By Chris M. Barkley and Vince Docherty
Some VERY Modest Proposals for The Hugo Awards
“Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.” — Sydney J. Harris
Chris Barkley: Change is hard. It’s hard for those who perceive it as a threat to a well-established order of normalcy and for those who seek to improve on an existing situation.
Two years ago, Vincent Docherty, a former Hugo Awards administrator and a former Worldcon Chair, approached me with a new proposal, which was then followed by several more ideas, that I found that I agreed would strengthen the Hugo Awards for the foreseeable future.
I know that by presenting these ideas, I know I will be involving myself with a very tough and potentially divisive argument with the more conservative elements of the literary branch of sf fandom. While I am delighted to be asked by my co-author, Vincent Docherty, to undertake this endeavor, I also recognize that these proposed changes will be viewed with unadulterated glee by some and absolute revulsion by others. And the prevalence of multiple outlets of social media will have its advocates and detractors at war with each other within hours of the publication of this article.
Some will say that I am doing this just to be a disruptor and a gadfly. I can only say that everything that I have done regarding the Hugo Awards I have done to ensure that they remain fair, equitable, engaging, exciting and most importantly, relevant.
The changes the Hugo Award categories have undergone since 2003 have led to higher numbers of fans participating in the voting process and an ever-growing acceptance and recognition from the public at large. But, as well off as the Hugo awards are now, there’s always room for improvement. Which brings us to our proposals.
Vincent Docherty: The Hugo Awards have grown considerably in visibility and in participation over the last decade. In my view that’s been mostly positive, although there have been big bumps in the road.
We have tried to adapt the Hugo categories and rules to the changes occurring to the genre, particularly the shift to online works and participation.”
However, a number of issues have arisen, in my view:
Where the categories don’t fully reflect the breadth of work begin done, either because there is so much more work (eg. fiction, very short BDP), or changes have occurred such that categories become confused (arc-story, rather than episodic television series).
And where the category definitions are no longer fit-for-purpose, or are difficult for nominators and administrators to use, is resulting in works appearing on the ballot in categories which cause significant disagreement (eg. Related Work and the Fan and Semi-Pro categories).”
Given the number of changes to the rules currently being enacted and the general resistance to adding new categories, I expect that these proposals will need time to be considered and worked.
However, we believe the time is right to raise them now. I think there is both sufficient need and specific enough possible solutions to propose changes to the Novel, Related Work and BDP categories.
Proposal One: A Reorganization of the Best Novel Category
The Current Amendment
3.3.1: Best Novel. A science fiction or fantasy story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more
3.3.1: Best Science Fiction Novel. A science fiction story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more.
3.3.2: Best Fantasy Novel. A fantasy story of forty thousand (40,000) words or more.
VINCE DOCHERTY: The Best Novel is by far the category with the highest participation by nominators and voters every year, at a time of great strength in genre publishing. By splitting the category in a simple way, the Worldcon community can recognise more works.
The most useful comparison of what we are trying to accomplish is the Locus Awards, which divide the Novel nominees into the following categories:
- Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
- Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel
- Locus Award for Best Horror Novel
- Locus Award for Best First Novel
- Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book
- Under the current WSFS rules, the John W. Campbell Award For Best New Writer is probably sufficient to cover first time writers, and/or risks duplicating works.
- There is also an emerging YA award, which could potentially become a Hugo category in the future. (Or not, depending on what happens at the Helsinki Business Meeting.)
- The nominators and voters of the Hugo Awards have predominantly nominated sf and fantasy works rather than horror. (We therefore offer the conjecture that if nominators want to nominate a work of horror, it can be done as a work of fantasy.)
- Definition of the boundaries between fantastic genres are notoriously difficult, nevertheless, almost all genre novels are published with a clear category (perhaps not surprising as the genres are largely publishing-derived).
Rule 3.2.6 refers to the fiction categories by name and will need minor adjustment.
(Suggestion: Borrow simplifying text from 3.2.5 ‘story categories’.)
Rule 3.2.8 relating to fiction category boundaries remains unchanged.
Chris Barkley: Both Vince and I believe this move is probably long past overdue. Other awards, most notably the Locus, Sunburst (since 2008), Seiun and the newly-formed Dragon Awards have no problem at all with nominating or administering multiple novel award categories.
We also feel that on the whole, Hugo Award nominators have proven to be very adaptable to adjusting to new categories and rule changes over the past decade to produce (Rabid and Sad Puppy interferences aside) some very strong ballot nominees.
Here are some examples of how this category change might look like by using the existing long lists of nominees from 2010 through 2016 (with the deliberate redaction of the recent nominees advocated by the Sad/Rabid Puppy movement).
- The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi
- The City & The City, by China Mieville
- WWW: Wake, by Robert J. Sawyer
- Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest
- Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, by Robert Charles Wilson
- Palimpsest, by Catherynne M. Valente
- Unseen Academicals, by Terry Pratchett
- Finch, by Jeff VanderMeer
- Lifelode, by Jo Walton
- The Price of Spring, by Daniel Abraham
- Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis
- The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
- Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold
- Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks
- Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
- The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
- Feed by Mira Grant
- Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
- Kraken by China Mieville
- Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
- Embassytown by China Mieville
- Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
- The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
- Rule 34 by Charles Stross
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
- Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge
- Among Others by Jo Walton
- A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
- Deadline by Mira Grant
- The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemison
- Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine
- Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi
- 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
- Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold
- Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey
- Existence by David Brin
- Blackout by Mira Grant
- Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
- Monster Hunter Legion by Larry Correia
- The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin
- Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal
- Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
- Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross
- The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
- London Falling by Paul Cornell
- Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey
- The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
- Parasite by Mira Grant
- A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
- The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker
- The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
- Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
- The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin
- Lock In by John Scalzi
- The Martian by Andy Weir
- My Real Children by Jo Walton
- The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
- City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
- Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
- The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
- Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone (speculative choice to replace Skin Game by Jim Butcher)
- Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
- Aurora Kim by Stanley Robinson
- Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
- The Just City by Jo Walton
- The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
- The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
- Uprooted by Naomi Novik
- The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
- The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
- Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Proposal Two: A Reorganization of the Best Related Category
The Current Amendment
3.3.5: Best Related Work. Any work related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year or which has been substantially modified during the previous calendar year, and which is either non-fiction or, if fictional, is noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text, and which is not eligible in any other category.
3.3.5: Best Non-Fiction Book. Any book or work related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year or which has been substantially modified during the previous calendar year, and which is clearly non-fiction or has a basis in fact with the intent to be educational and/or informational in nature and which is not eligible in any other category.
3.3.6: Best Art Book. Any art book or related volumes of works in the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year or which has been substantially modified during the previous calendar year.
VINCE DOCHERTY: This category has changed significantly over the years. Created in 1980 as ‘Best Non-Fiction Book’ it was changed to ‘Best Related Book’ in 1999 and became the current ‘Best Related Work’ in 2010.
A review of the finalists in the category up to 2010 shows that almost all of them were either non-fiction books (including biographical and academic books) or art books of various types.
The well-intended change in 2011 from Book to Work (which I supported!) was a response to the rapid rise of e-books, web-sites and blogs, alongside test categories such as best website.
However this change, changes to other categories and clarifications to the rules to make clear that it is the content, not the container that is important in an e-world, caused uncertainty for nominators, and the complex eligibility interactions for administrators resulted in works such as podcasts, music recordings and blogs appearing on the ballot, alongside a much reduced number of non-fiction work and almost no art-related works. In many cases these new types of work could have been placed in a different category such as BDP or Fancast or Fan writer, and in several cases in fact they appeared in both.
Data supporting a new approach:
- A review of the top 15 works nominated each year shows that significant numbers of non-fiction and art books are still being judged Hugo-worthy by many nominators.
- Looking again at the Locus Award, (and the Locus annual recommendations list), one can see two strong and stable categories; Best Non-fiction Book and Best Art Book.
- The definition of content in the Hugo rules now explicitly makes clear that electronic forms of text are equivalent to print. The word ‘book’ can therefore be used to describe a unit of published work in either electronic or printed form.
We also believe there is a need to better promote art in the Hugo Awards, reflecting the significance art has to the genre.
Chris Barkley: Speaking personally, I think it would be nice to see more artistic works being honored with Hugo Awards.
Proposal Three; A Reorganization of the Best Dramatic Presentation Category
The Current Amendments
:3.3.7: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Any theatrical feature or other production, with a complete running time of more than 90 minutes, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year.
3.3.8: Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Any television program or other production, with a complete running time of 90 minutes or less, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year.
We suggest the creation of four BDP categories:
3.3.7: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Any theatrical feature or other production, with a complete running time of more than 90 minutes, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year. (Intent: Mainly for theatrical films, theater presentations and audio books, etc.)
3.3.8: Best Dramatic Presentation, Episodic Form.
Any television program or other production, with a complete running time of between 30 and 90 minutes, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year. No more than two episodes of any one series may be finalists in this category. (Intent: Stand alone television episodes or other media.)
3.3.9: Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.
Any production, with a complete running time of less than 30 minutes, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year. No more than two episodes of any one show may be finalists in this category. (Intent: Mainly current internet/youtube type works, or cartoon/serials, typically less than 30 minutes.)
3.3.10: Best Dramatic Presentation, Series.
Any episodic series or other dramatic production, with more than four episodes of sixty minutes or more, or a running time of 240 minutes or more in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year.
(Intent: Streaming series, mini-series or episodic television shows are eligible, the key point being that the intent of the amendment is to honor programs comprising a single story-arc presented over a number of episodes, rather than separate episodes in an anthology series, which would be eligible in BDP-Episodic.)
Current Rule 3.2.10 relating to BDP category boundaries remains unchanged. Also, Current Rule 3.2.9: No work shall appear in more than one category on the final Award ballot.
VINCE DOCHERTY: After fifteen years, we both thought that is was time to overhaul and reorganize the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo category.
The basic principles the Hugos use for works are measurability (word count, minutes) and discrete units of content, rather than the container. In practice the story-arc has been used as the main determinant of ‘discrete/single work’ by both voters and administrators, with length then used to determine which category to use. Hence story-arc based (mini)series and pairs/trios of episodes have appeared on the ballot in both short and long form. Stand-alone episodes and movies have always been treated as single works, and the case where movies are part of a series seems not to be an issue, in a similar way to novels in a series – they generally are separated by years and are marketed as discrete works.
We have seen a huge increase in the number of genre series in recent years especially with services such as Hulu, Netflix and HBO. A quick analysis gives a count of 80 such series in English in the last year or so (see below). This presents us with an opportunity to honor a series through the nomination process.
Here is a long list of recent and/or current television and streaming (mini-)series:
- 12 Monkeys
- A Series of Unfortunate Events
- American Horror Story
- Black Mirror
- Black Sails
- Dark Matter
- DC: Arrow
- DC: Gotham
- DC: Legends of Tomorrow
- DC: Supergirl
- DC: The Flash
- Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
- Doctor Who
- Emerald City
- From Dusk Till Dawn
- Game of Thrones
- Heroes Reborn
- Marvel: Agent Carter
- Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Marvel: Jessica Jones
- Marvel: Legion
- Marvel: Luke Cage
- Marvel: Daredevil
- Mr. Robot
- Once Upon a Time
- Orphan Black
- Penny Dreadful
- Second Chance
- Sleepy Hollow
- Star Wars Rebels
- Stranger Things
- Teen Wolf
- The 100
- The Aliens
- The Expanse
- The Leftovers
- The Magicians
- The Man in the High Castle
- The OA
- The Returned
- The Shannara Chronicles
- The Strain
- The Vampire Diaries
- The Walking Dead
- The X-Files
- Thunderbirds Are Go
- Twin Peaks
- Under the Dome
- Van Helsing
- Z Nation
VINCE DOCHERTY: The logic of series here is possibly different from yours, in that I distinguish a series which is a single story arc from one that is essentially a collection or anthology of separate episodes.
Chris Barkley: Indeed it does; as an American, I am more used to thinking that a nominee in this category should not be just a single story arc within a series, but to judge and nominate the series episodes as a whole entity. In fact, the BDP Hugo were awarded to an entire seasons of The Twilight Zone on three occasions in the early 1960’s.
VINCE DOCHERTY: It seems to me that this is the key request being asked by lots of voters – how to be able to nominate a single episode which is clearly outstanding, from a series which overall is outstanding but where it’s hard to single-out one episode.
Chris Barkley: Which I totally agree with. But, inversely, we don’t want Hugo voters using the BDP Series to nominate entire seasons of shows like Black Mirror, which is an anthology series of unconnected, one-off episodes.
VINCE DOCHERTY: There are problems with any categorization of course. The choice of lengths, which is already an issue (unless we choose to soften them to a guideline) remains. Also where a series comprises a series of arcs – Doctor Who, for instance, has had cases of pair/trios of episodes nominated as single works. I imagine that could be dealt with by categorizing them as longer single works, but not the whole. Another possible issue is dealing with nominations of episodes from a series which is also nominated as a whole (this occurs now as well).
Chris Barkley: I imagine that Rule 3.2.9. might be applied by the Hugo Administrators or that the works may be removed or disqualified altogether, solely at their discretion as per the WSFS Constitution, if several arcs from the same show were nominated. But who knows? A better solution may come through the debate process and further arbitration of the amendments.
Both Vince and I thank you for your time and attention.
I like the idea of an award for SF and an award for F, but yeah, the extra reading and the categorization – that just doesn’t seem possible. Maybe it would have been 40 years ago? I suspect not, even then.
How are people feeling about the Series category? The amount of reading, even having read enough in two of the nominated series to skip them, was overwhelming. I never made it through enough of the related works to vote.
2. I have some sympathy with changing Work back to Book: I think the change has indeed allowed the award to be understood rather too broadly; it was done to make online material eligible, rather than to allow short essays. On the other hand, while ‘book’ certainly includes e-books, I’m not convinced it can naturally be read as including online publications, which don’t have natural boundaries as both printed books and e-books do; and there are some online entities which deserve recognition, so saying the award is for books limits it excessively. (The actual text of the amendment, on the other hand, says ‘or work’, so I think would actually allow in anything that’s allowed now.)
The bit about art books seems to me a different issue. I wouldn’t object to an award for art books in principle; it is a bit odd having them compete against the non-fiction books. And the amount of added reading involved wouldn’t be excessive. But would there be enough nominators in this category? I don’t believe this really ought to be an issue – there’s no reason nominations must be a mass thing; it’s reasonable for those familiar with an area to use them to inform the wider community. But right now, sadly, it is an issue, since we need large numbers of nominators in all categories to hold off the slating threat.
3. The thought that something should be done about the DP categories has been discussed widely, and proposals a bit like this one have come up here a couple of times before. But I like both the versions I’ve seen before better than this one:
a. Just Long Form and Short Form, but with lengths adjusted so that Long Form is the natural category for series, and Short Form for films.
b. Long Form and Short Form, as now, plus Serial Form.
I really don’t see the point of Episodic Form. Episodes get nominated now because that is, within the rules, the best way to honour TV productions (or at least was, when episodes tended to be more self-contained); if there is an actual award for series, I see no need for one for episodes as well. It’s true that Nominee Diversity, and possibly EPH, have removed some of the weirder consequences of this award, it’s still odd that we have to work out which is the best Doctor Who episode of the season instead of just nominating the series.
Talk about a line that throws you out of the story….
kathodus on July 27, 2017 at 9:06 am said:
I like the idea of an award for SF and an award for F, but yeah, the extra reading and the categorization – that just doesn’t seem possible. Maybe it would have been 40 years ago? I suspect not, even then.
Long before 40 years ago ….
The 1955 Worldcon recognized the problem:
“fantasy and weird material can be included”
Yep. I would prefer to remove 5/6. Can’t see the need with EPH+.
Oh wait, I missed the point of Episodic Form/Short Form: it’s really just a distinction between short/very short. In that case I see even less point to it (and the name ‘episodic’ would shut out stand-alone works of that length).
If you just go with Long Form, Short Form and Serial Form, episodes could still be eligible for Short Form, but there would be less pressure to nominate them. Splendor and Misery and San Junipero would still go there, and so would the Doctor Who episode, as there was no series of DW last year. (I believe that ten entities that were not episodes have been nominated for DP short in the course of its existence, before this year.)
Mike Glyer on July 26, 2017 at 9:29 pm said:
The Locus Awards and Dragon Awards are pointed to as successful examples of administering split sf/fantasy novel categories, however for the former, the Locus staff is positioning the books where they think they belong.
I was going to say this but I see that Mike has done it already. Locus have a small number of people to make these arbitrary calls, so it works for them. That doesn’t apply for the Hugos.
Also, I don’t see the advantage of taking a Hugo for best novel that has a certain amount of prestige as “the big one” (as GRRM says) and splitting it into two halves. There’s a bit of a “we can’t decide! Everyone’s a winner” copout in that.
(However, kudos to the authors for sticking their necks out and making well-reasoned suggestions, even if I don’t agree!)
I like 5&6 because it compensates for EPH’s tendency to occasionally swap the fifth and sixth places even in years without any slate influence.
If we changed it to 4/5, would that have the same effect, or is there some weird mathematical reason why it would change everything?
Regarding shorts: I do think this would do well with a test run on a convention.
But it’s tricky creating a temporary category for something that is already eligible.
The problem seems obvious. The business meeting is approaching the point of outgrowing the World Science Fiction Convention. Soon there won’t be enough time in a five day worldcon to accommodate the business meeting. What to Do?
We should make the worldcon business meeting a separate convention. Most of us would rather attend the convention than the business meeting. At the same time, most recent business meetings have attracted more people than the 2017 NASFIC. The business meeting should be a viable con.
However, before the worldcon bids a fond farewell to the business meeting, one item should be added to the rules. “Rules voted by the worldcon business meeting should only be followed if they seem like a good idea at the time.”
Other people have already pointed out the problems with trying to split SF and Fantasy books into two categories, but I really feel compelled to say…
As a four-time former Hugo Administrator, that has to be the dumbest thing I’ve even seen suggested for the Hugos.
It makes it far more difficult for voters to make an informed choice, and puts the Hugo Administrator into an impossible situation, where no one will be happy with what he or she does.
IF one were to want to radically transform the Hugo Awards:
1. Hugo Gernsback established, promoted and published SCIENTIFICTION. (This was later changed to Science Fiction for conversational purposes.)
2. “Scientifiction”, lacking an “F” or an “H” can not be twisted in any way to represent Fantasy or Horror
3. Fantasy and Horror (despite evidence to the contrary) was not sought for publication in Amazing Stories, nor in successor magazines
4. Literary SF at the time Fandom was established and even unto the era in which the awards were created was restricted to the magazines, a small handful of specialty presses and a couple of paperback publishers.
5. Science Fiction had a relatively hard and fast definition when the award was established: Fantasy had not yet been invented (except in the pages of Weird Tales and Unknown; same for horror).
6. Modern era: there are extant awards for horror and fantasy. neither of them have yet offered to include science fiction in their awards
7. The wider one casts the net, the more diluted the catch becomes
8. Fan awards were, at one time, NOT the secondary also-rans of the awards
9. The awards were originally established for literature and activities related to publishing literature, not other media
10. Therefore, in order to preseve the history and purpose of the award, we should do the following:
Restrict the award categories to the following: Best Novel, Best Shorter Work, est Fanzine (paper), Best Magazine (paper), Best Artist (cover and interior work only), Best Fanzine, Best Writer, Best Fan Writer, Best Fan Artist (fanzine illustration and convention badge work only), all nominees for fiction, art, magazines, fanzines must be the kind of Science Fiction clearly defined by Damon Knight.
Must go: the horse needs feeding, gotta pick up some kerosene for the lamps, crank the laundry through the rollers and get some more ice in the ice box….
If you really want to split the novel category, it can be done programmatically:
1) Every nominator gets five or six (I forget) slots each for Best SF Novel and Best F Novel (which covers Kushiel’s Dart six ways from Sunday).
2) The number of ballots on which novels for both categories are added into a single tally. If you put a novel in both categories, it still only gets one vote in this count.
3) The top vote getter is placed into the category in which it got the most votes.
4) Then work down the list the same way, except that once a category is filled, only novels with more votes for being placed into the empty category are placed into it.
I’m not saying that’s a good system, just that it’s easy to determine the final ballot and requires no judgement calls on the part of the administrators.
@ Camestros Felapton: Nothing “almost overt” about ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY, it’s marketed as “A tale of science and magic….”
Rose Fox is spot-on. By way of example I offer the non-genre VALLEY OF THE MOON by Melanie Gideon. It’s presented as a sort of fantasy, yet it would not be out of place in the long lineage of time-travel science fiction.
Milt Stevens on July 27, 2017 at 10:23 am said:
Recognizing the sarcasm, I have in fact given thought to what to do. To me, the logical thing is to move from the Town Meeting form of government to some form of WSFS Legislature. Possibly you could call it the “Council of WSFS,” with a relatively small number of total members. Say 30 or 60 people, with one-third elected annually for 3-year terms by a popular vote of the current year’s members. Newly elected members take their seats at the end of the current Worldcon. The Council would generate constitutional amendments (and would have to consider anything submitted with enough support from the membership as a whole), and anything the Council approves this year would have to be ratified by a popular vote of the following year’s membership.
The Council would meet at Worldcon, but it might find it necessary to meet at other times as well, either in person or by remote participation of some sort. Meetings would be open to the other members to watch, but only the Council members could debate and vote. (Considering how many people probably think that’s how it works already, I’m unsure how much of a change this would be.)
If you want to slow down legislation, you could have an “upper house.” The Senate of WSFS would consist of one person representing each of the past eleven Worldcons (appointed by the management of those Worldcons) that would only consider things that got through the Council in year 1. If they pass it in year 2, it would go on to a popular vote in year 3. The current and future Worldcons don’t get to appoint anyone; it’s entirely a “chamber of review” that is supposed to be able to take the long view without the pressure of a current Worldcon.
This is a serious idea. I don’t expect it to be one that we do, but it’s a serious way to handle a growing agenda.
Please do not take my hysterical laugher personally.
A: SF in the 1950s and before was so lacking in scientific rigour as to be one door down the hall from the Council of Rivendell.
B: Pre-Hugo fantasy authors that I can think of without firing up isfdb:
Thorne Smith, Charles Williams, Lord Dunsany, C.S. Lewis (barely), and the Bronte sisters (I admit their Gondal stories were poorly distributed).
L. Frank Baum? A.A. Milne? Edgar Rice Burroughs? Must be millions.
I take it that by ‘invented’ Steve means ‘recognised as a Thing’ – just as there were lots of authors before Gernsback who wrote what we would call science fiction, but it wasn’t seen as that, so there were lots of authors before whoever – Carter? – who wrote what we would call fantasy, but it wasn’t seen as that.
Except that while it’s certainly true that fantasy became more of a Thing in the 60’s or thereabouts, I seem to remember last year’s Retro-Hugo material including discussions of fantasy magazines, which were often linked with SF magazines and read by the same people. So yes, fantasy has always been around.
Separate Hugos for Science Fiction and Fantasy novels would be a natural if the Hugos were a new award, but it is not. In many ways the Best Novel Hugo is THE Hugo. Splitting it is a worthy suggestion, but we should consider how it might reduce the prestige of the award and make comparisons with the past more difficult.
I’m not convinced, but willing to listen to arguments to the contrary.
@ Andrew M
No, it wouldn’t work. EPH sometimes, in an ordinary no-slates year, swaps the fifth and sixth place nominees compared to the first-past-the-post result. To keep the same finalists (but +1) we would have had pre-change, adding a sixth place finalist works. Without it someone who would have been a finalist loses their place. Switching to 4/5 can’t do anything about that.
(Disclaimer: I take most of the EPH stuff on faith, so I’m mostly repeating what people who are more mathy have said.)
Regarding proposal 3 about BDP: both the existing rules and this proposal violate some principles which I think are important (it used to be 3 but this proposal has convinced me to make it 4).
1) there should be a category in which all “movies” are eligible (I’d suggest using the Academy Awards definition of the demarcation between short films and full-length films since they know more about the subject than we do; IIRC it’s 40 minutes).
2) there should be a category in which all complete story arcs consisting of a small number (often just one) of series episodes are eligible.
3) there should be a category in which all complete story arcs consisting of a larger number of series episodes are eligible.
4) Everything which was eligible in the pre-split single BDP category should be eligible in some category.
Adherence to these principles would eliminate the current problems (which I, as a nominator, see far too often) of movies being put into both short and long categories since many of them run 90 minutes or less and of multi-episode story arcs being put into both categories since it’s not unusual for them to run for 3 or 4 ~45 minute episodes. There’s an obvious issue with principles 2 and 3 since the episodes containing a short story arc may also be part of a longer story arc — but we already have that problem when, for instance, both single episodes and an entire season of a show are nominated.
To my tastes, literary fantasy began in the 18th century. A writer of “literary” fantasy does not believe the events he portrays occurred or could occur. The writer of literary fantasy is simply writing fiction for the amusement of readers. By comparison, the writer who is a believing Christian and writes a novel about the time of Christ is not writing fantasy.
John Milton was a believing Puritan. I think he really believed something like the war in heaven which he portrays in Paradise Lost occurred. I don’t think the writers of the next century had similar beliefs. Ghosts can be real ghosts or literary devices. Do I believe in ghosts? I’m not really sure.
Fantasy was the more inclusive term up to the 1930s. FAPA was founded in 1937, and it stands for the Fantasy Amateur Press Association. Despite the title, science fiction was the major topic of FAPA. Some have suggested that Science Fantasy would be a better term for the field than science fiction. That suggestion has some merit.
Literary fantasy begat genre fantasy. What is the difference? Genre fantasy is written for more specialized readers. Anybody can read a story about King Arthur and his knights even if those stories contain magic. The genre fantasy reader is familiar with the usual fantasy stuff and wants both innovation and a more concentrated dose of the usual.
Myth, allegory, and surrealism sometimes resemble fantasy, but they are not fantasy. They serve purposes other than amusement.
(sorry for the triple post earlier sweet merciful jesus)
@JJ: Very fair point, and, truth be told, I had to google a bunch of those. Curse my aging memory! Evaluating the finalists in this category would be a low time commitment–no more than 2.5 hours total, probably more like an hour (average 12 mins per film * 5 films). But there’s definitely a question as to whether nominators would be aware enough of shorts. (Though it’s worth noting half of those came straight off the Hugo wikia or Hugo spreadsheet.)
Part of my motivation to support Very Short Form is because it provides a way for the Hugos to honor great short films and other oddities without high budgets and marketing. Right now, for film, it’s as if short stories are forced to compete with novels, except worse, because of the funding disparity. The Best Dramatic nominees skew towards super-popular, high-budget awards (except for the occasional thing taking place *at* the Hugos). SF&F shorts have exploded online in recent years, and it’d be cool to see them be acknowledged.
I like the idea of doing a trial run of the category and seeing if enough people nominate for it.
I would be the last person to argue that SF and fantasy can be successfully separated by definitions or boundaries.
But it strikes me as odd to say that ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY is a twofer because it’s a “novel of science and magic.”
It’s got magic in it. Magic magic, not science that has apparently-magical effects. That makes it fantasy.
It’s got science in it. So do most works of fantasy. They have things like internal combustion and telephones and gravity. But they’re fantasy because of the magic.
Mixing SF and fantasy results in fantasy. Mixing SF and crime results in SF. Mixing romance and horror results in horror. We might recognize it as a subgenre (SF mystery or romantic horror or whatever), but it’s like putting alcohol in a drink — it’s an alcoholic drink now, even if it’s half orange juice.
Some genre elements trump other genre elements, because SF isn’t just SF, it also connotes the non-involvement of stuff that contradicts science, like magic.
Superman might be SF (if you studiously ignore the fantasy bits) and Batman might be crime (if you ignore the SF and fantasy bits), but when Wonder Woman shows up, the story becomes fantasy, because it’s got magic in it now, and that tips the scales.
I don’t think this needs to be considered this year. I’d rather we had a lot more time to think and chatter about it and submit it for next year.
Piling on to how-long-ago-was-fantasy:
* Mundane authors: George MacDonald, Oscar Wilde.
* Genre authors: de Camp & Pratt (separately or together), Howard, Leiber.
* Magazines: Unknown.
And Frank R. Stockton (1834-1902), author of “The Bee-Man of Orn,” “The Griffin and the Minor Canon” and others, though he’s most famous for “The Lady or the Tiger.”
Bleiler’s 1948 book “Checklist of Fantastic Literature” lists something 5000 works. I suspect there’s some fantasy included.
FWIW, I am pretty much the opposite of a conservative BM person, and I hate pretty much all of this.
You’re splitting along fault lines that don’t exist (it’s a -positive- factor of the the Hugos that we don’t distinguish between Science Fiction and Fantasy in any story category), adding many more new categories at a time than is reasonable without removing any, and not building on work that’s already been done to deal with actual real problems in the awards (like the length issue in best novel, which at this point has been publically discussed around 5 times).
On the contrary of this being “too radical for the conservatives”, it seems a boring retread of warmed-over ideas from the ’80s — as can be seen by a number of the proposals being reversions of changes from 20 years ago along with adding a sister award or two.
The quasi-exception here is Dramatic Presentation, where the problem you’re trying to solve exists more or less along the fault lines you describe — but the solution proposed is mediocre. I could see turning two awards into four along more or less the lines you describe, but it would be best in that case to split entirely by length — best dramatic presentation 4 hours.
That said, frankly, with all your claims of radicalness, I was hoping to see something -actually- radical at the beginning, like a method of abandoning fixed hugo categories entirely–something that might be -quite- interesting as a way to have the award be shaped by the voters and our popular interests, rather than always being 10 years or so behind the times (at least!). Our conservatives would -hate- something like this, but if someone could devise a method it would be -very- interesting.
I’m uncertain about classifying audiobooks as dramatic works. Does it make more sense to include them in the same categories as written works, novels etc.
Sorry. No time to respond. Not enough “Es” in the tray and the blacksmith is backed up doing shoes for mules….
An interesting addition to how-long-ago-was-fantasy: Stephen Vincent Benét. Probably remembered most (to the extent he’s known at all) for the epic poem John Brown’s Body, he also did SF (“By the Waters of Babylon”, which I first read in my 7th-grade English textbook on the components of short stories!) and fantasy (“The Devil and Daniel Webster”); going to ISFDB finds a number of other stories. Unfortunately he’s also the author of “The Sobbin’ Women” (source of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers).
Weird fact: Benét and my father were in the same college class. (My paternal generations are … extended.)
Benét is due for a rediscovery.
Wizard of Oz is near the top of my list of Core SF Novels That Every True SF Fan Will Be Surprised To Learn I’ve Never Read.
I can’t wait to see that one.
Kurt Busiek: I didn’t realize Stockton wrote “The Lady or the Tiger”. I downloaded the collection The Bee-Man of Orn from Project Gutenberg earlier this year, and found it entertaining if fluffy. At the same time, I picked up Richard Garnett’s Twilight of the Gods, which was somewhat more serious. Both collections are worth reading, in my judgment. (Richard Garnett was the father-in-law of Constance Garnett.)
The only categories that irritate me is Best Editor. I would be very happy if Kevin Standlee’s proposal on those were voted on. Then they would be understandable and something I could vote in.
Hampus Eckerman on July 28, 2017 at 1:19 pm said:
Possibly if the proposed new categories are punted to a committee to study the matter to report next year, I might suggest that they consider those six changes as well. I’m not presiding next year (I’m the WSFS division manager, but Tim Illingworth is chairing the Business Meeting), and thus have a little more freedom of action than I have this year.
We’re a tough crowd, clearly. 🙂
I would also be very happy to see Kevin Standlee’s Editor/Magazine proposals happen as soon as circumstances allow.
Well, an audiobook is a performance.
He also wrote a terrific story called “His Wife’s Deceased Sister,” about a writer who writes an inspired story that’s so well received he has a hard time selling lesser stories thereafter, and an inability to call on such inspiration regularly. It appears to be semi-autobiographical, in that he wrote it two years after “The Lady or the Tiger,” and only managed to sell two stories in-between (one of them a sequel to “The Lady or the Tiger”).
The “fluffiness” is one of the reasons I love it…
Fair point but I think the novel is a twofer more intentionally than that – the two PoV characters are a character in a fantasy story and a character in a SF story that happens to be the same story. The book is meant to be both.
I like Kevin’s ideas too. I would have LOVED to nominate “The Starlit Wood” for a Hugo this year. So many good stories. Would vote for if under discussion in SJ.
@Kurt: IMO, if it’s a full-cast with lots of different actors, and music and sound effects, it’s a dramatic presentation. Otherwise, it’s a book being read to you by one person, same as a book being typed at you by one person.
Understood. It’s not unlike (aside from tone and plot and characters and such), Lawrence Watt-Evans’s WORLDS OF SHADOW trilogy, which had an SF world in conflict with a fantasy world, each of which with different rules, science and magic. But taken as a whole, it’s got magicians in it, so it’s fantasy overall.
When you have both, to my mind, the result is fantasy. Fantasy can have SF in it and still be fantasy. SF can’t have fantasy in it* and still be SF.
If space aliens land in the Shire and Gandalf blows the shit out of them with magic, it’s fantasy, even if the space aliens are SFnal.
*other than the much-argued exceptions..
Even a one-man show is a performance.
And I wouldn’t agree that typing and reading aloud are the same thing. One is a form of writing, the other is an interpretation, a performance, of what was written.
If they do any acting at all — voices, dramatic reading, emotional expression — it’s a performance. If they don’t do any, it’s still a performance, but it’s a bad one.
I am very much in favour of Kevin’s proposed changes, except that I do not see the need for Best Publisher. As I understand it this was proposed out of a conviction that the number of Hugos ought to be conserved. But as we can see, the number tends constantly to increase, so if a particular set of changes has the effect of reducing it, that is to be embraced.
I suspect the number will continue to increase. When the list was first stabilised there were six, and now there are sixteen (plus the Campbell), and that seems a trend that’s hard to stop. But we can try to slow the growth as much as possible, and to try to ensure that any new awards that may happen don’t involve a massive increase in the amount of reading involved.
A thought about short Dramatic Presentations. On the one hand it would be good if they got more publicity (so there should be an award for them); on the other they are not well-enough known now to gather a significant number of nominators (so there shouldn’t be an award for them). But it occurs to me that the three-award scheme – Long Form, Short Form and Serial Form – might help to overcome this dilemma. If there is a Serial Form award, series are more likely to be shortlisted there, so their episodes won’t fill up Short Form. This means that there will be more room in that category for less well-known things to emerge.
So for instance, this year GOT and The Expanse would quite likely have been shortlisted in Serial Form, taking their episodes out of Short Form, and we would have been left with Splendor and Misery, ‘San Junipero’, and the Doctor Who episode (as that had no series last year) – and three other works which we do not yet know, drawing them to our attention.
(I’m sorry I can’t remember who invented this scheme. The original ‘two categories with revised lengths’ plan was the work of Andrew Plotkin; the three-categories scheme was a revision of that proposed by someone at File 770, but I don’t know who.)
@Kurt Busiek: Great comment, about fantasy elements making a story fantasy. I may disagree with you or anyone about whether various elements are fantastical or SFal (the eternal debate, continuing in this thread!), but you laid things out in a way that makes sense to me.
I also want to shout out to @Joshua Kronengold’s comment.
@Camestros Felapton: The two PoV characters in “Birds” appear to me to be characters in a fantasy story. The book may be meant to be both SF and fantasy, but IMHO it’s a fantasy novel. Example: a lot of the SF elements appear to be caused or at least influenced by magic, e.g., ubj gur NV pbzrf nobhg. Of course, it’s also a bit of a dystopian novel (as well as YA). So many categories! 😉
I’m not (so far) in favor of these proposals, for various reasons, none of which include a generic dislike of change. I rolled my eyes at the lead-in, which felt dismissive. Not all change is good, nor is it all bad, and some change is both. Anyway, interesting comments on the merits here, as always. (I agree with some-to-many of the comments.)
Comparing the Hugo to the Locus (marketing-category-driven, front-loaded with editor picks) seemed odd. The Locus Award is a very different type of award, so it didn’t seem like a good analogous award to use in the supporting text.
I dislike Best Related Work already; this split doesn’t help, though. Granted, I’d rather get rid of this catch-all, apples-to-dinner-plates category. (Not everything is required to have a shot at a Hugo.) But I can understand some people loving that about the category, even if it’s why I dislike it.
Anyway, the art book category feels too specific (next up: Best SFF-Related Biography). I love art books . . . of artists I like. Those are the only ones I look for/buy. I could nominate few, if any, in a given year, and it would probably overlap my Best Pro Artist long list a lot! Unlike fiction, I won’t discover a new art book most years. I may discover new artists regularly, but many don’t have art books, and even if they do, I won’t necessarily buy one just because I love their stuff (art books can be expensive!). It’s not like with fiction, where I may read a bunch on spec or based on recs; I’m not going to buy a random art book on spec or recs.
So I’d have trouble nominating in Best Art Book most years, despite my deep love of SFF art* and occasionally buying an art book or two! This means the category falls into my “not everything needs (or makes sense to have) a Hugo category” bucket, sorry.
* ETA: Seriously, we have a lot of SFF art, and not just prints. Loooovvve SFF art. We’ve joked we need a bigger house to showcase it better.