Feb 19 2009 12:26pm

Hugo Nominations

The Hugo Award from Nippon 2007I’m gonna go out on a limb here. I’m going to assume that at least some of the people that come here like science fiction. I’ll also assume, within that set of people, there is a subset who know about the Hugo Awards and take part in the process to nominate and then vote on the awards. Note: while all Hugos are cool, not all the statuettes are as cool as the ones they had a few years ago in Japan (see left).

Nearly a month ago, posted a link to the online Hugo Awards nomination ballot. This is a reminder that nominations are due by February 28, 2009. Now, you need to have been a member of last year’s Worldcon (Denvention 3 in Denver, CO) or a supporting or attending member of this year’s Worldcon (Anticipation in Montreal) before Jan 31, 2009 to be eligible to nominate.

So, if you don’t meet those criteria, sorry, you won’t be able to nominate this year. If you do, and you haven’t nominated yet, you have less than two weeks left!

But wait! There’s more!

Before you dismiss this post—and I can understand if you do: the number of people who nominate and vote compared to the number of total memberships is abysmal—there is validity to the process for both the eligible nominators and for the general public.

First, the awards AND the nominations are not meaningless, despite the low number of nominators/voters. Gavin Grant—intrepid editor of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and publisher at Small Beer Press—has an excellent post about this very topic. Grant’s point is that for the people who get nominated, it is a big deal. Specifically, he says:

[The honor of nomination] may seem like a joke, but if you’re smart you’ll realize it’s not. Or, you can wait until an award list comes out with your name on it—or you’re on a jury and have to decide the nominations—and then finally you might realize what an honor it actually is.

It can mean the difference between continuing with what you’re doing, or just walking away. I know that getting nominated the last few years for the World Fantasy award has bolstered my commitment to publishing Electric Velocipede. So don’t take this lightly. A nomination might be just the validation a writer needs to continue writing.

Second, as a librarian, I use the award nomination lists as one of the ways to find and recommend work to people. It’s also a way for me to determine what books to order for our science fiction, fantasy, and horror collections. I get asked by other librarians where to start when looking to bolster a genre collection, and I always recommend starting with the award winners and then the nominations. I can’t read or even be aware of everything that’s published, so the award lists are a great starting spot.

Third, in regard to the concept of wanting to “get everything read” before nominating, as Gary K. Wolfe explains on the LOCUS roundtable blog:

[F]or 2008, Locus reports having listed 1,669 new titles in SF, fantasy, horror, and its various cross-pollinations. There were 254 SF novels and 436 fantasy novels alone. Anyone who actually tried to read all of those probably needs a hug, but isn’t someone I want to be trapped in a bar with for very long.

And that doesn’t even begin to consider the amount of short fiction that was published last year. Wolfe’s point is that if your excuse for not nominating is that you haven’t read everything yet: get over yourself. You can’t read everything. Nominate from what you’ve read, and then catch up when the final ballot comes out. Of course, if you’re a judge on a juried award like the World Fantasy Awards, you have a huge, thankless task to go over everything that was published in the previous year.

Fourth, and this is important as both someone making nominations and as a reader, there are a lot site out there that provide recommendations and summaries of the previous year’s work:

I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones I check when doing nominations. If you’re getting ready to nominate, these sites can help you remember something you read last year and want to nominate, or can help you find some things to read and consider for nomination. For people who enjoy reading, these sites can help you find the next thing to read. If all the sites recommend City at the End of Time by Greg Bear, then you can consider it a book to investigate. Or maybe Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory (which won this year’s Crawford Award) is a better example as I suspect many of you know about Greg Bear’s book from last year.

Remember, if you are eligible to nominate, please do so! You only have until February 28, 2009! And even if you aren’t eligible, you can still reap the rewards as a reader and fan.

[Photo by Cory Doctorow; licensed for commericial use.]

Arachne Jericho
2. arachnejericho
I'm eligible to nominate, but I feel like a fool for thinking about it; I don't know enough of the field to be able to make informed decisions.

I can deal with the actual voting, since I have time to read all the requisite books; but for nominations, it usually comes down to the 2-3 books I've read in the category. Is that enough? It seems not.
Joe Sherry
3. jsherry
If you think the 2-3 books you've read are good enough that you would feel comfortable nominating it - then nominate. If you feel that book #2 was poor to quite poor - don't nominate that one.

Maybe Book #3 is one of the best books you've read in the last three years and deserves to be recognized. Maybe all that book needed was one more nomination and it would have made the final ballot.

My take - and I may throw in the $50 next year so I'm eligible to vote then - is that you nominate those works you most feel should be recognized from the eligible year. I read 100+ books a year and there are dozens of books (not to mention individual stories) that could be just as good, if not better, than what I've read. I would / will still nominate based off what I've read.
Cheryl Morgan
4. Cheryl Morgan

I understand your reluctance - many other people have said similar things to me - but it is based on a flawed conception of what the nomination stage is all about.

The usual argument is "I have only read X books, how can I possibly know what are the best books of the year?" But the nominating stage is not asking you to make that decision.

With a juried award, the jury members are required to read every book, and as Gary Wolfe noted they probably go a little crazy trying to do so. The Hugos do not have a jury, they are a popular vote award, which means that they use lots of people and statistics to get their short list.

How does it work? Well, during nominating you say "I read two books this year that really blew me away, they were..." And hundreds of other people do the same. All of those nominations are counted, and the five that get the most nominations go through to the final ballot.

So there's absolutely no requirement that people participating in nominations should be able to pick the "best" books, or that they should have "read everything". The main requirement for nominations is that lots of people should participate. By suggesting that you and people like you are not qualified to nominate you are actively wrecking that process.
Arachne Jericho
5. arachnejericho
@jsherry #3, @Cheryl Morgan #4 -

Extremely good points. Thank you.

I'll nominate this year as well as vote.
Madeline Ferwerda
6. MadelineF
Eh. You pay $50/2 years, you do your best, and it's still wall-to-wall white men on the ballot. Gets old, alas.

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