Every year, without fail, the announcement of the Hugo finalists is followed by outrage from various corners of fandom who think that there is something fundamentally wrong with the Awards, and the process, and the “Hugo Committee” who allegedly make all of the decisions. One of the most common complaints is that the finalists are once again The Usual Suspects.
Quite often they are, of course. People like NK Jemisin, Martha Wells, John Scalzi and Mary Robinette Kowal are very popular, and justifiably so. In other cases the charge is less justified. I saw Cora Buhlert defending herself on Twitter against a charge of being one of The Usual Suspects by pointing out that this is only her second nomination. Fan Writer has been won by a different person for each of the last 13 years, and none of this year’s finalists have ever won. Before that it was won by Dave Langford for 18 years on the trot (1989-2007). That’s quite a change.
Of course there are legitimate concerns. While other parts of the ballot have begun to show pleasing diversty, the fan categories have remained largely white, which does suggest that the voters are not casting their nets very widely. It is something that we should look to change.
But Cora also linked to a thread by Seanan McGuire in which Seanan noted that she got her first nomination in 2010, and in 2011 was immediately attacked as one of The Usual Suspects. At which point is occured to me that this was a form of Cheryl’s Second Law of Fandom in action.
Cheryl’s what? Well, back in 2008 I took a stab at explaining fannish outrage by channelling Isaac Asimov. My Three Laws of Fandom weren’t exactly intended to be taken seriously, but they do represent the odd ways in which fannish discourse tends to happen. Indeed, the advent of social media has made them all the more obvious. So I thought it was about time I re-posted them for the youngsters to see. Here they are:
- Never accept accident or incompetence as an explanation when a bizarre and complex conspiracy can also be advanced to explain the known facts.
- One data point indicates a dangerous trend that must be resisted; two data points indicate a sacred and holy tradition that must be preserved.
- If a tree falls in Central Park, New York, is seen to fall by 100 New Yorkers, is captured on film by CNN and the video of the fall is broadcast around the world, but I wasn’t there to see it, then it didn’t fall.
The thing with Hugo nominations is a sort of Reverse Second Law, in that you are new with one nomination, but one of The Usual Suspects with two.