Various people have asked me exactly what I meant when I said I wanted the Fan Writer Hugo to go to someone else next year. Here is the official public statement.
You can’t win with this. If I were to compete again next year and win then people would complain that I was being greedy and dominating the category. If I retire people will complain that I am being arrogant in assuming I might win again. Of course the smart thing to do is to compete again and somehow ensure that I lose, but I don’t really want to do that, so I’m going to settle for being called arrogant instead. I have, after all, been called worse things.
Of far more concern to me is that I’ll be accused of devaluing the contest. Kate Heartfield made an impassioned plea about this a few days ago. In the case of something like Best Novel I think she has a point. Certainly when Neil Gaiman declined nomination for Anansi Boys, and when Terry Pratchett declined nomination for Going Postal, there were people around fandom who said this just proved how worthless the Hugos were, because some of the most successful writers in the genre were not interested in winning then. The fan Hugos, however, I think are different.
Inside the community we make a point of insisting that the fan Hugos are just as much Hugos as any other category. Winning one, and even being nominated, is a tremendous honor. I’m certainly absolutely delighted with the success I have had. Outside of the community, however, things are very different. If you look around reports of the Hugo results you will see that the fan categories (and semiprozine) are often left off the listings. And even within the community there is an awareness that some Hugos are worth more than others. Would I have won this year if John Scalzi had been on the ballot? Of course not. Would I have won against Jo Walton, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Jay Lake, Wil Wheaton or Elizabeth Bear, all of whom got significant numbers of nominations? I very much doubt it. All of those people are much more high profile than me, and better writers as well.
When talking about the fan/semipro/pro categories in the Hugos Kevin often uses the phrase “going up a weight category”. It is an analogy with boxing. If you win in a lower weight category you can choose to beef yourself up and compete against bigger fighters. By that analogy I’m about 3’6” tall and puny, and I don’t stand any chance of being able to duke it out with the Mike Tysons of our world, let alone the Ali-like elegance of Gaiman, in Best Novel. But I chose to take Emerald City into the semiprozine category and got nominated there. I feel that I have a reasonable chance of a share of a nomination in the same category next year with Clarkesworld (though I hope that Neil Clarke takes most of the glory because he deserves it). And maybe one day I’ll be good enough for a shot at Best Related Work, or even one of the Editor categories. I want to try my luck.
Also Scalzi and I are having a race to see who can be the first to win a Hugo in every category.
Then there is the whole difficulty with the “body of work” categories as well. No matter how much you tell people that they are supposed to be voting on who did the best fan writing in the past year, you can’t stop people voting for the person they believe to be the best fan writer of all time. I don’t see any way of changing that other than re-designing the categories or having people drop out.
I have one more reason as well. Over the past few years I have been doing a lot of work on promoting the Hugos and trying to get them, and Worldcon, more responsive to fandom as a whole (rather than simply be what the small number of people who frequent the SMOFs mailing list wants them to be). Kevin is doing a lot of the high profile work within WSFS, but he needs someone to help with the day-to-day work as well. It is hard enough for him as it is, without having people telling him that I should not be allowed to do the work as I’m a potential nominee. It is also hard for me to push the Hugos publicly when people are saying that I’m only doing it to try to win one myself. So I think it is time for me to take much more of a back seat and do the work rather than take the glory. Not having my name up as a nominee for Best Fan Writer will hopefully help with that.
So that plan is that next year I will decline nomination for Best Fan Writer. I am telling you now so that you don’t waste any of your nominations by listing me.
Next year, give that Hugo to someone else. Preferably give it to someone new. I know that Dave Langford is still the best fannish writer out there, but there are lots of other good people around too (here are some suggestions). Because few things devalue the award as much as making it seem like a foregone conclusion.