Apparently there are two primary items that folks are discussing: the Hugo Awards aren't getting enough votes (apparently a horrendously dismal amount); and whether or not awards like the Hugo, Nebula, etc. are worthless.
My personal opinion on the voting problem for the Hugo Awards is that the folks that run it are simply outdated. Back in the day (assuming that they've run the Hugos relatively the same since when it first started out) there weren't a lot of ways for folks to communicate about their favorite books. There was no Internet, telephoning people you didn't know was pretty much impossible (or creepy), and basically the only way to really connect was either to go to one of those new-fangled conventions or hang around with a local SF/F group.
In those days it made a lot of sense to have an award that was voted on by attendees of a convention. There weren't a lot of books to read back then (so the big ones tended to shine through) and the folks who were likely to vote were already going to be at Worldcon. But with the invention of the Internet, the Hugo Awards are a bit outdated these days. The problem is that folks who can't attend the convention aren't likely to spend $50 to be able to vote on a favorite book, and those at the convention either aren't voting because they don't care, or aren't voting for the same books (or something of that nature).
The thing is, the Hugo Awards are a fan-based award (primarily speaking). Why is it that most fans can't vote? Now, granted, $50 isn't a lot, but if you can't go to Worldcon, it's kind of a lot of money just to be able to cast a vote. And with the economy in crummy condition, do you honestly expect anyone to fork out $50 to get to vote for an award that largely means nothing to them?
My suggestion on how to fix the Hugo Awards to make them more appealing is to change the entire structure to allow for folks who haven't paid to vote. Sure, that might tick people off, but at the very least you could make it so the votes of Worldcon members are worth more than non-Worldcon members (like Locus). This would get more people involved who don't have the money to become a member. We have to remember that one of the largest audiences of SF/F is not a bunch of old guys with steady jobs; it's teenagers and college kids. We're the ones consuming these books in large quantities (especially fantasy). How many teenagers do you know that are willing to fork out $50 to vote? I don't know any. I wouldn't have. I'd rather have spent that $50 on movies and crap that I didn't need. The Hugo Awards, in my opinion, forget about these folks precisely because they are outdated. This needs to change so that the Hugos do more than be remembered as "some award," but become something more fans actually care about. And that's where my thoughts on the whole "awards are rubbish" thing come in:
To me, none of the awards really matter at all. While I think they are wonderful for the authors and probably have a good impact on sales, I don't necessarily care. A book with "Hugo Award Winner" on the cover is not likely to make me jump with joy to read it. I simply don't buy or read books that way. I think of these awards along the same lines as the Oscars. They're more symbolic than anything else.
But that's me and I am in no way the only opinion. There are those who think the awards are garbage and worth nothing. I disagree. I think many do pay attention to the awards when buying books (or at least notice them in a good way). I think the awards need to exist to congratulate good authors for good genre writing. But I get the point. For folks who really don't care, who hate the politics behind it, etc. awards really are valueless. That's just the way it is.
I also understand Adam Roberts' point about SF/F awards having too much focus on the fanbase. I think there need to be more significant awards that don't take fan-voting into account, but judging. This might sound screwed up, ignoring the opinions of fans, but fans tend to latch onto the same kinds of books and don't always move outside of that comfort zone. The awards aren't really about that; they're about the best works in the genre. That has to be emphasized more. The Hugo is great for being a fan-voted award, but we need more judge-voted awards out there to make sure that none of the greats that folks might not have read or ignored for some reason slip through the cracks.
What do you think about all this?
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