Group photo on stage of all participants in the 2017 Hugo Awards

Making sense of spec fic awards: the Hugo & Locus Awards

Following on from last week, this is part 2/2 of my explainer on the major speculative fiction awards that are relevant to Australian SF authors like yours truly.

This week, I get into the two major international awards, the Hugo and the Locus – what they are and how to get involved in nominations/voting.

The Hugo Award: the Worldcon award

The Hugo Award is pretty much the international version of the Ditmar (OK, OK, the Ditmar is the Australian version of the Hugo). They’re also, as far as I can tell, about the most prestigious award you can win as a speculative fiction creator.

Unlike the Ditmar, the Hugo includes awards for “dramatic presentations” (movies, TV episodes, plays, radio plays, etc), graphical stories (e.g. comics, graphic novels), and editing. However, also unlike the Ditmar, nominations aren’t open to everyone.

They are decided by limited popular vote and are presented at the annual World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon). Many years, but not every year, the Hugo Awards also incorporate the Retro Hugo Awards, which cover works of speculative fiction produced in a specific year 50, 75, or 100 years earlier (prior to the inception of the Hugos).

The 2019 awards (covering works produced anytime in 2018), as well as the 1944 Retro Hugos, are currently open for nominations.

Who can nominate?

Members and supporting members of either the previous year’s Worldcon or the current year’s Worldcon. In some years members of the following year’s Worldcon have also been eligible, but this seems to vary. N.B. This year, apparently for the first time, not all members of the current Worldcon can nominate either – only those who bought their memberships by 31st Dec 2018. It’s unclear whether this will be an ongoing change.

So to nominate works for the 2019 awards, you must have a membership or supporting membership to the 2018 San Jose Worldcon, or a membership/supporting membership to the 2019 Dublin Worldcon bought before the end of 2018.

I’m eligible to nominate! What can I nominate?

Any work of speculative fiction or SF-related non-fiction first published or first translated into English anywhere in the world in 2018, as well as any SF artist, editor, fan artist, or fan writer active in 2018.

How do I nominate someone’s wonderful story/art/zine/etc?

Nominations are handled by the relevant Worldcon. This year, Dublin 2019 has announced they will email all relevant members of their con/San Jose individual links to nominate, although they also have a downloadable paper ballot.

How are the finalists chosen?

In each category, the six nominees to receive the highest number of nominations become finalists eligible for voting on.

How are the winners chosen?

The winners are decided by popular vote – that is, the finalist that gets the most votes wins!

So how do I vote for someone’s wonderful story/art/zine/etc?

Voting is limited to anyone with a membership or supporting membership for the current year’s Worldcon (not the preceding year). So to vote on the 2019 Hugo Awards, you must be a member or supporting member of Dublin 2019.

Like nominations, the voting process is handled by the relevant Worldcon.

How can I keep track of when this award is open for nominations/voting?

As you may have guessed by now, the best way to keep track of the Hugos is to buy a membership to the upcoming Worldcon. But if you want an option that’s free and ongoing (though it doesn’t render you eligible to nominate/vote), you can also follow the Hugo Awards themselves via RSS, Facebook, or Twitter.

The Locus Award: the actually-for-everybody (though some more than others) award

The Locus Awards are international awards organised by the editors of Locus Magazine and presented annually at a banquet in the US. Similarly to the Aurealis Awards, they have separate awards for different subgenres of novel: science-fiction, fantasy, horror, and young adult (YA), as well as an award for Best First Novel. And although the awards are primarily literary, they do include categories for Best Non-Fiction Book, Best Art Book, and Best Magazine of Fanzine, as well as Best Artist, Editor, and Publisher.

Last week I explained how the Ditmars are open to everybody (in Australia), so long as you can prove that you are a trufan[TM]. The Locus goes one step further: anyone from anywhere can vote in these awards – but votes by Locus Magazine subscribers are counted double.

Look, I could write a whole ‘nother blog post about the challenges of designing a system for nominating/voting in awards online and how hard it must be to walk the line between allowing as many people as possible to get involved and leaving your award open to easy exploitation/trolling by people, for instance, casting hundreds of extra votes using different IDs.

I can’t say the Locus system is a perfect solution, but it is what it is, so let’s have a look at how it works.

Who can nominate?

Nobody. Rather than taking nominations to create a shortlist for voting, the Locus editors put together their own list of “recommended” works in each category, based on an annually-published recommended reading list. These works appear by name on the voting ballot, which is certainly a huge boost for their recognition, but doesn’t mean voters can only choose between them – votes can be cast for literally any work that was published in the preceding year.

How are the winners chosen?

The winners are decided by popular vote – the work that gets the most votes wins!

So how do I vote for someone’s wonderful story/book/person?

Via the online poll hosted on the Locus Magazine website. Voting is open to everyone, though you’ll be asked to provide a few minor identifying details, presumably to indicate you haven’t already voted.

In each category you can vote for up to five works, ranking them 1-5. Each category starts with the aforementioned “recommended” list, followed by five spaces you can use to cast “write-in” votes for literally any eligible work – that is, any work first published in the preceding year.

You can find the 2019 poll, covering works produced in 2018, here.

How can I keep track of when this award is open for voting?

Since the Locus Awards are run by Locus Magazine, it will come as no surprise that the easiest option is to follow Locus’s own announcements, either via RSS, Facebook, or Twitter.

Is that all?

There are, of course, many other big speculative fiction awards out there – the Nebula is a name that keeps popping up – but to the best of my knowledge these are the only awards that are open to international entries and therefore to Australians. As it happens, in this case international equates to “American awards that include other countries,” but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.

If you know of any other international SF awards that should be included here, please let me know and I will update this post accordingly.

Image by Sanna Pudas, source: Wikimedia Commons
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