YA Hugo Update

The discussion on the proposed YA Hugo is still going strong and a couple of points are worth highlighting. Firstly, Chris Barkley has created a Facebook page for the discussion. You still have to join Facebook to use it, but you don’t have to be on Chris’s friend list. You can find it here. (And yes, the work linked for me.)

Also there was a very interesting comment by Elspeth Kovar who had gone outside the fannish community for a reaction. Here’s the salient bit:

I was chatting with the manager of my local bookstore yesterday and it occurred to me to ask if she thought if this Hugo would be a good idea. She said “Yes!” so quickly and emphatically it rocked me back on my heels. I asked for a brief explanation I could post here.

Her reasoning is that while there are hundreds of awards almost none go to the books young adults actually read. A Hugo for childrens/YA books would change that. Those readers would finally have a solid basis for choosing books. It would also make them more aware of the Hugos which would help them choose from books that aren’t shelved in age-specific areas.

All to often these debates take place in a relatively small community and people make assertions about the effects of a change without any effort to test those assertions. (I have, for example, seen people assert that a YA Hugo would do nothing for the profile of the awards.) So thanks to Elspeth for widening the discussion.

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8 Responses to YA Hugo Update

  1. That does bring up a point: it’s general Hugo votership that would be voting on it and not specifically the YA crowd. That’s my biggest problem with the concept of the category. We’d likely be awarding Hugos to books that the adult crowd were into but may not have any real connection with the younger crew.

    Chris

    • Cheryl says:

      But isn’t that a general problem with many Hugo categories? People who are not fanzine fans vote in Best Fanzine; people who know nothing about art vote in Best Artist; and so on.

      • Tero says:

        On the other hand, I don’t remember hearing anybody selling for example the best artist Hugo as a means to get more artists interested in the Hugos — so the problem might be specific to the YA Hugo for those who say the justification for the category is to target YA readers.

        • Cheryl says:

          No one has needed to sell Best Artist because it has been around for a long time. Expanding interest in the Hugos was one of the justifications used for the Best Dramatic Presentation split and for Best Graphic Story.

  2. Personally, I think it’s a silly idea. Why do we need yet another kid’s fiction award in which the books in question are not nominated nor voted upon by the intended readership? It seems that it would be more for authors to be recognized by their peers as opposed to the recognition of what books are resonating with *kids*, you know? Now, if they were able to swing a teen-only voting mechanism, I’d be interested to see what they come up with, but otherwise, I just don’t see the point.

  3. Jenn says:

    Fantastic idea. The YA Hugo could act as a gateway to the adult Hugo. If the difference in ages between Hugo voters and YA readers is too much, corrective mechanisms could be added. Libraries and schools could be brought in to suggest nominations or Hugo voters could simply be encouraged to consult with their local YA source. Adults vote on awards for kids books all the time. I don’t think this would be too much of a leap.

  4. I’m generally in favor of a YA Hugo, on the grounds of wanting to celebrate excellent work, but I don’t see any reason to believe it would be likely to go to “the books young adults actually read.” Unless that bookseller was just saying that young readers currently are reading a lot of genre fiction, and that the established awards in the field (Newbery, etc.) tend to go to mimetic fiction — but, even there, that’s a current trend, which isn’t likely to be permanent. The teenagers of 2015 or 2020 will be reading a different mix of books than the ones today, and sparkly vampires and doom-laden near futures might well be entirely out of style.

    The essential problem with this proposed category is the fundamental disconnect between audience and voters — no other Hugo category is aimed at a specific audience to begin with, let alone a specific audience that’s severely disjoint with the Hugo voters. Hugo voters may turn out to have great taste in YA novels — though the Nebulas have had trouble getting critical mass with their similar award — but it will still be adults telling teens “this is a good book we adults think you should read,” which isn’t any different from the message of the Newbery.

  5. Malinda Lo says:

    I’m not privy to the inner workings of the Newbery award committee (and actually, they are pondering this year’s winners this very weekend), but as a YA fantasy writer who is fairly deeply involved with the YA book community, I don’t think that the Newbery is given to books that are meant to teach lessons. I think this perception comes from outside the YA book community. There are many, many librarians dedicated to serving children and teens who work with children and teens every day, and see which books they like to read. These are the people who serve on the Newbery committee.

    (And incidentally, the Newbery doesn’t include YA fiction — it only covers children’s, i.e. up to age 12. YA novels are awarded the Printz.)

    I think a YA Hugo is a great idea, simply because there are some awesome YA SFF books out there. I think the risks are similar to those for the Andre Norton Award given by the SFWA. Full disclosure: my first novel, ASH, was a finalist for the Norton in 2009. Basically, adult SFF readers usually don’t read a lot of YA, so they tend to nominate titles written by authors with a backlist in adult SFF. But, I do think that is changing with the Norton, as more YA authors join SFWA and become a more active part of the SFF community.

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