Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hugos, continued

I made a post about the Hugos a while back. It turns out that Donato Giancola has a very elegant and simple proposal to amend the Hugo rules that may address those issues.

Again, this is not to discredit the few people that have won the award in the past, it is just an acknowledgment that there have been others that have deserved it and have gone overlooked. Donato's proposal is simply a means to have voters take a little extra time when they consider who they are voting for.

(As an aside: About a month and half ago I wrote the World Fantasy Committee and proposed that they create a separate jury for their artist award -- a jury that consists of artists and art directors rather than authors and editors. As of yet I have not heard back from them. I'll report back once I do.)

Either Donato or I (since Donato may not be able to attend this year's World Con) will present the following at this year's business meeting.


(Updated with final wording..)

Short Title: Artist Hugo

To amend the WSFS Constitution to require that nominations for the Best Artist Hugo Award include one citation of a specific work created by the nominee during the year of eligibility, by adding additional wording as follows:

Add to Section 3.7: Nominations

3.7.4: Nominations for the categories of Best Professional Artist or Best Fan Artist must include, in addition to the nominated artist's name, the title of a specific work by the nominated artist or the name of a publication within which the nominated artist's work appeared, either of which must have first appeared in the year for which the artist is being nominated.

Add to Section 3.8: Tallying of Nominations

3.8.8: Nominations for the categories of Best Professional Artist or Best Fan Artist shall be tallied only by the artist’s name and not by the title of any specific cited work or publication within which the nominated artist's work appeared. Nominations for these categories that do not include the information required in section 3.7.4 shall not be counted.

Submitted by: Donato Giancola, Irene Gallo

Makers' Argument:
While no single work is voted upon for the final Artist Hugo balloting, the inclusion of naming works from an eligible year in the nomination process will insure that only eligible works are those which the nominator is considering the artist for, rather than relying upon name and reputation recognition. This will help clarify and enforce the rules as per the World Science Fiction Society Constitution, specifically Section 3.2: General, and 3.2.1: "Unless otherwise specified, Hugo Awards are given for work in the field of science fiction or fantasy appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year."

In the past, sheer name recognition has propelled nominations forward without any verifiable check that those artists had contributed any new work to the field of Science Fiction in the eligible, and required, years. I believe these amendments will bring an end to the ‘blind’ nomination process and restore credibility to the Award.


Patrick Nielsen Hayden said...

I think this is a reasonable piece of social engineering. I would suggest refining part of the explanation. Where it currently says:

Thus while no single work is voted upon for the final Artist Hugo balloting, the inclusion of naming works from an eligible year in the nomination process will insure that only eligible works are those which the nominator is considering the artist for, rather than relying upon name and reputation recognition

--I would modify it to read:

The Best Professional Artist Hugo isn’t given for single works. However, requiring nominators to cite specific works by their nominees from the year in question will help ensure, first, that their nominees are eligible; and second, that the nominators are considering their nominees’ works in the particular year in question.

Kevin Standlee said...

Note that Donato has contacted the WSFS Business Meeting head table staff, and we are working with him to prepare a version of the proposal in good form, and that may differ from the exact words posted here.

Irene Gallo said...

Thanks, Kevin. I placed a disclaimer on the post.

Kevin Standlee said...

As you know, the revised version, which will be what you and Donato submit to the Business Meeting, is now available on my LiveJournal.

This issue is being debated somewhat on my LJ, and much more hotly on the SMOFS e-mail list, which includes a significant number of those people who regularly attend the WSFS Business Meeting.

The major questions that have arisen regarding interpretation are:

1. What if (say) 100 people nominate Artist X, who published lots of artwork last year, but only 15 of them included references to artwork published last year, while a bunch of them refered to pieces published the previous year, said, "I know he did something," or left the "reference" field blank. Suppose it takes 23 nominations to make the ballot. Does Artist X appear on the ballot?

Donato has clearly stated that his answer to this question is "No," and the wording submitted certainly is intened to accomplish this.

2. When does a piece of artwork "qualify?" Say an artist creates a piece of artwork in 2005 and puts it on his web site and displays it at a convention in 2005. The work was commissioned for and appears as the cover of a book in 2006. People nominate that artist in 2007 and refer to the cover art of the 2006 book. The artwork itself, having been created in 2005, has a 2005 copyright date. Should the administrator count nominations for the 2007 Hugo Award (2006 eligibility year) refering to this work?

Irene, as the co-sponsor of this motion, and as Donato won't be at L.A.con IV, you will have preference in recognition when the motion comes up for debate, both at the Preliminary Business Meeting (where I suggest you only explain what the desired effects are, rather than why you think people should vote for it) and the Main Business Meeting (where substantive debate on why this is a good idea is in order).

I anticipate at least two possible major amendments to be offered to this motion at the Preliminary Business Meeting on Thursday. Both of them are amendments by substitution, and would replace the proposal with a completely new but related proposal.

1. Generalize the requirement: Instead of making this requirement specific to the two artist categories, make it apply to all four (possibly five depending on the Best Editor Split) "person" categories.

2. Invert the eligibility nomination: Require that nominees, when informed that they have qualified for the ballot, prove their eligiblity by citing at least one and up to five works from the eligibility year. If they do not do so within a set time limit (say ten days; you have to give the Administrator time to issue the ballot), they are disqualified. This would not require voters to provide qualifiying works.

Some of the debate I've read suggests that Worldcons should then provide copies of these references on the ballot, say with online references to the works on their web sites, but this would be IMO beyond the scope of a consitutional amendment.

I hope you understand that I'm not trying to debate this proposal. I'm trying to make sure that the debates at the Business Meeting are well-organized and not consumed with technical debates over what you intended to accomplish with the proposal.

Irene Gallo said...


I thank you for your counsel. You've been a big help to Donato and me.

Once I've had a time to consider the points you brought up here I will reply, NOT to debate you on them, but simply as a means of getting my response organized and, more importantly, to get any feedback that I can from anyone listening in.

As you know, I have been reading and chiming in on your live journal. I do not, however, know what "SMOFS" is. I am assuming this is a private list but, if it is a list that anyone can join in, can I trouble you for the address?

Thanks again,


Mark Olson said...

I'm quite interested in this proposal as it attempts to remedy a very real problem. The biggest issue (which as Kevin has said is being hotly debated on smofs) is whether there is a practical way to implement it. (So far it appears to put a substantial additional burden on the Hugo administrator.)

The proposal requires the nominator to cite a work from the previous year. Exactly what does that mean? I'm pretty sure you mean the clock to start ticking when it first is publicly shown and not when it is created. (Am I right?)

But do you mean the clock to start ticking when it is shown in a gallery or art show? Or only when it is published in a book or magazine or other publication?

If showing in, say, a convention art show starts the one-year clock, then the Hugo administrator has an impossible task to tell what works appeared for the first time last year and thus can be used in a nomination.

My personal guess is that including public display as citeable in a nomination will kill the proposal, since the WSFS Business Meeting is usually very wary of adding significantly to peoples' workload.

Kevin Standlee said...

SMOFS is an e-mail list for people with an interest in convention running, with a specific emphasis on Worldcons. It is where a significant amount of the discussion on issues that will come up at the Business Meeting happens. A large number of people who regularly attend the Business Meeting are subscribed to SMOFS.

The list is "private" but is open to anyone who wants to discuss the issues. One challenge of being subscribed to it is that the signal-to-noise ratio sometimes gets pretty bad, as discussions about (say) the Best Artist Hugo are contending with arguments over whether Worldcons are inclusionary enough, and whether Art Shows should accept mail-in artwork or resale artwork, or what kind of corporate form is preferable to a conrunning organization.

You can subscribe to the SMOFS list here. Once you've confirmed your subscription, one of the list moderators will have to approve you, but that's just to keep robots from subscribing and spamming the list.

If you can tolerate some digressive e-mail discussions for a couple of weeks, you might want to subscribe just so you can directly participate in the "advance debate" prior to the Worldcon itself.

Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kevin said...

I have said more than once that the Hugos which are given to people and institutions rather than to specific works should be limited to three victories. That would be Best Fanzine, Best Semiprozine, Best Professional Editor, Best Professional Artist, Best Fan Writer, Best Fanzine, and Best Fan Artist.

I am not, I will confess, disinterested in this question. But I think it produces a great number of positive effects while being easy to understand and easy to apply universally. The problem of ridiculously repeated winners dogs the magazine and editor categories at least as much as the artist categories and those are not quite as amenable to the solution Donato has proposed.

Irene Gallo said...

I've e listed this in other blogs but I just wanted to get a record of it here at home.


Is this opening a can of worms?
Yes, but it shouldn’t. We are NOT asking to change the rules, we are simply asking that the rules be adhered to.

Won’t this make it harder to nominate an artist?
Well, yes, but, A) only very slightly, and B) that is the point.
With websites, artists’ works are easier than ever to find. Plus, it may have been difficult to find artists’ credit in the past but it is pretty standard these days. As to B, the whole point of the amendment is to make people stop and think for a moment which artworks effected them the most during the past year.

What if people nominate an artist but name an ineligible piece or do not name a piece?
That vote is discarded. A vote that simply proclaims that you know someone IS an artists is not the same as voting for their accomplishments.

What if the nominations are so few that it nullifies the award?
That would be regrettable but, honestly, for the award to have the respect that a Hugo should, it has to be assured that the ballots are being caste in a considered manner.

Will this change the outcome of the Hugo winners?
I've often stated that my grievance is NOT with the four artists that have been won the award over the past 25 years, but the fact that the nomination process makes it such that voters do not have to consider who they are voting for.

What makes a piece eligible?
A piece, for example, can be created and posted on a website one year, exhibited the next, and published a year later. Since the Hugo is supposed to go the artist creating an impact within a given year, than all of those years are eligible.

The spirit of the amendment is not to disqualify possible contenders but, simply, to clarify that the voters are honoring actual and recent accomplishments rather than voting on name recognition. Yes, there will be occasions when an old work is used on a new publication...and in those cases the voting public will decide if it is worthy a nomination or not.

To quote Donato on the subject:
“Numerous other juried exhibitions and shows, from the Society of Illustrators Annual to Spectrum to Communication Arts (all highly respected publications and shows) have weighed in on this, and all with the same results: the work is eligible for both years. In the first year it falls within classification as ‘unpublished’, the second year as ‘published’. I know people love to be sticky and say a work can be eligible for only ONE year, but such is the problem with our digital, publishing age. The work might even be copyrighted in the first OR second year as the publisher can be the one who determines the copyright date, thus using that as the bench mark can prove to be inaccurate.

Again my point is to make the nomination process credit, and recognize, an actual recent piece of art which contributed to the genre, rather than relying purely on name recognition. Both variations of exposure/release are valid and I believe it is for that reason so many other competitions and shows recognize this duality. I wish to follow that model as it has been tested for years and proved to be respected by these artistic communities.”

Won’t this make it harder on the administrators?
If the administrators feel that it is under their tutelage to give an Art Hugo, than it should be sheparded with the same rigor that the written categories are.

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