The Hugo Award
|Type:||professional, semi-professional, and non-professional|
|Fandom:||Science fiction fandom|
|URL:||The Hugo Awards website|
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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. As of the 2014 awards, No Award had won a total of five times, in five separate years. Due to puppygate in 2015, No Award won in a record-breaking five categories for a single year.
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).
Of the current sixteen Hugo Award categories, four exclude professional work from consideration. Two of those, Best Fan Writer and Best Fan Artist, are "person" categories under which work published in semi-professional publications may be considered, while the other two, Best Fanzine and Best Fancast, also exclude semi-professional works. Recent Fan Writer nominees often write about SFF news, literary criticism, or reviews. Recent Fan Artist portfolios have included both original and transformative works.
The Best Related Work category also encompasses fannish works in its description, specifying that works "related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom" published in the prior calendar year and which are "either non-fiction or noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text" are eligible for consideration. In 2019, the Archive of Our Own was a Hugo Award finalist in the Best Related Work category.
1974: Star Trek
1974: Two Star Trek fans were nominated for Best Fan Writer. According to Bev C in Interstat #42, this event prompted accusations of block voting, and may have been the direct inspiration for the founding of the Faan Awards:
[Dixie O's] call for a new set of awards for ST zines/fans only brought to mind a similar brouhaha in SF fandom a few years ago. Some disgruntled fans, upset because Hugos no longer went to real fanzines but to semi-prozines and even fringe-zines, decided to set up their own awards, the Faans. At the time, they seemed full of sour grapes and rather childish, announcing that the Hugos no longer had any meaning, these fans were the last bastion of Tru-fandom, and other similarly apocalyptic decrees. The irony: the immediate cause of their upset was the nomination of two ST writers for the Best Writer Hugo. Her Hugo had no meaning, said the winner later, because she had won it against Trekkies, not against real fan writers.... it was widely believed in SF fandom that bloc voting was the reason that two ST fans were nominated for Best Fan Writer in 1974, and it's probably true.
1987: Scientologists and L. Ron Hubbard
2019: Archive Of Our Own
In August 2019, the Archive Of Our Own was awarded The Hugo Award for Best Related Work. It was the first time a fanfic archive or the Organization for Transformative Works (the nonprofit that runs the AO3) had ever won a Hugo, the most prestigious award in Science Fiction Fandom. To date, no fanfiction has ever won a Hugo, despite the existence of a Fan Writer category. Historically, fanfiction has had a poor reputation in SF fandom as well as in mainstream society.
Many AO3 users had joked about being Hugo Award nominees/winners, leading some to explain that the award was for the site itself and not for the fanworks on the site. Some people questioned whether an entire project could be eligible for a Hugo Award, resulting in the WSFS stating that AO3 was eligible for the award based on “aspects other than the fictional text.”
On September 13, the OTW posted Hugo Award – What it Means, Archived version, stating that the World Science Fiction Society (who give the awards) had asked them to publicly clarify "that the Hugo was awarded to the AO3, and not to any particular work(s) hosted on it".
Discussion ensued in comments to the post as well as on File 770 and elsewhere over why the WSFS had needed to clarify the joke and whether or not SF fandom was still anti-fanfic.
A Sample Ballot
From T-Negative #19, a 1973 sample ballot.
- George R.R. Martin Can Fuck Off Into the Sun, or: The 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony (RageBlog Edition), Archived version by Natalie Luhrs (August 2020)