The Hugo’s the Thing, Whereby We’ll Touch the Conscience of the King

Most sf writers have never been on trading cards either, but they get a lot more worked up about their shot at winning a Hugo Award.

Today in a discussion on Lou Antonelli’s Facebook page Ej Shumak pointed out that right after the 2008 Hugos were given at Denvention 3, Kathryn Cramer made a list of 100+ writers who have never won a Hugo.

I have been irritated enough by discussions as to why more people under 40 haven’t won Hugos, that I have spent a few hours composing a list of people who you might think had won Hugos, or perhaps ought to have won a Hugo or two, or are just plain pretty good writers —— but haven’t won a Hugo. There are bestselling writers here, hall-of-famers, and at least one person who turned down the Nebula.

Looking over this list, I think it’s fair to say that most good writers in the science fiction and fantasy field have never won a Hugo Award.

It’s an impressive list. (Except Ray Bradbury never should have been on it – he won a Retro Hugo in 2004 for Fahrenheit 451.) And the passage of time since 2008 has done little to alter the status quo.

Only four of the writers named by Cramer have won any of the 60-70 Hugos given since then:

  • 2010: China Miéville. Best Novel: The City & the City
  • 2010: Peter Watts. Best Novelette: “The Island”
  • 2012: Kij Johnson. Best Novella: “The Man Who Bridged the Mist”
  • 2013: Pat Cadigan. Best Novelette: “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi”

67 thoughts on “The Hugo’s the Thing, Whereby We’ll Touch the Conscience of the King

  1. On the other hand with only 4 Hugos for writing every year (unless if a tie makes them 5 or more) and the number of good writers, there will be some that will never make it. Sometimes it will be a sheer bad luck of producing their best works when someone else just shines more…

    It is an impressive list though.

    PS: Terry Pratchett should not be on the list either – considering that he recused himself from a nomination so he could not win.

  2. Not having won a Hugo is not evidence of a conspiracy against you, is the simple and obvious lesson. Only ego and ignorance can explain not realizing that.

  3. Not only do I still have a few uncirculated sets of the 41 trading cards issued by Chicon, but also several uncirculated sets of a new series of SF author cards issued by Walter Day of Iowa.

    The day set includes Nancy Kress, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Robert Louis Stevenson, Larry Niven, Norman Spinrad, Gregory Benford, H. G. Wells, David Brin, and Mike Resnick, as well as cards commemorating the day Asimov began writing Foundation and the founding of SFWA.

    So Brin, Niven, and Resnick actually have two trading cards each.

  4. Liz Carey wrote: “Not having won a Hugo is not evidence of a conspiracy against you, is the simple and obvious lesson. Only ego and ignorance can explain not realizing that.”

    I’d say “two or three simple & obvious lessons” (“Luck” being a major one, and “Didn’t deserve it” another.) But yeah, she’s close enough for all practical purposes.

  5. We’ve already seen that math isn’t their long suit — and with only four categories per year, the way to bet is that you won’t get one.

    You know, suddenly having a “Best Series” award begins to make sense. Maybe even “Best E-book.”

  6. I am amused by other comments on that same Facebook thread suggesting that the best way to find the best novel is to look at sales figures.

    So … let me suggest that with over 60 million copies in sales in one year and earning every employee of the publisher an end of the year bonus of $5000 each … the best novel of 2012 was, drum roll please , 50 Shades of Grey.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/arts-post/post/random-house-employees-get-5000-bonuses-thanks-to-fifty-shades-of-grey/2012/12/07/803dcfda-40a5-11e2-a2d9-822f58ac9fd5_blog.html

  7. Not being nominated is a more significant metric than not winning I think. In most years excellent works are in competition and even this Puppy year the novel category has three strong contenders.
    In the number crunching I’ve done it does look like there is a bit of a home ground advantage for USA, Canada and UK (i.e. it helps if WorldCon is held in the authors country when it comes to nominees ) but not for Australians (at least with best novel – havent looked at other categories)

  8. Most sf writers have never been on trading cards either

    I am far too disappointed that there is no Orson Scott trading Card.

  9. Camestros Felapton: In the number crunching I’ve done it does look like there is a bit of a home ground advantage for USA, Canada and UK (i.e. it helps if WorldCon is held in the authors country when it comes to nominees ) but not for Australians (at least with best novel – havent looked at other categories).

    This blogger looked at demographics for the winners of the 4 fiction categories, plus the demographics of all Best Novel nominees.

    Totals excerpted:

    Novel Nomination Statistics With Retro Hugos Excluded

    All-Time Stats Total (296)
    Female (58) 19.6%
    Male    (238) 80.41%

    Last 15 Years (2000-2014) Total (79)
    Female (21) 26.58%
    Male     (58) 73.42%

    Prior Years (1953-1999) Total (217)
    Female (37) 17.05%
    Male    (180) 82.95%

  10. Talking about “authors” winning Hugos always seemed very . . . imprecise? . . . to me. The Hugos don’t have a “Best Author” category. We certainly could, if we wanted to, but that’s not the way the award system developed. The Hugos have been set up to reward specific works rather than authors’ general bodies of work.

    Speaking practically, of course, the award must be handed to the author of the winning work, the work itself being non-sentient. And celebrating a specific work means celebrating the author who produced that work (in the context of that specific work only). But winning a Hugo only means that the voters believed a specific nominated work deserved an award. It says nothing whatsoever about an author’s prior or subsequent output. By definition, no author can “deserve” an award, because the award is specific-work-based, not general-author-based. The Goblin Emperor might be Hugo-worthy, but Katherine Addison, by definition, cannot be.

    You might think I’m splitting hairs, but I think it’s a very important distinction to make. I think people are often being a bit too blase about going from “Work X deserves an award” to “Author X deserves an award” as if they’re identical things, and they really aren’t. A generally mediocre author can produce a Hugo-worthy work one year (when I first saw a Kevin J. Anderson book on the ballot this year, I (knowing nothing about the Puppies) assumed this is what must have happened), just like a generally wonderful author can produce a mediocre and non-Hugo-worthy work one year. Conflating the author being awarded with the work being awarded is, I think, how we got something as worthless as “Wisdom From My Internet” on the ballot this year (and is one of the explanations for the Sad Puppy slate in general). Torgersen wanted a buddy, who he probably did think was a good writer, on the ballot. He forgot that the ballot doesn’t reward authors in general, only their specific works, so he thought nothing of putting a worthless work on the ballot, assuming the work was just meant to operate as a placeholder for the author’s complete body of work.

    (And we also see this from non-Puppies. I was struck by Eric Flint’s “Why didn’t you nominate Gene Wolfe?” comments to Torgersen, because . . . well, Gene Wolfe couldn’t be nominated. He had nothing eligible (from what I can see). And even if he did have something eligible, only his works could be eligible, not Gene himself. Gene Wolfe is perfectly capable of producing non-Hugo-worthy material. Every author is. You shouldn’t get points because you’ve shown yourself to be capable of writing award-worthy work in the past. You get points for writing award-worthy work that happens to also be eligible for the current ballot. Winning a Hugo for Work X does not somehow indicate that your previous (or subsequent) Work Y was also Hugo-worthy. I think Eric Flint, like Kathryn Cramer, fell into the trap of forgetting that the Hugo is about specific books, not their authors’ general output.)

    Kathryn Cramer’s list really doesn’t make sense. A list of Hugo-worthy BOOKS/STORIES that were passed over would have at least been relevant; a list of Hugo-worthy authors that were “passed over” simply makes no sense, because unless we institute a Best Author category, there’s no such thing as a Hugo-worthy author, only a Hugo-worthy work.

    If you think it’s such a travesty that David Drake has never won a Hugo, then you need to give a good list of books by David Drake that you think should have won awards. Some of the authors on this list I’ve never heard of. Some of them have written long lists of books that I would consider Hugo-worthy. Quite a lot of them have written a lot of good books, but I can’t think of any specific book or story that I’d ever want to nominate for an award. Some of them have written many books, only one or two of which I think of as Hugo-worthy. Since the Hugos are set up to reward specific works, a list of “passed over” authors without a list of “passed over” works simply makes no sense.

  11. Nix and Tad Williams were toastmasters who haven’t won Hugos, I’m not sure if there’s a list of previous Toastmasters but there are at least a couple who don’t appear to harbor anything but goodwill towards the awards and winners despite not winning so far.

  12. JJ on July 7, 2015 at 7:59 pm said:

    This blogger looked at demographics for the winners of the 4 fiction categories, plus the demographics of all Best Novel nominees.

    Thanks – that is a blog post I should have read a long time ago 🙂

  13. When Rachel Bloom receiver her Hugo nomination for F$%# Me, Ray Bradbury and I told her that Ray had NEVER been nominated she was more than a little surprised.

  14. Emma: If you think it’s such a travesty that [author] has never won a Hugo, then you need to give a good list of books by [author] that you think should have won awards… Since the Hugos are set up to reward specific works, a list of “passed over” authors without a list of “passed over” works simply makes no sense.

    Your entire post was wonderfully done, and expresses very articulately my unhappiness at the Puppies’ continual irrational harping on about [author] not having won a Hugo.

    To those who complain about authors having been slighted by the Hugos: give me a list of works which were “deprived” of a nomination, then we’ll look at what was nominated and won that year(s) and discuss why they might not have gotten the nod.

    Several examples of this have already been presented in threads here on File770, and the usual result was “Well, no wonder, look at what that work was up against!”

    The WSFS does give an annual Best Author award — it’s the Worldcon Guest of Honor.

  15. If you think it’s such a travesty that David Drake has never won a Hugo, then you need to give a good list of books by David Drake that you think should have won awards.

    And then you need to go back and look at what the competition was for those specific books in the years they were eligible. I recall Hoyt making a big deal about how it was terrible that Bridge of Birds didn’t win a Hugo. But the year it was eligible, Neuromancer won. It doesn’t really seem like such a travesty when the result is put into context. And that’s what happens most of the time: When one sees what won against the works of the “deprived” authors, it turns out that the results are not only understandable, in many cases they are what one would have expected.

  16. I told her that Ray had NEVER been nominated she was more than a little surprised.

    He did win a Retro Hugo in 2004 for Fahrenheit 451. he also received a Retro Hugo nomination in 2014 for Hollerbochen’s Dilemma.

  17. Emma on July 7, 2015 at 7:59 pm said:

    Talking about “authors” winning Hugos always seemed very . . . imprecise? . . . to me. The Hugos don’t have a “Best Author” category. We certainly could, if we wanted to, but that’s not the way the award system developed. The Hugos have been set up to reward specific works rather than authors’ general bodies of work.

    That is a relevant point and part of the reason why I would say nominations is more relevant when considering authors, than wins. It is notable that Iain M Banks had few nominations but it is understandable that his The Algebraist (excellent though it was) lost to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in 2005. I can’t imagine how a body-of-work Hugo would work but if there were one (or a juried prize from some other body) then clearly Banks would beat Susanna Clark (at least currently).

    Being prolific helps but being lucky also helps i.e. an author has a nominated work in a year when the other nominees aren’t quite as good :). It is a competition and that is how competitions work.

  18. Aaron on July 7, 2015 at 8:23 pm said:

    And then you need to go back and look at what the competition was for those specific books in the years they were eligible.

    🙂 Has anybody done a list of past Hugo awards that need ‘fixing’ i.e. a work that is now an acknowledged classic lost to a work now less well favored? I can’t think of any obvious examples.

  19. And let’s not forget that the the Worldcon voters get it right more than not, which is about as good as anyone can expect. I don’t think any award on its own can be expected to provide the best gauge of the state of the genre but the Hugo nominees in any given year should be a component of that assessment, as would the Nebula, Locus, World Fantasy & Clarke. It’s only in hindsight that we can have any sense of perspective anyway.

    Oh, and the year of Neuromancer? Bridge of Birds wasn’t nominated for the Hugo but won the World Fantasy award.

    I’ll leave Jo Walton’s parting comment for the 1985 Hugos here:

    “But every one of those top five slots should be something that’s potentially a worthy winner, so that future generations can look at them and say “Yes, that was where the genre was that year.” Not “What were they thinking?””

    This year has been a particularly egregious example of the latter.

    ETA: @Camestros Felapton, you should check out Jo Walton’s Revisiting the Hugos.

  20. “Has anybody done a list of past Hugo awards that need ‘fixing’ i.e. a work that is now an acknowledged classic lost to a work now less well favored? I can’t think of any obvious examples.”

    The first year we have an actual ballot is 1959 for 1958 stories.

    Winner: A Case of Conscience, James Blish (Ballantine)
    Have Space Suit — Will Travel, Robert A. Heinlein (F&SF Aug,Sep,Oct 1958)
    “Time Killer” (expanded as Immortality, Inc), Robert Sheckley (Galaxy Oct,Nov,Dec 1958, Feb 1959)
    “We Have Fed Our Sea” (book title The Enemy Stars), Poul Anderson (Astounding Aug,Sep 1958)
    Who?, Algis Budrys (Pyramid)
    http://www.sfadb.com/Hugo_Awards_1959

    Solid choices.

    1964 is a fun year:

    Winner: “Here Gather the Stars” (book title Way Station), Clifford D. Simak (Galaxy Jun,Aug 1963)
    Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (Holt, Rinehart & Winston)
    “Dune World”, Frank Herbert (Analog Dec 1963, Jan,Feb 1964)
    Glory Road, Robert A. Heinlein (F&SF Jul,Aug,Sep 1963; Putnam’s)
    Witch World, Andre Norton (Ace)

    http://www.sfadb.com/Hugo_Awards_1964

    Have fun checking the nominees and winners!

  21. JJ: The WSFS does give an annual Best Author award — it’s the Worldcon Guest of Honor.

    And checking the lists, 13 of Kathryn Cramer’s 100 authors have been recognized as Worldcon Guest of Honor.

  22. Fred Davis : I am far too disappointed that there is no Orson Scott trading Card.

    I thought I had a Harlen Ellison trading card, but I looked closer and realized that it cost one red mana to cast…

  23. And then you need to go back and look at what the competition was for those specific books in the years they were eligible

    YES THIS. There have been some years where I take a look at the Hugo ballot and I thank my lucky stars I didn’t have to rank *those*.

  24. I remember reading this and very much enjoying Cramer’s comment “Harrison tends to like to dismember subgenres and leave their bleeding remains strewn upon the path, so it is not surprising that he is unpopular with Hugo voters.”

  25. I happened to mention to a Sasquan staff member a contingency that happened at the 1983 Hugos “if Isaac Asimov happened to win for Best Novel”. Her reaction was “of course Asimov would win”….then she looked at the ballot, which was the only time it was Asimov vs. Heinlein vs. Clarke…with a side order of Wolfe, Cherryh, and Kingsbury (presumably a tie for the fifth slot). As it happened, Asimov did win, but she did understand why what I mentioned was considered a contingency rather than nigh a sure thing.

  26. He did win a Retro Hugo in 2004 for Fahrenheit 451. he also received a Retro Hugo nomination in 2014 for Hollerbochen’s Dilemma.

    Yeah, but retro Hugos don’t really count, do they? Far too easy to recognise the works that should’ve won the Hugo had there been a Hugo fifty years on.

  27. Martin Wisse: Yeah, but retro Hugos don’t really count, do they? Far too easy to recognise the works that should’ve won the Hugo had there been a Hugo fifty years on.

    On the contrary. With the unfortunate exception that the author is not usually still alive to receive it, a Retro Hugo is worth much more than a regular Hugo — because it recognizes that a work was so great that it has stood the test of time.

    People in other threads have pointed out how some of the works which received Hugos (or even nominations) are recognizable now as forgettable — or even regrettable — works.

  28. Good grief, a Hugo-related article on F770. I could have sworn these had stopped.

    The point about books vs authors is an excellent one. One of my big choices for “shuda won” from that list would be Tim Powers, but for what book? I see people who are massive fans of a particular Powers book say they bounced hard off another one, so even his fans are split. My personal favourite is Declare, but it didn’t get published in the UK for about a decade, losing a percentage of possible votes, and suffered from shenanigans where a limited edition came out in a previous nominating year (costing him a well-deserved Nebula nom). Depending on which year he could have been nominated for, he would have been up against either Rowling or Gaiman.

    Being a great author is one thing, having the best book of the year requires the Stars To Be Right.

  29. @Aaron

    1984 was an insanely good year for novels. As well as Bridge Of Birds you also had Mythago Wood, Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, The Glamour and Green Eyes. None of which would have felt out of place on the final ballot.

  30. Emma: I was struck by Eric Flint’s “Why didn’t you nominate Gene Wolfe?” comments to Torgersen, because . . . well, Gene Wolfe couldn’t be nominated. He had nothing eligible (from what I can see).

    To be fair, it’s an easy mistake for Eric to make. As far as I can tell 2014 was the first year since 1964 (!) that Wolfe had published nothing. According to the online bibliographies I can find, at least. Holy carp, that’s fifty years.

  31. @ Emma (and others commenting on the original post): Thank you so very much for that well written summary! It is the eligible work, ranked against other eligible works, that we vote on. Well said.

  32. @Tony Cullen: I think The Land Across came out at the end November in 2013, so he just missed it by a little over a month. Although I don’t know what else he had published in 2013.

    It’s obviously Tor’s fault!

  33. PANIC IN PUPPIE PARK

    Hey, man, I need my daily puppy fix. I’m going through bad withdrawal symptoms. Please, for the love of God, is anybody holding out there? Oh, man, I think I have to go read According to Hoyt. I hope I don’t OD.

    But seriously, Richard Lupoff, edited two fine anthologies on short fiction that did not win a Hugo Award, What If Vols. 1 and 2. These are two books well worth seeking out.

  34. I’ve been on a trading card. My dog was on it too.

    Take that, science fiction writers!

  35. Richard Lupoff, edited two fine anthologies on short fiction that did not win a Hugo Award,

    What category would they have won in?

  36. The anthologies wouldn’t have won anything, but Lupoff could have won for Best Editor (or Best Editor, Short Form, depending on what year(s) this was).

  37. The anthologies wouldn’t have won anything, but Lupoff could have won for Best Editor (or Best Editor, Short Form, depending on what year(s) this was).

    Maybe. The two What If anthologies only placed 7th and 18th in the Locus poll in the years they were eligible, so it is likely that there were a lot of other editors that would have probably been in front of him.

  38. Sorry, I was a little unclear on my description of the What If anthologies. The anthologies reprinted nominated short stories, novellas, and novelettes that did not win the Hugo Award. And after checking the Internet Science Fiction Database I discovered that in 2013 Surinam Turtle Press released a third trade paperback volume. The first two volumes were mass market paperbacks released by Pocket Books.

  39. Kurt Busiek on July 8, 2015 at 9:42 am said:
    I’ve been on a trading card. My dog was on it too.

    Take that, science fiction writers!

    I’ve been on an Amber trump, but that’s because I played the roleplaying game with some buddies and we had an artist in the group.

    Do homebrewed trading cards count?

  40. Whilst we all recognise that Hugos are for actual works it is difficult for human beings to think solely in terms of product; writers of the stature of George RR Martin and Eric Flint are perfectly well aware of the basis of the Hugos, but they also recognise that it is impossible to respond to the allegations made by the Sad and the Rabids without talking about authors.

    Criticising them for their failure to preach Hugo 101 entirely misses the point; I find it completely implausible to believe that intoning Hugo 101 would have made any dent whatsoever in the argument that certain authors were being privileged and others discriminated against in the Hugo process. That is the entire point of the Sad and Rabid arguments; according to them that is why they adopted the slates.

    Frankly, the argument not only entirely misses the point but it is downright dangerous, insofar as it does nothing whatsoever to counter the slate tactics of Sads and Rabids this year, and the slate tactics of any group in the future. I shall continue to oppose slates in any size, shape or form, no matter who constructs them, and I shall continue to challenge the arguments deployed on behalf of slates, no matter who makes those arguments…

  41. There’s another idiot over on Making Light trying to dissuade folk from voting for EPH. Why they think this strategy has any chance of changing minds in the forum that gave birth to EPH I do not know…

  42. Lori, I feel like running his name through a search engine to find out where he’s been getting misinformed. (And him showing up at the end of the process, with whines like those of Brian Z, is interesting.)

  43. “And then you need to go back and look at what the competition was for those specific books in the years they were eligible.”

    I always thought Courtship Rite by Donald Kingsbury should have won a Hugo. That poor guy sadly picked a year that saw new novels by Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein, (who had mostly not had much in new books in a while), not to mention Cherryh and Wolfe.

  44. Lori

    Both the Sads and the Rabids have nothing to gain and everything to lose if EPH is adopted; it is no wonder that they are dumping misinformation wherever they can.

    Wittering on about how George and Eric were so, so wrong to actually address the arguments being put by Puppidum isn’t something I’m prepared to sign up to, not least because it seems to me to deliberately try to deflect attention from the slates and their creators, whilst criticising two of SF/F’s most respected writers for countering puppidum’s arguments by a lengthy and careful recitation of the facts.

    Even today George is fielding posters trying to pretend that the Tor boycott is justified because of the vast wickedness of Tor; I can certainly see why Puppidum would like him to shut up. I don’t propose to assist them in that endeavour…

  45. I wonder if those posters are making arguments not so much to change the minds of the people they are ostensibly arguing with, but to sow doubt and confusion in the minds of more casual readers and lurkers.

    Blow enough smoke, people might think there is a fire. People might think there are two roughly equal and balanced “sides” — a strategy which has served the climate-change-deniers very well indeed.

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