Resnick: Too many Hugos?

The new issue of Baen's Universe is out and features Mike Resnick's essay "Breeding Like Rabbits—Or Hugos," in which the Baen editor wonders if there are too many Hugo Awards handed out each year. When the Hugos were started in 1953, there were only six categories: Best Novel, Best Magazine, Best Cover Artist, Best Interior Artist, Excellence in Fact Articles, and Best New Author. Then came the Hugo for Best Fanzine, which Locus eventually began winning year after year. To even things up, the "Worldcon committee came up with a brand-new category--Best Semiprozine--where Locus could win every year to its heart's content and traditional fanzines could once more win the Best Fanzine Hugo." Then a second dramatic category Hugo was created because TV shows couldn't compete against movies, and this year a new editing Hugo was created so book and magazine editors wouldn't have to compete against each other.

According to Resnick, "it's become a bit of demonstrable folk wisdom that if you lose enough Hugos, sooner or later you can put together enough disenfranchised (read: Hugo-losing) friends so that you can get a new Hugo category installed and maybe have a chance to win one." The end result: Of the fourteen Hugos now given out every year, only four go to actual written science fiction--what Resnick says is the reason for the Hugos existing in the first place.

But is written SF/F the only reason for the Hugos? No. I agree with Resnick that written SF/F is the heart of our genre, but the SF/F community exists well beyond that. The problem with Resnick's argument is that when I look over the Hugo categories, there are none that I would get rid of. However, Resnick is correct that whenever one person or entity wins the same Hugo over and over, there are calls for creating a new Hugo category. One example of a coming problem along these lines is the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer, which David Langford has won for almost 20 years in a row because of his great Ansible newsletter.

I'm sure the calls are already out there for a new fan writer Hugo so others can compete (although one wonders why writers can't simply compete by, well, out-competing Langford). I wouldn't be surprised if we soon see a "best blogger" or "best blog" Hugo split off from the fan writer award. However, a better approach might be to limit the number of consecutive wins any one author or publication can have in any given multi-year time period. Such an approach might stop the cascade effect Resnick worries about while continuing to honor those who contribute so much to SF/F.