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For Your Nomination Consideration + Worldcon Deadline

Hugo Award nomination season began this month, so I thought I’d let you know what categories my works are eligible in. If you don’t know what the Hugo Awards are or how nominating and voting works, I also talk about that below. If you want to nominate, the registration deadline is January 31st. (You can also use this list when considering nominations for any other award that’s out there, but for the purposes of this post I’m focusing on the Hugos.)


  • Writing Excuses Season Four

The Hugo definition for this category is:

Awarded to a work related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year or which has been substantially modified during the previous calendar year. The type of works eligible include, but are not limited to, collections of art, works of literary criticism, books about the making of a film or TV series, biographies and so on, provided that they do not qualify for another category.

Season four of the Writing Excuses podcast that I host with Howard Tayler and Dan Wells ran from January 2010 through August 2010, starting with this episode. If you have not listened to it, you may download the episodes to consider why it might be worthy of a nomination. Transcripts of every episode in the season are also available here. (Thanks to Mike Barker.)


  • Towers of Midnight
  • The Way of Kings
  • Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens

All three of these novels were released in 2010 by major publishers and are longer than 40,000 words, so they are eligible for nomination.

You may be interested to hear that no Wheel of Time novel has ever gained enough nominations to make a final Hugo ballot. Nor has a Wheel of Time novel ever made the short list for one of the traditional genre awards such as the Nebula or World Fantasy awards. (Though The Gathering Storm did make the short list for the second David Gemmell Legend Award, last year.) Guy Gavriel Kay spoke about this at the World Fantasy Awards ceremony in 2007, shortly after Robert Jordan passed away. I recommend that every fantasy fan read his speech. He doesn’t posit that Robert Jordan should have necessarily been nominated, but he believes the contribution that bestsellers like the Wheel of Time make to the genre as a whole should be recognized.

I don’t have works eligible in other categories this year, but I do have a vested interest in a few other possible nominations. My editors Moshe Feder and Harriet McDougal are both eligible in the Best Editor (Long Form) category. Cover artists Michael Whelan, Darrell K. Sweet, and Todd Lockwood are eligible in the Best Professional Artist category. Howard Tayler’s Schlock Mercenary book Massively Parallel is eligible in the Best Graphic Story category. Dan Wells’ books I Am Not a Serial Killer and Mr. Monster are eligible in the Best Novel category, and Dan himself is eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (not a Hugo, but nominated on the same ballot).

Recipients of the Hugo Award are nominated by and voted on by members of each year’s World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon). There are two types of members: Attending and Supporting. Attending means what you’d expect: you get to go to the convention. Supporting is a type of membership that may be unfamiliar to you, but it’s generally for people who will be unable to attend the convention for one reason or another but still want to financially support it. Supporting members can nominate and vote for the Hugos and can also vote on where a future Worldcon will be held, and they can pay to upgrade to Attending at any time. Attending or Supporting members of the previous year’s convention may also nominate for the Hugos, but cannot vote on the final ballot unless they become members of the current year’s convention.

This year, Worldcon will be held in Reno, Nevada, from August 17th through 21st. The name of this year’s convention is Renovation. Anyone who registers before January 31, 2011 will be able to nominate for the Hugos. Attending memberships are currently $180 ($100 if you’re age 21 or under, and $75 if you’re age 16 or under) and Supporting memberships are $50 (rates will go up on February 28th). Nomination ballots will be accepted through March 26, 2011.

Each person may nominate up to five works in each category (or individuals, if the award is for a person rather than for a work). All nominations are weighted equally; it doesn’t matter which order you put them in. All nominations are totaled, and the top five go to the final ballot (or more if there is a tie for the 5th slot, or fewer if a nominee gets less than 5% of nominating votes).

Voting on the final ballot is a bit different. It uses a weighted voting system called instant-runoff voting (sometimes known as an Australian ballot, since IRV is used in Australian parliamentary elections, but not to be confused with the older definition of Australian ballot, which simply means secret ballot). In this system, you rank the choices by order of your preference. This means that you can vote for the nominee you actually want to win, whether you think it has a chance of winning or not–there are no “wasted” votes. Vote splitting is also not an issue; if there are three separate Doctor Who episodes nominated for a Best Dramatic Presentation (short form) award, for example, the IRV system does not make it more likely that something else will win because Doctor Who fans can’t decide which episode to vote for. See an example below.

This depends on the category, since eligible nominators are encouraged to nominate only in categories they feel they have enough experience with. Last year when Worldcon was in Melbourne, Australia, there were 700 nominations for Best Novel. So if each person nominated five novels, that could have been as few as 140 nominating ballots. (Except that The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi received 142 nominations, so clearly many people nominated fewer than five titles.) Julian Comstock tied with Palimpsest for fifth place with 62 nominations, so both made it to the final ballot.

In the Best Related Work category last year, there were 259 nominations. The top nominee received 56 nominations, and there was again a tie for fifth place, with 29 nominations. (Writing Excuses received eight nominations last year.)

The final vote totals exhibit similar differences. 875 ballots were counted for Best Novel, and there was a tie for first with 380 votes for both China Mieville’s The City & The City and The Windup Girl. 548 ballots were counted for Best Related Work, and This is Me, Jack Vance! won with 251 votes.

Here’s a sample voting breakdown for the final ballot, from last year:

Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form
Doctor Who: “The Waters of Mars” (winner)





Dollhouse: “Epitaph 1”





Doctor Who: “The Next Doctor”




FlashForward: “No More Good Days”



Doctor Who: “Planet of the Dead”


No Award


The first column of numbers indicates what people ranked as their #1 choice. 199 people picked “Epitaph 1” as their favorite, and only 172 people picked “The Waters of Mars” as their favorite. Yet 199 was not above the 50% threshold necessary to win. So the instant runoff began: the lowest vote-getters were eliminated and those voters’ preferences reassigned. Of people who voted “Planet of the Dead” #1, when that was eliminated, their #2 moved up to #1 and the votes were counted again; four had voted “Epitaph 1” as #2 and 32 had voted “The Waters of Mars” #2. “Epitaph 1” was ahead by a vote, but still didn’t have enough to win. This process continued until eventually all but the top two were eliminated, and “The Waters of Mars” was declared the winner, even though it was behind in every round but the last.

You’ll also notice the “No Award” listing. If you’re voting and think none of the entries on the final ballot deserve your vote, you can pick No Award. I know that No Award won in the Dramatic Presentation category in 1977, but this is rare. There are more details on the Hugo voting system here.

The Hugo Awards have been presented every year since 1953 (except for a gap in 1954). When I was growing up, I knew that a “Hugo award winner!” tag on the cover of a novel like Ender’s Game meant it was going to be a good read. Anything that makes the final ballot is going to be significant and worth your attention.

If you’re interested in nominating and voting for whatever work or person you feel deserves a Hugo Award, consider registering for Worldcon by Monday next week and filling out a ballot sometime in the next two months. I will be attending Worldcon this year along with many other professionals and fans, and I hope to see you there.

|   Castellano