Resolution Asks That Hugo Trophy Also Be Given To Translator, When Applicable

A resolution by Mark Richards, Chris Barkley and Juli Marr has been added to the Dublin 2019 Business Meeting agenda. It has been designated B4, (although there was another item which had that number.)

B.4         Credit to Translators of Written Fiction

Resolved, it is the sense of the Business Meeting that, for the written fiction categories of Best Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story, when the winner in one of these categories is a translated work, the credited translator shall be awarded a Hugo alongside the author.

Mark Richards explains the purpose of the resolution with these comments:

The choice of translator can make the difference in the impact of a work of fiction in translation, in comparison to its impact in its original language.

Fluency in the original language may be enough for a good translation. We feel that familiarity with the context in which a work was written adds to the quality of the result, and that a translator’s contribution there can make a difference.

For example, Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem wouldn’t have been nearly as successful had Ken Liu not gotten all of the nuance of Chinese history during the Cultural Revolution and been able to transmit that
emotional impact.

And there’s a collection of connected short stories, Kalpa Imperial, by the Argentine author Angelica Gorodischer, Any decent translator, I imagine, would have given us a good translation. It was the late
Ursula Le Guin, however, whose prose style was perfect for giving us as fine a work in English as it presumably was in the original Spanish.

Closing, we feel that a translator’s contribution to the success of a story merits recognition in the awarding of a Hugo.

25 thoughts on “Resolution Asks That Hugo Trophy Also Be Given To Translator, When Applicable

  1. Pingback: Dublin 2019 WSFS Business Meeting Day 2 | File 770

  2. Good idea! Syniad da! (though I doubt much Welsh SF will get translated into English!).

  3. It certainly has been done before in the Hugos. Ken Liu got a Hugo for that translation, and I think the other Hugo-winning translated work that year got a Hugo for the translator, too. I think this is codifying the practice because people liked it.

  4. Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s translator, Lia Sorry I forgot her surname, also got a Hugo Award. I remember a picture of both of them posing with their awards at Schiphol airport.

  5. Keep in mind this says we think this makes sense/should be done (it is the sense of the biz mtg…). It doesn’t seem to codify it as a requirement, though. That would probably require an amendment, I guess. Not sure why it wasn’t done as an amendment; too last minute?

  6. The problem basically comes down to this – are we sure that the voters read the translated work? I.e, what if The Three-Body Problem had been nominated at a convention in Chengdu?

  7. Even if The Three-Body Problem had been nominated at a con in Chengdu, is it really plausible that it would win the Hugo without most voters having read it in translation? Even if we agree that this is theoretically possible in China, especially if the Chinese government cared, are there any other languages with which it’s even a plausible theoretical concern? Seriously?

  8. Japanese. Absolutely in Graphic Novel. Very likely that everyone would have read a popular manga in their own language.

  9. If everyone has read it in their own language, that would seem to mean that at least a very large proportion of the voters, even if not an absolute majority, would have read it in English translation. I’d think it’s not unreasonable to give the translator a trophy, too, if it wins.

    That might well change as demographics change for Worldcon and for Hugo voting. Right now, though, it seems entirely reasonable.

  10. The issue with the resolution numbering was due to a standing rule amendment (which should have been numbered in the A series) getting moved, and an oh-so-helpful computer auto-renumbering things. I expect it will get cleaned up when the minutes are produced.

    More than one person pointed out that Hugo Awards for written fiction are not awarded to people, but to works and that therefore trying to make rules about specific individuals receiving trophies for such categories is meaningless.

    I’m the one who recommended to the maker that it be worded as an advisory resolution rather than a constitutional amendment. (It was originally worded as a constitutional amendment; had it been introduced that way, I would have suggested it get sent to either the Hugo Awards Study Committee or the Nitpicking & Flyspecking Committee, because trying to write constitutional amendments on the fly without time to wordsmith them is a recipe for trouble.) That’s because there is nothing in the WSFS Constitution legislating who receives a Hugo Award trophy. It is my opinion that trying to legislate this for any category will open an enormous can of worms that we do not really want to tangle with. At the moment, the decision rests with the administering Worldcon. If we start trying to write anything into the Constitution, you can expect a lot more proposals to fiddle with the rules to direct trophies in all sorts of unexpected ways. An advisory resolution does not have to be followed to the letter, but instead expresses guidance to people (Hugo Award administrators and convention organizing committees) who are expected to use some common-sense judgement, rather than following hard-coded rules.

    In any event, the resolution was rejected on a vote by show of hands.

  11. I voted against this proposal because the actual wording does not do what the title of this post says it does.

    The title of this post says “give the Translator a trophy”. The wording says “award the Translator a Hugo”. These are different things. As was pointed out, it is the work, not the author, which is awarded a Hugo.

    Had the proposal said “give a trophy to the Translator as well as to the author” I would have supported it, and it was my impression from things I overheard that several others felt the same way.

  12. Jo Van Ekeren: If somebody had wanted to pass the resolution they could have offered that as an amendment. Why didn’t they?

  13. Mike, I can’t speak for anyone else. For myself, having spoken extensively on various issues of importance to me over the last 3 days, in addition to serving as one of the Sergeant-At-Arms for the WSFS meeting and fighting a nasty cold virus, I pretty much have no spoons left.

  14. That is not surprising. ISTM (from what I recall of the date this was announced) that the makers of this motion were looking at the probable failure of the best-translation Hugo and trying to do something, much too hastily, to recognize translators; now that the issue has been raised, there may be more thought about the wording — there will certainly be more time for people to say “Under the rule as written, X can (or will) happen; is that what you wanted?”

  15. @Kevin Standlee

    More than one person pointed out that Hugo Awards for written fiction are not awarded to people, but to works and that therefore trying to make rules about specific individuals receiving trophies for such categories is meaningless.

    True, but:
    “Finalist” has an ambiguous meaning throughout the constitution. Usually it can be read to mean “work” in the categories of fiction, and “person” in the categories of people. But in 3.10.1, it pretty much has to mean “person” for everything (how does one notify a “work”? Does a work have heirs, guardians, etc.?)

    So long as people with common sense administer the awards, it shouldn’t be an issue.

    Other nipticking/flyspecking issues:
    Should 3.2.5 include 3.3.18 (Lodestar) in its list of story categories?

  16. And does the presence of 3.3.18 in Section 3.3 (list of Hugo award categories) mean that the Lodestar is in fact a Hugo? The JWC award isn’t in Sec 3.3.

    And should clauses 3.2.8 an 3.2.10 be combined into one clause? Or at least have their wording made consistent (“limits”/”boundary”)?

  17. Wearing my librarian hat: is the Hugo given to the work or to the expression? – that is, are we voting on The Three Body Problem written by Cixin Liu (in all its expressions, including translations (but probably not including film adaptations; we are not using FRBR (and I honestly believe nobody else is either, even if they say they are))), or The Three Body Problem written by Cixin Liu and translated into English by Ken Liu?

    Wearing my propeller beanie: does anything prevent a Worldcon from giving a translator a rocket, and would anything short of an amendment require them to?

  18. The Worldcon administers the awards. If they decided that the administration of an award to a translated work required them to give a trophy to the author and the translator, I wouldn’t say they were wrong. If they were to give a fiction award to an audiobook, I wouldn’t say they were wrong to give one to the reader.

  19. There is nothing stopping a Worldcon committee from presenting a Hugo Award trophy to the translator of a winning work, nor anything prohibiting them from doing so.

    Again, be very careful of any attempts to write constitutional rules that say, “Give a trophy to [X].”

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