Motion to Abolish the Retro Hugos Submitted to 2024 Business Meeting

Ray Bradbury's 2004 Retro Hugo for Fahrenheit 451.
Ray Bradbury’s 2004 Retro Hugo for Fahrenheit 451.

Kent Bloom, seconded by Kevin Standlee, are proposing to repeal the Retrospective Hugo Awards from the WSFS Constitution in a motion submitted to the upcoming Glasgow 2024 Business Meeting.

Here is the markup showing the language to be removed and added, followed by their reasons for seeking the change.


Short Title: No More Retros

Moved, to amend the WSFS Constitution by striking out Section 3.14.1 to remove the Retrospective Hugo Awards from the WSFS Constitution, and to insert text to preserve those given previously:

Section 3.14: Retrospective Hugo Awards

3.14.1. A Worldcon held in a year that is an exact multiple of 25 years after a year in which no Hugo Awards were awarded may conduct nominations and elections for retrospective year Hugo Awards for that year with procedures as for the current Hugo Awards, provided that year was 1939 or later and that no previous Worldcon has awarded retrospective year Hugo Awards for that year.

3.14.2: In any listing of Hugo Award winners published by a Worldcon committee or WSFS, Retrospective Hugo Awards presented prior to the 2026 Worldcon shall be distinguished and annotated with the year in which such retrospective Hugo Awards were voted.


Commentary:

It seems very unlikely that the Retro-Hugos given so far would match those which would have been given by the Worldcon in the year they would have been awarded.

It also seems that the people being honored by these awards are not available to receive the honors, so the awards have little meaning as far as encouraging and rewarding the creators. 

And it does not seem that the awards have made any significant impact on the availability and popularity of the works / people who received them.

Thus it seems to us that they have outlived their usefulness and should be abolished.

  • Kent Bloom, Member #0383
  • Kevin Standlee, Member #0377

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43 thoughts on “Motion to Abolish the Retro Hugos Submitted to 2024 Business Meeting

  1. I’m somewhat ambivalent. I like the idea of the Retros – but the commentary makes good points. Will think more on it.

  2. I’m opposed to this and I’m also not sure why we need it, because the Retros seem to be effectively dead anyway, because people who never gave a damn about them before decided to complain about winners they didn’t like.

    This feels like staking a corpse to make sure it doesn’t turn into a vampire.

  3. Is this necessary? Is anyone actually doing them? This seems more like minor housekeeping after the good china has been broken than anything else. Surely there are more important issues to be tended to.

  4. Cora Buhlert wrote:

    I’m opposed to this and I’m also not sure why we need it, because the Retros seem to be effectively dead anyway, because people who never gave a damn about them before decided to complain about winners they didn’t like.

    This feels like staking a corpse to make sure it doesn’t turn into a vampire.

    1940, 1942, 1948-1950, 1952 and 1957 seem to be the only years remaining eligible for Retro Hugos; I drafted a longer post calculating the possible permutations but it disappeared while switching tabs/browsers.

    It seems 2057 might be the last it will still be discussed or maybe 2032 or 2049.

    Whereas it could have ended much earlier if earlier Worldcons had just given/awarded Retro Hugos when given the opportunity.

    Now the reason of disconnection/disinterest won’t be as irrelevant in 2057/2049. But wouldn’t a Retro Hugo in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2007, or 2017, 2022, 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2032 be closer to the original intent of the Retro Hugo proposer’s?(rambling please ignore if irrelevant)

  5. Cat Eldridge on June 24, 2024 at 4:30 am said:

    Is this necessary? Is anyone actually doing them? This seems more like minor housekeeping after the good china has been broken than anything else.

    It seems like an effort to thwart/prevent future Worldcons from holding Retro Hugos to me.

    Now it’s a possible choice (until 2057 or 2049, if 2025 does hold a last Retro Hugo for 1950) to hold Retro Hugos but if this passes in 2025, it would need 2 years for future Worldcons to submit a motion to hold Retro Hugos and be ratified. Thus restricting to a Special Award only.

    After 2023 Hugo Awards results and revelations, if ratified it’s possibly hamstringing the 2025 to 2057 Worldcons from holding Retro Hugos.

    Or it will go back and forth, repealing and repassing (if ratified in 2025).

    Is this the best use of debate time in the 2024 Business Meeting?(which I’m not attending/have never attended one, but have watched online from afar with (sausage-making[=parliamentary/legislational or just rule-making]) interest)

  6. Unneccessary and a waste of the business meeting’s time this year. Don’t feel as strongly as Cora about it, but generally agree with the sentiment of her comment.

  7. What a great idea. In the years that there have been retro Hugos, I would vote for stuff I had read or watched but never went back and read or watched anything for the first time. I am old enough that I had read or watched many of the entries. There have been times I have ignored them. The newest one is barking on to 70 years ago so I agree the authors etc. would not be available to enjoy the award. Movie and TV shows (for the years we had TV available) could go to the studios but even some studios have disappeared over the years. I plan on attending the meeting and will vote in favor of getting rid of the Retro Hugos.

  8. I’m against this proposal. I don’t like taking away the choice of future Worldcons to run a Retro Hugos if their year is eligible. I’ve enjoyed voting in the Retros in past years and don’t see a compelling reason to end a WSFS tradition that already has a sunset provision built in because only seven years are left.

    The Retros call attention to worthy science fiction authors and works. The fact that some winners don’t match the sensibilities of the past are a feature, not a bug.

  9. Yes, this would have the effect of filibustering much more important business.

    Anyways, everything from back then which is not lost is or will soon enough be available. It is nonsensical to argue that the award’s intended purpose was ever to match what would have been given. I’m not sure popularity was the goal either, but the potential contribution to popularity can only increase with time.

    As for honoring, are we sure no one who was there in the 50s will make it through to the singularity?

    And it is a fact that potential finalists have been, and may yet be, cryogenically preserved.

    Even definitively departed fans and pros of yore will interact with future Worldcons through unforeseen modalities. They might show up. Sigh, they’ll probably campaign. How could the 2024 Business Meeting possibly be competent to determine whether such a thing, decades hence, will be rewarding, have meaning, or be useful?

  10. I like the Retros better regular Hugos because at least I’ve read some of the works.
    And there should be Retro Hugos for 1322.

  11. I have mixed feelings about this.

    I have nominated and voted for several Retro Hugo years. It was definitely some fairly heavy lifting to seriously read and consider works from the 1940s. Regardless, I enjoyed it, even dealing with some of the amazingly racist, misogynist, ableist, and colonialist (and some other ists I don’t remember) material.

    At the same time, I did often see nominations that I have deeply suspected were showing up due to the name of the author and not because people read the works and loved them (“Land of Terror” by ERB was particularly egregious). I was very happy none of these got awards.

    Considering that and the relatively small number of votes needed to win some of the Retro Hugo categories and the challenges in finding people to accept them, I suspect I will vote for this proposal.

  12. Well, the heavens won’t fall if this one passes, I suppose.

    It does seem a bit unnecessary, given that awarding Retros is already at the committee’s discretion. Yes, the Retros involve a chunk of extra administrative overhead for a very niche interest group, but if a Worldcon committee feels like it wants to make the effort, why stop it?

    Personally, I like the Retros… admittedly, that’s because they speak to one of my less endearing character flaws, namely morbid completism. As things stand, there are gaps in the record, years when no Hugos were awarded, and gaps must be filled, or so says one of the more obnoxious parts of my brain.

    However. Cora Buhlert, as we probably all know, has worked like a Trojan to dig out good stuff for the Retros, and I have followed some way in her wake, and I must say, it’s been very interesting. Studying (but not worshipping) the history of the field has led us to any number of worthwhile discoveries, both inside the pulps and out. We’ve had Retro nominations from some acknowledged masters of the literary field – Aldous Huxley, Thomas Mann, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jorge Luis Borges – helping to break down the artificial barrier between SFF and “proper” literature, which I’d say is a good thing in itself. We’ve turned up a lot of fascinating works from outside the pulps – things like Austin Tappan Wright’s monumental Islandia project, or Robert Ardrey’s Worlds Beginning, or Karin Boye’s Kallocain. We’ve rediscovered any number of unfairly forgotten writers from within the pulps; people like Jane Rice, Allison V. Harding, Marian O’Hearn (why, yes, the unfairly forgotten writers do tend to be women, I wonder why that might be?) And I, at least, have been delving into the wild and wonderful world of 1940s radio – which is the way people consumed short-form SF drama in those days, and which has been shamefully neglected, in my opinion.

    There’s a lot out there to be discovered. We’ve had some non-English works nominated, but SFF was alive and well in many countries outside the Anglophone world, and it would be good to find more non-English genre works; it would fill in more of that historical background. So Worldcon members in the 1940s wouldn’t have had access to these works, and wouldn’t have voted for them? So what? This isn’t some sort of necromancy, summoning up the spirits of Fandom Past to get a handle on their thinking; the idea, surely, is to find (and, if possible, honour) the best genre works of the past.

    Now, OK, we don’t actually need the Retros to do all this – I can track down archive recordings, delve into library back catalogues, and peer at the faded hectographs preserved by the fine people at fanac.org without putting together a list of award nominees. But the Retros do, at least, allow us to give the obscure stuff a moment or two in the spotlight – not for the recipients’ sake, so much as our own. In a world that seems filled with toxic nostalgia for a “Golden Age” that never really existed, it’s nice to look back on the past and discover what was actually good about it.

    Having said all that, I’ll own up to being frustrated by the voting, sometimes, as it seems that a fair number of people just go “oh, there’s a Heinlein, and I know that Asimov, and Forry Ackerman was always good for a laugh, wasn’t he? – oh, and John W. Campbell for best editor, that goes without saying.” (There were plenty of people in the 1940s who were quite fed up with John W. Campbell, and I don’t for a moment believe that he’d have got the worshipful treatment he gets now, back in the days when he was editing. If nothing else, there were other editors who were actually doing a better job at times – Dorothy McIlwraith was mostly working on a non-genre magazine, which meant she put Weird Tales back on its feet, effectively, in her spare time; I think that’s a notable achievement.) But, of course, we can’t control the voting; we can only present what we think is worthy and attempt to explain why. The Retros, as they currently stand, offer an opportunity to do that, and I’m not convinced that they should be pre-emptively closed down.

  13. Meh. If people enjoy them they should be allowed to make them happen. If they don’t they’re clearly not informed compelled I do it.
    And honestly they’re are more important things to discuss. Blocking minor awards that have somewhat atrophied isn’t important. Restoring trust after 2023 is. And this does nothing to address the real problem.

  14. Nickpheas saysMeh. If people enjoy them they should be allowed to make them happen. If they don’t they’re clearly not informed compelled I do it.
    And honestly they’re are more important things to discuss. Blocking minor awards that have somewhat atrophied isn’t important. Restoring trust after 2023 is. And this does nothing to address the real problem

    Precisely my point. What happens if China decides to submit a bid and wins? They will win. And then does it again? They could do it, really they Would. How do we deal with it?

    Do we just give them just give the Hugos? Or do we split them giving them the rights to the Hugo in China, and we take the world rights, an arrangement that allows both of us to have them.

    I know we used to the have zone Hogos which rotated them around the United States with an overseas one I believe every four years but somehow I don’t see China agreeing to honoring that arrangement, do you?

  15. This is a diversion to get lots of talk and outrage at the business meeting about something other than Chengdu.

  16. I tend to disagree with anything Standlee proposes. This proposal continues the trend. The Retro-Hugos serve the purpose of spotlighting the good stuff from the past. Personally, I think we could have “Alternate Hugos” for 50-years or more ago years when there were actual Hugos, because history tends to have a lot more depth and nuance decades after the fact.

  17. Yeah, I’m with John Meltzer: this seems like a completely unnecessary motion whose real purpose is to suck up oxygen at the business meeting to hinder discussion of the utter fiasco that was Chengdu.

  18. PhilRM: Frankly, you guys are overthinking this alleged conspiracy. The Business Meeting is a long game. Kent Bloom is one of the people who were against the Retro Hugos from the beginning. Something came up in discussion on the SMOFs email list that made him realize the balance has tipped and he might finally be able to get rid of it. So he’s making his move.

    You know about the long game. Think how Dave McCarty (among others) tried to keep EPH from passing, and when it came up for re-ratification in 2022 did his best to take it down.

    And another thing — Kent is offering his idea for public discussion immediately. We don’t have any proposals to discuss from that Discord group that was assembled to draft things addressing big picture problems like restricting Worldcons from going to countries with certain kinds of repressive laws, or overcoming corruption. Those, of course, will be sprung on Glasgow members at the last minute. Kent is not stealing anybody’s oxygen here.

  19. Not the right year for it, and as a SF history-type I’m opposed in general, but bringing it up when there’s not incredibly pressing stuff is probably a good idea. Wouldn’t be the first time I’m in the minority!

  20. @MixMat: There were Hugo Awards given in 1957, albeit only in three categories: American Professional Magazine, British Professional Magazine, and Fan Magazine.

    While not a traditional slate of categories, even by the standards of that era, those Hugos would rule out the possibility of holding Retro Hugos for that year, at least under the current WSFS constitution.

  21. The Retro Hugos were proposed by Bruce Pelz as a one-time occurrence (since both the 1946 and 1996 Worldcons were in the LA area), and because many people thought that Bruce deserved to have fun, then they were created.

    Even Bruce thought they’d probabaly be held only the one time (from the minutes of the Confrancisco Business Meeting “I expect the idea to be pretty much a Funny-Once, and that other Worldcons will not want to try this. But with a 1946-1996 Opportunity, I would like to be able to try it at least once. — Bruce Pelz “).

    (I was the chair of the ConFrancisco Business Meeting, where the proposal received its initial passage.)

    I see no particular reason to continue them. We’ve seen that many of the awards simply go to people that are recognizeable now, not necessarily the best nominees from those years.

  22. The first sentence of the commentary was already true when the Retros were first proposed.

  23. DB: And I’m going to emphasize that the statement does not represent anything ever claimed by advocates of the Retro Hugos. It was never a goal to give the Retros to (for example) what fans in 1946 would have voted for.

    If Kent thinks that’s a drawback of the awards, that’s something he’s bringing to the table.

  24. Mike: Kent didn’t bring the issue to the table. It brought itself. As the wording of the commentary suggests, it’s an issue that didn’t exist at the original proposal (because nobody realized how silly the results would look) but became glaring over time.

  25. Cat Eldridge on June 24, 2024 at 11:52 am said:

    I know we used to the have zone Hogos which rotated them around the United States with an overseas one I believe every four years but somehow I don’t see China agreeing to honoring that arrangement, do you?

    No. There used to be a rule that disqualified two-thirds of North America from being eligible to host Worldcon. There were three zones (West, Central, East), and only bids from one of those zones or from anywhere outside of North America could bid in any given year. That is, Worldcons could be outside of North America in any year, but only bids from one of the three North American zones were eligible.

    For example, in 1987, when Worldcons were selected three years in advance instead of two, and the Worldcon was in Brighton, UK, the bids for 1990 (a Western zone year) were from Anaheim and The Hague. The Netherlands bid won and hosted the 1990 Worldcon, ConFiction. In 1990 in the Hague (again, a Western zone year) the bids on the ballot were San Francisco, Phoenix, and Zagreb, plus a very strong write-in bid from Hawaii floated because of a perception that all three bids on the ballot were dangerously weak. San Francisco won and hosted the 1993 Worldcon, ConFrancisco.

    There was, I’ve been told, back in the 1970s, a short-lived rule change that would have required that Worldcons alternate between non-North American sites and one of the three zones. It lasted two years before being repealed, which is why it never had a practical effect. As I understand it, non-North American fans complained that requiring that they host the convention every other year and prohibiting them from bidding half the time were unreasonable. I don’t know anything more about that; I wasn’t there, having first attended a Worldcon in 1984.

    The current system is that any site more than 800 km / 500 mi from the hosting site is eligible in the current year. So no site within 800 km / 500 mi of Glasgow is eligible, but any other site anywhere in the world (say, Anaheim, California) is eligible. Also, the exclusion zone only applies to the site hosting the election. The fact that next year’s Worldcon is in Seattle only means that bids for the 2027 Worldcon have to be at least 800 km / 500 mi away from Seattle; thus Montreal is eligible, but Edmonton would not be, for example.

    Not that Anaheim and Seattle are within that range anyway, but I think there are people who somehow think that having two Worldcons in a row on the US west coast is somehow “not permitted,” just like I encountered people who thought that it was required that every alternate Worldcon had to be outside of the USA just because there happened to have been a series of Worldcons that had alternated like that. They thought that two non-US Worldcon in a row would have been against the rules.

  26. Yeah, I started attending Worldcons when the zone rotation was in effect – I went to Baltimore, then there was Australia (when the US zone would have been West Coast), Chicago (Central), Philly (East), San Jose’ (West), etc. But now there’s the 500 mile/800 km rule instead.

  27. @Joshua K. wrote:

    @MixMat: There were Hugo Awards given in 1957, albeit only in three categories: American Professional Magazine, British Professional Magazine, and Fan Magazine.

    I went by the Wikipedia page, which contained:
    “To date, Retro-Hugo awards have been given for novels for 1939, 1941, 1943–1946, 1951, and 1954.”

    Then Wikipedia’s chronological listing of Hugo Awards skipped 1957 (makes sense as Best Novel(and short fiction categories) wasn’t awarded.

    1940, 1942, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1952 – Then remain as eligible under current by-laws to have Retro Hugos in 2040, 2042, 2047, 2048, 2049, 2050 or 2025, 2052 or 2027; is it too much to ask there be a committee to look into this between 2026 and 2027 or after?

    If the 2025 and/or 2027 Worldcons decide to hold or not hold Retro Hugos for 1950 and/or 1952; is it not better to leave it to their Hugo committee? Or if I had money and time to attend Glasgow, I might propose a new amendment making it compulsory to hold Retro Hugos in 2027, 2040, 2042, 2047, 2048, 2049, and 2050; just to acknowledge/bring light to the spirit of Bruce Pelz(who i read [last night] in the 1993 minutes that he proposed the first Retro Hugos; and the minor opposition [which I’ve forgotten in the 24 hours since but did Kent Bloom oppose it then 30 years or so ago?] in 1993 and 1994.

    The adopters could have sunsetted the Retro Hugos to end by 2015[?]/2027(i think one of those years is the earliest that 1940, 1942, 1947-1950 and 1952 Retro Hugos could have been finished giving out).

    As Mike wrote, it’s a long game by someone to end the Retro Hugos. But 2040 -2052 will still be years that it could be possible to award Retro Hugos(if 2025 abolishes the Retro Hugos, sometime in the 2030s an amendment could possibly bring it back-ill probably be dead by then; FYI) LOL

  28. For that matter, even if the subject motion passes and Retro-Hugos are cancelled, what’s to stop a future convention from conducting in the appropriate year a set of “Retro-Gernsback” awards? Or even going ahead and, without sanction, calling them “Retro-Hugos”? Recent events have shown that conventions can do pretty much any thing they damn well please, and awarding unsanctioned retro-Hugos would certainly be more in the spirit of what one would want Worldcons to do than, say, arbitrarily removing eligible and worthy works and creators from the ballot.

  29. bill wrote:

    For that matter, even if the subject motion passes and Retro-Hugos are cancelled, what’s to stop a future convention from conducting in the appropriate year a set of “Retro-Gernsback” awards? Or even going ahead and, without sanction, calling them “Retro-Hugos”? Recent events have shown that conventions can do pretty much any thing they damn well please, and awarding unsanctioned retro-Hugos would certainly be more in the spirit of what one would want Worldcons to do than, say, arbitrarily removing eligible and worthy works and creators from the ballot.

    People could choose not to vote for such unsanctioned awards. The past controversies have been secrecy and obfuscation I think. As I have never voted or attended Worldcon, and won’t probably attend in future, it’s just my opinion. Ignore it or not as you wish.

  30. Dragoness Eclectic on June 24, 2024 at 1:16 pm said:

    I tend to disagree with anything Standlee proposes.

    So I take it that you’re opposed to the proposal on which I am the lead sponsor that would change the ratification process for WSFS Constitutional Amendment from what it is now (the Business Meeting) to allowing all of the members of WSFS in the year following a proposal’s first passage to vote on it without having to attend the Business Meeting. In other words, you prefer requiring all votes on WSFS Constitutional Amendments to be in person at the Business Meeting, correct?

  31. @Kevin Standlee: I don’t disagree with anything else in your comment, but Edmonton is actually over 500 miles/800 km from Seattle and thus could bid for a Worldcon when the administering convention is in Seattle, if they wanted to. (Calgary, on the other hand, is within the 500 mile/800 km limit and thus could not bid in 2025.)

  32. Joshua K. on June 26, 2024 at 1:31 pm said:

    @Kevin Standlee: I don’t disagree with anything else in your comment, but Edmonton is actually over 500 miles/800 km from Seattle and thus could bid for a Worldcon when the administering convention is in Seattle, if they wanted to. (Calgary, on the other hand, is within the 500 mile/800 km limit and thus could not bid in 2025.)

    Darn it, yes, you’re right, and I knew that and typed the wrong Albertan city. (I was part of the Alberta Westercon committee — indeed, I helped form its parent non-profit corporation and was on its board of directors.) I knew it was an edge case and made a mistake. I apologize for the error. I’ll turn in my honorary Canadian certificate if necessary.

  33. bill on June 25, 2024 at 1:51 pm said:

    For that matter, even if the subject motion passes and Retro-Hugos are cancelled, what’s to stop a future convention from conducting in the appropriate year a set of “Retro-Gernsback” awards? Or even going ahead and, without sanction, calling them “Retro-Hugos”? Recent events have shown that conventions can do pretty much any thing they damn well please, and awarding unsanctioned retro-Hugos would certainly be more in the spirit of what one would want Worldcons to do than, say, arbitrarily removing eligible and worthy works and creators from the ballot.

    It seems unlikely to me that WSFS’s official records (like the Hugo Awards website) would recognize and include such unsanctioned awards.

  34. Dragoness Eclectic:

    Thinking about this some more, would I be right in assuming that you oppose the recording and publication of the recordings of the WSFS Business Meeting?

    Would you want to repeal WSFS Standing Rule 1.6, which not only explicitly authorizes the Business Meeting Presiding Officer to arrange for such recording and publication, but also explicitly authorizes any other WSFS member to make and distribute such recordings? After all, I am possibly the most prominent WSFS member who has undertaken to publicize such recordings (sometimes to the dismay and opposition of other WSFS members) and who proposed SR 1.6 because some members objected to such recordings.

  35. @Kevin Standlee
    “It seems unlikely to me that WSFS’s official records (like the Hugo Awards website) would recognize and include such unsanctioned awards.”

    I see that the awards from Chengdu are recognized. How far outside of the rules would a convention have to go before what they do is ignored?

    But even if the WSFS websites wouldn’t remember them, fandom would.
    Recall the first Hugos. A bunch of fans got together, and voted on what they liked. All the rules-lawyering came much later.

  36. Bill: Since you mentioned it, there was rules-lawyering as soon as the awards were announced, with the committee trying to deflect a popular effort to call them the Hugos. (Can you guess how that turned out?)

  37. Kent didn’t bring the issue to the table. It brought itself.

    I think you greatly overestimate the number of fans who ever believed the Retro Hugos would choose the same works that would’ve won in the original year. As much as we like reading about time travel we don’t have the ability to do it ourselves.

  38. @Mike — maybe I should recast my last sentence as “Most of the rules-lawyering came later.”
    Regardless, the idea of Worldcom members discussing and ranking SF works, past or present, with or without the approval of two consecutive business meetings, seems like a Good Thing, and I’ve never understood why there’s a significant contingent who would want to limit retro-Hugos. If you don’t like them, don’t participate — problem solved.

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