The draft agenda for this year's WSFS Business Meeting is out. For well-known reasons, I will not be in DC myself, but I have the following observations.
A.1.1: Mark Protection Committee – I would like to be a candidate for the Mark Protection Committee, which will elect six members in DC, three for two-year terms and three for three-year terms. I like to think that my professional experience in public affairs could be an asset to the MPC. I would need a proposer
and seconder who will (unlike me) be present in DC. Expressions of interest welcome. Edited to add: Apparently only a proposer is necessary.
A.2.1: Nitpicking & Flyspecking Committee – appears to be doing an excellent job. Commentary on individual proposals below.
A.2.2: Worldcon Runners Guide Editorial Committee – This body has never approached me for input. The Hugos section of its WSFS page is very out of date.
A.3.1: Formalization of Long List Entries (FOLLE) Committee – no comment.
A.3.2: Hugo Awards Study Committee – I was one of the original proposers of this committee. I am very disappointed with the results. The only concrete output that it has achieved in four years of existence is the addition of the words “or Comic” to the category title of “Best Graphic Story”. In the meantime other proposed changes have been killed off by referring them to this committee, which has then failed to consider them. I would not support the continuation of this committee’s mandate. I do not blame anyone, especially in the circumstances of the last two years, but I think we have proved that this is not a format that will deliver change.
On the other hand, if it is renewed, I would prefer to continue as a member, and I strongly urge (yet again!) that it takes the reform of the Best Artist categories as a priority. This was the main motivation for my proposing the committee in the first place. It is the single issue that has caused most headaches in my four years of Hugo administration. The Artist category definitions are very out of date, and present a risk to the future reputation of the awards because it would be very easy to make a public and embarrassing mistake. A bit more on this further down.
B: Financial statements – no comment.
C: Standing Rule changes – as yet, nothing to comment on.
D1-D4: extension of eligibility requests – provided these are technically correct I would be inclined to generosity.
D5: swapping the order of “Best Related Work” and “Best Graphic Story or Comic” in the list of Hugo categories – good idea, from the Nitpicking & Flyspecking Committee.
E: Business Passed On – mostly stuff that was passed in Dublin in 2019 and rejected but re-proposed in New Zealand last year, needing ratification in DC to become part of the rules. The first two however are votes on sunset clauses.
E1: making Best Series permanent – as my regular reader knows, I'm not a fan of the Best Series category. I feel it's important that the Hugo Awards represent the best in the genre of the previous year. With the Best Series final ballot, we are being asked to judge between a series that started in 2009, four recent trilogies (one of which has some associated short fiction) and a series of novellas capped by a novel. I don't think it's really comparing like with like, and we're certainly not comparing 2020 with 2020.
In addition, as a conscientious Hugo voter I generally try to read every work on the final ballot every year I have a vote. That's completely impossible with Best Series.
The four winners of Best Series so far have been worthy victors, but I can't see that level of quality being continued indefinitely. No winner can be eligible again; no finalist can be eligible again until another two volumes with 250,000 words have been produced. I think we are already starting to see the well of plausible nominees run dry.
I expect that the Business Meeting, which cares little for the concerns of Hugo administrators, will vote to make it permanent anyway, but I would oppose it if I were there.
E2: making the Lodestar Award permanent – here I go the other way. I was very dubious about introducing yet another category to the burden of administration, but I have to admit that the finalists and winners so far have really added to the quality of the awards. So I’d vote to keep it.
The next five are outputs from the Nitpicking & Flyspecking Committee.
E3: Clarification of Worldcon Powers – simply makes it clear that a Worldcon cannot revoke a previous year’s Hugo Award. I support this clarification.
E4: Disposition of NASFiC Ballot – a technical tidying up of site selection rules which looks OK, but I have no strong feeling about it.
E5: A Problem of Numbers – a welcome update clarifying an apparent discrepancy between a strict reading of the rules and the realities of online Hugo voting. I support this clarification.
E6: The Needs of the One – again clarifies part of the counting rules and codifies existing practice. I support.
E7: That Ticket Has Been Punched – tidies up part of the eligibility requirements for Best Series. As noted above, I would prefer not to have the category anyway, and I don’t have a strong opinion on this amendment.
E8: Keeping Five and Six – this directly reverses a proposal I made in 2019, to return to five finalists per category given that the Puppy emergency is now long over. Oppose.
No Deadline for Nominations Eligibility – this again directly reverses a proposal I made in 2019. If passed, it will also be a big change to voter eligibility for nominating in the 2022 Hugos just two weeks before nominations open. Oppose.
E10: Preserving Supporting Membership Sales for Site Selection – No strong feeling either way. Not sure that this is a problem requiring a solution.
E11: Clear Up the Definition of Public in the Artist Categories Forever – a tweak to the Best Fan Artist definition which I respect because it comes from the community of artists who are directly concerned, but it barely scratches the surface of the bigger problems with the Artist categories. Support faute de mieux.
F: new constitutional amendments
F.1: One Episode Per Series – would restrict TV series to only one episode (rather than the current maximum of two) on the ballot for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. I am very opposed. This would be the Business Meeting going way beyond previous practice in telling voters what they can have on the ballot. It will increase the burden on administrators who will have to contact confused TV executives and acquaint them with the technicalities of Hugo rules. It’s also not clear if a two-episode story (such as the She-Ra story nominated this year) would fall foul of this rule. And basically I don’t see any demand for it; on the contrary, I suspect that most voters think it’s cool that a popular show should have more than one bite of the cherry.
There seems to be no F.2!
F.3-6: more sensible proposals from the Nitpicking & Flyspecking Committee which should go through without dissent. F.4 and F.5 are particularly important to keep Worldcon GDPR-compliant.
F.7: Non-transferability of Voting Rights – I have read this several times and I still do not really understand it, even though it is supposedly making life easier for Hugo administrators.
F.8: Best Audiobook – a proposed new Hugo category. I think it is clear that in general I oppose category inflation. For any new Hugo category proposal, I would like to see evidence 1) that it’s responding to the demands of a significant market share of fandom, 2) that it’s redressing an injustice in the current set-up for works which are not getting on the ballot in existing categories, and 3) that it would be an appropriate thing for Hugo voters to vote on. I don’t see a problem here with the third of these criteria (unlike, say, the Best Translation proposals), but not much evidence is presented on the first point, and mere hand-waving on the second.
Again, as my regular reader knows, I’m a huge fan of Big Finish’s output myself, but I have long since reconciled myself to the fact that Big Finish is not getting Hugo nominations because its overlap with Hugo fandom is minimal, and not because it needs its own category. So I would oppose this amendment (or refer it to the Hugo Awards Study Committee, which comes to the same thing). If it were to be taken forward, it would require a lot of definitional tweaking.
That's it so far.