If you are anything like I was for most of my reading life, you might have been a bit surprised this week to discover that you could vote for the Hugo awards. Surprise again - you can vote for the Locus awards, too. If you already know that, and know how to vote, then this isn't the post for you.
But for everyone else, please keep reading. Voting on these awards is important - it means something, not only to the people who are nominated, and who win, but to the shape of the field in general. And it's a very easy thing to do.
We'll start with the Hugo awards, since you can still vote for those this year. This will take you to the Hugo Awards official FAQ page, but I'll try to hit the high notes. First, yes, it costs money to vote. You must buy at least a supporting membership to that year's WorldCon. This year, that cost is $50. Now, if you got nothing except for voting rights, I would never encourage the casual reader to spend their money just to vote. But that supporting membership also buys you the voters' pack, which includes electronic versions of almost all the nominated works (all of the nominated novels, for a start). It would cost far more to buy everything that is included individually, so this really is an excellent value.
The other thing your supporting membership buys you is the right to nominate for next year's Hugo awards. Have you already read a book or a short story that astounded you? Seen an amazing work of art? Watched an extraordinary film? You could nominate that for next year's Hugos. You do not need to have read all the books, or all of the short stories, or watched all the films to do this. By nominating something, you are not saying "This is the best," you are simply saying "This is worthy of consideration." You don't need to give reasons why (in fact, your ballot does not allow for this), or to nominate in all the categories, but participating in the process is an excellent way for you to support the works and the creators that you feel have made something wonderful.
The Locus Awards have already been awarded this year, but anyone can vote next year. There is no cost or other requirement. (Though I should point out that the votes of subscribers to Locus Magazine count double.) Locus distributes, in print and online, a ballot in February of each year, the same time they issue their Recommended Reading List. Many people use that list to inform their ballots, but any work published in the previous year is eligible. Let me say again - anyone can vote, for any work published in the previous year. You need not have read everything that was published, or vote in every category.
As a writer who works in the field, I believe that we are best served by having as many voters for these awards as possible. I believe that diversity of voters makes for stronger pools of nominated works, and is the best way of making the nominated works, and therefore the awards themselves, truly reflect the state of the field.
And yes, watch this space - we'll remind you when the nominations and the polls open.