The Joanna Russ Amendment

What if Yonmei’s “Joanna Russ Amendment,” rejected by the Anticipation business meeting, had actually passed?

Her idea was to add to the final Hugo ballot a nominee by a female author in any written fiction category that lacked one after finalists have been selected by the usual rule. The additional item would have to come from the top 15 vote-getters.  

Yonmei wrote a blog post about the less-than-warm reception her idea received in Montreal. She must have felt its moral force counted for more than the spirit in which it was offered:

…it occurred to me cheerfully that as a WSFS member, I could propose an amendment to the Hugo rules. A sort of Joanna Russ amendment. An “up yours!” amendment to all the fans so smugly certain that the only reason there are so many all-male shortlists in the Hugos is because men are just more excellent writers of SF/F than women are: if women were as good as men, this reasoning goes, there just naturally would be equal numbers on average from year to year.

Some, like the Crotchety Old Fan, aren’t taking it well:

For the record – I’ve never picked up a book or not picked up a book because of the author’s name, perceived gender, race, whatever.

I had a little different thought. To Yonmei the list of Hugo finalists may be just another symptom of a sexist culture. But I look at final ballots over the past 10 years and see two or three male authors with a spectacular gift for self-promotion who regularly get their stuff nominated, a result having little to do with their gender but still, somebody else didn’t get a shot at those awards. I was curious who might have been added if Yonmei’s amendment hypothetically passed back in 2000:

How often would the Joanna Russ Amendment have been used?

In 2009, for Best Novel; in 2008, for Best Novel and Best Novelette; in 2007, for Best Novella, Best Novelette, Best Short Story, and Best Fan Writer; in 2006, for Best Novel and Best Novelette; in 2005, for Best Novelette and Best Short Story; in 2004, for Best Novelette and Best Short Story; in 2003, for Best Novel, Best Novella, and Best Fan Writer; in 2002, for Best Novelette and Best Fan Writer; in 2001, for Best Short Story; and in 2000, for Best Short Story.

So I looked up the work by a female author that would have been added in each case. (The number in parentheses is where it finished in the Top 15 nominees. The figure at the end of the line is the number of nominations received.)

2009 Best Novel
(11) Half a Crown by Jo Walton 38

2008 Best Novel
(6) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling 30

2008 Best Novelette
(6) “Safeguard” by Nancy Kress 19

2007 Best Novella
(12) “Where the Golden Apples Grow” by Kage Baker 12

2007 Best Novelette
(8) “Journey Intro the Kingdom” by M. Rickert 17

2007 Best Short Story
(6) “Nano Comes to Clifford Falls” by Nancy Kress 14

2007 Best Fan Writer
(6) Claire Brialey 19

2006 Best Novel
(12) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling 24

2006 Best Novelette
(15) “Little Faces” by Vonda N. McIntyre 9

2005 Best Novelette
(7) “The Fear Gun” by Judith Berman 17

2005 Best Short Story
(tie 11) “Singing My Sister Down” by Margo Lanagan 11

2004 Best Novelette
(tie 13) “Basement Magic” by Ellen Klages 12

2004 Best Short Story
(8) “Ancestor Money” by Maureen McHugh 18

2003 Best Novel
(9) Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold 40

2003 Best Novella
(7) “The Potter of Bones” by Eleanor Arnason 40

2003 Best Fan Writer
(6) Cheryl Morgan 35

2002 Best Novelette
(9) “Computer Virus” by Nancy Kress 19

2002 Best Fan Writer
(7) Evelyn Leeper 23

2001 Best Short Story
(tie 10) “The Royals of Hegn” by Ursula K. Le Guin 14

2000 Best Short Story
(10) “Evolution Never Sleeps” by Elizabeth Malarette 11

What do we get? Jo Walton’s Prometheus Award-nominated novel Half a Crown would have gotten a run at the Hugo. Two Harry Potter novels that fell shy of enough votes for the final ballot would have been added. There would have been additional nominations for Nancy Kress, Ursula LeGuin, Lois McMaster Bujold, Kage Baker and Maureen McHugh, who have appeared on the final ballot many times.

I had wondered if the rule came with a built-in weakness, forcing Hugo Administrators to reach so far down the list that the stories would lack excellence, or have gotten trivial numbers of votes. From this list I see that particular problem would not have been much of an issue. 

Update 08/28/2009: Corrected reference to Jo Walton’s Prometheus Award nomination following her comment.