An engaged fandom means "No Award" won’t kill the Hugos

My thoughts on the current state of Hugo Awards voting and PuppyFail:

WorldCon surge points to engaged fandom

As Tempest Bradford points out, there are now over 8,000 members of Sasquan. This year's Worldcon has gained 2,600 supporting memberships alone since the Puppy-dominated list of Hugo nominees were announced on March 31.

I agree with Tempest that most of these new Worldcon members are likely people outraged by how the Puppies politicized the Hugos. I also agree with David Gerrold's view that what we're seeing here is an energized fandom deciding to again take part in voting for the Hugo Awards. If this turns out to be the case, fandom will owe an ironic "thank you" to the Puppies for increasing interest in the Hugos.

Of course, I suspect the Puppies won't be happy with what this energized fandom means for their movement. But they should have thought about that before they embarked on their campaign.

No Award won’t mean the death of the Hugos

With voting for the Hugo Awards now open I'm hearing through private messages and on social media how many people have voted. Based on these comments it appears “No Award” is poised to do very well. In fact, I’d be surprised if No Award didn’t win several categories, notably the Novella, Novelette and Short Story categories, along with other categories where the Puppy slates make up all the nominees.

Despite what the Puppies will try to say if No Award wins, this doesn’t result from some organized attack on their slate. Instead, most Hugo voters appear to be reading the nominees and deciding that many of them are not worthy of being on the final ballot. A smaller group of voters appear to be voting No Award because they dislike how the Hugos were politicized.

One of the strengths of the Hugo Awards has always been how voters punish stories and works which were placed on the ballot through political maneuvering and campaigning. We saw this in the 1987 Hugo Awards for Best Novel, where Black Genesis by L. Ron Hubbard made the final ballot through political campaigning. End result: Hubbard's novel placed sixth in the voting, behind No Award.

We appear to be seeing a repeat of what happened in 1987. And the good news is that a more engaged fandom, as indicated by Worldcon membership numbers, not only means that people are rejecting PuppyFail, they'll also make it harder for the Puppies to game the Hugo nomination process in future years. That means any threats to destroy the Hugos if No Award wins will turn out to be meaningless.

A future "Anti-Puppy Hugo Award" movement?

And here’s an interesting thought — even if No Award ends up winning many categories, that doesn’t mean 2014 SF/F works will never be honored by the Hugos.

Worldcon currently gives out retro Hugos for past conventions where Hugo Awards weren’t originally awarded (usually because hosting the awards was initially optional for Worldcons). Here's my prediction: If No Award sweeps many of the award categories, we'll eventually see a movement to award Hugos to those works denied consideration because of the Puppy campaign. After all, the retro Hugos were voted on and approved by Worldcon members. A similar method to "correct" any No Award winners could also be approved years from now.

Of course, the downside is that it'll take decades for this to happen. But I doubt future Worldcons members will allow a giant hole of No Award to forever exist in the list of Hugo winners.