“Best Series” Hugo Category: A Trial Run in 2017 + My Thoughts On It
Posted on September 30, 2016 Posted by John Scalzi 73 Comments
Here’s a press release I received today from Worldcon 75, next year’s Worldcon in Helsinki, Finland:
The 75th World Science Fiction Convention, (“Worldcon”) taking place in Helsinki in August 2017, announced today that a special Hugo category for “Best Series” will be included in the 2017 Hugo Awards.
The Hugo Awards are the leading awards for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy, and have been presented at Worldcons since 1953. They are voted on by members of each year’s Worldcon.
Fans voted in August 2016 to trial a new Hugo award for “Best Series”, which could be added in 2018. Each Worldcon Committee has the authority to introduce a special category Hugo award, and Worldcon 75 has decided to test “Best Series” in 2017. This follows the precedent of the 2009 Worldcon, which trialled “Best Graphic Story” before it became a regular Hugo the following year. Fans at Worldcon 75 will be able to decide whether to ratify the “Best Series” for future years and suggest revisions to the award definition at the World Science Fiction Society Business Meeting held in Helsinki during the convention.
Nicholas Whyte, Worldcon 75 Hugo administrator, said, “The proposed Hugo for “Best Series” is a big change, the first time that a new category may be added to the written fiction Hugo categories in fifty years. There is clearly a great deal of interest in how this new award will work, and what might be nominated.”
An eligible work for this special award is a multi-volume science fiction or fantasy story, unified by elements such as plot, characters, setting, and presentation, which has appeared in at least three volumes consisting of a total of at least 240,000 words by the close of the calendar year 2016, at least one volume of which was published in 2016.
My first thought, because I have an ego, is that this is a Hugo I won’t be eligible for, as I have no novels out this year, and therefore no eligible series. Unless, I guess, I quickly whomp up an Old Man’s War novella and make it available as a single volume before the end of the year — would that work?
Which is my other, really more relevant, question: What constitutes a “volume” in this case? I assume (for no particular reason) that a volume has to be released in itself and not as part of a larger publication, such as a magazine or anthology, but would a individually-released short story (or novelette, or novella) count toward a series credit? What about a graphic novel, set in the universe and part of the continuity? How about a song whose lyrics are written by a series author, set in the series universe? As long as all the previous criteria are met — at least three volumes, at least 240,000 words — where is the boundary line for a new volume?
Also, here’s another thought: Does this new volume have to be written by the author of the previous installments? If I hire someone to whomp up a new story in the Old Man’s War universe, and that story meets the criteria for a “volume,” whatever that might be, would it make the whole series eligible? And if so, who would accept the Hugo if it won? Me, or the new writer, or both? Or the editor of the series? Or the publisher? Or — and here’s a fun possible criterion — to the owner of the copyright?
(Combining both above: Would an anthology of short stories set in the universe constitute a new volume? And if so, to whom would the Hugo go?)
This isn’t to suggest I think a Hugo for series is a bad idea at all. But I do think it’s possible that unless the definition for “volume” is concretely defined, you might see a rush of shorter works tying into a series dropping into the stream of commerce between now and December 31. Electronic publishing makes that possible (let’s hope it’s a windfall for copy editors). After the hijinks of the last few years, let’s not pretend there aren’t people out there who will be happy to game the system if they can.
This “Best Series” Hugo is a trial run, to see how things work, and to see if it’s a good idea to continue such a Hugo. My own personal thought on a Best Series Hugo, if it were to continue, would be that I would wanted it handled as such:
- It’s not awarded every year, it’s awarded every five years, with an eligibility window of five years;
- If awarded every five years, the finalist slate is twice as long as the finalist slates in other categories;
- It’s a “one time” win, i.e., once a series is awarded, it’s ineligible for further wins in the category (although individual works in the series would still be eligible for other relevant Hugos);
- At least three volumes, at least 240,000 words total;
- A “volume” is defined as a new, original story of at least 25,000 words, released individually and not as part of a collection, magazine or anthology;
- The recipient for the Hugo would be the series author(s) and editor(s);
- The current “Best Novel” Hugo criteria would be amended to take out the bit that allows a series to have been nominated if no previous volumes had individually been nominated.
Why would I do it this way? Because series are (generally speaking) a multi-year endeavor and should be considered as such and because the number of eligible series in any given year is substantially smaller than the number of eligible works in any other Hugo category for fiction; because I think if you don’t define “volume” as a substantial work then the category runs the risk of being gamed; and because I think while editing is important to individual novels, it’s especially important to series.
If I had to pick just one of those criteria to pass on to an official Hugo definition, it would be the “one-time win” one. The Hugos aren’t the Emmys. If a series has gotten “Best Series” once, I think it’s okay for the category to be closed to that series further.
I’ll also note that “Best Series” here is clearly appears to be geared toward novels, so my own fantasy criteria for the category weights toward additional work of at least novella length. That said, I think you could make a perfectly good and valid argument that a “series” could be a bunch of short stories all set in the same universe, or anthologies set in the same universe, or graphic novels in the same universe, etc, as long as they meet the “three volumes/240,000 words” criteria. I’m not going to make that argument, but I think you could make that argument.
Finally, I’ll also note that if the Series Hugo does pick up traction and becomes an annual award, then what’s really likely to happen from a practical point of view is that the Hugos will be awarding a second “Best Novel” award, which just happens to be going to series novels. That’s fine but maybe there should be thought given to that fact — perhaps by an additional rule that says if a Best Novel finalist is in a series up for Best Series in the same year, if the novel and series both win their categories then the author gets to go home with whichever of the two awards they received the most number of votes for, with the other award going to the next work in line. Otherwise I suspect you’re going to see a lot of Best Novel and Best Series awards carried off by the same authors, because the votes will be highly correlated — someone who votes for a book in a series for Best Novel is also likely to think highly of the series in general.
Tell me your thoughts on a Best Series Hugo, and your thoughts on my thoughts.
As this is about the Hugos it is likely people will have highly opinionated thoughts, so let’s all please remember to be polite, else Malleting shall ensue.
Also, just because this is a thread discussing the Hugos, it does not mean we should see this as an opportunity to relitigate previous Hugo campaigns. Leave the past in the past unless it has direct relevance to a discussion of the “Best Series” Hugo. Again, don’t make me haul out the Mallet, please.
I would only add that perhaps a good requirement, would be for the series to be complete. That would dove-tail with “one-time win”, I think….
“Unless, I guess, I quickly whomp up an Old Man’s War novella and make it available as a single volume before the end of the year — would that work?”
While I admit that we don’t know whether the 2017 Best Series is intended to perfectly mirror the proposed 2018 award, the full proposal for the 2018 Best Series has this:
“A multi-volume science fiction or fantasy story, unified by elements such as plot, characters, setting, and presentation, appearing in at least three (3) volumes consisting of a total of at least 240,000 words by the close of the previous calendar year, at least one of which was published in the previous calendar year. If such a work has previously been a finalist, it shall be eligible only upon the publication, since it qualified for its last appearance on the final ballot and by the end of the previous calendar year, of at least two (2) additional volumes consisting of a total of at least 240,000 words, and further provided it has not won under [this section] before.”
Also it would add another rule:
“If any series and a subset series thereof both receive sufficient nominations to appear on the final ballot, only the version which received more nominations shall appear.”
So I guess it might, if you argued that since Old Man’s War was a finalist in 2005 you’ve written 240,000 more words in the universe.
Theoretically, Graphic Story had the same “Nominate a complete series as a completed work” criteria on it, so graphic novels/manga as series would be eligible there, though with the exception of a complete run on one particular webcomic, that rule has never actually come into play. Gundam: The Origin was eligible last year, and depending on whether you count digital editions or initial US print editions for eligibility, then Neon Genesis Evangelion would have been eligible that year or the year before as well.
The other question would be, that with ongoing series with shifting writers and artists (like Detective Comics), if there is a particular overall run that’s award worthy (like Scott Snyder’s run, for example), would that count as a single series, or would you be awarding all of Detective Comics from now to the 1930s (at which point you’re also giving a much deserved award to Denny O’Neil as well, while also locking out any future writers).
I tend to vote for standalone novels or first in a series because I think that a Hugo Best Novel should stand on its own. This will just reinforce that I believe.
There have been good sequels nominated for Hugos but I’d prefer them not to win. I want someone to be able to pick up a Best Novel and be able to read it without needing to read something else first.
All this to say: for me at least the overlap between Best Novel and Best Series options will be pretty small.
That’s a good one. But would five years be enough? While reading your description of the new award category, three series came to mind: Larry Niven’s “Ring World”, Fred Saberhagen’s “Berserker Wars”, Arthur C. Clarke’s “Space Odyssey”, and Anne McCaffrey’s “Brainship” series.
Larry Niven’s Ringworld series took over 30 years to complete. Saberhagen’s Berserker series has multiple formats and multiple authors making contributions. McCaffrey’s Brainship series also has multiple authors making contributions to her series as well as taking decades to complete. I think rather than limit of five years to produce a series, they should consider the year the last book (matching the minimal criteria) in the series was released.
James Schmitz’s “Witches of Karres” was expanded on by Eric Flint, Dave Freer, and Mercedes Lackey after Schmitz had passed away.
How would we judge these series? Because some series in science fiction are definitely hallmark titles in the genre.
I can certainly see my thought as nitpicking. But I didn’t want to see some of these classics go by the wayside because they don’t quite fit in a clean definition.
I am probably deeply biased, since I greatly value CJ Cherryh’s ‘Foreigner’ series, but I think this is a sensible idea; there has been such a vast change in SF/F from standalones to series that the Hugos should, in my view, reflect that change.
I recognise the potential problems, but it would be good to look forward to the Hugos expanding…
What’s “complete”? Dune, Messiah and Children? Or after the second trilogy? Wait, there’s more!
Mira Grant’s Newsflesh was “done” but a new novel from another POV just came out. Now is it complete? Who knows.
The muse determines when you’re done with characters/settings etc.
I like your five-year-window idea, but that’s going to cause a lot of acrimony for fans of various series jockeying to get their favorite the Best Series Hugo it so clearly deserves, and a lot of sour grapes (from fans, not authors, I bet!) for at least the next two decades.
The amount of reading involved in making an informed Hugo decision is already pretty substantial. I’m not sure adding another million or two words to that is a great idea. Sure, people don’t have to vote in categories where they don’t have informed opinions, but the more of those there are the more the door is open to Puppy-shaped nonsense.
The once-every-five-years version does help with this, especially if there’s some way to use it to get a longer nomination/voting window. But this all makes it sound a lot less like a Hugo, and more like its own thing.
There’s also the possibility of doing something drastic to cut down on the time commitment in other ways, like abolishing the Retro Hugos.
My entirely ego-driven thought is that I wrapped my own series up in 2015 and therefore it is ineligible. KKKKKHHHHAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
1. Its weird that the Hugos hitherto haven’t had a ‘big honking great series’ category given how prevalent big honking great series have been/are in the genre.
2. Its not weird that the Hugos hitherto haven’t had ‘big honking great series’ category, once I start trying to design such a category on the back of a nearby handy envelope. Owww, my head hurts.
Hmm. The Young Wizards books would be eligible for this trial run, then. :) …Not exactly holding my breath, mind you. But still a warming thought.
Hmmm … As I think about this, I like the five-year rule, especially if nominations are announced a year or two prior. Or if it’s going to be an annual award, then I’d still suggest a year between nomination and voting rather than trying to shoehorn it into the existing window between nomination and voting.
I feel there’s a categorical difference between series like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings (which is one story told over multiple volumes), Discworld (which is many mostly-independent stories sharing a common world), and Dune (which is many sequential stories about the same people, with a growing continuity). One award to cover all of them doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense.
Without a proliferation of awards, I’m not sure there’s a good way to distinguish between them. The “single story told in multiple volumes” at least you can say there’s an end to the series. It might be reasonable to say that that category is allowed in the year of publication of the final volume in the series. But what about the Cursed Child? This is why there are arguments.
As to the specifics, the 3 volume/240K words requirement ensures that this is a sizable work, although I wouldn’t mind seeing series of shorter works being treated likewise. Look at Niven’s Tales of Known Space. There are a few novels, but the majority of it is short stories, originally published in magazines and collected into anthologies. Not counting the novels, it’s at least 240K words in at least 3 anthologies. Relegating it to just novel series would eliminate it from consideration.
I don’t see how you could police the “it’s complete” criterion, however. Just like bands getting back together after their heyday because everyone has mortgages, authors return to their popular series because they’re popular and add more to them.
I’m glad there has been some thought in the formal proposal about this stuff.
I think shared-universe anthologies really have to be better addressed as to how they fit into this. How does the Wild Cards series–with numerous authors, some novels, some short stories–fit, for example (and there are many others)? They really need to add a lot of definitions here.
Max Gladstone and Robert Jackson Bennett both have series that would qualify. Yaaay! N.K. Jemisin does not. Boo! There’s my deep, thoughtful analysis of the topic.
As a maker of the Best Series motion up for ratification in 2017, a volume is anything. We didn’t want to say work because that gets confusing when you call the series a work of works. We didn’t want to specify any length of each part, either, because we wanted short stories, novelettes, novellas, blog posts, novels, graphic stories (assuming the entire series makes it to 240,000 words), etc. were eligible.
So, in short, if you penned a letter that tied into the Old Man’s War Series, you’d likely be eligible, given I think you’ve hit 240k words.
If you were nominated and we were operating under the proposal (not the one-off committee choice Hugo) and you won, OMW is done. There’s a very specific one and done clause. However, if you lost, and decided to write another 240,000 words, you could be eligible again in the year in which you published the last bit of those 240,000.
Now for the really fun question. What if, say, I, with your approval of course, write a short story in the OMW universe, and the series gets nominated. Then you and I get to decide who takes home the trophy if it wins. Same goes for Ring of Fire, Eric and whoever else is writing whatever part of that series that gets nominated (because, IMHO, each subseries is its own series, but on the whole this is up to the will of the nominators) gets to figure it out. I think the Admins have said you can have 3 trophies, no more. This point becomes a lot easier if the original author has passed, but there are plenty of cases of multi-author series where all are living.
After listening to the panel on this proposed amendment, the award description did denote the number of words to make a “volume.” Not sure about the author thing, but I do believe it is rewarded to the author of the series, so unless you continuously allowed the hired author to play, he would have to have 240,000 of words in the universe
What if we took the five year window idea and said a series was only eligible for nomination once, when it crossed the three volumes/240,000 words threshold? This would prevent endless nominations for the same expanding series, and it might discourage gamers from tacking on a short work to get in, as they would only have the one shot. It would penalise a series that was slow getting started but grew into something beautiful, but how many great works had a weak beginning?
This may be over complicating it, but considering the reading burden that Micah mentions, what about announcing the finalists in one year, and then voting in the next? (Probably far less confusing with the 5 year window, too – although I would lean towards making it shorter like 4 years or maybe even 3.)
So, for example, with the 2017 Hugos, if a series has a work of novella length or greater published in Jan 1, 2012 – Dec 31, 2016, it is eligible to be nominated. The finalists are announced with the other 2017 Hugo finalists BUT voting does not take place on them until the 2018 Hugo finalist voting, giving an entire year to read and discuss that various finalist series. Then any works in a series published Jan 1, 2017 – Dec 31, 2021 would be eligible to be nominated in 2022 with awards given in 2023.
(A 3-year window, however, would go nomination year, voting year, year off, rinse and repeat.)
There’s still definitely cons here, like it can occasionally be a do-over for a novel that was finalist in 2017 but lost and consequently gets a boost because of that rather than just the strength of the series. But any award will have odd things like that (e.g. most every year, our host here opines about how Best Director awards are often voted as consolation prizes for Best Picture runner-ups, if I recall).
Also, whatever form it takes, this category might be hard enough to pin down that a lot of “does this really count?” decisions will have to be made by popular opinion in the final voting phase rather than delineated by specific rules.
I fail to see the point of this.
From a commercial standpoint, a series, but the nature of its existence is popular and sells.
From a “let’s promote new authors” point of view, similarly has no point. By the time there is a series, the author is not new and many people have discovered her.
I supposed from a fandom point of view, you might want to celebrate the awesomeness of your favorite series. I don’t really grok that, but I know some do. Seems to me, for this purpose, best Novel would be the right category – unless your fav is uniformly very good but all of the individual novels are flawed in some way that makes them not Best Novel worthy.
So, I have a bit of an interest in this, as I chaired the committee that proposed the award. We considered a lot of what you bring up in our discussions.
We wanted an award that made sense based on how series are written, published, and read. Given the difficulty in defining completeness with regard to series, and the way some are published with no intention of ever becoming complete, we opted against a completeness requirement. We did, however, opt for a one win and you’re done rule, with a requirement of substantial addition before a new nomination.
One of the hurdles we needed to clear was proving there was enough quality material in any given year to justify the category. For that, we turned to the Locus long list, and found that in any given year, 15-30 novels that would trigger eligibility for their series could be found (between the SF, fantasy, and YA lists). Furthermore, as we opted against limiting the category to novel series, some additional number of series based in shorter fiction, shared world anthologies, etc. would qualify.
The rule prohibiting work from appearing in more than one category in the same year should prevent Series X and Book N of Series X from being on the ballot in the same year.
We explicitly stated in our committee report that short fiction would count as volumes (taking the one previous Series Hugo, which had Heinlein’s Future History on its finalist list, as a guide).
I believe that addresses most of what you brought up. And hey, if we stink at nominating in this category, we can always kill it at the meeting, though I’d prefer we use the sunset clause rather than the ratification stage to do that.
Agree that this would be a good award category to add.
Strongly agree that it is / will be very, very snarly to administer (determine who/what is/is not elligible, when, etc.). Predict this category will get honed and vetted over at least a decade, perhaps with some changes like those our host suggests.
YMMV, but … Sanderson’s Cosmere wins.
@MilesArcher: The point, I think, is to honor (and set as example to aspire to) a group of linked works where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
The trivial case is the one-story-in-three-books example like LotR or Cyteen, where a single book doesn’t stand alone and (I would argue) is not really qualified for a Hugo until the story is complete. Although I suppose you could argue there that the entire trilogy should be submitted as a unit for a single ‘best novel’ Hugo.
The more interesting case is a series where each individual work adds to the characterization, conflict and worldbuilding in prior works, making the whole deeper and richer as the series goes on. Discworld and the Vorkosigan books are good examples here.
I do like the idea of including shorter works; a favorite series of mine is Schmitz’ Federation of the Hub universe, which is almost completely made of short stories. I’m also a fan of Zenna Henderson’s works about The People; again, all short stories. Shared-world anthologies like the Liavek books are also something I’d like to honor, but there things get a lot trickier, with the participation of multiple authors contributing to the whole. And then there’s continuation-by-other-author, which emotionally I’d like to disallow completely; aside from the fact that I can’t recall a single one I thought was actually good, it feels like the new author trying to ride on the coattails of the original author’s success, and I’m not sure that should be Hugo-worthy.
Jo Walton’s Thessaly series would be eligible I think. Good.
When I saw the title to this post, my first thought was that they were going to do an award for TELEVISION series. That’s another new category that is worth considering. There are shows that work well as a body of work (Sense8 is a good example) but where no single episode stands out. The recent trend of binge watching probably contributes to that; if you watch an entire season in a day or two it all blends together into one big experience rather than a string of smaller ones.
Many current shows aren’t written in discrete episodes in the same way that older ones were. An episode of Sense8 doesn’t stand alone in the way that an episode of classic Star Trek does. The latter has a story arc that begins and ends within its 50 minutes (yes, hour programs on the major networks really did run that long back then; currently it’s about 42 minutes); the characters are ongoing but plot elements are not. Television has moved toward more and more continuing plot lines over the years, with some recent shows reaching the point where binge watching is really the only sensible way to view them. It would be impossible to keep all the stories straight if you only saw one episode per week. (A corollary is that when a new season is released, you often have to go back and watch at least a couple of episodes of the previous season to remind yourself of what is going on. Otherwise the new ones don’t make any sense.)
On a gut level, this makes sense. On a practical level, it’s fraught with ever expanding spidey-webs.
I like JS’s suggestions, if this comes to pass, but the two difficulties that are most vexing for this little mouse roll out thusly:
1 – Writers don’t really write for awards (ideally, anyway), but some may be less inclined to continue a series that has already won this Hugo. Granted, fandom and sales are nice incentives, but knowing a series will never be eligible for peer recognition could become a factor among many. For instance, Bujold has won several times for stand-alone-ish Vorkosigan novels. How might winning this “series” award affect that? Granted, she could still win for stand-alone, but the outcry may be deafening. Or, Alastair Reynold’s Revelation Space series? In fact, Reynold’s and Baxter’s “Medusa” sequel to the old Clarke best novella from the early 70s (though lacking the word count . . . at this time)?
2 – This is already a problem for me, and I won’t belabor it. Just the idea that voters do NOT have to read all the works in a category before voting will become a bigger problem.
The more I read on this the less it makes sense to do it. It’s too broad, too complicated and too time consuming to read everything. They should rethink this.
The Best Series Hugo proposal has been under public discussion for at least two years. I don’t imagine the people behind it, who have already commented, are going to rock the boat, but I think it does them a disservice not to acknowledge that they’ve been answering questions like these for quite awhile. Some of these perceived imprecisions in the rules remain because more fully detailed language ends up causing problems of its own. Some things will be left up to the voters to think through, as in other categories.
As for gaming the award by rushing to publish series installments before the end of the year… That could happen, though there’s such heavy gaming-the-award traffic already going on right now there may not be any wrath left over for somebody who’s guilty of this.
Speaking as a (very junior) member of the Best Series committee, we very explicitly decided NOT to state what made a series a series. Our attitude was “let the voters decide.”
I suspect the Best Novel/Best Series correlation will not play out as often as you suggest. I suspect a book/series would have to have Bujoldian levels of universal adoration behind it for that to happen. But of course there’s no way to know without empirical evidence, humans being what they are.
The last time a book won Best Novel and was part of a series that would have been eligible at the time under these proposed rules was Willis’s Blackout/All Clear in 2011. To get the next eligible one we have to go back to 2001, for JKR and Harry Potter.
(There are a lot of first- or second-book-in-series that win Best Novel Hugos. Those series wouldn’t be eligible.)
Regarding length requirements for each volume, I think 25K might be a bit short, if the aim is for “series of novels.” And I honestly do think that is the intent of this award. All speculating about short story series and additional related novellas authors set in their larger universes should, imo, be cautionary, not a goal.
My personal preference would be that each work in the series has a minimum word count of 50K. This would allow YA novels/series to be eligible without creating a fuzzy zone where an author publishes a very long standalone novel and two random novellas in the same universe and it gets called a “series.”
Novels published in chapters/segments would be counted as a single work of the aggregate count when all parts are released in a single volume.
Eligibility and frequency of the award are important criteria to get sorted out. I agree that “every year” might be too often, but “every five years” seems too long to me. Lots of series are only three books, releasing one each year, and would be severely handicapped if the third volume came out four years before the next Hugo Best Series year.
Yes, there are a lot more books than series published each year, but I don’t think the difference is really that much. I honestly can’t remember the last time I read a novel that wasn’t part of a series…probably Redshirts.
I would love to see a study of how many SF books each year are part of series. If it’s 50%, then a Hugo Series Award every 2 years would make sense; if 33%, then every 3 years, etc.
I am neither a Hugo voter nor an SF/F writer, so I have no skin in this game, but I like our host’s thoughts. I like the idea of a Best Series award but agree it should only be given every 5 years and only once to a given series. The definitions and parameters need to be established very, very soon, like next week, now that the announcement has been made.
@ carriev, Kitty may be ineligible, but based on the three stories in the “Bannerless” world that I just read, you may have a new card to play in a few years. :-)
There’s a a more basic definitional issue, I think… what’s a series? I would bet that most fans think of something like Wheel of Time. ASioF, Lord of the Rings, etc. That is, a series with a continuing narrative arc that’s primarily told by a series of novel length works. At least that’s how I think of it. A collection of novellas and short stories all with a common setting don’t strike me as a series. Even a collection of novels that are set in the same world but that have no common narrative arc don’t strike me as a series. I take the word ‘series’ pretty literally – several things, arranged serially.
There are certainly complications – for example the Expanse novels are a series. But there are also novellas and stories that fill out back story etc in that universe. If a novel in the Expanse series doesn’t come out in a given year but a novella does, is the series eligible?
Finally, there are certainly issues around how the community judges a series – at the end of the day the actual answer is ‘however they want to do that’ but it will be interesting to follow discussion around it. What if the series is nominated but the work in a given year is relatively weak? Will people judge the series as a whole on the strength of the qualifying work or as a whole? Can an author decline a nomination if that happens but remain eligible?
I can see this. SF&F has a long history of series (Lensman, Tarzan, …).
Some series have a long story that adds greatly to the story of any particular book. Any one book in Kage Baker’s Company series wasn’t the best book of its year, but the series as a whole is remarkable. Compare that to the Vorkosigan saga, which is a series of fine books about the same people. Yes, the characters grow, change, and die, but it isn’t the same as a book that is about Menoza but also about The Company.
One active series with a long story would be the Steerswoman novels by Rosemary Kirstein. There is more below the surface than is obvious in the first couple of books.
I’m hoping that those nominating a particular series, say Neal Asher’s Polity series, will have been reading the novels et al as they came out. Even Scalzi’s more modest Old Man’s Warn would be a lot of reading to catch up on in order to nominate his series.
Now I just realised that Seanan McGuire’s Incryptid series had a new novel in 2016, so it qualifies as a series that can be nominated!
I like the idea, a good series is a thing different from the individual novel. thats a lot to read during the voting period though. Phew.
I think the length restriction on what counts as a volume is worth considering, as otherwise you could just publish an Old Man’s War haiku.
Oh no, aliens!
I sure hope they don’t eat me.
Hey, why am I green?
I AM NOW ELIGIBLE
If what counts as a series is left up to the voters, how does that work?
Suppose CJ Cherryh writes and publishes Downbelow Station II: The Hisa Strike Back.
If I want to nominate that series, what do I write on the nomination ballot? “The Union/Alliance/Downbelow Station series”? Do I list what books I consider part of the series?
When the Hugo ballot comes, what does it say? Does it list the works included? If not, how do I know if the Chanur* novels count or not? That would influence my decision.
Suppose U/A/DS wins and there is a “one-time” rule. In a later year Cherryh comes out with Chanur Rising: Kkkill the Knnn!. Can the Chanur series be nominated, or is it blocked?
* They are in the U/A/DS universe, but the connection is a very minor element in either subseries
@cptbutton: It is up to the Admins if they want to have people list books to make their correlation job easier. It’s the same problem they have now when people list episodes of TV series (is it the number of the episode, the title, the title mispelled?)
As for overlapping series or subseries, if they are distinct enough, they can be nominated separately. There is no good way to legislate if Tiffany Aching is different than the Witches. If the nominators/voters think that they are, then they are. Now, if DISCWORLD wins, that would make anything set in the Discworld ineligible.
I think it should be voted on yearly but…
There should be a rotation so any one category is only voted on once every five years. That way you can cover classics such as the Amber Series, Dune, Lord of the rings, etc. and still leave a space for the advancement of current writers. It might even inspire some to do work that can become a gestalt experience.
I’m really glad to see this change. Every 5 years might be too infrequent (maybe every 3? every other? WHO KNOWS YET), but it seems necessary. The nomination of A Dance of Dragons several years ago comes to mind. On its own, I didn’t think that was a strong book–there were better singly constructed novels. As a continuation of ASoIaF, it was worth the read and a worthy continuation in the series. Also, the whole ‘nominate the enter WoT’ series ploy made me NOT want to vote for it. That comes across as deeply disingenuous. There are a lot of books in continuing series that stand well on their own, but there are plenty that don’t but become elevated because of the overall quality of a series.
tl;dr Two thumbs up–a necessary change to reflect how SFF fans read.
FWIW, I’m pretty firmly with the “let the voters decide” side of things. If someone publishes a huge novel and a couple novellas – is that a series? I don’t know, it depends on the stories. But if they are connected enough for nominators and voters to consider it a series, and if they are awesome enough for nominators and voters to award it the Hugo, then let it win! If enough people are skeptical that it should count as a series, then it won’t get nominated or win.
If there was a series of short story anthologies that were in the same universe, linked thematically, and/or same characters, etc., or even someone publishing a series of 30+ short stories or novelettes over the years, if they were linked enough and if they were awesome enough, I would not hesitate to call it a series even though it’s not novels. If this category sticks around and a series of shorter works is worthy of a Best Series Hugo, I’d hate to see it disqualified because it didn’t fit preconceived notions and instead gave us something different. Heck, if someone published a series told as 365 daily pieces of 700-word flash fiction – and it was amazing and linked enough to feel like a series, that would be something to celebrate. I would rather reward something original like that playing with the format than saying it has to fit the traditional formats of presentation.
Besides, just like short form dramatic presentations that aren’t TV episodes, I think this would be extremely rare if it ever even happens at all. It would have to be truly amazing and popular to make it past all of the traditional novel-based series.
Leaving it in the hands of the nominators and voters to say, sorry, John, that haiku isn’t enough to get you another nomination, but this other serialized story deserves recognition on its strength as a series, seems to me the right way to go. The potential harm of a haiku qualifying OMW is low enough that it’s not worth closing so many other creative doors. Let the voters decide what’s deserving.
As an additional note, in my other hat as Presiding Officer of the MidAmeriCon II Business Meeting, I am just now reviewing the minutes from the discussion of Best Series at that meeting. I think a lot of the questions and concerns came up there and we are working to get the minutes up online ASAP so people can read them in light of the decision by Worldcon 75, but writing and editing 145 pages of meeting minutes takes some time.
To further add to what Mike, Jared, and Warren said, I’d HIGHLY recommend that anyone who wants to comment on the viability, execution, or feasibility of the Best Series Hugo gets the business meeting agenda from Midamericon 2. It contains the language that will likely be used in the nomination phase and the full committee report.
These can be found under B.2.1 (p 9) and Appendix 2 (pp 67-73).
Sorry, can’t make a relevant comment; too distracted. You seem to have some flurb gunking up the bottom of the lowercase G key on your typwriter. You should take an old toothbrush to it and clean it out. Very distracting. (Ok, September’s been a very long and trying month, sorry again.)
IMO the Harry Dresden series is another example where the whole is (or will be) more than the sum of its parts.
I see potential for problems in defining what exactly is being judged (and recognized) as part of a given series. Prolific and/or long careered authors may have multiple sub-groupings set in the same setting. Isaac Asimov comes to mind: Would the Foundation novels, the Robot novels, and the Galactic Empire novels be three separate series, or one really long series set in the same universe? Dune has already been mentioned, also.
Thanks for the link. I read the two relevant parts. As I read it series is being defined more narrowly than discussed here. As I read Appendix 2, some historical examples:
(Note that I haven’t checked word counts and am not considering “published in the last year” in these examples.)
Discworld is not a series, But it contains a Watch series, a Witches series, et al.
Cherryh’s Union/Alliance/Downbelow Station is not a series, and arguably the only series that would qualify is the Chanur books. There aren’t any three book chains that share anything besides overall setting and character walk-ons.
Heinlein’s Future History is not a series, and the only series in it would be the one centered on Lazarus Long.
But there are still large grey area. Which is unavoidable given the diversity of stuff being covered.
The linked article has two kinds of blocks, a permanent block for series that have won already, and a temporary block for series that were nominated but lost until 2 more books of at least 240K words come out. When going through the nominations, these will needed to be disqualified.
John wrote: “If I hire someone to whomp up a new story in the Old Man’s War universe, and that story meets the criteria for a “volume,” whatever that might be, would it make the whole series eligible?”
Regardless of its eligibility for the new Hugo category, expanding OMW into a “shared universe” that other authors could contribute to would definitely pique my interest as a fan.
John: I was pretty sure someone would jump at the chance to give us a haiku….
That really is unkind; instead of coming up with a snappy response I’ve been daydreaming about the novels CJ Cherryh would write to match your titles, and am now feeling deeply deprived.
At the moment I’m going to stick with Mike Glyer’s comments, not least because he knows vastly more about it than I do. I’m hoping to make it to Finland next year so I may get the chance to see how it works in action…
@cptbutton: The series definition is more a set of guidelines; the people who defines it are the voters. If we take Discworld as the example, one can make a case that the entire set of Discworld books is one series (due to shared setting and some shared characters). But voters can also choose to nominate eg the Witch books (which would have a shared setting, shared characters, and some limited plot continuity). Or go even further, to the Tiffany Aching stories (where we hit plot continuity).
Which of these cases would happen would be decided not by the administrators but by the Hugo voters – the option that received the most votes would appear on the final ballot.
Note: this is all my own personal interpretation based on my reading of the new rules, the committee report, and what I’ve gleaned from limited interaction with actual Hugo admins.
Call me old and Puritan, but get this: My fiction reading has fallen off to the point where one of my favourite parts of an August convention was having two people enthuse about two specific books, so that I could feel some interest in buying them too. (One still only out in hardcover)
Therefore, I find the idea of a good series attractive, as it would keep me reading. I am pleasantly surprised at the number of series mentioned here.
“Unless, I guess, I quickly whomp up an Old Man’s War novella and make it available as a single volume before the end of the year — would that work?”
I think you should try it and see if it works. Worst case we now have more Old Man’s War; never a bad thing in my book.
No room in there for ‘classic’ series, alas. The ‘Foundation’, Poul Anderson’s ‘Technic’, Lazarus Long…
I think this would be a good idea, mostly as a way to recognize authors who might not write a single specific book that is *amazing*, but do construct amazing worlds for their characters to live and grow. OK, I’ll be honest, I’m thinking “Finally, a Hugo Mercedes Lackey can win!”
I rarely offer only one of her books to a friend, I’ll offer two or three, because they are so often sets within an overarching story.
There have got to be other authors like her, who have written important, interesting series, but where no one book really stands out.
“No room in there for ‘classic’ series, alas. The ‘Foundation’, Poul Anderson’s ‘Technic’, Lazarus Long…”
“Foundation” already won a All-Time Best series Hugo, back in 1966, beating out Heinlein’s Future History, Lensman, Barsoom, and LOTR.
There’s a lot of different things falling under the heading of “series” here, and I think it might be worth teasing out the various differences.
So, first up is the “serial novel” – a single plot line, written by a single author or the same group of authors, published as multiple different books in order to make it able to be used for things other than propping open doors. For example, “The Fellowship of the Ring”, “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King” are three books in a single serial novel. Another example would be the Harry Potter series. I’d argue these would need to fill two criteria in order to be considered eligible: first, the plot line has to be complete in order for the entire serial novel to be able to be nominated. Secondly, only those items which are directly related to this single plot line are eligible for consideration. (So LOTR can be nominated as a single “serial novel” series; “The Hobbit” and “The Silmarillion” could not).
The next type is the “single setting” style of series – a number of different stories set in the same overall world, not necessarily tracking the same characters, and much more about the world than the characters. Discworld, Darkover, the Dragonriders of Pern, and the Witch World would all fall into this category; I suspect the Vorkosigan saga would do so as well. The distinguishing features for a “single setting” series would be: single author, or the same group of authors working on all works; each work on this shared world has to be complete in and of itself, rather than part of a serial novel – a plot line which carries over a succession of books becomes a serial novel set in a particular setting. (So there’s your clue for distinguishing the two: does the story resolve completely at the end of volume 1, or are there trailing plot threads leaving you looking for volume 2. If it resolves completely, you’re looking at a “single setting” series. If you’re waiting for volume 2, it’s a “serial novel” series). For a world like this, I’d be suggesting the trick would be selecting a group of up to five consecutive works created within a five year span, and nominating those – multiple awards could be both possible and feasible within this particular sub-type, but there would need to be a five year gap between the creation dates of the last book of the first cluster, and the first book of the second cluster (so, for example, you could nominate the first five Discworld books, wait out the next ten years, then nominate the latest five).
Finally, there’s also series set on “shared worlds”. These are settings where a diverse group of authors write a variety of stories about a single setting universe (and there can be overlaps with “single setting” series – for example, both Darkover and the Witch World also work as “shared worlds”). McCaffrey’s “Brain Ships” universe is a shared universe, so too is the “Wild Cards” setting. The distinguishing feature is where not every author works on every work in this particular world. Often, where you’re looking at an overlap between single setting universes and the shared world version of the same universe, the content from the shared world will not be considered canonical for or by the single setting writer. Again, there may be serial novels written within a shared world setting (one author picking up the ball and running with it), and a single author may choose to write a group of “single setting” novels within this shared world as well. These would be hardest to deal with, because really, we’re starting to get near the borders of fan fiction and other transformative works at this point; I’d be more inclined to argue the rule with “shared universe” stories is this: the original creator(s) of the universe can claim awards for works they have written in the shared universe (as per criteria for other series types, or individual novels) but the people who are playing in it can’t.
So that’s at least three types of series I can think of off the top of my head. All of which would be technically eligible for this sort of award, but each of which would require different judging and qualification criteria.
The proposal as passed (first passage; it needs to be ratified next year in Helsinki to take effect in 2018) *already* contains a once-only clause; a series is not eligible again after it has won.
My first thought was “I can’t define a series but I’ll know one when I see it”. Say someone wrote two books, ten and five years ago, then knocked up a quick story to qualify it for a series. Probably no, but if that third book is really good, then maybe yes – well that didn’t help did it?
I like the idea of spacing out the nominations over a longer period.
But as an expansion of that longer time period why not rotate a series (sorry, bad pun) by a sub-classification. To borrow from Megpie71 a series has to be a “series novel”; the next (say two years later) a “single setting” series, then a “shared world” series. This may avoid the inevitable argument of “But its not a proper series”.
And how to handle a seven book series where Book Two won a Hugo – is it disqualified or does it only apply to the last three books in the series? But Book Two is why people have read books, five, six and seven.
The sentiment of “Let the voters decide what a series is” is noble, but will definitely lead to bickering within the fandoms about what series a book belongs to (the “Discworld problem”, according to the committee report shared above).
I am not quite clear on the authorship part. Can a shared universe series win this? Will the award be shared by all the authors? I am sorry if this has been clarified anywhere, but I could not see it. (The first series that came to my mind was “The 39 clues”, perhaps an extreme example.)
My biggest concern here is the susceptibility of this award to gaming. The scope of “Series” seems to be even bigger than the scope of “Short stories”. Why shouldn’t Mr. Scalzi’s haiku above make him eligible for a series nomination? (I know why, but I cannot express it clearly – it’s one of those “I know a series when I see one” cases.)
So, I don’t really follow the Hugos so please forgive me if this is known information. I am curious about a point John made:
“That said, I think you could make a perfectly good and valid argument that a “series” could be a bunch of short stories all set in the same universe, or anthologies set in the same universe, or graphic novels in the same universe, etc, as long as they meet the “three volumes/240,000 words” criteria.”
Graphic novels are generally very word light, and I would be shocked if any graphic novel series could ever reasonably get to 240,000 words. So I am curious if there is some sort of standard for translating a page of a graphic novel into a set number of words, or something similar. Alternately, would there, in a reality where graphic novels be included in this category, need to be a different criteria for graphic novels to determine a length suitable for “series” consideration?
I feel there’s a categorical difference between series like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings (which is one story told over multiple volumes), Discworld (which is many mostly-independent stories sharing a common world), and Dune (which is many sequential stories about the same people, with a growing continuity).
I agree with this. (And I’d add that Harry Potter and LOTR aren’t exactly the same thing either: LOTR really is just a single story told over several volumes, none of which would be intelligible on their own, while HP is a series of stories making up a larger story.) But I also think it would be almost impossible to draw clear lines between the various kinds, which would make separate awards for them very hard to administer.
Its weird that the Hugos hitherto haven’t had a ‘big honking great series’ category given how prevalent big honking great series have been/are in the genre.
I agree with the problem you raise, but I think there is another. It’s a feature of the Hugos, which a lot of people value, that the process should be a consideration and comparison of works, rather than just a counting of fans: we are meant – at the voting stage, at least – to take account of everything on the shortlist, and decide in an informed way which we like best. This is hard to do with big honking great series, first because we won’t have time to read the whole thing, and second because, if we try to read selectively, it will often not work, because in such series you have to have read the earlier works to know what is going on, and to be familiar with the characters to care about what is going on. The audience for later works in such a series is, often, fans of the series.
Works in series do quite well in the Hugos anyway – though most often the first work: the last three Novel winners have been such. But these tend to be either relatively short series with a clear arc, or loose ‘same universe’ series where the books are fairly self-contained. I suspect that the series Hugo will often go to series of this kind as well. This is in a way unfair to the big honking things, but no one awards process can effectively cover everything.
The current “Best Novel” Hugo criteria would be amended to take out the bit that allows a series to have been nominated if no previous volumes had individually been nominated.
Strictly speaking, there is nothing in the Novel criteria to say that series are eligible. There is a quite general rule, not particularly relating to novels, that a work appearing in parts is eligible in the year it is completed, if no previous…. The most likely applications of this are to TV and comics. But it can apply to novels, if they are published serially, as was common in the old magazine days, and which (as people here will surely know if anyone does) can still happen today. And I think it would be wrong to stop such things getting nominated.
But, I hear you cry, what about The Wheel of Time? That’s surely not a regular serially-published novel? Well, in some ways not – it certainly looks like a series – but actually, it’s not entirely clear how you’d distinguish them. There is presumably no maximum length for a novel – Alan Moore has just published a novel of almost infinite length (in one volume). And the volumes of WOT – after the first three, at least – are not actual stories, like the volumes of Harry Potter: they are just chunks of an ongoing narrative. So I’m not sure if it’s possible to exclude WOT without also excluding things that clearly deserve to be there. (Though if there is a series Hugo, it is in practice likely that things like WOT won’t be nominated for Best Novel.)
I don’t see how you could police the “it’s complete” criterion, however. Just like bands getting back together after their heyday because everyone has mortgages, authors return to their popular series because they’re popular and add more to them.
I think that most of the time, it will be clear when a series is complete, if it’s the kind of series which moves towards a completion. We will certainly know when ASOIAF is complete, if it ever is; the fact will be loudly advertised. This will not stop Martin going back and writing more stuff in the same universe, if he wants to, but that won’t be part of the series in the same way (just as he has already written stuff in that universe which is not part of the series).
That’s not to say that there will never be doubt over whether a series is completed, but I think it will be rare enough that ‘leave it to the voters’ is a reasonable policy. After all, the Hugo rules already include such indefinable terms as ‘science fiction’, ‘related’, ‘noteworthy’ and ‘fan’, but we muddle through.
As a fan who really enjoys reading series, my first thought is finally, the Hugos are catering to stuff I like. Book Series don’t really fit into any of the existing awards. I agree with John that this will need to be refined. I think that is ok. I think a little trial and error is fine for this.
If we add more categories, the Hugos need to remove the rule requiring a minimum number of votes for a category to win. People should be encouraged to only vote in categories they enjoy. Most fans do not read as much as the small number of hardcore fans. I don’t think we should be guilted into voting in a category we don’t like. I think this likely leads to works winning that may not be considered as good to the people who like those categories.
I have an idea for 2 categories. There are 3 categories for short works. So what is wrong with 3 categories for novels? Far more people read novels than shorter works anyway. This allows shorter works to keep their categories, but opens up to a more diverse group of fans. Liberals go on about diversity in terms of race, gender, etc… there is also a diversity of taste. Lets face it there are alot of people who don’t like sex that are huge Star Trek fans. So lets let them in.
1. Best Series:
— Awarded every few years. Before we decide on how often, I think Worldcon needs to figure out how many series per year would be eligible so we are not arbitrary. I think every 5 years is too infrequent. I think having it a little more often allows fans who really like this to feel more involved.
— Let in all series including shared worlds (like Star Trek/Star Wars/Dragonlance), collected works that are in the same Universe like Wildcards. Series with closed and defined endings like Wheel of Time and Game of Thrones. Open ended serials like Old Mans War and Monster Hunter.
— Increase the length of the nominee list. I think 10 would be too long. Its too much to read. Maybe 7 ? This would probably need some trial and error.
— Series can only win once.
2. Best Novel as Part of a Series:
— This is a second best novel award. However, there are 3 categories for short fiction and far more fans read novels, so why is this bad?
— Book can only be nominated for 1 category. You can only nominate a book for best novel in a series or best novel.
— If a book gets nominated for both, the author gets to choose which category to be in. NK Jemesin wrote an insulting blog post last year about how this category rewards white males and they should be excluded. So she likely would prefer to be in the best novel category. So be it. Let her decide.
This lets her not be a part of it without leaving anyone else out.
— Must be novel length. However, can include Wildcards which is related stories. This is a little bit arbitrary, but I don’t think its that controversial. I would be surprised if something that did not have related stories would get nominated. Best Novel stuff gets more nominees than shorter works. So the odds of slipping something in is low.
2 things I want to respond to
1. Completed Series: This excludes open ended series. Not all series have a define end point. Alot of them are serialized. David Webber has 2 of these series. Old Mans War , Monster Hunter, and many urban fantasy series are serialized without a defined ending. Why exclude them? Alot of people like these books and want a voice. So give them a category. Plus it leaves it open to Shared Worlds like Star Wars and Star Trek. This isn’t my thing, but a lot of people like them. Let them have a vote.
2. Gaming the System: Best Novel categories tend to have a lot more nominations. So at worst, you can game to get in 1 nominee with the new Hugo voting process. This isn’t that big of a deal. I think its harder to game if you limit it to ‘best novel in a series’ and an one for ‘best overall series’. That is harder to game.
Is it really a bad thing if a bunch of never kissed a girl trekies (I have a compulsive need to make fun of trekies) Star Trek fans decide to join Worldcon to nominate Star Trek? I don’t really get Star Trek, but I don’t want to exclude them.
My main objection to the series award is that if I haven’t read any of the series nominated, I will probably not get around to reading any of them because I struggle now just to finish all the categories of shorter length. If the series award nominations occurred in one year but voted on in the subsequent year, it would give serious Hugo Award voters ample time to read all of the nominees.
Dave DeBaeremaeker: Perhaps the standard for translating a page of a graphic novel into a set number of words could be simply “A picture is worth a thousand words”?
But to be serious: I’m someone who has never been attracted to book series, and I avoid novels (or even novellas) if they’re stated up front to be part of a series. Indeed, the second and third OMW novels are the only sequel novels I’ve ever read; this was made easier because the second was so different from the first (in part due to the switch to third-person storytelling) and because each stands alone quite well. I also enjoyed Jack Vance’s three Alastor novels, published in one volume, but wouldn’t consider that a series despite some shared-universe aspects.
The breakdown by Guess, above, addresses some obvious concerns about the complications surrounding any possible series Hugo. But Guess also says “the Hugos are catering to stuff I like.” I suppose I’m simply lamenting that what Brian Aldiss wrote about 1980s SF publishing in Trillion Year Spree (1986) is even more true today: “It was never easier to sell a trilogy, never harder to sell a single, difficult but well-crafted novel. All publishers run such series. They are aware of the value of building up readers’ allegiance.” This implies that any series Hugo would cater to the publishers even more than to readers.
Australia has already started a series award under the auspices of the Australian Aurealis Awards. Called the Sara Douglass Series Award, it was awarded for the first time this year. You can read the rules governing the award here: https://aurealisawards.org/about/the-sara-douglass-book-series-award/ I am delighted to be able to say that the inaugural award was won by the Stormlord Trilogy.