I bought my first Worldcon supporting membership a few years ago so that I could nominate for and vote on the Hugo Awards. For years I had been reading blog posts about how disproportionately few women and people of color showed up on awards lists. The writers of these post talked about how the Hugos in particular were given out by a relatively small and not very diverse group of fans. These activists urged people like me to join Worldcon and nominate the works (often by women and people of color) that we loved.
I wasn’t sure that my vote could make a difference and or that it would be worth the money. What finally convinced me to go for it was Renay, of ladybusiness
writing enthusiastically about her experience voting. She made it sound fun. So I joined LoneStarCon3, and starting thinking about what to nominate. At the time I knew online short fiction existed but I didn’t read much of it. I read several end of the year recommendation lists and was able to find and nominate some stories that I loved. That year only a few things that I nominated were on the final ballot and I don’t believe any of them won. Still I enjoyed reading for nomination and voting and talking about the works so the next year I bought another supporting membership and did it again.
I don’t think my nominations were any more successful last year, but watching the awards ceremony at home on my computer I felt elated. Seeing so many powerful speeches about the value of inclusion made me feel hopeful about the genre and the state of the world.
My participation in the Hugos is political. The personal is political, and what I read and love is very personal. However I want to make clear that no one has ever told me what to vote for. Lots of people have recommend things for me to read, but I’ve only nominated works that I loved and thought were worthy of the award.
Anyways I’m uncomfortable with how some fans are valorizing Worldcon. I’m glad so many people have found it welcoming, but I also hear many stories form people who felt unwelcome at Worldcon and in Fandom in general. Diversity fandom has been saying for a long time that Worldcon and the Hugo Awards could and should be more inclusive. I don’t think we should ignore these problems just because people we disagree with politically are now also saying that they feel excluded.
Yet, I don’t think the problems of inclusion in Worldcon and SFF fandom are unfixable. In fact many of us have been working to fix them. We’ve been encouraging our friends to vote. We have been reading things we loved and telling people about them. In the last year especially there has been an explosion of projects to increase the visibility and discoverabilty of short fiction. I’ve been trying to help in my small way by blogging about short fiction that I liked and recommend.
I’m angry that after diversity fandom has been working for a more inclusive fandom for years and years, white men are attacking the Hugo Awards process because they don’t feel included. Many of us have felt excluded, but we haven’t tried to attack the awards. Yet instead of trying to build communities and create change these people are throwing tantrums and breaking things. I wish they would destroy less and build more. They could do many things to build community instead of breaking what others have built. For example: start their own projects to recognize and review short fiction they think is great; create spaces for the voices they want to see more of; recommend that people vote and tell them about things they should consider voting for; or even make their own award! That’s what diversity fans have been doing.
Still despite the current mess I am grateful to the fans who have reached out to me and encouraged me to participate. Sometimes the process has made me sad or angry, but overall participating in the awards has been a positive experience. I’ve read great things I might not have read otherwise. I’ve talked to new people. So I plan to do it again next year.