Sci Friday: The Hugo Awards

~post by Marie

Right now in San Antonio, just a short car trip away from Austin, the 71st World Science Fiction Convention is in full swing downtown at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.  On Sunday September 1, is the pinnacle awards event of the science fiction and fantasy reading (and artwork and performance and podcast) community, The Hugo Awards, will be presented to the winners of this year’s round of voting.  There are 15 categories of awards, ranging from fan fiction to art to short stories, as well as the much anticipated full-length novel category.  

These two events, the World Science Fiction Convention, or Worldcon, and the Hugo Awards Ceremony, joined forces for the first time in 1953, and the awards have been given every year from 1955 till today, marking this as the 58th year of Hugo Award Presentations at Worldcon.  Up until 1993, the award was actually officially called the Science Fiction Achievement Award, and only alternately as the Hugo Award.  In ’93, it was formally renamed to just be “Hugo Award”.  But who was Hugo?

Back in 1926, a man named Hugo Gernsback founded Amazing Stories, an American science fiction magazine, the first ever devoted entirely to the genre of science fiction.  This publication was instrumental in opening up the world of publishing to the emerging genre of science fiction, and the genre has continued to grow and expand every year.

Earlier this year, Tommy made some speculation about who would be on the short list for the 2013 Hugo Award for novel.  Of all of those he chose, Tommy correctly predicted three of the top five nominated titles. This year, the top five nominees for the Hugo Award for novel are: 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold, Redshirts by John Scalzi, Blackout by Mira Grant, and Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed. Tommy predicted Redshirts, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance and 2312.  See all of Tommy’s predictions on these two posts here and here.

The Hugo’s are decided upon by members of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS), who vote for their favorite work in a category.  The votes are tallied through an intricate and complex ranking system that is known only to the Worldcon Committee (or you can read about it here).  Once the initial ballots are cast, the committee comes up with the top five nominations in each category, and members of WSFS can then vote on their preference in each category, which will then determine the winner.  The winner is then announced at the upcoming Worldcon.  

The awesome part about winning a Hugo is not just the street cred gained by being selected by your fans and peers as having produced a laudable work of fiction, or the cool sticker you can put on your published work, or even all the nerd fandom and adoration which will undoubtedly be yours.  No.  The coolest part of it is the actual Hugo Award itself.  Since its inception, the Hugo Award trophy has been this long, tapered, finned rocket mounted on a pedestal of some kind.  In 1984 the design of the rocket was retouched and adopted as the standard, and now the only variable in the trophy is the base on which the rocket is mounted.  Check out some examples:

Now, it’s only a matter of hours before the winners are announced.  Everyone down in San Antonio is just having a grand old time, doing things like going to a Masquerade, or a Steampunk Late Night Dance, or just nerding out hard…Who will the winners be?!

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Sci Friday is a weekly post focusing on all things Sci Fi. Booksellers Tommy and Marie are you intrepid leaders on this journey through awesome new books; the best and worst of what’s come before; Sci Fi film adaptations and more. Check back next Friday for more!

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