Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway - Nominating and voting: a quick and easy guide [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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Nominating and voting: a quick and easy guide [Aug. 6th, 2011|10:41 am]
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Earlier this week, dichroic was talking about the NPR poll on best SFF that tries to exclude anything that appeals to kids but only actually excludes things that are marketed that way because like it or not a lot of speculative fiction is in conversation with each other regardless of mode and level, and--um. I think I got lost in my own bitterness there. Let's start again.

dichroic was talking about the NPR poll, and one of her questions was whether she had read enough of the nominees to vote in it. So I thought I would give mrissa's rules for nominating and voting on awards. Simple, easy, straightforward! Good. Also very difficult timing to mistake for talking about a particular person with the Hugos or something political like that. (Sometimes I feel like I have to wait to talk about peripheral stuff so that it doesn't seem like I am saying, "AND I MEAN YOU, ETHEL.")

Nominating
1. Are you in the category of person permitted to nominate? If so, stop worrying. You bought your WorldCon membership, you paid your SFWA dues, you clicked over to the website hosting the random NPR internet poll, whatever. You read the little introductory text that said it was a poll for women, or for Hispanic-Americans, or for alumni of your alma mater, and verified that you were one of those. Bully. Onwards. If they meant, "Persons who have read at least twenty of these books," or, "Persons with graduate degrees in this field," they would have said so. Do they say they mean you? Then they mean you. If they say "SFF readers" and you sometimes read SFF, that's you. Even if you read more mysteries. Even if you used to read more than you do now. Do you read the stuff? Congratulations, they mean you, excelsior.

2. Read what you would ordinarily read. They're asking you, not some hypothetical person whose tastes are more elevated/more popular/in some other way not yours.

2a. If this award is important to you, maybe write stuff down if you're reading it and like it, because people forget what short fiction they liked and wind up casting about for famous names. If you know you're going to be nominating for an award that's important to you, keep some record of what you liked at the time you read it. The nominee whose name makes everybody go, "Who?" will thank you.

2b. Go ahead and nominate yourself. Go ahead and nominate your friends. But only do this if you actually read and liked your friends' stuff, and only if you actually think the work you or they did is among the best work in its category for its nominating period. You work long enough in this field and everybody will be your friend, the friend of your friend, the new person, or that one person you totally can't stand (although some of the friends of your friends will also be that one person you totally can't stand); you are not obliged to limit your nominations either for or against people you know personally. Even people you are personally.

3. Pay attention to what your smart/interesting friends say on the subject and maybe read a few extra things that sound like they might be relevant if you're in a small nominating pool and you feel the award is important.

4. Only nominate things you have actually read and actually like. If that means that you only have two novella nominations, that's the way the cookie crumbles. Apparently you don't like novellas that much this year. If you only read three novellas and one of them sucked, do not nominate the third novella. If you totally meant to get around to a third novella and it's by a famous author who has won previous awards, do not nominate the third novella. If you totally meant to get around to a third novella and it's by an author who's a total mensch who has done great things for your community, do not nominate the third novella. Read what it says on the label. Does it say "best novella"? Then nominate what you think is the best novella, not novella by most community-minded author, not novella that you expect will be awesome when you have time to read it, no. None of that. What you have read and liked. This is not hard.

Do not waste your time trying to guess what other people like. Eyes on your own paper, kids. If the other people want to express their tastes, they can buy their WorldCon membership or pay their SFWA dues or click over to the random website or whatever. Other people's tastes belong in the Land of Not Your Problem.

Voting

You've been given a slate of choices. Read what you can. Vote on what you like. Remember the Land of Not Your Problem? Remember the not worrying? All that stuff applies here.

I am of the opinion that if you try to read something and cannot make yourself do it, or if you find that time is limited and you just did not get to something, that is data about your tastes and that thing. You may be missing something that you will love, but if a group wants to give an award for the best book of 2001, now that the nominating/voting pool has had ten years to read the books of 2001 and think about them, they can. In most of the cases you're voting in, they haven't. Vote on the slate you're given. Don't vote on the reputation of the author or the reputation of the book; vote just on what you've read. And then stop.

See? Not hard.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: cathshaffer
2011-08-06 03:51 pm (UTC)

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I'm a bit worried that people who call themselves science fiction fans have read little enough of NPR's list that they feel unqualified to vote. Despite what quibbles I may have with the list or whatever, it does pretty much cover the territory. If they are fans of the genre, what are they reading? Not trying to be critical. Is this a "I need to have read at least 90% of the list" perfectionism kind of objection, or is it a "I've only read one book on the list and have never heard of tho others" kind of objection?
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-08-06 03:54 pm (UTC)

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In dichroic's case, she said she'd read about half the books, and I know from talking to her that she's read a great deal of other stuff in the field. There's a lot of stuff that isn't on the list, particularly since the expansion of fantasy in the late 1970s.
[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2011-08-06 04:46 pm (UTC)

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A lot of people seem to be bizarre completists for whatever reason. I think a fair amount of SF reviewing from, say, Locus encourages this as well. A number of reviews will look at some new-seeming book or story and say something like "Reminiscent of War With the Newts (1936)"—which at a certain level of obscurity/rarity is just trainspotting, not contextualizing.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-08-06 05:31 pm (UTC)

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Well, I think that for some people that kind of reference comes naturally--if you're really steeped in 1930s SF, you'll see it everywhere. But I don't think that means everybody should be steeped in 1930s SF. One of the things that disappointed me most as a 17-year-old at a liberal arts college was that there weren't more people referring to things I'd never heard of.
[User Picture]From: cathshaffer
2011-08-06 03:59 pm (UTC)

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Ok, I went over and looked at dichroic's post and he/she says that she's a bad skiffy reader because she's only read less than half of the list, which I think isn't bad at all, and gives a very literate analysis of the list itself. My faith is restored!
[User Picture]From: dichroic
2011-08-06 06:39 pm (UTC)

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You want a list?
[User Picture]From: dichroic
2011-08-06 06:49 pm (UTC)

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Sorry, previous comment was a bit too snarky.

There are a few things going on here, in my case: I have not had access to a library (at least, not one with books in English) for the last five years; I have a warm fuzzy fondness for YA and YA SF/F was specifically excluded from this list; I have a pathetic allergy to reading things I should read, even when the people implying the "shoulds" are fellow fen.

Also, I do think the list itself is a bit weird. Lots of people get over being Heinlein fans; I'm not one of them, but even for me inclusion of "The Cat Who Walked Through Walls" was bizarre. And then on the other side Zenna Henderson is completely omitted.
[User Picture]From: cathshaffer
2011-08-06 11:47 pm (UTC)

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It's ok. I should have read your post before I responded. Check out my follow up comment above.
[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2011-08-06 04:45 pm (UTC)

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Don't vote on the reputation of the author or the reputation of the book; vote just on what you've read.

But but but...reading's hard! Oral sex is easy!
[User Picture]From: carbonel
2011-08-06 04:45 pm (UTC)

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I kept trying to read Dervish House because it was one of the Hugo nominees and I wanted to do my Hugo voting homework, and Pat WINOLJ finally pointed out that if I'd bounced off it that many times, it seemed unlikely that I was going to be giving it a high ranking in my voting now, was it?

I had to agree she had a point. But the book has received some very good reviews, so I think I should like it better than I do.

And the relevant point here, which I see I have entirely missed, is that my dithering and stalledness about Dervish House was keeping me from reading the rest of the Hugo nominees. Which I did all eventually read and vote on, except for Dervish House.

And this year I didn't vote in the dramatic presentation category, because I'd only seen one of the nominees.

Edited at 2011-08-06 04:50 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-08-06 05:32 pm (UTC)

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I don't like "should like" any more than I like "guilty pleasures." You like what you like! This sometimes gets difficult if I can't articulate what's making me bounce, because then it feels like I'm being arbitrary, but I'm not being arbitrary, I'm being incoherent, which is different.
[User Picture]From: klingonguy
2011-08-07 12:06 am (UTC)

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Amen!
[User Picture]From: carbonel
2011-08-07 01:36 am (UTC)

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Probably because I'm not communicating adequately. I don't mean I "should" like it in any sort of "I am a bad person" sense. What I really mean is that I suspect the book has a high activation energy, and were I to surmount that (or acquire a catalyst), I might enjoy the rest of the book. It's the barrier, rather than an active disenjoyment, that bothers me.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-08-07 01:56 am (UTC)

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Hmm, see, I only think "high activation energy, high reward" when I have some really good reason to do so, and I guess I mostly don't find positive reviews to be a really good reason. Positive highly specific reviews, sure. But otherwise, sometimes a great many smart people like something I never do enjoy.
[User Picture]From: montoya
2011-08-09 02:31 am (UTC)

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FWIW, I thought it absolutely got much better in the second half. But that makes it half of a dull book attached to half of a pretty good book, which is...

... okay, I was going to say "not award caliber," but I think this is still my favorite of this year's Hugo slate, so hey.
[User Picture]From: redbird
2011-08-06 06:37 pm (UTC)

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"I should like it better than I do" makes sense only if you accept the axiom "I should be a different person than I am." People who do accept that tend to be working on things other than whether they like a specific book or even style of book: it tends to be about personality traits and/or things that are commonly considered virtues, like "I should be more patient" or "I should keep my temper when X happens."
[User Picture]From: dsmoen
2011-08-07 05:43 pm (UTC)

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I've been to Istanbul and thus immediately bonded with that book.

For me, the piece I couldn't bond with and never finished was The Leviathan Whom Thou Hast Made by Eric James Stone.
[User Picture]From: reveritas
2011-08-07 04:46 am (UTC)

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I've never been asked to vote on anything other than who wins the office's Good Job award every month. (Some months I'm the only one who nominates anyone!)

There is no "vote for your favorite baseball book" award ... that I've seen. But I have a list of the top 10 in my head.
[User Picture]From: gorgeousgary
2011-08-07 02:48 pm (UTC)

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I would slightly dispute #4. I don't tend to read a lot of short fiction, so in past years my Hugo nominating ballot has been very light (if not empty) in those categories. And the stories that got nominated were often not in line with my tastes and thus somewhat underwhelming to me.

This year, I cast several Hugo nominations in the short fiction categories based on the fact I generally like work (of any length) by that author, or in a couple of cases based on the title alone. Several of those made the ballot. I aso did nominate several stories from the limited crop of short fiction I did read. None of those stories made the final ballot. Two of the stories I nominated by author or title alone and which made the final ballot wound up as my #1 choice in their respective categories.

So I violated rule #4, but the result was a win for me because I wound up reading two excellent stories!
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-08-07 03:19 pm (UTC)

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Is there some reason you couldn't read those stories in advance?
[User Picture]From: papersky
2011-08-11 11:43 am (UTC)

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But that was just luck. You could have ended up reading two stinkers -- and more to the point, so could everybody else. Titles and other work by the author are not the way to go with nominating.
[User Picture]From: time_shark
2011-08-17 01:02 am (UTC)

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Just a latecomer chiming in to say, I totally agree with these rules.