A Proposal: An Award for SF Storytelling
One thing that’s been a constant in the back-and-forth over the Hugos has been the refrain from the folks who think there’s nothing wrong with them as they stand: “Why don’t you create an award for stuff you like?” Comments on this very blog have raised that point, and at least one commenter meant it in all seriousness.
This grates on me a bit. In one sense, to create a new award sounds like an admission of defeat, of an inability to make an award that’s supposed to represent all of fandom really do that. In another sense, though, it’s a way to ensure that at least one set of awards for SF/F represent what it is truly about: the story above all else.
I’ve developed a proposal for just that: a series of awards to celebrate and commemorate the SF/F storyteller’s art. It’s modeled after the Hugos, with two major changes: a panel of judges evaluates the nominees to ensure that they are indeed good SF/F stories, and can reject a limited number of them; and the pool of eligible voters is based on a web of trust starting with the signers of the proposal. All voting and nominating is done automatically, on the Web.
I’ve tried and failed to come up with a unique name for the awards. My first choice was the Heinleins, after the greatest storyteller in SF, but that was taken. Next, I thought I’d use the name of one of Heinlein’s characters who was a great storyteller, Noisy Rhysling, but that was taken as well. Rather than thrash around the question, I decided to punt and let others suggest names.
The actual proposal-cum-manifesto is after the jump.
The (insert name here) Awards
We the undersigned believe that those who recognize achievement in science fiction and fantasy (SF/F) have lost sight of the core question to be answered when evaluating a work in the genre: “Does it tell a good story?”
Therefore, we propose a new series of awards, to be named The (insert name here) Awards for Storytelling in Science Fiction and Fantasy, or the (insert name here) Awards for short.
The (insert name here) Awards will be granted as determined by SF/F fandom as a whole through a nomination, qualification, and election process managed initially by a committee of volunteers from across fandom. A Foundation shall be established and obtain recognition from the US Internal Revenue Service as a nonprofit corporation under the provisions of section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and the Foundation’s Board of Directors shall assume management of the Awards once it has done so.
The criterion for selection is simple: Does the work in question tell a good SF/F story? This is the focus of the (insert name here) Awards, and voters are encouraged to consider works exclusively on that basis. The Judging Committee will use the quality of SF/F storytelling as their sole criterion. Other awards exist to honor works for other qualities.
All works of SF/F that meet the definition of the category and were first published in the preceding calendar year are eligible. For the purposes of this provision, “first published” means first made available for public consumption, with or without charge, through any medium including bookstores, broadcast media, Internet sites, or any other means of distribution. Self-published works that sell less than 1000 copies and are subsequently published by a commercial publisher are eligible for consideration as though they had not previously been published. The Foundation’s Board of Directors may grant and publicize exceptions to these criteria in extraordinary circumstances.
The following categories are defined:
Best Novel – Written SF/F stories of 50,000 words or more in length.
Best Novella – Written SF/F stories between 5,000 and 50,000 words in length.
Best Short Story – Written SF/F stories 5,000 words in length or shorter.
Best Young Adult Story – Written SF/F stories of any length intended to be accessible to and enjoyed by SF/F fans under 18 years of age.
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form – Any SF/F story intended to be performed for an audience of over 90 minutes in length.
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form – Any SF/F story intended to be performed for an audience in 90 minutes or less.
Best Graphic Story – Works of graphic art, with or without accompanying text, that tell an SF/F story.
Best Related Work – Any nonfiction or fiction work that is not itself a work of SF/F storytelling, but serves to advance the SF/F storyteller’s art.
To minimize voter confusion, the nominating and voting processes are intended to track as closely as possible those defined by the World Science Fiction Society for the Hugo Awards, as modified by the proposals adopted at the Business Meeting at Sasquan in 2015.
Works are nominated by ballots collected from eligible voters. Each voter may submit one ballot with up to four nominees in each category. A total of six nominees will be chosen by a process formally known as Single Divisible Vote and informally as the E Pluribus Hugo proposal. Briefly, each ballot counts as one vote in each category, divided equally among all of the nominations for that category still in consideration. At each stage, the point totals are summed, the two candidates with the lowest point totals are taken, and the one with the fewest number of first-place choices is eliminated. Ballots voting for the eliminated candidate are reevaluated as though that candidate had never been nominated, and the tally begins again. This process is repeated until six candidates remain, at which time those six become the nominees.
The nominees are then considered by the Judging Committee. The judges shall evaluate each work solely by its storytelling. The judges may disqualify any work they find to have an emphasis on other than telling a good SF/F story. They may disqualify no more than three nominees in any category. The disqualified nominees will be replaced by reprocessing the nominating ballots from the beginning as though those nominees had never been submitted; the judges may not disqualify the replacement nominees. This power is expected to be used very sparingly, as the awards are intended to reflect the choices of fandom at large.
Once the nominees are selected and judged, they will be voted on by the Single Transferable Vote method (also known as the Australian Ballot). Unlike the Hugo Awards, there is no provision for No Award. The winners will be given their awards at a public ceremony.
After the ceremony, all ballots, both nominating and voting, shall be made readily available in a form that permits automated processing to check and analyze the results. Any personally identifying information shall first be removed.
To become an eligible voter for the (insert name here) Awards, a person must be vouched for by one or more existing eligible voters. This is defined as having a trust level of 1 or greater. When first registering to vote, a person’s trust level is 0. An existing eligible voter whose trust level is 3 or greater may raise or lower the trust level of up to three other people by 1 each, and this number rises by 1 with each additional trust level until a maximum of a trust level of 10 is reached. The undersigned, as well as prior recipients of a (insert name here) Award and current and past members of the Foundation Board of Directors and Judging Committee, may raise or lower the trust level of any person by 1. A voter may not raise the trust level of anyone who raised his own, nor of anyone in the chain of trust leading back to those holding unlimited trusting privileges.
[Added 2015-09-13 09:40 CDT:] This trust metric is intended solely to ensure that those voting for the Awards are who they say they are, and that each person only casts one vote. Any person is welcome to nominate and vote, regardless of any political beliefs they may hold. [/addition]
All registration and trust level processing shall be done automatically by the (insert name here) Award website. All records of trust levels being raised or lowered shall be retained for a period to be determined by the Foundation Board of Directors; this period is intended to be limited only by practical methods of data storage.
The Judging Committee
The Judging Committee shall consist of no more than five members. They shall be chosen by the Foundation Board of Directors, and selected for their knowledge of the fields of science fiction and fantasy and their commitment to uphold the ideals of the (insert name here) Awards. They may serve as long as they and the Foundation Board of Directors wish.
The Foundation Board of Directors
The Foundation shall have a Board of Directors of at least the minimum number required by the laws of the state of incorporation for a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation. Any officers as may be required by law shall be chosen by the Board annually from within its membership. The initial Directors shall be elected by the undersigned. After the Foundation has been in existence for three years, Directors shall be elected, one third of the Board’s membership every year, to serve three-year terms by those eligible to vote for the (insert name here) Awards.
The rationale for the (insert name here) Awards is simple. Over time, the Hugo voters have considered other factors than the most fundamental when evaluating a work. They have chosen works based on their political emphasis, or the race or nationality of the author, or other criteria aside from that which defines SF/F. Attempts to turn the Hugo Awards back to the foundations of SF/F have been met with derision and outright hatred. Despite their previous claims to the contrary, the Hugo Awards voters and others now say that the Hugos represent the World Science Fiction Society’s choices, not those of fandom at large. The (insert name here) Awards are intended to redress this situation, and give all of fandom a means of influencing an award that represents them. Those arguing that the Hugo Awards rightly belong to the membership of the WSFS have said that those who believe that there should be awards truly representing all of fandom should start their own awards program. We the undersigned choose to take up this challenge. (to be rewritten)
Jay Maynard rose to Internet fame in 2004 for daring to show how he made a skin-tight Masquerade costume inspired by the movie TRON, but he’s been an SF fan for much longer than that. He works as a software developer, and lives in Fairmont, Minnesota with a roommate and upwards of 70 computers (they’ve both lost count).
Have to digest things a bit more, but one quick comment. I like the reduction in short fiction categories, but I believe the borderline between Short Story and Novella is better set at 10,000 words. (Heartily agree with the extension of the upper limit on novella to 50,000.)
How about the Cliffords, after Clifford Simak. I’ve always thought that his opening to City is one of the all-time great beginnings to any book, SF or not, and is itself a tribute to the magic of storytelling:
These are the stories that the Dogs tell when the fires burn high and the wind is from the north. Then each family circle gathers at the hearthstone and the pups sit silently and listen and when the story’s done they ask many questions:
“What is Man?” they’ll ask.
Or perhaps: “What is a city?”
Or: “What is a war?”
Or is it already taken?
Reading this I’m reminded of a friend of mine with whom I used to play D&D. Once, when pressed for a name for his latest character he said: “My name is Ereh Enam Tresni the Third, but you may call me Tresni.” We could call the award the Tresni!
On a serious note, if the award is intended to better represent fandom at large, why beat around the bush? Why not just call it the Fandom Award?
There were several things I did not like about the Hugos. I initially got into the voting to promote the writers that I liked. What happened was that the writer’s reputations were tarnished by who voted for them. The voting process also put fans at odds with each other and put people into political camps. It was ridiculous. The worst part was the award ceremony itself with all the “losers” getting hammered. I didn’t feel the love of all of fandom and I didn’t appreciate the poor “winners”.
I like the way record companies show awards in popularity–ie, gold, platinum, double platinum etc. I think that should be the way to go. Any system can be gamed but if we did it this way all the voting fans would see their candidate rewarded and there would not be losers, only degrees of honors for the winners. This is how I think it should be done:
1. The cost to vote should be as expensive as a cup of coffee–ie $3-$5 max.
2. The level of the award, ie bronze, silver, gold, platinum, double platinum etc. should be based on the percentage of votes earned. That way every vote counts. I might have rolled my eyes at “If You Were A Dinosaur My Love” but that hated piece had a lot of fans backing it. They were the same group that hated Howard’s “Hour of the Dragon” probably, but hey, we are all fans and we might disagree about what is good but something that resonates with fandom should not be considered junk. I think close battles should feel like a close contest and those that fly head and shoulders above the rest should show distinction.
3. I’d like to see sci-fi and fantasy split in awards and I like the break down that Jay presents. I’d add on the award of Best Magazine because these periodicals deserve a place too and they work hard to deliver new writers and good work. They are important to fans.
4. There needs to be a way to verify voters but I’d rather open the door wide than to make it an elite group of gatekeepers. I think fans who vote have a stake in what they promote. That’s just me.
I’d also like to see Lin Carter’s idea of the Gandalf brought back. This was for sword an sorcery and I think it is long overdue. I wouldn’t know the first step in how to do that.
Also, if you want to know where fandom really is google images of Worldcon 2015 and compare it with Dragoncon 2015. Dragoncon is small as cons go but it has seven times the numbers of Worldcon and 1000 times the energy. Look at the crowds and compare.
The one author I loved reading more than any other when I was in my teens was Andre Norton. Name the award after her, and call them “Nortons” for the short term. She’s always been a good storyteller, and she’s written both SF and fantasy. And how many major awards have been named after women?
That one’s already taken, smitty59. It’s the SFWA award for young adult fiction.
Rich, the boundaries are very much arbitrarily defined, and open to discussion. So is the whole proposal, actually.
WA: The gold/platinum/… are awarded to records strictly on the basis of how much they sell.
I envision the cost to vote to be $0. We should not exclude anyone because they are unable to pay. Since the Foundation will be a 501(c)(3) corporation, tax-deductible donations would take care of the expenses, I believe.
The reason that the Hugos are explicitly SF and fantasy is simple: where do you draw the line? That’s one can of worms I’m not at all sure is worth opening.
The whole idea behind the web of trust is that it represents a way to verify voters without gatekeepers. Yeah, booting it up is the hard part, but not insurmountable.
Part of me wants to name it after Terry Pratchett and have the award be a silver asterisk on a nice mahogany base or some such, just to throw the asterisks back in David Gerrold’s face, but not only do I not know how Sir Terry would take it, the name would get people away from thinking about SF as well. I also want this to not be a Puppy thing, and that would detract from that.
Call it “No Award”. I think that would be funny, and everything you [i]awards[/i] crazy people deserve.
Thanks, Jay. As soon as I posted that, I had a gut feeling I’d be called out on that one. I did like Tom Parker’s Simak recommendation. After Norton, Simak was a favorite of mine, too.
@smitty59—good to see you again smitty. Andre Norton remains one of my favorites too. I like it that she was one of the first women to be “passing” in a male dominated genre at the time.
@Jay—sigh, yeah, I know it is based on record sales. That wasn’t what I was saying. I’m saying it might be good to get an award level based on percentage of votes. Anyway, I’m glad that someone is thinking about a real fan based award.
Good to see you here too, Ape. I’ve actually been keeping up pretty steadily with things here, but I’ve been WAY too busy with getting back into teaching, settling mom’s estate, and loads of other personal stuff, and just haven’t had the energy to make comments. I DID want to tell you I agreed with a comment you made about the internet ‘way back. Your comment up above gave me an idea: Suppose this new award was named after the creator of Conan and Kull and Solomon Kane; then we’d have Hugos and Howards……
I would be 100% for a Howard award. I sure have missed you posting. I hope you’ve seen Howard Andrew Jones blog reviewing the REH stories. I haven’t posted there but the posts have been great.
Yes I have, and they ARE excellent.
I’m missing a category for Best Series. As Eric Flint mentioned, this is how most people read SFF nowadays.
I’m also very confused by this idea of trust levels. All voters are equal, but some are more equal?
And a category for lifetime achievment or something like that would be nice. Some authors are unlucky in that they put out many very, very good books but each year is narrowly defeated by someone that is just slightly better – that year.
This gives them something.
Hampus, the only difference between trust levels is that a minimum trust level of 3 is required to add someone else to the web of trust, and the more trusted you are, the more you can say others are trusted. Everyone gets exactly one nominating ballot and exactly one vote per category at voting time.
I’ve got no problem with either a Best Series or lifetime achievement award, though I do wonder how you define a series and when it becomes eligible for the award.
George R. R. Martin commented on this proposal over at his LiveJournal. As he asked, I’ll answer his criticisms here…
I tried to keep it down to a minimum, but the question “So why do you need another award? Why isn’t the Hugo good enough” needs answering. This is a manifesto, after all.
Some mechanism to both validate voters and give them an entrance into voting without charging them $50 a year is needed. Since the award represents all of fandom, not just the members of one con, the old mechanism wouldn’t work. The gritty details will be handled by the website. All each person does is register, get someone else who’s already been vouched for to vouch for them, and then optionally get vouched for enough they can do the same for others.
The goal is to get people in and prevent ballot-box stuffing and fraud. Other systems that do the same are certainly welcome for discussion.
This goes hand in hand with the elimination of NO AWARD. Some mechanism is needed to keep these awards from being turned into just another set of awards for politically correct message fiction instead of good SF/F stories. I’m quite aware that the use of this power will cause controversy. This hinges on the judges themselves and their commitment to the awards. Selecting judges who will only act when it will be widely seen as necessary is the key here.
I seem to recall Harshaw as more of a lawyer than a writer, but then I haven’t read Stranger in a few years. What are others’ thoughts?
Oh…I need to credit Campbell nominee and open source software guru Eric S. Raymond for the whole web of trust idea.
Yep, the definition of Best Series is a hard one. There has been a proposal for the Hugos on how to define it, that could be a starting point.
Something according to the following steps perhaps?
1) A minimum wordcount in total over several books.
2) Marketed as a series of several books.
3) Not eligible again for nomination after winning until the minimum wordcount again has been repeated.
It is hard for a book in a series to win otherwise, as people usually won’t vote for later parts of a series, unless the first part won. This puts authors that writes mostly for series at a disadvantage.
Regarding naming… you don’t have to name something after an author. Why not after a work? “The Summer Door” for Heinlein. Or from something in a work? “The Sandworm” from Dune. Or just something sounding SFF-like. “The Moon-award” has both space for SF and supernatural ties to Fantasy.
Another way would be to specifically name the award after the kind of stories you want to reward. Military SF? The Trooper. And so on.
And just to throw in a total other idea, to separate yourself from The Hugos and Nebulas, but still keep everything interesting? Total different categories:
* Best YA.
* Best Military SF.
* Best Translated Work.
* Best Fantasy.
* Best Series.
Don’t be a copy, take your own space and define it. Think of what you want to reward and how you already by defining categories can reward those that today might be lost out.
Oh…WA and smitty, the name “Howards” is taken, by the World Fantasy Awards.
At this point, I should bring up Harris’s Lament: “All the good ones are taken!” This originally referred to domain names, but seems apropos here.
Reading through the comments on GRRM’s posting, one more springs to mind:
While Libertycon might be a good venue for the presentation, I’m not sure they’d be interested in the long term: they explicitly want to keep the con small and with an atmosphere of being family, and having what I hope will be a major fandom awards presentation there would conflict with that.
A twist on the trust idea. On a website I’m a member on, we have something called “verification”. To verify someone means that you have said that you have met the person in real life. You can then verify each other.
An idea here would be that no one can vote if they haven’t been verified by at least three persons as an example. This is if you would want to have some kind of limit of participants to those that are an active part of IRL fandom.
As devil’s advocate: Would the judges also act to throw off religious proselytizing disguised as SF/F, as that is also “message fiction”?
Steven: Depends. Does it tell a good SF/F story? If not, out it goes, regardless of the message it pushes.
How about the Lin Carter? Carter was a big proponent of story and revived several giants that were sneered at as pulp in his time. He would be a Sad Puppy. All the good he did I don’t think ever got any sort of recognition or respect and certainly not an award.
“It would have been nice if you could have just proposed your new award without feeling the need to take shots at the Hugo, but I suppose that was unavoidable.”
I think GRRM makes a few good points about the judging committee and the verification process. You’ll have trouble when you negate something. Also, why leave it to a few “experts” on what is good fiction? We can see within there are wide differences even in the Sad/Rabid and Anti-Puppy groups. And stevenpoore makes a good point about what qualifies as message fiction. Hell, most of Heinlein’s books would be message fiction. I don’t think it can be done. It would be like removing theme from a story, what would you have then?
As for GRRMs remark about the Hugos getting shots, man that really irks me. What shots? If there is an award that deserves criticism it is the Hugo. What a fraud! I’m hoping it will stay on though so I can identify which books to avoid like a warning label. Maybe that will make him happy.
So I’ve been reading the positive trust mechanic.
I kinda get what you are going for here, even if I don’t agree with it.
The negative trust mechanic, though. I can foresee all sorts of problems with this. Are there any sorts of grounds or basis or justification needed?
John C Wright, with a score of 3, decides that me, his friend, should be able to vote in this awards, and gives me a 1 to do so.
Tom Kratman with a score of 4, sees this. “The heck with that, Paul Weimer is on the Skiffy and Fanty show, they made fun of me” and uses his downvote to knock me back to zero.
Suddenly, I’m no longer qualified to vote, right?
The politics of who is and who isn’t qualified to vote suddenly becomes really personal. And starting with a limited base, as you are, I’m curious how you are going to address the social problems this is going to cause.
By “he would be a Sad Puppy”, I guess you mean he would have been a Sad Puppy candidate? Because there are several people who haven’t won Hugos and still aren’t Sad Puppies. I see no reason why a dead author should be conscripted to a cause that didn’t even exist when he died.
Otherwise, I think you have many point regarding message fiction, verification and so on. I think the best starting point is to try to get voters from likeminded. A bit like electing a new people.
Oh, and yes. Name it so the name will hint att who should get it. The Adventurer? The Pulpist? Add categories so it becomes even more clear, like best tie-in.
Don’t use “dramatic presentation”, it sounds like a poet reciting purple prose. Use “Best Movie” and “Best TV-Episode” instead.
Anything to draw the crowd you want for the award.
Jubal Harshaw?! Oh my God. The character was emblematic of everything wrong in the latter Heinlein. If you have to have a Heinlein reference, how about Lorenzo Smythe from Double Star – one of the few RAH characters who actually seems open to the ideas (even the existence) of others.
Or just cut to the chase and call it the Black Hole.
Princejvstin, remember that each person has a very limited number of votes total, and a downvote counts as one vote used. I expect that downvotes will be very scarce, and used only when a voter is known to be fraudulent.
Your recourse is to get someone else to upvote you, and the one who downvoted you cannot do so again, so you’re good.
WA: The difference is simple: does it tell a good SF/F story? The example that I was thinking of in the shower was Ringo and Kratman’s The Tuloriad. There’s a pretty strong message there, to the point that it stuck in my craw as an atheist: If you’re going to have a religious war, bring a religion. What I remember of it is that it’s explicitly Christian, and that grates on me. Kratman swears up and down it’s not. One of these days, I’ll pull it out of the pile it’s in and reread it.
But even then, a case can be made that the message serves the story, not the other way around. There’s plenty of room for disagreement there, and someone who felt that the story was there to serve the message would be justified in saying that the book would not qualify for this award.
OTOH, I can’t think of a single Heinlein work where the story serves the message instead of the reverse.
Thomas, just what do you object to in later Heinlein? I think it shows him as a dirty old man, but that’s about all; his storytelling was as strong as ever up to the end. Then again, if you think this is all about Puppies not being open to the ideas of others, you fundamentally miss the entire point.
Interesting ideas! I suspect trust, as presented, would either be too easy (e.g. a reddit thread started to hand out extra trust votes) or too difficult (e.g. only readers of Black Gate are able to find someone to confer trust) to get. It’s hard to prevent ballot stuffing through any internet method. And any complicated method is sure to exclude some folks who you want voting. Maybe just requiring votes to be submitted via text message from a unique phone number?
How are you defining a “good SF/F story”? Should the narrative be able to be easily summarized? Must it be exciting or can it be merely interesting? What about complex narrative devices like parallel, fragmented, reversed, unreliable and/or dreamlike/hallucinogenic narratives? What about magical realism? All excluded?
Jay, I don’t want to divert this thread from your awards proposal, but for this reader, there was a marked degeneration in the later Heinlein, precisely in storytelling. He was always opinionated and could be preachy, but in the books of the 40’s and 50’s – the juveniles, Double Star, the Door Into Summer, The Puppet Masters – the storytelling impetus rarely flagged. I don’t think that’s true of the latter stuff, where hectoring and preaching replaced arguing and persuading, and where nothing really happened for page after endless page. Your mileage may vary, of course (and there were books that were better than others – The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, for example.) We now return you to your regularly scheduled awards debate…(which I think is a good idea, however the mechanics of it could be worked out.)
I’m concerned that the trust level system will keep people from voting, rather than encourage voting. It makes voting into a club where you can only get in if you already know someone who is on the inside.
How will people like me, who have a deep love of sf and fantasy and want to participate, but rarely post on message boards or news sites, get someone to vouch for me? I recognize user names of prolific posters here, but I doubt anyone knows who I am based on my 2 or 3 posts over the last year. Prior to that, I don’t think I ever posted, even though I’ve been a Black Gate reader for years. I don’t want to have to beg someone to vouch for me. That’s enough for me to skip voting altogether, and ultimately ignore the awards.
Limiting the voting pool to a select circle of voters does exactly the opposite of what you want-an award voted on by the fans of the kind of sf/fantasy you want to recognize. You say “The (insert name here) Awards will be granted as determined by SF/F fandom as a whole”, yet it’s not fandom as a whole, it’s fandom as long as you know somebody on the inside.
Aside from that, I’d be happy to see an award that recognizes a different aspect of sf and fantasy. It can only bring good works to the attention of people who might otherwise miss them.
I suggest you consider naming this the Jim Baen Memorial F&SF (1) Award.
1: Or alternatively SF&F. Which is F&SF or SF&F is correct?
rjmiller, your concern is quite valid, and indeed was my primary concern as I was discussing the system with Eric. The solution is to make the initial group who can trust people as broad as possible consistent with actually being trustworthy, and to make sure there are plenty of opportunities for people to have opportunities for being trusted. But yes, the problem of booting the trust web is real and needs attention paid to it.
James, that name is taken, by an award co-sponsored by Baen Books and the National Space Society.
Jay, I see a couple possible failure conditions for the web of trust, and wonder if you have thoughts about managing them.
#1. Someone trusted bestows trust on others willy-nilly – say, everyone reading his blog, or everyone who comes to a reading of his. This brings in some folks in sync with the spirit of things, but others who really aren’t. It’s Usenet on a bad day all over again. At that point, what could people interested in maintaining a desired ambience do about it?
#2. Someone trust undergoes a religious conversion or other drastic change of worldview is now not merely out of step but actively hostile to the intent of the awards. They go around bestowing trust on other people who share their active hostile. Same question – at that point, what could others do about it?
It seems to me like you’ve got a well-enough established audience to make this work if the details can hang together, and I’d like it to.
Bruce, both of these issues are limited in their impact by the tight limits on how many others they can trust. When you have only between three and ten trust votes to cast, period, you can’t trust very many willy-nilly, and those can’t gain enough trust to spread the damage without assistance (since you can only vote on one other person once).
If somehow it got a foothold, though, then the people in question could be downvoted by others.
Fair enough! Like I said, I want your proposal to work, and hope to be constructive in commentary.
You have a problem. If everyone with three points hands out their three points to get other people included, then you can just about expand indefinitely. If any significant percentage don’t hand out any points, then you need your bootstrap process (signatories, award winners, directors) to continually verify more and more people.
You need the web to be self-sustaining, which means that people have to have more points to give out than they get in – and you’ll need to guess how many more by guessing what percentage of the points will actually be given out.
What’s the initial pool for people giving eligibility?
I like the idea of calling it the Storyteller Award– I think that’s the best value the puppies support.
*Not* named after Jubal Harshaw– he was a hack (Heinlein wasn’t) and suicidally depressed.
Kudos for taking the plunge to set this up, Jay.
The La Paz (after Moon is a Harsh Mistress)
The Kip Russell (Have Space Suit, natch)
The Lexington (first naval ship Heinlein served on)
The Rasczak (Starship Troopers lieutenant. Note: difficult to spell, but prob. hasn’t been used yet.)
The Rico (main character, Starship Troopers)
The Lazarus (shows up a lot.)
Second the comment about adjusting the word count up for Short Story to 10K and that the trust system may be cumbersome on the administrators, but best of luck to you!
If, say 100 people are given 3 trust to start with, that creates a pool of 300 trust that can be bestowed on others. 300 trust is, at best, enough to add 300 more trust points to the pool (either by adding 100 new people with 3 trust points to the web or by adding extra trust points to the 100 people already in the web or some combination.) 300 is the maximum number of trust points that can be added given an initial allocation of 300 points, but those points are more likely to be spread among more people. Worst case would be if each of the initial group of 100 each gave a point to 3 different people, in which case you’d now have 400 people in the web, but no additional trust points to confer. Since the pool of available points can, at best, only give rise to an additional number of points equal to the pool itself and would likely produce less, you have a situation with diminishing returns, and I think you’d be lucky to end up with a pool of more than 1000 people (10x the original number) ultimately. (I’m tempted to program a simulation for fun.)
It’s true that the unlimited trusting ability of Foundation Board and Judging Committee members and prior award winners would help this tendency, it wouldn’t completely eliminate it (particularly since they can give negative trust), and it would give them perhaps inordinate influence on the process.
I like SF in the tradition of John Campbell and Hugo Gernsback, so I’d like to call SF awards the Hugo and the Campbell.
I’m excited about this award proposal, and I would love to see it work. Let a thousand flowers bloom.
Two of Hampus’s suggestions seem to me especially worth considering. His proposal to have two awards in each category — one for science fiction and one for fantasy — would address a complaint I’d been hearing about the Hugos steadily, starting many years before the current controversy. Many people who’ve been following the genres for decades feel that fantasy has been taking over awards, slots in publishers’ line-ups, and bookstore space that used to belong to SF. I don’t think writers or fans want there to be a zero-sum game conflict between the two genres when most of us appreciate both. Is there another award that’s designed to give both SF and F equal honor? If not, that could be another unique draw for fans.
Hampus’s word-count based criteria for figuring out when a series is eligible, and when it can become eligible again if it continues in excellence, seemed like a fair and easy to apply rubric.
I rather like the Cliffords, in part because in addition to honoring Simak, it evokes that children’s book fantasy character, Clifford the Big Red Dog. For some time I’ve thought that it would be easier for people not already in sympathy with the Sad Puppies to hear what the Puppies have to say if it were clear that there really was some way to make them Happy Puppies that didn’t involve total submission. The Puppies are, of course, a large group of individuals with variations of opinion, so some might be impossible to please under any circumstances, while others really want to see a practical solution work. It might be too inflammatory to make your award evoke a big red dog — one who’s trademarked, no less — but I’m kind of enjoying the idea right now.
Best of luck!
Matt W is correct. I believe that our comments both basically say the same thing.
The series awards seem reasonable, and an idea that’s probably worth doing. How about a minimum of three novels, with a total word count of at least 500K? That would space things out for all but stuff like the 1632 series (which is up to the million-word-a-year mark, easily, and climbing…makes it damned hard to keep up with!). Like the short story/novella boundary, those numbers are very much open for discussion.
Having different categories from the Hugos is a good thing in one respect, that of novelty; in another, though, it doesn’t do the fundamental job of recognizing works that the Hugos overlook for reasons other than quality. That said, I’m open to another set of categories that would recognize a wide range of stories.
I’m not as sure about having separate awards for SF and fantasy, because of the problem of where the boundary gets defined. Some things are obvious – Pern is fantasy, Ringworld is SF (even if it is unstable) – but, for example, where would you put technology-of-magic stories like Rick Cook’s Wizardry series? That’s the only real objection I have, and that’s why I thought the Hugos were inclusive of both.
The web-of-trust bootup issue is a good one. Matt’s correct about the limited pool of trust available from only those with fixed trust amounts to hand out. That’s why there are folks with unlimited trusting abilities. I envision booths at cons and the like where anyone can walk up, show some form of ID, and register, manned by folks with unlimited privileges. The same can be done for bookstores, other gatherings… and a mechanism for folks who can’t get to something like that in person can be worked out. This is not a new problem.
And to answer one objection: This is not intended to be a gatekeeper of anything but verifying that someone signing up is a real person who has not signed up before. I have named nobody as having unlimited trusting privileges yet, and will not do so until much later in he process – and I explicitly invite anti-Puppies as well as Puppies and those who support neither side to participate, so everyone who’s a real person and wishes to can become trusted.
The Judging Committee is there to ensure that the nominations are not stuffed by folks wishing to crowd out the works that tell good stories with politically correct message fiction. I expect they will err on the side of letting things through, and only disqualify a work if it’s obvious that the message is all there is.
(Aside: I hate discussing stuff like this on Twitter. It’s impossible to keep an orderly thread of conversation, and I think in a lot more than 140 characters at a time.)
Folks, this is nothing more than an initial proposal for discussion. Anything that achieves the goals of allowing anyone who wishes to to vote for zero cost (or nearly so, certainly much less than the $50 Hugo entrance fee) for works selected purely for their storytelling quality regardless of any other criterion and have the recognition represent all of fandom, Puppy and non-Puppy alike, will work for what I envision.
I fear the Hugos have already been permanently destroyed for this purpose, between the hated Vox Day and the No Puppy slate voting and raucous cheering and Vonnegut Memorial Asterisks. They cannot be salvaged without the kind of overture the anti-Puppies seem to be incapable of making.
And no, I am not a Puppy officially myself. I’ve met some of the leaders (the one who sticks out most in my mind is Sarah Hoyt), and some of the vocal writer supporters (though the only one I can claim as more than having met once or twice is Mad Mike Williamson, who I’m happy to consider a good friend – he tuned up my errant AR-15, for one thing). This proposal has not been authorized, or edited, or even commented on as far as I know by any Puppy leader, past or present. This is my own work, with, as noted above, the help of Eric Raymond.
This proposal is not a Puppy proposal. I hope it can go beyond they Puppy wars entirely. What’s wrong with recognizing a good story?
Regarding separate awards for SF/F, since you’ve already got a judging committee “elected for their knowledge of the fields of science fiction and fantasy,” why not have them decide which category a book goes in, in the cases where it’s not obvious?
I very much doubt that there will be many books per year that are both ambiguous (in terms of which genre they belong to), AND get enough nominations to be able to make it past the nomination stage. So the workload of deciding which novel goes in which category shouldn’t be too much.
In the Hugos, if someone nominates for a story in the wrong category (for instance, nominating a short story in the novelette category), their vote is moved to the correct category. You could so something similar with twinned fantasy and SF awards, so that if someone nominates a novel in the “fantasy” category that the judges decide is “science fiction,” that person’s vote wouldn’t be wasted.
I’m what you’d call an anti-puppy (I call myself anti-slate), but I wish you the best of luck with these awards. There are a LOT of writers working hard at their craft; nothing wrong with creating another award to recognize them.
1) Worldcon is not Dragoncon, it’s not trying to be Dragoncon. The size difference is a feature not a bug, at least as far as I’m concerned. Imagine, though, if you will, the Worldcon in 1986 had decided they liked the host city and people who’d had fun decided that they’d like to do the same every year… Go, on I’ll let you imagine that and then go and Google Worldcon 44 and Dragoncon #1….
2) The trust thing sounds as bad as the TAFF/GUFF/DUFF rules…
3) Good luck. The more the merrier
But I think it misses the reason why the Hugo Awards have prestige and why this mess existed. They have prestige because they’ve been around a long time and mostly have worked and people haven’t screwed around with them.
Asimov’s first Foundation novel had a little under 80,000 words, and on average each Foundation book had about 150,000 words.
Unless you want to exclude epics like Foundation, I think it makes more sense to focus on number of novels rather than word count.
My suggestion is to require at least three novels in a series to qualify as “best epic,” and to use the same word count requirement that the “best novel” category uses to determine what qualifies as a novel.