All the fans who bought supporting memberships in DisCon III so they would be eligible to vote for Chengdu in 2023 also acquired the right to cast nominating ballots for the 2022 Hugo Awards, creating an opportunity that the Hugo Book Club Blog discusses in “Hugos Unlike Any Previous”.
…Given that there are usually little more than 1,000 nominating ballots cast in a given year, these supporting members of Discon III could have an enormous influence on what makes the ballot at the Chicago Worldcon. We encourage them to nominate….
Some past administrators have said one of the hardest and most time-consuming tasks is perfecting the data entry from the variegated spellings submitted by the voters. And that’s from people writing in English. I asked the Chicon 8 Hugo Administrators what resources they have to deal with the possibility of receiving ballots with the names of works and individuals written in Chinese characters.
Nicholas Whyte, Deputy Hugo Administrator, says:
There isn’t a problem. Kansa (the nomination software) copes perfectly well with inputs in all alphabets and scripts, and we are confident that we have the internal resources to deal with all nominations as they come in, including any that are not in the Latin alphabet.
I also asked whether Chicon 8 will use solely English-language forms for the Hugo voting instructions and ballot.
Researching Worldcon publications at Fanac.org seems to show the Hugo voting forms have always been in English, regardless of host country, even in when the Worldcon has been held in countries where the primary language is something other than English. Fanac.org shows that in 1970 (when held in Germany) and 1990 (when held in The Netherlands) Hugo nominating and final ballots were in English, with no indication of an alternate in the national languages. (Fanac.org doesn’t show a form for Helsinki, from 2017.) For 2007 (Nippon) the progress report explained the Hugo nominating process in both Japanese and English, however, I find no indication that the actual voting forms were provided in both languages — Fanac.org doesn’t display a copy of the nominating ballot; the final ballot is English-only.
There is ample precedent for a Chicago convention to do everything in the English language, and it is the primary language of the United States. But a committee could always decide to facilitate voting in other languages, following the example of DisCon III site selection.
Nicholas Whyte’s response on that topic is —
We’re not planning to offer Hugo nominations materials in any language other than English this year. In an ideal world we could have looked at this, but as you note, no previous Worldcon, including those based in non-English-speaking locations, has provided Hugo voting material in any language other than English.
Unfortunately, the time we have available simply will not allow the preparation of the ballot and instructions to the standards that are necessary for the job to be done properly, so it’s not a runner for us this year. (Have you ever tried to translate “Semiprozine” into another language? I have, and it’s not pretty.)
Chicon 8 announced on Facebook yesterday they will soon be taking nominations, and if you’re not already eligible to vote there’s still time:
As we prep for the opening of Hugo nominations, we want to remind everyone that nominating is open to anyone who has a Supporting or Attending membership to the previous or current Worldcon as of January 31, 2022.
For Chicon 8, this means members of DisCon III (the 2021 Worldcon) and Chicon 8 itself.
Nominations will open soon and will run through March 15, 2022. Stay tuned!
Nominating forms in languages other than English needs to get some serious attention. Some worldcon will have to bite the bullet, and do this.
I do have an awful feeling the first time will be a disaster, though.
Even if it isn’t a disaster by any objective standard, there will be plenty of criticism on social media that portrays it as such. It may be that administrators will prefer to take criticism for an English-only ballot than to deal with fallout on Twitter and elsewhere.
With so many people eligible to nominate whose English might not be perfect, it’s a difficulty. Certainly it’s something that could be crowd-sourced?
Maybe a good starting point would be for someone to translate the WSFS Constitution into the language(s) they’d like to see on the ballots.
Heh. I live near DC and nearly everything important, especially in the school system, comes in many languages, usually all at the same time. So we have versions in English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Korean, and Vietnamese. (https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/languages/) A shame that Chicon can’t be forward-thinking on this and do something no other Worldcon has done.
A lot more people outside the US have some knowledge of English than you might expect. (Fluency, on the other hand….)
When was the last time a work that was not in English appeared on the ballot?
Those translations don’t come cheap.
Sten: The Mexicanxinitiative.com site that was a Best Related Work finalist in 2019 was partly in Spanish.
I have doubts that the current Hugo electorate can fairly compare works that only appear in different languages. Furthermore, commissioning a translation for the Hugo voter’s packet seems like a large burden on anybody.
@David, no one is talking about translating the packet here, just the usual “forms for the Hugo voting instructions and ballot,” so it isn’t really all that much. We’re not asking people to work with War & Peace, after all.
It would behoove us to ask for help with translations from friends and fans all over the world. It is a WorldCon, after all…
You do realise that the Montgomery schools district has a bunch of people employed full-time by the taxpayer to provide those language services? You do realise that the number of full-time paid staff running the Hugo awards is precisely zero?
And there is no way that any public-facing material for anything that I am involved with administering will ever use anything other than a professional translation done to professional standards, where the translator can be held accountable for doing a professional job. Fannish enthusiasm is gratefully acknowledged, but this is too important to screw up, and if time and resources are not available to do it properly, it is better not to do it at all.
A real potential problem is obtaining the works in order to read them in time to vote on the nominations. I remember one year a number of British novels were nominated. No language problem for me but when I checked my library, some of them were not available. So I got on an online bookstore, still not available. I found one which I did not end up ordering in a single New York bookstore for a fairly high price. The books were not available in the US. So even if I read Chinese, which I don’t, the nominated books may be hard to find.
I will point out, yes, MCPS pays for those translations but even on the school level we have parents and staff who volunteer to do the same for local newsletters and press announcements, every week. They might not be perfect but they are worth doing. Is this not worth doing?
It is worth doing if it is done well. If it is done poorly, it is best not done. And if you job it out to fannish volunteers and have no way of knowing how well it is done, then almost certainly some of it is not done well, and would be best not done.
If you needed, as a conrunner, an answer to a specific legal question, would you ask whatever fan is willing to answer, or would you pay to get professional advice? Translation services may not be quite that important, but they are important enough that you’ve got to have some measure of confidence that they are done correctly, and that means professional services at a professional rate.
Professional translation of the forms are not necessary provided you have at least three volunteers for any attempted language– one to translate and two to review and proof it. But there are questions to answer- for instance, if something has only been published in English, do you always leave the title in English, or translate it, even though the work does not exist in another language? If there are foreign market editions of a book, is it important to use that market’s title of the book, or is the straight translation of the original sufficient? Do you put all versions of the name up at once, or just one language at a time?
Meanwhile, google translate doesn’t suck too badly for most major languages.
I don’t think the forms themselves are too complicated linguistically, aside from fannish terms.
To me, any sense of outrage (which I see snowballing on Twitter, because that’s what it’s for) is misplaced.
In August, DisCon III had 11 members in China..
It wasn’t until December that the number ballooned and suddenly there were 823 members in China and rising.
Until last month, there was even less reason for a Worldcon committee to think about translating forms into Chinese than there was to do them in French for French-Canadians, something almost no one has ever expected a U.S. con to do.
Like others commenting here I can imagine how the translations might be accomplished — but we’re not talking about a situation that the committee has had on its radar for very long at all.
“Nominating forms in languages other than English needs to get some serious attention. Some worldcon will have to bite the bullet, and do this.”
This, totally. At one time I was trying to get an effort to translate the SFWA guidelines into other languages to the completion point but that was back when Finnish would have been the most appropriate and in the interim it fell by the wayside. Maybe SFWA will have its act together by Chengdu, maybe not, but either way this is a watershed Worldcon.
If English-language-centric readers want international SF (and I think we should, at least I do), we need to be helping efforts to support those writers. Some folks are, like Clarkesworld with its emphasis on translation, or markets like Khoreo, etc. Usman Mailk has done stellar stuff for Pakistani writers. Donald Oghenechovwe Ekpeki’s recent troubles, though, show how much the current system can work against them.
I’ll just note that in saying translation of forms needs to get serious attention, I did not mean it should be crowdsourced by fans. I think that’s the fastest route to my fear that the first time will be a disaster.
I was also not intending to propose translating the Hugo packet. That’s a much greater translation challenge. There isn’t enough time for it, unless the publisher has already translated it. And some publishers are already reluctant to give us what we’re asking for, for the packet.
Really, let’s not go there.
If there are no official translations of the forms then the Chinese fans might create their own informal translations.