Will 2015 see the end of the Hugo Voters Packet?

The Hugo Voter Packet is one of those ancient traditions surrounding the Hugo Awards that’s actually quite recent, instigated by John Scalzi a couple of years ago as a way to make it easier for voters to read as much of the shortlisted books and stories (etc) as possible. As a side effect, it also increased interest in Worldcon supporting memberships, as $40 could get you a shitload of books and the right to vote in the Hugo Awards. Last year was my first Worldcon and getting that packet was great, as it introduced me to a whole lot of authors I’d otherwise might’ve missed, like Max Gladstone, Sofia Samatar, Ramez Naan and others.

There was a bit of controversy over the Packet though, as Orbit, the publisher of three of the best novel nominees, decided not to include the books for reasons that basically boiled down to not wanting to give away several thousands copies of books. Speculation was that being an UK publisher, they of course sold fewer copies of any book in the first place than an equivalent American publisher and whereas for the latter a few thousand copies was doable, for Orbit it would mean giving away almost an entire print run…

This year we’re in a perfect storm. For the average non-Puppy voter, the Voter Packet is a lot less attractive with all that Puppy Poo on it, while publishers might be wary to put their books on it due to the rocketing number of supporting memberships bought since the shortlist announcement. Sasquan is on track to become one of the largest, perhaps the largest Worldcon ever and what’s more, most of the memberships are supporting, not attending.

So if voters are less eager for the Packet anyway and publishers less willing to include their books now the membership is getting bigger and bigger, does this mean 2015 will make the Packet obsolete?

4 Comments

  • Cat

    April 26, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Well the packet has always been a voluntary thing. One of the reasons Orbit bailed last year was (I think) that *three* of the finalists were Orbit books and they may have felt like they were being asked to contribute three times as many “free copies” as usual.

    I hope they don’t do away with the packet–I think there are other Hugo voters out there who, like me, would be taking the money to buy Hugo finalists out of the money we could be using to buy eligible books for next year’s nomination round.

    And one thing is for damn sure; I have no intention of spending a penny on a slate candidate. That would be a direct financial reward for bad behavior and I just won’t do it.

    But the publishers will do what they’ll do.

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  • Robert West

    April 26, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    I think it may see the end of the *novels* in the packet. I think the short fiction will remain – because generally speaking the likelihood that someone’s going to buy short fiction from last year, outside of an anthology, is pretty low, and the utility of the packet is higher when it comes to short fiction.

  • Martin Wisse

    April 27, 2015 at 5:23 am

    Yes, I think you’re right on that score. Since most short fiction these days is already available for free on the interwebs anyway, it’s only a small step to include it in a packet. The same goes for fanwriting, by definition almost always free.

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