Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson: Review and Discussion of Hugo Eligibility

The entire Wheel of Time series is nominated in the category "Best Novel" for the 2014 Hugo Awards. All 14 books.

Tor will make the ENTIRE series available to all members of LonCon 3 in this year's voter packet. All 14 books!

My thoughts on the series aren't particularly spoilery, any more than any of the other thousand people discussing this nomination, so I'm not going to put it behind a cut.

The nomination of this series is causing a lot of controversy. It's extremely long. Much too long for most Hugo voters to read between now and July 31, especially if they want to be able to read any of the other nominated materials at all. This calls into question whether it's fair to include it in the same category with single novels.

It is eligible under the WSFS constitution:
3.2.6: Works appearing in a series are eligible as individual works, but the series as a 
whole is not eligible. However, a work appearing in a number of parts shall be eligible 
for the year of the final part. 
Assuming you consider it a single work appearing in a number of parts, it is eligible. There is debate over whether it really is a single work appearing in a number of parts. Most people who have read the entire series of books agree that it is a single story broken up into multiple parts. The individual books do not really work as stand-alone novels. Someone claiming to be the author of the wording of this section of the WSFS constitution says that they agree with this interpretation of the rules in the case of The Wheel of Time (see comment number 7 of this Tor post).

Others, of course, disagree with, part, or all, of the above. Usually all, from what I've been reading.

Even if it is eligible under the rules, it's sooooo long! So long that it effectively breaks the Hugo award voting process for the category of Best Novel. I've seen a number of people say they may not vote in this category at all this year because they will not be able to read all of the entries in their entirety, and feel that they won't be able to cast a fair vote. This is a serious problem.

But, here we are. It's on the ballot.

I'll repeat what I've said elsewhere.

For those who feel that the Wheel of Time is a body of work that deserves recognition, but also feel that it doesn't make sense or is unfair for it to compete against single-volume novels for the Best Novel award: perhaps you might consider starting a petition to the Hugo award folks, requesting that it be given some other kind of recognition, and that it be removed from this category. If you want to be sure that something like this can't happen again, get involved with the WSFS Business Meetings at the next WorldCon. Get the rules changed. These are OUR awards. If the rules aren't working for us, let's change them.

For those who argue that The Wheel of Time is not a good work of fiction and doesn't deserve recognition, then your best course of action would be: Don't Vote For It! Maybe be vocal and campaign for the novel(s) you think should win instead.

This series was on my nomination form. It was one of many things on my form that I did not realistically expect to see on the shortlist of nominees. I nominated it because, while it is unquestionably flawed in a number of ways, I believe it is an important and impressive body of work that deserves recognition. My hope was that the folks who put the final shortlist together would interpret 3.2.6 differently, would remove this work from the Best Novel category, and would find another way to recognize it. Some kind of life achievement award for Robert Jordan. Something. It's on the ballot now, though. So here we go.

As I said, I know this massive fantasy story has many flaws. Some of them aggravated me quite a bit by the time I reached the end of the series. Even with its flaws, I loved this series of books. I loved the characters. I loved the world. I loved to lose myself in the circularity and let my mind bounce around the Wheel, playing with the past, present, future legends, myths, realities. When I read the final Introductory Paragraph of the final novel, I wept, because I knew there would never be more to this story, with Robert Jordan gone. You know, the paragraph that begins every book:
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the [...]. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.
When you spend that many years, that much thought and imagination, on a series, you really come to love it like a friend.

I wasn't completely happy with the ending. A few things didn't resolve like I wanted them to, and one big thing that I expected at the end wasn't there. But mostly, it was as it should be.

Much as I loved the series, I do not yet know where I will rank it on my final ballot. I'm going to read all of the other nominees and will decide. I'm actually really hoping that I love at least one of the other nominees as much as I loved the Wheel of Time. That's why I'm doing this. I want to discover more sci fi to fall in love with!

Here's hoping I'll have a Very Difficult Decision in the Best Novel category!

Up or down ballot (note for myself): UP, with moderate reservations.

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