Today is the last day of voting for the Hugo Awards and I wanted to share a few things about my experience as a first-time voter.
#1 – The Hugo packet was really helpful.
I was able to use that to get more familiar with certain categories, works, and individuals and vote for more things than I had expected when initially reviewing the ballot. The packet included some whole works (all of the novellas were included in full), some samples, example works from artists, and even bios for certain individuals. I ended up reading three of the included novellas, one novel, and reviewed what I had time for, which, admittedly, was not everything. Still, it was very helpful and certainly made me feel a bit better about my vote (and about the cost of participation).
#2 – I still left more than half of the ballot blank.
I simply did not have enough familiarity with certain topics, let alone the nominated works or individuals within the topic, to make an informed vote. This was particularly true in most of the short fiction categories, as that is an area of reading that I don’t delve into with any regularity.
#3 – I generally avoided No Award.
There were one or two times that I used it strategically to help keep certain entries (which I felt were particularly undeserving) from winning, but, for the most part, I didn’t feel good about using that option or really feel like I knew the works well enough to determine whether they were “good enough” for a Hugo.
#4 – I could do with less drama.
I get why the slates have emerged and also why so many people are upset about it, but it really does make the whole experience a bit less fun than I had expected. Yes, I certainly did take enjoyment in certain aspects of the process, but I also felt compelled to make myself aware of which works were part of slates and I’m sure that impacted my vote to some degree. However, I generally just tried to vote for what I liked best. I know that I voted for works or individuals that were on slates and I don’t really care. If they win, hopefully, it’s because the most people voted for them and they deserve it.
#5 – I don’t know if I’ll vote next year.
Keeping up with all of the works that come out in a year and then selectively reading those works just so you have enough information to nominate is tough. I ended up keeping a list of novels published in 2015 that caught my attention and then I would try to grab titles from that list whenever I could. I also kept a document to keep track of good television episodes, movies, artists, and so forth so I would have a pool of options to nominate from.
Probably the biggest issue for me though was simply making the conscious effort to read new books, and then attempting to choose those that you think will be “award worthy.” I don’t read that many books each year so that means that some older novels that I really wanted to read have to get pushed back or, who knows, I might not end up reading them at all. It makes choosing your next read a bit more complicated and I’m not sure how much I really enjoyed that end of it.
It was also pretty disheartening going through all of the efforts to nominate and then see mostly slate nominations make it to the final ballot. I know that new rules will be in place for next year, but it’s still not clear how effective they will be.
#6 – I’m happy I voted.
Even with all of the caveats, I’m still glad that I participated. I felt more connected to the SFF community and I got to learn more about one of the most prominent SFF awards. It was an interesting experience and, although I may or may not vote again next, I suspect that I will vote again.
Best of luck to all of the nominated works and individuals!