Is It Time for Two Best Editor Hugos?

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I believe it is way past time for this Hugo Award category to be expanded. I fully appreciate the reluctance of the WSFS to add another Hugo category, for their caution is well-founded. If it were easy to add or subtract Hugo categories, we might quickly see all sorts of small niche Hugo categories springing up all over the place. But in the case of the Best Editor Hugo, there is a real need for two separate categories.
There have been a fair number of Hugo categories added, changed, or removed over the years—more often than not in the earlier decades of the award when it was still finding itself. (See A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, by Donald Franson and Howard DeVore for a complete list of these awards, with commentary.) But for just over twenty years the categories have remained relatively stable, with the major change occurring in 1984 when the Fanzine category was divided into the Fanzine and Semi-pro magazine categories. This to reflect the fact that some fanzines were indeed paying their contributors, could afford a classier look or better content, or both. Thus, Locus and Science Fiction Review to name but two, were placed in the newly created Semi-pro category in 1984, leaving the Fanzine category to those fanzines of a more fannish nature, who did not pay contributors for artwork, articles, reviews, or interviews.

The splitting of the Best Editor Hugo into two categories—one for Best Book Editor and one for Best Magazine Editor (as originally put forth)—is not a new proposal. Indeed, Ben Bova gave birth to the idea almost 30 years ago at BigMac, the 1976 Worldcon held in Kansas City, Missouri. Following the death of Analog editor John W. Campbell, Jr. in 1971, Ben Bova was named editor of the magazine. He promptly went on to win the Hugo Award for Best Editor in 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, and 1979, at which time he stepped down and Stanley Schmidt took the job, and has remained the magazine’s editor to this day.

In his acceptance remarks at Big Mac, Bova felt many fine book editors were being overlooked for the Best Editor Hugo. Scarcely three weeks following the KC Worldcon, I interviewed Ben for the original incarnation of Tangent, when he appeared as a guest speaker at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. It was September 21, 1976 when we sat down to talk. When I asked him about his acceptance remarks regarding the Best Editor category, he replied:

“I’m afraid that when it comes to the balloting for the Hugo as Best Editor—the rules were changed in 1972. Previously, the vote had been for best magazine. In 1972 the rules were changed to recognize the fact that much new, original science fiction was published outside the magazines, so that book editors, anthology editors should be included. So, since the rules were changed they have awarded the Hugo to the editor of Analog four years in a row. Well, that’s marvelous. I love getting it, and as I said, I wouldn’t mind getting it every year for the rest of my life, I’m very pleased with it, that the fans and readers want to give me the award; but there are other editors in the field. I think any block voting or any voting automatically—more or less by reflex—is bad for the awards, is bad for the field.

“There are many editors in the book business who are totally anonymous as far as the fans are concerned. I think maybe Adelle Hull at Pocket Books is one, although she’s very new. But nobody knows her. Don Benson, who’s been working at Pyramid, and more recently at Dial Press is a fine science fiction editor with a great reputation among the writers in the field. The fans have never heard of him. Judy Lynn del Rey, who everybody knows, has never even been nominated. And she’s the SF editor at Ballantine, of course. Fred Pohl, who’s been the SF editor at Bantam, has never been nominated since he left Galaxy. And as it is, some of the people who are nominated—the anthology and magazine editors—I think should probably be considered more seriously.

“I would like to see a situation where after somebody gets a Hugo three years running, the rules read that he or she is excused from Hugo competition for a year. Because I do think that we tend to get, in certain categories, a reflex vote, and I think it would be a good thing to force the fans to think a little more deeply.” —Tangent #6, Winter 1977

I find it interesting to note in passing that Judy Lynn del Rey was finally nominated for a Best Editor Hugo in 1986, but refused the nomination. The one and only instance in this category that someone had refused a nomination. Conversely, Stan Schmidt has been nominated every year since 1980—the longest continual series of Hugo award nominations in any category, but has yet to garner a single nod of recognition or appreciation.

While Ben did not come right out and argue for a dual Best Editor category, explicit in his thoughts were that book editors were being overlooked and should in some way be recognized for their achievements. Ben planted the seeds some 30 years ago for the proposal which Chris Barkley and Patrick Nielsen Hayden have now seen adopted at the 2005 Worldcon in Glasgow, Scotland, and, if ratified at next year’s Worldcon in Los Angeles, would finally create a second Best Editor Hugo recognizing both Long Fiction and Short Fiction editors. The specific details and wording follow in a report posted by PNH and which is used with permission.

I feel it is long past due for a reformation of this particular category. If you feel likewise, make your feelings known directly to the WSFS during the coming year. Or promote it in your online journals, any articles or editorials you may write, or in your fanzines, both print and online. The WSFS will get the message.

Reforming the “Best Editor” Hugo
by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

August 6, 2005
“As some of you are aware, recently I agreed to co-sponsor a motion to the Worldcon business meeting which would have had the effect of splitting the existing Best Professional Editor Hugo Award into two awards, one for magazine editors and one for book editors. It has also been debated in various other venues in the days leading up to Worldcon. At the last minute, Chris Barkley, the original drafter of the measure, had to cancel his plans to attend, leaving me in the somewhat uncomfortable position of being the leading public advocate of a measure from which I might arguably benefit.

The short report is that a version of this measure has passed, and been sent on to next year’s Worldcon for final ratification. If LACon’s business meeting does indeed ratify it, the 2007 Hugos will have two editor categories rather than just one.

Here are the details of how it happened, to the best of my recollection. I’m sure I’ve compressed and telescoped certain details of parliamentary procedure in ways that will grate on experienced Business Meeting attendees; I apologize in advance and welcome their corrections.

At Friday’s business meeting, our motion came up after much other business had been disposed of. An objection-to-consideration was immediately raised; this objection was then soundly voted down. (Objections to consideration always proceed directly to a vote without debate; subjecting all new business to OTCs is a good way to thin out proposals which have no serious support.) Despite this evidence that the Business Meeting sincerely wanted to discuss our issue, I was pretty convinced, based on the torrent of criticism we’d received before the con, that the prevailing winds were against us, and I was determined to speak for the proposal in such a way that appealed to the assembled SMOFs to recognize the reality of the problem we’re trying to address, however they should choose to try to solve it.

I didn’t have to. Mark Olson, with whom I’d had very courteous arguments beforehand, interceded before debate could be called on our proposal, and moved that the chair deputize him to convene an informal committee to report back the very next day. This committee would be charged with drafting language for a revised-and-reformed single Best Editor Hugo, and new language for a pair of Best Editor Hugos. The committee would take no position on the relative merits of the two approaches; its job would be to construct the best possible language for each.

Mark’s motion passed. The Friday BM adjourned shortly afterward, and Mark and I went to a corner of the room where we accreted about a dozen other attendees—people like Seth Breidbardt, Sharon Sbarsky, Martin Easterbrook, etc. We very carefully went over both the existing single-award language and the PNH/Barkley split-the awards proposal, attempting to address all the problems people had raaised, one by one. Among other things, we all decided to agree that the award or awards no longer need a “circulation requirement” or, for that matter, any definition of “professional” whatsoever. And we agreed to completely ignore the issue of online “publication” because the BM has already chartered a separate committee to address those kinds of questions throughout the Hugo definitions.

The big change we made to the Barkley/PNH proposal was to relocate the anthologists and editors of story collections to the category inhabited by magazine editors, thus addressing the concerns of those who feel that the category is otherwise unsustainably weak. We retitled the two proposed Hugos “Best Editor (Short Fiction)” and “Best Editor (Long Fiction)”. The dividing line between “short” and “long” would be that already defined in the WSFS charter: 40,000 words.

The big change we made to the existing single category, in drafting the alternative don’t-create-a-new-Hugo plan, was to eliminate all the magazine-specific language and insert language making it explicitly clear that book editors are to be considered eligible.

Mark wrote out a fair copy of the language for both proposals, and later typed it up and posted it in an agreed-in-advance public location, so we could all read it one more time before Mark handed it off to the Business Meeting officials that evening, for inclusion in the next day’s agenda.

The next morning, by pre-arrangement, debate was opened on both proposals very shortly after the 10 AM start of business, as I had a panel to appear on at 11 AM. Debate was quick and to the point. After a brief motion by Rick Katze to amend the two-category motion in such a way as to prohibit any editor from accepting nomination in both categories (after a brief debate, this was voted down Everyone-to-Rick), I gave the opening speech in favor of the two-category version. My basic point was this: I am entirely in sympathy with the BM’s historic reluctance to create new Hugos. Down that road, if unchecked, lies a Hugo category for Best Filksong, and we all know it. Rather, I continued, I am before you to engage in a massive act of special pleading. And the case I make to you is this: Book publishing has been the dominant mode of production in written SF for over fifty years. If the magazines were all to die tomorrow, it would be a tragedy. If SF book publishing were to cease tomorrow, it would be the end of our subculture. I concluded by reading the names of forty book editors in our industry who each edit four or more new titles each year.

Tim Illingworth alternated calling on speakers in favor of the reformed single category and speakers in favor of the two-category proposal. Among the notables who rose to speak in favor of the two-category proposal—in essence, our proposal—were Priscilla Olson, Craig Miller, Kevin Standlee, and Ben Yalow. Also in attendance were several other book editors, including Ginjer Buchanan of Ace, Anne Groell of Bantam, freelancer (and former Avon editor) John Douglas, and Moshe Feder of Tor. John, Ginjer, and Moshe were all among the speakers. Moshe in particular was able to rebut some false assertions about Hugo history that were raised by opposing speakers.

A counted-off vote was taken between the two proposals. The two-category proposal defeated the reform-the-existing-category proposal 39 to 20. A vote was then taken on passing the two-category proposal and sending it on to LACon for ratification. This passed 51 to 6. I got to my 11:00 panel at 11:06.

Of course, it seems entirely plausible that at tomorrow’s Hugo ceremony, book editor David Hartwell will turn out to have finally, after being a finalist sixteen times, won. If so, this LJ entry will exist to show that I was alive in advance to the possibility of massive irony.”