Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Monday 28 April 2014

Vox Populi Vox Day – Or When You Know What’s Good for You part ii

The winners of the Hugo Awards will be announced on August 17th. 

I wonder how many more rows will erupt about them between now and then. I wonder how many more parts this blog thread will have.

On March 7th, I wrote When You Know What’s Good for You about the debacle between members of the Hugo Awards committee and the Twitterverse concerning Jonathan Ross, who was invited to host the awards ceremony. He subsequently resigned.

When the award nominations were announced on April 19th a second furore began. There seemed to be a contradiction.

Jonathan Ross was accused of being all kinds of nasty when he was on the slate to present the awards. Then, when it came to nominations, one Vox Day was announced in the novelette category for his work Opera Vita Aeterna.

Vox Day's Wiki page
Vox Day is the pseudonym of Theodore Beale, an American writer and Game designer. (I can’t help thinking his given name would look rather better on a book jacket than his chosen name, but that might just be me.) 

Vox Day is not popular among the core of SF/F writers that make up the SFWA. Having read some stuff about him, I’m beginning to wonder among whom he is popular.

I do not know Mr Day and I haven’t read his work. I have, however, seen the response to his Hugo nomination. People are up in arms. People are calling Mr Day a bigot. They say he is sexist, racist and homophobic. 

Quite a lot of people do not want Mr Day’s name on the Hugo Awards ballot.

On one hand, I am tempted to say that art should be an entirely separate subject from the artist, that the work should stand on its own merits. I cannot comment on the merits of this work. You can read it for free on Mr Day’s website. On the other hand, most modern writers, particularly genre writers, explore ideas and invest their work with their personal philosophies.

All I know of Vox Day, or of Theodore Beale, is what I’ve been able to glean from a couple of hours perusing his blog. Incidentally, the blog is called Vox Popoli. If memory serves, the latin word Popoli means Beg... Curious.

I like reading people’s blogs. A blog often gives quite an insight into the personality of the blogger. In this case, I have no desire to make this particular blogger my new best friend, or even to have lunch with the man. He and I appear to have next to nothing in common.

As I understand it, though, the Hugo Awards are a sort of popularity contest, in so far as anyone can pay a fee to nominate for the awards and then vote on them. (If I’ve misunderstood or over-simplified the process, I’m sure someone can put me right). Vox Day’s novelette was eligible for the award and was nominated. Apparently, it was popular enough among those willing to pay a fee to nominate to get a spot on the ballot. So be it.

At least one of the other writers nominated in the same category is horrified to be listed beside Vox Day, and said so, publicly. Reading about it made me wonder what I would do in that situation.

If I found myself nominated for an award and another writer nominated in the same category was someone whom I believed to be morally corrupt, what action would I take?

I like to think that if I felt strongly enough I wouldn’t just talk about my feelings. I like to think that I might consider withdrawing my nomination.

Think about what might happen if every other writer in the category that I was nominated for also withdrew his or her nomination. Consider what might happen if the only remaining name on the ballot was that of the writer who was thought to be beyond the Pale.

How would that go?

In that situation the Awards committee might have to consider taking some action. They might a) Withdraw the award. b) Give the award to the last writer standing, by default. c) Read the names of all the nominees at the ceremony followed by the words ‘nomination withdrawn by the author’ where appropriate, and then state that the preferred winner of the award had withdrawn so no award would be given (assuming that the offending writer didn't win).

The press would love it, of course. And all publicity is good publicity.

Now apply this solution to the Hugos.

Problem solved.

All the nominees could still put Hugo Award Nominee on all their book covers forever after while having protested effectively. They could also ostracise Vox Day without involving the Hugo Awards committee or the SFWA or any other organisation or official body.

Of course, the chances of any nominee for any award withdrawing his or her nomination are small to none. His or her publisher might have something to say about it, among other things. To speculate that four nominees would get together and all do it is, at best, idealistic, and at worst, idiotic.

In any category with five nominees, statistically speaking at least, any one of them only has a twenty percent chance of winning. The truth is that only one of the five is going to win, which means the other four have zero chance of winning. The problem is that more than one writer will always believe that he or she is going to walk away with the prize, and that’s a lot to give up. 

As far as the Hugo Awards are concerned, I suspect that this argument will run for a little while to come. I also suspect that whoever wins in the category of best novelette, Vox Day will win the... day. If he wins, he wins. If he doesn’t win he’ll claim a war of words, a form of hate campaign, and, in a way, he’d be right.

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