On the Best Artist Hugo Award
Posted on August 3, 2006 Posted by John Scalzi 3 Comments
Over at The Art Department, Irene Gallo posts Donato Giancola’s really rather sensible proposal to make sure the artists nominated for the Best Artist Hugo in any particular year actually have original artwork that’s made its debut in that year. I’m vaguely surprised that this isn’t how it’s done already; I assumed it was.
Donato, incidentally, is up for the artist Hugo this year, and I know for a fact he’s done artwork in specified timeframe, because he did the art for the OMW hardcover. Hell, I’ve got the original artwork on my wall; I figure that was worth a spot on the nomination slate.
The only drawback I can see is that it’ll require nominators to recall the names of the books the artist’s work are covering, and that marginally increased work requirement may drop the number of people willing to do the effort to nominate. But really, if you’re too damn lazy to go over to the bookshelf and open the book cover to see the “cover art by” credit, then you probably shouldn’t be nominating at all.
This sounds like a good change to the nomination rules. It certainly has been true that some of the voting for prior recipients was based on name recognition rather than specific work done during the eligible year (I think I’ve been guilty of that a couple of times). This change would hopefully bring some new names to the voting ballot.
This may possibly run into the same difficulty, at least in nominations, as the “Best Original Artwork” Hugo, awarded 1992-96. Putting it simply there were not enough nominations to make that Hugo workable. The pool of nominators was so small that it was abolished after a few years. George Flynn’s 1979-98 survey of Hugo nominating/voting (non-clickable url below) shows that as few as five nominations got an artwork on the ballot; the average of the minimum required was nine nominations. The average minimum required for novels was 49.
That voting would be for an artist, not a particular work, means that (as John noted) any difficulties would likely be in the nomination process. Even in 1992-96 people did vote for the Best Original Artwork Hugo in sufficient numbers once the finalists were selected.
And yes, I agree that this is somewhat different. But the last time a specific peice of art had to be mentioned to nominate it caused serious problems.
I’m sure the number of nominations will go down but the fact that the tallying of the votes goes to the artists rather than be divided by the actual number of artworks nominated should help make up for that. The alternative is that people are just voting by rote.
As I said on the SFBC blog, it should be stressed that Donato is NOT proposing to change the rules, he’s simply proposing a means to enforce the existing rules. For the writers, I know that a lot of attention is paid to the publication date of a book and to its character count – whether something falls in novel, novella, story, etc. makes a big difference for some writers. It seems only fair that the same rigor should be applied to the artists as well.
It does seem that awareness of the artists in the community is on the rise. John Picacio’s artbook was listed on just about every SF blog imaginable, Stephan Martiniere’s name is becoming known to the reading public, there are a plethora of artbooks and calendars being printed this fall — John Jude Palencar, Jon Foster, Stephan Martiniere, James Bama, to name a few — Spectrum’s popularity increases every year and new SF(ish) art annuals are popping up. I’m hoping that these publishers are not counting on the relatively few sf/f artists to be the only people buying these items!
It’s sad to know that the accomplishments of John Bereky, Jeff Jones, James Bama, and others will go unrecognized by the industry’s most visible award…it would be a shame to see the current generation of artists lost to that historical record as well. No award can give, or take away, the accomplishments these artists have made…but it does our field a disservice not to show off the depth of talent that we have.