The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The 2006 Hugo award for best-novel*

Over 2002, one John Scalzi serialised a sci-fi book on his website: Old Man's War. In 2005, the publisher Tor picked it up. In that form it was in 2006 nominated for a Hugo. (This is an award which the Sasquan / Worldcon put out every year. It's kind of a big deal.) The nomination was accepted as valid, and - when Neil Gaiman bowed out - OMW entered the ballot.

It is standard among publishers of peer-reviewed journals, at least, that they don't publish stuff that got published already. For awards of the best book in a given year, the awarders prefer that the book had actually come out in that year. Such rules are typically interpreted such that webpage-publishing counts as publishing. In effect, OMW had its shot in 2002 / 2003, and didn't get a nomination then. So it can't go through the editors and get a new shot, now. And so we find here; the rules in effect 2006 were, I believe, in Article 3 of the Constitution of the World Science Fiction Society, September 1999:

  • 3.2.1: Unless otherwise specified, Hugo Awards are given for work in the field of science fiction or fantasy appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year.
  • 3.2.3: Publication date, or cover date in the case of a dated periodical, takes precedence over copyright date.
  • 3.4: In the event that a potential Hugo Award nominee receives extremely limited distribution in the year of its first publication or presentation, its eligibility may be extended for an additional year by a three fourths (3/4) vote of the intervening Business Meeting of WSFS.

To that, one might suggest that a crisis was averted by the simple fact that, hey, OMW didn't win; but - well, keep reading. I have to make a lemma (er, digression) first though.

John Wright this year has a similarly pre-posted story which the Worldcon has now ruled unqualified. Vox Day disagrees with the decision and claims precedent: Card's Ender's Game and Herbert's Dune were both shortstories, both became novels, both novels are classics and both got awarded in 1986 and 1966 respectively. I propose (as lemma) that Vox is wrong for 2014 and that the WSFS was wrong for 2006. I am open to arguments that Ender's Game, had it come out in 2006, would be disqualified as well. Dune is a more difficult call, given how much else was added to it on its way to becoming what it is. OMW, for its part, didn't take on nearly as much redaction as Ender's Game took let alone Dune. But anyway, the 1974 Constitution (Article 2 being relevant here) wasn't as clear as was the 1999, so - past, different country, etc etc. Based on the rules of 1986, Card's Hugo rests free of an asterisk.

More to the point the Sasquan guys didn't tell the voters about how the book's backstory conflicted with the Hugo's own rules. So, those voters who went for OMW at the time were not, in the main, protesting those rules. They might not have known that the book belonged in an earlier slate. Those voters were duped. By accident, perhaps. Either way if they had known that this choice was tainted, they likely would have voted for someone else. Perhaps for the eventual winner, which was Robert Charles Wilson's Spin (also Tor). But perhaps for Charles Stross's Accelerando. Perhaps for Noah Ward after all. We just don't know.

And that means that Wilson's Hugo has a fat ugly asterisk pasted on it.

posted by Zimri on 10:52 | link | 0 comments

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