One of the more common suggestions when people are thinking about potential new Hugo Award categories is that there should be a special award for YA books, or children’s books, or both. Mostly such suggestions some to nothing, but this year a motion will be put before the WSFS Business Meeting by Chris Barkley, who has a fine track record in guiding Hugo rules changes through the SMOFish minefield. The key elements of Chris’s proposal are as follows:
- That the category should be open to both YA books and those aimed at younger children;
- That the category should be for a “book” (presumably published in any medium) as “novels” aimed at younger readers are often below the 40,000 word minimum required for the Best Novel category;
- That a work may not be nominated in both the Best Novel and Best YA/Children’s Book category.
The last point is key because one of the things that really upsets the Business Meeting is the prospect of a person getting nominations in multiple categories for the same work, though I think, given the length issue, that it should actually say any of the four fiction categories, not just Best Novel.
Chris doesn’t specify how a work would be allocated to a category if it got enough votes to qualify for YA and a fiction category. However, there are at least two possibilities for resolving the issue. The author could be asked which category she wanted to accept the nomination for, or it could be based on the number of nominations received.
Some people will doubtless ask how the voters know whether a book is YA or not. That’s basically down to the voters. Administrators will place the book in the category where it gets the most nominations, and if it does get nominations in more than one they should combine them. So, for example, if a book were to get 16 nominations in Best YA and 5 in Best Novel, it would be put into Best YA, and the 5 nominations for Best Novel moved over to Best YA, provided that the people nominating in Best Novel did not also nominate it in Best YA, and that the person submitting the ballot had not used all of their 5 YA nominations on others books.
There is, of course, the argument that there are too many Hugo categories already. This is really only an issue with the length of the ceremony, which is pretty much a solved problem these days. The cost of the rockets is negligible compared to the cost of a modern Worldcon.
The real questions we should be asking are as follows:
- Are there enough books published each year to provide a broad choice for the voters?
- Is there likely to be plenty of variation in the nominees from year to year?
My own view is that the answer to both of those questions is Yes.
We might also ask whether there are any potential useful side-effects. Here are some ideas:
- It will shut up some of the people who complain that the lack of a YA Hugo is “not fair”;
- It will shut up some of the people who complain about YA books getting into the Best Novel category;
- It will please the people who think the Hugos should concentrate on books;
- It will engage directly with a growth area in publishing;
- It will get readers interested in the Hugos at an early age;
- It will add another 5 books to the fabulous Hugo Voter Packet.
The proposal is currently co-sponsored by Mr. Steve Barber of Long Beach, CA and Ms. Juli Hanslip of Lexington, SC.
Chris has asked for discussion on his Facebook page. Doubtless discussion is also taking place on a certain mailing list that I’m not supposed to mention because its very existence is supposed to be kept secret from non-SMOFish types least ordinary fans want to have a say on how WSFS is run. Those of you who are not on Facebook or on any secret mailing lists may discuss here. Kevin will be available to answer technical questions.