Next month in Helsinki the Worldcon 75 Business Meeting will vote on whether to ratify an award to honor the best Young Adult book of the year. The motion gained initial passage in 2016. A second favorable vote will make it an official part of the convention’s annual activities.
In advance of the business meeting, the YA Award Committee has published its report on the Worldcon 75 website: http://www.worldcon.fi/files/YA_Award_Full_Report.pdf
The proposal was passed in 2016 without choosing a name for the award. After canvassing the public and discussing ideas internally, the committee is recommending that it be called the Lodestar Award.
From lode (“journey, course, guide”) + star; a Lodestar is a star that guides or leads, especially in navigation, where it is the sole reliable source of light—the star that leads those in uncharted waters to safety. The guiding star frequently appears in speculative fiction and is tied to the notion of the hero’s quest. While it evokes stargazers and adventurers, it also calls to mind distant galaxies and travel through space. It therefore applies to both Fantasy and Science Fiction, is international in scope, and has symbolism that is cross-generational.
The Business Meeting will have to decide if approving an award name is permissible this year, or requires its own motion and ratifying vote. If the award is ratified without a nickname being approved, it is expected to begin life as simply the “YA Award” given by the Worldcon. The YA Award is not a Hugo, but would be voted on by Worldcon members at the same time that they vote on the Hugos and Campbell Award.
Among those who participated in the public survey, 52% wanted the YA Award named for a person, but 48% did not. The report says the committee also found this question “tricky and contentious” and a section is devoted to outlining the arguments for and against:
Arguments for Using Personal Names
– A person’s name recalls the history of SFF literature
– The Hugo/Campbell Awards are themselves named after editors
– Celebrates professionals who influenced current Worldcon readers/writers
– 52% of the respondents said they would prefer the award to be named after a person when asked to choose a category of naming type
– Avoiding author names in order to prevent offensiveness can border on discrimination or erasure
Arguments against Using Personal Names
– 48% voted that the award should be called something other than a person’s name
– Award should celebrate SFF worlds and ideas, not individual people
– Award designation shouldn’t be about “us” and what we liked, but instead about current and future teens
– Better to have more universal name that can have meaning for each generation, rather than one that may become outdated and meaningless to later readers
– Worldcon is an international community, but individual authors are inherently associated with specific nations and languages
– Not the award’s job to “educate” the youth by naming the award after one particular author
– Teens’ changing social expectations make the work of several of the suggested authors objectionable
– Because early SFF YA was a didactic genre, most writers had agendas that will be unacceptable to people today
– Naming an award after a person expresses approval for all the author’s books, including any that are unfitting
– Ties the award too closely to the life of the named person, so that their baggage carries over to the award
– Many people on public forums said emphatically that they were opposed to a personname
– Attempts to name award after person will lead to very heated and contentious debates, which will hurt the award
The committee decided not to recommend anyone’s personal name. They surveyed the public about six abstract names: Anansi, Lodestar, Ouroboros, Spellcaster, Tesseract, and Worldcon.
“Tesseract” received the most favorable response of six prospective award names in the public survey, however, feedback comments revealed that Tesseract is the name of a Canadian speculative-fiction publishing house (Tesseract Books), as well as a long time anthology begun in 1985 and edited by Judith Merril (the Tesseract Anthology has had 20 volumes).
After acquiring the Shortlist Voting Survey results, the Chairs reached out to EDGE/Tesseract Books. The publisher asked that we not use the name. Therefore, given the term’s established use by SFF colleagues and Canadian fandom, as well as the explicit request of Tesseract Books, the committee agreed that the name Tesseract should not be used.
That is why the committee has recommended the award be given the second most popular name in the survey, Lodestar.
The report includes many tables of data extracted from the survey and stratified according to age, Worldcon participation, and a Likert-scale response to the six names.
The report also says the committee declined a publisher’s offer to sponsor the award if it would be named after a particular author.
Angus Killick from Macmillan Children’s Publishing contacted WSFS to suggest the name L’Engle for the award. He manages the division’s marketing. Killick explained that they and the L’Engle family were interested in any way of honoring L’Engle, given that 2018 is the release of the Wrinkle in Time movie and it is the 100th anniversary of L’Engle’s birth.
The members of the study committee are: Anna Blumstein (chair); Helen Gbala and Katie Rask (Co-chairs); Warren Buff, Tim Illingworth, Joshua Kronengold, Laura Lamont, Julia Mccracken, Farah Mendlesohn, David Peterson, Christine Rake, Marguerite Smith, Adam Tesh, Clark Wierda, Lewis Wolkoff (Committee Members); Leigh Bardugo, Kate Elliott, Daniel José Older (YA Author Members); and Kevin Standlee (WSFS Parliamentary Advisor).
Especially when considering the prior history of WSFS committees assigned to work on the issue, this committee deserves congratulations for its hard work and transparency, and its valiant effort to navigate the rocks and shoals of existing brands and the divided opinions in social media.