Saturday, September 7, 2013

WorldCon Post-Mortem #5: The Hugo Awards

This year, if we restrict the field to the Hugo Award categories I actually had opinions about, I correctly guessed quite a few of them. Let's say around 4/5. I mean, who was really surprised that Writing Excuses won for Best Related over The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature. The average people who vote on this award probably listen to Writing Excuses a lot more than they read The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature. (That includes me.) But just because I guessed them doesn't mean I'm totally thrilled with the awards.

But that's not what I want to talk about. Although, traditionally, after the awards are given out, the critics and opiners start argle-barging about what it means and/or why the one they wanted to win did or didn't win. No, let's skip that and go directly to the award breakdown.

Isn't that kind of amazing? As soon as the awards are announced, this breakdown of the voting becomes available. So here's what I am most struck by: Although there were 3412 members of WorldCon this year, there were only 1848 ballots cast.

I'll say that again: one of the most prestigious awards in science fiction was decided by 1848 people.

It gets even more squirrely when we get into the data:

  • for Best Novel--1649 ballots counted
  • Novella--1463
  • Best Related Work--1091--and of that, 54 voted for No Award(!)
  • and so on
And if you scroll down to the nominating ballots, you'll see that it only takes 38 nominations to get on the Best Novelette short-list; and 34 to get on the Campbell Award short-list.

Now, there's several different interpretations one can draw from these facts. We could say, "well, the core readership/leadership of sf is rather small (or if you prefer, tight-knit." We could say, "considering how close most of these races are, we should really push the short-list as a bunch of recommended works, rather than just hold up the Hugo winner as exceptional." We could say, "we need to boost attendance and voting." Or we could say, "is a Hugo Award measuring popularity in some way, and if so, does it differ at all from a best-seller list?"

I'm not sure what it says, but now that I'm paying attention to how the sausage of the Hugo Awards gets made, I'm not sure I'm all that hungry for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment