The Hugo Thing

Well, things appear to be returning to more or less normal around here. Now, therefore, I ought to get on and talk about receiving a Hugo nomination.

The starting point has to be that it is a huge honor to be nominated. The Hugo is the top honor in our field, and I have been lucky enough to be nominated several times, and even win one. If you have told me ten years ago that I’d get just one nomination I would have laughed. How times change.

This year is in some ways even more special because I was pretty sure that most people would have forgotten about me. Also I was actually expecting a very different line-up of nominees. Given that John Scalzi has established his credentials to compete, I figured that the rest of the nominee slate would have included people like Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, Jay Lake and Elizabeth Bear – in other words other people who have high profile blogs. I am astonished that I can still get on the ballot.

But even with a largely traditional slate of nominees, Best Fan Writer is a very different category now than when I was first nominated. I’ve never expected to beat Dave. He’s a good friend, and a much better writer than me. To have finished a close second to him on three occasions was, as far as I’m concerned, a phenomenal achievement (or amazing good luck) on my part. I don’t expect to beat him this time either, but I can hope.

Competing with John Scalzi is another matter entirely. I fully support John’s right to compete in the category, and he’s been very gracious throughout the process. He was kind enough to suggest me as one of the people that Whatever readers might like to nominate in the category, and he has even promised not to send his secret ninja assassins after me. It is very clear, however, that his large fan base is looking forward to celebrating a Scalzi win, and I am one of the people in their way.

Lets put this in perspective. John claims to have between 30,000 and 40,000 people reading Whatever every day. My own readership numbers are much closer to 30-40. Even Emerald City’s readership was, I think, only in the region of 300-400 once you factored out all of the software bots and crawlers that cause blips on your web stats. I think you can see from those figures that the whole idea of my taking on John in what is essentially a popularity contest is absurd. This isn’t some potential giant-killer contest like Barnsley beating Liverpool and Chelsea in the FA Cup, it is more like a non-league club getting to the semi-finals of the Champions League. If I were to beat John, his fans would be outraged, and rightly so.

Thankfully the Hugos are not a juried award, and the electorate is sufficiently large that there is no chance of an upset win on my part. It is quite possible that more than 90% of my readers will vote, but if only 1% of John’s readers vote he’ll still wipe the floor with me, and if only 0.1% of his readers vote then he’ll probably still beat me. I can sleep easy in my bed in the knowledge that, come August, I am not going to have hordes of angry Scalzi fans screaming for my blood.

I am, however, going to have benefits. After all, I’m very fond of the Hugos. I want people to know about them and participate in them. The fact that John is encouraging his readers to join Worldcon and vote for him warms to cockles of my little WSFS heart. Here’s hoping that voting figures are up this year.

In addition I’m going to gain prestige. Inside the SF community, winning a Hugo, even a fan Hugo, is a very wonderful thing. Outside the SF community things can be rather different. I can tell you from experience that in some communities winning a Hugo for Best Fanzine marks you down as the sort of mindless, drooling idiot that The Independent went looking for (and would have found even if they weren’t there) at Eastercon. If, on the other hand, I can say that I was nominated for a Hugo and came third (or even second) to John Scalzi, rather more people will sit up and take notice, and maybe give me a little respect. That will be a good thing.

Finally, the mere fact that I’m up against John in this contest ought to be good for my public profile. When dealing with connections on the Internet I tend to use a 1% rule. If John mentions me as one of his opponents then around 1% of his readers will click through to my blog to see if I’m any good. And of those people, around 1% might become regular readers. That might not seem a lot, but to me it might mean a 10% increase in my readership, which is a good thing to happen.

The upshot of all this is that, while I’m very happy to receive lots of congratulations and have people tell me that they hope I’ll win, I’m not going to be bouncing around about it. I don’t think I will win, and if pressed I’ll probably say that I’d rather not win. I think it would be wrong if I did. But I am very please to be nominated, and hopefully that will be very good for me even though I won’t win.

The only downside that I can see is that it will be much harder to live-blog the ceremony if I’m being herded around with the rest of the nominees.

6 thoughts on “The Hugo Thing

  1. I’ve never managed to get to the losers’ party while there is still a reasonable quantity of food left. In Boston I ended up having Farah and Liz Williams haul me around the Hynes in search of food because I was close to fainting.

  2. Your readership’s 30-40? Between and SFAW?! I mean, I know you’re not the only one posting to SFAW but you’re one of the main two, no?

    (Presumably you’re only counting this blog in talking about your readership, but if so, then that’s misleading.)

    Anyway, I’ll be cheering you on when the Scalzi juggernaut crushes you and the others. I mean, er, I’ll cheer you on when you win! 😉

  3. Kendall:

    You are very sweet. SFAW has a readership of between 100 and 150 per day, but as my name isn’t on the posts I didn’t count it. And I probably have a bit more than 30-40 here, but a lot less than 100.


    Remind me that I need to work on getting your name on the WFA ballot.


    Thanks for the offer, dear, but if you come to the party you’ll be getting herded around with me.

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