Hugo Categories Highlight – The Short Fiction Categories
Best Novella: Awarded for a science fiction or fantasy story of between seventeen thousand five hundred (17,500) and forty thousand (40,000) words.
Best Novelette: Awarded for a science fiction or fantasy story of between seven thousand five hundred (7,500) and seventeen thousand five hundred (17,500) words.
Best Short Story: Awarded for science fiction or fantasy story of less than seven thousand five hundred (7,500) words.
These three categories are essentially different word-length versions of the same thing, and the Hugo site actually says that if something is nominated in the wrong category in this lot they’ll move it. There’s also, as Ben Yalow has mentioned in comments in multiple threads, a tendency to use the category nominators prefer if a work is on the borderline and shuffle accordingly (so that magnificent 39,000 word piece that you nominate in Best Novella could wind up as a Best Novel entry if a lot of people nominated that way)
The problems of the Hugo voting/nominating population being relatively small and to a large extent long-term fans who could be termed the science fiction “establishment” (in the sense that many of these people have been to the same conventions for twenty and more years and helped each other run quite a few of them) have probably had years where they actually could read everything eligible with the result that they’ve seen practically everything.
This leads to a kind of weird inversion of killer mailbox syndrome (what happens to your marvelous tale about a killer mailbox when the slush reader has just read the third killer mailbox piece in the slush dive and the other three were horrible. The horrible gets imputed to your story because of the human mind’s extreme pattern-making and association ability) where something that isn’t all that great seems the freshest, most wonderful piece of the year because it’s sufficiently unlike the rest of the entries it stands out. This gets good-but-not-extraordinary works nominated and winning awards because they aren’t like everything else.
There’s no need for a conspiracy to explain some of the “winning the future” selections in recent years – this effect will do just as nicely, particularly since many of said voting group have very similar opinions about what constitutes a desirable message and from what I’ve seen are honestly shocked that their views of what is right and proper are not shared by the rest of fandom (two rules that we fans have to remember: sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice; and highly intelligent people are capable of extremely advanced stupidity). Add in a few actual bad actors who can make money from the process and like being big fish in a teeny tiny pond, and you wind up with an award that the buying public uses as a guide for what to avoid.
The cure for all of this is simple: more votes, nominations, and people involved. The more people who are involved and telling others about the works they think are worthy, the more people who are nominating the works they think are worthy, the less likely the voting membership will get so stale they mistake weird for clever or get taken in by an Atlanta Nights type hoax entry (it’s happened in other awards, although it’s more likely to be an issue in a juried award than one set up as a people’s choice the way the Hugo’s are).
The list pages for this week’s categories: Best Short Story, Best Novelette, Best Novella. Add your recommendations. All are welcome. Don’t worry if you don’t see your suggestion immediately: first posts will always go to moderation and link-heavy posts will land in the spam bucket. Both are checked at least once a day and the real posts let out of moderation jail no matter who posted them.
Obligatory warning message: I will be closing the site to recommendations at the end of February. Don’t be left out!
Obligatory warning message 2: It might be too late to sign up to nominate, but you can still sign up to vote!
Obligatory warning message 3: Next week will be the last category highlight post, covering the two big hitters: Best Novel and the Campbell Award for Best New Writer (yes, I know the Campbell isn’t actually a Hugo award, but it does kind of overlap, so it’s sharing a post).