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We're happy to welcome [personal profile] forestofglory to Lady Business to discuss the Hugos Awards and their history (and their future! Which you can influence!) with an award for Young Adult literature. Thanks, [personal profile] forestofglory!


I’m part of a committee helping to create new award for YA books to be given out at Worldcon (short for the World Science Fiction Convention) like a Hugo award. Currently the committee working on the award is running a survey to gather name suggestions. If you are interested in this we’d love for you to take the survey. It is online at bit.ly/worldconya. The survey will remain open until November 15.

If you’ve been reading Lady Business you have probably heard about the Hugo awards – some of you even nominated Lady Business for the Best Fanzine Hugo last year. But for those of you not familiar with the awards, they are a big deal in SFF and one of the few awards people who don’t follow SFF closely have frequently heard of. The Hugos are given out every year at Worldcon and are voted on by the members of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS).

What is WSFS and how are Hugo categories picked?


The WSFS is the governing body of Worldcons and thus the Hugo Awards. It is not incorporated but rather consists of all the members of each years Worldcon. So if you’ve ever bought a supporting or attending membership of Worldcon you’ve been a member of WSFS.

So how is WSFS run? WSFS is democratic body that’s run like a town meeting. In theory every member has an equal voice. In practice you have to get to Worldcon, go to the business meeting, and work your way through the somewhat complex parliamentary procedure. Still, the system makes an effort to be democratic and allows for a lot of debate of all of the issues. One downside to all of this debate is changes are very slow.

The WSFS constitution sets out rules for how Worldcons are run, which includes the Hugo and Campbell awards. To change the constitution takes two years. The first year an amendment is proposed, and if it passes, the second year it is ratified.

History of the YA Award


I’m actually a relative newcomer to the Worldcon YA award scene having joined the committee a year ago, so to get more information on the history I asked the other committee members. It turns out some of them have been working on creating a YA award for WSFS since 1991. That year a special Hugo Award was proposed to honor YA books1, but the Comcon rejected the idea. After that proposal failed The Golden Duck awards were created. These awards honor books for kids and teens and are given out at Worldcon every year.

Finally after many, many YA Hugo proposals failed a committee was formed to study how Worldcon could give out a YA Award. The committee was first created in 2013 at LoneStarCon3, which was held in San Antonio, Texas. That first year the chair failed to convene the committee. However the next year committee formed, extensively studied the issues, and produced a report, but did not propose a new award (in part because the Business Meeting had to deal with the making other changes to deal with harassment by groups known as the Sad and Rabid Puppies). This report is available online. It really goes into detail about why Worldcon should honor YA, and also looks at other YA awards.

The next year I joined the committee (after I complained on Twitter). We put forth a proposal for a Campbell-like award, but left the name blank. The Campbell is an award for Best New Writer that Worldcon gives out every year with the Hugos, and it is nominated and voted on by the Hugo voters as part of the same election as the Hugos, but is officially Not A Hugo. The winner of the Campbell receives a shiny plaque, and get to wear the Campbell tiara for the year, but doesn’t get a rocket shaped Hugo trophy.

That report is online and explains why the committee decided on a new award rather than trying to create a YA Hugo. In a nutshell: Hugo categories for fiction are defined by length, and the tradition is that no work should be eligible for more than one Hugo (this has now been officially written into the WSFS constitution). Over the years this issue has been a major sticking point in creating a YA Hugo. Business meeting attendees wanted to define a YA Hugo such that nominees would not also be eligible for Best Novel. After much study we realized this just wasn’t possible, and decided on the current solution instead. (This has the side benefit that we don’t need to formally define YA – after all, the Hugos don’t define science fiction.)

The proposal to create a new award successfully achieved first passage at the last Worldcon. However when we first wrote the proposal we couldn’t decide on a name, which is a big decision not to be taken lightly. So we agreed to propose the award with the name left blank, and amend it next year at Worldcon 75 to add in the name. The constitutionality of this change has been called into question. There is some possibility that changing the name will be consider a "greater change." If this happens, the WorldCon 75 vote would be treated as first passage the award would need to be ratified at San Jose in 2018.

Currently the committee is in its fourth year and is working on finding a name for a new YA award. We are looking for names that invoke the spirit of new possibilities while also honoring the history of YA. We want something that feels inclusive. The plan is to run the current open ended poll until November 15. Then we will look at the suggested names and use them to create a short list, and run another poll to help decide which name to choose. (These polls are advisory – we learned something from the Boaty MacBoatface incident.)

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer them. Meanwhile I hope you’ll take our survey and let people interested in YA SFF know about it.

1 Every year the host Worldcon may add one special category to the Hugo Awards. This isn’t done all that often, although this year Worldcon 75 is using this power to preview the best series Hugo.

Date: 2016-10-25 05:23 am (UTC)
calissa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] calissa
This was a fantastically informative post!

One thing I'm a little unclear on: if the Golden Duck awards exist, why are they not a sufficient way of honouring YA at Worldcon?

Date: 2016-10-25 03:52 pm (UTC)
forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
From: [personal profile] forestofglory
Good question. The new award would be given out at the same ceremony as the Hugo Awards and voted on by the members of WSFS ie the Hugo voters. The Golden Duck awards are a juried award and are presented in a separate ceremony. They also have not achieved the same recognition as the Hugo awards.

Date: 2016-10-25 09:19 pm (UTC)
calissa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] calissa
Thanks for the information!

not a person

Date: 2016-10-27 07:16 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Thank you for this. Lots snd lots of comment on my fb, if you want to take a look. https://www.facebook.com/farah.mendlesohn/posts/10154539747132177?comment_id=10154540269467177&reply_comment_id=10154542768547177¬if_t=feed_comment¬if_id=1477500390235036

From those of us who don't want a person (individual baggage, identifying with a nationality, the principle of singling one person above the crowd), we have the following:

The Threshold Award
The Portal Award
The Gateway award
The Silver Chair (this refers to more than one book)
The Horn

Of ones that tend to signal a particular author:
The Tesseract Award
The Wardrobe
The Psammead

Re: not a person

Date: 2016-10-27 07:16 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
ps and we don't have a name for it, but a Chinese Dragon on a Jet Pack would be an *awesome* award.

Date: 2016-10-27 07:18 am (UTC)
fjm: (Default)
From: [personal profile] fjm
Just realised I forgot to log in. It's Farah Mendlesohn above

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