The coming Hugo Awards ballot-stuffing arms race

You've probably heard all about this year's Hugo Award controversy, where several individuals and groups succeeded in getting certain stories on the award ballot through organized vote campaigning (such as the entire Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, or a certain hate-filled author who made the ballot as a political statement from his followers).

My view on this is very much with what SL Huang ‏has said: "People gaming the Hugos honestly doesn't tick me off as much as the fact that the Hugos are gameable." I totally agree. I also believe that this is about much more than simply which stories "merit" being on the award shortlist, as Rose Lemberg so amazingly said.

So what can be done to prevent this from happening again? Well, along those lines I suggested lowering the cost of voting in the Hugos, which would bring more people into the voting process. This would make the Hugo Award better reflect the diversity of fandom and also make it harder to game the system. Others have suggested alternate proposals, such as increasing the number of nominations a Hugo voter can make to 10.

But I doubt any of these suggestions, or any other improvements, will be made anytime soon.

You see, the Hugo Awards and Worldcon love inertia. There's a big stable of Worldcon fans who don't see any problems with their blessed award. And as Kari Sperring said, while there are many who do see the problems, there are so many people involved itshard to reach a consensus without some group blocking the change in the name of free speech or tradition or "This is how it's always been so why the hell should we change?" As Ian Sales has said, Worldcon's very "complexity is a barrier to change."

So here's my prediction on what will happen: Nothing. No change to the Hugo Award rules at all.

Thanks to the Hugo's arcane 5% rule, you can easily compare the number of ballots cast in the various award categories and work out roughly how many votes are needed to land a work on the final ballot. While the number varies, a few dozen votes for one short story could easily do it. Now that certain groups have proven the award can be so easily manipulated, we're going to see an arms race as every group begins campaigning for certain authors and stories. 

People can protest all they like against this. They can say it's not fair. Say it hurts the award. They can say whatever the hell they want. But people are still going to do it. And if Worldcon refuses to fix the Hugo Awards, I hope people do.

Part of this is a simple call to justice — when the haters of the world throw their hate all over what you love, you don't sit back and let them continue to spew hate. You fight back.

But having everyone engage in this vote campaigning might also be the only way to force the Hugo Awards to finally change. To force the reality of our ever-more-diverse genre down Worldcon's throat.

So I welcome the coming Hugo Awards ballot-stuffing arms race. It's probably the only way to force Worldcon and genre fandom to finally accept that a little change isn't a bad thing for the Hugos.