It’s that time of year again when blogs fill up with pimp posts for the Hugo Awards. I disagree with such pimping in principle – it becomes about personalities and not works. Nor do I really consider the Hugo Award especially significant. After all, the winners are chosen by popular vote by a small number of people of broadly similar tastes. For example, despite being an international award, the Hugo for Best Novel was been won by only nine non-US authors throughout its fifty-seven-year history. This is not unexpected – the great majority of Worldcons, at which the Hugos are voted for, have taken place in the US.
Having said all that, I suspect it may be time to retire the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. Make it Best Blog, or something. Drag it into the twenty-first century, at least. Even as a catch-all term, Best Fan Writer is near-meaningless: most will take it to mean “nicest / most entertaining person related to writing about science fiction in some vague ill-defined way”. In other words, they’re voting on personalities, not writings.
The British Science Fiction Association Award, on the other hand, I hold dear. For a start, I am a member of the BSFA, and have been for more than twenty years. (The only time I have been eligible to vote for the Hugo was when I attended the 2005 Worldcon in Glasgow.) I also find that the BSFA Award shortlists align much better with my tastes in sf. However, I still think there is room for improvement.
As pimping is beginning to distort what is actually “best”, perhaps BSFA members should only be allowed five nominations per category. Given a limited number of nominations, members might be more discriminatory with them. It would certainly prevent occurences of “nominate me and I’ll nominate you”. On the other hand, this could lead to a wide spread of nominees with only small numbers of nominations, leading to difficulty in putting together short-lists.
All works, not just novels, should be UK-published only. For online fiction, non-fiction and art, this would mean the venue should to have a publication address in the UK; or, if no publication address exists, an editorial address. So, Strange Horizons – current editor-in-chief Niall Harrison is resident in the UK – is eligible. But Clarkesworld – editorial address in New Jersey, USA – is not. For non-fiction published on a blog or similar site, then perhaps the author’s residence is relevant. Nationality is always irrelevant. I also think there should be a minimum word-limit for non-fiction, say 1,500 words.
And perhaps the BSFA Award should be renamed. Arthur C Clarke casts a huge shadow over British sf, but he already has an award named for him. It occurred to me there might be a comparable British figure to Hugo Gernsback. So I googled… and found this excellent article by Rob Hansen on the beginnings of the BSFA. A few names stand out. Walter Gillings was an early editor of several early British magazines. Ken Slater did much to re-vitalise British fandom after World War 2 with his Operation Fantast. But, after some thought, I think it’s possible to commemorate two people. By renaming the BSFA Award the “Ted”, it honours the work of Edward ‘Ted’ John Carnell, editor of New Worlds, and EC ‘Ted’ Tubb, the first editor of the BSFA’s critical journal, Vector. Perhaps “winning a Ted” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “winning a Hugo”, but give it time…