Best Translated Novel
Hugo Category Proposed

Chris M. Barkley, Juli Marr, and Mark Richards have submitted an motion to create a new Hugo Awards category for Best Translated Novel. It will soon be listed on Dublin 2019’s New Business Agenda. (Update Barkley says this is the text they submitted, but some minor tweaks will be made to the language before it is posted online.)

D.1 Short Title: Best Translated Novel

Moved, to amend the WSFS Constitution for the purpose of creating a new Hugo Award category for Best Translated Novel, by inserting a new subsection after existing Section 3.3.4 and revising sections 3.2.5 and 3.2.6 as follows:

3.3.4: A science fiction or fantasy story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more that was translated and published into English for the first time within the previous calendar year. The Award will be given both to the writer(s) of the work and the credited translator(s) of the novel.

3.2.5: In the story categories (3.3.1-3.3.56 and 3.3.78), an author may withdraw a version of a work from consideration if the author feels that the version is not representative of what that author wrote.

3.2.6: The categories of Best Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story, and Best Translation shall be open to works in which the text is the primary form of communication, regardless of the publication medium, including but not limited to physical print, audiobook, and ebook.

Provided that unless this amendment is re-ratified by the 2022 Business Meeting, this Section shall be repealed and; and

Provided further that the question of re-ratification shall automatically be placed on the agenda of the 2022 Business Meeting.

  • Proposed by: Mark Richards (Attending Member), Juli Marr (Attending Member) and Chris M. Barkley (Attending Member).  

Commentary by Chris M. Barkley and Rachel Cordasco:

Eighty years ago, in July 1939, NYCon 1, the very first World Science Fiction Convention was held in New York City.

The title “World Science Fiction Convention” was a bit of a misnomer; it was about as accurate and plausible as baseball’s championship title “World Series” is today. It was named as such in honor of the World’s Fair exhibition being held nearby in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

We have no doubt that while many of the convention’s participants (and those who were excluded for political reasons) imagined science fiction and fantasy literature had a future, at the time the only thing they could be sure of at that time was that war was on the immediate horizon.

As the decades passed, sf and fantasy literature not only took hold in North American and England, it became a worldwide cultural phenomenon.

And as the Hugo Award grew in stature, so did its reputation outside the confines of the English speaking nations where it was born and nurtured.

Until recently, a majority of the nominated writers in the fiction categories have been dominated by English language authors. In 2015, Cixin Liu’ s The Three Body Problem (translated by Ken Liu) became the first novel translated from another language to win the Hugo Award.

Since then there have been very few non-English language nominees in the fiction categories although there have been two winners in the short fiction categories (Hao Jingfang, also from China and Thomas Olde Heuvelt of the Netherlands).

We feel that it is high time that the World Science Fiction Society honor writers from around the world with one of literature’s highest honors.

Each year, US/UK/Australian publishers are giving us more SF in translation (SFT) to read from countries like France, Iraq, Argentina, Japan, Finland, Israel, and many others. In recent years, the number of translated speculative novels has risen to 60-70. After several decades of speculative fiction flowing mostly from the US and UK into other countries, the tide seems to be turning and people who grew up reading translations of Anglophone science fiction or fantasy have been inspired to become translators themselves. Plus, more presses and magazines are open to SFT, and we now have two online publications that actually specialize in international speculative fiction (Samovar Magazine and Future Science Fiction Digest).

The Hugo Award, like the annual Worldcons, are sponsored by the World Science Fiction Society, and it is this inclusion of the word “world” that is at issue when discussions of a “Best Translated Novel” come up. As Donald Wollheim once wrote, “We science fiction readers whose native language happens to be English-…tend to a curious sort of provincialism in our thinking regarding the boundaries of science fiction. We tend to think that all that is worth reading and all that is worth noticing is naturally written in English. In our conventions and our awards and our discussions we slip into the habit of referring to our favorites as the world’s best this and the “world’s best that.” 

Shouldn’t the Hugo Awards recognize more than just those texts originally written in English? SFT is more popular than some people think, and if given the opportunity to recognize a non-Anglophone novel, SFT readers would probably jump at the chance. It’s time to shrug off our Anglocentric perspective, especially in relation to a genre that encourages us to look beyond our immediate environs and learn about those who are sometimes radically different from us.

Simply put, if the Best Novel Category is the equivalent of the Academy Award for Best Picture, the Best Translated novel can serve as our Best Foreign Film. If France, Spain, Israel, China, and other countries can successfully include a “Best Translated Novel” category in their SF awards, so can the US/UK-dominated Hugos.

As the noted philosopher and American football coach George Allen once sagely noted, “The Future is NOW.”

54 thoughts on “Best Translated Novel
Hugo Category Proposed

  1. If there were such an award for 2018 work, what novels would people here have nominated?

  2. I like the idea of it.

    As I race to get through as many of the Hugo Finalists as possible before the end of the month, I am not 100% sure I would like the reality of another category to have to get through.

    No, my scream of horror and panic is not in any way a reasoned argument.

  3. @David Shallcross

    Looking at my longlist from last year, I didn’t have any translations in novel, although I did like and note down a few shorter works in translation (all from Clarkesworld).

    sfintranslation.com did a poll for last year that might help show what was out there.

    A couple of thoughts – doesn’t this rather break the unwritten rule that Hugo categories shouldn’t overlap? Three Body Problem could/would have won two Hugos in 2015 under this category.

    If the intention is to honour and encourage translations, why only novels? There’s plenty going on at shorter lengths.

  4. I like this idea a lot and personally, a translated fiction category would be more of interest to me than a games category.

    Though it would have to be a not-a-Hugo or a Hugo for the Best Translator, which would also cover short fiction.

  5. Yes, I think best translated fiction (any length) would work better for nominations, but could be odd when ranking if length varied greatly between finalists. And agree about Not-a-Hugo.

  6. @Cora

    Yes, I can see significantly more mileage in Best Translator, as it would immediately cover more ground. Not sure how I would judge how good a translation was from a language I don’t read though.

  7. Thinking: Best Translated Novel … Novella … Novelette … Short Story … Related Work …
    (The list is long — Dirac Angestun Gesept)

  8. I’m not sure why a separate category is needed – as the article points out, translated works are already winning the Hugo.

  9. One hypothetical way to avoid the dual-eligibility issue would be to restrict “best novel” only to works originally written in English. I’m not in the slightest saying this would be a good idea on philosophical grounds. On the other hand, if a “best translated novel” category (of whatever status) existed, what are the chances that someone contemplating a translated novel for nomination would nominate it in “best novel” rather than “best translated novel” (where the pool of competition would be smaller)?

    Granted, under the current system, very few translated works have won Hugos. But let’s be honest, very few works period have won Hugos when compared to all the existing SFF that is published. Is it proportionately harder for a translated work to win best novel under the current system? Hard to say. Would it be easier for any particular excellent translated novel to win “best translated novel” than “best novel”? Quite possibly. What would the consequences of that be?

    I enjoy seeing people poke at the current Hugo/Not-a-Hugo award system to think about how it might be better aligned with the world of fandom as it currently exists. But it’s also easy to see that if that realignment always results in expansion of categories and scope, then it will also drift further in the direction of specialization of interest with regard to nomination/voting interest. What would the consequences of that be?

    I have to say that, while I admire how well thought out some of these new proposals are, I wouldn’t mind needing a few years to poke at the sociological implications as well as the structural implication. Not that I have any idea what that would look like in specifics.

  10. I’m not convinced Best Translated Work is a viable category. However, a translated work winning in two categories isn’t a problem. We do not allow duplicate Finalists:

    3.2.9: “No work shall appear in more than one category on the final Award ballot.”

    If we added a Best Translated Work Hugo category, and we got another Three Body Problem, the rights holder would get to decide which category to put it in, just like BDP: Long and BDP: Short.

    This is one reason why I would have strongly preferred that the Lodestar be a Best YA Hugo award. We HAVE a mechanism to make sure The Graveyard Book doesn’t appear on the ballot in two categories. We don’t need a not-a-Hugo award to prevent that. As it stands now, a Young Adult story could appear on the ballot in both Best Novel and as a Lodestar finalist. I would not want to see that for a Best Translated Work.

  11. As a second-language speaker of English myself I wish I liked this proposal, but honestly I don’t know what I would nominate and I assume most people also wouldn’t know what to put forward. If the general rule of thumb is that the nominating public should have roughly 15 Hugo-worthy works to pick from a year I don’t know how that can possibly square up. Of course more than 15 worthy translated works EXIST but do people nominating know more than one or two at best? I don’t think I would without doing a lot of prior research.

    As for Best Translator, I understand that it would prevent overlap but that is even more obscure than Translated Work. The average WSFS member who would be nominating definitely does not know 15 translators – it would also be very difficult to gauge the Hugo-worthiness of a translation having not read the original and not knowing the craft. I suspect it would be a divisive category along the lines of Best Editor.

  12. There are a number of concerns with this proposal which I would like to address.

    First of all, a potential Translated Work category has been part of the brief for consideration by the Hugo Award Category Committee this year and last year. This committee was established by the members of the WSFS Business Meeting to discuss and possibly propose changes to the existing Hugo Award structure. There are known issues with a number of categories, regarding which works or persons are eligible, as well as issues of discoverability and low participation.

    After considerable discussion, the committee’s decision last year was to recommend further study, a recommendation which was endorsed by the members at the WSFS Business Meeting.

    I did several hours last year doing research and laying the groundwork for building a case to support the establishment of a Translated Work Hugo:

    Make It So: Adding A New Hugo Award Category

    At the time, I offered this groundwork to three different people who were vocally and publicly advocating establishment of such a category. None of them were willing to take it and run with it. So I asked Mike Glyer if he would be willing to publish it, in the hope that someone else would be willing to pick it up and run with it.

    In the more than a year since I did this work, no one has done any further work to build a case for this category, with the exception of the survey mentioned above, which had the following serious structural problems that prevented it from being meaningful in terms of evidence to support the establishment of this category:
    1. It provided extensive longlists of 2018 works, and all voters had to do was tick a box next to one of them in each category — rather than come up with works they’d actually read on their own and write them in for each category;
    2. There was no attempt to safeguard against one person voting as many times as they wanted;
    3. There was no attempt to determine whether the people who were voting were eligible Hugo nominators.

    There were zero Translated Works on any of the Hugo longlists in 2018.

    There are no Translated Works on this year’s Hugo ballot.

    There were a grand total of 11 Translated Works on the Hugo longlists in the 10 years before that.

    The reason Chris Barkley has submitted this proposal himself is because the committee was not going to be submitting it at the WSFS Business Meeting, due to the lack of evidence that it would be a viable category.

    Astute readers will notice that while there is a lot of flowery language in the proposal, there is a profound dearth of evidence that a sufficient number of Hugo nominators are reading and putting enough Translated Works on their nominating ballot to make the category a viable one.

    It is also disturbing that although there are members of the Hugo Award Category Committee who reside in countries where English is not the first language, none of them are listed as sponsors of this proposal. Either those people were not consulted in the preparation of this proposal, or they were unwilling to lend their names to it.

  13. There are lots of things that could be done to make fans from non-English speaking countries feel more welcome at Worldcon and to get them interested in attending, and there are things which can be done to promote Translated Works to Worldcon members.

    1 – Start an online Worldcon Translated Work Book Club (Unofficial) and run it all year round, year after year. Promote it in SFF forums and sites where non-English-speaking SFF fans hang out. Use it to get the club members not only discussing Translated Works, but interested in the idea of participating in Worldcon.

    2 – Ask the sitting Worldcon to allow supporters to set up a Translated Work mini-track for the programme schedule, and come up with panel ideas which are more interesting and provocative than just “SFF in Translation” — topics which will pique members’ interest and draw in people who haven’t read Translated Works. (It’s too late for Dublin, but CoNZealand might be a possibility.)

    3 – Recruit fans who are attending cons in their own non-English-speaking countries to work a Worldcon promotion table at those cons. Sitting Worldcons would love to have this promotion, and would probably be able to cover all or part of the cost of the table, if there is one, as well as providing promotional materials.

    4 – Start a Translated Works Fan Fund. Raise money to bring non-English SFF writers and their Translators to Worldcon. TAFF, GUFF, and DUFF have $5-a-vote for candidates, which prompts competition for the candidates to promote the fund and get their friends and people in their fandom communities to participate. Perhaps pick 2 or 3 likely candidates from different global regions and then promote the hell out of the fund in forums where their fans would be present (just as an example, perhaps one from the Asia-Pacific region, one from the EU, one from Africa, one from Latin America). Figure out a monetary goal whereby all candidates would be able to attend, and push for that.

    5 – Have a fan table in the Dealer Room at Worldcon and have it staffed by people who can engage members passing by in discussion about just-released or soon-to-be-released Translated Works. Have 1/4 sheets of paper printed up to give away which list and promote such works, so that people have a reminder after the con to seek those works out. Give away buttons or badge ribbons promoting Translated Works, and hand out paper bookmarks with the Fan Fund’s website URL and Book Club URL.

    Trying to bring in enough members who would nominate Translated Works in sufficient quantities by creating a Hugo Category for it — without ending up with a cancelled category — is trying to get the cart to pull the horse. Instead, spend a few years exercising the horse and building it up into a strong performer which is getting several Translated Works onto the Hugo longlists each year — and then work toward getting a Hugo category for it.

    Is all of this a great deal of work? Yes. But this is the kind of thing that WSFS members will want to see in order to support a Translated Work Hugo category.

    Right now, we are kind of at Hugo Category Saturation — where Hugo nominating and voting have already reached a level where it’s too difficult for one member to participate in all, or even most, categories, and there is a lot of resistance among WSFS members to add more categories.

    If the people who support the establishment of the category aren’t even willing to make an effort to build a case for it, then it doesn’t indicate a high level of serious interest for it, and WSFS members aren’t likely to support it, either.

    I encourage the supporters of a Translated Work category to actually dig in and start doing the work to get current Worldcon members reading and nominating translated works. Last year’s Worldcon in San Jose was an opportunity to start doing so — and that opportunity was wasted. This year’s Worldcon in Dublin was an opportunity, but it’s now too late to do much of anything more than whatever might have been done (and it is not clear that anything has been done). But there is still time to get started on doing some significant work for next year’s Worldcon.

  14. @Claire Rousseau

    If the general rule of thumb is that the nominating public should have roughly 15 Hugo-worthy works to pick from a year

    I’ve never heard this rule of thumb before. Is it just me? Is it fairly broadly understood?

  15. @bill I believe it’s broadly understood as the rule for proposing a new category, ie. The folks putting forward the proposal need to demonstrate that there are at least 15 Hugo-worthy works in the category.

    @Jo would know, I think. Is that correct or am I misremembering?

  16. Your regular reminder: you are not required to nominate or vote in every category. If they keep adding categories, this may become more and more important to remember. 🙂

    Anyway, I like the idea, but, like a lot of other folks here, I’m far from convinced that it’s practical or could be viable. (What if they gave an award and nobody came? Or nominated?) I think we need more proof-of-concept before we start trying to amend the constitution.

  17. Claire, I think that is what would be called “conventional wisdom” among WSFS members, a sort of criteria which has been used in the past to figure out whether a given proposed category would be viable due to a robust amount of participation by nominators.

    “Hugo-worthy” is of course a highly-subjective term. It’s probably more helpful to think of it as “are there 15 possible candidates on which a lot of Hugo nominators are likely to converge, as opposed to a ‘long tail’ of works which each only get a few nominations?”.

    Such a convergence would require that those works have been widely-read and considered high-quality by a non-trivial number of Hugo nominators.

  18. I found lots of good books on Rachel Cordasco’s list and would have had no problem finding five books to nominate.

    The problem, as Jo said, is the lack of outreach. The books exist, but people don’t know about them. Rachel does great work to promote SFF in translation, but not enough folks pay attention yet. Plus, translated works are often published by small presses from outside the genre and are not promoted to SFF readers, so potential Hugo voters don’t know about them.

    For example, I spotted “The Abolition of Species” by Dietmar Dath on Rachel’s list. It’s a very good book and won the Kurd-Laßwitz Preis for Best Novel in 2009. However, until I saw Rachel’s list, I didn’t even know it was available in English. I haven’t seen it reviewed at any of the usual SFF review sites. Another problem here is that to me, “The Abolition of Species” is an older book that came out ten years ago, which is also why I wouldn’t have nominated it for a regular Hugo, even if I had known about the translated edition, because to me it’s a 2008 book. And in fact, a lot of times when I see German SFF books translated into English, my intial thought is, “Wait a minute, which book was that again?” because it’s a couple of years old and the author had published three other books since then.

    As for people worried that they wouldn’t be able to judge a translated work, if they can’t read the original, most national SFF awards in non-English speaking countries have categories for translated works and somehow, people are able to vote on these works, even if they don’t speak the source language. And the finalists are not just books translated from English either.

    The main problem here is that English speaking countries simply don’t have a culture or tradition of reading translated works. The translation quota in English speaking countries is much lower than anywhere else. And those books that are translated often sink without a trace, because they aren’t promoted enough. And if a translated book gets a promotional push such as “The Three-Body Problem”, look what happens.

    As for promoting international works at WorldCon, I don’t know if WorldCon 77 has any “international SFF” or “SFF in translation” panels. However, they definitely have panels about international SFF TV and international comics.

    Regarding foreign fans and the Hugos, I talked to several German fans at WorldCon 75 in Helsinki and a lot of them said that they don’t paticipate in the Hugos, because – quote – they don’t know those books and people. Several didn’t even know about the Hugo voter packet. And mind you, this is a self-selected subset of German fans who care enough to attend WorldCon and speak enough English to understand what’s going on.

    I have no idea how to fix this either, cause IMO the progress reports and mailings are pretty clear with regard to how the Hugos work, where the get the voter packet and what it is, etc… Of course, it’s possible that international fans don’t always read the progress reports.

  19. @Xtifr: I completely agree (and I don’t vote on every category myself, e.g. I don’t listen to podcasts) but I find myself uncomfortable when I consider the concept of a ballot for which almost nobody can vote in all categories. Aside from my personal qualms, note also section 3.12.2, requiring that a category receive votes on at least 25% of the ballots or it is No Awarded.

    Having said that, my biggest issue with this category in particular is a likely lack of interest by nominators as argued above.

  20. I’ll echo Jo Van Ekeren and Cora Buhlert. I am against the proposal at this time, I think there needs to be more groundwork done before this. Creating fan awareness is the first step.

  21. I’m finding something troubling about how this proposal has been put, especially when compared to the Best Game proposal. The supporters of Best Game have put out a well thought out and comprehensive explanation with lots of detail, and are looking for feedback before they submit a formal amendment.
    In contrast, it appears from the article that this amendment is already submitted. There’s quite a contrast there in the desire to listen to feedback and build support.
    Now I also see Jo van Eckeren telling us that the idea has been given a lot of thought by the study committee but they’ve been unable to recommend moving forward on it. You’d have thought that the response to that would be to look at the problems and start on some of the possible solutions (lots of good ideas in Jo’s post) but instead the plan appears to be to short circuit the study committee process already underway and try to jump straight to the BM. This doesn’t sit well with me.

  22. ticking the box to read later…

    (currently reading Ready-Made Bodhisattva – a collection of short stories and excerpts of Korean SFF)

  23. @Mark
    I completely agree. I personally would be more likely to participate in a translated work category than a game category. But the contrast in the consideration put into that proposal and this one is really striking. Consequently I find myself more interested in discussion of the game proposal.

    And, of course, the current categories really need refinement before continuing to add more. As much as I enjoyed the art books this year, I hope it just reminds people to look at them for related work instead of making it an ongoing category.

  24. Another way to do this would be to create a special award. If a translated work wins in any category then the special award would be presented to the translator alongside the category award given to the author.

  25. @Stuart

    The translator gets the Hugo too. At least Ken Liu got it for translating The Three-Body Problem. I don’t know if that’s a set thing.

  26. @Laura
    The translator definitely gets a Hugo alongside the author. Ken Liu got Hugos for translating “The Three Body Problem” and “Folding Beijing” and Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s translator, whose name I have forgotten, got a Hugo as well for “The Day the World Turned Upside Down”.

    And for the record, I am not against the proposal and I’m far more likely to participate in a Best Translated Novel Hugo than in a games Hugo. However, I feel that this proposal is not very well thought out compared to the games proposal. Plus, there are structural issues with regard to the low interest of English language readers in fiction in translation that must be overcome first.

    Crime fiction readers do read translated fiction, probably due to the popularity of so-called nordic noir fiction. But SFF readers rarely do.

  27. This comment will be even more vague and speculative than normal.

    Is there a way of having some sort of semi/in-training/not-actually-awards-yet category that allows participation and builds awareness but doesn’t actually count? I don’t mean the occasional categories a specific Worldcon might add, I mean something where fans nominate and vote etc but it sort of doesn’t count? I can see why that wouldn’t work but…with this and the game proposal I’d like to try-before-you-buy a bit more to see how the category would develop organically.

    e.g. maybe a nomination category that generates a short list of “highlighted works” in a category but there’s no winner or trophy but maybe the list gets read out at the ceremony. That could still be sufficiently fun to encourage participation and would get people thinking about what should of won.

  28. @camestros I like the idea of a highlight list, but more as a tool for outreach / to get SFF fandom into reading more translated fiction. I’m not sure right now there’s not enough interest or knowledge for a public vote.

    I’d love to see a future Worldcon organise an honor list awarded by a jury of interested & qualified folks. An honour list could be revealed during the opening ceremony, we could also have a panel where the jury discussed the year in translated works. It would be a good way to drum up interest for a possible future category.

  29. A few thoughts on “Best Translation” ….

    “3.2.5: In the story categories (3.3.1-3.3.56 and 3.3.78), an author may withdraw a version of a work from consideration if the author feels that the version is not representative of what that author wrote.”

    Should the translator be allowed to withdraw the work from consideration? One reason could be that the translator feels the translation was rushed due to publisher demands.

    How do the voters determine if the translation is a good translation of the original work? This Guardian article looks at one controversy: https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2018/jan/15/lost-in-mistranslation-english-take-on-korean-novel-has-critics-up-in-arms

    And lastly … Jules Verne. Since 1965 there have been a number of new and reasonably accurate translations of his works. It would be amusing if a newly translated Verne made it onto the Hugo ballot. A 14 year old article about the awfulness of the many Verne translations: http://jv.gilead.org.il/evans/VerneTrans(article).html

  30. @Michael J. Walsh: tldr Smith and Han worked closely together on the translation of The Vegetarian and Han approved of it, including changes made.

    Smith has also translated Human Acts and The White Book into English, and I suspect she wouldn’t be doing that if Han or their publisher were unhappy with how she handled The Vegetarian.

    Smith now also has a UK-based imprint that specialises in less-translated languages, Korean among them – Tilted Axis Press.

  31. Oh and that Guardian article boils down into “man has poor opinion of good book, blames poor translation by female translator while admitting he doesn’t understand the original Korean anyway”

  32. Michael J. Walsh:

    “How do the voters determine if the translation is a good translation of the original work?”

    Tolkien was notoriously dissatisfied with the old swedish version of Lord of The Rings. His demand was that if Silmarillion was to published in Sweden, it needed another translator. The old translator, Åke Ohlmark, tried to burglar into Tolkien’s house to read the manuscript.

    Ohlmark had a tendensy to add extra words to sentences to get a different flow. As an example, Tolkien wrote:

    “Night slowly passed. The sun rose. The hobbits rose rather later.”

    Ohlmarks version:

    “The night slowly passed towards dawn. The sun rose, but the hobbits usually rose rather later than that.”

    There was lots of that stuff in the translation and I remember how terse the original sounded to me the first time I read it in english. On the other hand, Ohlmark did a better work at the songs than the later translator.

  33. Michael J. Walsh: How do the voters determine if the translation is a good translation of the original work?

    I wouldn’t. I would simply judge the English work. You wouldn’t necessarily have access to the original language version anyway.

    I remember reading a short fiction piece called “Untilted” by K.A. Teryna. It was translated from Russian by Alex Shvartsman. I liked the story itself, but it involved some wordplay which must have been tricky to translate. So I was impressed with the translation even though I don’t read a bit of Russian. (Both versions are in the Sept 2018 issue of Samovar.)

  34. Laura: I wouldn’t. I would simply judge the English work. You wouldn’t necessarily have access to the original language version anyway.

    That’s very much how I expect people would deal with the category. Therefore, in practice, it is just another category for English-language works.

  35. On the other hand, I would never re-read a Swedish book in english before nominating it. When I nominated Simon Stålenhag, I did it based on the swedish versions I owned.

  36. If a German novel in translation (or a novel in another language I understand well enough to read) were nominated for a Hugo, I might check out the translated version in the Hugo voter packet to compare it to the original, but I would largely judge it on the base of the original.

    For example, for the Retro Hugos I revisited The Glass Bead Game and Münchhausen in German, because those are the copies I have.

  37. @Mike Glyer: Sure. Of course, it says “Best Translated Novel,” not “Best Translation of a Novel,” and the proposed 3.3.4 seems to bear that out. So how well it was translated doesn’t seem directly relevant just based on how it’s proposed. Which is fine to me, since I’m not bilingual. 😉 I’m not sure I’d even want to try reading a novel in Spanish, the language I know best after English. And what’re the odds of most finalists being in Spanish, anyway.

  38. From the proposal: “Shouldn’t the Hugo Awards recognize more than just those texts originally written in English?”

    It can and does; there is no built-in restriction preventing it. If nominations and wins are few and far between, that tells me this new category, if it happens, won’t fare much better. This isn’t a “build it and they will come” kinda thing, IMHO.

    I’d rather see people promoting and recommending more translated works – if that’s a thing people want to do, that is. Not as a prelude to a new Hugo category, but instead of adding yet another category for novels. I mean, gah, we already have essentially almost four novel categories: Novel, YA (mostly novels), Series (usually sets of novels), and Best New Writer (not just novels, but ISTM many people are nominated on the strength of their novels). Do we really need another novel category, and one that seems likely to be sparse? IMHO no.

  39. @bill: We get 6 finalists based on nominating 5; I sure hope there are a lot more than 6 potential finalists in any given year! And I don’t mean “more than 6 novels translated into English.”

    So like some others, I’d like the proposers to do the homework they should’ve included above. They should list a few years of a decent number of solid potential finalists. Yes, it’s subjective, but the point is to show that they know what they’re talking about and the category idea has depth and there are things real people would find and nominate. Hopefully at least one of the proposers is familiar with and reads translated novels, else why even propose the category, IMHO.

    Hopefully they’ll prepare information like this before the business meeting and have it ready when the time comes. 🙂

  40. The 1993 Worldcon used its Special Category authority to create a Best Translator category. When only one person received more than 9 nominations, we dropped the category for lack of interest.

    I was one of the Hugo Awards Administration Subcommittee that year, and the three of us Administrators that year unanimously agreed that this category didn’t have enough interest to justify presenting it.

    Before we create categories for either Translated Work or Translator, I’d like to see such categories run as Special Categories by Worldcons again to test whether there is sufficient interest.

    Regarding the 15 works rule of thumb, the reason for it is “It should be an honor to make the shortlist.” If there are fewer than 15 works per year, you end up with a situation where you get “spear-carriers” filling up the ballot, and that seems like a bad idea to me.

  41. Pingback: Hugo Proposal for Best Translated Novel – Neil Clarke

  42. As a Chilean SF writer, if a novel of mine is translated to English… and it is good enough, I want to run for the Hugo of Best Novel, not the best translation. You should create a Hugo for best novel in a foreign language if you want to support internationalization, but not a Hugo for translations.

    Rodrigo Juri
    SFWA associate member

  43. Neil Clarke has weighed in, with some very interesting comments:

    The biggest problem I have with this proposal is the message it sends not only to domestic readers, but foreign authors, editors, and publishers: translated works are not as good as ours, so we’re making a special category for you so you can get awards too. I don’t believe that’s the intention of those who drafted this proposal. I think they approached it with the best of intentions, but simply got it wrong. For years now, I have been making the case that we should be treating translated and international works as equals: stories worthy of standing alongside those we have routinely seen published. This proposal sends the opposite message, and on those grounds intend to vote no.

    As Clarke is an enthusiastic publisher of translations I think his points carry weight.

  44. Kevin Standlee did a better job of articulating my main objection than I did: a category like this needs a trial run–a Special Category created by the ConCom–before we even think about making it permanent.

    In fact, I’d almost like to make that a rule: no new permanent categories unless they have been tried as a one-time Special Category. With, perhaps, a codicil that any Special Category which two ConComs in a row have tried will automatically become a candidate for a new permanent category (in case someone stumbles across some obviously great new category that we want to get added as soon as possible).

    As for the “it’s insulting” argument, well, I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s an interesting argument. However, translated works should still be eligible for the other Hugo categories, so I’m ambivalent.

    But as it stands, I think there are sufficient reasons for a resounding “no!” on this particular proposal. Petition for a Special Category first, and then we’ll talk….

  45. In fact, I’d almost like to make that a rule: no new permanent categories unless they have been tried as a one-time Special Category. With, perhaps, a codicil that any Special Category which two ConComs in a row have tried will automatically become a candidate for a new permanent category (in case someone stumbles across some obviously great new category that we want to get added as soon as possible). — Xtifr

    I’d like to offer some clarification of how Special Hugo Categories work.

    Each Worldcon is permitted — if they wish — to create a one-time Hugo Category for their Hugo Awards. This is directly under the control of the con committee, and more specifically a decision of the con chair(s) and their WSFS Division Head.

    Under the current WSFS Constitution, WSFS does not have the authority to command a Worldcon to run a trial category, nor to specify what that trial category will be (and this is not likely to change). They can pass a resolution or recommendation suggesting this to a Worldcon, but they cannot enforce it, and any Worldcon is free to ignore such a resolution or recommendation.

    Sometimes a Worldcon will have their own agenda, well ahead of time, on what use they want to make of their special Hugo category. Sometimes a Worldcon will be agreeable to using their special Hugo category for a purpose suggested by someone inside or outside of their committee. Sometimes a Worldcon will not be interested in, or willing to, add a special Hugo category (especially if they are also doing Retro Hugo Awards).

    In other words, in order to get a Hugo Special Category Trial, you have to be extremely persuasive and/or in a position of influence with a given Worldcon.

    I don’t think that a codicil, regarding the same Special Category which has been run two years in a row then becoming mandated as a regular category, is necessary, or even a good idea. If such a category was a resounding success two years in a row, WSFS members would be likely to propose making it permanent (and if they did not, it would almost certainly be for good reasons).

    And if the response was anaemic in one or both years, making it a permanent category would certainly not be a good idea. A permanent Best Original Artwork category ran from 1990 to 1996 and was finally cancelled due to desultory participation; in 1996 the top nominee had 25 nominations, and the 5th-place finalist on the ballot had 8.

  46. Yeah, I think a lot more work would need to be done before a Worldcon could realistically even consider running this as a Special Hugo. Best Series was at the ratification stage when it was a Special Hugo — it was the last test before making it a regular Hugo after years of refinement. Art Book worked this year because they are a subset of the existing Best Related Work. I think testing this in the next year or so without some serious refinement and prep would fall flat on its face.

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