Friday, July 29, 2011

Hugo ballot

I sent in my Hugo ballot today. It's been a long time since I could last say that. If you add "... electronically" to the first sentence, this is the first time ever. True, I haven't had much of a chance lately - this year's is only the third Worldcon I've belonged to in the last decade - but in truth I hadn't given much thought to Hugo voting since I was last the awards' administrator. That was 15 years ago, and then my thoughts were - quite properly - more with counting the votes than in choosing favorite candidates.

What changed my mind this year was a now-regular feature of the Hugos that's nevertheless new, I think, since my previous Worldcon: the downloadable electronic database of nominees for the voters' perusal. (There was a precursor to this in CD-ROM form in 1993, but issued commercially, not by the convention.) Even then I might not have paid much attention until I noticed that many of the texts are in epub format, which is the default for my Nook e-reader. (The Nook can also read PDFs and Word files, but not so conveniently.) This was lucky, because while I'm not totally enamored of reading new (to me) fiction on the Nook, it's still more comfy than trying to read it on my desktop computer, bolt upright in my desk chair.

It was only a couple weeks ago that it really struck me that I could do this, and not have to hunt down the nominees individually. This didn't leave me any time to read full novels, so I'm begging off Best Novel and any other categories dependent on knowing novels (Long Form Editor, the Campbell), but I did read all the short fiction in fairly quick order. I'll save my comments on individual stories until after the awards, but I was pleased with the general quality of most of these. They all require close attention in the opening pages, because not one author is going to give out with a clear expository lump to orient the reader, but only two or three of the 14 stories didn't quickly grab my interest enough to keep me going. This is a lot higher rate than when I was last reading award-nominated SF, so even though there was nothing that screamed "instant classic!" either, it looks good for the field.

With the help of that and some previous knowledge - the only category in which I already knew all the nominees was Fan Writer - that's one more voter that the Hugos wouldn't have gotten without this electronic service. That's satisfying. And I was pleased to see that the ballot is still using essentially the same "How to Vote" advice text that I wrote for it in 1993. That's satisfying too.

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