The Young Adult (Hugo) Award: A Minority Report
By Chris M. Barkley: Author’s Note: Of all the columns I have written so far, the following was the hardest and took the longest period to write. From my own, subjective viewpoint, I may be too close to the trees to actually perceive the forest. Nonetheless, I promised Mike Glyer a column about the Young Adult Award. Since I initially proposed it in 2010, I feel a certain sense of responsibility, to all those who are fervent supporters of this idea and to the committee members who have slaved over its composition and torturous course through numerous Worldcon Business Meeting over the past few years.
I spoke at the 2016 Business Meeting at MidAmeriCon II and my remarks are included in a video link provided with this article. While I do not renounce my support of the YA amendment in its current form, this column also serves as a minority report that I feel I should have presented to the Business Meeting.
While recounting the events that have led us to the current status of the YA Award, I felt compelled to point out some deficiencies of the process and some of the critical decisions that have been made over this period of time. By doing so, I do not mean to denigrate the efforts of the members of the YA committees, past or present and I apologize in advance if this report is perceived in that matter.)
On the morning of Saturday, August 20, my fellow activist Dan Berger and I were seated in Room 2104AB of the Kansas City Convention Center for the third session of the World Science Fiction Convention Business Meeting. As the morning progressed, we watched a seemingly endless parade of observations, objections and motions to various agenda items.
At one indeterminable point, Dan exclaimed, “Is this EVER going the end?”
I casually turned to Dan and said, “This is how the sausage is made.” I was not new to the process; since the year 2000, I have attended many Business Meetings. Way, way too many, I sometimes think to myself.
As the meeting marched onwards to a vote on the Young Adult Award amendment to the Constitution of the World Science Fiction society, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, this issue was finally being dealt with on the floor with an up or down vote. On the other hand, I felt that the committee’s recommendations fell far short of what I had in mind. Still, better to compromise for a half a loaf of something than no bread at all.
As we waited, I glanced down at the notes of my statement that I had hastily scribbled down on a scrap of paper that morning. I was not stranger to speaking in public, having been a radio talk show host and a retail bookseller. Still, I felt unduly nervous. I have maintained some particularly strong feelings about establishing this award over the years and here it was, probably the final opportunity to forcefully speak in its favor.
Finally, debate began on the amendment. I arose, was recognized by the chair and I slowly made my way to the podium to face my peers…
I first became aware of the Science Fiction Achievement Awards as a fifteen year old in high school with my discovery of the book club edition of The Hugo Winners Volumes One and Two, edited by Isaac Asimov.
The stories, which ranged from rousing tales of adventure (Murray Leinster’s “Exploration Team”), tragedy (“Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes), elegant fantasy (Jack Vance’s “The Dragon Masters” and “The Last Castle”) to head spinning metaphors (“’Repent Harlequin!’, said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison and Samuel R. Delany’s “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones”).
Needless to say, I was hooked for life.
In his various introductions to the stories, Asimov continually alluded to “conventions” where the awards were voted on and given out. The trouble was that he said nothing about how these things happened. I was blissfully unaware until my best friend and I stumbled upon a local convention in Cincinnati, Midwestcon, in the summer of 1976.
In those forty years, I have attended several hundred local and regional conventions and twenty-eight Worldcons.
After a near death experience in 1996, I began to be more active as a fan writer and activist. This in turn, led to a more direct involvement with the Hugo Awards.
Since 1999, I have proposed changes to the Best Dramatic Presentation Award and Best Editor categories, the establishment of the Best Graphic Story award and was one of the many co-sponsors of the Best Fancast award.
As a young reader, I cherished the authors and works that made me the reader I am today. The resurgence of YA and children’s books since the advent of the works J.K. Rowling and other breakout YA authors in the late 1990’s have made an enormous impact on the reading habits of children, teenagers and a great many adult readers of this generation, especially for those who love fantasy and sf.
Although gene oriented YA has been stereotypically been tagged as tales of young people struggling against dystopias, I think that there has been a wealth of stories being published about how young women and men struggle with their feelings about themselves, their friendships, parents, authority figures, magic and technology.
Starting in 2011, I decided to ask and poll fans privately about the possibility of a YA Award. The responses I received were numerous and enthusiastic enough that I established a Facebook page to spearhead the effort.
I pleaded with Chicon 7 convention committee to try it out as a special category award (which is legal under the World Science Fiction Constitution), but was eventually turned down because they deemed a test the Fancast Hugo, which had just passed through on its first ratification at Renovation the year before, was a more pressing concern.
In addition, I also privately petitioned the San Antonio, London and Sasquan Worldcon committees for a special award, but they all chose not to do so. While I was disappointed with their reactions, I said nothing since nothing because there was nothing to been gained by complaining publicly about the situation.
In the meantime, the amendment remained in various committees for four years. I participated in deliberations of the first committee but not on the subsequent panels.
In retrospect, I bear much of the blame for the current state of affairs; my lack of participation in these committees amounts to a failure of leadership on my part. Even though I remained the lead administrator of the YA Hugo Facebook page, this was the extent of my participation in the process. This, in part, was due to some personal problems I was undergoing at the time and ineptitude, for which I alone take responsibility for.
The YA committee report is on the following link, on pages 48 (as C.3.2) and 130-133 (Appendix 2):
The Young Adult amendment that was passed at MidAmeriCon II reads as follows:
Short Title: Young Adult Award
Moved, to amend the WSFS Constitution for the purpose of establishing an award for Young Adult literature by
striking outand >adding words as follows:
- Insert words in existing sections 3.7.3 and 3.10.2 as follows:
Nominations shall be solicited only for the Hugo Awards, And the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and the <blank> Award for Best Young Adult Book.
Final Award ballots shall list only the Hugo Awards, and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and the <blank> Award for Best Young Adult Book.
- Insert the following section before existing Section 3.4.:
3.X: <blank> Award for Best Young Adult Book.
The <blank> Award for Best Young Adult Book is given for a book published for young adult readers in the field of science fiction or fantasy appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year, with such exceptions as are listed in Section 3.4.
Provided that filling the < blank> in this amendment to name the award shall not be considered a greater change in the scope of the amendment.
Provided that unless this amendment is re-ratified by the 2021 Business Meeting, Section 3.X shall be repealed and the modifications to 3.7.3 and 3.10.2 reversed; and Provided further that the question of re-ratification shall automatically be placed on the agenda of the 2021 Business Meeting.
The following is a summary of the committee report that was distributed at the Business Meeting:
Members of the YA Award Committee
Commentary: The YA award Committee is proposing a new WSFS award for Young Adult fiction that, like the Campbell Award, would not be a Hugo but would be administered by the WSFS. There have been many attempts going back to the 1990s to create a YA Hugo award, but none of these were successful. The previous year’s YA Hugo Committee (2014-2015) determined that a Hugo was not feasible, while this year’s Committee determined that an award in the mold of the Campbell has merits.
For details of the Committee’s findings, please see the Report submitted to the Business Meeting. In brief, no sponsor is required for an award, which would be a WSFS-sponsored award. Like the Hugo and Campbell, it would be added to the Constitution. The award would be paid for and administered by each Worldcon and presented during the Hugo Ceremony.
This proposal represents the closest we could come to a consensus in the time allotted. Although there are areas where the members of the Committee do not perfectly agree, we feel this proposal reflects our general feeling that a YA award at Worldcon is viable. We recommend its passage and the creation of a separate committee to move forward with consideration of a name for this new award and the physical template for it
In turn, I offer my counterpoints to both summaries:
The report mentions the previous committee reported that a YA Hugo category was “not feasible”. (That report can be read here: http://dothraki.com/yareport_sasquan.pdf). I will beg to differ on this point. The main point in the report states that, “Under the existing methodology of the Hugo Awards, however, a separate category for YA fiction is not practical. That is, the Hugo fiction categories are defined by word count, not by age categories. We suggest instead the creation of a Campbell-like award, since the Campbell addresses authors and thereby functions outside the Hugo methodology.”
I find the logic of the argument baffling. After all, the Locus Award and the Edgar Awards offer a Young Adult categories and seeming have no problems either garnering viable nominations or administering the awards annually. The same could be said of the Andre Norton Award presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (even though they chose to go the “Campbell-like” route with their award).
Why is the Hugo Award perceived differently? Because of the awards are governed by a word count, specifically, that the Novel category in the WSFS Constitution states that a novel must exceed 40,000 words in length. I maintain that a great many YA novels published today easily exceed that limit and that any nominees that fall below that could fall into any of the other fiction categories. This, in other words, is a non-issue.
There was a great deal of consternation during the committee deliberations over the definition of a young adult book, to quote the report:
A Campbell-like award solves a lot of the problems that have come up in past business meetings. A Campbell-like award based on age-group solves the issue of defining what YA is and how the award would be categorized if it were a Hugo. A very strong definition of YA is not a good idea because trends change, and each year’s Worldcon should be allowed to define what they think is YA.
This is the definition of the YA category used by the Mystery Writers of America:
Best Young Adult Mystery: Hardbound or Paperback books, Grades 8 – 12. Ages 13 -18.
Well, it is my opinion that a “Campbell-like” award cannot be equated to an actual Hugo Award. It may be mitigated or regarded as a supplemental award, as the Andre Norton Award, but not as an equal in stature. The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer is regarded as a prestigious award due to it being named after an influential editor of modern science fiction, it’s longevity and, of course, the annual presentation of the tiara.
The perception that a YA award should be seated at a separate table from the Hugos unsettles me on a personal level. I have always loved YA novels through my youth through today as a professional bookseller. To me, the act of placing YA books in a separate category from the rest of the other categories seems to imply that it is a lesser for of literature, seated, as it were, at the kids table during a Thanksgiving feast.
While a number of authors polled stated that they would support a separate award, I am quite certain a majority of them would prefer having a Hugo Award instead.
Also, I would stipulate that each year’s Worldcon should NOT determine what YA is, the readers and nominators have that honor. The readers who are interested in nominating a YA book for a Hugo Awards already knows what a YA novel is and certainly does not need any prompting from any one in fandom.
As for “trends changing” in sf and fantasy, I should certainly hope this is the case! Imaginative literature should chronicle the changes in culture, society, styles and explorations into the inner nature of human beings (or aliens and demons, for that matter) are the bread and butter of any sort literature that grows and endures. Literature that tends to skirt or avoid these vital issues usually wind up being disregarded, ridiculed or worse, ignored and rejected by readers.
To be sure, this is not the first time I have witnessed Worldcon committees and Business Meeting regulars indulging over in over thinking proposed changes to the Constitution AND underestimating the intelligence of the nominating readers and fans. I recall similar arguments that were made during the deliberations of the Best Dramatic Presentation, Editing and Graphic Story categories; in each set of debates, there was a considerable amount of hand wringing over whether people could be bothered to look up the running times of television shows and movies, finding out who edited a novel or whether certain comics or graphic stories should even be considered sf or fantasy.
In every instance, each of these and countless small worries and dire scenarios turned out to be entirely unfounded. And, even with the exception of the Puppy slated nominations, the nominators and voters of the Hugo Awards have consistently come through with interesting and outstanding selections for the final ballot.
I submitted a request to Worldcon 75’s committee to consider a YA category and for a while, I was actually hopeful that they might grant my request. On September 30, I was rather surprised by the announcement of their decision to present a Best Series Award next year.
My frustration was further compounded by a presumptive ruling by the next Chair of the Business Meeting, Kevin Standlee, who stated on his LiveJournal page in November that any changes to the current incomplete amendment would be considered by him as a “greater change” and thereby would need yet another year of passage through the BM.
I happen to believe that Mr. Standlee is correct in his ruling BUT, this costly delay means that the soonest a YA award might be given could be another two years away. Thus, I felt the need to make my feelings known about what has gone before
So, I strode slowly to the podium. Here’s what I said at the MidAmericon II Business Meeting, at the 4:30 mark of the link:
And I meant what I said; we cannot afford to make this a contest about egos, personal interests, political agendas, but what is in the best interests of the Hugo Awards AND the readers who vote.
Although it is highly unlikely to occur, I would not be terribly upset if the members of Worldcon 75 Business Meeting reject the current amendment and substitute a lesser change, which I offer for consideration this amendment (which was originally written in 2014, when I anticipated that I would be attending the Loncon Business Meeting, but did not due to personal obligations):
Best Young Adult Hugo Award
a) A book length young adult science fiction or fantasy book published in the previous calendar year. A book nominated in this category may not be eligible for any other fiction category.
b)Provided that unless this amendment is re-ratified by the Business Meeting three years after this amendment has been ratified it shall be immediately repealed and,
Provided that the question of re-ratification shall be automatically be placed on the agenda of the Business Meeting three years afterward with any constitutional amendments awaiting ratification.
Please note that this amendment would not require naming, it would seamlessly fit into the regular Hugo Award administrative team and it would not require an original award design, all problems which the current committee has yet to come to a consensus on of this date. The designation of “book” easily dodges any dilemma of a word count for the Hugo Administrator, but as I mentioned earlier, most nominees will easily exceed the Novel category limit.
While I personally object to the establishment of a non-Hugo category for YA novels, my first preference has always been to establish it as a Hugo category. But since I was absent from the majority of the deliberations, I chose to go agree with the compromise.
Should the members of the Business meeting of Worldcon 75 decide to keep the current framework, I strongly suggest that the only way to establish this separate award with any chance of creating and maintaining a lasting and prestigious aura is to definitely name it after a undisputed champion of young adult literature: Ursula K Le Guin, Jane Yolen, Tamora Pierce, Madeline L’Engle, Anne McCaffrey or Octavia Butler easily come to mind. And I wouldn’t worry about a nickname for the new award; the fans will probably take care of that on their own and in the age of social media, it probably won’t take very long for something to stick.
Right now there are several websites and set up to take suggestions on what the awards should be named.
Among those is the Worldcon YA page:
The Worldcon YA committee page:
The YA Hugo Proposal Facebook page:
And yes, while I recognize that there may be some strong objections to naming (or nicknaming) an award after a living person, I would like to point out that it is not without precedent. The Science Fiction Achievement Award was eventually nicknamed the Hugo Award WHILE the namesake, Hugo Gernsback was very much alive.
As the primary instigator of many of the category changes over the past sixteen years, I have never sought credit or favor for my fan activities. My interest has always been, and always will be, purely altruistic. Normally, I am not the sort of person who likes to draw attention to my fannish activities but I love the idea of establishing a YA award so much that I wanted my vociferous objections about how it has been treated to be formally recorded for the public record. I am drawing attention to this minority report now express my deep frustration at the stumbling attempts to establish a Young Adult Book Award, as a separate award category or otherwise.
My goals as a fan activist has been to assure that the Hugo Awards remain fair, engaging, diverse, thought-provoking and most importantly, relevant to the times and to the people who nominate and vote for them every year.
It is my fervent hope is that this minority report will spur the passage of a Young Adult Award forward, to Helsinki’s Worldcon 75 and beyond.
I do not like this one at all. It would nominate a Ender’s Game as a YA instead of as best novel where it belongs. A bit skeptic towards a YA-award in total because if this. Because I think it will separate out and diminish the really good YA-books by placing them in a separate category.
Where would Uprootee have been placed? Best Novel or Best YA?
I’m not absolutely certain that any change would increase the scope of the proposal, but I did say that trying to fill the blank in the name would increase the scope. In my opinion, leaving the blank unfilled and ratifying the proposal makes the blank into a null and the name of the Award then becomes the Young Adult Award (without an explicit name).
Trying to turn this into a Hugo Award category definitely would increase the scope of the proposal.
I was originally fully supportive of establishing a YA Hugo category, because I read very little YA and am extremely unlikely to nominate YA novels or vote for them to win — yet I recognize that there is a significant quantity of high-quality YA novels being produced.
Then I started to read the various proposals and justifications and engage in extensive thinking about it.
I came to the conclusion that there is no legitimate way for Worldcon members to determine whether a novel is YA or adult. Publishers’ marketing choices are entirely arbitrary; there is no consistency among them, and they are often not accurate, in my opinion.
Word length — the way the current fiction categories are determined — is a concrete thing. The distinction between YA and adult is not. I’ve read some novels with a young protagonist which are definitely not YA (Uprooted comes to mind).
You argue that the Locus and Edgar awards have both adult and YA categories, so why can’t the Hugos?
Except that both the Locus and the Edgar awards have juries/committees which decide what goes on the final ballot in those categories (although Locus does allow write-ins). So those awards are not at all like the Hugos in that respect — and I think you are really stretching it, beyond the bounds of logic, to claim that they are exemplars of why a YA Hugo would work.
If you want to persuade me, find an actual analogue to the Hugo Awards which has both YA and adult categories (and sorry, but the Dragon Awards is not a valid exemplar).
I don’t think that such an analogue exists, because if it did, you would have used that instead of two awards which are so extremely dissimilar from the Hugos in how they are run.
I’m happy to vote for a Campbell-like YA award. But I can’t support a YA Hugo, because there is no way to draw clear lines for it as there are with the other fiction categories.
I agree with JJ. If the YA award were a Hugo, it could split nominations for a given book between Best Novel and Best YA. If it is a non-Hugo award, a book could be nominated for both Best Novel and Best YA.
Also, each year defining YA for itself does already refer to the nominators and voters. Just as the administrators defer to the nominators in defining science fiction and fantasy, so they would defer in defining YA. The adminstrators check things like word or minute length, previous publication, etc.
In the Locus Awards, the existence of the best first novel category essentially means that first novels can never win the other novel categories. (No book is ever on more than one longlist, and write-in campaigns are always massively uphill) To some extent this may be a quirk of the longlist assemblers, but a lot of it is probably happening on the nominator level and would have a similar effect for Hugo.
I appreciate your dedication to the YA cause and your comments. As the Chair of last year’s Committee, however, I feel like I need to make a few clarifications.
First, the YA Award Committee deliberated for two years and submitted two reports to Worldcon. The KC quotes you provided were not from our actual report, but instead from the Business Meeting minutes. Here is the link to the Committee’s report, which can be found on pgs. 37-42 (with the amendment, pgs. 27-29): https://midamericon2.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/2016-WSFS-Agenda-for-website2.pdf
I encourage you to take the time to read our report, rather than the summary in the Minutes. If you do, you’ll see that you misunderstood a few things.
You are critical of this statement in the minutes: “each year’s Worldcon should be allowed to define what they think is YA.”
As you can see from our report, we actually stated (p. 40): “As a WSFS-sponsored award, nominations would be determined by the previous, current, and following year’s Worldcon members.”
Because the Award would not be constrained by word count, nominators would determine the ballot, just as nominators determine what ‘science fiction and fantasy’ is for the Hugo ballot. I believe the statement in the Minutes to which you refer is a paraphrase of a spoken answer I gave during the Business Meeting, with ‘each Worldcon’ being the nominating body, not some unspecified body that controls Worldcon.
You stated that it is quite easy to define Young Adult, and provide a single option as evidence. If you have a look at our first Committee Report from Sasquan (Exhibit 2: http://sasquan.org/reports-to-the-business-meeting/#ya), you’ll see that we actually provided definitions of YA associated with 18 different awards, in addition to academic definitions of the term. Those 18 different awards do NOT agree on what is YA, and more than 6 of them offer no definition at all. Not including a definition of YA would mean the Worldcon award would be in the same company as the Andre Norton Award and the Locus Young Adult Award, which don’t include definitions.
Moreover, your statement about how easy it is to define YA does not attempt to overcome the hurdles that we described in detail in our Sasquan and MidAmericon Reports. For example, in the definition that you championed, is 12-18 yrs the age of the main character in the book? The age of the intended reader as determined by a marketing company, or the author, or the bookstore? The age of people who like to read the book?
Let me clarify the phrase “trends changing” that you mentioned from the Minutes. As you will see from our Sasquan Report and our MidAmeriCon Report (p. 40-1), the changing trends to which we referred were changes in publishing, marketing, and literary trends (the sellers of books), was well as what is popular among readers.
I also encourage you to review the quote (Sasquan Report, Exhibit 2) from Farah Mendelsohn’s book on children’s fantasy about how dramatically what constitutes children/teen lit has changed over the last 100 years. Farah, who is, in fact, on our Committee, also helped draft the statement about the changes in YA among marketers and publishers. Our belief has been that if you want an award that’s adaptable to changes in publishing categories, marketing schemes, authorial inspiration, and teen interest, than a correspondingly adaptable award definition is best. (The Hugos, for example, were not originally defined constitutionally by word count, but now that they are, it makes passing new literary categories like this extremely difficult.)
I think you misunderstand the word-count issue? The award that passed in KC was the Award for Best Young Adult Book. It is not an award for novel. That was a decision debated at length by the Committee and chosen on purpose.
The issue up for debate by the Committee was never whether YA novels were more than 40,000 words, as you’ll see from the list of extremely long YA novels that I listed during the Business Meeting and which are in the Minutes to which you linked. The issue is that the Hugo literary categories are categorized ONLY by word-count. YA is not defined by word-count and, for those who believe strongly that an award should not qualify for two Hugo lit categories, there’s no efficient way to determine which Hugo lit award a book should go to (without asking the author to decide which Hugo they’d most want to win).
Additionally, one suggestion that has been put forth as a way to fit YA into the Hugos word-count schema is the creation of a Short Novel Hugo (something along the lines of 40K-90K, IIRC), as if suddenly YA books would be nominated in that category when they are not in the Best Novel category. As you can see from our MidAmeriCon Report (p. 41):
“According to industry observers, teen lit/YA is one of the most flexible categories with respect to word count, encompassing an extremely wide range. (As word count examples: The Giver 43,617, Froi of the Exiles 163,701, and Deathly Hallows 198,227.) This variety is a strong argument for not using strict word count criteria. Because teen/YA lit is such a flexible category, an effective award should reflect that reality.”
For the last two years, as a Committee we had to reach out to both sides of the aisle. Many of the Committee members who went in wanting nothing but a Hugo came to see that meeting in the middle was the best way to get an award actually passed (i.e., find a feasible solution); there are even advantages to the Campbell-like Award, such as dual eligibility.
As for the work of this year’s Committee (Chaired by Anna Blumstein), I’d like to clarify some things for you and for File 770’s readers:.
First, the survey to collect names closed in mid-November. We have not been taking suggestions for about two months now and have been working towards narrowing down the list of options, as we’ve noted on our social media sites.
As for the Lesser Change issue, please see Kevin Standlee’s LiveJournal for a description of how that works. Replacing an amendment with an entirely different amendment does not constitute a Lesser Change. That would, in fact, be the definition of a Greater Change.
I should note that Kevin Standlee has explained how he will rule on the procedural definition of a Lesser Change, not on the validity of the YA Award. As he has stated repeatedly, the Business Meeting decides whether to allow his ruling to stand (or not by overruling him). Plus, there are several options known to the Committee that will enable the award to still pass, all of which the Committee is investigating (and some of which Kevin has advised us on).
If you would like clarification on the Committee’s deliberations over the previous two years, please ask me or one of the other Committee members. If you would like updates on the Committee’s work this year and its efforts towards a name, please follow ‘Worldcon YA’ on Facebook and Twitter, and see the Helsinki Progress Report coming out this weekend.
I say the following not in the role as Committee Chair, but as a private citizen:
Your statements about the Campbell Award are insulting to winners of the Campbell Award. That Award is not a ‘lesser’ or supplemental award. It is a different sort of Award, an award that honors authors, not literary works themselves. It’s prestige comes from the fact that it is a Worldcon Award, not simply due to the person its named after.
Your proposal gives me a great way to get at my enemies. All I have to do is nominate someone’s novel in the YA Novel category, and it automatically becomes ineligible for the Best Novel Hugo. Could lead to a very thin shortlist for Best Novel.
There are few unwritten principles of the Hugos that are working against you. You will need to find a workaround. Those principles are that no work may be eligible in more than one category, and that the administrators should not be called upon to exercise subjective judgement. Given those two principles, it is necessary for you to objectively define the boundary between YA and adult novels before we can have separate categories for them. None of the proposals I have seen has done this, and so they are all defective.
We don’t need an objective definition of SF, because we don’t have a Hugo form”Non-SF Novel”, and so the administrators can just let the voters decide and include everything that’s nominated. The problem is when the administrators have to choose between categories based on subjective criteria.
The Locus and Edgar awards don’t share this problem, because they are perfectly happy for the administrators to make subjective judgements.
Mike Scott: That sounds wacky to me — “Your proposal gives me a great way to get at my enemies.” Would you like to reword that? Most Worldcon members don’t think it’s punishment to be nominated for a Hugo.
And why would it be a disgrace for a novel to be nominated in a hypothetical YA category instead of Best Novel? That’s the kind of attitude YA award advocates have been opposing all along.
Mike Scott’s phrasing may not have been optimal, but he does have a point: By a plain reading of Barkley’s proposal, the mere fact of being nominated for the YA Hugo destroys a novel’s eligibility for the Best Novel Hugo. Said proposal says, in so many words, “A book nominated in this category may not be eligible for any other fiction category.”, okay? I can just see the likes of VD salivating at the prospect of being able to unilaterally disqualify any work of fiction they dislike from even being considered for a non-YA Hugo! Any work of fiction, regardless of whether or not that work actually does belong in the YA category.
The problem isn’t that a YA Hugo would be an insult to its short list. Rather, the problem is the damn griefers who we have every reason to believe will abuse any procedural loophole for the direct purpose of fucking with the entire non-griefer proportion of fandom-at-large.
An award for YA literature is a cool idea. But a YA award which hands the Pups a weapon that allows them to play kingmaker on a scale far greater than that of merely slating the nominations… is probably not a thing we want or need.
I’ve always been against this award, primarily for two reasons: we, as readers, have do not make distinctions between “YA” and “Adult”; those Heinlein and Norton stories that so many of us read as our first encounters with the genre were not shelved separately (when I was the target market) and, had they been, I most definitely would never have purchased them…I was too mature in my reading for anything labelled as “youth” or “children’s” to appeal to me.
I don’t want there to be tacit acceptance of an age-based divide in readership – we might very well lose an entire generation of potential fans, as it is my belief and contention that readers of SF who are chronologically of the YA bracket age are largely like I was back then – well past the “literature” that is supposedly written for them; Marketing follows marketing; there’s already a growing tendency to segregate by age and potential SF readers will be done a disservice – the wrong things will be marketed to them at the wrong time.
My other objection is similar: age of readership is a marketing category; if a “picture book” (Babar’s Visit To Another Planet”) sufficiently captures the attention of the Hugo voters, it should be voted on in one of the regular categories.
Finally, I would support a Hugo Award designed to recognized “service to youth”, because capturing the hearts and minds of the next generation is an important and needful thing.
I’m not sure why it would be more difficult for the average voter to distinguish between YA and otherwise than it is to distinguish between speculative and not. We don’t always all agree on whether something counts as speculative (for example, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”) so I shouldn’t think leaving it up to the voters would lead to many more problems than the current system already does.
I do hope that it does get a name, though, even if that ends up delaying it another year.
*I still got no brain, so I may have misunderstood everything. 🙂
A popular book can lose a shortlist spot if many nominate it in YA and many in Best Novel. An unclear definition of YA increases the risk of that. The general rule that admins should move votes that are in the wrong category reduces the problem somewhat, but this is not always possible. This makes it necessary that fans have a reasonably similar opinion on what YA is.
I am also afraid that since the average voter is not actually a young adult, the award will skew towards books for relatively older readers, and ignore books that, say, young teens love – to the extent that it fails to be a meaningful YA award.
I think the most interesting way to run a Worldcon YA award would be to limit voting to actual young adults among the members. This is also closer to what the Hugo is today: It’s fans voting for the works we like, not people voting for works they think some other group might enjoy. But I suspect the number of eligible voters is too low to make this meaningful.
Canada’s Aurora Awards has a YA category. No problems that I know of, and I was on the committee for a few years. YA is aimed at High School kids. Seems easy to me.
I’m still angry that a Harry Potter book took best novel over GRRM. HP is a kid’s book, my elementary school kids were reading it. I tried to read it, twice, but it was just too shallow for my tastes.
Meredith: We don’t have to have a way of deciding if something is speculative or not, because deciding something is speculative doesn’t disqualify it for any other award. If there were a YA Hugo, that would make YA books ineligible for the regular Best Novel, and we would need an infallible way of deciding which was which, to stop their votes being divided between the categories.
Johan: Actually, the young people’s books that have caught the attention of Hugo voters (Harry Potter, Coraline, The Graveyard Book) tend to be at the younger end of the YA range, edging into Middle Grade/Older Children’s. I think it’s quite plausible that this books from this area have a greater general appeal than the strictly YA kind, which tends to be (or at least has been historically) about the teenage experience.
Cathy Palmer-Lister: Well, first, ‘YA is aimed at High School kids’ implies a particular educational system which doesn’t exist everywhere (and indeed, even if you drop the reference to high school, ‘YA’ itself – if taken as the name of a definite age band, and not just shorthand for young people’s fiction more generally – implies a way of dividing up books by age of readers which isn’t the same everywhere). And second, granted that’s what YA is, that just turns the question into ‘how do you decide whether a book is aimed at high school kids?’. Different bookshops and libraries shelve things differently. On the internet, books may be advertised in more than one category. Uprooted was shortlisted for a regular Hugo, and I think we all considered it an adult book, but at Goodreads it was on the ballot for YA. Golden Son, by contrast, won the Goodreads award for regular science fiction, but was often seen as YA.
(And [hobbyhorse] while books that are ambiguously (old) adult and YA are only an occasional thing, books that are ambiguously children’s and YA are all over the place, so if they really mean YA and not young people’s fiction more widely – an issue which people in fandom are perennially unclear about – there are going to be lots and lots of disputed cases there. I think that’s a problem even with the current proposal, but it would be much more of one, if this actually were a Hugo, and things eligible for it were excluded from Best Novel[/hobbyhorse].)
Moving votes between categories would not work between YA and best novel. It is not sure that anyone thinks that a novel that would be best YA – best in a subset of the whole – also would be the best of the whole, so moving in that direction won’t work. And it is not sure that someone would classify a book as YA, so it can’t be moved to there from best novel.
Hampus Eckerman: Moving votes between categories would not work between YA and best novel.
Exactly. I certainly would not want a Hugo Admin to have the power to determine which category a novel should be in, when the definition of “YA” is so ambiguously defined (and I highly suspect that no Hugo Admin would want to have to make that call).
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The idea of a YA Hugo has been put forth many times, and it has always failed, foundering on the following arguments: word count, definition, keeps a work out of the Hugo Novel category, and we don’t need a YA award.
We can’t do anything about “don’t need a YA award.” The same thing has been said about every new Hugo, including the Dramatic Hugo split that I worked on with Chris Barkley.
As to definition, I’ll provide you with a good, universally accepted definition for the term “YA fiction”, as soon as you give me good, universally accepted definitions for the terms “science fiction” and “fantasy.”
And while it’s true that a work might be nominated for both YA ward and Best Novel Hugo, under the current rules, a work of certain length could be nominated for both Best Novel and Best Novella Hugos, or an author could have more than one work nominated in a single category. This has happened, and when they did, the author has chosen which category the work was in or which work would be kept in and which removed. An author up for YA and Best Novel could pick which category he or she wanted the work continued.
All five of the written, fiction Hugos are defined by word count. The exceptions for stories that might in two different categories are made based on word count. It would be awkward to have a category that didn’t. If it’s a separate, equally respected award, as the Campbell is, that problem goes away.
The YA Hugo has been proposed many times and always voted down, usually under “Object to Consideration” or in the first year’s vote. The idea of a separate award, as well-respected as the Campbell, has gotten farther than any of the past efforts. Let’s not go to what has repeatedly failed, as Chris proposes to do. Let’s pass this award (for the second time) in Helsinki. If it needs tinkering, we can do that afterwards, as we did for the Dramatic Presentation Hugos.
Are there any statistics as to what fraction of Worldcon membership is under 18 years old?
There’s an efficient way to handle overlap, with minimal admin intervention, and I believe there’s precedent, no? It could be written/handled such that whichever category a work gets more nominations in gets the work, then re-run the other category (ignoring noms for the work). As @Meredith says – “the voters can distinguish.”
Someone may not agree that a work they nominate as a YA work is one of the best novels, or vice versa, but then people already may not agree with shifting between length categories due to overlap and split voting. I may feel novella X is one of the best novellas, but nowhere near one of the best novels, but due to nominations and the length being very close to 40K, maybe it gets treated as a novel. (shrug)
Regarding the language in @Chris Barkley’s “a)”: Rather than believe the patently absurd “oh he must mean if one person noms in in category X, all nominations are moved there,” I presumed he simply used the more common definition of nominated/nomination, where now we say X is a finalist (to avoid confusion like this). ‘Cuz yeah, it would be really, really silly if a minority of one nomination had this effect. It’s just outdated wording that needs a minor tweak, IMHO.
@Johan P: When I nominate and vote for Best Novel, I’m going based on what I feel is best – not what I believe other WSFS members would like (nor fandom at large). Similarly, when I see “book published for young adult readers,” I plan to nominate/vote for what I feel is best – not what you’re saying (“best work I think young people might like”) which is quite different and makes no sense to me. I’m not even sure I can accurately predict what my niece will like; I certainly wouldn’t try to second guess a world of young readers. 😉
@Cathy Palmer-Lister: Heh, well, you may not like Harry Potter, but lots, and lots, and lots of adults did and do. It was a crossover hit – written/marketed for kids, but enjoyed by many, many people of all ages (me, many adults I know, and even my mom!). Tastes vary; some people don’t like Martin’s novels. 😉
Lew Wolkoff: As to definition, I’ll provide you with a good, universally accepted definition for the term “YA fiction”, as soon as you give me good, universally accepted definitions for the terms “science fiction” and “fantasy.”
Except that no definition for science fiction and fantasy are needed, as these are not split across categories: they apply to all fiction categories. This is not an equivalent argument.
Lew Wolkoff: And while it’s true that a work might be nominated for both YA ward and Best Novel Hugo, under the current rules, a work of certain length could be nominated for both Best Novel and Best Novella Hugos, or an author could have more than one work nominated in a single category. This has happened, and when they did, the author has chosen which category the work was in or which work would be kept in and which removed.
Not true. The Hugo Admins found out the word length of the story in question, and put it in the correct category. Anyone who nominated it in the wrong category had their nomination moved to the right one if they did not already have 5 works nominated in the right category. So again, not an equivalent argument.
sez kendall: “Rather than believe the patently absurd ‘oh he must mean if one person noms in in category X, all nominations are moved there’…”
The reality of the Hugo Awards is, and will continue to be for some indefinite time to come, that there is a core group of dedicate griefers who will abuse the living crap out of any loopholes, any legitimately ambiguous phrasing, any nonstandard alternative interpretations which can be tortured out of the relevant rules. Yes, it would be nice if everybody could be counted on not to be giant assholes, but alas, that isn’t the world we live in, is it? Given that the Hugo Awards exist in a world which includes a world-class asshole whose stated desire is to just fucking obliterate the Hugos, it would seem only prudent to give some thought to how any proposed addition to the Hugo Awards will be abused.
Because no matter whether or not we do… we can be damn sure that VD will.
Steve Davidson: Heinein and Norton’s juveniles were published as juveniles by the likes of Scribner (see the contracts) marketed *as* juveniles, with covers meant for juveniles, sold through libraries for their juvenile department, and shelved as juveniles. Often they may have drifted on the shelves, not least because for a long time all sf was seen by some as ‘for juveniles’ but it is a matter of record how they were marketed and sold.
JJ says that no definitions are needed for “Science Fiction” and “Fantasy” because these terms apply to all five of the existing “written” Hugo categories.
If that were the case, then there would never be an argument as to whether a given, nominated work should not be included because it REALLY wasn’t SF or Fantasy.
And yet, how many of those arguments have there been through the years?
Lew Wolkoff: And yet, how many of those arguments have there been through the years?
Q: How many works have actually been disqualified from the fiction categories because they’re not science-fiction or fantasy?
Look. I’m open to the idea of a YA Hugo. But you’re going to have to come up with a valid argument to convince me — and all you, Chris, and anyone else have been able to come up with are false equivalencies.
This is the reason the committee came up with the proposal for the separate award: because they could not find a convincing argument to get around the “what is YA?” problem.
@Cubist: Again, easily fixed with a minor tweak to wording, if someone takes up that version.
Of course, to the larger point, it takes admin action/reading for griefers to take advantage of phrasing; it’s not a magical griefer power to twist loopholes to do their bidding unless that’s actually how the rules are being interpreted and applied in the real world. (But good wording is best so that there’s nothing to challenge on, of course.)
ETA: Uh, sorry for “of course” twice; I shouldn’t throw that phrase around so much (perhaps not at all).
sez kendall: “… good wording is best so that there’s nothing to challenge on…”
Bingo! Remember: Up until Larry Correia decided that yeah, he was going to be That Asshole, the Hugo nomination protocols were blatantly vulnerable to slating, with the only barrier to such being that nobody really wanted to be That Asshole. ‘Nuff Said?
@Cubist: Godstalk! I mean, ‘Nuff Said! 😉