Hugo Category Highlight: Best Professional Artist

Hugo Category Highlight: Best Professional Artist

Before I say anything else, I’d like to thank Ben Yalow for his long comment in last week’s thread explaining the history behind the Professional/Fan (and Semipro) distinctions. I’m still not totally clear on them, but that could be because I’m arguing with a cold and it’s winning.

So, just to help clarify, here’s Ben’s comment in its entirety:

Let me try to clarify the Fanzine/Semiprozine/professional rules. I’m not this year’s Hugo Administrator, but I’ve been part of the Hugo Administration team, and am pretty familiar with the current rules, and how they got that way.

Initially, the professional/non-professional distinction was made on the basis of print run — if you had a print run of more than 10,000, you were professional. But, in an environment where a lot of material is distributed electronically, that no longer made sense. So the rule was changed to say that a professional publication was one that made someone a substantial amount of money. Specifically, if it provided someone with more than a quarter of their income, either personally or through a corporation, it was professional (and otherwise, non-professional).

So the first test that a publication must pass to be in the Fanzine or Semiprozine category is whether it’s professional or not. Only non-professional publications are eligible in those categories. Note that there used to be a Professional Magazine category, but that was replaced in the 70s with Professional Editor so as to make book editors eligible (since the field went from having dozens of professional magazines in the 50s the a half dozen in the 70s; that category was later split into Editor-Short and Editor-Long).

And the difference between Fanzine and Semiprozine is based on whether it’s totally free of money, or whether there’s money involved. If you can read it for free, and nobody gets paid for contributing (except free copies if it’s printed), then it’s a Fanzine, otherwise it’s a Semiprozine.

This includes blogs and other electronic publications, as well as traditional fanzines (and most traditional fanzines are now available electronically, as well as on paper; the largest archive, which has a huge number of current traditional fanzines, is at If it’s free, and doesn’t pay anyone for contributions, it’s a Fanzine; if it’s behind a paywall, it’s a Semiprozine.

A non-professional A/V work is eligible in Fancast.

Fanwriter and Fanartist are basically writers and artists whose work appears in non-professional places.

Note that, for works of fiction, there is no requirement for the work to have been professionally published. It simply needs to have been published for the first time in the correct year, and which of the four categories it appears in is determined by the word count.

I hope this helps clarify the rules. It’s not an official ruling on any particular work (only the Hugo Administrator gets to make those, and the Administrator doesn’t make rulings unless a work gets enough nominations to force an eligibility determination), but following that explanation is likely to give results that the Administrator for any given year is likely to agree with.

Now you’ve digested that, this week’s category highlight is Best Professional Artist.

Best Professional Artist: Another person category, this time for artists and illustrators. The work on which the nominees are judged must class as “professional” (see above for a discussion of how “professional” is defined).

My take on this one is that the cover art for anything published by the big players in 2015 (or 1940 if you’re talking about the Retro Hugo Awards) counts to nominate the artist. So would cover art for the major pro magazines (a sadly diminished market). For your own sanity, do not search Amazon books for “science fiction 2015”. Trust me. There are results in there that will have you wondering what in the ever-loving King Farouk the author was on.

Of course, concept and box art for computer games that came out in 2015 also counts and this would be where I’m most likely to find my personal choices. I totally need to track down the names of the artists working on Cyan’s Obduction, because this. I suspect cover art from 1940 is likely to be a little harder to find, unless you’re one of those lucky SOB’s who’s got a stash of old science fiction and fantasy to enjoy.

As always, drop your suggestions in at the Sad Puppies 4 category page and if you’re recommending something for the Retro Hugo Awards, include this in your recommendation.


  1. Cover art from the 1940s magazines (and there weren’t a lot of genre books; most of the art was in magazines) is relatively easy to find, although not in the sort of great scans you can get with current art.

    The sources I find most useful for locating cover images from the magazines of the period are to start at, and do an advanced search to pick up the titles of the magazines from 1940. The entries for the specific issue usually have a thumbnail of the cover art, and link to one of the sites that has larger scans. Usually, from that period, it’s either Galactic Central (at or Visco (at Both are incomplete, and Visco hasn’t been updated in a decade — but there are lots of larger scans of cover images for that period.

    Interior art is much harder to find. The isfdb entry for a magazine will tell you what interior pieces there are, and who did them, but it doesn’t show you the image. There’s a lot more interior art than cover art, and some of it is brilliant. And yes — the interior work is all B&W, since nobody was doing color except on the covers. I wish that somebody had a site with the scans of some of the interior art — but, as Kate said, right now you need to be one of the people with a stash of old magazines, or have seen the old art at the retrospective art exhibits that some of the conventions have had. Some of the work is also online, but there doesn’t seem to be a specific site that’s anywhere near as complete as for covers. But a Google search for a specific artist, by name, will often find images of a lot of the work, although it will generally not be sorted by year.

    1. Thank you! I’ll have to go searching. I’ve never been much of an art person, so I don’t really have an idea where to start.

    2. Classic SF covers are great, but when I think of 1940 I think first of the comic book characters – Jerry Robinson’s Robin or the Joker, Martin Nodell’s Green Lantern, the proto-Wayne Boring Superman. And animation! Fantasia should get Best Dramatic Presentation, but the artists working on, say, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment alone might be worthy of recognition. (Wikipedia credits animators Preston Blair and Fred Moore and layout artist Tom Codrick.)

      Bugs Bunny started really taking shape in and around 1940 – do anthropomorphic rabbits qualify? Speaking of which, some time between the Retro Hugos for 1941 and those for the year of her death in 1943, a Worldcon could give Beatrix Potter an art award in recognition of her lifetime achievement.

      1. There can’t be Retro Hugos for 1943.

        The Constitutional section that allows (but does not require) Retro Hugos to be awarded is:

        Retrospective Hugos. A Worldcon held 50, 75, or 100 years after a Worldcon at which no Hugos were presented may conduct nominations and elections for Hugos which would have been presented at that previous Worldcon. Procedures shall be as for the current Hugos. Categories receiving insufficient numbers of nominations may be dropped. Once retrospective Hugos have been awarded for a Worldcon, no other Worldcon shall present retrospective Hugos for that Worldcon.

        During the first set of eligibility, Retros were given out for the 1946, 1951, and 1954 Hugos (by the 1996, 2001, and 2004 Worldcons) for works in the prior year. And, in this set of eligibility years (the 75 year set), the 1939 Hugos were given out by Loncon 3 (2014, in London), and will now be given out by MidAmericon II (this year, in Kansas City). Last year, the Worldcon chose not to give out Retros, so the 1940 Retros won’t be eligible for another 24 years.

        There were Worldcons in 1939-1941, and none in 1942-1945 during the war (so there will not be Retros for that four year gap), and then annually since 1946. The Hugo Award was first given out in 1953, as a one-time thing, and not in 1954, and then was resumed as an annual award in 1955. So there will be a five year break in the possibility of Retros, since there were no Worldcons in 1942-45, and the 1946 ones were already given out After that, we can pick up 1947-1950, and 1952 this time around (it’ll be up to the committees in 2022-2025, and 2027), and then we wait for the 100 year eligibility to come around for any years left (1940, and whichever of the above don’t get awarded).

        I’m hoping that the committees in the early 2020s choose to award Retros, both because there was some brilliant work in the field during that period, and because I keep hoping that we’re able to award a Retro to a living person, and not an heir. We had lots of the original people around during the first set to accept their nominations, and pick up their awards. This time around (at Loncon two years ago), the only nominee able to accept nomination in person was Bob Madle, whose fanzine, “Fantascience Digest”, was nominated (although he lost to Ackerman’s “Imagination!”).

        While comic books were certainly eligible, in Best Graphic Story, there weren’t enough different works nominated to hold that race for 1939. As was announced at the ceremony, there were an huge number of nominations for Action #1 (Superman), and essentially none for anything else. And if there aren’t enough contenders for there to be a race (a minimum of 3), then the category gets cancelled. But the committee did use its power to give out a Special Committee Award (which isn’t a Hugo Award, but is still recognition by the Worldcon) for that. That isn’t listed in the voting statistics for that year (at ) because it wasn’t a Hugo Award, but it is in other lists.

        1. Fascinating! However, it isn’t the case that no 1942 Worldcon existed. Pacificon I, chaired by Walter Daugherty, beat out three rival bids to win the 1942 Worldcon site selection (at Denvention I in 1941).

          If Hugo Awards for the best SF of the year had been given out since the first Worldcon, fans might well have desired to carry on this (by then august four-year) tradition to the best of their abilities despite the hardships of wartime. In a pinch, Walter Daugherty and Pacificon I could have arranged for 1942’s winners to be announced by mail.

          (Since Pacificon I was ultimately held in 1946, it didn’t cease existing in 1943, 1944, or 1945, either.)

          How great it would be to give more Retro Hugos to living people! Sadly, Jerry Robinson passed away just a few years ago.

          1. Interesting question — did Pacificon I exist during the war?

            In the end the Pacificon I Hugos were given out at LAcon 3 (1996), and were the first of the Retros given out.

            Tracking down the heirs and literary estates for the Retros has been far more challenging for this set than it was for the 50-year cycle. It’s easier in the fiction categories, where the works usually have copyright holders (although some of the works have dropped into the public domain, since those works were from a period when copyright had to be renewed after 28 years, even if they were copyrighted initially), but, for the fan categories, it’s been much harder. The administrators do their best (and aren’t required to get an affirmative acceptance, since the default is to consider the nomination accepted unless there’s an affirmative rejection) — but for Loncon, we were finally able to contact the last people a few weeks before the award ceremony, and well after voting was closed.

  2.,, and all have complete issue scans, some of which are from 1940. These would be a source for B&W interior illos. Unfortunately, these are limited to the pulps that were allowed to fall into the public domain. This means you may find illos by Finlay, who worked for many different publishers, but not by, say, Rogers or Cartier, who worked mostly for Street and Smith.

      1. Far more common and less forgiving than damn Spot! And thank you for the site references. It will definitely help dig up some of the more obscure pieces.

        1. Lady Macbeth was misunderstood. She merely had a dog who refused to be housetrained. And when she discovered another “gift” on her carpet, she was exasperated to the point of swearing at him. Unfortunately, a servant overheard her, totally misinterpreted the situation, and blew the whole thing WAY out of proportion.

            1. Nah. Every actor/actress worth their stage knows you don’t piss off the lighting crew lest you find yourself in blackness during your big moment.

    1. Exactly. The Rogers and Cartier covers for Astounding (10 of 12 by Rogers) and Unknown (4 covers out of 6 by Cartier, before the magazine went to text covers starting with the July issue), are all online, but the interiors for those magazines aren’t, so their B&W interior illustrations are harder to find.

  3. You know… if Bill Gates founded a magazine and had it selling in every bookstore in the world, it could only ever be semipro. (Unless he lost all his money.) That doesn’t seem fair.

    1. Not quite. If we look at the exact wording in the Constitution:

      3.2.9: A Professional Publication is one which meets at least one of the following two criteria:
      (1) it provided at least a quarter the income of any one person or,
      (2) was owned or published by any entity which provided at least a quarter the income of any of its staff and/or owner.

      So, if he published it all himself, that’s probably true. But note that it’s not just a quarter of Bill Gates’s income to trigger “professional”, but a quarter of any person. So if he publishes the magazine through “BG Publishing Corp.”, and BG provides a quarter of the income to the magazine’s editor, for example, it’s professional. Or if the mailroom person who ships copies to the buyers (note that word “any” in the definition; it doesn’t have to be a high paid person) can trigger that “professional”.

      It’s pretty easy to cross the professional trigger once there’s any significant money involved. Unless, of course, everybody working on the magazine had a two digit employee number at Microsoft, and they like working together enough to do it as a hobby.

      Note, in case there’s any confusion, that the Paul Allen involved with Microsoft and the SF Museum in Seattle is *not* the Paul Allen who put out the “Fantasy Newsletter” fanzine starting in the late 70s.

      1. So as a point of curiosity, is there any kind of minimum amount that goes with the quarter of the income rules?

        The scenario I’m thinking of here is one of a small zine, probably a semi-pro, paying say $50 to the artists it uses. Would the payments to Artist X who is a ridiculously talented fifteen-year-old who is still at school count to professional status if they actually *did* provide a quarter or more of Artist X’s income?

        (I test software for a living. Edge cases and boundaries are my life – and I’ve seen the work some of these ridiculously talented kids produce).

        1. There is no minimum amount. We’d actually discussed it, but people hadn’t been able to actually name any edge cases who would actually be affected — so no minimum was put in.

          There are certainly a number of cases in the rules where we adopted them, knowing there were cases where they could fail, and we left them in because it would add more complexity to the rule to cover a highly improbable case. And then, when improbable cases actually appeared, people proposed Constitutional changes at a Business Meeting, and people debated whether this was a case worth fixing, and whether the fix made things better or worse in the more common cases.

          I would expect that if we actually had an example where one of these talented kids put a publication into the wrong category, there wouldn’t be any significant opposition to adding a minimum into the definition of professional. It would still mean that, for at least one year (and possibly another year or two to change the Constitution) there would have been an unfortunate result — but we really try to keep things as simple (and therefore as comprehensible) as possible.

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