A description of the Hugo Award processJan 30, 2011 (Updated Apr 12, 2011) Write an essay on this topic.
Popular Products in BooksThe Bottom Line Anyone who doesn't participate in the Hugo process shouldn't complain if he doesn't like the results.
Katherine Noll and Tracey West - The Ultimate Official Guide to Club Penguin: Revised and Expanded from the Ultimate Offical Guide to Club Penguin - Vol 2
The Hugo Awards are the best known awards in the speculative fiction genre. I have heard a lot of people complain about their value. People complain that the Hugos are just a popularity contest and most of the voters poorly judge quality in the creative process, which could be true to some extent. A few years ago, there were accusations that the nominations were sexist. Whoever started that criticism obviously had not done her homework, considering women had won three of the best novel awards out the immediately preceding five years. If more of the people eligible to participate in the process exercised their rights, maybe there would be fewer grievances. With an important deadline looming for those who want to nominate the 2011 Hugos, it seems worth assessing how the process works.
Anyone can easily become eligible to nominate for the Hugo Awards. No one has to be a published author, artist or filmmaker with full credentials. They just need to have a little more than a casual interest in the speculative fiction genre and join that year's World Science Fiction Convention (aka Worldcon) by January 31 or have been a member the previous year. Those joining later can still vote on the final ballot, but the World Science Fiction Society wants to avoid nomination “stuffing.”
This year Worldcon 69, which was nicknamed Renovation, will be held in Reno, Nevada, from August 17–20. Full-attending memberships are currently selling for US$180, but—in order to encourage people to buy early—prices rise over the course of time. This rate will expire February 28, 2011. There also other rates and plans for children and families. Please go to Renovation membership page for the most up-to-date information. Those who are unable to attend, but would like to participate in Hugo nominating and voting can purchase a supporting membership for US$50. (Supporting members receive all publications and are eligible to vote in site selection. They can upgrade their membership in case they change their mind about attending later.)
In 2011, the nominating phase ends Saturday, March 26, at 23:59 (or 11:59 p.m.), Pacific Daylight Time. Members can submit their nominating ballots through snail mail or online through the Renovation website. For a long time the number of nominating ballots cast was rather low, considering how many people are eligible to do it. The numbers rarely reached 500. When Worldcons usually have a few thousand members at the time of the nomination deadline, it's amazing how few exercise their rights. Some candidates won a place on the final ballot with fewer than 25 nominations. On the other hand, Worldcon members have been taking more interest over the past couple of years and have been casting nominations in record numbers. Last year, Aussiecon 4 received 864 nominating ballots.
Any speculative fiction work that was released from January 1 to December 31, 2010, is eligible for nominating this year. Overseas work, which frequently has delayed release in the United States, is often given a grace period until it reaches the American market. Every once in a while, some work specifically cited at a WSFS business meeting will be permitted an extended period for nomination as well. Unless there is a nomination that clearly violates Hugo rules, the award administrator generally accepts the consensus of the nominators. For example, the two-part Doctor Who episode, "The End of Time," received plenty of nominations, but since combining the two special episodes came to over 90 minutes, it belonged in the dramatic long form category, which meant it was competing against theatrical motion pictures like Avatar and Up instead of other television episodes.
The nomination ballots are released shortly after the new year. Hardcopies are snail mailed with progress reports. Members who want to nominate online are issued a pin number that is required for their ballots to be accepted. Members are allowed five nominations in each of the award categories. In addition to recognizing professionals, the Hugos also honor fan contributions to the spec-fi community. The 15 categories a Worldcon concom are currently expected to award are:
—Best Short Story
—Best Related Work
—Best Graphic Story
—Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
—Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
—Best Editor, Long Form
—Best Editor, Short Form
—Best Professional Artist
—Best Fan Writer
—Best Fan Artist
In addition to the 15 categories WSFS honors, Dell Magazines sponsors the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, which is also administered by the Hugo committee. The convention committee (aka concom) also has the option to add a category of their choice, but Renovation opted against having a special award this year. In the past, concoms have given special awards for categories like best related website.
Although many would like to believe everyone involved in the process is altruistic in their participation, members are human. Many of the complaints about the Academy Awards can be shared with the Hugos. They are a popularity contest and artists will campaign for nominations and then, if they win a spot on the ballot, for the award. Some will nominate those who they sincerely believe deserve an award, but many will write the names of friends or people they like. One writer told me he nominated editors who bought his work. I'll admit I've nominated friends before. There's a lot of stuff out there and it's really hard for everyone to keep up with everything. For this reason, the professionals in the field really help themselves when they appear at conventions. Those who are personally popular with fans are likely to receive more nominations. Some people and organizations will put together lists of work they would like to bring to the attention of other nominators. The Bay Area Science Fiction Association usually meets in late January/early February to poll its members for Hugo suggestions and posts them under its Hugo Recommendations topic on Live Journal.
Once the nominating deadline passes, the Hugo administrator has the job of counting the nominations and determining which candidates earned a place on the ballot. After the top five names for each category have been decided, they are contacted and given the opportunity to decline their nominations. Several years ago, three episodes of Babylon 5 were nominated, but Producer J. Michael Straczynski declined two of them, not wanting them to compete against each other. The final ballot for the Hugos is usually released within a month of the nominations being announced and Worldcon members are given a deadline to cast their final votes. Only members of the current Worldcon are permitted to vote.
This is when I take the process seriously. In my eagerness to support friends and those who have supported my past efforts, I have found myself wishing I had read what I nominated. Sadly, in the past, visibility and accessibility of the nominated work had a lot to do with whether it won or not. Members were left on their own to locate the various books, periodicals and short stories to read and judge for their votes. Some winners took the award because they were the most familiar. Over the past couple of years, members have received a new perk for joining Worldcon. On the prompting of Author John Scalzi, the Hugo administration has acquired electronic copies of the harder-to-find Hugo-nominated work to distribute e-packets to the voters so they could assess all of the candidates. Not only has this made things fair for Hugo voting, but the value of all these e-copies probably comes to more than the price of an attending membership, let alone the less expensive supporting membership, which is the minimum necessary to vote. Their votes need to be cast by deadline the Hugo administration sets for that year, which is also when these e-copies are no longer available to the membership.
To win a Hugo, WSFS by-laws insist the candidate has to have a majority of the votes; therefore, it has a preferential voting system. Voters indicate their first through fifth place choices. They are also given the option to vote No Award. If a candidate doesn't take a clear majority of the votes in the first round of counting the category, then the one who had the fewest is eliminated and those voters' second choice is counted. This process continues until one candidate has the majority of votes.
The City of Oakland, California, used this process for its mayoral race last year and it was as confusing for some of its candidates as well as its voters. In the American political system, most candidates don't win having the majority of the votes, but the plurality. In the preferential voting process, there is inevitably some who choose one candidate and their votes count no further than that. When Oakland's new mayor, Jean Quan, campaigned, she asked voters for their second place vote if she wasn't their first choice. There was no clear majority in the first round of counting, but another candidate did have more votes than she did. As others were eliminated from counting, Quan was declared winner of the mayoral race in the later rounds.
After the the Hugo ceremony, members can find copies of the voting and nominating results—usually in a special edition of the convention's daily newsletter, but they are also posted on the Hugo Awards website. One of the things I have noticed when examining the final voting results for the Hugos is the No Award vote. If No Award wins in a category, none will be given. It has happened a time or two in Hugo history. If a voter feels that some candidates don't deserve an award, they are contradicting themselves when they rate any of the other candidates after voting No Award. Yet some do. There is nothing that says a voter has to indicate five ranks and they are furthering the candidates he may not believe deserve it.
Once the votes are counted, the Hugo winners are announced at a ceremony at that year's Worldcon. Science fiction conventions are notorious for their casual dress attitudes, but this is one night the community likes to dress up—at least the nominees and anyone going on the stage usually do. Like the Oscars, the Hugos have their buzz too. Most members who have any interest in the awards have a good idea who the most likely winners are going to be. There are occasionally upsets, though. Last year, at Aussiecon 4, the buzz favored The City & the City or The Windup Girl for best novel. Everyone there waited tensely to see which one would receive the honor. It was one of the rare ties in Hugo history. Ironically, the best novel category had had a tie for fifth place in nominating as well. By the time the count eliminated the four less favored titles, China Miéville and Paolo Bacigalupi had exactly 380 each out of 875 votes cast.
So, for those who have a little more than a casual interest in the speculative fiction genre, their participation in Hugo nominating and voting is valuable. Authors who win in the best novel category can expect a raise of least $1500 in their advances. Face it, William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens aren't remembered for the quality of their writing, their work became classics because they had staying power in their mass appeal. Winning a Hugo is a helpful indication that a writer's project might have that staying power. This year there are well over 2000 people eligible to nominate, yet less than half usually will. Once people have a better understanding of the process, it's easy enough to participate. Anyone who cares about the outcome should do it. The have no right to complain about the results unless they do.
Since Epinions won't permit links to outside websites, following are the URLs for the boldface subjects listed:
World Science Fiction Convention (aka Worldcon)
World Science Fiction Society (WSFS)
Renovation (Worldcon 69)
Renovation membership info
Bay Area Science Fiction Association (BASFA)
BASFA Hugo nomination suggestions
|Read all comments (3)|Write your own comment|