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Hugo- past, present, and yet to come

Laura Burns, aka @moonrangerlaura or @scifilaura, is a NASA Contractor and a science fiction and podcasting fan. She participates in the science tracks at many East Coast cons. She has attended several WorldCons and has voted for the Hugos in times past. She is the head of the Parsec Awards Steering Committee (www.parsecawards.com) and has had her secret identity documented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace (www.murverse.com)

In Hollywood it is Awards season. With the constant coverage of the Golden Globes and Oscar nominations, it is hard not to know about what is going on in sunny Southern California. In the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror world, awards season has also started, but with much less pomp and circumstance. The two big awards for genre fiction are the Hugos and the Nebulas. The Nebulas are determined by members of the Science Fiction Writer’s Association, but the Hugos.. the Hugos are determined by the fans. That means you. Or at least it could. And your favorite podcasters hope you take the challenge.

First, a bit of history. The Hugo awards are managed by the World Science Fiction Society (http://www.wsfs.org/) and awarded at the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon). The awards honor professional and fan contributions to the community. The first WorldCon was in 1936, but the first awards weren’t given out in 1953. Isaac Asamov was the Toastmaster and Philip Jose Farmer won for “Best New SF Author or Artist”. Even then, there was a Fan aspect to the awards as Forrest J. Ackerman won for “#1 Fan Personality”. Over the years the categories have evolved with the times.

The 2011 Categories are as follows: (http://www.renovationsf.org/hugo-intro.php) (http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-categories/)
* Best Novel
* Best Novella
* Best Novelette
* Best Short Story
* Best Related Work
* Best Graphic Story (Trial Award)
* Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
* Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
* Best Editor (Long Form)
* Best Editor (Short Form)
* Best Professional Artist
* Best SemiProzine
* Best Fanzine
* Best Fan Writer
* Best Fan Artist

Historically, the Hugo award is a literary award, and thus the nominees are based on printed, ink on paper works. This is changing. In 2006 podcast Novella “Burn” (http://www.jimkelly.net/index.php?Itemid=45&id=15&option=com_content&task=blogcategory) by James Patrick Kelly was nominated for the Hugo and won the Nebula in 2007.  At the 2010 ceremony, the podcast Starship Sofa (http://www.starshipsofa.com/) won the Hugo award for best Fanzine. Having been at WorldCon and NASFic (North American Science Fiction Convention held since WorldCon was outside North America), I can tell you that this caused a bit of a stir.

From what I can determine, your favorite podcasts, stories, authors and editors are eligible for the following categories.
* Best Novel
* Best Novella
* Best Novelette
* Best Short Story
* Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
* Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
* Best SemiProzine
* Best Fanzine
* Best Fan Writer

Web content is also eligible for
* Best Graphic Story (Trial Award)
* Best Professional Artist
* Best Fan Artist

The story must have been first published in 2010. You can find out more details regarding eligibilty and the specific awards here (http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-categories/).

Since the Hugo awards are determined by the fans, you have the power to make an impact. All of the statistics on the number of nominations and votes are posted online. (http://www.thehugoawards.org/2010/09/2010-hugo-award-statistics-posted/) Historically, fan involvement has been very low.  Last year was a record year for Hugo Nominations with less than 900 ballots. (http://www.thehugoawards.org/2010/04/a-little-data/) Some of the short story finalists made the cut with only 23 nomination votes.

So, how do you nominate and vote? First, you need to “join” the World Science Fiction Society by purchasing a membership to the World Science Fiction Convention. (http://www.renovationsf.org/memberships.php) There are several different membership levels. A supporting member, someone not planning on attending the convention, costs $50 until February 28, 2011.  A supporting member has the right to Hugo Award and Site Selection voting rights. Receives any materials relating to that voting. In 2010, the voting packet included free digital access to the nominees. If you later decide to upgrade to an attending member, you will do so at a discount. (http://www.renovationsf.org/register.php#types)

The Hugos are arguably the most prestigious award given for genre fiction. Far too few people get involved in the nomination and selection process. This is your chance. Nominations are open until March 26, 2011, but you need to have purchased your membership on or before January 31, 2011. If you were an attending or supporting member of the 2010 WorldCon (Aussiecon 4), you are automatically eligible to nominate, but not to vote.

There are a lot of nuances to the Hugo awards, and I have not covered all of the details here, but if you are interested, please follow the links and get involved. There are some frequently asked questions here (http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-faq/).

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