On the Hugos…

‘It’s an honor just to be nominated’. I don’t think I really understood that before March, 2008. I’d been up for my share of awards back home in Australia, and had been delighted and honored every time, but the email I received on a Monday afternoon early that month completely threw me.

The email advised that I had been nominated by the members of the World Science Fiction Society in the Best Editor, Short Form category, and asked if I would like to accept the nomination? I was floored. Speechless for a minute or two, which will say everything to those who know me. I turned to Marianne, who was working in the kitchen and said quietly, “I’m going to Denver”. She knew instantly what I meant and was delighted.

I think we had a small celebration – I know we should have. I quickly advised the Hugo people that I was thrilled to accept the nomination – I was afraid that if I waited they might change their minds – and advised them that I’d be attending the convention as a result.

I was asked not to tell anyone about the nomination until the ballot came out, so I had to sit on the information for a couple weeks. It was excruciating. There are all kinds of wonderful people who help me all the time, and I wanted to share the news. Let them know about this wonderful thing that had happened. When the ballot was announced I immediately emailed my fellow nominees my congratulations, and received a small flood of congratulations in return.

Something that’s not apparent if you’re not caught up in the awards is that you get to be a nominee for a long time – nearly five months. And during that time you begin to realise something really important. A group of intelligent and informed people have looked at your work and deemed it worthy of a Hugo Award, considered that it properly sits alongside the work of the other people nominated in your category. When I looked at the work done by Gordon Van Gelder, Stan Schmidt, Ellen Datlow, and Sheila Williams, I felt flattered to be counted in their number and more than a little humble about it.

I never thought I’d win the Hugo Award. There are all sorts of practical reasons, but I really didn’t think it would happen, but I anticipated some kind of disappointment. When I got on the plane in August, headed from Perth to Oakland for my traditional stopover at Locus HQ I was braced for it. I spent a few tranquil days in Oakland (truthfully the best part of any trip to the US), then we went on the Denver.

The convention went by in a bit of a blur, to be honest, but at every stage the organisers made me feel a bit special and important. I got my Hugo nominees badge (not pin!), my certificate, there was the brief rehearsal and the special pre-Hugo event, then the ceremony itself. As my category approached I was braced for it, but ready to be disappointed. When they called out Gordon’s name I felt good about it. I was surprised that there wasn’t a trace of disappointment (in truth, I would have been shocked had they called my name out). Instead I felt what I had been feeling all along: honored, flattered, grateful, and more than a little bit pleased.

In amongst the champagne and conversation at the traditional Hugo losers party I realised that it had been true for me: for five months it had been a thrill and an honor just to be nominated. I was surprised then, and am surprised now, at just how true this was and remains to be. Even now I get a warm glow thinking about it.

And that brings me to this year. The nominations close at the end of this week. If you are eligible to nominate, please, please do so. It makes an incredible difference to everyone involved, and your voice should be heard. I’d also add a brief comment about changing categories for the Hugos. The members of the World Science Fiction Society should make whatever decisions they feel proper about the categories for the Hugos, but I’d ask them to remember this. The awards are important, and being nominated is an enormous honor. Disenfranchising anyone is a decision that should be made cautiously and compassionately.

5 thoughts on “On the Hugos…

  • February 23, 2009 at 6:05 am

    I’ll have to admit that my own experience closely reflects that of Jonathan. Iwas fairly indifferent to the Hugo nominations process until I got one, and since then I’ve been a participant. If I recall the results from Denver, it only takes a few dozen nominations to get on the ballot (and in some categories fewer than 20 might do it), and that five months of being an active nominee really is a prize in itself, and one I wouldn’t want to deny anyone–especially if you’re in a category in which you have no chance, and no immediate prospect of getting another nomination soon.

    But the good news is that, after that five months of getting free drinks and good wishes, and after you shift from the category of nominee to loser, you realize that the “loser” category is really fairly temporary, and pretty soon you can go back to calling yourself a Hugo nominee again. All that changes is the tense of the verb.

    So I would second Jonathan’s call to action, with only a few days left. Watching your favored candidate lose a Hugo is part of the game, as any Cubs fan can tell you, but denying them the chance at a nomination, when so few nominations might make a difference, is pointless.

  • February 23, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Who is being disenfranchised? Is this some reference to that fact that in the real world there isn’t actually any such thing as a semiprozine? That isn’t disenfranchising anyone and is a bit rich coming from an organisation that does have a record of deliberately disenfranchising voters:

    “Results were tabulated using the system put together by webmaster Mark Kelly, with Locus staffers entering votes from mail-in ballots. Results were available almost as soon as the voting closed, much sooner than back in the days of hand-counting. Non-subscribers outnumbered subscribers by so much that, in an attempt to better reflect the Locus magazine readership, we decided to change the counting system, so now subscriber votes count double.”

    Perhaps you can shed a tear for Patrick Rothfuss whilst you are shedding one for yourself.

  • February 23, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    To be clear about this: the authors of this team blog do not represent “this organisation,” Locus Magazine, but were invited to freely blog SF commentary on the Roundtable. Blog posts are unvetted by the Locus offices, and the authors range from independent academics to full-time magazine staff. If everything they post is held up as Locus Magazine edict, this will indeed be a very “stifled” blog.

  • February 24, 2009 at 1:16 am

    ‘Disenfranchising’ was perhaps a poorly chosen word, and in retrospect I might have used another. It is a reference to the changes currently being discussed by the World Science Fiction Society to end the semiprozine category. The decision is one that properly belongs to the members of WSFS, but about twenty publications (I may have miscounted) have had the experience of being nominated for the Hugo. I think being nominated is a real honor and a wonderful thing, and I wouldn’t deny it to anyone. Do I want anyone to shed a tear for Locus? No. But I hope the members of WSFS will give some thought to how any change might impact on all possible nominees, not just one.

    I should also underscore something Liza has said above. While I’m intimately involved with Locus – I married a managing editor, count its publisher amongst my closest friends, know everyone there, and edit the reviews section of the magazine – I can’t and don’t speak for ‘Locus’ officially. That responsibility sits properly with the publisher and senior editorial staff in Oakland. I work as a freelance contractor and only have direct involvement in my ‘patch’ – allocating books for review and editing book columns.

  • February 25, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    The thing is, WSFS is not some vague entity. It’s the membership of the Worldcon.

    So, if you the reader of this blog are attending Anticipation you have the right to attend the business meeting and vote.

    Details here: http://www.anticipationsf.ca/English/WSFS

    This is very much “town hall” style of democracy.

    Don’t want the semi-prozine category to go away? Then attend the business meeting. Excecise your rights.


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