I feel like I should comment on the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies mess with the Hugo Awards this year. If you don't know what I'm talking about, basically there were a couple "slates" of candidates for Hugo Award nomination that people were pushing for this year in organized campaigns online. This is not against the rules, though many found it in poor taste, especially as the organizers were not shy about pulling in people from outside the fannish community to "freep" the results. One group did this before, but without dominating the nominations. Mike Glyer provided an overview on File 770 as to how successful they were this year (which was very), and there are now other articles on salon.com, slate, the daily dot, Strange Horizons, and i09, to name a few.
George R.R. Martin also weighed in with what I thought was a well thought-out post, and several other people have blogged about it as well, including this year's author GoH and Hugo Awards co-host (with Tananarive Due), David Gerrold. Finally, Mary Robinette Kowal has posted on how, yes, fandom can be more inclusive of SFF fans out there who may not have discovered it yet, and encouraged people to participate in the Hugo Award voting and nomination process who perhaps have not done so before. She has backed up that encouragement by offering ten supporting memberships to the current Worldcon to any fan who cannot afford such, and others have joined her in doing this, so she is accepting applications for up to 75 supporting memberships on that page between now and April 17. Please spread the word.
As for me, I did something like that last year -- The Sad Puppies slate annoyed me, particularly because I knew that, what with working on Detcon1 for July and moving to Pennsylvania in August, I had no time for reading and voting on the Hugo Awards. So I went to The Carl Brandon Society discussion list and I offered to buy four supporting memberships to that year's Worldcon to anyone who was interested in voting and would commit to reading the nominees and voting on them. (Noting that I expected people to vote their own preferences, including that I did not expect them to finish any work they were not enjoying). I felt lucky to get four volunteers, and signed them up. This year, I reminded them before the nomination deadline that they could nominate works for this year as well, and that fewer people usually participate in nominating, so it has a bigger impact.
At that time, shortly before nominations were due, I knew the Sad Puppies were likely to put forth another slate, but I didn't realize how many works in almost every category they were going to put on their slate this year. I also wasn't too concerned, however, because a fair number of people involved seemed to sincerely believe in diversifying and expanding participation in Hugo Award nominations, which is a cause I support, and I had the impression there was going to be some diversity in race and gender in their slate as well (which there was). I didn't hear about the rabid puppies slate, which promoted works by truly awful writers and editors on a purely ideological basis, until after the nominations were announced.
I see some good candidates on the ballot in almost every category, and I hope people who vote give every nominee fair consideration. I haven't decided if I'm going to join and vote or not. There's no chance I can attend Sasquan, myself, for a number of reasons.
However, this year my plan is not to give away memberships in the current Worldcon so more people can vote. I'm going to wait until after site selection for the 2017 Worldcon is completed and give away supporting memberships to *that*. Current rules are that members of the current, next, and last Worldcon can nominate for the Hugo Awards. So if you get a supporting membership to the 2017 Worldcon before January 31 of 2016, you will be eligible to nominate for three years -- 2016, 2017, and 2018.
Note that any members of this year's Worldcon can vote on site selection for 2017. In order to vote on site selection, you have to pay a fee that will be rolled into a supporting membership for whichever bid wins the Worldcon. If you are a member of this year's Worldcon, I encourage you to vote in site selection, get that supporting membership for the 2017 Worldcon, and commit yourself to nominating works and people for the Hugo Awards for the next three years.
You do not have to be present to vote on site selection. You also don't need to be widely read to be "qualified" to nominate for the Hugo Awards. You just have to care. It also helps to keep track of what stories, books, magazines, essays, art, etc, that you like each year. I recommend as part of this commitment, you start a text file or google doc or (gosh), a piece of paper on the wall or side table, titled "Fave SF&F of 2015" -- it's easier to keep track throughout the year than to remember when you're up against the deadline.
As a side note I'll also speak up in support of both the Helsinki and DC bids for 2017. The Worldcon was held in Japan in 2007 and in Montreal in 2009. Both conventions had a mix of great successes and serious issues. I think both sites deserve serious consideration for future years but not 2017. The Worldcon has not been held on the East Coast of the US since 2004, when it was up Boston (about an 8 hour drive from DC), and it has never been held in Finland. The last time the Worldcon was held in DC was in 1974, the year I was born. Both the Helsinki and DC bids have strong committees and good groundwork, and I would be pleased to see either one win.