Note to WSFS Members: Killing the Best Novelette Hugo is a Terrible Idea
Posted on June 21, 2015 Posted by John Scalzi 120 Comments
(Note: Hugo neepery follows. But not the usual Hugo neepery! This is entirely new Hugo neepery! However, if you’re bored with Hugo neepery in general, then avoid this.)
Every year at Worldcon, there’s a business meeting where World Science Fiction Society members may, among other things, offer up amendments to the WSFS constitution. A very active set of amendments relate to the Hugo Awards, as might be expected because the Awards are the most public-facing thing the WSFS does, arguably excepting the Worldcon convention itself. This year there are four proposed amendments relating to the Hugos, for example.
One of these proposed amendments is for “Best Saga” (You may see the proposed amendment, as well as all the other proposed amendments this year, here. The “Best Saga” proposal is “B.1.3”). The amendment proposes to create a Hugo category to award continuing series of works whose total word counts exceed 400,000 words; any series with a new installment in any particular calendar year would be eligible for consideration in that year. So, for example, if the Best Saga Hugo already existed, then the Old Man’s War series would be eligible for the 2015 calendar year award, because the whole series clocks in at over 400,000 words, and I’ll have a new installment this year (The End of All Things).
I have thoughts about the desirability and necessity of a Best Saga award, but independent of that, the creators of the “Best Saga” amendment would “make room” for the Best Saga Hugo by rejiggering the short fiction Hugo categories, notably by paring them down from the three current categories (Short Story, for stories up to 7.5k words; Novelette, for stories between 7.5k and 17.5k words; Novella, for stories between 17.5k and 40k words), to two: Short Story (up to 10k words) and Novella (10k to 40k). This snips out the novelette category entirely.
Speaking as someone who writes very little novelette-length fiction, and could very obviously personally benefit from a Best Saga Hugo category, I very definitely oppose this proposed amendment. Let me explain why.
1. It is unnecessary to get rid of the Best Novelette category in order to “make room” for the Best Saga category. I’m unaware of the need in the WSFS constitution to limit the number of Hugo Awards given out; it’s not a zero sum game. Speaking as someone who has both emceed the Hugos and sat in its audience, I understand the desirability of not having an infinite proliferation of Hugo categories, because the ceremony can be long enough as it is. But that’s not a good enough reason to give one fiction category the axe at the expense of another, nor can I think of another good reason why the inclusion of the “saga” category requires the doom of another fiction category. It is, literally, a false dichotomy.
This false dichotomy is bad in itself, but also offers knock-on badness down the road. For example:
2. It privileges novel writing over short fiction writing. Bud Sparhawk, a writer and human I admire rather a bit, complained to me once (in the context of the Nebulas) that calling the Best Novel award “the big one,” as many people often do, is an implicit disrespect of the art of short fiction writing, and of the skills of those who write to those lengths. You know what? He’s right. Speaking as someone who finds writing novels relatively easy and writing shorter lengths relatively harder — and as someone who has needed more time to write a shorter-length work than I needed to write a novel because of those native skill sets — I’m well aware that the skills required to write short are no less impressive than those required to write long.
Also, speaking as best novel Hugo award winner: Would you argue to me that I am more essential to the field of science fiction and fantasy than, say, Ted Chiang, who is inarguably one of the pre-eminent SF/F writers of the 21st century, and who has not published a novel? Am I more essential than Eugie Foster, whose all-too-short canon of work is in short fiction? Or any other of a host of brilliant contemporary writers who write to shorter lengths? Do I and my work somehow trump grandmasters like Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg, whose many Hugos come not in the novel category but in categories of shorter works?
Novels aren’t inherently better than shorter works; I’m not at all convinced they need another category at the expense of those shorter works.
3. It privileges the established writer over the newer writer. Almost by definition, the authors who are eligible for the “Best Saga” award are very likely be writers who are already successful enough to have a long-running series and the ability to publish in those series on a recurring basis. It’s theoretically possible to have someone toiling away on a series in utter obscurity and suddenly emerge with a knockout installment that would pop that writer up into “Best Saga” consideration, but as a practical matter, it’s almost certainly more likely than not that the nominees in the category would be those authors with perennially popular series — people, to be blunt, like me and a relatively few other folks, who are already more likely to have won the “genre success” lottery than others.
Meanwhile, short fiction continues to be a really good way to find new writers and new voices and new perspectives. For many of these new voices, award consideration and recognition continues to be a fine way to raise their profile in the field. Culling out a short fiction award to benefit an award for series is very much offering an advantage to the successful few at the expense of the emerging many. I think that’s wrong.
(NB: The “Best Saga” proposal points out anthology series like “Wild Cards” are eligible, but I don’t know if offering up an example edited by the current most successful novelist in all of science fiction and fantasy actually invalidates the point, especially if in those cases the Hugo goes to the anthology editor rather than the (numerous) individual authors, as I suspect it would. As a practical matter, I see this benefiting the already-successful more than the up-and-comers by a considerable margin.)
4. It ignores the fact we are living in a new golden age of sf/f short fiction. Aside from the traditional magazines that already existed for short work, think of all the venues for short fiction that have blossomed online in the last decade and a half. Think of all the anthologies Kickstarted or otherwise crowdsourced, and all the writers using Patreon or other direct-compensation systems to connect with fans. Think of all the micro- and mini- and indie publishers putting out short fiction anthologies and collections. Think of all the writers self-publishing and taking their short work directly to fans and readers. Think of the wide breadth of voices and stories and writers that have come to market in the last several years.
Now, right now, is without question one of the best eras for short fiction in the history of the science fiction and fantasy genre… and we’re proposing to cull out an award available for short fiction so we can give another award to novels? That’s not just silly, it’s almost breathtakingly short-sighted. It would be a community turning its back on one of its greatest engines of creation.
Finally, I have this problem with the proposed amendment:
5. It feels like a sneak attack on short fiction, under the cover of an unrelated proposal. I don’t suspect that those who proposed it meant it that way — I’m sure they were simply trying to craft a proposed amendment that would attract the most votes. Even if that were the case, however, as a practical matter this proposed amendment, under the guise of doing one thing (creating a new Hugo category), is in fact doing other things (disposing of a short fiction Hugo category and reorganizing the remaining short fiction categories in ways that don’t necessarily make sense for storytelling purposes) and doing so in a manner which suggests that of course it would have to be done this way in order to make space for their new Hugo.
Well, no, it doesn’t. If you want to propose a “Best Saga” Hugo, then do that. If you also wish to get rid of the “Best Novelette” category, then you can do that too. But these are two separate things, and each deserves a separate argument on their respective merits. There is no systematic reason to combine the two proposals. Moreover, as a matter of rhetoric, the way the current “Best Saga” proposal is built makes it seem like the proposers are trying slip under the table a move to hollow out the Hugo’s ability to honor short fiction, by distracting the potential voters with another issue entirely. It’s a bad way to do things.
For that reason, even if I were inclined to consider a Best Saga Hugo award, I could not and would not endorse this particular proposal for its creation. Whether it was intended to be or not, it is an attack on short fiction, on the merits of short fiction as a class of expression, and on the writers of short fiction. It’s not worth creating a Hugo to benefit the relative advantaged few, if it means taking away a Hugo from a much larger pool of people who could benefit from a nomination — or a win.
This is a bad proposed amendment, and I hope it fails.
(P.S.: If you’re interested in my thoughts on a “Best Saga” Hugo on its own theoretical merits, I’ll put those into the first comment in the comment thread.)
Now, if the Best Saga Hugo proposal hadn’t had tried to unnecessarily murder the Best Novelette category, is it something I could see my way toward voting for?
My current thought about it is “no, not really.” Here’s why:
First, books in series get nominated for the Hugo all the time. Two of my own Best Novel nominations were for books in series — The Last Colony, which was book three of the Old Man’s War series, and Zoe’s Tale, which was the fourth. Excluding first novels in a series, sequel novels and series installments made the ballot in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Additionally, numerous sequels/series installments have won the Best Novel award: Ask Bujold, Robinson, Card, Vinge, Brin or Cherryh about that.
The current proposal (in my opinion) complains that sequels/series not getting nominated just isn’t enough, they have to win, too, and recently they haven’t. And, I don’t know. I see that as a weird bit of entitlement. There’s no structural barrier to sequels/series installment winning — it’s been done numerous times — so perhaps it’s simply the actual voters who currently favor stand-alones to sequels/series installments. There’s no reason why the award has to follow market trends (which is an argument pulled into the proposal), so griping about the recent lack of wins for sequels really feels like these proposers are saying to the voters “No, you’re voting all wrong.” Which they are not. In any event, there’s no reason why the pendulum couldn’t suddenly swing back towards series installments winning.
Second, I think the mechanism for series continuance is really unclear. Suppose I write a short story in the Old Man’s War universe, which I then individually publish and put for sale — which is something I do and have done. Does that count as “publishing a new volume” for the Saga award? If so, why, and if not, why not? If indeed all one has to go to keep a hand in “Best Saga” consideration is publish a short story in the universe, well, I see a lot of creative ways to game this particular award. The actual text of the proposal is rather vague on this point.
Third, as noted above, I see this benefiting a relatively narrow class of author, i.e., the ones whose series have been popular enough to last for 400,000 words — i.e., three or four novels, generally speaking. I mean, that’s great for me, and people like me, but despite the assertion that “the majority of original novels (somewhere around two-thirds) in the genre being published today are part of larger series, if the new releases of Tor/Forge, Baen, Pyr, and DAW are any indication,” again as a practical matter many of the nominations each year are likely going to go to a favored few — in my opinion, likely the ones who are already having their in-series books nominated for Hugos.
(Note also that the assertion above re: series is kind of squishy. Real numbers, please!)
Fourth, series are already eligible for Best Novel Hugos in a way that acknowledges their multivolume complexity, and there’s even an example of a multi-volume series winning: Connie Willis’ “Blackout/All Clear,” which won in 2011. So again I’m not sure we’re not addressing a problem that already has a solution.
I should note that I’m not horribly opposed to the idea of a “Best Saga” or “Best Series” Hugo, if it’s formulated correctly. But I don’t think the current proposal, either in its actual state, or a version denuded of the “Best Novelette”-killing verbiage, is a good formulation. And even in a better-formulated version — one that is more rigorously constructed, that doesn’t penalize other forms of fiction — I don’t know if I would still see it as necessary, which means I expect my opinion of it would not get above “meh” in any case. But, if someone else wants to try, I’d be happy to see the argument.
(Not necessarily here in the thread, mind you, although I wouldn’t stop all y’all from noodling about it if you like. I mean an actual proposal.)
I would note that if I were going to add another novel category to the Hugo ballot, it’d be YA. I think that’s a category substantially different enough to merit its own gong. BUT for the purposes of this comment thread I’d rather not get sidetracked into that.
Agree on all points! The sheer diversity in short fiction (both in terms of topic and in terms of the authors writing short fiction) should be celebrated and encouraged, which this proposal certainly fails to do.
I think point 1 is sufficient by itself. Is there a perceived problem of “too many prose fiction awards”?
I do think the conjoining of these two proposals is more than a bit odd, and something of showing the hand of the proposers in favoring long-length fiction over shorter fiction.
A Best Saga Hugo if handled right, isn’t a bad idea, but trying to kill the Novelette in the same blow is another fish entirely. I’d argue a rejiggering of the short fiction categories is not a bad thing, but given just how much short fiction is out there, killing one of the fiction award categories entirely…no, I don’t think its a good idea.
Agreed. I write in all lengths, but lately I`ve come to prefer the 10k to 15k range. It’s long enough to tell a good story, with world-building ambience and all that, but without demanding a major time and attention commitment from your reader.
I’m too much of a niche writer to expect a Hugo nomination anytime soon, but they should leave the damn thing alone. As for the Saga category, they might as well just call it the George Award, since George R.R. Martin will win it as long as he keeps turning out Game of Throne sequels.
I’ll put in the obligatory ‘if you’re attending Sasquan you are eligible to come to the Business Meeting and vote on this’ notification. I also want to point out that it’s been proposed that the Business Meeting should vote to separate these two ideas into two separate votes, that will be voted on at the first business meeting of the con, probably in the first hour or so.
While it’s not my field, I work in another field where annual awards happen and there is definitely an issue of “award creep” as things get more and more specific. It often comes from a good place, where the folks want to honor a new and emerging trend in the field that can’t really compete in other categories, but after a while you get into Grammy territory, where there are a million different categories.
There is a desire to keep the actual ceremony to a manageable length, as we’re all in there with tuxedos and we want to get to the bar and the drinking and the celebrating as opposed to sitting and the little round tables with finished plates of food just waiting for them to go through everything. It’s a balancing act.
Without knowing how long the Hugos are and how people feel about that length it’s hard to say whether there’s room for one more.
I think this proposal is trying to encapsulate Erik Flint’s comments re how actual publishing is not reflected in current Hugo word count lengths for the written fiction categories (novels are longer now than they were then).
But I don’t think it does a very good job of it. It also would allow the same work to win a Hugo twice
(Mirror Dance by Bujold in both Best Novel and as part of Best Saga, for example) which the WSFS Business meeting has traditionally resisted.
I hope we resist this proposal also.
One argument I could see for eliminating the novelette category is that it would increase the accessibility of the Hugos. Trying to figure out which category a story falls into seems somewhat intimidating.
Matt, I think the criteria is for completed sagas, not ongoing, if I remember my reading of the proposal correctly.
(In any case, I should know the ins and outs of this intimately after Worldcon, since I’ll be on the Business Meeting floor as the Sergeant-at-Arms…and I am taking applications for level-headed, non-confrontational assistance dedicated to ensuring that the process runs smoothly. If anyone’s interested, email me privately at jrw at aracnet dot com, don’t clog up John’s threads)
Beyond that, as someone who tends to write more in the novelette to novella range, I’m also in favor of keeping the slot. While I’ve not a snowflake’s chance in hell of ever getting nominated for a Hugo, the other piece is that keeping the category also means that there’s more of an opening for that length of story in commercial markets. Getting rid of the category may mean less interest in buying that length, at least in certain markets, and I’d much rather not entertain that possibility.
The Hugos have spent fifty or so years privileging short fiction over novels, since there are three short fiction categories and only one novel category. I’m not sure that it’s unreasonable to change that to two and two instead, or that it particularly disadvantages short fiction. I’m not particularly happy with the Best Saga proposal for other reasons, though (it’s hard to tell what you should nominate, and voters won’t have time to read the nominees before voting).
I disagree on one other point. New writers are perfectly capable of winning a Best Saga Hugo. For example, both Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles and Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series would be likely winners when completed, and they’re the only substantial works that either author has ever published (to date).
James Nicoll’s take on the Best Saga Hugo (http://james-nicoll.livejournal.com/5366003.html):
“The problem is the inherent time scale of the venture. My proposal is that there be a Best Saga Hugo, that only finished sagas are eligible, that it be given once five or ten years and that contrary to the other categories, that it be decided gladiatorily, between authors armed with outsized swords.”
The comments are exciting!
I like the proposal. And I do think of the Novel as the big one. Let the shorter novels be rolled into the big one. If they are as important as you believe they can when an award. Recently I listened to “Of Mice and Men” read by Gary Sinise. At the time I was keeping up with the SP3 nominations and I thought to myself, Larry should listen to this and see what really good writing sounds like. I didn’t think this is too short to be a novel.
On the other hand SP3 gave us Jim Butchers series. And I thought, not worthy of a Hugo for a single novel. But the series is better than the sum of the parts and as a series it is. Too bad there isn’t a category for that.
When dealing with categories one is drawing arbitrary lines. There is always something wrong with the line. But in general I like the line drawn by this amendment and I am not in favor of lots of categories. I think Martin wrote about needing to revamp the categories as well so perhaps he will opine on this attempt.
Speaking of Martin and on an unrelated Hugo matter the Puppy Boycott is on because… things had quieted down and VD wanted to stir it up again playing the SPs like the pups they are. Martin has responded to Brad Torgersen that SPs have lost their integrity as Correia proclaims he isn’t involved. The boycott is a yawn, but I did my part for the anti-boycott. It’s fathers day so I gave myself the Kindle Version of “Lock In” with audible pairing of Amber Bensen. It’s a great sale price on Amazon for the Kindle book and the synced audible version is less than 5 bucks. So heads up for readers looking for a deal. It would be nice to see the boycott backfire.
matthughes, it would only be the GRRM award once every 5 years or so.
That should be “win an award” not “when an award”. Apologies. Mad cow.
If I read the proposal correctly it violates one of the basic principles behind the Hugo, it allows the same work to win a Hugo award multiple times, and allows a single work to be nominated in several categories in the same year. So in its current incarnation it seems a doomed proposal even without the changes to the short fiction categories.
I am not opposed to a “Best Saga” addition, but I am not sure that it is needed. As a fan of series, I will say it’s disappointing to constantly see series I like get thumbed down on Hugos often because they’re book 6 in a long-running series. GRRM’s Game of Thrones seems to be the exception to this rule.
I do agree with paring down the short fiction categories. While short fiction has seen a resurgence of late, I think it’s more of a resurgence among people who like short fiction. I would wager (and perhaps I would lose but I’m not sure) that the majority of fans come to the genre through novels and series and have no care for short fiction (unless it’s set in a series they like). The focus of the awards on short fiction (at least by quantity of categories) never made any sense to me. And I don’t really think that is a controversial opinion (but hey, maybe I’m wrong).
I also think your argument that the proposal favors established writers over newer writers is quite odd. Isn’t that true of any award? For that matter, so few people vote on the short fiction categories that established pros probably have an advantage anyways in the current system. I thought the whole point of having the Campbell Award (which I know, is not a Hugo) is to give new writers a chance. I have no problems agreeing that short fiction is just as hard if not harder than writing a novel, but does it really need 3 awards when the novel only gets 1?
Devin: 5 years? You incurable optimist.
Wanted to check the actual text of the proposal, but surprise, surprise, their website is down. Coincidence or a massive flood of those Whatever readers that are all a figment of Scalzi’s imagination? You decide.
“I also think your argument that the proposal favors established writers over newer writers is quite odd. Isn’t that true of any award? ”
There’s a difference between an award that is open to all writers, even if established ones have (some) advantages, and an award that literally cannot be won by a new writer — which takes the place of an award that could.
“I have no problems agreeing that short fiction is just as hard if not harder than writing a novel, but does it really need 3 awards when the novel only gets 1?”
“Short fiction” doesn’t get three awards, however. Short story gets one. Novelette gets one. Novella gets one. Novel gets one. Each specify specific lengths, which don’t overlap. If we want to add “Saga” to that, fine, but that inclusion does not inherently argue a rejiggering of the current categories, which — contrary to contention in the proposal — work well because (speaking from experience) writing a novelette-length work requires a different writing dynamic than short story or novelette.
Agreed on all counts, Scalzi.
I’m actually – mixed on the “Best Saga” category, as if feels like some kind of Sad/Rabid Puppy end run around the Hugos to me, and denying THAT lot any victory? Brings a Smile To My Face….
OTOH, I’m married to Tamora Pierce, whose Tortall and CIRCLE Universes might be considered “sagas”, since they’re interlocking series of books featuring the same characters. So the idea of Tammy’s body of work being eligible at last for a Hugo? Bring an even Bigger Smile To My Face.
You had me at #3.
I think looking at series/saga novel as *individual* novels for consideration for “Best Novel” plays well with series that are made up of largely stand-alone instalments, that you could (should you wish) read in almost any order; but very badly with series that aren’t (I think the proposal is at least in part a reaction to the Wheel of Time nomination last year). Although I’m not sure you can make that better by saying “this is for the whole series, not just the latest instalment” since a big part of the problem is “no, I don’t want to read that much between close-of-nominations and close-of-voting” which a new category won’t help with at all. I don’t know that it’s an especially good idea, certainly not as currently stated.
Oh and @Dave Smith – ASoIaF has no best novel wins, although it has had some nominations. The TV show has had much more success.
I haven’t done the sales analysis yet, but my own feel of it, having worked in a bookstore: best saga would also privilege white male authors. They get more reviews, they tend to get larger promotional budgets.
Do I think that suddenly Ilona Andrews (or substitute another author writing paranormal romance) will start getting nominated? If I did, I might actually vote for the best saga, so long as it didn’t also axe an existing category.
Which, btw, the voters at the WSFS business meeting can absolutely vote to bifurcate the proposal and tank the axing of the Novelette category while still voting for the idea of a best saga.
You know, I might be in favor of a Best Saga category … if it meant that once a series had won Best Saga, no further works in that series could be nominated. It might go a long way towards fighting the trend towards sequel-itis, and the ongoing scourge of trilogy addiction.
Well, I disagree with you on “killing” Best Novelette. I’ve long argued that there’s clearly Novels, Short Stories, and something in between, and there isn’t two somethings. But that’s my opinion, and not only could I be wrong, I’ve been wrong this weekend already.
The reality is very simple.
1) The Novel/Novelette split intentionally mirrors the Nebulas for a reason.
2) You’ll take that award from the author’s cold dead hands. I know exactly how to get the authors to come to the WSFS business meeting, and that is to tell them they need kill the ratification of an amendment that would take one of the four writing Hugo away, and they will do so.
So, this has been a nonstarter for, basically, forever.
And then someone decides to try to sneak it in? The Hugo for Biggest Jerk goes to…..
Well, +1 for chutzpah, -1000 for clue.
Best Saga? Dumb. Trying to hid killing Novelette? Dumber, we actually read these proposals. Chances of this passing? Less than the chance of Ecuador winning the Women’s World Cup.
The only question is will the whole thing be killed by a “postpone indefinitely:” motion or will it be separated into two questions and shot down in two pieces. I’d go to Sasquan to find out but meh, not my game anymore.
Obviously, this is one old, tired, and basically gafiated opinion. But it’s mine, and I like it. So, I think I’ll hang on to it, it’s old and worn but it has a certain charm that I like.
I agree with all your points, John, and (as somebody who could also stand to benefit from the Best Saga category) add the following ones:
1) replacing Best Novelette with Best Saga isn’t just going to privilege established writers over newer ones: it’s going to result in the establishing of another category where the Same Five Hands get seen over and over again.
1a) Also, the onus of reading for a Best Saga category pretty much ensures that many people would just vote for the stuff they’ve already read, when the final ballot comes around.
2) a 10,000 word story and a 40,000 word story have less in common than a 40,000 word story and an 80,000 word story, structurally and craft speaking. I *might* support an amendment switching the novelette category to 10,000-20,000 words as a more natural division, but it’s a slight enough difference that it amount to comma fiddling.
3) Individual works in any “saga” are still eligible as Best Novel. I feel works should be eligible in a single fiction category.
3a) This echoes the problems with a Best YA category, which I am not sure I entirely support (we don’t divide Hugos into marketing categories in other cases, and there’s also the dual eligibility problem, and who decides what’s YA and what isn’t?), but I still definitely support it more positively than I could a Best Saga category at this point. And I don’t write YA.
As one of the proposers of this amendment, I will speak to this. We surely did not want, at least I didn’t want, to smack short fiction in the face, that is why we specifically designed the amendment in two clauses, one to dissolve a category and one to add a new one. The Business Meeting could very well kill Clause 1 and pass Clause 2, adding the Saga without eliminating anything. The reason Clause 1 is even there is there are people who would rather see a constant number of awards and IF it was the mind of the Meeting to keep that, we wanted to make it easy, rather than kill the Saga for that reason, rather than on the merits of the actual proposal. (As a note: I won’t tell the Meeting what to do, because a) I proposed this and I think it is wrong to tell people how to vote on it, and b) I am the Deputy Presiding Officer of the Meeting (will recuese myself for this debate) and am not getting in the business of telling the Meeting how to vote on anything, lest I show some impropriety in doing so.)
On works winning twice. By title, yes, a work could be nominated/win twice. That’s already happened. Ender’s Game. Flowers for Algernon. I believe, Dune. The difference is those works were substantially altered by the time they came up a second time. That’s why we put the added word counts in there. A work of 400,000 words is vastly different than one of 800,000 and what is being nominated is the whole work, not a stand-alone piece of it that may have already been nominated/won.
There has been an increase in multi-volume works; John himself has one, which he has already pointed out would have been eligible this year. The proposals beginnings came out of the discussion by another author who has one, Eric Flint. By creating the award, the intent was not to put down new writers, but rather lift up those who right long epic works whose volumes at points stand alone but at others don’t and whose full story arc deserves to be recognized.
On the topic of dead versus ongoing, there’s no good way to tell a series is dead. Even if the author dies, other authors can pick it up and there are series, like 1632, written by multiple authors. The award allows for people to nominate a given set of words that the nominators believe represents a story arc deserving of an award, just like the Best Novel does (people can and often do add sequels and prequels to Hugo winning novels). If a series wins, it can’t win again. If it is nominated and doesn’t win, it takes another 400,000 words (a substantial change) to be nominated again.
I will wrap up by seconding Aurora’s comment. Come, debate, vote. I don’t care how or why, but be a part of the process.
I think the concept of eliminating the novelette category demonstrates a lack of understanding of the field as it exists today and the direction it appears to be headed. It’s also a category that is popular with Hugo voters and nominators. If you need to make room, shouldn’t they be looking elsewhere?
I also find it interesting that when they decided to boot the podcasts out of fanzine, they didn’t need to kill another fan category to create Fancast. (I’m still in the camp that believes podcasts can be fanzines and that this move was a mistake.) Feels a bit like a double-standard.
Split the proposal in two. Let each live or die on its own merits.
In 1966, there was a “Best All Time Series” category. Asimov’s “Foundation” books won, beating out Heinlein’s Future History, Burroughs’ Barsoom, Smith’s Lensman books, and Tolkein’s Middle Earth stories. This was back when things were a little looser – there was only a single short fiction category, and oddly enough Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” was nominated both this year and the following year (when it won).
There’s clearly no bar to saga books making the cut as individual works in any given year and sometimes the popularity of such books carries one to the top of the stack (I think 1995 is a good year for this effect when Bujold’s Mirror Dance won). As I recall from reading about it, the idea in 66 was to create a category for works that hadn’t had individual winners previously. Not all of the nominees are even novel series – Future History is with a couple of exceptions a collection of related short fiction.
I don’t see any reason such a category could not be reinstated, perhaps with the proviso that no individual work in the series has previously won, and that the award be given once or twice per decade. But keeping it open to both novels and shorter fiction as a way to recognize complex world building strikes me as a good idea.
Generally agreed, but with the caveat that the length restrictions for categories are arbitrary and not really all that meaningful. Stories have an optimal length that has no relationship to a specific word count. Maybe we could create new categories: stapella, for stories short enough to be bound with staples, and novel, anything that requires perfect binding. *GDR*
Harking back to an earlier and closed commenting thread, if those who are soi-disant anti-Scalzi are thinking of themselves as Christ-like martyrs (cough, cough, evilpuppies, cough cough), then it’s fair to say you’re our resident anti-Christ… which is to say, Lucifer, bringer of light. In my experience, more light than heat even when there’s some heat in evidence.
I’d actually support a Best Saga Hugo — but not this particular proposal for one.
I’m sympathetic to the argument that views a series as more than the sum of its parts. But I would word the eligibility differently: make it a series of at least three novel-length works (thus dropping the bar to 240,000 words rather than 400,000 — still high, but more within reach), and require the publication of a novel-length work in the year of nomination (so no tacking on a 2K short story just to bump your awards eligibility). I’d add the requirement that the story focus primarily on the same central character or group of characters. And finally, I’d say that any individual series can only make the ballot ONCE: by all means nominate A Song of Ice and Fire, and go on doing that every time Martin publishes a new installment if it doesn’t make the shortlist on the first attempt, but the series is NOT allowed to come up for actual vote multiple times.
I’m sympathetic Deirdre’s comments about Ilona Andrews (using her as a stand-in for a whole swath of authors out there), but I think that’s beside the point of this particular category. The issue there is not which types of Hugos we hand out (unless we start breaking them down by sub-genre); the issue is the Hugo voting population. We fix the in-genre prejudice problem by getting a broader array of fans involved with the process, and that’s an entirely different set of proposals.
And yeah, no, I am not on board with axing the Novelette category on the way to making a series one. For all the reasons John has said, and more.
Jared chimed in while I was writing my comment, so I’ll add: okay, I am more sanguine now that I know there’s a proviso for not just having Your Favorite Series win every time a new book comes out. I still prefer my version, though. :-)
If creating “Best Saga” cleared up room in the best novel category by making sequels eligible for the former ineligible for the latter, I might support it. As I look at the weekly novel releases (Thank you Locus!) I see an overwhelming number of series and sequels, and relatively fewer standalones.
I don’t think this much of an issue, though. Even though sequels seem to make the nomination list, the winners are often either singletons, or the first book in a series.
I hope #Scalziwebfailing the Sasquan site means a LOT of people are reading through the entire WSFS Business Meeting Agenda. Better informed electorate is better.
Just for information, to those who say that instalments in multi-volume series are less likely to win the Hugo. In the past 20 years, 13 Hugo winning novels have been instalments in series that (currently) have between one and fourteen other novels in them (although sometimes the first instalment) and only 8 have been standalone novels (including our esteemed host’s Redshirts) (total is 21 because of a tie in 2010).
It might be interesting to make Best Saga an award that only gets handed out every five or ten years. If the consensus is that it’s almost inevitably going to go to something that’s already well-known and successful, it could act as something of a “lifetime achievement award.”
At that point, it makes sense to me that only completed series would be eligible.
Just thinking out loud.
As has been pointed out, the proposal is written in a way to make it easy to divide, should the Business Meeting wish to do that (and I fully expect the motion to Divide the Question to happen and succeed).
I’m less concerned with the redivision of the short fiction categories than with adding one to adequately cover the dominant mode of SF publishing, but had always though it odd that we had a category called “novelette”. Outside of WSFS, I’d never heard the term, and had to go to the rules to figure out if it was supposed to be longer or shorter than a novella. So while I don’t have any animosity to the novelette category, I certainly see it as something very insular to our community. Given the presence of a rather vocal resistance to just adding new categories, we took seriously the argument that the new category might find greater acceptance as a restructuring of our four fiction awards than as a straight addition. Of course, the meeting is free to disagree and consider them separately.
As for adding an award to recognize series work, when the suggestion started floating around after Eric Flint’s initial post on the matter, it made a great deal of sense to me, particularly in light of various conversation I’ve had with editors over the years. You see, I’m one of the minority of SF readers who prefers stand-alone novels, and have frequently been told that, unfortunately, folks like me don’t pay the bills for publishers. And while Hugo nominations have often been able to reflect the popularity of series publishing, Hugo voting gives a lot of weight to folks like me, who tend to view installments in series as rather poor examples of novels (and often, they just don’t work on their own, but are wonderful if you’re up to speed on the series). And of course, this disparity has led to some rather strange behavior, culminating in the nomination of the entire Wheel of Time as a novel last year.
We wrote the category as we did to attempt to be inclusive of trilogies and the like; long, linear series of the continuing adventures of some set of heroes; and sprawling, multi-threaded worlds with advancing plotlines. The latter two defy most attempts to define when they’re finished, and it would be absurd to see something nominated, miss out on the award, and then be ineligible for future nomination even after massive, high-quality expansion of the series. That’s why we chose to require that new material sufficient to qualify for the category in the first place (multiple volumes and 400K words) could trigger fresh eligibility. We wanted to not restrict series work to series of novels, however, and hope that we were clear that things like Thieves World and Wild Cards would also be covered.
We settled on 400K as the lower bound in part due to the length of Lord of the Rings (~450K), and the fact that many modern series attain it in 2-3 books (there are outliers that sometimes land single installments above 400K, but they are certainly exceptions).
The more I think about a Best Saga category, the less I like it. It feels like it’s meant to be a consolation prize for an author of a popular series who’s not managed to win a Hugo for an individual book in the series, and/or to be a sort of lifetime achievement award (but only for authors who write a long series, not for ones that only do one-offs or short series).
If there is interest in adding a lifetime achievement award then, it shouldn’t be dependent on whether an author has written 400,000 words in the same series versus as many or more in unrelated books.
The onus on voters to read all the series for a Best Saga award seems unwieldy. In the number of months there are between nominations coming out and votes due, do voters really have time to read that much (plus the rest of the categories)? Or are they going to vote based on what they’ve already read and what the know of the reputation of what they haven’t read?
Also are authors of the long series going to release the full series into a free voter packet? That’s a lot of work to give away for anyone with $40. And if this was a regular category and readers could expect that every nominated series would be included in full in the reader packet, then they are suddenly incentivized to not pick up any new series, but sit back and wait to see what works are nominated.
But if the full series is not included in the voter packet, then either voters are expected to pay for quite a lot of books they not otherwise have chosen to buy, or we’re acknowledging from the get-go that they’re just voting on reputation.
How many authors are there that would be eligible for such an award? Aren’t we just going to see the same few authors over and over and over again. Isn’t it too small a pool to sustain an annual award, without seeing the same winners repeatedly with only the occasional new entrant into the pool?
So, yeah. I don’t see the need for it, when individual books are eligible as novels. It’s way too unwieldy to expect voters to fairly judge. It’s economically unfair either to authors or voters. And it’s way too small a group of potential nominees to support annual awards.
Marie Brennan wrote:
“…and require the publication of a novel-length work in the year of nomination (so no tacking on a 2K short story just to bump your awards eligibility).”
The reason we did it as “the last part” appearing in a calendar year is, what if someone writes a short story, then a novel about the characters in that short that builds on the short, and a sequel, then goes back to write a prequel to the short in a short story and THAT puts them at 400,000 words. This is not the award for best many novel series. This is the award for best story arc over many works of any length. There is absolutely no qualification as to how you get to 400,000 words, just that you get to it.
(And, in that sense, I think it has less of an effect on newer authors. Yes, they would still have to write 400,000 words and yes, practically the award may favor well-known names (some of the awards do already because of other factors I personally would like to see change like participation in the nomination process and broadening of the nominating and voting bases) but the way it is written is to allow anyone who writes any length to be eligible so long as a given world and story arc (enough that nominators feel it is complete and related) is 400,000 words.)
I agree with point 1. Combining the two ideas (adding Best Saga*, reorganizing the short fic awards) into a single amendment represents a tactical error. I imagine it was designed by the authors of the amendment to increase support for the Saga award, but I think it will end up having the opposite effect. One should always keep one’s proposals as narrowly tailored as possible. Speaking of, point 5 seems to me to be a reiteration of point 1, with the addition of the “sneak attack” language. I’m not sure why you felt it’s inclusion was necessary or helpful. Jet lag, perhaps?
Regarding point 2, I agree that short fiction is a different skill set than novel writing. But doesn’t the current set of fiction awards already privilege short fiction over novels, with three awards in that range? Is the skill set gradation really that fine under 40k words? Do short fiction works, in their various sub-groupings, outnumber novel-length titles by a factor of 3-to-1? (This is the one time I’ll invoke Flint, whose analysis of the industry – which seems to be the source of any culling proposals – indicates not.)
Point 3 seems to be putting the proverbial cart before the horse. All these new financing, publishing, and distribution channels – which certainly appear to be highly useful for shorter works – might mean we are entering a “new golden age of sf/f short fiction”, I’m not convinced we’re actually there. Is there strong evidence that audiences are reading, let alone seeking out or buying, short fiction in volumes comparable to the mid-20th century? Seems like an open question at best. Meanwhile, in 3 of the last 5 years, Hugo nominators in the short story category has been unable to produce a full slate of 5 nominees. That could be a blip, but it could just as likely (if not more likely) be a trend.
Point 4 seems to be the weakest in the essay (with the exception of the redundant point 5), but maybe that’s why it’s point 4? While the Saga award will almost certainly** favor established authors, I don’t know that it follows that the short fiction awards favor newer authors. It’s not as though success, or talent, or even participation, in short fic writing is a necessary condition for novel writing. Plus, the Hugo’s have an award (the John W. Campbell) specifically to honor new writers.
[I had a whole paragraph here about the YA category, but I’ll save it for another thread. Just tally me under those thinking it’s a topic worth discussing.]
* I hate that name. Seems pretentious. I would have preferred “Best Series” myself.
** This will depend on how, and if, the Best Saga award deals with series with distributed authorships (for example, the Honorverse). My proposal on that would be to award Saga Hugos to: the original author(s); the author(s) of the most recent work; and any author(s) who have contributed some minimum fraction of the series’s total word count (let’s say 15%). That gives new authors an opportunity to get in on a popular series and gain a Hugo nod for it. Given the current lack of a length requirement on the “latest part”, short fic authors might have similar opportunities.
@DocRocketScience Speaking only for myself, between the huge proliferation of easily accessible online magazine and the ability to buy novella/novellette length e-books for moderate prices (i.e. $1-2) my reading & buying of short fiction has skyrocketed. The three short fiction categories used to be dominated by the big three magazines – Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF, and these days the source list is far more diverse.
As a fan and having read the above, I still like the idea. I think fans may have a different perspective than writers. I don’t really care if people keep the Novelette or they don’t. Anyway…
1. There is no reason a voter has to vote every category. If they don’t want to read a series or a sample of a series or the latest in the series, then don’t.
2. Brad says: “It (a saga can only win once) might go a long way towards fighting the trend towards sequel-itis, and the ongoing scourge of trilogy addiction.” If JK Rowling can win every year for the new Harry Potter or Charlene Harris for the new Southern Vampire Book, I am good with that. For Television Shows, if the same series wins every year, I don’t care. Fans like series and they like trilogies. Let them vote for them.
3. Which brings me to my third point – I don’t think the award would privilege white male authors. JK Rowling and Charlene Harris are not white males. Yes I know that isn’t typical of the Hugo Base but that’s just a matter of broadening the base and that’s not bad. Agree with Marie Brennan on this.
Further to the point look at the Goodread’s Choice Awards – Deborah Harkness wins the fantasy category by a large amount over runner up Sanderson and Number 3, Jim Butcher. She wins for the third installment in the “All Souls Trilogy”. “The Martian” won the Sci Fi Catagory with “Lock In” coming in second, but in terms of votes, Harkness got more votes than both added together.
4. There was a suggestion to make it available every 5 or 10 years. How about every even year if that is a compromise. BTW, while we are tinkering, make all eligibility span 2 years not one. Fixes the released late problem. A work like “The Martian” can be nominated for a two year period but only make the ballot once.
5. A series is fundamentally as different from a stand alone novel as a movie is different from a television show.
Summary – do yourself a favor. Let the fans vote for a Hugo with the same intensity as they vote with their pocket book in the market. And broaden your base in the process – IMHO.
“On works winning twice. By title, yes, a work could be nominated/win twice. That’s already happened. Ender’s Game. Flowers for Algernon. I believe, Dune.”
“Ender’s Game” the novelette was nominated for the 1978 Hugo.
“Ender’s Game” the novel won the 1986 Hugo.
“Flower’s For Algernon” the novelette won the 1960 Hugo
“Flowers For Algernon” the novel was nominated for the 1967 Hugo.
The film “Charly’ based on the above works was nominated for a Hugo in 1969
“Dune” is rather interesting.
The first part – “Dune World” (Analog Dec 1963, Jan,Feb 1964) – was nominated for the 1964 novel Hugo.
The rest of the novel “The Prophet of Dune” (Analog Jan – May 1965) wasn’t nominated, but the 1965 book publication that combined the two was nominated – and won.
If there are five series on the nominations, then that’s a minimum of 2,000,000 words to read in three months or so, which is a huge challenge, especially as series may well be a good deal longer than that – I certainly remember not reading the Wheel of Time for last year’s Hugos.
Several people have suggested not awarding every year, so my suggestion is, for Saga only, nominations should be taken every other year, with the nominations being for Sagas that have had a most-recent-installment in the preceding two calendar years. The award should then be granted in the following year, giving the electorate a full year’s opportunity to read the sagas. That would give plenty of time for people to read and analyse the series. I expect it would generate a substantial critical literature during the year of consideration, as well.
Certainly it would see works being awarded three or four years after publication, but I don’t see that as a problem; series tend to sell very well, tend to stay in print for a long time, tend to have good backlist sales. They probably don’t need the Hugo boost a year or two after publication.
My point was that substantially altered works of the same title do get nominated after the original did. Just because they haven’t won yet, doesn’t mean they can’t or count have under the current rules.
I appreciate that all the length standards in the Hugos are arbitrary lines, and I don’t strongly object to the 400k minimum for Best Saga*, using LotR as the standard for a series strikes me as funny, for what I would have thought were well known reasons.
*I think 250-300k words and 3 works minimum, with an 80k words or 2 works barrier for extended eligibility, would balance things better.
Proposing a YA award in a comment on your own blog just as you get a nefarious contract that involves writing YA material? Gasp! I see a faux-scandal coming! Someone alert Theodore Beale! THIS IS NOT A DRILL PEOPLE.
Sorry for sidetracking, just feeling light-hearted and whimsical today. Also think it would be an interesting discussion, so make a post for it at some point. :)
They probably don’t need the Hugo boost a year or two after publication.
I’d say most current “sagas” don’t need the Hugo boost at all.
It sounds a bit like the writers of salable series are a little sore at not winning trophies for their already successful work. And after this spring, I’m thoroughly sick of hearing that.
“It sounds a bit like the writers of salable series are a little sore at not winning trophies for their already successful work. And after this spring, I’m thoroughly sick of hearing that.”
Other than one tantrum throwing author, I see it as fans wanting to celebrate the series they like, but what happened this spring?
Let us assume that we want to retain 4 fiction awards. Consider, say, the best (however you define it) 100 works of science fiction published in, say, the last 5 years. Wouldn’t the ideal situation be to have 25 of them eligible in each Hugo category?
While the number of short fiction items has been increasing (due to the ease of self-publishing), it appears to me that the number of potentially-Hugo-worth short items has been decreasing (compare today to, say, the 1950s and 1960s). Thus, the suggestion above, to start by counting and measuring the good science fiction being published today.
I haven’t been reading much short fiction lately but I agree there’s no reason to merge the novelette into the novella. I am also against the saga award for two reasons. First, if I’m not already reading the series, there’s generally no way that I am going to have the time to read enough of the series, in particular the works in the series that came out in the previous year to be able to judge the work on the whole and for the current individual work(s) eligible for the award. Second, too many series have works that just don’t stand up very well on their own, and you can’t start by reading any random book in the series, and each work ends with a cliff-hanger. That’s fine if the series sells well, and the author doesn’t write herself into a corner, and the publisher doesn’t lose interest because sales dropped a bit or the editor moved on. I’m still waiting for this year’s WorldCon GOH to finish his War Against Chtorr series, for which the last installment was published over 20 years ago, with a teaser chapter for the never finished 5th book which placed the protagonist and his wife in deadly peril. Needless to say, by now I don’t expect him to ever finish the series, and even if he does, who knows if I will have the time or inclination to reread the earlier works and pick up the rest of the series? Although, if I did, he’d probably be able to get me to buy them again, this time as ebooks.
I realize that a lot of books these days are bought and published as a series, and if it takes off, the publishers probably prefer them, but I’d rather not be sucked into a 3+ book series which is really just one really long continuous novel that gets published over 3 to N+whatever years. (Having said that, I just finished reading Ramez Naam’s Nexus trilogy, which is finished, and is basically one long novel, and I enjoyed it.)
If a novel or novella or novelette in a series has won a Hugo on its own, then the series has been honored (for marketing purposes, if that’s the point of the Saga award). Why not consider limiting the Saga award to series whose components have not won individual awards?
If later, a new component of a Saga winner is of such quality as to win an individual award, then good for it. It should win the award. But Saga awards should not be piled onto works that have already won awards.
When people bang on about “Market Forces”, I think they’ve lost sight of the concept: the Hugo is supposed to be for the best not the most successful. The most successful fiction has already won the Big Fat Cheque award,
If they moved that concept to a different market sector, McDonalds would have three Michelin stars.
I have trouble with the saga idea too. How do we define a saga? A set of novels with the same characters? Set in the same world or universe but with different characters? Or will we be more restrictive and require that a qualifying saga confine itself to a single narrative arc that simply requires multiple volumes to complete?
And how many writers know exactly where a series is going when they start it, or when it will end? It’s not unusual for something that started as a 2-3 book deal to grow into a much longer saga, if it finds commercial success. If a writer comes back a decade or more later and writes a new sequel, or spins off a new trilogy from the old, is that a new (but related) saga, or does that invalidate the original as a completed saga?
And as JS pointed out, a best saga category will mostly be rewarding authors who have already attained prominence and commercial success. I get the rationale behind it. There are a number of very well-regarded and beloved fantasy writers in particular who have never been serious contenders for Hugos, possibly because no one novel they’ve written really stands out or alone enough to be deemed Hugo worthy (Robin Hobb comes to mind, and of course, there was the WoT series and many others). But even without killing the best novella category (a terrible idea), the saga thing is problematic.
Agree with znej to some degree. If that wasn’t true, there would be no academy award because we could just tally up the box office receipts.
However, this is a fan based award. That’s different than the academy. Now it is limited to a serious fan because casual fans won’t pay a $40 entry fee. That means they may understand SF/F better or from a different perspective than a casual reader. Still… markets indicate activity and there is a major shift in what people like. Maybe the serious fan is totally estranged from that shift but I don’t think so. And maybe one can’t broaden the base to pick up some the other fans. Maybe, I don’t know.
As to McDonalds, its location location location – and then about 20 locations after that. People are awarding convenience and price. Put one McDonalds in a major city along with one of every other fast food restaurant and see what you get. I don’t know if there is a McDonalds of the book world.
I won’t be at Sasquan, so I’ll miss the business meeting (sigh.) I think the novelette category should stay, and I agree with the people who say it’s more useful to add a YA category than a Saga, but I’m not opposed to Saga.
My main problem with it is the idea of a “finished” saga – think of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was finished after three books, followed by “So Long and Thanks For All The Fish” and “No I don’t want to write another followup, the whole thing never happened at all!” (Err, “Mostly Harmless”) and a short story I’ve forgotten involving Zaphod.
And just to make the whole Best Saga thing even more fun, what constitutes a “work in multiple volumes?”
One of my favorite writers has a common universe where all of their stories are set. However, the vast majority of them have nothing to do with each other – no shared characters, no particular common elements. Sometimes a character from one story will pop up in another one. Sometimes they write two or even three books dealing with the same characters as one continuous story arc. And the *rules* of the universe (it is, technically, a fantasy universe as magic works there) are dead bang consistent in all the stories. I’d bet any money that there are at LEAST 400,000 words in total about that universe. (I haven’t actually counted, nor do I know an easy way to do so.)
I think it’s *quite* reasonable to argue that under the definition as given, this is a “saga,” and every time they publish so much as a short story, they’d be eligible for a saga nomination in that year. However, I suspect this is not what the drafters of the amendment intended, and therefore we have yet another fine opportunity for endless carpery.
I agree that the two propoposals should be separated.
I like the idea of a best series in abstract, but I don’t want to read several multi-volume series in the time allotted if I haven’t already been keeping up with them. I certainly didn’t read the entire wheel of time last year. I think a lifetime achievement award might be a better approach, and it would be available to
writers in all lengths.
I don’t really have a problem with dividing novelette between short story and novella. I don’t think I ever hear the word “novelette” outside of the context of Hugo awards. I have doubts about the new Golden Age of short fiction. It seems to me that we are really in the Golden Age of lengthy series. Far fewer people nominate in the shorter lengths than in novel, and when someone brings up a short story at a convention panel it’s almost always one from the fifties or sixties; that is when the cultural focus of science fiction was on short fiction. I don’t think it’s an error to talk about best novel as the big one.
@Seth: Five years is pretty arbitrary. That’s barely to the beginning of the short-fiction boom caused by e-readers. And of course your argument contains the implicit assumption that enough people agree that longer fiction has been “better” over the time period that it’s an established fact. Again, that’s barely to the beginning of the e-publishing revolution: over most of that time, traditional publishers have still been exercising a lot of influence over what was considered “better” by the fact that most fans got most of their input after it passed through their filters in the first place. And we all know how traditional publishers have been in love with doorstoppers for most of recent history.
As has been said above and elsewhere, the only qualification we put in for a saga being eligible is word count. It’s up to the nominators to determine what constitutes a saga and for the Admin, as they do now, to move things (assuming open slots and all) if necessary. There’s no good way to determine the “end” of a saga and so it can be nominated again, assuming no win and an added word count, if it gets extended even decades later.
I see it as fans wanting to celebrate the series they like, but what happened this spring?
The Sad/Rabid Puppies campaigns, attempting to shift Hugo Awards to more “popular” works (at least that was one of the stated goals).
Put one McDonalds in a major city along with one of every other fast food restaurant and see what you get. I don’t know if there is a McDonalds of the book world.
Publishers purchasing and promoting ongoing series as opposed to stand-alones – is that a close enough example? I can sort of see a chain-foods/chain-books analogy working. I mean, for sheer volume of “meals sold in a restaurant,” the chain franchises blow all the competitors away…in the same way that series book sales dominate the SFF market.
@Jared: “The admins will fix it” is not the most reassuring response to the cited problem. The admins “fixed” the WoT issue and, no blame to them, infuriated as many people as they made happy. Why do you want to put that responsibility on them every freepin’ *year?*
No. I don’t. But I also don’t think the discussion of what saga a given volume falls into in a given year (making the saga eligible assuming it hits 400k) will get that theoretical. I’m willing to think Worldcon members are smarter than that and well enough read.
I am opposed to squeezing out Novelette, not only because it penalizes writers who work in that format, but because it may make winning harder for those who write Short Stories as they are presently defined. I feel that a story of 3000 words might have a hard time competing with works more than three times as long. The weight and detail of a 10,000 word story may come across as much more impressive, even if the shorter piece is masterfully crafted and concise. Let’s leave the short fiction categories as they are.
Not to mention having to read them all. Imagine this scenario:
The finalists for this year’s Best Saga are:
1 A Song of Ice and Fire by GRRM
2 The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
3 Everness series by Ian McDonald
4 The Honor Harrington Saga by David Weber
5 The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
Best of luck to all the finalists, and you as a voter have four months to (acquire and) read all of that. It’s not so bad if you’ve already read them, but if you’re unlucky enough not to have read any of them before…
I think there are too many fish-hooks in the proposal. I would be more inclined to have it as an irregular category: let’s say award it every five years, and the eligible sagas are those whose last installment was at least five years ago. So for a 2015 Hugo, works published 2010 or prior. It’s different from a normal Hugo but the five year cool-down allows us to have some distance about a saga’s quality. Or we could just go with the James Nicoll Proposal.
Short fiction used to be the core of the field, but I think that passed a generation or two ago. Certainly in the 60s and 70s the core of the field was paperback originals (maybe earlier, I’m working from my actual memory). Reducing the number of individual short fiction categories feels to me like cleaning up a long-standing problem.
Similarly, long series are a very important part of the field. As long ago as the 1960s a “best series” award was given one year, and there were multiple competitors all of significance. And we’ve had no way to recognize such works. While of course there’s no requirement or even goal of having a Hugo that every outstanding work of SF can compete for, i *do* think it’s a problem when this major a portion of the field is only very occasionally recognized by given the best novel Hugo to individual books.
Given the objections I hear to Hugo count growth at the Business Meeting, I think the “neutral Hugo count” is a big plus for passage of the proposal.
@CRash the puppies point in all directions. They don’t really want popular books LC did a whole article comparing himself to Stephen King and why he should win a Hugo. He wasn’t trying to get a Hugo for King’s “11-22-63”. The puppy wars are just the Tea Party gone Sci Fi. That’s all it is in my opinion.
This is a dumb proposal, written badly. If I was going to the con, I’d get my ass up early enough to go to the Business Meeting and vote it down.
To quote a great fictional president “Stand there and be wrong in your wrongness!”
@Soon I understand your point. And if the voting base was bigger it would not be as much of a concern. I think people will vote for what they know and there may not be enough people to really fill out 5 nominations.
Not sure what to do about that. I really like the idea of separating series from stand alone novels much more than novels from novella but not sure about the logistic issue you pose. Good point.
Novelette removal? That’s just idiocy by people who can only think ‘big novel, big novel, GRRM’. Shorter stories are wonderful so why ruin their day in the sun.
Saga? Well, not sure why there’s the complaint line over ‘no sequels (prequels) get win.’. That might (maybe) be the case in the last few years but if you go back to 1993-2004, almost all of the winners are sequels or prequels or written in the same universe. It’s just cyclical.
As for Saga, not opposed in total BUT it should come with 2 stipulations. 1: Saga’s done – no, book 10 can win and then 11 and then 12 — that’s looking at novels not the saga as a whole; and 2: It’s not every year but every 5 years, looking back on completed series during that time frame. You can create rules around what’s complete (author says so?) BUT that also means it’s only available to be nominated once. They decided to write a new prequel or sequel or same universe? that’s novel, their saga nod, even if they lost, is done forever.
I’m definitely for splitting this proposal because I dislike the theory that if a the genre has moved in a direction that makes a new Hugo category appropriate, we have to kill another category that is still appropriate. However, that’s a philosophical point that is separate from my opinion about the proposal itself.
Regarding the proposed new Best Saga award, I oppose it because I think it’s too complicated and because nothing in the current rules forbids any given novel in a series from winning and, as Dr Plokta pointed out, they have demonstrably won in the past.
I am, however, in favor of killing Best Novelette and creating a new “Mid-Length Fiction” category of some sort to include both novellas and novelettes. I am a frequent Hugo nominator and frankly, the only way I can figure out which short fiction is a novella and which is a novelette is by looking up where the story falls in someone else’s recommended reading list for that year. I think a category where the majority of nominators need outside assistance (or an electronic version of the work so they can do an automatic word count) is tricky to defend. Combining these into a single category would still prioritize short fiction over novels by two awards to one.
I disagree on one other point. New writers are perfectly capable of winning a Best Saga Hugo. For example, both Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles and Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series would be likely winners when completed, and they’re the only substantial works that either author has ever published (to date).
Would you really consider an author of three (often fat) succesfull novels “a new writer”? I would not.
One argument I could see for eliminating the novelette category is that it would increase the accessibility of the Hugos. Trying to figure out which category a story falls into seems somewhat intimidating.
So determining between short story / novella / novel is 25% less intimidating then between short story / novella / novelette / novel? Or are we assuming that the last split is always clear and the new categories are 33% less intimidating? ;-)
Meanwhile, in 3 of the last 5 years, Hugo nominators in the short story category has been unable to produce a full slate of 5 nominees. That could be a blip, but it could just as likely (if not more likely) be a trend.
This can be as well a result of a lot eglible short stories with no clear favourites, Would there be only a handful od short stories published every year the probability of 5 of them getting enough votes would very high (reminds me of a rather abmyssal year when we had four sf-f novels published in Poland – and of course all of them had been nominated for our award even when everybody knew the choice will be between two of them)
My main problem with it is the idea of a “finished” saga – think of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was finished after three books, followed by “So Long and Thanks For All The Fish” and “No I don’t want to write another followup, the whole thing never happened at all!” (Err, “Mostly Harmless”) and a short story I’ve forgotten involving Zaphod.
Agreed. Should we add an addendum that the Hugo is taken away id an author writes any work in a series he won the award for? Or try to be safe and have them drink a cup of hemlock at the banquet? And what if the successors will pick up the work? Should we kill them too (and their successors, and so on)? Choices, choices…
@Forgot: I’m pretty sure the reason that Best Saga is being floated this year in particular is because of the Sad Puppy campaign’s concern-mongering about some popular authors being passed over for Hugos — because said authors write mainly in series and the Hugo going is tough for series books (e.g. Jim Butcher’s 15th Dresden outing). Whether that’s an actual motivation of the Puppies or not, their grumbling certainly factors in to a 2015 Best Saga proposal.
This year’s controversy had nothing to do with this proposal. It had been in some of our minds for a while, though Eric Flint’s essay (which was prompted by the controversy) did prompt us to get together write it down and actually submit it.
And, for the record, I, personally felt more comfortable proposing this in a year I was actually attending to debate it, and this is the first Worldcon I’m attending in a few years.
Perhaps an upcoming worldcon could try some sort of Saga Hugo as a special one-shot Hugo? That would give a chance to see how the nomination patterns go and get feedback from fans about the process of trying to judge an entire series.
@CRash, that discussion is taking place outside of the Puppy Palace. We have talked about it at Goodreads where puppies are not popular. Some of us who are not puppies really liked the world building in the Dresden Files. I think Butcher is having a major impact on fandom.
And what do you do when you don’t think any single book is Hugo worthy but you think the series is? The whole is more than the sum of the parts.
I’m not sure who is looking at the current state of publishing and thinks there needs to be MORE inventive towards series publishing. I do a little dance of joy when a Big Idea runs here that isn’t about a series entry or launch. And I don’t put my dancing shoes on all that often.
If authors are having trouble pulling down Hugo nods when they’re into the umpteenth book in their series then maybe they should try publishing something else.
In my opinion, novelettes tend to be the best of our short fiction, and where the real gems of the field are found. Have ‘Best Saga’ or don’t, but don’t dump ‘Best Novelette’ in the process.
Okay, first up, how are we defining “saga” here? Are we meaning “an overall single storyline which is split up, due to the constraints of publishing, into multiple works” (eg “The Lord of the Rings” or Charles Stross’s “Merchant Families” series) or are we meaning “multiple works covering various aspects of a single universe” (eg LOTR plus “The Hobbit”, “The Silmarillion” and “The History of Middle Earth”; or alternatively, Charles Stross’s “Laundryverse” books)?
Secondly: how are we determining which works fit into a particular “saga”? For example, if we consider the works of David and Leigh Eddings, what counts as the saga? The Belgariad on its own (the first five books in a particular universe, which constitute a discrete storyline on their own)? The combined Belgariad and Malloreon (the first ten books, which constitute either two discrete storylines, or one contiguous one, depending on how you see things)? Or is it the combination of the Belgariad, the Malloreon, the Rivan Codex (author’s initial notes), and the stories of Belgarath and Polgara (re-tellings of the pre-history of the original series) – or in other words, all the works set in this particular universe? Where are the lines drawn, and by whom?
Thirdly: If we’re heading into “multiple works in a single universe”, do we allowed shared universes as part of this category? If so, aren’t we heading out of the territory of “awards for publishing categories” (which appears to be the current preference) and into the territory of “awards for writing techniques” (because at that point what you’ve done is effectively created an award for “best world-building”, you’re just not naming it as such). At which point, IMO, we’re starting to head off toward the territory of “Award for the Most Gratuitous Use of the Word ‘Fuck’ In A Screenplay”, and we need Graeme Chapman to appear from beyond the grave dressed as a British Army Colonel and tell us we’re getting silly.
I’d be willing to see an award for “best saga” under the following conditions only:
1) Completed works only. Writer has to have completed the work or storyline, and/or said they are not writing any more works in that universe no matter what, and/or suffered spontaneous existence failure in order for it to be eligible for nomination. (Very few of the other award categories allow for works in progress to be nominated – I don’t feel this should be one of them).
2) One “best saga” award per individual writer per lifetime. (eg Stephen King would count as both Stephen King and Richard Bachman; if Stephen King wins the award, Richard Bachman isn’t eligible. Same applies for Seanan Macguire and Mira Grant).
3) If any of the works considered as part of the saga have previously won a Hugo, the entire saga is ineligible for consideration.
4) Only available once every five years.
These limitations mean firstly, the award isn’t able to be offered to the same five people every single year (or even every five years), and secondly, fans would have to decide between whether they want to nominate a particular work for “Best Novel” or whether they want the larger series the work is part of to be eligible for “Best Saga”.
@docrocketscience and the “short story not producing a full slate” way upthread: this isn’t evidence that the short story field is weak. Rather, it’s evidence that there are so many nomination-worthy shorts out there that they struggle to reach the 5% threshold. By comparison, the voters feel that there is perennially *less* competition in novels, as that award sees a narrower, deeper pool of nominations.
So no, that’s not really a good case for “too many short fiction categories”. It is promoting questions, though, if whether the 5% rule ought to be scrapped (I think that’s one of this year’s proposals, if memory serves).
Incidentally, one thing which might be worth considering is whether putting some of the “harder to fill” categories on biennial or triennial (i.e. every 2 or 3 years) time-frames might not aid nominating fans in filling out those categories.
@Jared: Why would you think that that has anything to do with it? Are you claiming that only one side or the other of the WoT was made up of true fans and/or fans well read enough to understand it? If so, which side was it, and how did you arrive at that conclusion?
Fans gonna fan. Part of fanning is arguing. Saying, “Fans are too smart to argue” is missing the whole point. Fans are too smart *not* to argue.That is the problem. And you want to dump that on the admins every year from now until forever – a brand new category with built-in arguments which will, effectively, be resolvable only by fiat.
Your pardon, but I don’t see this as a well-thought out idea or, frankly, a good one.
Without taking any stand on the substantive issue (because I’m presiding over it), let me elaborate on the motion to “Divide the Question” that several people have mentioned. Because most of the people reading this aren’t expected to be WSFS rules wonks or parliamentary procedure specialists, I include the citations as well. As usual, I’ll do my best to explain procedural questions if anyone has any. Ideally, any debate we have at the meeting should be on the substantive questions rather than wasting extremely scarce time fumbling around with procedural questions.
When a proposal consists of multiple pieces that can logically be divided, the motion to Divide the Question is in order. It requires a majority vote to split the proposal into multiple independent pieces. [Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 11th Edition, pp. 270ff.] A motion to Divide the Question would be most appropriate at the Preliminary Business Meeting (Thursday of this year’s Worldcon), where we deal with technical arguments, debate scheduling, and the like, although it would actually be in order later as well.
Alternatively, the people proposing this can elect to withdraw it and re-submit it as two separate proposals; that’s up to them. Based on existing precedent, the people who submit a proposal can modify it or withdraw it until the submission deadline. Thereafter, the proposal doesn’t “belong” to them anymore, but instead belongs to the meeting as a whole, and it can only be withdrawn by unanimous consent or modified by the amendment process, just like any other proposal. [WSFS Ruling of Continuing Effect CH-2013-1.]
I understand the difference between a novella and a novel; the difference between a short story and a novelette. I don’t get what the difference is between a novelette and a novella, other than word count. I’m not saying the category needs to be killed, I just don’t see the difference.
As for a best saga award, how would you decide when to give it? Do you wait until the series is completed? Most of the world-building series I’ve read are never truly finished until the writer has, sadly, passed on. And even then, another writer may take the series over, though I’ve never seen it done successfully(from an artistic perpective, not financial). There’s still another Discworld novel to come, for that matter. (And if this does become a category, I would like to nominate TP, because, duh.) Where/when in a series does one choose to award that series?
$40 for non attending memberships. More categories means more stories for the money. Really the best way to get more people to vote is to give us a better deal.
@Spriggana If the Kingkiller Chronicle where to win a Best Saga Hugo, then it would be the author’s first published work winning the award. So yes, that would be a new author winning a Hugo, even if it took a few years to get round to him actually getting it.
As a non-author looking on, I find the practical aspects of the Best Saga idea to have such obvious problems that I am surprised it was ever proposed. For example, as many have already observed, finding the time to read that many hundreds of thousands (potentially millions) of words almost guarantees that reputation will be the deciding factor.
Also, even with the current popularity of very large novels, it is unlikely that many people will be eligible who have been writing in the field for only a short time – the award would strongly self-select for the “senior” authors. It seems to me that rather than creating an award for Best Saga – with all of the complications that we already see – it would be more practical to just create a Lifetime Achievement award.
It could be called the Grand Master Award.
– Tom –
@RadioJane1 If Best Saga does become a category, you won’t be able to nominate Discworld. Because if it’s passed this year it has to be ratified next year, and so the earliest it can take effect is 2017. And there won’t (alas) be any Discworld books published in 2016, so it won’t be eligible.
…unless the suggestion ‘awarded every 2 (or more) years’ passes and eglibility is counted accordingly.
Michael Walsh —
I think the point there was that separately nominating a novelette and then the later novel that contains and expands upon it is directly comparable to a single novel in a series being nominated in one year, and then the series as a whole in another year. I don’t know that it’s ever happened in the same year, sure, and that’s something any wording for Best Series* ought to take into account; I could see prohibiting having both a novel from a series and the series on the ballot in the same year. But my impression is that people were not objecting to “in the same year” so much as they were objecting to the notion of repeat nominations/wins at all. On the latter front, we have indeed been there and done that.
*I’m with docrocketscience in disliking “Best Saga” as a name, though I’d call it more precious than pretentious. It also subtly influences people to think of epic fantasy first, everything else second, if at all.
Jared — I do see your point about not wanting “Best Series” to be locked into recognizing novel series only. Still, since I’d prefer to see no renewal of eligibility (you can add as many thousands of words as you like; it still isn’t getting on the ballot again), it would under those conditions only be a question of hitting the original threshold for length, and I feel like it’s better to have a lower bar for entry (my suggested 240K in at least three volumes), but require that the trigger event for eligibility be something more than a short story.
The idea of adding extra Hugos especially for written works makes me cringe somewhat. Not because it makes the Hugo ceremony longer (this can be handled by a ruthless compere and tight scheduling of the ceremony itself) but because the salami-slicing degrades the strength of the award. I objected to the Editor Hugo category being broken up into Long Form and Short Form, ditto for the Dramatic Presentation split. The recent YA Hugo proposition was not to my liking for the same reason.
Saying that I’d be OK with losing the Novelette category, in fact I’d really like to see the written works Hugos reduced to two categories, Short Form and Long Form to match the other categories. Short Stories and Novelletes would be merged into Short form, Novellas and Novels would compete together in the Long Form category.
As for the Best Saga idea, hmmm. It’s got some appeal despite what I just said about salami-slicing as it’s a different way of telling a story but it’s the sort of story that is published over a period of more than a year unlike the other fiction categories whose works can be assigned a specific year of publication to qualify for nomination. Maybe Best Saga would be workable if it was an eligible category only every five years or maybe ten to give the writers and readers a chance to decide on a suitable candidate to nominate and vote for. Reality suggests that in any given year there are very few possible candidates for Best Saga, over the period of a decade there would be enough candidates to make a horse race.
The idea of an award being given less than yearly, especially on an extended basis like every five to ten years, doesn’t really seem fair either. I mean, people operate, generally, on a FIFO basis (or LILO, if you prefer.) The Saga that completes/has a good entry in the last year of the cycle is going to have an advantage over the one that completes/has a good entry in the first year. There’d be no way to avoid it.
Five years doesn’t work for me.
I think it would be good for fans to be able to award an art form that is up and coming but people here have convinced me that it might be difficult to do because there are generally five nominations.
I will just watch and see what gets worked out.
Last week I read a proposal by Eric Flint that fiction categories be expanded to include room for multi-volume stories to be awarded on the strength of their entire arc, as well as to expand, rather than contract, the current categories for short fiction.
Coming from an English Lit/Creative Writing background, “novelette” has always struck me as a weird, hard to define (even when you’re looking at it) category, and at first I was inclined to think it should be jettisoned. After reading other people’s thoughts on the state of online publishing expanding short-story markets, and this post, I’ve revised my opinion, so thank you for that!
I still think “novelette” is a semi-arbitrary way to define either a long short story or a short novella; I view those two types of work as each having certain inherent (and differing) structural properties. But if no one wants to change the word count that defines short story and novella criteria, and maybe re-jigger things to include flash fiction or short novels as a third type of award, than slicing a short fiction category out of the Hugos just seems to punish certain writers and overlook worthy pieces.
Additionally: One of the things I love about the passionate, analytical SF/F online community is I have so many opportunities to have my own ideas challenged and my preconceptions struck down or expanded.
My statement on the Best Saga Hugo proposal:
[Please note that this is my take and only my take on the Saga Hugo proposal. Where I do say we, it was a group action taken by the proposers.]
Over the years, long fiction in the greater speculative fiction category has moved towards publishing works in series, rather than stand-alone works. Stand-alone works are still published and are eligible for Hugos in various categories, but some of us thought that the expansive works, where the individual volumes may or may not stand alone and be worthy of a Hugo themselves, deserved recognition. So we set out to create a Hugo for them. Best Saga became the title mostly because as the work gets longer, the title of the Hugo gets shorter.
Having attended many WSFS Business Meetings between us, and personally having been on the Head Table before and being on it this year, we felt the sense of the Meeting (i.e. how many that generally attend the Meeting feel) was that another professional fiction category would throw off the balance if a category was not removed. Based on long discussions and floating the idea past folks, we settled on the Novelette category. This bumped up the maximum word count for a short story, and dropped down the minimum word count for a Novella. No work that had been eligible was no longer eligible, it was just eligible in a different category.
Before formally submitting the proposal with the addition of the collapse of the Novelette, we floated it informally to the Secret Masters of Fandom (SMOFs) (even though they aren’t secret) email list, the Journeyman of Fandom (JOF) Facebook Group, and via emails to various persons. There was some angst at the inclusion of the Novelette collapse, but not much, and it was overwhelmed by the want to further discuss Saga at the Meeting or outright support for it. We did, in response to the angst over the collapse, structure the proposal so that it was in two distinct and separate clauses, making it very easy, if we were incorrect on the sense of the Meeting, to Divide the Question and debate and vote on each clause separately, meaning both the Novelette could remain and Saga could be added, if that was how those who attended the Meeting voted.
Once the proposal was formally submitted, it saw little publicity. However, once other proposals were submitted, namely “E Pluribus Hugo,” all of the proposals got publicity and the Saga proposal much more than it had seen to-date. The professional community, and many fans, made their opposition to the Novelette collapse known; much more opposition than any of us had sensed from our initial floating of the idea, floating of a draft proposal, or felt the Meeting** had.
**And, by extension the community, as the Meeting is meant to be representative of all WSFS membership and we all are in favor of more people showing up at the Meeting and participating so that it is more representative, even if it was to kill our proposal.
In response to this opposition to the Novelette collapse, we contacted Kevin Standlee, Chair of the Sasquan Business Meeting, to ensure we could amend our proposal so long as it was before the deadline for the submission of New Business. We are now in the process of doing that and amending the discussion text to remove any reference to the Novelette collapse. Some original proposers have decided not to join us in this effort.
Going forward, the proposal will only include the addition of the Saga Hugo and that will need to pass or fail on its own merits. If it fails, we will be sad, but we accept that it was not the Business Meeting’s want to create an award for such works. If others wish to submit a proposal related to the shorter fiction works, that is their prerogative, but I will not be submitting one nor supporting it.
I’m not sure how you intend to use the word “neepery”, but this doesn’t fit my definition.
I agree with your thoughts as I read all lengths of fiction.
I agree with the idea of a “Saga” award being given only for completed sagas. I agree with the idea of books from a saga being ineligible for the novel category. There should be some payoff to the author that completes a good larger storyline.
We all have our hobby horses. Mine is sagas. I dislike the fact that I see more saga/episodic fiction than anything else when shopping for a novel to read.
I would like to encourage writers to write single/stand-alone books that are not part of a story. Just write one really doggone good book.
But I’m just one reader. So….FWIW
(Ironically, I started one saga and continued another this year that were absolutely fabulous.)
OK, I have about a hundred thoughts about this, and I don’t have time to write them all down now. But here are some.
a. There is no Law of Conservation of Hugos. When the list was first stabilised, I believe there were six, and now there are sixteen, seventeen if you count the Campbell. We can no doubt swallow a couple more. However, there are reasons for not letting the list get too long; the main constraint is not the length of the ceremony (just tell the hosts to be more expeditious), but the time it takes to read all the nominated material. Voters should have the opportunity to read all the material they vote on – they can of course decide not to, for reasons, but they shouldn’t have to give up just because there is no time.
b. On the other hand, I don’t like the idea of tying the new award specifically to the dropping of a specific existing award: I realise the meeting can separate them, but the combined proposal does invite the meeting to compensate for the new award in a particular way, when there are other ways it might be done. I think there are other ways in which the list of awards might be shortened, which might be equally valuable – there are three categories which, as far as I can see, do not exist because there is a body of work needing to be recognised, but in order to solve a problem with another category, and I think they could be removed, with a bit of adjustment elsewhere. Sometimes a change in one place necessitates a change in another place, because of potential overlaps or underlaps, but this doesn’t seem to be one of those cases.
c. On the third hand, what exactly is the point of the novelette category? I see that short fiction is an important field which deserves to be honoured as fully as possible; but it’s not clear to me that works of short fiction of different lengths are really different art forms (or at least that the novelette/short story border is the right place to draw the line), so the distinction seems an artificial one. The works that get nominated as novelettes in the Hugos are things I would naturally call short stories; I find it hard to remember which of last year’s nominees were which. One could divide novels by length as well, and I think Eric Flint suggested that, but it doesn’t seem to be a popular idea, because it’s clearly artificial. If someone could think of a less artificial way of dividing up short fiction that might be a good thing.
Since “any series with a new installment in any particular calendar year would be eligible for consideration in that year” seems to be part of the proposal, I see it like this: all the literature Hugos are based on word-count in order to give a clear no-nonsense edibility and to make sure it isn’t double stacked, the Saga award for “sum greater than the parts” would have to supersede best novel. So the moment ANYTHING is eligible for the saga award, the best novel nominations for all new works of that series would have to go
Otherwise It’s either a consolation prize for not being good enough or a way to be a Hugo hog in a given year.
And if one tweaks it to be finished series only, that opens up for a lot of other issues. Like when is a series finished? Either way, an award for best series will be problematic at best.
It’s good to hear that you’re splitting the proposal, Jared Dashoff.
And now that the link to withdrawing the novelette has been broken, which was my concern, my only quibble is the name. I do not understand the use of the word ‘saga’ when we are talking about a series.
Hanging grimly on to a 40,000 page definition of novel seems very, very strange; equally, given that the market of readers had led to series rather than standalones then the readers are voting very firmly with their money. Refusing to acknowledge it seems somewhat churlish…
As another in the minority who prefer stand-alone novels, I have a different solution: Institute an award for “best stand-alone novel.” Of course this would require that any sequel or prequel (by the same author) would automatically be ineligible for any category, but that wouldn’t be my problem.
Marc Whipple writes:
As I understand it, Hugo admins are responsible for establishing that a work was published in the correct year and that the word count is correct and other objective questions.
The question of whether a collection of stuff is sufficiently related to be considered a saga is a question for the Hugo voters.
Is a collection of Whatever posts, which contains discussions about SF, publishing, as well as a vast array of other subjects, a related work or not? It is if the voters nominate it.
1) “Best series” > “Best saga”, though I appreciate the humor in the original choice (Jared: “mostly because, as the work gets longer, the title of the Hugo gets shorter”).
2) Seems like a worthy category. I don’t know if I believe a series is really “more than the sum of its parts”, but IMO that’s a deceptive phrase – if you nominate book 4 in a series you’re not nominating the sum of its parts, but just _one_ of its parts. And a series may well be greater than any _one_ of its parts.
3) I do like the mechanic whereby if you release 400k words, you’re eligible, then if you get nominated, you have to release 400k more words before you’re eligible again. Like all numbers it is arbitrary but this seems like a good balance that recognises that a single series shouldn’t be nominated year after year, but there can be substantial reasons to think a series could become “more worthy” at 800k words than it was at 400k. In the modern era in which a single novel can clock in at 400k words, perhaps there should also be a minimum number of installments (3?), both on initial eligibility and on re-eligibility.
4) Eligibility can be gamed? Sure… but even in today’s post-puppies world I’d like to think authors won’t just publish short fiction for the express purpose of becoming eligible for a Hugo category. Or, I mean, they can do that already… in the short fiction categories.
5) True that nobody can or will read 5 multi-volume works by the vote deadline. So it does seem reasonable to have the award only every 3 years or so (I think every 5 years is too long), with the nomination the year _before_ the vote. Eligibility is the 3 years prior to nomination. So, e.g., in 2017 you could nominate any work with new material published in 2014-2016, and the actual vote and award happens in 2018, and the category appears on the nomination ballot again in 2020. Fans then have over a year to read, or at least sample, the 5 nominated series.
When I read the Best Saga proposal, my first presumption of intent was actually to free up the Novel category from sequels, which I think could be a great goal. Like, great, there’s another installment in this very popular series, does it in _in particular_ need individual recognition or is it standing on the shoulders of this excellent well-built series?
If it had that effect, I think it would be valuable for freeing up Novel nominee spaces for new work.
Part of my intent for supporting the creation of an additional category for novel length works was absolutely to make an additional category that would encourage the stand alone works and the young adult works to get recognized as well as longer works. (It’s generally felt that a separate YA Hugo is a non starter in the Business Meeting)
I know I don’t expect something submitted to the business meeting to be the final word, and all the feedback makes for a better result.
On the one hand, combining novellas and novelettes would seem to have the effect of cutting down the number of awards for writers who produce shorter works. So that would be bad
But my real question is this: If you’re writing something longer than a “short story,” is there a real distinction for the writer between the two forms? Aside from length—I think of a short story being about a single idea, expressed in a short space. Novellas and novelettes are longer, of course, with a structure that goes more to a sequence of actions, one leading to the next. More “plot,” I suppose, like a single episode of a TV show.
But is writing a novella very different from writing a novelette? If so, I can see making a clear distinction between the two. If not, I think I’d be fine with setting out a ballot with “short stories” and “longer stories.” And maybe making the “longer stories” category bigger, to include more authors whose stories don’t fall into the 75,000-10,000 word length.
Me, as an unpublished writer, I find I can’t really write shorter fiction because I need more words to tell the stories I want to write. On the other hand, I’ve written one book made up of a series of interconnected novellas (or maybe novelettes) that I’m trying to sell.
Maybe I’m wrong and the novella/novelette distinction is real. I’m just curious about how writers approach this.
Completely agreed. Some of my favorite stories are short fiction; Brandon Sanderson’s “Legion”, Our Host’s “Judge Sn Goes Golfing”…removing the Best Novelette Hugo category is wrongheaded and discriminatory, and I don’t like that.
Michael Lee: Isn’t there a committee working on a YA proposal right now? But a lot of YA (and also Middle Grade/Children’s, which tends to get either subsumed or forgotten in these discussions) is series fiction, so it’s not clear that the Saga proposal would actually make room for it.
John Cowan: My instinctive feeling is that it’s hard to tell a novelette apart from a short story, and that the division between novelettes and novellas is much clearer. But this may be because I’m thinking of a particular kind of novella; some novellas are large enough to be thin books, and they are increasingly being published as such, but others are a lot shorter than that. Patrick Rothfuss had two stories last year which are technically novellas, but one of them is much bigger than the other. So it may be that there are genuine differences between types of short fiction, but the current rules don’t draw the lines in the right places.
Say the Saga category makes the Hugo ballot. Will a third-party novelization of the Newt Scamander movie re-open the eligibility of Harry Potter as a saga? Perhaps more important, will it start endless wank on the subject?
Well, no one so far has responded to the question of fans voting with their wallets aspect of the changes in the SF/F which have led to fewer standalone novels coming through.
As for possible series candidates, I find it strange that CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner series, 15 books and counting, has been omitted from discussion; I appreciate that people may feel that she’s already won Hugos, but if you are going to restrict Hugos per head then it should be done formally. She writes in 3 book arcs, which means there are a number of starting points, so people can start at book 16 in the series, and it will still work…
Eric Flint has posted his response to this blog entry.
dann665 said “I agree with the idea of a “Saga” award being given only for completed sagas. I agree with the idea of books from a saga being ineligible for the novel category. There should be some payoff to the author that completes a good larger storyline. ”
I don’t know. The Talisman (Jack Sawyer 1) (Stephen King and Peter Straub) came out in 1984. Black House (Jack Sawyer 2) was published in 2001. Jack Sawyer 3 is supposed to come out this year. A 30 year span.
First book in the Dark Tower Series was 1982. The last book was 2004 and if you count a prequel it is 2012. A 30 year span.
I could be dead before Jim Butcher retires Harry Dresden.
B.1.2 The Five Percent Solution.
I agree with this one. I think this rule has badly affected the Short Stories. I’d rather have more short stories on the ballot to enable a better selection for the voter that the current restrictions which can result in only 4 stories on the ballot. There really are so many short stories out there that the nominations have become very spread out.
B.1.3 Best Saga.
There is no need to drop the Novelette category. I’ve previously nominated and voted in this category,
and the novelettes that end up on the ballot have in the past been very good.
For some reason, this category seems to produce the strongest works.
I certainly agree with all the points made by Mr Scalzi about keeping the Novelette category because it does provide excellent value for readers.
I am NOT opposed to having a Best Saga, but if it comes with getting rid of Novelettes I will NOT be supporting it.
Changing the Hugo Rules might help a bit, but the real problem is the relatively small numbers of fans who make nominations. Has anyone given some serious thought to promoting the idea of “getting as many eligible fans as possible to nominate their own choices for the Hugos” ?
Has anyone thought to ask why eligible fans do not make nominations in the Hugo process ?
d. Books in series get nominated for Hugos all the time. Four out of five of this year’s Best Novel nominations (two out of three non-Puppy ones) belong to series. Last year every nomination either belonged to a series or was a series. (Arguably WoT was not a series according to the Hugo rules, because they distinguish series and works published in parts; but it’s naturally described as a series in ordinary English.) In 2013, the last non-Puppy year, three out of five, so far as I can see, belonged to series. And so on; this isn’t a new trend.
Now, admittedly these are specific kinds of series. Generally they are either
(A) fairly short series with a clear arc, which catch the voter’s attention at the beginning (and first volumes are more likely to be nominated than subsequent ones),
(B) rather loosely connected series of the ‘same universe’ kind.
What tends not to get nominated is the long series following the ongoing adventures or a person or group, which is what is often meant by ‘series fiction’, and is central to many subgenres, including epic fantasy, urban fantasy and MilSF. But I don’t see that a rule change is likely to make a difference to this. The voters can find lots of material among the works they already tend to vote for; the Ancillary series, the Three-Body series, the Vorkosigan series, the Parasite series, heaven knows, perhaps even the Old Man’s War series; and these, I think, would be likely to win much of the time.
June Young: I think it;’s fairly clear why a lot of eligible fans don’t nominate; a lot of people don’t read much fiction when it first appears. Perhaps they are waiting for the paperback; perhaps they are waiting for the Hugo nominations, which many people find a useful guide; perhaps they are even waiting for the Hugo packet (which I know is not an entitlement, but why pass up on it while you have the chance?). I do get frustrated when people say. ‘Well, all you have to do is look back over the new fiction you have read during the past year…’ as if it were obvious that you have read a lot; that often just isn’t so.
(Yes, I know you don’t have to have read a lot to make nominations. But you have to have read something. And you have to have been impressed by it enough to find it Hugo-worthy, which is more likely to happen if you do read a lot.)
e. In any case I think there is a reason, which it would be hard to overcome, why long-running series following a character or group tend not to be nominated. Once a series has been going for a while, you have to know the series to understand what is happening, and you have to be familiar with the characters to care about what is happening. The audience of the series is therefore, to a large extent, established fans of that series. But in the Hugo awards process we are considering and comparing a variety of works, and the works that are successful therefore need to have a degree of cross-group appeal. Something that requires you to be familiar with a character and universe will not do so well. (Larry Correia recognised this last year when he put the previous volumes of his trilogy in the Hugo packet. But suppose the book that is up for an award is not volume 3 but volume 15?)
f. But there may be a case for a series Hugo, not so much to give representation to a class of work that’s currently excluded, but just because, in some cases, it is the series rather than the individual volumes in it which is a significant work, and deserves to be honoured. The nomination of Wheel of Time last year showed this in a particularly acute way. I think it was a novel within the meaning of the act; and its individual volumes (after the third at least) were not novels; they are just chunks of narrative, not having arcs of their own. So nominating the whole thing was the only possible way of honouring it. But clearly having it compete against regular one-volume novels made the contest unbalanced, and was not an ideal way of doing things; if there were a category specifically for multi-volume works, that would allow more even contests.
g. (Finally, I hope.) I think the award should definitely be for completed series; partly because I don’t like the idea of the same series getting nominated over and over again, (and it would be the same series, not different parts thereof, as happens in the BDP Short Form and Graphic Story categories), and partly because I see the award as being for a story which needs to be told in more than one volume, and we don’t know what the story is until we reach the end.
I am not impressed by the ‘How will we know it is completed?’ argument. Most of the time, we do know. We knew when Harry Potter was completed; we knew when WOT was completed; we will know when ASOIAF is completed. It is generally loudly advertised. If the author later does something else in the same world, that doesn’t mean the series wasn’t complete, any more than if someone writes a novel, and then later a short story set in the same world, this means the novel wasn’t complete. There are occasional exceptions, like The Book of the New Sun, which appeared to be complete in four volumes, and then acquired a fifth; but I think these can be dealt with by the regular Hugo principle of ‘voters decide’; they get to decide equally imponderable things, like what is SFF, and what is a fanwork.
Of course, this will only work for the kind of series which can be completed, that which has an arc (though this can be either a very long story like WOT, or a series of novels each with its own lesser arc, like Harry Potter). I don’t think this is too much of a loss; a completely open-ended series isn’t the same sort of thing; it is not a story, but a setting.
This would, I think, mean the award should not be given every year, since not enough series are finished each year to create a meaningful competition; (this, by the way, would relieve worries about overloading the list of categories). I also support po8crg’s idea of a gap between nomination and voting.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many more “Commander Toad” books would be needed for it to be eligible for “Best Saga”?
It has just struck me that there might be a plan which, without reducing the number of short fiction awards, makes them a little more rational (since several people have said they find the current division unintuitive): raise the word-limit for each of them. Then we would have:
Best Short Story (current Short Story and lower end of Novelette)
Best Middle-Sized Story (current upper end of Novelette and lower end of Novella)
Best Thin Book (current upper end of Novella and lower end of Novel).
(Those wouldn’t be the actual names, of course. Best Thin Book wouldn’t have to be an actual book, any more than Novel has to.)
The first two would more or less correspond to the two categories suggested by the existing proposal; the third would accommodate the novellas which are large enough to be self-standing, and also (taking up what I think was a good suggestion from Eric Flint) give novels of less than a million words more of a look in.