A Proposal to Re-Name the Young Adult Book Award at Worldcon 76

By Chris M. Barkley

“When the mind is free, magic happens.”
— Young Adult author C.G. Rousing

“Harry Potter” blew the roof off of children’s literature. But that doesn’t mean the work is done — for YA authors, it just means more scope for the imagination.”
Huffington Post reporter Claire Fallon, June 2017

Reading is one of the great pleasures in life. For a time in our modern age, it is seems as though young grade and high school kids had abandoned reading books.

Then, in 1997, along came J.K. Rowling and her creation, the world of Harry Potter. And now, after twenty-one years, it’s hard to imagine what might have happened to entire generation of young readers if Bloomsbury and Scholastic Books hadn’t taken a chance on the saga of a young wizard and his friends and deadly enemies.

The Harry Potter novels, which continue to sell, provided a mighty tide that raised the fortunes of a great many writers; new authors such as Suzanne Collins, Garth Nix, Veronica Roth, Rick Riordan and Tamora Pierce, led story hungry children to the older works of seasoned professionals like Octavia Butler, Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Madeline L’Engle, Ursula K. Le Guin and Robert A. Heinlein.

In 2006, The Science Fiction and Fantasy writers of America created the Andre Norton Award, which is given to the author of the best young adult or middle grade science fiction or fantasy work published in the United States in the preceding year.

Five years later, a serious effort was started to establish a Hugo Award for young adult books. The World Science Fiction Convention Business Meeting, which governs the WSFS Constitution that administers the Hugo Awards, several committees over several years, determined that the proposed award would better be served as a separate category, to be on par with the other non-Hugo category, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

The amendment to add the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book to the WSFS Constitution was first ratified last summer at the 75th World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, Finland by the members of the Business Meeting and must be ratified a second time at this year’s Worldcon in San Jose, California to begin it’s official trial run as a category.

This year’s Worldcon Convention Committee (headed by Kevin Roche) has graciously accepted to administer the Young Adult Book award in addition to the new Best Series and Campbell Awards.

The nomination period for the Hugos, Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer opened February 5.

We, the undersigned, wish to congratulate the various YA Committee for reaching a consensus with their diligent work in crafting the parameters of the YA Award for the World Science Fiction Convention. However, we also think that the name of this new award should have a name which not only should be universally recognizable, but have an equivalent weight to the name of John W. Campbell, Jr.

We, the undersigned, will respectfully submit a new name for the Young Adult Book Award at the Preliminary Session of the Worldcon 76 Business Meeting on August 17, 2018 as a strike though substitution for the name ‘Lodestar’, under the rules governing the WSFS Business Meeting.

We will also embargo the name until the start of the Preliminary Session.

There is very good reason why the name will not be revealed at this time and that explanation will also be given at that time.

While we also understand that while this motion may cause a great deal of consternation, we also feel that this would be an excellent opportunity to generate a great deal of interest about the Worldcon and bring MORE attention to this new award to potential nominators, readers of all ages, booksellers and the public at large.

The proposed name will forever be known and honored in perpetuity with the Hugo Awards, the John W. Campbell Award, and the World Science Fiction Convention.

Proposed by Worldcon 76 Attending Members:
Juli Marr
Robert J. Sawyer
Steven H. Silver
Chris M. Barkley

Update 03/07/2018: Removed Melinda Snodgrass and Juliette Wade as signers. Also removed Vincent Docherty, who said in a comment his name was included in error, he never was a signer. // Subsequently, Shawna McCarthy and Pablo Vasquez have asked to have their names removed.

152 thoughts on “A Proposal to Re-Name the Young Adult Book Award at Worldcon 76

  1. Yeah, nah, not going to support a sneak attack renaming effort.

    I think that this is really disrespectful to the members of Worldcon who support, and are invested in, the Hugo Awards.

  2. I hereby proclaim that I will not say what I proclaim. My proposal is that I do not tell what my proposal is. But I’m sure that lurkers will support me in email.

  3. YA? Jane Yolen leaves to mind but she’s the only I could mention.

    And the secrecy of this proposed name leaves me with a distaste in my mouth as it should open to a conversation about it.

  4. Yep, I am NOT happy with this skulking and hiding. If you want to change the name, give people enough time to discuss it.

    Also, I would have been very happy if the John W. Campbell Award had gotten another name. But that time has passed now.

  5. In any event, should the meeting vote to change the name up for ratification, it will take another year to ratify it, and the award will remain unnamed for another year.

    Incidentally, administering the Best YA Book Award is not optional. The award is part of the WSFS Constitution, and we have to administer it. Technically, Worldcons don’t have to administer the JW Campbell Award (the wording in the Constitution just says we’re allowed to use the Hugo Ballot to do so), but the YA Book Award is a WSFS award defined in the Constitution.

  6. Yeah…this is not a good start. People weren’t happy that the Young Adult Book Award is starting this year without a name. But decided it was better than waiting. (Personally I kinda like that it will start out without any question of “What is the Lodestar Award?” But I’m an oddball who liked the “Worldcon Award for Best Young Adult Book.”) A lot of thought went into the name that’s already up for ratification. I have serious doubts that people will think anything else is worth leaving the award unnamed for an additional year.

    Whatever your “very good reason” for not revealing it now, I think you’re a year too late with name ideas now. And if you waited this long, you should have waited until you could reveal it.

  7. There is very good reason why the name will not be revealed at this time and that explanation will also be given at that time.

    That reason being that revealing the name now would give people plenty of time to point out the very valid reasons why the proposed name is not a good idea, rather than forcing them to vote on it with very little time for consideration and putting them in the position of looking like jerks for appearing to vote against a beloved SFF personage.

    This is just such an incredibly manipulative and high-handed move.

  8. I think it’s bad enough we’re going to have one year of “officially nameless award”, so I would oppose any effort to stop the name Lodestar from being used ASAP. That said, I might be able to get behind an effort to rename it in, say, 2020, if it’s a really good proposal. Nothing wrong with renaming an award.

    It would have to be a really good proposal, though, because there’s been so much fighting over the name already. I mean, really, really good. Like, Ursula K. Le Guin good.

    If I recall correctly, the primary reason Le Guin was rejected earlier was because she was still alive. That objection, sadly, no longer stands.

    Unfortunately, the other objection to Le Guin is that YA is not really what she’s best known for (despite the existence of Earthsea). So it might have to be even better than that to get my support. I’m not sure.

    But yeah, this coy “we’re not going to tell you, because…reasons” nonsense is not a good look. I can completely understand opposing the proposal simply because of that, no matter what they come up with at the Grand Reveal.

  9. JJ on March 6, 2018 at 5:58 pm said:

    That reason being that revealing the name now would give people plenty of time to point out the very valid reasons why the proposed name is not a good idea, rather than forcing them to vote on it with very little time for consideration and putting them in the position of looking like jerks for appearing to vote against a beloved SFF personage.

    Unfortunately for them, if that is their plan, the new name will still have to be ratified by two sequential Worldcons, which gives us a year to investigate all the reasons why it’s a bad idea. But yeah, that was my first thought too.

  10. Xtifr: It would have to be a really good proposal, though, because there’s been so much fighting over the name already. I mean, really, really good. Like, Ursula K. Le Guin good… the other objection to Le Guin is that YA is not really what she’s best known for (despite the existence of Earthsea).

    I disagree that that would be a really good proposal.

    There is another objection which applies to the use of any author’s name: in 10 years or 20, a lot of YA readers of SFF will probably not have any idea who they are.

    As much as I love Le Guin — she was one of my earliest SFF experiences as a child — I think that if you took a survey of SFF readers aged between 12 and 18 today, I’m guessing that maybe 10% — 20% if you’re lucky — will actually know who she is. Whatever the percentage is, a decade from now it will be even smaller. The Earthsea Trilogy is no longer (and hasn’t been for years) what would be considered ubiquitous YA reading, I think. And, as you say, she’s not really a YA author.

    Those of us for whom Le Guin has been a seminal author — who came of age in SFF decades ago — would, of course, love to have an award named in her honor. But this award isn’t about us. It’s about young readers of SFF today. Naming the award after her would just be ego-stroking on our own behalf, rather than a constructive way to promote the award to young SFF readers.

  11. Yeah, I bet it’s Le Guin. I was thinking the wait was just to get all their i’s dotted and t’s crossed and that it would be revealed between now and the Business Meeting. On re-read seeing that it won’t be revealed until the Business Meeting, I’m leaning toward JJ’s assessment.

    And I agree with JJ’s thoughts on using anyone’s name. So did many on the YA committee that decided on Lodestar. It’s in their report.

  12. There is a procedural motion “object to consideration”. I’m guessing it’s part of Roberts, since it isn’t defined in the WSFS Standing Rules IIRC, it requires 2/3 to pass but is not debatable, and has been used in the past to get rid of a number of objectionable motions (including, in one memorable case, a motion to prevent the use of O2C). I won’t be in San Jose (barring very strange events), but I’m hoping it will be applied here. It’s also possible that the parliamentarian could rule that the motion was not properly filed if it wasn’t complete 14 days ahead, or that the makers must provide 200 copies because the full motion won’t have been published in advance, both per rule 2.1. (And if they were to try to put in Rowling’s name, as the motion hints, I hope they get laughed out of the room; AFAICT Rowling has nothing to do with the genre beside making a ton of money off it.) I don’t know most of the people signing this; I think less of the ones that I do for coming up with this mess.

  13. I don’t know what new name this is about, but I will just make a few comments.
    (This is the former Chair and Co-Chair of the YA Award Committee, btw).

    1) The YA Award Committee has no knowledge of this proposal and was not approached with any details of this proposal nor was the Committee asked to contribute expertise on the issue. If individual members were approached that I don’t know about, there are no members of the Committee included in the undersigned provided by Chris Barkley.

    2) For full disclosure, I was approached by Chris Barkley and told that something ‘hot’ was brewing, but no specifics were provided to me nor was I asked to pass any specifics on to past members of the Committee.

    3) If, as some people have speculated, this is about naming the award after Le Guin, then the proposers of the new name will still have to contend with the opposition by some Business Meeting members to the use of ANY person’s name for another Worldcon Award.

    4) If the proposal is instead to name the award after something like ‘Earthsea’ rather than Le Guin, I imagine that the ‘secrecy’ is because the Le Guin estate has been approached for permission to use the term, which the Le Guin estate owns the copyright to.

    5) On a personal note, the choice to embargo the name until the Business Meeting seems especially problematic because it does not allow extended debate nor sufficient research by a wider audience into potential complications/legal issues/cultural significance/etc.


  14. Not a fan of this at all, even if it is for Le Guin, or Earthsea. I would point out thatn Powers, Gifts, and Voices are recent YA books.

  15. I see that Juliette Wade has asked for her name to be removed from this recommendation. This is a big indication to me that the instigators of this idea gave a Brad-Torgersen-style explanation of the implications of the proposal (“It’ll be totally cool! Everyone will think it’s a great idea!”) to the other people they asked to support it, and did not adequately inform them of what was involved with the naming process and what has gone before with the YA Hugo committee. 🙁

    I apologize to Juliette, and to any of the other sponsors who were not given full information, for having this done to them.

    Also, I’m pretty disgusted if someone’s estate was given assurances that this was a “done deal”. NOT COOL. 😠

  16. There is very good reason why the name will not be revealed at this time and that explanation will also be given at that time.

    They want to name this after someone in memoriam, but the person isn’t quite dead yet?

  17. Melinda Snodgrass also confirmed in her posting that this is about Ursula K. Le Guin.

  18. Are any of the proposers particularly connected to YA – writing it, fans of it, etc? The YA award came about with strong involvement from the YA community – as is only right – and I wouldn’t like to see changes made without similar involvement.

  19. I’m sure Kevin will correct me, but IIRC:

    Objection to Consideration now requires 3/4 vote to succeed.

    Also, the Business Meeting is trying to use Postponed Indefinitely instead of OTC. This is debatable with 4 minutes of debate time and requires 2/3 to succeed.

    Finally, it if is a good idea, it will survive discussion and time. I am not a fan of “I have something I want to say, but you will have to wait to hear it.” The community should have plenty of time to hear the proposal, consider it, and discuss it.

  20. In principle, honouring Le Guin is an excellent idea.

    In practice, this would seem a very wrong-headed and ham-fisted way to go about it. If that’s actually what it is. (Sure, it makes sense for this to be about Le Guin – except for the part where they go all coy and don’t say so.)

    I suspect we’ve all had experiences with people saying “it’s going to be a surprise, but trust me, it will be totally awesome, OK?”…. “No, thanks” seems like the best answer, to me.

  21. I thought the whole point of fielding motions ahead of the BM was for everyone to have time to familiarise themselves with the issue in question to save time and redundant explanations at the meeting itself?

    So this is not only rude to the people who worked on the YA award committee and weren’t consulted, but it’s also a motion announcement that defeats the purpose of motion announcements?

  22. I can’t say that the Lodestar name inspires me, but this seems a pointless and stupid bit of undermining. Let it stand on it’s own two feet. If it can’t get any traction then fine, rename it, but let the people who fought for it have their chance.
    And the ‘We have an alternative name, but we won’t tell you’ is dingoes kidneys.

  23. Note that my name was included in the proposal in error – I’m not, nor ever was, a signatory. Chris will contact Mike to update the posting.

  24. Honestly, all of this hubbub is just noise. ANYONE can submit a name for consideration if they follow the correct procedures. Announcing that you want to submit a name but haven’t yet decided upon it or aren’t ready to reveal it is fine. It’s just a way of letting people know that a name is going to be submitted for consideration.

    If you think you know the name being submitted and you don’t like it, why not submit a name of your own?

    Honestly, this isn’t worth any of the hubbub going on.

    Truth is, I think people SHOULD be submitting names because “Lodestar” is the most awful name EVER. What does it even mean? How does it even relate to or apply to YA speculative fiction? 🙂 Perhaps a group of YA authors and readers could get together to suggest something.

  25. Oh my god they called Tamora Pierce a new writer in relation to the time when Harry Potter was published. Clearly they don’t know what they’re talking about.

  26. Erin Underwood: Complaining you don’t like a name when you can’t be arsed to even do a basic google search to learn what it means kind of undercuts any point you might have about its validity. And saying a bunch of YA writers and readers should get together when THAT IS HOW THE NAME WAS CHOSEN is just adding icing to the lack of credibility.

    (Since I knew what a lodestar was I thought the name made perfect sense, particularly for speculative fiction read by young or new readers.)

  27. “An equivalent weight to the name of John W. Campbell, Jr.” suggests to me a name that will lead a lot of people to wonder “who’s that?” and then google, go to Wikipedia, or even assume the organization picked a long-time member or volunteer who is of little importance to the world at large.

    Yes, Campbell was important to the history of the field. “Universally recognizable,” no, not even in the colloquial sense of “universal.” No name is universally recognizable by Earth’s seven and a half billion people, but if you want well-known and admired SFF-connected names, you could do a lot better than Campbell, or for that matter Hugo Gernsback.

    I hope that the reason for not disclosing the name now isn’t :”we don’t want to give people time to dig up the skeletons in their closet,” but closer to “let’s not spend the next several months arguing about whether their work is really YA, or really SF.” But it has more than a whiff of “our judgment is better than yours, we took time and picked someone we like from the set of all possible names, and want to limit the discussion to “yes/no” rather than “how influential was she?” and “is her work really YA?” and “she’s too literary” or “too feminist.”

    (I’m basing those possible questions on Snodgrass’s Facebook post; if the name they’re hiding from us is Le Guin the question being dodged isn’t “do we really want all three of the awards given at Worldcon to be named after white men?” (though the questions might include “should the World Science Fiction Society name all our awards after Americans?”)

  28. @Lenora Rose I’m entitled to my opinion that Lodestar is an awful name. That’s all I’m saying. It bothers me because (for me) it doesn’t connect for me with YA. Thus, my response of “what does it even mean?” Again, it just doesn’t stand out for me as YA. 🙂 If other people like it, fine. If other people don’t like it, fine. If people want to change it, fine…but I still get to think it’s an awful name.

    Also, I was talking about new name change submissions, not the past proposal that got approved. I do think that if someone wants to change the name, it would be best to get a bunch of YA authors and fans together to come up with a new idea to submit….and it should be an open process. I very much like open processes.

  29. @Erin Underwood

    Does the document that people have linked you to not show that an open process has already taken place?

    While I’m getting the impression from the article that a procedural manoeuvre is available to let a new name be substituted (I’m not a BM rules expert so can’t say for sure) that strikes me as effectively a trick to reopen an issue that was hashed out openly and at length. Everyone who disliked Lodestar had their chance to object already.

    This is possibly within the rules, but outside the spirit IMO.

  30. I agree, Lodestar is just not a good name. And I know what it means. I prefer to make the award a Hugo category or to give it a more appropriate name.

    I’d love to honor Le Guin, but superb and delightful as the early Earthsea books may have been, she just didn’t write much YA fiction. L’Engle seems more to the point to me. That being said I’d be more strongly in favor of a Le Guin award for best YA work than a Lodestar award.

  31. @Mark a side swap is definitely outside of the spirit of the awards as a whole. I agree totally. I also think many of the people named didn’t fully realize how this was being done and are fairly surprised by it all…but that’s just a guess.

    People against Lodestar should have spoken up at the time. Agreed. Still, I like that there are processes in place to allow for updates and alterations, but the timing of this and the process isn’t great.

  32. Erin Underwood: My objection was not to your dislike of the name. De Gustibus etc. Several other people said they didn’t like the name and I had nothing to say to them.

    But “What does it even mean?” doesn’t mean the same thing as “I don’t like it” or “I don’t see how it relates to YA” or “It sounds like a bad garage band.” It isn’t even close. Words do have meanings, and the ones you chose do not mean what you are trying to force them to mean.

    Sure, if a future group of people who don’t like the name want to stand up and offer a different one, woot. Especially if they are actual readers or writers of YA (Or MG, since we know both that Middle Grade is allowable and that the border is fuzzy.) But yeah, open process, and people whose interest is actually in the books which will be affected in future, and not some nostalgia for the books of their childhood.

  33. I think it’s reasonable for people who didn’t like the committee’s decision to decide to get involved after the fact, even though they weren’t passionate enough to get involved at the beginning. To argue otherwise is to say that once a committee has been named, it has no accountability to anyone. What if the committee had decided to call it the “Walter Breen Award for the Best Young Adult Book?” No one would be arguing that “oh well, if you had cared about it, you should have been involved in the first place.”

    What puzzles me about this effort is the secrecy. That was bound to blow up in their faces. I’m sure there’s some semi-reasonable explanation, but I’m intensely curious what it might be.

    That said, personally, I don’t think Lodestar is such a bad name. Even if it sounds funny now, I’m sure people will get used to it soon enough. I expect I’ll vote against this proposal if it comes up at the Business Meeting.

  34. Erin, you’re coming across as not having paid attention last year when this was being discussed. And as not having a clue why blindsiding people with “we want to submit a motion to name this award, but we won’t tell anyone the name until we get to the discussion” is a great way to lose support. (So is claiming support from people who apparently weren’t asked.)

    Oh, and *plonk*

  35. Getting some real Little Red Hen vibes here. Someone else did all the work, and now these folks want to nip to the head of the line and take control and praise, when they’ve been at best no help this whole time?

    And there’s so much that’s just WRONG here. Garth Nix and Tamora Pierce are new authors? They’ve been publishing YA since before today’s YA readers were even born. And NO, today’s YA readers aren’t going for McCaffrey (homophobic and frequently racist) or Heinlein (frequently sexist) or any of that old guard, because that stuff feels stone-aged by comparison to what they have access to now.

  36. Greg Hullender, the committee wasnt appointed as such. Anyone could join. Membership shifted steadily. But more important is the names were crowdsourced, discussed, put out for feedback etc etc and even then only a suggestion was made. The scenario you envisage was impossible with the process we used

    Your scenario is actually much closer to what Chris has tried to pull off.

  37. @LenoraRose True enough. I didn’t do a good job of communicating why Lodestar wasn’t my favorite name. Words do have meaning, and I threw out a reaction thinking everyone was psychic and would know what I meant. 🙂 Sorry about that.

  38. @PJ I think you may not have read all of my responses. I don’t like the name (never did). I don’t dislike it enough to personally get upset about it. If someone wants to submit a name change, I’m fine with that. If someone does submit a name change, they need to do it in an open and transparent process. AND, they should not ever use people’s names without asking and they should always share the text being posted and how it is going to be used BEFORE posting it so that people understand how the proposal will look to the outside world. This whole thing is a hot mess and was badly handled, and I know several people listed should not have been listed or weren’t adequately briefed on what they were supporting. Please don’t think I’m in favor of this particular plan because I am not.

  39. I’m all for honoring Le Guin. The YA award, despite Earthsea, seems a strange place to do it, but maybe.

    But trying to keep the name secret until they can spring it on the Business Meeting, to prevent any serious discussion of the suitability of the name–That’s a great, big, flashing, neon NOPE.

    And people who think Garth Nix and Tamora Pierce are “new” YA authors…you’ll just have to forgive me for not thinking their opinions on the matter are worth wasting time on.

  40. I would be less bothered with the “We’ll tell ya later” if it had come with an explanation (“we’ve gotta check trade mark status” or “we’re trying to secure famiy permission” or some such) It seems like a stall the way its worded, but if Chris had said “We need to do x before we can announce,” that feels a bit less stall-like.

    I do hate the Lodestar name though. Of the ones on that list, Tesseract is easily my fave, but I see the arguments for and against.

  41. Erin, thanks for being understanding, and for making the important distinction between disagreeing about a favorite name vs. disagreeing about, well, everything else about this particular proposal 🙂

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