I have been having a very interesting email discussion with my friend Neil Clarke about my post from yesterday on the issues for debate at this year’s WSFS Business Meeting. Neil has made a very clever point that I am convinced by, and I think will save a lot of time this year.
Right now one of the problems with deciding what to do about the Puppies is that we have very little data to go on. We don’t know what effect either of the proposed anti-Puppy techniques would have had, had they been in place this year. Nor do we know what effect the vastly greater interest in the Hugos that Puppygate has caused will have on future years’ Award ballots.
However, all amendments to the WSFS Constitution take two years to pass. Anything that is passed for the first time at Sasquan cannot take effect until it is ratified at next year’s Worldcon, MidAmeriCon II in Kansas City. Therefore, we can pass both 4 and 6 and E Pluribus Hugo this year, and decide which one of them would work best next year when we have more data. We don’t even need to waste time debating their relative merits now, we just get the ball rolling on both so that action can be taken as swiftly as the deliberately pedestrian WSFS Constitution allows.
The spanner in all this is, of course, popular ratification. If that passes with the wrecking amendment added in London intact then it could take three years to do something about the Puppies rather than two years. Personally I think it would be a very good thing if whatever technique we adopted to combat the Puppies was subject to popular ratification, because then democracy would be seen to be done. However if, as some people fear, the Puppy vote will be able to flood the nomination ballot in all future years, the sooner something gets done the better.
I haven’t had a chance to ask Kevin whether the wrecking amendment can be removed again at Sasquan, but if the price of having popular ratification is that it will take another year to do something about the Puppies then I’m pretty sure it will get voted down.
By the way, this does raise another interesting constitutional question. If we had popular ratification, and both anti-Puppy proposals passed this year, would that leave us with the possibility of the popular vote passing two mutually incompatible next year? I’m not sure if this is the sort of thing that will get Kevin excited or keep him awake at night, but I’m very glad that I have him to think about such things so that I don’t have to.