It’s that time again, science fiction & fantasy fans! The 2014 Hugo Award voting deadline on August 1st is just around the corner.
What the heck am I talking about? I’m glad you asked! The Hugo Awards are the major, fan-chosen awards for the science fiction & fantasy genres. The winners of the awards are announced each year during a black tie ceremony at Worldcon. Everyone who has purchased a supporting membership for that year’s Worldcon is eligible to vote in the Hugos. Award categories include things like best novel, best short story, best fan writer, best editors, best pro zines, best dramatic presentation short form, best dramatic presentation long form, and best fan cast.
I started voting myself a few years ago thanks to a blog post Neil Gaiman wrote encouraging people to participate in the Hugos. It’s not a very expensive proposition (supporting memberships are usually under $50) and you don’t even have to go out of your way to find the works that are nominated. Members get access to the Hugo Packet, which is a set of downloadable files. Depending on the award, the file can be the entire nominated work itself, a sample from the work, or samples of the work of a nominated person (say, in the case of Best Editor). The Packet lets you make informed decisions on works that might be hard to find after the fact, like short stories published in a magazine.
The best part about voting isn’t the packet, even though that’s a pretty sweet deal. The best part is making your voice heard. The Hugos are a chance to vote for something you love or someone whose work you really enjoy. When there are just a few hundred or few thousand votes cast in an award, your opinion really does count. The face of SFF fandom is changing and your vote can help encourage diversity of all kinds in the genre.
You can even watch the ceremony in real time. Hugos have been livestreamed for the last couple of years, so you can get some popcorn and watch the Hugos live on your PC or TV (if you’re freaks like us and have a computer connected to your main TV). It’s very exciting, almost like being able to vote for the Oscars. Ask The Husband: I have literally jumped up and down shouting and clapping when something I voted for won (that would be Chicks Dig Time Lords and the SF Squeecast).
Also awarded at the ceremony is the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer, which is Not A Hugo. (Much is made of it’s not-a-Hugo status, so you’ll out yourself as a terrible newbie if you accidentally call it one.) The Campbell is a coveted award, but you are only eligible to be nominated for two years. The clock for nomination starts ticking the moment you are professionally published and closes again two years later. Last year’s winner was my nominee, Mur Lafferty. It’s a such great feeling to see someone whose work you love take home an award that you think they deserve, but it’s the best feeling in the world when your vote helped make it happen!
So if you’re an SFF fan, I encourage you to put a few bucks down and vote in the Hugos. If you don’t have the cash to swing it this year, plan to do it next year. It’s one of my favorite parts of being a fan.