Many thanks to all of you who joined us for the live blogging of the Hugo ceremony on Sunday night. It was a blast to do. Kevin, Mur and Mary were fabulous. We all had a lot of fun. Sadly it won’t happen again, at least not in that form. I have been banned from doing it.
Surprised? I was. Kevin and I spend a lot of time talking about how open and democratic WSFS is. Anyone who goes to Worldcon can attend the Business Meeting and have their say in how the Hugos are run. But there are still little committees where acts of political skulduggery can take place.
The Hugo Awards website, where Sunday’s coverage took place, is run by a body called the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee (HAMC). It is something that Kevin helped set up several years ago. I’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes, including creating and maintaining the website.
The HAMC is managed by another WSFS committee, the Mark Protection Committee (MPC). They are the people responsible for looking after the various service marks that WSFS owns, so it makes sense that they should also oversee how the Hugos are marketed. However, some members of the MPC have always been opposed to the existence of the HAMC, and they have a long track record of trying to obstruct what it does.
In 2008 I was all ready to start work on upgrading the Worldcon and WSFS web sites as I had done for the Hugos. I wasn’t able to attend the MPC meeting, and when Kevin got back from it I was surprised to discover that I had been relieved of responsibility for the job. Someone else had been taken on to do the work. As it happens, that someone is rather better qualified to build web sites than I am, and the lack of action over the past two years is mainly due to his life going through some major changes. But even so, had I been given the job it would have been done by Montreal.
In 2009 Kevin and I managed a contest to design a logo for the Hugos. I was delighted to see the logo being used all over this year’s award ceremony, and even in newspaper articles about the awards. But at the end of the Montreal Worldcon a meeting of the MPC effectively forbade us from attempting to register the logo as a service mark. Apparently it was not necessary, and would be a waste of the MPC’s money. This year Kevin (by way of the HAMC’s report to the MPC and thus to WSFS) put a motion before the Business Meeting suggesting that we register the logo. It passed easily, and none of the MPC members who spoke so forcefully against registering it in Montreal was prepared to put that position forward in a public meeting.
This year once again I missed the MPC meeting. (I was recording an interview for Salon Futura). When I finally caught up with Kevin I discovered that the MPC had adopted a new rule forbidding any member of the HAMC from being on the Hugo ballot. Any member who wanted to remain eligible for a Hugo next year had to resign immediately.
I thought about this for all of about two seconds. I have no idea what Neil plans to do with Clarkesworld from now on, and I certainly have enough Hugos. But I would love to see Salon Futura on the ballot. What’s more, I would love to see Kevin get a nomination. He’s my business manager, fulling the same role that Kirsten Gong-Wong has for Locus. But there’s no way he was going to abandon the HAMC, so if we do get a nomination next year his name won’t be included. I, on the other hand, am staying in the Hugo race, because I have other fine staff who also deserve nominations and I want to see that happen. Accordingly I have resigned from the HAMC and won’t be allowed access to the Hugo Awards website in the future.
The official reason for the new rule is that anyone who is on the HAMC could potentially abuse their position to campaign for a Hugo for themselves. I can see how one might do that, and I have made a point of trying to avoid it. If you look at the Hugo website you won’t see much mention of me there. I certainly don’t sign any posts I write. Kevin’s name is much more prominent than mine.
The live reporting of the ceremony is a bit different. In previous years I have done that through my own websites because key staff on the current Worldcon have been actively hostile to the HAMC. This year was different, but even so we didn’t announce the coverage until we had been given express permission to do it by both Vincent Docherty, the Hugo Administrator, and Kathryn Daugherty, the ceremony director. Aussiecon 4 co-chair Perry Middlemiss came to see what we were up to during rehearsals, so he knew we were doing it too.
The thing about the live reporting is that it ought to be on the Hugo website, or that of the current Worldcon. The results should be presented to the world through official channels. It is actually of far more benefit to me to do it through my own websites, because then I get the traffic. If someone else wants to do it for the official Hugo website next year I’ll be delighted. After all, I won’t even be in Reno, so it will be hard for me. But that does mean someone else has to be prepared to do the work.
That, I suspect, is the main issue. Some of this is undoubtedly pure spite. One or two people on the MPC, having seen me win a third Hugo, will have been determined to do something to try to hurt me. But far more important than that, by removing me (and trying to remove Kevin as well), the MPC was trying to get rid of the people who actually do the work, and bring the process of marketing the Hugos to a grinding halt. They are doing this because they are strongly opposed to encouraging anyone other than Worldcon regulars from voting.
Personally I’m not too annoyed about this. I have Wizard’s Tower and Salon Futura to run. Having less WSFS work to do will be a good thing. As a WSFS member, however, I am furious. I want to see the process of marketing the Hugos go forward, not be hamstrung by a small group of selfish, elitist conservatives operating behind the scenes in little-known committees.
Kevin needs help. If you have experience in maintaining a WordPress web site and have no ambitions to win a Hugo he’d probably be delighted to hear from you. Ditto if you have experience of actual marketing. And if you can’t do any of these things, but think that what has been done here is wrong, please say so in the comments. If we want to convince people that WSFS is a fair and open organization, we have to put a stop to this sort of thing.
Kevin talks about another piece of skulduggery on his LJ.