Novelettes Left Untouched in Revamped Best Saga Proposal

The motion to add a Best Saga category to the Hugos will be stripped of the related proposal to delete the Best Novelette category in response to strong opposition from writers.

One of the movers, Jared Dashoff, provided the update in a comment on Whatever. (And because Whatever comment links never seem to work for me, here is a link to the main post.)

Jared Dashoff: My statement on the Best Saga Hugo proposal:

[Please note that this is my take and only my take on the Saga Hugo proposal. Where I do say we, it was a group action taken by the proposers.]

Over the years, long fiction in the greater speculative fiction category has moved towards publishing works in series, rather than stand-alone works. Stand-alone works are still published and are eligible for Hugos in various categories, but some of us thought that the expansive works, where the individual volumes may or may not stand alone and be worthy of a Hugo themselves, deserved recognition. So we set out to create a Hugo for them. Best Saga became the title mostly because as the work gets longer, the title of the Hugo gets shorter.

Having attended many WSFS Business Meetings between us, and personally having been on the Head Table before and being on it this year, we felt the sense of the Meeting (i.e. how many that generally attend the Meeting feel) was that another professional fiction category would throw off the balance if a category was not removed. Based on long discussions and floating the idea past folks, we settled on the Novelette category. This bumped up the maximum word count for a short story, and dropped down the minimum word count for a Novella. No work that had been eligible was no longer eligible, it was just eligible in a different category.

Before formally submitting the proposal with the addition of the collapse of the Novelette, we floated it informally to the Secret Masters of Fandom (SMOFs) (even though they aren’t secret) email list, the Journeyman of Fandom (JOF) Facebook Group, and via emails to various persons. There was some angst at the inclusion of the Novelette collapse, but not much, and it was overwhelmed by the want to further discuss Saga at the Meeting or outright support for it. We did, in response to the angst over the collapse, structure the proposal so that it was in two distinct and separate clauses, making it very easy, if we were incorrect on the sense of the Meeting, to Divide the Question and debate and vote on each clause separately, meaning both the Novelette could remain and Saga could be added, if that was how those who attended the Meeting voted.

Once the proposal was formally submitted, it saw little publicity. However, once other proposals were submitted, namely “E Pluribus Hugo,” all of the proposals got publicity and the Saga proposal much more than it had seen to-date. The professional community, and many fans, made their opposition to the Novelette collapse known; much more opposition than any of us had sensed from our initial floating of the idea, floating of a draft proposal, or felt the Meeting** had.

**And, by extension the community, as the Meeting is meant to be representative of all WSFS membership and we all are in favor of more people showing up at the Meeting and participating so that it is more representative, even if it was to kill our proposal.

In response to this opposition to the Novelette collapse, we contacted Kevin Standlee, Chair of the Sasquan Business Meeting, to ensure we could amend our proposal so long as it was before the deadline for the submission of New Business. We are now in the process of doing that and amending the discussion text to remove any reference to the Novelette collapse. Some original proposers have decided not to join us in this effort.

Going forward, the proposal will only include the addition of the Saga Hugo and that will need to pass or fail on its own merits. If it fails, we will be sad, but we accept that it was not the Business Meeting’s want to create an award for such works. If others wish to submit a proposal related to the shorter fiction works, that is their prerogative, but I will not be submitting one nor supporting it.

23 thoughts on “Novelettes Left Untouched in Revamped Best Saga Proposal

  1. David Stever: If people vote for it… You know the tradition of the Hugos: vox popoli, vox dei. (Hm, we may want to pick a different phrase in the future.)

  2. Yay! Glad to hear it. I’m still not sold on the Saga category, but I’m now less dead set against the amendment. (Although since I won’t be there my opinion is not terribly important.)

    @Mike Glyer

    Er… Yes, might be worth altering that.

  3. FWIW, I am not the author. I am a contributor, as are all the proposers. The only reason my name is first is because some guy named Dashoff (you may have heard of him, Mike) wanted his kids to have the same last name as he did. Alphabet and all.

    I, unfortunately, also have the dubious honor of being Deputy Presiding Officer of the Business Meeting (the reason why I wasn’t telling anyone they should split the question because I wasn’t going to get into telling people what they should do any proposal, including the one I was supporting and recusing myself for lest someone in some group *cough* cried “FOUL!” at the thought I was doing it for other proposals) and so I am stuck tracking all of this and have responded where I saw fit. That, for better or worse, made me de facto spokesman.

    As I noted in a comment on a post with the same language above on the JOF Facebook Group:

    “I should also note that I have seen quite a bit of discussion on blogs, here on Facebook and on Twitter about the holes and issues people foresee or see with the Saga proposal by itself. I truly hope that we can work towards a better solution or disagree and if enough people disagree with us that this is a good idea, it will fail and that will be that. But please, please do know that I supported this because I thought it would recognize works that didn’t really get recognized in the current scheme, not as a slight to any other works or any people or anything. I thought this would make the Hugos better and, by extension Worldcon better, and by further extension, SFF fandom better. If I was wrong, I was wrong and I will admit that. But please, please know this was not out of anger or frustration, it was out of good will. I grew up in this community; quite literally. I love this community. I want to see this community grow and we can disagree on things, but we all want the same thing in the end and that is a more inclusive, bigger, better SFF fandom.”

  4. Jared Dashoff: Thanks for including that part of your comment from JOF — I had read it there, but confine myself to quoting from FB things that are set to Public.

    You might also like it if I named all the movers of the Best Saga proposal — Warren Buff, Jared Dashoff, William Lawhorn, Michael Lee, Pablo Vasquez, Ben Yalow.

  5. Mike Glyer on June 22, 2015 at 11:24 am said:

    David Stever: If people vote for it… You know the tradition of the Hugos: vox popoli, vox dei. (Hm, we may want to pick a different phrase in the future.)

    Piffle. I refuse to let any tinpost dictator spoil a perfectly good phrase.

    (You know, I think I will let that typo stand …)

  6. I should also note that if people have constructive ways to better the proposal sans the removed clause, please let us know. We have a few more weeks before we NEED to resubmit, which we are going to, so we’d love to make it the best proposal before we do.

    We are already making changes such that if X novel is nominated in the same year that XYZ “saga” (and I know people hate Saga) is nominated, the Admin can check with the nominee (as he or she does with Best Dramatic Presentation) and move nominations so that they don’t appear on the ballot together.

    We also have added, at least for now, a clause making it impossible to win twice. We have not ended eligibility for a “saga” if a part wins for another fiction category, however. We think that goes against the tradition of shorter works being revised into longer ones and being nominated as the longer work (Flowers for Algernon, Ender’s Game, Dune, etc.).

    I know there are other criticisms and questions, so please let us know how to make this the best proposal it can be. Then, if it fails, it fails and, as they say in France, “C’est la vie.”

    One note on word count. No number is going to make everyone happy. Rather than change it a hundred times before the Business Meeting, I THINK (and I could be wrong) it is best to just leave it where it is as it will almost certainly be debated at the Meeting and many amendments will be offered and it will likely go to a highest-to-lowest vote with us stopping at whichever gets the most votes.

    Also, Mike, I apologize to you and your readership for not thinking of sending you the damn proposal before it ever got submitted. This would have been a great place for discussion (although I can only wish it all would have been well natured and constructive) and working out some of the problems before the proverbial excrement hit the moving, bladed air circulator.

  7. Jared, I don’t think anyone thinks that supporters of the proposal intend it as a slight to anyone. I’m pretty firmly against the idea, but never thought those who support it were trying to do anything other than make the awards more representative of the type of books they like, fairly and reasonably.

  8. @Andrew Unfortunately, before the removal of the novelette category (which we have admitted was a mistake) I saw comments that said we were seeking to slight new authors or squash diverse voices, which was never my intention nor, I think I can say this fairly, that of my fellow contributors and proposers. We admit, based on our history with the Business Meeting, we thought Saga had a better chance at the Business Meeting if it was connected to the collapse of another category, which was wrong given the attachment to the Novelette category. We have corrected that wrong, and I have personally apologized for it (even though I am not the author just a collaborator, I felt the need to do so) but it was never an attempt to silence people who come into the field through novelettes and move an award up to more established authors who we like. I just think it isn’t fair to compare a work (of any size since) in a long running structured world to one that stands alone in its own world, for the same reason we don’t compare novels to shorts or BDP-S to BDP-L. World building and story arcs over many volumes of varying lengths (and any word count is eligible so long as it sums to w/e gets to be the total, even if you write 100 short stories in the same world) is different than writing a one off novel. I think both lose out when they are compared.

  9. Thank you for keeping the wider swaths of fandom informed, Jared. I don’t post on Twitter, but I do have an RSS feed for a few keywords, and I did see a bit of acrimony related to the proposed realignment of the short fiction categories. However, I have not gotten the impression that the acrimony is widespread — but rather that, while there are a number of people who oppose or are uncertain about the change, most are not angry about it.

    I disagree with the proposed change, but do not feel that it was proposed with any but the best of intentions.

  10. I am afraid that this year’s events may have made people extra sensitive, myself included.

    I apologize for unkind speculation. It now seems clear to me that this is a proposal made out of care for the genre and the authors and the Hugos, with no ill intent or hidden agenda.

  11. This is better and I’m grateful. I still prefer the suggestion from the Hugo roundup thread that someone made: make the award for a single novel that is part of a saga rather than for the series as a whole. We might even, for the purposes of the proposal, define a “saga” as “thing that is at least four books long.” So anything from a singleton up to the third book in a series goes into the Best Novel category. Anything from Book Four up goes into Best Series Installment.

  12. I am very pleased to hear that B.1.3 – Short Title: Best Saga will be amended to remove reference to deleting the Best Novelette category. My thanks to the proposers for listening to the community and responding in such a positive manner.

    I confess that, should I be able to make the WSFS Business Meeting, I still would be reluctant to support B.1.3. Why? Because by my possibly too quick reading of the proposal, it opens the door further for works to be eligible for an award more than once. Ender’s Game could win the Hugo in 1985, Speaker for the Dead in 1986, then again when Children of the Mind and several times thereafter. The Ender Universe series has been widely awarded, and I don’t begrudge it that recognition, but does it need periodic refreshments as series. Ender’s Game could win the Hugo three or four times! I realise the short story was eligible and then the novel won, which is an issue, but I stand by the principle that a work should be eligible once.

    I’d be happy to see an amendment made to help prevent this. Not sure of wording, but something to the effect that if a novel is nominated and is part of a series, then the series cannot be nominated. Similarly, if a book is an opening volume in a series it is automatically ineligible. I don’t like this either. I’d rather not have the series award, but it would address the issue.


  13. Andrew:
    It’s not even about the type of books I personally enjoy, as I vastly prefer a story to be told between two covers. But I think the market has disagreed with me for a long time. My brother’s bookshelves full of high fantasy seem to back that up.

    While that’s a possibility, it disregards work like Thieves World or Wild Cards where much of the series is published as short fiction.

    WSFS has long held the principal that significant expansion makes a new work for eligibility purposes. Flowers for Algernon is the best example of this, as it *won* as a short story before being nominated as a novel. Part of what we’re looking at, though, is language to exclude previously winning series, but only for those which win as series.

  14. Warren beat me to it, but, I love the sound of my own voice, so…

    @Jim: Exactly what Warren said. We designed the proposal to be a word count minimum so that nominees wouldn’t have to be novels. If an author wanted to, he or she could write 1,000 blog posts of 400 words each (assuming they are fiction and a connected series) and be eligible. Just the same, an author could write three tomes and be eligible. Or you could write 6 or 7 novellas or novelettes. It’s part of the reason this is Best Saga and not Best Novel in a Series; that award would be unfair to both anyone who won it and the winner of Best Novel.

    @Johnathan: As both you and Warren pointed out, shorter work being expanded to longer work has always been eligible for Hugos. We’ve done some polling of the supporters and we would like to keep it that way. However, I am leaning towards having an amendment ready to go if the Meeting really wants to have a novel that has won make the series ineligible. At least that way we don’t have to do it on the fly and the Deputy Presiding Officer in me says always avoid doing on the fly if at all possible.

  15. Jared Dashoff —

    Thank you for your response to my comments on another thread! At your request, I’m moving further commentary here.

    1) I see that the word count question is being left to be hashed out at the business meeting. I’m not sure that’s a great idea, so I will still make a comment on that here, but I’ll try to keep it brief. I think partly basing the wordcount on a list of “hefty” (i.e. larger than most) series when the proposal was crafted led to a problem. While the “40,000+” definition of a novel currently used by the Hugos is indeed out-of-date and small by modern standards, an 80,000 word book is well within current practices. There are probably a number of trilogies which come in at 240,000 words or so, and I think it would be a shame to see them ineligible for what is essentially a series award.

    2) The commentary states that there is “a requirement to publish multiple volumes to gain fresh eligibility” once a series has already been nominated. I think that is VERY unclear in the current text of the proposal, and it’s an important requirement to keep doorstopper series from being renominated with each fresh book, which I agree is a bad idea and goes against the intended spirit of the thing. The text currently reads:

    “Any work having been previously nominated under 3.3.1 shall be eligible if additional volumes have subsequently been added consisting of an additional 400,000 words.”

    I would suggest changing it to something along the lines of:

    “Any work having been previously nominated under 3.3.1 shall be eligible if at least two additional volumes have subsequently been added consisting of at least an additional [whatever number is chosen] words.”

    3) I think the language used to define a Saga is too unclear. I understand the need to keep it broad in order not to accidentally exclude things, but “a work … appearing in multiple volumes” might accidentally do just that by virtue of being too vague. Is Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence a work appearing in multiple volumes? I wouldn’t think so, they don’t have unifying plot. Should it, and other things like it qualify? I would personally think so.

    I would suggest changing the language to something along the lines of:

    “Best Saga. Any works of science fiction or fantasy appearing in multiple volumes consisting of at least [chosen number of words] words, that can be identified as belonging to a single series by exhibiting a unified plot, unified characters, or a unified setting, of which the latest part was published in the previous calendar year.”

  16. @kyra–

    Thank you.

    This is what we have so far, written before you commented (great minds and all). Please note this is a subrevision. When we revise to the point we want to republish, we will post a revision on SMOFs, JOFs, and, hopefully, here (on File 770 generally, that is), so that everyone can comment. Then we will go back to Sasquan with a final submission before the deadline.

    “3.3.1 Best Saga A work of science fiction or fantasy appearing in at least three (3) volumes consisting of at least 300,000 words by the close of the previous calendar year, at least one of which was published in the previous calendar year. If such a work has been previously nominated, it shall be eligible only if at least two (2) additional volumes consisting of at least 300,000 words have been published since its last nomination by the end of the previous calendar year.”

    That would make a novel length series need to be a trilogy to be eligible the first time, and have two books published totaling at least 300,000 words to be eligible again. Do note that volume means any part/issue/release/what have you, so digital stories could pump out 100 short entries totaling 300,000 words and count, too. Then they’d just need two more entries (and 300k words) to be eligible again.

    I will take your suggestion for the wording of a series back to the group and see what they think.

  17. It seems to me that the wording “… at least three (3) volumes consisting of at least 300,000 words …” and “… at least two (2) additional volumes consisting of at least 300,000 words …” doesn’t make it completely clear that the word total is the aggregate total for the volumes, i.e. that the parsing is (three volumes) (consisting of at least 300,000 words) and not (three) (volumes consisting of at least 300,000 words).

  18. @Morris Keesan

    How about this:

    3.3.1 Best Saga A work of science fiction or fantasy, which belong to a single series with a unifying plot, characters, or setting, appearing in at least three (3) volumes consisting of a total of at least 300,000 words by the close of the previous calendar year, at least one of which was published in the previous calendar year. If such a work has been previously nominated, it shall be eligible only if at least two (2) additional volumes consisting of total of at least 300,000 words have been published since its last nomination by the end of the previous calendar year, and provided it has not won under 3.3.1 before.

  19. Reposting a comment here that I also made in another thread:

    > “The Hugo admins would be responsible for sorting out the subset/longer series question based on the will of the nominators and the ballot would make clear which way that decision had gone.”

    It might be worthwhile to formalize it slightly in a sensible way. E.g.:

    A nomination for any set of works will count as a nomination for any subset of those works, should a subset be nominated separately.

    By which I am trying to say —

    Two people vote for all 14 Robin Hobb books in that Universe. Three people vote only for the Liveship Traders trilogy within that set of 14 books. Four people vote for A Song of Fire and Ice.

    This would count as 5 votes for the Liveship Traders trilogy, 4 votes for A Song of Fire and Ice, and 2 votes for Robin Hobb’s complete universe.

    There are arguments against this, but I would think it is more fair to do it this way (acknowledging that more people wanted to vote for Robin Hobb books) than allowing confusion to keep them off.

  20. @kyra

    I got so wrapped up in today’s Hugo daily dump that I haven’t been back to this thread but I saw your comment there. We have worked in a way to do this (we think!)

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