In recent years the Best Related Work category at the Hugo Awards has been used by a sizeable chunk of the voting base (sizeable enough to impact the ballot, anyway) to protest aspects of past Worldcons. In 2021, one of the finalists was a blog post condemning George R. R. Martin’s mishandling of the 2020 ceremony; and in 2020 the winner was Jeannette Ng’s acceptance speech for what was to be the final Campbell Award, the title of which was subsequently changed in recognition of John W. Campbell’s racist views. Voting is currently open for the 2022 Hugo Awards, which raises the possibility of a similar protest nomination over one of the controversies attached to the 2021 Worldcon. The biggest of which, I imagine we can all agree, was the involvement of arms manufacturer Raytheon as a sponsor.
Before I should go on, I should mention that the practice of nominating short, emotive pieces like acceptance speeches or angry blog posts in Best Related Work — thereby taking spots that could have gone to longer works which took time, effort and research to construct and will better stand the test of time — is itself controversial. My views are conflicted. I would generally agree with this stance (my personal solution would be to split Best Related Work into long-form and short-form categories) but I have considerably stronger feelings about the deal with Raytheon. So, while I would like to see this Best Protest Vote practice to end, I don’t believe that 2022 is the right year for it to end. I would like to see a Hugo ballot this year that includes an uncompromising renunciation of last year’s Raytheon sponsorship.
So, a few days ago i started a Twitter thread asking for anti-Raytheon posts that would be eligible for the 2022 Hugos. I’m writing this blog post to collate the suggestions I received, which turned out to include both articles eligible for Best Related Work and authors eligible for Best Fan Writer. I’ll make no personal voting suggestions here — suffice to say that I’ve made my own choices out of the following.
- “An Open Letter to Worldcon” by Jake Casella Brookins (Ancillary Review of Literature): A comparatively short and to-the-point objection to the Raytheon deal.
- “Drawing the line: Capitalism and Wrong Livelihood” by Simon McNeil (author’s blog): A long analysis of the ethical implications of the sponsorship.
- “SFF World Rocked by News That Military Contractor Raytheon Was DisCon/Hugo Awards Sponsor” by Alyssa Shatwell (The Mary Sue): A news report on the controversy that details Raytheon’s activities and collates objections made by various SF/F authors.
- A Twitter thread by Gwen C. Katz discussing the Raytheon incident as part of a larger issue with Worldcon inherent since its inception.
- A Twitter thread by Shannon Chakraborty condemning the sponsorship.
I received a few more suggestions, but only the above were published in the 2022 Hugos’ eligibility period.
As noted, I’ve made my voting choice. If you are considering putting in a nomination for any of the above commentaries for Best Related Work, then in the interests of balance, I should remind you of the many other eligible works (this spreadsheet has a whole page of them) that could potentially be pushed off the ballot by a protest vote. If you are thinking of voting for any of the commentaries’ authors in Best Fan Writer, or their respective blogs in the relevant categories, then I would encourage you to spend some time looking at their other writing so as to ensure that your decision is well-informed.
Who you vote for is down to you.
Update: I should mention that Brian K. Lowe has written a rebuttal to this post:
Enough already. There is a place for dissension among science fiction fans and Hugo voters; if there weren’t, it wouldn’t be a competition. But to use the Best Related Work itself as a protest vote–against something that’s already happened–is (a) a waste of your vote, and (b) an insult to anyone else on the ballot who has spent months or years out of their life to create a piece of scholarship, only to see it edged out by a blog that took a half-hour to compose. The length of time of creation is not a criterion by which to gauge a work’s value, but there are common sense considerations at work: Have you ever seen a piece of flash fiction win a Hugo?
I would like to point out that Simon McNeil’s essay is only around 800 words shorter than Kameron Hurley’s Hugo-winning “We Have Always Fought”, so the comparison to flash fiction is not entirely fair. Beyond this, I encourage my readers to take his points on board when voting.