Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #10

By Chris M. Barkley and Vince Docherty

Some VERY Modest Proposals for The Hugo Awards

“Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.” — Sydney J. Harris

Chris Barkley: Change is hard. It’s hard for those who perceive it as a threat to a well-established order of normalcy and for those who seek to improve on an existing situation.

Two years ago, Vincent Docherty, a former Hugo Awards administrator and a former Worldcon Chair, approached me with a new proposal, which was then followed by several more ideas, that I found that I agreed would strengthen the Hugo Awards for the foreseeable future.

I know that by presenting these ideas, I know I will be involving myself with a very tough and potentially divisive argument with the more conservative elements of the literary branch of sf fandom. While I am delighted to be asked by my co-author, Vincent Docherty, to undertake this endeavor, I also recognize that these proposed changes will be viewed with unadulterated glee by some and absolute revulsion by others. And the prevalence of multiple outlets of social media will have its advocates and detractors at war with each other within hours of the publication of this article.

Some will say that I am doing this just to be a disruptor and a gadfly. I can only say that everything that I have done regarding the Hugo Awards I have done to ensure that they remain fair, equitable, engaging, exciting and most importantly, relevant.

The changes the Hugo Award categories have undergone since 2003 have led to higher numbers of fans participating in the voting process and an ever-growing acceptance and recognition from the public at large. But, as well off as the Hugo awards are now, there’s always room for improvement. Which brings us to our proposals.

Vincent Docherty: The Hugo Awards have grown considerably in visibility and in participation over the last decade. In my view that’s been mostly positive, although there have been big bumps in the road.

We have tried to adapt the Hugo categories and rules to the changes occurring to the genre, particularly the shift to online works and participation.”

However, a number of issues have arisen, in my view:

Where the categories don’t fully reflect the breadth of work begin done, either because there is so much more work (eg. fiction, very short BDP), or changes have occurred such that categories become confused (arc-story, rather than episodic television series).

And where the category definitions are no longer fit-for-purpose, or are difficult for nominators and administrators to use, is resulting in works appearing on the ballot in categories which cause significant disagreement (eg. Related Work and the Fan and Semi-Pro categories).”

Given the number of changes to the rules currently being enacted and the general resistance to adding new categories, I expect that these proposals will need time to be considered and worked.

However, we believe the time is right to raise them now. I think there is both sufficient need and specific enough possible solutions to propose changes to the Novel, Related Work and BDP categories.

Proposal One: A Reorganization of the Best Novel Category

The Current Amendment

3.3.1: Best Novel. A science fiction or fantasy story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more

Replace with:

3.3.1: Best Science Fiction Novel. A science fiction story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more.

And

3.3.2: Best Fantasy Novel. A fantasy story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more.

VINCE DOCHERTY: The Best Novel is by far the category with the highest participation by nominators and voters every year, at a time of great strength in genre publishing. By splitting the category in a simple way, the Worldcon community can recognise more works.

The most useful comparison of what we are trying to accomplish is the Locus Awards, which divide the Novel nominees into the following categories:

  • Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
  • Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel
  • Locus Award for Best Horror Novel
  • Locus Award for Best First Novel
  • Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book

Analysis:

  • Under the current WSFS rules, the John W. Campbell Award For Best New Writer is probably sufficient to cover first time writers, and/or risks duplicating works.
  • There is also an emerging YA award, which could potentially become a Hugo category in the future. (Or not, depending on what happens at the Helsinki Business Meeting.)
  • The nominators and voters of the Hugo Awards have predominantly nominated sf and fantasy works rather than horror. (We therefore offer the conjecture that if nominators want to nominate a work of horror, it can be done as a work of  fantasy.)
  • Definition of the boundaries between fantastic genres are notoriously difficult, nevertheless, almost all genre novels are published with a clear category (perhaps not surprising as the genres are largely publishing-derived).

Rule 3.2.6 refers to the fiction categories by name and will need minor adjustment.

(Suggestion: Borrow simplifying text from 3.2.5 ‘story categories’.)

Rule 3.2.8 relating to fiction category boundaries remains unchanged.

Chris Barkley: Both Vince and I believe this move is probably long past overdue. Other awards, most notably the Locus, Sunburst (since 2008), Seiun and the newly-formed Dragon Awards have no problem at all with nominating or administering multiple novel award categories.

We also feel that on the whole, Hugo Award nominators have proven to be very adaptable to adjusting to new categories and rule changes over the past decade to produce (Rabid and Sad Puppy interferences aside) some very strong ballot nominees.

Here are some examples of how this category change might look like by using the existing long lists of nominees from 2010 through 2016 (with the deliberate redaction of the recent nominees advocated by the Sad/Rabid Puppy movement).

2010 

SF

  • The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • The City & The City, by China Mieville
  • WWW: Wake, by Robert J. Sawyer
  • Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest
  • Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, by Robert Charles Wilson

Fantasy

  • Palimpsest, by Catherynne M. Valente
  • Unseen Academicals, by Terry Pratchett
  • Finch, by Jeff VanderMeer
  • Lifelode, by Jo Walton
  • The Price of Spring, by Daniel Abraham

2011

SF

  • Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis
  • The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
  • Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks
  • Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Fantasy

  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
  • Feed by Mira Grant
  • Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Kraken by China Mieville
  • Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

2012

SF

  • Embassytown by China Mieville
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
  • The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
  • Rule 34 by Charles Stross
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge

Fantasy

  • Among Others by Jo Walton
  • A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
  • Deadline by Mira Grant
  • The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemison
  • Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine

2013

SF

  • Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi
  • 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey
  • Existence by David Brin

Fantasy

  • Blackout by Mira Grant
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
  • Monster Hunter Legion by Larry Correia
  • The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin
  • Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal

2014

SF

  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  • Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross
  • The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
  • London Falling by Paul Cornell
  • Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey

Fantasy

  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
  • Parasite by Mira Grant
  • A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
  • The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker
  • The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

2015

SF

  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  • The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin
  • Lock In by John Scalzi
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • My Real Children by Jo Walton

Fantasy

  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
  • City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
  • Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone (speculative choice to replace Skin Game by Jim Butcher)

2016

SF

  • Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
  • Aurora Kim by Stanley Robinson
  • Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
  • The Just City by Jo Walton
  • The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Fantasy

  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
  • The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
  • Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Proposal Two: A Reorganization of the Best Related Category

The Current Amendment

3.3.5: Best Related Work. Any work related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year or which has been substantially modified during the previous calendar year, and which is either non-fiction or, if fictional, is noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text, and which is not eligible in any other category.

Replace with

3.3.5: Best Non-Fiction Book. Any book or work related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year or which has been substantially modified during the previous calendar year, and which is clearly non-fiction or has a basis in fact with the intent to be educational and/or informational in nature and which is not eligible in any other category.

And

3.3.6: Best Art Book. Any art book or related volumes of works in the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year or which has been substantially modified during the previous calendar year.

VINCE DOCHERTY: This category has changed significantly over the years.  Created in 1980 as ‘Best Non-Fiction Book’ it was changed to ‘Best Related Book’ in 1999 and became the current ‘Best Related Work’ in 2010.

A review of the finalists in the category up to 2010 shows that almost all of them were either non-fiction books (including biographical and academic books) or art books of various types.

The well-intended change in 2011 from Book to Work (which I supported!) was a response to the rapid rise of e-books, web-sites and blogs, alongside test categories such as best website.

However this change, changes to other categories and clarifications to the rules to make clear that it is the content, not the container that is important in an e-world, caused uncertainty for nominators, and the complex eligibility interactions for administrators resulted in works such as podcasts, music recordings and blogs appearing on the ballot, alongside a much reduced number of non-fiction work and almost no art-related works. In many cases these new types of work could have been placed in a different category such as BDP or Fancast or Fan writer, and in several cases in fact they appeared in both.

Data supporting a new approach:

  • A review of the top 15 works nominated each year shows that significant numbers of non-fiction and art books are still being judged Hugo-worthy by many nominators.
  • Looking again at the Locus Award, (and the Locus annual recommendations list), one can see two strong and stable categories; Best Non-fiction Book and Best Art Book.
  • The definition of content in the Hugo rules now explicitly makes clear that electronic forms of text are equivalent to print. The word ‘book’ can therefore be used to describe a unit of published work in either electronic or printed form.

We also believe there is a need to better promote art in the Hugo Awards, reflecting the significance art has to the genre.

Chris Barkley: Speaking personally, I think it would be nice to see more artistic works being honored with Hugo Awards.

Proposal Three; A Reorganization of the Best Dramatic Presentation Category

The Current Amendments

:3.3.7: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Any theatrical feature or other production, with a complete running time of more than 90 minutes, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year.

And

3.3.8: Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Any television program or other production, with a complete running time of 90 minutes or less, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year.

We suggest the creation of four BDP categories:

3.3.7: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Any theatrical feature or other production, with a complete running time of more than 90 minutes, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year. (Intent: Mainly for theatrical films, theater presentations and audio books, etc.)

3.3.8: Best Dramatic Presentation, Episodic Form.

Any television program or other production, with a complete running time of between 30 and 90 minutes, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year. No more than two episodes of any one series may be finalists in this category. (Intent: Stand alone television episodes or other media.)

3.3.9: Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Any production, with a complete running time of less than 30 minutes, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year. No more than two episodes of any one show may be finalists in this category. (Intent: Mainly current internet/youtube type works, or cartoon/serials, typically less than 30 minutes.)

3.3.10: Best Dramatic Presentation, Series.

Any episodic series or other dramatic production, with more than four episodes of sixty minutes or more, or a running time of 240 minutes or more in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year.

(Intent: Streaming series, mini-series or episodic television shows are eligible, the key point being that the intent of the amendment is to honor programs comprising a single story-arc presented over a number of episodes, rather than separate episodes in an anthology series, which would be eligible in BDP-Episodic.)

Current Rule 3.2.10 relating to BDP category boundaries remains unchanged. Also, Current Rule 3.2.9: No work shall appear in more than one category on the final Award ballot.

VINCE DOCHERTY: After fifteen years, we both thought that is was time to overhaul and reorganize the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo category.

The basic principles the Hugos use for works are measurability (word count, minutes) and discrete units of content, rather than the container. In practice the story-arc has been used as the main determinant of ‘discrete/single work’ by both voters and administrators, with length then used to determine which category to use. Hence story-arc based (mini)series and pairs/trios of episodes have appeared on the ballot in both short and long form. Stand-alone episodes and movies have always been treated as single works, and the case where movies are part of a series seems not to be an issue, in a similar way to novels in a series – they generally are separated by years and are marketed as discrete works.

We have seen a huge increase in the number of genre series in recent years especially with services such as Hulu, Netflix and HBO. A quick analysis gives a count of 80 such series in English in the last year or so (see below). This presents us with an opportunity to honor a series through the nomination process.

Here is a long list of recent and/or current television and streaming (mini-)series:

  1. 11.22.63
  2. 12 Monkeys
  3. 3%
  4. A Series of Unfortunate Events
  5. American Horror Story
  6. Ascension
  7. Black Mirror
  8. Black Sails
  9. Class
  10. Colony
  11. Containment
  12. Continuum
  13. Crazyhead
  14. Dark Matter
  15. DC: Arrow
  16. DC: Gotham
  17. DC: Legends of Tomorrow
  18. DC: Supergirl
  19. DC: The Flash
  20. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
  21. Doctor Who
  22. Emerald City
  23. Frequency
  24. From Dusk Till Dawn
  25. Game of Thrones
  26. Glitch
  27. Grimm
  28. Helix
  29. Heroes Reborn
  30. Hunters
  31. Humans
  32. iBoy
  33. iZombie
  34. Killjoys
  35. Limitless
  36. Lucifer
  37. Marvel: Agent Carter
  38. Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  39. Marvel: Jessica Jones
  40. Marvel: Legion
  41. Marvel: Luke Cage
  42. Marvel: Daredevil
  43. Mr. Robot
  44. Once Upon a Time
  45. Orphan Black
  46. Outcast
  47. Outlander
  48. Penny Dreadful
  49. Powers
  50. Preacher
  51. Second Chance
  52. Sense8
  53. Shadowhunters
  54. Sleepy Hollow
  55. SS-GB
  56. Star Wars Rebels
  57. Stranger Things
  58. Supernatural
  59. Teen Wolf
  60. The 100
  61. The Aliens
  62. The Expanse
  63. The Leftovers
  64. The Magicians
  65. The Man in the High Castle
  66. The OA
  67. The Returned
  68. The Shannara Chronicles
  69. The Strain
  70. The Vampire Diaries
  71. The Walking Dead
  72. The X-Files
  73. Thunderbirds Are Go
  74. Travelers
  75. Twin Peaks
  76. Under the Dome
  77. Van Helsing
  78. Westworld
  79. Z Nation
  80. Taboo

VINCE DOCHERTY: The logic of series here is possibly different from yours, in that I distinguish a series which is a single story arc from one that is essentially a collection or anthology of separate episodes.

Chris Barkley: Indeed it does; as an American, I am more used to thinking that a nominee in this category should not be just a single story arc within a series, but to judge and nominate the series episodes as a whole entity. In fact, the BDP Hugo were awarded to an entire seasons of The Twilight Zone on three occasions in the early 1960’s.

VINCE DOCHERTY: It seems to me that this is the key request being asked by lots of voters – how to be able to nominate a single episode which is clearly outstanding, from a series which overall is outstanding but where it’s hard to single-out one episode.

Chris Barkley: Which I totally agree with. But, inversely, we don’t want Hugo voters using the BDP Series to nominate entire seasons of shows like Black Mirror, which is an anthology series of unconnected, one-off episodes.

VINCE DOCHERTY: There are problems with any categorization of course. The choice of lengths, which is already an issue (unless we choose to soften them to a guideline) remains. Also where a series comprises a series of arcs – Doctor Who, for instance, has had cases of pair/trios of episodes nominated as single works. I imagine that could be dealt with by categorizing them as longer single works, but not the whole. Another possible issue is dealing with nominations of episodes from a series which is also nominated as a whole (this occurs now as well).

Chris Barkley:  I imagine that Rule 3.2.9. might be applied by the Hugo Administrators or that the works may be removed or disqualified altogether, solely at their discretion as per the WSFS Constitution, if several arcs from the same show were nominated. But who knows? A better solution may come through the debate process and further arbitration of the amendments.

Both Vince and I thank you for your time and attention.

105 thoughts on “Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #10

  1. Note: These motions have already been submitted to the secretary for the Worldcon 75 Business Meeting.

  2. While the revised agenda has not been published and may not be until after the Secretary gets to Helsinki, these proposals have been assigned agenda item numbers D.6, D.7, and D.8, where D is the section of New Constitutional Amendments.

    At the moment, my list has:

    5 Standing Rule amendments
    3 Resolutions
    12 Pending Constitutional amendments (two of which have proposed amendments attached to them)
    8 New Constitutional amendments

    We have meetings of 3, 3, 3, and 5 hours scheduled. I’m becoming concerned that we may not have enough time to cover these 28-plus items in the time allocated to us. And there’s still one more day to go for people to submit stuff!

    I urge people who actually attend the Business Meeting to not engage in debate for its own sake or to show your cleverness. If something is cut-and-dried, it’s not really necessary to object to unanimous-consent requests for the sake of form.

  3. Yes on 1 and 3, no on 2. I see no problem with splitting the novels into fantasy and SF and the dramatic presentation category has been pretty restrictive for awhile.

  4. Whereas I immediately thought of award-worthy fiction on the edge of F and SF that it would a giggle to nominate just to see how the people in charge handle it. Are Yang’s silkpunk stories fantasy or SF?

  5. I had the same reaction as James, except starting with Pern and Darkover stories, and John Shirley’s City Come A-Walking and the Eclipse trilogy, and so on.

  6. If Best Novel is split as you suggest, there will be the usual arguments over what is Science Fiction and what is Fantasy. The Mira Grant books, which you place in Fantasy, are to my mind, Science Fiction.

  7. 30 and 60 minute TV shows are almost always reduced in time due to advertising. Is that assumed for those time categories?

  8. Anything with faster than light ships, psionics and the ability to heat things up hotter than the light source using only passive mirrors is very clearly fantasy.

  9. And The Just City and London Falling are placed in SF, where I think they are both clearly fantasy.

    There’s a good reason why when Usenet split up rec.arts.sf-lovers, and when the Hugos created categories, both chose categories that relied on objective facts rather than a subjective judgement.

  10. [Proposal One: A Reorganization of the Best Novel Category]
    Thanks but no.

    Definition of the boundaries between fantastic genres are notoriously difficult, nevertheless, almost all genre novels are published with a clear category…
    —-

    SF
    The City & The City, by China Mieville

    See, I’d place The City & The City in the Fantasy category. What happens when a novel gets nominations in both categories? Do the admins lump them all in the category with the most nominations? And in the unlikely event of a tie?

    If we are to split Best Hugo Novel into Best SF Hugo Novel & Best Fantasy Hugo Novel, why not do the same for all the other story categories (Novella, Novelette, Short Story)? If not, why not?

    (It’s a pet peeve of mine because I see the typo so frequently but The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemison -> N.K. Jemisin)

    [Proposal Two: A Reorganization of the Best Related Category]
    What about keeping Best Related as the “it doesn’t fit in any existing category catch-all” award, but creating two new awards: Best Non-Fiction Book & Best Art Book.

    [Proposal Three; A Reorganization of the Best Dramatic Presentation Category]
    I’ll have to think more on this one, but on first reading, I like the concept.

  11. Really against a splitting of the Best Novel into Best SF and Best Fantasy Awards. Yeah, other awards have done it, and that’s fine as their prerogatives, but to me, having read a lot of the combined genre the last two years, there’s such a large body of work that is practically impossible to nail down into one of the two categories – for example on this year’s ballot, is All the Birds in the Sky Fantasy or SF? Or how about Jo Walton’s Necessity? Or this year’s The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden?

    SF/F is one genre really, with stories of all types all across a spectrum. Obviously other awards have shown a split CAN be done, but I like the idea that the Hugos and the Nebulas, both major industry wide awards, simply recognize the whole of the spectrum.

    Now if you want to recognize a greater amount of works – that’s certainly a cause that can be accomplished of course! But to me the answer therefore is to increase the nominees (let’s say to 8, from 6), not increase the number of awards.

  12. Mira Grant’s Parasite isn’t fantasy at all. Neither is the Feed trilogy, even though it involves zombies–she has a reasonably scientific (or at least not too hand-wavey) explanation for them.

    Maybe y’all ought to rethink no. #1, since already everybody is jumping in about that.

  13. A reminder that video of the WSFS Business Meeting will be uploaded as soon as bandwidth (both computer and personal) permit on the Worldcon Events YouTube Channel. Because I’m presiding this year, and because we don’t have other staff available to do uploads in near-real time, it will probably be a few hours after adjournment each day before the videos go online.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, we cannot possibly afford to transport the professional-grade equipment Lisa bought for 2015 and 2016, so we’re restricted to the smaller camera that has no external audio connection, and thus sound is restricted to whatever the camera’s inboard microphone can hear. Also, video segments are going to be about 30 minutes or so due to a limitation on the recording media. (About every 30 minutes, Lisa will need a brief time out to swap recording cartridges.) We’ll do the best that we can, but we promise no miracles.

  14. Where would steampunk fit in these proposed novel categories? I think of it as being clearly fantasy, but there’s Karen Memory under SF. This is why the book and short-fiction categories combine the two in the first place, to eliminate endless arguments about edge cases!

  15. The only way I’d be willing to support a genre split in the Novel category is if the rules require the Hugo admins to transfer all votes for a given work into one category.

    And then you get to “how does the Hugo Admin know in which category to put all the nominations for a work?” The one in which it got more nominations? The one where the Hugo Admin thinks it better belongs? What if a work, with all its nominations totalled, would make the final ballot in one category but not in the other? What if you say no, all its nominations for a given category must stay in that category — and together, it has enough nominations to make either final ballot, but separately, it doesn’t have enough to make either of them?

    I don’t see anything which addresses those issues in this proposal. This is the sort of change that I think would require a committee, research, and some deep thinking in order to become a plausible proposal. And I’m not convinced that even that sort of time and effort would be able to produce a plausible proposal.

  16. Starting a new sub-thread: there was a trial of a Hugo for a single artwork; the test got so little support that there was general consensus to give up. I see even greater difficulties with awards for art books — especially since this proposal doesn’t have a provision that winners in collective categories aren’t eligible in the next year. How many years will Spectrum get the award before people get fed up and ax the category?

    And the Best Series DP would be a major hassle to vote on; at least the best-book-series involves mostly work from previous years, where this sounds like knowledgeable voting would require watching many dozens of hours of TV.

  17. I actually like the current status of Related Work as “anything that doesn’t really fit in another category.” If people primarily think of that concept as being represented by non-fiction/art books, then that’s what will be nominated. If that isn’t what’s nominated, then a restricted to those forms doesn’t represent the will of the nominators. There’s an ever so slight air of “get off of my lawn” about restricting it to things identifiable as books. And, yes, the current system means we end up comparing apples to oranges to bananas to durian. But really, that’s what we’re always doing in every category–it just isn’t as blatant in many of them.

  18. Extrapolating from the two DP categories in 2016, we get:

    Long Form
    Full-length Films
    The Martian
    Mad Max: Fury Road
    Star Wars: The Force Awakens
    Ex Machina
    Avengers: Age of Ultron
    Inside Out
    Ant-Man
    Predestination
    Jupiter Ascending
    Video Games
    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
    Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
    Until Dawn
    Tales from the Borderlands, “The Vault of the Traveller”
    Chrysalis: Life is Strange, Episode 1

    Episodic
    My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic: “The Cutie Map” Parts 1&2
    Grimm: “Headache”
    Supernatural: “Just My Imagination”
    Doctor Who: “Heaven Sent”
    Jessica Jones: “AKA Smile”
    Game of Thrones: “Hardhome”
    The Expanse: “CQB”
    The Expanse: “Dulcinea”
    Person of Interest: “If-Then-Else”
    Daredevil: “Cut Man”
    Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “4,722 Hours”
    Doctor Who: “The Husbands of River Song”
    Orphan Black: “Certain Agony of the Battlefield”

    Short
    ???

    Series
    Jessica Jones
    Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
    Sense8
    Doctor Who*
    The Expanse*
    Game of Thrones*
    Orphan Black*
    Person of Interest*

    *added by me as plausible candidates

    I’d have to see 10 strong, plausible candidates to justify the “Short” category.

  19. All the Birds in the Sky is almost overtly both SF & Fantasy
    Obelisk Gate is definitely in the intersection of the two genres
    Too Like the Lightning has one major character as essentially a fantasy element in a SF novel
    Ninefox Gambit takes the ‘sufficiently advanced technology’ maxim to its extreme

    Even Death’s End breaks into a fairy story halfway through.

  20. The Locus Awards and Dragon Awards are pointed to as successful examples of administering split sf/fantasy novel categories, however for the former, the Locus staff is positioning the books where they think they belong. And in the first year of the Dragon Awards, the assignment of books among genres was an unwilling collaboration between the voters and Vox Day’s slate.

  21. @JJ: It’s too late local time for me to try to dig through the rules, but IIRC there is at least a frequent practice that a fiction work nominated in more than one length gets all its nominations pooled — and I think there’s a formal allowance for slop if a work gets more nominations in a slightly-wrong category.

    Not that I think splitting the novel category is in any way a good idea, as the disagreements here show. (I note with amusement that the first steampunk novel was very specifically an alternate history of science, with no fantastic intent; what it’s become since then is an argument I’m staying away from.)

  22. Note that should all of these pass, we get four categories added, and none removed (looking at it as one of the Best Novels replaces the previous solo category and the other one’s a new one and so forth). Now, let’s say YA Not-A-Hugo To-Be-Named-Later and Series both pass this year too.

    We’re currently up to 16 Hugos, plus Not-a-Hugo Campbell, and the traditional First Fandom and Big Heart awards during the ceremony. Were all the aforementioned to be added, we’d be up to 25 Awards to be given out. I’d be thinking of shooting for a 2.5 hour Ceremony rather than a 2 hour one.

  23. Mike Glyer: And in the first year of the Dragon Awards, the assignment of books among genres was an unwilling collaboration between the voters and Vox Day’s slate.

    We also don’t know how they handled multiple-category nominees, as per my questions above. Was there a novel which didn’t make the final ballot because its nominations were spread across 2 or more categories, which would have made the ballot if all nominations were added together?

    I don’t think we’re going to be given an explanation of how the Dragon Awards sausage is actually made. Ever.

    There was clearly some operator intervention in last year’s awards (given that the finalist list Finn was given did not match the finalist list published by DragonCon), but they didn’t even reveal the nominating and voting totals afterward, much less explain where they intervened, what they did, and why.

  24. Definition of the boundaries between fantastic genres are notoriously difficult, nevertheless, almost all genre novels are published with a clear category (perhaps not surprising as the genres are largely publishing-derived).

    This is nonsensical and I’m honestly shocked that you would consider publisher genre designation to be useful for this purpose, not least because an increasing number of very strong genre works are being published by non-SF/F presses and imprints. Mulholland thinks Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad is literary fiction; should it be disqualified from Hugo consideration? How about Natasha Pulley’s The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, which has fantastical (precognition), technological (clockwork), and alt-historical elements (I consider alt-history to be fantasy but many file it under SF; see your categorization of Boneshaker) and is published by Bloomsbury, a literary publisher? These are not academic questions; both of those are very fine works and if I were a Hugo voter they would certainly have appeared on my ballots for their respective publication years.

    I’m not even getting into how many works of near-future SF are published as thrillers. (So many!)

    SF/F publishers rarely split books into SF and F, because so many SF/F books cross and blur those lines—and always have, going back to Campbellian psionics. I could name at least one book from every decade that would give the “SF or F?” categorizers a headache.

    Finally, it’s worth noting that we’ve seen Hugo voters getting very interested in world fiction, both written in English and translated. Many speculative and fantastical works from outside the Anglosphere are written without any regard for what those of us within it might consider SF or F. We need to make our umbrella broader to welcome and include them, not try to squeeze them into these extremely Western genre concepts.

    The most boundary-breaking books in the genre are often those that make it to the tops of award lists, so there will be stress and strain and controversy and debate over this every single year. This idea is bad for the voters, bad for the administrators, and bad for the books. I really hope it will be rejected with extreme prejudice.

  25. I never watch tv series, but I watch a lot of shorts. Would not have a problem filling that category with 10 items.

    Not sure that there are enough other people that follow shorts though.

    Against the splitting of best novel. Why split if you only split one category?

    And I like best related as it is, with the possibility to throw in anything. Not sure why artbooks should have preferential treatment to theater, video games, musicals, etc.

  26. I agree with what everyone else has said about the split between SF and fantasy, but I have a solution to offer. Have a single set of nominations just for novels, so that the voters don’t have to try to guess whether the administrator regards a book as SF or fantasy, but then use those nominations to construct two shortlists, one for SF and one for fantasy, just as you have done retroactively above. You might want to allow voters to nominate up to ten novels rather than up to five, since those nominations would be driving two sets of shortlists and two awards. That way, you don’t run the risk of a novel missing out because its nominations were split between the SF and fantasy awards, and we can all grouse about the administrator’s choices in deciding which category to put each shortlisted novel into.

  27. Mike Scott: Have a single set of nominations just for novels, so that the voters don’t have to try to guess whether the administrator regards a book as SF or fantasy, but then use those nominations to construct two shortlists, one for SF and one for fantasy, just as you have done retroactively above.

    I can think of few rules which would be more likely to cause any potential Hugo Administrator to run away — very fast — from the position, than one where they’re required to make an arbitrary decision which will determine whether a given novel will make the ballot or not.

  28. JJ: I can think of few rules which would be more likely to cause any potential Hugo Administrator to run away — very fast — from the position, than one where they’re required to make an arbitrary decision which will determine whether a given novel will make the ballot or not.

    But this proposal already requires them to do that. If the threshold to get on the shortlist is 110 nominations in the SF category and 80 nominations in the fantasy category, and a novel has 100 nominations split between both categories, then if the rules allow nominations in one category to be moved to the other, the novel will be on the ballot if the administrator decides it’s fantasy and won’t be on the ballot if the administrator decides it’s SF.

  29. Which is exactly the point I was making in my first comment in this thread. As this rule has been proposed, no prospective Hugo Administrator would be willing to touch the job with a 100-foot pole, and I don’t see how they’re going to be able to write it in such a way to remove that problem.

  30. While I like the BDP division, trying to split SF from F is a fool’s game. The fact that both are included in the Hugos are nifty. This is just asking for more trouble every year.

  31. @JJ: I’m certain Camestros will have more, but your wish is my command. 11 plausible nominees for Best Dramatic Short Form:

    1) Don Hertzfeldt, “World of Tomorrow” (ALSO AN ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE for best short)
    2) Uncanny Valley (written and directed by Federico Heller), 8 minutes
    3) I Remember the Future 26 mins

    4) The Shaman, dir. Marco Kalantari (17 mins)

    5) The Garden (6 mins)
    written by E.B. Rhee and Aaron Strongoni

    6) Sundays (14:50)
    dir. Mischt Rozema

    7) The Leviathan (3:39)
    written by Jim Uhls,

    8) Tiny Hamster is a Giant Monster

    9) “Bad Blood” (music video, dir. Joseph Kahn, written by Taylor Swift)

    10) Sanjay’s Super Team

    11) Adventure Time: The Comet (11 minutes)

    i strongly support the expansion of the Best Dramatic categories, and will vote for this as is. Is the intent for episodes of TV shows that happen to be animated (Rick & Morty, Bojack Horseman) to go into this category or into Best Dramatic Episodic? If we want them in episodic

    This is not a minor point: Most TV half-hour episodes are actually 22 minutes long, and with the rise of streaming services, and the recent ad-free premieres of Rick & Morty April Fool’s episode and the entire season of the live-action Other Space, the current use of “30 minutes” means that any episode of a half-hour comedy, including live-action comedies like Dirk Gently, will end up in the wrong category…meaning independent short films will get the shaft.

    So @Chris Barkley, if you’re out there, let me know your thoughts.

    [EDITED: Super-cool embedded links for Uncanny Valley and I Remember the Future were deleted BECAUSE IT WANTED TO SEND ME TO MODERATION and I’m an impatient bastard.

    P.S. I AM ON A WORLDCON PANEL, SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY MUSICAL THEATRE, THURSDAY 8/10 AT 4 PM, YOU SHOULD COME TO IT IF YOU ARE SOMEWHERE IN FINLAND!)

  32. reposting to avoid moderation:

    @JJ: I’m certain Camestros will have more, but your wish is my command. 11 plausible nominees for Best Dramatic Short Form:

    1) Don Hertzfeldt, “World of Tomorrow” (ALSO AN ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE for best short)
    2) Uncanny Valley (written and directed by Federico Heller), 8 minutes
    3) I Remember the Future 26 mins

    4) The Shaman, dir. Marco Kalantari (17 mins)

    5) The Garden (6 mins)
    written by E.B. Rhee and Aaron Strongoni

    6) Sundays (14:50)
    dir. Mischt Rozema

    7) The Leviathan (3:39)
    written by Jim Uhls,

    8) Tiny Hamster is a Giant Monster

    9) “Bad Blood” (music video, dir. Joseph Kahn, written by Taylor Swift)

    10) Sanjay’s Super Team

    11) Adventure Time: The Comet (11 minutes)

    i strongly support the expansion of the Best Dramatic categories, and will vote for this as is. Is the intent for episodes of TV shows that happen to be animated (Rick & Morty, Bojack Horseman) to go into this category or into Best Dramatic Episodic? If we want them in episodic

    This is not a minor point: Most TV half-hour episodes are actually 22 minutes long, and with the rise of streaming services, and the recent ad-free premieres of Rick & Morty April Fool’s episode and the entire season of the live-action Other Space, the current use of “30 minutes” means that any episode of a half-hour comedy, including live-action comedies like Dirk Gently, will end up in the wrong category…meaning independent short films will get the shaft.

    So @Chris Barkley, if you’re out there, let me know your thoughts.

    [EDITED: Super-cool embedded links for Uncanny Valley and I Remember the Future were deleted BECAUSE IT WANTED TO SEND ME TO MODERATION and I’m an impatient bastard.

    P.S. I AM ON A WORLDCON PANEL, SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY MUSICAL THEATRE, THURSDAY 8/10 AT 4 PM, YOU SHOULD COME TO IT IF YOU ARE SOMEWHERE IN FINLAND!)

  33. @JJ: I’m certain Camestros will have more, but your wish is my command. 11 plausible nominees for Best Dramatic Short Form:

    1) Don Hertzfeldt, “World of Tomorrow” (also an Academy Award nominee for best short)
    2) Uncanny Valley (written and directed by Federico Heller), 8 minutes
    3) I Remember the Future 26 mins
    4) The Shaman, dir. Marco Kalantari (17 mins)
    5) The Garden (6 mins), written by E.B. Rhee and Aaron Strongoni
    6) Sundays (14:50) dir. Mischt Rozema
    7) The Leviathan (3:39) written by Jim Uhls, dir. Ruari Robinson
    8) Tiny Hamster is a Giant Monster
    9) “Bad Blood” (music video, dir. Joseph Kahn, written by Taylor Swift)
    10) Sanjay’s Super Team
    11) Adventure Time: The Comet (11 minutes)

    i strongly support the expansion of the Best Dramatic categories, and will vote for this as is. Is the intent for episodes of TV shows that happen to be animated (Rick & Morty, Bojack Horseman) to go into this category or into Best Dramatic Episodic? If we want them in episodic, it may be worth somehow defining a TV or streaming series.

    Also-, and this is not a minor point: Most TV half-hour episodes are actually 22 minutes long, and with the rise of streaming services, and the recent ad-free premieres of Rick & Morty April Fool’s episode and the entire season of the live-action Other Space, the current use of “30 minutes” means that any episode of a half-hour comedy, including live-action comedies like Dirk Gently, will end up in the wrong category…meaning independent short films will get the shaft.

    So @Chris Barkley, if you’re out there, let me know your thoughts.

    [EDITED: Super-cool embedded links for Uncanny Valley and I Remember the Future were deleted due to being sent to moderation bc I’m an impatient bastard.]

    P.S. I’m on a Worldcon Panel! Sci FI and Fantasy in Musical Theatre, Thursday, 4 PM. You should definitely come if you’re somewhere in Helsinki.

  34. JJ: There was clearly some operator intervention in last year’s awards (given that the finalist list Finn was given did not match the finalist list published by DragonCon), but they didn’t even reveal the nominating and voting totals afterward, much less explain where they intervened, what they did, and why.

    I could be much more snarky, but let’s just say that a number of shenanigans the Hugos were accused of doing appear to have actually happened with the Dragon. which hasn’t been run in a transparent, above-board manner as far as I can tell.

    @Tom Galloway,
    It’s not just the lengthening of the awards ceremony if we end up with extra categories, it’s the increased workload for Worldcon members. I worry we will increase the risk of voters choosing on name-recognition rather than taking the time to assess each finalist on its own merit.

  35. Greg, thanks for the list and the link! I will be checking those out.

    Now the second part of my question:

    You’re a film writer, director, and producer. So you’re super aware of these sorts of works.

    I’m probably an “average” fan in terms of short films. I made a point during 2015 and 2016 to watch the ones that Filers linked to, and I’ve seen 3 of these (1, 2, and 3; 1 and 3 were on my ballot for BDPSF — and that’s because I was willing and able to drop $4 to see #1).

    How many Hugo voters will have seen (and remembered) 5 eligible works for this category in a given year — never mind 5 Hugo-worthy eligible works?

    I think that this category would go the same way as the video game category when they tried it around 10 years ago: only a small percentage of nominators would participate in the category.

    I would be interested in hearing from other Filers who would have several entries from 2015 that they felt were Hugo-worthy and could have nominated in a 30-minute or less category (that weren’t half-hour TV show episodes, because I don’t see a point in a 60-minute TV episode category and a 30-minute TV episode category, which is what I think this would become).

    I would support a category for non-TV-ep short films if there would be a significant number of Hugo voters participating. But I just don’t think there are that many.

  36. Regarding shorts: I do think this would do well with a test run on a convention. Because I have my doubts about the number of people who would nominate things.

  37. Yeah, I’m not a fan of dividing novel by genre, either.

    I like Related Work the way it is, as a bit of a catch-all. There are other ways of encouraging book nominations.

    I have no doubt that there are enough good short films and other minis for the category, but I’m less sure many people watch them in order to nominate. Still, there are other categories with a small nominator pool, and there’s an advantage to a category that is easy to watch for voting. (Although the one short film I really, really, really wanted to see nominated – Kung Fury – was 31 minutes long, so I would have still been stuffed!)

    I’m not so sure about a Series BDP. I like the idea of not having them in with the films (I get a sinking feeling every time I see one) but boy, that’s a lot of hours to get through in order to nominate and vote. I think it shares many of the same flaws as the paper Best Series, only worse because it’s concentrated into one year so you can’t rely as much on prior familiarity. Anyway, unlike shorts, really good series-length nominees already happen fairly regularly, so there’s a weaker argument for making sure good content gets a fair shot.

    So all in all, the only change I’m in favour of is introducing a short(er) BDP category, since it would create chances for stuff that doesn’t stand much of one in the current categories. ETA: But yeah, I think it could do with a test-run as Hampus suggests.

  38. I can’t remember how many shorts I nominated 2015, but my guess is that it was 4-5. I didn’t nominate any tv episodes, as I do not watch those. So I am kind of the opposite of many others.

    I do think there would be an increase if people started to discuss these shorts for real. The question is how large.

  39. I’ve no ponies in this race, but as I was reading the proposals, this kept running through my head: “Less is more…less is more…less is more…”

  40. I’m in favor of any rule change that gets the Dramatic Presentation category to lighten up. Reading the list of if-it-were-so nominees JJ posted made the heaviness of the category obvious in a way it hadn’t been before. That’s one dark bunch of stories, judging by what I know and what I read.

  41. Splitting the best novel category is madness. There are just too many works that constitute an amalgam of the genres.

    Changing best related work to best related nonfiction book/art book might not have any real impact in terms of what has made the short list lately, but it guts the intent of the category, which is to allow recognition of anything worthy that doesn’t quite fit anywhere else.

    Recognizing tightly integrated TV series that tell a single long story in a dozen parts is a worthy goal, but asking voters watch a hundred hours of TV every year is the wrong way to do it.

    Also, trying to break out fan-made SFF shorts into its own category is a worthy goal, but it needs to use something other than running time as a delimiter or the category will be filled with half hour SFF television episodes, and worthy fan made SFF videos that run too long will be denied recognition. Maybe BDP needs to bite the bullet and split itself into best theatrical film, best TV episode, and best other dramatic presentation.

  42. Good grief! Splitting the Best Novel into sf and fantasy does have the definition problem. Your jusitification (in part) that the Locus Awards split Novel into various categories doesn’t take into account the fact that Locus ignores fandom, which the Hugo, of course, doesn’t. (Shut up, ghost of Bob Tucker with your inane “Hoy Ping Pong” award. If I won a Hugo I’d put it on display; if I won a HPP, I’d put it into a drawer and then leave it behind in my next move.)
    Splitting Dramatic Presentation into fragments would be, figuratively, a media circus. The Hugo would become no better than the Saturn Award, spreading the joy around for publicity.

  43. I have to take issue with Chris’s opening remarks which seem to paint the Business Meeting as a tough and resistant audience and himself as the white knight heroically battling to make that audience see the bright light of truth.

    In recent years we have seen a steady stream of changes and new categories including the division of Best Editor into Long and Short Form; the addition of Best Fancast, Best Graphic Story, and subject to final ratifications, Best Series and a new YA Award.

    This hardly seems like an organisation that is not willing to consider evolution; if there is lively debate, that reflects the importance of the reputation of the Hugos and the need for careful scrutiny of any changes we make to them.

    I think there are real merits in each of these changes, considered in isolation, but I’m not convinced of the benefits of pushing them all through at once when we’ve just been through a difficult period of instability and rule changes as well as the category changes I’ve alluded to above.

  44. OK, I’ll take these one by one. (I haven’t read every comment, so forgive possible repetitions.)

    1. Separating Science Fiction and Fantasy. No, no, no. Partly because of the difficulty of drawing the distinction: the most interesting works are often at the edges. Three of this year’s finalists are edge cases: Anders and Palmer by being Both, Jemisin by being ambiguous (and I’ve even seen people describe Ninefox Gambit as an edge case, though I don’t see it that way myself). Locus herds the cats by issuing a recommendation list. I take it we don’t want to do that.

    But also: dividing Best Novel gives us more to read: this at the same time as 5/6 gives us more to read, the series Hugo gives us more to read, the YA not-Hugo gives us more to read, and 3SV threatens to give us less time to read it in. I don’t see this one working.

  45. I had already an hard time to read all the fiction work (shorts, novelettes, novella, novels) after the number of finalists went up to 6… I won’t be able to read 6 more books if proposal 1 passes. I will have to stop voting in one of the categories. 🙁 I understand why the proposal was made, but I wonder how many people will end up giving up.

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