Editor’s Introduction: the fans behind the Best Saga Hugo category have collated all the discussion and feedback they received on the original draft and have rewritten the proposal. Jared Dashoff asked me to post the latest revision so File 770 readers can make more comments. As he explains below, that may lead to ideas that will go into a final draft.
By Jared Dashoff: Thanks for offer to post the revision. I have attached what we’ve got. You’ll note there are two submissions, one to add Best Saga and one to deal with multiple nominations wherein the same work appears in multiple categories in the same year. This would stop a novel in a series from appearing on the same final ballot as the series, and, if a YA or other segment award ever shows up, a work appearing in that category and the category it fits in by length.
Please note in the post that we are asking for feedback on this, most importantly constructive criticism. We are still trying to find the perfect word count that incorporates a series built on short fiction, but doesn’t get overwhelmed by long novels with extra works tacked on. We are also refining our discussion points to mirror the word count and the final wording of the proposal.
We have submitted an older version of this to Sasquan (in the time it took to get that up, we made enough changes, we thought you should have an updated version) and, based on what we hear back, we’ll likely revise again before the cutoff for New Business.
Short Title: Best Series (revised June 24, 2015)
Moved, to amend the WSFS Constitution to change the written fiction Hugo Award categories by creating a Best Series award and correcting related references to the existing Hugo Award categories by adding words as follows:
- Insert words in existing Section 3.2.4 as follows:
3.2.4 Works appearing in a series are eligible as individual works, but the series as a whole is not eligible, except under Section 3.3.X. However, a work appearing in a number of parts shall be eligible for the year of the final part.
- Insert the following section after existing Section 3.3.4:
3.3.X Best Series A work of science fiction or fantasy, presented as a single series with a unifying plot, characters, or setting, appearing in at least three (3) volumes consisting of a total of at least 240,000 words by the close of the previous calendar year, at least one of which was published in the previous calendar year. If such a work has previously been a finalist, it shall be eligible only if at least two (2) additional volumes consisting of total of at least 240,000 words have been published since its last appearance on the final ballot by the end of the previous calendar year, and provided it has not won under 3.3.X before.
- Insert the following before existing Section 3.8.3:
3.8.X For nominations of works under Section 3.3.X, if a work is eligible as both an overarching series and a subset of that series, and if the work receives sufficient nominations, either as the overarching series or as a subset, or through the sum of the nominations for both, to appear on the final ballot, the Worldcon Committee shall determine how the work shall appear, after consulting with the author of the work insofar as it is possible to do so under the provisions of Section 3.9.
Proposed by: Warren Buff, Jared Dashoff, William Lawhorn, Michael Lee, Pablo Vasquez
Discussion:The goal of this amendment is to provide Hugo categories more in line with today’s science fiction and fantasy publishing norms and to further create categories that compare like items. It accomplishes this by creating an award that recognizes works that appear in multi-volume series, a large and growing segment of the publishing sector and one unrecognized by the Hugos to date. Furthermore, stories told in this format tend to consist mainly of books which are not ideal examples of novels, in part due to the presence of narrative arcs which remain unresolved between their covers. While this narrative sweep is not to the taste of all readers, it nonetheless represents a stylistically distinct form of storytelling, and its exemplars deserve recognition.
The majority of original novels (somewhere around two thirds) in the genre being published today are part of larger series, if the new releases of Tor/Forge, Baen, Pyr, and DAW are any indication. Yet for the past decade, the Best Novel category has been dominated by stand-alone works, with nine out of the eleven winners being such (and one of the two series novels is a first book in its series). The distribution of Best Novel winners is badly out of step with the general shape of the market, even though the nominees run close to the market trend. This could be a sign that while the Hugo nominators appreciate series work, the general voter pool prefers stand-alone novels when considering which should win Best Novel or that comparing stand-alone works to works in a series is difficult. While series novels performed better in the past, the expansion of the voter pool has not been a kind era for them.
By setting the minimum for nomination at 240,000 words across multiple volumes, works are required to provide substantial material within the same saga to be nominated and substantial new material to be eligible for a second nomination. The number also reflects typical book contracts for newer SF authors, which often come in around 80,000 to 100,000 words. Established authors, especially those working in high fantasy, sometimes deliver much longer works.
For reference, The Lord of the Rings was around 473,000 words. Volumes in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time ranged between 226,000 and 393,000 words, which would have triggered new eligibility every other volume.While George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire has had volumes of over 400,000 words, and would have triggered fresh eligibility as many as three times in its five volumes to date on word count alone, the requirement to publish multiple volumes to gain fresh eligibility would restrict it to twice. Among series which placed their third or later book onto Locus’s lists in 2013 and 2014, the majority had already crossed 300,000 words, while a few were close to the cut-off. The bulk of the series were in their third or fourth entry, while eight of the 31 were beyond their fifth. The lowest total, around 150,000, came from Alan Garner’s Weirdstone sequence, consisting of two children’s novels from the 1960s and an adult novella. The two middle-grade series to place a book on the list, Lois Lowry’s Giver and Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland series, came in below the threshold, while most of the young adult series came in above it. Young adult series varied wildly, with trilogies ranging from about 230,000 words (Holly Black’s Curse Workers) to over 480,000 (Tamora Pierce’s Beka Cooper). Several other series, most of which would tend to gain eligibility every two or three volumes, are documented at http://cesspit.net/drupal/node/1869/
The work need not be that of a single author, and collaborative efforts that hang together well enough for the voters and authors to consider them a single work are eligible. For reference, the Wild Cards Series has had numerous contributors over several decades, but each new novel or collection ties into all that has come before. The Ring of Fire Series has multiple intertwining stories that are linked by a common progressive storyline.
And, while the above discussion has focused on novel length works, the works need not be segmented into novel length volumes. Any work, presented in a series of multiple volumes, should be considered as eligible. For example, comics or graphic novels meeting the word count would qualify, assuming they are presented in a series of separate volumes. Novella or even Short Story length volumes summing to the word count would also be eligible.
Lastly, to lessen issues with the triggering work being part of both the overarching series and a subseries, as in the case of Discworld, for example, a clause has been added to give the Worldcon Committee explicit powers, that the sponsors and others believe the Committee already had by implicit tradition, to combine the nominations and place only the overarching series or the subseries on the final ballot, after discussion with the creator, when possible. The sponsors have also separately submitted a proposal entitled ‘Multiple Nominations’ that addresses the matter of a work being simultaneously eligible as part of a Series and in another category.
Short Title: Multiple Nominations
Moved, to amend the WSFS Constitution to change the written fiction Hugo Award categories by creating eliminating the possibility of a work appearing on the final ballot in multiple categories by adding words as follows:
- Insert the following section after existing Section 3.2.8:
3.2.X: No work shall appear in more than one category on the final Award ballot.
- Insert the following section after existing Section 3.8.6:
3.8.Y If a work is eligible in more than one category, and if the work receives sufficient nominations to appear in more than one category, the Worldcon Committee shall determine in which category the work shall appear, after consulting with the author of the work insofar as it is possible to do so under the provisions of Section 3.9.
Proposed by: Warren Buff, Jared Dashoff, William Lawhorn, Michael Lee, Pablo Vasquez
Discussion:The goal of this amendment is to ensure that no work appears on the final ballot in multiple categories. This means that a novel could not appear on the same ballot as a series of which it is a part, and provides for settling the placement of works receiving nominations in Best Related Work and other categories such as Fanzine or Fancast. Additionally, if a YA category were to be added, a novel could not appear in both the YA and Best Novel category. It would be the duty of the Worldcon Committee, via the Hugo Administrator and staff, in consultation with the author/creator, as possible, to determine in which the work would appear.