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I wrote previously about some of the minor tweaks and proposals to this year's WSFS Business Meeting. Today I'm going to tackle the Best Series and the Young Adult category (which won't be a Hugo, but will be awarded by Worldcon members as is the practice with the John W. Campbell Award).

Motion C.1: The Best Series category was proposed at the 2016 Business Meeting, and if ratified this year will come into effect in 2018. It is such a major change to the Hugos that we actually decided to give it a trial run this year, so the first Best Series Hugo will be presented at Worldcon 75 on 11 August. We adopted and adapted the wording of the proposed amendment, so this year's Best Series is defined as follows:

Best Series. A multi-volume science fiction or fantasy story, unified by elements such as plot, characters, setting, and presentation, which has appeared in at least three (3) volumes consisting of a total of at least 240,000 words by the close of the calendar year 2016, at least one of which was published in 2016. If any series and a subset series thereof both receive sufficient nominations to appear on the final ballot, only the version which received more nominations shall appear.
I'm going to be honest: I didn't particularly like the idea of a Best Series Hugo, and still don't, for reasons I will explain below. I hoped that running it as a one-off this year would expose some of its flaws and give reason for a course correction. However, I have to admit that it has worked out rather well. This year's final ballot is really impressive, and includes several superlative authors from different corners of the genre. In case you missed it (and it's too late to vote now, I'm afraid), the finalists, who all deserve congratulations, are:
  • The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone
  • The Expanse by James S.A. Corey
  • The October Daye Books by Seanan McGuire
  • The Peter Grant / Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
  • The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, and
  • The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Best Series category was popular among 2017's voters at nomination phase, with only Best Novel, Best Novella, and Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) atrtacting more nominators - so Best Series was fourth out of eighteen. I won't comment for now on how well it has done, comparatively, on the final ballot - those figures will be released on 11 August after the ceremony - but basically one cannot convincingly argue that voters were repelled by the concept.

However, I'm still planning to vote against its ratification as a permanent category, for two reasons. First, I feel it's importanf that the Hugo Awards represent the best in the genre of the previous year. Of course this gets a bit blurry with the individual achievement Hugos (Best Editor x2, Best Artist x2, Best Fan Writer, etc) where there's sometimes a tendency to reward lifetime achievement rather than last year's record - though having said that, the Hugo packet (especially this year) has been helpful to keep focus on the most recent works.

With the Best Series final ballot this year, we are being asked to judge between a series that started in 1986, three decades ago (Vorkosigan); and others that started in 2006 (Temeraire), 2009 (October Daye), 2011 (The Expanse), and two in 2012 (Craft and Rivers of London). I don't think it's really comparing like with like, and we're certainly not comparing 2016 with 2016.

(There was a one-off Best All-Time Series previously presented in 1966 - the winner was the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, beating Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom, Robert A. Heinlein's Future History, E. E. "Doc" Smith' Lensmen and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. In 1966 those were all retrospective - Second Foundation was published in 1953, "The Menace From Earth" in 1957, Children of the Lens and The Lord of the Rings both in 1954, and the last Barsoom story in 1943. Of course Asimov and Heinlein later returned to those universes in later writing, but that wasn't known in 1966.)

Secondly, as a conscientious Hugo voter I have tried to read every work on the final ballot every year I've had a vote. That's clearly completely impossible with Best Series. I had read all of Vorkosigan previously, except the most recent volume; and I'd read at least one book in all the others apart from one (where I researched the most popular volume on LibraryThing and Goodreads, and read it to form my judgement on the series as a whole). I don't find this satidfactory, but I don't think any other approach is realistic if we have a Best Series award.

So, I'm voting against it, though I expect it will get passed.

Motion D.1: There's a small tweak to the wording also proposed, replacing the word "volume" with the word "installment" in the category description, to clarify that the series need not have only book-length/standalone works in order to qualify, only enough new words. I think this is a useful clarification of something which I still think is a bad idea, and will vote for it while voting against Best Series as a whole.

Motion C.11. I'm ambivalent about the proposed Young Adult award. The proposal is to make it not a Hugo but a standalone award like the John W. Campbell Award, on the basis that possible YA winners are possibly also eligible for Hugos. There's a lot that still hasn't been worked out about it, including the name. I'm also not entirely impressed by the tone of some of the advocacy for the award. If we are to add more awards for novels, then perhaps we should go full Locus and institute separate awards for sf and fantasy, as well as YA?

There are two subsidiary motions, C.11.1 and D.1, to change the name of the YA Award. To be honest, this is one of the reasons for my ambivalence; I don't feel we are being given a finished product to vote on.

So I'm not convinced, though I am convinceable.

Next: on whether or not to

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Steve Mollmann
Jul. 20th, 2017 08:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this. My thoughts on Best Series are largely congruent with yours, though as a supporting member I don't get any say. I ended up No Awarding the category as my way of arguing it oughtn't exist. As you say it's a lot like the individual achievement awards that already exist-- but I'm opposed to most of those too, even if they have longer lineages.

I haven't followed much about the YA award. Can you say more about "I'm also not entirely impressed by the tone of some of the advocacy for the award."?

There are rather a lot of Hugo categories these days, and some can be a lot of work.
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