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The Hugo Awards are prestigious awards given for Science fiction and Fantasy achievements in a variety of categories each year. They were founded in 1953. The nominees and winners are selected by the members of Worldcon. Hugo Awards have been given every year since 1955, having been first presented in 1953 with no awards given in 1954.
The Hugo Awards are given every year for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. While "bests" had been voted at all Worldcons since the inaugural event in 1939, no awards were presented until the 11th Worldcon (Philcon II, Philadelphia 1953). The awards were the idea of Hal Lynch, hand-machined by Jack McKnight and consisted of a finned steel rocket on a circular wooden base.
Because the awards presented in 1953 were initially conceived as “one-off” awards, the 1954 Worldcon decided not to present them again. The 1955 Worldcon decided that they should present them, and thereafter it became traditional. Later, after WSFS got written rules, the Hugo Awards were codified into the WSFS Constitution, and became one of the required functions of a Worldcon.
The award is named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. Initially the award was called the Annual Science Fiction Achievement Award, with "Hugo Award" being an unofficial, but better known name. Since 1993, the nickname has been adopted as the official name of the award.
Hugo Award nominees and winners are chosen by members (supporting or attending) of the annual Worldcon (although only about 700 of several thousand Worldcon members actually vote) and the presentation evening constitutes its central point. The selection process is defined in the World Science Fiction Society Constitution as instant-runoff voting with five nominees (except in the case of a tie). Unusually, the nominees in each category include "No award," if a voter feels none of the other entries are worthy of recognition; if "No award" receives the most votes in a category, then none of the nominees receives an award.
The Hugo Award trophy was designed by Hoffman Bronze Company based on a picture by Ben Jason, whose picture in turn was based on a design by Jack McKnight and, earlier, Willy Ley. The rocket design has become standardized in recent years and the rockets are currently produced by UK fan Peter Weston. The design for the base on which the rocket is mounted is the responsibility of the Worldcon committee and therefore changes each year. The base design has been selected by various means including committee selection, direct commission and open competition (currently the most common method).
A Sample Ballot
From T-Negative #19, a 1973 sample ballot.