More on the Hugos

Several people have contacted me about my proposal for a Hugo for Betty Ballantine, and one pointed out that the World Science Fiction Society Constitution limits what Hugos can be given, and further stated that the special award given to Betty in 2006 was probably the only practical kind of recognition possible.

After reviewing the WSFS Constitution, I will note that section 3.3.15 states:

Additional Category. Not more than one special category may be created by the current Worldcon Committee with nomination and voting to be the same as for the permanent categories. The Worldcon Committee is not required to create any such category; such action by a Worldcon Committee should be under exceptional circumstances only; and the special category created by one Worldcon Committee shall not be binding on following Committees. Awards created under this paragraph shall be considered to be Hugo Awards.

I note the last sentence: Awards created under this paragraph shall be considered to be Hugo Awards.

Now… was Betty Ballantine’s special award in 2006 a Hugo under the rules? I honestly do not know, but, given the comments I’ve received, it doesn’t appear to be, and more than a few life-time professionals in the field have declared that what Betty received is not a Hugo.

I still believe that Betty deserves a Hugo, but in studying the WSFS Constitution, I discovered what I believe to be a serious fault, and the fact that Betty has not received a Hugo is just one example of that fault.

The fault is simple, but basic and obvious. There is no single standing and permanent award for achievement in a body of work, whether in writing, editing, art, or publishing. Every single award is for work appearing in the previous year. Now, for authors who have a substantial body of work, and who have not received a Hugo, at some point, there is a chance that a “late-in-career” book will receive a nomination and a Hugo, one that it probably does not merit, in order for the voters to recognize, if belatedly, someone who has been overlooked in the annual popularity contest. The same is true of artists, and under the revisions involving editors, for them as well.

Wouldn’t it be far better simply to create an on-going Hugo for life-time achievement, the way the World Fantasy Convention has [horror of horrors] than to keep ignoring those whose contributions may have been less spectacular in any given year, but whose overall achievements dwarf those of many one-time Hugo award winners?

If the WSFS does not wish to address this, then perhaps the Constitution should be amended to read — “The Hugo awards reflect only popularity among a limited number of readers in the previous year and do not attempt to reflect continued and sustained excellence by members of the speculative fiction community.”

Is this an issue that members of the WSFS wish to address, one way or another, or is everyone happy with the continuation of the annual popularity polls and the ignoring of long-standing contributions to the field?