The Hugo Award is a world award – it says so on its website: “The Hugos are World awards”. They’re not, of course, they’re US awards. The electorate is overwhelmingly American, and the rules are set up to maximise visibility of eligible works to Americans. It is voted on by members of the annual Worldcon, but that too is American. In fact, since the first Worldcon in 1939, it has taken place in the following countries:
So it comes as no real surprise to find that the Hugo Award for Best Novel has been overwhelmingly won by US authors:
In fact, during the six years when the Worldcon took place in the UK – 1957, 1965, 1979, 1987, 1995 and 2005 – a UK author won the Hugo Award for Best Novel only in 2005. This year, of course, the Worldcon is back in the UK: Loncon3. And the likelihood of a local author winning best novel is much the same as it has been in previous years.
The British Science Fiction Association Award, on the other hand, is a British award and makes no pretence of being otherwise. It is awarded by members of the BSFA and the annual British Eastercon. Books published in the UK during the preceding year are eligible. So the nationalities of the winners are not much of a surprise – although, to be fair, 16% US winners of the BSFA is only marginally more than 15% UK winners of the Hugo:
(I’ve counted Michael G Coney as Canadian, because even though he was born in the UK he was resident in Canada; and I’ve counted Geoff Ryman as British, because he even though he is a Canadian he has been resident in the UK throughout his career.)
Because the Hugo Award is structured to give maximimum visiblity to US voters, books published outside the US are eligible a second time when first published in the US. Which leads to the farcical situation this year where last year’s winner of the BSFA Award, Adam Roberts’ Jack Glass, is eligible for this year’s Hugo because it was first published in the US in April 2013; but one of the books on this year’s BSFA Award shortlist, God’s War by Kameron Hurley, which was first published in the UK last year by Del Rey, is not eligible because it was first published in the US in 2011 by Night Shade Books. Perhaps this would make sense if the 2014 Worldcon were taking place in the US and not in the UK, perhaps this would make sense if the Hugos did not claim to be “World awards”.
On the other hand, perhaps it will never make sense…
February 14, 2014 at 10:59 am
There are efforts to change this (c.f. the World SF projects from people like Lavie Tidhar) but it has been an uphill climb.
I’d be more than okay with a preponderance of British nominees this year on the Hugo ballot. We’ll see if that works out.
February 14, 2014 at 11:03 am
I was told that at the last UK worldcon in 2005 the bulk of attending members were from the US. I suspect the same will be true this August. And when you factor in the supporting members, and those members from last year’s worldcon who also get to nominate… Well, I don’t expect the 2014 Best Novel shortlist to be much different to those of previous years – ie, dull books by boring US marquee names.
February 14, 2014 at 11:47 am
Currently, more people from the UK will be attending the convention, and more people from the US will be voting on the Hugos.
February 14, 2014 at 12:18 pm
Thanks for pointing that out.
February 14, 2014 at 10:26 pm
This is something that has bothered me of late, even though I quite enjoyed my trip to Worldcon last year (a first) and hope to attend LonCon3 this year. It’s a U.S. award, obviously, announced at an event with “World” in the title. Maybe I’m just a crazy person, but maybe we’d be better off if the award and the convention were more heavily international.
But to do that, the pay structure needs to change to accommodate the financial needs of those living in, to put it bluntly, less affluent places, and we’d need to convince U.S.ers to let go of their “baby” so Worldcon could go to, say, South Africa or Jordan or whatever. I don’t think you’ll see much of a change in the voter demographics so long as a) the awards/cons are U.S. based more often than not, b) the cost to nominate/vote is so high, and c) there isn’t a more concerted effort to expand the field’s vision on SF/F from elsewhere.
I also think there’s an invested interest in keeping the Hugos rooted in the U.S….simply because it *is* an American award and there’s a legitimate fear that it could die off if it were removed from its primary demographic. But I can’t confirm that.