

        As someone who is on board with the idea of making changes to reduce the cost of participation (and actually already had some success on that front), I am clearly on board with the idea of the cost coming down, but I likewise also in the camp of “the minimum level of participation is a supporting membership”. I don’t find the entirety of what’s proposed problematic (in terms of what it does to the constitution). I think more people joining WSFS is excellent, I don’t think participating in JUST the voting without joining the community is a good thing. Perhaps it’s a subtle point, but I find it important.

        • Cheryl says:

          I agree entirely with you about being part of a community, but that’s why I want it to cost less to vote.

          Talk to Kevin about the concept of “legislative intent”. Words matter.

  9. Dave McCarty says:

    I am wishy-washy on that particular topic enough that I would not feel comfortable putting my name on it. I think I would vote *for* such a thing at the meeting, but I am uncomfortable sponsoring such a thing…especially in a year where I already have to put my name on something else in front of the meeting (which should unveil shortly).

  10. Mark says:

    I have to admit that my first thought at this proposal was: well, there is something to it, and why does everybody automatically talk about “privilege” and “gate-keeping” as if there are no other potential reasons to think critically about “cheap voting”. What I worry about in these kinds of debates is that there is a tendency to level everything out. If voting is practically for free and if the only connection to the World SF convention is that you buy your cheap voting rights on their website then where is the difference to any other kind of SF award where everybody can vote, like, let’s say the Locus Awards. I think it’s good to have a variety of major awards that work on different rules. So don’t give out one-day-SFWA-memberships to free the Nebula and please don’t chase away the jury of the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

    That said, my second thought was that at least affordable supporting memberships are important. I don’t want to have the times back when you could see from the list of winners if a convention took place in the US, in Canada or the U.K. I was so happy that Interzone won that one Hugo in the 90s for best semi pro-zine when the Worldcon was in Glasgow. But then I realized that it didn’t really mean anything, because Interzone wasn’t any better or worse in the years directly before or after, but still didn’t have any chance of winning outside the U.K.

    Also I would approve of any change that takes into account that SF got more global and that more things take place on the Internet.

  11. Lisa Hertel says:

    I would like to see Worldcons at least be able to give a discount to those who opt out of paper. Right now, we can’t even do that.

    Also, this amendment raises a whole issue with comped memberships (program participants & guests of honour).

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  13. Elspeth Kovar says:

    (Apologies – for some reason I’m not getting paragraph breaks.)
    The second line of the commentary on this amendment shows serious bias. In fact, it sucks. I can’t remember who wrote it but it’s safe to say that they can’t write. What they’re trying to expand upon is the important first sentence and what we should be paying attention to: “These voting rights are a perquisite of Worldcon membership.” It’s been said more clearly elsewhere: the Hugos are voted upon by members of World Science Fiction Society. And absolutely anyone who supports or attends a Worldcon and the year before or after is a member.

    I confess to being a young old phart: a supporting membership is to support the convention, not for perks. Every year some of my meager salary goes to a convention to support it. A basic assumption of a Worldcon, though, is that if you care enough to support the convention you have all the same voting rights as someone who can make it to the convention.

    The main objection to this amendment seems to be that people should be able to pay a handful of dollars to vote on perhaps the most prestigious award in the genre. I care too much about them to agree. Yes, a supporting membership can be expensive. On the other hand see about about meager salary: anyone cleaned public restrooms at minimum wage when between jobs?

    It’s worth noting that argument is very strongly tenored by an assumption that people are hiding arguments, that it has to do with “the wrong sort of fan”, exclusion instead of inclusion, that no discussion being included in the commentary (Kevin, could you help me out with what a commentary is?) means that there aren’t any reasons for the proposed amendment. The second sentence of the commentary is biased; I haven’t figured out how much of the objection to the amendment is also based on bias. Not snarky, just trying to sort things out.

    • Jonathan M says:

      Elspeth, I must admit that I’m failing to understand the distinction that you’re making.

      I felt like nominating for this year’s Hugos and so I purchased a supporting membership of Loncon for about the price of a hardback book (the price that Kevin mentioned as a target for a potential voting membership). According to the spiel, I am a supporting member and I am allowed to nominate and vote at Loncon because I purchased a membership of the WSFS for that year.

      Now, you’re saying that, unless this proposal passes, someone might be able to buy a voting membership for the price of a hardback book and vote for the Hugo awards. However, this outcome is totally unacceptable as these people are not *real* members of the WSFS and so shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

      I don’t understand how I can hand over x amount of money and be a legitimate voter whereas someone else might hand over the same amount of money and not be a legitimate voter.

      Is there a precise price point at which a supporting membership becomes a real membership and have I somehow fallen beneath it? Would I become a real supporting member if I had paid the price of two hardback novels rather than one? Or is it three? Four maybe?

      I ask as I’m not sure how the distinction between ‘real members’ and ‘voting members’ is any different to the distinction between ‘real fans’ and ‘fake fans’ and I’m really not clear on how a certain amount of money transforms one from a fake anything into a real anything.

      • Elspeth Kovar says:

        Jonathan, I hope that my second post makes more sense than the first and that you understand that I don’t think there are ‘real members’ or ‘voting members’ or legitimate or illegitimate or any other such distinctions. I didn’t address it because I hadn’t realized that people actually thought they exist. As for when supporting memberships become real memberships they *can’t*. ‘Real memberships’ don’t exist. Support or attend it’s already the same thing. A membership.

        Meanwhile you didn’t purchase a membership in WSFS, you became a member of a Worldcon. WSFS is made up of members of Worldcons, not the other way around. And, as said above, supporting or attending, you’re a member of the Worldcon.

        However you parse things it’s not a spiel. You’re a supporting member of Loncon thus a member with all the rights of any other member. One, perhaps the most important, is nominating and voting on the Hugos.

        • Jonathan M says:

          I’m sorry Elspeth but I don’t quite grasp your reasoning.

          I know that trad fandom is very big on the idea that people don’t ‘attend’ or ‘pay to enter’ conventions but contribute financially to conventions and in the process become members of said conventions. I understand this principle.

          My problem is that I don’t understand why the cheap supporting membership I purchased made me a member who is entitled to vote for next year’s Hugos while a similarly-priced voting membership would be some fundamental perversion of the Worldcon ethos.

          It seems to me that some attempt is being made to legislate for what is in people’s hearts: It’s okay to buy a supporting membership because you want’t to take part but we can’t have voting memberships in case people buy them purely in order to vote for their friends and favourite authors.

          I don’t think that there is any sensible way of legislating for that distinction, but if there was I’m pretty damn clear that I would fall foul of it.

    • Cheryl says:

      No, Elspeth, the main objection to this amendment is that is seeks to establish the principle that voting in the Hugos should be restricted to rich people. It says nothing at all about the economics.

      • Colin says:

        I am struggling with the fact that you think a $40 Supporting membership restricts Hugo voting to “rich people” but a $25 Supporting or Hugo voting membership doesn’t? I think you make some valid points but the use of hyperbole isn’t helpful.

        A $40 Supporting – which is what we have for 2014 and 2015 – puts Supporting at the same cost as in 1990 according to Kevin’s calculation.

        • Cheryl says:

          I haven’t expressed any opinion as to whether $25 is affordable and $40 isn’t. I’d be perfectly happy to have that discussion. This motion isn’t about that. It is about establishing, as a matter of principle, that lack of wealth should be a barrier to participation. And if it passes I fully expect people to start arguing that $40 is “cheap” and therefore against the will of the Business Meeting.

        • Jonathan M says:

          …And I’m struggling as to why a $40 supporting membership would allow someone to become a real member of the Worldcon community while a $25 voting membership would mean that the Hugos ceased to be awarded by the members of Worldcon.

          • Colin says:

            I, like Dave, would like to see cheaper supporting memberships, which can be finessed if we fix some of the issues around publication options. For instance I would personally be fine with a no-publications supporting membership at $25. I hope that is within striking distance of what Cheryl would feel is a reasonable figure to address her concerns as well. (Kevin has indicated he feels $20-25 is a reasonable figure in his view also).

            My concerns are actually.

            1. I don’t want to unbundle Hugo voting from other WSFS rights because it sends the wrong messages about what being part of the WSFS/Worldcon community means. I can’t make people use those rights but I think we need to be encouraging people to take a broader interest in Worldcon, not going down a road which increasingly detaches the Hugos from Worldcon.

            2. The Hugos were created and developed and given for the first 50 years primarily by people who attended Worldcon. In the last 5 years the voting population has increasingly diverged from the Worldcon attendees as more and more supporters have joined just for the Hugos. Now of course technically these people are all WSFS members – they’ve paid their supporting membership and have an equal right to vote. But the fact is that as you have more and more people who are only interested in the Hugos, the awards are becoming more of a People’s Choice Award and not the award given by “the Worldcon community”.

            This isn’t about whether people are rich or poor. An analogous discussion comes up periodically about the structure and marketing of Worldcon. It goes like this: “Worldcon needs to be more successful” >> “If we become more like Dragoncon / Comicon / etc we will get lots more members and be more successful” >> “But then it’s not Worldcon any more and I wouldn’t want to go – what’s the point of being bigger if we achieve it by discarding what makes us special?”

            I think there is a new tension that we didn’t used to have because there were not large numbers of people wanting to vote in the Hugos who were not committed more widely to Worldcon. This means we have a new choice, as I’ve discussed at length on Seanan’s LJ. Maybe we SHOULD detach the Hugos from Worldcon and actively say they are an award for the community as a whole, rather than an award given by the people who go to Worldcon. It’s a valid discussion and I don’t have ANY personal issue with people who want to argue for that. I just want to be clear if that is the discussion we’re really having …

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  16. Paul Ewins says:

    Playing the devil’s advocate a bit here:
    1. Is a voting right the same as a nominating right? There isn’t much point in bringing in new voters if they can only vote for the same old stuff.
    2. Will the worldcon regulars be happy if the ballot features a lot of names that they don’t know or things that aren’t to their taste?
    3. You probably wouldn’t notice if the fanbase of George Martin or Neil Gaiman decide that their heroes needed more hugos, but what if that happened with Charlaine Harris or Stephanie Meyer? It doesn’t take much to galvanise an online community if all they need to do is click on a webpage and pay $10. I can think of one local author whose books made it quite high in a “top 100 Australian books of all time” poll despite them being (in the authors words) “pulp”. The are quite popular pulp and she has a *lot* of very keen fans.

    • Cheryl says:

      1. Yes, in this case “voting” includes nominating rights. The terminology doesn’t work well.

      2. So you are suggesting that the whole point of this is that people who attend Worldcon every year want to retain control of the Hugos? Because if they don’t the wrong sort of people might win?

      3. This is just re-iterating point 2. What you are suggesting is that the cost of voting must be kept high in order to prevent the wrong sort of people winning. I’m interested to know why wealth is the chosen barrier. Why not say that you have to be over 40 to vote? Or white? They would define the existing voting group more clearly.

      There’s an interesting discussion to be had about what would be a throw-away price. A fee so low that suddenly thousands of extra people would participate. But this motion doesn’t want to discuss that, or discuss the economics of Worldcons. All it wants to do is make it clear that participation in the Hugos should be a prerogative of the rich.

      • Colin says:

        I’m glad you acknowledge, as I read your comments, that e.g. a $1 (or $0) fee would not be a good idea, because there is some point where enlarging participation would become “who can mobilize their fans the best online.”

        I am painfully conscious how easily any comment about good and bad outcomes can be painted as my being an evil SMOF who’s complaining about not getting the result I want. I hope people will take my comments here in better faith than that …

        The Hugos have always sat in a middle ground between an award which is juried (e.g. the Clarkes) or has very specific voter eligibility rules (e.g. the Nebulas) and an award which is entirely “People’s Choice” (open public vote, no entry cost).
        And the Worldcon community has generally been an informed community and I’d say the nominees and winners have tended to be some hybrid of the best quality work and the most popular. The success of the awards says that this is something most people are happy with.

        I really think that a completely open award (1000s of extra voters) would throw out the baby with the bathwater. I think the resulting awards wouldn’t be the Hugos any more, although they might be valid in their own right, and I think the concerns would not be just within “the SMOFS” or “the Worldcon mafia” but many regular Worldcon attendees, both pro and fan.

        I’d be keen to understand Cheryl’s view of what you would really like the Hugos to look like here. DO you see them as really a broad community award now, administerd by Worldcon, rather than a Worldcon award? What level of participation would you like to see? Do you think it matters if the voting population is dominated by people with no other interest in Worldcon?

        These are honest questions and I’d be keen to hear your perspectives.

        • Cheryl says:

          I’m not sure that I have a firm idea of what I want the Hugos to be. I’m just certain that I don’t want this motion to pass because it gives entirely the wrong impression of WSFS.

          Where I think we diverge is with regard to this idea that the Hugos are becoming dominated by people who have no interest in Worldcon. I think that’s wrong. But I want to explain that in a blog post, not in a comment. Tomorrow.

      • Paul Ewins says:

        Point 2 was a best case scenario, where opening the Hugo voting widens the pool of works that get nominated and might eventually lead to a situation where the ballot is full of names unknown to the worldcon attendees (i.e. mostly white, middle-aged, middle-class Americans). The names on the ballot could in fact represent the best SFF in the world, exactly what the Hugos are there for, but if they are unfamiliar to the worldcon attendees then they will feel disenfranchised (especially if the works were in, say, Mandarin or Norwegian and not translated into English at all).

        Point 3 was really a worst case scenario where the pool of nominees gets narrowed to only those with a big online fan base.

        I’m not against the idea per se, but I can’t think of a way of doing it that wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. To my mind $10 is the right figure if you want participation from people outside, but $10 is also cheap enough to risk stacking. The Ditmar nominations are open, but carry the rider that the nominator must be “active in fandom” and may need someone to vouch for them. That sort of checking is fine in our little world but may be less practical with another order of magnitude (or two, or even three if it really takes off).

        To be clear though, I am strongly against the idea that the Hugos should be restricted to “our sort of people” or “things/people that we like”.

        • Cheryl says:

          Ah, I see what you mean. Thanks.

          I don’t have a view on what the “right” price is. I suspect we’ll only find out by trying things.

  17. Martin Easterbrook says:

    I think the use of the word ‘they’ in this case is very misleading. The smofslist is effectively open to anyone who wants to be on it and anyone can post anything they like.

    The proposal to eliminate the Fan Hugos ran into just as much opposition on the list as it did here. I see its chances of passing as effectively zero, but it’s chances of passing would actually be lower if voting were restricted to that list.

    The mood of the current debate on the motion seems to be that voting should actually be made cheaper and one way of doing this would be to remove the mandatory provision of printed and mailed publications from the attending membership. My personal impression of that mood is that voting should be as cheap as possible but a strong link with the Worldcon should be maintained.

    • Cheryl says:

      Hi Martin, thanks for that feedback. I said above that I think the Fan Hugo motion will get OTC’d. It is good to have that opinion confirmed.

      I’m also pleased to hear that some people on SMOFs think that voting could be made cheaper, and I certainly support a strong link to Worldcon. I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.

  18. Elspeth Kovar says:

    I need to backtrack from being cranky and address the actual issue:

    Once things are boiled down the main objection to this amendment seems be that people should be able to easily vote for Hugos and, in this case, it’s not the mess of technical details but that it should be inexpensive. To be completely vulgar – not to mention having an odd collection of old expressions – people are against it because they’re thinking about cash on the barrelhead instead of value.

    Specifically how much cash someone has in their wallet doesn’t apply to voting on the Hugos. This is perhaps the most prestigious award in the genre. Sure, it’s never going to be a Newbery but at least when it comes to books it’s often mentioned in jacket copy and matters enough that PW publishes the results. Sometimes even people outside the community notice it when choosing books.

    To reassure people the cost of supporting memberships isn’t being ignored. The general consensus – see things that Dave has said – is that it’s too high. (Ways of addressing it is still in the sausage-making stage.) Once the cost goes down it should ameliorate objections to needing a supporting membership to vote.

  19. Elspeth Kovar says:

    Because of the way my tabs were set up I didn’t see responses to my first post until after I made my second, which took a while. That first response was written with the bravado of someone being excluded instead of with care.

    But however badly written the lack of care in reading it and/or assuming that someone also cares only about about the best way to make an argument renders everything else specious and not worth even reading. “No, Elspeth, the main objection to this amendment is that is seeks to establish the principle that voting in the Hugos should be restricted to rich people. It says nothing at all about the economics.”

    I’m not sure what you don’t grasp about “Anyone cleaned public restrooms at minimum wage when between jobs?” Skip rich. Drop your theoretical students and poor people you say this amendment is intended to exclude. Forget even blue-collar – I’ve no idea how people live off this sort of work. Even you take it as an exaggeration of the sort of work many of us did working our way through college ignoring it entirely and saying I’m in favor of an amendment the purpose of which is to establish a principal that voting should be restricted to rich people? Seriously?

    Unlike others this is a purely hypothetical question.

    • Cheryl says:

      I have no idea what this is all about, but I suspect that your problem is that you are so sure that you know what the motion means that you haven’t bothered to think about what it says.

  20. I still find it a bit odd and unrealistic when people (on either side of the argument) tout the Hugos as “the most prestigious”. Down over there in quasi-fandom land, very few of the “next-gen” have ever even heard of it, let alone Worldcon, “Trufandom”, SMoFs, fanzines, or anything else related to a small and withering enclave that’s clinging to an exclusionary, old world narrative inside a self-reinforcing bubble. And what they have heard of those things are generally misinformed, misguided and negative.

    This motion is really just another aspect of the question: is real fandom going to reinforce the bubble walls or is it going to pop that bubble.

    The question itself is approaching non-relevance. The opportunities to do real outreach, to open things up and appeal to the next generation are diminishing with each passing year.

    Treading water (Hugo packet, etc) will not create sustainable growth.

    For better or worse (I think worse), trufandom, as represented by WSFS, Worldcon and the Hugos, has become a marginalized community within the greater field of media and commercial cons and online, property-based fan communities. The reality is that you’ve got less than ten thousand “fans” figuratively trying to shout down MILLIONS. “Fandom” is no longer the dominant culture in fandom.

    Subordinate cultures have two choices: eke out an existence on the reservation, putting on the occasional show for the tourists or open a casino. Beg for dollars, or have them willingly thrown at you.

    I say open the casino. Why can’t Worldcon put on two events every year? The Casino AND the real event. Crass and commercial admittedly, but there is no denying the reality that when you have dollars, you can do what you want, and when you don’t have dollars, you can’t do anything.

    • Steve Cooper says:

      I have to say I disagree with this statement.

      I’ve just spent the last weekend promoting Loncon 3 at “Nine Worlds” a brand new multi-genre convention in the UK with an average age much under that of the tradition conventions such as Eastercon.

      There was great interest in the Worldcon coming to London and during the peak period (the way the program was structure meant there were peaks and troughs in the vendors space) and one of the things we mentioned to everyone who came was “Have you heard of the Hugos” to which the answer was invariably “yes” – often attached to something like “they’re the big science fiction awards, aren’t they”.

      Yes – these were con-going fans (otherwise they’d have not been there) and yes – there were probably not representative of the vast majority of non-con-going science fiction consumers. But they were the next generation – many too young to drink and they were just as excited at Worldcon in London as the older generations were, and in participating in the Hugo’s once explained how they work.

      But they were not interested in just voting in the Hugos, but in being part of something larger, and the L3 YA rate of £65 made that possible for them, being less than the attending rate for the convention they were at. And that’s they key point – affordability.

      I don’t think voting in the Hugos needs to be hived off, as unless its free (or near free) it will not interest folk as a stand alone. But then again I will be voting against the motion for one reason – I don’t believe in the B.M. dictating to Worldcons more than is necessary and I don’t know of any Worldcon bids planning on this. And if its such a great worry ask the bids in the inquisition and let the general membership decide.

      What i need is ways to make joining the community cheaper and why I’d support any moves to make electronic publications easier.

      • Cheryl says:

        Yay! This is what we want. The kids who went to Nine Worlds are exactly the people that we want to be coming to Worldcon.

        And yes, you have a point about the BM dictating to Worldcons. The motion appears to be a reaction to the fear that future Worldcons may do something, rather than to anything concrete that is likely to happen.

    • Cheryl says:

      Good to know that there are people around who are far more radical than me.

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