Wednesday 9 August 2017

It’s OK when your favourite book doesn’t win.

With the full perspective of history, it would be difficult to argue that Warren G. Harding was a better presidential candidate than his opponent James Cox.

The two Ohio-based newspaper publishers faced off against each other a century ago in the presidential race of 1920 — Cox, a capable, well-liked reformer losing in one of the all-time landslides against a mediocre and unchallenging man who would go on to lead the most corrupt
James M. Cox (left) and his would-be
vice president. Whatever happened to
that guy? (photo via
administration in U.S. history.

It’s a good reminder that democracy doesn’t always get it right — and that’s as true in presidential elections as it is in science fiction awards. But it’s a system that gets it more right, more of the time than any other, and it’s one of the reasons why I love the Hugo Awards.

Tomorrow night

With the Hugo Awards set to be presented tomorrow, here in Helsinki, I think that it’s an important thing to think about. Especially in light of some of the negativity surrounding the awards in recent years.

In our beloved democratic traditions of the Hugo Awards, sometimes the book you love isn’t going to win.

When I look over the awards, I’d probably say that my favourite books won on only a handful of years — and that’s just fine. A whole lot of amazing, excellent books that I would never have voted for have won, have found new readers, and have been celebrated.

The Big Time was good,
but On The Beach also
came out the same year.
(Image via Wikipedia)
The point is that an award is not undermined by a failure to recognize a great work … because they can’t all be honoured.

It can't all win

There is more great science fiction than can ever be recognized. In any given year, there are dozens of novels that deserve to win the Hugo Award, and you can’t give the Hugo to all of them. In 1958, Fritz Lieber deserved the Hugo Award for The Big Time … but so did Neville Shute for On The Beach, and Alfred Bester for The Stars My Destination, and Robert A. Heinlein for Citizen of the Galaxy.

Do I sometimes wonder why The Big Time got recognized at the expense of The Stars My Destination? Of course. But at the same time, it doesn’t undermine the legitimacy of the award or the process.

Maybe at the Minneapolis Worldcon in 2073, fans will be questioning how we voted in 2017. But I feel confident that they’ll respect the process, and continue to celebrate the excellent works that have been nominated.

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