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Fandom, what fandom? The obligatory post-Hugo Awards post

I was amused to read in Yes! Magazine:

Sci-Fi Fandom Declares Victory After Reactionary Nominees Lose Big at the Hugos

‘Sci-Fi fandom’ implies millions of booklovers, worldwide, all coming together to avert a hostile takeover of ‘science fiction’s most prestigious award‘  Yet the reality is that the Hugo Award 2015 for Best Novel was decided by an INCREDIBLE… drum roll… 5,623 voters.

Let’s read that again. 5,623 people. Or, a fair-sized political rally, on your average sports field. Compare this to Gen Con, the biggest gaming convention in America, which brought a record 197,695 people through the turnstiles this year. Or Dragon Con, which attracted 52,000 American SF&F fans in 2012. Or  even the first-ever Nine Worlds ‘geekfest’ in London in 2013, which attracted 1,500 attendees.

What a group of 5,000 people looks like (approximately)

What a group of 5,000 voters looks like (according to Google images)

In my opinion, the Hugos are less a ‘fan’ award than a larger version of the five-person jury that selects the Man Booker Prize longlist. Last year’s winner of Best Short Story, The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere was nominated as a finalist by 43 (!) people. And a MASSIVE 65 people nominated the now-infamous prose-poem If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love.

Speaking as someone who’s won a few hundred votes in her time, it’s unsurprising this small, unaccountable group of voters generated accusations of election rigging, nepotism and, eventually, a backlash [Difficult Run has a reasonable recap of ‘Puppygate‘]. As a first-time voter, attracted by the political popcorn, I now view ‘Hugo Award winner’ on a novel cover rather like ‘Winner of the Spokane Knitters’  Meetup Book Prize”.

[NOTE:  I’m still amazed how few people vote for the Hugos – both nominating AND awarding. So, if anyone wants to nominate my MFA student poem ‘Inspired by The Wasteland‘ for an internationally-prestigious SF award, I only need 42 more votes].

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