The Quick and the Dead

A lot of people want to know how they can win a Hugo Award. I don’t think any of them are looking to win one posthumously, which is just as well, because it would be a terrible strategy. In fact, you could say that Hugo Seeker Tip Number One is: Don’t die.

Here’s how strong the bias is in favor of the living. Bill Rotsler died in October 1997 after winning two consecutive Best Fan Artist Hugos. Fanzines printed dozens and dozens of previously unpublished Rotsler cartoons in the year of his death, yet he was not even a Hugo nominee in 1998.

Voters want to see happy winners appearing on stage at the Hugo Ceremony.

Voters are even impatient with living proxy accepters. Emily Mah said she found Denvention 3 a cause for mourning, partly because “The [Hugo] ceremony was dominated by other people reading acceptance speeches of little slips of paper.”

The voters’ preference for live winners has been reinforced by bad experiences with the other kind.

Lester del Rey, in a letter read by a spokesman, declined the Best Professional Editor Hugo voted posthumously to Judy-Lynn del Rey in 1986, saying that she would have objected to the award being given to her just because she had recently died.

When the late Jim Baen appeared on the 2007 Hugo ballot as a nominee for Best Professional Editor in 2007, there was a bit of suspense until the Hugo administrator made public that she had the approval of Baen’s exectors Toni Weisskopf and Jessica Baen. (However, in a comment posted at Whatever, James Nicoll forcefully advocated honoring the living by dismissing the Baen nomination: “He’s dead now and no matter [what] his fans do, he will never experience winning a Hugo.”)

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