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Hugo Awards - Closing Comments

A few final thoughts on this year's Hugo Awards before I move on to other topics...

Besides Best Novel (the Big One), there are three additional fiction awards, for various lengths of short fiction. Best Novella (the Not Quite So Big One), Best Short Story (the Little One), and Best Novelette (the In Between One). These awards are often the place where younger, newer writers first make their names, and tend to be dominated by stories from the magazines... ANALOG, ASIMOV'S, F&SF. That has been changing in recent years, with the rise of e-magazines. I did not read much short fiction last year, either in the magazines or on line, but LOCUS has an excellent recommended reading list for short fiction, and I'm sure the readers of this blog will have their own favorites.

Stories published in anthologies are also eligible in these categories. I would be remiss if I did not mention the anthologies I edited in 2011: FORT FREAK, the latest Wild Cards anthology, and DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS, the fantasy/ mystery anthology I did with Gardner Dozois. Lots of good work in both, I think. In particular, let me draw your attention to "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies," by Diana Gabaldon, and "The Adakian Eagle," by Bradley Denton, from STRANGE STREETS. Those two stories were recently nominated by the Mystery Writers of America for Edgar Awards. In the Hugos, they would count as novellas. Cherie Priest's FORT FREAK interstitial, "The Rat Race," is also eligible in novella, and the Stephen Leigh triptych from that book, "Hope We Die Before We Get Old," is a novelette tour de force that will break your heart.

There are two awards for editing. For Best Editor, Short Form, I'd recommend my partner in crime, GARDNER DOZOIS, both for his Best of the Year and the books we edit together. And of course I am eligible myself in that same category. For Best Editor, Long Form, my strongest recommendation goes to ANNE GROELL, of Bantam Spectra. An amazing editor who has been with me every step of the way on A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, since 1996.

The Best Fanzine category is one of the oldest Hugo Awards, but is currently embroiled in controversy. Traditional print fanzines are still around, though both their numbers and their readership are dwindling, and in recent years the fans have been nominating things like e-zines, blogs, and podcasts in this category. Last year at Reno, a rules change was enacted to exclude all those new forms of fanac from this category. If that change is ratified in Chicago, Best Fanzine will once again become the exclusive property of traditional fanzines. If you don't own a mimeograph machine, you need not apply. However, (1) the change needs to be ratified, if it is defeated at this year's business meeting, it will not take effect, (2) it is NOT in effect this year, so this may be the last year when e-zines, blogs, and podcasts can be nominated in the category. As I think you can tell by my sarcastic tone, I am opposed to the change. I think there are some great fannish blogs and e-zines and podcasts out there, I think they are the future, and I'm going to nominate a bunch of them. Some of my own favorites include PAT'S FANTASY HOTLIST, THE WERTZONE, MAKING LIGHT, THE BLOG OF THE FALLEN (okay, he doesn't like my stuff, but it's still a good read), STOMPING ON YETI, CHEESE MAGNETS, HATHOR LEGACY, and PUNKADIDDLE. And for Best Fan Writer, I'd suggest you consider some of the folks who write for these blogs and e-zines, including Patrick St. Denis, Adam Whitehead, Adam Roberts, and John J. Miller.

At the other end of the spectrum, there is Best Graphic Novel, one of the newest categories, added just a couple of years ago. Actually, I am not well acquainted with the eligibility rules for this one yet. Many graphic novels are published initially as monthly comic books, with runs extending over several years; later, when the story is complete, the issues are collected and issued as trade paperbacks. My understanding is that a graphic novel becomes eligible for the Hugo the year it finishes, not the year it starts. (Or any in between years, if the comics series runs for more than two years). So it is the trade paperback that counts. (If this is wrong, no doubt some SMOF will come and correct me. Please do). If my understanding is correct, then the GAME OF THRONES comic book is NOT eligible in this category, since its run is still ongoing. However, I did have two other graphic novels published in trade paperback in 2011: FEVRE DREAM from Avatar and DOORWAYS from IDW. Both of those would be eligible, I think.

As for all the other categories... and the Campbell Award for Best New Writer... I have no suggestions... but maybe you do. Please share them. I try to recommend good work here, but I also like to hear what other people recommend.

Whatever you choose to nominate, please NOMINATE.

The nomination deadline is not till March, so we all have some time to do more reading. However, you must be a member of Renovation (last year's worldcon), Chicon 7 (this year's worldcon), or LoneStarCon (next year's worldcon) by JANUARY 31 to have nomination privileges, and that deadline is almost upon us.

The ballot can be found at: https://chicon.org/hugo/nominate.php


Jan. 29th, 2012 08:17 pm (UTC)
Interesting. I stand corrected.

Though I don't like this new podcast category, FWIW. The Hugos are going the way of the Grammies, adding more and more categories every year. We should not be adding any more new categories unless we are prepared to eliminate some old ones. Just sayin'

So podcasts are out but e-zines are still in. What about blogs? Where do they stand under the new rule?

Jan. 29th, 2012 09:12 pm (UTC)
Generally I agree with you about the proliferation of Hugos.

The way the amendment is worded, a publication needs to have discrete issues published on a periodical basis, so most blogs wouldn't qualify, although their writers, of course, are eligible for Best Fan Writer.

Something like SF Revu or SF Site, which are published on a schedule and you could look at and see a specific issue that isn't constantly being changed would still be considered with fanzines.

Part of the idea of moving podcasts to their own category is because comparing a podcast to a fanzine is like comparing an episode of 60 Minutes to a copy of Newsweek. The medium make them fundamentally different. The same would apply to comparing a film to a novella...both tell stories but the format and the skills behind making them, are completely different.

And the Graphic Novel category needs to be re-ratified at Chicon 7 or a sunset clause will kick in to remove it from Hugo categories (a similar sunset clause was written into the amendment creating the podcast category).
Jan. 29th, 2012 09:38 pm (UTC)
The requirement that a fanzine must have "discrete issues" printed on a "periodical basis" just strikes me as a roundabout way to exclude blogs without actually saying "blogs need not apply." You might as well stick in a clause requiring that fanzines be printed on twilltone.

Even traditional fanzines have never really had a good record of striking to a strict publishing schedule. Oh, sure, there are a few exceptions, but over most of the half century I've been in fandom, I've seen an awful lot of fanzines whose publishing schedule was "whenever the editor pubs his ish."

The best blogs add new material weekly, some even daily. Even if the content isn't organized into "issues," it remains fannish writing. Look at a blog like Pat's Fantasy Hotlist or the Wertzone, and what do you find... book reviews, movie reviews, author interviews, con reports, trip reports... all the sorts of writing that have characterized many fanzines (sercon fanzines more than faanish fanzines, admittedly) for decades.

They ARE fanzines, with or without "discrete issues."
Jan. 31st, 2012 12:38 am (UTC)
Btw, the podcast Hugo is not yet a permanent Hugo. It's in the position of being midway through the 2-Worldcon process to become such, and Chicon decided to exercise its option to add a one-shot Hugo category by adding Best Podcast. At least some of the intent of this is to let voters who'll determine if BP becomes permanent to get to see how nominations go and if the category seems to be workable in practice.
Jan. 29th, 2012 11:04 pm (UTC)
I beg to differ with you on blanket statements that imply that no new categories should be added without deleting others, which seems to imply that adding any categories diminishes the value of others. How does the existence of the category for Best Fan Artist make Best Novel less valuable? They're for different types of work. Are you saying that if we want to recognize dramatic presentations, we should eliminate one of the written-fiction categories?

There's a more-legitimate case to be made when an existing category is split into pieces, but the same argument can be turned on its head. I've heard it proposed more than once that we shouldn't have four written-fiction categories, and that the Novella and Novelette categories should be merged. Would you favor that?
Jan. 29th, 2012 11:52 pm (UTC)
Actually, I would favor that. The three short fiction categories are a relic of the days when the field was dominated by the magazines, and SF books were few and far between. But over the past half century, that equation has shifted. If we had three novel awards and one for short fiction, rather than vice versa, that might better reflect the realities of modern publishing.

That being said, I would not simply merge novelette and novella, but rather extend the short story limit to 10,000 words and let novella cover 10,001 to 40,000. Novelette should be the category that should go.

And we are getting to have too many categories. There's one fan -- I will refrain from naming names, but I suspect you know him, Kevin -- who seems to have taken it as his mission in life to turn up every year proposing a new category. In recent years, one dramatic presentation category became two, one editing category became two, we added graphic novel, and now we're about to add podcast. Where does it stop? I know the filkers want a Hugo for best filk, and I suspect there are people who would like one for best SF videogame, and so on, and so forth. SF and fantasy have pervaded our culture, we've won that war, but the result is that we have an ever-increasing number of areas that could legitimately be thought worthy of recognition for their SF content.

Adding one more category doesn't seem like much... until we add another category the next year... and another the year after that. And then you go to the awards, and all you hear is people bitching about the ceremony being too long. Well, if we keep adding categories and don't eliminate any, it will just keep getting longer and longer.

Edited at 2012-01-29 11:53 pm (UTC)
Jan. 30th, 2012 12:02 am (UTC)
If we do redefine the fiction categories to short story, novella, and novel, why have novels start at 40,000? It seems to me that most novels these days start at around 80,000 words and go up from there.
Feb. 4th, 2012 02:30 am (UTC)
You still see the odd 60000 word novel. Just not very often.
Jan. 30th, 2012 01:12 am (UTC)
Yes, all of the things you've mentioned have been proposed, but there's a pretty good reason none of them are going to happen, regardless of their individual backers' ardor: they don't work.

The 1995 Worldcon tried a Best Music category. Not enough people nominated in the category to justify moving on to the final ballot.

The 2006 Worldcon tried a Best Video Game category. Not enough people nominated in the category to justify moving on to the final ballot.

We added a Best Original Artwork category in the 1990s. After four years, we repealed it because there weren't enough works being nominated to justify it.

The key thing here is "How many people make nominations?" If nobody nominates in a category, the category gets dropped. The Business Meeting is extremely reluctant to add categories without a test. Sometimes you can run single-year tests like Best Music and Best Video Game. Sometimes you need to let a category run for several years to see if it will work, particularly when it's carving out a piece of an existing category.

In recent years, almost all new category proposals have come with varieties of "sunset" clauses on them that require some sort of action to be taken after a specified period. Now in the case of Best Editor, it would have taken positive action to repeal the category after four years, but with Graphic Story, it is going to require specific action to keep it, and I expect almost all new categories are going to have to face this.

It's practical politics here: if you can't get the votes, you can't get the category.
Jan. 30th, 2012 01:24 am (UTC)
There is almost certainly going to be a proposal to create a Best Young Adult Book category introduced this year. This proposal is to me significantly different in nature from proposals to create categories for works that basically don't really fit in existing categories, because this would create an overlap with an existing written-fiction category based on marketing category.

Graphic Novels were sort-of eligible in the Best Non-Fiction Book category for years because they were "art books," but this didn't really make people very happy, because they clearly weren't non-fiction. Now that Best Non-Fiction Book is now Best Related Book, I suppose if Graphic Story goes away, you can put graphic novels in Best Related Book, but I suggest that if this happens, people will look at the nomination list and scratch their heads with a "What is that doing in with books of SF criticism and biographies and such?"

I think that proposals that subdivide or overlap existing categories need to be subjected to more scrutiny than those that essentially award achievement in another part of the field. By analogy, I don't think the existence of an Academy Award® for Best Original Score or Best Makeup makes the Oscar® for Best Picture less valuable or important.
Jan. 30th, 2012 03:47 pm (UTC)
Comment on this discussion
I have to agree with Mr. Martin on this one - and not because I am a fan of his either. As a voting member, adding categories make the process more cumbersome. ALso feel adding dilutes the process - what I mean is this . . . like the Oscars, they added categories so movies that had never won in a particular field would have a change to win (Best Animated Pic for example). By my way of thinking if a work is good enough it will be nominated in an existing category.
I am probably too ignorant to understand all the nuances but this is just MHO.
Jan. 31st, 2012 12:55 am (UTC)
Hugo Categories
It's not an unreasonable opinion to hold, and as you may see by my comment above, I agree that categories that too-finely carve out pieces of existing categories need to be looked at quite carefully. But let's look at it through the other end of the telescope: Based on a over-generalization of your statement, should we maybe just have one Hugo Award, for Best SF/F Work of Any Sort? It would be for novels, short stories, television shows, theatrical motion pictures, fan art, fanzines, professional art, editing, non-fiction works, or whatever you want.

Yes, I'm aware this is an absurd over-generalization. But it's the logical conclusion of the "more categories are always bad" argument. Basically, I think that more is not always bad, and less is not always better. You can't make a general statement, but have to look at every change individually.


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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