Changes to the Hugo Awards process

For those of you following the Hugo Awards soap opera for the past couple years, Linda S. did a fabulous thing: she attended all the business meetings at MidWestConII and issued a report. I kind of wanted to go to the business meetings, but of course I didn’t (not a surprise; there’s always something I’d rather do than go to meetings). I hear none of the votes were close enough that my attendance mattered, which is good, as otherwise I would feel guilty for skipping those meetings.

So, then, here’s a summary of what happened on the business side of WorldCon. Statements about what happened are from Linda; opinions are mine.

The following item was ratified at Chicon 7 in 2012 and had to be re-ratified by MidAmeriCon II in 2016 in order to remain part of the Worldcon Constitution.

A.1 Short Title: Best Fancast.

The Best Fancast Hugo was added to the WSFS constitution with a sunset clause requiring it to be re-ratified in 2016. This passed, so there will continue to be a Best Fancast Hugo.

That’s fine with me. I basically never listen to fancasts and therefore this category doesn’t matter to me, but you could say the same for Dramatic Presentation Short Form and many other items. If there are a lot of people who want a fancast category, great, I’m glad they have one.

The following Constitutional Amendments were approved at Sasquan in 2015 and passed on to MidAmeriCon II for ratification. If ratified, they would become part of the Constitution at the conclusion of MidAmeriCon II.

A.2 Short Title: The Five Percent Solution.

The 5% rule is no more. Woo hoo! This gets rid of the stupid requirement that a work needs at least 5% of the vote total for the category in order to appear on the ballot. This has been a real problem for the Short Story category, where there are a lot of stories and not many nominations and therefore quite a risk of seeing only three or so stories on the ballot. I’d far, far rather have a full set of stories to vote on.

A.3 Short Title: Multiple Nominations

This clarifies that the same work can’t be eligible in multiple categories. It passed and will be in effect next year.

That seems like a bookkeeping detail, but sure, let’s dot those i’s and cross those t’s.

A.4 Short Title: Nominee Diversity

This amendment says that only two works by the same author or episodes of the same series can be finalists in a single category.

It passed and will be in effect next year. That’s fine but as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t go NEARLY far enough. You all know how much I detested seeing Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire get, what, five nominations one year? And then John C Wright get five or six or whatever. It seemed obvious to me that no author should ever accept that many nominations. It is just ridiculous to say that one author EVER writes one-fifth of all the award-worthy stories in a year. I wouldn’t just say one (not two) per category maximum — I would be fine saying ONE or at most TWO nominations PER YEAR, inclusive of all categories.

A.5 Short Title: Electronic Signatures

This allows the use of electronic signatures for the site selection voting. It passed. I have no opinion about this.

A.7 Short Title: E Pluribus Hugo

That’s the complicated new scoring method that’s supposed to counter bloc voting. Linda S. reports that someone asked Dave McCarty, a Hugo administrator, whether he thought EPH was a good idea and he said No. He said it adds complexity, decreases transparency, and manufactures additional data cleaning duties for the admins for not much in the way of gains against either slating or trolling. He also said it would have made changes in the 2014 ballot, before there was any official slating going on, including kicking off the ultimate winner for best pro artist. Hmm.

Well, it passed, but it has a sunset clause, and not only that, but an amendment was added that allows administrators between 2017 and 2021 to suppress the use of EPH for the next year. Since it passed, we’ll see what it does next year. I’m quite curious. A non-binding resolution was passed asking the 2017 admins to release a list showing which works would have been finalists without EPH. I’m sure they will.

A.6 Short Title: 4 and 6

This was amended to 5 and 6, since Jameson Quinn (a voting systems guy) said EPH would potentially work better with more (non-slate) works per ballot. It passed, so next year there will be 6 ballot slots in each category, but individuals will only be able to nominate up to 5 works. I was definitely in favor of this measure, which may or may not be effective in preventing blocs from taking over categories, but is definitely simple and transparent. Plus I just like having more ballot slots in each category. Although, sigh, I guess that will mean even more reading if I plan to vote.

New Business Submitted to MidAmeriCon II (Anything that passed here will have to be ratified by the Helsinki Worldcon before it goes into effect.)

B.2.1 Short Title: Best Series

After a lot of back-and-forth, this passed. GOOD. I have been waiting and waiting for a series Hugo, and I wanted it to be in place in time to nominate and vote for the Foreigner series. Even that series must end someday, so I was feeling pretty impatient about it. Linda says she thinks the final version said that once a series won the award, it would no longer be eligible. Fine. Losing finalists would be eligible again after some number of additional books (2?) and words (250,000?). Again, fine.

I get that a series Hugo may be complicated and tricky in practice. I don’t care. Of course it has to be ratified next year to take effect. I hope it is. Once the category is in place, problems can be smoothed out over the next five years or so.

B.2.2 Short Title: December is Good Enough

People who were not members of the last Worldcon will need to buy their membership to the current Worldcon by the end of December rather than the end of January in order to be eligible to nominate for the Hugos. This is just an attempt to make things a little easier for the Hugo admins, and it passed easily. Fine; I don’t care about this.

B.2.3 Short Title: Two Years are Good Enough

In an attempt to broaden the pool of Hugo nominators, an amendment was passed a few years ago to make members of Worldcon N+1 eligible to nominate for the Hugos, in addition to N and N-1. In practice, this hasn’t substantially broadened the pool of eligible nominators (100-200 at most), but it’s created lots of administrative hassles. This also passed pretty easily, though there was some argument against. Again, I don’t personally care about this.

B.2.3.1 This Year’s Awards, This Year’s Nominations (amendment by substitution)

This was an attempt to restrict nominations to members of the current Worldcon only. It was voted down.

B.2.4 Short Title: Three Stage Voting (3SV), Or “The Only Winning Move Is Not to Play”

This passed. It’s an attempt to thwart Vox and other trolls and griefers by essentially moving the No Award vote to a stage before the final vote. After the nomination stage, a list of the top 15 works in each category would be made public. The membership would be asked to vote to reject any work they thought didn’t belong on the ballot. The bar for throwing out a work is set pretty high: the original version read: (1) the number of “Reject” votes is at least 60% of the combined total of “Accept” and “Reject” votes; (2) the number of “Reject” votes is at least the higher of 600 or 20% of the number of eligible voters.

To me this sounds complicated and weird. Also, I gather that people actually were voting for joke entries, notably “Space Raptor Butt Invasion”. If they’re not going to remove things like that, what *are* they going to remove? Well, if it gets ratified and put into practice and then turns into a huge mess, this item has a sunset clause and a yearly re-ratification requirement. That seems wise.

B.2.5 Short Title: Additional Finalists

This would have allowed the Hugo admins to add up to 2 additional finalists to each category if they thought anything was fishy about the category. This was “postponed indefinitely” on Thursday.

Linda says, “As I understand it, the person who proposed it (Lisa Hayes, Kevin Standlee’s wife) didn’t actually expect it to pass. She and Standlee have clearly been deeply annoyed by constant calls for a Strong Administrator to take Strong Measures against the Puppies. Now she can point to the swift defeat of this fairly mild measure to show that the WSFS isn’t going to allow the kind of Strong Administrator they want.”

Yes, quite a soap opera, I gather. Although I sort of like this idea, it does seem like if you want a juried award, you should do that; and if you want a fan award, you should do that; and this proposal was kind of a bastard child of the two. So probably dropping it is just as well.

B.2.6 Short Title: EPH+

A measure changing the divisors for EPH to supposedly make it more strongly anti-slate. It passed.

B.2.7 Short Title: Defining North America

Apparently the question of when a Worldcon counts as “not in North America” and triggers a NASFiC has been somewhat up in the air since a change in the constitution a few years ago. The amendment defines North America based on the old zones, so it includes Hawaii, Central America, and the Caribbean. It passed.

B.2.8 Short Title: Restrospective Improvement
Several changes were proposed for the Retro Hugos. One was voted down; the other two changes passed.

B.2.9 Short Title: Universal Suffrage

Requires that any memberships sold (excluding day memberships and some child memberships) include Hugo voting rights. This passed.

B.2.10 Short Title: Non-transferability of Voting Rights

This would have split Worldcon membership into a supporting membership (which carries voting rights and can’t be transferred) and an attending supplement, which can be transferred. The consensus seemed to be that the problems it was attempting to solve were minor or non-existent, and it failed.

B.2.11 Short Title: Young Adult Award

This one was interesting to me! As you may know, there have been attempts to create a YA Hugo for decades, and they’ve all run aground on questions of the definition of YA, the problem of a work potentially being eligible for both Best Novel and Best YA, and many other issues. The current committee working on this came up with a compromise—a WSFS YA award that isn’t technically a Hugo.

Evidently there was some feeling that this might ghettoize YA. I doubt this, personally. Look around and you will notice that YA is at this point HUGE and EXTREMELY WELL ESTABLISHED — it would be more liable to overshadow adult SFF than be ghettoized, imo.

Anyway, this new non-Hugo YA Award passed, which I prefer. As far as I’m concerned, if the Norton can be separate-but-associated with the Nebula, there’s no reason why a new YA award can’t be separate-but-associated with the Hugo.

So there you go. Now we can all feel virtuously aware of the current state of proposals and amendments even if we didn’t attend a single minute of the business meetings at MidWestConII. Thanks, Linda!

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9 thoughts on “Changes to the Hugo Awards process”

  1. You’re welcome! As I understand it, the WSFS secretary will eventually publish an official version of the changes, including any amendments to the proposed text passed during the meeting. Since she’s a volunteer with other commitments, this may take a month or more, but it’s not like there’s a big rush.

    I found the Business Meeting surprisingly absorbing. I’m a little sorry that I can’t attend Worldcon more regularly!

  2. My concern with the YA award is that it’ll lead to the kind of situation we saw with the Locus awards, where adult SFF readers will push their favorites (whose works often aren’t all that representative of YA as a whole) without bothering to look beyond what they already know. Maybe I’m just being pessimistic, but.

  3. Maureen, I think that’s a completely legitimate concern. I’m pretty sure one of the reasons past attempts at a YA Hugo ran aground was the question of whether Hugo voters are knowledgeable enough about YA to give a meaningful award. I’d personally love it if lots of new people joined the Worldcon to nominate and vote for the YA award, but I’ll be surprised if that happens. I hope that people who intend to nominate for the YA award will take the time to get a sense of what’s available, but I suspect that works and authors with a large adult fanbase will have a definite advantage.

  4. Good point, Maureen. On the other hand, the same is probably true of any YA award? Or is there some award where primarily people under eighteen are voting? I guess I’d rather have an award than not have one? Hmm.

    I’m not sure anybody is truly knowledgeable about the state of adult SFF either. I know I’m not. So MUCH is published every year; who can keep up?

  5. I’d argue that the Norton does a great job of showcasing YA SFF, but it’s a judged award, not a voted one. (Also a personal plug for the Cybils, but once again, that’s judged.) The Locus category is the only YA SFF award I know of that’s voted on rather than judged.

    I would also rather have an award than not have one, but I’m also anticipating a lot of “oh, we like Joe Abercrombie, put him on” happening. It’s definitely true that the field is far too vast to keep up!

  6. I’m sure there will be a lot of “We like ____, her book should definitely be on the short list.” We get a lot of that in all the Hugo categories — inevitably so. I wonder if having the Nebula and Goodreads Choice Awards go earlier in the year will help draw attention to a slightly wider pool of work than might otherwise be noticed?

  7. Re: YA Award and voters voting:
    “The Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12.”
    That said, it might be better to suggest a “Best Work for Young Readers”, which would include picture books, novels, short stories, graphic novels, even YouTube channels.
    Also, thanks for the synopsis. With the announcement of the finalists, we’ll see how it works in practice!

  8. To me, it looks like the changes probably helped keep Vox Day from gaming the short work categories — so that’s basically a win, I suppose, despite the one novelette that looks so ridiculous.

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